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By this Axe
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2018 04:24:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is this? Well, it is basically a mass-combat mini-game system for Labyrinth Lord, and not, as the title may suggest, a Kull-reference.

The system wastes no time and immediately begins with its rules: There need to be 2 or more armies. Each army will have 2 or more units.

A unit of infantry consists of at least 3 figures, and may contain up to 25. Cavalry units contain at least 2 figures, up to 15. Players have free control over formation and how a unit is organized.

Each figure is an abstract representation and thus may represent any value of actual characters represented, with suggestions being there for 1:5 and 1:20 ratios.

Figures have attributes: FC (Fighting Capacity) represents skill, morale, cohesion, etc. In most combat, figures roll equal to or under its FC to hit. FC ranged from 1 – 5, with 5 being exclusive for heroes and monsters.

Str (Starting Strength)represents the number of figures in a unit as it begins. It is used for morale and identifying the unit.

AS (Armor Save) is the number under which a unit must roll when hit; “S” denotes shields – this bonus is canceled out if attacked from the rear or flank.

MV denotes Movement and should be self-explanatory. WP denotes the weapons carried. SA lists the special abilities of the unit.

Dice-wise, you only need d6s. You roll with a d6 for each figure, under or equal its modified FC – on a success, you hit. Same goes for AS; rolling under the value saves the figure.

PCs are not included in units – they are treated as individuals. Each army also has a general, who can only be killed in individual combat or when the unit led is reduced to a fraction of its size. Based on the general’s leadership ability, he may draw order cards per turn – one to 5, the more the better. This ties in with the optional control system – cards are drawn from a playing card deck, and they may be played by the players during a respective phase in combat. Up to 3 cards may be retained at the end of the turn, all others are shuffled back into the deck. The playing of cards adds a significant depth to the proceedings, with each suit offering usually 5-6 grades of different orders; diamonds provides the same benefit for all cards. This subsystem definitely can be expanded by the enterprising referee, and it emphasizes PC-relevance, which is a plus.

But let’s take a look at the combat round, shall we? Things proceed as follows: First, we draw order cards (if we’re using them – which we should); then, we move to the duel phase – here, you can obviously challenge foes to personal combat if close to them; declining costs all leadership benefits for the turn and prevents the leader from participating in an attack or rally a unit. Duels may obviously be resolved with your game-system of choice, but you can also use the quick resolution rules, which include 4 sample suggested die pools for a variety of hero-types. The duel—participants may then assign their dice in the areas for attack, parry and dirty tricks – only one die may be assigned to the latter, unless the character is a wizard. We all know they fight dirty. Dirty hits that are successful may cause targets to forfeit dice from atk and defense, then you roll attack, then parry. Quick, painless and still somewhat exciting.

After the duel phase, we move to the ranged phase, which includes its own to-hit table; after that, we cover movement and then, melee. It is relevant to note that distances for ranged weapons, challenges, etc. are based on inches, thus assuming that you use minis. This is relevant since e.g. terrain can influence your movement rates. Nice one: Musician in the unit increases movement.

Morale is checked after losing 3+ figures from either ranged fire or melee that turn; when at below ½ Str; when attacked in flank or rear and when a friendly unit routs in the vicinity. Minor complaint – “rangedfire” should probably read “ranged fire”; Morale is btw. tied to FC as well, and the system differentiates between ranged and other moral tests. Units failing the morale test will attempt to escape from the battlefield, but characters/generals can rally them, depending on their leadership levels.

The pdf provides rules for using truly larger than life heroes that can attack units on 1:5 and 1:20 rules, with a pretty smooth and basic system for mages in combat as well. Priests and high priests can cancel incoming attacks or add bonuses to the saves of allies. Both priests and mages are good for the morale of units in which they are embedded.

We also get a page in which monstrous units are covered – from Uruk-Hai Orcs and their regular brethren to Newhonian ghouls and serpent men. It is also here that a variety of special abilities are noted. Monsters with more than 3 HD are treated akin to fantasy heroes in the system. How does that help you to determine the strength of the PCs in this mini-game? Well, there is a pretty simple and painless guideline to translate characters to the system; same goes for determining leadership scores.

If you want a balanced encounter, there even is a Warhammer-esque point-cost list.

Don’t want to play Warhammer-lite? The pdf also features abstract mass combat: Add FC, AS and bonus modifiers together, multiply that with number of individuals in unit divided by 100 – you get the US, Unit Strength.

Before battle commences, both sides choose a stratagem – 8 are provided. Both sides declare troop numbers and describe units and choose their tactical posture.

To succeed, a stratagem requires a roll of 12+ with 2d6 + the general’s leadership value, with successes granting bonuses, though posture does modify the results here. E.g. Ambushes can only be prepared by defenders, and foes deciding for a screened attack modify this by one. There are 5 offensive and 5 defensive postures, with a handy table provided. After rolling, numbers are compared between total US and another table provides the means to determine how it went. Then, you roll casualties inflicted. Pursuit and long-term healing of a part of the casualties is also covered.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a no-frills two--column b/w-standard and the pdf sports no artworks, but doesn’t need them at this length. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Chris Kutalik’s “By this Axe” represents two takes on quick mass combat resolution: The first is basically a simplified version of Warhammer, while the second is more narrative and suitable for mind’s eye-theatre style games. Both have in common that they work surprisingly well and are presented in a succinct manner. At the same time, the pdf could be somewhat clearer in some minor instances – this may be due to the brevity, but I think the system could carry so much more if tied more tightly to OSR-rules. More importantly, there are a few instances, where the rules could be a bit cleaner - “modify by one” could denote +1 or -1, for example. While it is evident from context which is meant, instances like this detract slightly from how quickly you can implement the system. Still, considering the low and fair price point, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – worth getting if you’re looking for an easy way to quickly resolve clashes of armies and command cards can easily be expanded by the enterprising referee.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
By this Axe
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Mad Monks of Kwantoom
Publisher: Kabuki Kaiser
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2018 04:52:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive setting-supplement/adventure clocks in at 229 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of editorial/introduction/ToC, 5 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement leaving us with 219 pages of content. The pages are laid out for 6’’ by 9’’, meaning you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper, should you choose to print this out and have sufficiently good eyesight.

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

Soooo…oh boy. Where to start? This is the second supplement by Patrice Crespin that can be used as a GM-less solo-adventure/campaign, so that would be the first use of the book. The basic formula of the engine of playing the game sans a GM, the best and most impressive aspect from “Ruins of the Undercity”, has been retained – here, the city is the eponymous Kwantoom, while the dungeon would be the 1001 Pagodas of Death. Since I already covered the mechanics and design-paradigms of GM-less playing in my review of aforementioned book, I am not going to bore myself or you by just repeating the same information with filed off serial numbers. Suffice to say, it works, from an engine stand-point, and admirably so.

That being said, the Ruins-book did suffer from a lack of distinct identity, details and usefulness beyond its procedurally-generated dungeon-aspirations.

I honestly did not expect this book to go to such lengths to change that. Mad Monks of Kwantoom does sport, again, like ruins, a single page of background, but proceeds to provide a potential for adaptation to a more Western medieval environment. As before, we assume Labyrinth Lord as the default rules-set – but this is where the similarities frankly end.

You see, this book, beyond its solo-play options, also doubles as basically a massive Oriental Adventures-style sourcebook for LL. This includes no less than 5 races: Bungayas, Kappas, Kitsunes, Tanukis and Tengus are covered – all with proper ability score modifications, minimum scores, level caps – the old-school gaming staples you expect. This would also be a good place to note that, yes, the red annotations are back – however, this time around, they actually are genuinely funny in many instances, providing a tongue-in-cheek commentary that made me smile time and again. Balance-wise, I have no complaints regarding the respective races and how they are presented.

A total of no less than 7 variant classes can be found in the book as well. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements, you just get them when using this in solo-play – and no, the monks don’t need to be lawful. They’re mad monks, after all! The variant monk provided clocks in with Str 12, Dex 15 and Wis 15 as requirement, and Wis as prime requisite. They get d4 HD and have a maximum level of 17. They do get a couple of restrictions and may deflect even magic and they even get a short-rest like, limited HP replenishment 1/day. When fighting without weaponry, they choose one of 8 martial styles, which modifies abilities, damage and AC. And yes, standard monk is still possible. 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 12th level provide unique abilities. All in all, the variant monk is a potent class as far as LL is concerned, but sports a surprising survivability and is fun and more precise than what I expected. I really like the fact that it sports some player agenda.

Fakirs would be ascetic monks who get limited cleric spellcasting at higher levels, as well as gaining control over weight etc. Kabukis are…well kabuki-ish monk performers. We also get notes on ninjas, ronin monks and shapeshifters (who later gain limited magic-user spellcasting), while swordmasters/kensai are basically the weapon-using monks. The rules-language for these variant classes (if you’re familiar with new school games, think of them akin to PFRPG’s archetypes in that they modify the rules-chassis of the class) is pretty precise and allows for a sufficient amount of choice and differentiation, which is really neat. Advice on increasing the power of monks, if desired, is btw. provided. We also get notes on multiclassing as well as a brief FAQ regarding these new rules-components.

Now, I’ve claimed before that the structure of this book is akin to “Ruins of the Undercity”, and while this is true, it is at the same time an imprecise generalization. You see, the city of Kwantoom is actually much better in differentiating its sections – it is not abstract to the same point: You choose a district, check for encounters and events, check search chances for shops, availability, recruiting and then rinse and repeat, as required. So yes, we’re actually differentiating between different subsections of the city, which contributes a lot to making the city-section feel more organic, alive, and less redundant. In short: The replayability is not simply based on generic set-pieces, there is simply more soul here. And yes, we get a full-color map of the city. The scope is also different: There simply is much, much more going on per district. This goes to the point where, honestly, this makes for a great setting supplement for dressing in Oriental Adventures-style settings. Similarly, returning for leveling also includes notes on purchasing houses, etc. and 20 different special events that may happen upon returning to the city, making the experience more modular.

In fact, this unique and intriguing component of the pdf, the honestly interesting quality of a sourcebook, also extends to the magic items. For example, there are 4 unique crickets. Yes, crickets. Yes, live crickets. There also are 6 different magical fortune cookies. And jasmine bows. Magic masks and puppets…so yeah, this is amazing. Honestly, I’ve seen a TON of WuXia-themed gaming sourcebooks, but the focus on unique ideas here is amazing and I’ve seen most of these item classes never before. So yeah, impressive. Now, it should also be noted that the book introduces lucky charms – no less than 100 of them. They have a break condition, and when a character violates it, they cease to function. Moreover, they can take a multitude of shapes – a table of 25 entries, with sub-entries, ensures that lucky charms will remain unique and engaging.

Now, as far as the exploration of the basically infinite, procedurally-generated dungeon goes, it does follow the same paradigms as Ruins of the Undercity – we get starting geomorphs (12, this time around), monster matrix, and tables upon tables to determine chambers, corridors, etc. – so the structure per se is different. However, there are two crucial differences that adds an impressive amount of unique character to the dungeon as you generate it. The first of these would be the massive Wah Tung Match Co. monster manual: The aforementioned company created cult classic, colorful renditions of monsters and characters on their matchboxes – no less than 48 unique creatures are provided for select pictures taken from these, all sporting pretty detailed background information.

The section on personal goals for characters has been greatly expanded, and we once more get a table f quirks and former backgrounds. There is more that sets this apart from its predecessor, namely the fact that we actually do get a secrets-chapter. This chapter contains basically exciting boss-encounter/special rooms – some of which sport subtables, while others significantly modify the sequence of events encountered thereafter. This chapter provides some really cool components, and builds on the gloriously weird angle some of the entries sport.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – apart from a few minor hiccups, I noticed no serious glitches, with rules-integrity being surprisingly concise for the amount of content provided. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with red annotations and is printer-friendly. The full-color cartograhy of Kwantoom is nice and the use of the Wah Tun matchbox pictures for monsters is genius and flavorful. Big kudos there. The pdf comes with nested bookmarks, though they could be a bit more detailed. I can’t comment on the print-version, since I do not own it.

Patrice Crespin’s Mad Monks of Kwantoom make good of the promise of “Ruins of the Undercity” – the book is an actually engaging GM-less solo-adventure, courtesy of the amazing backdrop, the bonkers ideas, gonzo components and vast amount of internal differentiation options. The book doesn’t become redundant and the unique secrets and more detailed goals help further to make this work as an engaging module.

Beyond that, the book actually manages to excel at being an amazing GM toolkit for old-school Oriental Adventures as well. Instead of just retreading the same old tropes, the book takes the high road and embraces the gonzo aspects of the mythologies and its tropes, succeeding in actually providing a distinct voice that goes beyond a simple retread of the same information we’ve seen time and again.

In short: This is somewhat of an “eierlegende Wollmilchsau” – an egg-laying wool-milk-pig; if you’re not familiar with the German expression, it’s used to denote a non-existing über-animal that serves all functions. This book is just that and works surprisingly well on many levels: The variant monks and races should work sans snafus in all LL-campaigns; the monsters are unique and the magic items creative. The tables and dungeon-generation aspects can be used by a GM for random dressing and loot and the secret-section basically provides set-piece encounters. Kwantoom as a city is also interesting – in spite of mostly existing in tables and stuff that happens. In short, no matter how you look at this book, it delivers.

It also manages to secure its own flavor and identity, which is another big plus. In short: This is an inspiring book well worth the asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mad Monks of Kwantoom
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Deadly Gardens: Verdaxag, King of Trees
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2018 04:50:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, ½ a page SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, this is a change from Deadly Garden’s usual formula, in that we do not begin with the usual magic items – instead, we hear about the legend of Verdaxag and how it works: The colossal king of trees seems to empathetically feel the pain of plants, ignoring it for a while…and when the threshold is reached, the fury is unleashed! Well, or when multiple high-level druids undertake the wrath of Verdaxag ritual, which summons the mighty kaiju to lay waste to all humanoids within a 50 Mile radius. (Btw.: Kaiju subtype information is included for your convenience!)

Now Verdaxag itself is a BEAST. As befitting of a creature of its legend and power, it clocks in at CR 23. With AC 40, fast healing and impressive defenses, even high-level PCs will have a challenge on their hands when facing this force of nature, which btw. has no less than 5 attacks! Verdaxag can breath a cone of devastating, bleed-inducing thorns as a breath weapon and its mere presence entangles targets. Slaying a foe heals the king of trees and no plant creature can be harmed or compelled to harm Verdaxag. Additionally, the lord of trees can emit two types of pollen: Poison and rust can be caused …ouch. Setting fire to the fellow is btw. NOT a smart idea…and even if the mighty kaiju is defeated, that will not end the threat, as it will regrow. Only while in a weakened state after regrowth can the lord of trees be defeated. (Minor complaint: There is a spell reference not italicized.)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, top-notch on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the artwork for Verdaxag is fantastic, particularly considering the low price point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked in spte of its brevity – kudos!

Mike Welham’s King of Trees is AMAZING. I am a sucker for kaiju, and Verdaxag sports a ton of unique and intriguing abilities that should make the king of trees a fantastic foe for the forces of civilization. All in all, an excellent supplement for a super-fair price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Verdaxag, King of Trees
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Aetheric Heroes
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/13/2018 06:03:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for the Aethera Campaign Setting clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 42 pages of content, devoted to 10 pregens for the setting, so let’s take a look.

Now, in a nice touch, we have something cool on the inside of the front cover: The glorious drawing of the Aethera system is reproduced here and sports icons of the respective pregens, contextualizing them within the system itself.

Now, let us take a look at the pregens, shall we? The first thing you must be aware of, would, alas, be the fact that, unlike other pregen books by Legendary Games, this one does not sport scaling notes for 15- and 25-pt.-buy campaigns, which may constitute a slight detriment for some groups. The heroes contained herein all are made with 20-pt.-buy as a baseline. On the plus-side, you’ll notice how the increased page-count means that we get rather detailed notes on each of the characters, and indeed, the book goes into details regarding all of the characters, more so than in most comparable pregen books.

The first character herein would be Aleta, an infused spell sage wizard, who encapsulates the inherent tragedy of the infused race very much: The loss of former identity, the second loss of purpose after the end of the Century War…and now, a man in his apparent 60s, prematurely aged by the aetherite coursing through his veins, his Survivor’s Guilt gnaws at him. We get a massive and detailed write-up of his experiences during the Century War as well as a new 1st level spell, searing sight, which is a variant of darkvision that is contingent on concentration, but allows the spell to be discharged for an offense option that may set a target ablaze.

The okanta cavalier Arakhu, lion-faced and potent, hails from a long line of shamanas, hoping to hear the song of the stars…but alas, it was not to be and thus, bitterness turned constructive, as the okanta forged a name, he also gained a speeder…and thus, his path as an aethership pilot was set, his deeds and the rush of battle finally igniting within his heart the song he so long had wished to hear…and thus, a new purpose was forged, a new hope kindled.

The Arcline club in Complex Four started off as a dive in one area of an asteroid most known for its organized crime. Tapping into noir aesthetics and the classic concepts, it is here that you can listen to the self-proclaimed shaman of sound, the phalanx cantor known as Chapter, his melody speaking of the dreams of joy and sorrow, his flute-longspear both instrument of creation and destruction. The build, mechanically, is supplemented by the Combat Balladeer feat, which nets a combined instrument weapon as a military identifier at 1st level, while also providing some clout with the Protectorate. We learn about the journey of self-actualization undertaken by Chapter, and how he became known by his name, instead of Twelve-Nineteen. Soulful and in tune with the universe itself, the music of chapter encompasses the notions of dream, which may make for a strange choice for the phalanx race, but the overall depiction of this fellow is inspiring in the best of ways.

Chernardra, the okanta shaman, is a bear-faced speaker for the past; born as a fiercely independent woman, she considered the new arrivals on her harsh world, the alliances of more open tribes, to be nothing short of betrayal – and thus, she struggled, fought and raged against the giants, against those that dared cross her fierce tribe…but, alas, progress may not be halted and the rage that consumed her was only quelled after many a grievous loss of time, of energy – hers is a tale of prejudice and the evil it may cause, of an ideology overturned in the face of absolute disaster, a tale of an epiphany to a more enlightened state of sorts, but one in which she remains rather conflicted, as the Song of the Stars guides her course.

Erryn the hunter is tech-bonded – and, as the pdf notes, if he were to meet one of the hacks writing romanticized notions of life in the Wastelands, he’d punch him in the face. Born to an unregistered sorcerer-for-hire, he had to grow up without him, as the father was either caught or killed, never to return. Living a hard-knock life, Erryn tried to bring home money, to help as best as he could, but ultimately, the threat of capture made him look for a way out, towards respectability…and indeed, the construct, shaped like a fox and broken – and it was only when some aspect of the Progenitor Code awakened in him and his machine, that he managed to shake off the yoke of his childhood follies…but he’d need to leave. His connections from way back still looked for him, and the near-death experience of awakening has obviously pointed towards a destiny greater than he could have fathomed…

Haüyne, a first-generation phalanx, was activated on an assembly-line, designated Six-Thirteen; only slowly awakening to realities beyond the grim battlefields of the Century War, Haüyne was forced into a life that must be considered to be highly traumatic for any sentient being, and the awakening of sorts, the breaking point did come and the order she carried out, was brutal indeed. In the aftermath, the voices of dissent that haunted the airwaves…and before the tragedy of revolution, of martyrdom, came, the baffled phalanx were granted citizenship, as te powers that be washed their hands of them. Thus, Six-Thirteen put as much space between herself and military, adopting a peace-name, and indeed, her path led her to become an inspector, stemming the tide of smuggling and drug trafficking. She is a snoop unchained rogue, btw., and she comes with a repair kit as part of her starting stats.

Kasara would be another human, a fighter and aether soldier (archetype reprinted for your convenience, fyi) – interesting here would be that her arc is one of the redemption of her disgraced noble name, but this redemption, in itself, is problematic, as it ties into the experiences of Haüyne – but the full-extent and overlaps between characters is something I can’t, or rather, won’t, discuss in this review. To an extent, the extensive prose of the detailed character backgrounds touches a plethora of amazing concepts and ideas…and, indeed, I’d frankly consider this book worth getting for the stories alone.

Now, if you’ve been wondering, fret not, for the Erahthi also come with a sample NPC – the alchemist Oemathra-Koth, who found, and lost what may have been a unique proof of ancient civilizations, handing it over to the Tritarch. Forced into developing biological weapons and bearing witness to the horrors of the Century War firsthand, Oemathra saw the Taur theft of one of Kir-Sharaat’s moons that signaled the end of the Century War, as not a defeat, but as a chance for both Erahthi and Humans to unite against a common foe, for a chance of coexistence – for hope.

The second infused within the book would be Surestra, a brawler with the titan archetype, who has lost much of her erstwhile identity and knowledge, in the racial trauma of the infused; at the same time, she and her team, with whom she shared dreams and thought, saw slowly the dissent growing…but then, the war ended. Abruptly. Mercilessly. Worse off than even the phalanx, the infused were considered to be abominations; menial, degrading work awaited and the post-war era broke apart her new family, while her old one considered her an abomination. Only after hitting rock-bottom did she formulate one more plan, one chance to burn bright before her existence would inexorably be ended by the aetherite coursing through her body. The build also includes a feat that allows for a combination of unarmed fighting and gunslinging, Unholstering Strike.

The final pregen herein would once more be an Erahthi, namely the hydrokineticist Tillannieh; a result of experiments and bioengineering, she seemed destined to become one of the child-soldiers to serve in the horrid Century War, but as a sensitive child with ostensibly limited potential to access her latent powers, she was forced into a life-and-death combat by her handlers in an attempt to awaken her magical might. Cruel and traumatizing, it nonetheless worked, making her a potent, magical killer, but in one particularly grueling mission, she turned her back on her indoctrination, on her people, and in a realization of the importance of agency, she chose her gender and individuality and bided her time in exile. Now, fully grown, she has a couple of scores to settle, some lives to actually save…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to the gorgeous 2-column full-color standard or Aethera supplements. The artworks for the pregens are fantastic full-color pieces, though they will be familiar to owners of the campaign setting book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ryan Billow, Siobhan Bjorknas, Robert Brookes, Jeff Dahl, BJ Hensley and Julia Nardin deliver my personal favorite pregen book so far. Now, on a formal level, one can complain to a degree about the lack of notes for other point-buy-.standards and for the fact that the characters don’t come with leveling suggestions for higher levels.

Honestly, this time around, I couldn’t care less. Why? Because the characters in this book are multifaceted individuals that may share specific story-threads, but who can exist, easily, on their own; because their extensive, evocative backgroundstories are so embedded in the rich lore of the setting that I frankly didn’t want to put down the book. Their promises of mystic destinies, their arcs and supremely-captivating prose made me want to play them all. Power-wise, they all are approximately on the same level as well, mirroring their respective ordeals in intriguing ways. In short, they are efficient characters, without feeling like soulless minmaxing exercises OR without being a character with a cool story, hamstrung by dubious choices regarding mechanics. In short, this is a really inspired little book, well worth getting for the glorious prose alone.

How many pregen books can claim that? Exactly. This is seriously worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Aetheric Heroes
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The Mini Manor: Faces Without Screams
Publisher: GM Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/13/2018 06:01:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, laid out in the tradition 6’’ by 9’’ standard that means that you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper, should you choose to do so.

First thing you should know: This adventure is intended as a solo-adventure, i.e. one GM and one player. It is also written in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness-style, which does not automatically distinguish between prose and descriptive text, though the formatting does highlight important bits with bolded or italicized text, but still: It’s very much recommended that you read the module in its entirety before running it. The module assumes ascending AC, silver standard and S&W as the default rules. The module champions that you resolve crazy ideas by having the player roll a d6, with 4+ denoting a success, should you find yourself in a pinch.

Now, beyond that, the module immediately makes clear that it was written for adults and as such, features some horror-themes that are pretty dark.

If you’re easily offended, then you may want to look elsewhere. It should also be noted that the adventure assumes a PC of at least 5th level, and for a reason – the module is rather difficult and deadly. Failure and death is a VERY REAL possibility. This is not for the faint of heart…which can also be said about the rather transformative choice that the successful end of the module poses. You see, there is a new race herein, but one that I cannot discuss without SPOILING the super-effective revelation that accompanies the final boss fight of the adventure. The race presented is really strong, but also suffers from severe drawbacks that make up for that.

Aesthetics-wise, you can probably picture this best as a TCM- or Saw-type of dungeon, or, if you’re so inclined, as a module indebted most to the aesthetics of e.g. early Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson videos: A sense of grime, pain and dirt is evoked as a central leitmotif. Now, personally, I strongly suggest playing this adventure with a character with a more martial bent, i.e. fighter or thief, for the premise can make the adventure rather brutal from the get-go.

…but in order to discuss that, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, so the PC has been carousing. Hard. He has obviously had an altercation with a city guard. Now, the PC awakenes, Naked, cut up badly (1/2 hit points), shackled to a dead guy. Other pairs of prisoners have their faces cut off. A mean, big guy in a filthy loincloth is currently cutting off the face of another prisoner, obviously sporting a key hanging from a chain. The foot bumps a severed arm, which may just be the weapon, with its sharp bone protruding, that the PC needs to survive against the face-cutter. (But it does fall apart before the face cutter goes down.)

This is visceral in the right ways. Grimy. Deadly. This also is represented in the random encounters, mind you: Goblins with insta-kill poison, a blackened, smoldering ogre which will rise from the dead if slain, a merman beserker encased in a watery bubble, a pittrap with giant eels for added injury to…more injury. The 6 random encounters are savage and sport interesting visuals. Now, the hand-drawn map comes sans player-version, but s easy to draw and the PC can’t find out about the layout of the complex anyways, so I’m good with it. Exploring the complex may put the PC in conflict with a goblin shaman who dabbles in summoning and have the PC potentially attached/merged with the Hellraiser-esque, cursed Suit of Spines, which btw. is not the only unique magic item or spell herein; in fact there is, for example, a trident that, upon command, encases creatures in water, allowing aquatic beings to function on land, which may well drown careless PCs. There is a soul-collecting spirit dunjon, which acts a unique hazard/encounter of sorts…and there is the brutal boss-fight, which comes with perhaps one of the coolest tricks I’ve seen in a while.

This is imho the primary reason to read this before playing it as a GM – the immediacy of the narrative does lend itself to spontaneously running this, but the trick associated here can potentially contradict the improvisation of a careless GM, depriving it of its efficacy. And no, I’m not going to explain why this made me grin from ear to ear and why I consider it to be so effective. For that, you’ll have to get this yourself.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have improved significantly compared to older GM Games-supplements. While the immediacy of the writing style is somewhat uncommon, I found it surprisingly effective, even though the structure and organization of the module thus become slightly harder to run. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and is printer-friendly. The b/w-cartography is nice and the only artwork is on the front cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a comfort-detriment.

Tim Shorts’ first mini-Manor represents a turning point, at least as far as how I think about his writing is concerned. This is a bit more experimental than the first 3 manor-issues, but it is, at the same point, tighter – in the design of the race, the items, in the presentation.

Oh, and it was written for S&W-appreciation day and is FREE. Honestly, this humble adventure really surprised me. It is delightfully dark, grimy and brutal. Surviving it is an achievement and can really make a character that has become somewhat boring fresh once more. You’ll see what I mean when you play this. In spite of a few formal complaints, this would score high in my rating system as a commercial module, for pulling off the trick in the end can be immensely gratifying for all involved.

However, this is actually FREE.

This is SO worth downloading if you even remotely enjoy dark scenarios, horror, a desperate type of nightmare and if you really want to challenge one of your PCs. Seriously, we’ve all been at the point where we needed a really good solo-scenario, and this delivers in spades. I loved this one, and it is more than worth checking out – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will round up and slap my seal of approval on it, courtesy of my knowing a ton of commercial modules that fail to evoke such a concise atmosphere, that have such a cool payoff. Highly recommended!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Mini Manor: Faces Without Screams
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Enemies of NeoExodus: Lucia Krille (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/13/2018 05:59:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Enemies of NeoExodus-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1page SRD, ½ a page advertisement, leaving us with 4.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Lucia Krille’s story is one that is told behind the scenes of the legends of our games a vast multitude of times – the tale of mediocrity as a thief, whose life was changed in one single moment, one that ended up changing towards one life of exceptional peculiarities with one opportunity, when a package she stole burst into magical flames, changing her…and allowing her to turn her skin to granite, granting her limited self-healing as well as DR, natural armor etc. – to become a being of living stone. Thus, her base CR 4 stats do not make use of classic level-structures and instead follow a design paradigm closer to the creation of monsters, though grounded in standard NPC design. This makes reverse-engineering of the statblock rather difficult, with e.g. her initiative of +6 seeming to contain a +3 inherent bonus – at least, that’s the only explanation I could find. Similarly, her Ref-save is really high (+11) for her HD and seem to have a similar bonus featured in her stats (good save +5, +3 Dex…which means that +3 is unaccounted for re items, feats, etc.) – while personally, I don’t mind this, it’s something that a few of my readers want to know about, so yeah.

From this set of stats, we further follow her story, as Lucia became jailed by the alchemist Mikando Moor, only escaping after the lab burst into flames, consuming her benefactor-turned-captor. This hardened her, obviously. Odd, though: her Ref-save actually gets worse with no apparent reason for that in the following iteration. That being said, regarding saves, CMB etc., the values and attributes simply don’t line up – there are some glitches here. On the plus-side, I love how she has gained new abilities, like seeing through smoke and cinder – it makes for a cool progression mirrored in her abilities.

As she continued work as an enforcer/secret weapon of crime lords, her use of powers began to increase the changes within her, slowly granting her more powers, including elemental abilities in her CR 11 iteration. Finally, she makes, at CR 16, the transition into an ever-changing, potent elemental creature.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-relevant level, the statblocks unfortunately sport glitches, which, in spite of the creation mechanics being a bit opaque, becomes evident when comparing the different iterations. Layout adheres to LPJ Design’s gorgeous 2-column full-color standard for NeoExodus files. The artwork of Lucia is amazing. The pdf has basic bookmarks, in spite of its brevity. Kudos!

Neal Litherland’s Lucia Krille is, idea-wise and ability-wise, a really cool NPC/adversary/foil. I really like the progression of Lucia, which makes using her as a recurring character with evolving abilities rewarding. Similarly, I enjoy the unique signature abilities she sports. At the same time, however, the builds do suffer from some obvious errors – I can live with inherent bonuses here and there, but once some basic stats don’t line up, things become a bit troubling. That being said, while not perfect, the pdf is inexpensive and may well provide a worthwhile adversary to challenge your PCs. Provided you are not as picky as I am regarding these things, you’ll get a nice adversary. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, though I cannot round up for Mrs. Krille.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Enemies of NeoExodus: Lucia Krille (PFRPG)
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Castle Falkenstein: The Feat Variations
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/12/2018 11:14:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, first things first – we actually retain Tom Olam’s traditional frame narrative in this supplement, which was transcribed by J Gray. In the tradition of the excellent engine tweaks presented so far in the series, we begin with the first variation. It should be noted that the pdf is suffused with nice prose, making it an enjoyable reading experience, in spite of its focus on rules. Big plus!

But what is the subject matter here? Well, you probably know that RAW, there is no limit to the amount of cards a player can play when resolving a Feat, allowing them to potentially play the whole hand to maximize its outcome. While this does result in rather amazing deeds, it may not be tonally suitable for all games, and, more importantly, it can lead to CF’s equivalent of novaing tasks. While Comme il faut (yes, I will review that book eventually!) does present options to limit this type of behavior, we have alternatives here, the first of which would be the Hard Limit Variation.

In this variation, we have a limit by Ability Rank: Poor or Average means being able to play 1 card per Feat, Good or Great = 2 cards…you get the idea. Basically, this sports a hard limit and the assignment of cards per Ability Rank can easily be modified to suit the host’s specific campaign. As you may have noted, this option greatly diminishes the influence of luck on Feats, and as such is suitable for campaigns that attempt to depict a harder or more down-to-earth (haha!) game. The second hard limit variation is a bit more lenient – oh, and it should be noted that these variations are explicitly tested for use with core-book only and for use with Comme il faut.

If you prefer another variation (or want to combine them for further limitations), the pdf sports the Half-Off Variation: Basically, cards of an improper Suit are worth half their face value, rounded down. The second such option here instead uses the color of the Suits to determine whether or not to halve the face value: If the suit as the same color of the one that is required, they are worth halve value; if they sport the wrong color, they instead only have a value of 1. Big kudos: The variation sports notes on conjunction with Tarot Variations – kudos! This one makes dud-hands less likely and can potentially be used to make things a bit easier for the dramatic characters.

Next up would be the Ability Harmonics Option: These apply a spell-harmonics like tweak to the Half-Off variation. When characters attempt a Feat, the host chooses a Suit or more that may alter the results of the Feat. If that sounds complicated, rest assured that 3 examples per Suit are provided to illustrate the consequences of using the harmonics option. Once more, compatibility with core and Comme il faut’s optional rules is maintained.

Okay, after that, we have the Dwarfish Requirement Variation, which expands the levels of Requirement of Feats from 6 to 13. Guidance is provided to choose difficulty; the new Requirements are properly defined and a handy table illustrates them at one glance. Big plus: If you want even more such levels, the table does actually contain entries for the values between the labeled ones. Kudos! Speaking of which: We get a reprint of degrees of success for our convenience, rendering the use of this section comfortable and neat.

But we don’t have an idea which task would be best assigned to which Ability, right? Examples for Requirements are helpful and the pdf knows it – hence, the pdf covers ALL Abilities in detail, listing examples for each of the 7 new Requirement Levels. Yes, including all the new abilities in supplemental books out there. Now that’s what I’d call considerate! And yes, compatibility with core and Comme il faut’s optional rules is maintained here as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues in the formal criteria or rules-language. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ elegant 2-column full-color standard. The artworks are thematically-fitting public domain b/w-pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mister J Gray delivers once more (seriously, if there's a new version of CF planned at one point, let this man work on it!): The variant rules herein allow for meaningful, great modifications of the Castle Falkenstein engine. The variations explain their impact, which is helpful for less crunch-savvy hosts. Their modularity and potential for combination with other options and each other ensures that this humble pdf should be considered to be a great change of pace for pretty much every host that is not 100% happy with the base-rules. If you’re looking for meaningful variations to change your game and tricks to give your game a different feeling/theme, then this is pretty much required. Indeed, from simple and more down to earth to more modularity, this offers something for all tastes. Highly recommended at 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Feat Variations
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Aethera Campaign Setting
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/12/2018 06:03:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This colossal tome of a campaign setting clocks in at a HUGE 583 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 3 pages KS-backer thanks, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page table/sidebar-index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 568 pages of content.

568 pages. Yeah, I won’t be able to dive into the details and nit and grit of every component of this colossal book, at least not without bloating this pdf beyond any form of usefulness. Got that? All right, so, first things first: This book is BEAUTIFUL. I mean it. You’ll flip open the book and see a layout, crafted by Robert Brookes, Liz Courts and Loren Sieg, and see borders that evoke at once science-fiction and art deco aesthetics, providing a rather unique visual identity for the book.

The next thing you’ll note after the introduction, is that the chapters actually sport thematically-fitting comic-strips as lead-ins – 1 -2 pages each. Now, unlike many a campaign setting, Aethera spans obviously multiple worlds, and as such, comments on variant races and can carry pretty much an infinite amount of supplemental races. That being said, the book contains a total of 4 fully-depicted racial write-ups for new races, all of which come with age, height and weight-tables. It is in these write-ups that your jaw will likely hit the floor, as the artworks throughout this book are absolute premium-level quality. Absolutely gorgeous. The first of the races depicted herein are Erahthi, who hail from ancient forests. Born from massive fruit, they are creatures that blend the aesthetics of plants and elemental powers, and before you ask, they do have a skeletal structure. Indeed, the pdf presents relatively detailed notes for the respective societies and relations of the respective races presented. Erahthi get +2 to Con and +2 to one other ability score of their choice, are native outsiders, Medium, have darkvision and camouflage in forest terrain as well as +1 natural armor. They are treated as both plants and native outsiders for purposes of bane et al., get +4 to saves vs. mind-affecting effects, paralysis, poison and stun effects and they are immune to sleep. Non-magical undergrowth does not affect the erahthi and since they breathe through their skin, they have some cool tricks: One hand above water can keep them from drowning! However, this also imposes a -2 penalty to saves versus inhaled fumes, poisons, smoke and the like. Erahthi with Cha 11+ also get 1/day speak with plants. We get balanced FCOs for the druid, monk, shaman and slayer classes. Unique, flavorful, balanced – and before you ask, the bonus types are concisely presented throughout all races.

Now, it should be noted that humans get a really nice, fully detailed write-up, obviously sans stats, but yeah – nice! The next new race would be the infused, basically an attempt to create a super-soldier Übermensch via the infusion of aether, these beings had suffered horrid losses in both numbers and previous identities, with the transition being often rather traumatic, with infertility and a shortened lifespan being most notable. The project that gave life to them has seen its day, and thus, to a degree, these are the twilight years for this race. Favored class option-wise, we get notes for brawler, fighter, cavalier, sorcerer, psychic and kineticist. The infused get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, are humanoids with aether and human subtypes. While in zero gravity or affected by levitate, the infused gain a fly speed equal to ½ their land speed. Minor complaint: No maneuverability is given. I assume average as a default. Infused with a Charisma greater than 11 gain at-will mage hand and open/close as well as 1/day shield as SPs. They also begin play with Arcane Strike as a bonus feat and immunity to aetheric radiation. They can create a psychic bond with another creature with the aether subtype, which requires skin contact for 1 minute. Unwilling targets can attempt a Will-save to avoid the bond, with the DC scaling with the infused’s HD and Cha-mod. After a successful bond, both creatures get a +4 racial bonus to Sense each other’s Motives and to Bluff checks to pass secret messages. 1/day, an infused may share thoughts with one or more bonded creatures as per mindlink and an infused may maintain a psychic bond with up to 3 + Cha-mod creatures. Okay, one question: Can the infused end such a bond willingly? The lack of duration makes me think that it’s permanent and an inability to end such a bond by ways other than death would mean a rather large difference in how the race behaves.

The third new race herein would be the animal-look-alike race of the Okanta, who look basically like anthropomorphized animals with massive horns – the artworks depict a bear- and a lion-based okanta, both of which manage to look actually badass. Their favored class options cover fighter, cavalier, paladin, shaman and spiritualist, as befitting of their culture. Racial traits wise, they may freely choose to assign +2 to one of the ability scores other than Strength: The +2 bonus to Strength is ficed. They are Medium humanoids with the okanta subtype and low-light vision as well as a +2 bonus to saves versus fear effects. Their horns grant them a 1d6 gore attack (would have been convenient to have the natural attack type classified here – as provided, you need to resort to the default). 1/day, an okanta can observe a creature that has a skill the okanta doesn’t have. After the 1 hour studying period, the okanta treats the skill as a class skill with ranks equal to the okanta’s level, but does not qualify the okanta for skill unlocks. Still, cool one! They also get powerful build, but suffer from light sensitivity.

The Century War that gave rise to the creation of the infused also influenced the creation of the phalanx: Unearthed and reverse-engineered bio-mechanical constructs that actually gained sentience and soul. Suffice to say, many are war veterans today, and while gender-neutral, some phalanx have chosen to adopt gendered identities. The race comes with favored class options for monk, ranger, sorcerer, wizard and rogue. Phalanx gain +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis, and are constructs with the phalanx subtye. They have a Con-score and don’t get bonus HP depending on size. They are Medium, with darkvision and Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat. They get +4 to Diplomacy to gather information and +1 natural armor. They can also tap into the lingering memories of their souls: 1/day as a move action, they may grant themselves a feat for which they meet the prerequisites. A phalanx’ body is powered by aetherite: They must consume at least 1 au per day to avoid starvation. A phalanx remains functional for 3 + Con-mod days sans aetherite – after that, they fall unconscious and remain so indefinitely, until fed aetherite. Notice something? Yeah, robot-detectives. The artworks btw. enhance this angle and the somewhat noiresque sleuthing. Aethera predates it, but in light of Altered Carbon et al., that made me smile. As an aside: The massive construct immunities make these fellows pretty strong – but usually when a construct race gets its immunities, those are explicitly noted once more in the racial presentation. Their absence here means that you can kinda have your cake and eat it, too: Conservative GMs can make them behave less like constructs and ignore immunities, while those who enjoy more potent playstyles can run with them. Not ideal, mind you, but yeah. On another side, the setting assumes a level of discrimination aginst both infused and phalanx, so that should help even things out.

The racial chapter, as a whole, provides a rather interesting array of options. Much to my joy, the races feel fresh and interesting and, more importantly, refrain from the annoying “XYZ….IN SPAAAACE”-pitfall, instead opting for unique tricks. I also like the notes for classic PFRPG-races, acknowledging what’s here without just rehashing everything.

All right, the massive racial chapter done, we now move on to the discussion on classes in the campaign setting, which begins with a new base class, the cantor. Cantors get d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Will-saves. They are proficient with light and medium armor as well as shields, excluding tower shields. The cantor is basically a divine bard and as such gets divine spellcasting of up to 6th level, with Wisdom as governing spellcasting attribute and the instrument as a spellcasting focus – which may mean that a cantor’s body can qualify as such. Contrary to paradigm, the cantor is a spontaneous caster and draws his spells from his own unique spell-list, which is provided with full hyperlinks for your convenience. The bardic performance equivalent, divine performance, follows the design paradigm of the bard’s performance, but does not qualify as such for the purposes of bardic masterpieces. 4 + Wisdom modifier rounds are provided at first level, with each subsequent level yielding another +2 rounds. Starting a divine performance is a standard action, until 7th level, where it may be started as a move action instead. Unlike bardic performance, the divine performance is more limited, with base uses covering countersong and fascinate, and the third use providing a reroll for an attack or save before results are made known, though this potent option has a 1 hour-cool-down. 7th level extends that ability to allies and 13th level to nearby foes, with the interactions with the cooldown noted precisely, though both such upgraded uses are immediate actions, something that changes at 19th level, where it becomes a free action, though one that can still only be taken 1/round.

Now, you can probably glean from this reduced flexibility that this is not where the class ends. Instead, the cantor chooses a hymn at 1st level – these behave very much like e.g. bloodlines. The respective hymns are associated with planets and planes and they bestow a class skill as well as bonus skills and spells. Each of the hymns nets a new divine performance and at 3rd level, we get a so-called hymn verse, with 8th and 14th level providing the greater and superior verse for the hymn instead.

Now, there is an interconnection between the hymn chosen and the verse class feature: At 2nd level and 6th level as well as at 8th, 12th, 14th, 18th and 20th level, the character gains an additional verse, which may be used even when maintaining a performance. Using a verse is a standard action and Wisdom governs the save DC, if any. 7 verses are provided, which, as a whole, made me wish we’d get a few more. They are per se interesting and solid. Then again, there is an important reason for the relative lack of choice here: At 3rd level, the cantor may replace the hymn verse with another verse when regaining spell slots, which also grants the selected hymn’s divine performance. At 9th level, 2 such repertoire hymns may be chosen. At 4th level, the class gains the basic verse granted by each hymn currently chosen as a repertoire hymn, with 10th and 16th level adding the greater and superior hymns of the respective repertoire hymns. Starting at 5th level, the cantor can cast a spell from a rehearsed hymn by spending a spell slot of the proper level 1/day; at 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class feature may be used an additional time per day.

8th level unlocks 5 general greater verses and 14th level yields 4 different superior verses, which are not assigned to a hymn. The 11th level ability allows the cantor to start a second divine performance while maintaining one, at the cost of twice the rounds for the second performance, for a total of 3 rounds cost. This cost is reduced to only one round of cost per performance at 17th level. 15th level allows the character to 1/day change a repertoire hymn with 10 minutes of meditation. The capstone provides divine performance maintenance without round expenditure, delimiting the performance. It should be noted that a total of 11 hymns are provided for your convenience. So yeah, the class provides player agenda and choices and its variable hymn-engine is interesting. All in all, one of the better hybrid-y classes out there and I’d probably be singing higher praises here, were it not for my love of Jason Linker’s Ultimate Composition class of the same name. We get favored class options for the new aethera races as well as the human race. Archetype-wise, the cantor gets 4 modifications: Divine dancers represent basically an engine tweak; orthodoxists get clouded vision, but also fate-themed abilities. The song councilor is a healer-specialist, capable of transferring damage. The song seeker, finally, is the repertoire specialist. All in all, decent archetypes and tweaks, but not exactly super exciting. Still, as a whole – the cantor presented herein ranks as one of the more compelling classes I’ve seen within the context of a campaign setting.

From there, we move on to the class option array, which contains a vast plethora of different new archetypes and tricks: Bioengineer alchemists are specialists of summoning animals with the aetherwarped template, with higher level providing detonating critters. The combat medic alchemist is a pretty cool idea, using stims to mitigate negative conditions while boosting allies. Cool one! The Wastelander is a pretty typical scavenger etc. and is pretty bland; there are also two discoveries – one for plasma bombs and one for negative energy bombs. Arcanists may elect to become rift breakers, who generate elemental rifts and further modify these, with surges and upgrades etc. – the archetype is pretty complex and unique, spanning multiple pages, but as a whole, I felt like it would have been better represented as an alternate class. Bards may elect to become aether weavers, who get to create eidolons, with the Perform skill used to create them infusing their stats. Warsingers are bard/kineticist crossovers and vox riders are the political firebrands and demagogues. Theme-wise, I loved the last of these most, as it is the most unique one. The blue-shifted bloodrager has aetherite-infused bloodlines and as such gets some telekinetic skills, including the simple blast. The colossus brawler is focused on forming an aetherite shield, while the titan archetype gets a grit-based engine.

We also have a new cavalier option based on a bonded aethership, which I very much liked, in spite of my well-documented disdain for the linearity of the base class. The aether-touched druid has aether-warped summons, shapes and a bonus spell array. The erahthi cultivator once more represents an aethership specialist. The okanta occult druid gets a unique summoning list and the symbiont master gets one of 3 different symbiont companions. The aether soldier fighter specializes on aether bonds and Arcane Strikes, while the gravitic is about using inertia and movement, disappointingly represented as pretty boring numerical boosts. The resonant guard can help boost performances. The artillerist gunslinger is good with automatic guns and aethership artillery. Jump troopers are cool – they get integrated jump thrusters, which later can be weaponized. Siege walkers are heavy infantry with stabilized weaponry and thornslingers are erahthi with symbiotic firearms, which is all kinds of cool. The tech-bonded hunter gets a construct companion. The correspondent investigator gets a few performances and the mindspy casts psychic magic and gains limited mesmerist tricks. Mystic detectives get Disruptive and a slightly modified inspiration, and the prehistorian is a kind of specialist for old lore. Stellar prospectors are space pioneers. The investigator options represent, for the most part, basic engine tweaks – the cool concepts imho deserved more detailed and unique forms of execution. The aetheric scion kineticist is, bingo, an aether specialist who can accept burn to power aether-tech, which makes for an interesting synergy of engines. I am not a fan of all components of the significant amount of unique options for the archetype, but as a whole, I consider it to be interesting.

Mediums can become deathless guides, specializing on mitigating the issues of time: etheric dreamers are in tune with the astral plane and focus on incorporeal interactions – not a fan. Modded mediums are interested, though: The phalanx medium can mod itself to act as better conduits for spirits. Okanta speakers of the ancestors share a bond with allies and shadow visionaries are, binfo shadow specialists. War memorists get two unique spirits with thematic connections to the Century War - cool. The aromachologist mesmerist is an erahthi who develops a hypnotic scent, which is really cool. Hypnotherapists can fortify allies against mental assaults. Monks may become gravitic masters, who can reposition targets and is particularly adept at zero-G acrobatics. Oracles get the new song mystery, the brief (and not exactly interesting) listener archetype and two new curses – aether-corrupted and choir-voiced. I loved both curses. Paladins that become aetheric knights with an okay attack roll-based parade. As you all know, I consider these parades to be a bad idea due to their swingyness, but yeah – if you don’t mind that, then you’ll probably like this fellow. Psychic thoughtdrinkers actually get some occultist-engine crossover, which is pretty cool in my book. Exostentialist rangers have easily one of the coolest names for an archetype, ever, with aberrant companions etc. also a nice take on the concept hinted at by the name. Salvagers are rogues with a pool-based and they can jury-rigged devices. Liked this one. We get a new aether shaman spirit. The firstnew skald archetype focuses on hampering aethertech, while space pirate skalds represent an engine tweak (raging song enhances Dex and Con), with a bit of space-themed abilities added.

The slayer bullet dancer is basically a gunslinging slayer. Sorcerers get the aetheric bloodline, while summoners can become aetehric callers, adding an aetherite dependency to the eidolon and summoning interaction, which can actually make the summoner work in a slightly more balanced manner. Kudos. Star corsair swashbuckler, finally, gain a ton of different deeds.

Okay, notice something? Yes. There is a curious absence here, right? In a daring move that should probably be made by much more settings, Aethera gets rid of both cleric and warpriest. While the book mentions ways in which they could be used, per default, they don’t exist – courtesy of there being no deities. This changes dramatically the vibe of the setting, and for the better. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Regarding the massive class option chapter, I found quite a few of the options herein interesting and flavorful, but honestly, I caught myself thinking that less had been more. There are quite a few cool concepts only represented by pretty bland basic engine-tweaks, unbefitting of the cool roles they represent. There are a couple of cool ones herein, but, as a whole, the chapter feels surprisingly conservative and “safe” in its designs – when the archetypes stand it, it’s mostly due to how they interact with the unique concepts of the setting in a rewarding manner that makes them worth contemplating. In short: Don’t expect classes and options of the complexity of e.g. Thunderscape. To get slightly ahead of myself: The chapter, to me, represents the weakest part of the book, following the inverse paradigm as the racial chapter: Where, race-wise, we emphasize quality over quantity, the archetype and class option chapter feels like the opposite: Less would have been more here, with the real estate better devoted to truly unique game-changers. The chapter is not bad, mind you – I’d probably consider it to be in the 4-star-range vicinity, but contrasted to the impressive race chapter, it feels like it falls short of what it could have been.

Lets skip ahead for a second, into the skills and feats chapter, which provided a good kind of surprise for me: While there are a ton of different feats to enhance class features, tie in with symbionts and aetherships, it was the skill chapter with its unlocks and serious array of new skill uses that made me rather excited: Heal is more relevant, for example, and the advanced medicine skill unlock further increases that tendency. This is a component I am going to use in pretty much all of my games, as the prevalence of exclusively wand-based/divine healing has always irked me, particularly in grittier games. There are options to muffle firearms with feats, occult skill unlocks noted, etc. This chapter, while not 100% perfect (there are a couple of feats I’d consider to be a bit limited), here we once ore have a return to form as far as design-prowess is concerned. I am particularly happy to note that the chapter does not contribute to lame numerical escalation bloat, instead focusing on setting peculiarities and subsystems.

Now, the third chapter deals with the cosmology of the aethera system, which consists of two suns and 4 worlds, each of which shares an intrinsic tie to one of the inner planes. The cosmology and campaign setting per se have so far been not really explained by yours truly, and indeed, there is a reason for that – you see, on a superficial glance, Aethera sports a couple of the classic narrative tropes: There is a mysterious progenitor race, there is the big war – classic tropes of scifi. It is in the details and in the rather impressive deep structure embedded in Aethera that the setting begins to really stand out. The seeds of these tendencies are sown as early as in the racial chapter: You see, to a degree, the races all pose intriguing questions to develop: How to deal with non-binary gender identities, the politics of otherness both within ones social groups and beyond that; the treatment of veterans and societal changes after wars, the book generates a unique identity by the combination of its themes. With a technology reminiscent of Dieselpunk-ish aesthetics with a science-fiction leaning, the races and concepts of the setting touch the issues of colonialism and the consequences, imperialist claims and the effects of cultural hegemony, the conflicts of nature vs. civilization and, of course, the eternal struggle of authoritarianism vs. individualism. If you enjoy space-noir à la the detective sub-story in The Expanse, you can do that with this setting, but similarly, you can go full-blown space opera.

Which brings me to a crucial component of this CAMPAIGN SETTING. I have, at this point, read quite a few scifi toolkits for d20-based games, most recently, of course, Starfinder. Aethera does not compete with them. You see, the majority of these books attempt, in varying degrees of success, to present a rules-based toolkit to represent the totality of the fantasy-gaming based rules of PFRPG in a scifi/space opera context, and while rules, due to what they allow and what they don’t, generate implicit setting assumptions, the focus, usually, lies upon exactly this component. Aethera is a proper campaign setting, in that the rules act as subservient components to the needs of the setting. It should be noted that we not only get a compelling reading experience with the detailed history, but we also get detailed write-ups for the planets and beyond, sporting a vast amount of hooks that make it nigh impossible to not be inspired by the captivating prose and world-building. Interestingly, the concise and intelligent writing actually manages to create a squaring of the circle of sorts. In spite of being widely, if not universally, permissive regarding PFRPG’s vast amount of options, Aethera excels because the setting it creates feels distinctly like a science-fiction game, in spite of the existence of magic, which usually catapults most games firmly towards the space opera genre. Now, you can play Star Wars-y games in Aethera, but the system stands out to me, as a world-building success, due to its embracing of the relevant themes of science fiction.

What do I mean by this? As a whole, science-fiction and space opera, as genres, as often used interchangeably, or are associated with different timeframes and cultures or creation aesthetics, much to my chagrin; if distinctions are made, they often are based exclusively on time frames and aesthetics, while missing the, in my opinion, central point. Whether you like hard scifi like Primer or soft scifi doesn’t matter – there always is a component of possible negotiation of very serious topics intrinsic in the genre. While it is very much possible to read, for example, “Martian Time Quake” or “The Three Stigmata of Eldritch Palmer” for the reading pleasure alone, it is very much nigh impossible to just consume them without taking something of them; same goes with e.g. the Foundation trilogy…and the list goes on. Space opera’s popularity, as exemplified most famously by Star Wars, would probably lie in the fact that it represents a form of entertainment with the trappings of scifi, but none of its thought-provoking components. Again, Star Wars, with its, to me, nonsensical, hyper-conservative, sexless good/evil ideologies and dichotomies presents an easy way to process comfortable escapist fiction routed in nostalgia, one that does not challenge our societal norms or exert our mental faculties. Think about the backlash regarding the senate scenes. They were per se not bad, but they interrupted the fiction of what was expected. Now, while my hatred for the Star Wars franchise is pretty well-documented, I am not judging the vast amount of fans the universe has – there is value and skill in the world-building, aesthetics, etc.. Similarly, we all have different tastes and, indeed, our tastes change to one degree or another, on a daily basis. I am no exception. While Star Wars never did anything for me, I am very much a huge fan of the space opera genre (just not its most prominent example) – I also like to put my brain off to one degree or another and just consume a great space-fiction. It is somewhat puzzling for me to see how ardent fans of space opera and scifi franchises, books and other forms of media can heap so much disdain upon one another, just for not adhering to the “right” form of make belief in a hypothetical future.

And this is where the tangent comes full circle and returns to the world-building of Aethera. You see, the campaign setting provides the tools to tell stories that must be construed to be deeply embedded in the canon and problems that we associate with the scifi genre; at the same time, Aethera manages to allow for space opera style playing experiences and campaign as well – the book is not prohibitive, but inclusive in how it tackles the impactful concepts it touches upon – it can gravitate to anything from “Guardians of the Galaxy”-style gameplay to experiences that are more deeply routed in aesthetics à la Traveller. This is in so far remarkable, as the setting has the burden of having to accommodate magic to the degree of the prominence in which it is featured in PFRPG, which ties in with the final aspect pertaining the player-facing rules, namely the equipment and gear section.

We get notes on restrictions of items by legal status, a brief and painless currency conversion guideline and mundane items like lifelines, instrument weapons, and a ton of different, mechanically relevant and interesting drugs. From radiation suits to trooper armors, we also get new armor. Interesting here: The ballistic quality nets DR versus physical projectiles firing firearms. Now, the firearm rules are based heavily on PFRPG’s firearms everywhere baseline, with optional rules for recoil, firing modes etc. all covered. Now, personally, I think it would have made more sense to make the firearms behave like regular ranged weapons here, mainly due to the fact that the default firearm rules don’t really play well with higher level math. On the plus-side, the chapter provides something I adored, namely a ton of customization options via e.g. different types of ammunition. The ammunition array on its own is really cool (and yes, clips etc. matter), and represents a component I’d love to see expanded.

Now, aethertech is the catch-all term for the truly advanced tech, which may sport hybrid magic properties – the interaction and rules provided here are concise. These items are powered by aetheric energy, though, which makes them behave more in line with technology items. The transparency of this super tech also means that a GM who envisions a magic-less world can easily restrict item options to aethertech-based items without compromising the vast amount of options available for PFRPG. Cybertech is, somewhat unfortunately in my book, called “Automata” in the setting, but once more is featured. Power armor and associated accessories and crafting stations complement this sections in a good way. The engines presented can easily carry a whole book and while there is a ton of customizing possible, I found myself wishing we got more here.

Now, as far as the aetherships noted are concerned: The system presumes crew roles: Pilot, Copilot, engineer, tactical and weapons. The system presented for aethership combat is concise and better than the default vehicle combat, but I found that e.g. the copilot and tactical roles provide less fun for PCs and are better suited for NPCs – RAW, they don’t have much to do but grant meaningful, but ultimately bland tactical bonuses. From lowly speedsters to full-blown dreadnoughts, we get a nice array of sample ships from CR 3 to 20. A big plus as far as customization is concerned would be the fact that the creation process of ships is pretty painless and based on modular structures. Why would you care? Can’t you just teleport? No…but I’ll leave the discovery of that complex to you. We also have special materials here, which, while solid and thematically fitting, didn’t exactly blow me away. The sub-chapter on symbionts was one I celebrated, though, and an aspect of the book I’d love to see expanded. The really high importance of music for the aesthetics of the settinga re amazing and we also get a variety of solid spells and artifacts.

The final chapter of the book is devoted to the bestiary, noting suitable, suggested creatures by bestiary, providing the aforementioned, pretty dominant aetherwarped creature template as well as colossal plant-serpents, various types of azaka, corrupted elementals and NPCs, codex style. My favorite entries, easily, were the kickass kytons introduces herein – they are absolutely amazing and add more than just a bit of Hellraiser-aesthetics to the darker recesses of the Aethera system. I also loved the symbiont write-ups here. Gorgeous and cool, alien and fun.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a rules-language and formal level: Considering the huge size of this tome, the fact that it is a freshman offering, as well as the huge density of the book, it is even more interesting: There are a few hiccups here and there, but they mostly are minor: A mention of plasma damage sans the explanatory half fire/half electricity here, a typo there – but these are few and far in between. Now, I already mentioned aesthetics: This book is FRICKIN’ GORGEOUS. As in: This could be a Paizo/WotC-book levels of beautiful. The layout in two-column full-color is absolutely phenomenal. The book is CHOCK-FULL with absolutely visionary artworks that breathe life into everything, from races to classes to everything else, this book is absolutely phenomenal in the visual department. Cartography is similarly amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks. Unfortunately, I do not own the physical book, so I can’t comment on binding quality or lack thereof or on whether the book’s vibrant colors come out on paper.

Lead designer Robert Brookes, with additional design by Jesse Brenner, John Bennett, Duan Byrd, Jeff Dahl, Andrew Fields, Kaelyn Harding, Thurston “Goddamn” Hillman, Nicholas Hite, Sarah Hood, Andrew Marlowe, Monica Marlowe, Daniel Hunt, Andre James, Patrick N.R. Julius, Mike Kimmel, Isabelle Lee, Jessica Powell, Joshua Rivera, David N. Ross, Todd Stewart, Jeffrey Swank, Jacob Thomas, Chris Wasko, and Scott Young, has created perhaps the single most impressive freshman offering I have ever seen. This is the first book by Encounter Table Publishing. It’s almost ridiculous, once you think about it. Sure, it made its ambitious KS-goal, but I did not, not for a second, expect the setting to be this damn compelling, this cool.

As noted before, aethera really allows you to play Pathfinder in space, but that goal is fulfilled by other toolkits and settings as well; where the book excels is the ability to cater to both scifi and space opera, as well as science-fantasy aesthetics, all without compromising the setting’s aesthetics and themes.

Now, on a rules-level, the book is a bit too conservative for its own good and I wished it focused a bit more on some of its aspects, but we can potentially hope for expansions for these aspects; as a crunch-only book, I’d rate this somewhere in the vicinity of 4 or 4.5 stars.

However, this would be an utter disservice to the entirety of this ginormous book. The value of this book lies in its surprisingly holistic, concise and sensible world-building, in its phenomenal concepts – whether as a campaign setting or as a grab-bag of ideas, Aethera is a truly remarkable achievement that makes for a surprisingly captivating reading experience, that has a very strong identity in spite of its inclusive stance. In short: It achieves its goal as a campaign setting in a fantastic manner, with panache aplomb. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, as well as status as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Aethera Campaign Setting
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Deadly Gardens: Wandering Sundew
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/12/2018 06:00:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, ½ a page SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now as always, we begin the pdf with 2 new magic items, the first of which would be the blackthorn gloves allow the wielder, whenever they deliver a spell with a melee touch attack, to inflict +1d3 piercing damage, with a Reflex save to negate. For each point of damage caused by these thorns, the SR, if any, of the target is reduced by an equal amount versus the spell delivered. If the spell sports a save DC, it also increases by +1 per point of damage caused. Additionally, 2/day, the wielder can generate a 15-ft.-cone dealing 1d6 piercing damage, with a Ref-save to negate. The interesting component here would be that all targets affected by the cone are potentially targeted by the spell, replacing the usual touch delivery mechanism, but not the triggering condition for the item. It should be noted that this alternate delivery mechanism does not come with the SR/DC-modification. The spell thus delivered cannot be held and the item covers its bases to prevent Bouncing/Reach Spell abuse. AMAZING item. Looks simple, but is anything but simple and actually a complex, difficult rules-operation. The second item would be the sturdy walnut, which, upon command, can split into two halves, generating a masterwork buckler and a masterwork dwarven boulder helmet, but complete with straps etc. They may be enchanted as usual. Come on, that is a really awesome item that could come straight from fairy tales. Feels magical, love it.

The pdf also contains a total of 6 different natural items: The axe beak adrenal gland, when applied to a wound, doubles hit points gained via resting and nets a +1 dodge bonus to AC and Ref-saves after application. Lammasu claw powder can be used as a power component, increasing the radius of magic circle against evil. Criosphinx horn powder nets a +2 bonus to Cha-based skill checks against the opposite gender. The tentacles of the giant sea anemone allows for saves with a bonus to end ongoing pain effects. The trollhound heart nets brief fast healing and eating it provokes an AoO. Finally, the wandering sundew seedpod is cool. Why? Because it allows you to grow a wandering sundew companion! And yes, we get proper companion stats and proper rules-interaction, courtesy of the plant companion engines created by Rusted Iron Games. The companion is pretty potent, but considering the requires investment and story-requirements, I’m good with it.

Now, as for the star of the pdf, the monster. Wandering sundews are NOT creatures to be taken lightly. Yes, the cover makes them look nice, but they actually clock in at a massive CR 18! With gore, slam and tail attacks, they are pretty brutal melee beasts, particularly considering their Strength above 30 and the bonus acid damage their attacks cause. In spite of being Huge, these critters are actually really stealthy and they have a build that will make players think really hard before engaging: You see, the wandering sundew is a sundering specialist, with the acid bypassing hardness of metal and stone with sunder attempts. Beyond that, the creature has grasping stalks: At the end of the round, a melee touch attack is made against all creatures in reach, which then proceed to stick to the sundew, taking acid damage. A total of 4 creatures can be held thus and targets held as such do not penalize the capabilities of the sundew AND do not bestow the grappled condition on the sundew. OUCH!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and the artwork provided is nice, particularly considering the low price point. The pdf fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. Kudos!

Russ Brown, Joe Kondrak and Kim Frandsen deliver a really cool critter with ambitious, well-executed supplemental material. I have no complaints to field against this cool pdf, particularly considering the extremely fair, low price point. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Cool critter!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Wandering Sundew
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Ultimate Herbalism - The Pollution Microcosm
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/12/2018 05:59:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This FREE expansion for the massive Ultimate Herbalism book clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 1 page of content, so let’s take a look!

So, this contains a total of 4 different plants. The first of these would be a fungus, namely Caustic Coals, which clocks in at a point value of 2 and has a duration of 7 rounds. These puffballs can be squeezed as a standard action to fire a jet of acid with a range of 30 ft., duplicating heat metal, with the exception of inflicting acid damage.

There are two herbs with a point value of 1, the first of which would be the Greasy Ragweed, which may be thrown as a standard action and a 10 ft.-range increment, generating a small grease pattern. The Siphonweed would be the second 1-point plant, and it is interesting: It is applied to the skin of a creature. The first ability score damage that is taken by the creature within the next minute inflicts the weed, which forms a toxic bubble that can inflict ability damage as per the type taken, translating it basically to poison. The ability score damage inflicted by the poison btw. increases with herbalist levels.

The final plant would be It Which Clings, which clocks in at a point value of 4 and it has a 1 round duration. The plant is a supreme survivor, but otherwise not as efficient. Conversely, when a character chews it, he becomes immune to dazed, dazzled, fatigued, shakened or sickened, but must suffer from the condition upon imbibing the weed. 7th level adds confused and nauseated, 15th blinded, staggered and stunned.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with green-vines on the side. The pdf needs no bookmarks at its length.

So, FREE expansion for Ultimate Herbalism? What’s not to like! Bradley Crouch’s new plants are creative, interesting and fun. 5 stars + seal of approval. If you like the excellent Ultimate Herbalism, then this is a no-brainer download!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Herbalism - The Pollution Microcosm
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Feats of Legend: Limit Break - 21 Feats of Fantastic Martial Finality (PF)
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2018 05:16:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Feats of Legend-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

A little side tangent: The first thing that I ever did that would constitute design-work of sorts were limit breaks. Back when I was a kid, neck deep in puberty, when I had an innocent crush on Rinoa from FF XIII, my AD&D campaign back then was winding down; we had reached the highest power echelons, left level 20 far behind, and I had, at best, a cursory knowledge of 3.X, but had been jamming rules-components without rhyme or reason into my game. The result was, in hindsight, equal parts embarrassing and amazing, with limit breaks stolen in equal measure from my favorite games and from my most beloved, oh-so-deep goth/metal lyrics. Ah, the celebration of a sort of innocence…anyways, once you think about it, it’s actually weird that we did not get a limit break system for PFRPG sooner!

But how does it work? Well, feats with the [Limit Break] descriptor may NOT be taken during character creation or during character advancement. They may only be temporarily selected via the martial flexibility class feature or the new Desperate Combat Overdrive feat.

This feat requires Int and Cha or 3+ and requires that you do not have martial flexibility. It lets you choose one [Limit Break] feat, which, 1/day, as a full-round action, you may unlock for your character for a number of rounds equal to ½ character level, rounded up. You must meet the prerequisites and the current hit-point total of the character must be at or below 1/4th of maximum hit points AND you must have dealt damage with a successful melee attack last round. The feat may be taken multiple times, each time granting you another [Limit Break] feat access.

This limitation of 1/4th of maximum hit points or below, and the requirement to have hit the opponent btw. also applies for the purpose of temporarily gaining access to [Limit Break]-feats via martial flexibility. Additionally, a character cannot gain a [Limit Break] feat while under the effects of a supernatural fear-effect. Mundane fear-effects are okay, though.

The exception from the rule here would be the Swallow Your Terror [Combat] feat – if you otherwise meet all the requirements for a [Limit Break], but are suffering from a supernatural fear effect, you get a new save each round while the [Limit Break]-conditions are met – on the first save, you are treated as though you succeeded the initial save, and if an effect has even an effect on a successful save, a second save in the round after that allows you to shake off the fear-effect.

The astute reader may have noticed that the [Limit Breaks], per default, can only be unlocked by melee attacks. The Limit-Charging Bolts, available exclusively for characters with martial flexibility, changes that and allows one proficient ranged weapon to be treated as a melee weapon for the purpose of qualifying for [Limit Break] feats unlocking.

Occult Limit-Charging is yet another tweak to the base system engine: This feat kicks in whenever a creature with HD equal to or greater than your own fails a save versus a spell or SP and suffers hit point damage as a consequence, this qualifies as causing melee damage for the purpose of unlocking [Limit Break]-feats, allowing spellcasters to be part of the fun.

[Limit Break] feats are considered to be combat feats and while a character possesses a [Limit Break] feat, she sheds light, imposing a minus 40 penalty on all Stealth checks, shedding light as a sunrod. Once a character has used a [limit Break] feat even once, she thereafter emits a glow whenever below 1/4th maximum hit points, imposing a -20 penalty to Stealth checks and emitting light as a candle – a warning of sorts, somewhat akin to the glow of e.g. FF XIII’s aura-spell. The saving throw DC of [Limit Break] feats, if any is 10 + ½ character level + Constitution modifier, and Con-mod is also used for concentration purposes of SPs duplicated thus.

In a great quote of the anime and videogame trope, the Soul-Sharpening Battlecry feat allows you to tweak [Limit Break]-triggering: You choose an item of great personal significance for you – a rod, a card, a weapon – and loudly pronounce a doom, declare your name etc. – basically, Tales of X-style. This is a move action that provokes AoOs and is treated as an attack for the purpose of charm, invisibility, etc. – however, until the end of your next round, you halve your current hit points for the purpose of determining when [Limit Break] feats can be triggered. Come on, that is really, really cool! Furious Limit-Charging is available to characters with rage or bloodrage, and, during such a rage or bloodrage, allows for the treating of current hit point total as halved for the purpose of [Limit Break] unlocking – we all know that being pissed amps up the chance of getting a [Limit Break]! Brutal limit-Charging is yet another way for characters with martial flexibility to get more [Limit Break]-use: On a crit (not just on a threat!), you treat your current hit point total as half as much for one round for the purpose of qualifying for a [limit Break] unlock.

If a character fails to meet the prerequisites for using [Limit Break] feats, for example due to healing, the access to the feat, but not the feat per se, is temporarily lost. However, if the feat is lost, it may not be used again for 24 hours.

Sounds confusing? How do you lose a [Limit Break]-feat? Well, here’s the catch: In contrast to how most feats behave, [Limit break]-feats’ prerequisite line often specifies a condition that you must have met in the preceding round. While this blending of situational and general prerequisites may feel confusing at first, it makes sense within the design-paradigm and the ephemeral nature of the [Limit Break]-feats themselves.

Okay, so this would be the base system presented here, including the non-[Limit Break]-feats that modify it. Now, let us take a look at the[Limit Break]-feats, shall we? All of the following are [limit break]-feats:

-Aegis of the Avalanche: You gain self-only stoneskin, but may spend it for a round to duplicate forceful strikes. Maintenance requires dealing bludgeoning damage.

-Unflinching Iron Juggernaut: Requires Aegis of the Avalanche and that you have been flat-footed versus at least one attack against you; you may choose to become flat-footed to all attacks in one round to gain this feat’s activation criteria. It nets you iron body. OOOHHH!

-Flame of the Dragon: You gain fire trail and fire shield (warm) and choose to suspend them for a round in favor of fire breath. Requires that you take or inflict fire damage.

-Blazing Astral Steps: Requires that you have Flame of the Dragon and must have spent last round with a double move, charge or run action. Nets you damnation stride as a move action, but you may not take others with you. Qualifies as abundant step for the purpose of Dimensional Agility and all feats in that chain, which are treated as combat feats for the purpose of martial flexibility. Yes, they’re listed. Yes, catching that one is impressive.

-Harmonious Spirit Charge: Regain 1 ki, requires that you spent 1 ki in the previous round. Cool!

-Blinding Flare of Truest Fighting-Spirit: As a move action, all creatures within 30 ft. who don’t have concealment are dazzled for 1d4 rounds, with a Fort-save to negate. This is sight-dependent, obviously. When you inflict melee damage on an opponent thus dazzled, the target must save or be blinded for 1 round per level. Creatures adjacent to a target thus blinded must save as well to avoid being blinded. During any round you use a full-attack action and make at least one melee attack, you get one additional melee attack at your highest BAB, but it must be made against a target blinded by the feat. The feat requires that you have another [Limit Break]-feat as a prerequisite. This one is a bit tricky, because it has, RAW, not its own maintenance condition. Careful reading shows, though, that it behaves essentially as an overlay that adds its effects to another [Limit Break] feat’s effects.

-Pale Cloak of the True Dragon: Requires Flame of the Dragon and Blinding Flare of Truest Fighting Spirit; upgrades Flame of the Dragon’s fire shield to mythic fire shield.

-Nova of Burning Hate: Requires both Flame of the Dragon and Blinding Flare of Truest Fighting Spirit; 1/round after succeeding a melee attack, you may cast quickened fireball with a range of 0 ft. You are immune to the damage AND get a trip attempt sans AoO or retribution against any target that failed the save against your nova of burning hate. Ouch!

-Wrath from the Edge of Death: Nets you your choice of cure serious wounds or greater infernal healing. No maintenance, though – this is a singular effect. However, it is the prerequisite for…

-Rage Beyond Death: Beyond the previous feat, you must have witnessed a creature fall below 0 hp, and immediately gain heal (self only). You may gain it an additional time as a standard action. If prevented from this, you instead gain breath of life.

-Severing Strike: Lets you execute a single melee attack with a slashing weapon as a full-round action. If the attack hits, you roll a d20 and the target may suffer massive bleed, lose a hand and drop items, lose an eye and be confused, lose proper leg-use, etc. Immunity to sneak attack fortifies against this, fortification etc. is taken into account, and you may take the feat multiple times, allowing you to roll more often on the table.

-Trickster’s Laughing Jaunt: Requires that you have used Acrobatics and nets you an AoO-less gust of wind, followed by an error-less teleport within the gust’s area of effect, which is treated as movement for Lightning and Wind Stance. When ending the teleport in mid-air, you feather fall.

-Trickster’s Leaping Jest: Builds on the previous feat and requires it: Choose a construct of your size category with a CR no greater than your own. As a full-round action, you use both dimension door and invisibility at once and a construct of the chosen type is summoned to the square you departed from. This creature is veiled as you and observers don’t witness you vanishing, as though affected by mislead. Your [Limit Break]-glow is transferred to the construct and you may use a move action to see through the creature’s eyes and direct it.

-Fracture the Blistering Flow: This one should have the [limit Break] descriptor, but doesn’t have it. It requires that you have suffered damage in the last round. Once per round, when using Gather Power as a move or standard action, you may gain its benefits as a swift action instead. When you use a feat. Trait, wild talent, kinetic blast or kineticist class ability dealing acid, cold, electricity or fire damage, you may change the damage to one of the other three energy types as a free action, changing descriptors, if any. Other effects remain unchanged, unless the new energy type invalidates them, which is a quite important caveat considering the flexibility of the kineticist engine.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, the missing descriptor for one feat can make it seem pretty OP, so that’s a minor strike against the pdf. Layout adheres to a nice and pretty printer-friendly two-column standard with blue headers. The artwork is solid. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity.

Wow. This is the single most impressive feat-based engine I’ve seen in ages. The material herein requires a certain degree of system mastery to properly process, but against all odds, the pdf manages, in a paltry 6 pages, to present a concise and well-crafted limit break system with amazing effects. The engine duplicates tropes from beloved game-classics and the way they feel in impressive ways and can carry much, much more – in fact, I could easily see this engine carry a full-length book! While the missing descriptor in the kineticist-feat is a bit galling (the feat would be OP otherwise), the engine as it stands is a remarkable achievement that is pure, distilled awesomeness.

Who wrote this? Clinton Boomer? Well, that explains it! Seriously, folks – if you’re running a high-fantasy campaign and don’t shirk away from high-complexity material, then get these, smile…and start building on the pdf. Have I mentioned that this really could carry a whole book? You know, this pdf’s engine could carry a whole book…Okay, okay, I think I made my point. This is, by far, the best installment in the whole series and perhaps the most inspired feat book I’ve read in quite a while. 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the one descriptor snafu.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: Limit Break - 21 Feats of Fantastic Martial Finality (PF)
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Deadly Gardens: Cinder-Heart Treant
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2018 05:14:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, ½ a page SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always in the series, we begin with new magic items – this time around, the first would be the gullet stone, which is a single-use item that is actually a Medium boulder shrunk to Tiny size – it can be expanded to its proper size on command, sickening the target f it has swallowed the stone. Yes, the creature can vomit the stone. Beyond that, the stone allows an adventurer swallowed by the horrible entity from the 19th dimension to dimension door out of the being swallowed impasse. Cool item and makes sense – If I were an adventurer, I’d carry one of these with me… The second item would be the spring totem, which may be embedded in freshly turned soil, generating fresh water spring for as long as it remains. Destroying the totem may cause springs to slowly dry up and once used, it roots itself, preventing the integrity of your world’s world-building. Really cool story-item!

A total of 8 different natural items are provided as well: Amoeba t the next save, granting a minor bonus; brain ooze gray matter may cause the target to be nauseated, but also prevents being surprised. The tendrils of wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can greatly enhance the power of undead created, particularly zombies. Jotund troll cranial fluid can nauseate the imbiber, but also provide essentially advantage on the next Will-save. Deep sea serpent jawbones can be used as super greatclubs with an increased critical multiplier. The weapon also causes all three damage types, which can be a bit wonky. Not a huge fan here. Hippocampus swim bladders contain air that can last Medium targets 10, Small ones 20. It can be reused. AMAZING one! I’m so going to use this one. The dire corby femur can be made into flutes that enhance bardic performance DCs. Finally, there would be the cinderheart. This item is really hot, causes damage upon being touched and can act as a large fire source for pyrotechnics etc. Additionally, it can be used as a focus for fire-spells, reducing the resistance of targets affected by the fire spell by 5.

Now, the cinderheart treant (amazing artwork, btw.!) clocks in at CR 10 and gets the fire subtype. The creature is Huge and retains the base treant’s siege capacities. These, however, explode upon being slain and have a short-range heat aura as well as a breath weapon. Driven insane by the ordeal they suffer, their treespeech can confuse plants that hear it. Nice take on the classic burning/insane treant trope.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games’ nice two-column full-color standard and the artwork is fantastic, particularly for the low price point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity – kudos!!

Russ Brown and Kim Frandsen deliver a rather cool, fun adversary here – the supplemental items are nice and the execution of this take on the burnt treant trope is nice as well. All in all, a neat addition to the series, well worth 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Cinder-Heart Treant
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Desert Classes of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2018 05:13:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive pdf clocks in at 65 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 61 pages of content, though it should be noted that these are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means that you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this out – provided your eyes are good enough, obviously.

Okay, so this pdf contains a total of no less than 5 different classes, so let’s take a look at the details, shall we?

The first of these would be the ascetic, who can be envisioned as a variant class of the unchained monk. These folks must be lawful, has d10 HD, 4 + Int mod skills per level, proficiency with club, dagger, javelin, quarterstaff, scimitar, shortspear, siangham, sling, and spear. They don’t get access to monk weapons per se and get a scaling AC bonus, but lose it when using shield or armor. Interesting: The pdf uses the great toolkit Unarmed and Dangerous’ Way of the Body ability to tie the AC-bonus to Con. And no, you don’t need that pdf, but it shows a nice, applied use here. The class gets full BAB-progression, all good saves and 3rd level yields fast movement +10 ft., which improved by +10 ft every 3 levels thereafter. The class begins play with Endurance and flurry of blows as well as stunning fist. At 4th level, stunning fist can be sued to calm emotions, 8th can be used as a targeted dispel magic; 12th level nets staggered for 1d6+1 rounds and 20th level provides euphoric tranquility for 2d6+1 rounds and durations of subsequent uses stack. The class gets monk unarmed damage progression and Improved Unarmed Strike etc., with the table for Small and Large ascetics provided as well.

At 2nd level, ascetics gain Diehard and can subsist on ¼ food and water etc. They also gain evasion. 3rd level nets a Wis-governed ki pool, with 7th, 10th and 16th level providing the DR-bypassing scaling. Being ascetics can make them feel brash – as such, 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide penalties to social graces, but also subsequent environmental adaptation. (Here, an endure elements has a minor formatting hiccup – the (i) for italicization has not been closed); this progresses to make them seem monstrous at 12th level, but also yields hide in plain sight at 16th level.

4th level and every 2 levels thereafter yield a ki power, with abundant step, diamond mind, empty body, etc. all codified as such and e.g. the option to use ki to treat rolled Acrobatics checks as natural 20s for 1 minute, emphasizing reliable skirmishing. Combining movement with flurries via ki and rerolls for allies, divination and longer holding breath etc. – the selection loses cobra breath, diamond body, elemental fury, elemental blast, ki guardian, ki blocker, ki mount, ki range and quivering palm, but gains empty body as an etherealness option. The decreased flexibility makes sense here, considering the upgrade in power of the base chassis.

4th level yields still mind, 5th purity of body and 5th level, style strike, with 9th level and every 4 levels thereafter yielding another style strike, with 15th level allowing for a second style strike per round. The list replaces elbow smash with rock throw. 6th level makes the attacks executed behave as though they were ghost touch and 9th level yields improved evasion. 10th levels provides immunity to poisons, lets the character function in a vacuum and eliminates the need for sleep, food, etc. – ki points are automatically regenerated at dawn. 13th level yields tongue of the sun and moon, 14th DR, 17th timeless body and 18th level a ki-powered aura that can calm targets as well as negate penalties and bonuses to mental attributes, curing damage and drain to them, with a 24-hour hex-like caveat to avoid spamming. The capstone yields an outsider apotheosis. We get an array of favored class options for various porpyhran races here – and yes, this holds true for all of the classes herein; I’m not going to repeat myself in that regard for all of them.

Okay, this class should have highlighted the design paradigm employed herein: Basically, we have variant classes that exceed in modifications what you’d usually see from a standard archetype, but which are very clearly akin to more widespread class options. As such, they can be considered to be the local color iterations of a specific trope. In order to maintain the integrity of the review and its usefulness and to avoid boring you to tears by rehashing basics, I will proceed to now highlight the differences of the remainder of classes.

The defender of the city-state is very interesting, in that the class per se is very much akin to the paladin, with smite, spells, two good saves, etc. However, in a twist that I very much welcome, it makes use of the subjectivity of morals: While all such beings consider themselves to be both Lawful and Good, that need not be the case: Both patron, to whom fealty is sworn, and individual can deviate from this, and indeed, the class abilities reflect these variables, focusing not on the destruction of a monolithic evil as a concept, but rather on the enemy of the city/state/nation…you get the idea. The code of honor is provided and the class also gets some differentiation fighting tricks and home-turf-based options, generally making for a less angelic and monolithic, but more down-to-earth type of warrior that should fit rather well into games that prefer a more nuanced approach to matters of morals.

The next class would be the sand caster, a wizard variant who can fire blasts of slashing sands and substitute sands as focus and components of inexpensive components, which is btw. properly codified. Damage substitution, limited domain tricks…this one is really evocative and something I enjoy. The high-level (level 19) option nets limited fast healing after sandcasting, but consumes sand in the vicinity, preventing abuse.

The sand scarab would be another unchained monk-based variant, but, unlike the ascetic, does not gain good Will-saves. Focusing less on mysticism, their ki strikes don’t get the same supernatural tricks, but they can exert control over the base damage type caused, their bonus feats represent their more martial bent and ki power and style strike lists are modified in different ways, including a verminous hybrid shape as a ki power. Higher levels yield further vermin-themed abilities, like deciphering patterns from the behavior of different vermin they can observe, gaining divination-y abilities thus.

Now, while all of the options herein tie in rather neatly with Porphyra, the sharif provides a basic premise of sample city states by region, for, like the defender of the city, it is basically a variant take on the cleric that focuses instead on upholding the integrity of the city state in question. This ties in once more with the patronage idea and the modifications of the class emphasize player agenda: A city with a strong martial tradition may, for example, bestow a ranger style as part of its traditions and communion with legends from the city’s past may enhance summoning as an alternate choice here. All in all, once more a flavorful alternative.

The pdf comes with a bonus pdf, the sin spider attractor by Perry Fehr, who clocks in at CR 5 – basically a flabby spider that generates a lure as a twisted ambush predator. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it before, but yeah – like the critter.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a rules-language level, are very good. On a formal level, I noticed a couple of minor snafus. The pdf provides really nice full-color pieces for all classes and otherwise adheres to Purple Duck games’ printer-friendly 1-column standard with purple highlights. In a strange decision, the pdf sports no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment at this length.

Carl Cramér’s writing, based on those of C.A. Suleiman, is rather nice here: This pdf can be seen as a good way to illustrate how the design paradigms introduced in Unarmed and Dangerous may be applied in a seamless manner; beyond that, the variant classes fit within the themes we’d expect: The topics of Arabian nights or quasi-Egyptian contexts and Porphyra’s own, diverse regions all make for fitting origins for these variant classes. Rules-wise, the respective variants all make meaningful incisions into the base classes they’re derived from, providing a distinct feeling for all the tricks we’d associate with their concepts. In short, this is, as a whole, a well-crafted, inexpensive supplement that nets you a whole cadre of classes to set apart desert-dwelling heroes and villains from those hailing from more temperate climates. This pdf does not reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to – at the low and fair price point, we arrive at a final verdict of 4 stars, in spite of the lack of bookmarks and minor snafus – this is worth checking out if you want to add some local color to your desert-themed adventuring.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Desert Classes of Porphyra
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Transcendent 10 - Feats of Synergy - Company of Dwarves
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2018 05:08:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

In this installment of the Transcendent 10-series, we take a look at feats made for dwarves. As before, we actually get notes on the usage/design rationale behind each feat, which is rather nice. The pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Helpful particularly for newer GMs: Since quite a few of these feats are based on morale and make use of this component, they often increase morale bonuses to avoid stacking issues. These increases do not necessarily presume there to be a previously existing bonus.

The feats are:

-Alloyed Courage: If the weakest member in the party attacks an enemy in combat, your morale bonus to attack and damage versus that target increase by +1, which increases to +2 at 11th level. Now, as a nice component, we actually do get guidelines to determine the currently weakest character, though a concise hierarchy would have been appreciated there. Still, from a design-perspective, I like this; as far as benefits go, not so much.

-Born of the Tireless Earth: Select an hour of birth; each day, on this hour, you regain daily powers and spells as though you had rested fully. However, rests at other times do NOT replenish spells, abilities etc. This is interesting in that it completely changes how dwarves behave on a foundational level when compared to other races. The legendary staying power can thus be represented by the boon and the retaining of fatigue/exhaustion means that they still have to rest. While this should never be combined with options to negate these two conditions, it is otherwise a feat I really, really like.

-Brother of Stone: For non-dwarves; gain +1 to Fort- or Will-saves and count as dwarf for the purpose of abilities etc. The feat also acts as Great Fortitude or Iron Will for prerequisite purposes. Kinda flavorful, but feels more like a trait for me.

-By No Other Hand: When casting a spell with a material component or focus you created or target a masterwork item you created, you increase CL by 2. I like this. Its benefits could be a bit more exciting, but the flavor fits.

-Fire in the Belly: Drink alcohol as a move action, or two doses as a full round action. Per dose, you gain one spirited point. Maximum for these points is Con-mod, and they last for Con-mod hours since the last drink. As a free action you can spend any of these points for a morale bonus to the next d20-roll; however, the roll after that takes an equal penalty. I like what was attempted here, be we know how this will be somewhat swingy, with players attempting to use the penalized d20-rolls for Perception or Knowledge. The penalty should pertain the same type of roll instead. Also: Penalties aren’t typed in PFRPG.

-Oath of Stone: Choose Con- or Wis-mod. A number of times (not per day – these pertain oaths and fulfilling them!) equal to the chosen modifier, you may choose to swear a sacred oath. You record the wording and roll a d20. A number of times per day equal to the chosen modifier, you may substitute the roll of the oath for saving throws, provided failing the save would interfere with the oath. Pretty cool – but can also be sucky if you have bad luck on the roll; I’d probably provide a bonus or minimum value (like 11 or 15) depending on how well the player RPs the oath.

-Pride of Craft: +1 to atk and damage when wielding a weapon you have crafted. When wearing armor or shield you made, gain +1 to AC instead. If fighting with both, you may choose to allocate the bonus anew to offense and defense each round. The bonus increases to +2 at 11th level. Provides a bit of choice and rewards making your own stuff. Solid, if not too exciting.

-Rhythm of the Forge: Okay, this one is problematic. As a free action, allied dwarves may go in your bardic performance; for each dwarf that joins in, your bard level is increased by 1, with a maximum of Cha bonus or ½ bard levels, rounded down. This is pretty circumstantial in its benefits and imho should have a maximum range.

-Warforge (Item Creation): You may Craft Magic Arms and Armor (not capitalized properly) as though you had the feat, using BAB as CL. Every odd level lets you choose a spell with a spell level up to equal half your level, allowing you to craft as though you knew it. Okay, this one is gold. While personally, I’d let the dwarf choose one spell per level, this is good representation of the traditional dwarven crafting angle.

-Will of Stone: Use Con for Will-saves instead of Wis-mod, but effects that decrease Fort-saves now also apply to Will. Kudos: No double affecting. I usually hate feats like this, but the potential double-edge makes me like it. Kudos.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are good. On a rules-language level, we have a couple of minor deviations, but none that impede the functionality of the content herein in a bad way. The pdf adheres to a 2-column full-color standard, is pretty printer-friendly and sports no interior artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Christen N. Sowards’ feats for dwarves are somewhat less exciting that his caster feats, in that they provide ore down to earth (haha) benefits. That being said, this may well be one of the few pdfs where I’d actually champion an upgrade of potency regarding couple of the feats herein. You see, I like the ideas of pretty much every feat, and they range from brilliant (Born of the Tireless Earth) to somewhat underwhelming (Brother of Stone); however, all of them have a distinct identity, and that is worth something. I also liked that they attempt to do interesting things. While there are a couple of true gems herein, I ultimately consider the pdf to be a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side, for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Transcendent 10 - Feats of Synergy - Company of Dwarves
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Xeno File Issue 5: Monsters as BIG as Starships!
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2018 04:33:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fifth installment of the Xeno Files-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

So, here we get something I really wanted to see – basically living starships and ginormous critters, for Starship-combat. The first of these would be the Hidd, which clock in at tier 15 and have created, in a cool twist, the hiddarrok – these folks are native outsiders with Con and Wis +2, -2 Cha and 5 HP. They have blindsense (vibration), a burrow speed of 20 ft and darkvision as well as +2 racial bonus on gunnery checks. Not the biggest fan of the race as presented, but they are, in essence, intended as adversaries anyway. Evil and greedy, the Hidd has a rather nasty strategy to pillage places…really cool.

Before you ask: The statblocks of the creatures herein depict them as starships, but also take their living nature into account, with appropriate critical damage tables. It should also be noted that each of the creatures within comes with surprisingly detailed methods for encounter and adventure-creation. The second creature, for example, includes a brief planet profile in the write-up.

The second such vast creature would be the tier 9 Millimaxxus, a gigantic jelly-fish like thing almost entirely composed of electricity, using its tractor tentacles and jamming capacities to hunt. With escape propulsion and a surprisingly stunning, amazing artwork, this one really rocks!

The final creature herein, or rather, creatures, would be the Queg, who come in tier ½ for regular quegs, tier 1 for pod mothers. They can emit gravitational waves…and are actually pretty happy in vacuum, with the pod-mother capable of hijacking the mind of pilots during the helm phase. Queg actually are playful and seem to enjoy collecting shinies – at their size, that unfortunately may mean ships. And yes, the artwork depicts them as ginormous space dolphins. As far as I’m concerned, that’s awesome.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. I noticed a few typo-level hiccups, but nothing serious. Rules-wise, I noticed no issues here. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series. The artworks deserve special mention, with 2 of the 3 pieces being really awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity.

Beth and Dave Breitmaier provide something pretty amazing in this inexpensive pdf – they provide some really big threats to face down with starships, adding nice angles for the GM, while also providing unique abilities for the critters. The monsters range from darker themes to playfulness and run the general gamut of levels. In short, particularly considering the really low price point, there is nothing to really complain about here. This is a nice, unpretentious little pdf, well worth 5 stars, with my seal of approval added as well. I’d love to see a whole book of such vast threats!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Xeno File Issue 5: Monsters as BIG as Starships!
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