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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Lights of Sand Island
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/11/2017 05:39:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the fun vs. Ghosts game clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content. The pages are laid out for digest-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), which means you can fit up to 4 of them on a given sheet of paper if you’re conserving ink.

Now, first things first: The adventure takes place around mysterious circumstances in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – my US-readers will probably be aware of this beautiful area at Lake Superior, but for an ole’ German like yours truly, checking them out via google etc. was rather inspiring and really made me wish I could visit them. This also grounds the module in a believable sense of reality.

In my review of the rules-book, I mentioned that the engine can be easily used to run games for both adults and kids. Well, this module retains this aspect. As a whole, I consider this to be a child-friendly module. As an aside: If I had the option, I’d probably run this on site! Running this around the campfire while staying on the islands would add another, special touch to the proceedings. Now, I strongly suggest reading the module in its entirety – this is not necessarily a go-play module and its brevity may warrant further research if employed at the table rather than while on a trip, but that as an aside.

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

..

.

All righty, only Ghostmasters around? The residents of Duluth are worried. In the few weeks, a couple of boats have stranded on Sand Island, ostensibly following lights. While none of the big lakers have stranded so far, it is only a matter of time. The module does provide some guidance regarding the general area and also points towards further articles on the net for research, should additional details be required. Since the area is known for being rather touristy, it should be no problem to get the PCs involved.

The night the PCs arrive on location, the Benjamin Lark runs ashore on the east side of Sand Island – working with Coast Guard and/or rangers (who include a fair share of “believers” in vs. Ghost’s world), the PCs get a chance to interview the captain, who speaks of malfunctioning navigational instruments and lighthouse-like light – which seasoned ghosthunters may tie to Ghost orbs – but much larger! The Benjamin Lark could have almost hit the Sevona – a wreck popular with wreck divers.

Cool: The pdf does note that investigation may actually take the form of real life online research – the Sevona is a real wreck! 7 men died in the wreckage of this ancient ship, with two bodies found on the beach. Talking to rangers and collating further information from previous incidents will help: The PCs may even question the grandson of a survivor from the Sevnoa’s wreck. Mysteriously, the lighthouse sports no malfunction – though diligent research will unearth that a cottage of Camp Estella has been built from a part of the Sevona and is currently undergoing repair.

Which also would be the poodle’s core: The damage to the cottage has disturbed the rest of the per se noble D.S. MacDonald, captain of the Sevona – and when visibility is poor, he haunts the shores. Ghosthunters can find him in the fog – and he thinks he is warning the ships away from the shoal that wrecked his ship. A benevolent, if misguided division IV ghost, he does have stats for combat, if desired, but he may similarly just be convinced that he isn’t helping, allowing for a happy ending for the module and the option to solve it sans violence. Destroying the whole cottage may be another way to stop the haunting, but ultimately how the finale pans out s left up to the discretion of the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any serious glitches. Layout adheres to the colorful, nice 1-column full-color standard of vs. Ghosts and the pdf doesn’t sport bookmarks. At the brief length, that’s okay and only represents a minor comfort-detriment. The hyperlinks to real world homepages help enhance the illusion of plausibility, as does the stock photography used as artwork. The pdf has no maps, but neither system, not set-up require them and the real-world backdrop means that there’s plenty of cartography to go around.

Jennifer R. Povey’s module is what I’d call a “Feel-good ghost story” – it lacks any malevolence, is a bit educational and provides a simple, brief mystery to unearth for the players. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to. As per the writing of this review, this module is ridiculously cheap and for its very fair price-point, it is a truly entertaining little set-up. This is not a module that will challenge seasoned investigators, but as a sidetrek or, as a first investigation for kids, it makes for a great offering that may actually expand the player’s horizon. Kids in particular will enjoy the module – for this audience, I’d rate this 5 stars. Adults may be less impressed by the simplicity of the proceedings and plot; such audiences should probably deduct a star. My official verdict will reflect the use for kids and thus, the 5-star rating.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Lights of  Sand Island
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Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/11/2017 05:38:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ Deep Magic-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Without much further ado, we kick off this file with a new sorcerous origin, the shadow bloodline. At 1st level, you gain darkvision 60 ft. (what if you already have it?) and may see through magical darkness in the range. Also at 1st level, you can gaze at a target within 60 ft. to impose disadvantage on an attack roll or a sight-reliant ability-check. This usable Charisma modifier times (minimum 1) before requiring a long rest to recharge. 6th level yields advantage on saves versus illusions and allows you to expend two sorcery points to cast blur or mirror image. 14th level allows you to step into shadows for 200 ft.-range teleportation as a bonus action, with the option to stay up to Charisma modifier rounds (minimum 1) in this interim, making you invisible and invincible and incapable of affecting anything. This costs 4 sorcery points per use. Not a big fan of the “can’t be affected”-part, personally – I think that could have been solved in a more organic manner by using etherealness et al. as orientation. 18th level yields a 15-ft.-aura, which can be activated for 4 sorcery points, potentially dealing necrotic damage and frightening enemies, with a save to negate the frightened condition.

We also get a new warlock patron, the light-eater, whose spells include ray of sickness, fear, shadow monsters, etc. - it makes ample use of the new spells. 1st level allows the warlock to spend an action to force those within 10 ft. of you to make a Wisdom save to avoid being blinded until the end of your next turn, with a short or long rest to recharge. 6th level yields the living shadow feature: When taking damage, you may, as a reaction, teleport the creature that damaged you up to 60 ft. away. The creature also takes cold damage and becomes frightened on a failed Wisdom save. This is very potent, but needs a short or long rest to recharge. 10th level nets immunity to fear-based effects (which are not a concisely-defined thing in 5e) AND the frightened condition (which is, thankfully, very concisely defined!) – whenever you are affected by one such effect, you can use your reaction to return it back to sender, frightening the creature potentially, with subsequent saves to end the effect. Okay, so how does this work with the warlock entering the area of a pre-existing AoE-effect that causes the frightened condition? Can this be reflected as well, or does the warlock need to be the target? The wording could use some clarification here.

At 14th level, you can conjure forth a shadow horror, which uses chuul stats with some modifications – a very potent ally that does require concentration to maintain, though. ODD: The pact boons here refer to the “dark one” instead of to “light-eater” – some version-change-remnant, no doubt. The boons yield Hide for familiars in shadows, but also disadvantage for it in bright light; a blade that may cause necrotic damage or a weightless book of shadows. Okay…so can other creatures interact with the book? What are its stats? These three modifications of the pacts are problematic – you see, they do not provide a full rules-text, but seem like they are supposed to modify existing pact boons…but they don’t clearly spell out their reference, which means that RAW, the pact of the blade does not yield proficiency with the blade, for example.

We get a third class option, the whisper rogue archetype nets darkvision 60 ft at 3rd level, no upgrade when you already have it, as well as the minor illusion and douse light cantrips. Okay, as what spells do these count? Do they have a spellcasting attribute? Srsly, the arcane trickster literally provides an easy precedent template here. And yes, I am cognizant of the spells not necessarily requiring that for most instances, but the lack of definition can still generate issues. AT 3rd level, you may Hide while observed, providing you have dim light or darkness, with advantage on Dexterity (Stealth). This requires a short or long rest to use again. 7th and 15th level yield +1 use per rest-interval. 9th level provides the shadow road feature for 60 ft. shadow-step-short-range teleports as an action, with a short or long rest to recharge. And yes, you may Hide as part of that teleport. 13th level allows you to become invisible for up to 1 hour while in hazier conditions. It ends when you cast a spell or attack, but otherwise requires RAW no concentration, but does require a short or long rest to recharge. At 17th level, attacks against you have disadvantage, but if you are hit, the ability shuts down until the start of your next turn – interesting.

The pdf also contains a total of 20 spells – as always, we’ll move from top to bottom of the power-range, starting with the two cantrips here: Douse lights can counter the illuminating cnatrips or extinguish small light sources; claws of darkness grows two cold-damage claws with 10 ft.-reach and may use them with melee spell attacks. Okay, so one or two? I assume one, since it doesn’t state otherwise…but yeah. A total of 3 1st-level spells can be found, the first being black ribbons, which is a pretty underwhelming shorter range reskin of entangle, based on Dexterity instead of Strength. Cloak in shadow makes for a nice reaction spell when targeted by an attack, but before the roll is made. It imposes disadvantage and provides resistance to radiant damage until the start of your next turn. Nice (and gets the casting time reaction formatting right). Cloying darkness is a ranged spell attack that inflicts necrotic damage and dims the lights for the target by one step.

There are 4 2nd-level spells, starting with darkbolt, a cold-damage inflicting variant of scorching ray that prevents hit targets that fail a Constitution save from taking reactions for 1 round. Solid variant. Dark path conjures forth a path through difficult terrain or obstacles. Negative image lets you swamp places with a target within 120 ft. that you can see, with a save for unwilling targets. Shadow puppets is too strong for 2nd level: You animate a shadow within 60 ft., make a melee spell attack and cause psychic damage – on a failed save, the target is paralyzed until the start of your next turn. This would be as well a place as any to note that “At Higher Levels” sections are only bolded, not bolded and italicized throughout the pdf– while I consider this a harmless, cosmetic deviation, someone is bound to complain if I don’t mention it.

We get 2 new spells for spell-levels 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th – in sequence, from 3rd onwards, those would be call shadow mastiff (guess what it does) and legion, a cube of shadowy soldiers that attacks those that enter it for the first time or starts its turn within or within 5 ft. of it for necrotic damage, using melee spell modifier. 4th level’s shadow monsters affects 2 creatures in range, which, on a failed save, perceive allies as monsters and forces them to attack said “monsters” – compared to dominate person’s limitations or better, confusion, this seems like a straight power upgrade that could use nerfing.

Night terrors is ridiculous: It’s an AoE-spell that paralyzes creatures with fright; sure, beings immune to the frightened condition can’t be affected, and the spell has saves on subsequent rounds, but it’s still AoE save-or-suck. Shadow Realm Gateway is a 5th-level ritual with an obvious effect; dark dementing causes a creature to need to save; on a success, it gains a short-term madness effect, on a failure a long-term madness…which is really, really potent. That means, even on a successful save, there’s a very good chance you’re done for – one look at the short-term madness table will make you cringe. Dragon slayer of a spell. OP. Needs to die.

At 6th level, we have banshee wail, which is better than harm: It kills off half current hit points and causes the frightened condition, affecting all critters in a 30 ft.-cone and causing psychic damage on a successful save. Needs a nerf. Fixed damage, no halving. WTF. Become nightwing nets you flight and a recharging necrotic damage breath attack, which is a nice one, all concerned. The final 3 spell levels all come with one spell each: 7th-level’s conjure shadow titan is pretty self-evident, using a variant stone giant as basis; Malevolent waves nets all allies in range advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) and all enemies are poisoned, sans save. Finally, umbral storm generates a necrotic damage-causing area that also causes exhaustion on failed saves – it may be moved around, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and also rather well done on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports seriously nice full-color artworks, though fans of Kobold Press will remember some of the pieces. Bookmarks are included in the pdf.

This is the first pdf by Michael Ohl I’ve read and I must admit to be being positively surprised: As a whole, the pdf does provide some thematically-fitting, interesting options. For the most part, the rules-language is precise and well-crafted and while there are some hiccups, they don’t wreck the pdf per se; balance-wise, the save-or-suck conditions imparted in the spells make for some serious balance-concerns on my part, though – and as a whole, I consider this a mixed bag with some high points and some low points – thus, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars…and in spite of the freshman bonus, I don’t feel that I can round up for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
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His Flesh Becomes My Key
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2017 09:36:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The Outer Presence-module for Venger’s second tripartite collection of modules for his rules-lite systems clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page VERY basic char-sheet (just two tables - a long cry from e.g. Alpha Blue’s cool sheet), 1 page Kort’thalis glyph, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The pdf begins with a nice 2d6 table that presents weird, personal experiences of the influx of the weird, which may be encountered by the PCs during the course of the module – from headaches to involuntary anger and the like, they can make for nice pieces of dressing. It should be noted that, structure-wise, the module does not offer a synopsis or the like – this is not a go-play module and the referee should most definitely prepare the entirety in advance.

It should also be noted that this module imho works best as a one-shot and, being a horror module, it does feature some content you’d consider…well, gory and horrific. There is a potential murder in particular that is pretty R-rated. Reader-discretion is advised.

Now, more than in comparable modules, I STRONGLY advise potential players to stop reading NOW. This module, more so than comparable ones, can be SPOILED hardcore by even having a rough idea of what to expect. Only referees should continue reading.

..

.

All right, so the module begins in a rather calm manner: Just as the investigators are sitting around, enjoying a nice cigar and a glass of brandy, they notice a snow globe on one investigator’s desk – inside it, they can see an office with facsimiles of men and women, matching the party’s composition, gender-wise. While this is strange on its own, the PCs are contacted by their friend Richard Blake on the phone – usually kind and upbeat, his latest case of a serial murder whose modus operandi contains ritualistic mutilations of his victims, seems to have him shaken up. He also asks the PCs if they have read Thomas Alhazred Lovejoy. …if you even remotely are into semi-obscure and underappreciated horror movies, a smile may have crossed your face: My own association was most assuredly: “Do you read Sutter Cane?”

Anyways, the PCs are stood up – Black is a no-show at the date and considering the genre, the PCs should be rather concerned. Contacting Black’s partner, Cecil Slandy, does not paint the positive picture of Black you’d expect: Cecil obviously has been less than impressed with Black’s methods and considers him to be a gloryhound. Cecil and Black disagreed how the murder case in question should be pursued and thus, he hasn’t seen Black in over a week.

Thankfully, Detective Fontineau is a friend to both investigators and Black and lets them rummage through his desk…where a black notebook unearth a disturbing piece of prose writing (reproduced in the module), mentioning a “Master”, who answers “Others” – which doesn’t bode well. The notebook does yield some nice easter-eggs/leads, though, from Theta Chartreuse (Venger’s nod to Delta Green) to Lovecraft and the aforementioned Mr. Lovejoy, there are some delightfully bonkers conspiracy ideas herein -which may well turn out to be true, considering the setting.

Now, beyond these, the notebook does mention the Brotherhood of Gleaming Divulgence – though the phone number and apartment associated yield no hot trail. Instead, the investigators can find a sealed envelope contained a dire prose poem about a work when the stars are right. Another venue of investigation, obviously, would be Black’s apartment, where the investigators can find a rather disquieting statue of an amphibian monstrosity – as the notebook unearths, a likeness of Tal’Jezakbahr. Moreover, a wooden box contains an ivory crucifix, strange liquids, an annotated bible, strange demonic glyphs…not good.

Speaking of which: Black has a fondness for prostitutes and his current fling, Treena, sports tattoos vaguely resembling the glyphs found at the crime-scenes, based on, you guessed it, vivid descriptions in Lovejoy’s writing. She tells the investigators she’ll contact them and will do so – when she feels she’s being followed by a curly-haired guy…and when they don’t immediately get to her, she’ll be the next victim, one eye scooped out and placed in her vagina. And yes, there is a b/w-artwork of that. I did warn you about gore, right?

Anyways, the PCs can also find Jay Harango, an informant of Black whom he met when he disappeared. Similarly, the pdf mentions the prior and potential future victims of the serial killer here – and Lovejoy actually seems to be shook up about the murders. Now, I mentioned before that the referee should read the module in its entirety – a reason for this is that you don’t really get a list of the information in the notebook – you have to compile that yourself, which makes the otherwise modular investigation a bit harder to run than it should be imho.

The true killer isn’t as you may have thought, Mr. Black – instead, a bug-eyed fanatic called Stanton LaVry, who seeks to kidnap Lovejoy…a task in which he’ll succeed via his magical tricks. The investigators can ostensibly cut through the tentacles with mystical means, but no stats or the like are provided for doing so/judging the difficulty. Speaking of no stats – neither LaVry, nor his familiar sport stats herein. These would be, once more, up to the referee to provide.

The investigators may also witness LaVry’s book – which comes with a glorious 1-page artwork and inside, the PCs can read their names, written in blood. Examining the names conjures forth a silhouette of pure blackness and a hint on how to escape from a form of imprisonment…but no sign of Richard Black can be found. Instead, the PCs are lured deeper into the complex (which is a bit opaque): Finding a flagstone, the PCs can remove more, witnessing a vast cavern below, where humans engage in all sorts of depraved behavior – from murder to rape to (self-) mutilation, they witness a decadent rite in honor of a toad-spider thing, circled by nubile witches that seek to curry favor with their demonic master…and a tall, horrid man with either a mask or distorted flesh in his face conducting the rite. How the PCs go down below to the rite is somewhat opaque, as far as I’m concerned, but movement through the throng of folks towards the strange Supplicant comes with a nice d6-table of dressing-events. While it requires Willpower to resist the libidinous advances of the witches, I am not sure how that is supposed to be handled – what’s a partially success (4+ in TOD), for example? Does it suffice? What are the consequences for failing the roll? All of that needs to be improvised by the referee.

Black is here as well, trying to dodge the ritualists. His involvement here, alas, is also left up to the referee. Upon reaching the servitor, he offers to send the PCs back and end their imprisonment, though everything apart from the soul as a toll will result in the servitor’s face melting off, leaving a black void…and upon gazing into it, the PCs will see themselves zoom out, revealing the investigators trapped inside the snow-globe that started all. The phone rings. Richard Black’s on the phone…and the cycle repeats ad infinitum. LaVry’s book provides the only clue to save the investigators – skin the servitor and wear his flesh (hence the title). However, since we don’t really have an idea of the servitor’s potency, nor any clues on how knowledge of prior cycles changes events, it may be preferable for the referee to end the module on this disturbing nod of an infinite loop of unwilling participants. It’s certainly the most impactful way to end this story.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant hiccups. Layout adheres to the nice, greenish-tinted two-column full-color standard of Outer Presence adventures. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version – big kudos. Speaking of which: The b/w-artworks herein are excellent indeed – this is a really nice-looking pdf.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ latest “The Outer Presence” module is an excellent, rather horrifying tale of terror. I mean it. Where the first two modules in the series focused on pulp with a bit of Cthulhiana spliced in, this one can be considered to be actual HORROR. It’s build up is great, the end amazing. As a one-shot, this does a great job and in fact, represents, by FAR, my favorite story he’s woven so far. It’s intriguing, cool and fun, a bit gory and transcends the limits of being just a homage to a certain Carpenter-movie or Twilight Zone et al.

Let me make that abundantly clear: An experienced referee can have a glorious field-day with this. That being said, for me, this is less of an adventure and more of a story. It is slightly inconvenient that you have to compile the information from Black’s notebook and the final areas when facing the killer are a bit more sketch-like than I’d like them honestly to be. Since one of my readers asked me to state the like explicitly: This is not a go-play module and requires some referee-time-investment to run properly. The complete absence of any game mechanics apart from 2 dressing tables is jarring and the one thing I absolutely do not understand about this offering. We have an inspired, cool horror-yarn here, so how come that neither rolls for sanity, nor any other components from ToD’s already extremely minimalist rules can be found herein? This is, in short, not really an adventure module in the traditional sense. It leaves the referee pretty much alone with anything related to mechanics – stats for adversaries and obstacles can’t be found and while some entries, like the abduction of a certain NPC, do come with suggestions, there are no real consequences for succeeding. Nor does witnessing tentacles burst from the ground cause sanity checks.

In short, were I to rate this based solely on the merits of an adventure, I’d consider it a failure. Player agenda and choice doesn’t matter too much, the referee must do all the work for stats etc. and some serious improvising etc.

In short: I can see this fail horribly for some referees.

Still, as a person, this represents the first Outer Presence supplement I really LOVED. This, when seen as a story to be fleshed out, makes for an amazing experience. Yes, it requires more work on part of the referee. Yes, it is at times a bit obtuse and inconvenient – but if you do run its conclusion as I suggested and pull that aspect off, you’ll have an amazing, inspired experience on your hands.

Which brings me to the task I really dreaded regarding this review – namely, rating this. You see, even when not looked at as an adventure you can quickly and conveniently prepare, this could be structured better and is, at times, more inconvenient than it should be. The already rather thin rules of “The Outer Presence” take a further backseat (even compared to “A Green jewel They Must Possess”) and are pretty much completely omitted. The only dice you’ll RAW roll are dressing tables. So yeah, if you expect at least some sort of convenience and gaming material beyond a story, then steer clear of this.

On the plus-side, the story is amazing, inspiring and truly cool. As in: Best thing in the product-line, by far, levels of cool. As a person, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this supplement. I like the story, the pacing of the module – from the beginning to the end, the module continuously increases the tension, has some nice stakes…and the finale is, as mentioned, a blast. If you’re looking for an inspired base to further develop into a module, then this will deliver in spades.

I only very rarely am this torn about any module. I can see some people hating this as a module and loving it as a story to develop. Ultimately, I have to account for both in my review. Which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars…but I honestly feel I have to round down for this one. However, since I really LOVED the story and finale, this is one of the rare cases where I award my seal of approval, in spite of the pdf’s flaws – if you can navigate them, this becomes amazing.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
His Flesh Becomes My Key
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Purple Mountain II: Desolate Dwarven Delve (DCC)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2017 09:31:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second level of the conversion of PDG's old-school dungeon delve in the Purple Mountain is 38 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/patreon-thanks, 2 pages SRD, leaving us with 34 pages of content. The pages are formatted for digest-size (6’’ by 9’’, A5), which means that you can fit approximately 4 pages on a sheet of paper if you’re trying to conserve ink/toner.

All righty, first things first: While this is obviously level 2 of a mega-dungeon, the pdf does come with advice for judges to use the dungeon presented herein as both a sequel to level 1 (including some troubleshooting advice) and as a stand-alone offering. Being dwarven-themed (no spoilers there-it’s literally in the title!), the adventure’s potential hooks also include this means of tying it to the interesting AL 3 Waystation location, a stand-alone, interesting little drop-in locale for DCC.

Judges should be aware that the module does present its basic environmental rules (doors, illumination, etc.) in a concise manner, including potentially slippery fungus that covers parts of the dungeon. As in the first installment of these, the pdf does feature both regular random encounters and special random encounters, though the latter are less diverse this time around.

Also not spoiler-territory (since it’s part of the hooks and provides no real advantage for the PCs to know), but very worth noting: This module does feature gremlins. While they are a much loathed staple in PFRPG, I was pretty interested to see what Daniel J. Bishop did with them, particularly their aura of bad luck – and frankly, I was positively surprised to see the mechanics make good use of DCC’s peculiarities. Indeed, this dungeon being more conservative in how it is set-up, we have quite a few critters, including otyughs, converted herein.

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

..

.

Still here? All right!

Having jumped in the meat grinder/waste disposal shaft in the temple of the vermin lord and being received enthusiastically by a hungry, young otyugh, the PCs enter what once was a nice little Dwarven colony - unfortunately for the PCs, emphasis lies on the "was" - the colony was wiped by a manifold threat – an infestation of dark ivy (aka yellow musk creeper – a plant monster that generates zombie-like servants from the slain); there is a cadre of gremlins haunting these halls…and the slain dwarves have returned as nasty, undead versions of themselves, so-called blindbrauns.

That does not mean that there is just hostility to be encountered, mind you: In fact, there is a troglodyte hermit (who also represents a possible tie-in to the excellent Silent Nightfall module) and Pallcap, a faerie-like shroom being, both of which may be helpful when clearing out this level…or they may prove to be more obstacles to vanquish – in short, this is a dynamic dungeon with a couple of mini-factions. Special note deserve the gremlin-cursed waters with their diverse effects and the detailed, dwarven machinery, which has been rigged, trap-style…and yes, these interconnect.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, while I did not notice an undue accumulation of glitches, I did encounter a couple of minor conversion relics, where the way in which some rules work still felt a bit Pathfindery. These are not jarring and not something you’ll find often, but purists may be slightly annoyed. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column standard with a white background and purple highlights. The pdf does sport several full-color artworks that are nice, if not all glorious. The cartography is okay, but annoyingly, we do not get a player-friendly map, which is particularly jarring, since the map contains the pipes of the dwarven machinery, representing a SPOILER of sorts when handed out to the PCs. Also annoying: Out of some strange reason, the pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a serious comfort detriment.

David N. Ross’ installment of the original version of this level was my least favorite installment in the whole series and Daniel J. Bishop’s conversion, alas, didn’t change much here. The DCC-version of this module feels, theme-wise, surprisingly like standard fantasy. It is a faithful conversion, but compared to level 1, whose themes were closer to those of DCC, level 2 feels overall less inspired. If you’re like me and expect a bit more of the weird and extraordinary from DCC, then this may strike you as a bit vanilla.

If a bit slightly less outré fantasy in your DCC campaign is what you’re looking for, then this should deliver. That being said, the lack of both player-friendly map and bookmarks, serve as two major hamstrings for what already was the weakest installment in the series, and without them, I frankly can’t go higher than 3 stars. That being said, judges: Even if you do end skipping this one, stick with the series: As someone who has run all modules in it, let me tell you that the next levels will be amazing treats indeed if the conversion holds up!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Mountain II: Desolate Dwarven Delve (DCC)
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Everyman Minis: Brawler Archetypes
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2017 09:28:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf begins with a brief introduction and then, the pdf sports two new feats: Feral Pugilism lets you use a natural attack in conjunction with abilities of Improved Unarmed Strike, specifically allowing the use of brawler’s flurry and close weapon mastery as though the natural weapon were a close weapon. This is potentially VERY potent and should have careful GM oversight, as the close weapon group restriction represents one of the problems here. Versatile Pugilism lets you choose one melee weapon, which may be a natural attack – this attack may be used in conjunction with brawler’s flurry and makes it count as a close weapon for the purpose of close weapon mastery…yeah. This lets you use two-handed swords, earthshakers, spears etc. in conjunction with brawler’s flurry. While I am sure that a lot of folks will enjoy these feats to increase the power of their characters, I don’t like them conceptually or balance-wise; they allow you to bypass what makes the brawler a brawler and the class, as such, is not necessarily in need of a power upgrade.

The pdf then proceeds with a selection of new archetypes: The brute is proficient with simple weapons and great club as well as light armor and shields (except tower shields). The archetype gains Weapon Focus (club) as a bonus feat at 1st level and applies all weapon-specific benefits for the club to the great club as well, and vice versa. At 5th level, the brute’s melee attacks with clubs ignore 1 point of DR, + 1 point at 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter. DR/- is not ignored and the benefits stack with Penetrating Strike and its Greater brother. This replaces unarmed strike and brawler’s strike. Brawler’s flurry may only be used with clubs and great clubs (strangely, referring dynamo’s flurry in a cut-copy-paste-hiccup) and 8th level modifies close weapon mastery to instead apply to clubs, using the brawler’s unarmed damage at -4 levels as a possible substitution, if it exceeds the damage of the club. See, this archetype very much makes my point regarding the feats for me – the feats are better than the archetype.

The hurling dynamo replaces proficiency with the close weapon group with thrown weapons. The dynamo’s flurry only works with unarmed strikes and thrown weapons, but both may be used within a flurry, with ranged weapon attacks counting as benefiting from Quick Draw while flurrying. Okay, so do the benefits of the modified brawler’s flurry stack with Rapid Shot? 2nd level locks the character into Precise Shot as a bonus feat. Instead of maneuver training, 3rd level yields either Ranged Feint or the option to use a chosen combat maneuver within one range increment, maximum 30 ft., using Dex-modifier to calculate CMB. This is penalized, though. The first attack of a flurry may be replaced with a maneuver or action chosen with this ability (nice catch re feinting!) and 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield another maneuver choice. 5th level modifies the close weapon group mastery to instead work, at -4 levels, based on brawler unarmed damage, provided that damage would exceed that of the weapon.

The kiai master replaces maneuver training with menacing shout at 3rd level, whenever the character hits at least once in a brawler’s flurry, she can make a demoralize attempt against a target thus hit as a swift action. 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the number of affected targets by 1. This cap is weird, considering that the base ability does NOT have a cap of a maximum of 1 target affected at a given time, though the scaling implies just that. Starting at 4th level, the demoralize attempt, if successful, causes 1d6 sonic damage, but a given foe can only take this damage once per round. 10th level adds deafened to the target for 1 round, and 16th level increases the damage to 2d6 and increases the deafened condition to 1d4 rounds. This replaces knockout.

Finally, there would be the style savant, who only gains the benefits of style feats and combat feats based on style feats when using martial flexibility – the style savant can ignore the feat’s respective prerequisite, excluding Elemental Fist. Yep, this allows you to directly skip ahead to the final feat in a style chain. That is problematic, as the ignoring of prerequisites contradicts the central limitation of martial flexibility and prevents the viable reference to the default ability to clear the rules-language. Also from an action economy perspective – can the respective later feats building on a Style feat only be used when entering that style, which RAW, the archetype can’t? This is weird. At 1st level, the style savant treats his brawler level as fighter or monk levels for prerequisite purposes and also as the number of skill ranks in all skills for the purpose of qualifying for style feats or feats that list one or style feats among the prerequisites, replacing martial training. Maneuver training is replaced by two abilities – savant’s style, which lets the character mix two styles known into a more flexible style, allowing the character to be in two styles at once – cool: The action economy here is concise and at 19th level, the character can be in 3 different styles at once. At 7th level, the style savant may use martial flexibility as a move action to enter all allowed stances, which improves to 15th level as a swift action. So, what are “All allowed stances”? All style feats she can enter at once via style savant? What if they exceed the limit? I get what this is supposed to do, namely let the style savant enter multiple styles from her list at once, but the verbiage is a bit wonky here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, there are some oversights in the details to be found here, alas. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column standard with a b/w-background and a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Sasha Hall’s brawler options have in common that they seek to generate new choices and engine tweaks for the brawler class, which is generally something I applaud. However, at the same time, the options presented herein are problematic from a balance point of view and also feature some rough edges – not in their basics, but in the deeper interactions of the rules-language, which renders them RAW less precise and refined than what I’ve come to expect. As a whole, I would not allow this pdf as written at my table; the feats are straight power upgrades that invalidate one of the archetypes completely and the others also feature some potential stumbling stones. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad file, but it is a long way from something I’d be able to recommend. My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Brawler Archetypes
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Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/09/2017 05:13:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This setting book clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

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

Old Earth isn’t even a legend anymore, even its location lost to the ravages and vastness of space and time. An undetermined time after humanity spread to the stars, the Archaics rose in their floating, crystalline cities, constructing a hyperspace travel network and engaged in planetary-scaled engineering; theirs was an age where a noble may rule a whole world – but, as Hari Seldon may have noted, all empires must end. The Great Collapse, which may have been as long as 1000 years past, took place, kickstarting a Dark Age of dissolution, where mysterious cultures rose and fell in what once was core human space: The mysterious Zurr, seemingly primitive, yet spread across planets, and the faceless ones, research-sadists, who replaced their faces with incredibly potent sensory apparatuses. When the long night ended, it was the radiant polity that rose, claiming stewardship of paleo-mankind and mastery over hyperspace travel: “We civilize; we do not govern. We end war; we do not wage it. We guard; we do not control. Our thoughts look always to the future.” – This is their creed and it reminded me in a positive manner of Rome’s excellent tripartite album “Die Aesthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit” on the concept of anarchy as a philosophical world-view, but that as an aside.

The default setting of this space opera setting would be the Modern Age ushered in by the polity’s radiant lords. The book classifies the sentient beings as sophonts – biologics contain humans, Star Folk bioships, etc. Moravecs are sentient, self-replicating robots and infosophonts are basically AIs, digital minds and other entities sans physical form that choose to live in the noosphere. As you may have noted, the books makes admirable use of linguistic terms to classify and categorize the campaign setting’s reality. And no, the book never devolves into a garbled mess, though, as often in good fiction, it takes a bit to get into the terminology of the setting. Really cool: Sample artworks explain e.g. clothes worn, weaponry, etc. in a concise manner that manages to squeeze a surprising amount of information on each page – a picture of a space captain, the afro-wearing, badass lady Stella Starlight, for example, feature sidebars on salvage and the lost ancient starships.

The book also showcases the hyperspace gates and their connections between regions of space – which would be as well a place as any other to note how this pdf is laid out, for the layout is brilliant: The artworks and bits of information are depicted in a manner not unlike the Star Trek/Star Wars almanacs – artwork, explanations, trivia, graphics – the similarity even extends to the advertisement mentioned before, which included an “action figure” in the artwork.

Anyways, we continue from the big picture to the more detailed observations of the regions of hyperspace – from the Outer Rim, where the vaguely feline Djägga live and places of interest include Fortuna IV, a gambler’s planet, Gogmagog, the planet of giant robot battles (!!) and Boreas, an ice-covered moon, where boreal sea life was weaponized, including bacteria that reanimate the dead. Yes, amazing. There also would be the Alliance (think of a smaller Federation), the Instrumentality of Aom, a theocracy founded on cold practicality (with Illuminatus!-easter-egg-nod), the Coreward Reach…have I mentioned phantasists selling mass-produced neural dreams and oneiric experiences? There is also the Vokun Empire, once fearsome conquerors in decline, who even have a slave-race of humanoid computers….and we even take a look at a cantina (Star Wars association obviously intended), with several NPCs noted, each of which featuring his/her/their own angle for adventuring.

Nomadic clades (the name for race employed herein) sans homeworld are also covered and so are pirates and other criminals – the sample artwork for the latter looking like a cross between a yeti and a tarsier. A list of most wanted, notes on the pharesmid syndicate – there is a ton of adventuring potential here. Where there are species and more or less peaceful societies, there are bound to be those outside – hostile species generally considered to be bad news. These include the Kssa, oviparous humanoids with reptilian characteristics, ruled by the Cold Eggs, the Ssraad (coincidentally somewhat similar to the classic, closed IP Slaadi) and we also talk a bit about psi and psionics and their roles in the galaxy.

The book also sports notes on terminology, a pronunciation guideline and concludes with 5 basic operation guidelines, each of which coming in 8 variations – these are one-sentence hooks to develop.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. The layout by Lester B. Portlyis FANTASTIC: With the extremely high full-color artwork density (there is an original piece on almost EVERY page) and the cool structures reminiscent of classic scifi almanacs, the pdf is a beauty to behold. The pdf sports no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment – if you can afford it, I’d strongly suggest getting the PoD-version. The book is worth it, production value-wise.

Trey Causey’s Strange Stars is frankly inspiring in the best of ways. When I saw the page-count for the book, I did not expect much, particularly considering the density of artwork herein. It is BAFFLING how much flavor and information the author managed to cram into the pages – there are a ton of inspiring tidbits herein, enough to inspire campaigns galore. While I really wished this book was a really huge campaign setting, I have seen a ton of books with 3 or 4 times the pagecount deliver less – this is a great supplement if you’re looking for some inspiring nomenclature, ideas, etc.

As an aside: The astute reader may have noticed some serious potential for crossover regarding the history of Strange Stars and Starfinder – the ideas contained herein can be added to Starfinder pretty easily…and yes, the same holds obviously true for Traveller, Stars Without Number, etc.

How to rate this, then? Well, the lack of bookmarks for the electronic version costs that version a half a star (4.5 stars, rounded down), but the print-version I’d consider to be 5 stars + seal of approval. As mentioned, I’d suggest getting the PoD-version.

Endzeittgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
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Strange Stars OSR Rule Book
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/09/2017 05:11:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The OSR rules-book for Strange Stars clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was move up in my review-queue as a non-prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Now, this is the rules-companion book for the system neutral Strange Stars-book – and as far as OSR-rules goes, it employs my favorite rules-set for space adventures, namely Sine Nomine Publishing’s excellent and deservedly acclaimed Stars Without Number. As you can glean, provided you’re familiar with SWN, the task of converting the rules material to another OSR-system is relatively simple, though some peculiarities are potentially lost in translation, as a system-immanent procedure of translation.

Anyway, we begin with a brief recap of the nomenclature of the setting, explaining terms like clade (referring to a group of organism derived from the same ancestor or template – relevant distinction in a setting where sentient robots are a thing), the definition of intelligent and self-aware being (sophont) etc. - it is with these that we begin:

Strange Stars knows the following types of sophonts: Biologics are either humans or aliens; it should be noted that Mandate Archive: Transhuman Tech’s body-swapping rules are more commonly used in Strange Stars. (Which should also provide a nice example how well this is ingrained in SWN’s possibilities.) Bioroids are artificially-created biological beings that are worn by a mind – whether it’s an infosophont (bodyless AI) or a Ghost, Ghost in the Shell-style – full-blown transhumanist options here. Finally, Moravecs constitute self-replicating, sentient machines.

From here, we move to the specific clades: More than 20 (!!!) are provided: From domed-skull humanoids capable of cataloging language to the insectoid Blesh, the feline Djägga, the engineer isopods (with a dditional limbs and body-swapping), gnomes, the bone-clawed hwuru, avian humanoids, humanoid computers…and yes, emerald-skinned humanoids…there is a wide array of races with concisely defined abilities here. Each race gets a brief note on physical and psychological characteristics and class preferences/restrictions, backgrounds available and attribute requirements, if any. The pdf also classifies the clades by hyperspace region, which is helpful. Now, there is a downside to the variety of races presented herein – that is that they very much are reliant on the GM/referee to properly account for differences in raw power: There are several races that obviously eclipse the others in sheer power, which means that some discretion and skill is advised here.

On a more positive aside, the pdf does contain a wide variety of backgrounds to expand the background system featured in SWN – from bureaucrat to business sophont, psytech or data prospector, there are several provided, with some allowing for choices within a skill’s arrays – other than that, we have the 4 skills per background you’d expect – with some backgrounds allwowing for one freely chosen skill. The backgrounds thus can be considered to be well-crafted – no complaints.

Chapter 2 deals with tedchnology in the context of Strange Stars, beginning with the metascape, the augmented reality that most people experience – and yes, it may be hacked. The Noosphere is the cyberspace of the far future, where disembodied AIs live, for example. Implanted cyberware and brain-computer interfaces are very common, which allows for some interesting uses of the Computer skill, obviously. Strange Stars also features Fabbers – matter compilers. These act as hyper-advanced 3D-printers, while programmable matter is…well, just what it says on the tin. That these technologies have a serious impact on economy should be pretty evident. Alien and archaic tech are also mentioned.

But how does space travel work? Well, per default, it uses the Hyperspace Network erected by the Archaic Oikumene prior to the dark age and Great Collapse. Think of these as somewhat akin to Mass Effect’s acceleration nodes. The tech is partially psionic, poorly understood and travel time depends an is color-coded: Travel time equals the color modifier (ranging from 18 to 6750) time the distance modifier (ranging from 1 – 5) in kiloseconds. This is for the range of the network, mind you – space is unfathomably huge. SWN fans will note that the FTL travel is very much different from Strange Stars’ node-based system. It should be noted, though, that these need not exclude one another: It is pretty easy to drop Strange Stars within the vast universe of Stars Without Number – FTL beyond the nodes, node-only in the Strange Stars-clusters. That as an aside.

Starships are discussed as well – gravity generators and inertial suppressors would be crucial pieces of tech. The rare and sought-after drive-boxes, hyperintelligent, but not self-aware AIs crafted by the Archaic also makes for an interesting aspect of piloting spaceshifts…with potential for adventuring galore.

Beyond these, we take a look at setting assumptions (with the Great Catastrophe accounting for vast differences in tech-levels) – and these include semi-hard scifi (as a fan of hard scifi, I wholly applaud the setting’s commitment to plausibility – it sets this space opera setting apart from others) as well as the fact that intersystem travel is fast, intrasystem travel slow, thanks to the mysterious hyperspace nodes. Post-internet and transhumanism and the evolution of fiath in the vastness of space similarly represent concise components of Strange Stars. As a whole, a complex of leitmotifs I thoroughly enjoy. GMs will also cherish a brief list of the hyperspace regions introduced in the setting book: Each comes with a brief one-sentence run-down, a note on what type of story it’s best suited for and some very much appreciated inspiration books for further reading: Mini Appendix N-sections, if you will – and yes, often quoting media beyond the scifi/space opera genres.

We also get a brief adventure base-line generator: 6 basic adventures are presented: The challenge, the heist, the hunt, the gauntlet, the rescue, the unexpected. Each sports at least 2 different d8 tables you can use to generate the adventure, with 3 featuring 3 tables instead.

Next up would be a massive bestiary/NPC-codex section, with SWN’s descending AC, atk bonus, etc. all concisely codified. The entries are brief and while each critter gets at least a short fluff-pragraph, it should be noted that we do not get artworks for these. Big plus as far as I’m concerned: The nice fraction-rules from SWN are properly supported with 7 factions and we also take a look at the worlds noted in the great campaign book: We codify these with world tags (some of which are new, some changed) – there is, for example, no perimeter agency in Strange Stars, and much forbidden tech is considered to be common instead; hence, the tag’s meaning is pretty much inverted and denotes an overly restrictive world. 6 new tags, from luddite worlds to banking centers, can be found and the pdf also sports a really cool habitat generator: Habitat shapes, population…from spheres to rings or Knights of Sidonia-style cylinders and classic asteroids, the pdf covers a lot of cool aspects, including a table of natural bioclimes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. Artwork partially reuses some assets from the campaign book in b/w, but also sports a couple of new pieces in b/w. The lack of bookmarks in the electronic version is galling – particularly considering that this is a rule-book you’ll consult more often. The electronic version hence should be considered to lose one star over the PoD-version.

Trey Causey’s OSR-rules for Strange Stars are surprisingly concise – no, really. They can definitely be considered to rank among the better OSR-rules out there, managing to implement the tight rules-language of Stars Without Numbers. Speaking of which: It is very much evident that the author is very familiar with SWN, using some of the more amazing aspects of the system in a concise manner. That is a big plus, as far as I’m concerned – too often, relatively rules-lite systems are used as an excuse for sloppy rules-language. This is thankfully not the case here: The material is concise and well-made. That being said, without the amazing flavor of the system-neutral setting book, this obviously loses a lot of its appeal. If I rated this on its own, I’d complain about it being sketch-like – but that’s pretty much the point here – the book is intended to supplement the setting book and I’ll rate it as such.

Now, as much as I love the vast majority of the content herein and the care which was taken to ensure SWN-compatibility, there are a couple of aspects I enjoy less: One would be that the races diverge in power – there is not a good baseline here and some species depicted here are simply, rules-wise superior. Whether you care about that or not depends on your game, but personally, I would have loved to see more advice on handling the more potent races regarding stigmas, flaws, etc. Secondly, the lack of bookmarks represents a serious detriment for the electronic version. For the print version, I think I’d rate this 4.5 stars; the electronic version loses half a star for the lack of bookmarks…and usually, I’d round up, but I feel that this is closer to the 4 for me. Hence, I will round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars OSR Rule Book
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We Be Leshys
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/09/2017 05:09:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, first things first: This module works best as a one-shot, courtesy of its unique premise: If the similarity in the name wasn’t ample clue: In this scenario, the PCs play Leshys, namely the leshys known as Brindlewild’s Protectors – these special leshys all come with CR 5 sample statblocks and represent the pregens for the module. The pdf provides some notes for customization, should the like be desired by the PCs. The respective leshy pregens all can be roughly likened to the traditional adventuring class roles – Briam, the briar leshy, for example, is thorny and gains verdant channel: Interesting here: All of the leshy gain verdant channel, which heals plant creatures exclusively. This means that, theoretically, a group of these can create a significant healing burst and recuperate from nigh annihilation. It should be noted, however, that the leshy in question are generally more versatile than regular characters: Briam, for example, sports pretty potent vines that can cause bleeding wounds. Strandle, a seaweed leshy, has aswim speed, can fire water jets and may detach bulbs that grant water breathing. All in all, these leshys could easily be reappropriated as low-level boss-monsters, should you desire to do so.

The pdf does provide some scaling advice for more or less potent groups, though these remain somewhat basic, focusing on imposing penalties and bonuses to account for group power. Big plus: Each encounter gets a full-color map that can double as a player/encounter map – and they actually are nice, particularly for the low asking price.

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

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! A century ago, the sorcerer Varun forged a dark pact with a powerful demon, blasting the land with the dread artifact known as the Eye of Aragahz…and his reign of terror was unpleasant…until Tyrganian the druid manages to steal the artifact, causing the sorcerer to be cursed by his erstwhile demon ally. The Eye’s power allowed the druid to grow the Brindlewild Forest, but use of dark artifacts corrupts – and thus, the druid fell to promises most foul. Fighting the encroaching civilization with 9 super leshy as a kind of police, he stalled the march of progress. Relationships have been strained, but there is some semblance of an uneasy coexistence. However, the vile sorcerer has finally managed to track down the Eye, recruiting the people of nearby Blackwater and promising them to get rid of Tyrganian once and for all.

If you have Zenith Games’ “We be dragons”-module, all of this may sound somewhat familiar: If you extrapolate the leshy-themed dressing away and replace it with draconic themes, you’ll have an identical constellation, with the minor complication of a compromised mentor – not sure I’m particularly happy there.

But let’s look at how the module’s structure runs, shall we? We begin with a conversation between Ancient oak, the treant and the leshys – the treant represents a more moderate position and makes the PCs question their creation…before Tyrganian intervenes and send the PCs after tresspassers he senses in the druid’s domain.

Thus, the PCs move towards the intruders – the strongest fighters of Blackwater, led by Hettie – who wields a chainsaw. Full technology item-stats are provided for the powerful weapon and it is pretty much as deadly as you’d imagine. However, unbeknown to the elite-leshy, the incursion ultimately is a distraction to lure them away from Tyrganian…a fact they can determine if they question any surviving loggers.

Arriving at the sacred grove, the leshys face a scene of destruction, with their friend Ancient Oak smitten by dark magic – the treant holds on long enough to impart the information that the villagers seek to burn Tyrganian at the stake, before dark magics overcome him, rendering him a powerful and deadly foe who can conjure forth storms of negative energy, with multiple rounds of different effects – cool battle! (And yes, the treant can be saved, though it’s not necessarily simple…)

Making haste to the village, the leshys can attempt social skills or fight their way towards the stake, with rules on how to free their master included – kudos there. The badly wounded druid has a serious chance to perish here if the PCs don’t take care. After saving Tyrganian (or failing to do so), the PCs still have to catch up with the mighty sorcerer Varun – who will face them on dust-choked, charred land with Eye and Rift demon, but thankfully also with a significant amount of his potent arcane might spent already. Defeating the sorcerer and securing the Eye retains the integrity of the Brindlewild…but if the PCs don’t caution the druid, he may continue to use the Eye. Ancient Oak may or may not have survived his ordeal, a voice of reason that may help the PCs convince Tyrganian to refrain from using the dark artifact.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups apart from a missed italicization. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports thematically fitting b/w-stock art. The cartography of all the encounters is significantly better than that in “We Be Dragons” – kudos, particularly for the low price point, they’re solid! A downside of the pdf: The module does not sport any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

When I started reading this module by Jeff Gomez and Mike Welham, I was somewhat disappointed by the story – structure-wise, I did not expect something genius, but basically a reskin of the dragon-pdf? Not too cool. Thematically, it hist the same notes as well: Encounter, save mentor, deal with BBEG. That being said, this pdf is superior to “We be Dragons” in pretty much every way: The respective encounters are creative; the pregens are cool – each combat is meaningful, challenging and the signature items/abilities are really cool. Every single one of the encounters sports something cool and the player-friendly encounter maps add a serious plus to the module. That being said, the lack of bookmarks does constitute a somewhat unpleasant detriment and I would have liked stats for the artifact. As a whole, I did enjoy this module and my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
We Be Leshys
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The Swamp of Sorrows - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:26:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning, with the rules recapped for your convenience: After all, the water weirds that represent minions here (full stats included) can be pretty nasty. On a minor downside: The attack damage seems to be off by 1 in an otherwise solid statblock.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the CR 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities: She can fire thorn volleys, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher: With the terrain and at-will entangle, the PCs need to be up to their A-game if they don’t want to join the slain hanging around as decorative warnings. Then again: They have plenty warning that the dryad is not to be trifled with. Her statblock is btw. absolutely worthy of such a potent foe and the absolute highlight of this supplement!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good: Apart from the minor hiccup mentioned before, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, warrants the extremely fair asking price. At this price-point, I can’t recall any sidetrek of comparable quality regarding the challenge posed and overall presentation– which is why, in spite of the minor hiccup, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars. If your players crave a meaningful challenge, check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - Pathfinder
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The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:25:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning. The peculiarity of 5e has been properly acknowledged here, using rules analogue to suffocation – kudos!

The water weirds that represent minions here can be pretty nasty, so yeah, the PCs have been warned in more ways than one.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the challenge 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities, including legendary actions: She can fire lash out with vines, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher. The dryad is deadly, but, to put my nitpicker’s hat on, the lady does suffer from a minor hiccup: She refers to the entangled condition, which RAW does not exist – while it’s simple to default to the spell’s effects, it’s still an imperfection that can cause a bit of confusion. I am also a bit puzzled how her skills came to be: At proficiency bonus +3 and Wisdom 16, her Perception should either be +6 or +3, not +4, for example.

Oh yes, dire bear. You see, we actually get dire bear stats herein as well – at challenge 5, this fellow is DEADLY. However, it should be noted that a few glitches have crept into the statblock: At challenge 5, he should have a proficiency bonus of +3, which means that the attack values should be one higher; similarly, the Perception skill should be one lower. I may be missing something, but yeah. Considering how lethal the lady is, this is a bit puzzling.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. The statblocks themselves sport a few minor hiccups, which unfortunately accumulate. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, may warrant the more than fair asking price. The 5e-conversion per se is nice (big kudos for the dire bear stats), but at the same time, the hiccups in them, while not impeding your ability to run the module, may upset some of the more mechanically nitpicky GMs out there. As such, I cannot go higher than 4 stars for the 5e-iteration.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
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Classes of the Lost Spheres: Shadow Weaver
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:21:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/Introduction, 6.5 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, we begin this pdf with something I really applaud: The book notes all the cool shadow-themed 3pp-options (with hyperlinks – big kudos!!) out there as it states its mission: You see, the class depicted herein is distinct from the other shadow-themed options in a variety of ways, namely in its focus:

One look at the shadow weaver base class makes that clear if you skipped the intro: The class gets d6, 2 + Int skills per level, ½ BAB-progression and good Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons and light armors. In short: This is actually a shadow-themed full caster! The shadow weaver uses Intelligence as the governing spellcasting attribute and is a prepared spellcaster. HOWEVER, unlike a wizard, the shadow weaver’s spells are NOT expended upon being cast – instead, the class consumes a spell slot of the appropriate level. Metamagic may be spontaneously applied and increases casting time if this is done – like a spontaneous spellcaster handles these. HOWEVER, at the same time, the shadow weaver can elect to prepare the spells in question in advance with metamagic applied – in this case, they do NOT increase their casting time. This increased flexibility means that the class, pretty much from the get-go, provides a bigger value for taking metamagic feats, making them more viable – a fact I generally applaud.

Now, as a medium for storing spells, the shadow weaver treats his shadow as a kind of spellbook – the shadow weaver’s shadow is also infused with shadowstuff, which allows him to cast spells with the [shadow] descriptor while not on the plane of shadow. Cool: Shadow weavers may study the shadows of spellcasters to transcribe these spells, provided the spells are on the class’s spell list. The shadow weaver is automatically cognizant when a creature succeeds a Will-save to disbelieve a shadow weaver’s illusion. This disbelief, though, infects the psyche of the shadow weaver – all observers of such an illusion automatically disbelieve it, which does not end the illusion, unless it is a phantasm. This is a REALLY smart balancing mechanic right there.

The shadow weaver gains an additional spell with the darkness or shadow descriptor at each spell level, gaining such a bonus spell at every odd-numbered level after 1st. Additionally, spells cast by the shadow weaver can superficially resemble other spells: Illusions can resemble any spell, but spells of other schools are limited to looking like other spells from the same school. This even fools detect magic (YES!), but can be noticed via greater arcane sight etc. Components, which would otherwise be a tell-tale sign, seem to vanish, btw. – identifying such a spell is hard; the ability increases the DC to identify it by the shadow weaver’s class level. Disbelieving one of the shadow weaver’s illusions does btw. NOT allow for automatic Will saves to disbelief the others – this ties in with the re-jigged illusion-balancing mentioned before. There is one more crucial component to the class’ spellcasting engine that needs to be mentioned: The shadow weaver’s spells are classified as umbral spells: They have thought components and emotion components, somewhat akin to psychic spells. Thought component spells have a concentration DC of +10 unless the shadow weaver previously spent a move action to center herself. Unlike psychic spells, umbral spells may be cast while under the effect of an emotion effect, though the base concentration DC is equal to the spell’s save DC + twice the spell’s level. Some umbral spells may be undercast, following rules analogue to those of psychic spells.

At 2nd level, the shadow weaver gains silhouette – an illusion stitched to her own shadow, which maintains a constant effect. The Will save to disbelieve the silhouette, if any, is equal to 10 + ½ class level + Int-mod. If an observer has successfully disbelieved a silhouette, he is immune to that shadow weaver’s particular silhouette’s effects for 24 hours. Only one silhouette may be in effect at a given time. There is no action given for the switching of silhouettes, which makes me believe that the switch is free. A new silhouette is gained at 7th level and every 5 levels thereafter. These sport some SERIOUSLY cool options: Like making someone who disbelieves your illusions believe that he may be disbelieving existence itself – on a failure of the save, the target refuses to disbelieve anything! This ability is great, as it can screw with the PC AND the player. Prolonging spell effects, anchoring illusions (swift action illusion maintenance) and equipment made of shadow – there are some seriously evocative tricks here and we can also find a Tiny shadow companion. Starting at 12th level, silhouette selection is expanded to include the greater silhouette choices, including e.g. the ability to gain the dread’s shadow twin, mirage arcane with 50% real false conjuration VI-effects – really creative, cool, complex tricks here!

Starting at 2nd level, the class gains weave reality, which is a second array of supernatural abilities – these have their saving throw DCs governed by Wisdom and 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield an additional daily use. Weave reality’s benefits are gained in a linear manner: At 2nd level, if a target is adjacent, enchanted or demoralized, the shadow weaver may force the creature via an immediate action Will-save against it to accept the illusions. 3rd level unlocks lighting control. At 8th level, the shadow weaver may channel hit points between two living or two undead targets. Starting at 10th level, the shadow weaver may unleash cones of energy, opposing energies witnessed last round – negative energy heals undead, positive the living and the elemental oppositions are concisely codified. Really cool! At 16th level, the shadow weaver may render a target creature quasi-real and at 18th level, the ability-suite nets the ability to polymorph any object serious amounts of matter.

Starting at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the shadow weaver adds one divination, enchantment or illusion spells from the cleric, druid, psychic, sorcerer/wizard, shaman, or witch spell list, storing it in the shadow. 4th level yields piercing glimpse: Basically, a sense-based option that ranges from constant aura sight to darkvision (or an upgrade thereof), a further bonus when gaining circumstance bonus to atk, saves or AC due to position etc., better Sense Motive, wild empathy – you get the idea. 9th level and every 5 levels thereafter yields another piercing glimpse and, if applicable, the governing attribute is Wisdom. 14th level enhances the selections available to include blindsense, etc. 14th level yields 3/day, maximum 1/round move action shadow step.

That’s not all, though: The class also has a bloodline-like ability-suite: Chosen at 1st level, this is called “Perspective” – each perspective modifies the spell-list of the shadow weaver is meaningful ways (and yes, e.g. the curiosity perspective allows for synergy with Purple Duck Games’ glorious illuminatus chaos mage’s wonder-engine!) and each perspective nets a 1st level ability, one that is gained at 6th level and determines the capstone. These abilities grant massive, meaningful tweaks to the engine: Take duality of probability: You gain 1 + Wisdom modifier luck points. When attacking, saving, using a skill or CL-check, you can choose to roll twice and take the lower result – if you do, you gain a probability point, which may then be used as an immediate action to roll twice the effects of a wonder, ability or attack, including an illusion’s full effect – this limit prevents cheesing. Increased reality and capstone full reality can be found in the same suite. A total of 7 such perspectives can be found herein and from mimicking spellcasting (with a limit) to using Wisdom or Charisma as governing recall and perfect recall to an animus companion or channel energy, the perspectives represent major, meaningful tweaks of the base engine of the class.

The pdf comes with a MASSIVE class spell list and false versions of abjuration, necromancy, etc. in 9 iterations each, allowing for maximum shadow spell flexibility. The pdf comes with 4 feats for quicker piercing glimpse change to extra silhouette and piercing glimpse. Another Perspective allows you to add spells of another perspective to your spell list at 1 level higher.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and this pdf IS DENSE. There is a TON of text on each page – the margins are small. This sports a lot of content. The original artworks deserve special mention – a cool iconic that’s not rail-thin gets two thumbs up for me, diversity-wise, and the character looks badass, big time! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lost Spheres Publishing went completely under my radar until one of my patreons requested me taking a look at this file. If this class by David N. Ross is any indicator, then that is an oversight I need to remedy ASAP. I don’t know if developer Christen N. Sowards changed a lot, but the result that came out of design and development is utterly beautiful: We not only get player agenda and meaningful choices left and right; the class can be played in a wide variety of meaningful, different ways and the class is AMAZING, allowing for the flexible, rewarding use of illusions and shadow spells – this is, in short, my favorite full spellcaster class in AGES. The shadow weaver does a ton of unique and interesting things with the spellcasting engine and, from spellcasting to the abilities gained, it is a thoroughly rewarding, complex and fun class. While it doesn’t sport much supplemental material (FCOs etc.), that remains my only true gripe. The shadow weaver plays even better than it reads: The perspectives offer playing experiences so different from one another that most archetypes out there deliver less. Add to that the customization options and spells and we have a cornucopia of unique and cool tricks.

In short: This is the excellent full shadow caster we always wanted. Taking the top tier design difficulty into account and we have a major gem of a class here that deserves being added to your roster -5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest hesitation. The only reason this is not a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017 is that it doesn’t sport that much supplemental material – still, get this glorious gem!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classes of the Lost Spheres: Shadow Weaver
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The Malefactor Class: Revised & Expanded (5E/PF)
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:20:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting…are what brings down this pdf. While the formal criteria are still okay, the fact that the rules-language is compromised in several key instances is highly problematic. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard, and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports two really gorgeous one-page full-color artworks (one being a pole-dancing succubus or tiefling) and a couple of less impressive, but decent color-pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I love Brian Berg’s malefactor class. (Additional writing by James Olchak and Rick Cox). It is one of the most unique, interesting classes I know for the PFRPG game and the combo-skirmisher/debuffer is a cool role. The class oozes flavor galore and provides utterly unique tricks to pull off.

In short: It deserves better.

The annoying presentation that alternates between the systems can be grating and is utterly baffling to me. But while I was reading the PFRPG-version, the old fire returned – I caught myself smiling. In spite of the formal hiccups and nonstandard wording instances, I couldn’t help myself. It is a cool class, albeit one that could have really used a picky developer to file off the rough edges here and there. Then I started looking at 5e. Oh boy. The base chassis is, apart from referencing several rules-concepts that don’t exist in the system, pretty solid. But the class falls apart in the archetypes, where crucial abilities simply don’t work. The amount of remnant Pathfinderisms is baffling and something even a cursory editing pass should have caught. I’m sorry to say this: While in Pathfinder, bonus types and several aspects of the finer rules-language could be a bit smoother, the 5e-version is simply sloppy and not up to the standards.

This review breaks my heart. The base chassis, in both versions, is cool and utterly unique. It is, however, also a prime example for why I consider editors and developers to be the unsung heroes of the industry. One careful pass could have rendered this class, in both iterations, a 5-star + seal masterpiece, annoying presentation notwithstanding. Instead, we’re left with class that is flawed, that has serious issues in one system and minor hiccups in the other. I’d love to rate this separately, but alas, I can’t. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, barely rounded up for the purpose of this platform, courtesy of me really loving what’s here, what can be salvaged.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Malefactor Class: Revised & Expanded (5E/PF)
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101 5th Level Spells (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:23:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of spells clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. I did receive this pdf prior to public release in order to allow for a speedy release of the review.

We begin this supplement with massive lists of the respective spells by class, before moving on the alphabetic presentation of spells. Now, obviously, I can’t go through each and every spell contained here, but I’ll try to give you a good idea of what to expect. Let’s begin with the first spell, alter metal. This spell modifies the damage threshold of affected objects and is particularly potent when affecting armor etc. – the spell properly differentiates between attended and unattended, magical and nonmagical and even intelligent items. Kudos. Fans of Diablo and similar franchises will also enjoy a spell, which renders skeletons into ticking shrapnel bombs.

Now damage spells herein generally sport a valid alternative and contextualization compared to core spells. Take e.g. arrow storm. The spell inflicts 8d6 piercing damage to all creatures within 30 ft. of a point in range (150 ft.), potentially inflicting the restrained condition as well on a failed save, necessitating cover or a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) to end the condition. The affected area may be farther away than e.g. that of cone of cold, but the PHB’s spell affects a larger area, has a slightly superior damage type and, with d8 damage-dice, a slightly higher average damage output. In another example, namely force ram, we have 12d4 damage and an unerring, automatic hit – but also the danger that shield completely negates the spell.

There also are utility type spells herein – or spells that you’d consider to be more relevant for the purpose of the more narrative aspects of the game: The befoul spring ritual can, for example, taint a water source. Bitter vintage can render wine into poison, with the caster gaining several different options regarding which poison to transform the vintage into. And yes, the transformation may be detected by savvy PCs. On a minor complaint regarding the formatting: The “At Higher Levels.” Has not been bolded and italicized properly here. There are spells like blood to sap – the spell deals poison damage on a failed Constitution saving throw and poisons the target for the duration, which reduced the target’s speed and imposes disadvantage on Dex saves, but also provides an AC bonus. Regarding damaging spells that also impose negative conditions, it is nice to observe a lack of save-less spells and the fact that the conditions and their potency receive the respect they should have. The pdf does sport some evocative visuals in the damaging spells it has, e.g. in brimstone cloud.

Campfire lullaby is interesting, in that it allows a character to get the benefits of completing a long rest more than once per 24 hours – the long casting time and duration and the caveat that lets it affect a character only once in 5 days act as good balancing mechanisms for this potent spell, though. There are carpets of fire and options to chastise foes with psychic damage. There is a means to generate circles of moonlight, protection against shapechangers and the undead. The pdf also sports a contingent healing spell, which is neat – and yes, these cannot be stacked…and they can be used offensively versus the undead. There also is a long-range curing spell – which is pretty cool, aye, but considering the impact of long-range healing on the game, it deserves to be noted that it may not be for all groups. Speaking of which: Eternal charm is permanent. Whether or not you like the ramifications of this depends on the type of game you run.

Sifting through thoughts via crystal probe, cursing targets with narcissism…what about changing the look of terrain and hiding it from the prying eyes of enemy spellcasters? There is also a powerful spell to compel targets to deliver messages for you. You can conjure forth earth barriers that bludgeon those foolhardy enough to attack you. Elfhome attunes an area in forests to elves and creatures, providing climb speed and quicker movement. What about first conjuring a tree and then having it fall on enemies? Really cool: Flatten makes you two-dimensional. Guard Dog conjures forth a variant dire wolf with modified stats to guard an area and the knave purge ritual provides a type of magic protection against thieves. Minor complaint – spell-references in the text tend to lack the italicizations.

We can find one-way pain circuits, the ability to travel through stone, several pahnatsms (lichs, nymphs, swarms…) – there are a lot of spells, some of which provide significant changes to the engine: Take remove condition, for example: The spell can even negate instantaneous effects like petrification via magic and may end the attunement to a magic item causing the condition, though curses are maintained. Now personally, I like this for the ability to make more controlled use of items with big drawbacks, but it does remain an aesthetic preference. Speaking of spells I like: Scry reverse does exactly what you’d think it does. I like the tactical option, but I can see some Gms not being as in love with it.

There also would be a powerful spell that requires the willing sacrifice of a mortal being to enhance your powers – suffice to say, that one is evil to the core. Potent songs that suppress spellcasting and magic item use make for amazing tools in the arsenal of bards – really cool. Spell grounding is a very potent defensive option: While within the range of a spell that does not have a range of touch, you may use your reaction to negate the spell, ending all effects and damage. No check, no differentiation between spell levels, no discharging of the spell – personally, I believe that this should have an “At Higher Levels”-scaling for maximum spell level affected and it should also have some wording regarding interaction of enspelled terrain into which you move – which imho should be exempt. While it is clear that this is supposed to work only for rays and chains, RAW, it is much more flexible, depending on your reading of the spell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very goo: I noticed a couple of missed italicizations and a few rules-language points that could be slightly clearer, but, as a whole, this is a well-made supplement. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports fitting full-color artwork, mostly stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ed Kabara’s conversion of Steven D. Russell’s classic spells does a valiant job at translating the vast plethora of spells to 5e. As a whole, the balancing of the material herein is pretty tight. The spells generally fit their respective levels. There are some spells that change how some aspects of the game work, which may be a matter of taste. Beyond the few hiccups herein, there is one aspect to be aware of: 5e sports less flexibility with the spells offered than PFRPG – spells have a higher value in direct comparison, often being entwined, availability-wise, with class features or feats as a kind of pay-off. This book does not provide the like or a means to contextualize the spells themselves – it literally only presents a ton of spells. Just putting them all in the game will, by necessity, generate a power-increase, courtesy of the increased flexibility. This is not bad, mind you, but something 5e-GMs should nevertheless be aware of.

As a whole, I consider this collection of spells a good example of how Rite Publishing has stepped up its 5e-content’s quality – of all the spell-collections I have read so far, this is by far the most refined. All in all a worthwhile collection of spells to grab and choose from – my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 5th Level Spells (5E)
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Oracle Mysteries of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:22:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Porphyra-expansion books clocks in at 17 pages,1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages are laid out for booklet-size – 6’’ by 9’’ (or A5), which means you’ll be able to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, provided your eyesight’s good enough.

All righty, let’s not dilly-dally and dive right into those mysteries, shall we? This humble pdf contains no less than 5 complete, new mysteries, the first of which would be ascension, which, unsurprisingly, focuses on ascending to a nascent divinity. The class skills granted would be Climb, Fly, Intimidate and Swim and from illusion of calm to create greater demiplane, the spell-selection makes sense. Among the revelations, we have darkvision (including stacking caveat AND scaling improvements at higher levels that are tied, really smart, to alignment – evil oracles can see in magical darkness, while non-evil ones also gain low-light vision and scent – cool!), a limited use energy blast, scaling DR (with an appropriate level-cap), natural weapons (that are properly codified – HECK YES!), resistances, telepathy…and the ability to grow wings (which begin as humble levitate and improve to proper flight, retaining the soft balancing mechanism of flight). The final revelation provides at-will greater teleport. Immaculate, makes sense – two thumbs up!

The celestial mystery nets Fly, Linguistics, Perception and Perform and focuses on the traditionally “good” spells like dispel evil and, alter, even holy sword. Sounds boring? Sounds like “been there, done that”? Well, what about infusing a small area with planar traits? Creating difficult terrain via heavenly meadows? Overcoming alignment restrictions (and undetectable alignment at higher levels?) or firing balls of sparks that can be separated into smaller blasts? This one represents a minor confusion, though: You can use more than one daily use to increase the affected area, but the pdf fails to specify by how much. On a nitpicky side, it’s electricity damage, not electric damage. Still, the options that are here are surprisingly creative!

On the other end of the alignment spectrum would be the Infernal mystery, which nets Fly, Intimidate, Knowledge (nobility) and Survival. And no, it is no lame alignment-flipped version of Celestial; while planar infusion is also here, we have the ability to tap into the pits and barriers of hell, rendering targets flat-footed. We also get the ability to infuse hellish power in weaponry or cause painful bursts of hellfire – minor complaint here: Reflex should be capitalized.

Nimbus surrounds you with the energy of light or darkness, focusing on a ref-fluffed array of force effects, represented, spell-wise, by the gamut from mage armor to crushing hand. The revelations include making weaponry ghost touch and indestructible by means short of disintegration. The mystery also nets a potent force-damage touch attack that can later by used as a limited use AoE-blast. The revelation also nets scaling negative conditions, though the save to negate these and halve the damage as well as the alignment-based nature of the ability keeps it from becoming too much. SPs (dark or light), scrying – as a whole, a creative mystery.

Finally, there would be the pontifex mystery, which nets Knowledge (arcane), Linguistics, UMD and Intimidate – it focuses on conjuration, bonus spell-wise, beginning at summon monster I and scales up to greater planar binding. Here, things become interesting – these guys can choose the terrain control options of hell and heaven alike and even generate abyssal terrain. Constant planar adaptation, including the option to use it as an SP at higher levels and quicker summoning of an outsider subtype and limited use flexible energy descriptor changes make for yet another interesting spin here.

And then there’s the bonus pdf: The Bosch Fiend, penned by Mark Gedak, a nightmarish thing reminiscent of Hieronymus’ visions. Or rather, a massive plethora of critters. You see, this is basically a “Make your own twisted thing”-toolkit, with 3 menus of abilities and 9 (!!!) sample stats provided. The bonus pdf sports 9(!!!) pages of bonus content! And I really love the critter’s concept. Seriously, worthy of being upgraded further!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level and very good on a rules-language level: While I noticed a few minor hiccups, they did not compromise the integrity of the rules. Similarly, not all wordings are perfectly smooth, but they work. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard that is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf has no interior artworks, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Carl Cramér’s oracle mysteries turned out to be a pleasant surprise: Theme-wise, they didn’t exactly elicit excitement from yours truly, but that changed pretty quickly once I started looking at what they offer: Instead of rehashing bland standards, the little pdf manages to generate some actually unique, fun options beyond what you’d expect. Add to that the more than fair price, the glorious bonus pdf and frankly, the minor flaws pale to the point where I feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars to the full 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Oracle Mysteries of Porphyra
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We Be Dragons
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:20:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

If the appropriation of Paizo’s slogan for Goblin-PC adventures was no clear indicator – this module is set apart by one very crucial factor: The PCs are all dragons! While it is possible to use appropriate regular dragons, the module’s base premise works imho best if you use the plentiful pregens included. 9 of these are provided, all clocking in at CR 4 and representing, as a whole, a pretty diverse spectrum. The dragons range from arcane dragon to blood dragon, caustic dragon, corruptor dragon, harmonic dragon, radiant dragon – basically, these dragons get supplemental abilities that help them fill in adventuring roles: The blood dragon, for example, gets a rage, while the radiant dragon’s breath weapon heals the living and damages undead – you get the idea.

Beyond that, the pdf provides something I very much applaud – namely a cheat-sheet for Flight: Common uses and DC, etc. – it’s handy to have and makes for a nice hand-out when playing this module with players who are not as experienced with the intricacies of flight. The module does offer minor scaling variations, which can prove to be helpful.

Now, the aforementioned dragons are undoubtedly dragons you never heard of before – there’s a reason for that – they may be the last of their kind…but to go into more details, I have to start going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Balthazar Barrick was but a child when dragons annihilated all he had ever known. He founded the order of the wyrm and eradicated no less than 9 draconic bloodlines. Alas, his squire Elbin disagreed with his master’s trauma-fueled fanaticism. He saved a single egg from each bloodline, spirited them away and raised them for 15 years, far away from civilization, in a cabin affectionately called Scalehearth.

Alas, recent expansions of trading routes have brought civilization perilously close…and Balthazar is still looking for his former squire, seeking to fulfill his extermination of the dragon PC’s bloodlines. Elbin, in the meanwhile, plans to move deeper into the wilderness…but as the dragons arrive from a hunting trip back at the cabin, they find it burning, Elbin wounded with a nasty gut wound and a nasty and utterly obvious poison – thus, we begin with a tripartite skill-challenge type of encounter that is surprisingly fun to run – three tasks, all time-sensitive – cool way to kick this off!

We get different read-aloud texts and slightly different information, depending on whether Elbin lives, obviously – turns out that a scout of the Torn Company, a poacher group, have been hired to track Elbin and his draconic brood – the trail leads towards the wayside inn that was rather recently constructed – the Toasted Toad, where some interrogation by overt or covert means (bloodshed and violence optional) predates the arrival of the Torn Company…whether the dragons engage or flee is up to them.

The trail, ultimately, leads the PCs to the ruined remnants of Craggock Fortress, where the fallen paladin Balthazar beseeches the gods to reinstate his paladin-hood…but to no avail. Still, with the remnants of the Torn Company and a fallen level 12 paladin, the final fight will not be a cakewalk – not even for dragons…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with red headers. Interior artwork is solid b/w-stock. The pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a minor comfort detriment. Cartography is in full-color, but extremely rudimentary – it’s just a collection of color-coded squares. Even a pencil-drawing would probably have been nicer.

Jeff Gomez’ “We be dragons” is a fun one-shot – particularly suitable for convention-style gameplay or as a change of pace, it represents a fun diversion from the standard adventuring tropes and trying to reinvigorate one’s bloodline can make for a great, epic campaign goal that is pretty inspiring. The challenges are diverse enough and, in fact, very much fun. That being said, the lack of bookmarks and the pretty bad map represent some minor blemishes for the module. It should be noted, though, that at the extremely fair and low price-point, this is definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
We Be Dragons
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