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Deep Magic: Chaos Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2017 04:57:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ Deep magic-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first things first – as you may have figured, chaos magic is not exactly reliable – whenever a feature or spell calls for a chaos magic surge, you roll 1d20 – on a 1, a chaos surge occurs, This surge is handled via its own dedicated d%-table, which is a total of 50 entries strong. Some of these duplicate spells (like enlarge on the spell’s target), while others e.g. summon a constrictor snake around your waste (does that mean it starts grappling you? No idea…) or drops a mule on the target. Perhaps, all the target’s hair falls out (dwarves will hate you…) or you become utterly immune to damage for one round. I really like this table, though I do have a number of concerns with it – namely how potentially awkward/detrimental spells cast in addition to existing ones interact with concentration – aforementioned enlarge, for example, is usually a spell governed by concentration…so what if the spell that prompted the surge has no concentration? How long does it last? At what spell level is moonbeam cast via chaotic surge? I assume base level, but triggering spell level may also make sense… one entry makes a weapon in sight temporarily magical. Okay. Does that mean +1 to attack and damage rolls? I assume not, but you could also make a case for it, since e.g. the monk’s ki-empowered strikes employ a different wording structure.

In short: I like the metrics here – chaos magic will happen sooner or later, but probably not all the time. The respective entries of the table, though, could use some clarification in a number of entries. Unfortunately, this constitutes a flaw in the very foundation of the magic tradition. Class option-wise, we get a wizard school for adherents of chaos: At 2nd level, the gold and time to copy a chaos spell are halved and as a bonus action, you can grant yourself or a creature within sight (as a reaction) advantage on one attack roll, saving throw or ability check “that will be made this turn.” This causes a chaos surge. Oh boy. So, is it intentional that RAW, you can use a reaction to help an ally in a save, but not yourself (you’re locked into bonus action use)? “Will be made” implies that you must use this feature BEFORE the check in question is made, but the rules do not properly codify that. I have no idea how this is supposed to work. The feature requires a long rest to recharge, just fyi.

Starting at 6th level, you may choose to have damaging spells infused with chaos – you may do so after determining whether you have hit, but before determining damage. You roll 1d6 +1 and this is the maximum number of damage die of the spell that you can reroll. Additionally, damage is changed randomly to one of 10 non-physical damage types. This causes a chaos surge and needs a long rest to use again. Okay, so big question: What about spells that do not require an attack roll? Can you use this feature with them? Do you have to announce its use before saving throws are made? What about spells that require attack roll and saving throw? The feature states “You make this choice after determining whether the spell has been successful (i.e. after making a spell attack roll)” –so I assume that any spell that “hits” constitutes a successful spell. Still, rules-language-wise, this could and should be cleaner. 10th level nets you random resistance to one damage type drawn from the same aforementioned table for 1 + Intelligence modifier min 1) rounds; if you choose to invoke a chaos surge when using this feature, you can roll twice and choose the resistance gained. Once again, long rest to use again. The 14th level ability represents a huge power-boost there – suddenly, you regain one use of one of the aforementioned features without needing to rest when casting a chaos spell, and you gain temporary hit points when casting such a spell.

The pdf also contains a bardic college, the college of entropy, which nets you “proficiency with Acrobatics, Athletics, and a gaming set of your choice.” I assume that means you get proficiency in the gaming set, but frankly, it could be read as only gaining the set. Starting at 3rd level, you gain luck stealer, which lets you use your reaction when a creature within 60 ft. makes an attack roll, ability check or saving throw with advantage: This expends bardic inspiration to impose a penalty to the roll equal to your bardic inspiration die. You gain Inspiration, only usable on yourself, which lasts for a number of rounds equal to the die rolled. This causes a chaos magic surge. Cool ability! 6th level yields one Bardic Inspiration as well as a chaos surge whenever you cast a chaos spell. This can only be used once before requiring a short or long rest to recharge. 14th level, as an action, allows you to change one prepared spell for another one of the same level or lower, returning the spell to normal after one turn. This causes a chaos magic surge. It should be noted that both class options delimit otherwise limited options – while not problematic as presented, as far as future-proofing is concerned, GMs should be a bit careful with these.

Okay, so those would be the class options. The spells note the suitable classes in brackets after the respective spell level, just fyi. A total of 17 spells are provided. For first level, we begin with auspicious warning, which can be cast as a reaction to add a surge-like d4 as a boost to atk, a save or an ability check. While it is clear how the spell is intended to work, the casting time formatting is not correct: The spell does not specify the conditions of the reaction taken in the casting time section – a glitch that btw. extends to ill-fated word, which represents the debuff-mirror to this spell. Undermine armor decreases the target creature’s AC by 2 on a failed save, affecting only proper armor – so no natural armor subversion.

There are 4 2nd level spells – bad timing imposes disadvantage on the next attack roll or ability check on a failed save. Chaotic vitality requires a melee spell attack against a creature with HD no greater than yours and at least 1 hp. (Nice kitten-proof!). You total your and the creature’s hit points and roll a d% - both you and the creature gain new hit point totals: From a 1% to be set to 0 hp to a 1% chance of getting 200% and haste, the effects run a nice gamut and contain temporary hit points for the caster; as a whole, not cheesable. One problem: The spell is instantaneous, so how long does the haste effect of the best result last? Frenzied bolt causes 3d8 damage of a randomly determined energy type (which is pretty cool) - but the spell is somewhat risky: On an odd attack roll (50%) rolled, it targets the next legal target, potentially affecting your allies or yourself! With massive range of 120 ft., this can be a brutal mook-sweeper. That being said, while it is evident from context, I think the rules-language would be smoother if the feature specified that it requires a ranged spell attack before mentioning that it requires new rolls for subsequent attacks. Shifting the odds makes your next attack or ability check have advantage, but imposes disadvantage on the attack roll or ability check, whichever happens first, thereafter.

At 3rd spell level, the ritual surge dampener allows you to protect one creature from chaos surges, allowing the creature a save against it, even if the surge would not allow for a save, or it gains advantage when a save would be allowed. Okay. So what’s the save DC in such a case? The benefits discharge upon being used, fyi. The 5th level spell is the mass version of this ritual. Entropic damage field is very, very strong: It freely disperses damage you take evenly among all creatures that fail a Charisma saving throw within 60 ft., and a creature that makes the save ends the spell’s effect for her. Personally, I think this should have a fixed number of creatures affected. Otherwise, this can be cheesed. Also: You don’t have to see the creatures – the spell could be used to kill off targets behind barriers, hidden foes, etc. Calm of the storm lets you negate the effects of a chaos surge. It should be noted that the “At Higher Levels.”-headers have not been properly italicized.

4th level comes with 3 spells: Chaotic form provides a buff that halves creature speed, but nets the target advantage on Dexterity (Acrobatics) and the ability to pass through difficult terrain unimpeded as well as the option to squeeze through tight spaces. Fluctuating alignment changes the target’s alignment randomly on a failed save, changing every minute while the spell persists. I assume that this affects only a single target, but I’m not sure – the spell doesn’t specify its targets. Wild shield lets you spend a reaction to absorb a spell targeting you or including you in the affected area; absorbing a spell thus makes you cast a chaos surge and the spell ends upon absorbing 4 spell levels; trying to absorb more potent spells requires an ability check – on a failure, the spell takes place regardless, alongside a chaos surge.

The 6th level spell included would be chaotic world, which renders the targets blinded, deafened and prone on a failed save. Personally, I think the spell should allow for saving throws on subsequent rounds. 7th level’s ritual is the most complex spell herein, uncontrollable transformation: You either roll 1d10 and gain a random mutation from a table, or roll 1d10 two times and choose, but when you do, roll twice, you incur one level of exhaustion. Higher level spell slots yield more mutations that require extra rolls and can make you incur more exhaustion, if you try to control them. The benefits are potent and interesting. Finally, the highest level spell herein would be 8th level’s paragon of chaos, which nets resistance to all physical damage types and immunity to exhaustion, paralysis, petrification, poisoned and unconscious –RAW not poison damage though! You may also teleport as a move and gain truesight 30 ft. You can also, as a bonus action, create a chaos surge each round – using either yourself or another creature as the “caster” of the surge. Problem: The ability to do so LACKS A RANGE. RAW, you can choose any creature you’d like; you don’t even need to see the target.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good; on a rules-language level, there are quite a lot issues in the details herein; more so than what I’m accustomed to see from the series and Kobold Press. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, for chapter headers, but not for individual spells.

Greg Marks’ chaos magic per se is a damn cool school; the chaos surge mechanics are interesting and evocative; what the pdf does with them, however, is significantly less impressive. The spells contained herein could do more with this unique set-up; similarly, there are some wonky bits in the very basics of the rules for the magic type, as well as in the details of some spells. These glitches, alas, influence rules-integrity…and that is not something I can ignore. This is not bad, mind you -if you’re willing to exert some GM-decision-making, then this will provide some fun at the table. Still, I wish the rules were slightly tighter and that they embraced the cool chaos ideas more thoroughly. Ultimately, this is a quintessential mixed bag for me. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Chaos Magic for 5th Edition
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5E Mini-Dungeon #044: The Ascent of Tempest Tower
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2017 04:55:43

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. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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.

...

..

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Still here?

All right!

On an open plain, surrounded by a devastating lightning storm stands one single tower - the eponymous structure contains an artifact, the heart of the tempest. To gain access to the tower, you must first deduce that the 4 symbols (represented on the map) hidden on the door correspond to energy types and then inflict said damage types simultaneously to the structure. Annoyingly, the pdf’s conversion fails to get them right: Lightning is referred to as electricity, and bafflingly, the pdf mentions divine damage, when 5e has the perfectly serviceable radiant damage type.

Only then, you can have access to the structure and brave the advanced stone golems, the devastating flame vortex and finally brave an ancient blue dragon to reach the artifact - which may be the only way to deal with that powerful evil in your campaign's end-game! Alas, the 5e-rules are weird: Wrong dispel checks, lack of damage thresholds for barriers that need to be brought down…oh, and the golems aren’t properly hyperlinked. Have I mentioned the cool magical trap included that’s called Flaming Vortex…and doesn’t deal fire damage, but untyped damage? Oo

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, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Justin Andrew Mason's high-level mini-dungeon has it all: An artifact, an evocative location, powerful foes, required high-level magic to best it. This would be pretty much an instant recommendation...but while the PFRPG version has had some serious glitches, Kyle Crider didn’t do a much better job in the 5e-version. Instead of fixing the hiccups, the mini-dungeon sports different problems, some of which are just as puzzling, perhaps even more so, considering 5e’s rules-array. I cannot recommend this pdf. My final verdict will be 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #044: The Ascent of Tempest Tower
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5E Mini-Dungeon #043: Thelamos
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2017 04:53:46

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. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The complex herein would best be situated under a major settlement, where the existence and new occupancy of such a place would make most sense. By means of a winding staircase, the PCs can enter a place that, ultimately, is woefully disgusting - so pervasive is the stench, that from the get-go, we have a chance to be poisoned....and yes, there are traps, for this place is the new base of the Sons of Arratoi, a notorious band of thieves - which, coincidentally, also consists of wererats! Exploring the complex is btw. less of a cakewalk than you'd assume - while it is very much possible that capable PCs can catch the perpetrators unaware and asleep, they will need to be good: Beyond traps and a serpent swarm, dungeon hazards and the like, a well-hidden true treasury, accompanied by a "proper" boss can be found – who btw. is pretty cool in the 5E-version!

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, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Jonathan Ely's Thelamos is a generally challenging, fun little sidetrek. The obstacles are diverse enough to render it interesting and the pdf employs challenging terrain, fun foes and a reward for particularly diligent PCs. It is, as a whole, a nice, easily inserted and challenging module for anyone looking for a somewhat icky little sub-dungeon. Kyle Crider managed to translate it pretty well, though the Stealth-aspect could have used some playful variation with 5E’s passive perception rules…but that may just be me. The dungeon’s leitmotif is slightly less pronounced in its focus on rats, though. Barring serious complaints, this receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #043: Thelamos
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5E Mini-Dungeon #042: The Dreamer's Shrine
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2017 04:52:23

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. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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!

Hidden away under a place of learning, the cultist hideout was crafted from a previously used tomb and has since been used in different ways and expanded. The complex presented makes sense from an game-world internal point of view: Perceptive PCs can e.g. find a way to not stumble into traps and the like, making the complex feel sensible as something that is frequented by the living. Beyond having the chance to find a ghost who demands that evil be evicted from his resting place, these rooms now basically contain the shrine evicted to Cthulhu, including properly hyperlinked adversaries. Their magical equipment does receive proper names (nice touch!) and a cursed array of gibberish may put the sanity of PCs foolish enough to read it in peril... The 5e-translation has been done rather well in this one, leaving me without complaints

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, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Jonathan Ely's "Shrine of the Dreamer" is a perfect example for a sensible, unpretentious mini-dungeon. The structure of the place makes sense; the module offers a bit of combat, a bit of exploration, a chance for social interaction, rewards being smart, etc. - there's not much more you could ask for. Easily inserted (and adapted to other evil deities, should you require that or prefer another evil deity), this very much is a neat example for a useful and consistent sidetrek. The 5E-conversion by Kyle Crider loses nothing of the original module’s appeal. My final verdict will be 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #042: The Dreamer's Shrine
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Grimoire of Lost Souls
Publisher: Radiance House
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2017 05:32:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The massive hardcover Ultimate-style book for Pact magic clocks in at 387 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-thanks, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 376 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

I was a KS-backer for this book and as such, I have received the massive hardcover. My review is mostly based on the print version, though I have also consulted my pdf-iteration for it.

So, what is this book? The short tl;dr-version would be that it is for Pact Magic, what Ultimate Psionics was for psionics. A more detailed response would also note that this book is not simply a compilation of previously-released material; in fact, this massive grimoire does feature a lot of new material, material previously not seen for PFRPG and some massive tweaks to existing options.

So, what is pact magic? Well, the short reply would be that it was the original Pact Magic. First conceived in 3.5’s Tome of Magic, the system had some serious hiccups and balance-issues in its initial iteration, but at the same time, it was a revelation for me: The idea was that named spirits exist; said spirits have fallen past the usual confines implied by D&D cosmology and, from their in-between status, they hunger for the chance to interact with the realms of mortals. From legends to archetypical beings to strange demons, all kinds of weird spirits, some of which were influenced by the key of Solomon, were thus presented.

This system was greatly expanded in two massive hardcovers back in 3.X, “Secrets of Pact magic” and “Villains of Pact Magic”, both of which are undeservedly obscure and have a place of honor on my bookshelf. They tweaked the balance of the system, expanded it and made it more unique – and, more importantly for me, they rank as some of my favorite rule-books of that age – the spirits came with HUGE short stories depicting their legends, adding a vast amount of flavor to each of the options herein. Then, two stand-alone updates/expansions for PFRPG were released, expanding the concept and translating it to PFRPG, though these did cut back on the beloved legends I enjoyed so much. This book once again features a lot of legends, though some have been externalized to a short-story collection.

Fast-forward to this book, which presents basically the latest and most refined iteration of the concept. At the heart of this system lies the pactmaker class, which gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. The class adds +1/2 class level, minimum 1, to Knowledge (arcane), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion) and Knowledge (planes) and gains a bonus on these to research a spirit’s knowledge tasks, instead gains a bonus equal to full character level.

So, what are knowledge tasks? Each spirit has a specific, occult seal that is drawn by the binder: This seal and the spirit need to be researched via knowledge tasks – basically, these represent the effort to learn a spirit. This is important, in that there is no limit otherwise on spirits known, if you will: While a pactmaker can only bind spirits of 1st level in the beginning, he may learn all of them. New spirit levels are unlocked at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter and spirits are organized by levels, much like spells; the 9th level spirits being obviously the most potent. A pactmaker may bind multiple spirits at higher levels – 2 at 4th level, +1 one spirit every 6 levels thereafter. 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter allow a pact maker to replenish an expended spirit ability 1/day and the capstone makes spirit abilities count as extraordinary and allows for the ignoring of personality influences and also nets the class automatically the capstone empowerment. Bear with me for a second – those are spirit terms. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide a choice of bonuses while bound to a spirit. Saves against abilities, generally, are determined by Charisma as a governing attribute.

And that is already pretty much the basic chassis of the class. Let’s move on to the basics of pact magic, shall we?

The term to denote a character using pact magic is “binder”; a binder level is the equivalent of the caster level, for the purpose of governing the spirit’s abilities. A binding check is a d0 + ½ binder level + Charisma modifier, and it is made upon summoning a spirit to determine the power of the pact. This requires a ceremony and a binder check versus the binding DC of the spirit in question – rushing the ceremony is possible, but results in massive penalties to the check. On a success of the check, the binder gets a good pact. A binder that makes a good pact can freely suppress the physical sign or minor granted abilities of being inhabited by the spirit (like horns, tentacles, weird voices, etc.) and suffers no penalty when acting against the spirit’s influence – basically, the personality of the spirit. If failing the check, he still gets the spirit, but makes a poor pact; the binder must exhibit the physical sign and suffers cumulative penalties when disobeying the spirit’s influence, lasting for 24 hours, even if the spirit if exorcised before that duration has elapsed. Suppressing a spirit eliminates all benefits, but also all penalties that may be incurred by having a spirit inhabit you. The process of making a good pact can be improved by using totems – basically optional material components or terrain components. Additionally, some spirits are more well or ill--disposed towards some races (favored allies and enemies), beings with certain alignments, class features, etc., while others reward those that call them in dark places, while stricken by illness, etc. the possibilities here are endless and tie in very well with the flavor of the spirits in question, rewarding players for caring about the story of their spirits.

Here is the catch: Spirits have three types of abilities: Minor abilities, which are always granted; major abilities, which are expended for 5 rounds after being used unless otherwise noted, and capstone empowerments, which are only gained when the spirit’s DC is beaten by 10 or more, making even low-level spirits retain their usefulness at higher levels.

It is not in the chassis of the pact-maker class or one of the numerous pact magic based class options that the system’s appeal lies; it is within the massive, colossal array of spirits. It should also be noted that most spirits are assigned to a constellation – upon binding them, the binder gains constellation aspects and these general affiliations double as thematic restrictions and schools of spirits if you will; you can focus on binding nature spirits…or fiendish ones…or those that hearken from the dark beyond. Whether you want to focus on slenderman-like entities or strange fey or on any combination of them, the spirits are here and allow for a wide variety of different types of character. And yes, benevolent spirits like cynical detectives that have fallen through the cracks of reality or basically saints can also be found – this is important to note, for pact magic, requiring less study thanb comparable magic and no divine oversight either, does carry with it the flavor of the forbidden, of the occult. And yes, there are starless, more obscure spirits.

As you may have gleaned by now, a strength of spirits lies in the way in which many of their abilities operate on a cool-down mechanic…and frankly, I went through this massive tome with my analysis, and rules-wise, there are precious few hiccups: To note two remarkable ones: The spirit Sevnoir, for example, heals you when inflicting damage to a creature suffering from a fear-effect. If you have a character with a fear-aura on hand, the 1/round caveat doesn’t prevent cheesing this via kitten slaughter.

At the same time, this book does predate the release of Occult Adventure regarding when it was worked on, and as such, unfortunately does not provide synergy with that glorious tome. Prestige classes, magic items, feats, special binder secrets (talents), spells, races, planes and organizations (apocryphal desert…nightmare weald…need I say more?) – the book has a ton to offer in crunch and I could bloat this review to 14, 20 pages even – easily, and still scratch the surface of what the book offers in terms of sheer content. There are some minor formatting inconsistencies to be found, with abilities that should be red showing up in black instead and the like.

There is one more thing you should be aware of: RAW, binders do NOT gain new spirits upon reaching new levels. While personally, I require downtime training to gain the benefits of a level up (I really dislike just pling, getting level-ups mid-dungeon...), I know that many groups do just that – in such cases, I’d suggest automatically gaining a spirit upon reaching a new level. So yes, this may be, for some groups, a drawback of the RAW engine, though one that can be houseruled away with ease. System-immanently, groups that do not engage in a lot of roleplaying as opposed to rollplaying will have a bit less fun with this, though please do take a look at my conclusion for what I mean by this.

I have to break my usual system of presentation here a bit in order to convey what this book provides, so let me prematurely interject my

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect – I noticed a couple of hiccups here and there, some formatting glitches and the like; less than in many books of this crunch-density, but enough to notice. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the book comes with a TON of absolutely phenomenal full-color art; some of which was previously used and colored, but most is new. Each spirit has his/her/its own seal as a visual representation, so yeah, you can actually draw the seal, if that’s how you roll! The pdf version comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience and thankfully, the book has a massive, multi-page index that helps navigating this tome. The hardcover is a beauty to behold and well worth getting.

You know, as a person and as a reviewer, I generally tend to gravitate towards complex options; beautiful mathy constructs and subsystems that provide an interesting playing experience. I can honestly appreciate it when math works out, when some abilities do something utterly unique with complex rules operations. While certainly not simple in these regards, pact magic never reaches the complexity of akashic mysteries, ethermagic or similar systems. And still, it is one of my favorite systems ever.

I am not a sentimental man, so nostalgia is not the culprit here and it took me quite a while to deduce why pact magic works so well for me. There is no simple answer. One, though, would be that much like psionics, I can see it completely replacing the standard spellcasting classes for a completely different campaign experience, one steeped in occult lore, research…and one that makes magic more dangerous, feel more forbidden, medieval. In fact, I’m regularly stealing spirits from this book when playing OSR-games, breaking them down to the simpler rules of such systems. LotFP, LL, S&W – it works and fits thematically perfectly will the often more gritty aesthetics there. This has literally transcended the bounds of its system, at least for me – something only precious few books in my vast library achieve.

At the same time, the strength of the system, its appeal, does not lie wholly in its mechanics; pact magic, to a degree, is the original occult magic, prior to Occult Adventures. In my review of Paizo’s phenomenal hardcover, I commented on the fact that I love how player agenda AND character agenda are emphasized, and how the classes have ROLEplaying potential hardcoded into their respective rules. This is, ultimately, why I adore this massive tome; I adore tactical combat and I’m the first to appreciate a well-made combat-encounter with strategically-interesting hazards etc. – I love these. I love the tactical, complex combat aspects of PFRPG. But I also adore the storytelling aspect of the game; I love good roleplaying between characters, between PCs and NPCs; I use story-rewards a lot. To me, the beauty of roleplaying games with a high rules-density lies in the blending of strategy and story-telling, in the fusion of stories and tactics. Ultimately, for me the best rules let me do either unique things in the strategy department, in the roleplaying department, or both.

Every single spirit is a bit like an unruly character that influences the PC or NPC; they all have personalities, quirks and goals, enemies – and they may grow with your PCs. When a spirit helps vanquish a certain foe after being bested by him, you have your work cut out for you as a good roleplayer; you can tweak your character with spirits and keep them perpetually fresh and interesting; perhaps your character is a teetotaler, so binding some spirits may be something he’d be loathe to do; perhaps bidning one spirit and succumbing to the spirit’s influence nets you some complications…or new allies – it’s small, organically happening constellations (haha! – sorry, I’ll punch myself for that later) that make this shine as brightly for me.

There is another aspect to this book. One that perhaps bears no importance for you…but then again, I think it does.

No other system I have used has made me write this much custom material.

When, for example, Aldern Foxglove was a very popular character in my RotRL-game back in the day and then died (trying to be SPOILER-less), I promptly had him come back as a spirit with peculiar personalities, fluid constellations and abilities depending on the dominant personality; when my PCs liberated the ghost lions from the Ghostlord in Red Hand of Doom, I made the pack return as a spirit to be bound; When Kyuss fell, he became the master of the Worm constellation. The Crimson King is a spirit in my game. So is the Dark Tower.

And yes, you can use the spirits herein as guidance, tweak and reskin them for a lot of purposes. Don’t like a legend or a particular spirit? Chances are that you won’t have to do a lot of writing, just replace an ability and come up with a new legend. Done. When one of my players happened upon notes on a blood-drinking lizardfolk thing from ages long past, I took N’aylia the first vampire, tweaked her abilities a bit more towards the lizardfolk-esque and there we go. I actually improvised that reskin on the fly while GMing and nobody noticed.

Or, you know, you can pretty much write infinite amounts of new ones, based on your campaign. I have psionic spirits, akashic spirits, ethermagic-spirits…you name the subsystem and I pretty much have a spirit for it. Why? Because the engine per se is simple. You can easily complicate it in a vast variety of ways by grafting pretty much anything on top of it, with only your own skills as the limit – and the glue that holds all together is this basic system, one that is defined by choice, yes…but more than that, it is defined by the stories you tell with it.

A haunt put to rest? Potential spirit. An outsider slain? Potential spirit? Anything weird, from mages that fell through space and time to sentient constructs? Potential spirits. Fey kicked out of their courts/dethroned fey queens? Potential spirits. Defeated campaign endbosses? Potential spirits in the next one. Paladin PC that sacrificed his soul to seal the demon-lord in an artifact? Potential spirit. Endzeitgeist, a zeitgeist-like spirit of the end-times? Potential spirit. In fact, the book does an amazing job at showcasing the sheer infinite breadth of themes that you can cover with these spirits.

Pact magic is a nice, well-made system on its own – probably one that deserves, when divorced from all flavor, a verdict of 4.5 to 5 stars, somewhere in that vicinity. But this would not do the system the least bit of justice. Dario Nardi and Alexander Agunuas deliver with pact magic perhaps the most literally inspiring system I have ever encountered for a d20-based game. Its genius does not necessarily lie within its rules, but within how it is an incredibly potent narrative instrument, how it can change the depiction of a fantasy world to make magic feel more magical, how it rewards customization and making the system your own more than any comparable system I know. I guarantee that, when using the system thus, you will have perhaps the most impactful alternate system ever on your hands.

In case you haven’t noticed by now: I absolutely LOVE this system. Even my reviewer-bot-persona can’t really adequately complain about it, mainly because separating the fluff from the crunch divests the system of its core principle – it is, frankly, impossible to rate this fairly as anything but the sum of its parts, and that sum is a thing of absolute, inspiring beauty. This book will grace my shelves for years to come; it has already spawned more ideas than I’m ever likely to put to paper. It is, in short, the streamlined, improved heir of the old system; tighter and more concise, yet without losing any component of its uniqueness.

This is one of the most inspiring books, quite literally, that you can purchase for PFRPG. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This is also, big surprise there, a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. It also receives the EZG Essentials tag as a book I consider a must-own expansion for the system.

Now, can we have an Occult Adventures/Horror Adventures-crossover sequel or do I have to write the spirits myself? Who am I kidding – I’m going to write them either way!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Grimoire of Lost Souls
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Stray Spells (Racial Guide)
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2017 05:30:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so the idea of spells becoming sentient humanoids isn’t new, but surprisingly, I have never seen the concept to be actually applied to a playable race, so the pdf does tread some new ground here. We begin the pdf thus with the “biology” if you will, of these sentient spells. Stray spells are, per se, immortal, though in practice, they always run the risk of being transcribed – this is a kind of Highlander-esque process where they can consume each other – the process takes 10 minutes, but more on that later. Stray spells are grouped in categories, depending on their spell school, with some specifics included – stray spells born from dispel magic, for example, tend to end up as loners…after all, their raison d’être would be the destruction of other stray spells – interesting nurture vs. nature angle for roleplaying here.

Speaking of interesting roleplaying opportunities – in a process not unlike transcription, two stray spells can fuse, budding basically into the analogue of offspring in an agendered, somewhat hermaphroditic process that could, e.g. generate fiery hail storm stray spells or even more interesting combinations – the only limits here, from a narrative point of view, are the ideas of those involved.

Racial trait-wise, stray spells get +2 Int and Dex, -2 Con, are medium native outsiders with a 30 ft. base speed. While sleeping, they gain a 50% miss chance, which is weird – does it stack with other miss chances? I assume no. “Anything that affects incorporeal creatures affects them.” You get the idea here – the racial traits, while understandable, don’t really adhere to the default formatting conventions, which may irk some of you. I felt the need to mention that, but let’s move on: They gain darkvision 60 ft. A stray spell can transcribe helpless stray spells or casters that are capable of casting 6th level spells or higher (or SP-equaivalents) when coup-de-gracing them, gaining temporary hit points equal to thrice the highest spell level the creature could cast or twice the creature’s HD if it was a stray spell, whichever is higher. These hit points last 1 hour and thankfully don’t stack with themselves. Stray spells “automatically makes an opposed caster level check against any attempt to dispel them, using their full character level as their cast level.” I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. A) That’s not how dispel magic or comparable checks work. B) How does this there even need to be a check (by whatever weird mechanics that’s supposed to happen), when the stray spell makes the check automatically?? They take damage upon failing the check and make end up being transcribed by the victor. But…I though they automatically make their check? That’s when it finally dawned upon me how that ability works: Basically, the roll a character level check against dispel attempts; they don’t automatically “make” the check, they just roll it, as a kind of saving throw substitute. -.-

After my initial annoyance over the rather wonky wording subsided, I found myself enjoying this drawback. As living spells, they are detectable by magic…and they have a spell form: They choose a spell of 3rd level or lower – as a standard action, they can turn themselves into a one-handed spell completion item that can be used by uttering the stray spell’s name as a command word. They use their highest mental attribute modifier as governing attribute modifier. A stray spell may be cast a number of times per day equal to 6 + the HD of the stray spell, minus 2 x the chosen spell’s level…which would translate to 3rd level spell access at 1st level. This is very strong, considering the potential AoE-damage output or the option to gain fly et al. at 1st level and should, as such, have some careful GM oversight due to the wide open nature of spells. Big plus: What can be used and what can’t while in this form are generally concisely codified and e.g. DR possessed translates to hardness, they have ego, etc. While not in any way a reliable indicator of power, they do come with RP-values, if you’re using them to gage general potency.

Random starting age and height/weight notes are included, as are favored class options for a couple of classic classes and some classes by LRGG. The racial paragon class does not get a favored class option, being already exclusive for the race – this class would be the stray king, who gets 2 + Int mod skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. They have full BAB-progression and good Will-saves. Spellkings may transcribe spellcasters of 2nd level or higher and non-spell-completion/trigger items, provided the Cl of the item is equal to or less than the Max Spell Level (which starts at 0th and increases to 9th) – transcribing items never yields temporary hit points, only spells.

Wait, what? Well, the class gains transcribed spellcasting: Upon transcribing a creature, the stray king gains 1 spell the transcribed creature knew or 1 spell used in the construction of an item. The stray king thankfully can only hold ½ the character level (should probably be class level) spells this way; the original spell of the stray spell does not count towards this maximum. The maximum spell level they can transcribe thus is similarly capped per level and such spells may be spontaneously cast, with Charisma being the governing spellcasting attribute. Stray kings begin play with 1 +1/4 stray king level starting spells thus known…and, as you may have gleaned, the existence of the class has some seriously cool roleplaying ramifications – which the pdf acknowledges and talks about! Kudos there!

The spellcasting engine of the stray king, just fyi, is not your run of the mill system either: Instead, the class begins play with 4 stray energy and increases this amount every level – casting a transcribed spell requires an expenditure of stray energy points equal to the spell level. The stray energy amount scales up to 40 at 9th level, which remains pretty conservative – and that’s a good thing, considering that the class can pretty much cherry-pick from diverse spell-lists, provided they kill the foes… 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter yield a metamagic feat and 3rd level yields the option to add 1 metamagic feat to the stray king’s original spell sans level-increase. Starting at 10th level, 2 may be added for free to the stray king’s original spell, 1 to any spell the class has. This is wonky and less elegant than it should be, considering the diverging level-increases of metamagic feats – tying the mechanic to the level-increase of metamagic feats would have been a more balanced and elegant option here.

8th and 16th level increase the speed of transcription and 12th level nets, 1/day “per 2 Charisma modifier” (wording could be streamlined) the option to regain a bit of stray energy via transcription. The capstone yields a second racial spell. At 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, the stray king class receives an enhancement, basically the talents of the class. These do come with roleplaying implications (Cool!) and some are accompanied by compulsions, which may temporarily be suppressed with a Will-save. They are intended as roleplaying catalysts and not as penalties – and it is nice to see the pdf state that as such for the GMs out there. The enhancements are interesting in how they interact with the class engine: Clear vision, for example, allows the stray king to add Charisma modifier to Will saves instead of Wisdom modifier and provides basically an evasion equivalent for Will-saves…but only while he has 1 illusion spell known. So yes, these enhancements interact with the current spell array known, thus rewarding diversification over specialization in the chassis of the class. A scaling, translucent armor that may be a bit overprotective, automatically transcribing undead (which leaves a somewhat nasty scent on the spell king that may offend some NPCs), swift action more flexible alter/disguise self variants, shifting temporary hit points gained from transcription to nearby allies – there are some really interesting and creative tricks here. On the annoying side – these are not properly codified by type – no idea whether they count as Sus, Sps, Ex…

A total of 8 feats are included (one of which lacks bolding for the Prerequisite and Benefit headers) that allow for the retaining of more spells, stray energy, the ability to cast the racial spell while not in spell form, extra uses in spell form, Sr equal to 10 + character level + highest mental attribute versus your chosen spell, which can be upgraded to apply to the whole school of the spell…interesting collection.

The pdf also features two sample stray king characters, Kaleido Skop, a stray spell bard and Dirk Chein, an inquisitor. Beyond these, a template allows for the creation of spell-based monsters and comes with a sample spell beast.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not bad, are also not exactly good: Beyond some formatting hiccups, there are a couple of oversights that impede playability (ability types) and some wording choices that are a bit unfortunate. That being said, the material herein DOES work and the playtesting this received does indeed show. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

While the option for a 3rd level spell at 1st level mho needs a nerf unless used in high fantasy/high-powered contexts, this pdf ended up impressing me more than I thought it would: The race of stray spells is saturated with roleplaying potential galore and, in spite of the wide open nature of the race, it manages to retain a sense of manageable balance much better than what I expected. Ian Sisson, Christos Gurd and Scott Gladstein have, as a whole, created one of the precious few new races that really feel different, that offer an interesting playing experience. The race is smart and fun and, as a person, I really, really like this pdf. More so than I frankly should, considering the hiccups, glitches and minor inconsistencies; with a picky dev, this would be 5 stars + seal of approval material, no questions asked. That being said, in spite of loving this pdf, as a reviewer, I must unfortunately take the hiccups and glitches into account and they do drag down what would otherwise be an excellent offering. Thus, my official verdict can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

If you’re willing to work a bit with the pdf and if you’re willing to look past the imperfections, you’ll have a diamond in the rough, though!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Stray Spells (Racial Guide)
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Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/05/2017 09:18:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 255 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 248 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

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

Okay, so this is a massive book for the...let's say, more unconventional races out there. The respective write-ups have a couple of things in common, so let's start with establishing that: For the most part, the races have either not been properly covered in the respective books that introduced them or get some additional coverage herein; the write-ups contain a well-written prose-introduction to the race at hand, proper age, height & weight tables (YEAH!), the basic racial stats, alternate racial traits, notes on society, nomenclature and the like and racial equipment as well as archetypes. A formatting peculiarity here would be that the archetypes specify an "Associated Class" instead of putting the class-name in brackets behind the archetype's name, but that's a purely cosmetic decision. It is a matter of taste whether you like that the archetypes herein list the abilities they replace and modify in their respective lists in the beginning of the archetype entry. The plus-side is that you quickly see whether the build is relevant for your concept or not. The downside would be that one loses the direct correlation between abilities gained and replaced...but since I figure that this is more important for me in a reviewer-capacity than for people using the options, I will not penalize the book for that choice.

Racial deities can also be found and the respective entries sport sample NPCs for your perusal, beginning at the low levels and scaling up to the higher CRs - while the levels are different from race to race, you generally should find a feasible build for each roughly approximated level-range. 5 such builds are provided per race.

The pdf also contains a MASSIVE array of favored class options for each of the races, covering the classes up to and including the ACG, as well as the Ultimate Psionics-classes - yep, fans of Dreamscarred Press, this book has some serious fodder. Fans of rogue Genius Games amazing Time Thief class will similarly love that the class gets its due here. For those of us who enjoy a dash of science-fantasy, the chapter on racial technology should put a smile on quite a few faces, with 9 spells interacting with racial technology provided for your convenience, taking some of ten classics from ten Technology Guide. Similarly, feats required for crafting etc. have been reproduced in this section and we get specific items for the "non-high-powered" (more on that distinction, or at least as how I see it, later) races that are featured in the book. These items encompass a serum that lets tengu spout wings, heavy gravity beam-weapons (really cool!) or microwave based charge-draining guns. Skinwalkers gain ferocity-enhancing implants as well as enhancer-drugs or claw plating as well as a skinwalker bloodrager archetype that modifies bloodrage to grant less potent numerical benefits, instead enhancing the Mark versions of implanted cybertech as well as floating charges while in his bloodrage. Interesting one!

Samsarans can implant a memory decryption device and I was rather intrigued by the Technology/Time-Thief crossover archetype they get - at the cost of massive set-ups, these guys get less motes, but can use them to grant herself instant turns...and surprisingly, it avoids the readying exploit . From context and logic, it seems like delaying isn't viable either, but as a nitpick, I think it would have helped to spell that out here. Very potent, but interesting option for the class.

Lizardfolk equipment sports selectively harmful poisonous gas thrower, underwater combat tech and internalized triggers, while gillmen receive 3 archetypes: Voidwright arcanists may dabble in the dark tapestry mystery for arcane exploits and can drain tech items. I would not allow this guy. He casts Sor/Wiz spells as divine spells, which is utterly OP. The samurai ancient infantry gains limited bloodrager castintg with a unique list as well as tech expertise instead of mounts and order, which works out surprisingly well - like it! The advanced error dread tech and dread tricks and gains a tentacle at higher levels, but loses 3 terrors and psionic manifesting. Elans gain 5 pieces of cool devices, including hard light thieves' tools and enhancers versus psionic assaults in a solid, if potent item array. The catfolk tech rigger is a modification of the investigator class, replacing poison tricks and the associated alchemy options with appropriate technological replacements. Oh, and no studied strike, but we do get tech bombs. Finally, androids not only receive a rogue archetype, but also ten Technology domain.

Speaking of androids: These guys would be the first race graced with a full entry, so let's move from the tech-guide appendix back to the start of the tome, shall we? One note here: While it would be possible t analyze the content in piece by piece, this would bloat the review to something in the vicinity of 30+ pages - this book is incredibly dense. In favor of readability and to give you a proper overview of the material contained herein, I will thus endeavor to remain brief in my descriptions of the material.

As you can glean from the introduction of androids here, the regular races featured herein rank approximately on par with the stronger core races and plane-touched races. The base racial traits don't tend to be modified, but it should be noted that this does not mean that you won't get new material out of the race trait section: Androids, for example, can benefit from the anomaly alternate racial trait, which eliminates their morale bonus lock-out, but at an appropriately hefty cost. Similar alternates are provided and include making them e.g. being potentially prone to being bluffed. The living weapon brawler uses energy weapons instead of unarmed strikes in his distinct fighting style, while the nanoshade is a ninja who replaces ki pools with nanite reserves and even potentially infuse them into targets. Thought scribe psions replace disciplines and discipline abilities with psionic circuitry and Scribe Tattoo, gaining psionic tattooing at increasing potency. Wiremind cryptics lose the trap-related abilities in favor of some skill bonuses, which sounds unremarkable - but 6th level's ability is somewhat potentially problematic, granting effectively a second psionic focus. Considering the vast combo-potential of quite a lot abilities, this is something I'd be incredibly weary of at that level -I'd frankly disallow it and consider it problematic.

Beyond these archetypes, we get quite a few nice class options to evade at higher levels, for example, blindsight, add electricity damage to Elemental Fist, gain some resistances, extra race ability uses -etc. The philosophy, the Final Cause, and the associated inquisitor archetype are solid and the spells as well as the power presented herein (which allows you to Upload yourself into an android body) are intriguing. Items that allow androids to use nanite surges to generate antimagic shields (which are partially selective!) and such make for a cool array as well. It should also be noted that each of the races comes with a small chapter that deals with integration of the race into an ongoing campaign, its themes, etc. -which is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

The second races presented herein would be the catfolk, with the nine lives racial trait being worth of special mention - it can be sued exactly 9 times and can prevent death. This is, obviously, not intended for all campaigns, but depending on the type of game you're running, it can be considered to be amazing. Among the class options, we have the feral rager barbarian, who gains a mobility-focus (dodge-bonuses, Ref- instead of Will-save bonus in rage) in favor of the classic DR etc. Treedancer slayers get a modified talent selection and a replacement for tracking, moving stalker to 7th level and focusing on climbing etc. The race gets a whole array of rogue talents that include subtle communication via tails, fast squeezing, etc. The grymalkin bloodline gets a dazing touch attack. On the racial feat side, we get better flanking etc. as well as Copy-Cat, which allows you to duplicate of a feat used by an ally - its frame is that it requires the feat to be used in that encounter. And it has a per-encounter limit. sigh Insert here my rant on why per-encounter abilities make no sense whatsoever. On the plus-side: Low-range blindsense due to Sensitive Whiskers? Makes sense to me and the high-level Pounce and Rake option will find its fans. The racial deities number 3 this time around and the associated archetype this time around would be the ghost hunter paladin, who is, bingo a nemesis-type archetype focusing on the destruction of incorporeal foes. On the magic-side of things, we have a spell that allows the ignoring of circle of protection and protection from type spells (Yep, adding that to the arsenal of my nasties...) as well as an evil spell to cause toxoplasmosis and the conjuration of a semi-real, feral cat-swarm. A magical prayer kit and a wine that is potent, but used in religious ceremony, enhancing cleric abilities complement this section.

Changelings would be the third race herein and represent perhaps one of the most customizable of races I have seen - the alternate racial traits further diversify the array of choices the base race provides, with the option of Paternal heritage mattering (and replacing the hag heritage). This trait alone covers almost two pages, with races from drow to suli and the ARG-races covered alongside many herein. Kudos indeed! The Heartshorn witch is easily one of the coolest archetypes in the book: The witch removes her heart, making it into a stone - this acts as an Achilles heel, yes, but it also allows the witch to redirect (with restrictions) effects to the stone. This is simple and elegant and I really enjoy it. The incantrix sorcerer is a bit less cool, replacing bloodline arcana and the 9th and 15th level bloodline power with SR, arcane sight and Cha-based Knowledge and Spellcraft. The healing-themed Cleansed sorceror bloodline can mitigate some potent negative conditions and makes for an interesting take on the arcane healer. Some solid rogue talents and the accursed bloodrager bloodline (with limited use staggering gazes and horrific visage as well as other, neat hag-themed abilities) complement this section. We also get a Cleansed bloodrager bloodline that focuses more on gusts of wind to disperse miasmas or purification by fiery bursts, featuring more visceral and less angelic themes than the sorceror version -kudos for making these so distinct from one another.

The feats allow for the further development of the magical ancestry of the race...or for the storing of potions in your lungs (!!). Eye-dyes and 3 racial deities also are part of this chapter and we get no less than 4 archetypes associated with these deities, 2 for the cleric class, 1 inquisitor and 1 ranger, though apart from the caravan-master style ranger, I wasn't blown away by these brief tweaks of the base class. Hag Aspect spells and darklight as well as caps that make you hard to be remembered can also be found here.

Next up would be the elan race and it is one I have a love-hate-relationship with; on the one hand, I adore the race for its unique history and feeling, and on the other...well, if you've ever played a truly efficient elan, you know how potent they can be. The numerous traits featured herein do provide some nice customization options that stand out, providing e.g. temporary crystal armor, being breathless and the like - considering the power of the traits replaced, these make sense indeed. I am not a big fan of the alternate racial trait, which pays for +4 Str,D ex or Con with -2 Charisma, as that renders the race more min-maxy than it already is. This minor guffaw, however, is quickly remedied by one of my favorite archetypes herein, the ratha priest slayer psychic warrior, who specializes in hampering the abilities of the devout. Similarly, the creche defender fighter provides a nice, slightly psionic option - compared to the archetypes of the other races, these stand out via their conceptual strength and the fact that they offer distinct playing experiences. Some crossover rogue talents and the arcane elan bloodline for sorcerors allow for a wider focus for the race than before, which is another plus. The feats provide some nice expasnions for elan abilities in conjunction with psionics and from psiflares to mundane tomes that provide benefits, we have a strong equipment section as well. The racial deity is supplement by a psionics/oracle crossover that works rather well and the psychic domain. 5 solid racial powers can be found -and while one permanently degrades an item's hardness, its massive +5d6 damage boost can be a big issue with characters that have the option to create weaponry ex nihilo....so yeah, I'd strongly suggest banning that one. Speaking of which_: Crystals that can hold psionic focus for paltry +3K should die in a fiery blaze. Considering the massive combo-potential one such crystal alone can yield...

The gillmen section provides claws, among other things, as alternate racial traits (as often, you have to defer to the default rather than having the type of natural attack spelled out), though the angle is interesting - as presented here, the race has been freed from the dominion of their erstwhile masters, which is represented in a more wholesome flavor. Archetype-wise, we get an aqautic monk, the wave crasher, the lightningcaster magus (bingo: electricity specialist) and the tentacled horror bloodrager, who provides the eldritch flavor that you'd have expected, with tentacles that can hold but not use) items and higher-level off-hand tentacle attacks. The precise rules-interactions here can become a tad bit wobbly, as tentacles usually are natural attacks. The section also provides the nice catshark familiar as well as new options, once again including psionic ones and even a temporal talent and the order of the sinking ship, which is a bit problematic: When issuing an order, he is not affected by environmental damage, which RAW would include pits of acid, lava, etc. - it's pretty clear that that's not meant, but still - a more concise wording would make sense here. On the plus side, from giant seahorses to snapping turtles and manta rays, the new companions included are neat. The feats are okay, but I'm not 100% blown away by them, Racial deity wise, we get a good deity and Cthulhu, who also gets Bringer of Insanity warpriests, which tie into the Madness domain and replace sacred weapon with sneak attack - not blown away here. The depths shaman spirit is, on the other hand, pretty cool - and speaking of which, the racial spells this time around are nifty: Conjuring forth basically weaponized salmon to bludgeon your foes is cool. And yes, you can fence with a swordfish. Wall of water is also pretty classic. The magic item section this time around is decent, but not universally so: Adding + casting ability modifier to damage (even possible for SPs) can be rather potent, particularly underwater, when you also add the spell-level of the highest spell/SP known to damage dealt. Yes, it can only be used on melee weapons, but I can get past that as well.

The next race within would be the lizardfolk, who get a potentially diseased bite, chameleon scales, bulky or small physiology - some cool alternate racial options here. The tribal defender fighter would be a defensive fighter who gains several nice abilities that enhance the protection of allies, though the competing attack roll mechanic introduced at higher levels is not something I'm fond of. The cannibal bloodrager bloodline makes for a cool and well-crafted one, though, once again, a high-level option isn't perfect and can be (slightly and not too efficiently) cheesed. The chapter also contains the Anointed One PrC, which provides full BAB-progression as well as 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression and 2 + Int skills per level. The PrC focuses on an anointed weapon and the use of oils to enhance it, dabbling a bit in mutagens and discoveries for an alchemical fighter. The option to lock weapons with an attacker is interesting and concisely presented, making use of AoOs and the weapon in question to negate hits, which is per se, damn cool. A GM should just be weary to not let an indestructible weapon such as an artifact fall into the hands of the character. The serious array of racial feats allows for the expansion of the potency of the natural attacks. Personally, I am not a fan of yet another feat to increase the damage output of Vital Strikes. Two racial deities and 3 subdomains can be found, and no, I don't have any issues here. Oracles may choose the albinism curse, which is pretty cool The anti-fire battle-magic squall makes for a potent and neat spell and the magic items, for the most part, are neat - though once again there's an option here to further increase Vital Strike damage. As always, I'd advise caution here.

Among the merfolk, we gain two full-blown subtypes in addition to the alternate racial traits, with the angufolk and the octopi adding some nice visuals, though the latter, with +2 Dex and Con, are a bit lopsided on the physical side for my tastes. Still: Octopi-merfolk. Cool. Archetype-wise, the cyraniel bard is an investigator crossover with diminished spellcasting and an inspiration pool to enhance skills. The thematically-fitting aegan sorceror bloodline, which draws upon the Sea King's powers and the carcharodon bloodragers that tap into the wrath of megalodons, make for solid options, though the former has a purely cosmetic hiccup in the capstone header, sporting the "20" from the level it's gained. I really like the feat that lets you see better in murky water and mud and the swift octo-trip option among the racial feats. Edible cork and coral armor make for nice pieces of equipment. A new power lets you form legs on land and there are some nice utility underwater spells. The iconic belt of the land walker also provides a nice option to allow merfolk to adventure on dry land. I also liked the ink-grenades here and the artifact, the trident of the 7 seas, is appropriately potent!

The chapter on samsarans has the unfortunate handicap of having to compete with the Dynastic Races Compendium, though one should mention that it doesn't do a bad job at it - the alternate racial traits are solid and tie in well with the reincarnation-angle of the race. The pdf takes a different approach here, focusing more on the aspect of time, with the chronomancer wizard (who basically replaces schools etc. with spell echoes and customized bonus spells, arcane bond, etc.), the anti-evil knight eternal paladin and the timeless warden druid, who emphasizes the cyclical nature and is more a guardian-style priest of nature than a wood-stalking hermit, gaining channel energy, but losing wild shape, woodland stride, etc. The Panacean sorceror bloodline would, bingo, be another arcane healing option - their touch can provide nourishment and they even receive some lay on hands and mercy-tricks. Depending on your attributes, you may select feats to retain some knowledge from previous lives and some samsaran priests may even use channel energy to heal ability damage and drain - though thankfully with proper prerequisites and ratio - kudos! On the faith-side of things, the deity presented here is supplemented by the dreams mystery and the vision subdomain, both of which are solid options. I am particularly partial to the nonlethal damage causing touch that comes with a free merciful upgrade at later levels. Showing the truth of a soul via a polymorph-effect or gaining flashes of insight from previous lives are some examples for the spells featured herein...and there is a blade to grant final death to reincarnating creatures. It also makes sense to me that there are capsules that contain information from past lives. All in all, I liked the chapter, but compared to the in-depth look in Dynastic Races Compendium, it was shorter and thus had less space to develop its take on the race.

Next up would be the pretty potent skinwalker race, who gains alternate change shape options among the alternate racial traits and traits to ignore a single 5-ft.-square of difficult terrain while running or charging. The archetypes feature the beastwalker druid, who gains the ability to assume hybrid forms via wild shape. The kinetic assailant replaces the mind-blade enhancing options with the means to use move actions to store kinetic energy in unarmed or natural attacks, increasing their damage output. While generally functional, the core ability of the archetype deviates significantly in the way it is presented from how such rules-operations are usually phrased. As such, there are a couple of rough patches here. The rougarou witch replaces patron and may choose the governing attribute for her magic. With diminished spellcasting and familiar as well as a natural spellstrike variant, the archetype is really intriguing and provides an interesting playing experience - two thumbs up for this one! The wild stalker hunter is a minor tweak. Cursed scars and wounds and new animal foci make for more compelling options. The racial feats focus on enhancing natural attacks (such as using a swift action to add a grapple attempt to a bite), tripping foes that run from you, etc. - all in all an interesting selection and one that thankfully hides pounce behind a sufficient level-cap. Beyond 3 sample deities, we also get a new shaman spirit, who focuses on the moon - including "lunacy" to confuse targets - and yep, that's where the word comes from -in German it's "mondsüchtig" - moon-addicted, but that as an aside. I like the spirit! The moon/hunter-theme also extends to the spell-array, with one allowing for the sharing of the skinwalker's bestial form...The magic items cover an iteration of the classic lycanthrope-mantle, transformative masks and shape-locking arrows.

Next up would be the tengus, who can hail from ravens and sports a rather nice assortment of traits and solid alternate racial traits as well - no complaints here! Aerialist swashbucklers focus on jumping over foes, attacking them from above, etc., while crow shamans get modified class skills and spells as well as some trickster style at-range theft...and item-cloaking. Nice one! Kite fighters specialize in the war kite (!! - That's a new weapon herein, btw.) weapon, while raven knight cavaliers get a raven that can carry them at 1st level at 1/2 speed (important note, considering the limitations of aerial mounts - but I still wish it didn't use an absolute value and instead employed proper carrying capacity and size-interactions. Spell scavenger wizards can use left-over magic to power spells and siphon off magic from dispels - interesting. A critical Eye Gouge feat is interesting...though move action combat feat duplication once again suffers from per-encounter mechanics. Using filth to make weapons infectious is...disgusting, but cool. The pdf contains two racial deities as well as an OP damage channeler, whose channel energy damages both living and undead, excluding the character. Yeah, no. Full untyped damage there? Nope. The spying subdomain is nice and so are the new magic options, which include the long nose curse, sword snapping bite and the theft of eyes. The magic items include geta that allow tengus to walk through hurricanes and warkites that help jumping or call down lightning. Pretty cool chapter!

The final two races herein would be more potent than the others, which is why I considered them to be worthy of extra mentioning - the wyrwood has full construct immunities (but also their instantaneous 0 hp destruction), while the wyvarang begins play with unassisted personal flight. Both are imho aspects that require some GM-consideration. But both also have in common that we have basically heard and seen nothing about them or their respective culture before, with the wyrwood entry making pretty clear that they can be an intriguing option when handled with care. Their crafted nature and stone-based variant, the latter provided in the alternate, make for an interesting background. Similarly, there is an option for a wyrwood to have emotions, unlocking them for a variety of options. The character options have a really cool tactician, who gains 3 unique strategies as well as the option to act as full cover for allies and some free-form temporary hit points that are shared among the collective - I assume that these are replenished after a rest, but I'm not 100% sure - they could also manifest upon forming a collective. The golembreaker would be anti-construct/undead/etc. rogue - nice! Alchemists can gain construct-healing options via a discovery and there is the eldritch bloodline, which, for bloodragers, features shield and low-range force damage for those nearby while in a bloodrage. The sorceror iteration of the bloodline instead features at-range Sleight of Hand, spying, etc., focusing on arcane subterfuge. Feats to craft Wyrwoods and repair them are neat, but I am particularly impressed by the ability to hold positive or negative energy for a limited time and deliver it to targets - the two feats here are really intriguing. A form of variant channeling for constructs and two philosophies can be found alongside the amaranthine mystery, which focuses on knowledge and construct mastery - including flooding the minds of foes with information. Construct-affecting cure-variants can be found, and the remainder of the magic and psionic options is decent, with e.g. a psionic shield other variant. In the magic item section, an item class that can absorb energy damage to regain spell levels deserves some serious warning, as the item class can delimit spells. The massive price is what keeps me from complaining more here - not broken, but potent.

The wyvaran, forged by the Tinkerer from kobolds and wyverns in the magical forge known as Cauldron (no, not the city in the Volcano!) come with a slew of alternate racial traits that include honoring the trapmaking of their kobold forebears, poison glands, better darkvision and fast healing when taking electricity damage - thankfully with a daily maximum to avoid infinite healing exploits. The class options include the intuitor investigator, who replace Inspiration with Intuition (which is governed by Wisdom, as are other class features). Regulator rangers replace the druid-y components of the ranger with warpriest tricks, while stormlancer cavaliers gain either the Air or Weather blessing and flight-enhancing tricks instead of the whole mount/charge-tree - cool one! Skylord monks lose fast movement and slow fall in favor of better flight options. The wyvern bloodline allows, among other things, a bite and the option to assume a semi-wyvern form at higher levels. Including poison. The racial feat array includes several ones that enhance flight as well as options to use wings defensively and the option to use tail or wings for attacks - cool: These are properly codified as secondary/primary natural attacks. The equipment section sports shrieking armor (which makes a ruckus when charging) and there are two racial deities provided. Reaper clerics can deliver inflict spells via weaponry and they can use their scythes to generate arcs of energy that are half negative energy and half "pure force" - does that mean force damage? I'm honestly not sure, but either way, losing a domain and channel energy makes for a viable trade-off for these potent tricks. The racial spells include the 9th level pillar of doom, which is pretty damn badass (it can explode or topple) as well as the updraft cantrip, which can help while flying. The magic items this time around are less interesting in my book, offering a crown that causes panic, a morningstar with form of the dragon I - you get the idea.

It should be noted that the book contains a massive spells & powers appendix by class and level, as well as a massive 5-page index that helps navigating this massive tome.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are impressive for a crunch-book of this size. I mean it. The bonus and damage types are admirably, impressively consistent, the rules-language and narrative voices of the respective chapters have been brought together into a concise whole - the editors Richard Moore and Kevin Morris have done a really good job here. Considering the number of authors involved, that's an impressive accomplishment! Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the book sports a significant array of full-color artwork, both original and stock pieces. The book comes with EXCESSIVE, nested bookmarks for your convenience - in conjunction with the appendices, this makes navigation of the tome very comfortable. I cannot comment on the physical version, since I do not own it.

My heartfelt congratulations to the cadre of authors: Michael Eshleman, Joel Flank, Sasha Hall, Maurice de Mare, Dale McCoy Jr., Matthew Ryan, Richard Moore, Kevin Morris, E. Steev Ramsdell, David N. Ross, Rachel Ventura and George "Loki" Williams. Racial books have a hard time convincing me of their reason to exist - you see, I expect more from a race than stats - I expect a culture, an interesting roleplaying angle. That alone is, for many races, a hard task. This book had an even harder standing. I never made any pretensions of liking the ARG - I hate the book with a fiery passion. This tome is largely based on races from the ARG - but it manages to make them feel like more than the sum of their mechanics, adding depth and dimension to them. Now, I consider the wyvaran and wyrwood races, balance-wise, problematic; same goes for the skinwalkers, but it would not be fair to penalize this book, as it was crafted to build on the existing races. To cut an already oversized review short: This massive tome manages to add much-needed depth to the respective races. The racial class options, while not all pure amazing, most of the time tie in with racial options and forma concise whole that makes it pretty clear how they tie in with the race in question. This focused identity adds further dimensions to the races in question. The fluff serves to enhance the individual entries as well.

For a book of this size and depth, let it be known that the crunch is impressive - while there are some instances where I can complain and nitpick, as a whole, the book holds up really well. My gripes come mainly from my knowledge of combos, from minor nitpicks and a rather conservative power-aesthetic. I think, for example, that psionic options herein tend to severely undervalue the massive power that more psionic foci can net. It should be noted, that crunch I'd consider problematic remains the exception in a massive book.

Most folks probably will encounter no issues with the material herein and it should be strongly emphasized that the majority of the material herein works smoothly - to the point where I was honestly impressed. This may not be perfect, but it most assuredly is a high-quality compilation and an incredibly tightly-packed book of crunch that brings to life races that were nothing but pale stats before. What more can you ask for? If you hated these races before, then this book may change actually that! If you wanted more detail, then this book will deliver. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium (PFRPG)
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Deadly Delves: The Gilded Gauntlet (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/05/2017 05:50:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 61 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so while this is a massive module, it should be noted that it also doubles, to an extent, as a small settlement supplement – the appendix depicts the city of Hunstoc, which represents the backdrop of this adventure, in rather impressive detail – not only are the respective key environments discussed, we also get the full, proper settlement stats AND a one-page full-color map of the place; basically, we go above and beyond here, in a level of detail that is quite nice to see for an appendix.

That being said, you are interested in this because it is a module, right? As such, I will try to shed some light of the adventure itself, a process that necessitates that I go deep into SPOILER-territory. This means that, from now on, only GMs should continue to read on; potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion to avoid having their fun spoiled.

..

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All righty, only GMs around? Perfect! The Lich Queen (a nod towards the classic modules or the 3-part saga made by Savage Mojo?) is served by a cadre of liches called Putrefects…and only the 3 most trustworthy and potent gain the coveted title of Queensminister, elevated beyond the status and concerns of petty mortals and immortals alike. One of the chosen few would be Chalmos, whose obsession with the accumulation of money would do a certain, famous Runelord proud, but that as an aside and potential means to contextualize the adventure in some campaigns.

Chalmos did happen to make one groundbreaking discovery, namely the creation of a device that would be capable of making Gold for a relatively affordable price, the so-called Aureus Conflux. The putrefect knew of the potentially groundbreaking change a device like this could generate and thus hid it very carefully in a complex of his own creation, murdering all potential witnesses, co-workers etc. – and thus, the Conflux has remained a secret hidden from prying mortal eyes for more than a thousand years…and it would have stayed that way, were it not for a side-effect in the gold-manufacturing process: raw mercury, which has begun spilling into the drinking water. This may not be enough cause for alarm for the outsiders and immortal undead guarding the complex…but it is most assuredly enough to put the adventurers on the trail of the strange complex…

The action starts with the PCs investigating via one of the numerous adventure hooks, the reason for the recent troubles of the city of Hunstoc and ultimately brings them almost immediately to the dungeon complex in question, for this is, in essence, a dungeon exploration. That being said, there are quite a few peculiarities that should be noted about the complex: We begin, for example, with a lead mine, which contains pools of mercury. That is the first “room” of the complex and it sets a very important tone for the whole complex, namely one that emphasizes a) a magitech/clockwork-y/steampunk-esque aesthetic: The first enemies are clockwork sentries with automatic weapons and an advanced junk golem, the mining titan. This means that the module seamlessly fits in with a variety of settings, from Midgard to Thunderscape. Secondly, these respective aspects are colored sufficiently in a quasi-medieval context to make them not too intrusive, should you prefer a more down to earth take on things. Thirdly, the room does come with a full-page battle-map-style version of the map, a process that repeats throughout the module.

This brings me to one of the most amazing components of the module, namely its full-color cartography: Beyond the GM-maps provided for your convenience, the module also comes with an extra pdf that clocks in at an impressive 34 pages; half of these are devoted to the respective maps with grids, while the other half sports grid-less maps – and these are player-friendly. This makes use with VTTs and when printing out the maps VERY comfortable for the GM. If you’re like me and hate drawing maps/suck at it, then this pdf is a godsend. More importantly, the detail provided on the full-color maps means that the module can do something that is rather important for the functionality of the module: It can really capitalize on the tactical aspects of PFRPG.

From the mercury pools in the very first encounter onwards, the dungeon makes serious use of terrain features in its combats – from the poisonous pools to stalactites falling, the way in which terrain and traps, hazards etc. are employed, is utterly remarkable. There is an array of items, which, for example, can prove to be rather helpful in dealing with some challenges herein…but at the same time, neither luck nor combat min-maxing will save the PCs alone – this module’s aesthetic very much represents a fusion of old-school, challenging dungeon-crawls: Spectral board game mini-games, the bridge of revere psychology – this complex is NOT about just rolling well; it is about honest, old-school using the wits of the player, rather than the PC, to best the challenges faced.

That being said, the tactical component mentioned before is still very much a given requirement to see this complex through to the end…to give you an example: One of the areas has, with handy, color-coded transparent overlays, the respective environmental effects all at one glance for the GM. There is a rainbow room (If that doesn’t make your PCs paranoid…) or the elemental chaos engine, which sports glyphs on the floor. In short: The combats and hazards often double as traps AND make excellent use of the maps featured.

Another peculiarity of the gilded gauntlet would be that, while it is narrative-wise not the strongest of modules, it does manage to tell its story via both direct and indirect means, blending the two to convey the information required for the PCs. Have I mentioned the section that focuses on magical mirrors? Now, yes – this is a gauntlet style adventure, as the title frankly states – this would be a module I’d expect to play at a convention…but unlike many such modules, it actually makes cohesive sense…and it blends the virtues of gauntlets with more traditional modules. What do I mean by this? There is not a single boring room in this dungeon; much like most gauntlets, each room is a highlight-room and thus, you won’t find rooms to ramp up tension or the like, no dressing rooms, no simulated living chambers. But at the same time, the module justifies its set-up rather beautifully – the reason for the gauntlet being a gauntlet make sense, the lack of living quarters etc. and similar dynamics are justified by the choice of creatures, challenges etc. – which unanimously sport interesting twists: Whether when facing Thallium elementals or mercurial necroplasm, the module sports adversaries that fit the environments as well as puzzles to engage the mental faculties of the players…and reaching the Aureus Conflux makes for a suitably lethal climax…and once the PCs have cleared it, there is a ridiculous amount of wealth to be gained…probably. For one, it is very much likely that the machine was damaged. And then, encumbrance is a limiting factor…and so could, frankly, be the realities of the economy, gp limits and much more. So while the probability of success should come with some forethought on the part of the GM, the module does have sufficient narrative reasons to make absconding with the gold a dangerous endeavor…

It should be noted that, while the module does use Lore in some places to determine PC knowledge, the module similarly has groups covered that do not use this skill.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top notch, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a neat 2-column full-color standard that manges to fit a surprising amount of information on the respective page – kudos for not bloating the page-count artificially! The module features some nice full-color artworks, but from an aesthetic and usability point of view, the massive cartography in full-color, including player-friendly maps, would be the main selling point on an aesthetic level for me.

When I read the number of authors involved in the creation of this dungeon, I was frankly surprised: Michael Allen, Charlie Bell, Casey Clements, Daniel DeStephen, Michael Eshleman, Allan Hoffmann, Andrew Hoskins, Dale C. McCoy Jr., Steve Miller, Richard Moore, Sam Polak, Mike Welham – that’s a lot of authors, quite a few of which I consider to be good indicators that I’ll like a given module. Still, developer Richard Moore has done an impressive job at unifying the narrative voices of the authors to prevent tonal disjoints between the rooms.

Modules worth winning. Both Frog God Games and TPK Games have made a tag-line of hardcore adventures. Lamentations of the Flame Princess has similarly done so, but with a different focus; neither of these companies has done much with the formula of gauntlets, and for a good reason. Gauntlets are hard to make and cater to a specific demographic. And they often suck hardcore. You see, any idiot can make an unfair module and label it as “challenging”. A good gauntlet is a bit like the extreme-sport version of dungeoneering: It remains constantly challenging for PC and player; it is lethal – but it needs to remain fair. It needs to alternate the way in which it challenges the PCs and players without getting boring…and in a published adventure, it also should tell a decent story, remain plausible. In an age where hard modules result in whining by some players, where others actually cheer on unfair design and praise it as challenging, it’s very hard to generate a module that challenges veterans, yet remains FAIR.

The gilded gauntlet manages just that. This is one of the hardest dungeon-complexes I have ever had the pleasure to run, but it is hard without resorting to ridiculous amounts of save-or-suck tricks or unfair enemy/hazard placement, instead focusing on presenting a tightly-woven, intricate web of unique rooms and tricks, on showing what you can do with the format. In short, this is one of the best examples of a gauntlet-style dungeon I have ever seen…also thanks to its impressive use of blending terrain, strategy and cartography in its challenges.

This is a module that requires both brains and brawn to solve and it will challenge even groups that usually waltz through published modules. In short: This is glorious. It may not win any rewards for its story, but it doesn’t have to – it is FUN. Yes, capital letters. If you and your group are bored, if you’re looking for a challenge that blends new-school tactics and strategy with old-school emphasis on smarts, then this is the dungeon for you. I absolutely adored this dungeon and consider it an excellent and uncommon option that feels like a refreshing breath of fresh air in the genre of new school dungeon explorations. The sheer diversity of the challenges posed herein and the clever use of the maps and terrain in particular elevate this adventure beyond its brethren. Hence, it is my pleasure to award this 5 stars + seal of approval – and this qualifies as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

This is not for newbies or the faint of heart, but veteran groups should adore this gem of a dungeon! I know that I did!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: The Gilded Gauntlet (PFRPG)
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Publisher Reply:
Just want to say thank you very much for taking the time to review, and I am glad you enjoyed it.
Kaiju Codex (5e)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/05/2017 05:47:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of Rite Publishing’s superb Kaiju Codex clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

We all have been there at one point, at least once we have a certain amount of experience under our belt; the point where the tarrasque looks…kinda unimpressive, but when it has actually been done in a campaign. At that point, we are looking for other ginormous creatures of immense power, we’re looking for mythic, impressive, really, really big adversaries. Well, the Kaiju Codex seeks to provide exactly that. Kaiju, much like the tarrasque, are as much plot devices as they are monsters, They are not necessarily made to be vanquished. In the same way that you can’t knock out a hurricane or an earthquake, they are challenges for the most epic of heroes – and frankly, even these may well be outclassed by them.

Now, as monsters of such an epic proportion, it should come as no surprise that the Kaiju depicted herein have legendary actions at their disposal – moreover, they are ridiculously large creatures – Colossal, in fact. Thing is, 5e per default does not have rules for that, so you should be aware of the fact that, by virtue of sheer size, the kaiju featured herein take less damage from most attacks by smaller creatures – half damage, in fact. Only level 9 spells and attacks by similarly monumental creatures still inflict the regular damage value and yes, the kaiju depicted herein can further decrease that amount via resistances and saving throws. Cool: Siege Monster does actually work against them, which is a nice touch in the details. Now, build-wise, the kaiju depicted herein will make some of you who are more mechanically-minded scratch their heads for a second – you see, the attack values and damage values seem to be wonky at first glance – there is a reason for that: If a kaiju’s Constitution modifier exceeds the Strength or Dexterity modifier of the respective creature, it is used instead of these as a governing attribute. I’m primarily mentioning this for the convenience of my readers, so should you endeavor to rebuild these, well there you go.

Now, format-wise, there are obviously weird anime-esque kaiju herein; but similarly, you’ll be able to find ones steeped in medieval mythology as well. All kaiju featured herein come with excellent, full-color artworks. It should also be noted that you are not restricted to use them as Cloverfield-style backdrops/plot-devices – we all know that players want to fight ridiculously massive monsters and the pdf does acknowledge this- via the inclusion of the iron giant. Whether Saber Rider’s Ramrod or the more well-known mega-zords, the Iron Knight takes that role – it is basically a massive mech that is piloted by the collective of the party. There are four key-roles for crewing the mech, meaning that even smaller groups should be capable of using it: Commander, Driver, Engineer and Gunner, though, to be honest, none are required to properly use this massive construct – so yeah, whle not ideal, smaller groups can pilot this massive mecha, though occupying a position also means that the mecha’s effectiveness increases. An artifact, the Star of Daikaiju, btw. allows you to command kaiju – so that would be another option to introduce them in your game; perhaps the villain has it; perhaps the PCs get the artifact and command a kaiju (hand them the stats and watch the PCs go to town with the kaiju – did so once in my campaign and it was epic…), so yes, the book allows for a variety of different uses of kaiju.

The colossal monsters introduced herein don’t necessarily need to be evil or ugly, mind you – there would, for example be a thoroughly cute flying squirrel-style being; the mighty Adam, the Defender; strange quasi divine beings like Inu or the ridiculously massive Hurbun, the big goblin – while the latter is evil, he also represents a trope that more than one player will most assuredly enjoy. Of course, really twisted monstrosities are found within the pdf – from the Beast of the Deepest Depth to Great Charybdis, we have some nasty threats herein that represent the classic idea of colossal creatures lurking in the abyssal depth of the ocean.

Of course, the trope of the dread thing from the stars also is covered – with e.g. Neuros, the Brain between Worlds or “That Which the Stars Rejected”…and there is the “Voice from Beyond”, which should put a BIG smile on fans of the classic Kull-stories; the sentient perfect storm, a natural force of annihilation; a mech designed by the ant-like formians; the dread drainer of giants; Inu and Iruk, which could have jumped straight from eastern mythology…there are a lot of amazing beings within these pages. Xel’unchek, a living diabolical siege engine, and Yssian, the abyssal engine, would make for planar weapons of mass destruction that most assuredly should be more than capable of ending blasé reactions to the forces of the outer planes. Particularly creepy for me personally would be the world-ender-level “Kudzu, the Everblight” (challenge 24 and by far not the most powerful thing herein…), a horrid, nigh unstoppable plant horror… Or what about trying to best the worldshaker, the animate form of the world’s very core?

It needs to be said that this pdf, while a bestiary/monster manual-style supplement, is not a dry read – each of the kaiju featured within these pages comes with a well-written, neat story that elucidates the nature of the kaiju in question, often providing some rather cool ideas to use them in your game.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with gorgeous full-color artworks for the kaiju. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

So, I’m a sucker for big critters; in fact, the original Kaiju Codex made my Top Ten-list, and for good reason. Brandes Stoddard has done an amazing job at translating the coolness and high-concept original file to 5e. He did not take the easy route, instead going for a translation that is well in line with the system’s aesthetics. The kaiju in question feature the proper signature tricks they should have and his elegant translation of the Iron knight’s mecha-rules also makes for a fun mini-game style bonus – in short: I love this. The only reason this does not get a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of the year is that the original pdf managed to score on that year’s list and I have a policy that prevents the like. That being said, this is an excellent example of how a conversion should be handled and well worth a final rating of 5 stars + seal of approval – this is very much recommended if the concepts of gigantic, horrid threats even remotely intrigues you…and frankly, who’s not intrigued by it? Sometimes, size does matter…

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kaiju Codex (5e)
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5E Mini-Dungeon #041: Feischkammer
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/05/2017 05:43:34

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. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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 module has the wrong title in the 5e-version as well – it is billed as “Feischkammer”, missing the “l.”

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

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Still here?

All right!

So, for all non-Germans out there: "Fleischkammer" translates, literally, to Fleshchamber. Does not bode well, now, does it? The complex works best, logic-wise, near a sufficient accumulation of raw material, read: victims, for it is the home of one thoroughly nasty man named Hakkar Wolkennen, also lovingly known by his soubriquet "Soulflayer". The mad wizard is obsessed with the creation of, you guessed it, flesh golems and thus, one of the first obstacles will be for the PCs to dismantle to entry doors to the proper complex, for a flesh golem is holding them barred. Big plus: The mechanics of 5e are taken into account in a proper contest here.

The complex itself is sensible and features some nasty traps to further deal with the PCs if the golems and the evil wizard do not suffice. As a minor complaint, the latter is not hyperlinked and making a wizard of this level on the fly can be a bit of a challenge. The complex does reward the PCs appropriately for braving its challenges, though.

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, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Jonathan Ely's Fleischkammer is a generally well-crafted module that, much like the primary antagonists herein, can be summed up as brawn over brains; the nature of the opposition does mean that magic-users won't have much to do herein, which is perhaps the one weakness of an otherwise nice mini-dungeon. Having something for these guys to do in the respective combats would have been helpful. That being said, apart from these minor complaints, one can still consider this to be a nice module, particularly to "reward" the group's melee-characters. Kyle Crider’s conversion of the module is generally well done as well and manages to translate the module properly to 5E, retaining its pretty brutal original challenge. As such, this sidetrek receives a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #041: Feischkammer
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5E Mini-Dungeon #040: The Kabandha's Request
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/05/2017 05:41:48

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. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map and a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

IMPORTANT: While the 5e-version is noted as “The Kabandha’s Request” in most stores (and the COVER!), that is a remnant from PFRPG – the module itself actually is focusing on treants in 5e!

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!

In the middle of the wilderness, the PCs come upon a kabandha, eh, pardon – in 5e, the player’s are instead contacted by a treant - badly wounded, he relays the tale of his tribe being subject to the attack of an evil troll and his retinue of ogres. It should be noted that, while the name of the archive containing the file references Kabandhas, the correct file is contained inside.

Thus, it falls to the PCs to find the circle of stones and small, adjacent complex and stop the desecration of this place. From a vine-tangled circle of standing stone on the surface, the PCs will have to open heavy portals towards the small complex and deal with the adversaries within. In the original iteration, this module highlighted peculiarities of kabandha culture, which thankfully have been reskinned to instead apply to treants in a concise manner.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed a couple of minor 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, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Kyle Crider didn’t have an easy task with this conversion of Jonathan Ely’s module: Since the original critter does not exist in 5e, the module needed to be changed appropriately – and it was! That being said, the need of treants for a complex like the one depicted may or may not fit your tastes. As a whole, this is a nice conversion, though it does lose a bit of the charm of the original – hence my final verdict will round down from 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #040: The Kabandha's Request
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Asian Archetypes: Martial
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/04/2017 11:43:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of archetypes clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content – it should be noted that these are tightly packed, though!

All righty, we’re starting with the bloodrider cavalier, but in order to understand it, I think it may be prudent to mention the mounted combat-follow-up feats that complement it: Mounted Skirmish lets your mount make a double movement and lets you perform a ranged or melee attack at one point during the movement, with the mount not provoking AoOs. As limitations, adjacent creatures at the start of the turn may not be attacked and you have to move at least 10 ft. before and after the attack. Basically, this is a variation of Ride-by Attack, one that emphasizes skirmishing – and personally, I like it better. The second feat, Mounted Sweep, builds on this and lets you perform a single standard action during the Mounted Skirmish. This unlocks a HUGE array of tactical options – and is something I wholeheartedly applaud.

Proficiency-wise, the bloodrider loses medium and heavy armor-proficiency and gains access to proficiency with the whip. They add Perception and Survival to their class skills and gain a morale bonus on saves vs. compulsions and fear and also gains +1 to AC for every 4 levels against the bloodrider’s challenge target. Personally, I’d have tied the AC-increase to class levels instead of levels, but oh well. The archetype learns, at 2nd level, to employ the whip to use drag and reposition combat maneuvers, with the option of using the better Strength modifier (mount/rider); At 8th level, this is upgraded action economy-wise and the character can make the mount make either AoO or immediate action attacks against targets dragged through its square. That is pretty damn amazing – why hasn’t this been done before? 5th level nets the option to charge with a single 90° or two 45° diagonal turns during a charge and boosted Ref-saves when doing so. This crooked charge is further upgraded at 14th level, allowing for free movement through allies’s spaces during the charge. 15th level nets a free charge attack during a charge, made against a target the blood rider is at some point of movement adjacent. Additionally, if the bloodrider’s charge provokes an AoO and it is taken, the bloodrider may retaliate with an AoO after the first AoO has been resolved. This is a really cool martial controller with some seriously unique and fun trick – though these are paid for with the order and banner abilities. Still, one of my favorite cavalier tricks and a really strong start!

Hyakusho fighters take the play of the beggar fighter and halve starting money, gaining broken weapons and no proficiency with heavy armor and tower shields. However, they gain ½ class level to Craft check made to repair and quicker repairs as well as an extended class skill list. They also get an array of monk-style feats that can be chosen as bonus feats and Catch Off-Guard at 3rd level. They are locked into light armor training, with maximum Dexterity bonus in them increasing by 1 for every 8 levels after 3rd. 5th level provides a scaling dodge bonus to AC, increasing at every 5 levels after 5th. 7th level yields black market connections and 11th provides either resolve or martial flexibility, with 19th level gaining flesh wounds. A thematically concise, nice archetype.

The iajutsu adept swashbuckler gains Quick Draw, but only with katanas, as well as +2 to critical hit confirmation rolls, instead of derring-do. They apply swashbuckler finesse to katanas. But not to other weapons and applied deeds that are usually limited to one-handed and finessable weapons to katans…and only katanas. Similarly, panache is regained upon criting/striking killing blows with the katana. So that’s the modification of the chassis: 2nd level provides iajutsu focus, adding Cha-mod to initiative as well as when trying to gage a foe’s martial training as if using Measure Foe. Upon drawing her blade and attacking as her next action, she may make a Charisma check, adding her class level as a bonus. The bonus damage the attack inflicts then scales with the result of this check -pretty elegant solution to the conundrum of the trope, and the bonus damage is properly codified. At 7th level, Charisma modifier is added to such attacks as a bonus to atk and damage. 3rd level doubles Nimble’s bonus when unarmed and sans shield and the bonus feat selection is modified. 5th level provides swashbuckler training benefits when 2-handing katans.11th level provides the option to execute two attacks as a standard action with her katana. 12th level always yields the option to act in a surprise round, but for a iajutsu attack only and 20th level makes initiative checks all natural 20s for the archetype. Swashbuckler weapon mastery only applies to 2-handed wielded katanas. Thematically concise, potent archetype – like the iteration of the concept!

The imperial unifier samurai loses Climb and Swim as class skills…and may use challenges in verbal duels! At 6th level, he gets a Leadership-proxy (or upgrade for the feat) and gains more fame/honor. Short, but sweet thematic option. Kaiju Hunter rangers gain proficiency in heavy armor and may use their combat style while in heavy armor. Favored enemy applies to all creatures of size Large and larger (ouch!) and he gets monster lore instead wild empathy, gaining bonuses the larger the creature is – and yes, the bonus is increased for kaiju. The “3rdd”[sic!] level allows the character to use Enrage Opponent as a move action, but only versus targets that are Large or larger , but he may affect dumb targets. He is locked into allies as hunter’s bond. He may use evasion and improved evasion versus the Ex and Su abilities of larger creatures at an increased efficiency and may do so while wearing medium or heavy armor or loads, but doesn’t gain them versus smaller targets. 7th level provides dodge bonuses versus AoOs provoked by movement or combat maneuvers, a bonus that increase with the size of the foe and the effortless movement through the monster’s space. 8th level provides Timely Coordination for herself and her bond’s allies. 12th level provides camouflage and 13th level find the weak spot. 17th level nets HiPS and 18th level defensive roll – with all abilities geared specifically towards tackling big adversaries.

The kuma barbarian is interesting, losing medium and heavy armor proficiency in favor of Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple, using the monk’s unarmed strike progression to determine damage caused via grappling. They are locked into animal fury as 2nd level’s rage power and 5th level provides Diehard. Additionally, they can remain conscious by expending rounds of rage as swift or immediate action. 7th level provides, surprise, the option to use beast shape to turn into a bear when entering a rage, improving the effectiveness at 10th and 13th level, respectively. Alternatively, 10 rounds of rage may be expended for a longer duration of the bear form. The smaller bear forms remain valid choices due to to scaling AC bonuses when choosing them. 10th level nets scent. Cool!

The kwa no ninja loses proficiency in light armor and gets graceful defense, adding Cha-mod, maximum level to AC and CMD as well as a scaling bonus to these that even applies versus touch attacks and while flat-footed. Instead of poison use, the archetype gains detect psychic significance at will. They can spend 1 ki as a move action to create a +1 punch dagger, sai or wakizashi that lasts for Charisma modifier, minimum 1, rounds – this blade deals half damage to mindless creatures, non to creatures immune to mind-affecting abilities, but at 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter, she gets additional customization options for this blade, not unlike a soulknife. 4th level provides access to a couple of unique ninja tricks usable in conjunction with this psi-blade for continuous damage for the purpose of concentration, detecting surface thoughts of those hit, better chances to hit those with concealment…pretty cool array!

6th level provides additional weapon choices for the blade and 8th level nets a bonus to initiative equal to Charisma modifier while she has at least 1 point of ki, as well as the option to spend ki to roll twice and take the better result…or spend more ki and treat the result as a natural 20. (This would be as well a place as any to note that these 20-initiative options can be VERY strong in mythic gameplay – not the archetype’s fault, mind you, just something for less experienced GMs to bear in mind!) 10th level provides basically the advanced talents for the archetype, including ki-theft, aligned attacks, temporary negative levels and the like – pretty damn cool. Cool here: At this level and 16th level, the character can learn more of these or regular archetype specific talents. 10th level allows for the taking of 2 of the standard talents of the archetype instead of one of the advanced ones, for example, while 16th level, 2 of the advanced talents may be chosen instead of a ninja trick – or 3 of the regular ones. (there is an errant “o” here in a sentence, but that as an aside. Additionally, the archetype gets a better ratio when using ki to power her assaults. The capstone yields automatic confirmations of crits and an increased crit multiplier for the blade. Interesting soulknife-y option.

The mandarin investigator gains diminished extracts, but does gain the paper rail ability of the major domo and can use inspiration to affects Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate and Sense Motive sans expending it (ouch!) and starting at 3rd level, the archetype gains official favors, gaining favors when engaging in kingdom building and downtime activities, with a maximum of 1 + ½ class level favors. These may be expended to call in favors with groups, with a concise, mathematically-consistent formula. Even cooler: The ability takes verbal duels etc. into account and the ability increases in its effectiveness at 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 18th level. Whiel the archetype loses trap sense, I absolutely adore this one…but then again, I’m a huge Judge Dee fanboy… ;)

The vigilante class is a definite winner here: The pdf sports a feat for the use of natural weapons as ancestral weapons, one that may be taken as a social talent, and an iaijutsu slash-enhancing scabbard as an item. The first archetype for the class would be the mercurial duelist, whose weapon proficiencies are modified to include all one-handed slashing weapons, estocs, rapiers and swordcanes. The archetype replaces vigilante specialization with iaijutsu slash (Yes: The two different ways to write this are intentional in the pdf to help differentiate between them!) – this allows for the use of full class level as BAB after Quick Draw-ing the blade and makes the attack count as 2-handed and he may freely sheathe the weapon after a slash. 6th level allows for the application of the Vital Strike feat-chain and increases of the Strength bonus applied, with 10th an 14th level providing the benefits of Improved and Greater Vital Strike, respectively. 1st level’s social talent is replaced with an ancestral weapon and gets to choose from a wide variety of exclusive vigilante talents – some feature the iaijutsu tag and only one of them may be applied to a given slash.

Those who have the Legendary Vigilantes/Legendary Villains: Vigilantes-pdfs will btw. be able to gain some synergy here, with one talent providing crossover tricks with the arsenal summoner’s anima union, for example. But even sans these pdfs, you’ll have enough fodder, with the special slashes, from scaling attribute-damage to AC-penalties and even concealed slashes that victims and onlookers may not understand/perceive as such (!!!), the tricks are locked behind sensible minimum level requirements and the talent selection spans more than 2 full pages Dispelling strikes, Dirty Tricks, fatiguing aattacks, bypassing some amount of DR/hardness, AoO-based parades (once per round, thankfully). What about generating a vacuum with a strike, pulling foes closer? Yeah, this one sports a lot of the iconic tzricks we know and love – though personally, I consider adding Cha-mod to damage inflicted, scaling, nonetheless, to be overkill, considering how the archetype’s base chassis already sports a rather solid damage output and enough benefits for numerical escalation.

At 3rd level, we have the choice between finesse or spiritual duelist. The former nets Dex to attack and damage and ignoring the Strength-prerequisites of Power Attack and for the purpose of the shield of blades talent. The latter option includes using Charisma instead of Dexterity for AC, initiative and Reflex saving throws, as well as for determining max bonus in armor. They even use Charisma for Combat Reflex-AoOs. And honestly…that is very, very strong. It completely replaces the base benefits of the whole Dexterity attribute; not circumstantially, but completely. I wouldn’t allow that in my game. 5th weapon lets the archetype use the ancestral weapon as though it was a sacred weapon; 11th level provides the option to apply two iaijutsu talents to one attack and 17th level upgrades that 3 – but only one that calls for a save may be applied per attack. 20th level auto-maximizes the damage of the iaijutsu slash. There also are three general vigilante talents for poaching the iaijutsu basics and gaining a panache pool/panache talents. It should be noted that RAW, no deeds are gained alongside panache.

The second archetype herein for the vigilante would be the sentai soldier, a reprint from Legendary Vigilantes. The sentai soldier archetype replaces vigilante specialization with burn, elemental focus and kinetic blast, but they can only accept up to Con-mod burn and don't take non-lethal damage from accepting burn. The archetype gets a transformation device that mirrors a magical child transformation in 5 rounds, potentially reduced to a standard action with quick change, immediate action via immediate change. Beyond this modification, we get the option to take an utility or infusion wild talent instead of a vigilante talent and the archetype also contains a variety of different talents: Battle Charge allows the character to spend a swift action to reduce the burn cost of the kinetic blade or fist infusion by 1, but not below 0. This can be further improved and the archetype can use these talents to gain composite blasts, elemental defense or metakinesis. 3rd level nets a fascination-inducing quick transformation and 4th level sentai soldiers that have accepted 1 burn or more gains an equal bonus to atk and damage with kinetic blasts, with the very necessary cap based on the class level. The archetype does lose 3 vigilante talents for that and at 5th level, the vigilante gains gather power - and yes, the archetype loses the appearance tree. 20th level yields access to metakinesis (twice).

The silversword samurai pledges loyalty to a family above all else and gains Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (nobility) and may use them untrained. If he has ranks, he adds +1/2 class level to them. Really cool: The archetype interacts with organization rules and gains influence equal to Charisma modifier + level, but also suffers from negative influence with the enemies of his family. The archetype provides a scaling bonus to Intimidate versus targets of his challenge and gains the same bonus versus compulsions and fear effects. He may use challenge to determine the honorable behavior of himself and an ally, which makes for a really cool idea, and may use challenge in conjunction with social events, adding ½ (minum +1) class levels to the DC of influence checks made against him by the target, and adds the same bonus on influence checks made with other NPCs towards the goal of decreasing the influence of the challenged target. He does not gain a mount, but 2nmd level yields an ancestral blade, with a higher CMD with the blade (it’s also harder to steal) and gains a bonus versus rusting grasp et al. Higher levels yield the tools to enchant it and 4th level also provides an ancestral armor as well as a ki pool of a monk of equivalent level, which can be used to add additional attacks to full attack with the blade (yep, capped!) and the blade is treated as progressively better for the purpose of bypassing DR. 6th level replaces the bonus feat with Unimpeachable Honor and 8th level nets the option to deflect ranged attacks via resolve. 15th level, finally, makes the blade ghost touch and allows him to part space, duplicating dimension door and even plane shift. I ADORE this archetype. It is concise, thematically strong and extremely cool.

Finally, there would be the sky dancer swashbuckler – basically the wire-fu archetype for the class. The sky dancer gains proficiency with simple and monk weapons as well as light armor and a modified class skill list. The chassis of the swashbuckler’s panache etc. is triggered by the modified weapon proficiency’s list instead. He is treated as though he had Weapon Finesse with these and substitutes his Charisma score for his Intelligence score regarding combat feat prerequisites. The archetype loses menacing swordplay, superior feint, bleeding wound, swashbuckler’s edge and deadly stab with the option to deflect missiles sans requiring a free hand, getting the interaction with the classic feats right, and allow for the returning to sender of thrown weapons. Light steps, taking 10 in Acrobatics and Fly (and + Cha-mod to CMD versus bull rush, drag, reposition and trip), confusing strikes…pretty cool. Winds incarnate, alas, doesn’t really work. “At 19th level, as long as he has 1 panache point a sky dancer treats any CMD check to avoid being bull rushed, dragged, repositioned or tripped as if he had rolled a natural 20 on the die.” Did I miss a memo somewhere? Since when is there a CMD-check to avoid these maneuvers?? I have literally no idea how this is supposed to work. As an aside: Spell-reference not italicized. The archetype also provides a scaling atk and damage bonus with one of the archetype’s weapon roster as well as Improved Critical and numerical escalation and auto-confirms with it at 20th level. I like the idea of this one, representing the WuXia swordsman, but the capstone could be cooler. Also: The archetype, weirdly, sports a couple of formatting hiccups like non-capitalized feats and the like.

The pdf concludes with Kozue Kaburagi, aka Silver Blossom, a cool mercurial duelist aasimar with a neat background and a neat boon – kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part of the pdf, are top-notch and manage to juggle, both formally and on a rules-language level, really complex concepts. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ elegant two-column full-color standard for the Jade Regent plug-ins, with artwork being a blend of new and previously used pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jason Nelson, N. Jolly. Jesse Brenner and David N. Ross show how an archetype book ought to be: There is not a single boring or simple filler archetype in the whole book; even the engine tweaks do things that are novel and haven’t been done before. The pdf offers something for everybody: Do you like WuXia options? You’ll find them herein. Do you prefer grittier options or something like Kaidan? You’ll find those herein. Want Judge Dee-style intrigue? You’ll find that herein. Want balls to the wall, far-out sentai action? The pdf has you covered and the two different concepts of ia(i)jutsu offer cool options for all types of campaigns.

I wouldn’t use all archetypes herein in the same campaign, but I’d use a lot of them in ANY type of asian campaign I’d run – they all, in their individual ways, are brilliant and amazing. While there are a couple of minor hiccups, they don’t really tarnish this superb example of what an archetype book should provide in terms of design-difficulty, quality and concepts. In fact, this range as one of my favorite examples in that whole category of rules-supplements. That good. It only misses nomination as a top ten candidate due to the few minor glitches, but even taking them and the high standards among 3pps books into account, this can only have a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. No matter the campaign style you’re looking for, this should be considered to be a must-own addition to your options.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asian Archetypes: Martial
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Class Expansions: Fighter Archetypes for Bad Weapons
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/04/2017 11:41:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This inexpensive pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The first archetype herein would be the battle hipster (fighter), who is a specialist of the bladed scarf and thus begins play with proficiency in it. Additionally, we get a +1 natural armor bonus when wearing an undrawn bladed scarf in the neck slot. Instead of 1st level’s bonus feat, observers need to succeed a Perception check to notice the nature of a bladed scarf – the DC is based on class levels, fyi, and the DC is lower if the character attempting the skill check is proficient in the weapon. 2nd level allows the battle hipster to use the bladed scarf as a bed roll, a 20-ft.-rope or as a 10-ft. ladder. Also at 2nd level, the archetype learns to inflict the weapon’s base damage die + enhancement bonus in slashing damage when tripping/disarming foes with it, which also increases by +1 at every 4 levels thereafter. This replaces bravery. 10th level adds the option to use this in conjunction with grapples.

5th level provides the ability to meditate for one hour on a bladed scarf, attuning it – each attuned weapon is treated as though it was a +1 weapon (increasing by +1 every 4 levels thereafter): Interesting: These stack with existing bonuses and allow the battle hipster to even add special weapon qualities to the bladed scarf. And yes, the +5 cap remains intact and the verbiage gets the requirement of at least a +1 right. Attunement may be ended as a standard action that provokes AoOs or by being separated. Really cool: Attuned special weapon abilities on such a scarf suppress the special weapon quality of other weapons within 30 ft. – really like that one! 9th level locks the battle hipster into flail training and these two abilities replace weapon training 1 – 3. 6th level provides meteor stance – as a swift action, he may choose the properties of the bladed scarf, making it gain reach, but losing the disarm and tripping capabilities of the weapon while holding it thus. At 20th level, the archetype is locked into bladed scarf as weapon mastery choice.

Next up would be the javelineer fighter, who increases the range-increment of weapons that can be thrown by +10 ft. and may draw javelins as though they were ammunition. Starting at 2nd level, the javelineer generates 5 javelins each morning, +5 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd. These may not be sold or stockpiled – neat catch! Additionally, at this level, javelins no longer net the character a non-proficiency penalty when used in melee. At 5th level, javelins thus fabricated gaina +ü1 enhancement bonus, increasing by +1 every 3 levels thereafter, capping at +5.

At 4th level, the archetype, when hitting a shield with a javelin or other thrown spear, halves shield bonuses to AC, as the spear is stuck in it – the penalty thus incurred is not cumulative and stuck spears may be removed as one standard action per spear. This replaces 4th level’s bonus feat. 5th level locks the archetype into weapon training with the spear-group; no others may be chosen, but every 4 levels thereafter, the bonus increases by +1. Similarly, 20th level locks the archetype into the spear group for weapon mastery.

At 8th level, the javelineer may sunder at range with thrown weapons from the spear group, ignoring the javelin’s enhancement bonus in hardness. At 9th level, when performing a full attack and starting it off with a ranged spear, all subsequent attacks may be performed with ghostly duplicates of this first thrown spear, which is potent and somewhat solves the cost issue. 13th level nets Shot on the Run, usable for spears exclusively.

Purifiers are mace/Morningstar/light hammer specialist fighters – instead of weapon training, the weapons burst into flame, dealing an additional 1 fire damage, which increases to 1d4 at 5th level, +1d4 at 9th level and every 4 levels thereafter. On crits, this added damage is maximized. Fire damage thus caused ignores fire resistances of undead, evil outsiders and evil dragons, with 13th level allowing the purifier to ignore even fire immunity of these creature types. At 2nd level, the purifier may, as a standard action or in place of a main-hand attack of a full attack, while wielding the archetype’s preferred weapons, hurl flames at a creature within 60 ft., inflicting the weapon’s base damage die fire damage on successful hits. Special weapon abilities apply to this and similarly, the aforementioned bonus fire damage is added to the assault, though RAW, the resistance/immunity ignoring component is not gained by the ability, which makes going into melee still potentially the preferred strategy – nice. This replaces the bonus feat at 2nd level.

At 6th level, instead of a bonus feat, the purifier may, instead of a melee attack, touch himself with the flames, gaining ½ class level temporary hit points that last for a round. 10th level nets consuming purity, which replaces the bonus feat and makes creatures that take fire damage from the weapon also catch fire – fire damage thus dealt ignores resistance and immunity of the aforementioned creature types. Starting at 14th level, upon reducing an enemy creature of the undead, evil outsider/dragon types to 0 hp, he may fling flames as a free action, swift action if the target was weak, preventing undead kitten-abuse. The capstone adds 20 fire damage on crits, which, once again, ignores immunities and resistances of the noted creature types. The archetype comes with two feats – one that replaces fire damage with cold damage for all class features and one that lets you add a type chosen from favored enemy’s lists to the creatures that are affected by the flames/cold of the archetype.

Quartersawn sluggers are a more complex operation, gaining their own class table, with full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and spontaneous spellcasting governed by Cha of up to 3rd spell level, with spells drawn from the sorcerer/wizard list. The archetype may only learn single-target spells with a casting time of 1 standard action or less and they may never cast spells directly into creatures, instead being limited to cast them into spell storing weapons – as a minor formatting complaint, the special weapon ability’s not italicized in the text. Quartersawn sluggers do not suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing light or medium armor and using a shield (excluding tower shields). Spells with somatic components still have spell failure when cast in heavy armor or while using a tower shield. This replaces armor training. The archetype begins play with the ability to meditate on a wooden club or greatclub, attuning it in a process that takes 1 hour. The attuned weapon gains the spell storing weapon special ability. Starting at 7th level and 15th level, the quartersawn slugger can maintain an extra attuned club, respectively. Starting at 5th level, the archetype’s locked into hammers for weapon training, and does not gain other weapon trainings, instead increasing the bonus granted by +1 every 4 levels after 5th. Similarly, 20th level locks weapon mastery into club or greatclub.

The final archetype herein would be the trick slinger, who is, surprise, the sling specialist in this pdf. Instead of the bonus feat gained at 1st level, the archetype may choose a variety of sling tricks whenever he gains bonus feats: These sling tricks modify shots fired with slings and sling gloves; 1/round, you may declare an attack to be a sling trick and only one sling trick may be applied to a given attack. Rapid Shot’s additional attack can, just fyi., not be a trick shot. The trick shots presented include increased range increments, causing bleed damage (ouch!), ignoring Dex-mod DR (excluding DR/epic), ricochet…some nice ones here! When dealing 0 damage or missing, you can add a second attack at a different target at -2 to atk…and there is the option to cause somewhat splash-like damage with shattering sling bullets. There is also an option to attack touch AC, but also losing ability modifier to damage with such a shot. 5th level once again provides the specialty weapon training with scaling bonuses. Slightly confusing at first glance: This ability and all subsequent abilities are formatted as though they were sling tricks, not regular archetype class features.

9th level increases the number of trick shots per round to 2. 13th level allows for a full attack with a thrown weapon using sling bullets as a standard action, but at -5 to all attacks. 17th level nets basically a flurry with the sling at -2, stacking with Rapid Shot. 20th level auto-confirms sling crits and increases damage multiplier by 1. The archetype comes with a feat that unlocks trick shots for weapons using sling bullets that are not slings or sling gloves.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are as tight as we’ve come to expect from interjection Games; while the pdf does sport a few formatting hiccups, none impede the rules-language provided for the archetypes. Layout adheres to the classic, nice 2-column b/w-standard and art is fitting public domain stock. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length.

Bradley Crouch is an excellent designer; his take on some of the more maligned weapon choices makes that evident at a glance. The material presented is nice, has some cool visuals and offers interesting playing experiences, all for a very low and more than fair price point. While the cosmetic formatting hiccups are slightly annoying, the more than fair price does make up for them. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Class Expansions: Fighter Archetypes for Bad Weapons
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5E Mini-Dungeon #039: We All Start Somewhere
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/04/2017 11:39:40

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. Unlike most 5e Mini-Dungeons, this does not come with player or VTT-friendly maps.

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!

Let's face it - if most of us were to embark upon the life of an adventurer, we'd not look for Rappan Athuk, the Darkest Dungeon or a similar hell-hole to start off our career. We'd start looking for something that feels like we can actually survive it, right? Well, the complex near Raakayras is exactly one such place - relatively peaceful, yet manageable...and other adventurers will probably have taken care of all those really nasty threats...right?

Well, things aren't always as they seem: The complex depicted still sports some nasty traps and is the result of an aftermath of the deeds of a particularly nasty wererat, who poisoned wyrmling eggs contained in protective vats of acid...well, all but one, who since then proceeded to eliminate said scoundrel as well as the most dire of threats from the vicinity. Relaxing in an acid bath, slaying the remaining wyrmling will be a challenging endeavor...and actually one that may destabilize the region, beginning the campaign already with an emphasis on consequences I tend to enjoy. As a downside, the module fails to provide hyperlinked stats for both major antagonists featured herein. Secondly, when compared to the original PFRPG-iteration, some weird typos have crept into this pdf: “Of course, the party still has tomust…[sic!]” as, an example.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed a couple of minor glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.

Stephen Yeardley's introductory complex presented here is challenging and the final boss can be downright brutal...but then again, it can also be a great kickstart of a new campaign, already featuring the potential for non-lethal conflict resolution, for reaping what one has sown and for a contextualization of the mini-dungeon within one's preferred campaign world. Considering the limitations of the series, that is pretty impressive. At the same time, Kyle Crider’s conversion feels rushed; the lack of stats for the major players is a big downside and the new typos are puzzling to me. Alas, this does drag down the module quite a bit – which is why I can’t rate this iteration higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #039: We All Start Somewhere
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5E Mini-Dungeon #038: The Spinner's Hole
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/04/2017 11:37:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

There is a little village called "Spinner's Folly" - and it may be aptly named, for they have an...interesting local tradition: Thrice a year, nature-affine adventurers are invited to a local dungeon, the selfsame one depicted herein, and given an interesting task: Enter the dungeon known as the eponymous spinner's hole...and subdue the giant spiders therein. You see, the local economy is relying completely on the giant spider silk, so killing them as per the usual adventurer modus operandi just won't do. This also means that this level 1 adventure would make for an interesting "man/womanhood rite" type of introduction to the adventuring life. Kyle Crider’s conversion manages to translate the evocative original rather well, offering proper hyperlinks and diverse skill uses.

Conclusion:

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

Jonathan Ely's "Spinner's Hole" is perhaps the most concise of his mini-dungeons that I've analyzed so far: On paper, it may not sound like much; the traps, for example, with their exclusive emphasis on poisoned darts, could be more diverse. In play, however, the module actually works really well. I used it as part of playtesting and the unique entry vector of the scenario with the emphasis on the odd, local economy/custom, alongside with the challenge of dealing with swarms at level 1 made this a fascinating module that turned out to be more fun than its very focused theme would lead you to believe. Better yet, Kyle Crider has obviously taken the time and effort to make the conversion suitably nice, losing nothing of the module’s original appeal. It is hence that I award this 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #038: The Spinner's Hole
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