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Veranthea Codex: Into the Veil
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2016 10:08:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion to the evocative Veranthea Codex-setting clocks in at 42 pages of content, 1 page of front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

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

Speaking of H'gal, the southwestern landmass is tied to his history; the deadlands, a wasteland deemed inhospitable until the successful settlement Gearingsport sprung up. This section, just btw., also introduces magnetite, a new material that treats weapons made from it...as though the user had spellstrike, usable Int-mod times per day. Oh, and it may hold touch spells for hours equal to the enhancement bonus, with a swift action activation. For +2500 GP for light armors, more for better protection...but still. Nope, this is underpriced for its potency. Not getting anywhere near my game. The section also mentions the disturbing blackblood plague...but does not provide a mechanical representation for it, reducing it to an anecdote about a crafty being...a missed chance there.

The northeastern part of the Veil features tropical Caramballa, an archipelago where Port Balas provides the sufficiently Caribbean flair you may want...though there is the component of the sinister lurking behind the surface, as youngsters tend to suddenly leave for the jungles, never to return, to follow the mad whims of Carambal, the Last Irrational, a character previously statted and reprinted here. The details provided for the region also mention a Will-fortifying brew, but alas, no price. A note on the shadow war between H'gal and his mysterious mistake (I'm not spoiling the truth in this review) extending to beneath the waves make sense and we get a cool environmental hazard/trap at CR 15 - which would be even more amazing if it was formatted slightly better - white text over a full-color artwork in the background...not a fan from a layout-perspective. The pirate-county here would be Port Ciaro, once again fully statted.

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

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

After that, we are introduced to the Alterran race that spawned H'gal: These guys get +2 Dex, +4 Int, -4 Con (too min-maxy and lopsided for my tastes) and are monstrous humanoids with 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft, stability, light blindness, +1 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), plates that grant a "+1 natural bonus" (lacks an "armor" or "to AC") and a 1d4-talon that does not specify whether it's a primary or secondary weapon. Instead of darkvision and light blindness, they can gain +1 to Clim, replace the two skill bonuses with UMD and Knowledge (arcana) or gain at-will detect undead, which formatting-wise/rules-language-wise may be intended as a supernatural or spell-like ability. I don't know, since the pdf doesn't mention it.

Some alterrans replace their tinkering expertise with 1/day silent image, mending or obscuring mist (italicizations missing), while others lose the natural AC and reduce speed to 20 ft. ... for DR 5/bludgeoning. While I consider DR to be grossly overvalued regarding design, lumping the DR all in at first level is too much - why not employ a more elegant scaling mechanism here? Others of these guys gain 50% miss chance in dim light instead of the natural armor bonus, which is similarly OP for the trade-off. Nice: We get a TON of favored class options for the race, covering the advanced class guide and occult adventures options. Not so nice: The kineticist FCO, for example, could use some clarification whether it allows for the addition of acid damage to electricity blasts and vice versa or whether it only enhances the damage output of the blast with the corresponding element.

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

The second archetype would be the colonial outcast, who increases sneak attack damage dice when used in conjunction with talons to d8s, but other weapons instead use d4s. 3rd level nets +1 to Disguise, Intimidate and Sense Motive vs. humanoids, which increases by +1 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, replacing trap sense. 4th level replaces the "rogue trick" (should be "rogue talent") with the option to ignore up to 15 ft. of difficult terrain when using Stealth; 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase that range by +5 ft. The pdf also features more items: Chitin salve helps detect alterrans and increases an alterran's natural armor bonus, but at the cost of reduced movement. Ystill-grath nests are generally a cool item: A bio-mine that is flavorful...but honestly, it took me more than one reading to get how the item is supposed to work; the rules-language is operational, but it could use some refinement to make the great concept shine.

Beyond the aforementioned feats, one that adds a talon attack to grapples, one that adds a spedd lockdown while grappling and one that nets a climb speed for alterrans can be found. The pdf also features 3 magic items - an item to fly in space, a gauntlet that disperses goodberries to wounded wielders as well as a vat that may use greater restoration, disintegrate those inside and when used to destroy creatures, it helps retraining their tricks...pretty cool. 3 spells can also be found: Gene Thief lets you steal racial traits - but only lets you employ those that you could, limb-wise. Unfortunately, I think the spells needs more clarification: Can a creature gain a bite attack thus? Or would that not qualify? No idea. Perfect Integration immediately integrates a biodevice and stellar journey basically is the magic equivalent of a rocket drive, allowing for the passage into outer space.

The pdf concludes with 2 pages of random encounter-tables.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting isn't per se bad, but it also isn't as tight as usual for Rogue Genius Games, with a couple of hiccups extending to rules-language. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and deserves both criticism and praise: On the one hand, much like previous Veranthea-supplements, it crams a TON of information on each page, but on the other hand, this time around, I felt that the rules-info and similar components sometimes suffered a bit by how they were jammed in on the page. The book is very busy...and this business may account for a couple of the small oversights, like a lack of stats for minor alchemical items mentioned in the flavor. Artworks are mostly full-color stock art, with public domain images spliced in. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Nicholas J. Giebel's "Into the Veil" has been an interesting experience for me: On one hand, I absolutely adore the metaplot, the endgame-scenario of it, the vehicles that supplement it...these components are amazing. The concept of the whole region, similarly, is damn cool...but at the same time, in spite of being chock-full with information, this book left me wanting. You see, Veranthea Codex is a high-concept setting, but here, it feels like the amazing high concept drowns the whole setting sourcebook component. The respective regions lack the maps and details to really shine/outshine the metaplot...which brings me to another issue. The whole region has a "imprisoned/stranded" leitmotif and doesn't really deal with the means of escape properly. The exceedingly evocative and amazing theme, the underwater connection...all of it is mentioned, but not really elaborated upon.

You have this glorious conflict and components...but the details that allow a GM to really make it his/her own, those need to be provided by the mind of the GM. It took me a long time to properly enunciate what this feels like: Into the Veil is an amazing sketch of a mega-adventure or of an AP and if you tackle it as such, it can offer some serious fun. At the same time, I have no idea regarding local nomenclature, habits, etc. - there is a lot of details missing here, to the point where the whole region becomes shadowy. To visualize it: Imagine a tapestry of amazing lights that look intriguing...but having a hard time connecting them to form a concise image. The presence of cthulhoid entities and biotech could have provided a wellspring of utterly amazing crunchy options in conjunction with the backdrop and the underwater-connection, but the pdf does not really deliver in that regard.

From a rules-perspective, this book left me universally pretty unimpressed; while I like the biomechanics concept-wise, I think the pdf is reinventing the wheel here; Veranthea already has arcanotech, there is the tech-guide...why add another, brief and none-too-detailed obscure subsystem here? Anyway, I don't want to come off as too negative - this pdf does have some great ideas. If anything, it buckles under the ambition of its theme: This would have made for a superb 100+ pages mega-adventure or similarly-sized sourcebook; at the page-count provided, even with the impressive amount of information crammed into its pages, it feels like it is too brief, not detailed enough to make everything come to life.

The pdf could have either used splitting up and development of different books or a tighter focus. So, once again, while I do believe that this does have value, it also falls short in the regional sourcebook category it is situated in. While not bad by any means, when I compare this book to the Vathak regional guides, Purple Duck games' region books or Frog God Games' mighty Borderland Provinces tome, it falls short. I hope to one day see this mutate into a massive mega-adventure that is bound to be awesome, a cool, detailed sandbox that transcends the sketch-like nature this offers...but, as a whole, in spite of loving the metaplot, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for this book.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Into the Veil
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The Pulverizer Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2016 10:05:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1/2 page SRD, leaving us with 5 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The pulverizer class receives d12 HD, 4 + Int skills per levels, proficiency with simple weapons + handaxe, shot sword and the close fighter group as well as light armor and shields, sans tower shields, of course. The class gains a full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves and a monk's unarmed strike damage progression, with the usual Improved Unarmed Strike at 1st level. They count as Intelligence 13 for the purpose of meeting the requirements of combat feats and treats his level as barbarian/monk levels for the purpose of feats, magic items, etc. The pulverizer begins play with rage, 4 + Con-mod-rounds, +2 per level, with the usual bonuses and restrictions. 2nd level nets Improved Grapple (or an untyped bonus to CMD/CMB).

2nd level nets a rage power, with another one gained at every 2 levels thereafter, but they may not select totem rage powers. The class receives a total of 11 exclusive rage powers. One would be an immediate action bashing aside of incoming attacks via opposing attack rolls (not a fan), but the once per rage limit keeps it in line. Powerful Blow 1/rage (Greater) Cleave is solid, doubling swift foot's speed when moving in an ape-like gait, gaining ferocious at higher rage round cost. Reflexive Intimidate after being crit, more slaughter rage power uses per rage...interesting. Slaughter? Well, adds coup-de-grace as an immediate action after reducing a foe to -1 hp. Cool!

Entering a rage as an immediate action can be pretty nasty - I'd be careful with that one. Adding damage to attacks that reduce a foe to -1 hp, completing movement after a charge defeats a foe or using elemental smash to cause sonic-damage cones...pretty decent array. At 3rd level, the pulverizer may use Bodysmash as a full-attack action, granting unarmed TWF with full Str-mod and higher levels providing the further TWF-options and the option to substitute combat maneuvers for attacks here, with higher levels providing scaling bonuses to maneuvers beyond the initial boost to grapple. 3rd level also provides bravery and +10 ft. fast movement. 4th level nets Catch Off-Guard (or its Improved brother).

5th level provides close weapon mastery, substituting his unarmed damage at level -4 for weapon damage...which can be cheesed. Not a fan there. The level also nets uncanny dodge. 6th level provides +2 to grapple checks and maintaining a grapple becomes a move action. 6th level nets Object Smasher and 7th, maneuver training. 7th level provides +1/4 level to CMD and grapple and gain AoOs versus anyone stupid enough to grapple the pulverizer. 9th level makes the unarmed strikes magical, 12th level alignment and 17th level adamantine as the type of the strikes. 13th level lets the pulverizer 3 + Wis-mod times per day (+2 at 17th level) substitute energy types as a swift action. Dumb: The energies feature sonic and FORCE, which means it makes no sense to ever choose anything else.14th level nets rock throwing - oddly with the monster statblock formatting information.

15th level nets a Fort-based variant of defensive roll 1/day, 2/day at 19th level. 16th level nets basically the Awesome Blow monster feat, reskinned as an ability and 20th level nets mighty rage.

The pdf notes the rules for Improved Uncanny Dodge (why?) and features Improved Off-Guard, which renders foes flat-footed against improvised weapons if they fail Sense Motive vs. your Bluff. Broken, even with the 11/24 hour caveat...not gonna start with the second one.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are solid in the formal area and in the rules-area, though far from perfect in both ways. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a decent artwork, though I've seen it used in numerous publications since the release of this pdf. the pdf is not bookmarked, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment. The text, oddly, unlike in other Wayward Rogues Publications, looks less crisp, a bit muddy, making the pdf slightly harder to read than it should be.

Robert Gresham's pulverizer is a nice idea: The monk/barb-hybrid is a cool concept and e.g. Forest Guardian press' Savage class has done a great job depicting it. The pulverizer's completely different focus is nice here...or should I say: Lack of focus? The class, to me, feels a bit odd - on the one hand emphasizing hard punches, on the other grapples. Lower case attributes make me cringe a bit, as do obvious cut-copy-paste glitches that could have been caught by even remotely careful observation. Which brings me to the big BUT: When the class employs original abilities like elemental smash, I am left with question marks: The ability LOOKS like it means that the elemental energy damage is substituted, while the table suddenly mentions bonus damage. The lack of a grasp of sonic and force being more powerful than all other energies is similarly troubling. Is the pulverizer a horrible class?

No, it does have some solid ideas, but its execution could use more care and in a game that has this many amazing classes, including at least two classes (Savage for Monk/Barb-hybrid, Luchador for the grappling/unarmed gameplay) that do literally everything the class does better, I can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Pulverizer Hybrid Class
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Grippli: Playable Amphibians (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2016 10:51:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This racial book clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The grippli for 5e, heh? Now I'm all for that! I'm a big fan of the small, friendly, froggy, folk, so how is the race represented here? Well, we actually employ the same level of depth for the race's fluff and playing them that we have seen in the PHB - thus, the grippli are introduced as colorful, hard-working and fun-loving individuals, including notes on how they perceive halflings, gnomes and humans. Notes on their culture and nomenclature complement the grippli race provided here.

From a rules-perspective, Grippli increase their Dexterity by 2, have a 30 ft. speed (and a 20 ft. swimming speed, which is, in a nitpick, called swim speed -which is only used in statblocks, not in ability rules), base proficiency in Perception checks as well as proficiency in Survival. They can also long jump double their Strength score feet from standing still and better high jumps as well and may breathe freely on land and under water.

We also get 3 subraces: Bog Born increase Cha by 1, gain darkvision and may use their prehensile tongues as a bonus action to manipulate objects of up to 25 ft. away, but not magic or attack with the tongue.

Lake strider gripplis increase Wisdom by 1, have a swimming speed of 30 ft., know instinctively where North is and gain advantage on Dex-checks and saves to maintain footing in adverse conditions. Okay...does this include abilities and attacks that render you prone? I assume it does, but I'm still not 100% sure.

The third of the subraces would be the patternback, who increases Constitution by 1, gains climbing speed 30 feet and 3/day curare sweat now, in the revison, actually has an awesome, cool and powerful, but balanced mechanic - kudos for improving that one significantly!!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting, on a formal level, is very good; on a rules-level, the pdf has a minor deviation in the rules-wording or two, but nothing serious. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, minimalistic two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports numerous gorgeous full-color artworks of grippli, though ardent fans of 3pp-material may recognize them from other publications. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Ken Pawlik's revised grippli are smooth and streamlined, with all the nasty bits taken care of - you may have noted the lack of complaints and there is a reason for that: The revision makes for an awesome, inexpensive deal and what we get race-wise, is pretty much neatly balanced with the core races. Barring any complaints of a serious manner and considering the low price and how much I like the curare sweat's new mechanic, I will settle on a final verdict of 5 stars just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Grippli: Playable Amphibians (5e)
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Tangible Taverns: The Hidden Oak (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2016 10:26:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page foreword, 1/2 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

The PCs are traveling along a path through the forest, when they suddenly encounter a weather-beaten sign next to a small, but well-used path - the sign points towards "The Hidden Oak", and after a quarter mile through sunlit, light forest, the PCs arrive at a clearing, where colorful mushrooms and gorgeous flowers provide a carpet that leads straight up to a ginormous tree, which sports double doors, secured to the tree with bronze. Upon entering the place, they'll see an impressive badger snuffling around the place, as a halfling cheerfully ventures forth to greet them - they obviously have found sanctuary...but they'll only realize that if they can take their eyes of the oak tree growing from the ceiling of the inside of this place, sending sparkling, warm magical light down upon the common area.

The respective rooms are no less enchanting and the tavern comes with information regarding the cost of staying there. As always, we receive exceedingly detailed rumors to kick off encounters or even adventures, with read-aloud text for each rumor - nice! Similarly, the events that take place here, 8 of which are provided, sport a sense of the relaxed and benign, if weird: When gripplis challenge for a friendly wrestling bout, remarkably good-natured quicklings enter the tavern or visions are to be had, you know that adventure and a nice diversions are right here. The pdf, just fyi, also goes into mouth-watering details regarding the food served here.

Beyond Beatrice the hafling who acts usually as greeter (and is a hunter 11 - don't mess with her or her badger Lola!), this fantastic place's owner, at least one of them, mind you, would be Shadril, a dryad druid, whose stats (including an owl companion) are provided. And there would be Crescenzo, an old man smoking a pipe. Yep...and much like Elminster, Gandalf, Veranthus and similar icons, it is a damn BAD idea to cause any trouble around this fellow. He is peaceful, yes...but...well...I could spoil what he's really capable of, but that would be no fun, now, would it? cough CR 21 /coughYep, stats provided. No, he's not the ole' cliché archmage. No, he's not a fey lord in disguise either. Yes, I have seen the trope before, but the execution is pretty fresh.

The tavern also includes Kaapo, a grippli martial artist and Thestrel, an elven unchained rogue wandering swindler, who are both engaging in various arm wrestling contests...and a non-statted mockingfey causes mischief with all but the dourest patrons. Speaking of which: There would be Kachina. She has a pumpkin head and walks on vines and is covered with gray shrooms that made her face...well, somewhat disturbing. She is a fungal gourd leshy with a temper (and horribly ineffective in combat, as you can see by her stats)...and she is not the only plant-being here: A treant named Burtsch (stats provided) who has lived through several bouts of deadly fungal diseases, which left him quite sociable and only barely larger than an elf, also frequents this place. He's been modified with the accursed template, in case you were wondering. There is also a fluff-only atomie called Tat to be found in the Hidden Oak. Padraig O'Bunley the leprechaun would be the final character featured here.

Now, in a piece of 3rd party camaraderie I enjoy, the pdf gives credit where credit is due and instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, features 2 of the culinary magic recipes originally debuted in the amazing "Letters from the Flaming Crab: Culinary Magic" by Flaming Crab Games. Better yet: There are two new ones! One for Mushroom Flowers and one for Fairy Rings - nice, btw.: I tried the recipes and the results were pretty tasty, though I did add some additional spices, since I'm pretty big on those. As a minor nitpick, one provides an untyped bonus, which I'd rather have seen codified.

Moreover, the appendix also features templates and material taking from Rogue Genius Games' "The Genius Guide to Gruesome Undead Templates" and Rite Publishing's superb "The Book of Monster Templates." Nice means of making the builds herein more diverse!

Oh, one more thing: The player-friendly one-page map is by far the most beautiful and creative I have seen so far in the series! Neat work there!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Publishing's two-column b/w-standard and is printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artwork featured herein is a blending of original pieces of b/w-artworks and some stock pieces: Ken Pawlik's drawing of the mug of Crescenzo, just fyi, is pretty much the best drawing I have seen by his hand...it's pretty neat. The cartography is less barebones and more creative than that featured in earlier installments of the series as well.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's "The Hidden Oak" is the best tavern they put out that I've reviewed so far; it takes the trope of the enchanted woodland sanctuary, perfect for PCs during prolonged wilderness trips and weaves a wholesome, light-hearted atmosphere that an enterprising GM can turn really grim, if s/he desires to. As written, this is a shelter, a sanctuary, a place for the misfits and the magical, the lone and the lost to find their way and enjoy a positively magical meal. The shout-outs to fellow 3pps are nice to see, and the use of rules provided in these supplements to enhance the tavern and its denizens adds a level of complexity and care to the builds featured herein. It's frankly nice to see designers do their homework and going one step further. You may have noted a distinct lack of complaints - that would be simply because I don't have any grievous claims beyond what would be unfair nitpickery. This is an excellent offering, well worth the low asking price - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: The Hidden Oak (PFRPG)
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Crusader Codex
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2016 10:23:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of NPCs clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (with CR/MR-notes), 1 page introduction/how to use, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!

There never was an AP so in need of more challenges and expansions than Wrath of the Righteous. While I love the story, personally, I'd only run it with a gazillion of Legendary Games supplements to avoid the PCs curb-stomping everything. Anyways, this means you need stats and I don't know about you, but I don't always have the time to crunch x statblocks. Enter this book - where the excellent unrighteous Villains was about adding in NPCs and adversaries and their subplots, this one would be the collection of more "generic" statblocks for more rank and file beings.

That out of the way, this does not mean that the presentation lacks notes on tactics or the like - quite the contrary! It just means that you should expect something akin to the NPC Codex by Paizo on a smaller scale and tied directly to the respective parts of WotR. Demons invading town? There's a CR-appropriate statblock for that here. The statblocks come with automatic bonus progression notes for the respective builds, just fyi! One step beyond that: The pdf actually begins with a handy table of CEL+Tiers/party-level/book progression through the AP, providing a great guideline from the very get-go. Additionally, the supplemental pieces of advice provided here should be pretty helpful for not only reading the entries, but for GMs of the AP in general. It's only a little introduction, but it adds that little amount of extra care, feels like it's going the extra mile from the get-go.

Got that? Great! We begin this collection with a tiefling witch at CR 1 (and a disturbing artwork)...but adversaries are not everything: Two slayers at CR 2 and 6 as progressions can be found herein as well.

A half-orc paladin at CR 6, a broken soul unicorn (!!!) oracle, a fiendish troll inquisitor...notice something? Yep, Julian Neale went all out this time! I mean, who could say no to a fiendish redcap barbarian? An oracle/pala-combo is cool...but personally, I'm partial to evilly-grinning over shadow demons with rogue levels! There also would be a CR 11 dwarven vivisectionist to be found, a fated champion orc skald at CR 11, and I can't wait throwing a night hag mesmerist (oh yes!) at my players.

Sounds too freaky for you? There also would be a neat human cleric build, all vanilla...but personally...I get my grove on when looking at blight druid/medium (relic channeler) multiclasses (yep, with fighter/medium (relic channeler)/ranger cohort! What about lilith, an awakened devilbound cephalohore sorceress? OH YES! bebilith fighter? Yes! Stradaemon fighter creature? Yes, please! What about a CR 20 glabrezu antipaladin with unholy good saves and a beautiful damage output and enough defense to potentially actually survive to attack PCs? What about a massive mythic immense mandragora at CR 20/MR 8 (including a swarm?) or a tiefling investigator/guardian (who lacks her MR-rating in the header in a minor hiccup)? Pretty amazing!

And yes, the aforementioned immense mandragora and the swarm, which could come right out of the Berserk video game do get their own statblocks here as well. Now this would be my overview of the statblocks, but it certainly deserves mentioning that designer commentary and EXTENSIVE tactic notes actually help run these engines of destruction.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games' two-column full-color standard with a lot of fiery orange employed for the WotR-plugins. The pdf features several neat full-color artworks, though they will be familiar for fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As for statblock accuracy, I have reverse-engineered a couple and encountered no issues;

What happens what Julian Neale finally unleashes the daring creativity lurking? When he lets loose that rampant Id and makes critters and builds beyond the normal, that dare to kick your behind? Awesome, that's what! Don't get me wrong - this has plenty of options that will satisfy more conservative tastes, but oh boy do I love this book. It's bar none my favorite statblock-centric offering released by Legendary Games so far. The builds and NPCs are so creative and cool, I really want to use them...and the fact that there are some that dare to be a challenge for capable groups is a HUGE plus for me. Beyond that, the tactical notes provide an excessive level of support for the hassled GM and render actually using the book much simpler than it otherwise would. This reminded me of Rite Publishing's legendary Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series in that its builds go one step beyond what you'd see in the default monster codex in support, creativity, etc. In fact, this felt more like a proper NPC-book that a collection of anonymous stats to me, mainly because there is so much love oozing from them.

This is a great, fun collection of NPC-stats and should be considered to be a definite recommendation, not only within the context of WotR, but for any GM looking for some challenging, diverse builds. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crusader Codex
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Tangible Taverns: The Hidden Oak (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2016 10:21:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This 5e-iteration of the installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page foreword, 1/2 page advertisement, 1 page of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

The PCs are traveling along a path through the forest, when they suddenly encounter a weather-beaten sign next to a small, but well-used path - the sign points towards "The Hidden oak", and after a quarter mile through sunlit, light forest, the PCs arrive at a clearing, where colorful mushrooms and gorgeous flowers provide a carpet that leads straight up to a ginormous tree, which sports double doors, secured to the tree with bronze. Upon entering the place, they'll see an impressive badger snuffling around the place, as a halfling cheerfully ventures forth to greet them - they obviously have found sanctuary...but they'll only realize that if they can take their eyes of the oak tree growing from the ceiling of the inside of this place, sending sparkling, warm magical light down upon the common area.

The respective rooms are no less enchanting and the tavern comes with information regarding the cost of staying there. As always, we receive exceedingly detailed rumors to kick off encounters or even adventures, with read-aloud text for each rumor - nice! It should be noted that the 5e-iteration changed e.g. the disease mentioned in one rumor and the critter mentioned in another one - neat level of care here. Similarly, the events that take place here, 8 of which are provided, sport a sense of the relaxed and benign, if weird: When gripplis challenge for a friendly wrestling bout, remarkably good-natured quicklings enter the tavern or visions are to be had, you know that adventure and a nice diversions are right here. The pdf, just fyi, also goes into mouth-watering details regarding the food served here.

Beyond Beatrice the hafling who acts usually as greeter (and clocks in at challenge 7 - don't mess with her or her badger Lola - as has become the tradition, she has some nice abilities...though one ability which lets her reassign damage between her and her companion should imho be a reaction, not an always on option that does not require any sort of activation), this fantastic place's owner, at least one of them, mind you, would be Shadril, a dryad, whose stats are provided. Her owl companion, however, has not made the transition to 5e and this would be as good a place as any to complain about the lack of italicization of spells in all statblocks.

And there would be Crescenzo, an old man smoking a pipe. Yep...and much like Elminster, Gandalf, Veranthus and similar icons, it is a damn BAD idea to cause any trouble around this fellow. He is peaceful, yes...but...well...I could spoil what he's really capable of, but that would be no fun, now, would it? cough challenge 25 /coughYep, stats provided. No, he's not the ole' cliché archmage. No, he's not a fey lord in disguise either. Yes, I have seen the trope before, but the execution is pretty fresh.

The tavern also includes Kaapo, a grippli and Thestrel, an elf, who are both engaging in various arm wrestling contests. Their 5e stats are pretty creative as well - with the grippli having the potential to deliver knock-outs and Thestrel having several neat rogue-y abilities...though, as a nitpick, sneak attack lacks the 1/turn restriction that monsters/NPCs usually sport.

The pdf also sports a non-statted fairy that causes mischief with all but the dourest patrons. Speaking of which: There would be Kachina. She has a pumpkin head and walks on vines and is covered with grey shrooms that made her face...well, somewhat disturbing. She is a plant creature with a temper (and slightly more potent in combat than in PFRPG's iteration)...and she is not the only plant-being here: A treant named Burtsch (stats provided) who has lived through several bouts of deadly fungal diseases, which left him quite sociable and only barely larger than an elf, also frequents this place. He's been modified with the accursed template, in case you were wondering. There is also a sprite called Tat in the Hidden Oak. Padraig O'Bunley the leprechaun would be the final character featured here - alas, I don't have 5e-stats for leprechauns, so getting those would have been nice.

Now, in a piece of 3rd party camaraderie I enjoy, the pdf gives credit where credit is due and instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, features 4 of the culinary magic recipes originally debuted in the amazing "Letters from the Flaming Crab: Culinary Magic" by Flaming Crab Games. Nice: Tow of these have been converted from aforementioned book, while two other ones are NEW ones; though, obviously, 5e-players and GMs have not seen these before: Caramelized mushrooms to fortify versus poison, friendship-inducing herbs, better disguising and easier movement can be found here. Much to my chagrin, alas, the recipes that allow you to actually cook these recipes have gotten the axe. If you're like me and enjoy cooking/baking and making non-fast-food for gaming, that may be a bit of a bummer.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though there are a couple of minor glitches. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Publishing's two-column b/w-standard and is printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artwork featured herein is a blending of original pieces of b/w-artworks and some stock pieces: Ken Pawlik's drawing of the mug of Crescenzo, just fyi, is pretty much the best drawing I have seen by his hand...it's pretty neat. The cartography is less barebones and more creative than that featured in earlier installments of the series as well.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's "The Hidden Oak" is an amazing tavern, but the 5e-iteration does fall a bit behind the PFRPG-iteration in its details. Some builds are cool and I love the conversion of culinary magic. There are a couple more aesthetic glitches here, though and the lack of the recipes made me pretty sad. All in all, this is a very good, evocative tavern, but it feels like it falls slightly short of the PFRPG version's excellence. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tangible Taverns: The Hidden Oak (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Umelas
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2016 10:19:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Umelas is an utopian experiment and an adventure in disguise -formerly rules by Hiswin Baeler, it is not an easy place to stay in: With a steep ravine and an ever-present saccharine stench suffusing the town, from its sweet wines and cloying scent of white oak, the place embodies perfectly the creepiness of the sweet, the association with decay painted over by a scent of sugar and spice.

Everyone is smiling. There is joy all around...but much like a trip to Disneyland for a cynic, it makes you wonder, makes you see the darkness beyond...and indeed, only a few years ago, Umelas was wrecked by depression. Where today, sickness is rare and everyone seems healthy, that was not always the case. There are some rumors that this prosperity is the working of a benevolent fey named "Smiling Bracken" - and it indeed is...but what is the price the village has paid for its seemingly timeless blessings?

Well, the fey, for one, is unique and fully statted and from strange nightmares to the harsh consequences of unraveling the village's secret, the place stands as a grim reminder for cutting corners, for short-cuts...one that may well leave PCs asking themselves, whether the place wasn't better off before...or not. There is some complex morality and philosophy to be found in this little supplement. Oh, and yes, the pdf obviously comes with the usual notes on nomenclature, events, etc.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Jeff Gomez' Umelas is one of the most amazing villages in the series, but, much like the sweet wine it produces, Umelas is not for the faint of heart: Decidedly dark, it is a supplement perfectly suited for gamers craving a bit of horror or dark fantasy, a richly-detailed and amazing little piece of concise writing, presented in lavish prose. In fact, this could be run as basically a pocket domain of Ravenloft, if you'd so choose. And I mean that as a compliment. The experience of adventuring in Umelas will, much like eating sickeningly sweet food, stay with your PCs and players after they're done - and I tried hard not to SPOIL anything here. This is a great adventure, just waiting to be fleshed out and any GM worth half his salt can throw the PCs in and improvise a full-blown module out of this gem. Suffice to say: Get this! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Umelas
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Treasures & Trinkets: Treasure Hoards #4 (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2016 10:18:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth of the pdfs in this series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What is this pdf all about? Well, in short, it provides 25 fully fleshed-out treasure hoards, ready to be dropped in your game, four of which feature no magic items. A handy d%-table lets you randomly determine which treasure hoard to use and the structure of the respective entries is nice: We first get coinage and then the respective entries, which range from jewels to potions and beyond, containing legendary items at these levels as well.

In many a case, an Intelligence DC 25 check can determine the value of the more obscure items, like platinum-plated scepters, though harder and lower DCs certainly can be found. Magic item-wise, you will find items here beyond the confines of scrolls and potions: Wells of many worlds, portable holes or universal solvents can provide some nice magical oomph to the beleaguered adventuring group. It should be mentioned that the respective 5e-items have been chosen rather well and that the treasure hoards do feature nice themes. Considering that this one covers hoards for challenge 17 - 20 we also find a few pieces of +3 items and high level potions and scrolls.

...but at the same time, the pdf has one big issue: It inherits my criticisms regarding its direct predecessors and does not mention for which levels the treasure hoards presented would be appropriate. The pdf mentions challenge 17 - 20 as a general guideline, but personally, I consider that to be a bit too broad of a span. Granted, at this level, the power is less of an issue than at lower levels, but still.

A total value is also not provided for the hoards, which means you have to read up the value of each of the entries, look up the magic items, total them with the coinage...you get the idea. Some precise values (perhaps with a plus and the magic item's scarcity, if any, added) would have made this significantly more useful, at least to me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks, but needs none at this length. It does sport bookmarks for your convenience, though, and also comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

Ronald Calbick and Ben Kent's fourth installment for the series is, item-choice-wise and flavor-wise diverse and well-made, with 5e's items being well-distributed. However, the lack of total values and aforementioned handling gripes do limit the usefulness of this pdf, at least for me. Challenge 17 to 20 is also a VERY wide span and while the selection of items is diverse, with fluff adding something to the magical items, this does exacerbate the issues of the previous parts. At the same time, at this level, magic item bloat is no issue. My final verdict will hence, once again, clock in at 3.5 pages, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. Still, it could be easier to use, at least in my book.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Treasures & Trinkets: Treasure Hoards #4 (5e)
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Treasures & Trinkets: Treasure Hoards #3 (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2016 10:16:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third of the pdfs in this series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What is this pdf all about? Well, in short, it provides 25 fully fleshed-out treasure hoards, ready to be dropped in your game, four of which feature no magic items. A handy d%-table lets you randomly determine which treasure hoard to use and the structure of the respective entries is nice: We first get coinage and then the respective entries, which range from jewels to potions and beyond, containing at these levels very rare items as well.

In many a case, an Intelligence DC 20 check can determine the value of the more obscure items, like clockwork egg, though harder and lower DCs certainly can be found. Magic item-wise, you will find items here beyond the confines of scrolls and potions: Hammers of thunderbolts, scales of resistance (force) or manuals of quickness of action can provide some nice magical oomph to the beleaguered adventuring group. It should be mentioned that the respective 5e-items have been chosen rather well and that the treasure hoards do feature nice themes. Considering that this one covers hoards for challenge 11 - 16 we also find a few pieces of +3 ammunition, +2 items and higher level potions and scrolls.

...but at the same time, the pdf has one big issue: It inherits my criticisms regarding its direct predecessors and does not mention for which levels the treasure hoards presented would be appropriate. The pdf mentions challenge 11 - 16 as a general guideline, but personally, I consider that to be a bit too broad of a span. Considering 5e's relatively conservative power-level, a over-use of this pdf could, much like that of its direct predecessor, theoretically lead to some serious magic item overload.

A total value is also not provided for the hoards, which means you have to read up the value of each of the entries, look up the magic items, total them with the coinage...you get the idea. Some precise values (perhaps with a plus and the magic item's scarcity, if any, added) would have made this significantly more useful, at least to me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks, but needs none at this length. It does sport bookmarks for your convenience, though, and also comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

Ronald Calbick, Thomas King, Andrew J. Malkin, Chad Perrin and Liz Smith's third installment for the series is, item-choice-wise and flavor-wise diverse and well-made, with 5e's items being well-distributed. However, the lack of total values and aforementioned handling gripes do limit the usefulness of this pdf, at least for me. Challenge 11 to 16 is also a VERY wide span and while the selection of items is diverse, with fluff adding something to the magical items, this does exacerbate the issues of the previous parts. My final verdict will hence, once again, clock in at 3.5 pages, rounded down for the purpose of this platform since the ease of using is the main selling point of hoards like that, at least for me.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Treasures & Trinkets: Treasure Hoards #3 (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Silver Bluff
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2016 04:57:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Silver Bluff is a mining town with a twist - sprung up as little more than a better camp, it began in a promising manner...but then, the mine's silver started to run out. At danger +30, you pretty much immediately realize that the local population did not take kindly to these changes and the ramshackle ethnic composition alongside the lack of a governing body mean that this is very much a dangerous place to be.

The vast chasm that separates the camp from the mine is also one of the reasons why this village is haunted by howling windstorms, which also influence the dressing habits of the place. The pdf does feature notes on nomenclature, appearance of locals and 6 rumors for your convenience. The village also features notes on the local tavern, paranoid representatives ...this is not the nicest place to spend your time, though e.g. mountain climbing equipment and a local dwarven cleric can help adventurers here. The pdf also features no less than 6 sample events...and one glorious hazard, which would be the semi-sentient, disintegrated machine that slowly regains its sentience and becomes a lethal, unique hazard - stopping it will be hard...and I wished it and hazards like it had been more prevalent here.

In an example of less is more, the notes of what's hidden in the chasm feel a bit less intriguing and tied to the settlement - by emphasizing the wind theme instead, it would have become even more compelling...but that may just be me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Mike Welham's Silver Bluff is an evocative village with unique hazards and a nice theme. While it does not reach the apex of the series, the village still remains an excellent purchase and is well worth the low asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Silver Bluff
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The Villain Codex I: Foes for Fledgling Heroes
Publisher: Outland Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2016 04:56:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of adversaries clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

A brief history lesson first: This book is the result of an open contest to design adversaries for the PCs. Each of the foes comes with a statblock, a brief history as well as suggested goals and plots, making the respective villain come alive. Sergeant Maybn Blaine would be the first character herein, and the powerful female urban ranger actually has a cool modification: Her favored enemy would be half-bloods! This makes sense and for an adversary your players will love to despise!

Ayenna Gilfen, a half-elven arcanist would be up next and she is a poor soul: Her soulmate, Nessa Highmoon died and, grief-stricken, she has freed a very unpleasant ghost from his forbidden tome...who has since convinced her to murder on his behalf, all to regain her lost love. Fester Grizzlestix would be a shaman that is less tragic: The self-appointed fungus lord lords oer leshy and is just as nasty as you'd expect him to be.

More interesting from a build-perspective would be Hadin the Painless, an unchained monk/ninja multiclass with grand plans of creating his own dominion. His build is pretty nice, The middle-ages animal speaker Friedrich Wildheart is a nice twist on the trope of the "hermit kills anyone who ventures into the forest" -after all, you'd expect a druid...only to meet a bard! Wolton "Wolly" Venuti is a gnomish sorceror and a charismatic one at that; seemingly an idiot, he is a dangerous individual nonetheless - his tawdry robes concealing ambitions to create a deadly army of constructs....but whether due to being basically an imbecile or due to true darkness in his heart - that's up for the GM to decide.

Heffreck Threecasks would be an unconventional druidess - in fact, you'd consider her a highborn lady who has grown wealthy via the unique vintages she offers. Have I mentioned that her vintages are made from assassin vine-stock and thus...well...require nourishment? Theme-wise certainly the coolest here. Brynnhildr Sigurinn (should be -in, if you adhere to quasi-Norse nomenclature for females, but that only as an aside) is a fighter/musket master multiclass, which would be interesting. Unfortunately, however, her statblock lacks a ranged-line, which is annoying considering her musket expertise.

Voska Freehand would be a daring infiltrator swashbuckler; the halfling has shed her erstwhile slave-status and turned outlaw, but her fear of becoming penniless still remains. Jenrak, Master of Serpents would be a cool unchained summoner whose eidolon takes the form of a nasty serpent, making him a perfect foe when used in conjunction with quasi-Egyptian lands like Osirion or as an unconventional high-priest. Salduin the Black Wolf is a magus/inspired blade swashbuckler multiclass and seeks to unite several barbaric clans to take the civilized lands.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good on a formal level, though the missing ranged-line is a pretty nasty hiccup. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with neat b/w-artworks for each of the villains (big plus!). The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Authors Andres Bermudez, Matthew Browett, Nik Geier, Scott Janke, Mikko Kallio, Luis Loza, J.T. MCroberts, Jacob W. Michaels, Michael Riter, Andrew Umphrey, Christopher Wasko, with development by Mikko Kalio and Jacob W. Michaels, have provided some nice and creative builds and characters - if one of the villains is not 100% brilliant in the build, it does feature some cool and unique angles for the respective adversary.

The characters herein are generally creative in concept, with a certain vintner-druidess being my favorite in concepts. That being said, build-wise, I wasn't absolutely blown away by the villains presented herein -they are good and creative, but do not reach the level that would have blown jaded ole' me away. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Villain Codex I: Foes for Fledgling Heroes
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Treasures & Trinkets: Treasure Hoards #2 (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2016 04:55:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of the pdfs in this series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What is this pdf all about? Well, in short, it provides 25 fully fleshed-out treasure hoards, ready to be dropped in your game, four of which feature no magic items. A handy d%-table lets you randomly determine which treasure hoard to use and the structure of the respective entries is nice: We first get coinage and then the respective entries, which range from jewels to potions and beyond, this time extending its reach to rare items as well.

In many a case, an Intelligence DC 15 check can determine the value of the more obscure items, like cherry wood jeweler's tools, though harder and lower DCs certainly can be found - odd: DC 5 is VERY low and looks a bit like a 1 was dropped there from a bronzewood tankard. Magic item-wise, you will find items here beyond the confines of scrolls and potions: Ropes of climbing, saddles of the cavalier or amulets of the planes can provide some nice magical oomph to the beleaguered adventuring group. It should be mentioned that the respective 5e-items have been chosen rather well and that the treasure hoards do feature nice themes. Considering that this one covers hoards for challenge 5 10 we also find a few +1 items and e.g. a broom of flying.

...but at the same time, the pdf has one big issue: It does not mention for which levels the treasure hoards presented would be appropriate. The pdf mentions challenge 5 - 10 as a general guideline, but personally, I consider that to be a bit too broad of a span. Considering 5e's relatively conservative power-level, a over-use of this pdf could, much like that of its direct predecessor, theoretically lead to some serious magic item overload for lower levels.

A total value is also not provided for the hoards, which means you have to read up the value of each of the entries, look up the magic items, total them with the coinage...you get the idea. Some precise values (perhaps with a plus and the magic item's scarcity, if any, added) would have made this significantly more useful, at least to me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks, but needs none at this length. It does sport bookmarks for your convenience, though, and also comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

Ronald Calbick, Andrew J. Malkin and Liz Smith's second installment for the series is, item-choice-wise and flavor-wise diverse and well-made, with 5e's items being well-distributed. However, the lack of total values and aforementioned handling gripes do limit the usefulness of this pdf, at least for me. Challenge 5 to 10 is also a VERY wide span and while I consider the selection of items better here than even in #1, this does exacerbate the issues of part #1. My final verdict will hence, once again, clock in at 3.5 pages, rounded down for the purpose of this platform since the ease of using is the main selling point of hoards like that, at least for me.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Treasures & Trinkets: Treasure Hoards #2 (5e)
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Treasures & Trinkets: Treasure Hoards #1 (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2016 04:53:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the pdfs in this series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What is this pdf all about? Well, in short, it provides 25 fully fleshed-out treasure hoards, ready to be dropped in your game, two of which feature no magic items. A handy d%-table lets you randomly determine which treasure hoard to use and the structure of the respective entries is nice: We first get coinage and then the respective entries, which range from jewels to potions, with a few uncommon magic items thrown in for good measure.

In many a case, an Intelligence DC 10 check can determine the value of the more obscure items, like a rare, illustrated children's book, though harder DCs certainly can be found. Magic item-wise, you will find items here beyond the confines of scrolls and potions: Stones of good luck, eyes of the eagle or driftglobes can provide some nice magical oomph to the beleaguered adventuring group. It should be mentioned that the respective 5e-items have been chosen rather well and that the treasure hoards do feature nice themes...

...but at the same time, the pdf has one big issue: It does not mention for which levels the treasure hoards presented would be appropriate. The pdf mentions challenge 0 - 4 as a general guideline, but personally, I think that is a pretty generous estimate. Considering 5e's relatively conservative power-level, a over-use of this pdf could, theoretically lead to some serious magic item overload for lower levels. A total value is also not provided for the hoards, which means you have to read up the value of each of the entries, look up the magic items, total them with the coinage...you get the idea. Some precise values (perhaps with a plus and the magic item's scarcity, if any, added) would have made this significantly more useful, at least to me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks, but needs none at this length. It does sport bookmarks for your convenience, though, and also comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

Ronald Calbick, Thomas King and Chad Perrin deliver a nice array of generally evocative treasure hoards herein and in the categories of diversity and imagination, there is not much to complain about. However, the lack of total values and aforementioned handling gripes do limit the usefulness of this pdf, at least for me. By no means a bad book, this pdf does lose its stab at excellence thus. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 pages, rounded down for the purpose of this platform since the ease of using is the main selling point of hoards like that, at least for me.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Treasures & Trinkets: Treasure Hoards #1 (5e)
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The Lost Lands: Adventures in the Borderland Provinces Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/22/2016 08:06:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive hardcover clocks in at 166 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/product overview, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of back cover, leaving us with 160 pages of pure adventure...so let's take a look!

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a fair and critical review.

"Welcome to the Borderlands. You'll probably die here." - Ari Marmell's first sentence of the introduction of this book is pretty much amazing...and it makes clear from the get-go that this book provides old-school modules, in the slogan of FGG: "Modules worth winning!" - i.e. challenging, hard modules that test your mettle and not just CR-appropriate hand-holding exercises. As such, this massive book obviously represents a collection of adventures, all new ones, I might add - so even completionists with a huge NG-collection like me get all new material here...

...and since this review covers said adventures in detail, I strongly encourage players who want to play these to skip ahead to the conclusion. From here on, the SPOILERS reign.

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All right, still here?

The first module presented herein would be "On a Lonely Road", penned by Anthony Pryor, intended for 2nd level PCs...and it makes perfect use of the Borderlands and the notion of travel/sandboxy nature of the region: Situated in the city of Troye, the PCs are contacted by Professor Sarrus Togren to act as muscle during an important journey: The scholar weaves a yarn of the fabled Ancient Ones and their civilization, lost to the ravages of time and the reputedly dangerous Yolbiac Vale - it is for this expedition that the PCs are hired by the professor and his research assistant, one half-elven beauty named Nymea Goswynn. Obviously, there will be more people on board: Wilderness-experienced Maissee Tlivant and arcane student Gedney Foulkes as well as several other students are supposed to accompany the troupe - which coincidentally may be a nice way to replace PCs that have met their ultimate fate, but that just as an aside. The adventure proceeds, on a daily pace, to set the mood - there is plenty of time to allow the PCs to become invested with the NPCs - the journey is fraught with peril, obviously, with bandit ambushes and the like, but it is the slow escalation that makes this module work:

Slowly, but steadily, distrust is sown; weird dreams haunt the participants and the proof seems to accumulate that not all is as it seems - and when strange beings, white claws and chaos erupts, when people are going missing and the PCs have to explore a concisely-presented, thematically consistent dungeon to prevent a rite most foul...you could actually mistake this for one of the better CoC or LotFP-modules, as its blend of the fantastic, weird and horrific comes together in a truly fascinating experience that makes ample use of the grand sense of antiquity suffusing the Lost lands. More importantly, the module's pacing, crucial to anything horrific or darker in theme, as well as the read-aloud text, are impeccable in their effects. A superb, unpretentious genre-piece of a module and certainly one that deserves being played.

Illusion and Illumination by Rhiannon Louve, for characters of 6th level, is a completely different beast and frankly, with its whimsical tone, it very much is appropriate for play with younger players. A pair of fey from the city of Mirquinoc, has been troubling candle-maker Yannick...and everything is confused due to the pixies getting horribly drunk and confusing the orders bestowed upon them by their queen due to somewhat magical, local beer! The candle-maker's a good person and can fashion somewhat magical candles, 7 of which are provided. Alas, the rules-component of these candles is pretty messed up - lack of CLs for spell-duplicating effects, minor deviations from the rules-language - while only tangentially-relevant to the plot, I was pretty disappointed by this sidebar. On a plus-side, unraveling the chaos is pretty fun, since it becomes slowly apparent that the pixie's pestering is supposed to make the candle-maker confess to sins he has not committed. In order to fix this situation and prevent innocents from getting hurt, Yannick beseeches the PCs to help him embark on a quest to talk to the fey queen Twylinvere. On the way towards the queen, through the wilderness, the pixies and their stealthy antics as well as the original target of the pixies, one nasty fey called Oromirlynn and the thralls need to be defeated to clean up the misunderstanding.

The Mountain that Moved by Gwendolyn Kestrel is written for 9th level characters and takes place within the Cretian Mountains, which have a nasty reputation for in-bred settlements, cannibals and strange disappearances. And indeed, within the settlement of Yandek, strange mutations abound among the folk there and various angles provide for different means of entering the module. If you take a look at the Yandek folk template, you'll note an angle not unlike the flavor of the horrid ogres of the Hook Mountain - a Hills have Eyes-vibe suffuses the module. Hilarious for me: The inclusion of a character named Blind Piet...I don't seem to be the only GM who has a recurring theme of a rogue of that name... The deadly and pretty nasty cannibalism-angle suffuses the wilderness-section of the module, but there also would be a mine to explore, one that features a very strange property of the place....oh, and have I mentioned the mountain that walked's secret, which is, indeed, very evocative and makes for a potentially brutal showdown...just sayin'.

The Two Crucibles by C.A. Suleiman, written for 8th level characters, is something completely different and blends deductive investigation, social politicking and dungeon crawling in one evocative combo: The Vanigoths may seem like barbarians to the more civilized folks of the Borderland Provinces, but they do have several intriguing traditions: During the crucible of blood, a kind of moot/Þing, there is a very real chance of an election of a Warhalac, a warlord independent of the overking...which may mean war among the vanigoths and with the kingdom of Suilley. The PCs basically stumble into becoming honored guests - and potentially, participants among the savage customs and games associated with the crucible and the adventure also requires the PCs to deal with a powerful adversary in his dungeon, undermining mystical power and dealing with a capital letter ARTIFACT of nasty proportions. This module drips flavor and its focus on roleplaying and cultural tidbits make sense. Amazing module.

The War of the Poppies by Eytan Bernstein, for 10th level characters, is a pretty freeform investigation scenario and takes place in Mana, capital town of Suilley - where blue poppies are swaying the taste of local addicts and shadow wars to retain control of the opium trade still abound. It is here that noble scions, fresh from the grand tournament of the lilies, have vanished after partaking in the novel, blue opium...and it is up to the PCs to find the truth, as magical means seem to fail to properly locate them. Here, the module excels with a significant array of flavor text, clues to unearth and people to interrogate, as the mystery of the blue poppy and the truth behind it beckon ever more...though the module goes one step beyond and actually talks about dealing with the addicts, helping rehabilitation, etc. - sample Q&A-sections help the GM run the module and render this yet another full-blown winner.

A Most Peculiar Hunt by Ari Marmell is intended for 12th level PCs and takes place in the unclaimed lands as such, it makes perfect use of the region: Three communities (Avrandt, Corvul and Vath) not particularly far from the Aachen border have went to war - which, in itself is not remarkable. The solution proposed, though, was: Instead of wasting resources and lives, the 3 quasi-lords have agreed on a competition to solve their difficulties by trophy collecting of exotic animals...read: Monsters. Unfortunately, this competition has had untoward consequences: Hiring several adventurers has caused a kind of monster migration towards Aachen. In order to bring peace to the region and stop the potentially dangerous migration of monsters towards more populated areas, the PCs will have to explore the region and unearth the truths behind the motivations of the three "lords." Beyond uncovering intrigues (and a particularly cool BBEG), the PCs will have to deal with both a dragon and a very powerful group of rival adventurers...making this definitely one of the most challenging modules in the collection...and that's saying something! Still, an amazing sandbox indeed!

Ectarlin's Last Ride by Scott Fitzgerald Gray would also be intended for 12th level PCs and takes place at the coast of Eastwhich and more than one vessel has recently gone missing there, the holds ransacked and crews massacred. So far, so common - the region is not haunted by the usual issues with pirates and cutthroats - instead, the matter at hand is far more complex. In order to unearth the truth behind this mystery, though, the PCs will have to take part in a salvage operation (cool!) and a threat that may well steal memories, making for a truly amazing experience when presented to experienced roleplayers...and beyond a flow-chart, the PCs may actually witness the deadly threats duke it out with ghostly riders, potentially participate in the massive battle for literally the souls of a village, explore ruins, understand the fractured nature of the eponymous spirit lord drawn back to the mortal spheres and finally, defeating the powerful evil behind the horrid happenings.

After a brief appendix, the book provides a TON of maps - and all are prevented in proper, full-sized versions for both GMs and players, with the latter purged of secret maps, etc. - which is awesome for going the extra mile.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are almost perfect, great on a formal level, with some minor hiccups on a rules-language level, but not enough to drag this down. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the book comes with a ton of amazing b/w-artworks, all new and shiny. The pdf iteration comes fully bookmarked for your convenience....but the true beauty if the dead-tree hardcover, which is bound in the usual, high quality we have come to appreciate and love in our Frog God Games-books.

Eytan Bernstein, Soctt Fitzgerald Gray, Gwendolyn Kestrel, Rhiannon Louve, Ari Marmell, Anthony Pryor and C.A. Suleiman have written an amazing compilation of adventures. This is, quality-wise, all killer, no filler - each of the modules in this book has its definite strengths and distinct narrative voices, while still retaining the consistency that the Borderland Provinces book established. More importantly, while the module here should definitely provide ample fodder for fans of old-school dungeon-crawling and aesthetics, I was positively surprised by the emphasis on smart players, on roleplaying and unearthing information - this is very much a ROLEplaying compilation that featured a ton of gorgeous scenes and truly astonishing vistas to explore. Cloak and dagger intrigue, deception and politics provide a level of investment for PCs and players alike to set this book apart from other compilations.

In short: When used in conjunction with the massive sourcebook, this book provides one of the most immersive sequences of adventures I have witnessed in a while...while still, thankfully, losing none of its plug-and-play-components. Suffused with the fantastic and the weird, a sense of fantastic, Gygaxian realism and some angles I have not seen before, the modules herein MATTER. They affect the lives of the people of the provinces and the diversity of challenges is amazing; I was positively surprised regarding the interaction of cultures, investigations, politics - all modules herein have the theme of indirect storytelling in common and use it perfectly. The book is amazing and very much represents the best of the Frog God Games that has transcended and surpassed the legacy of Necromancer Games. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and yes, this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Lands: Adventures in the Borderland Provinces Pathfinder Edition
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Monster Treasure Hoard
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/22/2016 08:03:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck games' Purple Storeroom-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, though these are 6'' by 9''-sized (A5) - so what do we get here?

Well, it's pretty evident, right? Basically, this pdf provides a massive array of different tables of treasure - and yes, they do include a ton of gems and pieces of art...but at the same time, a ton of mechanically relevant magical items - whether it's potions of reduce person, spellbooks with a couple of spells, feather tokens, robes of needles -you get the idea. This is not just dressing, it is also mechanically relevant.

How much do we get? Well, a gigantic amount. From CR 1/4 to CR 20, we get a table at each CR - this means that this pdf contains no less than 230 entries for monster treasure. The respective header suggests a sample creature to have the treasure...but I honestly haven't properly depicted the detail this offers - there even are entries of e.g. boxes with TRAPS. Aye, full rules. In a dressing table. That's some pretty impressive detail and shows a willingness to go above the requirements. There also is the level of imagination that you can find in this to be considered: What e.g. about the high-CR entry that may cause you to find a bottled soul of a king's son? Yeah, that is pretty amazing indeed!

The pdf ends with a new item, the abacus of inventory, which streamlines the looting process and should be of particular use for groups starved on time.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' one-column standard and is pretty printer-friendly - due to the size, I could fit 4 pages on one A4-page when printing this out. The pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Perry Fehr's monster hoards are an amazing assortment - creative, diverse, mechanically-relevant and we also get quite a lot of them for the more than fair asking price. What more can you ask of such a book? Not much! That's why I'll settle on a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. Neat indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Monster Treasure Hoard
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