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In The Company of Dragons (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2016 05:43:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The conversion to 5e of the massive book on playable dragons clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, which leaves us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Okay, so the first thing you need to know as a 5th edition player - the In the Company of...-series started off as a PFRPG-exclusive line of unusual races that codified monstrous races as balanced player options, often utilizing a class to represent progression into becoming a proper full-blown member of that race. This class was optional and thus allowed you to play the race sans progressing in it, at the cost of losing the ability-progression you'd associate with the respective monstrous entity. In the Company of Dragons was arguably the biggest of these books and will become even bigger soon, with an upgraded kickstarted version waiting in the wings.


You have to know a couple of other things: I LOATHE the concept of playing dragons. As a person. I hate it. Seriously. Not as much as I hate Dragonlance and dragon companions, but still. I want my dragons to be the huge, big, bad bosses, the nigh-unbeatable army-squashing apex-predators. It's a personal thing, though and, diligent review that I am, I actually reviews the original ItC:Dragons. And, picture me saying this through gritted teeth...I actually really liked it. Damn.


Why? Well, the reasons for this are manifold, but at least partially are found in the superb in-game prose provided: You see, Rite Publishing's crunch books tend to be actually good reading experiences. I know, odd, right? Kidding aside, ItC-books are written from the perspective of a member of a given race, which here would be the taninim -a kind of proto-dragon that lives in an isolated area/demiplane/suit your needs-type of locale (hence allowing easy integration into a given campaign setting), roughly aligned with Rite Publishing's Questhaven setting that is assumed as the backdrop of all their books. Before you groan - integration into just about any setting is dead simple - no big hassle required. So yeah, by making this decision, the author managed to make dragons viable sans making wimps out of the dragons our players came to fear.


Here's the next thing, though: Beyond this interesting narrative framework, the dragons depicted herein actually also, in the PFRPG-version, had a fearsome array of power and customization options to tailor-make just about any type of dragon you wanted...and they were pretty high up on the PFRPG-power-scale. (In play, this did even somewhat out since most people will try to take down the big, nigh-impossible to overlook dragon...) Anyways, enough of a history lesson - why should you care? Well, as you may have noticed, 5e has a bit of a different design aesthetic and power-level than PFRPG: A conversion of such magnificent beasts has to walk a very thin line indeed...but does it succeed?


Well, racial traits-wise, taninim get Con and Cha-increases by +1, darkvision, proficiency in in Perception and Insight and may hold weapons in your claws, but make attacks with them at disadvantage and only walk half your speed. The quadruped stature of taninim means that your slot-array is changed and they get a bite that uses Strength and deals 1d4 piercing damage...oddly sans gaining proficiency in the bite. 3 subraces are provided - truescales get +1-increases to Str and Wis and a "fly" speed of 30 feet. That should be flying speed in 5e. In a formatting glitch, Deadly Tail is written twice and nets you 1d8 (2d8 if Large or greater in size) Strength-governed bludgeoning with a range of 10 ft....as a bonus action. Not "as a bonus action when making a melee attack". As a bonus action. Oh, and you get a wing attack that deals 10-ft.-AoE-damage to nearby foes and has the potential to knock them prone on a failed Dex save with DC being governed by Strength.


Lung dragons get an increase of Strength by 2 and walking as well as climbing speed of 40 feet as well as +1 natural armor and spines that deal damage to creatures grappling the lung. Lung are proficient with their claws and deal 1d6 base damage with them. Feykin dragons increase their Dexterity by 2 and are of a tiny size, with a base walking speed of 20 ft and a fly speed of 30 feet. They gain advantage on saves versus being charmed and "cannot be put to sleep." They also learn one sorceror-cantrip governed by Charisma.


So, base-race-wise, we do have an issue here - base flying speed. Now while there already are precedents for flying races in 5e, a GM should take heed in this regard and always remember what great targets those flying PCs make... Apart from the minor hiccups mentioned, though, this iteration of the taninim can be considered a well-crafted option.


The pdf also provides class options: The Scaled Juggernaut fighter gets a new fighting style, namely claws and scale - which nets proficiency with claws (base damage 1d8) and also nets you +1 AC. Claws are improved at 7th level, increasing their base damage and making them count as magical. 3rd level nets you resistance to fire and cold and adaption to extreme temperatures. 10th level provides proficiency in all saving throws and at 15th level, you can combine a Dash with a melee attack that can drop foes prone on a failed save and at 18th level, these juggernauts can make claw attacks after reducing a foe to 0 HP - as a free action. 5e usually codifies this type of behavior with bonus actions.


The dread white worm, the undragon of taninim myth, also gets a new cleric domain - with generally solid spell-selections and the option to use channel divinity to consume damage you incur. Any amount of damage. God-strike of deadly annihilation? No problem...at least if you still have a channel divinity uses left. Personally, I would have prefered a scaling amount of damage absorbed here - absolute "I absorb everything"-type of abilities tend to cause issues sooner or later. 2/day, you can, at 6th level, disgorge a massive swarm of nasty grubs. Pretty awesome - at 17th level, when failing a death saving throw, you can spend your reaction to reassemble your body at full HP, at the cost of suffering "1 point of exhaustion" - which should be "level of exhaustion." The ability can only be used 1/day - but still: Damn cool.


Sorcerors may elect to become trueblood sorcerors, gaining a draconic essence (more on that later) at 1st level, but there is a chance of material components being consumed in you casting spells - and yes, this means that these sorceror have to eat the components before casting spells...which can btw. result in rather hilarious roleplaying for the more disgusting components. These sorcerors also get a breath weapon with short rest recharge that increases in potency and can be improved via "sorceror points" - which do not exist - that should be "Sorcery Points". Higher levels increase these potencies and unlock a second draconic essence.


The pdf also contains the conversion of aforementioned racial paragon class, obviously - the draconic exemplar, who gets d12 HD and no armor, weapon or tool proficiencies with saves being Str and Int and three skills chosen from Arcana, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Nature, Persuasion and Survival. The class gets no starting equipment, but begins play with proficiency in claws that scale from 1d6 to 1d12. Claws can be used as an attack action AND as a bonus action. You also get an AC of 10 + Dex-mod+Con-mod, courtesy of your scales. Your size increases at 5th level from Small to Medium, then by one step every 5 levels thereafter, with corresponding weight increase. Similarly each increases by +5 ft. at 10th level and 20th level. As a minor complaint, I think Lung taninim should probably get some replacement benefit here. Bite attacks scale up from 1d6 to 2d10 in base damage. The base class also provides a draconic gift - 3 are provided and grant abilities at 1st, 6th, 11th and 17th level. The Gift of the Behemoth allows you to regain hit points (short rest recharge) as a bonus action and renders you immune to being frightened. Personally, I think Pinion Strike needs a save - striking a foe with an opportunity attack automatically sens the creature prone to the floor...which is a bit...well. Odd. Flinging foes sans dealing damage is cool and trampling foes similarly rocks.


Gift of the ancients provides elemental bonus damage to bite and claws (OUCH) as well as a shield and reflecting magic that targets you back at the caster is nasty. While this is wording-wise pretty much in line with established wording, it imho could have used a bit of clarification regarding AoE-effects for e.g. spells like fireball etc. - since 5e got rid of the "target"-line in the spell-statblock, this can otherwise be a bit problematic/cause confusion. Not a bad gripe, mind you, but one I noticed. The gift also nets you an elemental aura. The gift of the third eye provides a charming gaze that improves over the levels. On a nitpicky side, the 6th level ability's light should probably specify the spellcasting attribute for it on a design aesthetic level, but as written, it is functional.


The class also undergoes dracomorphosis, which is the name for all the aforementioned attack/size/weight-increases - with feykin dragons gaining the option to ignore them for spells based on Cha gained instead and advantage on Dexterity (Stealth)-checks. I already mentioned draconic essence - these basically determine sclae-color, damage type of your breath weapon and its shape and also offer a compulsion, basically a drawback - to e.g. have to save when trying to retreat, etc. - a total of 20 such essences are provided and allow you to tailor the chassis to generate the taninim you want to make. Aforementioned breath weapon is, fyi, unlocked at 2nd level and 3rd level provides a single alternate humanoid form so your taninim doesn't have to wait outside the dungeon that's too small for him. Ability score improvements work as usual and extra attacks are gained at 5th and 14th level. 7th level provides advantage on initiative rolls and 9th renders your claws magical. At 13th level, you can crush foes beneath you and at 18th, you get a terrifying roar - recharge durations for these class features make sense.


The pdf provides also a significant selection of feats and while their formatting looks rather Pathfinder-ish, they still very much are products of 5e - i.e. they provide significant benefits, usually more than one...and if they provide only one benefit...well, then they at least offer one brutal benefit - take Appendage Severing. This one makes your bite crits incapacitate targets until the start of your next turn and makes them drop an item they're holding. Similarly, size-increases for non-paragon-class taninim are cool and necessary feats like Flyby Attack are included - though here, the wording could be clearer - "If you target a creature with a melee attack, you no longer provoke opportunity attacks when you fly out of that creature's reach." All right. For how long? As written, one attack suffices to never provoke opportunity attacks from that target again -which is clearly not the intent. A high-level, balanced option to decapitate foes can be btw. also found here - and yes, it has legendary action, head-less etc. caveats.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, slightly less refined on a rules-level - while the basic rules-language is precise and to the point, there are some minor hiccups to be found here. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a ton of glorious dragon-artworks in full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Wendall Roy and Joe Trotter's conversion of this book to 5e proved to be honestly much better than I imagined it would be - the taninim as an intricate, customizable power-house have been transported well to the 5e-rules and generally are a fun race to play...but also, much like in PFRPG, a very strong race. While I'd hesitate to call it overpowered, the race itself is certainly on the strong side and honestly, when comparing lung with truescales, I think the lung got the short end of the stick. There are some components that I consider to be a bit strong, with most of them being that due to bonus actions for additional attacks not being tied to melee, allowing for a bit to much flexibility for my tastes. As for rules-language, while there are some minor Pathfinderisms herein, these do not unduly impede the functionality of the options presented herein.


All in all, this is a well-crafted, if not perfect conversion of an exceedingly hard to convert book and as such, this must be called impressive. Still, with the couple of flaws noted throughout the review, I can't award this my highest honors. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, roundd down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Dragons (5E)
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Sir Reginald Lichlyter's Trusty Tavern Tome
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2016 05:42:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive supplement clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 57 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief introductory prose and a short history on alcohol, we begin this pdf with a chapter that is aptly named "How to get drunk" -and if you've taken a look at the GMG, you'll know that the rules leave something to be desired there - hence, this pdf codifies drinks in sizes - basically, from shot to huge kegs, you get the respective number of shots contained. Much like Raging Swan Press' excellent Barroom Brawls, this pdf focuses on stages of inebriation - but with a different emphasis. Where RSP's booklet took a look at the slightly inebriated states, this one takes a closer look at truly plastered conditions, providing 3 additional grades of being utterly drunk. But wait, you say - there is a difference in potency! Well, yeah, and the pdf accounts for that and the pdf also presents guidelines for intoxication of creatures of unusual size - getting Colossal creatures drunk is hard...


The pdf also sports rules for hangovers (=fatigued), but provides no guidelines for the duration of such a handover, which is a bit disappointing. Oh well, the next component of the pdf is interesting in its details - we cover drinks, a lot of them. Each drink sports a source, a suggested supporting geography/culture, a cost, the serving size usually employed and a brewing DC to make the drink. The respective drinks feature proper elaborations and cover favorites of mine like Absinthe (Goth-cliché checked off!) and goes on to cover cordial, dandelion wine, mead, mezcal or various sorts of beer, the section is rather nice. As a born and bred Franconian, I could have used notes on more diverse beers, but then again, I'm a huge beer and whiskey snob...so no surprise there. ;P


Pretty cool, btw. - the pdf also covers a wide array of mixed drinks, with e.g. xorn vomit being a mixture of absinthe and brandy. I may be a bit odd - but precise measurements for the ingredients would have been fun to me...perhaps since, once in a while, when my PCs gather in a bar, we actually drink as players. The pdf also sports signature drinks - like my beloved doppelbock, dwarven stouts, hammermine porter, hobgoblin haggruh, melonmashs or yam beer - and that was only a very small look at the selection of beers! Mead types, wines and odd distilled drinks come in similarly detailed selections, providing a wide variety of cool subtypes, though these specialties sport no crunchy information.


Then again, we're talking about drinking in a fantastic context -as such, magical drinks make sense and are provided. Each such drink sports a drink type, serving size, cost as well as a description and a note on popular brands - one star denoting 80% of list price, two and three stars = 100% list price and higher star ratings meaning that the drinks will be more expensive. Here's the interesting thing, though: All fantastic drinks require Fort-saves - failing them nets the drinker the side effects noted for the respective duration instead of getting the benefits. The drinks also have a compounding line, which denotes the amount of times a character can benefit from the respective drink in a given 24 hour period. Oh, there is one thing I should note pertaining the side effects - they are kinda hilarious in some instances - when you drink, for example, cat fat tonic, it has a sequence of 6 failure - upon each failure, you permanently take on more feline features like whiskers or a cat's tail. You wake up after a long night of boozing in a back alley. Suddenly you look like a catfolk. WTF has happened??? That does sound like a cool module to me! That being said, at the same time, this rare type of elixir can also be cheesed - its benefits are "Character gains a +1 towards Move Silently, Hide and Balance checks" - which is not proper rules language. Unfortunately, this does extend to a couple of the drinks herein. At the same time, it should be noted, however, that the drinks themselves make interesting suggestions regarding the effects - consuming a particular spirit can e.g. help you not be hampered by the miss chances of displacer beasts. While I really want to like these drinks, there is one rather glaring hiccup herein - all but 2 of the drinks lack the note on how long their benefits actually last. They lack the benefit duration-line. Basically, compounding this with the lack of bonus types etc., this makes the whole section not that useful, which is a pity.


Magical brews, then, as opposed to the former category, are somewhat more streamlined - the rules-language are significantly more precise and their formatting adheres closer to being uncommon potions: Bitter basilisk Ale lets you spit lancets of flame. That being said, the activation option of spitting the gouts of flame here is missing. That being said, this is still a rather cool selection -and yes, wine of sex shifting included.


All right, beyond all those drinks, this pdf also covers inns and taverns of different sizes and qualities, with a handy price-list , patron-maximums, costs to purchase, initial stock provided etc. Pretty cool, in case you're looking for quick and dirty tavern management rules - by type and size, you get a nice daily spending vs. daily earnings table that can streamline day-to-day business to a single roll. Similarly, inns also receive this thoroughly detailed take. The final section of this pdf sports something most of us will have encountered at least once - the random drinking buddy/type of drunk - a total of 16 such archetypes, from the antisocialite to the bragger or spendthrift can be found within these pages, allowing GMs to quickly whip out a personality trait for the respective NPC, with quite a few of these traits also sporting rules for resisting their quirks.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are ok, but not perfect - there are quite a bunch of formatting hiccups and typos in here and rules-language oscillates between being precise and opaque as well. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full color standard and the pdf sports numerous neat full-color artworks -as often with fat Goblin Games, this is a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Rick Hershey, master of Fat Goblin Games, is perhaps most known for his prolific output of unique artwork, but it is evident that he also knows how to design some intriguing game mechanics. I honestly didn't know what to expect from this book, so here's the deal - this is, in essence, a kind of Call to Arms-type of book for drinks and taverns: You get the level of detail the simulationalists among you will adore as well as a couple of rules-plug-ins one can easily use to supplement the game. I particularly liked the streamlined inn/tavern rules. I also really liked the level of detail regarding specialties, but wished they had a bit more details regarding their crafting. Similarly, I really enjoy the risk/reward type of magical alcohol.


I really like a lot of the components in this book, but when the rules-language is flawed in some of the components, it simply made my heart drop a bit. You see, I'd like to unanimously recommend this one, but ultimately can only do so to an extent -if, as a GM, you're willing to take care of the rough edges and like the ultra-detailed approach, then I'm pretty confident you'll enjoy this book. As a general dressing/consideration-book, this certainly is a feasible addition to one's arsenal, if not a perfect one - and while I want to round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, I ultimately can't - hence, for the purpose of this platform, we'll arrive at 3 stars, but with the express caveat that this book can be a pretty inspired resource for certain groups.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Sir Reginald Lichlyter's Trusty Tavern Tome
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The Genius Guide to the Talented Witch
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2016 09:45:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This HUGE book clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial 1 page SRD, leaving us with...54 pages of content. Yep, that's right... brutal!


The witch class, as rebuild in the talented line, mostly is identical in chassis to the base witch - though one noticeable discrepancy is an upgrade in skills per level from 2 + Int to 4 + Int, which may not be required for the witch in general and/or constitute a glitch.


At this point, I am assuming you're familiar with teh concept of the talented class redesigns - basically, you have class features as a grab-bag, taken from archetypes and codified as two types of "talents" - hence, talented. D'uh. Anyways, talents are usually less valuable, while edges constitute more crucial class components. The talented witch begins play with 4 edges and 1 talent and then gets a talent at 2nd level and alternates between gaining talents and edges at every level. Major talents are unlocked at 10th level, grand talents at 18th level. Got that? Great. Now you already basically know how the class operates.


Where appropriate, brackets denote the type of archetype an ability is taken from and edges and talents are grouped by basic type - want a hag-style witch? Consult that line and you get them all - bite, claws, etc. Want a familiar? that's an edge. Occult prowess via Psychic Sensitivity? Edge. Patron? Edge. Speaking of which - you can be patron-less! Oh, and you can be either a spontaneous or prepared witch via these rules (yes, spells per day tables provided) - but here's the thing: Spellbook or similar spellcasting conduit that allows you to learn spells beyond leveling? Well. Edge. And no spellcasting does not simply progress - you have to take one edge on a level sufficiently high to get access to spells of a new level - which means full spellcasting with eat your edges like crazy. And no, you can't combine prepared and spontaneous spellcasting to make a low-level abuse-scenario in e.g. an E6-campaign. Sorry...wait. No. I'm not. That's a good catch. ;)


Beyond the massive, ridiculous amount of edges, over 140 talents await. Yes, you read that right, and yes, once again, they are grouped by category. Beyond this, however, the pdf also collates all hose familiar options including special benefits for your convenience. And the Improved Familiars. And TEMPLATED Improved Familiars. Oh, have I mentioned the list of patrons? The list of patron domains? Or the huge, massive, compiled witch spell list that incorporates all the big Paizo hardcovers, including Occult Adventures? These massive, exceedingly handy appendices are very, very useful, not just for players aspiring to make talented witches, but also for GMs.


Oh, right, hexes...I should talk about them, right? Well, they're talents marked with an asterisk. Yes, that simple. And yes, the pdf does remember to state the synergy-clause for feats and abilities like Extra Hex etc..


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Kudos! Layout adheres to Rogue genius Games' two-column full-color standard and sports a blending of full-color artworks of different styles, several of which, though not all of them, fans of 3pps may recognize from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Stephen Rowe of the four horsemen is definitely a BEAST. This massive tome transcends in scope even the older talented class-pdfs, is crafted with his trademark precision and makes a lot of sense from a customization standpoint - with this, you can make just the witch you always wanted - which witch? Well, the witch which I wanted to make was a white-haired dwarf with bonethrall that masquerades as a bum. Got the rules. What more can one ask for? Well, not much - just oen piece of advice - with great power comes...slap Sorry. this one's so trite, but it's true - the customization options here are powerful, but they also place responsibility on the player, so choose wisely, young padawan! My final verdict will, also thanks to the HUGE and extremely useful amount of supplementary lists etc., clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to the Talented Witch
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The Mists of Akuma - Primer
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2016 09:43:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This primer for Mike Myler's Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page sales-pitch for the kickstarter - so what do we get in here?


Okay, this is pitched as eastern fantasy noir steampunk for 5th edition - basically what would happen if you took the eagerly anticipated Steampunk Musha and infused a hefty dose of Ravenloft with more emphasis on the fantastic. After a brief page of introductory prose, we get the one component that may alone very much justify downloading this primer: The Mists of Akuma. These would basically be a variant of the mists of Ravenloft crossed with Rokugan's Shadowlands - essentially, they require a Dignity saving throw (DC 8 + 1 per previous save in the last minute) and, on a failure, increase your haitoku attribute. Much like fatigue, the effects of these mists come in multiple levels, 8 to be precise, but they do feature some severe...changes. What begins with hallucinations quickly turns to include mutations and later, death and transformation into an Oni!


The pdf also introduces a new attribute - Haitoku, which can be considered to be the fall from dignity, or the corruption of the character. The most approximate translation, if my rusty and rather rudimentary Japanese doesn't deceive me, would be "immorality". This attribute can be raised by roleplaying and actions and one can draw upon it to act while unconscious, resist madness and accomplish similar feats. 3 sample feats based on haitoku are provided, showcasing how the corruption interacts with dignity et al. On an aesthetic point - Prerequisites of attributes in 5e usually sport "attribute required or higher", not just the attribute required line, but that is, admittedly, a cosmetic gripe.


4 new character backgrounds, all with flavorful features can be found - interesting: Background influences Haitoku as well as Dignity. The pdf also sports a variety of human subraces, two variants of shikome and two types of tanuki. On a nitpicky side, the rules-language, while generally precise, is a bit internally inconsistent, sometimes using "your Strength score increases", while other times stating "Your Strength increases..." - again, a cosmetic gripe...but I figured I'll point it out for the final book's benefit anyways. Paladins may select the samurai sacred oath and Warlocks the Wu-Jen pact...and this is where the pdf already ends.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good, but not yet perfect - seeing that this is free and that generally, it can be considered well-made, no complaints. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with public domain art. The pdf sports a nice map of the lands by Michael McCarthy and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, I have to once again harp on that one: This is no primer. This is a sample - while this is a small book that highlights components of Akuma, I don't really know that much about the setting after reading this book. I know that some races exist, some obvious traditional class options exist and that haitoku is an (awesome!) thing and that the mist rules are sufficiently cool to make me excited about this project. But it's not "introductory". I know there are a bunch of cool components to scavenge here; I certainly like what's implied - e.g. that augmentations can affect dignity, the blending of steampunk and noir aesthetics - I like just about all I see...or I think I do. Because, honestly, I have a hard time putting the pieces presented herein together. So no, I don't consider this a primer. However, I consider it a great teaser for Mists of Akuma - and one that certainly has a lot of scavenging potential! Being FREE doesn't hurt either, which ultimately makes me settle on a final score of 5 stars for what's in here as opposed to what's not in here. Take a look at this scavenge and take a gander - chances are, you'll find something intriguing.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Mists of Akuma - Primer
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Death to Alignment!
Publisher: Quasar Knight Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2016 09:40:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This supplement clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, ~1 page of artist contacts, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this supplement with 1 page of opening fiction before diving right into the nit and grit of this book's lofty goal - abolishing a system deeply ingrained in d20 and its derivatives. And, much like the author, I absolutely LOATHE the alignment-system. I consider it poison for portraying complex characters and have abolished it in my non-playtest games for more than 10 years. It took a lot of work to get there - but can this book take this effort and burden from a GM's shoulder's? Well, let's find out!


This book begins in a rather promising and didactically-relevant manner - by listing influences of alignment on rules-components by material influences: Whether it's classes, prestige classes, feats, traps or items - the pdf takes carefully stock of material covered and does so in a rather fine manner. After this handy list (which, with the new big rules-books may no longer be complete, but retains its usefulness), we dive into the respective rules-operations, beginning with options to strip classes of alignment. Interesting: The author takes the same route I did regarding clerics, rebranding them as clerics of life and death, respectively. Ranger's favored enemy outsiders obviously no longer have their subtype, slightly widening that component. Sorceror bloodlines are mentioned and particularly interesting would be the paladin - who now may detect magic, smite any hostiles...and replaces good/evil with heavenly/hellish - more on that later. Interesting, btw.: Bless Weapon bites the bullet to account for paladin power-increase and the Cloak/Aura spells are replaced by an alignment-neutral version.


In lieu of a Law Domain, we get the Control domain, instead of Evil Corruption, instead of Good Purity - etc. - these alternate domains are well-crafted and actually sport some interesting and thematically fitting domain powers. Since alignment is good, some rather detailed analysis is given on DR in concert with DR-bypassing. Now I mentioned heavenly et al. as new magic item properties - these are now applied by subtype. (Once again, just fyi - just how I handled that.) Sun blades now are problematic for undead and creatures with light blindness, etc. Overall, this pdf has me seriously impressed so far.


Beyond these carefully-filtered options, the pdf also sports variant alignment systems - the axis of purity vs corruption (see all anime with creepy angel-nazis ever for ideas how creepy purity can be...), a three alignment-system (good, neutral, evil) and a classic one based on Law, Neutrality and Chaos - here, somewhat erroneously called allegiance, but whatever - a total of 5 feats complement this system, which has this fuzzy tint of old-school-nostalgia.


I was somewhat surprised to see the obvious choice not in this book, the one I personally use: Allegiance to a concept of ideology: Be it faith, a form of government or a town. But oh well, I certainly won't bash the book for taking a different road when it does such a good job at it!


The book is not yet concluded, mind you: We also get some rather interesting though-experiments, the first would pertain a humble paladin and similar concepts that allow for an imho more concise depiction of paladins in a given context, including incremental punishments for code of conduct violations. Similarly, necromancy gets quite a bit of coverage, with multiple takes on why it may be stigmatized - from just having a bad rep to actually being toxic. A further experiment for human interaction that helps a GM realize the relativity of alignment nomenclature can be embarked upon as well and finally, advice on not sweating it too much and finally, the pdf contemplates what makes "evil" evil in game- and honestly...I don't concur here. RAW, it is pretty easy to make good guys do horrible things in PFRPG. In fact, from an out-game perspective, I consider most good guys EVIL. How many groups out there are like mine and enforce a "killing is not what good guys do, unless there is absolutely no other way"-policy? Yep, figured. The game's not made that way...and similarly, by applying real world ethics to game ethics, we open a fun can of worms. Just diverging in opinion here this should not be misconstrued as criticism of this book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, certainly more refined than in the other books by Quasar Knight Enterprises I've read. Layout adheres to a1-column full-color standard, which is a bit annoying if you print this out: The pages have a yellow background that drains ink/toner like crazy. The pdf's artworks are in full-color and while rabid fans of Purple Duck Games may know them already, they are beuatiful. A big strike against a booklet like this, though, would be the lack of bookmarks Without them, electronic navigation is cumbersome and printing this, as mentioned, is a serious drain on the printer.


Ray Chapel's Death to Alignment is quite frankly by far the best book he's made in my opinion - it's concise, logical, well-presented and fun. But I wouldn't be me if I had no complaints, right? So there we go: One of the unfortunate realities of such a book is that it ages by definition - this is no exception. The game has moved on and this could use an expansion. For example, where would you draw the dividing line between paladin and antipaladin in such a setting? How would you depict shifts in tendencies? What about all the new classes and materials? This book, while detailed, obviously can't cover all of that...but it would be nice if it did....and that remains, content-wise, my one complaint.


Know what robs this of the seal and an even higher rating? The very printer-unfriendly presentation and the lack of bookmarks. This is a book you'll use often, one you'll consult multiple times...and consulting it, in either option, just isn't that comfortable. The topic is far from exhausted - and I honestly hope this'll get a sequel. Until then, I remain with a final verdict of 4 stars for a useful, if not perfect book.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Death to Alignment!
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01AE01 - SagaRPG Arc Excursions: Barrow of the Cursespawn (PFRPG) PDF
Publisher: SagaRPG
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2016 07:02:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Wait, before we do - I need to apologize. This is one of the cases where a file fell into the digital cracks of my HD and between prioritized reviews and the hustle and bustle of real life, I fell short of my duties. Consider this me rectifying this shortcoming.


Before we dive into the nit and grit of this module, let me elaborate what the Darkwood Saga is - basically, it's a series of interconnected modules, with the big ones being the main meat of the storyline, while these excursions represent the "sidetreks". Why the quotation marks? Because that moniker does this module injustice. The unique and absolutely awesome component of the first of the main modules could be summed up in the following way: We get basically a fantasy setting that combines the virtues of fantasy gaming with organically and concisely implemented tropes of gritty Westerns and Americana for a jamais-vu type of unique, awesome cultural identity, with a leaning towards dark fantasy and weird fiction. If you're like me, that ought to have sparked your interest - and if that did not suffice, please read on...


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! The pdf begins with an interesting background story that develops the Ahsen'i people - basically the native inhabitants of the lands around Darkwood. This story develops the intriguing components of their history and how their relationships to the spirit world...became strained. Things got worse, though - inter-tribal conflict and jealousy did abound and ultimately resulted in a totahatem becoming the haunting ground of a once pure and gorgeous woman, Cha'Risa, now a deadly cursespawn. This threat, secluded in realms South of Darkwood, remained for the years...but that is about to change.


We join our adventuring heroes in the Crosswind Saloon of Darkwood, where an unpleasant group of rival adventurers tries to pick a fight with them - and in the tradition of these modules, actions have consequences...The PCs will then be recruited by Captain Billious Vinsalt, who wants to recruit the PCs: One of his mining operations has seen significant issues and he wants the PCs to deal with that - and yep, there is danger involved. The first people to try it were wiped out with the exception of Khaindala Knight Tallen Warnshelm, who, while weakened and rattled, can provide at least some information.


But that's not all - the PCs soon find a mysterious note, wherein the EMTC under the command of Garret Trask seeks to hire them to instead destroy Bill's sluice mine - and again...actions have consequences, including the faction system used in the main saga. The travel to the totahatem near the sluice mine is pretty uneventful, but has a nice array of random encounters, should you feel the need to spice things up. if you're like me and one of the readers who enjoys learning something, information on how the sluice mine works is provided as well - including a schematic drawing. Nice! Arriving at the totahatem's entrance, the PCs will have to face the first of the dreaded worm wights - and yes, full cartography provided for the respective encounters.


In case you're wondering how the exploration of the once-sacred burial site goes - it is GLORIOUS. Not only are the PCs and players rewarded for trying to understand the foreign culture depicted herein, the chalenges are diverse: There is, for example a puzzle that resolves around closing chests (and yes, the explanation is concise) and just about every room has multiple intriguing hotspots. More intriguing still - the combat challenges are difficult, but reward smarts: The PCs can, for example run afoul of a bone golem. Here's the cool thing, though: In order to win, the PCs will not only gain an understanding of the culture of the Ahsen'i, they will also need to conduct a cleansing ritual (for a potent magical item) and navigate a cool, deadly puzzle room in which a sequence of crushing stone blocks sequentially make the reliquary tighter and more dangerous. Oh and fyi: If the PCs are mindless looters, they'll take a pretty pissed spirit with them who'll continue to haunt them until his grudge has abated.


But in order to truly end the curse of this place, the PCs will have to brave the heart of the Totahatem, where spirit and mortal world overlap and the half-woman-half-slug-thing that once was Cha'Risa awaits with her protoplasmic slug swarms. And yes, she's as deadly as she sounds - and depicted in a truly gorgeous artwork. The pdf provides full stats for the well-crafted, awesome adversaries herein, sports information on a new language and a new affliction as well as the mazaeli subtype.


Oh yeah, and this does provide 4 pregens.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are excellent - I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides a LOT of awesome artwork in full-color and similarly great cartography. While the pdf has no player-friendly versions of the maps, this is in this case not big of an issue. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Nick Johnson and Lars Lundberg's Barrow of the Cursespawn is quite frankly one of the best modules you can get for the exceedingly low price-point. The module is a great reading experience; the presentation is gorgeous. And it costs 3 bucks. Seriously? I can't fathom how this can work. I really can't. This is a high-quality module that oozes passion, that feels organic and immersive. The glimpses of a culture both foreign and familiar and the blending of tropes is done in a thoroughly compelling, awesome manner, making this a true steal, even if you're not interesting in the main arc of the Darkwood saga. This module is so good, I actually got it in print as well - and the print-version is just as beautiful. (I hope the second excursion will get a PoD as well at some point...) Being a module that challenges both brains and brawns of the PCs, one with a unique flavor and great ideas, I can btw. recommend this to fans of other rules-systems as well - this lives primarily by its extensive, glorious atmosphere and its cultural savoir-faire. In short: This is an all-around great, ridiculously inexpensive module you definitely should get. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans any hesitation.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
01AE01 - SagaRPG Arc Excursions: Barrow of the Cursespawn (PFRPG) PDF
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Mortars & Miniguns 5E: Zane's Guide to Pistols
Publisher: One Dwarf Army
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2016 06:54:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf depicting pistols for 5e clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page almost blank (only a small part of a sentence is on it, so I'm counting it as blank), leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the general gun rules herein: Basically, on a 1 on an attack roll, a weapon jams and can't be used until you spend an action to clear it. Guns as portrayed here have a rate of fire - a single shot is just that. A burst of fire consumes 3 rounds of ammo, but adds +1 damage die to the damage output of the weapon - 2d6 become 3d6, for example. This increased power, however, also means that the weapon can jam on a 1-2. Finally, there would be full auto fire, which allows you to target a single 10-ft. cube within long range: Every creature in the area must succeed a Dexterity saving throw (DC 8+ your Dexterity modifier, + proficiency bonus, if any) or suffer the weapon's damage on a failed save, none on a successful save. Creatures beyond the normal range have advantage on the save, which mathematically and logic-wise makes sense. Saves in 5e are pretty swingy and advantage somewhat alleviates this. Auto fire consumes 10 rounds of ammo and most weapons cannot perform more than one such shot, even if you otherwise would be capable of attacking multiple times. Auto also can jam the weapon on a 1-3.


Additionally, every weapon has an ammo score, which denotes the number of pieces of ammo it can hold before requiring reloading, which consumes an action. Guns can prematurely be reloaded. The pricing for the ammo is pretty pricey, btw. - the least expensive bullets, for .38-guns, costs 30 gp per 50 bullets, which renders this ammunition significantly more expensive than e.g. crossbow bolts or arrows (1 gp nets you 20 of those, in case you need a direct comparison). One minor nitpick that won't feature in the rating of this product: While the PHB states that half the ammo fired can be retrieved after a battle, this obviously shouldn't hold true for gun ammunition. It would have behooved the pdf well to mention that, but since logic is a pretty smooth guideline here, I'll let that one slip.


The pdf then goes on to depict the classic guns - a total of 7 such guns are depicted, all with a nice bit of in-character prose by Zane Ironheart, dwarven mercenary. Since the gun-rules obviously are a tad bit more complicated than the base weapon rules, each of the weapons gets a short mini table listing its respective quality, making presentation of autoloader, combat magnum, etc. pretty concise. And better yet - there also is a classic at a glance table in the PHB's style. No complaints! Most guns depicted here are simple ranged weapons that range in damage from 2d4 to 2d6, but vary in the details: Autoloaders are light weapons, whereas hand cannons do not suffer from malfunctions and allow you to move only up to half your speed while reloading...but these get the option to reroll the lowest damage die and keep the new result. Mini-shottys get +1 to attack rolls versus foes up to 10 feet away, but deal only half damage at close range. To make up for that, their scattershot also allows you to make bonus attacks against a creature within 5 ft. of the original target when scoring a 15-20; on the downside, this goes both ways and, when botching, you can similarly be forced to make attacks versus allies - friendly fire. One important balancing factor here would also be Heavy Recoil - the more efficient of these weapons have a minimum Strength score - not meeting this score means you'll suffer disadvantage on attack rolls. OUCH. Cool, btw.: It makes a difference for the purposes of this drawback whether you one-hand or two-hand-wield the gun.


So what do the martial guns provide? Well, for one, the machine gun gets burst fire and full auto, even if the other traits aren't that impressive and the one-shot express...shoots basically one round and then is toast...so make it count. So that would be the basic framework.


After this, the pdf goes on to depict "the exotic stuff" - i.e. a collection of diverse magic guns - interestingly, not just sporting a general scarcity, but also providing a more fine-grained value, which is a nice touch for control-freak bastard GMs like me. Now the respective items run quite a broad gamut: There would be an autoloader that allows you to mark a foe as a bonus action, gaining +2 to attack and damage rolls versus said foe, whereas a mini-shotty deals +1d4 damage on a damage die roll of 4...which requires a bit of clarification: On a 4 of the bonus damage, do the dice explode further? Better sniping via the aptly-named Bullseye. The one-shot express cannibal-gun can be enhanced by sacrificing life to it, while another gun fires corrosive bullets that have a chance of ruining a target's armor...which is pretty interesting, particularly considering that the pdf manages to take natural armor healing into account...which heals at 2 points per day....which does not really gel well with me. Why can't magic, regeneration and similar abilities heal this properly? More details and a more fine-grained approach would have been prudent here. Also problematic - the ability fails to take resistance or immunity into account - neither has any bearing on the corrosion of natural armor, which feels plain wrong to me.


Increased ammo-expenditure for increased damage can be found as well. A very powerful weapon, Deadly Scanner, is pretty nasty - it's threat range for critical hits increases by +1 for each subsequent shot fired at a target, whether it hits or misses...and the gun deals bonus damage on crits. Lightning-laced six-shooters that can stun the target - on a plus-side, fyi: In contrast to aforementioned acid-based gun, resistance and immunity do feature herein, even though I consider the potential stun nasty.


However, I'm not sold on a weapon with otherwise great visuals - there is a magnum herein that deals bonus lightning damage. For each 6 on rolled on one such damage-die, a lightning bolt is created and fired at a target within 50 feet of the victim. Cool per se, right? Great image? Yep, but the effect fails to specify the precise shape of the lightning bolt: Is it a single-target-arc? A line that affects anything in the way? I have no idea. I assume the ability to adhere to the standards set by the lightning bolt-spell, but I can't be sure considering that the pdf does not properly denote whether "lightning bolt" refers to the spell or just a bolt of lightning via either formatting or text.


The fire gun allows for no save to avoid being ignited by the shot (what happens to flammable materials carried?) and the cold gun can paralyze you. Pretty cool: There is a MIB-style thunder-damage causing legendary autoloader that has enormous recoil, while the Lucky Punk is an obvious nod to Dirty Harry - any roll of 5+ does not consume any ammo...which is pretty powerful, considering the high costs of ammo. A charge-based, life-leeching gun...there are quite some solid ideas here. A particular gun may be problematic - allowing for charges to generate basically remote bombs you can detonate is cool...but the charges can be activated as either an action or reaction, sans specifying the type of reaction. On a nitpicky side, the pdf mentions a "Heal check" here to remove charges, which is not correct 5e terminology.


The pdf also sports two new feats, Guns Akimbo and Pistol Expert. While nice, the former does not account for potential heavy firearms a GM may devise, which is a bit of a pity. Pistol Expert allows, among other things to reduce recoil and reroll1s of damage dice AND increases the reload action economy penalty, which may be a bit much for one feat. The pdf also allows for a double tap fighting style and provides the gunslinger martial archetype for the fighter, which generally can be considered a cool take on the tropes - at 15th level, you can e.g. do the Lucky Luke and take reactions to ranged attacks before the triggering ranged attack is resolved. The interesting thing of this one, mainly, is that it allows for extra control regarding attacks via luck and a bit of ability control, providing some serious bonus attack combo potential - whether you like or dislike that ultimately is up to taste.


Conclusion:


Editing is pretty tight on both a formal and rules-level, though formatting sports some deviations from the standards - though it should be mentioned that one generally can understand what an item is supposed to do. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked fr your convenience.


Georgios Chatzipetros of One Dwarf Army's freshman offering is much tighter than I honestly expected it to be: The basic firearm rules follow the time-honored tradition of power at a price, with ample subsets of rules to make them feel different from crossbows etc. I like the frame and the pricing is also pretty tight, with none of the clutter/issues that other systems have. That being said, at the same time, I do believe that several of the magic weapons could have used simply tighter rules. There are a couple of glitches here and the focus lies very much on MOAR damage - to the point where you can outclass all other weapon types easily. This may be an issue in mixed settings, so beware of that - a focus on more utility, less damage escalation via exploding dice-like mechanics may be prudent. And mind you, I like exploding dice. I'll never forget a PC of mine blowing a moss's head clean off with 5 consecutive maximum d10s on a musket in a previous edition, thus saving the whole group from a TPK...but in view of the small die-sizes employed, you'll statistically get quite a bunch of rerolls/bonus damage. How and whether that still works in the context of later installments, where auto- and burst fire are more common...we'll see.


For now, the framework is solid, the craftsmanship nice, if not yet perfect...and the price-point is more than fair. As a freshman offering, this is solid for a buck and due to this bonus, I'll round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mortars & Miniguns 5E: Zane's Guide to Pistols
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Drow of Porphyra - Karza, Children of the Loomqueen
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2016 06:52:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf detailing drow of Porphyra clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD (featuring a bit of rules text), leaving us with a bit more than 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Porphyra is unlike other campaign settings - the patchwork planet has been very much defined by the NewGod War and the Calling - and when the creatures called out for the reach of other worlds and deities...they got more than they bargained for. A LOT more. One of the drow (yes, ONE of the nations of these guys and gals know for their kind hearts) that responded were the Karza, named for the demon queen that created this race, one entity called Karzerothrine. These drow are pretty much the creatures we'd associate with the classic spider iconography, matriarchal structures, etc. - oh, and guess what? Some are born with sipder-like or arachnid features....not as penalties, but as divine boons. Guided to a titanic cavern in the new world, it is here that these drow struggle.


The pdf provides information on daily life of the drow and yes... even the familial structures. And here things are interesting: Unlike according to the classic depictions, years upon years of hardship and struggle have crafted a societal structure that may be decadent and pleasure-focused, but also one expecting struggle and satisfaction, generating a structure that is in constant flux, but not necessarily bereft of affection. It's not guaranteed...but neither is it anathema and the focus of mutual exploitation and power-garnering means, oddly, that e.g. looks are less important. It should come as no surprise, then, that karza laws are few and far in-between - there are two, though: Heresies are crushed and all drow need to convert or die, adding a surprising sense of fanaticism to the drow that brings the component of evil firmly back into the fold. The pdf does cover the 8 great noble houses of the karza, with interests and specialties as well as reputations covered.


Statblock-wise, karza feature the standard drow traits, but replace their SPs with ghost sound, blend and spider climb. Things become interesting regarding the alternate racial traits, though: Remember how I mentioned drow with arachnid traits? Yep, from bites to different toxins to burrow speed, natural armor or blindsense...or even spider legs or scorpion tails, these alternate racial traits are pretty awesome, though, from a nitpicky perspective, I'd have loved to see bites/stings properly list the respective damage-types...but then again, one can assume the default for these. On a more relevant nitpick, the scorpion stinger lacks information on whether it's a primary or secondary natural attack, unlike the bite. And yes, one of the new feats allows you to gain more of these, in case you want to play a rather arachnid/weird karza...or pit one monstrous foe against the PCs.


The karza do gain unique FCOs for the alchemist, barbarian, cleric, druid, fighter, inquisitor, ranger, rogue and sorceror classes - and yes, they are solid! The pdf also sports 8 faction traits for the Karza and yes, these get the bonus types right. The pdf also provides a nice, uncomplicated rule to harvest poisons from creatures encountered. Similarly, feats allow for variable poisons.


Speaking of poisons - the karza, as a whole, pride themselves on the vast plethora of poisons they can create - which results in a rather well-made and quick custom poison generation system - granted, one that could be didactically better presented, but once you get how it's supposed to work, it turns out to be pretty smooth.


Now I already mentioned some of the prior feats, but it should come as no surprise that poison-supplementing feats can be found here. Not all feats are winners, though - a pretty lame +2/+4 skill bonus (plus option to influence vermin) and a pretty weak teamwork feat for better attacks versus AoO-provoking foes won't necessarily wow you.


On the plus side, the general tendency to create a culturally concise picture of these drow is further emphasized by providing concise rules for hair dyes and liquid skin tones, precious metal body paints and the like actually provide an inspiring glimpse at some potential encounters and cultures - and I know I'd love to recline in a spidersilk hammock! Some fluff-only, brief summaries of karza cities can be found in these pages as well, with several intrigues, basically adventure hooks, further helping GMs looking for an idea.


Aforementioned demon lord gets a full deity-write-up (with gorgeous holy symbol), the verminkind domain and spider subdomain - both of which are solid.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good - while not always perfect, the pdf's crunch is generally concisely presented and hard to misconstrue. The rules-language could be a tad more concise in the presentation, but ultimately, the pdf suffers no grievous issues. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks deserve special mention here: The pdf sports several gorgeous full-color pieces of karza with spider/scorpion-features. NICE!


Patricia Willenborg's karza were not a group I was looking forward to covering. Spidery drow? Oh boy, innovation prize, anyone? Yes, this is the classic depiction of drow...and it isn't. The VALUED aspect of mutation is an intriguing component that reminded me of a classic elf-based comic in the past...and the explanation and ecology of the lives of the karza is sufficiently distinct from the classics to make them feel different and interesting.


At the same time, the pdf does have some places where it stumbles - when spider legs, e.g., note that they can be "adorned with magical items (taking up shoulders, body, hands, wrists or ring slots)" I unfortunately have no real idea what that means - do the legs take up one of those slots? Can they duplicate such a slot? The wording here could have used some streamlining and it's not the only instance herein - while the pdf gets the fine component right in some cases, in others it misses the mark - not badly, but still. In spite of this and while falling short of perfection, this treatise on the karza remains an interesting book that should provide some nice material for GMs looking for a twist on the spider-themed drow. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since the great ideas herein deserve being acknowledged.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Drow of Porphyra - Karza, Children of the Loomqueen
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13th Age: Eyes of the Stone Thief
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2016 18:19:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 364 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 7 pages EXTREMELY detailed ToC, 3 pages index (useful), 1 page magic item index (even more useful), 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 347 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!


This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy. While we haven't yet finished this massive monster, quite a bit of playtesting went into this review.


We begin this book with an interesting explanation - while this massive hardcover very much does present a mega-adventure, it aims to provide maximum customization options to make this book really your own, to account for your table's tastes. Hence, we begin with a list of icons and how they interact with the stone-thief...but the GM is NOT left hanging beyond that: Instead, we get detailed, smart observations regarding the structuring of the campaign and potential plot-lines to embark upon - this does include advice when to kill or not kill a PC, the effects of the escalation die on traps...well, and the submergence die, a handy and easy mechanic to track excursions into the stone thief and drive home the unique nature of the dungeon.


The pdf also sports advice on handling leveling in the dungeon, etc. A chart provides the default configuration of levels at one handy glance in three configurations and then, we are introduced to the nature of the levels and denizens and yet another chart helps you keep track of relationships between fractions, icons and movers and shakers within the framework of this campaign - two thumbs up!


...


..


AHRGH, I can't do this! Before my face turns purple-red: Players, seriously...skip to the conclusion NOW. I need to get into SPOILER-territory right now!


...


..


.


Okay, seriously, if you want to play this (You do!) as a player, skip to the conclusion.


ahem


Through the underworld, colossal structures roam - barely sentient, they move forward, mindlessly assimilating anything that gets in their way, integrating it into their structures. The keyword here is "mindlessly." Picture, if you will, standing on a keep's wall, guarding your home. Suddenly, the earth starts to quiver, then shake...and then, the green orchards burst open, like a violent ripple of storm-tossed waters, only that tons upon tons of earth are moved aside as the most titanic thing you've ever seen approaches: You see a thing so big it boggles the mind and results in a temporary paralysis, as your brain tries to comprehend the doom approaching: You see a titanic, churning mouth of pure destruction, where crushed pieces of steel and towers loom, where ridges of arcades and erstwhile spires create a grotesque, titanic gullet that consumes not people...not dragons...but whole towns.


An (un-) natural disaster of epic proportions given sentience, a massive dungeon of power from ages long gone, a place with an agenda and the intellect to pursue it, a problem the Icons couldn't really fix. Your town is doomed...but you and your allies may manage to infiltrate this huge thing, like microbes in a whale, riding on the pieces of town, keep and structures, in a churning maelstrom of stone, rock and blood - for before you is none other than the stone-thief, and it needs to be stopped. The stone-thief - Makh Miz Adaor, she who undermines. Makh Adaz Akor, the Howling Pit. Khazar Vuk Varag, oldest of hatreds. That's how the dwarves know the stone-thief...and their lord personally wants it dead. The prince of shadows considered the stone-thief dangerous enough to steal its eyes (hence the title), blinding what otherwise would be a deadly threat...to anyone. The stone-thief may well be the creature to break the stalemate between the icons...so a lot of different icons want this beast either eliminated...or as the crown jewel of their arsenals.


If your first impulse of this was "Living dungeons?" - well, the absolutely awesome component here would be that the stone thief is its own world, if you will: Ever moving and blind, this titanic...thing's capabilities are incredibly sensible: Whether it's the structure of its levels (which btw. come with info on suggested levels, encounter-dispersion, etc.) that includes the gizzard you use to enter or its details - you always get that this is no simple dungeon to crawl through: Having limited control over its constituent parts, the stone-thief grows ever more powerful, reviving and controlling its denizens.


Even death cannot save you, as the stone-thief's diverse denizens have means to recreate adversaries - flesh-forming, the undead...the stone-thief knows how to keep pesky small folk out...for the most part. I already mentioned the submergence die: You see, while this colossal thing burrows its paths through the planet like a poisonous worm in the proverbial apple, its insides contract, often in deadly ways...so one would assume that there is no life inside, right?


WRONG.


You see, while the stone-thief has a lot of control over its configuration, this control is not absolute: Deep inside, generations of people led by a witch live, trying to ultimately assume control over this powerful being.


The Orc Lord has sent an excursion that has established a foothold inside...but obviously, the green-skins shouldn't be allowed to control this beast either...but at least they keep the cult of the devourer in check: Basically a group of insane apocalyptic terrorist-cultists, these people worship the living dungeon and hope to bring ruin to the realms above. Oh, and then there would be a council of spirits within the very walls - the custodians, who not only engage in complex power-plays among themselves, they also guide the dungeon and make sure it does what they want - if the dungeon should ever regain its eyes, they'd lose their status...and perhaps, their usefulness. Within in the pit of undigested ages, treasures of ages past loom and an apocalyptic settlement of the desperate hide within the stone-thief's innards -Dungeontown. Whether that's a safe haven, a despotic, sick settlement or anything in between - all up to the GM, though the seeds to develop this haven are all there.


It's hard to talk about this dungeon without mentioning the structure of this mega-dungeon. So here goes: One issue of mega-dungeons is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" structural problem. As anyone who has ever played and defeated one of these iconic dungeons can attest, there are two basic approaches, both of which sport their own issues.


The classic mega-dungeon would be static one, which I'll call "structured" for the purpose of this review: You get full maps for the whole thing, players and PCs can familiarize themselves with and secure areas and the process of exploration is classic, fun and all...but sooner or later, there will always be the session, where players are wasting time with a particular area; where the structure of the dungeon gets in the way. When you, as a GM or player are itching for an epic boss battle or the like, but you know you'll have to slog through x rooms of minion-combats first. It is then that structured mega-dungeons are at their most frustrating. On the plus-side, the story told, the familiarity gained of the areas explored - all of that really makes the dungeon feel lived in, unique. These dungeons, like e.g. Frog God Games' Lost City of Barakus, Cyclopean Deeps, Rappan Athuk, etc., excel at indirect storytelling, but their structure can get in the way of direct storytelling.


Similarly, dynamic factions can easily be moved around within. Modular dungeons are a different manner - E.g. Savage Mojo's Lich Queen-saga champions full control over the dungeon for the GM: Instead of a concise overview map, one gets rooms and encounters that can be moved around at your leisure. While this does provide the means for the GM to always retain maximum control over the respective tension and requirements at the table, this approach has an inherent problem: You obviously don't t get a concise overview map, have a lot more GM-work on your plate and no matter how good you are as a GM, you probably will never reach the level of familiarity within the dungeon and the sense of actually exploring the place. These dungeons lend themselves to better direct storytelling than structured dungeons, but ultimately invariably suck at indirect storytelling, which, to me, is a component I value just as highly. By necessity of this approach, dungeons will feel more like a highlight-reel, less like an organic place.


I see pros and cons for both approaches and can enjoy both - I can rattle off excellent examples for either approach.


This mega-dungeon, however, transcends the limitations of this dichotomy: All levels herein come with gorgeous, isometric maps, with the respective encounters using the environment in the best of 13th Age traditions to modify the surroundings and utilize the terrain in combat. Similarly, scaling for the rooms is provided...but here's the thing: The dungeon's structure allows for the recombination, inversion and resetting of areas and surroundings - and the book accommodates your needs: The killer-trap level the PCs will always have to traverse, the gauntlet, has more nasty traps and encounters than it needs - for your sake, so you get to choose, so you can maintain control over the pacing.


So you can keep the area familiar...yet fresh. Your PCs and players will grow familiar with components - revived foes may let them pass after having their butts kicked before, for example - but the dungeon does not suffer from the issue of potentially becoming stale or stagnant: The recombination of rooms and inhabitants within the levels is a glorious idea...and the whole mega-dungeon always has a sense of urgency due to the submerge die: Once the thing starts rumbling, the PCs better start getting out (or to a safe zone!)...which ends a perfect means to track and for a GM to rack up the tension if the PCs are idling...and yeah, there are plenty of actions that increase the submergence die...


The genius of this book, indeed, can be found in the fact that, much like the stone thief itself, it is a structure...that is alive and feels modular. It is inorganic and organic at the same time - to use a genre-wise inappropriate analogue, but one that my academic readers will understand: This is a cyborg dungeon. It is uncannily close to being what we know, but the capabilities are beyond that of the regular. This is no Frankenstein-hodgepodge - it is basically an evolutionary step ahead. Now I mentioned the requirements of direct and indirect storytelling. Indirect storytelling in structured dungeons works well - you crawl through the dungeon, because it is there and by virtue of room arrangement and the like, you slowly get a picture of what's going on. This works herein as well. However, the massive book does not merely leave you with a room-by-room accumulation of descriptions - no.


Instead, this book presents a huge assortment of handcrafted stories beyond the structure of the rooms - the Quests. These are not simply brief outlines à la "PCs go to room xx, then to room yy, then get..." - no. The quests provide basically campaign-level fodder and ideas for excursions in and around the stone-thief - for the premise is that the PCs will have to evacuate the dungeon more than once! (And yes - one idea includes the stone thief sloughing off the part with the PCs in it while submerged under an ocean...)


These quests can be ignored or used, combined at your leisure and much like the premise to explore the stone-thief and all relating to it, customized in a myriad ways. And if you're time-starved...you can still run the dungeon pretty much by the book. While I'd suggest reading this before running it as a whole, I tried running one level sans any preparation, blind - and it worked tremendously well.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are superb - for a book of this size to excel in both qualities to this degree is a thoroughly impressive feat. The superb organization via ToC and indices guarantees furthermore that you have a very easy time finding the actual information you're looking for. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard established for 13th Age-products and the book comes with a metric ton of awesome artworks, with a lot of the bosses sporting downright evocative pieces in the distinct aesthetics established for 13th Age. The cartography of the respective levels comes in absolutely gorgeous isometrics in full color and leaves NOTHING to be desired. The electronic version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The print-version is a glorious full-color hardcover and, sans hyperbole, one of the crown-jewels of my RPG-book collection - its production values are superb, the paper is thick and the binding great. This book is made to last...and it needs to.


Okay, this review took a lot of willpower to not immediately burst forth with what I really wanted to say:


Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan's Eyes of the Stone Thief...is the BEST MEGA-DUNGEON I HAVE EVER READ.


Regardless of system and setting.


This has all the strengths of both structured and modular mega-dungeons and none of the weaknesses. The characters herein brim with creativity. The challenges, whether they be traps, hazards, creatures of the stone-thief itself universally are simply SUPERB. Excellence. Platinum-Standard. This is innovative regarding the rules, smart in its depiction, exciting to read and a single level has more ideas than some whole dungeons I've read.


The intriguing nature of the dungeon itself makes sure that the stone-thief basically is one of the coolest villains I've ever read: More so than the myriad of foes in this book, the dungeon itself is what will draw the ire of players and PCs and the advice for depicting it, the exceedingly concise presentation of the mechanics and rules to which it needs to adhere, the thoroughly evocative settings, the stunning modularity of the setting and structure...every page, every sentence in this huge tome breathes pure, unadulterated, undiluted excellence.


Let me once again emphasize that: This is my platinum standard for mega-dungeons from this day onwards. It quite frankly makes many of the mega-dungeons I've read look like a grade-school-flutist trying to compete with a world-class prodigy. This is pretty much a whole class of its own - it is smart, well-written, brims with more creativity than just about any mega-adventure I have read and...I'm running out of superlatives to heap on this book. No matter the scale you apply, this is apex-level excellence.


I'll go one step further: Know how console video-games are often branded as system-sellers? This is, to me, one of the very, very few books I'd consider worthy of this title.


This book is so good, I urge every GM, no exceptions, to get it. Even if you and your group have no interest whatsoever in 13th Age and its rules or setting. This book is so good that, on its own, it suffices as a reason to learn the rules. It can be converted and does not lose much, though you may want to give careful throught and special considerations regarding Koru behemoths -> replace with kaiju of your choice) and icons. Still, I wholeheartedly believe that learning 13th Age for the express purpose of playing through this book is worth every second, every dime. Even when taking the price of the core-rules etc. into account...this still is worth it a hundredfold.


This book is a glorious read, plays even better...and...let me give you a bit of context: I've read many 1st and 2nd edition modules. I have a HUGE collection of 3.X material. I own a metric ton of PFRPG-material. I have several 4E-books. I have a bunch of 5E-books. I have an extensive collection of OSR, CoC, GUMSHOE-books and a bunch of Midgard and Shadowrun books. My Pdf-only folder of books that I do not own in print is over 90 GB and this folder does NOT include pdfs of books I own in print.


I have literally read more than a thousand modules. I have a lot of modules, both big and small, that I consider awesome for vastly diverging reasons. From superb-investigations, spine-tingling horror to massive APs or superb sandboxes with concise structures. Among all of these modules, there are pretty much only a handful I'd even consider mentioning in the same breath. This is basically the 1% of the 1% of the 1% in terms of quality and ranks as one of the best, perhaps the best mega-dungeon ever published. At the top of my head, the only book I'd consider truly on par with it in imaginative potential and scope would be Frog God Games' Sword of Air - and that one is not a mega-dungeon, but rather a superb combined wilderness/dungeon/investigation-sandbox...and my number 1 spot of last year's Top Ten.


Now I know, this was released in 2014...but I only recently got into 13th Age and thus, as a consequence, into this book. And it needs to be honored properly. This gets a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016...and should honestly be in any GM's library. Even for scavenging purposes, this is worth it. Even if you want to convert it to your system of choice, this is worth every second spent converting it. This is apex-level adventure-craft...and I really hope it has not forever spoiled me rotten regarding my expectations for a mega-dungeon. If you want to get one mega-dungeon...get this one. It doesn't get better than this.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age: Eyes of the Stone Thief
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Advanced Options: Arcanist Exploits
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2016 08:36:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rogue Genius Games' Advanced Options-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The pdf does not lose a lot of space before diving into the new options presented for the arcanist base-class, and neither will I. The options contained herein allow an arcanist to spend 1 point of his arcane reservoir to temporarily enhance the physical attributes of the arcanist, with a nice option to immediately end the effect prior to its regular expiration as an immediate action for single buffs to values like AC/CMD and even heal ability score damage to physical scores. There is similarly a second exploit for the mental attributes. Immediate action rerolls of saves versus spells or spell-like abilities can also be found. Or what about an exploit that causes damage to those that successfully disbelief your illusions. A nimbus of dazzling power that increases in potency at higher levels? Yep.


Gaining temporary hit points for energy prevented by the energy shield? Yup. What about the option to expend arcane reservoir and unused spell slots to heal the undead. Higher level options include generating damage die rerolls of 1s and 2s or enforcing multiple rolls and taking the worse result. A reactive shield that provides a means of protection in the surprise round also is rather neat.


The pdf does not stop there, though - within these pages, you'll also find a selection of archetypes, the first of which would be the bloodletter, who gains an arcane bonded athame in lieu of consume spells as well as a significant array of unique exploits that allow for the self-buffing (including ranger-ability-poaching). Odd: A less expensive, arcane reservoir-powered permanency does mention a target creature's blood, even though the exploit itself does not mention such a creature. Scrying via blood samples and alleviating ability score damage via blood and arcane reservoir points is also pretty intriguing. Powerful, but interesting: Dying creatures can be off'd for arcane reservoir regains...and yes, the ability is kitten-proof, since it requires ever increasing HD from the creatures it's used on.


The second archetype would be the galvanist, who may use his unique exploits to bolster constructs and hijack constructs. DR-reducing attacks, golem-like placing of scrolls in the mouths of constructs (bypassing the construct's magic immunities) or temporarily imprinting an alignment on a construct render this an evocative, cool archetype.


The thriomancer may study creatures to gain an insight bonus to atk and damage against them instead of consume spells and replaces 5 exploits with progressing erudite strikes, which are similar to insightful strikes or sneak attacks and scale up to +5d6. Now here is the cool thing about these guys: Their exploits allow them to, for Cha-mod rounds, emulate a spell or supernatural ability he has witnessed, with the creature's daily limits, arcane reservoir and base creature HD as well as action economy providing the tight limits that are required by such a powerful ability. Yes, later with reactive option. And yes: AWESOME. This is a functional, balanced blue mage. Two thumbs up!


The wandmaster may spend arcane reservoir and a spell slot to activate a wand sans consuming the charge, thus replacing consume spells. They can also learn to fire a wand on the run, counterspell wand spells with the counterspell exploit (or wands) and even activate two wands at once, but at a hefty arcane reservoir cost. The other exploits, obviously, deal with wand metmagic etc. Once again, pretty cool concept!


The ward weaver, then, replaces consume spells with teh ability to generate warding charms versus specific schools of magic...and then, things become interesting: These guys can fashion wards that discourage enemies from taking specific actions, dealing nonlethal damage to the offenders. And yes, the rules-language is sufficiently precise. Shielding symbols, temporarily enhancing these tricks, sending magic they're warded against back on their foes - this archetype does A LOT of the nique things we know from fantastic literature, codifies them in a great manner...and may be worth the asking price on its own.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full color standard and the pdf's artwork is solid stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, confession time: I don't like the arcanist. I think the class is pretty much soulless and not distinct enough from wizard, witch and sorceror. I playtested it, realized what it can do...and moved on. Why? Because it did not inspire me to make any characters with it. Sure, the mechanics are there...but I didn't see the "wow-factor". Suffice to say, I did NOT look forward to reviewing Richard Moore's arcanist exploits. And indeed, the exploits in the beginning, while nice, continued the tendency of providing cool rules-operations without that much of a unique concept behind them. They are good design, mind you. Very good, even. But not inspiring.


Enter the friggin' archetypes. If the above was not ample clue - it is my fervent opinion that these archetypes provide the distinct identity I always wanted to see from the arcanist. The archetypes, more often than not, are pure genius in the way in which they translate iconic concepts from literature to game mechanics. In fact, even if you do not have the ACG or have banned it in your home-game, this pdf is totally worth purchasing for the ability scavenging alone - a capable designer can reappropriate the unique options of these archetypes and exploits for other classes and designs. Yes, they're that good. Oh, and, to make that VERY clear - arcanist players NEED to get this glorious little pdf - it provides the much-needed "See what I did there, wizards and sorcerors?"-uniqueness the class sorely lacked. It makes the arcanist feel like it has more of a concise, unique identity...and what more can you ask from humble 9 pages? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Options: Arcanist Exploits
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Mini-Dungeon IWG05: The White Wyrm Awakens
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2016 08:33:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Additionally, it should be noted that this is intended for use in conjunction with the upcoming "Into the Wintery Gale"-saga.


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


The adventurers have met the Hvíturiddare, the riders of winter wyrms - and the Vikmordere, trusting the PCs, reveal that not all are worthy to ride these magnificent beasts into battle...nor are all wyrms capable of becoming mounts, even with the wyrmreins - hence, the PCs are guided to Ormurhellinum - in this sanctuary, the PCs have to collect magical ice shards while besieged by winter wyrmlings - only to finally enter the sanctum, where a full-blown winter wyrm will attack - taking the wyrmreins item, the PCs will have to mount the raging beast and stay on it, while it tries to squash them - only the bravest of heroes will triumph - but have a superbly powerful mount while the reins are in place...


Conclusion:


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


Justin Andrew Mason's fifth mini-dungeon for ITWG is friggin' AWESOME. High-concepts, awesome benefit, evocative culture and dungeon - superb. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans any hesitation.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon IWG05: The White Wyrm Awakens
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Heroes of the Birdman Mountains
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2016 02:45:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Purple Duck Games' regional player's guides clocks in at 57 pages, one page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 54 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief piece of introductory fluff, we are introduced to the races prevalent within the birdman mountain region - which, obviously, consists of a bunch of bird-like races. Now here is a bit of a catch that GMs should be aware of: The races like harpies herein often sport 1st level unassisted flight; when they do, however, they are balanced versus the strix race. Now I generally am a big opponent of unassisted flight at low levels, but one has to take these races in context of the region - when terrain is so inhospitable and flight represents a requirement that results in even the local halflings having climb speeds, the array of racial traits obviously have to adhere to different requirements. Interesting: The fey-like urisk race, not appropriate for quite a few of more low-powered environments, has been streamlined herein and makes sense in the context of this region. It should be noted that half-harpies, harpies, kestrel (halfling/harpy-hybrids) and similar birdmen generally are well-balanced among themselves - they are not lopsided (i.e., they have bonuses to physical and mental attribute modifiers) and show consciousness of issues like flight in armor - though the particular modifications are interesting: While e.g. flight in medium or heavy armor is universally problematic, e.g. kestrels can't fly while encumbered either, in line with the rules for assisted flight, whereas harpies suffer from no such explicit restriction - a bit of inconsistency here, which may or may not be intended, but considering the rather problematic presentation of flight rules in PFRPG in general and the otherwise smooth consistency between the races and their power-levels, I'd be inclined to assume the latter.


One more thing regarding the races depicted herein: Even if you take the unassisted flight away, there is material here that should work for more mainstream campaigns. The chaos-infused xax (first introduced by Alluria Publishing's Remarkable Races-series) that fluidly change racial traits each day or the aforementioned half-harpies certainly are intriguing in just about any context. So here's the issue I have as a reviewer: The races depicted here are, by virtue of their flight, etc., not necessarily balanced among themselves...but this is by design. The lop-sided power-levels are intentional and they actually are a vital part of what makes this region work. slow clap Well played. I can't complain about that without misrepresenting the whole region.


Tl;DR regarding the races: The section is, with a minor inconsistency, one that generally is balanced, but in an uncommon manner that is very much dependent on understanding the dynamics of the region; they work in other places, provided you are aware of the significant power of fly speed some of these have. This one component should be carefully monitored, but within the context of the birdman mountains, the section can be considered to be concise and well-presented. The races also sport race traits for the races - which, again, are well-balanced.


As always, though, this book is not simply an assortment of diverse races - this book also sports basically a significant assortment of fully depicted information: You get a great full-color map of the region and the respective entries for settlements - for example the town of Harhold, carved into the mountainside, studded with ample ladders or the xax enclave of Krikoyn, the old deeps within the inside of a hollowed-out mountaintop...woa. The ruin spire within an erstwhile splendorous xax city...the settlements herein are GLORIOUS and provide truly evocative backdrops and locales to visit. The flavor texts help here as well and the settlements come with settlement options reprinted from another source for your convenience.


Personally, I also was rather surprised to see the concise rules for riding the rapids herein - brief, concise, fun. Nice to see! From CR 1 - 8, this massive book also sports several unique characters utilizing the options of this book.


The pdf also sports an assortment of class options - sorcerors can get the new avian bloodline - providing talons, high-altitude resistance and later, proper wings as well as a neat ur-bird capstone. Oh, and yes, this does come with a bloodrager variant of the bloodline. Falconer hunters get avian companions and must select one of 4 animal foci related to birds: Eagle, falcon, owl or vulture, with increased yield when summoning birds via nature's ally spells and at high-levels, they won't be attacked by creatures that could conceivably be considered prey. Following the standards of Purple Duck Games' books, we do get a sample character here and for the other class options. Pretty cool: The gravity focused arcane school, based on transmutation, gets a distortion field and limited control over gravity, with the capstone option to redirect CMBs upon attackers. Oracles may now take the mystery of the open sky, tapping into themes associated with the skies - from flight to daylight and sensors and tapping into the cold or adding fatigue/exhaustion etc. to spell-based crits, the mystery is unique and thankfully comes with a cool new oracle-curse, breathless.


Fans of Dreamscarred Press' psionics will be interested to see a new wilder surge, the skulking surge. The pdf erroneously calls this one healing surge once, but that does not take away an intriguing component - upon receiving psychic enervation, these guys turn incorporeal, become incapable of interacting with the surrounding material and lose power points. They get full movement while using Stealth and cool, Stealth-based abilities at appropriate levels. Fighters may elect to become slingers - and yes, this one makes slings actually feasible. The songbreaker bard is a great countersinger and can actually cause targets to become sickened, dispel via his harmonics and sunder items with dissonant screeches. Damn cool! The stoneheart druid gets delayed wild shape, but also tremorsense burrow speed and better means of ending e.g. petrification and similar issues - basically, a stone-themed archetype. The warren runner rogue gets improving sights, can spider climb via major magic and get climb speeds.


The pdf also provides a new 10-level-PrC, the underhold agent, which requires 5th level, gets d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and medium Ref-save progression. The PrC allows for class advancement progression of a previous class at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter for e.g. sneak attack or bardic performance. The PrC gets rogue talents and blends that with agent-style extraordinary suggestions they can implant in foes. All in all, an interesting PrC.


The pdf also features an assortment of diverse feats: Blinding crits with slings, chaotic surges of bonus energy damage on crits, control over chaotic xax traits...the like. The focus here, though, obviously, lies with climbing and flight - with Dive Bomb (flyby bull rush!), environmentally-dependent evasion, less falling damage, metamagic to temporarily reduce the movement rate off affected targets and Kamikaze dives that use your weight to slam into foes or jumping to grapple foes - the feats cover a lot of interesting, fun ideas, though e.g. the aforementioned complex and well-crafted Kamikaze feat should specify where in relation to the target one lands in a prone position when failing the save associated with staying aloft. Granted, this is, once again, me being a nitpicky prick.


The pdf also features an assortment of diverse spells, not all of which I consider well-made: The explosion of scree is similar to a conic fireball that deals bludgeoning/slashing damage AND it has the potential to blind foes....which may be a bit much at 3rd level. That being said, we also get options to conjure forth favorable winds or instilling vertigo in a target. The magic items herein cover slings that may transform sling stones into massive boulders, an artifact bell, which, when struck by a halfling, obliterates nearby harpies (racial tension storyline, anyone?), gloves that provide a better grip, elixirs that enhance your mountaineering...and what about a potion that acts as a wildcard placebo? Have I mentioned the Schrödinger's box?


But one of the best, coolest traditions of this series lies in an aspect one should definitely list - one aspect where you only realize how good it is once you need it - the pdf provides massive, extensive lists of items available in the birdman mountains - weapons, armor, adventuring gear, clothing, food and drink...and yes, this does provide new options: Climber's shortbows, gliding suits, halfling slashchains, smokeless firewood - awesome. Oh, and guess what? 3 sample traps included - yes, including wing clippers.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, on both a formal and rules-language level - apart from total anal-retentive minor hiccups that do not impede the functionality of the content herein. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf features quite a few neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Mike Welham, with additional writing by Mark Gedak, provides the one region of Porphyra I did NOT look forward to; granted, fly speeds can be problematic and may not be appropriate for all environments or campaigns - but guess what? Overall, the balancing of the races and character options herein is TIGHT. The races generally feel well-rounded and the book has plenty of material to offer even if the GM of a campaign enforces a strict ban of unassisted flight by race; both new races and options herein are intriguing.


More relevant, if your foreign PCs visit this wondrous land, they'll have a truly interesting tactical challenge on their hands - the supplemental feats and class options work well; but most interesting, at least to me, is the land itself - what we get here is a glimpse at a truly unique and strange land of struggles and cataclysms I can't wait to throw at my non-birdie-player characters and hassle them with those nifty pregenerated NPCs. This is an evocative, novel environment and a type of region I have not seen before. While not perfect, this still is an overall concise and, more importantly, novel environment - and that, ladies and gentlemen, is worth a lot to me. While I would have loved to see more aerial/climbing hazards, but one can't have everything now, right? The rapid rules are nice, though! Sure, the general assumption of flight among those peaks is not for everyone... but still; courage like in this book needs to be rewarded and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes of the Birdman Mountains
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Beasts of Legend: Beasts of the East
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2016 02:41:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This bestiary by Legendary Games/Jade Regent-plug-in clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!


So, what do we get herein? The oomphteenth version of the Yuki-no-onna? Nope, this is a bestiary of Legendary Games, after all. In an interesting take on the concept of monsters, this supplement begins by talking a bit about the real-world inspirations of some of these creatures...and guess what? They are more often than not new to me.


Take the naga on the cover - inspired by snakes in the Mekong river, these CR 5 nagas get fire resistance, fast swimming and an array of spells - which, strangely, feature several "3/4"s before spell names in an uncommon formatting glitch that extends to other creatures. The naga's poison causes fire damage, which is an interesting twist, but overall, I wasn't too blown away by this one. Next up is the CR 8 Neak Ta Kami - an innocuous piece of wood with a painted face on some bricks with twigs. Cute, small...and will mess you up if you: With superb telekinetic abilities and a devastating 3/day cyclone while within reach of its ward, these kami are benevolent and sweet...but if you try to destroy them...well. Don't.


The Kmoch Pray (CR 11) is creepy. Really creepy. Think of a tree covered in caustic, yellow sap that can fling it in globs...oh, and it has deadly, scythe-like claws...as well as a weakness to positive energy. Absolutely unique, creative and awesome - glorious critter! Speaking of "never saw that one before" - the Kting Voar (CR 4), a bovine beast whose horns erupt from bones is a great example of good animal design: Powerful and all about sensible abilities, using reinforced horns, tough skin and trampling to defeat its foes.


This one, I've seen before, though: The Bakeneko Oni (CR 3) is pretty much a staple of Japanese mythology and one that ultimately has me surprised it has not been done by Paizo at this point. Anyways, think of them as maleficent halfling-sized cats that can stand upright with a scoiopathic rictus-grin. With some nasty, stealth-enhancing SPs as well as the option to denote creatures as marked by their envy, they are a nice take on the evil trickster. At CR 6, the Yeren Oni would be the embodiment of the excessive need to withdraw from society to live in the woods...and while that's a black metal cliché, it's one I can empathize with. Basically, think of these fellows as a cross between the sasquatch and an oni, with appropriate nature-themed SPs and the option to create scrawlings that confuse the happless traveler AND then erases their memory. This one ability makes this creature stand out for me - you can make a really nasty investigation out of this premise.


Okay, so what about a turtle with a crystalline shell that has a powerful weapon embedded in its back? (Sword in the stone? Who needs a sword in the stone when you can have a sword from a turtle!) These creatures are the Quyrua (CR 6) and they are the caretakers of the magical weapons embedded in them - they are sentient and honorable stewards and may allow creatures to draw their weapon - but are slain in the process. Very cool idea here!


The final creature in this book would be the Sirin-Po (CR 7) - ghoul aristocrats that rose from the dead as a result of being slain in what they perceive as a "dishonorable death", these gangly-limbed monsters now prey on fear, causing panic with attacks from their grotesquely elongated limbs and gaining bonuses versus creatures suffering from fear-based conditions.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though not as exceedingly tight as usual for Legendary Games. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf's artists William Hendershot, Michael Jaecks, Jason Juta, Stephen Najarian and Rian Trost deserve a special shout-out: Each of these creatures gets a great one page artwork in gorgeous full color. And boy, these artworks make for great hand-outs. This pdf may be worth it for the artworks alone. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Additionally, it should be noted that we get an additional pdf containing paper pawns for the creatures herein - kudos for going the extra mile here. Thuston Hillman's beasts from the east constitute a cool little bestiary: When he gets creatures right, they are absolutely awesome; in particular the more unique ones make sense and a sufficient elaboration on their respective modus operandi provides ideas for enterprising GMs to use them. At the same time, though, I do feel that this pdf does not reach the lofty heights of some other bestiaries from Legendary Games - the naga, bakeneko and the sirin-po feel like they fall a bit short of being as unique as their concepts warrant. Make no mistake, though - at the low price-point, this book is most certainly a steal and a great addition to your bestiary-arsenal. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo...and the fact that this provides some cool critters I haven't seen before.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Beasts of Legend: Beasts of the East
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The Flavour Handbook
Publisher: Duck and Roll Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2016 02:43:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 96 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial,2 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 89 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


This pdf does not waste any time, beginning almost immediately by depicting a new base class for your perusal, which, what else could it be, would be the chef. The chef base class, chassis-wise, gets d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves as well as proficiency with simple weapons and light armor and shields. They may also use all kitchen-utensils as improvised weapons sans penalties, with some samples given - tenderizers work like light maces, woks make for shields, etc. As a nitpick, since this probably was not intended, considering the proficiencies: The class RAW gets proficiency with tower shields since it lacks the exclusion caveat for this item class.


Chefs add their class level to Profession (Cook) and may always take 10 on their check. Additionally, they may earn check result gold instead of half that amount, with higher levels increasing that further - including freebies in proper restaurants and later even potentially titles, with 20th level allowing them to cook for a god's discerning palate - potentially resulting in granted wishes or miracles. The spells are not italicized correctly in the text.


At 1st level, chefs may prepare special meals - these meals grant all characters participating in their consumption one of several benefits of the chef's choice, +1 such benefit at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Here, we do have some issues in the mechanical details of the class. For one, the ability is supernatural - which is nice. But the benefits are extraordinary, which, to me, makes more sense. Why can't a chef prepare such a meal in a magic-dead environment? More significant: there are 6 such benefits...which means all of them are covered at 13th level...but here's the issue: The rules-language of the benefits is flawed. to say the least. While e.g. "+5 temp hp" makes me cringe, it's functional. More problematic: With the exception of one bonus-granting ability, the bonuses conferred are morale bonuses. You know, the bonuses that are the most common ones? The ones where only the highest one applies? Here is where the clusterf*** begins: "All bonuses stack and are extraordinary in nature." Okay, so these stack with themselves...but they also stack with other morale bonuses? This is needlessly confusing, potentially a source of a lot of GM-confusion and frankly unnecessary. The ability should also note that one benefit can be chosen multiple times, which it doesn't - meaning that RAW, you run out of things to choose at 13th level. That being said, on a lighter side, the class does have a nice caveat that prevents multiple chefs from stacking benefits via multiple meals.


Also starting at 1st level, chefs may prepare snacks - these act like potions brewed with Brew Potion, but utilize Profession (Cook) as governing skill. Here is where things get problematic fast: Chefs have a recipe book for them, begin with "3+Wis bonus" (that should be 3 + Wisdom modifier) recipes...drawn from ANY spellcasting list. Yes, this means these guys can, very quickly, prepare all those nifty paladin, ranger, etc. spells. A restriction of spell-lists imho would have helped here. Another issue: The Brew Potion FEAT requires 3rd level CL as a prerequisite; the pdf ought to refer to the alchemist's Brew Potion extraordinary ability instead - RAW, the chef can't create a single snack or at least has an issue as far as CL is concerned. The ability does specify that new snacks are learned as per the rules of formulae, but unfortunately, the brewing component is not included in that one. Now I know, I know - I'm a nitpicky prick. One can sort of understand how this is supposed to work...but fact is, RAW, it doesn't. Which is painful to me, since the class has a pretty cool idea with "fresh snacks" - 1/10th the cost, but an expiration date of 24 hours and a significantly decreased time to prepare - only 1 hour. This ability may be good scavenging material! Also at 1st level, chefs get fire and cold resistance 4, +2 every level, until 20th level turns that into immunity - and the benefits of these resistances stack with other resistances.


Starting at 3rd level, the chef can make a melee touch attack against metallic objects to alter temperature, potentially dealing +2d4 fire or cold damage as well ashaving a utility use to keep armor warm (or cool) as a swift action- sounds cool, right? It is! But the rules-language once again lacks precision "This ability can be applied to up to a number of objects equal to 1 + 1 "per point of Wisdom bonus" cringes at rules-language. Okay, I'll play - does that mean the ability can be used 1+Wisdom modifier times per day? I assume no and that it instead can be applied an indefinite amount of times, with the cap denoting parallel uses, since duration is indefinite. The utility use can protect from "inclement heat or cold" - specify! There are different degrees of cold and heat weather hazards! The ability further specifies that it can cause "armor to deal the listed damage to any foe striking the wearer with a natural attack or unarmed strike."...Does that mean that the wearer of the armor thus heated/cooled down also takes the damage? The damage increases by +1d4 at 5th level and every 2 levels thereafter...and reads "the chef may choose to deal an additional 1d4 fire or cold damage with this ability." Does that mean you have to choose either fire or cold to get the damage-boost on a given level? Or does the "or" here mean that both damage types are increased. No idea. Worse: The ability is OP: It can be maintained at will, so touch an armored foe, teleport away...the guy will die. Armor takes a LONG time to take off. It's the cadre of knight-assassinating chefs, I guess...sigh


Starting at 2nd level and every other level thereafter, the chef gains access to culinary arts, the talents of the class - and they generally are interesting: Meals that grant bonuses to Intelligence or Wisdom and being able to instead have a result of class level instead of what you rolled on a Knowledge check. Also cool: Caliente lets you fling blinding/scent-negating spices as a ranged touch attack - that provides no immediate save, but allows a creature to take a move action to rub the spices away (Fortitude-save versus DC 10+ 1/2 chef level + chef's Wisdom modifier) and the pdf also extends the benefit-options of meals to fire and cold resistances. Other such options grant skill bonuses (and yes, skills are not properly capitalized) or..."+1 fast healing when below 1/2 of full hp." Okay, does "full hp" include temporary hit points? Why is there no cap for the fast healing provided? How does it interact with natural healing? If you e.g. eat a meal and rest, is natural healing added after reaching the 1/2 maximum HP? No idea. Also, in case you have not noted - this is infinite healing. Limited infinite healing, but infinite healing nonetheless, which disqualifies this class for grittier rounds for which the class seems to be otherwise geared. Also interesting - you need a feat to have the meal of the chef count as something to postpone the effects of starvation...which is extremely counterintuitive and not noted in the base ability. Btw.: If a talent has prerequisites, that also does not conform to how such prerequisites are usually presented for class talents, instead sporting a feat-like prerequisite note in the beginning.


Balance also is a bit wonky with some: Evil chefs may add HD of a dragon, humanoid, fey or monstrous humanoids or class levels to make better meals that provide +1 benefit per 5 HD/class levels of the creature eaten - which is per se cool, but how long do such creatures last? Could a chef pickle meat of a powerful dragon? If so, how much? Another issue: The base talent specifies that only creatures with an Int below 2 can be cooked, a restriction that should be RAW alleviated by the follow-up talent. Delayed poisons, immunity to fear or poison and diseases...there are quite a few such immunities granted to the chef. Granting Extra +X feats via meals and making class specific meals for allies is smart - here, for once, let me express being pretty impressed by the craftsmanship of the rules. I also enjoyed the talent that lets you make leshy. 20th level provides an array of different capstones -a total of 5 of them.


All in all, the chef has potential, but a lot of rough edges to file off...and it doesn't play that interesting. You prepare your snacks and they are basically all flexibility you get. You make meals...and that's pretty much it. Playing a chef is a very passive experience.


The class does feature a lot of favored class options, which generally are nice. Cooler, though: The pdf sports 6 sample recipes - and yes, I tried the dwarven pickled carrots and the tiefling scones. Nice and tasty! The pdf does sport several archetypes: Olfactory arcanist wizards are interesting: They require more expensive aromatherapy to learn spells instead of spellbooks, but may "cast the same spell again without using a spell slot" one round after casting a spell. And YES, this cannot be abused and has a caveat that prevents you from getting infinite casting loops...though the archetype does end up being VERY strong.


Hungry barbarians get less rounds of rage per day, but can prolong their rage by eating food via a standard action...or by inflicting 10+ points of damage with a bite attack. ...I have a barbarian with a bite attack in my game. He can't, EVER, NOT deal eat least 10 points of damage with a bite in range. If my barbarian had this ability, he'd run around with a bag of kittens, tear foes asunder with his claws and bite off the head of a kitten once per round for infinite rage...or until the kittens run out sigh Oh, and they can eat slain foes to regain rage, which is where the kitten-abuse just becomes ridiculous. Not gonna get near my table - in either the normal or Pathfinder Unchained-compatible version.


The food fighter is basically a chef/fighter crossover, while the Ale-chemist gets less bomb damage (die-size reduced by 1) and lasting splash damage and it's cool that this one has a splash-weapon abuse caveat...but at the same time, the rules-language, while pretty solid, is less precise than it should be. The archetype also can't decide whether it's alechemist or ale-chemist. Mutagens make the ale-chemist drunk and can cause nonlethal damage to creatures by pouring alcohol on weapons...cool! I really love this one, though I wished it had a tighter rules-language. Still, one that is fun and one I can see using myself.


Fruit ninjas can grow poisonous fruit...and regain ki by eating meals. Sigh Insert rant on eliminating the limit on a class resource. Also: At 8th level, they gain +2 damage per weapon damage roll they already made that round. Okay, does that include AoOs? I assume it does. But seriously - are shurikens and flurry of stars not nasty enough already? sigh


The bad apple antipaladin is interesting - they can smite regardless of alignment and teach this ability to paladins! Oh, and they can clothe foes in auras of evil, get an aura of rot, etc. - the bad apple spoils the bunch...and yes, while observing spellcasters preparing spells, they may potentially steal them. Absolutely awesome archetype, in spite of some minor hiccups in formatting. The vegetarian druid gets plant shapes and loses all animal-specific spells. The bunslinger thrown weapon specialist is pretty cool as well. The butcher chef would be the full BAB-version of the class, with hungry monks replacing flurry of blows with ever increasing, precise Vital Strikes...and yes, once again with an unchained version.


Fighting food summoners create animated creatures of food instead of an eidolon, which as such count as animated objects with increasing evolution points. And yes, once again, including an unchained version.


The pdf also introduces new feats: Calorie feats include burning of consumed meals, with uses beyond the number of meals consumed, tallying up to days of starvation. Constitution checks can be made to mitigate those days of starvation and increase DCs. While negative conditions incurred by starvation are brutal, the chances to die are rather minimal. The food-feats herein are nice, but aforementioned claorie-feats that allow for the burning of meals...are pretty damn OP. Why? BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO LIMITS. The one limit they have is "not dying due to damage" - we get CL-enhancers, attribute boosts and even more actions. 30 meals equal, for example, two full-round actions. The math is nowhere near functional regarding these feats, which is a pity, since idea-wise, I can get behind them. They'd just need stricter limits per round - as written, a creature can hold 3+Constitution modifier meals, with Large creatures holding 4 times as much and every additional size category allowing for 8 times this capacity. A single Large PC or one grown via magic by size completely breaks down any semblance of balance.


The spells in this book, on the other side, do not suffer from these issues: Linking stomachs, meal-eliminating hunger (including mythic upgrades) - no complaints here. The magic item section is also very creative - with weapons that take samples from foes for further use in spells to armor that makes you look appetizing or whisky ioun stones (erroneously called "Ion" stone in the beautiful full-color artwork), the items are creative and fun - though the formatting of aura, price and construction requirements, while complete, still violate just about EVERY formatting standard established for them. The pdf does also offer quite a lot of material for GMS - from 100 adventure hooks themed around cuisine to considerations of exotic ingredients, the importance of trade and food and the like, these chapters did indeed provide... wait for it...food for thought! HA! ...Sorry, I'll hit myself later for that. What I'm trying to say is: This chapter does offer several cool ideas for GMs. Kudos!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are a two-edged sword: On a formal level, both are pretty great, particularly for a new publisher. Rules-language and particularly its formatting is one of the worst components of the pdf. If there is any component of rules-formatting, chances are the pdf will break it - spells are not italicized, Attributes not capitalized, etc. This would be fine and dandy and cosmetic...but such standards exist for a reason - they prevent glitches and issues. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color standard that champions a 1-column standard. While I'm not a big fan of 1-column-standards, it works here. Btw.: This book sports a lot of gorgeous full-color artworks and comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Gregory Ducker's freshman offering is generally a perfect example for a freshman offering that sports all the makings of a talented and artful designer...but also all the pitfalls. The pdf, in many cases, manages to get complex rules-operations right...kind of. At the same time, its rules-language often downright fails to adhere to the established standards, making quite a few components needlessly opaque or harder to grasp than they should be. From information of base abilities hidden in optional talents to rules being spread out, the pdf is not didactically well-constructed. Similarly, there are quite a bunch of balance-concerns and violations of the finer, implicit conventions that make up crucial balancing mechanisms of Pathfinder. And frankly, these accumulate.


I'm a HUGE fan of the concept of fantasy cooking and the recipes included are pretty cool; similarly, this pdf does show care, passion and that it certainly was created by someone who deeply cared about the subject matter - this book has soul. I just wished it had a proper balancing editor, a more active base class and an editor familiar with the peculiarities of PFRPG's rules-language. Why? Because this book gets almost everything almost right. Almost. De facto, all class features of the chef have at least one issue in the rules-language, even when ignoring formatting deviations. And then there is simply the problem that size-increases blow the whole meal/consumption mechanics completely to smithereens.


So...mechanically, this requires A LOT of careful work by a capable GM to work properly. And honestly, even taking the significant array of cool ideas and fluff into account, I'd usually round down for this one...but since this is a freshman offering, it gets the benefit of the doubt: I will round up from my final verdict of 2.5 stars to 3 for the purpose of this platform.


To close with something positive: This book shows a lot of promise and I certainly hope that the author will continue to hone his craftsmanship. There is potential here.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Flavour Handbook
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Nobles of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2016 02:42:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive supplement clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 48 (!!!) pages of content, so let's take a look!


So...guess what - this actually is a prestige archetype book, one that takes the noble scion PrC and codifies it as a proper 20-level base class, though the set-up herein is obviously more versatile in this one - but there is more to this book than that: Beyond extensive observations regarding what it means to play a noble and the wealth available to them, the noble scions do receive a significant stipend each level, to be precise 750 gp times the class level and bonuses to skills according to the respective families they have and areas they belong to - it is here that the "of Porphyra"-component comes into play: The pdf provides a balanced, varied list of diverse regions of the setting for your perusal.


Beyond the aforementioned stipend, the nobles also get a weekly allowance of non-monetary favors equal to 25 gp times class level for top theatre seat, great rooms, etc. - this is known as prestigious influence. Unspent favors from this allowance do not stack, thankfully. At 3rd level, noble scions receive +1/3 class level to Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge (Local) and Knowledge (Nobility) - this ability is called fame and fortune and 4th level nets an expert cohort called servitor...and no, he does not fight. 7th level nets Leadership and at 13th level, a cohort can be one level lower than the scion and all followers increase their levels by +1, with 19th level providing a cohort at the scion's class level and followers increasing their level by a further +1. As a capstone, these guys can roll twice on the appropriate social skills and 1/day treat one such roll as a 20.


So that is the basic framework - and it already is much more solid and feasible than the problematic aristocrat-NPC-class. This framework out of the way, we are introduced to the respective variants of noble scions: The first here being the bloodline scion, who gains 1/2 BAB-progression, d6 HD, good Will-saves and 4+Int skills as well as some basic proficiencies. Bloodline scions receive a sorceror bloodline and spontaneous Cha-based spellcasting of up to 6th level as well as related benefits: Bloodline feats at 6th level and every 6 level thereafter, with bloodline power progression at levels 1, 3, 9 and 15, with the capstone being exchangeable for the aforementioned general noble scion capstone. The class gets Eschew Materials at first level. The pdf does provide a CR 10 bloodline scion/wildblooded-sample character -each of the versions herein does sport such a complex sample character, all with detailed background stories...and, rather cool, there are quite a lot of neat full-color artworks here!


Similarly interesting - the chevalier takes the cavalier class and applies the noble scion - for full BAB-progression, full proficiency, d10 HD, good Fort-saves, level 1 mount and challenge, with well diversified class abilities - Banner at 5th level, tactician at 1st., etc. - all in all, this one is smooth and well-crafted.


The eldritch noble gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d6 HD, very basic weapon and armor proficiencies and choose either wizard or witch at first level, gaining full 8th level Int-based prepared spellcasting - but losing the additional tricks like hexes, schools and the like - basically a full caster noble.


The enlightened noble, with 3/4-BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, light armors and rogue-y weapons, 8+Int skills and d8 HD alongside good Ref- and Will-saves. These guys are based, roughly, on the investigator. The class receives full studied strike progression and studied combat and applies inspiration to the nobility-themed skills instead - once again, a neatly-crafted variant/hybrid! Similarly, should you prefer a more rogue-y focus...well, the scheming noble, with a similar chassis, instead applies this design-paradigm and combines it with rogue talents, sneak attacks etc.


The hierarch cleric gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-and Will-saves, d8 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, sword cane and fighting fan and light, medium and heavy armor as well as with the deity's favored weapons. This one would be the Wis-based prepared spellcaster with full spellcasting progression of up to 9th level. On a nitpicky, aesthetic point - the spellcasting/aura/etc. entries often read "cleric" instead of "hierarch cleric"... Yeah, I'll punch myself now for that one. It's needless nitpickery. And no, these guys do not get channel energy.


The monster scion is based on the summoner class, with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d8 HD, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, lance, long sword, rapier and light + medium armor, which do not provide arcane spell failure. They are spontaneous spellcasters via Charisma and gain up to 6th level spells. These guys get a hereditary eidolons - which are native outsiders and cannot be summoned. They are pretty hard to kill, gaining full HP into negative HP, but, upon being killed, need to be replaced via a ceremony and some time. Cool: Fame and fortune can later be applied to outsiders and the ancestral eidolons introduced herein get new evolutions for dual creature types, becoming extra-dimensional, fluid growth between sizes - all in all, neat.


The noble virtuoso gets d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, longswords, rapier, sap, short sword, shortbow and whip as well as shields and light armors. They get access to bardic spellcasting (via Cha, obviously) and free spellcasting sans penalty in light armor. The class receives, obviously, bardic performance progression, 10th level jack of all trades, etc. - all in all, solidly dispersed ability arrays here - but at the price of bardic knowledge and lore master.


The Renaissance Man, at d8 HD, good Fort- and Will-save progression, 3/4 BAB-progression, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light armor. This one gets Int-based spellcasting from the magus spell-list, 1st level arcane pool, 2nd level spellstrike, 4th level spell combat, 5th level spell recall and arcana at 3rd level, +1 every 3 levels thereafter. Medium armor, however, is delayed to 14th level and similarly, the hybrid does pay a price regarding the regular magus-progression.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and also rather precise on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column full-color standard. The pdf sports several beautiful full-color artworks and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


This book was much more work than the relatively brief review here may show - basically, it represents a significant array of hybrid classes between Noble Scions and a significant assortment of classes. The interesting component is that the pdf manages to get the WBL-increase and small favors afforded to nobility done rather well: The respective changes made make sense and, when compared to the base classes, provide a distinct identity that is similar to, but not identical to the respective base classes. The concept is interesting and there certainly is more than one set-up for a campaign that makes sense with one or more player characters belonging to the nobility - I know I've had such a set-up planned for quite a while.


Beyond solid crunch, Carl Cramér's nobles of Porphyra (with additional design by Justin Sluder and August Hahn) also sport a significant array of interesting characters - for a more than fair, low price. Nice crunch, cool fluff - what more could one ask for? In fact, one can, arguably, make one's own additional noble scion-hybrids by extrapolating from the classes provided here and using the general noble scion tricks in this book. All in all, this is a nice, cool pdf and well worth 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nobles of Porphyra
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