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GM's Miscellany: I Loot the Body (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2017 04:18:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This compilation of the „I Loot the Body!”-series (easily one of my favorite series-titles ever) clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/how to use, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 49 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Note: This is almost identical to the “PFRPG”-version with the black cover – which is almost system neutral. However, this system-neutral version did obviously get some polish – a couple of entries have been streamlined, references to specific languages have been made more general – you get the idea.

We begin this compilation with a helpful reminder/summary of how one can use treasure – foreshadowing, abilities, etc. – this is a handy reminder to bear in mind, for sure – but more importantly, it contextualizes the material presented within this book: We all have read supplement upon supplement, where those critters that the PCs mow down by the dozens all end up having a bit of gold…and then suddenly, something weird pops up. It’s like having a hotspot in a point and click adventure. While authors are beholden to the almighty word-count and thus, system-immanently reliant on such simplifications, I know of a lot of GMs who really, really are annoyed by this.

This humble series, this booklet, radically ENDS this phenomenon once and for all. You loot something? You’ll find weird and personal knick-knacks basically EVERYWHERE. This not only makes the cursed trinket you successfully smuggled into the possession of the party harder to spot, it also vastly enhances the believability of the campaign world you so lavishly depict in your game – in short, it represents a huge immersion boost, even if the items are not (or only slightly) magical.

More than that, fetishes, strange objects, keys, mementos and artworks can represent hooks and pieces of indirect storytelling themselves, potentially sparing you the annoying exposition dumps some GMs find themselves heaping upon their players; in short, the trinkets let the PCs do the thinking, talking, discussing -and if you listen, you may well draw some serious inspiration from the speculation going on – I know that’s how I’ve improvised more than one module when I didn’t have the time to prepare.

Anyways, as you may have surmised at this point, this book contains the individual components of the “I loot the Body!”-series: Namely, the eponymous original pdf, the installments on looting clerics, druids, rogues, minions, warriors and wizards as well as the installment on looting bags of holding – basically all the big installments, presented in alphabetical order. Now I have written reviews for all of them, so if you require detailed guidance, I’ll point you to those.

In case you do not want to look them up: The review situates all of these files in the high and highest echelons of my rating system – Raging Swan press provides a nice diversity between the mundane and weird in these extensive tables. We generally have tables for outfits, class-specific knick-knacks and pouch-contents –all modified for the respective needs. Minions get a keepsake table, druids natural accoutrements – you get the idea.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any undue accumulation of hiccups and the obvious added care in fine-tuning the tables deserves special recognition. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a wide-variety of thematically-fitting b/w-artwork, though fans of Raging Swan Press will be familiar with some pieces. The pdf version does come in two iterations: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer – big kudos! Beyond that, the pdfs do come with excessive bookmarks, helping you to navigate to the proper table with a single click.

Kat Evans, Taylor Hubler, Eric Hindley, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham have created great individual files, no doubt; but much like in the fantastic GM’s Miscellany Dungeon Dressing and Wilderness Dressing books, having all the pieces in one hand tome simply beats the sheets of individual paper. Flip it open, roll, and never look back; never experience boring “mundane” treasure again! Now, it should be noted that these tables are not for specific creatures or contexts – they provide loot for pretty wide categories, so if you’re looking for the hyper-specific, well, you won’t find that here. If you do look for an inspiring book that will increase your GM-prowess, though, then get this! In fact, I’d advise in favor of the print version, just for the convenience of it and the sheer satisfaction of having this booklet open while gaming.

Now, as for the question of which of the two-versions to get, well the system-neutral version imho has a couple of wording choices that are a bit more elegant than the PFRPG-version, mainly due to completely avoiding the rules-aspect, so for prose, this may be preferable. For convenience, the black version should do it (and it has the prettier cover) – but no matter what fantasy system you’re using, one of the books definitely makes for a great addition to the game and both versions can work for pretty much all systems.

In short: This is a really great, system neutral tome of cool dressing, well worth getting. My final verdict thus clocks in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation. The only reason I’m not also slapping my EZG Essential-tag on this great dressing booklet would be its brevity – if it featured a smattering of all the small tables for more specific looting as well, this’d be even more non-optional than it already is. A great GM-tool indeed.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: I Loot the Body (SNE)
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for the great review. I'm delighted you enjoyed the book so much!
GM's Miscellany: I Loot the Body
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2017 04:15:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This compilation of the „I Loot the Body!”-series (easily one of my favorite series-titles ever) clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/how to use, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 49 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this compilation with a helpful reminder/summary of how one can use treasure – foreshadowing, abilities, etc. – this is a handy reminder to bear in mind, for sure – but more importantly, it contextualizes the material presented within this book: We all have read supplement upon supplement, where those critters that the PCs mow down by the dozens all end up having a bit of gold…and then suddenly, something weird pops up. It’s like having a hotspot in a point and click adventure. While authors are beholden to the almighty word-count and thus, system-immanently reliant on such simplifications, I know of a lot of GMs who really, really are annoyed by this.

This humble series, this booklet, radically ENDS this phenomenon once and for all. You loot something? You’ll find weird and personal knick-knacks basically EVERYWHERE. This not only makes the cursed trinket you successfully smuggled into the possession of the party harder to spot, it also vastly enhances the believability of the campaign world you so lavishly depict in your game – in short, it represents a huge immersion boost, even if the items are not (or only slightly) magical.

More than that, fetishes, strange objects, keys, mementos and artworks can represent hooks and pieces of indirect storytelling themselves, potentially sparing you the annoying exposition dumps some GMs find themselves heaping upon their players; in short, the trinkets let the PCs do the thinking, talking, discussing -and if you listen, you may well draw some serious inspiration from the speculation going on – I know that’s how I’ve improvised more than one module when I didn’t have the time to prepare.

Anyways, as you may have surmised at this point, this book contains the individual components of the “I loot the Body!”-series: Namely, the eponymous original pdf, the installments on looting clerics, druids, rogues, minions, warriors and wizards as well as the installment on looting bags of holding – basically all the big installments, presented in alphabetical order. Now, I have written reviews for all of them, so if you require detailed guidance, I’ll point you to those.

In case you do not want to look them up: The review situates all of these files in the high and highest echelons of my rating system – Raging Swan press provides a nice diversity between the mundane and weird in these extensive tables. We generally have tables for outfits, class-specific knick-knacks and pouch-contents –all modified for the respective needs. Minions get a keepsake table,, druids natural accoutrements – you get the idea.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a wide-variety of thematically-fitting b/w-artwork, though fans of Raging Swan Press will be familiar with some pieces. The pdf version does come in two iterations: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer – big kudos! Beyond that, the pdfs do come with excessive bookmarks, helping you to navigate to the proper table with a single click.

Kat Evans, Taylor Hubler, Eric Hindley, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham have created great individual files, no doubt; but much like in the fantastic GM’s Miscellany Dungeon Dressing and Wilderness Dressing books, having all the pieces in one hand tome simply beats the sheets of individual paper. Flip it open, roll, and never look back; never experience boring “mundane” treasure again! Now, it should be noted that these tables are not for specific creatures or contexts – they provide loot for pretty wide categories, so if you’re looking for the hyper-specific, well, you won’t find that here. If you do look for an inspiring book that will increase your GM-prowess, though, then get this! In fact, I’d advise in favor of the print version, just for the convenience of it and the sheer satisfaction of having this booklet open while gaming.

In short: This is a really great, basically system neutral tome of cool dressing, well worth getting. My final verdict thus clocks in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation. The only reason I’m not also slapping my EZG Essential-tag on this great dressing booklet would be its brevity – if it featured a smattering of all the small tables for more specific looting as well, this’d be even more non-optional than it already is. A great GM-tool indeed.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: I Loot the Body
Click to show product description

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Publisher Reply:
In short: This is a really great, system neutral tome of cool dressing, well worth getting. My final verdict thus clocks in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation.
Echelon Reference Series: Cleric/Oracle Spells Compiled (3pp+PRD) [BUNDLE]
Publisher: Echelon Game Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2017 04:18:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, this massive reference-TOME clocks in at 580 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 9 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a staggering 566 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, first things first – this is a reference work and I will rate it as such; it also represents a compilation of spells for the cleric/oracle classes and as such, there are constituent files for the respective spell-levels available, in case this colossal compilation breaks your bank.

As you may have gleaned from the title, this book not only contains the PRD spells, but also contains a vast array of 3pp spells from a wide variety of different sources, making this one of the most massive comprehensive spell-sources you’re likely to find anywhere. It should also be noted that the warpriest, employing the cleric spell-list, is mentioned and explained in the beginning.

Now it would take me ages to analyze all spells contained in this massive tome – and it’d be redundant, considering the sheer amount of options I have already reviewed for PFRPG. And frankly, it would not do the book justice. Instead, I will focus on the organizational paradigms employed herein and how actually useful this massive compilation is.

The first thing you’ll note will be the presentation: The pdf actually openly explains how the different iteration of a given book are assembled – from “RAF” (Rough and fast) to WIP and final, the pdf is open with ho its pricing etc. works, also for bundles. From a customer perspective, including this information, while something rarely seen, is very fair and deserves applause.

Now, if you have access to a wide variety of sources (or employ various books from different publishers in the compilation), there is bound to be some redundancy – this pdf freely and openly acknowledges this and explains it via the example of competing Extra Challenge(s) feats. To make the identification of such instances simpler, the book establishes name/company initials as a means of differentiating between such instances. If an element has been superseded, the newer version is kept, the older dropped and ultimately, the PRD takes precedence over competing iterations.

After explaining the basic spellcasting proceedings for the cleric, oracle and warpriest classes, including spells per day tables, we move on to the spell-list. Each individual spell sports the brownish bubble-header and sports a bubble-like line to encompass the rules-text of the spell, making it evident at one glance where a spell begins and the next ends.

But let’s take a step back and look at the organization of the spell-list: First, spells are organized by school; Abjuration, Conjuration, etc. – within each school, they are depicted in alphabetical order. There is something even more important to the spell-list, though: The document is internally hyperlinked. You click on a spells and poof, you’re there. This organization not only helps to find and compile spells to make specialists, the hyperlinking makes the use of this colossal tome actually pretty comfortable – more so than I would have imagined.

The full versions of the spells are organized differently – they once again are organized by spell level, so we have all orisons first, then all 1st-level spells – you get the idea. Within each such spell-level section, the spells have been organized in alphabetical order. “But endy,” you say, “What if I know the NAME (or a part thereof, like “accursed”) of the spell, but not the level??” Well, the pdf has you covered there as well: 19 massive pages of this book are devoted to a meticulously crafted index, a must-have for books of this size.

In case you were wondering – yes, both the spell list AND the index actually note the respective 3pp-abreviations in their headers, meaning you won’t have to do guess-work there either. In short: The organization of these spells is pretty impressive and the book, as a whole, makes using vast amounts of spells so much simpler.

In short: The organization is sensible, concise and well-made – this says exactly what it does on the tin.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, but more importantly, the organizational paradigms employed make sense. Layout adheres to a functional, efficient two-column standard with brown bubbles and hyperlinks in blue – as a whole, this should not empty the ink/toner. The pdf has bookmarks for each of the spell-levels (but not by letters). The index is exhaustive and really helpful, and so is the internal hyperlinking.

Keith Davies’ massive spell-compilation is really, really helpful – its organization is great and it covers a metric ton of spells; how redundancy, if any, is handled, deserves a big plus; similarly, if you’re not allowing material from a specific publisher, you’ll be able to tell at a glance. All of these are big plusses, as far as I’m concerned.

There is one thing I was missing from an organization point of view, but that may be me. I would have enjoyed a list of spells by [descriptor] as well – you know, when you’re planning for a campaign, try to make a thematic specialist, etc. It’s a minor thing, but with it, this would pretty much have covered all I could have asked of it. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Echelon Reference Series: Cleric/Oracle Spells Compiled (3pp+PRD) [BUNDLE]
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Echelon Reference Series: Cleric/Oracle Spells Compiled (3pp+PRD)
Publisher: Echelon Game Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2017 04:16:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, this massive reference-TOME clocks in at 580 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 9 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a staggering 566 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, first things first – this is a reference work and I will rate it as such; it also represents a compilation of spells for the cleric/oracle classes and as such, there are constituent files for the respective spell-levels available, in case this colossal compilation breaks your bank.

As you may have gleaned from the title, this book not only contains the PRD spells, but also contains a vast array of 3pp spells from a wide variety of different sources, making this one of the most massive comprehensive spell-sources you’re likely to find anywhere. It should also be noted that the warpriest, employing the cleric spell-list, is mentioned and explained in the beginning.

Now it would take me ages to analyze all spells contained in this massive tome – and it’d be redundant, considering the sheer amount of options I have already reviewed for PFRPG. And frankly, it would not do the book justice. Instead, I will focus on the organizational paradigms employed herein and how actually useful this massive compilation is.

The first thing you’ll note will be the presentation: The pdf actually openly explains how the different iteration of a given book are assembled – from “RAF” (Rough and fast) to WIP and final, the pdf is open with ho its pricing etc. works, also for bundles. From a customer perspective, including this information, while something rarely seen, is very fair and deserves applause.

Now, if you have access to a wide variety of sources (or employ various books from different publishers in the compilation), there is bound to be some redundancy – this pdf freely and openly acknowledges this and explains it via the example of competing Extra Challenge(s) feats. To make the identification of such instances simpler, the book establishes name/company initials as a means of differentiating between such instances. If an element has been superseded, the newer version is kept, the older dropped and ultimately, the PRD takes precedence over competing iterations.

After explaining the basic spellcasting proceedings for the cleric, oracle and warpriest classes, including spells per day tables, we move on to the spell-list. Each individual spell sports the brownish bubble-header and sports a bubble-like line to encompass the rules-text of the spell, making it evident at one glance where a spell begins and the next ends.

But let’s take a step back and look at the organization of the spell-list: First, spells are organized by school; Abjuration, Conjuration, etc. – within each school, they are depicted in alphabetical order. There is something even more important to the spell-list, though: The document is internally hyperlinked. You click on a spells and poof, you’re there. This organization not only helps to find and compile spells to make specialists, the hyperlinking makes the use of this colossal tome actually pretty comfortable – more so than I would have imagined.

The full versions of the spells are organized differently – they once again are organized by spell level, so we have all orisons first, then all 1st-level spells – you get the idea. Within each such spell-level section, the spells have been organized in alphabetical order. “But endy,” you say, “What if I know the NAME (or a part thereof, like “accursed”) of the spell, but not the level??” Well, the pdf has you covered there as well: 19 massive pages of this book are devoted to a meticulously crafted index, a must-have for books of this size.

In case you were wondering – yes, both the spell list AND the index actually note the respective 3pp-abreviations in their headers, meaning you won’t have to do guess-work there either. In short: The organization of these spells is pretty impressive and the book, as a whole, makes using vast amounts of spells so much simpler.

In short: The organization is sensible, concise and well-made – this says exactly what it does on the tin.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, but more importantly, the organizational paradigms employed make sense. Layout adheres to a functional, efficient two-column standard with brown bubbles and hyperlinks in blue – as a whole, this should not empty the ink/toner. The pdf has bookmarks for each of the spell-levels (but not by letters). The index is exhaustive and really helpful, and so is the internal hyperlinking.

Keith Davies’ massive spell-compilation is really, really helpful – its organization is great and it covers a metric ton of spells; how redundancy, if any, is handled, deserves a big plus; similarly, if you’re not allowing material from a specific publisher, you’ll be able to tell at a glance. All of these are big plusses, as far as I’m concerned.

There is one thing I was missing from an organization point of view, but that may be me. I would have enjoyed a list of spells by [descriptor] as well – you know, when you’re planning for a campaign, try to make a thematic specialist, etc. It’s a minor thing, but with it, this would pretty much have covered all I could have asked of it. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Echelon Reference Series: Cleric/Oracle Spells Compiled (3pp+PRD)
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Echelon Reference Series: Clerics (3pp+PRD)
Publisher: Echelon Game Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2017 04:14:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This colossal reference-book clocks in at 542 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 9 pages of SRD, 1 page echelon reference dashboard, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a staggering 527 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, first things first – this is a reference work and I will rate it as such. This book focuses on the cleric and my review is based on the iteration that is based on both PRD and 3pp-material from a wide array of different sources. After a brief introduction, we begin with the cleric at a glance, including class skills by attribute, class features and the like; Rite Publishing’s by now venerable Divine Channeler is also listed in such a way.

From these base classes, we move on to the archetypes – these are provided alphabetically, noting their respective sources under the header, making it pretty easy to determine sources for them at one glance. Now, the respective class features have their name, their header if you will, in brown bubbles, with the type of the ability noted for each of them – also, available at a glance in a rather efficient way of presenting the material at hand. In a similar register card-like protrusion atop the bubble, we also have notes for the level in question where the ability is first gained – this is particularly helpful when an ability like channel energy is only partially replaced – to take a random example: The evangelist gets channel energy at 3rd level, losing a few of the progression steps in favor of sermonic performance, so the class feature bubble notes a “3.”

Slightly odd when first reading such a book: Below each bubble is the source of the respective ability noted as well – but there’s a reason for this! On another note: While the rules-formatting of the book is really impressive for a tome of this size, I did encounter e.g. references to cure/inflict spells that are not italicized – cosmetic, but hey – I do have to complain at least a bit, right?

Now, if you want something with more of a go-play angle and considered the application of archetypes to a given class work, then you will really enjoy the next chapter – cleric archetype classes basically presents the cleric class with the archetype in question already applied; presentation adheres to the same principles as the base class-depiction – at a glance summary, full information, breakdown by class feature. Each new class/archetype combo begins on a new page, btw. – on one hand, this means that you’ll have a few pages with some serious blank space, but on a plus-side, you can save ink/toner when just printing out one class/Archetype-combo – this makes the section rather helpful, as far as I’m concerned. So yeah, for me, saving ink/toner trumps coping with a bit of white space.

It is also here that you’ll probably get why abilities note their sources: archetype class combos note sources for the base class as well as for the supplemental rules-material used in making the respective combination.

But what if you want to look up a cleric concept by class feature? Well, chapter 3 has you covered: It lists the class features alphabetically (with type and level) and then proceeds to sport the class name/cleric archetype that sports the feature below it in an extra bubble – this is really helpful, though it would have probably been even more helpful with internal hyperlinking to the respective archetype or archetype class-combo. When a class feature is modified, you’ll find the modifications under their own sub-bubble denoting the archetype in question, which is really neat.

Now, I really loved this in the Barbarian-installment, but both class features and feats have helpful feat/ability-chain diagrams illustrating connections – channel energy + domain, for example…and here, we have the extremely helpful hyperlinks once again, so yeah, maximum utility achieved. (it should be noted that class features from other classes are NOT included in the book and thus, not hyperlinked – but that was to be expected and should not be taken as criticism of the pdf!) And yes, when applicable, level bubbles are included here as well! And yes, e.g. the divine channeler gets his own flow-chart-style diagram!

Interesting, btw.: Not all content herein is drawn from external sources – there are some domains, for example, that reference Echelon Explorations: New Domains – a book not available/released as per the writing of this review; this references the concept of hybrid domains, which is intriguing enough, though, as a minor nitpick, the second such example hybrid featured is missing the “1” in the first-level spell notation of domain spells gained and said domaijn also lacks the level-bubbles for the class abilities gained; not a big hassle, since the information is still within the text itself, but still worth mentioning.

Subdomains are provided with the base domain noted behind “/” in the header, which, once again, is useful; it would be even more useful, however, if the specifically noted parent domain had been internally hyperlinked – something that btw. also holds true for the exalted domains featured herein and their respective subdomains. Parent-domains listing and linking their subdomains with hyperlinks would have also imho improved how easily and quickly this chapter can be used.

The pdf also features variant channeling, with each of the entries listing both heal and harm options for your convenience; however, once again, the variant channeling options have not been hyperlinked to switch between the respective domain and its variant channeling – while I am a big proponent of the variant channeling having its own chapter, from a comfort point of view, internal switching between the two would have made sense to me.

In the section covering feats, we have some serious comfort, though. The book goes above and beyond, with feat-chain diagrams/flow-charts and feats noting domain channeling, when appropriate, in the appropriate bubbles. The book also contains a massive spell-list (though not the spells themselves – they have their own reference-installment) and the pdf moves on to a massive array of diverse NPCs for various CRs – some of these do note the racial traits of the respective race, but not all of the builds come with this supplemental information. In some cases, multiple statblocks of the same NPC are provided for various levels – namely Delfina Ambrosi’s stats.

The massive pdf also features a huge index spanning no less than 24 pages that help finding the respective abilities, feats, etc. even quicker. Beyond these, there is a massive 3-pages index that notes the location of the helpful, aforementioned diagrams.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good and impressive for a tome of this size, though I did notice a couple of minor hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to an efficient two-column standard that is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf comes with excessive, nested bookmarks for your convenience and makes, combined with the indices, the navigation pretty simple. The pdf does feature a significant amount of internal hyperlinks, but not as many as I’d have liked.

Keith Davies’ massive reference book of cleric options is a great reference tome that helps collate a ton of information; it achieves its intended goal and makes for a well-made offering that should reduce the (electronic) book-keeping required at the table. It is a system-immanent issue that domains can’t be hyperlinked to spells (combining both books would exceed 1K pages!), but I was a bit disappointed to see the lack of internal hyperlinking between domains & subdomains – that would have added some seriously nice comfort beyond what’s already provided. The diagrams for the respective ability- and feat-chains make for a helpful offering, though.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this massive reference tome – we have a helpful tome here, though one that falls slightly short of some comfort it could have provided. Hence, my final verdict will represent that – to me, this is a 4.5-stars-pdf, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Echelon Reference Series: Clerics (3pp+PRD)
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Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class - Possessed
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2017 04:11:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

The possessed is a hybrid of medium and witch and gains. Chassis-wise, d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and light shields (interesting differentiation that we don’t see often). Armor heavier than light imposes spell failure chance. The possessed casts arcane spells drawn from the custom spell-list of the class. The class is a full caster, gaining access to all 9 spell levels and casts spells spontaneously, with Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute. The class gets knacks at 1st level and receives ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Will-saves. In a minor complaint, the 20th level entry has a superfluous “+6” in the 20th level entry’s BAB-column. It should be noted that 4th level yields the protected vessel ability, which nets a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves and saving throw against possession effects and mind-affecting effects not related to possession, which increases by +1 at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter.

3rd level provides a witch or shaman hex, but not those granted by shaman spirits. Shaman hexes with the same name as a witch hex similarly can’t be chosen – nice catches there. Hex saves are governed by Intelligence.

The possessed is very much defined by her patron spirit, which is chosen at first level. Patrons get a patron bonus that starts off at +1 and increases by +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The bonus also affects her favored spells and her favored hex. Which brings me to the whole possession angle: You see, the favored spells act very much like patron spells –one for every odd spell level. The patron’s favored hex is gained at 1st level and may only be used when the patron is in control, but the patron bonus is added to the level of the possessed to determine the effects and DC of the hex. Beneficial hexes instead extend their duration by patron bonus rounds.

What is that about this whole control angle? Well, a possessed may surrender her control of her body to the patron as a free action during her turn (nice catch!) to let the patron assume control – the patron has full access to the possessed’s spells and abilities and acts in the interests of its theme and host. The patron may seize control when threatened – upon failing a save, being critically hit or reduced to ½ maximum hit points or below, the character must succeed a Will save versus 10 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier to remain in control. Patrons cannot be good, but detect the possessed’s alignment and not that of the patron, which can provide some seriously cool roleplaying opportunities, baked right into the framework of the class. Whenever targeted by an anti-possession or dispel/suppression effect targets the possessed, as a full-round action or when becoming unconscious, the possessed regains control. While in control, the patron adds patron bonus to saves versus exorcism-like effects and the like.

Patrons also all provide a class skill for the possessed, with some offering choice between options. However, the mortal frame is not made to house potent patrons – after all, otherwise there’d be no mechanical incentive to not be under the patron’s sway. Thus, patrons assuming control comes with a detrimental factor – namely the so-called control curse: While under the control of the patron, the possessed suffers from a detrimental effect, which is governed by the patron in question…and these tend to be serious.

A total of 20 patrons are included in the deal, and the respective control curses tend to be serious: When you e.g. take a look at the Strength patron, you have a penalty of -2 to all mental ability-based checks and Will-saves. Death even prevents the replenishment of hit points via positive or negative energy (but explicitly NOT forms of hastened natural healing, just restorative energies!). Darkness partially blinds the possessed and makes her lose Dex-bonus to AC as well as a 20% miss chance for attacks with spells and weapons. So yes, patron-choice REALLY matters, much more than for the regular witch, and should be taken into consideration for the build from the get-go. HOWEVER, there is also an associated benefit while the patron is in control, beyond those mentioned before: You see, to take the example of darkness as a patron – it nets darkvision 60 ft. (+30 ft. if you already have darkvision), the patron bonus is applied to Perception and darkness spells and it also increases their DC to dispel. For the potent drawback of death, you get the patron bonus to Fortitude saves as well as CL checks made when casting necromancy spells.

Being possessed by the ethereal patron makes the possessed susceptible to attacks from material and ethereal plane, bit halves her damage output with weapons and spells that require an attack roll. On the plus-side for this serious drawback, we have patron bonus added to touch AC as a deflection bonus. Famine nets nonlethal damage each round, but also provides some serious skill bonuses – as a whole, the total packages of the respective patrons, i.e. favored hex, boosts via patron bonus, drawbacks and favored spell selection provide meaningful alternate play modes – and some of them are really interesting: Space, for example, makes diagonal movement count as 10 ft. as a the control curse. So yeah, I like these!

As a capstone, the class increases this bonus to +6 and chooses one spell and one hex as additional favored hex and spell, respectively – she does add the patron bonus to these even when not surrendering control.

9 new hexes are included in the pdf – and they include a befuddling hex (which should probably be mind-affecting)…and some cool tricks. Take body portal, for example, which allows for the movement through a creature’s body on a failed save – only space, mind you, not reach, but particularly when dealing with big critters, this can be a nice, tactical advantage. As a minor complaint: Condemnation has a typo – it should be “affected”, not effected – oh, and the effect? Fewer than 0 hit points means you instantly DIE. No save. Ouch. Dimming lights, seeing the ethereal (reducing concealment), stealing darkvision or low-light vision…some intriguing options here.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed a few typo-level hiccups. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Steven T. Helt provides the most occult non-occult class I’ve seen so far. What do I mean by this? While billed as a medium/witch hybrid, its take on patrons changes them more into something akin to oracle-y options than medium spirits, at least in how the rules feel. That is not a bad thing, however, for the pdf does understand the design-tenets of occult classes – you see, we have baked in, meaningful play-modes and player agenda; we have roleplaying opportunities hardcoded into the class abilities and the actual playing experience is radically different from both medium and witch, providing a distinct, unique identity. It also plays and feels radically different from Purple Duck Games’ excellent Vessel hybrid, going a completely different way. Now I wished it came with FCOs or some more of these creative benefits and drawbacks, but oh well.

So yes, I do consider this to be a well-made, neat hybrid class well worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class - Possessed
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GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops I (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2017 04:09:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This compilation of Raging Swan Press' critically-acclaimed and well-received Village Backdrop-series is a massive 89 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of editorial/foreword, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 81 pages of content - so let's get this on, shall we?

Okay, first things first: This is NOT the same book as Village Backdrops I for Pathfinder! Instead, we have a different compilation on our hands. This is evident pretty much from the get-go, with a different page-count – but also with a slightly different organization and villages featured. The book, for example, begins with a brief chapter that should provide a helpful guide for GMs and prospective designers alike to make compelling villages, going through the process step by step, often with random tables to roll for sample names, general events to flesh out, etc. More importantly, the book notes important aspects from industry to history to contemplate and can help a GM keep his/her focus while designing. From basics like conflicts, flavor etc. to tables to determine government, alignment, prominent features, industry, population, notable buildings, conflicts and secrets, to 100 sample village names, 20 generic events and even 20 traditions, we essentially get all the tools to create iconic villages on the fly. This section really helps cutting down preparation/design-time, so kudos!

Now, there are some old acquaintances from the PFRPG book in this one: Plague-riddled Ashford, for example – ravaged by the bubonic plague, it is not a nice place to visit and its depiction is nice…and in the system-neutral iteration, I can’t well complain about a lack of bubonic plague stats, now, can I? However, there is another aspect worth mentioning for OSR-purists: The respective fluff-only NPC-write-ups, designed to give you a general inkling of the power-level of the respective beings, do use e.g. “wizard” or “rogue” as the classes referenced – while most GMs/referees won’t mind, some may be annoyed by not using “magic-user” and “thief”, respectively. This may be cosmetic, but it is an instant where the pdf is inconsistent with itself – some entries do use “thief” instead, though “magic-user” is nowhere to be found herein.

Thornhill, White Moon Cove and Longbridge make for other villages that are shared by the 5e and PFRPG-iteration. Beyond these, however, other villages that have since been released for 5e have been included, like the really atmospheric Wellswood, with its easy access to the lightless realms…

From there, we move on to Black Wyvern (which is easily the most boring of Raging Swan’s pirate-centric villages, alas) and then to the aptly-named, amazing Bleakflat. Coldwater, with its weird, deformed populace and evocative Kingsfell. Lanthorn, with its eponymous magical lights can also be found – and would be as well a place as any to note that, while it does sport a market place section, not all villages have one. Similarly, the magical lanterns that lend this place its unique flair could have used some mechanics or at least guidelines, as far as I’m concerned – the conversion of the crunchier bits falls by the wayside here and there…though e.g. the magical drugs in Suurin are properly covered and get some neat OSR-rules. Extra-kudos there!

Even then, the pdf has some real gems to offer – like Mike Welham’s rather amazing village of kinda friendly undead…oh, yeah, there’s this nasty curse-thingy going on…never mind that, all right? ;) Kidding aside, oddly, this one doesn’t get a marketplace section either. If you require a more in-depth break-down of the villages in question, please consult my individual reviews for their installments.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a neat two-column b/w-standard that is easy on the eyes and printer-friendly. The pdf sports an impressive array of great b/w-artwork and the cartography provided for the respective villages is amazing. As a pdf, the book comes in two versions, with one being particularly printer-friendly and one optimized for screen-use. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. I cannot comment on the print version, since I do not own it.

Creighton Broadhurst, Richard Green, Marc Radle, Jeff Gomez and Mike Welham are all talented writers – that much is evident at first glance when reading the intriguing villages collected in this compilation. The villages, in short, adhere to Raging Swan Press’s high quality standards and all have several unique angles to use in the game. The system neutral version has the advantage of me not being able to criticize inconsistencies among marketplace sections and lack of crunchy bits, sure – but the minor nomenclature inconsistencies, already present in the constituent files, could easily have been purged or at least unified.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a great collection of evocative villages, but at the same time, it feels like it could have used a final, unifying pass t make sure that the minor hiccups have all been purged. This does not make this compilation anything less than inspiring, sure, but it remains a nagging hiccup that irks me more than it probably should. If you liked what I had to say about the respective, formidable villages, but haven’t gotten them yet, then consider this to be a must-own book. If you have them already and hoped for a final improvement for the print-compilation, though – well, then you may end up disappointed at a very high level. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops I (SNE)
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Thanks for the review, old chum. I'm glad you liked the compilation, but sad we didn't knock it out of the park this time. Thanks again!
GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops I (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2017 04:06:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This compilation of Raging Swan Press' critically-acclaimed and well-received Village Backdrop-series is a massive 89 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of editorial/foreword, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 81 pages of content - so let's get this on, shall we?

Okay, first things first: This is NOT the same book as Village Backdrops I for Pathfinder! Instead, we have a different compilation on our hands. This is evident pretty much from the get-go, with a different page-count – but also with a slightly different organization and villages featured. The book, for example, begins with a brief chapter that should provide a helpful guide for GMs and prospective designers alike to make compelling villages, going through the process step by step, often with random tables to roll for sample names, general events to flesh out, etc. More importantly, the book notes important aspects from industry to history to contemplate and can help a GM keep his/her focus while designing. From basics like conflicts, flavor etc. to tables to determine government, alignment, prominent features, industry, population, notable buildings, conflicts and secrets, to 100 sample village names, 20 generic events and even 20 traditions, we essentially get all the tools to create iconic villages on the fly. This section really helps cutting down preparation/design-time, so kudos!

Now, there are some old acquaintances from the PFRPG book in this one: Plague-riddled Ashford, for example – ravaged by the bubonic plague, it is not a nice place to visit and its depiction is nice…though I do wish the pdf had included 5e-stats for the bubonic plague that’s ravaging the place. Thornhill, White Moon Cove and Longbridge make for other villages that are shared by the 5e and PFRPG-iteration. Beyond these, however, other villages that have since been released for 5e have been included, like the really atmospheric Wellswood, with its easy access to the lightless realms…

From there, we move on to Black Wyvern (which is easily the most boring of Raging Swan’s pirate-centric villages, alas) and then to the aptly-named, amazing Bleakflat. Coldwater, with its weird, deformed populace and evocative Kingsfell. Lanthorn, with its eponymous magical lights can also be found – and would be as well a place as any to note that, while it does sport a market place section, not all villages have one. Similarly, the magical lanterns that lend this place its unique flair could have used some mechanics, as far as I’m concerned – the conversion of the crunchier bits falls by the wayside here and there…though e.g. the magical drugs in Suurin are properly covered.

Even then, the pdf has some real gems to offer – like Mike Welham’s rather amazing village of kinda friendly undead…oh, yeah, there’s this nasty curse-thingy going on…never mind that, all right? ;) Kidding aside, oddly, this one doesn’t get a marketplace section either. If you require a more in-depth break-down of the villages in question, please consult my individual reviews for their installments.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a neat two-column B/w-standard that is easy on the eyes and printer-friendly. The pdf sports an impressive array of great b/w-artwork and the cartography provided for the respective villages is amazing. As a pdf, the book comes in two versions, with one being particularly printer-friendly and one optimized for screen-use. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. I cannot comment on the print version, since I do not own it.

Creighton Broadhurst, Richard Green, Marc Radle, Jeff Gomez and Mike Welham are all talented writers – that much is evident at first glance when reading the intriguing villages collected in this compilation. The villages, in short, adhere to Raging Swan Press’s high quality standards and all have several unique angles to use in the game. That being said, I am not 100% satisfied with the 5e-conversions in all of them – the missing plague, for example, and the inconsistent supplemental material provided can make for valid reasons to complain against this compilation – basically, the weaker aspects of the original files have not been overhauled for this. That being said, this is still a more than worthy offering; there is a lot of amazing gaming material herein. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, though I feel I have to round down for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops I (5e)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review, old chum. I'm glad you liked the compilation, but sad we didn't knock it out of the park this time. Thanks again!
Wizard's Academy
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2017 05:48:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, this massive module & bestiary clock in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping219 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we dive into the module: If you are only interested in the bestiary section, which takes up 124 pages of the pdf, you should know that it is available as a stand-alone file, as "Fantastical Creatures and How to Survive Them - A Student's Guide for Adventure & Study." If you want to know about these creatures and what I think about them, please consult my review of that tome - the combined reviews should provide the information you need for an informed decision.

The next thing you need to know before we get into the nit and grit of this module would be that this is very much a highly modular book: This is reflected in the villain choice, who is randomly determined for massive replay value. Adding further to that would be the tiers: The book features color-coded boxes for 5 tiers and different objectives for players, depending on the raw power-level:

Tier encompasses levels 1-4; tier 2covers levels 5 - 8; tier 3 levels 9 - 12, tier 4 levels 12 - 16 and tier 5 levels 17 - 20. So yeah, you may run this module in a wildly different way, multiple times, if you're so inclined. It should also be noted, in case you're not aware of that, that this module makes ample use of the Spheres of Power system.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Windfell Academy is situated on the world of Skybourne and can relatively easily be used in any world that has a sufficiently prominent and organized magic tradition - as such, it fits best with high fantasy worlds. But the academy is different from regular schools: One look at the stats for the professors should make clear that this is quite probably THE wizard's academy of the world. They pretty much almost all clock in at epic CR 20s, with the headmaster transcending even their mighty powers. The academy circles the planet atop a massive, floating island...and it specializes in secondary education, which, yes, means that this place is for the pros. As such student disappearances are not really uncommon - but lately, they have been happening more often...and a month ago, none other than the headmaster has vanished!!

The deputy headmaster, the tiny gnome archmage Tocs has vowed to keep the school open...but the headmaster needs to be found...and it is quite likely that the PCs, enrolled as students, will have all of their hands full with the rigorous studying required - here, the module is somewhat reminiscent of Persona, in that tiredness, end of the week tests, classes and adventuring have to be managed by the party. A teacher will be designated ally, one villain, and this constellation influences directly the read-aloud text and respective interaction that the various events that are interspersed throughout the module's day-to-day-routine. These events also include tests of various types of prowess and may yield information, magical items, etc.

The module also allows for the gathering of rumors, provided your time-management skills are up to par, and a small cadre of supporting cast characters, no less colorful than the amazing Profs, makes for a nice help. Speaking of them: Beyond the stat-information provided in the bestiary section, the respective professor entries sport the villain clues...and in e.g. the tier 5 scenarios, they have the Great Ally - a vastly powerful wildcard that makes their threat even more potent. Better yet, the colorful and intriguing Professors, amazing characters one and all, feature valid justifications for being both allies, villains or neutral parties - the module manages to retain its internal logic in all of the characters. Impressive indeed!

The academy, just fyi, covers no less than 4 floors and 2 dungeon levels (all featured on player-friendly maps denoting the respective areas - for they ARE the regular spaces of the academy) - and now that the basic set-up of the plotline has been customized, the adventuring can begin...though it should be noted that the surrounding landscape is also properly mapped...and that is not even the primary adventuring locale, for there are levels of secret dungeons under the academy - abandoned, at least seemingly, and teeming with dangerous threats, powerful foes and highly modular challenges. the dungeon-levels are massive, their effects are creative and diverse...and with rooms like vampire kitchens, abomination fighting arenas and the like, are certain to remain with the players long after the module is done.

Now here is the truly amazing aspect of the respective modularity: Each of the professors has his/her own lair - a final mini-dungeon, if you will - and these are fully mapped in gorgeous full-color as well - and yes, they are befitting of the respective personality! From caverns with underground rivers to floating castles, mighty workshops and the like, the respective boss lair-mini-dungeons are highly hackable and easy to use as stand-alone, smaller dungeons.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports solid, sketchbook-like artworks, which in particular make the bestiary section really feel like a field guide - it is an acquired taste, though, and will not sit 100% well with everyone. The cartography in full-color is excellent, though I do wish we got key-less versions to hand out to players slowly and in pieces...or VTT-maps, something like that - particularly since quite a bunch of the maps are really, really nice. This constitutes my own serious complaint against this pdf.

Adam Meyers, with Andrew Stoeckle, Derfael Oliveira, Michael Uhland, Douglas Schaub, John Little and Casey Hayes, has created a massive, extremely modular adventure/ supplement that really surprised me.

Why? Because I really, really hate Harry Potter. I am not the biggest fan of the magic school trope. But this one is amazing - it is bonkers, creative and the unique professors and personalities are thoroughly captivating. The schedule and time management issues, the modularity - all of these potentially enhance the value of this book...oh, and as a bonus, it manages to feel a bit like playing a Persona game. Heck, I bet I could easily craft a whole campaign against the backdrop of this module and its evocative academy - add characters, students, etc. and there you go! Additional dungeons and materials are similarly easily sprinkled in, blending to a degree the boundaries between module and campaign setting. Particularly as a high-level module, when you get to use the cool NPCs and high-level threats, this really shines.

In short: This is well worth getting! The colorful NPCs and creative monsters and the modular set-up make this a really interesting offering that has plenty to offer beyond the plotline it features. In short: I really love this. If you're using Spheres of Power, then this is pretty much a no-brainer-purchase...and even if you don't, this may be worth it for scavenging-purposes. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, with only the lack of player-friendly maps costing this my seal of approval. Well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizard's Academy
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Fantastical Creatures & How to Survive Them: A Student's Guide for Adventure and Study
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2017 05:45:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive bestiary clocks in at 130 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than 124 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this supplement, true to its premise, with an in-character introduction - this book is very much crafted as a kind of field notebook of creatures, with prose featured as a framing device and Winterlynn Graysun, graduate of Windfell Academy, as the narrative voice framing the content herein.

Which brings me to something to bear in mind: This bestiary is actually included in the massive "Wizard's Academy"-adventure, also released by Drop Dead Studios. If you want to get the adventure, skip this book - its contents are included in the module! This stand-alone file is provided, properly designated, for all those of you who are interested in these critters, but not the adventure.

If I have not dropped the ball big time, you should see this and the adventure-review hit sites at the same time, so make sure to check out the adventure-review as well to make an informed decision!

Now the next thing you need to know is that this bestiary makes ample use of the Spheres of Power-rules. While usable without them in a somewhat restricted manner, to get all out of this, you need that book. D'unh. I know. It's like saying "Beware, the psionics bestiary requires psionics!" - Still, if I don't say such things in the preface, someone is bound to complain.

All right, that out of the way, the creatures herein range, CR-wise, from a lowly CR 1/4 all the way up to an impressive CR 25, with particularly the higher levels sporting quite a few nasty adversaries - due to the adventure being highly modular and the bosses...well being plentiful.

But let us get back to the matter at hand, namely the framing device of the narrator, which does a rather nice job at rendering this book a better read than you'd honestly expect it to be - it does not read like simple a massive collection of stats, which, to me, is a big plus. The first array of creatures herein deals with the wonderfully twisted abominations, failed, dangerous experiments of the academy's experiments: In this section, we find the mighty, alteration-sphere using dragon horror, which can use it to grant itself lethal enhancements to its already potent physical attacks.

Abominations are indeed interesting creatures - horror #9, for example, is significantly more tactical than you'd expect - it can eat foes, sure - but it is immune to two of the physical damage types: Damage from one of these types causes it to split! And yes, we actually do get stats for the smaller, split versions. I really like this callback to old-school gaming and splitting foes. Horror #17, a plant-like golem-thing with access to both plant and dark spheres makes for another dangerous foe...but it pales before...Mr. Mouth!

Perfect example of "wizards doing horrible things", it is a mindless, ever-hungry thing of mouths, an aberrant, lunging, roughly humanoid mouth-thing. In spite of the sketch-like artwork...this thing is seriously creepy! On the celestial side, we are introduced to the avenger archon in various statblock iterations as well as the choir and herald angel variant with their potent sound-abilities. The virtuous, caring counterpart to the succubae, the caring primary also makes for an angel that seriously should probably have been made much sooner - and the wife of Gideon makes for a cool high-level variant of said being. Speaking of angels - yep, there is a version of the solar here. Yes, he will END you.

While we're at the subject of "end" - the book does cover a nice version of the psychopomp and adds some seriously nice lore via the meta-narrative here. Did you know that it makes a difference if they come with hoods raised or lowered? From here, we move towards the construct chapter, where we are introduced to the colossus subtype, which is defined, among others, by being REALLY BIG...and by having an elemental soul. No less than three variants of Mark I are provided (CR 7, 10 and 15), while the smaller, spider-like Mark II can alter its physical composition...and then there is Mark V. CR 24, dubbed "God-killer" it has cannon-fingers, is very, very strong...and outside of combat it brews a mean cup of tea and is fond of riddles...yeah. Did not see that coming, did you? I told you the pdf's creatures gain a lot by the well-written prose!

There also are cyborgs, though these do not use the Technology Guide rules, instead using the spheres system to represent their abilities. The book also contains a selection of synthetic lifeforms. Experimental golems made of shadow, telekinetic force or raw magic can also be found...but weirder would be time toys. Which self-replicate, ostensibly by stealing time!

The book also covers fey, providing takes on leprechauns (in 3 variants), nymphs (in 5 variants - including star nymphs!!), 6 satyr variants (including the NASTY demi-god satyr-king)...and the book does feature an array of different infernals as well, ranging from the nightmare-themed alp to variant cambions to corrupters, dealmakers, imps, the mighty Cr 19 merchants of hell, CR 23 Charon...and succubae - including some interesting notes on the nature of incubi.

In the section on magical beasts, we learn about echo bats, the GIM (Giant Invisible Mantis), unicorns and the planar-fabric manipulating warp spiders. Among the monstrous humanoids, we can find embodiments of the ID and the merps (heads with arms sticking out and nasty magical might), which are presented in a wide variety of power-levels.

At CR 20, the mighty bodhisattva comes with unique talents and a magic item associated with these semi-divine native outsiders, and two oni, 2 rakshasa, 2 yaksha and 2 yaoguai complement the exotic array of these folks.

Among the plants, things get weird - with clockwork vines that work not unlike machinery...and something that made me laugh incredibly hard. The Gazebo. (If you're not familiar with why this is hilarious, google it - it's a classic in-joke of roleplaying games...) The book also contains variants of guardian plants, the disturbing venus fisher (talking about nightmare-fuel there...)...that plant is NASTY. And it's smart.

On the undead-side, we get death knights and 3 variants of draugr...oh, and there is Janus, god of portals. CR 25. Don't mess with him. We also get variants of skeletal students...and from there, we move on to the mighty teachers of Windfell Academy.

They are worthy of being big bosses, one and all, and come with detailed notes. These guys include a lich in charge of healing and necromancy (who also tried to take over the world once, but that's long past...). Professor Clik, a clockwork automaton, claims she built herself...and she is no less powerful than the mighty lich. Oh, and yes, these guys and gals have unique artifacts and tricks galore up their sleeves.. There also would be a mighty black unicorn professor...and Fexmet. Professor fexmet is a ferret and was once a wizard's pet. It's a frickin' CR 20 ferret. The caretaker of the academy would btw. be Geemet, the goblin unchained rogue (including a living, intelligent dagger). The headmaster was once the hierophant druid...of the whole world. Professor Meeda would be the teacher of shapeshifting and battlemagic, and hence, her artwork depicts her as a winged, 4-armed reptilian. She also is LG. Oh, and there would be Savesha - a reformed succubus, who has managed to actually change her own TYPE. Yeah, she is one amazing character - and the presentation of her as a strong female character, all sans resorting to the seduction-trope, is pretty nice to see! There also would be a Tiny, venerable gnome Toc (don't ask about either height or age...) and professor windjina. A weremantis - and perhaps a former queen...and she is pretty much dangerous...the inverse of the reformed succubus, if you will.

The book closes with a list of universal monster rules and a handy appendix that groups the statblocks by CR.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue hiccups or issues. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a blend of sketch-like pencil-style drawings that actually first felt a bit jarring, but grew on me fast - the illusion of a field guide is enhanced by teh style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks.

Adam Meyers, with contributions from Andrew Stoeckle, Derfael Oliveira, Michael Uhland, Douglas Schaub, John Little and Casey Hayes, has created a bestiary that is much, much better than I hoped it would be. I expected this to be basically: "Let's convert critters to Spheres of power-the bestiary". It is so much more than that.

While there are conversions in this book that cover the basics, this stands out due to two things: 1) The unique creatures are absolutely amazing and evocative. 2) The book is a joy to read due to the framing device employed. I really had fun dissecting this tome of critters and more than once, I was inspired by the commentary. Oh, and the staff of the wizard's academy is inspired indeed. High-powered, mighty and creative, they are amazing, cool NPCs that ooze creativity and flavor. What more can you ask from a book like this? It should also be noted that the dangerous, whimsical and at the same time distinctly far-out nature of a Wizard's Academy is perfectly encompassed by the mighty NPCs herein - better than in pretty much any supplement on the subject matter I've read.

This is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and every campaign using Spheres of Power should at the very least get this bestiary, even if you don't want to run the module.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastical Creatures & How to Survive Them: A Student's Guide for Adventure and Study
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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #4 PF
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2017 05:11:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth part of the adventure series for the youngest of players (I’d recommend the series for ages 4 – 6, 8 at most) clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, ½ page advertisement, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure is designed for 2nd level characters and was moved up in my review-queue at the request of my patreons as a prioritized review.

..

.

The White Rabbit is up to his usual shenanigans – while being late, he panics and inadvertently locks the Duchess out of her own castle! It’ll be up to the players to provide the proper means for the distressed Duchess – who promptly and hilariously collapses into a chair while mumbling about rewards. The PCs have to open the door on the front and may encounter their first trap here – as a minor aside, damage type is not specified for triggering the trap. This, however, remains a minor glitch and the exploration is pretty cool:

From a bouncy step stairs to the gigantic ball pit that hides baby mimics (lavishly rendered in a neat piece of artwork!) and acts as an easy way to teach difficult terrain to players, to a tunnel maze, where you can hone the listening skills of the kids, the challenges are proper and pretty cool for kids. What about a room with teleporting tiles and mirror rays, flying hammerhead-shark like things with reflective skin. The absolute highlight of this evocative dungeon-crawl, though, would be a fun puzzle about tapping bunnies, providing a simple, color-coded puzzle. …too simple? Well, here is what sets this apart from lesser offerings. Perhaps you are one of the fortunate parents whose kids are really far advanced, gifted, interested in math, etc. – an alternate, pretty tough (for a kid’s module) math-based version is included for you! This really, really made me smile! And yes, hints and means to help solving the puzzles are provided.

Oh, and the pdf closes with a cool magic item: An enchanted stuffed teddy-bear that you can put down to attack nearby foes! And yes, its rules have been covered in a concise manner.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a GORGEOUS two-column full-color standard with the rabbit and Cheshire cat included as part of the layout. The pdf comes with neat, original full-color artworks and fully bookmarked for your convenience. The dungeon-complex map comes as a cool one-page print-out version that is player-friendly –not even the secret door is spoiled when you use it.

It’s been a while since I reviewed one of these and the waiting has really helped here. This is, by FAR, the best of the modules in this series: Each encounter is diverse, creative and perfect for younger audiences; each encounter has something interesting to offer. J Gray’s puzzle difficulties, hints and challenges herein really work well and each room sports another creative challenge, testing brains and brawns. The optional challenge-increase for truly gifted kids just adds icing to the awesome-cake. This is well worth getting and even if you’re mostly sitting out the series in favor of Playground Adventures’ other modules, contemplate getting this –with a bit of tweaking, this may well work for older kids as well. (Oh, and yes, you can make it a creepy module for adults, though it’ll require being upgraded regarding its difficulty.) This is really, really good – my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #4 PF
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Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2017 05:10:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This advice book clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis glyph inside of front cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, two of which are taken up by nice pieces of b/w-artwork, so let’s take a look!

It’s interesting, really – while there are plenty of GM books around, there are almost no player advice books. Sure, more math-intense systems have a lot of optimization guides, but what many folks forget, is that a good game is as much reliant on having great players as on having a great GM. Anyone who has played in a a Living Campaign will probably nod knowingly right then and there – I know that it took some seriously horrendous experiences gaming with strangers to appreciate my main campaign and faithful cadre of players…and similarly, playing with strangers did highlight the strengths and weaknesses of my own players…but that as an aside.

This pdf, thus, is focused on player advice and as such can be considered to be a companion booklet to Venger’s massive GM-advice book. The introduction to the matter at hand will most certainly sound true for many of us: Being a socially awkward person most certainly applies o many folks I’ve seen gaming…but at the same time, as the pdf notes, actually playing sans fear can help mitigate this factor. The pdf also notes that roleplaying is not supposed to be “blowing off steam” – well, it can actually have beneficent effects, reduce aggression, etc. – but at the same time, while it can have the therapeutic and benevolent effects on one’s psyche, roleplaying is a collective experience and trying to resolve one’s own psychic baggage while playing can compromise the fun of the group. The analogue ultimately taken here would be that of the lion tamer and lions – the GM being the lion tamer, the PCs the lions. While the metaphor may not apply perfectly, it suffices to convey the intent.

The pdf does explain how the GM is reliant on the players and how the players can attempt to be awesome, to wow the GM: These pieces of advice are actually very helpful: Not hogging the spotlight and making it count; attempting to move the plot forward, adhering to genre, staying in character, thinking creatively, using humor (hint: Endless, mood-breaking Monty Python references are not using humor properly…) and being badass. Compelling attention via the character is covered by 3 tenets based on the writing of LaVey, namely sex, sentiment and wonder – while there is no disputing their efficiency, I’d argue that, cleanly defined though they be, not all groups will be comfortable with them…and frankly, it seems very reductionist as far as I’m concerned.

One the more generally applicable list of things that is really helpful would be a brief character background checklist: What’s the occupation? Family? Hobbies? Ideological leanings? Any affiliations? And, taking a cue from 13th Age, the One Unique Thing your character should have, a distinguishing characteristic, birthmark, whatever. From there, we move on to considering defining internally what kind of person the character is and then take a look at three character archetypes, from loud and cool to quiet strength, with the third man in the middle, examples from pop-culture to drive home the respective points. Personally, I wished that this section could do without them, if only for file longevity’s sake, but that as an aside. The pdf also makes a case strongly in favor of sandbox gaming, as a very much player-driven experience – which is something I generally like, though some advice for players on how to keep such a game moving in the long term could help – in my experience, the main issue with sandbox campaigns tend to be the lulls when players at one point either don’t have clear goals or no idea of how to reach them. While this can be offset by a good GM, the number of sandbox campaigns I’ve seen fizzle out does mean that the like would probably have merited closer inspection.

On the plus side, if the GM is using bad hooks, the pdf champions telling this, fostering communication…but at the same time, it is easy to forget that some players, alas, take this to the logical extreme, feeling entitled for a custom hook for “their” motivation…which can bury a campaign, so a bit more nuance here would have been nice. Though, on a plus-side,the importance of communicating likes and dislikes is emphasized. How to properly improvise as a player, the rules of courtesy and appreciation for the GM are also noted…as is the fact that no GM, no group, can always be non-stop amazing…things even out, and that is okay…and using this acceptance to also gauge one’s own spotlight makes sense.

As an aside, ½ a page is used extolling the virtues of the OSR and how the author feels about aspects, splicing some advertisement in the section as well. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of such entries – while I get that an advice-book like this is bound to be opinionated aspects, I do not like the notion of bad fun/doing it wrong and this bleeds in some aspects here. Not too jarringly, mind you, but it does take up about half a page, which could imho have been filled better, considering the brevity of the file.

On the plus-side, the etiquette championed for playing (no mobile device check-ups, etc.) is something I dearly wished all players took to heart.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard with icky veins (neat!) and the pdf comes with a printer-friendly, second version – kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience (again: Kudos!), in spite of its brevity. The b/w-artworks of interior art are amazing.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ advice-booklet for players is nice; it is a helpful file to consider, it spells out many of the things that make players better and roleplaying with them more rewarding. At the same time, I do believe that the brevity of this booklet hurts its mission, namely because it fails to address the elephant in the room regarding player advice: You are not alone. While the booklet addresses a LOT of the dynamics between GM and players, it does not so much as begin to elaborate upon interaction between players and PCs. From this in my opinion crucial oversight stem potential issues: If every PC is “a fucking boss”, simply not hogging the spotlight alone doesn’t cut it – while player personality discrepancies help, ultimately, we have the issue that e.g. demanding proper tailored hooks can lead to conflicting notions of entitlement between players. Similarly, having too many iterations of one archetype is not necessarily conductive to a fulfilling experience. In short: The dynamics of the group and how to be a better player within the confines of that group, are not touched upon to a sufficient extent.

Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not a bad advice-pdf by any definition of the word and its content can prove to be rather helpful. It is generally well-presented etc. – but it does fall short of providing the level of coverage and insight I expected after the rather neat GM-book. As a whole, this can be considered to be a nice advice pdf for the player as a singular entity interacting with the GM, but not for the player as part of a social entity interacting with the GM. For me as a person, this represents a serious drawback. As a person, this was a 3 star-file for me; however, as a reviewer, I have an in dubio pro reo policy, and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
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5E Mini-Dungeon #034: Mysteries of the Endless Maze
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2017 05:07:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This is a ready to use portal-maze, but one with a twist: Upon entering one of the segments, you roll 1d4; on a 1, the segment's challenge is a riddle; #2 is a trap (4 of which are presented), #3 is a random monster (6 of which are available) and if a riddle is solved, the PCs can get one of 4 prizes. The riddles presented are brief, but not the lame old classics you will have seen before...unless you're really, really into riddles. If a segment of the maze has been completed, its portals activate. Critters defeated carry keystones and ultimately, these can be used to access the vault, where the nasty boss of the complex is awaiting alongside the sizable treasure. As a minor complaint, only the defeat of monsters will actually net keystones, which could have been handled slightly more flexibly. As a minor nitpick, I did notice a line of text missing blank spaces.

Conclusion:

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

Justin Andrew Mason's Mysteries of the Endless Maze is an amazing little puzzle-dungeon; it is not one of the annoying mazes that just frustrates players and has a smooth, nice progression rate, at least in my game it had. That being said, one minor nitpick is that you should carefully read how the dungeon works; due to the limited word-count available, its precise functions require a slight bit more observation on part of the GM. Not that it's opaque, mind you. The dungeon also has a nice replay value and whether as a maze in Sigil, as a sub-level, as the BBEG effing with the players - the complex has a ton of uses and can be inserted literally at any time and any place.

Kyle Crider's conversion to 5E manages to retain the cool nature of this dungeon and the foes are chosen well - though the massive loot the PCs can gain may be a bit overkill for the more conservative 5E-GMs out there...but that is cut down easily enough.

All in all, a well-crafted mini-dungeon worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #034: Mysteries of the Endless Maze
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Castle Falkenstein: The Ability Variations
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/18/2017 06:05:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplemental rules-pdf for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ ½ page of SRD, leaving us with 8.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, after a brief framing narration by Tom Olam (which resurfaces in the respective sub-chapters), we begin with the first of several tweaks to the base engine of Castle Falkenstein – in this instance, we’re introduced to the Specialization variant: Instead of general Ability capabilities, the system allows you to take a Good or Great ability and trade it in for Specializations, a number equal to ½ the value of the traded ability, with Good being worth 3, Great being worth 4 specializations. Specializations can be applied to any Ability in which the character is Poor or Average – the specialization increases the Ability by one step for the purpose of performing Feats that relate to the Specialization in question. Thankfully, a massive table (greater than 1 page!) provides sample specializations and also provides synergy with the great Tarot Variation suits – so no, you’re not left guessing regarding how narrow you should design Specializations. It should also be noted that compatibility with Comme Il Faut is maintained.

The second variation featured within the pdf would be the divorce variation, which once again features compatibility with the Tarot Variation. Each Ability is governed by a playing card suit, but with this variation, the Abilities allow for players making an argument of why a given suit may apply its bonus to a given task – in two variations: Half and full value. There is some value in this – you will probably be able to perform at an increased efficiency. However, while the Host remains the final arbitrator of what you can do, I really don’t like this one – it smells of FATE and competitive BSing to me, but, obviously, your mileage may vary and thankfully, we are the final instance that decides which of the rules herein to use and which not to – this will find its fans and it makes the game easier and while, as a person, I don’t care for it, as a reviewer, I can appreciate its appeal.

The final variation would be the improvement variation: In this variation, dramatic characters improve by spending Improvement Points. Hosts are guided in detail: You determine Deeds during the adventure, a kind of important waypoint and determine an Improvement Point value for such Deeds. Beyond the confines of adventures, dramatic characters may try to earn Improvement Points via Resolutions, which can be completed, but take time to complete, with each character getting one of these – the Resolutions can be similarly broken down into Deeds, with samples provided. The resolution allows, in a way, for downtime activity: Players really invested in their Dramatic Characters can thus be rewarded for e.g. writing copious amounts of prose – or you can simply control character power thus or provide an illusion of cohesion beyond the confines of the gaming sessions.

Once earned, Improvement Points can be spent to improve Abilities (cost being equal to the Ability’s new value). When also using Specializations, they can be used to purchase Specializations, which cost 6 points. An alternate for faster growth of dramatic characters can also be found, with decreased costs – and since the metrics are pretty simple, tweaking the variation remains very simple. If you’re concerned about justifying Improvement in-game, the pdf does provide guidance in that arena.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to fat Goblin Games’ elegant, really neat 2-column full-color artwork. The pdf features fitting stock-art and sports no bookmarks – due to its brevity, it does get a pass there.

Mister J Gray LOVES Castle Falkenstein – as much becomes evident in every single of his supplements. The means by which this establishes a continuity with the venerable original Castle Falkenstein books is amazing, and so is the quality. The variant rules presented herein for a measly buck allow you to tweak the playing experience very well and net an interesting array of customization options for the game. I hope the Talsorian-crew reads these reviews and lets the Fat Goblin Games-crew update the Castle Falkenstein-core books in a new edition – if anything, all these variations really make me crave a big, new and shiny book. This is a fun offering, it is VERY inexpensive and thus gains a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Ability Variations
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A Friend in Need 5E
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/18/2017 06:02:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved forward on my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

First of all, before I go into details: This module is intended for a younger audience - basically, this is intended to be a very kid-friendly module. To be more precise, for the age-range of about ~ 6 years. I ran the module in my playtest with a mixed group spanning the ages of 4 - 11 and the players that had most fun were those in the lower ages, so personally, I'd suggest this approximately for ages 4 - 8.

The adventure does take into account the changed requirements of the target demographic - namely by calling out when a good time for a break would be, when to guide them by incorporating suggestions into your "What do you do?"-questions, when to explain the discrepancy between character and player-knowledge...the like.

For parents not sure whether their kids can handle "killing" adversaries, an alternate wording is provided as well, with the defeated "returning home." The copious amounts of advice provided are generally not only welcome additions, they tend to be very sound.

Distribution of candy/gummibears used as monster-substitutes on the map is a pretty sound advice, since it prevents instances of jealousy and kill steals, while still providing immediate gratification. Puzzles, where included, do mention less complex alternatives for younger audiences and means for the GM to make how items work immediately evident-

All right! Children/players, in case you're reading this, please jump to the conclusion. No one likes a cheater and I'm going to explain the adventure now. If you continue reading, you'll only make the adventure boring for yourselves and have an unfair advantage that will be noticed by your GM. Please do what's right and jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

The monastery of the monks of the kneeling wind is a tribute to the elements and, visually inspired by Japanese aesthetics, well-represented by a truly beautiful full-color map. Alas, all things must end, and so did the time of the monks - and after they were gone, the crystal dragon Azhuryx chose this place to rear her precious wyrmling Kurisutaru. Alas, once again, trouble brewed and the mother dragon did not return from a hunt, leaving Kurisutaru terribly bored with only the companion soulbound doll left for him, yet cautious of strangers. One day, Kurisutaru saw a child folding origami and was left overjoyed when he saw dragons among the figures crafted - he thus swooped down to talk with the magical prodigy Azumi, who, in a panic, conjured forth an origami crane (made possible via the new spell, which has been properly converted to 5e) and sent it forth - said crane is what jumpstarts the module in earnest, as the PCs happen to find the origami swan and read the cry for help on it.

In order to reach the monastery, the PCs have to start climbing the mountain (a great way to btw. use the exhaustion mechanics) and on site, the exploration can commence - the PCs can for example brave the most huggable earth elemental I can imagine. It should also be noted that the research and prior knowledge, when player and PC-knowledge diverge, can allow for an easy and painless teaching of 5e’s relatively simple skill rules-

A Wisteria tree whispers to the PCs that the key to Azumi's location is hidden in the koi pond and indeed, swimming in can yield it. Underwater, the PCs encounter a friendly, awakened koi who breathes bubbles on them and wants to talk to them: He'll give them the key, if they answer a simple riddle. This would be as good a place as any to note that the statblocks of the wondrous creatures encountered have been converted rather well to 5e’s mechanics.

Beyond the moon-viewing tower, there are animated dog statuettes that may attack. In PF, these statuettes were pretty strong, but in 5e, they, at least to me, represent a missed chance. You see, 5e very much focuses on a sensible rock-paper-scissors-type of gameplay with the variant damage-types, resistances and vulnerabilities: Making the dogs resistant to e.g. slashing and piercing weapons would have been a nice way to teach the kids about these mechanics. It’d also make sense and is something most groups would get right from the get-go: Back in the day, my PCs simply assumed that skeletons would not be susceptible to piercing, for example – it makes sense. Alternatively, a vulnerability would have made sense…but that is me nitpicking.

The PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against the spirit of a non-evil undead weapon master of the monks in honorable combat. In the lavishly-rendered map of the complex beneath the monastery, a Sudoku-puzzle beckons alongside a friendly test of the PCs, focused on whether they can distinguish reality from illusion, while another requires balancing on a rope to swing a bell...in an interesting twist, the spectral teachers of the monks may provide guidance in-game to stumped players. This is btw. also where disadvantage and the like come into play more.

Combat-challenges include dealing with the dragon's overprotective soulbound doll and some animated objects – here, we do have the resistances, but they apply to all physical damage types – and PCs of level 1 are really limited regarding their magical arsenal, so this section can take a bit longer. A centipede whose poison can cause paralysis upon reducing a PC to 0 hp is another minor snag…or rather, something that could have been solved a bit more smoothly: You see, the pdf does contain a logo-less version of the cover artwork in b/w- yep, like in a coloring book. So, one way to help a player pass the time while the PC is paralyzed would be: “Color this page, when you’re done, you’re fully healed!” – unless, of course, the other PCs heal their comrade first.

When the PCs finally happen upon the dragon, they'll think they have a deadly fight on their hands...but Azumi intervenes and the PCs have a chance to make friends with the dragon, the positive modifiers of which btw. also entail playing a game of hide and seek with the dragon...and hopefully convey to him that kidnapping others, no matter how well-intentioned, is not a good way to make friends. In the end, though, capable PCs will probably leave on Azumi's origami riding cranes, with Kurisutaru's friendship bracelet for a fine, tasty dinner at Azumi's house - who now has a friend most unique. As a minor complaint, the rules-language of the crane mentions maneuverability, which does not exist in 5e.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a Japanese-looking, beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book provides ample of child-friendly artwork from the pen by Jacob Blackmon -more so than in many modules of this size, rendering it a nice, visual treat. The unified and beautiful style also extends to the gorgeous cartography by Travis Hanson, which also features player-friendly versions that you can print out, cut up and hand out to them as they go! Extra kudos for including those!!

Jenny Jarzabski and BJ Hensley have already proven that they can make good crunch; however, as it turns out, they can also write captivating modules. "A Friend in Need" is a great first module for the small ones, breathing a bit of the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki's movies and the innocence conveyed therein. It is not perfect in the 5e-version, but Dan Dillon, being the expert that he is at 5e content, has translated the module very well to the system, ironing out some of the hiccups in the original. At the same time, I do feel that it is, system-immanently evident that the original design was for PFRPG – there are a couple of 5e-rules that could, didactically, be highlighted better. This does not mean that the conversion’s bad, mind you – it’s really good! But it comes close to transcending the original iteration sans making the leap.

Let me state that clearly: The module does a lot things right: The flavor is child-friendly. Even the spirits of the monks, which may evoke a slight sense of creepiness (in a good way), still provide more aid than hindrance. The challenges are diverse and the inclusion of social encounters, riddles and puzzles make sure that the players actually are challenged in more than one way, which is a good thing in any module, particularly so in one intended for kids.

Now personally, I do believe that even small kids can handle a bit more threat and danger than this module featured (see e.g. the pretty serious themes of fear of loss and reorientation in "My Neighbor Totoro", for comparison), but I will not hold that against the pdf. It should be noted that I ran the original version with a 4-year-old among the players and the module proved fitting for children this young as well, while the kids in the age-range of 8 and beyond would have liked a bit more grit.

Now the good thing here is that, should you not endeavor to cater to a crowd as diverse as I did in my playtest, you'll have no issue slightly increasing the creepy-factor of the benevolent monk-spirits. In my playtest, I added some minor creepy-dressing to them and thus managed to engage the kids even more - if you heed this advice, though, please make sure you know what your players are comfortable with - a tiny scare is okay, but not more.

How to rate this, then? Now that's the tricky part: You see, I very much believe that we need more modules like this and Dan Dillon delivers in the conversion.

I have vastly benefited from my roleplaying in both terms of foreign languages, vocabulary, problem-solving and social skills and the sooner we can get such a positive development going, the better. At the same time, I am somewhat hesitant of awarding this per se very good module my highest accolades – I think somewhat more pronounced tweaks to account for and teach system-peculiarities (backgrounds, for example!) could have heaved this to the levels of excellence.

In the end, we are left with one well-crafted module for young children that does not lose any aspect of its appeal in 5e. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for this. While the original version was rounded up due to being Playground Adventures freshman offering, I, alas, cannot extend this courtesy to this version.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Friend in Need 5E
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