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One on One #002: The Rats of Verdant Reach
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2017 04:18:41

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.

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. This is a One-on-One mini-dungeon - intended for use by one GM and one player. As such, it obviously has different requirements that other modules

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 played as a continuation of "Six Feet Under" or on its own - in either case, the PC is hired by Sheriff Dawson Beam, the lawkeeper of the eponymous nearby town, to investigate a gang of local thugs -probably after the lawkeeper has reacted to the night watchman calling for him after the PC's ordeal in the previous module. Good news: The watchmen returns the adventurer's starting gear - which was supposed to pay for the grave plot. Investigating at the sheriff's behalf the nastier sections of town, the PC may play the mini-game Assassin's Breach (if you have it) and deal with some nasty thugs - some extortionists who may actually recognize the PC...and a weird, red-haired half-elf woman may actually help the PC...but why? To be continued...

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.

Justin Andrew Mason's second one-on-one adventure is slightly less problematic for a wide diversity of PC-classes - caster can now also apply, though they obviously will be pretty fragile: Martials and skill-users are still recommended. That being said, on the DC-side regarding investigation and Stealth, this could offer a bit more meat as well - RAW, this is a pretty linear local exploration that boils down to a couple of combats and no alternate means of conflict resolution. I don't expect much there, mind you...but at least a bit would be nice.

In the end, this is a solid, if not perfect module - how much fun you'll have depends, again, on the class chosen, though slightly less so than in the first one. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
One on One #002: The Rats of Verdant Reach
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One on One #001: Six Feet Under
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2017 04:17:08

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.

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. This is a One-on-One mini-dungeon - intended for use by one GM and one player. As such, it obviously has different requirements that other modules

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 PC should have a small, sentimental heirloom.

The PC awakes in utter silence, as an amazing read-aloud text catapults the PC straight into the proceedings: All is silent...and it looks like a goblin was just interrupted while robbing a grave. The PC's grave, for the poor gal/guy has been buried alive - no gear near either and the last several months are just...gone from memory. The adventurer will have different issues, though, for the goblin sets the robbed grave ablaze while fleeing - so it's climbing out of the grave first! After that, the PC will have to deal with the goblins - probably with a shovel, no less, and the nearby mausoleum contains more of the creatures...and they want the PC's loot! In case the PC is overtaxed (very likely for less martial or unlucky characters), a night watchman can provide support - but in the end, the PC will be left with a lot of questions...to be continued...

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.

Justin Andrew Mason's first one-on-one mini-dungeon is certainly not bad - it is a damn awesome way to kick off a campaign and can easily be used in regular contexts for either a whole group or the first character in the game...but at the same time, it does suffer from trying to be universal: Spellcasters may well burn alive before they escape their grave. Similarly, wizards sans spellbooks, clerics sans holy symbols, etc., may well be pretty screwed. This works well for skill/martial characters that do not rely on tools...and should imho specify the like. Such characters can have an amazing time here. The others...not so much. And unfortunately, as much as I love this otherwise, as a reviewer, I have to take that into account. This drags down what would otherwise be an amazing offering - For item-dependent classes, this can be as bad as 2 stars, for the right classes a 5 star+ seal experience, though. I have to take that range into account for my official final verdict and thus, I can't rate this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
One on One #001: Six Feet Under
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What's Your Sign?
Publisher: Knight Owl Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2017 04:16:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This'll be a quick one. Why? This pdf covers 2 pages and it is FREE - one page contains the cover, the other the content.

What we get here would be a d4-drop-table with 12 fantasy signs: Each sign has 4 entries that you can just roll or choose from. These basically represent fluffy characteristics which may or may not influence the game - while e.g. 1 in 6 chances and similar notes are in concordance with OSR gameplay, there is no reason this cannot be applied to other, more complex systems as a little flavor guideline.

The signs covered would be Lemurs (which can yield, to list some examples, a keen sense of smell, lie-recognition, excellent calligraphy skills or fear of the dark), Feather, Sphinx, Cyclops, Quartz, Narwhal, Lyrebird, Fox, Will-o'-the-wisp, sloth, sage or quokka - the abilities include being able to charm low HD creatures, being very attractive, having some hypnotic quality...you get the idea.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks or artwork apart from the cover, but needs none at this length.

Ahimsa Kerp's little pdf here is worth downloading - reading it will take you 2 minutes, tops, and even if you don't use it as written, it may well spark some nice ideas. It could have used a bit more elaboration and not all signs are equal in power, but as a whole, I like this...and it's FREE. It's hard to argue with that! Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. As a free file, this is well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
What's Your Sign?
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Steampunk Adventurers (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2017 05:24:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page inspirational reading list, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a new background, the fortune teller, who gains proficiency in Insight and Deception as well as one type of fortune teller's tools. They also get one language of choice and the aforementioned tools, set of a traveler's clothes, a costume and a 15 gp-pouch. The fortune teller can decide or roll a specialty from a list of 10 - face reading, astrology - a charlatan's paradise. Fortune tellers can earn money almost everywhere and those that have their fortune read usually want to believe you, which nets you advantage on the Insight or Deception check made to BS them. The fortune teller employs, fittingly, the charlatan background's table. There also would be a variant guild artisan, the apothecary, whose skill proficiencies include Investigation and Medicine, with Herbalism kit and apothecary's tool as tool proficiency. Starting equipment-wise, we get a herbalism kit, merchant's scales, traveler's clothes, a diploma/certificate and 15 gp. They may either choose the standard guild artisan features or a new one, "The Right Medicine.", which decrease the recuperation periods of poisons and diseases and grant advantage on the Con-save for those that receive the proper treatment.

Next up would be an arsenal of different weapons and armor: interesting: An assassin's outfit conveys advantage on Stealth checks, while scrap plates and higher impose disadvantage. And yes, the assassin outfit, beyond cultural stigma, also is balanced by the non-existent AC-improvement. Regarding weaponry, we have batons/truncheons, brass knuckles, canes...and chainsaws, which may smash foes prone on a failed contested Dex-check. We also have chain whips which threaten a critical hit on a 19 and 20 (pretty potent), swords and pistols hidden in canes, boomerangs, gunblades and gun axes, blunderbusses (which can fire 15.-ft. cones at short range) and lightning damage causing alternate pieces of ammunition.

Beyond these deadly tools of the trade, we do get adventuring gear, from goggles and hats (and, as a goth, I can attest to the Steampunk-crowd's obsession with these...) to lighters and ink cartridges. Proper supplies for investigators and apothecaries as well as herbalists complement an overall potent and well-crafted item-section.

The pdf also contains 3 feats: Firearms Expert nets firearm proficiency and prevents disadvantage when firing firearms in close combat and bonus action attacks with firearms when attacking with a one-handed melee weapon. Nimble increases Dex by 1, to the cap of 20 as well as +1 AC when wearing light or no armor. Thirdly, Tinkerer increases Int by 1 to the cap of 20, proficiency with artisan's tools (tinker's tools) and allows you to create Tiny clockworks that temporarily work unless you maintain them -up to three may be active at a given time. The devices may be clockwork toys, fire starters or music boxes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to Tribality's unique, photo-style standard in full-color, with the picture of the clockwork bird on the last page being my favorite. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment. The pdf does come with a second version for mobile devices that is significantly smaller in size.

Shawn Ellsworth's steampunk adventures represent a nice basic toolkit to add a sprinkling of steampunkish goodness to your game. The new items are concisely presented and, while potent, should not unhinge a game. Now, there obviously is a LOT, LOT more that I'd consider mandatory regarding steampunk rules; gadgets, magic, class options, etc. - but this pdf costs 2 lousy bucks and provides some great, fun basics. While this left me wanting more, it provides a surprising amount of content and covers a lot of the standards. As such, this is well worth getting as a starting point, though GMs obviously should not expect to get a complete steampunk toolkit/setting. If you engage this pdf as intended, it delivers some fun options and is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Steampunk Adventurers (5E)
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20 Things #10: Creepy Graveyard (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2017 05:21:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this supplement with an emphasis of the "creepy" aspect promised in the title - namely, we receive a total of 8 different, system-neutral haunts - consider these to be slightly supernatural window-dressing. When e.g. the holy symbol on a local woman's grave splits right in the middle and worms pour forth, you know that you've found an intriguing place...and her crisis of faith prior to death...perhaps there is more to it. Et voilà - instant hook, as it should be!

The pdf continues with 10 different mourners that have distinct personalities: From a mischievous, orphaned boy to angry half-orcs, whose undirected anger towards a disease may easily spill over to those that interrupt has mourning to a half-elf maiden who had to watch her human mother perish to the ravages of time, these NPCs indeed feel evocative, interesting and unique.

The table of 10 things to find in an open grave from "GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I" has been reproduced here as well, as has the table of 20 things to see in a graveyard, so you may experience some slight overlap. On the plus-side, both tables are pretty well-crafted. We do also get a total of 20 gravestone inscriptions and 20 rumors: These include, among other things, the strange occurrence of every night seeing a new gravestone split clean in half; there is a noble building, with undue haste, an opulent mausoleum...but why? And where did that unmarked mass-grave recently unearthed by a localized tremor come from? If you need to add a feeling of the weird, 4 strange sensations can add a personal touch here - from the feeling of being watched to a notion of vertigo...

10 atmospheric, strange sounds, from treebark clacking together to scraps of a conversation, can add further atmosphere to the proceedings. And finally, there would be no less than 20 uncommon mausoleums for your perusal: These can include ostensible ghosts (illusions that have become unreliable), mausoleums erected for pets or ones that glimmer in the moonlight...due to a sufficient amount of ectoplasmic slime seeping forth from it! Yeah, I'm just as sure as you are that nothing strange is bound to happen there...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there! It should be noted that a nice b/W-artwork of a mausoleum takes up one of the pages of content.

Creighton Broadhurst, Jacob W. Michaels, Alex Riggs and David N. Ross deliver an atmospheric, diverse and fun dressing file here: If you need some material to make your dilapidated, eerie graveyard stand out more, then look no further! This is an inexpensive, fun little dressing booklet and well-worth getting. I would have loved to see a general consideration section here (Oddly shaped gravestones? Repercussions of different burial traditions?) but that's just me nitpicking - this is well worth 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #10: Creepy Graveyard (System Neutral Edition)
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Zif of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2017 05:18:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games' "...of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 37 pages of content, though it should be noted that these are formatted for A5 (about 6'' by 9'') paper and as such, you can fit about 4 of them on one sheet of A4 or letterpack paper, so let's take a look!

The Zif-race was originally introduced by Alluria Publishing in their Remarkable Races-series, but in this book, we do get a significant expansion of the material as well as modifications that make the material herein work differently...so what are the Zif?

In short, they're playable slug-people that gain +2 Int and Wis, -2 Str (making them a bit lopsided). Zif are Small aberrations with a speed of 20 ft. Zif have no feet and as such, don't have a slot there, but they receive a second belt slot to make up for that. As a standard action, a zif may retreat in its shell, gaining DR 5/-, but while in it, the Zif may explicitly not make any other action. Upon maturing, Zif are assigned a caste in Porphyra, which translates to a constant SP: One may choose detect magic, detect poison, detect secret doors or detect undead. The sucker foot of the Zif nets them a +4 racial bonus to Climb, -4 to Acrobatics made to jump and +4 to CMD to resist trip and bull rush. Finally, a zif is born with Knowledge - they gain one such skill and an additional skill rank each level, which must be applied to said skill. As a whole, a potent race and I'm not the biggest fan of the constant SPs, but craftsmanship-wise, I have nothing to complain.

Now, let's look at the alternate racial traits included in this pdf: Here, we have racial proficiency with all bows and zif weapons, replacing the inborn knowledge. The zif know the flail-snails as the Flavalum and some of them replace their protective shell with elements of their brethren - such zif have a 30% chance that a targeted spell aimed at them fails and a 10% chance that a spell is sent back to the sender. However, they also suffer a 30% spell failure chance for both arcane and divine magic, which stacks with armor penalties, if any. Instead of the shell-caste's inherent magic, some zif gain +2 to AC versus humans and to grapple checks made against humans. Zif not born to their society gain +1 to Bluff, Sense Motive and Knowledge (local) instead of their inborn knowledge. Some zif get +2 to concentration to cast arcane spells defensively and a bonus language - however, the racial trait this replaces is not included in the write-up. Instead of the caste-SP, some zif have a 1/day psychic leech and caste-less zif with better skills (+2 to Appraise and Perception) can also be played. Also interesting: Some zif may move through natural difficult terrain at their normal speed while within 30 ft. of water, though magic difficult terrain affects them normally - this also replaces the inborn knowledge.

The pdf also provides a selection of race traits, which include gaining a kazif armor made from your parents, gaining Perception as a class skill due to modified antennae, better ranged attacks versus foes far away (as a nitpick - should be a trait bonus) and some weird ones as well: Like 1/day regaining a use of a school or domain power upon making a save versus a spell or SP. Control over a class skill (losing an old one for a new one) and we have a nice idea, a trait that reduces one flanker's attack bonus to +1. As has become the expected norm for Purple Duck Games' racial supplements, we receive a surprising array of favored class options - we not only get core classes + gunslinger and magus, we also cover the occult classes and a whole bunch of classes from Purple Duck Games' oeuvre - from the illuminati to the infinyte and the brujo. Kudos for going the extra mile!

Now, while the zif's writing clearly depicts them as somewhat quirky and yes, funny even, they also have the potential to be really, really creepy, as their racial deity...well. Is Yig. And yes, the great old one is depicted as a deity in the appendix, including two religion traits - though one does not specify the bonus type. Yig, as understood by the zif, is the epitome of bravery and cunning in battle and the zif believe that the ghosts of Great Old Ones he consumed will return one day in an apocalypse called Void-War - the warpriests that call themselves Disciples of Yig thus study from the get-go to be ready - this archetype is locked into the War and Void domains, but instead of the War blessings, a disciple if Yig may use the Tactics domain ability instead, drawing from the pool of uses of blessings. Very potent: When you and your allies roll initiative, an ally within 30 feet may roll twice and take the better result. Instead of focus weapon, these folks get a pre-emption pool that contains class level + Wisdom modifier points - these may be spent as a free action to increase initiative modifier before rolling, which can all but guarantee being first in at least one combat - it would have been more elegant and less prone to nova-ing and 5-minute adventure days if that ability had a scaling cap per roll that improved with the levels.

Instead of the 3rd level bonus feats, these guys learn the battle-shell burble-narble: they may chant a hymn to grant all allies within 30 ft. +1 to atk and saves against fear, which may be increased by 1 by foregoing the bonus feats gained at 6th level and every 3rd level thereafter. This bonus is maintained until the warpriest fails a save or takes any action other than move. Oddly, this is a SP and the bonus granted is untyped.

The shellrune wizard, member of the darble-caste, has a caveat to prevent summoner multiclass abuse - they gain Handle Animal and Fly as class skills. Instead of Scribe Scroll, they use their shell as a spell book and learn 3 spells upon a level-up, which eliminates the biggest Achilles Heel of the class. They also are locked into a vermin familiar, but at +1 level. Instead of 5th level's bonus feat, they may 1/day cast a spell on their book-shell sans expending a spell-slot, though it must be from the divination, enchantment or conjuration schools. I assume that learning spells and inscribing them on the shell still takes gold etc. - or is the archetype limited to the spells gained by level-ups? That would explain the power of some options here, but it should be spelled out more clearly.

The shellsinger bard is only proficient with simple weapons: Competent trademaster replaces inspire courage and nets an ally within 30 feet +2 to a skill check while the performance persists, increasing that bonus every 4 levels beyond 1st by +1, modifying inspire competence. As a nitpick, the ability-text reference's "zif's performance" instead of "competent tradesmaster." These guys also gain class level as a bonus to Appraise and Sense Motive and replace countersong with an array of analysis-themed spells. 7th level yields Leadership. At 8th level, breaking free of fascination takes a -4 penalty to the save and requires a save even in the presence of obvious threats, replacing dirge of doom. 20th level and 20th level yields a magnificent mansion instead of deadly performance.

Stoneshell fighters gain proficiency with zif guu-slings and zifbats and, cool, classify these properly in weapon groups. They may also take Goo-Crafter and Master of Guu as though they were combat feats. Goo-Crafter lets you secrete guu, zif construction-mucus, and assemble it into the shape of mundane weapons and a limited array of weapons. Issues here: The feat lacks a note to prevent the creation of specific keys. Additionally, you cannot secrete "more than 1/2 your Constitution in guu per day" - so, how much guu does a given creation take? Is that based on weight? No idea. Master of Guu thankfully specifies that further- yes, it's pounds and this feat nets you quicker guu-secretion and the option to make masterwork items via guu...and unlocks more. Still, the original feat should have specified that...it's bad when you have to look at a follow-up feat to get how the base feat is supposed to work.

Anyway, back to the archetype: At 3rd level, these guys replace armor training and bravery with shell-fu and, while flavorful, the ability is a mess from a rules-language perspective. It mentions identifying via a crimson headband - so does the archetype lose the headband slot? Also, I kid you not, that's directly taken from rules-language: "Shell-fu has five circles of skill, achieved like so: 3rd level DR 1/- vs. ranged attacks, one attack per turn; 7th level DR 1/adamantine vs. 1 melee attack per turn;..." So, do we get to choose? Is this passive or predicated upon activation? Does it stack with the zif's shell? Beyond inconsistency even in the wording of the ability, it is basically non-operational.

The pdf also features racial feats: Clone Army modifies the Leadership's cohort: Instead of gaining one, 2 levels below your own, you get 2 (!!), but at 3 levels below your own. OUCH. Both must have the same class and ability scores, sure...but ouch. Dreams of the Old Ones is a really, really strong feat for divine casters - you get free scavenging from the wizard spell list. Sure, it has to be 1 level below your highest spell level and failure to make a DC 20 Will-save nets you Wis-damage upon casting and fails casting the spell, but considering the potency of the wizard spell list, that still is strong. Bonuses to atk and skills when dealing with concisely defined eldritch creatures can be found, but Mobile Shell would be more interesting, allowing you to enter the shell as a move action and allowing you to make 5-fot-steps while in the shell. Another feat increases the potency of spells dealing hit point and ability damage and moving the drained points to another target - while the rules-language makes me twitch, it's functional. Partial Withdrawal into the shell can be found and an antennae-based teamwork feat allows for telepathic communication - how to determine the maximum range of the communication, though, is a total mess: 10 feet per character level sounds easy enough, but e.g. 4 2nd level zif could communicate within 80 feet - so, what's the limit? At what range are zif included in the calculation? No idea.

The equipment section contains stats for guu-bolts, aforementioned shell-armors made from deceased zif, poolaboodts (the main sea-vessels of the zif) and aforementioned weapons. Beyond these, we get new magic items - e.g. a cursed rod of wonder that may cause insanity. Goolabalum can be used to alter probability of d% and d20 rolls, but not attacks, saves or skill/ability checks, as an immediate action. Cool! Rod of guu helps with Guu Crafting and may fire guu at short range - the damage it inflicts is not properly codified and a hit imposes a -2 penalty to Dex. At +2, parasitic weapons (only available for melee weapons, thankfully) steal 2 points from a random ability score of the target and confer them to the wielder, lasting 1d8 minutes. While kittenable, it's not a good strategy, so this gets a pass. Prismatic shell-polish is a potent defensive item and generally works, but the rules-language, while understandable, makes me twitch: "Thus, if a being under the effect of prismatic shell polish is hit with a sword, the attacker must make a DC 20 Reflex save to take 1/2 damage (1-4) or have no effect (5-7)." This is further exacerbated by the item having a d6-column with 8 entries that affects the attacker. If the user is affected by a magical attack, he instead gains a similarly random buff for a short duration. I can use this item as presented, but its rules are depicted in the most convoluted way I could imagine. Which is jarring, when one compares that to the precision that e.g. new spells like create goo - which even prevents burying foes under them. Similarly, while parasitic ray is potent and steals ability scores, it...kinda works rather well. I can see myself using this. Moving rapidly along porphyrite borders. At 3rd level, a limited, but potent maze-like variant is a bit under-leveled for my tastes and there even is a spell to summon deep ones.

Now, I already mentioned the zif caste system - and the pdf goes on to classify the extensive array of classes covered in the FCOs in the caste-system - which is an amazing "one step beyond" piece of flavor, as far as I'm concerned. The sample character we get would Gungablug, hermaphroditic zif warpriest (disciple of yig) 6 and the pdf also sports a full stat-block and brief primer on Barbledrum, the Curved City of the Shell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good - I noticed no serious accumulation of typos. The rules-language, on the other hand, is ODD - you see, it oscillates between being meticulous and precise and being...well, bad. You've seen some quoted material in the review. It's often functional, but it does make my brain hurt a bit. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games' 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. It should be noted that the pdf offers neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive bookmarks.

Perry Fehr is an amazing author - he has the elusive artistry-component of design, the aspect you can't learn, down to a T. At the same time, his craftsmanship is not always up to the level of his vision. The zif, as presented here, are evocative, playful and fun and could be played for laughs just as well as you could make them really, really creepy.

I really, really like the zif as depicted herein, in spite of the hiccups that are present. At the same time, I think that both shell and guu, both utterly amazing concepts, could have been emphasized further in the design-choices made. It is also baffling to me, how one book can range from utmost precision to wonky, convoluted and imprecise wordings in some cases. Conceptually, this is at least a 4 or 5 star-file; if, however, you expect precision in the rules-components, you'll be infuriated by some, though by far not all, components herein.

I am honestly torn here - I do believe that a good rules-developer and a bit of additional polish could have made this full-blown amazing, but if I go by what is here, I can't rate this as highly as I'd very much want to. While it hurts my soul, as I like the pdf very much, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down, on this one. If you're looking for flavor and can shrug off the rules-hiccups, then get this - I am positive that you'll enjoy what you find herein!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Zif of Porphyra
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20 Things #9: Bustling Marketplace (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2017 05:45:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, we begin with something I really appreciate - namely a contextualization, location-wise, of a marketplace - there is a reason for them being at one point or another, after all, and the pdf starts by providing 5 different suggestions - from dock and bridge to churches and ruins and the underground. While it may sound obvious, such a context adds quite a bit of depth to the proceedings, so big kudos there! It's also interesting to see how the explicit consideration here can already spark some ideas.

Next up would be 10 merchants with a personality - as befitting of the system-neutral line, we don't get statblocks or the like and instead focus on the respective merchants' personalities: From extremely vain and self-conscious haberdashers to alchemists skeptical of magic-over-dependence, these are actually winners with intriguing and memorable personalities.

Need some hooks? This pdf has got you covered: 20 deals too good to be true are just that: Too good to be true! From angry wizards looking for spell books to items acting as a beacon to the friends, galleons with press-ganged slaves - there is a catch in these and the respective issues are intriguing and diverse, ranging from the mundane to the magical.

We move on to 20 interesting stalls - and they truly deserve the "interesting" moniker - when, for example, a fat dwarf with a melted sugar and apple juices-dripping beard is carrying a ton of rotten caramel apples, when elven kids sell beaded talismans or when tall, impossibly gaunt humans sell "fresh" "animal organs", a prospective GM has his work cut out. Once again, we oscillate between the wondrous and mundane, between the potentially dark and whimsical. Big kudos!

If all of that does not yet suffice to kick the group into adventuring mode, it's quite possible that 20 rumors will do just that: Some of them pertain where to find rumor-mongers, while others speak about pickpockets, comment on certain people being charlatans, etc....or where to get magical tattoos from a savant halfling of the art. The direct follow-up would be yet another 20-entry-strong list of things you can see while exploring such a market-place: From bards hawking wares to wealthy women strolling past with their retinue, there are quite a few intriguing events - basically, you can just spring these upon your players and watch them interpret things...chances are, you'll have a hook on your hands!

We end this pdf with more notes to bear in mind when making a marketplace that feels alive - and a list of 20 general types of goods (with ample subtypes!) of things that may be for sale...and 10 brief characteristics for respective stalls to flesh them out on the fly.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there!

Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Gomez and Alex Riggs deliver a humble, amazing pdf here: The hooks are well-crafted and flavorful, the respective NPCs evocative and the additional considerations go one step beyond, making this pdf a truly inspired little piece of dressing, guaranteed to enrich any game. 5 stars + seal of approval for this very impressive and well-made supplement.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #9: Bustling Marketplace (System Neutral Edition)
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Death Race: Fury Road
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2017 05:41:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page of editorial, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? Well, it's an unrepentant love-letter to the eponymous Mad Max-movie: The planet's Chog-dath Major, wrecked by mega-corporations, then taken over by the wizard collective - and this blend of the fantastic and scifi pretty much means that this is, indeed, intended to be used in conjunction with either the Crimson Dragon Slayer or Alpha Blue games - as long as the game sports the VSD6-engine, you'll be good to go.

There are 12 reasons to participate in a death race and the pdf does come with simple rules for betting on a death race: Betting on the correct winner nets 3 x the waged amount, 1st or 2nd place nets you twice the amount and betting correctly on someone scoring either 1st, 2nd or 3rd place nets you half the amount wagered. 12 alternate wagers are included, with 6 sample wagered goods range from gold to magic items.

So, how does the death race work? A player is picked to go first, he rolls a d%, then it's the next player's turn, etc. - races range from 3 such rolls to 7 in length. Weird, from a didactic point of view: Traps and ambushes are depicted before the race base mechanics: Picking up a weapon on the round nets +1 on a d4 table. Every time one is attacked by an opponent with a weapon, there's a 2 in 6 chance it may be taken from them. An ambush has a 1 in 4 chance of killing the ambusher. A success (4) equals a success and requires a saving throw - if you don't use your game's default chart, you may roll on one at the back of the pdf: d4, 1 = death, 2 = out and at 0 health, 3 = lose half health (and further rolls of 3 force you to reroll for either 1 or 2 and 4 = escaping unscathed. A 5 on the ambush table ( 4 + weapon's bonus +1) nets a no-save instant-kill.

Yeah, death races are, surprise, deadly. S, how are winners determined? You roll a d20 at the end of the race. The result is the place the character scores. So skill or the like...has absolutely nothing to do with placement. Which is patently unrewarding. More feasible and fun would be the scoring system: Surviving encounters, having sex while racing (remember, Alpha Blue tie-in...but if you do, you have disadvantage on the placement d20-roll), killing foes - all net points, while being knocked unconscious or destroying the planet net penalties. This may be combined with the placement system, but frankly, I wished it had been expanded further and/or replaced the lame d20-roll.

What's not lame at all, though, would be the massive d100-table with, bingo, 100 entries long - it makes up the vast majority of the pdf and contains a wide variety of effects/things that happen: a rolled 1 here means that you're vaporized, no save. You may also happen upon a Sam & Max Hit the Road reference and be captured by hillbillies, encounter buzzsaw vehicles...or you have unfortunately partaken in an energy-drink that nets you fast-acting ebola...and only a 1 in 4 chance of surviving it. 1 in 4 chances of not inadvertently ending in the Forbidden Zone, finding a Walther PPK...but there also are beneficial rolls: Having one's favorite Heavy Metal song hit radio lets you ignore the next unfavorable roll (hey, happens rarely enough, right, my fellow metalheads?) and by driving through the right cloud, you may gain a mutation. You may be frozen solid by a Crimson Dragon, abducted by aliens...A LOT of the effects rolled here boil down to hilarious and very likely demises...so if you're attached to your PC, newsflash, you probably shouldn't have participated in a race that has "DEATH" in the name.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and sports reddish veins. The pdf has amazing b/w-interior artwork to accompany the nice cover piece. The pdf comes in two-versions, with the second being more printer-friendly. The pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Andrew "Zakero" Moore and Venger As'Nas Satanis provide a cool little pdf, but you need to know what you're getting into: This is, from a player-perspective, not the best simulator of a complex race - it is ridiculously lethal (even for Venger's games, and that says something!) and the placement mechanics are really, really unrewarding. At the same time, if you're looking for a hilariously over-the-top fun way of seeing your characters (or NPCs) perish in entertaining ways, then this delivers in SPADES. There is fun to be had here, for sure, and the table for race-events brims with creativity. I just wished the race's actual mechanics would be on par with the creative events...and that there'd be more that influences the rolls. As written, a lot of the events really screw over the character (You've retroactively drunk lethal crap xyz...) and force unlikely survival rolls without much chances of influencing anything. This is cool for one-shots and quick-play/convention-gaming, but groups playing a prolonged campaign in VSD6-systems may want to look at this carefully before going for it.

That being said, this is FREE. It was written as a bonus for the Trinity of Awesome+1 book (where you can also find it in print as a fourth chapter) - and as such, it makes for a nice bonus. Not for every group, but if you're looking for a Fury Road that's truly and ludicrously over-the-top, then this delivers. Just replace those dumb, player-demoralizing placement rules. My final verdict, taking into account that this is FREE, will be 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Death Race: Fury Road
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Cultures of Celmae: Orcs
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2017 05:38:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Cultures of Celmae-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The early history of Celmae's orcs is shrouded in history, as they were bred from the desire for conquest of the deity Rullux - their fecundity bestowed upon them as a present by the Black Goat Shub-Niggurath, they went to war against the giants, though other origin stories place them as twisted children from the woods - in this origin story, the orcs created pyramidal structures and suffered the inevitable collapse that grand empires falling to decadence ultimately go through - at least, this would explain the evocative prose depicting the ancient lost orc temples, monuments to times long past.

As the cataclysmic Shattering wrecked Celmae, the orcs engaged in a horrid war with the newcomer elves, one that was waged for over a 100 years before the orcs had to concede defeat and retreat to the sea in 112 after the Shattering - and on the waves, the orcs stole ships, built up their armada and adapted...while those remaining in Brynndell took to the caves, often falling prey to the horrid realities of slavery they had once imposed upon the pink-skinned humans. The two deities with most influence on the orc people, Rellux and Shub-Niggurath, receive their respective full deity write-ups - as a minor complaint, shubby gets two favored weapons, which can provide minor hiccups in the favored weapon ability-based interaction. That being said, the write-ups per se are nice.

The pdf also provides a kind of "nation" - the Red Tens of Nasph - on the edge of the Shadowlands Desert, once enslaved by the Necrophites, a vast organized (as far as you can call orcs organized) force exists - the Bloody Army, and one forward camp of this vast host has been provided for your convenience. The pdf also provides the full stats of Koruv Nasph, the favored of Rullux, has his eye on expansion - but he may be up for a rude surprise when he tries to take the lands of the hobgoblins. The stats for this NPC have been provided - he clocks in at CR 13 and is a spelleater bloodrager 13. The statblock has some minor issues, but is better than most I have seen from Wayward Rogues Publishing.

Now, racial trait-wise, the orcs of Celmae generally are the standard orcs, but have the Dayrunner racial trait built into their standard. The pdf also sports an alternative version of the race, the ashen orc, who gets +4 Str, -2 Int, Wis and Cha, +2 to saves versus diseases and mind-influencing effects, ferocity, orc weapon familiarity, darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity and negative energy affinity. Furthermore, they take no penalties from energy drain (he may still die) and after 24 hours, these are automatically removed. While just as lopsided as the regular orcs, that's a design decision that was not made by Wayward Rogues Publishing and hence, I won't penalize the pdf for it. The ashen orcs, while strong in undead-heavy campaigns, make sense as tied to the Ashen King and generally can be considered to be a flavorful alternative - if you allow regular orcs, these only represent a minor and situational power-increase, so no complaints on my end.

The pdf also contains 4 new archetypes, the first being the Blood-Wielder bloodrager. Instead of bloodline powers, these guys get Blood Weapon at 1st level: The orc can damage himself for 1 point of bleed damage - if already bleeding, he does not need to activate the ability thus. Unfortunately, the pdf does not specify what kind of action this self-inflicted damage is. Once bleeding, as a swift action, the blood-wielder can form blood into 10 pieces of ammunition, 5 light throwing weapons, 2 light one-handed weapons or one two-handed weapon. Oddly, RAW, regular one-handed weapons can't be created. The blood-wielder can only create weapons he is proficient with and the weapons shatter when disarmed, dropped or sundered, but are considered masterwork quality. As a nitpick, this needs to specify the material the weapons are supposed to be for proper sunder interaction. At 3th level and every 4 levels thereafter, these blood weapons gain a "magical +1 bonus" - I get what this tries to do, but unfortunately, the wording, while understandable, is not precise enough. Instead of 2nd level's uncanny dodge, the bloodrager no longer has to charge in a straight line while charging - only the final two squares must be in a straight line.

However, the additional sentence "and the bloodrager must take the most direct path to the target" is weird - if he has to take the most direct path, he can't charge in fancy movement either, avoiding hazardous terrain etc., which severely limits the use of this ability - considering how lame blood weapon-benefits are, that's disappointing. At 3rd level, the archetype gains an untyped +1 bonus to saves (should be typed) for each point of bleed damage he takes a round and at 7th level, also DR. Problem: That bonus should have a hard cap to avoid seriously broken bonus-cheesing. This replaces blood sanctuary and alters damage reduction. Instead of improved uncanny dodge, the blood wielder may cast spells with somatic components while having a weapon in his hands or being grappled - sans making a concentration check. Which is pretty insane. Why not provide a massive bonus instead?

The Scar-Speaker skald loses armor and shield proficiency and versatile performance, but gains +2 natural armor that increases by 1 every 3 "character levels attained" - that should be class levels. They get +1/2 class level on Knowledge (History) and Intimidate checks instead of bardic knowledge. Raging Song is modified to behave slightly differently - to gain its benefits, you have to be able to see the scar-speaker beginning the scar-story. Starting it is a standard action, maintaining it a free action. RAW, 7th level and 13th level can make problems: They change activation to move and swift, respectively, and don't include the caveat of choice. Also at 7th level, the skald may 1/scar-story let all affected allies reroll a saving throw. The archetype loses lore master and gains Intimidating Prowess (feat not properly capitalized) at first level instead of Scribe Scroll.

The skull-splitter barbarian gains immediately the benefits of rage upon being reduced to 0 HP until brought above 0 hp. Additionally, he may expend a round of rage to remain standing when he'd be killed - which is cool. However, how does that interact with save-or-die abilities while raging thus? Immune? No idea. This needs clarification. It replaces uncanny dodge, btw. Instead of 2nd level's rage power, these guys may use Dexterity instead of Strength to meet the prerequisites of feats based on TWF...which makes no sense! It should be the other way round! How that could get past cursory inspection, I have not the slightest clue! Also: Attributes are capitalized. TWF-based feats may also be chosen as rage powers. At 3rd level, the archetype can deal 1 point of damage to the weapon to deal +2 points of damage to the target. This increases at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Urgh, really? A) Action? To how many attacks does the bonus damage apply? Also "may deal damage to his weapon to deal 2 additional points of damage to his target" is NOT rules-language. How does that work with ranged weapons? Not starting with the issue that this ability shows a basic ignorance of how DAMAGING OBJECTS IN PFRPG WORKS. Hardness, anyone? URGH. 5th level yields head hunter - the option to make a fetish from a fallen foe that occupies a belt, body, chest or shoulder slot. "A single skull fetish may house two one-handed weapons or a single two-handed weapon." So is it a sheathe?? The archetype gains Improved Critical (not properly capitalized) when wielding a weapon sheathed in the fetish. Drawing them from the fetish is a free action, but deals 1 point of damage to the fetish, which has 10 hit points and hardness 0. So the author did know what hardness is, I guess. This replaces improved uncanny dodge. I kinda like the last ability, in spite of its issues.

The final archetype is the war-shaman, who is locked into the battle spirit at 1st level, but the archetype does gain +2 natural armor. He does lose spirit animal, though. Instead of spirit magic, the archetype chooses one weapon: She gains proficiency with it and uses her total HD instead of BAB for CMD while wielding the chosen weapon. At 4th level, wandering spirit is exchanged for the option to, as a standard action, choose a combat feat for which she meets the BAB-prerequisites (but may ignore others), gaining the "special benefits" of that feat for one round per class level. I...get what this tries to do - the wording is sunk by "Special", which is a loaded term for feats that pertains to additional considerations and would, RAW, render the ability useless. 12th level provides 2 combat feats and increases duration to 1 minute per class level; 20th level nets 3 feats for a whole day. Sooo...how often can the ability be used? For, if it does not have daily uses, the final ability may actually mean a significant decrease in flexibility, which would be weird for a capstone. Starting at 6th level, as a standard action, the shaman can grant herself and an ally within 30 ft. the teamwork feat for 1 round per class level. Only the shaman must meet the prerequisites. 14th level lets the character share the feat with all allies within 30 ft. This replaces wandering hex. While not perfect, by far the best archetype herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, weirdly, are mixed, but in a different way than usual: The formal component is not perfect, with quite a few its/it's-typo level glitches. Rules-language shows the different skill-levels and lack of a controlling dev/editor, oscillating between pretty good...and not so much. Layout adheres to Wayward Rogues Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf offers some nice artworks, though some of them I've seen before. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. Additionally, copy-pasting of text is disabled, which is just plain annoying when trying to parse text for a character in actual play.

Michael Reynolds, Jarrett Sigler and Robert Gresham's take on the orcs of Celmae is frustrating for me. The prose is good, though not the best in the series. The inclusion of a high-level NPC (though it's not perfect) and a settlement are big plusses for the GM. The alternate race of ashen orcs is a solid addition within the racial design paradigm of the base orc race. So why is it frustrating for me? I actually love the concepts of all 4 archetypes in this books - the visuals are damn cool and the ideas for the respective engines all are high-concept and amazing. But the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Apart from the shaman (who is not perfect either), the other archetypes range from "barely functional with GM-calls" to "not even close."

As before, I will rate this as the culture-sourcebook it is, not as a pure crunch-book: If you're looking for crunch, avoid this, unless you have the time and nerves to fix the mess of the archetypes. If you're looking for dressing, information on the orcs in Celmae, however, you may actually get something out of this inexpensive pdf. It is due to the low price and the cultural information I am going to round up from my final verdict of 2.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Orcs
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The Northlands Saga Complete Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2017 05:46:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GIGANTIC tome clocks in at 795 pages if you take away editorial, ToC, etc.. No, that is NOT a typo. While I was a backer of the kickstarter that made this book, I was in no way involved in the production of this epic tome.

All right, so the introduction tells us a bit of what this is: A take on Norse adventuring, with a healthy dose of the weird, fantastic and sword & sorcery sprinkled in. It should be noted that the 8 pregens from the Player's Guide, as well as the excellent "Winter's Teeth" stand-alone module from the "Long Night of Winter"-series are included in the back of the tome.

Okay, so this massive AP (and before you complain about the price, compare this tome's content with other APs and you'll notice you're actually getting an excellent deal...) is situated within the Northlands of the Lost Lands, and as mentioned in my reviews of Player's Guide and the stand-alone plug-in-module-series, it gets the flavor of the North, what makes the culture work etc. rather well - but unlike in those previously-mentioned tomes, we begin this tome with a massive, mapped and lavishly-detailed sourcebook section that explains the peculiarities of the region not only on a local, but also on a global scale.

As mentioned, one central fixture, theme-wise, would be the blending of the fantastic and the general aesthetics of the sögur with the fantastic, so one should not expect historic analogues in the traditional sense; however, the book is very strict in its adherence to the sense of authenticity it creates. This level of commitment can be found in the modified nomenclature and the pronunciation guidelines provided within this gigantic tome, to just note once example. I wholeheartedly applaud the decision to maintain a Nordic nomenclature instead of butchering the names; the book explains the Umlauts etc. for native speakers of English and dares to assume gamers that actually are smart and interested, dare I say, intelligent. It is one of the aspects that imho too often falls by the wayside nowadays and lends a sense to the book that its readers actually are interested in portraying a concise feeling. That is a big plus, as far as I'm concerned.

The commitment to generating a sense of a believable world is astonishing in its details: From ring-giving to hacksilver as a currency to a concise list of common kennings (hand those out to players!), the flavor generated by the details so lavishly and passionately collected herein, in the end, manage to create a surprisingly respectful and "real" take on the subject matter, putting this tome into the exalted context of the best of the Lost Lands books and their unique vistas.

This never just stoops to a simple reproduction of historic myths, however, - from modifications of the pantheon to minor changes in nomenclature, the Northlands here are always almost like hours, retaining their fantastic nature. And yes, both a massive time-line in the different chronologies found in the Lost Lands, as well as a full pantheon write-up complement this first part of the book. Beyond the class options (which, alas, share the weaknesses I commented on in the review of the Player's Guide) and items, we also receive a collection of magic items - which brings me to another point: The Northlands are intended for gritty and relatively down-to-earth gameplay (15 pt.-buy preferred): As such, magic items are not for sale and rare (YES!) and, as mentioned in the PG, several classes are banned in favor of options that fit with the aesthetic of the North. Once again, I applaud this commitment to the overall vision. Speaking of vision: In this first par of the book, which covers almost 170 pages, we also get a massive gazetteer of the north, with plenty of settlements with full statblocks, overview maps and the like. Moreover, the section contains a rather massive bestiary that includes some seriously cool, fantastic creatures as well as strange fauna - and the critters all get gorgeous b/w-artworks.

But that is not nearly the main meat of this massive section either. Instead, much like in Bard's Gate and similar epic-length tomes by the Frogs, we get an extremely helpful section to bring pretty much any region to life: With random encounters that cover the regular and the weird, strange phenomena and more. Additionally, it should be noted that, by region and theme, adventure hooks are provided by the dozens to bring the respective sections further to life, should the PCs step off the rails.

All right, I know what you've been waiting for...the adventures. Now those of you who have been following this for a while will recall the 4 brief stand-alone Northlands-modules that predated this one and my reviews for them. The lowest-level module clocked, back in the day, in as intended for PCs level 5 - 6, but this saga is made for a whole campaign: As such, we get modules that start at level 1, leading up to those we already know...and then, things go much further. Already played the classic modules? Flashback is the way to go. Seriously. You want to play these.

And at this point, I have come to the section that contains the main meat of the book, the massive campaign of Northlands adventures. It should be noted that the massive amount of maps and handouts amounts to over 150 pages! No, I am not kidding you. This is EXCESSIVELY mapped and better yet - player-friendly maps included FOR ALL OF THEM. That alone is a colossal plus for me. Now, the PCs are intended to be in the employ of the mighty Jarl Olaf Henrikson, jarl of Halfstead and begins in Silvermeade Hall.

As a discussion of the adventures, the following obviously contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. One more thing: I usually try to go into a lot of details in my discussions of adventures. If I did that here, the review would probably span at least 20 pages, which, even to my rather obsessive mind, would seem like overkill - as such, I will remain relatively brief and sketchy - this should not be taken to mean that the modules are short (or simple) for that matter; it is just a concession to the format of reviewing a single, ridiculously huge tome.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs/referees around? Great!

Kenneth Spencer's first module "Spears in the Ice", begins harmless enough: The PCs are to escort the Jarl's 3 daughters as they gather flowers in their sacred duty to Freyja for the spring rites - and as such, the beginning is a roleplaying-heavy section that can be used to establish dynamics, characters and yes, even a sense of the idyllic - via a number of small events, the shape of things to come are heralded and actions taken are bound to have serious consequences in the future. When a witch puts everyone to sleep and kidnaps the girls, the characters will have to get back their horses and find the girls in a race against time with various routes to save the girls. While the sleeping spell may look problematic in conjunction with e.g. elves, the module actually handles this minor railroad rather admirably.

Part II of this module, similarly a full-length piece, would be the "Wyrd of the Winter King" - herein, the Jarl sets forth upon his mighty ship, the Long Serpent, towards the farthest North. En route, the PCs discover a floating ice palace. Going ashore and surprised by a blizzard, the PCs explore the place to find it being an abode of the cult of dread Althunak - only by defeating this menace can they return successfully to their ship. This would be a rather grim, environment-driven and evocative piece, including dungeon-exploration.

These massive modules out of the way, we receive a fully updated and modified "Vengeance of the Long Serpent" - and yes, the original, alternate lead-in is still here, but no longer necessarily required. The module presents a free-form exploration of Ulnataland, a North Pole-style region of eternal, unremitting ice - and a storm, as is fated, claims the life of Hallbjorn here, the captain, here, allowing the PCs to step up. The exploration of these icy regions may net the PCs a magical weapon and put them, beyond trekking through the tundra, in conflict with the children of Althunak, breaking the grip of this dread cult over the local population.

From here on out, the PCs venture forth "Beyond the Wailing Mountains" to the city of the lord of winter at the lake of frozen screams. Read that sentence again. All things considered, the book manages to constantly generate an atmosphere so thick and almost palpable that you can almost taste the frigid cold, as the PCs cross these regions into the cold to brave a locale incredibly fantastic. If you're like me and love the theme (and employ, like me, a particularly slower-than-slow XP-progression), you may want to check out LotFP's "Weird New World" for a plethora of arctic threats of the most horrid and gruesome variety - particularly if you're playing the OSR-version of this epic! But that just as an aside.

After this, we're off to one of my favorite among the previously stand-alone adventures in the series, "The Death-Curse of Sven Oakenfist", which assumes that the PCs are wintering with Jarl Anud Cursespear, who once slew the legendary reaver and direct descendant of Odin, the blight upon the world called Sven Oakenfist. Unfortunately, he came to his success and riches by the death-curse of said hero and now, as an old man, the wight of the legend returns and barges into the hall of the Jarl to pronounce a final deadline - on the Feast of Freyja, Sven will kill and destroy everything and everyone who swears fealty to Jarl Arnuld. In order to vanquish the wight, the PCs will have to find a way to unravel his mighty death-curse.

Unfortunately, with essentially a divine bloodline, said death-curse will prove to be rather difficult to find even a HINT to unravel. Thankfully, the three utterly mad daughters of one of the norns might provide the answers - if the PCs manage to best their trials. From defeating a unique dragon to save a beautiful maid, to doing (rather dangerous)chores for a matronly lady and defeating an evil crone in a game (when she's cheating, nonetheless!), the trials are worthy of the legendary daughters - hopefully the PCs don't think they can best the mad demi-goddesses in battle...

If they play along with their mad delusions, they are rewarded with cryptic clues that add up to provide the information to kill the legendary wight - each successful trial also decreases the power of the final boss, unraveling some part of his wyrd, thus providing more than one way of finishing this adventure and rewarding PCs who manage to succeed in all tasks. The final showdown in Sven's cairn sees a furious finale, including a potentially fatal collapse and the heroes receive treasures befitting their actions during the adventure.

The next previously released module, "Blood on the Snow", takes place in Estenfird and could be considered to be the first of the modules that puts, as heralded before, the epic component into focus: Unbeknownst to just about all mighty beings, the beast-cult of the demon god Shibauroth has been gathering its strength: Making its adherents rather stupid, but enhancing them into deadly, primitive, cannibalistic killing machines via twisted runes, the cult has risen and seems to follow a surprisingly organized plan. The PC are to travel to the largest settlement, the town of Three Rivers, where local hero Hengrid Donarsdottir has traveled. On their way, they can recruit essentially a small army of undisciplined followers and hirthmen (alas, no Ultimate Campaign-synergy) to help the beleaguered capital of Estenfird.

On their way to Three Rivers, the PCs will have chances to deal with first encounters against the Beast Cult and, via befriending the Great White Stag, potentially even turn an otherwise lethal ambush upon the bestial cultists. In order to reach the city, they'll also have to sneak past the camps of the unorganized cult. Finally, inside the town, the PCs will have a bit of time to get accustomed to the fully mapped and lavishly detailed town before the horns are sounded and the assault begins - depending on the amount of followers the PCs have recruited, the respective monsters get hurt/decimated. Oh boy - the siege is awesome - standing on doomed ground, the PCs will have to combat elementals, badger-sapper-squads and even keep a war-mammoth from breaking the nigh-impregnable gates - all while ice trolls and drakes ravage the town in one of the most concise, superb depictions of a deadly siege I've ever seen.

As the dust settles, the PCs will be in for a shock - the aasimar warrior-maiden has been kidnapped! Thus, the PCs have to enter a haunted marsh and infiltrate the poison-thorned, hedge-labyrinth of a frozen marsh maze in which the beast cult seeks to sacrifice the daughter of Thor himself in order to bring down their deadly beast-god: The finale sees the Pcs storm the ritual and hopefully free Donar's daughter from her bonds - otherwise, the terror has just begun. Oh, and bravery is required here - essentially the final encounter is insanely hard and requires the PCs to focus on their goal of interrupting the ritual - should they succeed, Thor himself will annihilate the beat cult and scourge it from the lands. And while the treasure is rather weak due to the savage nature of the cult, the Aesir don't forget the PCs, as the module concludes with a feasting held by Thor himself to congratulate the PCs - if they succeeded, that is. If they failed, they'll have a CR 22 Thanatotic Titan on their hands and survival chances that are at best slim...

Oh, and just as an aside: These previously released modules have not simply been copied inside: Details have been streamlined and we actually get Ultimate Campaign-compatible MASS COMBAT RULES!!! EFFFIN' YES!!!

After this truly epic and challenging module, we proceed with "Raven Banners over Gatland", penned by both Kenneth Spencer and master of evocative environments Greg A. Vaughan. Situated against a backdrop of a brutal feud between Gats and Hrolfs, the two jarls have tried to fix burned bridges by marrying their children - but, alas, hostilities are flaring up when the bride-to-be vanishes...and soon after, the groom as well. The PCs and surprisingly pragmatic jarls soon find the hand of the dread Jomsvikings in the abduction - in order to prevent the feud from turning into all out warfare (the jarls have to take the opinions of their folks into account, after all!), the PCs will have to board a ship and survive a horrible marine assault by the Jomsvikings and their supernatural allies...and ultimately, they'll need to capture one of their ships to have a chance to infiltrate the notoriously powerful island of these feared raiders.

Only by securing an alliance with the island's supernatural inhabitants and releasing them from the yoke of a powerful, devilbound witch and her creatures, will the PCs have a chance to infiltrate the nigh-impregnable fortress and rescue the two star-crossed lover...whose wyrd may not be so grim, after all! That is, if the PCs can survive encounters with the unique Jomsbeast and horrid, chthonic creatures - and yes, both of the youngsters may well perish - and all has consequences... This module is PHENOMENAL in all the right ways, managing to blend perfectly the aesthetics of the North and classic Sword and Sorcery literature - no mean feat, mind you!

Kevin Wright's "Plague in Trotheim" brings a completely different doom to the PCs - the dreaded Straw Death has fallen upon the city of Trotheim as the (hopefully!) wedding of the two jarl's children is interrupted by Meg Skulsdottir unleashing this horrid plague upon the unwitting population. A horrid pox is unleashed upon the city and the PCs will deal with the consequences of the horrid outbreak throughout this module, allowing a GM to free-form the encounters - here, godi are taken, lillin roam and fire elemental constructs erupt from funeral pyres for a rather apocalyptic overall theme - and only a mystic tree may provide the means to stop to the outbreak. Thus, the PCs need to hexcrawl through the lethal Andøvan mountains and best the tests of Skrymir...and best underworld dragons at the roots of the world and cure the rot that has befallen the roots of Yggrdasil's sapling - and then, Wotan shows up...and with echoes of Ragnarök's promise, the PCs venture back - provided they live through the hazardous trek back.

Kenneth Spencer and Greg A. Vaughan join forces again in "The Return of Hallbjorn", which resounds with the previous modules: Thought dead, the man returns with tales of Nieuland, mirroring the discovery of the new world and sparking a land and trade rush. Unfortunately, the jomsvikings follow to the new world: And yes, the journey is depicted and the colony and the threats encountered are only exacerbated due to the incursions of the jomsvikings - who also provoke the local skraelings into hostility, as unique threats and a strange prophet escalate the proceedings. This section is literally something I haven't seen before - a colonist tale of the conquest of a new world, with a healthy dose of viking and fantastic aesthetics. And the appendix btw. also allows for one or more PCs to take the mantle of the jarl - and the wilderness exploration of these lands sports a great change of pace in its aesthetics, while still remaining true to the themes. Another glorious winner in my book!

Returning to the Northlands, Kevin Wright & Kenneth Spencer depict a module deeply steeped in the culture and taboos of the North - "The Hallburning" deals with the aftermath of the horrid crime of the mordbrand, a murder-burning where a whole hall and all within have been cowardly burned to death - as depicted in one of the glorious short-stories in the Player's Guide. Gundrik Arison, Jarl of the Vestfelmarken, has been killed, but Runa Gundrikswif survived, against all odds, the horrid ordeal. Some of the perpetrators were caught and the Althing pronounced the criminals free to be slaughtered - and the PCs will probably want to eliminate the cowardly murderers...but there is more to this, namely a horrid conspiracy...the hall-burners are patsies...but there would also be the issue of competing adventuring groups on the hunt...and yes, if the PCs are not wary, they may fall to hall-burners themselves - and beyond exploring tin-mines and testing their mettle, they will also find themselves in dire need of speed - all actions have consequences and, in order to bring true justice, the PCs will have to best the jarl in holmgang...but the deities themselves may actually intervene here! And yes, I abbreviated the structure of this surprisingly brainy module rather excessively - this one is LONG.

Based on material by Kenneth Spencer and written by the dream-team Kevin Wright and Greg A. Vaughan, "Daughter of Thunder and Storm", we rejoin the PCs 3 years after they have taken the mantle of Jarldom. Hengrid Donarsdottir has survived (hopefully) Blood on the Snow, though a stand-in exists. In the wake of Hengrid's devastating raid on the Hall of the Hearth Stone, the PCs are summoned, for the daughter of Donar has stolen Kroenarck, the legendary sword of the High Køenig and most sacred artifact of the Northlands. The PCs are to return this sacred blade, but a godi present, in the fits of prophecy, tells them about Hengrid being possessed and fighting the dread entity, beseeching the PCs to save her. The PCs must venture to the Virlik Cliffs, where their old foe Althunak raises his deific head - the entity is planning to usher in the Fumbulwinter to kickstart Ragnarök. Stakes high enough for you? Yeah, we're talking "epic" indeed, as the PCs follow the deific scion, still seeing signs of her struggle against the Lord of Winter - the PCs have to survive the creatures of the wild, the agents of the Lord of Winter and brave the legendary mountain Helgastervän's volcanic tubes, venturing to the gates of hell itself, opened by the sword - to save Donar's daughter, the PCs will have to venture into the Gunningagap and battle for the soul of the divine maiden - and yes, while combat is a means of solving this, we actually have a roleplaying encounter as an epic finale here: Smart PCs will have a significantly easier time, as no less than 5 iterations of this final fight are provided! Kudos indeed!

And there we are. 6 years later, in the final adventure herein, penned by Greg A. Vaughan and based on Kenneth Spencer's material. Levels 16 - 18. High level as can be. "The Broken Shieldwall" builds upon the consequences of the actions in previous modules and if the PCs have done their jobs right, Jarl Ljot Gatson, asks the PCs to raise an army to save his son and grandson from distant Mulstabha, braving the treacherous North Seas as they gather their forces, returning to Trotheim, Estenfird, speaking to the Althing, dealing with jomsvikings once again...and more, the PCs will amass an unprecedented host to lead into bloody battle. The war is on and the PCs will have to lead their campaign and infiltrate the citadel of Jem karteis, where the mysterious, ancient people of daemon-worshiping Huun and their legions prove to be the masterminds behind the plot. With no time and magic power, the PCs will also have to thwart a deadly assassination attempt on the man fated to become High Køenig of all the North...all while routing the forces of one of the most deadly and dangerous nations ever to spread its vile influence over the Lost Lands! And yes, once again, this truly epic, mind-boggling modules pits gigantic armies against each other in the most epic open warfare module I have ever seen - one that also pits the PCs against a titanic, quasi-deific monstrosity that will test their mettle to the breaking point. I have rarely, if ever seen such a fantastic conclusion to a saga.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, particularly taking the sheer volume of this tome into account, are excellent, particularly considering that builds used herein do employ interesting combinations of creatures and crunch. Kudos to the editors Jeff Harkness, Dawn Fischer and Greg A. Vaughan. Layout by Charles Wright adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. If you can, though, you may want to get the massive hardcover - build to last in the tradition of Frog God Games. The artworks deserve special mention: Artem Shukaev, Rowena Aitken, Colin Chan, Tyler Clark, Felipe Gaona, Chris McFann, MKUltra Studios, Terry Pavlet, Blake Wilkie, Brian LeBlanc, David Day, Talon Dunning, Eric Lofgren, Cara Mitten, Nate Pride, Richard Thomas and Tim Truman have created a book that is gorgeous to look at: Many of these artworks are absolutely stunning and incredibly evocative. A precious few artworks of monsters have been used before (which often represent the weaker pieces), but the vast majority (as in: 90%+) is new, original and glorious. The massive tome comes with exquisite amounts of solid maps in b/w, which, while less staggering, map pretty much EVERYTHING. The inclusion of player-friendly, key-less maps is a huge plus as well. The massive tome also sports a really nice full-color poster map of the Northlands on the inside of the back cover - big plus there as well.

The work of three men: Kenneth Spencer, Greg A. Vaughan and Kevin Wright - and it still feels like this one, amazing, whole, legend. The voices of the authors never clash and all is subservient to a shared vision of epic proportions that encompasses what's best about classic sögur, the fantastic and sword and sorcery. This book has managed to blend these potentially disparate elements into an incredibly concise whole. And, as you know by now, I am EXTREMELY particular about "my" North: Scandinavia and the old myths have a very special place in my heart and I'm extremely picky in what's "right."

The authors get it. They show a keen understanding of what works and what doesn't. Unlike a few of the stand-alone modules, none of the modules in this tome even remotely feels like its Northlands aspects are window-dressing: The themes resonate with a poignancy and internal consistence that is frickin' phenomenal and a pure joy to read. Time and again while reading this tome, I put it away. Why? Because I honestly wanted to savor every page. I didn't want it to end. It was one of the tomes I read when a series of frustrating reviews (writing bad reviews sometimes really does a number on me) had demoralized me. I read it when I had a bad day. For half a year, just reading this book has brought me more joy than you can probably fathom. It's that good.

...

While it does not have a linear plot per se, those of you who don't like the sandboxy nature of many Frog God Games books, well, this does deliver the more stringent and sequential sequence you wanted - though frankly, with the epic, multi-year timeframe of the saga, you will very well have a ton of opportunity to run your own material as well or insert other modules.

I am honestly sad to write this review. Why? because it means that the Northlands Saga, at least until I can run its entirety, is over for me. Now, this is not a perfect book: The player-content, as mentioned in my review of the Player's Guide, could be better. And while everything fits perfectly together, while consequences are evident, there could be a bit more repercussions from module to module, as far as I'm concerned.

Yeah, that's about everything I can say that could even be remotely construed to be negative.

The Northlands Saga, even in Frog God Games' canon of exalted adventure books, ranks as one of the best I have read. This gorgeous campaign delivers, with panache and aplomb, on the promise made of a true, Northern campaign, and that without bashing you over the head with Ragnarök. The themes resonate, a zeitgeist of the end-times seems to be slowly gaining traction, but if the PCs excel at their task, they may end this book on a truly heroic note. As an aside: This saga manages to portray high-level adventuring surprisingly well: Will the vast resources, epic armies clashing and ever more global problems, with metaphysical threats etc., the emphasis on roleplaying and the importance of brains is never lost - this is a book for roleplayers indeed. That does not mean, however, that there is not ample, amazing combat to be found herein - quite the contrary! The Northlands Saga manages to perfectly convey the grit and grime of the North, manages to depict, time and again, a harsh land steeped in mythology and horror, yes, but also in tantalizing beauty and wonder. This is not grim, nor is it dark. In a sense, it almost feels like a chronicle of a North that almost was, that could have been in another time, another world.

You know, I was excited for this and afraid at the same time. I am not a wealthy man and supporting a KS like this, for such a big book, is something I can't afford often. I also have a tendency to be very, very skeptical and nitpicky regarding the North. I also am not one of the guys who wants to like every KS I invest in; I am too jaded for that - years of reviewing will do that to you. ;) Supporting the KS for this book was only made possible by pinching pennies left and right for a prolonged period of time. TOTALLY WORTH IT! Worth every single day. I guess it was my wyrd to cave-in and get it -wyrd bið ful aræd.

This is epic and amazing in all the right ways, a thematically incredibly concise, glorious book that, according to my projections, should yield AT LEAST a whole year of gaming, probably multiples. And even if you don't want to run the whole saga, you can easily just extract individual modules - the plus-side of being less driven by an AP-like plot and more by the players and how the PCs interact with their surroundings.

This ranks among the cream of the crop. This book is exalted and a masterpiece that deserves an honored place on my book-shelf. If you're even remotely intrigued by vikings, northern themes, sword and sorcery, gritty gaming or just want a change of pace: You'll be very hard-pressed to find anything better than this magnificent monster.

The Frogs do it again, as far as I'm concerned - this is absolutely phenomenal and worth 5 stars + seal of approval and is a no-brainer candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Heck, who am I kidding here, seriously? It'll score high on that list!

The one thing that really galls me about this book? It's unlikely that we get Northlands Saga II anytime soon and, even after more than 800 pages of Northlands, I still want more. And yes, I am aware that even now, even after all this praise, I can't properly convey how much I love this tome. Apologies, dear readers...but see for yourself. The North beckons.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Saga Complete Pathfinder Edition
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Slippery When Wet
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2017 05:45:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for the Alpha Blue RPG clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

At this point, I expect you're familiar with Alpha Blue - it's a RPG designed in the vein of 70s and 80s scifi-porn-parodies and thus contains copious amounts of sleaze and associated themes. I covered all three big supplements for it, so if you're not familiar with the game or unsure whether this is for you, take a look at the respective reviews. Rules-wise, we have a variant of the VSD6-engine, so if you're familiar with Venger's "The Outer Presence" or "Crimson Dragon Slayer"-games, you'll know how to play the game.

We begin this pdf with a 1-page summary of how to create and use anticipation (particularly in the context of Alpha Blue) before getting a d20-table of spacer-exclamations. Interesting: The pdf also acknowledges the sometimes frustrating lethality of the game and offers a potential way of dealing with that: For only 50K, you can get a device that generates such second chances...but may also generate multiverse malfunctions...which, in Alpha Blue,can have horrific consequences. I mean, who would want to live in a version of reality where Hitler won, Escape from New York's the state of the US and Smash Mouth is the biggest band ever known? Yeah, figured as much.

So, that out of the way, let's talk adventure! The following contains SPOILERS. Only SDMs should continue to read; players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so the mentad would be biological computers that hail from a galaxy where robotic uprisings and the like were all too common - the Sa'rung galaxy. These biological computers maintained the level civilization had achieved...but as such machines, they had no sex, no sleaze, no porn...and then, the parasitic zantians migrated to that galaxy and began infecting mentads, granting these insectoid creatures access to the Network, a kind of extranet/repository of collective knowledge...and within hides the well-hidden last shred of porn, the naked pictures of Felicity Hance...and if the zantians can find those, they'd have the power to dominate the galaxy. Why? How? Well...she's pretty, I guess?

The PCs witness a hyperspace jump close to them, which disables their warp drive...and the ship has initiated its self-destruct protocol, so they better start communications right now. The vessel is piloted by a G'nord carrying evidence of the last piece of Felicity Jace's porn on a data crystal - with the mentad hot on the heels of the alien. The alien thinks that it's life is disposable if the universe continues to have a chance to see Felicity naked...but whether they save the alien or not, they won't be able to access the data-crystal - for that, they'll have to go to Neo Aquarius...which is currently in the throes of all out warfare. The PCs will have to hijack an underwater vessel while war's all around (12 sample events and 6 looting results provided - and then, they'll pilot the underwater vessel "bearded clam" - which is btw. once again lavishly mapped by Glynn Seal and included as a high-res jpg as well) - REALLY cool: For once, we get detailed explanations of the functions of the vessel - can we have those for all Alpha Blue vessels, please? It really helps and adds greatly to the immersion.

Within the depths, The PCs get a chance to have sex with mermaids (potentially being compelled to assassinate a chancellor...), battle/escape a leviathan and finally reach Aqua Vulva - if they lost time due to mermaid sex, the PCs will be late and have to take the porn of Jance from the mentads - otherwise they'll be in time. The aforementioned chancellor is btw. a waste of skin and, for once, a forced assassination could be not necessarily the worst thing the PCs could do. In order to secure the mighty porn, however, the PCs will have to deal with the guy that the chancellor dealt with: A former knight in black satin and zedi with his disciples, none other than dread Darth Facepalm! And yes, he has a nasty trick to get away and is set up as a really despicable and hilarious recurring villain. His b/w-artwork, unlike that of the mermaids, is also really cool!

...and then, the module just stops. I don't mean "And so the PCs have saved the day and gain x" - I mean literally. The module just STOPS. Darth Facepalm's escaped, PCs have the porn...so what now? Nothing's resolved. Why is the porn so powerful? No clue. Sure, that kinda works within the context of Alpha Blue, but it's jarringly abrupt nonetheless.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column standard in b/w, set against a slightly blue-tinted background with subdued veins. a Printer-friendly version has been included. Artworks are in b/w and range from the usual, high quality to a rather jarring piece for the mermaids. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience (kudos!) and the cartography of the ship is AMAZING and in full-color. Getting the high-res jpg being the icing on the cake.

So, none of the Alpha Blue scenarios contained in any of the sourcebooks really worked well for me - they were basically very barebones sketches presenting ideas and not much rules to supplement them. This is different: From monster/NPC-stats to the details of the vessel to the fitting battle-field mechanics, there is some actual game to supplement the, as always, hilariously over-the-top ideas.

In fact, this is, BY FAR, the best scenario currently available for Alpha Blue - at least when compared with the sketches in the modules. When compared with Venger's other adventures from the Trinity of Awesome +1, it would frankly be, at least for me as a person, better than "A Green Jewel They Must Possess." As a reviewer, though, I do consider the module's end to be too abrupt - I don't know if this is sequel-bait of not, but personally, I think it deserves, no, needs a sequel to tie up all the loose ends. (Haha...sorry, will punch myself later for that...)

All in all, we have a fun scenario and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I don't feel like I can round up for it. If you're enjoying Alpha Blue and have no time to flesh out adventure-sketches, then consider this a must-own, if not perfect, scenario for a fair price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Slippery When Wet
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The Northlands Series 6: One Night in Valhalla Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2017 05:48:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The series "The Long Night of Winter" was conceived as supplemental material/optional tie-ins for the massive Northlands Saga, but each of the modules can be run as a stand-alone module as well. I backed the kickstarter for Northlands Saga back in the day, but otherwise was not involved in this project.

This module is intended for levels 12- 14 and is set in Frog God Games' Lost Lands campaign setting. It can be run in another context/setting without any hassle whatsoever, provided Norse deities exist; its raw content clocks in at 14 pages, if you take away the pdf's editorial, cover, etc..

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

...

..

.

So, Freyja has an issue: Guess what happens when immortal warriors and valkyries get horribly drunk each and every night? Bingo, their capacity for investigative reasoning...well, isn't that developed. And lately, there has been strife among the einherjar, strife that can compromise the readiness for Ragnarök. Worse, souls that come to Valhalla are not yet einherjar before they have completed their feasting...and souls have gone missing. This is a troubling development and hence, the PCs are slipped some sacred mead...and as they slumber, ethereal, translucent forms emerge and manifest in FRICKIN' VALHALLA. These spirit forms are immune to the dazed, exhausted, fatigued, nauseated, sickened and stunned conditions...unless they get voluntarily drunk. Yeah, you may notice that this module does undertake some interesting modifications to the standard rules that make the adventure at once REALLY hard and really easy - It's easy because, upon being reduced below 2/3 of maximum hit points,, you're "flung back" a room via an involuntary teleportation and healed of half current damage and half ability score damage. Slain PCs become specters that can contribute via passive skills and thus help their fellows before fading away - and no PC can truly be slain: Detah just equals waking up, guarded by valkyries, back in the mortal realms.

This makes the characters at once feel like immortal einherjar and really fragile and emphasizes another aspect:

This module, in essence, has satirical angles and could be seen as one prolonged puzzle. You see, einherjar drinking songs and dirty jokes are included and the behavior of valkyries is similarly codified in a concise manner...and the feasthalls of Valhalla, these gigantic edifices, are connected in a linear manner, with relatively few terrain-based obstacles - special note would deserve the vomit/excrement slop-buckets and fire pits, which the PCs should learn to use for tactical advantages- after all, they're treading on the holy ground of their gods!

Their briefing is handled by Brunnaharr, the personal shield-maiden of Freyja...and the einherjar are not particularly cooperative: The PCs, in their interactions with them, have to get the mentality; craven behavior or groveling will get them nowhere - diplomatic aggression may actually be the contradictio in adjecto that best summarizes a valid strategy for success here - after all, the spirit-like shape of the PCs makes them suspicious to the mead-addled minds of the revelers!.

Beyond the social tasks that have to be roleplayed for true success, the PCs will have to e.g. pass Geri and Freki. No, I am not kidding you. And yes, they are brutal. And, once again, yes, killing them is a bad, bad idea. Have I mentioned the hall that has been infiltrated by draugr? Or the chance to interact with none other than Mímir and trade riddles? The encounters, in spite of the identical nature of the festhalls per se, are what makes this module in conjunction with its unique rules for mortals in Valhalla - this is very much a roleplayer's module and each combat herein, to some serious extent, has a tactical angle, feels like a little, unobtrusive puzzle. I love that! Ultimately, the PCs will find agents of Hel, Ganglati and ganglöt, shielded from the eyes of deities and if they manage to best these powerful foes, they may in fact leave this module with a powerful favor of the valkyries!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the softcover I have has the glossy cover and high production values I expect from Frog God Games. The interior b/w-artwork is phenomenal, original and deserves the highest praise. Really cool: We not only get a b/w-map, we actually also get player-friendly version!! Big plus there!

Ed Greenwood is a legend for a reason. There. I said it. I am torn on quite a few old-school adventures, but this encapsulates perfectly what makes them work: Surprising amount of detail and a bit tongue-in-cheek, this module highlights aspects of Norse myths that usually are buried beneath hero's pathos. The unique spirit rules reward the PCs at once for their bravery AND emphasize the brains over brawn aspect, which renders the plaiyng of this module a rather unforgettable experience. Now yes, I would have very much preferred different maps for the different feasthalls, but that, ultimately remains a minor hiccup. It's uncanny once you stop and think about it: This module features linear rooms of the same size and general layout; it should be boring and unrewarding.

It's quite the opposite. This is incredibly entertaining, challenging and not for the faint of heart: Sure, PC lives are not at stake, but oh boy does the teleport makes things TOUGH. Unless your players are good at non-conventional problem-solving (read: Not bashing everything's brains in), they'll be in for a world of pain. As they should be. This is funny, challenging, awe-inspiring and epic in the right ways. Well worth 5 stars + seal of approval and one of the modules from the series that I consider a must-have, alongside "Winter's Teeth" and "Oath of the Predator".

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Northlands Series 6: One Night in Valhalla Pathfinder Edition
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Veiled Illusionist
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2017 05:47:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X's flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept...something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the "prestige"-aspect - the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue - while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize "prestige", we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.

Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you'd expect and it has to be - after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.

Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring - they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.

The standard base class this prestige archetype is built upon would be the wizard; thus, the class gets d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, Int-based prepared spellcasting of up to 9th level and the wizard's armor and weapon proficiencies as well as 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. The class gets Eschew Materials as a bonus feat at first level.

At first level, the prestige archetype gains a veil pool of 1/2 class level + the highest mental attribute modifier. As a standard action, the veiled illusionist may expend 1 point to duplicate disguise self, with an interesting disbelieve mechanic - DC 15 + points remaining in the pool. I really like this and am glad it was retained from the PrC, since it emulates fatigue and rewards resource management. Changing disguises while already under the effect of the ability, btw., does not necessitate further point expenditure. Starting at 3rd level, the veiled illusionist can also modify the audible (sound) properties of his chosen disguise, with 10th level extending this to olfactory and tactile senses. At 18th level, this extends to extraordinary senses. Action economy-wise, 6th level allows alternatively to use this ability as a swift action, with 14th level unlocking the option to use it as an immediate action. REALLLY, really cool! A definite step up, as far as I'm concerned - the finer distinction (scent is not blindsight) and the expanded action economy help render this feature more rewarding than in the base PrC.

At the same time, I really wished that the goddess's veils class feature had been expanded upon - the same races as in the base PrC (human, halfling, elf, gnome, cyclops, naga) are covered. ON the plus-side, the respective veils, while linear, have been assigned to sensible levels and, big plus, the naga veil's stacking illusion trick has received a bit of a clarification regarding shadow-spells, which is rather appreciated by yours truly. True veil remains the capstone of the prestige archetype.

The pdf also comes with alternate build rules for the arcanist, psychic, sacerdote, sorceror and witch classes. The pdf also provides a rather extensive amount of class-specific favored class options for the core races as well as aasimar, avodim (wasn't that "Avoodim"?), catfolk, dhampir, drow, kitsune, kobold, samsaran, sylph, tengu, undine and xesa. As a nitpick: The undine's option has an issue: It increases the range of illusion spells by 5 ft., which is very potent. It tries to eliminate "personal" spells by "with a range", but RAW, range "personal" can still be defined as a range; as is "touch." Nitpicking here, since it's pretty easy to figure out what's meant, but still.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG's signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!

Carl Cramér's final caster prestige archetype ends the series on a suitable note: The veiled illusionist has all the makings of a superb prestige archetype, retaining the strengths of the PrC, while making neat modifications to the engine. Now personally, I wished it had more veils or some choice there - the linear progression makes sense, sure, but to me, this aspect could have easily carried more. Similarly, the veil pool mechanic could have carried more class features. It should be noted that I'm complaining on a high level here - the pdf delivers what it promises and going one step beyond certainly is not required. Still, more so than with many of these, I wished it went the extra mile.

Oh well, this should not dissuade you from getting this one, though - it certainly is one of the best examples in the series and thus receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, though it misses rounding up by a margin.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Veiled Illusionist
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Prodigy Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2017 05:44:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial (misspelling author names), 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The prodigy class gets d8 HD, 4 +Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, saps, rapiers and light armors, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will- and Ref-saves. Spellcasting-wise, the prodigy gains access to the bard's spell-list, but casts these spells as psychic spells.. She also gets access to all spiritualist spells with somatic components - for a grand total of RAW NONE. Let me quote the base rules of psychic magic: "Therefore, psychic spells never have verbal or somatic components..." This is a big, nasty glitch in the base spellcasting engine of the class - undoubtedly, this was supposed to provide a means to balance the class...but however it was intended to work...it unfortunately doesn't. No go. The prodigy spellcasting is governed by Charisma and spontaneous.

The spellcasting also fails to specify that the class gains the spiritualist's knacks - or is it supposed to get the list of e.g. the psychic? I assume no, but yeah. Second glitch in the base spellcasting engine that should have been caught.

Thematically concise, but problematic and odd would also be the wunderkind ability: If the prodigy is a young creature, her abilities are calculated as though she was 2 levels higher. I get what this tries to do, but it should really be an archetype. Why? Because in games where everyone plays young creatures, that's an advantage no other class offers. In games where PCs are adults, it does not provide the template...making it not really work as intended for any group.

The key class feature of the prodigy would be the muse, which shares alignment (why? -Come on, LG prodigy with CE muse could be amazing!) and languages with the prodigy. A muse can either be harbored in the prodigy's consciousness or partially manifested. It may also be manifested fully and is then treated as a summoned creature. Full manifestation takes 1 minute and it retains hit points, unless slain, in which case it regains 1/2 maximum hit points. The little word "can" regarding refusal to manifest in the presence of other pets should probably be eliminated. More on the details of the muse later.

At 1st level, the muse, while within the prodigy's consciousness (and I assume, when it's partially manifested, since that is not explicitly mentioned in a needless oversight) Skill Focus in a Knowledge and Perform skill, as determined by the muse's artistic focus. At 14th level, the muse's artistic focus' benefits are constantly maintained.

The 3rd level ability has not been properly bolded and nets bonded manifestation, though a muse may only manifest in incorporeal form. 4th level nets either Deceitful or Persuasive as bonus feats.

Starting at 6th level, the prodigy gets an ability I generally applaud: Masterpiece Adept. This ability seeks to unchain, if you will, bardic masterpieces, which are an amazing, but problematic piece of crunch - the big issues of the masterpieces would be that they have exceedingly steep costs and are not that flexible. The prodigy may use these during incorporeal bonded manifestation and uses her class level as her bard level and spend prodigy spells known to meet the prerequisites. So, what about other costs? Well, at 12th level, the prodigy may perform a bardic masterpiece without spending the associated cost to learn it and at 20th level, the prodigy may use any Perform skills to meet the prerequisites of the masterpieces. Wait, what? Okay, so, there are a couple of issues: For one, the text contradicts itself - once, the ability is gained at 5th level, while another sentence quotes 6th. Secondly, since we use the muse's bardic performance to fuel bardic masterpieces, who takes the actions to activate it? The prodigy? The muse? The precise way in which the masterpiece is activated is opaque - RAW, neither prodigy, nor muse can meet the activation prerequisites, since the prodigy knows the masterpiece, but does not have the resource used to power it. Also: Does the muse have to maintain the performance? The action economy here needs clarification. That being said, considering that this is a freshman offering, the rules-language is better than I expected!

7th level yields a bonus spell determined by the muse: Magic circle against good/evil or remove curse, depending on alignment. The spells have not been properly italicized. At 11th level, the prodigy can 1/day generate a variant of secure shelter (correctly italicized!) and at 12th level, up to 8 creatures that spend 8 hours there, can add a +1 enhancement bonus to their melee weapons - for a total of prodigy class level rounds. Activation is a swift action. 17th level adds a special weapon quality, determined by the prodigy's alignment. These qualities have not been italicized. As a further nitpick: The ability RAW allows generating an enhancement bonus beyond +5 - this should cap.

At 17th level, the muse's emblem spell is unlocked as a 5/day SP. As a final complaint: 2nd, 5th, 10th and 19th level yield no ability. 10th at least nets a new spell level, but the others are dead levels.

Okay, let's look at those muses! Muses get d10, are incorporeal creatures and thus use Dex for atk and CMD. Muses get 2 + Int mod skills per HD, 3/4 BAB-progression and Red- and Will-saves are good saves, Fort the bad save, capping at +5 and +9, respectively, similar to the phantom. Muses begin play with 1 feat and increase that to a total of 8. Analogue to that, starting at +8, the muse increases her Charisma and Wisdom scores by up to +8 over her 20-level-progression. This should be noted, since the muse, being incorporeal, receives her Cha-mod as a Deflection bonus to AC. They begin play with 2 natural slam attacks (imho should specify primary/secondary) with a base damage of 1d4, increasing that to up to 2d6. Muses have the spiritualist's phantom link and share spells at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, excluding 20th, they increase an ability score by 1. Muses can duplicate countersong, fascinate and inspire courage (scales up to +4, according to the table). At 12th level, inspire greatness is unlocked and such performances only work while fully manifested. Per se a cool idea: A muse's bardic performance, while based on a bard, is influenced by her prodigy's Perform check, which is made upon resting: Failure to meet DC 10 equals the loss of 1 round and meeting DC 20 and 30 nets 2 and 5 bonus rounds, respectively - which is rather potent, considering how easy to cheese skills are. The muse gets the 30 ft. delivering of touch spells of the phantom, with the corresponding upgrade at 12th level to 50 feet. Table and text contradict each other regarding emblem spell, which ostensibly can be cast 1/day as a SP by the muse. 6th level nets the muse always-on fly speed of 50 ft. with good maneuverability, which is rather soon when compared to other pets. At 7th level, the muse's attacks become magic for the purpose of overcoming DR.

Base stat-wise, muses get the make-believe muse-subtype (why invent a subtype?) 30 ft. movement, +2 dodge to AC, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 15. Bluff, Diplomacy, Fly, Knowledge (planes) (lacks the bracketed "int"), Sense Motive and Stealth are class skills, +1 freely chosen at 1st level. Additionally, the muse gains a Knowledge and Perform skill based on artistic focus chosen - unnecessary: The muse gains auto-ranks in these bonus skills, which means she's always capped for them. Sooo, why not give the muse a mechanical reason why she'll WANT the skills at max potency? Just sayin'.

A total of 9 different artistic focuses are presented, ranging from Callie (epic poetry) to Ula (astronomy). I like the choices here, but the impact on the overall class should be expanded - beyond the skills the respective choice grants, the focus only influences the emblem spells and grants a single ability, which is gained at 9th level. These are interesting, in general, and include a 30 ft.-aura of heroism (not properly italicized - like all spells in this section...) - do the allies lose the effect when they leave the aura? I assume so as per similar abilities. What's the CL for dispelling purposes? Taking 20 for a Knowledge (history) check as a standard action in conjunction with lore master, comparatively, seems weaker. Another muse nets a 4d6 channel energy that improves to 5d6 at 17th level, using Wisdom as governing attribute and another one nets improved evasion - sooner than the rogue, but on par with the monk. A concentration-hampering field of hilarity is a cool idea.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting...are not up to par. There are a bunch of instances where formatting is flawed and the rules-lingo could have used some adjustments here and there. Heck, the editorial gets the author's names wrong. Layout adheres to an aesthetically-pleasing two-column full-color standard with nice artworks. The pdf comes with very basic bookmarks - I would have expected a bit more here. Annoying comfort-detriment: Copying text is disabled. If you want play these folks, you'll have to print this out. So, that's a minus.

Beth Breitmaier and Dave Breitmaier have not taken the easy route here. The prodigy hybrid class tries to take some exceedingly complex concepts and blend them into one class. When I saw that this was a freshman offering, I expected a train-wreck...and I did not get one. Now, mechanically, the action economy needs a bit of fine-tuning and so do other aspects of the class - the prodigy can be very potent (seriously - two strong spell-lists, plus a phantom with bardic abilities...ouch!), but it's not a class whose strength is immediately apparent. Perhaps also since it, time and again, references its parent classes and demands that you read up their abilities and puzzle them together with the prodigy's...which is a no go. Nobody should have to flip between 3 classes to get how one class works.

So, as you've seen above, beyond my formal complaints, I have to call this a flawed class - I wouldn't allow this as written and it needs some serious fine-tuning. At the same time, it actually fulfills several expectations I have for hybrid classes: The prodigy plays different than its parents, which is a big plus. Furthermore, it feels completely different. It does feel like it has its own concept and niche. Which brings me to the artistic focus component: It's what sets the muse apart and should have been more pronounced. By talking away power from the base chassis and making this choice matter more, the class could have gained a massive boost of diversity between different prodigies. So, as a note for the future, dare to be distinct and further develop the unique aspects of the identity of the class! The basics are here already! :D

What does that leave us with? Concept-wise, the prodigy is cool, but it would have required a good rules-editor/dev to polish it into shape. I am positive that this has the potential to be a 5-star offering with some retooling and tweaking. The imagination, the ideas, the distinct identity and soul are there - the class feels distinct and not just like a Frankenstein-hybrid of stitched together parts. So yeah, it is a promising start for the author duo, but also highlights the inexperience with some of the finer rules-aspects. I'd bash this more, but I do tend to give freshman offerings some leeway...and if you're willing to invest a bit of time, a bit of nerfing and a bit of tweaking/expanding, you can make this a pretty cool addition to the game without having to rewrite everything. And it actually feels like an original class, not just two smashed together. While the editing and formatting is jarring, I can see this class have value for some rounds, in spite of its flaws. Taking the freshman bonus into account, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars - if you invest time in it. If you want something to whip out and play, steer clear.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Prodigy Hybrid Class
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Legendary Vigilantes
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2017 07:23:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' series of class-centric pdfs clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my queue as an informal request via my patreon.

All right, we'll begin with new archetypes, the first of which would be the arsenal summoner, who gains proficiency with heavy armors and replaces vigilante specialization with anima union: The archetype begins play with a sentient weapon called "anima" (not the biggest fan of the nomenclature there), which must be a weapon properly sized for the character, acting as a magus' black blade, though it is not required to be a one-handed slashing weapon, rapier or swordcane. As such, the anima basics diverge from those of the black blade, with every odd level after 1st providing improvements. Anima weapons begin play at Int 10, Wis/Cha 6 and an ego-score of 3 and increase that up to Int 19, 15 Wis/Cha and 24 ego at 19th level. Anima weapons begin play knowing common and learn additional bonus languages later. Sense-wise, they act as though they had sight and hearing and may thus be affected by blindness and deafness. The anima uses the character's saving throws. In order to balance ranged weapons, two-handed weapons and the like, an anima's damage is overwritten: The weapon begins with 1d6 base damage and increases that up to 2d8 for Medium characters. Tables for Small and Large arsenal summoners have been included as well. Wielders gain the benefits of Alertness while wielding the anima weapon and wielders can telepathically communicate with the weapon. The weapon is immune t the broken condition and, starting at 1st level, the anima can 1/day as a full-round action teleport the anima weapon to them, usable +1/day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, but only while in vigilante identity.

At 3rd level, an anima not currently in use can take on the look of a mundane object, though transformation into its normal form can still risk exposure for the vigilante. As a capstone, the anima may 1/week cast a maximized breath of life, potentially saving its wielder, but not when it's not within 5 ft. of the wielder. 2nd level yields the bonded armor ability - an armor that the character can instant summon to himself, though it is marked by an arcane mark, potentially allowing identification. The armor may be called Cha-mod times per day. Additionally, the armor receives a +1 enhancement bonus, which increases by +1 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter up to a maximum of +5 at 14th level. Such armor does not work for other creatures, btw., though destruction, mark-removal and similar stratagems exist to hamper the class feature. The arsenal summoner may also choose some exclusive vigilante talents, for an additional bonded armor, the weapon master handbook's advanced armor or weapon training, regular armor training and you can go iron man and fuse anima and bonded armor with one vigilante talent. Control over the exact form of a blade called forth via the anima's teleportation, bonded shields, calling a copy of the called weapon, exchange of enhancement bonus for special weapon qualities (with higher levels increasing the selection available) - nice. Using glamered versions in social identity and the like also are included here.

Instead of unshakeable and frightening appearance, the arsenal summoner gains an anima pool with Cha-mod, minimum 1, points These points can be expended as a swift action to provide a +1 bonus to weapon damage and atk, which increases by +1 for every 4 levels after 1st. The bonus lasts 1 minute and at 5th level, it can be used to grant the weapon temporarily a rather extensive selection of weapon special abilities. At 5th level, finally, the archetype replaces startling and stunning appearance with a pocket dimension to stash anima and bonded armor. The capstone allows the character to choose between armor or weapon mastery. Basically, this is a magus/fighter/vigilante-crossover-archetype with "god-weapon"-style gameplay. This hybrid-like theme is btw. something you'll notice in the other archetypes as well.

The next one would be the Beast Born, who loses vigilante specialization as well as dual identity. However, in place of that, the archetype gains a full strength animal companion - identity changing cannot be hastened by the archetype as a balancing measure, though, since yes, this companion may, at a touch, be changed into a harmless Tiny version of its self as a standard action- tiger to housecat, you get the idea. Reversal of this change can be done as a swift action, which means that the companion may be used to net the vigilante the required time to change to prevent exposure. Slightly confusing: The beast born, in the middle of the second paragraph of the ability, suddenly talks about "When transformed into an animal..." in the context of the vigilante identity. This ties in with the second ability - at 1st level, the beast born can change into a harmless form as a standard action at will, with 4th level yielding wild shape, with additional daily uses at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Strong? Yes, however, the archetype also loses the 4th level vigilante talent...and those gained every 4 levels thereafter. As a capstone, the beast born gets free animal growth when going into animal form. I had two associations here: Manimal and He-Man. Make of that what you will. ;)

Next up would be the dynamic striker, who replaces martial weapon proficiency with Improved Unarmed Strike. Instead of the regular vigilante specialization, they choose to either be a brawler or a technician dynamic striker. Brawlers are treated as avenger vigilantes for BAB and talent purposes, while technicians gain studied combat, governed by Wis, but only in conjunction with gauntlets, unarmed strikes, etc. Dynamic strikers may choose from a selection of specialized martial arts talents and use their Wisdom modifier as key ability modifier for the purpose of determining saves, atks, etc. These include cross guard counter attacks, while others build upon the vicious impact ability - basically, the archetype contains two generally schools of fighting and the aforementioned two abilities, granted at 3rd level, respectively, represent the foundation of these fighting styles. Vicious impact nets a monk's unarmed damage progression, while cross guard nets a limited use, AoO-resource-based opposing roll counter mechanic, which, akin grit or panache, is recharged upon scoring critical hits. In short: One of the specializations focuses on a somewhat monk-y style, whereas the other represents a martial artist/investigator - the brainy fighter trope we know from anime et al. 5th level progresses this, featuring flurry and knockout blows, respectively. This sequence of abilities eliminates the whole appearance ability tree as well as unshakeable and also is represented in the archetype's capstone selection, which includes ignoring all DR and hardness or maximized damage for knockout blows, but of which are extremely potent.

The exposed vigilante does not receive dual identity, instead gaining +1 skill point per level and an additional social talent at 1st level, which also locks the vigilante out of a selection of social talents. Cool: The archetype does come with an engine-tweak that allows the vigilante to take it after being exposed, akin to what had befallen e.g. the Green Arrow in the comics. This may be a small engine tweaking archetype, but it's actually one of my favorites in the book. The Focused Hunter replaces 5th level's startling appearance with familiar terrain, basically a variant of favored terrain, of which an additional one is gained every 5 levels thereafter. 11th level yields HiPS (Hide in Plain Sight) in requiring no dim light in these terrains (which is very cheesable and borderline OP) and 17th level yields terrain master; these replace frightening, startling and stunning appearance.

The masked grappler would be the grappling specialist vigilante, losing proficiency with medium armor and martial weapons and beginning play with Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple, using class level as BAB -substitute when grappling, but losing the vigilante specialization. The archetype provides a pretty extensive selection of exclusive talents and using such a technique inflicts damage as per a grapple. What are submissions? Well, they are special such talents that impose a cumulative penalty on the foe in question, making them...well. Submit. They are locked into one such talent at first level and use Con as a governing key attribute instead of Charisma. It is a bit evident that editing here is a bit less precise than in the rest of the pdf: We have the archetype referred to as "masked wrestler" in a missed substitution, a lower caps "reflex" save etc. That being said, the options provided cover what you probably wanted from such an archetype: Anklelock? Check. Chokehold? Check. Death from Above via the VERY potent Frog Splash (double damage, grapple as swift action that pins AND bonus damage per 10 ft. fallen). That being said, I was a huge Undertaker fanboy as a child (and here in Germany, wrestling is VERY niche - none of my friends had even heard of those folks!) and I'm happy to see a sufficiently deadly piledriver, thankfully locked behind a high minimum level prerequisite. Also: Running dropkick is viable. 5th level yields a signature move specialization for a submission or technique, 11th level an iterative grapple for increased damage mechanic and 17th level the option to generate a finishing move, making one such technique/submission more potent. The capstone upgrades all moves to signature moves and also yields a second submission.

I like this archetype...but I think it doesn't have much to do with the vigilante. This is complaining at a high level, for sure, but the archetype feels like pretty much its own entity, which has been smashed on the vigilante chassis. With a bit of tweaking, it could have worked for pretty much every class out there...and the "masked" aspect falls a bit flat. Don't get me wrong, I really like the implementation of most aspects here (though I'll nerf some slightly), but the dual identity, which is particularly important in the luchador tradition, is pretty lost here. And Drop Dead Studios has a pretty impressive luchador base class that does offer a slightly more dynamic playstyle. So yeah, not bad, but I feel it could have used more significant ties to the base class.

Continuing the theme of hybrid-themed archetypes, the noble soul must be good and have both identities within one alignment step of one another. Much like the dynamic striker, this is an archetype that encapsulates two different iterations/traditions, though this time around, both are drawn from the paladin's bag of tricks: Those choosing the crusader specialization gain smite evil (1/day, +1/day at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter), while those that walk the path of the healer instead receive the lay on hands class feature (usable 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day). Here, we do have better tie ins to the vigilante, btw. - aura of good is only active while in vigilante identity. The archetype does get an extensive selection of exclusive talents, though the interaction of the talents here can be a bit wonky: Unbound Smite makes all neutral foes count as evil for the purposes of smite. So far, so good. Focused smite, however, treats all evil foes as evil outsiders for the purpose of smite - does that mean that, with both talents, all neutral creatures can be targets of smite as though they were evil outsiders? I assume that's the basic combo here, but something in the back of my head, when comparing this combo to the other talents afforded to the archetype, tells me that it's slightly OP in comparison, even when locked behind level 10. Not to the point of being broken, but yeah. The talents also provide a divine bond mount and mercies and, starting at 4th level, paladin's spellcasting at the expense of that level (and all multiples of 4's) vigilante talents. The capstone provides an upgrade for lay on hands to act as a combo breath of life + heal or auto-confirming criticals when smiting. Ouch.

The outrageous lyricist loses medium armor proficiency and gains a bard's spellcasting in exchange for the vigilante talents gained at 4th level and every 4 levels after that. Instead of vigilante specialization, they gain bardic performance (countersong, fascinate, distraction and inspire courage), while 3rd level yields quick change with a 1-minute fascination effect for those watching that fail their Will-save. So that's how Sailor Moon etc. did it. ;) The talents include masterpieces and e.g. dirge of doom is codified as such a talent "black metal medley." (I'd have expected that to be doom metal medley, but yeah... ;P) An emo scream that ignores fear immunity (but immune creatures get a bonus to saves) is nice, but my engine-favorite would be the battle rap "lyrical duel"-style ability for demoralized foes to try to rebuttal the lyricist. Increased damage when flanking with allies is called mosh pit and the archetype can convert weapon damage into sonic damage. The capstone nets immunity for fear, fatigue, exhaustion and negative levels for all allies benefiting from the performance. Once again, a cool archetype, but one that could have used a tighter connection with the base class, as far as I'm concerned.

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

All right so far, so good, but we get more than archetypes herein. A total of 8 social talents can be found, which includes the overdue Master Craftsman granting and modifying option to make the vigilante capable of creating gadgets, fixing a crucial hole in the rules. Improving attributes towards groups of creatures, discrediting those that seek to unmask the vigilantes via Bluff (not properly capitalized -like many skills in this section) and even some synergy with the superb Legendary Rogue's skill specializations can be found here. Unless I have miscounted, we get a total of 27 vigilante talents here as well - though not all of them are without issues. Adamantine Fist, for example, nets you the ability to ignore up to class level hardness with unarmed strikes, but at 11th level, they count as adamantine for the purposes of bypassing DR, which is frankly too soon when compared to other classes. Defy Pain lacks an important anti-abuse caveat: It converts damage to nonlethal damage for Cha-rounds (+1 daily use at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter). In the hands of a build that's immune to nonlethal damage, that RAW translates to invulnerability. Broken and needs to die/be nerfed big time. On the plus-side, talent-based TWFing is a cool idea...but it's ONE talent for 3 feats - three potent feats, mind you. Regular, Improved and Greater TWF, unlocked at viable levels, with the higher ups automatically gained at higher levels. That is comparatively too much in my book.

Other talents net one Equipment Trick, +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter, which, while also granting more than one benefit, make sense; as does gaining Toughness and Great Fortitude in one package. Gaining a grit-pool, oddly governed by Charisma in a design-aesthetic deviation from the standard and deeds can also be done. Martially inclined vigilantes are the biggest winners here, though, as a whole tree of abilities focuses on both Whirlwind Attack and Vital Strike and making them both relevant for the purpose of the class. I like those, even though, depending on the type of game you're playing/your GM style, they may end up being rather strong. Iterative attacks with Spring Attack would be something I'd personally ban, mainly because the talent fails to specify whether the attack has to hit the same target or can be freely spread around - in combo with some other options, that can be nasty, particularly due to the explicitly stated synergy with the TWF-tree. All in all, a surprisingly mixed bag I am not as fond of as I expected.

The pdf also provides an array of feats that partially net upgrades to archetype specific abilities like bonded armor, the option to cross-specialize at lower potency (-4 levels) and thus gain internal talents you're usually locked out of - which is pretty cool. Identity specialization and, really amazing, Shared Identity as a teamwork effort, make sense and are big winners in my book. Similarly, gaining dual identity via a feat can be rather helpful for certain characters and the feat manages to prevent abuse. All in all, a nice feat-section.

The magic item section contains gloves that pair weapon enhancement bonuses, wraps to add special properties to unarmed attacks, Superman glasses that make you look mundane and a powerful combat scabbard.

The pdf also contains a 10-level PrC, the scion of the city (cue countless Arrow/Spirit-references) that needs 4 ranks in 2 skills, the renown social talent and a BAB of 3+. The PrC gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression. The PrC chooses a Scion City at first level, wherein all Knowledge checks are enhanced and they gain great renown in the city. Levels stack with those of the vigilante, though spellcasters must choose to retain either spellcasting progression or gaining vigilante talents at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. 2nd level yields favored terrain as well as increased damage output with improvised weapons. 4th level yields incredible renown and 5th level HiPS in the city, which can be a bit early. 6th level yields loyal aid and followers as though via Leadership. 7th level yields gossip collector, while at 8th level the scion may gain renown in a community up to 50K folks instead of gaining a social talent. Additionally, celebrity discount is increased. 9th level nets Shared Identity for the scion's crew and, at 10th level, which is REALLY cool, they may modify a settlements properties - you know, corruption, crime, etc. and he may even generate advantages and disadvantages. I kinda wished the archetype got that one sooner, perhaps a scaling variant - fights between two scions for the properties of the city could have been pretty amazing. Still, overall a flavorful, really cool PrC.

The pdf concludes with Rashid Zill/Dark Star, a sentai soldier vigilante 10 of the tiefling race - once a selfish man, he had his love taken from him by a notorious serial killer he is now hunting down. All in all, a pretty cool character, complete with a detailed background story and even a boon for allied PCs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not as tight as usual for Legendary Games - I noticed a couple of formatting hiccups and the like. Layout adheres to the series' two-column full-color standard and the artworks are a mix of previously used ones and a couple of new pieces, all in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

N. Jolly delivers basically the "unlock" vigilante book here that provides all the hybrid-y unlocks you wanted. Druid-vigilante? Check. Pala-vigilante? Check. Monk-vigilante? Check. The execution of these archetypes is generally as precise as we've come to expect from the author and quite a few of them have some seriously evocative tricks. Now, at the same time, compared to Legendary Kineticists, they feel a bit less awe-inspiring. The arsenal summoner being the one archetype that really clicked with me. That being said, the exposed vigilante is gold. Still, in some of these hybrids, I felt like they could have used more unique features. Then again, both feat and social talents are pretty damn cool. The vigilante talent section, though, has been one I am not comfortable with and in my game, I'll probably disallow a lot here. Why? Well, from what I've heard, a lot of games tend to feature relatively static front-lines, where monsters and PCs trade full attacks. My home game is nothing like that and we have a lot of shifting front lines, movement, dynamic terrain and the like, which makes Spring Attack and Vital Strike significantly more powerful than in a game where trade full attacks is the default. I am cognizant that that is a peculiarity not shared among all tables, though I felt the need to mention that in such a context, the options here should get some careful GM oversight. Beyond these situationally slightly problematic ones, we also have a couple of options I consider too strong/power creep when compared to the options other classes receive.

I don't want to come off as overly negative and misrepresent this pdf, mind you. The matter of the fact remains that this has a great PrC and fills A LOT of rules-holes and allows for some seriously cool options. Vigilante players will certainly have a cool field day with this book and if you're looking for a way to play an all-vigilante group, this may very much deliver just that. (!!!) That alone will make this probably a must-own for many groups. Still, it feels a bit less mind-blowing and refined in some sections than what I've come to expect from N. Jolly's amazing offerings, which, ultimately, makes me settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Vigilantes
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