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DNH2 - The Buried Zikurat (The Complete Edition)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2018 04:41:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Haunting of Hastur-series clocks in at 28 pages of content if you take away the editorial, ToC, etc., but that does not really represent the module properly.

This review was moved up in my queue due to me receiving a print copy of the adventure.

You see, that page-count only covers the core adventure sported, and the book comes with two supplemental tomes: The first would be the Map and Illustration booklet, which provides full-page, high quality renditions of the artworks, as well as all the full-color maps of the module. These are provided in the pdf as well, and oddly, the maps in the Illustration and Map booklet are a bit pixilated.

Speaking of maps: My review of this supplement is based on the neat kickstarter print edition of this module, which comes with a detachable cover and full-color maps inside – these are high-quality indeed, and properly high-res, though no player-friendly, key-less versions are included. This is the ONE book I’d consider to be optional.

You see, there are two more supplemental books for this adventures, the Book of Lore and the Book of Puzzles. The former contains more than 20 (!!!) pages of handouts! No, I am NOT kidding you. More than 20 pages of frickin’ handouts, all laid out like documents, letters, etc. with different fonts etc. The Book of Puzzles covers 14 pages…and is AMAZING. You see, the module sports a series of puzzles…but not all tables enjoy having their wits challenged. So this remains optional. In this book, we can find three difficulties of puzzles, ranging from basic riddles to number puzzles, logic problems to cryptography quotes, these are damn cool and add some all too often neglected mental exercise to the gaming process. Two thumbs up!

Both are de facto 100% optional, as combat is always a means to bypass these locks, but frankly, I believe that the Book of Puzzles is absolutely mandatory. The Book of Lore is highly recommended as well. Why do I consider them to be so crucial? You see, this module is unique in that it can be cleared without a single combat encounter! As such, it can theoretically also be run as a 1-on-1-adventure, as it primarily tests PLAYER-skill, as opposed to character-skill. So, after module #1 was a pretty standard, solid dark fantasy yarn, we take a totally different approach here: The module is essentially one that can fit seamlessly with pretty much all fantasy games and, genre-wise, is what I’d consider to be one of the exceedingly rare examples of “strange archaeology.” More on that in the SPOILER-section below.

The module includes an optional appendix for inclusion in the world assumed by Dark Naga Adventures, a brief dressing list, a table of fluff-only mushroom effects and three magic items that are variants of classic ones. There is one new monster here, and its formatting slightly deviates from the standard conventions, noting e.g. “blunt” instead of “bludgeoning” among the resistances or “All Others” to shorten the ability score section. I do not like this needless deviation. This also would be a good place to note that a few cosmetic typos can be found in these books: “actoins”, “delimas” and the like – nothing serious, but something that an editing pass could have caught. The module also sports something I enjoy, namely a spell that allows, at high-levels, for excavation of complexes. The spell exists primarily to account for logic, but rules-formatting-wise, the duration should not be instantaneous; the duration and casting time are contradictory; the spell should have operated with concentration instead. In short: The rules-language components are somewhat rough around the edges. On the plus-side, the spell’s hiccups don’t really impede the module, as it primarily serves a lore purpose.

Okay, so another thing that is important should be noted right now: NO, this is not yet another Cthulhu-themed Zikurat-dungeon. It’s something radically, dauntingly, different. In order to explain what it is, though, I have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, so whether or not the PCs have completed module #1 (the ending here is smoother if they have), they are contacted to visit a nearby clay mine, where a Zikurat has been unearthed. Unbeknown to the PCs, they only see half of it – human side. Below the surface, the edifice stretches on its head, providing a symmetrical structures separated in two halves. One was held by the surface folk, and one by the Formene elves. Who are these elves? Well, picture an elven tribe that is Not evil, but still lives underground, acting as stewards of sorts to the realms below, a necessity, considering the power of the rare ores found there. It should be noted that Hastur’s rising back in the darker ages has made them go into isolation…and that the sound defeat of his forces in module #1 will sport the impetus for the elves breaking their self-imposed exile. The Zikurat was once a trade-hub, a magical nexus that made invasion by armed forces all but impossible, and thus, the PCs explore an edifice out of time.

The mysterious function of the location is slowly unearthed as the PCs defeat either puzzle locks or hack through the vault-guardians and piece together the lore in a rather fun combination of direct and indirect storytelling. From pylons to the unique structure of the zikurat, the module manages to do something only rarely seen: It manages to be exciting and atmospheric without constant threat of death. It is almost like a clever horror-point-and-click adventure, slowly building tension and excitement. This is also facilitated by the very presentation: Each room notes the respective means of ingress/egress, a brief description for the GM, one description that you can paraphrase to the players, and, where applicable, a summary of the lore, though the handouts in the Book of Lore do a much better job. Still: Kudos for not requiring them!

In short, the module works LIKE NO OTHER D&D-adventure I have read so far. It feels at once old-school in a good way, generating a sense of true exploration and investigation, but still does something fresh and distinct. I cannot overstate how much I love how courageous this is – and better yet, the adventure manages to pull this off without becoming boring, proving that you don’t have to hack apart something every 2 rooms. It breathes a sense of internal consistency and has what the first module lacked in abundance: It is utterly UNIQUE. That alone makes this worthwhile in my book.

Anyways, I could go through this room by room, but that wouldn’t help you and just bloat the adventure; we conclude the scenario when the PCs meet one of the fabled Formene, a mage who botched a teleportation, half trapped in stone and dying, who bestows upon them the tools to traverse the dangerous region that gave these elves their name to the fabled city of Talos…for the first time in literally an age, outsiders will be allowed to set foot in this mythic place…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but could have been slightly tighter for the experience, both on a rules-language and formal level; layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard in the pdf version, but frankly, I prefer the b/w of the print version. The artworks are b/w and adhere to different styles, with some being amazing. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really neat, though I wished we got a player-friendly version.

I…have a hard time rating L. Kevin Watson’s “The Buried Zikurat” (The Book of Lore’s handouts were written by Ismael Alvarez, Kalyna Conrad, Troy Daniels, Jennifer R. Povey and Matt Roth, fyi); on the one hand, the lack of player-friendly maps is a serious disappointment as far as I’m concerned. As noted, the editing could have been slightly tighter, particularly in the rules-department. HOWEVER. Ultimately, that is not really relevant. The adventure does not require any of these aspects. It is, in essence, a truly rules-lite take on the essence of roleplaying; this is not about tweaking numbers, it is about storytelling, about using your mind, about exploring wondrous places. This is an investigation and exploration of a wondrous locale that works, surprisingly, sans NPCs, sans searching for clues with roll upon roll; this is radical in the way in which it allows you to really ROLEplay. If you get frustrated, you can still easily start a fight, sure, but the emphasis here is radically, drastically, different.

And honestly, I adore this module for the courage this must have required. Think about how much chutzpah that must have taken to pull; write a module in this day and age that is not contingent on a big boss fight, a flashy over-the-top sequence, but one that can stand on its own by the virtue of being clever, by its atmosphere. I love this. It is one of the VERY few jamais-vu-experiences I have seen in the last years. If you enjoy using your mind and need a break from mindless crawling and hack’n’slashing, then get this RIGHT NOW….just get it with the lore and puzzle supplements.

While I like that the base module does not require them, it loses a lot of the unique flair that sets it apart; on its own, you should probably detract a star from the final verdict.

That being said, I consider this to be absolutely inspiring, and I will rate this as intended, with the companion tomes. And, in spite of its formal hiccups and minor rough edges, I consider this to be amazing and unique. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars for the whole experience, rounded up…and because I LOVE the courage and design of this adventure, I will also slap my seal of approval on this. Highly recommended for groups that want more out of gaming than killing monsters!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNH2 - The Buried Zikurat (The Complete Edition)
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DNH2 - The Buried Zikurat (5e Edition)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2018 04:40:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Haunting of Hastur-series clocks in at 28 pages of content if you take away the editorial, ToC, etc., but that does not really represent the module properly.

This review was moved up in my queue due to me receiving a print copy of the adventure.

You see, that page-count only covers the core adventure sported, and the book comes with two supplemental tomes: The first would be the Map and Illustration booklet, which provides full-page, high quality renditions of the artworks, as well as all the full-color maps of the module. These are provided in the pdf as well, and oddly, the maps in the Illustration and Map booklet are a bit pixilated.

Speaking of maps: My review of this supplement is based on the neat kickstarter print edition of this module, which comes with a detachable cover and full-color maps inside – these are high-quality indeed, and properly high-res, though no player-friendly, key-less versions are included. This is the ONE book I’d consider to be optional.

You see, there are two more supplemental books for this adventures, the Book of Lore and the Book of Puzzles. The former contains more than 20 (!!!) pages of handouts! No, I am NOT kidding you. More than 20 pages of frickin’ handouts, all laid out like documents, letters, etc. with different fonts etc. The Book of Puzzles covers 14 pages…and is AMAZING. You see, the module sports a series of puzzles…but not all tables enjoy having their wits challenged. So this remains optional. In this book, we can find three difficulties of puzzles, ranging from basic riddles to number puzzles, logic problems to cryptography quotes, these are damn cool and add some all too often neglected mental exercise to the gaming process. Two thumbs up!

Both are de facto 100% optional, as combat is always a means to bypass these locks, but frankly, I believe that the Book of Puzzles is absolutely mandatory. The Book of Lore is highly recommended as well. Why do I consider them to be so crucial? You see, this module is unique in that it can be cleared without a single combat encounter! As such, it can theoretically also be run as a 1-on-1-adventure, as it primarily tests PLAYER-skill, as opposed to character-skill. So, after module #1 was a pretty standard, solid dark fantasy yarn, we take a totally different approach here: The module is essentially one that can fit seamlessly with pretty much all fantasy games and, genre-wise, is what I’d consider to be one of the exceedingly rare examples of “strange archaeology.” More on that in the SPOILER-section below.

The module includes an optional appendix for inclusion in the world assumed by Dark Naga Adventures, a brief dressing list, a table of fluff-only mushroom effects and three magic items that are variants of classic ones. There is one new monster here, and its formatting slightly deviates from the standard conventions, noting e.g. “blunt” instead of “bludgeoning” among the resistances or “All Others” to shorten the ability score section. I do not like this needless deviation. This also would be a good place to note that a few cosmetic typos can be found in these books: “actoins”, “delimas” and the like – nothing serious, but something that an editing pass could have caught. The module also sports something I enjoy, namely a spell that allows, at high-levels, for excavation of complexes. The spell exists primarily to account for logic, but rules-formatting-wise, the duration should not be instantaneous; the duration and casting time are contradictory; the spell should have operated with concentration instead. In short: The rules-language components are somewhat rough around the edges. On the plus-side, the spell’s hiccups don’t really impede the module, as it primarily serves a lore purpose.

Okay, so another thing that is important should be noted right now: NO, this is not yet another Cthulhu-themed Zikurat-dungeon. It’s something radically, dauntingly, different. In order to explain what it is, though, I have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, so whether or not the PCs have completed module #1 (the ending here is smoother if they have), they are contacted to visit a nearby clay mine, where a Zikurat has been unearthed. Unbeknown to the PCs, they only see half of it – human side. Below the surface, the edifice stretches on its head, providing a symmetrical structures separated in two halves. One was held by the surface folk, and one by the Formene elves. Who are these elves? Well, picture an elven tribe that is Not evil, but still lives underground, acting as stewards of sorts to the realms below, a necessity, considering the power of the rare ores found there. It should be noted that Hastur’s rising back in the darker ages has made them go into isolation…and that the sound defeat of his forces in module #1 will sport the impetus for the elves breaking their self-imposed exile. The Zikurat was once a trade-hub, a magical nexus that made invasion by armed forces all but impossible, and thus, the PCs explore an edifice out of time.

The mysterious function of the location is slowly unearthed as the PCs defeat either puzzle locks or hack through the vault-guardians and piece together the lore in a rather fun combination of direct and indirect storytelling. From pylons to the unique structure of the zikurat, the module manages to do something only rarely seen: It manages to be exciting and atmospheric without constant threat of death. It is almost like a clever horror-point-and-click adventure, slowly building tension and excitement. This is also facilitated by the very presentation: Each room notes the respective means of ingress/egress, a brief description for the GM, one description that you can paraphrase to the players, and, where applicable, a summary of the lore, though the handouts in the Book of Lore do a much better job. Still: Kudos for not requiring them!

In short, the module works LIKE NO OTHER D&D-adventure I have read so far. It feels at once old-school in a good way, generating a sense of true exploration and investigation, but still does something fresh and distinct. I cannot overstate how much I love how courageous this is – and better yet, the adventure manages to pull this off without becoming boring, proving that you don’t have to hack apart something every 2 rooms. It breathes a sense of internal consistency and has what the first module lacked in abundance: It is utterly UNIQUE. That alone makes this worthwhile in my book.

Anyways, I could go through this room by room, but that wouldn’t help you and just bloat the adventure; we conclude the scenario when the PCs meet one of the fabled Formene, a mage who botched a teleportation, half trapped in stone and dying, who bestows upon them the tools to traverse the dangerous region that gave these elves their name to the fabled city of Talos…for the first time in literally an age, outsiders will be allowed to set foot in this mythic place…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but could have been slightly tighter for the experience, both on a rules-language and formal level; layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard in the pdf version, but frankly, I prefer the b/w of the print version. The artworks are b/w and adhere to different styles, with some being amazing. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really neat, though I wished we got a player-friendly version.

I…have a hard time rating L. Kevin Watson’s “The Buried Zikurat” (The Book of Lore’s handouts were written by Ismael Alvarez, Kalyna Conrad, Troy Daniels, Jennifer R. Povey and Matt Roth, fyi); on the one hand, the lack of player-friendly maps is a serious disappointment as far as I’m concerned. As noted, the editing could have been slightly tighter, particularly in the rules-department. HOWEVER. Ultimately, that is not really relevant. The adventure does not require any of these aspects. It is, in essence, a truly rules-lite take on the essence of roleplaying; this is not about tweaking numbers, it is about storytelling, about using your mind, about exploring wondrous places. This is an investigation and exploration of a wondrous locale that works, surprisingly, sans NPCs, sans searching for clues with roll upon roll; this is radical in the way in which it allows you to really ROLEplay. If you get frustrated, you can still easily start a fight, sure, but the emphasis here is radically, drastically, different.

And honestly, I adore this module for the courage this must have required. Think about how much chutzpah that must have taken to pull; write a module in this day and age that is not contingent on a big boss fight, a flashy over-the-top sequence, but one that can stand on its own by the virtue of being clever, by its atmosphere. I love this. It is one of the VERY few jamais-vu-experiences I have seen in the last years. If you enjoy using your mind and need a break from mindless crawling and hack’n’slashing, then get this RIGHT NOW….just get it with the lore and puzzle supplements.

While I like that the base module does not require them, it loses a lot of the unique flair that sets it apart; on its own, you should probably detract a star from the final verdict.

That being said, I consider this to be absolutely inspiring, and I will rate this as intended, with the companion tomes. And, in spite of its formal hiccups and minor rough edges, I consider this to be amazing and unique. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars for the whole experience, rounded up…and because I LOVE the courage and design of this adventure, I will also slap my seal of approval on this. Highly recommended for groups that want more out of gaming than killing monsters!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNH2 - The Buried Zikurat (5e Edition)
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In the Company of Unicorns (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2018 07:25:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing’s classic series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, as always,w e begin this supplement with a latter, as the meta-narrative of this series assumes that a member of the respective race is writing a letter to sage Qwilion of Questhaven; This sets the series apart from the get-go – unlike most racial supplements, the prose and colored/unreliable in-character narration assures that the pdf is actually fun to read and not just a dry assortment of numbers. This is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. In this case Phaedra, a member of the equine race of re’em, (how the unicorns refer to themselves) begins the narration with a summary of how the race views their own physiological differences from most humanoids. The pdf then proceeds to grant us insight into re’em culture, their herds etc. – and here, Rite Publishing must be commended. Instead of just duplicating the flavor from the PFRPG-version, we get a rewritten version of the whole account, taking e.g. the presence of warlocks in 5e into account. You may consider that to be a small thing, but for me, it represents the difference between doing what’s required and going the extra mile. It was an impressive surprise.

There is an obvious and intended “The Last Unicorn”-vibe conveyed by the prose, as the noble courtier tells us about the importance of hope…and sorrow…and what they can d. Beyond this glimpse at the psychology of these noble beings, we also learn about interactions with humanoids, providing a perspective on such happenstances from an insider’s perspective. So yeah, the flavor aspect is excellent.

Now, let’s take a look at the crunch, shall we? First of all, re’em increase their Constitution by 2 and mature quickly; they never die of old age, and their type is governed by the subrace chosen. However, it should be noted that spells that affect humanoids, thankfully, still affect re’em. As quadrupeds, re’em are restricted to horse barding and somewhat limited in using many consumables, but they may cast spells with somatic components as usual. They have darkvision and their horn deals 1d8 piercing damage. When charging at least 20 ft. in a straight line and attacking with the horn, this damage is increased by +2d6 piercing damage, making them rather lethal at first level. Re’em also have hooves and may use either both front or rear hooves for a 1d6 bludgeoning damage attack. These natural weapons are considered to be magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity.

4 subraces are provided: Celestial re’em increase Wisdom by 1, get the celestial type and know the spare the dying cantrip. 3rd level nets cure wounds once per long rest interval, 5th level lesser restoration once per rest interval. These are governed by Wisdom. The race also gains resistance to poison damage and advantage on saves vs. the poisoned condition, and these benefits extend to creatures riding the celestial re’em. The second subrace would be the ki-rin, who increase Charisma by 1, are celestial, type-wise, and when not wearing armor, have an AC of 12 + Charisma modifier, minimum +0. The armor class of riders may not be less than 10 your Charisma modifier, unless they are riding the ki-rin against their will. The alicorn of the ki-rin nets resistance as a cantrip, and 3rd level provides bless, 5th level aid, both of which are usable once per long rest interval and are governed by Charisma.

Thirdly, we have the fiendish re’em, the dark unicorns, who increase Intelligence by 1, are, type-wise, fiends and gain resistance to fire, which may be extended to riders. Their alicorn nets produce flame as a cantrip, with 3rd level yielding hellish rebuke and 5th level darkness once per long rest interval. You guessed it: Governed by Intelligence. Finally, sylvan re’em increase Dexterity or Charisma by 1 (your choice) and have the fey type; they have advantage on saving throws versus the charmed condition and can extend this benefit to riders. Their alicorn nets minor illusion as the cantrip, and at 3rd level faerie fire, at 5th level calm emotions. As before, both of these latter spells are governed by Charisma. All subraces also grant languages appropriate for their themes.

We get a new paladin oath next, the oath of the greenwood, which comes with fully formulated tenets and two new fighting styles are noted: Impaling and Trampling. Both are concisely presented. The oath gets its own oath spells and the 3rd level nets two channel divinity options: One is really cool, as it laces thunder in your hooves allowing for quicker movement and more damage/better attacks. The second option is also AMAZING, as it emphasizes teamwork: Nearby allies may target additional beings with beneficial healing-based spells. Love these! Also at 3rd level, we get mystic link, which allows you to attune your horn to a weapon as part of attuning the weapon, allowing you essentially to keep fighting with your horn. At 7th level, we get an amazing aura – the horn sheds light that the unicorn can suppress, sure, but this light also cancels darkness…and enlightens metaphysically, suppressing blindness! I love the visuals here. 15th level nets an additional channel divinity option (which is, slightly oddly, formatted differently than the previous ones, but that is pure aesthetics): Here, we have wind striding, allowing you to run over any substance unharmed, up to 90 ft. away from the ground, and you can carry up to two Medium riders with gear, provided you do not exceed maximum encumbrance. You can also ascend on empty air. I love this. The two rider option made me recall the famous templar symbol…and the mythological link works, once you recall that unicorns were often used as a cipher for Jesus in occult Christian texts., 20th level allows you to call an ancestral unicorn to your side to aid you. Cool!

We also receive the elder unicorn sorcerous bloodline. From 1st level on, when learning spells, you can choose druid spells instead, up to half of your total of spells known. You also gain proficiency in Religion and Nature, and may use Charisma as governing attribute for them instead. 6th level has a cool trick: When you cast a druid spell, but it doesn’t do damage (even if you intended it to do damage!), you get to cast a cantrip as a bonus action. If the cantrip deals damage, it deals bonus damage equal to the level of the spell slot expend by the triggering spell. This makes “missing” with spells less of a bummer and nets a second chance. Love it! At 14th level, the character learns geas as well as the option to expend a spell slot: If the spell slot expended had a higher spell level than a curse, oath, etc., you can end the effect. The ability takes same level of curse and spell slot into account. Really cool! 18th level is also really cool, teamwork wise: After casting a spell with a spell slot of 1st level or higher on your turn, you may take a reaction to a nearby ally casting a spell. If you do, the spell is enhanced and treated as one level higher. Love this!

We also get the vile pact of the sundered horn for warlocks, accounting btw. also for re’em that sacrifice their own horn! Cool!

The pdf also sports a paragon/exemplar class, here, the Silvermane Exemplar, who comes btw. with quick build rules. Only re’em qualify and they get 1d8 HD; proficiency-wise, we get all armor, one type of artisan’s tools, Constitution and Charisma saving throws, and two skills chosen from Athletics, Insight, Nature, Perception, persuasion, Religion and Survival. Starting equipment is noted and the class begins play with the mage hand cantrip, which may be explicitly used with proficiency bonus, if any, when employed with artisan’s tools and ability checks. Ability scores increase at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, up to and including 16th level. A silvermane exemplar begins play with a pool of inner light, equal to the class level. This resource may be sued to cast the spells granted by the alicorn class feature additional times sans a low rest (1 point for 1st level spells, 2 points for 2nd level spells). Additionally, as an action, you can spend a point and touch a willing creature, granting the target Charisma modifier temporary hit points. Alternatively, as an action, you may heal 5 times the amount of inner light spent of the ability in hit points to a target creature.

2nd level provides one of my favorite class features of the class, Purity and Sorrow. When you hit a creature with an attack roll, you gain Sorrow. When you restore hit points to an ally or provide temporary hit points/end conditions for them, you gain Purity. When you restore it points or grant temporary hit points, you may expend Sorrow to add 1d6 to the hit points granted or restored. When you roll damage for an attack, you may expend Purity and add +1d6 radiant damage to the damage dealt. These fade after 1 minute if not used. The dice they employ increase to d8 at 5th, d10 at 10th and d12 at 15th level. I love this, though it should specify that e.g. hurting harmless kittens could not provide Sorrow. Anyways, this feature thus rewards alternating between offense and defense and encapsulates the flavor really well. 5th level provides multiattack, 6th level the oath’s mystic link for weapon-to-horn-attunement; additionally, 6th level lets you spend inner light to grant adjacent creatures resistance to one of several damage types, with more targets costing more points. 9th level yields an alternate, humanoid form. At 13th level, when moving or using Dash, you can spend 1 inner light to teleport the distance instead. Starting at 14th level, when gaining or ending Purity, you can use a bonus action to generate a breeze that ends harmful conditions for a creature nearby. This does not net you Purity. You can also end confusion or curses, within limits. 17th level lets you spend 4 inner light to grow glorious, feathered wings that last until you gain Sorrow. At 20th level, you regain 4 points of inner light after a short rest.

Obviously, the class also has some sort of choice baked in; that would be the noble orders. These define your class features gained at 1st, 3rd, 7th, 11th and 18th level. 4 orders are provided: Royals, Courtiers, Knights and Knaves. Royals gain fire bolt and may later heal a creature within 30 ft. when healing via inner light while they have Sorrow. Healing and aforementioned mystic link improvement as well as a high level sun-crowned form make for a cool choice here. The courtiers are more skillful and have, as befitting their title, charm/dominate-themed abilities and sanctuary effects. These are the more tricky ones. Knights get a fighting style, may grant allies the ability to move as a reaction and penalize foes with Purity/Sorrow dice. Finally, the order of knaves has a cool ability that allows them to disguise their horn – if a target doesn’t know your name, he fails to see it! Using abilities, obviously, can also reveal who you are, and the order focuses on establishing a bond with another character, which can be really rewarding, roleplaying-wise.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, the book is excellent and really interesting, providing a distinct array of complex rules-concepts. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful, new two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a lot of interesting full-color artworks that diverge in styles employed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

BJ Hensley’s original PFRPG-take on the playable unicorn was already rather cool; what Brandes Stoddard did with it, was inspired. The 5e.version of the playable unicorn is creative, distinct and provides a surprisingly concise take on the concept. The class options are well-crafted and the new class rocks, offering a playstyle that feels distinct, fresh and different. The fact that the lore reflects the mechanics is just the icing on an awesome cake. I love this supplement. The only blemishes I could find are exceedingly minor and represent only aesthetic gripes. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In the Company of Unicorns (5E)
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Shadows over Vathak: Ina'oth - Gamemaster's Guide
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2018 07:22:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM’s Guide to the region of Ina’oth clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 58 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: While this does not require the Player’s Guide to Ina’oth, it is interesting to note that there is no overlap between them per se – the two guides have been crafted to complement each other, which is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. Instead of getting an unredacted version of the Player’s Guide, we get basically a massive amount of new material and a glimpse behind the curtain. In short, this is a great example of how Player’s/GM’s Guides should be employed.

Okay, structurally, we begin with a piece of introductory prose, presented as a letter, including a proper visual representation of said missive. Aesthetically, that much is certain from the get-go, we have a distinct and nice book here – the grimoires-style layout (with stains and splotches) makes this an aesthetically-pleasing experience to read, complemented by plenty of flavor-wise perfect full-color artworks; while some obvious have been taken from the public domain, they have been recolored or modified…or chosen perfectly to seamlessly generate a unified aesthetic as far as artwork is concerned. The original pieces I saw are, no surprise there for Fat Goblin Games, really, really nice.

But what about the content? Well, this guide begins with the usual introductory notes and some advice for the GM that is important to bear in mind – Vathak as a setting is conductive to a variety of different horror types, and selecting properly the themes to convey is important. Anyways, after this, we receive a brief history of the region, with the amazing banner added as a pleasing visual identity. We thus learn of the golden age long gone, far from the grip of the dreaded old ones and vampire lords, but we also learn of the bitter wars that ravaged the land, of the Plague of Shadows and worse – Ina’oth, at least to me, has a very distinct Masque of the Red Death vibe, with disease as a leitmotif.

Next up, we take a tour of the settlements of Ina’oth, and here, we get not only juicy and evocative angles, we actually also get full settlement statblocks for these places…and if that should not suffice for you, then rest assured that that the massive 50-entry-strong table of random settlement hooks should inspire you. Why are a settlement’s sole inhabitants children? Why does a crazed old couple attempt to fling excrement at the PCs, calling them plaguebearers? The table is excellent and absolutely inspiring.

Speaking of inspiring: We go through the lands of Ina’oth and sport something that should be considered to be required for pretty much all games: We get DCs for knowledge the PCs might have on the area, yes, but instead of just getting the success…we also get massive amounts of information for FAILED checks. This is a simple operation, yes, but it adds to the element of uncertainty required by good horror. (Suffice to say, the GM should roll such checks.) Beyond that, PCs that do their legwork may unearth even more information, adding yet another level to this section. This is tremendously useful and takes the need to redact and compartmentalize information off the GM’s shoulders. I adore this. Please continue doing this!

Anyways, if all that technical stuff regarding immediate usefulness does not inetrest you, well then I still have excellent news. You see, Ina’oth’s regions are written in the most inspiring way I’ve seen since the old 3.X Ravenloft Gazetteers, with a focus on immediate usefulness, rather than novel-like plots. In short, this book does a phenomenal job here! Now, this level of quality also extends to the movers and shakers of the region, providing detailed, fluff-centric write-ups for the powerful beings f the region…and for, for example, the dreaded Stick Man, an impossibly gaunt man shrouded in black, with a wide-brimmed hat…From the locales to the persons, a palpable sense of the horrific, a knowledge of what works, suffuses this supplement. This, unsurprisingly, also extends to the fluff-only write-ups of the potent organizations that can be found in the region: Dedicants of Miasma, who arose during the Plague of Shadows, are often surgeons and the like, struck by visions of horrible winds felling men and plagues alike – here, we have the belief of the old concept of miasma, aptly translated into what may or may not actually grant power. Knights of the Blackened Sun seek to harness the power of the One True God and the vampiric lords at the same time, making for a ruthless and philosophically interesting knightly order, while the people of ash believe that they were killed in a past life and may attain knowledge and learn how to escape what they perceive as the cycle of reincarnation. No, this is, by far not everything, and I remained rather brief here, because I do believe that this should be read in its entirety to properly work.

The book also explains, in details, the realities of life in the region and also has a whole section devoted to festivals and local traditions, which adds tremendously to the sense of this being an actual region. Heck, we even get a fully-depicted prayer for the dead here!

Now, in the beginning, we already read about the book being cognizant of the different tropes associated with horror subgenres. If you, as the GM, are not 100% sure, though, well, there is an extensive selection of adventure hooks provided for Gothic Horror, Survival Horror or Cosmic Horror, grouped by theme. I love this. The next section becomes crunchier and provides something that, once again, should imho have been standard a long time ago: We are introduced to a variety of diseases, which come with multiple stages! This can mean that even Pathfinder’s liberal magics will be taxed more by curing them, and adds a level of tension here…particularly since the engine provided means that you can easily design further stages and tweak what’s here. The Plague of Shadows, for example, is presented as a 3-stage disease. Know what’s even cooler? We get a disease-template that you can employ to change things up and further codify and tweak these hazards!

The last big chapter is something most GMs will adore: With the region’s focus on ghouls and ghosts, the guide does not seek to needlessly reinvent the wheel. Instead of clogging your game with a ton of templates, it provides an extensive array of alternate monster features, with CR-modifications noted. Are you old-school and want a ghost that ages you? Ability’s here. Fancy some Ring-action? Drowning’s an option. What about ghosts that can hitch a ride on beings that defeat them, to rejuvenate next to their one-time vanquishers? (YOU FREED HER!!) Oh yes. What about…splitting and being there in multiple places at once? What if misplaced love of a lover makes a ghoul return as a corpse loved? Did I mention the table that sports 12 disturbing ghoul hobbies or 12 advice/services that could be gained from “friendly”/satiated ghouls? We also get 12 mementos for them, and 12 sample quirky mannerisms – obviously with a focus on the odd and somewhat macabre.

The pdf closes with 2 monsters: The face taker, at CR 10, can compress itself and rip the faces off their victims, adding them to their horrid form. The CR 4 shroud mummy, then, would be one of the most interesting, at least theme-wise, variant mummies I know, sporting the ability to demoralize via their death imprints and to leech away the life of those caught in their shrouds.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to an absolutely gorgeous 2-column standard that blends perfectly together with the artwork to create an aesthetically-pleasing whole. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

John Bennett provides a true gem here. The Gm’s Guide to Ina’oth focuses on being useful for the GM. While there is plenty of amazing lore to be found here, I was surprised by how actually USEFUL this book is – the hooks and angles, the details and settlements…this is basically both a great region sourcebook AND a great horror toolkit; even if you do not play in Vathak, this is worth every cent of its asking price. The prose and ideas are interesting and fun to read, further cementing Fat Goblin Games’ run of excellent Vathak-supplements. If you even remotely enjoy horror and if you are not adverse to having annoying stuff like signature abilities and settlement statblocks laid out for you, if you enjoy some nice dressing to go along with inspiration for both folks, places and organizations, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this.

As an additional aside: This may be a coincidence, but even if you do not play Pathfinder, the book’s structure and ideas, when seen as apart from the rules-components, still warrant getting this one in my book. If you like your games dark, then this will have something for you! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest sliver of a doubt!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Ina'oth - Gamemaster's Guide
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Star Log.EM-013: Augmentative Equipment
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2018 11:09:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with a brief look at augmentation in the galaxy and the Xa-Osoro system in general, before getting a massive table that lists the material by price and level, noting system modified as well. We also have the new weapon fusion, biointegration, which clocks in at only 680 credits, which represents the classic means of the integrated weapon. While deployed, you can’t do anything with the hand but use that weapon. Unfusing is a move action and only one-handed weapons may be fused thus – the plus-side being obviously that dropping or disarming is out of the question, and half damage dealt to the fused weapon is dealt to the character instead of the item, which can make for an interesting double-edged sword. Haha. Get it? …Sorry for the bad pun.

Anyways, we also get two new armor upgrades. Phantom emitters are classified as hybrids, and can compress armor via extradimensional means into 1/16th of the usual size sans modifying your size category, allowing you to squeeze through 1/4th your space sans counting as squeezing. While the armor is thus compressed, you have 360° vision and move via rolling, restricting you to unarmed strikes that benefit from shock, but are not considered to be archaic. On the plus-side, total defense in ball form is more useful. Weapon integration systems can be installed into light and heavy armor only and make it possible to install weapons as though the suit were a power armor, with weapon types codified properly by weapons slots granted by this upgrade.

The pdf also sports 4 different biotech augmentations. Adamantine boneplates are provided up to MK 7, granting increasing DR (or improving your existing one); as it applies to the skeleton, it has a different system than dermal plating, but they may explicitly not be combined. Good catch. Biotic Flight is added to the spinal column and comes in Mk 1 – 3, beginning with basically gliding and improving to include first clumsy and slow, then better, flight. Spiked growth depend, system-wise, on where you get them, but they enhance your climbing capabilities and provide the means to inflict piercing damage with unarmed strikes – the augmentation is presented in one version. Cool: the rules take hardness of surface scaled into account AND also provides a benefit for folks with Improved Unarmed Strike. Kudos!

Finally, the muscle mass magnifier lets you execute penetrating unarmed strikes, with 9th level plus adding critical effects. Nice! They are presented up to Mk 10.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I sported no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s colorful and nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a nice artwork, as seen on the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ augmentative equipment provides several pretty crucial modifications for characters. The rules are precise and make good use of SFRPG’s item levels; the presentation is precise and, as a whole, I really enjoyed this one, as it provides some classics that I as an old Shadowrun-veteran simply expect to see from futuristic games. In short: Very much recommended, 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-013: Augmentative Equipment
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Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2018 11:07:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Now, the name “Tibol-Korrin” did evoke an expectation of elven settlements for me, perhaps due to being close to the Tiri Kitor of Red Hand of Doom in the melody of the word; however, Tibol-Korrin is something else. It’s something genius that I haven’t seen done in any comparable supplement. This place is a strait, important for seafaring merchants, as it is one of the few ways to access the landlocked baronies of Tibol and Korrin in a relatively safe manner. As is the wont with channels and straits like this, there is a lot of gold to be hand, and as such, it should come as no surprise that, sooner rather than later, violence erupted. Indeed, as the PCs visit this place, relationships between the baronies are stressed, to say the least. Officially, the baronies are in a state of war after disputes over tariffs…but, unlike what we’d expect, the strait is actually open! Yeah, I know, right? We all kinda expected that to be the task of the PCs here, but it’s not!

You see, a combination of economic necessity (wars are expensive) and burgeoning romance between two commanders has managed to put the place into what amounts to a fragile equilibrium that may well pave the round to peace…or escalate once more. On the Tibol side, the strait only sports a single permanent structure, Fort Teggin, whereas on the Korrin side, Korrin bastion looms, with both sporting towers with spyglasses and fire pits, mirroring ancient lighthouses. As an aside: I really like that these are firepit-based. It adds a gritty, grimier, medieval/antique feel to the place.

Now, as always, there are quite a few crunchy bits spliced into the description of this place. We get a brief section on local lore for PCs that do their legwork, notes on local dressing habits and nomenclature, as well as 6 different whispers and rumors for the PCs to unearth. The PFRPG-version sports a sensible marketplace of goods to purchase. The pdf also provides some suggestions on how to best use this.

Now, if the big picture situation on its own were not interesting enough, the pdf also provides detailed fluff-only write-ups for the romantically-involved commanders that have bridged the gap between baronies, of sorts at least. There is more to note here. A mad hermit has his own cove here, and while indeed insane, he once was an extremely potent spellcaster, driven mad by apocalyptic visions. Nowadays, the hermit (who also gets a detailed write-up) considers himself to be the guardian, someone to stem the tide of darkness to come. Indeed, a subtle chthonic leitmotif can be found here and there in the supplement. The keyed locations sport read-aloud text and adventure hooks, both of which are utterly inspired. For example, a local diver is paranoid about a discovery he made. Beneath the waves, there are two jade fortresses, mirroring those atop the sheer cliffs…but what’s their significance? That is excellence, right there.

The pdf does more. It describes the vicinity of the strait in detail, and comes with a massive 20-entry global hook-list of dressings and events to bring the place to life. A rare fruit is watching hereabouts, nourishing and conveniently spiny, making for nice improvised weapons. A catapult remains peacebound for now…and amid gorgeous coves, the place where lovers jumped into the waves, ostensibly becoming merfolk, remains – legend, superstition, or dire foreshadowing? Beyond the global dressing/events table, we also get two localized event tables, both 6 entries strong, for two of the keyed locations.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports gorgeous b/w-artwork I haven’t seen before. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great and the pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Welham’s name on a roleplaying supplement is a pretty good indicator that you’ll receive something that is AT LEAST good, quite probably excellent. Tibol-Korrin belongs firmly in the latter category. Beyond the already intriguing basic set-up, the book goes one step beyond, time and again. We have a personal level; we have the potential for horror, for tragedy, for war, for peace. This supplement manages to marry a sort of melancholia inherent in the geography and situation, with an after-war world-weariness that is sharply contrasted with the presence of clear peace-indicators and the joys of burgeoning love. We add a sprinkle of sword & sorcery, a dash of what may be a fairy tale or a gothic tale of woe and tragedy, and have a location that manages to serve a vast variety of functions in your game. It should be seen as testament to his talent that the author managed to construct this place in a way that makes it possible to employ all these disparate elements at once and even brew them into a concise whole, all without making the place feel disjointed or artificial.

In short, this is an absolutely inspiring, glorious supplement that oozes flavor from each word, an exercise in super storytelling. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin
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Creator Reply:
I'm delighted you enjoyed this book so much, Thilo. Thank you for the review!
Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2018 11:05:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Now, the name “Tibol-Korrin” did evoke an expectation of elven settlements for me, perhaps due to being close to the Tiri Kitor of Red Hand of Doom in the melody of the word; however, Tibol-Korrin is something else. It’s something genius that I haven’t seen done in any comparable supplement. This place is a strait, important for seafaring merchants, as it is one of the few ways to access the landlocked baronies of Tibol and Korrin in a relatively safe manner. As is the wont with channels and straits like this, there is a lot of gold to be hand, and as such, it should come as no surprise that, sooner rather than later, violence erupted. Indeed, as the PCs visit this place, relationships between the baronies are stressed, to say the least. Officially, the baronies are in a state of war after disputes over tariffs…but, unlike what we’d expect, the strait is actually open! Yeah, I know, right? We all kinda expected that to be the task of the PCs here, but it’s not!

You see, a combination of economic necessity (wars are expensive) and burgeoning romance between two commanders has managed to put the place into what amounts to a fragile equilibrium that may well pave the round to peace…or escalate once more. On the Tibol side, the strait only sports a single permanent structure, Fort Teggin, whereas on the Korrin side, Korrin bastion looms, with both sporting towers with spyglasses and fire pits, mirroring ancient lighthouses. As an aside: I really like that these are firepit-based. It adds a gritty, grimier, medieval/antique feel to the place.

Now, as always, there are quite a few crunchy bits spliced into the description of this place. We get a brief section on local lore for PCs that do their legwork, notes on local dressing habits and nomenclature, as well as 6 different whispers and rumors for the PCs to unearth. The 5e-version sports a sensible marketplace of goods to purchase, properly adjusted for 5e’s realities. The pdf also provides some suggestions on how to best use this.

Now, if the big picture situation on its own were not interesting enough, the pdf also provides detailed fluff-only write-ups for the romantically-involved commanders that have bridged the gap between baronies, of sorts at least. There is more to note here. A mad hermit has his own cove here, and while indeed insane, he once was an extremely potent spellcaster, driven mad by apocalyptic visions. Nowadays, the hermit (who also gets a detailed write-up; at this point, it should be noted that 5e-references to default stats have been implemented in a concise manner) considers himself to be the guardian, someone to stem the tide of darkness to come. Indeed, a subtle chthonic leitmotif can be found here and there in the supplement. The keyed locations sport read-aloud text and adventure hooks, both of which are utterly inspired. For example, a local diver is paranoid about a discovery he made. Beneath the waves, there are two jade fortresses, mirroring those atop the sheer cliffs…but what’s their significance? That is excellence, right there.

The pdf does more. It describes the vicinity of the strait in detail, and comes with a massive 20-entry global hook-list of dressings and events to bring the place to life. A rare fruit is watching hereabouts, nourishing and conveniently spiny, making for nice improvised weapons. A catapult remains peacebound for now…and amid gorgeous coves, the place where lovers jumped into the waves, ostensibly becoming merfolk, remains – legend, superstition, or dire foreshadowing? Beyond the global dressing/events table, we also get two localized event tables, both 6 entries strong, for two of the keyed locations.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports gorgeous b/w-artwork I haven’t seen before. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great and the pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Welham’s name on a roleplaying supplement is a pretty good indicator that you’ll receive something that is AT LEAST good, quite probably excellent. Tibol-Korrin belongs firmly in the latter category. Beyond the already intriguing basic set-up, the book goes one step beyond, time and again. We have a personal level; we have the potential for horror, for tragedy, for war, for peace. This supplement manages to marry a sort of melancholia inherent in the geography and situation, with an after-war world-weariness that is sharply contrasted with the presence of clear peace-indicators and the joys of burgeoning love. We add a sprinkle of sword & sorcery, a dash of what may be a fairy tale or a gothic tale of woe and tragedy, and have a location that manages to serve a vast variety of functions in your game. It should be seen as testament to his talent that the author managed to construct this place in a way that makes it possible to employ all these disparate elements at once and even brew them into a concise whole, all without making the place feel disjointed or artificial. The 5e-version does not lose any of the small tidbits of crunch interspersed throughout the PFRPG-version, making it a detailed and worthwhile conversion.

In short, this is an absolutely inspiring, glorious supplement that oozes flavor from each word, an exercise in super storytelling. The conversion to 5e has been handled with care and attention to detail. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin (5e)
Click to show product description

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Creator Reply:
I'm delighted you enjoyed this book so much, Thilo. Thank you for the review!
Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2018 11:05:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Now, the name “Tibol-Korrin” did evoke an expectation of elven settlements for me, perhaps due to being close to the Tiri Kitor of Red Hand of Doom in the melody of the word; however, Tibol-Korrin is something else. It’s something genius that I haven’t seen done in any comparable supplement. This place is a strait, important for seafaring merchants, as it is one of the few ways to access the landlocked baronies of Tibol and Korrin in a relatively safe manner. As is the wont with channels and straits like this, there is a lot of gold to be hand, and as such, it should come as no surprise that, sooner rather than later, violence erupted. Indeed, as the PCs visit this place, relationships between the baronies are stressed, to say the least. Officially, the baronies are in a state of war after disputes over tariffs…but, unlike what we’d expect, the strait is actually open! Yeah, I know, right? We all kinda expected that to be the task of the PCs here, but it’s not!

You see, a combination of economic necessity (wars are expensive) and burgeoning romance between two commanders has managed to put the place into what amounts to a fragile equilibrium that may well pave the round to peace…or escalate once more. On the Tibol side, the strait only sports a single permanent structure, Fort Teggin, whereas on the Korrin side, Korrin bastion looms, with both sporting towers with spyglasses and fire pits, mirroring ancient lighthouses. As an aside: I really like that these are firepit-based. It adds a gritty, grimier, medieval/antique feel to the place.

Now, as always, there are quite a few crunchy bits spliced into the description of this place. We get a brief section on local lore for PCs that do their legwork, notes on local dressing habits and nomenclature, as well as 6 different whispers and rumors for the PCs to unearth. The system neutral version sports a sensible marketplace of goods to purchase, adjusted to the realities of old-school gaming. The pdf also provides some suggestions on how to best use this.

Now, if the big picture situation on its own were not interesting enough, the pdf also provides detailed fluff-only write-ups for the romantically-involved commanders that have bridged the gap between baronies, of sorts at least. There is more to note here. A mad hermit has his own cove here, and while indeed insane, he once was an extremely potent spellcaster, driven mad by apocalyptic visions. Nowadays, the hermit (who also gets a detailed write-up; class references have been adjusted to reference old-school classes) considers himself to be the guardian, someone to stem the tide of darkness to come. Indeed, a subtle chthonic leitmotif can be found here and there in the supplement. The keyed locations sport read-aloud text and adventure hooks, both of which are utterly inspired. For example, a local diver is paranoid about a discovery he made. Beneath the waves, there are two jade fortresses, mirroring those atop the sheer cliffs…but what’s their significance? That is excellence, right there.

The pdf does more. It describes the vicinity of the strait in detail, and comes with a massive 20-entry global hook-list of dressings and events to bring the place to life. A rare fruit is watching hereabouts, nourishing and conveniently spiny, making for nice improvised weapons. A catapult remains peacebound for now…and amid gorgeous coves, the place where lovers jumped into the waves, ostensibly becoming merfolk, remains – legend, superstition, or dire foreshadowing? Beyond the global dressing/events table, we also get two localized event tables, both 6 entries strong, for two of the keyed locations.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports gorgeous b/w-artwork I haven’t seen before. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great and the pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Welham’s name on a roleplaying supplement is a pretty good indicator that you’ll receive something that is AT LEAST good, quite probably excellent. Tibol-Korrin belongs firmly in the latter category. Beyond the already intriguing basic set-up, the book goes one step beyond, time and again. We have a personal level; we have the potential for horror, for tragedy, for war, for peace. This supplement manages to marry a sort of melancholia inherent in the geography and situation, with an after-war world-weariness that is sharply contrasted with the presence of clear peace-indicators and the joys of burgeoning love. We add a sprinkle of sword & sorcery, a dash of what may be a fairy tale or a gothic tale of woe and tragedy, and have a location that manages to serve a vast variety of functions in your game. It should be seen as testament to his talent that the author managed to construct this place in a way that makes it possible to employ all these disparate elements at once and even brew them into a concise whole, all without making the place feel disjointed or artificial.

In short, this is an absolutely inspiring, glorious supplement that oozes flavor from each word, an exercise in super storytelling. The system neutral version, surprisingly, does not lose any of the small, compelling details and minor injections of rules material that made the other two versions work so well. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
I'm delighted you enjoyed this book so much, Thilo. Thank you for the review!
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2018 07:29:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the B/X-Essentials-series clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, formatted in old-school A5 (6’’ by 9’’), so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

So, after the extremely impressive reorganization of the B/X-rules Gavin Norman provided in the first two installments of the series, where we got perhaps the best, most sensible organization of the rules in its extremely hackable presentation, we now dive into the book that covers probably one of the most divisive components of any OSR-game. Spells.

Some prefer long-form spells; some prefer none at all; some systems have very specific aesthetics…and this book, following the traditions of the previous tomes, focuses on a faithful rendition of the original Basic and Expert rules for spells. The pdf is clear and upfront in which ways it carefully modifies some of the spells herein, and it does so, universally, I might add, for the betterment of the content within.

The first aspect is one that the BIG systems should also consider; it’s simple and smart. It separates different mechanical aspects of a spell by bullet points. No more glossing over or missing that last line that notes yet another aspect. Furthermore, DIFFERENT possible uses are separated out and numbered for your convenience. If you’re like me, for example, and frankly forgot that cure light wounds, in B/X, also has the optional use of curing paralysis, then this will be appreciated indeed. Did you recall that light can blind targets in B/X? Well, you probably will, but depending on how much you hack your game, how many different OSR-games (or other games) you play, you may have forgotten that. Well, even if you did, here, the presentation makes that a non-issue.

The pdf goes one step further, presentation-wise: Spell-uses that allow for a saving throw are highlighted with bold text. The inconsistency of spell ranges of 0 or 0’ have been replaced with Range: The Caster – with one exception, at least in my print copy. Oddly, protection from evil retains the 0-Range, which I assume to be an oversight; it makes sense for cloudkill, which acts as an emanation from the caster, but not for the former. Now, before you ask and point me towards that: This has been cleared up in the meanwhile. The current version and print versions do not have this VERY minor inconsistency anymore. I...honestly just left those paragraphs in the review, because I was so glad to have found something to complain about...only to see it's been taken care of. (Seriously, that is amazing!)

As far as range is concerned, spells with a range of touch now explicitly allow the caster to use them upon him/herself. Now, before you balk – no, the pdf has not cleaned up all original “charming” ambiguities of the B/X-rules. Web does not state whether it needs to be anchored, for example. That being said, the book e.g. clearly states how haste does not allow for double item use or spellcasting.

I might get a couple of boos and hisses from the hardcore B/X-crowd, but frankly, there is one shortcoming that I feel the pdf could have addressed with, at least a house-rule, would be concentration. It is an aspect that is not clearly defined in the original rules, and it makes me somewhat uneasy to see the showcasing of the problem, but no concise definition of the like. Here, we have a missed chance to at least provide an optional means of doing so...but yeah. I get it. It’s the B/X Essentials series. The very intent is to NOT do that and remain faithful to the original.

…damn, my OCD’s making it hard for me to let that one go. Particularly since e.g. control weather prohibits movement, while clairvoyance doesn’t. Perhaps “B/X Almost-Essentials: Rules-clarifications for obsessive sticklers” is in the cards? ;)

Anyways, if a reversed version of a spell exists, it is noted in the respective description as well. The presentation-sequence begins with the cleric spells, organized by spell level, and alphabetically within the spell level. And there is elegance to these spells. If you have no B/X-experience, it is interesting to note that we have 5 spell levels, and that e.g. create food is 5th level, which is something I am hereby declaring to be the default for all my games forevermore; I loathe how level 1 food-creation makes the threat of starvation and thirst nigh obsolete. I also had to smile at cure disease having a separate use that notes that it instantly kills green slime. Oh, my pretty…

Anyways, as the grognards know, magic-user spells (also used by elves) scale up to 6th level in B/X…and as we all know invisibility is the most OP spell in the rules, since. Wait.

It.

Has.

Happened.

For the first time, ladies and gentlemen…we actually have, in spite of the mission of faithful rendition, the famously missing B/X-spell. This book gives to us: Detect invisible. 10’ per level range, 6 turns, 2nd level. Well-situated regarding level-range, the spell is concise, well-presented and just as minimalist as it should be. No complaints. (No surprise there, considering how much I adored the author’s Vivimancer…) Can’t remember where than one spell that module referenced was? Well, the pdf actually has a handy index in the back, listing the spells for your convenience!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are absolutely top-notch, precise and impressive, to say the least. Layout adheres to a truly elegant two-column b/w-standard with unobtrusive, mint-green highlights as colored elements. The artwork deserves special mention: The book sports A LOT of it. No, seriously – we get a ton of original, really well-made b/w-artwork, with perhaps my favorite piece illustrating a magic-user showcasing how a lightning bolt can bounce off walls to hit different targets. It’s a bit goofy and comic-like, but I absolutely adored it. Of course, the majority of artworks are more serious, but I like this blending of styles. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with a bookmark per spell level and spell-list, but not for individual spells. I have the premium print edition, and there is a low-cost standard edition that is perfect bound. The premium version has higher quality paper, better color and ink saturation and comes stitch-bound, which is per se preferable. The cover and artwork definitely deserve going premium here.

Okay, honestly, this is the first time in my reviews of this series where I wished Gavin Norman had deviated slightly from the goal of the faithful rendition. The inconsistency of the original rules regarding concentration is something I never considered to be charming or endearing, just annoying. It requires that you learn by hard the stipulations or lack thereof of the spells, and that, anno 2018, is just bad game design in my book, nostalgia be damned.

That being said, as a reviewer, I can’t fault the book for its intended design goal of faithful rendition, particularly when it does such a SUPERB job at it. The presentation of the spells is absolutely gorgeous and showcases how a small OSR-publisher like Necrotic Gnome Productions can provide impulses for the industry at large. This type of concise spell presentation is a joy to behold. It’s clever, concise and clean. It’s simple and elegant. I adore it. So yeah, with but one minor oversight in the very subdued and faithful streamlining, this may well be the best iteration of B/X-spellcasting you’ll ever get to see. It bespeaks the author’s passion for the rules-set and showcases a lack a humility and reverence to the subject matter that is refreshing to see…all while clearly showcasing the design and presentation-skill the author obviously has. In short, this is a one-map passion-project, apart from the art, and an example of the best ones in that category.

While, as a person, I would have required the clarification of concentration (why stop at the missing spell?) to consider this a true work of art, as a reviewer, I am perfectly capable of abstracting my own bias and rating this for what it is – a resounding success for what it attempts. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
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Legendary Kineticists II
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2018 03:57:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Legendary Games‘ expansion books for the kineticist clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introductions, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of crunch, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with a selection of new kineticist archetypes, starting with the bestial kineticist. Here’s the thing. It’s not for your CHARACTER. It’s for your animal companion! A bestial kineticist may select any feat that requires kineticist levels, using HD as kineticist levels, as companion feats. Additionally, if the companion and master know the same kinetic blast of the same element and have Interweave Composite blast both, they may use that feat to interweave a composite blast that requires the element as primary and expanded elements in addition to the normal effects. Kudos: Takes wood properly into account, even if you play prior to Arcane Anthology’s addition of a wood/wood composite blast. Instead of a trick, a bestial kineticist can choose to gain an infusion or utility wild talent, but the critter may never have more than 2 more infusions than utility wild blasts, or vice versa. Cool: wild talents learned this way are correctly codified via Handle Animal, and if the master knows the same wild talent, the DC is reduced. As far as ability score bonuses are concerned, the companion chooses either Strength or Dexterity and gets +1 per druid levels the master possesses, minimum 0 – this bonus also applies to Constitution.

Instead of evasion and improved evasion, the bestial kineticist gains all kineticist class features except elemental defense, expanded element, metakinesis and omnikinesis. No utility wild talents or infusions are gained beyond those taken as tricks. Nice catch: The critter may fire kinetic blasts with any appendage with which they could execute a natural attack. The companion is treated as a native outsider in addition to its creature type to determine what spells can affect it, which can be a bit wonky – what if an effect affects outsiders and the creature type differently? Interesting: While elemental overflow is active, the bestial kineticist takes on an elemental subtype defined by the simple blast, with a nice list provided. The kineticist does Not attain subtype-based vulnerabilities, and if the creature has 5+ Burn, it is also treated as the elemental subtype. Instead of multiattack, we get a cool teamwork charge: Standard action, fire simple blast at master; after that, the master may fire the blast, treating its damage as from a kineticist with the bestial kineticist’s HD +2. The blast must be used by the end of the round, and it may include infusions that the bestial kineticist has. At 16th level, composite blasts may be used thus. The ability has a range of 60 ft. and still makes the bestial kineticist take burn. 12th level’s bonus trick is replaced with expanded element, and if the bestial kineticist takes the primary element, we get +1 to atk, damage DC and caster level checks for that element’s wild talents, as well as gaining a bonus infusion or wild talent. I really loved this one!

The second archetype would be the metakinetic savant, who may, at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, choose a metamagic feat instead of one of the metakinesis progressions, which they may then apply to any kinetic blast, with burn cost increasing as per the increased spell level of the respective metamagic feat. Cool: Schools and subschools of blasts are properly codified, and unlisted blasts are up to the GM’s control, with some guidance provided. Also nice: A whole series of potentially problematic metamagic feats are noted. A metakinetic savant may take Expanded Metakinesis as soon as 1st level, and starting at 5th level, the metakinetic savant may select any metamagic feat for Expanded Metakinesis, provided it increases the spell level by 1 or less, and the interaction of abilities if retained in a tight manner. The internal buffer of the archetype is doubled in size and multiple points may be spent per round on the same wild talent, but the points may only be spent to avoid accepting burn from metakinesis or metamagic feats added to blasts. Instead of metakinetic master, 16th level metakinesis and metamagic feat burn cost is reduced by 1, with the effect not stacking when multiple such modifications are added to a single blast. The archetype may btw. be taken in conjunction with other archetypes that modify metakinesis, but may not replace metakinesis which other archetypes alter or replace. A really interesting engine tweak!

The nihilicist must be one step within neutral alignment and may not be forced to gain an element, kinetic blast or wild talent. If the archetype ever willingly gains a primary element or any non-universal wild talent, except those aligned with the ones granted by the archetype, they lose this archetype. A nihilicist gains no element, but rather nothingness. Empty blast is a simple blast, which may be a physical or energy blast. It is kinda untyped, damage-wise, but actually not and drains away a part of the target’s existence. 7th level provides the Zero blast composite blast, at the cost of 2 burn. Universal infusions may be applied to these, as well as e.g. chain, cyclone, etc. Nice: Damage output here is balanced and modified individually to account for the damage type, a decision that bespeaks the knowledge of the authors regarding the deep levels of kineticist design. The archetype starts with empty infusion and 7th and 15th level nets a bonus feat, infusion or utility wild talent. This ability replaces the basic utility wild talent, elemental focus and expanded element and alters utility wild talents. Now, I noted that special damage – this would be nihil damage. This is nonlethal damage for purposes of being cured, but transcends immunity to them. Nihil damage ignores hardness and staggers targets that have their HP exceeded by it, even if they would be immune. Additionally, a nihilicist can select up to one creature per 60 ft. away, plus 1 per 3 class levels, converting all nihil damage to lethal damage as a standard action, which may also be done in conjunction with gathering power as a full-round action by decreasing the burn reduction it provides by 1. Cool: An amount of damage from the conversion may also be changed into conditions, with a scaling save to avoid. This replaces the infusions gained at 1st, 9th and 17th level and offers a unique playstyle…and seriously, in spite of usually HATING new damage types thrown in, this one is so rooted in existing ones and works so smoothly (and so intricately entwined with detailed features) that I really liked it.

Instead of elemental defense, the nihilicist can convert Constitution modifier lethal damage into nonlethal damage 1/day as a full-round action, +1/day at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Whenever they accept burn to use a wild talent, they gain DR equal to class level + Constitution modifier versus nonlethal damage for 1 round; it does not prevent burn, nor does it affect nonlethal damage converted to lethal. Also at 2nd level, we get constant negate aroma, less food and sleep required and 6th level, this also includes nondetection and at 12th level, mind blank. Additionally, folks will forget the nihilicist, though the character can prevent this permanently via accepting burn and a touch attack – though even willing targets have to save! This one costs 3 utility wild talents, gained at 2nd, 6th and 12th levels. Instead of the 3rd level infusion, the archetype may increase the burn cost of a nihil damage-causing kinetic blast by 1 to immediately apply the effects of the lethal/condition conversion effect, but only pertaining the blast’s damage, not any previously sustained nihil damage. The conversion ratio begins at ½ here and upgrades to full and may later also convert previously sustained nihil damage, but at the cost of additional burn. The capstone reduces the damage-conversion cost for conditions and the capstone also allows them to go out with a…non-bang. The character can center a sphere of annihilation on themselves. This is…beautiful. The ultimate self-sacrifice, an sans suffering left behind, but also with one’s mark completely obliterated. This is a truly tragic and super potent way to go that fits perfectly with the archetype.

The onslaught blaster is amazing for epic battle scenes: Whenever the character uses the kinetic blast, he may fire multiple blasts, equal to 1d6 + 1 damage for physical energy and 1d6 for energy damage, with an additional blast for every 2 kineticist levels past 1st. Each individual hit takes damage equal to the onslaught blaster’s Constitution modifier for physical blasts, half as much for energy blasts. Attacked targets are decided prior to rolling an attack roll and substance or form infusions applied apply to all blasts. Versus a single target, the attacks are pooled into a stronger blast, which is treated as a single attack and effects apply only once to the blast, so no cheesing there. For every 2 blasts beyond the first that target the same creature, damage increases by +3 for physical, +1 for energy blasts. However, an onslaught blaster may not have any form infusion that reduces the range, emulates a melee attack or many throw infusion applied. Telekinetic blast can only throw a single object. This…is beautiful. I’m beaming right here. Once more, this showcases system mastery to a truly impressive degree. Instead of gather power, supercharge and metakinesis, the character can use the onslaught blast as a full-round action at -1 burn, with 11th and 19th level providing further options to reduce burn, tied to action economy.

At 3rd level, when using the aforementioned ability while having 1 burn, they may execute an additional blast, with 9th and 15th level providing +1 blast at 3 and 5 burn, respectively. Elemental overflow does not provide a bonus to damage for the archetype, though. Metakinesis (empower) is replaced with the option to accept burn to execute additional blasts, with 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter adding to that. Additionally, the ability nets a slight damage-increase, which also extends to the other abilities that replace the metakinesis ability tree. At 9th level, we add temporary debuffs to creatures pummeled, and 13th and 17th level allow for artillery style additional blasts for increasing burn costs. This fellow is pretty brutal, but also rather epic – it’s actually a really good mook-mower, and the archetype has a rather easy means to scale for lower-powered games, with the bonus damage granted by the metakinesis-replacements making for an easy choice to slightly decrease the damage output, should you so choose.

The final kineticist archetype herein would be the telekinetic bladeshifter, who gain proficiency with all simple melee and one-handed martial weapons, as well as all thrown simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor, and shields, excluding tower shields. They are locked into aether as primary element and telekinetic blast as the kinetic blast, but retains archetype compatibility regarding these features. The archetype has a full ABB-progression, but only 1/3rd class level Reflex-save progression. At 1st level, the archetype chooses a light or one-handed melee or thrown weapon that is neither unarmed, natural or projectile-based and when using telekinetic blast, rather than normal, it transforms the object used into the chosen weapon and may be used as a free action once per turn, treating the bladeshifter as if wielding the weapon, dealing damage as a warpriest’s sacred weapon. The weapon thus wielded may be enhanced as a kinetic blast and substance infusions as well as metakinesis applied to telekinetic blasts work as if used with the kinetic whip infusion. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the bladeshifter gets an additional weapon that may be chosen as such, with 9th level unlocking advanced weapon/armor training options, substituting elemental overflow attack roll bonus for the weapon training bonus. Non-telekinetic blast kinetic blasts deal damage as a ½ class level sacred weapon and 1/3 spell level, if relevant. Elemental overflow does not provide a bonus to attack roll (would have been overkill here) and the damage-bonus it provides is equal to the burn the character currently has. The archetype is locked out of form infusions. The archetype may choose combat feats instead of utility wild talents, using their class level as fighter levels to qualify. At 5th level, they can choose substance infusions instead of wild talents, but at 4 class levels lower. This reduction also applies to infusions chosen as part of the expanded element.

At 2nd level, elemental defenses is replaced with forcewoven shield, which allows the character to accept burn in order to increase the enhancement bonus of a shield used by +1, not interfering with gather power. There is an issue here: The bonus scales up to +10, and can generate shields with basically a +15 bonus, which surpasses the cap assumed by PFRPG for enhancement bonuses. It probably won’t break the game, but since high-level math is already finicky for the GM to get right, that amount beyond the usual…well. Not a fan. This effect may also be used in conjunction with other abilities that grant a shield bonus, btw. Not as happy with this one. 3rd level nets the option to make telekinetic blast weapons out of force and target touch AC, which is, for a full BAB-class, an all but guaranteed hit. Sure, at the cost of halved damage and being subject to SR…but still. For 2 burn, the blast can inflict full damage while in force mode. Additionally, for a swift action, telekinetic blast weapons can be enhanced (up to +5) or add a variety of different special weapon properties. For the weapon mods, the archetype loses the 3rd, 11th and 19th level infusions. 9th and 17th level provide a specialization based on armor, shield, or weapon type preferred, allowing you, for example, to make two-handed melee weapons for the telekinetic blade ability, etc., but at the cost of composite and infusion specialization at 5th, 11th and 17th level as well as metakinesis (twice/maximize). The capstone is bland, with auto-confirmed crits and critical multiplier increase by +1 (x4’s bad enough, imho) as well as DR when having the shield active. This archetype is the one of the kineticist archetypes herein that feels a bit rough – it’s not bad, mind you, but it feels like it tries to do a whole lot, and could do so much more with its concepts, but instead had to settle for a cut-down version that used numerical bonuses instead of diverse abilities. This left me with the impression that it should have received a hybrid class treatment akin to the cool kinetic shinobi.

There are also 3 non-kineticist archetypes/class options in the book: The Planetouched oracle loses mystery and revelation in favor of spliced in kineticist options; the planar custodian druid takes a similar role, but take a more interesting stance as far as I’m concerned, in that they require the companion to take the bestial kineticist archetype, with domains being pretty detailed in their guidance as well. Domains can also tie in with the elemental focus from the kineticist class, which replaces wild empathy and creates an interesting alternate choice here. It should be noted that even exotic choices like plant companions are addressed. Thus, the modification of nature’s bond is already a pretty big change on how this plays. It is also interesting to note that the level-based mechanics of the companion-archetype tie in rather well here, with burn instead applying to the kineticist level, providing an engine that feels different. Infusions gained are balanced versus wild shape improvements and the primary element’s defense wild talent is similarly powered by wild shape starting at 6th level, with the woodland stride and venom immunity features paying for it. We can, obviously, also find elemental body/plant shape (for wood specialists) here, though annoyingly the spell-references are not italicized properly. (They are hyperlinked, though!). The capstone makes burn costs of infusions be treated as less and adds wild shape uses. Really nice hybrid-style archetype. Play differently from both parents, like it!

Finally, there would be the order of the scion, which would be a cavalier order devoted to keep the world in balance. Interesting: Depending on element chosen, the challenge will bestow bonuses for allies associated with the respective element, making that aspect team-focused. The order thus has a pretty extensive, if not exhaustive list of abilities associated with the element chosen. The 2nd level nets a no-burn at-will simple kinetic blast modified with kinetic whip, but only as a 1st level kineticist, which is upgraded at 7th level, where a challenge use may be expended to increase the damage versus a challenge target. The blast, however, is treated as a lance for how it interacts with charges. Yeah, that’s a damn good reason for the base damage-scaling’s subdued nature here! 15th level nets a composite blast and 8th level provides the defense wild talent, with 15th level unlocking elemental overflow, and in the absence of burn, the order once more has an interesting cooldown here.

The pdf contains 6 general infusions: Lingering Darkness adds masochistic shadow to one target of the negative energy-based blast. Ricochet does what it says on the tin for 2 burn, with only a 15 ft. bounce of range, bludgeoning damage and no further ricochet possible beyond the first. Works for me. Dehydrating blast, at 2 burn, reduces damage die size by one step and does not travel to the target; SR applies and the target may end up fatigued until it had something to drink. Nice: Blood kineticists may use it with blood blast. Dehydrating blast also has a greater level 6 upgrade for 4 burn, which makes the extracted water as a globe of water the origin for a follow-up water blast, which is all kinds of cool and allows for neat point-of-origin tricks. Countering and spellturning infusion are great ideas, but RAW do not work as intended. They can be used to counter activated extraordinary or supernatural attacks as well, but fail to specify a metric by which you could determine the success of the like, which is a real bummer, for the idea here is pretty cool!

Unless I’ve miscounted, 13 wild talents are next and included here are basic cryokinesis and electrokinesis, improved celerity is back from LK I, afflicting targets with dyslexia…and BECOMING A KINETIC LICH. _ YES! Happy. (There is also one for kinetic undead PCs, fyi, if you for example wanted to play an undead wight/vampire via Rite Publishing’s In the Company-series, for example.) What about having energy linger around targets reduced to 0 hp, making for nasty surprises for the healers? Or the one that links hit targets together, drawing them magnetically to one another? Yeah, I really liked this section. It’s complex, creative and has some true gems. We can also finmd 11 feats here, some of which have some interesting synergy: Kinetic Railgun makes onslaught blaster capable of benefiting from haste with their onslaught blast and adding metakinesis to animal companions, dark elementalist support…and then there is Autobuffer, which is usually the type of feat IM not too keen on. When accepting burn on a wild talent, you have a 20% to regain a point of burn in the internal buffer at the beginning of next turn. Each time you fail it, the chance increases by +20%, and upon success, it resets to 20%. However, the feat has no effect when already having maximum points in the internal buffer…and it’s interesting in that it’s slightly unreliable nature makes it exciting at the table. So yeah. Well done.

Speaking of “well done” – there are 5 spells within (covering, class-wise, all the classes, including ACG and OA): Here we have turning nonlethal to lethal damage temporarily, delaying burn…and two real gems. One that forces the target to accept burn (ouch) and the second one is actually a permanent spell that stipulates a prohibition, a violation of which causes the target to accept burn. I can see whole evil empires or “benevolent” The-state/church/etc.-knows-what’s-best types use this one to chilling efficiency. Inspiring!

The pdf also includes a 10-level PrC that nets d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Will-save progression as well as 3/5th spellcasting progression. The PrC requires 5 ranks in Spellcraft and Knowledge (nature) or (planes), ability to cast 2nd level arcane or psychic spells and needs the kinetic blast class feature as well as an additional one like spellstrike and its variants, arcanist exploits, fetish, harrowing, etc. The PrC nets 4 + Int skills per level and nets proficiency with simple weapons, light armors and bucklers. If you haven’t noticed via the prerequisites – this is pretty much a classic, hybrid-y kineticist/caster multiclass and as such, kineticist-advancement takes place whenever the class does not gain spellcasting progression. The PrC is, design-wise, once more an impressive achievement, as it manages to codify blasts as something that may be delivered via e.g. spellstrikes while retaining balancing factors that prevent this aspect from being cheesed to smithereens. The PrC also has a rather interesting series of three conductive substance infusions that allow you to lace kinetic blasts into touch spells, with composite blasts unlocked via the Greater version and there is progression of previous class features hard-coded into the PrC as well. I was also rather positively surprised by the extended holding charge mechanic, which does not automatically delivers a held spell when touching someone, providing additional control via a rather rarely employed angle. Burn to power spellcasting and the ability to prepare kinetic blasts in spell slots makes for an interesting capstone as well. While we’re on the subject of multiclassing/hybrid-concepts: The pdf does contain proper variant multiclassing rules that provide some meaningful, if less potent, options. I liked how these turned out.

Now, obviously, there would be the big thing still missing – here, that would be the Legendary Kineticist variant class. (I’ll abbreviated the fellow as “LK” from here on out.) The LK gets d8 HD, 4 + Int-mod skills, proficiency with simple weapons as well as light and medium armors, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. 1st level nets elemental focus alongside the basic utility talent as a bonus wild talent. 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter nets a new utility wild talent, and at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter, one may be replaced, but not if it’s been used to qualify for another wild talent. Wild talents auto-scale in DC, with save DC governed by 10 + ½ class levels and Constitution modifier. 1st level also nets kinetic blast, obviously, and gather power only requires ONE free hand now, which can be pretty potent as a minor tweak, but which also makes sense to me. 1st level nets an infusion, with another one granted at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 4th level and every 4 levels after that allowing for retraining of one. This represents an upgrade in flexibility, obviously. Form infusions still use Dexterity to calculate the save DCs, thankfully. They may NOT replace an infusion with a wild talent. 2nd level nets elemental defense and 3rd level provides elemental overflow. Infusion specialization is retained as well. Metakinesis (ability name not bolded properly) is modified: 9th level is actually better balanced here: For the burn cost, the LK can force a target to reroll the save as if using Persistent Spell.

Expanded element is, as a base-line, more powerful now: It is gained at 6th level (again at 14th) and retains its benefits; however, the second element is no longer treated as -4 kineticist levels for the purpose of qualifying for wild talents. HOWEVER, and that is one of the balancing components here, expanded element no longer can grant you wild talents when expanding a previous element. To offset that, internal buffer is moved up to 7th level. This one works differently: It now starts at 1 and replenishes each day, but may not be simply charged back up. Points spent from it don’t activate elemental overflow and do not add to its effects, and the buffer may explicitly be used to exceed a single turn’s burn, but may not be used with battle burn. Buffer-size increases to 2 points at 11th and 3 at 16th level.

Wait, battle burn? Well, yeah, that’s one of the big differences here. Gained as soon as 4th level, battle burn means that the kineticist can accept 1 point of battle burn that has no physical effect. This may be taken when using an infusion or utility wild talent, but the respective ability must have a non-instantaneous duration measured in rounds or minutes. Wild talent duration is reduced to 5 minutes when powered by battle burn, or their normal duration, whichever is less. LKs can accept battle burn alongside normal burn (thus exceeding the limits) and 11th and 18th level increase the battle burn by +1, though the LK can only accept one per round. Here’s the catch: A 5 minute rest replenishes all battle burn. Yeah…I enjoy the idea, but I think that, in conjunction with the tweaks to the Burn-engine and slight power-upgrades here and there, this goes slightly too far.

Supercharge may now also be used as a swift action to reduce burn cost by 1 in addition to its classic effects. Composite blast remains at 16th level, metakinetic master remains at 19th level, and the capstone accounts for the changes wrought by battle burn. Extra Wild Talent has been rewritten for use in conjunction with this class.

Okay. I postponed this long enough. Let’s talk Burn. The LK’s burn cap is 3 + Constitution modifier, and the class can accept 1 point of burn per round, +1 at 6th level and for every 3 levels thereafter. Now, for one, battle burn, as noted, does not come into play here; neither does the internal buffer require this long to “recharge”, so we have as a whole some improved flexibility. But what’s the effect of burn? Well, it’s a -1 penalty to all Strength and Dexterity-based ability and skill checks, except initiative. That’s it. No save-penalty. No AC-penalty. Now, granted, this supersedes immunity to taking penalties to these, but the design ramifications are vast. I’ll get to those below.

The pdf, as has become the tradition with these files, concludes with a fully realized character, Trueno, the herald of the white sky, a middle-aged half-elven onslaught blaster legendary kineticist 8 with a nice backgroundstory and boon.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level – while I noticed some minor deviations here and there, the pdf as a whole is pretty crisp and clean in that regard. Rules-language is impressive. The pdf juggles top-tier complexity concepts and displays an in-depth knowledge of rules-intricacies and balancing tweaks that few books showcase. While a few minor snafus have crept into the book, they are few and far in-between, and I’ll rather have highly complex and fun options with minor blemishes than perfect, low-difficulty blandness. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf features a blend of classic and new artwork from LG’s catalogue. It should be noted that the layout crams a ton of information on each page, making this a very dense book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

N. Jolly and Onyx Tanuki, with contributing editors Blue Maculagh, Jacob McCoy, Timothy Mclaughlin and Blake Morton, have delivered what I did not expect here.

To get that out of the way: As a person, I LOATHE, with a fiery passion, the legendary kineticist’s burn mechanic. To me, the decreased combat capability and increasing vulnerability of kineticists due to burn is what makes them unique, fun and exciting to play. It’s literally what made me like the class. The LK gets rid of that in favor of a penalty that even a moderately capable group can play around without too much hassle. The LK retains combat power without a meaningful compromise in its defenses, which is pretty much what made it interesting for me. (Unless you get grappled and need to pass through threatened squares/climb/etc. in combat – then, you’ll suffer…if you didn’t plan ahead via magic items etc.) In short, the LK’s burn is more of a minor inconvenience than a question of survival/betting/etc. I hate the loss of flexibility regarding movement on the battlefield in favor of raw power here.

That being said, this is NOT a bug. It’s a feature. It’s what a lot of folks wanted. You see, the regular kineticist is a class that can be pretty challenging to play, simply because it can become so damn fragile. What excites me may be frustrating for others. And so, while I, as a person, despise it, am cognizant as a reviewer, that it will be just what the doctor ordered for many, many folks out there. It requires less system mastery, less teamwork and cautious playing, particularly in combination with battle burn. For me personally, this combo catapults the class to the point where I wouldn’t allow it in my games. HOWEVER, at the same time, there is a ton to love about the LK. I love pretty much all other tweaks t the chassis of the class. I really do, and, as a whole, I consider the chassis to be smoother and more elegant, with internal buffer as one example that many a group should scavenge. So yes, in spite of knowing about the burn beforehand and knowing I’d hate it, there is still a lot to love about this class...and if you want my advice and feel the same, you can put a hard, scaling daily cap on battle burn and use the old burn with this chassis sans breaking the game…so that’s probably what I’ll do.

Now, what I did not expect, was to like the archetypes and other supplemental material to this extent: With the notable exception of the telekinetic blademaster and its slightly weird design decisions, I found myself grinning rather broadly while reading this. The druid-companion double team, the unique tweaks to kineticist tricks, the inspired nihilicist…there is a ton to love here, and indeed, I consider this to be one of the best kineticist expansions out there. There is a lot of creative, high-concept and high-difficulty material in this book. It is creative and manages to convey a surprising amount of flavor in its dense crunch. Indeed, in contrast to my expectations, in spite of the couple of hiccups regarding the counter/spellturn options, in spite of knowing that I wouldn’t like the cornerstone of the damn main selling point of the book, I still found myself enjoying this book. The spells, the little options here and there…there is so much passion evident here, even after so many kineticist books. This is, in short, a book I’d consider to be a must-have for kineticist-fans. If you gravitate towards grittier playstyles, you should treat the LK with care and consider nerfing it, but even then, this will have so many cool concepts within its pages that it remains worth the asking price even if divorced from the alternate class. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars due to the minor hiccups and balance-concerns, but I absolutely HAVE to round up for this book. It made me smile with its ambition and skill, and as such, I’ll also slap my seal of approval on this. In case you were wondering: This, for me as a person, shares the throne of best kineticist supplement with Kineticists of Prophyra III.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Kineticists II
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13 Wizard Cantrips and Spells (13th Age Compatible)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2018 03:54:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This crunchy little supplement clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page taken up by an old, but nice stock-art piece, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of material, so let’s take a look!

After an introduction, we begin with the one cantrip herein – that would be Quench, which falls firmly into the utility region and does what it says on the tin, with higher levels allowing for the extinguishing of far away fires or bigger ones nearby. Nice one. The pdf has 2 different utility spell: Arcane Eye. Yes, the beloved I-spy-with-my-little-eye favorite of any wizard-operator finally makes its way to 13th Age, at 3rd level, with upgrades for 5th, 7th and 9th level provided and a concisely defined limit regarding range and speed, as well as AC and PD. The new 5th level utility spell herein would be another classic – Wall of Stone. This one completely blocks out Adventurer tier characters, allowing only champion tier and up to break through or scale it, which isn’t a solution I enjoy. Why not work with modifications to the DC to prevent the wall from being breached based on the assailants? Both are ranged spells, btw.

For 1st level, we once more have two spells that scale at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level, the first of which would be two rolled in one: Enlarge/Shrink Object. The basic idea here is simple – double or halve the size, with Intelligence + Level vs. PD of holding person to resist. Now, where things become interesting, is with the different level-upgrades, where penalties and enlarged items rendering targets stuck making for really creative tweaks of the 13th Age game, setting the spell apart from its other incarnations across the different game-engines. This spell has no feat-based options. The second 1st level spell is another cult classic: Mirror Image. It’s codified as close range, and, on a natural odd hit, one of the 1d2 doubles are hit instead and wink out of existence, with higher levels upgrading the number and providing for means to take crits automatically or adding the escalation die’s halved value (I assume, rounded down) to the doubles created. The Adventurer feat nets a chance for recharges of the spell after battle, while Champion tier’s feat’s images can execute basic melee attacks that inflict psychic damage. Epic feat mirror doubles detonate. Sooo…I’m kinda torn here. Oddly, this spell can make hits inflict more damage than misses, which is a bit strange and an aesthetic choice I am not too fond of.

We also have two 3rd-level spells, the first of which would be the ranged spell Snowball Swarm, which may be recklessly cast for +1d3 targets, but a chance that allies may be hit. On the plus side, targets hit by such a cast may also be dazed on a failed easy save. Damage scaling is solid compared to e.g. Force Salvo and the thing that sets the base version apart from the 5th, 7th and 9th level versions. The three feats for the spell enhance the save for the recklessly cast spell, more targets affected by them, and the epic feat adds a chance to render the targets temporarily helpless. Web is a close-quarter spell and another classic brought to 13th Age. The spell dazes targets and render them stuck, with the escalation die tied to the daze-duration. The 5th, 7th and 9th level versions, we have more reliability for the spell, and it has a short-term natural even miss dazing as well baked into its base engine. The two feats improve the dazed save and add poison-damage-causing spiders to the webbing. Nice tweak here!

The 3 5th level spell include Acid Rain, a ranged spell that can render targets vulnerable, with half damage on misses. Champion and Epic feats enhance the vulnerability added to the damage, as well as a target-increase. Two close-quarters spells are provided, with Enlarge/Shrink Creature representing a buff/debuff, respectively, is a bit odd in the pretty hefty benefits for being enlarged, but yeah. It’s still a rather nice classic. Titan’s Fist, another close-range spell, allows yo to target more targets at increasing penalties for doing so. Nice one, though I’d probably cap that based on Intelligence. Damage-wise, this is solid, and the feat-upgrades are nice, adding stuck or flinging a target away – did someone say Bigby?

At 7th level, the first classic would be Reverse Gravity, which once more comes with a recklessly cast version for additional targets, at the risk of affecting engaged allies. The spell causes untyped damage, which is somewhat problematic, since its damage metrics are based on Transfer Enchantment (which uses psychic damage), with additionally, more targets affected by Reverse Gravity. Not a fan. Cool, on the other hand – analogue to the CRB’s Haste, we get a Slow spell based on it – it would have been nice to have interaction between these opposed spells, however. Plus-side: If the escalation die’s odd, the effect may persist.

Anyways, the final spell is another classic: The 9th level spell would be Prismatic Barriers, which makes good use of damage types of 13th Age and really potent defensive tricks. The epic tier feat lets you expand the barrier by 1d2 allies included and lower-tier targets being really hampered.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – the presentation is precise. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports one amazing, new artwork, and an oddly 1-page version of a classic stock-art piece. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, which is a nice thing to see for such a brief pdf.

Richard Moore knows his 13th Age – while I do not like every design-decision herein, and while balance is not always meticulous, this pdf should still be considered to be a good buy for all 13th Age Wizard-players, adding some cult-classic spells to the game, often making good use of the diverse options available in 13th Age’s engine. All in all, I consider this to be a good offering, slightly short of the Fighter Talents and Maneuvers presented in the companion pdf. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
13 Wizard Cantrips and Spells (13th Age Compatible)
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The Gnomes of Levnec
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2018 03:31:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was made possible and commissioned by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.

Now, first of all: This is a dual-format adventure, providing mechanical stats for both NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival) and the more traditional OSR-games. Stat-wise, we get the bare minimum for OSR– hit points/Hit Dice, AC expressed as “as Plate and Shield”, for example, and morale noted in general terms. The NGR stats work a bit better as far as I’m concerned, and use more terrain features. Now, both systems get a selection of different spells that can be found here – for example an iteration of the old hover disc spell; avenging bolt is a level 1 damaging spell that deals less damage, but may have the target barf…and, nastily, cause delayed damage after completing the next sleeping cycle. Open sesame can open objects, windows etc. and stone spirit, which is the only non-1st-level spell herein conjures forth just that. For OSR, this spell suffers from not adhering to a single system, making its rules-language somewhat elaborate for what it does. Now, two of the best spells herein are NGR-exclusives: Chalk mist transforms the target into chalk in a damaging manner, while childish conjuration is a cantrip that can transform material into different, malleable one, but only if no one is looking. The best spell available for both systems would be the level 1 spell beckon the dragon, which has the caster whisper the name of a dragon within 100 miles, beckoning the dragon to the caster’s location. No, this does not make the dragon liable to like you. Yes, this spell will potentially bite the PCs into their behinds, but it’s also ridiculously high-concept and players will love it.

Okay, the module does contain a charming, hand-drawn map of the region it’s set in (no scale, but that’s kinda intended), and it is basically a sandbox-set-up – the module presents a situation into which the PCs are introduced, but it remains wide open – there is no read-aloud text, but plenty of personality to be found. It also sports some…somewhat mature topics. Nothing grimdark in the traditional sense, mind you, but there is a macabre undertone here, though one that is also suffused by the author’s glorious, dark humor. To give you an idea, here’s the quote from the publisher-blurb:

“The Gnomes of Levnec is an adventure about the fate of an empire and the byzantine machinations of a court that no longer has a monarch. Just kidding, it’s about Gnomes.“ Such deadpan lines suffuse the module as well. They work. They make reading the module really FUN.

While the pdf does not specify a level-range, I’d suggest that it works best for new characters, i.e. level 1 for most games. As a special aside, I should note that DCC-judges should continue reading, in spite of this sporting gnomes. You’ll see why soon. The module is setting agnostic and works perfectly in most settings, including our own world, with magic very much subdued. E.g. the Black Dogs-zine theme-hack for LotFP by Daimon Games would make a nice fit – the area around Levnec is basically a frontier backwater that works well with gigantic forests and a lack of civilization or structure as a baseline.

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

..

.

The area around Levnec is under the command of one Lord Kristoph, a rather bad and pathetic ruler, and indeed, this is a leitmotif of sorts: The area feels like a world that has moved on from a more fantastic epoch, but which, at the same time, hasn’t replaced the danger of the mythical era with an equal substitute – instead, it’s very much down to earth and somewhat grimy. Levnec is a poor thorp, with the write-up mentioning 4 different NPCs with a fluff-only write-up and a brief sketch of two locations that tie in with the metaplot of sorts. You see, the place isn’t necessarily considered to be fantastic, but there are ostensibly still pagans around, clinging to the old ways, and the church of St. Nicholas, while beloved by many, is a rather poor place of worship. The corrupt lord doesn’t help, and indeed, when fires ravaged the fields prior to last harvest, the lord refused to have his cattle slaughtered, resulting in a tenth of townsfolk dying. Wildlife is sparse and even the rats are gone in the aftermath of the starvation-inducing winter. While there is a low-level magic-user here, the tower is rotted as well, the caster a rather paltry excuse, who is planning to create a gargoyle to exact vengeance on the disrespectful townsfolk.

There is another plot here, one that ties in with the pagans I mentioned – the Coven of Veles. “These cultists believe they will be able to crush their enemies and be immune to the ravages of time […] So, there are a couple of things wrong with this. For starters there are no clerics here, only funny people believing funny things.” The humor here is hilarious, and they like abducting folks, dancing naked with masks on, and then making a manhunt of the poor sod, who’ll have his hands broken. Yeah, they’re bastards – to quote the pdf: “I am not sure Veles would even want them as followers.”The cult has a fully mapped temple hidden in the woods, and the temple comes with a nice, professional map, though no key-less, player-friendly map is provided. This mini-dungeon manages to evoke a concise atmosphere, portraying a dilapidated temple that may actually, Dark Souls-style, collapse into a gigantic chasm, evoking flashbacks to the deep regions of From Software’s series. Similarly, the dungeon sports interesting features and indirect storytelling that can be rather deadly – a mummified head with a stitched-shut mouth teaches present magic-users the beckon the dragon spell…and casts it. This is very much Soulsian, and it earns this by being fair, yet obscure – it’s a hard balancing act, but I feel this earns the favorable comparison.

While we’re on the subject of the dragon – it’s not a majestic beast, but a pot-bellied, paltry thing…but it’s still a dragon. But yeah, let’s return for a second to the “pagans”/wannabe-cultists. They also think that they might become woodwose, the big, mythic predators that ostensibly haunt the forests. They are wrong. Few woodwose remain, as the starvation and scouring of the local wildlife has rendered their numbers lower than knights ever could, but some remain.

Levnec itself has something rather strange for such a small place – toyshop, closed down. While the townsfolk are not helpful, some investigation will show that the owner was one of the mythical gnomes that ostensibly only exist here…and that the gnome feared being eaten “sooner than expected” by the townsfolk, which should be shocking, considering the childlike innocence of the writer. Some asking around will note that some of the villagers actually vanished completely in the forests, leaving only clothes, but no trail of their physical forms behind.

So yes, there are gnomes here. There is a gnome village in the woods, and it is inhabited by cute garden gnome style beings, with pointy hats and all, whose elite warriors are absolutely paltry…but in order to find the gnomes, the truth about the missing villagers, the cults, etc., the PCs will have to enter the forest…and here, a massive “Lost in the Woods”-generator makes for the mechanical meat of the module. It sports an 8-entry table of where, a d6 table of “What” a d4-table of “Weird” aspects…and rolling3 of the same number yields super-weird Trips-encounters, while two 5s or 6s add additional treasure…like, you know…food. Oh, and maximum rolls on all dice lead you where you actually set off to. This is a surprisingly fun “getting lost”/”Stumbling through forests”-generator, and it makes finding e.g. the gnome village a rather tough and fairy-tale-esque proposition. Now, the gnomes themselves, as mentioned before, are horrible combatants. They also have names like Nuttercloud that you can generate in a small name-generator. They also smell deliciously, garbage turns into delicious raw materials, and the smell of cookies suffuses the air. They only have few taboos, namely not giving them a name – apart from the leader, the Grand Poomba, they don’t seem to have a sense of individualism.

Oh, btw.: Magic-users claim that eating gnome can enhance your magical abilities, and the gnomes, while shy of discussing this, will not dispute it. Heck, it almost seems like their carefree nature, their smell of honey and cinnamon etc., might make them delicious. And indeed, clever players will be able to pinpoint gnomes that know about their “mothers” having memories of missing people. Who are nowhere to be found. You see…the gnomes are WEIRD. They are all they say they are. They are just as innocent and cutesy. They have innate magical powers and indeed, they grant magic powers when eaten. Alas, there is a resolution to what they truly are that is creative and really, really cool, as it ties into the woodwose having been decimated by the humans, and it makes all of it make sense in a delightfully, capital letters WEIRD way. No, they are NOT nefarious. They would not try to fool someone into eating gnome and there is no straight twist here...and if you really want to know what’s up with these strange gnomes, you’ll have to get the module. It’ll be worth it, regardless of system you’re playing!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, as far as you can claim as such for the generic, non-system-specific OSR-components. The NGR-components are precise and to the point. On a formal level, I noticed a couple of typos, but nothing jarring. The layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard that is crisp, well-presented and easy to read – surprisingly nice for a first offering. Same goes for the maps, though I do bemoan the fact that we do not get player-friendly versions. I strongly suggest printing out the pdf, as the electronic version has no bookmarks, which constitutes an annoying comfort detriment.

Zzarchov Kowolski’s freshman offering (as far as I know) is an impressive scenario for advanced GMs. The sandboxy nature and presentation requires that the GM knows the module properly and doesn’t bother with much handholding. At the same time, the scenario features a really cool mini-game and makes SENSE in its weird own way. The atmosphere is absolutely superb and its strong motifs echo throughout the book; the threat of starvation looming over the region makes for an uncommon and challenging obstacle for the PCs, and the reveal is amazing. This module can go a ton of different ways, courtesy of its open structure, and thus sports a ton of replay value. From a focused convention.game to a long-winded mini-campaign, it could carry a selection of different playstyles.

It’s also frickin’ hilarious. At least it was for me. I only rarely laughed this much when reading an RPG-supplement, and it earns this dark humor, without having it spoil the atmosphere. Now, the absence of bookmarks and player-friendly maps would usually lock this down to the 4-star-regions, but this would honestly not do the module justice. The Gnomes of Levnec is an amazing 1st-level module (or 0-level funnel for DCC) that manages more in its couple of pages than many modules with twice that page-count. It also gets the freshman offering bonus, which is why I will round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars…and since I really enjoyed this, I will also slap my seal of approval on this, in spite of its formal imperfections. If you like your fantasy dark and weird, with a dash of black humor, then put this in your cart ASAP. Have I mentioned the hand-out? Well, it has one. I’m not going to SPOIL what’s on it, though.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gnomes of Levnec
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Star Log.EM-012: Loremaster
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2018 03:26:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

As always, we begin with a brief introduction and the meta-framework of accessing a database. The pdf represents another one of the classic concepts of d20-based gaming and converts it to SFRPG, this time around featuring the loremaster, one of the arguably most boring PrCs ever devised. I always liked the idea of the loremaster, but the implementation has never really touched me, so let’s see whether the Starfinder-version fares better!

Structurally, the loremaster is an archetype, and supplemental material-wise, we also receive 3 feats. Let’s start with these. Cunning nets you +1 skill rank for every character level you have and gain from there on out. Additionally, when making a skill check with a trained skill associated with the class’s key ability modifier, you add a +1 base bonus to the check. If you’re a multiclass character, you must choose one key ability modifier. The feat takes the peculiarities of Constitution into account. Now, rules-language-wise, this is interesting, as it employs Starfinder codifying base bonuses and providing a means to enhance your skills. I like the implementation here, but in the long run, I am a bit weary of skill boosts that, by their nature, can provide too much stacking. Now, this feat does not have an issue or the like, I’m just slightly cautious regarding the long run. Resolute Fighting is a combat feat that builds on Adaptive Fighting and allows you to spend 1 Resolve Point to use it again without having to rest. This is not an action. Studied Aim is interesting. After successfully identifying a creature with the appropriate skill, you may use the skill instead of your BAB for the purpose of determining the bonus damage caused by Deadly Aim. If skill and BAB are equal to your level, you increase the damage of Deadly Aim by +2 instead. The interaction with existing feats is precise and manages to find a use for skills sans falling prey to the cheesable aspects, and the damage increase this yields is held in check by action economy. I was really surprised to like this.

Now, the loremaster archetype grants alternate class features at 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level. The second level nets you a +1 enhancement bonus to all skill checks made to identify creatures or recall knowledge about them, and allows you to make the check untrained. Additionally, you add a skill from a list to your class skills. At 4th, 12th and 18th level, the archetype nets a Loremaster’s Secret, which is a bonus feat, limited by the fact that its prerequisites may not contain anything but skill ranks and ability scores, so no combat trees, advanced feats, etc.. The 6th level ability is called “Saw it All” and lets you choose 3 options, which may include a 1st-level connection power, a 2nd level envoy improvisation, mechanic trick, operative exploit, stellar revelation, magic hack or combat feat, except Adaptive Fighting. These still require that you have access to abilities the chosen options build upon. As a move action, you can gain the benefit of one of these for a minute. The ability may be used once per rest interval, and upon gaining a level, you may exchange one of the options chosen with another.

The pdf, as always, concludes with a well-written section that contextualizes the loremaster tradition in the Xa-Osoro system.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and the piece of artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ translation of the loremaster had me surprised. I already confessed to my personal disdain for the PrC this was based on, and while the loremaster presented here isn’t exactly the most unique concept, it is still remarkable what level of identity the author has coaxed out of one of the most generic, milquetoast-bland concepts in d20. Contrary to my expectations, the loremaster presented here actually has some complex and interesting tricks – the Saw it All feature is wide open, but functional, and the material herein, as a whole, can be considered a success. Now, I still don’t like the loremaster much, but I can get behind this iteration, and that’s quite a victory. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-012: Loremaster
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FAITH: Core Book
Publisher: Burning Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2018 07:34:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive RPG clocks in at 433 pages minus the covers etc.; once you take credits and the detailed, general index away, you’re left with 426 pages, not including the 4 pregens and 3 general sheets included for your convenience.

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. The review is based on the massive full-color hardcover.

All right, I am going to deviate somewhat from my usual reviewing style while tackling this beast and separate the review in 3 sections, namely formal qualities, game engine and setting.

The first thing you’ll notice upon laying eyes on the book, is that the cover image evokes a sense of advanced Cyberpunk-ish aesthetics. There is a reason for that, an Altered Carbon flashbacks you may have are entirely justified, as the game does not necessarily lend itself to Shadowrun-ish cyberpunk, but works rather well in more extreme versions for the genre. That being said, make no mistake: FAITH is very much a sci-fi game in aesthetics and its ambition, and not one of the many space-opera-ish games out there. But we’ll get back to that later. The second thing you’ll notice upon opening the book, would be layout and artwork. From color-coded riders on the side to boxed texts, the layout of the book is engineered to make its use simple: Advanced rules have their own, shaded boxes, as do examples of play/rules in action. This provides clear visual cues for the use of the game.

And then there would be the aesthetic component. FAITH is easily one of the most beautiful RPG books I have ever laid my eyes upon. I am not kidding. See that cover? I’d actually argue that it’s one of the weakest artworks in the book. We get panoramic vistas of alien cityscapes and planets, drop-dead gorgeous depictions of the races, and the quality of the artwork throughout is on par with expensive video-game artwork books. I am not kidding when I’m saying that many a conceptual artwork unlocked in current triple A-videogame titles pales before the sheer aesthetic joy evoked by many of the artworks within. Even better, the book actually has a distinct and unified art style, which is 100% coherent and concise. Now, it should be noted that the artworks for the races include nude renditions of the alien and human races, so if any depiction of a non-sexualized human body offends you due to some irrational taboo, then that’s something to look out for. Then again, if that’s the case, you probably wouldn’t get anything out of this book in such a case, as it is a book that focuses on big questions in a plethora of ways.

As stunning and gorgeous the book is on a visual level, I’m afraid I can’t say the same thing for the editing. While the vast majority of the book is presented in a level of precision and care you’d expect from such a big core book, and thus remains very much a precise, well-crafted book, there are sections interspersed throughout the book where concentration seems to have wavered, one of which, unfortunately, is the introductory section, where e.g. a doubled paragraph and more formal glitches can be found than you’d expect from a book that showcases such stunning visuals. The somewhat uneven editing remains one of the most obvious imperfections of the book.

Now, I have seen some reviews accusing FAITH of being a hybrid between a card/board-game and a RPG. I’d frankly argue that this is a folly. FAITH employs cards as randomizers, yes, but the book does not require any special cards, miniatures, etc.. You can purchase the FAITH-specific decks, sure, but the game works just as well with regular decks of cards. It should be noted that e.g. items all come with their gorgeous artworks, and while these can be had as cards, the book also features them, including their gorgeous artworks. As a card-based game, the game spends some time advising on how many card decks you should have. Personally, I’d strongly advise in favor of each player and GM having their own decks. The value of an ace is 1, jack 11, queen 12, king 13. That’s pretty much all you need to know, value-wise, to play FAITH with regular cards. Now, the FAITH deck (which I do not own and haven’t used) knows 4 suits: Wilderness, Urban, Space and OS – all of these suits have their own icon and correspond to one of the suits of the classic poker deck. Jokers are special: They can only be played in specific circumstances: After declaring successes and failures, you may play a joker to improve the level of success of one success, or decrease the success of an enemy by one step. So yeah, no one should feel that tracking these basics overexerts their mental faculties.

It should be noted that a key concept of FAITH is that each player has 7 cards (humans may have up to 8), and may not look into deck or discard pile. Players may not share the values of the cards in their hands, not show them o other players, but they can provide general hints of how well they’re doing. When do you draw again? Well, that is one of the most intriguing aspects of the FAITH game: It grants the GM pretty much perfect control over the difficulty setting, if you will, of any given sequence. FAITH divides the game into scenes, and at the beginning of a scene, everyone draws up to their maximum hand-size of cards – usually 7. The hand-size is a general indicator of physical and mental fatigue. Characters are assumed to succeed in most regular actions, unless contested. Initiative is governed by its own Skill, and turn are taken according to set value. However, a character may choose to Rush, by discarding one card and adding its value to their initiative score, but only at the start of a round. There are two statuses a PC can have each round: Ready and Spent. If the character is Ready, he can perform an action or wait – if the character is Spent, he can’t do something and must wait for the next round – this is important, as the PCs can attempt counteractions, which, obviously, means that they use their action. This basic framework allows for surprisingly dynamic engagements.

At the end of the round, there is the so-called maintenance phase, where each character that is not traumatized currently and hasn’t taken neural damage that round, regains a point of neural health. After that, the next round starts. Maintenance phases can happen in non-combat situations as well. As noted before, FAITH assumes actions to be successful and knows three degrees of success: Regular, decisive and critical – decisive successes are successes by 5+, critical ones by 10+. Simple. If an action is difficult to perform due to time constraints, or the opposition of environment, characters, etc., then we enter a “Confrontation.” The triggering character determines the action, with related skill and attribute used, using up to one Activated and one Sustained effect. The GM declares the number of cards to be played. Any affected characters aware of the action declare counteractions. Interesting here: Counteractions, unlike the action triggering the confrontation, may only affect the triggering individual. Played values of cards are compared and if the counteraction surpasses the value of the triggering action, it cancels the triggering action. It is only successful versus targets with a lower value. For example, if you throw a grenade into a room with two targets, and one declares to jump out of the room’s window, while the other attempts to run away, and the former is successful, but the latter isn’t, you still blow up the guy that attempted to run, while the guy jumping through the window got away. If the first guy had chosen to kick the grenade back, you’d have been in trouble…

Whenever a character performs an action, he uses a skill. If a skill value is 0, the character suffers a disadvantage. Skill values are decreased by 1 for each damage point (physical and neural) suffered, to a minimum of 0. Neural damage suffered from Activated or Sustained actions occurs as the action resolves, and hence does not penalize the action. Advantage and disadvantages are represented by plus and minus-symbols and add/subtract 5 from the value, respectively.

Now, I’ve already mentioned attributes: The respective attribute determines how many cards you can play per round to add to the values set by the skill. When a player plays a card whose value is equal or less than the Skill, he may draw another card. When the environment in which a card is played corresponds to the suit of the card, the player may also draw a card. This is called ambience. A character also have an affinity with a suit: When playing a card that corresponds to the affinity and in the proper ambience, the player instead draws two cards, one of them in hand, the other must be either be placed on top of the deck or discarded. In case you were wondering: There are only 12 skills, and to state explicitly what I implicitly mentioned before. At character creation, you assign fixed values to them: one 5, one 4, two 3s, two 2s, 3 1s and 3 of your skills will be 0s. You also get 60 points to assign to the 6 attributes (Agility, Constitution, Dexterity, Faith, Link and Mind) and skills, allowing for further customization. Now, it should be noted that Skills and Attributes do not necessarily have a fixed connection. Athletic skill, for example, can be used with Constitution or Agility. Attributes also have maximum limits, depending on the race chosen and the traits of that race – those would be basically a combination of racial and cultural components; planetside and spaceborn characters have different traits, for example.

The game knows both physical and neural health as hit point-like resource, with physical health being twice Constitution, neural health being equal to twice the Mind value. = neural health knocks you out, 0 physical health means you’re bleeding out. The game knows an additional damage that does not apply to characters directly, ACS, adaptive circuit severance, usually inflicted by hacking and neural assaults. Repairing and recovering health via Medicine and Surgery are btw. not something you’ll do instantly, so damage does matter. And that’s already pretty much the whole basic system.

If that sounded somewhat hard to grasp, then that’s not due to the system being complex, but due to the fact that the game system plays rather differently from most RPGs. Miniature play is supported, should you choose, but unlike most d20-based games, it is by no means required to get the most out of it, you can play FAITH in full theatre of the mind-mode sans any issues. All rules, including play examples etc., fit comfortably on 113 pages, with the basic core rules only taking up 25 pages. FAITH is easier to grasp if you approach it without preconceptions from other games.

Now, once you compare the total page-count with the amount of pages taken up by the rules themselves, you’ll end up with 300 pages unaccounted for. Indeed, the book presents these BEFORE the rules of the game. The vast majority of this book is devoted to the setting, and there are two different aspects that set this massive setting apart.

The first of these aspects would be the importance of “Religion” – now, I am putting this term in quotation marks, as, while the game is called FAITH, I’d argue in favor of the game actually lacking faith in the traditional sense. Faith, as a term, denotes belief in something without empirical evidence, often in spite of it. In fact, as an atheist, this aspect had me very concerned. Science-fiction often makes sense due to the lack of supernatural elements, and once you introduce too much magical aspects, it’s progressively harder to maintain your suspension of disbelief without the game becoming space opera-ish. Now, I have commented on the like before, but while I like space opera-style gameplay, I expect more from any game that designates itself as sci-fi; I expect an internal cohesion, that things make sense. Faith, per definition, lacks sense, lacks the empirical foundation that lies at the heart of good science-fiction. So how does FAITH handle this aspect, how does it sell you on the concepts of deities in an otherwise rational universe?

Well, I’d argue that the gods are not really gods in the way that we think about them. Instead, they should be seen as a combination of a Weltanschauung, Zeitgeist and general, value-based ideology; 5 such deities have been identified, with their true names collated from thousands of different representations across different cultures. These concepts/beings are Ergon (cooperation, empathy, teamwork, social concerns), Hexia (intuition, vision, learning, self-improvement), Kaliva (competition, action, adaptability, strength and struggle), Vexal (change, freedom, passion, movement and hope) and Ledger (opposition to all dogma and rules, the trickster/adversary that seeks to undo the work of the other gods). So, while the gods exist undoubtedly, they are basically distilled powers of philosophies, extremes of moral and rational values, and each has a vision of sorts for the universe, each represents the core principals for a plethora of different factions. Now, why do I think that there is no faith in FAITH? (Again, a good thing, in my book!) Well, because the gods are ideas manifest that exist. There’s empiric proof that they exist, and people embodying the ideals of their gods have divine powers of significant proportions. Each god has a diverse set of commandments, and since adhering to these grants powers, as soulbenders can twist reality in accordance with the doctrines of the deity.

Ultimately, there is no question that requires faith; there is no REQUIREMENT to believe in something uncertain with a lack of evidence. “Belief”, arguably, does not enter the picture at all. After all, the gods are a fact, they are ideals made manifest, and as such, are subject to scientific inquiry within the context of the setting; not pseudo-science à la creationism etc., mind you. In the universe of FAITH, philosophy and, indeed, faith itself, is as tangible a force as intelligence, education, etc. is in our world. This focus on the empirical realities also extends to the fact that there is no afterlife myth for any of the gods – irrational notions of heaven or hell have been abandoned when the gods were proven to actually exist in the tangible, material universe. This way of integrating gods into a sci-fi context did a remarkably good job at conveying not only the wonders, but also the horrors that spring forth from the philosophies represented by the deities. So yes, this is an intelligent, creative and genius way to establish general philosophical baselines that transcend the conditions of existence of vastly different species.

Speaking of which: Know how many games that take place in space, how many universes/franchises spam you with differently-colored humans? FAITH does no such thing. There are 4 races to play, with a lot of variance within the races to account for different environments and cultures. Here, the book does something genius: You see, we as human readers are presented the realities of the setting, but considering how universal translation has pretty much gotten rid of language barriers, the alien races are linguistically coded – one, for example, employs Inuit nomenclature, while another uses Chinese terminology. Considering the very dominant role of English and associated nomenclature in RPGs, this adds a linguistically based marker for alterity. There is a reason for these choices hard-coded into the setting as well.

There is another component that sets this game apart from e.g. Star Trek and similar franchises; somewhat akin to e.g. Mass Effect, humans are relative newcomers to the universe. You see, mankind manages to bomb itself back to post-apocalypse and wrecked earth. For a not clearly defined timeframe, we have basically lived on a constant downhill slope. Meanwhile, a rather nasty alien species of conquerors saw its empire fall, a former slave race rise to the status of empire, and another take to the stars. We, as a species, only enter the stage of FAITH’s universe as second-class citizens, for, as it turns out, humans may suck at adapting to space, but we’re actually physically really powerful in comparison and we make formidable soldiers. Thus, a majority of humans in FAITH are sterilized second-class citizens and feared soldiers that fight the battles for the two major competing empires, with post-apocalyptic gameplay being still very much possible in the ruins of earth.

Anyways, the second race that acts in a similar manner would be the Raag, who have marsupial-like pouches and are the only race to be physically more potent than humans. The Raag have a matriarchal system, with males being more impulse-driven and violent than females, and it should come as no surprise that they are somewhat connotated as spacefaring nomads/soldiers, with a rigid clan-structure (where adoption into a clan is a significant step) and serious differences between the clans regarding their outlook on life. The Raag serve as an example for something that the book does PHENOMENALLY well. This would be the depiction not only of biological realities of the species within, but also of the cultures that sprang forth due to their collective experiences. The way in which the races are depicted is, without engaging in hyperbole, pure genius and a triumph of fantastic prose-writing and world-building. The cultures and traditions depicted are absolutely stunning in how alien they are to the human reader, and in how believable they still remain at the same time. There is a staggering amount of detail and internal cohesion and logical interconnectedness that renders all of the different cultures presented more alive than 99.99% of alien cultures depicted in science-fiction media, regardless of whether in roleplaying context or beyond that; if more sci-fi novels had this compelling and engrossing prose, I’d be reading more in the genre.

The interconnectedness of lore also extends, unsurprisingly, to the influence of the deities, which tie in with churches, factions, groups, etc., so yes, the world-building is absolutely mind-blowing and compelling – to the point where I had a hard time putting the book down.

This is, at least for me, even more true regarding the two massive empires, the Iz’kal and the Corvo. The Corvo are the guys that “found” humans, and their vast empire, the Corvosphere, represents pretty much the default made of play assumed by FAITH, with the vast Dyson Ring (yes, gravity works properly!) of Tiantang being probably the default starting area for most groups. Now, the Corvo are somewhat insectoid, but remain actually kinda sympathetic…in a, for humans, utterly horrifying manner. You see, Corvo psychology has basically taken Keansian economic ideology and upped it. The Corvo have developed a truly uncompromising hyper-capitalist meritocracy that may be well read as a scathing satire on Western, first-world culture and Chinese economies, but what would be just a satire is further enhanced by the vast differences in the way that Corvo psychology works. Sans the human need to cling to ideals and certain societal structures, the rampant, one would say virulent, growth of the Corvo made them superbly adaptable and cutting-edge; there is a sense of backstabbing and uncompromising harshness ingrained in them, but logically, a society this advanced would have issues, right? Automation, after all, already is problematic for us, much less an even more advanced culture! The Corvo, with a wise taboo on AI, are primitive in one way that makes their culture work: They have developed a direct-to-brain-interface, and a vast amount of the poorer populace must lease out the processing power of their minds for hours and days on end, powering the complex calculations required by the advanced society. This is a stringent and poignant way to depict the fact that we, ultimately, sell the time of our lives in every form of work, job, etc. – it’s the one finite resource, and being required to cease being conscious, to lose sovereignty over your mind and body for the time, can be a thoroughly twisted concept from a human perspective. This, combined with the vast Corvo megacorps that de facto rule the race, means that the Corvosphere can easily provide all the Cyberpunk and Transhumanist context you might require. All the themes of exploitation of the individual, all the struggles versus corporate greed and intrigue – all this is firmly at home in an empire that, ultimately, is familiar to human readers, yet absolutely, distinctly radical and uncompromising. Alien. Uncanny. I love it.

After the phenomenal prose depicting the Corvo empire, of how wondrous and at the same time, horrifying, it turned out to be, I couldn’t fathom how the empire of the Iz’kal could hold a candle to it. Well, if you thought the Corvo are strange, you’ll be blown away by the Iz’kal. This race ‘s most defining characteristic is undoubtedly them being empaths; their physiology allows them to commune with each other, and their society is build on their premise. It’s also bereft of currency. Yes, you read right. Neither is there trade per se. In a lesser book, in the hands of lesser writers, the Iz’kal would have become a utopian counterproposal to the Corvo, but they, ultimately, are just as frightening. Birth rates are controlled, and your aptitude is judged by the state, which then proceeds to assign careers to you. If you need a piano, you’ll get one, but if you don’t use it, it’ll be withdrawn and assigned to another being. In short, the Iz’kal society is one that is characterized by submission of any form of personal agency to the collective will of the state and society. The in-character prose, pieces of which are interspersed throughout the whole book, drives that home just as well, as the fall of a Corvo paragon did in the previous chapter: The Iz’kal are NOT humans with a thin alien-coating; they are radically different in their psychology and the way in which their society is depicted made me truly SHUDDER. As someone who generally did not identify with the status quo, with the dominant opinions and cultural streams from a young age, I was truly horrified by this seemingly utopian, willful loss of individual agency, assumed by a whole species.

Think about it. You like singing. You’re good at it. The state determines that, genetically, you’re better suited to become an engineer, a task that brings you no joy. You’ll be an engineer, no discussion. In a way, we have a Kantian utopia that goes to the logical conclusion, that loses what we consider a very basic right. A human right. The Iz’kal are not human, and it becomes ever more apparent as you read, as you learn that the compromised self-determination even extends to the integrity of their own DNA, with genetic adaption being another aspect that the state exerts influence over. Those that lose the empathic/telepathic organ or have it damaged, become something…else. Indeed, the society of the Iz’kal is predicated on this physiological peculiarity, and as such, is much less welcoming than that of the Corvo. Now, there are movements, there is diversity here – but it is one that is rooted in a mindset that is utterly different from anything you usually get to see. In a way, this chapter can be read as just as scathing a satire as the chapter on the Corvo, but once more, reducing the Iz’kal to that would do a disservice to the superb writing.

While I have depicted both of these empires and cultures as somewhat horrifying, they, at the same time, are beautiful in a way; in gleefully vapid, prejudice-free consumerism that accepts beyond social status, race, etc.; in a harmony that seems utterly impossible to achieve. I knew after finishing reading about these 4 races, that I’d fail the book. Indeed, I rewrote this whole section more than once, and every time, I ended up disliking what I wrote; every time, I felt like I failed to encapsulate the vast complexity, the logical connections, that make these cultures and races feel so alive. As such, please take my word for it: What I wrote here barely scratches the surface of the races and their cultures, as each chapter introduces a vast array of factions and organizations, as well as a ton of adventure hooks and sample NPCs, which include a ton of movers and shakers. If you’re not inspired to run whole campaigns after each chapter, I don’t know what will do the trick. The writing here is frankly one of the best I have ever had the pleasure to read in a RPG-book.

So, is everything amazing regarding the world-building? Well…no. There is one aspect that feels, at least to me, like a foreign body in an otherwise inspired setting. That would be the Ravagers. These fellows are basically the xenomorphs/Tyranids/boogiemen that made Iz’kal and Corvo enter a truce of sorts. The Ravagers are a species that assimilate biomatter, reproduce it and basically can duplicate anything they absorbed. This allows for doppelgängers, we have vast, planet-sized queens, collective intelligence – it’s basically the swarm. Now, the prose in the chapter, in the form of scientific logs, feels aptly apocalyptic and horrifying, and the choice in favor of black backgrounds here emphasizes the level of threat these seek to evoke, but as the big, bad race, the Ravagers lack the same super-inspiring complexity of ideologies and cultures that the playable races offered, and their angle, while somewhat distinct from the aforementioned frame-of-reference aliens from various franchises, never reaches the same level of pure creativity of the playable races. In short, they are just good/very good, in a massive section that provides pure, intellectually-exhilarating excellence.

Conclusion:

Formatting is very good, while editing, as mentioned before, is slightly inconsistent and represents the one formally not perfect aspect of the book. The layout and particularly, the artworks employed throughout are amazing. The artwork is particularly impressive and the interior artwork is actually even better than the cover artwork! The massive hardcover employs thick, glossy, high-quality paper and the production value of the massive book are impressive.

Okay, so I’m not sure regarding who did what in this book, so I’ll list the authors in their noted roles: As producers, we have Jon Egia and Helio de Grado listed; game designers would be Carlos Gómez Quintana, Mauricio Gómez Alonso and Helio de Grado, while writer credits go to J. C. Alvarez and Carlos Gómez “Quntana” (I assume a missing “I” here), with E.G. Quinzel as a guest-writer.

Now, as far as game design is concerned, I felt like the sequence of the rules-presentation could have been slightly streamlined; since playing FAITH is pretty different from your regular RPG, reading the rules required some close attention on my part. That being said, if you do not have a ton of experience with RPGs, that aspect will actually be easier. The system puts control firmly where in belongs, into the hands of the GM. Rules-wise, this s an interesting change of pace that is easy to grasp and master once you’ve managed to understand the basic premises. So yes, FAITH is a good game.

That being said, I firmly believe that, even if you have no interest WHATSOEVER in the system FAITH uses, in the game aspect of this book, even then, you will probably love this tome.

I cannot overstate how excellent the world-building is. I cannot overstate how logical, how clever, how intellectually-stimulating this book is. This book provided the most compelling example of world-building I have read in a long, long time. In fact, all of the different societies are so compelling that you really want to play in these environments. The attention to detail given to the Corvo and Iz’kal makes them and their cultures feel alien, and freed of the constraints of hegemonic storytelling traditions. This really manages to feel like you’re a human reading, through a universal translation about societies and people that are utterly different from anything you usually experience in either real life, or fictional media. There is an attention to detail, to narrative options, that, from the take on the gods, to the societies and factions, suffused all levels, from the global to the personal. This is distinctly a science-fiction book; it is intelligent and tackles the big questions of morality, identity, nurture vs. nature, consciousness, etc. - you name it, FAITH provides. Heck, you can alternate between more cyberpunkish sessions, exploration of the wormhole-labyrinth/final frontier, operations vs. the ravagers, post-apocalyptic survival, diplomacy, infiltration…the game engine is robust, but the campaign setting, the utterly GLORIOUS setting, is what makes you stay. Heck, even if you prefer another game-system, it is my fervent belief that you’ll find a huge treasure trove of pure, amazing excellence in this tome. While not as refined as I’d like it to be regarding the copy editing and sequence of rules-presentation, this book hence still constitutes a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. The game represents a great change of pace, and the world- and culture-building is inspired on a nigh-unprecedented level. This book is definitely worth 5 stars + seal of approval, and is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FAITH: Core Book
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Intrigue Archetypes
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2018 07:29:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of archetypes, nominally associated with the Curse of the Crimson Throne plug-ins, clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages introduction/how to use, 2 pages ToC/explanation of references, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We first begin this supplement with a total of 10 different archetypes, the first of which would be the Cityscape hierophant, a druid who receives a modified class skill list (losing nature skills, but gaining social skills, Knowledge (nobility) etc.) and similarly, proficiencies are modified: The archetype gets access to clubs, crossbows (all), dagger, dart, quarterstaff, sap and one-handed firearms as well as light armors and bucklers. The cityscape hierophant does not gain Sylvan as a bonus language, instead communicating with a weird sort of bastardized Druidic via e.g. graffiti. This is translated to arcane mark at-will as well as the glyph of warding spells being added to the spell-list. Instead of nature sense and wild empathy, we get a variant of detect undead that applies to undead, fey, outsiders as well as astral, ethereal and incorporeal creatures – spirit sense. The druid gets a concisely codified summoning tweak, with elementals and urban creatures, which, at the GM’s discretion, can include low leveled mooks based on NPC Codex stats. The archetype does not gain an animal companion, instead gaining a domain chosen from a limited list, which represents the changed focus of the archetype, allowing for the choice of Community, Nobility, etc. This also ties in with spontaneous casting, which is instead tied to domain spells instead of the usual summon nature’s ally conversions. The archetype replaces woodland stride and trackless step with favored terrain for urban terrain, scaling up to a +8 bonus at 17th level. Resist nature’s lure is replaced with +4 to saves vs. diseases, poison and alcohol and drugs. A thousand faces is gained at 6th level and wild shape is delayed until 8th level, usable at class level -4 and a limited animal familiarity restricted to city-bound animals. However, at 9th level, the basic, nerfed wildshape gets another use: As a swift or immediate action, the archetype may expend one use of wildshape to gain one of 5 different benefits for one hour per druid level. These include adaptable sight (first low-light vision, the darkvision after 1d4 rounds), waterbreathing after submersion, etc. – this is really cool. Camouflage, better jumping (+feather fall), evading detection…it makes you a badass urban druid that is superb in disappearing. Really cool. The archetype pays for this with venom immunity and timeless body. All in all, a great archetype and one of the best reasons to get this.

The next archetype would be an engine-tweak: The inquisitive detective may not take the inspired vigilante talent, gaining an investigator’s inspiration, governed by Charisma, and may take investigator talents instead of social talents, paying for the added flexibility with 3rd and 11th level’s social talents. The archetype does not gain free uses of inspiration on trained Knowledge etc. checks unless taking the inspired intelligence talent. It gets interaction with potentially problematic components right. Not a huge fan here, but the tweak at least prevents alchemist discoveries to be gained thus. Still, not that blown away here.

The mastermind psychic is another engine tweak. The archetype replaces one of the 1st level discipline psychic powers with Conceal Spell, with the explicit note that you can use social skills or Sense Motive in conjunction with this feat, The mastermind may undercast all spells with the ruse-descriptor, which seems simple, but is actually pretty complex. 5th level nets Brilliant Planner, replacing 5th level’s discipline power.

The scheming priest cleric must be non-good and uses Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute, gaining a couple of spells as added cleric spells, including glibness and, later, mage’s private sanctum at 5th spell level and mind blank at 8th spell level. The archetype only gets one domain and loses spontaneous casting, but gains a mesmerist’s hypnotic stare. Instead of channel energy, we get bold stare at 3rd level, and 9th level nets mask alignment, which does what it says on the tin. A hybrid-y engine tweak I really enjoyed. The next one would be the shapeshifting hunter, who replaces Handle Animal with Disguise and Sense Motive, class skill-wise. The character is treated as having a dead animal companion and adds detect and seek thoughts to the spellcasting. Instances of bonus tricks and hunter tactics are replaced with favored terrain at 3rd level. 4th level nets wild shape at full progression, with 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 16th level providing progressions, unlocking Huge and diminutive monstrous humanoid forms and using both monstrous physique and giant form as basis for the improvements, This replaces the companion and the links etc. – nice, complex shift of focus for the class.

Spell hacker wizards replace arcane bond with an arcanist exploit chosen from a list, treating her class level as arcanist level -3, minimum 1. This choice may be changed once per day. Instead of 5th level’s bonus feat, we get the option to 1 + 1 per 5 wizard levels prepare spells as if modified by one of multiple metamagic feats. The subtle gunslinger is a rather complex engine-tweak: The class gets psychic spells as a medium -3, but uses Wisdom as governing spellcasting attribute and has a custom spell-list. This replaces pistol whip and utility shot as well as all higher level deeds. This is per se interesting, though it does not address the most frustrating aspects of the gunslinger class.

The talented tactician vigilante gets all knowledge skills and Spellcraft as class skills, but loses Acrobatics, Escape Artist, Disable Device and Survival. Similarly, their skills per level are reduced to 4 + Intelligence modifier. The archetype loses proficiency with two-handed martial weapons and medium armor, but may cast spells, governed by Intelligence, and otherwise using the bard’s engine, and doe so freely when wearing light armor etc. This replaces 5 of the potent vigilante talents. Spellcasting is also hard-coded to be associated with a bonded object spellbook. Instead of vigilante specialization, we get tactical analysis, which is a move action that targets a foe within 60 ft., using a Knowledge check as though identifying them. This nets all allies a circumstance bonus to atk and damage for Intelligence modifier +1/2 level rounds. The ability codified Knowledge skill used by creature type. Instead of vigilante talents, the archetype may choose arcanist exploits and qualifies for the Extra feat. Additionally, the archetype may choose from a list of a variety of unique talents. These include unlocking arcane reservoir and consume spells, damage increase, a magus’ spell combat, spellstrike, infinite pages in the spellbook, a familiar, adding Int-mod to atk with one-handed and light weapons. Better scroll casting and multi-target analysis as well as some limited spell-poaching can be found here. At 5th level, we get additional benefits for analysis, including knowing precise hit points of foes, ignoring Int mod DR, an AC-buff, etc. At 11th and 17th level, another such benefit is chosen. This replaces the appearance ability-tree. Instead of vengeance strike, we have basically imposed disadvantage for saves analyzed foes attempt versus the tactician’s spells. While this is an interesting, complex tactician tweak for the vigilante, I prefer other executions of the tactician trope, as blending of magus, arcanist and analysis and vigilante feel like a bit all over the place as far as I’m concerned.

The second vigilante archetype is the trickshot sniper, who loses martial melee weapon proficiency in favor of bows, chakrams, crossbows, firearms, slings, sling staves and shuriken. They must choose a specific weapon category among the ranged ones (or throws weapons) as a specialty, and these weapons may be reloaded as a free action, provided they do not take longer than a full-round action to reload. Good catch there! Bow/sling users etc. instead halve range penalties. Regardless of selected weapon, the character can designate a thrown weapon or ammo as part of using it as special, which translates to a scaling atk bonus. These may also be altered by ammo talents. 2 pieces of ammo may be designated per 5 minutes, +1 per such interval at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter and only one may be designated thus per round. This replaces vigilante specialization. The reference to ammo talents has probably cued you in: The archetype gets its own array of signature talents – not a few, mind you: We get more than 3 (!!) pages of signature talents, some of which are designated as ammo talents. We get reduced misfire rates adding energy damage, scatter shots, etc. – basically, if you wanted Green Arrow or Hawkeye as an archetype, then this fellow delivers. The archetype loses unshakeable in favor of sniping, and the appearance-ability-sequence is replaced with Shot on the Run and improving Shot on the Run for less penalties and more shots. The archetype also gets a modified capstone for full attack Stealth sniping.

The final archetype would be the Wild Card swashbuckler, who loses proficiency with martial weapons and gets Throw Anything as a bonus feat as well as Quarterstaff Master, with an obvious focus on applying the benefits of the swashbuckler’s usual features to the staff itself. The archetype loses out on one use of charmed life at 10th level, and 3rd level provides a means to quickly stand up via quarterstaff and improve jumping, sans AoO or with bonus to Acrobatics via panache expenditure. The 3rd level also nets the option to generate prestidigitation cards that act as shuriken, sans AoO while you have at least 1 panache. Yeah, you’ll probably have realized it by now – this archetype is basically the means to play Gambit from X-men. Infusing cards to be magical, and having them detonate at higher levels is damn cool. Similarly, using panache for charm person. Swashbuckler weapon training is delayed to 9th level, and instead of bleeding wound, we get the means to use panache to influence luck-based challenges and mitigate natural 1s with surges. 12th level nets Tripping Twirl instead of the bonus feat. All in all, this guy and the trick sniper are my favorites herein. It should be noted that the trickshot sniper also comes with a quiver that can duplicate magic ammo/thrown weapons with short-lived duplicates produced.

The pdf also contains a couple of class options: Arcanist exploits include two options: Layered Spell lets you hide a spell in another, with the cost in points contingent on spell level. The exploit is pretty potent, somewhat kept in check by limiting the applicable spells for the dual cast at 2 spell levels lower than the maximum you can cast. The second exploit is Spontaneous Ruse, which allows you to spontaneously change a ruse spell to its non-ruse version, even if you don’t have it. The exploit also lets you expend points to cast the ruse, even if not prepared. There are 4 different magus arcana; three for 1/day free metamagic for certain fats, and one that lets you expend an arcane pool point for + class level bonus to Str or Dex-based skill checks next round. There are three new vigilante talents. One that lets you scavenge amid the ammo talents of the trickshot sniper; one for more damage with crossbows etc. and one for quicker reloading with wrist launchers, crossbows, etc.

The feat chapter provides several tweaks for the vigilante, like one that nets you vigilante talents if you have a casting vigilante archetype that costs you this precious resource; there is a feat for better talented tactician analysis, one for Wisdom or Intelligence-using vigilantes…you get the idea. The chapter also contains a ton of feats that show the very distinct penmanship of Clinton Boomer: I.e., there are feats herein that are very much things to build characters towards, with seriously high complexity in several cases. For example, only urban druids of cityscape hierophants may take Aegis of Brick and Glass. This not only expands your spell-list, it makes the spells use local masonry etc. to duplicate the architectural style, providing a means of hiding and blending with your surroundings; furthermore, for example, stone shape in urban environment can affect glass, bricks and tiles, etc. This is incredibly cool and flavorful and a design aesthetic that suffuses the vast majority of these feats. Black Magick Gumshoe is a cityscape hierophant/detective multiclass feat, while Deductive Intellect provides synergy between Cityscape Hierophant, detective (bard and investigator (rogue) are blended, with Deduction Points representing the potent deductions. Blending touch of corruption and Deduction points. Pitiless Economies allows you to decrease the cost-of-living benefits of targets, cursing them…and yes, this may maintain your life. This is twisted and really dangerous. Not a fan of the auto-confirmed crits versus destitute targets, but yeah. Cool one! It should be noted that the majority of these complex feats are for the cityscape hierophant druid, so if that archetype already resounded with you, then this chapter will make you love it.

The pdf also provides a new PrC that spans 10 levels. The Coinmage gets d6 HD, 6 + Intelligence modifier skills, no new proficiencies, ½ BAB- and Ref- and Will-save progression and no new armor/weapon proficiency. In order to qualify for the PrC, you need 5 ranks of Sleight of Hand, you must be capable of casting 1st level arcane spells and prestidigitation as well as either sneak attack or hidden strike. The class gets progression at 1st level, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th level – either gain sneak attack/hidden strike or spellcasting progression. Problematic: The 4th level notes progression twice in the class table – one of these may be simply misplaced and intended for 5th level, but I’m not sure. The class manipulates coins, measuring the ability to influence them by numismatic capacity, using highest spell known or sneak attack/hidden strike dice to determine it. The value also increases at certain levels, but may not exceed 7, unless expanded with numismatic specialty – more on that later. Coin effects can encompass multiple flights of coins and may be influenced as a standard action at 1st level. Later, attentions are gained, and upon gaining an attention, the previous effects will be optionally reduced. Range may be upgraded, and so may speed. The class provides fixed access to the copper, silver and gold ability suites. Class levels 6th and every level thereafter yield access to an advanced metal regarding the abilities. Now, these flights of coins per se offer interesting options, with line of sight blocking, missile coins, etc. The abilities even have a fatigue engine that decreases CL on failed concentration checks after the flights had been animated. And the capstone allows you to tweak the flights of clouds. This PrC is weird. I read it multiple times until I finally understood how it works – it is somewhat obtuse and hard to grasp, with e.g. “Choice Upgrade” and the sequence of its presentation being confusing and unfortunately named. This sense of not being as refined as the rest of the pdf extends to the effecs themselves, save-reference not capitalized…and the engine and notes ultimately make this feel like it spiraled somewhat out of control, like it could have been a good class tweak/alternate class, but as provided, this is really hard to understand. It’s not necessarily bad, mind you, it just feels less refined, with no maximum damage cap for iron coins apart from the flight-coin limit. This is also enforced by e.g. one and the same type of save formula, “15 + your coinmage level” coming once with “plus” and once with “+” on the same page. This feels like a late addition that could have used a dev-pass to make its per se interesting framework more refined. The concept would have deserved as much.

The pdf closes with a really cool, kickass half-elf vigilante trickshot sniper, Nitha Rathi, who gets a cool background and a neat boon for PCs befriending her, ending the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are top notch on both a formal and rules-language level. There are some aspects, where the book suddenly becomes slightly less refined, though. Layout adheres to a really beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with nice full-color artworks, though fans of legendary games will be familiar with quite a few of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

More so than most such archetype books, this book by N. Jolly, Jason Nelson, Clinton J. Boomer, Jonathan H. Keith, Julian Neale and David N. Ross is one that turned out to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me. I really liked the scheming priest, but the main winners here are antipaladins/evil guys (feat chapter!), and druid and vigilante players. The cityscape hierophant archetype is a joy to read and made me recall China Miéville’s vast sprawls and Perdido Street Station in particular. The vigilante’s two class tweaks were hit and miss for me: Tactician-wise, there imho are better base classes out there, and the blend of magus and arcanist tricks grafted to its chassis didn’t gel with me well on a personal level – probably, because I consider the arcanist class to be perhaps one of the most problematic ones in vanilla PFRPG, or because it felt too thinly-spread. It also has a metagame-component, which I don’t really like that much. On the other hand, the trickshot sniper is amazing and oozes flavor.

The other classes get somewhat less material herein, but frankly, the trickshot sniper and cityscape hierophant warrant getting this on their own, the latter particularly courtesy to the massive feat-expansions later. If either one interests you, get this! The PrC could have been a shining star of the pdf, but instead ends up being a rather hard to grasp component that feels less refined than usual for Legendary Games. Compared to the asian archetypes-pdfs by Legendary Games, this one feels more focused in its usefulness, less universally appealing. That being said, I still consider this to be very much worth getting, but I feel I cannot round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Intrigue Archetypes
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