DriveThruRPG.com
Browse Categories
 Publisher Info











Back
Other comments left by this customer:
How Do I Use Magic Items
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/29/2018 07:04:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the „How do I...“-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content. As always with Straight Path games-supplements, we do get a second version optimized for use with tablets. This version clocks in at a total of 14 pages laid out in landscape format, but content-wise remains identical to the other version. All righty, let’s take a look!

We begin with a reiteration of categories of magic items – this list is great, particularly for newer players. There are a couple of notes I’d like to add here: While the pdf is correct in stating that unarmed attacks are usually enhanced by amulets, this is by now not the only way to affect them. It should also be noted that two spell-references in the explanation of potions have not been italicized – though the pdf correctly points out an NPC Codex issue. It should also be noted that references to precise magic items throughout the pdf have not been italicized. As another minor addition, while the pdf correctly states that staves can usually act as quarterstaffs, there are a few exotic exceptions, so a “usually” qualifier would be nice here. The pdf also lists the various forms of wondrous items and then mentions cursed items, intelligent items and artifacts, though sans elaborating on the mechanics of ego etc.

After we have established the categories , we take a look at activation types, starting with use activated items, noting potions as special and then lists the peculiarities of command word items and spell trigger and spell completion items. It should be noted that use activated magic items that require an extra action to activate, as correctly stated, do not per default provoke an attack of opportunity, unless the action undertaken to activate the item would provoke an attack of opportunity. On the plus-side: The pdf takes the notes of spell completion items and scrolls and blends them into a concise whole that is easier to grasp for new players.

Finally, the pdf mentions the Use Magic Device skill’s basics.

Conclusion:

Editing is tight and well-done; formatting is problematic, failing to italicize pretty much all spell and magic item references. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with a touch of color, but remains pretty printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael McCarthy’s summary of how magic items work represents a really handy little pdf; while I could list all the odd exceptions to the rules presented, as a whole, this represents a concise and precise summary that can easily be handed to a new player, helping them grasp the basics of the game. As a PWYW game-aid of sorts, this is worth checking out if you’re not need a quick explanation of the basics here. All exceptions and deviations I noticed are the more obscure components that go beyond the basics – and as such, they are not necessarily required for such a pdf. While the formatting oversights are annoying, the PWYW-status of the pdf makes it a fair offering. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
How Do I Use Magic Items
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

What Is Incorporeal
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/29/2018 07:02:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content – at least for the print version. There is a tablet-version with a landscape layout that is a total of 9 pages long instead, but content-wise remains identical.

So, you don’t have to be a developer to notice that some components of Pathfinder’s rules are more clear than others; any GM will sooner or later bump into the roadblock of being incorporeality, and it is, historically, not one that grew over night. In fact, if you’re reading old-school supplements on a regular basis, you’ll notice that not having a body has been a somewhat wobbly state as far as rules are concerned for quite some time. This pdf seeks to shed some light on this rules-aspect and help you thus avoid needless grief.

The pdf first states one of the major sources of confusion: Being incorporeal does not equal being incorporeal: There is the subtype, the defensive quality and there is the condition. It should also be noted that there are a lot of individual exceptions for creatures that are incorporeal. These, obviously, exacerbate the confusion of players, and often, GMs. The pdf does thus list a variety of different misconceptions pertaining being incorporeal.

The pdf does list 3 general traits that apply to all incorporeal creatures, which generally are well-defined...but they are not necessarily complete in their effects listed. For example, holy water is NOT, RAW, a magical attack, but still may affect incorporeal undead, presenting an exception to the rule of nonmagical attacks not affecting incorporeal creatures. While the pdf correctly states that incorporeal creatures take half damage from bodily sources (and does NOT sport a miss chance!); however, unlike the condition, the defensive ability and subtype doe have something that probably is the source of this common misconception: Supernatural or spell-based effects that do not employ [force] and originate from a bodily source that do not cause damage have only a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature. It is my conviction that the pdf should state this. It’s pretty important.

Unfortunately, the notes on the effect of the defensive quality also are not exhaustive: The list fails to mention, for example, that deflection bonuses apply; the pdf correctly states that armor, natural armor, shields etc. are ignored, but lists, with force-effects, only one of the exceptions here. The list of the defensive qualities also, irritatingly, fails to state that such creatures moving through physical objects are penalized when attacking creatures outside the object; since cover, total cover and concealment in such a case are pretty important, that should be mentioned.

The pdf also fails to state a crucial component of the incorporeal subtype: Creatrues with the incorporeal subtype are not only immune to precision damage; more importantly, they also are immune to critical hits!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, per se, is very good. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard in both versions and is color, but remains pretty printer-friendly. The two versions of the pdf are nice and even come with bookmarks, despite their brevity.

I like what Michael McCarthy attempts to do here, for this is a component that should be explained. That being said, the explanation remains pretty rudimentary. Its structure is nice, but ultimately, it fails to mention a couple of crucial components, which severely detracts from the overall usefulness of the pdf. That being said, this is PWYW, and as such, a fair offering. Still, as provided, I’d personally consider it to be more feasible to just flip open the definitions of the three states and compare them. There is still value in the list that clears up the misconceptions, and it’s nice that such a book exists. My final verdict clocks in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
What Is Incorporeal
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

More Whispering Homunculus
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2018 05:44:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive booklet clocks in at 146 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 140 pages of content, though it should be noted that they’re laid out for digest-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), which means that you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this out, provided your eyes are good enough, obviously.

Okay, so if you’re new to the Whispering Homunculus – it’s basically a semi-regular column of the Kobold Press site, penned by none other than Richard Pett. While nominally associated with Pathfinder, for the most part, the material is system-agnostic and should prove to be useful for your game system of choice – whether that’s one of the OSR-rules-systems, DCC, 5e or something else.

The book, as a whole, is basically one of the extremely useful books that I internally refer to as “GM miscellanea” – tables and dressing that help get the creative juices flowing, that add a dash of excitement to the game, or that act as a catalyst for adventures…or that get the creative juices flowing. Basically, if your adventures are the proper dish, then this would act as exotic seasoning.

Each of the respective entries features often delightful introductory text pertaining the homunculus and interaction with the master, improving the overall reading experience and flow of the book.

All right, so, we begin with 50 different treasures of the Pharaoh – basically, treasure suitable for any Egyptian-style campaign; one entry refers to rules-relevant components, while others contain e.g. a papyrus showing a disemboweling rite, figurines of fish-tailed goats, human-headed mummified owls with alligator teeth in the beak…as you can see, we have a nice blend of the more mundane and fantastical aspects here.

The next entry presents the concept of least guardian angels – with 12 benefits, 12 forms and 12 durations. If you’re particularly strict regarding the rules, fret not, for the pdf does mention how to define these entities in the context of a game that sports diverse means to influence different types of outsiders, invisibility and the like – things you obviously can use or ignore at your leisure.

After this, we take a look at 100 peculiar relationships. Think of these as basically quirks to add character to the master/servant-dichotomy that is implicit in e.g. familiars, companions, etc. Perhaps the creature stands beside sleeping characters, watching them..and not necessarily just the master. Perhaps the creature can’t help but gawk at redheads or collects spoons, of all things. Being terrified of thunder, lurking in rafters, referring to itself by the third person….or what about a creatures that belches whenever the master has eaten? Perhaps the being has its own pet spider named Horatio or is obsessively clean? Some companions may collect shells, depositing excess parts of the collection in pockets, backpacks, etc. – the quirks are delightful and pretty damn neat.

The next section contains no less than 12 d12 tables and deals with gear – to be precise, it deals with details regarding gear; the armor table, for example, mentions battered armor, armor decorated with crow feathers, decorative notches for enemies defeated, etc. The baggage/holder table features belts made from old prayer flags, a pouch made out of an elephant’s ear, a choker-face pouch – hilarious, weird, cool! And yes, lower clothing, body art can be found…and I am partial to the grotesque-entry, which featured, for example, rings made of pig tails wrapped in wire – here, we can see Pett’s delightfully wicked mind at work. The whole section is inspiring and cool in the best sense and most assuredly is something I’d hand to my players as well. Have I mentioned the “Just Plain Weird” table here? It features a false nose of troll-flesh, a gnoll-bone corset…fun! On the super nitpicky formal side – we have troll flesh and trollflesh in the same table, but minimum hassle hiccups like this do not influence my final verdict.

The next table continues the inspiring trend of the former section, presenting for your edification no less than 100 strange pets, beginning with aardvark and continuing to rag owls, string mice, a barking pig…or what about a hand-sized pygmygator? Or an owlferret? An arm-sized furry caterpillar? Or tackler’s wronganimals – like the wrongmouse, which is very fat, hat six legs and the most cuddly of tentacles. Oh, and two words: Zombie toucan. IF you’re like me, you’re celebrating the glorious weirdness of this table, big time.

After this, we get 100 spots for wilderness overnight sleeping – 50 for succeeded checks, 50 for failed checks; the successes include ruined churches, molding gypsy caravans, sheep pens, caves, cairns – quite a few of these could make for pretty neat locales to further develop. The failures are also interesting: Particularly windy hillocks; a glade that runs with spring water at night, an old hay barn infested with spiders, a loch infamous for midges…yeah, the PCs won’t have a pleasant stay there.

Now, as you all know, I enjoy murderhobo-ing througha dungeon as much as the next fellow, but I am also one of the guys who needs regular changes of pace to not be bored. As such, investigations, particularly complex ones, are a favorite of mine and something I usually have to design myself. There is an issue inherent there, and that would be that capable players will want to do their legwork, gather all information possible, etc. Well, the next section contains no less than 100 gloriously-paranoia-inducing conversation snippets that the PCs may pick up – whether by chance, as a red herring, or as an actual plot point, these make for a cool and fun form of additionatal information – I’d be really surprised if a player’s intrigue wasn’t piqued by an account of a purple worm exploding, for example.

Now, there is something inherently cool and creepy about timepieces; perhaps its their inevitability; perhaps it’s the visualization of our own finite existence, but the blend of memento mori and inevitable march of time is something I consider to be intriguing per definition. Thus, the 50 strange timepieces depicted in the next section have an inherent appeal to me and once more run a gamut of interesting tricks: Take e.g. a 33 ft. tower with a water clock powered by elementals. A chamber that has elephants as a meansof powering a bell. A fey-bone and elf-tooth-based sundial; a zombie cockerel that crows at dusk and dawn. An animated object tat screams every hour. With precious few words, the author manages to generate a sense of delight and wonder, often suffused with the trademark blend of macabre and funny.

One of the things that EVERY GM is sooner or later likely to run afoul of would be the issue of talking to animals via magic; per definition, animals don’t suddenly become intelligent when subjected to such magics…and as such, it is somewhat baffling that I know of no other table that actually deals with the singleminded and, potentially quite literally, pigheaded responses of the creatures of the animal kingdom. From hunger to “How do I know that you’re talking?” or “Darktime bad” to others, this table is really helpful, cool and once more, a welcome addition to my arsenal.

After these tables, we get a brief essay on the fine art of the recurring villain – something significantly harder in pen & paper RPGs than in computer games or movies: After all, our players aren’t dumb. They’ll chop the head off, burn the remains and scatter the ashes to the 4 winds. Okay, well, at least my players are wont to do that. While the article obvious refers to several specific spells etc., the advice per se is sound regardless of system. A nice article.

Speaking of villains? If you’re like me, you may consider it to be weird that all those villains dealing with demons, devils, forces from beyond space and time…you know, the fellows that sell their soul…get such “pleasant” ends, that PCs get to console themselves that their foe gets their due in the afterlife? Well, we get no less than 20 entries of descriptive texts that describe truly horrific ends for all those evildoers, ends that should make the PCs very much contemplate whether going darkside is such a good idea..

…you know, whenever I contemplate how diverse we human beings are, I feel a sense of awe. Each one of us has skills and trades that others may consider obscure, strange or utterly baffling. Now picture what would happen if we applied that type of diversity to a magical fantasy world. We’d get specialists for the most obscure of tasks, right? Well, the next table sports no less than 100 utterly obscure professions, ranging from carriage lamp-fitters to gelatinous cube merchants, hippogriff trainers, paste gem makers, leech collectors…okay, there are a couple of less uncommon professions here, but these, ultimately, are required to maintain a sense of grounding amidst all this weird. Noseflute carver extraordinaire. Just sayin’.

More detailed than regular entries would be the 12 osessive and weird collectors of strangeness. What do I mena by this? Well, can you imagine a gorgeous, but demented lady, capable of smothering statues in admiration? What about a butterfly collector that has even gloomwings and a mothman as part of the collection? Yeah, these are really neat as well. 8 seasonal scares with delightful twists on holiday classics are presented next (did anyone say poisoned glaze and twisted snowmen?) and in such an instance, it’s also time to think of the less fortunate, read: Kobolds.

We get a rules-relevant representation of kobolds throwing exploding fire snowballs, death throes and several interesting and fun ideas that can be developed into full-blown adventures; nice section. The book also contains 20 new village idiots (referring to proper class-combos, but otherwise being system-neutral fluff-entries. In the table, there are ghoul rogues, paladins in covert OP-mode or the gnomish chicken woman – inspired entries that can add a cool dimension to a settlement, add a complication or, well, just some cool ideas. A total of 6 low-cost augmentations for homunculi can be grafted to the creatures…like Trebb’s discreet extended poison bladder. Yeah, neat. As you probably know by now, I enjoy notes on coinage – 3 distinct and weird coinages are provided in detail here; including e.g. the crudely cut, triangular Line of Fharr. Is your bard a bit of a poser? Well a total of 6 named and detailed tasks separate the wheat from the chaff: Hard to get right and only something for true masters in their field.

But know what? Kobold-in-chief Wolfgang Baur also contributes to this book: The master of of the kobolds provides “The Joy of Explosions”, an article that begins with 3 apprentices and then moves on to present a total of 23 strange jars, glassware, etc., including fireprood crucible capable of storing phlogiston, etc., distillation equipment, etc. Oh, and there are 12 variant explosions! Blue flames! Dragonfire! Sick burn! Completely silent blasts – yes, some of these have rules-relevant modifications. Yes, I really enjoyed this article.

Miranda Horner proves that she can deliver as well: Big time, in fact: her article is pretty occult in theme, providing 12 dreadful sites and the things that haunt them. Wisp killers…and a man cursed for having had the perfect day. 12 areas of spiritual activity and 12 possessed items can also be found.

After this one, we get an assortment of d12-charts: For heroes named Thedge, for improbably NPC deaths, NPC moments, obscure pantomime costumes, one-eyed gamekeepers, quirky tavern names…or what about rare and obscure owlbear variants, strange opening lines of dark tales…and much, much more.

The undiscovered bestiary: Ochre jelly, presents a variety of easy to implement variations of the slime, with CR-modifications provided for your convenience.

The final section of the pdf is taken up by “Situation Vacant”, an adventure for 4 1st level characters. An adventure unlike any you have ever played. You see, the PCs are all homunculi, each with unique abilities, each pretty ugly and capable of causing some telepathic static to the others. Oh, and there can be only one. The rather sadistic master wants his monocle retrieved and thus, the PCs have to brave the dread UNDERPLUMBING beneath the master’s lab. This is perhaps one of the most hilarious modules I have ever read. Seriously. The master observes and comments the PCs, allowing the GM to add meta-commentary. The challenges, heck, even some of the area names are hilarious. While we don’t get player-friendly versions of the b/w-maps, that does nothing to detract seriously from this glorious end of the supplement.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of typos or glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly one-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Interior art is b/w and stock and the b/w-cartography for the module is neat, though the lack of player-friendly versions is a bit of a detriment.

Richard Pett, with support from Wolfgang Baur and Miranda Horner, delivers a truly superb collection of details and miscellanea. This book breathes his signature, dark humor, his vast, unbridled imagination. More so than the first book even, this contains so many inspirational components, it’s baffling. The tables are inspiring and delightful and more than one made me grin savagely, made me chuckle and got those creative juices flowing. The absolutely hilarious module is just the icing on the cake of one awesome little book. This is great, inspiring and very much worth owning. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
More Whispering Homunculus
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Into the Wintery Gale: Ancestral Appellations
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2018 05:41:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 45 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, the first thing you should know is that the information depicting the basics of Vikmordere culture and valley from the FREE Vikmordere Player’s Primer can also be found herein; the list of names has been moved to its own chapter, though, and there is some reorganization done – after all, this supplement is basically the crunchy GM-book on the subject matter, which also means that it contains pieces of information not intended for the players. I will attempt to remain as SPOILER-free as possible, at least until we get to the discussion of the mini-adventures contained in the book. As always, I will preface the discussion of the adventures with a spoiler-warning. A well-rounded group is generally suggested for attempting the modules.

All right, that component out of the way, we are introduced to the cultural production of the Vikmordere, here in the guise of new magic items, namely ones that make sense in the context of the society: Home stones are attuned to a settlement – even if it moves due to a semi-nomadic lifestyle, the stone allows the bearer to find it once more. Suffice to say, this is helpful for kids lost…and a potential quest waiting to happen, as they’d allow enemies of the settlement to track it. As an aside, they also act as a cool stand-in explanation for being great navigators at sea, as the pdf aptly mentions. AAW Games does the fairy-tale like really well; in a crossover of themes, the eerie loom represents a loom that weaves autonomously…an item that, if its construction is ever unveiled to more industrialized societies, could well shake the economy of nations to the core. Once more, we have a cool, simple item with a ton of adventure-possibility built into it. Clement cups heat beverages and can be helpful when de-icing surfaces…but also interact with the neat hypothermia-rules from the “Into the Wintery Gale” mega-adventure. Totem amulets, usable 1/day, can duplicate summon nature’s ally I. Prismatic vestments enhance the Stealth of the wearer, adjusting chameleon-style to the surroundings.

We also get an array of low-level spells that are available, RAW, exclusively for shamans: Showing snow makes tracks made in 24 hours in the affected area reappear from the snow. Complaint here: The range is incorrect: Long spell range is 400 ft., +40 ft./level, not 500 ft. + 50 ft./level. These deviations regarding ranges also can be found in subsequent spells, which may indicate that there’s intent here; still, as presented, I do not necessarily think that this is the best way to handle balancing these, considering that the existing spell-range defaults already provide a pretty solid selection. Anyway, the level 2 icebloom spell generates a beautiful flower of sharp ice from existing ice, but considering its relatively low damage output and terrain-based use-restrictions, I found myself wishing it had some sort of scaling mechanism – as written, damage remains static. Hunter’s companion is a cool idea: You touch a felled creature and it then follows you, lifted and animated by an invisible force to follow – great for bringing home prey. Not so great: RAW, it can’t affect anything in PFRPG. You see, it affects only “beasts” – and that’s 5e-terminology. Is it supposed to affect magical beasts? Yes? No? No idea. I assume it should only affect animals…but yeah. Avoidable glitch there. Detect Wellsprings detects hot springs; cast scent has another 5e-ism, though a cosmetic one, with a target of “Self” instead of “You”…and as a cantrip, it is pretty OP and lets you basically rid yourself of your scent and attach it to another being, making scent…rather useless. Not a big fan here.

Okay, so next up are rules for Vikmordere battle chants – these are combat feats. Formatting is a bit odd – the feat type is usually put in brackets after the name, not below it – as presented, these would be (Battle Chant Mastery) feats. Okay, so, these chants can only be learned by the Vikmordere, and we get 5: One for each of the saves, one for attack rolls and one for AC. All of them provide a +1 bonus that is applied to the character and all allies that can hear the chant (OUCH! – a scaling maximum number would have been more elegant…).

Okay, so I like this concept per se. At the same time, the 5 chants, even though they stack with themselves up to +3, provide a bit of a conundrum: They fail to denote what action, if any, is required to start and maintain them, making them RAW unusable. Secondly, from a design-perspective, they simple aren’t interesting. No matter how cool the concept, granting minor bonuses to self and allies is just so utterly anticlimactic. If their range wasn’t as wide open, they could grant something cool…or, well, let the Vikmordere do something unique. As presented, they#re a great idea, mired in an execution that is just an escalation of numbers.

Next up, we learn about the Northern Fury Council and the book thankfully regains its composure: A total of 12 one-page write-ups of the clans tell us about their settlements (yes, with settlement statblocks) and customs, as well as their totems, leaders, etc. – it is here that the full-blown wonder once more suffuses the pages – and we even get teeny-tiny full-color maps of the respective settlements…though, alas, we do not get one-page versions, so yeah…a GM can only use these to get an idea of the layout, not use them as proper handouts. Missed chance there.

All right, this concludes the setting supplement section of the pdf; from here, we move to the adventures. The 3 adventures follow a format somewhat akin to mini-dungeons, in that they depict small environments/dungeons suitable for one session of gameplay. Unlike most mini-dungeons, we have less constraints regarding page/word-count, which is why the respective entries for rooms etc. sport read-aloud text for your convenience, so that’s a deviation in presentation you should be aware of. Each of the full-color maps is btw. included in a proper 1-page, player-friendly version – big kudos there.

Since we’ll be looking at adventures now, the following will contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, only GMs around? Great! The first adventure, “Eye of the Ice King”, is intended for PCs level 5 – 6 and begins in Horasheimur, a Vikmordere village that suddenly found its populace to be susceptible to even mild temperatures…something potentially rather fatal in these environments. Thankfully, the village shaman suspects the culprit: The clan once defeated the mighty Ice King, his soul bound to a wretched golem and in the time since, they have, alas, been less than perfect at tending the site…the shaman suspects that this evil once more stirs. Hence, the PCs travel to the symmetrical tomb, where they have to explore a place that is suffused with, you guessed it, ice-themed adversaries. Drakes, elementals and spirits/undead…and, the fears of the shaman hold true…but to defeat the ice-king, the PCs will have to be smart and first unlock the seal. A carving helps provide a hint here which of the items is the correct key, requiring a bit of thought without feeling hamfisted. The boss-fight is also neat, with infinite, spawning minions complicating the combat. All in all, a solid adventure.

The second adventure “Caves of Cursed Ice” for level 7 – 8 PCs, brings the PCs to the caverns in defense of Therinholm, which is experiencing escalating raids by ice trolls. The adventure begins with the PCs helping to repel an ice troll raid and, provided they accept, gaining tools to survive the task at hand. The PCs exploring these caves will soon note a rather interesting feature: The ice trolls seem to be infected with growths of dark ice…and indeed, the tribe has been taken over by Grenda…a blighted hamadryad. Yeah. That’s CR 17 and pretty much an assured TPK if she’s played even to half her capabilities. Sure, she pretty much doesn’t care about the PCs slaughtering her troll slaves, but she’s the big bad here…and she can’t be realistically bested at this level. She also seems strangely bereft of agenda and just de facto spares the PCs or wipes them out; either feels like fiat.

Neither she, nor the troll chief get stats and the latter is an “advanced icy troll ripper CR 10”, which is actually an interesting way to use pregenerated monsters…but considering that the book doesn’t have the usual limitations of Mini-Dungeons, I still think we should have gotten stats for these fellows at least. On a weird side: The fey’s pet is a hound of Tindalos, which is completely out of left field as far as I’m concerned. Also rather weird: While the complex sports a couple of nice terrain features, it does not capitalize, at all, on the ice-cavern angle. Shoes? Equipment? Irrelevant. Apart froma slope and hard to scale walls, the place seems to favor safe footing. Final complaint: A readaloud-text sports a CR-reference in an obvious search-and-insert hiccup. All in all: A rather weak adventure, consider the oeuvre of both author and company.

The final adventure would be “The Tomb of the Crooked”, for PCs level 11 – 12. Rand the Crooked was the only non-Vikmordere to ever rise to the title of Jarl…oh, and he was a minotaur. Yeah, that is pretty badass. Alas, the shaman of the tribe wasn’t too thrilled, but Rand was a good Jarl and mighty leader; he led a great life and his newformed tribe, the tribe of the bull, prospered. On his death-bed, alas, when he received the final rites, the Vikmordere Ancestor spirits refused him…enraged for being ostracized after a lifetime of faithful service and rulership, the minotaur died, a tragic figure, with a curse on his lips. His tribe did not survive his demise for long. Ages have passed, and now, the PCs have been hired as treasure hunters by a wealthy Klavekian, one Sigmund Torvan, to make their way through the haunted Black Pine Forest (random encounter table included), to find the ruins of the minotaur’s erstwhile settlement and his tomb. This is, by far, the best of the three modules: The traps employed are brutal and breathe an old-school aesthetic; the threat of undead is constant and the final boss fight against the dread wight-ified Rand is a fitting finale…though, again, stats would have been appropriate – this is no mini-dungeon!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good; on a rules-language level, we have a couple of unpleasant inconsistencies here, some of which influence rules-integrity. Layout adheres to the gorgeous two-column full-color standard AAW Games employs for the “Into the Wintery Gale”-supplements. The full-color artworks are fantastic, though fans of AAW Games will be familiar with most. The cartography is nice and in full-color, with the player-maps for the modules being a nice plus; on the downside, not getting properly-sized settlement maps sucks a bit. It should be noted that the FREE Vikmordere Player’s Primer is included in the DL, so you don’t have to get it separately. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Justin Andrew Mason and Jonathan G. Nelson provide something of a mixed bag here; on the one hand, I utterly adore the Vikmordere. The player#s primer-section is amazing and the everyday magic items ooze flavor; similarly, I loved the oh-so-brief (1 page each) clan-write-ups of the 12 clans.

BUT…and, alas, it’s deserves its allcaps, this book feels rushed. The spells sport needless deviations from standards; the battle-chants, an amazing idea a) don’t work and b) are executed in probably the least interesting way possible. And then there are the adventures. They are the second-most puzzling aspect here. AAW games know how to make superb adventures; the main author has penned quite a few of them. However, they feel…rushed? Tacked on? They obviously once were Mini-Dungeons that have been slightly expanded…which is nothing bad per se, but for a full adventure, I expect at least multi-templated creatures done for me. One template? Okay, if I have to. Once I have to apply two for a single creature, the workload gets somewhat annoying.

Module #1 is solid, if unremarkable compared to “Into the Wintery Gale”’s ice-themed dungeons (~3.5 stars); module #2 is just…weak. (2 stars) Module #3 oozes flavor… but, much like its predecessors, it suffers from the artificial limitations imposed by the presentation.(~4.5 stars) Why can’t we have a full-blown haunted forest exploration? A ruined village to explore? Where are the global ice cavern complications and the means to outsmart the superior boss in #2? I would have loved to see one of these modules done properly and fully detailed…but as presented, they feel as though they restrict themselves in ways that simply are not required by the format. They also eat up a ton of real-estate, word-count-wise.

You know, space that could have been devoted to more information on…Vikmordere Culture and Society, as noted in the title? Religious rites? Holidays? Food, drink, daily life? Developing them further? Or, well, the “ancestral appellations”? Where are the benefits for calling upon heroes? Where is the cool archetype that gets to channel named heroes with unique abilities and background stories? Heck, you know, you could just provide flavor-modifications à la “Vikmordere mediums call spirit xyz by the name of Ghost Serpent; channeling the spirit…”; there could be real POWER in the ancestral names…you know, traits, feats…it’s a wide open field and one that would thematically have been a perfect fit.

Okay, my disappointment of the lack of the like aside, the real estate devoted to the adventures could have been used to further elaborate the differences between the clans! The final, baffling decision herein would pertain the respective clan’s settlements. We get these teeny-tiny maps for them…even if the maps wouldn’t have been that great, it would have been useful to get them in a proper size. Some ready-to-use maps are almost always better than none and they obviously exist…so where are the full-sized versions?

Honestly, this supplement is somewhat baffling to me. It sports superb prose and cool ideas and contrasts them with problems. The good sections are fantastic, but the less impressive sections…well, are significantly less impressive. Now, I do love the good parts, but when all is said and done, I can’t go higher than 3 stars for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Wintery Gale: Ancestral Appellations
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Bandits of Calhaven
Publisher: Gorgon Breath Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2018 05:40:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, there are a few setting assumptions here that should be mentioned: The book assumes a Dark Age, following the collapse of a magical empire, torn apart by the strife between orcs and dwarves, splitting the continent among racial lines; the economic depression following the collapse was quick and severe and, well, “Chaos reigns!” (If you got that reference, props to you!) Anyways, the eponymous city of Calhaven was once a jewel of a place, but nowadays, it lies in ruins, occupied by various clans of lawless bandits; in the aftermath of its sacking and decline, the nearby village of Blackhorse, forced to function without the aid of the empire, has managed to assume a role as a small center of commerce. We begin this adventure with the PCs exploring Blackhorse, where you can find the usual places, but also a farmer’s market and a lodge of individuals seeking to reconnect with the empire. The village comes with a really nice b/w-artwork depicting it, but honestly, I wished we got a proper map instead. There is another component to be aware of: Blackhorse has a printing press AND a local newspaper. While I am not opposed to this concept per se, it does somewhat clash with my conceptions of a fantasy Dark Age, as, well, printing presses are an instrument for enlightenment. A printing press is one thing to explain away, but the presence of a local newspaper is slightly harder to stomach; it assumes general literacy, the resources available, the infrastructure to pay for it, etc. – in the aftermath of a society’s collapse, that stretches my imagination hard, even when I give the module the benefit of the doubt.

Structure-wise, the module sports 3 random encounter tables and the NPC/monster-appendix in the back is pretty massive, providing stats for named characters, including for the non-combatants. There are a couple of glitches in the statblocks, though, both regarding attack bonuses and formatting. Italicizations have not been implemented at all and the headers for actions/reactions are missing, which makes it harder than it should be to differentiate between active and passive abilities and read the statblocks. Considering that quite a few are taken from the MM, this is rather odd. If you’re one of the GMs who has trouble improvising read-aloud text, then you should be aware that this module does not offer the like.

Anyways, this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! After the PCs had a bit of time to familiarize themselves with Blackhorse, they are contacted by the local innkeeper Saul. His son Toby seems to have gone missing. Following the tracks through farmland to the forest, the PCs will encounter a brownbear, the boy’s blade lodged into the creature. There is no way presented in the module to not kill the bear. In the aftermath of the struggle, the PCs will note that there are signs of struggle, of course thus pointing to the eponymous bandits of Calhaven as culprits.

Reaching the city’s massive walls, the PCs can find a shantytown (once more depicted with a really nice b/w-artwork)…which is empty, with murdered bandits all around. Their weapons are gone, though a few gold pieces may be secured by looting the bodies. Similarly, the gate is not manned by bandits…which does not bode well. There is an option to scale the walls as well. Walking through the ruins of the once grand city, the PCs will have to deal with a few random encounters before catching a conflict between bandits and skeletons + zombies. A peculiarity in presentation would be that monsters in a room are not bolded, highlighted r mentioned separately, requiring that you read the flavor-text to determine their number. This may not be problematic for most GMs, but it represents a comfort-detriment and makes it harder to run on the fly. It’s a needless downside.

Here would be as well a place as any to mention that the module sometimes alternates between the third and second person, and numbers are similarly somewhat inconsistent. It should also be noted that there is no map for the city’s ruins.

Presumably, the PCs save the bandits and are thus led to the base of the bandit Kendra – who turns out to be the mother of the errant Inn keeper’s boy; turns out that his dad had a hidden bandit past. The young fellow wants to stay with his mother, his bravado against the growing undead threat a façade. Kendra asks the PCs to assault the imperial center, the apparent source of the relentless undead that have begun plaguing the city. A nice, hand-drawn b/w map of the complex is provided, though, annoyingly, we don’t get a player-friendly, key-less version. The map also sports no grid, but at least has a scale included.

It is here that we change gears towards a more traditional “dungeon” exploration, as the PCs sift through the ruins of old. The couple of rooms are pretty solid and relatively interesting, with e.g. a magical, recycling toilet as an interesting component. That being said, there are a couple of unnecessary hiccups in the details – multiple instances of untyped damage that should be e.g. poison damage, Arcana misspelled as Arcane…you get the idea. The glitches are cosmetic, but they do accumulate.

Ultimately, the PCs find a remnant of a Gate-network, one that was activated: On the other side, a massive army of undead, lead by a lich, is preparing to march through, so they should close the gate, pronto. Somewhat weird: The closing process requires “full concentration”, which isn’t really a rules term in 5e; concentration. It should also be noted that the character in question attempting to close the gate must remain on the dias, which makes the task less easy than you’d think. Slightly odd to me would be that the gate doesn’t have a damage threshold. The pdf notes on how to proceed with the consequences of the gate network, though, imho, that aspect should have been noted from the start. Even a partially functional gate network is a pretty damn big deal and while the GM can explain that away, it’s still something that not everyone wants in their games.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; I noticed more minor glitches than I expected at this brevity, several of which pertain minor aspects of the rules-language. A few of them can be ignored, but here, we have too many. The issues with the formatting are annoying – non-italicized spells, the lack of subheaders in the statblocks, creatures not bolded in the text, etc. make this module significantly less convenient than it should be. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard. The highlight of the book would be the b/w-artworks of the environments; the one full-color artwork of an evil knight before a horde of the dead felt cheesy to me. The map of the dungeon is solid, but the lack of a player-friendly map is annoying. The lack of maps for the settlements also makes them more opaque than they should be. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, another strike against the module.

Marshall Lemon’s “Bandits of Calhaven” is per se a decent adventure. The setting hinted at here and there is interesting.

Yeah, sorry, that’s about the only thing I liked about this adventure. The monsters are painfully standard fare and bland; the module per se constitutes a series of combat encounters that didn’t do anything for me, courtesy of the lack of interesting terrain features, maps or unique tricks at the beck and call of the critters. While the adventure has a few scenes where it manages to generate a bit of atmosphere, even that is not really used well: Exploring the shantytown with all the dead, exploring the ruins, should be scenes where tension is vamped up, where paranoia is generated. Here, they just flow. Nothing really exciting happens. The finale is also pretty anticlimactic – if the GM plays the foes smart and the PCs are unlucky, they may well be wiped out, courtesy of a single PC’s botched concentration rolls, all while the rest of the party slogs through the foes emerging. The behavior of the opponents makes also no sense in that encounter. Why not send a properly powerful commander through first?

Anyways, even if I take all of that into account, you could argue that the module is at least decent. However, this adventure is incredibly inconvenient; more so than Geoffrey McKinney’s self-published wall-of-text AD&D-hexcrawls. The formatting deviations are inconvenient and the lack of maps and bookmarks add further strikes against the module.

Which leaves me with precious few positive things to comment on. While the publisher is relatively new, there are plenty of publishers that manage to get all of these things right…and more. Even if I only compare this to other 5e-modules, it falls flat of the formal standards and it's simply not interesting enough to make up for these shortcomings.

There is one positive aspect to this module, namely that, as per the writing of this review, it is available for a single buck. That is fair for the nice b/w-artworks…but then again, I know a ton of better, free adventures. I try hard to find the positives about an adventure, but here, I don’t have much to praise. Considering the vast amount of superior offerings out there, I can’t go higher than 1.5 stars…and honestly, I can’t find it in me to round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Bandits of Calhaven
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Nyctomancer's Handbook
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2018 02:06:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansions clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, as always, we begin with a nice piece of prose before we get a summary of how to use this expansion for the Dark sphere – perhaps one of the “less sexy” spheres and one of the more difficult to write and expand upon, so how this fares is rather interesting to me.

The first chapter starts off with the new archetypes, the first of which would be the darkshaper, who gets a modified skill list, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency in both simple weapons and light armor. The archetype uses Charisma as governing casting ability modifier. The archetype is primarily defined by the shadow limb ability, which replaces bound equipment, summon armor and bind staff. What does it do? As a move action, the darkshaper may animate his shadow as an extra limb. This limb has a 5 ft.-reach and a primary natural attack that inflicts 1d4 piercing and slashing damage (1d3 for Small darkshapers – minor complaints: “Small” not capitalized; dual damage types can be a bit wonky in interaction – that aspect would have been more elegant with options to switch. The darkshaper employs Charisma instead of Strength for atk and damage with the limb as well as on CMB checks. At 15th level, activation can be alternatively done as a swift action, and at 20th level, the darkshaper may do so as a free action.

The limb may be used for delicate manipulations and can wield weaponry, activate spell completion/trigger items etc., but not wear armor. At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the shadow’s reach increases by +5 ft. Dismissing the shadow limb is a free action and it gains a +1 enhancement bonus at every odd armorist level beyond 1st. Kudos: +5 limit remains intact and the wording covers special weapon ability gains properly, noting which ones wouldn’t work. The darkshaper may manifest an additional shadow limb at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter and multiple shadow limbs may be manifested with the same action. The limbs all share their enhancement bonuses and qualities, thankfully, for the qualities may be changed each time the limbs are manifested. Additionally, this counts as Animated Shadow for the purposes of prerequisites and simultaneous use is not possible. Additionally, a darkshaper that hits a target with a shadow limb attack may use a swift action to cast a (shadow) talent at the usual spell point cost on the target.

All in all, an interesting archetype with cool visuals – enjoyed it! Next up would be the invidian symbiat, who gains both the Mind and Dark sphere as bonus talents at first level, replacing mental powers. The archetype also begins play with Step Through Darkness as a bonus talent, being constantly under its effects sans requiring spell points to activate it. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter increase the range of the talent by +10 ft..

Unlike regular symbiats, these folks draw from their inner demons to generate effects, replacing the symbiat’s psionics, but counting as such. This ability would be the blackened psyche, and its save DCs are governed by Intelligence. The abilities include 60 ft.-range concealment for one round as an immediate action, with the miss chance scaling. 6th level nets the ability to render targets within 60 ft. flat-footed, as they jump at shadows, with 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter yielding an additional target; instead of an additional target, this effect may instead be applied to additional attacks versus the target…your rogue buddy will love you for it. This one replaces telekinetic edge. At 11th level, targets within 60 ft. become shaken on a failed save, replacing psionic fortress. 16th level provides a brutal debuff, allowing the invidian to render targets briefly staggered as well as getting -6 to Str and Dex.

The shifter class is next, with the Nocturnal Predator, who begins play with both the Alteration and Dark spheres as bonus talents, but at the cost of the Photophobic Casting and Lycanthropic drawbacks. As usual, if you have a sphere already, you do not gain the drawbacks. The drawbacks are each linked to one of the spheres. Within an area of dim light or less, the archetype may employ the Alteration sphere’s shapeshift to herself as a move action, and maintaining it only requires a move action to maintain concentration while in areas of dim light or less. This replaces and counts as quick transformation. The archetype also receives +1/2 class level to Stealth as well as Nightvision and a bonus Bestial trait. 10th level unlocks using Stealth while observed. Also at this level, while near/within an area of dim light or less, the archetype may hide sans cover or concealment. Kudos: Own shadow does not qualify. Nice catch! This replaces wild empathy, steal language, boundless communication and endless communication. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide sneak attack, but only with natural attacks, replacing enhance and enhanced physicality.

Next up would be an archetype for the unchained monk, namely the shadow boxer, who gains a slightly modified class skill list and uses Charisma as governing attribute for monk abilities instead of Wisdom. The shadow boxer’s shadow has a reach of 5 ft. an may be assumed and dismissed as a free action, functioning as a means to deliver attacks and touch attacks and modify, analogue to the darkshaper, complex tasks. They do lose stunning fist and fast movement for this. It should be mentioned that the shadow’s attacks count as unarmed strikes for the purpose of monk damage scaling and use in conjunction with flurry. The shadow does not grant extra attacks or additional magic item slots. Instead of the 1st and 2nd level bonus feats, the archetype gains Basic Magical Training, but is locked into the Dark sphere. Extra Magical Talent is treated as an eligible monk bonus feat for the archetype. Instead of using spell points, the modified dark ki points are used to pay for point costs and talents from the Dark sphere may be used instead of ki powers. The pool is btw. also governed by Charisma. Nice one.

The skulk fey adept replaces fey magic with the Dark sphere as a bonus magic talent. A Dark sphere talent not maintained through concentration (or one that no longer is maintained) retains in effect for ½ class level rounds before disappearing. This replaces master illusionist. Instead of create reality, 6th level yields siphon shadow. The skulk may use the fey adept’s shadow point reserve to attempt to siphon away a creature’s shadow as a melee touch attach. On a success, the target must succeed a Will-save to avoid having the shadow stolen. The skulk gains 1 temporary spell point for every 2 dice (should be plural in the book) of shadowmark damage when successfully stealing a shadow. These do not stack with others or other points gained by this ability and only last for 1 round per caster level. Oh, and the skulk may NOT gain more spell points than the target has HD! Elegant caveat that prevents exploits by tormenting bags full of kittens. Kudos! A target whose shadow is stolen is immune against effects that manipulate the shadow. Items hidden in e.g. shadow stash remain inaccessible while a shadow is stolen. A single target can only be subjected to the ability once in 24 hours. But wait, you can still abuse this via summons etc., right? WRONG! Thankfully, the ability has another caveat that prevents abuse versus 0-Int or summoned creatures. Impressive!!

When a skulk has stolen shadow, she gains insight into the target’s available spells, SPs and talents and may spend a shadow point to temporarily duplicate a sphere and a number of talents possessed by the target. The number is governed by level: 1 talent at 6th, +1 every 4 levels thereafter. These arcane forgeries remain for caster level rounds and must be paid for with the skulk’s spell points. Alternatively, instead of a talent, a single-use SP or spell may be chosen; once more, the complex rules-language holds fast. Kudos: No material component or focus cheesing. 20th level lets the skulk ignore advanced talent prerequisites of arcane forgery’d talents and copy a second sphere. This archetype is AMAZING. It entwines the base class options in a complex, well-constructed manner with the archetype AND manages to get a truly complex, massive rules-operation done right. Well done!!

The talent thief would be an archetype for the unchained rogue. The archetype nets a modified skill-list. Instead of rogues’ edge, talent thieves are Low Casters using Intelligence as casting modifiers, with a spell pool equal to class level + casting ability modifier, min 1. They may select magic talents from the Dark sphere instead of a rogue talent. Minor complaint: While evident from the context, the archetype should probably be locked into the Dark sphere. At 4th level, debilitating injury is replaced with shadow theft. Critical hit confirmations with melee attacks that qualify for sneak attack damage get the option to forego all sneak attack damage to gain temporary spell points for each sneak attack die foregone. The limitations of shadow theft noted above apply here as well, though willing targets may have their shadow stolen sans damage. Weird: The ability mentions that such targets don’t get an AoO…but RAW, the ability does not trigger an AoO…looks like some sort of hiccup. 10th level provides basically another variant of the aforementioned temporary talent stealing, though this time around, number is tied to sneak attack damage dice forgone. Beyond that modification, the archetype may also steal feats, though prerequisites still have to be met.

The void gazer thaumaturge begins play with Dark sphere and the clouded vision oracle curse, with class levels as oracle levels for the purpose of determining effects, with other classes counting as 172 level. Maximum vision increase beyond the curse is expressly prohibited. As part of the action of activating a spell or sphere, the CL can be increased by 2, +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter; however, there is a chance of 15% to suffer occult backlash. When this occurs, vision, including e.g. blindsense/sight is reduced to 5 ft until the character rests to regain spell points. Occulted vision in conjunction with the Dark sphere and its talents only has a 5% chance of backlash. Honestly…I consider the CL-increase, in spite of the potentially brutal penalty, to be overkill. That’s up to +6 at 17th level! Halving these would still make for a powerful option, The void gazer only gains ½ casting ability modifier uses of invocations per day, but may choose to suffer occulted vision’s backlash for an additional use of eldritch invocations. The new invocations available to the class allow for the addition of confusion for a round, adding the Stygian Immersion meld to one target (3rd level), all targets in range at 11th level; at 7th level, when suffering backlash, he can blind a nearby target temporarily; 15th level adds confusion to those within a blot or darkness as a result of Stygian Immersion. It should be noted that these invocations and their mechanics are interesting in that they are tied to the activation of occulted vision and Dark sphere.

There also are 3 new arsenal tricks: Add shadow-themed qualities to summoned weapons/armor, or gaining Shadow Stash, even if you don’t have the Dark sphere – interesting, though the shadow-themed tricks are not uniform in their formatting. While we’re at that subject: 3 special weapon qualities and 2 for armors can be found; shade-hexed weapons get better in shadow, worse in light; tenebrous weapons may be stashed in your shadow. Umbral edge weapons can be used to trigger shadow theft on critical threats, as opposed to confirming them. The shaded armor quality nets Shadowed Mien, sans temporary hit points. Shadow warded armor grants full AC to touch AC versus attacks by a shadow.

Okay, you probably had some question marks when I referenced blot talents, right? These are darkness-effects on two-dimensional surfaces, basically splotches of dark that do not influence the level of lighting. Dark talents with the (blot) tag can be added to an area of darkness to cause additional effects, but only one such effect may be added, though different instances modified may overlap. They do not stack with themselves or other blot or darkness effects. In order to be affected by a blot, a creature must be in contact with it. They are treated as darkness for meld-purposes as well as interaction with the Light sphere.

These are interesting, allowing the nyctomancer to conceal terrain, stagger targets in a darkness or blot (thankfully with follow-up saves and immunity against that specific casting upon making the save to balance the AoE), causing Wisdom or Dexterity damage…and there is basically a blot-based portable hole! Really cool! Speaking of which: A status/direction-knowing trick based on darkness, blot or shadow is really cool for investigations. What about manipulating darkness or blots for thievery or creating a slick darkness? Some really neat options here.

(Shadow) talents manipulate the target’s shadow sans requiring a manifestation of darkness, unless otherwise noted, at Medium range with a standard action to activate. Once again, one per target, with Will-save to negate. They are not suppressed by glows and Light caster need to surpass the MSD of the shadow-effect’s caster to apply the Light effect; otherwise, the Light effect is suppressed. These include rendering a target blind via their shadow, splitting a shadow off as a shadow lurk that acts as a kind of modified unseen servant and aforementioned Shadowed Mien, which grants a social skills-enhancing shadowy aura, optionally with added temporary hit points. Shadow Stash, which I mentioned before, is a pretty self-explanatory option to stash stuff in your shadow – gold for infiltrations.

New basic talents sans these tags include the sickening Black Lungs, particularly nasty for Verbal Casting folks (and you can take it twice to add poison as insult to injury). Centering darkness or blots on targets and items rather than areas is a HUGE gain of flexibility that the sphere really needed; making darkness only block light from one vantage point is glorious regarding the tactical applications. Extinguishing nonmagical light rather than suppress is will probably be a boon to dark/ice-themed characters and you may use the darkness to dispel magical flame sources. Making darkness flow like liquid is also really cool. A counter versus divine, gaze into the abyss, also had me smile – I know what the criminals and less savory sphere users will consider to be mandatory… There is btw. also nice interaction of Obfuscation with the potent tricks introduced in the Diviner’s Handbook. Applying melds to more targets via additional spell point expenditure is another trick the sphere needed. Applying more shadow talents based on CL, making darkness or blot traps…really cool. The Stygian Immersion I mentioned before would btw. be a meld that makes a blot behave as a pool of water. Really cool! Clearsight, Disorienting Darkness and Step Through Darkness also gain augmented options for investing an additional talent in them, with the new tricks interacting well with the engine-extensions herein.

In the category of advanced talents, we can find the self-explanatory Animated Shadow, darkness, shadows or blots that render alignments NULL (cool!), upgrading Shadowed Mien to protect from daylight etc. – neat! As a formatting complaint that should definitely have been caught; Melt into Shadows’ title has not properly been depicted as a sub-header. The talent is damn cool, though: It makes you a blot , with climb speed and modifications and all. One with the Void does the same for darkness. Shadow Double, finally, is just what you’d think it is – basically the spherecasting version of the shadow clone trope. Really neat: We also get a new incantation assigned to Death and Dark spheres, the Rite of the Revenant Shade, which calls forth just that: A creature that was slain has its shadow seek out the killer to exact horrid vengeance.

The feat-chapter spans a total of 15 feats, which interact well with the material herein: Aura of Mystery makes your Obfuscation a constant effect; we have several shadow lurk upgrades; follow-ups for Step Through Darkness…and there are sphere-spanning feats for e.g. Dark/Warp-synergy, making targets more susceptible to Mind effects, etc. The new types of talents are also gainfully used, with Imbue Shadow allowing you to choose (darkness) or (blot) talents to make them behave as (shadow) talents. 3 solid traits are included (e.g. darkvision for your own darkness – cool!) and a new general drawback represents performance anxiety when observed. 4 Dark and one Light-sphere-specific drawbacks complement this section. Fetchlings, Tieflings and Wayang also receive alternate racial traits and there is even a familiar archetype here. Wanted a shadow familiar? Well, now you can have one.

In the equipment section, we have contrast spectacles that help identify Dark sphere effects by clearly outlining boundaries – now I really want a truly DARK dungeon (think Dark Souls’ 4 Kings-boss area, just with traps and corridors…) – this one is interesting! The soot-stained bell known as obdurate douter can snuff fire and light; obsidian keys allow those donning them to benefit from Clearsight and Darkvision with regards to the attuned Dark user. Shadow-dipping gloves allow enterprising thieves to pick items from Shadow Stashes. There even is a minor artifact, the Spike of Affixion that represents the classic trope of nailing a creature’s shadow to the floor, thus restricting it. Nice!

The bestiary section sports the CR +2 (less than 9 HD)/+3 (9 or more HD) darkened creature template for full-blown stealth action; The CR 8 devouring hole (nice picture included!) is basically a sentient , really dark portable hole construct…cool idea! And yes, construction notes included.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, for the most part, very good; rules-language, with very few exceptions, is precise and concise, and becomes problematic in none of the cases where it’s slightly glitchy. Most boil down to aesthetics or formatting-consistency. Layout adheres to Drop Dead Studios’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a blend of stock art I’ve seen before and some new interior art; particular the new pieces are interesting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Steven Loftus did not have an easy task here – the Dark sphere is, arguably, one of the less sexy and more specialized spheres. Unless I am sorely mistaken, I have never encountered a book penned by him before, so this does get the freshman bonus – and it is one promising start!!

That being said, what he has done with the material herein must be commended. The added flexibility the new talents provide is a boon indeed; the new options are balanced, interesting, employ cool visuals and, as a whole, make this an amazing addition to the series. Some folks may complain that eh complex engines in the archetypes have some overlap, but that only proves true on a cursory glance: The individual modifications are well-made and math-wise sound.

In spite of my expectations for this book, or rather, lack thereof, this managed to put, time and again, a smile on my face, courtesy of the highly complex and rewarding operations performed herein…and due to the fact that it makes the Dark sphere as cool as it should be – all without just copying and palette-swapping the Light sphere…and all that, while maintaining compatibility with the other books in the series.

Well done, sir!

There are precious few complaints I can field against this; as mentioned before, I consider the thaumaturge CL-escalation a bit too much; the editing could have been tighter. But those drawbacks are mitigated by the cool concepts herein. It is only due to these minor gripes that this misses my seal of approval; my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Nyctomancer's Handbook
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Hark! A Wizard!
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2018 02:04:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, first things first: Unlike most books by Zzarchov Kowolski, this is NOT a dual-stat book. This toolkit is intended for NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival); while there is some value to be found within this for other rules-systems, but in the end, the majority of this books contents NGR-material. I assume familiarity with NGR in this review.

So, what is this about? Well, I think that pretty much any GM has encountered the random wizard issue before. Unlike sorcerers and similar spontaneous casters, the wizard sports a big issue for the referee: The reward-to-work-ratio for making wizards for random encounters and anything other than BBEG often just isn’t right. Making spellbooks and selecting spells is a chore…and with some bad luck, your cool, detailed wizard will be crited to smithereens after one spell…or perhaps before that.

Things get worse when books note “choose xyz spells” or “1d6 random spells” – it honestly infuriates me. Anyways, this book is intended to remedy this issue to a degree in NGR. The first20-entry table contains general grimoire names for wizards to hold on to; after that, we get 8 different tables, 8 entries strong each, with different themes like hedge magic, wizard schools, quasi-religious tomes, etc. – you get the idea.

After these basic titles, we get more in-depth entries for the grimoires: Each of these sport the title, a piece of read-aloud text and mentions the spells contained within. The read-aloud text is often inspired, and it also sports the subtle and hilarious humor of the author here and there: The Book of Aarrrgh… for example is so named due to the supernatural entity bound within, conveniently unleashed upon reading the book… The Rot on the Roots of Yggdrasil talks about the dread MiGo, here envisioned as a demon-god…or is that a misunderstanding? The referee will ultimately decide. Little handbooks, strange astrological tomes on constellations on the Western pole…you get it. Really nice diversity here!

The pdf then provides a brief and succinct write-up pertaining the use of Sage to reverse-engineer the abilities of strange creatures as spells. It’s a third of a page and works perfectly in conjunction with NGR.

The remainder and lion’s share of the book, though, would be taken up by a massive selection of different spells for NGR. They note their respective templates to difficulty, cost, range and complexity and add some further depth to the engine. Take A Master of Constellations, which allows you to set a condition to a spell to activate or deactivate, tying magic to astrological or astronomical conditions, explaining a metric ton of unique complex properties and things you see in many a module…and, obviously, letting players for once use this type of thing can be really rewarding! And yes, toggling on/off can also be done with this one. Generating illusions in a limited square, DR, enhancing items by inscribing earth runes, concealing yourself in starlight…the spells have a subtle aesthetic that hearkens closer to actual real-world beliefs regarding magic, less to the flashy magic-laser-beams…which ultimately makes the chapter feel more alive and evocative. That being said, there are damaging spells – like a conical bee swarm blast (or, well, use Beelzebub’s hellish flies); gaining influence via BFF or, well, there is a spell, where you can conjure forth vents, inflicting nasty disease that may cause the target to return from death as an undead, making great use of NGR’s engine.

Speaking of spells that evoke themes we are familiar with and ties it into the game-mechanics: What about drinking blood under moonlight to replenish mana. Carrion’s Debt Foreclosed can generate undead from carrion eaters and there is a representation of containing spells in bubbling broth or potion, though its power will decrease over the course of time – so yeah, no stockpiling…and power-loss once more ties in perfectly with NGR’s spellcasting engine. Now, a couple of them…well, are intended for mature audiences. Like Congress of Yig – to quote a part of the text: “The spell draws in magical energy from the act of sexual congress with a serpent. Ew.“ Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better, but it does add power…and a level of being despicable/morally transgressive to all those serpent cults that haunt our games.

Mechanically interesting would also be cooled passions, which allows for the indefinite increase of a spell’s duration at the cost of not being able to cast the spell again; alternatively, the spell can be linked to a trigger spell, which can act as a means to end that binding. Thoroughly creepy: Cordyceps Mammalia does the “Last of Us”-move and animates the dead via cordyceps fungi, potentially with free-willed consequences. Yes, I am freaked out by this one. Drawing mana from the plants (Defiler-style), making shadows flicker, delayed force orbs...what about eliminating undead with dust to dust?

Siphoning magic from eggs is also really cool; there would be a spell that helps eliminating mutations at the cost of stress…which may actually hasten the transformation of deep one to hybrid, for example. Funny and interesting: Fireworks of Happyland, which only deal damage on a 1 or 6, with 6s adding more dice for potentially brutal consequences, otherwise focusing on blinding foes temporarily. Temporarily gaining dhampir-fangs and the ability to regain mana via drinking blood is nice.

The Grand Idol of Bhaal allows for the caster to bind demons, djinn, etc. in idols, once more codifying a classic trope within the context of the game. What about Happily ever after, a spell that acts as a trigger based on e.g. a prince’s kiss. Or Influence-based hypnotic gaze, appeals that damage supernatural targets or a spell to remove texts, images, etc. via lost to the ages? On the necromancy-side, we get a spell to animate a target you have personally drained as a vampire…and, really macabre (and some might argue, tasteless), one that animates a stillborn child as an undead. Yeah…personally, I could have done without the existence of this one. On the plus-side, strange spores, calling miniature comets and tapping into the power of e.g. eclipses makes sense and works well.

There is also an advanced locking spell…and Schmetterling (German for Butterfly, just fyi): A flight spell that only allows the target to be attacked in melee by non-fliers as an interrupt. There is a spell to create a portal in the shadow of objects…and one that lets you emit a horrid blast of static, white noise-like shrieking. Oh, and what about locking supernatural targets into the skulls of targets? Yes, they may be alive. Yes, those voices may either be insanity…or dread magic…Calling a hart to the caster, dripping acid…and, well, you get 3 guesses what Toad! does…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on either formal or rules-language levels. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice, original b/w-artworks inside. The pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks, making the use of the pdf pretty handy and comfortable.

Sooo, I really liked Zzarchov Kowolski’s “Hark! A Wizard!” – but I kinda did not get what it says on the tin.

The official description reads: “Hark! A Wizard! Is a generator to give NPC wizards a cohesive set of spells in just a few seconds. It is a useful tool for further lowering the prep required with a game of Neoclassical Geek Revival.” This is not what I got. Not at all.

Did I love the cool modifications and options presented in all those spells? Yeah! There are some gems here. Not all are perfect, but there are some amazing gems here. Similarly, I really, really liked the sample read-aloud texts and diverse ideas for grimoires, making spellbooks feel, well, interesting and creative. The subtle, dark humor of the author makes reading this rules-book actually enjoyable.

But know what? I got this pdf because I expected a generator to make wizards quickly. Are the modifications herein capable of making the NGR-magic rules more versatile and smart? Yeah! They are! They are great. They help you make spells more unique, modify them, etc. Pretty much everything here is really cool…

…but it’s not a way to give NPC wizards a cohesive set of spells in a few seconds/minutes. It’s an expansion of the magic-engine. That rocks. It sports great spellbook dressing. Which once more rocks. However, as a generator to make quick wizards for NGR? Honestly, I don’t even get where that aspect is coming from. It does not really offer that. Beyond the grimoires, it does not expedite the process of making a wizard in the slightest.

As a reviewer, that leaves me in a weird place. Frankly, I should rate this down. Were I to rate this on its merits as a generator, I’d have to pronounce this a failure, at best as a mixed bag. Then again, if I rated this as a spellcaster’s expansion for NGR that adds depth and fun to the already impressive magic system, then this would be a 5 star + seal of approval recommended masterpiece.

The matter of fact remains, though: Not what it was advertised as. While I consider this to be a must-won expansion for fans of NGR, I have to take that into account as a reviewer.

As a generator, I’d consider this to be a 2-star file. As a magic-expansion for NGR, I’d consider it to be 5 stars + seal. In the end, my final verdict will fall in between these, at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hark! A Wizard!
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Monster Menagerie: The Swarminomicon
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2018 02:41:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This deluxe-sized installment of the Monster Menagerie-series clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page introduction, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 49 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Unlike many similar supplements, this book offers some supplemental material employed in the builds, so it makes sense to mention them before getting into the details of the monsters herein. We have a total of 8 different feats: Dispersing Evasion provides the option to fully negate area spell or effect tricks, but requires a full-round action to reassemble on the following round. Swarming Flyby Attack is pretty self-explanatory. Swarming Vital Strike is interesting, as you may determine a single target, doubling swarm attack damage versus the target, not including bonus energy damage etc. The Improved version upgrades that to triple, the Greater version to quadruple; Prerequisites make sense. Swarm Crusher lets you inflict 75% of damage when attacking swarms of Tiny creatures with slashing or piercing weapons; 25% if smaller. The Improved follow-up feat upgrades that to 100% for Tiny creature swarms, 50% versus swarms of Diminutive creatures, 25% versus swarms of Fine creatures. Swarm Spread, finally, lets a swarm use a swift action to expand reach, at the cost of a temporary swarm damage and DC reduction.

The pdf also contains spells pertaining swarms – summon swarm I is a 2nd level spell, with the upgrades going up to VII. Compress swarm makes the swarm fill the space between creatures, decreasing space, but providing increased damage and DC. Swarm malady adds poison to swarms and swarm wall, well, makes a wall of a swarm. Cool!

Now, as many of you know, I love swarms – swarms and troops are something you’d encounter in pretty much any PF-campaign I’m running. The tactics they require and the concepts are something I enjoy. The swarms herein range from CR ¼ to CR 20, which means that pretty much any group is likely to find some material here…but does it hold up? Well, we begin with the Assassin Swarm (CR 18), who gets massive sneak attack versus targets…and yes, these assassin bugs, specifically bred as killers by nasty druids, do get killing attacks…ouch! Know what happens when you attempt to create a male penanggalen? Something delightfully icky…the CR 7 bowel swarm that can attempt to replace the organs of its victims. See, in a lesser book, this would just be a necromancer’s experiment, but here, the contextualization adds another dimension – surprising what you can do with a bit of flavor. This is not the only creepy swarm herein, mind you: The CR 9 ghost swarm can proclaim utterances of doom and ride along within hapless victims; the Cr 6 gibberings warm makes for a cool idea for a phase two form of a mouther –based boss. Really spooky at CR 12: The shapechanging morphic swarm is an excellent hunter and utterly weird. At CR 20, pestilence swarms are things that herald the end of the world if they’re not stopped…good luck with that. Minor complaint here: The swarm employs unholy damage, which RAW does not exist in PFRPG. What about phalanges (CR 14), swarms of hands, still cognizant of arcane energies, now focus on spells…yeah, that should be a nasty wake-up call when the PCs expect wimpy crawling claws and get hit by hand-spells… The Cr 4 gloom swarm, with its light-dimming, can make for a surprisingly nasty foe in conjunction with the undead.

Beyond these, we get the CR 5 caltrop swarm – and, much like all construct-swarms herein, we get creation notes for the swarm. It should also be noted that such construct-like swarms include the innocuous ability, which allows such swarms to remain inconspicuous. It should also be noted that both caltrop swarm and chainlink swarm (CR 6) come with variants for further customization, something that btw. also applies to the CR 7 wire swarm and the shard swarm at the same CR. Sans variant, but no less cool, would be the filament swarm, result of an attempt to create monofilament weapons with magic. Also somewhat in line with potentially science-fantasy aesthetics would be the gravitic swarm (CR 11) that can exert control over gravity for potentially really nasty surprises for PCs…and players! The CR 13 glyph swarm would be a more far-out magical construct – susceptible to erase, capable of cannibalizing symbols and capable of using them quickly and in a deadly manner. Really cool one! What about sentient and usually lawful ki swarms, which sprang to life from ki-infused training materials, roaming the land in search for worthy adversaries? Yeah, that is damn cool. Players will hate the metal-consuming CR 13 adamantine mote swarm. Have I mentioned the CR 14 portal swarm that can teleport parts of you away, thus ignoring DR etc.? Of course, the regimented swarm at CR 12, creature of law and chosen foe of chaos, makes for another cool critter. We can also encounter good or evil toy soldier swarms (CR 5). The CR 8 spikeleaf swarm is a nice plant creature, though, in direct comparison to some of the creatures from the Deadly Gardens-series, it is a bit straightforward. Same goes, to an extent, for the tangelweed swarm at CR 3, though the low CR does make this one interesting and a valuable addition to the GM’s arsenal.

Are you looking for something more down to earth? What about the CR 2 electric eel swarm? The CR ½ firefly swarm? Or the incredibly adorable CR ¼ puppy swarm? Yeah, the “Adorable” is an actual thing here! Scum swarms would be aquatic, plant-based sludge and there is a CR 2 resin swarm that can attempt to encase targets in amber, entangling them first and then trying to suffocate them. There obviously also are creatures herein that can be classified as distinctly magical, steeped in the creature-contexts of the system. Take e.g. the CR 6 wisp swarm, air elemental wisps that can 1/day stun targets or choke its victims. Or what about the symbiotic ferromites (CR 5) that can inhabit rust monsters? Yeah, that is one damn cool idea! The CR 9 grifter imp swarm can steal a ton of items at once; At Cr 8 ice crystal swarms generate a biting cold and may even erect ice walls. The creatures on the cover? That would be the protoyughs, adding a cool component to the life-cycle of the otyugh. Some creatures that die spawn vengeance swarms (CR 15) instead of channeling their spite into becoming undead, a strategy that also is a favorite of hags, just fyi. There also would be a CR 11 flesh-dissolving ooze swarm…and what about the CR 12 entropy swarm, which has potent defenses (non-illusion 50% miss chance), starflight and may dissolve limbs? Oh YEAH! On the lower end of the CR-spectrum, the fatigue swarm (CR 4) can make for a great accomplice for sleep/dream-themed foes and represents an uncommon undead.

On the more whimsical (but no less deadly) side, we also sport fey, like the chordic swarm – music notes turned sentient, with discordant abilities to hamper foes and the ability to buff allies. At CR, the needle drake swarm, with its persistent cloud of stingers, is an intriguing twist on the concept of dragons and a light-based scintillating sprite swarm finally covers all basics you could want. My two favorites herein, though, would be the CR 14 swarmic infiltrator, the evolved form of the morphic swarm, a deadly, intelligent foe that can coalesce into humanoid shapes...and an utterly frightening monster. The temporal swarm, out of sync with time and studded with uncommon abilities would finally be another gem I will definitely use.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level: While I noticed minor hiccups in both departments (missing blank spaces, etc.), they are relatively few and far in-between. Layout adheres to the Grimoire-style 2-column full-color standard of Rogue Genius Games more recent books, making the pdf aesthetically pleasing, but also not particularly printer-friendly. The pdf sports several nice full-color artworks in Jacob Blackmon’s signature style. If you absolutely want an artwork for every creature, you may be slightly disappointed – most of the swarms come sans artwork. The pdf comes with non-nested, but very detailed bookmarks to the individual creatures.

Mike Welham is one of the authors who only very rarely disappoints me; his name on any given supplement is usually a very good indicator that I’ll enjoy what’s inside and this hold true here as well. The critters herein sport a variety of unique signature abilities that set them apart, many of which doe mechanically interesting things, often in creative ways I haven’t seen before. So yeah, the mechanics skill is there. While I did not reverse-engineer all critters herein, I did pick apart some and noticed no glaring issues in that department.

Beyond that, the skills of the seasoned monster author do show: Animal swarms feel like animals; constructs are geared towards functionality when intended as such; leitmotifs are maintained and in the brief paragraphs of flavor text for the creatures, we often add an imaginative and creative context for the creature, placing it in the fantasy worlds we explore. These may be small components, but they do serve to enhance the critters beyond what they would have been in the hands of a lesser author. These subtle extra flourishes are what makes you come up with ideas on how to use and place these monsters, in the cases where a dry statblock alone wouldn’t have sufficed.

In short: After the excellent installment on troops, the series’ deluxe-sized swarm-tome delivers big time. It may not be 100% perfect, but it is a very, very strong book, one very much worth getting, as the amazing components vastly outshine in both quality and quantity the few minor glitches. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Menagerie: The Swarminomicon
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Battlemage's Handbook
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2018 02:39:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion-book for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a nice bit of introductory prose and some notes on how to use this book, we begin with the new class options presented, the first of which would be the combat engineer alchemist, who replaces alchemy with being an Int-based Mid-Caster and a spell pool of his level + int-mod, with each level granting a magic talent and War sphere as a bonus sphere at first level. The archetype gains alchemical engineering, which focuses on creating so-called devices, which are single-use alchemical items used to enhance sphere talents, working per default only with totems, though that may be rectified. Using a device expends a use of the bombs class feature, but unlike bombs, devices do not need to be created beforehand and are used as part of the action activating the talent. Devices that enhance sphere abilities that are attaches to targets necessitate a touch attack with the device to do so. When the engineer uses a device, he can add 1 modification, + another one for every 4 class levels thereafter, culminating at 5. (It should be noted that some modifications count as multiple modifications.) At total of 12 such modifications are provided and include having to save twice, making the sphere ability conveyed as though a bomb. For 4 modifications, the device may even create sphere abilities the engineer doesn’t know – he still has to meet the prerequisites. Better MSD and fuses complement an interesting array, and we also get very shorthand-style discoveries that list, somewhat oddly, their prerequisites in the discovery-names, which also are bolded. Needless deviation here, but ultimately cosmetic. The discoveries are cool and tie in with other spheres as well as including a reduction of multiple-modification-costing device costs.

Next up would be the Dark Presence eliciter, who gains the War sphere and treats his CL as class level and increases the save DC of the sphere by +2 (same bonus applies to the three social skills), which also increase at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter by +1. This replaces persuasive. 3rd level nets Soul-Piercing Gaze. The archetype gains custom hypnotisms, the first of which makes the target lose Dex-mod to AC for one round on a failed save. 4th, 10th, 16th and 19th level provide confusion, non-lethal damage, nauseating (sickened on a successful save!) and hopelessness, replacing the inspire greatness/heroism, liberate and reverence abilities. The capstone allows for the expenditure of multiple hypnotism uses to affect multiple enemies within a totem’s area – cool one, though I wished that sort of interaction came sooner. The divine heretic warpriest is a Cha-governed Mid-Caster, with class level + Cha-mod spell pool and a magic talent each level. He gains Steadfast Personality at 1st level, using Cha as the feat’s governing attribute and two spheres as domain spheres, one of which must be War. He also gains Totemic Aura as a bonus talent and the Personal Conflict drawback, no drawback if he already has the War sphere; if both are already possessed, he instead may choose a War bonus talent. The second sphere is freely chosen and domain spheres employ class level as CL. Fervor is modified to allow, as a swift action, expend a use of a sphere ability with a casting time of 1 round or shorter, and the ability thus enhanced may only affect the divine heretic and his equipment and effects that move with the character work as well. Ongoing effects are extended by Charisma modifier rounds. This replaces fervor and, in essence, makes abilities that target others or multiple targets personal instead – system-immanently, this is an ability I’d keep a very close eye on, as it is pretty wide open; not broken per se, but definitely an ability that should receive some GM oversight.

Instead of channel energy, 10th level yields domain mastery: Expend 2 fervor to add a magic talent for a single sphere use, with the talent chosen from domain spheres. When used in conjunction with fervent casting, this costs no additional fervor. The capstone nets a 1/day swift action ability to use an unlimited number of self-targeting sphere abilities to target himself or equipment, but spell-costs are retained.

Next up would be the ghost sovereign soul weaver archetype, who replaces Heal with Knowledge (nobility). 2nd level nets a linear ability progression of royal commands that can influence ensouled creatures. The basic buff sports a layout relic, a blank box, as an aesthetic aside.. Higher levels let you cause critters to attacks others; causing others to move, buff bonus upgrade…nice. The 18th level ability to use a standard action to execute a “full-round attack” –this may be further expanded by also allowing for movement by also expending a move action – per se interesting, but also very strong…and potentially bring for the player. This replaces blessings and blights., 4th level nets the option to call forth twilight courtiers, undead designed per Conjuration + undead Creature. 8th level provides totem/mandate-less rally and requires, like calling courtiers, soul expenditure. The capstone allows the character to be whisked away temporarily to the afterlife and to auto-resurrect with negative levels. These sovereigns also have their own twilight kingdom, made with Create Demiplane – interesting!

The Iron mage hedgewitch adds Intimidate, Knowledge (history) and knowledge (nobility) and 4 + Int skills per level. The archetype has good Fort- and Will-saves, poor Ref-saves and loses one tradition. He does gain the War sphere, at class level equal CL with it and a bonus feat with a limited choice-array. The archetype gains casting ability modifier authority points per day, which also represents the maximum cap for them – they behave somewhat like grit, but also take allies into account. Thankfully, they cannot be kitten-cheesed. Iron mages may use a command 1/round; use of a command when it’s not the iron mage’s turn instead consume next round’s command. It would not do the archetype justice to just make it out to be grit-like, though: You see, the ally caveat allows for more reliable regaining of points, and the commands, which are gained in a linear manner, interact in interesting ways with both totem and mandate. Minor complaint: E.g. answer the call lacks the italicization of rally. Plus-side: Moving totems, moving allies, temporary momentum points…damn cool (and more on that later. The archetype also provides an array of tradition secrets, which interact in similarly interesting ways with the base engine of the class – my favorite archetype herein so far: Interesting, unique and meaningfully different playing experience.

The war hero fighter also gets a kind of fleeting resource – greatness, which may, interestingly, be also replenished with breaking shields, succeeding saves, etc. Cool here: Anti-kitten-abuse caveat included! Here’s the interesting component: While not becoming a spellcaster per se, the war hero can, whenever he achieves greatness, trigger an aura, which may duplicate spell point cost-less talents or Totem of War, with higher levels granting totems, multi-aura activations, etc. – nice representation of the gloryseeker and certainly more interesting than the base. The wardmage mage knight is basically a bodyguard-style archetype that may intercept attacks on warded creatures, replacing 1st level’s talent. Resist magic is replaced with a variety of virtues – these are interesting, but sometimes a bit weird: Dedication costs a standard action, for example, and allows the character to make an unlimited amount of such intercepting attacks, which can become ridiculous pretty fast; just picture how war would look between these fellows. It would have been more feasible to us a hard, scaling cap of additional intercepting attacks here. Still, there are some cool tricks here, including ones that reward having specific spheres. 7th level provides another interesting angle here, allowing the target of an attack to be marked, treating any creature the target attacks as warded. This replaces marked and mystic defense is replaced with scaling DR versus enemies intercepted.

The final archetype would be the warmonger symbiat, who replaces Fly with Bluff as class skill and gains a variant proficiency list. He gains War Sphere and Totemic Presence and the Personal Conflict drawback; as usual, already having access to the sphere cancels out the drawback and alternate choices for those that already have the gained options are included. CL is equal to class level; totems have a 60 ft.-radius and allies within the radius may expend momentum from the archetype’s pool. Instead of trap sense, we get a scaling initiative boost, and he gets the option to change weapon damage of allies…which is interesting. Highly problematic: Doubling a successful attack of an ally as an immediate action. So, god-strike, crit-fisher ally and you = double ridiculous damage. Not getting anywhere near my game, particularly considering that the already very potent second attack doesn’t even require line of sight or a roll, which is a bit puzzling, considering that the higher level abilities are potent, but weaker.

The pdf then sports an array of new class features: We get 3 new armorist arsenal tricks, which include substituting casting ability modifier for Strength or Dexterity when wielding a bound/summoned weapon, for example, as well as new special weapon qualities – which are not properly formatted. Eliciters can now choose two new emotions loyalty and resolve; the former is cooperation-focused, while the latter focuses on buffing allies. 10 new mageknight mystic combats include spell point based enhancement of attacks as though using sacred weapons, sharing a mandate versus marked targets or potent swift action assaults can be found: Full BAB-attack with class level as bonus versus marked targets are pretty strong.

Anyways, we also get 3 new rogue talents (once again, oddly formatted), which may sound not like much, but they’re all killer: Not only do they sport interesting interactions with mandate and (rally) talents, they also have an option to be treated as ally for the purpose of a spell, SP or sphere ability – which is pretty amazing. However, this does not cancel being treated as an enemy, which can result in some really wonky interactions. Similarly, limited amount of target abilities and the talent, how do they interact? Can the rogue hijack another’s place? No clue. I really like where this is going, but RAW, it could have used some further gestating.

Then, we begin with the heart and soul of this pdf, namely the magic-section: The War sphere’s talents are codified in various categories that are defined properly; totems (distinguishing between totemic aura and fixed totems), rallies (immediate action ally buffs for targets in totem-range or affected by a mandate), mandates that exist between two characters and there are (momentum) talents, which may be used as a standard action by spending a spell point, granting a momentum pool for 1 hour per CL, holding caster level + key ability modifier points that may be employed by allies within 30 ft. – easily my favorite component of the sphere’s mechanics, btw. – neither activating the pool, nor using it generally provokes an AoO, btw., making this party-driven resource really cool. Momentum, per se, is amazing, let me state that loud and clearly – and the talents offer e.g. the option to use swift actions and 3 momentum to grant yourself another attack at the highest BAB – which brings me to a peculiarity of the book: The bonus-attack-granters, exceedingly potent, universally stack with haste, an interaction that should not work according to PFs regular paradigm. It doesn’t have to break your game, but in the hands of a skilled powergamer, these options become pretty shredder-prone. Particularly since aforementioned momentum talent does not have a minimum level or similar limiter.

Don’t take that the wrong way, though: While I do consider these components to be problematic, there are also a lot of really cool tricks that made me smile: Fast healing/regeneration-suppression via totems, using momentum to demoralize, counterattacks after misses – there is a lot here to love, even before adding benefits to rallies. Minor complaint: I did notice, for example, a reference to the Escape Artist skill not capitalized properly. Also weird: Half of page 23 is blank, making it look like there’s an artwork missing and some text cut off – it’s not, but it generates a somewhat unpolished look there. On the massive plus-side, subverting charms and compulsions, quicker totem movement, buffing negative energy…there are MANY really cool tricks here that made me think of quite a few fun character concepts, like sharing movement, etc. The advanced magic section is rather brief and focuses on attaching totems to vessels or buildings; here, just fyi, the italicization is also not consistent.

The pdf also contains more than 50 (!!!) feats/drawbacks. These include bonuses to Intimidate (not properly capitalized in the pdf) after using a War sphere ability, forbidden lore/totem.crossover, several Dual Sphere talents (like rally allies in wards or dismissing an aegis to reduce the spell point cost of a rally), using Combat Stamina as a spell-point substitute for basic (rally) talents, to be precise, for rallying yourself – which is the only thing that saves this from being OP –Stamina as a replenishing resource acts as a delimiter, so care should be taken if/when building on this. Using spell points as part of a full-attack to replace the first attack with a sphere or supernatural attack is an impressive feat, and one that manages to get its high-complexity verbiage done properly. Synergy between banner and totems, regaining points spent on a self-rally, and a whole array of feats that build on Squadron Commander, which basically establish a collective (the squadron), allows the PCs to gain increased benefits from totems and do so cool stunts…what about e.g. a high-level totem-upgrade that makes foes fade and become less real, treating others as incorporeal? Yeah, that is pretty damn cool.

Beyond the huge feat-array, we also get 6 nice, meaningful traits, 3 generic drawbacks and 4 sphere-specific ones. The pdf also sports new magic equipment – one of these would be the selfless armor quality, which can be used to inflict nonlethal damage to the wearer to grant buffs, which is really cool, since only a full night’s rest helps recover it, making for a per se glorious set-up – unfortunately, the item lacks the caveat that it should not work for creatures immune to nonlethal damage. A shield for amateur interception and 4 different war staff properties can be found. We get banners imbued with totems and there are rally-items – to avoid cheesing, you can only use one of them per 24 hours: Kudos!! And yes, there are stone spheres, which, bingo, serve as mandate items.

The bestiary section sports the blood brothers template (CR +2), which sports a couple of tricks – weird: There are no blank spaces between words in any of the trick-names, which makes sense for some, of them, but not all. Still, throwing your ally, making a miss into a feint for the ally…cool. As a balancing mechanism, these may btw. only be used once per combat – people don’t fall for them twice…usually. (Insert my rant against “per-combat” making no sense in-game here…)

The pdf closes with a page of Player’s advice – which, oddly seems, to reference material that has since been renamed (or not yet released), making the page a bit weird.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on both a formal level and rules-language level, are not as tight as usual for Drop Dead Studios. There are more formatting issues and minor hiccups than usual, but at the same time, rules-integrity manages to juggle highly complex concepts. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf employs solid stock art, as well as quite a few artworks that are probably original, since I haven’t seen them before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew J Gibson’s battlemage’s handbook has me more torn than any previous Spheres of power-expansion. On one hand, this book does a phenomenal job of providing amazing engines for the War sphere, an upgrade it certainly required. On the other hand, the pdf, more so than usual, feels like it could have used some additional editing and development. The options here, while cool, often feel a bit weird in internal and external balancing. Spheres of Power is already a wide-open system and the couple of unlimited use-tricks and the synergy tricks need careful monitoring. The explicit stacking of swift action full BAB-attacks with other options and haste also represents an escalation that I don’t consider to be necessary…and potentially unpleasant. Considering that Spheres has a built-in options to differentiate between lower-key and more high-powered gameplay, this component in particularly feels like it could have been handled more elegantly.

In short: While the War sphere needed a power upgrade, this handbook imho overshoots the target-line and comparing power-levels of some options, it looks a bit like some minimum-level-requirements etc. were lost or not implemented. The book, in short, ends up closest to the shapeshifter’s handbook in power-level, a development I consider somewhat troubling for the series, considering that Spheres of Power’s original selling point was to feature more toned down, non-vancian casting.

That criticism out of the way, from a mechanical perspective, I absolutely ADORE the engines employed herein, even if I disagree with some details of the respective implementations. While I wholeheartedly disagree with several balancing-decisions herein, there are plenty of solutions that I like. Similarly, evocative combos, cool tricks, flavorful, high-difficulty crunch – you can find all of that in here. In short: If this had been a bit more streamlined in the dev-department, it would have been my favorite Spheres-expansion so far, bar none, perhaps even Top Ten candidate-level. However, the rough patches and editing/formatting hiccups that make this feel a bit less polished, do drag it down from the level of excellence that this would otherwise represent. In short: This is a very good file, but one with rough patches that a GM should be aware of; my final verdict is 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Battlemage's Handbook
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Everyman Minis: Mesmerist Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2018 04:49:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction, we get two new spells: Mindshock (2nd level) laces your attacks with psychic energy that adds +1d4 nonlethal damage due to pain; critical hits cause the target to be confused for 1 round, which is pretty strong, considering the absence of a save to negate. That being said, immunity to mind-affecting or pain effects or critical hits prevents the confusion. The spell has another caveat that makes it balanced for the spell level: A target can only be confused by a single casting of the spell once per day. This limitation is crucial and very much appreciated. Well done. The second new spell would be phantasmal flagellant, which, depending on the class, clocks in at 3rd or 4th level. I love this spell, as it fills a rues-hole I always disliked intensely: It is basically a pain-based version of phantasmal killer that inflicts scaling nonlethal damage instead. Descriptors and scaling are perfect and neat…however, there is one rules-relevant inconsistency that, alas, influences rules-integrity: On a failed save, the target takes nonlethal damage, becomes exhausted and drops unconscious. On a success, damage is halved and the conditions are negated…but the condition mentioned here is fatigued, not exhausted. Sooo…which one is it? Sequence would make me think exhausted is correct, but fatigues imho would make more sense.

Okay, those two out of the way, let’s discuss the feats. It should be noted that, in spite of the respective names, only one feat herein has the Stare-descriptor, which is important, considering that only one stare-feat may be applied at any given time, at least if you do not have Compounded Pain.

So, what do the feats do?

-Agonizing Glare: Adds 12 pain-based spells to spell-list, some with metamagic hard-baked into them. They are also considered to be spells known. If you don’t have the metamagic feat in question or know the spell, you may only affect creatures currently targeted by your hypnotic stare, and sans gaining the benefits of hypnotic stare for them. Learning them properly later allows you to cast the as usual and hypnotic stare applies.

-All-Seeing Sight: Adds 8 divination spells to your spell-list and spells known, but with the same hypnotic stare restriction as before. Locate object can only find objects in range in the possession creatures that you have targeted with hypnotic stare; the same limitation applies for clairaudience/voyance. As you may have gleaned, this does not require that you currently target them, making establishing a network of such beings rather interesting…great tool for investigations!

-Burning Stare: Choose electricity or fire; half damage of painful stare thereafter can be turned into that energy type. May be taken twice to gain both energy types.

-Bright-Blazing Stare: Requires burning stare, which means that the 3rd level prerequisite, same as the Burning Stare-feat, makes no sense. That should be higher. Anyways, if a target takes 1 fire or electricity damage, they take -40 to Stealth versus your Perception (important!) for 1 + your Cha-mod rounds. Multiple instances reset this duration. Furthermore, the target of a Burning Stare, regardless of whether it takes damage, must succeed a Will-save or be outlined as per faerie fire until the start of your next turn, meaning that the penalties apply globally, not just to avoid you. And no, they don’t stack with one another.

-Kindling Glare (Combat, Stare): This is another upgrade for Burning Stare, and it unfortunately suffers from the same weird prerequisite-glitch as Bright-Blazing Stare. When using Burning Stare to inflict fire or electricity damage on a target, you inflict +50% damage, as though the target was vulnerable to the energy type. It does not stack with actual vulnerabilities. Additionally, inflicting fire or electricity damage via the Burning Stare feat requires the target to make a Fort-save or contract vulnerability to the energy type for one round.

-Imperious Stare: Cause targets to avoid their gaze from you for 1 round on a failed Will-save, granting you total concealment versus the target. The type of this effect is properly codified. Kudos!

-Majestic Stare: Follow-up feat for Imperious Stare; when a target fails its save against Imperious Stare, it also can’t approach you further for 1 round, duplicating the effects of antipathy. Cool: If a creature fails its save by 5 or more, they also have to prostrate before you, dropping prone, unable to rise. Amazing!

-Wrecking Stare: Whenever the target of your hypnotic stare attempts to save versus pain effects and fails, you can activate painful stare’s effects as though the pain-effect caused damage. If the source is a mesmerist spell you can cast, you inflict damage as though you had made a successful attack and were using painful stare to augment it instead. Big kudos for getting the tightrope-walk of a rules-language construct regarding the second effect! If the triggering effect causes nonlethal damage, you may elect to make the damage caused by this feat nonlethal as well.

-X-ray Stare: See creatures targeted by hypnotic stare up to 20 feet away, through solid matter- Different material densities are provided and interaction with obfuscating elements, are noted. Handy!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are generally very good on a formal and rules-language level; apart from the two issues I noted, which unfortunately influence rules-integrity (though the prerequisite glitch is de facto just aesthetic). Layout adheres to the printer-friendly two-column standard of the Everyman Mini-series and the one artwork presented is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Clinton Boomer is one of my favorite feat-designers. I have seen him write feats that literally make, by sheer virtue of existing, thoroughly amazing character concepts possible. If anything, there are two complaints I could field against them: They tend to be very specific, and they usually end up on the higher side of the power-level. The feats in this book are more broadly usable, but that doesn’t mean that they lose the high-concept impact I expected from them; They juggle complex concepts within a pretty complex engine, all while making me think of cool ways to use them. I am absolutely certain that pretty much all feats herein will see use in my games at one point, making this, at least to me, an all-killer, no filler supplement.

That being said, no matter how much I like this supplement, the fact remains that we have glitches that influence, in minor ways, the rules-integrity of two components. It is only this minor imperfection that ultimately costs this my seal of approval, though both can be rectified by any GM out there. If you don’t mind these, consider this to be a 5 star + seal pdf. If you do mind, then consider it to still be an excellent file, at 5 stars, which also represents my official final verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Mesmerist Feats
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2018 04:47:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What once was a lush forest inhabited by brutal savages, is now a desolate windswept moor where the waters of Blackraven Creek burrow into the acidic, infertile soil. Haunted by will-o'-wisps attracted in times long gone by, the plain is now home to peat-diggers - a harsh folk that reflects the unpleasant environment they live in. The anxiety of the populace is almost palpable, as the locals await a doom most dire.

Unbeknownst to them, one greedy individual has struck a pact with the dread will-o'-wisps and the resulting tragedies have not managed to warm the local folks to strangers. It should be noted that this version sports a properly modified marketplace section of minor magic items to get.

Beyond brief notes on the diverse population that includes the best and worst of people (including proper references to 5e NPCs), we have the usual 3 village lore entries that players doing their legwork can unearth. Beyond these, we also get a write-up of local appearances, dressing habits and nomenclature, we also get the traditional 6 whispers and rumors. Similarly, no less than 6 different events can be used by the GM to establish the proper mood. Big kudos: The special moonshine that is sold in town comes with proper 5e-effects.

Now, in Pathfinder, we got a sample statblock – in 5e, we instead gain something I actually prefer: A massive ½-page table depicting uncommon will-o’-wisps. These creatures are no less deadly than their common brethren, but they seem to prefer a more…specialized diet…like folks that drowned, that became insane, etc. – each of these sample wisps comes with a brief, fluff-only entry that makes each of them a great potential antagonist for an investigation…and if you combine them, you can challenge even experienced players! (The modification of the rules is btw. dead simple, though the pdf does point out how to proceed there.)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Okay, my first impression was "Oh yeah, another swamp/moor"-village - but know what? This is VERY distinct from anything you'd expect in a SWAMP. While Jacob Trier's village works with the tropes, it also subverts them -no degenerate fish-people, no voodoo cults, no looming lizard-men, instead painting a picture of a village of hard-working people that cover the broad experience of humanity and morality, suffering from a climate of fear invoked by some vile individuals. Fulhurst Moors may not be a nice place at first glance, but it can be the town where, once the loyalty of the populace is earned, the evil rooted out, PCs may find haven even if hunted by the king. Remote and believable, with a rich history to develop and hooks galore, Jacob Trier's village is great. Jeff Gomez’ additional design has made sure that the 5e-version is just as worth getting as the PFRPG-iteration, perhaps even a little bit more so. All in all, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Creator Reply:
I'm delighted you enjoyed this village so much, End! Thank you for the review.
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2018 04:46:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What once was a lush forest inhabited by brutal savages, is now a desolate windswept moor where the waters of Blackraven Creek burrow into the acidic, infertile soil. Haunted by will-o'-wisps attracted in times long gone by, the plain is now home to peat-diggers - a harsh folk that reflects the unpleasant environment they live in. The anxiety of the populace is almost palpable, as the locals await a doom most dire.

Unbeknownst to them, one greedy individual has struck a pact with the dread will-o'-wisps and the resulting tragedies have not managed to warm the local folks to strangers… It should be noted that this version sports a properly modified marketplace section of minor magic items to get.

Beyond brief notes on the diverse population that includes the best and worst of people, we have the usual 3 village lore entries that players doing their legwork can unearth. Speaking of the NPCs, and since some of my readers are consider that a pet-peeve: Nomenclature-wise, some characters are referred to by names like “rogue” and “wizard” instead of “thief” or “magic-user.”

Beyond these, we also get a write-up of local appearances, dressing habits and nomenclature, we also get the traditional 6 whispers and rumors. Similarly, no less than 6 different events can be used by the GM to establish the proper mood. Big kudos: The special moonshine that is sold in town comes with proper effects tailored to old-school gameplay – kudos!

Now, in Pathfinder, we got a sample statblock – in the system neutral version, we instead gain something I actually prefer: A massive ½-page table depicting uncommon will-o’-wisps. These creatures are no less deadly than their common brethren, but they seem to prefer a more…specialized diet…like folks that drowned, that became insane, etc. – each of these sample wisps comes with a brief, fluff-only entry that makes each of them a great potential antagonist for an investigation…and if you combine them, you can challenge even experienced players! Now, in the system-neutral version, it would have been nice to get some slightly different suggestions when compared to 5e, since the rules-lighter games tend to e.g. not differentiate between damage types, or at least, to a lesser degree, but that is me nitpicking at a high level.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Okay, my first impression was "Oh yeah, another swamp/moor"-village - but know what? This is VERY distinct from anything you'd expect in a SWAMP. While Jacob Trier's village works with the tropes, it also subverts them -no degenerate fish-people, no voodoo cults, no looming lizard-men, instead painting a picture of a village of hard-working people that cover the broad experience of humanity and morality, suffering from a climate of fear invoked by some vile individuals. Fulhurst Moors may not be a nice place at first glance, but it can be the town where, once the loyalty of the populace is earned, the evil rooted out, PCs may find haven even if hunted by the king. Remote and believable, with a rich history to develop and hooks galore, Jacob Trier's village is great. Jeff Gomez’ additional design has made sure that the system neutral version is very much worth getting, in spite of my nitpicks. My final verdict for this version will hence clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors (SNE)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Creator Reply:
Thank you for this review, End. It is much appreciated!
Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2018 06:26:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

Okay, as always with these modules, you don’t necessarily need Mists of Akuma to run them – all necessary information is provided, though personally, I definitely recommend them within the context of their setting. In this book, we get the stats for the Adeddo-oni. As far as other stats are concerned, we get two wielders of portable cannons, a powerful cursed shikome (hobgoblin, armor covered in prayer slips, who can broadcast radio waves and comes with notes on the Kodoma-Tachi chapter!) and more. As an aside: I have no idea what a leap speed is supposed to be – and the hobgoblin write up doesn’t specify. On the plus-side, we get 4 new tsukumogami, and the Fukō oni, who comes in two iterations. Once more, we also get a pretty potent legendary item, which. Once more, is sentient…and potentially thus rather troublesome. All in all, quite a bunch of new material!

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Once more the powers-that-be recruit the PCs via a missive found in an unlikely place; with autumn in the air, the PCs must travel to Kyusokuna, and there, find Hanashichū Grove – preferably without running afoul of the local taboos regarding tech. To reach the grove, the PCs will have to cross a massive suspension bridge, where they will, of course, have to deal with rather potent adversaries (serviceable map included) – and they should better not tary. Becoming lost or falling off the bridge may end up being late…something that is rather frowned upon in Soburin. (As a German, I can relate…)

Once they have arrived at the designated spot for their clandestine meeting, the PCs met the nature-wielder, here on behalf of Lord Sukochi. The task sounds simple: End the troubles at Shibai. It’s not. All the monks of the titular temple have been found dead or missing, and an oni is haunting the village. The famous, cannon-wielding Mubō Brothers have been hired to deal with the issue, but they are deemed to be heretics and too incompetent to solve the issue. The PCs also hear that the settlement was founded by a potent wu-jen and yamabushi, and is considered to be a safe haven from the feared mists of akuma – loss of the area is not acceptable. (As an aside, yes, we do get random encounter suggestions.)

Once the PCs arrive at Shibai, they walk into chaos – a full-blown adeddo-oni attack must be thwarted, which is also the first chance to interact with the rather unpleasant cannon-wielders. Once the chaos has been subdued, the PCs will have a chance to start to loathe the brothers before talking to the mayor, who, after being initially dismissive, warms considerably to them once the PCs flaunt their mission. The fully mapped settlement is at the slope of a steep hill, with heights noted on the map – kudos! The mayor tells the PCs over tea (somewhat of a lost chance for Culture-checks…) about the situation – and indeed, the constant monster assaults represent a ticking timer…the PCs should better hurry!

Ultimately, they will have to investigate Róbai Shita temple – and worse, the brothers will try to smear their names when they set out for the temple. Speaking of temple: The place is fully mapped (2 levels) and, while the maps sport no scale, it is easy enough to assume the default 5-ft.-grid. The maps are rather detailed and can be cut up and used as hand-outs, which is a big plus. Somewhat odd, though: The ground floor of the temple has the functions of rooms noted, while the basement is wholly spoiler-free. Just an observation, mind you – I’m good with the presentation. While the exploration of the temple requires a bit of GM panache (in the absence of room-by-room-read-aloud text), the exploration should elicit a bit of creepiness nonetheless…and upon their return from the temple, the brothers will attack, trying to secure their spot as top dog problem solvers.

The battle will rage, but before one side can claim a decisive victory, the monstrous ukō intercedes with a whole array of deadly creatures in tow. In the chaos, the brothers should manage to get away…and even if bested, the monster seems likely to return. Thus begins a bit of an investigation, which comes in two difficulties – simple and hard; the added difficulty version in particular is something I’d recommend to add a further sense of urgency to the investigation; turns out that an ambitious couple has taken the yūrei-fū wind chimes from the depths of the temple – and, well, they are not necessarily going to just give up on them or their ambitions….and the brothers may pose further issues.

In order to stop the troubles that have beset the village, the PCs will have to venture down into Róbai Shita’s dungeon, which is as much dungeon as it is a colossal accumulation of tsukumogamis! Once more, we get basic room descriptions (no read-aloud text) as the PCs venture through the dungeon to the catacombs. (Once more, the dungeon has room names included, while the catacombs don’t; once more, the maps are pretty detailed and scale-less, but perfectly usable). Placing the wind chimes back where they belong will have the PCs duke it out with the undying monster once more – if they succeed, they’ll have saved the town, hopefully with proof regarding the plot behind the wind chimes and their theft!

It should be noted that the pdf does come with a handy 1-page list of local rumors, which add some local color to the proceedings.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are pretty good, I noticed no big problems regarding the rules and structure of the module. Layout adheres to Mists of Akuma’s busy 2-column full-color style, which manages to fit quite a bit of material on a given page. Artworks are a combination of nice full-color pieces and public domain art, which, in combination, has evolved into a rather distinct style I personally rather like. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is probably the best in the Mists of Akuma-modules – the maps are detailed, interesting and can be used as cut-up hand-outs.

Mike Myler’s “Scourge of Róbai Shita Temple” is perhaps the most easily plug-and-play module of all the Mists of Akuma-adventures I’ve read so far; it can be used in other contexts without major reskinning, which is certainly somewhat helpful. That is, however, also the weak spot of the adventure: While distinctly belonging to Mists of Akuma in style, themes and aesthetics, it is a slight bit less unique than my favorite, “Fangs of Revenge”, which I consider to be my personal favorite among the Mists of Akuma adventures.

That being said, I am not judging these modules by my taste, at least not exclusively, and this adventure is well-crafted…and easy to run. Where “Fangs of Revenge” can feel daunting at times and is aimed at experienced GMs, this one is much easier to run and represents a nice investigation with creepy locales, antagonists that the PCs will love to hate, etc. – in short, this is a very well-rounded module. The alternate suggestion for a more difficult investigation is very much appreciated as well and shows a level of extra thought that I certainly appreciate.

While this adventure doesn’t reach the tension of “Fangs of Revenge” or the covert-ops-assignment against the scorpion samurai, it is a module that should work well as an introduction to core tenets of Mists of Akuma, horror-gaming and, well, the leitmotifs of the setting. In short, I don’t have much to complain about here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. (Experienced GMs should definitely check out “Fangs of Revenge”, though – That one has potential galore and could be the start of a mega-adventure/series…it may be a bit too ambitious for its scope, but if you can write sequels, it’s amazing…)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Everyman Minis: Patriotic Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2018 04:28:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 9 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we begin with 5 new traits, which include being a supporter of a rebellion against an occupying force (and a +1 save bonus to one save chosen), having the ear of a powerful individual (tie-in with Fame-rules), knowing particularly much about your home (translating into skill-bonuses to two Knowledge skills), +1 skill rank and a bonus to Profession (soldier) for being a true shield of your people…and there is one trait that makes you a regional symbol and hence allows you to request small sums in goods and services. All of these traits are well-crafted, meaningful and have proper roleplaying tricks. No complaints.

Beyond these traits, we also get two different story-feats (YES!): Ambassador nets you Knowledge (local) & (nobility) as class skills and with a bonus, with a further bonus if you already have them as class skills; the goal is to broker a major treaty or accord and, yes, this is very much a feat for the faces and similar characters who strive to lead not only by force of weaponry. Cool: We have Skill Challenge Handbook synergy for verbal duels and influence skill challenges!

The second story-feat would be Patriot, which nets you a 3/day +2 morale bonus on ability checks, atk rolls, initiative, saves, skill checks or weapon damage rolls while in the chosen region. The goal is to save the region chosen or supporting it with a hefty donation – upon completion, the bonus increases and becomes more potent versus overt enemies of your nation. Oh, and additional uses. I assume that this self-granted bonus is not an action and that it must be announced before the roll is made, but clarification here would be appreciated.

We also receive two new vigilante social talents. The first would be Patriotism, which requires that you choose a nation you lived in for 5 years; in that nation, the vigilante’s social identity can mix and mingle with government and military, improving their starting attitude to friendly if at least indifferent. The vigilante identity may be loyal to the nation chosen or oppose it, which determines the bonus gained by the vigilante. The second talent would be the Improved Patriotism, which nets social skill bonuses and Knowledge bonuses. On the vigilante identity side, we have diplomatic immunity for loyalists or an escalation of skill-boosts for those opposing their nation – interesting material that reminded me of plenty a masked diplomat/symbol in various forms of media.

The final piece of crunch herein would be the turncoat vigilante archetype, who is locked into loyalist as the 1st level social talent, choosing home country and feigned country – the latter is the opposed country. Instead of unshakeable, 3rd level yields the option to change the feigned country 1/month. Instead of the appearance ability tree, the archetype provides startling betrayal at 5th level: When attacking a creature that considers the turncoat an ally, the creature gets a Sense Motive check: On a failure, the target is so baffled, he becomes flat-footed against the vigilante for a minute, with all attacks against the turncoat penalized. At 11th level, helpful NPCs, instead of having a higher DC, automatically fail this check and the effect gains a 30 ft.-radius range of outrage…indeed, even a whole crowd could thus fall to the betrayal of a turncoat. At 17th level, creatures with an attitude of unfriendly or better may be affected, making it really hard to not be suckered in by these guys.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on a formal level and the rules-language is tight. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s nice two-column standard with a white background and the full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza’s patriotic options are cool: While the social tricks are not necessarily world-shaking, they are interesting and made me recall a long-time plan of a campaign focusing on fantasy warfare and diplomacy that I’ve been wanting to run for ages…but I digress. This is a well-made, interesting supplement, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars – well done!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Patriotic Options
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2018 03:49:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This NPC-collection clocks in at a massive 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 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.

All right, so, first things first: Not all goblins herein are regular goblins; instead, some employ rules from the Moar Goblins-pdf by Dire Rugrat Publishing. It should be noted that all rules taken from that book that are employed herein. This makes the goblins significantly more diverse and interesting and no, you won’t have issues using this book sans Moar Goblins. This book does provide a bit of a teaser for it and provides stats for the Tokoloshe snare trap, the nacht kabouter and the grindylow…and harpoons.

Now, as far as challenge-range is concerned, the material herein ranges from challenge ½ to challenge 12. The presentation of the numerous goblin NPCs herein is detailed: We get the name at the top of the page, a brief summary of the character (like “Goblin Exile, self-imposed”), a brief quote and then, extensive notes on the background-story of the respective NPC – so no, these are not fire-and-forget NPCs, they are proper, fully developed characters. The characters are presented by ascending challenge, beginning with the lowest challenge and moving up the scale.

What type of character can find herein? Well, the first fellow (aptly described by the summary mentioned above) is a goblin who a) is not much of a fighter and b) despised the lack of civility in goblin society; a survivor with boundless optimism, Zazutk Grimheap is anything but grim and sports something I really like about Dire Rugrat’s books: The lack of cynicism and generally…sense of a latent optimism suffusing their books. Sure, the fellow is basically an information broker, but he wants manners and is a pretty happy fellow.

That should not mean that the goblins here are all looking for a hug-party and acceptance, mind you: Take Wottle Skrimjaw, grindylow chief. This fellow is NOT nice. Then again, he is somewhat lazy, which makes for a nice roleplaying opportunity/rewarding of legwork done right. “Yeah, you shouldn’t go in that territory…but if you do…” It’s small bits like that, which make characters feel alive. It should also be noted that quite a few NPCs herein come with suggestions on how to use the character, but that as an aside. While we’re at the topic of tribal leaders: Grunko Whitemane would be one such fellow, one who is particularly adept at felling larger foes…oh, and if the name was no indication, he is a tundra goblin. And yes, the modifications to create rank and file tundra goblins have been included here. A dreadlock-wearing Pukwudgie chieftain, Tiponi, is a strong woman, the first to lead her tribe, in fact!

Next up would be Neeha of Banga Pracira, a rather charming gudro bonga lady…which brings me to another point that may be of interest to you, particularly if you’re new to Dire Rugrat Publishing’s supplements: The NPCs often sport their own signature abilities, often ones that go beyond the obvious defaults, which can add an interesting angle even to characters which usually, challenge-wise, would not pose much of a threat. Speaking of gudra bonga: Vaishikof Gartakara Rupa (challenge 2) (the place is once incorrectly called “Gartaka Rupa”) is an interesting specimen, as his protectiveness and stout build may make him seem almost a bit dwarf-like, while his uncommon heritage and the abilities granted by it add an interesting angle of the supernatural. While we’re on the subject of these, perhaps one of my favorite goblin subspecies: Eakogs Clutternugget is AMAZING. But let me explain: Each goblin herein gets his/her own full-color artwork, which is impressive in and of itself. The goblin merchant’s artwork rocks. However, it is his FUNCTION, which is the draw. Are you running an extensive wilderness/dungeon-campaign and the PCs can’t restock sans 2 sessions of traveling/running? Enter this fellow! Much like e.g. the merchants of Resident Evil 4, for example, he can show up at opportune moments and help out with just the right tools…which he obviously may have stolen somewhere, so potential further trouble can be set up thus as well.

Of course, aforementioned level of playfulness can take a potentially sinister tint – take Royce Mapplethorp, the mighty (challenge 2) goblin herald, whose fightsong is really potent for his allies. Minor quibble here: Only being able to hear as a limitation for its benefits is pretty strong – personally, I’d include a maximum number of targets affected or range-restriction here…otherwise any halfway decent group will get him a magical megaphone sooner or later… But I digress. This fellow may be basically a potent mascot, but he is not necessarily a nice guy… Speaking of which: Know what happens when a rather psychotic goblin kills a cosmonaut that has just injected him with a nanite solution that links him to a central computer? We get a really smart psychotic goblin, who goes on to make a blade that returns to him…and urns mercenary…after all, this vast knowledge at his beck and call can be applied creatively to all manner of topics…Yeah, shades the blade (challenge 6) is a creepy, creepy fellow.

Sometimes, folks are born that are different; most of us have felt that way at one point and for a few of us, this experience of otherness has changed our trajectory in life. Rilidyx Fastbutton is surprisingly good-looking by the standards of most folks…other than goblins. Her mother did not have an easy time, basically being slutshamed for ostensibly consorting with an elf…and after she vanished, Rilidyx ventured forth to find her place in life, charismatic, alluring and surprisingly deadly. Speaking of deadly (and much less pleasant): Fargrakle the despised, at challenge 5, would be a goblin necromancer who specializes in…animating crawling claws. Yeah, this fellow is creepy…

At challenge 3, N’tambu would be a tokoloshe, who is rather unique and no longer bound to serve vengeance seekers. He can drink water to become invisible and is exciting as a redemption story of sorts, one that celebrates the triumph over what one could consider being doomed to be evil. A child of nature and the representation of an almost obligatory trope, Wrelx would be a Wolfrider. Yes, he comes with stats for his wolf. Know what the name of the wolf is? “Grr.” Yes, they have unique synergy tricks. And yes, that name put a smile on my face. Picture it: “What’s the name of your companion?” “Grrr!” “No need to become aggressive, I just asked what his name was!” “Grr!” XD

Call me juvenile, but I can see that in my mind’s eye and it makes me smile.

Also something of a tale of just desserts would be that of Mekan (challenge 7), a former goblin guinea pig for his cruel master, who managed to turn the tables, becoming a fearsome fire specialist in his own right. Oh, and he can delay his magic in a type of spell-like bombs. Ouch.

The trope of the possessed godhand can be found in Flubboks Hugemitt, a goblin, whose right hand has grown to an enormous size and demonic sentience…oh…and Strength 20. Your PCs won’t be laughing about this goblin… Nix takes the idea of the blue (the blue-skinned psionic goblins known from previous editions) and takes a bow to the concept without requiring the introduction of psionics per se, as the mighty Nix behaves as a self-styled deity of the local goblins, with mind blade and potent defenses. Nice nod! She is not alone: Her sibling Zub makes for a deadly second half to the duo, only that his talents manifest as powerful spellcasting…

And then, there would be the final NPC. Koning. King of the Nacht Kabouters – legend to most, doom to many. He comes with no less than 3 lair actions, multiple (properly formatted!) legendary actions and the challenge 12. Oh. And, you know. He knows everything every single nacht kabouter on the same plane knows. Yes, he does have means to be defeated and weak spots – but PCs will probably have to be pretty clever to best this potent foe! As an aside: His missing cap, his weakness…the character’s stats made me immediately come up with an adventure sketch, where woefully underleveled PCs have to best him with brains, rather than brawn…it’s always a good sign when reading a critter makes me immediately have an idea for a whole module…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as a whole, are very good, though not perfect on formal and rules-level. As a whole, you should not encounter serious issues here. Layout adheres to a printer.friendly two-column standard with a white background; the statblocks sport parchment-style color-backgrounds to differentiate them. The artworks deserve special mention: There is a ton of them and I haven’t seen most of them before, which is a big plus. There are some original pieces within as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I’ve really come to like Kelly and Ken Pawlik’s style. There is a positive core to their writing, something deeply human that manages to elicit a sense of joy without being naïve or bland. The characters herein are diverse and feel plausible. They are not just soulless fire-and-forget statblocks and they steer clear of the clichés…and even when such tropes are used, they are employed in a sympathetic manner. It’s hard to properly describe, but it could boil down to a sense of empathy with their fictitious creations. You can relate, in some way or another, with quite a few of them, with their motivations and characters. The NPCs herein are relatable and diverse…and frankly, I enjoyed them much more than I expected. There are a couple of real stand-out NPCs in these pages and the price-point of 5 bucks is really fair for the amount of content you get; the bang for buck ratio is rather great here. So yeah, this comes highly recommended, particularly in conjunction with the slightly less impressive Moar Goblins-pdf, if only so you know about the unique goblin-subspecies the Dire Rugrats have dug up! (without it, the pdf loses a bit of its appeal – not much, but a tiny bit of it.) My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval; a well-made NPC-codex and hopefully, not the last!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 61 to 75 (of 3493 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates