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Town Backdrop: Dulwich (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2017 03:50:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This town backdrop clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

In the Duchy of Ashlar, near the infamous (and superbly-written) Gloamhold, there looms a great salt marsh, and above it, there is the bustling, booming trade town of Dulwich, which is anything but dull.

Sorry. I just couldn’t help myself. Bad puns from reviewers aside, Dulwich exists in interesting times for the duchy: A veritable torrent of lumber from the forest helps keep the coffers of its citizens full, and if the machinations of mayor Wido Gall, one of the major players seeking to establish control over the village of Longbridge (one of the finest villages in the classic Village Backdrop series). It should also be noted that the town is situated rather close to the Shunned Valley, where an excellent beginner’s adventure released by Raging Swan Press takes place – though this module, as per the writing of this review, has not yet been converted to 5e.

But even if you don’t have Longbridge or seek to use the Duchy and its excellent associated pieces of content, rest assured that Dulwich has a lot to offer: This is fully operational as a stand-alone supplement. You see, the town’s merchants have been trying to wrest control from the mayor – so far, without much success. However, all this may change with the recent death of high priest Taistro Rintala. His successor, the young priestess Vuokko Laiten may well be the tip of the tongue that changes the balance of power in the town; this becomes even more peculiar when the adventurers unearth the machinations of the deceased high priest…

Now, the 5e-version does not have settlement stats and thus, also no missing plusses there, but much to my chagrin, the marketplace section of adventuring-relevant goods to be purchased has been eliminated as well – understandable in the system neutral version, but less so in the 5e-iteration. PCs that do their legwork may unearth town lore of Dulwich and the pdf does feature a total of 6 rumors the PCs may unearth when keeping their ears to the street.

Now, this would not be a Raging Swan Press supplement without providing delicious dressing to add local color and flair – from the nomenclature and dressing habits of the townsfolk to the local industry and law enforcement (which is, obviously, also involved in the ongoing power struggle), the pdf offers quite an array of interesting details that practically write adventures themselves. This notion is carried further by the brief, fluff-only write-ups of the townsfolk, which not only include the obvious power-players, but also e.g. the head of a local cat burglar ring or a mysterious street performer. The 5e-version of these folks sports references to the relevant statblocks – no conversion relics.

As befitting of a place with an increased likelihood of having adventurers return (or stay longer!), the town is supplement with a 2d8-table of events, ranging from funeral processions to blacksmiths demonstrating their goods to more outré examples, like the guardsmen passing by with a woman wearing a metallic mask in command, who drag a bedraggled merchant to the keep in chains…well, if that’s not intriguing… 11 sample sites and places of interest in the town are provided in further detail: From the goals of the masked woman in question to the temple/court to the guild hall, the main sites and concentrations of power are covered – but so are the back-dealings that are less obvious: Beautiful femme fatale jewelers who may make a grab for power, a library, various taverns and inns (with costs and notes for food and drinks!) to the marketplace, the locales come with plenty of interesting angles.

Speaking of which: Unlike pretty much every such town I’ve seen in RPGs, this does not shortchange the importance of guilds, which should put a smile on the faces of quite a few scholars out there: The 3 most powerful guilds (blacksmiths, Potters, wool) receive their own page. It should be noted that the lumber guild, the most powerful of them all, has its own entry in the notable sites.

There’s another aspect to this pdf that I really adore. You see, beyond Tommi Salama’s absolutely gorgeous b/w-map of the town, the pdf also comes with explanations of street names and what can be found in the respective streets, painting pictures of the local environments far more precisely than enumerations of multiple house-descriptions could. Globetrotters who have visited many a stories town will probably also agree with me that this represents a very cool way to add a sense of historicity to the place.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports nice b/w-artwork. The cartography by Tommi Salama is gorgeous and in b/w. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out – kudos!

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Yes, this town backdrop is shorter than previous installments. It is my contention, though, that courtesy of John Bennett’s expert penmanship, it may actually be better off for it. You see, towns occupy an in-between spot, design-wise: In a village, you can flesh out everything in detail; in a city, you need to be open, but also have the advantage of having more possibilities, design-wise. A town that is too open, though, becomes anonymous and like a bad example for city-design; it can’t offer the same wide-open potential. At the same time, a town that is too lavish in its details runs the risk of becoming stifling, of becoming too much to micro-manage for the GM. This pdf, then, manages to succeed this balancing-act in a rather formidable way.

Dulwich is at once open enough to allow a Gm to easily plug-in material, and specific enough to constitute a detailed home with its own flair for the PCs. The writing also manages to elicit an atmosphere that is pretty unique, as far as fantasy is concerned: This may just be me, but with the power-struggle ongoing, covert machinations and the power of guilds, this inevitably painted the fantasy equivalent of a Roaring 20s boomtown gangster epos for me, with slight touches of noir – all firmly situated in a Greyhawkish fantastic context, mind you. This effect is very subtle, mind you – you won’t have gangsters running around the streets or the like; this is traditional fantasy, after all! But it should be taken as testament for the rather nuanced writing that this notion sprang to mind in the first place.

In short: I actually had FUN reading this supplement and consider Dulwich to be a great place: Its metanarratives can span multiple returns or escalate immediately; there is ample adventuring potential and if you also take the Duchy of Ashlar as a whole into account, you’ll be able to further escalate the potential plots and options this offers.

The 5e-version of this town, as a whole, is just as compelling as the PFRPG and system-neutral iterations, but personally, the lack of a marketplace sans replacement annoyed me a bit. Hence, my final verdict will “only” clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Town Backdrop: Dulwich (5e)
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5E Mini-Dungeon #055: Chrome Devils of the Swamp
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2017 03:49:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

A fiery comet has fallen into the nearby swamp and rumors abound regarding the strange devils that have ventured forth from its insides. Indeed, within the swamp, the dungeon is composed of a strange alloy, sports an eerie glow...yep, this very much would be a crashed space-ship, with several kind of robots serving as the opposition to be faced by the PCs. Here is something cool: Doors improperly forced open, droids destroyed - all matter, for the AI that is the BB"E"G can result in enemies coming close.

Better yet: While the PFRPG version had some issues in the rules-details, the 5E-conversion remedies these and goes above and beyond: We have robots that are reskins, modified monsters with different traits and proper rules-challenges – this complex works as intended and does so in a fantastic manner that is simply better than the original.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and decent, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Stefanos "The Netlich" Patelis's science-fantasy crawl, in its original version, had all the makings of pure awesome and couldn’t realize them fully; in 5e, whoever has done the conversion, went above and beyond to make the module as amazing as it should be. This is, hands down, one of the best modules in the whole series – if you even remotely like science-fantasy, get this gem!! My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval for this gem.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #055: Chrome Devils of the Swamp
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Liber Xpansion (PFRPG)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2017 07:41:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion for Amora Game’s critically-acclaimed and criminally-underrated Liber Influxus Communis“-tome clocks in at a massive 98 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page thank you, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 91 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

This was a long time coming and the heartfelt dedication in the front of the book to a friend who has passed, Ryan Warrick Cramer, makes for a touching beginning before we take a look at 2 new classes presented in the first chapter.

The first of which would be the adventurer, who gains d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light & medium armors and shields as well as ¾ BAB-progression. The saves of the class are determined at 1st level – may be chosen as good saves and the class also gets to choose 2 + Int-mod skills to add to the list of class skills. They also choose a so-called apprentice skill from Craft and Profession skills available (the skill references have not been properly capitalized) – At 8th level, the adventurer may always take 10 in that skill. At 12th level, the adventurer may always take 20 when using her apprentice skill. 16th level yields bonuses for chosen Profession apprentice skills or automatic masterworks for adventurers that chose Craft – oh, and actually quick non-magical crafting. Instead of using Diplomacy, they may also use the apprentice skill for bargaining at this level.

3rd level yields uncanny dodge, 9th level improved uncanny dodge and 5th level yields solo tactics. At 13th level, the adventurer may 1/day change a rolled 1 on a d20 into a 20 – I assume that is sans action required/as part of the roll, but it would be nice to have that specified. 17th level eliminates the ability score penalties incurred by old age.

You have probably guessed it: Yes, the adventurer is defined by more than these: The class sports several signature abilities, the first of which would be guild training: The adventurer chooses one of 5 different adventurer guilds, a choice that can later not be reversed. The guild chosen determines what is considered to be a Guild Feat for the class as well as the abilities gained by the class. The first of these would be the adventuring guild, who may, as a swift action, grant herself a luck bonus to a variety of rolls 4 + Charisma modifier times per day, which can be maintained as a free action and increases in potency at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. Assassins may choose non-combat feats as Guild feats and receive +1d6 sneak attack, increasing that by +1d6 every three levels thereafter. Explorers are very front-heavy, gaining +10 ft. movement rate as well as swim and climb speeds equal to the movement rate, which is too dippable for my tastes. The Herculean guild gets a very restrictive Guild feat list, but increases HD to 10 (does this include 1st level?) and receives an adrenaline rush – basically a more flexible variant of rage that allows for the increase of +4 to a physical ability score, which can be freely divided in increments of +2, with progression of rounds available being adhering once again to a scaling formula. Finally, the woodsman guild gets the ranger traps and associated feats as well as skirmish, which provides a scaling dodge bonus after moving and at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, a scaling damage-boost during rounds he is moving.

Beyond these, the guilds do influence the available talents for the class, which are called advanced guild trainings. Additional advanced guild trainings are gained every 3 levels after 4th and run a wide variety of options. Not all of them are perfectly, executed, though – the option to get a SP with scaling daily uses does not differentiate between spell-lists, for example, and spell-list strength does diverge a bit. Another training deals with called shots and, while good enough, reduction of penalties as the one granted by the talent is usually phrased slightly differently. That being said, these represent mostly cosmetic hiccups – on the plus-side, we have fast stealth, increased speed while mounted, increased initiative while mounted (ouch in mythic gameplay). Interesting: Using Escape Artist instead of Acrobatics to avoid AoOs and for every 5 ranks, he automatically avoids an attack – while very strong, it is limited enough to make it an interesting offering and tying it to ranks prevents abuse…so yeah, nice one! That being said, there is one general talent that is broke: Scrap it. Without requiring an action, you can interpose your shield between an attack – it absorbs ALL damage from the attack, becoming broken. A second use destroys the shield. While the talent states explicitly that the damage thus caused cannot be repaired, this still needs some serious limitation. Get a bucketload of bucklers, end up basically invincible as long as you can take up new shields. Not cool.

Among the guild-specific options, we have evasion, 1/day immediate action use of a standard action, shield allies from Ref-based effects and the like. Assassins can select bleeding attacks, death attacks, HiPS…you get the idea. Explorers are a bit wonky, introducing in one ability the Piloting skill (not how that works…) and skill boosts. Herculean adventurers get limited daily-use instant knockout hits, upgrades for adrenaline rush and the like. Balancing and formatting here is wonky – levels instead of class levels, a talent that adds “1d8 + STR”[sic!] damage to bull rushes– there are some serious hiccups here, some of which influence the integrity of the rules…which is REALLY weird, for at the same time, e.g. an option to mitigate adrenaline rush’s cooldown is presented precisely. Finally, woodsmen get favorite terrain, camouflage and a skirmish upgrade with a d12-table of conditions you can randomly cause – these range from feeble to save-or-suck…and frankly, I think the ability should have been cut up into a tree or offer some scaling for the ability, with the more potent options unlocking later. The guilds btw. also determine the capstone the class gets.

Finally, it should be noted that 2nd level yields best guess, a means to determine a ton of information via Survival.

The second class presented herein would be the gun adept hybrid class, a blend of Bard/magus and gunslinger, who gains d8 HD, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and firearms as well as light armor and does not incur spell failure while in light armor. The class gains spontaneous Charisma-based arcane spellcasting of up to 6th level, drawing spells from the bard’s list, ¾ BAB-progression and good Ref-saves. The class receives Gunsmith at 1st level and uses the gun thus gained as a focus, which allows the class to eschew components with a price of 100 gp or less, but as a kind of bonded object, casting without it is problematic. The arcane gun can be used to fire spells, not unlike my own etherslinger’s design – there are limits here in place, making only spells that require an attack roll (oddly listing cone and line spells in the same line as the attack structure, which is a bit weird since these usually are opposed by a saving throw) and adds the gun’s enhancement bonus as a bonus to spell DC. There is a mitigating risk to this power, though: When channeling a spell through the gun thus and you roll a 1 on the attack roll or a target succeeds a save with a natural 20, the gun becomes broken.

2nd level yields nimble, which increases in power every 4 levels thereafter, with 3rd level netting the option to channel spell levels into bullets, increasing the damage output of the gun by +1d6 per level. sigh Because slingers needed damage boosts. Also weird “magic damage” – considering the plethora of damage types available in PFRPG, this make-belief type is weird to see. And no, this was not for the purpose of DR interaction, for the ability precisely notes the interaction with that component. However, rune bullets do cost +1 gp and etching them while adventuring strains the eyes, providing a penalty to ranged atk. Alchemical bullets cannot be made into rune bullets and firing rune bullets via guns other than the arcane gun increases the misfire rate by 3. 4th level provides the option to have multiple arcane guns – if he instead specializes on one gun, the gun adept gains an x3 multiplier for spell critical, which is very, very potent.

Starting at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the gun adept gets an RBE – a rune bullet effect. There are three categories: Bullet effects add e.g. alignment effects, energy damage, etc. As a minor gripe: The deafening effect of thunder bullets – does the aura center on the target of the bullet or the gun adept? Trick shots provide the utility tricks – counterspell shots, for example – some nice tricks here including soft crowd control with creature drawing/pulling! Thirdly, there are so-called “whiskey” tricks, which affect the gun adept. Contained in this section would be bayonet charges that add a second firing attack to the charge…which is a bit weird, in that it does not precisely codify how firing the gun and charging/AoOs etc. interact. From named bullets to pistol-whipping, there are so interesting options here.

Starting at 7th level, fighter feats may be chosen as bonus feats, with 12th level providing another one. 9th level allows for the imbuing of a spell in a rune bullet, causing a “duel[sic!] effect” – there are some more typos here and the ability isn’t, alas, as concise as I’d like it to be. The bonus damage caused by rune bullets in such a case is reduced, at least until 19th level.

15th level provides an AoO for the gun adept whenever a spell within reach (should be RANGE) of the gun is cast; this is executed after the spell’s “complete” – whatever that means. I get what this is supposed to do, but RAW, it does not work. 20th level provides auto-crit for arcane gun, spells and rune bullets (WTF) and an increased critical multiplier. Double WTF. Even for 20th level, that’s overkill. At the same time, the rune bullet crafting process is depicted in surprising detail, so kudos.

All in all, the gun adept makes for a take on the trope that almost gets it right – the ideas, chassis etc. are cool, but the damage-escalation is BRUTAL and it does not help that the class fails to limit the spells that can be channeled through the gun to class spells. A good rules-editor fixing some aspects of this could have made it into one of the best gunslinger-options, but RAW it is, pardon the bad pun, a pretty raw offering. …yeah, will punch myself for this one later.

Anyways, that’s it for the first chapter of the book – hereafter, we dive into archetypes and class options, starting with Michael Sayre’s great Battle Lord. The Dual Specialist would be a meaningful engine-tweak, which loses divine aura, dual command and some combat drills in favor of being able to gain training benefits from a specialty he did not choose. Warchiefs would be a Cha-based chaotic variant of the class – instead of associating bonus feats with combat drills, he employs rage powers to grant to allies – who, alas, may not execute Dex and Int-based skills while the drill is active. Dual command is moved to 16th level and 8th instead yields a +4 morale bonus to Strength and +2 to Will-saves for allies affected by drills – however, no three-fold command. The archetype also gains a variant capstone…and is really cool, potent and mechanically PRECISE. The final archetype for the class would be the zealot, who is Wisdom-based and exchanges 4th and 16th level’s combat drills for channel energy, with 5th level providing Channel Smite and 16th level adding negative effects to channel smite. Meaningful, fun engine-tweak – and once again, precise and well-made.

The Conduit gets a full-blown alternate class version, the siphon, who, instead of absorbing magic, basically acts as an absorbing battery for psionics. As a minor complaint here – last time I checked, there was no psionic damage type. The rays they can fire from absorbed energy increase their ranges, with higher levels providing means to expend siphoned power points to activate unique talents – Pretty cool: These get unique displays, enhancing the flavor component here. I am, as a whole, pretty excited by this variant – and in a really cool twist, 10th level provides an important choice that radically alters how the class plays – either the base engine is retained, or the class changes how it works by gaining access to the option to absorb latent energy of nearby psionics – as a whole, an impressive variant that includes proper rules-language for interaction with psionic items etc. There are some minor hiccups on an editing point, with e.g. “longer” missing from “no ages or requires sleep…”

Metamorphs get a variety of new evolutions that include integrated blasters for construct phenotypes, blood drain, energy drain, jinxs, gliding, powerful leaps, with e.g. jinx building on exceptional luck. An upgrade for sores should imho have a cool-down or cap to prevent the spamming of poisonous spores. Nice, on the other hand – some Technology Guide support here! A new feat lets you expend vitality surges to temporarily gain an evolution worth 1 point per 5 levels (should probably be metamorph levels). The Bionicist archetype would btw. be the dedicated Technology Guide option for the class. The blob is cooler – an ooze metamorph, who gains basically fortification-style abilities and the higher level option to spawn oozelings – basically damaging terrain that can, at higher levels, be used for short-range teleportation. Doopelmorphs would be, in case you were wondering, metamorphs that focus on doppelganger-style human impersonation. Ever-changing metamorphs may change their forms daily, but has less evolution points. Necromorphs replace vitality surge with the option to gain a temporary hit point pool in addition to other temporary hit points, explicitly stacking – this is extremely cheesable, effectively doubling your hit points. While the temporary hit points are not tied to damage, but to positive hit points reduced, this only means you’ll need more kittens to suck dry when recharging your shield…and the temp hit point maximum thus gained is btw. = maximum hit points. Yeah, not gonna happen in my game.

The mnemonic section begins with a bit of errata (which not in the base book?) and comes with two archetypes. The first would be the Dan Tien, who uses Int instead of Str to determine unarmed strike damage output. Instead of the signature memory theft and wipe, the class gains the option to enter into a battle trance that provides a means to increase damage and atk as well as threat range (RAW stacks with other effects, which is something I don’t tend to enjoy) – the ability does not add the benefit to crit confirmations and instead rewards multiple critical hits with stacking untyped bonuses. I’d be complaining much louder here, if the trance had no succinct cap per day. Instead of photographic reflexes, we get an ability intended to mimic other attacks, which becomes problematic with attack-like abilities, natural attacks and the like. The class also gets a thought strike-based parry, defensive roll, etc. Solid, as a whole, though it did not blow me away. The second archetype, the sensei, replaces photographic reflexes with the ability to impart copied moves to allies – the wording that the ability is basically renamed here and that the uses still are used as resource could have been a bit clearer here. When using retraining rules, the sensei can also be really quick and helpful as a kind of omni-teacher.

Mystics gets new talents, both increased ranges and advanced talents that e.g. include flame-based propulsion. The class, alas, hasn’t aged too well, with the release of the kineticist since then…The dual energy tricks available here are okay, though. The extensionist is a basic engine tweak and sports a couple of sentences, where the structure seems to be wonky. “she must decided[sic!]” and the like. The Musha-Chie archetype is a psionic mystic, basically a psychic warrior crossover, who gets to use ki as power points, among other things. Not bad, but also not the most impressive of crossover options.

The pauper class was the weakest in the original LIC, and this book does help a bit, providing three proper guiding means to determine the gain of hope and despair with concise paths. The absolver archetype can gain despair by listening to sorrow or hope when delivering motivational speeches – this is pretty roleplaying-based, but yeah. On a more annoying note: assumption of sins fails to specify whether it is powered by hope or despair. Cool: They can transfer negative conditions and later provide atonements, for example. The conduit of futures is weird, being able to share their hope and despair abilities with nearby allies. While the rules-language is okay, it could be more precise here. Mastermind paupers are despair specialists, rationalists get emotion and logic pools (though not much beyond that is done with the cool concept) and taleweavers have pretty much free control of whether to gain hope or despair…which begs to question why to use the base class in the first place.

The survivor gets new tactics to add in surprise rounds or poach some adventurer tricks. The contender archetype loses the safe passage options to ally aiding. He also gains the option to substitute a scaling damage for unarmed strikes or grapples – though the formatting here is not as it should be, sporting cosmetic deviations. The archetype may use safe passage uses to suspend a scaling array of negative conditions…and unfortunately taps into the somewhat problematic herculean adventurer abilities, while also gaining a few new tricks to choose from.

The synergist begins with an errata (again –should be in the base book) as well as two archetypes: The echo declares a member of her cast as foil and chooses success or failure, basing synergy points on the performance of that foil, with higher levels providing more foils. Instead of complementary skills, nearby ability score modifiers of allies may be used and when multiple members of the cast roll the same number for a skill check or attack roll, the echo gains a bonus – which is pretty creative! All in all, one of the more interesting archetypes herein. Vagarist casts gain bonuses when failing as a whole, penalties when succeeding as a whole, comparing total combat performance. Via schadenfreude, they may base synergy on failures of foes in a surprisingly complex, interesting engine-tweak, which also extends to vagaries and subsequent abilities – once again, a rather interesting option that changes how the class works in a meaningful manner. The umbra’s missing smoke demiplane has been reproduced herein as well.

The warloghe class gains new taboos to provide some spellcasting – I assume for the choice made to enter a binding pact, since the spellcasting option already has spell access (and the binding pact option can use it…) There is a pretty cool option to animate terrain to provide creepy distractions that can be directed and even cause damage…it has a DC sans noting for what and is “damaging (1d6 hit points)” –that is not rules-language. Similar issues extend to poltergeist hurling of objects, which fail to specify if the attack roll required is ranged or melee. 3 twisted spirits are provided: The bhuta, who gets summon nature’s ally SPs and wild shape (boring), the poltergeist, which grants thematic spell options and shadow, which is the most complex of the 3, granting a shadow companion and providing an array of pretty interesting options. The class also comes with the twisted husk archetype, who gains basically a nasty, possessed armor and slightly increased martial prowess – a rather nice archetype, as a whole, though it loses the spirit binding options.

The new warsmith designs have some cool visuals: What about making nails etc. glow red hot? Yeah, cool…but the pdf fails to clarify the action economy of the design – the ability-group does not have a default, using attacks, skill uses, etc. as reference and basis for active abilities in the original…unfortunately, not the only design suffering from this. That being said: While such hiccups annoy the heck out of me, at the same time, this gets killing folks with the shrapnel of sundered weapons (!!!), in conjunction with edifice recognition, right. Highly complex operation and it works. Even has the anti-abuse caveat. Anatomist warsmiths get sneak attack as well as some field healing style abilities and sports solid, non-magical healing. Gunsmiths replace edifice recognition and Improved Sunder with an experimental firearm and learn to modify the firearm to have a larger capacity, operate recoilless, fire rune bullets. The ironclad takes plates and connects them to his body, getting armor-rules right there. No idea what this “bashing damage” the archetype references is supposed to be, though. The new designs complement the archetype with alloyed skin, an enchantable arm that can be used as both shield and weapon at once…Runesmiths have one unbolded ability that should be bolded – it states that the archetype uses Wisdom as governing attribute. The archetype also gains runes which may be learned in lieu of designs. The runes are interesting and well-presented as a whole.

If you haven’t noticed by now – no, we do not get new demiurge options, alas.

The book does contain several options for non-LIC-classes – the armiger magus provides minor boosts via the inscription of his crest and also gets a nice arcane heraldry ability – flavorful, but I wish it did something more interesting with its idea of using the special mark that denotes the weaponry. Battle sapper rangers are pretty damn cool, gaining the ability to place satchels of explosives that have been tightly and concisely defined, representing the trope rather well. Like it! Battle Sorceror…wait. Sound familiar? Yep, the book contains the archetypes from the Prepare for War Basic Training Manual, though not all of them.

I’m not going to go through all of these in detail once more. Ironskin slayers get d4 sneak attacks, but may target creatures benefiting from concealment with sneak and they basically represent heavy armor-wearing slayers that retain some mobility. The qigong ninja is pretty self-explanatory. Sleep peddler witches are locked into dreaming as patron and get a pretty OP ability: At-will standard action sleep – which also provides healing for willing targets if they sleep long enough. Problem – this is clearly supposed to be a hex, but not designated as such – hence activation and range are opaque. Basically a better slumber hex. Yeah, not sold.

The book also provides a massive array of new feats for extra class feature uses, etc. Some are pretty strong – like Follow Through, which nets you an AoO against another foe upon missing with an attack. Meditation feats from Amora Game’s stand-alone releases have also been included here. Alas, their rules language hasn’t been cleaned up.

The last chapter is devoted to prestige classes, collecting several previously released options like the beast hunter, breaker, centurion, meta adept, tavern brawler, toxicologist. There are new 10-level PrCs herein, but considering the epic length this review already sports, I’ll be pretty brief

The forged is basically a construct-apotheosis guy. He is decent, though e.g. “bashing” damage and similar hiccups can be found – and I’ve seen this done before in a variety of more flexible ways. Ki Scions are pretty solid elemental monks. Long Gunners can be utterly OP, treating their sniper shots as an automatic critical threat. It also scales up critical multiplier insanely high – x6 at level 10. OP and ridiculous damage-escalation. Finally, the wild shot is basically a pistol specialist. The section also suffers from more editing glitches and instances of improper declinations and the like.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the issues of this book, at least in significant sections. As the work of many authors, the different skill-levels and rules-language precision of the authors become very much evident when reading this book. There are some aspects, where highly complex abilities work precisely and to the point…and then, something simple is botched. This may also be due to inconsistent rules-editing, perhaps focusing only on the complicated parts. I don’t know and I frankly haven’t seen this before. "Inconsistent" is probably the best way to describe this. There is no way past noticing that this is a serious detriment for the book. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid pieces of full-color stock art. Big minus in the comfort department – the pdf has NO BOOKMARKS. For a book of this size, that is a jarring, jarring downside.

Greg LaRose, Adam Boucher, Andrew Boucher, Brian Moran, Christie Hollie, Ismael Alvarez, Justin Ragan, Kevin Bond, Ryan Bond, Michael Sayre, Morgan Boehringer, Sasha Hall and Wojciech Gruchala’s Liber Xpansion is a book I waited for with baited breath. In fact, one reason you haven’t seen this review sooner was that I was hoping for at least the bookmarks to be included. Or for another editing pass.

…damn. I LOVE the Liber Influxus Communis. I so wanted to love this as well. When I saw the “Ultimate Psionics Compatible”-logo on this book, my mind went BOOM! The possibilities! Tactician/battlelord-crossovers! Dread or cryptic mnemonics! Marksman battlelords! Oh, and all the untapped potential of LIC’s classes! Hybrid-y options for standard classes, expansions…there is a whole, vast world of untapped potential in these cool engines.

Some of the options in this book manage to reach these lofty expectations, providing nice, new material in the precision I wanted to see. The bad news is that the pdf doesn’t reach these levels of quality and coolness too often. While the LIC pretty much blew me away all the time, this book mostly felt like “only” a good expansion…when it worked. The inclusion of the previously-released material is nice, but I frankly wished these files had received another editing pass on both a rules- and proofing-level.

The good news here is that, generally, the material works – you won’t have to guess (often) how something is supposed to work and the adventurer class, while not perfect and with its own hiccups, can be considered to be mostly solid…but much like the gun adept and the rest of the book, it feels like…it almost got it right. This, to me, feels like a marathon, where you falter on the final stretch. As a rules-dev, I can literally see what it’d take to make this whole book be a good, perhaps even a very good offering. It is so damn close it breaks my heart. If you’re feeling up to the task, try your hand – it’s not an expensive book for the page-count, after all.

Still, this is a very flawed book…only, it’s not consistently flawed. Some parts of it are. The typos, proofing hiccups, rules-glitches, they are not persistent or constant, but they accumulate. On the other hand, we have some gems, even some innovation herein – though not even close to the extent that the LIC provided these. The whole book, ultimately, falls short of its vast promise.

…that being said, I have a responsibility to my readers and I can’t just close my eyes to the copious amounts of lack that define formal aspects of the book.

The lack of further refinement for the previously-released, compiled material, the lack of bookmarks for a book of this size, the lack of precise and unifying rules-language editing (you can’t tell me that “+ STR” in a text doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb; or that copy-replacing “bashing damage” for “bludgeoning damage” is a big deal) – there, the book falters.

This review breaks my heart. The adventurer on its own would be a 3.5 or 4-star class as is, it has all the makings of a 5-star-class if its few hiccups get cleaned up. Similarly, there are options herein worthy of 4 or 5 stars…but also a lot that simply does not live up to this level.

Do yourself a favor and get Liber Influxus Communis. It is a great, creative book full of cool, advanced classes by some of the most talented 3pp-designers. From Survivor to Demiurge, there is something for everyone, for those that prefer simple classes to those that enjoy super-complex monsters. It is inspired in all the right ways and I really cherish my print copy.

As for this book, I can’t unanimously recommend it – if you really liked the LIC and feel up to the task of doing some tinkering, you may get some cool stuff out of this…but I can’t rate this higher than 2.5 stars…and frankly, I should round down. However, there are some pieces of content herein that simply do not deserve this – it is for these gems that I will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Liber Xpansion (PFRPG)
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5E Mini-Dungeon #054: Uneasy Rests the Crown'd Head
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2017 07:39:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This is a direct sequel of "Ne'er Trust the White Wolf's Tameness", but works perfectly as a standalone offering. The PCs venture down into a sinkhole, only to find an air membrane on water that can cling to the PCs, providing 60 minutes of air... -1 minute per round of strenuous activity, so they should better manage their precious air supplies......oh, and the less minutes remain, the more is their visibility impeded, which adds a really cool tactical option to the whole proceedings!

Now, the PCs can engage in plentiful 3D-combat here, as the complex is new and intended to be nothing less than the start of a new aboleth outpost, created by two brethren of this loathsome race. These critters, alas, have not been hyperlinked, but that as an aside – aquatic treants and the like make for interesting and very lethal foes. From a breach to the elemental plane of water and its guardian to other watery foes, traps, merrows and finally, the potentially maddening battle against the bosses, this is a diverse, challenging and extremely evocative mini-dungeon.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and solid, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Stephen Yeardley's excursion to the realms below the waves here is fantastic: It provides the means for interesting and rarely faced foes in a thoroughly fantastic environment. The air/vision mechanic is well worth scavenging and could carry a whole mega-adventure complex...in fact, that's what I'll use it for! It is impressive how much flavor and coolness the author has once again squeezed out of these precious few words - and how much fun. That being said, while I adore many choices herein, the module does lose a bit of its strong flavor in the conversion (no idea who did it), which is why this will “only” get 5 stars – well worth checking out if you’re looking for a challenge!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #054: Uneasy Rests the Crown'd Head
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5E Mini-Dungeon #053: Ne'er Trust The White Wolf's Tameness
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2017 07:37:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon can be run as a sequel to "Look not with Thine Eyes, but Thine Mind", but works just as well on its own. The PCs continue their descent into the bowels of the earth, teleporting into a lethal trap, where multiple, deadly guardians must be bested to escape the "Wolf's Eyes" - a kind of guarded teleport trap. “Everything is ceramic”, the module states – which is cool. I’m less enamored with “relevant check DC 10” – looks like a conversion relic to me.

Free of this challenging gauntlet of rooms and its powerful golems and swarms, the PCs have to make their way through the lethal traps of "the wolf's jaw" - and from here on out, things only get more foreboding, as remnants of horrific fates, 4 random encounters you may or may not use, and a terribly injured group of adventurers speak of worse things awaiting in "the wolf's mind" - a part of the complex where the way leads further below. The 5E-version also comes with a rather cool creature, the Iron Lector – neat!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and decent, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Stephen Yeardley sports a nice quasi-puzzle, some challenging traps and foes and a thematically concise and interesting mini-dungeon here. No complaints, well worth getting - 5 stars, and the 5E-bonus critter makes for a cool added bonus. Once again, I cannot comment on who has done the conversion here.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #053: Ne'er Trust The White Wolf's Tameness
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5E Mini-Dungeon #052: Look Not With Thine Eyes But Thine Mind
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2017 07:36:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon can be played as a sequel to "There are more Things in the Planes and the Earth", but it works perfectly fine on its own as well. After having braved the weird complex and witnessed an elder thing talking to Formians, the PCs now explore a complex where the insectoid creatures represent the none-too-pleasant opposition - random events are provided as well, 4 to be more precise, Wait, Formians? Yep – stats for warriors and workers of the classic critters are provided – kudos, though the formian’s Stinger is one off regarding its damage-value.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and decent, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me. Really annoying glitch: The text on page #2 is half transparent, making it a strain on the eyes.

Stephen Yeardley's latest installments of this sequence of loosely connected mini-dungeons has a diverse and fun array of foes, a neat atmosphere and generally makes for a cool exploration. That being said, the strange layout glitch on page #2 is less than pleasant to read through. The 5E-conversion, otherwise, has been handled well, though I can’t comment on who did it. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #052: Look Not With Thine Eyes But Thine Mind
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Monster Circus
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2017 06:17:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Flaming Crab Games delightfully gonzo series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always in the series, we begin with an eponymous letter from our favorite planes- and dimension-hopping vessel, the UCS Flaming Crab, continuing the charming and well-written meta-narrative that leads us to the topic at hand, which would be Argent & Midnight’s Circus Esoterica and Extravaganza of the Strange. This time, however, Gale and Jilius, the writers of this letter and latest members of the crew, actually also provide a second letter – and we get full stats for the friendly harpy sorceress and her harpy unchained rogue (pack rat) half-sister – as well as an absolutely STUNNING full-color, full-page artwork for the two: Kudos to artists Allen Morris and André Karwath!

Now, this circus, colloquially called Monster Circus, does have, obviously, a menagerie – here, we can find Humongous the owlbear, deathmaw the nasty-tempered manticore, flintbeak the cockatrice and also Crusty and Rusty, the rust monster…and the rust-removal monster! Yep, you heard me! One of the various mini-modules/encounters presented in conjunction with the circus deals with this unique and amazing little critter. I know that many an adventuring group will want one of these as a pet…

The astute reader may have noticed that some of these monsters mentioned above are intelligent…well, yeah, but with a ringmaster like the fully-statted Mr. Smiley, a goblin celebrity lich, there is a good reason why e.g. deathmaw doesn’t maul audiences. And his right-hand man Mr. Nick, a doppelganger expert can help cover up…issues as well. Cool, btw.: Mr. Smiley subsists on a unique diet, if you will: His phylactery sustains the lich in a rather devious manner. How? Well, I’m not going to spoil that!

Among the sights, there would also be Hugo Howl, the werewolf conductor, who guides his 12-headed singing hydra (stats provided) in a unique variation of throat-singing. One of the encounters proposed deals with this constellation: Hugo was fancied by a newcomer to the circus family, a vampire, and tried to resist her advance with garlic. Alas, that made him very enticing for his hydra, who ate him. The vampire was promptly disposed of, but now, no one can coax the hydra to sing! In order to help the circus, the PCs can investigate Hugo’s wagon and solve a nice, rather easy puzzle (or brute-force it, if that’s how you roll). Cool sidequest!

Beyond these folks, there is the living tapestry, whose prophecies can provide help for future encounters; Guk the troll and the bugbear Kursha, herself the tamer, make for interesting beings to meet…and finally, there are the Flying lashley twins – choker acrobats! These two unfortunately have some larcenous tendencies that may need to be reined in, as depicted in another sidetrek presented.

Nice, btw.: The pdf does come with a brief glossary of circus terms.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring issues beyond e.g. the level of the rust-removal monster being once called rust monster. Cosmetic stuff. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some amazing pieces of full-color and b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee and Alex Shanks-Abel deliver an impressive set-piece to insert into your campaign. The circus and its colorful, weird inhabitants and their stats make for a fun and diverse backdrop to adventure in. The pre-made encounters and playful tone help differentiate the pdf from similar offerings, making it a really fun, evocative backdrop to include in your game. Writing-quality-wise, this is absolutely top-notch and brims with creativity. On the downside, I really would have loved to get a map of the circus and/or the respective wagons – while the lack of a map doesn’t really hurt the pdf, it also represents my one minor complaint against an otherwise truly excellent, fun little offering. Hence my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Monster Circus
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Everyman Minis: Mysteries of Passion
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2017 06:15:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All righty, we begin this Everyman Mini with a brief introduction and a new 8th level spell, which would be symbol of debauchery: This duplicates symbol of death, but instead affects the targets with reckless infatuation, treating creatures that they have healthy relationships as objects of desire, attempting to stay as close to as many of them as possible, using their actions to engage in consenting and relaxing activities. These are so taxing that they potentially prevent the regaining of spells. Tastefully handled! Big kudos!

Now the main body of the pdf, obviously, is taken up by the new oracle mystery passion, which nets Bluff, handle Animals and Sense Motive as class skills. The bonus spells gained range from charm person to mantle of calm, matchmaker and later nets the new spell as well as waves of ecstasy and overwhelming presence.

Now, revelation-wise, we have life link from the life mystery, as well as punitive transformation – the latter, however, is incorrectly credited to the nature mystery, when it is a revelation of the waves mystery instead. Beyond these previously used revelations, we also have a couple of new options: Awesome Beauty acts as a fascination-inducing aura that prevents targets, sanctuary-style from potentially attacking you if they could be attracted to you. Cool: Via an exchanging of gifts, you can bond souls together, allowing them to sense the direction of their partner and giving you an idea of the subject’s emotional and health auras. You can also send telepathic messages to the subject, duplicating sending (which is not properly italicized). One question: Does the message reach both participants or just one? Desire sight instantly nets you the 3rd round knowledge of detect desires of all targets within 100 ft., making the oracle a fearsome foe in social contexts! With another revelation, you get Conceal Spell and add Disguise and Sleight of Hand to your class skills, with later levels providing Improved Conceal Spell and forcing witnesses of Conceal Spell that could be attracted to you to roll twice.

Another revelation nets you the option to add mercy effects to cure spells or cruelties to inflict spells, with higher levels yielding more cruelties/mercies. You can also add bard spells to your array and another revelation lets you add Charisma modifier instead of Dex to AC and CMD. Finally, we have scaling save bonuses versus charms and compulsions that increase to encompass immunity. The final revelation is an augmented outsider apotheosis that lets you still be returned to life as normal. You also gain immunity to age effects and a constant greater age resistance as well as at-will threefold aspect, with bonus types changed depending on whether you cast cure or inflict spells and sans penalties. Additionally, you may designate Charisma modifier targets that are in a romantic or platonic relationship, granting them the benefits of the final revelation, minus the DR. Cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, though I did notice minor glitches. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column standard with a white background, making this relatively printer-friendly. The pdf sports a nice full-color artwork and has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Margherita Tramontano’s mystery is pretty much amazing – I really, really enjoyed this one and I love how it represents in a tasteful manner one of the most amazing forces that exist – love, passion and what they entail, concisely represented with viable and even culturally sensible options. I can see a community really benefitting from the gift-exchange tradition supervised by the oracle, for example. It’s a beautiful tradition that imho can serve as a great narrative tool to explain a healthy community. That being said, the minor hiccups do drag this down a bit, if not by much – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. If you don’t mind these minor hiccups, consider this a must-own recommendation instead – as a person, I really…loved this! …sorry, couldn’t help myself. ;)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Mysteries of Passion
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5E Mini-Dungeon #051: There Are More Things in the Planes and the Earth
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2017 06:13:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This can be used as a sequel to the previous mini-dungeon "When goblins die, no comets are seen", though it can also be used on its own. The very entrance to this complex is dangerous, potentially beginning with short-term madness, establishing a sense of foreboding dread that the complex then manages to expand - from traps with insanity mist to cairnwights and gray oozes, the caverns contain some nasty tricks; and yes, burrowing can actually yield treasure...if you know where to look. Moreover, some nonmagical, but potent equipment with unique properties can be found, a big plus for me!

Pretty cool: The mini-dungeon contains 2 nice little random events to keep up the pressure….and in 5E it comes with the full stats for the elder thing, a neat challenge 5 critter – big plus here!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and decent, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Stephen Yeardley's exploration of these realms below is interesting and the challenges and obstacles faced are fun and create an interesting mini-dungeon, well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars; the conversion goes the extra mile with the cool monster and items – which is why I will round up for this one. Well done, whoever handled this one!

Endzietgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #051: There Are More Things in the Planes and the Earth
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5E Mini-Dungeon #050: When Goblins Die, No Comets are Seen
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2017 06:11:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon can be run as a sequel to "Doubt not that stars are fire", but can also stand on its own. After delving into the coldfire-infested tunnels in the previous module, the party dives into the dark, where they'll encounter the remains of a goblin tribe, with the first combat found being a clash between a ghost and a goblin-sized wightfor some rather weird start...and the tunnels also contain horribly weakened goblins, statues pulsing in harsh, fear-causing light…

…and the pdf actually includes the stats for a greater insect swarm monster – nice!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Stephen Yeardley's take on exploring these weird tunnels has been radically changed and converted to 5E – the execution is lethal, but damn cool and leaves not much to be desired, working imho actually better than the PFRPG-version. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #050: When Goblins Die, No Comets are Seen
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5E Mini-Dungeon #049: Doubt Not That Stars Are Fire
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2017 06:09:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

All right! This can be used as a sequel to the "Pit your Wits" mini-dungeon, but works well on its own: Following a mutated goblin attack, the PCs have to go down the pit, the walls aglow with coldfire...and worse, there is a deadly substance...and this coldfire substance has mutated the local goblins into goberrations - a variant nothic...and being too close to the substance is really painful. Dried coldfire can result in a similarly horrible mutation for careless PCs and within this place, raging rubble, gibbering mouthers and worse await...but there indeed is a way down...but do the PCs dare continue?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Stephen Yeardley shows what an awesome atmosphere you can generate with a few monster reskins and some deadly terrain. This is a deceptively hard little mini-dungeon and makes great use of the environments. That being said, the conversion suffers from a serious inconsistency: Where the previous module reskinned all notions of the impact being caused by a starship, this one is littered with references to starfuel. Sure, easy enough to remedy, but something that imho should have been caught. I also noticed a formatting for environmental damage, which was slightly inconsistent, so the 5E-version “only” gets a final verdict of 4 stars. (And sorry to the conversion specialist – the pdf doesn’t state who did the work here!)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #049: Doubt Not That Stars Are Fire
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5E Mini-Dungeon #048: Pit Your Wits
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2017 05:37:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The PCs arrive at a well-known mining operation's base...the issue, though, would be that it's gone. In its stead, there lies a chasm filled with inky blackness, the result of a weird meteorite - the fall of the it has resulted in truly strange creatures - like giant toads covered in glowing toadstools. Highly acidic acid bubbles burst, stones may cause insanity; a goblin was turned into a monstrosity of warped legs with tentacle-like bits; intestines have congealed into a slug-like thing and what was once a wyrmling living nearby is now something completely different - investigating the strange place will certainly yield some seriously interesting, horrific foes...and can be seen as a masterclass example in practice on how to properly reskin monsters to make them feel fresh and new. While the 5E-version doesn’t have random encounters, its conversion is rather detailed – in the original, this was a crashed space-ship and this version changes the strange proceedings and hazards rather well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

Stephen Yeardley proves that he can do the horrific just as well as the creatively weird here - the mini-dungeon shows with perfect ease how you can reskin monsters and make them truly unique encounters, how you can logically and cohesively establish a thematic leitmotif in a mini-dungeon and run with it. This is a fun excursion, and while I personally bemoan that the 5E-version loses the science fantasy component, The person who tackled the conversion has done a great job at changing the theme in a consistent manner and since 5E has so far significantly less source-material to work with, I get the decision. I can’t comment on who did it, since it doesn’t specify the conversion specialist. However, none of the hyperlinks in this pdf are functional, which constitutes a slight comfort detriment. My final verdict will hence clock in at a well-deserved 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #048: Pit Your Wits
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Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge (PF/5E)
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2017 06:50:57

A Endzeitgeist.com review

This dual-statted module for PFRPG and 5e clocks in at 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, so let’s take a look!

So, dual-statted – what does this mean in the context of this module? Basically, throughout the pdf, you’ll have black boxes that note environmental effects for the PFRPG-system, red boxes that do the same for 5e – so yes, actual strategy-relevant terrain and environmental effects can be found within. The statblocks adhere to a similar dual-formatting, though it should be noted that the 5e-statblocks don’t italicize the respective special abilities and actions; similarly, e.g. Hit is not italicized – this remains a cosmetic glitch, though.

Magic items, where encountered, are presented for both systems – big plus: The respective rules-language is proper and well-done for these, though there are a couple of instances, where the wording is a bit wonky – the cloak of blood-matted fur’s PFRPG iteration’s wording allows for stacking with DR and energy resistance due to its verbiage, for example – a reason I’d frankly not allow it for PC use. We have a few minor deviations from rules-syntax and semantics here, but as a whole, this should work. It should be noted that the statblocks for both systems have been made with care: You won’t see blandness here, with PFRPG using interesting archetype-combos and 5e getting unique tricks for the respective bosses – I’ll touch on a particularly neat example in the SPOILER-section below.

PFRPG groups using TPK Games’ pretty amazing Laying Waste-system will also enjoy that this book is actually compatible with the system. There are 5 feats for PFRPG used in the builds of the NPCs – these are not intended necessarily for player use and their rules-language offers some deviations from standard formatting conventions, mentioning “CHA modifiers” and similar, mostly cosmetic hiccups. That being said, the feats do provide rules for visceral trophy-gathering etc. for the adversaries and also net an increase in deadliness for the goblinoids faced, which makes this okay as a NPC-toolbox. An archetype for goblin rangers that specializes on ambushes and employs some of these rules can also be found here for PFRPG. 5e has the analogues of these options, btw., baked into the respective critter features and options.

It should also be noted that a brief deity write-up for the deity of bugbears, Druj Headsplitter, has been included – however, neither in PFRPG, nor in 5e do we get the full extensive coverage; no obediences or subdomains, no new 5e-domains…but the fluffy write up remains detailed enough to use the fellow.

Oh, one more thing: The module does sport scaling options for the encounters contained within, which is a nice plus if you’re looking for a tougher challenge. Kudos there!

It should be noted that the adventure features several hooks to draw the PCs in and also sports weather for 4 days – smart players hopefully know how to make it work to their advantage. Get it? Sorry, I’ll punch myself for that groan-worthy pun later.

Okay, I’ve stalled enough!

This being a review of an adventure, the following review will contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

The gorgeously-mapped Perinade forest is idyllic…and then, the module happens. The PCs happen upon an armed altercation between goblinoids and elves, hopefully saving the elven ranger Ralyuka from the attacking goblins. It turns out that the Garnet Gale Aurora is approaching, a strange phenomenon that doubles as a commemoration of the last triumph of the elves against the goblinoids, when they narrowly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by slaying the last warlord of the goblinoid tribes. The green-skins have taken the elven children in their devastating raid – and so, the first major quest of the module will be to save the kids.

In order to do so, though, the PCs will have to traverse the Perinade on the trails of the nasty goblins and their bugbear masters; and the forest is not a cozy place. Random encounters, a self-serving goblin shaman/warlock chief, pit traps with goblin dogs…and ultimately, the PCs will encounter Ghrekjar…and the other warbands. Basically, the PCs will have to face multiple warbands with unique and potent leaders. These combat-centric encounters also act as a kind of guidance for the PCs – they establish the goblinoid host as a credible threat that is not to be underestimated.

Once the PCs have had a chance to test their mettle against the powerful, deadly goblinoids, they’ll realize that, so far, they’ve basically dealt with the stragglers – in order to free the kids, they will have to brave a massive, fully mapped war camp of the greenskins. The camp, in short, with notes on perimeter security and a plethora of deadly adversaries, is nothing for the faint of heart – beyond evidence of the carnivorous tendencies of the bugbears and goblins, the PCs encounter a truly horrific place, one where e.g. freeing a bear may provide a distraction and means to actually triumph against the odds.

This, however, is not the climax of the module – instead, the PCs will have to travel to the eponymous Splinterfang Gorge (fully mapped) and defeat a bugbear cleric and his ghouls there, for he is seeking to tap into the mystic aurora via the sacrifice innocents to empower dread Spragnokk, a bugbear mummy and the BBEG of this module: At a potent AC 28 in PFRPG (in his base form), this guy is an impressive boss – and the longer the PCs dilly-dally in either version, the more potent this guy will get: A progression-chart has been provided to increase the power of this deadly foe in various steps. And yes, the 5e-version of the guy comes with legendary actions to really kick your PC’s behinds – and yes, his progression does include special ability gains. And yes, quick PCs can actually save all elven infants from their dread fate at the hands of the undead menace…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf is slightly less refined, but should pose no problems to most GMs running it. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with a grey background. The black and red boxes with white text aren’t exactly printer-friendly, but oh well. The pdf offers a variety of nice full-color artworks and b/w-artworks of the goblinoid bosses and proceedings. The maps are in full-color and really nice…but unfortunately, they come sans player-friendly versions without keys. If you want to use these for VTT, you’ll be in a bit of a bind. Particularly the camp’s infiltration would have benefitted greatly from a player-friendly version.

William Tucker, with additional content by Brian berg, Egg Embry and Matt Everhart, has written a DEADLY module. Goblinoids in both D&D 5e and PFRPG have lost a bit of their traditional, savage and despicable flair and this module embraces it: These goblinoids are thoroughly loathsome critters you will want to murder-hobo, hardcore. The module does feature some descriptions that are a bit graphic, but nothing you won’t be able to scale down for younger audiences or groups that prefer a less dark type of fantasy. Story-wise, there isn’t that much going on here, but I found myself enjoying this module more than I thought I would.

You see, usually, dual-stat supplements have a pretty big issue, namely that they feel like they have been primarily made for one system; one set of statblock tends to fall flat, some rules feel a bit wonky…and it is my honest joy to report that this module manages to present a BRUTAL challenge for both PFRPG and 5e, both with the respective system’s own mechanics. In short: This book actually manages to get the dual aspect right…and that is VERY important here, more so than in comparable modules. Why? Well, the main draw here would be the challenging combats and adversaries. This supplement very much stands and falls with the potent opposition the PCs will have to face and, as such, stands in the proud tradition of hard, challenging TPK Games modules. It is actually a module, where triumph is something to be proud of.

Particularly the infiltration and the HARD boss fight in the end should make even experienced players sweat. That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

While this is not perfect, I consider the module to be a surprisingly enjoyable and diverse challenge – the unique leaders and sub-bosses that can be found herein make this module feel very much alive, fun and diverse, in spite of the PCs mostly killing various goblinoids throughout. That being said, the lack of player-friendly versions of the nice full-color maps represents a significant drawback, as far as I’m concerned. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. If you don’t mind that, round up instead…and if you always wanted a module will really EVIL goblinoids…well, there you go! Recommended!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge (PF/5E)
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Everyman Minis: Gnoll Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2017 06:48:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this pdf with a brief introduction that also recaps the racial traits of the gnolls, before we are introduced to a total of 5 alternate racial traits. The first of these would be the feral gnoll, who gains Snapping Jaws as a bonus feats, but takes a -2 penalty to Intelligence. Feycursed gnolls replace their ability-score modifiers, instead gaining their choice of +2 to Intelligence or Charisma and -2 to Strength. They also receive Eldritch heritage with the fey bloodline as a bonus feat and ignore the Charisma prerequisites of feats that build on it. This one replaces natural armor.

Speaking of which: Instead of the natural armor bonus, gnolls may choose Slaver Magic, which nets a +1 bonus to the DC of enchantment (compulsion) spells cast and they treat their CL for such spells as one higher. Gnolls with a Charisma score of 11 or higher may also use command as a SP 1/day, with character level equal to caster level. Instead of the standard ability score modifiers, gnolls can choose to be terrifyingly ugly, gaining a +2 racial bonus to Intimidate and treat the skill as a class skill. They can also alter a creature’s attitude by 3 steps instead of 2 via Intimidate, but take a -2 penalty to Charisma. It’s a bit odd, considering that Intimidate is based on Charisma, but also makes sense. Still, this does feel a bit more wobbly. Some gnolls gain proficiency with scimitars and falchions and treat spiked chains, scorpion whips and whips as martial weapons – which makes sense. This one also replaces natural armor.

The pdf also contains 3 racial feats: Canine Gait, which is pretty amazing: It lets you sprint on all fours, with codified standing up and charge synergy that makes for an interesting choice and building block for some cool gambits. Command Obedience requires the use of Ultimate Occult and nets you all obedience spells of 6th level or lower as spells added to your list of spells at their noted telepath levels. Interesting: This does get the undercasting options right and rewards spontaneous casters. Mechanically solid, though I’m not a big fan of Ultimate Occult. Thirdly, Heckling laughter is a teamwork combat feat: As a move action, you may laugh and reduce morale bonuses gained by your foes within 30 ft., with multiple heckles stacking. Additionally, the heckling does hamper spellcasting, which is pretty damn cool – finally, the fearsome laughter of the gnolls has a proper rules-representation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. (Ironically, with the editing credited to “@@@” being the only bad glitch I noted.) Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s relatively printer-friendly two-column standard with a white background. The pdf sports a nice full-color artwork and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’s gnoll options are interesting, fun, and particularly the Laughter-based feat is worth the low price of admission; similarly, Canine Gait is really cool. This is not revolutionary, mind you, but it does constitute a solid, fun little racial pdf that expands the themes of gnolls in a concise, interesting manner, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Gnoll Options
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Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class: The Psychemist
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2017 06:46:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the psychemist would be a hybrid of alchemist and medium and chassis-wise, gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light and medium armor, but not shields. The class gets a ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Will-saves.

The psychemist is defined by using occult alchemy, which theme-wise, is based on the harnessing of spirits and their energy. Psychemists may use spell-trigger items if they are included on the class’s list, but not spell-completion items The extract-equivalent of the class would be pnumea, beginning play with two + Charisma modifier 1st level pnumea, and each new level provides +1 pnumea of his choice of any level he can distill. As with extracts, the psychemist learns to distill up to 6th level pnumea. As a minor complaint – the vials containing them are called canopic vials most of the time, but also canopic jars once, which can be a tad bit confusing. On a plus-side, their costs (as arrows) are concisely defined.

2nd level yields a bonus equal to +1/2 class level to avoid being surprised and to detect invisible or incorporeal creatures as well as detect psychic significance at will as an SP. 3rd level yields throw anything and changes significantly how the class operates – you see, the psychemist can throw canopic vials (which deal very minor damage, sans Strength modifier) and unleash the spell stored within. Starting at 7th level, the vials may be used in conjunction with slings, at a penalty and decreased range, with 12th and 17th level improving this ability.

Starting at 3rd level, he may also prepare a pnumea as a so-called pseudo-haunt, which uses a spell level of 1 level higher than usual, generating a psychic haunt that only lasts for 24 hours, triggering whenever a living target enters the square. Thankfully, only one such psychic haunt may be maintained at once – still, a very, very potent ability. Problematic: The Pnumea per day table lacks the level-column…and if it had been included, one may have noticed that 2nd level pnumea are gained at 4th level, which means that, at 3rd level, this does pretty much…nothing. It’s just one level, but still.

The perhaps most defining and important class feature of the class would be spectral mutagen, available from the get-go. This behaves mostly like a regular mutagen, but is also defined by spirit archetypes – the class begins play with the knowledge to capture the essences of two spirits and one mutagen per day, adding another daily use and spirit known at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. At the same time, upon gaining an upgrade thus, existing spirit bonuses increase in potency by +2.

Imbibing a spirit mutagen yields a +4 bonus to saves vs. possession, +2 versus mind-affecting effects, but also imposes a -2 penalty to initiative (minor complaint: Reference to Cha instead of Charisma in the duration formula.) The spirits provided are based on the traditional 6 mythic paths, parallel to the spirits of the medium, with each sporting a spirit bonus: The archmage, for example, yields a +2 bonus on concentration checks, Intelligence checks and Intelligence-based skill-checks, while the champion yields a morale bonus to atk, non-spell damage rolls, Strength checks, Strength-based skill checks and Fortitude saves. Weird: Channeling the Marshall nets you and your allies a base movement speed increase of +10 ft. – I don’t have a beef with this, I do like it…but at the same time, the lack of cap or range means that, with enough psychemist followers (or in a military environment), you can generate ridiculous amounts of affected allies – this should have a cap of affected beings and a range.

In addition to the spirit bonus, each spirit provides access to a total of 3 special spectral powers – as part of the action attempted to use the powers, the psychemist performs a Diplomacy check, with the DCs being 20, 25 and 30, respectively. These may be used any number of times, provided you meet the skill check, though the DC increases by 5 every time beyond the first use.

On a failure of one such check, the psychemist takes the influence penalty associated with the spirit and doubles the initiative penalty of the spectral mutagen. Problem here: I have no idea whether the spectral power still takes place on such a failed check – I assume no, but the ability lacks the failure clause. Failing more than two Diplomacy checks thus, causes the spirit to abandon the psychemist, incurring a -4 penalty to influence other spirit archetypes for 24 hours. Slightly odd – this would RAW allow you to choose to fail such a check to deliberately prematurely end a spirit mutagen to get rid of influence penalties. Not sure if that was intended. Anyways, non-psychemists cannot benefit from these and in fact are shaken on a failed save when consuming them. Additionally, I am not 100% clear whether you can consume another spectral mutagen associated with the spirit that abandoned the psychemist after the spirit abandoning him, or whether that aspect is tied to a rest-cool-down: “He cannot access that archetype’s powers and suffers a -4 penalty to Diplomacy checks to influence other archetypes for 24 hours.” Could be read as the 24 hours applying to only the penalty or both the lock-out and the penalty; the latter would make more sense for me, but yeah.

Anyways, why would you want to prematurely end the mutagen’s effects? Well, from -2 to Strength and Constitution checks, Strength-based skill checks and damage/atk-rolls to being forced to fight and cast defensively (as well as -2 damage), the influence penalties are fitting, but yeah….hence the observations above that you may want to fail such a check in certain circumstances. Problematic RAW: The defensive casting mentioned does not really come into play unless multiclassing – after all, the psychemist does not have spells. Not sure if that is intended or not.

Now, regarding the respective powers mentioned before: Guardians can yield, for the duration of the spectral mutagen, DR/- and resistance to the classic energy types + sonic equal to the maximum pnumea you can cast, minimum +1. The more potent options include immediate action concealment – and if a foe misses you, you’ll get an AoO against the target; considering that some abilities allow for non-melee AoOs, a caveat to make that melee-only would have made sense, but that is me being very nitpicky. The highest-powered ability of the guardian allows you to remove a negative condition from a nearby ally. The hierophant provides channel energy (and spontaneous pnumea-conversion into cure/inflict for highest level pnumea rounds – this is pretty potent, considering the potency of ranged healing, but I’m good with this doe to the quickly-escalating DCs.

As a minor complaint: The reference to haste in the additional attack section of the champion has not been properly italicized and while it stacks with that spell’s effects, it thankfully doesn’t stack with other attack-granting options. Where I get a bit cranky would be the champion’s DC 30 attack – for a full-round action AND a swift action, you get to move up to full speed and make a full attack – while it doesn’t combine with sudden attack, it still is an unreliable form of pounce sans a proper minimum level – for the base class, that’s perhaps not too bad, but I still think that simply adding level requirements to spectral powers would have probably made the balancing of the class much smoother; you know, just putting the 2nd and 3rd ability behind a minimum level? RAW, the champion thus would make for a very dippable and potent option…

At 12th level, the psychemist may 1/day when he fails a Diplomacy check versus a spirit “choose to make a second save” to rid himself of the spirit penalty, ending the spectral mutagen on a success. Wait. What? Save? RAW, the psychemist doesn’t get a save against the penalty of a failed Diplomacy check! I don’t get it. 14th level extends the duration of the spectral mutagen to 1 hour per level, or until a new mutagen is imbibed.

But what about bombs? Well, considering that the pnumea behave somewhat akin to them, you won’t be surprised to hear that they are gained a bit later: 4th level yields access to so-called spectral grenades. These are governed by Charisma and…I have no idea how much damage they inflict, what damage type they have…the pdf simply doesn’t tell. Due to the delayed gaining of the ability, there also is no easy means to default to the alchemist: -4 levels? Full levels? No idea. You see, I rattled my brain over this for quite a while, and I came to the conclusion that, perhaps, these bombs are supposed to behave like canopic vials when thrown, with the respective grenade effects added…but that is guessing on my part, since the ability states “Similar to an alchemist’s bomb” and nowhere states that this is the case.

A psychemist can have one spectral grenade in effect at any given time, with 1 minute of preparation required to make a new one. A psychemist may create one spectral grenade per day, +1 for every 4 levels beyond 4th. Two feats enhance these– one for +2 spectral grenades per day, but still with only one prepared at any given time The second feat nets bonus negative energy damage for them…which doesn’t help, since I have no idea on how much damage they inflict. (There is, btw., also a feat for +4 Diplomacy versus a spirit, starting at 10th level +1spirit bonus, just for completion’s sake.) Spectral grenades are tied to the spirits – each spirit has an associated spectral grenade and the psychemist knows the spectral grenades from the two spirits granted by spectral mutagen.

It should be noted that spirits unlocked later do not automatically net you their spectral grenades, btw.! In addition to the two known for the 1st level spirits, there also are spectral grenade effects regardless of spirits – these are potent: Like cold damage plus paralysis, reduced to staggered on a successful save and negative conditions. There also are some cool tricks to make incorporeal creatures visible and known (type + alignment) or rendering targets corporeal. The more potent effects are hidden behind a level-requirement. Hierophant grenades hamper healing, Trickster grenades impose the influence penalty on the target. Okay…what happens if you target another psychemist who is currently suffering from the trickster’s influence penalty? 8th level and every 2 levels thereafter yield another spectral grenade effect.

6th level provides the haunt siphon ability to always act in a surprise round against haunts before they manifest and may use an available pnumea-slot or a prepared pnumea of the highest pnumea level available, the latter of which may be spontaneously expended to attempt to siphon a haunt, with, once again, a Diplomacy check, trapping it for 24 hours. This allows the psychemist to use the haunt as a pseudo haunt…which is very, very potent if not handled with care by the GM. That being said, you won’t want to risk using this ability to stock up on high-powered haunts – on a failure, you get no save versus its effects!! Yeah, OUCH!

7th level provides location siphon, which allows for the expenditure of a 3rd level pnumea slot to siphon a spirit at a location to duplicate a variant of call spirit – at 11th level, an ally’s familiarity may be substituted for that of the psychemist. 17th level yields the ability to craft a special vial for a target – a willing individual that then perishes has the soul stored inside, facilitating return from the dead. Only one such vessel may be held and the character’s soul may be used to make intelligent magical items. (Wanna try out the horsemen’s amazing Living Objects? There ya go.) 19th level yields spirit blend: “When distilling a spirit blend spectral mutagen, the psychemist gains the spirit bonus and spectral grenade effect from his most powerful spirit archetype, but can choose 2 specific powers from any of the other spirit archetypes he can siphon…” – in addition to those the spirit has anyway. Sounds simple, righty? It’s not. It has a big issue. What is “the most powerful spirit archetype”?? One of the starting ones? Should we judge their power? What if you took the Spirit Focus feat on a spirit gained later?

The capstone is pretty cool, allowing for a variant of capture the soul and even steal abilities! Yeah, pretty cool. The pdf also introduces etched vials as a magic item class, basically the enchantable weaponry of the psychemist.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good, with only a few minor hiccups. On a rules-language level, though, the pdf sports very unpleasant instances of imprecision that are both uncharacteristic for the author and rogue Genius Games. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid stock art and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I don’t get it. Tim Hitchcock’s psychemist is per se a class I enjoy. It is innovative in its tweaks; it feels different from both medium and alchemist; it has great ideas and attempts high-difficulty rules-operations. It is also a deeply flawed class, unfortunately. It is pretty evident that the class has gone through at least one major revision, which may account for several of the puzzling inconsistencies within. At one point, saves, the proper damage notes for spectral grenades, etc. may have made sense – but there are a lot of components that got confused/lost in translation. This is basically a highly complex, well-crafted class…that is one consistency check away from being a very good example of a hybrid class.

Now here’s the thing – I want to like this class. It is much more creative than the pretty vanilla blending of themes would make you believe; it attempts fun things…but it also sports serious quirks and glitches in crucial parts of its abilities. And try as I might, I can’t let that pass. My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars – though, considering the difficulty and how, upon fixing, we have an interesting hybrid on our hands, I will round up for the purpose of this platform; you can fix this and it’d be cool then…but fixing this WILL require work.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class: The Psychemist
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