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Deadly Gardens: Hungry Pit
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2017 04:23:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As always, we begin with two new magic items, the first would be the garland of sweet scents decreases nauseated as a condition to sickened by virtue of sweet bulbs erupting, taking the brunt of the smell/effect. As a move action, the garland's user can cause all bulbs to bloom, which ends the usual protection, but for 1 minute negates sickened and nauseated penalties of the wearer and all creatures within 10 ft. Cool! Pungent Onions are sickening and smelly - when consumed, the user emits an even worse, horrid smell for some time. Nice!

The pdf also contains also 7 new natural items: Adherer tendrils can make the manufacture of sovereign glue easier. The great cyclops eye can increase the CL, act as a focus or as a means to lower the cost of making a crystal ball. (It also has a cosmetic typo: "a lso") Giant slug tongue can make a more nasty masterwork longspear with a crit-range of 19-20/x3. Hieracosphinx dewclaws can be used as variant daggers and hippogriff feathers can be fashioned into a talisman that enhances Fly. Hungry pit nectar doubles as a sticky acid and the stats for the hungry pit's toxin are also provided - it renders unconscious, btw.

Speaking of which - what exactly does the creature do? At CR 6, the hungry pit does not move- it is an ambush predator that looks like a plant with leafy fronds that is well-camouflaged. It uses feeder tentacles to grab those nearby and draw them into its insides. It also has a nasty stinger that can render those hit unconscious...oh, and inside it has acid. OUCH. Cool ambush-predator, illustrated rather well by Jeremy Corff.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard and is still rather printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity. The b/w-artwork of the creature is pretty cool as well.

Russ Brown, Kim Frandsen and Joe Kondrak provide one of the better installments of the series. Granted, the ambush predator angle is not necessarily new, but the execution here is pretty cool and well done. Oh, and the pdf is more than inexpensive - less than a buck is truly fair. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars - well worth getting!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Hungry Pit
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Mini-Dungeon #056: The Siren's Lament
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2017 04:21:10

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.

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!

Sirens rarely find true love and when they do, it rarely ends well; such was the case here. The lover of the siren was a wealthy captain, drowned by the wrath of the Sea King, the siren's father...which broke the siren's heart and drove her to suicide - this complex with its winding passages would be his monument to his rage and remorse. Within this complex remain the remnants of the once proud ship of the captain, guarded by haunts, animated galleon figures. From ghostly tunes to the storms unleashed and a memory child, the PCs can actually find out about this tragedy in both direct and indirect storytelling...but upon witnessing the finale, the complex will flood...with a great white shark...so good luck to the players.

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. This time around, we get not jpgs or player-friendly versions, which is a down-side.

Colin Stricklin delivers big time in this amazing mini-dungeon; the checks make sense, the story is surprisingly strong. The flavor of this dungeon is fantastic and somber, true fantasy and resonates with strong leitmotifs. In short: An amazing mini-dungeon well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #056: The Siren's Lament
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Mini-Dungeon #055: Chrome Devils of the Swamp
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2017 04:18:40

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.

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!

A fiery comet has fallen into the nearby swamp and rumors abound regarding the strange devils that have ventured forth from its insides. Indeed, within the swamp, the dungeon is composed of a strange alloy, sports an eerie glow...yep, this very much would be a crashed space-ship, with several kind of robots serving as the opposition to be faced by the PCs. Here is something cool: Doors improperly forced open, droids destroyed - all matter, for the analyst AI that is the BB"E"G can result in enemies coming close. The set-up is amazing, though the "Alert check" that the pdf mentions looks like something is missing there...DCs? At least the AIs I know of don't have that feature/as part of rules-language. Similarly, I'm not sure why a grid of potentially deadly light is based on Dex-checks, instead of Ref-saves...worse, one deals plasma damage (which is nonstandard - usually, that means half fire/electricity, but that should be specified in the pdf)...and it's a Fort-save to halve, which makes no sense to me, but all right.

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 solid, but not up to the best in the series. This time around, we get not jpgs or player-friendly versions, which is a down-side.

Stefanos "The Netlich" Patelis's science-fantasy crawl has all the makings of 5 star + seal of approval: A great backdrop, a cool, consistent leitmotif, some evocative terrain features, etc. - at the same time, a couple of choices are weird - when something should obviously feature a tech-use, UMD or Escape Artist, when saves feel strange...then we unfortunately have a mini-dungeon that is a mixed bag from a reviewer's perspective. Don't get me wrong - a moderately experienced GM can run this as something truly amazing, but I can't rate that. As written, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars for this one, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #055: Chrome Devils of the Swamp
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Adventure Book (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/28/2017 07:53:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive first installment of the ambitious Dark Obelisk AP clocks in at a thoroughly impressive 497 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 5 pages of ToC, 4 pages blank, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 483 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was move up in my review-queue as a prioritized review and I received a print copy, further moving this up in my review queue.

Now, at this point, I have already talked about several of the unique properties of this AP - reward stars, quadded statblocks and attitude trackers. I explained those in the reviews of the books where they are most relevant. As a brief refresher regarding the helpful layout:

The book explains its unique presentation: Taking a cue from AAW Games' playbook and similarly well-presented adventures, we get handy, color-coded boxes: Obstacles are e.g. in an orange/yellowish box; loot can be found in blue boxes and icons clearly denote the respective components for what they are. When a random roll is required from the GM, a handy dice-symbol denotes the action as such.

As you can glean from my review of the Dramatis Personae and Bestiary book, the quadded statblocks are not in the adventure book, nor are the highly detailed fluff notes for the vast amount of NPCs in this book. These can be found in the Dramatis Personae-book. That being said, this adventure does contain statblocks - though they a) are rudimentary and b) violate PFRPG-formatting conventions left and right. Honestly, that's one of the most serious complaints I have regarding this mega-adventure/first part of the Dark Obelisk AP. I cringe whenever I see one of these nonstandard statblocks. And yes, alas, these have hiccups, so no change from the crunchier books for Dark Obelisk.

It should also be noted that the superbly-written prose for the NPCs and complex attitude-tracker-system from the Dramatis Personae-book SIGNIFICANTLY enhances the experience of running this book. I strongly urge any GM waning to run this to use them in conjunction with one another.

However, there is another innovation in this book, an interesting peculiarity I have not yet discussed in the other Dark Obelisk reviews, mainly because it did not come up: The concept of attitude trackers, which I explained in the Dramatis Personae book, is applied globally in a unique twist on the sandbox trope. You see, a lavishly-detailed sandbox like this all too often gets bogged down in the details - something particularly likely to happen in a book that has the lofty ambitions of this tome, namely to create a wholly immersive and dynamic environment. Hence, the module introduces a so-called catalyst tracker. The first thing a GM should do, hence, is to decide what the catalyst for Act 2 would be - 4 sample ideas are given, but any halfway decent GM can generate variants thereof.

Once that primary catalyst is determined, we have three values we can potentially track; Law and Chaos (mirroring the theme of the religious conflict between the lawful church of Zugul mainly worshiped by the upper class and the fatalistic, more chaotic church of Sheergath worshiped by the less fortunate majority) and Love - the latter determining more the heartbreak and sheer emotional charge, positive or negative, generated by the acts of the adventurers. Starting values are included, but there are definitely enough catalyst impacts in the literally hundreds of quests herein to start them off with 0, if you prefer slower-paced games. Once the catalyst has met the respective value, sh** gets real. This, in conjunction with the various FlexTables for random encounters, lavish detail for NPCs (when used in conjunction with the Dramatis Personae book) and sheer amount of detail for every single locale mean that no two experiences of this adventure will be alike. Additionally, some quests are particularly suited to act as a story-trigger, as yet another alternative. Oh, and the module does come with railroady tracks, if such a wide-open sandbox seems to daunting for you.

If the sheer amount of NPCs and locales and quests seem daunting to track, note that codes (like BC-1) for places and sub-locations make finding the proper places easy. Quests denote the exact page in the case they require information found elsewhere.

But to go into the details of how the adventure plays out, I need to go into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around here? Great! So, I could sum up the plot of this module in one sentence. No, I am not kidding you. If I did that, though, I'd be doing this module a disservice.

You see, the first Act of this massive adventure would consist of the PCs familiarizing themselves with the town of Berinncorte. This is a massive sandbox, where the PCs can meet the tough Lady that acts as a major and may be a bit overzealous regarding law; they can butt heads (and blades, if they choose to) with a local tough guy; they can get to know the local churches and their doctrines. They can find mundane books in the library, which actually enhance skills. They can investigate missing folks and just generally have a nice time. The whole of act one, in short, consists of small, personal quests, local color and tiny favors. These quests are not necessarily world-shattering; they are almost painfully mundane and idyllic. This is done intentionally. You see, for one, as mentioned before, these all represent ways to increase the catalyst tracker. Even if your players don't know it yet, even via these mundane quests, they're advancing the plot. The quests also generate a sense of the mundane, the almost-realistic, basically the fantasy equivalent of a small town-villanelle.

That being said, there are aspects of the fantastic to be found here, even within this relative calm that precedes the storm that inexorably will tear at the town: Go down the right cellar for a less than legit meeting and you may find yourself looking at the river, held in check by a semi-permeable membrane that allows folks to potentially fish by simple stretching out their hands! Similarly, a dastardly villain/serial killer is slowly feeling the need to escalate his cycle, so catching that person may make for a rewarding quest for PCs and players looking for a more heroic task. Still, I'd actually encourage the GM and players to engage with the "normal" folks and their tasks - the more of these folks and their daily struggles you can introduce and endear to the PCs, the more effective the second part of the module will be. This is also why I'd strongly suggest getting the Dramatis Personae companion book - the more detailed the NPCs are, the easier it'll be to endear the town to the players and the excessive amount of detail provided makes the settlement come to life much more organically.

At one point, whether by catching that serial killer, finding out about the forbidden love of a cleric or by a vast array of other scenarios, powered by the catalyst tracker, the second act will begin. One more thing: Just ignoring quests won't help either - NOT taking a quest is also a decision...and similarly, influences the tracker! Anyways, act 2 begins...literally, with a bang.

You see, this module, in essence, is a catastrophe movie or event book disguised as a massive sandbox. Once your individualized tracker has hit the threshold (or once your PCs have tired of the place), the market place will erupt and the disturbing, purplish-black, light-corrupting eponymous Dark Obelisk will break forth in an epic explosion, killing most folk in the market square and plunging the town into chaos - literally, for, from the invincible monolith and the bottomless chasm that has spawned it, a horde of undead, demons and worse creep forth. Acidic pools of goo litter the streets and the encounters suddenly become a fight for survival.

Here, the FlexTale random encounter-mechanic becomes important - if you're escorting maddened folks spouting eschatological ramblings to safety, you'll face more powerful foes more often. And yes, folks will die - including the powerful mayor, who'll give her sword with her dying breath to the PCs. Not everyone can be saved...but many folks can. The more the PCs like a given person, the more likely it is that they survive, if the GM chooses to employ fate rather than his own decisions to make that choice.

Basically, where act one was the "everything's all right"-version of the town, act 3 would be he hell on earth iteration: Walls are crumbled, temples invaded; the dead litter the street; grieving women search for their lovers. Sanctuaries need to be defended against lethal waves of enemies with the help of the militia...only to notice that, ultimately, the price in lives is too high. Indeed, the GM is encourages to use "villainous" and "unstoppable" monsters to make abundantly clear that the PCs won't defeat this monolith right now - no one knows anything about the invulnerable monument to chaos and death and even these "bosses" may well be beyond the PC's capabilities to deal with, requiring flight and the smart use of the completely mapped city to avoid.

In fact, in the hands of the correct GM, this can be a very Dark Souls-like experience in tone and the way the PCs have to slowly and deliberately choose their actions. Pretty much every character also has a quest (or multiple ones) in this chaos - escort-missions, securing items left behind, rescue missions, searches - there is a ton of stuff to be done here as well. Where before, these small quests were integrated in favor of establishing a homebase, a sympathetic town, the third act's quests are more combat-centric and more like walking through a warzone or a Walking Dead outbreak chaos scenario: You see small destinies all over the place and narrative threads from act 1 are continued and developed. When handled properly, this will make act 3 feel frantic, somber, frightening and apocalyptic, but all of that hinges on how well act 1 went. Again, this is why I consider the detailed NPC-prose from the dramatis personae book to be this incredibly important. If the players don't care enough, then the impact of this act is lost, so make use of those attitudes, those excessive fluff-notes.

Whether just a day or a whole week, sooner or later, the PCs will have to concede that talking down the elite gate guards and escaping the town, for now, is the only chance they and the besieged survivors have...and once that has been accomplished, once the town has been cleared/abandoned, the module ends....leaving me honestly wondering how that whole sequence will proceed.

While the VTT-jpgs etc. are included in the premium atlas and the GM-maps where they're needed in the module, the book does come with all the player-friendly, well-made and properly redacted maps in the appendices, so if you want the player maps, you don't need to get the atlas. Speaking of indices: Factions, quests, catalyst impacts, items, dead NPCs and maps all are covered in their own indices, which makes navigating this module significantly easier than you'd expect from such a tome. The three-letter codes etc. also help: Search the code, there you are. Big kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are impressive for a freshman offering AND a one-man-outfit. While I noticed a few instances of a sentence missing, that never pertained rules-relevant material and instead was in a designer's commentary, etc. The one component where this module makes me cringe is with the rudimentary statblocks and their nonstandard formatting. They are enough to run the module, yes, but why not include the properly formatted ones?? Quite a few GMs won't care there, but similarly, that may be really glaring for others. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard with a parchment-like background. The pdf comes with a second, backgroundless version. While originally, the electronic versions were missing their bookmarks, a properly bookmarked version has been uploaded to my knowledge. The full-color hardcover I have is a massive tome of a book - in conjunction with the dramatis personae book, they exceed Slumbering Tsar in page count. The inclusion of player-friendly maps herein is a big plus, as far as I'm concerned. Big, big kudos - particularly for redacting secret tunnels etc. on the maps.

J. Evans Payne's "Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte" is AMBITIOUS. Some may say "insane", but what's more important to me, at least, is that it tries to do something NEW. I have literally never played a module like this. The staggering detail of the coverage of the sandbox that is the town of Berinncorte is impressive. The fact that it does not read like a gigantic snorefest, in spite of act one's pretty mundane and harmonic atmosphere, should be considered to be a testament to the quality of the author's prose, particularly in conjunction with the companion book's NPC-write-ups. Now, I can't speak about how this would fare sans its companion tome - I can only speculate, and frankly, I think it's possible, but harder for the GM to make the players care about the locals without this amount of detailed prose on ALL of them.

This stands and falls with PCs and players caring. A good GM can make this an incredibly memorable module, but, in spite of the details, NPCs, maps, etc. stacking the deck in the GM's favor, this requires a bit of skill to pull off. Roleplaying heavy groups will gravitate to the personal tales of the NPCs; combat-focused ones to the carnage in act 3...and most, probably, will gravitate to both. The impressive achievement here would lie in the massive flexibility of the plot and the attention to detail. In this module, the "small quests"-angle worked perfectly, and I am interested in seeing how this will progress beyond the confines of this installment of the AP: After all, there needs to be a plot and the trackers most certainly can be used in more ways to render future modules just as dynamic. How that'll work with a more pronounced plot will be intriguing to see.

Now, I know, that all sounds a bit strange. here's the thing: Due to the book being so entwined with its companion and due to the sheer scope, it's hard to properly describe the book. In fact, this adventure is one of those that plays much better than it reads. There's a reason I try to play as much as I can. All that preparation, all that consideration in advance? All those quests? here is the biggest plus of this book: You can basically run it with next to no prep time.

"Okay, endy has gone off the deep end." No, I actually haven't. The searchable codes help. And the level of detail. Throw PCs in, they go to location xyz - you have read-aloud text. You have NPCs. You have quests. Instantaneously. Everywhere. This can be a pretty big thing for some of us. I mentioned in my reviews of this series how obsessively detailed my campaign is, right? I noted how other GMs I know also like that approach, right? Heck, perhaps you had such a campaign, perhaps while in college or university. You know, a campaign with ridiculous details, hundreds of quests? And then, at one point, you didn't have the time or drive or creativity to provide this level of information. We've all been there. I've been using a metric ton of modules, since I have a pretty darn good memory and only have to read a module once to run it, even years later. But, well, perhaps you went another road. Perhaps you went to APs and similar new-school modules. And they do a great job telling their story. I love them and collect them religiously. But players used to sandboxing don't take kindly to railroads and at one point, you'll be craving this wide-openness, this level of detail. You can go rules-lite for quicker details and material generation, but the crunchy guys and gals will miss the combat options. That's where this book comes in, at least for me.

I'm not a nostalgic man and the sentiment is alien to me; however, I do believe that this book scratches exactly that itch. That craving for a world that feels fully realized, that feels like a concise, deliberate vision. The GM's task, to a certain degree, is to generate the illusion of a believable world beyond the perception of the players, a world with all the details, that has "always been there" - pay no heed to the man behind the curtain...äh...screen. When PCs go off the rails, that illusion suffers and, in such hyper-detailed environments, chances are that this did not happen.

Because you had it all planed out. This book and its dramatis personae companion tome, used in conjunction, simulate that level of preparation - successfully, I might add.

That is a big unique selling proposition as far as modules go. Now, the module is not perfect. As mentioned before in the atlas-review, I consider the overview map to be not up to the quality of the other maps herein. The non-standard statblocks are slightly annoying and, as mentioned in the review of the dramatis personae book, there are some aspects of the formulae used in the creation of these books that need refinement. However, in this review, I'm judging the adventure, not the rest. I do feel the need to explicitly state that, sans the dramatis personae companion book, flawed though that may be, this book loses some of its appeal. I strongly suggest using them in conjunction.

I can see this working exceedingly well, perfectly in fact, for some groups, and I can see this being a dud for others. If you want an elaborate, highly complex metaplot, then this may be not for you. If atmosphere and immersion, if urban sandboxing and an epic payoff is what you're looking for, however, then this delivers. In the end, my final verdict for this adventure, taking all into account, will be 4 stars. With the caveat, however, that you need to be able to see past the copious flaws in statblocks etc. - if that stuff irks you, then you may want to carefully consider this one... Part II of the saga will have a tough act to follow here, for the trick used herein only works once. If you're looking for something completely different regarding design-philosophy, this is definitely worth checking out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Adventure Book (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Dramatis Personae & Bestiary (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/28/2017 07:51:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive TOME of a book clocks in at 487 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page mission statement, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 478 pages of material, so let's take a look!

Well, before we do, let us pause for a second and recap the unique aspects of Infinium Game Studios-releases that we've covered so far, all right? In my review of the Player's Guide and the pregens, I talked briefly about the alternate character progression system via reward stars. (It can be easily ignored in favor of XP, just fyi.) In the pregen-book, I noted the quadded statblocks. Basically, we get 4 iterations of every NPC and creature featured in these tomes, which, in conjunction with quadded challenge blocks generally means that you could run the adventure Berinncorte for higher level groups. I'd strongly advise against that, since not all challenges are quadded and due to the tone of the first half of the module - but more on that in my review of the Berinncorte adventure book.

It should also be noted that this was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review and further moved up due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

So, first of all, what is this? This is basically the crunchy expansion, not entirely required, but definitely recommended, for the Berinncorte adventure. Which has redefined "overdelivering" on a KS. 128 pages promised. The end-result is a 1K+ page moloch. If you put adventure and this book back to back, they're bigger than frickin' Slumbering Tsar. So yes, there is a LOT of material in this book.

Now this book introduces another innovation for the game, namely FlexTale. FlexTale, alongside catalysts and attitude trackers, represents the means by which this tome tries to simulate a dynamic, vibrant environment and, as far as I'm concerned, these aspects on the GM side of things are resounding successes. Let me digress a bit.

I'm a pretty obsessive GM regarding world building, consistency and lore. My own campaigns have their own private BOARD, where I post updates during downtime, NPC-vignettes ("Meanwhile in...") for allies and cohorts, summaries and meticulously track creatures and NPCs encountered in a massive compendium. My farmers tend to have names, even if I made them up on the fly or took them from a dressing book - and thereafter, the farmer will always be known by that name. He'll have relatives, etc. I know a couple of GMs who take that approach or at least took it at one point. The downside here is that you have to track all those NPCs...and not even I am obsessive enough to stat all those non-combat relevant folks. This massive tome tries to do exactly that - give a name to pretty much everyone. Seamstress? Named. Butcher? Named. And all have their own agenda, daily lives and the like.

In this vast flood of information, it may seem daunting, borderline impossible to keep track of all those NPCs. The aforementioned aspects, though, help immensely with this and are one of the reasons I consider this companion tome to be pretty non-optional. Let's take a step back and return to the FlexTable - these tables have multiple columns - sometimes, these columns are based on the attitude to PCs, sometimes on outside circumstances. When escorting an obnoxious, loud drunk through hostile territory, you'll e.g. roll on the nastier columns for random encounters than when you're being relatively covert. Makes sense, right? Similarly, NPCs with a good relationship to the PCs are less likely to die off-screen, as the PCs and players have invested in them. This, as a whole, creates a dynamic and slightly random element that sounds capricious at first glance, but actually keeps the playing experience rather interesting for the GM as well.

In case you haven't deduced that by now: Berinncorte is a massive urban sandbox, so expect no railroading here. In fact, in that way, it's closest to how I run my main campaign: I have a metric ton of adventures and my players always have the choice to play or ignore a given module, go elsewhere, etc. Similarly, none of the quests in this book have to be completed per se.

Now, the true reason I consider this book to be utterly non-optional when running Berinncorte would be the attitude trackers. Think of these as a band of numbers, ranging from 1 - 29. Each NPC herein has his or her own attitude tracker. A value of 1 - 6 denotes a starting attitude of "hostile", 7 - 12 "unfriendly" etc. - in short: This allows for a surprisingly easy and nuanced depiction of NPC attitudes towards the PCs and provides a more nuanced and rewarding way to reward roleplaying interaction: Engaging in conversation with a grieving person and lifting heir spirits could result in +4 on the attitude tracker; some folks have prejudices and as such, they may react less (or more!) favorable towards certain races or groups that contain certain professions. The system is elegant, easy to grasp and the one I ended up using all the time. I'm a big, big fan of this one.

Now, this tome has two basic chapters, denoted by the color-coded fore-edge: One for the NPCs and one for the creatures. Once again, we have characters using PFU's Artistry skill in their builds.

All right, let's get the unpleasantness out of the way first.: Much like in the pregens, we have errors in the statblocks - spellcasting DCs, for one. There are hiccups here. Then again, these are NPCs and as such, these are slightly less jarring than in statblocks for PCs. PC and NPC classes are used in the builds.

On the big plus-side, the builds use weapon and armor qualities in the higher level iterations and generally are...better made than the statblocks in the Pregen-book. We even get multi-class characters this time around. While there are a few typos and the like "bullrish", for example), they show that more care went into them. I may be mistaken, but I have pretty sensitive antennae when it comes to the like and the builds look and feel more like there was personal attention devoted to them to make sure they make at least some sense.

Now, that would, as a whole, still leave the massive NPC-section as a mixed bag, but this is also where the attitude tracker aspect once again comes in: You see, each NPC comes with a MASSIVE (and I mean ~1 page per NPC-massive!) summary of how you can improve attitudes via actions, conversations, etc. Arrested PCs, failed bribes, racial familiarity, certain confrontational aspects, purchases made at vendors - all of that can influence the attitude. (And yes, if that's too much tracking for your liking, you can always ignore some - though simple marking the current attitude on the respective tracker with a pencil worked well for me.) The big plus here is that this, much like conversations in video games etc., simulates an organic growth of relationships in a rather impressive and organic manner.

"But endy", you're saying, "I don't care about that!" Well, there is another aspect to these NPCs that is a reason I consider this book to be highly recommended for Berinncorte. And that would be the fluff. Each NPC herein comes with a rather long section describing them and their personality; after that, a similarly long one depicting the appearance of the character in question. Combat tactics are also covered and finally, faction-allegiance, if any, is elaborated upon. However, this is not where the obsessive attention to detail stops - in fact, we've just started. Beyond these, lists of known spells for spellcasters and the like, we get notes on logistics - when and where the character can usually be found. Further background notes are also part of the deal.

Now, at one point, a calamity will befall Berinncorte - each NPC gets information on how that calamity is experienced, how it affects the character, etc. Oh, and beyond even that, we get read-aloud text for conversations with the respective NPC on likely topics like the strife between two churches, the rule, the profession...etc. These also include skill check notes to determine lies, further information or to engage, for example, in an informed discussion. The amount of detail provided for each NPC allows the GM to easily, on the fly even, bring the respective characters to life, further emphasizing the intention of creating a plausible and dynamic environment for the PCs to explore.

While the basics of these NPCs are included in the adventure book, these detailed notes and attitude modifications add significant value to the experience of running/playing Berinncorte. Beyond a vast array of named NPCs, unnamed ones gain the same treatment - clerical staff, militia, common thieves, hired goons...etc. The militia receives its own attitude tracker, as does clergy staff and the mayor's guards or common townsfolk, though other unnamed ones don't get that. While the named NPCs get a handy indexing table, the unnamed PCs and bestiary seems to be missing its index - where it should be, there's only [...] on an otherwise mostly blank page.

The bestiary section once again features the quadded statblocks, but alas, the statblocks suffer from the same issues the others suffered from - we oddly get a line for "class" of a critter, reading e.g. "Undead 10" - which is NOT how creatures are formatted. There is no "undead" class. We have typos (sometimes hilarious ones - like "Neuter" instead of "neutral") and, once again, while the base statblocks tend to generally be more functional, in the upgrades to higher levels, we have serious, serious glitches - like AC not checking out and the like. The particularly powerful boss monsters get their own sub-chapter, once again missing the index. On the plus-side, the monsters herein often diverge from their standard PFRPG iterations - the lowest CR babau herein, for example, has better initiative, different feats, etc. - so no, this book did not take the easy way out there.

We end this book with a final section that covers animals...and, oddly, base skeletons, which should probably be in the regular bestiary section.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are at the same time impressively good...and seriously flawed. On a formal level, it is impressive to note how precise this book was crafted; there are significantly fewer formal glitches in this tome than I expected. This does not change, however, that the missing sub-indices and glitches hamper the overall usefulness of the book. It's an impressive feat for a one-man outfit, sure - but I wished this had a dedicated second set of eyes for the stats. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard for text, with a parchment-like background. Quadded statblocks and attitude trackers are all color-coded, making their use rather intuitive. The pdf comes with a second, backgroundless and thus, more printer-friendly version. The book sports a couple of nice, well-made b/w-artworks for some of the key-NPCs. The hardcover is massive and icons + text on the spine make it easily stand out on the shelf. I'd strongly suggest getting the hardcover over the electronic version. Why? Because the pdf has no bookmarks, which is a SERIOUS comfort detriment when using such a tome. Additionally, the option to scribble on the attitude trackers is surprisingly helpful, so the physical version is definitely the way to go.

J. Evans Payne's Berinncorte is extremely ambitious. This book and its companion are pretty much inseparable as far as I'm concerned and what we have here is an attempt to reach for the stars, something I wholeheartedly applaud. We have enough boring "kill gobbos, ogre boss at the end"-scenarios. We need books like this. The fact that this, apart from the artwork, is the work of one man, is stunning and truly impressive to me. In fact, all my complaints nonewithstanding, the book is significantly better than I expected it to be, some may say, than it has any right to be.

Reviewing this, alas, is HARD. You see, this book is the companion to the adventure and hard to analyze on its own. If you take away that connection, you're not doing the book justice. At the same time, even in conjunction with the adventure, it left me torn.

One side of me is gleefully taking stock of all those details, of the lovingly-crafted dressing, of the trackers and the like. At the same time, this book leaves a part of me disgruntled. Why? The justification of this book's existence lies in two factors: 1) The incredibly detailed attitude tracking system, read-aloud text etc. - the attention to detail for the respective NPCs. 2) The quadded statblocks, providing a wealth of crunch for GMs to pursue, far beyond what the adventure book could offer.

And herein lies the crux: You see, in the adventure book, we get only rudimentary stats. Heck, they don't even adhere to proper PFRPG-statblock formatting conventions. They make me cringe whenever I look at them. So, if we want the proper stats, we need to get this book. I'd usually say that the quadded statblocks provide a significantly increased value for the GM regarding the sheer material this offers, but, while better than the pregen-book, but therein lies the problem: If they'd be precise, creative and to the point, I'd praise this book to the high heavens. And there are some builds in this tome that certainly show some care. But, as a whole, I also noticed a lot of the higher level statblocks with issues. And we're not talking about "one skill too much", but about wrong AC and the like. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect super-duper stats with x templates - we have series for such NPCs out there. But I expect the base functionality to be there and that cannot be claimed for all of them, particularly for those beyond the levels in which you'd usually play the adventure.

This, thus, leaves the quadded statblock concept, amazing as it is (big fan - seriously!), requiring some serious refinement in future offerings. And it generates this disjoint. Because, you know, we want the base stats and the lavish detail for each NPC...but we also get 3 iterations of stats we won't be using - not even for reskinned characters and critters. This makes quadded statblocks, as presented here, as much a feature as a bug. Personally, I couldn't help but wish that attitude tracker and awesome, detailed fluff for the NPCs has been included in the adventure book, alongside the proper, low-level stats.

Thing is, I only found myself contemplating this due to the rough edges of the quadded statblock implementation. If this concept worked as intended, it would add a TREMENDOUS amount of value to this book and totally justify the adventure book's rudimentary stats. But...it kinda does not.

Which eliminates at least a significant part of one of the big arguments for this book. It doesn't help me much regarding a verdict, though. Why? As flawed as the execution may be, this book still features a ton of material and a lot of detail. I adore the attitude tracker system and the hand-crafted prose for the NPCs, their interactions and information VASTLY enhances the adventure. In fact, you could well pull that out of the context of the adventure entirely. Still, as a stand-alone book, I'd consider this a mixed bag. Whether you find value in this tome depends on two aspects: Do you want the obsessive, amazing detail for the NPCs, the simulationalist, highly nuanced tapestry of NPCs? Or are you in primarily for the crunch? If your group is focused primarily on combat, considers interaction with NPCs boring, then this may not be for you. If, however, you're looking to run Berinncorte and your players love talking with NPCs, getting immersed in the environments, if they enjoy lavish details and the feeling of having fallen into a world that is as detailed as can be, then the NPC fluff and read-aloud text, the attitude trackers and peculiarities of the folks will make this very much worthwhile.

In short, I can see people really loving this as well as people considering it a waste of time. I could find reasons to smash this down to 2 stars for its flaws, and I could argue in favor of its virtues and arrive at 4 stars and both would be viable; in fact, depending on the priorities I set for myself, on what I look for, I can understand both. If I were to rate this one its own, as separate from the adventure book, I'd probably arrive closer to the former; in conjunction with the adventure book, I'd arrive closer to the latter verdict.

There is a ton of neat content in this book and it is intended as the companion to the adventure book, though - which is how I will rate it. As a stand-alone, it does seriously lose some of its appeal, so beware in that regard.

In the end, I can't rate this as high as some of its aspects deserve, but neither can I bash it as thoroughly for its flaws as a part of me would like to. Because, in the end, in such tough cases, I revert to my own rule zero for reviewing: Did this provide fun and joy for me and my table? Yes, it did. In spite of the pronounced flaws, the wealth of roleplaying information within made this worthwhile for me.

It is also part of the author's freshman offering, so it does get a bit of a leeway there. Still, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars for this book, rounded up by the tiniest of margins - because it does significantly enhance its companion adventure and holds within its pages one of the most rewarding aspects of the Berinncorte adventure. It should be noted that this verdict ONLY is viable in conjunction with the adventure.

Those looking for immersion, roleplaying information for the adventure and the like should definitely round up, provided you can stomach the imperfections. If you want precise stats, a pure crunch book, however, look elsewhere - in that discipline, the book would barely make 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Dramatis Personae & Bestiary (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2017 07:42:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The premium atlas for the first part of the excessively detailed Dark Obelisk AP clocks in at a massive 139 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page mission statement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with132 pages of MAPS.

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy of it and due to being chosen as a prioritized review via my patreon.

Yes, you read correctly. 132 pages of maps. Now, first things first - what kind of maps do we get? The book is roughly separated in 4 different chapters: Two featuring maps for Act One of "Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte", two representing the changed circumstances that can be found in Act 3 of the massive module.

As you may have deduced, one such chapter each contains the respective GM-maps, one the player-maps. The GM-maps feature keys on them, secret doors and the like - and the player's maps can actually be used as handouts as is: The deceptive numbers and secret door/trap notes have been completely purged from those iterations - which is a COLOSSAL plus as far as I'm concerned. Heck, even crawlspaces, noted on the GM-map, have been redacted - on the player map, a solid wall separates the two connected caverns. That's going above and beyond. Big plus!!

Now, let's talk a bit about the maps within, starting with the least pleasant component. The overview map of Berinncorte is easily the worst and only map in this atlas I'd consider bad. The city is almost quadratic and a bit claustrophobic - it's only an overview and not the most impressive one at that. HOWEVER, that is about as much negative things I have to say about this book. You see, the atlas contains maps for EVERYTHING.

No, that is not a hyperbole. If it's within the walls of Berinncorte, it's mapped. Little militia hut? Mapped. Cryptkeeper's shack? Mapped. Cellars? Mapped. In subterranean environments, you can see the barely visible outlines of buildings above, in case your PCs want to do a bit of digging. In short: The attention to detail is impressive indeed. The full-color maps show benches, columns, barrels, wood - basically, they show every non-dynamic object/creature, providing significantly more detail than what you'd expect. While made with software, they look much better than pretty much all computer-generated maps I've seen before. Heck, you can see the symbols on rugs, the textile shop has differently colored rolls of cloth on the counter - it is rather impressive to see this amount of detail.

Now, something to be aware of regarding the town of Berinncorte, would be an architectural peculiarity that may or may not irk you and may or may not be due to the limitations of the software used to make these maps: The lower residential area and upper residential area do not consist of free-standing houses, but, at least from what I gathered, look like multiple folks live under the same roof in a kind of apartment-like situation. In the case of the upper residential district that could be explained by guest rooms and the map could make for ONE big, nice mansion - but the overview map and the holistic coverage of the rest of the town make it look like this is the totality of the district. Now, granted, that is NOT unheard of - in fact, it was more common than most folks would expect, at least according to the chronicles of cities I've read, but it represents a departure from how most folks picture a fantasy city, so that's certainly something to bear in mind. Personally, I'm good with this decision, mind you. Still, if one such building indeed is all there is, then the beds as opposed to the characters, including militia etc., even when taking barrack beds into account, don't check out. (And yes, this will not come up in 99.9999% of games and should tell you something about how obsessive I can be...thus, it will not influence the final verdict.)

Now, I have already mentioned that there is a cataclysm in Berinncorte at one point - and thus, the Act 3 maps may depict the same environments - but they are radically different from what we've seen before - bloodsplatters, shattered columns, smoke, ash...and worse. Corpses litter the streets and buildings and nary a place has been left intact, with walls incinerated and STRANGE things popping up on the maps - they may depict variants of the maps we already covered, but they do so in the best of ways. Now, on some of the player maps, fixed monsters appear, denoting enemies that constitute living "no trespassing" signs - but since these critters are tied to the respective locales, I'm good with that. Still, personally, I would have preferred these tokens to be omitted - or added on their own token-page for the GM to cut out and move around. Oh well.

Conclusion:

Obsessive level of detail. That's how I'd describe "Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte" in a nut-shell. The hand-crafted maps contained in this atlas perfectly encapsulate this philosophy, providing the attention to detail and sheer amount of maps I wanted, all in full-color! The pdf version comes with a second, background-less printer-friendly version and the respective maps sport their own scales, another plus. The electronic version did lack bookmarks, but as per the writing of this review, bookmarked versions have been made available - kudos for the quick response/fix there! The color hardcover is definitely the way to go, if you can afford it.

J. Evans Payne went above and beyond and even redacted crawlspaces, secret doors and the like, adding some serious value to the book at hand. Speaking of value: This massive map-material is also included in a massive (300+ MBs!) archive, which contains all the maps as high-res jpgs for VTT-use. These individual maps are properly named "-GM" or "-Players" and are further organized by Act for your convenience. That's going above and beyond, as far as I'm concerned.

It should be noted that these maps, while obviously intended for use with the adventure, may well be worth the investment if you're looking for a fully mapped fantasy town.

So, how to rate this? Well, I really, really like this map book. It delivers everything I wanted from it, with only minor flaws: Tokens on a precious few maps; the overview map is not nearly on par with the cool maps of the individual buildings/environments. Still, as a whole, I feel justified in rating this 4.5 stars, rounding up due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this is part of a freshman offering.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Diabolist
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2017 07:40:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with about 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

The diabolist prestige archetype herein is built with the wizard as a base class, but alternate rules for arcanist, cleric, oracle, psychic, sacerdote, soceror and witch are included. Diabloists need to be Lawful Evil and get d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and the favored weapon of the patron and 1/2 BAB-progression as well as good Will-save progression. They get full prepared spellcasting, governed by Int, of up to 9th level and receive a cleric's evil aura. Being damned to hell, diabolists are harder to resurrect, requiring a CL check to bring back. At 10th level, the diabolist is potent enough to be exempt from this rule.

The prestige archetype begins play with an infernal, lawful evil familiar and is locked into having that - so not bonded object. The diabloist gains bonus spells, courtesy of his infernal patrons - these, unsurprisingly, would be rather charm/fire-themed.

2nd level yields the ability to channel hellfire when casting fire spells, a number of times per day equal to the highest mental attribute modifier, minimum 1. This is done as a fee action and modifies the standard spell's fire damage to inflict hellfire, which is here defined as 1/2 fire damage and 1/2 damage from an unholy source, which does not affect evil creatures, but doubly affects good targets. Kudos for not falling into the "invent damage type" trap here. Also: creatures affected by protection from evil or law are not affected, which is a cool failsafe, though the pdf forgot to italicize these spell references. Starting at 14th level, this ability may be used in conjunction with all damaging spells. Kudos: Descriptor-changes, if applicable, are covered. Nice catch here!

4th level yields a +2 bonus to Charisma and Charisma-based checks when interacting with devils and fiendish creatures. This bonus is further increased by +2 at 10th and 18th level. 6th level yields free Improved Familiar, but locks the diabolist in the imp choice. 8th level provides a hell-themed 1/day dimension door or plane shift - this is considered to be a lawful and evil act and cannot penetrate areas warded from teleportation. Speaking of which: the diabolist gains an additional daily use at 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter, with each such increase also unlocking a new SP like teleport or, at 20th level, gate, though these uses consume progressively more daily uses of the ability. Diabolists with obediences may trade in daily uses of the ability for obedience boons for an alternate ability progression - which makes surprising sense, as far as I'm concerned.

As a capstone, the diabolist may use the calling spell of planar binding when calling a named devil as a standard action and bargaina s a move action. Damn (haha!) cool!

As mentioned above, we do get alternate build notes for e.g. psychic etc.-based diabolists. The Prestige archetype also has custom favored class options for anpur, avoodim, dhosari, erkunae, kobolds, tengu and tieflings as well as the core races - these generally are pretty interesting and thematically fitting - humans can e.g. be sooner exempt from the no-resurrection drawback.

The pdf also has a brief appendix depicting the Infernal Obedience feat (guess thrice what that one does) - the boons are btw. unlocked at 12, 16 and 20 HD and two sample, generic archdevil obediences are included: Contracts, Pride, Slavery and Tyranny nets darkness, deeper darkness or burning hands as SPs as the first boon, then perfect sight via ember eyes and a thirdly, a 1/day delayed fireball hellfire blast as an SP. The second generic obedience would be Contracts, Devils, Secrets - boon uno provides unseen servant, detect thoughts or glibness as SPs. Boon deux provides the means to infiltrate clergy and pass as one of theirs. Number 3 is cool: Cha-mod times per day, it lets you revoke the healing a creature received from you at your whim. I totally can see that work as a cool narrative device!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's diabolist is a surprisingly cool prestige archetype - it does not try to reinvent the wheel, but it doesn't have to. The obedience interactions are cool, the rules-language, for the most part, exceedingly precise. In the few cases where it deviates from standard wording, it is only a cosmetic one "level 12" instead of 12th level, for example. So yeah, as a whole, I really liked this one. Granted, I think that e.g. cleric should have its own dedicated diabolist to make better use of the hellfire theme, but for the arcane folks, this constitutes a nice and well-wrought prestige archetype. Well worth 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Diabolist
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Demoniac
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2017 07:39:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.75 pages of SRD, leaving us with slightly more than 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

That out of the way, let us take a look at the class herein, with is built on the chassis of wizard and the demoniac, with d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, with d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, full spellcasting progression, good Will-saves and 1/2 BAB-progression. Proficiency-wise, they only get simple weapons and their patron's favored weapon. They must be chaotic evil.

Demoniacs begin play with a chaotic evil cleric's aura may spend a demonic favor to gain a wizard bonus feat. These guys may lose a prepared spell to lose a prepared spell in favor of summon monster (not properly italicized), and at 2nd level the demoniac gains an obedience - which can be found in the Demon Lords of Porphyra supplement - color me stoked for obediences, but be aware that as per the writing of this review, these had not yet been released, but if the ones from the Inner Sea Guide are emulated, I'm looking forward to seeing them!

The same goes for the demonic boons - the first is gained on 8th level, with 12th and 16th level providing the follow-up second and third boon. These are also governed by the respective demon lord, so not sure yet how they turned out.

4th level yields nets the demoniac a demonic brand that shows his abyssal allegiance while also acting as a divine focus. 1day, this mark may be invoked as part of casting a spell, adding the chaotic and evil descriptors to the spell...and said spell is not expended upon being cast!

At 3rd level, 7th level and every 3 levels after that, the demoniac receives a demonic favor - this ability can provide a bonus feat, a familiar, energy resistance or a saving throw bonus versus one type of effect chosen from a list, allowing for some nice defensive customizations. Starting at 6th level, the demoniac is damned and thus harder to retrieve from the bowels of the abyss, should he perish.

10th level provides the energumen ability, which 1/day, allows a demonic spirit to possess the demoniac for a total number of rounds equal to his class level. This possession yields a +2 profane bonus to an ability score of the demoniac's choice, increasing to +4 at 14th level, while also granting electricity resistance 10 and +4 to saves versus poison, These bonuses further increase to +6 and immunities at 18th level. However, after this burst of demonic power, the demoniac must succeed a Will-save or be confused for a number of rounds...which can end up badly indeed. Kudos: The pdf acknowledges the possession effect as such and properly codifies the rules governing it.

The capstone, how could it be any different, would be a demonic apotheosis; however, even here we get a bit of player agenda, with a component of the form being up to the player to choose from. The pdf also covers demoniacs that stray from their destructive path and their means of atonement.

As per the tradition of this new series, we receive information on using arcanist, cleric, oracle, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror and witch as alternate chassis-bases, so if you wanted to play a demoniac based on one of those classes, you're in luck. The prestige archetype does include a significant array of class-specific favored class options for core races and some of the stars of the Porphyran races.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's demoniac is hard to judge in its general potency due to boons and obediences being not included in this pdf. However, since these would not be part of the pdf anyways, I will judge the prestige archetype for what it is as a chassis and reserve obediences etc. for the file that will contain them. As a class, the demoniac, from what I can see, works pretty well. Now granted, the base PrC could be more interesting as far as I'm concerned, but the pdf does a solid job at translating the class into a proper base class. While it does not reach the universal appeal of some other Prestige Archetypes, it represents a nice installment in the series, well worth a tentative verdict of 4 stars - as mentioned, I still need to pick apart those demon lords, but chassis-wise, I don't see inherent issues in this prestige archetype.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Demoniac
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Extended Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2017 11:06:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The biggest collection of pregens ever to come my way clocks in at an impressive 407 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page studio-introduction, 2 pages SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 398 pages of content. Yeah. Ouch. That's a TON of statblocks.

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy and furthermore, it was prioritized by my patreons.

Now, included among these would be the standard pregenerated characters, available as their own separate pdf for PWYW, so consider that file to be an excellent teaser/first look of what to expect from this gigantic tome.

You will notice that there is some overlap between this review and that of its smaller brother, since the principles on which they operate are the same, only the scope is different. This is a colossal pregen book for the Dark Obelisk AP, or, more precisely, its first chapter "Berinncorte" - in my review of the Player's Guide, I briefly talked about the optional reward star character progression mechanic, so let me be brief: You award those for quest completion, defeating key bosses etc. - it's basically an XP-less advancement method. I'm not the biggest fan, but thankfully, easy conversion mechanics are provided.

Since the Player's Guide was system-neutral, I did not comment on another peculiarity of Dark Obelisk that very much becomes relevant here: Quadded statblocks. Instead of one statblock, each statblock in this pdf comes in 4 iterations, color-coded for your convenience: Low-level stats (level 1 - 4, up to CR 4), moderate level stats (levels 5 - 8, CR between 4 and 10), advanced stats (levels 10 - 15, CRs ranging from 10 - 15) and elite stats for levels 15+, with CRs ranging from 12 to 20. Now thankfully, these quadded statblocks retain PFRPG's subsections - i.e. you'll still have CR/XP first, then sex race class, initiative, etc. - in short, they require no getting used to.

The levels for the characters herein would be 1, 6, 10 and 14, respectively and the book does feature a bit of insight into design philosophy - while these characters work, they are not necessarily minmaxed or the like and enjoy like playing against the trope, particularly the archetype'd ones. That is not to say that they are not...ehem...geared towards their pursuits - you'll see serious dump stats, where appropriate. Special abilities are listed for your convenience, meaning you won't have to switch books, which is a nice plus.

Now, as before in the smaller pdf, we have PFU's Artistry skill included in the deal. Much like in the smaller book, we do not get the information which point-buy was used or scaling information for other point-buy standards. Similarly, while you do get generally solid builds, you will find that the spell save DC is universally off by 1 (this book assumes 11 + attribute modifier + spell level) and the magic item and equipment selection will probably not blow you out of the water with its creativity. Particularly at higher levels, you'll find magical armor and weapons to be the default, with only lame plusses - the book does not use much wondrous items, special weapon or armor qualities or the like. That being said, monks etc. do get amulets and bracers...but only the minimum.

In fact, the high-level builds are pretty squishy and under-equipped. There are a few examples, where the statblock doesn't list the precise armor type in the AC-line and only the AC-bonus it conveys, while in others, it lists the magical armor. So yes, unfortunately the weaknesses of the smaller pdf have found their way into the big book as well. The difference is the vast scope of this book: Whereas the standard PWYW-book covered only the core classes and one barbarian archetype, this one also covers the whole APG-roster + Antipaladin, Magus, Gunslinger, Samurai and Ninja - and yes, summoner and witch get quadded eidolon/familiar statblocks and the samurai comes with mount - cool here: A camel, of all things! Unfortunately, the ranged touch attack of the spitting lacks its bonus in the statblock, but on a plus-side, animal tricks are noted.

Beyond these "standard" classes from the APG, we get so much more: Barbarians get a sample build for the armored hulk, breaker, brutal pugilist, drunken brute, drunken rager, elemental kin, hurler, invulnerable rager, jungle rager, mounted fury, raging cannibal, savage barbarian, scarred rager, sea reaver and superstitious archetypes. Weird: On page 162 of my pdf, the icons of the quadded statblock seem to have a glitch...but that's cosmetic.

Bards are also covered - namely the animal speaker, arcane duelist, arcane healer, archaeologist, archivist, buccaneer, celebrity, court bard, daredevil and demagogue. This is as good a place as any, btw., to mention that each section on a class is headed by a brief general breakdown of competences and a designer's soapbox that talks about the classes - which is a nice segue into the respective sections. Cleric-wise, the cloistered cleric, crusader, divine strategist and evangelist are included in the deal. I am still annoyed by the statblocks for clerics not specifying the domain chosen. A weird peculiarity in that regard: Builds tend to use inquisitions, rather than domains, which is generally, considering spells and powers, not the smartest idea for clerics.

We do get 3 druids - ape shaman, aquatic druid and arctic druid. None of them use companions and, bingo, when a domain was chosen via nature's bond, it was not specified. Also odd: The spellcasting mentions (+1 domain per)[sic!] under the spells per day. It's clear what's meant, but...well. You get it, right? Fighter-wise, the archer, armor master, brawler and cad are included. The archer would be a nice way to showcase what I meant with the builds not necessarily being very lethal at higher levels. At 14th level, the archer here has a base damage of 1d8 +6 with a +3 longbow. Not bad, sure...but neither is it impressive.

Monks may select the drunken master, flowing monk, hamatulatsu master, hungry ghost. ki mystic,. maneuver master, martial artist or master of many styles. Which would be yet another chance for me to nitpick: The ACs partially note "+X misc" in their specific bonus-lists. That does not exist. The proper formatting is "+X monk." The ki mystic build is...interesting...or a joke, depending on your definition .At low levels, she is fragile, but at level 14, the poor sod has AC 24 and a whopping 28 hit points. Con as a dumpstat. No, her damage output does not make up for that and so, there is no amazing item/ability combo that makes the character nigh impossible to hit. She wouldn't have lived through melee with a single mook in my game. Another sad victim of a build would be the Master of Many Styles presented here. Yay, he a has a ton of style feats! And none of the follow-up feats that are the reason you take crappy style feats in the first place. Sorry, there's an exception: Monkey Moves. On the plus-side, the monk builds do take maneuver training etc. into account, so CMB etc. is correct and it's been a while since I saw a tiger fork as a preferred weapon. Still, equipment is not nearly up to par for the levels. +3 amulet of natural armor is all the poor level 14 build gets. I consider myself to be stingy regarding magic items, but herein, the high-level builds suffer big time, coming not even close to the WBL suggested. The maneuver master also is...really wrong. A halfling monk with movement rate 15 ft. (no idea from gear etc. how that happened) and a wrong AC in all builds. Not the only character with such glitches, mind you.

We get the combat healer squire paladin and the battle scout, beast master, deep walker, dungeon rover and falconer ranger next, and yes, the beats master gets a boar companion, the deep walker a dire rat. A slight peculiarity I should mention here: The races use names like "dusk elf" or "dwarf (deep delver)" in brackets - these denote alternate racial abilities, not unique races...just in case you don't have the same array of useless PFRPG trivia lodged in your brain that I do. ;P That being said, I do welcome the use of alternate racial traits. And yes, the falconer gets an...OWL companion.

Rogues are covered as acrobats, bandits, burglars. Cavaliers represented by the beats rider and gunslingers by buccaneer ad gunner squire. I was a bit surprised by the lumping of the cavalier in with these two chapter- and discussion-wise - typically, these guys are armored and fulfill a radically different role than slingers and rogues. Similarly, gunslingers and rogues play nothing alike and gunslingers DON'T have a lot of options, contrary to what the discussion claims. They, much like the cavalier, are not a class with a wide feat array, many meaningful choices or a pronounced player agenda. Regarding the builds: I do cringe a bit when a rogue wastes a precious feat on Acrobatic. The beast rider does not have the correct mount for its archetype. Plus: Buccaneer gets familiar stats and Cha-mod-governed grit right.

The final section covers the following: A crossblooded sorceror, a primalist transmuter, 5 alchemists (beastmorph, chirurgeon, clone master, crypt breaker, internal alchemist), 2 inquisitors (cold iron warden, exorcist), 2 magi (bladebound, greensting slayer), one oracle (black-blooded oracle), one summoner (blood summoner) and a beast-bonded witch. At this point, however, you have a good idea of what to expect here.

The book concludes with an alphabetical index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are at the same time impressively good and problematic; when there's a glitch, it's consistent; if not, then we get, formally a rather impressive book, with stuff bolded that should be bolded and only very few italicization hiccups. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard for text, or the quadded statblock, as applicable. The background is yellow-ish parchment-like and the pdf does not feature any artworks. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version, which is a big plus. The massive hardcover in full color is, well, massive and makes for a hefty tome at the table that is comparatively inexpensive for its massive page-count. A bookmarked version of the pdfs has been uploaded to my knowledge.

J. Evans Payne has crafted the single biggest book of pregens I have ever seen for any gaming system. And at first level, these guys and gals can be pretty solid. The higher level builds, however, are severely under-equipped, to the point where they are basically impotent and don't even measure up to NPC WBL-guidelines. So that's a pretty nasty downside for GMs. On the plus-side, if you're concerned about too many PC deaths and an inflation of magic items, well, these guys most certainly won't present you with that problem.

The sheer amount of statblocks in this book is impressive, yes, but, to put it bluntly, the sheer volume is paid for with the detail and quality of the statblocks in question, particularly when it comes to the strategies of the builds, the feat-selection and the extremely subpar magic item array. Don't get me started on combat gear etc. Now don't get that wrong: I am actually pretty surprised by the relative precision of the builds herein. This is not sloppy in the craftsmanship in the traditional way and probably powered by some piece of software. For the most part, the numbers check out with surprising frequency. Still, they don't always check out and often feel very rough and not necessarily founded on the principle of making a character with a decent chance of survival.

At first level, the level of potency and relatively barebones item array the characters exhibit is okay, but the higher level versions show painfully the lack of the required gear and their deviation from the suggested WBL for NPCs, and don't get me started on PCs. I tried to find a way to sugar-coat it, to see the positive about this, but failed miserably, so there it goes: I wouldn't use the high-level versions as a PC.

That is not to say that there is no value herein; quite the contrary. By definition, the book, while certainly not perfect, does offer quite a lot of stats that can make for a ton of easily dispatched mooks for the GM to throw at players. (Never mind the hiccups - mooks are there to die anyways...) Similarly, at first level, for the most part, if you ignore minor hiccups, you get a metric TON of characters. Finally, as a base to build upon, this may have some serious value for the time-starved, but crunch-savvy GM: Replace some feats and select magic items on the fly and modify the base-chassis and there we go.

That being said, I consider this book to be worthwhile for the comparatively fair price, yes, but also very flawed - and unlike the adventure itself and its companion tome's NPCs, the crunch for PCs MUST be on point and it has no other virtues by which I could judge it.

So, for who is this book? GMs looking for base-lines to build on; players who want 1st level pregens. (With a bit of oversight by someone rules-savvy...) It also depends on how neurotic you are regarding statblocks - if you're like me, you may get a bad twitch. If general functionality is what you're looking for, if you don't have the same level of perfectionism I do, then this could be a treasure trove for you.

The fact, however, remains that this massive book falls short of what it could, and, more importantly should, be.

For me, personally, this did not deliver what I wanted. While I can see some groups deriving a lot of mileage and fun from this, and while I understand that, system-immanently, this cannot present the same precision as significantly smaller books, I still expected more from this. I did not expect inspired builds à la Faces of the Tarnished Souk, but I expected precision and functionality and that is, alas, not always there. While I don't count myself among the folks who can ignore such shortcomings, my final verdict will respect this distinct possibility. Hence, I will settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform due to in dubio pro reo and its sheer size as well as the fact that it is part of a freshman offering.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Extended Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
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The Northlands Saga Complete Player's Guide
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2017 11:01:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Player's guide for the massive Northlands Saga Player's Guide clocks in at 50 pages if you ignore SRD, advertisement, editorial, etc. My review is based on the dead tree version, which comes as a nice softcover. I was a backer of the Northlands Saga kickstarter, but other than that not involved in any way with this project.

So, how do we start? We start by contextualizing the Northlands and their myths - inspired by real life mythology from Scandinavia, a central leitmotif and proposition of the series was to get the feeling of the Northlands right - and, indeed, flavor-wise, the pdf begins pretty much from the get-go to do just that, presenting us with an angle that is certainly inspired by the traditional myths from our very own world, but which, at the same time, takes a different approach, putting the cultural implications and ramifications into a fantastic context, namely that of the Lost Lands, Frog God Games' evocative own setting.

This process is achieved by first discussing mentality and races, or rather, ethnicities: There are two basic human ethnicities within these realms, the Northlanders and the Seagestrelanders. Beyond these, a quasi-Inuit theme is transported via the race of the Nûklanders, the elves of the frigid tundra, who also have their own traditions and culture - from religion to daily life, the realities of the life for people in these harsh climates are explained to the players, their stances towards adventuring, religion, etc. generating a sense of familiarity while at the same time estranging the reader from them. It should be noted that the strong emphasis on theme and culture, on the roleplaying aspects of the game, is very much crucial for the enjoyment of the series. In the case of e.g. Nûklanders, we have minor variations of the racial abilities the race would otherwise receive.

Once we take a look a the new races, this aspect becomes immediately non-optional. The first would be the giant-blooded, who gets +4 Str, +2 Con, -2 Dex and Cha, is Large, has a movement rate of 40 ft., low-light vision, +1 natural armor AND a reach of 10 feet. This makes them, in particularly in the gritty playstyle championed by the environment, utterly OP. The troll-born share a similar fate, gaining +2 Str, +4 Con, -2 Cha, gain ferocity, 2 1d4 claws and the ability to eat anything, which can be rather potent in sch an environment. Sure, they take +1 fire damage per die, but yeah. Compared to the standard races, they share the fate of being lopsided, geared towards martial traditions and exceeding the power-level of the base races by quite a bit.

Now, don't get me wrong - I understand it. Our very own lore is saturated with beings, ostensibly of these bloodlines, committing great deeds and their themes are deeply ingrained in the cultural context. Similarly, it is made very clear that they pay for this power by simply not being accepted by regular folks; by being ostracized and stigmatized. And that can work to reign them in. At the same time, what would usually balance these guys is simply less pronounced in the frigid north, namely a prevalence of casters. You see, this PG does an amazing job of establishing a cultural context and as such, does not shy away from banning some options, from telling groups what its intended feeling was supposed to be. Paradoxically, these limitations actually help reassert the potence of these two racial options.

That being said, if you're playing the saga via Swords & Wizardry-rules, that won't be a problem. Why? Because the pdf does not provide OSR-stats for them, which is a somewhat unfortunate oversight in my book.

Where races are that important for the flavor, the same holds true for character options, and thus, we get 5 new archetypes, two of which are intended for the barbarian class. The first of these would be the bearsarker - on an aside here: Nomenclature is following the lead of our own world as well, but, once again, spins it slightly, creating a sense of familiarity and estrangement at the same time, breeding the same sense of the fantastic. The common language of the north, for example, would be "Nørsk" - one umlaut away from Norwegin, or "norsk", as we know it. In fact, that is perhaps how I'd sum up the whole feeling of the culture and lands - very close to our own, but distinct - an umlaut away, if you will.

But I digress, back to the class options: The Bearsarker and Ulfhander barbarian archetypes, the skald bard, the huscarl fighter and the spear maiden paladin, as well as the cunning woman sorceror bloodline have three things in common: 1) They represent the social and cultural norms of the respective environments, representing the default variations of the professions in question. 2) They thematically provide perfect fits for the respective campaign environments and 3), froma pure crunch-analysis point of view, you should not expect too much from them. While not bad per se, they do not radically change the playstyle of any of the classes they modify...and could even be considered to be somewhat subpar in some instances: The skald archetype, for example, loses spellcasting in favor of some bonus combat feats and the very limited ability to grant allies affected by bardic performance some feats instead of inspire competence. Similarly, the spear maiden loses spells and mercies in favor of better spear-fighting. From a min-maxing point of view, you probably won't consider any of these archetypes worthwhile, but to an extent, that's their goal - if anything, these class options are in service of the theme and aesthetics the saga tries to evoke, which kinda makes this okay for me. Kinda. I still wished the options were a bit more mechanically interesting.

I am significantly less divided on the subject matter presented where it comes to the variety of traits presented - these include more votes at the Thing, latent taints in the bloodline, local tricks by region, etc. - their potency and benefits generally make sense and add a nice narrative angle in most cases. The book also features 7 feats and sports some interesting modifications of spear fighting, allowing for the 1-handing of longspears, breaking Shield Walls and the like. While not necessarily mind-blowing, these feats add some combat options to the campaign that make sense, even if their ruleslanguage is not always pitch-perfect. The book also sports the greathammer weapon, the sunstone recently popularized by the TV-series Vikings and rules for trodnheim ponies.

Beyond these, we also are introduced to concise rules for death speeches...and fate. The latter can only be invoked ONCE PER CAMPAIGN by a player, but it basically guarantees an epic blaze of glory, including final death - not even the gods can prevent that! These variant rules fit the tropes and theme perfectly and receive a big thumbs up from yours truly.

Now, the player's guide also sports a selection of pregens, all of which come with nice b/w-artworks and complete stats for both OSR and PFRPG-gameplay. A total of 8 such pregens are included in the deal and their character angles and general build strength once again fit the vision of the campaign rather well. In case you were wondering, 1 pt.-buy is the way to go here, and I personally welcome the characters following this more down to earth fantasy approach.

This, however, is not where the book ends - quite the contrary. Instead, we begin what you could consider an absolutely awesome way of introducing players to the themes of the north: That mordbrand is not something to be tolerated, that good and evil, valor and foolishness are not always clearly separated, and that fate is...you get the idea. We basically receive short stories set in the campaign world, which further elucidate the respective aspects - the background story of certain characters, world-building - you name it. Each story is prefaced with a GM warning that allows the respective GM to determine whether or not to hand it out to the players, with potential spoilers being clearly depicted as such.

Now that being said, even in the one story that is somewhat spoiler-heavy, it does not wreck the module per se, just provides the exposition of the tragedy that kicks it off - using it after the introductory scenes is very much something I'd encourage. But what are the stories about? In Jeff Provine's "Harsh Wyrds", we can witness a mortal challenging Donar, taking his first step upon a path determined by will and wyrd to power. Kenneth Spencer's "The Brothers of jarl Skur Skulisdottir" helps highloght the prejudice towards the giant-born and also mentions the slåtten, a horrid beast bred from the madness of a bearsarker. Kevin Wright's "Fadr" deals with a humble man's quest to save his kith and kin...a humble man who once was a great hero, who also happened to have several quasi-mythological and extremely powerful females at his side. The aforementioned spoiler-heavy story would be "Ten Cowards" by John Bennett, depicting the horrid impact of a mordbrand, a vindictive hall-burning. Nathan Shank's "Endless Ice" is an amazing tale of one of the Nûk, delving into the tradition of shamanistic visuals and symbols and arctic horror, whereas the final tale, Kevin Wright's "The Sword of Kings", depicts a well-known legend, of how the sword of kings, Kroenarck, was won, adding a subdued fisher-king resonance to the whole proceedings.

These stories have multiple things in common: They are expertly written, compelling reading material, highlight and further emphasize mentality and mythology, should make fans of low fantasy and sword and sorcery grin and do an amazing job of further showcasing the wonder and splendor of the north. Those wishing for crunch in a player guide may dismiss them, but personally, I adore their inclusion in the book - they are inspiring from both a GM and a player-perspective.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level - while both sport minor hiccups here and there, the material, as a whole, is professionally presented. The b/w-artworks deserve special mention: Chris McFann, Terry Pavlet and Artem Shukaev did an amazing job visualizing the harsh beauty and majestic nature of these realms. In fact, I was pretty surprised to see three artists credited, for while there are variations in individual artstyles once you look for them, the book still manages to evoke a concise visual identity. As mentioned, the softcover is of the usual high quality we expect from Frog God Games.

A look at the authors shows us why this book is worth getting: With Kenneth Spencer, Jeff Provine, John Bennett, Nathan Shank, Kevin Wright and none other than Greg A. Vaughan, we have assembled a number of authors that are great story-tellers here. Whether you'll enjoy this player's guide, then, hinges on your personal priorities. If you expect a series of specific, crunchy tidbits that drastically change the playing style, then this will probably leave you underwhelmed. If, however, you're looking for a book that takes the exposition aspects, the explanations of mentality and the like off your back, that establishes a firm cultural and thematic baseline and ensures everyone's on the same page, then this is pretty much what you want. The stories are fantastic and worth the asking price, as far as I'm concerned, at least.

That being said, I can't really rationalize away the fact that the new races only work with copious social penalizing by the GM, particularly considering the otherwise low power-level of the 15-pt.-PCs. Similarly, OSR gamers get a bit less out of this book, sometimes unnecessarily so, so that may be a downside for some of my readers as well.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore this booklet. I love its flavor and how it "gets" what makes Northlands tick; I like its defiant, old-school style, its courage to say "NO!" to totally inappropriate characters. I like that it says: "This is supposed to be gritty!" In short, I like that it emphasizes a believable component and doesn't try to depict "superheroes with a viking coating" - sure, you can play that way, I don't judge. Personally, I very much adore that plausible, more subdued fantasy this presents. How to rate this, then? See, here is where I encounter the big issue as a reviewer. The crunch, frankly, left me less than impressed and...I don't know, thing-mechanics for players, a reputation system (cough Bard's Gate cough Rhûne/cough) and the like would have added some serious oomph here. In fact, I'll be scavenging from both of these sources.

At the same time, the short stories have entertained me significantly better than the last 4 sword & sorcery anthologies I've read, drawing me perfectly into this harsh and majestic realm. As a person, I'd say "Substitute the crunch you don't like, scavenge and enjoy the amazing prose!" As a reviewer though, as much as I LOVE the flavor, culture and stories, I have to take into account that the book comparatively falls slightly short of its own promise. Rhûne handled tying the Norse flavor/reputation to rules better in my book - don't get me wrong, that setting's crunch (Rhûnes class options aren't all that amazing...) isn't perfect either, but honor, runes etc.? Heck yes, I consider them to be better.

Thus, even though I love this as a person, I can't go higher than 4 stars here; if you're looking primarily for crunch, you may have to detract one more star. Similarly, OSR-groups may be disappointed that they don't get giant/troll-blooded characters or variations of the base classes/kits and should detract half a star. At the same time, I try to rate books for their intent, and the intention of this book clearly is to establish the region, the culture - to provide the lore to the players. And here it excels, which is why the 4-star-rating remains my final verdict, in spite of the book's flaws.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Saga Complete Player's Guide
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CLASSifieds: The Technopath
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2017 10:58:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the CLASSifieds-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, the first thing you should know is that this class builds on the Technology Guide's rules for science-fantasy tech. The book thus should be fully compatible with Call to Arms: Fantastic Technology...and the hinted at, but per the writing of this still unreleased sequel book.

The technopath receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per levels and begins play with proficiency with simple weapons and laser torches as well as light armor. Technopath spells may be cast in light armor sans spell failure. Technopaths have their own spell-list and cast spells of up to 6th level drawn from it. The class does not need to prepare it in advance, but uses Intelligence as governing spellcasting attribute - if you're particular about the Int/Cha prepared/spontaneous-divide, that's something to bear in mind. Rules-wise, I have no complaints in that regard, though. Chassis-wise, we have 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves, though it should be noted that 20th level's 6th level spells per day-column is missing its numerical value.

The technopath begins play with a special cybernetic brain implant called spirit core (yes, spirit core and laser torch both are presented as items herein, in case you were wondering), which powers all but the spells regarding class abilities. This is also the place where the technogeist lives (Geist = German for "ghost", in case you did not know...yeah, we're pretty much in Ghost in the Shell territory here...). The technogeist may be hosted in either the technopath's consciousness or wirelessly connect it to computers, cybertech or similar features via root access or control a robot drone. All of these are distinct class features, so let's take a look at them in order:

Skill memory, the ability that hosts the geist in the technopath's consciousness, is gained at 4th level. For any two skills for which the technogeist has more skill ranks than the technopath, the AI grants Skill Focus' effects. problems here: Does that apply to ALL skills or one of them? One skill per two the technogeist exceeds the ranks of the technopath? I assume that only one skill is affected since 8th and 16th level yield an additional skill. I'm not 100% clear on how this works. Secondly, the benefits stack with Skill Focus, which they frankly shouldn't - skills are easy to cheese as is; potentially doubling Skull Focus benefits is ridiculous. At 12th level, the ability yields the weapon proficiencies of the technogeist as well. These benefits are suspended when using root access or planar networking.

What's planar networking? It's a 1st level ability, which lets the technopath, via one minute of uninterrupted transmission of a signal through an adjancent plane like the astral, target a robot within 50 ft, whose CR is less than the technopath's level - should probably be class level here. The target must be unconscious or currently non-operational and may then be controlled by the technopath, but must remain in the vicinity. While thus affected, the robot receives the aggregate template, representing that it's inhabited by the technogeist.

This would be a CR +1 template, using Int instead of Dex for initiative, adjusting Will-save to account for the AI's Wisdom score and the robot retains the AI's Int, Wis, and Cha-scores. The robot retains its feats, adding the AI's feats as well, which can be pretty potent. If such an aggregate (or another piece of equipment possessed by the technogeist) is destroyed, the AI spends 1 minute rebooting in the spirit core. The AI is not affected by mind-affecting effects, but since it is a technological entity that employs magic, its abilities are hampered in zones of dead magic and the like. A technogeist's three base scores may be assigend at character creation (14, 12 and 10) in any order and the AI increases one attribute by +1 every 5 levels. The technogeist receives 6 + Int-mod skills per every 2 levels and begins play with 1 feat, gaining another feat at 3rd, 6th, etc. level. The technogeist begins play with share spells and all Craft skills as class skills, with a +4 insight bonus to Knowledge (engineering) as well as Technologist as a bonus feat. OP: It can repair 2d6 points of damage to any robot as a standard action. No daily cap, nothing - if you have a PC-robot-race, this means infinite healing. Even in other contexts, this needs a hard daily cap.

2nd level yields evasion, 14th improved evasion, and 7th and 17th level provide additional weapon proficiencies. 12th level yields Multiattack and 6th level decreases the reboot duration from 1 minute to 3 rounds. 8th level yields the choice of +1 to atk, initiative or all saves and at 9th level, the technogeist may affect nearby robots as a standard aaction, commanding them as per suggestion. The rules-text contradicts itself here - in one sentence, it says that the ability can be used 3/day and 1/day.

Starting at 2nd level, a techonpath may btw. share senses with the technogeist. Okay, that out of the way, let's return to the different abilities the technopath can use with her geist, the second of which would be root access, which is unlocked at 3rd level: As a swift action, the character can touch a technological object, granting the technogeist root access, which can be maintained for a daily total of class level rounds per day. The precise benefit here depends on the type of object thus accessed: Armor and shields can convey a significant AC boost (+5 shield bonus, increases to +8 at 13th level; 18th level provides a powerful force field with fast healing and the consumption of rounds of this ability instead of charges). Weapons net bonuses to atk and damage with somewhat weird sclaing (standard +4, +7 at 13th level) and additional attacks - the latter should die or at the very least offer a caveat to prevent additional attack stacking via haste, flurry, etc. 18th level allows the technopath to levitate adjacent to the character, allowing it act and move independently.Computers etc. allow for the sharing of skills etc. and Mark models, prismatic augmentations etc. may be improved as well.

The third functionality of the geist would be to duplicate a kind of pet - the technopath begins play with a security drone, a CR 1/3 robot with a chargeable laser turret and a gripping clamp that can be used for clumsy manipulations. 2nd level yields Craft Robots as a bonus feat and allows the character to craft from scrap and may apply temporary hit points to a robot, though thankfully sans easy cheese option. 5th level yields at-will technomancy with a CL equal to class level -3, ith 14th level making that constant. At 6th level,, the character may use discharge or recharge 1/day as an SP at -3 class levels as CL. 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter yield an additional daily use, with 18th level increasing the CL by +1, up to class level maximum. 10th level makes the bonded senses always on when using planar networking to hijack robots as well as skill memory's benefits while the technogeist is within a robot. 11th level provides 1/day memory of function as an SP at full CL, +1 daily use at 17th level. This also allows a geist to immediately establish control as part of the action, if so desired. 17th level provides a persistent virtual demiplane - this plane has stringent limits, but represents nearby interaction points and can only be accessed by the virtual consciousness, basically duplicating in flavor and effect something akin to Shadowrun's matrix. As a capstone, the class can also represent and interact with creatures, including those on overlapping planes, within this mode.

Now, I mentioned recharge/discharge - fret not, the spells, part or the new spells contained herein, have a burn-out chance for batteries, so not cheap infinite resource cheeses there. Glamering robots as fleshy beings, detecting technology via technomancy or the like - there are, spell-wise, some cool ideas here. Immediate full restoration of construct hit points, even as a 7th level spell, can be considered to be rather potent and should be handled with care. The spell-representation of magnetic field is pretty nice, as far as hard terrain control goes.

The class comes with a total of 3 archetypes: The compatibilist android, who replaces fused consciousness and memory of function via a variant, robot-based Leadership. The class abilities, like the recharging mentioned before, also tie in with that. The archetype also receives a capstone that nets the divine source mythic ability and herald apotheosis. Circuit breaker technopaths receive a modified skill list and their technogeist gains more weapon proficiencies . If the name was not ample indication, let me spell it out: These guys are more about using a sledgehammer, so to speak: Damaging and destroying technology, via discharges, EMPs and the like. In contrast to this more offensive archetype, the artificial empath is all about Teamwork with the technogeist, a form of co-existence, if you will - represented by 1st level gaining the Empathy feat, teamwork feats and the option to grant the technogeist a persistent form at 10th level. At the highest levels, they can even create artificial life and make the AI a real boy, to use the classic analogy.

While some feats mentioned may be familiar to those of you who own CtA: Fantastic Technology, the pdf also features a selection of new feats: AIs and robots can learn to make Backups in case of destruction; binary communication can also be achieved and another feat allows robots, androids etc. to disable emotions - which may or may not be something that you'd already assume as a given in your game. Why is it here? Empathy. The feat nets an empathic robot/AI. Emotion-and-fear-ignoring metamagic via Forced Empathy Spell is also included and faking emotions can also be found here. As an aside/nitpick, the latter has its benefits/prerequisites not properly bolded. More interesting would be Transform, which lets your robot/android/etc. selectively doe the transformer and change arms, grow wheels, etc. Temporarily wearing a robot is a cool concept, but the execution, even with its hard cap per day here, can be a bit powerful and should only be attempted by advanced players.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' nice two-column full-color standard. The pdf uses a mix of new and stock full-color art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Garrett Guillotte's technopath is NOT for the faint of heart. This is a complex class that requires quite some system mastery to understand...and play. A 1st level technopath that doesn't take care will be left sans drone, for example. Similarly, you have to know how AIs work to run this and most players probably don't. Including a step by step explanation would have made this significantly easier to grasp. You see, you have basically two entities here - technopath and technogeist. However, the technogeist is basically the fuel of class abilities: A distinct entity, yes, but also the source of the technopath's powers. And this is where a lot of the issues of the class, in fact, the grievous ones, lie. RAW, the AI is a distinct entity, with its own actions. At the same time, the technopath governs these actions. This does create an overall feeling where the lines between the two entities are blurred: Compared to e.g. spiritualist or tinker, I found myself wishing that the two would be separated more clearly. This also goes for the technogeist-powered abilities. These generally are pretty cool, yes, but their presentation is, at least when reading the class for the first time, rather challenging.

These didactic shortcomings can be a bit tough, particularly on newer players, but more problematic would be the issues here and there like doubled Skill Focus, wonky bonus iterative attacks and the like, that drag his class down. There is one more thing to bear in mind: Several of the class abilities allow the technopath to potentially make use of powerful foes. While these are thankfully limited, the class only really reaches its full potential in a campaign that sports sufficient amounts of tech. If you run a low-technology game, it loses some of its appeal and power. How to rate this, then? In the end, I consider this to be a flawed class, yes - but also one that manages to get a lot of complex concepts done right. It has some aspects that could have used further clarification, but at the same time, it manages to do something interesting, which is a plus for me. In the end, I consider this a mixed bag on the positive side, which translates to 3.5 stars: Advanced players and GMs willing to invest a bit of time in a tech-heavy campaign may well want to check this out! I'd usually round down for this, but as per the writing of this review, the class is available for 1 buck, which is really cheap for the amount of content - hence, I'll round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CLASSifieds: The Technopath
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Standard Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2017 10:57:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of PWYW-pregens clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 56 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this would be the small "Pay what you want"-companion tome to its massive extended brother, a colossal pregen book for the Dark Obelisk AP, or, more precisely, its first chapter "Berinncorte" - in my review of the Player's Guide, I briefly talked about the optional reward star character progression mechanic, so let me be brief: You award those for quest completion, defeating key bosses etc. - it's basically an XP-less advancement method. I'd not the biggest fan, but thankfully, easy conversion mechanics are provided.

Since the Player's Guide was system-neutral, I did not comment on another peculiarity of Dark Obelisk that very much becomes relevant here: Quadded statblocks. Instead of one statblock, each statblock in this pdf comes in 4 iterations, color-coded for your convenience: Low-level stats (level 1 - 4, up to CR 4), moderate level stats (levels 5 - 8, CR between 4 and 10), advanced stats (levels 10 - 15, CRs ranging from 10 - 15) and elite stats for levels 15+, with CRs ranging from 12 to 20. Now thankfully, these quadded statblocks retain PFRPG's subsections - i.e. you'll still have CR/XP first, then sex race class, initiative, etc. - in short, they require no getting used to.

The levels for the characters herein would be 1, 6, 10 and 14, respectively and the book does feature a bit of insight into design philosophy - while these characters work, they are not necessarily minmaxed or the like and they enjoy playing against the trope. Special abilities are listed for your convenience, meaning you won't have to switch books, which is a nice plus. What's bold is bolded, magic items are italicized - the formal criteria are surprisingly solid. While we do get e.g. Gronka Hackbang, the half-orc barbarian with Int 6 and Cha 8, e.g. Antagonize as a feat choice makes surprising sense when paired with an Intimidate that does not suck. So yes, I do believe that there is some story within these statblocks per se, which is a good thing since, unlike many a pregen-collection, we don't actually get roleplaying notes or extensive background stories - these are the crunchy mechanics and that's that. And yes, the pregens are effective at their respective roles, so min-maxers probably won't have too much to complain here.

Beyond aforementioned barbarian, we get an elven bard, a half-elf cleric, a dwarven druid, a tiefling fighter, a hafling monk, a dwarven paladin, a halfling ranger, a human rogue, a gnome sorcerer and an elven wizard. gender-wise, we have a solid mix here. The builds per se are relatively solid, though they are not free of glitches - while I did not reverse-engineer all of the builds, e.g. the spell save DC is universally off by one: It was calculated with 11 as a base-line before adding the key attribute, when it should be 10 + attribute modifier + spell level. Similarly, the cleric e.g. does not state the chosen domain, which is puzzling, considering that e.g. the sorceror comes with the full bloodline info. It should be noted that the builds use PFU's Artistry-skill, but not the Lore-skill.

The pdf closes with a sample, non-named quadded armored hulk barbarian statblock, including some nice ideas regarding how to play the character, how to use dressing, what the strengths and weaknesses are from a crunch-perspective - you get the idea. This would be basically a teaser for the expanded pregen book, where more such sections can be found. The pdf closes with a brief index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - while the formal criteria and formatting are surprisingly good, some minor build glitches aren't so cool. Layout adheres to a full-color standard that puts either two columns of text or a quadded statblock in the center - there is no overlap between characters, which means that the final pages of some have a bit of blank space. Still, preferable to overlap. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly, backgroundless version. EDIT: As per the posting of this review, a bookmarked version is being uploaded.

All right, so this is the PWYW-version, the freebie pregens for those who want them...and they are solid enough. While we get pretty much pure crunch and not much else, that's as advertised and the statblocks for higher levels mean that GMs will have some nice stats for NPCs as well, if required. That being said, the glitches that I found do drag this down a notch. It also hits a big pet-peeve of mine: We don't actually get the point-buy values used in character creation. Considering that plenty of groups use 25-pt. or 15-pt.-buy for high or gritty fantasy, respectively, getting that precise info and scaling advice would have been very much appreciated.

...I think I may have reached a whole new level of prickishness, complaining about a pretty hefty PWYW-pregen collection, but there we go: We also only get core classes here and one archetype'd character. Considering the wealth of options available for PFRPG, I know that my players refuse to play vanilla core characters. That may be a feature or a bug, depending on how you look at it, but at least some APG-support would have been more than expected - now, of course, those can be found - in the extended book! The high-level versions also tend to be pretty challenged regarding gear, usually sporting somewhat level-appropriate magical weapons/armor with the usual +1/+2/+3 bonuses - so expect nothing too creative there. In fact, the high level versions are SEVERELY underpowered.

Sooo...how do I rate this? Here, things get tricky. You see, the draw here would be the stats and they are plentiful, yes. And no, I don't expect them to be flawless or anything like that...but frankly, I expect them to be a bit more transparent for the GM to modify. They are not totally bad, but neither will they blow you away. This is a decent pdf, and at PWYW, it certainly is worth checking out...but it is not a particularly artful collection of pregens, sporting several hiccups and issues - if you'd like to know which, I went into much more detail in my review of the extended pregenerated characters tome. Even taking the PWYW-nature into account, I can't go higher than 3 stars on this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Standard Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Players' Guide (Unisystem)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2017 11:00:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Player's Guide for the first part of the massive Dark Obelisk-saga clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/KS-thanks, 2 5 pages blank, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of explanations of the peculiarities of this game studio (more on that in other Dark Obelisk-reviews) leaving us with 43.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was moved up in my review queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

First thing you'll notice: The first content-bearing page pretty much provides quick: "Determine in 10 minutes" basics: Berinncorte is a typical fantasy city of 100 -200 citizens, has library, butcher, etc. Why are the PCs there? up to the players. What do they know? Easy - there's a rumors table! And there even are 3 quick notes on how to get the action going from the get-go.

So, first of all, the book explains its unique presentation, which may be more relevant for the GM than the players, but it's still interesting: Taking a cue from AAW Games' playbook and similarly well-presented adventures, we get handy, color-coded boxes: Obstacles are e.g. in an orange/yellowish box; loot can be found in blue boxes and icons clearly denote the respective components for what they are. When a random roll is required from the GM, a handy dice-symbol denotes the action as such.

Books and knowledge are power: Mundane texts come in their own boxes, with value, weight, etc. and can provide bonuses. Relevant for players: The adventure saga uses skill challenges. Before PFRPG purists start booing - these are not 4E's "Make x unrelated checks to succeed" type of challenges, but instead codify e.g. persuasion, complex traps and the like: First check catches the target in a contradiction, second presses forward, third nets compliance, for example. The example uses falling timbers: Perception to note, Acrobatics to avoid, and on a failure/to help others, Strength to dislodge - basically, they represent sequential, more complex skill interactions, some of which can fail, while others can send you back a step on a failure, etc. Basically what we have in other modules, only codified more stringently.

An additional thing that sets this apart would be that PCs can be replaced with NPCs - if such a replacement, due to death or the like, would be required or feasible, it is denoted as well in the text. The Player's Guide also explains the notion of Reward Stars or Candy XP as an alternate means for the tracking of character progression - these basically consist of a variant, non-level-dependent means of tracking character advancement, emphasizing story more over hard numbers. If you're like me and not a fan of the reward star mechanic, fret not, for the pdf does offer the means to use regular XP instead without much hassle. This is about as much as players necessarily have to know about this, so from here on out, we look at the second chapter, which deals with how to use this.

The town comes with a settlement statblock and suggested hooks for the core classes (but not for those from more esoteric sources). Berinncorte can be used in pretty much every fantasy setting sans big hassle, though the default campaign world assumed would by Aquilae. Theme-wise, we'll be looking at high ability, low tech NPC capabilities - i.e. there will be PCs with some solid PC levels, but not necessarily troves upon troves of magic items - something I personally enjoy. Another aspect, which doesn't necessarily feature in the meat of the module, but makes for an interesting feature of the world, would be the tithe: You could call it accurate or cynical or both, but gods in Aquilae demand a tithe and everyone pays - usually 1% of the income, which is more lenient that real life's tenth. You pray, you pay - the tribute directly ends up at the god's place, btw. Gods are immortal and wield power, but are not omnipotent or all-knowing - and while the churches of two gods feature in the module, all of these unique characteristics, from the precise nature of the deities to the tribute, can easily be discarded by the GM.

The same goes for the excessively detailed array of factions and organizations that matter: They are depicted with general influence notes, resources, etc., common traits and include strange guilds like the Meatsmiths that want to raise meat prices and have their craft be recognized as an art to the more mundane like Berinncorte's militia. The factions depicted here go btw. far beyond what actually transpires in the module, featuring private military, bard's guilds, couriers, divination guilds and the like, adding some detailed information regarding the movers and shakers of the world.

That's not much on what to actually expect from the AP? There's a reason for that and you'll see it in the review of the module. Suffice to say, that's intentional. On the plus-side, the pdf does something I very much enjoy: It provides a player-map of Berinncorte and also presents the read-aloud text of the "public zones" - like temples, market square, etc. - basically, if the PCs have probably visited the place, they'll know the lay of the land. The overview map of the settlement (the weakest among all the maps) represents the locales via self-explanatory icons as well as numbers; the detail maps of the locales instead come key-less, just as player-maps should come.

Particularly useful for PCs who are from Berinncorte would be the third chapter, dramatis personae, where the excessive NPC-fluff descriptions and appearance of the more important NPCs of the town have been duplicated for the PC's edification. These also are often supplemented with well-drawn, original b/w-artworks I very much enjoyed. This would be as well a place as any to comment on the fact that I very much enjoy that Berinncorte is not a heteronormative environment: One NPC angle could have PCs help a gay man come out, homosexual characters exist as both regular folks and badasses...nice plus here! That being said, this also brings me to a gripe I have with this Player's Guide: You see, while a bit of the material herein HAS been redacted, there is a character in the city that ostensibly is a male, but in fact, is a female in disguise. The text of the NPC in question has been redacted to not spoil this potential reveal. However, another NPC's text blabbers on and on about how this character is in truth a woman. Not cool. Another aspect to be weary of here would pertain the fact that the descriptions of the NPCs feature information that should simply not be known by the PCs. While quest-relevant information has been redacted, knowing e.g. that a specific character is secretly infatuated with another character should...well. Be secret? In short: there is some information that does not belong in player hands here. Better redacting of that chapter would have been prudent.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are surprisingly good for a one-man outfit: J. Evans Payne (who has used variants of his name in all functions in the adventure - nice hidden gag) is surprisingly good at controlling his own output, something I really respect. (I suck at editing my own material.) Layout adheres to a relatively no-frills two-column standard with yellowish background. The color-coded boxes help orientation. It's not a gorgeous layout, but it gets the job done and allows you to see relevant material at a glance. The pdf version comes with a second, printer-friendly version with a white background instead. Nice: Each chapter is marked on the fore-edge of the paper - if you flip through the book, you can thus immediately see the chapter. This is nice, but if you flip in reverse through these marks, you'll notice that the left-hand side text in these is not perfectly centered. A purely aesthetic complaint, of the otherwise superior dead tree softcover. As per the one day after the release of this review, I have been notified that a fully bookmarked version has been uploaded - now that is an impressive response-time! We get a few nice b/w-artworks, all original, all enjoyable.

So, the first player's guide by J. Evans Payne does a LOT right: For one, the angle of the module is not spoiled; the public maps/public knowledge section of the city is AMAZING and should be standard for PGs and the lore-sections on factions etc. adds further dimension to the book. I also really like the idea of fluff-only NPC-profiles of well-known characters, if not the precise execution here. If future books redact more sensitive information, that is most certainly amazing.

In short: This sports a few beginner's hiccups, but also features aspects I consider well-crafted and worthwhile additions to the Player's Guide formula. This is not a perfect player's guide, but it most certainly is a worthwhile addition for any group embarking on the Dark Obelisk AP. How to rate this, then? Well, for me, the dramatis personae section, which would have been a perfect way to provide a mnemonic to players (we all know they'll forget some names, no matter how memorable your NPCs are...), fell flat due to too much information, which represents a pretty big strike against the book, but even taking that into account, this still can be considered to be worthwhile. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the low price point ($1 pdf, $5 print + pdf).

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Players' Guide (Unisystem)
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The Hill Cantons Cosmology
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2017 10:56:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This brief cosmology clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this pdf is exactly what is says on the tin - a description of the cosmology of the Hill Cantons, which serve as a backdrop for several of the modules put out by the Hydra Collective. But it is frankly more than that.

The world described here would be called Zěm, and after the header, which explains how the world came to be, we begin with a dialog-like frame-narrative that is hilariously irreverent. In the beginning, there was void (or has world-matter existed before?) and all Void was divided in 3 parts - the space of demons, the transitional zone haunted by the Uquitani and the sector inhabited by the mortals, the "Insufferable Void."

A somewhat doofy Overgod toiled...and then created drink, in order to stop caring. He got horrible drunk, danced upon a gas giant shouted (with a curse) and slipped from it, sleeping for aeons. His spilled drink would become the oceans and when he awoke, he watched. Before inventing Drink. Again. And so he languishes in drunken stupor, while petty demons and gods rage and fight, and below that, the mortals toil.

The world itself has a strong law-chaos leitmotif, realized in a rather intriuing manner: The world is separated in roughly three regions: The corelands, which are akin to our medieval age; no magic, rigid structure, no weird stuff. Contrasted with that would be the Weird, basically pure chaos and your excuse as a GM to throw anything at players. Planar instabilities? Temporal rifts? Every creature you can dream off, from the heaves to the realms of fey....it can just stumble out of the highly magical Weird.

Between the realms of Gonzo weirdness exemplified by the Weird and the rigid Corelands, there lie the Borderlands, where the fantastic exists, but is still beholden to at least some natural laws; it is in this hazy, dream-like in-between-realm that the Hill Cantons and the vast amount of adventure they offer, can be found.

Have I mentioned that this pdf actually managed to make me laugh? Let me quote from the section "On Alignment": "In his famous treatise Annals of the Fold-Fold Path, Gaxx the Jerk-King teaches us that five-fold alignment (LG, CG, N, LE, CE) is humanity's limited, warped, half-right theoretical view (or ontology, if you want to get really high-falutin') of how Zěm's cosmos works."

Regarding religion, we have Solarity (Praise the sun!...Dark Souls fans got a chuckle out of that...) and the ancient space gods. Gods are not beholden to mortal alignments and and the pdf goes on to explain various solarist sects, including the "official" one. We are told about the orders that serve the church and the other deities - Hebeka, the Celestial Lady, Ha-Vul the antagonist and also the Old Gods of Pahr.

Similarly, the first beasts, quasi-deific beings created by the grand god - these include the Regimental Goat Koza and Vlenosh, the angry sloth...and beyond these entities, there are the atrophied gods, for all things must wane and perish, even the deities. Finally, the silent god exists, enigmatically, a divine wildcard, whose endgame is yet to be understood.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though a few typo-level glitches can be found, most notably that the "cosmology"-header on each pages reads "cosnology"[sic!]. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with solid stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Chris Kutalik's cosmology is an irreverent, fun short pdf that made me smile more than once. It is creative, weird and at times even funny. The cosmology presented features several components I consider to be rather enticing and helps illustrate a creative and intriguing world. In short: This is a very fun read. Now, this also is PWYW, which should be considered to be an excellent reason to get this gem right now. It is fun,a good read and even inspiring - whether for scavenging purposes, as a mythology or to add further facets to Hill Canton-modules, this is very much worth getting and leaving a tip for. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Hill Cantons Cosmology
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Revanchist Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2017 10:52:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, 0.5 pages SRD, leaving us with 4.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The revanchist base class must be non-evil and get d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus hand crossbow, longbow, repeating crossbow, shortbow and whip as well as light & medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Chassis-wise, we're looking at 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves.

The revanchist gains Step-up as a bonus feat at first level, but the defining class feature at this level would be oath of vengeance, usable 1/day as a swift action, with 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter yielding an additional daily use. The oath nets the revanchist a bonus to damage against the target equal to the character's level (should be class level) and you treat the weapon as magic for the purpose of overcoming DR as well as +1 to saves versus "effects and conditions" created by the foe. This increases by +1 at 6th, 10th and 15th level. Starting at 6th level, the revanchist's weapons are treated as lawful and good for the purpose of overcoming DR (which can be weird, since revanchists can be chaotic). Nice catch - 10th level makes the weapon count as adamantine for the purpose of overcoming DR, but not hardness interaction. 15th level yields resistance to one of the base energy types or sonic damage, though the wording is wonky: "Becomes resistant (10) to one type of energy..." is uncommon. This resistances may be chosen anew whenever you swear a new oath of vengeance - I'm not sure if this resistance is supposed to only work for effects etc. by the oath's target, since the ability only has a base duration until the end of the encounter

2nd level yields Improved Initiative and 3rd level yields "Sense Murderer" - which fails to italicize discern lies and faerie fire...and is utterly broken: "Whenever a revanchist is within 30 feet of such a criminal, the target is affected by a form of faerie fire, only visible to the revanchist."[sic!] That's not how faerie fire works and basing the ability on "murderer" a) wrecks pretty much every investigation and b) is incredibly opaque - every adventurer, every watchman, soldier, etc. potentially could qualify as a murderer. Non-operational as written. Also at 3rd level, the class gets immunity to fear and grants a bonus of +4 to saves versus fear to allies within 10 feet. This is basically aura of courage, with a needless name-change.

Roar of revenge is gained at 5th level - once per 1d4 rounds, as a standard action, the revanchist can emit a shriek. All creatures (including allies) within 60 feet must succeed a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 class level + Cha-mod or cower (!!!) for 1d4 rounds. This is utterly OP for the level, should be a fear effect and needs to be moved to higher levels. Cowering is one of the most powerful conditions, it's per definition a fear effect and should be prevented by immunities and even though allies are affected, this is a horrible cheese-able ability.

The table contradicts the rules-text - ghost mount, per table, is gained at 4th level, while the rules text situates it at 5th level. Which is it? This companion acts as a full-strength spiritualist's phantom companion. The spiritualist's etheric tether is gained and applied to the mount, which can must be an animal capable of bearing the revanchist's weight and the mount is manifested in ectoplasmic form. The mount also gains some modifications of the base phantom engine. 5th level yields DR 1/-, which increases by +1/- every 5 levels thereafter. Starting at 6th level, the mount ignores difficult terrain and 9th level yields water walk (bingo, not italicized) at will.

7th level yields an alternate oath - oath of hatred. Or at least, that's how the ability is phrased. In fact, it has no daily limit that sets it apart from oath of vengeance, should thus be a sub-ability of it, and nets the benefits of haste (CL 20th - WTF??? At least that one is italicized for once...) and an unytped +4 to atk and grapple-checks. So, does that mean net +8 to grappling? No idea. Needlessly confused. This oath consumes 2 uses of the oath, which means that it won't be used often

9th level yields SR 5, +5 for every 5 levels thereafter, which is not how SR usually scales. 11th level yields air walk at will for the mount "(as the spell, no action required)[sic!]" for "1 round at a time" - This ability, which should be utterly simple...is not, at least not how it's presented here. 11th yields stalwart.

Starting at 13th level, the revanchist may expend 3 uses of her oath to get +4 to Strength and Constitution (bonus type not stated), +2 to natural AC (again, not stated) and +10 base speed as well as DR 10 /evil. Dumb: "As a standard action, the revanchist can deal 10 negative energy damage to a target per class level (capping at 150 damage), 1/2 on a save. Which one? No idea. Range? No idea. How often can it be used? No clue. Can it only affect the oath's target? No idea. Broken as hell, even though it can't reduce a target to below 1 hit point. 14th level yields exploit weakness.

At 16th level, revanchists return from the dead as a revenant when killed by a non-outsider, non-dragon. 17th level yields an AoO whenever a foe hits the revanchist or an adjacent ally, an attack that gains a +2 bonus to atk, +5 if the prompting attack was critical. 18th level yields a bonus combat feat and, as a capstone, the revanchist can perform save or die when invoking oath of judgment - once again, this ability fails to specify its target - RAW, you can use it versus creatures other than the oath's target. This is due to the ability being a copy of true judgment, but judgment provides general benefits, whereas the oaths are targeted effects, making this weird, in spite of being a straight copy. As an aside, the save here is strangely governed by Wisdom - which is completely different from the governing attribute of all other class abilities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good. There are a lot of missed italicizations and similarly, several non-standard wordings in the rules-language. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the character artwork is pretty cool. The pdf has no bookmarks. Cut-copy-paste is disabled, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment when using the class.

Robert Gresham's revanchist per se is definitely a class with promise - the idea of a ghost mount-riding agent of righteous revenge is cool. Alas, both in balance and precision, the class leaves much to be desired. The base chassis is superior to that of the cavalier and inquisitor, the mount is VERY strong and a bit opaque and there are a lot of hiccups. On a design-perspective, the class offers no choice, no player agenda - one revanchist will be just like all others, with only feats and races making a difference. In short - this class has some broken abilities, issues in the craftsmanship, no player agenda and is too strong. The concept is cool, but that's all the positive I can say about this class, unfortunately. This may be worth revisiting and rebuilding from scratch, but as written, I can't rate this higher than 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Revanchist Hybrid Class
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