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Lost Lore: Town of Glory
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2016 04:55:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This little supplement clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so what is this?


Well, know how I love kingdom-building and consider Ultimate Campaign and they expansions released by Legendary Games pretty much one of the most awesome things ever? If you've been following my reviews, then this will come as no surprise. What may come as a surprise, though, is that I think that the kingdom-building-rules don't work perfectly in the highest and lowest echelons - as recently commented on the boards, I'm waiting for a supplement to add the mythic element to kingdom building at the high end of things. Similarly, at the low end of things, their expanded scope may surpass and overshoot their target by a bit - and this is pretty much where this book comes in: Town-building instead of kingdom building, intended primarily for characters level 1 - 8.


The cleverness of this pdf is pretty much readily apparent from the get-go - the sample town would be called glory and the pdf even sports a little box that awards stewardship over the town - and it is said town that features in the illustrating examples throughout this pdf. Towns have statistics: population, Food, Goods, Trade and Defense...oh, and the presence of skilled NPCs actually influences how a town fares, with an extensive list depicting for example the option of what you can do when you have a scholar on site. Similarly, a variety of spells and their actual uses for the town are detailed - nice to see such attention to detail here as well.


The math is rather simple and so is the system: Each week that passes represents a town turn, during which each player can make one standard town action. NPCs not assigned to buildings may construct buildings. NPCs may improve skills and population may fluctuate. Similarly, NPCs can be allocated to buildings to render them active for the following week.


In order to build a building, you consult its entry - prerequisite buildings and characters need to be fulfilled to construct it and not all characters can construct it, though once it has been completed these requirements can be ignored. Build points carry over between towns and the higher the skill involved in creation, the faster the building will be completed. Building-bonuses stack unless otherwise noted.


The town standard actions are diverse and you can also trade one in for 6 town swift actions; standard actions include, but are not limited to, leading NPCs, recovering from damage, operating buildings - the like. Swift town actions cover potion brewing, gathering information and similar, quicker tasks...and yes, helpful feats are discussed as well, as are free town actions like buying/selling, spellcasting and regular interaction. NPCs are not mindless, though, so certain shortcomings may influence their build priorities. Promoting unskilled laborers to skilled specialists is also covered. There is also a town growth check - a d20 with various modifiers that take death (and lack thereof) as well as resources into account - the higher you get, the better the benefits reaped.


The pdf also sports a simple, quick system for resolving how well the town fares against attacks: Enemy XP are tallied and divided by 100, rounded down - this is the Defense DC. To defend the town, roll 1d20, add defense and bonuses for unassigned soldiers - simple, easy to grasp and still leaves space for the PCs dealing with the bosses of the enemies. (We have to take the big guy down, if his value is added, the town will NOT prevail!)


Buildings are generally categorized in basic, intermediary and advanced buildings with correspondingly higher prerequisites and benefits. There is a slightly confusing type here, which produces two "town halls"-entries, one of which (the basic building) should clearly be "town walls." Other than that, the building-array presented is surprisingly concise.


The pdf also sports 4 spells, mostly object/tool-related as well as 4 brief, solid feats, which, while not brilliant, all work.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - apart from the one unfortunate glitch mentioned above, I noticed nothing glaring. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes without interior artwork, but needs none. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Russell Brown's town of glory is, in one word, as glorious as the title: Taking a cue from the genius downtime-system of Ultimate Campaign, this works in pretty much perfect conjunction with kingdom building at a lower level, though arguably, the system as presented here is perhaps even more streamlined. It's quick, easy to grasp and yet detailed...and it allows for what I really wanted for quite a while: Effortless low-level stewardship with a more pronounced emphasis on the human element - the importance of specialists means that the death of such characters will resonate more...oh, and yes, this works perfectly in conjunction with PFRPG's regular village statblocks, so feel free to start converting e.g. Raging Swan Press' vast catalog of excellent sample villages.


Presentation is concise and detailed and if there is one thing I regret about this pdf, then it's the size - I sincerely hope to see an expansion at some point...and since this is Frog God Games we're talking about: A low-level campaign detailing PCs acting as stewards for such a town would imho make for a pretty legendary experience - there are no modules out there with precisely such a focus apart from "PCs kill threats to town" - PCs kill threats and build town/get attached to NPCs/preferably with a good NPC-dressing generator for specialists? Never seen that done for PFRPG. I really want to play this, particularly in the grim Lost Lands! Pretty please? makes gooey eyes


This pdf surprised me with its elegance, panache and style - in spite of the somewhat unfortunate Hall/Wall-hiccup, this is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: Town of Glory
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Feats of Legend: 20 Undead Feats
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2016 04:54:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Feats of Legend-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This pdf begins with a handy table that sums up the feats with prereqs etc. and then dives straight into the feats, so what do they do?


-Boneyard Born: +1 DC for necromancy spells, +1 to all saves versus necromancy or death effects, can be qualified for via eldritch heritage and the undead bloodline. Odd, nonstandard formatting: A feat referred is italicized, something the pdf, confusingly continues to do.


-Dark Conduit: Adds your Con-mod to Cha-mod to determine the amount of healing you receive from any negative energy. I think this feat is a bit odd, to say the least - You don't add Cha-mod to healing. UNLESS you're talking about channel energy...but this feat extends to ALL types of negative energy, which includes spells and effects that do NOT add Cha-mod to the healing. Beyond the somewhat wonky 2-attributes-modifier to one effect (somewhat mitigated by the rarity of negative energy healed beings with both Cha and Con-score), the feat is odd and confusing, to say the least. Not gonna come near my table.


-Improved Dark Conduit: Resistance 5 vs. positive energy - quite cool, since we usually don't see the like.


-Greater Dark Conduit: Whenever you kill a creature, you gain fast healing 2 for Charisma modifier rounds. (Charisma is not properly capitalized, as an editing nitpick.) Subsequent killings reset the timer. NOt a fan, since this can be kitten-cheesed for infinite healing, when a generous daily cap, HDx2+Cha-mod, for example, would have prevented basically infinite healing.


-Deathless Determination: You gain Resist Level Drain and auto-remove them after 24 hours. The prereqs of an undead bloodline and Diehard justifies the power of this feat. (And yes, again, you can qualify for this via Eldritch Heritage.)


-False Unlife: +10 to Disguise to seem undead, but you detect as evil undead of your HD when seen via detect evil. Interesting!


-Grave-Touched: +4 to Fort-saves vs. poisons. Can be taken via aforementioned Eldritch Heritage/undead bloodline-combo.


-Improved Grave-Touched: +4 to Fort-saves versus diseases, save versus poisons increases to +6. Can be taken via aforementioned Eldritch Heritage/undead bloodline-combo...which is odd, since the alternate prereqs imply that just having Edlritch Bloodline and an undead bloodline allows for the bypassing of the previous, non-improved iteration of the feat. Here, the special-line actually detracts from the functionality of the feat, since simply basing it on the initial feat would have done the job sans ambiguity.


-Greater Grave-Touched: Save-bonus versus diseases changes to +6, you gain immunity to undead-spread diseases like mummy rot as well as immunity to poisons. Again, this ´can be taken via aforementioned Eldritch Heritage/undead bloodline-combo...which is odd, since the alternate prereqs imply that just having Edlritch Bloodline and an undead bloodline allows for the bypassing of the previous, non-greater iteration of the feat.


-Scholar of Undeath: +5 to all lore-checks to identify undead and their abilities. You also increase the DC of your channel energy, command or Turn Undead by +2...which is pretty brutal, considering how channel already is powerful and has a scaling DC. Still, worthwhile and nice.


-Improved Scholar of Undeath: The base-feat's bonus increases to +10 and the DC-increase to +3.


-Greater Scholar of Undeath: +2 to all saves versus Ex and SU abilities of undead and the DC-increase for channel et al. becomes +4. The whole feat-chain is interesting in concept, though I do consider the DC-increases rather massive. Personally, I consider the bonus extending beyond +2 to be too min-maxy - personally, I will add an Int-prereq to emphasize the scholar-angle the feats imply. (And, via MAD, decrease excess Channel-DC-stacking...)


-Hardened Flesh: Your AC is treated as +2 for the purpose of confirming critical hits and you gain DR 1/-.


-Improved Hardened Flesh: AC-bonus is treated as +4 instead for the critical hit confirmation. DR increases to DR 3/- - like these two feats!


-Necrotic Poisoner: Contact and injury poisons you manufacture can affect undead. NICE!


-Reckless Revenant: You are immune to fear effects...which would be a bit much for one feat...but the prerequisite requires you having risen from the dead...which is rather cool. Sold -even more so, since it takes breath of life into account.


-Redeemed: Gain healing by positive energy, but also be damaged by negative energy as though you were alive. Can't be combined with Dark Conduit. Nice one.


-Scent of the Grave: Favored enemy (undead) characters gain scent to detect undead.


-Tongues of the Dead: Gain Necril as a language as well as +2 to Bluff, Intimidate, Diplomacy and Sense Motive when dealing with intelligent undead. Situational and okay, but not too exciting.


-Touch of the Undead: This feat: "Allows undead you command or control to deliver touch spells for you." That's the whole crunch text of the feat. All right, I'll play: HOW? At what range? Do you have to transfer the touch held to the undead? As what action? Is there a maximum range? Can unintelligent undead hold charges? This feat is well-intentioned and flavorful, but horribly fails at its given task.


-Undead Avoidance: Gain +2 dodge bonus to AC versus undead. Losing Dex-bonus to AC deprives you of the benefits. Okay, I guess.


-Universal Recipient: Okay, we end on a nice one: Reduced DC for attaching necrografts and reduced Con damage for necrografting surgery.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are per se solid, though people that are picky about the fonts used should know that the "o"s are slightly larger than other letters. There are a couple of faulty italicizations here as well. Layout is GORGEOUS - the pdf adheres to a two-column full-color standard with skulls on the borders and a greenish tint - this is a nice-looking pdf. The pdf sports a nice full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Neal Litherland, Simon Muñoz and Brian Berg have crafted a book that sports some high-concept, intriguing feats - and indeed, there are some feats herein that are rather neat. You can justifiably call any content herein overpowered and it should make sense in most games, even the dark/low-fantasy-focused games. At the same time, there are a few pieces herein that don't work as intended, which detracts from, unfortunately, some of the most interesting feats herein. In the end, this is a solid book with some rough edges and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 20 Undead Feats
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Lost Lore: Horses of the Wild
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2016 07:14:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Lost Lore-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content!


Okay, so I wanted to start this review with a Richard III-quote...but alas, the pdf already did that. What does it sport? Well, for one, it sports basic light horse stats...and 5 variants of light horses, specifically bred for different tasks and with mechanically-relevant repercussions. The heavy horse receives a similar treatment, mind you - and a horse can make all the difference: A steed of proper pedigree can help you dealing with nobility and certain breeds can make the difference between life and death, with excellent swimming capabilities, for example. The problem here is that these bonuses are pretty excessive...a bit too much, for my liking: E.g. +5 to Diplomacy when interacting with nobility is pretty hefty. (Though it should be noted that there are quite a bunch of horses herein that do not suffer from such an issue...)


5 sensible new animal handling tricks, including the much demanded Stealth-trick can be found in this book and we also get an array of feats: No more mounted archery penalties, intimidating from horse-back, better trampling, a mounted variant of spring attack and a high-level option to perform two-handed spirited charges are provided - the latter is pretty much insane: Not only can you dual-lance (ridiculous though that may sound), you add the damage together for purposes of DR-bypassing etc. Urgh. Not gonna get anywhere near my table.


Where things get more interesting would be with two other feats for your mount: Sufficiently smart awakened mounts may learn to cast a limited array of spells from the master's list of spells, but only targeting itself. On a nitpicky side - that should be SPs...or the feats would need information on which key attribute governs the spells, that of the rider or that of the mount.


Now even more interesting, and possibly the most interesting component here: There is an option to take equestrian animal companions with specific bloodlines. To receive such a mount, the rider must give up a feat slot to gain a horse-bond - but the mount thus receives a bloodline, complete with associated class skills, bonus feats, bloodline arcane and bloodline powers that are governed by your level. Equidae Sortarius, for example can hide their auras and are great mounts for more subtle characters. Primal Beasts can grow as a capstone and are true powerhouses, while thunderhorses can unleash electrical bolts and blasts - come sing it with me: "Riders of the Storm..." >>....<<...Sorry for that.


We also get a sample bloodlined horse and 3 types of magical barding: One associated with light (including 1/day daylight) as well as animated octopus hide that can Snatch Arrows and pass the missiles to the rider. Finally, there is the obligatory pegasus wing-item. Solid, if a bit unremarkable. The pdf lists the types of standard barding's stats for your convenience.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no issues there. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' 2-column full-color standard for the series. The pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a slight comfort detriment at this brief length.


Rob Manning's little pdf proved to be more interesting than I thought it would be - while the bonuses some horse types grant you seem a bit excessive to me and while not all feats are as precise as I'd like them to be, the idea of feats for awakened horses is great...and magical bloodlines for horses? Now that is an awesome concept I'd love to see expanded in the future. Particularly if the latter interests, you, then this will be worth its low asking price. That being said, with its rough edges, I unfortunately can't go higher than 4 stars, though I do recommend you checking it out if the subject matter and ideas interest you.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: Horses of the Wild
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Lost Lore: The Portalist
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2016 07:13:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This supplement of Frog God Games' Lost Lore-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


What is the portalist? The simple reply would be that it is a new base-class that gets d10, full BAB-progression, 4+Int mod skills per level, good Ref-saves, proficiency with simple and light as well as single-handed martial weapons and light armor, but not shields. Portalists receive +1 to initiative at 1st level, increasing this bonus by +1 at 7th level and ever 4 levels thereafter, but their signature trick, obvious, is the eponymous ability to create portals.


A portalist may create one such portal +Int-mod per day at 1st level, +1 every level until 5th, where the progression slows down to +1 every odd level thereafter for a maximum of 12 portals per day at 19th level. In order to create a portal, a portalist has to expend a swift action and designate a start and an exit point, with the start point being either his square or one adjacent to him and the exit square not being more than 25 ft + 5 ft/2 levels away. Portalists need to have line of sight to the exit square and the exit square must not be occupied - if it is, the attempt is expended and fails, though the ability does work against tiny and smaller creatures. Portals collapse immediately upon passing through or at the end of the portalist's turn and may only be used by the portalist that created them. Portals are loud and easy to detect, so no silent infiltration...which is a pity, concept-wise. This, alas, does leave me with some questions: Can you look through a portal to get line of sight? Can you cast through a portal when you have an action readied? Is a portal a Conjuration [teleportation]-effect? It should be. If so, at what CL? This becomes relevant for means of teleportation-suppression. Do you need a free hand to make a portal? The proficiencies suggest so, But I'm not sure.


Starting at 2nd level, the portalist learns a portalist trick - basically, the talents of the class utilized to manipulate the portals and, unfortunately, here, the wording falls a bit apart: Take Ally Portal. It's simple in concept: Take an ally with you through the portal. "A portalist may pull a single willing adjacent ally of the same size or smaller through his portal so the two of them travel together. The Portalist and his ally must exit the portal in separate but adjacent squares. Using an ally portal only expends a single portal." Simple, right? Nope. Does the ally have to expend the movement? If not, why not? Does the ally have to ready the move through the portal? No idea. At 2 uses of another ability, a portalist may, as a full-round action, create a portal, move through it, attack, and return to his origin and similar combinations with charge attacks and the like are possible. Another issue that came almost immediately up would pertain the portal combinations: Can multiple such special portal tricks be applied to the same portal? Could you e.g. combine aforementioned two tricks?


On the other side of things, making portals elemental blasts upon opening and immediate action evasion or ignoring the line of sight requirement for the exit portal are interesting options - as is e.g. a spider climb-style perching on ceilings and the like. The other abilities of the class, unfortunately, also sport some minor inconsistencies - when e.g. an ability talks about "rough" terrain and obviously means "difficult terrain." Combining attacks and portals receives circumstance bonuses at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter and 10th level provides basically the advanced portal tricks, so-called arch portals - and here we have per se interesting mechanics: Like accelerating in the initiative order past an opponent adjacent to which the portalist came out or contingency portals. The capstone of the class allows for one portal per foe in range of his ability and basically whirlwind attack at range 1/day.


The pdf provides 10 new feats that cover extra portals and similar basics, but also feature e.g. the option to combine readied actions with portals, +1 portal per successful crit after exiting a portal (kitten-proof due to 1:1 expenditure/reward-ratio) or an option to eliminate the place-swapping trick of transposition portal's AoO. There are also some rather weak filler feats here, though: +2 dodge bonus after porting (+4 at 10+ ranks in Acrobatics)? Yeah, right, let me waste a feat on that one...


The pdf also sports new favored class options for the core-races and a new skill use for Acrobatics: Porting onto big monsters - and this section, with plenty of skill modifiers, may be worth the pdf's low asking price alone for you. The pdf also sports a new weapon special quality, portallic - this is basically a duplication of flaming, frost...etc. - with one caveat: Each may only be used once per day and only after passing a portal. The Rod of the Portalist allows for 1/day use of any portalist trick, whether the wielder knows it or not.


The pdf closes with no less than 4 pretty inspired fluff-only sample portalist-organizations on a evocative high note.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with parchment-style background in full-color featuring solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Michael Kortes' portalist is a pretty awesome class in concept; thinking with portals and the ramifications for their use make for utterly unique tactical options and generally, the crunch manages to juggle even complex concepts rather well. Rather well, but certainly not perfectly - from minor violations of rules-language to some required information missing regarding the functionality of portals, this pdf, alas, is an exercise of "almost" getting it right. Basically, the class is functional, but requires some minor DM-judgments to properly work. That's not the issue - as provided, it is certainly not bad. However, the class, to me, feels pretty much like it does its best to miss its own target demographic.


So, you're the cool portalist guy, pretty MAD (Str, Con, Int or Dex, Con, Int), but you have the portals...and can use them, at 19th level 12+Int-mod times per day. At first level, 1 +Int-mod times. Yay? The problem is that almost all class features here are predicated on using a resource that is not only severely limited, it is painfully limited. My playtest confirmed this, alas. Once you take the crit refuel-feat and combine it with crit-fishing, you can maintain (provided you're lucky) a certain array of portals, but you'll still liable to run out of juice very fast - faster than comparable core classes. And once you run out of fuel, you're basically a fighter without bonus feats or proper proficiencies. Yay?


Basically, the class imho needs to do one of two things: 1) Nerf portal options and provide more portals per day to make the full BAB-chassis work. Or 2), make the class 3/4 BAB and provide significantly more portals per day. As written, the class plays great for short bursts and then becomes pretty much useless - and this criticism by the guy who is a huge fan of resource-management/attrition in my games and designs...so yes, I like that design-type, but it must remain feasible. Ultimately, the portalist has all the makings of an awesome class, but stumbles pretty hard and ends up being a good scavenging ground/base from which you can work, but needs more power to make its unique concepts work consistently. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: The Portalist
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Village Backdrop: Ossoko Draconsha
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2016 07:01:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement


Ossoko Draconsha, literally "Dragon's Defeat" in the tongue of lizardfolk, may well be the conceptually most unique settlement in the whole series of village backdrops - if the name and dominant lizardfolk population you can glean from the settlement statblock are not clear enough: This is a lizardfolk village, but one unlike those you'd know from various modules: Ossoko Draconsha's existence is ultimately thanks to the noble sacrifice of one woman, the paladin Kellesta, who united the lizardfolk to overthrow a particularly nasty black dragon. Mortally wounded, she fell in the battle, but the slain dragon's skull remained as the creature's body dissolved in acid.
Sensing the work of powerful spirits at work, the lizardfolk took it upon themselves to consecrate the place and declare it neutral territory, soon figuring out that the sanctified skull can be used to conjure forth Kellesta's spirit in times of need, turning the acidic pool temporarily into a clear water of healing properties. Sporting thus an amount of non-lizardfolk settler, the place has prospered, though the uncommon demographics of the village necessarily put a refreshingly unique spin on the local color provided - from industry to rumors and nomenclature, the novel suffuses this book.


Beyond the obligatory whispers and rumors as well as the potentially adventure-inciting events, Ossoko Draconsha also sports no less than 3 fully detailed statblocks - a CR 6 lizardfolk barbarian, a CR 4 halfling rogue and a CR 6 elven conjuror. I applaud the number of these sample NPCs, though I frankly wished the builds themselves were slightly more complex. As a bonus, though, the paladin's spirit, codified as a sacred coterie loci spirit (yes, that mean Occult Adventures-support, though you do not need the book!) does offset this otherwise extremely nitpicky complaint.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.


John Bennett is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated freelancers currently out there: There are not that many authors out there that have his talent for weaving atmospheric, compelling yarns that sport their hooks on their own, that manage to make a place or module run by mere virtue of PC-insertion. Ossoko Draconsha may have an odd name, but it is all awesome and, from the get-go, does feature truly intriguing and captivating adventuring options; due to its unique nature and location, it makes for a great haven or neutral ground in extended swamp-sojourns and e.g. would allow for PCs to easily learn more about the background of a given locale sans risking their immediate lives - this one begs to be asked in conjunction with unique offerings like TPK Games "The Fen of the Five-Fold Maw" and similar modules, while the loci makes for a feasible reason to make this the end-point of a quest with a plethora of potential complications.


This village is unique, cool and exceedingly well-written while also sporting cool visuals - and what more can you ask of such a book? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ossoko Draconsha
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Mini-Dungeon #026: Sanctuary of Exsanguination
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2016 06:58:57

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. 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! When the witch-priestess Segolia established a temple in a frontier town, she proceeded to demand sacrifices of orcs and similar raiding humanoids - which was no problem for as long as the place remained a frontier's town...but progress being what it is, the raiders have been bested and the witch continues to demand sacrifice. Now people have gone missing - so the PCs are tasked to investigate Segolia's temple.


While the guards provide ingress to the PCs, they do so at the request of their witch-priestess and she is pretty much not making any pretentions - the temple sports a deadly stone guardian and breath of despair traps as well as two portals the PCs need to pass to reach Segolia - on the way there, further adversaries remove any doubts of Segolia's evil nature. The adversaries utilize the terrain to their own benefits and Segolia, as a penanggalen vampire, is an interesting final adversary.


Conclusion:


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


Michael Smith's sanctuary is a solid, rather magic-heavy little mini-dungeon and sports some cool potential for encounters as well as a solid final boss. At the same time, the rooms themselves felt a bit less versatile or interesting to me. All in all, this remains a solid, slightly above average little dungeon. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars due to in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #026: Sanctuary of Exsanguination
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Assassin's Breach: Tavern Gambling Game
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/12/2016 07:10:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This tavern gambling game/adventure clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We've all been there - the PCs are at a seedy tavern or casino and want to get information from that NPC over there at the table...so how do they do that? In most cases of published modules, the answer will boil down to "Make a Profession (Gambler)-check!" or a similarly meta replay. But let's face it - actually gambling would be more fun, right? So this is where this game comes in.


Assassin's Breach requires something every roleplaying table will have: 5 six-sided dice. If you're like me and have even the tiniest spark of crafting ambition, you'll certainly enjoy the full-color dice-templates you can print out and craft yourselves, though that's certainly not required: When using a standard die, 1-3 equal "shield", 4-5 "Dagger" and 6 equals "Skull." The players of the game are called assassins, and they ante coins (which have handily been provided as print-outs as well) into the betting pool, called "Bounty."


There are 5 quarry types that determine the stakes of a game of assassin's breach: Pauper equals copper coins, noblemen equal silver coins, etc. - with kings obviously being represented by platinum coins. Determining who goes first works by Roll Call - to be counted here, you have to put a coin into the bounty. Once each player has entered a coin, roll call begins. Each player rolls one die once - whenever a player does not roll a skull, he is removed from roll call and does not go first. If no player rolls a skull, all roll again. If more than one player rolls a skull, all such players roll again - until one is left. This player goes first. Subsequent rounds do not require further ante.


One player is not betting on the assassination being a success - this is the mole. Only a player who wins the roll call may elect to be the mole. The choice must be made in the beginning and cannot be changed. The mole must ante a coin each time it's their turn, but they roll no dice - instead, they wait - if all assassins are imprisoned or unable to continue, they receive the bounty. A mole unable to provide the ante loses. Beginning with the first player and running clockwise, the assassins begin attempting to kill the determined quarry.


The assassin rolls all five dice. If the number of daggers exceeds the number of shields rolled, the assassin has eluded the guards. If the number of shields rolled exceeds that of the daggers, the assassin was caught and need to ante up by increasing the bounty by a coin - if they can't do it, they are imprisoned and out. If the assassin rolls 5 shields, he is also imprisoned, no means of bribing himself out by anteing up. 5 skulls result in a successful assassination and the player gets the bounty. If all assassins have been imprisoned, the bounty remains in place and a new roll call is started - only players who have participated in the previous roll call may participate in this follow-up round. The game ends when someone gets the bounty. Before you ask - the pdf does come with a self-assembly loot box in color as well.


All right, so that's the simple, fast-paced gambling game presented herein. The pdf also does feature an adventure, "Rest at the Wayside Inn." I will now cover the details of this adventure - thus, I urge the players among you to skip ahead to the conclusion to avoid SPOILERS.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! The Wayside Inn is not any old tavern - it is actually a tavern-shaped extraplanar sanctuary summoned by the artifact known as the bones of the weary traveler - these bones, obviously, would be the dice featured herein - and as they tumble and come up with all skulls, they provide a flashy boom -and suddenly, the inn is here. Alas, while these dice were created to serve as a sanctuary, unbeknown to the players, they had an illustrious past - which coincidentally saw them fall into the greedy clutches of a necromancer called Gyldamar. Necromancer beings what they are, he sought for lichdom and considered the inn to be the perfect phylactery hiding place.


Unfortunately for Gyldamar, Wisdom seems to have been his dump stat and thus, he did not anticipate an artifact botching his ascendency rite, resulting in an annihilated body and a very unhappy necromancer bonding with the very structure. Worse, this made the inn a kind of hotel California - every time the place is used, there is a decent chance the PC's soul will bond with the structure - upon death, he'll awake, sans equipment and with but a hazy recollection of the prior proceedings in the inn - becoming a new, permanent resident of the inn - unable to escape or properly be resurrected.


Every denizen that has become a permanent inhabitant is fully healed and restored whenever the inn is summoned - the beings herein can thus not be permanently slain - children, innkeepers, bounty hunters and celebrity bards (as well as their disenfranchised groupies) can be found in the inn - all trapped, though not all are cognizant of the extent to which they are trapped inside. The NPCs come with detailed fluff-write-ups that make running them pretty easy -and it's very much possible, the PCs will interact many times with them before actually noticing the effects of the curse in the first place. The aforementioned artifact dice receive full-blown stats and actually are pretty nifty - I can't see any loot-greedy group out there ever deciding to get rid of them without significant hesitation - and this is how things should be.


With multiple rolls sporting different magical effects, the dice certainly are a cool magic item. But back to the module - preferably after the PCs have established rapport and relations with the trapped denizens, you can spring upon them nightly visits of Gyldamar the Necrowight - the adversary herein. Seeing the denizens come clean -and at this point, a PC may have noticed after dying that he can't exit any more...combine these for maximum impact. Anyways, defeating the necrowight isn't too complex a task and thereafter, the denizens and PCs may elect to leave the inn for the afterlife awaiting - or remain inside... Which offers some cool narrative potential: Think about it: "I ask my former character!" can be a rather cool scene!


As mentioned before, the pdf provides constructible coins, a constructible bounty-box, coins ad dice and the Wayside Inn comes with a beautiful full-color map, of which a player-friendly version is provided.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to AAW Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and both cartography and the art for the copious constructible components are neat indeed. The other artwork is solid. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Justin Andrew Mason's Assassin's Breach is a pretty fast-paced gambling mini-game that can escalate (or end) pretty quickly, depending on the luck of you and your players. The significant amount of supplemental material is great as well - but on its own, this would be infinitely less compelling than when used in conjunction with the set-piece/adventure provided herein. While the default of the module assumes the action to end pretty quickly and is very much sandboxy, I think this "module" and its numerous NPCs work best when interspersed through multiple modules and levels - slowly building the locale's wondrous properties, slowly making the PCs invested in the denizens.


If you manage to pull that off...well, then you've got a truly brilliant scene at your hands when the nature of the inn becomes apparent. Similarly, the artifact featured is a rather cool one. In fact, as a person, I absolutely adore this supplement, though less experienced GMs could have used some further advice and hand-holding regarding the juggling of the numerous denizens featured in the module/set-piece locale.


Still, this may not be particularly inexpensive, but it ultimately is worth the asking price if what I described above even remotely intrigued you - this has the potential to be pure, unadulterated awesomeness and elicit multiple WTF-reactions from your players. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars and I'll add my seal of approval as well...now to plot how to integrate the inn in my next campaign...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Assassin's Breach: Tavern Gambling Game
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More Forgotten Feats
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/12/2016 07:06:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second collection of forgotten 3.X feats updated for Pathfinder clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin with a nice piece of b/w-artwork as well as a handy feat-table listing the content herein and then dive right into the feats - so what do they do?


-Ambidextrous: Halve TWF-penalties. This feat is odd in that PFRPG streamlined the heavy feat tax that made 3.0 rangers so dip-required for TWF - so let's run the numbers: normal penalty: Halved to -3/-5. Off-hand weapon light? -2/-4. TWF? -2/-2. Off-hand weapon light + TWF: -1/-1. From a mechanical point of view, not a desirable way to spend a feat unless you TWF with non-light weapons. It's also odd in that the rules no longer represent ambidexterity. Ambidexterity quite literally means being able to use both hands equally well - something the feat back in the day represented by bringing the penalties down to equal footing for both hands -6/-6 sans TWF and light weapon. It's an aesthetic complaint, but I don't get why this feat is called ambidextrous when that's clearly not what it does. shrugs


-Catchphrase: 1/encounter, utter a catchphrase to get +2 to a single d20-roll. Know the thing about catchphrases, particularly when used at the table, all the time? They get annoying. Big time. Oh, and don't get me started on those damn make-believe per-encounter mechanics that have no grounding in actually elapsed time. I've spent too much time elaborating why they suck. Next.


-Cleaving Charge: This lets you incur a further - 2 to AC to add a Cleave to your charge's end, with the bonuses and penalties of feat and charging stacking. See this is a feat I get - it has clear mechanical benefits, provides a solid take on a concept and can clearly be considered worthwhile - no complaints, two thumbs up!


-Two Weapon Cleaving Charge: This does Cleaving Charge with Two Weapons and essentially allows you to duplicate the fighting style of Cervantes from Soul Calibur. Again - two thumbs up!


-Deadeye: Use Dex instead of Str to damage for one type of sling or thrown weapon. Specific, but worthwhile for some builds. As always with such feats, be careful when combining with shuriken. Other than that, okay.


-Deep Pockets: 1/session, as a full-round action, draw an item worth not more than 10 gp x character level from your pockets. It may not be armor, weaponry or magical, but it can be an alchemical item. (Does a class feature bomb or extract count as such?) This is per se a solid take on the crazy prepared trope, as, if the item's not used within the session, it is lost. This is enough for most groups and does not venture into ridiculous territory: However, I do think that a mechanic that detracts the item's price from the character's gold would have been nice, since nothing prevents the character from selling the item. I'd also have enjoyed to see clarification whether you could produce e.g. the keystone to the legendary dungeon xyz, the key to your manacles etc. - or whether you have to have seen the item before. Granted, though - I'm nitpicking here with a designer's eye. Most GMs should be able to handle this one.


-Efficient Slinger: Loading slings as free action. Also eliminates size penalties for hurling ordinary stones. Okay, I guess.


-Eldritch Aptitude: Select 1 spell each day: When applying metamagic to the spell that increases the spell level, treat the unmodified spell level as one lower for determining the final, modified spell level. This feat per se is nice - but it's wording could have been a bit more precise.


-Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Tower Shield): Shield Bash with tower shields. Comes with damage/crit-info for regular and spiked tower shields. Once again - I like this one. Fun, fills a gap - solid...and even gets the off-hand shenanigans right.


-Factotum: +3 to all Professions in which you have at least 1 rank; Professions with 10 ranks get +6 instead. That's...kind of cool. Powerful, yeah, but also limited and allows you to depict characters that held a lot of odd jobs. Like it!


-Improved Eschew Materials: 1 gp x caster level material components are free. Okay, I guess. I wouldn't spend a feat on it unless playing a very low-resource campaign, but for those, I can see that work.


-Greater Eschew Materials: 10 gp x caster level material components are free. Okay, I guess. I wouldn't spend a feat on it unless playing a very low-resource campaign, but for those, I can see that work.


-Superior Eschew Materials: As above, but 50 gp x character level free components - which is powerful, but it better be after 3 prereq-feats, all of which invalidate the previous one.


-Improved Spring Attack: Move up to your speed and perform two melee attacks (gets iterative right) sans provoking AoOs from the target. Retains movement restrictions. Wow...this one is actually...surprisingly solid. No, really...my only gripe is cosmetic and pertains that I would have loved TWF-synergy here...but that's not something I'd criticize the feat for...So yeah. There is one grain of sand in the feat's wording, though: The intent is to not provoke an AoO for the attack from the target of said attack, but as written, you don't provoke any AoOs from the targets of your attack for moving around them and performing stunts beyond the attack and movement associated with the target creature: You'd e.g. not provoke an attack of opportunity from the target of your first attack when using a combat maneuver that does provoke one on the target of your second attack, even if your first target would be eligible to one. This one component could use some streamlining.


-Greater Spring Attack: Okay, so this would be the full attack + movement feat. And I really like it. Damn. With 4 prereq-feats, Dex 17 and BAB+11, its prerequisites are massive and kinda offset the massive power this feat offers, particularly since you do not provoke any AoOs from the targets of your attacks. Alas, it does inherit the previous feat's minor flaw, but the full attack exacerbates it - you could happily spring attack through whipping groups of kytons/pole-arm bearers with this, when I think the no-AoO-restriction should only pertain the actual attack and movement through threatened squares of the respective target for the purpose of performing the attack. Still, I like these two feats ad will modify them for my group.


-Raging Heritage: Select 1 bloodrager bloodline; You need to have one associated non-combat feat and you can't already have the bloodline. You get the level 1 bloodline power at character level -2 bloodrager levels. You may also enter a bloodstance(or leave it) as a full-round action for up to character level x 2 rounds per day- when in this stance, you may activate the chosen bloodline power granted by this feat, but NOT other bloodrage powers you may have! This is important, for it makes the feat work instead of being broken - kudos!


-Improved Raging Heritage: Gain 4th/8th level power, bloodrager levels -2 from the bloodline chosen via Raging Heritage. You may also enter/exit bloodstance as a standard action.


-Greater Raging Heritage: Gain 12th or 16th level bloodline power of the bloodrager bloodline chosen with Raging Heritage. Bloodrager level is full character level, btw. You may also enter/exit bloodstance as a move action. I like this feat tree quite a bit - it allows for relatively easy bloodrager-light-scavenging sans upsetting balance.


-School Focus: Select a school with which you have Spell Focus: +1 Cl for said school. Okay if you're trying to min-max up a school, otherwise pretty bland.


-Greater School Focus: And another +1 caster level - and here, things can already get a bit ugly with specialized builds. Still, not broken and none too exciting.


-Magically Gifted: Gain a 0-level cantrip you can cast 2/day from any spell-list; can be taken as a rogue talent. Basically, a slightly more flexible Minor Magic rogue talent. Also, it's based on Cha, not Int. Okay, I guess.


-Magical Adept: Gain a 1st level spell you can cast 1/day from any spell-list; can be taken as a rogue talent. Basically, a slightly more flexible Major Magic rogue talent. Also, it's based on Cha, not Int. And here we have a bit of an issue - sure, the rogue talent is pretty weak, but seeing how e.g. the paladin's and ranger's 1st level spells are better than that of full casters to make up for later spell-gain, we have a bit of an issue here - basically, minor power creep. Oh, and while 1/day won't break a game, a restriction of spell-lists still wouldn't have hurt this feat.


-Magical Prodigy: The third in the feat-tree, this time granting you 1/day a 2nd level spell as an SP. Still not broken, still slightly problematic, still not problematic enough to make me yell foul.


-Mongrel: Choose +1 race. You also count as that race. Okay, I guess, though I prefer Dreamscarred Press' Bloodforge's solution for mixed heritages.


-Monstrous Ancestry: This would be Mongrel for e.g. ghouls and similarly monstrous beings. This can provide issues if the GM doesn't take care, since it allows for the qualification for monster-feats. Not necessarily an issue, but the potential's here.


-Snake Lunge: BAB+11-feat that allows you to extend lunge to 10 ft. at -2 CMD and -5 AC.


-Nimble Lunge: Eliminates penalties of Lunge and Snake Lunge.


-Packhorse: Ant Haul, the feat for your trusty cohorts carrying your materials. Nice one.


-Patient Aiming: Full-round action to get +1 to atk and damage with ranged weapons, +1 for every subsequent round, capping at character level. Solid, nice sniper-feat.


-Professional Craftsman: +3 to all Craft skills wherein you have at least 1 rank, +6 if you have 10 ranks. Same as with Profession - nice, though magic item crafting-heavy campaigns may want to be careful with this one.


-Racial Paragon: +1 alternate racial trait. See, this is SLOPPY - not all alternate racial traits of a given race are of equal value - some replace multiple ones. This feat blatantly disregards that. Broken.


-Shifter's Spell (Metamagic): This increases spell levels by +2 and allows you to continue casting even while subject to a spell that would otherwise prevent you from casting.


-Skill Master: Choose a skill with which you have Skill Focus: You gain 2 ranks in the skill and can exceed your rank-cap thus. This is somewhat problematic, since skills feature in prereqs and similar, interconnected mechanics. Not a fan.


-Superior Two-Weapon Fighting: 4th TWF attack at -15.


-Two-Weapon Strike: As a standard action, make attacks with two weapons. This basically allows a TWF-ing character to skirmish instead of standing around trading blows. Two thumbs up, in spite of its power!


-Two-Weapon Charge: End a charge with two weapons. Minor version of pounce. Solid, though it imho should have a caveat that prevents use with spirited charge to prevent ridiculous 2-lance charges.


-Two-Weapon Cleave: Does what the tin says - valid cleaving with two weapons. Has the serious prereqs to make it specific enough. No complaints.


-Versatile Caster: Increase CL for all spellcasting classes you have by +1, cap at HD. Special-line is not bolded in a minor formatting glitch.


-Warslinger: Reload slings with one hand sans AoO. Nice.


-Wealthy: Gain 5% WBL each level; benefits are retroactive. Had characters with this feat galore in the 3.X days, never affected WBL-assumptions enough to be problematic...though in PFRPG, with crafting limitations being less stringent, resource-conscious GMs may want to be careful here.


-Well Read: +3 to all Knowledge-skills in which you have at least 1 rank, +6 in those where you have 10. This is pretty overpowered, considering the numerous fine distinctions of Knowledge skills and the monster-related knowledge they convey RAW.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good on both a formal level and a rules level - the language is much more precise than in earlier Flaming Crab Games-offerings. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf features some nice b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a comfort detriment.


All right, so after the first such pdf I did NOT look forward to reviewing a second one of these. However, Alex Abel has honed his craft since then - this second collection of feats redesigned from 3.X, is actually much more precise than the first bunch. While there are some examples of broken feats or ones that can cause issues, they remain in the minority and the pdf actually is a godsend for two character concepts in particular: One, the sling-user/sniper. This makes slings feasible and less sucky. Kudos.


More importantly, this book offers several options that make TWF-ing actually fun - there are skirmishing tricks, cleaves, tactical options - and best of all, for the most part, these feats get complex rules right. While there are some minor instances of fast and loose rules herein, they have shrunken down to a small minority. Better yet, this book actually enables some builds I ahd been missing in my gameplay. Granted, some combos can be rather nasty, but for the most part, they do require a large enough investment to be justified. I've been pretty detailed in the above review, often writing more about a feat than its actual text - so yeah, I think I mentioned all potential issues that could crop up.


That being said, closely reading the above will show you that most (though unfortunately not all) such issues are fringe cases, which means that overall, this is a worthwhile, inexpensive, if not perfect collection of feats. While the few problems herein cost this the crown, rating-wise, it still remains a good buy, in particular for aforementioned character concepts. My final verdict will hence be 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
More Forgotten Feats
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Call to Arms: Fireworks & Primitive Firearms
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/11/2016 03:01:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with a massive 60 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


As always with the series, we begin with a contextualization of the respective type of weaponry, both in the context of our real world and the fantastic worlds our RPGs work in - and it is interesting and certainly worth a read, as it not only highlights the differences between firework-weaponry and firearms in game, but also elaborates on little known weapon categories like the handgonne and yes, the pdf acknowledges the potential for the rarity implied by Ultimate Combat regarding , including some solid scaling advice. It should be noted that nitroglycerine and similar high explosives are not part of the material covered herein - the focus lies on more primitive explosives.


Now where the pdf becomes very interesting and tackles a hole in the rules that has probably come up in EVERY SINGLE GAME featuring chemical-based explosives or even just alchemist's fire is in the presentation of concise rules for fuses and their adjustment. Kudos! Similarly important would be the rules-backed classification of varying degrees of blackpowder quality, providing simple and superior black powder rules to supplement the "common" basic premise of blackpowder in the game, while adding a new dimension that manages to represent the variety of blackpowders in real life in game.


The pdf does sport a diverse collection of basically traits/mechanical effects that can be applied to a given firework, increasing the effects as well as costs and Craft DC, though some do require superior blackowder. The rules provided for this DIY-damaging firework-crafting are absolutely neat and make the weapon category significantly more versatile - whether caustic spray or deafening boom and yes, there are larger and smaller modifications as well. Similarly, rules-wise, we cover dust explosions as well as firecrackers, bombs, exploding powder flasks and kegs and concise rules for mines and makeshift explosives and yes, before you ask, rules for detonating multiple explosives are indeed provided herein. Carrier rockets that can deliver objects into the sky, exploding arrows (and bolts) and thermite...and yes, the pdf also collates e.g. fireworks like the banshee ballerina for completion's sake.


The pdf also provides optional rules for "realistic" explosive powder-based firearms that can be modified further - which, again, is neat to see. The pdf also sports a diverse selection of special weapon qualities for firework-firearms. Rules-wise, the pdf continues to follow the array of customization option championed before with easy rules for making firearm/melee-combined weapons as well as volley guns, which can be summed up as pepperboxes that fire their whole load at once, but at the cost of massive recoil penalties. I am not a fan of these, since, as far as I understood it, they essentially provide means for additional attacks at the cost of gold and accuracy, increasing the one-shot-kill-factor and practically begging to be abused.


Similarly, fire darts and arrows etc. and pyrotechnic bullet launchers can be found herein as well. Now I already mentioned handgonnes and in this catch-all term, both optional reloading rules, fuses, hand ignition, serpentine and matchlock allow for the precise customization of the respective way in which you want to introduce the weapon type into your game, while, again, combined firearm rules are provided. Increasing or decreasing caliber and hooked handgonnes that can be braced more easily are part of the deal. Hand mortars and culvertins as well as wall guns and bullet-shooting crossbows extend the material further and should fit the respective desires of most PCs.


Similarly, costs for a wide array of ammunition are provided - from stone to clay pellets to e.g. sulfur-free explosive powder, the massive array of options upon options grows to a barrage that also, interestingly, extends to the defensive. The rules provided for breastplates generated to protect against the more powerful firearms as well as mantlets, little portable shieldwalls and pavises - which inspired me to finally make a variant of Demon Soul's Phalanx-boss. In an overlap with the last two impressive installments of Call to Arms, amadou, driptorches, etc. are also contained herein, following the formula of aspiring to provide a holistic, definite resource on the subject matter - similarly, the basics of lighting a fire (see Call to Arms: Torch & Flame for more detailed information) has been partially reprinted here as well in sufficient detail.


Obviously, the book also features a selection of different magic items - here, the level of detail extended to the non-magical further extends to the magical realm - vast, magic-powered flash-bang enchantments and similar exclusive special weapon abilities to be added to explosive weaponry. To give you an example I really enjoyed here - what about a whistler that generates a 10-ft silence effect around it? Or a whistler that records sound around it, repeating it upon retrieval upon burning the second fuse? Yes, these weapons actually make magical warfare make sense and add new dimensions to the respective options at the behest of both players and nations, featuring some unique special OPs gambits and tricks. Or what about the illusion-creating ignis fatuu? Elemental explosives? For the sake of completion, e.g. everburning slow matches are reprinted in here as well, though personally, my favorite has got to be the diverse and varied types of magical explosive powder, which may e.g. sicken frightened or panicked creatures, affect the incorporeal or create an icicle at the end of the barrel, which can then be pulverized into cold shrapnel by scatter weapons. On the cursed side of things, bad powder, infused with chaotic energies, can result in unpleasant surprises, while the intelligent Huolongjing, a magical book, would make for a great hook to introduce firework weapons to an area where they were previously unknown.


Fans of mythic rules can find a fire gourd that can result in panics and be reformed by expenditure of mythic power, while the Devil's Brand powder keg is a ridiculously powerful keg of superior black powder with unique properties depending on its use.


The pdf also provides new character options, with the pyrotechnician alchemist being interesting: The archetype is proficient in firework-related weaponry and may add the effects of his alchemist bombs to them - which is rather potent. Instead of Brew Potion, they get Craft Magic Arms and Armor and 2nd, 5th, 8th and 10th level provide an additional bomb discovery instead of the usual poison resistance/immunity. To offset the relative power-gain, the archetype receives a stunted mutagen progression at level - 3 efficiency. The archetype is generally well-presented, though a bit on the strong side of things: Particularly the additive bomb class feature needs to be carefully watched and imho overshoots the target a bit. The second archetype would be the coulevrinier, which represents a well-balanced, solid firearm-specialist fighter. For completion's sake, the rules appendix also features options for bracing firearms (you may know these from previous CtA-releases), a Craft-alchemy addendum for explosives and fireworks, optional means of acquiring fast firearm proficiency (with downtime-rules-synergy), fouling them, planting explosive charges and, again, the rules for smoke and sound hazards we already saw in CtA: Pistols and Muskets.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring issues. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard with sparse, but nice pieces of art here and there. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Lucus Palosaari's Call to Arms on firework weapons and explosives has easily been my most anticipated so far - and usually, when I go into a book with expectations to be wowed or amazed, I end up being disappointed. Not so here. Beyond offering plenty of unique new weapons, powder-rules and the like, it is the attention to detail, the vast research and imaginative potential, and, more than that, the devotion to maximum customization that makes this work: When a given component of rule does not work within the context of your individual game, well, no problem - it can be ignored. If it does - all the better! That being said, the amount of rules that are potentially problematic, is negligible in relation to the whole book.


Much like the previous installments, this takes a rather simulationalist approach to the subject matter, allowing you to truly create unique and complex fireworks and scenarios, but refrains from bogging you down with too many interwoven, small rules - they're here.


They can work with one another and in some instances, they are used in conjunction, but for the most part, we have pure modularity here. Personally, I can already see my players abusing the heck out of volley guns, for example. Though that and the similarly open and problematic alchemist archetype constitute in total about 1 page of 60, though - sure, this pdf may not be perfect - but for the most part, it is simply inspired. The mundane and magical powders are BRILLIANT and, more importantly, this pdf manages to actually make firework/explosive specialists valid builds in PFRPG and adds to the lore of warfare in a magical context. This is the most refined of the "old" Call to Arms books I've covered so far and certainly shows the steady progression of the author. While not perfect, I truly enjoyed this book and the massive attention to detail and love that obviously went into it. And I'll take some tiny flecks of flaws in an inspired book of bland, but uninspired perfection any day. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform...and I will add my seal of approval to this.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Fireworks & Primitive Firearms
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Mini-Dungeon #025: The Choker Lair
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/11/2016 02:56:55

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. 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, the mountain town of Kraga has changed hands a couple of times - but recently, people have gone missing. In the old and true tradition of extermination-quests, the PCs go down to teh sewers and kill the eponymous chokers. The end. Wait...no. The pdf actually does several things right with its take on the sewer level: For once, you can contract disease (NOT filth fever for once!) - more importantly, the chokers the PCs will encounter actually are infused with the elements of earth and water respectively and utilize their abilities to intriguing effects...and yes, there are creatures beyond chokers herein The walkways also feature chances to fall into the sewage and generally, this can actually be considered a solid, fun little extermination.


Conclusion:


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


Jonathan Ely's choker lair looks like an unremarkable extermination quest and it is an unpretentious, brief and fun sidetrek that lives mainly by its use of terrain and the clever, templated adversaries and their tactics. This renders the mini-dungeon more fun that you'd expect for such a basic set-up and small file - kudos! That being said, neither skill monkeys, nor characters with social skills will have much to do in this dungeon - it's pretty much a straight, classic: "Go down, kill everything"-quest.


Overall, this is a fun, if not universally awesome mini-dungeon, with a final verdict of 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #025: The Choker Lair
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Cavalier Orders
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/11/2016 02:54:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, so without much ado, this pdf kicks off with the first order - and you'll notice something from the get-go: Each of the orders herein receives an absolutely gorgeous, high-quality original full-color artwork - with the respective cavaliers being represented together on the final page - this is an aesthetically pleasing pdf.


The first order would be the order of the Black Rose - and it is already a high-concept one, with challenge targets having their AC against melee attacks penalized. Second level nets undead-controlling 3+Cha-mod times per day, of up to cavalier levels in HD. 8th level provides a double-edged sword - being healed by negative energy and harmed by positive energy. At 15th level, the order can hamper the divine channeling of targets. Feat-wise, the order can get an undead mount. Solid take on the Death Knight-trope.


The order of the Claymore gets better Intimidate versus targets of his challenge and is all about strength and leaving no doubt about it - when using Spirited Charge in conjunction with Claymores, he deals triple damage and when battling higher CR foes, his challenge scales up to the HD of the target creature - interesting! Finally, whirlwind-like tricks complement the order. Also cool: There are two feats that help middle-aged and older cavaliers of this order retain their powers.


The Order of Cold Iron, as the name implies, is about defeating demons and challenge-wise, gets save-bonuses. The mount of the cavalier's natural attacks are treated as cold iron and at higher levels, may decrease DR of cold iron-susceptible foes with every crit. As a high-level ability, they can send creatures back to their home planes as per dismissal. (Which should be italicized, but that's a nitpicky complaint.) Feat-wise, they can have their mount/familiar's natural attacks count as silver and magic. There is also an interesting feat that turns DR against creatures that have them: Provided your weapon bypasses the DR, you deal bonus damage equal to the bypassed DR on a critical hit- which is BRUTAL. Sure, it is circumstantial, but ultimately, for the price of one feat, this exceeds the efficiency of quite a few class features. Seeing how quite a few creature have high DRs, this can be rather OP for crit-fishing builds. My advice is to implement a level-based scaling mechanism of DR-bypassing based bonus damage here.


The order of the Flagon is the Cayden/drunken master/dwarf-themed order, using Cha instead of Dex for Acrobatics and being rewarded via bonuses when chugging a drink prior to engaging in such activities. Challenges render the member of the order immune to fear (here scaling immunity for progressively more powerful fear-condition immunities would have been more balanced and nuanced) and the order can charge in crooked lines - not only with a 1-movement change caveat as per usual, but completely freely - which is VERY strong. 15th level provides the obligatory late cone of class level x d6 fire-breath, usable Con-mod times per day. The feats here are interesting - Drunken Strength allows for the target to down a strong drink to temporarily get +2 Str for Constitution "bonus" (should be "modifier") rounds, minimum 1. The feat can be taken multiple times, the Str-bonuses stacking - which is pretty nasty - particularly considering the lenient Con 13 prereqs - the lack of maximum times you can take this allows for some pretty nasty min-maxing. I'd take the Barb's rage progression as prerequisite minimum level guidelines and instead increase the rather low benefits (+1 Str) subsequent taking of the feat nets to determine when you can take this feat additional times to prevent that...though I do like the chance the use sickens you. The second feat allows for the combination of the order and feat-based Str-boost ability in one fell swoop.


The order of Fortune's challenge can use steal and dirty tricks instead of regular attacks in a challenge and gets Quick Draw and Quick Sheathe as bonus feats, the latter of which is reprinted here - though personally, I prefer Dreamscarred Press' version of the latter feat. At 8th level, weapon specific feats like Weapon Focus instead apply to Int-mod weapons, while 15th level provides another order's 2nd or 8th level ability. A new feat allows you to stack two magic items in a slot - which is problematic, considering the amount of combos the system doesn't account for - this just begs to create difficulties and is a prime example of playing rough and loose with the rules. This feat is not getting anywhere near my table.


The order of Luck must randomly choose the target of his challenge and gets a unique skill-based ability: Cha-mod times per day, he may flip a coin and either gain 1/2 class level as a bonus to the skill...or, if he loses, 1/4 class level as a penalty! Unique! Also interesting: The 2nd level ability is predicated on taking two approaches to a task: Either sneaking past a creature or fighting it, for example. The character flips a coin to determine which to take and receives a bonus - but failing to take either renders the cavalier shaken. At 8th level, the order gets a reroll and at high levels, he can even change natural 1s into 20s. There is also a new feat that lets you take a natural 1 and treat it as a 20...but as a consequence, your next 20 is treated as a 1. Now see, this one is UNIQUE, captivating and takes a classic trope and plays it in a unique way - two thumbs up!


The order of the Road gets AC-bonuses when moving at least 5 ft. in challenges, receives less penalty when fighting defensively and at 8th level, receives woodland stride and trackless step. 15th level duplicates blessing of fervor. (And should be designated as SP.) The order gets two new feats - one for an aurochs companion (with higher carrying capacity) and one for endure elements. Not that blown away here, though I like the visuals of the aurochs.


The order of the Scorpion receives better trip and disarm capacity in challenges and at 2nd level, gets whip proficiency as well as the option to combine whip-based combat maneuvers with mounted charges. Additionally, they may, at 8th level, execute attacks with the off-hand against a foe tripped or disarmed - I assume at full BAB, but I'm not sure here. Do two-hand penalties apply? What about quick sheathing with the primary hand? The ability requires some clarification. 15th level provides Quarry. The feats provided here, though, are solid: Better Diehard, penalties for foes trying to lie to you and blinding whip attacks make sense and work.


Cavaliers of the order of the Sea get challenge bonuses to atk while NOT astride a mount. 2nd level provides free movement through allies AND all types of difficult terrain and may freely charge while changing direction - again without a scaling mechanism or cap for turns -the combination of these is too soon at 2nd level - a scaling mechanism based on levels would help here. 8th level nets Cleave (or Greater Cleave if you already have it) and 15th nets Leadership. Okay, but none too interesting. The order is accompanied by 4 feats - 3 of which are pretty standard pirate/sea-themed ones, with the 4th providing teamwork grappling for easier enemy subduing.


The order of the Sun penalizes the attacks of damaged foes of the respective challenge and may perform a channel-less turn undead at 2nd level. 8th provides bonuses vs. death effects and 15th allows for the temporary suspension of channeling negative energy - yes, this pretty much is the mirror of the order of the Black Rose. The new feats allow for +50% healing efficiency at the expense of +25% negative energy damage received. Not a fan of the fractions here. That being said, the second feat is cool, allowing for the expenditure of turn undead uses of the order in favor of bonus damage vs. undead.


The order of Truth gets Will-save bonuses versus targets of his challenge and may not feint, dirty trick, etc. - a whole bunch of restrictions...for which he gain uncanny dodge and more Will-save bonuses. Not a big fan, as this takes active choice away for passive benefits, decreasing player agenda. At 8th level, this bonus extends to nearby allies and 15th level provides an EX-version of discern lies. The feats allow you to adhere to the order's edicts and get rerolls from foes and there is a feat that allows for retributive intimidation after Sense Motive-win and one that allows you to deal more damage versus deceivers.


Know how before I called the order of the Sun the opposite of the order of the Black Rose? Well, I was somewhat misleading you -Sun is the conceptual opposite; the honor, however, belongs visual-wise, to the order of the White Rose - -challenge nets dodge-bonuses to AC and is determined by a ward, through whose square he may charge and he also gains Saving Shield as a bonus feat (not capitalized properly in the text), gain better shield bonuses, shield other, and later, as an immediate action, take the effects of award's failed save. The feats allow for more wards and one that decreases the damage taken from protecting your wards.


The pdf closes with a new cavalier archetype - the Dual-Sworn cavalier. Instead of mounts and expert trainer, these guys receive a second order, whose edicts, benefits, challenge effects etc. STACK. That there is already the end for the archetype. Indiscriminate stacking of challenge-options, skills etc. just are not feasible within the frame of the class - they beg for conflicts galore, rules, falling apart and fringe-case-chaos, which is rather sad, for the foot-soldier charge-improvements the archetype otherwise gets are nice.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty decent, though I noticed hiccups in formatting of spells and the like. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more mobile-device friendly version. The artworks contained herein are superb and may be what excited me the most about some of these orders. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Alex Abel and Tanner Wahlin have crafted some remarkable orders herein - while the concepts and visuals used, in many cases, hearken to classic tropes I've (and just about anyone else has) seen done before (sometimes time and again), the execution, for the most part, is solid and codifying e.g. drunken master as a cavalier hasn't been done before. The same general solid craftsmanship can be claimed about the majority of the rules-language and decisions herein. However, at the same time, this is a classic example of a pdf whose finer mechanics grind and stutter under the weight of proverbial sand - both in balancing and rules-language: I love the order of the scorpion, theme-wise, but it's execution with basically a hidden feat-tax to make one ability work and lack of damage-upgrade feels a bit weak.


The order of fortune is all over the place with its tricks and honestly, didn't feel particularly intriguing to me. However, we do get some damn cool ideas herein: the order of Luck's coin-toss mechanics are inspired and fun and the defensive order of the White Rose does a decent job as well. An interesting observation: Balancing of both orders and feats herein, feats in particular, is not that consistent, so you may want to be careful with particularly the latter. In fact, both archetype and feats are what dragged this pdf down a notch - sure, jaded ole' me has seen most of these order-concepts done as classes, archetypes, etc. and had no surprises apart from the order of luck and the cool order of the claymore herein - but ultimately, the orders themselves are on the positive side of things.


Let me state this clearly: Barring the few cases where the pdf plays fast and loose with rules and balancing, this is pretty much a fun book of orders with some great visuals to supplement it. I just wished the rough edges had been filed off and that the balancing of a few of these components had been tighter. Think of this as a delicious hamburger with a couple of gherkins on it, when you really can't stand them - consuming the broken bits is not an option and you can take them off and still eat a great burger, but a mild aftertaste remains. Similarly, you know how a hamburger tastes - it's not fancy or will get you truly novel sensations, but it does satisfy your craving. What I'm trying to say is that this is a mixed bag. Sans issues, it would have been a good file; with them, I can go no higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cavalier Orders
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Four Horsemen Present: Technomagic - Hybrid Magic Items
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/10/2016 04:08:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page editorial, leaving us with 14.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right - so you may know already that I love scifi/fantasy mash-up - but does this one work? Well, we'll see! We begin with a limited armor special ability that is rather interesting: Self-charging armor functions for a number of hours equal to the enhancement bonus as if it possessed charges without consuming charges - this is limited and yet useful. Nice! The pdf also sports no less than 4 specific pieces of armor, beginning with the EMP armor, dealing reflexive damage when charged, doubled versus nanites. The living harness can either enhance the agility of the respective wearer, while also providing assistance in wielding larger melee weapons or stabilizing double firearm-wielders by granting the Two Weapon fighting feat when using them in conjunction with the living harness. The magnetic armor increases AC versus metallic weapons when charged, but interestingly makes it impossible to wield metal weapons while the armor is active. The subjective gravity suit, though, is quite frankly my favorite here - using the rules for subjective directional gravity, this one allows for the creation of whole new encounters/flexible aerial dungeon encounters. Love it!


Similarly to the armor ability, weapons may also become self-charging, though here, the charges are tied directly to recharges per day - good to see the distinction between both being represented properly in the rules. The specific weapons provided include a pistol with an intriguing feature - when shooting at two different opponents in the same round with the semi-automatic feature, the gun generates an arc of lightning between them, provided they are no further than 30 ft. apart from each other, though that does expend +1 charge and only one such arc can be generated per round. Interesting, if a bit powerful.


The Black Blade is basically a blacklight-ish laser torch that can damage invisible targets and nat. 20s can result in severed limbs. The chainsaw of carnage is per se cool - it can be activated by taking Con damage, with longer activation continuing to consume Con. Damaged creatures can be demoralized as an immediate action, though the Con-damage powering can be rather nasty for the rare creatures with a means to regain Con. I'd also like to know whether the weapon deals Cha-damage to undead etc., or whether it does not work for them - I assume the former, but am not 100% sure. The final specific weapon is a retriever-based autograpnel that not only has excellent pulling-capacity, but which can also be used to deal additional acid, cold or fire damage.


The pdf also sports no less than 8 diverse magic items, which contain emergency rods that can produce limited spacesuits (1 x year) or panic suits (1/day). There is a battery that cannot be destroyed by recharging as well as an array of magitech grenades, codified by spell-level and caster level with fitting costs - and yes, these can deliver spells. Similarly, there are pseudointelligences in various iterations, repositories of knowledge that may be able to reply or follow instructions, but not truly learn - a clear case of "why hasn't this been done before" - nice! There also are selective force fields and telepathic commsets. One battery can be recharged from the lifeforces of slain opponents (with a valid chance of failure to prevent abuse) and a battery that can be recharged via spells, again, with a significant destruction-chance to prevent abuse.


Okay, this would be precisely the point when this pdf exceeds the expectations I had for it - expanding the base rules for animated vehicles pioneered in the excellent, massive Construct Companion and expands them with appropriate animated vehicle options for spaceships - yes, including rockets, force-fields and the like. And while more convenient with the Construct Companion, you can also use these for vanilla animated objects. A total of 3 fully statted such spaceships are provided...and yes, I'm so going to go all out, write some mythic options and make the friggin' Lexx with these rules. Love them!


Next up would be biotech, which includes an alternate trait to represent super-soldier programs and the like with an optional trait. The rules pretty much follow the cybertech rules with implantation values, sporting concise rules for the process of getting biotech implants and removing them as well as guidelines for the price usually charged for the implantation/removal procedures. There would be implants for becoming amphibious and implants that provide endure elements as well as reducing the requirement for sleep, water, food, etc. The memory enhancer can act as a spellbook substitute for prepared casters, allowing for preparation from memory. At 9K cost to create, this one is rather underpriced, considering that it takes away a crucial weakness of prepared casters reliant on spellbooks.


The natural attack implant has a minor formatting glitch, depicting the header framed by red lines (like the construction-requirements) instead of the purple usual header. There also are variants of neural implants that grant 1/day SPs and different pheromones as well as a poison sac. There would also be biotech implants that duplicate degrees of fortification - and here, I would have really liked to know whether these add their chance to negate sneak attacks and critical hits as a separate chance to the effects of fortification -usually, I'd assume no, but since the biotech doesn't explicitly state being based on fortification, I am quite frankly not sure. I also think that the Mark VI-version, which provides 100% critical hit/sneak immunity is severely underpriced at 24500 GP cost to create. Considering that this invalidates a series of builds completely and can't be duplicated via vanilla magic, I think this one needs to die...or at least be significantly more expensive.


There also would be vision-enhancers as well as 3 treatments, slotless gene therapies in effect. These stop aging, grant regeneration or modify the size category of the character. The formatting for these is a bit odd, with the first two not having the clear construction-separation, while the third does.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though not as precise as in some installments of this series. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are nice and both full-color and b/w, though I saw one before.


Stephen Rowe's collection of science-fantasy technological/magic-hybrid items are unique and while some items herein are pretty powerful and require some careful consideration depending on the level of power you feature in your game, for the most part, this collection is interesting and well-executed and in vanilla-contexts, you probably won't see rules-abuse here unless someone REALLY tries hard to break them, though that is not the fault of this pdf, but rather the consequence of the relatively wide-open type of option some of the items represent.


I am pretty much a cynical guy who has probably read too many books for his own good - thus, particularly the biotech-chapter fell a bit flat for me personally. Feasible and covers the basics, but I really wished the concept had its own full book to shine and, more importantly, the space to explore more far-out biotech - what's in here, is pretty much tame.


On the other hand, however, the animated space ship-options clearly hit a very soft spot with me - I loved them and they rock and inspire. Similarly, the items contained in the beginning went a step beyond the expected and thankfully did not just retread the genre-defaults - kudos!


But how to rate this? See, that is pretty difficult - there is a lot to love in this pdf and a couple of instances, where the concepts presented herein would have warranted their own books by virtue of their awesome ideas, there also are a few minor hiccups in the formatting and not all of the items herein reach this level....though many, in fact, do. Hence, my final verdict for this book will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Technomagic - Hybrid Magic Items
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The Lost Lands: Stoneheart Valley Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2016 05:08:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive collection of modules clocks in at 192 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 11 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 177 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This pdf kicks in with a blast from the past for me - a discussion on the upcoming Lost Lands setting and how different places in the world implied by all Necromancer Games/Frog God Games modules and supplements. If you're like me, this is damn interesting...but let me go back for a second.


When 3rd edition came around back in the day, I was kind of skeptical - but then again, after seeing the very real limitations rules-light systems can sport at one given point, I converted - also due to my players simply enjoying reaping the benefits of system mastery. So I went into the new system, bought books etc. - the whole deal. That is when I realized that balance was terrible and fluctuating - if you've been there during the "Sword and Fist"-era, you'll know what I mean. At the same time, I got modules and while there were some fine gems, WotC just didn't produce enough - and while I will never forget how my PCs defeated Ashardalon (upgraded to CR 38, epic etc.), most, but not all of the new school modules left me craving something, feeling like something had been lost in the process. It took me quite some time back in the day to grasp what the problem was - in the advent of massive statblocks, the things that provided the immersion into the world took a step back. In its place came very straight: "This is treated as spell x" descriptions that made the whole system more concise. Additionally, bestiaries went away from complex discussions on habitat, ecology, etc., instead providing almost only crunch, rendering books I used to love to read into something I read once and then used at the table - but never read for pleasure.


The increased size of statblocks also rendered modules simply less detailed - less space to devote to the respective areas and inhabitants, their tactics etc. While this changed over the course of 3.X and in PFRPG is less of a problem, mainly due to a vast array of superb modules, in 3.X's days, it made me feel as if the system was superb in its math, but also soulless. Then there was the issue with player-entitlement, which also became a problem during those days - or rather, the slavish adherence to CRs and a "balanced chance" in every encounter felt to me unrealistic and soulless - it detracted immensely from my sense of immersion.


On the plus-side, the OGL provided a whole bunch of interesting 3pps, so I was browsing shelves in my FLGS. I noticed two old-school looking modules there - "Crucible of Freya" and "Tomb of Abysthor." I bought them. I read them. I cackled with glee. Here we got modules that had line-of-sight-featuring maps of guard-fires, great cartography - and the balls to throw a CR 6 troll at a 1st level party, proudly, defiantly against the zeitgeist, stating that PCs acting dumb ought to result in death. This very philosophy of proper challenges and smart, detailed surroundings was glorious. Better yet, the modules were not afraid of not codifying everything - providing unique terrain hazards, additional encounters (heck, in ToA the PCs can avoid a whole level if they don't want to explore everything!). A couple of years later, I had almost everything Necromancer Games had produced and ordered every book I could get my hands on.


Then, PFRPG happened and I was complaining about Slumbering Tsar, about how much I wanted to see it and had graduated from forum-lurker to reviewer. The rest is history.


Here, for the first time, the free introductory module Wizard's Amulet, Crucible of Freya and Tomb of Abysthor are collected in one massive book, all updated for PFRPG. (And that's damn well and good, for ToA, for example, was nigh impossible to get anymore!) Furthermore, while the original modules utilized various pieces of content from the Scarred Lands Creature Collection-books and the Relics & Rituals-tomes, this revamp sports completely new takes on the respective topics, without these old pieces of content. And yes, this does extend to a point where the crunch can influence the fluff and actually, rather than restrict the narrative capacities of the module in question - see for example th "sorceror's amulet"-sidebar. Better yet, some of the more significant encounters actually come with different tactical suggestions and conditions based on the difficulty level you're aiming for, making this book worthwhile even for less experienced players. (Though people, when you go for FGG, you might as well go hardcore - it's what makes winning awesome.)


Additionally, it should be noted that this is no lazy repackaging - new encounters, mapped mini-dungeons, copious amounts of superb b/w-artworks - there's a lot of new material and the inclusion of e.g. the APG-classes in builds does result in a very organic, defiantly pathfinder change of the basic modules. What about a misanthropic druid who has developed a wand to control stirges, for example, with a hilarious picture of the poor guy being annoyed by the bloodsucking pests. Ruined waystations and monasteries breathe a significant sense of danger and desolation.


And yes, the CR20+ slightly cthulhoid adversary of ToA, who belonged to a now IP-protected species has been replaced with a rather cool multi-class build...of what race? No, not going to spoil that...


On the crunch-side, the book does sport new takes on archetypes and prestige classes for the foes, numerous magic items and a variety of non-standard creatures to be encountered within these pages.


What is this module about? I'm not spoiling that. This is a piece of roleplaying history that one should experience for oneself. Just one hint: Beware the font and its endless skeletons...


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks herein are glorious, especially the new ones; some original artworks have been used as well. The cartography is neat as well, I just wished we had player-friendly versions for them.


I'll make this short - Bill Webb and Clark Perterson are legends for a reason. But Erica Balsley, Greg A. Vaughan and Skeeter Green as contributing authors should be proud as well. Developers Skeeter Green and Ken Cliffe have taken this collection and made it more than the sum of its parts, rendering this book more than the sum of its parts.


This is a defiantly old-school mega-adventure, a mini-setting-sourcebook and enough adventure material to provide enjoyment for quite a while. Finally, if your players think they're hard - back when I ran Ravenloft campaigns, I played these modules with the following stipulations:


-all damage-dealing magic causes madness checks


-max one starting piece of magical equipment


-+ DR 10/special material or DR 20/special material to all supernatural adversaries, with special materials to be determined by research


...and much more. Yes, a lot of PCs died. They still talk about the experience with a gleam in their eyes and when PC upon PC sacrificed himself to buy some time in my modified finale...well, let's just say that this was simply glorious. If you're interested in that, drop me a line.


Back to the review: I have not SPOILER-tagged the module for a reason - this is less about the story, more about the atmosphere. About the feeling of this massive book. About the freedom, the non-linearity, the sense of danger and a world that has turned forward, a feeling that what little civilization is there, it's in danger. This is a document of roleplaying game history, carefully and respectfully refreshed to the PFRPG-rules and one of the books that should grace the shelves of all PFRPG-DMs -beyond being a great old-school module, this constitutes the best iteration of the material so far, both in production values and builds. That being said, Frog God Games has since back in the day raised the bar by quite a bit, so while this module is still great and awesome, it has aged a bit when compared to some of the glorious modules FGG has produced in the meanwhile. And if your group has played the original modules, this may be the better version, but for me, personally, I wouldn't play this massive array again and instead use the new content as supplemental wilderness encounters. What I'm trying to say is - if you already have the originals, this is optional, not mandatory. If you don't have them, though - this is literally roleplaying game history.


My final verdict will still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - this is a book that every group that liked old-school should have played at least once.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Lands: Stoneheart Valley Pathfinder Edition
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Tavern!
Publisher: Krewe of Harpocrates Publication
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2016 03:47:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive supplement clocks in at 96 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 93 pages of content, so let's take a look!


If I had a dime for every module I've read that begins by PCs being contacted in a party...and still. Unlike the 1st level module with goblins as foes and an ogre and/or shadow as boss and similar extremely trite and worn out clichés, there seems to be no law of diminishing returns regarding the tavern as an environment. Indeed, if anything, I know quite a few groups wherein the players have taken to spending copious amounts of gold on booze and professionals instead of on magic items because it feels right to them, because their emotionally scarred adventurers, regularly risking their lives for gold, glory and innocents, deserve a time off. It is quite telling that, similarly, barroom brawls did not receive that much support in the basic supplements, with Raging Swan Press' by now classic little supplement seeing a lot of use at my table - for, indeed, the barroom brawl is a beloved staple of the fantasy genre. I know literally not a single player who doesn't enjoy it.


It's weird then, that there simply aren't that many supplements out there dealing with the subject matter. This book is intended as basically a resource dealing with all things related to taverns - beginning with some basic pieces of information regarding glass-size and the like before introducing dynamic action-rules: Flexible bull rushing through cluttered areas, diverse improvised weapons (from scalding soup to steins and tableware), concise rules-summaries for swinging on chandeliers - there is a lot of material herein, including tables with hit points and hardness for rope and chain supports - in case you haven't noticed by now, this is exceedingly detailed and each of the pages contains A LOT of text: Step-by-step breakdowns of combat maneuvers in a barroom brawl context also can be found herein.


Now, the usual reason for being in a given tavern (beyond scoring the next harrowing adventuring quest) would obviously be to get drunk - thus, the second chapter of this book is devoted to more detailed rules for intoxication: Basically, this book codifies alcohol in units and establishes an easy means of tracking size category-modifiers and codifies 3 types of intoxication as well as rules-repercussions for hangovers and blackouts. Now far from glorifying excess behavior, the pdf also sums up addiction-rules. The pdf also introduces an array of feats with the [Drunken]-descriptor that can be taken to increase your resistance to the effects of being intoxicated. From gaining resistance to nonlethal damage to gaining Skill Focus to stay out of trouble while drunk or for better spellcasting while drunk. While not particularly strong or brilliant, these feats very well support the respective character concepts.


The third chapter of this book would basically be the massive toolkit most GMs have been looking for - the big tavern-generator: A 200-entries-strong name generator kicks off the tables provided in this pdf to accompany the concise array of considerations GMs should think about when creating taverns. From drinks to food, bedding options to personalities and amenities, this provides a complex array of 50 unique tavern traits, and yes, there is a handy table of random divine/mystic patrons that may frequent the tavern. The pdf also sports DETAILS galore: From goblin Bufo to Grog, Serpentfolk Bloodwine or Wisp, there are A LOT of unique beverages herein, many of which provide unique benefits that make it significantly more likely power-gaming players will join in the revels. Beyond these excessive amounts of uncommon alcohol, we also receive a huge amount of diverse food selections with sample prices/refill-info - and yes, beyond general food tables, we also get handy daily stew tables and ones featuring common/delicacy cheese - and yes, the tables accompany more detailed write-ups for the respective foods. Now quite a few taverns also sport a selection of other goods to purchase and thus, from pitcher, parchment to whetstone and maple syrup, there are quite a few additional entries for your consideration.


Similarly, we do receive some basic guidelines on tavenr games, though in this regard, the pdf does not reach its usual excess level of detail. Trade goods and alchemical remedies as well as truly detailed amenities are just as well part of the deal as the precise prices for e.g. good locks for your rooms. Stables and transport-costs are part of the deal and in case your party's dwarf is thinking about dabbling in brewing alcohol (or you're trying to avoid ølfrykt), DCs for scaling qualities, aging processes and the like are explained alongside concise terms in the creation of beverages.


Of course, taverns are basically encounter-facilitators on a meta-level and thus, a massive generator of encounters (including dark alley encounters) are part of the next chapter - and yes, from diverse drunks to various degrees of powerful bar staffs, we also receive a solid array of NPC statblocks in this book, with general statblocks ranging from CR 1/2 to CR 11 - with the higher CR statblocks sporting brief sample NPC-fluff write-ups. Now here, the book becomes awesome: Full blown downtime-synergy rules with secret rooms, teams etc complement this chapter alongside downtime/kingdom-building rule events - kudos!


The final chapter provides the Sweet Hag's Bossom - a massive tavern, lavishly mapped in full color, with the maps of both floors coming as versions that are furnished and unfurnished, for 4 massive maps - that also come in versions that have been blown up for battlemap-style use, with 4 pages of the maps making for one big version of the map - impressive indeed, particularly for the low price-point.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - I surprisingly noted no significant glitches in spite of the size of this book. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some sparse artworks in color. The cartography is excellent for the low price, but the absence of bookmarks is a nasty comfort detriment. The book comes with a second, printer-friendly version as well as with a .zip-file containing the maps in two different formats - nice bonus!
R. William Thompson and Justin Sluder deliver a surprisingly detailed book: There is A LOT of text crammed on every page - this book actually sports more content on each of its pages than you'd expect. This massive book provides so many details, so much intricate information, that I can't fathom any GM out there using all of it - but at the same time, I can't picture any GM being left truly cold by this book: Just about every group should be able to drawn something from these pages:


Whether it's the unique liquor, the intoxication rules or just the statblocks - there is a lot of material in this inexpensive book. Not all of the material will blow you away, granted, but considering the focus of this book, it does contain a significant amount of material to use and enjoy.


The means by which you can infuse true life into a given tavern certainly is appreciated and in the end, this is what I will rate this as: A massive toolkit to make the favorite bar of your adventurers unique and stand out - to make them care for their tavern. As such, this book can be considered to be an inspired addition to dressing books like those released by Raging Swan Press. My only true gripe with this pdf, ultimately, boils down to the lack of bookmarks - hence, and due to the inexpensive price-point, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5: If you're remotely interested in the subject matter and want a definite resource on the topic, this will have you covered.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern!
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Urban Dressing: Logging Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2016 03:44:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Urban Dressing series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin, as always, our brief tour through the logging town with a massive table of 100 entries depicting sights and sounds - from clattering wood to horses dragging de-limbed trees behind them to children carrying syrup by the buckets down the streets, we are greeted with a diverse array of things to behold - but conflict does loom here as well, as the astute traveler may perceive druids pronouncing doom for the forest's desecration or guild officials arguing with workers. Shimmering Fae lights, odd aftertastes in the local ale - beyond sights that speak of a pastoral idyll making way for civilization, danger lurks. And what about that massive tree in the middle of the settlement? Its face is so life-like...


Now such a place, obviously, is defined by the business to be found with the settlements confines and a table, 50 entries strong, provides indeed more than the obligatory lumber mill with kilns, stables, mercenaries, artists, arborists, seamstresses and cobblers awaiting the visits of prospective customers, all with their own names and small bit and pieces of information that allows you to breathe life into them. And yes, herbalists and wood mages can be found here as well.


Of course, such places are also defined by the people living there - so 50 sample personalities can be found in the respective table - from weary warriors to elderly halflings sketching trees that will soon be gone to sadists that enjoy getting lumberjacks drunk and insane people thinking they speak for the spiders of the woods, there's a lot of local color to be found here...and what about that dryad that constantly petitions the mayor to steer clear of the sacred grove? Indeed, the respective write-ups sport quite a lot of potential.


Should this not suffice, well, then 20 complications and hooks will keep you and your group busy: A monstrous stag has been sighted and now the game is on to bring it down. Several groves have been reduced to cinders, leaving strange spiral patterns...and what if a flash flood has raised the water level of a nearby lake so much, it may see the logs churning down from the mountain smash into the village? There are a lot of diverse problems, both esoteric and mundane here, creating a great finale for this pdf.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' crisp two-column b/w-standard with nice, thematically-fitting b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, one intended for screen-use and one intended for the printer.


Josh Vogt's logging town is awesome - detailed and intriguing, the town runs a perfect balancing act between pastoral idyll and eff'd up hovel, between civilization vs. nature tropes and those that go beyond that, between the mundane and the magical - it is, in short an absolutely excellent installment in the series that captures the spirit of the logging town exceedingly well. 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Logging Town
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