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Shattered Heart Adventure Path #3: The Breath of the Goddess
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/07/2016 04:06:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third installment of the so far truly superb Shattered Heart-saga clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 57 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! When the continent-sized Dracoprime fell, the halflings of the idyllic island archipelago suffered; abandoned by their erstwhile allies, the culture that developed twists familiar tropes: Medium-sized humanoids, indentured workers (slaves by another name) became one of the few contacts to other races and xenophobia thrived. When the redeemed cleric Carlyetta recruited the PCs to re-establish the tree-temples of the great mother, the PCs were in for quite a culture shock as they learned about the eldermoot, social structures and the culture of the archipelago. However, as often, dark forces scheme and plan and the quest to restore the temples is fraught with perils - as the PCs embark to the third of these temples, they get a great first glance look at the cataclysmic, almost imaginable proportions that haunted the halflings.


The temple of air is perhaps one of the most unique structures to ever grace the pages of a module: Picture 4 titanic arcs rising from the sea, arcs that channel raging winds into a massive, miles-high tree-shaped titanic structure of clouds. Now picture one of these arcs broken, smashed by continent-sized bones of the legendary Dracoprime, with ancient bone-protrusions emerging from the rugged waves - it is this vista that graces the PCs and re-establishing the temple properly will not be easy.


Each of the arcs sports means of anchoring, sure - provided they can prevent their vessel from crashing while docking, but it is one in particular the PCs will have to explore - and it is here they'll be greeted by a sight most ominous, as pickled corpses dangle in the wind and screeching screams emit from the eternal storm. This is the handiwork of a well-meaning, but utterly insane bard and as the PCs explore the complex, they'll find scenes of grisly butchering and stumble over multiple sepia snake sigils placed to halt the progress of explorers. With a deranged stalker, the PCs bear witness to a tale of woe, as the last days of the halfling clergy is conveyed via ample amounts of journals, as they try hard to piece together the use of strange artifacts. Beyond the stalking adversary and lethal outsiders awaiting in the complex, this whole section can be considered one gigantic puzzle - not a puzzle in the traditional way, but in the act of exploration - as the PCs explore the complex, more and more pieces of information are gathered in the all but abandoned halls and from these, alongside their own knowledge, may they deduce how to restore the temple to former glory...if they are not wasted away by the scouring, maddening winds that begin to drive them insane the moment they arrived. It should be noted that the insane bard can be saved - and smart PCs better should do so.


Why? Well, for one, like the previous books, the community point tracker is always there in the background, tracking transgressions and kindness as a kind of meter for how, by action, they can influence not only Carlyetta, but the very soul of the halfling people of Piccolo. The insane bard knows - he knows about the fall of the last cleric, who has buried himself upstairs in the arc after cannibalizing his brethren - and it is due to this foe that the poor man pickled the corpses, tried to make them unpalatable for the ravenous undead...who awaits upstairs, buried alive by his own hand. (And yes, there are alternate ways to learn about him.) Now I mentioned outsiders...well, there is a brutal and glorious encounter: You see, these fellows have illusions...and the pdf actually provides a map for the illusion into which the PCs stumble! Map-wise, the presence of the like goes above and beyond - kudos indeed, this is what I always wanted to see!


Now the tainted, perverted undead does have a mob of undead (rules all too seldom used) and does look a bit like a "boss" for the module...and he is. However, the true challenge lies, ultimately, in research of the arch, in putting the pieces together - like Indiana Jones exploring an ancient ruin, the strange archeology that is the leitmotif here is absolutely unique and hearkens back to the wild-eyed exploration of ruins in old-school modules...only that now, we have degrees of skill-check-failures to determine functionality, various means of upgrading skills via learned knowledge...etc. Sure, your maxed out scholar character has a chance to know on his own how to use components required to repair the temple...but if you lack such a character, you'll still have a lot of information to uncover and, like e.g. The Witcher's approach to knowledge, the more you learn, the higher are your chances for success. Of course, all of this would be much easier without a volatile madman and winds that literally undermine your sanity...but the PCs are adventurers for a reason, right?


Now, there is another issue waiting in the wings: If you've followed my reviews so far, you'll know that a particularly nasty asura plots the downfall of the whole project...or rather, it's perversion via enigmatic cyclopean runes. Now, at this point, your players have had chances to uncover the Byzanthine plot, sure - but considering the brains and smart approach of the adversary, they required their investigative A-game to do so...and manage to work within the confines of the social structure of the halflings while doing so. The chance for success is slim, but it should be noted that this book actually devotes almost a full page to the chance that the PCs want to follow up on these leads prior to even engaging the module - yes, this has basically an inversion-sandbox option. Now that is truly awesome. Where am I going with this? Well, as the PCs manage to piece together the means to restore the temple, they'll be sooner or later greeted by a sight most peculiar, as a raft of dødelig arrive, drawn by the no longer madness inducing winds. In case you're not familiar with these beings: Think "non-evil petrified-bones-undead halflings with a love for life and Dia de los Muertos-aesthetic" who were the result of the most powerful lich's final spell. The macabre entourage is hassled by psychopomps seeking to destroy them and hopefully, the PCs intervene and are not suckered in by the outsiders - you see, the dødelig need help. Living in one vertebra of the massive fallen skeleton, the undead beseech the PCs to follow them through the spine of the fallen Dracoprime, where tons of water are kept at bay by the inherent magic of the titanic skeleton.


Thus, the PCs travel through a location most mysterious and the journey will be perilous - with yaoguai, crysmals and karkinoi, we have an uncommon, cool array of adversaries befitting of the unique terrain - and yes, the encounters have individual maps. Once the PCs have made the perilous journey to the dødelig's home, they'll see perhaps one of the weirdest settlements ever - beyond being inside the friggin' Dracoprime and VERY far below the sea, huts of fishbone and ancient folkmusic tunes complement an overall thoroughly weird locale - from the village in the spinal cavity of the titanic skeleton, they'll have to delve deeper to confront the insane dødelig sorceror who can btw. merge with his kin via the dødeligation-spell into a powerful amalgam. Still, this is not how it ends, for he falls, and as he does, the false god worshipped by him awaits - the dreaded drakalfryda, a twisted amalgam of flesh made from halfling corpses that can regenerate its torso...think of it as a lavishly-illustrated inverse-hydra...and yeah, it is as disgusting as it sounds. It is in these depths, however, that not only the freedom of the dødelig can be won - guarded by the powerful Tiberolith guardian, ruins can be found...and deciphered. Cyclopean ruins that make rather clear that the runes used above are anything but benevolent and could be used to bring the whole clergy of the mother goddess under control!


It is here that the asura's game is thwarted, theme-wise by the very leitmotif of community, as the bridge between dødelig and living halfings provides a subtle symbolic resonance regarding the theme of the books - by connecting with the past and one's ancestors, betrayal in the present can be unmasked, thwarted. To wax less poetical: If you know the past, you can learn from it - particularly if your past can actually talk to you! Thus, the finale of the module is devoted to the showdown against the unmasked asura, as the PCs return to the arc...and his tactics are smart. Even if the PCs are clever regarding their actions, the adversary does have a rather interesting array of tactics to which he can resort. Then, he seems to fall...and only one temple is left...but the paladin Faerilon Hayweather has surely secured that one, right? There are no big problems to expect, right? ...guess what? No. And yes, things went harder downhill than you can imagine...


(And yes, the community-tracker-sheet is included...)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring mistakes or problems in that regard. Layout adheres to the beautiful 2-column full-color standard of the series and the book sports several absolutely stunning full-color artworks. Cartography, while not as gorgeous as in other installments of the series more than makes up for it by the sheer amount: Extra player-friendly map of an illusion-encounter? Graphical representations for the spine? Versions with and without grid? All here. 15 (!!!) pages of maps. 15. Seriously, I take this amount of maps over a single beautiful one every day. The pdf is fully bookmarked. I do own the premium paper print copy of this module...and it's beautiful.


Okay, so two excellent modules in a row in an AP are already a rarity; two that manage to be exceedingly smart in a row...are even rarer. Two that manage to qualify as candidates for my Top Ten? Even rarer. Guess what? Michael Allen does it again. I am utterly, completely blown away by this module - come-on: A miles-high tree of clouds, maddening winds, gigantic arches? This is FANTASY. This is imagination. This is the in-your-face one-inch-knock-out punch for all those boring, lazy dungeons out there. Beyond the VERY smart and uncommon adversary-choices and the enemies that actually act according to their brainpower and capabilities, it is the truly marvelous location that sets this apart - and in particular the brainy first part: Only very rarely have I been so engrossed in the exploration of a fantastic place, so bewildered, astounded, baffled. The description and unearthing of clues here is so vivid, I actually dreamed about visiting this place. I'm not kidding. And after the challenging first part, the more combat-focused second part delivers in all the right ways as well. This module is absolutely astounding in every single regard - from terrain to the moving parts to the option to sandbox its VERY PLACE in the series.


Michael Allen deserves my deepest respect - apart from 4 Dollar Dungeon's Richard Develyn (if you haven't read my reviews about them and buy one. Seriously. You won't regret it!), no other adventure author has managed to get a streak of this many modules that deserve a final rating of 5 stars, seal of approval and a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of the respective year, this time around 2015. Yes, it's THAT good. This is a prime example of the art of adventure craft and another excellent reminder of how damn good AAW Games have become. Now here's to hoping that #4 can maintain this brilliance...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shattered Heart Adventure Path #3: The Breath of the Goddess
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Call to Arms: Ropes
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/07/2016 04:04:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This colossal installment of Fat Goblin Games' Call to Arms-series clocks in at 68 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 60 (!!!) pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief page of flavor text, we dive into a brief history of ropes and how they're used - the first thing you'll notice when thinking about ropes and their use is that, much like fire, the PFRPG-system isn't that precise regarding the peculiarities of the respective ropes - when applicable, the pdf reprints rules, clarifies them and expands them...so the first thing you'll notice is a huge selection of different masterwork ropes - from cave fisher cords to bloodvine ropes to hemp and cord lisse ropes, a massive table alongside various entries provide material that made me grin from ear to ear - beyond varied prices, the table provides effective rope strengths and maximum loads for rope types (including yarns and vines and the like), hardness-ratings and HP alongside weight in one massive, handy table - a glorious GM-cheat-sheet and a portent of the things to come - now you know whether the cave fisher cord can keep that fully armored dwarf from falling...and yes, somewhat elastic ropes can also be found in this section. Oh, and yes, improvised ropes in various qualities complement this array. How useful this is only becomes apparent in game: You have the answers to questions à la "Can I secure XYZ, can I rip door W with a rope from the wall?" suddenly without any hassle.


Beyond that, the pdf provides rope accessories -from balancing poles to bell nets, butterfly nets to climber's kits and pears up to double ring descenders, foaming nuts...and pulleys. Instead of the default block and tackle system, a short and simple, yet effective block and tackle system utilizing these is part of the deal. Soldier's belts and bracelets that can be taken apart and spider sacs can be found in this book and we also receive 4 types of mundane rope armor as well as notes on rope-based weapons like the aklys, bolas, monkey hammers etc. - all collected here for your convenience...and yes, including rope gauntlets and throwing arrow cords. A total of 10 balanced traits helps you portray characters that know what they're doing, who have experience with the subject matter before being roped into the adventuring profession. ...sorry for that one, couldn't help myself. And yes, that pun was bad, even for me.


Feat-wise, an option to use two-handed weapons while climbing and a vastly improved, a more versatile Equipment Trick (Rope) that includes an option for an improvised flying blade-type weapon (think: rope + horseshoe...) among the many options provided. Several feats that makes Lassos more viable as well as reprints of the Net-enhancer-feats complement a neat section here. Have I mentioned the jury-rigging feat here?


Archetype-wise, the pdf reprints the buccaneer and we also get the improvising engineer rogue, who gets a chaotic, scaling bonus when using juryrigging to provide tools for the job at hand alongside better pioneering. (More on that later!) Interesting! The Escape Artist bard gets several Houdini-style low-level tricks. I also was rather happy to see the Trapper ranger redesigned - traps at 1st level instead of 5th and expanding special tricks to modify them make the archetype more interesting (and different from level 1 onwards) as opposed to the default. Kudos! The Vaquero cavalier order would be the lasso specialist - and no, haven't seen that one before.


Skill-wise, we also get an expansion to the rope-rules - from capture and torture to belaying or combat rappelling, we get quite a bunch of neat expansions; even ropeburns are covered! Code-knitting? Covered. Knots and nooses? Covered. Pioneering? Poi? Basically medieval bungee jumping? All covered. Want rules for lethal rope-skipping for that nightmare sequence? Just add blades to the rope-skipping rules herein. Or want to tightrope walk? Rules provided. Zip-lines? Covered. This section is gold - not necessarily as a collective, but there is so much customizable material here, it makes utilizing ropes significantly more compelling...for all kinds of activities.


Spell-wise, improved, more powerful versions of animate rope are provided alongside the classic spell; a nasty spell that stitches the lips of the target together is evocative and making a simulacrum-style double from twine is similarly intriguing. The pdf also, obviously, provides a collection of magical ropes, both new and old - but the truly intriguing component, at least to me, is the array of rope special qualities that can be added to your magical weapons - whether a rope staff or an uncuttable rope is what you desire, this toolkit makes sure that magical ropes can be customized in a wide variety of options. Specific magic item-wise, thread can be used in embalming to increase the potency of flesh golem or zombie DRs, while fans of Sam and Max may finally crush foes below giant balls of expanding twine. Beyond cursed ropes, the intelligent and malign hangman's noose lasso and a golden wonder woman-style lariat of honesty complement this section. Mythic item-wise, the potentially death-cheating thread of fate and the deity-attuned heavenly rope are solid. Artifact-wise, we get two this time around: None other than friggin' Gleipner and the String of Theseus - and yes, gleipner can only be used once...but its effects have no weasel out clause.


The pdf also covers rope hazards and reprints e.g. rope golems and sports the rope-mimicking twisted strangler aberration as well as concise rules for crafting ropes, including unbraiding, fiber artistry and the like. The pdf goes one step further in the appendices, though: We are introduced to perhaps the crown achievement of awesomeness here: Pioneering projects: These allow characters to use ropes and other materials (noted in the respective entries) to create tables, treehouses and similar improvised structures - glorious and absolutely awesome for wilderness campaigns! Stranded on an island? Use these ropes. Survival in the wilderness? Use these rules. Want to trailblaze and establish a new settlement, beginning with rickety basics before getting people to join you - bingo.


Finally, no less than 6 rope-based traps complete this massive, huge book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a nice combination of fitting stock art and some original pieces. The pdf comes bookmarked with a massive array of nested bookmarks for your convenience.


I've read quite a few of J Gray's supplements so far and, in my opinion, none have so far reached this level of quality: On par with line-developer/editor Lucus Palosaari's best in the series, this book is a true blessing and joy to read.


The rope variants and vastly expanded options allow the enterprising GM and group to play completely new types of adventures - whether underworld explorations down bottomless chasms or hardcore wilderness survival in hostile terrain, the pulley and pioneering rules in particular are a boon for campaigns that seek something different. Heck, the pioneering rules can arguably be used to play a whole campaign or at least low-level sequence of modules. I certainly know I'd run e.g. Kingmaker sans settlement, just with characters with these tricks and NPCs to teach them to.


This book made me want to write an adventure based on climbing down a vast chasm/scaling a mountain, of running a truly pioneer-style campaign with goals like lassoing fantastic beasts and similar objectives. Want to play a wild-west-ish campaign? Get this. Want to properly play a DIY-pioneer or rope-based circus artist? Get this. This is one of the books you don't realize that you need it...until you read it. Particularly simulationalist groups and GMs that emphasize resources and a sense of realism will absolutely adore this book. The one gripe I can vocalize against this pdf is a didactic one - putting the pioneer/block and tackle rules in the appendices at the end rather than before e.g. an archetype mentions a bonus pertaining them is a bit counter-intuitive. Yeah, that pretty much is it.


I really love this book and the options it provides, the means by which it expands ropes as items both mundane and magical. This is a great addition to one's game and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval...and guess what? The sheer added options regarding rope-based structures and wilderness survival are very near and dear to my heart...which is why I also nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015. Congratulations!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Ropes
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Heraldric Devices
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/07/2016 04:01:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Purple Duck games' inexpensive series of experimental mini-pdfs clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what are heraldric devices? Well, basically, they are add-ons to your shield. They are activated via command word and as a standard action unless otherwise noted. At a GM's discretion, they can be added to heavy armor as well. Item Creation-wise, they are wondrous items and have no effect on their own when not attached to a shield. Cursed heraldric devices exist and cannot be simply removed from the shield.


So what do they do? Well, let me give you an example: The Bat-device nets you blindsight 40 ft for 10 rounds, usable 3/day. A cursed device may bite you and centaur-devices allow you to expand your movement rate a limited amount of times per day. Petrification added to shield bashes, spell-in-a-can effects, energy protection and 1/day fear or 1/day insanity...or what about unerring hydra-heads of force? Grappling tentacles? Hungry pits beyond the maws of purple worm-devices? Yeah, the effects are awesome.


It should be noted though, that the rules-language often deviates from the proper phrasing - when I read "as if the wielder had the Improved Uncanny Dodge ability (at the 8th level of skill.)" [Sic!] something in me cringes...hard.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on the rules-language side, it is functional - you get what the text means and the respective wordings don't sport problematic ambiguities...but if it can deviate from how rules syntax and semantics work, it does. So yeah, I did cringe a couple of times...but at the same time, I can't really complain about any significant issues springing from said deviations. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly no-frills 1-column standard for the series and the pdf sports a nice piece of full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay...this is an odd one. Sam Hing's published work usually has a more precise rules-language. Still, know what? I actually really like the item-class introduced herein. The heraldric devices are unique enough and make sense...and they make shields more interesting to have around. In spite of the deviations from rules-language conventions, I couldn't really help myself - I like this little pdf and I sure hope we'll see more devices! Is this perfect? Nope, and I can't rate it as highly as I'd want to - but for the fair price, I can still recommend to check this out. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Heraldric Devices
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Southlands Bestiary
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2016 03:44:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive bestiary for use with the Southlands campaign setting (but not limited to it) clocks in at 122 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of backer-lists, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 3/4 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 112 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I was a backer of the Southlands kickstarter, but am otherwise not involved with this book. My review is primarily based on the softcover print version of this book, though I consulted the electronic version to verify e.g. presence of bookmarks and similar components.


This book is pretty much a sans frills experience - the brief version of this review would be as follows: After an introduction by Jeff Grubb, we dive into a ton of monsters; in the end, there is a table of monsters by CR; they span the breadth from humble CR 1/2 to massive CR 26.


...


Yeah, I know, not very fulfilling now, is it? Let's try to do this more justice: We have, at this point, seen more than one book (or chapter) on creatures of the deserts - there usually are a couple of undead, some ambush predators, a killer scarab, the like. We know the tropes and this book very much is aware of this - instead of simply resorting to trying to re-invent the wheel, it pretty much says: "So yeah, you do - but guess what? You haven't seen THIS done!" What do I mean by this? Well, for one, the massive book has something unique going on for every creature - there is no boring rehash of old tricks in this book. That tentacley ambush-predator cactus you've seen done before? Well, it can generate a lethal aura of spikes by shooting them all at once in a pinch. That undead, doomed to wander the desert? Let's just say that it can be used in Ravenloft sans modification, since it requires brains to defeat it.


The second component that sets this apart is that, much like the Southlands-book, it borrows heavily on real world mythology and adds a unique spin to it - Mechuitl and Camazotz, for example, are statted as full-blown demon lords - including e.g. information on Camazotz in the underworld... Similarly, monster tropes are combined with great panache with Midgard flavor - Clockwork Shabti and Ushabti, for example tie in perfectly with the gearforged concept, while the types of tosculi and their master, dread Arbeyach, prince of swarms also get their due.


Speaking of resonance with real world myth - if you're familiar with Prester John's myth, you'll be like me and grin from ear to ear upon seeing the Blemmyes statted. The lightning-infused swarm "Bolt of Ekwanes" similarly resounds with a deep pulse of the familiar and yet unique. Fans of ancient mythologies will also cheer at the rendition of noble Buraqs, while drought swallows threaten the land and well-being of those foolish enough to attract their attention. Salt-devils scour the lands and demonic idolic deities await to be unearthed, while owl-headed harpies prey on the travelers.


Intelligent ambush predator spiders called J'ba Fobi or the smoke-lions mngwas, carnivorousnandi bears or an ooze camouflaging as whole oasis - the breadth and depth of adversaries and creatures covered herein is wide indeed. Perhaps you want a pygmy trumpeteer elephant companion? Heck, even the tired old desert worm gets a new twist, with Sathaq worms sporting a pain-inducing aura and a hunting style based on dragging foes beneath the sands. Even the classic hybrids that in earlier days sometimes ended up being less than interesting have great representations herein - the lethal serpopard (serpent-leopard-hybrid) is a brutal foe, while an orangutan-choker hybrid should, by all accounts, end up on a ridiculous monster-list...but it does work! Insectoid Xhkarsh can afflict their victims with oracle curses and creatures mentioned in the great setting book, from the twisted vine lords to the arcane wasting-bearing intelligent white apes resound with themes of our collective cultural consciousness.


The mythic Southlands titans do sport notes on words of power (and an optional, non WoP-array of SPs) while the wakane, a feathered pterosaur, is particularly feared for sinking boats - have I mentioned the huge, burrowing pitcher plants masquerading as an oasis, commanding whole swarms of its rootlets to defeat resilient prey? There is a lot of downright inspired material to be found herein and not one of the creatures in this book felt lazy or bland.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - while e.g. MR is not capitalized in a statblock and while I noticed some small hiccups, overall, the book is solid. The statblocks I checked sported no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf is fully bookmarked. The book has a huge selling point: The artwork is absolutely fantastic. original and truly evocative, full-color artworks for all creatures are provided and they are downright baffling, eclipsing even most 1st party bestiaries. Some of the artworks are so beautiful, they make you immediately want to use the creature they represent - and this holds true for just about all of them. Look at the cover: This is the level of awesomeness you get throughout the whole book.


Here's the awesome thing, though: As a long-time supporter of Kobold Press, I have, time and again, bemoaned the fact that some of the truly astounding full color pdfs were translated "only" into b/w-print copies. Not so here: The Southlands Bestiary's print version is a truly gorgeous full color softcover that features thick, glossy paper and thus is a joy to simply flip open - if you can, get the print edition.


Okay, so here is the list of designers:


Kristian Ahonen, Eric Anderson, Anonymous, Joshua Banks, Wolfgang Baur, dpb, Clinton Boomer, Marina de Santiago Buey, Angelica Burns, Jarrod Camiré, Aaron Cheung, Jim Davis, Lee DeBoer, Dan Dillon, John Doh, Chris Doyle, Harold Farmer, John Foster, Erik Freund, Leonard Grand, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Andrew Harshman, Jacob Haywood, Steven T. Helt, Jeffrey Hersh, Andrew Hind, Richard Iversen, Alex Kanous, Henry S. Kurtz, Richard Lawson, Jeff Lee, Chris Lockey, Ari Marmell, Ben McFarland, Jesse McGatha, Brett A. McLean, Brian Wiborg Mønster, Matt Morrissette, Robert H. Nichols, Stacy Nichols, Kalervo Oikarinen, Gunnar Ólafsson, Richard Rossi, Stephen Rowe, Adam Roy, Wendall Roy, Matt Rupprecht, Allen F. Schell, Brian Suskind, Troy Taylor, James Thomas, John Tolios, James Whittaker, Clarence Wisdom, Henry Wong - in spite of the established names among these ladies and gentlemen, one would expect quality to fluctuate. At least as far as I could tell (or where it would become jarring or problematic for the GM), I could not observe any tendency like that - Ben McFarland, Justin Riddler, Alistair Rigg, Brian Suskind, Jason Nelson and Amanda Hamon Kunz have done a glorious job reviewing, editing and developing these creatures - and the effort show. This is a superb bestiary, perhaps one of the most compelling ones I've read all year.


Even if you're not interested in Midgard or Southlands, I very much recommend you get this gorgeous tome - this is a glorious bestiary and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval as well as nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
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Animal Races: Dawn of the Cerapod
Publisher: Eric Morton Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2016 03:40:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Animal Races-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Where the carnosaurians were the rulers and warriors of the perished empire of lizards, the cerapods were the artisans and farmers, humble and domestic - but they fell alongside their empire...


This does not mean, however, that you can't play them! The pdf provides information on various subtypes, from bird-feet to bone-heads and horn-heads and beyond, including the professions they were most likely to follow and, as always, provides full age. height and weight tables for your convenience. Similarly, the pdf provides detailed information on religion and the like.


Base-stat-wise, cerapods are medium reptilians with low-light vision and 5 ft.-scent that upgrades to 30 ft. at 6th level and they begin play with +1 natural armor that increases to +2 at 10th level. They also begin play with a 1d4 natural weapon determined by clan, 1d6 if the character gets a size-increase to large. 4 racial heritages can be chosen: Bird-feet receive a tail attack and +2 Str and Int, -2 Cha and may choose the racial heritage feat Bird-Footed as a combat style feat.


Bone-heads get a slam attack and +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int and may take their racial heritage feat Bone-Headed instead of a rage power. Horn-Heads get a gore attack and +2 to Str and Wis, -2 Dex and may take the Armor-Plated and Horn-headed feats as fighter bonus feats. Finally, Shield-Bearers get a tail attack, +2 Str and Cha, -2 Dex and may take the Armor-Plated and Shield-Born feats instead of an oracle's revelation.


So, let's take a look at those feats: Armor-Plated is interesting - the feat grants you basically a built-in scale armor, but also makes you slow and steady (as the dwarven racial trait). Taking the feat a second time allows you to wear an armor above your built-in scales, using the biggest AC-bonus and stacking special armor properties of both armors. Yes, you can enchant your built-in scale armor and yes, the trait sports concise rules for what happens if your built-in armor is broken.


Bird-footed is more traditional in its effects - you choose from fast movement or trample; once you have both, you may choose improved trample or primeval mind. (Bear in mind the traditional 1/ 2 levels you may take this feat, so primeval mind's charm immunity hits 6th level at the very soonest.)


Bone-Headed works similarly: Choose fast movement or improved slam, thereafter primeval mind and clobbering charge are unlocked. The latter allows you to add a bull rush to a slam attack executed at the end of a charge, with a chance to stagger the target on a crit.


The Horn-headed may choose improved gore, powerful charge, stability or trample and, once these have been taken,primeval mind...or large and stout, which upgrades your size to Large!


The Shield-Born lets you select improved tail, trample or tripping tail, unlocking primeval mind thereafter. Tripping Tail, just fyi, lets you add trips to tail attacks, no AoO, no chance to be tripped back.


As before, we receive interesting information on the genealogy of these saurians and, as has become the tradition with this series, folklore-information, which, this time around is particularly detailed - and the pdf is better for that: The saurians are tied to a wide array of monsters, which makes them feel like an organic part of a campaign world from the get-go. The deity provided here is unique: Kouros was LITERALLY the soul of the empire, a kind of collective consciousness or imperial zeitgeist, if you will. I can, obviously, relate. ;) The pdf also provides interesting hooks and angles for saurians surviving the fall of the empire - whether planar exile, newly developed cerapods or resurrected creatures - the angles are interesting. Like the companion book, though, we do not gain the usual cool heraldry-based traits.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the series' elegant, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting full-color and b/w-art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for you convenience.


Eric Morton's cerapods are distinct, versatile and generally well-balanced - the stacking of armors is interesting and powerful, but the feat-tax does offset the power...and the armor still requires the gold...so yeah. Flavor-wise, this is intelligent, smart and fun - there is frankly nothing to complain about apart from the lack of the cool heraldry-traits, but I won't hold that against this pdf. This pdf has nice, fun options and offers an excellent bang-for-buck ratio, exceeding the carnosaurus-pdf in versatility. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Animal Races: Dawn of the Cerapod
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Ultimate Relationships #2: The Viking Shieldmaiden
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2016 03:38:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Ultimate Relationship-series clocks in at 8 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page how to use, 1 page SRD leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, so this series provides romantic interests for the PCs as per the Ultimate Relationship-rules, so I'm assuming you're familiar with them. If not, check out that pdf first (and/or my review for it).


Okay, in supposedly a formatting glitch, we start this file with a double header: "The rabbit Prince" is oddly printed sans context above the proper headline, "The Viking Maiden." Stat-wise, the lady would be an unchained barbarian with the superstitious rage power - it should come as no surprise, then, that her affinity is with martial characters and honorable fighters; her negative affinity particularly pronounced regarding witches, particularly those of Irrisen.


The viking maiden, once encountered, is the sole survivor of a botched raid on a dungeon that saw all her allies killed and herself trapped - hence, upon freeing her, the immediate reaction to her is pretty important - pity does not work well within her cultural paradigm. Advancement-wise, she focuses on two-weapon fighting with her shield. Physical relationships are rather easy to have with the lady, but to get to her heart, PCs will need to work.


The rank-ups of the viking maiden are centered around understanding viking culture (or rather, somewhat stereotypical tropes pertaining it) and range from Perform (oratory) to knowledge (local) and also sport several combative tasks - from a nonlethal duel to arm wrestling and competitive drinking, one has to prove prowess and a willingness to learn about her culture to find the humanity behind her brash and competitive behavior, the doubts and anxieties that are there. If she is not taken to rank 4 before fulfilling her temporary oath to accompany characters to her homeland, she leaves.


Boon-wise, rank 7 unlocks Intimidate or Profession (sailor) as class skills and grants +1 to CMD versus disarm and sunder, while rank 10 provides shared trait bonuses and an AC-bonus when adjacent to the shield maiden...and potentially, when the character's using a shield himself, a two-person Shield Wall teamwork feat benefit.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though e.g. when separating lines are used is a bit inconsistent - still nothing grievous to complain about. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf has no artwork.


Mark Seifter's Shield Maiden is pretty much the tough warrior containing a wound from the past that she only shows to her most trusted allies. The general progression is interesting, the romance iconic enough in its progression, but I do feel the whole viking component and her nature as a shield maiden would have provided a great way to make her more detailed, more unique - as written, her overall romantic progression failed to take the cultural tidbits and gender roles into account, which could have been used to flesh her out in much more detail. That being said, this is not a bad romance and her arc is solid. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Relationships #2: The Viking Shieldmaiden
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Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/05/2016 03:50:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This monster book clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with a massive 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Ah, dragons! Who doesn't love them? They're the apex-predators, the big, nasty super-killer creatures and there is no adversary as iconic out there. Suffice to say, I've read a lot of dragon-variants over the years and I very much loathed the "everything needs to be a half-dragon"-trend in the dying days of 3.X - the tendency cheapened dragons in my opinion and took away from their impact. I've also been pretty vocal about my preference for dragons to be smart adversaries that should be played and presented as such...but that's just my take on the concept.


More important for the purpose of this review would be another component: Both in official bestiaries and in supplements pertaining dragons, I've noticed a tendency towards cop-outs or, if you like, less thorough presentation: Dragons, traditionally, sport a massive table that lets you customize them by age category; in the better installments, we also get sample builds for some different age categories. This, at least in my opinion, in important - it further emphasizes the iconic place these magnificent beasts have in our games and sets them apart - basically, a dragon is already a customizable threat, an entry already covers diverse variants for different CRs. Now this does take up space, sure -but know what? It's a significant part of draconic identity as far as their status as monsters is concerned. This pdf begins by doing this honored tradition justice with the required tables and summary of dragon senses, no breath and similar fun abilities -yes, including starflight.


The respective entries for the dragons themselves sported in this book provide 3 different sample builds, for the young, adult and ancient age category, respectively and each dragon gets a thoroughly AWESOME, truly evocative mugshot - I'm not kidding when I'm saying that these are absolutely gorgeous. Obviously, the respective dragons also sport individual tables that denote ability-progressions over the respective age categories. The cool thing, at least in my book, is that this book does not simply add more chromatics or metallics to the fray - instead, we are introduced to two categories of the dragons with multiple subtypes. The first of these categories would by conflict dragons, and they are nasty. No, really.


Take the first kind and look at the name - In clear letters, one reads "Armageddon Dragon." Yeah, these guys are not playing around - with a starvation aura that fatigues creatures, SPs that include cup of dust, waves of exhaustion and many more and a slashing/dehydration-based breath weapons, these creatures' abilities make pretty clear that they are about the ruination of...everything. More unique still would be the fury dragon - while an acidic breath weapon may seem pretty conventional, these dread beings are plague carriers have an aura that increases the potency of diseases (and makes them more virulent) and they can incubate an insanity-causing berserker-disease. Oh, and they pretty much look like a horrid blending of insects and dragons, with a CR 6 parasite swarm being provided as well. Why? Because they can disgorge increasing amounts of these nasty, lamprey-like worms! Disgusting and glorious!


The holocaust dragon would be the necromancy-themed of these nasty dragons - with an aura that weakens the living and strengthens the undead, a negative energy-based breath weapon (that alas, does not heal undead) and a limited ability to throw disgorged souls at his foes (dealing negative levels AND reanimating present corpses...) as well as the soul devouring abilities of these beasts make clear that they are not to be trifled with. Now wrath dragons would be basically the big, nasty and rather unsubtle destroy-em-all type of grinders - beyond a berserker-rage-including aura and additional fire damage, they can breathe burning shrapnel (which doubles as caltrops), eat most metals easily (ignore 10 hardness) and combine bites with lower-strength breath weapons for truly apocalyptic damage. Oh, and what about a limited breath of molten metal or retributive damage versus weapons that strike these beasts? Yes, pretty awesome!


The second class of dragons introduced here are stellar dragons - where conflict dragons are predisposed to an unraveling, an end, stellar dragons strive to maintain balance and existence - though that does NOT mean they're necessarily nice: Alignment-wise, they are LN or CG and take the VERY large picture into account - which means that yes, they may sacrifice a kingdom or even world to maintain balance and defeat a greater evil. Their abilities are no less unique, mind you: The first of these dragon types would be the gravity dragon: With a slowing presence, gravity-increasing breath and particularly brutal melee attacks, they are intriguing. As a minor complaint - their natural attacks increase as though they were one age category older, but no progression for dragons beyond great wyrm is given, which is a small oversight. One easily rectified, granted, but still. They can also create massive singularities a limited amount of times per day - with devastating effects.


The Nebula dragons can cause cold damage as well as radiation exposure with their breaths and they do receive a nice, defensive concealment-granting cloud of particles and may unleash a magic-suppression cloud a limited amount of times per day. Pulsar dragons can dazzle those nearby and suppress darkness-based magic completely. Oh, and they have laser breath that may not be effective versus all creatures...but it can pass through e.g. walls of force. Additionally, they may use their breath weapon in pulsing blasts, customizing the damage output of each blast according to his needs. The final stellar dragon herein would be the supernova dragon, whose very presence heats metal and hampers cold creatures. His breath incinerates all that fall before him and he may use is breath in a massive radius around him - said breath is btw. a combination of fire and electricity and yes, their SPs are deadly.


This is not, however, where this pdf ends - instead, we are introduced to the two dragon lords - masters of all conflict/stellar dragonkind. Conflict dragons revere the CR 25 monstrosity called Eschaton. If the name was not ample clue, yes, this basically takes the mythic beast from revelations and codifies it not as a metaphor, but as a full-blown engine of annihilation. Whenever one of the 7 heads of eschaton is destroyed, it regenerates a new head associated with whatever destroyed the head, growing stronger...or more versatile. An aberrant head grown can breathe a cone of devastating, mutating slime; a mechanical head has teeth of adamantine and breathes poisonous steam...and a spectral head increases the reach of this engine of destruction to the incorporeal. Oh, and if you're like me and consider that not enough yet...well, there is a mythic version: CR 30/MR 10.


This beast...is so beautiful. An aura that staggers AND has a 50/50-chance of inflicinting murderous command or terrible remorse. Nigh indestructible. Mythic power to make the breath linger or rip open reality to gate in tentacley doom - awesome.


The adversary of this all-destroying master of annihilation would be the infinity dragon Ananta, CR 25. Encompassing both male and female, this dual-headed dragon (you can see the picture on the cover) has devastating sonic and cold breaths and is quicker when undertaking starflight journeys. The combined blast of the dragon's breath weapons can destroy just about anything utterly...oh, and ananta can exist in two places at once, treating either as her location for attacks, reach, etc. Similarly to Eschaton, we do btw. receive a truly awe-inspiring mythic version of this steward of the multiverse - at CR 30/MR 10, this iteration of the mighty infinity dragon can create creatures to fight from the dust of the foes vanquished by Ananta. Similarly, the multi-existence ability and a benevolent, exceedingly powerful music of the spheres complement an awesome, unique take on the mighty dragon lord.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - beyond minor hiccups, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to LPJ design's gorgeous two-column full-color standard and a smaller version is provided in case you want to use this on mobile devices. The artwork is absolutely staggering and excellent - both the mugshots of the dragons and the two full-body renditions of the dragon lords are gorgeous. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Jeff Lee delivers here - the dragons presented in this book utilize unique, evocative mechanics, have cool, unique themes that set the apart and the superb artwork further emphasizes that - seriously, one glance and you'll want to use these asap! The pure imaginative potential of these dragons is impressive indeed and the book, as such a steal for its price-point, particularly if you're like me and enjoy truly devastating adversaries to challenge your players. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons (PFRPG)
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #7: Entrance to the Forest Maze
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/05/2016 03:47:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


So, at some point, the PCs will probably stumble over (or seek out) the massive forest maze within the haunted forest, as it holds a rather crucial component for many of the resolution-paths of the main module. The entrance to said maze is expanded in this pdf, in the guise of brownies testing the PCs (and introducing them to the delightful concept of minitaurs!). Beyond these, the pdf sports a cool "move matches"-style puzzle with sticks and a well-crafted riddle...oh, and the pdf makes ample use of the absolutely awesome flora and fauna introduced in Snow-White, so yeah - an all around awesome mini-dungeon!


Conclusion:


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


Jonathan G. Nelson's "Entrance to the Forest Maze" may well be the best of the whole series - and when Stephen Yeardley is the guy your material has to compete with, that means something. If you're using Snow-White, this is absolutely brilliant - the use of the unique flora and fauna of the haunted forest makes this mini-dungeon feel unique and alive and seeing a well-crafted puzzle and a good riddle as well offers something for players to do beyond killing everything. Now there is one catch - you practically need Snow-White to get something out of this - but even if you don't you can still scavenge puzzle and riddle...and it should be emphasized: This is FREE and costs literally nothing...so go ahead and get this cool, fun mini-dungeon. This would be 5 stars +seal of approval even if it weren't free.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #7: Entrance to the Forest Maze
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #6: Campsite in the Haunted Forest
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/05/2016 03:45:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


So, this is an expansion to Snow-White and completely optional - the second half of the module, is, as you know, pretty much a free-form wilderness exploration of the haunted forest that lives and breathes by the unique flora and fauna. Sooner or later, the PCs will have to camp. This mini-dungeon basically provides a small clearing and the campfire and surrounding things - beyond random (or not so random) encounters on the trail there, the PCs can find bladebark leaaves here (depending on the current season) and a small cave-entrance hides a twisted item that could really vex the PCs - a magic candle with three types of wax - yellow, orange and red - while the first phases are beneficial, the red wax results in rather nasty repercussions, making it thoroughly fitting for fey - always tip-toeing the line between the whimsical and disturbing. Additionally, the candle hides another, potentially lethal secret...what secret? Not going to spoil that here - download it and you'll see...


Conclusion:


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


Jonathan G. Nelson's campsite is perhaps the most universally useful of the Snow-White mini-dungeons: While having the main Snow-White book and using this in conjunction with it obviously is the most rewarding way, this can be inserted into just about every forest. Granted, there is not much going on - but there doesn't need to be. This is as unpretentious as it gets - a humble campfire encounter/scene with a great idea - how much more can you ask for in a mini-supplement like this, much less a FREE one? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #6: Campsite in the Haunted Forest
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Obsidian Apocalypse: Sinful & Vile Feats (PFRGP)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/04/2016 03:58:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This collection of dastardly feats clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, before I go into this pdf, let me state that loudly and clearly - this is a book of feats, yes...but it is a book full of Clinton J. Boomer-feats. This sets this pdf pretty much apart from every feat-pdf you'll ever seen...why? Well, we all know how feats work, right? Basically, they are short pieces of crunch that provide a rules-option, for the most part a relative generic, wide-open one that makes a character better at something or adds an option to the character's arsenal or makes it viable. Mr. Boomer's approach to feats is completely different, beginning with flavor-text - most of his feats sport a whole paragraph of flavor-text before going on to present the prerequisites. But guess what? Said prereqs are actually pretty hard to fulfill - when one takes a look at Bright-Burning Tempter, for example, one notices that the feat requires class levels as antipaladin AND of the wishcrafter ifrit sorceror archetype, a rather uncommon option.


So yes, there are feats intended to make less viable options that make for cool character concepts more viable. The second thing a newcomer to his design-approach would note is that the benefits...are complex. As in "I can literally list a huge amount of archetypes that do less" level of complexity.


To take the aforementioned feat as an example: When a creature benefits from your wishbound arcana, it is thereafter declared as a "supplicant" - said targets may be healed via touch of corruption as though they were undead and you may spend 2 uses of it to remove a variety of different negative conditions. In a twist, this does not remove disease or addiction - just the effects. Additionally, when you use wishbound arcana, you may expend a number of daily uses of touch of corruption, capping at sorceror level, to evoke one of two or both of the following effects: Effect 1: You may apply a metamagic feat to the spell cast, requiring expenditure of touch of corruption equal to the amount of spell level increases the metamagic feat would apply. The second effect makes the power you bestow addictive, prompting the supplicant to save versus a scaling DC to not fall prey to your power's addictive qualities. Additional expenditure of touch of corruption uses increases the potency of said addiction.


That was one feat. You'll notice 3 peculiarities here - a) this does more than a simple archetype, b) is incredibly cool and evocative and c)...is arguably pretty strong, as it basically unlocks paladin mercy-style tricks for the antipaladin class. Via a follow-up-feat, you can use touch of corruption as a free or immediate action to gain the benefits of e.g. air walk/water walk, bypass fire resistance (but not immunity - immune targets instead get half damage), destroy unattended objects, lace flaming burst on all attacks, king's castle or elemental body II (fire elemental only) for 1 round and you may expend 2 uses to provide the benefits until the end of your next round. Oh, and the supplicant needs to be able to ask for the respective benefits. This feat is aptly called Answer to Apocalyptic Desires and it should pretty much highlight something to consider - these feats are powerful; specific and complex, but very powerful.


Now this is pretty much what makes Obsidian Apocalypse the perfect fit for this kind of design - after all, most "regular" folks have either been killed or corrupted...and these feats very much make clear how the forces of darkness could win.


Another feat herein, Devil's Gate, allows you to expend ki in the dark/dim lighting to summon eidolon/lesser eidolon surge as a SP, with higher levels allowing for progressively higher expenditures of ki for more powerful SPs. There is also a similar feat that substitutes grit for that, which is slightly more problematic, considering that grit is a refreshing resource as opposed to ki. Both feats have btw. in common that they don't have a prerequisites-line. While it's rather apparent that one should have both eidolon and the respective pool, the nitpicker in me still would have wanted a line à la "eidolon class feature, ki/grit pool class feature."


Elemental Adeptness is also interesting - it locks your Elemental Fist into a given element, but grants you a revelation associated with the given energy type (oracle class level = character level) and allows you to, as a standard action, expend spell-level ki or grit points to cast mystery-spells, though they are treated as SPs, get a scaling save DC and they are governed by Wisdom.


Another feat basically takes the skinwalker-theme - you can wildshape into a disgusting proto-beast (at decreased duration - only 10 minutes per level) and fluidly switch between forms - including swarm forms, though these make you exceedingly vulnerable versus AoE-effects. Oh, and yes, animals and vermin shy away from your abominable form. There is also a feat that ties Bloodrager to Charisma, making the class work better with the undead, while Sense of the Shrike allows you to know when your name/title is uttered - the more often the target has spoken your name, the easier you can sniff out the fool who dared to speak your name.


It should be noted that the pdf blends Boomer's design rather well with the unique options of Obsidian Apocalypse - the genesai-race, for example, can extend greatly the use of shattersoul blade, expending it for alternate, defensive purposes. Several other feats follow similarly complex rules-operations, codifying spells as castable via class resources, extending spell-lists.


There is also a feat called Terrifying Blow that lets you utilize natural attacks as Awesome Blows, in spite of not fulfilling the prerequisites for the latter and while the feat provides synergy with the Awesome Blow-feat, the potency of the maneuver and the minimal prereqs here mean that this is rather nasty - even before the added AoE shaken-effect accompanying the attacks. On the plus-side, however, it should be noted that a vast amount of synergy between other feats and this makes the mechanics here solid. Insane gunslingers (or swashbucklers) worshipping the elder gods can inflict damage upon themselves (to hasten activation action) and expend grit/panache to temporarily gain the tarrasque's carapace...and yes, the damage cannot be mitigated.


It should also be noted that the Burning Necropolis provides a feat tree, which, when combined, in text exceeds two pages - and they are intriguing, for prereqs contain exposures to various environmental hazards and the feats add necropolis tokens you can expend to increase the potency of your summon monster spells...oh, and the final feat lets you call forth a fully statted golden-clad legion of skeletons (using the mob rules)...and it can be remotely detonated.


What about a mantra of madness that allows you to use Linguistics as an immediate action to negate attacks or touch attacks by substituting it for AC? Yes, these feats are powerful...but oh so well-written. No, I haven't even touched upon e.g. the feat that makes undead gunslingers basically revenants and lets them rejuvenate for as long as they have grit...including the return of their weaponry...


The pdf also contains the Singer of Praise, a bard archetype, who gets a cleric's Ref- and Will-save progression, 4+Int skills per level (and a decreased class skill-list), but replaces bardic knowledge with access to a mystery (but no revelations, though they can be gained via Extra Revelation). The archetype may only inspire allies sharing their faith (or are within one step of the alignment axis) via bardic music. 2nd level provides a domain, subdomain or inquisition instead of versatile performance, while well-versed only applies to creatures opposed to the patron deity. 5th level provides channel energy at -4 levels instead of lore master and 10th level unlocks a sorceror bloodline, adding bonus spells, treating sorceror levels for bloodline powers as -6. This archetype is very complex, considering the amount of moving parts - so yes, depending on the amount of resources you use, it can become problematic. However, it doesn't have to be.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to LPJ Design's two-column full-color standard for Obsidian Apocalypse-pdfs and the pdf comes with gorgeous full color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked and a second, smaller version intended for mobile use is provided in the deal.


Okay, so why did I ramble on for about half the review on the design philosophy behind these feats? Well, because I need you to understand that these feats are not balanced against your average standard feat - what we have here are essentially character concepts in feat form, narrative options. Unlike most feats, the material contained herein, sans exceptions, is so evocative and unique, it made me really want to create characters FOR the feats, not the other way round - prior to reading this, I wasn't aware I needed a wishcrafter antipaladin villain - now I certainly KNOW I need one of these guys in my rogue's gallery! Much like the feats Clinton has crafted for Legendary Games' Legendary Villains-series, these feats are pure, evocative brilliance....and should not find their way into the hands of players unless you're gunning for a truly high-powered campaign or need them to make a character concept work. (Alternatively, these make for great story-rewards...) One can also see Jeff Lee's talented design in these pages.


Here's the thing, though: This approach to feat-design fits perfectly with Obsidian Apocalypse's brutal, high-powered and twisted setting - the last heroes and villains, the sheer epic scope of their conflict...it works with the setting exceedingly well and complements it in a delightfulyl wicked wayx - even among master Boomer's feats, some of these stand out by virtue of their imagery and awesome themes. If the title wasn't ample clue for you: These feats are intended for the bad guys out there and at best, provide morally questionable power and yes, they stumble here and there regarding the precise implementation of prerequisites...but they also manage to juggle extremely complex concepts sans stumbling.


Let me reiterate this: I am going to rate this according to its intent -as a feat-toolkit to craft truly astounding villains or high-powered anti-heroes. And, oh boy does this do its job - usually, reviewing feats is a rather tedious, none-too-exciting process. While reading this book, however, I thoroughly enjoyed myself...and when it was done, I immediately felt the urge to craft some unique adversaries. A single feat herein can inspire a whole cadre of villains - and that is, pardon the horrible pun, a feat indeed. As a GM toolkit, this is pure awesomeness, the astounding concepts and overall execution mitigating the minor issues this has. So what's my final verdict?


Well, I can't rate this the full 5 stars...but this is the first feat-pdf in ages that really blew me away. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up and I'll add my seal of approval to it. Seriously, if you're looking for complex, inspired and extremely flavorful design and a crunch-book that is actually a good read, get this! Beware when using this for PCs, though.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Obsidian Apocalypse: Sinful & Vile Feats (PFRGP)
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Spooky Gardens Autumn Special
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/04/2016 03:55:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first extra-length special of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, ~1/2 a page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so what do we get?


Well, after a brief introduction, the first piece of crunch we get is the spirit cudgel, a +2 gloom bough heartwood club that protects the wearer as protection from evil when an incorporeal undead comes within 60 ft. Okay, I guess.


More interesting would be the first creature, the delightfully twisted CR 5 brain pumpkin - basically, these thinking plants have dangerous tendrils and a gaze that can enthrall those subject to it, who thereafter get close to the pumpkin, only to have it implant a brain seed (a new infestation) in their brains, which then proceeds to subvert the host. Implantation also ends in a short-term confusion effect. If the host fails to remove the seed (which requires magic!), he'll turn into a pumpkin-headed creature (CR+1 template), of which 4 sample builds are provided. Additionally, the killer pumpkin has an array of rather twisted SPs...however, this sentience does have a price - in a cool Achilles heel, the creature is subject to mind-affecting effects, unlike normal plants. f you want, you can combine these more mature body-snatcher pumpkins with AAW Games' "A Frightful Time" kid-friendly module, since said module sports pretty much such creatures as foes...only more goofy and less potent. Just add this creature, change the hook, et voilà - nastier, adult scenario.


The second plant covered herein would be the CR 8 Gloom Bough, a huge, bone-white, leafless tree with an affinity for negative energy. These trees increase the numerical penalties and bonuses of emotion-effects and those sans numerical effects seen their saves penalized while in the presence of these sinister trees. Gloom boughs can convey general emotions and hijack emotion-based effects - both spells and even barbarian rages, though effects that need to be willingly ended require a save. Absolutely awesome: The sinister trees work in symbiosis with haunts, increasing their potency. Following the theme of emotions, there is the vengeful creature template (CR +1,with 3 sample creatures applied, ready for use) that grants a fear aura and a sonic damage-causing, stunning shriek. The template didn't blow me away, but I did enjoy the 6 sample haunts added to the fray - from spectral crows and horsemen to critical miss-punishing ego whips, skeletal arms from the ground or a harsh demand that may castigate the hapless, the haunts may not be too subtle, but they are generally well-crafted and fun - particularly compelling would be a compulsion to slay teh kin of the affected - really nasty one!


Now, one of the staples of the series have been natural items harvested from defeated creatures and we get a bunch herein as well - from the gloom bough heartwood already hinted at in the beginning to skeletal powder, zombie flesh and brain pumpkin pulp, these are pretty awesome. The new, negative energy resistance granting drug bone white makes sense when facing evil clerics and the use of parts of the monsters as power components further provides depth for the two plant creatures featured herein.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games' two-column color standard and the pdf provides gorgeous artworks for the critters - in color for one (see cover), while the gloom bough gets a beautiful pencil-drawn b/w-illustration - kudos! Beyond these, the pdf also sports some nice, smaller pieces of b/w-art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is nice to see indeed.


Russ Brown and Jacob W. Michaels deliver two killer plant-creatures, both of which sport unique and fun mechanics, which are further complemented by the awesome power-components and interesting mundane, natural items. Granted, I saw the killer pumpkin done before, but the incarnation herein is nasty and unique and does the trope more than justice. I'm a sucker for haunts, so I enjoyed these as well - while the grasping skeletal hands may sound trite, the haunt dealing damage based on movement is pretty cool (and dangerous). That being said, if I have one complaint here, then it's that the two templates don't live up to the cool drug, items and critters - they are pretty standard fare as far as I'm concerned. Still, at the low asking price, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spooky Gardens Autumn Special
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Magic Helms of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/04/2016 03:53:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Purple Duck Games' inexpensive Purple Duck Storeroom-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, so most helmets are assumed to be part of the armor, right? Well, this experimental pdf goes one step further (or backwards through time, depending on your perspective) regarding the measure of protection helmets offer. The pdf does this by introducing an item, the greathelm - this helm, when worn sans armor and only a shield (or no shield), grants a +1 armor bonus on its own, but also penalizes Perception by -2. More importantly, it offers a 10% chance to negate sneak attack damage or the bonus damage incurred from a critical hit.


Basically, it has limit 2 and fortification 10% - two new scores introduced here; the first denotes how the senses are limited by the helm; the second denotes the chance to negate critical hits et al. - and no, I have no problem with finer distinctions regarding fortification than the ones provided by the base rules. Each item also has a chance to incur the broken condition upon negating a critical hit. Such helms require heavy armor proficiency to grant their benefits, just fyi. So that would be the mundane foundation.


The pdf continues to build on this foundation with numerous helms - the first of which allows for blur in increments as well as helping versus death attacks. I would have appreciated information on whether this is a spell trigger item or use activated item regarding activation of the blur-effect, though - the latter would also pose the question of whether it can be activated as a standard or free action.


Thankfully, a scorching ray emitting tiara does get the activation right. A bascinet allows the wearer to treat one hostile creature as dazed for the purposes of flanking, which may also be dazed on an easy failed save and call forth a swarm of ravens (statblock provided) - unfortunately, once again sans specifying which action the summoning takes. I also would have appreciated information on whether saving versus the daze negates the flanking benefit - I assume no, but the wording could quite frankly be clearer.


A combination of scroll-enhancer and spell-in-a-can works perfectly and the erkusaan helmet that enhance leadership and helps intimidate humans sports 8 delightfully chaotic effects. There would also be a brain-case that enhances Intelligence, grants low-light vision and allows for limited communication with constructs. The Lion-King's Greathelm with its stacking AC-bonus is neat and negates charge-penalties - it also provides a 1/day cone of sonic damage...that lacks the activation action. What about a crown that can unreliably absorb spells, transmuting them into a time shudder?


Fans of Porhyra will like a helmet that helps bypass sanctuary, repulsion, etc. - but most importantly, the porphyrite borders while also minimizing the damage caused by wall-spells (sans prismatic wall)!


A helmet that replaces spellcasting for the full-round weapon display of Dazzling Display also makes sense to me and is actually rather intriguing! Similarly, a multi-veiled turban is nice.


The pdf also sports two cursed helms...but I'm not spoiling their effects here, in case players are reading...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, they are good, if not perfect. Thankfully, one can usually ascertain what's meant sans ambiguity, even though syntax etc deviates. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly no-frills 1-column purple/black/white-standard for the series, with no artworks and the pdf actually is fully bookmarked - kudos!


The one reason this pdf does not get a higher rating can be summed up in two words: Activation action. Quite a few of the items herein fail to specify them for the spell-in-a-can-effects that accompany some helmets and while a spell-trigger's standard action can be assumed, I can't be sure. That being said, I like the finer fortification and the play with Perception penalties exhibited here - they make sense to me and the helmets themselves are sufficiently varied and sport interesting ideas. While formally falling short of always functional and precise rules-language, Perry Fehr's helmets do offer some rather cool ideas a GM can further use, enhance and tweak. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to the low and fair price point.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Magic Helms of Porphyra
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Path of Iron
Publisher: Ascension Games, LLC
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2016 04:02:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second of Ascension Games' massive crunch-books clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 158 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review is based on the electronic 2nd printing-version of the book.


After a brief introduction on the subject matter at hand, we dive pretty much straight into the first base-class, which would be the archivist. Archvists get d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and receive simple weapon proficiency, but no armor proficiency. As should be evident from the framework, the archivist is a full caster, but not one who utilizes spells - instead, he uses rune magic, a new type of magic introduced herein. An archivist begins play with 3 fundamentals (scaling up to 8 at 12th level) and begins play with 2 scripts - a new script is gained every level, with 5th and every 4 levels thereafter granting an additional bonus script - handily summed up in the class table, just fyi. To learn a given script, an archivist must have an Intelligence score of 10 + the script level and DCs, if applicable, are 10 + script's level + Intelligence modifier. Much like other casters, archivists receive bonus scripts based on high attribute modifiers. As usual, there is a maximum level of the given rune you can learn, determined by class level - this time around, we obviously are looking at full access, i.e. runes of up to 9th level are unlocked.


Okay, before we go into any more details, let's make a not-so-quick-detour, wherein I explain rune magic - makes no sense talking about a full caster sans explaining the casting system used, right? Takes a deep breath


So, how does rune magic work? Well, unlike prepared or spontaneous casting usually work, the rune magic user only gets access to the scripts he actually has learned. It should also be noted that the rune magic has a linear-rule - that is, users of this system must know e.g. at least 1 3rd level script to learn a 4th level script. Casting a script requires you to be able to speak, but curiously, neither shields nor armor impedes the casting of a rune's script - basically, the magic has verbal, but no somatic components and is not subject to arcane spell failure. Now here's the interesting thing - much like a spontaneous caster, the rune magic user can cast each script he knows a select number of times per day - but the casts are tied to the respective scripts, not the script-levels. the extra castings granted from high attributes in the governing attribute act as wildcard slots that can be applied to any script on the fly, allowing for some degree of flexibility - basically, while the core scripts are limited, the bonus scripts can be applied as flexible daily uses on the fly. The negation script is used for counterspelling purposes, while generally, the system assumes that scripts cannot be counterspelled by spells and vice versa, with dispel magic being an obvious exemption from the rule - so limited transparency between runes and regular spellcasting is the default assumption.


Scripts have so-called designs, which can be likened to the basic schools of regular magic: Alteration, Creation, Destruction, Invocation, Manipulation, Revelation. Some sport subtypes, descriptors and the like. In case you haven't figured that out, fundamentals are the cantrip-equivalent and can be cast an unlimited amount of times per day - but they do not generate runic charge. What's that, you ask? Well, much like prepared spellcasting, runic magic assumes that the scribe has prepared the bulk of the rune in advance, to only finish it when casting the script. The runes prepared in advance then proceed to become charged with the energy of the script - this is referred to as runic charge. Up until 5th level, the maximum runic charge the scribe can have is 1; starting at 5th level till 10th, the number is 2; 11th level upgrades this to 3 and finally, 17th level to 4. The level of a given script does not affect the number of runic charges gained - 1st level and 9th level scripts all deliver the same +1 runic charge. A given item can hold exactly one runic charge and the charge dissipates after 1 hour out of the scribe's possession as well as when the scribe rests. Runic charges can be identified via Spellcraft and the pdf manages to even cover auras of such charges.


So far, so good - but do we do with these runic charges? Well, here things get interesting: You see, each script has a special paragraph to overload it. When overloading a given script, a scribe expends all accumulated runic charges as part of the casting of the respective script. BAsically, you could liken these to how psionic augments work, but in a more limited fashion - the overloading allows a given script to exceed its usual limit, providing e.g. additional targets, more arcane death to rain upon foes etc. So far, so cool, right? Well, the catch here is one I hinted at before - know how I mentioned the aura of a given charge? Well, turns out that quite a lot of overloading options provided for scripts have additional effects depending on the design (school) of the runic charge. Since the respective scripts are more limited than spells, they tend to provide more flexibility, but let's provide an example, shall we?


Alter Form, a level 6 alteration, lasts for 1 min/level and nets you your choice of +4 to eitehr Str, Dex or Con or two enhancements from Lesser Alter Form: These include +2 to Str and Dex and size increase or decrease by one step. The 6th level alter form furthermore grants one of the following: Fly speed 30 ft. with good maneuverability, 60 ft. climb or swim speed, burrow speed 30 ft, +4 natural armor or two of lesser alter form's two additional benefits, which include claws or bite (both not specifying whether they act as primary or secondary), a climb or swim speed, scent or +2 natural AC. Now with overload, thing become even more modular: Alteration runic charge can provide DR 5/adamantine; Creation provides fast healing 5, Destruction adds Improved Critical to natural attacks; Invocation provides energy resistance 20 versus your choice of the classic 4 energy types; Manipulation increases base speed by 30 ft. and revelation provides blindsense 30 ft.; You may also choose the overload effects from lesser alter form and for every 2 runic charges, you may choose +1 ability. And yes, there is an 8th level greater version.


Now here is the interesting part beyond the extended complexity the scripts provide - the book actually manages to properly codify the way how scripts and magic items/spells etc. interact - so yes, while direct counterspelling and the like does not treat the system as transparent with regular magic, magic item and school-based immunity correlations are perfectly codified - yes, including potions, scrolls, wands etc. - rules-wise, this is very tight.


By the way - if the above example was frightening for you: Fret not. There are plenty simpler runes herein - barrier duplicates a modified wall of force, for example, with overload increasing caster level. Banish sends outsiders to their homeplanes, with overloading allowing the scribe to affect more HD. So yes, beyond the delightfully modular ones, there are ample less complex runes for your perusal.


Rune magic has one final peculiarity, which would be engraving: Engraving a script takes 10 minutes as opposed to the usual casting time (or +10 minutes, if casting time is already 10 minutes or longer) - upon completion, the script is treated as maximum runic charge'd for the scribe's level, but does not generate a runic charge of its own, neither does it expend a runic charge you have. And yes, it does expend the use of the script - essentially, you cast longer, but get better results and don't have to waste your runic charges on a script where you don't want to waste them on -since runic charges are a limited resource based on previously cast scripts, this option makes sense, in particular for long-term buffs and the like.


Exhales Okay, got that? Great, so let's return to the archivist-class, all right? Starting at first level, the archivist chooses a bloodline-like specialization for a given script design, somewhat akin to school specialization - this unlocks new abilities at 1st level, 2nd and every 6 levels thereafter. The choice also determines the design of archivist bonus scripts granted over the class's progression. Finally, this choice also provides a new function regarding the overloading of scripts, called study synergy.


4th level provides a 1/day swift action runic charge gain and may exchange all runic charge's design for that of another design. The ability can be used +1/day at 4th level, +1/day for every 6 levels thereafter; at 16th level, the archivist gains two runic charges from the use of this ability instead.


Now, regarding study-synergy, one example would be a +1d4/-1d4 surge-like bonus/penalty that is applied to a physical-attribute related action of the recipient of a rune, a radius-based AC-granting barrier or energy resistance. The study abilities include combined benefits of endure elements and a ring of sustenance or granted/forced rerolls - the more powerful abilities obviously being often limited to daily uses. The respective design specializations also determine the capstones granted by the class and yes, there is interaction with Metascript-feats. Applying a metascript feat increases casting time to 1 full-round action, with the exception of Quicken Script, and only one such feat may be added to a given script. Metascript feats have built-in daily limits - you can use them only a limited amount of time per day, though additional uses are unlocked as you progress through the levels - interestingly, not tying the benefits to e.g. archivist levels, but instead to character levels.


The second class contained herein is the saboteur, who gets d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbow, net, rapier, sap, shortbow, short sword, all firearms and light armors. The class gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves and begins play with trapfinding. The defining trait of the saboteur, though, would be the impromptu creation of magical traps with minimal materials - these saboteur traps behave in many ways like spells in trap form; if applicable saboteur level acts as caster level and Intelligence would be the governing attribute for them. Preparing a trap takes 1 minute and, once set, it remains active for 1 day. Traps can be disabled via Disable Device. Saboteurs may thus keep their trap-slots open and unprepared when going out to adventure in the next dungeon - after all preparation is rather quick. The saboteur has an assembly-list that governs spell-trigger items he can use. Traps are "cast" by being set, which is a standard action that provokes AoOs. Traps affect a 5ft- square and may not be stacked upon another or similar magical traps like glyphs. Type-wise, they are codified as Type: Magical, Trigger: Location, Reset: None.


Once set, traps remain functional for 10 minutes per CL; hereafter it falls apart. (15th level upgrades that to 1 hour per level.) A saboteur can't just make one death-ambush after the other, though: A saboteur can have a maximum of Intelligence modifier traps placed at a given time; setting a new trap beyond this limit deactivates the oldest trap. When a trap is triggered, the trap affects first the triggering creature and then the closest creatures nearby, as per the respective parameters. Effects with concentration require line of sight from saboteur to trap to maintain it. Additionally, once per round as a move action, a saboteur can trigger a trap within 30 ft. planted and a placed trap can be disarmed sans check with only a standard action, no check required. Costly material components are expended upon placing the trap. In order to prepare a given trap, the saboteur needs his assembly book - the saboteur begins play with 2 1st level assemblies +Int-mod assemblies, gaining +1 every level and saboteurs may add assemblies as a wizard may add spells to his spellbook. In order to locate a placed trap, the searching target has to beat the DC +10.


Additionally, at first level, the saboteur class receives the marked target ability, which allows the saboteur to mark within line of sight a target as a move action, adding scaling bonuses to atk/dmg, AC or the like - 4 such benefits can be chosen. Once marked, a creature can thereafter not be marked again by the saboteur for 24 hours and the saboteur may dismiss the mark as a swift action. Only one mark can be in effect at a given time, with 9th level providing the option to maintain two marks at once - all of which can be then changed as a swift action. 17th level increases this to three marks, including the option to place two marks on a single target, but at the cost ob not being able to mark another creature while the dual amrk is in place.


2nd level nets evasion (13th improved evasion) and the first saboteur trick - basically the talent-array of the class. An additional talent is gained every two levels after the second. When applicable, save DCs are 10 +1/2 class level + int-mod. These saboteur tricks are pretty much brutal: There is, for example, one that makes opponents ALWAYS flat-footed against you in a surprise round and, when hit by the saboteur, they remain so for the first combat round. I think this should only apply when the saboteur has the surprise, not when he's surprised - and yes, there are options that allow you to act in a surprise round or even get the regular action contigent. There also would be a crazy prepared trick that almost works perfectly - sporting a sensible recharge mechanic that prevents abuse, it's great, though it lacks the "can't produce unique items"-caveat - you could draw the key to that door/manacles from your backpack, which is something I consider problematic. Now all tricks have issues, though - there is a higher level assassination that requires only one round of study, but does require the enemy to be unaware of the saboteur's intent as a foe. Limited SPs, conversation-based charm/suggestion tricks etc., numerical boosts that interact with marks and temporary regeneration-elimination provide unique options. I particularly enjoyed the means to temporarily split into two at the highest levels, codifying the classic shadow twin-stunt in a concise manner. Using AoOs to parry enemy strikes when said foe is properly marked may not be too elegant, but it does work sans hassle - so if you don't have rules-aesthetic objections to the ability, you won't have an issue with it. Nondetection, becoming trackless, item-destruction or arcana theft can be found - also cool: properly scaling DR-bypassing.


At 3rd level, passive detection of hidden doors and traps is possible. 5th level provides quicker trap disarms and at 19th level, the saboteur may almost instantly disable traps as barely a standard action, with full-round action Open Locks being possible as a swift action! 7th level also nets the saboteur combined arms - this is where the class becomes interesting, as the saboteur can now combined multiple assemblies as one trap. 11th level allows a saboteur to throw a trap up to 20 ft. as part of the standard action of placing it. Alternatively, the saboteur can add the trap to a ranged weapon like a bow, crossbow, etc. - shooting the trap thus takes a full-round action, though at teh cost of decreasing the DC against the trap's effects.


The class provides a massive array of 5 lengthy capstones that allow the class to excel in one of its components - whether it's the mark, easy dismantling of magic, bypassing all kinds of traps or making exceedingly powerful traps, the capstone abilities are worthy. The assembly list is btw. relatively limited, which is ultimately what keeps the saboteur balance-wise in line.


The third class in this book would be the vanguard, who receives d8 HD, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and firearms as well as light armor, medium armor and shields and may cast spells in light and medium armor sans incurring spell failure. Vanguards are prepared spellcasters that gain access to spells up to 6th level, drawing exclusively from his own spell-list. Vanguards' spellcasting-governing attribute is Charisma and the class gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- And Will-save progression.


The class begins play with a construct companion pet that gains 3/4 HD- and BAB-progression, 1/4 saving throw progression, up to 30 skill points, up to 8 feats and up to a +8 primary ability bonus, +4 secondary ability bonus - these are determined by the respective base forms chosen, of which 3 are available - combat, eldritch and scouting form. Construct companions are not immune to mind-affecting effects and they have an Int-score. Pieces of equipment cna be integrated into the construct companion, which is, rules-wise, a pretty impressive display of rules-language craftsmanship - and no, no quick switching available. The construct gets a link and share spells. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide a bonus feat and 2nd level provides 1/2 class level to Craft, Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering) as well as to Spellcraft checks made to identify magic items.


1st level also provides the first 2 augmentations - one of which is mending touch, which allows the construct companion not to be a really bad drain on resources. The second can be freely chosen; 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter provide an additional augmentation. However, these augments connect with another mechanic: Resonance. Causing a resonance is a standard action that does not provoke an AoO and the effect of a given resonance depends on the augmentation. Only one resonance may be in effect at a given time. a vanguard can create a resonance 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. The action required for activation improves to move action at 7th levelm swift action at 13th level. If the companion is destroyed, a vanguard can still use a resonance at twice the cost, unless it requires tandem activation by both vanguard and construct companion.


2nd level also allows the vanguard to imbue a contingency-type of effect in his weapon or that of his construct or in himself or his construct. These effects are limited in what can be imbued, but still are pretty powerful. This ability is further upgraded at 11th level and 17th level. 3rd level provides teamwork feats to the companion. 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter add +1 spell poached from the sorc/wiz spell list and 8th level allows the vanguard to chance an augmentation chosen via 8 hours of work, though the prerequisites must align; i.e. not replacements of inferior with superior augmentations. 14th level provides exceedingly fast item construction. As a capstone, he gets an all-day augmentation - whenever he uses resonance with it, he also gets battlemind link with his companion for Cha-mod rounds.


Augmentations pretty much look like feats - they have prerequisites (usually levels, attributes and previously gained augmentations and can range in type from Ex to Sp. They include attribute bonuses, integrated bags of holding, more spells, added weapon properties and the like, with solid daily limits balancing the more powerful tricks. Resonance-entries for the augmentations are pretty diverse - AoE abundant ammunition, swapping of places, granting an ally a form of movement...there is diversity and tactics here. Suffice to say, all three classes do receive favored class options that extend partially to the more popular planetouched races aasimar and tiefling, with the saboteur also getting FCOs for drow and kobolds.


The book also covers an array of archetypes: Metallurgist alchemists apply salves, a specialized extract, to objects. Bloodragers may select the forgeborn bloodline to become construct-y/particularly adept at destroying items, while the sorceror-version is themed around crafting/object manipulation and defensive tricks. Blade Shifter fighters can supernaturally alter weapons (cool idea!) and benefit from the fluidity of their weapon. Technique masters utilize the new technique feats and may have multiple ones active. Inquisitor runebinders are interesting - a complex archetype utilizing Wis-governed runes, with special judgments tied to runic charge, offering a unique playing experience. The Arcane Defender and Marauder magus-archetypes are pretty much BLAND - diminished spellcasting defense/offense specialists - boring and pretty much filler the book didn't need. The Eldritch Eye is more interesting - basically, a ranged magus with the option to learn to use arcana as grit, quicker reloads, etc. The Mystic dervish is basically the two-handed magus and, once again, okay, if not really exciting The Rune Knight is more interesting, being, bingo, the rune-using magus, with unique rune strike and arcane pool-powered runic charges. The Zen marksman is a power-gamer's wet dream regarding dipping - combining monk with gunslinger, you get all the great saves and may flurry with firearms, even though they're ranged...and yes, this includes free action reload while flurrying...though at the cost of continuously increasing misfire rates for each shot. Let me state this load and clearly - craftsmanship-wise, there is nothing to complain about here - but the fact that you get firearm-flurry including free action reloads at first level is ridiculous. For a 1-level dip, a gunslinger gets a LOT out of this archetype - too much. Spreading this ability over the levels would have made much more sense. Not getting near my game.


Rangers get 5 new, very well-crafted combat styles with firearms, polearm, quarterstaff, spear and unarmed as well as the entrapper archetype, which would be the saboteur/ranger crossover. Shamans may elect to go metal shaman in a well-crafted, rather cool option and skalds may become ancestral warriors, gaining an ancestral weapon that increases in potency over the levels...yeah, you've seen that trope before.


Obviously, the new classes are not forgotten either: Vanguards electing to become arcane menders can heal via their construct's mending touch and may only imbue protective and healing spells, while getting limited spells from the cleric's list - cool! The Steelbound Warden gets weapon, armor or shield as bonded object and basically replaces his companion with this object - the pet-less vanguard, if you will. Nice! The transmuter replaces his imbuing with the means of changing the basic composition of objects. Archivists perhaps are the most versatile regarding additional options here: They may choose from 12 focused studies, which can be considered to be minor modifications of their chosen study - whether it's animal companions, magic disruption or controlling gravity - there are a bunch of useful and well-presented options here.


The Saboteur may elect to become an ambush specialist or a demolitionist - these guys can convert their regular traps in bomb-like charges that scale as 1d6 per 2 class levels +1d6 per trap slot level converted. This damage thus eclipses that of the comparable alchemist bomb class feature by trap level and additionally, the charges damage is not halved versus objects AND bypasses hardness depending on the level. It should be noted that this explosion cannot be avoided by guys with evasion and the like since the save is Fortitude-based. While the alchemist has superiority regarding customization of bombs, the sheer damage output, combo potential and options to create truly devastating death traps means that this guy will only see action in my most high-powered of games, even though I like its concept. The ruin raider gets an on-the fly versatile intuition bonus, can learn movement rates/sight-types and learn symbol spells.


Okay, I already dabbled in feats, so let's make the remainder of this review quick, shall we? Beyond the aforementioned metascript feats, we receive an array of metaconstruction feats, which basically constitute metamagic for traps. These work pretty much as you'd expect, increasing level, needing to be built-in upon preparing the traps, etc. - but seeing how quickly you can prepare traps, they are significantly more useful than their much maligned regular brethren. The next new feat-class provided are technique feats, which usually are named after outsiders. These feats are activated as a swift action, whereupon you enter the associated stance; tricks and benefits of a specific feat only apply while in this stance and follow-up effects similarly only work while in the associated technique: When in Angel Technique's stance, you get the benefits from that stance but can't use the abilities granted from Protean Technique's stance and its follow-up feats. Sounds familiar? Yeah, this is basically a huge array of [Style]-feats by another name, with one crucial difference - they are specifically intended for use with WEAPONS and do not work when unarmed.


Changing techniques is a swift action. The feats per se are powerful, if situational: Asura Motion, for example, provides bonus damage when striking multiple targets in one round - per additional foe hit in a given round, +2d6, up to +4d6. Annoyingly, the feat fails to specify damage type, which means that the bonus damage is the almighty unmitigated untyped damage. In this chapter, you can find a couple of these hiccups in the author's otherwise mostly flawless rules-language - while mostly negligible à la "Creatures do not get an attack roll benefit...", it's still something I noticed. that being said, there also are pretty awesome tricks like whip-grapple synergy with instant draw to an adjacent square, harder to heal bleed damage and there also is a take on the standard action-TWF-attack. Over all, the feats are interesting, though not as polished as the majority of this book. And yes, the pdf specifies the interaction of Technique and Style feats: In short - no dice. Overall, this chapter's technique feats generally impressed me and represent certainly a rather cool variant of style feats that can (and should) be expanded further - kudos!


The chapter on spells, finally, introduces the meta-descriptor alongside a metric ton of new spells, some of which interact, obviously, with class features of the new classes herein, whereas others extend the options of more vanilla classes. Temporarily liquefying objects (sans harming them), ranger level 3 spells to perform a full-BAB attack versus each foe in reach...interesting. Armor-manipulation, scattering objects, symbols of locking - there are a lot cool ideas here! Finally, there are special abilities for weapons and armor as well as an arsenal of magic items for your perusal, several of which, once again, interact with class features introduced herein, with rune magic items and lavishly-depicted unique weaponry, metascript rods and talismans of power (pearls of power for scripts) complementing the book's content.


It should be noted that the artists get proper recognition with all pieces individually credited and that the feat-section for example, sports a full-blown table for handy reference. Finally, the book has an excessive, well-crafted index that makes handling it rather comfortable.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, in spite of my nitpickery, can be considered excellent on both formal and rules-language levels - there are almost no glitches herein, which is a significant feat for a crunch book of this size. Layout adheres to Ascension games clean, elegant 2-column full-color standard and the book sports copious amount of beautiful full-color artwork that manages to mostly retain a unified style, which is pretty awesome to see. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can't comment on the print version, since I do not own it.


Christopher Moore's Path of Iron is a truly impressive, massive book of balls to the wall CRUNCH. The most significant and defining characteristic when describing his unique design-style is probably that this book feels like a Paizo-book. It's design-aesthetics, rules-language, presentation - the whole shebang not only looks like a Paizo-crunch book, it feels like one. The class design paradigms are very close to what you'd see in Paizo material and the precision, even in complex rules-interactions, can simply not be denied. This is, craftsmanship-wise, rather excellent, in spite of the few minor hiccups. (And yes, there are plenty of those in Paizo books as well - depending on the book, more than herein.)


So, what about the artistry? Well, I did write in my review of Path of Shadows that Christopher Moore's design was pretty conservative and it still is - however, when he lets loose, he goes full out: The Rune Magic's modularity with the escalation bar-type runic charge reads nice on paper, but it plays friggin' amazing. It adds a completely new tactical dimension to playing a caster and frankly, is just capital letters fun and by far my favorite component of the pdf, in spite of e.g. the wording of the alter form scripts I quoted being a bit confusing upon first reading: Establishing primary and secondary abilities as nomenclature would have made them clearer, but that's just me being a rules-language snob - they work, and that is what counts.


The saboteur, on the other side, imho suffers a bit from having his traps basically being relegated to a limited selection of delayed spells - the framework is great, the rules-language is precise and no, this will not influence my review, but personally, I was a bit disappointed to see the traps of the class being just another version of spells. That might be me and the class is a cool playing experience, particularly with the new spells herein that add a whole roster of tactical tricks, but still - I found myself wishing the class had actually unique traps. Perhaps I was just too excited about the concept, but for now, that niche will be continued to be filled by Drop Dead Studios' Vauntguard in my games.


Of all the classes, I was least excited about the vanguard - having reviewed too many pet-robot/summoner-ish classes already, I was not expecting to really like this one: By axing the whole evolutions-bit and replacing them with augmentations, by introducing the rather rewarding concept of resonance, I couldn't really help myself...in spite of my prejudices, I ended up enjoying the class.


As for the supplemental material - in the vast majority of cases, it is interesting, excellent even. At the same time, however, there do exist components within the pages of this book that are OP or could have used a whack with the nerf-bat - and this is not me speaking about design-aesthetic preferences. That being said, these hiccups are few and far in-between...so how to rate this? See, this is where my job gets hard, so let me way lyrical for a second:


If path of iron was personified as a golem of iron standing in front of you, it would be polished to a dazzling shine that stuns you at first glance - only at close inspection you'll notice a few unpleasant pieces of rust and make a mental note to yourself that this and that component would require a bit of sanding off. The golem works and does its job smart and admirably and the creator has added some cool protocols and functionality you never saw before and you love them, but once in a while, it emits a grating creak. That's pretty much this book to me - a great offering, mostly refined to perfection, with some minor flaws that stand out more due to the book's otherwise impeccable presentation. So how do I rate this? I've thought long and hard and compared this with similar big crunch books I picked apart and ultimately decided on a final verdict based on the sheer amount of great material versus the slightly tarnished bits. Hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Iron
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Lost Lore: Ecology of the Basilisk
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2016 04:00:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Lost Lore-series clocks in on 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with 5 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, so the first thing I actually noticed (and enjoyed) about this pdf is that it's actually written in character - so yes, the reader is basically diving into the field notes of Lady Daxitroniusilluminarious Jaedall - and know what? I really like the style in which this is presented: Beginning with a brief anecdote, we go on to properly classify the creature within the context of its history and physiological contexts - and yes, the tales do include e.g. the effects of reflective substances and basically applies the scientific method to the study of fantastic creatures - several spells and their roles and interactions during the study of this creature are properly covered, conveying a sense of authenticity to the subject matter I found myself enjoying - this does feel like a scientist properly studying the basilisk.


Similarly, the pdf goes on to explain psychology and societal norms of the basilisk and the respective life cycle, while also providing tips for facing these creatures and a brief list of useful spells. The pdf also contains two spells - one that provides limited protection versus gaze attacks (appropriate at 3rd spell level) and another that lets you telepathically communicate with petrified creatures. The pdf also covers a brief list of useful items to wear when facing off versus these lethal creatures as well as two new magic items.


The first of these items would be a mask that provides immunity versus gaze attacks, while the second is a robe that has a 50% chance of reflecting rays back...and unfortunately, the item is rather opaque: "The wearer is not protected from gaze attacks, but can instead reflect any gaze back upon the original attacker." Okay, HOW? I have no idea. Is this supposed to be automatic? I.e. wearer takes effect, attacker takes effect as well? Only on a failed save or also when making the save? What if the wearer can't see the attacker, but the attacker can see the wearer? Similarly, the reflecting back of rays is odd - it requires a ranged touch attack by the wearer, but I'm not clear whether this requires an action or not - spell turning, for example, does not require an attack, but is more limited. This item...does not work as written.


The pdf also offers a CR 7/MR 3 version of the mythic basilisk that gets a nasty petrification aura - nice. The pdf also provides an 8-level "Bestiary Class" for the basilisk - basically a means to play a basilisk. The class nets d10, 2+Int skills, proficiency with natural weapons, base movement rate 20 ft. and begins play as a small creature, growing to medium-size at 3rd level. To progress in this racial class, a basilisk needs to consume a limited amount of GP per level. The class provides multiple attribute gains and unlocks the petrifying gaze (with a daily limit, increasing uses and range) at 4th level. BAB-progression is full and the class gets good Fort- and Ref-save progression as well as significant bonuses versus trip and bull rush attempts. This is an okay monster class and using basilisk blood to revert petrification represents a nice balancing mechanism once the gaze gets into player-hands.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting generally are very good on a formal level, though I do not understand why the petrification aura of the mythic basilisk, as one example, is bolded. Apart from the one item, the rules-language is precise. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a nice piece of b/w-artwork. While a pdf of this length doesn't require them, the absence of bookmarks could potentially annoy you, though I won't penalize a brief pdf like this for their absence.


Jeff Swank's ecology of the basilisk has me torn - on the one hand, I really enjoyed the prose of this supplement - the presentation of the basilisk as contained herein is more than rock-solid and evocative. The advice and inclusion of a mythic version was also nice. Still, at the same time, I couldn't help but feel that the pdf is a bit too short for its own good - what's here is pretty nice, but the pdf feels very constrained in what it offers - the basilisk-class, for example, while pretty well-balanced, feels a bit more tedious than it could be: I get the linear gaze progression, but why doesn't the player get any say when to get the attribute bonuses? As presented, it's 8 levels sans any player agenda, sans any choice. Boring. Secondly, the class requires you to look up basilisk natural attacks, since it does not provide the information for it...which kinda sucks. It's no deal-breaker, but neither is it comfortable. Thirdly, I was really missing an age, height and weight-table, particularly considering the size-increase: If you do play a basilisk...can he cross that rickety bridge sans it collapsing? Tables would have really helped there.


That being said, this is not a bad supplement and certainly, the well-written prose helps elevate this pdf to being a solid read. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since this is the first such ecology-style book in the Lost Lore-series.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: Ecology of the Basilisk
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Southlands Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2016 03:02:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive campaign setting-style book clocks in at 302 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 4 pages of ToC, 2 pages of KS-backer thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 290 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!


I was a (hesitant) backer for this book's KS, but otherwise unaffiliated with the production of this massive tome. My book is mainly based on the print version, though the electronic version was consulted for the purpose of determining electronic functionality of e.g. bookmarks and the like.


What do I mean by "hesitant"? Okay, before we dive into this book's subject matter, a brief history lesson: I consider myself a pretty faithful fan of Kobold Press, ever since it was Open Design -I own literally every supplement and even have, back when I actually wasn't dirt poor, acted as a high-level-patron to get my very own special, unique module. I really like Midgard and the evocative potential Kobold press brings to the table. Alas, Deep Magic, the previous big book, was a heartbreaking exercise for me (see my review of that book) and it took, frankly, quite some prodding to dive in. I had a minor windfall and invested that, back in the day, in this book, as a kind of "make it or break it"-test. Did it pay off? Let's see!


The Midgard campaign setting's allure, so far, did lie primarily in its dark fantasy Germanic/Slavic flair, somewhat expanded upon by the Argonaut-style adventuring in the Journeys-books, but yeah - the focus was arguably euro-centric and thus, I was very much interested to see how the respective mythologies and power-dynamics would interact with the massive Southlands. The first thing you'll notice, though, is that the structure and organization of this book eclipses that of Deep Magic by leaps and bounds: We begin this book with a deatiled history of the Southlands - and it is a glorious read.


No, really - I mean that - the history as presented already takes you right into this book's world; it's prose is evocative and makes you remember immediately what you wanted, what you craved in fantastical settings. Still, this is the general history, the time-line. The book also is suffused by small sideboxes, where an in-character narrator provides quotes as a guide and adventure hooks/bucket-lists for adventurers for the respective regions can be found. The book also provides 5 general, new races that can be found throughout the Southlands: Gnolls, Trollkin, Tosculi (see the advanced races-installment for more on the wasp-people), Nkosi (feline shape-changer humanoids) and Kijani (plant humanoids that seek to become mammalian). The races themselves are pretty powerful (plant-immunities, for example), but not excessively so - they should work within the context of most fantasy games, though, if your gunning for gritty gameplay, you may want to take a close look at them. An innovation used here for the first time (for the tosculi exclusively) and later expanded in the Advanced Races Compendium is advice on racial scaling - so yes, you can scale down the tosculi by a bit, though imho the race does not require this in all but the grittiest of games. On a nitpicky side, some races are "lopsided" with attribute bonuses allocated to physical attributes, so if you're like me and prefer your races with a strong suit in both physical and mental attributes, that may be something to be aware of.


It should be noted that ethnicities of regular races as well as age, height and weight tables are part of the deal here. Now the interesting component here, ultimately, does not lie in the crunch (though it is significantly more solid - kudos to the authors! The intriguing component, however, would be the seamless and smart integration of literally thousands of years of history within the mythology of Midgard as a whole - whether it's the origin of Boreas, the frigid northern wind and the tie to the survivors of sunken Ankheshel or Umbuso, the ancient empire of titans, fleeing from the domains of Wotan - the most intriguing aspect here is that this massive continent of pure historicity manages to weave its meta-narrative seamlessly into the overall context of Midgardian mythology, extending the diversity and organic feeling of the world by leaps and bounds. An interesting component is also how mythic rules are handled - as a basic tenet, they are considered to be the effects of remnants of divinity sparks, left behind by fallen pantheons and titans, which provides a nice in-game rationale for the existence of powers like that.


Now, it is after this that we focus on the first overall region, which would be Nuria Natal, the eternal realm - Nuria Natal, at first glance, seems very much like the pseudo-Egyptian realm, but it is distinct from e.g. Osirion and Khemit or similar realms in several key aspects, the first of which is the focus on the river that defines it - springing from a planar rift of the world-tree Yggdrasil, it blends the mythologies of the Nile and Midgardian theology in a truly distinct and unique vision. Similarly, the trope of undying godkings has a twist that goes far beyond what you'd expect - the legendary rulers of the land, semi-divinities and halfgods, have achieved a sense of immortality and may return from the grave to vanquish the foes of Nuria Natal, thus also explaining why the powerful, draconic sultanate Mharoti has failed to conquer this powerful nation. Similarly, the gods, while utilizing the themes of real world mythologies, never feel like simple carbon adaptations of real-world mythology, instead acting as a properly woven-in essential component of the vista portrayed.


Nowhere does this become more apparent than in Per-Bastet, the city of the everlasting cat, home of the deity...and basically a modern metropolis seen through the lens of the fantastic: A distinct patriotism unifies the quarters and their diverse residents, which contains gnolls and catfolk in abundance alongside werelions; from planar alleyways to a churning river of elemental-inhabited sand making its way through the chaotic jumble of the metropolis, the influence of Bastet, her church, the god-queen and her agents or the vampiric masterminds in the shadows, the vision of a true melting pot of fantastic ethnicities resonates with a character one usually only ascribes to real world cities. The writing here is impeccable and, much like the entries on a certain city and its necropolis, the staggering panorama extends in its quality throughout the whole chapter - from sandships as a vehicle-modification to a well-written ecology of the mummy (with ample variants and death curses), this chapter is abask in inspired writing and makes the places jump forth from the pages - whether they be the aforementioned places or the Ghatazi salt pits or the dreaded city of Per-Anu, devoted to ending lives in all manner of ways. The church of Aten and its diverse teachings, variant mummies, a city of undead and 4 archetypes (including archetypes for Theurge and White Necromancer) as well as a 10-level-PrC complement this chapter. While not universally awesome and sporting some minor deviations in rules-language, the content herein still is rather solid and well-ingrained within the context of the world. The book also sports multiple nice traits for further customization. The book also sports a HUGE number of hieroglyphs - these work akin to how rune magic or ankeshellian glyph magic work - and, while powerful, their limitations per associated cult do offer a rather easy way for the GM to control their availability - want that trick only followers of Anu-Akma have? Well, you better buckle up and join that organization!


The second, massive chapter details the nation under the auspice of the remaining wind lords, the same entities that sent Boreas packing with his aspirations of genocide - but that does not mean these eternal lords of the lands are kind - far from it. Their description very much makes clear that these elemental spirits do not adhere to the same morality as mortals. It is also in this domain that the twin lands of the gnolls (with a delightfully nasty gnoll-tactics sidebar) can be found. What do I mean by these? Well, here's an entry: "Three words: leucrotta sorceror chieftain." If you're like me, this made you grin from ear to ear. The pages chronicling these harsh regions also tell of a depressed sphinx and her honor guard watching over the verdant ruins of a fallen empire and of the fate of Roshgazi, minotaur-nation and Catharge-equivalent - the nation has been razed to the ground by Mharot's might, but in the ruins of this place, the sentient maze still draws visitors inside, hoping for salvation...before its other personality comes to the surface - and the "Broken" does not take kindly to intruders...


Goblin-occupied Mardas Vula with its black pyramid still exerts a lure on others and, wandering the sands, a colossal dire camel prophet sports howdah-like gnoll-encampments. The jinnborn race hearkens back to the genasi or planetouched and can be pictured as the elemental-themed mortals and the race sports quite a diverse and well-crafted array of options, including limited protection versus one's element, endure elements and elemental blasts that can be upgraded via feats. That being said, this is very much a strong race, stronger than the "core"-races of the book, so take care when using them. At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed their unique psychology and culture...but still. At their pretty high power-level, I wished more abilities were alternate racial traits instead of jamming all those abilities into the base frame of the race. The archetypes here are interesting - an elemental-themed paladin, gnoll caravan raiders and janni-calling summoners can be found and a PrC depicting the elite guard of aforementioned sphinx priestess is part of the deal. The chapter, like those before and after, also sports several unique spells and magic items - the latter of which deserve special mention, after all, we get an enchanted bed of nails and several unique carpets. One belt should be eyed very carefully, as it lets you pilot willing outsiders, fusing your body with them, which is exceedingly powerful when not handled with care.


Beyond the dominion of the wind lords, the book finds its full-blown stride with the high jungles, where access to the fabled well of urd can be found, as powerful aeromancers guard the Black Lotus Mesa as intelligent white apes afflicted with arcane wasting prowl the jungles. More unique and perhaps one of the most awesome and disturbing components of the whole book would be the fact that an Old One, verdant and all-consuming, ever-growing, extends its tendril'd reach beyond the confines, ever seeking to mutate and grow - it should then come as no surprise that the nation of Kush has, in efforts to stem the tide, turned to all manners of magicks most dark - but it may not be enough, as the corrupted Kijani that couldn't escape its influence spread spore pods far and wide, creating horrid tendril slaves. The chapter also is a JOY to read due to an actually neat aeromancer archetype and, more than that, due to the vast array of hazards and the 8 lotus-types, which act as addictive, yes...but they also serve as powerful power components. This chapter is twisted, inspired and absolutely glorious.


The kingdoms of salt and steel, bustling and defined by commerce - here, the land of serpent-scholars beckons, while in the land of ancients, the living reliquaries roam. This section is not only brilliant for its take on themes usually not represented - a royal mythic naga lich rules over Ankhrimari, while the Narumbeki legions with their battle tactics and unique combat options represent a powerful militaristic force - the themes evoked here are seldom seen, borrowing heavily from Africa's mythologies, with magical masks and awesome incantations sweetening the deal, while powerful combat divinations make for a unique and compelling magical tradition.


On the Corsair Coast, the holy city Shuruppak beckons, while the city of Sar-Shaba contains horrific demonic legions, warded and sealed await intrepid adventurers. The fabulously wealthy island nation of Shibai and wicked corsairs can be found...but there is also the happiest land, Kesara, realm of the saffron rajah, where everyone smiles - a smile of desperation and fear, for the tyrannic rajah of the land is capricious and nasty indeed - a realm devoted to the decadence of the horrible rakshasa master that sits bloated on its throne. Fiercely meritocratic lion kingdoms of Omphaya, led by a returned titan and his rakshasa vizier may not be a nice place to visit either. - but it sure should prove interesting.


The heartlands of the Southlands, the abandoned lands contain vast stretches of desert - it is here that the massive, black towers of the disturbing hive-cities of the tosculi can be found. Why disturbing? Well, there is one that consists of the resin-hardened corpses of the fallen. Yes. Awesome and so perfectly evocative. Someone has also probably read China Miéville's excellent "The Scar", for there is a floating city in the style of Armada to be found. Mechanically, these lands are brutal, as the web of ley lines is damaged, which makes primal magic rather powerful...and excessively dangerous. The long-limbed Ramad are a balanced race sported here and significant ley line magic expansions and delightfully disturbing living tosculi items complement this evocative, harsh land as we turn our gaze southwards, to the fringe of the southlands, where dinosaurs roam and the minotaur nation of Sudvall stands guard. The xorn sultanate of Zanskar can also be found here...and should you hesitate to set a whole campaign in the southlands...did you know that one particular bottle contains a whole city of assassins? Yeah...if you don't come to the Southlands, they may well come to you.


The pdf's last chapter is devoted to the pantheons and gods of the Southlands - and their depictions are inspired, utilizing concepts and names from real-world mythology, but putting a thoroughly unique spin on them. The book concludes with an equipment table as well as a feat-index. My copy also sports a truly superb, glossy poster-map of the gorgeous cartography.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch for a book of this size - while I did notice an instance where the page-reference was still the layout-stage's "$$", the crew of Kobold Press has done a vastly superior job when compared to Deep Magic; the formal editing is more than solid and while I consider not all crunchy bits to be perfectly balanced, the rules-language is significantly more precise than in Deep Magic. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard in full color and is absolutely stunning; much like the lavish amount of original full-color art, the aesthetic components render this book frankly one of the most beautiful RPG-supplements I own. The pdf comes fully bookmarked. The hardcover uses high-quality, thick, matte paper and glossy, high-quality paper for the huge map. The cartography of the book is superb for the most part, though some of the more ruined cities look "only" very good - still, overall, this is one of the most beautiful books you'll ever see.


Wolfgang Baur, Eric Cagle, David "Zeb" Cook, Adam Daigle, Dan Dillon, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Steven T. Helt, Steve Kenson, Ben McFarland, Richard Pett, Marc Radle, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Ted Reed, Stephen Rowe, Adam Roy, Owen K.C. Stephens, C.A. Suleiman, Brian Suskind, Henry Wong - ladies and gentlemen, congratulations are in order.


You see, Golarion and similar setting have often drawn upon the tropes of Arabian nights and pharaonic Egypt - but never this way. The creative approach to this book could be summed up as follows: The book took the classic real-world mythologies that resonate with us and put a spin on it - so far, so common. However, the true excellence of Southlands lies not within this; no. The massive achievement of this book lies in the concise manner in which it brings the truly fantastic to the table and treats it seriously; the Southlands feel alive and concise, because it takes a very much logical, concise approach to world-building - whether as stand-alone or as part of the Midgard campaign setting, the Southlands excel. The blending of mythologies and use of more obscure themes collides with pure imaginative potential in a true, creative firework. I wouldn't have expected this book to be that great a read - as a huge fan of Catherynne M. Valente's "Orphan's Tales", my bar for myth-weaving is ridiculously high...but here's the thing: I loved reading this book. Much like the best of mythpunk novels, much like the most inspiring of fantastic novels, this tome is a true page-turner and contains more imaginative potential than just about every setting I could list. This is not Al-Qadim v. 2.0. - it surpasses this excellent classic and mops the floor with it.


Now granted, I am not sold on all design-decisions herein, not perfectly convinced regarding the balance of some components - but all of that ultimately pales before a book that is true excellence. I haven't enjoyed reading a campaign setting this much since the original Midgard Campaign Setting and honestly, enjoyed this book even more - because it takes less familiar concepts, because it brims with the spark of genius and more evocative locations than multiple settings combined. There is not a single campaign setting book that is comparable in scope and ambition and, better yet, while not all the crunch reaches the constant, almost frightening level of genius of the prose, there are ample instances where I simply fist-pumped - the lotus-magic is pure awesomeness and similarly, quite a few of the magic items just feel magical, unique, awesome...and the hazards...oh boy, do I love me some hazards!


Here's the most important component, though: Beyond simply being a superb read and surprisingly, in spite of heavily quoting real world mythologies, Southlands is a book of jamais-vus, of the novel and still familiar, an accumulation of brilliant ideas that practically DEMAND that you run modules, campaigns, whole APs in this wondrous, exceedingly captivating setting. My only true gripes while reading this tome pertained to the organization of player-material - out-sourcing that to a Player's Guide would have probably been a prudent move - but I'm ultimately just nitpicking. If anything, just about every nation herein made me crave more; each chapter made me want a whole AP set in it so bad... Southlands is a furious return to form for Kobold Press. This book very much shows how and why Kobold Press became as popular as it now is - even if you're not actively gaming, this is well worth buying: Flip open those pages, start reading and dream a dream of harsh jungles, enchanted deserts and gorgeous cities, both bustling and ruined, of a savage land of splendor and glories untold. Go to the Southlands. Get this book. Dream. There are very few books of this size that manage to maintain a sense of narrative consistency, much less at the thoroughly impressive level of quality the ideas in this tome have.


This may well be the best sourcebook Kobold Press has released (I'm a fanboy of some adventures...), perhaps this is even one of the best sourcebooks I've ever read. If anything, I do hope that Northlands at one point get a similarly detailed second edition. Southlands is excellence - if you even remotely are interested in the subject matter, do yourself a favor and get this glorious tome - it contains enough ideas and adventure for a lifetime and I am not engaging in hyperbole here. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I'll also nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015. (Scheduled for release soon!)


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting
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