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The Fen of the Five-Fold Maw
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/07/2015 02:30:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 93 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I was a backer for the KS of this module, but otherwise was in no way affiliated with the creation of this module.


Before we get into the meat of this module, let me briefly point something out - this book does sport 4 nice feats for swamp dwellers that allow for devastating uses of the terrain. The adversaries herein, often with pretty complex builds, sport statblocks more detailed than usual, meaning you won't have to do much book-switching and also sport pretty extensive (lethal!) tactics. Finally, it should be noted that panthagators, stirge swarms and carnivorous giant lily pads are included as new monsters here.


While there is a chase card-deck for use with this module, it does not require the purchase of this deck - the book does provide regular playing card substitutions, though the chase card deck does facilitate using this particular scene. The Pdf's brutal encounters sport scaling advice and the book also sports handy milestones that show a GM when the PCs may be underleveled for a particular challenge. The book also sports Laying Waste-compatible rules for the respective combat encounters - awesome!


All right, so, this being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


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Players, seriously, don't spoil this one.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Now that only GMs are around, here's how we begin this module - with hooks. Surprise, right? Kidding aside, the extent of detail these hooks utilize goes beyond what you'd usually expect to see - when e.g. a mad hermit spouts a cryptic prophecy, that prophecy is not only represented as a hand-out, it is delivered in a thick vernacular/sociolect - and there is ANOTEHR hand out that sports the "translated/deciphered" version...and that's not where it ends: The book actually has a clearer, third version the PCs can glean via magic - and that is represented as a hand-out as well. If you're like me, that fact alone (and the wonderful, cryptic threat included) should be enough for you to choose this one, though the others aren't bad either.


So, the PCs are traveling to the town of Wyvernglynn, an isolated outpost of civilization amidst the damp and hostile Sorrowfen swamp - and even of their way to the place, they'll be struggling, for the very first encounter with the lizardfolk that constitute the primary antagonists herein is pretty brutal and should initiate a kind of grudge-reaction...and allow a chance for PCs to turn their tails and run, for it only gets more brutal from here on out.


The town of Wyvernglynn is fully mapped and utilizes a map fans of Raging Swan Press' Village Backdrops-series may know - perched precariously behind balustrades on an island in the midst of a river at the edge of the swamp, this place certainly is not a cozy one - indeed, the Germanic-looking populace is many things...friendly is not one of them. After the local guardsmen are done with their "We're in charge, foreigners!"-routine, the PCs are free to take sidequests and research - and indeed, the settlement has been more isolated than usual, with caravans taken out obviously being the work of the raiders the PCs encountered....which is odd, for usually, the lizardfolk stick to themselves and only partake in internal struggles. The local inn's keeper, one Ostler Giodianus, also seems to be hiding something and asks for a subtle meeting if the PCs do their job well - he confides in them, telling the PCs he's being blackmailed: His daughter is missing....and indeed, the lizardfolk have a spy in town, the lethal assassin Thrazzeem, whose build is BRUTAL. The whole research and potential capture of this potent foe is btw. depicted in lavish detail, including sample read-aloud texts for GMs less comfortable with improvisation.


But sooner or later, whether the PCs defeat, kill or ignore this supreme foe, they'll have to enter the Sorrowfen...and it is here that the module pulls no more punches: The Sorrowfen has entered my conscious as one of the most compelling, unique environments I've seen in my whole gaming carreer: With brutal terrain-based repercussions (Flight = bad idea), predators galore and strange light pointing the way, this is the single best rendition of such a terrain I've seen in a module. While the town already managed to capture the hostility and grime I love in dark fantasy modules, it is with the almost sentient Sorrowfen and its unique ecology that the module truly becomes inspiring: If the mist-choked, lethal swamp and its predators, which the PCs will navigate by moving from giant lily pad to giant lily pad (each of which may be carnivorous...) is not yet enough, if the rules-relevant limitations have not yet blown you away and driven fear into your PCs, then the encounter with the local old woman oracle may just do that.


The "kind" Ol' Mamma Nis, presumably an oracle that guides kids lost out of the swamps does make for a slightly chilling visit: She tells the PCs about a staff, unearthed from dread ruins, sunk in the swamp, which now is wielded by the lizardfolk to dread effect and asks the PCs to bring the staff to her...and yes, this is a bad idea, for in her hut, the missing daughter of Ostler is awaiting the disguised hag's tender claws. This encounter proved to be an exercise in oscillation: The Pcs will arrive with suspicions, then be taken in by her stew (If they eat it...horror later...) and perhaps, realize that something is fundamentally wrong: Oh, and much like Thrazzeem, she is a TPK Games-boss with unique tricks, lethal powers and a build that can send wimpy players crying for their momma. This is a pro-module and Ol' Mamma Nis pulls no punches. She also constitutes the single best classic hag-encounter I've seen so far, with the grisly truth hiding just beneath the surface. Brilliant.


Speaking of which, since I thoroughly have to emphasize that: The Sorrowfen itself will be the enemy for the PCs, the most lethal component: With ruthless random encounters and terrain features, its properties span multiple pages, sparing you the need to swap books, while generating a terrain that most certainly will have PCs reminiscing about that cozy dungeon crawl on the graveyard the other day. It's that good.


But the Sorrowfen is not only about random encounters, the module also sports a significant array of unique, planned encounters - the PCs have, for example, the option to establish an alliance with a tribe of grippli...or destroy this tribe's sacred totem for Ol' Mamma Nis - in either way, the PCs may leave this one with unique totems and/or a stained conscience. Within the swamp, the PCs may also seek out the half-sunken ruins from which this odd staff was taken, potentially allowing the PCs to piece together some clues from the troubled past of this item...and encounter yet more unique foes.


Sooner or later, though, the PCs will have to get to the lizardfolk settlement, where they have multiple approaches - Stealth is problematic; force as well...and if the PCs go in with a truce-flag and want to see the tribe's "god" alongside the shaman, then help them whatever patron deities they may have: For, foolhardy PCs will then stand, surrounded by lizardfolk-onlookers, on a cluster of lily-pads, when the massive, regenerating, serpentine heads with their breath weapons and regeneration break the surface - the eponymous Five-Fold Maw is a brutal, mythic boss that ranks among my favorite boss battles in any module. It's also exceedingly BRUTAL...and it's not the end. You see, violence does not help and even if the PCs manage to win, they still have to escape the lizardfolk's territory with the staff - while a brief insurrection buys them enough time to run, they'll be a long, long way from home...and a long way from either Wyvernglynn or Ol' Mamma Nis' hut.


Which brings me full circle to the beginning of this review: The aforementioned, deck-based chase is different from any you've run: You see, it's a chase than spans multiple hours, one that represents the PCs literally trying to evade capture against overwhelming odds in a terrain that is simply brutal at least 21 challenges...and it is one that can be slightly confusing due to a bit of information being lost in the final version of the module's chase rules. Thankfully, the information's out there, so for your convenience, should you choose to get this, here's what's missing:


" The Lizardfolk Horde (army) marker moves after all PCs have had their chance each turn. It will move onto the first Chase card at the end of the third turn after the PCs begin moving. It will advance one Chase card each turn automatically, unless the Chase card it is on says that it loses a turn. Many individual lizardfolk will be doggedly keeping pace with the PCs and harassing them (as represented by the Encounter cards), but if the Lizardfolk Horde marker catches up to any PC, that PC is considered killed or captured, at the GM’s discretion, and is removed from further participation in the Chase. However, that event holds up the Lizardfolk Horde marker and causes it to lose a turn, so PCs may realize that they have the option of sacrificing themselves to give the PC in possession of the staff a better chance to outrun the horde. Lost turns are cumulative with multiple PCs on the same card and cards that automatically cause the horde to lose a turn.


If at any time the players decide to end the Chase and make a last stand, the GM is free to play that battle out as s/he sees fit.


If any of the PCs successfully advance through 21 Chase cards, they have arrived at the hut of Ol’ Mamma ‘Nis. Go to that section of the adventure for information on how to run that encounter.


If the PCs elect to bypass Ol’ Mamma ‘Nis’ hut and run straight for the walls of Wyverglynn, they must successfully advance past 24 Chase cards. Go to that section of the adventure for information on running that final battle."


---and when the chase ends, the PCs will be fatigued and tired...and depending on their choices, they may have to defeat a hyper-lethal boss and/or a horde battle against the lizardfolk brave enough to hunt them to Wyvernglynn for a thoroughly compelling finale...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are, for the most part, pretty good, though here are some minor violations of rules-language herein. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard in swampy green in the pdf, while the softcover, alas, is only black and white - which is a pity, for, quite frankly, the copious maps and the artworks herein deserve to be in color. Regarding maps: Unfortunately, the pdf does not sport the maps as big versions you can easily print out, nor are there player-friendly versions, which is another strike against the book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I actually recommend the pdf version over the print this time around.


Skip Twitchell and Brian Berg have created a module that sports an awesome atmosphere, but one that is also deeply flawed, the missing chase-scene information and the lack of player-friendly maps...


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I can't do it. F*** my nitpicking routine here, it doesn't do the module justice.


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Yes, this is a flawed book with some serious rough edges. It's also one of the best modules I've had the pleasure to run in a while. This is a downright brutal module for the pros, for the players who want a challenge; this is a module for all the fans of dark fantasy and unique locales; this is a module for everyone asking for a big, nasty wilderness module; this is a module for those of us that love the grit, the darkness, the brutal challenge that only few modules can provide.


How good is this book's prose, how awesome its atmosphere and terrain implementation, how deadly are the bosses? Well, in a lesser module, the flaws I mentioned would have me smash the book to smithereens and detract at the very least two stars. I can't bring myself to do this to this module. Even in TPK Games' canon of awesome, deadly modules, this one stands out. Much like Frog God Games' Cyclopean Deeps Volume I, this may not be a mechanically perfect module, but it more than makes up for it in its strengths - the bosses rank among the best I've seen in a published module. The Sorrowfen is downright awesome in its visuals and nasty properties. The whole, concise atmosphere generated and the savage, relentless, unforgiving, yet fair difficulty make this a module that, in spite of its glitches, belongs into the library of the discerning GM...or at least into the library of some of you out there.


If you're very picky regarding the aforementioned issues, then give this a pass, but know that you'll be missing out on a very GM-friendly, challenging, awesome module, perhaps even the best swamp module currently available for PFRPG. The fact that even an anal-retentive, nitpicky bastard like me takes a look at the book, scowls, run it, and then says "Screw it, this is awesome!" should tell you something about how good this damn beast is. I've been struggling with myself here - on the one hand, I should rate this down for its short-comings; on the other hand, I want to keep on gushing about it for even more pages than I already have. Ultimately, what made me make up my mind is the fact that the map-issue, while annoying, is not as bad as with some other modules: Being mostly site-driven and happening beyond the confines of a battlemap, their importance is somewhat diminished. Also, this is a module, not a crunch book, so mechanical precision is a bit less important than in a crunch book.


How to rate this, then? You may well call me a hypocrite, seeing how rigorous I usually crack down on the lack of player-friendly maps or issues like chase-info missing mentioned above. I am all too aware that I ought to penalize the module for this. But I am also beholden to my passions and it is this passion (or so I hope!) that I manage to transport in some of my reviews, the passion which I hope, from the bottom of my heart, you, dear readers, share. I am very passionate about this module. I absolutely adore this book. I love it. It's absolutely glorious, evocative, challenging, well-written and unique. It's an accumulation of almost everything I love in a module and a prime example of the level of difficulty and variability I look for in such a beast. In short - I can't bring myself to rate it down. I really, really can't. If you're like me and, at the end of the day, want a book written in great prose, unique environments, deadly foes - the whole deal - then this is 5 stars + seal of approval for you. As a reviewer, I need to scratch that a bit as a concession to the book's objective flaws, no matter how great I think this is - hence, my official final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars + seal of approval...and yes, I'm rounding up here. ;)


One final note: With more editing, player-friendly maps and sans the chase-glitch, this would have made my Top Ten-list of 2015. I wouldn't even have had to think about whether to include it or not. Thank you for bearing with me through this rambling diatribe...now book your trip to the Sorrowfen and watch players gaze in wide-eyed fear at what you throw at them...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Fen of the Five-Fold Maw
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Campaign Events: Masquerade Ball
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/07/2015 02:27:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first installment of Raging Swan Press' new campaign events-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, masquerade balls there are a couple of scenes in a given GM's arsenal that boil down to being simply awesome and memorable - in my case, one such experience was a time loop masquerade ball that required the PCs to not be noticed by all previous incarnations of their previous runs of the time loop. The adventure was one of the most challenging I've ever run, not simply because of the time loop premise, but also because of the ridiculous level of detail required for the proper depiction of a masquerade ball in the first place.


If I had had this pdf back then, I would have had a much easier job - for example, we begin with a 50-entry table of sample masks - from elegant masks of lions to veined marble make-up, the list is diverse and cool - but we're talking fantasy here. Hence, the second table, covering 50 entries as well, sports magical masks for the truly decadent: From snapping crocodile's jaws to live squids you can wear or multi-hued bubbles, it is here that the book lights a whole array of idea-fireworks, with unique enchantments and mechanical benefits just being asked to be added to these masks.


Beyond that, though, two more tables provide the finery we really want to see - 50 entries for male and female costumes span the gamut of inspiring ideas, from dresses made all of pearls to insubordinate duplicates of the regent's attire and military attires as well as stylized dragon costumes, this section is downright awesome.


Of course, anyone that has tried to run a masquerade ball knows that, while costumes and the like are interesting, what truly makes such an event difficult, ultimately boils down to the number of people required to properly pull the event off - and here, a massive, fluff-only table of 50 entries provides in spades - from half-orc wizards on staff to use mending and prestidigitation to fix costumes on the fly to disguised gnomes in the clothes of a roast pig, decadence and fun seep from each and every entry - and yes, there are obvious foils included in here.


Conclusions:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes with two versions - one optimized for the screen and one for printer-use.


Kat Evan's Masquerade Ball is a pdf I did not look forward to reviewing, mainly because I do believe that masquerade balls are hard to capture in their style - and on one hand, this pdf spectacularly succeeds: As a dressing-toolkit, this is pretty much the apex of what can ask from a pdf on the subject matter and it is a great buy. At the same time, I do believe that the subject matter covered would have vastly benefited from a more in-depth coverage. What Do I mean by this? Disguise-DCs. Sample entertainments. Sample dances and mini-games - the whole party-shenanigans, would have made this a pdf I'd use for years to come, a book of pure awesomeness. A more thorough blending of fluff and crunch with GM-cheat-sheet-tricks and mechanical tidbits could have made this a prime candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.


At the same time, I'd be an unfair reviewer, if I did not acknowledge the level of quality and detail of the fluffy bits that are here - and these still warrant a final verdict of 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Events: Masquerade Ball
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The Sharpe Initiative: Earthgouger
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/07/2015 02:25:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of 13th Age Monthly clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's...wait.


Wait a second. This is actually a small module, so from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


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All right, only GMs here? Great! Remember my review of "The Strangling Sea"? Well, the PCs may have made the acquaintance of notoriously unreliable and downright nasty inventor genius Inigo Sharpe. Well, the dwarven explorer Greta Silvervein has found something - a massive construct, but none of the regular folks knows how to get it going. Enter the famously obnoxious genius, who promptly deciphered the thing to be one of the missing earthgougers from the 10th age. With trademark arrogance, Inigo botched the activation of the construct, slurring his umlauts and the resulting catastrophe was only exacerbated by the derro entering the fray.


So that's the task - get rid of the derro-issue and then reactivate (properly!) the earthgouger and move it back to the tender care of Greta. Sounds simple, right? Alas, nothing is too simple when the derro are involved - from traps to their own insane tactics - you see, the problem is that, even with more care, the machine is hard to control...and more derro and a vast chasm loom alongside a special boss, depending on the primary icon that employed the PCs - servants of the archmage get a different boss than those of the dwarven lord - nice! (Plus, sadistic GMs can throw more than one boss at the PCs...)


It should also be noted that veterans of "The Strangling Sea" will have a some nice Easter-eggs and follow-up options going on here.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to 13th Age's 2-column full-color standard with nice full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Cal Moore's short scenario here is a nice, fun romp with some pretty cool adversaries and a fun, fantastical mission/back-drop. Particularly if players have played "The Strangling Sea," at which point the small nods and follow-ups become some much more rewarding. That being said, I really wished this sported as least a small schematic map of the area/earth-gouger - while the dimensions become apparent from the text, the fact remains that this nice module felt a bit more opaque than it would have been with a proper map.


This does not make this brief module bad, mind you - though I wished the non-combat challenges and piloting the earthgouger would have gotten a more detailed success/failure/control-mechanism. All in all, a nice, inexpensive module well worth of a final verdict of 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Sharpe Initiative: Earthgouger
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Revelry in Torth
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2015 03:47:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 4 pages editorial, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let's check this out!


This book was moved forward in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for an unbiased and critical review.


All right, so, from the get-go, let me make one thing perfectly clear: This is not a module in the traditional sense...or rather, it actually is. What do I mean with this cryptic statement? Basically, this is a wide open sandbox, like some of the best Frog God Games, Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Raging Swan Press offerings - what we have here is basically a mini campaign setting, suffuses with encounters and adventure hooks to develop and pursue - and it is actually better off for it, but more on that later; first, let's discuss why this setting is unique.


The world of Torth is not a nice place - beyond Kort'thalis Publishing's emphasis on the mythos and its dark deity-like entities, the first thing a forlorn traveler will note as he arrives on the dunes of these wastelands is the absence of the sun, for, generations ago, the most powerful magic-practitioners of the world utilized the very sun to annihilate the android uprising that sought to end mankind; ever since, Torth's eternal night is illuminated by the 7 moons, which also feature in the way locals measure the time. With the catastrophic cataclysm, the dragons of old vanished and the world would have been doomed to suffer an eternal winter, but thankfully, the planet houses vast catacombs wherein arcano-technical supercomputers generate sufficient heat to stave off this dire fate...at least for now. With civilization in ruins, new settlements have arisen from the bleak sands and one of said cities would be Aryd's End, where the lion's share of this module takes place.


If that sounds awfully scifi for you, then probably because it is...or can be. The emphasis on the technological aspects is subdued enough and one can, should one choose to, alternatively run this as a straight homage of Robert E. Howard-esque Sword & Sorcery - indeed, the cover's rendition of the ruling trio of Aryd's End should drive home pretty well that, beyond the dark aspects in both theme and world-building, this very much could be a place you can find in a given novel by the old greats f the eminent genre. From a fluff-perspective, the general sense of immersion is significantly enhanced by the inclusion of well-structured information on what current Torthians know, which also includes the aforementioned means of tracking time and popular sayings that help depict the natives with sufficient local color.


Compared to other Kort'thalis Publishing-supplements, the supplemental rules provided do feel more streamlined and refined: Two character kits/archetypes are provided with the Shadow Priest and the Wandering Minstrel. Both have in common that they no longer focus exclusively on a narrative function and instead manage to provide abilities (like permanently turning a foe into a shadow, destroying him...until the intervention of another shadow priest...) that drive narratives in an intriguing manner, while also sporting more details: AoEs and a more precise rules-language show the growth of the author. Beyond that, it is my happy duty to state that, beyond OSR, 5th Edition aficionados will have an easy time converting and running this one: With Dis-/advantage and similar terminology strewn in, conversion work is rather simple and fast, particularly regarding the numerous storied magical items featured in this book, which coincidentally also constitute one of my personal highlights in this book: Take e.g. the trident sandstorm, once aligned with the seas, that can now control the very sands. The new spells provided herein suffer, comparatively, a bit from more ambiguity, but radical subjectivism's option to eliminate an item from the perception of those subject to the spell, to give you one example, is pretty awesome.


Now before I go into the spoilerific sections of this review, let me talk about one component: This module is billed as "mature content" and I understand why: Much like the traditional Sword and Sorcery genre, it is a brutal, dark world that is depicted here. At the same time, I never considered the offering excessive in either violence or sexual content - none of the artworks, for example, depict nudity. In fact, most music videos nowadays sport more. As a German, I do not share the experience of cultural sexual stigmatization, but still - I quite frankly have wracked my brain for quite a while and couldn't come up with anything within these pages that could be considered offensive. Sure, it's dark, but Game of Thrones is literally more violent and sexual. Perhaps I'm odd, but I've grown up with Conan-tales and comics and as such, am of the firm conviction that this module should not be considered problematic in any regard. So no, we have neither offensive, nor gratuitous sexuality or violence here - they are themes, of course, but the module handles the whole matter tastefully.


All right, that should cover the basics, onwards to the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! This sandbox assumes the PCs will enter Aryd's End via one way or another - and, in its dust-choked streets, it will be only a matter of time before the PCs are drawn into the Byzantine power-games that are played here: 4 tribes with customs etc., one more savage/problematic than the other, esoteric schools and 3 secret societies follow their agendas in the streets and behind silken curtains, as the masked revelers of the city follow they debaucheries and excesses. Within the alleys and roads of Aryd's End, mysterious stranger with golden masks may warn you of Shaitan's brotherhood; you may witness (or even participate) in the conspiracy-driven murder of a noble and be framed for it - and there is so much more to find. The rumor-table sport hooks galore and beyond the walls, giant oozing slug-brains that enslave minds, scorpion-squids and lethal tentacle-armed gorillas await foolish adventurers as just the perfect supplement to their diet.


The streets of Aryd's End are no less dangerous, though - suffused in the tradition of Lovecratiana, the influence of the mythos, from the Yellow King's court to Carcosa, can be felt within the post-apocalyptic streets - but only if you know, where to look. Depending on your tastes, the very world may be o a timer, as a mad sculptor seeks to complete a statue that will usher in the rise of the dread Old Ones and end the world of Torth...and trying to stop him may see you killed in a horrible way...or not. Taking a note from how magic is handled in traditional Sword & Sorcery, there is also the intriguing local drug market to contemplate - where vastly improved arcane power is just one highly addictive drug away...certainly, said drugs have catastrophic repercussions sooner or later, but judging from the former adventurer-junkies, not everyone with magical talent sports common sense.


Speaking of the tropes of classic Sword & Sorcery - it is only a matter of time before capable adventurers like the PCs have to come before barbarian king Dran, his beautiful partner, the seductive Yara (who doesn't wish to ruin her figure - hence her hand-maiden is pregnant...with what may or may not be Dran's child) and the mysterious shadow priest Viraj - let's hope the PCs heed the local custom and attend the audience appropriately blood-spattered and they may actually survive the powerplay going on between the powerful figures at the top of Aryd's End's food-chain...heck, they may even survive a dark elf assassination attempt, if they're capable and lucky! And sometime in the future, who's not to say that they may sit upon that throne themselves, much like a certain Cimmerian?


Perhaps the PCs will also have their chance to stop a berserking head of a summoned elder deity, sent as a magical assassin for some creatures...and in the desert, they may either test their mettle and wits or even begin a relationship with none other than the beautiful Idryssa the Worm Soceress. Of course, more heroically-inclined adventurers may test their mettle against the kidnapping plan of one of the aforementioned secret societies out in the desert...or they may inadvertently awaken the echo of one of the legendary 7 casters of old, upsetting the power-dynamic of the whole region - but all of that, and more, is ultimately up to the players and GM: The seeds are here; the details will happen.


3 well-drawn maps of mini-dungeons partially used in the hooks of this sandbox are btw. also provided in this book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, both on a formal and rules-language level, they are more precise than what I've read before by Kort'thalis Publishing - kudos! Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the book sports copious absolutely stunning b/w-images strewn through the book. The pdf version f this book has no bookmarks, which is a significant comfort-detriment - I strongly encourage you to get the softcover instead: Beyond the glossy covers, it is a nice book to have in print...and more comfortable to use that way. As mentioned, the cartography provided for the mini-dungeons is nice.


The previous offerings I've read by author Venger As'Nas Satanis are suffused and informed by a thoroughly old-school adherence to heavy-metal aesthetics, spiked with copious amounts of Lovecraftiana, Sword & Sorcery and gonzo weirdness. The latter component is less pronounced in this one: Basically, "Revelry in Torth" is a pretty serious setting/module that could have featured in just about any of the classic tales: The writing is superb, the local color sufficiently raw and the vast plethora of things to do, of threads to explore, renders this book significantly more useful than what you'd expect from a book of its size, with the eye-winking here mostly pertaining nods towards the mythos and other classic tales - like in the original stories.


The blending of subdued sci-fantasy aesthetics, mythos, Conan-esque imagery and post-apocalyptic set-ups is sufficiently unique to lend this its own identity, without restricting its adaptability regarding e.g. the Conan-setting, the World of Xoth or even more mundane fantasy worlds, though, in the latter case, I'd still advise for a plane/world/time-jump: Much of the awesomeness of this book derives from the excellent ideas and local color provided for Aryd's End.


So no complaints apart from the pdf's missing bookmarks? Unfortunately, no - there is one thing I truly would have wished for: A map of Aryd's End. As depicted, and this may be intentional, the city and its revelries feel opaque, hazy, dream-like, almost - a bit like an opium-fueled nightmare between wonder and horror, ecstasy and terror. While a proper map would have somewhat lessened this component, it would have also helped GMs envision the sandbox as a whole, helped kicking off the sandboxy aspects by giving the map to the players and asking: Where do you go from here? Now the good thing is that this is intended as the first trip to Torth, with at least two more waiting somewhere down the line - so we may yet see that.


Still, do not let this deter you from checking this out - even as a scavenging ground of fluff, this is worth the fair asking price: The visuals conjured forth are intriguing and unique and any fan of dark fantasy and sword and sorcery in particular can look forward to this book being a great read. My final verdict hence will clock in at 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only due to the lack of a city's map. For the electronic version, please detract a star due to the lack of bookmarks...I really recommend the print over the electronic version for this one.This module clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 4 pages editorial, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let's check this out!


This book was moved forward in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for an unbiased and critical review.


All right, so, from the get-go, let me make one thing perfectly clear: This is not a module in the traditional sense...or rather, it actually is. What do I mean with this cryptic statement? Basically, this is a wide open sandbox, like some of the best Frog God Games, Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Raging Swan Press offerings - what we have here is basically a mini campaign setting, suffuses with encounters and adventure hooks to develop and pursue - and it is actually better off for it, but more on that later; first, let's discuss why this setting is unique.


The world of Torth is not a nice place - beyond Kort'thalis Publishing's emphasis on the mythos and its dark deity-like entities, the first thing a forlorn traveler will note as he arrives on the dunes of these wastelands is the absence of the sun, for, generations ago, the most powerful magic-practitioners of the world utilized the very sun to annihilate the android uprising that sought to end mankind; ever since, Torth's eternal night is illuminated by the 7 moons, which also feature in the way locals measure the time. With the catastrophic cataclysm, the dragons of old vanished and the world would have been doomed to suffer an eternal winter, but thankfully, the planet houses vast catacombs wherein arcano-technical supercomputers generate sufficient heat to stave off this dire fate...at least for now. With civilization in ruins, new settlements have arisen from the bleak sands and one of said cities would be Aryd's End, where the lion's share of this module takes place.


If that sounds awfully scifi for you, then probably because it is...or can be. The emphasis on the technological aspects is subdued enough and one can, should one choose to, alternatively run this as a straight homage of Robert E. Howard-esque Sword & Sorcery - indeed, the cover's rendition of the ruling trio of Aryd's End should drive home pretty well that, beyond the dark aspects in both theme and world-building, this very much could be a place you can find in a given novel by the old greats f the eminent genre. From a fluff-perspective, the general sense of immersion is significantly enhanced by the inclusion of well-structured information on what current Torthians know, which also includes the aforementioned means of tracking time and popular sayings that help depict the natives with sufficient local color.


Compared to other Kort'thalis Publishing-supplements, the supplemental rules provided do feel more streamlined and refined: Two character kits/archetypes are provided with the Shadow Priest and the Wandering Minstrel. Both have in common that they no longer focus exclusively on a narrative function and instead manage to provide abilities (like permanently turning a foe into a shadow, destroying him...until the intervention of another shadow priest...) that drive narratives in an intriguing manner, while also sporting more details: AoEs and a more precise rules-language show the growth of the author. Beyond that, it is my happy duty to state that, beyond OSR, 5th Edition aficionados will have an easy time converting and running this one: With Dis-/advantage and similar terminology strewn in, conversion work is rather simple and fast, particularly regarding the numerous storied magical items featured in this book, which coincidentally also constitute one of my personal highlights in this book: Take e.g. the trident sandstorm, once aligned with the seas, that can now control the very sands. The new spells provided herein suffer, comparatively, a bit from more ambiguity, but radical subjectivism's option to eliminate an item from the perception of those subject to the spell, to give you one example, is pretty awesome.


Now before I go into the spoilerific sections of this review, let me talk about one component: This module is billed as "mature content" and I understand why: Much like the traditional Sword and Sorcery genre, it is a brutal, dark world that is depicted here. At the same time, I never considered the offering excessive in either violence or sexual content - none of the artworks, for example, depict nudity. In fact, most music videos nowadays sport more. As a German, I do not share the experience of cultural sexual stigmatization, but still - I quite frankly have wracked my brain for quite a while and couldn't come up with anything within these pages that could be considered offensive. Sure, it's dark, but Game of Thrones is literally more violent and sexual. Perhaps I'm odd, but I've grown up with Conan-tales and comics and as such, am of the firm conviction that this module should not be considered problematic in any regard. So no, we have neither offensive, nor gratuitous sexuality or violence here - they are themes, of course, but the module handles the whole matter tastefully.


All right, that should cover the basics, onwards to the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! This sandbox assumes the PCs will enter Aryd's End via one way or another - and, in its dust-choked streets, it will be only a matter of time before the PCs are drawn into the Byzantine power-games that are played here: 4 tribes with customs etc., one more savage/problematic than the other, esoteric schools and 3 secret societies follow their agendas in the streets and behind silken curtains, as the masked revelers of the city follow they debaucheries and excesses. Within the alleys and roads of Aryd's End, mysterious stranger with golden masks may warn you of Shaitan's brotherhood; you may witness (or even participate) in the conspiracy-driven murder of a noble and be framed for it - and there is so much more to find. The rumor-table sport hooks galore and beyond the walls, giant oozing slug-brains that enslave minds, scorpion-squids and lethal tentacle-armed gorillas await foolish adventurers as just the perfect supplement to their diet.


The streets of Aryd's End are no less dangerous, though - suffused in the tradition of Lovecratiana, the influence of the mythos, from the Yellow King's court to Carcosa, can be felt within the post-apocalyptic streets - but only if you know, where to look. Depending on your tastes, the very world may be o a timer, as a mad sculptor seeks to complete a statue that will usher in the rise of the dread Old Ones and end the world of Torth...and trying to stop him may see you killed in a horrible way...or not. Taking a note from how magic is handled in traditional Sword & Sorcery, there is also the intriguing local drug market to contemplate - where vastly improved arcane power is just one highly addictive drug away...certainly, said drugs have catastrophic repercussions sooner or later, but judging from the former adventurer-junkies, not everyone with magical talent sports common sense.


Speaking of the tropes of classic Sword & Sorcery - it is only a matter of time before capable adventurers like the PCs have to come before barbarian king Dran, his beautiful partner, the seductive Yara (who doesn't wish to ruin her figure - hence her hand-maiden is pregnant...with what may or may not be Dran's child) and the mysterious shadow priest Viraj - let's hope the PCs heed the local custom and attend the audience appropriately blood-spattered and they may actually survive the powerplay going on between the powerful figures at the top of Aryd's End's food-chain...heck, they may even survive a dark elf assassination attempt, if they're capable and lucky! And sometime in the future, who's not to say that they may sit upon that throne themselves, much like a certain Cimmerian?


Perhaps the PCs will also have their chance to stop a berserking head of a summoned elder deity, sent as a magical assassin for some creatures...and in the desert, they may either test their mettle and wits or even begin a relationship with none other than the beautiful Idryssa the Worm Soceress. Of course, more heroically-inclined adventurers may test their mettle against the kidnapping plan of one of the aforementioned secret societies out in the desert...or they may inadvertently awaken the echo of one of the legendary 7 casters of old, upsetting the power-dynamic of the whole region - but all of that, and more, is ultimately up to the players and GM: The seeds are here; the details will happen.


3 well-drawn maps of mini-dungeons partially used in the hooks of this sandbox are btw. also provided in this book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, both on a formal and rules-language level, they are more precise than what I've read before by Kort'thalis Publishing - kudos! Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the book sports copious absolutely stunning b/w-images strewn through the book. The pdf version f this book has no bookmarks, which is a significant comfort-detriment - I strongly encourage you to get the softcover instead: Beyond the glossy covers, it is a nice book to have in print...and more comfortable to use that way. As mentioned, the cartography provided for the mini-dungeons is nice.


The previous offerings I've read by author Venger As'Nas Satanis are suffused and informed by a thoroughly old-school adherence to heavy-metal aesthetics, spiked with copious amounts of Lovecraftiana, Sword & Sorcery and gonzo weirdness. The latter component is less pronounced in this one: Basically, "Revelry in Torth" is a pretty serious setting/module that could have featured in just about any of the classic tales: The writing is superb, the local color sufficiently raw and the vast plethora of things to do, of threads to explore, renders this book significantly more useful than what you'd expect from a book of its size, with the eye-winking here mostly pertaining nods towards the mythos and other classic tales - like in the original stories.


The blending of subdued sci-fantasy aesthetics, mythos, Conan-esque imagery and post-apocalyptic set-ups is sufficiently unique to lend this its own identity, without restricting its adaptability regarding e.g. the Conan-setting, the World of Xoth or even more mundane fantasy worlds, though, in the latter case, I'd still advise for a plane/world/time-jump: Much of the awesomeness of this book derives from the excellent ideas and local color provided for Aryd's End.


So no complaints apart from the pdf's missing bookmarks? Unfortunately, no - there is one thing I truly would have wished for: A map of Aryd's End. As depicted, and this may be intentional, the city and its revelries feel opaque, hazy, dream-like, almost - a bit like an opium-fueled nightmare between wonder and horror, ecstasy and terror. While a proper map would have somewhat lessened this component, it would have also helped GMs envision the sandbox as a whole, helped kicking off the sandboxy aspects by giving the map to the players and asking: Where do you go from here? Now the good thing is that this is intended as the first trip to Torth, with at least two more waiting somewhere down the line - so we may yet see that.


Still, do not let this deter you from checking this out - even as a scavenging ground of fluff, this is worth the fair asking price: The visuals conjured forth are intriguing and unique and any fan of dark fantasy and sword and sorcery in particular can look forward to this book being a great read. My final verdict hence will clock in at 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only due to the lack of a city's map. For the electronic version, please detract a star due to the lack of bookmarks...I really recommend the print over the electronic version for this one.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Revelry in Torth
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Mythic Minis 76: Far Eastern Racial Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2015 03:45:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


All right, you know the deal - 4 pages - 1 page front cover, 1.5 page SRD, 1.5 page content, let's go!


-Blood Beak: Numerical escalation,. bleed on crits and negative conditions on crits. Solid.


-Carrion Feeder: Numerical escalation + mythic power-based rerolls with tier-bonus.


-Life's Blood: Creature gains twice damage you take in hp; additionally, a creature subject to it can gain fast healing if you spend mythic power. The original feat is problematic and so is, by extension, this one.


-Long-Nose Form: Skill-bonuses in long-nose form and spend mythic power for temporary scent-based blindsense.


-Magical tail: Sp-use increase; also spend more uses PLUS mythic power for more powerful effects. Very cool, though the feats grants too early access to some very powerful SPs.


-Realistic Likeness: Numerical escalation and mythic power-based misdirection - pretty cool!


-Scavenger's Eye: Numerical escalation; move action to determine the most valuable item; mythic power-based reroll. Pretty weak.


-Shadowy Dash: Full-speed Stealth (even running) while in dim light or below, even while being observed. Also, use mythic power to trail shadows. Absolutely awesome!


-Sleep Venom: Numerical escalation and additional uses.


There is more on the first SRD-page:


-Spit Venom: Numerical escalation regarding uses per day and faster spitting of poison; if you spit as a full-round action, greatly extend reach based on tier; pay mythic power to AoE-spit - awesome!


-Tengu Raven Form: Better variety via the base feat; switching sizes fluently and additional uses per day via mythic power. Neat!


-Tengu Wings: Fly speed expands and duration as well; Extend this duration at the cost of 1/2 movement. Cool!


-Tree Hanger: Better climbing and no denied Dex-bonus; the bigger the action used, the better your bonus, with mythic power supplementing this.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jeff Lee and Jason Nelson deliver an intriguing mythic mini, which, while not always perfect, does sport some truly inspired mythic feats. Furthermore, the issues I see here are predicated mostly on the base feats (apart from the kitsune's imho a tad bit too strong improved SPs) - but I can't blame the pdf for that. Hence, this one "only" gets a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded still up to 5, though - a great little pdf.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 76: Far Eastern Racial Feats
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Meditations of the Lotus (PFRPG)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2015 03:43:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first small pdf of Meditation feats by Amora Game clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 3 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Meditation feats were introduced in Faiths and Philosophies and the feats herein utilize these rules - which are reprinted for your convenience and grouped among the basic lotus position feats - Meditation Master, Body Control and Combat Meditation, to be precise. Beyond that, though, the pdf allows monks to take these feats as bonus feats and similarly Liber Influxus Communis' cool mnemonic class may take them instead of a bonus feat, while mystics may take them instead of a talent - nice to see the pdf be this considerate.


If the above feats do not ring a bell for you, well, then let me fill you in: Basically, you meditate for 1 hour to get a minor floating bonus you can later apply to a single roll over the course of the next 24 hours. Body Control grants a bonus versus poison, disease, starvation and fatigue/exhaustion effects. Both have in common that they are very weak, but flavorful feat-choices. Combat Meditation is more interesting allowing you full-round action meditation, granting the benefits of all meditation feats, but only for 1 round per level you have. This one is the interesting one that demands to be upgraded and this pdf does just that. So yes, while basically not perfect, we'll see what Amora Game did with these.


First, the feats herein are grouped by Yoga practices, the first group being the Sun Salutation.


-Body Mending: Gain Fast Healing 1 while subject to Combat Meditation's duration. Fitting for some groups, though it may result in problems in others: While slow, this still represents unlimited healing at levels 5+ - which I consider highly problematic in spite of the feat-tax.


-Chakra Disruption: After using Combat Meditation, you may deal 1 point of Str or Dex damage or with an unarmed strike or cause the target to be unable to spend grit, ki or panache for 1 round - and if using Ultimate Psionics or Liber Influxus Communis, the feat does have synergy here - nice.


-Center Focus: Gain 1 ki point through meditation, even when not having a ki pool, +1 if you also have Extra Ki, though you may not surpass the maximum of your pool, if available. This one is problematic, since it takes a restricted resource and makes it an unlimited resource at least if my reading is correct and Combat meditation allows for the use of this feat to grant temporary ki. I do like that e.g. Dragon Tiger Ox's ki-based shenanigans can be combined well with this one, but still - I advise caution regarding this feat.


-Circulatory Control: For 24 hours after meditating, you may utilize concentration to delay the onset of poison/bleed. Cool one!


-Contemplative Endurance: Meditate as a full-round action, losing 1 point of ki, but gaining 3 points of stamina that need to be spent within character level rounds.


-Contemplative Maneuver: Select one combat maneuver after meditation; thereafter, you may perform it 3 times immediately after a failed attack against you sans provoking an AoO. In Combat Meditation, you don't get additional uses, but may switch maneuver. Absolutely awesome little feat!


-Controlled Emotions: Reroll a Will-save versus a fear-effect once after meditation. Pretty weak.


-External Power: Select a Ki Power or Technique you meet the prereqs for; you can use it at character level monk levels; You can power the power or technique via grit.


-Gritty Thoughts: Meditate to use ki to fuel grit/panache. Cool one, though the ki-regain mentioned in a previous feat can make this nasty.


-Heroic Thoughts: Use ki to gain a temporary hero point.


-Innate Yang: +1 atk, +4 crit confirmation, with bonuses scaling the more meditation feats you have.


-Innate Yin: +Wis-mod AC, sclaes via meditation feats you have and stacks with other Wis-based insight bonuses to AC like that of the monk.


-Last Efforts: When dropping below 0 HP, automatically stabilize and perform one combat meditation - for the duration you are treated as though you have 1 hp and may act as normal - basically, you are immortal until the meditation ends, with damage etc. being postponed to the end of the meditation...as well as healing. The feat's last sentence has a glitch in the sentence structure, but its intents remain clear. Nice high-level feat!


-Living Sword Technique: Choose Craft or Profession and use your RANKS in such a skill in place of BAB - cool one and proof versus magic-boost abuse.


-Sound of Waves: Gain Sonic and Force resistance (!!!) 5.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are still good: On a formal level, there is not much to complain, though there are some minor hiccups in the rules-language. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Greg LaRose has grown tremendously as a designer and this pdf shows that; while the rules-language is not always perfect, my gripes almost universally pertain purely aesthetic minor hiccups that do not negatively influence the rules - kudos! Also: The high-level immortality-feat is awesome.


I am a bit torn here - on the one hand, vanilla monks can use the feats herein and in such games, the feats herein should cause no problems. If you're like me, though, and have books with ki-powered weapons, rays powered by it etc., then making ki an unlimited resource can break your game's balance, depending on the power level you're gunning for. Still, this is by far not a bad pdf you can get for a more than fair, low price - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform -a quintessential mixed bag, slightly on the positive side.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Meditations of the Lotus (PFRPG)
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Midgard Bestiary (13th Age Compatible)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2015 04:01:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The 13th Age version of the Midgard Bestiary clocks in at 110 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 104 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Well, we begin this book with a brief introduction on how it came to be and a handy ToC-style list of the creatures featured herein before we dive straight into a significant array of creatures that Midgard-aficionados will recognize quite a few of the adversaries featured within these pages - beyond a simple enumeration of creatures from the Midgard Bestiary, we actually receive more than a few pieces of content exclusive for this iteration of the book - which conversely also allows for quite a bunch of the classic modules in Kobold Press' catalog to be easily converted to 13th Age.


However, the inspiring component of this book cannot be exclusively be found in the monsters themselves - as you know, statblocks of 13th Age adversaries do not tend to be marvels of complexity. It is in the details that things get proper and interesting -at least for me. You see, the creatures featured herein take more than a passing cue from 13th Age's innovations. Beyond multiple creatures for humanoid races, with often varying abilities, the book also sports a rather impressive array of supplemental material - from nastier specials to, yes, magic items. This, for example, renders the notoriously cool in concept, but bland in execution Alseids (centaurs with deer-like lower bodies) interesting - and the girdle's quirk of only allowing for the consumption of rain water, can have some rather interesting side effects. From clockwork creatures to Arbonesse exiles, the author has gone above and beyond to properly represent some of the most unique components of Midgard with the proper care and diligence regarding the mechanical effects.


Deadly mosses and the iconic darakhul feature herein alongside lethal swarms and the iconic derro fetal servant is herein as well, though in this iteration, I consider it a bit weaker than its PFRPG-version. New devils, from the gilded servants of Mammon to the ink-stained agents of Titivillius and Niemheinian gnomes that may or may not serve them, provide ample fodder for stories envisioning hellish vistas. A selection of drakes (including the hilarious alehouse drake) can be found herein alongside the fabled ghost boar of the Ringwood and the riders of Marena and the vril-powered bows using goblins of the wasted west certainly are intriguing, though I do bemoan that these guys do not get a cool mutation table akin to the chaos beast and chimera's versatile treatment in 13th Age's superb Bestiary.


The eye-eating insectoid Horakh and the ship-smashing Isonade have found their ways inside the pages alongside diverse kobolds, from ghetto guards and their dire weasels to their owl-riding sergeants. Mharoti dragonkin and the eldritch masters of Allain complement Roachlings and Rothenian Centaurs and obviously, neither gearforged nor shadowfey should miss here - all in all, the selection sure is awesome, if a bit humanoid-centric for my tastes.


This is not where the bestiary ends, though: There are 9 new player-races here and they generally fall into one of two categories: Simple or complex. Centaurs, Gnolls, Minotaurs and Roachlings generally are rather solid and easy to grasp - with a racial power and some minor feat-chocies, they are solid, though the nitpicker in me still would have loved to see the pdf specifically mention that roachlings do not get additional magic item slots for their additional limbs.


The undead, ghoulish darakhul would be slightly more complicated, obviously having no Con-score. The lethal bite, which scales with level, could have been tied to the weapon scaling of classes, but that may be my thing. Similarly, the construct-like gearforged are pretty complex - but their complete lack of recoveries and reliance on being repaired makes them glass cannons. Worse, does their lack of ability to use recoveries to heal also extends to class abilities, talents and the like? It's certainly a minor thing, but still. Goblins of the Wasted West, Kobolds and Ravenfolk are pretty cool, though. An okay section, though one I'm a bit wary of some races herein.


Where the pdf once again becomes awesome (and indeed non-optional for any 13th Age Midgard-campaign) is with the final section by Wade Rockett: Midgard Icons. Yes, we get a full-blown write-up of icons for Midgard and they universally surpass those featured in the Dragon Empire: From Baba Yaga to Regia Moonthorn Kalthania-Reln van Dornig and the Dragon Sultana; the emperor of ghouls; Cadua's first duke, the master of demon mountain and the illuminated brotherhood: The icons presented here are absolutely GLORIOUS - not only do they draw perfectly on Midgard's unique, awesome fluff, they actually are multi-faceted, brilliant creatures that go one step beyond the one-dimensional archetype of the regular icons. Where 13th Age's default icons are currently slowly moving away from being cardboard cut-outs (see 13th Age Monthly: Echo and Gauntlet, for example), here we already have a cadre of full-developed, inspired icons, including True Dangers, allies, common knowledge and the like - this chapter is just brilliant.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with plenty of neat full color artworks. On the nitpicky side, there is quite a bit of blank space on some pages, where obviously artworks or more content could fit. ;) The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience


Ash Law and Wade Rockett deliver an excellent array of converted creatures herein - and while I'm not 100% content with all of the racial options provided, that still leaves a significant amount of inspired adversaries AND the excellent Midgard-icons, rendering this book practically non-optional for Midgard games utilizing the 13th Age-rules. My final verdict will hence clock in at well-deserved 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Bestiary (13th Age Compatible)
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Mythic Minis 75: Orc Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2015 04:00:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review


All right, you know the deal - 3 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, let's go!


-Born Alone: Gain 2x Con-bonus temporary hit points for tier rounds when killing a foe. Anti-kitten caveat makes me a happy reviewer. :)


-Bullying Blow: +tier to Intimidate; add mythic power for worse fear-conditions and a kind of intimidate-cleave. Solid.


-Ferocious Action: Roll to stabilize when dealing damage in melee AND gain 1/2 tier hp when you hit, to a maximum of 1 hp. Nice one!


-Foment the Blood: Numerical escalation and AoE orc-heal via mythic power.


-Grudge Fighter: Numerical escalation.


-Orc Weapon Expertise: Benefits with orc weapons increase, depending on benefits chosen; cool one that feature both numerical escalation and new mythic power-based tactical options, for disruptor e.g. using mythic power to add to your AoOs versus spells/SPs. Really neat one!


-Resolute Rager: Use the feat versus any emotion-based effects, but gain bonuses and may expend mythic power to resist fear.


-Reverse-feint: Swift action activation and counterattack via free action, but you may use move/immediate actions for bonuses. Cool!


-Trap Wrecker: Use this feat instead of a melee attack; when used as a standard action, you get numerical escalation; for mythic power, you can wreck magical traps.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jeff Lee, Jonathan H. Keith and Jason Nelson's Orc feats are inspired, diverse, sport unique benefits and can be considered an all-out well-crafted installment of the series - well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 75: Orc Feats
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Mythic Minis 74: Half-Orc Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2015 03:57:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review


All right, you know the deal - 3 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, let's go!


-Beats Rider: Monstrous animal companion gains mythic rank, +1 once you reach tier 10.


-Blood Vengeance: Increased crit range + bleed damage versus target of Blood Vengeance, including stacking bleed damage on crits; also allows for move action Intimidate, potentially supplemented by tier.


-Destroyer's Blessing: Regain only one round of rage per round, but heal damage when breaking objects or mitigate exhaustion/negate fatigue/heal ability damage.


-Ferocious Resolve: +tier to negative HP threshold; use mythic power to negate staggered condition while below 0 Hp and also gain Intimidate bonus.


-Ferocious Summons: Summoned creatures get the blood rage universal monster ability.


-Ferocious Tenacity: Use feat more than once per day, with rounds of rage expenditure decreasing damage. This one is pretty awesome!


-Gore Fiend: Increase moral benefits when criting in melee or being crited while in rage, stacking. up to a maximum of your normal morale bonus.


-Horde Charge: Numerical Escalation + Charge Through added and better AC when charging.


-Surprise Follow-Through: When hitting more than one creature via Cleave/Great Cleave, render one creature flat-footed.


-Improved Surprise Follow-Through: When using Great Cleave, all foes you hit are treated as flat-footed until hit/your next turn. This one is very powerful...but also damn cool.


-Resilient Brute: Use the feat whenever you take damage, not only in response to crits and use it additional times, powered via mythic power. Non-mythic creatures only deal 75% damage against you as nonlethal when using this feat.


-Sympathetic Rage: Maintain rage while close to an ally raging and use mythic power to retain rage while switching from eligible ally to eligible ally - situational, but very powerful.


There is more to be found on the SRD-page:


-Tenacious Survivor: Higher Threshold before dying and use mythic power to prevent gaining negative levels with a means to be saved even when killed. Awesome one!


-Thrill of the Kill: Regain rounds of rage and also gain free mythic surges, but both must be spend before one round has elapsed, avoiding balance-issues here. Additionally, mythic foes defeated allow for (very) limited mythic power regains.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jason Nelson and Jeff Lee provide a nice array of half-orc feats herein that run the gamut from okay to being awesome - particularly the defensive feats contained herein are pretty much awesome and should prove useful indeed in mythic games. All in all, a nice pdf that deserves a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 74: Half-Orc Feats
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What Lies Beyond Reason Player's Guide
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2015 04:37:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This freshman offering by Pyromaniac Press clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover/KS-advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages, so let's take a look!


We begin this player's guide with a brief introduction of the fully statted eternal city of Anduria, which is btw. also featured in the rather neat map of the lands surrounding its monolithic, titanic walls. Anduria...ringed by 100 feet high walls of unknown, strange stone featuring enigmatic bas-reliefs of strange robed figures (stunningly rendered in the prequel-module, btw.!), a patchwork of the old and new, with its canals and even single building sporting different architectural styles, certainly is a metropolis that can be called fantastic in the best of ways and the players reading this guide will get to know at least the basics about the diverse wards within these colossal walls.


Since adventurers are prone to seek out taverns for employ, trouble and ale, 10 particular taverns are spotlighted in aptly-written, concise prose and the reader of this pdf will also be filled in on the government and the guild-driven power-structure within the city...and obviously, as a consequence, also be able to familiarize oneself with the guilds, both great and small - the respective write-ups sport names, primary services rendered, the guild master, membership requirements and benefits and thus a massive array of potential roleplaying opportunities.


Both daily life in the massive city and its culture is well represented, including the relatively humane punitive measures employed within the city for law-breakers - and yes, this section also mentions common strategies to weasel out of a law-based predicament.


Local "pests", psychic motes and transportation within the city's confines is covered as well and a brief note on surrounding areas is also featured here. The second section features thankfully spoiler-free advice for making characters that actually will be useful in the campaign, including suggestions for bloodlines, etc. Anduria, being a tolerant city, does not extend this tolerance to the divine, thus, such characters may require to hide their calling (If you want to know why, that's explained in the plot of the AP in more detail...) and new skill uses to this effect as well as ones that let you navigate the city's red tape are provided.


The pdf ends with a couple of per se pretty solid traits, though I do have some complaints here: There is no such thing as "Arcane" or "Divine" traits - the proper types would be "Faith" and "Magic". Additionally, the bonuses granted in one of the traits lack the trait-type - though the other traits get it right.
Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good, particularly for a freshman offering - the rules-language, where present, is pretty concise and the prose is well-crafted. There are sometimes minor glitches that make single lines a bit wobbly-looking in the rendition, but this remains the exception. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column two-color standard. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, which is okay at this brief length. The map and one piece of artwork is nice (and believe me - the Prequel's art is NEAT!). One peculiarity that annoyed me is the non-standard formatting of skills: It's not "Profession: Lawyer", it's "Profession (Lawyer)" -cosmetic, I know, but still...


This player's guide does a great job - for one, it does not spoil anything; it also does make you excited about the massive metropolis and its unique social structure and options and is a nice hint at the things to come. As a freshman offering, this is pretty impressive...and it's free. Granted, the file is massive (118 MBs), but in my book, being pay what you want does offset the minor hiccups that can be found here. So please, take a look, download and read this and check out the Kickstarter if you like what you're seeing! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
What Lies Beyond Reason Player's Guide
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Three Swordsmen
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2015 04:33:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This FREE little pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page editorial, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin with a nice introduction to the matter at hand and then are introduced to the Templar Knight. These guys must be lawful and may deflect an amount of damage equal to his level plus the sword's enhancement, but the decision to deflect the attack must be made before the results of the damage-roll are made known. If the fighter also reconsecrates and reforges his sword in a ceremony, the character may also add his Strength-modifier to the amount of damage deflected.


1/day, he may also sway the undecided, up to character level of NPCs, to his side of the argument. At 3rd level, he may 1/day attack twice in a round, +1/day every 3 levels thereafter and at 12th level, he may always make 2 attacks per round.


The second swordsman-kit herein is the Slayer, who needs to be neutral. 1/day, when wielding an iconic blade (e.g. tempered by dragon fire), he may declare a hit a critical. When a slayer kills a foe, he may 1/day attack an additional opponent, +1/day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, up until 15th level, hen he may always do that. He gets the same two-attacks-per round progression as the templar.


The third kit, the Reaver, needs to be chaotic. For each foe killed or mortally wounded, the reaver penalizes her foes' attacks by the number of felled foes, up to the max bonus of the reaver's blade. Per se nice idea, but when does the counter reset? A precise duration would have been nice, otherwise you can just kill a bunch of kittens... Attacking dazed, stunned blinded, prone, fallen, subdued, unconscious or unaware are particularly endangered by the reaver: Reavers get + atk and damage against such foes. The reaver gets the same additional attack progression as the previous two kits.


Finally, the book ends with a cool table that represents blades of fallen heroes awakening with special powers - this table is fun and awesome.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports one great b/w-artwork per swordsman. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


The kits provided herein can be considered well-crafted, if not particularly unique: The templar is certainly the most captivating of the kits in this pdf. The other two basically sport mechanics from more current editions of the system, translated to OSR, but done so in a pretty precise way, considering the need to provide support for different variants of OSR-rules. The reaver has slight flaws in its details and feels a bit weaker than the other two, but overall, this pdf is well-crafted. And it's FREE. Free pdfs are hard to beat, particularly when the "fallen PC's blade"-table alone is an awesome reason to download this free book, even when playing in other systems and requiring some inspiration. As such, I feel justified in awarding this 5 stars + seal of approval - this is well worth the download.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Three Swordsmen
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Mythic Minis 73: Gnome and Halfling Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2015 04:30:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review


All right, you know the deal - 3 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, let's go!


-Adaptive Fortune: Numeric escalation in both uses per day and potency; additionally, use mythic power to treat a roll as a natural 20...not a big fan of the latter.


-Blundering Defense: +1/2 dodge bonus as luck bonus when fighting defensively; scaling affect on allies as well. The latter is at the same time nasty and cool.


-Casual Illusionist: +3/+6 (at 10th level) bonus to Bluff/disguise/Sleight of Hand and concentration for illusion spells while retaining racial SPs. Okay.


-Cautious Fighter: +4 when fighting defensively/using total defense (why no better total defense?) plus use mythic power to combine withdraw with an attack - interesting one, in spite of minor gripe on my side.


-Courageous Resolve: Decrease severity of common fear-based effects (not including cowering); expend mythic power to reroll saves versus spells and effects that do not result in the common fear-based conditions - neat potential life-saver.


-Desperate Swing: Adds a 5-foot-step to the feat and sans taking the move, allows you to vital strike, Deadly Stroke and similarly hassle the foe or ignore the -4 penalty. (Which sports a box instead of the minus in a minor formatting glitch); additional uses via mythic power render this a good, tactically versatile option that validates a couple of builds.


-Expanded Resistance: +2 schools and numerical escalation for racial bonus as well as twice surge die rolls with saves versus the schools - powerful and interesting.


-Fortunate One: +1/2 tier uses of adaptable luck; also expend a use of adaptable luck to maximize surge die; cool mechanic.


-Gnome Weapon Focus: +1 atk with "gnome" weapons; also gain +1/2 tier to atk for 1 mythic power, including Experimental Gunsmith weapons - which is damn cool.


-Great Hatred: Numerical escalation and apply bonus versus charm and fear effects; use mythic power to reroll save versus the like. Okay, I guess.


-Improved Low Blow: Better bonus on crit confirmation if the target's larger than you; use mythic power to reroll such rolls more than once per day. Okay one.


-Lucky Healer: Spend adaptive luck to roll twice when healing and take the better result for all healing effects for 1/2 tier rounds; additionally, use mythic power to reroll CL-checks required by some conjuration (healing)-spells. Brilliant feat for the healers and mechanically interesting - two thumbs up!


This is not where we stop, though - there is much more on the SRD-page:


-Lucky Strike: Adaptive luck spend to reroll damage twice and take the better result; use mythic power for maximized output. (And yes, weapon damage does not include skrimishing or sneak attack, just so you know...)


-Risky Striker: Numerical escalation and use mythic power to ignore the penalty for tier rounds.


-Sure and Fleet: +4 Acrobatics and Climb and full movement when using Acrobatics through narrow, slippery etc. terrain; use mythic power to prevent the loss of Dex when climbing or using Acrobatics for 1 minute. Per se cool, but I'd have loved to see the duration scale.


-Surprise Strike: Deny the target Dex-mod versus your attack. Use it additional times per day via mythic power. Personally, I would have loved a more complex interaction with uncanny dodge et al. here, but that may just be me.


-Uncanny Defense: Add dodge bonus for fighting defensively/total defense to CMD and Ref-saves - two thumbs up here: We need better defense options.


-Vast Hatred: Select 3 creature types and increase hatred bonuses by 1.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jason Nelson, Jeff Lee, Jonathan H. Keith - gentlemen, you have crafted a surprisingly cool little supplement for the small races here. The emphasis on luck and defense in particular makes the two races feel much more hardy than what one would expect and while not all of the feats herein are winners, there are some pretty awesome options herein - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a margin.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 73: Gnome and Halfling Feats
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Ultimate Antipodism - Drawn from Light and Darkness
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/01/2015 02:54:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review


Ultimate Antipodism is a massive book of 93 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a whopping 90 pages, so let's take a look!


First: What is this book? Well, one could assume this to be the unofficial fourth part of Strange Magic, seeing how this basically represents a massive, non-vancian casting system and classes based on it. Antipodism is all about light and darkness and the things in-between - instead of the linear progression that characterized shadow magic in 3.X, antipodism is more about combos and the oscillation between light and dark. The concept was pioneered in the edgewalker rogue/assassin/shadowdancer-y class, then expanded to a full caster via the antipodist...and then, Interjection Games patreon happened and made Bradley write a huge expansion plus a third base class...and here we are, Ultimate Antipodism, courtesy of patrons Sasha Hall and Sean Paetti. I will structure this review by base-class and chapter.


Chapter I: The Antipodist


All right, so let's get this party started! We begin with the antipodist: The antipodist base class receives d6 HD,1/2 BAB-progression, no good saves and a locus-progression of level 1 to level 4 and 2+Int skills per level. Antipodists are proficient with simple weapons, but not any armor or shields - no here's an interesting cincher - they double the point costs of their loci when wearing armor they're not proficient in, but are otherwise not hindered by them - meaning that you're only a feat away from armored casting with these guys - sans penalties.


The Antipodist receives two pools - a radiance pool equal to class level + Wis-mod and a shadow pool equal to class level + Int mod. These replenish after 8 hours of consecutive rest. Now an antipodist's career is called "Journey through Light and Shadow" for a good reason - the antipodist learns so-called loci, which range from passive extraordinary abilities to supernatural and spell-like tricks. Loci are broken into three subtypes - light, twilight and dark.


Within these subtypes, there are different philosophies further providing variation/sub-subtypes if you will. Now antipodists surprisingly have no caster level per se, but for interaction purposes, they treat their philosopher level as caster level. Additionally, though some of the antipodist's loci are treated as spell-like abilities, they do NOT count as spells for e.g. PrC, feat-qualification and similar purposes. Catching this one and covering it properly is rather impressive. For the purpose of concentration, a locus is treated as locus level + 1/4 antipodist class level, rounded down. It should be noted that supernatural and extraordinary loci cannot be identified via Spellcraft. In order to activate a locus, the antipodist requires a key attribute (Wis or Int) of 10 + 2x level of the locus and save DCs, if required, are 10 + 1/2 philosopher level + key attribute modifier. It should be noted that antipodism utilizes the aforementioned term "philosopher level" to denote caster levels in antipodism-related classes in a streamlined, concise terminology.


An antipodist begins the game with 3 loci and she receives +1 locus every class level. However, within each philosophy, an antipodist can never know more loci of a higher level than of a lower one - in order to e.g. learn a second locus of the 3rd level of a philosophy, the antipodist needs to know at least 2 loci of the second level of the philosophy - essentially a pyramid rule. The antipodist may replace a locus with a new one at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, but must maintain the level of the retrained locus - but NOT the philosophy, allowing you to "cheat" the pyramid rule to some extent. Some loci require the use of the antipodist's shadow and thus, only one of them can be in effect for a certain time.


At 2nd, 7th and every 6 levels thereafter, the antipodist may also choose one 1st level locus to become "well-travelled", reducing the cost of said locus to 0, but at the cost of treating a level-dependent effect as half the actual philosopher level, with the exception of DCs and saving throws. At 11th level, the antipodist may 1/day cause a 3rd level or lower locus to be spontaneously treated as well-travelled, +1/day for every 3 levels. Finally, at 20th level, three different capstones loom, depending on the philosophy chosen - these include turning one 4th level dark locus into a light-locus (and vice versa) or a third pool, the twilight pool, which can exclusively be used to pay for loci of the twilight philosophy.


Got that? Well, that's not all - the antipodist can have different philosophical leanings - radiance, shadow or twilight. Twilight maintains the duality between light and darkness, whereas light and shadow, whereas the specialists in either light or darkness may not be able to utilize the other's tricks, but instead receive a slightly (+2) increased pool and, more importantly, may choose to ignore aforementioned pyramid rule to compensate their decreased versatility - anyways, all choices further modify what an antipodist receives bonus-wise - which is nice. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the philosophical leaning also provides further bonuses - increased pool size and minor bonus to one of the three saves. It should also be noted, that extensive advice for the DM and player to handle the transition of philosophies are provided - and that both light and dark are not tied to an alignment - playing CE radiance specialists or LG shadow specialists is very much possible. Now interesting in this seeming dichotomy would be the "drawn from experience" ability gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, choosing a philosophy and increasing its potency - the trick here being that the very progression of the class can be used to mirror the moral development of the character and the preferences chosen.


Now a total of 4 philosophies for radiance and shadow are provided and additionally, there is the twilight philosophy, which counts as either. Got that? All right, so I'll give you a brief run-down of the philosophies (If I mention every locus, the review would bloat...): Anima allows you to animate your shadow to execute close range reposition maneuvers, have your shadow record a locus (and execute it at your command) or stretch and peek around corners or even invade a target, potentially slaying it via fear. Other tricks of anima allow you to animate other's shadows, commanding them to help or hinder target creatures and passive bonuses to AC when not utilizing your shadow actively can also be found herein. Bull rushing targets via swats of your shadow is also neat.


The Beacon philosophy can help you cancel out ongoing fear-effects. on yourself and allies and perfect, short-burst flight alongside buff/debuff-effects, fast healing and healing (the latter with a 2 round delay-mechanism - interesting!) as well as beneficial mood lighting. Reflexive damage + dazzle when targets of a locus are hit by attacks and eliminating diseases and poisons also make for interesting choices. There also is e.g. an option to use your shadow to grant DR that scales with your level and e.g. mass, light-based flight.


Now the coruscation locus is more combat-centric - duplicating color spray, unleashing deadly blasts of atomizing light and blinding light make for interesting choices. On a design paradigm level interesting, one locus allows you to regain limited radiance points of spent loci when reducing foes below 0 hp, meaning that the ability can't be cheesed or kitten'd via well-travelled loci - nice way of preventing abuse there. Dazzling and blinding of foes are often accompanying effects of this, and the negation of concealment as well as causing "catching fire" (akin to alchemist's fire) with coruscation loci can mean a nasty drain on an enemy's action economy. We can also find a locus that enhances the damage rolled via coruscation, treating all 1s as 2s - Interesting.


The illumination locus allows you to e.g. charge and increase the damage-output of the next damage-dealing locus you cast, net yourself darkvision, infuse texts with appropriate bonuses to skills or even "store" a d20 roll and later substitute it. Among the more interesting options, crits granting temporary radiance points are interesting...and since they only pertain the loci, no way to kitten this one.


The Manipulator philosophy has some truly unique options as well - take for example the possibility of subverting and hijacking summoning spells - damn cool! Subverting enemy morale also makes for a cool idea - as does intensifying conditions - making the relatively useless dazzle-condition blinded instead, upping entangled to staggered - really cool, especially since the save varies on the condition intensified! Also rather unique - clouding the minds of foes, causing them to treat all targets as if subject to concealment. Ignoring the immunity of mind-affecting effects at the cost of shadow points also makes for a cool idea, somewhat analogue to DSP's dread class. Also rather nasty - one high-level locus that is the equivalent of mass-haste for allies and mass-slow for adversaries. Causing the shaken-condition via images of "spiders, mothers-in-law" and similar horrific images made me chuckle and manipulating weapon-hands is interesting - a word of warning, though - if a target's HD exceed those of the antipodist, they may instead receive a buff! Now while this may look like an strange design decision, it also opens an uncommon way of using the class - cohorts and similar followers may actually end up as buff-specialists for their masters, with minor manipulation thrown in the mix. Oh, and yes, you can make foes attack themselves en masse.


Now the Obscurity philosophy, of course, is the go-to toolbox of stealth-focused tricks - from turning into smoke and instantly moving 5 ft. per class level (to e.g. escape from the guts of a huge creature that has swallowed you whole), entangling globs of greasy darkness, dual short-term reflexive shaken/blindness - so far, so good. What about beginning an insurrection of shadows, resulting in a target receiving additional weapon damage when hit by a target for the first time in a given round? This philosophy has also perhaps one of the most powerful passive abilities of the whole class - once per day, your shadow dies instead of you when first reduced by something that required an attack roll reduces you below 0 hp. (Of course, the shadow regenerates, rendering this a neat type of life-insurance, though your shadow's absence may severely limit some of your options...) Shadow evasion and granting a weak sneak attack can be considered rather cool options as well, rendering this philosophy probably one of the go-to choices for thieves and those versed in the lore of the underworld - tag-teaming with your shadow to ignore the movement-penalty of difficult terrain does make for cool imagery. Evasion when unarmored is surely appreciated.


The Refraction philosophy allows for 1st level invisibility via bend light, with the added caveat that taken items (up to 10 ft. sticking away from your body) also become invisible. Now while the mechanics of parabolic dishes may not be particularly elegant (not a fan of opposed rolls in PFRPG), it works mathematically here - d20+BAB+Wis-mod+deflection bonus to AC (e.g. granted from the hovering parabolic dish) against incoming rays - if you win, you can catch and return the ray to its sender, destroying the dish. Generally, this one can be thought as the most defense-focused of the philosophies, with quite an array of e.g. AC-bonus netting and even mirror image-like loci. An abuse-safe retribution-spear can also be found among the loci here. What about a locus granting charges that grant resistance bonuses to saves and can be spent in place of your shadow?


The Umbral Embrace philosophy is probably the most sinister of the respective philosophies - a lot of the loci impose negative levels and e.g. darkness rising even further penalizes saves against the ability depending on the amount of negative levels accumulated. One of the more iconic loci would e.g. allow you to conjure forth the literal sandman to put your foes to sleep and another generates an anti-duplicate of the target that crashes into it for massive damage. What about a nice combo-set-up that adds negative levels to foes when you continue to pile on umbral embrace loci?


The Twilight philosophy is rather peculiar in its general versatility, allowing you to increase the potency of loci when alternating between light and dark loci. Increasing the point cost of loci in order to have them apply to additional targets also makes for versatile options and adding swift action dimension doors to the casting of 4th level loci also offers some unique tactical tricks. A sneaking, auto-flanking weapon of shadow, a bolt that can be modified as belonging to any type of philosophy - the twilight philosophy is probably the most versatile and diverse of the philosophies. All in all, a total of more than 170 loci (that's a SIGNIFICANT upgrade over the first iteration!) make sure that antipodists will have A LOT of combo-potential and tricks at their beck and call.


The class also comes with favored class options for the core-races plus drow, aasimar, tiefling, kobold, orc, hobgoblin and puddling. Furthermore, we get antipodist archetypes, the first of which would be the extremist. In the extremist, light and darkness wage war and thus, the archetype gets a duality pool. This pool's size cannot exceed 5 and begins play empty. Whenever the extremist activates a non-well-traveled locus and the pool is empty, she gains 1 duality point and the pool is "charged" or flagged in opposition to the locus activated: Activation via light flags it as dark and vice-versa. Each time, the extremist activates a locus whose descriptor does not match that of the pool, she gains 1 point. As soon as she activates one that matches the pool's descriptor, it empties and provides benefits according to a handy table - from one-round-rendering a locus well-traveled to reduced costs, careful planning can provide some neat combo-potential with this pool added. Philosophical leaning-wise, extremists get +1 locus (+1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter), but may never learn any loci from twilight. The Drawn from Experience ability of the base antipodist is also heavily modified, precluding e.g. the taking of a given benefit more than oonce, but at the same time having a scaling upgrade at 11th level. As a capstone, the extremist gets ANOTHER pool, the EXTREME (cue in 90s music) pool - 10 points that can be used to escalate the benefits granted by her duality pool when activating its benefits. Some people may complain about the pools to manage. I'm not some people. I like the extremist and how it plays. It's a unique, nice archetype.


The second archetype, the Specialist Philosopher, is just what you'd expect in such a context - a specialist of one of the philosophies: They choose a favored philosophy and begin play with +1 locus from this philosophy, gaining an additional one at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. When learning loci from this philosophy, the specialists can ignore the pyramid rule. The specialization has full compatibility with the philosophical leaning class feature, though changing it from the prescribed specialization means that the character loses the access of the 11th level class feature. 11th level nets a well-traveled 2nd level locus from the favored philosophy, +1 at 17th level, instead of wayfinder. Drawn from experience is also modified. The capstone nets the specialist a specialist pool equal to 4+ number of 4th level loci known in the favored philosophy - these points emulate the points required by the respective favored philosophy. In a minor nitpick - the text calls the specialist philosopher "extremist" here.


Chapter II: The Edgeblade


The edgeblade would be the new class herein - it gets full BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d10, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armor, medium armor, shields. The penalty for non-proficient armor is to increase the cost of waypoints by +1. The edgeblade gets class level +Wis-mod shadow pool and class level + Int-mod radiance pool, minimum 1. This does not look like much, right? Well, the edgeblade also gets residuum pools - a light residuum pool and a dark residuum pool. Whenever the edgeblade uses a non-finisher light waypoint that costs at least 1 radiance point, he gains 1 light residuum; the same holds true for dark residuum and dark waypoints. These pools can hold a maximum of 2+1 per 6 edgeblade levels each. Residuum is used to fuel residuum powers and waypoint finishers. They also have a stability score, which begins at 1: Any minute the edgeblade does not gain or spend residuum decreases the residuum score in the pool until the pools reach the stability score. residuum does not replenish - it empties upon resting and needs to be filled again each day. The stability-score is interesting in that it represents a crucial balancing mechanism and some really intriguing untapped potential to play with in further designs - tying it to waypoints, abilities and the like does sound like something I'd sooner or later try to craft myself.


At 1st level, edgeblades get 3 residuum abilities: One light, one dark, one twilight. 2nd level, 3rd level, 4th level, 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the edgeblade gains +1 residuum ability. These abilities need to be prepared - each day upon resting, the edgeblade chooses one light, one dark and one twilight ability, which then are considered to be prepared. Residuum abilities can be considered the unique passive buffs - resistance against all elemental energy types + sonic equal to residuum or twice residuum, decreased armor check penalty, adding mighty cleaving at higher level to the weapon, better initiative, saves, hurling minor fire-damage causing balls of flame, reflexive dazzle or generating the other type of residuum when one pool is full, these abilities provide a baseline of unique options to supplement the fighting styles of the edgeblades.


1st level nets the edgeblade gets two waypoints, +1 at 2nd level and every two levels thereafter. If applicable, the DC for such abilities is 10 +1/2 philosopher level (=class level)+key attribute modifier (Int or Wis, respectively). As always, waypoints marked by an asterisk utilize the shadow of the respective edgeblade - only one such effect can be in place at a given time. You'll notice something: Edgeblades are crazy MAD - as such, at 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter, they get +1 to Int and Wis for the purpose of waypoint DC, stacking with itself, up to a maximum of the highest physical ability score. At 4th level and every 5 levels thereafter, an edgeblade gets +2 to his pool-sizes, to be freely distributed among radiance and shadow. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide a antipode or combat bonus feat.


5th level and every 5 levels thereafter provide a greater waypoint for the edgeblade. 6th level edgeblade may perform a finisher that requires a standard action in place of the first attack of a full-attack action or in place of the first attack while charging or instead of a charge. The wording here is slightly wonky, but still precise enough - still, I'd be interested to know whether the benefits of the charge still apply to the finisher combined with it. As a capstone, the edgeblade may prepare a 4th residuum ability. We get favored class options for the usual array of races in IG-supplements: Core, orc, hobgoblin, tiefling, drow aasimar, kobold, puddling.


Archetype-wise, the first would be the Dawnblade, who only gets a radiance pool equal to 2xdamblade level +Wis mod. Unlike the regular edgeblade, the dawnblade has no stability-score to contend with - his residuum does not decay/dissipate - which also precludes the archetype from qualifying for feats and abilities that modify residuum stability. The dawnblade begins with 2 residuum abilities, +1 at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. Residuum abilities have to be prepared and the dawnblade may prepare two - both of which obviously must be light residuum abilities, since the archetype cannot choose dark or twilight. However, the dawnblade receives some unique residuum tricks - like a blade of light (cue in all the Star Wars jokes and quotes you know...I'll be waiting...all right, all done?) that scales its potency at higher levels, no-save dazzle, reduced finisher costs and temporary radiance points when spending 3+ light residuum. The archetype gets 2 waypoints at 1st level, +1 at 2nd level +1 every two dawnblade level. The entry here is a bit redundant, since it mentions dark waypoint DCs, even though the archetype can't use these. 4th level increases radiance pool by +1, a further +1 every 5 levels thereafter. The 6th level ability is modified by reducing the cost of the first finisher in the first round of combat by -1 t a minimum of 1. This does not allow for the execution of finishers beyond the maximum residuum capacity of the edgeblade.


Where there is Dawn, there is Dusk - and hence, there also is a dark-specialist. Analogue to the dawnblade, the duskblade receives only a shadow pool of 2 x class level + Int mod. Conversely, the duskblade does not get light residuum. Now this would not be Interjection Games, if we just got a mirror image, right? Instead, we get a pretty cool mechanic based on the symbolic phases of the moon: When the duskblade prepares residuum abilities, he assigns one ability to the new moon phase and one to the full moon phase. The beginning phase each day is "new" - during combat, there is a cumulative 20% chance to change to the next phase. Phase-change eliminates 1 point of dark residuum and resets the chance to 0%, but also gets +2 atk, saving throws and skill checks for one round.


The interesting thing here is that the archetype thus gets an unreliable, slightly chaotic flow, but one that allows for the simultaneous activity of two residuum abilities at once when the phase is waning/waxing...oh, and new/full also have additional benefits that play with the residuum mechanic - and they're beautiful. Seriously, love this mechanic! Akin to the dawnblade, the duskblade does get some exclusive residuum abilities, including nonlethal cold damage and immediate action-residuum-powered reflexive invisibility at higher levels. Like the dawnblade, the waypoint section, somewhat confusingly, notes the information for light waypoints, when the duskblade can't take them. The other components of the chassis are similar to that of the dawnblade, so to avoid redundancy, I'll skip ahead.


The waypoints provided are grouped by type and by minimum level - 8th philosopher level is the maximum such abilities require, with greater waypoints at most requiring 15th level - from globe of invulnerability-type immunities to other tricks - now the intriguing idea here is, obviously, that the terminology of finishers allows for the combination of waypoint-mechanics between edgewalker and edgeblade, while still maintaining the unique identity of the edgeblade. Between Loci, finishers and the like, this means there is still a lot of untapped potential within the systems presented here that could be expanded in future supplements.


Chapter III: The Edgewalker


The edgewalker gets 4+Int skills per level, d8, proficiency with simple weapons, short sword, rapier, sap, kukri, shortbow and whip as well as light armors and shields. Over the 20 levels of the class it receives a sneak attack progression from +1d6 to a maximum of +7d6 at 19th level and the class gets a 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. The edgewalker has also been codified according to the philosopher level terminology and has full philosopher-level progression. As you can imagine, Uncanny Dodge also can be found among the class features, at 3rd level.


So, what is the edgewalker's deal? The class can be described as a martial artist with a thematic connection to light and darkness - a kind of monk/rogue blend, if you will, and more importantly, one that does not fall by the wayside. Edgewalkers at first level receive thus two pools - the radiance and the shadow pool, both at least containing one point and both using an attribute modifier (as before, Wis for radiance, Int for shadow) plus level to determine additional points for the respective pools. At 5th level and every six levels thereafter, the edgewalker receives a +2 to maximum pool size that can be freely distributed among the pools (for a net gain of +1/+1 or +0/+2)


Now as a Batman/stealth type of class, receiving evasion relatively soon should not be considered uncommon (2nd level, improved evasion at 11th level, nerfing these two and taking away any lingering sense of these components being problematic) and 6th level edgewalkers receive hide in plain sight as long as they are within 10 feet of a sufficiently large shadow. Now this still makes targeting the edgewalker with spells et al rather difficult - the class is geared rather well towards taking softer targets out.


Beyond FCOs for core races, drow, aasimar, tieflings, hobgoblins, kobolds, orcs and puddlings (all solid) and it's the time I should explain the core talent system of the class: Essentially, edgewalkers start the game with two so-called waypoints known, one light, one darkness and at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the class receives an additional waypoint. Now there is a cool restriction in place here - the edgewalker needs to keep a balance between light and darkness, which translates to waypoint selection: If your light-based waypoints exceed those that are darkness-based, you need to learn a darkness-based one next and vice versa, creating a kind of equilibrium. It should also be noted that a couple of these waypoints count as either light, darkness or twilight.


Now before I get towards waypoints, you should also be aware that at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the edgewalker also receives a greater waypoint, which can be considered a kind of more powerful talent - one that requires some planning, for the greater waypoints also have to adhere to the light/darkness-dichotomy, offering opportunities for proper planning of character progression.


The capstone of the class allows you to use radiance and darkness pool interchangeably - a slight increase in power when compared to the original iteration of the class, but one I welcome.


Archetype-wise, we receive the motebringer (previously released on its own). The motebringer has the same basic class-chassis regarding saves and BAB as the edgewalker - unlike the edgewalker, who oscillates between light and darkness, the motebringer is a specialist of utilizing light - as such, the archetype only receives a radiance pool equal to class levels x2 + Wis-mod - but no shadow pool. Seeing how this means that several of the combo-set-ups that render the edgewalker captivating to play fall away, we thus receive a significant array of infusions, the first of which is gained at second level, +1 at 3rd level and every 2 levels of motebringer thereafter.


This list of unique tricks, ultimately, is here for one reason - to add a level of flexibility the class would have otherwise lost - and I applaud the motebringer for it. Reflexive temporary hit points, high-level poison immunity, energy resistance and the like can all be found herein -as can blinding motes of light that act as replenishing blinding flash bombs. The significant array of choices is interesting due to two further design decisions - at 2nd level, the motebringer receives a mote pool that scales with the level totaling 1/2 of class levels, rounded down -these are spent when infusing aforementioned infusions into the second interacting component - the radiant shawls. From extending ropes of light from the shawls to granting himself a temporary radiance point, and minor (but untyped) damage as rays that can be fired as swift actions or whirlwind touch attacks render this archetype interesting-


Also gained at 2nd level, radiant shawls constitute pieces of roughly-shawl-like solid light that can be modified with infusions by spending 1 hour. The shawl occupies the shoulder slot and also provides a bonus to AC and a penalty to Stealth-checks - it can be activated and deactivated as a standard action, and yes, the infusions that can be woven into the shawl can, for example, grant temporary radiance pool points to power the waypoints learned. Both radiance and mote pools increase over the levels and obviously, hide in plain sight is not part of the deal for motebringers. The capstone allows for instant modification of infusion loadouts as well as replenishment of daily uses of infusions.


The second archetype provided herein is no less complex than the motebringer - the shadowfriend. The shadowfriend loses sneak attack and instead begins play with a shadowy remnant of what he once was in an alternate reality - unlike companions and the like, the motivations of these guys sync automatically up with yours. If the shadowself is destroyed, it can be regained in a rite costing 200 gp x level. The shadowself has 1/2 HD (min 1), 1/2 BAB-progression, halved bad-saves, gets up to 20 skills (2 at first level, +2 at third and every odd level thereafter) and begins play with one feat, +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The shadow also gets sneak attack that scales up to +6d6. Healing via waypoints may spontaneously be redirected towards the shadowself and waypoints with a range of personal may also affect either. The shadow can always spider climb and occupy the same square as the master. Taking away its surface lets it snap back to the master's feet and even teleportation is properly handled for the shadow. The shadow self is immune versus precision damage and crits and all its attacks are touch attacks. When removed from the master by more than 30 ft or out of line of sight, the shadowself curls up in an inactive ball and is helpless, dissipating after 1 hour of inactivity. Masters and shadow can freely communicate verbally, but other creatures do not understand this communication - which is a bit odd: Why not make this a telepathic link? I don't really get how that works.


The master uses a language, right? Anyways, at 2nd level, the shadowself gets DR 1/- (+1 every 4 levels) and uses Int-mod to calculate hp, Fort-saves and Con-based special abilities. At 5th level, shadowself duplicates the master's weapon or shields as masterwork versions, with 8th level allowing for a +1 enhancement bonus that scales up by +1 every 4 master levels thereafter. 5th level provides improved evasion. Shadowselves have Str, Dex, Wis, Cha and Int 10 and no Con on account of being a construct, which also means d10 HD. The shadowfriend does pay for this powerful pet with pools - they only get a shadow pool equal to 2xclass level+Int-mod, minimum 1. No radiance tricks and neither may they learn radiance waypoints. 3rd level nets the shadowfriend and his shadowself a shadow of their own for the purpose of waypoint/locus-activation and 5th level and every 6 thereafter increase the shadow pool point size by +2. The shadowfriend is an extremely cool archetype and imho mops the floor with the motebringer - touch attack sneaks are nasty, in spite of the bad BAB and while the shadowself is fragile, it can be used in pretty awesome ways. That and the ability' codification is a thing of crunchy beauty.


All right, I've stalled long enough - let's talk about the waypoints that constitute the primary resource of unique, active tricks of the edgeblade and edgewalker. Now you're of course interested in the aforementioned waypoints and the waypoints themselves have diverse prerequisites - from none, to level-caps and other waypoints have certain skills and feats as prerequisites, which thankfully are listed in the handy lists provided for the respective classes. Now what can you for example make with these waypoints? Well, since there are more than 100 in here (approximately double of what we had before!), I'm just going to note that the following is not a comprehensive list, but rather an array of options that should be considered kind of representational for the classes. While many waypoints are available for both classes, of course there are some that are exclusive for either. As a special mention: Yes, the theme of character-development and specialists seem contradictory, but the pdf does provide guidance for archetype-switching, so that should also be noted...just in case you notice on of the numerous combos herein too late and/or have a change in your character's development. There is another component I should mention: Finishers tend to allow for escalation - i.e. the payment of additional residuum to increase the potency of waypoints. Waypoints also thankfully generally provide scaling benefits, but I guess, at this point, that's a given.


Very interesting for blocking charges and the like, "A Thousand Grasping Tendrils" allows you to, as a swift action, reshape your shadow into an array of tendrils that create a micro-aura of 10 feet of difficult terrain around you - which, of course, does not hinder you in any way. Ignoring difficult terrain and effortlessly scaling any incline less than 90° can also be done by these fellows. Another waypoint offers a dazzle against a creature you threaten - sans save, as an immediate action, useable whenever you switch between light and darkness consecutively. Armors of light (that do not necessarily enhance your stealth...), a shaken-causing breath weapon of black wind, 1 round slow at a higher save DC, better stealth, cushioning falls (the longer the fall, the higher the cost), very minor reflexive damage (plus dazzle), creating areas of demoralizing gloom and putting creatures subjected to fatigue-related negative conditions or con-damage/drain to sleep is rather interesting. Why? because for the edgewalker, rolling bad on sneak attack is not necessarily a bad thing: For each natural 1,2 or 3 rolled on such a roll, you also deal one point of Con damage if you take the right 8th level dark waypoint. What about edgeblade clothing themselves in DR-granting armor of hardened light, with options for escalation?


Now where things get interesting would e.g. be with the exceedingly cool ability that lets you set up your shadow as a flanking supplement and, quite possibly for the first time since I've been doing this reviewing thing, gets such an ability actually right. Now, with Ichor of the Firefly, the edgewalker may coat his/her weapons with virulent light that invades the bodies of target, negating invisibility etc., while also providing significant bonus damage, especially against creatures sensitive to light. Making conversely, a poison from darkness itself that scales damage-wise over the levels also becomes a distinct possibility. Speaking of said poison - if you use the dark-aligned poison, you may add a neat combo (though the following is not restricted to the darkness-based poison) that allows you to ignite the poison coursing through your foe's veins, dealing significant fire damage. Damn cool!


The equivalent of solo tactics sans requiring an ally (but only while your shadow isn't otherwise occupied) also makes for a cool array of tactical options. Want to know what's lurking round the corner, in the adjacent room etc.? What about stretching your shadow up to 60 feet and looking through its eyes? This ability, which can be taken at first level, is narrative gold and iconic in imagery!


Of course, various spell-like abilities, poison use, pillars of light that heal minor damage, motes of searing light or making your shadow the equivalent of a kind of bear trap are possible, but for me, the anti-ray/attack-roll spell Tenebrous Tango, which allows you to have spells utterly miss you - think mirror image variant with an edge. At a permanent cost of 1 point from a pool of your choosing, you may also master poisons to the extent they become more potent, making your poisons at +1 DC more lethal - and with quite a few requiring consecutive saves in PFRPG, this makes sense.


Now I did mention those greater waypoints and as you may have imagined, they are the big ones - Summoning forth several shadows from you one - cool. But more interesting would, at least for me, be the game-changer that is Cumulative Exposure - it deals automatic damage to all adjacent creatures whenever you subsequently use two waypoints. Using multiple dark waypoints may also yield bonuses and igniting mundane light sources to emit blinding flashes makes for a cool idea and better light/darkness poison/ichors are lethal and cool - what about e.g. an ichor that makes the target suffer from miss chances galore, but also receive an applicable miss chance as it becomes insubstantial -nice reflection of the duality-theme in the crunch here.


Now also rather awesome would be the option to steal other creature's shadows via ranged CMB to power darkness-waypoints. Cool here - the ability manages to properly prevent kitten-bag abuse. Lifelinks also are possible - ouch! Now it should be noted that, although the page-count of the pdf remains unchanged, quite a few stock artworks have been taken out of the file to make room for more waypoints, which is rather cool and adds to the arsenal of an already fun and inspired class. It should be specifically noted that the greater waypoints receiving some awesome tricks - what about establishing a link that damages a target when you are healed? Yeah, evil and oh so cool!


If all of these options still are not enough - yes, there are feats to enhance the classes here, but this review is already 12 pages long as is - so let's jump to the conclusion.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - there are almost no issues in here, most being typo-level and in the exceedingly rare case some piece of mechanic is influenced, it is to a small degree that still allows you to deduce what's intended. The pdf sports thematically-fitting stock art and layout adheres to Interjection Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard. This book has one massive issue on the formal side - no bookmarks. Beyond making this review relatively painful with a lot of scrolling, this means that printing out this massive book is something you should do - a book of this size, sans bookmarks, is very user unfriendly. I asked what happened and it turns out, there are supposed to be bookmarks - but the technical side of things has screwed the pdf, thus breaking them. It would basically be required to build the whole book anew to make them work.


And ultimately, that's my one issue with this book. You already know I loved the respective three classes, with particularly the edgeblade being just fun to play. All archetypes herein are unique, sporting a significantly-changed playing experience from their unmodified classes - to the extent where the archetypes can be considered more unique than some variant classes out there. Bradley Crouch delivers a highly complex and rewarding casting system here, one that codifies antipodism and makes it feel more concise.


Unlike previous systems, antipodism is all about the combos: Much like the themes it represents, you'll have better DPR-options with other systems. What makes this book's classes awesome is their deliberate emphasis on cool combos and synergy effects - if you enjoy classes that play intelligently, then this book provides content galore, with the vast majority being quite frankly unique and not something you'd see in the arsenal of other classes. Juggling highly complex concepts and getting the wording right also constitutes one of the unique benefits here. Content-wise, this is awesome and if you're willing to print this out, it's definitely worth the investment of the fair asking price. That being said, the lack of bookmarks really, really hurts this massive, otherwise great book.


Let's make this abundantly clear - this would be 5 stars + seal, in spite of the few minor glitches here and there and to me as a private person, it is just that....But, as a reviewer, no bookmarks constitute a big fat issue for a book of this size. If you don't have a problem with printing this out, then get it - for you, the above verdict very much holds true. However, as a reviewer, I can't just assume that and have to rate the pdf as is; as much as it galls me, I have to detract 1 star, ending with a final verdict of 4 stars - if you print this out, I'm pretty sure you will love it, though!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Antipodism - Drawn from Light and Darkness
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Night's Black Agents: Double Tap
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2015 04:39:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive expansion book for Night's Black Agents clocks in at 134 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 3 pages of ToC, leaving us with 123 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review was moved up forward in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for an honest and critical review.


All right, so, if you recall my original review of Night's black Agents, you'll recall that I have received said book as a gift from a friend of mine and how much I loved it - however, there always remained one particular observation that may be considered somewhat problematic: Night's black Agents is based on the GUMSHOE engine, which is perhaps the best investigative RPG-engine out there. At the same time, though, Night's Back Agent's different gameplay styles at least partially implied a higher degree of emphasis on action and high-octane gameplay than what you'd see in Trail of Cthulhu or Esoterrorists. Night's Black Agents managed to partially offset the engine not being per se designed for this type of gameplay via the introduction of a significant amount of thoroughly inspired tweaks to the system. Well, if you're like me and have played a couple of Night's Black Agents-scenarios, you'll immediately notice what this book is: It's the high-octane Advanced Player's Guide, the 13 True Ways, of Night's Black Agents.


Let me elaborate: The book is divided into two sections, one for players and one for directors, with the player-section beginning with abilities - here, we are introduced to ability focuses like money laundering that concisely define what can be done with them; better yet, the respective entries do sport a plethora of techniques associated with the respective ability focus - in the above example, we'd for example receive information on overseas accounts, shell companies and the like. The abilities also sport tactical fact finding benefits that list sample possible spends and clues, the latter of which sport the handy glyphs denoting the nature of vampires in your given campaign. Beyond offering benefits for the players, this excessive section also provides a significant amount of unique hooks that directors can utilize to weave into their respective campaigns - from astrophysics to handling radioactive material to gladhandling via Cryptography, this chapter provides an immensely enriching array of options not only for investigative abilities, but also for the various general abilities featured.


Indeed, beyond significantly enriching the rich tapestry of options at the beck and call of the agents, the supplemental rules also improve the versatility and variety of action-scenarios available. Oh, and if you're annoyed by absolute super-pro secret agents failing certain tests, then you may want to check out the optional mastery rules provided. That being said - yes, this chapter also covers an impressive array of new cherries for your agents, further diversifying the abilities and improving the reward ratio for specialization beyond what the core-book offered -from retro-active pickpocketing to nigh-undefusable bomb-set-ups, this chapter is a true beauty and further cements Night's Black Agents as the mechanically most refined GUMSHOE game out there.


Beyond combat-centric cherries and a general expansion of abilities, one should not fail to mention the tricks of the trade - usually requiring 8+ in the respective ability, these allow for superb cheating skills via a 3-point spend, improvising alibis, mad hacking skills (played via hilarious techno-babble) or even James Bond/Knightrider-esque signature vehicles. And yes, this extends to a set of unique and inspired new thriller combat maneuvers, including being thrown away by the blast - riding the shockwave, if you will. On a personal note, that had me chuckle quite a bit since it's been a running joke in my games ever since I once managed to evade a lethal 20T-explosion in Shadowrun and come out of it unscathed thanks to a ridiculous amount of luck. Now one basic issue regarding espionage tradecraft ultimately remains the problem of what can be done with which ability - here, adaptive tradecraft helps, suggesting a rather impressive amount of uses for the respective abilities in uncommon ways - from monitoring a negotiation to manipulating webcams, this section, once again, is all about the glorious options that should be at the fingertips of elite spies.


If your players are like mine, they will have, not only in-game, immensely benefited from the standard operation procedures and thus quickened the general pace with which you can handle complex operations, investigations and plans - well, there's more here: The Carthagena rules should further help agents operate within the challenging requirements of destroying a global vampire conspiracy.


Obviously, an agent is only as good as his tools - we did learn that from Mr. Bond et al., right? Hence, new materiel is introduced - by the buckets: Voice synthesizers, scramblers, facial masking, RFID sniffers and even low-powered wrist lasers can be found here. And yes, the optional rules here also cover the effects of EMP-weaponry, should you wish to go that route! Oh, for high-octane games, I should also mention jetpacks, while dust-games in particular will appreciate e.g. winches or magnetic licensing plates. And yes, if you're particularly prepared, you can benefit from the Q-rule and have utterly awesome, strange gadgets at your disposal - at the hefty price of a 12-point preparedness spend... Obviously, this level of detail also extends to weaponry, which is not only listed by special OPs forces that employ them, but which now benefits from new uses and cherries as well.


Thriller contest rules have been a crucial part of Night's Black Agent's appeal for a more action-driven gameplay style and indeed, the rules receive some utterly non-optional expansions: Beyond digital intrusion, infiltration, surveillance and manhunts all receive extensive supplemental rules to make them more exciting - this chapter alone is so compelling, I'd never want to miss it in any of my NBA-games...and yes, even when playing different games, a GM can still learn quite a bit here.


Where the player-section of this book was focused primarily on expanding the options and further streamlining the suspense-factor, the director's companion chapter can be considered to be all about utility: Need some sample NPCs that don't necessarily feature in the main-plot? The significant array of Cameo-stats for mechanics, superintendents and the like has you covered - and it hilariously includes a goth in love with the dread vampire predator. Nice, winking nod towards one of my subculture's obsessions and how that would pan out in Night's Black Agent's world.... Beyond these people, ready-made establishing shots of various places, sporting enough details for compelling narratives, can be considered another godsend for the director whose agents have once again gone off script.


Among the new options for the agent's monstrous adversaries, manipulating blood to create servitors, cursing them and Chupa, Ekimmu, Homunculus, Penanggalan and Nosferatu stats have you covered with more unique vampiric adversaries. Speaking of which - now directors can utilize the pyramidal structure of the Conspyramid to chart out means by which the conspiracy may be torn asunder - the suspicions-pyramid, or suspyramid, helps in that regard and is an apt planning tool. Particularly fond and a high note for an already excellent book, would be the advice given regarding variant eras - should you choose to, you can chart out storylines detailed the struggles of generations of agents against the dread conspiracy, including relevant rules for social class, telegraphy and the like...and rules for old agents up for one final stab at the nebulous masters...


The book ends with handy summaries of cherries, combat rules, vampire powers etc., all available in a very user-friendly manner, as well as with a massive and very useful index.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed not a single glitch. Layout adheres to Night's Black Agent's 3-column b/w-standard and the artwork utilized is original and generally, high-quality and evocative. The electronic version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience, while the softcover print version features high-quality, glossy paper and leaves nothing to be desired regarding the quality - and it better not, for this book will see A LOT of use.


All right, if you've been following my reviews, you'll have noted that I pretty much spoiled the review from the get-go: Mentioning this book in the same breath as the Advanced Player's Guide and 13 True Ways should tell you something about it: Namely that this book is, what I'd call the "unique identity marker." Don't get me wrong, Night's Black Agent's core book is an absolutely excellent tome that deserves all the praise I heaped on it. At the same time, though, it is still very much obviously a GUMSHOE-book and as such, offers a playing experience that may deviate from Esoterrorists, Trail of Cthulhu, etc., but at the same time, there are parallels you can utilize. When adding "Double Tap" to the fray, the unique components of Night's Black Agent's are not only expanded, they are amplified - significantly. And best of all, for the better. For even in a game that blends multiple GUMSHOE-games, you can still make this the representation of the step up to hyper-pro mode. Basically, this book makes everything more exciting and versatile for the players and at the same time, it helps the directors out there manage what's important with its extremely useful cameos and set-piece establishing shots.


If the above accumulation of basically unfiltered praise was not ample clue for you: This may very well be the best GUMSHOE rules book I've read so far. It succeeds also absolutely perfectly at making Night's Black Agents run more smoothly - the fast-paced infiltration rules, the nice nods regarding digital intrusion, the rules that run the gamut from realistic grit to high-octane action - all of these conspire to make this book a non-optional purchase for a GUMSHOE-system if there ever was one. I fact, if you liked the rules of Night's Black Agents and scavenged them, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same here - Double Tap is chock-full with pure excellence.


Kenneth Hite, John Adamus, Will Hindmarck, Kevin Kulp, Christian Lindke, James Palmer, Will Plant, Rob Wieland, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan - gentlemen, you have created a truly astounding, must-have book that has to be considered non-optional for Night's Black Agents and extremely rewarding for GUMSHOE beyond that. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Black Agents: Double Tap
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Crisis of the World Eater Prequel: A Warning Too Late (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2015 04:38:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This prequel for the unprecedented Crisis of the World-Eater-saga clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


All across the world, an uncanny psychic scream echoes through the minds of the minds of the world, driving many individuals to suicide - and the trail leads to the irradiated Kray Wasteland, officially a hostile area broken by the impact of a meteorite. Major Marco Dempompa send the PCs into this wasteland - and it is here, the PCs find something they did not expect: Beyond the deadly gangs that inhabit the wasteland, the PCs unearth a strange, star-shaped complex - for from it, the scream was sent forth. They are not alone in their discovery, though - it is here that a secret super-soldier program was launched and three of these changed beings now have returned: The apathy-field generating arcanist Synapse, the unbreakable Colossus like berserker Vault and the Magneto-style elven storm sorceress Ozone.


Finally, beyond the locked down central section, the deadly quicksilver/flash-like Black Silver and the cabalists of the Onyx Cabal remain - and here, the PCs find the broken figure depicted on the cover, the chronicler - who has regained his strength to emit the scream...to warn the world of the approach of Saitan, the deliverer of Omega...before falling back into hibernation. I should btw. mention that the bosses/super-soldiers of this module, like bosses in Metal Gear Solid or superheroes/villains sport unique abilities that render them significantly more interesting than the sum of their builds.


It is with a sense of doom impending, paranoia versus the world's nations and a player-friendly map of the complex that we end this first taste of the dread things to come...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, elegant 2-column full-color standard established in the surprisingly awesome "Chronicle of the Gatekeepers"-campaign serial, though with minor modification. The pdf's artwork is original and absolutely stunning and the cartography is just as awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


This brief module by Michael McCarthy, Jeff Lee and Louis Porter Jr. delivers in its promise - it makes me excited for "Crisis of the World-Eater" - even more so than I was before - the evocative backdrop suffused with exceedingly cool bosses renders this a great little module. Oh, and this one is "Pay What You Want" - which means there is literally no reason why you shouldn't check out this cool little module. Personally, I do believe that it is worth a tip/compensation for the obvious care that went into it for the unique bosses alone. Seeing how this is PWYW, I can't see a reason why this should not be considered to be 5 stars + seal of approval - an intriguing, first glimpse at the vast things to come.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crisis of the World Eater Prequel: A Warning Too Late (PFRPG)
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