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Undefeatable 24: Magus (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/22/2016 08:00:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Undefeatable-installment clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of feats, so let's take a look!

-Advanced Fighter: Use total magus level to qualify for fighter feats. High prereq, solid! I like it!

-Death-Taker: Treat cure spells as on your spell list for the purpose of items, etc.; also +2d6 damage when using these spells to damage undead for 1 arcane pool point. Cool!

-Destructive Spellstrike: Treat your weapon as admantine when delivering a spell versus something with hardness.

-Destructive Spellstrike, Improved: When using the former feat, you may expend an arcane pool point for +2d6 damage. Solid.

-Enhanced Alchemy: As a swift action, enhance alchemical items, adding +1d6 per two caster levels of the same type as the object usually causes. Splash damage is increased by +1 per die. Very, very cool - I may steal that as a houserule for rare magic/no magic campaigns!

-Enhanced Necromancy: When delivering cure or inflict spells from wands, staffs or spellstrikes, use you CL instead of the item's CL.

-Flight Arcana: Spend 1 arcane pool point as a move action to gain the effects of fly for 1 minute. The spell's not properly italicized; you may expend more to prolong the effect.

-Kinetic Caster: Choose an element for which you have the Elemental Focus feat. You may accept 1 point of burn as a standard action to increase damage dealt with spells that inflict the energy by 1/2 caster level for 1 minute. Solid!

-Kinetic Caster, Improved: Gain a simple kinetic blast wild talent, with the associated element needing to correspond to that of Kinetic Caster. The blast counts as a spell for the purpose of Kinetic Caster.

-Kinetic Spellstrike: Use simple kinetic blast wild talents gained via the Improved Kinetic Caster feat in conjunction with spellstrike. Complex rules-operation, deftly executed.

-Life-taker: the mirror-image of Death-taker, applies to inflict spells instead.

-Phrenic Caster: Gain one phrenic amplification. You may use it to affect your spells as though they were psychic spells, using arcane pool instead of phrenic pool.

-Psychic Training: Gain detect thoughts as a 1/day SP. You may also expend an unused spellslot of 1st level to cast this SP, calculating the DC as though it's a 1st level spell.

-Spellstrike Training: Gain the fighter's 5th level weapon training. The DC of spells delivered via your weapon increases by 1.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, I only noticed very minor hiccups, which are aesthetic only and don't influence rules-language. layout adheres to a no-frills two-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Tyler Beck's feats herein are actually surprisingly cool - the options they provide are power-level-wise appropriate for feats; even the kinetic poaching works out as intended and the pdf actually features some nice, novel tricks. The distinct lack of sucky filler feats is another definite plus here. While not absolutely perfect, it is a nice, humble feat collection that is worth getting for the low price-point. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - a good, fun little book.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Undefeatable 24: Magus (PFRPG)
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Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Infected Zombie
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/22/2016 07:58:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures series clocks in at 6 pages - the front cover containing the header, creature artwork and the social media icons/homepage of misfit studios. The SRD takes up 1 page and the editorial is in a sidebar - to get all the material you thus have to print out the cover with the icons as well.

The infectious zombie is a pretty popular trope and this pdf reimagines them as a template - as presented, the template renders a creature that has acquired it a neutral undead (interesting choice!) - HD gained from class levels or racial HD are dropped and replaced with d8s, with sizes of the infected critter further increasing the HD of the afflicted: Small or Medium creatures receive +1 HD, Colossal ones +10 HD, with sizes in between clocking in at +2, +4 and +6 HD, respectively. Infected zombies gain darkvision 60 ft. Fort-saves are set at +1/3 HD, Ref at +1/3 HD and Will at +1/2 HD +2. Infected zombies gain channel resistance +2 and is not destroyed at 0 HP, instead continuing to function until they have been reduced to negative Charisma score hit points by anything but fire, acid or electricity. They are only destroyed by either reducing them to twice Charisma score in negative HP or a coup de grace. Below 0 HP, they are helpless, though they may still make attacks as a standard action versus creatures in their square. The template includes rules for called shots versus their brains, just fyi.

Winged infected zombies retain flight capabilities, but reduce maneuverability to clumsy and all other movement types are reduced to 2/3 of their former value- They gain slam attacks, the usual undead BAB and -2 Dex and lose all feats and don't gain any by HD...but they do gain Toughness. They are staggered and also lose any special qualities but extraordinary qualities that improve melee or ranged attacks. Oh, and obviously, they infect folks:

The pdf contains the walking death disease, which takes multiple exposures into account (nice!) - the more often you're exposed, the worse the DC gets. And zombie HD also influences the DC. The disease targets COn and may cause drain and is pretty virulent...so yeah, neat. The 3 adventure hooks provided are nice and the pdf does talk about the differences in comparison to plague zombies. Before you're asking - this template's respective CR is determined by the HD-value of the infected zombie, though the pdf could be a bit clearer in that regard. As written, it is not entirely clear whether you should look at the previous HD or the one after zombification to determine CR and XP. It's obviously the latter, but yeah. The pdf does feature a CR 1/2 sample infected zombie for your convenience.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and while I'm not big on the social icons and dispersal of non-gaming parts through the pdf, from an aesthetic point of view, there is not much to complain about. The pdf comes with the classic Crawthorne-artwork as well as the zombie artwork and a nice piece of a decayed zombie head. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration, which is nice to see. The book has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Steven Trustrum's take on making infected zombies is surprisingly cool: While not everybody will be excited about the Called Shot-mechanic for brain attacks, it makes sense and enhances the theme nicely. All in all a good, fun little offering, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Infected Zombie
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Nightmares on Parade
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2016 11:16:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons....ah, who am I kidding? After the absolutely super Pixies on Parade, I would have covered this as fast as possible even without that.

Speaking of which - I strongly suggest playing Pixies on Parade before this one. While it can stand alone easily, I do believe that it has an added sense of gravitas when played as a kind of sequel - the pdf makes use of the concept of imagination magic and the inclusion of the dream-subtype should make pretty clear that yes, this will have an excellent reason for championing a thus more mutable reality.

...and this is as far as I can go without SPOILING anything. Potential players SHOULD jump to the conclusion. This also includes some SPOILERS for Pixies, so please don't read on if you want to play them. They're worth it.

...

..

.

In pixies on parade, the PCs have managed to save Edwin from the clutches and malign influence exerted over him by the Nightmare King. He may not be escaping anytime soon...but he does not sit idly by, instead using his considerable power to draw the picturesque village of Glavost right into his nightmare realm! Uniquely empowered by their experiences in Pixies on Parade, the PCs thus receive the ability to manipulate reality - wishing for a unicorn, for example, may actually manifest one - though the created dreams generated do not feature the abilities of the things they're modeled after, instead employing the lesser dream creature's statblock. Indeed, the somewhat parasitic/dependent nature of these dreams allows people tied to them to shape them.

Anyways, the module begins with an ominous darkening sky, a quake and mists drawing in - if your PCs have gone through the gauntlet of Ravenloft at one point, that alone will make them paranoid as all hell. Aforementioned dreams seek out the PCs and bond with them. As the PCs walk outside, they will notice Belle Leaflower walking the streets, unable o communicate or, well, perceive anybody - creative problem solution is the name of the game, as her anxieties manifest themselves and thus influence the next encounter, namely saving the ancient Elas Leaflower, who is obsessively trying to read as many books as possible at once, fearing that he is running out of time - and if the long beard and constantly multiplying books are any indicator, he'd be right. The PCs will have to contend with falling bookshelves, book swarms and find a way to convince Elas that his quest his futile, his books, as they are wont in dreams, gibberish.

This would be a kind of leitmotif to be found here - the Nightmare King has provided some delightfully twisted (and goofy) nightmares for the folks of Glavost: Dwarven chef Rus Ulden is hunted by jello-oozing killer cupcakes. And yes, you can actually eat these...which makes for a cool prop when fighting them...just as a note... Beyond these detailed encounters, however, there are also more simple, optional ones provided for your convenience: The more invested the PCs are in Glavost, the better. The fight for the minds and imagination of Glavost takes the PCs, ultimately, to the major's house, where a semi-solid sheathe of darkness covers everything and Edwin needs to be saved from what seems to be the nightmare king...though it is, in fact, "only" the most powerful dream plaguing Glavost. Having defeated this threat, the PCs now will have the proper power of a town's imagination backing them up, namely in the ability to duplicate mirage arcana as an SP...

But the Nightmare King is not just going to throw in the towel because he's been foiled here - instead, he figures he might as well go big or go home...and sends a friggin' army in the direction of the PCs. And this is where the plot thickens and parents and adults alike should take a good, long look: The kids of Glavost, while considered to be "heroes", were basically treated with condescension by the adults; as kids all across the globe are wont to be; one crucial and important lesson anyone can draw from this book and project to the real world is that kids deserve respect. In real life, kids may not create phantom armies...but that doesn't mean that they can't save the lives of others, that they may not be the triumphant factor in the battle for the hearts and minds of the adults around them. Just something to figure - kids are not property, they are people we accompany for some time along the way, that we try to help prosper and hopefully leave the world a better place for them...but I digress.

The PCs have saved the adults and so, they may shore up the defenses and use their imagination to save the town with offenses and defenses created. There may a saboteur in their midst - the teenage night hag Isabeth, who proceeds to trap the PCs and request them doing horrible, annoying chores - but they will have to do them, if they are to escape...and there's a way to befriend Isabeth in the process...which may well be used as a means to teach kids to deal with folks in puberty...but that just as an aside.

The module continues to "teach", if you will, life lessons while being played - there is a detention scenario next, where the PCs are targeted by suggestions and the gremlins running the show try to get them to acknowledge that they should not be brave etc. - the idea here is simple, yet brilliant: It is mathematically unlikely that all PCs fail the save (though such a scenario is accounted for as well), and thus, the PCs will have the chance to rebuttal the theses thrown at them, with grudging acknowledgement from the gremlins....but, of course, the more PCs fail, the more will they be forced to reply as per the wishes of the "teacher". This is something that the current generations definitely should take to heart: My experience with the younger kids is that, more often than not, they are taught to cave to peer pressure, to maintain a "pleasant" environment with their comrades, even if goes against their beliefs and convictions - when I compare my cousin's school experience to mine, for example, we have been horribly rowdies and rebels who stood up for what we believed in. I think that kids should be taught, as soon as possible, that their convictions have value and that the majority is not always right. This encounter does just that, without jamming its message down one's throat. It's also creative, so yeah - amazing!

Next up would be yet another interesting one - a satyr skald offers the PCs a fair deal: He was tasked to delay them, but finds this strategy distasteful and thus offers to fill the PCs in one the background story of the Nightmare King, which is provided in lavish detail - it is here that the old truism of knowledge equaling power may be taught...and the respectful demeanor and no-strings, straightforward and respectful attitude of the satyr progresses the thematic sequence of being show proper respect for one's achievements...and once the PCs have heard the story (or left or their own free will), it will be time for the army of Glavost's dreams to duke it out with the servants of the Nightmare King! Here, things become once again amazing, as, while the module recommends a descriptive and flavor-centric take on the battle of the armies, groups that enjoy rules-intense scenarios can employ the mass combat rules! Yup, army stats provided. I intentionally did not write "kids will use descriptive, adults the rules", mind you - I certainly know enough young ones that are REALLY into the nit and grit of rules! The amazing thing here is that the PCs may use their imagination to greatly influence the way the battle works: Mass imagination magic, flexible benefits - if properly employed, this is frickin' amazing indeed!

Speaking of the theme of respect - as the nightmare armies crumble, Behast, the Nightmare King waltzes to the PCs and actually offers an imagination duel; a scenario wherein he creates obstacles with his power for the PCs to overcome...and usually a respectful way of solving conflict sans violence amidst otherwise immortal beings. Having even the BBEG actually treat the PCs with respect is a truly amazing progression of the themes employed in this book. Speaking of amazing: The PC's actions throughout the module have direct consequences here - Behast may not enter the fray directly, but his champion has several abilities, each of which is tied to one specific type of action the PCs may have done...the better they treated their fellows, the more they helped them, the bigger are their chances against Behast's champion! Know, how in those cool 80s/90s kid's movies at one point, the kids would combine their powers, reap the benefits of the good deeds they have sown previously? It may be a bit cheesy, but it always put a good kind of shiver down my spine.

Oh, and don't tell anyone, since the PCs have to find out the hard way...but don't worry about player frustration in this book - a sidebar's got you covered.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - with the exception of one purely cosmetic formatting hiccup (an ability indented one step too much), the book is pretty flawless. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard with a turquoise background. This may not make t too printer-friendly, but I'd suggest getting this in print anyway. The artwork adheres to Jacob Blackmon's style and is nice and internally consistent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Apart from a darker map of Glavost, the pdf lacks precise maps, but considering the morphic theme and the set-up of every encounter, it does not need them; I was a bit skeptical regarding this component, but actual playtest did affirm that the module works smoothly.

Stephen Rowe has been a kind of anomaly among RPG-designers in that he's equally at home in the writing of crunch and fluff. Additionally, his modules so far have not failed to impress me, with both Pixies on Parade and Directive Infinity X being examples of excellence.

Nightmares on Parade is a whole different level. Let me elaborate a bit: Playground Adventures generally provides modules that can help educate kids, teach concepts and knowledge in a manner that is not obtrusive. Pixies on Parade was a pretty much perfect homage to 80s' kid's movies - you know, when we still treated kids as proper beings, not as second-class citizens to be sheltered to the point of generating narcissists, to the point where they're not ready facing a reality that does not cuddle them all the way. Pixies was brilliant in that it provided a scenario that dipped into creepy themes, but at the same time maintained a child-friendly levity in theme and execution. Oh, and in the hands of an even remotely capable GM, you could run it as a balls-to-the-wall horror/dark fantasy module. Think of a certain Goblin King's labyrinth, think of the last member of an equine, horned species and you'll see what I mean: Watching these movies as a child delighted me; watching them as an adult provided a wholly different context for both. Pixies did that and did it perfectly. Age-wise, all but the most sensitive of kids should be good with it and I ran it for a then-4-year-old sans issues. The target demographic, though, should be about ages 6+, for really, really sensitive kids probably 8+. It always depends on the kid in question.

"Nightmares on Parade" is the successor in that theme in more ways than one, maintaining the leitmotifs...but also presenting a dimension that far exceeds what regular modules offer, what you can witness in any of its predecessors. What do I mean by this? I have to wax poetically a bit here: The German concept of "Bildung" denotes the collective process of education and personality-formation, including a development of one's own personal ideology, convictions, etc. - the very word generates an association with building one's self as an eternal process, of describing the totality of construction work of your own personality and accumulated knowledge in all fields of life. There is exactly one other module, Richard Develyn's brilliant "Seven Sinful Tales" (That one's review is here!), which has ever made me employ this word in the context of adventures you can run. You see, the structure of this adventure teaches not precise information in a traditional sense; it goes beyond that. By virtue of its meticulously structured encounters and their diverse themes, it imparts genuine Wisdom upon the players, life lessons if you will. The module shows, rather than tells, what happens if you let fears (like not having enough time) define you; what happens if you're consumed by work (with a kid-friendly, literal analogue); to stand up for your convictions and what's right in the face of authorities and peer-pressure...and to never underestimate the power of imagination that so many adults have lost. (Though roleplayers tend to be safer there...)

There is not a single encounter in this module that does not provide, in unobtrusive subtext, a truly valuable, morally and ethically valuable lesson. And this does not only extend to kids: Parents running this module for their kids should carefully read this module and analyze it, for the aforementioned leitmotif of respecting your child, the importance of that aspect for the development of adults and the way in which this module treats kids can, in my most deeply-held convictions, potentially improve the horizon of parents alike. The theme of respect that ultimately is awarded to the PCs and their players by the BBEG culminates in a glorious experience that may well, in some cases, end night troubles...after all, the nightmare king has conceded defeat. But that as just an aside.

Beyond these psychologically relevant aspects and the wonderful, respectful way this book treats its audience, regardless of age, one should not be remiss to emphasize the downright amazing use of imagination magic throughout the book and the fact that, beyond the glorious lessons imparted herein, it ALSO is a truly amazing module. Whether or not you go mass combat, whether or not you play this as horror (Concerned parents, rest assured that this module, as written, is as wholesome as it gets...but any only semi-decent GM can make this very dark very easily and basically transform it on the fly into a horror-module just by adding non-kid-friendly dressing!) for adults, as a kid-friendly adventure as written, as emphasizing the crunchy aspects or de-emphasizing them via Imagination Magic, you retain maximum flexibility in the module. I've run this twice and both times in radically different manners - and in both cases, the structure held up: The kid-friendly run worked as amazing as expected, replacing Pixies as their favorite module. The experience of running this as an adult module with my own trademark tweaks went over just as well.

Ultimately, "Nightmares of Parade" may be a glorious module on its own...but its value lies beyond that. It is a module that not only dares to teach in a didactically unobtrusive manner, it is one tailor made, carefully and in a truly intelligent way, to leave particularly kids and parents as better persons for having played it. If you think I'm overanalyzing this, btw., then I'd point you straight towards the fact that this obviously is intended to achieve said stated goal; each and every facet of the module is devoted towards cultivating a respectful and benevolent development, a component of "Bildung" not only between the players, but also in their interaction with others and among themselves. It teaches spine and courage in the face of adversity and the value of behaving in an upstanding, honorable manner while still being kids. In short: Nightmares on parade is a masterpiece not only on a formal level, but also is one of the scant few modules that dares to try to leave its audience better off for having played it; it is one of the very few incarnations of our favorite medium that tries to do more than entertain without losing sight of entertainment being the primary purpose. Stephen Rowe has surpassed himself with this module and catapulted himself into a level of adventure-writing excellence that is rarefied indeed, that is a very small class of its own.

With all my heart, I encourage you to get Pixies and this, the sequel. We need authors that dare to do more than just entertain (though it certainly does excel here as well!); it is my firm conviction that roleplaying games already are a great way of helping people, regardless of age, connect, develop and improve in numerous aspects of life. This, however, takes everything one step further - it can actually be seen as a module that could be canon as something that truly benefits everyone involved, that helps form personalities and strengthen positive character traits. This is Bildung given the form of an exceedingly fun and modular adventure. This humble masterpiece is worth 5 stars + seal of approval and, unsurprisingly, a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. If you share my firm belief that roleplaying games can make us all better people...then take a look. This module, frankly, is art in the most unpretentious manner you can define it; it leaves you better for having witnessed it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nightmares on Parade
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New Paths 9: the Priest (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2016 11:11:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the New Paths-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 8 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The priest class receives d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and proficiency in only simple weapons. The class begins play with an aura as per the cleric's default and bonus languages include the respective languages of the alignment-related outer planes. Similarly, the restrictions we know regarding opposed alignment spells still apply. A priest draws her spells from the cleric spell list and must prepare them in advance; however, they are not expended upon being cast, instead consuming a spell slot available. The governing spellcasting attribute for the priest would be Wisdom and the priest begins with 1 + 1 spells of first level prepared, +4 orisons. Obviously, as a full caster, she progresses to learn up to 9th level spells and the maximum spells per day per spell level clock in at unmodified 4, with prepared spells capping at 4 + 2 per spell level.

The pluses in the list refer obviously to the domain spells; a priest selects 3 domains from her deity and she gains all domain powers of the chosen domains. The priest's spellcasting is also tied to her holy symbol, with which she shares a sacred bond - much like an arcane bond, casting without it becomes problematic, but here's the kicker: The priest may use the holy (or unholy) symbol to cast cure or inflict spells as though they had a range of close instead of touch - which is a huge boon. Back in 3.X literally EVERY cleric in my games had the feat to do just that.

Also at first level, the priest receives a so-called divine gift that can be used 1/day as a swift action. 10 such gifts are provided and all are available - you don't have to choose. The priest may use the ability, as mentioned, 1/day, but may use it +1/day for every 3 levels beyond first. If a gift enhances a spell, it may only enhance cleric spells and only one gift may enhance each spell. The gifts include CL and DC-increases of the next spell cast, invisibility (that scales up to greater invisibility at 7th level), metamagic enhancements, immediate action rerolls, wings at 5th level, Ac and save bonuses with DR and SR or bursts of raw, divine power...or, well, spell-swapping.

The priest also receives access to channel energy at 2nd level, though it is governed by Wisdom for the class and 7th level decreases activation action to move, 14th to swift. Personally, I think the ability should have a catch here to prevent the priest from executing multiple channel energy uses per round - in spite of the limitations in daily uses, three channels in one round can be pretty devastating. 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter net a bonus feat from a nice selection and, as a capstone, the class becomes immune to death attacks and negative levels and may never reduced below 1 in any ability score. Additionally, she remains alive until 2 x negative Constitution score.

The pdf provides two feats: +1/day divine gift use and the option to channel energy as a full-round action, but instead roll d10s, but at the cost of being fatigues for a number of rounds equal to the channel dice rolled. I LOVE the visuals of this feat!

We also receive a brief archetype, the chosen of nature: These guys get an expanded class skills list(but oddly lose none) and draw their spells from the druid list instead of the cleric's. The archetype replaces the channel energy progression beyond 6th level with progressively better beast shape and plant shape SPs. Decent, but honestly, not that cool - the archetype feels a bit like an afterthought.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf features gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Marc Radle's priest addresses a very crucial need I always felt: The need for a divine adherent that feels like a caster. I mean, when you think about agents of the divine in the context of our world, you probably won't think of mace-wielding, armor-clad quasi-crusaders. You'll think about men and women of the cloth. The priest fills this niche rather well. Divine gift also represents a cool mechanic, though frankly, I would have loved to see the whole thing go one step further; divine spells never really felt that "divine" to me and while the priest does a great job of emphasizing this component, I think the engine could carry more.

But I am rambling. Frankly, I feel that this should be the base class, with the more martially inclined cleric being something of a specialist. In my games, most clerics tend to not be too martially inclined (except when adventuring or when the background/deity fits), so the priest is guaranteed to see a lot of use. The divine gifts and at range cure/inflict casting also make for great balancing tools to offset the loss of the decent 2nd-line fighting options of the cleric. In short: I really, really like the class. Deceptively simple, fun and elegant. Similarly, the feat provided is nice and while I think channel spamming should be prevented with a cap, that operation's pretty simple to perform. The one thing that left me somewhat disinterested herein would be the archetype, perhaps the space would have been better served with FCOs. Oh well, this is certainly a cool class for the fair asking price - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 9: the Priest (Pathfinder RPG)
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Tiny Elementals
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2016 11:06:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck games' Purple Storeroom-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD (though one of these has a bit of flavor text), leaving us with approximately 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Porphyra is suffused by elemental lore and the conflict of the NewGods and their servants with the Elemental Lords - hence it should come as no surprise that tiny elementals should exist in such a context. So, what do the elementals do? Torch tykes, at CR 1, are adept at imitating torches and, in Porphyra, are often kept as a kind of slave/utility kept by erkunae commoners to ignite hearth fires, for heat, light, etc.

Rock Runts, at CR 1, gain earth glide and earth mastery and may trip Medium creatures - cranky and not too nice, they are still employed due to their earth gliding in mining operations and beyond. Also at CR 1, water wimps may dazzle foes by squirting water in their eyes, drench up to Medium fires and get water mastery - carefree and often seen in the care of fishers, they are pretty much what you get when you think "water sprite."

Also at CR 1, wind wisps get air mastery and the ability to impose minor penalties to concentration and Perception via their ability to ruffle. Whimsical and light-hearted, they exhibit a curious obsession with erkusaan dragons and their uses.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column standard in 6'' by 9'' and as such, is relatively printer-friendly if you're printing more pages on one sheet of paper. The pdf sports no artworks, but does feature bookmarks, n spite of its brevity - nice.

Perry Fehr's tine elementals are nice - they have whimsical little abilities befitting their stature and the inclusion of unique tricks here is to be lauded. While they did not blow me utterly away, at the more than fair price point, this is well worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars for this good little file.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Tiny Elementals
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Campaign Events: Prison Break
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2016 11:03:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan press' Campaign events-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!

We begin this installment with a massive table of 100 entries for general prison break dressing: Rust-corroded door-hinges, greasy fingertips on iron bars, barely perceivable cracks in the perimeter, grids on administrative desks with hundreds of numbers, emptied iron flasks, detailed codices with prison numbers, metal mouthorgans left on prisoner cots - the table generates some nice dressing, though I do have a bit of a complaint - some entries, to me, feel more like they are relevant for a prison break that has happened some time ago, whereas others feel more "fresh" -splitting the table may have been a prudent move here.

A table of 50 minor events to encounter during a prison break, on the other hand, feels firmly rooted in the present: Barking dogs, prisoners frenetically tapping on doors, corpses of inmates on carts, fire pits in common areas growing cold... the table feels properly focused. After a cool b/w artwork of a tree with hanged men dangling from it in b/w, a total of 50 prisoners would be next - these fellows are fluff-only, obviously, and come with alignment notes as well as brief notes on race, class and level - and they include gnolls, kobolds and the like, although a doppelgänger deserves special mention as an entity that can switch sides. From master forgers to counterfeiters or musical inmates, we get a lot in the less pleasant alignment spectrum, sure...but good folks can be found here as well.

Finally, no less than 20 complications and hooks can add some further dynamics to the proceedings - arrivals of new prisoners, discreetly distributed shivs, a subdual of a particularly cruel guard - there are quite a few intriguing angles to pursue here, even when they technically fit imho better in the range to lead up to a prison break.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' neat two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports multiple artworks: While fans of Raging Swan press may know one from before, the others are original, evocative pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and comes in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos.

Christopher Wasko's dressing tables per se are pretty great - they manage to evoke a sense of desolation, of despair and the notes on prisoners helps make a prison come alive. Which brings me to the main weakness of this pdf - de facto, I don't think it'll help me particularly run a prison break. As a dressing-only file, it allows for excellent prison dressing, but neither for security measures, nor for encounters, skill challenges, etc. - a prison break is a dynamic affair and this enhances dynamics, yes...but it does not emphasize the dynamics of the prison break. We get to know things about prisoners, but not in the context of the prison break in process. Basically, my reasoning is that this is Campaign Events: Prison and not Campaign Events: Prison Break. Now I know, I should rate what's here and what's here is nice - but ultimately, I went into this expecting more, something different, and ended up being disappointed. If you're looking for a good prison dressing file, then this certainly delivers in spades; if you're looking for a prison BREAK dressing or gaming toolkit, then you'll be disappointed. For the former, I'd consider this to be a 4.5 stars-book, for the latter a 3-stars-offering. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. Just please note that this is NOT a prison break themed file.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Events: Prison Break
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Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure #2: What a Trip! (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2016 10:59:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of this tavern tales-mini-adventure clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 2 pages for the adventure.

The module is intended for 1st level characters and is basically an expansion/tie-in of "Simon's Dinner Theatre", featured in the Tangible Taverns-series. It should be noted that you most definitely get the most out of this one when using it in conjunction with the aforementioned supplement. You do not, however, need it, since it does not take place in the establishment and instead begins when the tavern's musician Cerulean contacts the PCs...

...and this is as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, a show's approaching and Marlowe's nervous...but more so is Cerulean, who has forgotten his bag of shrooms at home...and, dude, they totally help him mellow out and see the music, ya know? Unable to leave, he hands the PCs the keys to his house and asks them to get his bag o' shrooms. Alas, Cerulean, while meticulous in some regards, is very forgetful and doesn't exactly know where he last had them...and his fully-mapped place, well, is not the safest, to put it bluntly.

Curious PCs may run afoul an awakened tree in the front yard, disturb a none-too-friendly family of raccoons...and may have to contend with a ochre jelly that has the false appearance of a shrieker...ouch. Cerulean totally forgot to check up on...the thing seems to have grown faster than anticipated... His scatterbrained nature similarly may bring the PCs in contact with intoxicating substances...The 5e-version states the effects of imbibing the mushrooms, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the no-frills, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard of the series. The pdf sports a solid piece of b/w-art for the shrooms and its cartography in b/w is functional. No player-friendly version is included, but considering the simplicity of the house's layout and the PWYW-nature, that's okay in my book.

Kelly Pawlik's "What a Trip", structure-wise, is a low-level fetch-quest...and while that elicited some grumbling from my group, said grumbles quickly subsided during the exploration of Cerulean's house - the place has a delightfully quirky, playful atmosphere and as a bonus, crafty players can actually complete this little side-trek sans shedding any blood...ehr...sap.

It is pay what you want, creative and I'd encourage checking this nice mini-adventure out, even if you're not interested in Simon's - this one can easily be used in conjunction with a plethora of places. In direct comparison with the PFRPG-version, this holds up - the two iterations are pretty much on par with one another. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure #2: What a Trip! (5e)
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Tangible Taverns: Simon's Dinner Theatre (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2016 10:57:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This 5e-version of the Tangible Taverns-entry clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1/2 page advertisement, 1 page of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Situated in the dullest part of town, a corner lot with a perfectly manicured lot, there is a place with potted flowers and a little sign that reads "Simon's" - once you enter the place, you will be in a foyer and need to pay an entrance fee that includes a meal, a drink and entertainment - for beyond the foyer, there is a main room that features a stage. Started by a young playwright named Simon Marlowe (nice nod here!), the playwright has since then met his fate in an unfortunate carriage accident, but thankfully, his nephew Augustus took over...while his existence was nebulous at best prior to his arrival, he seems to be a capable playwright of his own...the show must go on, right?

Servers don't take orders, but ask for dislikes and everyone gets the same food at a given table and while the quality is superb, as a person (and by proxy, as a player), that would still elicit grumbling from yours truly. ;) A total of 6 brief rumors and 12 sample plays with small synopses can be found as well, adding a nice detail to the proceedings: "A Game of Crones" or "The Rise of the House of Winter" certainly got a chuckle out of me...

6 sample events, from ill actors that need a stand in (bard - step forward!) to an actor needing his trusty bag o' shrooms to act, the events are creative and nice.

Augustus Marlowe, just fyi, would be an NPC who gets a full statblock - he's basically a challenge 7 kinda bard (sans pretty much all abilities) with a full complement of spells...he actually has the spellcasting array of a lvl 15 bard! Speaking of playwrights: Finnley "Finn" McEwan, also gets a statblock - he may, as a reaction, increase his AC, 1/turn sneak attack (somewhat odd restriction) or use the Dash, Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action. (Here, a minor glitch can be found - a missing blank space.) He would be another individual whose plays regularly grace the stage - and yes, he actually knows what he's doing! Ina fantastic context, you can obviously expect more from a play than what we mortals on our good ole' earth are accustomed to - and it would be Flibbidus Starriwynckles task to provide just that: The gnome acts as the trusty illusionist that keeps the plays engaging and action-packed. His statblock nets him advantage on all saves based on mental attributes versus magic and his spellcasting prowess extends to 3rd level, a befitting range for his challenge 3.

Of course, the play does have actors as well - Corah Bousaid, Eldrin Semarantha, the platin-blonde tiefling Talia - these would be some of the fluff-only entries that paint a surprisingly diverse picture: Eldrin, for example, copes with her shyness by staying in character and actually is hinted to be bisexual. Kel Kellsen, a somewhat arrogant dwarf, but capable actor, makes for a nice twist of the self-proclaimed "lady's man" - trope...and he actually has a secret that is decidedly non-sinister for a change. Of course, plays do require music and Curulaeron Meadowpane ("Please call me Cerulean."), the elven musician does provide just that. His statblock presents spellcasting of up to 3rd level, just fyi. Cerulean's plant companion from the PFRPG-version, alas, has not found its way to 5e, even though the fluff still mentions it. Oh, and his predilection towards plants extends to growing his own sort of "entertainment" - you know, he likes his home-grown... cough means of extending his consciousness.

Now, in the beginning, I mentioned the spell - you whisper a question to an arrow or bolt, which then spins to point in that direction. I like the visuals, but at 2nd level, it may be a bit high - I'd have made that a 1st level spell or cantrip.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Publishing's two-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf's cartography of the tavern is solid, though I wished a bigger version for kind-of-handout use was included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and art-wise, this deserves special mention: Each character herein gets a nice b/w-mugshot - particularly cool considering the low asking price.

Ken & Kelly Pawlik deliver concept-wise in this tavern: Simon's is an unconventional, interesting place full of quirky characters and a nice change of pace from more traditional taverns/restaurants. There is quite a lot of adventuring potential to be had here and the characters feel dynamic, alive and interesting. That being said, compared to more recent entries in the series, one can see that this 5e-conversion was an earlier offering - the NPcs already have unique tricks, but from the little mention of a plant companion that fell by the conversion-wayside to the builds of the NPCs themselves, the 5e-version doesn't deliver on the same level as the Pathfinder iteration. If you have the luxury of choice, the PFRPG-version's the better one this time around. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: Simon's Dinner Theatre (5e)
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Childhood Adventures
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2016 08:15:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive rule-book clocks in at 86 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 78 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Ahh, childhood. Most people look back with nostalgia-tinted glasses at theirs. I'm not one of these persons, due to a variety of reasons. So this is about playing kids - and as such, there is a lot to consider. But why play kids? Well, for kids playing kids, there are two angles, both valid: One, kids want to play adults. I was that guy. Two: Kids playing other kids for easier identification. While I was not one of these kids, the success of the Harry Potter franchise, the "growing" with the readers, is pretty much proof for the validity of this approach. Or, well, you want a change of pace and tone...or play a complete heroic journey, beginning at childhood and then moving through a full life. (There are rules for old and venerable characters by the Four Horsemen, after all...)

Whatever the reason, there is a lot of untapped potential in such adventures and the narratives you can weave - from establishing leitmotifs and resonant happenings. However, there is not much distinction within the child age category - the first step this pdf takes to make childhood adventures more rewarding is to apply a finer filter: The age categories infant, toddler, child and youth, with mechanical and role-playing notes provided, allow for a cleaner and more concise presentation of the early years of a given character. Now we all know from experience how important size is to the child - thus, growth of characters is covered - this is determined via a simple system that accounts for trauma potentially suffered (alas, pretty likely for adventuring individuals), growth phases and spurts and the like. The aforementioned trauma rules, in particular, deserve special mention - from ability score damage to disease, magic and poison to malnutrition, massive damage and psychological issues, the system presented is as concise, precise and fun as we've come to expect from Everyman Gaming. Unfavorable conditions and environmental traumas similarly are covered and the pdf does not stop there - instead, atypical body shapes, from dwarfism to giantism, over- or underweight can be found...and from Conan to pretty much every fantasy series, we can note some worthwhile character that is partially defined by such deviations, right? Currently, at least, Tyrion Lannister may well be the most favorite example.

The process of aging similarly undergoes a deliberate and evocative process of closer scrutiny; to be more precise, the effects of mental aging, whether limited or instantaneous, allow for immediate spurts of maturity...perhaps, the PCs, at one point, need to sacrifice their innocent, wide-eyed perspective to defeat the evil threatening the land... So yes, the mechanically-supported components that pertain the basic essences of being a child already provide an excellent lead into the book, but it does not stop here; instead, the book then goes on to talk about life as a child in a fantasy context - not only teh core races are covered with expanded, detailed notes on age, height and weight in the early stages of life - no, the pdf actually also takes a detailed look at kitsune (no surprise there), samsarans, nagaji and wayang - often in a rather fun way. Wayang kids, for example, tend to be skittish, gangly and easily frightened, which made me chuckle a bit. Beyond the detailed examination of an upbringing within a fantasy context, one should not expect the book to stop there: Instead, the heroics for the respective age categories come fully into focus and the pdf does not stop there - quite the contrary: It takes several aspects of the psychology of the child and elaborates upon them and the, often unjustified, portrayals in media. Whether it's the notion of binary emotions or an inability to grasp emotional turmoil - the pdf takes a deep and concise look at these and elaborates upon them in a thoughtful manner, really surprising me. In hindsight, I always thought I was a bit of a weird kid, since I never could properly relate to most depictions of kids in mainstream media, but considering these aspects...well, probably not so strange. Anyways, the level of detail provided within this massive book is fantastic - from adventuring as a family to portraying a child, the amount of guidance provided is staggering. The pdf, as you may well expect at this point, does not shirk the difficult issues that may arise from adults playing kids and the potential issues that arise from depicting, even in an innocent manner, flirtatious behavior at the table in a context where kids are involved- while most tables will probably handle the like in a sensitive manner, the matter of fact that the issues are addressed would be something I applaud. I am usually a guy who is impossible to offend in a gaming context and my game would classify as hard R...or multiple Xs...but even I draw the line here and the depiction of gruesome things happening to kids is something that definitely should only happen in rounds that universally state that they have no problem with it. It is sad that we have to have disclaimers like this, but the inclusion here very much is something I applaud. Thank you.

Now the pdf goes one huge step further - beyond aforementioned age category classification, the pdf goes on to examine animals, aberrations and similar monster types - and yes, there are distinctions made between bestial, humanoid or oozy aberrations, for example - the level of detail here is, again a truly impressive one - from degenerate dragons to timeless fey, fringe cases are taken into account, providing, as a whole, a truly well-rounded experience---but this is Everyman gaming we're talking about and thus, the book contains a significant array of character options: We begin with 4 arcane discoveries that include unorthodox spellcasting (harder to identify), sheltering your life in a phylactery-like familiar, becoming ageless or siphoning off vitality via your aging spells. The order of the terrier, particularly effective versus those larger than him and tasked with defending the weak, receives Dazzling Display via Bluff and adds Cha-mod to Tactician's uses and generates bonuses to most rolls for allies when he vanquishes adversaries. 4 nice investigator talents (including quick and vivid memorization) and local connections can be found here as well. The kineticist may choose the spatial kineticist, who is locked into aether as first element and telekinetic blast as first simple blast. He replaces the 1st level infusion with extended range and the telekinetic finesse utility talent and 2nd level's elemental defense is replaced with kinetic guard, gaining a scaling AC deflection bonus, with the accepting of burn for further bonuses that thankfully cap, preventing abuse. A dirty trick-based and a reposition-based (level 2, burn 2) substance infusion as well as one that enhances forced movement emphasize the soft character control angle of the archetype.

The foundling oracle receives a signature curse of unluck, courtesy of their brushes with the fey, but the revelations, from pixie's arrows to bursts of nymph beauty or sprite forms make for a nice changeling-style concept. The purehearted champion paladin uses his touch to deal damage to evil-aligned dragons or outsiders as though they were undead and instead of mercies, they receive offensive purities; basically, a more offensive tweak of the paladin engine. Higher levels provide continuous protection/magic circle against evil and at 11th level, the blood shed by the pala may be used in conjunction with a special lay on hands based AoO to retaliate versus foes...cool! Not a bad archetype.

Now where I was grinning from ear to ear would be with the personal memento options for the occultist: These can be adopted whenever the occultist gains a new implement school, granting bonus focus implement powers...but the raw emotional attachment to the memento causes a -2 penalty for 1 round after employing the focus power from the respective memento...oh, and a minimum of 1 mental focus must be invested in it at any given time and no other implement may carry more mental focus than the memento. They are amazing. Creepy playthings that unnerve foes via an AoE debuff versus fear /that may even eliminate immunity at higher levels!), dangerous toys that can generate telekinetic projectiles, practice blades that may become blades, emblems that can generate secret hideaways - pure narrative awesomeness, supplemented well by the evocative rules. Phantoms may select the bravery emotional focus now, providing buffs to allies via encouragement and learning by doing. No less than 3 ranger styles, well-crafted and selected in the power of feats complement the options, with harrying, slings and underfoot styles allowing for feasible, rounded tricks. The vigilante class similarly receives new social tricks - age impostor (Why yes, sir - I am old enough to enter this establishment!), terrain mastery and slipping under the radar of others make sense. The street urchin rogue, adept at escaping and hiding in crowds, is cool and a total array of 5 different rogue talents allow for the option of employing Combat Antics (more on that later) and similar options.

The phantasmalist summoner may draw from sorc/wiz spells and his eidolon is basically a imaginary friend born from unfettered imagination, with called creatures being similarly partially real. Neat. The feat-section introduces feats with the Child-descriptor, which, guess what, can only be taken by kids and youths and the character will lose these upon reaching maturity in favor of other feats - this is noted in the Maturation-section of the respective feats, providing sensible progressions of the lighthearted flavor of the feats to the adult, no-nonsense take on adventuring. From holding oversized weapons to being an Arcane School Dropout, having a Childlike Innocence, being a Coven initiate, having a Feral Upbringing, being a Noble Scion...you get the idea - the feats are generally neat indeed. The pdf goes one step beyond just new feats - I did mention "Decry" before and probably elicited some raised eyebrows there, right? Well, decrying is a new psychological combat maneuver (as premiered in the amazing Ultimate Charisma book) and in its own way, no less crucial than antagonize - it basically denotes the option to make a target look nonthreatening. The maneuver can be used rather well in game and may be further enhanced by various feats. This option, alongside some of the class options presented before may make this book interesting even for those of us who are not interested at all in playing kids...but the book does offer something else that may well transcend the appeal of the focus of the book.

The next chapter is called "mischief & antics" - its basic premise is founded on a mischief pool equal to 1/2 character level + highest mental ability score modifier. Similarly, save DCs if applicable, are 10 + 1/2 level + highest mental attribute modifier. Unless otherwise noted, spending mischief is no action, but cannot be undertaken while stunned, dazed or unconscious. Mischief points, when reduced to 0, cause you to be fatigued, but can be regained on a 1-per-minute rate when you do not suffer from negative conditions or exert yourself (no physical checks, only either move or standard actions - kind of like a short rest in 5e). Mischief points can either be gained per the default feat access or as a universally available subsystem; the respective antics that you can utilize are based on specific class features - more damage for unarmed strikes, skill boosts, movement boosts, etc. Via feats, minor mischief regains for companions that crit via natural 20s can be gained. The system not only extends to class features, though - a rather wide array of feat-based antics can be found: Those with Improved Dirty Trick can attack Below the Belt; using Kinetic Leap, you can expend serious amounts of mischief to substitute Acrobatics for Ref-saves. With Improved Grapple, you can now Dog Pile on foes...the options are quite diverse and also extend to skills, though here, the skills in question require a certain amount of ranks as well: To antagonize foes better with antagonizing jeers, you need at least 5 ranks in Intimidate, for example. Drawing all eyes on you similarly makes great use of the Psychology DC mechanic of psychological warfare. The system does go one step beyond even this when it introduces spell-based options to employ mischief - like using a readied flare to harry attacking foes, their spellcasting of the like, ray of frost to numb fingers and the like. Very cool! The system is creative, detailed...and frankly could carry a book of this size on its own. The rules presented add a degree of neat flexibility to the proceedings and are, mechanics-wise, concise and well-presented, though, by virtue of the broad spectrum to which they can be applied in theory, they are nowhere near exhaustive in the potential for flexibility. While the aforementioned may sound slapsticky and that is the flavor presented, the abilities nonetheless are one reskin away from working pretty much universally in games that want a subsystem to add a bit of options and diversity. In short: The system is nice as presented, though, considering the breadth of PFRPG-options, I hope for a broader assortment of tricks to complement the base-line presented here - the system deserves the expansion.

Speaking of expansion - if you've been following my review for some time, you may have noticed that I am pretty enamored with the rather inspiring Ultimate Charisma and the leadership perks featured therein: The options that extend to kingdom building and mass combat can use more material and this is happy to oblige: From a band of misfits to new loner perks (Alone in the Dark fortifies you versus fear) or celebrity status, gaining a phantasmal friend eidolon or social tactics, the options presented are powerful and evocative. Two thumbs up! The pdf does present, as hinted before in the very beginning of the class option array, an assortment of age-altering magics represented via spells: Bewitchingly compelling childhood toys, temporarily kindling the flames of youth, hiding from adults (give that fey...), regressing targets mentally, magic-induced tantrums... the spell-array feels generally well-placed in the context of the respective spell levels. But the pdf goes beyond that: With occult rituals. The Bloody Woman in the Mirror would be a take on the Bloody Mary/Candyman myth. Another ritual can slowly change you into something else, while joyous dreams of the pixie's flight allow for quick and expedient overland travel...but if bad thoughts creep in, the participants may crash and glide towards the ground..."Cross my heart and hope to die..." - the binding promise as a ritual is amazing and the exchange of years between beings as well as the repair of time's flow constitute amazing rituals to perform.

The massive book also features magical items - from the feather of tickling to the pauperizing pacifier to rings of chronological stability and yes, cursed poppets, there are some nice objects here. The pdf also features hobby traits, family traits and social traits - and here, the notion of a universal language shared among babies also gets a nod...oh, and there are some appropriate drawbacks to chose from as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch: In spite of the rules-density of this massive tome, I encountered no undue array of glitches...kudos! Layout adheres to a colorful and friendly version of Everyman Gaming's two-column full-color standard and the pdf contains a vast amount of neat original pieces of artwork by Jacob Blackmon, lending a distinct and unified style to the tome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though oddly, at least in my version, they start with the rules-systems. Since this is what you'll look up anyways, I won't penalize the book for it.

Alexander Augunas, with support from BJ Hensley, Monica Marlowe, Andrew Marlowe and Matthew Morris, has crafted one ginormous book of lighthearted options that deal in a succinct way with the notion of playing kids in our fantasy games. The advice and considerations presented here apply beyond PFRPG's confines. The book neither infantilizes, nor is it condescending in its presentation: This book can be read by adults and kids alike; the tone is very much child-friendly, with an emphasis on wild creativity via the mischief system and rules geared towards fun and slapstick...this, unlike many a tome with at least a part-kid-demographic, does not treat the reader as idiots. Childhood Adventures treats kids with respect, both as characters and players and I applaud it for exactly that.

So if you were looking for that, well, then this delivers. At the same time, the book does have a significant appeal beyond this scope. Frankly, you can easily make this book HORRIFYING. I mean it. Much like many an innocent 80s kid-flick, you can just emphasize the components differently in play: Make fey use antics. Emphasize the child-centric feats and items, put a dark twist on it; add a sprinkling of fey mischief and you get something that can be emasculating and downright horrific for adult characters. Not because the book's creepy, mind you - but because it evokes the tropes we know from our childhood and with the right spin, these can resonate. This book depicts innocence. This does not keep the GM from twisting that, though! Why am I saying this? Frankly, none of my groups, including my kids, are that keen on playing children. I kept reading this book and drew inspiration from it, tested and tinkered...and the sudden realization of how far beyond its theme it can be employed hit me rather hard. With the AMAZING personal mementos and all those little pieces combined, we ultimately receive a truly valuable toolkit, one that can enrich any game, even if you consciously seek to de-emphasize the importance of kids and associated themes.

In short, this book even holds up if you use it in completely different ways - and that, in combination with its capacity to inspire, is a sign of a great book, as opposed to only a good one. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Seriously...get this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Childhood Adventures
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2016 07:17:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of races clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Ah, Midgard and the Southlands - Midgard has been one of my favorite fantasy settings ever and the absolutely legendary Southlands setting book made my Top Ten of last year for a reason - and if you haven't check it out, dear D&D 5e fans, you will want to: While designed originally for Pathfinder, the book has a MASSIVE array of evocative, amazing content that is system-agnostic and makes it an excellent purchase for 5e as well.

Anyways, this book would be the one that takes the unique races that can be found in the Southlands and converts them to 5e...but how do they hold up? Well, after a brief introduction to the subject matter, the first of the races introduced would be Kobold Press' take on the aasimar - these guys, in Midgard, are significantly closer to the mighty passions f the nephilim than to the default celestial-blooded connotations they usually evoke. As with the Midgard Heroes-pdf, this one's write-up does feature some evocative prose for the respective races, though we do not get an assortment of sample names for the respective races. Since the race already exists in 5e, we instead receive 3 variant aasimar: Airy Spirit nets you 1/day gaseous form at 5th level instead of daylight. Alas, the ability does fail to note which attribute is used for the casting of this spell- The second ability replaces resistance to necrotic and radiant damage with fire resistance and the third one nets you blindsight 10 ft in exchange for daylight and darkvision. Heaven's Wrath nets you guiding bolt instead of lesser restoration and daylight - both of which have not been properly italicized and the ability does not note spellcasting attribute used. Divine Splendor nets enhance ability (Eagle's Splendor) at 3rd level with a range of Personal and at 5th level, you also receive Owl's Wisdom's benefits when using this ability, though the ability once again fails to denote the spellcasting attribute employed. This once again replaces lesser restoration and daylight.

The second race introduced would be the gnoll, who increases Strength by 2, is Medium with a speed of 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft. advantage on Wisdom (Perception) employing smell, +10 ft. speed when using Disengage and proficiency with spear, shortbow, longbow, light crossbow and heavy crossbow. Gnolls are craven cowards at heart and thus, as bullies, they are considered proficient in Charisma (intimidation) when dealing with weaker foes and add twice their proficiency bonus to the check. However, at the same time, their cowardice means they suffer from disadvantage on all saving throws to avoid the frightened condition. Gnolls have two "subraces" - civilized gnolls increase Constitution by 1 and add the same "double proficiency bonus"-mechanic to Charisma (Persuasion) skill checks dealing with foes that are bigger and more powerful. Savage gnolls instead increase their Wisdom score by 1 and are considered to be proficient in Wisdom (Survival) when scavenging for food, once again doubling their proficiency bonus to such checks.

The lizardfolk presented herein increase their Strength by 2 and their Wisdom score by 1, with a speed of 30 ft. and a swimming speed of an equal amount. Their unarmored AC is equal to AC 12 + Dexterity modifier; this may be used in conjunction with shields. They also have proficiency with a 1d6 bite, the Stealth skill and may hold their breath for Constitution score minutes. Instead of subraces, there are a variety of alternate racial traits to be chosen from: You may replace your swimming speed and hold breath with proficiency in Strength (athletics) and double proficiency bonus to climbing; alternatively, you may replace these traits with advantage on Stealth-checks when not moving (or carrying items). Not cool - for the same exchange, you may gain 40 feet flying speed (no hovering) and no falling damage. The option to dig through dirt or sand at 10 ft. per round would eat swimming speed (but not hold breath). Some lizards may, instead of a bite attack, spurt short-range jets of blood from their eyes, potentially frightening foes. Instead of the predatory tricks and the natural armor, some lizardfolk get increased healing, adding twice their Constitution modifier to hit point regeneration when spending an HD.

Regenerating limbs slowly is also possible, but incurs exhaustion. I exchange for natural armor, swim speed and hold breath as well as bite, you may gain a poisoned bite. This replaces the regular bite, but fails to denote the damage the poisoned bite inflicts. Instead of natural armor, they can have advantage on saves versus poison and disease and an alternate ability array (+2 Dex, +1 Wis) with Small size can be chosen. I am NOT a fan of this array. The base race is already pretty strong and some of the abilities here exacerbate this. Finally, here would be as well a place as any to denote that it's "proficiency bonus", not "proficiency modifier."

The pdf also contains a lizardfolk class archetype, the ambush predator (assassin) - instead of the regular bonus proficiencies, this one maintains proficiency with poisoner's kits and the option to use Cunning Action to apply poison to a weapon. At 9th level, you receive advantage on saves to avoid falling asleep/exhaustion, provided you do not move and engage in light activity while stationary and still receive the benefits o a rest, replacing infiltration expertise thus. At 13th level, you do not automatically reveal your location when attacking while hidden, provided you are at least 10 feet away - instead, you compare Dexterity (Stealth) with Wisdom (Perception) of those looking, replacing imposter thus. Not the biggest fan.

I already talked about the minotaur race in my review of Midgard Heroes - they have been reproduced here (or the other way round) - either way, I'm not the biggest fan of the overlap here, particularly considering that the southlands race Jinnborn is missing from this pdf. The next race would be thematically one of my favorites, the odd and alien tosculi. Hiveless tosculi, the only playable ones, have been translated thus to 5e: They may choose one physical and one mental attribute and increase each by +2. However, they also must choose one attribute to decrease by 2. Yes, this allows for the cancellation of one of the increased attributes increase. Tosculi are Small with a walking seed of 30 ft, an AC of at the very least 11 + Dexterity modifier, claws that inflict 1d4 slashing damage with which they are proficient and gliding wings that net a flying speed of 40 ft and cancels out falling damage. Additionally, they are proficient at Perception and Stealth. They may also select up to 4 alternate racial traits: A spittle that immediately hardens and restrains the target, with scaling properties, is cool and may replace the proficiencies. Also instead of the proficiencies, they may gain a 1d6 bite that allows for the grappling of targets as a bonus action (and +1d6 damage at 11th level). As a complaint here: Bites in 5e usually do piercing damage, not slashing damage. The third option nets message as a cantrip that is declared to be psionic and thus not subject to interference by e.g. a silence spell and at 3rd level, detect thoughts becomes available, but only once per rest interval. Both fail to denote their spellcasting attribute and this replace Gliding Wings. Instead of the gliding wings and regular AC, some tosculi may have a carapace of 11 + Dexterity modifier + Constitution modifier, allowing in theory a level 1 unarmored AC of 19. Which is pretty insane.

The tosculi also receive two supplemental options for the druid class - the first of these would be the circle of the hive as a variant of circle of the land, who receive appropriately insect-y themed spells as well as immunity to disease and poison at 10th level as well as the ability to ignore movement restriction caused by webbing and advantage on saves versus being restrained instead of Nature's War. The circle of the swarm would be an alternative of the circle of the moon, who may only wild shape into insectoid shapes, receiving a modified list of eligible creatures. 10th level allows for the use of two Wild Shape uses for the transformation into a bullette (heh?), chuul, phase spider or umber hulk instead of going elemental. Weird choices there. Tosculi rangers that adhere to the beast master archetype may elect to become hivemasters instead, gaining either a blood hornet/wasp (flying snake stats) giant crab, giant centipede, giant wolf spider or swarm of insects. You may note that some of these options are decidedly weaker than others...but I get what this tries to do. Telepathic communication with the targets...well, yeah, that's kind of nice.

The final race would be the werelion, who increases Wisdom by 2 and Strength by 1, is Medium, has a speed of 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. They are natural shapechangers and may assume lion or hybrid form as an action and remain thus for 1 hour or cancel the transformation as a bonus action. Hybrid form increases speed to 40 feet and nets both claws and bite, each of which deal 1d4 damage (slashing and piercing, respectively). You have proficiency with these and also receive advantage on Charisma (Intimidate) and Wisdom (Perception) checks reliant on smell while thus transformed, but also suffer from disadvantage on all Intelligence and all other Charisma checks. In lion-shape, you employ the panther's statblock as if you were a druid using wild shape. At 8th level, you instead use the form of a proper lion. For very high-powered games, the optional lycanthropic resistances and vulnerabilities have been included, though thankfully with sufficient warning caveat - the race already has enough oomph and silvering's expensive in 5e.

The werelion comes with a new sorcerous origin, the lycanthropic one. The pdf has a bit of a layout hiccup that blends this header with 1st level's hybrid form benefit together. Hybrid form follows the basics of that of the werelion, but allows for the selection of bear, rat, wolf or great cat. Each choice nets a thematically relevant ability and some sort of additional benefit - rats may squeeze through confined spaces, for example. At 6th level, you may expend sorcery points to increase the damage die of natural weapons by one step when in hybrid form and add either magic or silver to the attack, with the benefit lasting until the next shapechange. Additionally, you speak with animals of the chosen beast's form. As a nitpick, the ability does not state the action it requires to activate. I assume it can't be stacked. 14th level nets the option to expend 3 such points and assume a more powerful form (like brown bears, dire wolves, etc.) - one issue: The beat forms have significant differences in potency that are not really offset by the additional benefits gained: Giant rats are weaker than dire wolves, etc. At 18th level, beasts attacking you need to succeed a Wisdom save or choose a different target and you may expend 4 sorcery points to dominate beast, with additional point expenditure allowing you to increase the spell level.

Beyond these racial options, the book also contains a wide array of evocative, well-written backgrounds - the child of the divine, the temple slave, the siwali traveler and two variant soldiers: The quartermaster and the groom/squire. All of these have in common that their features are relevant and well-balanced, their fluff being nice as well - no significant complaints here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, though not perfect. On a rules-level, the pdf is generally nice as well, though not as refined as Midgard Heroes. Layout adheres to Kobold press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports several absolutely amazing full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Rich Howard and Rodrigo García Carmona's Southlands Heroes have an unfair disadvantage...namely that I'm reading the book back to back with Midgard Heroes and Unlikely Heroes. While Dan Dillon has taken on the development task here, the book ultimately shows that it preceded Midgard Heroes. This is not a bad selection of 5e-options...but it is one that is less refined than aforementioned offering. Indeed, one of my central gripes would arise mainly in direct comparison: Where Midgard Heroes managed to perfectly translate even powerful races in a balanced manner to 5e, where it had impeccable design, this one is not bad by any stretch of the word...but it somewhat overshoots the target in my book, at least in some cases. The presence of this many alternate racial traits as opposed to subraces also means that there's more minmaxing to be had here - and indeed, internal balance in both racial options and class options is not as impeccable as in Midgard Heroes - there are generally options that exceed the power of others, which is, ultimately, not the best sign here. Reading them back to back, the difference in a esthetics, rules language precision and system-mastery can be felt. In short: This feels a bit like D&D 5e has been infiltrated by some PFRPG design aesthetics. Not by much, mind you - this is still very much 5e, though and through...but the nagging feeling is here.

On a formal level, I am also pretty bummed to not see a proper take on the jinnborn in the book.

That being said, this is by no means a bad book; it is, however, one whose class options won't necessarily blow you away and GMs will want to take a close look at the races before allowing them. The payoff of strengths and weaknesses simply does not reach the perfect equilibrium of Midgard Heroes. How to rate this, then? Well, as mentioned before, this is by no means a bad offering, though, as a person, I am significantly less impressed by this book. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars. And while, as a person, I will round down (I'm pretty big on maintaining a system's design-aesthetics), my official review will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure #2: What a Trip! (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2016 07:14:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This tavern tales-mini-adventure clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 2 pages for the adventure.

The module is intended for 1st level characters and is basically an expansion/tie-in of "Simon's Dinner Theatre", featured in the Tangible Taverns-series. It should be noted that you most definitely get the most out of this one when using it in conjunction with the aforementioned supplement. You do not, however, need it, since it does not take place in the establishment and instead begins when the tavern's musician Cerulean contacts the PCs...

...and this is as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, a show's approaching and Marlowe's nervous...but more so is Cerulean, who has forgotten his bag of shrooms at home...and, dude, they totally help him mellow out and see the music, ya know? Unable to leave, he hands the PCs the keys to his house and asks them to get his bag o' shrooms. Alas, Cerulean, while meticulous in some regards, is very forgetful and doesn't exactly know where he last had them...and his fully-mapped place, well, is not the safest, to put it bluntly.

Curious PCs may run afoul an archer bush in the front yard, disturb a none-too-friendly family of raccoons...and may have to contend with a mold slime Cerulean totally forgot to check up on...the thing seems to have grown faster than anticipated... His scatterbrained nature similarly may bring the PCs in contact with intoxicating substances...As a very minor nitpick: I would have loved to see proper drug-stats for Cerulean's shrooms instead of just using an effect of polypurpose panacea...but that is just me complaining at a very high level.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the no-frills, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard of the series. The pdf sports a solid piece of b/w-art for the shrooms and its cartography in b/w is functional. No player-friendly version is included, but considering the simplicity of the house's layout and the PWYW-nature, that's okay in my book.

Kelly Pawlik's "What a Trip", structure-wise, is a low-level fetch-quest...and while that elicited some grumbling from my group, said grumbles quickly subsided during the exploration of Cerulean's house - the place has a delightfully quirky, playful atmosphere and as a bonus, crafty players can actually complete this little side-trek sans shedding any blood...ehr...sap. It is pay what you want, creative and I'd encourage checking this nice mini-adventure out, even if you're not interested in Simon's - this one can easily be used in conjunction with a plethora of places. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure #2: What a Trip! (PFRPG)
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Tangible Taverns: Simon's Dinner Theatre (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2016 07:12:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD (which also contains a new spell...not the best decision to cram that in the SRD...), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Situated in the dullest part of town, a corner lot with a perfectly manicured lot, there is a place with potted flowers and a little sign that reads "Simon's" - once you enter the place, you will be in a foyer and need to pay an entrance fee that includes a meal, a drink and entertainment - for beyond the foyer, there is a main room that features a stage. Started by a young playwright named Simon Marlowe (nice nod here!), the playwright has since then met his fate in an unfortunate carriage accident, but thankfully, his nephew Augustus took over...while his existence was nebulous at best prior to his arrival, he seems to be a capable playwright of his own...the show must go on, right?

Servers don't take orders, but ask for dislikes and everyone gets the same food at a given table and while the quality is superb, as a person (and by proxy, as a player), that would still elicit grumbling from yours truly. ;) A total of 6 brief rumors and 12 sample plays with small synopses can be found as well, adding a nice detail to the proceedings: "Dungeon Crawl - a Satire" and its sequel "Total Party Kill" certainly look like adventurers may enjoy them... 6 sample events, from ill actors that need a stand in (bard - step forward!) to an actor needing his trusty bag o' shrooms to act, the events are creative and nice.

Augustus Marlowe, just fyi, would be an NPC who gets a full statblock - he's a bard (celebrity) of 15th level, so better don't mess with the playwright! Speaking of playwrights: Finnley "Finn" McEwan, an inspired blade swashbuckler 7 would be another individual whose plays regularly grace the stage - and yes, he actually knows what he's doing! Ina fantastic context, you can obviously expect more from a play than what we mortals on our good ole' earth are accustomed to - and it would be Flibbidus Starriwynckles task to provide just that: The gnome acts as the trusty illusionist that keeps the plays engaging and action-packed.

Of course, the play does have actors as well - Corah Bousaid, Eldrin Semarantha, the platin-blonde tiefling Talia - these would be some of the fluff-only entries that paint a surprisingly diverse picture: Eldrin, for example, copes with her shyness by staying in character and actually is hinted to be bisexual. Kel Kellsen, a somewhat arrogant dwarf, but capable actor, makes for a nice twist of the self-proclaimed "lady's man" - trope...and he actually has a secret that is decidedly non-sinister for a change. Of course, plays do require music and Curulaeron Meadowpane ("Please call me Cerulean."), the elven musician does provide just that. Pretty cool - he actually is no bard...no siree, he is a druid with a penchant for plants, including a fully statted carnivorous plant he dotes on to accompany his stats. Oh, and his predilection towards plants extends to growing his own sort of "entertainment" - you know, he likes his home-grown... cough means of extending his consciousness.

Now, in the beginning, I mentioned the spell - you whisper a question to an arrow or bolt, which then spins to point in that direction. I like the visuals, but at 2nd level, it may be a bit high - I'd have made that a 1st level spell or cantrip.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Publishing's two-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf's cartography of the tavern is solid, though I wished a bigger version for kind-of-handout use was included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and art-wise, this deserves special mention: Each character herein gets a nice b/w-mugshot - particularly cool considering the low asking price.

Ken & Kelly Pawlik deliver in this tavern: Simon's is an unconventional, interesting place full of quirky characters and a nice change of pace from more traditional taverns/restaurants. There is quite a lot of adventuring potential to be had here and the characters feel dynamic, alive and interesting. In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform - an establishment well worth visiting.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: Simon's Dinner Theatre (PFRPG)
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Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Imperial Land Griffon
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2016 07:10:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures series clocks in at 5 pages - the front cover containing the header, creature artwork and the social media icons/homepage of misfit studios. The SRD takes up about 1.5 pages and the editorial is in a sidebar - to get all the material you thus have to print out the cover with the icons as well.

So, what is the land griffon? Well, according to the nice cover artwork they are basically non-airborne griffon with bird-like forelegs - as such, their carrying capacity is reduced - which is something I like. However, containing attribute modifications via class features, it would have been nice to get a formula here instead of absolute values - as written, you have to deduce new carrying capacity values yourself. The pdf does mention prices for young and fully trained ones as well as the eponymous Crawthorne's commentary on the critter as well as two variants:

The Imperial Land Griffon (Scout) and the (cavalry)-breed - both are magical beasts that clock in at CR 1, with scouts excelling at Perception - +10 for 2 HD is nothing to snuff at. They are docile, though - but scout training leaves them with the attack, come, down, seek and track tricks. The creature also receives +2 to Survival to track prey with other griffons...which leaves me a bit puzzled how many of them you need to get that bonus. Does one suffice?

The cavalry griffon does not have the docile ability and thus gets primary natural claws to supplement the bite; default training-wise, they begin play with the attack, come, defend, down, guard and heel tricks. They are also trained to intimidate foes on command. Pretty nice: We get 3 relatively neat adventure ideas to use the critters herein.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and while I'm not big on the social icons and dispersal of non-gaming parts through the pdf, from an aesthetic point of view, there is not much to complain about. The pdf comes with the classic Crawthorne-artwork as well as the land griffon artwork. Personally, I'm not a big fan of them being a stark blue, but the artwork does provide some cute eyes for the critters, which has the intended effect of "I want one!" on those susceptible to these notions. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration, which is nice to see. The book has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Spike Y Jones' imperial land griffons are a solid entry in the series and while I encountered some very minor ambiguities, I can't really complain in that regard - the builds are focused and efficient and feel "right" - you know, none-too-smart magical beasts being focused on being efficient predators and the like. The absence of mount/animal companion stats, however, severely limits their use - they're mounts and lack the convenient animal companion progression-info you'd need to use them as mounts...which is kind of a big deal and eliminates the main use you'd usually have for them. This leaves us with only the critter-use. In the end, this is not a bad installment, but it does shoot itself into its own foot. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Imperial Land Griffon
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Zane's Guide to Explosives
Publisher: One Dwarf Army
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2016 07:08:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf depicting rifles for 5e clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword/editorial, 1 page SRD, a total of 1 page blank (at the end of the chapter, there's some serious space left), leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This time around, we do not begin with the usual array of gun-explanations - no surprise, considering the different subject matter! Instead, we are introduced to a total of 4 grenades: Smoke grenades cost only 30 gp; stun grenades cost 50 and require a Con save (DC 13) to avoid being stunned (!!!) for 1d6 rounds, making them pretty powerful spam-items. Damage-wise, both concussion and frag grenades deal 4d6 damage, with type being bludgeoning and piercing, respectively and a DC 13 Dex-save to halve. Weird: Concussion grenades only have a 10-ft-radius, while frag grenades have a 20 ft. radius...though both cost an equal amount, namely 70 gp. All grenades weigh 1 lbs. They can "be thrown up to 60 feet away by using an action." Okay, I'll play. Do they have the Thrown property? Short/long range? Do they inflict more damage on crits? No idea. The weapon formatting/presentation for these is all off, which is baffling considering that guns etc. were pretty precise in that regard. The pdf offers two grenade launchers, one regular and one underbarrel version. Underbarrel launchers must be attached to other two-handed weapons, but can lop a grenade 200 ft.; regular grenade launchers can fire up to 300 ft. Why would you ever use a non-underbarrel? Seriously, the 100 ft. don't make much difference and since underbarrels don't increase types or anything...well. Both rocket- and grenade launchers completely deviate from how weapons are presented - no properties, no classification, no proper range; DCs of grenades do not change with wielder proficiency etc. All in all: Sucky options, presented in a barely functional manner. You will deal more damage with every weapon class in this series.

A total of 3 rockets are included as well; they weigh 2 lbs each and high-explosive rockets detonate in 30 ft.-radius for 4d8 bludgeoning, with Dex 13 to halve and Incendiary rockets cause 2d8 fire damage in the same radius, but burn on for 1d6 fire damage unless put out by a successful save. Both of these cost 150 gp a pop. The third rocket costs 200 gps and is "Armor piercing" - in name only. It only deals its damage in a 5-foot radius, but inflicts 4d12. Same DC to halve. Rockets must be fired from a rocket launcher at a target up to 600 ft. away. Loading one is an action and a team of two can load and fire a rocket launcher in one round...got ya. So basically, you need a hireling monkey and it's better than a grenade launcher; without one...it's just as fast. Okay... Rocket launchers lack any classification as weapons. The save DC, much like grenades, does not increase or take wielder capabilities into account. I have no idea what properties the weapon has. A total, unmitigated mess.

Unlike any of the Zane's Guide, the rules provided for explosives feel lackluster, quickly cobbled together...and in the context of the series, they are actually worse in damage output than pretty much all guns. WTF. There is nothing of the care and passion here in the base system that you could see in the gun-tweaks.

The exotic stuff is mostly devoted to rockets and grenades; a total of 3 weapons are included - the Dwarven Grenadier underbarrel grenadelauncher can be used 1/turn as a bonus action. The Lancaster grenade launcher can contain up to 6 grenades and 3 grenades may be reloaded in one action. Doubling Dolly, the magical rocket launcher, may fire a copy of the last rocket fired while it is not loaded, but only once per day (dawn as reset, not short/long rest) and only if the rocket was of rare or lesser scarcity.

The magical rockets and grenades that make up the remainder of this section run a gamut of power: The uncommon grenade Oubliette generates disadvantage to ranged attack rolls and imposes a DC Strength check (why not a save?) to move outside the area. "On a failed check, the creature cannot move outside the area during its turn. Okay, does this end movement? May the character abort movement before reaching the perimeter? No idea. Matryoshka detonates at 60 ft and has a Dex save of 14. Basically +30 ft. radius, +1 DC...which is honestly pretty cookie-cutter. Purcupine is more intriguing as a rocket- 8d8, 30 ft.-radius and covers the area in caltrops is more interesting. Pacifier is save-or-suck grenade: On a failed save, you drop unconscious for 1d6 MINUTES. Wabbit is an interesting grenade (rocket would make more sense to me, but oh well) that leaves a 10-ft-line between you and the detonation point.

The Tidal Wave grenade begins with a 20 ft.-detonation...and doubles the radius and damage output on the two subsequent rounds. Why is there no means to end the effects in progress via e.g. dispel magic? Bad Medicine is a grenade that causes necrotic damage and may heal nearby allies...though the number of allies affected is equal to the number of foes hit...which becomes a bit weird when throwing bags of kittens in the area of effect, but considering the price of the grenade, it is not a strategy I'd recommend. The BOOMerang is a grenade with 5 charges that returns to the thrower - but can it be caught? No idea. Weird: "any creature can be damaged by the BOOMerang only once." - Once per round or once; RAW it's once, which becomes odd considering the explosion following the expenditure of the final charge...would that count as an increase of damage or as a second explosion? That's also relevant for damage thresholds etc. The Duke causes a 200 ft.-radius 15d8 radiant explosion. Why does this and the aforementioned BOOMerang cause radiant damage? No idea.

Frosty Welcome may slow targets. The Predator-rocket rises 50 ft. after being launched and goes into hunter mode, becoming a construct that has a rudimentary Intelligence and may fire at foes; it explodes upon being destroyed. The creature has its own initiative score and may keep flying for 20 rounds. Odd: The series has a more streamlined version of the concept: You see, the predator requires no action to direct, when another similar concept required just that. A bit of internal inconsistency, I suppose. Stormbringer is a rocket that deals a combo of bludgeoning and lightning damage and may fire up to 4 lightning bolts at targets within 40 ft. of the flight path. Okay, what is a flight path? A line? Can you fire it in an arc? Are the lightning bolt targets randomly determined? The item states "Each bolt must hit a different creature", but says nothing about any form of control of who is targeted.

Sentinel is also problematic: It basically fire the grenade at a point, where it hovers. It then proceeds to fire a bolt of acid at any enemy creature within 30 ft. of its location AND at any creature moving between your turns, but may not fire at a creature more than once from the start of your turn to the end of your next turn. The grenade may float for 30 rounds...and basically behaves like a creature...which would make an appropriate write-up MUCH simpler than the complex wording here. Weird. Thoughtful Gifts generate 4 sets of cluster bombs with a 20 ft.-radius each within 80 ft. of the detonation, which is interesting, if powerful for a bit more than 2K gold. Thunder Storm is oddly named, considering that it generates a 3-round ball of lightning that discharges thrice at the end of your turns. No thunder damage, mind you. Volatile Infection basically is a grenade that causes fire damage that may spread from those ignited by it - pretty cool! Finally, Weatherman has 7 charges and regenerates these charges - after being thrown, it hovers at a height of 30 feet over the target point and thereafter, you may spend a charge and a bonus action to make it fire fireballs ...it is basically another turret-y grenade and much like the Sentinel, I think it's secondary form would have been better suited as a construct, also for internal consistency's sake.

The pdf's supplemental material contains 2 new feats: Grenadier increases your grenade range (based on the wonky base system) to 90 ft., add 1/2 proficiency bonus to a grenade's save DC or add +1d6 to the grenade's damage dice - cool: Takes choice in the case of multiple damage types into account...but does the benefit extend to secondary effects like magical discharges after detonation etc.? RAW, some of the options don't inflict primary damage (Thunder Storm disappears and just creates the ball lightning, for example...), so that is a bit opaque. The second feat increases maximum rocket distance by +50%, lets you add 1/2 proficiency bonus to rocket saves and add +1 damage-die to rockets...with the same boons and minor issues as those the grenade-feat suffered from.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but on a rules-level, there are a lot of small issues that accumulate. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As a minor nitpick, one page is almost empty - that does not feature in the final verdict, but in case you're particular about that kind of stuff, you may want to know.

Georgios Chatzipetros' guide to explosives is baffling to me. The other installments in the series establish the relatively concise framework of guns; exhibit sufficient knowledge on how the weapon-rules work and while they are not perfect, they show passion for the subject matter and a general care for 5e's design requirements. Additionally, while their damage output is relatively high, they remain, for the most part internally concise (shotguns having their own issues, but I digress). Explosives are none of these things. The presentation of the base rules is a mess. Internal consistency of the tricks of grenades and rockets is not really there and the whole pdf feels like a half-hearted addendum to the gun-rules of the first 4 installments. Sure, it's less than a buck and has some nice ideas to scavenge, but as written, I wouldn't/couldn't use these explosive-rules in a D&D 5th edition modern game...they require a rewrite and re-evaluation of their mechanics and internal presentation and balancing. This is not a complete waste of money, but it is a highly problematic installment. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 due to the VERY low price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Zane's Guide to Explosives
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Gunslingers of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/17/2016 06:15:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the class-centric Porphyra-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, though it should be mentioned that the file adheres to an A5/booklet-style size at approximately 6'' by 9''. So, let's take a look!

But before we do, I'll have to ramble a bit about the Gunslinger. You see, when the class was released back in the day, I loved some of the design-decision. Grit-regains rewarded players for doing cool things and the class looked pretty neat. In play, though, several issues soon became apparent. The first of these would pertain lack of player choice: There simply is not much to choose and while 3pp-deeds helped here, the matter of fact remained that one gunslinger would pretty much feel like the next. That would be issue number 1. Number two pertains the price of ammunition - these guys' weapons are expensive and when tested in low-level gameplay with strict gold-restrictions, the class proved to be a drain on the scant resources allotted to the group. Another issue pertained action economy - with reloading taking actions AND the potential to misfire/explode, we had one session where an unlucky gunslinger failed to shoot a single bullet...he was always occupied with fixing his gun or reloading. Finally, the class, to be honest, does not need full BAB. The touch AC means that even moderately competent gunslingers will pretty much hit anything in that range - 3/4 would have easily sufficed there and more utility would have made the class more rewarding.

So that would be where I'm coming from regarding the gunslinger and it is these observations that informed my design of the etherslinger class for Strange Magic. It's been a while since I saw a dedicated gunslinger supplement and I heard that this would address some of the issues of the class...so let's see if it does. One note regarding the verdict - I am NOT expecting the pdf to address my own observations and will judge this in relation to the class, not what I think it should be. I just wanted to contextualize my own position.

Got that? Great! We begin with alternative deeds (addressing player agenda concerns) - these may not be used to replace deeds granted from archetypes, but other than that, they very much are freely available for your perusal. Number one of these deeds already eliminates the feat tax and crappy action economy of the class - as long as you have 1 grit, you may reload as a free action - while this obviously represents a power-upgrade for the class, at the same time, it makes the class play so much better...so yeah, good with it! Similarly, there is one that duplicates Rapid Reload, so no, that's not just rationalized away either. Dedicated specialist unlocks the vigilante's signature weapon talent for firearms and gaining Endurance and Diehard for prereq-purposes (with limited usefulness tied to grit), unlocking quite a few options from the get-go that would otherwise be locked beyond the feat-tax. Getting ranged feint shots from the get-go also helps establish some basic gunslinging tropes from the get-go.

There would also the option to TWF, with one weapon being a firearm, allowing for decreased accuracy for better damage. What about Point-Blank Shot or Precise Shot from the get-go. At 3rd level, deeds provide means to go ranged disarm, Deft Shootist...well, or expend grit to reduce a target's armor's efficiency...which, while powerful, is an intriguing option. The deed specifies the need for repair for the armor damage, but I'd frankly love to know whether mending suffices. 3rd level Deathless Initiate or Shot on the Run are early...but once again, I am pretty okay with the availability, since the selection of feats thus unlocked allow the gunslinger to do what he's supposed to do...and that imho never was standing around, reloading, but running and gunning and being a badass.

Speaking of the mobility angle: At 7th level, with a bit of grit, you can use Gunrunner with a full attack. Ranged dirty tricks within range increment number one, finesse shot and a reduced misfire rate can also be found here. Starting at 11th level, you may enhance your pistol-whip or combine gunslinger's initiative with an immediate action attack for some serious Lucky Luke slinging! Adding some minor damage to combat maneuvers, following up on targeting...the deeds here make amply use of vigilante tricks and expanded that fit the gunslinger, while also making use of the feat-chain tricks that I expected from the book...nice.

At 15th level, Dirty Trick master, Parting Shot, +1 shot (for 2 grit that may not be reduced)...pretty neat. And yes, before you ask - there are some deeds that obviously build upon one another. 19th level provides 3 deeds, one of which deserves special mention: On a failure, the target loses any SU, SP or spells for 10 minutes. As a minor nitpick, I think this severance should probably be SU...but I get why it's Ex...being so mundane you disrupt magic...get it. Kinda like it as well!

After that, we're up to the next section, which would provide firearm modifications. Only non-broken firearms may benefit from a modification; the first one costs 250 gp, and every one past that clocks in at +1000 gp. Now I have seen some excellent rules for various firing mechanisms and the like in Fat Goblin Games' Call to Arms-series/Vathak...however, the material herein allows you to basically add them relatively easily into the context of any other sub-gun-rule-system you may be employing: Basically, the modifications doe a lot of imho necessary things and some that are tweaks to the base weapon: You can, for example, increase the threat range by 1...but for balance's sake, that decreases the crit multiplier by 1. Anyone who's played a gun-using character in an infiltration-heavy campaign (or who has a GM like yours truly who keeps throwing scenarios at the PCs where charging in, guns blazing will get everyone killed) has gnashed his teeth at their sheer loudness - it's why I build a Stealth-option into the etherslinger. Well, guess what? Silencer-rules. Sure, they're still not as silent as shooting bullets of ether, but I'll take them! Rifled barrels that decrease damage, scopes...you can make some seriously specialized guns with these tweaks. Nice! Similarly, further decreasing of misfire very much is possible with these mods.

I do also enjoy the alternate materials for guns of mithril, adamantine, etc. - though I frankly don't get why cold iron guns have a longer range. That one left me a bit puzzled.

Now obviously, this pdf also features archetypes and the first of these would be the black powder duelist - these guys would be specialists of sword cane pistols and focus on lightning fast draws...think of them as basically iaijutsu specialists that may treat their weapon as a double weapon...or, if you want to refluff a bit, think of them as gunblade-dudes. Basically, these guys are about range-increase, Lunge and bonus damage to the attack. Pretty cool!

Another déjà-vu in concepts from my own design-catalogue - the bombslinger. Where I went etherbomber, this guy basically latches bombs to the base gunslinger-chassis and receives a gun that can fire the bombs. Just goes to show that great minds think alike...right? ;P Kidding aside, though. For as long as they have 1 grit, they can continue making bombs after their daily uses are expended...only at 1d6, sure, but effects and discoveries can still be applied...and the ability has a hiccup: It mentions an inability to reduce grit costs...but has none, only a minimum amount of grit, which makes me believe that either a cost is missing (which would go a long way to balance this). Similarly, bomb shot is missing something - "The ability replaces the and lightning reload deed."

The bonded slinger receives an intelligent gun, a so-called soul gun, which can store 1 + Wis-mod grit, gains progressively better enhancements, but also Wis, Int/Cha and Ego. At 3rd level, it begins with the ability to grant Alertness to the wielder, has telepathy and is considered to be unbreakable while it has grit. The gun's grit pool can grant +1 damage for 1 minute, +1 for every 4 levels. 5th level and every 5 thereafter reduce misfire values and 8th level soulguns may spend grit to teleport their gun to them. 13th level lets them pit their will against their gun, draining grit and gaining it...but only if they pass the ego...oh, and failure fatigues. And yes, teh trasferrence cannot be exploited/cheesed. 17th level lets them fortify themselves with the gun's ego via grit and 19th level lets the slinger regain grit whenever the guns regains grit.

The dread sniper gains Stealth as a class skill and must choose a musket. They halve range increment penalties with it...which is pretty powerful from the get-go. Better sniping via Stealth and damage is unlocked at 5th level and scales. The archetype, however, also has unique deeds centered on remaining unseen and delivering devastating shots when sniping from hiding. The archetype also nets favored terrain and while not every deed's wording is perfect, the rules language encapsultes well the concept in question. Oh...and guess what: Unlike pretty much every sniper build I have seen, this is neither horribly OP, nor unplayable weaksauce...instead providing a great representation of the concept. Kudos!

That being an N. Jolly book, I am not surprised to see the elemental gun, (aka bunduqar) herein: First level nets these guys an elemental focus and simple blast as well as an energy simple blast. (Only elements with energy simple blasts qualify!) They channel elemental energy into their guns, which dissipates after one round and increases misfire by 1. Instead of accepting burn, these guys could potentially pay for burn in grit, which theoretically can be cheesed. I am not a fan here, since grit is a replenishing resource, whereas burn represents an absolute value; grit is unreliable, yes, but still. Starting at 3rd level and every 4 thereafter, the elemental gun may select substance infusions that may be applied to their simple blasts in lieu of deeds, but the DC is 10 + 1/2 class level + Wis-mod and only one infusion may be applied to an attack per round. Surprisingly, the follow-up ability contradicts this hard-cap, suddenly talking about one or more infusions in the context of reducing the total burn cost. This makes me believe that the infusion-cap was supposed to pertain not the total number of infusions per round, but the number of attacks to which infusions can be applied...if so, the wording could be clearer. So...this is basically a laser gun archetype. I like its concept. It's what my own class is all about...which also makes this hard for me. I kinda expected combo gunplay, you know, fire bullet, have blast shoot forth from impact - mainly because that's what mine does best. It's a solid laser gun using the kineticist engine, though it is wording-wise slightly less precise than what I'm accustomed to be the author and it could certainly use some creative tricks.

The gunsmoke phantom is about flexibility: They may teleport as a move action via grit and the ability smoke step. As a nitpick, this should specify being a conjuration [teleportation] effect for purposes of suppression. 7th level nets gaseous form (not italicized) and the archetype also gains the option to not provoke AoOs after smoke stepping. Adding a sickening haze emphasizes further the skirmishing focus and is upgraded at higher levels to also feature bludgeoning damage and increased condition severity. Dimensional Dervish similarly is unlocked, though, again, the reference to the dimensional door spell is not italicized. Apart from these formal hiccups, this looks like a powerful skirmishing option, but in play, it may turn out to be quite a bit more powerful than all tables can handle. You see, the main weakness, from an engine point of view of the class is that it needs to get close to targets to unleash its full devastating capabilities, but not too close since it's not that amazing in melee. This archetype lets you do just that, which, in game exacerbates the issue of the gunslinger's base engine vs. touch AC simply not scaling that well. There's a reason pretty much all other vs. AC-classes only have 3/4 BAB...and it's already bad with them. In short: You'll get a lot of quasi-guaranteed hits with this guy.

High rollers are another concept I enjoy and have tackled myself: It's a gambler's archetype, allowing you to increase the damage output to ever higher levels, but at the cost of higher misfire chances. The math underlying the system employed here is solid, which is pretty important for classes that tackle this type of design. Things get a bit more complex at 3rd level, when the archetype may increase the misfire rate by 1 for the first attack in a full-attack or the standard action: Instead of rolling damage, you roll a d6: 1= misfire, 2,3,4 = minimum damage, 5, 6 = maximum damage. This is bad, chance-wise...so you can rig the game by paying 1 grit, only dealing minimum damage on 1 and 2, maximum on 3, 4, 5 and 6. No, you can't reduce the grit-costs. Interesting one! 7th level unlocks a variant of said gambling shot based on a d8 and, more importantly, at this level, when you deal maximum damage, you may designate your next attack to ALSO be a gambling shot, with grit expended in the triggering first shot also applying to the follow-up attacks...and this is where the math underlying the class falls apart, since the d6 has a 2/3 chance of maxing and the AoO d8 5/8 with spent grit - oh, and an 8 on the d8 regains one point of grit, your average damage output will exceed that of the non archetype'd slinger.

Consider the fact that you may, at 11th, spend 2 grit to choose the result...well. You can bleed yourself dry of grit pretty easily, granted, but in the hands of a moderately lucky player (we all have one, right?), this is nasty. 15th level lets the guy roll 1d2: 1 detonates the firearm, 2 means max damage, +1 grit regain and 1/2 class level temporary hit points. The final ability references a "true gambling shot" - why not reference the deed and instead point towards the shot inside? Anyways, I will not allow this one since it does not fit my playstyle, but if you like very swingy experiences, this may well be the archetype for you. In spite of my complaints, I do appreciate what this one does and the lack of options to cheese the grit regains of the abilities via kittens is a big plus. In short: It is a polarizing archetype. You either love it or hate it.

A total of 5 feats can also be found herein: +2 DC for a deed, gain an alternative deed, two improvements for named bullet and a means to use wrist launcher's in conjunction with the bolt ace tricks. The pdf also contains an enchanted lucky duster and showcases its modifications among the magic items, with elemental scattershot pistols formed after dragons, self-loading sword cane pistols, a large musket usable for smaller folks...pretty nice. The adaptable holster would be a star here, allowing for the flexible application of firearm modifications. Problem: It grants the modification for 24 hours and while a firearm may only benefit from one of these, any number of firearms can be modified with them. I.e. if you put one of them in a garrison, all guards can take turns modifying their guns, thus never requiring the modifications to be applied in a mundane manner. I think the holster should have a cap of how many guns it can affect at any given time. A repairkit that permanently becomes the modification, in comparison, has no such issue and costs a 3rd of the more abuse-worthy holster. Slinger's Bibles, finally would be basically manuals that grant deeds upon reading them. And yes, there is a hard cap in place here regarding the number of such items you can benefit from.

The pdf also features several favored class options for Porphyran races, none of which represent an issue in my book. The pdf concludes with Gun Jaw, a hobgoblin dread sniper at CR 12, who also happens to come with a nice background story and even an NPC-boon, ending this on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay to good - while the rules-language, for the most part, is precise and properly juggles the complex concepts it attempts, there are a couple of instances where the wording could be clearer. On a formal level, there also are a couple of hiccups spread through the pdf. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column standard in 6'' by 9'' and the pdf sports quite a few nice full-color pieces of art - some I have seen before, but definitely not all. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jolly and Team KOP (Jacob McCoy, Mort & Onyx Tanuki) deliver a book on gunslingers that is more than just an expansion - it is basically a huge attempt to fix several of the grating issues the class faces. For the most part, the pdf succeeds admirably in its endeavors - the pdf addresses the silence/player agenda issues, adds some serious customization to guns and provides several archetypes that allow you to properly play tropes of gunslinging without waiting for x levels to have the cool stuff kick in. At the same time, the pdf takes the gunslinger's engine and adds onto it - which means it inherits several of the weaknesses and, in some cases, exacerbates them.

That being said, for each gunsmoke phantom herein, there is an amazing black powder duelist and the customization options are well-crafted indeed. I had a lot of déjà-vus regarding my own designs while reading this book and this does show that the authors have taken the class an analyzed its components very well. At the same time, I think some of the engine-modifications could have gone a step further...or use some consideration regarding the gunslinger's already pretty phenomenal accuracy, instead of adding to it. At the same time, this book does go into breadth and significantly expands the array of options available for the gunslinger, which is an excellent thing in my book, even if I disagree with some of them or would have wished for more precision in a couple of instances.

It is, frankly, very hard for me to separate this book from the issues inherited by the base class, since, to me, they warranted a creation of a whole new class. That being said, this is probably as far as you can get as a rules band-aid to make the gunslinger work as it should. Ultimately, and this is more important than the for the most part cosmetic hiccups, the gunslinger immensely benefits from the addition of this book and becomes more rewarding to play. It still is a flawed class, but it is less flawed with this book. I'd still strongly advise GMs to take a careful look at some of the archetypes before allowing them in the game and this, combined with the hiccups, ultimately makes me settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. It may not make me return to the gunslinger, but it sure as hell makes for a better experience than playing without this book.

Endzeitgeist out.



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