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Places of Power: The Mistfall Refuge
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:14:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

Averin Steelhammer and his dwarven clan did not have the best of times - driven from their ancestral lands by a horde of demons (guess they dug too deep), they aimlessly wandered the foreboding Greyspire Mountains - until they found the echoing cliffs of the eponymous mistfall refuge, etched with protective runes and magical obfuscation, the enterprising dwarves figured it would be a perfect place to start anew - turns out they were right. The lore pertaining this fabled place is suitable obscure (read: High DCs) and entry is only gained via invitation and by paying a hefty entrance fee - but once there, whoever had to vanish...is gone, proofed against the magical espionage of the vizier crossed and the vengeance of the king for absconding with his daughter. Yeah, the place with its protections is pretty much the location that a certain barbarian (and pretty much every group of PCs I ever had) would certainly require at least once - after all, PCs have a real knack for stepping on the toes of the completely wrong folks...

The whole application process and being led there, btw., is also covered alongside the obligatory rumors and events...and yes, there is a teleportation hall, a tavern/guest house/theatre-crossover and the pdf does not fail to comment on the particularities of daily life. Beyond the absolutely gorgeous 1-page isometric map (seriously worth the price of admission and a great hand-out), the place obviously has adventuring potential galore, even before introducing the 4 sample \"guests\" who are currently biding their time in this refuge from the worries of the world. Made me really chuckle, btw.: Moog, the awakened bear monk. Yes, that is one of them. Come on, that is cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. Layout adheres to RSP\'s elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features some nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes in two iterations, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer - kudos there! The cartography by Simon Butler and Dyson Logos is excellent beyond the usual standard of the series: We actually get a stunning isometric map this time around. Personally, I consider the map alone worth the low asking price. I think by joining Raging Swan Press\' patreon, you can actually get the high-res map for the evocative place, but I am not 100% sure. The map provided is cool, but sports keyed rooms.

Jeff Gomez and Jacob Trier joining forces has delivered nothing but amazing in this Place of Power: Beyond being extremely useful tool for the GM (\"Oh damn, now the city\'s powerful guys will want them dead and I have no logical explanation why they\'re not found...wait, they helped that one dwarf a couple of sessions before...\") to make the PCs escape overwhelming odds, it also makes a glorious place for a subdued investigation into the fugitives...and then there\'d be the question of who actually made and magic-proof\'d this place...a ton of amazing adventure, unique yet easily usable in just about any context, a ton of ideas crammed into a precious few pages: This is glorious and epitomizes what the series should be about. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: The Mistfall Refuge
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10 Monsters - A Basic Bestiary - V.1
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:12:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little bestiary clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/monsters by type/CR, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

We begin this pdf with the blessed ring at CR 6 - an immobile ring of Large mushrooms that may not move...but it can spray devastating bursts of acid at foes. After entering the ring, it generates a dome to rest in, so yeah, sniping into camp is impeded as well. Sounds like your average adventuring nightmare? Nope, for there is a twist: These plants are actually good, can detect alignments and only assault evil creatures - they represent basically a powerful safe zone to rest and recuperate for the good guys. Creepy? Yup. But also damn cool. Oh...and they don\'t make much difference between things - if one being inside is evil, the digestion routine begins...ouch.

The cadavalier at CR 9 is a pun worthy of yours truly; it is also an undead, quasi-centauric entity with retributive bone spurs, powerful leaping capabilities and serious armor training. While I noticed a minor typo in the flavor text, I was pleasantly surprised to see notes on advanced creatures and creating these undead. At CR 7, cavern giants would actually be pretty kind beings - uncommon for the udnerdark. Beyond their cauliflower ears, their rules also enhance their theme - they absolutely love wrestling, allowing them to inflict nonlethal damage, Dex and Str-damage...you get the idea. On a nitpicky side - their thrown stalactites should probably inflict piercing damage, not untyped damage.

Cavernivores are more straight-forward - at CR 12, they are huge reptiles with bioluminous tendrils. Think of them as basically the reptile equivalent of angler fish. Torturer Devils would be, now that kytons no longer are straight devils, the stand-in - immune to the effects of social skills, they are a brutally efficient build with extended threat ranges and multipliers and a nasty pain-debuff - that should probably be codified as a [pain]-effect.

At CR 25, the gloom is a living nightmare - bald humanoids with no face, exaggerated smiles full of black teeth in funeral clothing, they clock in at a mighty CR 25. They receive exceedingly powerful blades, are absolutely silent and receive both sneak attack and opportunist - basically, they are high-end, nigh-unstoppable supernatural assassins. Deadly. CR 10 brings us Old Man Winter, the oversized axe-wielding corrupted fey that draws life from those slain, who actually, in spite of the type, makes for a deadly adversary. Oh, of course, he has ice-themed SPs as well as the option to conjure forth icy winds for soft crowd control.

The CR 9 Tamazulim is a gigantic, warty toad that emits a truly despicable stench - obviously, it receives a tongue grab...but it may also breathe lightning. That being said, from the flavor-text, I expected the stench quality here. Oh well. The CR 7 Phantom Troll is a damn cool idea: You see, these guys are not only great hunters and beings that heal by inflicting damage and cause Str-damage - they\'re also naturally invisible. I really enjoy this critter, but one ability contains a cut-copy-past remnant referencing the invisible stalker. They still rank as one of the most challenging CR 7 critters you can throw at players.

The final critter herein would be once again one for the higher CRs - 23, to be precise. The Typhoeon has a humanoid torso and head, but the lower body of a colossal snake, with serpent-shaped arms that sport serpent heads where the hands should be. Oh, and wings. It can fly. In a minor discrepancy of fluff and statblock, the fluff notes the creature to have serpent heads, while the respective abilities reference dragon-heads...which btw. can both basically generate flame-thrower style cones each round.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; I noticed a couple of unnecessary hiccups. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games\' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf actually comes bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The pdf has no artworks.

Which brings me to a central aspect - personally, I prefer substance over style and this pdf does feature some cool critters with interesting abilities and evocative concepts - I can envision quite a few of them better than similar creatures, so as far as I\'m concerned, for the low and fair price, this does a nice job. That being said, not all of Derek Blakely\'s critters are amazing and the editing/formatting hiccups make themselves felt in such a small file. At the same time, I will actually use a few of the critters herein, which, considering the amount of critters at my disposal, is a sign of neat design. I should probably round down from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, all things considered, but considering the fair price-point and the gems that are herein, my final verdict will instead round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
10 Monsters - A Basic Bestiary - V.1
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Mythic Minis 88: Feats of Misdirection
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:09:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let\'s go!

-Blustering Bluff: You can use the feat to reduce the penalty of impossible lies by 5. Creatures fooled also do not automatically realize they were fooled, only becoming cognizant of the deception when presented with evidence or contradictory claims. Nice!

-Confabulist: After botching Bluff, you can follow up with Diplomacy to admit to the lie; on a success, you gain +5 to the second Bluff check. Additionally, 1/day, you may expend mythic power to retry an otherwise impossible to retry Bluff check.

-Cutting Humiliation: The penalties of the feat\'s effects are doubled. Additionally, you never become humiliated when failing to use the feat. You may also expend mythic power prior to making the check to deliver a memorable humiliation instead; this one remains in effect for 1 month per tier, as it becomes the gossip. Humiliated individuals may temporarily offset the penalty by concealing their identity, but cannot remove it by composing themselves, but beating you in social combat or intimidating you ends its effects. Now that type of coolness I what I expect from mythic intrigue!

-Intoxicating Flattery: The penalty extends to Bluff and Diplomacy DCs as well as influence and discovery checks made and you no longer suffer penalties from failed flattery.

-Manipulative Agility: +1 Sleight of Hand per 5 ranks of Bluff. Additionally, when delivering secret messages, check both skills and take the better result.

-Misdirection Attack: AoOs made in conjunction with this do not count against AoO-total per round. You also get +1/2 tier to attacks and + tier damage.

-Misdirection Redirection: Target of the redirect is flat-footed for the purpose of the attack. If you expend one use of mythic power, you deal +1d6 per 2 tiers, which is treated as though it were the rogue\'s sneak attack. One question here, since that wording is slightly odd: Does this mean that the damage this feat can inflict is treated as sneak attack for the purpose of prerequisites?

-Misdirection Tactics: You can use this while fighting defensively. You may also use it more often versus a foe, though subsequent uses require the expenditure of mythic power.

-True Deception: Add tier to Bluff to impersonate an individual; use mythic power to correctly guess specific information the target may know with successful Sense Motive checks, with tier as a bonus to the check. Also allows you to expend one use of mythic power to speak in a language the individual you impersonate knows as if you had cast share language. Both can be combined. Damn cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games\' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that\'s it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alex Riggs and Jason Nelson have a nice selection of mythic feats here; while not all are amazing, there are some really creative ones here that warrant the low asking price. My final verdict clocks in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 88: Feats of Misdirection
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Mythic Minis 87: Feats of Diplomacy
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 04:07:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let\'s go!

-Call Truce: Add mythic tier to Diplomacy checks made; on a failure, you may not use Diplomacy again with a creature entreated with for 1d4 minutes rather than hours; during the round you are calling a truce, you gain the defense bonuses of total defense as well as +1/2 tier to saves versus mind-affecting effects. For mythic power expenditure, you can use it with creatures with whom you do not share a language as well as gaining + tier to Bluff, Linguistics and Sense Motive to communicate across the language barrier for 1 round. Has a minor, purely aesthetic hiccup, a reference to Diplomacy that is not capitalized.

-Entreating Critical: When you confirm a crit versus a creature, you may choose to deal lethal or nonlethal damage; if you choose nonlethal, you gain crit multiplier to Diplomacy with the creature for 24 hours. Alternatively, instead of rolling the confirmation roll, you may expend mythic power to affect the target with share language as an AoO-less SP. Creative one!

-Ironclad Logic: Bonus is increased to 1/2 Int-score and you may always take 10 on Diplomacy checks. Cool: Doubles as Skill Focus (Mythic) Diplomacy for prereq-purposes; also uses Int as well as Cha in social combat when employing tactics with assigned Int-based skills. Not a big fan of dual attribute-mods to any check.

-Nerve-Wracking Negotiator: Instead of attitude returning to normal, a creature that failed the save increases the attitude by one step for the purpose of making requests. This does only make following requests more likely and does not generally improve the creature\'s attitude towards you.

-Persuasive Bribery: Doubles bonus in Diplomacy and Charisma checks, as the bonuses on the bribes. Via Sense Motive, you can discern whether a creature is susceptible to bribery in general, with various classes concisely defined. If you expend mythic power, you also have a general idea of what type of bribery would work best.

-Play to the Crowd: Add mythic tier to Sense Motive made in conjunction with the feat; surges used with the feat are applied to both Diplomacy and Sense Motive for 1 hour; If engaged in a verbal due, you learn all the target\'s biases, which may be slightly overkill. When using a charm or compulsion effect (excluding fear) after succeeding a Sense Motive DC 25 check used with the feat, you increase the save DC.

-Threatening Negotiator: Renders victims of intimidation helpful when exceeding the Dc by 5 or more; has synergy with Nerve-Wracking Negotiator.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games\' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that\'s it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Rigg\'s mythic feats of Diplomacy are generally well crafted, but also ultimately represent mostly increased numerical bonuses, which are simply not that amazing for skill-based environments. Personally, I wished this had increased breadth of options more for more breadth, rather than piling on in the already abuse-prone skill-bonus depth-department. It does that, mind you, but not to the maximum extent. In comparison to what the cool subject matter Diplomacy offers, this mythic mini left me not that excited. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 87: Feats of Diplomacy
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Past Lives: Secrets of Reincarnation
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:55:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

Reincarnation in d20 and its derivatives, ultimately (and undeservedly so) often boils down in relevance to being a subpar version of returning the dead to live and a plot contrivance. This pdf\'s mission-statement is to change this. Formatting-wise, this is achieved via the introduction of a so-called past-life profile - and no, that is NO chosen by the player. A past life profile conveys a series of bonuses to a respective PC at certain levels - this is represented in certain abilities gained, etc. While the design-goal is that of a net-gain, each past life also has an accompanying disadvantage stemming from the experiences of said existence. The unifying downside of the past life profile is that spells that return the dead from beyond the pale do not work as reliably and require a caster level check to work - one modified by the PC\'s Charisma bonus; the stronger the personality, the easier it\'ll be to return the soul.

Past Life Profiles are pretty extensive: Each begins with a brief summary of the past life in question, proceeding then to denote how that person died. Then, we get a quirk the PC manifests due to the echo of the past life and then the abilities, based on character levels. The respective profile also has a reincarnation feat - the player gets to know the name of the feat...but not its benefits. It can be taken freely for a feat-slot, if the player qualifies. This is a cool way of dealing with the hazy aspect of past life memories. Finally, each past life also has notes on plot-development.

So, what do we get? Well, the first past-life profile would by Kyssalis, the elf-eater, lizardfolk queen of the Dead Water tribe, was captured and summarily executed by her adversaries. A PC with her past-life feels his voice fall an octave while angry and sports an irrational hatred of elves the PC is cognizant of. On the plus-side, the PC begins play speaking draconic and later levels net Swim as a class skill (or a bonus), favored enemy (humanoid[elf]), favored terrain (swamps) and even learns to execute a primary natural attack, qualifying potentially for Multiattack etc. This very much should give you an inkling of what these offer - flavorful bonuses, somewhat akin to roleplaying rewards/abilities sometimes provided by good GMs...and it doubles as an individual plot-line, as a kind of built-in roleplaying catalyst.

The next one would be Vantum H\'Haran, phylactery hunter. Let that sink in. Now that\'s a high-risk job-description if there ever was once! And indeed, the mysterious abilities this one conveys represents well the potency the previous life must have had - flashes of insight, arcane counters - the abilities gained are significant, but the flashes of past potency similarly can be disquieting; one ability, for example, renders you staggered for a whole day the first time you use it. This ties in perfectly with the established narrative tropes associated with the experience - and indeed, allows for a type of storytelling experience that is enhanced by this humble set of rules. A PC who was a legendary smith in a past life may literally learn to speak with swords! Death by fire, on the downside, may actually see certain, defensive magics...just fail to work for the PC.

The past lives presented here are not, at least in my opinion, double-edged swords in the traditional sense; instead, it may well hope to consider them to be character-arcs and roleplaying assists that require exactly 0 work to integrate into a given campaign. Whether it is a paranoid conjurer queen, star-crossed lovers or even a deity, replaced by a doppelganger demon (whose header is oddly formatted differently than that of the other profiles)...or perhaps, you\'ll find out that you once were a renegade aboleth, obsessed with imbuing slaves with a modicum of free will (hey, for aboleths, that\'s ultra-liberal!) - in any of these cases, the potential for roleplaying and the unique quirks that past lives result in can and must be seen as nothing short of amazing.

Now, as mentioned before, the respective profiles allow access to their own unique feats - a total of 7 would be provided. While I could nitpick one for noting caster level in two of the 4 benefits and not in the rest of the two, the intent remains clear - and the benefits are damn cool...cool enough to warrant taking the feat: Said example would allow for immediate action utility spells/healing to get you out of all manner of nasty situations, for example. Another feat lets you designate an intended wielder of powerful magic items you create, enhancing the respective weapon for this individual by perk and quirk. What about being a walking fire extinguisher?

Even cooler: We also get at least one unique magical item per past life, several of which receive their own full-color artworks. These items, once again, allow for unconventional tricks: There would be a grimoire, which provides a chance for you to bypass magical wards with passwords. There would be a powerful weapon that can be enhanced with a metal band (can we please have more thus upgradeable magic items?) and there similarly is a brooch that reacts to negative conditions via helpful spell-based benefits. You\'re blinded? Great, you turn invisible for a brief period of time. Promise rings of aforementioned star-crossed lovers? Check. What about a ring that lets you generate instant, water-filled trenches? Yeah, cool. The pdf concludes with a brief table to randomly determine past lives.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as tight as usual for legendary Games - I noticed a couple, mostly cosmetic hiccups. Layout adheres to the gorgeous two-column full-color standard for Mummy\'s Mask plug-ins and the pdf features several nice full-color pieces, though fans of LG may know some from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

First things first: This book is useful beyond the confines of the Mummy\'s Mask AP. The respective past lives can literally fit within every context due to their nature, though they obviously do echo the themes of the AP. Michael Kortes\' system for past lives herein is a stroke of genius in my book. The abilities gained and the progression of their tricks really help making the PCs more involved in a given story and any player and GM worth their salt can draw bucket loads of inspiring, actual ROLEplaying from this book, while simultaneously reaping the rewards of engaging with the story on a deeper level. The totality of mechanical benefits, viable unique ability-choices (via feats) and well-crafted magical items make this come together as something that exceeds the sum of its parts. At a place in time where we have a vast array of mechanical options, one may easily forget that they ultimately should help carrying the story. As such, this supplement does an amazing job of making exploring the stories of the past lives featured herein rewarding and engaging for players and GMs alike.

I absolutely adore this pdf and while its minor hiccups are there, I can\'t rate this the full 5 stars....but I can rate it 4.5 stars, round up and add my seal of approval.

As far as I\'m concerned, this is absolutely amazing and I certainly hope we\'ll get to see more past lives in the future. For my part, I am certain to expand upon the system presented - the concept is too compelling and neat not to. (As one final note: That unique feat you just stumbled over that no one knows? That unique ability that would change the dynamics of your game\'s world and thus is banned? Tying that to a past life is a great way to say \"yes\" to a player asking for it, while curtailing its implications and maintaining in-game logic: \"Of course none but the PC can do this - it is only due to being the reincarnated XYZ he can break the laws of magic this way!\" Just sayin\'!) Can I have more, please?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Past Lives: Secrets of Reincarnation
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Campaign Backdrop: Marshes & Swamps
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:53:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installation of the helpful environmental toolkit-compilations by Raging Swan Press clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page stat blocks by CR, 2 pages of author bios, 1 page of advice for reading statblocks for novice GMs, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 76 pages of raw content, so let\'s take a look!

Taking a cue from Raging Swan Press\' other, no less intriguing compilation books, this one features a table of all statblocks used herein by CR (spanning the range from CR 1/4 to 10) with accompanying page numbers and, as a nice service to the talented authors involved, we get a page of author bios, which is great to see.

But what is this? Well, the short answer, as already hinted at, is that this is basically a toolbox for a specific type of terrain, namely the swamps and marshes. Where other Raging Swan Press collections for example collected the significant amount of dressing files or village backdrops in a single tome, the goal of these books is to organize the tools for the GM by region he needs - in this case, that would be forests and woodlands, obviously.

The presentation of the content is exceedingly smart - we move from the non-specific to the specific, from the general to the detailed in this book; Hence, we begin with a 50-entry-strong table depicting an uneventful day\'s journey in each entry before adding 100 minor events and 100 dressings, then move on to random encounters that don\'t suck - a total of 14 such encounters have been collected from the respective Raging Swan Press pdfs, now available for the first time in print - and yes, the bonus enhancement encounters from the web-enhancement have been included. Beyond a fluff-centric table, we also get a nice GM-cheat-sheet for terrain.

After establishing the basics of the swamp, we move on to settlements inside - hence, the urban dressing for marsh towns would be next, providing tables galore to use and enjoy, with businesses, events and hooks - all in. The excellent lace of Power, the Mudded Manse, can similarly be found within these pages as a ready to drop in location and speaking of which - 4 sample villages from the village backdrop-series are included herein: Aldwater, Thornhill, Tigley and Vaagwol. It should be noted that I have reviews the constituent files that make up this compilation, so if you require in-depth guidance regarding one, you\'ll find it in these reviews.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues apart from a cosmetic hiccup of a read-aloud text\'s box looking weird and similar minor things. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press\' two-column b/w-standard with solid pieces of b/w-artwork, The locations have some nice b/w-cartography as well, though in particular Thornhill\'s map has since it was originally featured herein been used for several settlements I encountered; that may be an aspect you need to be aware of. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with excessive bookmarks and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one made for screen-use: Kudos!

This compilation of material by Jesper Andersen, John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Denver Edwards Jr., Steve Hood, Greg Marks, David Posener, Jacob Trier, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham provides a great one-stop-shop-experience if you need the tools to make swamps and marshes stand out. Now whether you need this book ultimately depends on how big a Raging Swan Press-fan you are. If you already have all the GM\'s Miscellany-books and the individual pdfs, this mainly will help in the discipline of organization.

Personally, I love having a book in my hands, but considering that I already have the dressing books and the villages, I\'m not sure I\'d get this. If, however, you only have one or two of the files herein and/or none of the GM\'s Miscellany books that overlap with this, then this instantly becomes a must-have book that is extremely useful. In short: Whether to get this or the Miscellany-books depends on which organization paradigm you prefer. My final verdict for this compilation will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Backdrop: Marshes & Swamps
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Ultimate Occult
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:49:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 150 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 145 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

So, what is this? This book basically represents a take on psionics, one that re-envisions it as using the psychic magic system. Basically, it lets you use psionics in a game that doesn\'t, for whatever reasons, allow the use of Dreamscarred Press\' superb Ultimate Psionics. This endeavor is based, in short, on three base classes:

The Mentalist gets d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and Intelligence-governed prepared psychic spellcasting of up to 9th level. Instead of having a preconfigured spell-list, they receive two psychic spheres (the analogues to psionic disciplines), +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter -starting at 2nd level, one spell per spell level that is associated with a chosen sphere may be treated as though on the mentalist spell list; at 10th and 18th level, this increases to two and three spells per spell level, respectively. Each sphere also has a signature spell that is immediately added to the spell-list. This flexibility is further modified by the mental magic ability, which allots a number of Psychic Energy (PE) points depending on level. These points may be expended to cast any spell on the mentalist spell-list.

Starting at 6th level, mentalists may expend PE to use spell trigger and spell completion items sans UMD by expending points; at 14th level, the costs for such activations are decreased if an effect is not on the mentalist spell list, but on that of a chosen psychic sphere. As a capstone, the class may 1/day when preparing spells/regaining PE add all spells of one sphere to her spell list. Additionally, the class has a revelation-like system, so-called mentalist ploys - the first is gained at 1st level and another one is gained every 2 levels thereafter; these need to be chosen from the array of the chosen psychic spheres. At 11th level, the class unlocks master ploys - either allowing for the selection of a new ploy or learning the master benefit of a ploy the class already has. Basically, think of the ploys of two step revelations, where you may spend an advanced talent to learn the mastery benefit.

The ploys, generally, are pretty well-crafted, as we\'ve come to expect from Alexander Augunas - clairsentience specialists may use PE to enhance Knowledge-checks, improve d% rolls, improve initiative or the like; metacreativity specialists can generate ectoplasmic items (alas, lacking a caveat to prevent the creation of keys for locks and the like), enhance their own body or weapons with buffs - you get the idea. Psychokinesis specialists can add damage to a chosen energy type, ignore scaling amounts of resistance, change energy types - basically the blasting array. Psychometabolism allows further control over transmutation effects, enhancing curing, etc., while psychoportation allows for the forced teleport (sans specifying that is it a teleportation effect for the purpose of spell-interaction) other or greatly increase maximum distances of spells. Telepathy allows for harder to identify spells, better and more reliable control of dominated foes and the ignoring of mind-affecting immunity. Finally, the universalist sphere can net phrenic pools and allows for the poaching of psychic discipline (no to be mixed up with psionic disciplines, which are called vocations here) tricks. Basically, this class is a kinda-arcanist-style caster, with all the flexibility and power that entails.

The pdf also offers a take on the psion class, who gets the full-caster chassis and limited weapon proficiencies. They get the same PE-array as the mentalist and spontaneous, Int-based spellcasting. I am not a fan of the new psionic focus stand-in-ability: Gaining focus is loud, visual, and adds +2 to CL when used as a move action, +4 when used as a full-round action and when both a full-round and move action is used, you end up with +6 CL for the purpose of concentration and overcoming SR. Note that to use Dreamscarred Press\' psionic focus this way, you had to select feats...and that the bonus only applied to overcoming SR/PR. And that it capped at +4, +8 when expending psionic focus, which is a pretty big deal in DSP\'s psionics. 11th level decreases the psychic focus action economy further to convey a +4 bonus when used as a move action, +6 when used as a full-round action.

Regaining focus is somewhat less important here, though the mechanic still exists. Starting at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the psion receives a psychic release, which is basically an ability powered by expenditure of the psychic focus -these include kineticist-like accepting of burn to restore PE, a shorter cooldown after failed concentration checks to maintain psychic focus. Cooldown? Yeah, that would be one aspect I tend to like in this take on the focus mechanic - if you fail concentration to maintain it, you\'re sans focus for a time. Temporary negation of negative conditions, splitting rays - you\'ll see some familiar faces here.

Now I already mentioned that psionic disciplines are now called vocations and they net class skills, a signature spell and a list of vocation powers to choose from. These are aligned with the associated ability scores of the vocation/discipline and each has a respective spell list. To avoid nomenclature confusion, the Dex-specialist has been renamed kindler, just fyi. The vocations also determine the respective capstone abilities of the class.

The third base class herein would be the psychic warrior, who, in this iteration, receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, spontaneous Int-based psychic spellcasting of up to 6th level drawn from its own list (with a nice overlap/spell-level caveat!), 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. I am not a friend of moving the casting attribute to Intelligence, as it makes the class more MAD (multiple attribute dependent) than it already is and more vulnerable to Will-saves. Battle trances may be entered at will, with a similar cooldown as psychic focus if you fail a concentration check. They also gain PE, though less than 1/2 what the psion and mentalist gain -and that is good, for they may cast spells with a casting duration of 1 round or less as a swift action via PE expenditure. The warrior path chosen at 1st level determines further benefits of the battle trance, with 7th and 15th level unlocking the benefits of a secondary and tertiary path to her list of choices when entering battle trances. Alternatively, the psychic warrior can focus on one path, gaining first the greater, then the true trance and their benefits.

Additionally, these choices determine which warrior\'s path-exclusive path abilities the class can take; while a couple of the talents of the class are generic and available to all paths, each path also features an array of techniques exclusive to it. Each of the warrior paths chosen nets class skills to aforementioned trance abilities and path techniques and the marksman is now completely rolled into the warrior path formula.

The pdf also contains archetypes - mentalists may replace mentalism ploys with mesmerist stares and mental scions focus on one sphere, but may learn psychic releases. The latter is a bit strong for my tastes, but yeah. Occultists may use the Bizarrist archetype that loses circles and the 1st level implement school, but does gain spells and bardic masterpieces. The vitalist is now a psion archetype and receives the collective instead of psychic focus. Transfer wounds replaces the 3rd level psychic release and further psychic releases are replaces with a choice of vitalist methods. The wilder similarly is now a psion archetype, replacing psychic focus with wild surge. Similarly, psychic releases are replaced with a selection of wild releases - the respective specialist surges now are part of this selection.

The dread class, in this book, instead acts as an archetype for the psychic warrior with its own, one path - which was a bit puzzling to me, considering what you can do with the base class. Somewhat problematic - the immunity to fear negating ability must now be specifically chosen. The telekinetic warrior would be an aether-using psychic warrior/kineticist-crossover. The pdf also offers Unchained variant multiclassing options for the 3 classes. Really cool: We receive favored class options not only for the core races, but also for the less commonly used races - the featured and uncommon races from the ARG et al. including the esoteric races like the orang-pendak etc. are covered. Kudos! The pdf also contains 7 feats - one for use of battle trance in conjunction with rages and the others basically are the +x formula. The pdf also rewrites the Autohypnosis as an occult skill unlock...oddly for Intimidate, but I can see where that comes from.

Then, the largest chapter of the book apart from the classes begins - a massive collection of psionic powers converted to psychic spells, with undercasting mechanics and spell variants etc. covered. I can\'t really go through all of them piece by piece, but the translations generally, as befitting of Alexander Augunas\' reputation, are precise. The final page of the book contains a conversion of the dorje magic item class, which allow for limited uses per day supply of PE for activation of PE-requiring tricks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games\' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has several full-color artworks in a combination of original ones and older ones. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas has usually a knack for making me love themes and topics I expected to hate; he is a talented designer and his translation of Dreamscarred Press\' psionic rules to psychic magic contexts is well-crafted. There is not much to complain about in a formal regard.

The target audience, people who allow 3pp-content, but disallow Ultimate Psionics for some reason, most certainly will like this book.

...

I\'m sorry.

I really tried.

I\'m so not the target audience for this. I feel like I\'ve failed this book.

I\'ve been playing with Dreamscarred Press\' psionics for such a long time, in both 3.X (yeah, there were amazing DSP books in that era!) and PFRPG. Literally no other sub-set of 3pp-rules has had this much playtesting in my games...and it works meticulously. Some of the new Psionics Augmented material requires GM-oversight in my book, but yeah - the core-book gets a unanimous pass in all my games and I have never, ever encountered issues with it. I don\'t really get the raison d\'être of this book. Now that being said, I did try the system herein and I\'m slightly weary of the mentalist, courtesy of the pseudo-arcanist casting. At least in my games, the class outperformed the psychic psion but a bit. I don\'t really consider the psychic focus take here to be superior to the psionic focus mechanics and the absence of cryptic, tactician, aegis and full soulknife ability array were felt.

Now granted, Ultimate Psionics requires more system-mastery than this does. But this book isn\'t so simple that I could recommend it as \"psionics lite.\" There are no psionic crystals and the feat-customization is severely lacking compared to Ultimate Psionics; the focus mechanic doesn\'t offer this complex or rewarding an action-economy juggling, granted - that may be a bug or a feature for you. But ultimately...as a person, I miss it.

I also was surprised to see a point-based casting-enhancer mechanic, since one of the selling points I could see would be that people who dislike juggling pools, the diehard vancian fans, don\'t have to handle points. Granted, the points don\'t directly pay for spells...but for abilities and upgrades. I really try to wrap my head around this. And many of my criticisms in this list, ultimately, aren\'t fair - this is a 150-page book that competes with an over 400-page tome that doubles as one of the best crunch books published by any 3pp ever.

I did kind of hope that we\'d see more of the kineticist/implement/etc. overlaps with Occult Adventures...and I somewhat hoped to see more of this type of material - perhaps some cool overlaps with psychic focus and mental focus? Personally, I also experienced a flavor-disjoint; to me, psionics always had this \"draw from the inside\"-flavor, whereas psychic magic felt like it was a personal channeling of external forces via the personality of the caster.

What I\'m trying to convey here is this:

The system presented herein achieves its goal with the full compatibility with psychic magic. It achieves this goal and is, design-work-wise, well-made. This book is good.

At the same time, it absolutely does nothing for me and I\'ll never touch it again. Something in its takes on the concepts rubs me the wrong way in a manner that is pretty subtle; perhaps it\'s the comparative decreased array of options. Perhaps it\'s that, for me, several of the translations take away some of the cool gambits I expect the system to juggle. Perhaps it\'s that the classes herein, to me, don\'t have a sufficiently unique identity that sets them apart from Dreamscarred Press\' iterations. Making them more deeply ingrained within Occult Adventures\' cool tricks would have made this conversion into a full-blown re-imagination and thus completely changed the focus of this book...but it, to me, would have made the book more appealing. Perhaps some novel fluff would have helped; maybe that would have made the mentalist feel less like a collection of rules and numbers. Perhaps it\'s that, with some very small \"get a bit of kineticist, get a bit of stares\" options as exceptions, the pdf doesn\'t employ that many previously impossible tricks.

This is a good book, but the emotional response it elicited from me was less than stellar. As a person, I really disliked this - not, as usual when I experience the like, on a basis of flaws in the rules etc., but due to a pretty strong, emotional, response - which is rather uncharacteristic for me. As a reviewer, I can appreciate the expert craftsmanship that went into its design, I can try to deduce reasons why one likes this and it is my duty to rate this according to its merits, not based on an irrational emotional response and a matter of taste. Hence, I will rate this for what it is - a good conversion of psionics to employ psychic magic instead. The system could have gone one step further and really dive into the nit and grit, though - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

That being said, if you loathe, for whatever reason, Dreamscarred Press\' psionics and still have a craving to see their material adapted to psychic magic rules, then this is exactly what you wanted and should be considered to be exactly what you wanted.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Occult
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Mini-Dungeon #043: Thelamos
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:47:26

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that\'s pretty amazing

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The complex herein would best be situated under a major settlement, where the existence and new occupancy of such a place would make most sense. By means of a winding staircase, the PCs can enter a place that, ultimately, is woefully disgusting - so pervasive is the stench, that from the get-go, we have a chance to be sickened....and yes, there are traps, for this place is the new base of the Sons of Arratoi, a notorious band of thieves - which, coincidentally, also consists of wererats! Exploring the complex is btw. less of a cakewalk than you\'d assume - while it is very much possible that capable PCs can catch the perpetrators unaware and asleep, they will need to be good: Beyond traps and a rat swarm, dungeon hazards and the like, a well-hidden true treasury, accompanied by a \"proper\" boss can be found.

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. The .tif version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos! If you\'re using hyperlinks, you should be aware that, strangely, in this one they don\'t seem to be working.

Jonathan Ely\'s Thelamos is a generally challenging, fun little sidetrek. The obstacles are diverse enough to render it an interesting sidetrek and the pdf employs challenging terrain, fun foes and a reward for particularly diligent PCs. It is, as a whole, a nice, easily inserted and challenging module for anyone looking for a somewhat icky little sub-dungeon. Barring serious complaints, this receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #043: Thelamos
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Mini-Dungeon #042: The Dreamer's Shrine
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 07:45:57

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that\'s pretty amazing

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!

Hidden away under a place of learning, the cultist hideout was crafted from a previously used tomb and has since been used in different ways and expanded. The complex presented makes sense from an game-world internal point of view: Perceptive PCs can e.g. find a way to not sumble into traps and the like, making the complex feel sensible as something that is frequented by the living. Beyond having the chance to find a ghost who demands that evil be evicted from his resting place, these rooms now basically contain the shrine evicted to Cthulhu, including doom prophets. Their magical equipment does receive proper names (nice touch!) and a cursed array of gibberish may put the sanity of PCs foolish enough to read it in peril...

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. The .tif version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Jonathan Ely\'s \"Shrine of the Dreamer\" is a perfect example for a sensible, unpretentious mini-dungeon. The structure of the place makes sense; the module offers a bit of combat, a bit of exploration, a chance for social interaction, rewards being smart, etc. - there\'s not much more you could ask for. Easily inserted (and adapted to other evil deities, should you require that or prefer another evil deity), this very much is a neat example for a useful and consistent sidetrek. My final verdict will be 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #042: The Dreamer's Shrine
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Xcrawl: Louisiana Crawl (DCC RPG Edition)
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 04:36:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Xcrawl-module clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content. It should be noted that both editorial and SRD are actually not the respective penultimate pages - relevant if you\'re like me and tend to print out modules.

All right, before we dive into the nit and grit of this module for 3rd level characters, it should be noted that 100% of the sales go towards helping the flooded areas of Louisiana. While the shocking images of Katrina still are vivid in our memory, you may not necessarily know that the nameless, less catchy and media-marketable storms dropped thrice this amount...so yeah, it\'s a module for a good cause.

One more thing, since I wager not all of my readers will be familiar with Xcrawl. First of all, you may know that I like playing DCC; while I don\'t receive a lot of copies for review purposes for the system, I enjoy it immensely. Xcrawl would be a radically different type of setting/premise published by Goodman Games in cooperation with Pandahead Productions...and is one I really like - basically, the PCs are thrillseekers and super-athletes that participate in a Running man-style, hyper-lethal live-on-pay-per-view game show. The GM (here called DJ - dungeon judge) may actually use the moderator and the unique set-up for hilarious effect. The delightfully different set-up of dungeon-crawling as a very lethal competitive sport lets you generate a completely different atmosphere. That being said, you do not need the Xcrawl rule-book to play this module; DCC rules suffice.

There are some peculiarities the module explains, the first of which would be Mojo Pool. Mojo represents the unconscious power of teamwork and may never sink below 0 or rise (usually) above 12. These points are added on a 1: 1-basis to action dice for combat or spellcasting, skill checks or ability score checks. They usually cannot be added to saves, critical or fumble checks or corruption/deity disapproval checks and a PC needs to be at least 1st level; 0-level noobs don\'t get mojo. Sounds common, right? Well, here\'s the catch - you can\'t spend them for yourself. You can only give mojo points to allied creatures or fellow PCs...and you may NOT ask for them - if you do, you are blocked from receiving mojo for the remainder of the scenario. This, as a whole, enhances teamwork and makes the group come together better in the long run, as fellow players learn to trust one another and the capabilities of the PCs.

Mojo is rolled at the beginning of an Xcrawl event by rolling 1d12; each player makes a luck roll as well - on a success, you add +1 mojo, on a failure, you deduce 1 mojo. Halflings double the bonus on successful checks. 12 is still the cap for the pool. If a mojo point is added to a roll and the roll\'s a crit, the mojo points are added, but not actually expended from the pool - this is referred to as Destiny. Conversely, on a mojo-enhanced roll that results in a fumble, the group loses one additional mojo point - this is known as Choke, analogue to the disaster every Battle Rapper dreads.

Xcrawl, as an entertaining sport, also has rules for grandstanding - working the crowd, if you will. A grandstanding check is 1d20 + Cha bonus + character level, with crowds determining the DC and a default being DC 21. A character may grandstand up to twice per combat encounter as a move action; on a success, the character can gain 1 fame. Additionally, in the round immediately after a combat, the character may similarly grandstand, for the same benefit. That being said, feel free to insert my old and tired \"per encounter is no reliable time-frame\"-rant - not the biggest fan there.

But what does the fame-score denote? It is, basically, the percentile chance the character has to be recognized in a crowd. The higher the fame score, the more the character can ask for standard appearance fees in media, events, etc. - this money is out of crawl money and can thus not be used to cheese the artificially-created monetary balance of Xcrawls. A table of standard appearance fees and fame buy table is included...and if you don\'t want to, you can pretty much ignore the whole section. Ahem, so that would be the rule-peculiarities!

Flavor-wise, it should be noted that several items are banned in Xcrawls; Safe rooms are called break rooms. Charmed adversaries are treated as defeated and yes, you may be disqualified if you, for example go through a NoGo door or attack a being with a NonCom (non-combatant) badge.

Anyways, ladies and gentlemen, please strap yourselves in and get ready! These basics out of the way, you want to know about the show, right? You want to see the struggle the athletes are about to face! Well, as always, from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion or risk a fate worse than that featured in our show!

...

..

.

All right, still here? Sure you\'re the properly authorized DJ? Great!

The crowd DC for this module is a cuddly DC 13 and unless otherwise noted, hallways are 12\', doors requiring a DC 16 Strength check to break. It should also be noted that the PCs, if they mirror the out-game charity with in-game charity, will be rewarded. During the module, the PCs will have the chance to take charity shots of chartreuse - after the first drink, Fortitude saves are in order and a total of 4 stages of drunkenness, including rules-relevant effects. If you and your buddies are responsible adults, the module can double as a neat drinking game...ahem. Not that I\'d endorse that or anything. insert usual rapid-fire speech disclaimer about responsibility etc. But I digress.

We begin with an extensive array of read-aloud text that sets the unique stage perfectly, even for groups unfamiliar with Xcrawl, including an introduction of the DJ - indeed, DJs usually not comfortable with improvising a lot of text will enjoy the well-written, extensive flavor text. The first room already establishes well the extreme game-show nature of the set-up: You have a winding corridor...of the bayou! Everything wants to eat the PCs and they only have 24 rounds to navigate air boats through its winding stretch; if they\'re too slow, they\'ll forfeit the treasure of the room! Oh, and beyond the buzzing swarms of mosquitoes, dire gars, animated Spanish Moss (that stringy, cool ropy moss you know from pretty much all the pictures), the PCs will also have a chance to down charity shots poured from a lizardman bartender and have I mentioned the water moccasin swarm? Yeah, a pretty furious beginning!

After that, we\'re participating in a battle of the bands - the PC\'s band (featuring Lizardman Henry, Johnny Sketch, et al.) jams it out against undead musicians rising from the bayou - and the competing bands actually influence the proceedings: The loser reduces the die on the dice chain. The opposition to the PCs would be a cadre of deadly were-nutria - the goal: Take out the enemy band, for each musician gone represents a decreased bonus for the checks to see who prevails. In the aftermath of this room, the DJ will open a water-chute the PCs have to take...and end 15-ft deep in gumbo; the lid of the titanic pot they ended up in is 15 ft. above them, as gigantic giant chefs loom (though tehse are illusions) - the PCs will have to balance on gigantic vegetables and fight the giant crawfish to the death...falling into the rapidly heating gumbo is detrimental to one\'s health, just fyi.

After a brief hallway and break-room interlude (again, featuring chances to take shots - there are a ton of these!), the PCs will be introduced to a hilariously lethal piece of satire - the red tape golem, that can generate explosions of red tape to keep characters stuck, has an obscene reach and yep, trying to attack it may get your weapon stuck. A formidable foe indeed! After that, it\'s not over - it\'s NEVER over with bureaucracy - so the exit door here\'s trapped: Razor sharp paper. One more form...argh....

After this, the PCs get to meet a celebrity: Pierre, the awakened turtle: Ancient and the only awakened animal to be accepted into university. He\'ll pose riddles to the players - solve three and you\'re good to go. Problem: he only speaks French. Okay, that would be no problem whatsoever at my table. However, if it is a problem at yours, be happy, for perceptive PCs can find a shroom to help them overcome the language barrier....but beware what you eat...Anyways, the PCs can attempt one answer per combat round, for they\'re beset by variant Louisiana troglodytes while being quizzed by Pierre. As a minor nitpick - the sample riddles are in English. While I didn\'t have an issue getting French riddles, having those as well would be nice for groups that want to flex their language-skill-muscles.

And after this one...it\'s time to face the very incarnation of destruction Louisiana constantly faces - the big boss battle pits the PCs against nothing short of the storm - there is a reason a benign genius loci is here for them - they will need all the help they can get, for the fury elemental is not only unique and lethal - it can actually generate so-called storm assassins, made from rain, wind and lightning for a furious (Get it, fury elemental? Sorry, will punch myself for that later...) finale!

The module ends with the aftermath and a list of reliable charities that devote themselves to helping the affected areas and people.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the module sports several neat original b/w-pieces of art - kudos!! The cartography is nice as well, though no player-friendly, key-less map was included. Considering the nature of the scenario, such a map would have made no sense anyways and is not required, though. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Written by Brendan LaSalle and George \"Loki\" Williams, this charity module was a blast to run. Beyond the cool idea of a charity product that you purchase depicting a charity Xcrawl, it is a fast-paced, versatile scenario: There is not a single boring or even just \"good\" encounter herein - each and every room, each challenge has something unique going for it, making great use of the special tricks the DCC-rule-set supports. Beyond that, it is a module that oozes charm and heart\'s blood - from the novel and far-out encounters to the well-written prose, this module is an amazing experience.

Even beyond the confines of DCC and Xcrawl, this can make for an amazing scavenging ground if you need encounter ideas for planar material, a weird wizard\'s past-time or similar gauntlets; pretty much each encounter could be scavenged as a form of highlight, capstone or unique set-piece. And it\'s a charity product as well - one of the best I have seen, mind you, and one that would receive the self-same verdict if it was a regular offering - namely 5 stars + seal of approval. If you\'re looking for something out of the ordinary and want to do a good deed in the process, then this is absolutely perfect. Get it!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Xcrawl: Louisiana Crawl (DCC RPG Edition)
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Hypercorps 2099: Thrillville or Killville?
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 04:34:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module intended for use with the superhero/cyberpunk-toolkit Hypercorps 2099 clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page front cover sans logos etc., 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

This is a module for PCs level 3 - 4, with a hyperscore of 3. The pdf contains a one-page cheat sheet explaining the use of hero points within the context of Hypercorps 2099, though I\'d still strongly suggest getting the main book to run this if you\'re interested in the module. Similarly, the module takes entirely place in the hypernet - the quasi-planar evolution of the internet, whose planar traits have been reproduced here for your convenience as well.

Speaking of convenience: One of the potential issues that adventuring in the hypernet can cause would be its cerebral nature: In the tradition of dreamscapes etc., mental attributes are substituted for physical ones, which means that the players should be pretty mechanically fit for quick modifications. Additionally, certain characters will have a tough time in the hypernet, which is why I\'d strongly suggest using the illustrious cadre of 4 pregens provided. They not only feature color-artworks and stats, they also sport some interesting personalities, with one, for example, claiming to be the original Dorian Gray. As a whole, the pregens are generally on par in power-level, particularly in the hypernet - and yes, their stats concern their hypernet iterations.

The cartography of the two maps is presented in full-color and we receive a key-less iteration of the maps, though, much like specimens, they do not sport a grid, only a note on how far 5 feet on the map are...in the case of the smaller map. The overview map has no scale, but considering its nature, I can live with that.

All right, this being an adventure-review, we\'ll now move into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? We begin in a tavern on the server of Veranthea, conveniently modeled after the fantasy campaign setting, where a bard (this module\'s Mr. Gray) briefs the PCs: It looks like the premier theme park-server of the hypernet, Thrillville, has been compromised, with a virus haunting it and sending users into catatonia, depression and worse,. It is up to the PCs to infiltrate the themepark and purge the virus, a task for which they receive proper code-packages and a specific bottle-of-moonshine-shaped code package that can temporarily render the plane of the hypernet static, making hidden creatures show themselves for a scant few rounds.

En route to Thrillville, the PCs may run afoul of overloaded bandwith and have a scuffle with a hacker and unbound proxies. Getting inside is not too hard, though getting inside undetected is another matter - the gigantic virtual theme park is ghostly and bereft of visitors and the PCs will soon notice the virus suddenly start manipulating the code to generate creepy effects and attack the PCs, making for a weird ghostly atmosphere - particularly since the PCs will find remnants of security teams that have been killed...looks like their contact failed to mention how dangerous the assignment would be. Wooops.

Two special and unique rides can be found first - the reaper\'s stroke, an indoor rollercoaster and the vistradi\'s paradox, a combination of spinning teacups and plastic hamsterballs that makes unique use of directional gravity. More intriguing here would be the responses of the malignant AI, who, if it has judged the PCs to be hostile, will manipulate these rides to become...let\'s say, significantly more lethal. Ultimately, whether due to time elapsing or the virus getting to the PCs, they will be drawn towards the fully mapped arcade of Thrillville, where the bossfight versus the thrillvirus looms - and it is one challenging and cool encounter.

The aftermath will be pretty interesting as well - for the security will try to screen the PCs, a procedure to which they may well be opposed after having been lied to...oh, and the individual who scored the killing blow against the virus may actually inadvertently set the virus free on the hypernet. As a minor complaint here, even in the unlikely event that the PCs notice this in time, the pdf does not really provide guidelines to purge it and unanimously \"win\" the scenario.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard employed for Hypercorps -pdfs and the pregens etc. come with a 1-column standard instead. The pdf sports some decent full-color artworks and serviceable cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler\'s \"Thrillville or Killville?\", much like Specimens in Centralia, does feel like a convention circuit module; it has an evocative, high-concept boss battle, wastes no time and has a built-in mechanic of speeding up the proceedings. Unlike Specimens, however, it feels less like a railroad due to a couple of facts: For one, the PCs actually can find more information and use it as leverage in the aftermath. Secondly, while the PCs do have only an absolute minimum of choices herein, at least they do have choices. The respective environments are all interesting and colorful and the changing background ambiance makes for a nice visual representation of the ticking timer. In short: This is well worth checking out, in spite of its obvious convention-game background, even for regular groups. However, when not employed with the pregens, make double sure that all PCs can retain their relevance throughout.

That being said, the module does have a couple of instances that could make players stumble: The hypernet\'s substitution of mental stats for physical ones means that, if you\'re planning on using the pregens in a non-hypernet environment, you\'ll have to reverse-engineer the stats. While the non-hypernet physical stats are provided in brackets, that\'s still some work I wish the pdf did for the groups. Similarly, if you plan on integrating this in an ongoing campaign, then you\'ll observe non-Hypernet-specialized characters struggle - this can be a pretty hard module for such groups.

It should also be noted that this module is one of the short but sweet category - you\'ll be hard-pressed to get more than 4 hours out of this one, unless your players struggle mightily in combat and take long to get accustomed to the hypernet\'s rules when using non-pregen characters. Anyways, this is a nice, fun module, which, while not perfect, is worth getting if you\'re looking for a creative excursion to a wild corner of the hypernet. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars if used as intended; for campaigns seeking to use the module as part of the ongoing campaign, detract half a star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hypercorps 2099: Thrillville or Killville?
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Hypercorps 2099: Specimens in Centralia
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 04:30:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page front cover artwork sans all the graphic elements, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

All right, this is a module intended for use with the cyberpunk/superhero-rules in Hypercorps 2099 and as such, it is designed for characters level 3 -4, with a corresponding hyperscore of 3. The basics of hyperscore and hero point-interaction are provided on a 1-page GM-cheat-sheet, though I\'d still strongly suggest playing this only with the main book in your hands.

The pdf does come with a total of 4 pregens (all of which gain small full-color artworks) that sport their respective paths and are appropriately powerful. The pregens feature brief story-angles and are generally on par with one another regarding their power-levels, which is nice to see. The pdf sports two maps - a road and a cave complex, both of which come with a second, key-less version that I generally applaud. If you\'re using battlemaps, though, it should be noted that the pdf\'s maps sport no grid, just a note which distance equals 5 feet. Personally, I\'m good with that, but I figured I should mention it.

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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great!

We begin in medias res, with the PCs already having accepted a job by Forsyte Technologies to track down an escaped specimen that has taken up refuge in the abandoned coal mines of Centralia, deep in Giganot territory - and we thus waste no time, as the friendly driver Bill has to slow down the vehicle to navigate an array of debris...and obviously, it is in such an instance that the biker gang makes its move, attacking the van. The PCs better should make sure that none of the gangers escape - and from their bodies, the PCs can find a nice piece of chrome, namely hydraulic springheels. Even if the van\'s been damaged, thankfully the module\'s not over, for Bill knows a veterinarian turned bodytech-surgeon in the vicinity, which may see the PCs actually already receive the benefits of the cybertech in the module.

The erstwhile coal mine of Centralia, the next stop, would make for a labyrinthine place to navigate, sporting several fire-themed critters to deal with via random encounter. The thing is, the escaped hyper-firedrake has actually young now, which complicates securing and capturing the deadly creature. In order to pin down the deadly predator, the PCs can use the trusses throughout the mine to collapse sections and trap the being. The more of the drakes the PCs can secure alive, the better...but they take up a lot of room and they still have to be returned.

Yes, this once again means passing through giganot territory and yes, driving with unconcealed drakes around will draw attention...so in order to get properly paid, the PCs will have to be stealthy, otherwise Ms. Grey won\'t be too pleased. In case the PCs are dumb enough to take up arms against her, stats are provided. The pdf also features stats for Bill as well as the vehicles featured.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language-level. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some nice artworks. The pregens etc. are presented in a 1-column standard instead. Cartography is decent and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler\'s Specimens in Centralia entertained me and my group when we ran it, even if it, in essence, is a very simplistic set-up. There is not much to be found regarding going off the beaten track and the module, as a whole, is linear and basically consists, if your players are good, of two major encounters. The second of these, the coal mine, is prolonged and can be tension-filled and really interesting. At the same time, this very much feels like a convention-demo-scenario. That does not mean it\'s bad, mind you - it just means that it is a pretty straight railroad and one we finished in 3 hours. Granted, we\'re fast and most groups will take longer, but yeah - this is a pretty brief exploration to Centralia that doesn\'t really take time to develop the cool area of Centralia. The module feels a bit too railroady for my tastes - with a little hexploration or means of tracking down the target, actually catching the adversary would have been significantly more gratifying. If the PCs didn\'t botch encounter #1, the module also can feel a bit like it peters out - again, fitting the time-constraints often found in convention games.

How to rate this, then? Well, as a non-convention-module, I\'d consider this too railroady and brief to really excel, though the second prolonged \"encounter\" is pretty cool. As a stand-alone, I\'d consider this about 2.5 stars. For convention gaming, though, it does work pretty well and should be considered to be a 3.5-star-book instead. In the end, I will settle on a final verdict in the middle, at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hypercorps 2099: Specimens in Centralia
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Snow White – Digital Art & Map Pack
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 04:28:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, I usually don\'t cover packages like this, but here, I consider it to be justified. This art & map pack consists of an archive containing no less than 1.2 GBs of high-res .tif files.

Upon unpacking the archive, you\'ll be presented with 3 general folders - one containing Snow White Artwork, one that features the cartography and one for the puzzles.

Let me elaborate: Inside the artwork folder, you\'ll find sub-folders for flora, fauna, items, locations and NPCs - including three variations of Catsle Morsain in fall, winter and summer, the stunning rendition of the water fall of Pondy Falls, the plants and weird animals of the haunted forest (including the smoking worm and the minitaur - not a typo, btw.) or the desktop-worthy rendition of a certain character\'s kidnapping.

Now Snow-White, in case you do not yet own this gem (Why not? Seriously, it is one super-amazing, unconventional and awesome mega-module!!), does feature some of the best cartography you\'re bound to see in either the 3.X or PFRPG-era - Tommi Salama delivers not only amazing top-down maps, we also get isometric maps of the complexes, from humble cabins to castle Morsain to dungeon-levels. And yes, the player-friendly iterations do not have the annoying keys or big secret door \"S\"-markers. Once again, all maps are presented in high-res .tifs, with two exceptions - the GM\'s maps of Morsain with the numbered key are presented as pdfs - and yes, one actually does feature the district map as well.

Finally, the module excelled by not only engaging the hands, but also the mind - there are a couple of simple, but fun puzzles within the pages of the module and if you want the representation of the graphics of both puzzles and solutions, you\'ll find these in the respective folder, depicted as .jpgs.

How much do you get? Well, over 100 files. Let that sink in. Yes, this book is a gorgeous beauty - and if you\'re looking for a way to drive that home via playing it online or want the art and maps for VTT purposes...well, this ought to do the trick. Now it should be noted that this is not required to run the module in the traditional manner...but those of us who\'re using a lot of tech to game will certainly appreciate this pack. It does what it says on the tin and delivers some truly amazing art and cartography. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White – Digital Art & Map Pack
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Winter's Roar: Vikmordere Bestiary
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/12/2017 04:39:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This bestiary, spawned as a stretch-goal to the \"Into the Wintery Gale\" mega-adventure, clocks in 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 57 pages of content, so let\'s take a look!

Sooo, I\'ve seen A LOT of bestiaries in my years of roleplaying. If you\'ve been following my reviews, you\'ll by now know that the one thing I bemoan most about the current editions of the game would be that the respective creatures don\'t have as much room to shine and be developed as they once had. Well, this bestiary does something interesting in that regard - each creature contained herein is depicted in a two-page spread - this means that, if you get the print copy, you can fold the stats to your side and show the artwork, contained on a hand-out-friendly second page to the players. That is a HUGE deal. Particularly when you consider that Mates Laurentiu\'s art for this book is frankly AMAZING. See that front cover? All those critters? Every artwork within these pages is of that quality. Yes, this is a beautiful book.

Which brings me to the second challenge this faces - I mentioned the lack of space current bestiary-formatting allows for creatures; the sheer size of statblocks means that there is not that much room to develop the flavor of a given adversary, which renders the fluff-writing an exercise in concise writing that is not an easy feat to accomplish. Speaking of statblocks -after more than 5 bestiaries and a vast array of other monster handbooks, it\'s hard to make creatures stand out. We all remember the point in 3.X when slapping a loosely-draconic theme on critters was en vogue...that reminded me of the time when comic books had monkey on the cover. I digress.

I know I\'m rambling, this is going somewhere. Bear with me. So, from a formal point of view, the creatures herein range from CR 7 to CR 16, spanning the reach of the levels the associated mega-adventure deals with. A crucial difference in comparison to similar Norse-themed bestiaries, however, would be that it is crafted to adhere, in style and theme, to the mythology woven for the people of the Vikmordere (hence the title) - in case you are not familiar with this culture, picture them as a thoroughly amazing cultural blend of Vikings and Norse culture with Native Americans. It may sound odd, but it works really well and puts a fresh thematic spin on the subject matter, one that maintains the feeling of being a clear love-letter to both. This is, in some cases, represented by the very nomenclature employed.

Take e.g. the undead revenant-like critter called Aptrgangr, two variants of which are provided (and YES, each of the them has its own statblock and its own full-color art): Lake aptrgangrs not only curse and befoul the bodies of water they\'re in, they may also release a snake from their bodies, constrict foes...but the interesting component here, to me, would be how they establish relevance: Sure, the fluff text talks about their effect and mythology, which is nice and dandy - but the snake provides a visual cue, a plot-device, if you will and a strong visual metaphor; the befouling of water represents a built-in narrative angle for the GM to use and the rest of the build retains combat-relevance. The land-version of the aptrgangr is more straight-forward, though the dark blades, quick coup-de-graces and familiars they gain ultimately mean that they may be fared more in direct combat - but, by virtue of familiar choices, they also retain a sense of foreboding, of omens, if you will. Oh, and rejuvenation.

Woe to any settlement that attracts one of the dread brunnmigi, grotesque fey that lair in wells, who use mimicry to lure their prey in and then drown the unfortunates, spoiling water with sadistic glee. In an age without ready access to running water, one of these predators can easily depopulate a whole thorp if not put in its place! Into these mythological and very real feeling anxieties are realities of the game skillfully woven in - take the elderfey, as an example: This being once was a druid, but one whose unabashed love of life ultimately corrupted him; not ready to accept the cycle of life and death, these beings are tied to a specific tree (which spells doom for them if it is destroyed) - and in order to retain the balance of life and death, they can implant trees in victims, having them grow in a rapid and disturbing pace from those that are unfortunate enough to cross their paths. You know that I like my fey dark and creepy - this one positively qualifies as nightmare fodder as far as I\'m concerned...and I mean that as a complement. It feels like it could have been drawn from mythology.

Or let me talk about the Fafnir dragons - hunted as abominations by their kind, these beings are shapechanging beasts, regal and lethal and have elevated greed and paranoia to a form of art. surrounded by an aura of avarice and capable of teleporting held items to their hoard, these beings are rightfully loathed...but there is more to them. Those that drink the blood of a fafnir may undergo the change into one themselves, somewhat akin to a lycanthrope: As such, they do have a hybrid shape, artfully depicted by Mates Laurentiu. Oh, know what\'s worse? They don\'t breed true. Instead, their unions result in the birth of lindworms, another new creature: Think of these as lethal, serpentine predators with 6 clawed legs that are nigh unerring hunters - not even nondetection will save you from these hunters!

If you\'ve been following northern mythology in its various iterations throughout different editions of the game, you may have noticed that, at one point, the lupine threats in the frigid North have become less pronounced; the Fenris (no, not the oomphteenth build of the original Fenris wolf - these are a whole species) should change that. Black as night, Huge and lethal, these supreme predators can smash you to the ground...and woe to any prone before them - with but a twist of their head, they may tear off limbs of such unfortunates! Frost wisps, harsh, but lawful aberrations in service of winter despise flames - beautiful and alien, mortals to them are magma-blooded devils, which adds a unique spin to any encounter with them. What about a snake-like predator that quite literally is the incarnation of frostbite, with an aura that renders items brittle and hypothermia-inducing cold damage? The visual metaphor, once again, is so obvious I don\'t think I have to explain it.

The horned glacial bear would be another magical beast of ice and snow - and it is, in spite of what I feared at one point, unique - not simply a variant of a bear-like winter-wolf, it can cause avalanches and emit devastating roars. There would also be the høyonde (translates literally to \"high/tall/very\" and \"bad folks/things\"), the spawn of traitorous Vikmordere who consorted with giants, these would be scions of death that not only may channel the forces of entropy (read: negative energy), they also have a nasty death aura that hampers the forces of life. The hidden ones, the huldufólk, also have their representation here - in touch with the very earth and rocks, these fey may animate rocks and sing a bolstering song to the very earth itself...but this connection goes both ways and stone may be used to slay them...

Even what should arguably be lame herein...somehow ends up not being that. Take the icy vigil: A medium construct of a frozen warrior. Stifle your yawns, ladies and gentlemen - they not only generate spawn from the slain, they may employ simulacra, wield equipment of ice and reform after destruction...oh, and put away that staff of fireballs - magic immunity. Disregarding the well-crafted prose, the mechanics of this adversary set it apart as not yet another boring guardian critter. The margygur would be aquatic fey that can sense the currents of destiny and fate like the currents that surround them (cue in Ayreon\'s River of Time) and as such, they may share their prophetic visions with others, making for a cool quest-reward/social interaction...or a deadly foe, should they decide that the PCs will bring doom...

Now the aforementioned vigil would be cool; the treasure golem style Nibelung would be a more straight-forward construct (with cost to create etc., just fyi) - and yes, feeding it treasure will make it grow in potency. You know, I think pretty much all capable dragons in may game have just added a new layer of defenses to their lairs....that aside, the nomenclature-choice is smart here as well, evoking obvious mythological connotations. Now, as is wont to happen, not every creature\'s statblock in a bestiary of this length is necessarily a stroke of genius. The overseer would be one example where that is the case.

Think of these guys as huge oak trees, with 5 dryad-shapes bound within the branches - for these beings are created when 5 dryads bond with one tree: All lose their sentience and become subsumed in the overseer\'s body, its personality wholly independent from the animated fey. This may sound weird, but in spite of the conservative statblock, this is one of my favorite creatures in quite a while - its very existence poses several unique conundrums to ponder: Were the dryads tricked? What threat caused them to undertake this drastic measure? The more interesting aspect, however, pertains the nature of free will: Unwilling to give up its existence, the overseer is understandably opposed to the freedom of its constituent dryads. Then again, they do have a right to reclaim their freedom, a right towards an individual existence, in spite of the fact of their status as \"parents\" of the creature.

The very existence of the overseer is inextricably-linked to the question of free will, it represents an escalation of the phenomenon of parentage as an experience that can deprive one of one\'s self and thus serves as a creature-made warning to retain one\'s sense of self - after all, that does benefit, at least in real life and a case less pronounced, the offspring. Similarly, its existence could be read as a rousing call towards those that continue to leech off their parents to assume an own identity, separate from the parts that constitute it. Of course, you may just shrug and think of it as a \"cool creature with an awesome artwork\" - but that\'s why I adore it. Its straightforward visual metaphor is one that can break abusive and unhealthy relationships by virtue of its impact and puts the creature, at least in my mind, into the rarefied regions where gaming can actually leave people as better persons.

Moving on to less intellectualizing adversaries, the pesta, a horrid monstrous hag armed with a rake, is pretty much a living incarnation of disease, plowing the fields for the reaper - once again, the choice of weapon, while seemingly innocuous, ties in with the visual metaphors we all have consumed, time and again and expands them - by virtue of their arms, they are literally the ones preparing the reaping, much like disease precedes death. If all of that sounded to grim, let me introduce the ratatosk - small fey that love riddles and look a bit like extremely fluffy and cute squirrels with two tails, beings of continuous renewal and destruction...and they\'re good guys. Their artwork is also so cute that I\'d seriously gift one as a plushy to my significant other.

In case you have been disappointed by the potency of sea serpents, the serpent of the depth should change that: At CR 15, these 8-eyed, horned killers not only are majestic - they control the very currents and those caught in their grasp can look forward to being flayed by their lethal, spiky coils. Speaking of disappointment - you know that I\'m pretty much enamored with Norse mythology, so take my word for it when I\'m saying that this book has the better representation of Sleipnir in it: With fire that burns past immunities and the ability to safeguard souls as well as a whopping 100 ft. movement rate, it is an appropriately powerful steed. Snow screechers may look like somewhat fey yeti at first glance...but only at first glance. Beyond the eponymous screech, they can alternate cold or fire damage and generate unsettling sounds, making them perfect ambush predators stalking the camp grounds.

We return to obvious mythological frames of reference with the stag of the whitewood - an alseid-like (think centaur with deer instead of horse-half) and a stag\'s head evoke so many tropes from our real world myths, I do not even know where to start: From the white stag to the alseid-ish angle to the hunter, there is a myriad of connotations and implications to add to these...and that from a guy who usually does not like this type. The tundra troll would be more interesting from a mechanical point of view, with fragile, shoddy shields and armor allowing for some nice tactics against theses beings.

Unique: The vaettir, life-draining undead icy corpses have a draining aura and go into a kind of hibernation sans food - but they also generate haunts! Another undead would be the vereri stalker - who casts his spells via the focus of a severed head! (Yep, you do NOT want to be coup-de-grace\'d by these folks...)...oh, and with a hair or similar part, they can and will track you! They, like 3 other critters here, are one of the few creatures whose art does not get the full-page treatment. While we\'re on the topic - what about a frost-themed banshee-like undead spirit with access to hexes?

If you\'ve noticed an absence of amorphous, strange threats - what about the aquatic vatndökk, a slime whose very touch suppresses magic...and who doubles as a magic-dead zone? Yeah...and they may capsize vessels. Considering the frigid climate, these things will put the fear back into the high-level adventurers...and they represent one of the most delightfully deadly adversaries herein. Then, there would be the winter wyrm and winter wyrmling - both represent basically ice worms. Yeah, I know - there are quite a few of those out there already - but bear with me, their respective builds are actually nice, with pit creation, hibernation and fantastic artworks.

The final creature herein can partially be seen on the cover - the wintertide jabberwock, with its one line- and one cross-shaped pupil that can only be slain be severing both of its heads. With eye-rays, head-regeneration and a fear of vorpal weapons (understandable!), the creature represents a great high note to end the book.

Conclusion:

Editing is top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level - in the instances where I took apart a statblock, I noticed no serious hiccups. Formatting-wise, some very minor aesthetic hiccups can be found - there are instances where the first paragraph of the flavor text is formatted like a statblock ability....hey, come on, I\'m trying to find something to complain about, all right? Layout adheres to an absolutely gorgeous two-column full-color standard with borders that employ graphic elements coded as Norse. The artwork by Mates Laurentiu is absolutely stunning and makes this one of the most beautiful bestiaries I have seen any 3pp put out. Each of these critters could, quality-wise, be found in a Paizo/WotC-book - the artwork alone is worth getting this...and yes, I\'d advise in favor of the softcover: The fact that you can show the one-page monster-illustrations sans spoiling the statblocks to players means that you\'ll spare time and effort printing the art as handouts. The fact that they all have one style adds a great unified visual identity to this book. Oh, and yes, the book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Justin Andrew Mason and developer Stephen Rowe are both names that I associate with quality; in this instance, however, they delivered something that exceeded my expectations. You see, I get to see a metric ton of monsters. I\'m spoiled beyond belief by Legendary Games\' mythic monsters and bestiaries and my expectations at this point are VERY hard to meet. This book surpassed them by the sheer value of consistency. There is something I consider great (not \"good\", not \"very good\", \"great!\") in every single critter within this book.

Let me elaborate: When we boil it down, monster-design is both an art and a craft: You can string together numbers and components like feats; no problem. The artistry is when it comes together, when you add those unique abilities and give the mathematical construct its own sense of identity, its own story. In the best of cases, though, it does not end there. Take Kobold Press - the Midgard-setting they made is pretty much defined by the mythological resonance it evokes. I do not use the excellent setting lightly as a frame of reference.

We, as human beings, have a rich tapestry of myths that are, if you believe anthropology, to a significant part extensions of our conditio humana, our shared experiences. It is thus that you can find parallels between different cultures and their animism, religion and myths - they serve to illustrate facts, concepts and experiences - often in an anthropomorphized form. These tales continue to evolve with our lives; much like the changed experience of the industrial revolution gave rise to fresh incarnations of horror, much like Web 2.0.\'s slender man and similar creepypastas, we are defined by our mythweaving, by the incarnations of truths and symbols we inherited, by the complex constructs that generate a shared frame of reference to communicate.

One way to excel at monster design lies in mastering mechanics and artfully making the unique; another, less often seen, lies in tapping into this shared frame of reference, into the mythological sphere, and employing the powerful resonance it evokes within us all. There is a reason for that: It\'s hard. You see, the very first thing we usually do when running games is to take that frame of reference and apply it. Thus, straight adaptions feel old, stale, been there, done that to us. The genius of this humble bestiary lies in tapping into the shared frame of reference, the cultural resonance shared, and employing it in a creative and new manner that makes it a cohesive, unique entity.

A cynic may accuse me of over-intellectualizing in this review; my response would be that me actually pausing and analyzing to this extent is not something I do lightly or by accident; one creature that manages this feat is a happy accident; two are a tendency - a whole book full of them, however, is intentional, deliberate craftsmanship and artistry. This book represents one of the best bestiaries I have read in quite a while and its creatures will make plenty of appearances in my games. This is a steal, an exercise in excellent, unpretentious (in spite of my analysis - this is very much a bestiary, not a lecture in academia!) design - and oh boy do I love it to bits. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this is furthermore a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Winter's Roar: Vikmordere Bestiary
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Vigilantes of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/12/2017 04:35:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in the Porphyran class option-series clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pages are A5 (6\'\' by 9\'\')-booklet-sized, allowing you to print up to 4 of them on a standard A4/letterpack-page, so let\'s take a look!

We begin with the dread pirate (somewhat unfortunately named - this is now the 4th class option I know that uses this name), who replaces seamless disguise with a +5 circumstance bonus to maintain his disguise, but does not apply the bonus to using vigilante talents while in social identity. Instead of 1st level\'s social talent, he gains Sea Legs. Interesting modification: If the character selects the avenger specialization, his Fort-save-progression changes to good, while his Reflex save becomes bad. For the purpose of alcohol imbibing, he treats his Fortitude save as the Will-save granted by vigilante-progression. The archetype also receives access to several unique social talents and vigilante talents - the former would contain, for example hold breath, enhancing a ship\'s speed for a short duration or tavern reknown, which is basically a micro-reknown in his favorite dives. The vigilante talents include Siege Engineer sans prereqs, later Siege Gunner, better fighting with a hook hand, not losing Dex-bonus while climbing and losing ACP in the lighter armors or bonuses via shouting orders.

At 4th level, drinking grog can provide benefits, depending on vigilante specialization - either rage or bonuses to AC and saves; these are upgraded at 12th level. 7th level nets Drunkard\'s Recovery, including a better iteration at 13th level, replacing 7th level\'s social talent. All in all, a better vigilante-ized version of the 3.X PrC of the same name with some drinking-related material mixed in. Solid.

The mustached mauler (someone reads Dr. McNinja, obviously!) gets a decreased array of skills, only 4 + Int mod, and is treated as having brawler levels equal to vigilante level for Improved Unarmed Damage purposes when in vigilante identity. They also gain good Fort-saves. While in the mustache identity form, they do not receive Wisdom to Will-saves and they may not benefit from Int- or Wis-bonuses, but may select talents from both avenger and stalker specialization lists, with the exclusion of effects that are based on hidden strike. The archetype receives a monk-y Cha-bonus to AC (instead of the monk\'s Wis)and the talents contain the option to execute Awesome Blows, self-granting Charisma modifier DR 1/round (instead of the AC-bonus) and high-level negation of magic weapon enhancement bonuses. Also cool: Another talent can net you the option to ignore special weapon abilities via your ignorance score - 1/4 class level worth of such bonuses may be ignored! (Pretty cool - never saw that one before!) All in all, a rather hilarious archetype that may not be flavor-wise appropriate for all games, but for a gonzo game, it can be pretty cool!

Thirdly, we would get the archetype that is considered to be the star herein - the shapeshifter. Instead of the 1st level social talent and the vigilante talents gained at 4th, 8th and 12th levels, they can shapeshift (with the usual +10 Disguise bonus) - this is done via the shapeshifting pool, equal to thrice the class level. This not only powers the archetype abilities, but also, via the duration it has, doubles as the resource to maintain the vigilante identity. The shapeshifted form is represented by a shapeshifting specialization - unless I miscounted, a total of 11 such specializations are provided; each has several SPs that can be paid for via the aforementioned pool. The respective specializations employ different scaling progressions and degrees of choice and they, ultimately, also allow for different degrees of play styles. Whether you go for e.g. natural weapons via the draconic specialization or assumption of angelic aspects, the respective progressions diverge sufficiently to provide a strong leitmotif. The vigilante talents provided for the archetype allow for the taking of an additional specialization starting at 6th level, at -4 vigilante levels and quicker on the fly changing. the capstone nets +2 specializations. I like this archetype; while there are some minor hiccups lower-case attribute, etc., it is per se a nice offering.

The pdf also contains feats: Magical Children can take one at 1st level to instead gain the benefits of the sorc /wiz or druid spell-list; there is one that reduces the 24-hour-cool-down of vigilante class features to 12; a cool charge/Cleave-synergy feat. better benefits after repeat exposure to frightening presence is cool...but e.g. Piercing Charge, which should, wording-wise, build on the previous feat, has some kind of wording hiccups that makes it hard for me to discern its intent.

The social talents provided for the class are intriguing: Better cover when posing as an artist, wide-spread contacts, a social grace/Skill Focus-synergy trick, a high-level wordy wit follow-up, magical craftsmanship, Brilliant Plan as a build-up from Safe House via Safe House Resources, efficient use of improvised weapons... and have I mentioned wordy wit? This one lets you ready actions and conceal them, much like Conceal Spell (which is not properly capitalized)...pretty cool.

The pdf also contains several vigilante talents, some of which are based on Cleave and the new options introduced herein, while another unlocks a race trait the vigilante does not usually possess while in vigilante identity. This once constitutes a bit of a fallacy in that it assumes all race traits to be equal in power when they\'re clearly not - some sort of scaling mechanism would be appropriate here. 1/day anticipate thoughts (more often at higher levels), gaining a sidekick and modifying contacts to grant the vigilante, for example, temporary access to combat or teamwork feats - which is generally cool. However, RAW, neither contact, nor vigilante must meet the prerequisites for the feats granted, which renders that ability seriously overkill and in need of the usual caveat, in spite of the ability not working under duress.

The pdf also features an extensive list of solid Porphyran-races favored class options for the vigilante as well as a very fun level 5 mustached mauler, including a nice boon.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a bit inconsistent in both formal and rules-language departments - in some sections, even complex ability-interactions are done right...while in others, we have nonstandard wording, non-capitalized feats and the like. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games\' 1-column standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf has some nice 1-page full-color artworks I haven\'t seen before and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

When one ignores the contributions of veterans N. Jolly and Perry Fehr, then this would be Blake Morton\'s first lead-author book, unless I am sorely mistaken. The good news here most definitely is that there is certainly promise here. While I\'ve frankly seen shapeshifting done to death in various iterations, I still consider the archetype dealing with exactly that topic to be among the better representations of the concept. Now, personally, I\'m a huge fan of Dr. McNinja, so the mustached mauler pulls right at my heart\'s strings...and it also has some actually creative rules-tricks I haven\'t seen done before, which is a big plus to ole\' me. That being said, I was pretty underwhelmed by the pirate, who, to me, feels a bit unfocused. There also are some instances herein where the rules-language could have been more precise, lacks an anti-abuse caveat or deviates from the standard.

While not bad on their own, the number of them does rise over the course of the pdf to a level, where I have to penalize the book. Still, considering the gems herein, I believe this to be, as a whole, on the upper side of the rating scale, if only by a margin - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars...and while I\'d usually round down, I tend to offer a bit of leeway to lead author freshman offerings, which is why I will round up for the purpose of the usual platforms.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vigilantes of Porphyra
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