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Wizard's Academy
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2017 05:48:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, this massive module & bestiary clock in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping219 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we dive into the module: If you are only interested in the bestiary section, which takes up 124 pages of the pdf, you should know that it is available as a stand-alone file, as "Fantastical Creatures and How to Survive Them - A Student's Guide for Adventure & Study." If you want to know about these creatures and what I think about them, please consult my review of that tome - the combined reviews should provide the information you need for an informed decision.

The next thing you need to know before we get into the nit and grit of this module would be that this is very much a highly modular book: This is reflected in the villain choice, who is randomly determined for massive replay value. Adding further to that would be the tiers: The book features color-coded boxes for 5 tiers and different objectives for players, depending on the raw power-level:

Tier encompasses levels 1-4; tier 2covers levels 5 - 8; tier 3 levels 9 - 12, tier 4 levels 12 - 16 and tier 5 levels 17 - 20. So yeah, you may run this module in a wildly different way, multiple times, if you're so inclined. It should also be noted, in case you're not aware of that, that this module makes ample use of the Spheres of Power system.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! Windfell Academy is situated on the world of Skybourne and can relatively easily be used in any world that has a sufficiently prominent and organized magic tradition - as such, it fits best with high fantasy worlds. But the academy is different from regular schools: One look at the stats for the professors should make clear that this is quite probably THE wizard's academy of the world. They pretty much almost all clock in at epic CR 20s, with the headmaster transcending even their mighty powers. The academy circles the planet atop a massive, floating island...and it specializes in secondary education, which, yes, means that this place is for the pros. As such student disappearances are not really uncommon - but lately, they have been happening more often...and a month ago, none other than the headmaster has vanished!!

The deputy headmaster, the tiny gnome archmage Tocs has vowed to keep the school open...but the headmaster needs to be found...and it is quite likely that the PCs, enrolled as students, will have all of their hands full with the rigorous studying required - here, the module is somewhat reminiscent of Persona, in that tiredness, end of the week tests, classes and adventuring have to be managed by the party. A teacher will be designated ally, one villain, and this constellation influences directly the read-aloud text and respective interaction that the various events that are interspersed throughout the module's day-to-day-routine. These events also include tests of various types of prowess and may yield information, magical items, etc.

The module also allows for the gathering of rumors, provided your time-management skills are up to par, and a small cadre of supporting cast characters, no less colorful than the amazing Profs, makes for a nice help. Speaking of them: Beyond the stat-information provided in the bestiary section, the respective professor entries sport the villain clues...and in e.g. the tier 5 scenarios, they have the Great Ally - a vastly powerful wildcard that makes their threat even more potent. Better yet, the colorful and intriguing Professors, amazing characters one and all, feature valid justifications for being both allies, villains or neutral parties - the module manages to retain its internal logic in all of the characters. Impressive indeed!

The academy, just fyi, covers no less than 4 floors and 2 dungeon levels (all featured on player-friendly maps denoting the respective areas - for they ARE the regular spaces of the academy) - and now that the basic set-up of the plotline has been customized, the adventuring can begin...though it should be noted that the surrounding landscape is also properly mapped...and that is not even the primary adventuring locale, for there are levels of secret dungeons under the academy - abandoned, at least seemingly, and teeming with dangerous threats, powerful foes and highly modular challenges. the dungeon-levels are massive, their effects are creative and diverse...and with rooms like vampire kitchens, abomination fighting arenas and the like, are certain to remain with the players long after the module is done.

Now here is the truly amazing aspect of the respective modularity: Each of the professors has his/her own lair - a final mini-dungeon, if you will - and these are fully mapped in gorgeous full-color as well - and yes, they are befitting of the respective personality! From caverns with underground rivers to floating castles, mighty workshops and the like, the respective boss lair-mini-dungeons are highly hackable and easy to use as stand-alone, smaller dungeons.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports solid, sketchbook-like artworks, which in particular make the bestiary section really feel like a field guide - it is an acquired taste, though, and will not sit 100% well with everyone. The cartography in full-color is excellent, though I do wish we got key-less versions to hand out to players slowly and in pieces...or VTT-maps, something like that - particularly since quite a bunch of the maps are really, really nice. This constitutes my own serious complaint against this pdf.

Adam Meyers, with Andrew Stoeckle, Derfael Oliveira, Michael Uhland, Douglas Schaub, John Little and Casey Hayes, has created a massive, extremely modular adventure/ supplement that really surprised me.

Why? Because I really, really hate Harry Potter. I am not the biggest fan of the magic school trope. But this one is amazing - it is bonkers, creative and the unique professors and personalities are thoroughly captivating. The schedule and time management issues, the modularity - all of these potentially enhance the value of this book...oh, and as a bonus, it manages to feel a bit like playing a Persona game. Heck, I bet I could easily craft a whole campaign against the backdrop of this module and its evocative academy - add characters, students, etc. and there you go! Additional dungeons and materials are similarly easily sprinkled in, blending to a degree the boundaries between module and campaign setting. Particularly as a high-level module, when you get to use the cool NPCs and high-level threats, this really shines.

In short: This is well worth getting! The colorful NPCs and creative monsters and the modular set-up make this a really interesting offering that has plenty to offer beyond the plotline it features. In short: I really love this. If you're using Spheres of Power, then this is pretty much a no-brainer-purchase...and even if you don't, this may be worth it for scavenging-purposes. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, with only the lack of player-friendly maps costing this my seal of approval. Well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizard's Academy
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Fantastical Creatures & How to Survive Them: A Student's Guide for Adventure and Study
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2017 05:45:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive bestiary clocks in at 130 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than 124 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this supplement, true to its premise, with an in-character introduction - this book is very much crafted as a kind of field notebook of creatures, with prose featured as a framing device and Winterlynn Graysun, graduate of Windfell Academy, as the narrative voice framing the content herein.

Which brings me to something to bear in mind: This bestiary is actually included in the massive "Wizard's Academy"-adventure, also released by Drop Dead Studios. If you want to get the adventure, skip this book - its contents are included in the module! This stand-alone file is provided, properly designated, for all those of you who are interested in these critters, but not the adventure.

If I have not dropped the ball big time, you should see this and the adventure-review hit sites at the same time, so make sure to check out the adventure-review as well to make an informed decision!

Now the next thing you need to know is that this bestiary makes ample use of the Spheres of Power-rules. While usable without them in a somewhat restricted manner, to get all out of this, you need that book. D'unh. I know. It's like saying "Beware, the psionics bestiary requires psionics!" - Still, if I don't say such things in the preface, someone is bound to complain.

All right, that out of the way, the creatures herein range, CR-wise, from a lowly CR 1/4 all the way up to an impressive CR 25, with particularly the higher levels sporting quite a few nasty adversaries - due to the adventure being highly modular and the bosses...well being plentiful.

But let us get back to the matter at hand, namely the framing device of the narrator, which does a rather nice job at rendering this book a better read than you'd honestly expect it to be - it does not read like simple a massive collection of stats, which, to me, is a big plus. The first array of creatures herein deals with the wonderfully twisted abominations, failed, dangerous experiments of the academy's experiments: In this section, we find the mighty, alteration-sphere using dragon horror, which can use it to grant itself lethal enhancements to its already potent physical attacks.

Abominations are indeed interesting creatures - horror #9, for example, is significantly more tactical than you'd expect - it can eat foes, sure - but it is immune to two of the physical damage types: Damage from one of these types causes it to split! And yes, we actually do get stats for the smaller, split versions. I really like this callback to old-school gaming and splitting foes. Horror #17, a plant-like golem-thing with access to both plant and dark spheres makes for another dangerous foe...but it pales before...Mr. Mouth!

Perfect example of "wizards doing horrible things", it is a mindless, ever-hungry thing of mouths, an aberrant, lunging, roughly humanoid mouth-thing. In spite of the sketch-like artwork...this thing is seriously creepy! On the celestial side, we are introduced to the avenger archon in various statblock iterations as well as the choir and herald angel variant with their potent sound-abilities. The virtuous, caring counterpart to the succubae, the caring primary also makes for an angel that seriously should probably have been made much sooner - and the wife of Gideon makes for a cool high-level variant of said being. Speaking of angels - yep, there is a version of the solar here. Yes, he will END you.

While we're at the subject of "end" - the book does cover a nice version of the psychopomp and adds some seriously nice lore via the meta-narrative here. Did you know that it makes a difference if they come with hoods raised or lowered? From here, we move towards the construct chapter, where we are introduced to the colossus subtype, which is defined, among others, by being REALLY BIG...and by having an elemental soul. No less than three variants of Mark I are provided (CR 7, 10 and 15), while the smaller, spider-like Mark II can alter its physical composition...and then there is Mark V. CR 24, dubbed "God-killer" it has cannon-fingers, is very, very strong...and outside of combat it brews a mean cup of tea and is fond of riddles...yeah. Did not see that coming, did you? I told you the pdf's creatures gain a lot by the well-written prose!

There also are cyborgs, though these do not use the Technology Guide rules, instead using the spheres system to represent their abilities. The book also contains a selection of synthetic lifeforms. Experimental golems made of shadow, telekinetic force or raw magic can also be found...but weirder would be time toys. Which self-replicate, ostensibly by stealing time!

The book also covers fey, providing takes on leprechauns (in 3 variants), nymphs (in 5 variants - including star nymphs!!), 6 satyr variants (including the NASTY demi-god satyr-king)...and the book does feature an array of different infernals as well, ranging from the nightmare-themed alp to variant cambions to corrupters, dealmakers, imps, the mighty Cr 19 merchants of hell, CR 23 Charon...and succubae - including some interesting notes on the nature of incubi.

In the section on magical beasts, we learn about echo bats, the GIM (Giant Invisible Mantis), unicorns and the planar-fabric manipulating warp spiders. Among the monstrous humanoids, we can find embodiments of the ID and the merps (heads with arms sticking out and nasty magical might), which are presented in a wide variety of power-levels.

At CR 20, the mighty bodhisattva comes with unique talents and a magic item associated with these semi-divine native outsiders, and two oni, 2 rakshasa, 2 yaksha and 2 yaoguai complement the exotic array of these folks.

Among the plants, things get weird - with clockwork vines that work not unlike machinery...and something that made me laugh incredibly hard. The Gazebo. (If you're not familiar with why this is hilarious, google it - it's a classic in-joke of roleplaying games...) The book also contains variants of guardian plants, the disturbing venus fisher (talking about nightmare-fuel there...)...that plant is NASTY. And it's smart.

On the undead-side, we get death knights and 3 variants of draugr...oh, and there is Janus, god of portals. CR 25. Don't mess with him. We also get variants of skeletal students...and from there, we move on to the mighty teachers of Windfell Academy.

They are worthy of being big bosses, one and all, and come with detailed notes. These guys include a lich in charge of healing and necromancy (who also tried to take over the world once, but that's long past...). Professor Clik, a clockwork automaton, claims she built herself...and she is no less powerful than the mighty lich. Oh, and yes, these guys and gals have unique artifacts and tricks galore up their sleeves.. There also would be a mighty black unicorn professor...and Fexmet. Professor fexmet is a ferret and was once a wizard's pet. It's a frickin' CR 20 ferret. The caretaker of the academy would btw. be Geemet, the goblin unchained rogue (including a living, intelligent dagger). The headmaster was once the hierophant druid...of the whole world. Professor Meeda would be the teacher of shapeshifting and battlemagic, and hence, her artwork depicts her as a winged, 4-armed reptilian. She also is LG. Oh, and there would be Savesha - a reformed succubus, who has managed to actually change her own TYPE. Yeah, she is one amazing character - and the presentation of her as a strong female character, all sans resorting to the seduction-trope, is pretty nice to see! There also would be a Tiny, venerable gnome Toc (don't ask about either height or age...) and professor windjina. A weremantis - and perhaps a former queen...and she is pretty much dangerous...the inverse of the reformed succubus, if you will.

The book closes with a list of universal monster rules and a handy appendix that groups the statblocks by CR.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue hiccups or issues. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a blend of sketch-like pencil-style drawings that actually first felt a bit jarring, but grew on me fast - the illusion of a field guide is enhanced by teh style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks.

Adam Meyers, with contributions from Andrew Stoeckle, Derfael Oliveira, Michael Uhland, Douglas Schaub, John Little and Casey Hayes, has created a bestiary that is much, much better than I hoped it would be. I expected this to be basically: "Let's convert critters to Spheres of power-the bestiary". It is so much more than that.

While there are conversions in this book that cover the basics, this stands out due to two things: 1) The unique creatures are absolutely amazing and evocative. 2) The book is a joy to read due to the framing device employed. I really had fun dissecting this tome of critters and more than once, I was inspired by the commentary. Oh, and the staff of the wizard's academy is inspired indeed. High-powered, mighty and creative, they are amazing, cool NPCs that ooze creativity and flavor. What more can you ask from a book like this? It should also be noted that the dangerous, whimsical and at the same time distinctly far-out nature of a Wizard's Academy is perfectly encompassed by the mighty NPCs herein - better than in pretty much any supplement on the subject matter I've read.

This is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and every campaign using Spheres of Power should at the very least get this bestiary, even if you don't want to run the module.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastical Creatures & How to Survive Them: A Student's Guide for Adventure and Study
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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #4 PF
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2017 05:11:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth part of the adventure series for the youngest of players (I’d recommend the series for ages 4 – 6, 8 at most) clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, ½ page advertisement, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure is designed for 2nd level characters and was moved up in my review-queue at the request of my patreons as a prioritized review.

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The White Rabbit is up to his usual shenanigans – while being late, he panics and inadvertently locks the Duchess out of her own castle! It’ll be up to the players to provide the proper means for the distressed Duchess – who promptly and hilariously collapses into a chair while mumbling about rewards. The PCs have to open the door on the front and may encounter their first trap here – as a minor aside, damage type is not specified for triggering the trap. This, however, remains a minor glitch and the exploration is pretty cool:

From a bouncy step stairs to the gigantic ball pit that hides baby mimics (lavishly rendered in a neat piece of artwork!) and acts as an easy way to teach difficult terrain to players, to a tunnel maze, where you can hone the listening skills of the kids, the challenges are proper and pretty cool for kids. What about a room with teleporting tiles and mirror rays, flying hammerhead-shark like things with reflective skin. The absolute highlight of this evocative dungeon-crawl, though, would be a fun puzzle about tapping bunnies, providing a simple, color-coded puzzle. …too simple? Well, here is what sets this apart from lesser offerings. Perhaps you are one of the fortunate parents whose kids are really far advanced, gifted, interested in math, etc. – an alternate, pretty tough (for a kid’s module) math-based version is included for you! This really, really made me smile! And yes, hints and means to help solving the puzzles are provided.

Oh, and the pdf closes with a cool magic item: An enchanted stuffed teddy-bear that you can put down to attack nearby foes! And yes, its rules have been covered in a concise manner.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a GORGEOUS two-column full-color standard with the rabbit and Cheshire cat included as part of the layout. The pdf comes with neat, original full-color artworks and fully bookmarked for your convenience. The dungeon-complex map comes as a cool one-page print-out version that is player-friendly –not even the secret door is spoiled when you use it.

It’s been a while since I reviewed one of these and the waiting has really helped here. This is, by FAR, the best of the modules in this series: Each encounter is diverse, creative and perfect for younger audiences; each encounter has something interesting to offer. J Gray’s puzzle difficulties, hints and challenges herein really work well and each room sports another creative challenge, testing brains and brawns. The optional challenge-increase for truly gifted kids just adds icing to the awesome-cake. This is well worth getting and even if you’re mostly sitting out the series in favor of Playground Adventures’ other modules, contemplate getting this –with a bit of tweaking, this may well work for older kids as well. (Oh, and yes, you can make it a creepy module for adults, though it’ll require being upgraded regarding its difficulty.) This is really, really good – my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #4 PF
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Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2017 05:10:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This advice book clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis glyph inside of front cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, two of which are taken up by nice pieces of b/w-artwork, so let’s take a look!

It’s interesting, really – while there are plenty of GM books around, there are almost no player advice books. Sure, more math-intense systems have a lot of optimization guides, but what many folks forget, is that a good game is as much reliant on having great players as on having a great GM. Anyone who has played in a a Living Campaign will probably nod knowingly right then and there – I know that it took some seriously horrendous experiences gaming with strangers to appreciate my main campaign and faithful cadre of players…and similarly, playing with strangers did highlight the strengths and weaknesses of my own players…but that as an aside.

This pdf, thus, is focused on player advice and as such can be considered to be a companion booklet to Venger’s massive GM-advice book. The introduction to the matter at hand will most certainly sound true for many of us: Being a socially awkward person most certainly applies o many folks I’ve seen gaming…but at the same time, as the pdf notes, actually playing sans fear can help mitigate this factor. The pdf also notes that roleplaying is not supposed to be “blowing off steam” – well, it can actually have beneficent effects, reduce aggression, etc. – but at the same time, while it can have the therapeutic and benevolent effects on one’s psyche, roleplaying is a collective experience and trying to resolve one’s own psychic baggage while playing can compromise the fun of the group. The analogue ultimately taken here would be that of the lion tamer and lions – the GM being the lion tamer, the PCs the lions. While the metaphor may not apply perfectly, it suffices to convey the intent.

The pdf does explain how the GM is reliant on the players and how the players can attempt to be awesome, to wow the GM: These pieces of advice are actually very helpful: Not hogging the spotlight and making it count; attempting to move the plot forward, adhering to genre, staying in character, thinking creatively, using humor (hint: Endless, mood-breaking Monty Python references are not using humor properly…) and being badass. Compelling attention via the character is covered by 3 tenets based on the writing of LaVey, namely sex, sentiment and wonder – while there is no disputing their efficiency, I’d argue that, cleanly defined though they be, not all groups will be comfortable with them…and frankly, it seems very reductionist as far as I’m concerned.

One the more generally applicable list of things that is really helpful would be a brief character background checklist: What’s the occupation? Family? Hobbies? Ideological leanings? Any affiliations? And, taking a cue from 13th Age, the One Unique Thing your character should have, a distinguishing characteristic, birthmark, whatever. From there, we move on to considering defining internally what kind of person the character is and then take a look at three character archetypes, from loud and cool to quiet strength, with the third man in the middle, examples from pop-culture to drive home the respective points. Personally, I wished that this section could do without them, if only for file longevity’s sake, but that as an aside. The pdf also makes a case strongly in favor of sandbox gaming, as a very much player-driven experience – which is something I generally like, though some advice for players on how to keep such a game moving in the long term could help – in my experience, the main issue with sandbox campaigns tend to be the lulls when players at one point either don’t have clear goals or no idea of how to reach them. While this can be offset by a good GM, the number of sandbox campaigns I’ve seen fizzle out does mean that the like would probably have merited closer inspection.

On the plus side, if the GM is using bad hooks, the pdf champions telling this, fostering communication…but at the same time, it is easy to forget that some players, alas, take this to the logical extreme, feeling entitled for a custom hook for “their” motivation…which can bury a campaign, so a bit more nuance here would have been nice. Though, on a plus-side,the importance of communicating likes and dislikes is emphasized. How to properly improvise as a player, the rules of courtesy and appreciation for the GM are also noted…as is the fact that no GM, no group, can always be non-stop amazing…things even out, and that is okay…and using this acceptance to also gauge one’s own spotlight makes sense.

As an aside, ½ a page is used extolling the virtues of the OSR and how the author feels about aspects, splicing some advertisement in the section as well. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of such entries – while I get that an advice-book like this is bound to be opinionated aspects, I do not like the notion of bad fun/doing it wrong and this bleeds in some aspects here. Not too jarringly, mind you, but it does take up about half a page, which could imho have been filled better, considering the brevity of the file.

On the plus-side, the etiquette championed for playing (no mobile device check-ups, etc.) is something I dearly wished all players took to heart.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard with icky veins (neat!) and the pdf comes with a printer-friendly, second version – kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience (again: Kudos!), in spite of its brevity. The b/w-artworks of interior art are amazing.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ advice-booklet for players is nice; it is a helpful file to consider, it spells out many of the things that make players better and roleplaying with them more rewarding. At the same time, I do believe that the brevity of this booklet hurts its mission, namely because it fails to address the elephant in the room regarding player advice: You are not alone. While the booklet addresses a LOT of the dynamics between GM and players, it does not so much as begin to elaborate upon interaction between players and PCs. From this in my opinion crucial oversight stem potential issues: If every PC is “a fucking boss”, simply not hogging the spotlight alone doesn’t cut it – while player personality discrepancies help, ultimately, we have the issue that e.g. demanding proper tailored hooks can lead to conflicting notions of entitlement between players. Similarly, having too many iterations of one archetype is not necessarily conductive to a fulfilling experience. In short: The dynamics of the group and how to be a better player within the confines of that group, are not touched upon to a sufficient extent.

Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not a bad advice-pdf by any definition of the word and its content can prove to be rather helpful. It is generally well-presented etc. – but it does fall short of providing the level of coverage and insight I expected after the rather neat GM-book. As a whole, this can be considered to be a nice advice pdf for the player as a singular entity interacting with the GM, but not for the player as part of a social entity interacting with the GM. For me as a person, this represents a serious drawback. As a person, this was a 3 star-file for me; however, as a reviewer, I have an in dubio pro reo policy, and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
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5E Mini-Dungeon #034: Mysteries of the Endless Maze
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2017 05:07:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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

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

...

..

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Still here?

All right!

This is a ready to use portal-maze, but one with a twist: Upon entering one of the segments, you roll 1d4; on a 1, the segment's challenge is a riddle; #2 is a trap (4 of which are presented), #3 is a random monster (6 of which are available) and if a riddle is solved, the PCs can get one of 4 prizes. The riddles presented are brief, but not the lame old classics you will have seen before...unless you're really, really into riddles. If a segment of the maze has been completed, its portals activate. Critters defeated carry keystones and ultimately, these can be used to access the vault, where the nasty boss of the complex is awaiting alongside the sizable treasure. As a minor complaint, only the defeat of monsters will actually net keystones, which could have been handled slightly more flexibly. As a minor nitpick, I did notice a line of text missing blank spaces.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Justin Andrew Mason's Mysteries of the Endless Maze is an amazing little puzzle-dungeon; it is not one of the annoying mazes that just frustrates players and has a smooth, nice progression rate, at least in my game it had. That being said, one minor nitpick is that you should carefully read how the dungeon works; due to the limited word-count available, its precise functions require a slight bit more observation on part of the GM. Not that it's opaque, mind you. The dungeon also has a nice replay value and whether as a maze in Sigil, as a sub-level, as the BBEG effing with the players - the complex has a ton of uses and can be inserted literally at any time and any place.

Kyle Crider's conversion to 5E manages to retain the cool nature of this dungeon and the foes are chosen well - though the massive loot the PCs can gain may be a bit overkill for the more conservative 5E-GMs out there...but that is cut down easily enough.

All in all, a well-crafted mini-dungeon worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #034: Mysteries of the Endless Maze
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Castle Falkenstein: The Ability Variations
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/18/2017 06:05:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplemental rules-pdf for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ ½ page of SRD, leaving us with 8.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, after a brief framing narration by Tom Olam (which resurfaces in the respective sub-chapters), we begin with the first of several tweaks to the base engine of Castle Falkenstein – in this instance, we’re introduced to the Specialization variant: Instead of general Ability capabilities, the system allows you to take a Good or Great ability and trade it in for Specializations, a number equal to ½ the value of the traded ability, with Good being worth 3, Great being worth 4 specializations. Specializations can be applied to any Ability in which the character is Poor or Average – the specialization increases the Ability by one step for the purpose of performing Feats that relate to the Specialization in question. Thankfully, a massive table (greater than 1 page!) provides sample specializations and also provides synergy with the great Tarot Variation suits – so no, you’re not left guessing regarding how narrow you should design Specializations. It should also be noted that compatibility with Comme Il Faut is maintained.

The second variation featured within the pdf would be the divorce variation, which once again features compatibility with the Tarot Variation. Each Ability is governed by a playing card suit, but with this variation, the Abilities allow for players making an argument of why a given suit may apply its bonus to a given task – in two variations: Half and full value. There is some value in this – you will probably be able to perform at an increased efficiency. However, while the Host remains the final arbitrator of what you can do, I really don’t like this one – it smells of FATE and competitive BSing to me, but, obviously, your mileage may vary and thankfully, we are the final instance that decides which of the rules herein to use and which not to – this will find its fans and it makes the game easier and while, as a person, I don’t care for it, as a reviewer, I can appreciate its appeal.

The final variation would be the improvement variation: In this variation, dramatic characters improve by spending Improvement Points. Hosts are guided in detail: You determine Deeds during the adventure, a kind of important waypoint and determine an Improvement Point value for such Deeds. Beyond the confines of adventures, dramatic characters may try to earn Improvement Points via Resolutions, which can be completed, but take time to complete, with each character getting one of these – the Resolutions can be similarly broken down into Deeds, with samples provided. The resolution allows, in a way, for downtime activity: Players really invested in their Dramatic Characters can thus be rewarded for e.g. writing copious amounts of prose – or you can simply control character power thus or provide an illusion of cohesion beyond the confines of the gaming sessions.

Once earned, Improvement Points can be spent to improve Abilities (cost being equal to the Ability’s new value). When also using Specializations, they can be used to purchase Specializations, which cost 6 points. An alternate for faster growth of dramatic characters can also be found, with decreased costs – and since the metrics are pretty simple, tweaking the variation remains very simple. If you’re concerned about justifying Improvement in-game, the pdf does provide guidance in that arena.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to fat Goblin Games’ elegant, really neat 2-column full-color artwork. The pdf features fitting stock-art and sports no bookmarks – due to its brevity, it does get a pass there.

Mister J Gray LOVES Castle Falkenstein – as much becomes evident in every single of his supplements. The means by which this establishes a continuity with the venerable original Castle Falkenstein books is amazing, and so is the quality. The variant rules presented herein for a measly buck allow you to tweak the playing experience very well and net an interesting array of customization options for the game. I hope the Talsorian-crew reads these reviews and lets the Fat Goblin Games-crew update the Castle Falkenstein-core books in a new edition – if anything, all these variations really make me crave a big, new and shiny book. This is a fun offering, it is VERY inexpensive and thus gains a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Ability Variations
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A Friend in Need 5E
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/18/2017 06:02:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved forward on my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

First of all, before I go into details: This module is intended for a younger audience - basically, this is intended to be a very kid-friendly module. To be more precise, for the age-range of about ~ 6 years. I ran the module in my playtest with a mixed group spanning the ages of 4 - 11 and the players that had most fun were those in the lower ages, so personally, I'd suggest this approximately for ages 4 - 8.

The adventure does take into account the changed requirements of the target demographic - namely by calling out when a good time for a break would be, when to guide them by incorporating suggestions into your "What do you do?"-questions, when to explain the discrepancy between character and player-knowledge...the like.

For parents not sure whether their kids can handle "killing" adversaries, an alternate wording is provided as well, with the defeated "returning home." The copious amounts of advice provided are generally not only welcome additions, they tend to be very sound.

Distribution of candy/gummibears used as monster-substitutes on the map is a pretty sound advice, since it prevents instances of jealousy and kill steals, while still providing immediate gratification. Puzzles, where included, do mention less complex alternatives for younger audiences and means for the GM to make how items work immediately evident-

All right! Children/players, in case you're reading this, please jump to the conclusion. No one likes a cheater and I'm going to explain the adventure now. If you continue reading, you'll only make the adventure boring for yourselves and have an unfair advantage that will be noticed by your GM. Please do what's right and jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

The monastery of the monks of the kneeling wind is a tribute to the elements and, visually inspired by Japanese aesthetics, well-represented by a truly beautiful full-color map. Alas, all things must end, and so did the time of the monks - and after they were gone, the crystal dragon Azhuryx chose this place to rear her precious wyrmling Kurisutaru. Alas, once again, trouble brewed and the mother dragon did not return from a hunt, leaving Kurisutaru terribly bored with only the companion soulbound doll left for him, yet cautious of strangers. One day, Kurisutaru saw a child folding origami and was left overjoyed when he saw dragons among the figures crafted - he thus swooped down to talk with the magical prodigy Azumi, who, in a panic, conjured forth an origami crane (made possible via the new spell, which has been properly converted to 5e) and sent it forth - said crane is what jumpstarts the module in earnest, as the PCs happen to find the origami swan and read the cry for help on it.

In order to reach the monastery, the PCs have to start climbing the mountain (a great way to btw. use the exhaustion mechanics) and on site, the exploration can commence - the PCs can for example brave the most huggable earth elemental I can imagine. It should also be noted that the research and prior knowledge, when player and PC-knowledge diverge, can allow for an easy and painless teaching of 5e’s relatively simple skill rules-

A Wisteria tree whispers to the PCs that the key to Azumi's location is hidden in the koi pond and indeed, swimming in can yield it. Underwater, the PCs encounter a friendly, awakened koi who breathes bubbles on them and wants to talk to them: He'll give them the key, if they answer a simple riddle. This would be as good a place as any to note that the statblocks of the wondrous creatures encountered have been converted rather well to 5e’s mechanics.

Beyond the moon-viewing tower, there are animated dog statuettes that may attack. In PF, these statuettes were pretty strong, but in 5e, they, at least to me, represent a missed chance. You see, 5e very much focuses on a sensible rock-paper-scissors-type of gameplay with the variant damage-types, resistances and vulnerabilities: Making the dogs resistant to e.g. slashing and piercing weapons would have been a nice way to teach the kids about these mechanics. It’d also make sense and is something most groups would get right from the get-go: Back in the day, my PCs simply assumed that skeletons would not be susceptible to piercing, for example – it makes sense. Alternatively, a vulnerability would have made sense…but that is me nitpicking.

The PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against the spirit of a non-evil undead weapon master of the monks in honorable combat. In the lavishly-rendered map of the complex beneath the monastery, a Sudoku-puzzle beckons alongside a friendly test of the PCs, focused on whether they can distinguish reality from illusion, while another requires balancing on a rope to swing a bell...in an interesting twist, the spectral teachers of the monks may provide guidance in-game to stumped players. This is btw. also where disadvantage and the like come into play more.

Combat-challenges include dealing with the dragon's overprotective soulbound doll and some animated objects – here, we do have the resistances, but they apply to all physical damage types – and PCs of level 1 are really limited regarding their magical arsenal, so this section can take a bit longer. A centipede whose poison can cause paralysis upon reducing a PC to 0 hp is another minor snag…or rather, something that could have been solved a bit more smoothly: You see, the pdf does contain a logo-less version of the cover artwork in b/w- yep, like in a coloring book. So, one way to help a player pass the time while the PC is paralyzed would be: “Color this page, when you’re done, you’re fully healed!” – unless, of course, the other PCs heal their comrade first.

When the PCs finally happen upon the dragon, they'll think they have a deadly fight on their hands...but Azumi intervenes and the PCs have a chance to make friends with the dragon, the positive modifiers of which btw. also entail playing a game of hide and seek with the dragon...and hopefully convey to him that kidnapping others, no matter how well-intentioned, is not a good way to make friends. In the end, though, capable PCs will probably leave on Azumi's origami riding cranes, with Kurisutaru's friendship bracelet for a fine, tasty dinner at Azumi's house - who now has a friend most unique. As a minor complaint, the rules-language of the crane mentions maneuverability, which does not exist in 5e.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a Japanese-looking, beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book provides ample of child-friendly artwork from the pen by Jacob Blackmon -more so than in many modules of this size, rendering it a nice, visual treat. The unified and beautiful style also extends to the gorgeous cartography by Travis Hanson, which also features player-friendly versions that you can print out, cut up and hand out to them as they go! Extra kudos for including those!!

Jenny Jarzabski and BJ Hensley have already proven that they can make good crunch; however, as it turns out, they can also write captivating modules. "A Friend in Need" is a great first module for the small ones, breathing a bit of the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki's movies and the innocence conveyed therein. It is not perfect in the 5e-version, but Dan Dillon, being the expert that he is at 5e content, has translated the module very well to the system, ironing out some of the hiccups in the original. At the same time, I do feel that it is, system-immanently evident that the original design was for PFRPG – there are a couple of 5e-rules that could, didactically, be highlighted better. This does not mean that the conversion’s bad, mind you – it’s really good! But it comes close to transcending the original iteration sans making the leap.

Let me state that clearly: The module does a lot things right: The flavor is child-friendly. Even the spirits of the monks, which may evoke a slight sense of creepiness (in a good way), still provide more aid than hindrance. The challenges are diverse and the inclusion of social encounters, riddles and puzzles make sure that the players actually are challenged in more than one way, which is a good thing in any module, particularly so in one intended for kids.

Now personally, I do believe that even small kids can handle a bit more threat and danger than this module featured (see e.g. the pretty serious themes of fear of loss and reorientation in "My Neighbor Totoro", for comparison), but I will not hold that against the pdf. It should be noted that I ran the original version with a 4-year-old among the players and the module proved fitting for children this young as well, while the kids in the age-range of 8 and beyond would have liked a bit more grit.

Now the good thing here is that, should you not endeavor to cater to a crowd as diverse as I did in my playtest, you'll have no issue slightly increasing the creepy-factor of the benevolent monk-spirits. In my playtest, I added some minor creepy-dressing to them and thus managed to engage the kids even more - if you heed this advice, though, please make sure you know what your players are comfortable with - a tiny scare is okay, but not more.

How to rate this, then? Now that's the tricky part: You see, I very much believe that we need more modules like this and Dan Dillon delivers in the conversion.

I have vastly benefited from my roleplaying in both terms of foreign languages, vocabulary, problem-solving and social skills and the sooner we can get such a positive development going, the better. At the same time, I am somewhat hesitant of awarding this per se very good module my highest accolades – I think somewhat more pronounced tweaks to account for and teach system-peculiarities (backgrounds, for example!) could have heaved this to the levels of excellence.

In the end, we are left with one well-crafted module for young children that does not lose any aspect of its appeal in 5e. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for this. While the original version was rounded up due to being Playground Adventures freshman offering, I, alas, cannot extend this courtesy to this version.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Friend in Need 5E
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Additional Fight Clubs for the Pugilist Class
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/18/2017 05:59:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the pugilist class clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

The first of these fight clubs would be the Arena Royale – which creates an alternate persona. You make a Charisma (Disguise Kit) check at advantage. Creatures with passive Insight lower than that result will not recognize the character and unarmored AC is increased to 10 + Dexterity and Constitution modifier. 6th level may be a bit much: While in the alternate persona, you may make a Charisma (Performance) check to instill adoration or fear – all creatures within 30 ft that can see you must succeed a Wisdom save to avoid being charmed or frightened for 1 minute, with a long rest to recharge. Compare that to charm person, which has a fixed limit based on spell level used. That could use some nerfing. Why not tie the number of affected targets to proficiency bonus? Also, RAW, it does not end the charm effect upon being attacked, affects ALL creature types. This ability, in short, needs clarification and nerfing. Restricting affected targets, moxie point cost and decreased efficiency would make sense.

11th level yields +10 ft. speed when in persona, tripled jump distance and bonus action Dash – which probably should cost a moxie point. 17th level provides the ultimate mook sweeper: Signature move lets you jump into the air and smash down on a target – you crit if you hit and stun the target, no save (!!) – and you only expend it (requires a long rest to recharge) if you do not reduce the target to 0 hp.

The second fight club would be the bloodhound bruisers, who are basically martial detectives – 3rd level yields the options to spend moxie points for advantage on Intelligence (Investigation), Wisdom (Perception) in settlements or Wisdom (Insight) to determine when someone’s lying. 6th level provides a Sherlock Holmes movie style “in your head” planning, represented by Wisdom saves contested by Intelligence (Investigation), moxie-based attack evasion and moxie-based analysis of enemies (if they fail a save). 11th level allows you to attune yourself to a city: You cannot be surprised and add proficiency bonus to initiative; darkvision 120 ft; doubled proficiency bonus for aforementioned investigative skills and double movement rate to travel when not in combat. The doubled proficiency to skills used to negate attacks etc. is very potent and something I’d nerf. 17th level lets you spend 3 moxie points as a bonus action to get free access to all moxie-based features – no cost for 1 minute. OUCH. This tries to duplicate the Sherlock Holmes from the popular movies and I really like it for that, even though I consider it to be honestly a bit over the top regarding its power. The evasion tricks are better than those of comparable fight clubs.

The final option would be Salt & Vinegar, which gains an ability to infuriate targets via moxie-spiced insults, basically drawing agro and imposing disadvantage on attack rolls of targets not attacking you…oh, and the creature takes psychic damage. 6th level provides 3 moxie-based tricks to temporarily blind foes, slow them or knock them prone. 11th level increases the save DC for the insult by 2 and eliminates the moxie point cost for the insult….which means infinite psychic damage, which is almost never resisted. Not a fan. 17th level nets you the option to, as a bonus action, expend 3 moxie or enrage a target, forcing it to attack you. All in all, not a fan. Seen insults done better.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to the PHB’s 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides nice artworks by Ners and Alys Flock. The pdf has bookmarks, in spite of its brevity – kudos! Also nice: A printer-friendly version is included!

Benjamin Huffman’s new fight clubs for the already potent pugilist class leave me torn – on one hand, I love the Sherlock Holmes-inspired club…but the base class already is stronger than the monk…and these pretty much one-up the options. I have some concerns regarding all three fight clubs and they feel, as a whole, less refined to me than the options provided in the base book. That being said, this is PWYW as for higher-powered games, this may well work out. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Additional Fight Clubs for the Pugilist Class
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the Pugilist Class
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/18/2017 05:57:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The pugilist base class presented herein clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover/editorial, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

The pugilist base class presented here gets 1d8 HD and proficiency in light armor, simple weapons, improvised weapons, whip and hand crossbow as well as artisan tools, gaming set or thieves’ tools. The class is proficient in both Strength and Constitution saves and you may choose two skills from Athletics, Acrobatics, Deception, Intimidation, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth.

The pugilist gains fisticuffs at first level – a variant of the monk’s Martial Arts feature that increases the base damage die by one step – it begins at 1d6 and scales up to 1d12 for base damage and, akin to Martial Arts, the class feature does not gain the Dexterity modifier substitution. However, when using the Attack action to make an unarmed attack or pugilist weapon attack, you can make an unarmed attack or grapple as a bonus action. As a minor complaint: The rules-language here deviates slightly from the precedence of the monk here. Pugilist weapons are defined as simple weapons without the two-handed property. Weapons used as pugilist weapons do not benefit from the finesse property. Weird: The class gains the whip, but it is RAW not included in the pugilist weapons.

The class also uses Constitution modifier instead of Dexterity modifier to determine AC when wearing no armor or light armor, which is pretty potent. This would be as well a place as any to note that the rules-formatting is not always perfect: Attributes here are not capitalized. Starting at second level, you gain moxie points, 2, to be precise – and these are upgraded to up to 12 over the course of the progression of the class. Moxie points are replenished upon completing a short or long rest and three basic uses are presented. As a bonus action, you may spend 1 moxie point and roll your fisticuff dice, add pugilist level and Constitution modifier (why not proficiency bonus instead of class level?) to gain as many temporary hit points. After executing an Attack on your turn, you can spend a point for +2 unarmed strikes as a bonus action. Finally, as a bonus action, you may spend 1 point for a shove attack or Dash. 2nd level also nets you a form of streetsmarts – once you have partied in a settlement for 8 hours, you know the public locations as though born and raised there. Imho, this should have a variable formula to account for settlement sizes. I can see that for thorps etc. – but not for e.g. a metropolis like Sigil. At 13th level, after carousing thus for a night, you btw. gain advantage on Charisma (Persuasion) and Charisma (Intimidation) rolls in that settlement.

At 3rd level, when reduced to below ½ maximum hit points, you gain class level + Constitution modifier temporary hit points and regain all spent moxie points. This ability recharges on a short or long rest – and frankly, I think it should only replenish on long rests. At 9th level, you may also add proficiency bonus to damage for one minute when activating the feature, though this damage boost only recharges upon completing a long rest.

4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield ability score improvements. Additionally, as a bonus action, you can grant yourself resistance to bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage for 1 minute, but thereafter you gain a level of exhaustion. 5th level yields Extra Attack as well as the option to swing wild haymakers – you may only do that for attacks not suffering from disadvantage, since the ability imposes disadvantage on your attacks, but an attack that does connect hits for maximum die result damage. This is problematic when multiclassing or handling pugilist weapons that add damage dice to the damage caused. The ability would benefit from a caveat that makes it only apply to the fisticuff base damage.

At 6th level, unarmed strikes or pugilist weapon attacks are treated as magic and 7th level allows you to use your action to shake off the charmed or frightened conditions. 10th level yields resistance to psychic damage as well as advantage on saves versus the stunned or unconscious condition – weird: Shouldn’t this first apply to the incapacitated condition and then move on to the more potent ones?

At 14th level, you gain advantage on all three physical saving throws and whenever you fail a saving throw, you may spend 1 moxie (not even a reaction) point to reroll the save and take the second result. I am not sure whether this rebrand of Diamond Soul’s save rerolls should work for all saves. 15th level doubles carrying capacity, jump height and distance and when dealing damage to an inanimate object, damage is doubled – I assume before damage threshold? Or after that? At 18th level, when you have 4 levels of exhaustion or less and are reduced to 0 hit points, you regain ½ maximum hit points, ½ maximum moxie points and gain a level of exhaustion – with a long rest to recharge. 20th level yields a Strength and Constitution increase by 2 to a maximum of 22 and you recover 2 levels of exhaustion when taking a long rest and you also regain all expended hit dice.

At 3rd level, the class may choose a fight club, two of which are included herein. These net features at 3rd, 6th, 11th and 17th level. The first would be the squared circle nets 3 new uses for moxie points for reaction grapple breaks, using reactions in opportunity attacks to grapple foes or add knocking prone to grappling. At 6th level, when grappling, you can use your reaction upon being missed to make the grappled creature take potentially the hit. 11th level makes you count as one size larger for purposes of grappling (ouch!) and allows you to move at full speed while dragging/carrying grappled creatures and 17th level lets you score critical hits on rolls of 19 and 20 against targets you have grappled. Basically, a grapple specialist and its execution is pretty neat indeed.

The sweet science would be the second fight club, who learns to spend two moxie points as a reaction to reduce the damage of incoming attacks – once again, using class level as part of the formula, which may cause some purists to scowl. When reudicng an attack to 0 damage, you get a counter attack, which can be pretty cool. 6th level yields the option to, as a bonus action after hitting with the quasi-flurry, add another attack, but only if both attacks of the flurry hit – but interesting: The attack knocks the target prone instead of causing damage. 11th level nets you a regained moxie point when pulling off a counter attack. Due to the moxie cost of counter attempts, this remains kitten-abuse proof. Good! The 17th level ability lets you roll 3d12 + 1d12 per moxie point you expend when hitting a creature – if the result exceeds the creature’s hit points, you knock it unconscious for 10 minutes.

The class comes with multiclassing notes, 3 nice pugilist simple weapons as a couple of magic items: unarmored AC-bonus granting magic leather jerkins, an everfull stein (can I please have one IRL?) and the rerolls-granting loaded dice. An amulet grants you more temporary hit points whenever you gain them (which can be problematic), while fist-based weaponry can help dealing with fiends and undead. A rare potion provides a static damage boost for 1 minute and a grappling whip as well as thundering fist weapons can be found. The magic items, while not bad, feel a bit focused on number-bonuses.

Oh well, the pdf closes with a sample challenge ½, 3 and 5 NPC making use of some of the rules.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, this is pretty impressive as well, often tackling complex concepts rather well. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard established by the PHB, with solid art-choices. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version –kudos!!

Benjamin Huffman, with support by Ners, has created a class for all those folks who want Rocky, not a WuXia dude jumping around. One of my players loves the concept of martial artists, but hates the whole Eastern mysticism etc. – and this delivers. Emphasizing Strength and some SERIOUS damage-soaking abilities, the pugilist presented herein is less flexible and versatile in his tricks than the monk, but more potent at the same time – whether you like that or not is a matter of taste. I actually thought it’d be worse and plays better than I expected – while I am not the biggest fan of using PF’s class levels and basically 4th ed’s bloodied style mechanics to trigger some of the abilities, and while I wished it tried to use formulae akin to those employed by the base classes, but it does work out and this complaint is mostly aesthetic.

Note that the class is pretty potent and will eclipse the monk’s straight damage output, but lag behind in other disciplines., and I am not the biggest fan of the magic items presented herein – but the matter of the fact remains that this pdf is PWYW, which allows you to check this out and then judge for yourself whether this is worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars – and while the imperfections would make me usually round down, I’ll round up due to the fair PWYW-offering.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
the Pugilist Class
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Places of Power: Raveneye Sanatorium
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/17/2017 04:05:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, we all have presumably played an adventure in a Sanatorium, right? At least those of us who enjoy dark fantasy and roleplaying games will know the tropes at this point. There's a reason for that, and it is mainly due to reality and how we see sanatoriums and the treatment methods employed there - while, from our modern perspective, e.g. lobotomies may look barbaric, not so long ago, they were considered to be a fantastic, extremely humane form of treatment. The advances in medicine have colored our view of these facilities and that bleeds, of course, into the games we play.

This modern notion of medicine has influenced and shaped the respective representations of sanatoriums in the fantasy games we play - which btw. is closer to a Early Modern period in mindset and technology than the Medieval Age, but that as an aside. Sanatoriums are a pretty recent innovation, as far as our species is concerned, so we do have, by definition, a sort of anachronism here. At the same time, however, it is surprising that the original spirit of sanatoriums has not really been represented in gaming -the idea of healing the body and mind in an environment conductive for such treatments is something I have only very rarely seen in gaming -perchance due to the prevalence of divine magic. Now, if one takes into account, however, the different afflictions that beings can have in a fantastic context, the institution suddenly makes sense once more - from curses to possessions and worse, there are plenty of afflictions that aren't easily healed by means of magic. This is where this sanatorium comes in.

The institution is headed by a rather brilliant scholar, with further staff being a doctor prone to quick diagnosis, a none-too-nice chief of staff...and the fortified grounds include a garden and some fluffy write-ups for patients - from beings halfway transformed to a skum, kept here to prevent the poor being from going to the ocean, to the possessed, with malignant spirits seeking freedom, the patients here are dangerous...and include benevolent werewolves. Still, with the marketplace section of neat items to purchase and 6 sample rumors (some being nasty and playing to the bad reputation of sanatoriums) as well as 6 events, we have an overall great locale...and if you do want to use this in a more traditional manner, you're covered - one NPC can be used as a malignant infiltrator and BBEG, if you wish to use the place in a more traditional manner...or if you want to have this place of healing transform...or come under threat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artwork of the sanitarium is an amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

David N. Ross' sanatorium is a great place - it inverts the traditional expectations of such locales in roleplaying games, while still allowing for the use in a traditional context. the characters presented, from the staff to the patients, are similarly colorful, with most being capable of carrying at least a session or sidequest, making this a rewarding place to include in your game. In short, the pdf is great and rewarding for the low and very fair price point. The optional trope inversion adds a nice level to this pdf as well - nothing to complain regarding this gem. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Raveneye Sanatorium
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Publisher Reply:
Fantastic! Thank you for the review. I'm delighted you enjoyed Raveneye so much!
Places of Power: Raveneye Sanatorium (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/17/2017 04:04:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, we all have presumably played an adventure in a Sanatorium, right? At least those of us who enjoy dark fantasy and roleplaying games will know the tropes at this point. There's a reason for that, and it is mainly due to reality and how we see sanatoriums and the treatment methods employed there - while, from our modern perspective, e.g. lobotomies may look barbaric, not so long ago, they were considered to be a fantastic, extremely humane form of treatment. The advances in medicine have colored our view of these facilities and that bleeds, of course, into the games we play.

This modern notion of medicine has influenced and shaped the respective representations of sanatoriums in the fantasy games we play - which btw. is closer to a Early Modern period in mindset and technology than the Medieval Age, but that as an aside. Sanatoriums are a pretty recent innovation, as far as our species is concerned, so we do have, by definition, a sort of anachronism here. At the same time, however, it is surprising that the original spirit of sanatoriums has not really been represented in gaming -the idea of healing the body and mind in an environment conductive for such treatments is something I have only very rarely seen in gaming -perchance due to the prevalence of divine magic. Now, if one takes into account, however, the different afflictions that beings can have in a fantastic context, the institution suddenly makes sense once more - from curses to possessions and worse, there are plenty of afflictions that aren't easily healed by means of magic. This is where this sanatorium comes in.

The institution is headed by a rather brilliant scholar, with further staff being a doctor prone to quick diagnosis, a none-too-nice chief of staff...and the fortified grounds include a garden and some fluffy write-ups for patients - from beings halfway transformed to a skum, kept here to prevent the poor being from going to the ocean, to the possessed, with malignant spirits seeking freedom, the patients here are dangerous...and include benevolent werewolves. Still, with 6 sample rumors (some being nasty and playing to the bad reputation of sanatoriums) as well as 6 events, we have an overall great locale...and if you do want to use this in a more traditional manner, you're covered - one NPC can be used as a malignant infiltrator and BBEG, if you wish to use the place in a more traditional manner...or if you want to have this place of healing transform...or come under threat. Really nice, btw.: The system neutral version, big plus, actually does come with a marketplace section of goods and services to acquire, which is really nice to see. As a VERY minor nitpick, some NPCs are called "wizards", not "magic-users."

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artwork of the sanitarium is an amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

David N. Ross' sanatorium is a great place - it inverts the traditional expectations of such locales in roleplaying games, while still allowing for the use in a traditional context. the characters presented, from the staff to the patients, are similarly colorful, with most being capable of carrying at least a session or sidequest, making this a rewarding place to include in your game. In short, the pdf is great and rewarding for the low and very fair price point. The optional trope inversion adds a nice level to this pdf as well - nothing to complain regarding this gem. This pdf doesn't lose anything in the system neutral iteration, with only aforementioned, very minor terminology hiccup. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Raveneye Sanatorium (SNE)
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Fantastic! Thank you for the review. I'm delighted you enjoyed Raveneye so much!
Places of Power: Raveneye Sanatorium (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/17/2017 04:02:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, we all have presumably played an adventure in a Sanatorium, right? At least those of us who enjoy dark fantasy and roleplaying games will know the tropes at this point. There's a reason for that, and it is mainly due to reality and how we see sanatoriums and the treatment methods employed there - while, from our modern perspective, e.g. lobotomies may look barbaric, not so long ago, they were considered to be a fantastic, extremely humane form of treatment. The advances in medicine have colored our view of these facilities and that bleeds, of course, into the games we play.

This modern notion of medicine has influenced and shaped the respective representations of sanatoriums in the fantasy games we play - which btw. is closer to a Early Modern period in mindset and technology than the Medieval Age, but that as an aside. Sanatoriums are a pretty recent innovation, as far as our species is concerned, so we do have, by definition, a sort of anachronism here. At the same time, however, it is surprising that the original spirit of sanatoriums has not really been represented in gaming -the idea of healing the body and mind in an environment conductive for such treatments is something I have only very rarely seen in gaming -perchance due to the prevalence of divine magic. Now, if one takes into account, however, the different afflictions that beings can have in a fantastic context, the institution suddenly makes sense once more - from curses to possessions and worse, there are plenty of afflictions that aren't easily healed by means of magic. This is where this sanatorium comes in.

The institution is headed by a rather brilliant scholar, with further staff being a doctor prone to quick diagnosis, a none-too-nice chief of staff...and the fortified grounds include a garden and some fluffy write-ups for patients - from beings halfway transformed to a skum, kept here to prevent the poor being from going to the ocean, to the possessed, with malignant spirits seeking freedom, the patients here are dangerous...and include benevolent werewolves. Still, with 6 sample rumors (some being nasty and playing to the bad reputation of sanatoriums) as well as 6 events, we have an overall great locale...and if you do want to use this in a more traditional manner, you're covered - one NPC can be used as a malignant infiltrator and BBEG, if you wish to use the place in a more traditional manner...or if you want to have this place of healing transform...or come under threat. The NPC stats have been properly correlated to the default NPC-cadre and the pdf does contains a properly modified marketplace section for 5e - big plus and kudos for going the extra mile here!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artwork of the sanitarium is an amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

David N. Ross' sanatorium is a great place - it inverts the traditional expectations of such locales in roleplaying games, while still allowing for the use in a traditional context. the characters presented, from the staff to the patients, are similarly colorful, with most being capable of carrying at least a session or sidequest, making this a rewarding place to include in your game. In short, the pdf is great and rewarding for the low and very fair price point. The optional trope inversion adds a nice level to this pdf as well - nothing to complain regarding this gem. The 5e-version of the fie is just as cool as the other iterations, making this a compelling and cool supplement, worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Raveneye Sanatorium (5e)
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Publisher Reply:
Fantastic! Thank you for the review. I'm delighted you enjoyed Raveneye so much!
CLASSifieds: The Wind-Warrior
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/17/2017 03:57:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the CLASSifieds-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The wind-warrior class presented herein gains d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves as well as proficiency with simple weapons, one-handed martial weapons, light armor as well as katana, naginata and wakizashi. Starting at 1st level, the wind-warrior may use Dexterity instead of Strength modifier with one-handed weapons capable of dealing slashing damage (oddly locking out the naginata -making me think it may have been a leftover from a previous iteration) with the Way of the leaf ability. Starting at 3rd level, the ability is upgraded to provide Dex to damage instead of Str-mod as well. Starting at 5th level, using way of the leaf provides a visible wind-effect that nets +1 to atk and damage while using Way of the Leaf, which increases by +1 every 4 levels thereafter. At 18th level, the critical multiplier of weapons used in conjunction with way of the leaf increases by 1.

2nd level provides an interesting ability that is pretty important for the class – a flurry of sorts, which comes with the standard -2 penalty and stacks with haste – all in all, solid in wording etc. However, 2nd level provides a more important ability, namely boundless step: When making a full attack and successfully striking the enemy, the wind-warrior may take a 5-foot-step. Kudos: it gets the interaction with the regular 5-foot-step right and even the action economy. The movement has to remain in the threatened area of the target and movement provides a stacking dodge bonus for such movement, which plays more interesting than it looks on paper. Starting at 7th level, this ability allows for the ignoring of difficult terrain and at 10th level, things become interesting, making these steps 10-foot steps that count as two steps each. The ability also has a cap per round – while the wording is missing a “times” in the ½ class level times per round cap, that is a cosmetic oversight.

On the defensive side of things, the class gains uncanny dodge at 4th level, improved uncanny dodge at 8th, evasion at 12th and improved evasion at 16th level. 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter yields a bonus feat. 6th level provides gust of wind as a SP, usable 3 + Wisdom modifier times per day and 8th level provides an immediate action wind wall SP, also governed by Wisdom. 15th level provides the option to assault foes with 8d8 slashing cones Wisdom modifier times per day and 19th level provides constant freedom of movement. The capstone lets the class execute a full-attack as a standard action…and even after a charge. OUCH!

The pdf comes with favored class options for the core races and a couple of others, though oddly, the skills and saves here are not properly formatted, being lower case and lacking brackets in e.g. references to Knowledge (nature). The FCOs themselves are solid.

The pdf also contains a couple of archetypes: The windwalker would be a monk-like version of the class, who modifies the proficiencies and instead increases the benefits from boundless steps. Instead of the way of the leaf upgrade, we have the option to, as a full-round action, move twice movement rate, including movement over water, lava and on surfaces that wouldn’t carry the character’s weight. 5th level provides a scaling shield bonus that increases every 4 levels thereafter. 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter upgrades as what the unarmed strikes as treated for the purpose of overcoming DR as part of an attack, usable a limited amount of times per day. 15th level yields a properly codified control winds. Really cool: At 18th level, after moving twice via the boundless step variant of the archetype, you may execute an attack that can send the target flying. Nice one.

The Bladewalker is basically the TWF-version of the class, losing some of the more supernatural tricks of the base class, with a decreased boundless step potency due to the increased attack array. Finally, the windbender would be the 2-handed weapon specialist, who may take penalties to attack CMB in favor of damage-increase, thankfully not stacking with Power Attack etc. (the feat-reference is not capitalized properly, as a nitpick). Other than that, basically a two-hand weapon iteration of the class.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level and the few glitches I noticed on a formal level do not impede the ability to understand the material. Layout adheres the neat 2-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf provides some nice pieces of full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Nice!

I wasn’t excited for Andrew Campbell’s class at first – however, the wind-warrior has some serious raison d’être: The class is flexible and allows you to play a skirmisher martial and rewards smart use of the stepping-tricks. The rules-language of the abilities, which is more difficult than you’d think at first, it really solid, so nice job. Balance-wise, the wind-warrior should not pose a problem for any table: The class is well-balanced and I can see it working in an otherwise magic-lless WuXia-setting even – so yeah, very easy to integrate into an ongoing campaign.

While there are a precious few formatting glitches, that is not really enough to compromise the pdf. From a design-aesthetic point of view, I would have liked to see more unique class abilities, but the number of bonus feats provides sufficient customization options. First level is a bit bland, though. Anyways, that is me complaining at a high level – this class is very much worth checking out and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down – this is a good, worthwhile addition to the roster of classes.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CLASSifieds: The Wind-Warrior
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5E Mini-Dungeon #033: The Legacy of Theft
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/17/2017 03:56:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

When recent construction of an inn revealed the presence of a presumably abandoned complex, the owners of the inn to be constructed, Edwyn and Jackson Cairn decided to explore the complex. Dumb idea. It's been 3 days and now it's up to the PCs to find out what happened. The PCs get into a long corridor with decayed doors; 8 to be more precise. While footpaths can be seen in the dust, there seems to be no discernible pattern. Beyond nasty traps and doors slamming shut, the complex presented may look dull on the map, but it isn't - it manages to evoke a concise, creepy atmosphere supplemented well by the traps – kudos for Kyle Crider providing damage type variants here for some traps.

In the original version, a crypt thing and its teleportation tricks provided some challenge; in 5e, a shield guardian trying to get its amulet is what It’s all about as far as danger is concerned.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Michael Smith's "Legacy of Theft" is well-presented, manages to evoke a nice atmosphere and is, as a whole, a truly useful mini-dungeon. Its set-up lets you put it frankly just about everywhere, making is very easy to use without any hassle; whether as a dungeon-sub-level, a rescue mission or below any structure, it requires no set-up. As a whole, the module is mostly about exploration and can be run as a nice rogue-solo-adventure or as a means to let these guys shine. The conversion by Kyle Crider is nice, though it loses the disorientation angle. Still, as a whole, a nice offering – well worth 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #033: The Legacy of Theft
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Hybrid Class: Vessel
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2017 06:42:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Hybrid Class clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is the vessel? In short, it is a hybrid class of the medium and the oracle, but that is not really enough to adequately describe it. Chassis-wise, the class gets ¾ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d8 HD, proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armor and 4 + Int skills per level. Vessels start drawing spells from both medium and cleric spell-lists, starting at 4th level, casting them as psychic spells which are governed by Charisma as spellcasting attribute. As you will have noted, they are cast spontaneously and the class does not treat cleric spells of higher than 4th level as belonging to the list and is beholden to alignment restrictions regarding cleric spells. This also btw. Takes into account how orisons are treated as knacks. It should be noted, btw., that the class comes with a massive, custom spell-list you can use instead of blowing it wide open. An interesting pecualirity would be that the class does not cast at -3 levels, in spite of gaining spellcasting late – this does look like it may be an intentional decision, however.

Now, it is impossible to talk about this class without first explaining the centerpiece of the class, the cursed spirits: 6 are presented and he may choose one upon preparing spells, being granted divine bonuses and revelations that may be prepared. Similarly, each spirit is also defined by a curse the vessel must bear while thus possessed. A vessel can prepare one revelation from a spirit, +1 at 3rd level and every levels tehreafter. Unless otherwise noted, these are standard actions and the vessel can dismiss spirits as a full-round action, losing the respective abilities. Saving throw DCs are governed by Charisma and follow the 10 + ½ class level + Cha-mod formula. A vessel gains a spirit bonus while channeling a spirit, starting at +1 at 1st level and increasing that by +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.

Starting at 2nd level, the vessel may avoid failure: After rolling a d20, the vessel can allow his cursed spirit to add +1d4 without requiring an action. This may be used 2 + Charisma modifier times per day and 10th and 20th level increase die-size by one step. At 4th level and again at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the vessel may once completely reassign his skills over night. 5th level yields location channel, duplicating call spirit and requiring that other characters pose the questions. 7th level eliminates the requirement for a special connection to the spirit called via location channel. 13th level yields a reliable, non-draining contact other plane. 14th level provides astral projection, but 18th level becomes really interesting: If an ally that has participated in the special location channel seance (which, like other abilities, refer to it as seance – which it is, granted, but using the name would have been better) dies, the vessel can take his spirit, forming basically a two-player gestalt – really cool, as it allows for the dead PC’s player to still act! The complex rules also work. The capstone may be freely chosen from the spirits and remains active, regardless of spirit inhabiting the vessel. These are potent and flavorful.

Okay, so, what do these spirits do? Well, the Babling Priest is cursed by tongues, with 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter yielding an increase of the powers granted by the curse. Each spirit has unique, custom revelations that include, in this one as an example, better spellcasting under the starry sky, calling down the cold of interstellar cold, immunity to lycanthropy or the like; big kudos for going the extra mile and providing custom packages for the spirits! The other spirits share, btw., a similarly strong array of leitmotifs: The blinded warlord gets battlecries, healing and defensive capabilities, and special, supernatural martial tricks. The disturbed captain is haunted and can call forth the spirits of the dead as shields, as buffs, become incorporeal, etc. The hobbled lictor may be lame (regarding his legs), but is anything but lame, design-wise: With his rusting grasp, item conjuration, scrying through iron and his martial tricks, he makes for a damn cool spirit. The unhearing criminal is one with his city, a nameless killer hiding in urban environments and from urban survival to intelligence gathering, he is the spirit you want. The withered sage, struck by wasting, provides limited arcane spell access and may use his Charisma instead of Dex for AC and Ref-saves with the right revelation. Symbol spells and Knowledge tricks complement this one.

All of these spirits have several things in common: They feel complex and interesting, archetypical without being too specific; they offer a surprisingly unique variety of tricks each and they make for damn cool options. Oh, and their rules-language is point on. They also breathe that sense of the occult, of slight hints of the darker, that really made the class stand out for me. Now, if you prefer a less occult-feeling version, fret not: I’d like to direct your attention to the archetype presented herein, namely the primalist, who replaces the spirits gained by the regular vessel with elemental spirits (no surprise there, given Porphyra’s element-theme) –beyond the 4 classic elements, creation and destruction make up for the missing two spirits to bring the archetype to 6: And yes, these are depicted in just the same, highly-detailed manner.

And yes, they have curses assigned to them, which is a bit weaker from a fluff point of view in my mind, but retains the spirit (haha!) of the class. The custom revelation lists for these fellows include being able to assume a form of pure life eenergy that allows you to walk through allies to heal them (with a limit, thankfully!) or damage the undead; stagger foes with attack spell crits; establishing life links…we have some healing options here that are relatively unique and uncheesable. Now, not all aspects are perfect – uttering a doom-prophecy debuff, for example, imho should be language-dependant and is “only” mind-affecting – but as a whole, the mechanics are surprisingly concise and really well-crafted. Seeing through stone and earth, gaining steelbreaking skin…it’s really uncanny. Whenever I think I have seen everything cool that can be done with the very well-covered elemental theme, some author from PDG’s cadre surprises me in a positive manner!

4 feats are included: One can double the spirit surge bonus for a 1 hour cool-down; 1 nets +1 revelation. Mixed spirits allows you to be inhabited by 2 spirits, with stacking benefits and penalties, which is pretty much a must-have feat for the class, locked behind 2nd level, which may be a bit early. Wakeful Spirit lets the spirit guard you while sleeping and allows you to wake up as a move action, sans this hassle with the sleeping rules. The pdf provides a massive list of favored class options, which cover not only the core races and some of the more exotic ones, but also a significant assortment of Porphyran races. These are all solid and we conclude with Madame Xemu, a sample CR ½ level 1 human vessel currently inhabited by the disgruntled captain.

The pdf also comes with a bonus file: The Shadowcat monster, penned by Mark Gedak. Clocking in at CR 8, we have basically a psionic chameleon cat with a serious damage output Really deadly and perfect for when your PCs stopped fearing dire lions etc. At Str 25, these fellows bring the pain!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. On both a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no crucial hiccups and the only valid complaint I could come up with would be the nomenclature of referring to seances. That’s it. Layout adheres to a full-sized 2-column standard in b/w with purple highlights – printer-friendly, no complaints. The pdf has no art apart from the covers. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks and all. The bonus pdf has no bookmarks, but since it contains one creature, they wouldn’t have made sense anyways.

First of all: Kudos to editors, Perry Fehr and N. Jolly for making this as crisp as it is –bonus types are concise, complex rules precise and healing is cheese-proof. And, of course, the congratulations should extend to the author Aaron Hollingsworth, who has come a long way indeed. You see, hybrid classes have a tough position: In order to be truly valid, they have to be more than the sum of their parent classes. Similarly, they need something that sets them apart as a distinct entity, something unique that changes the playing experience beyond what a simple archetype could provide. And preferably, they should also have their own in-game identity. The vessel succeeds at all those tasks. The low-level spellcasting capping at 4th level makes the class not one for novice players, but the spirits are amazing. The flexibility is here and the vessel plays in a truly distinct and interesting manner.

The spirits are cooler than those of the standard medium, at least as far as I’m concerned, and they offer a serious array of unique options that make the class feel unique. The bang for buck ratio is also strong in this one: You get basically an alternate class as an archetype (MASSIVE!) that’s just as strong, if in a different tone, as the base class and the length of the options is neat, particularly considering the more than fair price point. Now yes, I had a couple of comments here and there, but I honestly consider the vessel to be one of the best hybrid classes I’ve covered so far – precise, unique, fun – this is well worth getting and I really hope we’ll get alternate spirits at one point, to exchange with the existing ones – the archetypical, storied tropes employed here really struck a chord with me. If you even remotely like how occult classes feel, then this is a must.

In short: This is an excellent, affordable offering, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Vessel
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