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Caster Prestige Archetype: Tattooed Mystic
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2017 04:03:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.75 pages of SRD, leaving us with about 5.25 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

The prestige archetype this time around uses the wizard as a basis and thus, the prestige archetype receives d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, full spellcasting progression of prepared spellcasting governed by Int and a 1/2 BAB-progression alongside good Will-save progression. However, unlike a regular wizard, the tattooed mystic puts his spells not in a spellbook, but within the drawings on his skin, necessitating a Spellcraft check to identify the like - and yes, rules for removing them are provided. The familiar can similarly become a tattoo to be carried by the mystic. 4th level yields Inscribe Mystic Tattoo (erroneously, but harmlessly incorrectly formatted as (Feat) and 8th level lets the mystic use his own ability score modifier etc. to set the DC of spell tattoos. 12th level halves the time for Craft (tattoos). 16th level increases the CL for spell tattoos by +1 and as a capstone, he may expend a spell slot or prepared spell of the same level or lower to prevent a used spell tattoo from being expended.

Now, the angle where player agenda comes into the fray would be the mystic tattoos, the first of which is gained at 2nd level, with additional ones gained every 4 levels thereafter - these pretty much represent what we know from the prestige class. I kinda wished that the prestige archetype provided more choice to represent the variety that a full class should offer.

The prestige archetype comes with notes for the use of the arcanist, druid, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror, witch classes. Beyond specific favored class bonuses for the core races, catfolk, dhampir, dragonblooded, erkunae, polkan and tieflings are covered regarding class-specific FCOs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's tattooed mystic is a solid prestige archetype - it translates the prestige class well to the context of a full class, is precise and delivers exactly what it says on the tin. I wished it expanded the tattoo choices with new option, but you can't have everything, I guess. In the end, we get a well-made prestige archetype here - well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Tattooed Mystic
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Mini-Dungeon #060: The Unquenched Thirst
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2017 04:00:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon is a wilderness sidetrek on an island known for stranding folks, where orc watering parties have turned undead, deadly rapids drag towards the cascade that hides a cave; enchanted water, a kawa akago,, the very rocks thirsting for blood - from leshies to all terrain features, the misery and death that has haunted this place is evident, sharply contrasting its dangerous nature with the per se pretty idyllic map for a relatively dark and interesting, if slightly unfocused cursed region.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. This time around, we get not jpgs or player-friendly versions, which is a down-side, particularly considering how good this map is.

Michael Allen provides a region the PCs can happen upon that should be considered to be pretty fun, unconventional wilderness set-piece. The theme of nature as mystic, hostile, makes for a cool change of pace and I like very much how this works. personally, I think the leitmotif could be slightly stronger and focused, but I'm complaining at a high level here. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform, but only by a tiny margin.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #060: The Unquenched Thirst
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: The Household Magic Catalog
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2017 08:13:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This letter from the planes-hopping vessel UCS Flaming Crab, faithfully transcribed by J Gray, clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with...35 pages of content? Woa, that is A LOT for the low asking price...so let's take a closer look at this pdf...

...and once we do, we'll realize that the title was not kidding: In the tradition of Aurora's (At this point, if you get this reference, you're part of the old guard...) or, more fittingly, the Sears catalog - for those of you not in the know (and my German readers), picture this like a Quelle or Neckermann catalog that peddles wares that can help in the household. However, here, this concept is framed by the alternate-earth "Ladies Paradise and Company of New York" company.

And from the get-go, you notice something that immediately sets this apart: J Gray's layout for this humble pdf sets it apart as one of the most concise and mighty layouts I have seen in ages; his passion for Castle Falkenstein and extensive historical knowledge immediately show upon opening this pdf: From art déco-style fonts to the artworks, which blend historic pictures with a knight-style variant of the classic "I want you" Uncle Sam poster, the aesthetic integrity of the pdf transcends the text itself. Speaking of the latter: Yes, this picture is on a page encouraging the purchase of war stamps!

In fact, the items presented actually go one step beyond: We have visual representations, a sales-pitch-like summary of the item's benefits and the proper rules-material required for the respective item, creating a thoroughly holistic illusion of a magical catalog. Furthermore, the choice of these items does help render this pdf a thoroughly unique experience, from the first to the last of them.

(As an aside, in case you're wondering - this review is based on V. 2.0 of the pdf.)

The armoire of elegance, for example, auto-prestidigitates and mends clothing put inside it! I'd SO get this one! Tired of bad food while adventuring? The breadboard of instant breakfast will conjure up new and exciting dishes each day and may even help cancel poisons! Alchemical tonics that increase Int and Wis when imbibed before sleeping, mirroring the often cocaine- or laudanum-laden potions of the age, can also be found! What about a magical alarm clock? Extending ladders? Or a wagon that faithfully follows the user to the destination in question? (And yes, its movement is affected by difficult terrain.) Perhaps your lawn is just not fancy - with the right and proper fluid, you can return vibrancy and life to your green (and plant creatures can benefit from a bit of healing). Similarly, quicker plant-growth! What about self-completing mowers, automatic brooms or the like?

Notice something? Yep, these items, just like in a catalog, are organized by area of application - and fret not, an extensive index has also been included, with prices intact for your convenience. Regarding kitchen-appliances, magic scent-negating candles, cloths that negate allergens (I'd so need those IRL...) poisons and diseases can also be found...and the allergen-angle actually provides some rather interesting narrative tricks an enterprising GM can use! The freshen spell can restore spoiled food to proper shape, while scales of recipes can destroy food...but also net you the ingredient list, which, once again, just begs to be used for an investigative game!

A lazing lounger can help with power naps and fortification versus fear and emotion aspects and the mantle of pride can be used to make sure that your guests appreciate your trophies...and you. Need music? The spirit ministrel may take care of that need while entertaining. Throwing pillows inflict no damage, but can render the target asleep on a failed save and the spell update decor makes sure you'll never again be left behind by a trend in the fancy salon-culture!

This, as you may have noticed, is incredibly concise and includes sweeteners to help end the nauseated condition, ever-warm bottles for the offspring (or those enjoying Glühwein/mulled wine with spices) - an automated puppet show, an enchanted nanny's latch, a toy chest that expels living creatures and allows for instant and precise access, toy soldiers (as a nitpick: The set is once called "Spielmann" and once "Spilemann" - the former is correct), pain-relieving ice that's hot provides relief from arthritis and pain-based effects. Jefferson-style desk chairs increase the Int of those sitting inside and helps keep one's privacy by making others leave the working mind alone. Quick-retrieving desks, spell-organization, cleansing feather tokens, conjuring forth birds to fetch objects, sun-sensitive curtains open automatically...and the whammy rug lets you generate static electricity you can fire in short-range jolts...and it's kid-proof to boot!

In a perfect consequence of the style of the pdf, we actually also get a fully detailed order blank as an amazing hand-out! As mentioned before, the index with items by category is really helpful: Spells list classes, alchemical items weight, Craft DC and price and magical items list their prices and auras, adding this perfect final flourish to the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both formal and rules-language levels - I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout is, as mentioned, absolutely inspired, creating a perfect illusion of a fantastic catalog. The artworks chosen, both classic and original, seamlessly fit in with this aesthetic, making the vision represented in this pdf absolutely inspirational. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks to the individual items and spells.

Alex Shanks-Abel, J Gray, Phoebe Harris, Kelly Pawlik and Kendra Leigh Speedling have created an inspiring tome here, but beyond the deserved praise for the authors and the layout herein, the editors/playtesters Alex Shanks-Abel, J Gray (who also acted as the dev), Jeffrey Swank and Lucus Palosaari deserve special acknowledgement. Why? Because, in spite of the different authors with varying levels of experience, the book actually has a unified narrative voice - it does not read or feel like a book written by x different folks - it reads like a delightfully fantastic catalog and has this distinct and hard to achieve aesthetic unity of visuals, text, tone and theme. In short, this is a perfect example of how to create a holistic, thoroughly inspired book that can act as a colossal hand-out if you want it to! Beyond the confines of Pathfinder-rules, allotopias of alternate earths, whether they be Castle Falkenstein or similar settings, can also benefit vastly from getting this book. The logic behind the objects, behind what you'd be able to make in a magical world, is impeccable, the illusion practically perfect. Oh, and you get A LOT of material for the more than fair price-point.

If utility magic and everyday magic, a magical society or the like are even remotely close to what you want, then this is a no-brainer. Granted, you won't find mind-blowing items here, but oh boy, they are COOL. They feel like actual magic to me. However, I maintain that this book also serves as excellent material for low or rare magic games! It makes sense that e.g. some wizards studying all day in their towers, some decadent civilization, would have such objects; in fact, if you've completely abolished vanilla magic in favor of a more fairy-tale-esque aesthetic, then these objects, focusing on utility, would work perfectly as well. Finally, if you need furnishing for the realms of fey or magical schools/academies, then this delivers in spades, bringing a sense of heart-warming wonder to the game, one that transcends what you'd usually expect. This pdf made me happy while reviewing it - because its execution is on par with the fantastic concept, because it has a vast array of uses and because its content will show up in other games of mine as well, regardless of rules-systems. Abuse-proof, hilarious, nigh-perfect, this is a prime example of a pdf that deserves 5 stars + seal of approval as well as being considered as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016.

This shows passion, dedication and soul - it's a pdf where the creators obviously poured their heart's blood in it. Get this pdf. I guarantee you will not regret it!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: The Household Magic Catalog
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The Northlands Series 3: The Drowned Maiden Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2017 08:12:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The series "The Long Night of Winter" was conceived as supplemental material/optional tie-ins for the massive Northlands Saga, but each of the modules can be run as a stand-alone module as well. I backed the kickstarter for Northlands Saga back in the day, but otherwise was not involved in this project.

This module is intended for levels 9- 11 and is set in the eponymous Northlands of Frog God Games' Lost Lands campaign setting. It does translate well to other fantasy campaign settings, though.

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

...

..

.

There are multiple ways to immortality - founding a great family; becoming a legend, being carried off on the wings of the valkyries to Valhalla - but there is one more way: To be chosen as the progenitor of deific offspring. This module's premise is hence that one of the PCs is approached by a naked lady, clad in only algae and sodden hair and her alfar asrai attendants - and the druidess by the name of Ethlass does bear intriguing news for a PCs of known bravery and renown: One PC has bee chosen as betrothed by a daughter of the goddess Rán and the Jötnar Ægir - none other than Kólga, most beautiful of the deity's offspring. As a sign of the deity's favor, the PC will gain a magical mask denoting him as a suitor and also the legendary face of Kólga, a mask that should make the PC rather inclined to seek out Ethlass' home.

Which is a perfect example of evocative fantasy - a castle of sand that can only be found by the chosen, as the waves forever destroy it with each swelling of the tides, so do legions of crabs reassemble it in a continuous struggle versus the elements. Once the PCs have arrived there, however, they'll probably be...well, surprised. You see, Ethlass has forgotten to mention that the PC in question is not the only suitor. Beyond the PCs, nasty Jarl Unnr and his men have arrived and his boisterous posturing may actually work as a delayed Intimidate - while this is not a standard use of the rules, it makes sense in the social context here - same goes for the Bluffs and Charms attempted by the over-ambitious witch-mother of a less than enthusiastic skald. Oh, and then there are the Bors Brothers, werebears in cognito...and a powerful, lanky giant-blooded ranger with his stone-giant entourage. After the PCs have interacted with these folks and generated alliances or become wary of some of these beings, things take a turn for the worse as Ethlass announces that only the worthy will proceed to the next step - and violence in a nasty free for all ensues, with the exact parameters depending on the PC's actions.

The witch may or may not escape to haunt the PCs later and the same goes for the skald and jarl - but ultimately, we have to hope that the PCs prevail: If they do, Ethlass reveals a rite that provides the aquatic subtype for a limited amount of time - and the Drowned Maiden's Pearl will guide the victorious PCs toward sunken Hjallos - once rewarded by Rán for its devotion by being sunk beneath the waves. It is on the way to this legendary place that the Jarl and survivors may make their final bid to defeat the PCs...but sooner or later, they will have to venture beneath the waves, where a single drop of blood may attract sharks...

En route, the PCs may find the carcass of a gigantic narwhal, punctured by deep coral, a powerful new material introduced here...and brykolokas guarding the place. Indeed, it seems like jealous forces are at work, as sunken Hjallos is further guarded by Deep One Godshuscarls and lethal eyes of the deep, which must be fought in a gigantic sanctum of Rán, as they guard the crystalline coral that houses Kólga.

When the deity finally arrives, her face is breath-taking...as are the others, for the somewhat scatterbrained deity has failed to assume a form more pleasing to puny mortals - so let's hope the PCs can manage to stall tactfully while regaining their composure in the face of something rather uncanny and alien...before the chosen one can be...coerced/persuaded to fulfill his duty, however, the festivities are interrupted by a rather lethal enemy. Turns out that the narwhale carcass was in fact a narwight, undead member of a highly intelligent and long gone race of sentient creatures - previously staked with deep coral. And yes, the module has multiple justifications for the whale to attack. In the furious battle, the roe of Kólga is destroyed, but in "only 100 years" it'll be her time again! And the decidedly alien goddess will be gone - but depending on how the PCs managed their interaction with her, they may have gained a supernatural edge or bane when traveling the oceans wide...though one that may well elicit shudders from the erstwhile chosen...

It should be noted that the narwight-rules provides are pretty cool and flavorful and that the creature's artwork is phenomenal.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the softcover I have has the glossy cover and high production values I expect from Frog God Games. The interior b/w-artwork is phenomenal, original and deserves the highest praise. Really cool: We not only get b/w-maps, we actually also get player-friendly versions!! Big plus there!

Kevin Wright's "The Drowned Maiden" is a weird one: Theme-wise, it is situated somewhere between a myth from the North and a fairy tale for adults à la Hans-Christian Andersen. The atmosphere, let me make that abundantly clear, is amazing: This module conjures truly fantastic vistas forth from the mind's eye and the selection of adversaries and locales are evocative and phenomenal. That being said, I do have two minor issues with the module: Number 1 would be that, apart from the cast of suitors, the Northlands-theme is a bit subdued here, but that's mostly aesthetic. The second one would be a bit more important: We have this amazing second with first the potential of ship-combat and the half under the waves and both primarily use their set-ups as a backdrop: The ship-sequence could have used a tactical map and the underwater combats are very much reliant of the GM to make them shine in 3d-glory - I'd strongly suggest using Alluria Publishing's Cerulean Seas-rules for streams, movement, etc. there. In the hands of a good GM, this can be amazing and it still may be if the players are blown away by the great foe, hilarious reveal and glorious environment - but similarly, this aspect may fall slightly short of what it could have offered in that component. Hence, my final verdict can't go higher than 4.5 stars - if you're confident working a bit with additional rules, then this module can deliver in spades!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Series 3: The Drowned Maiden Pathfinder Edition
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Hill Cantons Compendium II
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2017 08:10:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, I assume that you've read my review of the Hill Cantons Cosmology, for there, I explained the general make-up of this rather intriguing fantasy setting. It should be noted that, while this pdf explains the concept of corelands, borderlands and weird, I still maintain that it's smart to read up on the former pdf before reading the two flavor pages that kick off this book: In these, both the city of Kezmarok and Marlinko, both with brief notes on surrounding areas and the like, are presented and brief one-sentence notes on the weird similarly can be found here, providing a nice overview to build upon...and acting as a smart teaser for the Hill Cantons modules, obviously. ;)

The first massive section of this pfg, however, would be devoted to a massive array of classes/races that represent the slightly gonzo/weird theme of the Hill Cantons, so let's take a look, shall we?

The first of these would be the Black Hobbit, called so because of the color of their souls. These guys are not nice and need Dex and Con 9, get d6 HD and cap at level 8 (134K XP). At second level, they get Agitation, which increases their Cha to 18 1/day when inciting others to mischief. They gain an additional daily use at 4th and 8th level. At 3rd level, they may manufacture bombs - one per week (2/week at 6th level) and 30 gp. These deal 1d8+1 in a 10-foot radius. Sooo. for how much do they sell? Can others use them or does only the black hobbit know how to use them?

Chaos monks may not be eligible for the monk class and sport either Int or Wis below 10. They have 1d3 HD and no maximum level - which contradicts their table, which caps at 8th level. at 80,001 XP. After 5th level, they need to defeat lower level chaos monks to advance. They get Dex to AC and a further +1 for each 2 levels and may only use bo and jo sticks, nun-chucks [sic!] (yes, the sic erat scriptum is part of the pdf and intentional!), clubs, man-catchers, bowie knives, sais, metal claws and throwing stars. "Chaos monks are rarely surprised (a 1 on a d8) and then only if spoken to by a member of the opposite gender." That made me laugh, yes - but it has no place in rules-language. So, can a medusa surprise them? At 2nd level, they may perform kicks for d5 damage, +1 per level attained. 3rd level, they can speak with fungi. At 4th level, they can flip over the back of their opponents while making a high-pitched scream. Okay, funny. What does that do? The ability also allows for the use of samurai swords...and now notes that chaos monks risk self-injury when using swords at lower levels - something that the weapon rules above failed to specify. Also: Do sais or bowie knives count as swords? Because RAW, they can't even use swords at those levels. At 6th level, chaos monks can cast Confusion once a day "not just on themselves but others." So, does that mean that the chaos monk is affected as well? Or not? No idea. 8th level yields the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. "It is unclear whether this has any real mechanical effect however." Is this funny? Hell yes. Does it hold up as rules-language or actually have a proper use at the table? NOPE.

Feral Dwarves need Con 9, have Str as prime requisite, d8 HD and cap at level 12 (660,001 XP). They can detect by concentration slopes, shifting walls, etc, may only wear armor up to chain and use feral weapons (spears etc. - all properly codified). They also gain, hilariously, +1 to hit versus deodands, due to racial animosity. They may also throw small boulders in combat, with +1 to hit and damage, 1d4 base damage and Str modifier added. Throws from a higher latitude (again, properly codified), gain a +2 bonus instead. Some feral dwarves use polished flint mallets for 1d4+1. These render targets unconscious on a natural 20 for 1d6 rounds. They also begin play with a 30% chance to forage food, +3% per level gained and may start fires in any environment 9th level feral dwarves attract followers. The race comes with an alternate starting package and fight and save on the same table as robo dwarves...though these don't have such a table either. I assume defaulting to dwarves as a standard there.

Robo-dwarves need Con 9 and use Con as prime requisite. They have d8 HD and cap at level 12 and 750,001 XP. With a silvery skin, they have an AC of 8 if not wearing other armor and don't eat or drink - though milk has intoxicating effects. Regular food is toxic to them and they need to consume lamp oil as well as gravel and bits of rock. They may not wear armor made mostly of organic material, can see in the dark up to 60 ft. and have a 2 in 6 chance to spot weak spots, subtle slopes, traps, hidden doors, etc, but need to commune with the stone by placing a hand on it.

Half-ogres need Str and Con of 14+, Cha or less than 9, have Str as prime requisite and d10 HD. They cap at level 9 (294,000 XP). They can carry more gear than comparable races and may see in the dark up to 60 feet and fight/save as fighters of the same level. The pantsless barbarian needs Con 11, which also doubles as prime requisite, gets d10 HD and caps at 12th level at 660,001 XP. These guys and gals believe that their privates need to be close to the sun and thus may not use armor better than chain and takes a -1 penalty to AC. They do get +1 to hit with the preferred tribal weapon and every other level, they can take +1 to a "LotFP-like d6 skill in either Tracking or Wilderness Survival." That...is kinda problematic, as it suddenly assumes that the referee uses LotFP's skills per the game, when the rest of the pdf made no such assumptions.

The mountebank would be a variant thief who needs Int, Dex and Cha 13, has Cha as prime requisite and 1d4 HD. The class goes the full 20 levels, capping out at 1,300,001 XP. They may use disguises like an assassin and gain the Sleight of Hand skill at pick pocket + 15% to switch out/manipulate objects and may only use thief magic items until 9th level, where they may also use illusionist items. Also at this level, the mountebank attracts 2d6 followers.

From levels 1 - 10, they get new con-man style abilities that rely on language and being understood: At first level, Flim Flam temporarily raises Cha to 18, while at 5th level, he can manufacture flash powder for 150 gp. While these have durations, we have a collation of item and class feature once again here and the flash powder's blindness has no duration. Quite a few referees I know will also be somewhat appalled by the lack of a daily cap of uses here: At third level, the mountebank gains charm person, at 4th hypnotism, etc. - and these have no daily cap. In theory, you could RAW run around and charm everything.

The war bear (yes, you read right!) needs Str 13 and Con 14, has Con as prime requisite, d10 HD and caps at level 8 and 147, 200 XP. War bears wear no armor and instead determine AC by level, starting at 6 and decreasing that to 3 at level 8. Dex bonus, if available, can be added. War bears gain +1 to hit and damage when using polearms and they are REALLY obsessive about the weapons, losing Wisdom if separated too long from a polearm. At 6th level, they can invent and name a polearm, which hits and damages at +2 in his paws and may injure creatures only affected by magical weapons. At level 8, provided he has a sufficient underground complex, he attracts a band of war bears. These guys save as dwarves and fight like fighters of their levels.

Finally, there would be White Wizards, who need Int and Wis 12, use Wis as prime requisite and get 1d4 HD. They cap at level 21 and 1, 696,001 XP and learn spells of up to 7th level. They save as magic-users and need spellbooks. They may only use simple non-edged weapons and may not wear armor, but may cast spells from cleric and druid spell lists, but these spells are treated as arcane, not divine. They may use druid and cleric as well as magic-user magic items, but may not use magic items that directly inflict damage. The pdf sports an optional rule that allows them to create cleric scrolls at 75 gp times spell level, taking 1 week per spell level to complete.

So, that would be the first half of the pdf. The second half presents an alternate and pretty amazing character creation system - and these tables represent one of the most extensive ones I have seen so far: You roll for birth order, parent occupation (which net an attribute die and starting gear)...and then, you roll again: Nobility, merchants, clergy - all have their own subtables. Then, you roll for significant events during childhood and adolescence, which once again nets attribute dice and further rolls for relatives, crimes, guardians, etc. Military service, virtues and vices, religious experiences, magical occurrences - there is a TON of tables here and the system actually yields a great background. Extra dice are added to the default 3d6 rolled for attributes in character creation - this obviously generates more potent characters than the default roll 3d6 method, but is tweaked easily enough - even as fluff-only, this is really amazing and holds up. That being said, I think the pdf should specify that the usual caps still apply - otherwise, you can end theoretically up with characters that have ludicrous attributes.

The pdf also has a page devoted to starting equipment generation, though, while okay, it is a bit rudimentary for my tastes. The pdf also provides a page of funnel (0-level) rules and the final page is devoted to attribute checks -roll under attribute, with the default task being 3d6. Decent, I guess, but not something that blew me away.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the supplement could be more precise. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features a nice b/w-artwork beyond the cool full-color cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. I got the softcover booklet, which btw. adheres to the standard letterpack/A4-size.

I love Chris Kutalik's humor and this is actually a nice read. However, as a rules-supplement, the humor gets in the way and makes the content needlessly opaque in several cases - as a rules-supplement, I do not consider this a success. I can hear the hissing and booing, but know what all good OSR-systems have in common? They may be rules-lite, but they are PRECISE. This is not precise, not even close. It suddenly talks about sub-systems in a class/race, lacks durations etc. and while it is imaginative, creative and hilarious, it is simply not a good rules-supplement, no matter how you try to spin it The first half of this pdf did nothing for me, apart from the admittedly amazing concepts. This booklet, for me, is remedied by its second half: While these tables and rules may not universally appeal to me, I adore the character creation tables and here, suddenly, the rules are significantly more precise. In fact, even before, the precision oscillates.

Now, would I get this in print again? Honestly...no. But it is worth checking out, considering the PWYW-nature of the pdf. This may not be for everyone, but chances are you can at least mine some nice ideas from the pdf. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up only due to the PWYW-status of the pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hill Cantons Compendium II
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Call to Arms: Horses and Mules
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2017 08:08:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at a massive 86 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with a massive 81 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin with a brief flavor introduction, before we dive into the subject matter at hand, which, this time around, would be the hooved companions - we do get a discussion of the members of the equidae, discussing biology, psychology and the like. Pretty col: The pdf actually explains the way these beings communicate - what noises etc. mean. This is rather cool and also covers different colors and we do also cover mules...and when you'd want a mule or donkey. And yes, this does include zebroids and zebras. Different types of movement, from gallop to trot etc. is covered and a handy table lists movement by rounds

The pdf also covers diverse horse breeds, but misses a chance here to present minor variations of the stats like those featured in Raging Swan Press' "So what's the horse like, anyways?" - instead, we get full statblocks for destriers, dorian chargers, dorian mammoths, small donkey, eohippus, garrons, mules, ponies, different types of race horses, vanners and zebras. As a minor complaint no companion-stats are given for the respective horses, which, to me, constitutes a somewhat puzzling oversight, considering that the smallest horses feature notes on the benefits they'd convey as familiars.

The pdf also covers notes on the general intelligence of horses alongside a 10-entry strong table to randomly generate the personality of the horse in question. Of course, horses are living creatures and as such, caring and feeding and various afflictions a horse may suffer from are covered - though I do not get why the latter don't actually sport rules for the afflictions. If a horse gets rain rot, what are the rules-relevant consequences?

On the plus-side, the collection of skill uses, concisely presented, makes that aspect of the pdf pretty helpful and well-crafted and, following the tradition of the series, we collect relevant feats in one concise place: From Cavalry Formation to Involuntary Dismount. Wait, what? Yep, there also are new feats herein...but the quality of the rules material is inconsistent: "You can make a Ride check at difficulty 20 to avoid becoming Prone after a fall:"[sic!] - you can find the deviations from standard rules-language without me pointing them out, right?

Beyond these collected feats for riders, we also introduce and collect a variety of feats for the mounts in question. These make include allowing the ride to get a bonus on Handle Animal checks. Formatting here is not perfect, however - we have skills that are not capitalized, for example and there are cosmetic formal hiccups, like a "Special"-line not being bolded as well. Missing "spells" from "spells and effects" could be intentional as a deviation, but yeah.

Those options out of the way, we move towards the paladin's mount, which come with a sample celestial and similarly, the druid's animal companion can be found - it basically elaborates the basics and collects the relevant information. More interesting would be the animal companion archetypes herein: Charger and racer make for cool and very much required additions to the game; if anything, this pdf should have had more of these, which were pioneered in the animal archive! Sooo...why aren't there new ones? Speaking of cool: It's nice to see leadership and the subject of mount cohorts tackled in this book as well.

The pdf also features the hussar class, which receives d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with light blades, lances and simple weapons as well as with light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Chassis-wise, the class gets good BAB-progression and Ref-save progression and begins play with Mounted Combat, a mount (which may have racer or charger archetypes) and a so-called "line". These would be order-like abilities that expand the proficiencies of the class, net a bonus feat and grant one ability at 2nd, 8th and 15th level. These include better shooting while in the saddle in two of the 4 lines...and the lines are decent, if not perfect - there is, for example, a reference to a saving throw for a target, but no note on the DC...Nomenclature is also weird: "Mounted Flurry", for example, does nothing that you'd associate with flurries, instead granting a static +2 to atk and damage and an AC-bonus. Not impressed there.

Where I really get flustered is with the skirmish ability: Bonus damage whenever you charge +1d6, plus an additional 1d6 every three levels thereafter. Because we ALL know that the one thing mounted combat needed was MORE DAMAGE. WTF?? Worse, starting at 3rd level, mounted charges no longer provoke AoOs...which makes this class fail my basic balance criteria. While the bonus damage is not multiplied on a critical hit, neither is it precision damage. It's a charger-class that deals EVEN MORE damage than Pala, Cavalier, etc. - not getting near my game. There also are two archetypes for the class, the beast rider and the winged hussar - the latter being btw. not a rider of a flying mount, but a more heavily armored version....that does not get Mounted Combat as a bonus feat at first level. Yeah...well. That happened. The Musketeer gets a bit of gunslinging...but loses the mount, which is the whole point of the class. You get a subpar gunslinger, basically, one without deeds, but the archetype can "As a standard action she can focus herself to gain a number of benefits for 1 minute per hussar level." What benefits? The archetype never explains. The class has no raison d'être. Literally everything it does, gunslinger, cavalier, etc. do better.

After this serious crash in quality, we're thankfully back to a more pleasant chapter, one that deals with magical mounts: The consequences of awakened mounts, stats for equine carrion golems, cauchemars etc can be found, making this chapter pretty helpful, if you're looking for a collection of these creatures, this delivers and also has some new ones - farasi bahari or uisge, for example. Unfortunately, the statblocks do sport glitches here - e.g. deflection bonuses to AC missing from incorporeal ghost horses. Weird: Nuckelavee and Mari Llwyd are included as cursed horses, even though both do not actually curse their rider. Why is e.g. the regular nightmare not included here? No idea. A CR 4/MR 1 mythic pegasus and a CR 11/MR 5 variant sleipnir can be found, though the latter has discrepancies in the presentation of the stats as well and the pegasus...lacks any cool mythic ability. The pdf also introduces "The First Horses" - a regular one, the first pegasus, the first sleipnir - alas, the statblocks are a mess., The first horse nets 30K Xp for a CR 5/MR 2 critter with 4 HD and a whopping 54 hit points. "The first horse has been around since the dawn of time and likely always will be." Yeah, right. In a world where a 10th level character has to sneeze at it to kill it. This concept is so cool, but the execution is really flawed.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-level, they are NOT. At least not in the cases where the pdf does not quote other material. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' nice and aesthetically pleasing 2-column full-color standard and the pdf features a lot, nice and thematically fitting stock art. The pdf has bookmarks, though some of them have titles like "_9p51zdtdf180" - while all proper bookmarks are below the array of these broken ones, it's still irritating to see.

Jennifer R. Povey did a lot of research here and when the book talks about real world facts, about myths and the details, this is actually a fun supplement, The collection of material from other sources is also commendable. However, I am utterly baffled by the inclusion of the hussar class, which has no reason to exist. Particularly when the topic of animal companion archetypes could seriously use more options! Now, usually, a book in the Call to Arms series does two things: For one, they collect the previously released material. But more importantly, they also add new material, new engines, cool stuff. They usually expand the subject matter, making the pdfs grow above their compilation angle.

This is not such a book. In fact, it frustratingly felt like it was aware of its shortcomings...and shrugged. We get all those notes on afflictions for horses...and no rules to supplement them? In what world does that make sense?? We acknowledge all those magical creatures...and don't really expand on what they mean within the context of the world. We mention breeds, but get no specific rules repercussions for them. In short: This book touches on all those tantalizing, cool concepts and then shrugs and gives you a seriously bad class and more statblocks...which have grievous glitches and/or have been compiled from other sources. I feel a bit like a bully, but there's no way around this: This is one of the weakest Call to Arms-books I have read. It shows effort, passion even, yes - but the craftsmanship leaves a lot to be desired. I also really wished that it featured its sources as superscript notes like previous installments of the series. Try as I might, I can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Horses and Mules
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Ecofront
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2017 03:27:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This sourcebook for Cybergeneration clocks in at 82 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 78 pages of content, so let's take a look!

I received this book as a gift for the purpose of a prioritized review by one of my patreons.

So, the state of the world is not a rosy one in Cybergeneration and this book, well it details the ecological front of the struggle of the youth. It also, partially in hindsight, hits close to home. Global warming runs rampant and while industrial pollution seemingly is less nasty in our world than it is here, it still remains a problem. At least, we don't yet have acid rains from Minnesota to New Jersey and Michigan, Illinois and Ohio still have life apart from humans. Still, the uncomfortable feeling remains that the dystopian state of the world depicted herein has a couple of years left to reach this desolate state...

As is the wont in the genre, in particularly considering the theme of Cybergeneration, we have a struggle of the juves versus the man, versus the corporations, which are even more super-villainous evil and remorseless than those we actually have in our world...and that's saying something if you're even remotely interested in the subject matter. So, how did this more escalated exploitation of our world has affected the groups in this dark allotopia? Well, boy scouts have basically become an extended arm of the government and other interest groups, sadly mirroring the recent controversies that have even reached me back in Germany. Girl scouts, alas, are no better in this world. The Cousteau Society has, ostensibly, more influence and radical arms, while ironically, Greenpeace has splinter groups and remains, at least pro-forma, non-corporate. Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy have managed to secure lands and yes, the eurocorp biotechnica may actually make for a devil you could potentially ally yourself with.

Now, obviously, there are several forms of actions that are explained and detailed, from hayduking in the L. A. metroplex area to reclaiming nature, using waste as weapon etc., the pdf offers several interesting ideas - all with "the bad guys" and "the good guys" as a reminder of Cybergeneration's more traditional, comic-book-like stance of good and evil as opposed to most cyberpunk worlds. The actions, in short, can provide for a nice selection of different hooks and angles an enterprising GM can develop.

Very important for the effort and a potential campaign focus introduced in this book would be the care and maintenance of J-Parks - from Jurassic Park, obviously. The chapter begins with an annotated article/opinion piece that depicts the stance of most folk on these institutions and, surprise, they don't like them. The pdf provides a comprehensive and easy to grasp step by step guide to generate your own J-park, including suggested skill-uses and the like...but at the same time, this chapter, to me felt flat of its own potential - while running costs etc. are covered, ultimately, the customization options for the park as presented leave something to be desired - at 3 pages, it doesn't come close to how rewarding such base management can and should be.

After a brief recap of the impact of the dread Carbon Plague, we take a look at two new yogangs, the first of which would be the NeoPioneers, who seemingly combine Wild West romanticism with survivalism, making them a highly individualistic and somewhat conservative entity, represented also by their yogang skill Frontier Guerilla, which combines infiltration, weapon-use and survivalism and is governed by INT. As before, we get information on yogang, slang, etc. - the format of presentation is the same as in the core book.

Beastieboys (and girls) would be what would happen if caring for all life and a really dedicated approach to all life would meet with advanced genetic engineering...and we have a yogang that's into the recreation of extinct species (or potentially new ones!) in a weird blend of naiveté, radical ideology and wide-eyed ecological excitement. The yogang skill, daktari, employs both EMP and INT - EMP for handling animals, INT for the cerebral aspects of genesplicing etc. As such, home incubation sets and genesplicers are included in the new item section and similarly, species-purchases are covered - for example secuity-cybercats. Much like before, these shopping-section are represented visually, simulating windowshopping From VWs (Volkswalkers - that made me chuckle!) to body harnesses, there is some seriously nice gear to be found here.

There also would be a whole new type of mutation to spring from the mutating carbon plague - the Scouts. These guys basically are tinman/bolter hybrids, who look relatively normal - with a crucial difference: These guys can extrude hexite formations that are called probes, linked with a thin wire to their bodies - most of the time, these probes thake the shape of spider-like beings and can be used for, bingo, scouting. These guys begin with the Probe Ops TECH skill at +1 and are highly customizable: Oozing, swimming, flying, multiple senses and special skills are all included - the longer the range, the harder it'll be to perceive details properly. Leashes of these probes have 10 SDP, with quadruple effect of armor piercing attacks, but none via crushing attacks. Scouts have 2 probe spaces per point of BODY and these are evenly divided over the 4 limbs. Additionally spaces used increase the SDP and they may be divided - as a whole, these guys feel like better balanced surveillance riggers to me, to draw a Shadowrun analogue - more vulnerable and less prone to sitting in heavily armored fortresses.

In the thematically fitting and well-written next section, we cover the interaction of hexite armor and high-velocity impacts, scooping up samples via probes or realistic scout sculpting. Similarly, alchemical forgery, building guns into probes and other such tricks are covered.

The next chapter, unsurprisingly, considering the focus of this book, deals with animals -Animal Handling, based on EMP, deals with...you got it. Animal Sense Bonus would be an animal's equivalent of Combat Sense for all but initiative. Identify denotes the ability to discern friendlies and Loyalty is similarly self-explanatory. Training animals by difficulty and a wide selection of stats help here as well, though the scan is not perfect - we have white lines showing up on these pages, denoting potential creases in the book used to scan this.

And that ends the player-section and moves to the GM-part, which includes clarifications, the missing price for the codegun as well as the sample adventure "Where the Wild Things are", which takes up the second half of the book. In order to talk about that one, I'll have to go deep into SPOILER territory, so potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! We begin pretty much in medias res, as the yogangers witness the desperate flight of two yogangers being assassinated by corpsec - the PCs can get a package the poor folks managed to get rid off before security arrived...and yes, the bodies will be looted by the uncaring crowd. Still, this can be a bit of an issue for careful groups: The package obviously contained something that got those folks killed big time. Yes, it's a trope for the PCs to get it - but depending on player experience, they may suspect that they bit off more than they could chew. On the plus-side, from the bike's path to the corpses and vicinity, the module provides exquisite details, making the whole investigation aspect surprisingly easy for the GM to run. Oh, and one of the yogangers survived...so a trip to the hospital, past security, is next up. The PCs, ultimately come upon a kitten doomed to die...who has been modified to be a scanner, scrambling its brain beyond saving. Yes. I get it. 80s and such. It still is a cheap, cheap ploy and potentially frustrating for the players - why shouldn't they have a cool scanner-kitty? The module specifies explicitly that they can't save the kitten by any means, which is just cheap and to me, infuriating and needlessly cruel and dark, particularly when playing with kids. Not a fan.

Anyway, via blatant emotional manipulation, the PCs are thus motivated further (as if that was necessary...) to get to the bottom of the mystery - and the trail leads to the Larson Park raiders, contact with the Eden Cabal and then focuses on the raid of a lab (with EXQUISITE detail regarding security, maps, counter-measures and read-aloud text) and recovery of a gene-splicer (which takes on a slightly uncomfortable turn, considering the violent attacks on labs in the meanwhile since the book's release) - from here on, several clues point towards Death Valley - where contact with NeoPioneers will provide the means to find the final part of the module - and here, things take a turn for the horrific. Know those "secret labs"-horror movies where something went horribly wrong? Well, we have basically one of the best renditions of that trope I have ever seen: An AI, strange and creative mutants, a claustrophobic atmosphere...and finally, the PCs may clear up an interesting mystery, have a hint of a potential source for the Carbon Plague and made a lot new allies - provided they can get out of the whole scenario alive and not be arrested by the adults, obviously. The final section of the adventure is amazing, evocative and fun.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the book sports a ton of cool b/w-artwork. The electronic version leaves a lot to be desired, though: The scan-glitches can be found throughout the book and while they don't obscure crucial parts, they are jarring to see. Worse, this massive book's pdf not only clocks in at over 30 MB, it also has NO BOOKMARKS. For a book of this size, that's a big no-go and comfort-detriment.

Edward Bolme & David Ackerman's Ecofront is a product of its time, sure, but many aspects of it remain surprisingly topical, though public awareness of ecological problems has once again waned, as media manipulation, economy and the issues of globalization took center stage in our consciousness. The first half of the book, as a whole, has aged rather well, though some 80s themes would need updating today. The scout represents an overdue addition to the roster, though system-immanently, its inclusion can generate waiting players while he scouts ahead. Still, nothing short of the issues deckers and riggers tend to generate due to the limitations of probes.

There are, alas, some aspects of the book that fall short of what I expected. Number one would be the barebones and lackluster J-park base-building section, which really needed more material and customization options - it feels like an afterthought. Number two is the start of the module. Don't get me wrong: I absolutely ADORE the attention to detail, breadth and scope of it; I LOVE the final area and the wealth of information provided for the GM. The maps don't hurt either. But how it starts is a blatant and transparent emotional manipulation.

Why did this infuriate me so? Well, for one, Cybergeneration's central premise is "good kids vs. bad corporations" - we already know that corps are evil. The module starts off with a frickin' assassination! If that's not enough to draw the PCs in, then what is? We know who the bad guys are. And then you introduce a kitten, just to kill it off? Seriously, that's a level of grimdark misery REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE PCS DO that so won't fit with how Cybergeneration tries to differentiate itself from other cyberpunk games. That is not only railroading, it is railroading coupled with the worst kind of emotional manipulation. Now, here's the thing: I like dark, but it has to be executed well. I'm not screaming "But what of the kids?", mind you - I think that kids can stand A LOT more than what our often disgustingly sugar-coated TV-program and books provide - I am very much confident that kids can grow from confrontation with horrid and dark themes. Heck, as a kid, I loved my Howard, Batman animated series, Last Unicorn and all those delightfully dark children's movies. My favorite Disney song as a kid was Hellfire from the Hunchback of Notre-dame.

But no-win scenarios of pure misery in a game? That's bad adventure-writing and contrivance, regardless of whether your audience consists of kids, adults or both. It also is PAINFULLY obvious, so obvious that even kids got it and were annoyed in my test-run. Finally, it subverts the tone of Cybergeneration, undermines what, to me, makes up its unique selling proposition. More infuriating would be, that, from a purely analytical point of view, this needless tragedy is utterly superfluous. The inevitable death of the kitten is literally, just a plot-point, a means to propel the plot forward and engage players, when, to me, it did the opposite, it sank the complete first 2/3rds of the module, only barely coming back from it in the finale - which is also dark, yes, but here, the tone works and is not reliant on what boils down to cruel plot-fiat.

Yes, I know. It's one point. But it's a big one for me. Still, as a whole, that would not sink the book for me - there is a lot to love here. But the lack of bookmarks and minor scan-glitches add a further level of frustration. I like a lot here, but I also finished this book underwhelmed by other aspects. In the end, to me, this represents a mixed bag. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ecofront
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The Northlands Series 2: The Raid Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2017 03:22:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The series "The Long Night of Winter" was conceived as supplemental material/optional tie-ins for the massive Northlands Saga, but each of the modules can be run as a stand-alone module as well. I backed the kickstarter for Northlands Saga back in the day, but otherwise was not involved in this project.

This module is intended for levels 6- 8 and is set in the eponymous Northlands of Frog God Games' Lost Lands campaign setting. It does translate well to other fantasy campaign settings, though.

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

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..

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Going on raids is a crucial part of the viking lifestyle and now, the skald Ake the Lost has returned to the North, last survivor of the proud fleet of Ulf Greymane. The PCs witness the skald's tale, which is a massive almost-1-page exposition-dump, at the local Thing-assembly. As a minor issue here: The skald's trauma makes him kinda come off as not particularly dignified -which is intentional, yes. Still, I couldn't help but feel that the presentation of the story could have been handled more dynamically. Anyway, Ulf's fleet has been vanquished - the Southrons he tried to raid, the Santherans, in their warm, turquoise waters, have seemingly struck an alliance with a kraken!

The PCs are hired by a cowardly, but prosperous landowner, one Fretr Bondason, to accompany him on his Vindurbrottingr to the shores of these folks as part of a retributive fleet. The epic-length journey to these faraway shores is completely glossed over - so, if you're like me and don't simply skip ahead over months of travel, keep those wilderness supplements ready, for the module does not cover the journey at all - which does take away the epic achievement On the plus-side, like the previous "The Long Night of Winter"-module, this is steeped in the lore and culture - though it here mostly pertains the presentation for the GM and how the PCs perceive the world.

As Santhera's secluded bay slowly comes into the sights of the PCs, they'll witness something epic - namely their fleet being attacked by berserking kraken. Yes, plural. They will fight mere tentacles of the epic beasts as their own foes (which is fine by me - in fact, it's how I handle really big critters in my home game as well) -what I'm not that happy with, though, would be that the PCs don't get a chance to pilot the vessel to safety or other meaningful decisions - the combat here could be so epic and amazing and it may play out as such, but the module per se does not make a lot of use of its glorious set-up, at least rules-wise.

Provided the PCs don't get annihilated, they'll make landfall, a few lone survivors, stranded on the shores of a hostile nation - and immediately find themselves struggling to reach a Santheran guard post - the few soldiers there may be easy to deal with, but more forces are approaching - glorious death seems inevitable...until the PCs find a secret tunnel, which leads under the bay, past chthonic traps, into the sunken ruins of the culture that is responsible for the shape of the Santheran island: Under a crystal glass dome, horribly mutated spellcasters are using an ancient artifact below the seas to cloud the mighty minds of the kraken in mating frenzies. And yes, these dread casters sport rules-relevant, twisted mutations, making them fit perfectly with the obvious Sword & Sorcery tropes evoked - in fact, during the combat with these masterminds, the lighthouse ruins below the sea may be torn from the sea, raised up by air pressure and the like, providing a sufficiently epic finale with the threat of death seeming certain.

Speaking of death. Guess who is not amused by being manipulated? Bingo. Turns out that clouding the minds of some of the most deadly beings to come from the monster manual can backfire horribly...if the PCs do their job, they thus won't have to worry about Santherans ever again...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the softcover I have has the glossy cover and high production values I expect from Frog God Games. The interior b/w-artwork is phenomenal, original and deserves the highest praise. Really cool: We not only get b/w-maps, we actually also get player-friendly versions!! Big plus there!

Jeff Provine's "The Raid" breathes the spirit of classic Sword & Sorcery - it feels like a classic Conan the Barbarian comic: Overwhelming odds, tentacled monsters, ancient, sunken ruins, degenerate magicians - this has all the ingredients that make me smile. At the same time, it does feel very minimalist and suffers from the 16-page page-count more than "Winter's Teeth" - from the glossed-over journey to the landing, there are aspects which feel hurried: I'd have expected some exploration/interrogation/Stealth action on Santheran soil to lead the PCs to the hideout of the mages. As written, it can feel a bit linear and like author's contrivance. Similarly, the epic doom of the fleet demands more detail, as far as I'm concerned. Granted, a capable GM can easily insert these in the module, but I still found myself thinking that this module tries to cram a bit too much into its pages. I also think that this...doesn't really feel like a viking raid, that the Northlands theme could be more pronounced...but all of that should be considered to be minor complaints. If you're looking for a great, if a bit linear sword and sorcery module, then this delivers in spades. 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!]
The Northlands Series 2: The Raid Pathfinder Edition
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Domain Phylacteries
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2017 03:21:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games' little series of oddball pdfs clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, though these have been formatted for A5 (6'' by 9'')-size, allowing you to fit up to 4 of these pages on a sheet of paper when printing out the pdf.

So, domain phylacteries, what are they? In short, they're an item-class, usually depicting a religious item contained in a tiny box, affixed to a leather cord and worn on the brow, occupying the headband slot. They have a CL of 5th and share a faint universalist aura. You craft them via Craft Wondrous Item and need access to the respective domain to do so - subdomains qualify, fyi - nice catch!

Domain phylacteries are activated via the use of channel energy and activation is thus a standard action that does not provoke AoOs, even if the phylactery duplicates a spell effect. Paladins and antipaladins may use phylacteries of good/law and chaos/evil, respectively, powering them via lay on hands/corrupting touch. Druids with domains use wild shape uses to power them instead, while inquisitors use judgment uses. A character needs to worship a deity granting access to the domain associated with the respective phylactery to use it, preventing cherry-picking. Kudos for these concise definitions!

The respective phylacteries usually have a price of 6K, 3K to create, though2K/4K or 4K/8K ones, for example, can also be found. Generally, these often include spells - the phylactery of air, for example, can duplicate fly up to 3/day. The phylactery of art can duplicate either major image or enthrall and does not sport the daily limit. The phylactery of artifice occupies a ring slot and can provide disable construct. beyond that, 5 uses can be used to duplicate soothe construct - and yep, level 7 CL, increased cost...makes sense. The phylactery of chaos can be used to gain a bonus (or a penalty, if you're unlucky and roll a nat 1...) to your next d20-roll...and it does have an anti-stacking caveat!

The phylactery of death grants the wearer a passive +1d6 boost to channeling negative/positive energy to harm the living/undead, respectively. The phylactery of madness allows the wielder to substitute a confusion effect as an immediate action, negating another mind-affecting effect - nice last-second save. For fans of Porphyra - yes, there is a phylactery that allows the wearer to pass through porphyrite borders! I did not even remotely touch upon every item herein, just fyi! There also is a powerful phylactery that may actually make the character meet his god...for weal or woe...

Finally, we get two nice, cursed phylacteries - the domain/lay on hands/touch of corruption-sabotaging phylactery of denial and the even worse phylactery of refusal...cackles with glee

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column b/w-.standard with purple highlights. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks - kudos for going the extra mile there!

More than 40 items for less than a buck, many with some cool tricks, that also help differentiate clerics and servants of different deities - what more can you ask for from a little pdf that only costs a buck? Better yet, Perry Fehr has taken the time this time around to make sure that his crunch is actually really solid, crafting a great, inexpensive little offering. If you're looking for more to do with your channeling/judgment/lay on hands/touch of corruption/etc., more versatility - then this delivers. I like the item class, I like the execution and I like this pdf. This is well worth checking out and gets a final verdict of 5 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Domain Phylacteries
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Mystic Savant
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2017 03:19:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 1.75 pages of SRD, leaving us with about 4.25 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

The arcane savant prestige archetype uses the wizard as a base class for its build and thus gains d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with club, dagger and quarterstaff and 1/2 BAB-progression plus good Will-saves. Spellcasting is, befitting of the base class used, prepared spellcasting of up to 9th level, governed by Int. At 1st level, the savant thus gets Scribe Scroll and the class may take 10 when using the UMD-skill.

Starting at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the mystic savant chooses one spell from any class' spell list and treats it as though it was on the mystic savant's spell-list, allowing the class to cherry-pick the most potent of spells. One issue here: Can a spell be learned for more than one spell-level? If a spell can be found on more than one class' spell list, could it e.g. be learned at 3rd and 2nd level? A further issue: RAW, the spell, as a prepared spell, is added to spellbook, familiar, etc. - which would codify it as a spell of the type the build class would usually cast. This theoretically would allow other characters to learn the spell via these means, even though it's not on their spell-list. An exclusivity caveat would be appropriate here.

2nd level also provides +1/2 class level to Knowledge (arcana), Spellcraft and UMD as well as the option to take 10 on the two skills that don't yet have this option. At 3rd level, the savant can find writing-based magical runes as though via trapfinding while using the Spellcraft skill. This has inherited an issue from the base PrC: Trapfinding in PFRPG allows for the disabling of magical traps via Disable Device and +1/2 class level to Perception - RAW, anyone can FIND them. So, does that mean the savant gets +1/2 class level to Spellcraft to look for them? Can he use Spellcraft to disable them as well? Or not?

Starting at 5th level, the mystic savant may use his own CL instead of a scroll's when using it. At 7th level, the savant may duplicate the effects of 3 rounds of concentration via detect magic to determine an item's properties as a swift action. Starting at 9th level, the character gains a +5 bonus to saves versus writing-based traps etc. and on a success, the trap is not triggered. Starting at 11th level, the savant may activate spell completion, spell trigger and command word items silently 3/day as if using a silent metamagic rod, 6/day at 15th level, 9/day at 19th level. Big kudos: The ability specifies a max level per the item class of metamagic rods, with 19th level unlocking the greater rod's array. 12th level provides free action analyze dweomer as an SP; with a total duration of 1 round per class level.

13th level provides the option to spontaneously convert spells to dispel magic, with 17th level unlocking greater dispel magic. When using either spell to make a targeted dispel or counterspell, the class heals hit points equal to the dispelled effect's CL.

The prestige archetype comes with notes for the use of the arcanist, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror and witch classes. Beyond specific favored class bonuses for the core races, erkunae, eventuals, ifrit, kitsune, oread, slylph, undine and zendiqi are covered regarding class-specific FCOs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's Mystic Savant has a bit of a handicap, being not exactly based on the best or most interesting of PrC; that being said, the pdf tries to do some interesting things with the theme, which is certainly appreciated. However, the cherry-picking of spells, always somewhat problematic, could have been a bit clearer and personally, I think that the class ends up being a tad bit too strong due to it: The item-use etc. tricks can be situationally really, really strong. So far, my least favorite of the caster prestige archetypes. While not bad by any definition, it does fall a bit short of the generally impressive series. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Mystic Savant
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Riftwarden
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2017 09:18:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2.25 pages of SRD, leaving us with about 4.75 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

The base class employed for the default build of this prestige archetype would be the wizard, and as such, the class gets d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons Spellcasting-wise, they get the wizard's 9-level spell-progression, including prepared spellcasting.

The signature ability gained at first level would be planar channeling, which is an untyped energy in a 30 ft.-burst that only can harm creatures, to be more specific, those with the extraplanar subtype, regardless of alignment. It also inflicts its damage on any creature that has emplyoed teleportation effects within the area of effect and within1 round. It increases its damage output by +1d6 every 2 levels thereafter, with daily uses amounting to 3 + cha-mod and standard action as an activation action. Starting at 10th level, extraplanar creatures that fail their saves versus the effect are affected by the riftwarden's choice of either panicked, sickened or staggered for 1d4 rounds.

At 2nd level, summon monster may be used to counter conjuration (summoning) spells or SPs via readying such a spell. 4th level allows for a similar option to ready a counter to teleportation effects. At 8th level, counter-summons may be used as an immediate action, even when surprised. 12th level unlocks this option for teleportation as well. Starting at 14th level, these counter-abilities can be used to reassign summon/teleportation destinations within 100 feet, which also inflicts scaling damage.

Starting at 6th level, the prestige archetype gains a +1 sacred bonus to saves versus SPs, spells and SU as well as Ex abilities of outsiders, which further increases by +1 for every 6 levels thereafter.

At 16th level, extrapalanr creatures that fail the save versus the channel are sent back to their home plane and as a capstone, the riftwarden may, as a standard action, expend two sues of his planar channel ability to forcibly return escaped creatures to his presence - cool!

The prestige archetype comes with notes for the use of the arcanist, cleric, oracle, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror, summoner and witch classes. Riftwardens based on clerics share one channel pool for positive/negative energy and planar channeling, but increase its size to 5 + cha-mod. Personally, I think the cleric may come out of this deal a bit too well compared to the other classes. Beyond specific favored class bonuses for the core races as well as anpur, avoodim, catfolk, kitsune, qit'ar, samsarans, xesa and zendiqi are covered regarding class-specific FCOs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's riftwarden is a cool guardian-style counter-mage class. I like the prestige archetype and its ability dispersal, with my primary complaint remaining that the cleric-alternate may be a bit too well off. This is a minor complaint, however - my final verdict will still clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Riftwarden
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Deadly Gardens Player Companion: Verids Revised
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2017 09:15:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

The revised version of the first player-centric Deadly Garden-installment clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Verids are, as you may have surmised, a new plat-race intended for use as PCs - originally of extraterrestrial origin, they have several unique spins on the established tropes: Beyond looking a bit like plant-like versions of gray men, they seem to have a grudging respect for dwarves (!!!) for their mining prowess, but consider other races to be deviations from the natural order. While personally, I like this spin on the tropes and a GM could rationalize it by them having a somewhat odd or skewed perspective on "natural order", the fact remains that dwarves, in most campaigns tend to hearken closer to the tropes of scions of civilization and industry, so that may be something to look out for.

Racial trait-wise, they get +2 Int and Con, -2 Str, are Small, have a slow speed, get +2 natural AC, and require the sun as nourishment - failure to spend 4 hours in the sun results in decreased natural healing. 3/day, they can, as a swift action, extend their arms by 5 feet, increasing reach for 1 round. Additionally, they replace animal companions with plant companions (and the Deadly Gardener feat that helps there as a bonus feat) and can, Con-mod times per day (minimum 1) release a 10-foot spore burst as a standard action. This burst sickens targets via a poison effect for 5 rounds on a failed save, with Con as a governing attribute for the save DC and an additional daily use gained at 4th level and every 4 levels after that. Additionally, they are plants with the sentient plant subtype (concisely defined here - and yes, they breathe, eat and sleep), gaining low-light vision and immunity to sleep effect as well as a bonus of +2 to saves versus paralysis, poison, polymorph, stunning and mid-affecting effects, excluding morale effects. This bonus increases by +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. The race comes with a proper age, height and weight table.

Alternate racial trait-wise, there are thorny verids that lose the sunlight dependency and who can draw sustenance from grapple-based blood draining, but such verids need a steady supply of blood to work at full efficiency...which has its own creepy implications. Can you see the blood farms of our plant overlords, the red sprinklers? I can. shudder Such verids may also choose another racial trait to help them heal once they have taken care of the day's blood sustenance requirement - and yep, that aspect cannot be kitten'd - kudos! Alternate spores that deal Con-damage are interesting and certain verids have defoliant spores that may affect plant creatures and negate plant-based difficult terrain. Cool! Instead of the stretchy arms, limited healing (again, abuse-proof) for immersion in freshwater can be gained. Verids may also replace their spores with 1/day goodberry and plant growth, provided they have Cha of 11+. Continual speak with plants can also be gained for stretchy arms, though the spell has not been properly italicized. Another alternative for the spores would be the option to make an unattended wooden object grow into a desired shape 1/day. As a minor complaint - this should specify its activation action. I assume standard action as a default.

The favored class options gained by the race often continue the leitmotif, granting e.g. more goodberries, limited healing in sunlight for mounts etc. or more vine arm uses - kudos for going the extra mile there and making these not boring standard options! Alchemist, arcanist, barbarian, cavalier, druid, fighter, hunter, inquisitor, kineticist, mesmerist, ranger, rogue, slayer and shaman are covered.

So, next up would be the racial archetype, which this time around would be the terraformer kineticist. These guys get a modified class skill list and must choose earth, water or wood as primary element. At 1st level, the terraformer selects a ranger's favored terrain, though the bonuses granted are only +1. Additional favored terrains are gained at 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level and may be sued to increase the bonus, but only increase it by +1. This eliminates the basic utility talent granted by the kineticist's primary element. Instead of gather power, the archetype gains the eponymous terraform ability. As a move action, a terraformer may transform natural vegetation and minerals into alien variants of their selves in a 20-foot burst for one round. While in this area, the terraformer reduces the burn cost of a blast wild talent by 1 - here's I'd have appreciated the same (minimum 0)-caveat that many kineticist archetypes sport, but that's cosmetic. If a terraformer instead spends 1 full-round action, the transformation instead lasts for 1 round per "level" - that should be "Class level".

If the terraformer takes damage during terraforming, he must succeed a concentration check - but the DC-calculation is off: The DC mentions effective spell level of her kinetic blast - and the terraforming ability in itself does not have an effective spell level. If the terraformer loses concentration, he suffers 1 burn. At 5th level, when using one or more infusion with a blast, the terraformer reduces the combined burn cost by 1. If within a favored terrain, the terraformer instead reduces burn by the favored terrain's bonus - +4 would e.g. reduce burn by a whopping 4! When also in an area terraformed, the burn cost is reduced by a further 1. Thankfully, this can't reduce the burn cost below 0. The ability replaces infusion specialization. Starting at 6th level, the terraformer may accept burn when terraforming, increasing the radius by 10 feet per level for each point of burn, replacing internal buffer. Instead of supercharge, 11th level terraformers can reduce the total burn cost of a wild talent by 2, with 15th level increasing that to 3. All in all, a definite improvement over the original iteration that shows the influence of N. Jolly.

There are three different equipment pieces: The first would be an interstellar beacon that lets you use interplanetary teleport...and only costs 2,5 GP to create, which seems underpriced for such a cool, powerful option. Spore collectors allow verids to collect their spores as splash weapons - the item still does not specify that these collected spores still should be treated as the verid spores. Cool: The spore launcher, which can fire spores and low-weight alchemical items, has been codified as a proper simple weapon. Minor complaint - the text calls it pneumatic launcher instead of spore launcher, but that's a cosmetic nitpick.

Feat-wise, the Deadly Gardener feat mentioned before has been reprinted for your convenience. We also get +4 daily spore uses and Horticultural Mimic adds Plant Shape I - III to your spell-list. Mi-Go Technologist lets you choose two Item Creation feats for which you'd qualify character level-wise. You may use Heal to create Mi-Go technology variants of these items, ignoring spellcasting requirements and reducing the cost to create to 75% of base price. Finally, Potent spores lets you increase you spore DC by a potent +4.

The pdf also sports 5 new spells, with verdiform and mass verdiform being very precise buffs: They allow the targets to become somewhat plant-y, specifying the type of natural attacks they net, note deviations from the default damage-die sizes of these attacks, etc. Kudos! Corrupt Plants makes plants poisonous and bloated (neat idea!) and Alien Landscape affects an area, temporarily shaping it into a verid-friendly iteration of nature, which penalizes non-verid casters. Cool: The landscape also changes atmosphere/air, suffocating targets potentially, but it now sports a caveat that specifies that you have enough time to hold your breath, preventing suffocation-abuse.

The pdf also features 5 of the aforementioned plant companions: Living topiary, mushzoom[sic!] (yes, that's intentional - 50 ft. base speed!), ophidian vine, phantom fungus and shambler - these guys are powerful, but also pretty cool. Kudos for the bonus vine new to the revised edition! The pdf closes with a sample verid ranger 3 and a CR 6 verdiform shambling mound, including a cool full-color artwork for the mound.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting definitely show that N. Jolly has been brought on board for the revised edition - significantly more precise in all key aspects. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games' two-column full-color standard and with nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.

The verids, penned by Jacob W. Michaels and Russ Brown really deserved getting this revised edition and I applaud Rusted Iron Games for caring enough to polish these guys. Gone are the confusing interactions and hiccups...and beyond polish, we actually get quite a bit of new content herein! That is caring and I really enjoy it when I can write a positive review of a revised version. Better yet, the verids, while still a potent race, has been cured of boring and unnecessary feature-bloat and brought in line to conform to the power-level of the stronger PF-races. It should work sans issues for all but the most gritty/low-powered games now. This is how an improvement looks like! The revised version gets the full 5 stars - I certainly hope we'll learn more about the alien landscapes these guys create in a future book!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens Player Companion: Verids Revised
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Mini-Dungeon #059: With a Candlestick
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2017 09:10:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

And now for something completely different! Lord and Lady Scarlet are wealthy, well-connected and even pretty popular - the nobles have established a national embassy. When the PCs arrive, however, they come at a rather bad time. Mere minutes before, lord Scarlet was found murdered. There are a couple of guests here...and we have a powerful mastermind, doppelgangers and intrigue...as well as a gorgeously mapped massive mansion. Any GM halfway worth his/her salt can further complicate the scenario with a variety of NPCs, making this an amazing set-up...but if the PCs don't take care, that'll end up bad for them...very bad.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. This time around, we get not jpgs or player-friendly versions, which is a down-side, particularly considering how good this map is.

Michael McCarthy delivers an a nice mini-murder-mystery; the map if great, the details surprisingly pronounced for the length, the whole set-up surprisingly well done, considering the limitations of the wordcount. this deserves respect and is really neat. If you're willing to add a bit of detail, consider this 5 stars; if you want go-play, 4 instead. My official verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #059: With a Candlestick
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Cultures of Celmae: Udaeus
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2017 09:08:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Cultures of Celmae-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Long before the Shattering tore the world of Celmae asunder, it is said that the hero Saint Thero battled Leviathan at the Pool of Making, the Creator's wellspring, with the help of the Spear of Fate and Aegis, the god-shield. Wounded, the triumphant hero partook from the pool and the dragon's blood and flesh - advised by the goddess Amaura, he scattered the remains of the great beast, which would inexorably rise again, but from the fangs, it is said, the first humans formed.

On Cythea, the big tribes rose to dominance and a thousand years of bloodshed began, one that only ended when the canny Udaoi ultimately proved to be victorious. Mirroring the Roman empire ina esthetics and style, the following centuries would be kind on their people - until the Grim return, when degenerate humanoids would rise to sack their capital. And yes, the text does mention a unit of 300 fending off a second sacking, allowing the udaoi to drive the monstrosities back below Mt. Elo - ever since then, the udaoi have been fighting these morlocks, unsettled by the similarities of skin and other properties between their own race and the degenerate monsters from below...and then, the world was fated to shatter. While the udaoi managed to divert the worst of the cataclysm with their potent magics - and thus, many udaoi saw the catastrophe as a confirmation of their divine right to rule, as providence.

The re-emergence of dragonkind was met with warfare and in these campaigns, an alliance with griffons was woven - though Saint Thero's clergy, in the aftermath of the cataclysm, began a holy war of annihilation against the non-humans that had allowed to taint of the world prison to roam free. As the years of endless war stretched on, so did the udaoi become more warlike, more blood-thirsty, as decadence is slowly putting its perfumed claws into the mighty empire. Only the inability of the udaoi engineers to master the navigation of Celmae's turbulent seas has held back further expansions in the following centuries - and when the majeed arrived, the nations clashed for almost one hundred years - ending in a stalemate: Unable to best the majeed at sea, the udaoi conceded dominion over the oceans, while the majeed acknowledged udaoi superiority over the Cythea.

1621 after the shattering, Ekos the Wise, priest to Saint Theros, found a horrid artifact - wealthy and corrupted, his crimes went unpunished, though he was excommunicated. When he managed to raise dead kings to life and send them on a rampage, the udaoi were shocked - and even when he was slain, he returned to life as a lich - the defeats he wrought upon the udaoi broke the illusion of udaoi superiority, fostering hope and unrest among the Cytheans - it is here that we rejoin the mythology presented by other installments of the series, as the heroes Bryn and Gran united the tribes and bested, ultimately, the lich. Instead of ascending to udaeoi, the twins elected to remain behind, pronouncing themselves king and queen. The aftermath of this saw yet another long campaign, but once again, not one the udaoi would win.

As you may have noticed, the society herein is one divided by race - non-udaoi Cytheans are slaves to their masters. An Udeaeus character is "usually defined by their racial levels and most advance to 4 racial Hit Dice before taking class levels." WTF is that supposed to mean? Is there a racial class that got cut from the book? What racial HD do they get? No idea. Really puzzling and confusing sentence there. Racial traits-wise, these guys get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, low-light vision, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors and shields - something that doesn't really have a place in a race, as far as I'm concerned. So juveniles already can wear all heavy armors and wield all weapons? They also gain a +1 natural armor bonus and have resistance 5 to one energy type (only the 4 base types), which may be changed via a one-day ritual. An udaeus "counts its racial Hit Dice as fighter levels for the purpose of qualifying for feats." Urgh. I quote the official rules here: "Monster PCs should only advance through classes." Giving everyone in a race basically full fighter tricks is not a smart decision regarding balance. Any weapon an udaeus wields and all armor and shields worn is treated as a masterwork weapon and improvised weapons are treated as normal weapons, making this better than comparable abilities as well.

We get favored class options for the core and APG-classes as well as brawler, investigator, arcanist, slayer, swashbuckler, warpriest, kineticist, but not the witch. Weird: The racial paragon class herein, the Udaeus Paragon, does not get an FCO.

This class gets d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per levels, full BAB-progressiona nd good Fort-saves...and the proficiencies the race already gains as a racial trait. See, that's just one reason you don't grant those to a race as a whole. The class begins with Infuse Arms and Armor - basically, this ability makes the udaeus paragon's weapons and armor more potent; +1 weapons are treated as +2, masterwork weapons as +1 and the same holds true for armor etc.. I'm not really a fan here - 1st level magic weapons and armor is not something that's usually done, but this does not constitute my main gripe with the ability. It reads: "As the udaeus paragon increases its Racial Hit Dice, this inherent ability becomes more potent, gaining its full strength after 4 Hit Dice are gained." - I get what this means, for the ability increases in potency at 4th level, but that is NOT how rules-language works for the like. As an aesthetic aside: The maximum bonus is first +4, at 4th level +6, breaking the hard cap of +5 regarding enhancement bonuses in Pathfinder. I don't consider this to be a holy cow, but 4th level is too soon to theoretically break that cap.

The class also gains basically favored enemy: dragons at first level, increasing its potency at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. The class also gets true strike as a 1/day SP, 2/day at 5th level. The ability is not properly formatted in the class table - like all SPs here. Second level increases the energy resistance to 10, with 3rd level and 4th level increasing that by a further +10. 3rd level yields barksin as an SP 1/day, +1/day at 7th level. 5th level yields haste 1/day, 2/day at 9th level. It should be noted that Cha is the default attribute for SPs, so the mention of Cha as governing attribute for these is kinda redundant - it doesn't hurt either, but the haste SP lacks this sentence, which makes the pdf look inconsistent with itself. Same goes for stoneskin, gained 1/day at 7th level, +1/day at 11th level. 9th level yields aspect of saint thero 1/day, 2/day at 13th level. 11th level provides 1/day battlemind link (not properly italicized), with 15th level providing the second daily use and 20th level upgrading that to the mythic version of the spell. Battlemind link, last time I checked, was btw. not a new spell, like the pdf claims - it was originally released in Ultimate Magic, with the mythic upgrade featured in Mythic Adventures. That just as an aside.

Let's talk about these spells for a second: Weird, considering the history of the race, aspect of saint thero is a [good] spell...and is horribly, horribly OP. 1/minute per level as a duration, it grants you darkvision 60[sic!] - ft. missing, resistance to acid and cold 10 and DR 5/evil. Oh, and wings for unassisted flight at 30 ft. with average maneuverability. Oh, and guess what? Weapons wielded are treated as good! I am not even going to dignify this mess with an enumeration of why it does NOT WORK AS A 2ND LEVEL SPELL. Know what's also a 2nd level spell? Darkvision. WTF. How this could get past any even remote grasp of balance, I have no idea. It also looks familiar to me, I had a rage-déjà-vu while reading it - I'm pretty sure I've raged against this spell before at one point in my life.

5th level, 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the natural AC of the udaeus. 8th level yields Iron Will, 9th level evasion (weird, considering their heavy armor theme!) and 16th level provides improved evasion. 17th level provides energy immunity to one energy type, which may be changed via a day-long ritual among the 4 basic energy types. I assume that this is in addition to the resistance, but placement in the class makes me think that it's supposed to be the continuation of the energy ability-suite. Anyways, in dubio pro reo, so won't take that against the pdf and consider this to be an intended second energy. 6th level yields the spear and shield combat style, which makes use of a couple of the "new" feats herein. New combat style bonus feats are gained every 4 levels thereafter.

What do I mean by "new"? Well, Drive Weapon, for example, is just Drive Blade, renamed and taken from 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming's Strategists & Tacticians. It also inherits the original feat's issue that it RAW applies to ranged weapons as well, when that's clearly not the intent of the feat. Bashing Critical is just a variant of Bashing Finish and otherwise is worse than Bashing Finish, as it only works with one-handed or light weapons and requires a swift action. Shaft and Shield was copied from Kobold Press' Advanced Feats: Cavalier's Creed - and should have been at the very least updated to reflect weapon-group terminology. Shield Check is basically an upgrade of Stand Still, which adds Shield Bash damage to the target stopped - while it looks familiar, I can't place it - credit where credit is due, though: I like that one. Shielded Maneuvers nets you +2 to CMB for bull rush, disarm, overrun and trip, but only when wearing a shield and wielding a 1-handed or light melee weapon. Boring.

3rd level yields fast healing 1 per round, +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 4th level yields Endurance. At 4th level, the udaeus paragon gains a mythic rank in the champion mythic path. 14th and 20th level provide further built-in increases of mythic tier. Sooo, that's a problem. How does this interact with characters having other mythic paths? I assume that the sentence "If the character already possesses the mythic tier to be gained, he instead gains a bonus mythic feat." is supposed to take care of that. The paragon gains mythic power and surge, hard to kill, Extra Mythic Power as a bonus feat and the champion's fleet charge. Upon reaching the second tier, the paragon also gains an increase of 2 to an attribute of his choice. At 2nd tier, he also gains Amazing Initiative and may use mythic power to double the anti-dragon bonuses, mythic endurance and precision - which is a 3rd tier champion ability, not one available at 2nd tier. 3rd tier nets recuperation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better on a formal and rules-language level than in many earlier Wayward Rogues Publishing books; there are some glitches in formatting, but less than in other pdfs. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some really nice full-color artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is annoying. Worse: text selection and copying is disabled for the pdf, which is ironic, considering the amount of text taken from other sources and designated as "new".

Robert Gresham's Udaeus-culture begins with the best flavor of the whole series: There are less hiccups here and the prose really draws you in, courtesy of drawing ample inspiration from pop culture and history, creating a unique and fantastic vista. I was really celebrating the race and totally stoked for it. What does transformation into an udaeus mean, for example? Is it a meritocracy based on magic ascendance? That sounded so cool! I was STOKED to read the rules supporting that. Insert the waap-waap-waaaaoooo sound here. You won't find the like in this book. The most positive things I can say about the crunch would be that they don't suck as hard as that sections of previous Cultures of Celmae-hybrid classes.

The race is a mess, gaining the whole fighter basics as just another racial traits, significantly exceeding the tricks of other races in the setting and invalidating, ironically, a central draw of the fighter class for a culture that ostensibly is supposed to cherish it. I get that this tried to basically make 300-fantasy-Spartans, but such proficiencies are not something you're born with - they're the result of training. See how non-human races handle that: You get a few proficiencies, sure...but not ALL of them! I like the resistance-switching - in fact, I wrote a similar engine back in the day. And then there would be the paragon class. While I'm not a big fan of all those SPs, they at least have a theme. Where I have a big issue would be that mythic tiers are hard-wired into the class, which violates the GM-control aspect that mythic rules usually sport. Similarly, the interaction becomes weird and the lack of other classes sporting similar mechanics make this wonky and clunky. Now, credit where credit is due, the mythic powers gained are not nearly as broken as you'd expect for a regular class gaining access to them. Why? Because the other class features are the incarnation of boring. Iron Will. Endurance. You get the idea.

I do not object to the notion of having mythic tiers baked into a base class per se, problematic though that is - I do have an issue when this decision does not provide a sufficient pay-off, though. Literally no class feature granted by the class could not have been realized sans mythic options. The class is also, feat-choices aside, completely bereft of choice. One of these guys will be pretty much the same as another - there is no player agenda to be found, one at all. Finally, another issue I have with the class is that it has no unique tricks. Not a single one. Apart from the ham-fistedly jammed in mythic mechanics that generate more issues than contribute, the class has no unique selling points apart from "tough martial character." No unique attacks, class features, choices - nothing - it's a Frankenstein entity of stitched together parts that could conceivably be represented via a bunch of other classes. The energy resistance upgrades also come too soon and should be dispersed better over the levels.

Then, there'd be the supplemental material. You see, I have no issue with books using OGL-material - in fact, I love that about PFRPG etc.! It's a big strength of the game and drawing on well-made material by other authors is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Heck, I tend to actually like well-made compilations of material! However, as soon as you just rebrand a feat, copy a spell and then claim it's "new" and your own, we have to call this plagiarism, even within the OGL. Yes, it has been done time and again, but that doesn't make it right and here, I don't really get why e.g. those asterisks denoting the material as explicitly new have been included, when e.g. a spell was drawn from as obvious a source as a Paizo core hardcover. That's just weird to me. It also is very evident from the quality of crunch of the different materials. I would be more lenient there, if the material had been streamlined, improved, balanced. Regardless of whether or not these are original, both race and class sport serious issues.

As a whole, this ultimately puts a sour taste in my mouth. It also makes me sad, for the race deserves better. The udaeus as a concept is amazing, the prose is cool - but, to paraphrase Arrow, this crunch has failed the concept. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform by virtue of the strength of the prose and the fact that, if you're looking for a one-stop-shop Spartan-class, this may be what you wanted...though the hiccups, hard-coded mythic aspects and rules-deviations are jarring.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Udaeus
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Deep Magic: Void Magic
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2017 09:02:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deep Magic-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The heart of void magic is Void Speech - the spoken word, the glyphs of this strange language, exist in a paradoxical state, in that they degrade physical reality around them - though never to the point of dissolution: Inscribed Void Speech corrupts and degrades, but does not annihilate its own matter.

Void magic is the tradition of tapping into the horrid magics of the Great Old Ones and the role of the tradition in Midgard is elaborated upon. It should be noted that these spells cannot be learned via spells gained via level-progression - these magics need to be learned from a practitioner or a proper spell-book, retaining GM-control in that regard. Void magic fundamentally behaves like arcane magic, just fyi.

There are two feats introduced that make use of the unsettling nature of Void Speech - the first would be Void Channeler, which lets you, as an action, utter a phrase in its horrid cadence. A creature within 10 ft. of your choice must succeed a Wisdom saving throw (Save DC scales properly) or suffer from the frightened condition, while other beings nearby suffer from somewhat unsettling, cosmetic effects. Additional uses before completing a short or long rest inflict increasing amounts of necrotic damage to the character. The second feat, Void Scribe, lets you use writing utensils as an action to inscribe a glyph on an object - this object then continues to take 1d6 necrotic damage per turn and in order to retain the glyph's structure, you have to maintain concentration AND succeed a DC 10 Constitution save each round. This is a pretty cool idea, though it also is one that could have carried a bit more than item destruction - two spells presented herein require papers with the glyphs as material component and that's it. Oh well, perhaps in a sequel book?

The pdf also provides an arcane tradition, namely the void speaker. Starting at 2nd level, time and gold required to write void spells in the spellbook is halved and when gaining a level, 1 of the spells learned may be a void spell, allowing for relatively reliable access to the strange magic. Also at second level, as a bonus action before casting a spell of 1st level or higher, which disorients a creature chosen from those affected by your spell, imposing disadvantage on the next attack roll or ability check the creature makes before your next turn.

Starting at 6th level, when damaged by a creature within 60 feet, you can use your reaction to cause 1/2 wizard level + Int mod necrotic damage to the creature, usable Intelligence modifier times before requiring a long rest to regain uses. Starting at 10th level, void magic spells with one target may target two creatures instead and you gain advantage on Con-saves made to maintain concentration on void spells. Finally, at 14th level, you can use your action to utter a phrase in void speech - this lets you choose a point within 60 feet, dimming the light in a 20-foot radius around that point for 1 minute. Creatures hostile to you suffer from disadvantage on Wisdom checks and vulnerability to necrotic damage. Additionally, such creatures (Allies are fine!) starting their turn or entering the area for the first time take 3d6 necrotic damage, half as much on a successful Con save. The ability recharges on a completed short or long rest. It should be noted that these abilities, being reliant on vocalizations, can't be used when unable to speak, which is a nice thematic catch.

The pdf also features a total of 13 void magic spells: conjure minor voidborn (at 5th level) and its 7th level brother, conjure voidborn let you call forth fiends or aberrations in a nice summoning variant. Why nice? The nasty creatures can't attack you and yours, but they can, oopsie-daisy, affect allies via secondary effects - you have to tread lightly there, which fits perfectly with the flavor of the magic. There are two void magic cantrips: Crushing Curse nets you a reliable means of dealing 1d6 psychic damage to a creature within 60 feet, also deafening that creature. The damage increases over the levels...and here, I'd usually complain about psychic damage being one of the strongest damage types in 5e, but the balancing of the cantrip is actually really clever and immaculate: You see, it can only affect creatures that can hear you, so as soon as you fail the save, you won't be affected! And yes, creatures can try again each round to end the deafness. Kudos indeed! The second cantrip would be ward of misfortune, which targets a creature nearby and imposes a d4 as penalty to the creature's next save. Protection from the Void nets a willing creature resistance to necrotic and psychic damage as well as advantage on the saves versus void magic...draw that elder sign...

At 2nd level, we can find destructive resonance, a 15-foot cone which inflicts 4d6 psychic damage (more with higher spell slots) and prevents creatures damaged from taking reactions. Usually, I'd say that the "no reactions" aspect should be negated on a successful save, but the low range and inherent danger of the spell serve as balancing mechanics there. Maddening Whispers can render a target incapacitated with 0 speed on a failed Cha-save, but only has a range of 30 feet and demands your action to maintain its effects, which renders it a tactical option, but not one that will break the game.

At 3rd level, we find Void Strike, the option to fire 5d8 necrotic ranged spell attacks that also frighten the target until your next turn. The no-save frightened-effect is something I'd not particularly keen on, but I do like that the spell ties in with the terrain - you gain advantage on attack rolls versus those within dim light or darkness. There's a cool Darkest Dungeon reference in discussing this mechanic, but I can't enunciate it right now. At 4th level, nether weapon is cool: Touched weapon is treated as magic, inflicts a bonus 2d6 necrotic damage...and the creature hit by it can't be healed until the start of your next turn. NICE. Living Shadows at 5th level lets you conjure forth a 15-ft-radius spread of restraining shadows (resisted by Strength save). Creatures that start their turn restrained gain one level of exhaustion. Restrained creatures can use their choice of Str or Dex check to free themselves. I am not perfectly happy with this one -considering that even one level of exhaustion imposes disadvantage on ability checks, escape becomes less likely. Sure, the spell is one spell-level higher than evard's black tentacles, and has 5 foot affected area less than it, but it also does not require concentration, unlike EBS. Personally, I'd have kept concentration as a limiting factor here, mainly since my 5e games tend to place a high value on exhaustion/resource management...and it remains a 6-step killer. I do get the rationale behind the design, though, given how void magic is a locked discipline for most casters.

At 6th level, we can find Life Drain, which lets you determine one point within 90 ft. - those within a 15 feet of the point take 10d6 necrotic damage, half as much on a successful Constitution save. For each target damaged, you can choose one creature in range and have it heal half the amount of necrotic damage you rolled. I have a minor, aesthetic quibble here: I think it should be damage actually inflicted, not rolled. While using a bag of kittens and this spell to heal is a colossally dumb idea, something within me still twitches here a bit. That being said, I get the rationale for the verbiage as provided - basing the heal on damage inflicted versus damage rolled would have complicated the wording of the spell. (Plus, this is something that's pretty easy for the GM to house-rule .)

The 8th and 9th level spells, btw., would be the void magic spells I mentioned that actually require an inscribed void glyph as part of their material components: 8th level's glimpse of the void has a range of 120 feet and all targets within a 30-foot cube must succeed an Int-save, rendering the targets insane on a failed save and placing movement under GM control. The 9th level spell, void rift, generates a 10-foot radius tear in reality, which is then surrounded by 40 feet of difficult terrain. Creatures within the area must succeed Strength saves or be pulled towards the rift and those in contact with it take necrotic damage and are blinded and deafened. Very cool - though the spell takes its toll on the caster, inflicting necrotic damage each round it is maintained.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports several fantastic full-color artworks I haven't seen before. Big kudos in the aesthetics-department. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but not for the individual spells. Considering the length of the pdf, that's okay.

Dan Dillon of the four horsemen delivers once again here. Void magic feels potent, alien, risky and still easy to grasp. The astute reader may have noticed that all my complaints (the few that I managed to dig up) boil down to nitpicks in details and aesthetics that can be reduced to "slightly different opinions" - the design here is pretty much immaculate and often rather inspiring. I am particularly enamored with the balancing mechanic employed for the psychic damage-causing cantrip and similar subtle, elegant design decisions. Now personally, I understand why both feats and their effects are not more intricately tied to the spells - a decision made in order to retain the broader appeal of the type of magic. Still, I couldn't help but feel like both feats almost demand being tied to spellcasting. To cut a long ramble short: I'd love to see the engine of void magic expanded. It can carry more than it does. What more can you ask of such a humble little pdf? It actually left me wanting more! So here's to hoping we get Void Magic II at one point. I forgot my verdict? 5 stars...given sans hesitation, since all my quibbles boil down to aesthetic and very minor differences in design opinions! The only reason this does not get my seal would be the brevity - the concept can carry so much more and could have used a couple more pages to develop its mind-shattering impact beyond the presented options.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Void Magic
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