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Monster Classes: Astral Deva
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:11:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a page empty space, leaving us with about 6 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. Another issue that playing monsters entails would lie within the arsenal of SPs at their beck and call - an issue that the series handles via an optional, but recommended replacement of spells instead of SPs - here, this would be bard-like, Cha-based spontaneous spellcasting drawn from the cleric list, with invisibility and see invisibility added at 2nd level.

Now, the series acknowledges that it does ignore balance in some cases to faithfully reproduce the respective creatures. No matter how you stand on this decision, the matter of fact remains that it wouldn't have hurt to simply provide a faithful rendition AND a balanced one. That's at least my point of view...well, so how does the Astral Deva work: These guys get +2 Str and Cha, are medium good outsiders, have normal speed, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +4 to saves versus poison and their monster class has d10 HD and 6 + Int skills per level. They gain proficiency with simple and martial weapons.

Their racial class begins play at 1st level with +1 natural armor, which increases by +1 at 2nd level and every level thereafter to a maximum of +15. 1st level also nets a primary natural slam attack at 1.5 Str-mod damage that begins at 1d4 and increases to 1d6 and 1d8 at 8th and 15th level, respectively.

Astral devas also start first level with 10 + HD SR, which is very strong; most comparable options begin with 6 + HD and increase to 11 + HD at one point. 3rd level unlcoks immunity to petrification, 6th level cold and 9th level acid. 4th level nest indefinite change shape and 4th truespeech. The basic protective aura is gained at 5th level and provides +2 to AC and to saves of allies within 20 ft., increasing the bonuses to +4 at 9th level. 12th level makes the aura double as magic circle against evil and lesser globe of invulnerability. 5th level unlocks gliding wings, which are improved to 50 ft- fly speed at 10th level with good maneuverability, increasing that to 100 ft.

6th level has an issue: If an astral deva hits a foe twice with a melee attack in a round, it's save or stun - with increasing durations. Considering how easily you can get flurries and similar tricks, that can use a further limitation in my book. 7th level nets uncanny dodge, 9th DR 5/evil that increases to 10/evil at 15th level. 10th level, the class increases base movement rate on land by +10 feet. Framework-wise, the monster class has full BAB-progression and good Will- and Ref-saves.

The class also provides attribute improvements: A total of +14 Str, + 8 Dex, +10 Con, + 8 Int, +8 Wis,, +10 Cha are gained over the level progression. That's a total of +58 attribute points, not counting the 4 the base race provides. That translates to better than better than full BAB-progression (+7 atk + damage), + 4 Initiative and Ref-saves, +5 hit points and Fort-saves, +4 skills, +4 Will-save and +5 DC. It's not as bad as if the deva could choose where the boosts go...but it's still pretty bad. And no, regular attribute gains, items etc. are not included either. It's literally almost thrice the attribute array of most games.

I don't object to racial classes providing attribute bonuses; quite the contrary. I think racial classes should provide the like to make up for the loss of class features. The Astral Deva, as presented here, gets a lot of skills, spellcasting, better than full atk and all the abilities noted above. When used in conjunction with a 25-point buy game that has enough loot, it works; for lower point-buys, it is pretty OP, particularly when multiclassed. Less high-powered groups should certainly take care and contemplate at least prohibiting multiclassing and similar options. Which is a pity, for if you take the excessive attribute bonuses away or at least reduce them, you actually have a solid framework - from attacks to ability-gains, I don' have a problem with anything but the minor stun hiccup and the excess employed in attribute bonuses.

The pdf also features a total of 4 feats, including Flyby Attack, the ability to sense lawbreakers, the option to gain Wing Attacks (secondary, locked behind BAB +5) or inflict +1d6 damage versus evil foes, +1d6 per 5 character levels. This bonus damage automatically overcomes DR, energy resistance and immunity. Not a fan of those, as pretty much everyone knows by now. The pdf also features a handy glossary/reference array that sums up outsider type etc. - handy indeed! There are no age, height and weight tables and the pdf offers neither traits nor favored class options, in case you were wondering.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level, with the one stun hiccup mentioned before. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Additionally, it comes with a lite version that is more printer-friendly.

Jeffrey Swank's Monster Classes will be a rocky ride for me, I foresee that. On one hand, the dispersal of abilities exhibited here makes me hopeful for it, since it shows concern, care and knowledge. The astral deva presented here is very solid and the spellcasting option recommended by DSP actually proved to make the class more rewarding and balanced to play than the SP-array. This, alas, on the other hand does not change that the attribute bombardment the deva receives, to ALL ability scores, which ultimately makes the option problematic and too strong. I really hoped that this would finally bring me the playable angel I wanted, considering that Rite Publishing's In the Company of Angels, uncharacteristically for the series, provided an OP option that needs serious nerfing. Alas, the same can be said here.

I look forward to more in the series and for some of you that read this review and thought "What's his problem? That sounds amazing for minmaxing etc.!" this may be what you wanted; very high-powered games will enjoy the astral deva here - as for myself and quite a few GMs I know, this will get nowhere near their game. My final verdict hence will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Astral Deva
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Path of the Reluctant Hero
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2016 05:19:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' Mythic Paths-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of raw, crammed content, so let's take a look!

The fish out of water, who suddenly is drawn into circumstances and is way over his head - there is no single narrative trope that manages as well to equalize the knowledge of the reader and character among narrative strategies...but, alas, at the same time, many an anime and book has shown that this gambit can backfire horribly. It is pretty interesting, then, to note that this type of narrative device is rarely employed in roleplaying games; the peasant rising from humble beginnings, the hero in way over his head...one is hard-pressed to represent the like properly within the paradigm of default PFRPG, to note one example.

This mythic path endeavors to change that. As per the default, the mythic path obviously covers 10 tiers and begins at 1st tier with one of 4 reluctant heroics. These abilities encompass being able to utilize evil or similarly restricted spells or abilities sans jeopardizing the alignment of the character (and offering the means to do so underhandedly), being a cynic and thus particularly resilient versus illusions and enchantments etc., mythic power-based flukes of luck that may bypass damage and prevent retaliatory damage and finally, mythic power-based inspire courage-like buffing. Regarding bonus hit points, we receive 4 per tier and regarding the mostly intended focus, the path works best with supporting characters, skill monkey, etc.

A total selection of 46 1st tier abilities are available for the player to choose from - these include counting natural 1s not as automatic failures, not provoking AoOs when drinking in combat, negating miss/concealment miss chances on critical hits...but what we get transcends this. Instead, the option to call in favors has repercussions when used in conjunction with Ultimate Campaign's cool kingdom building rules. Similarly, rewards for delaying and exerting caution and the ability to have common sense (a very rare commodity among adventurers) makes sense. The reluctant heroes may wield non-mythic cursed items with the right ability. Gaining the option to follow up ally crits with assaults that ignore concealment and DR can be pretty nasty as far as I'm concerned.

The tier abilities also allow for the membership in multiple cavalier orders at once, switching order allegiance on the fly - there is some cool multiple personality-build/concept in this one... Providing skill rerolls to allies, not counting as a person for the purpose of being the recipient of buffs is nice as well as precise, in spite of the complexity. The traditional heirloom is represented by a legendary item and using mythic power to shake off negative conditions make sense. Similarly, I liked the ability to be an innocent bystander, liable to be ignored at first by adversaries and there is a somewhat stranger-like ability that lets you shroud yourself, making it hard for others to recognize you. Better aid and synergy with bardic performance and generally increased ability score enhancements makes similarly sense. Better marching prowess and the ability to quickly pick up what other people say round out a neat assortment of tricks.

Among the 3rd tier abilities, trap spotting and potentially disarming foes that crit you, retributive tricks and limited dual casting makes sense. Taking the negative conditions of allies upon yourself via mythic power is neat and the pdf also offers a crazy-prepared ability, though it does lack the "no specific items"-caveat I usually expect from these. Gaining bonuses when saving versus harmful emotion/fear effects, less ability drain/attribute reduction, there are some cool tricks here. I particularly loved the idea to tie a memento to a status/blood biography and mastery of hiding your identity and diving straight into obscurity fits the theme. Being superbly prepared regarding your abilities made me think of some of my all-time favorite anime (Code GEASS and Death Note, just fyi) and taking foes down with you is pretty gratifying. Using multiple lower level spell slots to cast higher level spells is a nice tweak of the spellcasting engine.

7 6th tier abilities are also included in this book, with touch and mythic power-based class ability mimicking, the options to be healed back up when you die as long as your body remains (blade of the immortal, anyone?) and immunity to insanity and confusion effects make sense. Oh, and tehre's Roaring rampage of revenge, which combines vengeful outrage with quarry and immunity to various conditions...don't cross the bride...or groom. Particularly since, enough mythic power provided, you may return to life. OUCH. Wringing allies from the brink of death and vowing revenge further add to the theme of the path. As a capstone ability, you basically get omni-evasion for everything with saves AND half duration and you may reroll 1s via mythic power.

Beyond that, the pdf does feature numerous suggestions for builds/concepts employing this mythic path.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal level, though, oddly, some abilities seem to have a slightly thicker font than others in all readers I tried. This remains a purely aesthetic hiccup, though. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports numerous original full-color pieces of artwork, though fans of LG will recognize some of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jason Nelson and Tork Shaw deliver perhaps the mythic path I was always waiting for: The skill-focused path that covers a lot of the bases the trickster ought to have taken care of. The reluctant hero is an excellent option to complement most parties, but it, like the best of mythic paths, is also a great mechanical scavenging ground. Beyond that, though, it has another use: I tried the following: Reduce the point-buy by 5 for the character and/or make a PC with e.g. the commoner or expert class, locking that character into said class. Add this mythic path on the class and use it alongside other PCs using non-mythic classes. It actually works for a type of game that is more in line with several heroic narratives we've come to know from various pieces of fiction - more on playing commoners can be found in J.M. Perkins' "Adequate Commoner", just fyi.

I forgot the rating? Unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval. Amazing indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of the Reluctant Hero
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Green Devil Face #1
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2016 05:16:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Green Devil Face magazine clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page editorial/introduction, leaving 20 pages of content - and in case you were wondering: The cover etc. is its own pdf contained in the folder.

So, what is this? As the author tells us, this was originally a project called "Fantasy Fucking Vietnam"; it is, unlike what most people will associate with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, obviously and very intentionally a satire...and it is a massive module...a dungeon, to be more precise. 59 rooms strong and ready to rock for OSR-games. There is no key-less, player-friendly version of the b/w-map, but considering the price-point, I am okay with that...oh, and considering the fact that this works rather well as a scavenging toolkit, considering the absence of monster stats within.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusions, if only to not spoil the ideas rather than the plot.

...

Well, there's not much lost in spoiling the plot. The village of Erephs-Ogolb used to worship the mad mage with the D'footians, a fellow tribe. Now the D'footians have claimed the shrine for themselves! PCs to the rescue, after all, backwater tribes should be able to worship any Mad Mage they want!

..

.

All right, story out of the way, there's a 2d6 random encounter/trap table which features D'footians and traps standards like pits and wires. Things become weird from the get-go: To enter, you have to insert a gold coin in a turnstile, as a D'footian in a superhero costume looks...oh, and the turnstile can malfucntion and throttle you. How? No idea, but the imagery is downright bonkers in a good way. In an amphitheater, D'footians play "The Importance of Being Ernest", which OBVIOUSLY is a dramatization of the Mad Mage's life. Interesting, lethal and hilarious - if the players answer "I don't know" to any of the befuddling questions potentially asked there, a green slime will be dropped on them. Yeah, Monty Python and Wilde reference in one encounter. Told you this was gonna be funny!

Teleportation via the vaguely creepy eponymous Green Devil's Face is surprisingly non-lethal...but open the wrong hatch in the wrong funny-smelling tunnel and you may well create a roaring inferno. A studio that contains a paranoia-inducer (surely there must be a petrifying monster around!) and the friendly wererat physician Dr. Gerbil should further emphasize how bonkers this place is.

Players who haven't learned that randomly drinking potions in alchemist's labs may find out than 20 entries include gaining extra arms or sweat that is flammable may be just some of the effects (and gaining XP in exchange for needing to wear glasses should also be mentioned). Oh, and there is a huge treasure pile! Of copper coins. Painted platinum. Why? I don't care...but it's pretty funny. Similarly, the oracle's den basically provides satirical comments on the history of RPGs rather than any succinct in-game help. There also is a scribe, obviously a self-insert that shows a nice bit of self-depreciating humor, which permanently slowed quill and a propensity to write rude things about adventurers. Doors labeled "3tards and "4ons" and weird prisoners can be found. And there is the empty room. You know THE empty room. Which actually can disintegrate anyone foolish enough to stay inside for too long...that'll teach the players to camp in featureless, unimportant nondescript rooms...Ha!

Mirror halls with doppelgangers are pretty neat as well and the PCs can encounter pretty friendly illithids sunning in the glow of magma alongside weirdo, long-haired kids that frolic around near the magma fields. Troll lords, cursed books, the architect Spike Pearls (lol), killer bunnies, yellow liquid that heals, but has a urine-aftertaste, a freezer, a functional bar with an animated keg that provides a sadistic twist on the old "one lies, one tells the truth"-puzzle. Once a patron passes out, the PCs are basically transported to the Vietnam, as they are temporarily drawn into the drunken stupor of another patron...

Oh, have I mentioned the dressing screen that can suck you right in or the enchanted bunny slippers with a blinking nose that render you 100% silent, but unable to hide? The game room that lets you bowl, play pool or chess? The lethal game of questions to receive a wish from the Mad Mage? Or the existence of the semi-lich, just to drive home that you shouldn't play with dead things?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. I noticed some minor hiccups, but nothing glaring. Layout adheres to a no-frills-one-column b/w-standard and the cartography similarly is functional, but sans frills. The pdf, surprisingly, comes fully bookmarked with bookmarks for each room, which is neat indeed. As a nice courtesy to European gamers, we get an A4-optimized version to come along with the letterpack-optimized version for the US market. Neat!

James Edward Raggi IV's first green Devil Face is hilarious, if you like gaming meta-humor and have players that can take a joke. Where else can you walk out of an illusionary Vietnam scenario with rocket launchers (that evaporate once the illusion's gone...but the damage is pretty real!) and enjoy a balls to the wall weird, funny and challenging module? Seriously, LotFP is known for the dark and horrific elements, but the people who overlook the satirical elements in quite a few of their books or talk them down should look no further than this: This is NOT subtle, but it can be a pretty funny experience to run PCs through this lethal dungeon, particularly if they know about the history of RPGs and get all the nods. This is not just a selection of random weirdness, though - there is a method to the madness here and the pdf works pretty well as a nice one-shot dungeon to laugh, game and see PCs die the most ridiculous deaths in - yes, it's hard. But it is worth trying. And it is ridiculously inexpensive.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Green Devil Face #1
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Town of Brighton
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2016 05:14:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

The town of Brighton was founded by the explorer Jandor Windsong almost 400 years ago and is under the auspice of the crown of Bryndell. Situated in fertile, flat farmland it features the tower of the wizard Alhoon and is now the home of slightly more than 3000 souls. To the west of the town, the fungal-infested forest and quartz laden mountains are homes to ogres and similarly dread creatures, providing ample adventuring potential...particularly since, in the past, the town was indeed sacked by said threats and a kind of hero worship for driving them back should satisfy the "for glory" aspect of the good ole' "for gold and glory"-adventurer motivation.

In case you didn't get that - this town is firmly situated in the Shattered Skies campaign setting that represents the default for Wayward Rogues Publishing-supplements and thus, ethnicities and languages also adhere to what you can find in the setting. It should be noted that the town can easily be transplanted to other settings, though.

The town's notable NPCs are provided alongside a rather nice, hand-drawn full-color map of the settlement and the accompanying statblock does its work rather well. In a minor, purely aesthetic nitpick, the formatting of the town's statblock (and that of the creature and haunt) could be a bit more distinct in their separation of the respective parts - the lack of space between lines can make the pdf feel a bit crammed, but that also means you'll get quite a lot of text herein.

No less than 5 taverns can be found within the confines of this settlement and each features a reasonably detailed little write-ups, with some nice adventuring potential and solid prose accompanying the establishments. As a nitpick: There would be a lower-case skill-reference, but that's once again cosmetic. Do not expect menu-level of detail here, though. Beyond these, 8 more points of interest are provided in sufficient detail to make the town come alive, though reading this made me realize how spoiled Raging Swan Press' settlements made me - I would have loved to see some more notes on local customs, nomenclature, clothing habits, etc. - but that's just me being a spoiled brat of a reviewer.

Now where this pdf goes one step beyond what Raging Swan press offers is with the unique creature, The Beast of Bright Mountain Valley, which has haunted the region for centuries - Knowledge-checks with detailed information help when researching this adversary (though the notation of the Knowledge-skills deviates from the standard). If you want to know: CR 4/MR 2 mythic howler. The beast is cool, but on a formal level, it has some hiccups: A number of abilities aren't properly bolded and lack their type and one points to circumstances listed in the monster's statblock, which are, alas, not listed there.

Beyond this critter, the pdf also contains a flavorful haunt born from the execution of a princess by an ogre, which still can manifest in a certain alley. However, once again there is a small hiccup, namely a spell-reference that has not been italicized. Pretty cool: The 10 rumors come with a surprising level of detail and questions asked about sheriff, wizard and similar things going on (like illegal monster fights!) actually come with read-aloud text, something GMs less adept at improvising the like will appreciate.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting do show that this was the first town offering of the company - there are, particularly in formatting, some deviations from the standard that are unnecessary and the creature's statblock could have used some editing. Layout adheres to a rather nice and professional-looking two-column full-color standard, though, and the pdf actually features several unique full-color pieces alongside nice full color cartography. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.

Robert Gresham's Brighton (with additional writing by Ewan Cummins and Jessica Carson) is a well-written little town; the prose is nice and the quality of the map alone warrants the download in my book. You see, there is one crucial fact I failed to mention so far - this little town is FREE. While I'd usually harp more on the hiccups here and there, free books, ultimately, are hard to beat. If you're looking for formal perfection, you probably won't be too satisfied here; if, on the other hand, you want to read some nice prose and get a neat map to boot, I'd suggest downloading this little pdf - it's worth the space on your HD. hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Town of Brighton
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4Saken
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/26/2016 07:06:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 97 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover (though this also contains the crucial percentile chart called Master Table- nice use of space!), leaving us with 94 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. The review is based on V. 8 of the pdf.

The open-source 4C-system is usually used for superhero roleplaying may be open source, but tying it to the horror genre? Can that work? Well, to begin, I have never played the 4C-system prior to getting this book - probably because superhero comics and roleplaying aren't as popular here in Germany as they are in the US. Anyways, I'll thus treat this book as a stand-alone system, so can this explain how the game is supposed to work?

Well, we begin with an explanation of the basics - much like Basic, we use D%s to determine success or failure - the higher you roll, the better...though 00 and 0 mean 0 here, not 100. PCs are known as Survivors and NPCs are designated as contacts. The master table mentioned is used to determine whether something attempted is a failure, close call, successes or exceptional successes (also called Aces) - at one glance, you can look at the table and determine the result, making the process of playing relatively simple and fast-paced. Rows can be seen on the master table and sometimes, there would be row steps that determine how the master table is consulted. Skills change that, just fyi - basic skills provide +1 Row shift (RS), expert skills +2 RS etc. Players begin with 4 skills and may gain more. This would btw. be as good a place as any to mention that each chapter is headed by a nice, flavorful piece of fiction - kudos for the mood-setting.

After a nice piece of introductory prose, we dive into the character generation: First, you determine a background, which modify the Measured Traits (basically the attributes), contacts known and the skills of the character. A random table is featured, if you prefer to randomly roll these and some of them do have sub-choices: Believers may opt to become parapyschologists or psychics, for example. These generally also allow you to exceed the usual cap of 19 for your trait.

Very nice in comparison to other horror rpgs: The inevitable loss of control that you will experience due to fear/insanity can be chosen in advance - this would be the so-called instinct. Instincts confer bonuses and penalties and determine how the survivor handles orange or red levels on the master table of stress: From bargaining and fainting to going berserk, martyr-complexes and concealing a monster beyond your charming façade, the array of choices is nice, but most assuredly can use further expansion - a good thing, in this case, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Next would be traits: AT character creation, you gain a total of 60 points to distribute among your seven Measured Traits: No such trait may be less than 01, none higher than 19 unless modified by an appropriate background. The measured trait would be Melee (M), Coordination (C), Brawn (B), Fortitude (F), Intellect (I), Awareness (A), Willpower (W). Beyond these, there would be Figured Traits: Life is equal to M + C + B + F. When life is reduced to 0...well, guess what happens. Luck is I + A + W and can be used to improve checks and stave off death. So far, so simple.

Skills are next: They are associated with measured traits and when you're using a Measured Trait associated with a skill you have, you gain RS. If you choose a skill twice, you become an expert, increasing the RS. Specialization allows for further RS pertaining a subtype of uses of the skill. Melee covers close combat, shielding, unarmed combat, for example, while Intellect covers significantly more: Lore, Knowledge, Mechanic, Medicine, Politics, Craft, Interrogation, Investigation, Science, survival - the inequality between Measured Traits here obviously helps balance them amidst themselves.

Now that the skills are taken care of, we move on to gifts: These have three designators: Natural, paranormal and psychic. Some backgrounds provide gifts, while others don't...but each Survivor receives one gift at character creation. These range from alertness to analytical minds, being lucky, having a kind of personal magnetism, immunity to a narrow field or being brilliant beyond one's time. What about clairvoyance, spirit guides or pyrokinesis. Finally, akin to Shadowrun's connections, we determine the NPC contacts of the respective survivor.

Survivors advance by typically gaining +5 life after an adventure...but also -5 luck...sooner or later EVERYONE's luck runs out. Alternatively, the life increase can be foregone in favor of gaining a new contact or replacing a lost contact...or negate lingering physical or mental trauma.

The next chapter illustrates how the Master Table is utilized - with play examples that illustrate the process rather well. Considering the simplicity of the matter and the fact that I covered that aspect before, let's take a look at combat, which works as follows: The director determines the actions for all NPCs under his control; then, the Players announce the actions for the Survivors. All declared defensive maneuvers are taken; then, all beings act in order of their Awareness trait, from highest to lowest. Coordination or Menace (mostly BBEG-material) ratings are using to break ties. Players may spend luck to act sooner - 5 Luck lets them jump ahead by one step...but only for one round and then, the precious luck is GONE.

The use of defensive maneuvers in combat, whether blocking, hitting or escaping, is pretty simple in theory and practice: They use RS, the color-coded results of the Master Table and still allow for meaningful options. A full day's rest regains Fortitude score Life, though lethal damage only heals after other damage has healed and require Medicine to heal properly. Similarly damaged Measured Traits only heal slowly.

Sometimes, the strength of substances is required to determine successes, which is why a handy table features just that. Weapons have a damage-bonus, a skill type used in conjunction and weapons have a rate of fire and a shot number before reloading is required. Armor is also covered...and yes, the book covers archaic and modern weapons and shields - so whether you prefer the medieval or contemporary context, the game's got you covered.

Directors will also appreciate hazards being noted (thankfully for us Europeans, Heat etc. also come with Celsius-ratings...Fahrenheit makes no sense to me and is a pain to convert) - from falling to poison, the basics we have come to expect are covered...but how is fear covered? Well, once again, we employ the Master Table and the surprising simplicity of the system works well in conjunction with the fear roll - the higher a Menace score is, though, the harder it will be to actually resist the respective threat. You may spend a TON of luck to remain in scenes...but do you?

Anyways, the book also provides several sample menaces, from the classic grey aliens, to parasitic infiltrators, hell beasts, seducer demons, ghosts, chupacabras, mad cultists, vampires, werewolves - you know, basically the classics, though several sample NPCs/stock characters and animals similarly are compiled for your convenience. Considering that horror is the trickiest genre to pull off in roleplaying games, the pdf does provide some pieces of advice for the director/GM.

The pdf also provides two introductory scenarios - both of them feature nice b/w-maps and even a handout...oh, and there's another thing you may note: Both are actually...drumroll INTERESTING. They don't suck. One focuses on a fateful trip and provides menaces of a distinctly supernatural bent, whereas the second, themed around sleep, feels very much less action-centric and closer to the investigative horror side of things, with a more subtle bent...at least, for a while. For introductory scenarios, these do their job rather well.

The pdf concludes with a handy index and a nice character sheet.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard in b/w and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The cartography's neat as well, though I would have loved player-versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Don Walsh, with additional input from Mark Gedak and August Hahn and fiction by Perry Fehr, Anthony Torretti and Dan Newton, deliver a book I didn't realize I wanted. You see, I love GUMSHOE, but am not always sold on the failing forward aesthetic or the simplicity of resource management, in spite of the cool tricks the engine provides; similarly, I adore being butchered in Call of Cthulhu, but find myself wanting, at least for longer campaigns, for a bit of more staying power. This system falls pretty neatly in the middle: Your characters will be pretty capable, but luck still plays a crucial factor regarding results garnered. The cool thing, at least for me, lies in the middle ground: The RS-mechanic on the Master Table makes translating GUMSHOE scenarios pretty easy; similarly, CoC-modules are relatively easy to adapt, both being d%-based, which opens a huge array of awesome material if you're willing to do some minimal work. The system, as a whole, generates characters with a minor, fighting chance, but still vulnerable enough.

The one issue I see here is somewhat akin to most such systems I encounter - there are some components of horror gameplay I'd love to see expanded; the obvious first would be sanity and luck-development over time, the second would simply pertain more supernatural tricks and hazards to throw at the survivors. This is NOT intended as criticism, mind you, but rather as an expression that I'd like to see this RPG expanded - there is some serious potential here and while it will not (yet) replace my horror-favorites, I definitely can see myself playing this. Moreover, much like aforementioned systems, this system is easy to learn - reading the rules once was sufficient to grasp EVERYTHING, making this a viable option for less experienced players and GMs, particularly thanks to the didactically smart presentation, which undoubtedly shows some of the experience of Mark Gedak in the teaching circuit.

All in all, this is a nice, inexpensive, simple to grasp RPG and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval...I'm looking forward to seeing more material for 4Saken!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
4Saken
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Tomb of Tiberesh for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/26/2016 07:00:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module taking place in the Southlands of Midgard clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! right outside the absolutely amazing metropolis of Per-Bastet (one of my favorite fantasy cities of the last 5 years...), there supposedly lies hidden and sunken Anu-Asir, which has recently emerged from the sands and became a kind of hub...and not far from it, there is the eponymous Tomb of the self-proclaimed god-king Tiberesh. The PCs are hired as an archaeological team by the Golden Falcon Antiquities (GFA), an organization which looms over the frontier-expedition outpost. The module begins with the negotiation of the exploration of the tomb, though the offer itself is actually rather generous. A total of 3 sketches for alternate lead-ins into the module can also be found in the pdf, should you dislike the angle, though, as we'll come to see, I'd strongly suggest running with the GFA-angle.

The tomb of Tiberesh's exploration would be up next and the small dungeon does feature a side-view of the pyramid and a rather evocative full-color map (2 such maps are provided), though they only come in 1/2 page size, which is a pity: Considering the rather beautiful renditions and their details, one-page hand-out style maps sans keys, you know, that you can print, cut up and hand to the players, would have been a great type of icing on the cake.

But back to the subject matter: Unlike quite a few modules with a similar angle, there is actually a lot of indirect storytelling about the fish-headed pseudo-deity Tiberesh going on in the exploration of the complex and the place even features alternate means of ingress, which is a neat touch. Similarly, the PCs will not only meet the forgotten - they will meet intruders, find rooms used to extract venom for medicinal purposes and test their mettle against gnolls...and nkosi in stasis. What are Nkosi? They are challenge 1/2 feline hunters and shapechangers and get their own, gorgeous artwork reproduced for your convenience herein.

The interesting component and what makes this a good example of a tomb exploration, si due to the fact that aforementioned indirect storytelling can be employed by clever PCs to deduce the sequence required to e.g. open a specific sarcophagus via a unobtrusive puzzle. Similarly, there is a classic "seal itself"-room trap that features some seriously nice teamwork options required to survive it once it is triggered. In order to find the true heart of the tomb of Tiberesh, the PCs will have to brave another puzzle that blends knowledge of symbolism with what the PCs have learned exploring the complex.

Once the true heart of the complex is unlocked, the tomb turns decidedly sinister - the weird iconoography is one-upped; color and symbols become more threatening...and ultimate, the PCs will stumble into the alabaster hall, which seals itself with fire, to face of against the unique mummy (stats and artworks provided) of the man who thought himself a godking and his retinue. At challenge 3, he is a powerful adversary and the pdf does feature no less than 4 magic items that are generally well-crafted.

Regarding the finale...well, GFA, as per default, is actually seeking to reanimate Tiberesh and thus won't be too happy, providing an unpleasant surprise...but the alternate means of concluding the module, while brief, make for nice alternate means. One further gripe I have: The leaders of the GFA do not get stats in this module, when at least two of them may be part of the epilogue encounter.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports numerous, absolutely amazing full-color artworks, which, fans of Midgard may recognize from previous Southlands books, though. The pdf's cartography is great, but I would have loved 1-page, player-friendly versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jerry LeNeave's Tomb of Tiberesh is a great example for an unpretentious, nice tomb-exploration that does its indirect storytelling rather well. It has some highlights regarding the things you explore, both regarding combat, traps and flavor and the progression of its layers is nice. The relatively easy puzzles and the nice retributive hazards for failing as well as the cool boss make for an overall rewarding tomb exploration. Apart from the epilogue encounter and the lack of player-friendly maps, there is not much to complain about here - and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tomb of Tiberesh for 5th Edition
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Cloak & Ballot Trilogy 2: False Honest, Corrupt Virtue
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/26/2016 06:57:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the Cloak and Ballot trilogy clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It's been a while, since we've been to the fair town of Rogail in the first installment "Tyranny of Greed", so let's recap, shall we? Obviously, this recap with contain SPOILERS. From here on out, potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs left? Great! The order of the unified voice, a quasi-democratic institution erected in the aftermath of a tyrant's regime, allows the people of Rogail to elect their leadership. However, charismatic crimelord Willard Maypoll, has managed to secure the office and, ever since, began expanding his operations. The death of one Raul Teak resulted in Trina Heath hiring the PC to bring an end to his reign.

The issue for the PCs did lie in a) surviving the killers sent for them and b) uncovering issues and trying to outmaneuver Willard and his official apparatus. Alas, the mayor knows his game and tails the PCs, trying to deal with Trina and her help...but alas, next week is election, and now, Trina has nothing left to lose...she'll run for mayor! This is where this module begins, and, as a brief timeline explains, it covers 5 days. After a brief background exposition, if required, the pdf begins with basically a verbal duel of Trina and Willard, one interrupted, however, by a terror golem entering the scene. After the panic, only an elven reporter called Lania Leafdancer, allowing smart PCs to make a potential ally out of the local media - an enemy they can use, for Trina is facing an uphill battle in the election!

Now, the elections themselves begin, with the second day providing an important lynchpin in the campaign - the trial of Blood Blade Grogh, with two sample articles being provided for your convenience...though it, at this point, does not look good for Trina. The 3rd day may potentially change that, for it is the annual Victory Day celebration, where the PCs can participate in a variety of check-based mini-games as well as defeat fireworks-wielding gremlins attempting to sabotage the ceremony. The local racial tensions that haunt the city flare up, incited via magic at the commencing trial, where the militia and half-orc populace is going to come to a bloody fight - one that, alongside its casualties can't seem to be prevented. Some reward for particularly astute and capable player characters would have been in order...but Trina vanishes during the riot and her agenda becomes more apparent in part III.

Now, the aforementioned election rules are collated in an appendix and PCs who want to, can clear out the gremlins from Rogail's sewers, with traps and the like looming in basically an optional mini-level that comes fully mapped for your convenience, including a player-friendly version of the map. Afore-mentioned articles are similarly collected for your convenience and to cut up and present to your players on one page.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to AAW Games' elegant, beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Haakon Sullivan's second part of the Cloak and Ballot trilogy is not a bad module - it is scripted to a high degree, with ample of read-aloud text and cut-scenes available for GMs less adept at improvising fluff text, so that's a plus. On the downside, the module, ultimately, is much more simplistic than its awesome subject matter deserves. The idea of general elections, politics and the like in a fantasy module is damn exciting, but I really wished this actually capitalized on the premise. Instead, we get a couple of cut-scenes, combat challenges (admittedly, sufficiently interesting ones!) and a bunch of relatively simple mini-games...but is that all? I mean, come on - from sabotage to espionage to long-term strategies, with PCs handling negotiations etc., the subject matter has SO MUCH potential...and realizes none of it. Instead of allowing the PCs to walk the tightrope between conflicting groups of interest, unearthing issues etc., the module feels more like a quick sequence of relatively conservative challenges that falls, alas, short of the exceedingly awesome premise it is based on.

This is not bad, mind you - but the frame-work is so innovative, so cool, I really wished it had properly taken account on what it could easily be. This has the potential to be truly a one-of-a-kind experience and didn't realize it. While certainly not bad, this module thus ended up being much less memorable than it imho could and should have been. It's still a solid adventure and I hope the finale of the trilogy makes up for this one, but verdict-wise, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cloak & Ballot Trilogy 2: False Honest, Corrupt Virtue
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Lords of Gossamer & Shadow Icon Deck: NPCs
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/25/2016 11:33:24

An Endzeitgeist.com combo-review of this deck and the Icon Deck

And now for something complete different!

This was moved up my review-queue due to me receiving a physical copy of the product in question.

From the get-go, I was positively surprised - not sure if it's due to a change in policy on behalf of OBS or not, but the cards I received arrived in absolutely pristine condition, contained in hard-shell plastic cases, which prevented any creases or other unpleasant surprises.

Beyond that, this deck of cards is massive and contains a selection of US Poker-Size 2.5'' x 3.5 '' cards with round corners. The card-stock paper is high-quality and employs a 305 gsm matte and the cards are UV coated. The cards are sturdy enough to deal well with shuffling, bending them, etc.

Beyond these technical details, there may be a freak accident...there may be something wrong with me...but unless I've begun sucking harder at basic counting of cards than an amnesiac, the description of this product undersells this deck HARD. EDIT: So, I totally blundered and didn't get that there were two decks - one for the NPCs and one for the Icons. I basically took a look at both and the artwork quality for either is SUPERB. Still, even taking this into account, I counted more cards than 104, so this does overdeliver, even when looked at individually!

That is NOT a complaint or a bad thing, though it is something that you should definitely bear in mind - as far as I'm concerned, these decks overdeliver pretty hardcore. And yes, I've checked the cards more than once - no doubles, at least in the deck(s) I received -there is zero overlap between the two decks...so yes, bang-for-buck-wise, I'm really surprised at the quality! Kudos!

The back of the cards sports the "Icon Deck" logo employed in the review/product description and there is another thing I really appreciate - each of the artworks is credited on the card at the central bottom of the card, giving credit where credit is due to the hard-working artists. Better yet, in spite of being easily readable, said credits do not intrude unduly upon the gorgeous images depicted on the cards, which similarly is a huge thing for me: When I get gorgeous color cards, I damn well want them to look the way and this delivers.

Now, regarding themes, this deck covers a ton of ground: Within these cards, you can see a gorgeously-rendered Mulan-style warrior-queen in front of a Chinese dragon; you can see a horrific, cthulhoid, yet humanoid entity that has a horrid, resin-like textures. The dwimmerlaik, both warriors, philosophers and more are depicted in absolutely stunning pieces on the cards...and then there would be the awesome and weird: Like the walrus-headed huamnoid in Imperial Cuirass, the guy that looks like a winged, badass tattooed survivalist with Jesus-hair, the lich-like undead bathed in green fire...and, for those who know where to look, there is also the tribute to Owen K.C. Stephens, immortalized in one of the cards as a kind of Patrician-looking mastermind.

The planes/world-hopping diversity of focus and themes is eclectic and befitting of the central virtues of LoGaS, with e.g. an admiral who sports a rifle that obviously can fire radioactive grenades, alien plant-beings, Tokyo-school-girl lookalike mistresses of arcane might (or rather, eidolon/umbra), dazzling ladies in Flamenco-aesthetic with pet-dragons, tattooed Yakuza, grizzled post-apocalypse survivors or people that may well have been famous planeswalkers like Urza is the aesthetics of their depiction. The styles of the various artists never clash unduly and, while distinct, there is a unifying theme that ties the artworks together - that being quality - LoGaS has been excellent regarding the consistency of the amazing artworks routinely employed and this can be pictured as an excellent showcase.

In fact, it is my contention that the usefulness of this deck transcends LoGaS - this is just as amazing when used for The Strange, a full-blown planes-walking campaign or similar environments that thrive on receiving an array of eclectic and stunning artworks.

In short, being an icon deck, this excels in pretty much all the ways I could ask from it: The material is excellent, the artworks are superb, the artists are properly credited...there is nothing to dislike about this deck and thus, it receives 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lords of Gossamer & Shadow Icon Deck: NPCs
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Lords of Gossamer & Shadow Icon Deck
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/25/2016 11:32:36

An Endzeitgeict.com combo-review of this deck and the NPC Icon Deck

And now for something complete different!

This was moved up my review-queue due to me receiving a physical copy of the product in question.

From the get-go, I was positively surprised - not sure if it's due to a change in policy on behalf of OBS or not, but the cards I received arrived in absolutely pristine condition, contained in hard-shell plastic cases, which prevented any creases or other unpleasant surprises.

Beyond that, this deck of cards is massive and contains a selection of US Poker-Size 2.5'' x 3.5 '' cards with round corners. The card-stock paper is high-quality and employs a 305 gsm matte and the cards are UV coated. The cards are sturdy enough to deal well with shuffling, bending them, etc.

Beyond these technical details, there may be a freak accident...there may be something wrong with me...but unless I've begun sucking harder at basic counting of cards than an amnesiac, the description of this product undersells this deck HARD. EDIT: So, I totally blundered and didn't get that there were two decks - one for the NPCs and one for the Icons. I basically took a look at both and the artwork quality for either is SUPERB. Still, even taking this into account, I counted more cards than 104, so this does overdeliver, even when looked at individually!

That is NOT a complaint or a bad thing, though it is something that you should definitely bear in mind - as far as I'm concerned, these decks overdeliver pretty hardcore. And yes, I've checked the cards more than once - no doubles, at least in the deck(s) I received -there is zero overlap between the two decks...so yes, bang-for-buck-wise, I'm really surprised at the quality! Kudos!

The back of the cards sports the "Icon Deck" logo employed in the review/product description and there is another thing I really appreciate - each of the artworks is credited on the card at the central bottom of the card, giving credit where credit is due to the hard-working artists. Better yet, in spite of being easily readable, said credits do not intrude unduly upon the gorgeous images depicted on the cards, which similarly is a huge thing for me: When I get gorgeous color cards, I damn well want them to look the way and this delivers.

Now, regarding themes, this deck covers a ton of ground: Within these cards, you can see a gorgeously-rendered Mulan-style warrior-queen in front of a Chinese dragon; you can see a horrific, cthulhoid, yet humanoid entity that has a horrid, resin-like textures. The dwimmerlaik, both warriors, philosophers and more are depicted in absolutely stunning pieces on the cards...and then there would be the awesome and weird: Like the walrus-headed huamnoid in Imperial Cuirass, the guy that looks like a winged, badass tattooed survivalist with Jesus-hair, the lich-like undead bathed in green fire...and, for those who know where to look, there is also the tribute to Owen K.C. Stephens, immortalized in one of the cards as a kind of Patrician-looking mastermind.

The planes/world-hopping diversity of focus and themes is eclectic and befitting of the central virtues of LoGaS, with e.g. an admiral who sports a rifle that obviously can fire radioactive grenades, alien plant-beings, Tokyo-school-girl lookalike mistresses of arcane might (or rather, eidolon/umbra), dazzling ladies in Flamenco-aesthetic with pet-dragons, tattooed Yakuza, grizzled post-apocalypse survivors or people that may well have been famous planeswalkers like Urza is the aesthetics of their depiction. The styles of the various artists never clash unduly and, while distinct, there is a unifying theme that ties the artworks together - that being quality - LoGaS has been excellent regarding the consistency of the amazing artworks routinely employed and this can be pictured as an excellent showcase.

In fact, it is my contention that the usefulness of this deck transcends LoGaS - this is just as amazing when used for The Strange, a full-blown planes-walking campaign or similar environments that thrive on receiving an array of eclectic and stunning artworks.

In short, being an icon deck, this excels in pretty much all the ways I could ask from it: The material is excellent, the artworks are superb, the artists are properly credited...there is nothing to dislike about this deck and thus, it receives 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lords of Gossamer & Shadow Icon Deck
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Bite Me! Weretigers
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/25/2016 11:30:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Bite Me!-series clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,4 1/5th pages of SRD, 3 pages of advertisements, leaving us with ~23 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This time around, we take a look at weretigers, now reimagined as part of the Bite Me!-series. They get +2 Dex and Str, -2 Int, the two bloods racial feature (making you count as a parent race as well as a shapeshifter for purposes of being affected by effects), low-light vision, +2 to Perception and Survival. Beast Form works is presented in a rather precise wording construct that takes temporary hit points, equipment and the like into account and the odd formatting discrepancies gone - no complaints. In beats or hybrid form, DR 2/silver is gained and increases by +2 every odd level gained to a maximum of DR 10/silver. The weretiger gains wolfsbane vulnerability and silver vulnerability. Weretigers also gain +4 to Stealth in undergrowth while in beast or hybrid form - that should probably be a racial bonus, though. As written, it is untyped. That may just be me, but I am not too keen on wolfsbane as a universal vulnerability for lycanthrope-races; to me, it makes less sense for weretigers to be affected by it, but that just as an aside. Okay, here is something that will be cheesed by power-gamers: Weretigers with natural weapons increase the base damage of their claws and bite attacks by one step if they receive it from another, non-racial source. This does not have a non-stackable note. Worse, the rules-language is sloppy: "Increase their hybrid form's damage by one step" - this would also pertain weapons and lacks the reference to the specific natural weapon in question: As written, a bite-enhancer, a claw enhancer etc. would stack for ALL damage caused, not only for the respective natural weapon.

The beast form nets 3 natural attacks and rake as a start, which is pretty nasty. The race is, as a whole, stronger than the other Bite Me!-races introduced so far, which may or may not bug you. Good news is that, if you ignore the horrid dice-step-increase (or use it RAI), it should remain manageable. Weretigers are go-getters and natural rulers and none-too-social and the general flavor provided is solid. On a plus-side, the pdf comes with a full age, height and weight-table. The pdf comes with a total of 10 alternate race traits that include white pelt and arctic acclimatization, alternate racial stats (-2 Str, +2 Dex and Cha), being a black panther, gaining 3 1/day SPs...and replacing silver vulnerability with gold vulnerability. This did elicit a sigh of relief from yours truly - I'm a rather big fan of diversifying lycanthropes more and this is a great way to do just that. On a formatting level, it is somewhat odd to see RP-values for all components in the table listing them all, but have the RP-values inconsistent in their depiction behind the respective racial traits - the base lycanthrope frame-work lacks them, while they are noted in the headers of the new/customizing options. This is aesthetic, though. On the plus-side, the pdf prearranges the alternate racial traits in 3 handy bundles. The favored class options provided for the APG, UC and magus classes are generally nice and lack issues, through +5 ft.-range for non-touch hexes for the witch may be a bit too much.

The pdf also offers new class options, the first of which would be the lycanthrope bloodline - and no it's not the lycanthrope bloodline from the main Bite Me!-book, nor identical with the other lycanthrope bloodlines...so why not give it a less occupied nomenclature? The bloodline nets DR, Constitution bonuses as well as scaling claw attacks with bleed added. Higher levels allow for a kind of pseudo-rage as well as a capstone Hybrid/Primal transformation shapechanger-apotheosis. This does not change the fact that melee-centric sorcs usually are a pretty bad idea, so yeah. The pdf also features a subdomain - the rakshasa subdomain, which features blasphemous, weakening whispers, whose penalty can be mitigated by committing evil acts...cool! Speaking of which: The pdf features racial archetypes as well, the first of which would be the Durjana inquisitor, who is a servant of rakshasa rajadhirajas (5 sample provided) with a unique judgment. 3rd level nets a raktavarna rakshasa Improved Familiar in the shape of a favored weapon, replacing 3rd level's teamwork feat. Solo tactics is moved up to 6th level. Instead of Discern Lies, the archetype can lie with impunity, undetectable by mundane means and 20th level nets a rakshasa apotheosis. As a nitpick, the capstone apotheosis does not specify whether the natural weapons gained are primary or secondary, but that can be pretty easily be deduced.

The second archetype herein would be the Silvertongue bard who gains a powerful charming performance that thankfully comes with a once in 24-hours hex-style limit as well as the higher level option to inspire true devotion from the targets. Instead of versatile performance, the archetype learns to pen missives that contain compulsions, which oozes narrative potential. Thematically, the archetype also gets social skill benefits. This pdf has the best racial archetypes in the whole series so far. No cookie-cutting, unique, cool.

The pdf also provides 13 feats, one of which would be the classic Hybrid Shape of the Bite Me!-engine. Unfortunately, the feats are not all great -Beguiling Speech is a sucky skill-bonus feat. But that's about it regarding suck: We get bite attacks, which can be enhanced with bleed; darkvision 90 ft., leadership-enhancing, better stalking...oh. And Sabertoothed. Sabertooth weretiger. Oh yes. Wolfsbane Resistance can also be found, swim speed and sensitive whiskers that allow for miss rerolls are also part of the deal. Limited wound healing by licking them and hurl nauseating hairballs (!!!) at foes complement this section, making the feat-chapter this time around by far the most inspired in the series so far.

Regarding items, we get alchemical gold as a new material and two magic items - jade tiger figurines and rings that can store weapons - no complaints here. The pdf does feature 5 new spells (alongside a modification of summon monster for weretigers) - the spells include a multi-tiger summoning spell, a tiger-polymorph buff, the silvering silverclaw spell (which can be modified to be gold instead) as well as a powerful spell that makes hands into oversized jadefists that can be used as touch attacks and smashed together to destroy them and send them flying as jade shrapnel showers towards a foe. As a nitpick, it does not specify damage-types for the damage inflicted. Finally, the 9th level Ritual of Nine Lives is incredibly powerful -basically a raise dead, cast 9 times in advance. Damn powerful and potentially campaign-changing, so handle with care...but also pretty cool.

As always, we also receive fully developed NPCs with extensive backgrounds, schemes and motivations and the like - the first would be a CR 2 magus (familiar included) and the second would be a CR 11 barbarian - the latter character comes with the badass Hybrid shape form included and the great full color artwork depicting her.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, apart from the somewhat odd decision regarding the RP-thingy, but that's cosmetic. Layout adheres to Misfit Studios' two-column full-color standard and the pdf features several gorgeous, original full-color artworks in Jacob Blackmon's signature style. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version - kudos! The pdfs are fully bookmarked as well.

It's been a while since I bashed previous works of Peter Ullman. Suffice to say, I did not look forward to this installment...only to be positively surprised. While not 100% perfect, the pdf does several things right: Weretigers feel significantly more culturally distinct than previous Bite Me! lycanthropes; the archetypes are more interesting than in previous iterations and the general book feels fresher, less sterile - in short, the book has more bite, makes me want to include its material. Come on, you know you want to play a sabretooth-weretiger barbarian and hurl hairballs at foes, right? I know I want to! This is not goofy, though - the archetypes and material can be played as such, but is pretty serious. The installment, as a whole, is the first of the individual race-centric Bite Me!-books that really has this spark, this inspiration suffusing the book. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down only because of the minor hiccups here and there; if this was formally perfect and had its very minor rough edges polished off, this would be 5 stars + seal of approval. if you get one of these, get this one!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bite Me! Weretigers
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Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure #1: A Thief in the Night (5e)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/25/2016 11:29:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of the first of the Tavern Tales mini-adventures clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we do: This mini-adventure can be pretty easily employed on its own, but its intention is to be run in conjunction with one of the taverns featured in Tangible Taverns: A Trio of Taverns, namely Blackberry Bill's. In case you're not familiar with it: Think former, gruff dwarven adventurer obsessed with blackberries who has a hidden location where they grow like crazy. The cast of characters, while depicted in sufficient detail to work on its own, is significantly enhanced if you do have the Tangible Taverns-installment, since the characters receive significantly more detail there.

Speaking of which...it's time to dive into this one and, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great!

The PCs become witness to a little dispute, as famous eating champion Pie-Eating Pete is rebuffed by the server Braybin and blackberry's stern gaze - once the pies are out, they're out. The bully consequently storms off. The next day, Braybin finds the preserves missing from the tavern and, barring trails of a break-in, she suspects that someone has stolen her keys. This section feels a bit too autopilot/railroady for my tastes - who not let the PCs discover that themselves?

Anyways, Braybin has two obvious suspects, the local scoundrel, her ex or Pie-Eating Pete, who has been hanging out with a local thug named Clyde. Pete's room indeed contains one of the respective jars, but not the preserves, which, to me, makes no sense. If you move the preserves, why keep the jar after it's emptied?

Alas, this also extends to other components here - it is intended for the PCs to try to break into the Clyde's place, which alerts the guards...which poses an issue. One, why not just ask the guards to check? Two: PCs are notoriously capable, so why is there no chance to evade setting off the guards?

Inside the flat, only a nice (and sensible trap). Whether or not the PCs turn over Pie-eating Pete to the local authorities, his stats have been provided (commoner 7, just fyi!).

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are decent on a formal level; there are some typo-level hiccups like "intimated" instead of "intimidated", "track" instead of "trap", "Pie Eating Pete" once with hyphen and without...you get the idea...the like. In contrast to the PRPG-version the 5e-version's DCs are more consistent, though there is still an example where the respective check is not noted properly. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks, but needs none at this low price-point. The pdf has no bookmarks, but also needs none - it's only 2 pages, after all. If you want the cartography of the tavern, you need to get the Tangible Tavern-installment.

I Like Kelly Pawlik's story here. It could conceivably easily be run for kids and the change of tone from the usual fare is refreshing and nice. As a stand-alone, it does lose a lot, though not all of the charm the tavern evokes - in either way, plot-wise, it is a nice diversion. Let me correct that - I like the idea of the story here. Additionally, the conversion of the main antagonist and general checks/DCs have been done well...however, this does nothing to make the module flow better.

At the same time, from a narrative point of view, this, alas, fails. The module tries to cram an investigation in two pages, which is hard; while AAW Games has successfully done this before, this pdf, alas, does fall into the trap that came from the obvious lack of space...excessive railroading.

The actual investigation is basically taken care of for the PCs. There is nothing to be uncovered and, much like small kids eating pie, they are spoon-fed each detail; the two suspects are there from the get-go, really obvious and make the module, alas, feel like the equivalent of one of those annoying busy-work quests from computer roleplaying games: Walk to A, talk. Walk to B, talk. Stuff C happens. Challenge. Done. There is no internal variation and no player-agenda here, it's a railroad in the worst sense, one that will make some players just say "Do it yourself!" to the NPCs. After all, they just have to walk over there and already know what's up!

The charming component of being a rather wholesome module further exacerbates the issue: When it could have been a light-hearted diversion, it instead feels like mundane busywork...even for kids.

When used in its intended way as a companion piece to the tavern, it is a passable, railroady sidequest...though honestly, I can improvise a better, more open structure than what this offers. Ultimately, the use of this mini-adventure lies in its supplemental character for GMs who didn't have time to prepare. The low price point also helps salvage this at least somewhat. Still, considering the high standards to which I have held similar mini-adventures in the past, I cannot go higher than 2 stars for this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure #1: A Thief in the Night (5e)
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Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure #1: A Thief in the Night (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/25/2016 11:26:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the Tavern Tales mini-adventures clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we do: This mini-adventure can be pretty easily employed on its own, but its intention is to be run in conjunction with one of the taverns featured in Tangible Taverns: A Trio of Taverns, namely Blackberry Bill's. In case you're not familiar with it: Think former, gruff dwarven adventurer obsessed with blackberries who has a hidden location where they grow like crazy. The cast of characters, while depicted in sufficient detail to work on its own, is significantly enhanced if you do have the Tangible Taverns-installment, since the characters receive significantly more detail there.

Speaking of which...it's time to dive into this one and, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great!

The PCs become witness to a little dispute, as famous eating champion Pie-Eating Pete is rebuffed by the server Braybin and blackberry's stern gaze - once the pies are out, they're out. The bully consequently storms off. The next day, Braybin finds the preserves missing from the tavern and, barring trails of a break-in, she suspects that someone has stolen her keys. This section feels a bit too autopilot/railroady for my tastes - who not let the PCs discover that themselves?

Anyways, Braybin has two obvious suspects, the local scoundrel, her ex or Pie-Eating Pete, who has been hanging out with a local thug named Clyde. Pete's room indeed contains one of the respective jars, but not the preserves, which, to me, makes no sense. If you move the preserves, why keep the jar after it's emptied?

Alas, this also extends to other components here - it is intended for the PCs to try to break into the Clyde's place, which alerts the guards...which poses an issue. One, why not just ask the guards to check? Two: Pcs are notoriously capable, so why is there no chance to evade setting off the guards? Similarly, the mini-adventure mentions that " a handful of coin and a successful Diplomacy check" can be made to convince Clyde to talk...but not the DC for the latter.

Inside the flat, only a nice (and sensible trap). Whether or not the PCs turn over Pie-eating Pete to the local authorities, his stats have been provided (commoner 7, just fyi!).

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, though there are some typo-level hiccups like "intimated" instead of "intimidated"... However, at the same time, the way in which skill uses are mentioned in the pdf is pretty inconsistent. Once, you get a DC and no skill; once you get a skill and no DC. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artworks, but needs none at this low price-point. The pdf has no bookmarks, but also needs none - it's only 2 pages, after all. If you want the cartography of the tavern, you need to get the Tangible Tavern-installment. Statblocks for non-unique NPCs/traps have been hyperlinked.

I Like Kelly Pawlik's story here. It could conceivably easily be run for kids and the change of tone from the usual fare is refreshing and nice. As a stand-alone, it does lose a lot, though not all of the charm the tavern evokes - in either way, plot-wise, it is a nice diversion. Let me correct that - I like the idea of the story here.

At the same time, from a narrative point of view, this, alas, fails. The module tries to cram an investigation in two pages, which is hard; while AAW Games has successfully done this before, this pdf, alas, does fall into the trap that came from the obvious lack of space...excessive railroading.

The actual investigation is basically taken care of for the PCs. There is nothing to be uncovered and, much like small kids eating pie, they are spoon-fed each detail; the two suspects are there from the get-go, really obvious and make the module, alas, feel like the equivalent of one of those annoying busy-work quests from computer roleplaying games: Walk to A, talk. Walk to B, talk. Stuff C happens. Challenge. Done. There is no internal variation and no player-agenda here, it's a railroad in the worst sense, one that will make some players just say "Do it yourself!" to the NPCs. After all, they just have to walk over there and already know what's up!

The charming component of being a rather wholesome module further exacerbates the issue: When it could have been a light-hearted diversion, it instead feels like mundane busywork...even for kids.

When used in its intended way as a companion piece to the tavern, it is a passable, railroady sidequest...though honestly, I can improvise a better, more open structure than what this offers. Ultimately, the use of this mini-adventure lies in its supplemental character for GMs who didn't have time to prepare. The low price point also helps salvage this at least somewhat. Still, considering the high standards to which I have held similar mini-adventures in the past, I cannot go higher than 2 stars for this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Tales - Mini Adventure #1: A Thief in the Night (PFRPG)
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Akashic Mysteries
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/24/2016 07:03:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

It has been coming for a long time - the completed Akashic Mysteries book, which clocks in at a mighty 97 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 92 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? The simple reply would be "fixed incarnum with a Silk Road flavor." If that does not ring any bells, let me reiterate. Akasha is a type of magic that is utilized most commonly via veils that are channeled through conduits in the body called chakra. Every creature is supposed to have a finite amount of essence in their being, which is called essence pool. Essence is typically not expended, but veils and other akashic effects require it for activation and thus, essence needs to be assigned to a specific function. This is done by investing essence into the receptacle, which can be a veil, an akashic feat (more on these later) or ability. Reallocating or investing essence, unless otherwise noted, is a swift action. The process of harnessing veils is called veilweaving and thus, the classes here are known as veilweaving classes. Progressing in these unlocks new chakras, which allow for veils or function of veils or other akashic abilities to be used in ways that are based on the veil in question. Each veil is associated with a chakra and veils do not interfere with magic items worn in that slot, but no two veils can occupy the same chakra. However, some veils may be employed in different chakra, often with different effects depending on the chakra used...however, one veil may not be in use for two or more different chakras. You can only ever have one veil of a given type in effect atone time. The general chakra available are Hands, feet, Head, Wrists, Shoulders, Headband, Neck, belt, Chest, Body - though some classes can gain unique chakras. Veils interact with magic as though they were magic and SR applies against most effects, but not versus auras or AoE abilities unless otherwise noted. Veils overcome their own SR automatically. Veils manifest as physical constructs that may temporarily be sundered and suppressed, with hit points and hardness of the veils depending on the level of the veilweaver.

Concise rules are provided regarding descriptors, identifying veils, etc. Now there are a couple of more basic terms we need to cover: Some feats and veils require the binding, rather than the investment of essence - this means that the essence is "stuck" in the receptacle for 24 hours or until the user shapes veils anew after resting. If such a receptacle is sundered or disjoined, the user takes essence burn equal to the total of the invested essence. Essence burn eliminates essence and requires 1 minute of quiet contemplation per point of essence burn to recover. Temporary essence points, if granted by anything, are burned first and may not be recovered. Veils do not require active concentration to maintain, but upon the veilweaver falling unconscious, they are suppressed until he regains consciousness. Veils sundered while the veilweaver is unconscious are destroyed and cannot be redeployed until he has rested. Finally, there would be essence capacity, which denotes the number of essence points that can be invested in any given veil, feat, class feature, etc. - these would be 1 for the first 5 levels and then increase by +1 at 6th and every 6 levels thereafter.

Veils are generally described in a format, that provides their name, descriptor(s) (if any), class that may form it, slot(s), saving throws, a brief fluff text and then the benefits of the veil, followed by an essence benefit section for invested/bound essence. The Chakra Bind section denotes the chakra and the class level at which it becomes available for the class in question (very handy reference!), which minimizes page-skipping. (G20 for Guru 20, for example.) Kudos!

Okay, the first thing you'll note is that that the terminology has been cleaned up when compared to the earlier WIPs - the respective verbiage makes sense, is self-explanatory and if this sounds complicated, rest assured that it isn't necessarily once you have grasped it: Basically, you have points that you move around to make magic stuff. Sometimes, you need to fix the points, sometimes you temporarily lose them, but generally, you'll be pretty flexible in moving around your points of magic stuff. The veils can be powered by the magic stuff and you learn to use them in more ways as you gain experience. Much like a cool button or temporary tattoo, the effects of veils depend where you wear them. That's about as simple as I can explain it.

Anyways, we obviously need to re-evaluate the 3 akashic base classes released so far in order to ascertain whether/how they have improved. If you are not interested in this section, skip ahead. The text is modified, where appropriate, to reflect the changes made (quite a few!), but if you're already familiar with the akashic classes and don't care about the nit and grit, go ahead. It should be noted, though, that the classes have changed quite a bit since their original iterations.

Class Breakdown-section

Daevics gain d10, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armors and shields (but not tower shields), full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. The veilweaving here is different from the other two classes, but there are similarities - the DCs, if appropriate, is DC 10 + number of essence invested in the veil + Cha-mod (making Charisma the governing attribute here and decreasing the DC from the WIP to more generally palpable levels), but there is a crucial difference to default veilweaving - the veils granted at 1st, 4th, 9th and 15th level must be selected from the list of the chosen passion, whereas the other veils gained operate like standard veils, meaning the progression is from 0+1 to 4+4 over the 20 levels of the class. Essence is gained at 1st level, increases at 3rd and scales up to 10 for a net of every 1/2 progression. Chakra binds begin at 2nd level and scale up to 6, with progression being Feet, Hands, Wrists, Shoulders, Belt, Neck, Chest. On the minor engine-tweaks, 5th level nets +1 to saves versus enchantments, which scales up by +1 every 3 levels thereafter.

Now I noted the existence of passions - these are chosen at first level. When a daevic invests essence into a veil of a passion (called passion veils), it counts as being invested in all passion veils, meaning that the very scarce essence pool makes investing points here more efficient. However, at the same time, power escalation is prevented by an explicit rule that forbids synergy with veil-specific feats, effects or catalysts, though you CAN also bind them as normal veils and circumvent these restrictions (but also foregoing the passion veil benefits), adding a further dimension to these veils. Three sample passions are provided, and all modify the list of available passion veils to choose from, the class skill list and all ultimately change how the class plays, so what are they?

The first passion would be desire - which allows 3rd level daevics to use Charisma for Appraise and may replace both Dex and Int as prereqs with Cha for the purpose of feat-prerequisites, offsetting some, but not all strain that would otherwise be burdened MAD-wise on a full BAB character. The in-game rationale for this, while not perfect, at least is sufficient for me - why do I mention this? Because I get pimples from the default "I'm so good-looking I hit foes"-rationale employed by some abilities out there. So kudos! Bonus-feat-wise, they gain Precise Shot and Willful Throw. An interesting option - at 6th level, a passion mutates into one of 2 choices - here, this would be love or avarice. Love provides an NPC-companion that is pretty powerful (-2 levels or -3 CR for less humanoid ones...) - but it does not stack with Leadership. Furthermore, as a balancing caveat, eidolons and similar creatures are dismissed on behalf of the paramour and the character thus chosen may not be a full spellcaster (or full-spellcasting equivalent class like the veilweaver). Daevics that follow the passion of avarice add the returning and called abilities if within the daevic's possession for more than 24 hours - however, the abilities are lost again upon willingly giving them to another creature. On the nitpicky side, there are some minor formal glitches here. At 12th and 18th level, this ability improves regarding action economy and adds unnatural lust to the weapon thus thrown, respectively.

The second passion to choose would be dominion, which focuses on two-weapon fighting with a shield. (TWF at 3rd, Improved Shield Bash at 5th, Shield master at 8th, if you want to know the details.) The 6th level selection allows for the choice of either benevolence or tyranny, with the former providing a scaling, temporary teamwork-feat-granting ability, while the latter provides demoralize support as swift actions with scaling bonuses.

The final passion, wrath, has some nasty tricks: Whenever the daevic bull rushes or overruns a foe, he may execute an AoO against the foe before moving the foe, though this powerful effect is somewhat countered by the lack of gained bonus feat - instead CMB and CMD increase at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Wrath may transform into justice or vengeance at 6th level, with justice providing access to the vital strike feat-chain...and the option to execute the Bull Rush/overrun-granted AoOs with Vital Strikes added. As for vengeance:1/round full-attack against a target when succeeding a Bull Rush or Overrun, but only with natural weapons and only against said target. This ultimately boils down to a meat-grinder -only shreds and gooey bits remain in the path of such a daevic. The changes to the passions made here are unanimously awesome and help keeping the daevic powerful sans being too strong. Absolutely beautiful, as far as I'm concerned.

At 9th and 15th level, the essence capacity of the passion increases by a further +1.

The Blood Bind ability's write-up fails to mention that it's gained at 12th level (which one glance at the table confirms, but still a minor aesthetic hiccup) - but it is interesting: It provides essentially an additional slot, into which the daevic can bind Neck, Head, Headband and Body slot veils, but whenever he does that with a non-Blood veil, he takes twice the essence invested damage each round and when reassigning veils, which means it can't be abused. Nice! The capstone is a boring native outsider-apotheosis and can reassign veils via 1-hour meditation. Odd - the daevic gains the body-slot at 20th level, which means that prior to this level, he can bind body veils only to the blood slot.

All in all: Vast improvement over the original iteration. Let's move on to the guru, shall we?

The Guru base-class gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor and simple weapons, but not shields and enhance these based on class choices made - more on that later. Chassis-wise, the guru receives a 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. They begin play with 1 veil and scale that up to 8 and 1 essence, which increases to up to 20. The veilshaping of the guru has the DC equal to 10 + points invested in the veil + Wis-mod, making Wisdom the governing attribute.

I really enjoy the first level ability gentle touch - if a guru invests at least one point of essence into this ability, all damage he does with a weapon becomes nonlethal, but also receives + Wisdom-modifier bonus damage, rewarding not killing everything that crosses the PC's path. A guru may invest into this ability as a swift action, and for each point assigned, the nonlethal damage inflicted increases by +1d4, though it can only be used in conjunction with weapons granted proficiency-wise by the philosophy of the guru...one of which contains shuriken. Because that didn't yet have enough exploits. Then again, the ability specifically says "a weapon" - singular. Which would mean ONE shuriken...and I'll stick with that reading...in dubio pro reo and such...

1st level Gurus also choose a philosophy,. which grants a linear progression of abilities at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter. Philosophy abilities tend to burn essence points, which means that the essence cannot be used or reassigned until the guru has had a chance to meditate, providing a complex game of resources between flexibility and power - you can't write player agenda in larger letters. Additionally, gurus of first level get stunning fist, but with some tweaks - the benefits can be applied to weapon attacks made with gentle touch and the guru can burn three essence to regain 1 use of stunning fist 1/day, +1/day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets chakra bind in the progression of Hands, Feet, Head, Headband, Neck, Belt, Body. 4th, 10th and 19th level increase the essence capacity of chakras by +1.

At 2nd level, gurus learn to sunder veils particularly efficiently, allowing them to expend stunning fist uses in conjunction with gentle touch to suppress veils/spells and deal damage to undead or constructs, in spite of them being usually immune to nonlethal damage.

The 3rd level guru may interrupt the chakras of foes when executing an attack - this works as a standard action pretty much akin to vital strike and has a DC of 10 + Wis mod, +2 per essence invested in gentle touch, which allows for a pretty nasty escalation of DCs - penalizing one attack mode, decreasing movement rate, decreasing shield and Dex-bonuses and high-level blinding, stunning and exhausting foes can be found amidst these effects. These last for Wisdom modifier rounds and a single target may only be affected by one such disruption at any given time.

7th level nets an autohealing ability determined by the amount of essence bound, though essence invested in this limited-use ability cannot be reinvested until rest. So yeah, no abuse! Yay! 8th level allows gentle touch to act as sunder-attacks that ignore 1/2 hardness AND allows for the damaging of constructs. As a minor nitpick, we once again have to consult the table, since the ability doesn't say the level it's gained. 16th level provides the option to expend Stunning Fist uses when attacking foes to double as what amounts to a single-target disjunction that leaves items intact. As a minor complaint here: The pdf sports several spells not italicized and captalizes gentle touch here as though it were a feat, not an ability...but this is aesthetics and doesn't impede the book's worth.

The capstone provides healing and even temporary essence to the guru when e.g. disjoining foes - cool and surprisingly powerful!

Now I mentioned philosophies - a total of 3 are provided, with each granting its own set of uncommon weapon proficiencies. The first of these would be the Akasin. When meditating in an area of bright light, they can gain a pool of temporary essence that is burned first by the respective philosophy abilities and amounts to 1/2 class level, which it may never exceed. Essence burn taken to activate an ability nets this guy 5 times the burn taken temporary hit points. In addition, the akasin can take 1 essence burn to execute veil of positive energy as an SP at full caster level. At 4th level, healing blindness is possible via 1 essence burn, as is shooting rays - which deal an untyped damage that is more potent vs. the undead. Not a fan of the untyped damage here, but the save to negate blindness and halve damage is neat. Higher level akasins further marginalize the poor shield bonus to AC, bypassing it alongside 2 points of AC with blades of light - it should be noted that expenditure of stunning fist uses can further upgrade this ability with brilliant energy. As a pretty cool note, though - the mirrored property does help against this, which eases my grumbling.

The akasin may also use an essence-burn-powered raise dead, thankfully with a daily limit at 10th level - oh, and it has a no-negation caveat. 13th level provides immunity to blind and dazzled and provides a daylight aura that can be resumed or suppressed. At 16th level, I am not complaining about taking essence burn of up to class level to add as bonus damage that ignores all resistances and DRs, though factor 5 is NASTY. I think adding a daily cap would be in order here for reasons of preventing (relatively inefficient) one-strike-builds. Now this looks much worse than it is in game - it is spam-proof. See, that's why I playtest these classes - this one looks much more powerful than it is. So yes, I like the ability, though I believe it could be one that will sooner or later end in undeserved pointed fingers. Finally, 19th level nets at-will teleport between light sources

The sineater philosophy is somewhat problematic - it allows for the regain of essence burn via attacks of gentle touch when used against targets with an Int of 3+ . The ability also allows for the reflexive burn of essence to negate damage that would bring the guru down to below 0 hp - interesting, since the amount of damage negated is significant and would be overpowered, were it not for the restriction, thus making the guru a good candidate for last man standing. While the Int-caveat avoids failure of the kitten-test, I'm still not 100% sold here - though the rest of the philosophy is balanced against this - limited DR and limited fast healing/regeneration for essence burn make sense regarding the established, steep costs while allowing the guru to work as a functional tank. Burning essence to increase the damage dealt to evil outsiders, aberrations and undead on a 1:5-basis at 7th level is brutal and allows for damage outputs that dwarf paladin smites, but only on singular attacks. So yeah, the guru is brutal here. 10th level provides atonement and 13th level nets Grab that can be applied to larger sized creatures depending on essence invested, while also increases the grappling capacity. 16th level provides AoE unarmed attacks and 19th level nets a paralyzing attack for Stunning Fist expenditure that also restores essence burned one a failed save. It now has a hex-style caveat, which is neat.

The third philosophy would be the Vayist, who would be the agile trickster to the sineater's tanky playstyle - via 1 essence burn, they can tie themselves with aether to foes, penalizing them and gaining bonuses against them...and targets thus affected that miss him result in essence regain. He can have one aether tie in effect at any given time, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. These ties last for Wisdom modifier rounds, which, by action economy and the power of math, makes kitten-ing the ability not a smart move. At 4th level, vayists may use essence burn to increase the range-increments of ranged weapons or blur or mirror image themselves. 7th level nets essence burn for getting back up as a free action, even when it's not his turn (nice ship around of the free action ambiguity!). 10th level nets alter winds, air walk and river of wind and is solid. 16th level features the option to make at-ranged whirlwind attacks with weapons teleporting back and 19th level provides a continuous freedom of movement. Significantly tightened concept-wise!

All in all, in every way superior to the previous iteration of the class!

Onwards to the vizier, shall we? The vizier receives d6, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, bucklers and simple weapons. The class has 1/2 BAB-progression and, uncommon for a full caster, but not unheard of, good fort and will-saves. The vizier's veilweaving is governed by Intelligence and follows the 10 + essence invested + Intelligence-modifier formula for save DC calculations. The vizier's levels count as arcane caster levels for the purposes of qualifying for feats, PrCs, etc. Viziers may invest essence in wands, staves or wondrous items that use charges, with the usual essence capacity limit modified by improved essence capacity (+1 at 3rd, 11th and 19th level - note that save DCs for veils also increase by the same amount at these levels) at later levels still applying. Essence thus assigned is considered to be bound and may not be redistributed, but the essence does act as charges for the item in question, though 9th level spells may not be activated with it. Items with essence invested in them do not require UMD-checks to utilize. Still not 100% sold here.

What do I mean by this? Warning: Nitpickery afoot. Surprisingly, I'm not complaining about items with few charges being left as treasure to have some "smart bombs" here; What I'm not sold on is simply the flat-out "no UMD"-section AND the non-scaling nature of this ability. What if the players find a wand with precious few charges or a unique staff and can just flat-out use it? I am aware that these are fringe-cases, but it would theoretically allow the vizier to utilize charge-based items beyond his level's capacity (if the DM foolishly drops them into the treasure...) - and there is a pretty easy solution that prevents the issue: Just make the highest spell level of the item the governing factor for whether or not you have to UMD and make it scale with class level progression, by e.g. tying it to twice the character's essence capacity. Now, yes, the base ability isn't broken, but I maintain that such a solution would be much more elegant and prevent fringe-case abuse.

A 1st level vizier begins play with 2 veils and 1 essence and increases that to a total of 11 veils and 30 essences at 20th level. A vizier may invest up to character level essence in a given veil or receptacle.

Viziers receive instant access to all veils on the vizier's list. Chakra binds are gained at 2nd level in the progression of Hands, Feet, head, Wrist, Shoulders, Headband, Neck, Belt, Chest and Body. The vizier does gain access to a unique veil slot: The Ring slot, which is unlocked at 9th level; at 15th level, viziers may bind and shape up to two veils in the Ring slot. At 3rd level, viziers gain veilshaping and may use a move action that provokes AoOs 1/day to unshape and instantly reshape an existing veil, though the rehsaped one can't be bound to a chakra until the vizier has meditated for 1 hour. At every 4 levels beyond 3rd, one additional veil may be reshaped and the ability can also be used an additional time per day.

The capstone allows for at-will instant veil-reforging via aforementioned veilshaping - and whenever the class uses the veilshaping ability, he regains 3+Int temporary essence that lasts for 3 rounds and may only be used to power the veils just formed.

Viziers also receive a kind of bloodline-ish linear ability chosen at first level - a total of 3 are provided. These are called paths of mystic attunement and they very much define how the class plays.

The Path of the Crafter grants a bonus equal to 1/2 class level on all skill-checks made as part of the crafting process and may bypass crafting requirements by increasing the DC. That is pretty powerful. Allies within 30 ft. that activate a magic item to cast a spell, treat the caster level and DC of the activated item as +1. That is nasty, but will also make the vizier rather popular with his adventuring companions. Okay, where things get rather unique would be in one particular ability - transfer the essence. This allows you to meditate on items and exchange their bonuses and special abilities. - Found a cool weapon, but don't have the proficiency for it? Just exchange the enchantment with those on your trusty sword. I applaud the fact that you can't cherry-pick abilities and really like this component. Now, on the other hand, wand/staff charges can also be exchanged if the items have the same highest spell level - a fitting restriction, but one I'd suggest to be supplemented with an analogue caster level (or lower) restriction to prevent spells that increase their potency with caster level having their charges cheaply upped by using charges from items that do not scale with CL. Once again, not a bad glitch, but rather one that can easily be fixed. The ability does feature a caveat that prevents use with artifacts or cursed/intelligent weapons, though. The path also grants item creation feats and a decreased craft-price at higher levels.

The path of the ruler is all about granting a scaling 30 ft.(60 ft. at 9th)-Will-save/Sense Motive debuff aura, with selective exclusion of up to Intelligence modifier allies, who also get a bonus instead. Enforcing a reroll at high levels is nice, but when compared to the benefits granted by the other paths, the path of the ruler feels pretty bland to me.

The path of the seer increases movement of all allies within 60 ft. by +5 ft, +5 ft. more at 9th and 17th level - neat. Now the interesting part comes next - the seer learns teamwork feats and for each point invested, the class may share ALL teamwork feats granted by this ability (1 is gained at 1st, 5th, 9th and 13th level) with one ally within 60 feet. Additionally, veils tied to Hand or Feet may be shared alongside with allies, who may invest essence in them, but not benefit from veil bind in the shared veil and they neither gain the benefits of the seer's invested essence. High-level (17th) seer-viziers may freely retrain the teamwork feats. See, that one is a competent, powerful commander-style path and once again, mops the floor with the relatively uninspired ruler-path.

Once again, some nice revisions made here.

End Base Class Section

One crucial difference that sets apart Akashic Mysteries from similar alternate magic systems is the sheer wide openness as a central factor of the design - this system was made to allow for dabbling, gestalting and similar processes and as such, this book does contain a lot of options for classes beyond the 3 I have covered so far, so let us dive in and take a close look, shall we?

Okay, so the first class covered would be the psionic aegis, who gains 2 1-point, 4-point and 3-point as well as a 4-point customization: Beyond the obvious chakra bind and veil shaping, there are some cool mechanic twists here that make me really grin; contemplation, for example, lets the aegis expend power points to make receptacles or veils counted as though they were invested with essence, providing a nice game of resource management I enjoy. Making essence via the ectosuit similarly is a neat concept. Speaking of cool: The Buraq animal companion (yep, you read right!) archetype basically replaces several of the usual tricks with some veilshaping, emphasizing the instinctual and universal nature of akasha: Two thumbs up!

Barbarians looking to tap into the power of akasha will like the rageshaper, who replaces 5 of his rage power with veils and temporary essence while raging, which also makes for a great representation of the trope of the hero who can only tap into supernatural powers while raging (as seen in a gazillion anime). The resonant song bard replaces the base performances with the Hands of the Bard veil and 1/4 (min 1) class level essence. Now here is where things become interesting: At higher levels, the veil separates from the bard for a kind of spectral, externalized threat. The psionic and criminally underestimated cryptic class replaces the enhanced disruptions with veilweaving at -3 levels and a fluid realignment of altered defense tied to his veils as well as a power point/essence-interaction akin to that shown by the aegis. Once again, this makes for evocative gameplay and interesting tricks. The swarm master dread gains the pretty awesome vizier's veil-selection (at a lower progression, obviously) as well as the Pestilence Cloak veil, which, once again, he can utilize in utterly unique ways, separating from the dread and even becoming real! Oh, and swarm form at higher levels! Heck YES! The hashasheen gunslinger can cling to walls, generate akashic bullets (somewhat similar to my own etherslinger) and fire on the run - apart from the class I wrote myself, this certainly now ranks as one of my favorite gunslinger options. The akashic warrior fighter is the first archetype here I don't really like - it basically replaces bravery with an akahsa-based variant and allows the character to invest essence in armor or weapons, but ultimately, the archetype doesn't add much beyond at least some numerical flexibility. Better than the base fighter, but not as amazing as most archetypes herein.

The snake charmer magus is a whip specialist who blends arcane power and spellcasting, losing spellstrike, spell recall, etc. - however, for arcane pool points and essence invested in the whip, he can generate cool defenses - a neat take on the whip-wielding, quick magus. The adaptive gunner marksman gets the cool contemplation psionic power/essence-combo game and uses the amazing Hand Cannon veil, getting even a unique style to interact with that one, which lets him doe amazing psionics/veilweaving-combo-stuff, like combining both cannons into one when expending the psionic focus for increasingly devastating blasts. The mysterial monk once again features a complex and evocative game of resource-management that is based on the interaction of veilweaving and ki as well as featuring a neat array of veilweaving in lieu of e.g. slow fall. The yaksa caller summoner binds lesser daeva (the entities associated with the daevic) instead of eidolons - said beings have veilweaving and said yaksa may bin essence in the caller, enhancing spell slots and veil sharing is also part of the deal. Pretty neat veilweaving summoner variant. Fans of Path of War may enjoy the veiled lord warder, who regains essence when performing gambits as well as limited number of day veilsharing with allies - beings affected by this that crit, generate temporary essence. All in all, neat.

The book also contains 13 talents for rogues, investigators as well as slayers that provide a neat array of tricks to dabble in veilweaving for these characters. Note something? Like the lack of complaining about them? Yeah, the options here are damn cool! The pdf also sports 2 PrCs, the first of which would be the 10-level Amplifier, who gains 1/2 BAB- and Will-save progression, d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level as well as full spellcasting/veilweaving progression - the amplifier basically is a akasha/spells-theurge...and if you've followed my reviews, you'll note that I'm usually not too impressed by these guys. However, for one, he works with psionics as well and when spell and veil descriptor match veils, the class gets some cool benefits to choose from that scale with the levels, providing a cool game of mechanical interaction that actually makes the PrC interesting to me.

The second PrC covers 5 levels and gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-progression, d8 HD and 2 + Int skills as well as full veilweaving progression. These guys gain touch attacks that deal 1d8 per class level + Con-mod, which also grants temporary hit points and temporary essence. This temporary essence can, at 2nd level, be used to create debuffs zones. Thereafter, the PrC learns to render those it defeats into zombies, poison the essence of foes (unique mechanics) and finally, create undead via his tricks. Neat!

The pdf also contains new races, the first of which would be the amazing gamla you can see on the cover - yes, camel folk. Yes, they are cool. These guys get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, are Large, have a speed of 30 ft., use undersized weapons (nice balance), gain desert strider, endurance, gain +1 bonus essence and a sickening spittle usable 1/minute. A powerful race, but still within the acceptable frame and one that gets a wide array of core class/akashic class and warder FCOs. The race also supports two alternates, the Alqarn (rhinofolk), who gains +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis (making them more physically lopsided than I like them), but slow and steady does somewhat diminish what would otherwise, thanks to ferocity and gore, be too close by the barb-race. Feelkha get +2 Con and Int, -2 Dex, are similarly slow and steady and gain a trunk that can be used, much like the rhinofolk's horn, in conjunction with essence more effectively.

The second race would be the reptilian sobek, who gain +2 Str and Cha, -2 Wis, slow and steady, water adaptation, +2 to Stealth in certain environments, a natural bite attack at 1d6 that can be enhanced via essence and a sweeping tail. Once again, we get FCos for the core classes and the akashic ones. The nameer and sohofaat are alternates here - the tigerfolk nameer are warmblooded, have regular movement and camouflage in other environments and the race does have essence-enhanceable claws. The solhofaat (turtlefolk) get +4 Con, -2 Dex and a shell that can be enhanced via essence, a bite that can't be invested with essence, but a shell that can be. I usually tend to hate +4 as racial modifiers, but considering the slow swimming speed as well as the fact that Con does not allow for a lot of abuse/powergaming, I'm mostly good with this and leave it with my usual "Take heed!" warning for GMs of low-powered games.

The suqur get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, 20 ft. land movement, low-light vision, 1 point of bonus essence and may glide. They gain talons and investing essence in the gliding wings lets them fly, which represents an investment I'm willing to give a pass; obviously, this can cause problems in low-level modules, but the totality of the race's traits is sufficiently subdued to make this work for me. Once again, we get nice FCos and the race comes with two alternatives: The Hibkha (Ibisfolk) get +4 Int, -2 Str and Con, has 30 ft. movement and ignore non-magical difficult terrain, which makes the Int-powergaming more ridiculous. Not getting anywhere near my game, this one may be the first thing in the book I actively dislike. The Nisr vulturefolk get +2 Dex and Con, -2 Cha and may fortify their iron stomachs with eseence to resist poisons and diseases and eat about anything. Age, height and weight tables are included for our convenience. Favored class options of the new classes for the core races (minus half-orc/half-elf, plus orc) can also be found.

Alright, but one of the main draws of Incarnum back in the day was the relative ease by which other characters could dabble in its tricks - a component akashic mysteries translates masterfully to PFRPG by not only aforementioned class options, but by the vast array of feats. Basically, you can learn to access chakra slots via these and, as hinted at above, feats with the Akashic-descriptor can be invested with essence for greater effect, fortifying the body, spells, enhancing charges...Building on Deadly Aim, rage, studied strike, channel energy - basically, you name the class feature and there will be some unique trick that you can enhance with these feats - the handy table covering the feats alone is 1.5 pages long. Essence-based, less boring variants of Toughness that count as Toughness for purposes of prereqs are neat. Unfortunately, there is also some problematic content here: Life Bond, for example. This lets you basically transfer hit points via touch to allies. Solid, right? Well, for each essence invested in the ability, you increase healing by +5 hit points, which means that two or more folks with this healing each other can generate infinite healing. It'll take a while and probably won't break the game in most rounds, but I know that I'll put hard cap on this feat in my game...but consider this just a tentative complaint, since otherwise, the array of options presented herein are evocative and make for a LOT of tinkering options - the chapter adds a massive tweaking strategy to everything, considering that most feats grant essence!

Now, the veils...this massive book contains basically ~20 pages of these and they are, ultimately, what makes of breaks the system...and they are amazing. No, seriously. Unlike many an alternate system, Michael Sayre has provided a significant array of unique benefits that you otherwise never get to see - like vorpal-immunity. I also mentioned the friggin' handcannons, right? What I can't really possibly hope to convey is the nature of these: Take a veil that grants you a tail slap - so far, so boring, right? Well, for essence, it also nets swim speed and for chakra bind, we gain 5 ft. AoE-trip as a unique attack! Even relatively conservative skill-boosters get such unique tricks, with one providing very high-level viziers a means to become truly frightening rulers, commanding up to 100 HD of creatures...Dr and Ac-granting defenses, temporary hit points that slowly regenerate, gauntlets that deal "electric" (should be electricity), sonic and cold damage, miss chances, spell-interactions for chakra-bound veils, mantles of insects. A nice touch: even the veils that employ veilweaving level instead of BAB have a rationale for how viziers and daevics can end up at the same potency when using the veil -it may not be much, but it is these nice little touches that show how much the authors care about a sense of in-game coherence. Oh, have I mentioned the Spiderman-style spinnerets? Now, personally, I'll add a cooldown to the dragon-like breath-weapon-granting veil, since I really don't consider infinite AoE-damage, even in small cones, to be something I like, but this is, again, a rules-aesthetic decision, not one based on me considering the veil OP. Oh, want veils rather by slot than alphabetically? Guess what: Second table included. Breaking each of these down in their components would exceed the frame of this review, considering that I already talked about quite a few of them in my review of the previous books; just note that no infinite healing exploits sprang right at me, though healing options are included.

A total of 3 weapon special abilities, akasha-enhancing catalysts, blood chakra-interactions...these items generally work well...but are only half the deal. You see, the mirrored property I mentioned before? It's included herein. As are a selection of spells and material that act as reference material to avoid annoying book switching. Kudos and thank you for that.

Where was I, oh yes, beyond the items, we get two new monster subtypes, the akashic and daeva...and new monsters, including a new akashic dragon! The monsters sport amazing artworks and, as many are daeva, provide gorgeous, original artworks that evoke unique twists on Hindu-deities and other, lesser-known mythological creatures, like the Yaksha. These monster builds can generally be called "challenging" and range from CR 5 to 22, sporting unique tricks even before the whole veilweaving thing comes into place. This brief bestiary, if anything, made me want a whole bestiary of such creatures and should be considered a worthy closer to this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a bit hard to talk about here; you see, this review is not based on the "this will go to print version" of the book, but rather on the pdf-version prior to that. The positives first: Considering the length and density of the material herein, I am pretty excited to note the precision of the rules-language. Formal glitches are also pretty few and far in between, with e.g. the first "Alignment"-line in the book being one of the exceptions. One of the most prevalent issues would be that, unlike all "finished" Dreamscarred Press titles, I noticed quite a few formatting hiccups, like non-italicized spells and minor internal incongruencies regarding some of the material. These are universally not game-breakers, though. Dreamscarred Press has a history of cleaning up their books before going print, so I'm willing to give the company a pass on that for now; it's just something to bear in mind when you're expecting to dive right i. In my usual qualification, this would be situated between good and okay in that regard. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version - kudos for providing that! Artworks are a mix of stock art and original art in full-color and particularly the original art deserves being mentioned as high-quality and amazing. Srsly, making the camelfolk look cool is truly great! The pdfs come with excessive, nested bookmarks that render the use on electronic devices very easy.

Lead designer Michael Sayre, with assistance from Andreas Rönnqvist, Andrew Stoeckle and Jacob Karpel has created a monument here. Yeah, I know, sounds like hyperbole? I'm not kidding, though. When I think "alternate magic for PFRPG", akashic mysteries is now right up there with psionics, pact magic and the numerous systems crafted by Interjection games' Bradley Crouch. The overhaul the classes got in comparison to the previous releases shows a quickly improving grasp of mechanics of top-tier complexity and the ability to sift through feedback to garner the gems amidst the complaints and invalid bickering - the final book presented here blows its WIP-components straight out of the water. The beauty of the mechanical tweaking and math underlying the system is impressive and the reason I adore this book more than quite a few options out there: It doesn't matter if you're playing a low-powered 15-pt-buy or nigh-superhero 25-pt-buy; it doesn't matter if you're going for low/rare or high magic - the akashic system supports a vast selection of playstyles and is ingenious, smart and just rewarding.

Beyond that, it may be one massive array of exceedingly dense crunch, but it is one that doesn't leave other classes behind. Finally, the system actually manages to evoke, in spite f the scarcity of fluff, a unique thematic identity that you may easily reskin/eliminate, yes - but you can also roll with it. The number of components I'd consider problematic herein are TINY considering the density and size of this book. Oh, one more thing: I HATED the fluff of Incarnum. I hated its execution and only used it for gestalting back in the day; this one, I love. It is refined, strong but still balanced and one gigantic beast of evocative material. This will become a staple in my games for years to come and establishes Michael Sayre as one crunch-designer to really watch, as one in the highest echelon.

If anything, I want the expanded and augmented sequel book now and a full-blown bestiary and NPC book to boot. Yes, I actually like this that much. The fact that the system, in spite of the vast amount of moving parts, doesn't crumble under its own weight is impressive indeed. I'm rambling. What I'm saying is: Get this, you won't be disappointed! It's not (yet) perfect, but it is one of the most inspired crunch-books to land before me in the last couple of years. My final verdict will clock in at unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval and denote this, even sans improvements, as a candidate for my Top ten of 2016 and an EZG Essential. Now excuse me, I have a lot of tinkering to do...

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries
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Four Horsemen Present: Yet More Horrifically Overpowered Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/24/2016 07:02:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages...though these are further reduced by 1 page-version of the cover and a pretty bad 1-page piece of stock art, bringing this down to 8 pages, so let's take a look!

All right, so I explained these feats in the "Even More..." review of Horrifically Overpowered feats, so I'm not going into that aspect again...however, this does have a new idea added to the fray: Metagaming feats. These feats allow a player to intercede in game and perform deity-like feats...but they require the player to own a focus of gaming awesomeness like the Red Box, Blackmoor or similar legendary books. Thankfully, I'd classify thus...so what do we get? 20 horrifically overpowered feats and 10 metagaming feats, so let's dive in!

The horrifically overpowered feats follow a similar route as those employed in the "Even More"-book - with a unique twist for some. Take Admixture Elementalist. This one not only nets you a second elemental school; it also lets you mix the two energy types and activate the secondary elemental powers from the schools. Bull Rushing adjacent foes alongside the primary target is pretty awesome and something I will actually modify and use in my game. Combining sneak attack and Cleave similarly, while horrifically overpowered, works pretty amazing for the angle of the legendary assassin etc.

There is one ability that I'd never allow for players - Compound Special Ability lets you combine the numerical effects of any number or all daily uses (like bombs) in one use, enhancing the nova-phenomenon to the n-th degree. It may sound stupid, but I just can't figure out any game in which this would enhance the flow of the game or do something beyond ridiculous numerical escalation. Not a fan.

I am, however, a fan of the feat that makes the skull of foes hit with bludgeoning weapons explode on crits. It's got Tim Hitchcock written all over it, is powerful, exceedingly so, but I can see it work in some games rather well! Disintegrating any foe reduced to 0 HP is one that all my soul reaving bastard villains will get. Similarly, learning spells just from seeing them is cool - utterly OP for the spontaneous casters, sure...but I can see that drive a campaign of the brilliant sorceror-paragon. Oh, want to be part of a second race? Covered.

On the down-side: There is a bit of overlap here: While "Even More's" Fringe Dogma lets you take any additional domain, regardless of deity, Master of Domains nets you one from those available, but can be taken multiple times. The feats do different things, yes...but still, the concept remains pretty similar. 3/day, looking at a spell's damage dice and taking the highest damage, multiplying it by dice rolled is appropriate. I also really like taking -1 to atk when sneaking for the option to maximize one of the sneak attack dice - depending on the power-level of the campaign, this one can be used as a quick rogue power-upgrade hack.

Now beyond feats like this, let's talk a bit about the Metagaming feats. They are outrageous in a good way. Forgotten Bonus? Add a retrospective bonus to a throw. "Invoke Thakko" takes us back to the THAC0 days...and is hilarious, since it comes with the caveat that if the GM can't calculate the new AC in time, you automatically hit. I could, just fyi - THAC0 was ETW0 in Germany, but I did the calculation more times than I could conceivably count. Oh, and yes, invoking the good ole' Weapon Speed (remember THAT?) is also part of the deal!

Loaded Die changes 1s to 20s and can be loaned to other players and Rules Lawyer lets you 1/day ignore any rule by basically stating "it does not say it can" and yet another feat lets you reforge items into other item slots...which is utterly OP. For a less OP version, look at DSP's Steelforge Book I, just fyi. Then again, this feat is significantly less involved and works for groups that handwave such matters. 1/day undoing an event would also be one of the metagaming feats here.

Pretty amazing: Wild shaping of allies and reflexive disarm all feel appropriately OP. The Wild Magic take is similarly powerful and pretty OP; though at this point, I have seen that component done better for regular gameplay.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though oddly inconsistent - the subtypes of the feats aren't bolded, while some paragraphs and entries in the table are, regardless of viewer I use. Cosmetic, sure, but somewhat aesthetically distracting still. The pdf sports mostly solid stock art and the original cover - the one-page explosion artwork is pretty sucky and blatant page-count increase...not sure why it's here. Then again, the pdf is fairly priced for what it delivers. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but only for headers, not for the individual feats.

I like Tim Hitchcock's Horrifically Overpowered feats more than any of the last 4 or so releases in the series; I consider the metagaming feats pure gold for fun beer-and-pretzels-style gaming and the totality can be employed for cue in Monty Python something completely different. I like that. Very much. Similarly, if the rogue fixes out there (like Legendary Games' excellent "Legendary Rogues") are too much work for you, just slapping one or more of these feats on the chassis should help. On the downside, I do think that e.g. the internal balance isn't always perfect and that there is some minor thematic overlap in style, if not in execution, with what we've seen so far. Personally, this is among my favorite Horrifically Overpowered-books...but if the metagaming feats don't interest you, this may feel slightly less appealing to you than it was for me.

If anything, this book made me think of one thing: If you'd take the superhero-flavored feats from "Even More" and this book and took the old-school style feats and the Metagaming feats and combined them in their respective books, you'd have two superior books than what we got with "Even More" and "Yet More"; the suggested combination would be more succinct and thematically consistent than what we got, but this does not render this pdf or "Even More" bad by any stretch of the word; instead, consider this a fun, inspiring little book, which, particularly with "Even More", can provide the tools for some really fun throwback-nostalgia gaming with PFRPG's rules. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Yet More Horrifically Overpowered Feats
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Coins and Credit
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/21/2016 12:31:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Flaming Crab Games' oddball Letters-series that deals with unconventional topics clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Coins. Money. Gold or the Euro or the American Dollar. The stuff that binds civilization together and makes completely foreign nations that would otherwise hate each other engage in trade. Coinage has a role as important to our development as a species as few other inventions - and it is EVERYWHERE in our games. The dragon's hoard. The orc's pocket. Heck, it could be argued that from a certain 3-adventure arc in Kalamar to RotRL or the legendary Halls of the Mountain King, coins and money play a pivotal role in gaming. It is then quite amazing to realize that we don't really have any supplements depicting the peculiarities of currency exchange and details in gaming...in spite of Abadar's inquisitors being called archbankers (which is awesome).

This pdf sets out to fill this gaping hole - after all, even for most adventurers, it's all about the bling. After a general introduction and notes on bimetallic and mixed coins, we begin with the DC'd tables to hand-craft coins and how to make them - sample DCs for Craft (minting) provided. Similarly, dies, which are used to press currency, do come with their own table and processes of making coins, from stamps to presses and magical crafting are provided. Coin dies sooner or later break and deteriorate and thus, depending on the metal they're crafted from, we get different uses before they wear down; similarly, coin blanks, screw presses and stamps are introduced as items with properly codified rules. The pdf also introduces a magical solution to the problem of making coins - the minter's rod, which creates exactly ONE type of coins from the raw material instantaneously. It also works basically immediately...so why not go for it? Well, as magic is wont to be, it is simply less reliable: It requires a Craft (minting) check to use and on a failure, it produces coins unfit for circulation, basically ruining them. This allows for quick influxes of currency when needed, but at the same time retains the need for specialists proficient in wielding the tool properly - the magic complements mundane solution rather than undercutting them - love it!

Now, for as long as there has been money, there has been counterfeiting - the mundane aspects of which are already evident from the above; however, in a fantastic realm, the note on permanent image's ambiguity, illusions and fabricate are noted as well. Here, a note - there is an exploit left in the Craft rules and the fabricate spell that has been there since the 3.X days of yore, though in reduced severity in PFRPG. This pdf reads the spell's wording correctly: The spell uses the singular: "You convert material of one sort into a product that is of the same material." ONE. This means fabricate can make exactly one coin per casting. Yes, this level of detail and close reading are something I wholeheartedly appreciate.

Beyond this, the pdf contains the anatomy of coins, based on avoirdupois system of measurement - in case you wondered, the system is based on a pound of 16 ounces (or 7000 grains) and originated in the 13th century and was used for wool trade historically...but I digress. Dimensions, denomination, etc. are all covered (note: The more valuable a coin, the smaller it is) and maximum coin holding for pouches, backpack, etc. (and the weight if they're stuffed to the brim!) are provided for our convenience and generate a mischievous grin on my face. One adventure my players still talk about featured a slain dragon. They were happy about all the loot...then I asked them how they'd transport the coins. Figuring out magic logistics was an amazing trip indeed. And before you ask, maximum capacities for bags of holding can be found...and there are two new coins introduces: Mithral and Adamantine pieces.

After this, we dive into the nit and grit of foreign and ancient coins and the pdf features notes on how to handle multiple currency in e.g. metropolises like Absalom or Freeport and thereafter, we tap into the types of banks that exist (and yes, you should have banks in your game - think of all the cool heist/anti-heist adventures you could run!) - banks are codified as private, government, religious or illegal and the pdf does feature notes on the stigmatization of usury in certain religious contexts. Beyond that, 2 account types are discussed - transactional and investment types are featured and a note of cost and charges similarly helps. Loans, thus, similarly are talked about and codified and the pdf does note account tiers for different clients. A handy table of percentile chances to find banks in a given settlement helps and finding loan sharks willing to gouge those in need also can be found.

Beyond this massive array of qualification and quantification, we get 9 different, unique banks provided in their own fluffy write-ups, with notes on account costs - from the Iron Vault to the Great Tree Bank owned by elves, these are unique and intriguing. The pdf also contains a new monster, the CR 3 bank gremlin, who enjoys eating metal. You do the math. Cool! There would also be vault satchels banks loan to trusted clients to transport coins directly to their vaults.

The second aspect herein features credit and secured/unsecured tabs, with GP multiplier rates and NPC attitudes included and forgery/sidequest-notes talking about the adventuring potential here. Letters of Credit and Promissory notes, as two crucial means of handling currency are similarly depicted with notes on forgery provided for our convenience and yes, banknotes are part of the deal. The pdf then concludes with two magical items that tie in well together - the bonded ledger of credit and the bonded letter of credit, which basically can work as a kind of magical credit card-y system in a magical context.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf provides neat, original b/w-artworks I enjoyed. The pdf comes with full, nested and detailed bookmarks, making navigation easy indeed.

Matthew Carroll, J Gray, Lucus Palosaari and Jeffrey Swank deliver one amazing, humble pdf here. This is an unpretentious and yet so NEEDED little pdf that is a must-buy for simulationalist GMs. Even for GMs who don't like micromanaging the details, there is so much adventure-fodder in this little pdf, it retains its value even when you don't want to track teh details. Beyond that, this pdf managed to actually be educational and well-researched, both in historic details and in the reading of rules...and, in addition, its takes on adding the fantastic to coins and credit, it does not devalue the mundane components, using magic as complementary options that enhance the game rather than replacing the nonmagic options. This humble pdf covers its subject matter perfectly -and thus deserves a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. Amazing and well worth the fair asking price!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Coins and Credit
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