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5E Mini-Dungeon #038: The Spinner's Hole
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/04/2017 11:37:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike many 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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!

There is a little village called "Spinner's Folly" - and it may be aptly named, for they have an...interesting local tradition: Thrice a year, nature-affine adventurers are invited to a local dungeon, the selfsame one depicted herein, and given an interesting task: Enter the dungeon known as the eponymous spinner's hole...and subdue the giant spiders therein. You see, the local economy is relying completely on the giant spider silk, so killing them as per the usual adventurer modus operandi just won't do. This also means that this level 1 adventure would make for an interesting "man/womanhood rite" type of introduction to the adventuring life. Kyle Crider’s conversion manages to translate the evocative original rather well, offering proper hyperlinks and diverse skill uses.

Conclusion:

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

Jonathan Ely's "Spinner's Hole" is perhaps the most concise of his mini-dungeons that I've analyzed so far: On paper, it may not sound like much; the traps, for example, with their exclusive emphasis on poisoned darts, could be more diverse. In play, however, the module actually works really well. I used it as part of playtesting and the unique entry vector of the scenario with the emphasis on the odd, local economy/custom, alongside with the challenge of dealing with swarms at level 1 made this a fascinating module that turned out to be more fun than its very focused theme would lead you to believe. Better yet, Kyle Crider has obviously taken the time and effort to make the conversion suitably nice, losing nothing of the module’s original appeal. It is hence that I award this 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #038: The Spinner's Hole
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5E Mini-Dungeon #037: The Unreachable Terror
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/04/2017 11:35:24

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. Unlike many 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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!

All right, this mini-dungeon presumes that one PC is subject to some sort of divine quest: A remote and almost unknown shrine of the deity, situated on an island where the eponymous village of Unreach is found, has been subjected to an unpleasant curse: The island looks like a horseshoe bent almost to closure, with steep cliffs everywhere but on the Southern side, where a shore can be found. The aforementioned village is also known as the edge of the world and the includes fluff-depictions of notable PCs and a box that contains investigation clues to be unearthed. Or rather, it kinda does. You see, the table noted “Diplomacy” as the skill to use in a glaring conversion relic.

The trail of said clues identifies the plague affecting the village as demon fever and points towards the doing of hags...and indeed, the PCs will have to deal with night hags here...but even after winning, they will not have prevailed; astute PCs will note the bloated corpse of a villager they have probably talked to - said villager would be the final hag, who has infiltrated the village - dealing with her final concludes the curse, with the night hag heartstones providing a means to deal with the plague. Problem, btw.: The hags in question are hyperlinked to their PFRPG-iteration and no notes or link for the properties of heartstones are provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. It should be noted that here, I have seen the artwork before in another context, but to make up for that, the map's more beautiful and detailed than usual, which is actually a plus for me.

Kyle Crider’s conversion of Justin Andrew Mason’s module is rushed and very barebones. Neither the primary antagonists, nor the skill-use table have been properly translated, making this a half-hearted conversion at best. While I like the set-up, the execution leaves a lot to be desired in 5e. My final verdict will be 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #037: The Unreachable Terror
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Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warrior II
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2017 04:12:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second expansion for the psychic warrior class clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

First things first: In order to use all parts of this book, you need Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warriors I; that becomes relevant in the feat-chapter, which btw. also features the reprints of Tap Animus and Extra Animus- you know, the feats, that frickin' should have been in part I because more than half of the content was based on the frickin' animus system?

...

Ähem. Sorry. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, new archetype!

The pdf introduces the Silhouette, whose signature ability replaces warrior's path and expanded path, but retains second path and twisting path + pathweaving thus don't work, but still can be traded in via archetypes. The silhouette gains shadowboxing, which manifests a fully-healed so-called shadow upon regaining power points. This construct can share the space of the silhouette freely and may even blend with its shadow, but cannot stray further than close range from the character before winking out and reappearing in the character's space. If the shadow is destroyed, the silhouette can, as a full-round action that provokes AoOs, reform it by expending character level power points. The silhouette and the shadow are linked, sense-wise, which replaces the first level's bonus feat. Directing the shadow double is a free action, just fyi.

The shadow (stats on page 5, btw. - the pdf has a "page X" remnant here) gets darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, is a construct, shares the creator's AC and saves, but also is a construct (OUCH). It has neither Con nor Int, Wis and Cha 10 and its Strength and Dexterity are equal to that of the creator. It has 1/2 the creator's maximum hit points and duplicates changes to reach, size, etc. of the creator. Thankfully, it cannot ready or delay actions, but it can use all combat and teamwork feats of the silhouette and may use skills (see below) and abilities as though sentient. The silhouette may share bonuses and effects affecting him also affect the shadow, but this does not double bonuses - so no double-sharing. Kudos for catching that. The shadow can copy the weapons wielded by the silhouette and the complex ability manages to prevent consumable weapon abuse, though, for VERY low-powered games, it should be noted that it can generate indefinite amounts of nonmagical ammunition - which can be problematic in very resource-conscious games or those using ammunition cost as low-level balancing for firearms etc. Speaking of potential hiccups: A sidebar talks about interaction with soulknife multiclass options, which brings me to one concern, namely panoply of blades and the like - while the pdf cleanly allows that, I'd strongly suggest to GMs to disallow that combo. Don't say I didn't warn you...The prestige class progression notes don't come with such a caveat from yours truly, mind you.

At 4th and 7th level, the silhouette chooses a skill he has ranks in - from here on out, the shadow may use that skill with the silhouette's bonus instead of its own. Whenever a +2 bonus would be gained by the path skills class feature, this process may be repeated for another skill. At 6th level, the silhouette may gain a shadow talent instead of a martial power - if he does, he never gains the martial power class feature. What are shadow talents? Well, at 2nd level and whenever the archetype would qualify for a psychic warrior bonus feat, he can choose to take a shadow talent. These...are potent. As a standard action, the silhouette may expend his psionic focus, detonating his shadow, inflicting 1d6 points of untyped damage to all creatures within 10 feet - this ignores hardness, all immunities (is there immunity to untyped damage anywhere??) and all types of damage reduction...oh, and guess what: The shadow isn't even destroyed by this. It reappears unharmed next round. Yeah...even with saves for half damage and a 1/round caveat, all that defense-ignoring is overkill in my book. Further roaming for silhouettes, Combat Reflexes...and there are some AMAZING tactical options here: As a standard action, recall the shadow to one's square, regaining psionic focus, for example - move action with Psionic Meditation, btw. Or the shifting of positions as a properly codified teleportation effect. Or TWFing cloned weapons...

Oh, but if you're thinking by now: "Why isn't endy screaming brimstone right now?" Well, the shadow is limited. Unless via some shadow talents, the shadow cannot make actions on its own. It can flank and use roll-less abilities, but it is mostly limited to Follow-Up: 1/round, when the silhouette misses an attack, the shadow may make an attack versus the target as a free action, even if it's not the shadow's turn - provided it can reach the target. Penalties on the original attack are carried over to the shadow's duplication of the attack. Shadow Talents can be used to add iterative attacks to the shadow's follow-up ability. As a standard action, the right shadow talent does allow the silhouette to delimit the action-limit imposed on the shadow, which also allows for interesting strategies. Limited, scaling damage redistribution to the shadow, channeling touch powers through it, sharing non-general feats...and there is an option to gain two shadows...but, for balance's sake, they thankfully still share the same pool of actions.

All in all, a very powerful, but also extremely cool archetype - and frankly, I think it works as a rather strong option in regular fantasy campaigns. While it’s not made for grittier games, I really enjoy the engine it employs in all but details. Two big thumbs up from yours truly!

The second part of the pdf contains the feats...and a bunch of them frankly should have been in Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warriors I. Metapsionic Animus, for example, which builds on the halo knight's animus-psionics engine and allows for the paying of metapsionic costs with animus (sharing the delimiting concern I voiced there). Psi-Animus Assault further increases the damage of Psionic Fist or Psionic Weapon by +1d6 for 1 point of animus, +1d6 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, with correspondingly higher animus costs. Ranged Martial Power...does NOTHING. You can use martial power when making ranged attacks. Yeah, you could do that before - ranged TOUCH attacks were prohibited by the class feature...for good reason, I might add...Warrior's Focus is pretty insane - it nets you an additional psionic focus that can be used only in conjunction with warrior's path abilities. Not getting near my game.

The three warrior's paths introduced in the previous pdf also get feats that expand upon them (why were they not in #1?): Advanced Anomalous Path adds the trance benefit to touch AC for powers, spells and psi- and spell-like abilities and increases the animus gained from the maneuver by increasing the die-size to d6s. Advanced Hungering Path renders those that fail a save versus your powers or abilities in the debuff aura sickened for 2 round. The drain is enhanced to also inflict 1d6 hit point damage, +1d6 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. It also nets you temporary hit points when leeching thus. These thankfully do not stack with themselves...kudos there. The Advanced Outrider Path's benefit is pretty nasty when passing an opponent within 5 ft. with the mount granted from the trance, you deal Wisdom modifier force damage, though it thankfully has a balancing caveat that makes this only possible 1/round/enemy...though I still wish that limit would make some sense in-game.

Advanced Gladiator Path lets you move 5 feet when in trance and failing a combat maneuver or having an enemy fail a combat maneuver against you. Additionally, the maneuver of the path may be made 1/round as a free action as part of an attack - expend the psionic focus and make a combat maneuver attempt as part of the attack action. Adrenal Overchannel allows you to use Overchannel to grant yourself a +1 insight bonus to atk, +2 insight bonus to damage rolls instead of the ML-bonus. This increases at 8th and 15th level to +2/+4 and +3/+6, respectively, while conversely increasing the damage taken to 3d8 and 5d8, respectively.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level - for the most part, this is as precise and amazing as we've come to expect from Dreamscarred Press, though the "see page X" glitch and the feat that does nothing are both uncharacteristic blunders. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the nice artwork on the cover is duplicated herein, making for a nice visualization of the silhouette. The pdf comes properly and fully bookmarked this time around - nice! The pdf also comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

I really, really wished Dreamscarred Press had chosen a different way to split the content between this pdf and Psychic Warriors Augmented I. I honestly consider it really sucky that part #1 lacked the feat required for the archetype...and now, we have the supplemental material for the warrior's paths introduced in #1 here, in #2...alongside more feats made for the halo knight...and nothing for the amazing silhouette.

Let me make that abundantly clear: The silhouette is glorious. I love it. The dynamic gameplay, strategic choices, the limits imposed and means to offset them - Chris Bennett and Forrest Heck really show their design-muscles here. Big time. The archetype, on its own is pretty much pure amazing, if pretty potent. The same, alas, cannot be unanimously said for the feats and the distribution of content. The soulknives-installments didn't have that issue to this extent, so why start now? Especially when the solution would have been so simple: Anomalous path and all the Path of War crossover Halo Knight stuff in one pdf, reaver and silhouette in the other. Paths and feats that build on paths in the same pdf. Done. Not that hard. I assume that some snags in the production cycle caused this decision, but it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Such operations always hurt the respective files.

That being said, even while the majority of the feats herein build on material from book #1, the pdf is clearly designated as such and makes that clear on the product page, so it gets a pass in that regard. Still, the feat-chapter leaves me more ambivalent than I'd like and I'd strongly suggest GMs checking these very, VERY carefully before allowing them...but still...get this if the silhouette even remotely interests you. While I do not agree with the soulknife-notes, that is the only big flaw I could find with it and it's based on my ambivalence regarding the mechanically amazing, but balance-wise problematic options there, and NOT, let me reiterate, NOT the fault of the archetype.

Tl;dr: Silhouette = amazing; supplemental material = not so amazing. Still, for the more than fair and low asking price, this is well worth a final verdict of 4 stars. If you're playing a really high-powered game/enjoy Path of War-style gameplay and have the first pdf, feel free to add a star to this, as you'll get more oomph out of the halo knight.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warrior II
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Ioun Artifacts
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2017 04:11:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Letters from the Flaming Crab-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Ioun stones are magic items near and dear to my heart; and, after the usual, well-written framing narrative penned on the world-hopping UCS Flaming Crab, the pdf makes one thing clear – the ioun stones herein are not priced; they are intended to have the proper GM-control and they should represent unique treasure. They all clock in at either CL 12 or, most of the time, CL 20 – which may be closer to how they were envisioned in the first place, but at the same time, this makes judging their power/when they’re appropriate not necessarily easier. Thus, GMs using this book should have a bit of confidence in their skills in judging when and where making these available makes sense.

Okay, so the ioun stones portrayed herein belong to one of three distinct categories. The first of these would be chakra stones, which are born from beings that attain a sense of enlightenment that makes them disperse in the multiverse, reaching a higher state of existence. One is provided for each chakra, and they provide additional benefits to those that can open their chakras. No more than one such ioun stone can be assigned to each chakra. Additionally, the benefits of these chakra-themed ioun stones increase and provide some synergy benefits. This idea, per se, is pretty cool: Considering that the chakra-system presented in Occult Adventures can use a bit of a power upgrade, I can see these having a place in the game. So what do they do?

Well, to take the first one: The root stone nets you DR/- equal to the number of chakra stones being worn or the root chakra’s benefits, whichever is higher. If the chakra’s open, the character also gets fast healing for 1 round equal to the number of chakras opened. Okay, does that reset for each opened chakra at +1 or does it only activate upon opening the root chakra? When the character has the sacral stone, he also gets a bonus to CMD equal to the number of stones worn to resist being lifted off the floor or moved from the current position. Why not simply state the maneuvers to which that applies?? You know, for proper rules-language? Or provide a bonus that also applies to saves against such effects, at least. With the crown stone, we also get a 1/day Fort-save reroll – sans action, I assume. Now, this may sound nitpicky, but it really annoyed me: Ioun stones are WORN, not wielded. They are not weapons. The pdf constantly calls the character using them “wielder.” Then again, that may just be me, so it will not influence the final verdict.

What will, however, influence the final verdict would be stuff like this wording: “This stone grants the wielder the ability to use fly once per day, as cast by a 5th level caster.” – so, is that supposed to be a spell-completion? Spell-trigger? Does it grant the wearer the SP to do so? Why is the CL different from that of the item, which is 20th? The synergy bonuses between stones and open chakras of this item provide fly speed maneuverability improvements, so do these stack? Note that, yes, there are ioun stones out there that duplicate spells. Their wording, alas, is different and…precise.

This is really, really weird. Another ability should provide a defensive shield – you know, one that deals damage to the attacker if you’re hit. It sports this non-entity of a wording: “When an attacker strikes the wielder with its body or a hand-held weapon…” – so, what is a hand-held weapon? Do weapons with reach qualify? What about tail spurs? Tentacles? Claws? “body or hand-held weapon” is NOT proper rules-language. We also have e.g. a healing effect that has no activation action here, a sonic cone that lacks an activation action (AND a saving throw!) – it’s weird…particularly since some of the wordings do get issues like that right. Still, as a whole, this section does not live up to the level of care and quality I’ve come to expect from Flaming Crab Games. It’s a great concept, but the execution needs serious fine-tuning. Oh, know what the capstone, the legendary guidance of the ascended master that you get for getting all 7 artifacts is? 3/day augury, 90% success. WTF. Totally worthwhile. Right?

Okay, so, let’s move on to category 2, which would be dragonstones, first featured in the Letter on Tiny dragons…as non-artifacts. With a theme of activation by tiny dragon familiars. The ones herein are artifacts, born of the sacrifice of a dragon and another being. These are not continuously active and must be activated intentionally: A dragon must sing the name of the dragon that died making the stone as a standard action, unlocking it. After that, the character to benefit from it must use a standard action to activate it. Each stone’s abilities come in 4 steps: The higher the HD of the dragon, the more potent the benefits the non-dragon will get: 5 HD and every 5 HD thereafter unlock a new ability. Unless otherwise noted, lower HD abilities are retained when higher HD options are unlocked. Dragon stones for brine, astral, crystal, dream, etheric, lunar, magma, occult, prism, solar, time and void are provided. And know what’s weird? In spite of being artifacts, none of the dragonstones herein were as interesting as the non-artifact versions…

Unfortunately, the issues that plagued the chakra-stones can also be found here: CLs missing. “effective caster levels”, which are RAW not something you find in PFRPG; the ability to cast a spell that is not codified as a SP etc. and thus makes it weird to determine effects, DC, whether the dragon or character’s stats are used, whether spell failure is a thing, etc. Also weird: Since the stones can be activated an infinite number of times per day, 1/day limitations can feel strange – is that per character or a total maximum? “Once per day while the 5 HD power of the brine dragonstone is active, the wielder acts as if she is the target of the slipstream spell.” Okay, CL? Dragon HD? Stone? How is this choice activated? First activation? User’s choice? I don’t even have to try to poke more holes into these; I could poke more than I honestly care to do. We also have abilities that obviously should be immediate actions, etc.

And then we have the elephants in the room: Infinite activation and steep action economy. You literally need a dragon on hand AND basically spend a whole round of the dragon AND the character to activate the items. For, what often amounts to spells in a can. Infinite spell use is something I personally despise, but even in a game where that’d be okay, you need, literally a really powerful dragon. And frankly, I cannot picture a single instance where this use of a dragon’s action would be justified. Not one. The original, non-artifact dragonstones focused on unique utility effects, often modified spells, and while the ones herein are somewhat similar, their combat utility is horrendous.

For that, the dragonstones presented are too tame, not unique enough. I like the idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. And yes, if you play with dragon familiars etc., you run into another issue – namely potentially infinite activation…for unlike the previously-released ones, the options here are…well, less cool.

Okay, so what about the third category? These would be zodiac stones: Standard abilities are granted to all wearers; matching abilities are only granted to wearers with the same sign as the stone. Ruling abilities are granted to creatures during the time period ruled by the zodiac sign. Birth abilities are only granted on the creature’s birthday and only if its zodiac sign matches the stone. Once again, we have issues regarding the wording, regarding spell activation (see e.g. the agate ellipsoid for an example of an ioun stone that duplicates a spell precisely…)…and I’ll come right out and say it: This is the single, most cumbersome system I’ve seen for a magic item. It requires not only that you have fixed birthdays for the PCs; it also requires that you know (and track!) their sign AND when it rules. That is a lot of stuff to keep track of. The benefits the item-class provides for this added book-keeping had to be amazing for this level of book-keeping… and it is, frankly, underwhelming. On birthdays, we usually for example get an increase of energy resistance and a spell-in-a-can. Oh. Great. Sorry, but the pay-off is not adequate. Really weird: Clarification on the chakra stones’ voice of the ascended master is in this chapter, at the other end of the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, though e.g. placement of the aforementioned box is weird; on a rules-language level, this is by far the weakest pdf Flaming Crab Games has released in the whole line. In short: It needs a rewrite. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series, with neat, fitting artworks in color and b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben Dowell, J Gray, Phoebe Harris and Scott Young had ideas for 3 utterly unique and cool ioun stone categories. Alas, the execution of these really leaves something to be desired. If you’ve been looking for artifacts, storied unique items with hooks etc. – you won’t find that here. What you’ll find instead are three item-systems that are extremely rough around the edges.

All items herein require serious investment to use and don’t provide sufficient incentive to do so; in fact, they all feel relatively generic, more so than generic magic items sometimes do; compared to e.g. Legendary Games’ item-pdfs, this falls flat big time.

Is it possible for the GM to use these? Yeah, sure. You can polish them, clean up the action economy and use the material herein. But, from my perspective, there simply isn’t enough incentive to do so. For that, the benefits are too vanilla, too “been there, done that”, too non-game-changing – spells in a can, minor bonuses and resistances…why bother? Mechanically, this falls flat and while I like all of the ideas for the ioun stone categories here, I really loathe their implementation. If they worked flawlessly, this would be a pdf for a very niche audience; when one third of the items need a level of book-keeping and tracking that make even me, as a passionate simulationalist, cringe, that’s not good. When the benefits don’t properly reward you for the like, then we have an issue. The other systems have their own issues and, beyond feeling anti-climactic for accumulating multiple artifacts/ dragging around a dragon for activation, similarly have enough problems that require fixing.

I’m sorry. I feel like a prick, but this is not up to Flaming Crab Games’ usual level of quality. I can’t imagine a campaign where you’d be using the material herein; all 3 item classes are flawed in their own way, as well as in a general way regarding rules-language as a whole. I like the ideas herein, but ultimately, I can’t go higher than 1.5 stars, rounded up for the ideas and the nice framing narrative in the front. I’d strongly advise you to get pretty much the whole series of pdfs – they tend to be creative and amazing…but sit this one out unless your campaign specifically demands for a concept featured herein…and you’re willing to spend the time to polish this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Ioun Artifacts
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Temple of the Opal Goddess
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/31/2017 04:53:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module by Pyromaniac Press‘ Micah Watt clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This is a module set within the sword-coast region of the Forgotten Realms, and, as a module, the following discussion of the module will contain SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

Antivar Ravengard, nephew of none other than Ulver Ravengard, has gone missing on an archaeological expedition – but things are more complex than replying to the ransom demand provided by a badly mauled servant…for the poor sod is caught within the web of lady Lashpera. Once a decadent noble woman looking for immortality, she found what she was looking for with the opal of the eponymous goddess – but alas, it did not grant eternal youth, which rendered her an immensely powerful and rather insane force of destruction. Lashpera was slain, her opal cracked – but alas, Fraz Urb’Luu took notice and sent her twisted soul back. However, strangely, proximity to her erstwhile temple, the place where she was once worshiped as a living goddess, would diminish her strength, make her ever more feeble…so she had to scheme. The has manipulated Antivar into the expedition – and now is a captive of the orcs that have now taken to using her former temple as a base, slowly feeding information to the shaman. Meanwhile, a Gebbite scholar, the Archivist, observes as the Opal Avatar form of Lashpera is slowly regaining strength, as the connection is intensified by the proximity of her reborn demon form and her erstwhile, potent Opal body.

Unwilling to expose herself in her weakened state, Lashpera waits for the inevitable rescue team – and that’s where the PCs come in, as they travel from Baldur’s Gate (or another locale) towards the Wood of Sharp Teeth, where the temple lies hidden. A big plus: PCs that do their leg-work beforehand and check out folklore, religious history etc. may find out more and deduce some hints regarding the complex constellation of events that acts as a background story here. The encounters on the road provide a nice mix of mundane dressing, a bit of combat and some truly magical experiences – like quicklings trying to figure out who’s fastest. The temple itself, primary location of the adventure, is depicted in an impressive level of detail: The trollclaw orc tribe reacts organically to intrusion, with infiltration, sounding the alarm and time of day etc. being taken into account. Fallback strategies and detailed guidance make this aspect of the adventure feel rather organic and believable.

As in all Pyromaniac Press-releases, we do get a pretty thorough assortment of well-written read-aloud text – and it is in the details that this sandboxy dungeon sets itself apart: Small details like entrails used for haruspex divination helping with contact other plane and similar touches create an overall immersive experience as the PCs explore this place.

However, the module’s true challenge, as you have gleaned from the background, is more than just dealing with some orcs – in the depths of the temple, a horrid serpent awaits and an aura of calcification that suffuses the whole area makes for a nasty additional complication that may be hastened in its onset by wearing the wrong piece of magical equipment – again, it is a small touch, but it makes sense, makes the place feel organic. Furthermore, its origins can be unearthed and may make for a truly fantastic and puzzling further adventuring opportunity, but I digress. Speaking of the serpent – a side-bar explains its reactions to intrusions into its domain in a concise manner.

The potentially best outcome would probably be that the PCs manage to reassemble the sword Granfang, the blade that once destroyed the Opal, and that the deduce the strange connection of the two incarnations of Lashpera, stopping her attempt at reincarnation and besting her slowly reviving avatar form….but then again, just rescuing Antivar and his “damsel” is the task of the PCs…but what kind of hero would be content with that, when the true treasure and challenge await in the depths of the complex? The new magic items presented herein are intriguing and potent, all with their own story and flair, and the creature-selection deserves special note: Even random encounters of dryads and trolls receive some neat details regarding personality and tactics. The NPCs and monsters come with unique abilities that make combat rather interesting. (And yes, the stats of full-strength Lashpera in her fiendish form can also be found herein.)

The pdf concludes with a nice appendix depicting the religion of Geb.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – I did not notice any undue accumulation of glitches in either category. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that is nice to look at; big plus: This module comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The artwork is a blend of full-color and b/w and solid, particularly for the low asking price. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is full-color, but Pyromaniac Press went all out here: We get alternate versions of the maps in b/w as well; we get versions of the maps with and without grid, in both full-color and b/w AND we get extra player-friendly versions – in short: Whether you’re like me and suck at drawing maps, or if you just want to play this using VTTs. – no matter your preference, this has you covered with its massive array of high-res jpgs. BIG kudos there – this should be standard!

Micah Watt knows how to pen interesting, well-rounded adventures. His writing is detail-oriented without getting bogged in the details and I have never felt like I’d need further information when running his material; additionally, he knows how to write interesting characters – and this is no different.

Where other modules would have simple told you to “get stat XYZ”, we have immersive details that make this interesting. This module is detailed, intriguing and makes great use of FR-lore without wrecking the assumptions of the setting. Oh, and this is very inexpensive for the amount of detail it provides and the page-count, making this a module well worth getting. That being said, if you like what you’re seeing here, please check out his What Lies Beyond Reason AP and the other modules he has released under his Pyromaniac Press banner – while the AP intentionally starts slow, it is turning into a truly amazing, evocative campaign, with the third module ranking as one of my all-time favorite haunted house modules. As per the writing of this review, the kickstarter for Part II of the saga is running – and you can get the whole saga so far at a reduced price for supporting it, so please take a look!

I forgot the final verdict? This is a neat adventure with a really impressive bang-for-buck-ratio and thus gets 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Temple of the Opal Goddess
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Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warrior
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/31/2017 04:50:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with new archetypes, the first of which would be the Halo Knight, who REQUIRES Path of War Expanded - so if you don't use Path of War alongside psionics due to balance-concerns, this one provides a bit of a conundrum, since the pdf does not replicate the feat on which the core ability of the archetype is based. It should also be noted that yes, the power-level for this one is above what I’d allow in my regular, non-Path-of-War-using game.

The archetype replaces the first-level bonus feat with Tap Animus, which nets you an animus pool at the start of combat, with one point. You continue to gain one animus point each round and the pool lasts for one minute after the last adversary is defeated. While usually, maneuvers can generate animus, this is changed here to instead generate 1 animus for when manifesting psionic powers. Alternatively, he can generate 1 point of animus by expending 2 power points. If the character gains an animus pool later, he can exchange this feat with Extra Animus.

While the character has at least 1 point of animus, he is surrounded by a luminous field that grants 1 point of Wisdom bonus (if any) as a deflection bonus to AC; this field also generates light, but that effect may be suppressed, replacing psionic proficiency. At 9th level, this is upgraded to daylight and also kicks in upon rolling initiative, not upon the first round...and it provides uncanny dodge...oh, and it nets resistance 20 to the active energy type. If the character already has uncanny dodge, he instead gains improved uncanny dodge. This replaces secondary path.

The archetype is locked into the anomalous warrior's path. This is one of the new psychic warrior's paths and nets Knowledge (arcana), Perception and Spellcraft as skills, Knowledge (arcana) as the bonus class skill and the trance-effect nets a +1 bonus to saves versus powers, spells, psi-like and spell-like abilities while psionically focused, which increases by +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The bonus is not types as a competence bonus, unlike the bonuses gained by trances in Ultimate Psionics, which makes me suspect an oversight there. The maneuver of the path, gained at 3rd level, allows the psychic warrior to expend his psionic focus as a move action to add 1d4 points of animus to his animus pool, potentially even creating one if the psychic warrior usually does not have one. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the psychic warrior adds a further 1d4 points of animus when activating this ability.

The two new powers granted by this path would, firstly, be transfer animus: This one, used as a swift action, allows the psychic warrior to transfer animus to the target; via augment-options and additional power point expenditure, this can be done at close range and as a ranged touch attack instead. This becomes a viable strategy with the second power, animus overload, which detonates the animus held by an enemy, causing 5 points of damage (unytped, but considering the set-up, okay) per point of animus held, with a Fort-save to negate, as the animus explodes. Analogue to transfer, this can be augmented to work at range...and is surprisingly cool. Charging and blowing up foes? I can get behind that!

But let us return to the Halo Knight, shall we? Whenever the halo knight would gain a psychic warrior bonus feat, he may elect to take an anima skill instead. Unless otherwise noted, save-DCs are governed by Wisdom, though in a deviation from the usual presentation, the save DC is not reiterated. While it's not hard to find out, that can result in a bit more book-flipping then necessary...but, before you're asking, no I'm not going to penalize this file for that. These skills allow for some seriously interesting combos - for example, anima infusion allows the halo knight to use a psychic warrior power with a range of personal as an immediate action by expending 3 points of anima...which should make some of you look up from this: Yes, this allows for more casts per round and as such, is rather potent.

Adding bonus damage to his weapon and ghost touch or an increased enhancement bonus for the weapon can be found. Another skill adds the array of blaster powers to his powers list, which per se would not be an issue - where I get cranky would be when the follow-up skill nets the option to expend psionic focus and three anima to cast such a power as a psi-like ability - no power point cost. Granted, since animus is restricted to combats you won't have infinite blasts...but it is still something that makes me twitch a bit, considering the other options of the archetype...The ability to use animus to grant fast healing 5 temporarily to allies nearby is similarly only held in check by the combat focus of the resource - without that, we'd have infinite healing. It gets a pass, but should get some GM oversight prior to introduction to a campaign. I know that some folks don't like the aesthetics there.

At 4th level, the halo knight stops any pretense and simply gets better in every conceivable way than a regular psychic warrior. He can use animus as power points to pay for the manifestation, delimiting a limited resource. Not WHOLLY, mind you - I very much understand the limitations of rounds and the like...but this is where I'd draw the line for my games - while he won't be able to operate near full potency, this makes animus behave basically as temporary power points. This won't hurt the archetype's functionality in a game that has a high power-level, but it disqualifies it for grittier games that include resource-management as something that actually matters.

Starting at 12th level, the archetype can 1/day (+1/day at 15th and 18th level) as a swift action, cause it to blaze for 1 minute, generating an additional point of animus at the start of the turn and when manifesting and creatures that hit him with melee attacks (reach is irrelevant, which is a violation of how that's usually handled) take 5d6 energy damage of the active energy type, but only once per round per creature. Problematic for all but the most high-powered of games: When in this mode, he can spend 3 animus as an immediate action to ignore any damage that would reduce him below 0 hit points. While this replaces pathweaving and twisting path, it is one of those abilities that I can see work in Path of War and high-powered games that emphasize super-potent PCs...but not in more down to earth games. ("God hit me with magic of doom? Pff, I can shrug that off at least 5 more times!") The capstone makes the halo always on and provides an outsider apotheosis.

The second archetype in this book would be the reaver, who gains Bluff, Disguise, Disable Device and Stealth as class skills as well as 6 + Int skills per level. Proficiency-wise, they get simple and martial weapons as well as kama, katana, kusarigama, nunchaku, sai, shuriken, siangham, and wakizashi as well as light armor, but not shields. These guys may choose powers from the cryptic's power-list IN ADDITION to that of the psychic warrior. At first level, they replace warrior's path with killer's claim: As a swift action a creature within close reach can be Claimed and a reaver may maintain up to Wisdom modifier such claimed targets, minimum 1. Creatures claimed provoke AoOs from the reaver when using Withdraw and the reaver knows their location. Claim has no duration. Instead of 3rd level's expanded path, the reaver gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC and a +1 bonus to Reflex saves while psionically focused, increasing that by +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, but only while wearing medium armor or less. At a later level, he gets +2 to damage rolls versus targets of his Claim, a bonus that increases by +2 at 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter. The reaver may expend his psionic focus to inflict +2d4 bonus damage per +2 bonus to damage instead.

At 9th level, reducing a killer's claim target to 0 hit points can 1/day instantly recover the psionic focus, +1/day use at 12th level and 15th, replacing twisting path and secondary path. The 18th level ability is really cool: A target claimed can be cursed 1/day, making healing and raising impossible while the curse is not broken. Cool replacement for pathweaving! As a capstone, he can enter a killing trance 1/day as a free action while psionically focused, lasting 5 minutes or until the focus is expended. During this trance, he gets + Wis-mod to atk, skills, ability checks, initiative and AC and 1/round round inflicts +10d4 damage to a target of Killer's Claim, usually on the first attack. Additionally, he may move up to his movement as an immediate action.

Of course, the archetype also has some choices to offer - so-called reaver insights may be taken instead of bonus feats: Bleeding damage to claimed targets, cryptic insights at -2 levels (excluding ones based on patterns). Slightly odd: One of these insights mentions the ability to maintain a Claim for up to 24 hours...implying that the base ability should have a duration...which it does not have. Penalizing saves and CMD of targets, skill-bonuses and rogue tricks complement an archetype...I REALLY, really like! This is a potent headhunter, sure, but it does not have any abilities I'd consider problematic...though an update regarding claim-duration would be helpful. Still: Two thumbs up for this one, I'd allow that in all my games, not just the high-fantasy/powered ones!

Beyond the aforementioned psychic warrior path, the pdf also offers the hungering path, which nets Intimidate, Knowledge (planes) (that's the bonus class skills, btw.) and Perception as skills. The trance puts a -2 penalty on saves versus the psychic warrior's abilities on targets within 10 feet, increasing the range by +5 ft. at 11th and 19th level and the penalty by -1 at 7th and 15th level. Power-wise, it nets corrosive aura and dissipating touch and the maneuver, unlocked at 3rd level, is potent: As a swift action, the psychic warrior can expend his focus when hitting a foe, draining 1d6 power points or one phrenic pool point, gaining 1 temporary power point. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, this increases by +1d6 for power point loss, +1 for phrenic pool point loss and temporary power point gain. I assume that the temporary power points are only gained when something is actually drained, but I'm not 100% sure there - it can be read either way.

The third path would be that of the outrider, who gets Acrobatics, Ride and Handle Animal - the latter being the bonus class skill. Powers-wise, we get astral construct and skate. The path also has a really unique trance, one that creates a quasi-mount - this mount may be sped up via swift action expenditure as maneuvers and scales its potency, ignoring temporarily difficult terrain at 7th level and at 11th level, he can even move through creatures with it - pretty interesting.

Beyond the two powers already covered, one ties in with a reaver insight I deliberately didn't mention before: You see, reavers can assume the identities of those killed, with a variety of mental semblance a power that allows for the extremely potent impersonation of a target. Pretty cool! The final ability, steal animus, does pretty much what it says on the tin - once again with the option to augment it for close range action.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level - while a I noticed an errant "t" that should have been capitalized, though the absence of the killer's claim duration, pretty clearly implied by an insight, is not cool. Similarly, I find it problematic, particularly for fans of psionics who don't like Path of War, to not include the feat that's the base-line for more than half of the content herein - usually DSP is pretty good at avoiding such guffaws. And YES, I am aware that the feat can be found in "Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warriors II" (alongside supplemental material for this pdf that would make more sense in this pdf…), but the content-distribution still sucks. Layout adheres to Dreamscrred Press' nice two-column full-color standard and the halo knight's artwork, as seen on the cover, is damn cool. The pdf comes with rudimentary, very basic bookmarks. As always, we get a second, more printer-friendly version - kudos there!

Chris Bennett, with additional design from Forrest Heck, provides some highly complex and unique archetypes herein; both halo knight and reaver offer distinct playstyles based on concepts introduced in Path of War, though they do so in exceedingly different ways: The halo knight, I'd situate closer to the very high-powered non-stop gameplay one associates with Path of War: The archetype delimits power points, a primary spellcasting resource, and while it doesn't completely delimit it, in combination with the other potent options it provides, that's enough to disqualify the archetype in all but my most high-powered of games.

The reaver, on the other hand, takes a cue from the harbinger and takes the claiming engine and molds it to instead apply to concepts assigned to the cryptic, without infringing on the signature moves of the class, creating something thematically thoroughly unique - very potent, but also rewarding. I have absolutely no concerns regarding this one - while the added power-selection is very potent, the loss of flexibility regarding path choices etc. does somewhat make up for that. This is still a strong option, mind you - but not one that will lead to issues in most games.

The supplemental material is solid for the most part, with only minor hiccups like aforementioned missing bonus type - and these are few and far in-between. That being said, as a reviewer, I am not 100% sure to whom to recommend this - folks who'll love the vast power of the halo knight will probably shrug at the reaver...and vice versa: People who'll love the reaver most likely will consider the halo knight to be over the top and OP. The absence of the Halo Knight's very fundamental feat, the literal foundation on which the archetype is build, can also be...kinda jarring. This makes the pdf something of a mixed bag in my book - and yes, for lower power-levels, the halo knight can be nerfed pretty easily...but still. For me, as a person, I'll take the reaver out of this pdf...and that's it. As a person, I'd rate this 3 stars.

As a reviewer, however, I have to take into account that the halo knight will most definitely find its fans...which leaves me with the split focus and the flaws of the pdf as detrimental aspects. I thought long and hard and ultimately, I feel justified in rating this 3.5 stars. If you want lower-powered gameplay on par with Ultimate Psionics, round down; if you want more power à la Path of War, you'll probably want to round up. Still. This lacks the feat on which more than half of the content of this pdf is based on. As long as that feat's text is not reprinted herein, I cannot round up. As soon as it's included, I'll do just that for my official verdict as well.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warrior
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Hybrid Class: Redeemer
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/31/2017 04:48:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages. It should be noted that the pages are formatted for 6’’ by 9’’ size (or A5), thus allowing you to fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper if your sight’s good enough. All righty, so what is the redeemer?

A redeemer is a pala/antipala and rogue hybrid, whose alignment must be within one step of the patron deity’s law/chaos or good/evil axis, The class gets d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, 6 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple and martial weapons + hand crossbow and light armor as well as shields, excluding tower shields. They gain an alignment-based aura and at 5th level, the redeemer gets access to pala or antipala prepared spellcasting, governed by Wisdom, thankfully with the alignment-determinant caveat firmly in place..

While we’re talking of auras: At 4th level, the class gets a 10-ft. aura that enhances saves versus all alignment-based saves and effects. Starting at 5th level and 1 per level (not class level?) thereafter, the redeemer gets a magic item for cost from his benefactors – which can skew the WBL, so beware there. 9th level provides immunity to charm spells and SPs and +4 to saves versus them for allies within 10 ft., with 17th level providing the same for compulsions. At 15th level, the redeemer’s weapons are always treated as one of the 4 alignment-properties for overcoming DR. 7th level provides immunity to effects that would change the redeemer’s alignment.

Okay, so far, so good – let’s take a look at the unique class features, shall we?

The first of these would be hand of redemption, which is gained at 2nd level and can be used ½ level (class level?) + Wisdom modifier times per day. This can be considered to be a combo of the paladin’s lay on hands and the antipaladin’s touch of corruption, inflicting/healing 1d6 per two class levels, + Wisdom modifier (here, we have class levels). The redeemer gets to freely choose whether to inflict damage or heal and may employ negative and positive energy, which is very potent when used in conjunction with undead PCs. He also treats the ability as the antipaladin and paladin ability for the purpose of prerequisites and for qualifying for Extra Mercy/Cruelty.

Starting at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, he gains a redeemer talent, which can provide channel energy (powered by two uses of the hand of redemption) at full level, though here, positive or negative energy must be chosen. Dodge (Yay?) and SP-based low-level divine magic can also be chosen alongside rogue talents and cruelties/mercies. 6th level also unlocks a talent to have two reckonings active at once.

Reckonings? Yep, that would be the second unique ability, and it’s available from the first level onwards. Reckonings last 1 minute per class level (which MUST be consecutive!) and may be started and dismissed as swift actions. We begin with 1/day reckoning and increase that daily number by +1/day at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Reckoning comes in three options, in structure not wholly unlike judgments: 1) if the redeemer’s Wisdom score exceeds that of the target’s Dexterity, if the target doesn’t get Dex-mod to AC or when flanking the target, we get basically sneak attack bonus damage, with number of dice increasing by +1d6 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Additionally, the redeemer gets ½ class level to Sense Motive checks.

The second use of reckoning duplicates locate object, at 5th level alternatively locate creature. “Doing so extends the reckoning’s duration to 10 minutes per level.” Does that apply only to the locate creature use? Not sure. Additionally, the redeemer gets + Wisdom modifier to Steal attempts (bonus type not mentioned) and no longer provokes AoOs while attempting them. He also gets +1/2 class level to Sleight of Hand.

Thirdly, we have the option to add Wisdom modifier to initiative checks and Reflex saves as well as +1/2 class level to Perception to locate traps and Disable Device checks, the latter of which may be used to disarm magical traps. He also gains +1 dodge bonus to AC, which increases by +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.

At 10th level, one reckoning must be chosen to improve: The improvements, in sequence, are: +1d6 precision damage for the pseudo-sneak; +2 to Sleight of Hand and Steal attempts; or +2 to Reflex saves. 11th level provides the means to expend two uses of reckoning to grant the ability to all allies within 10 ft. “the bonuses last for 1 minute” – as a free action. Okay, so does it have to be the same reckoning as the one of the redeemer, if any? Is it intentional that the redeemer is excluded from this use RAW? RAW, there is no limit on how many reckonings may be active at a given time. That being said, you can’t combo the ability with the double-reckoning-talent. Thankfully.

20th level turns one form of reckoning into a constant ability. Instead of classic archetypes, we do receive a variety of alternate reckonings, including their 10th level iterations. These include being able to freely use all weapons sans penalties while in reckoning and 1/round negating a single AoO (WTF!) as well as adding Wisdom modifier to secondary attack rolls when making full attack action. I assume that to pertain to the second of iterative attacks since 10th level provides that for tertiary attacks, but how does it interact with TWF? Flurries? No idea.

The second reckoning that would replace the sneak attack-y one allows for the use of all combat maneuvers (!) sans AoOs as well as +Wisdom modifier to CMB, +1/2 Wisdom modifier to CMD. At 10th level, we choose one combat maneuver…and gain immunity to it. Flat-out immunity. Deity sunders your blade? Pff, am immune. Not a fan.

Okay, the second reckoning may be replaced with skill boosts when dealing with animals and magical beasts and a better CMD against them or better infiltration skills. The third reckoning can be replaced with a scaling save versus all spells and progressively better magic detection/perception-SPs while in the reckoning. Finally, we have better wilderness survival and Wisdom modifier to melee atk and damage versus plants and elementals.

The pdf comes with a massive array of FCOs for the core races and beyond, many of which add +3 rounds to one reckoning’s duration or 1/6 talent. The pdf comes with a bonus-file penned by Mark Gedak, which contains Esmeralda Alectis, who is a sample CR 8 tiefling redeemer.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good. On a rules-language level, the pdf is also sufficiently precise to be considered very good, if not perfect. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ 1-column standard, is printer-friendly with purple highlights being the only color. The pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

The redeemer is not the first hybrid class by Aaron Hollingworth I’ve read, but honestly, I may have expected a bit too much here. The redemption-angle of the class exists in all but name; we have no notes on how e.g. antipalas could become redeemers or how paladins could become redeemers…but that is an issue of nomenclature. I did expect to see a sample code of conduct or two, though….but that falls behind my one central gripe with the class: You see, the redeemer is a very strong and nova-y option: The numerical double-attribute boosts are potent and with the very limited reckoning-uses, the class is predisposed to be rather bursty regarding power…but so, kinda, are antipala and paladin. However, these two do not have the massive skill array in addition to their other tricks.

The limited reckonings and their powers mean that, honestly, using the skill-based reckonings is almost always a bad idea, when the sheer power-upgrades draw from the same resource – making choice matter more would have helped there. The rogue-aspect is also very subdued, as far as I’m concerned and the lack of a fluffy niche for the class makes it pale for me.

And then there’s the big issue – I don’t think, just by describing the class in-game, it’d be able to distinguish it from pala or antipala. They have a flexibility-edge via energy availability, but they lack unique things to do beyond escalation of numbers. Comparably, they are frankly a bit too good for my tastes. Combined with the lack of a proper unique feeling and niche, that makes me shrug and move on; in comparison with the INSPIRED Vessel the author has penned, the redeemer is surprisingly bloodless and standard. I try hard to avoid writing “meh” in my reviews, but that is exactly, the perfect summary of how this made me feel – perhaps it’s me being jaded, but…I was kinda bored by this fellow.

I’m not a big fan of several design-decisions here and, worse, at least to me the class remained very pale; much more so than his Armjack and DEFINITELY more so than his excellent Luminary and Vessel, which I’d advise you to get instead – these two are pretty much worth getting ASAP.

Ultimately, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, though I will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Redeemer
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Raiders!
Publisher: Night Owl Workshop
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2017 04:08:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This rules-book/toolkit for original edition-gaming clocks in at 128 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page final quote, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 119 pages. It should be noted that the pages are formatted for a 6’’ by 9’’ booklet; if your sight’s good enough, you can thus fit about 4 pages on a single sheet of paper when printing this.

This review was sponsored and chosen as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

All righty, so what is this? Well, we have basically a complete game on our hands here, one based on OD&D, obviously, so we begin, unsurprisingly, with character creation coming first: The classic 3d6, 6 times, as well as 3 sample ability arrays are provided. The book then explains modifiers by attribute – 18 equals +3, 3 equals -3. The system also provides advice on which class to choose; you also choose a big phobia, equipment and your Luck throw; maximum hit points are governed by class, ranging from 10 to 6; Armor Class is 10 sans equipment, attack bonus is +1 at 1st level, +0 for scientists. Simple, right?

Well, attributes are the classic 6, but what about Luck? Well, it represents the saving throw mechanic – you roll d20, add the associated attribute modifier and try to roll above the target number, with examples provided. On a natural 19 or 20 r on a 1 or 2, you have a lucky break or a bad break.

Characters have hit points and HD (Hit Dice); progress and improvement is achieved by gaining XP – the pdf advises on awarding XP for achieving goals, killing monsters and accumulating treasure. Cool: Publishing accounts of your exploits nets you an XP-bonus, which emphasis the archaeology aspect implied by the game.

There are 3 basic classes – the mercenary, the raider and the scientist, all of which cover 10 levels, with slightly different XP-values: Scientists require 600.000 XP to reach 10th level, raiders 400.000. Mercenaries have to choose whether to get +1 with melee weapons or ranged weapons at 1st level and nets +1 BHB (the attack bonus) per level; Luck starts off at 14 and improves to 5. 3rd level nets the option to create explosives from scratch, which is nice – however, no range is provided for these. I assume that the demolition targets a single creature, but spelling that out would be nice. Similarly, the pdf does not note how long it takes to make these – so yes, you will probably need to make some referee-calls there. Damage scales, btw. 7th level yields an attack- and damage-buff for allies in sight and adhering to a concocted strategy at 9th level can provide defensive bonuses for the allies - +2 to armor class and Luck rolls. Thankfully that btw. has a time limit

This would be as well a place as any to note that, personally, I’d have loved to see attributes and armor class capitalized – Luck rolls are, so not sure why these aren’t. It’s an aesthetic complaint and thus won’t influence the rating, but yeah.

Scientists are basically the “casters” – they get scientist gadgets of levels up to 5 and progress their BHB only to +6. Gadgets may be used only once per day, unless otherwise noted, and lost gadgets require $100 per gadget level to replace; they are powered by power packs and these may be replaced for $100 per scientist level. Basically, the power pack acts as the battery for the scientist; on a meta-level, it explains the need to rest etc. Treasure hunters would be the explorer/thief/rogue-stand-ins, with the skills to open locks, stealth around, climb walls – you get the idea. No percentile rolls or the like are required, just fyi – it’s d20 plus the associated attribute bonus – which, unlike the references to the respective attributes, is btw. capitalized. Languages are btw. not something you’ll be awash in (good thing, as far as I’m concerned!) and yes, you can multiclass.

Now, if you have a phobia, you get +1 to an attribute of your choice (I assume it caps at 18) – however, when faced with the phobia, the character must succeed a Luck roll or be paralyzed for 1d4 rounds! 20 sample phobias are included. 7 sample, fluffy backgrounds are similarly provided and we conclude this basic character creation section with a sample character build. We move on from here to equipment and find e.g. sample prices for transportation as well as a variety of weapons – though the melee weapon table has a glitch – the dagger-entry should obviously only sport 3 asterisks, not 4 – it makes no sense for it to behave as though it was a whip, which 4 asterisks denote. Weapons that are two-handed, just fyi, inflict +1 damage. The ranged weapons table also notes RoF (Rate of Fire), including easy rules for burst and full auto firing; military weapons, usually illegal, are noted, as is when a weapon can be concealed under jacket or long coat…which is, frankly, less consistent than it should be. Machine guns can be concealed under a jacket, so can a magnum revolver…but a regular revolver can’t be? Also really weird from a consistency point of view – the asterisks that denote whether a weapon is concealable or not are different on each page: On page #1, the asterisks are behind the cost (weird), while on the second page of the table, they are wither behind the weapon name, the damage, or the RoF – the latter of which, oddly, also sports an asterisk. That’s…kinda confusing.

Now, regarding AC, the pdf provides ascending AC as a default, with descending values in brackets, for those so inclined, with the basic armor pretty much capping at 15, helmets providing +1 and shields similarly ranging between +1 to +2 to armor class – which is, once again called AC here. Mundane equipment is similarly covered, ranging from cameras to toolkits. Vehicles come with ACs and hp, maximum speed, weight, cost, etc. – but also DR. I assume that’s supposed to be damage reduction, but I am not sure – the table doesn’t properly explain this value. Speaking of things the tables fail to explain: AoE and vehicle weapons have a column that’s called “Cap” – no idea what that’s supposed to denote.

Next up would be the gadgets, which include smoke bombs, UV goggles, short-range electro pistols, etc. – these are very brief in how they work, to the point where they are somewhat opaque. If e.g. a smoke bomb is a gadget, do you have t pay for “item destroyed” or can you pick the pieces back up? How long does a long-range radio wok each day? The somewhat ambiguous way in which these work will, alas, require some referee calls. Relics, i.e. magical items, can have a variety of effects, with Excalibur presenting an example to give the referee an idea.

Speaking of the referee – the pdf continues to provide basic advice for the referee, covers light, poisons, drowning. Time is measured as known; 10 minutes are a turn, a round is typically one minute. Hirelings are included and combat works in a simple manner:

Both sides roll initiative – 1d6. The side that wins acts first: Ranges weapons, spells and devices are used first; then movement is resolved and finally, melee attacks are resolved. After both sides have acted, morale issues are resolved. Once a character is reduced to 0 hp, you either are dead or get 1d6 rounds of grace before dying, depending on the choices of the referee. Cover will generally provide between -1 to -5 to attacks.

From TN0 to advanced grappling, the pdf provides some alternate, optional rules – though the latter, with its control point tracking, seems like complexity for complexity’s sake to me, complicating a simple system that has, as its main draw, its simplicity.

Beyond these rules-basics, we also have extensive advice on structuring campaign and adventure design, themes of the system and tropes – from lost worlds to cliffhangers and rival investigators, this section provides some interesting options. However, where the book really starts to shine and come into its own, would be when it emphasizes its pseudo-archaeology-angle and whole-heartedly embraces the wackiness: We are introduced to the ancient astronauts school, the idea of lost super civilizations, the idiocy of nazi archeology[sic!]…etc. – basically, from esoteric pseudo-science to ideas that still resonate through our fantastic games, these are all explained in their basics – and while I loathe such pseudo-science in real life, I absolutely adore how they make for great scavenging material for roleplaying games.

From here on out, we cover a metric ton of different artifacts and relics from our own mythology, from Pandora’s Box to the Sudarshana Chakra, with multiple suggestions for possible uses and powers of the respective relic. This massive chapter is most certainly one of the coolest sections herein and makes for a great section. Speaking of which: I only have the warmest praise for the trap section – you see, obvious traps are automatically detected, so the traps noted herein are different, focusing not on simply rolling to disarm, but presenting them more like a challenge for the whole group to overcome, a methodology that gets two thumbs up from me.

The pdf also sports an array of random tables for McGuffin hunting on the fly; beyond these, we get stats for cultists, nomads, gangsters and also some monsters, ranging from ghouls and golems to strange mechanisms, mermaids, mummies, animated statues, vampires, werewolves…and yes, an extensive array of animal stats can also be found. The first appendix contains a ton of different villains, places and societies drawn from real world, ranging from agrippa’s book to Ayer’s rock and beyond- which is an inspiring read, but also utterly unfocused and random; I don’t get why this section has not been organized better.

Appendix #2 contains an optional class, namely the occultist, who needs 1.000.000 XP to reach level 10! They basically provide an optional spellcasting class, which gains spells of up to 5th level from whatever OSR-game you’d like to use in conjunction with this…or you can use the array of spells presented herein, which, once again, are very brief – to the point where e.g. question marks for Luck and Move of a conjured imp as well as issues regarding range, parameters, etc. of the spells once again require some referee calls. Upon gaining a level, the class must roll and potentially gain a corruption – all of which are disfiguring, but not necessarily crippling. Still, spellcasting remains an opaque process. A very basic adventure sketch can be found and the 4th appendix sports optional skill-system – with class-specific ones etc. allowing for some diversification. 80 additional phobias (why not include them among the original 20???) and an appendix N section complement the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good on a formal and rules-language level– while I noticed a couple of typo-level hiccups and some odd formatting inconsistencies, as a whole, the game is understandable, though novices may be puzzled by some components. Layout adheres to a no-frills one-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting b/w-artwork. The pdf does NOT come with bookmarks apart from the blank pages before front and back cover, making the use of this in the electronic format horrendously annoying. I can’t comment on the print version, since I do not own it.

Darren Watt, Thomas Denmark and David Pulver’s “Raiders!”-game is an interesting, per se well-crafted one-book-RPG. It does several things right: getting started is really easy and deserves applause. However, at the same time, the rules often do not provide the level of precision I’d have liked; and no, this does not have anything to do with being old-school: From LL to LotFP and S&W, there are enough examples that get this right. The other issue that can provide some issues would pertain tables not properly explaining mechanics, which can be wonky. So, while the basics of the game are didactically concise in their presentation, the details are a bit less impressive.

At the same time, there is a lot to be loved here: The focus on archaeology as a theme is something that really appeals to me and while campaign setting-wise, we don’t get much to work with, both the traps and relics and the fluffy ideas provided make sense in a good way. There are a lot of things to like here.

…so, should you get this? It…kinda depends. If you have a pulpy setting and look for some hard rules to supplement them, then this’ll do the job. Similarly, if you already know 0e-rules (since some aspects could be spelled out more clearly…) and want an easy to pick up system, ten this should do the trick well. Referees should have a bit of experience under their belt to make this work as smooth as it should due to the various minor glitches, though.

On the other hand, this book is not as precise and concise in the rules-language as it should be, so if you do mind making rules calls, then this may not be perfect for you.

This, as a whole, makes this a mixed bag for me, one that would be on the positive side…but frankly, the lack of bookmarks makes using the pdf really annoying. Ultimately, this reduces what would otherwise be a tentative recommendation to something less enthused: My final verdict: 3 stars; a worthwhile purchase if you’re interested in the idea of running a pulpy 0e-style game and can stomach some rough edges.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Raiders!
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Sanctuary of Belches for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2017 04:05:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first things first: This module makes use of Kobold Press’ excellent “Tome of Beasts”, using several creatures featured in that massive bestiary. However, it should be noted that the Tome is not required to run this module; all creatures featured get abbreviated statblocks with the respective ability-modifiers, speeds, short-hand traits, etc. – while these are not exactly nice to look at and pretty cramped, their inclusion constitutes a nice bonus for everyone who has not yet bough the massive tome. Kudos for being customer-friendly! As a minor complaint regarding presentation-sequence: The abbreviated flab-giant stats are included one encounter after they’re first encountered; not a true issue, but something to bear in mind, I guess.

While situated in the world of Midgard, the module can seamlessly be plugged into another fantasy world. The module takes place in the cold North, but similarly can relatively easily be reskinned for other climates, though two maps may need a recolor in such cases –it’s snowy in the North, after all!

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

..

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All righty, only GMs around? Great! The proceedings take place near the isolated village of Olsha – where no one is getting any decent sleep due to the annoying sound of a horn, whose location has been identified as somewhere within the hills – eliminating the grating horn will be the quest for the adventurers and is probably something most people can empathize with – after all, who hasn’t lost sleep due to neighbors, cars, construction or worse in real life?

Further details point the adventurers to a subterranean complex, where a strange smell and belch-like sounds rumbled deep within. En route to the hills, the PCs will have to deal with yeti ridden by two fraughashar – upon defeating these foes (the encounter comes with a nice full-color map), the PCs may get mildly magical earmuffs that deafen them – a hint and taste of things to come…for the area in the vicinity of the complex is shrouded in a poisonous cloud that PCs with queasy stomachs will not appreciate…but they’ll also find the remains of a dead duergar, which hints at what has truly happened…and a parchment also yields first clues. Within the cloud of gas, the temple entrance has since been fortified by roving orcs – which are in the middle of fighting against duergar and their flab giants. Into this free-for-all massacre, both the PCs and two adventurers (lesbian lovers – nice bit of inclusion there!) stumble into the battle for a chaotic and rather fun proceeding…though the deafening, potentially grisly visions causing blare of the horn makes for an interesting complication.

After the battle has passed, the PCs will be finally be able to explore the complex, which has obviously been excavated by the duergar, a subterranean temple dedicated to the forgotten deity Youm. You see, the duergar have employed a mutant thursis giant who was “blessed” with acidic vomit during their excavations, but said giant has found the horn of Youm the most potent of 3 magical items devoted to Youm, including a potentially nasty, possessing tiara and particularly strong bonds. The horn, just fyi, is particularly potent in the hands of a bard.

The PCs are thus exploring the temple complex, potentially encountering the duergar commander possessed by the spark of Youm…and, with the duergar, they may actually find some unlikely allies, for the complex is littered with strange worms and the duergar basically just want out. So yes, while the basic set-up of this module is rather complex, the PCs will have ample opportunity to actually find out about the background story – big plus there. I also very much applaud the diverse use of skills and the means to decipher in some ways fragments of the strange worship of this ancient deity…

Ultimately, in order to end the infernal blaring of the horn, the PCs will have to enter the eponymous sanctuary, where Huppo the thursir mutant featured on the cover, awaits – his diet of strange rime worm grubs responsible for his deadly belches…and if the PCs have too easy a time, the avatar of the greatly-weakened Youm, an adult rime worm, makes for a second boss fight (or a second stage, if you prefer them to happen sequential). A big plus for me would be that the module sports a surprising amount of actual roleplaying opportunities – up to the point where proper roleplaying in the boss fight can yield a serious edge for the PCs!

Particularly helpful for quick preparation, for example in the context of a con: The appendix lists the story in handy bullet-points.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ excellent 2-column full-color standard. The pdf features drop-dead-gorgeous full-color artworks that deserve special mentioning. The full-color maps are similarly impressive, and while they lack a scale, I assume them to be the standard 5-ft.-squares. More disappointing would be that none of the maps come with a player-friendly version sans keys etc. – if you suck as much at map-drawing as I do or if you plan on using this via VTT, you’ll have a bit of work on your hand if you don’t want annoying numbers in your map.

Jon Sawatsky’s “Sanctuary of Belches” is a creative, action-packed module; from the environmental hazards to the general atmosphere evoked, this most assuredly makes for a fun dungeon. The boss fights in particular and the way in which the PCs can properly unearth the story (if they don’t just want to hack and slash through it, which is perfectly valid!) deserve applause. From the roleplaying opportunities to the terrain, this module makes for an all-around cool package that is only marred somewhat by the lack of player-friendly maps. With this remaining my one and only chief complaint, I can thankfully still gladly round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars – a module well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sanctuary of Belches for 5th Edition
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Strange Magic Expanded - Ethermagic for Core Classes (PFRPG, Standalone)
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2017 04:02:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little expansion for the amazing Strange Magic-tome clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: This is a stand-alone expansion for Strange Magic – it does not require the main book: 24 alteration and voidmeld manifestations are reproduced for your convenience within this pdf. (As a purely cosmetic grip – voidmeld manifestations don’t have a header, which could be slightly confusing for novices of ethermagic) – these reproduced pieces take btw. up 3 pages of the pdf.

The first archetype here would be the cosmic minstrel, who replaces bardic knowledge and versatile performance with knowing 2 1st-level alteration manifestations, + another one at 5th level and every 6 class levels thereafter, treating his caster level as equal to his class level. When he begins a bardic performance, he chooses a 1st level alteration manifestation known, gaining its benefits for the duration of the performance. Since he does not have an ether point pool, he cannot learn some of the more potent alteration manifestations. At 10th level, the archetype replaces jack of all trades by extending the benefits of the alteration triggered by the bardic performance to allies within 30 ft. Nice way to dabble into the basics of ethermagic.

The etherblade fighter replaces weapon training with imperfect voidmeld: At 5th level, he gets two 1st-level voidmeld manifestations, with 9th level and every 4 class levels thereafter yielding another. For the purpose of these, the caster level is treated as the class level. After resting, one voidmeld manifestation may be added to a given weapon for 24 hours, treating the weapon as a void blade. Starting at 9th level and again at 17th level, the etherblade can meditate on an additional weapon, respectively, which may have a different voidmeld applied. At 9th and 13th level, the etherblade may place an additional voidmeld in a given weapon, and each weapon may have a different combination. Instead of weapon mastery, the etherblade learns two 2nd level voidmeld manifestations, and when meditating, an additional 2nd level voidmeld manifestation may be added to the 1st level voidmeld manifestations of a given weapon. Oh, and yeah, if required, save DCs for the voidmelds of the archetype are governed by Charisma.

Wizards get no less than three arcane schools: The Ether arcane school is associated with evocation and replaces force missile and elemental wall. Instead, it nets a power point pool equal to 1 + 1/5 class level, rounded down. As a standard action, you can expend power points equal to the spell level of a prepared evocation spell you have already cast; the spell is prepared again, as though it hadn’t been cast. The pool replenishes after rest. 8th level lets you, whenever you roll a natural 1 on an evocation damage die, you gain 1 temporary hit point. These last for 1 minute and stack with themselves, up to a maximum of twice Intelligence modifier and their duration refreshes when the ability is triggered again.

The second arcane school would be Gravity, associated with transmutation, replaces telekinetic fist and shape change. Instead, you gain borrowed time: As a swift action, you can grant yourself a move action, but you are staggered for 1 round at the beginning of your next turn. Big kudos: You can’t cheese the ability by being immune to the condition. The ability may be used 1/day + 1/day for every 6 wizard levels you have. 8th level yields gravity well, usable 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. As a standard action, you can hurl gravity as a kind of splash weapon that deals untyped damage and staggers the target of a direct hit on a failed Fort-save. Slightly confusing at first glance: While the glob is hurled as though it is a thrown splash weapon, it is not – thus, no splash damage

The Madness arcane school, finally, is associated with Enchantment and replaces dazing touch and aura of despair. As a standard action, the wizard can confuse a creature within 30 ft. as a ranged touch attack for 1 round, usable 3 + Int times per day. At 8th level, we get a really potent, if unreliable ability – targets of your enchantments are confused for 1 round – no save. While both are mind-affecting abilities, these are pretty potent. Still, being unreliable, this does make sense…though personally, I’d cap the number of targets confused by one spell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with fitting swirly b/w-art. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Bradley Crouch’s latest expansion for ethermagic allows for an easy way to dabble in the flavor and basics of ethermagic, without requiring knowledge of the system – basically, this can be considered to be a kind of teaser of sorts and it does that job well. The new class options for the core classes herein are interesting and perform interesting rules-operations, highlighting the value of ethermagic concepts beyond their use within the system. For the low and fair asking price, this is definitely worth checking out, particularly if what you’re reading here sounds interesting to you.

From a design-perspective, it’s certainly nice to have some reference archetypes to gage power-levels for further modifications. All in all, this should be considered to be a solid, unpretentious pdf for those curious about the system and hesitant to take the plunge; it is not mind-blowing per se, but well-crafted and fun. This is, in my book, a good pdf I’d round down for, but its very low $1 asking price upgrades my final verdict of 4.5 stars – I will round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Magic Expanded - Ethermagic for Core Classes (PFRPG, Standalone)
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GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume II System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2017 04:08:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive compilation clocks in at 93 pages, 1 front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC/foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 85 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Well, first things first: This is a compilation of material, namely of the humongous numbers of lists Creighton Broadhurst regularly posts on his blog; so yes, technically, the material can be found for free. At the same time OMG, get this!

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. At this point, it most assuredly should be no secret that I consider Raging Swan ‘s dressing files among the most useful books I own; heck, the Dungeon and Wilderness Dressing compilations are my most often used books. I pull them out more often than pretty much any rule-book. Yeah.

If you do not own them yet, get them asap! They made first place in my Top Ten for a reason…I’ll be waiting here.

..

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Okay, so, once you have digested them (perhaps with the “I loot the Body!”-compilation as well), you’ll notice that the respective entries, while anything but generic, obviously need to cater to relatively broad concepts, right? Well, this is basically where the first massive compilation and this, its sequel come in. They provide the specific tables to complement the more general ones. You know, for those cases, where you don’t need compelling dressing for a minion’s loot…but instead for a lich’s phylactery or lair.

Or for when you need a quirky item that begins to throb when bad weather’s approaching. When you need a minor drawback for an item; when you need a remarkable unholy symbol…or key…or dagger….or, or, or. Treasure that’s difficult to remove from a dungeon? Check. Sample personalities for cultists? Check. More specific looting tables? Check.

But why part with your hard-earned dough when all of this is available for free on the internet? Well, beyond rewarding the creator, there is a more pragmatic reason, namely organization. Sure, it’s nice to have the articles online, right? Well, open the pdf and you’ll see the respective tables grouped by environment: Dungeon, Urban, Wilderness. That alone makes the compilation already superior to the disparate articles – it makes the process of using this more simple.

There is a second organizational paradigm that sets this apart from its constituent articles and files – and that would be the inclusion of related articles: Did you just roll on a table that noted things left behind in an inn’s bedchamber? Great, then one look at “related articles” will tell you where to find ideas for patrons and staff, with the corresponding page-numbers! This makes use in print extremely comfortable, though in the electronic version, internal hyperlinks would have been nice to jump to and fro.

Still, once you took a look at 20 things to find at an abandoned campsite, you will want to check out 10 things that lurks in the shadows…or 10 travelers to share the campsite – either choice makes the journey more organic, more alive…and ultimately, this elevates the compilation in usefulness far above any constituent files or articles and well worth the more than fair asking price – particularly regarding the print version.

One note: If you’re an OSR-purist, you may be annoyed by some entries mentioning “rogues” or “wizards” instead of “thieves” or “magic-users”, but this cosmetic complaint is pretty much the only potentially negative thing I can say about this book and its inspiring dressing-tables.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’s two-column b/w-standard and is just as printer-friendly and elegant as you’d expect it to be. The pdf-version, just fyi, comes with nested, detailed bookmarks in two iterations: One for screen-use and one to be printed out. The b/w-artworks featured herein are nice, though fans of Raging Swan Press will encounter some déjà-vus. Ultimately, I’d strongly suggest getting this in print, at least if you’re old-school like me and prefer GMing with actual books – a physical artifact emphasizes how easy to use this book is and makes me whip it out more often. That being said, tablet-using Gms will obviously get just as much mileage out of this one.

Creighton Broadhurst, with additional design by master of the creepy John Bennett, Ron Calbick, Seamus Conneely, Kalyna Conrad, Taylor Hubler, Jeff Gomez, Anthony Jennings, Alex Riggs, John Schut, Amber Underwood, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham, has managed to once again make a wonderful, inspiring book; against all odds, the inspiring tables retain the extremely high standards set by the previous dressing-compilations. Furthermore, the fine-tuning in the organizational details and the cool related table-notes render this compilation better than the sum of its parts.

No matter the system you’re playing, whether it’s PFRPG, 5e, one of the OSR-rulesets or DCC – changes are that this pdf will improve your GMing prowess and, ultimately, your game. This is a great resource, very much recommended – and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. And yes, this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume II System Neutral Edition
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Thank you very much for the review. It's an understatement to say I'm delighted with it!
GM’s Miscellany: Alternate Dungeons
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2017 04:05:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This compilation of the Alternate Dungeons-series clocks in at 75 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 68 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

There is a meta-reason for the way in which dungeons have become this popular in our games; they represent a closed environment that is simply easier to handle for the GM than a wide open sandbox or open wilderness adventure; it can be predicted more easily, etc. That being said, anyone who has played a dungeon-campaign before (or GM’d one!) can probably attest to the necessity of changing paces, dressing, etc. – and changing scenery. Few veterans will be content with walls upon walls of stony dungeons and caverns – sooner or later, you have to alternate the scenery, right?

Well, yes, but at the same time, this means that other considerations apply – whether it’s a good depiction of sewers (See Gaming Paper’s “Edgewater’s Folly” for an example of that done right…), a ruined village or a weird, druidic/fey-ish hedge maze, there are plenty of cool sceneries to explore – and these obviously come with changed rules by which the respective environments operate, right? Lack of ceiling equals, for example, a changed usefulness of Climb (no climbing on ceilings, but potentially climbing OVER walls!), and an upgrade for the ability to fly via diverse means – these all need to be kept in mind.

And this is where this series comes in – in each installment, we take a look at one less common dungeon trope. In the beginning of the respective chapter, we take a look at general considerations in a basic manner – not in the level of detail I’d like to see, but better than nothing – we cover hazards, special uses of powers etc. here and move on to a dressing table for the alternate dungeon. These often constitute high points for the respective entries, sporting some seriously evocative ideas. From there, we move on to a short recap of suggested sample denizens. While I get why these lists often focus on Bestiary I and basic critters, ultimately, that makes these lists only useful for beginner GMs. Creature-modifications or the like would make sense here, but I digress.

The respective installments also feature traps, haunts, hazards, etc. – but most of the time, these do not amount to complex options and remain flavorful, if a bit simple. These sections, however, also often sport terrain properties which very much can be considered to be helpful. Finally, we close the respective installments with sample adventure hooks – many are interesting and creative, but there are a few filler hooks as well.

So there you have it – that would be the basic structure of the series. This compilation contains abandoned temples and villages, alchemist laboratories, haunted houses, infested sewers, mystic groves and mystic ruins. I have written reviews for all the individual installments, so, if you do require further guidance, please consult the respective reviews. The alternate dungeons herein are presented alphabetically, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The electronic version comes in two iterations, with one being optimized for screen-use, while the other is intended for the printer- kudos there! The pdf version comes fully bookmarked. I can’t comment on the print version.

Alexander Augunas, Nicholas Wasko, Mike Welham and Daron Woodson have created a nice series here…but unlike most such compilations by Raging Swan Press, I see honestly less benefit in having this series all compiled neatly in a single tome. You will only ever be using one of the chapters at any given time, and considering the prep-work alternate dungeons impose on the GM, you’ll have less immediate switching requirements. The dressing-components are well-crafted and I found myself really enjoying the series as a whole…but ultimately, this series, as a whole, may be the one I wished Raging Swan Press rebooted and changed.

The brevity of the files often works against them when we look at them as intended for novice-GMs, who can frankly use more hand-holding regarding the peculiarities of the respective alternate dungeons. On the other hand, veterans will consider the half-hearted denizen-recommendations less useful; a comprehensive list covering multiple bestiaries would have helped veterans, but focusing on the basics…makes that section pretty much a waste of space in all installments. The hooks, in some instances, are great – but also sometimes require some GM-skill to pull off. Ultimately, the series suffers from its format and can’t unanimously cater to either veterans or novices; it remains a high-quality series, but one hampered by its format.

Ultimately, I had hoped that this compilation would expand the individual entries to make up for it being less useful than in comparable Raging Swan series to have all in one place. Don’t get me wrong – this is a good offering, even though it falls short of the excellence the series could have provided. If you already own the constituent pdfs, I’d suggest printing out what you need instead. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM’s Miscellany: Alternate Dungeons
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Deep Magic: Battle Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2017 03:59:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ 5e-Deep Magic-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this installment with a brief introduction and then move on to no less than 8 (!!) feats, so what do they do? Arcane Charger lets you Dash and cast a cantrip with a range of touch as a bonus action, granting you +5 to spell damage or the option to push the target 10 feet away if you move at least 10 ft. in a straight line. Okay, so I assume, due to the name, that the cantrip is cast at the end of the movement of Dash, right? Or could I Dash part an enemy, cantrip-push him and then move on? I am not 100% clear on the sequence here. I am also not happy with the fact that the push, RAW, happens automatically. Compared to the tempest domain’s thunderbolt strike, for example, which requires actually dealing damage, this is odd.

Arms Booster lets you touch an ally’s weapon as an action, which is then treated as magic and gets a +1 damage roll – but the use of this feat requires expenditure of a spell of 1st level or higher as well as completing a short or long rest to use again…and it needs concentration, which hobbles the caster for a pretty minor buff. Beyond that, the feat is called lower caps arcane infusion in the final sentence, which makes me think that something has probably gone wrong in the WIP-stage here. Battlecaster nets you a proficiency with a simple or martial weapon, allows you to use the weapon as spellcasting focus, and lets you add the weapon’s bonus to hit and damage to a spell while wielding a weapon you’re proficient with. Nice one! Eldritch Lifesaver lets you, as a bonus action, expend a spell of 1st level or higher, healing spell level hit points of an ally within 30 ft. or yourself, while also netting you temporary hit points equal to your spellcasting modifier. Thankfully requires a short or long rest to recharge.

Elemental Trapper makes you choose one of the 5 elemental damage types, leaving a cloud of this energy behind when casting a spell. Single target spells create 5-foot-clouds in the target’s square. The cloud inflicts spellcasting ability modifier + the spell’s level damage of the type associated with the cloud. Interesting soft crowd control – and yep, the cloud only lasts briefly and damages targets that end their turn in it, so it is kinda fair. Inspirational Caster nets proficiency in Intimidation or Persuasion and when affecting allies with a spell that does not cause damage, said allies get advantage on saves versus effects that “cause charm or fear” for Charisma modifier rounds – so, does this mean inflicting the charmed and frightened conditions? Or does this refer to specific spells? Also: Shouldn’t be cantrips exempt here? Merciful Caster allows the character to knock creatures out with spells, but oddly requires a long rest to use again. Resolute Caster, finally, is imho pretty problematic, as it makes an incision into a pretty basic concept of 5e, namely concentration: After losing concentration, the effect remains in place until the start of your next turn. Sure, feats are valuable, but this carries a whole lot of potential baggage and could use a bit more information.

The pdf also contains a total of 25 spells, noting the appropriate classes for the respective spell in brackets after the spell-level. We begin with 3 first-level spells: Adjust Positioning allows you to move one ally nearby 5 feet, with higher spell levels yielding more allies – nice chessmaster-style option that yes, does get opportunity attack interaction right. Hobble mount is pretty self-explanatory – it inflicts damage to the target when it’s moving more than half base speed, with higher level spell slots increasing the damage output. The damage, +2d6 per spell slot level, is pretty potent, considering that the spell does not allow for a saving throw. Cool, on the other hand – both it and spur mount, which nets the mount Dash or Disengage as a bonus action, can only affect mounts. Two minor aesthetic gripes: the range “touch” should be capitalized (It’s not the only such instance herein) and in a weird choice for a pdf, artwork from the next page bleeds over to this one – understandable, considering the likelihood of compilation at one point, but some people may be bothered. This, however, will not influence my verdict.

The spell level that gets the most new options would be 2nd, with 7 new spells: Boiling oil creates a 30-ft.-diameter pool that causes fire damage and automatically renders a target beginning or ending his turn in the area prone. And yes, damage applies for beginning AND end -and at 3d8 damage per instance, it is better in every conceivable way than e.g. cloud of daggers, making the spell pretty much OP, even before the no-save prone – grease allows for a save! Mass blade ward, affecting up to 3 targets that may not move further than 30 ft. away, makes for a potent defensive option, thankfully held in check by the brief duration. Poisoned volley is pretty much like boiling oil, but instead inflicts poison damage and the poisoned condition – though with a Constitution saving throw to halve…but it does affect a 20-ft.-square. So yeah, complaint remains, if to a lesser extent. Shared sacrifice allows you to link your life force to up to 5 allies, who take 5 necrotic damage that can’t be reduced – okay, what about immunity and negating the damage? Anyways, these hit points are pooled. Each creature thus linked can, as an action, touch another creature that was affected by the spell, healing hit points equal to your spellcasting modifier, reducing the pool by the same amount. Interesting! Trench does what it says on the tin – it digs a trench. Nice. Warning shot does not specify as what reaction it can be cast, making it non-functional RAW. Wresting wind catapults all items held within 20 ft. of you 10 ft. away from the creatures affected. The area affected is 20 ft. within the designated range.

3rd level yields 6 spells: Curse of incompetence is interesting, imposing disadvantage on the mental ability score checks made to direct a battle and similar commanding features, including penalizing those that seek to make heads or tails of it. Like this one! Mass hobble mount is weird, in that it actually codifies what it affects, specifying beasts, including two-legged beasts ridden Nightfall creates a 60-ft. cylinder of darkness, with sudden dawn doing the opposite. Outflanking boon creates an illusion that helps grant allies advantage on melee attacks versus the foe, with subsequent saves to end it. Weird: “action” is capitalized in the casting time-section. Thunderous wave is a blast that explodes and repositions targets – rather nice…though being pushed even on a successful save can be pretty nasty.

We get 3 new 4th level spells: By the light of the watchful moon illuminates all threats within 90 ft. hostile creatures, traps, hazards – while it’s nice that the spell gets interaction with entering creatures right and does allow for a save, it is anathema to spirits, haunt-like terrain features, etc. – not a fan. Inspiring speech takes 10 minutes to cast and affects all allies within 60 ft., granting +1 to atk and advantage on saves versus “charm and fear effects” – thing is, there RAW are no such things in 5e. None of the features that cause the charmed or frightened conditions are classified as such. Each ally also gets a couple of temporary hit points – and no, you may not benefit from more than one such effect. Instant siege weapon is easily one of the most interesting spells in the book, assembling a siege weapon instantly if the materials are available, with higher levels providing bigger siege engines. Reposition can target multiple allies and teleport them within 30 ft. –as a bonus action quite potent and nice.

At 5th level, we have holy ground, which prevents the raising of undead and blocks off lower level undead creating tricks. Instant fortification is a ritual that immediately creates a small fort, oddly with the walls or doors having no damage threshold, considering that comparable objects have less hp, but do have a damage threshold. Fault line is a nice 6th-level spell, creating difficult terrain as well as causing damage/potentially knocking down creatures on a failed save. Walking wall creats a wall of swinging axes that does use your spell attack modifier for its attacks – but while it is evident that the attacks are melee attacks, the spell does not explicitly say so, unlike comparable options. The final spell herein would be an 8th-level spell, costly victory, affects multiple foes – on a failed save, when they reduce an ally of your to 0 hp, they burst into flames. Okay…so what I’d do is this: Take a bag of…ants. Or gnats. Or kittens. Designate it as allies. Throw before enemy. Laugh while he takes 6d8 fire and 6d8 radiant damage and bursts into flame…per “ally” killed, for RAW, the spell does not end for a target set ablaze! Pretty big issue there…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are neither on a formal level, nor on a rules-language level as precise as I’ve come to expect from Kobold Press. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with really amazing full-color artworks. The pdf sports basic bookmarks for the chapter-headers, but not for individual spells.

Greg Marks’s battle magic feels significantly less polished than what I am accustomed to see from the series; from balance-concerns to cosmetic hiccups to glitches, we have quite a bunch of problems here; these are partially offset by the cool tricks that are in this book, but ultimately, this, to me, represents the low point of the series so far. With a bit of fine-tuning, this can be made to shine, but as presented, I can’t recommend it as anything more than a somewhat mixed bag. As a person, I did not get much from it and my balance-concerns weigh heavily; as a person, I will round down from my final verdict of 2.5 stars. As a reviewer, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy, however, and hence will round up for my official verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Battle Magic for 5th Edition
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Everyman Iconics: Kyr'shin Unchained
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2017 05:52:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Iconics-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages SRD/advertisement, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Making a viable, well-crafted PC or NPC takes a lot of time in PFRPG, even if you’re good with math and as savvy in the rules as many designers or guys like me are. That’s not supposed to be arrogance, it’s just a fact – I’ve been doing these reviews for a long, long time. Still, that may be, as a whole, the biggest drawback of mechanically more complex systems like PFRPG. While there is fun and plenty of joy o be found in making characters like this, the time-factor should not be underestimated…and where OSR systems just let you roll 6 times and you’re pretty much done, spontaneous PC-death can take a player out of the proceedings for quite some time.

This is, ultimately, where this series comes in – we get various iterations of one character, concisely broken down by level, with the whole progression at one glance and all required material – a all in one package if you will. Now Kyr’shin is no new character for fans of Everyman Gaming – the first installment in this series depicted the dinosaur-riding Kitsune, in his non-unchained version and, or so I have heard whispered on facebook etc., the character has since spread to other publications and may have been one of the reasons for the brilliant Unchained Fighter designed by Alexander Augunas..and yes, he is utilizing the really cool psychological combat maneuvers introduced in Ultimate Charisma for a smart and versatile playing experience. Said unchained fighter chassis remains one my favorite fighter-rebuild and this pdf makes full use of the chassis thus presented, but that just as an aside.

Obviously, the excessively and lavishly detailed biography of Kyr’shin has not changed in the meantime, and both extensive notes on his personality and code of conduct are provided, making him feel like a well-rounded personality, rather than just a collection of stats. His base stats are included for your convenience and no, you do not technically need any of the other books, to reiterate that – the pdf contains the class features, traits, feats – basically everything Kyr’shin uses in his build can be found within these pages, making it simple and easy to grasp how the character works, all without flipping through dozens of books. Beyond the abilities, feats, etc., his mount tsume, the allosaurus gains a similar step by step break-down for all levels. To make that clear once more: You have a handy table that lists all relevant information for levels 1 – 20.

However, we all know that sometimes you just want an immediate statblock – this would be where the sample NPC-statblocks come into play: Levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 14, 17 and 20 are included for your convenience…and oh boy, kyr’shin’s level 20 iteration if a force to be reckoned with, even without his deadly companion…By the way, if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t mentioned the oomphteen archetypes used in the original build…well, there is a reason for that: The unchained kyr’shin doesn’t need them!

Then, the pdf suddenly switches layout from 2-column portrait to 3-column landscape - for a reason: The level 1, level 3 and level 7 iterations of the kitsune are provided in this format - easily printable on one page - and yep, these guys are basically the pregen-versions of Kyr'shin, made as instant-use PCs. As a minor hiccup: The level 7 PC-version reads “Male kitsune fighter 4” – that should be 7. The stats, however, are correct. The level 7 version also comes with the associated Tsume statblock, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good, I noticed no glaring hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s nice full-color two-column/three-column standard; it should be noted that the layout is background-less, making printing the file pretty painless for the printer. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are in full color and actually all new: None are reused from the non-unchained Kyr’shin – Brandon Chang delivers some nice pieces here!

I really like Alexander Augunas’ Kyr’shin – the kitsune is an evocative, unique character; sympathetic, mischievous and badass. Come on: Katana-wielding, dino-riding kitsune? That’s a sight you are not likely to forget! Personally, I do actually prefer the unchained version of Kyr’shin over his original iteration – the unchained fighter chassis allows for an easy and well-made synergy with Ultimate Charisma and the resulting version feels very much organic and fun and plays in a fluid, interesting manner. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Iconics: Kyr'shin Unchained
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Vigilantes of Horror II
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2017 05:50:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second supplement dealing with horrific vigilantes clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, first of all, the archetypes all make use of the variant, transformative Dual Identity variant introduced in the first Vigilantes of Horror-pdf, and yes, it has been reproduced for your convenience here. So, what are the archetypes I’m talking about? The first of these would be a modification that can be applied to them all: The revealed monster, who loses aforementioned dual identity and seamless guise with Toughness and +1 to natural armor bonus, increasing that at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter. Instead of social talents, the archetype gains bonus feats, which may not be combat feats, item creation feats, Extra Vigilante Talent (important) or metamagic feats – or, alternatively, 2 traits. As an aside – this may be a means for GMs to change an exposed monstrous vigilante!

Okay, so what kind of archetypes do we get? The doll master begins play with 3 animated dolls, plus an additional doll at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, animating and de-animating one doll as an immediate action. The doll master can control a maximum of 2 such dolls at any given time. The doll base stats are provided, but things become a tad bit more complex: Upon creation, the doll master chooses one role for the doll and he may never have more than 2 dolls of a given role. The roles btw. correspond, analogue to spirits etc., to the mythic roles: Archmages and Hierophants provide limited SPs, champions and guardians defensive options and e.g. Marshall dolls provide a morale bonus based buff alongside some numerical boons – though it does have an obvious “See Page XX”-glitch that should have been caught.

Trickster dolls, among other things, obviously gain sneak attack. It should be noted that these abilities increase in potency at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. The pdf concisely covers the means to replace destroyed dolls. Dolls, potent though they be, replace the vigilante specialization. Vigilante talents sans requirements that the doll master learns may instead by granted to the doll – this means that the doll master does not have it, though. When such a doll is destroyed and replaced, the new one does have the doll, which is a plus. 5th level provides startling appearance for the dolls, with 11th and 17th level yielding the follow-up appearance abilities for them. They also, btw., become really good at impersonating mundane dolls.

Beyond this significant modification of the base class, the archetype also sports an exclusive talent, which may be selected multiple times, increasing the potency and options available for the dolls – climb speed, burrow speed, attaching – you get the idea. All in all, an interesting pet-class version of the vigilante, which comes with an amazing full-color artwork.

The second archetype featured in this book would be the glaub, who represents the sentient ooze/blob-angle – instead of vigilante specialization, these guys can perform AoO-less overruns, adding scaling acid damage to targets knocked prone thus. As a minor complaint: The slam attack does not note that it’s a primary natural attack, requiring that you default to the standards. Instead of 1st level’s social talent, the character gains acid resistance 5, which increases by 5 at 3rd, 7th and 10th level, replacing unshakeable. 2nd level’s vigilante talent is replaced with a 10% chance to ignore critical hits and sneak attacks, which increases by +5% per class level attained, up to full 100% immunity at 20th level. Okay, does this stack with light/heavy fortification? No idea.

Starting at 4th level, as part of a standard action, the glaub can slime – all creatures through whose squares the glaub moves must either choose: Make an AoO or try to avoid being slimed (non-scaling Ref-save makes the latter option lose its potency at higher levels ) –slimed opponents take acid damage and are nauseated, but may make Ref-saves against a scaling DC to scrape off the slime. Starting at 12th level, provided the glaub takes the right vigilante talent, targets being slimed are also blinded. 6th level provides a 30 ft.-range option to sling acid damage dealing slime. The damage of this and slams, slime, etc. increases at 10th level. 14th level yields immunity to being tripped and the glaub can no longer be flanked and gains all-around vision. The other exclusive talents of the archetype yield reflexive acid damage, adding entangling to sliming foes, gaining grab in conjunction with slams and the follow-up talent to suffocate grappled targets…which can be rather OP with a min-maxed grappling build. I’d strongly suggest at least tying that to being pinned rather than grappling foes.

The grotesque gains a specific type of bardic performance variant ( 4 + Charisma modifier rounds, +2 per level – which should probably be class level), with 7th and 13th level decreasing the activation action from standard to move and swift action, respectively. Satire is an AoE-debuff to attack and damage rolls and saves versus fear- and charm-effects, increasing the penalty thus caused at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. 4th level unlocks mockery, a scaling single-target Charisma-debuff. Inspire weakness nets at 10th level two negative levels to a target, increasing the number of targets affected every 3 levels beyond 9th (slightly off formula – but the maximum of 18th level makes me think that it’s intentional) – and before you’re asking: No, you can’t cheese this, the negative levels vanish upon ending the performance and have a proper save. This replaces the vigilante specialization and the talents gained at 4th, 8th and 10th level and those gained at 14th and 20th level. Grotesques may learn bardic masterpieces they qualify for instead of feats or vigilante talents.

3rd level provides +4 to saves versus fear, energy drain, death effects and necromantic effects , replacing unshakeable. The bonus increases at 9th and 15th level. 6th level’s vigilante talent is exchanged for allows for the use of Perform (keyboard) or Perform (percussion) instead of Intimidate for demoralization purposes and gains +1/2 vigilante level to the check. Furthermore, saves versus fear effects caused by the grotesque are made at a -2 penalty, increasing by -1 every 5 levels thereafter.

The inexorable killer’s melee and thrown weapon ranged attacks inflict +1d6 damage versus targets subject to fear effects – cool: The ability covers both the regular fear conditions AND those featured in Horror Adventures. This damage increases at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter and if he is the source of the fear, he also gets +1 to attack rolls against the target, with scaling of +1 at the same levels that get the bonus damage upgrade. When using a terror strike thus, starting at 2nd level, the killer can Cha-mod times per day as an immediate action heal 5 hit points per terror strike’s bonus damage die. 3rd level provides a bonus to track victims after having struck them, as well as gaining a bonus on checks made to demoralize that target – he may only have one such victim active at one time. Solid. 4th level yields aura of menace and 6th level upgrades terror strike’s damage out put: The bonus damage is doubled versus unarmed and flat-footed foes: Kudos: Improved Unarmed Strike, natural attacks etc. are exempt from that. 18th level resurrects the slain killer 1d4 years after he has been dispatched – and an ally of the killer can sacrifice 10 people as a substitution material component to call the killer back from the dead. While this provides a sort of immortality, at 18th level, this makes sense and can be countered…and it’s really, really flavorful.

Nightmare prowler vigilantes receive a modified class skill list as well as a decreased number of skills per level –only 4 + Int-mod. They also lose proficiency with medium armor and are proficient with simple weapons and one exotic weapon of their choice. The archetype casts spells as a psychic, but uses Charisma as governing attribute for spellcasting, replacing 4th, 8th, 10th, 14th and 16th’s level’s vigilante talent. An important limit: The archetype can only cast spells with the evil, fear, pain or mind-influencing descriptors from the psychic and sorc/wizard-lists. 5th level provides the option to 1/day as a full-round action duplicate ethereal jaunt for up to class level rounds. The prowler can’t attack while in this form, but his spells may affect sleeping, meditating or unconscious creatures – such targets also take 1d6 slashing damage per spell level, waking up on a successful save 10th level allows the archetype to affect creatures suffering from a number of negative conditions and 20th level delimits the ability. This is a very potent archetype; personally, I think that the bonus damage should allow for its own save or at least half damage upon making the save, but that may be me. If you enjoy the obvious Freddy-style of the archetype and want it to be sufficiently deadly…well, up to +9d6 guaranteed damage per spell can do that.

Strange Invaders replace vigilante specialization with the omicron beam, which can be fire Intelligence modifier + class level times per day, in a 5 ft. wide, 30 ft.-line, dealing a base damage of 1d4 untyped (not a fan of this, but it IS at least properly spelled out!) damage, increasing the damage output at every odd level. And yeah, Ref-save halves, so that remains palpable. Really interesting: Invaders exchange the penalties and bonuses gained by morale/fear-effects; I LOVE this, idea-wise, but I do think that morale bonuses, switched to penalties, should then allow for a save. The appearance ability tree at 5th level is replaced with losing type and subtype, becoming basically a type-wise non-entity; additionally, the archetype treats cold damage as nonlethal damage starting at this level. The talents of the archetype interact with omicron beams, allowing for shaping of the beam – and the consumption of those eliminated via the beam. There is a remnant “End” in one of the abilities, though.

The towering terror increases HD to d10 and reduced skills per level to 2 + Intelligence, but loses all armor proficiency. Instead of vigilante specialization, the character is permanently affected by enlarge person and monkey fish, while also gaining slam attack (need to default to primary here) and a natural AC bonus equal to Constitution modifier, with 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter increasing the size. It’s a bit of a pity that higher level terrors can’t control their size-increase – the size-increase can be detrimental, particularly at higher levels. Starting at 3rd level, the archetype no longer takes size penalties in urban, mountain and water terrain, which is pretty cool. 6th level yields the option to inflict double damage with slams versus unattended objects. At 18th level , the character gets to choose one of several abilities, from grab to trample. Since the character gets a size-increase at 12th level, losing both 12th and 18th level’s talents for this does make sense.

The final archetype would be the witchspawn, who is always hovering 1 inch and halving weight, with +2 to ref-saves. 5th level yields a fly speed (not flight speed) equal to base land speed, but fails to specify maneuverability – boo! The archetype can summona rotten skeletal arm within 30 ft., +10 ft. at 3rd level and every 2 class levels thereafter. This arm is treaed as a primary natural attack inflicting 1d6 damage (damage type?) , using Charisma to govern attack and damage bonus. The arm lasts for Charisma modifier rounds, and has ¼ of the vigilante’s hit point. Would that be current or maximum hit points? What if a vigilante has less than 4 hit points? No idea. The arm can make Disable Device checks at a -2 penalty and at 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the vigilante can summon forth an additional claw when using this ability. Here, the limb is suddenly classified as a claw, which allows for the defaulting of damage types, at least. 7th level increases the critical threat range to 19 – 20, with1 4th level increasing it to 18 – 20.

2nd level yields a non-harmless hex, but these may only affect a target damaged by an arm, as though using Hex Strike. However, triggering the hex is a swift action. 8th level and every 6 levels thereafter yields another hex, with 14th level unlocking major hexes. 3rd level yields hex ward instead of unshakeable. 10th level provides the option, to, as a full-round action, use the arms to drag creatures into solid objects, dazing them on a failed save. 17th level allows for the inflicting of negative levels via concerted claw attacks…which is slightly problematic. It only refers to “claws”, not the claws called forth by the ability, making this very potent for vigilantes who have claws themselves. 20th level unlocks a grand hex.

The vigilante also gets to choose from 2 new social talents – one for 2 traits and one that nets an aura that penalizes saves versus fear-effects and Perception…but also yields an initiative bonus, dismissable at-will as a free action…really interesting! Two thumbs up for this one. The pdf also sports two vigilante talents – one for a second slam attack and one that nets a corruption manifestation sans having to acquire the associated corruption, though the manifestation may not have prerequisites.

The nice tradition of sporting vendettas as nice roleplaying angles is continued in this pdf. The pdf also sports haunted items – which may not be created – these are basically horror-themed items, like whips that animate to lash out, bottles containing grudges…these items are flavorful and ooze cool horror-tropes – big kudos there. Beyond these, eldritch items, also intended as adventure hooks, can similarly not be created or fully understood, including weird infrasound instruments, bolts of etheric silk or the strange last hourglass. Nice: The pdf does offer magic item properties for crafting purposes that interact with Horror Adventure’s expanded fear-system – for this alone, this may well be worth getting for some campaigns.

The pdf comes with a bonus pdf penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr – it depicts the Blood Scarecrow monster (with neat full-color artwork) at CR 4 – who not only gets a throwing pitchfork, but also the ability to choke foes and fly in moonlight. Oh, and paralyzing gaze. It’s a brutal foe for CR 4 and definitely a worthwhile challenge for heroes, unlike many, many iterations of the trope.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good to good on a formal level; however, on a rules-language level, while the pdf gets a LOT really well, often complex operations, it does sport some hiccups that act as slight detriments, sometimes influencing the rules-language. Layout adheres to PDG’s printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf’s full-color pieces are pretty damn cool. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Aaron Hollingworth’s growth as a designer, when compared to book I, is pretty evident: The designs are bolder, more unique and provide meaningful alterations to the base chassis, with very strong themes for all options. The book risks more and for the most part, in spite of the risks and higher complexity of the abilities, it does a better job at what it sets out to do; I found myself smiling at many pieces of content here, though the rules-language does stumble in a few cases. With a bit polishing in that regard, this could have been one of the best vigilante-supplements out there. Scratch that, even with these hiccups, it still is a pretty impressive book and one of my definite favorites regarding option books for the class. In fact, more so than any other book of vigilante supplements, this one may be worth getting even if you don’t use the class for PCs – as an NPC-toolkit and due to the inspiring items, this has something to offer beyond the options for the class.

While not perfect, this comes still with a definite recommendation at 4.5 stars, and while personally, I love this, in my official capacity as reviewer, I have to account for the minor flaws and thus can’t round up. Still, very much worth getting if the content mentioned even remotely intrigues you!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vigilantes of Horror II
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