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Snow White
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:14:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 243 pages, not counting front cover, back cover, editorial, etc; if you take away the KS-thank-you page and the SRD, this huge book still remains 240-pages strong. My review is based primarily on the hardcover of this book.


I backed Snow-White on kickstarter, but have contributed to this massive book.


All right, first: A brief history of this project. Back in 2013, AAW Games released a two-part adventure-saga as part of their A-series of modules, set in the campaign setting of Aventyr. The adaptation of Snow-White as a module was heavily inspired by traditional, non Disney-fied versions of the folktales; basically, the ones I grew up with, and did a LOT of things right - with several highlights and takes on the tropes, a lot of imaginative potential and unique environments, the series made my Top Ten list of that year. When the kickstarter was launched to expand upon this already excellent basis, I knew I'd have to get it. Now, a massive hardcover in full color graces my book shelf - but has getting the revised version been justified?


The short answer to this question is frankly "OH YES!!". The more complex answer is a bit longer. Before diving into the meat of this mega-adventure, let me clearly state that this is not just a module - this book basically doubles as a city/wilderness sourcebook and has greatly expanded upon the concepts of the original iteration of the adventures. All right, but before we do: A piece of advice for both players and GMs - try to not SPOIL yourselves - this mega-adventure works best when you do not immediately know what you're actually playing, so put up those GM-screens, fellows.


In order to avoid SPOILERS, potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs around? So the Klavekian kingdom and its more loyal vassals often have rather strained relationships - there is racism versus non-humans, the ever-present tax man looming and then monsters and hazards both mundane and magical exist in the world of Aventyr...plenty of work for adventurers. Unless you're at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, the war is far away and the resident adventurers are out there smiting the villains, who wisely hide in their hell-holes to bide their time until more turbulent times arrive. Indeed, in the lull and pastoral idyll seem to be but the precursor for a new golden age for the town of Morsain: The daughter of the town's lord Herttua Valta is about to be wed - to royalty, no less: Gorgeous, intelligent Lumi Valkea Valtatytar is about to be joined in wedlock to none other than the Klavekian Prince Ruhtin - and, seeing how the job-situation is pretty bad, the PCs have accepted guard duty - not knowing they'll be guarding nothing short of a royal wedding!


Suffice to say, the module thus begins in an unconventional manner - guarding the festivities, after all, is not an undertaking you embark on while armed to the teeth with weapons of magical mass destruction and in grimy, blood-caked armor - the PCs will be pretty much naked regarding the magical arsenal, which provides a unique change of pace from the get-go. So, Castle Morsain - in the original, this place was little more than a backdrop for the mechanically relevant components. Here, nothing could be further from the truth: The castle sports a huge full-page illustration (one of many, just fyi) and detail-wise even explains the flag-based warning-system employed. Moreover, the massive castle actually sports drop-dead-gorgeous isometric full-color maps made by map wizard and heir apparent to Jonathan Roberts, the one and only Tommi Salama. Yes, I may be a bit ecstatic regarding them...but they're just so beautiful!


Ähem, beyond the gorgeous presentation, the beginning of the module has been streamlined - in order to prove their mettle, PCs will still have to deal with the security of the castle's respective rooms, which conspicuously contain a significant gauntlet of traps - now here's the interesting component: The respective traps escalate in power - in a surprisingly linear way, but they did so in the original...the trick this time around is that the skill DCs provided generally sport degrees of success. Of course, the increasingly devious traps and poisons employed only are a means to determine the capabilities of the PCs and, if in doubt, there is a means to save lethally poisoned PCs in the guise of the famous and beloved queen attendant Haijyin. Of course, this should already incite paranoia and distrust - are the grinning ragamuffins (think of them as a cross of racial-equality/anarchist/anonymous-like guild) behind the traps? To make that clear - No. The traps are there to provide a means to judge the competence of the respective adventurers - for, eventually, after investigating the local crème-de-la-crème, sooner or later, Lumi is very likely to drop down during the pre-wedding banquet - and a member of the elusive group is running - fast.


Whether or not the PCs manage to grab the fugitive, Lumi will be unconscious, courtesy of a brilliant, nigh impossible to detect 5-component-based super poison. Under the stern auspice of a less than amused prince Ruhtin, the PCs will be assigned guard duty....and, obviously, the night will not be kind: Awoken by a hustle, the PCs will have to storm Lumi's room, only to witness swarms upon swarms of bats and even dire bats trying to abduct Lumi! Worse, each area of effect attack in the noble chambers will be VERY expensive...so yeah, fireballing the swarms is NOT a smart move... This particular encounter was a bottleneck in the original module - well, this time around, we have scaling bats depending on the capability of your PCs and the proceeding chase across the roofs is wonderfully detailed and smart. And yes, the module goes on whether the PCs manage to retrieve her or not - Lumi will be kidnapped...potentially by a doppelgänger of a PC, whisking her away right from under Ruhtin's eyes, implicating the PCs to be in cahoots with the ragamuffins...but I'm getting ahead of myself.


On the next day, the PCs will certainly have their work cut out for them - after convincing Ruhtin of their noble intentions, the hunt is on - how exactly, well, that does very much depend on the sensibility of your group - thanks to a scroll of locate object, the PCs may actually find a culprit - who promptly dies when captured, of course...but there is a more..let's say, wicked: The Huntsman, with Lumi in tow, leads 4 horses into the woods - and the PCs will have a highly complex and entertaining chase on their hands (it is here that you can use the chase-deck, should you own it) - the chase offers alternate obstacles and is pretty brutal, as the PCs make their way through the never-ending sea of trees. However, the huntsman actually is VERY smart - 4 horses, an orb of misleading and invisible correct horse - unless the PCs are up to their very a-game, they'll be on a wild goose chase. But, alas - while Lumi may be lost in the woods, the Huntsman doesn't manage to finish her off - instead, he is destined to meet his end at the poisonous mandibles of strange albino-centipedes...and the PCs will stand in front of royalty without anything to show for. However, the albino-centipedes and complex investigations (with a streamlined mini-game) may provide a means that points towards the catacombs beneath caste Morsain, sealed beyond a logical lock with a connect-the-dots-puzzle.


However, before (or while the PCs are crawling through these catacombs, you may wish to have them explore the massive, fully detailed town of Morsain - the colossal place is a true fairy tale town - perhaps THE evocative fairy tale town. What do I mean by this? Well, know how I said that this was a sourcebook as well? Guess what: Morsain has enough material to run a whole campaign in it - and I certainly hope we'll see many more adventures here, for the potential is MASSIVE. If you consider yourself a scholar or someone versed in mythologies and fairy-tales, this will be an exercise in proving your mettle: No less than 144 locations (!!!) are provided, plus 6 delightful adventurers - these are fluff only, but hilarious: Sandoval Poe with his tame ravens Eddga and Alleynne is fun, but obvious; a kid grippli ranger is fun - but see, the 144 locations and shops cover...just about all of Grimm's Fairytales - including the more obscure ones. The truly astounding achievement about them, though, is how they all add a unique spin on the material, codifying it in the context of the roleplaying system: The Bremer Stadtmusikanten become polymorphed bards in the guise of animals; Hansel and Gretel are selfish witch-killers, spirit-bottled secrets sold by a night hag in disguise, shops that always see you make a loss, Bluebeard as a barber - all of this just breathes imaginative potential and literally can occupy you for years, should you choose to develop the material. The chapter also features rules for varying proficiencies in a given language (simple and long overdue!) and, as a whole, renders this massive chapter exceedingly compelling. Obviously, the city is fully mapped.


Speaking of maps - the aforementioned catacombs, which, in the original, were nothing more than a short filler, now are a proper dungeon, 4 levels strong, with the elements as a theme - before you groan at an elemental dungeon: One, it comes with superb isometric maps. Two, and more important, this is a dungeon for the thinking man - sure, you can waltz through this one - but the whimsical fairy-tale style riddles and puzzles contained in this dungeon actually make it a delight to run - with a lock of hair as rewards for braving the dangerous dungeon, the PCs return to an enraged prince and lord, if they manage to survive the snipers, that is. Only to have Hajyin teleport them after the hair, smack into the middle of the haunted forest - which has its name for a reason...and it's COLD. VERY COLD.


Remember when I said that this was also a wilderness sourcebook? Well, the haunted forest comes with a massive alchemist's journal of magical plants - from bladebark leaf to ghost flute shrooms, the massive chapter sports a huge array of lavishly illustrated plants that have intriguing alchemical uses, come with harvesting and use-information...and yes, this section also covers unique non-combative fauna - fey elk, frost crickets, frogs of ice, beetles with leprechaun-like faces...and have I mentioned the miniscule minitaurs or the laughing squirrels...there also are paralytic fleas...angel moths...and quite frankly, with these unique plants and creatures and the detailed random encounter pages, you can run encounters for weeks before even touching the main plot of this free-form section of the adventure. The haunted forest does have several places that can prove to be rather lethal, depicted in more detail, though. The first of these and one of my favorite hazard-encounters ever, would be the bottomless pit - a predatory, intelligent pit. No, I am not kidding. And yes, careless groups can actually be TPK'd by this beast.


More on the whimsical side, which is never far from the dark in this eerie forest, would be an opportunity to play kasta, a unique mini-game with some fey in their fully mapped glade...and also find out about a fey currently entombed in a coffin of crystal - this being is tied to another sub-storyline of the forest, namely the forest's maze. The maze now sports a much more complex design, has an absolutely gorgeous map, more versatile encounters - and, it has a twist: Like every good maze, it obviously has a minotaur - who waits, weapons drawn, at the center, guarding a girl forever asleep - though the strange fruit that caused this sleep can also be found in the forest, obviously their effect can only be broken by true love's kiss - something you either roleplay or check via tables provided. This girl is btw. tied to the fey - they both fell afoul of the dread fruit - and yes, the minotaur, fearsome though he may look, is the girl's guardian and family, so murder-hobos will potentially be in for a shock.


Anyways, sooner or later, the trail will lead the PCs, e.g. via the girl they just saved, to a hidden cabin close to some gushing waterfalls - and yes, the cabin is fully detailed with isometric maps as well...and by now home of the 7 dwarves (AAW Games' crew being represented in their awesome artwork - including my dear departed friend Joshua...he would have loved this...) who are currently kinda-but-not-really are holding Lumi hostage/thinking on what to do with her - after all, the position of non-humans in Klavekian society is anything but nice: Capable and actually nice, their traps and fighting capabilities are pronounced, so a friendlier approach may be in order - whether by fight or party, the misunderstanding is hopefully cleared - but meanwhile Lumi has fallen to the wiles of her adversary, put into stasis by the queen attendant's cursed items, guarded by dangerous flora - and yes, you can actually run this first and then have the PCs search the forest for potential cures, leading to the girl etc. - the whole haunted forest, ultimately, is thoroughly modular - and so is the solution to this module.


You know, there is more than one way to awaken Lumi - alive or unconscious, in love or not, allied with the dwarves or not - and this ultimately determines the social climax of this module, the homecoming - no less than 8 (!!!) final scenarios are detailed for the GM. Now here's the catch, though - the PCs may, even after all this, potentially not realize what they played...or they lack evidence of the exceedingly cunning queen attendant - who has a superb means of escape in her repertoire. So yes, she will probably get away...but there may be a wedding after all. Sure, the honorable and reasonable scenario sees a wedding with Ruhtin, right? Well, I always had a thing for pale, black-haired women with red lips and blue, grey or green eyes...so personally, were I playing this module as a PC...I'd try to go for true love, become an outlaw and try to fulfill my childhood fantasy of living happily ever after with Lumi...which would put the mightiest nation of Aventyr hot on my trail...but I guess that would be a tale for another module...


Now obviously, this module is not limited to the adventure - there is an array of unique magical items to be found in here and none other than Wolfgang Baur has crafted an array of unique spells -which includes spinning straw to gold or animated, dancing hatchets? Have I mentioned the wall of animated gloves that may chaotically poke or slap you around? There is also a poison- and trap-index, full stats for 3.5 and PFRPG and Ed Greenwood provides a tragic twist on the classic tale in his "The Things We Do To Chase Beauty" short story, which expresses sympathy for the devil. If you're not familiar with the unredacted tale...the classic Grimm-tale is included herein...oh, and one thing made me grin from ear to ear: You know, all those gorgeous, massive maps? They come in an appendix...and with extra, player-friendly, key-less versions. And yes, beyond the isometric ones, we ALSO get top-down versions - now THIS is how map-support for such a premium module ought to be done - absolutely gorgeous!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - for a book of this size in particular, the editors did a great job. A special shout-out to the layout artists Justin Andrew Mason and Jensen Toperzer - the 2-column layout is STUNNING - with apple blossoms and apples as borders for read-aloud texts and gorgeous initials, this very much aesthetically feels like a beautiful, old fairy tale tome. Similarly, the artists Mates Laurentiu, Jacob Blackmon, Justin Andrew Mason, Jen Page, Bruno Baxila, Eric Quigley, Jack Holiday and Jeff Ward have achieved something remarkable - in spite of the different artists, this book's huge array of artworks, many of which span whole pages, are not only original - they have a distinct, unified visual identity and style, basically think about classic roleplaying artwork in full color quoting fairy tale imagery. THEN add the absolutely superb maps by Tommi Salama, player-friendly versions included. Oh yeah, the electronic version is fully bookmarked - but if you have the option, get the hardcover. It's gorgeous.


SERIOUSLY, if you usually skip my conclusion's first paragraph, please read it this time around - these folks deserve recognition for the fantastic work delivered. This is one of the most beautiful, huge adventures I've ever read and seriously is so concise in its aesthetic direction it is a pure joy to just flip through the pages.


Stephen Yeardley, Jonathan G. Nelson and Will Myers, with contributors Jacob Blackmon, Justin Andrew Mason and Joshua Gullion (R.I.P.) have taken an already legendary two-part-saga and crafted something thoroughly outstanding from it. Where the original modules had some bottlenecks and minor filler places/weaknesses, this new iteration of the material is absolutely legendary in every way: What was before a bland filler mini-dungeon is now a thoroughly unique dungeon; what was before a bit opaque or linear is now thoroughly modular: If your PCs out-or underperform in the module, the narrative is there to catch you - basically, this module is now as nonlinear as it can be and can be considered a thoroughly unique take on a tale as old as time. The adversaries are smart and the book goes one step beyond - the city of Morsain and the haunted forest would be great stand-alone source-books - even as "only" a scavenging ground of backdrop for your own stories, this is a massive success and worth every cent of the asking price a hundredfold -personally, I'm particularly impressed by the immense feat of making a linear tale we all know thoroughly modular and FRESH.


So no, there can be no question, not even an ounce of a doubt regarding the final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval + BUY THIS!!!-recommendation. As a reviewer, I face only one conundrum - the original modules already made my Top Ten-list of a year (which should tell you something about how good this is now!) and I have a policy of not nominating books twice for my Top Ten lists - otherwise, e.g. Strange Magic's constituents or Ultimate Charisma would grace my lists in the respective follow-up years. As crunch-books, I could at least designate them as EZG-essentials, though.


However, there is a huge amount of new material in this book...so what to do? Well, Frog God Games' Cyclopean Deeps was a two-part-saga and Part II has been retroactively added to my Top Ten of 2014. Here, however, that wouldn't feel right, for this would score higher than the initial books. I thought long and hard...and know what? This deserves a Top Ten of 2015 spot...so I'm cheating my own system, hopefully retaining my fairness regarding the other nominees: This gets an unranked bonus-spot on my Top Ten of 2015 -this would be on the list, high on it, were it not for the previous wins. Consider this as basically a thoroughly impressive, wonderful book that could work just as well with younger audiences. I know who I'm running this for soon... Ähem...oh yeah, once again: Get this!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White
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Urban Dressing: Bridge Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:10:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


All right, so what one may easily forget these days would be that once, not all too long in the industrious past of us homo sapiens, rivers presented significant obstacles - I think it may take a hiking trip and stumbling over even a small river to drive home the importance of bridges for commerce and traveling - much more so when water may hide fantastic threats! Thus, it should come as no surprise, that at least partially the first 100-entry strong table of sights and sounds herein is devoted to the aspects of commerce and traveling...and, surprisingly, with an entry that should resonate with everyone: A sign " You must be this tall to cross." What's obvious racism versus the small folks resonates because it quotes the "Must be this tall to ride"-signs we loathed in our childhoods. VERY smart! Similarly alive bridges that ask you to get off their back (or is it a camouflaged creature?) add a sense of the weird to the plentiful entries sporting more grounded, mundane things to behold.


The second table deals with businesses that can be found in bridge towns and from city engineers to rickshaws, tax offices and similar places, we have a nice array of diverse places that emphasize the theme and add dimensions to it - as soon as a bridge can only be covered by rickshaws, for example, you may wonder why...and perhaps your mind goes down the same paths as mine and thinks about aerial security like wyverns or manticores eating horses...


Now if that doesn't do the job, then you'll be very glad to see the deviation from the formula exhibited herein - for instead of fluffy NPC-write-ups, this installment features no less than 50 unique sample bridges: Whether one constructed from a huge skeleton, gargoyle-nests or bridges with central gongs - the entries are thoroughly inspired, remarkable indeed, and deserve being called great - personally, I hope for future installments to feature similarly evocative lists.


Finally, the book closes with 20 complications - which include the customary troll demanding payment to an odd phenomenon, where the PCs cross a bridge...and end off getting off a completely different one! This phenomenon alone is an adventure or even campaign in itself. And what if the mayor asks the PCs to round up homeless people? Do they accept for safe passage? Only you and your players will know once you visit these bridge towns.


Conclusion:


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


Josh Vogt has turned the mixed bag of a series that urban Dressing once was and turned it into a reliable source of pure dressing-excellence, never really hesitating to try to one up himself. The deviation from the established formula of tables exhibited in this one further refines the series in my book, rendering this installment quite frankly pure, inspiring excellence - with his curious trademark blending of quasi-historical realism and the fantastic and yes, in instances, the weird, Josh Vogt delivers a furiously excellent Urban Dressing that stands out even among the numerous great installments he has crafted - my final verdict will hence clock in at five stars + seal of approval, granted without even the smallest semblance of a doubt.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Bridge Town
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #2: The Spirit Bottle
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:05:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


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


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


This is not your usual mini-dungeon: See, the spirit bottle is pretty much the worst tavern you can find yourself in: Owned by a night-hag, the PCs will have to visit this place...and when the current patrons, a derro, doppelganger and barghest (I know there's a good joke in this constellation...) aren't ample clue - yes, this is a dangerous assignment. So basically, the PCs can do this the Diplomatic or...more combative way - and they both have their challenges. Oh, and the pdf sports a table of 8 weird spirit-bottles with different magic effects, entries for how they look...and immediate reactions upon opening them...some of which can get ugly very fast...


Conclusion:


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


Stephen Yeardley is a wizard of mini-dungeons. Whenever I think he's done all you can do with the limited space, the limited word-count, he pulls off these amazing stunts. This is a glorious set-piece and could easily become either a one-shot or a permanent campaign-fixture to the evil underbelly of fantastic society. Absolutely awesome in every regard...and better yet, FREE. This would be 5 stars + seal of approval even sans being FREE. It's free, though, so don't hesitate, get this beauty NOW!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #2: The Spirit Bottle
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #1: Fitcher's
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:01:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


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


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


Lintu Fitcher is an uncommon person in the town of Morsain - he is not only an avant-garde necromancer and taxidermist extraordinaire...he's also a deranged serial killer that has his undead procure "raw materials" - 3 weekly incidents are provided, allowing for a slow-build-up to the secret tableau's finishing touches, his twisted work almost complete.


The PCs will have to do some careful legwork to avoid a nasty trap, compromising the man while authority is in range to cover him (he's got friends in high places)...but sooner or later, the PCs will be able to enter his basement - where not only the twisted madman and his undead await in a truly twisted area, we also get a full buff/defense-suite with a round-by-round break-down of actions. Now this is how it's done!


Conclusion:


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


Stephen Yeardley amazes me time and again - what he can wrestle out of those little mini-dungeons is absolutely amazing and impressive: Dark, twisted, with a whimsical edge, this is a SUPERB mini-dungeon...oh, and it's currently FREE. This would be 5 stars + seal of approval even if it were a for pay title...but as provided, it is just an amazing little piece you should get ASAP. Now. Download it now!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #1: Fitcher's
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Directive Infinity X
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2016 11:09:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 2 pages of editorial, leaving us with 53 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I received this module prior to public release and playtested it. It was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.


The premise is pretty much fantasy modern day: In a world that is pretty much like our own, monsters and the like are common and pose a significant risk to the populace. The government has two choices for the truly dangerous creatures out there: Submit to a painless death or be confined and become property of the state for scientific scrutiny in one of the Infinity Directive's hidden prisons. The PCs are agents of 7th level and the module assumes a medium XP-track and get Exotic Weapon proficiency (Firearms) as well as Technologist.


...and this is as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


So, the module begins with a detailed introductory briefing - the agents are told that a certain secret prison facility, Facility X, has been compromised: While the dimensional barriers are intact, the neurotoxin to pacify the powerful inmates has not been released, evacuation protocols are in place. The facility is on lock-down and no one knows what's going on in facility 10 - so yeah - there you have it. On the plus-side, there is only one way to enter or exit the facility, so no huge amount of powerful inmates will scour the land...for now. The agents receive dossiers for the most powerful of inmates - and they are awesome: Handouts, fully realized each and every one of them, they bring the agents up to what to expect...and it sure ain't pretty. Urdefhan death cult leader. Intelligent frost drake. Quickling con-artist. Vampire. A soul-bound mannequin called Experiment 42...hag sisters...a psychotic efreet...yeah, this will be fun.


Shaped cylex explosives may prove to be important - and thus, the agents are off to deal with the situation. Below a storage tank, the PCs can enter the sewers - and they'll have a brutal welcome committee: For one, they will encounter cranial crabs. Think of them as headcrabs with laser torches that detonate, but instead of killing you, they try to render you helpless and implant cranial bombs in your skull. Fun. Even cooler: Swarm-version included. Once this module is over, PCs will HATE them. Oh, have I mentioned the cyborgs? I should mention the cyborgs. For example the cyborg scrags with chainsaws for hands. And yes, the artwork makes them even more awesome than I can convey here. I mean, come on: Scrags with chainsaws for hands. YES.


More importantly, the actions of the PCs pretty much matter from the get-go, for the peculiar location of the complex makes flooding a VERY real option/potential problem: The maps of the complex(based on the modular dungeon-maps by Gaming Paper) come with an easy codification that lets you track flooding of the prison.


Because we know that cranial crabs and cyborg brineborn marsh giants and the rogue's gallery down there isn't yet enough of a challenge, adding flooding to the mix makes things even more interesting...oh, and yes, the overseer robots are compromised and dangerous...and the traps spread throughout the complex are nothing to sneeze at either. Oh, and guess what? The true mastermind behind the incident has a timeline - the longer the PCs take, the more creatures/villains from the rogue's gallery will come under the gray eminence's control. Have I btw. mentioned the barghest serial killer or the werewolf? The prisoners shot chock-full with drugs?


Agents progressing far enough will also be harassed by doom-pronouncing whispers and it soon becomes apparent that simulacra pose a significant risk. Speaking of risks: Laser tripwires. Gravity mines. EMP...and there is a fission reactor the PCs better stabilize...oh, and that pesky permanent gate must fall...it may non-functional for now...but for how long? Oh, and yes, the final confrontation (no, not spoiling against who or what) is downright delightful and brutal!


(And here's to hoping that none of the high-profile prisoners got away...otherwise, the agents will have their next assignment cut out for themselves...)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches, the overall presentation is solid and well done. Layout adheres to Gaming Paper's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports 11 glorious dossiers for the villains as hand-outs. The artwork provided is surprisingly copious, in gorgeous full-color...and here's the kick: See that front cover? The internal artwork is the same, high level of quality - and visualizes perfectly quite a lot of the adversaries herein. Showing the players the artwork really works well here - kudos! Cartography is based, as mentioned before, on Gaming Paper's modular rooms, which per default are player-friendly. The pdf sports no extra player-friendly maps beyond that, but I won't hold that against it. EDIT: Now, this module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, eliminating basically my one complaint!


Stephen Rowe knows how to craft absolutely awesome adventures - this one basically reminded me of a glorious, classic Marvel storyline, wherein Venom instigated a prison break in the super villain prison. The module does practically everything right: It sports unique adversaries, does a great job of blending modern day concepts with fantasy and scifi-elements sans making things awkward, sports cool new critters, is challenging, has options for social encounters, environmental hazards and also features smart foes. If anything, this module made me wish it was more than a one-shot, that it had a whole 300-page book of setting information and delightful prisoners/villains, SCP and/or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.-style. This is an extremely entertaining modern module with generally awesome aesthetics. This module sports so many downright awesome components and ideas, with the handouts being the icing on the cake - so yes, Stephen Rowe once again proves that yes, he can write very good crunch...but oh boy, is he a master of writing brilliant modules! This is absolutely inspired and will leave you asking for more!


My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Directive Infinity X
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Remedial Tinkering - Arcanotech
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 18:43:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition


The latest Tinker-expansion clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This expansion of the tinker base-class ties in with the superb Happy Little Automata and the Pimp my Alpha-expansion, though neither are required for the use of this one. Thematically, we have an interesting deviation from the feeling of the tinker - whereas, so far, the class has been pretty much designed as a science-y class regarding its abilities, we have the magical now suffuse the class - this is represented by the new arcanotech invention subtype. Since magic tends to make mechanics malfunction, only one such invention can be applied to a blueprint at a given time.


We begin this supplement after a recap of the invention subtypes with 4 innovations: Starting at 6th level, you may take the shielding innovation which adds Int-mod temporary hit points sans fixed duration whenever you deploy an automaton. Based on this, you can learn Alpha Shielding, which lets you realign these when deploying an automaton while the alpha is within the master's presence ability. The Buffered Construction innovation breaks the "only one arcanotech invention"-cap and extends it to 2 per blueprint and Cybertech Arcanotech lets you choose two sorc/wiz cantrips, which you then can cast at will at full character level, with Int as governing attribute.


The latter can be further upgraded to grant access to two 1st level SPs from the sorc/wiz spell-list, which you then can cast 2/day each. A third innovation (also a greater one) grants 3 2nd level SPs that can be cast 1/day. Finally, a high-level greater innovation sets Alpha Int to 12 and makes you choose one school other than transmutation. The alpha learns to cast spells from this school and transmutation as though it were a 3rd level wizard, but CL can never be enhanced by any means.


All right, so what kind of inventions await us? Well, for example, Alphas may learn to activate 1st level and lower wands as directed standard actions. Regular automata can only learn 0-level wand use. Personally, I'm not a fan of flat-out ignoring 2 DR of any type and would have preferred scaling according to DR value, but considering damage output of physical automata attacks, I can live with it. It should be noted that the follow-up tricks allow for 5 and 10 DR to be ignored - the latter of which can be nasty versus creatures with DR/epic, since that DR usually isn't that high.


VERY interesting: Autoexecution Script: This lets an automaton execute an offensive invention that requires a directed action as part of an attack directive...and yes, it can be installed multiple times, at increasing BPs.


The arcanotech delivery system is...EDIT: now properly balanced: Master Crouch has eliminated this exploit, which nets + 0.5 stars, as it eliminated the one balance-concern of this pdf.


On the plus-side, adding weapon enhancement bonuses and special abilities of +1 value is interesting. (Yes, upgrade to +2 available for both; upgrade to +3 available for the enhancement bonus.) There would also be basically a cantrip catapult for evocations that can sling up to one of two evocation cantrips when used in proper conjunction. A failsafe to mitigate kamikazes is sure useful at 0 BP - but it also takes a bit of the whacky planning aspect away. Personally, not a fan, but if you're all for maximum control, well, then, I guess you'll like it.


Now what really intrigued me would be lead paint - a paint invention that eats the first 5 points of spell damage. Here's the deal, though: Regardless of damage type! Considering the combo-potential of paint, that's pretty awesome! Also rather nice: A means for an automaton to 1/day grab a harmless, potion-base-spell out of the air and create a potion - and no, it can't be sold, but yes, it can be upgraded for more daily uses.


Skill programming gets an upgrade as well, allowing for the use of the skill as though the automaton was a real boy. (i.e. as though it were a regular character) Sniff Okay, so notice an absence of the whacky so far? Well, there is a collection of these: The Toaster-Invention-tree! No, not gonna use the acronym here... The base invention allows the automaton, which now has a built-in toaster, to do the cooking if it has the skill and arms. With a follow-up invention, the toaster can go thermonuclear, inflicting bonus fire damage...and it has a synergy...with toaster of TERROR! 3/day, these automata can blast forth short-range cones of incendiary material that may light foes on fire. The aforementioned invention increases the damage output of the cone by +1d6. If that were not enough, the toaster of terror's blasts can, at high levels, ignore resistance, increase the reach of the cone and render targets shaken as an added insult to the injury of being killed by a walking toaster.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on either a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' no-frills printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf is art-light. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


So, I did honestly fear Bradley Crouch extending the complexity Moloch that is the tinker to the arcane sphere - but surprisingly, for the most part, the content herein is more than solid - the toaster builds are hilarious and tricky and the weapon-upgrades for automata have been long expected - so, on one side, I do love this pdf. While I'm not a fan of flat DR-ignoring, that's not bad. EDIT: The one balance-concern has been reined in. No more complaints.


That being said, the pdf does offer a plethora of imaginative and cool options otherwise - I can't wait to see what combos my players come up with regarding lead paint, for example. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, EDIT: rounded now up due to the one balance-concern missing.


ENdzietgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Remedial Tinkering - Arcanotech
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Mini-Dungeon #028: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 17:52:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right! The PCs are contacted by artificer Vythis Targain, who hires the PCs to investigate an ancient tomb complex. Inside the complex, the PCs can find a weird throne - and have already entered the realm of dreams, where a puzzle based on gems ad (unfortunately, trial and error) awaits. I like the puzzle, I loathe the lack of options to find out how it works.


In the complex where Dream Spiders, Dream Eaters and an Animated Dream of ages past must be defeated, the PCs can unearth dream rods - one ruby, one sapphire and an emerald...and if they solve aforementioned puzzle, they can escape the dreams and use these rods to insert them into sarcophagi in the first room, where they were teleported first into dreams, resulting in a challenging final encounter versus mummies.


Conclusion:


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


Justin Andrew Mason's mini-dungeon is one I really wanted to like - I love the inclusion of a brief puzzle and the pdf manages to instill a sense of antiquity in spite of its brevity and breathes the spirit of sword and sorcery - this could be taken directly from the Chronicles of Conan. However, at the same time, trial and error puzzles are unpleasant, particularly when the codified rooms by rods would have made for a great way to provide subtle, logical hints. As provided, the mini-dungeon instead, as much as I like it, feels more opaque than it should be. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars, though fans of sword and sorcery may still want to take a look.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #028: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams
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The Grande Temple of Jing
Publisher: Hammerdog Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 04:15:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This mega-adventure dungeon-crawl-saga clocks in at 505 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page backer-list, 4 pages of blank space for notes, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 493 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


So what is the Grande Temple of Jing? Well, basically, this is the personal playing ground of the trickster deity Jing, who baits people into entering the temple with promises of untold riches - but exiting the temple is pretty difficult. The stay is limited to a number of Jing days, which (imho, annoyingly) deviate from solar days in being cumulative - 6 solar days would equal 3 Jing days, for example. These reset the dungeon upon elapsing. Leveling up in the temple requires an offering of gold equal to the number of XP needed to gain the next level...so, does this mean TOTAL XP or the difference between old and new level? No idea. After this donation, characters auto-level. The temple recognizes factions: Visitors, Honored Guests, Trespassers, Templers, Devout and Defilers - certain effects inside the temple affect only those that belong to a given faction.


The temple has 10 so-called Grande Levels, which can be divided into sublevels by Jing-blocks. These are unique and usually are closed when encountered. They block all teleportation and scrying as well as means to bypass them and are impervious to damage. Cloaked blocks are undetectable until uncloaked. Phased blocks are keyed to creatures and objects - these beings can pass through them. Non-keyed entities treat the block as solid. Each Jing block can be opened by a lever or similar means. The Grande elevator and highway represent the basic means of traversing the levels. Thankfully, the phased blocks are pretty well-explained and even sport a visual representation illustrating how they work. Various Jing statues with unique benefits and challenges associated can be found here as well. There are additional peculiarities: Getting on Jing's bad side can prove problematic for divine casters (though it's admittedly not easy to accomplish), which may result is less reliable spell gaining. Jing's favor is codified in certain blessings that unlock e.g. the aforementioned highway and similarly, combat-relevant blessings can be gained. The most important of these would be the boon of life - basically, an extra life. Upon dying, you dematrialize and are reconstituted at the next Jing day in a preset location. And yes, this means that dying can be actually used as a tactical gambit, provided you have the boon...


Now the dungeon also sports a specific design decision I am not a fan of: Namely, it cripples your PC's capabilities in several places: The trickster god's dungeon forces you to play his game and e.g. flight, teleportation and similar tricks are often impeded or outright countered from the get-go. More interestingly, there are special jingxes, which can change how a spell works, instead e.g. limiting the distance you can fly. I get why this was done and the in-game rationale is sound as can be, but ultimately, I consider this to be cheating - the challenge of high-level dungeon-crawls is to make them work, even with the PC's massive capabilities. Jing Blocks already constitute a pretty harsh restriction regarding the PC's options and these specific hampering options, ultimately, hurt the dungeon more than help it, as they enforce a particular way of dealing with the challenge "as the author intended" as opposed to "how PCs creatively solve it with their own, grown capabilities."


Flavor-wise, a unique currency is part of the deal and 7 sample storylines as (kinda) optional metaplots govern the idea, though ultimately all take a back seat to the narrative of the dungeon itself. (That being said, e.g. Xorn Poker is pretty cool - and yes, Jing is pissed they're not cutting him in on the action...) If the above was no indicator, Jing being a god of mischief, the mega-dungeon does offer instances where humor is the theme - which is nice to see. Missions and basic questlines as well as 20 sample end-games are suggested. 100 myths and rumors about Jing and the temple are provided in a dressing file, and the Grande Highway's function is explained in detail, so if the PCs manage to gain access to it, they'll have an easier time traversing the temple. Taking a further cue from video games, parties that are underleveled and stumble into certain areas can benefit from a "positive level" and, surprisingly, the rather complex implications of these are covered in sufficient precision. Speaking of the highway - there is a cool quest that requires the collection of the fully depicted song "The Language of Birds", which is based on exploration and fluff, rather than sheer numbers - it also makes the book feel magical and old-school in a good way.


That being said, if the video-gamey rules regarding extra lives and the like were no indicator, there also are a couple of room designators that obviously fit in that vein: There are, for example, gauntlets and arenas and vaults - defeating these challenges, some of which require Gold to participate in, reminded me of bonus levels in games like Devil May Cry and the like - basically, they are challenges you can (or have to) complete to progress or gain special benefits - and yes, I am vague here because the intent of this dungeon lies in a massive exhibition of modularity regarding quest-structure and, to some extent, rewards - this is very much designed to be exceedingly modular and can be taken apart for multiple modules, should you choose to go that way.


The pdf also sports information on Jing-enchanted items - these are keyed and sport drawbacks. The book sports a rather complicated-looking default configuration of the dungeon, though the actual use is less complex than the presentation may make you believe. Also, much like the highway's basic look, my pdf's text on this page strangely is less crisp than on other pages, making it somewhat harder to read - perhaps a compatibility issue with adobe's reader or something like that - not sure and since I don't have the print copy, I can't tell you whether this extends to the dead tree version.


Anyways, the dungeon ultimately begins with the entry-chamber level that already sports the leitmotifs of the temple - namely, a presence of puzzles, somewhat wacky entities, suffused humor...and a potential for death not being the end. Without spoiling too much, there is an exceedingly gruesome way to (temporarily) die that needs to be passed to enter the temple - fortes fortuna juvat...or rather "Jing favors the bold" is rather important to bear in mind.


If that component hasn't been ample clear so far...well, this is a huge module and as such, it is pretty much impossible for me to cover everything contained herein. As such, the following review will cover the contents of the Grande Temple at the very best in broad strokes.


I have already covered the entry chambers in as spoiler-free a means I can muster, but from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion of this review.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs left? Great, so the respective sublevels all have their individual taste, the first of which would be kobold caverns, sporting a corridor of exploding doors hiding the proper caverns. The kobolds are domesticating protean jellies in a rather nice take on dungeon-ecology. At the same time, their leader King Lickabutt XXIII and his familiar Buttlick's names may elicit some groans from some readers.


There would also be an interesting undead-themed mini-dungeon that sports skeletons that animate depending on whether they're in light or darkness - which is a cool idea that could have been used to make the level favor the smart and provide a significant challenge, but as presented, it's pretty easy. Beyond a pretty run-of-the-mill orc-dungeon, a filthy dungeon covered in sticky slime (difficult terrain) is more interesting.


Here, the dungeon breaks from the level by level formula and instead goes on to present the exploration of the upper highway and the first trial/gauntlet, which, btw., constitute size-wise smaller dungeon-levels of their own. The training ground would constitute a more uncommon level - here, the dungeon not only sports a potentially lethal adventuring training ground, it's also the first time the players REALLY need their wits, with multiple levers and moving platforms (and prohibited flying/climb-enhancers) making this partially a platformer level in the vein of old NES-classics - basically, it constitutes a kind of puzzle...and yes, the level sports riddles and a subquest that pertains the ultimate riddle.


There would also be a goblin-themed dungeon, complete with hangman-minigame of guessing names of deceased kings. There would also be the twinklestar caves, which allow the inhabitants of the temple to find much needed water. A smaller level would provide a means to test the mettle of the PCs in ziggurat-containing caves against troglodytes. The next gauntlet and trial are fire/cold-themed. More interesting would be a truly uncommon level that has challenges according to rough representations of children's board games - and yes, here, you can play operation with a storm giant...and there's a tipping maze... Unique and evocative!


Chaos is also a leitmotif in two levels - one depicting more the primal chaos-cultist caverns, whereas another represents more of a deranged trickster deathtrap dungeon with unique hazards and hobgoblin denizens. Crab-themed river caves (including an apparatus) and the front door of the dungeon (including the great library) are next before the next trial, gauntlet and arena-section.


In a further cave-complex, the god of cave-stars shatir sleeps the aeons away, while bat-people do their best to avoid it. A section of rolling hills contains its fair share of ogres is once again a pretty much run of the mill level, before the nexus of doors becomes interesting again - ridiculous amounts of odd door qualities and a surreal atmosphere make this puzzle-style level very atmospheric and intriguing, while the troll-laden swamp level is less unique.


Back to full-blown weirdness and uniqueness is the dungeon when the PCs find a level where cyclones are generated and exported. Oh, and yes, the PCs may have to fight rhinoceraptors here. Yes, they are exactly what they sound like. On the nitpicky side of things, the infernal observatory is all about demons and devils...and pretty much a solid, if none too remarkable level with a damsel-in-distress-angle that doesn't work for any group with a modicum of experience, but oh well. The pdf is back on its more imaginative side with further explorations of the highway and the trial that emphasizes choice and grants benefits based on them and similarly, the gauntlet of the Jing Ring, which emphasizes teamwork, ir rather interesting.


A huge forest, including the council of trees and a vast plateau makes for a ncie change of scenery and also provides an option to embark on various quests and storylines - this area alone can generate a vast array of roleplaying options. Further levels here are a ruined, decrepit snake-themed temple and a subterranean forest. There would also be a fey forest quest that brings the PCs to an ancient observatory and a living labyrinth, wherein weretaurs can be encountered. For PCs looking for something cooler, a journey into the heart of a remorhaz-breeding ground or a trip through the caverns of the yeti-queen may be more to their liking. Another level presents clouds upon which you can walk and massive (rather sketchy) harpy-town, while a more trite and less imaginative smithy of salamanders and devils provides potential for new weapons...or conflict.


Okay, it's been some time since we had something more novel, right? Well, there is a level that made smile from ear to ear: There actually is a level that features intelligent oozes that behave basically as though they were 1930s-gangsters. Yes, including the slimefather. Hilarious fun and unique - I just wished this level had more room to shine! Meanwhile, the turtlefolk of the Koniyata want their totem returned to their caves, while the gravecaves sport an ever-increasing doom-counter and, surprise, legions of undead. The deranged gauntlet of heads, comparably, is more tame, while another level is all about size increases and fighting giants - personally, I'd suggest the more detailed rules from Everyman gaming's Microsized Adventures here - apart from that novelty, the level doesn't have that much to offer.


Fun for people like yours truly: The level containing a river of gold actually has a duo of interesting characters called Sam...and Max. And yes, these guys will always be my favorite LucasArts-characters, so bonus points in excess of providing one of the more unique and evocative areas. An underwater level full of mantapeople, while the gray zoo sports an unpleasant guy who seeks to put colars on the PCs to transform them into monsters.. In a skull-and-bones-shaped level, evil outsiders and undead vie for control over one book of power (which usually means: PCs kill everyone), while stormwrack caverns sport mystic weather that contains e.g. transformative lightning. A one-page entry on the back-door exit and the last section of the highway are next...and then we're in the deeper levels, the first of which is an antimagic desert...at least until the rainbow phoenix is slain. Yeah. Ouch. Next up would be the quintessential mad cultist's dungeon, where they call forth cosmodingus, the horror beyond the stars...yeah, I don't consider the juvenile funny name-thing funny. Sorry.


The Hall of the gods provides shrines and a quest where the PC can worship...basically Jing posing as other gods and get passports that award a blessing if all are visited. A reference to New Jersey is part of the read-aloud text, just fyi. More to my taste would be the gauntlet of a deranged ettin mathcaster, who grades the performances of PCs and their deductive abilities. The 9th level of the temple would be the massive, aquatic-themed area, aptly named the undersea, and it sports a ghost ship (the Grim Fandango...of course), a corrupted water temple, the demesne of an ancient sea god. At the end of the road, the PCs can btw. challenge a particularly nasty CR 25 dragon with unique breath tricks in an arena, but personally, I really loved the surreal level devoted to madness more, where lethal icosahedrons, a sublevel made of frustration and a moebius strip need to be navigated.


A thanatotic titan can be found past norns and challenged aplenty (here's to hoping the PCs are up to their best behavior...) and there is also a superbly lethal flower-themed Grimtooth-gauntlet, which may be required to escape.


The book also contains a short fiction by Dave Gross, aforementioned song of birds, a crapton of riddles and a ton of creatrues/statblocks, though the latter generally fall into the "more restrained and less original than I would have expected"-category. The magic items introduced generally are pretty cool, though they sometimes fail in the details - the gearblade forces you to expend an immediate action upon rolling a natural 1 - but what if the wielder has none? The book also contains a huge amount of sample stashes by APL and two empty maps.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are generally impressive for a freshman offering of this size - one can see the hand of industry veterans in editing and formatting in this book -Amanda Hamon Kunz did a good job here - if you need any proof regarding my claim that editors are the unsung heroes of the industry, take a look at the player's guide. shudder While here and there a "see above" or reference to a "table above" now should refer to "below" or to the next page, probably due to a layout-change, generally, this is well done. On a rules-language level, the book is also concise for the most part, with glitches, when they do come up, pertaining minor aspects. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports A LOT of absolutely original, gorgeous artworks of top quality. The same, alas, cannot be said about the cartography - while some levels sport neat maps, others were made with dundjinni (which isn't bad per se!) but also used in a rather pixelated version. High-res would have been better here and I've seen what you can do with that software! A massive issue that gall me to no end, however, is that we do not get player-friendly maps for any level - no keyless versions, none sans secret doors...sigh On the plus side, the book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


As mentioned, I do not have the print version and hence can't comment on its virtues or lack thereof.


Lead author Danny O'Neill has amassed an illustrious cadre of additional authors: The book credits Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Ed Greenwood, Jim Ward, Grimtooth, Stan!, Chris Pramas, Larry Wilhelm, Matt Mayfield, Dave Gross and Kevin Andrew Murphy as authors, while a significant list of kickstarter backers has provided additional development.


The Grande Temple of Jing is a huge book. It took me a couple of months to properly take this apart, re-evaluate and get back to it, time and again. I feel I have arrived at a point where I can fairly assess the strengths and weaknesses of this book. As far as the strengths are concerned: The Grande Temple of Jing manages to capture the sense of wide-eyed wonder that featured so prominently in quite a few of the classics, it manages to recreate that sense of weirdness and happy-go-lucky-adventuring. In the best instances, it's a wonderful romp of the creative ID running wild, when dice golems try to pummel you to death, when you stumble into a level that represents boardgames we all know and love, when slime mobsters rule...this is where you fist-pump and smile from ear to ear.


However, there also are quite a few levels I'd consider boring filler; granted, they tend to have at least one interesting idea, but some levels are tiring, unimaginative slugfests through the same creatures, again and again. with so interesting builds or similar means of mitigating the dreary "it's the goblin level, guess what tries to kill you..."-symptom. Btw.: Thankfully, the annoying make-believe Jingcraft skill is not required a single time in this book. It's not even mentioned! So if you DID take it, heeding the advice of the horrid player's guide, hoping you'll do something unique with it...No. You won't. Retrain.


Speaking of creatures: Don't expect anything regarding interesting or innovative builds. There are reskins and modifications here and there, but unique templates or the like, smart builds or even a fully employed roster of PFRPG-classes can't be found in here - you'll be facing mostly creatures from the basic sources and core classes and monsters, spiced up, somewhat arbitrarily, via Jing's boons...which don't really interact well with their CR-ratings. Oh, and the "final boss", the toughest challenge? Ashardalon did that schtick better in the days of 3.X. Utterly lame and anticlimactic. 'Nuff said.


A massive plus of this mega-adventure, beyond its feeling of the magical, the truly "anything goes", would be the sheer amount of riddles, mini-games and puzzles - in a day and age where dungeons often devolve into slugfests, these are more than welcome and provide scavenging potential for campaigns galore and may even justify the purchase on their own. In fact, I'd rather recommend this as a scavenging ground for ideas than as a full-blown campaign. Why? Because no matter the overarcing storyline you choose...there is not much going on. The promise of fractions and the like in the beginning really doesn't pay off that much over the course of this mega-dungeon. The puzzles, flair and challenges are unique, but story-wise...well, let's just say that if your players want more in that regard, you'll need to do some work. Even Rappan Athuk and similar old-school mega-dungeons did a better job at creating a meta-narrative - here, there's nothing at stake but gold and glory.


Since we're speaking of Rappan Athuk, here's two subtle weaknesses of the Grande Temple of Jing: For one, even though the elevator and highway seek to evoke a sense of depth, there is not really one - the dungeon-levels themselves are rather flat and I'm quite frankly surprised to see no more 3-dimensional levels, even though several of the areas lend themselves perfectly to these peculiarities - the rules do offer for some great means to use more dimensions. Still, a good GM can add these elements...though ultimately, a GM seeking to run this will need to add more - expect no siege weapons or playful use of planar traits. You see, one of the core issues of the Grande Temple lies in its terrain: Basically, most areas and combat-centric regions could have frankly used a bit more going on: Pits, sharp rocks, exploding patches of shrooms, hazards...the like.


Instead, this book tends to use Jing's blanket effects...and they ultimately aren't utilized to their full extent...and they cheat. Basically whenever a particular spell or item would be especially useful, be it flight or teleport, the book prohibits it - not with a powerful effect you could potentially break for a short time...but with a blanket "doesn't work/screws you over" instead. This may fit thematically, but it also is lazy and enforces a playstyle rather than rewarding creativity. I consider that stifling and bad design - working WITH the system instead around it would have been significantly more elegant, particularly considering how the Jing blocks on their own could still work as progress blockers and prevent abuse. Still, it is when the book becomes prescriptive for the sake of enforcing a playstyle that it's the weakest.


Similarly, the video-game-esque components and design decisions here and there may annoy some of you out there, though they offer some of the more creative tricks - but ultimately, they also take away the threat of finality and...of the challenge. The Grande Temple of Jing is not easy; it can be brutal...but it lacks, by virtue of its design and particularly due to the not-so-interesting foes, the sense of stakes and ultimately, the sense of achievement that accompanies beating an old-school killer-dungeon. Since death is marginalized pretty much from the get-go, there is a higher acceptance for risk-taking, yes...but the sense of danger and threats is diminished. Sure, you can play the dungeon as though you were an adolescent again, doing odd and weird stuff sans fear of perma-death...but, to me, that was what made it fun. The challenge. The bragging-rights.


So...over all...I really did not like this book as a whole. As a whole, I will never run Grande Temple of Jing - too many components rub me the wrong way and I consider the framework itself to be not that intriguing.


BUT WAIT. This book DOES have a lot to offer - while falling short of perfection and the self-aggrandized goal of being the archetypical dungeon (No. Sorry. Just no. I can list at least 3 megadungeons at the top of my head that did that job better.), the Grande Temple of Jing excels at being a truly astounding scavenging ground - the puzzles and ideas contained within this massive tome make it worthwhile to have and I do not regret analyzing it: There are so many unique tricks I WILL use in my games, so many riddles to scavenge, so many level-concepts and rooms to steal that even when used in this way, the book is worth having.


This book sports a lot of unique ideas and it is these ideas that elevate this mega-dungeon beyond the self-imposed restrictions and gyves. When this shines, when its ID runs rampant, then this is a book of awesome ideas, which is ultimately what elevates the book to being a worthwhile read. Taking the great and the less than stellar into account, I arrive at a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars for the purpose of this platform due to this being the freshman offering of Hammerdog Games.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Grande Temple of Jing
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Alchemist Codex
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 04:13:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This collection of NPC-builds clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with exactly 20 pages of content, so what do we get?


Well, the answer here is pretty straightforward - we get 20 alchemist-builds, one for each level.


All right, that was an old and pretty lame joke the first time around; now, it's ridiculous. Sorry. So, much like the previous codex detailing sample kineticists, this one instead tackles alchemists and aims to give the GM sample builds to throw at characters, while also providing an interesting background story for them. Additionally, the reader can glean at a cursory look that thankfully, the helpful boon-entries for befriending the characters are still part of the deal.


Now, the previous codex excelled in the diverse selection of unique races and archetypes it employed - and the kineticist is a young class that doesn't yet have this much fodder for diversification. Well, the alchemist does not suffer from this restriction and hence, we get a solid array of options - mindchemists, psychonauts, chirurgeons, grenadiers, preservationsts, clone masters, reanimators and beastmorphs all get their due with a fitting character - oh and obviously, the level 20 vicisectionist is FEARSOME. Damn, this creature is BRUTAL: Hunter Dark, psychotic lizardfolk killer...who may just be willing to help you...provided he may eat the dead.


So yes, archetype-wise, we have a rather rich diversity here. Similarly, there are plenty of unusual races represented here: Living ghouls, for one. And yes, muses, saurians, gnolls...quite an array. It should be noted that this time around, there are no psionic races utilized, though one of the Porphyran xelusine drow is used.


Now the last codex had, as mentioned in that review, less diversity in the feat-department - well, guess what? This book does A LOT better regarding build-diversity - granted, in part due to the simple fact that the alchemist is a more versatile class regarding the ways you can take it: From bombing-specialists to more melee-centric builds that rely on extracts and mutagens, the build (and feat) diversity is significantly higher here and leaves nothing to be desired - kudos!


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are pretty good, though there are some typos and similar glitches in the book - "bolster" instead of "bolstered" and the like. Rules-wise, there are a few very minor hiccups here, but overall, the statblocks are solid and ready to be used. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artwork apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Brian Jolly's collection of alchemist builds is diverse, intriguing and sports some truly unique characters. While the at times a bit rushed editing takes this down a slight notch, this still can be considered an inexpensive, nice collection of alchemist statblocks. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alchemist Codex
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Ultimate Relationships #1: The Lonely Lyrakien
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 04:11:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Ultimate Relationship-series clocks in at 7 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page how to use/SRD leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


This time around, would be a lyrakien azata cleric, whose level 3 statblock (sans CR) is provided. Associated with luck, the lyrakien has recently lost her human companion - praying to her deity, she is guided towards the PCs. Gifts will not help securing deeper connection, but shared experiences of unique beauty will. The character dislikes cruel jokes and the like. Convincing her to join the party should not be too hard. There is a crisis point the GM can relatively freely adapt, basically a point of no return, where she may require convincing to stay, with starting attitudes and individual options to entice her to stay around.


Advancement is covered briefly and there is a certain chance she may be doing other things on a given day before rank 4. Cohort status is unlocked at rank 7. As a lyrakien, she is obviously none too constant and romancing her is not too easy - on-again-off-again relationships can be expected until rank 10. Boon-wise, rank 7 grants either Knowledge (planes) or Perform (Comedy) as a class skills and also unlocks +1 to saves versus entangle/paralysis. Rank 10 doubles trait-bonuses shared and allows for 2/day immediate action 1-round the effects of freedom of movement, though the pdf fails to specify the CL - I assume her CL. Or is that supposed to be SU, since it only pertains the effects, not the spell per se? Not sure here.


As far as rank-up requirements are concerned, they are much more diverse than one would think - while Perform (Comedy) is often used, so are different Knowledge-checks and even Sense Motive. Finally, Fly can be part of the deal. The romance, as a whole, is interesting and alternatives, once breakthroughs have been achieved, are provided - the romance, as a whole, feels believable.


Conclusion:


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


Mark Seifter's first romance in the series is interesting, unique enough and believable. The lyrakien is pretty hard to romance, as she should be - and yes, I did enjoy reading this little pdf. At the same time, it's a bit of a pity that one boon is a bit wonky in the details. Still, overall a solid, nice, inexpensive offering that adds a bit of romance to the game - my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Relationships #1: The Lonely Lyrakien
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The Elves of Uteria
Publisher: Lone Wanderer Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2016 05:05:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This book clocks in at 74 pages, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC & Ks-thanks, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 71 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a honest and critical review. The review is based on the hardcover and I do not have the pdf, so unfortunately, I can't speak of the virtues or lack thereof of that format, so please take that into account!


This book is called "The Elves of Uteria", so we should perhaps recapitulate what exactly the setting of Uteria is: Uteria is a low-magic campaign world not unlike our own - you see, for hundreds of years, the fantastic and magical was gone from the world, only to suddenly return. How and why this happened can be partially gleaned in the narratives and metaplots, but ultimately, it remains a mystery for now. Rules-wise, Uteria is assumed to be an E8 setting, though the rules herein provide options beyond that.


Suffice to say, the return of magic has also brought back the more uncommon races, namely the sub-species of elf, to which this book is devoted. Now, if you're like me and have read too many racial supplements, this may still be interesting - why? Because it is dauntingly old-school in a rather refreshing way. 3rd edition sported many great design decisions, but also many sucky ones. If you've been following my reviews for a while, you'll know about my seething hatred for environmental races that basically invalidate the harsh climates, for races that are nothing but a lame accumulation of stats intended for power-gamers. In order to illustrate what this book is about, I have to tell you where this loathing comes from.


Back when I started gaming, I scrounged together the hard-earned bucks I got from paper delivery and masked lawn-mowing (thanks to my allergy, a rather unpleasant task) and invested them in books - and when I read, I was taken away to other places: I read about elven mourning songs so beautiful, they could literally break a man's heart; of dwarven ale that sends any human snoring to the floor; of gnomish inventions and halfling community. Not as part of a setting, but as general racial write-ups. These books sported details - a lot of them, and by virtue of these details, the values, the small pieces, the races came alive. It's the reason I enjoy Alexander Augunas' current takes on races - the books make them feel alive.


We begin this book with a solid map...and then letters - these letters, written in captivating prose, tell of the journey of Jarin Plainswalker, agent of arch-druid Erlwyn, who set out to collect data on the cultures of the elven people. His correspondence and replies, detailed in gorgeous graphics, provides what can work as either handouts or simply as a means of depicting the journey the reader undertakes while reading these pages.


From the get-go, once that premise is out of the way, we begin with perhaps the most uncommon elven race, the Alfiren, or elfling - 3-4 feet high, thin and goat-eyed with antlers, these children of chaos exist on a whim, heeding the calling of the chaos instilled in their very hearts. And no, this is not about the stats - unlike most racial supplements, this one is about culture, about the uncommon. The captivating prose introduces us to the creation myth and the deities of the elves - and yes, the book manages to actually weave a creation myth that resounds with central themes sans being a carbon copy of a real world myth - and yes, the narrative is depicted herein.


From this basic set-up, Jarin and the reader embark on their journey to the more conventional elven people, the first of which would be the nomadic Anarvari, the steppe-dwelling wilde elves that live in concert with their harsh environments, with the Kyzk, a new creature introduced herein, providing an analogue of native Americans/buffalo, though through a lens wholly fantastic. From the wild steppes, the journey of Jarin took him to the reclusive Kaelvari - which are most akin to what we think when we hear "elf" - they are reclusive champions that retreated to their forested domain after the dread Great War, with a legend of the love between Orum and Kala and the star of lost love lending a sense of deep-seated melancholy to the chapter.


When the elves were still enslaved by the eldar, the Alostrovari, the lorekeepers and seafarers of the elves, were the chroniclers - and while their forest-dwelling cousins may be less magically potent, they also are not subject to the harsh world as much - the massive changes of the world and the constant battle between waves and earth have instilled a somewhat bleak sense of memento mori and an expectation of betrayal among them.


The Evantari, the high elves, secluded on their plateau in the midst of a titanic forest, these people are perhaps the most aesthetically unique: The one-page full-color artwork depicts them as wearing red and golden armor with demonic-looking masks, haughty looks and the severed heads of mortals on sticks, a grim promise for trespassers. The Evantari may well be considered the elitist and dangerous component of elven culture...but they are not the only one.


All journeys must end, after all - and Jarin's ended when he met the Orovari, the dark elves that have been exiled to the frozen north, exiled to these harsh environs after both the defeat of Kaldrath and the warlock king - proud warriors and dangerous adversaries, they face winters growing ever longer and will be forced, sooner or later, to test the mettle they acquired by bleeding for the elven peoples against any that dare stand in their way.


Beyond these write-ups, the book also sports several excerpts from the well-written journals of Jarin. While certainly a rules-light book, the pdf does sport 4 pages that explain spellcasting in Uteria: Every spellcaster has spell points per day based on class level and attribute. Full casters start with 2 spell points as a base, while bards get their first at 3rd level, with bonus spell points being governed by maximum spell level available and ability score. Spellcasters may regain 1/4 spell points (no minimum) for 1 hour rest, 1/2 for 2 hours rest - but that's it. Beyond that, 8 hours of rest are required. Spells cost a fixed amount of points. An interesting rules-variant. Spells dealing damage based on dice-number deal the minimum dice-number damage - to use the full potency of the spell, you need to expend +1 point per die. Metamagic follows a similar way. Magic in Uteria takes a cue from Dark Sun - there are two base ways of spellcasting: Warding and Ravaging. Casters using their own lifeforce are warders. You see, you can cast spells even when you don't have enough spellpoints, but it eats at your life. Upon casting such a spell, you must make a concentration check versus DC 20 + spell level. If you fail, you take mental fatigue damage, which is treated as nonlethal damage. When it exceeds hit points, you drop unconscious. Mental Fatigue cannot be healed via healing magic. It should also be noted that, unlike nonlethal damage, it doesn't heal on its own - instead, brief rests can heal 1/4 and 1/2 of mental fatigue, respectively. Once you are suffering from mental fatigue, resting does not regain spell points unless you're taking a full 8 hours of rest.


Ravagers draw on the life-force of the lands and others: When casting ravager-spells, all creatures within 10 feet take spell level damage or all creature within 10 x spell level feet take 1 point of damage. Ravaging is an evil act. Warders can also suffer from this: If a warden rolls a natural 1 on his Concentration check and has "a skill less than 10" he will accidentally ravage. sigh Concentration is no skill in PFRPG. Does this mean "below 10th level?" Rolled below 10? No idea.


The book continues to provide several nice sketches of artwork before providing some help regarding the playing of alfiren and elves, a glossary, calendar and a pretty extensive bestiary, which covers creatures from CR 1/4 to CR 11 - the bestiary is pretty interesting in that its creatures are uncommon - filthy armadillo-people, herd-animal lizards, a goblin variant proficient in climbing, massive slugs, armored mammals - the creatures herein do not universally have unique abilities (though many do) - but they add an interesting dimension to the proceedings, they enhance the world with a sense of quasi-realism. There would also be a fungal infection that kills the host, turning head and hands into claws and forcing the victim to shamble onwards, propagating the infection. The creatures herein may not always be mechanically interesting, but they do feel realistic to some extent - which fits perfectly for the focus of this book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - no significant glitches impeded my enjoyment of this book. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the massive hardcover's thick covers and thick, matte paper are high-quality and certainly make the book excel regarding the formal qualities. The art-direction of this book is phenomenal - the artworks hearken to a classic, slightly Elmore-ish style, but add a twist to the aesthetics - from whole-page full-color illustrations to just as superb b/w-artworks, this book is absolutely gorgeous -if you like classic art-styles of fantasy and superb pencil-drawings, this will work for you. E.g. the sketchbook highlights stages in the disturbing infection of aforementioned fungi and the artwork here actually manages to convey a lot of intriguing details, conveys and enhances the text.


Michael Bielaczyc and Dane Clark Collins have written a racial supplement I enjoyed far, far more than I ever would have imagined: "So we get a book on elves? And it has the ole' wild/wood/grey/high/dark-guys covered? How exciting." Imagine me thinking this, with my mind dripping with maximum cynicism. Well, I'm happy to report that I was wrong.


Now, one note: If you're looking for even more elven crunch. age, height and weight and the like - then this book probably won't do it for you. Then again - there are already a gazillion of books covering those bases out there, right? Right.


So, to be frank, I shouldn't like this book. The crunch is, at best, a 3.5 to 4 and there frnkaly could be more room for each race. The point-based casting system, while relatively functional, isn't as concisely presented as it could and should be. The monsters contained will win, for the most part, no originality prize regarding their abilities (or lack thereof). I should be much harsher on this book. But I can't.


The fact is, you see - I enjoyed myself thoroughly while reading this. The legends, myths and cultures and yes, even the bland, ability-less herd animals touched something inside my cold and cynical reviewer's heart. This book resonates with me on an almost overwhelming emotional level - like playing "Out of this World" for the first time when I was a little child, like reading the race books of old, this book managed to send my mind wandering to this other world and I could see it - I could see the armored orillots carrying their masters in caravans across the world; I could see the lone, thirsty wanderer fighting the fungal infection, I could see the spider-y goblins tumbling around, the hourglass-eyed elflings frolicking. It's odd, really, but each and every chapter, each letter of the journey documented herein. I found myself longing for more, wanting to read more about this strange world and its cultures, a world familiar in some tropes, but still, inexplicably, novel to me. This book instilled in me a sense of wanderlust, a deep-seated longing for information about this fantastical world I haven't experienced in a long, long time.


Perhaps, this is just me. But I loved this book. The prose is captivating and compelling and I find myself often checking back to the respective vendor pages, looking for more material. I certainly hope to learn more of this world. To me, this book resonated with a sense of denied homecoming, a feeling of magical realism that made the cultures depicted come alive. I wished this was longer. I hope we'll see more.


Now as for a final verdict - well, my readers. I'm usually the bastard that complains, picks apart. I quite frankly don't want to do this here. I thought long and hard - and ultimately, our beloved games, when we take the math out of the equation for a second, boils down to the story, to what those words we weave in the hearts and minds of readers and players and GMs do. And surprisingly, this book proved to be excellent exercise in the power of the right words, the right artworks, the right presentation - it weaves images and a picture of a world that transcends the rough numbers and minor shortcomings that exist in the addition of bonuses and multipliers, in the dry language of the rules. Ultimately, to me, Elves of Uteria weaves a wondrous, captivating narrative - the craftsmanship may not be perfect...but the artistry, to me, is. For me, this book is worthy of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform, + my seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Elves of Uteria
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Feats of Legend: 20 Celestial Feats
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2016 05:03:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Feats of Legend-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The pdf begins with a handy table that sums prerequisites and feats for your convenience and then goes on to present the individual feats, so let's take a look!


-Angelic Reputation: An achievement feat, needs to have caused fear in evil outsiders; increases DC of fear spells and effect by +2 versus evil outsiders; also nets a massive +5 bonus to intimidate said foes. On the nitpicky side: "In addition, the duration of the shaken condition is increased by 1 round." is slightly less precise than I'd like it to be - it's obvious, this refers to demoralize, but RAW it extends to all shaken condition-causing effects.


-August general of Heaven: This story feat allows you to, as a swift action pronounce a challenge versus an evil outsider, gaining +1 to atk and AC. If the foe or you are attacked during this challenge, you take a -2 penalty to AC and atk for 1 round. This ability can be used at-ill, but only once in 24 hours versus a given foe. As an interesting goal, this feat requires you to defeat good outsiders in nonlethal challenges - which is pretty cool, though an actual number of HD and encounters you need to beat would have been nice. "an appropriate number" does not really help here. Upon making the goal, you get a celestial cohort with leadership score of +2 for determining the cohort's level. Apart from the minor hiccup, an evocative, interesting feat that is a great way to have good guys fight good creatures for once, without jeopardizing alignment.


-Blood of the Fold: +4 to Knowledge-checks to identify good or evil extraplanar creatures and entities; +6 if you have 10+ ranks in the appropriate knowledge skill. You can qualify for this via Eldritch Heritage and the celestial bloodline.


-Celestial Pushback: Evil creatures failing to save versus your channel energy are subject to Bull Rush, with CMB equal to cleric level + Cha-mod. This does sound very powerful, looks broken, but is actually less useful than you'd think: The good alignment means that the creature with this feat will be channeling positive energy, which makes this, via vanilla channeling, only useful versus undead...which seems appropriate. Granted, variant channeling still works, but the okay CMB-scaling still retains this as a feasible feat that's better crafted than you'd expect when first reading it. (Though low-power groups using variant channeling may want to be careful with it.)


-Choir of the Host: Cha-mod allies influenced by Inspire Greatness gain the ability to overcome, interestingly, DR/evil, making them more potent when fighting celestials....which, according to the feat's fluff, was NOT the intent - this should be able to grant the option to bypass DR/good. sigh


-Demon Hunter:1/day, gain +2 to a single attack, saving throw or SR-check versus a demon or known servant of such an entity. AT 10+ HD, this bonus scales up to +4. This is also a story-feat, though it is not properly tagged as such. To make the goal, you have to slay a named demon with HD equal to or greater than your own. The completion benefit is significant: Whenever you deal damage to a demon with a targeted spell or attack, you get a free demoralize attempt that ignores fear immunity. "targeted" should imho be replaces with "single target", since you can otherwise cause free action AoE demoralize attempts...potentially, depending on how you handle free action limitations per round. Other than that, a cool one.


-Dimming the Light: Gain +2 to saves versus Ex and Su abilities of good outsiders in addition to your favored enemy bonuses. Okay.


-Divine Aura: This feat, based on Alignment Channel (evil), adds demoralize to channel vs. evil outsiders; allows you to exchange four rounds of shaken for 1 round of frightened. Solid!


-Fiend Foe: +2 to atk vs. evil outsiders. Boring.


-Find the Conduit: Add +1/2 your level to all healing you dish out. Does not apply to items used/created.


-Fires of Heaven: Spells with the fire descriptor you cast ignore 5 points of fire resistance. Odd: Does not extend to SPs...particularly since the infernal feat applied the bonus to SPs.


-Friends in High Places: 1/day add the celestial template to any neutral or good-aligned creature on the Summon Monster spell list. Works interestingly with skeletons from Skeleton Summoner, if the creature is neutral or good.


-Heaven Sent: Requires having died before. Makes you immune to fear. Basically a reskin of the revenant-feat from the installment of Undead feats. Makes me sad that such a brief book features it.


-Heavenly Weapon: When activating the bane class ability, you receive an archon's aura of menace supernatural ability.


-Holy Warrior: If you wear your patron's symbol on armor or shield, you get +1 sacred bonus to AC (+2 if both armor and shield feature the symbol). Alternatively, you get +1 to atk when featuring the symbol on your weapon, +2 when using 2 such weapons. You either choose offensive or defensive options when taking this feat; you may take it twice to get both bonuses.


-Strengthened Aura: 1/day as an immediate action, make your Aura of Good class feature duplicate circle of protection against evil (Sic! - shouldn't that be Magic Circle against Evil?) for 1 round per level of the class that grants the aura of good.


-Strong-Willed: +4 to saves versus charm- and compulsion-effects.


-Sword of Heaven: +2 to damage versus evil outsiders. Any weapon you wield (including unarmed and natural attacks) is considered to be good aligned for purpose of overcoming DR. This does not overcome weapons with the evil descriptor and they remain evil. Can eb qualified for via Edlritch Heritage and celestial bloodline.


-Voice of Angels: While under the influence of your Inspire Courage, affected allies get +2 to intimidate checks and +2 to Will-saves versus evil outsiders and undead.


-Heavenly Mandate: When using inspire competence, he may force one target to tell the truth, duplicating basically a single-target zone of truth, that requires the target to hear him. Evocative and well-executed!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting is much more refined than in the last book - while there are some hiccups here, they boil down to minor glitches. Layout adheres to a clean white background with blue headers. The full-color art of the angel on the cover is reproduced inside and is nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is nice to see.


Neal Litherland, Simon Muñoz and Brian Berg have crafted a collection of feats in this pdf that can definitely be considered high-concept. While, unfortunately, there are some glitches that detract from some of these feats, sometimes even on a rules-level, the matter of fact remains that there are some evocative pieces herein. While this pdf does offer some filler, it's not much. Better than the previous pdf, this is a nice, if not perfect collection. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the nice concepts and ideas herein.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 20 Celestial Feats
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Treasury of the Orient
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/22/2016 04:53:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This collection of magic items clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!


All right, so the items featured herein, as depicted on the handy table in the beginning span the range from humble 30 gp alchemical items to 180K gold (and one artifact) - but what kind of items do we actually get?


Well, the first one would be kokowai, a protective salve that supposedly wards off demons and temporarily nets the user the stench-quality. There are two magical armors herein and both are truly interesting: The first would be the Bestial Haramaki - a spellstoring armor - when bull's strength, cat's grace or bear's endurance is stored, the armor provides the bonus of the spell for an extended period while it stores it - nice expansion of the base concept! The second armor would be unraveling silks, allowing the wearer to turn into threads as a move action to duplicate gaseous form with a climb speed instead and prevent lethal falls. Evocative imagery, neat modifications of abilities - that#s how it's done!


A total of 7 specific magic weapons are part of the deal as well: The first of these is the beheading blade, and O-M-G, is it glorious: A flying blade that can be unhooked from its chain to be used at range, returning to the user, with abilities like dancing being powered by ki...absolutely awesome and best of all: The tight wording manages to get the complex mechanics just right. Two thumbs up! Or what about a katana that, upon a critical hit, generates a spray of razor-sharp cherry blossoms? Yes, this is evocative imagery with awesome mechanics. (Yes, you can designate squares to exclude so your allies aren't cut to ribbons...). There is also a cursed katana that cannot be sheathed unless you've crited an opponent or reduced him to 0 hp or below, though, alas, the lack of HD-restrictions here means you can bag-of-kitten-cheese the curse, which is an unnecessary oversight in my book. Another bow allows you to forego damage to instead make an incorporeal creature laugh (and unable to act for 3 rounds), allowing the user to pinpoint the target - this would be pretty OP sans its limitations, but with them, the bow works. A keen flying blade sans penalties, a katana that increases in power when pitted against overwhelming odds and a fan that can generate a nonlethal damage-dealing line of wind that knocks foes prone complement this section of the pdf for an overall, nifty arsenal.


The cane of butterflies allows the owner to disguise himself as older/younger and benefit from threefold aspect as well as conjure forth a massive, hampering swarm of butterflies. The rod of the monkey king can assume the shape of different weapons and extend at command, with concise rules regarding the extended reach and its rules-interactions, while the rod of shadow puppetry allows the wielder to paralyze foes whose shadow was touched and then direct such creatures to do his bidding - interesting and once again, evocative imagery. However, at the same time, Touching the creature's shadow" is pretty wobbly as far as design tenets are concerned - while this is nothing a good GM can't handle, e.g. playing with light-sources etc. can pretty much radically change how this works and the range, so some guidance for less experienced GMs would have been appreciated for this item.


There is also a truly diverse selection of wondrous items in this book: There is a circlet crafted from the horn of imperial dragons that fortifies the wearer against fear and activate a frightful presence that scales with Cha and level in potency, while expenditure of ki can extend this effect - however, the circlet also amkes the wearer subject to easier control by imperial dragons, so beware! There are also clothes that can adapt to surroundings, duplicating different styles of nonmagical outfits, a feathered map that provides quicker rests and the evocative concept of ghost food is also represented in this book. A magical inkset allows the user to hide special messages in the art he creates and there is also a damn cool kapstan that can store ki and, provided a threshold is met, then allows creatures with ki pools to command the ship to which it has been added to move. Additionally, this item allows the user to command the ship to use ki to try to evade missiles, obstacles etc. - all in all, a glorious item.


The kimono of honored ancestors allows the user to ask the spirits of old for advice, while the koto of ki shards can duplicate an array of spells...but is powered by Perform, with scaling difficulties...and instead of its charges, users may have ki power the effects. Cool blending here! A rather nasty skull emitting cursed vapors and a bowl that produces a meditative hum can also be considered to be rather inspired, if less complex items. The Monkey's head charm is visuals-wise all awesome: You throw it at foes for damage...and potentially command it to erupt in eerie laughter, which penalizes foes and renders them even flatfooted, with a chance to cause spellblights...However, the item states that Will can negate the effects, but not the DC - I assume the same as for the spellblight, but I'm not sure.


There is also a massive array of shapechanging-themed noh masks, covering the base beast shapes as well as vermin shape, giant form and form of the dragon - and yes, they take daily use ability abuse is prevented - kudos for catching that! A magical papercraft sheet, a prayer scroll amulet that protects against the undead (and can soak up negative levels) and a fire-themed robe as well as an enchanted samisen are next - and the latter is particularly cool, since it has an alternate use when utilizing downtime rules, generating 7 labor a day that must be immediately spend (and can thus not be hoarded)- cool! A variant dragon-form-granting lungguang and a flute that renders targets ethereal (and subject to the wrath of spirits) as well as a sugegasa that can turn into a raft complement this section.


Pretty cool idea: There are three magical tea-pots in this book, all working by casting one of three spells into the pot while preparing a tea ceremony; all sporting three different effects for those partaking in the tea ceremony. These items are cool and can't be cheesed, but I do believe the pdf should specify just how many people exactly can partake in such a tea ceremony. I assume an army couldn't, for example, but RAW, we have alas, no guidance for this.


Obviously, the pdf also offers full stats for the White Peacock Crown, which is a rather awesome item, just fyi. The artifact, in comparison, is a bit of a let-down, being basically a mallet that can provide miracles that don't require diamond dust. Yeah...wasn't impressed by that one.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though not as streamlined as in some Legendary Games-supplements - I noticed italicization-glitches here and there and rules-language-wise, there are a couple of minor, yet noticeable hiccups. Layout adheres to the elegant, nice, two-column full-color standard of Jade Regent plug-ins and the pdf sports a blend of previously seen and new full-color artworks of a rather high quality. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with a rather nice little typo "magucal teapots" - does have an interesting ring, doesn't it?


Alexander Augunas, Tim Hitchcock, Jason Nelson and Victoria Jaczko have crafted, content-wise, one of my absolute favorites among the treasury-pdfs by Legendary Games - there is literally no filler in this little book and even items that are based on spells in a can modify the effect in unique ways. The items universally are evocative, though some of them have minor rough edges - which is understandable, considering that they tackle rather complex concepts and do their very best to be interesting. With the surprising exception of the artifact, they actually succeed in this endeavor and can be considered inspired. The rating, however, is a bit tricky - you see, the rough edges do mean I can't rate this the clean 5 stars I'd like to grant - however, at the same time, I'd rather have the rough edges and awesomeness than bland perfection -hence, I arrived at a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4, but will still add my seal of approval to this pdf for its intriguing arsenal of unique items. Highly recommended!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Treasury of the Orient
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Mini-Dungeon #027: Kaltenheim
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/22/2016 04:50:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


In the frigid north, rumors abound that a massive raider has begun striking at nomads wandering the snowline: Dubbed Koloss and accompanied by a huge white wolf, thisboogeyman has recently called an NPC of importance - and now it's time to put him in his place for once and for all. The trail leads to a complex of frigid, natural caves, which contain not only multiple, powerful advanced yetis and subarctic shriekers acting as a natural alert-system.


More important for the module, the little pdf sports intriguing terrain features beyond the shriekers and they serve another function: The dread Koloss turns out to be an ogre-mage accompanied by a two-headed winterwolf and the PCs will be challenged by these adversaries...but if they manage to out-stealth them, they may actually catch them unaware! Have I mentioned the elemental nodes associated with arctic water?


Conclusion:


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


Jonathan Ely's Kaltenheim has a very distinct flavor that makes it unique and interesting - it rewards capable PCs and sports a cool (pardon the pun) boss.


At the same time, the skull and crossbones icon on the map, usually denoting traps, isn't clearly aligned with what's supposed to be there - I assume they pertain to the shriekers, but are also used for the trap that needs to be defused to reach the final room. Using two different icons would have helped make this slightly more user-friendly. Ultimately, this is a good, if not perfect, but certainly fun and immersive dungeon, well worth 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #027: Kaltenheim
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Kineticist Codex
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/22/2016 04:49:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This collection of NPC-builds clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with exactly 20 pages of content, so what do we get?


Well, the answer here is pretty straightforward - we get 20 kineticist-builds, one for each level.


...


What, you want to know more? All right, all right...So, the first thing you'll notice is that, as denoted by the huge Porphyra-logo, the characters herein sport fluff that is tied to Porphyra, firmly rooting them in Purple Duck Games' patchwork planet, though that does not mean that they don't work in different contexts. The second thing you'll notice is that each of the characters featured comes with a cool boon-entry that provides benefits for PCs engaging n friendly ways with the respective character. A closer look at the respective characters and their set-up will show you another rather interesting component - the characters themselves tend to be diverse. No, I mean REALLY diverse.


As in "Genderless oakling elemental ascetic"-diverse. As in Ultimate Psionics-Elan brothers. As in a kitsune overflowing soul. As in a god-of-war CR 20 forlarren or as an arrogant, superbly powerful genius half-elven artist of death in exile from court. The concepts of the characters are truly diverse and captivating and the builds themselves show Brian Jolly's experience regarding the creation of powerful characters - I can see pitting these versus my players sans them erupting in yawning matches. As for the exotic races used, you can access them for free, so that does indeed not constitute a detriment in my book.


That being said, the builds of the characters, while diverse in races, do not sport the same level of diversity in their feat-choices, where the obvious Toughness, Weapon Focus, etc. reign pretty much - a bit more variety for different concepts would have been neat here. While there are some minor hiccups here and there, over all, the statblocks are well crafted, though quite a few avoidable glitches like e.g. "kimetic"[Sic!] blast have crept into the book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are generally solid, though not perfect - I noticed several typos and minor glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf has no art apart from the cover.


I enjoyed Brian Jolly's humble collection of kineticists more than I thought I would - while the statblocks aren't as flawless as those of some statblock wizards out there, we get a healthy dose of diversity in this book, with numerous uncommon character concepts and flavorful ideas. The write-ups actually make the beings portrayed here feel like proper characters, something I deeply appreciate. The kineticist builds themselves are pretty varied as well, though obviously beholden to the more effective options available for the respective direction. Beyond class abilities and races, diversity isn't that pronounced in the respective feat-selection, though we do have e.g. a crafter (with proper skills and feats), a half-giant with wild talent and the like - there is variety here, it's just not as diversified as for the rest of the respective builds. All in all, this is a nice, inexpensive, if not perfect collection of kineticists - my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kineticist Codex
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