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Mini-Dungeon #047: Stowaway on the Singing Sea
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2017 07:10:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

And now for something completely, radically different! This adventure takes place mostly with the PCs cooped up in a crate, with rations, portable hole for...ahem...necessities. Two weeks. Even if you fast forward that, it'll be interesting if you just briefly mention each day and wait for your PCs to interact a bit. I'm serious. If you have good roleplayers in your group, this'll be pure gold. That being said, there is a reason for this unorthodox way of travelling. You see, the PCs have been hired by law enforcement to catch captain Elloise Drake in the act, with the means of granting her crew amnesty. Thus, they stowed away on her vessel...and once the crate's opened, the PCs explore the pirate vessel, catch it in the act of piracy and may use their social skills to make more of the crew turn against their captain. And yes, furious fight included. Sure, you can play this as a fast-forward one-big-encounter type of scenario...but if ran as provided, it can actually provide easily a full gaming day's worth of fond memories.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. The .tif version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Justin Andrew Mason's "Stowaway on the Singing Sea" is a classic module that depends on whether it is perceived as a blast or as bland on both the GM's prowess and the player's temperament. Roleplayers willing to depict the journey will absolutely adore this gem and indeed, as a kind of break, as a means of taking tempo out of a campaign that seemingly runs from time-limit to time-limit, this works phenomenally well. You know your players better than I do - can they cope with such a set-up? if so, they'll love it; if not, you can fast-forward through the two weeks of set-up, but you'll lose out on the impact of the finale when it hits. This is, more so than most modules, a matter of taste.

In fact, if it has one neutral weakness, that would be that exploration of the pirate vessel does not really yield advantage when turning the crew - some one-sentence angles for key-crew-members to turn them would have been the icing on the cake. Still, this represents a great example of how cool a module you can craft even with a minimum of space. 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #047: Stowaway on the Singing Sea
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Mini-Dungeon #048: Pit Your Wits
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2017 07:07:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The PCs arrive at a well-known mining operation's base...the issue, though, would be that it's gone. In its stead, there lies a chasm filled with inky blackness, the result of an elder thing's "planer[sic!]" ship crash-landing there - the fall of the ship has resulted in truly strange creatures - like giant crickets covered in glowing toadstools. Highly volatile fuel left on planks may ignite at a touch, moss has transformed in mindslaver moss; a goblin was turned into a monstrosity of warped legs with tentacle-like bits; intestines have congealed into a slug-like thing and what was once a half-dragon troll living nearby is now something completely different - investigating the strange crash-site will certainly yield some seriously interesting, horrific foes...and can be seen as a masterclass example in practice on how to properly reskin monsters to make them feel fresh and new. And yes, random encounters included.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. The .tif version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley proves that he can do the horrific just as well as the creatively weird here - the mini-dungeon shows with perfect ease how you can reskin monsters and make them truly unique encounters, how you can logically and cohesively establish a thematic leitmotif in a mini-dungeon and run with it. This is a fun excursion, particularly so for fans of science-fantasy, dark fantasy or horror - with only minimal emphasis changes, you can easily ramp up the respective components. While this mini-dungeon is thus not necessarily brilliant, it most certainly represents a more than fun low-level excursion for such games. My final verdict will hence clock in at a well-deserved 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #048: Pit Your Wits
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Ogres New Boots
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2017 07:05:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

...

..

.

Okay, still here? Only GMs around? Great!

So, this adventure, in a way, is the story of one special ogre called Bruboe, mocked relentlessly by his brutish brethren for his artistic ambition. In exile, he found his calling - becoming a great actor! The audience he found was ultimately that of mutated belching goblins. While the ogre has managed to accumulate a variety of costumes, he is lacking good boots - which is where the eponymous new boots come into place. Bruboe has kidnapped Nogget, the best cobbler of Bright Moon Valley by luring him under false pretense with a letter (note that if your game treats literacy as rare...among common folk or ogres...), imprisoning the man. Guess what the PCs are supposed to do? Bingo.

The PCs are hire in the Laughing Dragon Inn by a gnomish child and the PCs will probably jump at the chance to offset their ennui. The first encounter, thus, takes place at the site of the ambush, where they deal with the belcher variant goblins left there. While the caravan ambush site does have a map, it is only a small one and no proper-sized version to print out or hand out is included - something that extends btw. to all the encounter maps herein. On the plus-side, the pdf does provide upgrade-notes for higher APLs and even alternate stats. The scaling advice is nice.

Tracking the belchers is not too hard, though PCs failing hard at Survival will have a harder time - the more checks they fail at, the worse it'll become. Particularly successful PCs will find a hidden vale with a dryad. Ahem. Well. The artwork is...nice. Okay, so if you're sensitive to that kind of thing: The artwork depicts the dryad stark naked, with her wooden behind towards the reader. Personally, I don't mind, but some readers may be put off by this display of cheesecake.

Arriving at the belcher hide-out, the PCs must pass some decent traps and arrive at the grim theatre of the ogre, stumbling on a performance by the ogre - if they play along, they can actually hold off the attack of the belcher and firebat audience. Bruboe is an ogre skald, btw., and comes in a level 2 and 4 version. This would also be as well a place as any to note that the neither skill- nor attribute-checks are consistently and properly formatted herein. Also weird: The finale mentions tiers instead of APLs for different scaling options. The ogre will make a run for it while the PCs slice and dice through the belchers, the PCs will have to hunt him...and pass the captured cobbler, who tells them to trick the ogre into putting on the boots.

If the PCs manage this, the boots, suffused with alchemist's fire, burst into flames, making the combat easier...though why they only burst into flames after putting both on can be considered to be a minor logic bug.

There is an optional final encounter after Buboe has been defeated - there are lava children and a magma elemental hidden below Buboe's base, whose presence accounts for the belchers flocking to the area - getting rid of it represents basically the optional bonus benefit and encounter for the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, though there are a couple of issues in the formatting of rules-text. Layout adheres to Wayward Rogue Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports several solid full-color art pieces, mostly stock. The maps in full color per se are nice, but the lack of both proper-sized GM- and player-maps make their inclusion useless for the GM - you'll still have to draw them. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Nicholas Milasich's little module is a basic one - in format and length akin to a Pathfinder Society scenario, a type of module it suspiciously looks like. Like many PFS-modules, it's very combat-centric and extremely linear. The premise is funny and a capable GM can make the unconventional twist on the BBEG memorable, even if the "trick" mentioned for the final stand can be an issue. The bonus encounter feels a bit tacked on and the variant goblins also fall a bit short of their potential. The module per se is not necessarily bad, but neither is it particularly compelling. First level parties can potentially be wiped by the pretty strong opposition - I'd rather recommend this for level 2 - 4 characters. If you have no prep time and need a society-style scenario, then this may deliver for you- as this is PWYW, you may decide for yourself if this is a worthwhile offering for you.

It is due to this fair decision that my final verdict for this module will clock in at 3 stars - it may be worth checking out for you, but don't expect to be blown away.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ogres New Boots
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Umbra Base Class
Publisher: ARMR Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2017 07:03:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base class clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The umbra class presented herein receives d8 HD, 6 + Int-mod skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons as well as hand crossbow, rapier, sword cane (nice!), shortsword, kukri, starknife and (composite) shortbows as well as light armor and bucklers. The class also nets 30 ft. darkvision and low-light vision at first level, which makes it too dippable from the get-go, even before the other options, but that just as an aside. Darkvision increases to 60 ft and 120 ft. at 6th and 11th level, respectively, with 17th level providing see in darkness.

The umbra begins play with a shadowcraft pool equal to class level + Wisdom modifier (the pdf annoyingly uses the three letter attribute shorthand in an unnecessary formatting deviation),a pool that replenishes at midnight, just fyi. The pool is used to power the so-called shadowmancies, SPs, of which the umbra has one at the start and learns an additional one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, with save DCs clocking in at the traditional 10 + 1/2 class level + Wis-mod for them, if applicable. Basically, we have point-based casting of an extremely limited list with a shadow-theme here. A plus, formatting-wise: Spells are properly italicized. Nice.

The class also gets shadowstrike- the option to attack an adversary's shadow to inflict damage: in order to do so, the umbra must focus on a shadow as a move action (dismissal also takes a move action), with duration of the focus being 1 minute or until the creature is slain. While thus focused, the umbra receives -2 to AC, Perception and attacks versus creatures that are not the target of his focus, but the class does deal an additional +1d4 damage, +1d4 at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter against a target of the focus. Nitpick: The ability makes this damage behave as precision damage, but could be slightly more precise here. Still, this is nitpicking - the ability per se is interesting.

Starting at 2nd level, the umbra may generate shadow bolts to target creatures affected by the focus - this is a ranged touch attack that provokes AoOs and inflicts 1d4 untyped damage, +1d4 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter and the ability is treated as a spell of 1/2 class level -1 - and such a bolt costs one shadowcraft pool. Starting at 7th level, umbras deal + 1/2 class level damage versus flat-footed foes (+ class level at 14th level) and regains 1 shadowcraft point when doing so. Hand me the bag of kittens to slaughter, please.

15th level nets hide in plain sight and 17th level allows for the combination of shadowbolt and shadowstrike, with 20th level providing a sufficiently powerful insta-kill attack. The three feats allow for a larger shadowcraft pool, more shadowmancies or a decreased point cost for one. The class comes with favored class options for drow, fetchling and dhampir.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. On a rules-formatting and presentation level, there are a couple of deviations from the standard to be found. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Angel "ARMR" Miranda's Umbra is per se an interesting construct - the focus-based infinite challenge-y alternative to sneak attack deserves further scrutiny for its potential. At the same time, the class feels a bit confused in what it wants to do: On one hand, he have the alibi-level restricted flexibility of shadowmancies and the very few options that provides; on the other, we have the pseudo-warlock-y blasting. And then, thirdly, the aforementioned sneak alternative. And none of the 3 come together particularly well. Unlike in comparable classes, the engine-components do not feel like part of a whole and exist, for the most part, separate from one another.

There are a precious few interactions, but as a whole, this feels like three parts of potentially cool classes, forced to inhabit a single chassis. I believe that all three, to a degree, could have carried a class with varying success, but their combination here feels like less than the sum of its parts....somewhat disparate, if you will. This does not make the class a trainwreck or anything, but it also means that, even with the PWYW-bonus, that this is far, far off from the amazing ethermagic, Path of Shadows of similar offerings out there.

In the end, even with the PWYW-bonus, I can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded up for this one.If you're looking for design-inspiration or for the shadowstrike-chassis to build on, then this is still worth downloading and leaving a tip for, though.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Umbra Base Class
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Mini-Dungeon #046: The Gallery of Gears
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2017 07:02:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. This one does not come with a .tif extra map, just fyi.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The dreaded summoner Vlexigorn, known for the delight he takes in enslaving demons, was about to meet his match, when the kolyarut hunter Lanthanus was on his trail. Unfortunately, the summoner has managed, with the help of his vrock-aide Chor-da ta'al, to get the better of the kolyrut and use his portal to escape to Mechanus - the resulting instability has the creature on the clock (Get it? Mechanus...clock? Sorry, will hit myself for that one later...) and stranded in the material plane -he can't return for now and in 3 hours, he'll be banished here! The wounded outsider thus beseeches the PCs to enter the clockwork world of Mechanus and stop the vrock.

Upon entering the place, the PCs will at least find the bloody remains of the summoner - which alas, means that the vrock is now free-willed. Really weird: Bypassing the gears that claimed the summoner's life requries a Dexterity check - not a Ref-save, not an Escape Artist check...I don't get it. The exploration of the small complex depicted here...is somewhat weird. The depictions of bellows, scrying devices and the like are flavorful...but you can't do much with them. There is a control device for portals...and it needs a DC 28 (!!!) Intelligence check to understand. Again, weird - not Knowledge (engineering), not even Knowledge (planes) - straight Int versus DC 28. That being said, it is pretty evident why the complex, as such, isn't that detailed or engaging - the mini-dungeon basically is a prolonged boss-fight, with relatively detailed tactics given for the vrock - which I'd generally applaud. At the same time, however, a "permanently active electrical field" is supposed to keep the vrock in line. Guess what? Vrocks are immune to electricity. he could just LEAVE. Heck, his tactics even mention him using the electricity as a shield...but not how much damage that would inflict to PCs braving the field.

Another logic-bug: Vrocks can at-will greater teleport, teleport into the PC's back, finish the kolyarut. In short - if you swallow the premise, this can be a fun module; but if you don't and look closer...then it just makes no sense.

Conclusion:

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

Jonathan Ely can and has done so much better. The premise is cool; I like the gear-studded map and the adversary and his strategy is neat. The strange ability checks when you'd expect saves or skill checks are weird...but don't weigh as highly as the stretches expects you to swallow. I can get the "immensely lucky"-angle for the portal; it's the premise of the adventure. Strange stuff happens. However, I don't get why the module wastes precious word-count on the back-story of an irrelevant, ostensibly high-level summoner who has no loot (WTF?) and no bearing to the plot whatsoever.

The dungeon, ironically, is sterile - it has almost no interaction points and those that are here bear no relevance to the, admittedly cool boss fight....that remains cool unless you start thinking, when suddenly, it stops making any semblance of sense. The adversary's tactics are aimless make zilch sense to me; the vrock's not stranded, the kolyarut's wounded, he's free two greater teleports and we have a PC-failure on our hands. Even if you'd argue that the vrock wants to infiltrate Mechanus, it makes no sense, he'd just have to use spores, then teleport away until the timer's elapsed. His whole motivation makes no frickin' sense. As soon as you start questioning anything in this mini-dungeon, even tangentially, you'll see it coming apart. I love the idea here - but the execution is extremely flawed. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up for the idea that a GM can scavenge and the nice map. Plot-wise, this is a wreck.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #046: The Gallery of Gears
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Legendary Hybrids: Kinetic Shinobi
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2017 09:40:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Legendary Games' hybrid classes clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The kinetic shinobi, if the name was no clear indication, is a hybrid class of ninja and kineticist, which receives, chassis-wise d8 HD, 6 + Int-mod skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus kama, katana, kusarigama, kyoketsu shoge, nunchaku, sai, shortbow, short sword, shuriken, siangham and wakizashi as well as light armor. The class receives 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and 2nd level nets sneak attack, which continues to progress by +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter, up to a maximum of +7d6.

The class begins play with elemental focus and kinetic blast with kineticist levels equal to kinetic shinobi levels, but must either add the physical jutsu or elemental jutsu form infusion to any kinetic blast she manifests. A kinetic shinobi's kineticist tricks are governed by Charisma instead of Constitution- Both of these form infusions, just fyi, do not have a burn cost.

Unfortunately, the physical jutsu infusion does have a pretty nasty glitch: It is used as part of any attack action, creating a weapon that deals "1d4 + Cha" damage, regardless of level. It can be used with Vital Strike, Spring Attack etc....but for one, I am pretty sure this should be Charisma modifier: RAW, this adds the Charisma score to damage, which is...too much. The elemental version behaves analogue to this, but does not sport the problematic "+Cha" addition and targets touch attack instead.

2nd level provides a ki-pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod. This ki may be spent to enhance physical jutsu attacks by +1 or the damage of elemental jutsu by +2. These bonuses increase by +1 and +2, respectively, at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Additionally, an expenditure of one ki can net them a whopping +20 to Acrobatics for one round, or a +4 to the skills associated with the elemental focus. Beyond these basic uses of ki, the kinetic shinobi also learns so-called Hadou techniques at 2nd level, which remain available for as long as the shinobi has at least 1 point of ki left in her pool. These hadou techniques basically are what lets you generate unique effects with the jutsus. It is here, in the technique that makes the jutsu behave as a katana, that the aforementioned confusion regarding "+Cha" is resolved btw. - here, the wording is correct and notes that it's the Charisma modifier that is added to the damage-output, which is for 2-handed weapons btw. increased to 1d8. Dual wielding weapons made from jutsu and thrown weaponry are included here as well, just fyi.

Starting at 3rd level, kinetic shinobi become harder to track and better at Disguising and Stealth, emphasizing the ninja-component with scaling bonuses that increase every 3 levels thereafter. 4th level provides gather power, which, considering that the kinetic shinobi pays ki instead of burn, obviously pertains ki expenditure, though gathering power does require concentration -on a failed check, you have a cooldown there. 4th level and every 8 levels thereafter net a substance infusion, with 6th level and every 4 thereafter allowing for the switching of such an infusion. 4th level decreases the ki cost of their combined substance infusions by 1, with further reductions unlocking at 10th and 16th level. Since the burn-to-ki-conversion is stated in another ability, I am okay with the class calling this burn-cost reduction. 6th level provides the option to expend +1 ki to double the duration of effects, with 10th level allowing them to spend 2 points to maximize their blasts. 14th level allows for the expenditure of 3 points for a required second save and 18th level lets the shinobi expend 4 points to have the blast ignore 10 DR or resistance and SR and mitigate energy immunity to resistance 20: Big kudos here: The immunity-to-resistance-transition could have resulted in confusion in the hands of less careful authors: Kudos for the clarifying example!! 7th level nets evasion and, as a capstone, the metajutsu abilities that allow for the expenditure of ki to add metamagic-y benefits is decreased by 1. They may also regain 2 ki when sneak attacking a creature with at least half their HD: Kitten-proof capstone. Nice!

Now, I have consciously not commented so far on the massive array of shinobi talents included here: They represent the biggest unique player agenda component here. The first of these is gained at 1st level, with every 2 levels thereafter providing an additional such talent. These talents provide a blend of active benefits and talents that behave like hadou techniques and include the classic options you'd expect: From a variant smoke bomb to the option to provide one poison's benefits to his jutsu-formed two weapons to standard action only increased damage blasts, which can be further modified to act as lines or cones. Increased sneak range for sniping, synergy of Spring Attack or charges with the aforementioned standard action damage-increase...there's a lot here. Higher levels also allow for composite blast jutsu weapons, aligned strikes, applying infusions to full attacks, synergy between ki strike (which can be gained via another talent) and kinetic blast, advanced hadou techniques for dual thrown weapons or splash weaponry. Very cool: Kinetic shadow can add a miss chance to the shinobi in the aftermath of attacks and there even is one that allows for the decrease of sneak attack in favor of a reduced burn cost. Thankfully, the notorious flurry of stars-option has been locked behind an appropriate level, showing that the designers have done their math here. Highest level shinobis may even learn supercharge thus. Have I mentioned the option to gain detect thoughts? In case you haven't noticed by now: Combined with Legendary Kineticist, this pdf is pretty much "Psylocke the Class" - or all those elemental ninja dudes and dudettes. As a whole, the massive selection of shinobi talents covers a pretty amazing array of options.

This is not, however, where the pdf stops: Instead we get a TON of archetypes: 11 to be more precise. Arsenal snipers modify their proficiency-list to gain access to crossbows and firearms and indeed, that's what they can create: The rules-language provided for the ability is beautiful in its complexity, addressing several potential stumbling stones and eliminating multiple game-breaker-level issues from the get-go. Beyond increased accuracy, the class also receives an array of unique shinobi talents that include interaction with automatic fire, several investigator talents and replaces sneak attack with studied combat and Ranged combat at 3rd level, with further levels providing range increases. Lethal...but for once not a sniper class that overshoots (get it?? I'll punch myself later for that...) the line.

The second one would be the Brutal Assassin, who loses a bit of versatility in favor of Strength as governing attribute and increased sneak damage output whenever he expends ki, with fighter-level bonus combat feats and more damage-focused tricks - which remain within the proper levels...so kudos! The archetype does lose much of the shinobi's stealth and versatility for these, though. Thirdly, the burglar is a quick one: 3rd level safe house instead of a shinobi talent, HiPS instead of evasion. Solid.

The elemental shinobi replaces 12th level's ninjutsu training and evasion with access to elemental defense , powered by ki, at 2nd level. Their ki expenditure per round is capped, though, and their pool is reduced to 3 + Cha-mod to retain balance and they may also not perform the +20 Acrobatics tricks via ki, though 6th level allows them to take Charisma damage to increase the ki pool for a limited number of times per day. Weird layout glitch, btw.: Starting at 3rd level's elemental overflow, the whole text that follows, until the second sentence of the next archetype, seems to be bolder than it should be. The ability is btw. pretty impressive, providing bonuses to atk with blasts equal to the ki points expended since the last rest, and the ability even knows thresholds for further bonuses, which makes for a very cool experience of resource-management I enjoy immensely: On the one hand, you want to expend those points, on the other, you don't this retains a fluidity of options and generates this cool and pretty cinematic feeling. Very, very cool. I am so going to see what I can do with this engine!!

Fading Shadows gets a delayed sneak attack progression and are masters of camouflage, the silent killers and ghost-like infiltrators, with Conceal Spell and vanishing trick. A relatively simple one, but I like it. The hand of the kami would be, surprise, the archetype that makes the class behave like a kinetic unchained monk instead of a kinetic ninja - with quinggong monk ki powers, faster movement, flurry, the like. The Hi-Den Noble would be a similar hybrid-y archetype, but one that would basically represent a vigilante-ish shinobi that makes for a great face of the party, with knowledge and social skills and hidden strikes et al. - Really like this one, as it also has some seriously nice flavor written into the abilities. The metaformer replaces the metamagic-like tricks gained at 6th level and thereafter with extended access to form infusions - basically, this is an engine tweak, designed specifically to allow for kineticist-style meta-magic as opposed to the feat-based metamagic of the base class, making it a useful and cool addition.

Following this sequence, the next one would be the needler, whose ki pool behaves pretty much like a variant panache. Yep, this would be the swashbuckler-multiclass. And before you ask: The reason why I'm not screaming fire and brimstone right now regarding replenishing ki is the restriction that eliminates the elemental jutsu from the equation. The piercing focus can slightly be expanded upon with shinobi talents, one of which allows for the addition of usually bludgeoning-only kinetic blasts that may now inflict piercing or slashing damage. This archetype, while solid on its own, delimits a limited resource, so utmost care should be taken by GMs allowing the archetype to multiclass. The shadow stepper is locked into void and gains arcane spellcasting with slots equal to the bloodrager, but draw them from wizard/sorc and psychic spell-lists, though they are limited in what spells they can learn. The archetype pays for the flexibility that offers with a lot shinobi talents and regular stealth. Additionally, they may cast spells by expending ki and spell slots, drawing from a thematically nice list. The final archetype would be the shikon, whose spell-list and equivalent levels are treated as either bard, hunter, inquisitor, magus, mesmerist, spiritualist or warpriest, chosen at 1st level, rendering them pretty much a catch-all blend of the kinetic shinobi with the black blade of the bladebound magus (they gain a variant of the black blade), making this a pretty significant and interesting departure from the base class. Kudos!

Big, big plus: We get a TON of favored class options: Core races, featured races, uncommon races, and they actually tie in thematically with the respective races: Orcs gain damage upgrades for empowered weapons, dhampirs better negative blasts...nice. The pdf also features 4 feats: Beyond the Extra Shinobi Talent and Favored Shinobi Talent (decrease ki-cost of that talent) to using Cha for one Dex-based class skill to Overflowing Ki, which treats you as always having at least 1 ki and allows for 1 hour of meditation to regain ki...which can be an issue in REALLY grim, low-powered games. In most standard rounds, its meditation duration is long enough to make me consider it to be okay.

The pdf closes with the lady depicted on the cover, Valerie Jette, a level 9 half-elven kinetic shinobi whose colorful history includes a healthy infusion of drow blood as part of being resurrected. Sounds intriguing? Yes, it does! She does come with a boon, just fyi!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is very good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf's artwork has been employed in other LG-books for the most part, though a couple of nice ones are included that I have not seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

N. Jolly, with additional design by Blake Morton and OnyxTanuki, delivers once again in this hybrid class. Now, what do I look for in a hybrid class? For one, if a simple archetype of a scavenging of class ability could do what the hybrid class does, then it has missed its mark. Secondly, and that's just as important, if not more so, it has to feel unique: It should not play like just a Frankenstein-conglomerate of class abilities that have been stitched together. Thirdly, the class needs its unique identity. A hybrid of hunter and slayer will probably be just another woodsy pet-fighter dude, for example. The kinetic shinobi fulfills all of these criteria with panache. The significant array of archetype support adds some seriously nice customization options to the class as well, making it excel at being the anime-ninja, the Psyclocke-ish character par excellence. That being said, there are a couple of minor issues here and some options that can potentially can cause hiccups in some games. Granted, these are few and far between and can easily be identified by a competent GM, but they're here. In the end, I consider this a very good hybrid class - one of my favorite 3pp hybrid classes alongside Forest Guardian Press' savage and Purple Duck Games' luminary , in fact, but these small imperfections are what costs this my seal of approval. Still, this remains one excellent addition to the game and well worth 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Hybrids: Kinetic Shinobi
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Vivisectionist Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2017 09:36:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Vivisectionists are locked into an evil alignment and receive d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, bombs and light armor and the class receives a 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves. The class begins play with alchemy and Brew Potion and receives extract-spellcasting akin to the alchemist. The class draws its extracts from its own list of available formulae and the governing attribute here would be Intelligence. While the vivisectionist receives the bomb class feature, it is used in a different way and more in line with a very soft crowd-control, as the only level in which the ability is increased would be 13th. It should be no surprise that vivisectionists thus begin play with Throw Anything as well. Sounds much like an alchemist? Well, 1st level also yields channel necromantic energy, usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day. This special channeled energy does not cause damage, but can be used to command and heal undead - those affected by it may fall under the sway of the vivisectionist on a failed Will-save.

Starting at 2nd level, the vivisectionist receives DR 2/bludgeoning and magic, increasing this by +2 at 6th level, 11th level and 15th level. As a minor nitpick, the formatting of the DR in the class table lacks the slashes. 2nd level and every even level thereafter yield a discovery, but more on those later. Starting at 3rd level, a vivisectionist may 1/day emit a 5-ft-burst of negative energy that inflicts 1d4 damage per class level, half on a successful Will-save. As a minor formatting nitpick, it should be "+ Charisma modifier", not "+Cha modifier". This ability can be used an additional time per day at 8th, 12th and 18th level and it heals undead. Additionally, their channel can be used to further activate the ability more often. I assume the default standard action for activation of this Su, but would have still appreciated an activation action - and, pretty important, a note on whether this provokes an AoO. I assume no as a default, analogue to channel energy.

3rd level yields swift alchemy, which contradicts the table that puts the ability at 4th level. 5th level yields the eponymous vivisection, which allows the character to, as a free action, inject specially-charged brain matter, granting a +1d6 surge-like bonus on one skill check within 1 minute, even those requiring the taking of 10 or 20, with the choice being required after the check is rolled, but before results are made known. The interaction with taking 10 and 20 are a bit weird here, but retain their functionality, so this gets a pass. This can be used "1 + Cha modifier" (again, should be "Charisma" -I'll stop commenting on this type of formatting hiccup now) times per day, +1/day at 7th level and every other level thereafter. Alternatively, as a move action, the vivisectionist may gain the benefits of a combat feat for the duration, but has to meet all prerequisites, with 7th level decreasing action economy for this type of activation to a swift action.

The vivisectionist may only have one such wild-card feat at any given time...at least until 9th level, where the ability can also unlock general feats and may benefit from multiple such feats at any given time. The interaction here can be a bit wonky: The vivisectionist still has to meet the prerequisites of such feats, but can subsequent uses of the ability grant feat trees? Iron Will and Improved Iron Will, for example, if the vivisectionist uses three vivisection uses? Does he lose access to e.g. Improved Iron Will, once the vivisection duration for the granted Iron Will feat elapses? Does the multiple-use-caveat for the stacking of granted feats via vivisection also apply to combat feats, or are these still locked at a maximum of 1 wild-card feat? The ability has some hiccups in these finer details. Starting at 15th level, the vivisectionist may use the ability to gain a non-spellcasting 1st-level ability of a core class, but is locked into it until the duration elapses. Also at 5th level, the vivisectionist receives a 5-ft.-radius fear aura with a hex "Immune after successful save for 24 hours caveat."

Starting at 7th level, the vivisectionist may 1/round deliver a melee touch attack that inflicts 1d8 untyped damage, +1 per 4 class levels. This also heals undead creatures, which can be a problem if you're playing with an undead PC-race, as it means infinite healing. The attack may also be delivered via spectral hand - the spell is, just fyi, not properly formatted here. Starting at 12th level, the vivisectionist learns two alternate uses of this ability: On any given day, she may bestow a total of up to 1/2 her class level negative levels, with a maximum of 2 per touch. Alternatively, she may paralyze foes for 1/2 class level rounds, with both cases allowing a cha-governed save to resist. I assume the save to be Fort, but the ability does not clarify that. In order to use either paralyze effect or negative level, the vivisectionist must spend a swift action charging her hand. If the at-will paralyze seems OP, then because it is (RAW, it can be used infinite times per day), but the upgrade at 17th level makes clear that the intent was for paralyzing to have some sort of cap: Suddenly, negative levels and paralyze cap at class level levels/rounds per day. sigh

8th level adds +4 to Str and Dex and +2 hp per HD to all undead created by the vivisectionist and allows her to control 4 + Cha-mod undead HD per vivisectionist level, with 2x class level doubling as the cap for those controlled by channel necromantic energy. The wording here could be a bit more precise and elaborate. 9th level yields +4 to saves to resist negative energy, some ability drain, level drain and inflict spells. As a capstone, we have an undead-apotheosis as well as a grand discovery.

Speaking of which: The pdf contains, unless I have miscounted, a total of 13 class-exclusive discoveries and 4 exclusive grand discoveries. Grand scale corruption of wells and even larger bodies of water, a discovery that lets you rig an alchemist lab to make it generate undead-animating vapors, making a nasty weapon from a unicorn-horn...Know what? In all Wayward Rogues Publishing-pdfs I've covered so far, these are not only the most precise pieces of crunch, they also are inspiring and evocative. A lot of the discoveries basically ask to be made into the central plot-device of a given module. Preparing alcoholic beverages to hamper saves? That just sounds like step one of a delightfully dastardly plan, and disguise self and alter self as formulae, with the option to use a deceased person's blood to take their appearance, makes for a delightful package that just screams "Make me a cool villain in your next game! - even when the spell-references are not properly italicized. Cooler than that: Flashes of memory can be added to the impersonation! There is also a discovery-tree called graveflesh, which provides camouflage and protection from mindless undead, a black thumb that kills off vegetation (unfortunately without stating the effect on plant creatures) or some bonus spells - the abilities which grant those, just fyi, are perfectly formatted - italicized spells and all.

The grand discoveries allow for the assumption of permanent control over mindless undead, extended command and control limits, act as a living shrine to an evil deity (which also includes desecrate -bingo, not italicized) and provides auto-undeadification for those that die within your desecration range and finally, you can spontaneously call forth large amounts of weak undead. Per se nice options, though their power ranges a bit.

The pdf closes with 4 spells, one that allows you to damage foes based on your wounds, a low-level undead-only sanctuary-variant, a variant geas that animates the target upon death to continue his quest and a variant spying spectral eye. The spells sport some minor formatting hiccups, but generally remain viable. Weird: Though they are on the vivisectionist formulae list, their spell statblocks don't mention the class.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, particularly the latter, are the bane of this pdf. While significantly improved from earlier offerings by Wayward Rogues Publishing, this still has a lot of hiccups, some of which influence the functionality of the class. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a GORGEOUS artwork of the class. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes an unnecessary comfort detriment, particularly when combined with the fact that you can't highlight or copy any text in the pdf.

Robert Gresham, Wojciech Gruchala and Angel "ARMR" Miranda's vivisectionist is, let me state that clearly, a nice hybrid class. It has unique tricks, a distinct playing style, sufficient player-agenda, a concise identity and even some seriously inspiring discoveries. This class, in short, would receives 4 or 5 stars, easily. Unlike earlier hybrid classes by Wayward Rogues Publishing, it is one worth getting...if you're willing to spend a little time to work on it. As written, there are a lot of formatting hiccups and some ambiguities within the framework of the class that drag it down a notch from the praise I'd otherwise bestow upon it. The fact that some core abilities require further clarification is a nasty strike against the pdf and while I still can endorse this to GMs willing to work with the crunch, the editing and formatting deficiencies leave me unfortunately no choice but to rate this down to 3.5 stars, missing the rounding up by a tiny margin. I do hope this'll get a revision at some point - the cool ideas herein deserve the chance to properly shine.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Vivisectionist Hybrid Class
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ZEITGEIST #13: Avatar of Revolution (Pathfinder)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2017 09:33:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is it. The finale of the Zeitgeist AP clocks in at 89 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 84 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being the FINALE of the Zeitgeist AP, the following, unsurprisingly, will contain copious amounts of SERIOUS SPOILERS. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.

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Only GMs around? Okay, when the PCs were in Av, the world of dreams and fey, a massive blast left reflections back in the gyre and sent the PCs back into reality - but due to mutable time in Av, months have gone by in the real world and Obscurati control has been more than solidified. Few beings still resist the all powerful New World order, one of them being none other than Benedict Pemberton. If his daughter did not survive #6, he'll be a shaky ally at best, but in the rich tradition of reaping what you have sown. When the PCs awake from the shock of Av's destruction, Pemberton will bring them up to speed - just in time before a powerful killer-commando of the obscurati, with Nicodemus hijacking one member, offer a final chance to come to his side (He has cookies! ... Sorry, old goth joke...)...and the PCs will find out the hard way that the Ob now have the metaphysical power of their strengthened godmind behind them....it is also here that the eye of rot and a chance for the PCs to find out means to subvert hivemind control happen...they'll need every bit of strategy and power they can muster.

Pemberton also has a subject, Pardo the gnoll - which is good, for in order to subvert the sacrament, the PCs will have to actually wrestle people from the hivemind control of the Obscurati...which is very much required. Why? Because Nicodemus sees the big picture. He sees the PCs for the demigod-power threats they are...and he is willing to torch every single city on the planet, kill millions, if the PCs continue to thwart his plans. After all, who will care once utopia's reached? Who will mind in a thousand years? This is where Pemberton comes into play: He is convinced that, if the PCs can deal with Harkover Lee, who lords over Risur, that he can jury-rig his duplicant-magics to allow the PCs to enact a ritual in several cities at once, simultaneously breaking the hold of the Ob and foiling Nicodemus' scorched earth protocol.

However, at this point, we return to adventure #12.

Speaking of which and the dragon formerly known as Harkover Lee: Scorched earth here is to be taken literally. The gas lines are ready to erupt with elemental fire directly sapped from the plane, as the heroes with their attempts of freeing folk from obscurati mind-control, witness firsthand the fruits of Nicodemus' age of reason. Foiling literally scorched earth is one thing...but the dragon still needs to be dealt with - and the dragon tyrant is not a foe to be trifled with - CR 23, all death. Oh, and you know all those other metropolises, all those other characters the PCs interacted with, from snipers to shamans? this is where pretty much everyone becomes important, for, within a scant few minutes, the scorched earth protocol must be stopped EVERYWHERE. While the pdf acknowledges that players tend to care less when their PC's not "on stage", it should still be noted that the duplicants and their control can make for an amazing "simultaneous" run, if your GM-mojo is really strong. Then again, you have run one of the most challenging APs ever written to the final chapters, so I think you should be able to handle that!

One final task. The Axis Seal ritual. Nicodemus and his colossus Borne. All forces of the Obscurati. The PCs now truly reap what they have sown. They need to gather their forces and allies, deal with the Obscurati armies and the aforementioned entities. The goals can diverge: Stop Nicodemus. Complete the ritual themselves. Redeem William Miller and thus allow them to redeem, to an extent, Nicodemus and put him to rest...or reject the divinity and new world by utterly destroying the half-completed ritual set-up. Nicodemus is basically the god of this world by now - empowered by all minds who want him to complete the ritual, hampering his ability to do so may make him vulnerable.

Know how #12 had these cool tracking sheets? Well, the axis ritual (full color map included) and the massive energy tendrils involved here make for a final combat that cannot conceivably be solved by brute force - it is, at once, a massive puzzle to reconfigure the pillars with icons to determine the new world's form...and better yet, we actually get sample taunts and even a proper grandstanding monologue for Nicodemus...and a GM checklist for the encounter. You know, usually, I'd follow that up with "but a good Gm can handle that"-blabla...but frankly, this encounter is so complex and cool at the same time that the inclusion is very much appreciated!

In fact, PCs can actually get a cool series of handouts that helps them grapple with the axis seal's ritual, for each manipulation actually changed the rules of the world! Nice: You can duplex print two pages and print them out as cards, if you want. And yes, if the players wish to engage in the sacrament of apotheosis, that is similarly covered in a handout.

Indeed, the ends are complex and reward attention: Destruction of Nicodemus...amounts to genocide. Completion of the ritual...just delays him and makes the world, changed, basically a partial success for him. Making Miller take control can subvert Nicodemus and allow for his destruction...and finally, rejection of any form of change, of a realignment of the world, can similarly sever his quasi-deific link...and allow the PCs to end him. Oh, and guess what? The campaign ends in style, with a proper denouement for each character theme.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed a couple of minor hiccups. Layout adheres to Zeitgeist's two-column full-color standard and the pdf has full-color artworks. The pdf is layered, allowing you to customize it for printing out. The pdf is also fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is in full-color and nice.

Ryan Nock's finale to the Zeitgeist AP is one I see with a laughing and a crying eye: I am honestly glad that this book was made, that this glorious AP managed to reach its end. I am also exceedingly happy to report that the saga managed to maintain its exceedingly high standard, its high concepts, its courage to expect smart players. It is a fitting end for one of the best villains I have ever encountered in any roleplaying game, a conclusion of epic proportions that may not reach the far-out OMG-level of #12, but instead brings things full circle - where #12 was about averting destruction, this book is about creation and what we're willing to risk for it; it is a question of how we'd act when confronted with absolute power. It takes the various decisions and consequences of the AP into account and represents the most challenging, rewarding final encounter I have ever read in a published AP. Zeitgeist ends with a bang quality-wise, though failure on the PC's side may indeed make it an in-game whimper for them. In short: This is a masterful conclusion to the AP, though one that absolutely REQUIRES being run in conjunction with #12. The final verdict will, unsurprisingly, clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

I should talk a bit about the AP as a whole. PFRPG, D&D (whether 4th or 5th edition is irrelevant), 13th Age and similar rules-heavy systems have a bit of a bad reputation in some gaming circles. One complaint is that the rules get in the way of invested storytelling, often pointing towards rules-lite games and their investigation scenarios and then towards the fun, but mindless dungeon-crawling that is often the default modus operandi for these systems. The Zeitgeist AP is, in one sentence, the furious and definite rebuttal that the systems can't carry complex, amazing and intellectually engaging plots. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy mindless dungeon-crawling as much as the next guy. I don't need highly complex plots in every module. In fact, please spare me - more often than not, complex plotlines end up being a colossal mess. Particularly if you insert metaphysics, philosophy and the like - most modules fail hard at being smart and just end up being referential - which is NOT the same. (Brief tangent: That's why current comedy is often not funny to me. References to 80s, 90s etc. are not funny or clever in and of themselves.)

Well, guess what? Zeitgeist handles one of the most complex and rewarding plot-lines I have ever witnessed in any medium. It also accomplishes two additional milestones as far as I'm concerned: 1) The AP features one of the most compelling and relatable villains ever put to print. 2) For perhaps the very first time in a published sequence of modules or mega-adventures, I did not find myself rationalizing some dumb flaw in the plan of the opposition. You see, nothing irks me more than, as a GM, having to play a supposedly almost all-powerful conspiracy of hyper-smart folks and failing due to transparent fiat. The opposition in Zeitgeist is exceedingly clever, potent, acts in a concise and well-reasoned manner and feels internally consistent. There is no "a wizard did it/he's mad/he's arrogant/etc." lame justification here - the plans are clever, the responses are similarly smart and the AP expects not only GMs, but also players to be smart, involved and clever.

In short, if your group consists of intelligent people (as most of us are, knowing roleplayers!), if you ever had to insert x plot-fixes to account for players punching holes in plots, if you ever had to insert a ton of complications (or blend multiple modules into one) to challenge your players and provide a sufficiently engaging storyline, then it's time to take the plunge and give this a try. If you're burned out on the xth dungeon crawl against a villain with a lame, flimsy motivation or a dumb guild...then it's time to look at this. This AP is indeed an action-packed AP that very much stays true to its tenets of being smart and being an investigative/espionage-saga. This AP is a monument as far as I'm concerned, one that should be on pretty much every self-respecting GM's shelf.

The AP is not perfect, though. The main issue I see lies in the horrid naval combat rules, which I'd strongly suggest to ditch and replace with those of Fire as She Bears/Ships of Skybourne. While the latter book is hard to get at first, it is the perfect toolkit to making this AP's naval combat less reliant on the basics. The AP also has, here and there, some minor hiccups that stick out like sore thumbs in the rules-department of minor components like hazards etc. - these are never many, but they do show up, which means that you'll here and there need to make some minor modifications. That being said, the absolutely fantastic storyline, the sheer level of involvement, the visuals - pretty much everything about this saga makes this work more than justified. In the hands of a capable GM and an experienced group of smart players, this may well be one of the best complete campaigns ever penned, regardless of system.

Now the campaign can also be found in massive books. While I have reviewed and own Act I, as per the writing of this review, I have not yet had a chance to read the Act III-compilation. It'll grace my shelves, though - and frankly, you should give this series a shot. Act II and III's compilations, in time, will get their own briefer reviews in which I will comment on the compilation and less on the plot and respective single modules, mind you.

Smart, glorious and very cinematic, this saga is phenomenal and frankly leaves me puzzled how EN Publishing ever wants to top it. Again: Monument. Get it. If you've been disillusioned by published modules and their bugs or just the relative simplicity of many a plotline, this is the ultimate panacea for your roleplayer-weltschmerz.

Endzeitgeist out.

P.s.: Since someone asked: I'm not affiliated in any way with the AP or EN Publishing; I had my nick long before the first zeitgeist-installment hit shelves.

P.P.S.: If someone playing this module makes an endzeitgeist, drop me a line. ;)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #13: Avatar of Revolution (Pathfinder)
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ZEITGEIST #12: The Grinding Gears of Heaven (Pathfinder)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2017 09:31:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 12th installment of the massive Zeitgeist-AP clocks in at 92 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 87 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-review, the following will contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. It should also be noted that I may reference other installments of the AP, so you HAVE been warned. From here on out, the SPOILERS reign.

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Okay, only GMs left around? Great! So, in my best impression of one of my players' catch-phrase: "My friends, the stakes have never been higher!" The massive conspiracy, the Obscurati, have tinkered with the world. Their powerful ritual, intended to reshape reality, was foiled by the PCs. In the epic aftermath of the sundering of the world from other planes, the brave constables of the RHS have fought collective intelligences, saved nations and defeated Kaiju-sized monstrosities. They have established free will as a paradigm and foiled the masterplan of immortal Nicodemus. And now, the world is spinning towards the gyre in an evocation of the classic "Second Coming" - the center cannot hold; massive gears in space, where creation annihilates dying worlds, grind them into the raw stardust of creation. Nothing short of world-wide annihilation and the dread end-game of the Voice of Rot need to be foiled. The PCs are leaders of their world (hopefully - there is a pretty high chance that they botched at some time, with every failure putting more control into the Obscurati's hands), known across the globe...but what does that matter when planar flight's impossible and the world is spinning into the multiverse's gyre?

The PCs will begin their deliberations to be contacted by Rock Rackus, celebrity adventurer, who is possessing a medium to tell them that a weird golden airship is attacking Av, the plane of dreams - it is thus that considerations of dealing with the Obscurati-controlled Danor need to rest for a bit, as the PCs try to use the planar rift of cauldron hill to arrive at the Bleak gate. Here legions reminiscent of those of Egal the Shimmering have been attacking - oh, and the plane is also spinning towards the gyre; depending on the fey in charge (which was influenced by the PCs), they will have different ruler to save- though saving said ruler from the world mote Egalitrix will be tough.

And yes, worlds will be shattering, falling into the gyre, which brings me to a weird peculiarity - a cinematic explosion that may smash a PC into an endless vortex of flame has terrain mechanics like: "+33 vs. Fortitude"....which makes no sense. Fortitude denotes a bonus, not a value. Doubly weird: The text before that mentions a correct solution, a Ref-save and a DC. This may be a small hiccup in the presentation, yes, but things like this feel jarring in light of the quality the module otherwise presents. We have troops of ghosts, taking control of airships...and the overarcing metaplot of making planar icons from the planes that are plunging into the gyre, for without these icons, the Axis Seal ritual is impossible to complete.

When the world of dreams is collapsing, torn asunder by the gyre, a shockwave sends the PCs unconscious....and doubles as the reason why you see this and #13's review back to back.

Again, this is a MAJOR SPOILER.

You have been warned.

So, the world's collapse sends the PCs into unconsciousness - which is an interesting narrative device. You see, the true PCs are back at home and a dream echo is what'll be the protagonist for the remainder of the module...which makes sense, considering that nothing can leave the gyre. The knowledge gained by these echoes can, in the end, be projected back to the proper PCs, as they try to stop Nicodemus in #13. So basically, this and #13 happen at pretty much the same time, which makes for a more interesting climax than back in WotBS (War of the Burning Skies), which had 3 potential climaxes that could be run in any sequence...or just pick one. In the end, that was one structural weakness of the otherwise neat WotBS-AP and it's nice to see EN Publishing not repeating it.

I digress. So, the PCs are in the gyre, where worlds are churned asunder and they need to generate planar icons to tether their world in the ritual - but which to choose? Well, that would be the next chapter and it is here we dive into a time-tested favorite of mine, genre-wise: Hex-crawling. Yeah, you heard me. We're hex-crawling through world motes plunging into total annihilation. We're fighting mandala beasts and in the best of hexcrawling and planeshopping/spelljamming traditions, we find pirate strongholds, tombs of dwarven all-kings...and finally, on Ascetia, the hidden jungle (yeah, the symbolism sometimes hits you over the head), the PCs meet...Nicodemus? Yep, William Miller would be proper, though, for he is Nicodemus' reflection, much like the PCs are reflections...and it is here that #13 should be started. Sure, you can finish #12, but from a narrative point of view and a structure/pacing perspective, this switching is amazing.

So yeah. Please switch towards #13. I'll be waiting here for you to read up on #13's inflection point switch back here.

...

..

.

All right, so, William Miller's as different from Nicodemus as possible - he shares the same soul, but centuries of detachment, a lack of massive magical power and a thoroughly different perspective mean that the PCs may actually pull William Miller to their side, providing a very powerful means to finally defeat Nicodemus in adventure #13 - provided they play their cards right and realize the guilt-impulse that is so crucial to character motivation. It should be taken as the highest accolades that the BBEG of this campaign is indeed interesting enough to warrant such closer examination. It is also here that the PCs can meditate upon the grave of Kavarina's daughter and learn about Srasama, the eldarin goddess who remains in the gyre, courtesy of teh aftermath of the great malice. The deity, if destroyed by the gyre, has one final act she can perform - whether it'll be vengeance or the resurrection of those fallen to the Malice will determine to an extent the ultimate outcome of the saga.

In the southern part of the gyre (hexcrawlin'!), the PCs will have a chance to visit a graveyard world in the throes of a deadly magical, seemingly incurable plague; as the Pcs collect planar traits and visit strange and metaphysically relevant places, the PCs will still have to deal with Egalitrix, a powerful flying fortress manned by infernal troops. Yeah, they act smart, are deadly...and as pretty much any time when the AP insists to employ its horrible ship-combat options, I'd strongly suggest a proper redesign with the Fire as She Bears/Ships of Skybourne-rules. (The latter book, while harder to grasp at first, EXACTLY has rules that can deliver flying fortresses like this!)

And then, the PCs arrive at Reida, the broken arc of history, which is within the very coils of the Voice of Rot - and indeed, the famous "rough beast" of the famous poem. And it is one for the ages. The Voice is LITERALLY destroying the metaphysical embodiment of the PC's home's history, as its gargantuan bulk (Suggestion: Serpent skull + 30 coins...this thing is BIG) slithers over the arc, constantly moving, constantly tearing away...oh and it has 2 thresholds, where is becomes ever more dangerous, calling forth all the dead of history and even wrecking the PC's maximum HP. This titan is also where you can let loose like crazy - it's incredibly lethal and the PCs being reflections, it can kill off them sans impunity...after all, in the end, the only thing left to do will be to fall into the gyre, rejoin with the proper body...provided they have someone left with an emotional connection to. Fun fact: I actually pulled exactly that emotional anchor transition in my very first campaign's climax. That just as an aside.

The reflections of the PCs are ground to stardust. They may or may not take a goddess and more with them. They have the tools to undo the damage Nicodemus has done and prevent him from permanently solidifying the new world order. One final task. The fight for the very soul of the new world, the chance to create one's utopia, to form design the zeitgeist. It's now.

...to be concluded in #13.

The pdf concludes with a full-color map of the hexcrawl (several full-color tactical maps are included as well), a massive bestiary of the high-CR beings encountered, a handy GM cheat sheet of planes with associated energies and traits, a similarly handy list of gyre planes and dying worlds, a handy list of color-coded planes by type, sample combinations that could result in e.g. technocracies, pastorals, etc., a sheet to track bonding with energies, as well as player's sheet for tracking gyre-exploration and, finally, a player's version of the gyre-map.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed a couple of minor typos and small hiccups as that mentioned before. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and sports a blend of full-color original and stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography of both hex-map and tactical maps is in full-color and nice, though the tactical maps don't come in the usual, blown-up-to-one-page standard, which is slightly annoying. The pdf is layered, which can render the file pretty printer-friendly to print out.

Ryan Nock's grinding gears of heaven is perhaps the most far-out module I have read since Coliseum Morpheuon. It's also the highest-level hex crawl I have ever seen...and makes full use of being high-level. The module throws pretty much a huge sandbox that will make fans of Planescape and Spelljammer cackle with glee at the PCs and represents one of the most poachable scenarios in the AP - you could conceivably ignore the whole saga and just run this as a climax for your weird planes-hopping campaign. It would lose some of its emotional impact, obviously, but yeah.

That being said, this is very much a part of the saga: A thoroughly unconventional one that has one of the most epic boss fights I have ever seen. Oh, and if that wasn't enough - if you're a well-read person or consider yourself to be a scholar, then this book's continuous barrage of subtle allusions to literature and tropes will make you smile from ear to ear. Indeed, while the intrigue aspect is less pronounced here than in the rest of the AP, the very real scope, the massive array of what's at stake render this one of the most epic-feeling modules I have ever read. How often do you get to adventure to puzzle together your world's ideology? That's basically a more player-agenda driven Shin Megami Tensei's Lucifer's Call...but you don't have one planet...you have a ton of them. Much like all installments of Zeitgeist, the ship-combat imho needs replacing...badly. And much like every installment of the AP, it needs a capable GM and involved, proactive players that can juggle the concepts...but for any group that wants to play something SMART, this is absolutely amazing. My final verdict will obviously be 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the minor hiccups...so let's see whether the finale can hold up this level of quality...see you in #13's review.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #12: The Grinding Gears of Heaven (Pathfinder)
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The Rhune: Dawn of Twilight Campaign Guide
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2017 10:39:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign guide clocks in at 356 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page dedication, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page backer list, 3 pages of ToC, 1 page session sheet (also included as a separate pdf), 2 pages of char sheet (similarly included and form-fillable), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with343 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Urgh. This took forever. What you're reading is my 5th attempt at writing this review. No, I am not kidding. 4 times I wrote this and ended up not being happy with the tone, the focus. This is a hard book to review, so please bear with me - I have to digress a bit to properly explain this book. I actually bought the limited print run hardcover version of the book and while I do have the pdf, the hardcover is ultimately what this review is mostly based on.

First, let me take you on a brief trip through history. Back in the day when I was pretty much a nobody, the esteemed and absolutely amazing Paco Garcia Jaen "took me in" as a reviewer for GMS magazine. I obviously wanted to know what kind of people I was working with and so I listened to a lot of the cool interviews he conducted. (Seriously, check out GMS magazine!) So, it was there that I stumbled over this small indie RPG publisher who had a brief, approximately 16-page, FREE pdf for a setting called "Rhûne." I opened it...and my jaw DROPPED. Not only did it have Paizo-level artwork, it also had a massive map by none other than cartography god Jonathan Roberts. Oh, and the writing was simply amazing...the setting was unique in tone and focus.

Let me be perfectly honest: I did not expect it to go anywhere. It was amazing and just the creative impulse I love; radically different and creative...and it was the setting of a small, tiny publisher. One man's vision. I did not believe that we'd ever see this book. When small pdfs began slowly trickling in, I was cautiously optimistic. When the KS for this book blew up like it did, I was positively pleased by my fellow gamers obviously craving something different, by them lending their trust to a small outfit like Storm Bunny Studios. I would have supported it back then, but alas, my precarious situation left me completely broke while the KS ran. When the book actually came, I knew I had to have it and, as providence had seen to, had at this moment the funds to allow me to purchase it. Then the book got stuck in customs big time and was almost sent back...but I digress. What I'm trying to say is that this is exactly what KS is supposed to do: Make visions come true that otherwise would never have seen the light of day in this form. To all backers of this book, I take a bow before you. The book languished on my shelf for a while due to my reviewing duties for my patreons...and then I began reading it, slowly, in increments.

So, the first thing you have to know about me in order to understand where I'm coming from, would be that I am enamored with Norse lore and culture; I lived in Norway for quite a while, I speak all Nordic languages, my translations from Icelandic have been published and I have read pretty much a significant portion of the literary canon of all Scandinavian lands. I am proficient in Norse and Old English as well and read the extensive catalogue of sǫgur (plural of sagas, just fyi). I'm the prick who'll correct assumptions about culture, the guy who complains about translations failing big time to convey the tone of the originals properly, the guy who'll chew your ear off about the "errors" in the Vikings TV series. My passion for the topic makes me pretty hard to please. Rhûne is not a straight adaptation of the material, but it heavily quotes the themes and leitmotifs of Scandinavian mythology and reappropriates them.

Reappropriation would in this context be the process, by which a culturally distinct text (this can include visuals and any form of media), originally distinct for a certain culture, modified and included within the cultural context of mainstream reception - examples would include subculture music aesthetics gaining traction - whether it'd be rock or rap or something more far out. In this process, often wrongly negatively connotated, the respective medium is taken and modified to appeal to a wider demographic, changing, but also evolving at an amplified pace: Without broader acceptance of rock, there would have never been punk...metal...etc. It is a perpetual broadening of focus. Similarly, Rhûne appropriates Norse concepts and employs them in the context of roleplaying games, but unlike many reappropriated forms of media, it stays in the tone and leitmotifs featured, remarkable true to the source material, while at the same time radically mutating it.

The key notion here would be "stormpunk", the term coined for the genre featured in the setting. The analogues of the word to steampunk are pretty evident from the get-go (2 letters difference...), but ultimately, the resulting concept is radically different than any comparable "-punk"-suffix'd setting. In order to properly enunciate why and how, I have to dive a bit into the exact nature of the setting, for, even though I can only talk about the concepts herein in a linear manner, they all are interconnected.

As pretty much everyone knows, there is an inherent fatalism, an, pardon the pun, "endzeitgeist" (Zeitgeist of the end-times) inherent in Nordic myth: We all have at least heard about Níðǫggr chewing at Yggdrasill, about Naglfar, the ship of nails, about Ragnarök and the Fimbulvetr; there is a fatalism of acceptance and a promise of, perhaps, a renewal or an inevitable end that suffuses the myths. This concept is inextricably interwoven with Rhûne's stormpunk aspect. So, what is this stormpunk? Well, the closest analogue would perhaps be to look at the ostensible works of Nicola Tesla and picture what would have happened, if his concept of a freely accessible, immensely powerful electrical energy would have been applied to a Norse cultural context. Instead of explaining an allotopic, quasi-Victorian or Edwardian history wherein steam and coal are king, Rhûne is at the same time feeling more progressive and more archaic, more savage and more advanced. The existence of the stormtech, ultimately, makes the setting closer to our own world (as I'm using copious amounts of electricity to write this review and you're doing the same, reading it!), but at the same time, Rhûne's whole theme is actually more fantastic than comparable "-punk"-settings, at least to our eyes.

The reason for this lies in Rhûne understanding, in spite of PFRPG's alignment system (which I, as you know by now, LOATHE), that a crucial component of Norse life and fascination with literature lies in its unique (from our perspective) morality: We all are conditioned, from an early point in our lives, to read the world in dichotomies, courtesy, among other factors, of the influence of our book-religions. We believe in good and evil, righteous and vile causes, in defined absolutes, in spite of our life experiences often contradicting this. And indeed, if you take a look at the "heroes" (protagonists would perhaps be a better word...) of the classic sǫgur, you'll see a distinct lack of traditionally heroically coded behavior: Gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, the might of the strong and popular - these aspects are counteracted with a surprisingly progressive mindset that is closer to us and our world than we'd usually believe...in fact, reading the old sǫgur, you'll be reminded more of the writings of relatively modern authors than medieval literature. This duality of the archaic and modern is expertly interwoven with the concept of stormtech and generates a panorama both familiar and alien, sitting, quite literally front and center among the setting's leitmotifs.

You see, instead of the predetermination of traditional myth, it is the mythos of science that represents a central focus for the book: The nations of the world, in order to access the Æssinyr (the deities), in their quest for truth, have created these technological wonders suffusing the world - but they also set the Ragnarök clock in motion. The responses of nations and races towards the scientific advancements ring familiar in many a way: The ælves, original architects of the clockwork gates and immortal while close to their homelands, have resorted to a radical philosophy of luddite proportions, eschewing the technological advancements made, while those ælves that walked alongside their lady Y'Draah to discover the whereabouts of the Æssinyr turned into the forsaken, the clockwork elves, who would then proceed, bereft of their immortality and shunned by nature, to create the race of the automata, sentient constructs that only lately have gained what you'd call free will. The ælves believe, fervently, that progress, stormtech and all those boons it brought to the city states of Vallinor, is responsible for the doomsday approaching and that only by shunning progress, they can hope to halt the inexorably approaching end. On the other side, dwarves, for example believe that only in further technological advancements can lie a form of salvation for the world.

One does not have to be a scientist to realize that this mirrors very much our own stances towards technology, though it, like any good fantasy, exacerbates the theme and cloaks it in expertly woven mythology: Instead of the fear of nuclear annihilation, what we see herein is the conscious knowledge of precisely WHEN the world will end - there are only 99 years left and on the timer of the Ragnarök clock and time is running out. Speaking of themes clad in the fantastic that resonate herein: Much like "A Song of Ice and Fire", this setting very much cloaks modern anxieties and themes in an easily digestible format: In the frigid North, the Fel Horde under the auspice of the Thrall lords amasses to destroy the South - you would not be wrong in realizing the analogue to the White Walkers, but the setting does not simply quote the material here; instead, the mythological resonance of the Fimbulvetr is superimposed on "A Song of Ice and Fire"'s themes of nuclear anxiety as a means of annihilation: The Northern entropy of a nuclear winter is counteracted by man having the weapon of mass destruction that is the dragons, incarnation of uncontrollable nuclear fire. In fact, I'd argue that Rhûne paints a more diversified picture here by including some notions you would not expect from a fantasy setting, no matter how far out.

The thoroughly constructed nature of automata (as opposed to Midgard's gearforged housing the souls of erstwhile mortals) and their free will, their relation with their creators, ultimately means that the setting also allows for the exploration of classic transhumanist ideas, of the question of free will, of the question of the existence of a soul...and much more. In this aspect, Rhûne is similarly significantly more progressive and open, dare I say "modern" than pretty much all comparable settings I have read. That being said, this modernity is always tinted in a thoroughly compelling manner with the archaic: Raiding, slaving and trading, the whole traditional viking-experience, if you will, is a strong leitmotif for the whole setting - but one that, much like many aspects of the modern and archaic mingling, is not simply accepted: The change of social structure that electrical access brought, the themes of a variant industrial revolution and the social upheavals it engendered are counteracted by the decidedly Old Norse way of life and generate a fusion that is wholly and utterly unique in its repercussions and the detail its ramifications generate.

Rhûne exists very much in a wide variety of thematic and ideological areas of tension and as such, it is, more so than any other campaign setting I have read in a long, long time its very own world. Indeed, one can argue that Rhûne, while using PFRPG as a base-line, is not vanilla Pathfinder. This notion of a very defined and concise identity is enforced by the book from the get-go. Instead of taking the anything-goes route, Rhûne instead begins with character creation and talks about what is acceptable for the setting's tone and why; the world very much makes the generation of characters and themes to be explored a group effort - and I applaud this decision. In a world with so many conflicts and tensions flaring, an internal consistency of an adventuring party is of tantamount importance and personally, I applaud this book for having the guts to say no to the entitlement of universal availability of everything. Indeed, in a setting where the genesis of a race like the jötunfolk has eliminated whole generations with the Burðr Morðvíg in the aftermath of the fall of jötunstones, where ælves tend to view the automata as abominations at best, this is VERY important to retain the consistency of the lavishly crafted and beautifully woven lore of the book.

Having a character in Rhûne means picking sides. Both racial and class decisions matter more than in any other d20-based campaign setting I have ever read - and I have read pretty much all (or at least almost all) of them. The book does not simply state this, but instead guides the group through the process in a detailed and unique manner that I really wished more settings employed. For the aficionados of Norse themes, it should also be noted that the FuÞark matters - everyone is born under a rune and that provides intrinsic benefits to the character in question. In a world where the conflict of good vs. evil takes a backseat, one indebted to the morality of the old sǫgur, it is similarly important to note the vast impact of honor, the insertion of which is supplemented with various different ways of tackling it in different complexities: Whether you just want to use it to determine starting attitudes, whether you tie it to areas, whether you include racial tensions - the choice, in spite of the structuring themes of the setting, is ultimately yours and can range from hand-waving to simulationalist level of detail - and yes, if you're using Ultimate Campaign, there are some differences which are explained in sidebars, allowing you to decide on your own.

One of the, at least in my opinions, best aspects of Rhûne from an engine point of view, would be how it treats the determinism that suffuses Norse myth and flips it: The concept used for this purpose is wyrd and it ties in with destinies, governed by, bingo, runes. So, as you may know, the Norse mythology and its concept of fate is very determinist, norns and all. At the same time, this obviously clashes with the more progressive aspects of the Rhûne setting. The solution is interesting, to say the least.

While fate does play a roll, a significant one as both a roleplaying catalyst and from a crunch perspective, the existence of the spider-themed shapechangers aryandai and the goddess Velluna-Akka adds a very distinct spin on the concept. More important still would be the tremendous influence of wyrd upon actual gameplay. Each character begins play with 1d3 wyrd points and some feats and special tricks (weavings) can later be learned and used to further manipulate fate. Wyrd points act basically as hero points on speed, with significantly enhanced options on how and when they can be used - including defying death, rolling a d20 twice and helping allies. This is relevant because wyrd is actually an extremely important balancing mechanism: If you're familiar with my coverage of Rhûne supplements, you may recall me bashing the automata race as overpowered for most settings. You will also recall me complaining about models (subtypes of the race) being made for specific purposes. Within the context of Rhûne, this surprisingly works. For one, the purpose of the respective builds opens interesting venues for the exploration of concepts of free will: I am built that way, do I have to be that way? Secondly, and more importantly, automata are balanced by the mistrust they encounter, their place in the social hierarchy and the fact that they do not get access to wyrd. At all.

This should be taken as just one aspect that makes the min-maxier components of the races featured herein work for me; the races are so deeply entrenched within the narrative context of the world and its dichotomous ideologies and areas of tension that, by being pretty ingenious entwined in everything, result in the playing of such a race in Rhûne actually working without breaking the game. I need to reiterate this: Rhûne is not vanilla-Pathfinder. This is also represented in the copious amounts of crunch that supplement this tome, which range from traits to feats and more. Some of these are powerful, some of them are aligned with factions...and all are in service of the greater picture. Damage increases to bows make sense when guns and the like are wide-spread.

The massive campaign setting also contains several hybrid classes: The blood skald (bard + magus), the clockwork adept (cleric + wizard), the gjallarhorn (summoner + bard), the gun-priest (previously released as a stand-alone), the juggernaut of blind fury, a barbarian/antipaladin crossover, and the antipala/alchemist plague bringer. These have in common that they generally are high concept and feel distinct; they are more than just a smashing together of mechanics, though, universally, they also have in common that they could have used some further differentiation as far as I'm concerned. And yes, the anti-pala guys represent servants of the thrall lords, so if you don't want to go into the morality question too deep, well, then this ought to provide enough of a good vs. evil angle.

Now, the world of Midgard, the prime material plane of Rhûne, is depicted in absolutely exquisite detail , with names for the phases of the moon by month, holidays galore, languages all receiving their due (and rules for regional dialects if you're like me and have the kneejerk reflex to roll your eyes at common...). If you#re looking for information on trade, you'll find it here; if you and your group consider that aspect tedious, you can ignore it: One of the central plusses of the setting is that it knows which rules to use for balancing and world-building and which to render optional. Beyond a massive chronology of the world (as the clock's counting down) to the respective city states and realms, which feature their own crests, statblocks and more, the whole section is amazing and oozes flavor from every sentence: From fertility festivals to adventure hooks and story seeds, this chapter can't leave even the most burnt-out of GMs uninspired. Speaking of story seeds: Throughout the book, there is a metric ton of those, allowing GMs and players alike to take up the threads left so tantalizingly dangling. Oh, and yes, Rhûne does not feature a heliocentric cosmology - instead, it is basically a massive cylinder, the trunk of the world tree; a blending of the immediacy of Ragnarok, superstition and the knowledge of planar peculiarities thus makes the world partially unexplored (after all, you don't want to fall off the world's edge, right?) - still, this allows an enterprising GM to add her own continents and geography to the setting, while still maintaining Rhûne's very precise focus. Planar travel is rare and special and as such, the respective planes depicted also differ from the standard, putting, as we've come to expect by now, a unique spin on Norse mythology. Here, additional, planar races like the ice æleves of Niflæheim or the Hárálfr, infused with the power of old gods, allow for further diversification if a given group is not content with the base races.

Now, I could go through the respective write-ups here, but this review already is very long, so let's return to the stormpunk aspect. Which is, from a designer's perspective, more difficult than it first seems. After all, we all know electricity. We learn how it works in school. It is the very motor of our world...so how do you introduce it into a fantasy setting sans breaking immersion left and right, sans killing a gazillion of premises of prepackaged adventures? Simple. There is no alternating current, which means that its copious boons are basically limited to the vicinity of dragon towers, which generate an ambient field that powers the devices and allows for charging. This is genius on a meta-point, for it taps into our fantasies of Tesla's wirelessly transported energy, while at the same time eliminating the real discovery of alternating current, making the whole system at once plausible and thoroughly fantastic. As an aside, it also taps into the leitmotifs of the archaic versus the modern, of civilization versus barbarism (hence the Howard quote earlier in the review). The storm shepherd cleric archetype would be a badass Tesla-style cleric, a caste of guardians of these towers. From prosthetic limbs to abomination hybrids of technology and magic, the leitmotifs of progress vs. nature, of science vs. the ways of old, tie in perfectly with this conceptualization of a world...and points of light gameplay makes sense as well: Beyond the reach of comfortable electricity, the wild, the savage, still looms. Firearms that can be charged or deliver blast shots, special ammunitions, grenades, munitions carved from the dreaded jötunstone...the sense of plausible fantasy realism applied to every component of this book makes it feel perfectly unified, like this exceedingly intricate and beautiful clockwork.

Indeed, the glorious incantation mechanics first introduced way back by Zombie Sky Press also sees use here among numerous new spells, a metric ton of equipment, bloodlines, mysteries, the aforementioned weavings...and the rune-engine. This system is amazing and I've covered it before, so I won't bore you with repeating it. The system's consistency is to be truly applauded, for whenever I found a big logic bug, some sidebar, some explanation, shows up that makes SENSE. Ina book this familiar, yet alien, this attention to detail and mastery in world-building is a truly phenomenal feat to behold. Now, if you expected a cut-copy-paste of the Norse gods and their myths...you'll be surprised to hear that Rhûne has its very own pantheon, depicted in lavish prose completely with core aphorisms and all. It should be noted that these beings do employ the themes of the Norse mythology, but also, much like the setting, put a creative and enticing spin on the subject matter, one I can't really hope to properly convey here. Beyond these obviously divine allegiances, a whole chapter is devoted to the diverse and creative factions that shape and govern the politics of Rhûne, drawing further lines in sand and snow, both proverbially and figuratively, adding even more potential, even more narrative potential to the whole array.

The emphasis on thematic consistency is not lost even within the bestiary, which not only provides a wide array of unique creatures, all of which have AT LEAST one unique ability to set them apart, but also in the guidance a GM can expect regarding the roles of creatures in the setting. Oh, and yes, the critters ALL have absolutely gorgeous artworks.

Conclusion:

Rhûne adheres to a two-column full-color standard, Layout-wise, and is so beautiful it almost hurts. The book is littered with a metric ton of absolutely phenomenal, original pieces of artwork, rivaling the density of Kobold Press' huge books. This can stand side by side with Paizo and WotC-offerings regarding its sheer beauty. It is one of the aesthetically most pleasing 3pp-books I have ever read. The pdf comes with copious, nested bookmarks for easy navigation and the hardcover...oh DAMN. Get it, if you can. It's a beauty.

And here, my seemingly never-ending praise screeches to a grinding halt. There is the reason why I have deleted and rewrote this review so often. Editing and formatting. Oh boy. I'm sorry, but I can't call them "okay" anymore. There are formatting hiccups and inconsistencies. There are missing verbs, smack in the middle of paragraphs that carried me right into Rhûne, only to have me crash back to earth as I tried to find out what the hell was missing from that sentence. The very header of the jötunfolk misspells them as jotünfolk. There are whole sections which get bonus types right, only to have an ability lack it. There are, in short, a lot of glitches. Now, granted, they usually do not tarnish the mechanics too much, but they extend to all aspects. Close reading this book was an exercise in reviewer-frustration for me.

It is, quite frankly my opinion that, if this had been penned by anything short of its cadre of veteran authors (Jaye Sonia, Cltin Boomer, Will Cooper, Adam Daigle, Stephen Michael DiPesa, Joshua Kitchens, Ben McFarland, Mike Myler), this would have turned into a full-blown train wreck. The skill and experience of the authors thankfully means that, for the most part, this whirs smoothly like the gears of the Ragnarök clock. At the same time, the glitches hurt me more than in any other book of my reviewer career BECAUSE the book and world are that cool.

I am more torn than ever before in my life on a final verdict and after reading my rambling praise of this book, you'll only have the slightest inkling of an idea why. You see, if I were to rate this on the merit of its crunch alone, including the glitches etc., this would probably receive a 3 star-rating at best. In fact, that's what the cold, hard review-bot in me would gravitate to. He keeps shouting from the back of my mind that the hybrid classes don't live up their potential, that component xyz needs streamlining.

However, I am, like you, of flesh and blood. I can feel passion and get excited...and this book is NOT a crunch-book in the traditional sense. It is a campaign setting - a depiction of a world that is so internally consistent in its vision, so fantastic and, dare I say it, innovative, I can't help but absolutely adore it with every hot-blooded fiber of my being. Yes, Rhûne ticks off pretty much all of my no-go-boxes regarding races...but still somehow makes them work for me. This book oozes the passion of some of the industries finest minds and it shows in every chapter, as a cornucopia of creativity is present, nay, immediately evident on every single page. You can flip open the book at pretty much every single page that is not a 2-color chapter-intro-spread of art and find one thing, at least, that is cool and inspiring. Would I play those hybrid classes in another setting? No. Would I play them in Rhûne...yes, I actually might. Because they signify more than just the collective of their abilities. They mean something; their very existence puts them in the context of the world and its beautiful tapestry of agendas and strife, of heroism and dastardly deeds.

Rhûne reads, most of the time, like the best of world-building novels; Rhûne manages to make me like content I'd otherwise...well, wouldn't - all by virtue of its phenomenal vision and the extraordinary precision and care that obviously went into this book. I love this book. I really, really do. Rhûne is one of my favorite settings OF ALL TIME. There, I said it. Where exactly in my hierarchy it'll end depends on the future support released for it...but yes. This is a true campaign setting in the best of ways. That being said, even if you de-emphasize the importance of crunch and choose to focus on the task of the campaign setting to make a world shine, the matter of fact remains that editing and formatting of this book simply does not do it justice.

If this did not have all of its hiccups (or at least, significantly less), you'd be looking at perhaps my number 1 for the Top Ten of 2016 here. I love this book that much. However, with the copious glitches that haunt this book, I have to put that in perspective. As far as I'm concerned, this is a masterpiece; an amazing feat by authors and publisher; but it is a masterpiece with flaws. If you go into this book for the crunch alone, or to scavenge material, chances are, you'll leave disappointed. Unlike e.g. Thunderscape (which works perfectly for that purpose), Rhûne is a work of art that does not reveal its beauty by looking at parts. The only way to appreciate this truly is to look at the big picture, at the totality of material, which is, for once, infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.

I could make a case against this book. I could tear it a new derrière and I can see that, for some out there, this will do absolutely nothing. At the same time, if you're like me, you can work with the book; replace some components with bits from your own library; curse at the hiccups, yes, but every time, unavoidably, you'll take the book back up and continue reading.

Because Rhûne is a wonderful world.

Because it dares to be different.

Because it dares to make sense.

And because it is greater than any words I could use to describe it. Review-bot Endy hates this. As a person, I love it. As a crunch-book alone, you may want to steer clear...but if you really are interested in a unique, creative campaign setting that truly feels different, if you want to support a truly fantastic and innovative book, if you want to send a sign that we want choice and more than the umpteenth variation of classic fantasy, that we deserve unique themes and consistency...then this is for you and will set your mind ablaze as it has mine.

The flaws weigh heavily on this one...and frankly, even with the above mindset, I should rate this 4 stars...but I don't want to. I can't. The dilemma is that the book does not deserve to be rated as only good. But technically, it also doesn't deserve being praised this much. I can't rate this in a way that will satisfy me and everyone out there. It's just not possible. In the end, there is only one rating that, after much deliberation, I can really live with. This rating would be 4.5 stars (Rated as a campaign setting, taken the flaws into account, representing that it is not perfect), but rounded up (since "good" does not begin to express how much I like this), with my seal of approval added for good measure. And since my top ten of any given year is a deeply personal opinion-thing, it'll feature as a candidate as well...though it has lost the chance of scoring highly on that list.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Rhune: Dawn of Twilight Campaign Guide
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Thank you for the review Endzeitgeist!
The Sinking: Doom Golem Rising
Publisher: 0one Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2017 10:37:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The full-sized finale to the Sinking adventure series clocks in at 41 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS...and since this discusses the finale for the whole saga, there may be SPOILERS for the series here. Players who want to potentially play this should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! After successfully navigating the magical seals and locks, the PCs have finally managed to reach the fabled Darkgate, which ostensibly allows for access of the Panopticon...and a chance to foil the nefarious plans of the Trypus Academy. We begin thus were the previous module left off - with the exploration of the Panopticon, a fully depicted dungeon, wherein not only sink beasts, but also degenerate skulk agents of the Malchort Cabal can be found...and, interestingly, make for "enemy of my enemy" type adversaries. Alien and strange war machines can be found within the complex...and there is, theoretically, an access point towards the thoroughly alien city of the Malchorts...though astute PCs that do not start killing everything should realize pretty soon that combat may not be the only option as they're exploring this complex.

Oh, and guess what? The PCs may even find a stray agent and extract some serious information on their Trypus foes...but that, admittedly, pales beyond the true and exceedingly cool aspect that comes next: You see, the Trypus Academy has hijacked Doom Golems from the Malchort arsenal...and so the PCs get to fight fire with fire!

Yep. Mecha battle! The Doom Golem head houses 5 seats and an individual can be hooked to it via a Spellcraft check. Mental ability score are determined by the average of the pilots. There also is a converter box, which may channel item charges and effects and allocate them to blasters, shield or weapons of the war machine. Attack controls allows for the attack improvement of the golem; spellcasters strapped to the blaster position can channel spells to make devastating attack, with the precise effect depending on the magic school converted into blast energy. Similarly, the effect of shields of a doom golem hinge upon the specific spell school used to power the shield. Motion control takes special qualities like evasion and feats like Dodge of the pilot into account, while weapon enhancers can be improved via spellcasting. And yes, the respective positions have unmanned information as well, so if your group is smaller, you can still ride the golem into battle! Indeed, I was really impressed by the doom golem rules - they are easy to grasp, concisely presented and make sense. Gasses can seep in and affect operators and similarly, environmental effects are relevant. In short: A great little engine.

That being said, it lies in the nature of the matter at hand that piloting such an engine of destruction ultimately requires some getting used to - and the module acknowledges this, offering the way to the surface as an easy means of getting to know the engine...and save a dethroned and captured rock troll king, while also gaining crystals that have special effects when used in conjunction with the golem!

And yep, battling rock trolls with light and golem make for one epic encounter indeed, as the PCs make their way to emerge from the sinkhole...which nets the epic fight of the Academy's doom golem and the one piloted by the PCs. Epic mecha battle ensues. And I mean allcaps EPIC. In the aftermath of this glorious fight, things are not yet resolved: Lord Atregan realizes the threat of the Trypus Academy and wants to PCs to find senator Vulgrax (who may thus receive an amnesty...as may the PCs) and provide proof that the Trypus Academy is behind the whole issue. And in a nice callback, as the PCs ponder their next step, the niece of Gintz Ophelian provides a clue that this crucial guy has vanished...and left a letter with some weird typos in it. The letter is reproduced as a handout and contains an easily hidden cry for help....and thus, the PCs can find the warehouse of Bally Grum and there,, after besting the powerful conspirators there, find the iced and dismembered body of Gintz...and he has recorded information via a clockwork spy, allowing the PCs to get off the hook...at least for now.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top notch on both a formal and rules-language level - Rone Barton did a good job editing this one. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports great b/w-artworks. The b/w-cartography is, as we expect from 0onegames, amazing, though I wished a key-less version was included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

So, I was dreading this module. Season 2 suddenly became pretty short and I was really dreading the X-files syndrome - an inability to properly tie up the story-threads. This pdf not only one-ups the whole story in dimension, consequences and sheer scope, it also provides a satisfying end to the main story-angles, while leaving enough open components to allow the GM to take back up the story-threads. This is, in short, an amazing and worthy conclusion to the second season of the sinking, one that features impressive mecha-rules as a fine and fun mini-game. Granted, I have expected no less from horseman Tim Hitchcock and Savannah Broadway, but the easy to grasp and modify mecha-engine may warrant getting this gem even if you're not at all interested in running the series. So yeah, this is an amazing module. 5 stars + seal of approval for this high-octane action-filled finale...that still have sufficient stuff to do for faces and players looking to use their brains. This is how it's done.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sinking: Doom Golem Rising
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Egyptian Heroes
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2017 10:35:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of pregens intended for use with the Mummy's Mask AP clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, the pdf begins by explaining the methodology of how these characters were created - as has become the tradition with these supplements, the characters have been created with a 20 pt.-buy method and includes, thankfully, downscaling to 15-pt. buy for each character, for those of us who like their fantasy a bit grittier, who like more challenge in their games.

Structure-wise, the pdf thankfully does not change the winning formula of the pregen-supplements by Legendary Games - this means you get a fantastic full-color one-page depiction of the respective character, which includes a sample quote for the character in question. After each such gorgeous artwork, we get not only stats, but also the storyline of the respective character, including copious information on story and motivation as well as suggestions for character advancement.

The first character featured within the book would be Asep Arukhet, a charismatic sorceror with the imperious bloodline and the conviction of being a rightful pharaoh, born into wealth, the charismatic Asep makes for a great leader...and ladies (and some gents) will certainly appreciate his tasteful, yet beefcake-y image.

The next pregen would be Dorian Massud, a grave warden slayer, aloof and stoic, instilled with a serious hatred and skill battling the undead with his deadly falcata. This would also be a great place to note that quite a few of these pregens have their nice stories tied together - Dorian is pretty weary of some of his travelling companions...

Kephennes Enterra, an ecclesitheurge cleric of Nethys is a dangerously curious man who has returned from the dead after succumbing to an arcane curse - a wonder that has greatly changed his outlook, his mission...and romantically inclined PC-entanglements can make for a really cool RP-angle here, particularly for those with death in their blood.

Like Merradine Feist, the gorgeous redhead who looks like my type of lady - she is a gorgeous, charismatic dhampir archeologist bard and similarly makes for a great leader...though having been raised among vampires has changed her outlook and provides a unique angle for roleplaying her. And no, she is thankfully no angsty dhampir girly. Nice!

The half-elven school savant arcanist Namala Ikenwe, has always been fascinated by the sphinxes and their riddles and with her air supremacy and ancestral arms, she makes good use of gravity bow and her lightning flashes, making for an intriguing character whose guarded optimism makes for a nice counteract to the gravity of some of her companions.

Want some more exotic character? Parvanah Lisay, the lynx-eared catfolk features one of the best artworks of a catfolk I have ever seen and, as a cat burglar with climbing speed and her devotion to the old gods, the lucky lady makes for an interesting foil to Dorian's stoicism and a great explorer/scout.

Valdeseer Harringer, also known as Val, would be another excellent potential leader: The blond-haired holy gun paladin is on a mission here...but from afar, the intrigues of his sibling may yet find him, even in faraway Osirion.

Finally, we are introduced to Ziyadi Sahrebe, the dual-cursed oracle with the haunted and wasting curses, the curse of a mummy haunting his bloodline, the masked oracle's positive and upbeat demeanor conceal a melancholy that is only understandable - he has outlived his children and may be the last of his lineage, the only chance for the curse to end.

The pdf, as always, provides nice paper minis for all characters.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to the beautiful two-column full-color standard of the Mummy Mask-plug-ins. The artworks deserve special mention here: They are absolutely phenomenal and rank as some of my favorites in the whole of LG's pregen-cadre. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Neil Spicer delivers once again in this excellent collection of pregens - the characters are versatile and have built-in story-lines, RP-angles and are tied in interesting ways to both each other and the storyline of Mummy's Mask. In short: They do just what they should. Power-level-wise, the characters are also on one level, sporting builds that make them believable as characters, not just minmaxy-numbers, and their respective power-levels are pretty much in line. Bereft of anything to properly complain about, I will settle on a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. Excellent work!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Egyptian Heroes
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Advantageous Abilities: Savage Abilities (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/03/2017 06:55:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of NPC-abilities clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

So, this pdf begins with a handy and easy to comprehend "How to Use" - basically, these abilities may increase the CR of the respective adversary to which they are added and creatures with CRs of less than 1/2 similarly halve their impact on the respective critter's modification. If in doubt, a save is based on DC = 8 + proficiency bonus + relevant Ability modifier. The abilities themselves are categorized in 3 groups - passive abilities, active abilities and reactions. Easy, right?

Well, let's look at the passive abilities, shall we? These range from CR +0 to CR +2 and a total of 10 are included. At CR 0, we have, for example, the temper tantrum, which imposes disadvantage on all Charisma checks made to reason with the creature while it's under the effects of rage. Gaining temporary hit points equal to the damage dealt with bites would be a CR +1 example. There is also an option to crit in particularly bloody manner; on a failed Con-save, allies of the victim nearby must save or be poisoned and take minor psychic damage. The combo of psychic + poisoned is slightly odd to me, but honestly, I'm nitpicking here. The CR +2 modification allows for vorpal slashes - and actually has two different mechanics: One old-school and unforgiving, one that is kinder on the players. Kudos for featuring both!

A total of 8 active abilities are included; these range in CR modification from CR +1/2 to CR +2, with some having fitting refresh conditions - e.g. the temporary hit points granting and disadvantage imposing battle cry. Minor complaint here: The battle cry should have a proper range. An ability to rip out and eat the heart of recently deceased foes is similarly nice and is prevented from being cheesed by the opponents (so why didn't he carry a bag of kittens around?) by actually having a nice caveat to prevent such a logic book. Big kudos! Somewhat weird due to its nomenclature: The legbreaker-ability allows the creature using it to force a saving throw when hitting foes with a bludgeoning weapon, reducing movement to 0 on a failed save...but this handicap can be overcome on subsequent rounds...which does not sound like breaking to me. Similarly, I think that having flying or swimming speeds should probably still allow for movement. Yes, I am nitpicking here, though these are a bit more serious. Bonus damage in exchange for suffering attacks with advantage on subsequent rounds can be an interesting boss-fight engine tweak.

The pdf also features two reactions at CR +1/2 and CR +1, with a frightened-inducing reactive stare and the option to add proficiency bonus to a non-proficient save if below 1/2 maximum hit points.

Big plus: The pdf is considerate and reproduces the Proficiency bonus by CR and XP by Cr tables on its last page. Nice one.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good, bordering on very good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column standard and is pretty printer-friendly, with a nice stock image in full color thrown in for good measure. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's latest collection of advantageous abilities is a welcome, inexpensive little customization toolkit for GMs looking to add some unique tricks to their adversaries. The abilities generally are solid and can make for some nasty surprises. What more can you ask of such a little pdf? Well, there are a few hiccups in the intricate details here, but none are truly glaring. Hence, I feel completely justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars. For the more than fair price, this is definitely worth getting.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advantageous Abilities: Savage Abilities (5e)
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Psychic Disciplines of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/03/2017 06:52:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, though they're formatted for A5 (6'' by 9'' size), which means you can fit 4 of these pages on one sheet of paper if you're printing this out.

All right, so let's take a look at these psychic disciplines!

The first discipline herein would be the aura discipline, with phrenic pool governed by Wisdom. A slight complaint here - it would have been nice to have the bonus spells with superscript indicators of their sourcebooks, but oh well. The discipline allows the psychic to glow at-will, using phrenic pool to intensify the potency of the glow to dispel/counter darkness. Manifesting the aura doubles as a practitioner of the way of the force (which was introduced in Unarmed and Dangerous), with all relevant rules provided - namely that this acts as mage armor. Nice: The ability takes into account the interaction with the read aura skill unlock! 5th level lets bracers or armor stack with your mage armor and 13th level , you can expend one phrenic pool point for judgment light, with a second judgment available for +2 points.

Cathexis would be next - the process of investing psychic or emotional energy in an object, place or the like to bring an effect into being, in case you did not know. The attribute governing the pool would once again be Wisdom, and the discipline adds Summon Good/Neutral/Evil Monster as bonus feats and when summoning a creature with the appropriate template, you have control over the precise alignment regarding the law-chaos-axis of the beings you call forth. When calling forth a creature whose alignment matches your own, you can either decrease casting time to a standard action or increase the duration to 1 minute per level, with a limit of one such summoning active at a given time - thankfully. 5th level yields Augment Summoning and allows you to undercast summon monster spells, allowing you to replace discipline bonus spells. Interesting idea there. At 13th level, when you conjure forth a being further removed than one step on the alignment axis, you can enhance the duration or reduce the casting time analogue to the lower level ability, representing you calling forth the beasts from your Id.

Duelists also employ Wisdom as governing attribute for the phrenic pool and may cast intellect fortress, mental barrier, thought shield and tower of iron will even when flat-footed or prevented from taking a standard action. Interesting: If you cast one of these spells in the previous round, you may cast a spell of this list of a lower level without expending a spell slot, allowing for combos. At 5th level, undercasting ego whip, id insinuation, mindthrust or psychic crush adds Heighten Spell and makes the spell clock in at its maximum potency, which is pretty damn strong. 13th level, finally, lets you cast one of the defensive spells from the previous list 1/round as a free action, even if it's not your turn. (Nice catch regarding free actions!)

The kata discipline is governed by Charisma, offering true strike, spiritual weapon and later blade barrier and even mass defending sword. The discipline yields proficiency with a weapon of your choice (with unarmed strikes being a viable option, granting Improved Unarmed Strike). You gain Weapon Focus in the chosen weapon when choosing a simple or martial weapon. When you inflict damage with this weapon, you regain phrenic pool points - which brings me to an oversight that renders this broken: A) Lack of a kitten-proof caveat. B) All comparable phrenic pool replenishing discipline abilities have a daily total cap that is absent from this one in a very unpleasant oversight.

The discipline modifies spiritual weapons etc. to duplicate your kata weapon, also allowing for proper interaction with Weapon Focus, provided you have it. 5th level lets you replace a thought component with a somatic component and may use the weapon-wielding kata hand for the like. 13th level provides auto-success when casting psychic spells defensively...which is pretty OP. Why not instead grant a massive bonus?

The psychic surgeon discipline is similarly governed by Charisma and gains several healing-themed spells added to the list of spells known in addition to the bonus spells. Problematic: You regain phrenic pool points for using cure spells to revive creatures from unconsciousness. I'll pull out the bag o' kittens...and yes, the spells still limit this, but that limit exceeds that of comparable phrenic regeneration and can be cheesed easily. Not gonna get near my game. 5th level unlocks the inversions of the healing spells as well and 13th level makes healing have a range of close instead.

The final discipline would be yoga, which is governed by Wisdom and nets Escape Artist as a class skill and adds class level to such skill checks. Thought or emotion components of spells can be replaced with somatic components, but at the cost of being susceptible to arcane spell failure if you do. 5th level doubles self-targeting only spell durations. At 13th level, both thought and emotion components may be replaced in favor of somatic components.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is very good on a formal level, though the rules-level has some balance issues. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column standard and the pdf has no artworks beyond the cover. Nice: The pdf is fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity.

Carl Cramér delivers some interesting psychic disciplines herein, though a few of the options herein lack crucial balancing caveats included in comparable disciplines. That being said, the low price does help here and the pdf, while not perfect, can make for an interesting addition to the game, making it pretty much a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, though I can't round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psychic Disciplines of Porphyra
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Shaman Class (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/03/2017 06:51:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base class clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After one page of introductory prose, we dive into the nice, flavorful lead-ins that characterize 5e-classes - this time around, we hear of sacred animals, living spirits and a properly animistic duality of an existence between the world of spirituality and the natural world. In case you were wondering: Yes, this class very much is indebted to the various real world mythologies and the shamanistic traditions. Shamans have their own spell-list, included herein, with spellcasting governed by Wisdom. Shamans begin play with 2 cantrips known and increase that to 5. Their first spell is gained at 3rd level and they learn up to 15. Finally, they cast via slot: At 3rd level, they begin play with two slots and gain an additional slot at 11th and 17th level. They cast by expending these slots and the slot levels increase from 1st level up to 5th. This means that e.g. a 5th level shaman has 2 slots and spells cast are cast as second level spells, regardless of spell level. Spells learned at level up may be of any spell level available for the slots and shamans may cast spells as rituals. Totems as a spellcasting focus are required and may be replaced upon completing a long rest in the shaman's favored terrain.

Chassis-wise, the class gains d8 HD, proficiency in light armor, shields, simple weapons, herbalism kit, Strength and Wisdom and two skills of your choice, chosen from Arcana, Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Intimidation, Nature, Perception and Survival. At character creation, you choose a flavorful totem spirit from bear, buffalo, coyote, crow, eagle, elk, fox, hawk, owl, snake and wolf - unless you follow a certain path, these remain flavor-options, though. Unexpected: Shamans are actually pretty good tanks with the proper build: At 1st level, they gain an AC of 10 + Wisdom modifier + Constitution modifier while unarmored - and yes, you can add a shield to that. 1st level also yields the natural explorer feature, which allows you to choose one terrain type as favored terrain. When making and Intelligence or Wisdom check pertaining this terrain, you double your proficiency bonus in skills you are proficient. Additionally, overland travel for the group in the terrain is not hampered, you can't be lost except by magic, you remain alert to danger and may stealthily scout ahead. You also are better at foraging and may track creatures more precisely.

Starting at 2nd level, you gain spirit sight, which translates to advantage on Dexterity saves versus threats you can see, including traps and spells - but you do lose this if you're blinded, deafened or incapacitated. Curious that being restrained does not hamper this. Oh well. Ability score improvements are gained at 4th level and every level thereafter as well as at 19th level. 5th level yields primal protector, which lets you use your action to make all beasts within 30 feet indifferent to you and yours on a failed Wisdom save, potentially charming them. Problem here: The pdf does not specify the save DC. Analogue to e.g. the wizard's school of enchantment, this should probably be the spell save DC. The shaman may use this twice per short or long rest. 7th level yields an aura that grants you and your allies within 10 ft. advantage on Constitution and Wisdom saves. 9th level grants something pretty damn strong: When you hit a creature, you gain temporary hit points equal to the damage caused, but "only" once per round. This is problematic. If you take a look at the PHB, you'll notice that temporary hit points are usually granted by limited resources and are generally not something that is available in indefinite quantities.

Let me demonstrate why this is broken beyond the math and can seriously wreck immersion (readers familiar with my PFRPG-reviews know where this is going): Take a bag full of fluffy, cute kittens. Before combat, whenever you have a spare minute, you take one out of the bag and MASSACRE it, preferably with a really big, nasty weapon or similar means. You gain temporary hit points that have no duration. The feature does not even have the "hostile creature" caveat (granted, you can cheese that by starving kittens prior to slaughtering them...), much less a duration or a challenge-CR that posits a minimum creature power to gain the benefit, meaning that it'll last until depleted or a long rest. This ability needs a rewrite.

At 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th level, you gain spiritual whispers - these would be a 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th level druid spell respectively, that you can each cast once per long rest interval sans expending spell slots. 18th level decelerates your aging to make only 1 year of your lifespan pass for every 10 you live. As a capstone, you increase Wisdom by 4 and treat 24 as the new maximum score.

The class also features the shaman path class feature noted before, with 3rd level (surprise) providing the choice and 6th, 10th and 14th level featuring the respective path abilities. A total of 4 such shaman paths are provided, with the first being the corruptor, who gains several necromancy-themed spells added to the spell list. As a formal complaint, the spells are not properly italicized. 6th level attracts a foul spirit that imposes disadvantage on concentration checks, but also curses those that attack you, once per turn imposing disadvantage on the attackers next attack, saving throw or skill check. 10th level is nasty: As an action, you can touch others and, on a failed save versus the spell save DC, the target receives one level of exhaustion! Finally, 14th level nets a 30 ft. aura that may be amplified towards one creature, causing it to become frightened and forcing it to Dash away until it's out of sight or beyond 60 ft. away. Slight complaint here: The ability does not specify the action the focus of the dread-inducing aura requires. It could very well be a bonus action or reaction...

The second path would be the path of the elements, which nets resistance to fire damage at 3rd level. Additionally, it allows you to attack with an elemental blast of flame as a bonus action, inflicting 1d8 + Wisdom modifier fire damage. Okay, so is the shaman proficient in this? Is it a spell attack? Is it a melee attack? Elemental blasts of fire sound like ranged weaponry to me, but the feature does not clarify that. 6th level yields resistance to acid and the ability to breathe both air and water as well as immunity to poison damage (WUT? Poison immunity, ALONE, is the 10th level monk feature!) AND a swim speed at full movement rate. 10th level yields a flying speed at full movement rate and 14th level lets you cast conjure elemental (not properly italicized) 1/day without using spell slots or components. Somewhat weird to see 1/day here, since pretty much everything in the class is tied to rest intervals.

The path of the spirit nets the shaman an invisible spirit guide that provides advantage on initiative rolls, prevents being surprised while conscious and negates creatures gaining advantage on attack rolls when being hidden from you. At 6th level, any weapon wielded deals damage versus incorporeal targets, regardless of resistances to the weapon's damage type...which sabotages the rock-paper-scissors-component I so enjoy in 5e...so not a fan. The shaman also gains resistance versus the attacks of incorporeal creatures. Soooo, does this extend to creatures rendered incorporeal by magical means? Could I e.g. theoretically render a golem incorporeal and then pick it apart with a dagger? Starting at 10th level, the shaman can have the spirit guide take care of concentration for him, but may not cheese the spells-in-effect-limit thus - nice one! At 14th level, the shaman can turn incorporeal as an action and takes damage if he ends his turn in an object. He also "does not invoke attacks of opportunity" while incorporeal. I sure would hope so! Who'd want to invoke those? Kidding aside, "attacks of opportunity" is Pathfinder rules-language, not 5e. And becoming flat-out immune to opportunity attacks is OP; after all, being incorporeal has no cap, no limit and is extremely strong on its own.

The final path would be the path of the wild and comes with a massive table that lists totems alongside characteristics and the respective features gained. A total of 17 such are included here. These range from the flavorful (basically blindsight) to gaining pseudo monk tricks that culminate for one totem in the option to execute two unarmed attacks with an Attack action that cause your choice of 1d6 physical damage type and is considered magical, limited flight, etc. There are a couple of minor formatting hiccups here as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, if not as precise as usual for Tribality Publishing - I noticed both typo-level glitches and quite a few rules-language issues. Layout adheres to the characteristic, nice two-column full-color standard with photography-style artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Michael Long's shaman is an odd one: I expected to see a lame druid rip-off...and the good news first: The shaman is very much its own entity and has a unique playstyle, with spells being more of an afterthought here.

The thing is, as much as I love the often very flavorful options, the class gave me serious thematic whiplash. I mean, what do you think when you hear "shaman", class- and competence-wise?

If it's anything but "best tank base class", you'll experience the same flavor disjoint here. The shaman receives a n impressive amount of resistances, immunities and tanking options that make it better as a melee tank than you'd expect from a d8 HD class. In fact, the tanking support fighter is pretty much the core competence of the class...which is really odd...and somewhat at odds with the flavor of the class. Indeed, the closest analogue to the core classes would, surprisingly, be the monk, with a bit of spellcasting added for good measure. So yeah, felt the definite need to note the weird focus of the abilities of the class.

Which brings me to the elephant in the room: The class has some downright broken features that require revision and generally is very strong. It makes for an expert outdoorsman/utility guy that gains more resistances and immunities than any other class I have encountered for 5e. And honestly, that's not "shaman" to me. That being said: The class is not bad per se, just flawed. If the hiccups are ironed out, I'll shrug and accept the shaman as a tanky monk-style class, but the flaws are here.

That being said, the class is not expensive - for 2 bucks, it is something you can check out, though most groups will require some design work to make this class operate at full functionality. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shaman Class (5E)
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