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Mini-Dungeon #053: Ne'er Trust The White Wolf's Tameness
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2017 04:19:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map 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 .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

This mini-dungeon can be run as a sequel to "Look not with Thine Eyes, but Thine Mind", but works just as well on its own. The PCs continue their descent into the bowels of the earth, teleporting into a lethal trap, where multiple, deadly guardians must be bested to escape the "Wolf's Eyes" - a kind of guarded teleport trap. Free f this challenging gauntlet and its powerful golems and swarms, the PCs have to make their way through the lethal traps of "the wolf's jaw" - and from here on out, things only get more foreboding, as remnants of horrific fates, 4 random encounters you may or may not use, and a terribly injured group of adventurers speak of worse things awaiting in "the wolf's mind" - a part of the complex where the way leads further below. It should also be noted that this mini-dungeon has a potential, direct way out of its confines at this point...

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 decent, but not as good as the best in the series. The .jpg 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 sports a nice quasi-puzzle, some challenging traps and foes and a thematically concise and interesting mini-dungeon here. No complaints, well worth getting - 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #053: Ne'er Trust The White Wolf's Tameness
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Gateway Pass Adventure Path Part 1: Brighton Road (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 11:18:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, before we dive into the nit and grit: To me, an adventure path is a campaign that covers the majority, at least 2/3rds, of an adventurer's career. I get why many a publication uses the AP-moniker, but personally, I'd consider anything less than that an arc. I know, I know, not too relevant, but I still felt the need to spell that out.

Anyways, what do Star Trek, Twin Peaks, Esoterrorists in station duty mode, Red Dwarf and daily sitcoms have in common? Simple: A central location. Many a campaign has a hub, from Lankhmar to Feeport and this location and its quirks and NPCs slowly grow upon the PCs, It's one of the points of criticism fielded against the otherwise excellent CotCT-campaign that the PCs had to leave their home. It thus should come as a surprise, that so far no series of adventures has really capitalized on the notion of the PCs really getting to know their home, their base, and defending it from whatever may come their way. This series of adventures, then, would do just that - the premise centers on two feuding fiefdoms, the Ottonians and Goodchilds, and a border fortress between them. The PCs, via one of various hooks, will be in the employ of the Ottonians, specifically, in the employ of the charismatic inquisitor Nathaniel Lyon, who has opted to reopen the Brighton road, for in the years since the road's closure, the area has become poor and destitute, with many a former soldier falling to a life of crime.

And this is pretty much as far as I can go without getting into serious SPOILER-territory. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! You see, Nathaniel has begun covertly recruiting the less corrupted of the criminal elements, for he suspects something lurking...and how better to ensure plausible deniability than via a band of miscreant low-lifes? Opposed to Nathaniel's agenda would be the rebellion slowly engendered by one Robert Cornelius, who is using smuggling tactics and whisper campaigns to build his strength, all in the ultimate goal of ending the serfdom system that has ruined his life. The primary foe of Nathaniel would, however, be the armiger Cadwell Brunson, a former guardsman who has retained his bandit network and seeks to lead Nathaniel into an ambush and eliminate him for once and for all. So these three fully statted individuals would be the power-players here, representing the matrix of intrigue and machinations here.

The PCs, however, won't know any of this right away. Instead, this adventure will begin with a burning wagon crashing into the doors of the Starry Sky Inn, while the PCs are en route to reopen the Brighton Output. Dealing with the fire and bandits constitute an interesting first encounter, though one that does not feature a map or the like - granted, most GMs have a bunch of tavern maps ready...but yeah. In the aftermath of the combat, the GM gets a chance to introduce the PCs not only to the excessive poverty in the area, but also to a helpful witch named Rosin Sinti and their fellow guards, who come with brief, fluff-descriptions to set them apart. En route, tracking can help determine some pieces of information about the environments and a handy random encounter chart is included as well.

The outpost has obviously seen better days - it receives a nice b/w-map and the PCs will have a chance to start cleaning up the place, fixing roofs...and then there's the dead cleric outside, killed by a storm. Her spirit lingers in the officer's quarters as a haunt, guarding the children she sought to guide to a better life. The kids, all marked by poverty, can make for interesting sidekicks or, in some cases, potential apprentices/cohorts...for their home, the hamlet of Wassail, is one sans perspective for them. Beyond that, the PCs have a chance to deal with a shambling stalker and potentially find a secret tunnel, which may become relevant later. A handy table of 8 random events helps btw. establish a concise mood here. Speaking of mood: From dining to the sheer amount of information herein, the adventure takes a refreshing stance regarding that aspect - we take a bit of time, yes, but from tax costs to be levied to the NPCs, there is quite a bit of roleplaying.

This extends, btw., to day 2, where perceptive PCs get to notice a scout and his hunting crows keeping an eye on the outpost and have their first major social encounter, as they check the wares of Mr. Lilliputian, a dwarven diplomat. And indeed, the PCs can find various discrepancies in his papers...and several pieces of cargo he tries to smuggle through: Black powder weapons and baby rust monsters, to be more precise. (And yes, alternatives are included if you don't like blackpowder firearms in your game.) While in the end, when bribes etc. fail, Lyon does let him off with a warning, this still represents a rather fun encounter.

During the night, a guardsman, however, will have found a rather mysterious death, as his fellow watchman dozed the night away, which will cast a somber tone on Roisin the witch returning - she can act as courier between the output and civilization, offer healing and return every other day...she also has her own agenda, but precisely which, I won't spoil here. In the following days, the PCs will have a chance to deal with a shambling mound hunting in the vicinity. Beyond that, a local baker is probing the waters to come over once in a while to sell cookies, and a pig farmer asks for the possibility to leave some of her pigs she is bound to buy in Norwich here. It is such pieces of local color that make the place feel organic, that make players fond of it in the long run.

Lilliputian will return (and continue his smuggling), though this time, a man named Kier is following hot on his heels, arriving soon after the dwarf has passed through. Kier is a ranger, has no travel papers...and claims that Lilliputian is wanted for carrying contraband across territories. While he is not wrong, having no papers would make it within the purview of the PCs to refuse him...and a similarity between the attire of the man and that of the scout watching them should also make the PCs rather suspicious. When later, a wealthy merchant arrives, a subsection of Cornelius' men attempt to kidnap the fop in broad daylight, unaware of the strength of the outpost's folks (read: The PCs) - though their knowledge of smuggler's tunnels may help them escape. Later, the PC'll meet a hermit with, surprisingly, imperial travel papers, setting up an interesting mystery for the future.

On day 6, the PCs may get a day off, but the pdf still depicts, in detail, what actually transpires regarding the various NPCs that return. In the following days, the PCs will have a lot of choices on their hands: Do they help Roisin smuggle folks who can't pay the high taxes through the gate? How do the react to the disguised Cadwell, who poses as a Goodchild...and the man seems to know the hermit, who utters some warnings...Daniel, one of the folks, wants forged papers (and may slip off into the night as a deserter later); new guardsmen arrive, And indeed, from day to day, the intrigues subtly grow - trolls need to be dealt with, Kier returns, will-o'-the-wisps haunt the night, drawn by the sorcerous power within one person's blood..

Beyond further smugglers, wine merchants and a Romeo and Juliet-undercover-scene with the children of the rival fiefdoms, there is a lot to be found...interestingly, the latter may actually blow Cadwell's cover. At one point, a fight between heavy drinkers passing through on a gambling night may erupt into violence and Kier...well, he'll find a rather nasty end at the hands of a doppelganger, who is btw., surprise, up to no good.

Beyond aforementioned star-crossed affair is discovered by the hermit, he mentions several key facts about the environment to the PCs...before a frickin' CR 17 green dragon swoops in. And no, the PCs should not try to fight that beast...and instead perhaps establish a tithe or something like that? On their next day, the PCs may find a camp within the woods if the choose to escort the hermit, including several pieces of much needed loot...and encrypted papers...but they'll also have to evade goodchild guards.

Cadwell arrives on day 14, demanding payment from Nathaniel, for he has been blackmailing the inquisitor...and, depending on the PC's actions, he may bring grisly trophies along....and it his here that the PCs get to defend the fortress against the forces of Cadwell. How the adventure ends depends largely on the PC's actions - Nathaniel Lyon may well be hanged...or the PCs could keep him in charge, forgiving him his well-meant duplicity...though not all story ties have been closed...

The pdf comes with a high-res labeled .tif of the fortress and an unlabeled, high-res jpg. for use as a player's map.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, but not perfect -there are quite a few minor hiccups regarding punctuation. Layout adheres to a nice b/w-version of Rite Publishing's standard layout. The pdf features b/w-artworks for all key NPCs, though I have seen most of them before. The cartography is really good, but I do wish that e.g. tunnels, environments, inside of buildings, etc. had also been covered.

Greg LaRose's Gateway Pass is completely different from what I expected - this could actually, theme and atmosphere-wise, be an old-school Bandit Kingdom Greyhawk module, an OSR module or the like; it breathes this sense of antiquity, of a world at a declining stage in its phases, of a place that has moved on. This is a surprisingly low-magic, down to earth module that works rather well thanks to its very dense atmosphere, remarkable characters and details - the details, repetition of characters and the like generate a rather interesting, very organic and believable simulation of an organic world and appropriate consequences.

The level of detail, however, also means that this module requires that the GM tracks quite a few decisions, which, while not hard, could have been better laid out. You see, this is basically a LOT of text and the lack of highlights via bolding, references to consequences and the like can make the module slightly harder to run than it needed to be. I for example, had totally forgotten about the tunnel mentioned and had to look that back up. This module basically represents scenes, but doesn't concisely separate the rules-relevant aspects from the key-story aspects and agendas in the respective encounters - you need to know precisely how it'll work, particularly since, unfortunately, in two cases, an editing glitch of a typo-level made such a key sequence a bit more opaque than it needed to be - I was more than once both tantalized and surprised by some new revelation/note while reading a day's event. Much of this could have been avoided, if the adventure synopsis in the beginning simple featured a cliff-notes version of day-to-day-events for the GM: You know, like "Day 1: Event x, event z; NPC y arrives, NPC W leaves; if a) has happened, then c)."

I also think that the decisions the PCs make regarding smugglers, etc. could matter a bit more and that excelling at a given encounter/acting with tact and smarts, should yield a bit more rewards...but that may just be me.

So, in short, structure-wise, this is not the best module; however, its concept is pretty novel and exciting and the set-up is great. The best component would be the almost realistic atmosphere and (mostly) low fantasy-feeling nature of the proceedings, with the eerie and fantastic only sometimes rearing their heads...but when they do, they do so rather neatly. You can feel like a soldier in a dangerous wilderness, hunting trolls and slowly putting two and two together regarding the agendas and allegiances of the NPCs. In short: This series has plenty of potential.

I was, however, also kind of disappointed to not get maps for the inside of the buildings and the lack of a scale on the maps means that this is a module that's mostly intended for mind's eye-style playing, though in the finale, the works slightly less well than in the rest of the module.

How to rate this, then? I adore the atmosphere herein, as you may have noticed - it's my kind of gritty fantasy, of realism and simulated life; the module achieves the illusion of an organic world. At the same time, the module does have a few drawbacks on the formal side that drag it down a notch. Ultimately, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, though I will round up due to in dubio pro reo on this one. This is not a go-play module, but if you like gritty fantasy, this may well be worth getting.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gateway Pass Adventure Path Part 1: Brighton Road (PFRPG)
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Skyrider Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 11:16:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The skyrider base class received d10 HD, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. How much skills per level, you're asking? NO IDEA. That info is missing from the pdf. Blergh.

The class gains challenge at first level, +1 daily use for every 3 levels beyond first. The skyrider also chooses an order at first level. Two specific skyrider orders are included here, with the first being the order of the zephyr, who increases the movement rate of skyrider and mount when moving towards the target of a challenge (+10 ft., +20 ft. and 30 ft. at 7th and 15th level). Skill-wise, the order nets Perception and Survival as class skills. 2nd level yields the handy ability to count as 1/2 weight for the purpose of determining mount encumbrance as well as eliminating the penalty to AC when charging. 8th level yields a tripled speed when charging, which is VERY strong. Worse, spear fighter weapon group weapons now behave as though they were lances...i.e. like one of the most problematic aspects of the base game. Not the biggest fan there. 15th level nets a +2 AC bonus versus ranged attacks for rider and mount when charging, an additional 50% miss chance. Additionally, they deal automatic damage (untyped) equal to twice the class level to any obstacles in the way - no save, no attack roll - just broken...and I don't even have to state how this can be highly problematic in its precise rules-interactions, right? They also take only 1/4 damage from damaging obstacles.

The second order contained in this book would be the order of venom, who increases the threat range of the mount's attacks by 1 in challenge...which isn't bad per se. But threat range increases by a further 1 for every 4 levels thereafter. Skill-wise, both Fly and Survival are included...which is weird, considering that the base class already receives Fly as a class skill. For the cavalier, I guess... Weird, btw. - the order of venom's order abilities are formatted differently than those of the order of zephyr. Since the order also yields a bonus on Knowledge-checks made to identify creatures, its 2nd level ability builds on that; identified creatures observed as move actions can thus yields short-term bonuses that increase at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 8th level allows the skyrider to use wyvern poison as a standard action and execute one attack with the poisoned weapon. 15th level lets the skyrider dismount, fall up to 200 ft. and attack a foe at the end; if successful, the falling damage is added to the attack and the skyrider takes no damage. Sooo, is the falling damage multiplied on a critical hit? No idea. The pdf also sports companion stats for wyvern and griffon, though the griffon's advancement-lines lack proper formatting.

Starting at 3rd level, the class receives the high talon ability, which nets +1 to atk and damage whenever attacking from higher ground, increasing the bonus by +1 at every 3 levels thereafter. 4th level yields the griffon companion, which uses the skyrider's level -3 as druid level. The griffon does not receive share spells, obviously, but does gain Light Armor Proficiency as a bonus feat. This feature is weird, since it locks the character in the griffon-choice, contradicting the wyvern-option presented by one of the orders - RAW, the order of venom would thus only be available for the cavalier.

5th level yields mounted evasion, which is pretty self-explanatory. 7th level provides the option for the griffon to carry the skyrider...and this is weird, for, provided the griffon is trained and weight etc. checks out, he could do that before. Carrying the rider also "reduces the fly speed" but fails to specify by how much. The skyrider may use Fly instead of Ride while mounted. At 10th level, things get wonky and the griffon companion is treated as though the skyrider always had a full druid companion progression...which is incredibly clunky.

13th level nets full fly speed when carrying the skyrider...implying a fixed penalty for a rider, but failing to specify how that all interacts with encumbrance etc. It looks pretty functional...but unfortunately isn't. 9th level yields Hover for the griffon, Flyby Attack for the skyrider. 17th level allows for full-attacks of both mount and rider after a charge at the cost of -4 to AC. 18th level provides mounted improved evasion. 20th level lets the skyrider dismount after a charge and execute one attack that automatically threatens a critical hit and may insta-kill the target. May? The DC is 10 + damage dealt...which is hilarious, considering all the crit-upgrades and potential boosts to charge attack damage. Also ridiculous: The skyrider may fall off the griffon, hit a target...and be caught by the griffon, regardless of distance. Yeah...makes no sense.

It should also be noted that the pdf has a section called "Skyrider Archetypes"...and nothing in it. The only content there would be the orders, one of which arguably isn't even for the class.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good. From the missing skills per level to typos and inconsistent formatting, the pdf suffers from a plethora of hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has a really nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks and cut-copy-paste of text is disabled, making the use of this pdf not very comfortable.

Angel "ARMR" Miranda's skyrider is not without promise, the aerial cavalier...

...oh, who am I kidding? This lacks crucial information, has some seriously wonky abilities, is a one-trick-charge-pony...and worse, everything this pdf does has been done more precisely and better. Get the ultimate, excellent flying resource "Companions of the Firmament" - it literally does everything this pdf does better and so much more. It's an EZG Essential for a reason. Alternatively, if you only want a nice aerial cavalier class, go for "Letters from the Flaming Crab: Winged Cavalry" instead; it also is vastly superior. Let me reiterate - this pdf is not a total wreck...but when compared to two vastly superior products, it has absolutely nothing going for it. Hence, my final verdict cannot go higher than 1.5 stars...and frankly, I can't bring myself to round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Skyrider Hybrid Class
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Mini-Dungeon #052: Look Not With Thine Eyes But Thine Mind
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 11:14:50

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 .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

This mini-dungeon can be played as a sequel to "There are more Things in the Planes and the Earth", but it works perfectly fine on its own as well. After having braved the weird complex and witnessed an elder thing talking to Formians, the PCs now explore a complex where the insectoid creatures represent the none-too-pleasant opposition - random encounters are provided as well, 4 to be more precise, but it should be noted that, from a blind monk to a termite swarm, a caulborn and aether elementals, the opposition found within these halls is rather diverse and fun.

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 decent, but not as good as the best in the series. The .jpg 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's latest installments of this sequence of loosely connected mini-dungeons has a diverse and fun array of foes, a neat atmosphere and generally makes for a cool, fun dungeon. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #052: Look Not With Thine Eyes But Thine Mind
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Mini-Dungeon #051: There Are More Things in the Planes and the Earth
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 11:11:36

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 .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

This can be used as a sequel to the previous mini-dungeon "When goblins die, no comets are seen", though it can also be used on its own. The very entrance to this complex is trapped with a suggestion to "leave and never return", establishing a sense of foreboding dread that the complex then manages to expand - from traps with insanity mist to cairnwights and slithering trackers, the caverns contain some nasty tricks; and yes, burrowing can actually yield treasure...if you know where to look. At one point, the PCs will also have a chance to witness an elder thing, which retreats courtesy of aggressive formorians.

Pretty cool: The mini-dungeon contains 4 nice little random encounters to keep up the pressure.

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 decent, but not as good as the best in the series. The .jpg 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's exploration of these realms below is interesting and the challenges and obstacles faced are fun and create an interesting mini-dungeon, well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #051: There Are More Things in the Planes and the Earth
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Four Horsemen Present: Celestial Character Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2017 04:44:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All, right, after a brief introduction we meet the Ishvara race. This race takes the concept of a heart and mind divided between selfless altruism and selfish ambition, making equilibrium difficult - you know the metaphysical concept. The ishvara embody this race - they perceive themselves as incarnations of imperfect souls and the moral turbulence makes them a prime candidate for self-realization, for the life of adventurous struggle, while also providing a deeply ingrained roleplaying angle for personal development, which is a big plus to me. The ishvara are native outsiders who get +2 to an attribute of their choice, darkvision, +2 to saves versus fear and despair effects and a 1/day option to reroll such a save on a natural 1. Additionally, they gain +2 to saves versus poison and mind-affecting effects and +1 to Perception and Sense Motive, both of which are always class skills for the race.

The race is pretty cool, though it does not come with an age, height and weight-table. Aasimar can choose 5 new FCOs - fighters can buff their energy resistance; mesmerists enhance their saves versus possession and compulsion effects with the evil descriptor, while samurai enhance challenge damage, skalds get +1/6 rage power and warpriests get +1/2 daily fervor uses. The ishvara also feature several favored class options, including several occult classes and the vigilante. Finally, sylphs also get a couple of favored class options - including ones for the Shifu class. Nice!

Next up would be the CR +1 angelbound template, which represents a pact with the forces of celestial realms, granting the creature SPs, attribute bonuses, etc. in exchange for scrutiny by the angel in question, with 9 different angel types covered - the template basically represents those willing to conform to rigid moral values in order to serve the heavens and vanquish evil. Fun and certain to see some use!

The pdf also features several archetypes, the first of which would be the angelic voice bard - at 3rd level, inspire competence is replaced by accompaniment - as an immediate action, the character can use aid another to help an ally while maintaining a bardic performance - I assume that the range is the range of bardic performance, though RAW, the ability does not specify the like and only implies the necessity to hear the bard. The ability is balanced either way, however, by requiring bardic performance expenditure. The bonus increases at 7th and 15th level by +1, respectively. At 8th level, dirge of doom is replaced with an interesting ability: When the angelic voice casts a spell with verbal component or as part of a bardic performance, he may forego the effects of the spell to increase the DC and CL of another caster by +2. This may sound easy here, but rules-language-wise, that is actually a pretty complex operation and I generally like it.

The Renegade hybrid class penned by the horsemen also receives an archetype, the celestial outlaw, who just needs to be non-evil. Instead of intimidate equipment, these guys get +2 to Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate, potentially moving the attitude of those affected up or down, as per the outlaw's precise skill use. The 3rd level shoot first is replaced with false surrender, which lets you spend panache as part of a parley - if you Bluff or Diplomacy, you may quickly draw the weapon at any time, kicking off a surprise round and providing serious initiative bonuses to allies. At 5th level, the outlaw can, as an immediate action, duplicate a nonmagic innocence 1/day, with 11th level increasing daily uses to 3/day. This replaces the sneak attack dice progression of these levels.

Next up would be the celestial soul monk, who must be good and replaces slow fall with celestial soar - supernatural flight, starting at 10 ft. with clumsy maneuverability and increasing in speed and maneuverability over the levels - kudos for properly assigning speed and maneuverability to the levels they work best with here. 10th level makes unarmed strikes count as good, with 16th level makes them also work as mithril. 13th level provides the perfect soul ability, which represents a native outsider apotheosis that features DR 5/evil, SR 5 + class level, with 20th level replacing this with the celestial creature template and 10 + class level SR; this replaces diamond self and perfect self.

The field medic wizard replaces Appraise and Knowledge (engineering) with Heal and Profession (physician) and does not get to choose a magic school (not even universalist), but still gains two opposition schools, but gets an additional spell slot per spell level, which must be used to prepare on of the healing spells added to the spell-list, learning them as arcane spells. Excellence: No, they cannot be learned by other casters as arcane spells. It's catching exploits like this that clearly showcases the experience and attention to detail of the author...and that makes my job so much more satisfying! Kudos! At 1st level, Heal-use can yield hit point healing and 10-minute treatment can even allow for better disease recuperation or ability damage recovery. The archetype also gets 3 + class level deathwatch. Unique and cool: 8th level yields the option to heal nearby allies as well when rolling maximum hit points with healing, while 13th level allows for the leftover healing of mass curing spells to be redistributed. Nice!

The guardian angel cleric is locked out f a series of evil/dark-themed domains and may not cast spells with the evil descriptor; when channeling energy, one of the base elements, negative energy or sonic damage are chosen - allies in channel range gain +2 to saves versus the chosen energy and decrease the damage incurred by the type, lasting until the cleric's next round. Cool and strategic! 5th level yields the option to spontaneously cast life pact or shield other using a 2nd level or higher memorized spell slot, with 9th level adding the option to spontaneously cast contagious zeal and sacred bond using a 4th level or higher spell slot. Engine tweaks are a hard sell on me, since most of the time, they're cookie cutter and not that interesting - this is none of these things, representing a fun and strategic modification of the cleric engine.

The phrenic defender psychic may not cast spells with the evil descriptor and, as an immediate action, may expend a point from the phrenic pool to grant herself +2 to Will-saves versus evil compulsion effects. They may not choose abomination or pain as disciplines and, regardless of discipline, receive spear of purity at 4th level as a 2nd level spell. 10th level yields dispel evil as a 5th level spell, replacing the respective discipline spells. 3rd level grants the shielding spells phrenic amplification, which allows for the expenditure of 1 or 2 points from the phrenic pool to give the target of a linked spell a buff on saves versus evil spells or effects. 11th level nets a similar amplification to end possessions, domination-effects or simply exorcise via the use of linked spells - damn cool archetype!

The seventh sash arcanist lose access to all necromantic spells, but gain access to a wide array of prismatic-themed spells, from the humble color spray to the mighty prismatic sphere. Whenever the character casts a spell from the abjuration, evocation or illusion school, they can choose an ally within 30 feet and a color of the rainbow (or black), conveying a benefit to ally and seventh sash until the next turn - +4 to spell damage, saves versus a subset of effects, skill bonuses...you get the idea. Starting at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, an additional ally may benefit from the ability. This does delay gaining the first arcane exploit to 3rd level. 11th level yields colorful exploits, adding Cha-mod to CL when determining the effects of certain exploits and also increases the maximum level of the exploit effects by Charisma modifier - though this potent option does replace 11th level's greater exploit.

A total of 14 new feats can be found within - Celestial familiar yields the celestial simple template (with a minor, cosmetic typo); Merciful critical lets you convert precision damage or critical hit damage on the fly to nonlethal damage (NICE!) and merciful smite is similarly self-explanatory. Smiting Spell lets you reroll 1s of damage rolls of spells at the cost of +1 spell level, while Singular Brilliance increases the DC of dazing, blindness etc. effects by one and extends their duration by 1 round. Uncommon Resistance lets you decrease one of your energy resistances by 5 and gain resistance 5 to the one you chose. Nice customization option, though (I wished it spelled out the energy types it can be applied to. Resolute Character nets you a save reroll when you'd be forced to act against your alignment or nature. The pdf also introduces the concepts of virtue feats, each of which represents one of the 7 cardinal virtues - Boon of Abstinence makes it possible for you to go longer sans food or water and helps versus poison, starvation, etc.; Boon of Chastity helps versus enchantments and attraction-based effects; Boon of Humility enhances your aid another, if you choose to incur a penalty to AC, while e.g. Boon of Patience lets you specify multiple triggering conditions when readying an action - pretty cool! These concepts most certainly have - all in all some really cool ones here!

A total of 7 celestial relics, powerful magical items, can also be found herein: The Decantur[sic! should be "decanter"] of endless holy water is just what it sounds like...but no, you can't use it to flood a dungeon - its mechanics are actually directed, which is a big plus here. The efreeti prison bottle is pretty much self-explanatory and no, the imprisoned creature has no chance to become insane. The warhammer elven thrower would be a warhammer that elves can fire at foes. Midnight blue rhomboid ioun stones nets Alertness, but also make subterfuge harder. Fans of Solomon Kane will certainly appreciate the puritan's pistol, a lucky revolver that cannot be used by evil, acting almost as a cursed weapon for those so foolish to use this. The robes of benign heritage would be a variant of the arcane heritage version and the sacred book is a blessed book variant for arcane casters.

We close this pdf with a total of 7 new spells, the first of which would be borrow grace, which allows you to tap into the willing or unwilling +Cha-to-saves granting options of some creatures. Nice one! Celestial Form nets temporarily the celestial creature template. Chromatic Orb and Chromatic Sphere would be two spells that deal with the rainbow-theme: The Orb causes 4 types of energy damage, helping potentially determine resistances and immunities and featuring partial saves, while the sphere represents a defensive option. Kudos regarding spell levels here - they make sense to me and are in line with the power of existing options. Flies, then honey allows you to salvage blundered social interactions. Heavenspeak represents a combo buff + minor heal/debuff + minor damage within 30 ft. The spell has, alas, a sentence fragment missing - it reads "Leaving the spell's area Any outsiders..." Prismatic beam ends the pdf on a high note, concept-wise with a low-level prismatic spell option for 2nd level.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level (also due to Steven T. Helt's obvious expertise!), but on a formal level, I found more typo level glitches and the like than I'm used to Rogue Genius Games. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard for the series. Interior artwork contains a blend on new and stock art in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Steven T. Helt's designs tend to rather subtle; he has a knack for identifying gaps in the rules and one of the few designers who constantly and reliably delivers engine-tweaks for components of the game that have been overlooked. Where other designers would blunder, his takes on these is consistently precise and meaningful. Contrary to me usual predilection for high-concept, long and complex archetypes, I found myself actually enjoying the shorter, highly compatible engine tweaks he provides herein - so big kudos for that! At the same time, I did wish there was slightly less "this is a variant of x" among the items and I don't get the absence of alternate racial traits of age, height and weight table for the conceptually cool, if mechanically a bit conservative race. As a whole, this collection of options definitely has some worthwhile, fun material, though it misses the highest marks of e.g. his comedic character options. Still, very much worth getting, in spite of the minor blemishes. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Celestial Character Options
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Mini-Dungeon #050: When Goblins Die, No Comets are Seen
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2017 04:34:47

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 .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

This mini-dungeon can be run as a sequel to "Doubt not that stars are fire", but can also stand on its own. After delving into the coldfire-infested tunnels in the previous module, the party dives into the dark, where they'll encounter the remains of a tribe of dark folk, fighting wights...and the tunnels also contain horribly weakened goblins and a complex with traps aplenty in the remnants of a mysterious complex

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 .jpg 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's take on exploring these weird tunnels makes for a fun and interesting sidetrek that makes for a neat, fun little romp. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #050: When Goblins Die, No Comets are Seen
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Mini-Dungeon #049: Doubt Not That Stars Are Fire
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2017 04:29:27

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 .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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! This can be used as a sequel to the "Pit your Wits" mini-dungeon, but works well on its own: Following a mutated goblin attack, the PCs have to go down the pit, the walls aglow with coldfire...and worse, there is a deadly substance...and this coldfire substance has mutated the local goblins into goberrations - a variant, weaker faceless stalker...and being too close to the substance is really painful. Dried coldfire can result in a similarly horrible mutation for careless PCs and within this place, raging rubble, cerebric fungi and worse await...but there indeed is a way down...but do the PCs dare continue?

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 .jpg 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 shows what an awesome atmosphere you can generate with a few monster reskins and some deadly terrain. This is a deceptively hard little mini-dungeon and makes great use of the environments. The mini-dungeon is fun and evocative and certainly worth the low asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #049: Doubt Not That Stars Are Fire
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Deadly Gardens: Hypno-Lotus
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/19/2017 06:36:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The pdf begins, as always, with new magical items, the first of which would be the alluring everbloom crown, which is a high-priced item that allows the character wearing it to affect plants with mind-influencing effects and 3/day cast charm monsters, but only on plants. The second item would be the mowing scythe, a +2 plant bane scythe - the first attack each round with this scythe targets all plant creatures threatened by the wielder - which is powerful, but only works when all creatures threatened are plants. Additionally, 3/day, the wielder can attack ALL CREATURES in a 60-ft.-line, which is extremely powerful - 68K does offset that somewhat, but still...circumstantially, this can be insanely strong.

We also get a total of 7 natural items: Accuser devil eyes can record visually everything that occurs within 24 hours, allowing for easy recollections; blink dog fur can once prevent being unwillingly pulled to the ethereal plane. Bunyip shriek balls can panic foes when squeezed, while chupacabra tongues can temporarily enhance the user's movement. Hypno-lotus petals can be used as a full-round action to grant telepathy with a creature or induce a mind-affecting effect preventing autohypnosis. Necrophidius bone meal fortify the user by providing bonuses versus dazed and paralyzed conditions. Powdered forlarren horn grants DR 5/cold iron, but also imposes a penalty to saves versus emotion effects. Aforementioned blink dog fur can be used as a power component for blink's percentile miss chance to be rolled twice, while use in conjunction with dimension door reduces damage of being shunted into a free space. Hypno-lotus petals can increase the duration of hypnotism and suggestion. When used with mass suggestion you can affect +1 creature and murderous command grants a bonus to attacks of affected characters.

All right, I've beaten around the bush long enough: The star of the pdf would be the hypno-lotus, which clocks in at CR 10 and is lavishly and gorgeously rendered by artist Becca Baen. Mind-affecting abilities can affect the lotus and the critter gets a pretty strong mental defense. The petals of the lotus generate a mesmerizing, hypnotic pattern with its leaves...and the plant can make creatures nearby attack themselves and communicate with their charmed thralls. Oh, and their slams and grabs are nasty. Love this critter!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard and is still rather printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity. The b/w-artwork of the creature is amazing.

Stephen Stack's hypno-lotus is an amazing critter. Deadly, versatile and fun. The supplemental material is similarly well-crafted. With no significant glitches or complaints on my end, this can be considered to be an amazing little pdf, well worth the asking price of less than a buck! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, missing my seal only due to the imho OP, but cool scythe.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Hypno-Lotus
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Runesmithing Expanded: Equipment Runes
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/19/2017 06:34:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for Interjection Games' Ultimate Runesmithing system clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

I obviously expect you're familiar with Ultimate Runesmithing in my review of its expansion. If you haven't checked it out, you can read up on my review of that book.

So, let's begin without further ado with the allaying mark - as passive benefits, the rune, inscribed upon armor, grants increasing amounts of temporary hit points that refresh each round. As far as active benefits are concerned, we add DR/- to the fray, with an amount equal to the temporary hit points granted. Nice one. The bladesong sigil is inscribed exclusively on melee weapons; the lesser passive benefit helps vs. disarm attempts. The greater one makes the first creature to attack with it hit itself instead, potentially autocritting itself. The grandmaster rune, finally,, duplicates the lesser benefits, but also adds +2d10 to the weapon's damage on a critical hit. As for active abilities, the lesser one nets dancing, the greater one allows for more uses of the auto-critting and the grandmaster version allows you to add spell storing and expend scrolls to include their spell in the weapon. Since the greater version is radically different from the others, we have some cool potential mischief here...and the inscription costs reflect these unique tricks - activation of the greater version is actually cheaper than that of the lesser version. Pretty amazing rune that resonates with the yarns of myth.

Maker's mark is inscribed on the hands slot and its least passive bonus allows you to choose a Craft skill, Disable Device...or Open Lock?? Yeah, that skill does not exist in PFRPG. The user is treated as having the required tools, which makes this kinda work...but still. The lesser version provides the tools for all skills. Active benefits let you roll twice for the chosen skill and take the better result in the case of the least rune; in the case of the lesser one, the benefits apply to all skills...but how? Only to one? To each of them? This needs some clarification.

The mark of the jeweler is applied to the head and only exists in a lesser iteration with no active benefit - it creates an indentation on a headgear that can hold a ring, conveying its benefits. Shuffler's sigil exists in a lesser and a grandmaster version: The passive benefits are identical: You designate an ally. If the wearer is rendered helpless, but remains capable of moving, he moves towards the designated ally with a land speed of 30 feet. The grandmaster version also has an active benefit, which costs 5 inscriptions points and may be activated as an immediate action. The wearer of the boots, upon dying, is temporarily raised as a zombie that retains feat- and extraordinary-ability use. Pretty cool!

The starmark would be a pretty complex rune that is inscribed upon cloaks. Upon inscription, the wearer receives a stellar pool with 5 points per category of the rune - greater starmarks would e.g. yield 15 points. These points can be used to hurl flaming globs at foes as a standard action or enhance Flying/jumping. As a nitpick - PFRPG has rolled jumping into Acrobatics, so referring to jumping as capitalized may be considered to be a minor glitch. Beyond the pool-size, the lesser, greater and grandmaster runes can also allow for the expenditure of stellar points to gain temporary hit points as a swift action or launch one's self into the air like a rocket. The greater and grandmaster versions, finally, allows for a kind of rocket-charge as well as resistance to fire and cold and functionality in vacuum sans dying. The grandmaster's version's pool replenishes by 1 point every round and when activated, the pool is similarly refilled. Damn cool one!

Theorist's comfort, inscribed upon the head, exists in 4 versions: Both lesser and least net undetectable alignment. Greater also provides +2 to saves versus compulsions and the grandmaster version adds mind blank to the fray. The rune has no least active ability, but lesser/greater ones allow for retroactively escaping mental domination, while the grandmaster version allows the wearer to help an ally thus, even substituting his own save. The thiefcatcher rune may be applied to feet, hands, head and shoulders and exists only in least and grandmaster versions. The rune has only passive abilities. The least one lets you choose a color. The first creature to wear the item thereafter has skin, scales etc. turn that color for 24 hours. The grandmaster version instantly kills the unfortunate, with a save to negate.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-level, some minor hiccups of the mostly aesthetic kind have crept into the pdf. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none. Artworks would be thematically fitting stock art.

I love Bradley Crouch's runesmithing engine and this pdf sports some serious gems. The starmark, thiefcatcher and bladesong sigil alone may warrant getting this - they are not only INTERESTING, they actually do some pretty cool things with the engine and with what runes can do. Now unfortunately, the pdf also sports a few hiccups that influence the rules-language itself, which is why I cannot rate this as highly as I'd like to. This is still a steal for the low and fair price point, well worth 4.5 stars, though I have to round for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Runesmithing Expanded: Equipment Runes
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The Quickly Equipped MurderHobo
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/19/2017 06:33:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (also including introduction notes) and 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content. Additionally, there is a second pdf included, which is 3 pages strong if you take away the front cover. More on that one later.

So, one strength of OSR gaming as opposed to more complex systems, would obviously be the easy to grasp rules - the entry barrier is very, very low. While PFRPG, 13th Age and similar systems require that you read a huge tome, OSR system basics, enough to play anything but spellcasters, can be explained in 5 minutes. There is one step during character creation (and if you play the same modules and games I do in the system, you'll be making your fair share of them...), which puts a bit of a brake on immediately starting the game.

I am, of course, talking about the pregame shopping spree. This pdf tries to streamline that process, with the default assumed system being LotFP and a silver standard, though other OSR systems work just as well....but how does it try to streamline the process?

Each character gets 1 silver coin, appropriate clothes, a rough canvas sack, a small water flask, a crust of bread and the material within one equipment kit. Priests receive a holy symbol, more arcane magic-users a spellbook.

Depending on your preferences, you can either let the players choose the respective kits or have them roll randomly. Now we get two pages, with a table of 10 kits each: The first would contain equipment for violent types: From Men-at-Arms to Assassins and barbarians, we have a nice selection here. These kits also provide, somewhat akin to 5e's starting equipment choices, some player agenda - assassins can e.g. choose an egg filled with fine glass shards, a vial of weak poison or manacles. And yes, the rules for these items have been included - the pdf also sports a sidebar for laminar/lamellar and scale armor, bucklers and improvised weapons.

Beyond these choices, there are also 3 d20-tables: Useful Wilderness Items, Useful Adventuring Items and Seemingly Useless Items. Depending on the kit chosen/rolled, you also roll on these to e.g. gain a tent, a pan flute or a hand drill.

Of course, there also would be occupations that are less martially inclined: The second 8-entry-strong kit-tables sports occupations, from butcher to barber-surgeon, which may or may not be particularly useful regarding the challenges faced in the adventuring life. To offset that, half of them - those that feel particularly...öhem...humorous, convey a 10% XP bonus from level 1 to 2.

Now I mentioned the second pdf in the beginning. This one is provided so you can just print out and cut out all those kits and just hand them to the players - not even notation is required! That's pretty damn cool and useful. Oh, and the final pages of this bonus-pdf actually has empty, form-fillable cut-outs, in case you want to design your own kits. And yes, before you're asking, each kit PRECISELY states what's included in it.

That is not all - the pdf also sports a bit of dressing for the GM: The final page contains a table of 20 entries, depicting what's in a dead guy's belongings, as well as 12 hastily scrawled poems. The poems range in quality, but there are some solid ones.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, no-frills 1-column b/w + green highlights-standard or a 2-column standard, depending on what makes more sense. The pdfs are printer-friendly, with only editorial and cover sporting artwork. The pdfs have no bookmarks, but need none at this length.

Edward Lockheart's "Quickly Equipped Murderhobo" is one fine little toolkit; particularly for convention games, campaign trips or the like...or any time you don't want to carry around a ton of books, this is absolutely amazing and further quickens the action, allowing you to get right into the nit and grit of the game. The system is elegant, simple and can be expanded and developed further without any hassle. Ending up with a former baker magic-user or an Int 5 fighter who carries a scholar's kit can actually make for some interesting roleplaying.

Now granted, I wished that this was longer. the kits are damn cool and getting more would have been nice indeed. At the same time...this is PWYW. It costs literally zilch to take a look at and is VERY MUCH worth leaving a tip for. If you're like me and gravitate towards the more simulationalist side of GMing and are willing to invest a bit of time, you could conceivably use this as a basis to make 5e's kits more defined as well, which is just one of the unexpected uses I got out of this one.

In short, this is a short, sweet and very useful little gaming aid of a pdf. While I wished it had more tables (particularly for magic users etc.), this is a nice little pdf worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Quickly Equipped MurderHobo
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Encounter Pages IV
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/18/2017 09:10:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at an impressive 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a pretty weighty 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This pdf contains a total of 15 detailed encounters to throw at your players and spice up traveling, with every single one of them featuring an impressive, well-done full-color picture of the respective adversaries featured. CR-wise, we have 3 CR 3, 1 CR 4, 2 CR 5, 1 CR 6, 1 CR 7, 2 CR 8 and one encounter each for the CRs ranging from 9 to 13 herein, situating the pdf, level-range-wise, in the low- to medium level-range. The encounters all feature suggested environments and often highlight/showcase some of the amazing creatures that can be found in the seriously underrated Monsters of Porphyra II tome - but fret not: All relevant information for using the encounters, from statblocks to flavor, is included.

Structure-wise, each of the encounters features a brief summary of the area they take place in, the general situation encountered and detailed notes pertaining the treasures to be won from them. Cool: For maximum customization, each of the encounters comes not with one, but with several potential complications you can use to squeeze it dry and make it more intriguing/challenging. For fans of Porphyra, a paragraph each contextualizes the respective encounters within the cosmos of the patchwork planet.

Sooo...that would be the base structure of the material presented herein. In order to talk about the respective encounters in more detail, I need to go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All righty, only GMs around? Great! I'll go sequentially through the respective encounters, in order of presentation and CR. The first would be "Alien Menace", where the PCs are pitted against armadillo-like, technology-dependant aliens called xenarthans; the strange light witnessed by locals was them teleporting in and the laser rifle-wielding creatures may have, if the GM opts to, a cloaking generator that depicts them as...cows! And yes, the generator can be destroyed, potentially causing "2d8 electrical damage" - alas, no range is given for the explosion of the generator and it's "electricity damage", not "electrical damage." Further complications can include being marked as an enemy of the race...which may double as a boon when interacting with the dreaded femanx race.

In the next one, "Shadow of Murder", the PCs can investigate a string of murders in a less than pleasant city quarter, where potentially the mad souls of those slain still roam the streets...only to find that they'll be confronted by an assassin spirit. "Frost in the Sand" takes place in a desert or similarly warm environment...and weirdly, the pumps of the place seem to be frozen - dealing with the ice ooze culprit certainly can make for an interesting diversion or justification for establishing communications. The complications include tunnels so twisted and uneven that they severely hamper the use of ranged weaponry - some players may balk at two common feats (Precse Shot and Point-Blank Shot) not working there, but personally, I think it kinda makes sense and is a cool idea.

The next encounter takes place in a rural environment, where a mawgriff, a carnivorous giraffe griffon, has escaped a traveling circus...but whether and how the PCs resolve this conundrum remains to be seen. And yep, the complications can include actually getting a calf, which is why training options for the creature have been included. Nice!

Speaking of aggressive magical fauna - saving a wagon and several youths that have bumbled into the territory of burrow-mawts, Tiny and deadly critters, can make for a rather fun diversion highlighting the creature. If the PCs are within a dwarven stronhold, springing upon them a scene where a blind and deaf dhosari carries a gift for the dwarves can be the first step towards disaster, as the cube in fact is a metal elemental in disguise, waiting to cause all kinds of havoc. The delightfully grotesque yaramayahu that haunts an oasis can make for a rather unpleasant surprise for the PCs as well, particularly when a sandstorm is rolling in.

Within the deep and green recesses of the jungle, fearless PCs can pit themselves versus deadly ophiduans and, while we're on the topic of wilderness - what about a druid outpost that has mitigated the environmental impact by means of the angel jelly, a unique good ooze that by now has become rather uncontrolled and hungry, providing for an interesting conundrum. What about freeing a village from an eccentric kukkoad masquerading as a human? The deadly facada clown demons haunt an unfortunate casino and currently are in the process of a show - hopefully the PCs use the period of grace to prepare properly...

The feline and powerful ashrakes (flying tiger-humanoids) may be encountered with hobgoblin slaves and obviously try to probe the defenses of the locals...hinting at worse to come... Another encounter deals with a "Festival of Freedom", which just is a front for the agenda of proteans, trying to subvert the local dominance of Law. A desert pass is haunted by a Huge and strange dromopod, a monstrous centaur-like humanoid with serious power. The as of yet unpublished third Monsters of Porphyra book's Urseloct represents the threat in the EL 13. Why would you care? One word: Bearsharktopus. Yes, it looks badass.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good in a formal way, the rules-language is slightly less precise and sports a couple of minor hiccups, though not truly grievous ones. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and we get at least one massive full color artwork for each encounter! Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Perry Fehr has a mind of unbridled creativity and when he manages to get the rules-language done precisely, he delivers excellence. While this encounter-collection has a couple of different glitches, the encounters themselves are creative, diverse and cover a wide variety of themes: From the dark and horrific to sword and sorcery and even the gonzo, we cover a lot of themes and the encounters herein can all be used as a starting point for further adventures; they can be expanded or run on their own and have enough character to act as inspiring adventure seeds. In short - this is a great collection of encounters, but one that is hampered by a couple of minor hiccups. Still, this is definitely worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Encounter Pages IV
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Crusader Base Class
Publisher: ARMR Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/18/2017 09:09:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base class clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages, so let's take a look!

The crusader depicted here gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, good Fort- and Will-save progression, full BAB-progression and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields.

The crusader begins play with a so-called shade, the remnant of a famous hero that guides the crusader via telepathy and in the dreams of the character. The shade may attempt to communicate with other creatures, but doing so negates all crusader class abilities for 24 hours, making it a sucky base fighter sans bonus feats etc. for that duration. This shade ties into the guiding combat mechanic. At 1st level, the crusader may enter a trance as a move action, which allows for an offensive or defensive stance. A defensive stance yields +1/2 class level (minimum 1) to AC and Ref-saves, while the offensive stance yields that bonus to CMB and melee/ranged weapon damage rolls. Stances may be changed as a move action. The ability lasts until combat ends (enter here my long rant on how per-encounter abilities suck, make no sense in game and need a precise time measurement here). This ability may be used once at 1st level and an additional time every three levels tehreafter.

2nd level yields + Wisdom modifier to initiative (not a fan and keep that far away from mythic gameplay...) and also +1/2 class level to all Knowledge checks, allowing them to make them all untrained. This is somewhat problematic, as RAW Knowledge (local) of even the most obscure region suddenly works. 3rd level nets uncanny dodge and 8th level provides improved uncanny dodge.

Guided knowledge is can 1/day net you a bonus equal to 1/2 class level + Wisdom modifier to a skill check, with an additional daily use every 3levels thereafter. The ability specifies that it's gained at 6th level, while the table stipulates 3rd level - so, which is it? NASTY glitch. Starting at 5th level, the crusader may choose one weapon he is proficient with each day and gain +1 to atk and damage for that day, which increases by a further +1 at 11th and 17th level. Starting at 11th level, the crusader may switch the weapons to which this benefit applies as a swift action Wis-mod times per day, minimum 1. 14th level crusaders may always act during a surprise round and as a capstone, he gains both offensive and defensive bonuses when using guided combat and is always treated as flanking a foe.

Now, there are a total of 4 different types of shade included in the deal - these, beyond flavor, influence a grand total of one ability - guided strike, which is gained at 4th level and may be used 3 + Wis-mod times per day - until that point, you have basically zero choice, zero player agenda in the chassis. These guided strikes...could use some clarification. Can guided strike only be used during guided combat? I assume no, but then again: The ancestral shadow's ability for guided strike lets the shade attack for as many attacks as the crusader rained down upon his foes in the full-round action preceding it. Granted, it only works for full-round actions, but the damage output here is rather low due to a lack of buffing options for most other campaigns. You have to roll twice as many dice with not that significant chances of mattering, which further bogs down gameplay, so not the biggest fan here. Each shade also comes with a linear array of guided strike abilities, which are gained at every even level after gaining guided strike - 6th, 8th, etc. These include iterative attacks for the base ability, Hammer the Gap (not properly capitalized and a really opaque mess: You are supposed to add up damage before applying it to DR - got ya. Only the crusader's? Or also that of the shade? The ability also refers to the base ability by the wrong name, in a needlessly complicating hiccup.

The Feral Shade has basically the Vital Strike, standard action based version of the guided strike ability - which means that it'd see much more use in my games. Big plus: The strikes of the shade actually become magical this time around. The Noble Shade can use standard actions to attack roll twice and take the better result, though if it's a threat, the second roll is used as the crit confirmation, keeping things in check. Here, we actually get Vital Strike etc. feat-chain-wise as bonuses, though once again, formatting of feats deviates from the standard. Finally, the stalwart shade,c an, as a standard action attack and gain a +2 AC bonus until his next turn. This increases, but the wording falls apart once it is unlocked for full attacks. You see, the base ability ties the bonus granted to the attack...and the 6th level upgrade makes that +3 for a standard action single attack. When using it in conjunction with a full attack, that is lowered to +2...okay, got that. But does the crusader get the bonus for each attack in the full attack? The bonus granted is dodge and that stacks with itself. The other options provide swift aid another, bonuses to saves, etc.

The pdf also provides two feats: One for additional uses of Guided Combat and one for additional uses of, bingo, Guided Strike.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not perfect on either a formal or rules-level; I noticed several formatting issues and the table/ability-discrepancy is a big no-go. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports some nice, hand-drawn b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn't need any at this length.

Angel "ARMR" Miranda's Crusader base class is interesting - though its name is grossly misleading - this class has exactly nothing to do with religious wars or anything like that. The biggest issue of the class would be player agenda - it has exactly one meaningful choice, at 4th level - 1st - 3rd level crusaders are all the same. Worse, each shadow locks you into a none-too-efficient progression of abilities. Don't get me wrong: I like the concept very much; the visuals are cool and full of roleplaying potential. But the class feels a bit unfocused; the knowledge from beyond angle, the eternal training companion shtick, has been done before and better. The Living legend archetype by Dreamscarred Press in particular knocks this straight out. That being said, while I don't like the execution and think it seriously needs choice, better shades and a more profound impact of shades on how the class actually plays, the pdf does offer some concepts that a talented designer or GM can easily homebrew into something unique. Hence, and due to the PWYW-nature of the class, I will settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Crusader Base Class
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Universal Exploits
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/17/2017 06:50:26

An Endzeitgest.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 110 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page for notes, 1 page Kort'thalis glyph, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 101 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, first things first: This is a book for the Alpha Blue RPG - that means it's deliberately written as an homage to 70s' and 80s' scifi-porn spoofs. The eponymous Alpha Blue would be a space-station know for its decadence, sex and drugs. It is also that book that contains the base rules for the Alpha Blue system, a variant of Venger As'Nas Satanis' rules-lite VSd6-engine. If you are offended by drawn breasts, pornographic imagery or the like, you may want to skip this. That being said, Universal Exploits is slightly less explicit in its artworks than the first expansion for Alpha Blue, Girls Gone Rogue. Personally, I think it's pretty tame and that you can see more explicit material on youtube and in your average music video, but then again, I come from a European cultural background, so I do not profess to get the whole nakedness anxiety angle. Reader discretion is advised - if you need further guidance, feel free to read my reviews for the previous two books.

All right, that out of the way, I mentioned that I think Alpha Blue works best as a change of pace, as a beer-and-pretzels-style one-shot/mini-campaign. There's a reason for that and Girls Gone Rogue made that evident: The campaign setting aspect was very much one locale; we did not get the big picture, the overall context, which made Girld Gone Rogue feel a bit more haphazard and slightly like it was floating in space. Well, Universal Exploits would be the book that provides the context, that shows us the big picture. It is, in short the world- (or rather: Galaxy) book.

After a brief introductory story, we dive right in - namely into a variant expansion for ship to ship combat's table, which notoriously could prove extremely lethal...and not fun in any prolonged campaign. This would also be an indicator of the things to come - we begin with Venger's signature wealth of tables upon tables...and variant rules, like carrying over excess damage to other targets. There also would be a mechanic to get advantage on attributes...but those with two strong suits also suffer disadvantage on one, so choose wisely! Simple unarmed strike rules can also be found here, as can rules for domain management and clones - and yes, the latter touches upon the chance of psychotic clones, how to condition them, etc. - rules and flavor are entwined here and a massive table allows you to determine previous romantic/sexual relationships with given NPCs.

As you've noticed, there is some setting information in these flavor aspects; which brings me to a slight criticism: The rules-relevant unarmed strike, etc.-rules are mixed in between e.g. tables to roll xenophobia, hilarious and flavorful alien languages, where one's planet is in the context of the universe, travel time, cryosleep, rules for the GM to randomly determine a location for PCs or NPCs, tables to handle cockblocking, passenger-and agent-generators and the like. In short: I wish we got the rules first, the flavor later - the structure here can be a bit confusing if you need to look something up. Granted, with the system's simplicity, that won't happen often, but yeah.

Rules for career benefits, telepathy and drugs (including optional withdrawal) are generally concise - telepaths wear the signature gloves we know from many a science-fiction and generally will have either a faction allegiance...or the big guys will start looking for them. The multicultural cesspool Revan 111 features a massive table of rumors and secrets of 100 entries that can easily be used in other locations and alien cultural bias is similarly covered. 100 entries for the after-party range from the weird to the raunchy. Let me quote the book: "A corndog is being used as a dildo on an Orion slave girl in full view of the party's attendees. The one holding the corndog looks like a tall hairy beast with pointy ears and a small abdominal creature growing out of him. The walking shag-carpet is wearing an orange leisure suit."

That entry is basically the tone in a nutshell. 100 religious practices for the often problematic space gods, 100 lesser (i.e. not sex) desires, 100 aspects of an alien world - there are a ton of details to be found within these pages.

After this massive section, we move on to some advice regarding the running of adventures and how to make them yourself before we take a look at one of the central antagonists of the setting: The Federation. Corrupt, bloated and mired in bureaucracy, it enriches the rich and ruthlessly exploits the masses...for spacers are belonging to the very much dwindled middle class that is on the verge of extinction; they are basically the wild-card in the class struggle. Universal Exploits, the eponymous organization, would be basically an organization that hands spacers assignments - think of it as somewhat like Cowboy Bebop's headhunter news, only that it doesn't broadcast assignments widely and instead provides them to spacers. There are some pros and cons for joining UX, but if you want steady employment, they are the place to go in the final frontier. Thus, we begin the module-section of this book with a massive read-aloud box and the PCs signing up.

And here begins the adventure component of the book. Potential players should jump to the conclusion - SPOILERS abound!

...

..

.

All right, only Space DMs around? Great! So, the first thing you need to know is that you won't get an encounter-by-encounter write-up, no read-aloud texts or the like - the adventure presented is pretty much a skeletal structure, that the SDM has to flesh out. If you want go-play modules, you won't find them here. If, however, you're looking for interesting story-lines to flesh out, then this book delivers. It should be noted that the structure is a bit strange - e.g. the "Rebels without a Cause"-sequence has the same header as an adventure and they flow into one another. So, what are the storylines about? The first module centers around shipments of the Purple Prizm, a cult drink that acts as aphrodisiac and has religious significance for some alien cultures. Shipments have been recently intercepted and the trail leads towards the Vertuda triangle, where the PCs can meet Aleister Franken; meet a reptilian Zedi and battle mad metal militia - yep, stats included. But the PCs will sooner or later catch up with sunbelt distribution and there find a hostile starship and the true masterminds behind the brewing conflict between the species reliant on Purple Prizm.

The second adventure, "Origins of the Mauve Council", also features Purple Prizm - the Kyntari generate a distilled, more potent version...which can make the Mauve Council change the very rules of the universe. The Kyntari have determined that New Earth needs to be wiped, but the PCs should save the one worthy being...but alas, the PCs will be caught and need to break free. "The PCs will have to use their imaginations in order to free themselves." That's the guidance you'll get. I'm not complaining, mind you - but I think it's important to know how the material is presented to avoid disappointment. On the plus-side: Have I mentioned fighting space ninjas?

The next of the scenarios deals with a planned supermerger of World Space Burgers and Star Cola: Taste the Next Generation! - both companies having addictive flavor profiles. The federation has its own nasty division, intergalactic comestibles has its own nasty research that is threatening to really wreck citizens and the companies - millions of tax-payer bucks make for a huge advantage. The PCs are tasked to wipe this secret division from the face of the universe - and to do so, they'll have to go through a vessel and find the base. Neither vessel or base are depicted or elaborated upon.

Pussy-Chasers: The legend of Oral deals with a strange sex-poor universe and the task of finding Malachite's gate - in the sex-rich universe beyond, there is the mythic blade called Kort'thalis, a ridiculously powerful weapon that may well change the very universe.

Beyond these adventure sketches, the pdf also contains set-pieces - these include a red-hologram district and Grabba the Butt's pleasure palace. Beyond these a quick chart for determining NPC possessions and land rush tables complement the content section of the pdf.

We also receive a nice two-page Alpha Blue character-sheet, once in color and once in b/w. in the tradition with the books in this series, we get amazing player-friendly blue-print-style maps of space ships, penned by Glynn Seal: Exploit class, milkshake class, feral class and huntsman class...and Grabba's massive pleasure palace also gets an amazing, detailed map, ending the book on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches in either criteria. The rules-language is much more precise than in Girls Gone Rogue. Kudos! Layout adheres to the cool and distinct style in 2-column b/w we know from the Alpha Blue books. The b/w-artworks are diverse and well-made, covering various distinct styles, ranging from massive 1-page b/w-spoofs on scifi material or three-breasted, tentacle-armed strippers. The electronic version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The electronic version comes with a massive 600 dpi high-res jpeg for the Grabba pleasure palace, milkshake and exploit ship, but strange, not the other two - which is a bit odd to me. Two of the artworks inside have color highlights and the maps similarly have a gorgeous, used look in color, though the softcover print version is b/w. It should be noted that the pdf clocks in at a massive 100 MBs, so if you're using electronic devices with a very limited HD, that's something to bear in mind.

Venger As'Nas Satanis Universal Exploits is the book for Alpha Blue that makes it work as more than just a brief sojourn. Now, the weakest part of the book would be the adventure sketches - while stronger than in GGR, they still could all use more details and require some serious improvisation and work by the SDM to run. Don't get me wrong: Idea-wise, they all are winners, brimming with imagination. At the same time, I wished that the book had taken the time to completely structure at least one of the sketches presented. This structure-issue also hounds the lack of distinction between dressing and crunch.

That being said, Universal Exploits should still be considered to be a resounding success. Why? It contextualizes Alpha Blue in a concise and interesting meta-setting and actually manages to make that setting feel compelling and interesting. Though setting does not really properly describe it. You see, this book does not describe: "This is how the federation works, planets X, Y and Z can be found there, here are religions 1, 2 and 3." Instead, it establishes the basic concepts, the leitmotifs, the theme of this massive universe. Basically, you get all the tools to make this universe your own and emphasize/de-emphasize the components that intrigue you and your group.

In short, the book allows you to run campaigns in the universe; not one-shots, not one-week-end campaigns, but proper campaigns. While GGR is an optional "more of the same"-expansion, Universal Exploits should be considered to be a must-have expansion for Alpha Blue. From the better ship combat tables to the added details, this makes the system and setting just work better in every conceivable way.

Now, this does not change that this is a winking parody of space, a celebration of 70s/80s scifi-porn spoofs. It's still somewhat puerile, it's highly referential in its humor and it's not a system that will make you play highly tactical, strategic space battles. It's a beer-and-pretzels rules-lite game and Universal Exploits does not change that.

However, it does allow those groups that WANT to play a longer campaign with the system, that love the tone, play longer, more involved stories. This book generates the tools for the SDM to make the universe make sense.

How to rate this, then? Well, if you're not interested by Alpha Blue, then this book will not change that. If you liked Alpha Blue and wanted to see the bigger picture, if you wanted the toolkit for the overall picture, the campaign setting toolkit, if you will, then this is the must-have expansion. Design-wise, it is more precise than GGR, but still inherits some minor weaknesses in the structure of the presentation of the material. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Universal Exploits
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Dragons are Above My Pay Grade
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/17/2017 06:48:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ~3/4 of a page SRD, leaving us with 20 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The PCs have been hired by the Grimples Mining Company, who has a lucrative gig going on the Sunstone Island and the adventure begins in the office of Peter Grimples, the amiable half-orc chief of the mining operations...who has just received dire news from one of the local, gold-skinned kobolds: You see, the kobolds had once been enslaved by a dread dragon, who was later slain by a legendary kobold hero, one A'uapa. Now, the kobold priests have actually returned the draconic monstrosity from the dead - and in 9 days, the beast will soar, annihilating the mining company and all workers...after the dragon has receives 1 ton of gold for every century of death, obviously.

Thankfully, not all kobolds consider a renewed servitude to the beast a good choice and thus, the kobold renegade Kekoa shares crucial information with the PCs: There are 4 locales of legend that can help defeat the dragon, all of which can be found on different peninsulas, about 20 miles (or 2 days worth of traveling) from one another...so the bad news would be that the PCs, sans tricks to hasten their journey, will not be capable of visiting them all before the dragon comes to rain death upon everyone.

So, fortunately for the PCs, the ancient kobold hero did leave a legacy of tools the PCs can use against the overwhelming force of the dragon - on the starshaped peninsulas that ring the island are different locations that all contain edges that can help even out the playing field in the incoming draconic götterdämmerung for the miners...there's just one issue: The peninsulas are about 20 miles from another - in the lush, dense tropical jungle, that amounts to two full days of journey, so unless the PCs have some seriously good ideas, they won't be capable of tackling all the locales.

Indeed, in the very beginning, the PCs will already have means to influence the final encounter - they can persuade the miners to (badly) shoot hails of arrows against the dragon...and they may find the rather potent mango whiskey, including proper alchemical drug stats - cool! So yes, this is a module where everything matters...but also one which requires some serious wilderness trips.

Which brings me to an interesting component: The information provided for the random encounters is much more detailed than you'd expect from a module of this length: Beyond more encounters to choose from, we receive information on how long the PCs can march in the clime; we get small tables to determine the weather; we even get environmental hazards and features with proper DCs and rules....oh, and charts to determine when a given random encounter happens. This is frankly more detail than what I would have expected and it helps make the transition from area to area feel significant within the context of the module - and this is important, for it is what keeps the respective module from feeling just like a sequence of connected adventure locales.

Now, thanks to the kobold renegade, the PCs will have a general idea of what to expect - so what do the respective secrets of A'uapa? The first location would be the pool of dragon's bane, which is defended by a fiendish gorilla and a fiendish fish - dipping weaponry in the pool nets a bonus to atk and damage and also provide a poison that can eliminate the dragon's ability to fly. The second such location would be a fully mapped mini-dungeon, the cave of winds, where basking in the elemental winds, after braving crawlspaces and animated statues, may not only end up with an edge regarding attack and damage bonuses and immunity to frightful presence, but also temporary hit points and immunity to the dragon's critical hits.

In the third locale, we have the ley line grove, which actually is guarded by some of the local kobolds - but not only them; pixie-like kobolds-sprites also guard this place. In this locale Diplomacy is an option and the boons the PCs can take out of this place pertain better chances of success regarding the magic employed versus the dragon - that and 2 spells that can really wreck the dragon's defenses - while these affect only dragons, I wouldn't allow them on a permanent basis in my games, as they do contribute to the trivialization of draconic defenses.

The final place the PCs can visit would be the sulfur temple - another fully-mapped mini-dungeon, though this one does feature quite an array of traps, pockets of gas and bad air. After braving an elemental guardian, the PCs can claim A'uapa's amulet, which provides a one-time fire resistance 20 to the wearer...as well as increased defenses. The benefits the PCs can accumulate are summed up for the GM's sake - there are basically two ways of dealing with Varuag, the resurrected wyrm - either fighting him in the mines or defending the mining town. The weakened dragon clocks in at CR 6, just fyi, and is a potent adversary for the PCs...but if they play their cards right, they can actually triumph versus this potent, nasty foe.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - apart from a few instances, where I noticed missed italicizations and the like, I have nothing serious to complain about. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard and the the pdf is pretty light on the art, but the one piece that's here is nice and on par with the cover. The pdf I have has no bookmarks, which constitutes a slight comfort detriment. The cartography of both island and small dungeons is well-made and in full-color, but no player-friendly versions are provided, which is a minor bummer.

Jeff Gomez knows what he's doing. His experience shows. Instead of battling a weak-sauce Medium dragon, we're t5alking about a HUGE monstrosity here. And the dragon itself is potent. Even after being weakened by the long death, even with all the edges and advantages the PCs can accumulate. So yeah, I'm pretty happy to report that this dragon is a proud member of his race, a worthy foe. With the exception of the poison and spells (which, I feel, dragons would have purged from the face of the earth, had they known about them...I mean...no flight? OUCH!) the PCs also don't end up with grossly overpowered stuff for their level, which is yet another big plus. Thirdly, but not lastly, I should mention that the poison and spells are significantly less useful when fighting dragons that are not as weakened...so if triumphant PCs develop delusions of grandeur, they'll be in for a rude awakening sooner rather than later.

That is a big thing for me.

Why? Because I like my dragons as the ultimate apex predator. As the super-smart force of elemental destruction that will annihilate you, unless your plans are flawless and take into account all contingencies. Heck, they still may. I Like my dragons big and nigh unstoppable and whenever I read a low-level "slay the dragon"-module, I feel a bit of bile rising up in my mouth. Before you're asking - Red Hand of Doom was an apocalyptic high-level experience in my game and I hated the fad when everything had "dragon" added to it back in 3.X. I know, I digress, but it's important for you to know where I'm coming from with this - for me, as a person, this is not a module I enjoy. In my game, each of the ostensible anti-dragon tools would have been destroyed or rigged to be a horrible death trap by the dragon.

Then again, that is a personal preference and I am very much cognizant of this fact. Which leaves me but one serious logic bug in the background-story of the module as a serious complaint. You probably won't mind, but I am pretty big regarding stuff like that, so there you go: So, the kobolds have priests that are powerful enough to return a dragon from the dead after centuries. Why don't these priests simply use their titanic might to squash the mining camp? That's at least 5th level spellcasting. If the PCs are the best the miners have regarding defense...then a single caster of this potency can annihilate the camp. The kobolds don't need the dragon. Yes, the priests ostensibly captured the dragon's soul...but if they're so keen on the return of their deity, if that did not require the high-level spell...then why not simply do it? Why did no one capture the soul of the dragon-slaying hero as a failsafe or a better leader? Yeah, I get the fear dragons instill etc. pp. - I understand the rationale. But once I got to think more about the premise, it stopped making sense to me.

But I am weird in that way and the chances are pretty good that the like will not come up in your game; my players would utterly balk at the justifications, though, and I know that some folks out there think in a similar manner...so yeah, as far as I'm concerned, the set-up could be better.

At the same time, this should not be taken to mean that this is a bad module; quite the contrary: What we have here is a fun, inexpensive and well-crafted module. In spite of the minor flaws, this is entertaining and bombastic in the right ways. While it misses the mark for excellence by a slight margin, I feel justified in rating this 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. As far as low-level dragon-slaying modules are concerned, this one gets it done in a surprisingly well-crafted manner.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dragons are Above My Pay Grade
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