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Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2017 05:28:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review is based on the revised version of the tavern and was designated as a prioritized review by my patreons.

All right, so, the tavern does feature paraphernalia galore, representing the two eponymous animals, but just short of being cluttered. Patrons frequenting the establishment are scrutinized by two guards - Evie, a young human female, and Durgul, a similarly young half-orc - while flirtatious, they both are actually pretty devoted to one another. Food and beverages served are surprisingly healthy and delicious, though, unlike later installments of the series, we do not actually get a proper menu. The second story of the establishment does btw. contain a discreetly-run brothel.

Really nice would be the rather detailed 8 rumors and 8 sample events featured here for the tavern. The NPCs that make this place come alive feature btw. an elven, peg-legged, but pretty attractive and cool lady/pirate turned bartender (using unchained rogue as part of her built) and a fluff-only write-up for the head chef Louisa, the madam, as well as 4 further, nice NPCs. On the crunchier side, we do get statblocks for the kitsune geisha and the ifrit rogue that can be found here...

...and the two guards mentioned before actually not only come with one, but 3 statblocks, with the more advanced ones clocking in at CR 4 and 9, respectively.

It should be noted that the nice b/w-cartography for the place is player-friendly. Big plus there!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups here. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Publishing's printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography in b/w is nice for such an inexpensive file. While it does not sport a scale, the default can probably be assumed.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's Tangible Tavern series has come a long way since its humble inception; comparing this to the more recent additions to its canon does illustrate that fact rather well. "The Bull & The Bear" is not a bad tavern and it can be inserted rather easily into any given city, but at the same time, it is less special, less unique than later offerings. The dynamics of the NPCs are fun and so is the dressing - but as a whole, the place remained pretty pale to me, never really coming alive to the same extent that the other, mostly absolutely excellent installments in the series did. I also expected, to some extent, a fortune/dual-themed or finance-themed angle that never really surfaced here. Anyways, for the fair and low price, this is still worth getting, which is why my final verdict will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (PFRPG)
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Alternate Paths: Social Characters
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2017 09:30:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the Alternate Paths-series clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with an impressive 83 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

So, what is this book? One could picture this supplement, as a whole, as a spiritual heir to both Ultimate Intrigue and Campaign, but I'll get more into the nit and grit of that later. In case you have not discerned that - this may not be the book to get if you're looking to run a murder-hobo dungeon-crawling campaign - the focus here is on intrigue, social iteration, etc. As such, the book assumes use of the downtime-rules from Ultimate Campaign. The pdf then provides a couple of considerations for characters and for what it means to be "civilized" and some general assumptions there - this ties into the dichotomy between primal and civilized characters, which is also represented by a few favored class options grouped not by class, but by what end of the primal/civilized-dichotomy the character represents.

We move on from here to considerations on certain types of deities - these represent general tropes of urban gods and come with the proper array of domains and the like. In an interesting conceptual twist, some deities are classified as predatory, meaning that they don't have followers in the traditional sense, but that they are basically "worshiped" by falling prey to the: Drugs, as an example, would one such concept. I do like how this influences potentially the meta-considerations of the game and we also get to know about locational deities.

Now, beyond this, we are introduced to the concept of social "caste" - the pdf acknowledges that this may not be the best word to describe the system, but, as a matter of fact, it makes sense - if you take a look at how historical societies worked (and continue to work, to a degree), you'll notice that the notion is not only restricted to pseudo-Indian environments. Social caste may be advanced via certain classes in the book and a feat can also be used at character creation to inherit caste. It is interesting to note that the higher castes come with a required minimum level - if you want to take levels in the 3-level socialite PrC, for example, each level will have new minimum level requirements, which thus means that upper caste characters will generally have a higher level than lower caste beings. The PrC nets, just fyi d8 HD, 6 + Int mod skills. It sports full spellcasting progression and nets a social path bonus each level - more on those later. For the purpose of the PrC, PCs start as "strangers" and progress through the 3 castes. Each of the castes has several distinct social paths: These include e.g. crime bosses gaining an income as well as a bonus to Intimidate and Bluff versus lawful creatures. Commanders gain morale bonuses when attacking professional soldiers and beings in your organizational hierarchy cannot deny you proper requests...but all of those paths also come with a social responsibility - these are similarly tied to roleplaying, with the example of teh crime boss requiring the boss to keep his charges safe, while the commander, obviously, is beholden to the structures of the military in which he serves.

Being famous or infamous, a physician or the like all can be found. In the middle castes, we can find merchant princes, ministers and bannerman, while the lower castes contain ascetics or champions - I kinda wished we got a bit more of these - 4 lower versus 7 upper caste paths show the system tilting a bit towards the more prestigious occupations. That being said, the system does engage in something that does rub me the wrong way: We get "misc. bonuses" in quite a few of the abilities granted by these paths - know how many bonus types PFRPG has? Do we really need another one that is not clearly defined? Not a fan here, particularly since some have been codified according to proper types.

The pdf also introduces a mechanic for social combat - unlike Ultimate Intrigue's verbal duels, these social combats are designed to be pretty rules-light and may take place in combat. As a standard action, you roll 1d20 and add the number of skill ranks (NOT the easily cheesable skill's value!) and the associated ability score modifier - the skill must qualify as being a social combat skill, obviously. Yes, these are concisely defined. The DC would be 10 + 1/2 the opponent's HD + the highest mental ability score modifier of the target opponent. If you exceed the target DC, the opponent takes 1d6 nonlethal damage per 2 ranks in the skill used. If you exceed the DC by 5, you also gain an edge. Social combat is a language-dependent, mind-affecting ability. A character defeated primarily by social combat gains the yielding condition - it cannot take hostile actions, may only defend themselves and is considered defeated - it should be noted that the GM retains some control here.

I mentioned edges - there are three of these and only one may be spent per social combat. These may be used to reduce the number of damaging d6s rolled taken from social attacks, can add +2d6 to the social combat damage, or add +4 to a social combat roll. It should be noted that this section does not specify an activation action, which it should - it is pretty clear from context that using an edge should not require an action and is considered to be part of the respective proceedings. The mechanic is precise, mind you - just complaining about the oversight of this formality.

A further aspect that influences social combat would be determination - these would be the creature's willingness to stay in combat: Determination is equal to the creature's highest mental attribute + the creature's HD. (As a minor nitpick: HD are usually noted first in such formulae.) Now, pretty interesting: The determination of a creature is modified, according to situations: A parent protecting his/her offspring, would e.g. double determination, while convincing peasants to rise up against a hated despot is much easier and halves their determination.

So, how does social combat run? Well, the result of using this system is that wise-cracking heroes can deplete pretty efficiently the determination of otherwise superior, but brutish/dumb creatures, getting them to stand down/see the error of their ways. Since determination is tracked individually, larger amounts of foes can make for more rewarding combats, while combats versus few or singular enemies can be solved decisively and quickly. Whether you like that or don't depends very much on your game's playstyle. That being said, the simplicity and elegance of the system allows for VERY easy GM-customization: You can run these social combat rules completely without determination...or you could use determination as additional "social-only" temporary "hit points" that kick in upon reaching 0 hit points, if you want to. So yeah, I am not the biggest fan of the default system, but I very much enjoy what you can easily do with it.

All right, next up would be 3 new classes: The noble gets d8 HD, a whopping 8 + Int-mod skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. Proficiency-wise, the class gains access to simple weapons, hand crossbow, rapier and all one-handed non-exotic firearms as well as light armor. At the start of each social encounter or verbal duel, they gain edges equal to Charisma modifier +1/4 class level, which are designated as noble edges. I assume that these do not adhere to the usual "1 edge per social combat"-rule, but I am frankly not sure. They begin play as a member of the upper class and gain a social path, as per the previous rules. Noblesse oblige, however and thus, each noble must choose and adhere to a given ideology: Personal glory, group glory, organizational glory, greater good or movements may be chosen and all have in common that they feature restrictions for the noble and also determine cases in which edges may not be used. These are concisely defined. The noble begins play with renown and increase that to great renown at 5th level, incredible reknown at 9th, fabulous reknown at 13th and regal renown at 17th level. And yes, these are concisely presented.

Second level yields social graces (another is gained at every even level thereafter) - in case you have not figured that out, indeed, there is some overlap between the social aspects of the vigilante class and the noble Instead of such a social grace, teamwork feats, social combat feats, social caste feats or the aforementioned social bonuses may be gained.

2nd level also yields the ability to talk down foes - when inflicting non-lethal damage via social combat, they may enhance their damage output, temporarily inflict negative conditions and allies may be targeted to grant them temporary hit points. This, weirdly, mentions an ally saving against it, which is not something the social combat rules here sport as a default. At 6th level, the push button ability allows for the expenditure of noble edges to determine the attribute of the target used to defend against a social attack. Beyond that, depending on the attribute chosen, the noble may choose one of two different effects to generate associated effects, ranging from calming targets to treating damage rolls as 4s or granting more temporary hp. Starting at 7th level, the noble may use noble edges to talk down foes as a swift action, but may not exceed one talk down attempt per turn.

3rd level allow for the combination of regular and social combat attacks. 4th level allows for the use of edges to grant morale boosts to themselves (only one per round and here, noble edges and regular ones are distinctly set apart, clearing up any confusion there...but still, wished that the base mechanics had noted that.). 5th level provides basically evasion for Will-saves,, which extends to all allies within line of sight and earshot at 19th level. 11th level increases talking down social damage, while 15th level increases the steps attitude is moved via Diplomacy and Intimidate. As a capstone, we get immunity to mind-influencing effects and auto-confirmed crits in the area of renown. And yes, the immunity can be suppressed. The class comes with FCOs for the base races and some more exotic ones from LRGG's oeuvre.

Furthermore, the class comes with a massive list of aforementioned social graces as well as advice on playing a noble - which centers on both elaborating the class mechanics and the roleplaying aspects of it. We even get suggestions for different "types" of noble and fitting social graces. All in all, I enjoyed this class more than I thought I would, in spite of the few hiccups, it is generally a worthwhile option.

The next class would be the legionary, who gets d10 HD, must be non-chaotic, and receives full BAB-progression, good Will-saves, 6 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors and shields, including tower shields. The class chooses a unit type at first level - these unit types are assigned social classes and receive their own class features - each day when assigning tactics, this type may be chosen and the social classes act as a limitation here. From quicker flurry-like thrown attacks to bonuses to atk and damage when they have not moved, the respective unit type features generally are interesting and fit the themes. They also scale with class levels. As always, I am not a fan of per encounter abilities, which e.g. the triarii sport (insert my long and at this point, well-known rant why this makes no sense). Cool: Second level yields bonuses to AC when receiving a morale bonus or sharing a teamwork feat and may share spaces with allies, which can be rather potent. They also get a kind of wildcard equipment ability called "arsenal" at 3rd level, which may not be cheesed. Magical arsenal is unlocked at 8th level, which can be galling for some GMs, but yeah - I can see it work in some campaigns.

3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter yield a teamwork feat and 4th level grants access to the first so-called legionary tactic, +1 every 4 levels thereafter. Galling: The wording here is messed up: Beyond a bear/bare-glitch, the wording here contradicts itself, implying two base tactics at 4th level versus the 1 it previously states - it requires checking the class table to deduce which one it is.

The legionary tactics are associated with the aforementioned unit types and two per unit type are provided. While these generally are pretty cool, the downside of the limited choice is that there won't be much variation between different legionaries of one caste. At 10th level, 1/3 class level of them may be reassigned as a swift action...which, considering the limited selection, is less potent than you'd think.

6th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield Skill Focus in a skill (or a noble's social grace) - these also include unlocks and double as increases in rank. The capstone nets massive social skill bonuses and automatic critical confirmation versus professional soldiers. I really like that "professional soldier" is defined here concisely - and so is "citizen"...but frankly, that should NOT be hidden in a class capstone. Considering that this is not the only ability referring to these concepts, it should have been properly defined in the base terminology employed by the book. The class sports a few favored class options.

The third class featured within would be the showman, who receives d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, must be non-lawful and gains 4 + Int skills per level as well as a custom proficiency list. Showmen are subject to arcane spell failure - the showman gains spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th spell level, drawing from his own spell-list.

The signature ability of the class, gained at first level, would be a phantom blade - a magical blade that may be drawn as a move action...and yes, Quick Draw etc. is taken into account. When attacking with this weapon, Charisma is used instead of Strength for calculating damage (the rules-language is a bit wonky here, referring to score instead of modifier) and the showman may expend spell slots to increase the damage output of the phantom blade. It attacks, fyi, touch AC. It should be noted that damage type of this bonus damage and the phantom blade is not properly codified either. Targets hit by the blade may succeed a Will-save - if they do, they greatly reduce the damage output of the blade. Also slightly wonky: The conjured, versatile phantom blade is eligible for use with Weapon Focus, which makes all kinds of no sense and renders interaction with other abilities rather wonky. 5th, 117th and 17th level increase the potency and reality of the blade as well as the damage-types the blade may use - which provides a clue that the bonus damage and base phantom weapon damage should not by untyped, but rather the same as the weapon duplicated. 7th level allows for the sacrifice of spells to increase the save DC of the blade.

Starting at 3rd level, the class gains Weapon finesse and always treats the phantom weapon as finnessable. He also gains the first so-called bladewarp, of which there are two types: Shapes and effects. Only one effect may be applied to any given phantom weapon, but any number of shape bladewarps may be applied. Another one is gained at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. These are very potent and interesting, allowing you to strike at enemy spellslots/unused spells, confusing targets etc. Effects add power, while shapes allow for unique twists, but at the cost of making the blade easier to see through.

2nd level provides a bonus to Perform and more gold earned as well as the first carnival trick, with more being learned at 4th level and every even level thereafter . these represent the talents of the class. While the above hiccups did not bode well for the class, I was more than a bit positively surprised by the carnival tricks featured herein: We get the ability to basically teleport within illusions by stepping into the fantasy, readying counters to actions via skill-checks and knowing smiles or the ability to instill an identity crisis in the target that may well be more real than the poor hapless sod imagined. In short: These talents are really creative and make for cool poaching/hacking options, even if you don't plan on using the class as written.

13th level provides more reality for illusions, further enhancing this reality at 19th level. Minor nitpick: Spell-reference not italicized. The capstone eliminates the blade's save and increases the DC of his illusions. The spell-list's spells are not italicized and the class gains, once again a couple of different favored class options.

Now, while the base class has couple of unnecessary hiccups, it does come with a per se pretty intriguing archetype: the ringleader replaces spellcasting with an ability to generate temporary clones - and the archetype manages to concisely define and reign in this most difficult of abilities to prevent cheesing in a thoroughly concise and impressive manner. Instead of enhancing phantom baldes via spellcasting, he may expend clone uses to increases the damage output versus targets. Carnival tricks are restricted to a degree and 3 unique ones are presented. Additionally, 4th level and every 6 levels thereafter replace the carnival trick gained there with upgrades to clone staying power, with 10th level increasing the daily array of clones beyond the usual scaling of the base ability. Pretty cool: Shell-game-like switching of positions and at higher levels, the destruction of a clone can yield confusion to foes and reflexive swapping. This archetype is really nice and extremely hackable - I really, really enjoy it.

From here on out, we get 7 new spells - layout-wise, their pages sport quite a bit of free space - more than two could have fit on a given page, but that's a cosmetic complaint. From making targets seem buffoonish to making targets look like you (in a variety of versions) or the conviction of being attacked by chickens or other fowl, the spells are pretty nice. Magical very important papers help lending a sense of authority to the PC - but it should be noted that it has a couple of minor formatting deviations. Beyond the usual "extra" class feature feats, the chapter with new feats contains feat-based access to social paths, further enhances their bonuses or allows you to be part of more than one caste via Man of Two Worlds. Similarly, the paths and the social combat system entwine here, granting special attacks to e.g. Academics and sporting the [Social Style] descriptor - a type of bearing in a social context, if you will - otherwise, they can be switched akin to regular styles. And yes, much like regular styles, they sport 2 follow-up feats each and can be considered to be intriguing.

The final section of the pdf provides a significant array of different political services, codifying the arranging of relationships, assassinations, bribes, buyouts, etc. - these are well-codified with examples and descriptions, etc. - and both sources and modifiers are included, ending the pdf on a nice note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, traditionally a weak point of LRGG's offerings are generally good - while there are a couple of minor formatting hiccups and some abilities that could use a bit of refinement, as a whole, this represents a step up. On the big plus side, for the most part, this book does actually interesting things, often complex ones, and excels in some seriously difficult rules-operations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with a blend of b/w and full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed and nested bookmarks.

Scott Gladstein, Ian Sisson and Christos Gurd have created a supplement here that I like more than any previous one in the series: While I personally loved the ascetic character-installment's esoteric tweaks, these did require a lot of GM-skill and consideration to properly use and this book is significantly more player-and GM-friendly. That being said, the book has, beyond a few editing hiccups, two crucial flaws that keep it from reaching the lofty praise I'd otherwise heap upon it:

One, the terminology and its definitions is didactically, not that well organized. Having to look up e.g. the definition of being a "professional soldier" in a capstone is not something I consider to be wise. Secondly, and more importantly in my book, the per se very cool social combat system presented herein could and should be a bit clearer in its presentation - and it honestly is stunning to me why the pdf does not elaborate for a page or so on the means of tweaking its baseline.

You see, the math of the system is pretty solid for what it seeks to be, but the default use creates a very distinct and pretty social default mode of operations...and that one may be one some GMs loathe. HOWEVER, the system, with absolutely 0 work on part of the GM, can be tweaked to enable for play in pretty much any campaign and playstyle you want to use. I can see the math, how it works in various campaign types and how it must be tweaked to accommodate them at one glance...but the same may not hold true for all customers. It is baffling to me why the pdf does not explain the repercussions of e.g. ignoring determination, of increasing/decreasing it, etc., when it is quite evident that some serious work has gone into the social combat mechanic. In short, even if you're like me and don't like the default, which provides pretty speedy resolutions, you may well want to take a closer look here - the system offers much more than what one can perceive at first glance.

The classes contained here are on the solid-to-good level: They offer unique tricks as well as sufficient customization options, even though a few minor hiccups can be found. The showman feels a bit like an odd man out - while per se not a bad class, it doesn't really tie in with the leitmotifs established here. I generally do like the caste-system mechanics and the favors, though the former could have used a bit of expansion.

How to rate this, then? Well, the balancing here is pretty good and similarly, even potent and high-difficulty tricks have been codified rather well. While the pdf does have a couple of hiccups that would see me usually penalize it further than I do in this review, I did draw a lot of inspiration from this book and that is something I rather cherish. If you expect perfection from a supplement and some rules that immediately let you go to town, then this may not be what you're looking for. However, if you're willing to work with the book, perhaps expand it a bit and do some tweaking, then you most assuredly will get your money's worth here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Social Characters
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Veranthea Codex: The Black Knight 2.0
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2017 09:29:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second version of this module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It should be noted that 6 level 1 pregens, making use of the unique Veranthea rules for races and characters, are included in the deal...and they are all pretty strong, which is probably a good thing, considering what awaits the PCs herein.

This pdf is intended as an introduction to the continent of Grethadnis in Veranthea and can be used as the first module, which, in combination with Spring of Disorder and Grualroth's Rot, to form a sequence of modules. Assuming character creation, the pdf sports 7 sample campaign traits to invest the characters more within the world of Grethadnis and provides two hooks that can act as shadows of the things to come.

The module begins in Yawvil's Realm and sports two fully-statted, depicted villages for your convenience - generally, the region is considered to be rather peaceful, but the pdf does provide information on random encounters. Three minor, sample quests can be found here - from e.g. defeating a shadow to putting their weight behind one side of a power-struggle, these sketches are okay as supplemental material.

But you want to know about the module, right? All right, but from here on, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players may want to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Only GMs left? All right! We begin this module on the Great Road throughout the realm of Veranthea's powerful arch-wizard, with an encounter of PCs meeting the Vyrystavyas gypsies - invited for a friendly gaming bout, things turn strange fast: The gypsies unwittingly carried a new artifact the Polysabie, a magical d20 - upon being completed, the roll sports some rather odd effects: Whether it's that a given area believes you're a warlock/witch, being compelled to craft wooden animals when trying to infiltrate structures or being stunned when hearing "her ring" or that you may cause misfortune to grant yourself a bonus...the effects are diverse, but on the nasty side. Worse: Upon having rolled the artifact, it becomes HEAVY...and, as panicked gypsies are sure to tell the PCs: An unstoppable Black Knight manifests. (And yes, in order to destroy the artifact, they will need to trek it through all continents, as this one tends to disappear when the black knight is defeated...)

If you haven't noticed that by now: Yes, the Black Knight pretty much is a unique monster and sports rather Monty Python-ish, obvious abilities - with limbs falling off and insults as well as a glare that may stop you dead in your tracks, the inhuman knight is lethal at CR 3. (And yes, the headbutt is BRUTAL - don't underestimate a limbless black knight!)

Defeating the Black Knight, space warps and rips the PCs to the continent of Urethiel, the domain of His Golden Personage of Fortitude, to be precise. Welcomed by pig farmers has been suffering from bandits (which turn out to be cunning ratfolk). Having defeated these scoundrels, the PCs return...to find another Polysabie-roll in process...and an even stronger Black Knight waiting for them, one with completely different abilities (and CR 4...)

...and, once again, the fabric of space and time tear asunder...and bring the PCs to Trectoyri - or rather, the Free Isle, where a knight's tournament is in process - thankfully, Lord Agresta (a nod to Lou Agresta, perhaps?) notes that the games must go on, the polysabie found and the Black Knight defeated. Unbeknown to the PCs, a doppelganger has acquired the lethal artifact and may well try to infiltrate the PC's group...and, once again, a new iteration of the Black Knight, more powerful than before and with a unique build (and a chainsaw sword) needs to be bested - this time at CR 5. Beating this lethal foe (with actually rather challenging damage-output that may well instakill a PC...), the polysabie's power is broken, space rips asunder one final time and the PCs are ready to tackle the aforementioned, excellent Spring of Disorder module...after all, the PCs have coincidentally been dropped right in the vicinity.

In the revised edition, the battle maps for the respective encounters come with detailed terrain feature explanations that are included in the back, in their appendix of sorts, adding a more tactical dimension to the proceedings, which helps the boss battles, the main focus of the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to Veranthea Codex's two-column standards, which cram a LOT of text on one given page and look pretty busy, but also manage to depict a lot of content per page, with each continent having its own unique, visual style. Artworks are solid and in color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is in full-color and okay - not beautiful, but player-friendly.

Mike Myler's Black Knight is a pretty awesome idea as such and works well for convention games or as a means to introduce new players to Veranthea. The idea of the Black Knight and Polysabie per se are gold - they could have been lame, but ended up being rather cool. However, not everything about this module is great - basically, the story is a very thinly-veiled pretense for granting an impression of the continents, so expect no narrative feats here.

Similarly, there is basically nothing interesting going on beyond the iterations of the Black Knight - the other encounters and things to do herein basically can be considered to be...filler or minimalist window dressing...but the inclusion of battle maps and cartography helps make the respective encounters feel actually more relevant.

This, however, does not change that basically, this book has one cool item/pretense for the journey, 3 great adversaries...and is, bar that, a non-entity of a module. The revision does help offset that with notes on terrain, adding at least a bit of environmental tactics to the sequence of boss battles against the knight, which are btw. really well-made and cool...and lethal as all hell.

Whether or not this module is for you, depends pretty much on if you consider three cool Black Knight builds and the polysabie enough to carry the brief module - Veranthea as a setting is great, but the "tour the continents"-facet didn't really work out too well for me. The continents don't get to shine due to the module's brevity, their distinct characteristics touched upon at best in a cursory manner.

Due to the brevity of this module, none of the continents have much time and space to grow on the PCs, to provide anything beyond the most rudimentary of glimpses of what they are about - basically, this is a set-up for a big module, cut down to the bare skeleton. What we have here are challenging, really cool encounters, trapped in a non-entity of a module.

The black knight and artifact are nice...but on their own, they don't manage to make this a truly great module. This can be a ton of fun...or end up being a huge dud of a module. Running this with kids that do not know Monty Python, for example, did not work as well, while nostalgia can make this fun for an adult group. In the end, though, I have to rate this as a module, and here it has issues that, alas, remain in the revised version, which remains pretty much structurally unchanged.

My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars - if you can live with its barebones pretense of a story...but I will round down for the revised version as well. If the idea of 3 hard boss fights in sequence does not excite you or isn't enough for you to consider this worthwhile, then detract a star and steer clear. If fighting Monty Python's black knight with chainsaw swords sounds fun to you, particularly if you're looking for something you can easily run in a con-environment, this may be worth checking out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: The Black Knight 2.0
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10 Wight Magic Items
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2017 09:25:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion of magic items for the less than stellar playable wight-race clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

We begin with the bone breaker club, which inflicts +50% damage versus "skeletons and creatures with exoskeletons or brittle construction." Oh boy. This is not starting off well. So a) 50% of WHAT? Str-mod included? Precision damage? Before or after crits? MESSY. Also: "skeletons" are a specific creature - so not to skeletal champions etc.? What the EFF is a "brittle construction" in rules-terms?? It gets better: 5/day, you can break a bone upon successfully dealing damage. Breaking a bone caused short-term penalties. That don't even require healing to get better. Oh, and it lacks the information of what type of action is used to activate this ability.

The cowl of compassion nets a +4 bonus to Diplomacy and a 1/day reroll when dealing with living humanoids, but only for undead wearers...at least that's what I surmised. Boring filler. The crown of the barrow wight king sounds cool, right? +4 to Diplomacy and Intimidate versus undead and 1/day control undead...facepalms I don't have to explain this one, right? Continuing the array of uninspired filler, the slightly modified spell-in-a-can cryptwalker's boots allow you to teleport back to previously visited locations of death and slaughter like crypts, battlefields, etc. - living creatures thus transported are staggered for an hour on a failed save.

THANKFULLY, the next item is something different: The gray heart contains a reservoir of hit points equal to the wielder's "charisma score." That should be capitalized. Upon being reduced to zero hit points, the gray heart's hit points act as a buffer before death. Also, undead are not "dying" (that being a condition in PFRPG), but are "destroyed". The hit points in a gray heart can be refilled via draining SPs or spells, healing, etc. - but oddly not via SUs and the like. Installing such a heart causes 15 hit points of damage (OOOHHH!) and renders the character staggered for 24 hours. This item being slot-less. Negative charms absorb up to 30 points of positive energy damage. "The wearer of the charm does not make a Will save for half damage from channeled positive energy." Okay, but can he? You know, successful save = half damage...and it being slotless...does it allow for one character to have more of them??

Packmaster's hunting cloak is a sucky skill-bonus item that lacks the proper bonus type. Restorative funeral boards allow undead resting on them to regain hit points and ability score damage as though alive and prevents the living from doing so, while also instilling the fatigued condition. Classic item that has serious ramifications of a world's in-game logic and realities - GMs should carefully consider what this means for the game...

The thrall pendants are keyed to master pendants: The master knows where the thralls are, has an empathic link with the thralls at an enhanced range and the master may designate a creature to gain a boost to Strength and temporary hit points "for up to 2 rounds" at the end of round two, the undead creature "dies from overload." Oh, dear d12. Undead don't "die". The pdf lacks the information on how to designate a "master pendent[sic!]"; it only costs 2K. How does the destruction work? Does it have a cooldown for the two rounds? Can the master designate less time? If an undead has once benefited from it, does the 2-round timer reset? Why is there no save? Put one on a lich, two rounds later, it goes kablooey. WTF.

Vambraces of control tie into the horribly broken frenzy and urge mechanics. There is no legacy item in this pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are decent on a formal level. On a rules-language level, I am astonished how many issues have crept into these extremely basic items. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the artwork on the cover is the best thing about this pdf.

I REALLY hoped that Aaron Phelps' items would fare better than his race. They don't. These items are extremely basic, sport filler galore (which is really bad at this length and not something we usually see in Rite Publishing's creative item-pdfs!), manage to get rules-terminology wrong in spite of the lack of complexity and universally are lame. The filler items would have been lame back in 2010. 2017, they are inexcusable.

I can try to being relativist here, but the matter of fact remains: There is not a single item herein I'd consider worthwhile. They either are boring, basic, or problematic in some way. The gray heart is halfway decent, but that's not enough, not by a long shot. Even for the low price point, this is not a worthy addition to Rite Publishing's canon and I can't find any way to actually recommend this to anyone. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
10 Wight Magic Items
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The Esoterror Fact Book
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2017 07:51:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement for The Esoterrorists (or any other horror game, really!) clocks in at 150 pages (excluding cover, which is its own pdf), 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC,, leaving us with 147 pages of content.

This review is mainly based on the print edition of the book, which was kindly provided by one of my patreons for the purpose of a review at my convenience.

So, what is this massive tome? It represents at the same time a massive dossier that could be considered to be useful as a kind of colossal hand-out, is written as though it was a dossier for agents of the OV: It discusses, on a need-to-know-basis, the realities of the struggle against the forces of the outer dark and the esoterrorists that seek to bring down the membrane, discussing changes in strategy, the psychiatric metrics of the struggle and the, very important, code of ethics that agents should strive to uphold. More than that, it explains the details of extractions, of the conduct in the field, etc. and supplements these pieces of information with flavorful and extremely creepy transcripts.

The methodologies of station duty, establishing deep cover and the like are presented in a concise manner that is a true joy to read - if you're like me and read a ton of RPG-books (and sometimes read them for reading pleasure/immersion), then rest assured that this book is a phenomenal reading experience - and not only in the guise of a pseudo-secret-agency operations manual. The adversary map as a prop can be seen as a kind of precursor to the organizational structures later refined in the Nights Black Agents game. Speaking of which - the book does cover branches of the agency usually not associated as regular PCs - the SSF, the special suppression forces of the OV, join the ranks of playable options, with more crunchy combat options included for such games herein.

Now this predates Night's Black Agents and the crunchy combat rules and high-octane gameplay of that system by years, so it is no surprise that they are not as diverse, but for GMs/directors stumped on how to combine the two, these represent a no-work-required variant for more action-oriented gameplay, with evasive maneuvers, martial arts, etc. - so if you're looking for a change of pace from standard Esoterrorists gaming, this may well still hold up rather well. Still, that would be the one part of the book that has not aged as gracefully as the rest.

Beyond those more crunch-related aspects, however, it should be mentioned that concise rules for dealings with assets and enemies are set down - while these may be modified by the GM, obviously, they represent glorious leitmotifs for whole campaigns. Speaking of which - what I honestly did not expect to like this much, would be the NPC-aspect of this book. You see, the factbook talks, in detail, about various potentially dire, perhaps even world-ending plots that esoterrorists are currently engaged in; it mentions weird occurrences, classifies the antagonists according to their respective psychological profiles...and sports a TON of some of the best NPCs I have seen for modern horror-gaming: From disgusting, sleazy media moguls to cynical cultural scientists, the book offers a diverse and truly creative cast of characters worthy of being primary antagonists for whole campaigns. Sample notes on missions, successful ones and failure, are interspersed throughout the book, further enhancing the reading experience.

From advertising agents to serial killers, the agents of the Outer Dark are presented in a manner that makes them come alive...and it is very evident that the book goes above and beyond, actually managing to get terminologies right and thus making the respective characters feel plausible. Suspected cells and operations are provided in similarly inspiring ways, ranging from gangs to incestuous farmers, international security consulting and high-stakes players on the global scene. The book also lists a wide variety of locations, all of which basically scream to be included in one's game: Haunted suburban homes, strange logging camps, the road to nowhere and more outré locales render this aspect of the book, once again, a pure joy to read.

While we're at it: The book not only covers antagonists, but also potential neutral parties - like seemingly benevolent, esoteric cult leaders "doing good" with "magic" - the problematic aspects of these practices and the double-edged nature of involving such beings makes them valid and intriguing wild-cards that further add a significant dimension to the game and the plots you can craft.

Now, the book also contains a sample adventure, one made explicitly for SSF-characters and taking place in Burma - the adventure is per se a well-crafted series of action-sequences, though ultimately, the brief scenario is pretty linear. The ODE introduced here is pretty disturbing and potent, and its weakness/symbolism MAKES SENSE and can be deduced by smart agents, even if they botch parts of the investigation - the module, in short, is solid.

The book closes with a handy appendix explaining the acronyms used and a massive, 3-page index that helps navigating this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches or hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the book sports a wide variety of amazing, atmospheric b/w-artworks.. The pdf has no bookmarks - I'd suggest getting the softcover print book instead.

I honestly feel like I failed Robin D. Laws' book here. Why? Because, frankly, I cannot hope to convey how well this works - this is a glorious reading experience, extremely immersive and inspiring and it gets the horror aspect of Esoterrorists down to perfection. This book, in short, represents a truly inspiring option for horror gaming. All negative things I can say about this book are the result of me being somewhat late to the party - and are thus not the book's fault. Still, the lack of bookmarks can be annoying and the more combat-intense rules are solid, but pale before the newer GUMSHOE-mods. Even taking that into account, however, I do still consider this to be a must-have offering for anyone even remotely interesting in modern horror or GUMSHOE gaming - the inspiring fluff and glorious prose render this a must-own offering. While this book thus misses my seal of approval by a tiny margin, it should still be considered to be a truly glorious offering, fully deserving of a 5-star-verdict, even in 2017, 8 years after its release. So yeah, get this - it is a true wellspring of inspiration!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Esoterror Fact Book
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GM's Miscellany: Places of Power
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2017 07:48:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' handy compilation tomes clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC (also listing the statblocks by CR and page - nice!), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page how-to-use, 1 page author bios (big kudos for their inclusion) leaving us with 79 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, in case you're not yet familiar with the series - Places of Power represent fully mapped adventuring locales - bases, edifices, environments - from haunted valleys to strange towers, to subterranean black markets dangling atop a cliff, acting as a literal bridge between surface world and underworld, the series features a lot of unique and evocative places for adventurers to visit.

These places, in general, tend to offer intriguing NPCs and adventuring potential galore and rank as some of my favorite drop-in locations, with each featuring really nice b/w-artworks and flavor galore. Whispers, rumours and events help the GM make each of them unique and, as a whole, I thoroughly enjoy the series. Faithful followers of my reviewing will also notice that I have basically covered the whole series (or am in the process of doing so).

Indeed, this compilation includes Dragonmarch keep, godswatch, the monastery of the marble palm, penitent's rest, the fragrant tower, the amazing M-triptych consisting of the midnight market, the mistfall refuge and the mudded manse (all of which are genius), the prismatic tower, tumblestone inn, the valley of the rocks and visionary's perch. Now, since I have already covered all of these locations in detail, I will just point you towards my reviews of them. (On my homepage, you can just click the "Places of Power"-tag attached to this review and you'll have a list of all reviews of the series...)

Now while I have called out three in particular, the valley of rocks, prismatic & fragrant tower also deserve being called out as excellent examples of their craft. From a formal point of view, the compilation is a bit tower-heavy: 5 of the locations are towers. That is just aesthetic, though - what's NOT aesthetic would be e.g. the monastery's BROKEN monk archetype that has a variety of glaring issues in the rues-language: The fact that it has not been fixed for the compilation is a big detriment as far as I'm concerned.

From the PFRPG system-specific side of things, the book also shows a shift in focus that the line has underwent - since the inception of the 5e and system-neutral versions of the series, statblocks have become scarce in the respective iterations, regardless of system. Personally, that is something I somewhat bemoan, for the crunchy materials in early PoP-installments rank among the coolest aspects of the series. I very much would have enjoyed a bonus statblock or two here, but that is once again me nitpicking at a compilation that features some of the best locations you can find.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, though not as tight as usual for Raging Swan Press - typos from the individual pdfs and rules-language issues haven't been fixed, which represents a bit of a blemish regarding this compilation. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features nice b/w-artworks and amazing b/w-cartography. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Gomez, Eric Hindley, Anthony Jennings, Jacob W. Michaels, Jacob Trier, Amber Underwood and Mike Welham have created a compilation here, which sports a significant selection of rather impressive places to visit and adventure in - the majority of the places is excellent and the overall quality of the prose is impressive. This is very much worth getting...however, if you already own the constituent pdfs and don't absolutely need this in print, then there's frankly less reason to get this. If you don't already own most of the pdfs, though, then this is one amazing and flavorful selection of places to visit.

The lack of improvement of the admittedly few, more problematic aspects does drag this down a bit, though, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Places of Power
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End. It's much appreciated as always!
Hypercorps 2099: FAMOTH
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2017 07:45:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion for the Hypercorps 2099-rules clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 64 pages of content, so let's take a look!

In case you didn't know: FAMOTH stands for "Failures and Merits of the Hypernet" - what is the hypernet? Well, think of it as basically the Hypercorps-version of the Matrix, virtual reality on speed. Rules-wise, the hypernet operates as a plane of its own, with alternate time, variable gravity and, surprise, the region is highly morphic. Without the Matrix Magician feat, a character can't use magic here (which eliminates a whole slew of character options/hobbles them) and the plane employs something we had e.g. in earlier editions of the game: Non-native creatures have their attributes modified: Charisma is used as Strength, Intelligence as Dexterity and Wisdom as Constitution. This puts the hypernet in a tradition with e.g. second edition's dreamland rules and similar tricks, but also means that you basically have to generate a second character sheet for your character while he's in the hypernet - unless you're pretty good regarding on-the-fly modifications. Interesting: The Intelligence modifier also acts as a means to enhance the movement rate of characters in hypernet.

Characters using a proper rig can safely access the hypernet, but have their skills greatly nerfed...so yeah, you'll be going in properly. Hackers treat robots as basically a powerful pet, granting them a ton of abilities. Hyper attributes are carried over in the hypernet and the pdf codifies rules for jacking in and out, for faulty transfers and the potential hazards you can encounter within the depths of the hypernet have been codified in PFRPG as e.g. persistent haunts, as traps, etc. Concise rules for rapid jackouts, server crashes and global effects to modify the hypernet can be found: From viral infections to global bandwidth issues and the creepy jarrikol-effect, the material presented here is pretty far-out and cool. ("Jarrikol" or any variation thereof in the net can conjure forth basically a horrid, reaper-like god-like ghost in the machine...which is pretty amazing...)

The annihilation wipe cubes and the concise rules to control them are neat and we move on to a mini-bestiary, which includes a blend of previously released and novel material - here, Death Sentries can be found, Tiny constructs that can annihilate digital assets. Classics like the gargantuan robotic T-rex can be found here alongside reprints of sec-jackers and proxies. The thrillvirus from "Thrillville or Killville?" has also been included, alongside unbound proxies, the Deathwing character, Edgar Allen Poe, etc. - however, I should note that there are new ones here: Argus, for example, ostensibly created by Tesla, the halfling netjacker enganyar...etc. The pdf also contains a couple of sample drones for netjackers and the pdf does include the netjacker base class, which I took apart before.

The pdf does also list a variety of different servers (basically sub-planes of the hypernet) and, oddly, the netjacker is jammed right into this chapter, which is, organization-wise, rather weird and, imho, kinda annoying - you alternate between one such server, then class information, then another server. That being said, the respective servers are pretty interesting and provide some new material: While the devilish darknet, datacorps, paradise 1, thrillville, xypher and Veranthea are included (yep, the Veranthea Codex setting's material is represented as a hypercorps MMO...), the new ones deserve special mention:

Aquatica, the underworld world, contains Atlantis and generates spontaneous vortices. Celestial estates represents a devious plan to sucker in souls of those who'd prefer a digital afterlife - pretty creepy! The grand archive would be a colossal collection of media...but with premium content and addictive properties, it can also be rather problematic. Harsanath houses seemingly all-powerful data judges. The curious, erstwhile pastoral Maliku, flavor-wise somewhat Wild West-ish can provide, curiously, instant hypernet conversions of material, while the unyielding green enhances druid-y tricks and sports a rather erratic time. We also are introduced to the cybermagic bloodline for sorcerors, which makes the sorceror immediately competent, via feats and spells, in hypernet - the bloodline powers focus on modifying planar traits of the respective hypernet servers. The chapter also reprints cyber ninja and samurai. Cybersurfer monks use Int-mod for AC, but loses the level scaling and the archetype's flurry is restricted to working only while on a cyberboard. They slightly reduce their unarmed damage, but gain hacking talents from a limited list, with higher level options unlocking new ones. It should not surprise anyone that the archetype receives enhanced skills. 11th level unlocks a drone that also acts as a hoverboard, though the particulars of this ability are a bit opaque and could use a bit more clarification. The data junkie would be a hypernet bard and similarly, the digital detective investigator represents a hypernet specialist, who has less extracts outside of the hypernet, but gains some nice techy abilities.

The droneminder netjacker archetype loses access to proxies, but are specialists at using drones and the mechwarrior is reprinted herein. Noob krushers are netjackers who eschew the use of robots, using a blending of studying foes and inflicting bonus damage to them...and they, unsurprisingly, are expert programmers. Hackhunter rangers are basically rangers that specialize in the digital world, gaining a proxy at higher levels instead of a regular animal companion. Intuitive hacker barbarians receive a variant rage that makes Strength and Constitution match their Int-scores, for potentially very potent combat capabilities. Technoclerics would be the digital construct-specialists of the clerics, getting the cybernetic domain, variant class skill list and applying the healing/spontaneous conversion tricks to constructs instead. EDIT: Mea maxima culpa - I had a bad brainfart here. Technokineticists are electricity specialists that can render their damage versus robots et al. more reliable. On a minor complaint, there is a spell reference that is not properly italicized and personally, I think that the class-specific infusions etc. would have been better served being formatted as standard infusions.

The pdf recaps the digital skill uses and the feats allow for program creation, concealing yourself as a digital asset and Electronic Telepath allows for the at-range activation or deactivation of devices. while Server Tactician interacts with server traits. Matrix Magician has been reprinted for your convenience.

The pdf also features a variety of digital items, from counterfeit credchips to digikeys and online drugs (matrix dust) and root code packages - per se pretty cool. Drapa's nanosymbiotes make for an intriguing itemclass, occupying teh body slot in various iterations, gaining special abilities. If you know MGS, well, then you'll probably be smiling right now. The pdf also features new hypernaut powers - the senses-enhancing cybersenses, more efficient crafting in the hypernet, retaining superior scores of physical attributes in the hypernet, gaining a metric ton of detect tricks and turning yourself incorporeal can be found here. As the only tier 2 ability, independence from jacks for hypernet access alongside some SPs can be found. Somewhat odd - while italicizations of spells are pretty concise for the most part, there are some oversights. 9 hyperflaws are also included - making this section per se pretty neat.

We close the pdf with the pregens from "Thrillville or Killville?".

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed a few instances of glitches and material that could be slightly streamlined, as a whole, this is a well-made file. Layout adheres to hypercorps' pretty busy 2-column/1-column/3-column full-color standard (depending on the needs of the pdf), with decent full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler, with contributions from James Lewis, Michael McCarthy and Savannah Broadway, has crafted a supplement that leaves me somewhat torn. I don't have a problem with the reprinted material, as the collection collects the thematic material herein. There are a few aspects that could have used a bit of streamlining though - I really hate how the netjacker class has been spliced into the respective server write-ups, blending player-information with potential spoiler-territory. These glitches do drag down the pdf a bit and the supplement has another issue: The hypernet, as written, is cool, but not particularly player-friendly - you basically have to invest in it to work properly (feat-tax) and class abilities are required to work at peak efficiency. For one-shots, this is not an issue, but for longer campaigns, this invariably results in discrepancies between PC capabilities - and if you invest heavily in the Hypernet's options, you lose out in real life adventuring. This is, to a certain degree, a system-immanent issue of the rules as presented, but I honestly wished the pdf had some alternate, smoother rules for hypernet use.

In my tests, you either rock hard (if you focus on the hypernet) or suck hardcore (if you don't) - and the requirement of basically an extra iteration of the character for use in the hypernet doesn't make long-term use too comfortable. When this was just an aspect of the overall world, you could partially overlook it; when used in a one-shot, it doesn't matter, but as a whole, it may make sense to have hypernet and regular characters for optimal fun. This renders the AMAZING variety of options less user-friendly than I'd like it to be - picture it as requiring a second character/needing to jump through hoops whenever you go planar adventuring. Whether you like that or don't remains a matter of taste. Still, I honestly expected a bit more from this pdf - with a title like the acronym, I hoped for more awareness of the original system's limitations and more clunky components. As a whole, this can either be worth it for you, or result in a slightly disappointed shrug - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars. As a person, my disappointment with the file exceeded my enjoyment of the cool new servers, but I'd usually round up. However, the accumulated editing glitches and asinine netjacker/server-chop-up-presentation honestly galled me to no end. Additionally, all aspects that really blew me away had been released before - the new material isn't bad, but did not blow me out of the water; it doesn't have the same amount of creative ésprit that Mike's writing usually shows. If you don't mind the above, round up - as a whole, in spite of liking a lot herein, I can't bring myself to round up - hence my official verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hypercorps 2099: FAMOTH
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Modern Adventures
Publisher: paNik productions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2017 04:33:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 234 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 231 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This massive tome was gifted to me by one of my patreons for the purpose of a prioritized review. It has thus been moved up in my review-queue.

The first thing you'll undoubtedly notice is that the above does not feature an editorial section - there is a reason for that, namely that each page has a sidebar on the left or right, which is used to provide commentary and elaborate on the content - the editorial can be found in such a side-bar on the very first page.

The first thing the pdf makes clear would be a decision I very much applaud - namely that, while this is clearly based on d20 Modern, it does not translate e.g. the classes to PFRPG and tries to instead provide its own solutions for modern gaming, a strategy based more on archetypes and the like. The pdf does note some changes in the gameplay first, e.g. the fact that modern gaming does not know massive, exceedingly potent armors - as such, AC will be lower and thus, further emphasize concealment etc. This may be one of the more problematic aspects of the game, as it further tilts the balance between offense and defense, already strongly in favor of offense in PFRPG, towards the offense side of things, but let's talk about that after having taken in the whole of the rules.

The pdf also acknowledges that guns inflict a lot of damage at lower levels, but do not scale, damage-output-wise, as well as other options and the loudness of their shots make them less than subtle. A big plus here would be the reality of our modern work - prolonged gunfights are prone to draw the attention of the authorities. So, in fact, the campaign's implicit realities may be a balancing factor here.

The next thing to consider, obviously, would be the reality of magic in the game: If you presume standard magic, there are potentially infinite permutations of effects on the game: From the use of dancing lights in warfare as signals to the consequence of create water and the like, the results are potentially endless and even exploring e.g. the fact that you can generate electricity from nothing or permanent fire and how that influenced our cultures and how the world works. The pdf does come with different standard magic levels: In worlds with fading magic, successfully casting a spell requires a concentration heck versus DC 20 + the spell's level and magic item creation takes twice as long. Alternatively, there is an interesting option that makes spells basically behave like rituals - they receive a casting time in full rounds equal to their spell-level and all magic items of +3 or higher will be basically artifacts, with lower-powered items requiring thrice as long to create. Spells with full-round casting times multiply their casting time by 3 times the spell's level. There are a couple of issues with this otherwise interesting system: For one, it does not take spells that can be cast as immediate, swift, etc. actions into account and metamagic feats that increase casting duration similarly become problematic. Additionally, spontaneous casters are extremely nerfed by this system, losing what made them work in the first place - their spontaneity. SUs take a full-round to activate and continuous ones reduce their save DC (erroneously called "resistance DC" here) by 2 and suffer from halved effects.

The next option would be aspected magic, which suggests limiting magic to suit the needs of the particular campaign. No hard rules are provided here. Localized magic assumes that magic functions only under specific circumstances or in specific places and supernatural magic as an option basically eliminates spellcasting and mentions that it works best for horror/survivalist types of games - a cursory glance at the potency of supernatural class options, however, can make this assumption slightly problematic as well. Finally, there is the option of playing sans magic - dead magic, if you will. The issue regarding math is evident to anyone who has crunched the numbers of PFRPG at one point - in order to make the math come out right, you need magic at one point.

If all of this sounds harsh, then rest assured that it's not intended to be taken as such - but the pdf's "solutions" for these choices are somewhat lackluster - I expected more crunchy alternate bonus type progressions and rules to supplement these respective choices - as provided, they unanimously will generate issues.

Onwards to the next section, which deals with the general classifications of history you can embark on: In covert history, magic is real, but a closely-guarded secret. More interesting would be the concept of secret history, where a force called "The Shroud" shields our memory and perception from the ability to perceive magic creatures, elves, etc. living among us properly. Finally, divergent and alternate history are touched upon - these sections generally constitute nice starting points. Races and how common they are and magic-level combinations are touched upon, discussing the respective core races in a modern context, while also providing alternate racial traits (which deserve applause - they are generally well-balanced!) and favored class options for the new classes.

Which brings me to the subject matter of classes, which are codified according to magic-levels and whether they're appropriate for the respective world. Class skill modifications, if appropriate, are included for the classes and the table also contains the aforementioned new ones; it should be noted that the classes covered here are restricted to core and APG-classes - neither magus, nor the UC, ACG or Occult classes receive consideration here. Sorcerors are big winners in this chapter, gaining 4 bloodlines to represent common tropes of real-life magic - pyrokineticism, telepathy, telekinesis and spiritualism. The rules are generally solid here, though there are a couple of minor guffaws in the rules-language - save DC-formulae switching from 3rd person to second, willpower saves instead of Will saves and the like. More annoying - spell references that are capitalized instead of italicized. That is a big and pretty annoying formatting hiccup that can be found here and there throughout the pdf. Which is baffling to me, considering that spells have been properly italicized in e.g. the bonus spell sections of the bloodlines...and indeed, in later sections, more often than not, the pdf gets it right.

Okay, so, the new classes. The first of these would be the Charmer, who gains d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, sword canes, handguns and light armors. They gain 1/2 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. The class begins play with Expertise as a bonus feat and a mesmerism pool equal to twice the class level + the Charmer's Charisma modifier. As a standard action, the charmer can spend a mesmerism point to fascinate a target, which may be maintained as a move action and the fascination is not automatically broken by nearby combat, but only by direct attacks on the target. The ability thankfully has a range and a save to resist and is properly codified - though, as a nitpick, the save-DC formula is presented in the incorrect sequence - it's 10 + incremental level scaling + attribute modifier, not first the attribute modifier...but that remains a mostly cosmetic hiccup. The class can use Bluff to run short-term cons to gain money and gains +1/2 class level to Diplomacy as well as +1 insight bonus to AC that increases every 4 levels thereafter to a maximum of +5. Second level yields NPC contacts, which slightly confusingly refers once to "begins play" - which is usually 1st level. But that is a cosmetic gripe. Danger-sense, though, is weird - it nets a second "roll to avoid being surprised" - what's that supposed to mean? No idea. It is also somewhat unfortunately-named, considering the rogue ability of the same name.

Things get interesting with 2nd level, as the charmer gets an ever-increasing array of uses for the mesmerist points, with fatigue instilling or suppression and the like - the abilities interact with conditions, though, if you expected choice here, I'll have to disappoint you - the sequence of ability gains is strictly linear. On the plus-side, the pdf seems to get condition-interaction right, allowing for e.g. the reduction of exhaustion to fatigue, etc. Higher levels yield black market connections, the option to duplicate an extraordinary version of charm person/monster. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield an alternate identity, though since this predates Ultimate Intrigue, the ability feels a bit brief and very much a flavor option. Starting at 5th level, either via hero points or 1/level, the charmer can gain favors from NPCs. One ability lacks the level it's gained in the text, though the table does mention it. Starting at 13th level, they learn to instill manias, delusions and phobias and archetype-wise, gambler, undercover spy and romancer are included. I am not a fan of this rather linear class.

The second class is the entertainer, who gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, pistols and light armors...and they basically represent a bard-like option: The class knows 6 types of different performances, drama, comedy, dance, instrumental, oratory and sing and the emotion effects performances are capable of capable of generating benefits and penalties, with each performance having two emotion effects assigned. It is pretty cool to see the requirement for Int for some, but I am not 100% sure whether a given performance triggers both effects or just one. The class extends the range of affected targets and the emotion effects provided for the respective performances, which is pretty cool. The class gains +1/2 class level to Knowledge (pop culture), a bard's fascinate, better total defense and they can use limited wild card skill. Unlike the charmer, the entertainer is more flexible and has a lot more options and some actual customization, for second level and every 2 levels thereafter yield a shtick, the talent-array of the class. These allow for enhanced emotion effects, feats, etc. and generally are interesting.

The class does come with abilities to emulate the class abilities of other classes and, while it gets multiclassing-synergy right (kudos there), I still consider the rules-language to need a bit more oomph here due to the wide-open nature of the ability - still, kudos, this ranks as one of the best examples of such an ability I have seen in a codified manner. The further abilities of the class allow for teamwork feat adaptation and recommend items, have a steady income, etc. - Stand-up Comedic, Stuntman and Professional Athlete would be the archetypes included for this class. All in all, a better class than the charmer.

The third new class would be the gadgeteer, who gains d8 HD, 8 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves and proficiency with simple weapons, handguns, machine pistols and light armors. At 2nd level, they get their first gizmo and a total of 4 levels. The gadgeteer can basically generate gizmos, duplicating different spells. These are somewhat unstable and hard to use for other classes- the class also gets so-called eureka gizmos, with additional options being made available at higher levels. The class provides several skill-based options to mitigate the broken condition, with class abilities focusing on tech, laying traps, granting equipment bonuses to items and at higher levels, they learn to craft Futuretech items - i.e. stable versions of the prototype gizmos. The interesting component of the class, however, would be that they receive basically a robotic construct companion that scales with them - these companions are programmed via macros. They are command as swift actions and three sample means of controlling them are provided. 12 different basic frameworks are provided, ranging from exoskeletons to spider drones, mini-tanks or even motorcycles and the like - so yes, you can play Knightrider with this class. The respective base forms generally are solid in their balancing and obviously provide different playing experiences, with certain limits applying to them. This section, as a whole, is surprisingly well-crafted, with unique macros for e.g. swarms and the like. Once again, three archetypes are provided, namely racer, hacker and saboteur. While I do have takes on the concept I personally prefer, this is definitely not a bad option and, considering the complexity, a rather well-made one.

The investigator class gets d8 HD, 8 + Int skills per level, 3(4 BAb-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and proficiency with handguns, simple weapons, light and medium armor and basically represent exactly what you'd think - a chassis to play Sherlock Holmes, CSI-guys, cops, etc. - as such, the class abilities feature the ability to size up opponents via Knowledge (psychology). They get a variant of favored enemy for cultural groups and networks of informants and the class has a massive, expansive talent section, which includes penalty-less non-lethal combat, skill-bonuses, spell-duplication and so much more. Forensic investigation, forcing confessions and the like - the class has a lot to offer and represents a surprisingly good take on the trope. Archetype-wise, we get the bounty hunter, gentleman detective, muchraker and superfan. Once again, not a bad class!

The scholar class would be another kind of skill monkey, with d6 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, good Will-saves, 1/2 BAB-progression and proficiency with only simple weapons. They can brew concoctions, which act as potion-like abilities, with a pretty wide array of options available. Beyond that and the obvious theme of Knowledge skills, they also gain theses on every even-numbered level - these represents a massive, multiple pages spanning list of talents to choose from. At higher levels, scholars can mislead (read: daze) targets temporarily, generate plans that convey bonuses and become resistant to mind-influencing and emotion effects with a selective SR. The archetypes are the engineer, geneticist, psychologist and skeptic - once again, a generally well-made and compelling class.

Finally, the stranger gets d12 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with simple and archaic weapons as well as light armors and shields: They are the catch-all class for the hardened survivors: make-shift armors, Endurance, favored terrain, uncanny dodge, better movement - you get the idea. The Archetypes include the drunken bum, the parolee, the street preacher, traditional tribal warrior and survivalist. A decent class, if a bit linear, as far as I'm concerned.

The pdf also mentions NPC classes and their basic modifications of the classic ones and goes on to update the skills available for modern gaming, with new Craft and Knowledge skills, Computers and Pilot. Similarly, the pdf contains various feats and feat clarifications of classic feats. Starting cash in dollars, equipment (including a wide variety of guns, use of firehoses as damaging sources, flare guns, flamethrowers, alternate ammunition, suppressors, explosives - basically, this doesn't leave much to be desired and also includes restrictions of e.g. availability of certain objects. From fake IDs to night-vision goggles, this huge chapter provides a lot of cool material. IT should be noted that the pdf does cover rules for automatic fire and overlapping fields of fire.

Somewhat annoying if you're looking for something specific: The pdf provides magic items in the side-bars throughout this chapter, which makes finding a specific magic item a bit of a hassle. Damn cool: We get vehicle stats for jet fighters, trucks, various cars, motorcycles and the like and the pdf does provide a concise overview of various costs of living and the respective standards. Beyond these rules, we receive 12 new spells, from discern password to magical masking of metal and clarifications for the use of traditional spells in a modern context can also be found.

Now, I touched before on gizmos as unstable prototypes - they and the more stable futuretech are discussed in their own chapter: From pocket flamethrowers and rocketpacks to psychic screwdrivers (Dr. Who fans will smile here...) to endure elements duplicators, these act basically as an alternate take on "magic" items - they have CLs and are presented as such, so if you've been using the Technology Guide, don't expect compatibility here. That being said, the section generally is rather nice. The more unique and impressive eureka gizmos I mentioned before get their own section, just fyi - and they increase their effects, though the respective upgrades do come with a hefty price in additional to the minimum level requirements for the upgrades.

After this, we get a chapter on real diseases (curable ones only) and poisons before we are introduced to the sample campaign world, which is designated Fifth World: While the name may generate some cringing fro SR-fans, the setting is actually interesting - it takes the basic framework of Norse myth's nine worlds and applies it to a modern context. A brief adventure outline and some encounter sketches can be found here as well, though these are very basic and bare-bones. The second campaign setting sketch we get would be silicon gothic, a futuristic high-tech espionage dystopia under corporate control. Three encounters sketch a sample adventure in this setting. It should be noted that both of these settings come with a few sample statblocks.

Conclusion:

Editing is surprisingly good for a crunch-book of this size - on a formal level, there isn't much to complain. The rules-language is similarly an interesting experience, for while there are a couple of formatting glitches and deviations from the default, as a whole, the rules-language is surprisingly well-crafted and the classes offer significantly more (and better!) options than what d20 Modern's roster provided. Layout is a weak spot of the book - the use of the sidebar, generally, isn't bad or anything, but e.g. cramming magic items there can make navigation more of a hassle. That being said, the book employs a 1-column standard. The book sports a lot of full-color artworks in the same comic-like style that you can see on the cover - they did not impress me as a whole, but don't hurt the book either. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive, nested bookmarks and a second version, optimized for mobile device usage as well as sample character sheets.

M. Andrew Payne, with contributions from Jason Bean, Andrew Boggs, Nik Palmer and Antoinette Riggs has crafted a rather massive and pretty impressive toolkit, one that does a better job at bringing modern gameplay to PFRPG than many approaches I have seen; in fact, I was surprised by this, as it had completely flown under my radar. This does a lot right: The new classes make sense, and with the exception of the charmer and stranger, provide a lot of player-agenda and viable options. The equipment section, gizmos, etc. all constitute viable playing options as well. At the same time, I think I managed to highlight why I don't consider this to be perfect: Beyond the small hiccups in the rules-aesthetics, in particular the campaign customization leaves a bit to be desired. If you present variant campaign settings and address the magic-conundrum, then that somewhat has to be mirrored by rules - be it with suggested automatic bonus progressions or a similar way. As presented, the defensive options available in a modern game will be quickly outpaced by the offensive ones and just balancing via the implicit world, while a viable strategy, on its own isn't wholly satisfying to me.

That is the one true failure of the book: I believe that it could have been a representation of true greatness if it had addressed these issues. Since it doesn't, it basically represents a good book, for some it may even be very good. The options in this toolkit are diverse, interesting and bring, in one handy tome, a rather impressive and solid toolkit for modern gaming to Pathfinder...so if that's what you've been looking for, look no further. If the notion never really interested you or if one of the more advanced pathfinder options (OA, Tech-guide, etc.) should be part of your game, then you'll have to join me in waiting for, hopefully, an expansion at one point. As is, this book is worth getting. It does its job admirably-well and, as a whole, certainly deserves the obvious work that went into this being acknowledged. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - a good toolkit for modern gaming, but one that does leave some work in the hands of the GM.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Adventures
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Publisher Reply:
Sorry that placing the magic items in sidebars was vexing. We never intended that to be a comprehensive list, more of an inspirational "here's some cool stuff you can make by applying the existing magic creation system to modern items" sort of thing. I nonetheless see your point. If and when we do a second edition we'll include some sort of index for just that reason (or break magic items into a chapter of their own). Likewise, the sample campaigns were meant as "sketches", intended to inspire possibilities more than full-on source books. I would have liked to have made Modern Adventures compatible with the Pathfinder Technology Guide but alas, it didn't come out until 4 or 5 months after we'd already published. (I hope this doesn't come across as defensive; it's just that the calendar worked against us on that issue.) If I may pick your brain: With the Charmer class we considered giving them the ability to cast Enchantment spells (possibly as spell-like abilities) but decided that they'd be better off with their own mechanic. If we had gone the other way, would the class be more interesting to you? Thanks for such a thoughtful review, M. Andrew Payne
Weird Adventures
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:39:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 161 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? Well, picture a setting, the Strange New World, that puts fantasy tropes in an era reminiscent of the interim between the two World Wars, as seen through the lens of the classic pulp magazines of old. The history of the world is thus somewhat akin to what you'd expect, though it should be noted than nice, poster-style artworks provide cliff-notes versions of what once was. It should be noted, though, that the focus of this book lies exclusively on the New World - which sees enough problems of its own with drought, etc., spiraling the country towards a great depression. The pdf provides notes on days and months, holidays, etc.

Race-wise, the Ancients brought the Black Folk to the new world before the arrival of the Ealderish, the Europe-stand-in, if you'd like. Natives and Yianese also make for obvious substitutions and feature twists that set them slightly apart from real world equivalents. A similar approach is taken for religion - old-time religions would be those based on variations of the montheistic writings; Oecumenical hierarchate practices religion more stringently and adds saints and the like for a ore Catholicism-like version. Beyond that, eikones exist - i.e. personifications of concepts and yes, pagan gods do exist. It is interesting to observe that this book does talk about the ramifications of the possibility of journeys to hell and heaven, respectively!

Magic follows roughly two different paths: thaumaturgy, which denotes basically the scientific/academic form of magic, while mysticism is more intuitive - somewhat akin to the divide between prepared and spontaneous casters, though rules-wise, there is no difference here apart from the extensively elaborated upon different social ramifications. The continent, just fyi, is fully mapped in color and from here, we embark on the gazetteer-section of the book, which provides an interesting look at the nations, sometimes with a wink and a smile: The US-equivalent would be the "United Territories of Freedonia", for example, while Zingaro, the great Meso-American stand-in, mentions e.g. Sainted Mother Death and the like - we have magically icy winds in the north and little bits and pieces with crunch as well as plot-seeds galore. Have I mentioned the settlement Cuijatepec, where interred bodies mummify and walk the land (complete with a b/w-picture of a badass mummy mariachi gunslinger), deadly jungles, 10 sample ways to die in the deep - this chapter provides a nice "big picture"-view of the Americas in this setting.

From the big picture, we move inwards towards a tad bit more details, with the chapter "On the Weird Road" (nice Kerouac-nod there!), a chapter which goes into the details of the Union, including its currency (with fitting nicknames), explanations of the government and interesting twists - when e.g. monster-hunting paladins of great families inherit their father's swords to their offspring. Arkham, including a famous asylum, can be found...and then there is the City, whose hegemony extends beyond the holdings of the Five Baronies - the City is vast and its constituents include an alien city with an unstable topography that may or may not exist at any given time, the gambling paradise (or hell) of Faro City, a New Orleans equivalent...and the smaragdine mountains...have I mentioned the rules for magical bootleg alcohol, a dwarven city, an infernal mafia or the dustlands, haunted by wrathful elementals? The monster-haunted Grand Cany...eh, Chasm, rushes for the Black Gold and the center of the entertainment industry, Heliotrope, home of the legendary gunslinger hero Big Jim Trane, who is sometimes riding a giant prehistoric cat. Occult feminism, cigarette-"ads" for djinn cigarettes - it is nice touches like this that manage to lend a sense of authenticity to the proceedings.

From this, we move on to the City proper, which, as mentioned before, is roughly separated into 5 baronies. It should be noted that the map here is functional, but pretty barebones, with the exception of the fully depicted Empire Island, which contains the Central park equivalent as well as TON of highly detailed locales and hooks: From the slums of Hardluck to the financial district, we run a wide array of themes and tropes, supplemented by random encounters (fluff-only). Inevitables haunt those that would resist the taxation or wish harm on the Municipal Building (fitting!), while being an exterminator in such a setting, obvious, is a rather dangerous profession. Also cool: Little Carcosa. Just figured I'd mention that one. ;) Grimalkin village, ziggurats topped with Tesla coils, loan sharks and the race of barrow men ( CON and CHA +1, +2 to saves vs. poison, disease and contagion, can horrify targets with a variant of fascinate, penalizing saves), ghoulish undertown...have I mentioned the Lady of Amaranth Park, the airship dock contained in Grand Terminus, Dwergentown or the mysterious Mr. Nick Scratch? Or the degenerate, human-slaughtering eikomne? The charities that lord over the circus district?

Here, you can find phantom automats, meet gentlemen mentalists, realize that vampires are pretty much very dangerous addicts, go to "Sal's Paradise, Jump!", listen to magical jazz...and have I mentioned the area that now is straight out of The Magical Monarch of Mu (guess what that one is the analogue of...) or the theft of an elephantine colossus by notorious lich Hieronymus Gaunt?

The pdf also provides a variety of different monsters: These come with both ascending and descending AC-values, HD, number encountered and a general idea of movement rates ("fast flyer", for example), allowing for relatively easy integration into a given specific rules-set. These include black blizzards, undead, illithid-like brain-invaders, crabmen, hitfiends (hilarious!), gatormen, living ghost-towns, hill-billy giants, living totems, lounge lizards, murder ballads that conceal themselves in songs, pink elephants (!!!), the Reds (agents of the underground civilization!)...and much more.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has color maps that are decent and an amazing full-color artwork on the inside of the front cover. The interior-artwork is original and b/w and really nice. It should be noted that "advertisements" in the style of the 20s and 30s are littered throughout the book, adding a sense of authenticity to the file. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. I can't comment on the physical versions, since I only own the pdf-version.

Trey Causey's Weird Adventures did not have an easy standing with me. You see, I love the pulp genre and I love the fantasy genre. Thing is, I don't think they mix well. At all. Similarly, I have read so many allotopias and near-earth settings, they tend to end up boring my socks off. In short: This is one book I would have never bought or read, were it not for my reviewer status.

Guess what? I'm honestly glad I did read this! You see, this pdf actually manages to properly blend the fantastic and the pulp genre without getting bogged down in Tolkienesque tropes. It draws from a vast wealth of knowledge and obviously careful research and its ideas go beyond winking "add fantasy" variants of real world phenomena, creating a world that is at the same time radically different and thoroughly grounded in our cultures....while changing them rather drastically. In short, this actually manages the nigh-impossible task of blending the two genres with panache aplomb. Now personally, I do not necessarily love this - but I am absolutely impressed by the depth of imagination and by the obvious love that went into this book. This is obviously a labor of passion and it shows on pretty much every page. It is very rules-lite, which makes conversion to pretty much any system really easy as well - and what more can you ask for? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. If the ideas even remotely sound like they could interest you, check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weird Adventures
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Places of Power: Visionary's Perch
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:34:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required skills may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience and, big plus, we do get a nice marketplace-section depicting thematically-fitting minor magic items for sale here.

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question.

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia's tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more...and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention - they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' "Visionary's Perch" is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope's as old as time...but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that's mostly cosmetic.

In short, this is a very useful, evocative and cool location - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Visionary's Perch
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Places of Power: Visionary's Perch System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:32:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required knowledge may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience. The marketplace-section is absent from the system-neutral version.

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question.

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia's tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more...and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention - they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' "Visionary's Perch" is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope's as old as time...but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that's mostly cosmetic - still, considering that the system-neutral version loses the marketplace, the bonus content would have been nice, which makes its absence weigh slightly more in this iteration. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will still round up for this version. If you have the luxury of choice, the PFRPG-offering provides slightly more content.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Visionary's Perch System Neutral Edition
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Places of Power: Visionary's Perch (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:30:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required Intelligence check may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience. The marketplace-section is absent from the 5e version.

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question - provided the PCs meet the respective Charisma checks.

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia's tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more...and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention - they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' "Visionary's Perch" is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope's as old as time...but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that's mostly cosmetic - still, considering that the 5e version loses the marketplace, the bonus content would have been nice, which makes its absence weigh slightly more in this iteration. While most characters are represented by NPC-statblocks from the classic 3 D&D core-books, I am a bit disappointed that we don't get a sample statblock for one of the characters like Eudonia. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will still round up for this version. If you have the luxury of choice, the PFRPG-offering provides slightly more content due to featuring a marketplace.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Visionary's Perch (5e)
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5E Mini-Dungeon #028: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:26:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right! The PCs are contacted by artificer Vythis Targain, who hires the PCs to investigate an ancient tomb complex. Inside the complex, the PCs can find a weird throne - and have already entered the realm of dreams, where a puzzle based on gems (unfortunately, trial and error) awaits. I like the puzzle, I loathe the lack of options to find out how it works.

In the complex where invisible stalkers, a spirit naga and a vrock must be defeated, the PCs can unearth dream rods - one ruby, one sapphire and an emerald...and if they solve aforementioned puzzle, they can escape the dreams and use these rods to insert them into sarcophagi in the first room, where they were teleported first into dreams, resulting in a challenging final encounter versus wraiths.

Conclusion:

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

Justin Andrew Mason's mini-dungeon is one I really wanted to like - I love the inclusion of a brief puzzle and the pdf manages to instill a sense of antiquity in spite of its brevity and breathes the spirit of sword and sorcery - though the pdf loses its leitmotif in Kyle Crider's conversion. 5E does not have the same array of unique´, thematically-linked critters and it shows here. At the same time, I did like how the rods to be found were codified as proper magic items. With 2 ioun stones and 3 rods, some conservative GMs may consider this to be a bit loot-rich, though. However, trial and error puzzles are unpleasant, particularly when the codified rooms by rods would have made for a great way to provide subtle, logical hints. As provided, the mini-dungeon instead, as much as I like it, feels more opaque than it should be. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #028: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams
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Psionics Augmented: Host of Heroes
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 05:02:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Occult branch of Psionics Augmented clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages introduction (which also contains notes on how to handle psionics and psychic magic in the same game, themes, etc.), 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 10 pages of content, though it should be noted that two pages are devoted to reference material, ensuring that you get the most out of this and have all required material in one place - kudos!

The host of heroes is an archetype for the aegis base class, but one so massive, it can basically be called a class of its own. The host of heroes (which I'll just call "host" from now on) adds Knowledge (history) to his list of class skills. Instead of an ectoplasmic armor, the host calls upon legendary roles of old each day to form his astral suit. Each day upon regaining power points, one such legendary role is chosen and then emulated and the astral suit can only be formed into one matching the host's chosen role. Activation is btw., a swift action. The host is always proficient with his respective astral suit and each of them has different free customizations that never count against the host's total number of customization points spent on the astral suit. The appearance of the suit is not strictly chosen - instead, the suit mimics the appearance of the legend in question - as though he was channeling a larger than life version of the respective legend. Dismiss ectoplasm and no-psionics/magics field and interaction are properly covered, with manifester level being treated as class level. This replaces astral suit, but counts as it for the purpose of meeting prerequisites.

Instead of craftsman, the host gains a +2 bonus to two skills, as determined by the role he emulates with his suit, with 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter increasing the skill bonuses by +1. The host is considered to be trained in these skills. A big smile covered my face when I saw the theory (though I am not 100% sold on it) of the monomyth represented as the 3rd level ability. Each of the legendary roles has a list of customizations associated with its iteration of the associated facet of the monomyth theory. If you're not familiar with it, picture the monomyth as a reduction of stories to an archetypic journey, which receives different facets in its various versions. For the purpose of the class, this means that the archetypic mythic roles represent such a version - and the more you spend, customization-point-wise, the more you get to embody that respective tale. When the host spends customization points on a customization (excluding free ones), he can assign it to a particular role, provided it is on that role's list. A customization can only be assigned to one monomyth. A maximum number of such customization points equal to his class level may be assigned. If at least 3 points have been assigned to one, he begins unlocking special abilities - these are covered in steps of 3: 3, 6, 9 and 12 points are the respective thresholds to unlock new abilities.

In other words: The host can assign customization points to the roles he emulates, unlocking new abilities, adding further ability-choices: The host can assign these freely - e.g. a 12th level host could assign 3 points to 4 roles, unlocking 4 3-point monomyth abilities. Alternatively, he could assign 9 to one monomyth and 3 to another, unlocking the 3, 6 and 9 point abilities of one role, and the 3-point ability from another.

Additionally, each of the roles has a rite of passage, an action or test that the host can complete, starting at 3rd level, to gain a benefit from his role while his suit is activated - this bonus remains until he rests or violates the taboo associated with the respective rite of passage. Starting at 5th level, the completion of the rite can also gain a benefit, once for every five class levels, with cumulative effects - these include enhancement bonuses for armor, shields and weapons. As a minor complaint - the interaction with magic items potentially can be read to break the cap here. A caveat would have been prudent. This replaces damage reduction. At 4th level, the host can expend his psionic focus as a swift action to change the legendary role he emulates for Int-mod + 1/2 class level rounds, retaining customizations chosen, putting a damn cool twist on the reconfigure ability it replaces. The archetype also gets a custom capstone, saga's end, which renders his suit dispel-proof. Additionally, when killed or affected by a death effect, he can choose to dismiss his suit "sacrificing" the legend - he is healed to full maximum hit points and unaffected by the attack...and before you start groaning - this burns the role for one week, preventing cheeses at even this high level. Kudos there.

The host of heroes may also choose from a list of a couple of new 2-point customizations: Beacon outlines a target that has hit the host for his allies making the foe easier to perceive/hit (and foes don't see the light). Cunning represents basically a scaling headband of intellect, though personally, I think the skill ranks granted while wearing the suit should be locked at one skill - otherwise, this acts as a pretty potent skill wild-card. Faith nets a limited array of 1st level cleric spells, with subsequent takes unlocking higher levels. Magecraft does the same for sorc/wiz-spells, Potential for the psion-list. Skilled nets skill-bonuses and Wise Wisdom-enhancement analogue to Cunning - interesting: Most of these customizations have a limit on how often they can be taken, unless the host has the proper role emulated - this further entwines the concepts and rewards embracing the mode-style gameplay.

Okay, so, I've beaten around the bush long enough, let us take a look at the legendary roles in question, which, surprise, analogue to medium, etc., are based on the mythic paths in name and concept; I'll just touch upon each, as covering them in-depth would bloat the review further. Beyond the classic roster, the overmind mythic path is also covered and the pdf does provide a handy sidebar that tackles Path of War-interaction with maneuvers and roles. The respective roles, as mentioned before, offer both passive benefits and active ones, have associated customization lists and the monomyth and rite of passage abilities - in short, they offer more than many archetypes out there and can be considered to be rather diverse and intriguing roles. The first would be the archmage, who gains defensive mirror images as part of his astral suit and these even respawn via psionic focus and unlocks item use, with monomyth abilities adding to the defensive capabilities, providing energy blasts, expanding the blast to spreads and using it for iterative attacks...and, at the highest level, psychoport. The champion bulks you up via the suit and focuses on gaining feats via the monomyth abilities - at 9 points monomyth, you can even use power points to make one of them behave like a wildcard,

In contrast to that, the guardian gains adhesive feet, flexible suit and push and lets you bolster allies via psionic focus expenditure, with monomyth bonuses increasing your AoOs and defensive capabilities. The hierophant sports, surprisingly, cunning (and not wise) and fortification and unlocks cleric abilities as well as limited channel energy. The marshal gains flexible suit and ghostly guidance (reprinted in the reference material) and lets you spend power points to disperse teamwork feats temporarily to allies...and in a powerful and interesting trick, while psionically focuses, as a standard action, you can grant an ally a move action, which is taken immediately. Personally, I think this should have a cap of the ability only affecting a creature once per round, since otherwise, a group of hosts could spam move actions for one target - sure, not OP, but a weird image nonetheless. The overmind role nets you Int-bonus or 1/2 class level to AC and Deep Focus via monomyth and can also net you flight. The trickster role nets you climb and speed (2) as free customizations, emphasizing speed and provides proper trap disarming, power point-based, limited rerolls and better Stealth.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level - the pdf manages to capture highly complex concepts in a concise and well-presented manner. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the artwork featured on the cover is badass. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Doug Haworth, with Forrest Heck as design lead and Kevin Ryan and Adam Boucher as additional designers, delivers a potent, thoroughly amazing archetype here. The host of heroes seamlessly stand next to the thoroughly amazing, high-concept occult psionic options the series has brought us. Conceptually indebted (the pdf acknowledges as much) to the amazing Living Legend, the Host of Heroes has a similar leitmotif, but the execution and exact gameplay is absolutely distinct - this is not just a reskinned living legend. The roles and gameplay of these strange suits is truly evocative and allows for a wide variety of options - and the archetype does something interesting. You see, the aegis can be one of the more potent psionic classes in the hands of a good player. Instead of going into depth regarding the options of the class, the genius monomyth-engine manages to increase the flavorful themes of the base class and add flexibility, big time, to the options of the archetype. This flexibility, when properly employed, however, also takes away from the min-maxy spikes of the aegis - the archetype actively rewards you for playing a flexible, well-rounded character.

There are a few instances herein where I'd consider a caveat for lower-powered games appropriate and the archmage can be pretty brutal, but ultimately, the host of heroes makes for a truly amazing, flexible and well-crafted monster of an archetype. We need more options like this. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Host of Heroes
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Veranthea Codex: Into the Veil 2.0
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 04:59:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This revised expansion to the evocative Veranthea Codex-setting clocks in at 52 pages of content, 1 page of front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 47 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this expansion with a brief history of the veil. But what is the veil? The far North of Veranthea's oceans contain a colossal screaming maelstrom, a twisted wall of winds that stretches for as far as the eye can see. Most sane captains avoid the massive hazard, but time and again, the foolhardy and unfortunate are drawn into the veil...and those that survive find themselves in a region of scheming city states and pirates...think of the area basically as pirate country. A total of 4 greater landmasses can be found within this region, with the map featuring common routes. The mystical nature of the horrid storm are fully depicted - and traveling out of the region is a near suicidal attempt, as beyond the perpetual storm, the roaming reefs, made of a constructy components of chitin and sinew...and yes, there is some truth to the speculation of the storm, nay, the whole region, feeling a bit like a prison....for this is where the legendary mythic lich H'gal and his legions battle the puppetmen, constructs with an uncanny ability to infiltrate humanoid society, all in order to contain his greatest mistake, something even he could not undo...

A SIGNIFICANT improvement of the pdf over its previous iteration would be that it feels more organic, courtesy to the detailed elaboration on trade routes, how the trade interacts with the aquatic cultures and how the right of quarantine is enforced - in short - there is a bunch of new material that helps tie the disparate regions together - which represents a significant increase in the general sense of overall consistency this sourcebook offers - and yes, proper maps for the routes etc. are actually part of the deal.

Against the backdrop of this not-so-subtle shadow-war, we have settlements made of flotillas dubbed anchorages, one of which receives a full settlement statblock and some notable locations that generally are intriguing, but no map. Now onwards to the major geographic locations that move with this massive storm: The first of these would be the coldest, Polis Prime, which has a unique aesthetic of viking long-houses in the country meeting full-blown pseudo-democracy under the Misteria Conglomerate and its massive industrial complex - in the hands of a capable GM, this can be an intriguing backdrop indeed, with once again, a statblock for the metropolis and information on its quarters, but alas, no map or the like. A colony of trectyori exiles can also be found here (once again, with stats) and the technology featured within the region may well be the result of the adversary of H'gal, adding a magic vs. tech-angle to the whole proceedings.

Speaking of H'gal, the southwestern landmass is tied to his history; the deadlands, a wasteland deemed inhospitable until the successful settlement Gearingsport sprung up. This section, just btw., also introduces magnetite, a new material that treats weapons made from it...as though the user had spellstrike, usable Int-mod times per day. Oh, and it may hold touch spells for hours equal to the enhancement bonus, with a swift action activation. In the revised edition, this material has had its prices increased significantly - it is potent still, but for the high-powered gameplay Veranthea assumes, it makes sense. The section also mentions the disturbing blackblood plague...and guess what? The revised version now actually has proper stats for this most horrific of plagues. Kudos!!

The northeastern part of the Veil features tropical Caramballa, an archipelago where Port Balas provides the sufficiently Caribbean flair you may want...though there is the component of the sinister lurking behind the surface, as youngsters tend to suddenly leave for the jungles, never to return, to follow the mad whims of Carambal, the Last Irrational, a character previously statted and reprinted here. The details provided for the region also mention a Will-fortifying brew, and the revised version now sports a price for the draught. A note on the shadow war between H'gal and his mysterious mistake (I'm not spoiling the truth in this review) extending to beneath the waves make sense and we get a cool environmental hazard/trap at CR 15 - which would be even more amazing if it was formatted slightly better - white text over a full-color artwork in the background...not a fan from a layout-perspective. The pirate-county here would be Port Ciaro, once again fully statted.

The final region would be the Ostershain Isle, where rich soil provides food aplenty and a mercantile, stern enclave of mages rules. The order of the chambermages, with the secret of their prodigious power and their silent sentinel order or potentially anti-magic guardsmen certainly can be used as a nasty magocratic body of adversaries.

Now, as you may have noted, there is a very strong, high-concept leitmotif underlying the whole region - that of the conflict between H'gal and his mistake. The supplemental material further emphasizes that: H'gal's stats are reprinted alongside a cool trap, a nasty venom, a disease that covers your weapons with bleed-inducing blood (cool, but dangerous)...and we also get a cool new critter as well as stats for basically the end-game of the metaplot, which boils down to the PCs either using an intelligent doomsday device against a cthulhoid mecha or vice versa...or grow to mecha size themselves to duke it out with these threats...which is incredibly amazing and epic. The pdf also provides ample adventure seeds for your consideration. This, as a whole, makes the overall countries, ultimately, feel more alive.

After that, we are introduced to the Alterran race that spawned H'gal, now thoroughly revised: These guys get +2 Dex, +4 Int, -2 Con, -2 Cha (while still prone to being very potent, it is less lopsided than its previous iteration) and are monstrous humanoids with 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft, stability, light blindness, +1 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), plates that grant a +1 natural bonus to AC and a 1d4-talon attack that is now codified properly as a primary natural attack. Instead of darkvision and light blindness, they can gain +1 to Climb, replace the two skill bonuses with UMD and Knowledge (arcana) or gain a 1/day SP detect undead. To sum up - while I still am not the biggest fan of the base racial stats, the previous hiccups in craftsmanship have been completely cleaned up - kudos!!

Some alterrans replace their tinkering expertise with 1/day silent image, mending or obscuring mist (italicizations missing), while others lose the natural AC and reduce speed to 20 ft. ... for DR, which now, in the revised edition, sports an elegant scaling mechanism - kudos!! Another racial trait has also been nerfed, now increasing the miss chance granted by dim light to 30% instead, which is viable for the trade-off. Nice: We get a TON of favored class options for the race, covering the advanced class guide and occult adventures options, including a previously ambiguous wording that has been fixed and streamlined.

The race also receives two racial archetypes: The biojammer corsair for the magus, who gains a modified skill-list and a modified proficiency-list, which includes the armerrufe -basically a bio-engineered quasi-musket that targets touch AC and deals electricity damage. They slowly recharge and the wielder may recharge them quicker as a swift action, taking nonlethal damage when doing so. At 3rd level, the corsair gains an arm with such a weapon integrated into the arm, allowing the character to one-hand-wield the weapon, but leaves the weapon fully charged all the time for infinite blasting. 5th level nets Craft Biodevices, with only a +15% price increases and 11th level netting the feat a second time, eliminating the price-increase. 10th level allows them to survive in the starless void for up to 10 minutes per arcane pool point expended and the previously ambiguous action economy here has been cleaned up properly. Now what does the aforementioned feat do? Well, it is based on Knowledge (nature) and duplicates magical effects, but lets the item in question work in wild magic/no magic, but only up to 6th spell level. It must be integrated to some extent into a users body. Generally, a pretty decent feat...with some flavor, but honestly, I don't get why the mechanics here do not tie in with the technology rules that imho make more sense in that context...but that may just be me. (And yes, I'm aware of Veranthea's handling of the concept being different than that of the Tech-guide - but it's something to bear in mind.)

The second archetype would be the colonial outcast, who increases sneak attack damage dice when used in conjunction with talons to d8s, but other weapons instead use d4s. 3rd level nets +1 to Disguise, Intimidate and Sense Motive vs. humanoids, which increases by +1 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, replacing trap sense. 4th level replaces the rogue talent (typo-level hiccup fixed) with the option to ignore up to 15 ft. of difficult terrain when using Stealth; 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase that range by +5 ft. The pdf also features more items: Chitin salve helps detect alterrans and increases an alterran's natural armor bonus, but at the cost of reduced movement. Ystill-grath nests are generally a cool item: A bio-mine that is really flavorful - and this revised edition has significantly improved the rules-language of the item. Big props indeed!

Beyond the aforementioned feats, one that adds a talon attack to grapples, one that adds a spedd lockdown while grappling and one that nets a climb speed for alterrans can be found. The pdf also features 3 magic items - an item to fly in space, a gauntlet that disperses goodberries to wounded wielders as well as a vat that may use greater restoration, disintegrate those inside and when used to destroy creatures, it helps retraining their tricks...pretty cool. 3 spells can also be found: Gene Thief lets you steal racial traits - but only lets you employ those that you could, limb-wise. The spell's language has been streamlined, clarifying now properly how it interacts with natural attacks that you could potentially have, anatomy-wise, but not regarding your features.. Perfect Integration immediately integrates a biodevice and stellar journey basically is the magic equivalent of a rocket drive, allowing for the passage into outer space.

The pdf concludes with 2 pages of random encounter-tables and the revised edition now also sports the Matoriksu - basically a magical anglerfish of monstrous size, previously released as a stand-alone teaser...and it is AMAZING. It is so big, it is less of a creature and more like an amazing adventuring environment, one that generates a horrid false reality for those it captures! The pdf presents the creature as basically a collection of several potential encounter-themes, hooks, etc., with DCs and the like provided as well...and in the hands of a proper GM, this can be one amazing offering indeed.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting has been SIGNIFICANTLY improved in version 2.0 - the new iteration works very well in these categories. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and, as with pretty much all of Mike Myler's books, there is A LOT of information on every given page, which makes the book pretty busy, but also chock-full. Artwork-wise, the pdf sports a blend of public domain and amazing full-color art and also offers some seriously nice maps of the region.The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Nicholas J. Giebel's "Into the Veil" took a pretty serious beating from me in its first iteration. That being said, the book has improved in every single way in this revised 2.0-iteration. While, as a person, I don't agree with all design-decisions, there is a ton of cool material to be found herein and the craftsmanship aspects have improved significantly. Moreover, the revised edition feels very much like its own book - one of the worst aspects of the original was that the respective environments were not really connected - they felt like fragments - and the consistency of the region's structure, the interactions etc. have been greatly improved by the inclusion of the new content, by the elaborations and fine-tuning employed herein.

In short: The Veranthea-team has taken the criticism, ran with it, and the result is a thoroughly amazing, weird and wondrous regional supplement - whether you're looking for scavenging material or to run this region in its entirety, there will be stuff herein you'll adore. In short - the revised edition represents a significant step up regarding quality, consistency and also balance. Now, you should be aware that this is very much a high-light reel - this is not lavishly detailed, it paints its vision in broad strokes. But unlike its previous incarnation, the resulting picture now actually comes together. In short: This is a great, evocative, balls to the wall crazy setting. Some folks may want to nerf some aspects, but considering Veranthea's general assumed power-level, I am very happy with this revision. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars - pretty much worth getting for everyone who's looking for a creative, evocative high-fantasy naval environment!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Into the Veil 2.0
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