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Demon Cults & Secret Societies for PFRPG
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2018 04:01:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The PFRPG-version of the massive Demon Cults & Secret Societies book clocks in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2/3rds of a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 209 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so I’ll actually start the review of this book by covering the final chapter first – in it, we discuss the antipaladin class in a way that is actually helpful – we begin with a brief summary of how to handle the fall from being a paladin to becoming an anitpaladin – as the book astutely observes, the personality structure of the paladin is, paradoxically, closer to its evil mirror than e.g. a regular or more moderate foot soldier would be to becoming a champion of darkness. This goes two ways, though, and similarly, an antipaladin’s road to redemption, though significantly less often depicted in gaming (in fact, I couldn’t name one example at the top of my hat), is definitely one that deserves consideration. We also discuss perhaps one of the most underutilized class features EVER, namely plague bringer. While theoretically interesting and wide open, the lack of clarification of how disease vectors spread has left this ability somewhat hamstrung in the eyes of many players and GMs, also courtesy of the general design and rules-paradigms of PFRPG. As such, this section provides some clarification for spreading pestilence without slowing the game unduly. The pdf also provides an array of new antipaladin cruelties. These include scaling bleed damage, dropping anything carried in the hands or spellcasting hampering…and, e.g., forgetting the last round. At higher levels, we get halted fast healing/regeneration, temporarily phasing out of existence or losing ALL energy resistance and DR, all SR, being temporarily petrified…or, at 18th level, dying if the target has less than 100 hp. There are some problems here, namely the clear codification of offense-options. The spellcasting hampering option, for example, is flavor-wise clearly a pain effect, but is not classified as such. The kill-if-below-100-hp cruelty should definitely be a death effect and as such, preventable. Petrification should be classified as a transmutation effect…you get the idea. It’s not that the cruelties are bad, it’s just that their interactions with defensive tricks RAW bypass immunities and defenses they should not bypass.

The pdf also contains a total of 8 different antipaladin archetypes: The Bloodwarg replaces spellcasting and the derived ability to use spell-trigger and spell-completion items, with wild shape. Fury knights follow the same design-paradigm, but get rage at -3 class levels instead. The Deathbolt Master replaces touch of corruption with a 30 ft.-range ranged touch attack that may deal damage or heal undead, but pays for this flexibility with decreased damage – only 1 per class level. The goremaster does not add Cha-mod to atk when smiting, but instead inflicts + Cha-mod as bleed damage when smiting. They are locked into the new bleed damage-causing cruelty, and their channel energy is based on d4s instead, but also inflicts minor bleed damage. When casting a spell classified as Blood Magic, as per the Deep Magic book, they increase their CL by 2 and the DC by 1. At 8th level, targets within 10 ft. take +50% bleed damage; this excess bleed damage is gained as temporary hit points, replacing aura of despair.

Knights of hellfire are LE and replace fiendish boon with scaling, modified summon monster SPs, usable Cha-mod times per day. Thankfully, only one such effect may be in effect at any given time, preventing annoying battle-field flooding. Aura of despair is replaced with darkvision and poison immunity and 9th level’s cruelty is replaced with acid and cold resistance 5, fire resistance 10. 11th level yields perfect sight in any darkness and telepathy with a range of 100 ft., replacing aura of vengeance. 15th level provides immunity to fire as well as acid and cold resistance 10 and his attacks count as lawful and evil instead of the usual cruelty. 20th level provides a devil apotheosis. The knight of many eyes, in contrast, would be an antipaladin devoted to the squirming things from the dark tapestry. Instead of fiendish boon, we get a tentacle attack (alas, not codified re primary/secondary, requiring defaulting) and eyes that prevent flaking, darkvision as well as a scaling chance of ignoring critical hits and precision damage from sneak attacks. Minor complaint regarding formatting: Reference to armor special abilities have not been properly italicized in the abilities. Higher levels add grab to the tentacles and add more tentacles gained. The capstone, unsurprisingly, would be an aberration apotheosis. The third knight-based archetype is basically a palette-swapped knight of hellfire: The knight of the abyss is, design-paradigm-wise, akin to its infernal brethren, just replaces the minor, defensive abilities gained with ones that are more in line with a demonic leitmotif.

Finally, the plaguebearer gets Heal as a class skill, is locked into the plague cruelty at 3rd level and at 5th level, replaces fiendish boon with an upgrade to the disease DC as well as immediate onset, making it more immediately useful in combat. Instead of aura of despair, the archetype gains the new Corrupting Smite feat, which adds a free cruelty to the first attack that hits and is executed against a target of your smite, with a Fort-save DC based on class level and Cha to negate. 11th level replaces aura of vengeance with another new feat, namely Channeled Cruelty. This feat nets you the ability to channel at half damage, but add a cruelty to the effect, with successful saves negating the channel altogether. 14th level replaces aura of sin with a +2 insight bonus to atk and damage versus diseased targets and 17th level nets DR 5/good as well as a penalty to saves versus diseases for nearby targets. The capstone yields further DR-increase as well as the option to afflict targets of smite with all plagues; same goes for channel, but at no damage instead. I like the theme of this fellow, but considering the amount of creatures immune to disease, it would have made sense to have some option to at least temporarily negate that.

The chapter also contains 7 spells, which include asking a spirit questions by delaying its departure from this plane, a charm person variant that only works against those affected by a fear-condition (including a mass version) and there is a death knell variant that also conjures forth a cockroach swarm. One spell sickens a target that is wounded sans save (and, as a litany spell, it can’t be combo’d with other litanies). There is a spell that temporarily lets a target detect as evil for the purposes of spell interactions sans forcing alignment changes and there is a better coup-de-grace type of spell that nets temporary access to 1 spell or SP with a casting time of 1 standard action or less of the deceased target. Personally, I think the spell should have a cap on the HD of the creature it can affect.

The pdf also provides an array of feats for antipaladins beyond those I already covered above. One nets the option to make a touch of corruption-based short-range aura, one imposes a -4 penalty to saves versus the antipaladin’s spells and SPs to targets of smite. Interesting: Use two uses of smite good to smite an evil target as though good – makes sense to me. High level double-cruelty inflicting also makes sense, And there is an option to expand auras as well as a +2 DC increase for cruelties. Now, Fast Corruption is a feat I would not allow in all my games, as it allows the antipaladin to execute touch of corruption as a regular attack, which makes the class feature behave rather nova-like. I liked the Misleading Aura, which fortifies against detection. Two feats allow for the combination of touch of corruption and cruelties with unarmed attacks. Finally, there would be Personal Sacrifice, which is pretty potent, as it allows you to accept 2 points of burn to use smite good/evil sans expending a daily use. Similarly, touch of corruption or lay on hands may be sued for 1 point of burn sans expending a use. The feat does have a problem regarding its rules-interactions: The kineticist’s burn is governed by CHARACTER level, whereas the feat erroneously references CLASS level. That should definitely be character level, otherwise the whole burn engine becomes wonky.

The chapter closes with a CR 7 and CR 14 sample antipaladin.

Okay, so this concludes the antipaladin appendix of sorts, so let’s dive into the respective cults, shall we? Now, organization-wise, each of the cults comes with detailed write-up of its basics regarding organization and goals and the respective leaders are depicted as fully realized NPCs, often with gorgeous artworks. Beyond the named NPC movers and shakers, each of the cult-write ups also features stats for rank and file members of the cult, monsters, if applicable, as well as supplemental material, which depends on the respective cult, but generally represents crunchy bits. Now, as these rules-relevant supplemental materials are clearly intended for use by the antagonists of the PCs, I will judge them as such. Now, if I were to just list each individual statblock herein, we’d bloat this review beyond any immediate usefulness, so I’m taking the broad view here. It should also be mentioned that each of the cults comes with a suggested campaign/adventure-sequence outline of sorts, allowing you to plan the involvement of the cult as appropriate to the APL of your party. These outlines deserve special mention, as they’re often rather creative and interesting – and they make the GM’s job easier, so kudos there. It should be noted, though, that these are OUTLINES, not fully realized encounters or campaign plots – they are a suggested skeleton of a plot that you can weave into your game.

It should be noted that none of the cults make use of the fame/reputation-mechanics, as they are intended as antagonistic organizations and not as cults for the PCs to join. Fans of Midgard will appreciate the tie-ins of lore for the respective cult entries to the lore of the evocative setting, and, indeed, while the cults can be used in pretty much every setting, they benefit greatly from the tie-ins with Kobold Press’ cult fantasy setting. That being said, some of the cults with deeper ties to Midgard instead come with notes to use them in other settings, which will be appreciated by quite a few readers.

All right, got that? As the following pertains some SPOILERS regarding the nature of the cults in question and their themes and arsenals, I strongly suggest that players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! The first cult would be a classic of sorts for many gamers – the Black Goat’s Flock is classic Cthulhiana, depicting a cult of good ole’ Shub-Niggurath, as seen through the lens of Midgard’s brand of dark fantasy: the cult attempts to reassemble the Veridian Codex, an attempt codified, rules-wise, the fully statted spellbook of one of the movers and shakers of the cult. The cult comes with 3 spells, the first of which would be the curse of formless shape, which makes you amorphous and socially not acceptable, hampers movement and prevents holding items etc.; Morphic flux is a high-level buff that fortifies against crits etc., grants all-around vision and nets you a slam. Selfish wish is basically an 8th level, evil wish variant that is twisted – something that many a campaign does with regular wishes, but oh well. The cult also gets two decent, if unspectacular items – a defensive cloak and a gore-granting mask. The new monster would be the CR 12 flame-scourged scion, basically a fire-scorched dark young. The most interesting component here would be two leaders, an androgynous fey from beyond the stars and a super-potent goblin cleric.

The next cult would be the first of an array of cults that depict a heresy of an established religion, which may require a bit more fiddling when using non-Midgardian campaigns, here a heresy of the god Baal-Hotep, deity of dragons and fire. The burning rune cult is led by one Ust-Ziyad, a potent CR 13 oracle and makes use of Midgard’s rune magic. The most interesting components here would be the Altar Flame Golem at CR 12, the new brenna-Þurfa rune and the ability to create timed scorch-bombs, which allows the GM to create some nasty death traps and evoke, through a fantasy lens, some modern anxieties pertaining our own safety in an age of globalized threats and urban guerilla warfare.

While we’re on the topic of heresies, let’s talk about the other cults that can be roughly summarized under this moniker. The first of these would be the Night Cauldron of Chernobog, which, when summed up, can be thought of as radical adherents to darkness, with the ultimate goal of bringing the eternal night. With winter hags and a potent alchemist at the top of their food chain, their methodology does differ significantly from e.g. the burning rune – something that also holds true for the third heresy in the book, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The rank and file members also deserve special mention here, making interesting use of the vast array of NPC-races. As far as supplemental material is concerned, we get a poison that causes both blindness and Wisdom damage and a spell that “…if it gained the phantasmal creature template (Midgard Bestiary) at 50% real.” Yeah, that’s not how this is usually worded; flipping up my Midgard Bestiary, the reason becomes pretty apparent: The template distinguished between different degrees of reality. Still, the spell proceeds to talk about “effectiveness” and non-rules-language entities, instead of concisely summing up the benefits of the template. RAW, this is not functional and really wonky to implement. The new items include a darkness-causing lamp (Seen those before. Often.) and an interesting dirk that renders the target incorporeal as well as potentially staggered, which can be rather intriguing. The write-up also includes a minor artifact, the bituminous orb, which fortifies against positive energy, and which may cause enervation as well as a 1/day Str-draining buff to CMB and CMD. Once more, the rules-language here isn’t perfect. On the plus-side, we do get a cool occult ritual that represents the followers undergoing a transformation into beings more aligned with shadow. I really liked that one. The CR 6 contaminant shade is a more devious take on the shadow, which I found myself enjoying.

The third heresy of sorts would be one that should be familiar to fans of Midgard in PFRPG – Selket’s Sting. Now, the thing that sets this heresy apart from the previous ones would be pretty obvious – the cult is presented in a manner, where the PCs may actually be servants of the cult. It adheres to a quasi-Egyptian leitmotif and represents basically a religious secret police that executes those that violate Selket’s divine mandate. Now, I have already covered this cult in my review of the Demon Cults-series installment, originally released as stand-alone pdfs to supplement the massive Southlands book.

In fact, this book, apart from its new content, acts as a compilation of sorts for the previously-released PFRPG-Demon Cults-series. This means that the Sword & Sorcery-themed cabal dubbed the Emerald Order of Thoth-Hermes, the somewhat generic order of antipaladins called Doomspeakers and the cool, highly uncommon crime-syndicate Hand of Nakresh can be found herein. Similarly, the Servants of the White Ape under the command of their potent summoner overlord can be found within the pages of this tome. Since I have already covered all of these in excruciating detail, I’ll just point you towards these reviews instead for the details – just click on the “Demon Cults”-tag on my homepage, and you’ll have them all conveniently listed.

There are quite a few new cults beyond these, those – for example, the Chosen of the Demon Bat, who represent, at least at first glance, the servants of Camazotz. Led by a derro alchemist and a masked oracle, with an advanced fungal cave giant, the cult’s elite is interesting and we even get a unique CR 18 demon bat, Vespertillo – once a high-ranking servant of Camazotz, the mighty demon has been exiled to the material plane and an unholy alliance with the mi-go! This makes the overall feeling of the cult rather distinct. The cult gets a decent, if somewhat unremarkable feat that nets a bonus to concentration when injured while casting. We also get a new hazard with fungal pods and a variant form of strange spellbook with the ebon shards. The cult also gets a thematically-fitting staff as well as magical lenses and there is a new swarm, a poison that renders you unconscious and a spell that calls forth bats or birds to act as spies. Two vehicles are included, the fungal flyer and skittering skiff. I liked this bait and switch approach to a cult that starts as straightforward and adds a complicating twist.

The Creed of All Flesh is tied to the concept of the intelligent darakhul ghouls in Midgard and their subterranean empire…and those mrtals that crave the flesh of their brethren. Considering how cool the notion of darakhul is in the first place, it should come as no surprise that I consider the darakhul-themed cult as depicted here and interesting. On a mechanical perspective, I liked the notion of a DR that can either be bypassed by magic or while in daylight, and the options previously presented in Midgard supplements that are copiously used in the NPC builds help to set them apart. The execution of the respective campaign-sketch is also pretty damn creepy, so yeah, theme-wise, a resounding success as far as cannibal cults are concerned. With magical broths and jerky, a mace-like rod that can attempt to swallow and bite creatures and a nasty tome, these are nice. I am particularly partial to the lavishly-illustrated Greater Festrog mount-undead. One of my favorites herein.

Speaking of the living dead: As you all probably know by now, the Red Goddess Marena would be one of my favorite deities in Midgard; in the vampire-rules principalities of Morgau and Doresh, her worship is open and serves to justify the vampiric rulers; in essence, they are a sort of anti-Catholic-church, one based on a doctrine of tainted life and suffering as a promise for an elevated existence beyond the shroud of death, though here, it is not in some afterlife, but as a reborn vampire. Combine that with elitism and the notion that the deity has elevated the worthy and we arrive at a nice blend of the, by today’s standards, concept of divine providence for rulers and vampiric themes. Marena also has covert agents, the blood sisters, who act beyond the confines of the vampire-ruled home-bases of the cult. (As an aside: Evil blood-magic nuns are just badass…and with the stats herein, you can use Kobold Press’ “Blood Vaults of Sister Alkava” with minimal fuss – the stats of the sister are included herein, alongside a potent vampire mesmerist, the stats for the church’s Grand Inquisitor…and yes, before you ask: Marena is also a goddess of lust. Her servants thus control brothels…The cult also includes two new blood magic spells to add to the arsenal presented by Deep Magic, the sanguine spear, a spear of frozen blood drawn from the dead, and the stigmata of the red goddess, which causes bleed to the caster, but also buffs. The incantation bloodline strike is amazing: Capture a target of a bloodline and make it thus a conduit to target other members of it. Classic and well executed. An dagger to exsanguinate and a magic scourge complement the supplemental section. The monsters associated with the cult include the blood familiar and blood zombie templates as well as the blood pudding creature.

Whereas the blood sisters are basically an organized orthodoxy that is, theme-wise, in line with organized religions, the sanguine path, the second blood-themed cult within, takes a wholly different route: While the connotations of sexuality and hedonism as well as blood consumption remain, that is mostly due to our cultural associations with blood and sexuality, which are inextricably linked. Anyways, the cult is focused more on a theme of hedonism and oracular power, with sacred prostitutes generating a mythological resonance with e.g. the cult of Ishtar, though such associations, ultimately, should not be taken as an indication that the cult is benevolent. It’s not. Leaders that contain vampires, red hags and blood hags should make that clear. There are two feats to supplement the cult, which are both highly specific and focused on enhancing blood-based divinations, which makes them less useful for PCs. The bloodwhisper cauldron is an artifact that provides some spells and which can 1/year generate a wish (not italicized in the book). Blood strike allows for the transfer of a spell or affliction to another member of the bloodline. The creatures include the Blood-bound template, which grants power, but at the price of withdrawal from the elixir that bestows these powers…

The final cult within this tome would be the weavers of truth, which may be the last cult herein, but certainly not the least: The cult is devoted to Pazuzu and basically acts as a magical think-tank of firebrands and misinformation, with deception-focused clerics, charlatans and the batlike echo demons making them a formidable cabal of adversaries that probably will need to be fought less with blades and more with roleplaying. This is in particular represented by the absolutely glorious Incantation of Lies Made Truth, which can make for an absolutely mind-boggling twist as an occult ritual. I also absolutely adore the carriage of whispers, a hybrid magic item/vehicle that allows a passenger to influence those it passes – which can make for an amazing showdown, in which the PCs turn from celebrated heroes to outcasts, as a whole city suddenly becomes ever more hostile, but this has VAST potential in my book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are very good, if not perfect: I noticed a couple of formal glitches, missed italicizations etc. as well as a few components where the rules-language could have been tighter. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf contains a ton of really amazing full-color artworks, though fans of Kobold Press may be familiar with some, but by far not all of the pieces. I cannot comment on the physical version of the book, since I do not own it.

Jeff Lee, with additional design by Jeff Gomez and Mike Welham, delivers one massive book of interesting cults. While I do not consider all of the cults herein winners, particularly the doomspeakers and the Shub-Niggurath cult being somewhat less interesting than they should be, I found myself enjoying this book overall. In particular the Red Sisters and the Weavers of Truth make for some truly evocative and formidable adversaries, with the unique blend of the chosen of the demon bat coming in close behind them. I also found myself inspired by the cultists of the burning rune and my take on the old cults and new ones should by now be pretty apparent. In short: This is per se a very good book regarding its ideas and the plentiful statblocks for NPCs and monsters add further value for the GM. That being said, the rules-components beyond these left me less impressed. The antipaladin chapter, while okay, did not exactly wow me and the supplemental material stood out most when it focused on the story, rather than combat utility – the rituals and incantations are infinitely more interesting than the regular spells and items. In the mechanical aspect beyond NPCs/monsters, I’d consider this to be a 3.5 – 4-file, at best.

However, the book, as a whole, makes for a compelling reading experience, with a ton of truly cool storylines to scavenge and modify and something for pretty much all tastes inside. While not perfect, my final verdict will acknowledge the book’s intended focus and cool ideas and thus clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up from that verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults & Secret Societies for PFRPG
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Deadly Delves: The Dragon's Dream (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2018 06:27:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This is a high-level adventure, intended for characters of 16th level, and should bring them to 17th level by its conclusion. This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! Cout Larom has ordered the excavation of an ancient site, rumored to be the final resting place of the mighty crypt dragon Roanax. This mighty specimen, back when dragon’s ruled the region, was slain in a concerted effort by several of its lesser peers. However, when the magnificent beast was about to draw her last breath, she managed to draw herself, her hoard and her assailants into the eponymous dragon’s dream, endlessly living out her memories, the realities of dream slowly corrupting and changing her would-be slayers. Now, only her skull bears witness to the passage of aeons. The aforementioned excavation did, consequently, not find the mighty dragon’s hoard, merely her skull – and they reactivated its magic. The poor sods were drawn into the mighty dragon’s dream, slain and trapped…or enslaved by the horrid caricatures that Roanax’ foes had become. To complicate matters more, it seems like the dream can capture souls, creating a false afterlife of sorts, which has attracted the attention of a cadre of psychopomps, who fear that the dragon’s dream may well spiral out of control. Sounds awesome, right? While PCs are probably hired by the count to help salvage his archaeological expedition, the stakes may well become much higher…fast.

Now, the set-up for the module is actually more detailed than what you’d expect – we get read-aloud text for the count’s estate, as well as some serious notes pertaining legwork that the PCs might undertake to know what they’re getting into. Now, heroes of this caliber don’t grow on trees, and as such, the count is not above mentioning the fabled treasures that ostensibly can be found in Roanax’ hoard. As the PCs approach the singing pit, as the doomed location has become known locally, they will be greeted by further complications: The site has been occupied by a small tribe of stone giants (custom stats included), led by Verot the Godling, a horrid, dominating CR 17 ooze that brought me way back to Book of Beasts: Legendary Foes. And yes, the stats of the monster have been provided as well. When the godling is slain, a warped mass of draconic remnants manifests from its slimy hide, providing a first hint of some truly potent, mutating factors here. It should also be noted that the PCs can obviously meet aforementioned psychopomps and, hopefully, secure their aid: Consulting their meticulously researched material may provide some interesting hints. If the godling is defeated and the PCs are sufficiently charismatic, they may even secure the aif of the powerful outsiders. They’ll need it.

Further exploration of the lavishly-mapped pit will yield the remnants of a wasted opera house, where banshees act as singers, and the once proud green dragon Brithorn has been transformed into a forest blight. Corrupting dreams manifest as a specialized haunt that is susceptible to additional forces, and a dybbuk…and ultimately, they’ll reach the skull. Here’s to hoping that they befriended the psychopomps – Rakeshta is stationed here, and she is an olethros, which clocks her in at CR 17.

Activating the skull will drag mortals, including native outsiders and outsiders bound to characters, right into the dragon’s dream – and it is there that the PCs will need to go! The dragon’s dream itself is the main dungeon, and it is unique indeed: The complex begins rather regularly, with an orrery that can, when positioned correctly, open a door – failure will result in a battle versus a potent demodand. However, the truly amazing and captivating component of the dungeon would be the dragon’s memories. Throughout the complex, globes of light represent scenes from the dragon’s life, and touching them allows the PCs to live through the experiences of Roanax! Each of the memories has a condition to succeed, and once it is met, the light dims. Failure does allow for retries, provided the PCs in question survive the respective experience. This may not sound like much, but these vignettes are a perfect way to show the PCs the history of the mighty dragon, the trials and tribulations faced, all while they’re making their way past the potent guardians of the complex: Rune giants, mithril golems, jacks-in-iron, nightshade nightwalker with shadow giants…the regular enemies in the dream are no pushovers, with Roanax’ erstwhile vanquishers twisted into a series of exceedingly potent boss-monsters. The dreams themselves, which, while solvable via rollplaying and studded with DCs, are something that many of the more technically-minded high-level modules forget: Excellent venues for creative roleplaying.

I can picture many a player chuckling, when, in the skin of a mighty dragon, talking to an elven archmage who claims that he can’t teach more to such a magnificent being. The role-reversal is simply fun. From the banner of legions to mighty Roanax’ spellcrown, the dungeon also offers loot for particularly capable individuals. In particular the mighty staff of sands, focusing on time manipulation and memory tweaking as well as prescience can make for a formidable tool. Soul-trapping statues are just one of the examples where the forces faced require PCs to be up to their A-game. The dreams also contain vital information regarding this place. Ultimately, the PCs will thus progress through ahigh-light reel of the mighty dragon’s life, finally confronting the CR 19 variant old crypt dragon. Here’s the thing: The echo of the mighty dragon draws sustenance from unresolved memories and the fabled treasures she hoarded: Each potent item not claimed will yield her formidable powers; memories not overcome will manifest as shining children – up to 8 of them! If the PCs were sloppy during their exploration, they will probably have no chance to regret their decisions, for the dragon on her own is already a formidable foe! In a smart move, the optional boons granted by the mighty items are not included in the statblock, which means you won’t have to do a ton of reverse-engineering. Good call!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups in either formal or rules-language categories. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard. The artworks deserve special mentioning: The pdf sports a lot of really nice full-color artworks, including a glorious one-page version of the cover art. Aesthetically, there’s nothing to complain here. This also extends to the full color cartography by Justin Andrew Mason, which is excellent and evocative. Better yet, the module comes with an accompanying map-booklet that contains not one, but TWO different player-friendly versions of the maps! One of them sports details like ladders, blood-spatters and grids, while the other is completely barebones. Dear publishers, that’s how good map-support is done!

Landon Winkler’s “Dragon’s Dream” is a rare beast indeed: First of all, it is a high level module, a lamentably rare breed of adventure in itself. Now, the deadly delves series of adventures is pretty impressive in its technical aspects – the challenges posed etc. are generally interesting, and this holds true here as well. However, the module truly excels in its storytelling: There is a ton of interesting roleplaying potential suffusing the pdf, and the adventure ultimately rewards for the PCs caring, being invested in the story, etc. The backdrop is intriguing as well, with the bosses all chosen to signify something – which may become apparent to the PCs as they progress through the adventure. What first may seem a bit haphazard turns out to be a rather methodical theme. The furious final fight makes for a sufficiently brutal endgame scenario, and if your PCs try to get cocky and nova the scenario, they’ll soon realize that the dream’s eternal nature may just result in undead or twisted versions of their defeated foes – so no rest/kill/rest-15-minute-adventure day-ing either. (As an aside advice, dear GMs: This is where you pull out all those delightfully twisted templates from e.g. Rite’s Pathways Bestiary and similar sources and go to town…)

The module does not attempt to account for the vast capabilities of PCVs of this level, but its premise and set-up means that it doesn’t really have to. Once in the dream, the PCs are trapped, but otherwise, we have all the basic covered and enough guidelines to handle this as a proper and well-crafted high-level exploration. In short: This is an excellent module. The craftsmanship and production values are impressive, and the book manages to evoke a unique and concise atmosphere that breathes evocative high fantasy. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval – Well done indeed, Mr. Winkler!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: The Dragon's Dream (PFRPG)
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Tyrants of Saggakar: Onero: City of Sins
Publisher: First Ones Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2018 06:26:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

Now, this supplement is situated in the Tyrants of Saggakar setting, which is intended as a vehicle for a “living” campaign. The setting has evolved out of the concept of LPJ Design’s NeoExodus, but has its very own theme and atmosphere. That being said, you don’t have to participate in the living campaign to make use of this supplement – what we have here is, in essence, a city, or rather, town backdrop of sorts. The city also serves as the backdrop for the “Paths to Ambition”-sequence of adventures, but for the purpose of this review, I will focus on taking a look at the general usefulness of the town. It should be noted that slavery and servitude and the massive control exerted by the First Ones serves as a central focus of the setting, as a sort of leitmotif – Onero, contrasted with that notion, is a city sans master, one that, in the tradition of many a den of vice, is shackled by the vices and freedom, by the decadence it breathes and requires to sustain itself.

Onero, obviously, is name-wise, smart as a choice, evoking both Nero and onereic connotations, and indeed, this dream-like haze constitutes a central leitmotif of sorts for this den of sin. We begin the supplement proper with a breakdown of the city, commenting on details like currency, imports, military, etc., and also sporting a settlement statblock. With the populace rather self-absorbed and uncaring, the alignment of the town is stated as CE, though its not the demon-worshipping type, but rather the uncaring “everyone for him/herself”-attitude that makes this den of sin a tough place to live in.

We also get a brief history of the city, which contextualizes Onero within the context of the setting, but as noted before, adaption is pretty simple. The vicinity of the town is also described, mentioning peaks where erstwhile prisons may now languish without master, Cinder Valley, eternally warm, where fabled Saggakar ostensibly came to the world, burning eternally. A sinkhole and a canyon faced by strange fortresses, dubbed the “unblinking sentinels,” complement a rather fantastic and interesting environment to situate the city.

Onero has three main gates and is dissected by the massive Markhem River, which also lends the name to 4 of the 7 districts of the town: North- East-, West- and Southbank are 4 of them, with food court, park and lecher’s ward being the others. The city comes with a rudimentary map, with districts color-coded, but remains, in that component, rather focused on broad strokes. There is no player-friendly extra version of the map per se. Each of the districts then proceeds to get its own write-up, with rulers noted and sites of interest briefly mentioned. These have not been noted on the map provided, so you’ll have to place them yourself. From fabled smiths to freak shows and gambling halls, the city sports all the illicit entertainment you could desire. Personally, I enjoyed that the most wealthy district, Northbank, sports gaslight, implying a level of progress more akin to the Victorian era than to the default medieval standards, something mirrored in points of interest like the museum of vanities The fact that there is a whole district devoted to the vices of the flesh also underlines a latent fin de siècle feeling, something I very much like – ruined abbeys now turned to drug dens and the like add further to the leitmotif of decay and decadence.

The pdf then proceeds to talk about the social strata of the city; the differences to the rather oppressive truths of the setting are noted here. The pdf then proceeds to introduce us to 15 movers and shakers in the city, with gender, race and class, if any, noted. However, neither class levels to gage relative power, nor stats are provided for these beings. We also learn briefly of outside influences that tamper with the city and proceed to discuss adventure locales: There is a cavern that spirits folks into the Mists (cue obligatory Ravenloft reference); a fortress that acted as a gargoyle nest, and now, with the gargoyles purged, houses a potent oracle. The cemetery of the city is maintained by the church of Sanlys, requiring gold to prevent the selling of corpses as undead. We also receive a whole page of various adventure hooks for you to develop, and the final page of the supplement is devoted to a new creature, the prickle, also known as the porcupine-rat, a rather dangerous form of vermin that is rather common in the sewers of the city.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, with the company’s logo in the background, the colored header at the top of each page. Interior artwork is a blending of public domain artwork and stock art – personally, I preferred the public domain pieces. The cartography is okay, but the lack of points of interest noted makes it less useful than it should be. The lack of a player-friendly version is also a bit of a pity. The pdf sports a pretty big downside, comfort-wise: The pdf has no bookmarks, making navigation less comfortable than it should be.

Randy Price and JP Chapleau present a city that I consider, per se, really cool. – the city has a strong leitmotif, and while I would have loved to see a tighter focus on adventures within the city, rather than in the vicinity, the material provided is per se intriguing. I enjoy the premise, and the writing is well-crafted, managing to evoke and eclectic and concise atmosphere. At the same time, the formal criteria like cartography and the puzzling lack of bookmarks drag down the rating of this supplement.

Onero, in spite of its per se concise atmosphere, also feels a bit less alive due to the broad strokes approach: While I know a lot about the power-structures and key locales of the city, I have a harder time picturing how the experience of actually walking down one of its streets would feel. Here, e.g. Raging Swan Press’s supplements, with their abundance of notes on sample events, local color and the like, offer the more compelling and immediately useful material. Similarly, neither local nomenclature or, dressing habits, street names, etc…. you know, the small bits that make a place come truly alive, are really discussed, and the prominence of the river intersecting the town could have been developed further. On the other hand, the city as a whole comes at a very low price point and offers captivating prose and cool ideas for the price point. How to rate this, then? Well, for me, this city represents a captivating location, though one that doesn’t manage to realize its full potential. While I’d usually round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, the comfort detriments, in particularly the lack of bookmarks, force me to round down instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tyrants of Saggakar: Onero: City of Sins
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Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2018 04:11:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

After a brief introduction, we’re introduced to the Fiendish Wastes – what’s that, you ask? Well, picture a section of hyperspace where planar boundaries collapsed, fusing a section of the abyss with hell. Yes, that means demons and devils in the same region. No, the results are not pretty. When attempting to cast a spell in the fiendish wastes, a character must succeed a Will save versus DC 18 or have the caster level reduced by 2. I assume to a minimum of 1, since no notes are provided for a caster level that sinks to 0 or below, though one could conceivably argue that spell failure would be a possibility. So yeah, this needs a bit of clarification. On a natural 1, the caster may also suffer from one of 7 nasty mishaps, which can result in confusion, fire damage to the caster, etc. The sequence is not 100% clear in all cases: “As soon as the spell is cast” could be read as when it is cast or after it is cast; the latter would make more sense. “Before the spell can be cast” is an example of a more precise wording here. Then again, I’m nitpicking here, since SFRPGs concentration-rules only fail your spellcasting on an attack that hits you or on a botched save – since the effects sport neither attack, nor save, they are functional. Two dangerous, poisonous gasses are provided as well, and the pdf mentions the boiling hot swamps, volcanoes and the passage f time in this hellish region.

Now, the majority of the book is devoted to something many a GM will rejoice to see: We have translations of classic demons and devils to Starfinder, all of whom receive their own full-color artworks. Now, these beings are not simply 1:1-copies of the classics, mind you – these fiends have been through hell (haha!), and now obviously seek to escape their hellish prison. 9 demons are included, covering babau, balor, dretch, glabrezu, hezrou, marilith, nalfeshnee, succubus and vrock. Babaus get tactical pikes, balors monowhips and dimensional slice as a sword weapon property…so there are some cool upgrades here. At the same time, I kinda face-planted, since it looks like a common glitch from PFRPG will continue to haunt me in SFRPG – there STILL IS NO SUCH THING AS UNHOLY DAMAGE. Now, as a whole, the pdf has done a pretty good job at getting rid of remnant Pathfinderisms, though e.g. the succubus’ profane gift erroneously refers to full-round action instead of full action. Cool: Mariliths can crush you into unconsciousness!

The pdf also includes 4 different devils, the hamatula, barbazu, osyluth and cornugon are provided. These are no less deadly, mind you, including 3/day swift action invisibility and e.g. white star plasma doshkos. Now, particularly cool would be that we actually get two new, fiendish ships . the abyssal readrazor, which clocks in at tier 10 and sports maw-like mass drivers, chain cannons, etc. The second ship would be the tier 6 hellish soulreaver, fitted with coilguns and heavy laser cannons. Now, it should be noted that these ships don’t have a hyperspace engine when encountered in the wastes; outside, they do. You see, a central plotline you can develop with the fiendish wastes, is that the fiends want to get out…and hence can really use the spare parts of your PC’s ship. Or, well, perhaps they are making a soul-powered hyperspace drive? In case you’re wondering encounter-level and power suggestions are provided for all level-ranges, and we also get an adventure hook for each level-region.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the majority of the book is very crisp and precise, with only few minor guffaws that don’t overly impede rules-integrity. Layout adheres to a rather beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artworks for demons and wastes and starships are copious and original – this is a beautiful book.

Michael Ritter’s supplement poses a simple question: Do you want your classic demons and devils? If the answer to that question was a resounding “yes”, then there will be no way past this supplement, simple as that. The Starfinder-conversions of the fiends have been undertaken with an eye towards being faithful, while also reflecting the new options and changed spell-engine of Starfinder. In short, this is a supplement well worth checking out, one that delivers exactly what it promises. Now, personally, I would have loved to see more ships, fiendish tech, etc., but it would not be fair to penalize the pdf for that. As a whole, I consider this supplement to be worth getting. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
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Everyman Minis: Shapeshifter Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2018 04:09:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, to make that clear: The options herein are intended for Everyman Gaming’s fun and flavorful Shapeshifter class, introduced in the Paranormal Adventures-book.

We begin with a new feat, which represents a base engine tweak: Corrupt Adaptation allows the shapeshifter, whenever he would gain a shapeshifter adaptation, to instead gain a shapeshifter corruption. What’s that? Well, 5 are provided, and they are basically “creepy” and slightly more potent options: Abnormal reach increases the reach of a chosen adaptation by 5 ft. Abnormal senses nets darkvision 30 ft. in animal shape (or +30 ft., if the shape already has darkvision); subsequent taking of this corruption further increase darkvision and then blindsense. Alien mind nets +2 to saves vs. mind-affecting effects in animal shape. Alien physiology nets +2 to saves vs. disease, exhaustion, fatigue and poison in animal shape. Finally, 25% chance to ignore critical hits and sneak attacks that stack with light/moderate fortification, but not other abilities. The minimum level-prerequisites are solid for all of them.

We get two new shapeshifter kingdoms: The first is the Crocodilian kingdom (Strength, Constitution), with the base shape providing quadruped (hold breath, limbs (legs 2), low-light vision, natural attack[bite],scent, skilled [Stealth], terrestrial. Shape sizes range from Large to Gargantuan. Crocodilian shapes have a base speed of 20 ft., swim speed 30 ft. 2nd level yields grab with the bite attack and 1/minute sprint, at 40 ft. land speed for 1 round. 8th level nets death roll versus your size or Smaller, grappled targets. 15th level nets swallow whole.

The second kingdom would be the Plant kingdom (Dexterity, Constitution), which nets the following base shape properties: Undulatory (blindsense 30 feet, low-light vision, natural attack [slam], terrestrial), biped (limbs [arms 1; legs 1], low-light vision, natural attack [slam], terrestrial), or centiped (limbs [legs 50+], low-light vision, natural attack [slam], terrestrial). This wealth of options also is represented in the shape, which can range from Tiny to Gargantuan. Speed of plants is 30 ft. for bipeds, 10 ft. for others. 2nd level nets the skilled ability for Stealth, but only in the plant’s native environments. Additionally, you get the varied abilities base ability. This base ability grants you any of the following abilities that the creature you plant shape is tied to possesses: darkvision 30 feet, energy immunity or energy resistance (grants energy resistance 1 per shapeshifter level), vulnerability. Finally, you gain a +2 bonus on saving throws made against mind-affecting effects, paralysis, sleep, and stun while assuming a plant shape. 8th level adds savage spirit bonus to AC twice when in plant shape, once as dodge and once as natural armor. Additionally, the varied ability is expanded to encompass constrict, grab, poison and darkvision. At 15th level, DR, farther darkvision, greensight, pull, push, etc. are also provided – the higher level options, in essence.

Now, the pdf provides no less than 3 subkingdoms as well, one of which is based on the plant kingdom – that would be the Mi-Go subkingdom (Dexterity, Intelligence), which nets a Medium shape size, hexapod shape, blindsense, claws, etc. as well as 30 ft. speed and 20 ft. clumsy flight (which may be an issue for some GMs at low levels, though the same holds true for the original kingdoms; mentioning it for completion’s sake). 2nd level nets the skilled ability in Bluff and Disguise as well as sneak attack, which improves by +1d6 at 8th and 15th level, respectively. You also get no breath and +2 to saves vs. mind-affecting effects, paralysis, sleep and stun while in plant shape. 8th level yields DR/slashing equal to the savage spirit bonus and improves fly speed and maneuverability. It also yields class level resistance to cold, fire and electricity. 15th level upgrades cold resistance to cold immunity and further improves flight. It also nets you + sneak attack damage with grapples and targets thus damaged take 1d4 ability damage to an ability score of your choice. It also nets grab for the claws and provides quicker flight beyond the confines of the planet and solar system.

Now, the eagle-eyed reader may have noted that the bracketed ability score deviate from the base kingdom – that is intentional here. Only one subkingdom follows the noted key ability scores of the parent kingdom.

The second new subkingdom would be the beetle subkingdom (Strength, Constitution), which is obviously based on the insect kingdom. This one ranged in shapes from Small to Huge and yields a 30 ft. movement as well as 20 ft. fly speed with clumsy maneuverability. 2nd level nets +2 to natural AC, which improves by +1 at 8th and 15th level and explicitly stacks with shapeshifter class features. Additionally, we get the ability to execute an overrun sans AoO. 8th level yields trample and an improved fly speed and maneuverability. 15th level nets acid resistance 5 as well as a 8d6 30 ft.-cone of acid with a 1d4 cooldown and save governed by Con. Personally, I’d have preferred daily uses, but considering the level, it’s okay.

The third subkingdom presented would be the eel subkingdom (which is employing the ability paradigm of the parent fish kingdom). 8th level yields an extraordinary variant of shocking grasp with fixed damage and a chance to stun targets that fail their save for 1d4 rounds. 15th level nets the grab special attack as well as automatic bite damage when starting a round with a grappled foe. Additionally, you get a second set of jaws, allowing you to perform a secondary natural bite attack versus such a grappled foe, though at one size category smaller than usually.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s printer-friendly two-column standard. The piece of artwork in full color is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza’s new shapeshifter options are rather potent and make for strong choices as well as unique modifications for the shapeshifter fans out there. The concept of corruptions in this context could have carried a bit more, and I’m not 100% sold on the options alone being worth the price of the feat for admission. That being said, as a whole, I found myself liking this pdf. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Shapeshifter Options
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SoR2: Against the Slavers
Publisher: Casey Brown
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2018 12:40:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second adventure in the „Shadows over Riverton“-AP clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 54 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book. You’re seeing the review this soon because I received the copy prior to release to the public and thus had ample time to analyze and test it.

Now, before we dive into the meat of this adventure, let me talk a bit about the series: The author was one of the triad members of Living Greyhawk, and particularly involved with the Bandit Kingdoms. This module, in tone and spirit, thus breathes the legacy of Greyhawk, and indeed feels like a lost Greyhawk adventure with the serial numbers filed off. That is a good thing. The adventure takes place in the city of Riverton, the stage set in the first adventure of the series, and directly builds upon it – characters met and interacted with directly influence some of the proceedings and represent the main hooks. That being said, the adventure is VERY easy to adapt to other locales. As long as you can justify a humanoid slum (perhaps due to a lost war effort) in front of an otherwise more traditional city, you’re good. It should be noted that the Bandit Kingdoms-flavor that suffuses this adventure means that the town is grittier and somewhat more realistic than comparable settlements.

Now, if you recall my review of the first adventure in the series, you’ll recall some components I loved: For example, Riverton gets settlement statblocks for EACH QUARTER. These, if relevant herein, have their modifiers hard-baked into the challenges. This is just one the various components, wherein this adventure sets itself apart from the majority of modules. The second, and most important aspect here, though, would be the obsessively, meticulous detail that is provided for the GM. PCs follow their employer after the quest, due to massive paranoia? There’s a scene that covers it. Need an encounter for one of the myriad gangs in the humanoid-slums? There’s an encounter for that. Unlike most published adventures, I can’t see this one requiring much in the way of GM-expansion o account for players going off the rails, which is even more interesting and remarkable, considering that this is a pretty free-form investigation/infiltration!

Now, the adventure does another thing right that I really love: Rules-decisions, explanations and help for the GM is provided in a massive array of footnotes that further make handling the actual running of the module much, much easier. The adventure also sports a metric ton of statblocks, which render the challenges faced distinct and don’t leave you hanging dry when you’re looking for the stats of character xyz. This all conspires to make the adventure work in as much of a Go-Play-fashion as can be: While, being an investigation/infiltration and pretty free-form at that, the adventure works better (like all modules!) when you’ve read it prior to running it, but you won’t need to make many notes and GMs with at least a bit of experience under their belts should be able to run this without previously preparing it in detail. The adventure also presents an impressive array of read-aloud text, in vivid prose, bolds rules-relevant context so it’s easier to find (without violating formatting conventions)…and it eve sports an appendix, wherein effects of different lodging situations that the PCs find themselves in have significant mechanical aspects. The adventure also provides a handout.

In short: This is one of the most convenient to run modules I’ve seen in a while, and its attention to detail is impressive and really helps to set the stage and maintain the atmosphere throughout: It generates a sense of reality, an impressive achievement. There is, for example, a magic item that most groups will not find. It is pretty cool and relevant for a powerful figure in town, though – the adventure even devotes time to the negotiation process regarding the figure and the item! In short: There is A LOT of care poured into this adventure, and it shows.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving deep into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, it’s been a few days since the PCs arrived – enough to have their accommodations in Riverton have an impact on their well-being. The Halfling Stefania, an acquaintance of the PCs from module #1, contacts them to meet up at a tavern – and while this may sound like the oldest trope in the book, it provides a great example for the case I made regarding details. The module takes into account that PCs may show up early and scan the area; it covers the discussion of the task at hand with both read-aloud text and bullet points for conversation, skill-use, etc. – and if they unearthed the connection of the goblins from module #1 to the slavers in the slums, that also plays into the proceedings. Misty is acting on behalf of one of the most powerful NPCs in the city, who comes to meet them: None other than Misty Homeagain. Now, in another module, the proceedings would just boil down to a read-aloud text. Here, Misty uses a custom spell to provide a discreet means to converse (and paranoid PCs are taken into account) before talking to them – it’s a small thing, but it provides a rules-based foundation to discreet talks that adds a sense of realism and authenticity to the matter at hand. Heck, as mentioned before, paranoid PCs stalking Misty may be in for a thrashing – they’re small things, yes, but they add to the immersion, and this level of detail is maintained throughout the module.

So, folks have been disappearing, and as the PCs found out in module #1, there may be a tunnel to provide egress to Riverton, past the corrupt, but at least nominally stringent guards. Thus, the mighty halfling wants the PCs to go to the humanoid slums before the city, to Beggartown, find the missing folks and rescue them. Sounds easy, right? Well, Beggartown is not a nice place to be – the rickety shantytown is characterized by lawlessness and the corrupt half-orc captain Llerdnig is one of the movers and shakers there. With orcs, tieflings, gnolls and goblins freely living there, some races like elves, dwarves, etc. may want to think about disguises. Nice: Stefania will accompany the PCs as a sort of GM-PC, and her input, well-meant, if not truly helpful, can help steer the PCs. If she does accompany them, they’d better make sure she gets out alive, though! Anyways, with incidents or without, the PCs enter Beggartown, where the trail does not really grow cold – instead, it becomes hot rather quickly, as the PCs are faced with a cool and diverse skill challenge/chase: The contact amidst all the squalor and misery of Beggartown seems to have just met his rather grisly end at the hands of gnolls, who see the PCs rather instantly, courtesy of Stefania. (Neat: This does help “sell” the chase as a not a railroad!) If the PCs succeed in catching up to the mottled gnolls, they’ll have a fight on their hands. But there is a pretty good chance the gnolls get away as well – so, how does the module handle that? Well, successful PCs can wring the location of the slaver compound from the gnolls, no problem…but if they failed…they don’t really have an issue.

Clever PCs will note that the mottled fur only is sported by one of the gnoll tribes in Beggartown, a tidbit of information that clever GMs can seed…and even if the PCs know where the complex itself is, they’re left with more than one issue. You see, the tribe is rather sizable. To the point where assaulting the compound sans doing legwork is not a smart move. But if they haven’t managed to pinpoint its location, we have no problem either: You see, the compound obviously needs to purchase goods, right? Well, one means of thinning the opposition (and potentially secure an ally for a coup-d’état of sorts) is to ambush said team! There are plenty of other ways to help weaken the gnolls, provided the PCs can survive in Beggartown, that is – random encounters for all of the diverse gangs in town are provided…and, indeed, if the PCs are smart, they may even manage to take down the Alpha of the gnolls prior to assaulting the complex: Growl, the rather huge (size Large) leader of the gnolls likes to spar in the Chapel of Slaughter, the ramshackle fighting pit/neutral ground of Beggartown, and the module actually talks, in detail, about the process of becoming pit fighters and potentially stopping the brute. No mean feat, but if the PCs manage to achieve success there, they’ll have a demoralized tribe when faced with the folks who defeated their champion.

Speaking of “Alpha” – where this, in another supplement, would have been just a moniker to denote the chieftain, here, we actually get a fully depicted hierarchy – and gnolls being gnolls, there is plenty of dissatisfaction and drama behind the scenes, including affairs and the like. Roleplaying savvy players may well be capable of destabilizing significant portions of the tribe before attacking the compound. Extensive notes on further development pertaining both success and defeat allow the GM to organically maintain the flow of the adventure. Oh, and guess what: Yes, the module accounts for the PCs buying the captives! Provided they have the funds, this would make for a smart move prior to attacking the compound, for example, as the PCs wouldn’t have to take care of the NPCs. Speaking of which: Hirelings and named NPC allies that have a stake in seeing the slaves freed may be recruited, and the adventure provides proper names, motivations and further adventure hooks for the slaves. Are you starting to see what I meant with “impressive details”?

The assault on the compound, should the PCs choose to undertake it, is btw. not a singular rail-road-affair – there are chances for folks not being there, and day/night does matter as well. Heck, the respective shacks etc. get full game-mechanics, should your PCs choose to smash through them! This is a bit like having terrain that can be damaged in a videogame. While, in pen & paper, you theoretically have that all them time, but flimsy construction of the shacks makes it really relevant here! Having stats for the frickin’ structures makes the whole complex feel more dynamic, and before you ask, the compound is fully mapped in pretty detailed color maps. As a minor downside, these maps do not come with a key-less player-friendly version, which is a bit of a bummer, considering that it’s pretty likely that the PCs will capture a gnoll at one point. That being said, the gnolls are amazing – there are plenty of archetype’d and template characters here that deserve the moniker: There would be, for example, a venerable gnoll who has become slow in her old age, the flavor represented by drawbacks; a crippled gnoll s who dabbles in fire breathing and makes use of goblin skull bombs, nearsighted ole’ Stinky…these gnolls feel indeed like they have lived. While rank and file beings exist, it is ultimately in these NPCs that the tribe truly comes to life.

I did mention an item, right? Really clever PCs may notice a magical shovel used near the trash pit, an unlikely treasure not identified by the gnolls – that would be the shovel of the final rest, which can yield PCs a nice financial windfall…if they don’t overly tax the goodwill of the guardian of the graves, that is. It should also be noted that XPs gained are contingent on more than enemies slain, so that’s another big plus as far as I’m concerned.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are excellent – Casey Brown’s professional background and experience in editing is quite apparent here. I wish I was as good at editing my own writing! On a rules-language level, the adventure is similarly impressive – though slightly less so: When e.g. a caltrop-trap references “slicing” damage that should be “piercing.” That being said, the module is actually more precise than PFRPG’s base rules here – caltrops inflict RAW, in a nonsense-decision, untyped damage, which clearly should be “piercing.” So yeah, my nitpick pertains something that the module does better than the core rules. Here and there, I could nitpick some minor rules-language in new content, but never to the extent where it would constitute a proper issue. The copious amount of statblocks are solid as well – I attempted to reverse engineer and encountered no problems. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The print version is b/w and sports a nice, matte cover; if you’re familiar with Raging Swan Press’ PoD-books, it uses that type. The lack of player-friendly maps represents my only somewhat valid complaint on a formal level against this module. The pdf version comes with a copious amount of nested bookmarks that render navigation comfortable and painless.

Casey Brown’s second foray to Riverton is amazing. It develops the strengths of his previous offerings and applies them vigorously to a module-type that is a) harder to pull off properly and b), wherein the application of this attention to detail is much, much harder. From a formal perspective, this is one of the easiest infiltration/investigation-sandboxes to run that I have ever read. So, it’s comfortable to run and provides plenty of gaming material as well.

The second strength of the module is one that is harder to describe and get right. Most folks would call this “old school”, but that term is, at this point, a flawed one. You see, “old school” does not equal “old school” – when we take a look at OSR-gaming, for example, we have e.g. the Advanced Adventures-line by Expeditious Retreat Press, which champions a slightly weird AD&D-ish feeling; we have the psychedelic nightmares of LotFP; we have Frog God Games’ fantastic Lost lands, which are a precarious, dark setting that always had, at least for me, a subtle sense of melancholia suffusing its books, a feeling of a world that is in the process of moving on, of empires fallen and a dark age impending; there would be Goodman Games’ DCC-material, which I always refer to “Metal-fantasy.” All of these, and many, many tastes more, are generally called “old school.”

There is another type of old school, one that you only get to see rather rarely – because it is really, really hard to pull off. You see, I could sum up this module as “PCs rescue slaves from gnolls in a slum.” I wouldn’t be lying. It’s a basic premise. The module does not throw some central weirdness in your face, it does not use some over the top shenanigans to distract you from structural shortcomings. It doesn’t have to. It is my firm conviction that unpretentious, Greyhawk-style fantasy sans a ton of high-fantasy stuff, with grit and detail and grime, is extremely HARD. You can’t rely on a catchy pitch that will make folks go “OMG, zis iz teh awes000m1111oneone!!” and you always risk the danger of becoming generic, forgettable. In fact, only your prose, your ability to evoke a concise, living, breathing environment, is what separates you from a “been there-done that” type of experience. You have to work in the small aspects, and when you botch the job, you’ll probably get a “soso”-review that can’t put the finger on why they were not engaged. That type of writing is HARD to pull off, very, very hard. Few publishers and authors manage to hit this precarious balance, this elusive sweet spot, with e.g. Raging Swan Press coming to mind as one of the few publishers that do.

You may have realized it by now: This module manages to hit the right mood right on the head. And it, in passing, serves as a perfect rebuke to the claim that complex systems like Pathfinder can’t do this tone. The module uses a TON of material from Pathfinder’s extensive mechanics to enhance the mood that is conveyed in the adventure, to underline the realities of the game-world. It represents an impressive synthesis of mechanics and flavor, all in the service of storytelling.

Why should you care? Simple. Because we frankly need more adventures like this. Because this atmosphere, this feeling, is precarious, hard to get right, and because, even if you prefer far out concepts, the weird ultimately does become stale if you constantly barrage the players with it. The wisdom inherent in this type of old-school sensibility is, that in order for the outré and fantastic to properly work, you have to ground it, contextualize it. And that is much harder than writing an adventure about 8-armed flying monkey/mi-go-hybrids with laser canons. See what I did there? I bet you thought “that sounds cool” – see, that is the elevator pitch I mentioned.

I can’t do the same type of elevator pitch for this module. Don’t get me wrong. I love far-out weirdness. But know what? Chances are, that if you buy this module (the price-point is btw. imho really, really low for the amount of material), you’ll start smiling upon reading the module. Because it draws you in. Because it feels alive and organic and plausible. Because it doesn’t rely on flash and bang and world-ending threats, instead opting for a more subdued theme – without becoming generic. It is interesting, once you start to think about it, that strange and weird concepts and high fantasy over-the-top superhero-esque gaming have become so prevalent that fantasy like this, grounded, grimy, and down-to-earth, has become fresh, unique, and a rare and treasured type of experience. I do get why, mind you – in the hands of a mediocre author/designer, this would have been boring. It’s not.

The second installment of “Shadows over Riverton” is an impressive, extremely flavorful, detailed, and most importantly, fun adventure that even relatively new GMs should have no problems with. In fact, it’s good enough to transcend the lack of player-friendly maps that most of the time prevents modules from reaching my highest accolades. This is worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval, and if Greyhawk and the type of module I mentioned above even remotely struck a chord with you, then give this a chance. If you never understood why those old folks lament the lack of proper Greyhawk support by WotC – look no further than this to understand it! (And, if you’re a fan of Raging Swan Press, check this out – same hold true for vice-versa, obviously!)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
SoR2: Against the Slavers
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The Manor, Issue #7
Publisher: GM Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2018 12:38:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The seventh installment of the OSR-‚zine „The Manor“ clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/ToC/introduction, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 24 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’-booklet style.

The book sees the return of one of my favorite series from the early installments of the ‘zine, with Boltswitch’s Mobile Potion Emporium, penned by Boric Glanduum. The eponymous Boltswitch is basically a gnome snake-oil salesman, but one whose potions actually do something! Granted, not necessarily what you want them to do, but Boltswitch seems to be pretty up front about minor…peculiarities. Adak’s essence of age, for example, seems to be duplicating haste, but for briefer periods…and it eats up your lifespan. The unique component of this article would be that it is system neutral…and it is penned wholly in character. Boltswitch’s descriptions of his unique potions, his sales-pitches and the like, are really nice and useful, helping the referee/GM get into character. Particularly if you’re not that good with text-improvisation, having an extensive array of comments to paraphrase should be rather helpful. On the downside, while the text does an impressive job at conveying the benefits and drawbacks of the potions sold, the lack of precise effects for them feels unnecessary. Considering the brevity of rules-text that good OSR-mechanics can take up, it would have been nice to get a page of actual, mechanical benefits here.

The second article is penned by Joshua De Santo and introduces the skinwalker (coyote) class: Prime attributes would be Dex and Wis 13+ (with the customary 5% experience bonus) and HD are 1d4s. Skinwalkers are restricted to leather or chain armor and may not use shields. Weapon-wise, they are restricted to daggers or longbows – the latter restriction is a bit weird. Why not shortbows as well? Skinwalkers need to be neutral. Skinwalkers get low light vision, which is somewhat odd, considering how most OSR-rulesets know darkvision, infravision or x-ray vision, with low-light vision being something you see in more recent and rules-heavy systems. At 1st level, the skinwalker can change to coyote form and back once per day, +1/day at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. Okay, question: Is that always the same coyote form or can he assume different coyote forms? The skinwalker can use thief skills like a thief of one level below his character level. This should probably be gained at 2nd level, since 0-level characters usually have no thief skills. At 2nd level, skinwalkers get +2 to rolls to determine whether a person is lying to them. This is…kinda weird, since most commonly-used OSR-games do not roll for the like, using roleplaying instead. This makes the ability somewhat…useless sin quite a few systems. At 6th level, the skinwalker can produce minor glamors, such as changing color on herself or the target. No range, duration, save or limitation is provided. Saving throws improve from 16 to 7 and the class gains the first level at 2,500 XP, doubling required XP until 40K (4th level), whereafter we have a 20K per level requirement until 8th level – thereafter, it’s 50K per level.

I do not like this class one bit. It feels like an attempt to design for 5e that was aborted mid-way and jammed into OSR-games. The potentially interesting abilities are left to the referee to codify, which feels somewhat lazy.

Chris Coski has probably read about fabled Thuzun Thune: In a system-neutral article, we are presented with no less than 8 different magic mirrors, as well as quite a few really nice b/w-artworks. The article introduces such gems as the mirror of mediocrity or the mirror of mortis, which shows one of the myriad, gruesome way in which the viewer may die. I loved this article! It is pretty damn cool and authors that plan on jamming the oomphteenth mirror of opposition into their modules should take heed! That being said, I wished we got stats for them as well.

Beyond a funny mind-flayer haiku, we also have a micro-adventure by Simon Forster: One page map, one page explanation…and it can actually become pretty lethal pretty fast and sports stats for the BBEG, which are system agnostic, yet precise enough to use them smoothly! Kudos!

Now, this installment also sports a full-blown adventure, the Horrid Caves, penned by Garrison James, intended for 1st or 2nd level characters. Difficulty-wise, I’d consider the module to be hard – it definitely requires a well-rounded group. While I’m not the biggest fan of the font used, the adventure is a highlight – not just for this issue of the ‘zine, but for its whole run! I am NOT exaggerating! You see, it actually comes with no less than 7 new, precise and meticulously crafted spells, it also sports a summon-chart for one encounter and an extensive random encounter chart. Formatting here is precise as well – italicized spells, ascending and descending AC, precise rules…and a ton of unique monsters, which include flammable vermin that take more damage by fire, but also become ridiculously fast while ablaze. Even cooler: The strange ecology of the caverns makes sense – clever players are rewarded for observing how the weird fauna interacts with each other. Better yet: The module is really versatile: It can easily fit into traditional fantasy, into weird fantasy, or work just as well in a post-apocalyptic context or in a Sword & Sorcery world – more on that below. It also has a distinct vibe that DCC judges will most assuredly love.

Okay, from here on, SPOILERS reign. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Once upon a time, an inhuman warlord and his crustacean soldiers from another plane were cut off from their means to return; separated from their spawning pools, these beings arrayed themselves in formation for the death to come, as they would for battle – and now, their caves have been breached. In the caverns, strange tadpoles levitate through the skies, only to explode upon death; a severed, undead head makes for a formidable spellcaster and the undead husks of chitin-creatures shamble through the complex, potentially leaving strange seeds behind. Tubular snails spew blinding fumes, and lime-green spiders…actually are mostly harmless for PCs, but can color the skin of their bites temporarily lime green. Hooray for mammals being for once not subject to all poisons. Of course, these spiders can collapse into green slime. Which is very much deadly for mammals. But hey, it takes a bit of time and doesn’t happen always…so don’t chuckle to hard in advance… A twisted idol can temporarily grant supernatural fecundity, though offspring born with have a crayfish-like face. Hexagonal blue-green-glazed tiles contain spells that fortified against the then-cutting edge bronze weaponry, and magic-users can learn to leave organic, semi-permeable membranes in their wake. There also is a spell to target gills in particular, which may be of more use than at first glance. A primordial ancestor of black puddings, the black oil, slimes away in a recess of the dungeon, and a snail-pearl may be valuable…but while in the complex, it has a nasty habit of summoning giant, carnivorous snails! Oh, have I mentioned the ancient, magical paintings of a time long gone? This adventure is mechanically-precise, has a cool map, and can fit into a ton of different games. It also represents a challenging, fun and amazing adventure. It warrants the low and fair asking price pretty much on its own.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting oscillate a bit between articles regarding their quality, but can generally be considered to be good when seen as a whole. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, with a surprising amount of nice b/w-artworks I haven’t seen before. Cartography is b/w and similarly nice, though, alas, we do not get player-friendly, key-less versions of the maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

The 7th installment of the Manor represents, in a way, a highlight in the ‘zine’s run: The system neutral articles are both inspiring, if held back a bit due to their lack of precise rules. The micro-dungeon represents a surprisingly fun diversion as well. The class, on the other hand, alas, falls short of what it easily could have and should have been. Just because something’s written for a rules-lite OSR-game doesn’t mean that the rules get to be shoddy – precision is key and NOT anathema to flavor - see e.g. Gavin Norman’s phenomenal work, for example.

And then, there would be “Horrid Caves.” This dungeon is frickin’ amazing and warrants the price of the magazine all on its own. It’s precise, well-crafted and simply elegant, super-easy to integrate into a ton of different genres…I can’t say enough good things about this adventure. It’s a real gem.

Anyways, rating-wise, I have to rate the issue as a whole, and while it is one of my favorite installments of the whole ‘zine, as a whole, it falls slightly short of getting my seal of approval, with more articles falling into the “good, but not great”-range. Still, I highly recommend picking this one up - $2.50 is a true steal for the content herein. Hence, my final verdict will be 5 stars, in spite of a few rough patches here and there.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #7
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Places of Power: Forgotten Athenaeum (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2018 12:36:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is the forgotten athenaeum? It is a lost place of research, of knowledge – when the peaceful kingdom of Tirinos was besieged by the Venovian empire, this massive library was secluded in the astral plane to hide it from the fanatic assailants, who seemed to be following the old adage of every few centuries requiring the burning of Alexandria’s library. (Metaphorically speaking – the supplement does not presume a pseudo-historical background.)

An interesting facet of this exile is obvious to anyone who starts to think about it: The place makes for a great place to store heretical texts, forbidden and obscure knowledge and the like – whatever the powers-that-be want purged from records, Erasmus the bibliognost may intervene to procure and conserve the knowledge. This, obviously, means that this place makes for an excellent destination for PCs, are we all know how likely it is that they will need notes on unintentionally unleashed doomsday devices, magical diseases, planar configurations, etc.

As such, the knowledge pertaining the place is relatively obscure, something that should be borne in mind by referees, and the librarians that maintain the place are a relatively eclectic lot, unified by dressing habits and appearances, in spite of their diverse worlds and planes of origin. This is as well a place as any to note that the classes referenced have been properly adjusted to reflect the preferred designations of old-school gamers: Magis-users, thieves, etc. can be found in these classes referenced. The supplement details the daily proceedings in the athenaeum, painting a concise picture of daily life and circumstances, as well as on how to get PCs actually to it, how these beings are introduced to the place, etc.

As always with Raging Swan Press’ supplements, the pdf does contain 6 whispers and rumors and 6 sample events to kick off adventuring, though it should be noted that, in this instance, they are applied globally to the athenaeum, not to the individual keyed locations, of which there are 12, many of which provide their own angles as well, though they are not explicitly noted as hooks. The respective keyed locales do not have read-aloud text provided for them. The place btw. also includes a rather impressive, eternal garden…which is a fragile treasure, since the plane’s timelessness does prevent regrowth of new plants, fruits, flowers, etc. As an aside, this, to me, makes the garden utterly creepy.

The astute reader will notice a few peculiarities here: One, the existence of the two cultures is thankfully, courtesy of the planar angle, not required to use this pdf. This is SMART, since jamming two cultures into the lore of a given campaign setting, just so the background checks out, is something I hate. The astute reader will also have noticed that the Astral Plane chosen as the location is timeless – and indeed, the pdf actually integrates this component into lore and structure of the place of power, which is a pretty big plus – so far, so nice!

Now, this being the system neutral version, I obviously have nothing regarding research-mechanics to complain about. The pdf is also careful to make sure that references to spells have been properly adjusted to refer to the respective, classic monikers, so yeah – well done.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a few neat b/w-artworks. The cartography by Dyson Logos is nice and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It also comes in 2 versions, with one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printing process. Kudos!

Richard Green makes clever use of the planar properties of the astral plane for this refuge of uncomfortable truths and heresies. The place is clever, easy to integrate into a given campaign, and while I slightly bemoan how much text is spent on its genesis, I can see the necessity. This place, in short, is a really cool sidetrek/goal-destination that can make PCs enter an otherwise unrelated dungeon: There’s an entry there, go! Easy angle to implement. So yeah, this aspect is rather cool. The system neutral version of this place, to me, is the best one – both PFRPG and 5e-versions, to one degree or another, offer only a very simplistic benefit for consulting the library, which may feel anticlimactic. Since this version eschews mechanics for the like, it is also, ultimately, the version against which I can field no viable gripes. The conversion is solid and thorough, and thus, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars for this iteration.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Forgotten Athenaeum (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Epic! Thank you very much for your review, Endzeitgeist! I much appreciate the time and effort. Glad you enjoyed Forgotten Athenaeum!
Places of Power: Forgotten Athenaeum (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2018 12:34:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is the forgotten athenaeum? It is a lost place of research, of knowledge – when the peaceful kingdom of Tirinos was besieged by the Venovian empire, this massive library was secluded in the astral plane to hide it from the fanatic assailants, who seemed to be following the old adage of every few centuries requiring the burning of Alexandria’s library. (Metaphorically speaking – the supplement does not presume a pseudo-historical background.)

An interesting facet of this exile is obvious to anyone who starts to think about it: The place makes for a great place to store heretical texts, forbidden and obscure knowledge and the like – whatever the powers-that-be want purged from records, Erasmus the bibliognost may intervene to procure and conserve the knowledge. This, obviously, means that this place makes for an excellent destination for PCs, are we all know how likely it is that they will need notes on unintentionally unleashed doomsday devices, magical diseases, planar configurations, etc.

As such, the knowledge pertaining the place is relatively obscure, particularly in 5e – the lore-DCs are pretty damn high, which, in this case, is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The librarians that maintain the place are a relatively eclectic lot, unified by dressing habits and appearances, in spite of their diverse worlds and planes of origin. The supplement details the daily proceedings in the athenaeum, painting a concise picture of daily life and circumstances, as well as on how to get PCs actually to it, how these beings are introduced to the place, etc.

As always with Raging Swan Press’ supplements, the pdf does contain 6 whispers and rumors and 6 sample events to kick off adventuring, though it should be noted that, in this instance, they are applied globally to the athenaeum, not to the individual keyed locations, of which there are 12, many of which provide their own angles as well, though they are not explicitly noted as hooks. The respective keyed locales do not have read-aloud text provided for them. The place btw. also includes a rather impressive, eternal garden…which is a fragile treasure, since the plane’s timelessness does prevent regrowth of new plants, fruits, flowers, etc. As an aside, this, to me, makes the garden utterly creepy.

The astute reader will notice a few peculiarities here: One, the existence of the two cultures is thankfully, courtesy of the planar angle, not required to use this pdf. This is SMART, since jamming two cultures into the lore of a given campaign setting, just so the background checks out, is something I hate. The astute reader will also have noticed that the Astral Plane chosen as the location is timeless – and indeed, the pdf actually integrates this component into lore and structure of the place of power, which is a pretty big plus – so far, so nice!

In the 5e-version, the research bonuses conveyed by the library are translated into Intelligence checks made at advantage, with +2 to the check if the knowledge sought is banned/heretical. I’m good with that, though I wished that the rules specified how this interacts with features that already net a character advantage on such a check. References to NPCs have been redesigned properly to point towards the respective default NPC-stats 5e employs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a few neat b/w-artworks. The cartography by Dyson Logos is nice and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It also comes in 2 versions, with one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printing process. Kudos!

Richard Green makes clever use of the planar properties of the astral plane for this refuge of uncomfortable truths and heresies. The place is clever, easy to integrate into a given campaign, and while I slightly bemoan how much text is spent on its genesis, I can see the necessity. This place, in short, is a really cool sidetrek/goal-destination that can make PCs enter an otherwise unrelated dungeon: There’s an entry there, go! Easy angle to implement. So yeah, this aspect is rather cool. The 5e version of this supplement works smoother than the PFRPG-iteration, courtesy of the lack of a unified research rules-array in 5e. That being said, if you’re REALLY stingy about 5e’s peculiarities, you may object to a druid having an owl animal companion, for example – this is only mentioned in the flavor text, but yeah. Some of you may object to that. All in all, I consider the 5e-version to be slightly stronger than the PFRPG version, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Forgotten Athenaeum (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Epic! Thank you very much for your review, Endzeitgeist! I much appreciate the time and effort. Glad you enjoyed Forgotten Athenaeum!
Places of Power: Forgotten Athenaeum
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2018 12:32:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is the forgotten athenaeum? It is a lost place of research, of knowledge – when the peaceful kingdom of Tirinos was besieged by the Venovian empire, this massive library was secluded in the astral plane to hide it from the fanatic assailants, who seemed to be following the old adage of every few centuries requiring the burning of Alexandria’s library. (Metaphorically speaking – the supplement does not presume a pseudo-historical background.)

An interesting facet of this exile is obvious to anyone who starts to think about it: The place makes for a great place to store heretical texts, forbidden and obscure knowledge and the like – whatever the powers-that-be want purged from records, Erasmus the bibliognost may intervene to procure and conserve the knowledge. This, obviously, means that this place makes for an excellent destination for PCs, are we all know how likely it is that they will need notes on unintentionally unleashed doomsday devices, magical diseases, planar configurations, etc.

As such, the knowledge pertaining the place is relatively obscure and the librarians that maintain the place are a relatively eclectic lot, unified by dressing habits and appearances, in spite of their diverse worlds and planes of origin. The supplement details the daily proceedings in the athenaeum, painting a concise picture of daily life and circumstances, as well as on how to get PCs actually to it, how these beings are introduced to the place, etc.

As always with Raging Swan Press’ supplements, the pdf does contain 6 whispers and rumors and 6 sample events to kick off adventuring, though it should be noted that, in this instance, they are applied globally to the athenaeum, not to the individual keyed locations, of which there are 12, many of which provide their own angles as well, though they are not explicitly noted as hooks. The respective keyed locales do not have read-aloud text provided for them. The place btw. also includes a rather impressive, eternal garden…which is a fragile treasure, since the plane’s timelessness does prevent regrowth of new plants, fruits, flowers, etc. As an aside, this, to me, makes the garden utterly creepy.

The astute reader will notice a few peculiarities here: One, the existence of the two cultures is thankfully, courtesy of the planar angle, not required to use this pdf. This is SMART, since jamming two cultures into the lore of a given campaign setting, just so the background checks out, is something I hate. The astute reader will also have noticed that the Astral Plane chosen as the location is timeless – and indeed, the pdf actually integrates this component into lore and structure of the place of power, which is a pretty big plus – so far, so nice!

Now, there is one thing that I particularly bemoaned regarding the locale as presented: RAW, it yields a bonus to Knowledge checks (+4/+6, respectively) to research materials. Which is all fine and dandy, however, Ultimate Intrigue did introduce rather nice and compelling rules for research, and it would have been really nice to see those implemented, at least in a sidebar or the like.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a few neat b/w-artworks. The cartography by Dyson Logos is nice and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It also comes in 2 versions, with one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printing process. Kudos!

Richard Green makes clever use of the planar properties of the astral plane for this refuge of uncomfortable truths and heresies. The place is clever, easy to integrate into a given campaign, and while I slightly bemoan how much text is spent on its genesis, I can see the necessity. This place, in short, is a really cool sidetrek/goal-destination that can make PCs enter an otherwise unrelated dungeon: There’s an entry there, go! Easy angle to implement. So yeah, this aspect is rather cool. That being said, I do not object to the relatively rules-lite way in which the benefits of the library are presented, but implementing research rules/library stats would have added to the immediate functionality of this pdf for its PFRPG version. As such, while I really enjoy the location, I am slightly less smitten by the execution for this system. My final verdict can thus not exceed 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Forgotten Athenaeum
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Creator Reply:
Epic! Thank you very much for your review, Endzeitgeist! I much appreciate the time and effort.
New Paths Compendium - Expanded Edition (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2018 04:29:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive, crunchy hardcover clocks in at 170 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 161 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving the limited edition print version of this book. My review is mainly based on this version, though I have also contacted the pdf to ascertain the functionality of that version. It was also requested as a priority review.

Now, first of all: This review is a HUGE monster, intended to help you ascertain for yourself the content.

Wait, didn’t I already review the New Paths Compendium? Well yeah, I did. I also covered all previously released installments of the New Paths-series released since then and analyzed them in depth. However, this book not only represents a sort of final version for them, it also contains new content. Plus, Pathfinder has changed, often quite significantly, since the release of the initial releases, so revisiting the material and analyzing how it holds up will be one of the goals here. Now, I cannot go into the really deep level of detail for a book of this size sans bloating the review beyond any usefulness – I will focus more on the big components, i.e. on the classes and supplemental material that make up the majority of the book.

All right, so we begin with no less than 12 different new base classes. The first of these that I’d like to cover would be an oldie-but-goldie, the spell-less ranger. The spell-less ranger gets full BAB, d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, good Fort- and Ref-saves, up to 5 favored enemies, up to 4 favored terrains and additionally stealth attack which is a terrain/favored enemy-based, weaker variant of sneak attack that is gained at 2nd level and scales up to +5d6, increasing by +1d6 every 4 levels thereafter. Hunter’s bond with allies or companion (from a limited list) is chosen at 4th level. Staples like track and wild empathy at 1st, combat style at 2nd level and endurance at 3rd level are provided. 5th level and 12th increase base movement rate in favored terrain by +10 ft. each and 7th level nets woodland stride, 8th swift tracker and 9th evasion. Quarry is gained at 11th level, camouflage at 12th, improved evasion at 16th, hide in plain sight at 17th and improved quarry at 19th level. The capstone nets full-speed following tracks as well as a standard action attack versus favored enemies that prompts a save-or-die. The death strike ability component may be used 1/day versus each favored enemy, but not more than once per target – this is important, since there may be overlaps. The class gets some unique tricks as well, with 3rd level providing the means to use Heal for expanded, medicinal purposes, and the class gets further customization tricks in the guise of ranger talents at 4th, 7th, 9th,11th,13th, 16th and 19th level. These include low-light vision, combat feats, treating difficult terrain in favored terrain as normal, +4 to confirmation rolls to confirm critical hits, ignoring concealment with a standard action ranged attack or gaining an additional animal companion. These are potent, but they have to be to make up for the loss of spellcasting.

The spell-less ranger features 3 archetypes: Companion-bound rangers do not suffer from the restrictions regarding companion choices of the regular spell-less ranger. However, to make up for this, the spell-less ranger only gets a single favored terrain, which limits the usefulness of some of the more potent talents and stealth attack. To avoid cheesing the better companion selection, the talent that nets an additional companion is expressively prohibited for the archetype. Instead of woodland stride, we get feat-based companion-enhancement and quarry and its improved version is modified to apply to the companion as well. Empathic link is gained at 12th level, The dual-style ranger only gets a single favored enemy, but gains, surprise, two styles. The shadow stalker replaces favored enemy with studied target and may combine it with stealth attack as an immediate action. Instead of wild empathy, we get poison use. 7th level replaces woodland stride with the option to study a target as a full-round action and then follow the studying with a potentially deadly attack, assassin style. This is very potent and may not be for all campaigns, as it makes the game a bit grittier and works well in a more savage/brutal type of fantasy. The reason why I’m not up in arms regarding this ability is that is it kept in check by only being able to target a given character 1/day – after that, it’s 24 hours immune to the attack. As an aside: This archetype makes for a really good solo-play class.

One of the other classes presented herein is very much akin to the spell-less ranger, to the point where it can be considered to be a variant class of it. This would be the skin-changer. The skin-changer begins play with minor animal shape, which duplicates beast shape I, usable as a standard action and lasting 10 minutes per class level. This upgrades at 4th level and unlocks new size categories at 6th and 8th level, with 6th level and every 2 levels thereafter yielding an additional daily use. 10th level unlocks healing whenever forms are changed, which similarly scales, and 12th level nets DR in animal form. Changing action economy also improves. 3rd level nets speak with animals at-will in favored terrain, and 2nd level nets animal combat, which translates to bonuses for natural attacks and damage, as well as initiative in animal form. These improve, and over the levels, the natural attacks also count as progressively better for bypassing DR, with 8th level yielding Critical Focus, 11th Bleeding Critical and 14th Improved Natural Attack. The class gets 4 favored terrains and stealth attack is gained at 6th level at +2d6, improving by +1d6 for every 4 levels thereafter. No hunter’s bond is gained and 15th level nets +3 natural armor in animal form, which increases by +2 at 17th and 19th level. It should also be noted that the capstone’s death attack is not tied to creature type, but is contingent on favored terrain and comes with a hard cap of 3/day. This is perhaps the easiest to use shifter-style class I know – it has merit in that regard. However, at the same time, I think that Interjection Games’ Animist and Everyman Gaming’s Shapechanger (from Paranormal Adventures) are the more interesting classes, though both require a higher degree of system mastery. If you’re looking for a no-frills shapechanger, though, then this fellow still holds up.

The spell-less ranger was a resounding success when it was first released, and it remains so to this date – the class is fun, straightforward and easy to grasp, and the archetypes and their exchanges are meaningful engine-tweaks. The class is fun and well-made and remains a true classic.

While we’re on the subject of nature-themed classes, let us talk about the shaman, now renamed spirit shaman following the release of Paizo’s ACG-class. The shaman is basically the oracle-like spontaneous caster variant to the prepared druid. The spirit shaman offers d8 HD, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, proficiency in light and medium armor and shields, but only non-metal ones and full spontaneous spellcasting from the druid's spell-list, governed by Charisma. The usual alignment-opposite restrictions apply and the class begins play with wild empathy as well as +2 to Knowledge (nature) and Heal. 2nd level nets woodland stride and 4th level provides wild shape, with elemental and plant shapes added at higher levels.

Important and more fun that one gets first: 3rd level nets shaman’s touch, which may be used Cha-mod times per day and duplicates scaling healing spells/dealing damage to the undead. 9th level provides spirit dance, which is basically a 3-round means to ritualistically modify spellcasting to improve the spellcasting for higher DCs and later, free metamagic addition (with a cap to prevent abuse) and better penetration of SR. 13th level nets class level rounds in spirit form, as per ethereal jaunt, with 17th level astral projection may be undertaken, with the added benefit of potentially providing legend lore benefits, representing a vision quest of sorts. The spirit shaman also gets totem spells depending on totem chosen. The spirit shaman also chooses a totem secret at 1st level, 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, allowing the class to e.g. spend time doing haruspex to see into the future,, become invisible, conjure forth protective spirits, etc. Nice: These scale and improve and include a super-potent trance that nets a massive +20 bonus to an Intelligence-based skill check. Seeing the incorporeal, better damage versus the incorporeal, etc. – these are nice. Now I am not a big fan of ability score substitution, so using Charisma instead or Dexterity for AC, Reflex-saves, etc. isn’t something I’m too keen on. Then again, that is my own bias and not something I’d penalize the pdf for. The capstone, however, is slightly problematic, as it renders the character functionally immortal in a way: After 7 days, the character returns from life as per true resurrection. The spirit shaman also gets infinite spirit dance uses.

Now, the class also gets a spirit guide, which is basically a modified form of animal companion that can deliver touch spells, act to deliver touch spells and become incorporeal at higher levels. The pdf contains 17 different sample companion stats, all with totem spells noted. Archetype-wise, we get 3 archetypes, the first of which would be the elemental shaman, who gets an elemental companion, which is clearly intended to replace the regular spirit guide, but doesn’t say so in a little oversight. Instead of woodland step, we get Elemental Spell as a bonus feat as well as a +2 increase to the DC of spells with element-related descriptors. Wild shape is relegated to 6th level and focus on elemental body improvement. The archetype sports companion stats, complete with totem spells, for the 4 classic elements. The second archetype is the primal shifter, who gets diminished spellcasting, but heals a bit of damage whenever the primal shifter changes form via his wild shape. The dance-mechanic is similarly changed, instead focusing on enhancement of physical and combat capacities. The third archetype is the witch doctor, who gets healing-themed bonus spells. These fellows replace wild empathy with spirit sense and replace woodland stride with Brew Potion. The archetype can use shaman’s touch class level + Cha-mod times per day, but at the cost of diminished wild shape capacity.

The spirit shaman is another class that holds up really well to this date – the spontaneous, very druid-y spirit guide/spirit shaman-trope is well-executed here and has seen quite a lot of use in my games. The class is easy to grasp, tight and neat. As a nitpick, I noticed one instance where the original “shaman”, sans the “spirit” remained, but this is an utter non-entity of an oversight here, as the context is readily evident.

While we’re on the subject of spirits and related mysticism, let’s talk a bit about a relatively recent addition to the product-line, let’s talk about the White Necromancer. White Necromancers get d6 HD, must be non-evil, get 2 + Int skills per level, as well as proficiency with simple weapons (no armors and shields - arcane spell failure), 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves as well as full spellcasting of up to 9th level. Spellcasting is handled via Charisma and thus is spontaneous. The class gets Eschew Materials at first level and surprisingly, is not banned from casting evil necromancy spells, but the respective spells use two slots when being cast - interesting balancing there! This restriction is btw. removed at 4th level.

They also add their Wisdom-modifier to all Knowledge (religion)-checks pertaining death and the undead, burial rites etc. and receive +1/2 class level (minimum +1) to Heal skill checks. As low-level signature ability at 1st level, they also get the option to Rebuke Death as a standard action, which translates to healing living creatures by touching them for 1d4+1 per two class levels, usable 3+Cha-mod times per day. Nice...at least at low levels. At higher levels, a more rapid scaling of healing would very much be in order to make the class retain viability as a healer.

At 3rd level, the class may also Turn Undead 1 + Charisma-modifier times per day and the class is treated as having channel energy, but ONLY for the purpose of turning the undead. Adding on further channeling feats is also mentioned and covered regarding ability-interactions. The 4th level provides the ability that lends the class its name – white necromancy. Undead creation-spells cast by the White Necromancer no longer count as evil and the resulting undead are free-willed, if intelligent, and of the same alignment as the White Necromancer - and as a crucial difference to regular undead: They are not slaves. To make them perform a task (even mindless ones), requires a Diplomacy-check on behalf of the White Necromancer - and while I can hear some groans, I do think that's valid - interrupting someone's eternal rest should be no laughing matter and require some finesse. Intelligent undead have a friendly disposition towards the white necromancer, and as such checks to request tasks receive a +2 bonus.

At 5th level, the class gets perhaps one of its most iconic abilities with Life Bond, a supernatural ability. As a standard action, the White Necromancer may create a bond between her and one living creature within 90 ft. Each round at the White Necromancer's turn, each bonded creature (of which the White Necromancer may have up to her class level active at once) is healed by 5 hp if they've been damaged for more than 5 hp below their maximum hp, while the white necromancer siphons her life into them. Now this ability seems weaker on paper than in play - the tactical options it offers are significant and beyond that, the ability mirrors well the duality between life and death as well as lending itself to great potential for heroic sacrifice: We've all been there, the villain is almost vanquished, but it becomes readily apparent that she/he/it will take on PC down with it - with a solemn smile, the white necromancer can now make the conscious decision to give his/her life to give the PCs just that edge to survive. Any number of bonds may be ended as an immediate action, btw. This component of the engine is further enhanced at 7th level, with necrotic transfer, when the white necromancer may sacrifice up to 10+Constitution-score (NOT modifier!!)+class level hit points and transfer them via touch to an ally.

7th level nets speak with the dead for class level rounds, with 9th level and every 2 levels thereafter yielding a cumulative -2 penalty to resist the ability. 9th level also provides lifesight 10 ft., which increases by 10 ft. at 13th level and every 4 levels thereafter. At 11th level, damage-dealing skeletal arms erupting from the ground make for a more macabre form of attack in a 20 ft.-burst, with scaling, properly codified damage and a Ref-save to halve. An additional daily use is gained every 4 levels after 11th. 13th level provides the option to turn incorporeal for a limited number of rounds each day, and at 15th level, the class adds +1/2 class level as a morale bonus to all saves vs. death effects and gets a save, even when such an effect would usually not provide for one. It would be nice to know the DC for non-spell-based death effects, though. Starting at 17th level, the white necromancer can temporarily emit an aura that nets immunity to death effects, energy drain, negative levels, etc. The capstone, unsurprisingly, offers immunity to death effects. The character can also be no longer reduced below 1 by ability score damage/drain and may 1/day cast power word kill, affecting up to 150 hp worth of targets. The white necromancer may also nice per round cast bleed/stabilize as a free action. It should be noted that, RAW, the white necromancer has a unique spell-list, though expanding it should prove o be relatively simple.

As before, we get three archetypes: The grave warden replaces the low level healing touch with 3 + Charisma modifier sanctify corpse, with 10th level allowing the archetype to make it permanent 1/day. Instead of the Turn Undead-angle, the grave warden gets channel energy, but only to damage undead. At 20th level, this ignores channel resistance, if any. Life bond is replaces with detect evil, detect undead, hide from undead, which may be cast a total of 3 + Charisma modifier times per day as a SP. The other transference ability nets a scaling skill boost versus the undead. At 17th level, we get a potent defense-buff aura that can also be empowered by channel energy uses to destroy undead that dare enter it, thankfully with a caveat that makes undead with twice as many HD as the grave warden immune. In essence, this one loses the healer angle and instead focuses on undead destruction. The second one would be the grave bound, who loses the high level protective aura in favor of cold resistance 10, DR 5/- and +4 t saves vs. spells and SPs cast by undead. Unintelligent undead also no longer notice the grave bound unless attacked by him. Life bond, a pretty important ability, is exchanged for an undead companion. These companions share the same basic advancement table and increase in power at 8th, 12th, 16th and 20th level, gaining new abilities depending on their type. There is a complaint here regarding their base stats, though: The zombie, for example, has AC 16, with only +2 natural noted in the brackets. The ghost’s starting AC is 17, but ability-score-wise, should be 15. Some of the ACs note the constituent bonuses, some don’t. This is an inconsistency that could have been caught here. 6 different companions are provided.

Finally, the necrotic healer get better healing touch and a couple of bonus spells and may take negative conditions of others, taken from a fixed list, to suffer for them – RAW, the condition must be suffered for 1d3 rounds or its original duration, whichever is lower. I have an issue with this, as it can be applied to permanent conditions. Instead of communion with the dead, we get enhanced healing (as if Empower Spell’d). 9th level allows for the absorption of wounds/effects that allies suffer from as an immediate action (limited daily uses) and the high-level protective aura is enhanced by lasting + Charisma modifier rounds.

I really like the white necromancer. I still do. At the same time, I like it less than I should. I don’t know, I find myself wishing it had a couple more unique tricks up its sleeve, a bloodline-like component or something like that with different paths for final death, retribution, etc. With the focus on life/self-sacrifice/etc., a kind of buffer/shield-engine would have made sense as well – if you roll HD and roll badly, you’ll be in pain – I definitely suggest contemplating Constitution as highest or second highest ability score. Still, it’s a good class and I stand by my original verdict of 4.5 stars for it, even though grave-bound clearly is the strongest archetype, losing not enough for the power the companion grants. Flavor-wise, the martyr-style scholar of death is nice and easy to grasp and play.

While we’re on the subject of full casters and the like, let’s move on to the priest-class. The priest class receives d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and proficiency in only simple weapons. The class begins play with an aura as per the cleric's default and bonus languages include the respective languages of the alignment-related outer planes. Similarly, the restrictions we know regarding opposed alignment spells still apply. A priest draws her spells from the cleric spell list and must prepare them in advance; however, they are not expended upon being cast, instead consuming a spell slot available. The governing spellcasting attribute for the priest would be Wisdom and the priest begins with 1 + 1 spells of first level prepared, +4 orisons. Obviously, as a full caster, she progresses to learn up to 9th level spells and the maximum spells per day per spell level clock in at unmodified 4, with prepared spells capping at 4 + 2 per spell level.

The plusses in the spells known list refer obviously to the domain spells; a priest selects a total of 3 domains from her deity and she gains all of the domain powers and bonus spells of the chosen domains. The priest's spellcasting is also tied to her holy symbol, with which she shares a sacred bond - much like an arcane bond, casting without it becomes problematic, but here's the kicker: The priest may use the holy (or unholy) symbol to cast single-target (excluding mass/communal versions) cure or inflict spells as though they had a range of close instead of touch - which is a huge boon. Back in 3.X literally EVERY cleric in my games had the feat to do just that.

The priest also receives access to channel energy at 2nd level, improving every 3 levels after 2nd by +1d6, though the ability is governed by Wisdom for the class, making it less multiple-attribute-dependent (MAD). 7th level optionally decreases activation action to a move action, at 14th level it may even be executed as a swift action. Since the ability has no per-round cap, that makes channel pretty nova-like and can allow the priest to channel thrice in a round. Yeah, that is problematic and was one of the aspects of the class that should have been addressed for the compilation. 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter net a bonus feat from a nice selection of mostly channel-themed feats, and, as a capstone, the class becomes immune to death attacks and negative levels and may never be reduced below 1 in any ability score. Additionally, the priest remains alive until twice negative Constitution score in hit points is exceeded.

The customization options of the class include so-called divine gifts, which can be used 1/day as a swift action. 10 such gifts are provided and all are available - you don't have to choose. The priest may use the ability, as mentioned, 1/day, but may use it +1/day for every 3 levels beyond first. If a gift enhances a spell, it may only enhance cleric spells and only one gift may enhance each spell. The gifts include CL and DC-increases of the next spell cast, invisibility (that scales up to greater invisibility at 7th level), metamagic enhancements, immediate action rerolls, wings at 5th level, Ac and save bonuses with DR and SR or bursts of raw, damaging divine power...or, well, spell-swapping.

The book provides two archetypes for the priest, the first of which would be the chosen of nature, who gets a modified class skill list and draws spells from the druid spell list. Instead of channel energy, we get nature shape, a variant of wild shape at 2nd level. The ability counts as wild shape for ability interactions and comes with Natural Spell baked into it, but only duplicates increasingly more potent beast shape spells, capping at VI, and unlocks plant shapes at half the value of the beast shapes –i.e. upon unlocking beast shape IV, plant shape II is unlocked. Daily uses increase on a total basis. 6th level’s bonus feat is replaced with constant speak with animals/plants, and the bonus feat of 12th level instead allows the archetype to optionally activate nature shape as a move action. The bonus feat at 18th level is replaced with 1/day foresight, only usable in a natural environment. The second archetype would be the guarded priest, who gets a slightly modified spell list to account for the fact that divine gift is replaced with an unchained summoner’s eidolon that must take the agathion, angel, archon, azata, daemon, demon or devil base evolution. The eidolon may also choose a new 3-point evolution, namely smite evil or good, depending on alignment, using its own Charisma and HD to calculate effects. The evolution may be taken more often to grant additional daily uses.

The priest was and still is a class I always wanted – a full, divine caster that is not a front-line combatant. The issue here is that the cleric already is a full caster, which means that the priest needed something to excel beyond the capabilities of the cleric. The divine gift angle of a deed-like engine is a good idea, though I did wish the class had employed a slightly more rewarding engine here. With the advent of influence mechanics, it would have been nice to add such an angle. The nova-issue hasn’t been addressed, which may necessitate some sort of gentlemen’s agreement. Ultimately, I like the class, but I want to like the concept more than I actually enjoy the execution.

While we’re on the subject of full casters and executions that I don’t like as much as I want to: The theurge is back. The class gets d6 HD, 2 +Intelligence modifier skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, good Will-saves and prepared spellcasting -arcane spellcasting governed via Intelligence and divine spellcasting governed via Wisdom - both from first level on. A Theurge gets a spellbook and a prayerbook and the latter requires the divine spells to be learned similarly to how arcane spells behave - from scrolls or levels. The superior spell selection of the original iteration has been reigned in somewhat. The class gets Scribe Scroll as a 2nd level bonus feat and 3rd level allows the class to reroll any concentration check, taking the better result.

While first, slots are distinct from another, starting at fourth level, arcane spells may be prepared via divine slots and vice versa, but at a penalty level-wise to the spell prepared, i.e. second level spells need to be prepared as third level spells etc. This may not be done if a spell exists on both spell lists, preventing cheesing, and the ability clarifies the maximum spell level that may be thus prepared via the other casting tradition’s slots. The capstone gets rid of this limitation regarding the spell slot higher (but not the maximum level!) and allows the theurge to add a metamagic feat for free to a spell cast, up to either Wisdom or Intelligence modifier times per day, whichever is higher.

The capstone gets rid of this minor penalty, though. At 5th level, theurges may cast two spells with the same casting time at once - one arcane, one divine, with targets affected by both suffering from a -4 penalty to saves, with the theurge getting +4 to CL-checks to overcome SR with them. This may be used 1/day, +1/day per 6 levels after that.

They also learn to cast a select limited array of spells as SPs, starting at 6th level, where one 1st level spell may be chosen. 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter yield another such SP, with the maximum spell level that may be chosen increasing by +1 as well each time. 8th and 14th level net a bonus feat chosen from a limited list and 9th level nets the wand adept ability, using his own ability scores (Intelligence and Wisdom) to calculate save DCs when using wands containing spells from his spell lists. At 14th level, the higher caster level of theurge or wand is used. To nitpick here, the save-DC-increase should only apply to spells known. The theurge gets no archetypes.

I still don’t like the theurge, even though it has gotten rid of one of its worst offenders regarding spell-list poaching or non-full-casters. A full caster that can cast both divine and arcane spells is a cool concept, and yes, the amount of spells cast (which never increases above 2 arcane + 2 divine per level (+ bonus spells via Intelligence + Wisdom) is severely restricted. This means every spell needs to count. I get that the general restriction on spells-slots is there for balance. I'm not sold, though, that it'll make for a particularly fun playing experience.

Sure, once you hit out your crême de la crême spells, you'll own the game...but what about the other time? Unlike most other classes, the theurge has nothing but spellcasting and will thus resort to wands and staves and scrolls. You’ll be carrying a buttload of spells-in-a-can around since you don't have enough spells for proper utility tricks, proper buffing, proper debuffing - essentially the class is geared very much toward being flashy super-spell nova-heavy. Which you may like, but personally, I think the class would have been more rewarding with more casts per day and a more restricted balancing via spells known. So, while the class has gotten rid of its rules-wise problematic aspects, its basic design premise remains: It's a glass pumpgun (also re buffs/debuffs) - two devastating shots and empty. Personally, I'd be not keen as a DM to structure my adventures to "empty" the super spell-arsenal of the theurge or to play one, trying to keep my super-ammo for the big bad boss.

Now all of this sounds negative, but the class per se is not a bad design, it does have its niche in which it will excel, and I’m pretty sure that some folks out there will like how this one plays. While I'm not sold on the place in a regular adventuring group, I do think the theurge will work superbly in 1 on 1-adventures and small groups - especially if the DM modifies adventures accordingly, groups starved for players get essentially divine and arcane in one class without resorting to gestalting - so yeah, the theurge has its niche, though I maintain it could have been more versatile in its use. With the advent of Occult Adventures, an elegant way to balance the two spell lists would have, for example, been a kind of Burn-like engine that activates when switching from divine to arcane and back…or as a general resource to account for more spell slots. So yeah, over all, an improvement over the previous iteration of the class, but still not a class I enjoy or would allow in my game.

Since we’re already neck-deep in casting classes, let’s take a look at one niche that the book devotes two whole classes to: The blaster. The blaster is a popular concept, as evidenced by the gazillion of different options in that regard. One of the earlier incarnations of blasting classes in PFRPG was the Battle Scion, only predated, I believe, by the Archon and Vanguard classes released by Rogue Genius Games (back then Super Genius Games). Much like the vanguard, who was also penned by Marc Radle, the Battle Scion replaces a form of arcane gish, an arcane paladin, if you will.

The Battle Scion gets d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Fort-and Will-saves, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency in light, medium and heavy armor, shields and simple and martial weapons AND may cast spells while in armor from the very first level onwards without arcane spell-failure chance - thankfully still specifying regular spell failure chances for spells granted by other classes. Starting at 4th level, Battle Scions get access to arcane spells from the sorcerer/wizard-list of up to 4th level, which they cast as a prepared caster via Intelligence as governing attribute, with a caster level equal to their battle scion level-3. Furthermore, starting at 4th level, they also count as fighter of battle scion level -3 for the purpose of qualifying for fighter-only feats. At 2nd level, the battle scion gets a +1 deflection bonus to AC as well as a +1 insight bonus to hit with force blasts, both of which improve by +1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd. 3rd level nets Combat Casting as a bonus feat.

What are force blasts? They are basically 60 ft.-range touch attacks that inflict 2d4 damage, +1d4 for every 3 levels beyond 1st. SR applies and they are SPs, but battle scions treat their CL for the purpose of overcoming SR as their class level. The battle scion may emit one such blast 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day as a standard action, making sure that e.g. ranged weapons are not invalidated. That being said, the damage is untyped and a force effect, which is odd – I expected force damage here, but RAW, this would even bypass the very few force resistances out there. Considering the limitations imposed on the ability, I can see it work, though. Starting at 5th level, the class gets the dweomer weapon ability, which allows the battle scion, as a standard action, to focus energy into a weapon, which proceeds to shed light as a torch. The weapon gains a +1 enhancement bonus, which increases by +1 at every 3 levels beyond 5th, capping at +6 at 20th level, but only to the regular maximum of +5. You guessed it: The plusses can be exchanged in favor of special weapon properties and are added to pre-existing properties of the enhanced weapon. The ability lasts for 1 minute and may be used 1/day, +1/day for every 4 class levels beyond 5th. 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter nets a metamagic or combat bonus feat. 7th level increases the Combat Casting bonus to +6, with 11th level improving that to +8. Starting at 11th level, the battle scion may cast a prepared arcane spell (should specify from its own spell list, but oh well) as a swift action, but the spell must have a casting time of 1 standard action or less and the ability may only be used 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. Starting at 8th level, armor check penalty is reduced by 1, and maximum Dexterity bonus allowed by armor is increased by 1. This bonus further improves at every 4 levels thereafter, and the ability also provides unimpeded movement in medium and heavy armor. The capstone turns the CL and fighter level to full class level and allows for the immediate action casting of a spell when confirming a critical hit.

The class comes with 3 archetypes: First, there would be the bonded scion, who loses the deflection aura and makes his weapon an arcane bonded item and may enhance his bonded weapon. 8th level’s armored maneuvers instead nets a Improved Bonded Object at 5th level. Instead of 6th level’s bonus feat, we get +2 to critical hit confirmation with the bonded weapon, which increases by +1 for every four levels thereafter. Instead of 10th level’s feat, we get the option to use a force blast to temporarily enhance the weapon, making it ghost touch and adding class level to damage versus incorporeal foes. 11th level’s spell tactician benefit is replaced with the option to make the bonded weapon bane, but at a higher damage output. 14th level’s bonus feat is replaced with Awaken Bonded Object. Mostly a numbers game regarding a special weapon. The second archetype is the force blaster, who may use his force blasts as a move action at 2nd level. At 11th level, instead of spell tactician, he may use force blast 3/day as a swift action. 5th level increases the damage of these as if empowered, and the force blasts come with a ranged combat maneuver that may push targets and knock them prone, all at once. This replaces the dweomer weapon. At 6th level, the archetype is locked into a blast-enhancing feat and 10th level’s bonus feat is replaced with the option to fire two blasts per use of force blasts, which upgrades to 3 at 17th level. The third archetype would be the wild scion, who gets Eschew Materials instead of fighter training and has spontaneous spellcasting governed by Charisma. This is a really sucky proposition, considering that none of the other class features are adjusted – suddenly, you also need Charisma, for an archetype that is much too MAD. This one feels like a bad filler-afterthought that hasn’t been contemplated properly.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the battle scion when it was released, and that hasn’t changed…but even if you liked it, it hasn’t aged well. At all. In a world, where Interjection Games’ ethermagic makes for highly customizable, balanced blasters, and where the big dog Paizo has introduced the versatile, unique kineticist, the battle scion feels a bit off. The fact that the class uses more than full BAB (bonuses granted by class features) for the blasts feels like unnecessary overkill nowadays; touch attacks don’t need a full BAB-class. When taking a look at e.g. vigilante as a relatively recent, versatile and pretty amazing class, the battle scion feels a bit rudimentary. The godblade-weapon-enhancer is a concept that a lot of classes have done in more interesting ways as well. The class isn’t bad per se, mind you – but unlike e.g. spell-less ranger, it hasn’t aged well.

There is a second blaster class herein, one that makes its first appearance in this book. The name should make clear what it’s all about from the get-go: I’m talking about the warlock. Yep, we get a classic blaster-class within this book, so what does the warlock do? The warlock class gets d8 HD, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor and the warlock’s bond weapon, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves, as well as Intelligence-governed prepared spellcasting of up to 6th level, drawing upon the witch’s spell list. This spellcasting behaves analogue to the arcanist, though. The class has essentially two central angles: The warlock’s bond is a variant bonded weapon and gained at first level. It also acts as the familiar/spellbook substitute for the spell preparation of the class. The means of gaining new spells from e.g. other bond weapons and the like is concisely codified, and learning from scrolls is possible. The general weapon category of the bonded weapon determines a static bonus: The book distinguishes between 4 categories, with axes providing +2 to confirm crits, blades netting +2 to initiative, hammer and flails provide +2 to Fort saves and polearm bonded weapons allow the warlock to shorten his grip as an immediate action and attack adjacent targets at -2 to atk; if a polearm is not a reach weapon, the warlock gains a +1 insight bonus to attack rolls with it. Guess which one I liked best? Yeah, the polearm bonus is neat.

While wielding the bond weapon, the warlock adds Charisma modifier to CMD to resist disarm and sunder and this bonus applies to spells et al. that target the weapon and seek to change it. At 4th level, the warlock may deliver touch spells with it, and at 7th, 12th and 16th level, one of classic magic weapon properties is chosen from a brief list. At 10th level, the weapon awakens, becoming intelligent. Senses and attributes are defined and so are the skills available to the bonded weapon. Also at this level, we gain telepathy with the weapon. 14th level unlocks dark defenses, an ability that provides immunity for the shaken and frightened conditions as well as a +2 morale bonus to Will-saves. As a standard action, you can grant yourself SR equal to 6 + class level for class level rounds. This SR may not be suppressed. At 18th level, the morale bonus granted by dark defenses scales to +4 and the panicked condition is added to the immunity-list. The SR upgrades to 10 + class level. At 20th level, finally, the bonded weapon gets one of the most potent special weapon abilities, once more chosen from a brief list. It should be noted that aforementioned immunities only apply while wielding the bond weapon.

The second defining feature here should not surprise anyone – we get the dread bolt, which may be executed as a standard action. It’s a ranged, single-target blast that targets touch AC and has a range of 60 ft. It inflicts 1d6 force damage and increases that by +1d6 for every two warlock level beyond 1st. 5th level increases the range to 80 ft., and every 5 levels thereafter, the range further increases by +20 ft. Now, I’m not a fan of this being force damage, as the warlock gets infinite dread bolts per day, and force is the most valuable damage type in PFRPG, short of untyped, which is most of the time an oversight anyways. My issue lies within another construct here: Dread bolts “are treated as a weapon for purposes of making multiple attacks at higher levels.” This directly contradicts the activation action, which is a standard action. It also opens up a rather puzzling conundrum: If the activation action is correct and the dread bolt can indeed be executed as a standard action, does that allow for full attacks with dread bolts as a standard action? I assume no, but this aspect really needs polishing. Why do I assume that this is not the case? Beginning at 8th level, a warlock may attack with bond weapon and dread bolts in any combination or order when executing full attacks. This sentence implies that this was not the case before, but depending on how you read the standard action/iterative attack interaction, you get wildly different abilities here. This needs some cleaning up.

2nd level yields +1/2 class level to Knowledge (planes) and Knowledge (arcana). Beginning at 4th level, the warlock gets a +1 deflection bonus to AC and a +1 insight bonus to hit with dread bolts, which both increase every 4 levels thereafter. This ability is not required and feels like needless escalation of numbers, as ¾ BAB-progression mathematically suffices to hit pretty much any CR-relevant touch attack; it’s, in essence the gunslinger/battle scion BAB-overkill for blasting. At 10th level, warlocks btw. add Intelligence modifier to dread bolt damage. At 18th level, the warlock may 1/week contact other plane in a more reliable manner.

At 14th level, the warlock may roll for normal damage when adding a dread bolt transmutation to a dread bolt. What’s that? Well it represents, apart from spellcasting, the customization of the warlock. Beginning at 6th level, you get the first such dread bolt transmutation. As a swift action when hitting a target with a dread bolt, the warlock may activate one such transmutation instead of rolling for damage. Only a single transmutation may be used per round (that is already handled by action economy, so a bit weird), and save DCs are governed by Intelligence, with class level doubling as CL for SP-purposes. Transmutations don’t stack with themselves. This ability may be used 3/day, + 1/day for every 3 levels beyond 6th. So, why is there this caveat regarding per round cap? The capstone lets you execute a transmutation whenever you hit with a dread bolt. I assume that this does not get rid of the daily cap of uses, but explicitly stating something to that extent would have helped here.

So, what do these transmutations do? Well, basically, we have hard debuffing here, with bleed, phantasmal killer, negative conditions – you get the idea. There are 20 such transmutations and they are all available, provided that the warlock meets the minimum prerequisites regarding levels. Some of these employ condition scaling (fatigue upgrades to exhausted at 9th level, for example) and there are a couple that will not fit with all games: The agonizing transmutation, for example, causes the target to be staggered for a whopping class level rounds, with a successful save only reducing that to ½ class level. Yep, you heard me. This is a reliable stagger lock that can be taken as soon as 6th level. So yeah, I’m afraid that this fellow won’t get near my game. The class gets a single archetype, the dimensional traveler, who replaces the boost to AC and damage with blasts with 3 + Intelligence modifier swift action dimension doors that are restricted to the warlock. At 4th level, range is 20 ft. and this distance increases by +5 ft. every two class levels after that. Instead of dread bolt transmutations, 6th level yields Dimensional Agility and the bonus granted by the feat scales for the archetype.

So, all in all, as a person, I don’t like this class. It is rather linear and the transmutations are very strong, and pay for that strength with being limited in use. Which means you get a few potent debuffs and then run out – by decreasing the transmutation potency and making them generally available, the class would imho gain appeal. Compared to kineticist and ethermancer etc., the class boils down to the same blasts, with a few spells added. The lack of restrictions on force blasts also bugs me. Compared to what you can do with kineticist (and e.g. N. Jolly’s phenomenal Dimensional Ripper archetype, see Kineticists of Porphyra III), the warlock, to me as a person, is boring and too nova-y regarding the transmutations. Apart from spells, there is also no customization apart from minor bonded weapon tweaks, making the class pretty linear, which annoys me – when all members of a class have pretty much the same capabilities, it tends to bore me fast. This is a personal preference, though, and will not influence the verdict, for what is a huge no-go for me may actually be a feature for a lot of folks out there. Don’t like the kineticist’s burn-engine? Don’t like a ton of moving parts in your class? Just want a foolproof, uncomplicated take on the blaster sans a ton of choices or build options? Well, then you’ll like this class. Just make sure that the GM is aware of the potent debuff-locks and makes a ruling regarding the objectively flawed base bolt engine.

While we’re on the subject of ranged combat specialists, let’s talk about the mystic archer, who gets d8 HD, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armor and buckler. Spells gained by the class don’t suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing light armor or using a buckler. The class gets full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves. They begin play with access to prepared arcane spellcasting, governed by Intelligence, but it only scales up to 4th level spells. The class gets +1 to Perception checks and increases the range increment for any bow by +5 ft., with both increasing by a further +1/+5ft at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The class also begin with Weapon Focus for a bow as a bonus feat. Starting at 2nd level, all arrows fired by the class are considered to be magic and silver, and starting at 10th level, they are treated as the alignment of the character for the purpose of bypassing DR. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter yields a bonus feat chosen from a specific list. Upon reaching 4th level, the mystic archer may use a standard action to enhance the respective bow with special weapon properties, in a variant of similar enhancements of e.g. the battle scion.

Starting at 5th level, we choose the first archer trick, with another unlocked every 4 levels thereafter. These include dispelling arrows, close combat shots, arrow-based disarming etc. The class only gets 7 to choose from, though – a few more would have been nice. At 7th level, the class gets the imbue arrow class feature, allowing the class to place touch evocation spells upon arrows, with 12th level adding area of effect (emanation and spread only) spells. It should be noted that these still retain some restrictions that prevent cheesing of long casting time spells. This is one of the best ways to handle the concept that I’ve seen so far, but it lacks a crucial piece of information – how do the imbued spells behave regarding critical hits? No idea. 8th level lets you 1/day execute a hail of arrow, targeting 1 character per 3 mystic archer levels in a 60 ft. radius, executing an attack at full BAB against them. Additional daily uses are gained every 4 levels thereafter. 10th level increases critical range, but does not stack with Improved Critical or similar threat range increases, thankfully. Additionally, once per day as an immediate action upon confirming a critical hit with the bow, the mystic archer may increase threat multiplier by 1. At 11th level, we get deliberate aim, which translates to a single full-round action attack, adding ½ class level to atk. At 16th level, this may ignore armor and shield bonuses. At 14th level, we get 1/day phase arrow, which bypasses nonmagical barriers, cover, concealment, armor and shield bonuses as a standard action. An additional daily use is gained every 3 levels thereafter. 16th level nets the option to, as an immediate action, sacrifice a prepared spell to grant herself an insight bonus to atk until the end of her turn. At 19th level, we get penetrating shot, the archer may make a -4 atk versus a creature behind a target successfully crited. Okay, do the special shots à la imbued, any spells laced into the shot etc. apply to the second target as well? No idea. The capstone auto-confirms critical hits and, once per day, as a full-round action, she can fire an arrow that may cause exactly 100 hp damage if it hits and the target fails the DC 23 + Intelligence modifier Fort-save. The class gets no archetypes.

The mystic archer does a lot right, executing the notoriously difficult arcane archer concept rather well. At the same time, the rules-integrity could be a bit better.

The rather notorious savant class introduced in the first New Paths Compendium has received a general overhaul. The new version of the class gets d8 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skill points per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, but not shields, as well as ¾ BAB-progression and good Will-saves. The savant chooses an area of interest at 1st level, and does so again at 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter – this means that all savants will pick up all areas of interest by 16th level. Each area is associated with a number of knacks – knacks from the area of interest may be retained longer. What’s a knack in the context of the class? Well, it’s basically a borrowed ability, but requires first that the character scrutinizes a target. As a standard action, the savant can attempt a Perception check to identify a target, with the DC being 5 + the creature’s CR. On a success, the savant gets to know about aspects of the target’s statistics, with an additional aspect known for every 5 by which he exceeds the DC. The savant, upon scrutinizing the target, may gain a number of knacks equal to his maximum number of active knacks, which increases from 3 at 1st level up to 8. Gaining or changing a knack is a free action when scrutinizing, a standard action when consulting the notebook.

Wait, what? Yep, at 2nd level, the savant gets a notebooks, which means that after losing a knack, the savant has 1 hour to pen it down in the book, with the number of knacks that can be maintained in it capping at Intelligence modifier. Some knacks may be gained multiple times at once, allowing for the use of knacks as mini-feat-trees and the like. Fyi regarding feats: The savant has to meet the prerequisites and uses his own level to calculate level-based variables. Some of the knacks, like scrutinizing BAB, refer to a knack bonus, which begins at +1 and increases by +1 every 3 levels thereafter. While the class specifies a maximum spell level for the class, which caps at 5th, there is a potentially HUGE problem with the engine here: The savant can duplicate scrutinized divine and arcane spells. This means that, for as long as your allies have the spell, you can cast it an infinite number of times. Yes, this pretty much is infinite healing/spell-blasting at 1st level. This is a gamebreaker of an issue that immediately should disqualify the class as written RAW for many tables, and one that could have easily been prevented by implementing a simple 1 scrutiny per day per target cap. At 3rd level, advanced knacks are unlocked, providing access to whole spell lists of targets, yielding attribute enhancers, etc. – these only last for Intelligence modifier rounds, minimum 1, though. Some of these advanced knacks do not count towards the limit of active knacks. At 8th level, the savant adds his knack bonus to aid another with a skill from a knack associated with an area of interest. 14th level nets the option to gain a basic knack sans scrutinizing or notebook 1/day. The capstone nets doubled knack bonus when gaining a knack associated with an area of interest…which is needlessly wordy, considering that the savant will have all 4 areas of interest covered at this level. Additionally, knacks associated with the area of interest no longer count towards the maximum. RAW, this translates to infinite knacks. Something, somewhere, in the development of this class went horribly wrong. The area of interest is supposed to increase the duration of knacks, but fails to specify how. The capstone similarly implies that there should have been more areas of interest at one point – unless infinite active knacks are what the goal was.

The book contains the raconteur archetype for the savant, who creates an avatar corresponding to the area of interest,, with Perform (oratory) acting as the skill whose result determines knacks gained via epic storytelling. Yep, this archetype represents something akin to the old savant, but suffers, like the base class, from having a key ability based on a skill, which are notoriously easy to cheese with spells and items. Making that a level-based check would have been more balanced and elegant. The savant was the class I was most stoked for – its revision is really cool, in that it manages to get really, really close to making a really nice Blue mage type of class that bases its powers on foes encountered. System-immanently, this means that class does require a bit of metagaming, but per se, I would not object to that here. However, the rules-chassis has some unfortunate holes in it that seriously need fixing to work properly.

The trickster class presented herein receives d8 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus rapier, longsword, sap, short sword, shortbow, whip light armor and shields (excluding tower shields) and may freely cast spells while only wearing light armor and/or using a shield. The class receives 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-saves and gains spellcasting.

Spellcasting of the trickster is slightly more tricky (I'll punch myself later for that one) than you'd expect: The trickster's spellcasting is governed by Intelligence and thus is prepared according to convention. However, spells prepared are not expended upon being cast - instead, the spell slot of the appropriate level is expended. Metamagic is handled as for sorcerers and similar spontaneous casting classes. High Intelligence influences the number of spells a trickster can cast, but not the amount of spell-slots he has - this is pretty important for balance, so bear that in mind. In short, the trickster has somewhat arcanist-y casting.

Tricksters begin play with 4 cantrips known and 2 1st level spells and increase that up to 6 for each spell level, barring 5th and 6th, which cap at 5. 5 is also the maximum spells per day limit. Akin to the alchemist and similar classes, spellcasting caps at spell level 6.

The trickster also receives access to sneak attack and begins play with +1d6, increasing this by +1d6 at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Similarly, at first level, the trickster gains trapfinding. Starting at 3rd level the trickster adds +1 competence bonus to Bluff, Disguise, Escape Artist, Sleight of Hand or Stealth, increasing the bonus by +1 every third level, though the new bonuses gained may be freely distributed among aforementioned skills. 3rd level also nets evasion and 6th, 12th and 18th level provides bonus feats from a limited list. 8th level provides uncanny dodge, 11th level improved uncanny dodge.

At the 5th level, as a standard action, the trickster can cast a spell with a range of touch and deliver it as part of a melee attack, with the restriction of only working in conjunction with spells that have a casting time of 1 standard action or less. If the trickster hits, he also deals sneak attack damage in conjunction with the touch spell. Problematic here: The sneakspell’s damage is doubled on a critical hit, which can result in ridiculous numbers. At least metamagic can’t be applied. Starting at 17th level, a sneakspell that misses is no longer lost.

9th level provides ranged legerdemain, though the ability is thankfully MORE precise than that of the arcane trickster PrC, specifying how far you can propel stolen objects and increasing the required skill ranks to 5. At 14th level, the trickster receives Filch Spell, which allows the trickster to hijack ongoing spells requiring direction (flaming spheres etc.) as a move action 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. 15th level provides Surprise spells - but unlike the imprecise original take on the ability, this one clarifies from the get-go how it works with magic missiles or AoE-spells. As the capstone, the trickster treats all 1s and 2s of sneak attack as 3s and auto-confirms crits executed with sneak attacks. Additionally, now metamagic feats may be added to sneakspells sans increasing the casting time.

The class has some customizations, in the guise of so-called fortes, which is gained at 2nd level and yields new abilities at 5th and 9th level. The first would be Acrobat, which not only provides skill-bonuses to movement-related skills and eliminates the need for running starts to get the associated bonus. Additional movement while not carrying heavy load or the like and no armor check penalty for Dex-based skills can also be found here. At 5th level, the trickster gains a scaling bonus to AC and CMD and may also act as though under freedom of movement for trickster level round per day, but only for movement purposes. Provided the trickster has at least 10 ft. at 9th level, he can dimension door as part of the move action expended, but, in a unique twist, the total distance he can thus travel is limited and capped with a daily max. The second forte is arcane accomplice, which nets a familiar, though the familiar receives Disable Device and Sleight of Hand as class skills and can deal sneak attack as long as it's within 30 ft. of the trickster - and yes, this means you can basically double-team on your own, greatly increasing the validity of sneak attack, though, for balance's sake, a familiar's sneak attack uses d4s, which proved mathematically feasible in my tests. 5th level goes one step further and nets the familiar all teamwork feats of the trickster as well as AC +2, while 9th level provides basically spring attack for the familiar, but only with regards to delivering harmless touch attacks - and yes, this is more versatile than you'd think.

The third forte is Beguile and provides +1 to DCs and +1 to rolls to overcome SR, scaling by +1 at 5th and 9th level - but only when targeting creatures that would be denied their Dexterity-modifier or that are helpless. At 5th level, when successfully feinting, the target would be denied his Dex-mod to AC for the next melee attack or spell targeting by the trickster, but only when performed on or before his next turn. 9th level decreases the required action to feint to a move action, a swift action if the trickster has Improved Feint.

The fourth forte is Spell Pilfer, which is easily the most unique of the fortes: As an immediate action, the trickster can make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell level) to identify the spell and, if successful, the trickster may attempt to pilfer the spell. The caster receives a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 trickster class level + Intelligence-modifier to negate the attempt. If the caster fails, he loses access to the spell known or prepared spell, while the trickster temporarily (1/2 class levels, minimum 1) adds the spell to his list of spells known. While the spell is pilfered, the original caster may not cast it, but the trickster may, provided he has an available spell slot. Only one spell (again, VERY important for balance) can be pilfered at a given time - pilfering a second spell, the previous spell immediately reverts to the owner. This ability can be used 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. It should be noted that tricksters can only pilfer spells they can cast, another VERY important limitation. Now you may have noted that Will-saves are pretty easy for most casters - thus, at 5th level, the trickster's Wisdom modifier is also added to the DC to resist the pilfer attempt. I am usually fiercely opposed to dual attribute-modifiers to anything, but considering that Wisdom is NOT a trickster's crucial stat in any way, in practice, this is less problematic. 9th level allows the trickster to pilfer spells above his casting capacity, but thankfully with the caveat that the trickster can't cast such spells - so no abuse possible. This is a very impressive ability in my book, since it makes spell theft work sans holes in the wording, sans abuse. Love it! I wish this level of care had been extended to some of the other classes that dabble in pilfer/duplication.

The fifth forte would be shadow, which increases CL of shadow school or darkness-descriptor-spells by +1 and it also nets low-light vision and darkvision 30 ft. (Or +30 ft., if the trickster already has darkvision.) 5th level nets something unique - the option to 3 + Intelligence modifier-mod times per day animate shadows of targets to attack them (cool). At 9th level, the trickster can basically hide in plain sight while within 10 feet of a shadow other than his own and at that level, the shadow may use the trickster's sneak attack.

There are two trickster archetypes here, the dual forte and the forte master trickster: Both have diminished spellcasting, but the dual forte trickster replaces the 6th, 12th and 18th level bonus feats with a second forte gained at 6th level, for which he is treated as -4 class levels, a limitation that ends at the capstone abilities. The forte master adds two very potent abilities to each forte, gained at 11th and 14th level, replacing the 12th and 18th level bonus feats. Acrobats can inflict sneak attack when moving more than 10 feet and maintain actions after using dimension door. Arcane accomplices increase familiar potency and may teleport them to an adjacent square 1/day as a swift action. Beguilers get enchantment tricks, shadow masters darkness-related tricks, and spell pilferers may now steal divine spells as well. Big plus: For campaigns that prefer a bit lower power-level than what the rather potent trickster-chassis offers, the pdf has some advice regarding the limitation of spell-lists. I STRONGLY recommend implementing this advice for most campaigns. The trickster is a relatively young and pretty potent class and I still like it.

The final class herein is another new one, the tinkerer. These fellows get d8 HD, 6 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency in simple weapons, plus hand and repeating crossbow as well as his grenades and light and medium armor, but not shields. Tinkerers get ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves. Grenades are a tweak on the bomb mechanic – the tinkerer can make up to class level + Intelligence modifier of them per day, and they can’t be stored. The tinkerer need raw materials sans cost, but grenades must be thrown immediately, or they explode for maximum damage. They are thrown splash weapons with a range of 20 ft. and they are treated as weapons for feat purposes. Direct hits inflict 1d6 + Intelligence modifier damage, half of which is bludgeoning, half piercing – nice damage-type codification there! Damage increases by +1d6 every odd level thereafter, but this damage is not multiplied by crits or Vital Strike. Splash damage is equal to minimum damage. At 4th level, the tinkerer adds Intelligence modifier to Disable Device and UMD and may select a skill from a list, gaining +2 competence bonus in the skill and +2 insight to Perception checks pertaining to it. At 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the tinkerer adds another skill and increases the bonuses of an existing one by +2. At 14th level, the tinkerer may roll twice on such a skill, taking the better result, up to Intelligence modifier times per day. 18th level nets the option to always take 10 and once per day take 20 in one of them

5th level provides trapfinding and 8th level Master Craftsman, or Gunsmith – the latter obviously only in firearm-using campaigns, though in such a case, the proficiency list should imho be extended from the get-go. Starting at 6th level, the tinkerer may modify up to 3 + Intelligence modifier grenades to have e.g. an increased splash radius, add incendiary cloud, remove squares from the detonation, etc. The capstone gets rid of the daily limit of these improved grenades and similarly gets rid of the daily limit of rolling twice in specialized skills. At 10th level, the tinkerer may suppress mechanical traps and becomes better at disarming them safely – the suppression can provide interesting scenarios. 12th level adds ½ class level to the Perception and Disable Device skill to disarm traps he made, as well to all saves against them.

Part II of my review can be found in the product discussion.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths Compendium - Expanded Edition (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Adventures #3: The Curse of the Witch Head
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2018 04:21:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front and back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons to be undertaken at my leisure.

Now, it should be noted that this, like all modules in the series, manages to cram a significant amount of material into its pages, providing a rather impressive amount of text into the pages. The adventure features a new hazard-concept as well as three new monsters; however, with the exception of one of them, they tie in with the story, and thus will be covered in the SPOILER-section.

As before, the series employs the OSRIC-rules and is easily adaptable to other OSR-games (and more current ones). Formatting-wise, it should be noted that spells and magic items have been bolded, and the same goes for monster names and major negative conditions mentioned in the text. This deviation from formatting standards is not exactly something the OCD-guy in me likes, but they’re consistent, so yeah – I can live with that aspect.

The adventure is intended for 4 – 6 characters level 6 – 10, though it should be noted that a good mixture of character classes is very much recommended. This is a difficult module, though one that thankfully derives its difficulty mainly from player-skill as well as referee-prowess.

In order to discuss this, though, I need to go deep into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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.

All right, only referees around? Great!

So, the eponymous witch-head is an indestructible artifact of pure evil and malevolence – but thankfully, it has been sealed away in a complex dedicated to goodness. But, alas, as is the way of the world, the hero who sealed away the witch-head’s bloodline did not strengthen. Instead, the current duke, Ymis, has to contend with a distant cousin named Dalan, who seeks to abduct his cousin Derica to solidify his claim on the title and overthrow Ymis. While he has managed to secure the dread witch-head, he can’t penetrate the warded estate. This is where the adventurers come in.

Basically, the PCs enter a complex designed by the forces of good, which has been overtaken by evil adventurers, with the darkness of the artifact slowly seeping into the designs of the dungeon. This makes the dungeon complex feel really, really unique: In a shrine, the PCs can watch the oscillation of forces of good and evil vie for dominion, with potent buffs and debuffs. The good nature of the complex also is reflected in rooms of purpose – potentially super-deadly trap-rooms that don’t kill smart PCs, courtesy of the good guys obviously including safety measures. These rooms of purpose reward smart PCs and represent one of my favorite aspects herein – the module emphasizes player skill over PC skill with many of the decisions, and smart players will soon realize that separating the actions of the evil pretender’s posse from the architecture of the complex itself will yield them a big advantage.

Speaking of which, the outlaws that accompany Dalan are actually 6 fully statted, proper NPCs, with spells prepared noted if applicable. They also have their very own motivations and dynamics and can, in the hands of a capable referee, make for a formidable dynamic encounter to complicate the exploration of the complex. One of the new monsters deserves special mention: The rancid is an otyugh-like, wicked thing that can cause long-time barfing (and thus lock down a careless group fast); it can also cause a really quick wasting disease, which inflicts 2d10 damage per hour…and needs a 14th level caster to cure. There are not many of these things in the dungeon, thankfully, but contracting the disease is pretty much a death sentence for the level. Not a big fan there. The second creature herein would be another somewhat dynamic encounter – a specialized golem that knows the secret doors of the place and looks like a multi-armed minotaur stalks the halls, adding a further complication to the proceedings. My favorite creature here, though, would be the prism ward – basically a pretty harmless, floating crystal that reflects light as super-deadly blasts, acting light a living light amplifier. One of my favorite traps herein is a wand of illumination, wedged in the wall, with a magic mouth (not formatted properly) appearing and speaking the trigger word, aiming at the creature. It’s clever and deadly.

So, beyond aforementioned, dynamic aspects, we have an uncommon kind of bottleneck, namely an underground lake that needs to be crossed. Careless players will bite off more than they can chew here – if the journey is not handled smartly, they may well fall. There’s a reason for this. Dalan has already been corrupted and all but consumed by the Witch-Head. While he has the potent staff of screams that may stun and deafen the PCs for a while, he also has a grand total of whopping 15 hit points, which means he can be pretty much one-shot-killed by a lucky PC. This pitiful, lone boss, separated from his formidable posse, is intentional, for the true climax here would pertain interacting with the artifact and not succumbing to its malevolent power. In a way, Dalan and his evil group are warnings to the prospective bearers of this horrid artifact. And yes, we get tight rules for its use. It demands a steep price indeed…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to the no-frills, classic 2-.column b/w-standard of the series and the pdf sports some nice, original b/w-artworks. The cartography of the complex is functional, if not impressive, and unfortunately sports no key-less player-friendly version for VTTs or printing out and cutting up. On the plus-side, the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Sometimes, less is more. James C. Boney’s second Advanced Adventure only covers a single dungeon level, as opposed to the Red Mausoleum’s three, but takes it time to properly develop the complex and its inhabitants. The different forces at work in the complex lend it a unique atmosphere, and the inclusion of basically a hostile adventurer group adds some serious spice to the proceedings. I also loved the intentionally anticlimactic BBEG, as this is something that many an author would have shirked away from. That being said, the relative brevity of the module does show a bit. Having a full patrol schedule/AI-like action/response-sequence for the hostile NPCs would have been the icing on the cake.

Still, all things considered, this represents a fun and flavorful dungeon with some creative hazards and challenges. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #3: The Curse of the Witch Head
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Star Log.EM-009: Mechanic Tricks
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2018 06:55:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this pdf with a brief introduction to the mechanic and the roles of the class, before diving straight into what we expected – new mechanic tricks! The pdf includes 3 different 2nd level mechanic tricks, the first of which would be Genius Mechanic. While spending at least 24 hours in a settlement, the mechanic may spend 8 hours as well as 50 times mechanic level squared in credits to create a genius mechanic fund. While carrying this fund, you are treated as having +2 bulk. You may, once per day, enact a brilliant plan. This allows you to withdraw from the fund in a 10 minute preparation, withdrawing any technological item or weapon that would have been available in the settlement used to shop for the brilliant plan, detracting its value from the pool. Item you could have crafted in the settlement’s resources may similarly be taken from the fund. The respective item’s bulk may not exceed 2 and the GM is the final arbiter of what works and what doesn’t. In essence, this is a crazy prepared ability, but one that sports a bit of an issue: So, if you use it to produce an item you ostensibly crafted yourself, does it count as custom-built for the purposes of repairing it, hardness, hit points, etc.? Do you roll e.g. an Engineering check? If so, does great success translate to a halved or quartered brilliant plan preparation? Do you use the full item price, or do you take scavenged UPBs into account? The crafting angle opens a series of GM-call decisions here.

Precision Demolitionist is amazing: When you attack with weapons with the explode weapon special ability, you may exclude up to 1 + Intelligence modifier (min 0) 5-ft.squares from the explosion – for 1 Resolve, you may double Intelligence modifier for the purpose of how many squares you can exclude. When missing, the ability does not work for the attack. NICE! Ranged Maneuvers lets you choose two combat maneuvers from dirty trick, disarm, reposition, sunder and trip. You may execute the chosen two maneuvers with melee or ranged attack rolls with a small arms weapon, provided the target is within your first range-increment. A further limitation to keep this in line is that the target’s environment needs mechanical devices or computers. The trick also has different synergy effects for drone and exocortex. Like it!

The pdf includes 4 8th-level mechanic tricks: Augment Explosive slightly increases the damage output of explosive weapons or armed explosives. Expanded Ranger Maneuvers builds on the previous trick and requires it, unlocking all maneuvers from the list. Explosive Trick is slightly problematic: “Whenever you use the dirty trick or sunder combat maneuver against an opponent…”, you cause an explosion as if you attacked the target with a grenade with an item level equal to your mechanic level and grenade type being chosen by the GM, depending on circumstances. When using dirty trick, you also knock the target prone on a failed save, while sunder adds damage to the targeted object. While the ability needs a 10 minute rest and1 Resolve point to regain a use, I do think that the trick should specify that the dirty trick/sunder attempt actually must hit – RAW, the trick does not require that you actually hit the target. The last 8th level trick is Improved Genius Mechanic, which lets you spend 1 Resolve to enact another genius plan within 24 hours after you have executed the first. I assume that this still requires that you have sufficient funds to do so.

The pdf also has a single 14th level mechanic trick, Penetrating Demolitionist. When you arm an explosive, you can attempt an Engineering check to assess the structural integrity of every vehicle and object in the explosion radius. The Engineering roll’s result is then compared to the Engineering DC of those. Items and structures are assumed to have a DC of 20, vehicles 15 + 1.5 times the vehicle level. On a success, you detract your mechanic level from the item’s hardness. Thankfully, it does not stack with other DR/hardness/etc.-reducing options and the DC-fixing helps to maintain rules-integrity.

The pdf also provides quite a few nice angles regarding the roles of mechanics in the Xa-Osoro system shared by Rogue Genius Games and Everyman Gaming.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, a few components could be slightly tighter, but as a whole, my complaints boil down to nitpicks. Layout adheres to the ncie two-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf sports a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas provides some really cool mechanic tricks, with the explosive-tricks in particularly being rather neat. While the genius plan-sequence of tricks could be a bit tighter, I consider this one to be worth owning. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-009: Mechanic Tricks
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Places of Power: Soulspur Inn (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2018 06:52:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Soulspur Inn has always been there, as far as most folks are concerned – the much-beloved Inn is a sort of neutral ground for adventurers, both regarding legal and moral conflicts. The Inn’s mistress, a woman named Erlgamm, is an epitome of hospitability and oddly, her sharp tongue seems to actually succeed in keeping the tavern a neutral ground of sorts. She is also notorious for her thirst for knowledge, and more than one adventurer has had free drink and food for sharing the latest exploits. Homely and refined, the fully mapped inn is a rather distinguished place and smart players may well find some interesting tidbits regarding the inn and its environments. 6 different whispers and rumours are included for your convenience, and a brief marketplace section allows for the purchase of a variety of low-level alchemical/magical goods as well. Kudos: The marketplace has been properly adjusted to represent old-school sensibilities and items.

A table of 20 sample dressings/events allows the GM to generate a sense of life within the Inn, and we learn about the inn being the only commercial business in an otherwise rural, secluded valley. Erlgamm is an important employer and powerful figure in these parts – as such, she actually gets a full NPC-write-up with personality, mannerisms, etc. noted. No stats are provided for her, though. Now, the inn’s write-up sports no less than 6 keyed areas, all but one of which get their own event table. Beyond these, we get read-aloud text for all of the different keyed rooms. Beyond that, there are actual adventure hooks provided for each of the keyed areas, which makes the pdf more immediately useful – basically, they act as a potential means for cluing in the PCs that not everything may be as perfect as it seems. You probably figured it out at this point: Yep, Soulspur Inn is not the haven it purports to be – at least not wholly.

The interesting angle here is that the place is very much what it seems to be regarding most aspects – however, there is a second side, all but removed from the proceedings in the inn, and it is not pleasant. That being said, the valley all but requires the inn, so how to handle everything will be an interesting decision, perhaps one that will carry with it a bitter-sweet aftertaste.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, with cosmetic components à la using the word disguise twice in the same sentence being the only level of glitch I noticed. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard. The b/w-artworks are nice, and so is the b/w cartography by Dyson Logos. The pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen use and one for the printer. The pdfs comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Josh Vogt’s Soulspur Inn is a fun environment that unleashes its full potential when you establish it as a home turf of sorts for the PCs. That being said, the “too good to be true”-component that oozes from it, the slightly uncanny angle, is not exactly new. I maintain that actually NOT having an evil twist would have been the more interesting option here, as the type of narrative provided here is pretty well-represented in gaming. That being said, there is one aspect here that elevates this from being an okay supplement, and this aspect lies in the execution of how the trope is presented – the pdf does a good job at depicting why the inn works as such, why the truth hasn’t surfaced. As written, a GM will have to work a bit to make this play out as intended, courtesy of the pdf not really talking about means to evade detection abilities – but since this is system neutral, I will not penalize it for this. That being said, since this is the system neutral version, I can’t well complain about the mechanics being a bit sparse. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – a well-executed supplement that falls short of excellence, but remains an interesting and worthwhile set-piece.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Soulspur Inn (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, Endzeitgeist! I much appreciate the effort and time.
Places of Power: Soulspur Inn (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2018 06:50:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Soulspur Inn has always been there, as far as most folks are concerned – the much-beloved Inn is a sort of neutral ground for adventurers, both regarding legal and moral conflicts. The Inn’s mistress, a woman named Erlgamm, is an epitome of hospitality and oddly, her sharp tongue seems to actually succeed in keeping the tavern a neutral ground of sorts. She is also notorious for her thirst for knowledge, and more than one adventurer has had free drink and food for sharing the latest exploits. Homely and refined, the fully mapped inn is a rather distinguished place and smart players may well find some interesting tidbits regarding the inn and its environments. 6 different whispers and rumours are included for your convenience, and a brief marketplace section allows for the purchase of a variety of low-level alchemical/magical goods as well. These have been properly adapted to 5e, just fyi.

A table of 20 sample dressings/events allows the GM to generate a sense of life within the Inn, and we learn about the inn being the only commercial business in an otherwise rural, secluded valley. Erlgamm is an important employer and powerful figure in these parts – as such, she actually gets a full NPC-write-up with personality, mannerisms, etc. noted. No stats are provided for her, though. Now, the inn’s write-up sports no less than 6 keyed areas, all but one of which get their own event table. Beyond these, we get read-aloud text for all of the different keyed rooms. Beyond that, there are actual adventure hooks provided for each of the keyed areas, which makes the pdf more immediately useful – basically, they act as a potential means for cluing in the PCs that not everything may be as perfect as it seems. You probably figured it out at this point: Yep, Soulspur Inn is not the haven it purports to be – at least not wholly.

The interesting angle here is that the place is very much what it seems to be regarding most aspects – however, there is a second side, all but removed from the proceedings in the inn, and it is not pleasant. That being said, the valley all but requires the inn, so how to handle everything will be an interesting decision, perhaps one that will carry with it a bitter-sweet aftertaste…and one nasty hook pertaining spiced ale is particularly interesting. That being said, this is almost system neutral in that there is e.g. no DC noted for a locked door, no DC to break bars, etc. – this may or may not bother you, but it is worth noting. In 5e, I also found myself expecting a bit more regarding the effects the primary antagonist can unleash – the inn is pretty much the epitome of a lair, and not getting a unique lair action or the like is a bit of a lost chance.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, with cosmetic components à la using the word disguise twice in the same sentence being the only level of glitch I noticed. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard. The b/w-artworks are nice, and so is the b/w cartography by Dyson Logos. The pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen use and one for the printer. The pdfs comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Josh Vogt’s Soulspur Inn is a fun environment that unleashes its full potential when you establish it as a home turf of sorts for the PCs. That being said, the “too good to be true”-component that oozes from it, the slightly uncanny angle, is not exactly new. I maintain that actually NOT having an evil twist would have been the more interesting option here, as the type of narrative provided here is pretty well-represented in gaming. That being said, there is one aspect here that elevates this from being an okay supplement, and this aspect lies in the execution of how the trope is presented – the pdf does a good job at depicting why the inn works as such, why the truth hasn’t surfaced. There is, however, also a component here that, well-implemented, could have elevated this further – magic. The issue with this type of narrative lies ultimately in the fact that there are plenty of ways to detect foul shenanigans, and a sidebar of counter-measures or the like, customized for the system, would have significantly enhanced the immediate usefulness of the pdf. As written, a GM will have to work a bit to make this play out as intended and the mechanical aspects are a bit sparse for my taste. Hence, like the PFRPG-version, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo – a well-executed supplement that falls short of excellence, but remains an interesting and worthwhile set-piece.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Soulspur Inn (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, Endzeitgeist! I much appreciate the effort and time.
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