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Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: In His Bad Books (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/17/2015 04:27:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the chronicle of the gatekeepers campaign serial clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1/2 page advertisement, leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


All right, only GMs around? Great! Just because you're a creepy, poisonous scorpion-person doesn't mean you don't have feelings, right? Large-Biter, the sassori-contact of the PCs as they investigate the incursion of the Vesparans into NeoExodus, has a past - and this time around, it's a delicate matter. You see, the sassori's former adventuring companions split after he confessed his love to the Cynean (crystal-person, for NeoExodus-newbies) conjuror of his group. Yep, the cynean is a man, so we have a queer romance backdrop here - personally, that is something I enjoy to see. And no, this is not something particularly dominant or the central theme here, but still - nice to see some diversity here.


Anyways, the Cynean Raxe has his own issues, as will become readily apparent upon the PCs finding his cottage, built around a dormant Nexus Gateway: There is a stone pedestal outside, and in it, you can see A BARBED DEVIL. Yep, CR 11. No, the PCs should NOT try to kill him...or...well, they kind of should. You see, when the Nexus Gateway flared to life, Raxe summoned the creature, but had it locked in the circle. Unfortunately for him, he lost the book containing the means to dispel the devil to clumsiness and the machinations of a nasty imp and has been locked inside his safe room ever since. (Which btw. is the only component along the access tunnel to it not mapped.)


The PC's task is clear - Stop the annoying imp and get the formula book...or find the well-hidden dispel-roll buried in the garden (taking anti-detection spells into account - kudos!!) and get rid of the devil. Sure, they could also haggle with it OR destroy it from afar with the proper strategy (it's what my PCs did), but at this level, all such options are potentially dangerous. Raxe is thankful for being freed from this predicament and has a nice ritual to open Nexus Gateways to share alongside a warning (and yes, if they elect to kill him instead, there is an alternative to get the info), thus leaving this sidetrek with a crucial piece of information and some interesting insight into their employer's past. A new magic item is also included.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though at one time, the GM-only part of the text refers to the devil as a demon...yeah, I know, nitpickery...Layout adheres to LPJ Design's elegant 2-column full-color standard for the series and the module comes fully bookmarked and in a second, slightly more printer and mobile phone-friendly version. Tommi Salama's map of the cottage is glorious and the added inclusion of a player-friendly map is much appreciated.


Set-up-wise, this is probably the most boring of the CotGK-sidetreks I've read so far, but it played as the most interesting: First of all, we have CHOICE and player-agenda: This is a mini-sidebox that very much leaves how to handle it up to the players. There are ample choices to deal with the threat in various ways and variations of the two major approaches to handle the issue. It's also a good module in that it emphasizes a sense of caution and shows the PCs that not every threat can be defeated by brawns alone. Yes, the backdrop may not be particularly exciting, but the playing-quality of this one is high - it's basically a big puzzle-encounter that can be solved in various ways - and for that, I really like it! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: In His Bad Books (PFRPG)
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The Assimilation Strain (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2015 12:34:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This was moved up on my queue at the request of my players.


The prologue-adventure for Legendary Games' Sword and Planet-AP clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial introduction leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


While this module is designed to act as a prequel for the massive Legendary Planet AP, it also easily works on its own. The following being a review of an adventure, the following does contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Whether to reclaim family property, at the behest of a seer or due to some other hook, the PCs find that their first journey has brought them to the otherwise pretty unremarkable village of Holver's Ferry (fully mapped, btw.) - but even at the ferry leading into the town, across a swift river leading into lake Shimmermere - alas, the drunken ferryman has no good fate in store: While he tried to quarantine the village, he failed - and he is about to pay the price, as psychotic villagers hack him apart. Oh yes, enter the PCs. Unresponsive and clearly driven mad, the PCs have to defeat the bloodthirsty villagers in a thematic callback that made me remember Resident Evil 4 - in all the right ways. Crossing the river one way or another, the impression that Holver's Ferry has been hit by some tragedy pretty much becomes apparent.


A sense of apocalyptic dread, piece by piece, encounter by encounter, will slowly seep into the consciousness of PCs and players alike, as a depressed widow endeavors to commit suicide, as they explore abandoned houses that look like their inhabitants have simply evaporated - something is odd. Hanged people dangle from the town's sacred oak and child survivors hide from anyone out there. The local inn shows signs of struggle, of desperate defense - and a man who had locked himself in, now just as bloodthirsty and dangerous as the first farmers encounetred. Things have become so bad that even goblinoids have entered the village. The priest is insane and burning undead can be found among the village's houses - a sense of grim doom has come to Holver's Ferry, and as the PCs find the halfling berserker (berserker Zimm - boy did I laugh when reading that one!), the gnome apothecary who retained his wits or draw the conclusions due to the hints left in the sheriff's office - the dread mystery needs to be solved.


This sandboxy horror section is well-presented and offer multiple means to draw the PCs further into the topics, whereafter the trail leads towards the Orphanage of mother Oddle. You see, what has happened here is an unlikely and far-out scenario: An invader from another world has engineered a mind-reprogramming bio weapon, the eponymous assimilation strain. Alas, the targeted viral strain's first iteration proved to yield a temporary, highly infectious burn-out rate and chaotic, terrible symptoms - the ones the PCs have witnessed firsthand in the horror at the town. The dread invader, a vanguard of the planned invasion, has since perfected a better strain of the virus and infected one powerful lumberjack, Silam Oddle - controlled by a disgusting, black tumor-like lump at the back of his neck, the PCs can save him, yes - but perhaps they have to take the poor man down. Beyond that, have I mentioned that his mother's mummified remains still remain in her room? Yes, creepy.


Rexel, the gnome alchemist, in the meanwhile, has probably gone missing, abducted by an adherer made from the remains of the town's erstwhile, missing sheriff. The trail leads towards Arvarenhode Manor's ruins, where the catacombs await under the rubble - provided the PCs can best the deadly creatures inhabiting the upper part of the ruins. In the catacombs, the PCs may save Rexel, battle the adherer and navigate a complex inhabited by a cool, uncommon selection of adversaries, with thematically-awesome descriptions and rooms. Finally, defeating the xoraphond creature behind the dread conflict ends the jagladine empire's invasion plan, while also providing a first taste of the things to come. The pdf concludes with alien technology (Technology Guide-compatible) and the new creature and two templates provided.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - the book has been further streamlined from its original inception. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column standard that is still pretty printer-friendly, with copious amounts of full-color high-quality artworks for each major player in the storyline. It should also be noted that the layout does not try to generate more pages by wide margins - there is a lot of information on each page, making the module more detailed and longer than you'd expect from most modules of this page-count - in my playtest, it took my exceedingly fast group 2 sessions to clear this module. About 90% of 32-page modules tend to be finished in 1 session, so yeah - quite a bunch of content. Cartography is beautiful and plentiful - and a massive art and map folio constitutes a huge array of handouts and options to directly show your players the maps or cut them up and use them as handouts. I hate being a complaining whiner, but one thing does become obvious with this art and map folio, though: A tad bit higher resolutions would have been appreciated for the maps etc. - you can see some pixels. The adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Tom Phillips has, slowly but surely, become one of my go-to authors regarding any scenario that provides horror, challenge and mystery - he knows his craft. Add Neil Spicer and the duo has created one awesome, damn cool low-level module that is challenging, potentially a bit disturbing and interesting. With a diverse, uncommon array of enemies that never falls into the bland 1st level routines, a mix of sandbox and dungeon-exploration, this module provides quite a bunch of cool ideas. The best component of this module, to me, is a more ephemeral one, though: The pacing of this module is impeccable. Horror and mystery, both as genres, hinge on timing and means of creating suspense, of build-ups and gradual escalation -and this module gets this component perfectly.


As a GM, you can obviously just spoon-feed the information to your PCs via various proxies, but not only are there multiple ways of unearthing the truth, there are several red herrings - and in my playtest, I kept as much information as possible opaque, making my players draw the conclusions themselves. Now if the players get stumped, you still have several means of putting them on track within the logic of the module. Furthermore, the module has ample instances wherein heroes can be heroes and actually save lives - an approach I always welcome in modules.


I honestly did not expect the prologue to Legendary Planet to be a mystery, much less one that is this good; whether played for weirdness or downright horror, this module makes clear from the get-go that it's not your standard fantasy fare. But only in hindsight. As a piece of advice: Don't tell your players necessarily that this will be a sword & planet module. There are several themes that make for delightful red herrings in the hands of a capable GM, making the realization of what is truly going on have even more of an impact.


The assimilation strain is an excellent module and a furious first in the series, one that makes me very happy I've been able to back the kickstarter. With great production values and content that must be considered awesome, this module is a great way to kick off the AP, one that has me stoked to see what's in store for us. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Assimilation Strain (Pathfinder)
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The Lost City of Barakus--Pathfinder
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2015 02:53:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 176 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 170 pages of adventure, so let's take a look!


This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should instead read the Player's Guide and/or jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, so in case you're wondering: This is the update of the classic, Ennie-award winning campaign supplement/mega-adventure. The basics are as follows: We have a massive city, Endhome; we have a vast stretch of wilderness surrounding it. The players are here. Go. This is pretty much the textbook definition of a massive, wide-open sandbox - something that renders this massive module a huge playground: From the exceedingly-detailed city of Endhome (including city statblocks, btw.!) to its environments, there is a lot of grounds to cover.


What do I mean by "exceedingly detailed?" Well, beyond the environments coming with a key-less, player-friendly hex-map, the city itself sports more maps that you'd imagine feasible for a book of this size: How many cities out there, for example, do you know that actually do have full maps for the canalization they sport? Indeed, even hexed ones so you can, theoretically, hex-crawl through the network of tunnels? Better yet, how many do you know that actually sport multiple mini-dungeons inside? But this level of detail not only is provided for below the streets - indeed, the fully-mapped temples of local deities and a whole mansion can also be explored...for there are whispers of death cults and even vampires having their home within the very walls of Endhome...


Now granted, there are other hyperdetailed city-sandboxes out there, but few that also manage this lavish level of detail beyond the confines of the city walls - there is a lot to find and explore outside of the walls of Endhome. Whether to stop the notorious bandits that have taken to harassing the roads, dealing with the stupid giant shambling through the hills or braving the small, but still deadly dragon that scours the lands, there is a lot to do; perhaps, the PCs are intrigued by the door-less wizard's tower they heard about in the player's guide and want to scale and explore it...or perhaps they stumble over a sinkhole and wan to lower themselves down, past the deadly mold growing down there, to explore the caverns below? The fountain of Freya is supposed to be somewhere in the woods and ghouls and worse room the wilderness, with a shrine to dread Tsathogga being once again a mechanical highlight, as a dire boar turns out to be a were-boar cleric! Mysterious crypts, haunted hovels and hidden treasure all await intrepid adventurers stumbling over secrets ancient and old. What about the friendly alchemist out there - is he all he seems to be? No trip beyond the walls of Endhome will be boring - that, I can guarantee!


In fact, this mega-adventure does sport a very prevalent leitmotif that has since then become one for the Lost Lands-setting: A feeling of a world that has moved on; once, there may have been empires, a structure, a geopolitical struggle - but now, the world is on the verge of becoming all wilderness. Civilization seems to be in decline and every rock and hovel seems to be hiding a piece of an age long gone, a piece of the puzzle, a sense of antiquity. Obvious danger may lurk outside, yes, but even beneath the veneer of civilization, where still maintained, there is no rest - you will never lose the feeling of something sinister brewing beneath the surface, of a calamity just being a step away. This brooding melancholy suffuses the whole writing, providing a sense of thematic identity far beyond anything you'd consider evident or obvious; the effect is subtle, but utilized in an extremely smart manner, for the caverns of the massive dungeon that hide Barakus and the ruined city itself further amplify this theme.


Let me reiterate: Barakus once was a radiant city - until one of its numerous wizards, Devron, turned lich. The city was unified in its struggle against the lich and crafted a sword to bring him low. Not one to wait for his demise, Devron crafted a helm to regain, eventually, his power and, from the prison into which he was banaished, expended a significant portion of his power. Before the sworn champion could destroy him, the stone of madness thus conjured crashed into the city, turning its denizens against themselves and destroying the once proud city-state. Thus, the legendary sword was lost in its own sanctuary, to never be used; thus the shield never was found; and thus, the ruins of the erstwhile city still hold not only the well-sealed prison of the (temporarily weakened) lich, but also the sword of kell, the means to reinvigorate it and the dread stone of madness - all while Devron still hungers for his power, for the helm to restore him, for freedom - it is this that can be considered to be the main quest of this massive adventure, though, frankly, it is as much the main-quest as some others herein. The brilliant component about this one, though, is the fact that the dungeon that now contains the city's remnants is diverse and huge - several levels, some parallel to one another, some sporting maps that cover 2 pages, render this dungeon a significant challenge - better yet, the whole complex manages something only rarely seen.


The indirect story-telling one associates with game like Dark Souls: When ephemeral voices ask you about Devron to enter his domain, when lethal puzzles loom, when strange devices can be collected to illuminate the city's "flames" to bring full power back to the sword, when the deciphered warrior's prayer actually has an effect beyond flavorful fluff - it is then you'll note the extent of this book's atmosphere. Add to that a significant array of terrain hazards and unique adversaries and you will literally have excellent content to last you a couple of months, perhaps even a year. Oh, and one thing: The player's guide immensely facilitates the process of running this one, allowing the GM to avoid the necessity for hours of exposition and establishing shots - it literally does that for the GM and renders running this even more smoothly than in its 3.X iteration.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book sports numerous pieces of awesome b/w-artwork and the maps the PCs can conceivably get are printer-friendly. As a nitpick, I would have loved to see player-friendly maps for all areas, since I (and a lot of GMs I know) like cutting them up and then handing out the respective areas as the PCs explore the place, but you can't have everything, I guess. The hardcover is a beautiful book with FGG's excellent binding and high-quality paper - this is a book made to last.


W.D.B. Kenower and Bill Webb's Lost City of Barakus is perhaps one of Necromancer Games' classics that is closest to the quality and style the current Lost Lands adhere to. I may be mistaken, but when I look at this mega-adventure, I can see how Slumbering Tsar, Dunes of Desolation and similar tomes among FGG's superb catalogue drew upon established flair and further expanded it. Endhome and its surrounding area are, hands down, the most detailed low-level sandbox I currently know of: Massive in scope and ambition, there are literally hundreds of hours of awesome gameplay herein. But that was true before. The PFRPG-conversion ranks among the better ones as well - with alchemists and several classes and builds getting more than just the required face-lift. The dungeon and its organization is also slightly clearer and thanks to the superb player's guide, you spend much less time with exposition and have more time for proper adventuring.


So is this better than its previous iteration? Yes, in my opinion, it is - the frog god crew has done a great job transporting this to PFRPG. This is an absolutely stellar sandbox and one of the low level modules that should be considered to be a rite of passage, a great first glimpse at the Lost Lands and what makes the setting awesome. In fact, were this 3.X, I'd still be gushing on and on about how awesome this book is - the only reason I'm not, lies in the lack of player-friendly maps for every environment and, more importantly, one book: Sword of Air. While higher level, Sword of Air has pretty much raised the bar so high, it is very hard to not acknowledge its influence. That being said, guess which sandbox I'd recommend to lead towards this legendary module? Yes, you're reading the review of it. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If you have not yet played this gem, check it out - it is one glorious beast.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost City of Barakus--Pathfinder
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Pathways #52 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2015 02:51:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The 52nd installment of Rite Publishing's free monthly e-zine Pathways clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 12 pages of advertisement, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let's take a look!


As per the tradition of Pathways, we begin with David Paul's editorial and then, a new template crafted by Steven D. Russell and an accompanying sample creature. This time around, we get the walking wasteland CR+2 template, which renders creatures truly toxic/putrid - healing-impediment and spoiled foods and drinks, courtesy of these beast's auras, accompany them like the noxious, poisonous clouds that never stray far from them - oh, and the very attacks of these beings corrode magical items and their mere presence also shatters objects. Yes...these guys are AWESOME! A sample creature is provided with a CR 4 blink dog (featured on the cover) - which is more deadly thanks to its auras and blinking than you'd expect from the CR. Devilish and nasty! Two thumbs up!


Mike Welham also has an article for us - one that depicts a multitude of alchemical cures - both for poisons and other ailments. These items, while all solid and awesome, can be quite a godsend. On the one hand, they deemphasize the requirement for divine magic defeat particular ailments. At the same time, this does take a bit away from e.g. the threat of some sicknesses/poisons. Still, particularly for a low (or high!) magic game, this chapter is more than welcome. The alchemical item that allows low level characters to participate in under-water exploration also is quite frankly amazing. Why am I not complaining about the potions having these low prices? Well, the miracle cures can have a plenitude of nasty side-effects - which are represented by 2 neat and awesome tables - ignore for high fantasy, capitalize on them for low fantasy. Great way to take table variation into account!


Ceighton Broadhurst, mastermind of Raging Swan Press, is next up with dressing - 20 chests and 20 things you'll find in vermin-infested dungeons can be used to supplement perhaps the most useful book in my library (GM's Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing, my Number 1 Top Ten product of last year!). So yes, these dressings are neat indeed!


Since poisons are something of a theme here, Jonathan McAnulty presents us with several quirks that allow you to be poisonous and touched by the darkness...or perhaps, you have a developed immunity? Anyways, I thoroughly enjoy these quirky traits and the penalty associated with each maintains balance versus the more significant benefits they provide. Like it! This section saw me wanting more!


This is also the time, when we return to the Leviathan Archipelago (in the Questhaven setting), courtesy of the penmanship of Elton Robb, covering the island of Saanata (And pointing you towards some neat game-books to further flesh out the culture...) No, before you ask, this is not explicitly required, since the idea here is intriguing: Polynesian culture is reappropriated to fit with the gillmen in an interesting kind of ecology/cultural overview, while showing awareness of e.g. the excellent Cerulean Seas-supplements by Alluria Publishing, including providing racial buoyancy and depth tolerance rules for the race - awesome! It should also be noted, that Elton's writing shows significant improvement here - while the sentence structure still is a bit on the short side here and there, the well-researched text proved to be more captivating than anything I had read from him prior to this - so be sure to give this a look - content-wise, it is an inspiring glimpse at a unique setting!


The interview this time around is with none other than the man behind the monthly comic and a lot of the artwork you're looking at - Jacob Blackmon! I encourage you to read it - it's inspiring and also a great way to see how my friend Joshua's influence is felt to this day.


We close this issue, as always, with reviews by yours truly.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-colum full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The cover-art is neat.


The patreon-model that now supports this monthly e-zine has been good for Pathways - this installment sports not only more content, what#s here also ranks among the finer installments in the magazine's long and colorful run. More importantly, it's FREE. As in, it costs NOTHING. Go ahead and download it - even if you dislike the quirks or the alchemical items, the template alone is worth the time to download this...and hey, you never know when you'll need some Polynesian flavor and ideas, right? All in all, this is one of the best Pathways and, being FREE to boot, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pathways #52 (PFRPG)
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: Sword Lord
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2015 05:58:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, for all who are dissatisfied with how Prestige Classes work in PFRPG - this series is for you.


So, this time around, we're looking at the Aldori Swordlord - in case you're not familiar with the issue: "Aldori" is closed IP, which means that dueling sword etc. obviously refers to the respective sword. The swordlord as presented here gets full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2+Int skills, proficiency with all weapons (+ the exotic dueling sword) and light armor and weapon finesse at first level. Second level nets Dazzling Display, 3rd Dueling Mastery. 2nd level provides bravery (which means synergy with Bravery-feats - yeah!) with 5-level scaling. Deft Strike is also part of the deal from 1st level onwards and third level nets Steel Net, which is reimagined as a scaling dodge bonus.


4th level provides some bonuses for performance combat and better Dazzling Display-synergy, while 5th level nets better dueling sword specialization that increases every 4 levels thereafter, extending this to maneuvers and the defense against them. Disarming Strike is relegated to 6th level. The original PrC's Steel Net's ability to decrease the penalty for defensive fighting gets fixed - it now also applies to Combat Expertise - kudos here!


9th level provides a cool ability that adds demoralize injuries to crits and maneuvers and even suppress the target's morale bonuses - awesome new ability! Even cooler that, at really high levels, they may negate even more bonuses! Using immediate actions to grant himself 25% chance to negate crits would be unlocked at 10th level (upgrade at 16th level)


Level 11 lets them maintain Dex while using Acrobatics/Climbing alongside from decreased AoO-provoking when standing up from any creatures hit while prone. The class also gets an ability that represents adjusting tactics to an individual foe and counterattack is gained at 15th level.


The highest levels provide DRs and auto-confirms of crits, the latter, obviously, as the capstone.


As always, we get favored class options for the core races and a sample NPC at level 1, 5, 10 and 15 - but we also get advice on making alternate sword lords! Nice!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and has seen some streamlining - from font use to markers, the layout has been improved, so kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover.


Carl Cramér has done it here - as you all may know, I'm a huge fan of Dreadfox Games' Swordmaster class as a dex-based martial. However, the class is complex and not suited for everyone. Here, Carl Cramér has taken a mediocre PrC with some neat ideas, balanced it tighter and woven a thread of crunchy gold through it - from level one, this one is unique and its inspired tricks continue to evolve throughout the whole class. Balanced and fun, this is the beginner-friendly-duelist class that effortlessly mops the floor with its component PrC -this is inspired and awesome and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval, a perfect example of the potential of this series.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: Sword Lord
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Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: What Comes Before the First (PFRGP)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2015 05:54:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This sidetrek of the Chronicle of the Gatekeepers campaign serial clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


Everyone on exodus knows the tale of how the Kaga won freedom from oppression from the First Ones - though the exposition the PCs receive here is decidedly muddied. The strange question now crossing the minds of quite a few individuals is this: What if those nebulous Gatekeepers were there before the First Ones? Thus, the PCs are sent forth by Large-Biter, asking them to return to the corpselands the PCs passed in the Alpha-adventure to explore an ancient tomb, which may contain hints on the age predating the First Ones.


And indeed, there is something odd regarding this tomb, with all insignia and murals being done in dark ink, hinting towards a type of creature that can see in the dark...and yes, in spite of darkvision's usual limitations. The complex and its inscriptions continue to mention the strange name Oten - and treasures like magical mummified, female hands and several traps continue to evoke a sense of exploring a complex from a bygone age - mood-wise, this is indeed a well-crafted tomb that allows solid deductions on the somewhat Egyptian belief-system that was once featured here - which should also explain why Oten, amidst a scene of spectral revelers, constitutes the final mummy-boss of this dungeon - though, to access him, one must first solve a simple, yet interesting puzzle. The true treasure, though, would be knowledge - in Oten's burial chamber he lords over humans, while negotiating with a brown-skinned giant that looms over insectoid servitors - it seems like the gatekeepers indeed have had contact with this ancient civilization.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good, I noticed no glaring issues. Layout adheres to the gorgeous 2-column full-color standard of the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions - one being more printer-friendly. Cartography by Tommi Salama is, as always, nice,, though the somewhat bare-bones map of the dungeon isn't his most refined work. Great bonus: The map comes with a player-friendly version - kudos for including this!


Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. deliver a very atmospheric mini-dungeon-crawl here: The strange culture depicted here and its indirect storytelling is compelling, unique and managed to capture well the wonder of archeology and the inclusion of a puzzle related to the culture that is explored is a great addition, especially considering the limited space in which this pdf operates.


At the same time, though, I couldn't help but feel like this could have been so much more: Where is the confounding hallway, the shifting room, the truly nasty death trap? The dungeon, alas, is basically a corridor (winding and with traps and one either left or right-first-choice, granted, but still...) that offers no real choice or sequential variation. The puzzle does save this one from being too linear, but a slightly more interesting make-up (perhaps with slightly more unique traps/hazards/haunts) could have made this full-blown awesome. Now mind you, for such a short module, it still captures more mood and atmosphere than many books of a larger size - and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: What Comes Before the First (PFRGP)
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Treasury of the Pharoahs
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2015 05:53:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first installment of Legendary Games Mummy Mask-plug-ins clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages introduction/how-to-use, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!


As has become the tradition in Legendary Games treasury-supplements, which contain items suitable for the respective APs, this one begins with a handy table of items by price, this time ranging from 900 gp to artifact-level...so let's not waste much time and dive right into this!


We begin this supplement with 4 different armors - the first of which would be the slick hide armor made of magically-preserved asp hides. At a command, this armor can sprout fangs that makes those foolish enough to attack the wearer with natural attacks or unarmed strikes subject to poison - oddly, sans doing damage. So why not make the poison contact instead of injury instead of this jury-rig? Creatures with DR should probably not be subject to this poison, right? Not particularly smooth, even though I like the option to poison weapons. Additionally, the ability to exude poison has no daily cap - which makes me wonder, whether the poison can be harvested and/or sold - and how many of the poison-applications can be in effect at a given time. As provided, there is no limit, though the poison is expended on a successful attack or after 24 hours.


The Dynast Aegis-shield allows for two effects - one, the designation of a charge, who then receives the shield bonus while adjacent to the wielder, and two, add a 30 ft.-sand-based reposition 2/day via a shield bash - alas, this locks the shield bash into being a standard action when used with this ability, which is kind of sad, since it limits the item's combo-potential. The radiant pharaoh's mail not only provides continuous light, it also can "oonce" [sic!] per day as a swift action provide daylight. Odd - it can quicken daylight and light if cast as a spell or SP 3/day (limited usefulness) as a swift action. More interestingly, the armor can 3/day counter hits with a melee-variant of searing light, which is particularly efficient versus crits or alternatively, extend these charges in a sunburst. The final armor is the most intriguing - rugged-looking, it bestows some of a camel's toughness and carrying capacity to the wielder. It can also soak up a potion, which may then be used by breaking the armor as a move action. Interesting one!


How do the specific weapons fare? Well, there would be a dagger that can transform into three types of spear, also helping interaction with daemons an providing resistance versus mind-influencing effects, with crits potentially afflicting the victim with a nasty curse. There would be a sling that can damage adjacent foes with acidic winds that double as a wind wall and a khopesh that allows you to use channel energy versus fire-outsiders and create areas of coolness that allow you to weather the desert sun. nice one! There also would be javelins that can conjure forth pits and there would be a sickle that bleeds foes and which may return those slain by it as dread mummies. More interesting would be a whip-dagger that conjures forth ravenous swarms of scarabs on the targets on a critical hit. On a nitpicky aside - the swarm occupies the target's space, which is odd, since larger creatures obviously have a larger space and, moving out of it, larger swarms may remain. What about tiny or diminutive foes? Do they get one square of swarm or none? What are the rules for a fine creature's 1/2 ft.-swarm?


The scepter of wadjet provides +1 AC, +1 to all saves. +2 if wielded in both hands. The very definition of boring filler - next. The Storm general's Lance is more intriguing - it has slots, into which you can load arrows, which then are destroyed, granting the lance a charge - yes, loading with Quick Draw is covered. Each charge allows the wielder to project a jolt of electricity with a range of 60 ft., dealing 1d6+1 electricity damage, with some ranged combat feats applying to the attack. 1/week, you can conjure forth a chariot of light, including riders and horses - as awesome as the scepter before was lame.


The pdf provides two different rings - the first of which allows for at-will detect undead and makes unintelligent undead ignore the character as long as the character is not hostile. Boring. The intelligent Signet of the Life Pharaoh is a ring of protection that can also cast minor heal-spells that also add a massive buff of +5 to skill & ability-checks, atk and saves to the healed target. The ring can also execute a reflexive breath of life that also nets +10 to a single Cha- or Wis-based skill-check, whereupon the ring becomes dormant for a week. Alas, as per the wording, ONLY when the skill-check is made. As written, one can simply wait 1 hour and have the bonus elapse to cheese the ring -the rules-language could have been clearer here.


There also are two rods here - the chief engineer's rod provides a +5 to Knowledge (engineering) and Craft (stonemasonry) and may be wielded as a masterwork whip - which may, 1/day, convey ant haul for 5 hours to those struck - which is nice imagery, but still, just spell-in-a-can. Where the item gets its own identity is with the option to concentrate on an object of up to 1000 lbs to move it up to 20 ft. I assume this cannot be used to lift objects, but I'm not sure. I assume concentrating follows the rules for concentrating on spells, but I'm not sure there either. The Element Pharaoh's Crook is interesting in that it randomly determines the elemental damage it additionally deals and it nets Elemental Channel for one subtype or, if you already have the feat, apply it to all elementals. The same applies for Elemental Spell. Nice one!


The Spirit Pharaoh's Staff can deliver its charm-themed spells via touch, thus enforcing a double roll of the save, forcing the victim to take the worse result. I assume the charge can be held as per the usual rules here. The pdf also provides an array of wondrous items, with alabaster icons of Bast providing spells-in-a-statue, with their conjoined set allowing for the summoning of feline creatures to serve you. Undead can get an amulet that allows them to negate most positive energies and better disguise themselves as alive. Canopic Sentinel Jars are AWESOME - the first item herein to really excite me: They allow a creature to ritualistically remove a canopic organ from their body, gaining fortification-like properties that stack - alas, moving too far from the jars sees the organs return, thus making them suboptimal choices for most PCs...unless they get creative, for yes, the extradimensional trickery that comes to mind first has been covered. Two triumphant thumbs up!


Also pretty cool - a powerful chest that provides eternal rest to the donors of canopic organs placed inside - great to make those undead sty down, to make them shut up for once and for all. The carpet of desert fire, intended for servants or Ra or Saranrae provides the user fire resistance and enhances planar allies with a fire-theme called, while spellcasters with the Fire Domain preparing spells on it can expend charges to Elemental Spell his spells. Additionally, charges can be used to bolster creatures of fire versus cold or contact other plane/sending. Once again, an interesting, unconventional item - kudos! There is also a censer that allows for whispering wind/animal messenger - including limited servitude of an air elemental to the massage's recipient - per se, an okay concept that is interesting due to its minor tweaks of the spell-in-a-jar-formula.


Faïence idols can be generally considered somewhat akin to figurines of wondrous power with slight modifications, most notably, each of them sporting a DR. Generally, a thematically-fitting class of item. There also is a cool mirror - not only can it generate water and goodberry-figs - it can also draw creatures in, as a variant of aqueous orb -while, again, very spell-based, it puts unique spins on the respective spells - which makes the item cool and worthwhile. The map cartouche is downright genius - when placed next to a map, 1/day, it can reveal a hazard or hidden compartment. This is a GREAT way for GMs to help stuck players. Two thumbs up!!


Papyri of Supplication are essentially a story-item - providing somewhat limited wish-like benefits, they require a strict procedural to execute and can double as either a story-driven effect or as a wild-card spell - not for everyone and an item that should remain scarce to maintain in-game-logic, but per se a cool idea. Finally, there would be a magical stele that doubles as an alarm +360°-surveillance - love it!


The pdf closes with an artifact - the funerary pyramid: A powerful artifact of necromancy, it not only allows for the control of the living dead, it also makes you a powerful general of the walking dead. It also radiates a continuous desecrate and may absorb huge quantities of positive energy - a great way to enhance Mummy Mask's at times pretty pitiful performances of the BBEGs, even though it generally did not blow me totally away.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though the rules-language is a bit less refined than I'm accustomed to by Legendary Games. Layout adheres to a GORGEOUS two-column full-color standard that ranks among the most beautiful among Legendary Games' different styles. The pdf has numerous nice artworks of items. The pdf comes bookmarked, but only by category, not by item.


Thurston Hillman and Jason Nelson are both talented designers and this review should be considered a testament to Legendary Games quality-level...but there's no two ways about it, this disappointed me a high level. Legendary Games' item-books usually sport some truly astounding items that modify the base tricks, going one step beyond and indeed, this pdf does sport a couple such items that are downright genius. However, what usually is an array of truly imaginative and uncommon options this time around has some mechanical glitches here and there and others...well, are simply not that interesting. This pdf ultimately falls a bit short of what these pdfs usually offer. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down since quite a few of the items provide some issues or are filler. This is still worth it for the good items, though.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Treasury of the Pharoahs
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Once Upon an Encounter: The Scorpion and the Frog
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2015 03:09:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second installment of Flaming Crab Games' "Once Upon an Encounter"-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This being a review of an encounter-set-up, the following has SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


Only GMs left? All right! So, the PCs head towards one big stream - thankfully, an innovative, oxen-powered paddle-barge is offering cost-efficient means to cross the river - it should be noted that the barge is fully mapped. The set-up is as follows: We have Captain Ty, two ox-drivers, oxen, a guard and one other passenger, a man named Silus, who is sea-sick....or not. You see, Silus is pretty much an insane alchemist trying to blow the vessel up...while on it.


Two variants of the set-up are provided...and then, the encounter becomes awesome: With a 10-round spanning, round-by-round breakdown of what's happening, strange slugs that breed bomb-like larvae (full stats provided) and a fully mapped vessel (including a handy sinking-version that shows the level of water per round - this is pretty much the definition of going the extra-mile...even before the inclusion of the paper tokens handily provided. Obviously, the vessel also sports full stats!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly twp-column full-color standard. The cartography is more than serviceable for the low price point and the pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity - nice!


The first "Once Upon an Encounter" already showed promise...and here, Alex Abel and J Gray deliver on that promise, in spades. The unique, interesting twist on the classic tale, the cool variants, the awesome new animal provided - this oozes creativity and heart's blood. It is one great encounter-pdf that is definitely worth the fair asking price. fun, uncommon, evocative and with some very nice supplemental material, I have nothing to complain here. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Once Upon an Encounter: The Scorpion and the Frog
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Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: A Chill Wind (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2015 03:07:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This sidetrek of the Chronicle of the Gatekeepers campaign serial clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page advertisement, leaving us with 6.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? Large-biter sends the PCs forth to survey an odd, magical weather phenomenon - the frost-line. north of it, the earth is frozen, while south of it, temperate temperatures reign. The odd thing here being that the line moves from day to day. Large-biter assumes that the abundance of nexus gateways may have something to do with this strange phenomenon - the frost line is closer than usual and the PCs are to survey its effects. En route, the PCs can meet a feline champion, one P'tan simply known as "Captain" (EDIT: Yes, facebook cleared that up - the guy is called Captain - that's his name...) - the P'tan is serving the Sanguine Covenant and is here to protect the populace from the Necryos, degenerate frosty vampire-like creatures that travel with the frost-line...and make sure the PCs are not working with the Vesparans. As a friendly ally, there'll be an option for a nonlethal sparring match with the captain (nonlethal and rewarding characters who elected to learn to deal nonlethal damage...) and we also get a new P'tan magic item here.


Over the next couple of days, the PCs will be continuously harried by the degenerate Necryos (full stats provided) - who even will attempt to lure the PCs directly into a yellow musk creeper and its vesparan slaves...and attack in ever-increasing waves until they're vanquished. After some friendly duels (and favors in the future), it's time to take a look at how the PCs fared regarding the suveillance of the frost-line - the more auccessfull checks they made, the more precise the gleaned information will be.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good, though annoyingly, the pdf sports several "See page @@"-notes where the proper page-number for the necryos hasn't been filled in. Layout adheres to LPJr Design's two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes with a second version that is more printer-friendly - nice! the pdf has a neat full-color artwork of the necryos. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity - kudos!


Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. deliver a cool premise here - the frost-line is an unique, imaginative phenomenon and surveying it is a GREAT premise - seriously, it's fresh, unique and fun. That being said, I really wished the module did more with this unique phenomenon - sudden movements of the line, unique hazards, some proper, nasty wilderness survival with quickly changing sweeps of the line...this module can be made absolutely awesome with some minor adjustments/additions of hazards...without them, we still have a solid, if a bit redundant array of combats versus the cool (pun intended) necryos. If this book focused a bit more on its unique premise over combats, this could have been excellent - as provided, it is a solid module with a great scenery - and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up by a margin to 4.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: A Chill Wind (PFRPG)
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Mythic Solutions
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2015 03:02:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This Mythic Plug-in clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of general introduction, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside the back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of raw content, so let's take a look...


...but before we do, it's confession-time. When the Mythic rules were originally released, I thought "Great idea, but it'll be abandoned." When I first read them, I thought "Cool ideas, but they just exacerbate the math-issues of high-level gameplay sooner - that's numerical escalation with a few tweaks." Then, I played the rules and my fears turned to reality. Enter Legendary Games. While by far not all pdfs released for mythic play have been well-received by yours truly, the majority has scored rather high and ultimately found me enjoying them...and mythic gameplay. Many of my bosses now get tiers, path abilities and the like, providing an adequate challenge for my savvy and exceedingly skilled players. I came to love this expanded, detailed mythic-rules cosmos and question my former judgment.


And then, there are the instances when I have to playtest mythic material. With the Mythic Adventures book only. Let's just say...I HATE it. I know all those great tricks...and none of them work, because more than 90% of my mythic rules are by Legendary Games. Playtesting with the base book only feels horribly barebones, broken and bland. Still, even with LG's massive array of material, the GM will encounter several phenomena that can render mythic gameplay problematic, courtesy, for the most part, of the base rules for the system - while some of these issues have been addressed (I'll never play ANY mythic game sans Path of Villains, for example!), this book is about all those other solutions you may (or may not) require.


So, how do we start: Initiative, action economy and swift-action path abilities - the pdf provides concise and well-reasoned (and btw.: Mechanically sound) solutions to issues e.g. spawned by Amazing initiative, including a proper coverage of haste and e.g. titan's bane. Most of the problems addressed here actually go beyond providing ONE solution - they provide multiple ones, which you could conceivably combine or cherry-pick!


The second big issue is that mythic power, much like spells and similar limited resources, does lend towards a nova-issue, but exacerbates this by being the most versatile such resource ever devised in a d20-based game. As such, going full-blown super, resting and then repeating may be too tempting even for consummate roleplayers, particularly since combat in mythic gameplay favors those that hit hard and fast - and yes, this pdf does provide an elegant fix here. Retroactive mythic surges can now also operate more in line with the diverse hero point-systems, granting a lesser bonus when used retroactively and thus rewarding (as opposed to penalizing) planning -and generating more excitement at the table.


The problem of stacking multipliers is also addressed...and the pdf does something I applaud it for: It recognizes BROKEN when it sees it. The foe-biting legendary item ability? BANNED. Thank you. Oh, and it does suggest alternate effects. Double thank you. No, seriously. Usually, authors only invoke Paizo-material to justify their material in a positive way (by pointing out how xyz is just as broken or worse...which is a logical fallacy...) - actually taking a undeniably broken piece and fixing it? Nice!


Fixes for Mythic Power Attack's math, Mythic Vital Strike's ambiguous wording...all appreciated. However, one rules that extremely speeds up any sort of game is simple, elegant and downright awesome: Cap on defensive buffs. The stacking of single ability focuses and thus, the breakdown of the math, is also addressed and mitigated as far as the rules-framework allows - including coverage of the single ability-focus-items and abilities, instead suggestion a scaling, much more elegant bonus.


Now the intent of mythic powers was to play demigods and powerful individuals right? Adventurers on steroids? The thing is...Hercules didn't kill Nemean lions every day. The ease of refreshing mythic powers may, in some instances that want a high-powered, but not super-hero level of gameplay, actually cheapen the feats that are represented by mythic power - hence alternate rules for harder mythic power regains can be found within these pages as well, offering a whole different style of mythic gameplay. The many monster-defense ignoring tricks can also be nerfed down from flat mitigation (bad game design) to gradual mitigation that scales with your levels (good game design) and similar fixes are proposed for auto-conditions that can't be saved against.


The massive issue of the "quadratic wizards, linear martials"-issue, exacerbated, nay, escalated by mythic rules, is also addressed. Now if all of these still do not save you from the discrepancy between offense and defense, if the PCs still manage to rocket-tag foes...well, then the pdf does feature special abilities in here to at least give their opposition a fighting chance.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch. The pdf adheres to legendary Games' 2-column full-color standard and the book sports numerous nice artworks in full-color. the pdf has no bookmarks, but you should print it out anyways and tape it into Mythic Adventures.


Damn, spoiler'd there, didn't I? Jason Nelson's mythic solutions are the single most required pdf any group utilizing mythic rules can buy. Period. This pdf should have been part of the original book. The design is cleaner and more concise, providing ways to deal with how some of the broken aspects of mythic gameplay can wreck your table. It is my firm belief, that, were this part of the default rules, more groups would be loving WotR. This is, pretty much, a non-optional survival kit, a true fix for some of the nastiest issues mythic gameplay provides...and even if you happen to like one of those broken components, the pdf doesn't judge you for it and still has plenty of other fixes you WILL appreciate. In fact, even regarding non-mythic high-level gameplay, some fixes here can tremendously enrich your game and radically change the tone of your PFRPG-game. (Cough buff-limit /cough)


This book, in fact, is in my opinion just as crucial to mythic gameplay as the core book (and a healthy dose of LG-books) - this is the non-optional fix for the issues, a superb little pdf...and for mythic games, definitely essential and non-optional. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I will also add my EZG Essential-tag to this book. It makes mythic gameplay so much more rewarding, you'll never want to miss this gem.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Solutions
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Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2015 02:55:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of 13th Age Monthly clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what this pdf provides is interesting - we get items that are obviously the result of the craftsmanship of minor sorcerors, here called alchemists and talismancers - basically, everyday items. However, beyond the basic concept provided, each item sports 13 rumors related to it, some of which may be true, some of which may be false...all depending on the GM. This customization option is something I truly cherish here...so what do the items do?


The first item would be Blacklight Candles - mundane candles of black wax...but only the wielder can perceive the light they shed. Sounds boring? Well, what if it's true that only drow make these things? Or what if the fire started from such candles also is invisible? The latter is a genius hook I'm going to craft a whole adventure around. Clay of Life helps stabilizing the dying and can even be used to help re-attach severed limbs...and it may be fermented dragon droppings...or it may a plot of none other than the Lich King! Obviously, it would be pretty awesome if the extremely expensive clay sold in Horizon works - it returns the dead to life...but it could also transform them into mindless golems...


Dancing Shoes are a great idea: they allow you to dance like a pro...ONCE. As soon as you stop, they'll burst into flames. Need a variant on the Cinderella-trope? Here's an interesting one for you! (Oh, and yes, if you're VERY unlucky, they may burn you - but hey, the show must go on...right?) What about arrows that are particularly lethal versus ethereal foes (and less lethal versus physical targets), allwoing the PCs to better fight the threat of dybbuks and similar adversaries? Featherlight Skirts are also awesome in just about any decadent environment - these skirts puff up like a parachute and feather fall the wearer. The sample stories suggest e.g. a cadre of bored noble women using these skirts for what amounts to illegal base-jumping - and the idea alone is glorious: Think about the narrative potential here for an uncommon murder mystery...or a conspiracy waiting in the wings.


Finally, Grave Dust has a chance to work as a pretty potent sleeping agent...which is okay...but what if it's true that gelatinous cubes and similar slimes hate the taste and may spew forth immediately anyone covered in the material? Or what if it's true that the effects of the material end immediately in the vicinity of royalty? What does that say about the tavern-brawl featuring the material you just witnessed?


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to 13th Age's neat two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. Artworks are full-color and nice.


ASH LAW delivers some cool low-magic/alchemical items here. Yet, on their own, the fall somewhat flat. It is due to the absolutely inspired amount of narrative potential provided for each of them that they truly come into their own - what, on paper, sounds like a selection of solid, if a bit unremarkable items, becomes pretty awesome pretty fast by virtue of the inspiring 13 hooks provided for each of them, transforming the items into something more than the sum of their mechanical benefits.


Granted, I could nitpick some of these potential options: "Does the invisible fire created by blacklight candles visible burn objects or does it create an illusion of things being in order?" and similar reasoning - but that would be a disservice to the inspired ideas herein...and it would take a bit away from the GM's options to customize the living hell out of these items to suit his or her need. I consider this to be an inspired installment in the series, one that oozes flair and panache, not only for 13th Age. The one reason (beyond aforementioned nitpickery) this does not reach the highest echelons of my rating system is that the items are story-items, one and all - they don't really do something mechanically interesting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes
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Pathways #51 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2015 02:52:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The 51st issue of Rite Publishing's monthly FREE e-zine Pathways clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 11 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin, as always, with an editorial - and a note: Beyond some issues being PWYW, you can now support Pathways via its own patreon and this issue is the first that is thus enhanced - we actually get more content! As has become the tradition with the series, we start this issue with Steven D. Russell providing a new template, this time the CR+2 False Idol. The template (and sample creature, a Leukodaemon) is pretty awesome: Basically, these creatures may be susceptible to divine magic, but they also get limited access to domains and the more people worship it, the more power can they bestow on their conned followers. A certain masked god in Golarion will love this template...


The first new article is already worth downloading this pdf on its own: Epidemics. Wendall Roy delivers concise mechanics for highly virulent plagues, including means to mechanically represent surviving the plague and thus resist subsequent infection. The sample epidemics have in common that they are versatile in their effects, provide unique penalties...and make for awesome narrative tools. What do I mean by this? What about a bonewarping plague that disfigures even its survivors? The highly-magical manarot, which may have brought down your pseudo-atlantean empire? Purity Rust, which was made as a bioweapon by the elves to annihilate humankind? Yes, these epidemics are AWESOME and left me wanting a whole event-book on vast epidemics and/or a mega-adventure centering on a pandemic.


None other than Mike Welham is next, with an article that contains an array of truly imaginative magical whistles: From one that allows navigation through fog to glassbreakers and one that can call a phantom dog to your side, the whistles are neat and a welcome addition to the table.


Creighton Broadhurst mastermind of Raging Swan Press, provides GMs with a handy list of secrets kept within statues and also a second list that depicts disturbing things found on evil altars.


Since plagues are a bit of a theme here, Steven D. Russell provides some guidance for GMs to incorporate plague/epidemic scenarios in your game with a welcome advice article...one that makes me with for an epidemic/pandemic-style book even more. Yeah, I'll shut up now.


This issue's interview is with none other than the charming, talented and delightful RPG Superstar Monica Marlowe - read it and if you're like me, you'll look forward to her "Down the Blighted Path"!


We end this installment, as always, with "The Path Less Travelled" by Jacob Blackmon and reviews by yours truly.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good (apart from my reviews, which turned into text-blocks, but that's nothing new) and the pdf comes not only with great full-color (and a disturbing piece of b/w-) art, it also is fully bookmarked for your convenience. Layout, as always, adheres to a 2-column full-color standard.


Okay, let me reiterate: There is NO reason not to download this book - it's PWYW and you can get it for FREE and show your support via PWYW or joining the patreon. Fact is, the epidemics-articles and advice are AWESOME. Quite frankly, they make me excited about some ideas I've shelved for a while and are simply well-written, concise and fun - they are worth the HD-space alone. Add to that an evocative template, neat whistles and cool dressing and you have one of the stronger issues of the e-zine's run. It's also FREE and that's very hard to beat: 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pathways #51 (PFRPG)
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Places of Power: The Prismatic Tower
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/10/2015 02:57:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second installment of Raging Swan Press' new Places of Power-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Originally home to a cabal of wizards, the prismatic tower, situated atop Starreach Peak and made from glasslike material, the focus on color-based spellcasting practiced there has recently seen an influx, growing the population of inhabitants to 25. Following the standard established, the first page provides lore the PCs can research on the place, a list of notable folk and a marketplace-section - all at one glance.


As in the first installment, an excellent b/w-map is provided alongside 6 events and rumors and whispers that represent apt and compelling means for the GM to utilize this location in a given campaign - Jade's master, for example, has vanished after pointing out a bizarre coruscation of colors across the sky... And yes, this is probably the point where you pull out all CoC-modules featuring colors ever to convert them...


The center-piece of the prismatic tower would btw. be the great prism, which is utilized in the research of the respective color (or invisibility)-laboratories featured - locations that are btw. detailed rather interestingly, including advice for use of this locale in your campaign and a note on daily life in this delightfully magical and unconventional place.


This is not where the pdf stops, though - from an eccentric gnome sporting a mane of luscious...and invisible hair to the gorgeous half-elven fighter/sorceror-multiclassed Vermillion, the respective NPCs come with Raging Swan Press' trademark level of detail, including unique mannerisms and distinguishing features. Of course, wizards experimenting can unleash strange things - and hence, a unique CR 12 creature, the dread colorvore, is presented , providing dangerous abilities and unique tricks.


Finally, there would also be a new 5th level spell, psychoprsimatic spray, which sprung from the research conducted at the tower, offering a diverse array of debuffs, enhancing the basic notion of prismatic magic in a truly interesting manner I hope to see more of at one point.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, as I've come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant two-column b/w-standard with awesome original artwork of the two NPCs and great cartography in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, with one intended for screen-use and one for print-use.


Mike Welham is one of the authors that deliver time and again - when I saw a second tower in the wings for this series, I was afraid it would offer too much overlap. The opposite proved to be true: The prismatic tower ultimately is an awesome locale I look forward to introduce in my game. Thoroughly distinct in scope and focus from the first installment in the series, while still adhering to the series' paradigms, this little pdf is a great adventure-locale I can't wait to use! My final verdict will clock in at a warm recommendation of 5 stars + seal of approval - at this low price, this pdf is definitely worth a look...or multiple ones!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: The Prismatic Tower
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Everyman Unchained: Skills and Options
Publisher: Everyman Gaming, LLC
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/10/2015 02:51:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Everyman Gaming's support-series for Pathfinder Unchained clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, if you've been experimenting with skill-systems from Pathfinder Unchained and your group is like mine, you'll have had an experience that mirrors that of author Alexander Augunas - backlash. In practice, none of the skill systems worked for my game. I'm not judging you if the suggested systems work for you and yours - just stating it does not work for everyone. Still, several design-ideas provided in the skill systems doe have some merit - and as such, I considered it a pity to let them fall by the wayside. The author seems to agree with me and has hammered out a system of skills that (hopefully) utilizes the best of the classic and unchained systems- so how does it work?


At each level, a character gets skill ranks equal to the class's baseline, with a cap of ranks being equal to your HD. Each class has favored skills, class skills - if you have one rank in them, you gain a +3 bonus to them and multiple such bonuses do not stack from multiple classes - so far, so good. The number of skill points gained per level depends on the skill category of your class - poor, average, good or excellent, with Int-mod added. A handy table does provide these, and, as before the ranks per level range from 2 (poor) to 8 (excellent). At 1st level, 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, you determine a skill group, as listed on another handy table - Tinkering, e.g., includes Craft, Disable Device, Spellcraft and Use Magic Device. 1st level nets the background skill group.


In order to select any skill group other that the background skill group, a character needs to possess skill ranks in any one of the skill group's skills greater than 1/2 the character's level. Each level, a character gains 4 ranks to spend among the group skills exclusively. However, there is a further restriction imposed on group skills - you can only invest group skill ranks into a given skill equal to the number of skill groups you have that include the skill. It should also be noted that the fighter now receives more skills per level, with poor skills being now primarily the providenc of spellcasters (and paladin + magus), thus maintaining the notion that they use their magic for flexibility as opposed to utilizing skills for various means.


Favored Class Bonuses, when used with this system, remain at +1 hp/skill rank or alternate benefits.


The pdf then goes on to provide a variety of new favored class options for ALL classes - a total of 5 are covered for all Paizo-classes, also including Alexander#s Dragon Paragon (from the Dragon Companion Handbook), the Mystic (from Amora Game's Liber Influxus Communis) and his superb Occultist (Pact Magic) and Technician-classes (from Age of Electrotech). The diversified favored class options provided here add rather complex choices to the mix: Alchemists, for example may choose between +1 formula, +1/2 bomb damage, +10 minutes mutagen-duration, 1/6 discovery or 2 alchemist class skills, which both gain +1/2. The options generally are more than solid and add a welcome tactical dimension to leveling up - though, the nitpicky bastard in me can't help but comment on minor hiccups like the samurai class's FCO referring once to the cavalier class - nothing grievous mind you - the content herein is not impeded in functionality. Companion-based options are also in here, with 5 choices for customization. Beyond these, the pdf does provide a huge array of racial options that further expand the favored class options available, with two per level provided for even the most exotic of races. If you've been counting - that amounts to 10 (!!!) choices available for every character per level as opposed to the base system's usual 3. But that's not where it stops - the system also provides further universal options: +1/3 of a save, max +2; +1/6 bonus feat from a limited list, decrease a weapon's non-proficiency penalty by 1, +1/3 on crit confirmation rolls with a chosen weapon, +1/3 racial trait, +1/4 SP use per day gained from a racial trait or feat or +1 energy resistance for an energy the character is resistant against via a racial trait. This totals at potentially 17 (!!!) options to choose from.


4 feats are provided to work with this system:


Multiple Companion Training allows you to extend FCOs for a companion chosen to all companions. Eclectic is potentially problematic - the text is "Choose an additional favored class and gain +1 in any favored class option that you qualify for whenever you take a level in that class. If you choose a class in which you already have levels, the benefits of this feat are retroactive" However, favored class options do not necessarily net you +1, but fractions thereof - I get what this feat tries to do, but its wording is problematic. I do enjoy that humans may take it multiple times, though. Fast Learner has been streamlined for use with the system and finally, the story feat Nemesis is part of the deal.


The multiclassing system presented in Pathfinder Unchained, essentially a kind of gestalting lite, may not fit every campaign - I know that the balance ramifications of some combos most definitely do not gel with most campaigns I run. At the same time, for quite a few campaigns, this may actually end up being exactly what you've been looking for - so yeah. I'm personally weary of it and consider it too roughshod for my own tastes. This does not keep me from enjoying the inclusion of new such options herein, though - Alex's classes, from Dragon Paragon to Occultist, Technician and Mystic, receive their information for use with exactly this system in here as well, unlocking them for campaigns utilizing this design paradigm. So far, I only have two sessions of experience with this multiclass-system, so the finer points of balance ramifications may be slightly lost on me, but from what I can glean, the direct comparison between the options provided herein and those used in the base book yields a power-level that does not exceed that presumed by the options presented in Pathfinder Unchained.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's two-column full-color standard with beautiful, original artworks by Jacob Blackmon -for once, btw., no kitsune! OO EDIT: Mea Culpa: That's a kitsune on the cover; I thought it was a canid/dog/wolf-folk. I stand rectified! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Alexander Augunas skill system has polarized my group and indeed, I myself oscillate between its benefits and slight drawbacks. But first, let me reiterate and emphasize that the system, as presented herein, simply is superior to everyone of the takes presented in Pathfinder Unchained, benefiting imho from the strengths of the individual systems and refining them. Now, whether this system is a god-send for you or not very much depends on the preferences of your players - do they like planning character-progression, tinkering with the nuts and bolts, getting synergies out of material etc.? Then they will probably love this system. The skill groups and skill-group exclusive ranks allow for satisfying planning of skill-progression in a way that actually can enhance roleplaying - if a character needs the occult-skillgroup to make the most of his next level, in-game studying the material can lead into pretty much awesome, organic character-developments. The skill-system provided here can work as a catalyst for roleplaying and I adore this system for it. The downside is evident - you need to plan, carefully, your progression - players that do not want to tinker much, that just want to play, tend to dislike the additional complication this brings to the game - and, obviously, when there are choices, there are ways to choose badly. While you won't cripple a character with bad choices, you can end up unable to spend group skill ranks gained, which may prove to be a source of frustration. This is a system-inherent issue, though - one generated from the additional skills and the structure.


The favored class options with their vast array of options for each class at every level, including racial ones, is absolutely awesome in my book - while I consider some options slightly stronger than others, ultimately that holds true for regular favored class options provided for vanilla pathfinder. The massive customization options definitely enhance level-ups in intriguing manners and have no significant drawback - apart from the fact, that I would have loved some guidance on how to use already existing FCOs within the context of this system.


The big question, then, would be how to rate this - and I'm somewhat at a loss. Usually, when I can't decide, my group helps me shape my opinion - but my players are evenly divided. And I pretty much, as a reviewer, am likewise divided. Make no mistake - as a private person, I love tinkering options like this, where some complexity and choices reward smart planning. At the same time, I can understand disdain for what some might consider a needless complication. Ultimately, I decided to rate this according to its intention: How does it hold up as an alternative for the skill system for people looking for something different? After all, it makes no sense to rate a system down due to concerns of people who do not see a need for it in the first place and who're content with the status quo - after all, why then get this pdf?


Well, this holds up better than the base-line provided by Pathfinder Unchained. And a similar conclusion can be drawn for the favored class options provided herein. And what more could I ask conceivably of such a small pdf? My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Unchained: Skills and Options
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Liberation of the Demon Slayer
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/09/2015 05:04:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 66 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review was moved forward in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of this book in exchange for an honest, critical and unbiased review.


We begin this module with information on the setting and rules suggested (but not necessarily required). The default setting for this mega-adventure is Razira, a massive, slumbering planetoid beast. This living planet is orbited by two "moons," Vrista and Anu. Vrista keeps Razira in perpetual slumber, whereas Anu, the shadow moon, is home to the legions of the dark - akin to Final Fantasy 8, it is from there that demons and devils enter Razira in regular incursions. As for the past, the empire of snake-men has long since crumbled and now, the planetoid feels much more like a regular world. Divine and arcane magic are pretty much alike and usually tied to a patron - and here, you can choose either arsenic or strychnine: Following the traditions of pulp and horror, the major deities of this world are not particularly friendly: Great K'tulu, Yogsoggoth, insane Azyargoth and the frog-god Tsathag'kha need no introduction, I assume. Ulusek and Lokvaar once were one god that split, now representing two warring factions. Tchort is a brutal lord of fire. Dathlaquatta is a deity of elemental air, law and order and finally, there is Shula, goddess of the moons.


Demons are chaotic, devils are lawful...and elves, both dark and light, are considered to be soulless and pretty much nasty fellows. They are known for dabbling in the material Lyrthum. Weapons made from it do not apply Str, instead allowing for the option to penalize yourself by -2 when attacking to get a second attack at -4. This means the usual penalty assumed is decreased by 2 for each attack. lyrthum also only sports half the penalties for casters. The second material introduced, zorv'lev, infernal steel, is pretty much the opposite. Being pretty heavy, weapons made from it have a minimum Str-score associated...but you triple Str-bonuses for damage purposes with them. To offset this, the material only allows for one attack per round. Furthermore, it doubles weight and casting-related penalties when used as armor. If that seems kind of opaque...then that's not due to me failing to properly sum up the rules-repercussions here - they in fact are less precise than what I expect from rules-information.


Speaking of rules: There are several provided herein: Attributes are assumed to net no bonus at score 9-10, +1/-1 for every 2 above/below that. The module assumes 0 level PCs that start with 4 hit points, rolling the appropriate HD every level, ignoring 1s. Dying is handled thus: 0 HP = unconscious, -1 death. Each level increases the death threshold by 1, meaning a 4th level character dies at -5 HP. The book also assumes a fortune score, rolled with 3d6. A point of fortune can be spent before a roll or after it: Before a roll, it provides +3 per point spent, after a roll only +1. This pool is important when playing this module with the suggested rules - without it, this is an almost unbeatable meatgrinder. Fortune replenishes at the mercy of the GM as roleplaying rewards. More guidelines here on when to refresh would have been appreciated.


Ability-checks are rolled with numerous d6, trying to score below the attribute, with easy tasks being 2d6, difficult ones being 4d6, Saving throws are determined by level: 0-level characters save on a 20, 3rd level chars on a 17...you get the idea. Damage-dice are explosive: Rolling the highest damage number lets you reroll the damage and add it to the damage scored, rendering combat deadly and unpredictable. Magic follows different rules as well - a spell can be cast ad infinitum - until it fizzles, then you have to relearn the spell. The book does not codify magic in traditional ways, instead championing a free form magic of improvisation, with the check getting the formula of 1/2 caster level + Int-mod minus spell level. I have no idea how this magic system is supposed to work. Is that a d20-roll? I assume so from the table that sports 1 as a critical failure, 20 as a critical success, but against what? No idea. I recommend skipping this rule - it's opaque and quite frankly, badly written for rules-language. Scrolls and potions are one-use items, wands have a default of 13 charges and double items and the like can end in strange things happening. Instead of XP, the book champions levels by session - level 1 after 1 session, 2 after two more sessions...per se simple. It also suggest the requirement of a trainer, but in the context of this module, that's highly problematic. We'll see later in the SPOILER-section why. On the positive side, choosing a motivation is nice...and I really like the dark secrets table: If you don't like an ability-score your rolled, you may reroll it in exchange for a dark secret...and they are nasty as well as diverse and creative. Basic rules for status and parting shots of killed characters are also talked about.


Initiative is covered by rolling a d20+dex-mod and similar modifiers. 20+ means the character gains a bonus surprise round. Characters who haven't acted get can be hit as +2 and similarly, characters may forego their attacks for +2 hit and damage, while casters may gain that bonus or penalize enemy saves by that much...or increase their free-flow magic. As mentioned before, two-weapon fighting, fighting defensively, out-numbering foes... the like are covered and here, the rules are okay and relatively easy to grasp. You won't find any revolutionary rules here, though, and the book's presentation of them is slightly jumbled - putting them in the middle between setting information and backdrop makes the presentation feel a bit haphazard, which is not a good thing in the context of rules.


It should be noted that the module suggests generating multiple characters - personally, I'd suggest at least 3. This module is lethal. At the same time, I'd strongly advise against heeding the advice of making new characters after one PC dies level 1 - this renders the PC significantly less powerful than his comrades. If you can't handle PC death, this module will break you - this mega-adventure is VERY HARD.


One more thing: See the cover? If that was not ample clue for you: This is a module intended for mature audiences. The artworks inside do sport nudity, demons and the like. If you're sensitive to imagery of naked people about to be sacrificed and the like, if the cover offends you, then this probably is not for you. As a German, I have not been brought up with the taboos regarding sexuality that quite a few American have. (Instead, we have taboos regarding gratuitous violence, but that's another thing altogether - if you're interested in my thoughts on cultural taboos, drop me a line!) In my opinion, sexuality is featured herein, yes, but not in a gratuitous or particularly exploitative manner - it's pretty toned down and can be completely ignored, should you choose to do so. My litmus test for the like tends to involve asking female gamers if they're offended by it - in this case, the unanimous response was "No," alongside a bemoaning of a lack of naked dudes in the artworks (at least on the side of the heterosexual ladies).


All right, let's get into the background and meat of this module! Since this is a review for an adventure, from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs here? Great! The village of Clear Meadows is as peaceful and nice as you can expect from a settlement in Razira: In a hostile world such as this, the village basically is a nexus of calm - all right, it may have its own share of people who want it subsumed by the chaos that roams the place, but as far as this hostile world goes, it is idyllic. Random monsters roaming the planes are provided alongside rumors and some intrigue...but the whole meat is something different. You see, once per year, the denizens of the village collect the unfortunate and throw them into a dungeon to reclaim a powerful sword with a malign intellect, Kalathax the Demon Slayer, a blade rightfully feared by demons, devils and every unclean creature. With only some basic rations and tools, the PCs have to enter the dungeon to hopefully reclaim the sword and defend the town...for a while, before it needs to be returned due to its corrupting influence, for another batch of heroes to get - think of it as a deadly trial by fire. In 3 days, the portcullis will be opened again...and the whole module is, actually, on a timer: This time around, the settlement will be destroyed...unless the PCs can get the blade in 15 days or less. Generally, I do not object to this, but the suggestion of leveling via training does render this strange - we never get information or suggestions on how much time we have to spent training.


The complex does sport some strange sigils that can render the unwary catatonic and is LETHAL. I mean really, really lethal: If you see, for example, a slime: RUN. No, really. One touch and you're dead/turned into a slime/gelatinous cube yourself. So yes, all in all, this one is pretty brutal in the difficulty department - sometimes frustratingly so. In the first level, we have e.g. a portcullis that can separate the party in two - nasty. On this level, the PCs can also find a pair of soulless elves and a carnivorous, fibrous growths...and there would be the repose of a wizard, whose glowing face pronounces doom, Oz-style, on intruders, while a vast swathe of carnivorous maggots needs to be cleared to reach the sarcophagus that contains Kalathax...and for sadistic GMs, the lich that guards it. And yes, this is the very definition of overkill. The level also introduces a character from our world stranded here that can help later...and the level actually is pretty much a great representation of what's awesome...and what's bad with this module.


You see, this book does sport nice b/w-maps for the respective levels. The problem is, though, that, beyond some hiccups regarding the maps (which exist, but remain within the bearable range), the module is extremely annoying in its opacity regarding the connections of levels and the general connections - the maps do not always list them and you won't find "This leads to room C3." - Instead, you have to somehow piece together how everything is supposed to be connected, which is really, really grating. This is by far the most GM-unfriendly book I've run in quite a while in this regard, requiring you to do quite a bunch of work on your own. This little fact alone made me reread a module I had pretty much memorized the first time I read it and it represents a major downside.


On the ambiguous side, the quest is pretty much done at first level - get Kalathax, done. You can run this in a convention slot and it works. However, I sincerely wished the dungeon actually sported some reason for the PCs to delve deeper, some frame narrative. Why? Because the dungeon per se and its ideas are diverse and fun and level 1 is pretty much the most boring of the bunch - yes, a room full of flesh-eating giant maggots that want to eat you while a glowing face pronounces doom constitutes one of the less inspired components.


Let me elaborate: The dungeon level the PCs should access from 1st level (how is, as mentioned above, somewhat opaque), is level 3: Here, worshipers of Ulusek and Lokvaar are wrapped up in a rather nasty microscopic religious war, now inhabiting a crashed alien spaceship that represents a healthy dose of scifi - with voice-automated checkpoints and the like It is also here that 3 elders with psionic powers can be found - willing to teach them, should the PCs complete their respective quests. The level also sports a thankfully not yet activated nuclear warhead the PCs should defuse (religious fanatics in control of nukes? BAD!) as well as a hatch...which can and should be used to defuse the bomb and make level 2 accessible, for that one is flooded. Oh, and, to give you an example on why this book rocks...and kind of sucks: There is an encounter here, with chained abominations and a guy in a white coat titled "Herbert West's Formula" - but unlike the optional lich on level one, we get no stats for the numerous abominations, the Dr., or the effects of the formula. you have this cool encounter...and no idea what's supposed to happen here, what the powers of the foes are...yeah. On the "rock"-side: There is a lethal, mind-raping orange on this level, one that delights in implanting suicide compulsions on its victims. No, this is NOT an auto-correct typo. Orange. Awesome!


Level 2 (and level 4) are defined by green crystals that render magic even more chaotic and unreliable. The soggy 2nd level is home to the worshipers of Yogsoggoth, perpetually at war with the cultists of other dread deities - and home to dangers like water-elementals, vampire toads and the like. Oh, and you may actually be abducted to level 0 of the dungeon, which turns out to be a particularly nasty interplanar gladiatorial game/mini-dungeon, where a LOT of things may insta-gib you and a talking giant venus man-trap may be your only way home.


On level 4, we have a theme mostly in line with classic fantasy - a small clan of exiled dark elves (all lavishly rendered and depicted in detail regarding motivations etc.) provides the main source of the story here...as does a Rambo-style guerrilla warrior hunting the PCs. Oh, and there are insane cannibals. And killer kobolds. A hellraiser-style dressed high-priestess of devils also roams these halls, dressed mostly in chains, spikes and tattoos - though, much like the "nice" slaver that can be found here, she has no combat statistics, which, in her case, may be a bad decision - her artwork makes her look like someone the PCs may wish to eliminate... Oh, and no, there is no reason for those NPCs to be stuck here. Yes, this is old-school, but at least a collapsed tunnel to the underdark or the like would have been appreciated, for I really don't get how all of these guys got past level 5 and 6... On the plus-side: Demo-dragon-spider hybrids. And yes, their artwork is nightmare fuel.


Level 5, imho, is one that has more of a distinct identity than the somewhat clustered levels 2 and 4: Beyond a medusa (with a great artwork), the scene on the cover takes place here - this is the domain of the cult of Great K'tulu - and they're BRUTAL. Beyond the star-spawn, they have a massive slug-beast (rendered in lavish 1-page art, though its statblock lacks the proper formatting)...and Selvah. Selvah, high-priest of K'tulu, is an insanely powerful adversary: Holy symbols in his presence MELT, immediately crippling divine casters. His unholy avenger and other items make him even more deadly: 3d4+7 damage, escalating dice. Suffer. Selvah's schedule is pretty packed, but is clear that stealth and the like should be used as an approach here - otherwise, PCs will die...perhaps the whole party. The cultists and their leader are deadly and their creatures are even more so. Still, this is one of my favorite levels herein.


The final level, level 6, would then have a theme of "hell" - with magma-men, fire elementals and several devils in a precarious stalemate, this is a great place for the PCs to forge infernal alliances to beat tougher foes and then destroy the creatures of the pit. It is also here that PCs may find access to the underdark and talk to odd survivalists. Within these halls, the PCs may also face off versus a friggin' magma dragon - and they may have to. For beyond high-tech security looms the sorcerous-interface AI JCN, which seeks nothing but global annihilation...and has the means to pursue this. So yes, if you want to go post-apocalyptic, here's your choice. If you want to destroy JCN's mainframe, you can do so as well - but you'll have to find a way for the magma to rise...and better be fast regarding evacuation. Oh, and you have to place the room. It's not marked on the map.


Magic-item-wise, a red thread throughout the dungeon would be the shining trapezohedron-like shapes that can be found throughout the dungeon, with unique effects...and yes, they can be used to tie the disparate stories together...flimsily.


The pdf concludes with an author's page and some final pieces of advice.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting on a formal level are good - while there are some glitches here and there, the writing quality is more than solid. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read b/w-two-column standard and the pdf provides solid b/w-cartography, though there are no player-friendly, key-less versions. The artworks deserve special mention: Awesome, original pieces with great, disturbing creatures are in here - show them to players and let them marvel at the adversaries faced. As mentioned above: There is nudity in the artworks, so mature audiences are suggested. I do NOT recommend you getting the electronic version - it has no bookmarks and at this length, navigation is a pretty big deal. If you get it, get it in print - the paper quality and glossy cover/solid overall presentation make this a nice book to have in print.


This is the freshman offering of Venger As'Nas Satanis and Kort'thalis Publishing...and unfortunately, it shows. Liberation of the Demon Slayer showcases the cool things one can see in later modules and is a great herald of the things to come...but it is also a very flawed book. Basically, you have absolutely awesome visuals, monsters and themes - the mood is great and the ideas this book evokes are glorious: If you like dark fantasy, very hard modules and look for a challenge: LotDS provides all of that. At the same time, this mega-adventure is very cobbled together: Beyond very minor themes, you wouldn't lose much by taking the respective levels apart and using them as individual dungeons.


I'm one of the GMs who run modules only unmodified for playtesting purposes and I very much subscribe to the nothing Venger expressed in his GM-advice book, that at least 15% of a module happens at the table, spontaneously. I tend to rewrite modules heavily. Here, though, the module feels very much unfinished in that it requires quite some GM work to properly run - from the issues with the maps to missing stats for potentially lethal encounters, this cannot be run spontaneously...at least, not well.


The mechanics this book utilizes are also a LONG SHOT away from the relative refinement of his later works like "Crimson Dragon Slayer." From the fortune-mechanic (all of which can be burned at once for HUGE bonuses) to the needlessly opaque magic rules, the rules provided herein are VERY rough around the edges and something I'd only suggest for expert GMs, particularly since the lack of refreshment guidelines for fortune (beyond level-up) can either render this module extremely hard or almost too easy. The rules-context is pretty flawed and this extends, alas, to where statblocks are presented and where they're ignored - I found no true rhyme or reason for the omission of them regarding certain NPCs, which, again, is something the GM has to cover.


If all of that sounds pretty negative...then because it is. The map-issues and difficulty to determine how everything connects are pretty big strikes against the book and the same can be said about the lack of bookmarks for the electronic version. As mentioned: Get this in print. You'll thank me later and yes, you'll have enough on your plate.


That being said, at the same time, this module is absolutely awesome. What IS here, what's not lost in some opacity or one description being applied to multiple rooms, that is simply inspired. If you even remotely like dark fantasy with a serious spicing of Lovecraftian creatures (not horror) and a garnish of scifi, then this will have you cackle with glee: From the potential apocalyptic final boss to the devilish schemes to the super-deadly bosses of level 5, this book delivers in these regards galore. Additionally, if your players are bored by modules being too easy, smack this down. LotDS is the hardest module I've read in ages and certainly not something for the faint of heart - while mostly fair, there are some creatures and traps herein that are truly LETHAL. As in: "You die!" So, if you need a break from current RPGs and their fair, scaling encounters, you might want to take a look: This beast is for the pros. My playtest saw no less than 11 characters perish, often hilariously, sometimes horribly.


LotDS, for me, has oscillated between love and hatred more than most books - on the one reason, I love the set-up, the atmosphere, the vast creativity you can find herein. On the other hand, I loathe the sloppy mechanics, map-glitches and inconsistencies that mark this as a freshman offering. This is a book, I ended up both loving and hating - mainly because all of its issues can be resolved by a good GM. From connections to over-arcing plot-lines, this sandboxy module can provide entertainment beyond most dungeons of this size I've read: It has the spark of creativity and quality prose that tends to trump most shortcomings in such contexts for me. At the same time, I can't rate potential - I can only rate what's here - and what's here is flawed; Not unsalvageable, but pretty flawed nonetheless. I really, really want to rate this highly, but I quite frankly can't. If you're looking for a book to use and play immediately, well, then this is NOT for you. The best way to look at this and enjoy it, would be to think of this as a pretty detailed sketch of a mega-dungeon - you need to complete it; generate the material that ties it together...and work with it, providing the connecting threads for the inspired highlights herein. Then, you will have some fun time - quite a lot, actually, since the book does provide a solid amount of content. If you're looking for a module to read and run as is, then look elsewhere and the same holds true if you're not comfortable tinkering with the mechanics as presented herein.


Ultimately, the flaws weigh heavy here, and try as I might, as much as I want to recommend this, I can't ignore them. They may be partially offset by the leeway this gets as a freshman offering, but they still remain. My final verdict, taking the freshman offering-bonus into account, will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up by a margin to 3...for the print version. For the electronic version...just don't. Books of this size sans bookmarks are a pain. If this would be your first Kort'thalis Publishing book, I'd instead advise you to get one of the later works, like Crimson Dragon Slayer. That being said, fans of dark fantasy and GMs willing to work with this module have a lot of awesome ideas here that can be developed into a glorious dungeon -for both the purposes of the scavenging toolkit and for GMs willing to work with the book, this still constitutes a unique, creative module that has more ideas and unique scenes than some whole series. If the formal flaws don't scare you, then check this out - I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed on the creativity-side.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Liberation of the Demon Slayer
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