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10 Kingdom Seeds: Underground (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2017 04:43:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, if you’re new to the concept – the Kingdom Seeds-pdfs are basically collections of 10 sample settlements, ranging usually from thorp to village, which are depicted complete with a settlement statblock and a brief summary of the village in question as well as notes on intriguing locales and a few rumors/adventure hooks for each – think of them as kind of akin to Raging Swan Press’ backdrops, but instead of focusing in detail on one locale, we get a few of them in broader strokes. Thing is – this installment not only goes underground – it also changes the formula of these pdfs by splicing crunchy tidbits into the respective entries.

Take, for example, the first settlement, NE Coldwylde, carved into pink sandstone, it is the home of escaped aranea slaves that have managed to create a new magical rope – the fanged rope of entanglement, made from an aranea’s last silk and fangs, it can entangle and poison those that try to escape them – really cool, magical item, with a somber note…and the means of construction have some serious roleplaying potential.

In CE Deepdell, gnomes are working on a mysterious vein of onyx…and it’ll be just a matter of time before they can deduce the power-component-like properties of these gems…. On the other end of the alignment spectrum, Frepond represents an idyllic academy of music and magic that would usually have no chance in the cutthroat underdark – but the singing stalactites and stalagmites in the cavern vastly enhance the options of bards, allowing them to maintain two bardic performances at once –and yes, the rules codifying that are concise and precise, though personally, I would have enjoyed to see a range here – I assume the default range of 30 ft. to tap into such a rock’s power, but I’m frankly not 100% sure.

A blaze of light in the dark is atop Griffonfort – the ceiling of this cavern is illuminated by a heatless flame. The place is haunted by frustrated ghosts of the first settlers, but the dwarven leaders try to make the dream of a perfect fort a reality, slowly releasing the vanquished ghosts under the glow of continual flame, greater, the new spell to supplement this one. Ironwynne was founded by the Ironfeet mercenaries as a supply and support center and as such, has a harsh, militaristic feel – even though the company was shattered. The reputation remains – and so do the mundane, iron boots that make for well-crafted marching utensils…or for percussion.

Joncrest is inhabited by Halflings that herd lizards. They harvest their tails, which regrow. Yeah, that’s pretty damn cool. But wait – Halflings can’t see in the dark! Well, these guys can: We get alternate Halfling racial traits – darkvision 60 ft. in exchange for keen senses and improved natural healing in exchange for Halfling luck, mirroring the hardy reptiles they herd. Amazing one! Narland occupies a huge cavern, which holds multiple towers, each focused on teaching a discipline of magic – cutting edge, these folks push the limits of magic, as represented by a new regional trait that lets you make a concentration check as a swift action to push a chosen school’s spell’s caster level…but at the risk of a magical mishap – which is accompanied by a percentile table with 7 different effects, just fyi. Really cool!

Pryness is situated next to a massive underground river, providing ferrying (and smuggling) services for those that require it; predominantly Halfling, the settlement also the home of, surprisingly non-evil river rat variant wererats that can only infect willing beings – cool! The problem is just…such societies are easy to infiltrate by the REAL wererats…

Silverflower looks like a place littered with dead stems in light; however, in the darkness, the flowers generate a soothing glow and wondrous scent – as a result, the place has a darkvision-only policy…which could make for a decidedly wondrous place to visit. Oh, and the perfume made there can help when navigating the more precarious social situations…though the effect does change, based on lighting conditions. Damn cool! More of a deathtrap: Stonekeep. The CE hamlet inhabited by dwarves can carve tunnels ridiculously fast, using identical, vault-style hyper-secure doors (which evil folks may wish to get for their magic-hampering and great locks…)…but the nasty dwarves have this habit of unleashing a rock troll with adamantine false teeth (!!!), their secret weapon, on those who come calling – this is an adventure just waiting to happen!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some neat full-color pieces I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Liz Smith stepped up to the next level. I don’t know if it’s the guiding hand of Rite Publishing’s new line developer Stephen Rowe, but this blows the old Kingdom Seeds out of the water. The settlements all feature some truly evocative, unique, magical angle that sets them apart, that makes them distinct in spite of their brevity. The added crunch-components for each village amps up the wonder further – even if they’re just small tweaks, they add a sense of the unique to everything. Heck, in some cases, I really, really liked what these humble pieces of crunch do – they help tell stories and furthermore differentiate the series more from Raging Swan Press’ more fluff-centric offerings. For the low asking price, you get some truly wondrous and amazing places to visit and cool supplemental material to boot. What’s not to like?

Easily worth 5 stars + seal of approval and a strong recommendation for the very fair price-point!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Kingdom Seeds: Underground (PFRPG)
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Four Horsemen Present: MORE Comedic Character Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2017 04:41:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

All righty, after a brief introduction, we are introduced to the Comedium (that’s a groaner that could have come from yours truly…), which does not gain the regular archetypical spirits (unless otherwise gained) and instead gains the Comedian, whose séance bonus would be +1 to Bluff, intimidate and Diplomacy. The Influence penalty, unsurprisingly, would be applied to Charisma and Charisma-related checks…oh, and guess what, auto-confirm of ranged or melee attacks. As taboos, you choose to either have to include one joke per conversation, one pun per sentence or respond to criticism with an insult. The lesser ability would be mirth, which reduces penalties incurred from mind-affecting abilities for yourself and allies within 30 ft. by 1. The intermediate ability would be Punch Lines: As a move action, the comedium can allow the comedian to gain 1 influence over him, partially manifesting: This nets the character a Perform (comedy) check against a creature in reach, adding the spirit bonus to the check. If the check exceeds 10 + the creature’s CR + the creature’s Wisdom modifier, the critter loses its Dex-bonus to AC due to being entertained by the spirit. Internal game-logic-wise, I think this probably should be mind-influencing, at least.

The greater ability lets you influence the attitude of crowds and the supreme ability lets you counter language-dependent or verbal component using spells as an immediate action: You roll Intimidate and compare it to either the spell save DC or 10 + the target’s Charisma modifier or the skill-check’s result, rendering the target shaken for 1 round on a success. The ability btw. has a 24-hour cooldown per target, not unlike a hex. 13th level replaces haunt channeler with +2 to Will saves for allies participating in a séance. Instead of astral journey, the archetype can tell a funny joke, affecting targets within 10 ft. per level (not class level) with hideous laughter on a failed save. Minor complaints: Spell-reference not italicized. Also: It’d make sense for this to have a daily limit/hex caveat. The ability also does not specify its activation action – while Su usually defaults to standard action, I’d still have appreciated a stated action.

Doorkicker barbarians gain proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armor, shields and tower shields and replace fast movement with double land speed in the surprise round. Trap sense is replaced with a scaling bonus to “initiative checks and during the surprise round and first round of combat” – something is wonky here. Does that mean only in those two rounds? Or should the bonus apply to something? No idea. 7th level replaces DR with the option to carry broken down doors or gates as impromptu weapons with the option to perform bull rushes and shield bash attacks with a bonus to atk and CMB with it that increases. Okay, as what type of shield do these impromptu shields count? Do they grant an AC-bonus? No idea.

Forest friend druids replace nature’s bond and resist nature’s lure with Tiny and Diminutive forest critters, Disney-style, that allow the character to perform a Dirty Trick with a reach of 30 ft. as a free action, using Cha instead of the animal’s Strength score and druid level instead of BAB. 4th level provides a +2 bonus, 10th level the option to execute two such attempts at once. The character can’t use animal empathy to influence magic beasts or domestic cats (wild ones are more grateful…) and 4th level replaces standard wild shape with critter shape, sounding like a cute child hopped on helium while speaking in critter form, with -1 to CL and -4 to Diplomacy and Intimidate while in cute critter form. First, the druid can only go Tiny, with 6th level unlocking Small and Medium versions of such Tiny critters. Additionally, damage increases as though one size larger. Every 2 further levels increase the maximum size available by +2, capping at 12th level and Gargantuan. 9th level yields immunity to natural diseases instead of venom immunity and 13th level provides a -2 penalty to concentration for enemies only while nearby the character. Pretty cool!

The cavalier order of the destrier grants bonuses to atk and damage to the horse with his challenge (meta-joke: Low-level horses are deadlier than their riders…) and adds both Acrobatics and Stealth to class skills, with the mount automatically gaining ranks in them upon gaining HD, and both share the highest Dex-score for Dexterity –based checks. At 2nd level, penalties for ranged attacks are reduced by 2 and no longer takes concentration penalties for vigorous motion. The mount no longer takes atk penalties for squeezing. 8th level nets +4 to CMD versus unseating attempts and Defensive Combat Training for the mount, as well as +2 to CMD. 15th level yields Ride or Die: 1/round, the mount can increase its reach as a swift action, for one round. He also may parry AoOs as an immediate action. Yep, this is “every cavalier joke ever” – the archetype.

Master of Disaster monks add Study Stance at 1st level, Missed Me at 6th and One gender-Neutral Army (lol) at 10th level to bonus feats available. 2nd level nets +2 to Acrobatics, Swim and Climb as well as Reflex Saves and Constitution checks, increasing that to +4 at 9th level, replacing evasion and its improved brother. 4th level replaces slow fall with mastery of cover: Increased benefits for the monk, decreased benefits for his adversaries. 7th level provides Superior Style: as a standard action, the monk can enlighten his audience regarding the superiority of his school, technique, sensei’s teachings, etc. – he may forego an attack made at his lowest attack bonus in favor of using an AoO to parry an opponent’s attack, with 12th level allowing for the use of two such attacks for parries. This replaces wholeness of body and abundant step…and is WEIRD. As a standard action, it does not allow for a full-attack in that round, so is it immediately active, drawing on the attacks in a future round? Does it only activate upon taking the next full attack? The lack of a duration and clear sequence make this problematic.

The revelry mystery for the oracle, which nets Bluff, Knowledge (nobility), Perform (act) and Sleight of Hand as class skills. The bonus spells make sense (and contain an asterisk-based, pretty funny joke with the reader). The revelations are pretty cool: Out-of-combat, limited use condition negation, conjuring forth a friendly, cheering crowd (which misses the chance for cool Performance combat synergy, alas), adjusting after botching social skill checks, limited healing of allies, Party trick SPs (that scale up to frickin’ meteor swarm at 19th level), conjuring forth blocking piñatas, verbal roasting of foes – pretty cool general array of tricks…though I’m not a fan of all: Untyped damage via touch-attack tickling, for example, comes also with a no-save staggered condition. Its 11th level minimum does alleviate that a bit, but still. The capstone summons a bad rave that wrecks concentration and conceals allies – cool!

The stoner alchemist replaces mutagens and persisted mutagens with getting high, for +2 to Str, Dex and Con and +2 to Will-saves, but – 2 to initiative and Reflex saves. It lasts for one hours per level (should probably be class level) and takes 10 minutes to activate. While buzzed, the stoner can exhale 5ft.-cones of smoke into adjacent squares, potentially dazzling targets on a failed save for 2 rounds. 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the options available for second-hand smoke. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the area affected by this second-hand smoke by +5 ft. and the ability, replacing bombs, can be used Intelligence modifier + class level times per day. 2nd level replaces the poison resistance and immunity with a scaling bonus to saves versus pain effects and those that induce a variety of conditions.

The pdf contains 7 new feats: Awful Good lets Lawful good casters ignore [evil] descriptors of spells at +1 spell slot level…and it should probably have the metamagic tag. Dodecaswap lets you replace 2d6 with 1d12 +1. …get it? Light Armor nets you a dodge bonus to AC equal to Charisma modifier, but only versus targets attracted to you. Mascot nets you a +1 bonus to atk, Will-saves and damage when an animal companion/mount/familiar damages a foe, Missed Me nets you a dodge bonus when flanked – if a foe misses you due to this bonus, he may strike his ally. One Person Army (previously referred to as One Gender-Neutral Army) lets you make AoOs against any square you threaten while charging, but you’re still limited to one AoO per threatened square you moved through. Someone has seen Lightning’s signature move in FF XIII. Study Stance lets you use Sense Motive to identify style feats, with attacks based on identified style feats potentially causing AoOs. Also nets you +1 to CMB and CMD while in the same style as your opponent.

The pdf’s final section is taken up by 10 new spells: Baleful plushy transforms animals and magical beasts into animated plushy versions, hampering AC and natural attacks. Power Word: Die creates a polyhedral die that moves towards your target. Distracting dance fascinates targets. Dodecaheathen deals d12-based damage, particularly if the target’s alignment is further from yours! Fire flowers creates bubbles of energy (one for each base type), causing some serious damage and potentially hampering the foe. Mist me is an immediate action concealment-granting spell, potentially hitting foes behind you. Nature’s furry enhances Diminutive or Tiny critters with brutal power. Plush companion temporarily makes companions etc. plushies…and harmless. After the spell elapses, the creature regains hit points. Squirrel cheeks, aka hamster cheeks, net you an extradimensional space in your cheeks. Walking Bomb makes Tiny or smaller alchemical items mobile, allowing you to command them. Descriptors featured here include [hug] and [pretty]. XD

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the material is similarly good, though not as good as usual for Four Horsemen books. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes with nice full-color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Steven T. Helt’s second array of comedic character options has some evocative, cool concepts – and it’s genuinely funny here and there. The options are, as a whole, solid, often interesting and don’t settle for common tricks. At the same time, I honestly wasn’t as blown away as I was by his first array of funny options from a player’s side – there is no radical change of playstyle herein. The content is by no means bad, but neither did it absolutely blow me away. The minor glitches also hurt the pdf a bit. In the end, this, to me, remains a mixed bag, definitely on the positive side, and hence my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: MORE Comedic Character Options
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Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 1 - The Overgrown (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2017 04:40:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first level of The Halls of the Eternal Moment clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This level has been claimed as a home by the druid circle of the ages – and as such, we have a nature-theme on our hands here. The pdf notes walls, ceilings, etc. and also provides notes for wandering monsters, simulating a kind of organic and dynamic environment. Each of the rooms comes with read-aloud text, which can help GMs less confident in their improvisation skills.

So far, so good, so let’s go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All righty, only GMs around? Great! So, the monsters that constitute the major inhabitants would be leaf leshies, giant caterpillars and headless, fungal zombies held together by dark magics – somewhat annoying – their SQs etc. have not been reprinted in their statblock, meaning that you’ll have to look these up. Each of the rooms does have something to do – a skill to use, a hazard like poisonous vines. Specially planted trees that hamper movement and creative traps, including organic responses by the creatures herein make for an overall interesting dungeon – and a hard one. There are traps here that WILL insta-gib a PC – 6d6 smashing stones into which you may run due to being stricken with fear by a magic pool – this is not a dungeon for noobs.

Indeed, the lack of a maximum value of inhabitants in the monster-placement for cleared rooms etc. means that rest etc. can be a much sought-after commodity – and personally, I applaud that. I do not applaud the boss fight versus a spirit, who animates a fungus leshy, who governs the respawns of leshies – not because I don’t like the boss fight, but because the animating druid spirit is not really covered – killing the fungus leshy ends the influence of the spirit, which is weird to see in a game so steeped with ways to deal with spirits and the like.

Okay, admittedly, I’m stalling. You see, the main draw, to me, for the dungeon is its fluid, erratic time – I said as much in my review of the prologue. And yes, temporal weirdness can be found here. In the dressing. And as a justification for the critters showing up. Do you need temporal tricks to navigate a room? No. Do you get to solve time-based puzzles? No. Are there special ramifications for certain areas? No. The execution of the amazing leitmotif falls flat for me. The dungeon-level is wondrous, yes, but it does not come close to fulfilling the promising theme.

There is another aspect where the pdf does not reach the levels I hoped for: The map. While it comes with a keyless version and while it’s in color, it just shows the rooms. Secret doors are not redacted and neither terrain feature, not traps are noted on either map, making their use rather annoying – basically, you have to print them out and fill them in yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t need gorgeous maps – but I’d like to at least have maps that note the basics.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – I didn’t notice a big accumulation of glitches, but some formatting decisions/requirements to look things up are a bit questionable. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is worse than in pretty much every comparable dungeon, providing just blank and empty rooms – the work required here by the GM represents a serious comfort detriment.

Jeff Lee, Michael McCarthy, Rich Redman and Louis Porter Jr. have per se written a cool dungeon-level here. The leshy-theme is cool and hasn’t been done to death and the hazards and traps are deadly, challenging and fun. That being said, this pdf falters in the details – it is, most of all, inconvenient. You have to look a lot up; you have to basically fill in the maps to render them operational. One of the rooms notes “Don’t go down the Well” as a header and reference to Rappan Athuk – referencing a superior book may not have been the smartest move here. You see, the dungeon, let me make that abundantly clear, is NICE. The rooms are varied and interesting. At the same time, it is VERY inconvenient to use. I have had an easier time using OSR or 5e-dungeons in PFRPG than with this one, courtesy of a couple of really unfortunate decisions and the cartography being this incomplete. A wholly barebones dungeon. No chairs. No landmarks. No secret door “S”; no trees. I don’t get it and I have never seen anything like it, not even in really rudimentary DIY-supplements.

My disappointment regarding the unrealized temporal angle notwithstanding, this would be a worthwhile dungeon, were it not for these inconveniences. As written, I can’t go higher than 3 stars for it, stars earned solely earned by the good ideas that are herein and the quality of the writing. Let’s hope level 2 fares better…

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 1 - The Overgrown (PFRPG)
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Tome of Madness
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/27/2017 04:07:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 32 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let us take a look, shall we?

Okay, so mental illness is a serious topic – and as such, the book prefaces the discussion of the subject matter with an appropriate and mature disclaimer, before we take a look at the material herein. The pdf proceeds to acknowledge the changed paradigm of a world with readily available (as opposed to obscure) magic and codifies madness as maladies.

Now, as we all know, there are a wide variety of effects in vanilla Pathfinder, effects which ostensibly would qualify for causing madness in e.g. the context of CoC or similar, darker RPGs. Hence, the pdf proceeds to quantify and qualify them – from mental attribute damage to divinations, special spells, types of forbidden knowledge etc., the pdf explains and codifies these in a concise and sensible manner. Different types of trauma and their effects. Creatures immune to mind-affecting effects “gain a boost” (should be a bonus) to saves to prevent them – this bonus is calculated as 1 + Charisma modifier and can thus be undertaken on the fly. Speaking of which: Exposure to trauma can similarly easily be calculated – as a Will-save versus 10 + the CR. Failing such a save results in rolling on a d%-table; onset of maladies (the term employed for madnesses herein to set them apart from other systems) is delayed by 1d20 -1 hours. Mental ability score damage or drain to 0 adds 15 to the result and pre-existing conditions can mean that the condition has worsened by one step.

The system knows three types of severity: Mild, moderate and severe. Maladies are codified in a variety of general concepts: Amnesia, Delusions, Dementia, Hallucinations, Phobias and Tics – these are properly discussed. Minor formal complaint: The pdf introduces the terrified fear-condition – which is also a greater feat step (level 6) in the expanded fear-system championed by Horror Adventures – since both versions of terrified have different effects, I wasn’t too enamored by the nomenclature here. That being said, the condition is per se interesting, though the fixed DC to act or utter a single word feels a bit odd – a scaling DC would have made more sense in my book.

But the main meat of the book would be the maladies themselves: They are roughly grouped in two types: Neurosis and psychosis. Generally, a neurosis tends to be more easily manageable. The stats for the respective maladies include save DCs for all severity levels and triggers – the circumstances where their effects become relevant. The triggers provided are proximity, random and stressor. Maladies have durations for their effects. Now, the maladies included run a wide array of options: Characters can e.g. suffer from akinetopsia, a form of motion blindness, problems deciphering letters or pictographic writing (read too many mad glyphs, did ya?), anterograde and retrograde amnesia, compulsions, aphasia, catatonic stupors, deliriums, various delusions (which are chronic), fits of despair, dysparaxia – and I’m just getting started here.

From tactile hallucinations to various, sense-based hallucinations to hypochondriasis, hysterical blindness/deafness, classic insomnia, intentional tremors, intermittent bouts of rage, kleptomania, manic episodes, panic attacks, paranoid ideations and various tics complement the rules provided for them.

As a whole, the rules-language is very precise and well-crafted here, though, aesthetically, the wording of “assuming the XYZ condition” that the pdf employs is something that galls me on an aesthetic level – as a dev, I’d have streamlined that. It should also be noted that, while fitting in a section on madness, a militaristic man with a read flag, a white circle in it and the black sun inside that white circle (i.e. a Nazi) can be found here – it looks like a propaganda poster and while I would have expected something like megalomania here, instead the page features tics etc. – perhaps not the best choice.

The second array of maladies is primarily focused on NPC-use – global amnesia could, however, be easily used as a basis for a specific campaign/one-shot and disassociated identities and psychogenic fugues pose some rather significant consequences for characters that really hamper the playability – the restriction of these to NPCs makes sense and certain campaigns can still make use of them. The question of the treatment of madness, both via skill unlocks and regarding auras – interesting here: The higher your Charisma score, the harder treatment for soothing purposes becomes. Alchemists can learn psychopharmacology and hallucinogenic bombs. Really cool: The pdf does contain various items, which may feature side-effects and craft DCs – intriguing here: The rules crossover with ioun stones in an intriguing manner.

The book also provides simple and quick rules for decompensation, the gradual worsening of untreated maladies, and additions. The pdf concludes with some advice for the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the material is similarly neat, but does sport a couple aesthetic deviations from the standards, though these do not hamper the usefulness of the pdf. Layout adheres to the great 2-column full-color standard for LG’s horror-books. The artwork featured herein mostly should be familiar to fans of LG and fits the theme in a broad sense, with the one picture exception. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Shel’s malady-system is exceedingly modular and easy to integrate into just about any system. The lack of requirements of an extra score is a big plus, as is the easy way in which it can be implemented in an ongoing campaign that suddenly takes a turn for the horrific or that just dabbles in themes of horror. As a whole, I consider it to be more elegant than the system championed in Horror Adventures. The system presented is different from the one featured in LG’s previous Gothic Horror plug-ins, so if you expected a direct sequel/more fodder for the system, you won’t find that herein. On a formal level, I found myself rereading the basics a couple of times – didactically, the system could be explained a bit ore succinctly, which represents the most significant structural weakness of the pdf – novice GMs may be a bit confused in the beginning, also due to the subcategories/subtypes having less mechanical impact than they could have exhibited.

That being said, I am complaining at a high level here. The comprehensive nature and easily implemented structure of this system makes it more than worth checking out – you see, due to the relative simplicity and flexibility/severity-levels of the system, it is rather simple to graft this system on other sanity-engines or implement it on the fly. As such, this represents a welcome addition to the library of GMs intrigued in the horrific. This is, hence, worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Madness
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Seeds of Evil.
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/27/2017 04:06:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Whispers of the Dark Mother-adventure series clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

..

.

All righty, only GMs around?

We begin this first installment of the saga near the town of Brighton, where farms producing fruit produce a quilt of colors, steeping the town – the prose does a nice job setting the stage and the adventure hook is pretty evident from the get-go, as the first sequence of read-aloud text points the PCs towards Lady Celeste Canterville’s mansion, where an offer of free apples seeks to lure potentially interested parties towards the place. PCs more inclined to first complete some legwork will have a chance to research a variety of rumors, some of which are automatically found in certain taverns, rewarding PCs for covering their bases. A detailed selection of sample sentences to help GMs with read-aloud sections on various topics will be particularly appreciated by less experienced GMs that have a harder time come up with ad-hoc responses.

At the lady’s mansion, the PCs are greeted by her servant and they are approached by a bard, one Kara (with full stats, which, alas, sport some minor glitches, something that can be observed for all statblocks in the book), who seeks to join them on their trip at the behest of Lady Celeste – you see, the lady wants the PCs to procure gate willow seeds and some other herbal ingredients. These magical plants can enhance summoning spells and once again, a lot of detailed responses are provided for the social interaction. The harvesting of these plant components, is, however, fraught with danger – both the willows and the whipweed seeds required can be hazardous to harvest, which is why the PCs are contacted in the first place. After this talk, a woman called Shala contacts the PCs as well – her son Faven has gone missing and she beseeches the party to look for him, handing them a wood-carving to gain the lad’s trust.

Thus, the PCs venture into the woods – which are represented by a mini-wilderness exploration, noting landmarks, flora and fauna to be found within the area. A random encounter table can add further complications to the exploration, if required. Beyond these random encounters, there also is a sequence of planned encounters, which include fire-breathing vor-gremlins. The exploration takes the PCs past sharp seeds, a cave-fisher’s lair and puts them into direct confrontation with xtabay plants as well as the previously mentioned whipweeds, establishing a leitmotif of a magical and dangerous flora – subtle, but a concise leitmotif nonetheless. As the PCs approach Bright Mountain, they will sooner or later find the gate willow grove, and these plants have managed to call forth an akata guardian that makes for a potent boss for this sequence of the module. At one point during their trip, the PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against an ogre, but ultimately, they should arrive back at Lady Celeste’s mansion sooner or later, meeting the lady in her library…but not all seems to be going well. The doors of the mansion are ajar, Emilio lies slain and cultists led by a half-orc are threatening the lady.

Ultimately, the cultists seem to have the goal of acquiring a rare tome, namely the Lamentations of the Fungus Men…and here, the module changes its so far calm and serene pace in favor of a nice little chase – though ultimately, the one-eyed half-orc will manage to abscond with the book, leaving a grievously wounded and either poisoned or diseased lady Canterville granting the PCs a precious few hints, before expiring, blood foaming from her mouth….and the denouement, like magical question etc., will not yield more…but the PCs will probably be enticed enough to follow up on this mystery.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, particularly the latter, are the weak points of this module: Lower cap skills, italicization hiccups etc. can be found, as well as some plural/inflection hiccups that sharply contrast with the otherwise rather evocative prose. Layout adheres to a really aesthetically-pleasing two-column full-color standard and the pdf features some nice full-color artworks – impressive for the low price-point! You cannot highlight text in the pdf, which is somewhat jarring, but less annoying in an adventure than in a crunch book that you’re likely to extract data from. Cartography is full color and generally solid: A player-friendly version of the region is included. However, the maps for both the wilderness exploration and the combat at the end are pretty small – getting a one-page version to print them out, preferably sans map-key, would have been nice.

Robert Gresham, with additional writing by Ewan Cummins and Jarret Sigler, delivers a nice beginning to the “Whispers of the Dark Mother”-storyline here. The module provides a sufficient amount of information regarding the proceedings and manages to establish a nice atmosphere of a fantastic wilderness exploration. The thematic leitmotif is subdued, yet very much present, helping the overall atmosphere of the module. The prose, when it doesn’t stumble over a minor hiccup, is actually really good – It is not too verbose, but detailed and well-crafted enough to manage to evoke a unique atmosphere. So yes, this was actually a solid read. That being said, the module, quite deliberately, begins with a slow and steady, almost picturesque build-up that is sharply contrasted at the end of the module, making for a nice setting of the stage for the darker things to come. This is not a groundbreaking module, but for the fair price point, it delivers. Seeds of Evil achieves its goal of setting up the story and establishing the tone of the things to come. If the formal components like proofing and editing had been better, this would have received a warmer recommendation from me, but as a reviewer, I cannot ignore these flaws. It runs well enough, though, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up by a margin for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds of Evil.
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Undead Paragon Classes II: Ghoul, Lich and Mummy
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/27/2017 04:04:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second collection of undead paragon classes clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with an impressive 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After an introduction to the concept of paragon classes, which are basically means to advance in a race via a class, as depicted in e.g. Rite Publishing’s excellent “in the Company of…”-supplements, we dive pretty much right into the base racial chassis employed – the rotting corpse as a race, which I covered in my review of part I. If you missed it:

Rotting corpses get -2 to Str, Dex, Int, Wis and Cha and use Charisma instead of Constitution as governing attribute. Weird, verbiage-wise: “If the base race gained an ability modifier to Constitution, apply that same modifier to Charisma.” Looks like dwarves make for particularly good-looking corpses…Anyhow; the rotting corpse becomes undead, but retains the parent race’s subtype. Okay, do they still qualify as humanoids of their parent race for the purpose of bane etc.? Rotting corpses don’t suffer from the standard 0 hp-destroyed issue of most undead, instead becoming disabled upon being reduced to 0 hp – it takes an exceeding of Charisma score in negative hit points to destroy them. The race gets +2 to Intimidate versus living creatures, but -2 to Diplomacy, Handle Animal and Ride when interacting with the living. They are not immune to ability drain or damage or mind-affecting effects. They otherwise retain full undead immunities. Nice: part II strikes through the undead immunities that are modified for the rotting corpse.

Okay, so fragility-issue is addressed; the base race has a couple of nerfs that prevent it from going overboard, but the immunity array is still pretty damn potent. A level 6 spell to raise undead (as opposed to the living) has been included – and yes, it’s still costly as all hell, retaining balance there. Cool: This second version provides guidelines on which classes fit best with which undead paragon classes – three of these have, as of yet, not yet been released, meaning we’ll get a third part at one date.

The pdf also reproduces several of the undead feats from the previous installment, unfortunately inheriting the issues of these feats. Some new feats for speaking with the dead and boon (the talents of these classes)-granting variant feats have been included, but as a whole, there’s not much new material here, so let’s move on to the paragon classes, shall we?.

The paragon ghoul gains d10 HD, 6 Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, except tower shields. The paragon ghoul begins play with a bite attack (doesn’t specify whether primary or secondary, requiring you to default to standards) and 1/day as a swift action, the ghoul can channel fever: For one round ALL weapons of the ghoul can cause augmented ghoul fever. The ability gains +2 daily uses, +1/day every 2 levels thereafter. This ghoul fever’s save DC is governed by Charisma and causes 1d2 Con and Dex damage, with 2 consecutive saves to cure. At 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the damage die size increases, up to 1d8 at 18th level. Starting at 5th level, immunity versus disease no longer guards against the ghoul fever, unless the creature in question also is immune against poison. Starting at 11th level, neither disease, nor poison immunity help, unless the target is also immune to curses. Weird: At 17th level, the ghoul fever notes “The round after a creature is infected with augmented ghoul fever, it must make another save or take appropriate damage.” Well, the disease is already triggered immediately and already requires two saves to cure, so this is basically a cumbersome frequency addition, I guess – one that paradoxically could see it cured sooner.

Paragon ghouls are treated as ghouls for the purpose of prerequisites etc. and they begin play with devour corpse, allowing them to devour a corpse of a Small or larger being over 5 minutes, gaining temporary ht points equal to the HD of the corpse devoured. Now, personally, I prefer how the darakhul handled that, but oh well. 2nd level yields corpse scent and +1/2 class level to Perception and Knowledge checks to locate and analyze corpses and undead. At 7th level, corpses eaten also yield the information of blood biography.

Starting at 3rd level, the ghoul can 1/day, as a swift action, render all his attacks with “paralytic energy” – I am not a fan of the verbiage here. Once again, the save is governed by Charisma and the ghoul gains +2 daily uses at 5th level, +1/day for every 2 levels thereafter. While save or suck, the paralysis only lasts one round, at least until 9th level, where that is upgraded to 2 rounds and 15th level, which increases that to 3 rounds. Starting at 3rd level, the ghoul gains sneak attack…or so I think. The text contradicts itself here and the table – I assume that 3rd level’s the correct one, not 1st level as the pdf once notes. At 13th level, the ghoul can execute a coup-de-grace as a standard action and 19th level yields at-will control undead, but only for ghasts and ghouls. The capstone lets you coup-de-grace as a move action or in place of a melee attack. Additionally, ghoul fever’s frequency may be increased to 1/round…which is weird in its interactions, considering aforementioned option for saves in the follow-up round.

As always, the class gets boons – the first at 2nd level and an additional one every 2 levels thereafter. Full-round creature devouring can yield some wonky results with temporary hit points – while you can’t use rats, dire rats can, at least, be eaten. Claws (not codified, requiring to default to the standards) are included, as is gaining the corpse’s last minute of memory – while this can be narrative gold, it can also wreck many a murder mystery, considering a lack of options to offset this. The balance of these boons, in case you’re wondering, isn’t exactly tight +2 to atk and damage versus corporeal undead versus gaining two claws. Similarly, 300 ft. blindsight corpse and undead-detection can, depending on the plot, be a really powerful deal breaker. OP: For a boon, the ghoul can bypass paralysis immunities for several creature types and can take rend sans minimum level requirement. He may also poach zombie boons.

The second class herein would be the lich, who gains d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, ½ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with club, dagger, heavy & light crossbow, quarterstaff and spellcasting of up to 9th level, drawn from the sorcerer/wizard list, with Spell Focus Necromancy as a bonus feat at 1st level. 5th level yields Greater Spell Focus: Necormancy. He has 3 spell slots per spell level, gained at appropriate levels, with a bonus spell slot for necromancy spells. The paragon lich counts as a lich for the purposes of prerequisites- He begins play with char soul: For each point of char he accepts, he takes 1 point of lethal damage per 2 levels, minimum 1. He may only accept char equal to his character level before requiring a rest and the damage cannot be otherwise healed – bingo, it’s a sort of Burn. He can use char to spontaneously add a metamagic feat known to a necromancy spell known sans increasing the spell level. This costs char equal to the metamagic feat’s level-increase. Secondly, he may increase the damage of a necromancy spell by +2 damage per die rolled, increase the CL by +2, increase the DC by +2 or accept a char to replace a prepared spell with a necromancy spell…that HE DOESN’T NEED TO KNOW. If the previous numerical escalation wasn’t enough – that right there is instant-ban-hammer at my table.

Starting at 2nd level, he gains lich touch, a standard action touch attack that inflicts 1d6 negative energy damage for every 2 class levels. “The paragon lich may use this ability to heal himself.” Infinite healing at level 2. There you go. That sound? That’s any pretense of balance whimpering, curling up in a ball and dying. I refuse to dignify this with further analysis. If you allow this fellow in your game, more power to you – personally, I wouldn’t touch this guy with a 50-ft.-stick. I’d even disallow that fellow in a Path of War game – it’s blatantly broken. NEXT.

The third lass would be the paragon mummy, who gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills, ¾ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armor, shields and the favored weapon of their deity. They gain +1/2 class level to Knowledge (history), Knowledge (nobility) and Knowledge (religion) and may make them untrained. Mummies have an alignment aura and cast divine spells, drawn from the cleric spell list, as a prepared spellcaster of up to 9th level. They also get 2 domains and count as mummies for the purpose of prerequisites etc. They begin play with a slam attack (again, requiring to default to standards) and when slain, the killer suffers from the mummy’s curse. Mummies choose an oracle curse at first level and those slaying it suffer from oracle’s burden on a failed save.

Starting at 2nd level (not noted in the ability), they may 1/day make all attacks potentially convey cursed mummy rot as a swift action, with 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter yielding an additional daily use. The rot is both a curse AND a disease from the get-go and adheres to a similar damage die progression as ghoul fever, but targets Constitution and Charisma instead. The disease is ALSO accompanied by the oracle’s burden effect, making this a ridiculously strong debuff. 2nd level yields channel resistance +2, which increases by +2 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, up to +8 at 11th level, culminating in immunity to curses at 13th level. (This ability. Weirdly, is mentioned twice – once in the scaling one and once as a stand-alone ability.) At 3rd level, the mummy increases the Dc of curses by +1, further increasing that to +2 at 7th level and every four levels thereafter by +1. 9th level halves the cost of raising magic, and 20th level yields permanent affliction of oracle curses for those affected and makes the rot nigh-incurable.

5th level and every 3 levels thereafter yields a mummy boon (erroneously referred to zombie boon once – and yes, they can poach zombie boons). These include arcane discoveries, 2/day channel negative energy at -3 levels, +1/2 character level to heal checks (should probably be class level) – once again, we have WIDE discrepancies in the power of the boons: Despair aura and a better 3 + Cha-mod bestow curse SP versus Eschew Materials. You get the idea.

So, the mummy is basically a cleric on speed sans the healing capacity, but here’s the joke: At 2nd level and 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter, they get to choose a single druid, psychic, witch or wizard spell for their spell list. Lol. That’s cherry-picking the most potent spell-lists there are. In case you’re wondering: No, this one will not get anywhere near my table either.

The pdf concludes with 2 pages of zombie boons. We do not get favored class options or the like.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are actually pretty good. The rules-language is also, as a whole, rather precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports fitting stock b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a serious comfort detriment.

Jeff Gomez’ second cadre of undead paragon classes is mechanically more interesting – the pseudo-burn is interesting and the recombination of the divine tricks featured by the mummy is similarly smart. The rules-language is concise and well made…but, alas, the pdf pretty much says goodbye to any semblance of internal balance within boons, balance within the context of racial paragon classes…and don’t get me started with existing options. In short: I wouldn’t even allow these options in my most high-powered Path of War games. Why? Because the power is, unlike in Path of War, not offset by something unique or captivating – you won’t be wowed or amazed by any of the options herein. The char would have had some promise, much like the vampire in #1, but it’s also, like its vampiric brethren, trapped in a broken chassis. As a whole, this exacerbates the issues of its predecessor and considering the amount of undead races and class-like options out there, I can rattle off more compelling ways to play undead without needing to accommodate the issues this one brings to the table. As a whole, I can’t find a reason to get this pdf, apart from its low price – my final verdict will hence clock in at 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Undead Paragon Classes II: Ghoul, Lich and Mummy
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Everyman Minis: Sleeping Rules
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/25/2017 05:16:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 7 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so we begin with a brief recap of the terms “rest”, “sleep” and “unconscious(ness)” in the context of the PFRPG-rules – handy to realize the distinctions when you’re not already an expert designer.

After this recap, we take a look at sleep required for characters – and then move on to concise rules for Sleep Deprivation, which tie in smoothly with Horror Adventure’s sanity system (or any other sanity system you choose to employ) – the rules are based on exhaustion-mechanics and concisely codify how proper sleep can end the weirdness of sleep deprivation, if it hasn’t gone on for too long – and as someone who has suffered from insomnia time and again, I am very much in love with this depiction.

Better yet, these tie in with the conditions of “Asleep” or “Drowsy”, concisely codifying both states and providing, basically, a ladder of sleep-related conditions that allows for a finer gradient. Why is this phenomenal? With just a bit of tweaking, you can balance some of the save-or-suck options at low levels, like the slumber hex, to just note one, without forbidding them or rendering them moot. I ADORE this section.

A total of 3 new spells complement this pdf: Curse of insomnia is pretty much self-explanatory. Sedative drone renders targets drowsy and stimulate can suppress sleep effects or fortify against them, akin to such options for fear.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column standard with a printer-friendly, white background. The full-color artwork is neat. The pdf does not have bookmarks, but needs none.

Alexander Augunas and Matt Morris present a humble, little pdf that presents a significantly more rewarding take on sleep than the default: The rules for sleep deprivation are damn cool; but more than that, it’s what you can DO with these rules that makes this amazing.

Replacing save-or-suck insta-sleep with the new condition makes encountering creatures with sleep-inducing capabilities more rewarding for players and GMs alike, balancing some nasty save-or-suck tricks in the process. In short: Using this pdf makes your game better, with almost no work. While I would have loved to see an ability-by-ability-guideline for drowsiness via magic items and effects, what we do get is amazing and all you can ask of such a humble pdf. I adore this. There are very few such small pdfs that increase a game to this extent – and as such, I award this 5 stars + seal of approval. If it had this list, it’d also get a spot as a candidate of my Top Ten of 2017. This is really, really good – get it!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Sleeping Rules
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Town Backdrop: Dunstone
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/25/2017 05:14:35

An ENdzietgeist.com review

This town backdrop clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We once again return to the Duchy of Ashlar in this Town Backdrop – the place where the Mottled Spire and dread Gloamhold loom. This time, we travel to Dunstone – once, the place that stood steadfast between the horrid things spewing forth from the dark recesses and the world, the world has moved on for Dunstone: Nowadays, the complacency of peace has sheep graze in the erstwhile moat, sedated by the lack of danger.

Speaking of danger: The PFRPG-version does come with settlement stats and a market place section of magical adventuring goods to purchase: Minor ones, obviously, but still nice to have.

As always in the series, we do receive information on local nomenclature and dressing habits, town lore to know about the place, provided the PCs do their legwork and 6 sample whispers and rumors that act as adventure hooks (or good ole’ misinformation). As a whole, Dunstone looks like a town that had its heyday – its old ruler Benjamin Oksanen mirrors that, though his grandson Aavo, whose father was lost in the spire, seeks to change all that: His plans include tax incentives to draw in merchants and he wants to re-establish the Knights of the Eternal Watch as a more formidable force. He also is willing to have adventurers chart out the canyons and crags that lead to Gloamhold. In short: He seems to be hell-bent on breaking the lethargy that has taken hold of what once was the first line of defense against the darkness below.

Alas, while Aavo is championing changes and as a heroic figure, he is bound to be opposed – unbeknown to him, his idyllic town harbors a horrible thing that has crept up from below, establishing a thieves guild and plotting the downfall of the town. Two prominent guilds, the butchers and brewers (specialty: whiskey!) are further power players and the PCs can find a dilapidated mansion where once, the arcane arts were taught and now only faded glories and a lack of students as well as the traces of mishaps long past remain, as old Vieno Rekola laments the fall of his erstwhile powerful family. Smart PCs may also unearth a rather disturbing option to get “custom” meat. Unbeknown to most folk, the legendary sword Heaven’s Vengeance has recently been stolen from the sacred tower erected to guard it…you see, while this place looks tranquil, appearances can be deceptive.

As in Dulwich, we get a GLORIOUS b/w-map of not just the Duchy, but also of the town, penned by Tommi Salama, and in another parallel, we do get notes on street names and their characteristic feelings and look – this is a small tidbit, but it is a really efficient way of creating familiarity and character as the PCs explore the town. On the downside, this time around, we do not get any sample events. Similarly, none of the taverns and inns sport sample menu prices. It’s a small thing and nothing bad, mind you, but it was noticeable for me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports nice b/w-artwork. The cartography by Tommi Salama is gorgeous and in b/w. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out – kudos!

John Bennett’s Dunstone is a great hometown-style place for PCs – it’s idyllic and nice and has some serious changes looming in its future. The threats that hide behind the veneer of calm lethargy are very real and a competent GM can easily work with the flavorful place. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel that it is a bit reliant on Aavo as a character – he seems to be a savior-like figure, the big hope, if you will – and while that is nice and dandy, the focus of the town on this man for the meta-plot does limit the pdf a bit more than e.g. the complex political situation in Dulwich. This is a nice, serene town and certainly a place that the PCs will want to protect, but to me, it felt more linear, less versatile. Where Dulwich set my mind ablaze, this one has its story pretty much written for you. I don’t mind that too much, courtesy of John Bennett’s excellent prose, but I couldn’t help but feel that a bit more complexity in the general set-up and a decreased focus on the main conflict would have helped this town shine more. The missing events and hints of illicit goods could have yielded the ways to heave this town to the levels of excellence, perhaps with some strange drug or other small, crunchy tidbits or dressing?

That being said, this is still a very worthwhile settlement – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Town Backdrop: Dunstone
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Creator Reply:
Thank you very much for the review, End. I'm delighted you enjoyed Dunstone so much!
Town Backdrop: Dunstone (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/25/2017 05:12:58

An Endzietgeist.com review

This town backdrop clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We once again return to the Duchy of Ashlar in this Town Backdrop – the place where the Mottled Spire and dread Gloamhold loom. This time, we travel to Dunstone – once, the place that stood steadfast between the horrid things spewing forth from the dark recesses and the world, the world has moved on for Dunstone: Nowadays, the complacency of peace has sheep graze in the erstwhile moat, sedated by the lack of danger.

Big plus: The system neutral version comes with its own, customized market place section of magical adventuring goods to purchase: Minor ones, obviously, but still nice to have and kudos for making a distinct one for the old-school crowd!

As always in the series, we do receive information on local nomenclature and dressing habits, town lore to know about the place, provided the PCs do their legwork and 6 sample whispers and rumors that act as adventure hooks (or good ole’ misinformation). As a whole, Dunstone looks like a town that had its heyday – its old ruler Benjamin Oksanen mirrors that, though his grandson Aavo, whose father was lost in the spire, seeks to change all that: His plans include tax incentives to draw in merchants and he wants to re-establish the Knights of the Eternal Watch as a more formidable force. He also is willing to have adventurers chart out the canyons and crags that lead to Gloamhold. In short: He seems to be hell-bent on breaking the lethargy that has taken hold of what once was the first line of defense against the darkness below.

Alas, while Aavo is championing changes and as a heroic figure, he is bound to be opposed – unbeknown to him, his idyllic town harbors a horrible thing that has crept up from below, establishing a thieves guild and plotting the downfall of the town. Two prominent guilds, the butchers and brewers (specialty: whiskey!) are further power players and the PCs can find a dilapidated mansion where once, the arcane arts were taught and now only faded glories and a lack of students as well as the traces of mishaps long past remain, as old Vieno Rekola laments the fall of his erstwhile powerful family. Smart PCs may also unearth a rather disturbing option to get “custom” meat. Unbeknown to most folk, the legendary sword Heaven’s Vengeance has recently been stolen from the sacred tower erected to guard it…you see, while this place looks tranquil, appearances can be deceptive.

As a minor note for the system neutral version: While the pdf correctly references thieves as such, it does use “wizard” and “bard” as viable notes for the fluff-only NPCs – personally, I don’t mind that, but someone is bound to complain when I don’t mention that it doesn’t say “magic-user.” So yeah, there you go.

As in Dulwich, we get a GLORIOUS b/w-map of not just the Duchy, but also of the town, penned by Tommi Salama, and in another parallel, we do get notes on street names and their characteristic feelings and look – this is a small tidbit, but it is a really efficient way of creating familiarity and character as the PCs explore the town. On the downside, this time around, we do not get any sample events. Similarly, none of the taverns and inns sport sample menu prices. It’s a small thing and nothing bad, mind you, but it was noticeable for me.

There’s another thing to be aware of, and this requires a MAJOR SPOILER. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Only referees around? Okay, so the BBEG is an intellect devourer, not exactly the most commonly available monster. While MOST folks will know what this is and should encounter no issues, I figured I should mention that for the context of the system-neutral edition.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports nice b/w-artwork. The cartography by Tommi Salama is gorgeous and in b/w. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out – kudos!

John Bennett’s Dunstone is a great hometown-style place for PCs – it’s idyllic and nice and has some serious changes looming in its future. The threats that hide behind the veneer of calm lethargy are very real and a competent GM can easily work with the flavorful place. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel that it is a bit reliant on Aavo as a character – he seems to be a savior-like figure, the big hope, if you will – and while that is nice and dandy, the focus of the town on this man for the meta-plot does limit the pdf a bit more than e.g. the complex political situation in Dulwich. This is a nice, serene town and certainly a place that the PCs will want to protect, but to me, it felt more linear, less versatile. Where Dulwich set my mind ablaze, this one has its story pretty much written for you. I don’t mind that too much, courtesy of John Bennett’s excellent prose, but I couldn’t help but feel that a bit more complexity in the general set-up and a decreased focus on the main conflict would have helped this town shine more. The missing events and hints of illicit goods could have yielded the ways to heave this town to the levels of excellence, perhaps with some strange drug or other small, tidbits of dressing? That being said, getting a proper marketplace is a big plus for the SNE-version – kudos!

That being said, this is still a very worthwhile settlement – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Town Backdrop: Dunstone (SNE)
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Town Backdrop: Dunstone (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/25/2017 05:09:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This town backdrop clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We once again return to the Duchy of Ashlar in this Town Backdrop – the place where the Mottled Spire and dread Gloamhold loom. This time, we travel to Dunstone – once, the place that stood steadfast between the horrid things spewing forth from the dark recesses and the world, the world has moved on for Dunstone: Nowadays, the complacency of peace has sheep graze in the erstwhile moat, sedated by the lack of danger.

Big plus: The 5e version comes with its own, customized market place section of magical adventuring goods to purchase: Minor ones, obviously, but still nice to have and kudos for making a distinct one for the 5e-crowd. While this section is almost identical with the SNE-version, it deserves special applause: In old-school games, one spell that’s available is called spiritual hammer – in 5e, the spell obviously is spiritual weapon. The pdf gets this right. It’s a small thing, but it shows attention to detail and care, when cut-copy-pasting would have been simple. Kudos!

As always in the series, we do receive information on local nomenclature and dressing habits, town lore to know about the place (as always, you can unearth these via Intelligence checks), provided the PCs do their legwork and 6 sample whispers and rumors (as always, you can unearth these via Charisma checks), that act as adventure hooks (or good ole’ misinformation). As a whole, Dunstone looks like a town that had its heyday – its old ruler Benjamin Oksanen mirrors that, though his grandson Aavo, whose father was lost in the spire, seeks to change all that: His plans include tax incentives to draw in merchants and he wants to re-establish the Knights of the Eternal Watch as a more formidable force. He also is willing to have adventurers chart out the canyons and crags that lead to Gloamhold. In short: He seems to be hell-bent on breaking the lethargy that has taken hold of what once was the first line of defense against the darkness below.

Alas, while Aavo is championing changes and as a heroic figure, he is bound to be opposed – unbeknown to him, his idyllic town harbors a horrible thing that has crept up from below, establishing a thieves guild and plotting the downfall of the town. Two prominent guilds, the butchers and brewers (specialty: whiskey!) are further power players and the PCs can find a dilapidated mansion where once, the arcane arts were taught and now only faded glories and a lack of students as well as the traces of mishaps long past remain, as old Vieno Rekola laments the fall of his erstwhile powerful family. Smart PCs may also unearth a rather disturbing option to get “custom” meat. Unbeknown to most folk, the legendary sword Heaven’s Vengeance has recently been stolen from the sacred tower erected to guard it…you see, while this place looks tranquil, appearances can be deceptive.

The NPCs of the town refer, where applicable, to the bolded sample NPCs and creatures.

As in Dulwich, we get a GLORIOUS b/w-map of not just the Duchy, but also of the town, penned by Tommi Salama, and in another parallel, we do get notes on street names and their characteristic feelings and look – this is a small tidbit, but it is a really efficient way of creating familiarity and character as the PCs explore the town. On the downside, this time around, we do not get any sample events. Similarly, none of the taverns and inns sport sample menu prices. It’s a small thing and nothing bad, mind you, but it was noticeable for me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports nice b/w-artwork. The cartography by Tommi Salama is gorgeous and in b/w. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out – kudos!

John Bennett’s Dunstone is a great hometown-style place for PCs – it’s idyllic and nice and has some serious changes looming in its future. The threats that hide behind the veneer of calm lethargy are very real and a competent GM can easily work with the flavorful place. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel that it is a bit reliant on Aavo as a character – he seems to be a savior-like figure, the big hope, if you will – and while that is nice and dandy, the focus of the town on this man for the meta-plot does limit the pdf a bit more than e.g. the complex political situation in Dulwich. This is a nice, serene town and certainly a place that the PCs will want to protect, but to me, it felt more linear, less versatile. Where Dulwich set my mind ablaze, this one has its story pretty much written for you. I don’t mind that too much, courtesy of John Bennett’s excellent prose, but I couldn’t help but feel that a bit more complexity in the general set-up and a decreased focus on the main conflict would have helped this town shine more. The missing events and hints of illicit goods could have yielded the ways to heave this town to the levels of excellence, perhaps with some strange drug or other small, tidbits of dressing? That being said, getting a properly modified marketplace is a big plus for the 5e-version and as a whole, it has been done with the care I expect – kudos!

That being said, this is still a very worthwhile settlement – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Town Backdrop: Dunstone (5e)
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Undead Paragon Classes: Skeleton, Zombie and Vampire
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/25/2017 05:04:42

An Endzietgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so we begin with an explanation of paragon classes: Inc ase you are not aware of Rite Publishing’s phenomenal “In the Company of…”-series, here’s the gist of it: It’s a class, exclusive to a race, that lets you improve your innate racial abilities, allowing you to become more potent over several levels. As this pertains undead racial paragon classes, we begin the pdf with the rotting corpse racial template, which serves as the foundation of the material herein:

Rotting corpses get -2 to Str, Dex, Int, Wis and Cha and use Charisma instead of Constitution as governing attribute. Weird, verbiage-wise: “If the base race gained an ability modifier to Constitution, apply that same modifier to Charisma.” Looks like dwarves make for particularly good-looking corpses…Anyhow; the rotting corpse becomes undead, but retains the parent race’s subtype. Okay, do they still qualify as humanoids of their parent race for the purpose of bane etc.? Rotting corpses don’t suffer from the standard 0 hp-destroyed issue of most undead, instead becoming disabled upon being reduced to 0 hp – it takes an exceeding of Charisma score in negative hit points to destroy them. The race gets +2 to Intimidate versus living creatures, but -2 to Diplomacy, Handle Animal and Ride when interacting with the living. They are not immune to ability drain or damage or mind-affecting effects. They otherwise retain full undead immunities.

Okay, so fragility-issue is addressed; the base race has a couple of nerfs that prevent it from going overboard, but the immunity array is still pretty damn potent. A level 6 spell to raise undead (as opposed to the living) has been included – and yes, it’s still costly as all hell, retaining balance there.

Now, let’s take a look at the racial paragon classes, shall we? Skeletons get d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per level (ouch), proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors and shields, including tower shields. They gain full BAB-progression and god Ref-saves and start the game with Improved Initiative as a bonus feat. They also begin play with their class level as DR/bludgeoning and cold resistance equal to twice their class level. However, they also take their class level as a penalty to Disguise checks to pass as living. They are treated as possessing the skeletal template for the purpose of feats, abilities, etc. At 3rd level, the skeleton gains two claw attacks (doesn’t specify their damage or whether they’re primary or secondary, requiring you to resort to the defaults) and 5th level yields weapon training, with every 4 levels thereafter yielding another weapon training and bonus increases. 9th level provides the option to instead choose advanced weapon training instead. 7th level provides uncanny dodge and 17th level its improved version. 11th level nets cold immunity. 19th level provides immunity to piercing and slashing damage and as a capstone ability, the class gets +4 to initiative, may always act in surprise rounds and gets +2 to Dex. Creatures hit by claws are frightened on a failed save (nitpick: The formula should refer to “Charisma modifier”, not “Cha modifier” and it should refer to class levels – RAW, it could be read as either class or character levels), an ability held in check by a hex-caveat (24 hours immunity on a successful save).

2nd level and every even level thereafter also nets a talent, which are called skeletal boons for this class. If applicable, their save-DCs are governed by Charisma. Here we can find e.g. Point-Blank Shot as a bonus feat r any feat based on it – the skeleton “must meet all qualifications for the feat.” That doesn’t RAW exist – prerequisites is the correct term. Beyond combat feats, we get bleed-damage causing claw attacks (+1d4 bleed, as soon as 4th level – ouch!) and damage auras, both energy based and reflexive explosions that may be upgraded to cause bleeding damage. You’ll notice something: Internal balance is wonky. Would you like +4 to Bluff against the living or massive resistance that upgrades to immunity versus fire or electricity? Yeah, thought so. This hold particularly true with extra arm. It nets you an extra arm. And while that arm doesn’t allow for additional attacks, it can manipulate objects, hold weapons etc. and it has its own hand and ring slots, but still adheres to the cap…which, as a whole, makes this REALLY weird. All the traditional benefits of more arms, apart from holding more stuff ready, don’t apply, and the whole drawing items interactions become wonky. The way in which these additional arms (you may take this as many times as you like) interact with full attacks etc. are also puzzling.

The second racial paragon class would be the zombie, who gains d12 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and proficiency with all simple weapons, but no armor. Instead, the class gains a natural armor bonus that improves from +1 all the way up to +7. The class nets DR/slashing equal to class levels and begins play with a slam attack. Lack of clarification regarding type and damage output means that you need to resort to default values here. Paragon zombies gain slow and steady and Toughness at 1st level. The zombified ability, which makes them count as being a zombie for prerequisite purposes etc., is missing from the class table.

Starting at 3rd level, the paragon zombies gain clinging attacks:, gaining the grab ability – that is very soon for this potent ability; comparable class options yield it later. 5th level yields a bite attack, which once again requires defaulting to standard values, but more so than before, a lack a specification regarding primary or secondary nature is felt here. 7th level yields the Bloody bonus feat, which yields fast healing 1 (increases later) sans cap and thus opens a whole lot of potential exploits. Not a fan. 9th level provides an iterative slam attack. 17th level provides another iterative slam attack at -10. Starting at 13th level, the class also gain s an iterative bite attack at -5. Undead Regeneration is gained at 11th level, suffering from a similar issue as Bloody, just exacerbated. Starting at 13th level, the zombie gains +1 to Fort-, Ref- and Will-saves, which increase by a further +1 every 2 levels thereafter. The capstone doubles regeneration and no longer has it impeded by positive energy and his regeneration may not be suppressed – he becomes unkillable. He can just be incarcerated etc. – not be destroyed. Cool idea, but not sure about it being so absolute.

Much like the skeleton, 2nd level yields a zombie boon, with an additional boon unlocked every even level thereafter. These include stench and an upgrade for it, a concentration-hampering aura, climb speed or constrict, which should be locked behind an appropriate level-cap. There is also a boon that lets the zombie heal by feasting on corpses. While each corpse can only provide nourishment based on Constitution score rounds, this is weird: Tough, Tiny critters yield a ton of sustenance. And yes, this means you’ll have infinite healing, as long as you don’t run out of rats or kittens to consume. Just bad design, forgetting the abuse-prevention there. Similarly potent: Housing a swarm, which is exuded on a crit – once again, internal balance of options could be tighter.

The third class herein would be the paragon vampire, who gets d6 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression. Good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The vampire also gains spellcasting and may cast spells in light or medium armor sans incurring spell failure chance. The vampire gains spellcasting of up to 6th level, drawn from the sorcerer/wizard list and is a spontaneous spellcaster who uses Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute. Each round a vampire is exposed to sunlight, he is staggered and takes a whopping 2 damage, with the damage increasing by +2 for every level attained after first. He may spend 1 blood point to become immune to the sun for 1 hour. Okay, does this extend to spells that duplicate daylight? If so, then this directly violates a central tenet of how vampires usually are handled.

Paragon vampires are treated as having the template for feat and prerequisite etc. purposes and they begin play with blood drain. While in a grapple and pinning the target, they drain 1d4 Con, healing 5 hit points or gaining 5 temporary hit points per round they drain blood. Temporary hit points seem to stack with themselves, capping at a maximum of the vampire’s normal hit point maximum. The vampire also gains a blood pool of 4 + class level +Charisma modifier blood points. If these drop to 0, the vampire takes -2 to Str, Dex, Cha, Int and Wis and a further -2 to all Charisma-based skill checks. Blood points are also regained by draining targets: If the target has an Intelligence of 5 or less or is mindless, the vampire gains “1 blood point for every two points of Constitution damaged during blood drain.” So, RAW, that would always be 0. Damage =/= drain in PFRPG-rules-language and the difference is quite important. Anyhow, intelligent targets instead yield 1 blood point per Constitution drained (no, sentence 2 didn’t get it right either). Matching the vampires type yields even more blood. In case you’ve been wondering: Yes, this means the class has infinite healing from level 1 onwards AND infinite blood points, just as long as you don’t run out of cute, futzzy kittens to suck dry. Unnecessarily exploitable.

Blood points may be used, starting 1st level, to power a Su-variant of charm person at CL equal character level (or is that class level? The wording could been cleaner…). 7th level unlocks dominate person for 1d6 blood points. 16th level provides dominate monster for 1d10 blood points. 11th level nets create spawn. The capstone reduces the cost of vampire boons by 1 blood point and also provides a fly speed of 30 ft. with perfect maneuverability and +2 to Charisma. Odd, that the reduction doesn’t apply to the charm/dominate-chain.

Vampire boons, you guessed it, represent the talents of the class and the first is gained at 2nd level, with an additional one unlocked every 2 levels thereafter. Boons require the expenditure of blood points and if the amount rolled exceeds the current blood points, the vampire is reduced to 0 blood and the action is wasted. If applicable, saving throw DCs are calculated via Charisma. Children of the night yields the ability to summon nature’s ally, with every 2 levels after 2nd unlocking the higher level versions of the spell – which also cost more blood points, obviously. Gaining a physical buff while in withdrawal, in comparison, is rather weak. The vampire can also choose to be able to assume gaseous form. Energy drain requires blood point expenditure and is relegated to higher levels. Minor bonuses to social skills, gaining resistances for 24 hours – the defensive options and how they are tied to blood points is interesting, but ultimately, they only mean that a vampire will snack on kittens when waking up – their durations are long and since the resource is ridiculously easy to replenish, any choice becomes pretty much non-required. Suffice to say, while I do like the idea of the variable costs, I pretty much HATE this whole class. There have been significantly smoother takes on the playable vampire.

Now, I have already grazed the topic here and there, but there are 2 pages in the pdf, which are devoted to supplemental undead feats: A couple of them and their problems, I have already touched upon. Beyond them, we can find (Improved) Channel Resistance, the extra boon feats, +4 to Ride and Handle Animal and Ride as a class skill (Yay?) and some problematic ones that could use a couple of minimum levels – like one that forces anyone witnessing you attack someone, as not even an option, make a Will-save or become shaken. Still has a hex-caveat, but this should have a maximum range at least. Undead Fortification has no prerequisites either, not has getting freeze or an unnatural aura, though there, I do understand why. Compared with +2 on Disguise checks and losing the disgusting trait, the power-differences should be readily apparent, though. Two feats deserve special mention: Remove Head and Remove Hand (both require at least 4 levels, thankfully) – these are both macabre, somewhat situational, remarkable and offer some interesting tactical options – they represent, if not in perfection, then certainly in style, the high point of this pdf for me.

None of the classes get favored class options and there are no alternate racial traits herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level – I only encountered a couple of formal issues in the rules-language, though there are some serious issues with some design-decisions. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports fitting stock-art. The pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a serious comfort-detriment as far as I’m concerned.

Okay, let me get this straight: Jeff Gomez’ undead paragon classes herein aren’t bad per se. They are, however, significantly less versatile and refined than I expected them to be. The low price point does alleviate this slightly, but not completely – personally, I wouldn’t allow any of the classes herein at my table – the cheesing-issues are pretty blatant and while one could try to justify the exploits by the nature of the undead, ultimately there are plenty of 3pp-options that don’t have to resort to the like to make an option work. Beyond that, even if I’d allow them, I’d honestly doubt that any of my players would go for them – the tricks and abilities presented are simply not that interesting and while the vampire’s engine could have carried a vastly superior class, it is trapped in a fragile, rather unimpressive representation of the trope. If you don’t mind infinite healing exploits, then this may provide some fun for you -the pdf isn’t all bad and pretty cheap, after all, and the classes, while not necessarily balanced, are at least functional. Still, personally, I can’t really find any reason to introduce these to the table. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Undead Paragon Classes: Skeleton, Zombie and Vampire
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In The Company of Wights (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/25/2017 04:44:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

This revised installment of Rite Publishing's "In the Company of..."-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This is the review of the revised edition with the cool horseman on the cover – if you have the old version, re-download this asap.

All right, we begin this pdf with a heart-warming dedication to the founder of Rite Publishing, Steven D. Russell, who has left us too soon. After this, though, it is similarly heart-warming to see that the traditions of master Russell live on - we begin with an in-character letter of a member of the race, sent to Qwilion of Questhaven, the scribe that is responsible for collecting these pieces of information in the context of the great meta-narratives that suffuse these books.

Thus, as has become the tradition, the flavor-text presented to us would be written from the point of view of the species "We are the hollowed" - indeed! Intelligent, sentient wights spawned from strong souls, these beings sport a glowing gaze and retain the previous race's racial characteristics like height and they, obviously, stop aging -as such, this time around, we actually don't need an age, height or weight table and the racial traits replace those of the base race, but more on that later. The pdf elaborates on society...or rather, about how to fit in with the living and dead...and there is the Urge - the wights herein do crave the essence of the living and there are those that have succumbed to the Urge, while others resist it - the scenario is, roleplay-wise, not unlike that of the World of Darkness.

Now, regarding racial traits, we begin by acknowledging the first issue -as quasi-undead, the wights depicted herein (who call themselves the hollowed) have no Constitution, which would render them OP via most character creation methods - hence, ways to use them in a balanced context with point-buy etc. are included. The hollowed get +2 to Cha, -2 to Int and retain their former humanoid race’s speed and size, which means Small or Medium for the purpose of this race. Base speed is retained, though the hollowed lose, for example, slow and steady. As modified undead, the hollowed gain darkvision 60 ft., a +2 racial bonus to Intimidate.

Modified undead? Well, a sidebar properly defines this: Hollowed have no Constitution score, but have no immunity or resistance to mind-influencing effects. They are immune to bleed, disease and poison, as well as stunning or paralysis, with the caveat that effects that cause the latter two and are resisted by a Will-save still apply – interesting. The race is immune to death and sleep effects and neither subject to nonlethal damage, nor ability drain or damage to physical ability scores. However, they are still subject to energy drain or damage/drain to mental ability scores as though they were living creatures. They are immune to exhaustion and fatigue, unless caused by The Urge or unless caused by a spell, SP or SU or class feature the hollowed possesses. A fatigued or exhausted hollow must save versus the urge when damaged. Now this is interesting – however, there is a minor oddity here: RAW, learning a spell or SP makes the hollowed susceptible to fatigue/exhaustion gained from it. Some may complain about that, but I think one can justify that in game by being more attuned to the particular magics. Balance-wise, this is very much necessary to prevent a metric ton of cheesy exploits. Hollowed are NOT immune versus effects that require a Fort-save and use Charisma modifier instead of Constitution modifier for such saves. Big plus: They lose the annoying undead fragility and remain undead and kicking unless reduced to negative Charisma score hp. Resurrecting magic causes massive damage to them and they don’t need to eat regular food or breathe, but require meditative rest akin to sleep.

Okay, that is already a VAST improvement right there. Death’s Stigma makes starting attitude of creatures two steps worse, one step worse for those that have had interactions with friendly undead. Disguising as a mortal imposes a -5 penalty on the hollowed’s Disguise check

Now, let’s look at the urge and how it has been translated, shall we? The urge is the rage of the void and destruction – going for longer than 24 hours sans 8 hours rest fatigues the hollowed; 48 hours cause exhaustion. When a hollowed is fatigued and takes damage, she must succeed a Will save (DC 15 + ½ character level, DC 20 + ½ character level if exhausted) – on a failure, they succumb to the urge and are compelled to attack the nearest living creature with their slam and energy drain. While under the effects of the urge, the hollowed may not use Cha-, Dex- or Int-based skills (except Acrobatics, Fly, Intimidate and Ride) or any ability that requires concentration. Successfully imposing a negative level on a creature causes the hollowed to lose the fatigued/exhausted condition and allows the hollowed to re-attempt a Will-save (versus Dc 15 + ½ character level) to end the urge as an immediate action – on a failure, the hollowed must inflict another negative level before getting a chance to shake off the urge. Hollowed may choose to willingly succumb to the urge as a free action, but after doing so, it requires killing a humanoid (!!!) to get the chance to end the urge via a save – so no, your bag of kitten will not cut it! Big, big kudos!

A hollowed that has succumbed to the urge gains a primary slam attack, (1d4 Medium, 1d3 Small) and energy drain, but the hollowed does not gain temporary hit points from the drain. Humanoids slain by them become wights (with penalties to atk, saves, etc.) – however, these spawns may be controlled freely by the hollow, provided he does not exceed his maximum or chooses to free them. Slightly weird: The spawn-notes refer to a Stealth bonus they do not get, one I could not find among the base traits of the race. Not a big issues, though – it does not impact gameplay.

It should be noted that character creation for 5 attributes and the process of becoming hollowed are concisely codified here.

Clung to life, the first of the alternate racial traits, eliminates the harsh death’s stigma, but replaces your immunities to bleed, disease and poison with a +2 racial bonus on saves against them. Cure seekers are not harmed by resurrecting magic and have the built-in potential to become living once more – they lose the ability to beget spawn. Death sense nets deathwatch 3/day as a SP, replacing darkvision. With humanoid racial trait, which can be selected twice, you can choose to retain some abilities from your parent-race, balancing them on a helpful case by case basis that the pdf concisely codifies. Finally, cure seekers may also choose to have positive energy affinity, but loses energy drain for the easier healing. All in all, a VAST improvement that couldn’t be bigger. I mean it. Every single aspect has been improved far beyond what I would have dared to hope for!

The favored class option-section has similarly been expanded and now covers all classes prior to the ACG and sports meaningful options – e.g. access to cure or inflict spells for bards. Big kudos.

The pdf also features 3 racial archetypes. The night strider rogue can fake being destroyed when at negative hit points, replacing trapfinding. 2nd level replaces evasion with the equivalent for Fort-saves. This can be upgraded to an improved evasion equivalent with an advanced talent. The debilitating strike rogue talent can cause sneak attacked humanoids to temporarily become sickened. An advanced talent can upgrade that to cause negative levels. Trap sense is replaced with scaling save-bonuses versus effects that traditionally affect undead. HUGE improvement.

Now, the pale rider cavalier gains an undead mount at 1st level (losing several of the mount’s potent trick to make up for its undead defenses) Instead of the tactician ability tree, the pale rider gets to choose from hollow boons – basically a talent engine in small, the first of which is gained at 1st level, with 9th and 17th level providing additional choices. These include gaining a burning mount (must be 9th level for that one), cold immunity, channel resistance, being diseased, skeletal mounts air walk options (locked behind minimum 9th level), stench, and much more – these are very strong, but are balanced by a hollow flaw, which must be taken whenever a boon is gained: Sunlight powerlessness, fire vulnerability, recoiling from mirrors (particularly fitting when going for a vampiric mount…) – very flavorful and damn cool. Starting at 5th level, nearby living foes are penalized for the mere presence of the undead mount and 14th level upgrades that to potentially causing the shaken condition – which may then be exploited by a display of standard rearing, potentially causing worse conditions. This re-design represents an upgrade from lame and useless to evocative and pure amazing. Two big thumbs up!

The final archetype would be the void singer bards, who replace inspire courage with a demoralizing dirge and they may instill a pale reflection of the urge, replacing suggestion. Instead of versatile performance, they gain the dirge bard’s secrets of the grave. Solid engine-tweak.

The True Wight racial paragon class gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor. At 1st level, they gain the ability to create spawn and add +1/2 class level to Stealth checks – at 10th level, spawn within 30 ft. also use their master’s result. The racial paragon class nets the Slam feat at 1st level (the feat nets you the slam attack, even when not under the effects of the urge) and it is treated as both manufactured weapon and natural weapon for the purpose of spells and effects that enhance it. The slam attack of the racial paragon scales over the levels, with the table noting Small, Medium and Large damage progressions. Why Large? Well, there is a chance that your Gm lets your Large PC race turn wight one day – while RAW not supported by the race, I really appreciate this inclusiveness.

2nd level yields a +1 bonus to Will-saves to resist the urge that increases by a further +1 every 4 levels thereafter.5th level yields telepathic communication with nearby spawns and 7th level yields DR 1/- that improves at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter. This level also yields Multiattack when using weapons and slam attacks in conjunction. 11th level allows the true wight to enslave mindless undead within 30 ft. (with concisely defined limits). 17th level lets the true wight always add his full Strength modifier to slam attacks, double Strength modifier when just using the slam. The capstone lets the true wight potentially enslave intelligent undead. 2nd level provides a death mastery, the talents of the class: More than 2 full pages of talents are provided and an additional talent is gained every 2 levels thereafter. These include a variety of demoralization effects that enhance these with a variety of tougher negative conditions. Better controlled surrendering to the urge, at-will detect undead, worsening fear-conditions via subsequent demoralize effects, quicker movement or even swim speed, granting nearby spawns draining, energy drain slams (as a full-round action) while not under the urge…pretty cool. Supplying temporary hit points a limited number of times per day, fast healing with a daily cap and the option to grant it to other undead, free-willed spawn, Leadership-style, talking to the dead, possessing spawn (AMAZING), a rage-based ability tree…all in all a cool, visceral array of talents.

The pdf also sports 12 feats: Beyond the aforementioned Slam, we have Undying, which lets you remain active when not reduced below 0 hp. Strong Spirit nets you +2 to saves versus death effects and versus abilities and effects that cause mental ability score damage/drain – also, while under the urge, you gain immunity to these! Ritual Spawn lets you create spawn sans succumbing to the urge via ritual murder (not useful in combat, but amazing storytelling tool). Recovery nets you a sort of natural healing and lets you and your spawn benefit from long-term care. Pass for Living helps you, bingo, pass for living. Consume Life provides temporary hit points when causing negative levels. Control lets you roll twice to avoid succumbing to the urge or when trying to recover from it. Dead Mind (minor typo: Prerequisite: hollowed) should capitalize the “´H”) nets you +2 to saves versus mind-affecting effects, upgrading to immunity while under the urge. Extra Mastery nets you a death mastery. Greater Spawn improves the spawn (surprise!) and Pack Hunter nets you lifesense 30 ft. while within 30 ft. of a spawn or hollowed with this feat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of the revised version are very good, I noticed no serious issues in either formal or rules-language levels. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with excellent, new pieces of full-color artwork. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Aaron Phelps’ original version of this file took a severe beating from me. Deservedly so.

Instead of shrugging and moving on, Rite Publishing’s Miranda Russell did the rite thing: She hired none other than Stephen Rowe of the four horsemen to fix the file.

If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll note that Stephen’s name on ANYTHING is pretty much as close to a guarantee that it’ll be amazing as you get. Well, he did not simply fix the copious errors in the file. He basically rewrote the whole damn file from the ground up: Previously lame or broken options suddenly not only cover MUCH more ground, they have been turned into versatile, amazing options. A race that struggled with horrid mechanics, balance-issues and a lack of a unique identity was transformed in a zero-to-hero success-story of design into one of the best takes on undead PC-races I have ever seen.

Let that sink in. The hollowed,a s depicted herein, are decidedly undead – they feel and play like undead. But at the same time, you retain control at all costs: Want to play the reviled outcast? Possible. Want a lower impact of your undead nature? Possible. Want an undead sans the fragility? Possible. Positive energy? Possible. Do you want a stint of undead existence for your PC, perhaps spanning a few levels, with the goal of returning to life? Possible. Want to become the dread leader of an undead pack? The pdf obliges. More than all of that, I adore how the undead traits have been balanced here – as written, the wights herein provide meaningful benefits and immunities that set them apart, but not to the extent of flat-out immunities left and right -and the engine Stephen created allows you to customize precisely how your wight behaves. Are you playing in a pandemic campaign, where immunity to disease would trivialize the threat posed, making your GM concerned? You can get rid of that immunity if you want – or you could embrace it, but all decisions have consequences, all options are carefully structured to emphasize player agenda sans tipping the scales of balance.

In short, Stephen Rowe has rumpelstilskin’d this pdf thoroughly – he has spun gold not from wheat, but from chaff. His improvements not only pertain to mechanics, but also flavor, conjuring ex nihilo a compelling and amazing take on the undead rider trope that ranks as one of my favorites in this category. The expanded page-count is amazing. Heck, if you ever wanted a perfect example of what difference a great developer can make in a pdf, look at this and the horrible original back to back.

If you’ve been on the fence for this file, rest assured that this now represents a reference work par excellence regarding undead PCs – this is inspired in all the rite (haha!) ways. It also shows that Rite Publishing really cares about feedback and seeks to provide not something that’s just good or okay- the goal is excellence. A lofty level that this pdf undoubtedly has reached. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Wights (PFRPG)
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Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2017 04:25:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Magic-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, after a neat introduction, we move straight on to the new spells contained herein – and before you ask: They take the ACG-classes into account regarding their spell-levels, but alas, not the occult classes – particularly weird since we get new class options there later…but anyway, let#s take a look at the spells, shall we?

Death incarnate requires that you’re a dragon and is level 8 and makes you undead for the duration – sans HP recalculation, but with a DR, immunity to cold and electricity, doubled frightful presence range and extra negative energy damage with claws. ODD: “which can used to heal yourself in your undead state as a full-round action” – so, does only the bonus damage heal the dragon? One total or that of two claws? That whole construct is wobbly. Deflect breath weapon is an interesting spell: It sports evocative visuals for both cones and lines and nets massive bonuses to Reflex saves as an immediate action spell – I am a bit torn here: While I like the visuals, the spell does take away from the deserved paranoia and fear that breathing dragons should cause. Cool: Elemental fear causes energy damage to those struck by your frightful presence, slashing if you have no breath weapon. I am pretty sure this spell was intended to be a dragons-only-option, which it RAW is not. Fear focus makes this problem more apparent: It focuses frightful presence into a cone and forces the targets to save – on a success, they become frightened, on a failure panicked. At 3rd level, that is highly exploitable for characters that managed to get their hands on some sort of frightful presence – at this level, there usually is a negate option for successful saves. Also weird: The spell notes as level only sorcerer 3 – does that mean that wizards can’t cast it? Or is that just a glitch?

Heartseeker is a level 1 spell (level 2 for cleric/oracle/shaman) that adds 5 + CL, maximum 15 negative energy damage to a weapon’s next attack. Lure of greed enchants a coin. All dragons within long range, sans requiring line of sight/effect, must attempt to get to the coin and once they reach it, the stand captivated in front of it. The spell contradicts itself: It notes that Will negates, but the text mentions that it requires saves on subsequent rounds. It also doesn’t cover what happens when multiple dragons seek to claim the same coin and at 3rd level, it is pretty low for the powerful compulsion it RAW presents.

Manifest greed manifests a targeted dragon’s greed as an ectoplasmic creature with DR 10/-, one size category larger than the dragon and it has all natural attacks and the target’s armor class and is one size category larger than the dragon targeted. Yeah, that’s not how that works in PFRPG. Okay, what type has the manifestation? If it has a larger size, what if the dragon’s Colossal? Size-increases change stats, AC and attacks. Beyond that, an allied dragon could potentially double its destructive effectiveness, provided the spell worked as it should. Scale lock targets dragons or reptiles: The target becomes automatically grappled and then, you use the target’s CMB to deal damage to it. The target creature can attempt to grapple versus its CMD to be able to move. Two successes are require to break free of the grappled condition. Oh boy. The math here is a mess. Can the scales pin the target? Do two successful checks end the spell?

Shredding scales is a 2nd-level burst that causes slashing damage via your scales. Spell envelope is a cool idea: You create a spell cocoon, into which you place another spell before the end of your next round: SR versus the spell placed is reduced by 5. This is a VERY cool option. However, nearby casters may also place spells in the cocoon, which makes it less clear when the spell in the cocoon is hurled towards the target. As soon as it’s placed inside? On your next turn? More importantly, the effects stack with feats etc. that reduce SR – but which character may use these? Is the caster of spell envelope the guy to check for these feats or the one that placed the spell in the cocoon? Or both? This is a really cool spell, but that aspect needs some explanation. Same goes, obvious, for the greater version.

We also get a total of 5 summon extraplanar dragon spells, which are thankfully relegated to the higher levels. Tainted treasure poisons a hoard and is ridiculous: It deals 1d4 Constitution damage (erroneously referred to as Con once in the text) for 7 rounds to a dragon that touches it. Fort save each round for half damage. Oh, and guess what? It’s not a poison, RAW – no immunity. This has an excellent chance of killing or severely crippling dragons. It’s also a level 4 spell and highly situational. Still, this needs a serious whack with the nerf-bat. Wheeze on the other hand is cool and interesting – it increases the breath weapon reset time by 1d6 rounds on a failed Fort-save. Big kudos! Wounding wheeze adds your choice of either fire or acid damage when the target uses its breath weapon - interesting. Wings of the wyrmling gets rid of age-related Dexterity penalties and improved maneuverability to average. Solid.

We also get some draconic class options herein, the first of which would be draconic implements for the occultist. As a resonant power, we have natural armor increases and the base focus power lets you, as a standard action, expend 1 point of mental focus, conjuring draconic shape that causes fear – the number of targets affected is limited by range, mental focus invested and by the HD of the targets – high HD-creatures in relation to your own HD suffer less. Impressive! The focus power include breath weapon, form of the dragon, better senses, temporary hit points or wings – all of which sport some sort of nice scaling. As a minor complaint, the ranged touch-based conjuring of a spectral dragon maw should probably at least cause force damage – RAW, it is untyped. The option does come with its own spell-list – and as a whole, I’m pretty surprised. I liked this! There is a variant of the enchantment school for the wizard, one that replaces enchanting smile, dazing touch and aura of despair. Sly master nets you a scaling bonus to the social skill checks and as a capstone, it lets you recast enchantment spells of an equal or lower spell-level after saving versus an enchantment spell. Interesting.

The option also nets an aura (that does not specify when it’s gained) that penalizes saves versus fear and mind-affecting effects, with higher levels increasing the range. Dragons targeted with fear or mind-influencing effects gain a bonus to bypass SR. At 8th level, enchantments cast versus dragons get a much higher save – interesting. There are also two arcane discoveries: Dragon wizard lets you target dragons with spells that target specific creature types – I think this should specify one type; RAW, it can yield some weird interactions. The second one nets you further bonuses for bypassing SR. We also gain the dragon spirit for the shaman: Increased movement rate and Nimble Moves, swift action-base sense enhancement, a fear-inducing gaze, a natural armor-bestowing ward and blur. The spirit animal gains natural armor bonus and a minor (or increased) fly speed – that does not specify maneuverability, alas. The spirit abilities net a limited use untyped damage causing melee touch attack (why not type it?) and at 11th level, the shaman treats all weapons as keen. The greater spirit ability yields fire resistance 5 and 3/day a 15-ft. fire breath (1d6 per class level!) with a 1d4 cooldown. In case you’re wondering: Yes, this is a linear improvement over fiery soul. 5 resistance less for an upgrade of 1d4 top 1d6 per level? Yeah, ouch. The true spirit ability yields form of the dragon II and the manifestation capstone nets fire resistance 20, immunity to paralysis and sleep and 60 ft. blindsense.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal, but leave something to be desired on a rules-language level. While there are plenty of examples where the pdf manages to get this right, there are quite a few inconsistencies in the finder details. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard with a while background and interior artwork is solid, full-color stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Maurice de Mare’s dragon spells and archetypes are an odd bunch: On one hand, they attempt complex and interesting things, offering some evocative and really amazing tricks – on the other hand, they stumble, more than once, in the details…and weirdly, not always in the difficult aspects. Still, this almost feels like the work of two designers or at least, like content created at different stages of one designer’s development. There are some rather problematic aspects herein, but similarly, one can find some gems. Still, this is not enough for a unanimous recommendation. If you’re willing to work a bit with the material, you may find some gems, but this is a mixed bag. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes (PFRPG)
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Smile with Us, Friend...
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2017 04:22:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This weird module clocks in at 22 pages in the pdf version – 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content. The pages are laid out for a booklet/digest-sized A5-size (6’’ by 9’’), which means you can fit up to 4 on a sheet of paper when trying to conserve ink/toner. Enough delays, let’s take a look!

It should be noted that one of the pages herein is devoted to a mutation table that overlaps with Violent Media’s mutation supplement – it is decent, but if you have access to a more detailed one, I’d suggest going with that instead. The pdf does come with a high-res .png GM-map and a player map replicated as a nice .jpg…which ties in with one of the adventure hooks. This is remarkable and cool, as far as player maps go. Why?

Well, to quote the pdf: “Further ensuring no good will come of this, the Consumptive Prophet coughed up a blood-spatter blessing, “depicting” the inside of the complex. He will gladly share the knowledge from his sacred disease, for a nominal fee and small percentage of the loot. Fee up front. No Refunds.” Call me weirdo, but at “Consumptive Prophet, I was smiling. Seeing a blood-spatter map of the complex? Damn cool!

Anyways, it should be noted that I do own both the PWYW pdf-version and the saddle-stitched paperback version, which does come with a bonus chapter. But more on that in the SPOILER-section. It should be noted that, beyond the bonus content, the print version also has a kind of appendix that collates all stats and a page of quick room descriptions, with all relevant bits on one page. It also features a handy encounter-chart. The suggested OSR-rules for use in conjunction with this are LotFP-rules.

As a cool comfort-bonus, the pdf-version comes with a 2-page pdf of printables that collects the maps on one page and sports a handy tracker of the NPCs featured herein on the second page – big kudos!!

All right, this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! You know, sometimes you want a change of pace, something utterly different than anything you’ve read. This module is just that. Somewhere in the fields, there is a hole in the ground. In this hole, strange spider people exist, worshipping the seven-armed spinner in darkness. These spider-folks, all seven-armed/legged and based on a real-world spider…are actually happy. Kind. Caring even, for the most part. That makes them dangerous.

You see, this dungeon is inhabited by the friends of the 7; for the most part, these spider-people were once sad or even evil folks; now, they have found a place to belong, a family of sorts, all in order to get the blessing of their chthonic and potentially really nasty deity. Still, these beings aren’t out to slaughter innocents. Quite the contrary. They constantly invite everyone they can find to join them and become just as happy.

Here’s the problem: Whenever someone declines a direct invitation to the cult, they immediately exhibit a disgusting mutation. The spiderfolk don’t necessarily want this, but it happens. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Suffice to say, the nearby population has become extremely paranoid of the spiderfolk. Enter the PCs, who get to explore the complex and deal with the spiderfolk…but how?

Sure, the idol can be destroyed…but to get there, the PCs will have to brave the kind-hearted, giddy spiderfolk who want them to join…and finding creative ways in roleplaying to say no sans actually doing so represents a major part of this weird-sad locale. The well-meaning head-spider-thing-cultist in his earnest glee may actually be one of the saddest final bosses I have seen…but even if the PCs murderhobo through this (and probably feel bad about it), there are some honestly interesting places to find, like the blood sand bottoms, where viewing starfish constellations may bestow strange benefits…

Now, I mentioned the print version’s bonus content, right? It’s well worth getting the print version. Over 4 pages, we are introduced to the forest o’ the puppeteer. This landscape is inhabited by strange marionettes – cutting their strings sends then crashing to the floor. Tying a string on a person charms them and those slain here have wooden puppets burst forth from their corpse. There are the stage left and right mountains and the track canyons to limit the area – and at the furthest depths, where the sky no longer has any room to flee, an old man teeters behind the sky’s blue curtain – slaying him turns the victor into the new puppeteer. The second, strange place featured would be the Obedient Place,a park of roiling greens that can never change. There is always a vulpine queen, two ursine dukes. There are 4 cygnine countesses, 8 feline barons and 16 equine knights…and 32 coal-eyed slaves. Killing a slave or the queen turns you into them. Killing a knight transforms the closest slave into a knight. Killing a baron transforms the closest knight into a baron. You get the idea. It’s twisted and interesting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to a 1-column full-color standard and the art by Anxious P. is suitably weird. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment. However, the high-res maps and cool player-map make up for that. The softcover comes on high-quality, glossy paper and is worth getting, as far as I’m concerned.

Edward Lockhart’s pdfs had not really impressed me that much up to this point. It’s strange, but sometimes, I have a very strong impulse to get something I know nothing about; the cover looks strange, sure, but I am to this day not sure why I bought the print version of this supplement, apart from perhaps wanting to show a bit of support. As a result, the booklet did lie around for a while before falling back into my hands. I began reading it, downloaded the pdf for the maps and review-purposes as well, and frankly, I haven’t looked back.

“Smile with us, Friend…” is something you only very rarely get to see – a thoroughly unique module. The premise is interesting and not something I’ve seen before. Billed as “weird-sadness”, the tag-line does perfectly sum up the flavor of this module. This can be a somber experience or a hilarious mutation hackfest, depending on the inclinations of your PCs, though the detailed and intriguing NPCs imho deserve being interacted with...and it’s damn funny to watch how long PCs can try to ROLEplay themselves out of mutations…

In short, this is an amazing module. Even if you don’t play with an OSR-system, this is worth getting and converting. The bonus environments provided for the print version are amazing and creative as well. Better yet: You can get the electronic version for PWYW, check it out and then determine whether this is worth a tip and/or getting the print version. Personally, I absolutely ADORE this humble module. Strongly recommended! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Smile with Us, Friend...
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Hybrid Classes Vol. 2: Horror Heroes
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2017 04:20:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second compilation of Wayward Rogues‘ hybrid classes clocks in at 65 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of back cover, leaving us with 60 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Well, I have covered a lot of these before in their stand-alone releases, so let’s just revisit them briefly before checking out the Bullet Disciple, shall we?

The dimensionist has obviously gotten a bit of a facelift: While the rules-language for non-euclidean intrusion is a bit less refined regarding its wording, it now thankfully talks about its action economy…and its daily uses have been nerfed down to 1/day at first level, +1/day at 7th and 15th level. The ability also still lacks a range. Unfortunately, this results in quite a few dead levels characterized exclusively by a new spell slot, not necessarily even a new spell level reached. Spell distortions are not freely choosable and are presented in a painfully non-standard formatting. Speaking of formatting and confusion: Some abilities are after the capstone – some of which previously were distortions. And at 17th level, the class, weirdly, notes “Nimble +5” in the table. This is…worse than in the stand-alone version. The italicizations are still missing left and right and the archetypes are similarly nothing to write home about. Ouch.

Okay, so no improvement there, what about the incarnate? Well, we still have dead levels. We still have partial redundancies (the base class gains martial weapon proficiency) and a revelation of a mystery nets access to that and Exotic Weapon Proficiency for all such weapons. A lot of the revelations still lack their activation action. Abilities still have not been codified properly.

The librarian still fails to specify how many memory points he actually gets. Lightning instead of electricity…it’d have been a few minutes of work to make this class work properly. It’s so close. A single capable rules-dev could have done so in less than half an hour. Alas, it has been taken 1:1 from its pdf.

…well, on the plus-side, there are two new archetypes for the librarian: The Bibliophile, that replaces instant study and quick study with halving the required rest duration for his race and 14th level providing immunity to starvation, thirst and sleep for as long as the librarian has a new book to read. This is cool, but does it allow for the preparation of spells after the brief rest period? Instead of bestow knowledge with the “my favorite part” ability, usable 3 + Charisma (not properly capitalized) modifier times per day – these would btw. be full-round action buffs for nearby allies. The archetype’s relatively solid. The second librarian archetype would be the exotic ecologist, who can roll d20s when interacting with creatures analyzed twice, taking the better result 3/day, +1/day for every 3 levels after 3rd, replacing bestow knowledge. Yeah, that translates to the equivalent of advantage. And I do not really get what “re-learn” means. Ability-gains are btw. not in sequence and at 2nd level, you can treat non-humanoids of several creature types, even mindless ones, as humanoids, which can be OP. The other two abilities, providing eidetic memory interaction (doesn’t work in the base class) as well as tongues – which is obviously not italicized, and a surge-like bonus on Charisma skill checks…which is not adhering to PFRPG-rules-language. There are several feats for the librarian, which include using books as weapons. And guess what? The feats even manage to screw up properly noting the damage type of these books. They also impose save penalties and another feat nets +1 use of eidetic memory or +2 bestow knowledge uses. Erasing a spell with a descriptor allows you to temporarily erase a creature’s resistance to the energy for 1 round…which is interesting, though wonky in wording.

The revanchist’s sense murder still doesn’t work properly. The class still makes no real sense to me and still has some serious balance-and versatility-issues. The class now gets an archetype, the territory shepherd can form a bond with a limited number of allies, helping their overland movement and healing while resting. Instead of oath of vengeance, judgments apply to all allies in the aforementioned bond instead and the broken sense murderer is replaced with teamwork sharing The higher level abilities further enhance this tactician-y style. The big plus here: The archetype is MUCH better than the base class. The downside: Dreamscarred Press’ tactician and several other classes like the Battle Lord do everything this one does…better. As in more diverse, more interesting, more options. And no, formatting’s not perfect here either. Next.

Vivisectionist…oh dear, please let them have fixed this guy, he’s so cool! (And he’s not among the bookmarks. Odd. *brief read-through. Nope. Swift alchemy still contradicts the table. Rules-nomenclature’s still non-standard in cases. Ach, come on! The spells from the original pdf have been included. The vivisectionist also gets an archetype here – the chirurgeon, who gets a healing touch instead of channel negative energy as well as Turn Undead and a quasi-channel that only works in conjunction with the feat. The fear aura is replaced with a buff, life bond replaces vivisection and we get better healing, life sight and later, anti-death effect-boosts and a save, even when usually none would be allowed. Okay, what type of save? I like the idea of a non-evil vivisectionist, but this does have a few hiccups as well.

…okay, so, up next would be the new hybrid class herein, which is yet another combo of monk and gunslinger. If I had a dime for each take on that combo I have analyzed…Anyways, these guys need to be lawful, get d10 HD, 4 + Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, firearms and light armor as well as full BAB-progression (because firearm-using classes totally need full BAB…) and good Ref- and Will-saves. The class gets an ancestral arm (pistol, blunderbuss or musket) “that is hard to wield without the years of doctrine and training” – okay, cool. Effects? RAW: None. There is a bullet flurry ability at first level, somewhat balanced by not being able to target the same creature (I think…) and imposing penalties on subsequent attacks, with 11th level providing a second, optional attack. The ability stacks with haste (non-italicized) and its wording is a bit wonky. Wanna hear something funny? The class gets a scaling precision-damage-based bonus damage at first level, +1d4, scaling up to +2d8. In second range increment or further, the bullet disciple is treated as -4 levels for the purpose of this damage. Because we all know that the issue with firearms was that they don’t do enough damage.

1st level yields Rapid Reload, 5th level nimble +2 (which upgrades every 4 levels thereafter by +1). 3rd level provides the option to ignore one cover between the bullet disciple and the target (not total cover) and 7th level provides Shot on the Run and starting at 11th level, the character no longer provokes AoOs with the gun and may not be disarmed of firearms and attempts to steal ammo may be countered with an unarmed pistol whip. 15th level yields 1/day a shot that ignores DR, hardness, cover and concealment. Nova, much? This is enhanced to 10 bullets at 19th level, which does nothing to make the ability more palpable. The capstone is a full-attack kill shot that manages to get the rules-language non-standard in spite of literally dozens of precedence cases.

On the plus-side, the class gets a so-called doctrine at 2nd level, +1 every even level thereafter – these are talents that partially mimic deeds, partially allow for firearm modifications – only one modification may be applied to a given firearm, but the pdf fails to specify how long removing such a modification in favor of a new one takes. The formatting, obviously, is inconsistent here, but the abilities sport some gems – like keeping powder dry, or providing cover fire (which doesn’t specify if it takes up AoOs or not – assume no, but yeah…). Non-typed damage, failure to specify if unarmed penalties to kicks apply…The basics look well enough at first glance, but once you start dissecting the section, it starts showing strains.

The class does come with a cool Dark tower-Gunslinger-esque code that made me wish the class had been polished a bit more. It also sports no less than 3 archetypes. The brimstone initiate displays ignorance of how unarmed combat works in the proficiency line: “Only proficient with her fists and a single firearm” – so the kick doctrine is non-proficient? WTF? Instead of gun damage boosts, the character gains monk unarmed attack damage progression and (non-capitalized) Improved Unarmed Strike. Starting at 2nd level, iterative attacks with unarmed strikes grant stacking attack bonuses with the firearm, discharging on a successful hit. If the bonus doesn’t increase or isn’t discharged, it returns to 0 after 1 round. So, beat up kitten until you have infinite god-precision (something like +100), have ally open door, fire imba auto-hit inside. Yeah, this bonus should cap. Even more lulzy: At 4th level, firearm attacks increase unarmed threat ranges. Yeah, there’s a reason why threat range increases only stack in very rare exceptions. Oh and 8th level provides auto-load with “spiritual energy bullets". Okay, do they disperse? Can they be sold? It notes, like many abilities, ki, sans the class actually having ki – is that supposed to be flavor? If so: Very poor word-choice. There’s a reason for rules-terminology…

Ballistic Engineers gain a custom firearm that inflicts damage as though he was an unarmed monk of equal level, with Intelligence being added to damage rolls and replacing the default doctrine-list with only modifications and a couple of exclusive tweaks, including stacking threat modifiers (WTF) and adamantine bullets (or elemental ones) at 2nd level – the archetype shows a blatant disregard for how damage types, DR, etc. work – not starting with balance. The walking hurricane gets two pistols with an advanced capacity (1/4 character level), losing the flurry, and TWF (not capitalized) as well as better sundering abilities with the pistols…yay?

None of the classes presented in this book get favored class options, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are…okay, so, if you value, in any way, shape or form adherence to things like spells being italicized properly, like feats being in capital letters…you know, the very basics of formatting for PFRPG, then this’ll hurt you. Rules-language oscillates from still okay to “core ability RAW doesn’t work.” Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard with mostly solid stock art and the original pieces presented for the stand-alone classes. The pdf does have bookmarks, but not for all classes – and if you expected nested bookmarks for archetypes etc., I’ll have to disappoint you. At this length, not cool. As always with Wayward Rogues, highlighting and copying text from the pdf is impossible, which means you’ll have to copy the text BY HAND. Supremely annoying, to say the least.

Robert Gresham, Aaron Hollingsworth, Rodney Sloan and Jarret Sigler had a chance to do it right. (I assume some of the authors of one of the classes wanted to be left out – otherwise, this does not credit the authors of the vivisectionist, easily the best part of the book.) When one of my patreons tasked me to review all the Wayward Rogues material, I didn’t think I’d have to bash quite as much as I had to so far. I frankly feel like a bully and I don’t like that, but there’s no sugarcoating it. While thankfully better than the first compilation, this leaves a lot to be desired.

Problem one is the obvious lack of an editor. I have never, in all of my PFRPG-days, seen a compilation that so consistently ignores basic formatting principles. While a rules-editor would have most definitely helped, this isn’t necessarily what galls me most about this pdf. It is evident that the classes were copy-pasted from their initial releases. No additional development or editing pass was provided; all typos are still there; all ambiguities. And then there would be the dimensionist: Either the stand-alone file has been seriously revised (and lost some crucial information), or this book has the revised version – which plays less interesting and has its own share of issues. Neither version is up to the standards of the 3pp-industry.

This all is particularly galling, when a single afternoon could have fixed pretty much EVERYTHING in this book. Well, a lot of it, anyways. Even if the more broken classes had been left untouched, at least fixing those that almost get something amazing done right would have elevated this pdf. But no. The bullet disciple, just fyi, while not the worst iteration of the by now very old trope, is also not the best one and sports the same categories of glitches and hiccups as the other classes. Not one of the options herein can be run RAW, without requiring some GM-intervention in the rules-department. Ultimately, I cannot recommend this pdf – from the accumulated issues to the disabled text-parsing and associated comfort detriments, this compilation falls flat of what it could and should have been. And don’t get me started on diversity, choice, and the finer details of class design – aesthetics don’t even feature in this rating. Ultimately, I can’t go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Classes Vol. 2: Horror Heroes
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