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Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 3
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:37:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of this experimental series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

So, in case you’ve been wondering – yes, this is just as experimental and weird as the previous two installments – instead of a standard RPG-supplement, this should be considered to be part poetry, part prose and this time around, it is thoroughly concerned with concepts, not any rules – this is essentially system neutral and should be considered to be a glimpse at a disturbing, psychedelic post-apocalyptic and surreal world. We begin this installment with an expansion of splotch-like overview map of the regions covered so far in the series, with the new locales added.

We move from the forest of dead electric, to the waxy green swaths of rocks, with no plant-life, just sparse rain, naked stone and terrible crystals, an emerald wasteland of poisonous salts – the serpentine stretches as depicted in the prose here is a hostile environment par excellence. Within it, there is “The Only City” – the second strange geography.

“There is only one city. They know this. […]” – only braving death in the wasteland may revoke this hypothesis…and there is not much food; soil is mostly poisonous and so, all inhabitants are both skinny and gourmands…the repercussions, though, are left between the lines… And a brief piece of poetry complements the life there atop an eerily captivating image of a city raised atop a tower, overhanging like a flat disc growing on a treetrunk, with escalators or feeding tendrils hanging low, reminiscent of a deep-sea creature from another world. Those condemned have arsenic bronze locked into their hands, sent to mine in the poisonous crater lake, with lethal poppy as the reward for cooperation – basically, the sword & sorcery forced labor trope, through a shade both weird and familiar. 6 sample and obscure reasons for being arrested in the city (including “Displaying unkind eyes”), and mention that horses aren’t real – in spite of there being a horse fountain. It’s small tidbits like this that generate a whole cascade of ideas in my mind – and that you may well enjoy as well.

Beyond the city, there is also the Burning God. The pdf notes: “Some need to see the face of god, and will accept nothing less than suffering.” - a faded sign beckons in the desert and a strange fire awaits beneath air thick with ozone and religion; it is an AI, a strange thing, pondering a question for ages,a question that led to solipsism and made it evolve into what it pondered, at least to itself, and what else matters? Expectations of generations of pilgrims expecting to suffer has twisted any and all notions of divinity; the entity knows many things and is bad information, filtered through not enough logic circuits – it is, in short, a rather scathing satire if you read between the lines…or, well, you could make it just a literal form of adversary, you know?

So, the third of Evey Lockhart’s pdfs of this series also has no bookmarks, sports the neat, disquieting and weird experimental artworks. It sports the same style of information as the previous pdfs – it is an exploration of weird geographies and as such, it is pretty inspiring…though to me, #3 does not reach the full-blown wonder of #2. The concepts here, both the city and the burning god, are well-executed and interesting; their details are intriguing and smart…but the pdf still doesn’t reach the thoroughly inspiring genius of #2, as both are variants of classic tropes, while #2 was just pure, unbridled creativity. For PWYW, this is very much worth checking out, though! And since it is less weird than #2 and more palatable than #1, it may be the best pdf to check out the unique brand of weirdness this offers for people less familiar with experimental fiction. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 3
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Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 2
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:34:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of this series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

This series should be understood as experimental – it is in part artwork and visualized, experimental poetry/prose as well as an almost system-neutral kinda-regional setting. The first pages provides a page, with graphs and splotches of color – these note the locations of #1’s places as well as new ones; the first of these would be the radian forest[sic!] – no, that’s no typo. We get three pictures of a forest, with shifted colors, creating a surprisingly effective, unsettling visual experience that underscores the poetry of the write-ups – take e.g. the outskirts:

“Just outside, living trees still

Hide. Sprouting bodies.

Leaves grasp at the sun.

Generation and Degradation.

Metallic sings grass yellow-

Green, springing

Underfoot.”

If this inspires you, then chances are good you’ll like this pdf, as it goes on to note green fleeing from the forests, orange ascendant; Rain hates and breaks and jumps circuits, unearthing filaments of old gods and dead alike.

The wire slime, a bio-metallurgical processing colony, is next; the tale of its spread and genesis is covered in a one-page prose-section that is supplemented by rudimentary rules for weapon and tech-degradation. From here, we move to 4 system neutral forest tribes – one has the custom of purchasing adulthood with the willing removal of a body part; another consists of radical nudists; another is led by a stoned space-cadet shaman…and there are people sans eyes and ears that communicate via smells…6 armaments are provided and range from ancestral laser guns to hardened vine spears or weaponized slime. There is no differentiation between damage types, fyi.

And then, there is the cabin & the TV. Why and How is it still here? It is a watertight plastic room with a thin plastic TV. “DO NOT” and “Turn Off” are gouged into the frame; the bullet-point notes of the room paint a puzzling, stark image. Ancient sitcom issues amuse people whose realities include electric slavery and warlords; “Perhaps despair coalesces along certain frequencies. Perhaps secret wishes for an ending manifest physically in two dimensions. An X axis of canned laughter. A Y axis of inchoate sorrow.” – that is powerful prose right there, and it leads in and pertains to the reason the TV must be turned off when broadcast ends – in the visuals of two artworks, it can be found, lurking in the signal, waiting to emerge – the static dragon, impossibly sharp. It gains HD while static persists. It may quickly become unstoppable. It is pretty damn amazing.

Much like its predecessor, this supplement is highly experimental, but it is imho better in every way – it does not require shock value to sell its psychedelic, savage strangeness, instead providing a level of original imagination that felt as though Psychic TV or Throbbing Gristle had written an RPG-supplement; this borders the line of art and gaming supplement and I’m frankly not sure where I’d put it. It is more immediately usable than the first installment and the prose, similarly, has improved in quality. I thoroughly loved the weirdness and otherness of this supplement. If you’re looking for something inspiring (and/or enjoy weird poetry/prose), then check this out right now. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 2
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Libraries
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2018 05:03:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the cool Letters from the Flaming Crab series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of editorial, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, we begin this pdf, as always, with a great little letter dropped from the planes- and worlds-hopping vessel UCS Flaming Crab, found and faithfully transcribed by J Gray – and we begin this pdf with a brief recap of the institutions of libraries before defining it – for the purpose of this book and fantastic contexts, a library ultimately is a collection of information and similar forms of entertainment, composed most often, of written words. This definition, as the pdf acknowledges, is rather technical, though – ultimately, a library is more. If you have ever walked the hallsof a proper university library or perhaps even the thoroughly impressive ancient ones out there and felt the sheer awe they inspire, you’ll know what I meant. The nature and composition of the books, its building and nature all thoroughly influence the character of the place, a notion that can be easily amplified in a fantastic context, while knowledge even more directly translates to power than in our world.

Now, the pdf begins with a general step-by-step guideline regarding the creation of libraries – first, one should determine the type: Whether public or private, and then we move on to take a look at accessibility – after all, pretty much all governments, particularly those inclined towards totalitarian modes of operation, have a tendency to restrict access and information…same goes, obviously, for religions: Heresy, false information – the propaganda conflicts of the medieval ages once more sound pretty contemporary these days, in our brave new world…so yeah, society, groups and persons that established the libraries will ultimately define the accessibility and themes of a library. Similarly, circulation is a potential issue – curators, librarians and assistants, organization and audience should be taken into account. Nice: The effects of the various starting attitudes of curators have been noted, with extensive behavior guidelines for the GM – and yes, friendly curators can have pretty nice tangible benefits for the PCs.

Now, the pdf employs Ultimate Intrigue’s nice research rules to provide a vast variety of different libraries – these come with several research thresholds each and sport interesting ideas that rang from the obvious adventure angle to the more fantastic – there is e.g. the Dwarven Mining College Library, which can yield important notes on hidden veins of ore…and there’s a wagon of children#s books, some of which cannot be deciphered by adults and only make sense to children reading them…who curiously never tell what they read. If you wanted an excuse to employ Everyman gaming’s cool Childhood Adventures-rules…there you go! Mistress Sandwind’s unfinished magnum opus’ trail can be found beneath the desert sands. Another interesting example would be a national library (minor complaint here: One line is missing blank spaces – a little layout hiccup, I guess…) and, following the pretty loose definition of “library”, the court of Lishaz, sage of winter, is provided as an interesting example of an unconventional library.

Within a sunken city, last remnant of a once resplendent civilization, beckons – all those that can reach it. Reading rooms can be found…and the medical collection of a temple comes with a rare disease that only very few are susceptible to…and notes on how it could be caused. So if you’re looking for a Dr. House-like story to tell, there you go. Speaking of plague: Pcture a metropolis, wrecked, like clockwork, every 150 years by a plague – and holds e.g. a hidden mummy…and ancient pictographs may well hold the secret to end this scourge. Oh, and yes, there is a virtual library, remnant of a crashed starship, so if you’re enjoying a bit of sword & planet/science-fantasy, this has you covered.

Okay, after this pretty diverse and inspiring chapter, we move on to defining and discussing a variety of different document types – from tablets to codices to the virtual, this section is nice…and then, we move on to one aspect of PFRPG near and dear to my heart. As a polyglot and language-nerd, I always hated how most d20-based systems, including PFRPG, handle languages – one skill point per language?? Seriously? Anyways, this trivializes many of the cool scenes and hooks I enjoy in horror literature, sword & sorcery, etc. – hence e.g. the elimination of common in my games…and some house-rules. The pdf proposes a rather simple and elegant system here, one that is focused on gradient fluency. There are 3 general levels: Competent, fluent and proficient – if you ever took a language test, you should be familiar with the meanings, right. For each skill point in Linguistics gained, you assign two fluency points. This makes mastering a language a bit more complex and allows the GM finer distinction between proficiency-levels…and allows for more complex roleplaying situations. The benefits and limitations of the respective fluency levels are concisely defined, with proficiency providing minor benefits to award specialization – I really, really like this solution! Huge plus for the pdf here and what I’d consider to be a selling point – if you’re planning an occult, horror or intrigue-based campaign (or one with a more sword and sorcery-esque theme), then this should be considered to be mandatory reading. And yes, the rules are simple and rewarding enough to not overly complicate any book-keeping required – I’d suggest a superscript C, F or P noted with the languages. As a final aside here: Knowing a few words to get around is covered – really helpful!

Really cool, btw.: The pdf has collected a whole page of class options, items and spells that tie in with the concept of libraries – helpful and neat…kudos for going the extra mile here.

The pdf also sports some class options, the first of which would be the library subdomain, which is associated with Community and Knowledge, replacing either calming touch or lore keeper, respectively. The ability granted is narrative gold: Mind palace lets you read a tome as part of your morning prayers, allowing you to nigh-perfectly recall content, reflected by a bonus to Knowledge checks that scales with levels. This is gold for detective scenarios and sports a really nice imagery; it is also convenient for narrative games, as the quicker study can be helpful indeed. There is also a new oracle mystery, the words mystery, which nets Linguistics and Perform as class skills. Bonus spells range from the usual suspects like comprehend languages to spellcasting contracts, being a bit more vanilla than the notably cool replacement domain spells provided by the cleric subdomain. (Which include, just fyi, psychic asylum (library only) – which made me recall one of my favorite scenes from the Hannibal franchise. But I digress. The revelations available in the mystery are interesting – there is e.g. automatic writing that is prophetic and later upgraded to commune (spell-italicization missing)…which is interesting, but I consider it cooler to learn about an author by analyzing a text written – this makes for a pretty cool tool, which, at higher levels, also duplicates spell-effects. Here, the italicization’s correct, just fyi. Countering effects based on written or spoken words a limited amount of times per day is cool, but I am not 100% sold on how it works – you see, it references countersong as how it works – but countersong is based on bardic performance rounds, while the ability instead has a daily use array, which you’d expect from e.g. an immediate action counter ability and which makes it quite hard to decipher how this is supposed to work. Clarification would be appreciated here. “Esoteri Research”[sic!] is utterly broken. It lets you research spells from one class list of your choice as though they were two levels lower. Once you complete research of the spell, you gain it at +1 spell level as an oracle spell. Notice the issue? Well, oracles are limited by being spontaneous casters and their limited spell array – this allows you to basically use research to not only poach in another spell-list, it also eliminates the limit imposed on the spellcasting of the class. Not cool.

The next revelation is not properly formatted and looks like a continuation of the previous revelation, having its name indented as well. It is written has a terminology issue: Once per day, you can write a spell in air, earth or paper. (Oddly specific – why not in water?) The spell then is treated as not having verbal or “cheap material components” - okay, what is cheap? No cost? Anything below 1 gp? No idea. This is not proper rules language. Gaining access to symbol spells is nice and I really like the idea of swift action enlarging pens, quills, etc. to act as longswords, with a bit of class-level-based bonus damage. The ability only allows for one attack before reverting to standard size, though, and with a swift action and limited daily activations, is unfortunately rather weak. I really like the visuals of wall of text: You yammer on, creating a wall that deflects arrows, etc. – basically a variant wall of sound…and once more, the interaction with the referenced base are what sinks this. You see, it can be maintained for 10 (!!!) minutes per class level and you may spend them in 10-minute increments; unlike the spell, you do NOT RAW need concentration to maintain it. I am also not sure if it cause wall of sound’s damage…or not. Instead of the damage, the wall seems to be able to STUN targets on a failed save for ridiculously long times. Even stranger – the ability has a separate stun chance when near the oracle, which implies that the oracle needs to be directly behind the wall…which contradicts the range of wall of sound and leaves me utterly incapable of determining of how this should work. All in all, a promising mystery that is severely hampered by its rules-issues.

The final component of the pdf would be a magic item, the bookring, whose gems can hold non-magical tomes – which ends the pdf on a high note and with some cool, inspiring ideas.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not as good as usual for the series – I have noticed a couple of typo-level glitches and the rules-language hiccups I found are pretty obvious and left me a bit puzzled. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf employs neat, thematically fitting artworks – some from public domain and some really nice books with landscapes on their pages, visualizing the imaginary process.

June Bordas, Lindsey Shanks-Abel and Margherita Tramontano deliver a per se really cool installment here: I absolutely adored the section on libraries, the GM-guidelines and the fluency-section is gold – personally, I’ll employ an even finer distinction, but the rules are simple and concise enough to allow a GM easy modification: I’d suggest, for example, paying off of competence penalties and/or gaining proficiency benefits on a point-for-benefit-basis. I pretty much liked everything about this book apart from the formal hiccups and the disappointing oracle mystery, which represents a weird dip in overall quality; it is more vanilla than the subdomain and falls e.g. short of R.O.D.’s (Read or Die for non-Otakus – an anime classic) extensive tricks…or the more down to earth research tricks. Balancing of this one is really wonky as well and it drags, alongside the smaller glitches, down what otherwise would be a truly excellent supplement. As written, I cannot go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down, as I have to rate the whole book as a reviewer. If you can look past a couple of minor glitches and the mystery, then you should consider this a 5 star + seal file instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Libraries
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Fighters of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2018 04:06:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised and (significantly) improved version

The revised edition of Fighters of Porphyra clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, which are laid out for use as a digest-size (6’’ by 9’’ or A5), which means that you can print this out and fit up to 4 pages on a page, making it pretty printer-friendly.

The revised pdf sports V.1.1. on the cover, just fyi.

All righty, after the original pdf took a sound beating from yours truly, the Purple Duck crew didn’t just shrug and move on; instead, they sat down and made this upgraded version, so how does it hold up?

Well, first of all, you’ll note that the original pdf’s proposed global rules-changes have been modified: We get 4 + Int mod skills per level and Perception becomes a class skill. A fighter’s Intelligence, if below 13, is treated as 13 for the purpose of prerequisites, representing a workaround for the annoying ability tax. Furthermore, fighters in Porphyra gain good Will-saves. Helpful: All of these proposed rules-changes are explained, including ramifications, making it easy for the GM to determine whether or not to implement them.

The pdf also sports two proposed, new skill uses: Craft gets basically a no-hassle version of its mechanics, which, while not perfect, should be suitable for less simulationalist games. Knowledge (nobility) is expanded to include knowledge of the lore of the land, fighting styles, etc., which makes sense.

One of the issues that combat maneuver specialists will encounter would be the steep feat tax – the pdf suggests the option to merge a couple of them for the purpose of using them: E.g. Improved Bull Rush and Improved Overrun constitute a set; Succeeding on a check with a 10+ margin allows for the application of a feat in the same set as well. This works surprisingly smoothly and significantly better than the somewhat ill-advised original concept of halved feats – kudos for salvaging a very much worthwhile concept.

Okay, the first massive surprise comes in the archetype-section – the Doppelsoldner. (Purely aesthetic nitpick – it should be Doppelsöldner; Söldner being German (Singular and Plural) for mercenary/ies.) These fellows are usually not good or chaotic and modify their proficiency-list to encompass simple and martial melee weapon, simple ranged weapons as well as all armors, but not shields. Instead of the bonus combat feats gained at 2nd, 6th, 12th and 18th level and the lost proficiencies, these fellows gain a linear series of abilities called doppelsöldner drills, focusing on using two-handed weapons. At 1st level, when charging an enemy provokes AoOs, that is double damage for the attack; combat maneuvers instead ignore size restrictions – this still can only be used with brace weapons, but makes for a potent tool; 2nd level nets an AoO triggered, but only 1/round. 4th level adds brace/trip to any two-handed melee weaponry wielded and may substitute melee attacks for a distinct set of maneuvers. Penalty-less attacks versus foes within a weapon’s reach and using weapons as though the item had various qualities, adding reach to regular two-handed weaponry…all in all, interesting, particularly, since the archetype gets the interaction with magical movement codified right. Interesting 2-hand-weapon-specialist.

Next up would be the Elusid, who must be good, gains a modified class skill list and for each skill rank they put in Intimidate, they also gain a rank of Diplomacy…but ONLY for the purpose of making moral arguments. Evil creatures are unfazed. Putting actual ranks into Diplomacy lets them use these as usual – basically, it splits Diplomacy…and is a cool way to depict a rhetorical specialist. This replaces the tower shield proficiency. At 2nd level, elusids gain morale reserve, measured in morale points equal to ½ class level + Charisma modifier. As an immediate action, an elusid may spend 1 such point to grant himself and all allies within 30 ft. a +1 morale bonus on saves. The bonus increases by +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter and the ability codifies multi-target effects properly. 3rd level nets the ability to use this bonus on Perception and Sense Motive checks, while 7th level allows for something rather cool, namely penalizing a variety of actions by moral reserve while a foe’s threatened by the elusid; kudos: The pdf managed to cover rules-behavior for actions that constitute as multiple triggering conditions. 11th level lets the elusid use morale reserve to bolster himself against spells and effects with certain descriptors, while 15th level nets the ability to affect multiple targets, while the capstone prevents changes of alignment, as well as being disarmed. The archetype comes with a nice code of conduct…and is a winner. It is interesting, provides meaningful options, has a strong leitmotif and makes for a great mundane, good fighter-face – think Roy from OOTS: The moral compass of the group, with tactics, minor buds, etc. – still very much a fighter, but one that is beholden to ideals without becoming a divine-themed pala. In fact, in a deity-less campaign, I’d consider these guys to be e.g. perfect stand-ins for enlightened humanist martial artists. As a neat plus: Palas that fall can trade in their levels for elusid if they’re still good – in a campaign where the deity turns out to be evil/is corrupted, that can make for an amazing angle.

Giant killers lose medium and heavy armor proficiency and are immune to fear effects caused by humanoids with the giant subtype. Instead of 3rd level’s armor training, these fellows gain scaling bonuses to AC and Reflex-saves while only wearing light armor. Now,, 7th level’s rock evasion interacts with that and also mentions a house-rule I’d strongly suggest pretty much everyone should adopt in one guise or another: 3.X/PFRPG vanilla Rock throwing is wimpy as all hell; either via items, mythic tiers, feats or templates or as a houserule, make them touch attacks that act as ranged bull rush maneuvers. Usually, I’d be weary of such a suggested houserule, but in this case, I can only wholeheartedly applaud it – not only does it make the already pretty wimpy PF-giants more potent, it also enhances the impact of the archetype…and makes sense in game. Oh, and I’ve been playing with basically this by slightly different rules-basics in my home-game forever, so yeah – works!

11th level lets the giant killer move sans provoking AoOs from giants and 15th level nets free overrun, regardless of size, with the scaling bonus added. Additionally, giants felled take damage and 19th level lets the giant killer redirect attacks against adjacent Large or larger creatures. Cool take on the anti-giant specialist.

The immortal would be a racial archetype and must be zendiqi or one of the genasi-races (infrit, oread, sylph, undine); the immortal may not be chaotic and loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency. They begin play with the special weapon and tiarah of their brotherhood; the weapon and tiarah are upgraded later and focus the honor of the character; loss is problematic. The weapon allows for pretty early bypassing of a variety of DRs, while the tiarah nets a save-bonuses versus visual, audible, sonic, and language-dependent effects and occupies the head-slot. 1st level immortals are locked into Old Porphyran as a starting language, representing the insular and xenophobic outlook of the champions of the elemental lords. Starting at 5th level, immortals start inflicting bonus energy damage depending on race (genasi) or bayit (zendiqi) with a chosen weapon group, which is later enhanced, while new weapon groups are unlocked. 7th level nets Leadership with another immortal as a cohort.

Janissaries would be up next; slaves trained and conditioned for war, they lose heavy armor and tower shield proficiency, but gain one firearm proficiency. They treat scimitars as light weapons and may use Weapon Finesse to apply +Dex-mod to damage instead of Str-mod. Additionally, we get Amateur Gunslinger. Instead of bravery, we get save-bonuses representing conditioning. Instead of 7th level’s potential for full movement in heavy armor, we get the option to immediate action attack with specialized weapons when moving in and out of being adjacent to an enemy.

The Itsukami (aka Lone Wolf) is all about using blades as an aggressive means of defense – foes that roll natural 1s may see their weaponry (or bodies) damaged and the archetype nets improved uncanny dodge as well as the option to add weapon enhancement bonuses to AC, with higher levels pulling off the delimiters of blocking edge without breaking it. Next up would be the Meirger’s, who represent mystic warriors. The editing here is a bit weaker than in the rest of the pdf, they can’t decide whether they’re meiriger, merigers or meirgers. The archetype gets a modified class skill list and at 5th level, adds a chosen energy type as bonus damage to attacks with a chosen weapon group. Cool: The ability differentiates between easier resisted and less common energy types – kudos for that and not lumping them all into one group….though I have a rather big issue with positive and negative energy dealing damage to both living and undead, since RAW, vanilla options provide no means to resist either…and there are ramifications for these suddenly affecting creatures that would usually be immune to them on a cosmology-level…so yeah, not a big fan of that decision. The upgrade component of this component has been properly covered.

Next up would be the pawns, who gain decreased starting wealth and only training with light armor and simple weapons as well as regular shields. These fellows begin with a trade (represented by Craft/Profession) as a means to gather information as though using Diplomacy. They also gain an additional trait and may choose more at higher levels. Interesting: They gain bonuses against targets whose CR exceeds their HD – while this is a bit meta-gamey for my tastes, it does convey the idea of the underequipped hero triumphing against the odds. Pawns have good Will-saves – if fighters already get it due to using the global rules, they get more skills per level. We also get a scaling AC bonus instead of armor training and mastery and at 5th level, the option to treat simple weapons as their own weapon group.

Primevals lose martial weapon and heavy armor and shield proficiency, and are only proficient with simple melee weapons as well as dart, javelin, sling and shortbow. They gain claw attacks (properly codified) that scale as monk unarmed attacks – nice: The limitation of iterative attacks for natural weapons is noted. The primeval may add combat maneuvers to crits via immediate actions and later increases the threat-range of the claws; basically, we have a claw/maneuver specialist here, one that makes most sense in conjunction with the suggested maneuver-set-rules, though it does work without them.

Spellfighters get a modified class skill list and gains proficiency in simple and martial melee weapons as well as simple ranged weapons and light armor. The archetype can cast arcane spells sans failure chance in light armor. Kudos: Only works for the archetype’s spells, which are btw. Cha-governed and are drawn from the wizard list, but only abjuration, evocation and conjuration (creation) spells may e chosen and all other spells are not on the spell-list. The spellcasting progression extends to 6th spell level – basically spontaneous spellcasting. These fellows get +2 to concentration, but MUST deliver spells with a range of touch via a mandatory form of spellstrike…and as a balancing tool for full BAB, the archetype can only deliver such spells when hitting regular AC, making touch attack spells behave as basically regular attacks. The archetype also gets the touch spell weapon group and higher levels provide the expected medium and heavy armor upgrades.

The varonis, the final archetype herein, would be a representation of the wandering folk hero: As such, the archetype loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency in favor of an exotic weapon and may use Handle Animal, Survival and Profession to gather information – you know, working and getting info, as noted in many a tale. We also get bonuses to a few skills and initiative while near roads, dodge bonuses while wearing light armor or none and 5th level rewards skirmishing by adding combat maneuver tricks to standard action attacks, an ability that is expanded at higher levels for an actually working combo engine – nice.

The equipment section provides a variant of the healer kit that allows for multiple daily deadly wound treatments (nice); a second variant allows for substituting Fort-saves for Heal, but provides scarification and Wisdom damage…which makes all kinds of sense to me. You know, the drug-heavy field-medic-style kit? Cool! A helmet that can be used for bite attacks (a s a secondary natural attack) and acts as an exotic weapon can also be found; Tinderclubs that may ignite and we get a weapon particularly associated with janissaries, the trench gun. Then, we get weapon modifications…and, as you know, I’m a huge fanboy of Bloodborne, so yeah: Banghammer with gunpowder? Hybrid weapons? That section is really cool and could have carried a pdf of its own, at least in my book.

The feats are interesting: Combat Prudence acts as Combat Expertise for the purpose of prerequisites and allows you to take a -4 penalty to initiative for +2 AC for one combat. Charge/grapple-combo, better bracing, bypassing DR when inflicting unarmed damage in grapples (not a fan of not differentiating between DRs here, scaling ignoring based on HD would have been more sensible)…but I particularly like the feats to make tower shields Pavises, requiring no longer a hand to hold them when thus set up. Crossbow and firearm specialists will relish the option to add Dex-mod to damage with their chosen weapon – kudos: The feat has a neat anti-abuse caveat. We also get Quick Sheathe as a concept done well. No, that is not all here, but yeah – nice section.

The final part of the pdf contains magic items: There would be a longsword that nets you a lesser globe of invulnerability while drawn; we get an interesting special weapon quality to attack foes with cover or shields…but which may only be applied to very light weapons (2 lbs. or less) as a balancing tool and reason to use such weapons. Mass-produced janissary shields are here as well, and we get a quality for AoOs when an opponent rolls a natural 1 on an attack against the wielder, missiles that quell energy…cool. An armor that unveils nearby Stealth-ing/invisible targets and a particular type of immortal tiarah complement this section.

The pdf comes with a bonus file, the Blindbraun monster by David N. Ross – CR 2, undead dwarves with a horrid wail and a blinding gaze.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting of the revised version are very good on a rules language level and similarly, for the most part, very tight on a formal level. Apart from a couple of minor hiccups, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks, etc.

The revision of Aaron Hollingworth’s “Fighters of Porphyra” is a vast improvement. Bringing Carl Cramér on board was obviously a good idea: You see, the original file sported a significant assortment of really cool IDEAS, but the execution was pretty problematic; the rules had issues and didn’t manage to capitalize on the concepts. This pdf, then, would be a case study in why I consider developers and rules editors to be the unsung heroes of the roleplaying scene: I checked the original pdf back to back with this one and the improvements, in many of the small components, are MASSIVE. It’s often with minimal incisions, but suddenly, there are properly working, meaningful engine-tweaks that emphasize the concepts of the archetypes. The most significant improvement, beyond the numerous small tweaks that make stuff, you know, work, would be the complete rewrite of the elusid (now one of my favorite archetypes herein!) and the feat-set-concept. Big kudos! The weapon mod section could carry its own book, just fyi.

How to rate this, then? Well, it’s not on the same amazing-levels as Witches of Porphyra, but it is now a proper addition to the series, on par with the quality we’ve come to expect…and it is fun, diverse and makes for a worthwhile set of options. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fighters of Porphyra
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Orphic Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2018 04:02:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid of psychic and barbarian clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The orphic gains d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Starting at 4th level, they gain Charisma-based spontaneous spellcasting, drawn from the medium’s spell-list. They begin play with knacks (I assume drawn from the medium list as well.) and fast movement (+10 ft. movement while not wearing anything heavier than medium armor and not carrying a heavy load) as well as mindcasting and mindrage. Mindcasting allows the orphic to cast spells while mindraging, also allowing explicitly for defensive casting and concentration and overriding the issues that may spring from the emotion component.

Mindrage can be entered as a free action and may be maintained for 4 + Constitution modifier rounds per day, +2 per class level gained; temporary increases do not increase the rounds per day. While in mindrage, the orphic gains +4 Str and Con, +2 to Will-saves and -2 to AC so far, so good – bonus types make sense. While in a mindrage, an orphic may use skills and abilities that require concentration. Upon ending the mindrage, the orphic is fatigued, and it is treated as rage, bloodrage and soulrage for the purpose of feat prerequisites, etc. This can potentially result in somewhat weird situations regarding feat-choices and items – personally, I’d strongly suggest limiting that to the barbarian’s rage, unless you’re prepared to make some tough calls. The bonuses are increased to +6/+3…and provides a strong ability: Upon entering mindrage, the orphic may apply the effects of a 2nd level or lower spell with a range of ouch or personal to herself upon entering mindrage; if the duration is greater than 1 round, instead only lasts for the duration of the mindrage – this, however, thankfully still requires spell-slot expenditure. Potent, but the lack of cycling the trick and limited spell levels keep it in check. At 17th level, the orphic is no longer fatigued after mindraging, allowing for novaing spell/rage-cycling – at 17th level, that’s okay, though. The capstone upgrades the benefits to +8/+4 and removes the 2nd level or lower limiter of the mindrage.

2nd level yields uncanny dodge, 3rd level a phrenic pool with ½ class level + Cha-mod points. 4th level nets Logical Spell as a bonus feat, 5th improved uncanny dodge and 7th level provides DR 1/-. This DR increases by 1 at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter. 14th level nets +4 to Will-saves while mindraging, which explicitly stacks with other bonuses.

6th level nets a phrenic amplification, with another gained every 3 levels thereafter. 12th level unlocks major amplifications.

Where’s the player agenda, you ask? Well, at first level, the orphic chooses a discipline, gaining a discipline power at 1st level, 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. These powers may only be activated while mindraging and 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter up to 16th provide a spell dictated by the discipline chosen. Unless I have miscounted, we get a total of 9 disciplines for the class.

The first of these would be abomination, which nets dark half as a mindrage modification – this nets a bonus to damage caused with attacks. Minor complaint: You also can choose to inflict bleed damage with spells cast, which scales – while it is evident from the context that this only applies bto spells, the first mention of extra damage does not refer to spells, which makes this slightly harder to grasp than it should be. That being said, the ability is still clear and functional and thus gets a pass. It should be noted that this discipline eliminates the ability to use concentration-requiring tricks while mindraging – so yeah, this tweaks the base playing experience of the class! Nice one!

The discipline also features the option to applying certain spells while mindraging (minor complaint: This does not state that it’s gained as the 4th level discipline power), gaining chaotic resistance to a damage type (you roll a d% and check a small table) and high levels provide rolling twice, SR and finally, fusion with your dark half. The dream discipline has an interesting modification – you lose the AC penalty and become pretty much asleep while mindraging – which is interesting. I do have an issue with the base ability, though: Once per mindrage, you can completely negate any damage taken from a received hit. That’s insanely strong and could allow a level 1 character to negate a hit from a frickin’ deity. I strongly suggest taking a cue from 5e here and instead rolling a die with a scaling bonus, subtracting the damage rolled from that taken. 4th level yields better awareness, with 8th level providing either dream shield or thought shield II when mindraging. Higher levels yield Tiring/Exhausting Critical – minor complaint: The 16th level ability does not properly capitalize the reference to the feats…but the ability is interesting: Foes suffering from their effects are treated as asleep for the prpose of your spells etc. and you may phantasmal killer one such target per rage. The capstone yields illusion and fear immunity and subjective reality while mindraging. Apart from the problematic base ability, this is easily my favorite piece of crunch by Wayward Rogues Publishing so far – the visuals are strong, the theme is excellent and the abilities are mechanically interesting.

The faith discipline requires a deity to be chosen and 1st level nets “the ability to enhance your weapon as a paladin or warpriest.” – which is frankly confusing, for both classes have other abilities that deal with this concept – the orphic treats weapon attacks having either her or her deity’s alignment – that’s it. The reference to other classes muddles the rules-integrity here and should have been eliminated. 12th level provides the alignment-based qualities, with 16th level netting brilliant energy or ghost touch. Interesting: The class gets spontaneous conversion into cure and inflict spells, but may only convert one such spell per spell-level per day, only while mindraging, and they’re not treated as psychic spells, preventing abuse there. Furthermore, such a conversion nets a regain of 1 phrenic pool point. 8th level nets a +2 bonus to saves while mindraging, which increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 8th. At 12th level, 1/day, when reduced to below 0 hp, you can cast heal (italicization missing) on yourself as an immediate action. 16th level nets a prayer-based aura when mindraging and the capstone nets a DR based on your alignment. The wording here is slightly wonky, but functionality is retained.

The lore discipline nets Knowledge skills and Int-mod to atk, CMD and combat maneuver checks, which is bad overkill at 1st level and makes that one much too dippable – double attriute modifiers to attacks should always be treated VERY carefully and this disicplien thus disqualifies itself. 4th level nets the ability to regain a limited amount of phrenic pool points when using divination spells. 8th level nets studied combat at -3 levels, with the limit of one target per mindrage. Cool: While mindraging, you can, at higher levels, counter abilities based on written text and language. 16th level provides limited symbols and 20th level nets free use of spell-trigger and spell-completion items as well as immunity to language-dependent effects…or “written spells effects” – not sure what the latter means.

The pain discipline nets a cool ability: Use swift actions to further damage foes you damaged since the previous turn. Sufficient damage dealt nets regained phrenic pool points – and yes, the ability cannot be cheesed via bags of kittens! Higher levels yield Clarity of Pain and Exorcising Mutilation; 8th level nets lay on hands at -3 levels as well as mercies, but may only target yourself. Beyond that, reflexive damage for mind-probing. 16th level’s agonizing wound has an issue – it allows you to heap debuff conditions on foes, but suddenly references “uses of the ability” for better debuffs – the ability doesn’t have uses per se, though, making that aspect non-functional. The capstone nets immunity to nonlethal damage and pain as well as bonus damage on critical hits.

The Psychedelia discipline is once more very interesting – you “assume”[sic!] – I think that’s supposed to mean “take/ingest or assume a state akin to a drug” a drug upon entering mindrage, decreasing negative effects. Cool: Upon entering a mindrage, you can exude drugs you have at one point consumed; depending on ingestion methods, foes may the be affected by it. Higher levels yield nausea for foes that influence your mind; after that, we get poison/drug addiction immunity at 12th level and at 16th, a hallucinogenic aura. The capstone nets drug-based at-will spells (should be codified as SPs). The discipline may be weaker than others, but its theme and execution are creative and fun – like it!

The Rapport discipline nets basically a collective based on Cha. 4th level nets at-will share memory, 8th and 16th net teamwork feats and 12th level allows you to redistribute damage of those in the emotional bond collective, with a level-based limit. The capstone also nets the option to redistribute a condition. 16th level lets you share Int- or Cha-based skills with your bonded allies. The capstone lets you geas crited foes 1/day and makes the bond permanent, i.e. present even when not in a mindrage.

Self-perfection nets Cha-bonus to AC and CMD while unarmored and unencumbered and lets you regain phrenic pools points when successfully attempting Strength-, Dexterity- or Constitution-based skill checks, which also gain a bonus equal to Charisma-modifier, but only once per mindrage, preventing abuse. Cool: 8th level nets a pool of healing dice, which may also be employed at higher levels to negate afflictions – as an aside: In my own campaign, I used a similar engine as a benefit for the few survivors of Vorel’s Phage – and yes, the plague was MUCH more deadly in my game. I digress. 12th level nets evasion, which upgrades to improved evasion at 20th level and 16th level provides immunity to poisons and diseases. The capstone nets immunity to damage and drain to the physical attributes as well as SR.

Finally, tranquility modifies mindrage to instead provide a +4 bonus to one ability score of your choice, or +2 to two of your choice. Kudos: The ability gets the scaling and bonus distribution options for mindrage upgrades right. 4th level nets Peacemaker as a bonus feat as well as a fitting, expanded spell-list. 8th level nets calm emotions (italicization missing) as a 1/mindrage SP; 12th level nets you the ability to focus on a single foe, gaining bonuses to weapon attacks and damage rolls. 16th level nets immunity to fear and confusion and lets you suppress those effects with allies nearby or in telepathic contact with you. The capstone nets immunity to fear and emotion spells/effects and 1/day psychic asylum. The verbiage here is a bit clumsy.

The pdf concludes with favored class options for the core races, drow, aasimar and tieflings – these generally are okay, though e.g. the drow’s entry is broken: “Gain ¼ resist vs. mental control and fear effects.” – that is not Pathfinder rules-language. The dwarf gaining a full round of mindrage per FCO taken is also pretty strong in comparison.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are much better than what I am accustomed to seeing from Wayward Rogues Publishing – while there are a couple of missed italicizations etc., these issues are not as prominent as usual. The rules-language, for the most part, is intact – there are a couple of instances where a dev could have helped and some balance concerns here and there, but, as a whole, the class is functional. Layout adheres to Wayward Rogues Publishing’s nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice full-color artworks. We get basic bookmarks, which is nice…but be prepared for some teeth-gnashing in the comfort-department. Unlike any other 3pp I know of, you cannot highlight or copy text from the file, which means you will have to extract the information by hand, which sucks.

Margherita Tramontano delivers the best hybrid class by Wayward Rogues Publishing I have read so far. The orphic could have easily been an uninspired bloodrager knockoff; in fact, that’s what I kind of expected at first when reading the base chassis. Then, the class actually won me over. While linear, the disciplines allow for meaningful differentiation between orphics and ooze passion: They tackle complex concepts, sport really cool visuals and concepts (Sleepwalking mindrage? Sweating drugs? Come on, those are character concepts just waiting to happen!) and with a few exceptions, the execution is spot-on. I really, really like a lot this class does!

At the same time, the review-bot in me points out that the class does sport a couple of issues in its balancing, has a few components that can be abused...and ultimately, these shortcomings should make me rate this 3 stars. However, what works, and this is the majority of the class, mind you, is really, evocative, fun and shows both care and passion. None of the glitches really are gamebreakers that cannot be taken care of by a good GM. Fixing the few issues the class has is literally a task of 5 minutes for a competent designer.

Which brings me to my final verdict – I really wished that a picky developer or editor had ironed off the rough patches and snafus – the orphic has 5 star-potential and constitutes one of the hybrid classes that has its own identity and playstyle. With the flaws herein, some of which influencing rules-integrity and balance, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars for this – consider the verdict here to be a conglomerate of 5 stars for the effort and concepts and 3 stars for the issues that haunt the pdf. If you are confident you can handle these hiccups, then give this a shot! The orphic is well worth taking a look at! Which is why, for the purpose of this platform, I will round up here, in spite of the comfort detriments.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Orphic Hybrid Class
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Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class - Mountebank
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2018 04:34:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class of mesmerist and unchained rogue clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The mountebank gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbow, kerambit, rapier, sap and sword cane as well as light armor. The class gets ¾ BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves and begins play with consummate liar and hypnotic stare. 2nd level nets Weapon Finesse and finesse training with one weapon group for using Dex-mod to determine bonus damage. 2nd level also nets patter: The mountebank begins prattling away as a move action (maintaining it is a free action) and may maintain patter for class level + Charisma modifier rounds – all spellcasting and SPs within 30 ft. of a mountebank using this ability requires concentration checks to cast. 5th level penalizes this check by -2 and 8th level allows the mountebank to focus on a single target, potentially confusing it.

3rd level nets sneak attack, which increases by +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter. At 3rd level, the mountebank also gets a variant gaze that causes the target to lose Dex-mod to AC being flat-footed versus the mountebank, and the mountebank only, though this stare needs to be maintained as a move action. 8th level nets a suggestion stare – with a caveat that prevents abuse. At 10th level, the class becomes superb at lying and requires CL-checks from those using magic to coax the truth out of them. 14th level provides slippery mind and 16th level allows the mountebank to not be remembered by those he interacts with. The capstone nets permanent concealment and the ability to target two creatures with a mountebank trick.

The class begins play with one trick and gains another trick every 3 levels thereafter and may implant ½ class level (min 1) + Charisma bonus such tricks per day. The mountebank can implant them at a range of 30 ft. as a standard action, which a Charisma-governed Will-save DC. Trigger range is medium spell range, just fyi. These allows the mountebank to make targets suffer half damage inflicted, for example – big kudos for getting the rules-language right here! Heavily penalizing Sense Motive, causing instant paranoia, fear of the dark, telepathic interrogation, causing the target to be addicted to the mountebank’s presence (!!), implanting hatreds or trust, disguising the target or adding additional damage to the damage the target takes – these are complex rules-operations that handle evocative, really cool tricks and feature e.g. variant mirror images that don’t disperse when hit, etc. – really, really amazing array of options here!

At 7th level, those tricks may be implanted when sneak attacking foes, imposing a penalty to the saves versus the tricks…and even cooler, at 14th level a trick thus implanted does not count against the mountebank’s daily maximum of tricks implanted OR towards the maximum number of tricks that may be maintained at once.

At 5th level, the mountebank may use more concurrent tricks, upgrading the limit to 2, which increases further at 9th level, 13th level and 18th level, though each creature may only be affected by one trick at a given time.

Beyond the tricks, the class has more player agenda to offer, namely the chicaneries – at 1st level, the mountebank chooses one of the 4 chicaneries provided. These represent linear ability gains and provide a combination of bonus feats (with retrain caveat!), 1/day spell-like abilities that are governed by Charisma and act as psychic spells and unique abilities. 6th level provides the option to advance in the chicanery path, unlocking the next ability…or to choose a new chicanery, gaining the level 1 ability there. The paths provide 4 steps in advancement (minor, moderate, major, supreme) and the mountebank gets further advancement options at 11th, 17th and 20th level, which means that full-blown specialization in one chicanery is not expected. Liar’s gambit provides alignment masking and further inscrutable tricks; the grifter’s hustle nets negotiation and intimidation options; cat’s paw specialists are all about Sleight of Hands and Stealing in combat, while those that choose dodger’s strike are Stealth specialists.

Among the feats, there is one option to advance a chincanery, but only if it is one level lower than your maximum advancement – no abuse possible. Exluding allies from patter, gaining an additional trick or selecting from unchained rogue talents complement the meaningful feat options.

The pdf also sports two archetypes: The cardsharp is locked into one chicanery path, but changes its benefits to instead provide Profession (gambler) boosts, fast fingers and the option to form a deck of cards into a +1 keen magical weapon, which may later be enhanced. Instead of finesse training, we get 1/day forcing a target to roll twice and accept a result (+1/day use at 12th and 20th level). Instead of the 7th level trick, the archetype may 1/day as an immediate action roll 1-3 additional dice when making an attack, save or skill check, using the highest die roll, but at the cost of being forced to use the lower ones for a number of consecutive rolls equal to the number of dice chosen – cool!

The second archetype would be the mentalist, who is locked into cat’s paw or liar’s gambit, casting the SPs granted by the chicanery at +1 CL. Instead of consummate liar, they get a boost to Perform and on Bluff/Sleight of Hand checks used as part of a performance. The archetype may use patter to instead sow thoughts, with 8th level allowing for the focus on a target to daze it. Instead of sneak attack, trick attack and improved trick attack, the mountebank gains the option to cast spells as a mesmerist of his level, but only divination, enchantment, illusion and transmutation spells. 4th level nets Psychic Maestro and 10th Psychic Virtuoso, replacing the tricks gained at these levels. 16th level replaces incognito for an illusory double that may perform a physical ability-or skill check – basically a Schrödinger’s situation, where you determine which was real afterwards.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues in either formal or rules-language criterias. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice full-color images. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested, detailed bookmarks.

Kendra Leigh Speedling delivers with panache aplomb! The mountebank is a fantastic class – it manages to be recognizable as a hybrid class, while still sporting its very own and distinct identity AND playstyle. The class tackles complex concepts and remains easy to grasp and play while doing so. It sports innovative and fun rules and tricks that no other class can pull off. It plays really well, in spite of the notoriously difficult to fill skirmisher/debuffer role. In short, this represents one of the best, perhaps the best hybrid class I have reviewed so far. The only class I’d consider to be on par regarding this amazing offering would be Purple Duck Games’ Vessel. Yes, that good!

The mountebank is a glorious class; it is inspired, interesting and, most importantly, fun – 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class - Mountebank
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And Then... Zombies!
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2018 04:32:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content in the regular version of the pdf. The file also comes with a second version with landscape layout that is more suitable for e-readers etc. – in that format, it clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content.

It should be noted that this is the first installment of the And Then….Trouble-series, which focuses o spicing up encounters. Beyond the mechanical modifications, the respective entries within contains a bit of read-aloud text for GMs not that comfortable with improvising, as well as a rather detailed adventure hook. As I will be commenting on these adventure hooks in the following review, I hereby pronounce a SPOILER-warning. Players should probably skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All righty, only GMs around? Great! That out of the way, the first encounter-modification clocks in at CR+2 and has the PCs stumble unwittingly over a mass grave. The read aloud text has a character grappled by a zombie from beneath the soil (no save or CMD here – and for once, I’m good with that!) and every round +1d4 new zombies will climb out of the mass grave, until there’s a zombie for each character. Zombies after the first have the proper CMB-value noted. After having tumbled over this dark edifice, PCs are bound to ask what has happened here – three sample solutions, from a necromantic cult, to raiders, the first two suggestions are pretty much expected: Having magically-preserved ancient dead, with magic reactivated? Now that is interesting!

The second encounter suggestion is titled “Don’t Stay Dead” and clocks in at CR 1+; after an encounter with a living creature that ended in the being’s demise, the PCs hear shuffling, as the opponent has risen once more…oh, and all corpses in the vicinity as well! Here’s the thing – it’s not the location. It’s the PCs. Nothing they kill stays dead. Finding out what the reason for this is, the exact parameters of the animating effect – some cool adventuring potential here that turns a classic premise much more interesting. From cursed items to unwittingly being a carrier for a magical plague to being the first portent of the realm of the dead closing – the hooks are intriguing and well-crafted.

The third encounter presented herein would be “Dead All Along”, at CR 4: The PCs are beset by brigands in the wild – who happen to have been juju-zombified, retaining some smarts…though not much. They weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed to begin with, you see. The explanation posited by the adventure hooks for undead criminals encompass a juju disease, a crimeboss offering Discount resurrections” (genius!), an unholy relic and a vampire’s doing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; apart from the juju-disease not being perfectly formatted, I noticed no relevant glitches. Layout adheres to a solid two-column standard. The pdf sports no interior artwork, but doesn’t really need it. Same goes for bookmarks at this level of brevity.

Michael McCarthy’s encounter-modifications herein elicited, when I skimmed over them, a yawn from me. They’re classics, right? Well, a well-executed classic is wort something and that these most assuredly are. There are some nice tweaks in the set-up, the presentation is pretty user-friendly, and all of that costs you a whopping $0.99. This pdf is most assuredly worth its low and fair asking price. Some angles are really creative and the complications presented are diverse and interesting. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – well done!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
And Then... Zombies!
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Everyman Minis: Gloom Discoveries
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2018 04:30:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 4.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All righty, after a brief introduction, we receive the gloom chymist archetype: These fellows replace bombs with glooms, which inflict 1d6 cold damage + Int-mod, +1d6 for every 2 alchemist levels beyond first – this otherwise is treated as bombs, but does NOT qualify as bombs for the purpose of prerequisites. Instead of poison resistance, poison use and swift poisoning, the archetype gains umbral gloom at 2nd level, which allows the gloom chymist to increase or decrease the light level by one step within the gloom’s splash radius, lasting Int-mod rounds. This decision must be made upon preparing glooms. At 8th level, the gloom chymist may expend two uses of daily glooms to increase/decrease light levels as per daylight/deeper darkness instead, using alchemist level as caster level- which is one cool idea!

The majority of the pdf then is devoted to gloom discoveries – these include doubling the splash radius for glooms,a dding a nauseating/sickening fume to the gloom…and pretty amazing: The alchemist can learn to create a crawling gloom: Place it, and it’ll move towards the target, crawling over objects etc. – the discovery is pretty amazing, and yes, the gloom has an AC and Ref-saves that scale. Blinding and deafening via a gloom and direct hits, confusing targets – the debuff options have sensible minimum level requirements. There is a fast bomb variant and the discoveries include a cool gravity option, which allows for some soft crowd control to the creatures in the splash radius, entangling them. Temporary fatigue can also be found.

Really cool would be options like masochistic gloom, which animates the shadow of a target that was directly hit – this requires an 4th level or higher extract slot expenditure, but animates the shadow to deal damage to its owner. Oh yes! High-level temporary petrification of targets is also neat.

Now, a significant part of the options would be devoted to living glooms: By using one gloom class feature use and a 1st-level extract slot, the alchemist can conjure a creature as per summon nature’s ally/monster I, adding the shadow creature template to the creature called. Higher spell-slots can be used for better summons. These gloom summons can be further augmented (analogue to the feat) with a discovery and another ones provides unique, expanded creatures to choose from, enhancing the unique flair of the discovery-tree. Finally, there is a complex one that lets the alchemist add extract levels to duplicate more potent summon spells, using ½ class level as limit. Cool! Speaking of which: Paired patches of shadow for dimensional bounce make sense and rock. The grand discovery lets the PC choose a discovery, which is then not counted as discovery to modify the gloom, applying it for free.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column standard, is printer-friendly and the full-color artwork is solid. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza delivers some cool alchemist options here: While less openly available than I’d like them to be, they offer a distinct and fun shadow-themes variant for the alchemist, one that made me really wish there’d be more space for it – the living and crawling glooms deserve expansion and frankly, I think that the gloom-concept could have carried more. That is just me complaining at a high level, though – well worth checking out! My final verdict will be 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Gloom Discoveries
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The Long Walk: Life on the Grand Stair (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2018 03:58:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This HUGE tome for Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (Abbreviated LoGaS below for brevity’s sake) clocks in at 205 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page dev and playtester thanks, 1 page dedication to Steven D. Russell (Rest in peace, you’re missed, man…), 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 199 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, we begin with a well-written piece of prose before we dive into this book…but what exactly is this? The question here is less simple to answer than what you’d think – you see, this massive tome is at once a kind of meta-campaign setting for the worlds-spanning LoGaS-setting and a massive toolbox, as it features a TON of powers. It also sports some new worlds to explore and acts as an NPC-codex of sorts. In other words, this is a massive book and I can’t mention every detail herein, if I want to avoid bloating this review beyond what would be useful – hence, I’ll be painting with broad strokes here.

The first chapter is pure crunch, showing us new powers: These usually come in different variants for different point costs: You may e.g. learn Aetheric Projection for 35 points…or its advanced brethren, for 55 points. An upgrade, just, fyi, is possible for 20 points – so no, nothing lost there. Each of the powers features herein comes with a distinct definition of its dangers and abilities granted, which, in the best spirit of LoGaS, provide a distinct and diverse variety. The aforementioned ability, for example, would be the separation of mind and body, allowing for potentially quicker travel, visions of other times and concise possession rules; the advanced version allows for the influence of the physical worlds, as well as e.g. the erecting of barriers. Enchantment would be the second power, and does not require Sorcery per se; to use spells with Enchantment, the character will still require it, though. Basically, this ability is about…well, enchanting places, objects, etc. with gossamer material and is thus more aligned with the forces of Umbra. Detailed examples illustrate how it and its two more advanced options work, building on LoGaS’ artifact and construction engine in a sensible manner. Slightly faster Enchantment, disguising it…there are a lot of things to consider here, though ultimately, this will probably be one of the most beloved ability-suites.

An interesting addition to the lore would be the inclusion of Keeper of the Void – this ability represents that the character has come into contact with the shadow between worlds, gaining the shadow within as well as a weakness to both Umbra and Eidolon – but also thoroughly unique abilities that center on the manipulation of, you guessed it, the void – sinister and interesting, it makes for a great option for villains and anti-heroes. Scrying is probably self-explanatory in what it does – it is most certainly a great narrative tool for more intrigue-heavy campaigns.

But what about the existing abilities? Won’t they be somewhat devalued by the new ones, lacking the multiple steps many of the new ones sport? Well, you’ll be delighted to hear that Channeling, Eidolon Mastery, Invocation (which comes with 3 upgrades!), Sorcery (also 3 upgrades), Umbra Mastery and Wrighting all get upgrade/specialization options – this means that you can, power-wise, further escalate the already impressive options at the beck and call of the lords and ladies. Huge plus here!

The second chapter deals with talents, which are intended for use with NPCs – after all, not every adherent of Eidolon/Umbra is an adept/master, respectively – talents represent a limited knowledge or mastery of a power, but they are subject to strict limitations and as not as cost-efficient as buying a proper ability-suite. This means that proper lords and ladies will have an upper hand, but it VASTLY diversifies the arsenal of the GM, allowing for significantly more credible weirdness without an annoying inflation of the appearance of really powerful lords, ladies and wardens. This does manage to alleviate one of my concerns with longer LoGaS-games and diminishing returns for the encountering of such powers – by making them fragmented and more specific, a GM vastly expands the narrative arsenal at his/her command, which, once more, is a very good thing in my book. The fact that you retain full control over how many, if any, of these you wish to include in your game further helps. The chapter, then, constitutes mostly a massive list of these talents – as an aside, the progression from warden to master is covered as well…and in case you haven’t figured that out: It is very much possible to employ this engine for PCs as well, allowing for very fine-grained differentiation and dabbling…and these talents can also be used rather gainfully as a kind of story-reward in-game…so yeah, this section alone imho warrants getting this book.

We are not done, though – chapter 3 deals with idiosyncratic powers and qualities, and, while only 2 pages long, represents another MAJOR boon for LoGaS – special abilities granted by tech or magic usually do not work beyond the world of origin. This chapter changes that, providing guidelines to translate such abilities to talent-like options, at the cost of +10 points per Quality, +15 per Power – this uses vampires, fey messengers and e.g. Fantastic 4’s The Thing (minus the IP) as examples, illustrating the process rather nicely.

Chapter 4 provides yet another very welcome expansion of the options of LoGaS, namely character creation rules for beings that are meaningful regarding their power, but not on the level of lords/ladies – the easy to grasp rules and considerations are supplemented by several sample NPCs – and yes, this obviously ties back to the talent-system, which allows for specialized characters with a meaningful array of options at lower power-levels. (As an aside, I am a big fan of progression-style games, so this helps me tremendously – in GUMSHOE, I e.g. transitioned from Fear Itself to Esoterrorists to Night’s Black Agents when the PCs reached milestones in their abilities – a similar process can now, arguably even more organically, be achieved here.

After this massive array of customization options and tweaks, we come to what essentially constitutes a gazetteer of the Grand Stair – we learn about history, customs, language, the Pax Escalara, economy and travel, long-distance communication and the traditions surrounding the deaths of gossamer lords, hinting at the fabled Polyandrium as a mythological resting place, and yes, burial on the Grand Stair is mentioned.

Now, I did note that we’ll get new Gossamer Worlds to explore, and this is where that section starts: We can visit the Academy at Arbanes and learn about the multiversal, massive empire of Bastiano, the Ascendancy, which can make for either hope or deadly foe; we visit the impossible pyramid, bigger on the inside and connected to 4 primal gossamer worlds that otherwise are isolated and share no connections with each other or the Grand Stair; I am not going to SPOIL its details here; suffice to say, unlike the previously mentioned ones, the domain of the impossible pyramid comes with a proper table, and the respective primal worlds are similarly covered. Need a reason to like there? Twin-world. Hurricane world. ‘Nuff said.

The market of agora comes with stats for two unique races taking care of business there, and in less detail, we also gain more information on the black market and the previously mentioned Polyandrium. From there, we move to the unique types of people that can be found on the Grand Stair – we learn about ambassadors, the castellans, the allied guilds of the cicerones and porters, heralds and the bardic praecones.

All right, I did mention that this was a kind of NPC Codex as well, right? Well, there is a whole chapter devoted to sovereigns, and they are creative: A somewhat lecherous, nut sympathetic gunslinger with a heart of gold, the Indalo Kid, and his faithful bull-horned horse, for example, would be the master of Helldorado. Wanna picture Kaspar the Fixer? Visualize him as an orc in a tuxedo, with a cigar in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other. Lord Sparda should put a grin on the face of fans of “V for Vendetta” or the Dishonored franchise – the masked individual is currently acting as the Ascendancy’s sword…though he shows up, strangely, on worlds impossibly far apart. We also btw. get stats for none other than Luther, oldest of the known Gossamer Lords and a true mystery…he may have won the last Dwimmerlaik war with his designs…but no one knows for sure if he enacted his horrid Stairbreaker… We also meet the archmaster of the impossible pyramid, the general of the Raven Legion. We meet a professor who REALLY knows people; the caretaker of Agora; Sybelle the Arbiter, happy-go-lucky Uwe, who knows the really weird places; the honorable and dutiful Shield of the Ascendancy is btw. a badass Walrus in cuirassier armor.

Now, no matter how powerful a lord or lady may be, ultimately, you need reliable, potent organizations – these are represented by 4 different organizations/knightly orders that are discussed in-depth: The Conciliatore are the foremost defenders of the Ascendancy. They also get their own unique torcqs and sport detailed information on ranks and relationships with others and a sample NPC – a structure that is btw. also employed for the Doormen of Lord Drake and the previously mentioned mercenary Raven Legion. Finally, there would be the Khalderi Host, the step nomads that claim to have always been there. Really cool, btw.: Their entry sports their own glyph-alphabet (numbers included), which I’m SO going to present to my players sans comment to decode.

The final section of this module presents a campaign outline, namely the “Dwimmerlaik Inquest”, intended as a potential sequel to the adventure “The Gathering Storm” featured in the LoGaS-rule-book; this goes beyond a few, fluffy lines, mind you: cast of characters, timeline, suggestions for alterations, using factions, etc. – all detailed in a rather nice and helpful manner.

The book also contains no less than three brief adventures; in order to avoid spoilers here, I will be brief: The adventures follow a similar structure as the outline of the campaign – cast of characters, structure, etc. – a plus would be that they are pretty character-driven, allowing the PCs to make meaningful interactions. The modules deal with the PCs being chosen to undertake the Last Walk and put a deceased Lady to rest; in the aftermath of this module, the PCs may learn about the Impossible Pyramid while investigating the cause of death of the Lady…but the third module is where things get really interesting…though, frankly, module may not describe it adequately: The connected realms of Iridess, unique in composition and nature, come with details, NPCs and are absolutely inspiring – this section could carry a whole campaign!

The book btw. also contains talent flow-charts (!!) that break down the respective powers (super convenient and amazing), a detailed index, and form-fillable character, creature & artifact and domain sheets – Wow!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are surprisingly good for a book of this size: Perry Grosshans and the cadre of proofreaders did a great job. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s neat two-column full-color standard for LoGaS-books. The artworks deserve special mention: There are a ton of nice original pieces herein, and while they do not adhere to a unified style, I haven’t seen any of them before – and they stand out. This is a beautiful book. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked with detailed and nested bookmarks, making navigation easy. I can’t comment on the print version yet, since I don’t own it – but oh boy is it on my to-get-list!

J.P. Brannan, Thierry De Gagne, Perry Grosshans, Adam Easterday, John Lee, David A McCreless, Selene O’Rourke, Joel Saul and Cliff Winnig would be the developers and contributors to the work of lead author Christopher “Kit” Kindred.

In more rules-heavy systems than Diceless, reviewing a core book is often rather tedious, particularly if it’s based on D&D; you’ll inevitably have the standards covered; it is only with the second book, for PFRPG the Advanced Player’s Guide, for 13th Age “13 True Ways”, that these systems really come into their own, become distinct – and it is these books I will most fondly remember in the years to come. While the core Lords of Gossamer and Shadows book was already a reinvigoration of Amber and Erick Wujcik’s engine, it is in my opinion this book that really makes it come into its own. While purists may scoff at the talent system presented herein, it is exceedingly elegant, easy to grasp, and the flow-charts simplify the process of using it to the point where it is a no-brainer. The system not only exponentially increases the array of options for the GM, but also for the players; it allows groups to explore a vast plethora of new and exciting narratives with the system.

Beyond that, the book also represents a MASSIVE setting sourcebook of the quality we have come to expect from Rite Publishing’s “Lords of Gossamer and Shadows” – the new vistas depicted herein are diverse, intriguing and captivating; they provide options without being prescriptive, adding political angles and details to the Grand Stair without infringing on the GM’s ability to customize what the Grand Stair means and represents in his/her game.

In short, this is art from adversity. The author has evaded blindness as a kid, courtesy of transplants; now, these transplants and the scarification cause crippling headaches and impede his reading and writing ability. It is testament to his passion and vision that this book exists; indeed, it can be felt that this was a book he needed to write. When you read as many RPG books as I do, you get a sense of when someone is phoning it in, and when someone is really and truly passionate about a task. This book not only represents a true must-have for any Lords of Gossamer and Shadows-group, it should be considered to be the essential work for it. This is a masterpiece, worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval. It also qualifies as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017 and receives the EZG Essentials tag for Diceless roleplaying, meaning that I consider it an absolute must-have for any such campaign I’d run.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Long Walk: Life on the Grand Stair (Diceless)
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8-Bit Adventures - The Legend of Heroes
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2018 03:55:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the 8-Bit Adventures-series clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so, unless you haven’t noticed, this is basically a Legend of Zelda toolkit for Pathfinder, with Nintendo IP filed off. As such, I think I should comment on my own history with Zelda: I liked the games, but I wouldn’t consider myself to necessarily be a fan – I have played them all up until Twilight Princess, with Majora’s Mask, unsurprisingly, being my favorite. They are good games, but don’t scratch the story-itch I look for in games beyond excellent gameplay.

So, if you are a rabid Zelda-fan, well, then this will probably already be in your shopping cart at this point, right? Anyways, the pdf begins with customization options for the kingdom of Hyrule, erh, pardon, Highland, which btw. comes with a nice full-color map, which, however, sports no scale. Alas, no key-less version for handout purposes has been included either. But I digress. We first begin with basically a critter-by-critter reskinning/modification process. Grippers are upgraded to Large size and based on chokers, with the modifications suggested noted; Robed Wiz (CR 9) is based on a more limited clockwork mage. The rocktopus is based on the Tome of Horror’s mudman. The CR 4 bladed trap (comes with creation notes) represents a new creature, and the section also features the CR 8 burning skull, the CR 11 cactus worm, the CR 1 Treenut and, of course at CR 16 Cursed Warrior Droch-lann, the Gannon stand-in, who is realized as an orc cursed warrior magus 18. I noticed minor hiccups, but nothing serious – the section is usable as provided.

That would, btw., be a new archetype herein who gets diminished spellcasting and may sacrifice a prepared spell as a swift action to create a shadowy armor. Instead of 5th level’s bonus feat, the archetype gains 60 ft. darkvision or increases an existing darkvision to 120 ft. – solid, if unremarkable.

Okay, so far regarding the bestiary-side of things. We move on to 8 new feats: Bomb shot lets you expend a bomb as part of jumping to add its damage to your Acrobatics-check – which results, obviously, in hugely inflated Acrobatics-results. I would not allow this anywhere near my game usually, but in the context of this supplement, it makes sense. Minor point of critique: While the feat is fully functional, its verbiage is a bit clumsy. Shaped Charge lets you, as a full-round action, expend a use of a bomb a ranged touch attack against a door, lock, wall, etc., ignoring hardness – the attack is always successful against unattended objects and the bomb’s splash damage is negated. There also would be the Luminous Metal feat, which lets you expend 30 gp to make metal objects you craft cast light as though they were candles – no, that is NOT a reference to the spell. Minor complaint: Why not note the range of the light produced? Looking it up is somewhat inconvenient. Improved Luminous Metal lets you upgrade that to 60 gp cost and torch-equivalent light. Would I spend feats on these usually? Heck no. In the context of this supplement? Why not. Shield Ally lets you block ranged attacks with your shield – when using a full attack, you can forego one attack, making an attack roll equal to the foregone attack. If you win the swingy comparison of attack rolls, you deflect the incoming projectile. Shielding allies is possible at -4 to atk, and you may not deflect boulders and must be aware of the attack. My loathing for atk-comparison mechanics is well known at this point; suffice to say, it is a decent representation of the Zelda-game-mechanics.

Reflect Shot builds on Shield Focus and Shield Ally and lets you reflect an incoming ranged attack as an AoO against any creature whose ranged attack you successfully block, provided it is within range. Okay, what constitutes range here? I assume the range of the incoming attack, analogue to the games and taking e.g. Shot on the Run etc. into account…but it would have been nice to see that stated. Reflect Ray does the same for rays, with the same minor range-snafu. Shield Rider is a concession to the game aesthetics and may well be a drawback – when riding with your shield, you lose the shield bonus to AC, but movement rate increases by 10 feet when riding downhill, but only when not wearing medium or heavy load…which is closer to a trait than a feat in power-level. The lack of choice for the character is also puzzling – RAW, the feat locks you into this behavior.

The pdf also sports three new spells: Retriever enchants a weapon to steal with its next attack (strangely using Sleight of Hand instead of the steal maneuver, which is a bit wonky); freezing ray is a variant of scorching ray which adds paralysis at 7th level…which is WEIRD, for the new ability is not based on caster level here, deviating from PFRPG design tenets. Magnetism is a pretty complex one with various appliances, and is based roughly on telekinesis, which is unfortunately reflected in the rules-integrity, e.g. specifying violent thrust spellcasting attributes for wizard and sorcerer, but not for the other classes eligible to use the spell. Not bad per se, mind you, but in such instances, you can see that a bit more polish would have been neat.

The pdf also sports new equipment: The diseased goblin poo stick simple weapon and the spring spear exotic weapon, which is a very potent weapon that is flexible in a way usually only magic items provide – it can be used with and without reach and may be thrown – in the context of Zelda, I’d give it a pass. We get 5 pieces of magical equipment: The leaf mask is a plant shape I spell in a can, usable 1/day. The miniscule cap works 3/day as reduce person. Soup stones provide nourishment, while saga stones reincarnate the possessor for a paltry 600 gp, being basically a kind of extra life. Trapfinder torches can be used once and net a bonus on Perception to spot traps and hidden doors, but at the same time, they do not denote how long they last. One could default to the acute senses comparison, but yeah…a bit rough. Aquatic armor (+1) nets swim speed; lava armor nets fire resistance 10 and allows the wearer to execute short-range free action touch attack fire blasts as retribution – it is also somewhat low on the price-scale for that. Dazzling weapons (+1) autodazzle light sensitive creatures or those made of shadow or shadow conjurations.

Now, that would be the rules-section – this pdf, however, also doubles as a campaign kit, providing angles to draw the PCs to Hyru…eh, Highland, as well as a fluff-only write-up of the cast of characters. We get a fully spelled-out prophecy of the legendary hero as well – which is pretty neat, for it taps into the suggestions that this could be run as a 1-on-1-scenario. While the suggestions are basic, their inclusion is very much appreciated. The role of the Triforce (here called Tetrahedron Quadriad) as a McGuffin is explained (and is used for an interesting if simple, optional puzzle that can be extremely helpful) and the first quest focuses on saving steeds – the structure of the encounters and their basics are noted in the tradition of Campaign Kits; from there, we move on to the shrines – Lake Highland, the Skull Dungeon and the Mountain of Fire, for the final showdown at Castle Highland. Suggested creatures are noted and APLs for each chapter suggested. More advanced rules, if any, are hyperlinked. We also get a few DCs and the skeleton of the sequence is all ready to be fleshed out by the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, is really tight – no complaints there. On a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few rough patches here and there, but retains its functionality. Layout adheres to a happy and colorful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks provided are loving bows to the franchise. Cartography of the land is nice, though I wished we got a key-less version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben Dowell’s bow before the Zelda franchise does what it sets out to do – it translates the somewhat wonky concepts of the Zelda games to PFRPG. It provides a toolkit for playing Zelda in PFRPG. Mission accomplished. Now, if you’re no rabid Zelda fan, then this will have significantly less appeal for you: There are a couple of rough patches in the rules-integrity, and while they don’t sink the pdf, they are enough to disqualify the material for my regular PFRPG games. They are also, system-immanently, as they’re translating very basic concepts, not world-shaking. I am also a bit puzzled by this pdf starting off with monsters, moving to player material, and then once more going for the GM-content in the campaign kit-section – starting off with a player section, then moving to the GM-section would have made much more sense.

On the other hand, this pdf’s demographics are the fans of Zelda – and if you count yourself among them, you will quite probably sport a broad, nostalgic smile while reading this. Similarly, this may well be a good way to bring younger kids into the roleplaying fold and teach the game o them: While the GM should have some experience under his/her belt, the whole scenario is pretty child-friendly and thus suited for even young kids, provided you guide them regarding mechanics.

How to rate this, then? Okay, to be honest, this did nothing for me – I am simply not the audience of this book. I am neither prone to nostalgia, nor a fan of Zelda per se. For me, the rough patches weigh heavy on this supplement and if you feel similarly, then you should probably skip this. I’d be a sucky reviewer if I’d rate the pdf according to these observations, though – I have to take into account that many of the things I consider jarring are directly based in trying to adhere to the franchise as faithfully as possible. While there are still a couple of instances where some rule-component is a bit wobbly, and while I wished e.g. the Gannon-archetype was more interesting, the book does a solid job at what it sets out to do. Not a superb one, but one that will probably warrant fans of Zelda getting this. You should be aware that videogame aesthetics trump those of Pathfinder here, and I strongly discourage using the content herein in regular games, but for what it is, it works – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures - The Legend of Heroes
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Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 1
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2018 03:54:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages blank,1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

It should be noted that the back cover sports a doodle of a muscular male body (sans head), including a non-erect penis. If this offends you, well, you have been warned. It should also be noted that this supplement depicts a really horrific place, where institutionalized rape is a theme; a proper and prominent trigger warning before the pertaining section has been included in the pdf, for which I am rather grateful. Still, consider this to be a TRIGGER WARNING for this review as well.

This straddles the line of experimental fiction/poetry and rpg supplement – it is system neutral, lacking stats, and while there is a random “you find this” table, it is a glimpse at some messed-up, strange place. The artwork in the pdf, much like the cover, is a strange array of distortions and color-changes that acts as strange, psychedelic glimpse at the weirdness depicted.

To paraphrase the first lines of the pdf: The beach once had a calm curtain along the yellow beach; however, the Green Insistence is swelling in slow ruination, and it colors the sky the color of wine. Euclidean lines shift impossibly and it surrounds and sings…and how beings interact with it? In puzzling prose, it is noted. The Pretenders are some of the folks that interact with the Insistence, their city, Driftwood, sporting 3 sample layouts, can be found – and within, functioning Xerox machines hint as a post-apocalypse in a world not unlike our own, where reality has splintered. This is not necessarily all grimdark (though most of the pdf should be categorized as such), though – there is a pitch-black, subtle sense of humor to be found here – when e.g. wacky assassination attempts require that the target must literally fall, for example. Metalheads may smirk at the mentioning of a depressive who is a member of a Doom cult and is hence literally committing VERY slow suicide…

For untold centuries, the wine-red people of the domes, situated in dangerous waters, warred. Everyone who enters becomes a citizen. This is where, once again, the trigger warning has to be repeated, for the cities are a disgusting place, where the right of the strong rules – no challenge may be denied and the winner of a duel gets to rape the loser…and worse, a small part of the population experience violence as euphoric. This is particularly nasty, since, in a harsh and deadly world, the domes sport a disgusting excess of resources – food, armor, superb manacles, healing nanodrones – biomachines and autovends would allow these places to be utopias…and instead, their inhabitants have made them dystopian nightmares.

Two portals are on the beach – one leads to a glass-green beach where the sea is frozen and two portals lead back or to annihilation…or another place like Carcosa, Narcosa…but ultimately, the folks meditating before taking the plunge do not know, their keening scouring the beach.

I am going to deviate a bit from my usual format here: The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bit of a comfort detriment; the strange photos/artworks conspire with the text to create a strange nightmare-scape of truly savage/post-apocalyptic proportions. The words resonate and what is here is interesting, if gruesome, even for my tastes. Would I want to play in this environment? Not necessarily. The red-domed cities ooze a kind of desperation and disgust with mankind that is almost palpable, but yet, there are aspects of this pdf that most be commended for the strength of the visuals employed with a rather minimalist word-count. Chances are that you’ll either love it or hate it, but, as this is PWYW, you can decide for yourself. Personally, I wouldn’t use the concepts as written, but as a reviewer, I need to try to be as objective as possible, if that’s possible here. Ultimately, there are some cool ideas to be taken from this book, but chances are that most groups and people will balk at the themes herein. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down – it is an interesting experiment and has some stark visuals, but it also derives too much of its appeal from shock value.

It should be noted, though, that this verdict stems from the fact that I can see this being 5 stars for some, 1 star for others – you very well may be thoroughly disgusted by this exceedingly dark pdf. You have been warned.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 1
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d66 Compendium
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2018 02:19:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive compilation of d66-dressing files clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, ½ page editorial, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46.5 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.

Okay, so this book is nominally designed for use with the Foreven Free Sector and the Traveller game, but it is de facto a system neutral dressing book that is just as useful for Starfinder, Ashen Stars or any other SciFi RPG, really. While the names later reference races and worlds, these are easily reskinned for a suitable race in your game’s context.

It should also be noted that this is a compilation of the smaller d66-files released by Jon Brazer Enterprises – so unless you want print and/or all in one place and already own the constituent files, this may not be what you want. The well-made organization may also help in making this worthwhile…but you’ll see. If you have so far not taken a look at the series, though…well, let’s just say that there is a lot of ground to cover, table-wise, so let’s start!

After a brief and concise introduction to the subject matter at hand, we move in from the larger scale: After a really nice piece of b/w-artwork, we begin with ship names – a total of 6 d66-tables, to be precise – the tables are organized alphabetically and provide a refreshing diversity regarding nomenclature employed. Under the letter “A”, you can e.g. find “Admiral Nelson”, “Agape” (perfect for pretentious pricks like yours truly), “Asteroid Dancer” or, rather funnily, “Always Something.” Functionality-driven names can similarly be found, btw. – the tables generate, as a whole, a nice mix of different naming aesthetics, a leitmotif you’ll see repeated in other tables as well.

Beyond these, we also get one d66-table for pirate ship names and one d66-table for personal spacecrafts – here, you can find e.g. “White Swan”, “Serenity” (sniff) or “Free from the Job” –a sentiment that most assuredly quite a few of you out there can relate to…

The next table sports something different: “Damage to Abandon Ships” – pretty sure that there’s a typo here and that it’s supposed to mean “abandoned ship”…or it’s weirdly phrased and is supposed to denote damage sufficient to cause the crew to abandon ship. Either way kinda works, but from the entries, I consider the former interpretation to be more likely: From EMP-damage to gaping holes in cargo sections and “Griffitti”[sic!] throughout the interior, the entries are neat, but point towards an already wrecked ship.

Slightly weird from a formatting perspective: The next 4 table-headers are not bolded, unlike all other headers in the book – but that remains an aesthetic quirk. Speaking of which: The next d66 table would pertain ship quirks, which include fogged up windows in jump-space, low ceilings, panels that fall off – some delightful pieces of local color here. Speaking of which – there is a d66-table of random things to find in a ship’s hold, which include 3D-pictures, anti-telepath helmets, pink ruffled dresses, 20 inflated helium balloons…from the standard to the weird, there are some nice ideas here.

Two cargo-tables allow you to determine on the fly potential goods carried (sans monetary values assigned) and many a referee will rejoice at the convenient d66-table for communications/sensors not working properly right now: Overheated cooling fans, solar flares, raspberry-colored residue on external components – nice array. The final part of this section would be a d66-table of smells on a ship and another that sports galley contents – like delicious avalarian lamb, river sprigs or scalliprawns. I’m getting hungry…

After another nice piece of b/w-art, we move on to planets and bases: We begin with two d66-tables of planet names and move on to one table for moon and comet names each. More uncommon would be the objects orbiting a planet, which also get their own table. Here, you can find e.g. “X-Boat and tug”, survey ships, wrecks…some nice adventuring potential.

We also get two different tables to randomly choose space station names and a rather interesting one: The exotic atmosphere table primarily uses our elements and notes pressure in general categories…but we can also find one entry that contains flatus gases and one that sports an unidentifiable, purple haze… On the planet itself, a d66-table to determine planetary governments can be found alongside a table of unusual local laws: These are, btw. really funny at times: Sales of 20-sided dice being heavily taxed, worshiping lobsters, a requirement for life guards to be blond…some funny entries here, though serious ones can also be found: From youth being required to remain silent while elders speak to not showing soles or a ban on eating cheese on Tuesdays…some interesting entries here.

2 d66-tables provide different main industries, while another provides spaceport city names – conveniently located next to sample city smells. Speaking of convenient: It makes sense to have the entry for spaceport bar names and the names for alcoholic drinks next to another.

The next chapter deals with people and groups: We get one table of MegaCorp names (Including the Hyrul Triforce Group…or, more seriously, the Tungsten Metallurgy Manufacturing corporation) and one for shipping corporations. Names for planetary survey teams are next and then, we get a table of sample graffiti. Two tables of mercenary corporation names are next…and if you required some neat emblems for organizations, agencies, etc. – well, these is a table devoted wholly to that here as well. A table of tattoos that can be found as identifiers (or simply art) would be up next – and, since the yakuza connotations may remain, we move on to fonts for organized crime and sample names for organized crime bosses in the next table.

After another nice artwork, we move n to the tech section, where we first get two tables of neat robot names before moving on to (simple) current instructions a robot may have – like welding metal pipes, trimming hair, etc. They have to come from somewhere, right? Hence, we get a table of robot manufacturers and mechanics tools they may have, ranging from air purifiers to ultra-speed saws…let’s hope the robot with the latter did not get the “Kill them all!”-instruction…

Two tables of gun names and one for gun manufacturer names would be up next, before vehicle manufacturers and models are next; the latter, with their snappy names, in particularly are nice. “Sure, I have the wild cat model!”

The final chapter is devoted wholly to generating character and NPC names: Vilani male and female names, with 2 tables of last names and the same amount for the Solomani, Zhodani and Sword Worlds are provided. The pdf then provides tables for Aslan, Vargr and Dhroyne names – but only one table for male and female, respectively – though, helpfully, the names are depicted as how they are pronounced, not how the respective race would write them.

The pdf closes with a handy, alphabetic index of tables.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are very good. While a few typos have found their way into the pdf, they aren’t that numerous. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly no-frills b/w-standard, with either one or two tables per page, depending on the respective entry-length. Interior artworks are pretty nice pieces of b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Dale C. McCoy Jr. & Albert “GamerDude” Beddow Jr. deliver an interesting dressing book. Now, there are two roughly types of dressing books: One would be the generator, which allows you to create something from scratch, building on previous steps in the generation process, usually featuring interlaced tables that influence one another. The second would be what I’d consider alternatively the book to fill in what a referee hasn’t prepared in advance or the imagination jumpstarter. This book, obviously, fits squarely in the second definition. If you expect a series of generators to detail certain aspects of the game from the big picture to the small, then this may not exactly be what you wanted.

If, however, you often find yourself caught off-guard by PCs asking for models, manufacturers, details about your game’s window-dressing, then this will be a boon. Never gave a name to that weirdo the PCs are questioning? There you go. They want to have a drink and ask for the local specialty? You’ll know it. They want to know the model of the killer’s weapon, left behind? The one you never thought about until it became their main line of inquiry? Well, now you have the names at the flick of your wrist.

This is, in short, an incredibly useful book for what it is - at the same time, this is a book for the broad strokes and not something to generate the miniscule details of a station etc. As long as you’re aware of that, I’m confident you’ll have a lot of fun with it. That being said, at the same time, I felt that perhaps a few more charts per chapter would have increased the value of this even further – strange drugs, weird vacations – there is an infinite amount of options still waiting….but then again, the series has sparked Vol. II of these compendiums by now…

My final verdict? Well, I consider this dressing book to be very much worthwhile for a scifi/space opera game; it is a nice filler for the blanks that we often leave unintentionally. Its organization is good and the names per se are crisp, though it should be noted that there are perhaps a bit many names for some folk’s tastes, but then again, that may be just what you’re looking for. As a whole, I consider this to be worth getting. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars – though, to me, the book misses excellence by a mark, which is why I’ll round down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
d66 Compendium
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Star Log.EM-007: Duelist
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2018 02:16:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

After a brief introduction, we access the archives of the Xa-Osoro system (I like how these little files strive to include such flavorful little bits) and the pdf provides a brief, fluff-only run-down of famous duelists, to be more precise, a by now famous cadre of legends.

After this brief intro, we move on to the archetype; envoys and operatives make probably the best duelists, courtesy of the focus on light and melee weapons- The duelist grants alternate class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th and 12th level. At 2nd level, we have uncanny defense, which halves the penalty to atk when fighting defensively (-2 instead of -4). At 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter, you also increase the AC bonus gained from fighting defensively by 1. Important: This bonus does not stack with others and does not apply while wearing heavy armor or powered armor.

At 6th level, you gain parry: When you use a full action to execute a full attack with a melee weapon, you may forego one of your attacks. If you do, you may, at any time before your next turn attempt to parry an attack against you or an adjacent ally as a reaction. You may then roll an attack with the same bonuses (and penalties, I assume) of the foregone attack. If your attack roll exceeds that of the incoming attack, you parry it and it automatically misses. You may use this ability to parry melee and ranged attacks, as well as spells and other abilities that require attack rolls, but not effects that don’t require an attack roll. It is, at this point, no secret that I am not a big fan of the use of competing attack rolls in the more complex of d20-based games, but in this case, the lock-down that the action economy requires to activate this ability makes me somewhat okay with it….though personally, I would have employed SFRPGs different AC values to determine what can and cannot be parried, that remains a personal preference.

9th level builds on that with riposte: When you successfully parry, you may immediately make an attack against the foe that you parried. Note that, while you can parry ranged attacks, you cannot riposte them, since the ability works analogue to AoOs. 12th level yields crippling critical: When you critically hit a target with a melee weapon, you can substitute your choice of reduced speed, bleed damage and penalties to atk, AC or saves for the weapon’s regular critical hit effects.

The pdf also sports 2 new feats: Perfect Defense requires Bodyguard or parry and 7th level. As a minor nitpick: The benefit-line is not bolded. The feat lets you use either parry or the Bodyguard feat 3times per round, +1/round for every 4 levels beyond 7th. It should be noted that this does require a full action. In Harm’s Way is similarly enhanced, should you have it. A minor complaint here: It is a bit weird to me that, RAW, uncanny defense’s benefits do not apply when using this feat’s defensive stance. The second feat would be Combat Reflexes, which allows you to execute more AoOs per round – however, each beyond the first requires that you spend resolve, which makes sense to me in the context of SFRPG. It should be noted that Combat Reflexes may not be combined with Perfect Defense.

Now, remember the legendary duelists I mentioned? We learn more about the tradition they created and even get a code of conduct of sorts, adding some nice, flavorful bits to the end of the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not as impeccable as usual for Everyman Gaming. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series and we get a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ take on the legacy duelist is solid: It translates the core ideas to SFRPG, gets the interaction with the system done rather well…and left me, in spite of all that, with the slight feeling that the concept could have carried a bit more. If what you read above tickles your fancy, then the duelists will enrich your game; if not, then you will probably not be swayed by the pdf. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-007: Duelist
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Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2018 02:15:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Program Book, originally released as a means to connect to fans, was released as the first of its kind, for Gen Con 2013. It clocks in at 68 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 65 pages of content, though not all of this would be directly usable gaming material.

For example, the first page is the luck chart – a funny and pretty cool idea: You roll on the chart upon purchasing the book at the booth and get some cool benefits. Okay, you can get freebies if your lucky…but perhaps, you’ll also need to provide bile for Harley Stroh’s inkwell… ;) There is also some friendly ribbing with the Troll Lord crew going on – enjoyable, sure, but of limited use beyond picturing how fun that may have been. Anyways, after that, we are introduced to the Goodman Games crew – we basically get short bios of the band, with favorite books, last games played, etc. noted – 11 pages, plus one autograph page.

After a brief advertisement, we get a recap of the fatalities the DCC iconics crew suffered and 3 pages of brief previews of upcoming material for DCC. We also get a page of upcoming material teasers for Age of Cthulhu, and 2 pages of teasers for upcoming system neutral content.

After this, we get Michael Curtis “The Undulating Corruption” and Harley Stroh’s “The Jeweler that dealt in Stardust”, the two modules originally released as Free RPG Day adventures in 2012 – please consult my review of that file for details on them. There is btw. also a 2-page DCC-poster here.

After two pages that announce the return of the world of Xcrawl, easily one of the most unique settings out there, we get a brief summary of the world’s assumptions and the rules for dwarves, elves and gnomes in the setting – it should be noted that PFRPG is assumed as the default rules-set employed for Maximum Xcrawl. For a more detailed breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of the setting, please consult my review of the hardcover.

This module, just fyi, can also be found in another source: To be more precise, it is the module featured in the 2013 Free RPG Day adventure. Please consult my review of that book for a detailed break-down of the adventure. It should be noted that the 2013 Free RPG Day offering also contains an excellent DCC adventure AND pregens for both adventures. The pregens for this Xcrawl adventure are not part of the Program Book, just fyi.

After this adventure, we get a 1-page schedule/exclusives-list, 2 pages of photos, a one-page explanation on how to join the DCC road crew. We end with a one-page pinup poster of Shana Dahaka.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, no complaints there for the most part. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-page b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nested bookmarks. The cartography for the modules inside is nice.

Now all modules in this book are very good; they are fun and Michael Curtis, Harley Stroh and Brendan LaSalle all know what they’re doing. That being said, unless you are a diehard completionist and fan who’ll get something out of the digital posters etc., then this will not necessarily be for you.

Why? Well, the game-relevant content herein can be found in the Free RPG supplements for 2012 (which contains the 2 DCC adventures) and in the Free RPG supplement for 2013, which contains, beyond the rather cool Studio City Xcrawl, also Daniel J. Bishop’s excellent “The Imperishable Sorceress” adventure. Both pdfs clock in at $4.99 each, which means that for 10 bucks, you actually get one amazing module MORE, than if you purchase this booklet in pdf for $12. It’s just 2 bucks, but yeah.

Now, if you’re a collector and want the adventures herein in print and can’t find the aforementioned Free RPG Day offerings, then this may be worth checking out. Personally, as much as I enjoyed the Good man Games crew’s write-ups etc., I considered this to not really be worth owning, at least not in pdf. The content that’s here is excellent, but as it is right now, I’d only recommend this to the most die-hard of DCC-completionists. All others are served better by checking out the Free RPG Day adventures. So yeah, for most folk, particularly for gamers that own the Free RPG Day modules, this will be a 2-star offering. For collectors and completionists, this may be 3 stars, which also represents my final verdict. If you don’t have the adventures, I’d rate “The Undulating Corruption” as 4 stars, “The Jeweler that Dealt in Stardust” as 5 stars and the “2013 Studio City Xcrawl” at 4.5 stars, so yeah, I’d recommend getting the adventures, they are all worth owning…but get them via the Free RPG Day offerings instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book
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DCC RPG/Xcrawl Free RPG Day 2013
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/03/2018 04:53:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This offering, originally released for Free RPG Day, clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested and made possible by one of my patreons.

This booklet contains two adventures, “The Imperishable Sorceress” by the esteemed Daniel J. Bishop, a DCC adventure for 1st-level characters, and the “2013 Studio City Xcrawl” for Maximum Xcrawl, which employs the Pathfinder rules – penned by none other than Brendan LaSalle. Both adventures come btw. with an array of pregens – big kudos for their inclusion!! The DCC-adventure has a fantastic map of its setting – it is exciting, cool and stunning…I just wished that the pdf was layered, or sported a second version to allow the judge to cut up a player-friendly version sans keys, secret doors, etc.

Anyhow, you know how this goes, right? The following is a discussion of adventures and as such, it will contain MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE DCC MODULE. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only judges around? Great!

Aeons ago, the Cleft Mountains were situated below the sea, home to a strange, highly intelligent insect-race, a cross of scorpions and centipedes; these entities are who carved these halls, which are now the seat of power of the eponymous, imperishable sorceress, also known as Ivrain the Unkind. This sorceress has happened upon the secret of eternal youth…of sorts. Her research allowed her to grow an undefeatable body in her vats, but the alchemical waste she produced did raise one of the ancient Builders from sleep. Wresting control from her, she cracked her skull. Her spirit remains bound to this complex, to be more precise, to her star stone, and her deadly, demonic minions remain. However, via the coins bearing her countenance, she can send her mind across the land, calling out to sucker…her, I mean “valiant heroes” – and thankfully, one of the heroes carries her blood, allowing her to call to the “blooded” PC.

Now, here I need to comment on one amazing aspect that most reviewers probably wouldn’t care about: The doors in the complex? They are strings of adamantine wires that relax when touched – the alien Builder’s equivalent of doors. It is a small thing and while they may be “locked” or “unlocked” by builders, it is flavor that I adore, that provides a unique sense of the strange here. As always, we get a handy encounter summary. We do not begin directly with the complex exploration, but first have the PCs test their mettle by ascending towards the complex. In order to reach the entry, the PCs will have to brave the weather as well as savage, degenerate tribesmen or the deadly degenerate cold stinger – a descendant of the builders, reduced to mindless hunting. Walking into the ancient complex, the PCs will have to survive the spirits of predatory fish and finally meet up with Ivrain’s spirit – who begs the PCs to help, while also advising caution – the blooded PC may well use the star stone, but since it can only be used once…well, she has no intention to remain as she is.

Exploring the complex, the PCs may unearth pseudo flesh – quasi-organic putty that can prevent scarification…but more dangerous: 1000 feet away, behind gratings and in stasis, there is the Builder, and the entity can send forth ectoplasmic filaments that may well result in the Builder hijacking the body of one of these primitive mammals…Among the treasures, a nasty, demon-hating blade called Nightraker may be found…as may an adamantine mole. Ultimately, the PCs will need to survive wasp-things, wrest the star gem from a mighty Type II demon (who is about as cooperative as you’d expect)…and provided they have not fallen to a very splat-worthy death, the PCs can still screw up in a rather diverse and delightful array of ways: Surprise: Putting Ivrain in her imperishable body is a bad, bad idea. But hey, the chthonic entity that has constantly hassled the PCs may well take over that body, so there is a decent chance that such foolish PCs may escape…though frankly, it remains to be seen if the Builder possessing Ivrain would be better…

/SPOILER’S END FOR THE DCC-MODULE.

The book then proceeds to present the 2013 Studio City Xcrawl adventure – Division II, levels 6 – 8. The Xcrawl is run by DJ Prime Time, a clever media wizard, who is seeking to break the media’s stranglehold on its audience. The Studio Xcrawl is a competitive event: 5 groups are participating in it, and in the end, a Clap-o-Meter will determine the winner! So yeah, the task of the PCs is not to simply crawl through the dungeon, but to do so in STYLE! After a brief explanation of nomenclature, the nature of Xcrawl, etc., Brendan LaSalle’s module properly proceeds: We get detailed lead in flavor text, as the audience sings “America Super Potens Maximus”, the DJ introduction…and of course, the live studio audience! (As an aside, this probably would gel well as a sidearm of Iron GM…just sayin’) – holographic exotic dancers act as treasure…but there is a risk: There is always a chance that, instead of treasure, a whammy monster is called forth! The PCs will have to be smart regarding risk and reward…

There are a couple of pretty cool rooms to be found – but, at this point, I’d have to go into SPOILERS. So yeah, potential players should jump to the SPOILER’S END-section.

..

.

All righty, so, there is, for example, a room, where the walls are closing in, while monsters wearing sponsor shirts attack. Oh, and you have to open three locks, sans magic. All are trapped. Problem here: The walls are closing in and while it is in the interest of the DJ to have the PCs trigger the traps (Flaming walls! Bladed column!!), there is a bit of an issue here: You see rigging/disarming traps in PFRPG takes different amounts of time based on the complexity of the device; now, one could assume them to be simple…but effect-wise, they very much look like complex/intricate devices.

And yes, this is certainly something a good GM can handle…but it’s still a rough patch that could have been avoided. Defeating dungeon wights allows the PCs to get a break before things become challenging: The PCs wander into a room, cloaked in illusions to appear like the outdoors: On tiers of a massive tower, there are glowing eggs; there are very real, armored terror birds (with remote-controlled crossbows!) and worse, a team of excellent kobold sappers starts firing a trebuchet at the tower, attempting to wreck the eggs and thus, the PC’s chance of winning here! What about dealing with a flying shadow squid that thinks with random portals and can attack through them? Yeah, there are some really cool challenges here! After braving such ordeals, cowardly PCs may leave – to the boos of the crowd (and loss of fame), but true heroes will get a chance to duke it out with the potent boss of the crawl, the fire giant Koholorone! Defeating the giant should yield the PCs a proper triumph. 3 magic items are included in the write-up, and the map of the crawl, studded with sponsored advertisements from the Xcrawl world is cool – though we do not get a player-friendly iteration of the map.

/SPOILER’S END FOR THE XCRAWL MODULE.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, also on a rules-language, with only minor hiccups one in a blue moon. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The cartography for the DCC-module in particular is excellent, though I did find myself wishing we got proper, player-friendly versions. The pdf only sports rudimentary bookmarks to the start of the respective adventures, but on a plus-side, the inclusion of copious pregens for both modules is a big plus.

Daniel J. Bishop and Brendan LaSalle deliver two excellent adventures here; the Studio City Xcrawl is bonkers and fun in the right ways (and not yet as brutal as later offerings in the setting), while Daniel J. Bishop once again shows why he is one of my favorite authors for Sword & Sorcery-style adventures; the right combination of the familiar and weird blend with great visuals and extremely evocative details. Both adventures are radically different in themes, system and setting and both can be considered to be excellent examples of their craftsmanship. That being said, I found myself somewhat saddened by the lack of player-friendly versions of the map (retouching the secret doors and numbers is a pain). Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – both of the adventures warrant the fair asking price on their own, if you ask me.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG/Xcrawl Free RPG Day 2013
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