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Trap Cards
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2018 05:34:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is something different, providing system-neutral game aid cards. The pdf comes as an 6-page pdf, with half the pages depicting the back cover of the cards noted; the other half the respective cards.

Each page presents 9 cards back covers, or 8 cards. Trap triggers are codified in three ways: Hazards, magical triggers or mechanical triggers. One of the 9 cards presented per trigger type notes the general type, and the cards per se each sport a variety of suggested cues to clue in the PCs that something is amiss before things become deadly.

To give you an example, mechanical movement traps may note that the walls have have just moved, that the stones under your feet moved, a heavy grinding noise, etc. If you have a tough time improvising these, then this will be helpful indeed, as particularly more rules-heavy systems tend to be rather sparse regarding descriptive text. In short, you get a total of 24 cards, each with a variety of descriptive cues.

The cards, much like the conversation cards, come with with an archive that contains the . PNG-versions.

…. There is a bit of an issue here. The cues presented, while nice, are ultimately just that – they don’t necessarily provide a particularly fine differentiation between traps. Moreover, I can’t really glean any reason why these are cards in the first place. You see, you kinda need to know already the general type of trap your card is supposed to correspond to for the proper cue, and printing cards as well as having them all lay out behind your GM-screen is…inconvenient.

Frankly, small tables for general trap triggers would have made much more sense and have been a more paper-friendly solution to the issue this attempts to remedy. You could have fitted all content from Michael McCarthy’s trap cards on a single page of small tables. Randomly drawing cards and improvising traps based on trigger is a bad idea in most systems, as you require the mechanics and several systems differentiate between means of detecting them, so this is kinda limited.

The supplement has another issue. Out of some strange reason, the backs of the cards are crisp and clean, while the text on the front, at least in the pdf, is surprisingly pixilated. As much as I can see the conversation cards work well for some groups, I can’t say the same for these trap cards. That being said, at the low price of $0.99, I can settle on a verdict of 2 stars. If you’re looking for some cues for trap-trigger descriptions, this may be worth checking out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Trap Cards
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Star Log.EM-008: Mystic Theurge
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2018 04:06:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The flavor-centric introduction of the class acknowledges the transition magic undergone, eliminating the erstwhile arcane/divine divide in favor of the new magic traditions of Starfinder; as such, the mystic theurge tradition is seen as a form of pioneer in the context of Xa-Osoro.

The mystic theurge archetype behaves, to an extent, behaves as a kind of magical archaeologist and, as written, the archetype is written to be compatible with the Starfarer’s Companion’s classes. The archetype gains alternate class features at 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level. It should be noted that the archetype focuses on spells and as such requires pretty much spellcasting: All alternate class features, except the one gained at 9th level, would be esoteric spell lore.

At each of these levels, you choose a spell list other than your own and a chosen spell from that list that is not on your class list. You add the chosen spell to the spell’s known, and if you employ another external way to prepare your spells, you add the spell to that receptacle instead. Once you have chosen this spell, you may not change it later, though e.g. if you’ve chosen a spell with a variable spell level, you may replace the lower level version with a higher level version. It should be noted that this does not allow you to choose race-exclusive spells, nor spells taken from a bonus spell-list à la mystic connections. When you choose this spell, it must be one level lower than the highest spell-level you can cast. EDIT: I believe in owning up to my mistakes. I have erroneously stated that this would be useless; however, Starfinder's 0-level spells are no longer divorced, nomenclature-wise, from the "proper" spells, making this aspect work as presented. Mea Culpa! On the plus-side, the 9th level casters (of which I’m not biggest fan) in Starfarer’s Companion do get alternate rules pertaining that - ½ the highest spell level you can cast +1.

The other alternate class feature, gained at 9th level, would be spell synthesis, which allows you to cast two spells at once as a full action: One from your class spell list and one chosen via esoteric lore. The spells must have a standard action casting time or less and the ability requires 1 Resolve to activate. If you spend 2 Resolve instead, you gain +2 to overcome SR with both spells. Okay, so one question here: How does that interact with concentration?? Does spell synthesis allow you to maintain concentration on both spells cast as one or not? One could argue for either way, depending on whether you assume the spells to be independent entities or a fused conglomerate. I assume no, but clarifying that aspect would be very much appreciated.

The pdf foes come with a new feat, the Combine Spells feat that requires levels in more than one spellcasting class, which allows you to cast 1st level or lower spells using spell slots from either spellcasting class, but at +1 spell level slot required. The feat may be chosen multiple times and each time, it applies its benefits to one spell slot higher.

The pdf closes with a flavorful half page text on how mystic theurges behave in the Xa-Osoro system.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, some hiccups and ambiguities have crept into the file. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the series and the piece of full-color artwork is solid. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

EDIT: Alexander Augunas’ mystic theurges are a per se nifty take on the concept, though one that is bogged down a bit by the rough edges re spell synthesis. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down, due to the ambiguities in spell synthesis.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-008: Mystic Theurge
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Everyman Minis: Festive Armory
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2018 09:39:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Minis-installment clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this little supplement with a brief introduction as well as a helpful note on how to present holidays in your game: Festival of Lights, Kami’s Eve and Yuletide are presented, all featuring obvious real-world iconography without requiring the integration of, say, a Judeo-Christian faith in your fantasy RPG. This may be a small sidebar, but it is one I thoroughly appreciated.

Now, as you could glean from the title, this pdf focuses on magical items with a festival theme. The first of these, the neverlost compass, should bring a smile to quite a few gamers of a younger age: 1/day, you can name a specific location, whereafter, a light is emitted from the compass, duplicating find the path. (The spell reference is not italicized properly, but apart from that, I enjoyed the visuals here.) The oil lamp of illumination is associated with the aforementioned festival of lights. The lamp is placed inside a paper lantern, illuminating a 60-ft.-radius. However, when oils or potions with the light descriptor are used instead, the lantern will emit light at that spell level, countering darkness. If good potions or oils are used, the glow will also dazzle evil creatures for a short while and light-sensitive creatures are affected to a higher degree. And yes, daylight etc. interaction is properly covered. The lamp extends the duration of such light-.effects to 10 minutes times the CL of the oil or potion. I adore the visuals of this item, the narrative options here, and the tight execution.

The rod of decorative cheer is a low-cost item that I’d love: You use it to create festival-themed decorations. It’s a “magical world” type of item, but one that makes sense and one that can’t be abused. The yuletide rod of gift-giving duplicates major creation (not italicized), with a cap per week and an inability to duplicate too costly materials. This is a pretty potent universal-tool style option, but one I can get behind due to its sensible limitations.

One whole page of the pdf is devoted to an artifact that I haven’t seen executed this way before, namely the mighty lucky dreidel. Spinning the dreidel is a move action; hereafter, the artifact spins for 1d6 rounds. When it stops spinning, you roll 1d4 to determine which of the 4 glyphs is facing upwards, and then 1d6 to determine the effects of the respective glyph. The themes of the glyphs would be as follows: Change can temporarily switch ability scores or affect the target with forced reincarnation. Reduction of age, sex change or an ability score bonus can also be found here – all properly codified. The Fate glyph has 3 entries for bad and 3 for good fortune. These include, for example, basically disadvantage or having a lucky number: When that number is rolled, you get a surge-like bonus of +1d6. The Happiness glyph can provide more refreshing rest, calmness, an item or living through a perfect day. Finally, the Wealth glyph offers 3 detrimental and 3 positive effects focusing on material gains. The artifact comes with a means to destroy it and, as a whole, manages to hit that sweet spot between being random and being still, as a whole, interesting and sufficiently benevolent to make the spinning worthwhile. If a certain deck always felt like it was to cataclysmic for your tastes, then this will be a godsend.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are per se top-notch on a rules-language level. On a formal level, a missing separating line between two table entries and the two missed italicizations can be considered to be minor detriments, but not to the point where I’d consider them to be problematic. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly b/w 2-column standard of the series and the artwork featured is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Scott Beeh’s festive armory surprised me in a positive manner. I expected the usual suspects regarding Christmas items, judging from the cover, and got something much more compelling, cool and flavorful. All items herein are winners that have a distinct place in fantasy gaming. The execution of the rules is precise and compelling as well. This is literally an all killer, no filler product, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the minor snafus in formatting.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Festive Armory
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Everyman Minis: Festive Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2018 09:37:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 7 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with two animal companion feats: The first of these, Reindeer Flight, may only be taken by elk or reindeer with 5+ HD, granting them supernatural flight at average maneuverability and a speed of 30 ft., retaining the integrity of PFRPG’s low-level flight prohibitions.. The feat may be taken a second time for +30 ft. and an increase of maneuverability to good. The second feat is also elk/reindeer exclusive and is Reindeer Glow. This allows you to go Rudolph, emitting light as a torch. Additionally, the companion can 1/day for Con-mod rounds duplicate daylight. Cool!

The pdf proceeds to present a new Bardic masterpiece for Percussion and Singing, which requires 7 ranks in the respective Perform skill and has a cost of a feat or 3rd-level spell known. The Echoing Ostinato of Silver Bells allows for rerolls of emotion-based effect saves and allows the affected allies to regain damage to mental attributes. The masterpiece is tight, balanced for its cost and viable – like it!

Cavaliers may join the order of charity, sworn to help others. The challenge nets a scaling morale bonus to atk versus targets threatening allies and Skill-wise, Heal and Knowledge (local) are added to the class skills. Furthermore, Diplomacy can’t decrease attitude unless the check is failed in an epic manner, representing the goodwill towards these individuals. As far as order-abilities are concerned, 2nd level improves aid another, with 9th and 16th level providing the option to aid allies as a move or swift action, respectively. At 8th level, the cavalier can spend a standard action to allow an ally within 60 ft. safe passage towards a square adjacent to the cavalier, sans AoOs. This can be used 3 + Cha-mod times per day. 15th level nets the option to execute standard action strikes at +4 to atk and damage versus a foe threatened by him and the ally, prompting an AoO by the ally on a successful hit. I like this, as it promotes teamwork and more dynamic combat.

The pdf includes a total of 4 magic items, the first of which would be the bells of winter, which can 1/day, provide an uplifting buff to allies within 120 ft., as well as temporary fear immunity. The bells of this wooden baton may also be gifted to allies, transforming into low-cost items, but each such gift reduces the duration of the buff the item conveys. The cowl of guidance is cool: It generates light, but also pushes obscuring fog and similar effects away from the wearer. I liked this, though I think it should probably have a hard daily cap, considering its low price point. Rooftop threads are basically Santa-boots: +5 Acrobatics and Stealth, and by command word, up to 10 minutes a day, to be spent in 1-minute increments, the wearer may benefit from compression. The very inexpensive warmbelly tonic combines endure elements with improved passage through ice and snow.

The final section of the pdf presents two new sacred implements, the first of which would be the Cleansing Diya of the abjuration school, opposed to conjuration. This lamp, when filled with oil, cleans and mends soiled and broken objects. Interesting: Via mental focus expenditure, you can get a variant of protection from evil, regardless of alignment, with 7th level upgrading that, optionally, to 4 points for a magic circle. At 10th level, the repair option can be enhanced to duplicate make whole, also at 4 points. Cool here: The repairing options can’t be cheesed with e.g. construct PCs, since they require some time. Minor complaint: Make whole hasn’t been italicized properly. The second sacred implement would be the Menorah of Manifold Lights (Dedication), which is a candelabrum with the evocation implement school, opposed to necromancy. The menorah sheds light as a torch, and as a standard action, you can spend 1 point of mental focus to increase the radius of the light shed. While thus empowered, it also interacts with magical darkness, as though it were a light spell. You may spend more mental focus to further increase this range, and starting at 5th level, when you’ve spent at least 5 points, you duplicate daylight. I like the engine here. As another nitpick, we have another missed italicization here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, apart from the missed italicizations, are very good here. The content is presented in a clean and concise manner. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard of the series. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza’s holiday-themed options herein are nice. While the magic items don’t reach the level of coolness of e.g. the Festive Armory file, they’re neat. I really enjoyed the respective character options, though, more than I figured I would. The masterpiece, order, animal companion feats etc. all have some nice visuals and precise executions. As such, this pdf can be considered to be a worthwhile, well-crafted offering. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Festive Options
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Partatingi Monster Codex
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2018 09:36:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

In case you were wondering about the cover and haven’t yet checked out the Player’s Guide to the Seven Principalities: The partatingi are indeed hand-less parrotfolk that employ their wings as fingers of sorts. This pdf should be considered to be a spotlight of sorts regarding the race, providing further options for them. The pdf does not include the base racial stats for the partatingi, thus, in order to make most of this booklet, you should own the aforementioned player’s guide.

We begin this supplement with a well-written summary of life as a partatingi and some facts that can help roleplaying them. The first crunchier bits would be new alternate racial traits, 4 to be more precise. The first replaces the wing-hands with feet-hands, allowing you to basically wield weapons in your feet, while using the wings to stay aloft. This replaces, obviously, the wing hands and natural attack “racial characteristics,” as the trait calls them. This does not look like much, but it essentially eliminates the aspect of the partatingi that made them mechanically-distinct, as it gets rid of the light weapon focus. As an aside, this also makes magic item slot interaction slightly weird – could e.g. bracers/gloves still affect the feet-wielded weaponry? Instead of tail balance, we can opt for +2 to Diplomacy and Perception or +4 to Stealth in tropical environments, with bonuses properly codified. The natural attacks may be replaced with a strong beak for 1d8 /x3, which is properly codified as primary.

Weird: The pdf provides a racial variant at the very bottom of the sample NPC-section: Partatingikets are Small, have a slow base speed and replace parroting speech with a +4 racial bonus to Perform (act). No complaints here, other than the fact that it should have been in the section on alternate racial traits.

Okay, so the first archetype is pretty potent, but also absolutely amazing. The grown familiar loses the option to choose a familiar or bonded object. Why? Because he was mistaken for a regular parrot as a chick and served as a wizard’s familiar! That is a HILARIOUS angle and may be used as e.g. a backup character – sure, that time-magic may have killed the party’s wizard, but has also grown his “familiar.” I love this. The downside of this archetype is that it nets the wizard a lot of the abilities gained by familiars, including evasion at 2nd level. Minor wording deviations can also be observed – to quote the 11th level ability: “[…] you add your Intelligence modifier in addition to your Con modifier to Fortitude saves made against spells and spell-like abilities.” That’s a pretty obvious inconsistency here, and while it doesn’t impede the rules per se, I am still pretty positive that the archetype may be a bit too strong. The presentation of the benefits as bullet points is slightly uncommon, but the material is functional. If your game gravitates to higher power-levels, though, it should be fantastic. For grittier games, getting rid of evasion and the 11th level ability should nerf the archetype down.

The resplendent quill magus modifies arcane pool to become arcane quill: We have a pool here as well, one containing ½ class level (minimum 1) + Intelligence modifier points. The pool refreshes 1/day when preparing spells. At 1st level, the magus can expend 1 point as a swift action to transform a feather on the wing-hands into a light, bladed weapon he is proficient with. This weapon may not be disarmed, but can be sundered etc. The feather may be thrown (I assume, it behaves as the mimicked weapon in such a case), returning to feather form after the attack has been resolved. These weapons improve by +1 for every 4 levels beyond 1st, with 5th level providing the option to add weapon properties via these bonuses. Only one quill may remain thus transformed at a given time. Instead of medium and heavy armor proficiency gained at 7th and 13th level, the archetype gets +2 natural armor while he has at least 1 point in his arcane pool, with 13th level further increasing this bonus by +2. The archetype gets an arcane to increase the Spellcraft DC to identify the spells cast. I like the visuals of this one.

The third archetype is the screeching flyer unchained monk, replaces Stealth with bluff as a class skill. The archetype’s unarmed strikes deal all three physical damage types, which is ALWAYS a messy decision; not without precedence, granted, but more rewarding would be a simple means for the character to switch damage types as, for example a free action once per round, which would also emphasize player agenda. The archetype replaces stunning fist “and all abilities that scale with it” (DEFINE! That is a no-go. Replaced abilities are clearly spelled out.) with substituting his Dexterity modifier for the Charisma modifier used with Bluff to feint. At 1st level, 4th and every 4 levels thereafter, the archetype is intended to inflict +1d8 damage with unarmed attacks versus targets who “fail against the screeching flyer’s feint checks.” Oh boy, where do I even start? For how long? Additionally, this is not even close to how verbiage like this works in PFRPG. There are plenty of feinting options out there to read up on the verbiage. The bonus damage should also be codified.

Instead of 2nd level’s bonus feat, we’re locked into Improved Feint. Interesting: Ki expenditure is tied to requiring a piercing shriek that autofails Stealth. Simple, yet flavorful restriction. Purity of body is replaced with an ability that adds what should be class level instead of level, to Fly checks, as well as the option to spend a swift action and expend 1 point of ki for an untyped +20 bonus to Fly checks made that round. The bonus type should probably be competence or insight here. Instead of 6th level’s bonus feat, we add Wisdmo modifier to Reflex saves while flying. Flawless mind is replaced with the option to spend 3 points of ki as a standard action to duplicate way of the banshee with CL equal to class level, and the limitation of affecting just one target. The archetype gets a ki power for 16th level+ characters that can instantly break open the skull of a target with critical hits, prompting save or die and massive mental ability score damage on a successful save. The ki cost and caveat regarding precision damage retain this as very potent, but not broken per se.

The pdf also includes a new domain, the doubt domain, which allows you to emit bursts that render targets shaken on a failed save – but as an enchantment and NOT as a fear effect. Usable 3 + Wisdom modifier times per day. 6th level provides a couple of condition immunities, 20th immunity to all mind-affecting effects. The domain spells make sense to me.

There are 3 racial feats: Feather Darts is cool: It lets you pluck your own feathers as short-lived darts. If your Constitution exceeds 20, they are treated as masterwork. Minor complaint: How much feathers can you pluck thus per day? Free Fletches lets you reduce the cost of arrows made by 20 %, and also increase the range of such arrows when fired from a bow you made by +20 ft. Pilfering Plumage is lame in comparison: +4 to Sleight of Hands to hide small items? Yeah, let me waste a feat on that. Next up would be 5 racial spells, though one is basically a variant: Zone of Civil Discourse works like zone of truth, save it also affects the area with calm emotions. At 3rd level, that is a well-placed spell. Suspect motives prevents the use of flanking benefits and teamwork feats for its duration. Squawk of doom is odd. When you’re hit in combat by a melee attack, you let out a squawk that renders the attacker shaken for 1 round. The spell refers to “immediate”, which is a bad idea in rules-language, as it points towards immediate actions. The lack of a save to offset the condition is problematic. Tickle feathers is a swift action spell for +4 to Escape Artist/CMB to break free of grapples. Whistling Partatingi is nice, as it generates a light drizzle.

Now, the main meat of this supplement would be, as hinted by the title, the function as an NPC-codex of these parrotfolk. As such, we get unchained rogue 2 (CR off by 1), an investigator 6 (including a formula book), a level 6 storm lord druid, a green faith marshall inquisitor 4, a level 12 swashbuckler, a resplendent quill magus 7 (whose spellbook is called “On Being Awesome”) and more: Partatingi unfortunates, for example, are only born with animal intelligence. The pdf also includes an old unchained monk using the slightly problematic archetype mentioned before and we get a CR 9 sample grown familiar, once more, including spellbook.

The pdf concludes with a series of 4 suggested random encounter constellations that use the statblocks.

The pdf also comes with a bonus file penned by Perry Fehr and Mark Gedak, which depicts the Crimson Horror, a demonic CR 2 footsoldier. The build is solid, if not the most interesting I’ve seen. Still, as a bonus file, a nice added form of value.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are really weird. On the one hand, bonus types etc. tend to be tightly codified, and a majority of the material, on a rules-level, is pretty precise. At the same time, on a formal level, we have inconsistencies within one sentence and a lot of smaller violations regarding these components. Don’t get me wrong, you can usually discern what’s meant, but if you’re like me and that stuff bothers you, then this may feel oddly jarring. Apart from minor snafus, I considered the rules-aspects to be okay. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with purple highlights – it’s printer-friendly, and the pdfs sport the nice two cover artworks on main and bonus-file. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Aaron Hollingsworth and Mark Gedak deliver an interesting expansion for the cool partatingi race here. The majority of material herein has some interesting ideas and really cool visuals. The grown familiar idea, for example, while really potent, is genius. I also enjoyed the blade-feather-magus idea, even though the chassis could have carried more. As a whole, I consider this to be worth getting, though a few of the components inexplicably dip in quality regarding verbiage and rules-integrity. All in all, I consider this to be a somewhat mixed bag of a pdf, though one that is situated on the positive side of things. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Partatingi Monster Codex
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Ghosts of Pendergrass
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2018 09:33:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is a one-page adventure for Vs. Ghosts and as such, it provides 1 page of content, 1 page of SRD.

The following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, still here?

The town of Pendergrass is an abandoned logging camp, situated at the edge of a mountainous state park, though local legends claim that this was front, and that instead, it was a gold mining camp. As such, the PCs explore a briefly-sketched gold town (nice: The cross in the church may work as a mystical relic), all while haunted by the ghost of Jonas Pendergrass, a miserly, a paranoid and potent Division VII ghost. The mad ghost, still attempting to secure his gold, can assume control over PCs and, against the backdrop, is rather cool. His wife’s grave contains the access to his hidden vault, wherein his mortal remains lie. Okay…how did he end up there? How was the grave finished, the vault closed? I like that there is no gold here, that the ghost is deranged, but that seemed weird. The vault, RAW, is also open, which struck me as strange. Having a key hidden somewhere would have been nice, particularly since another (not statted) ghost that is helpful hints at the depths of Jonah’s madness. Having the poison Jonah ostensibly used would have added an interesting element of danger here. As a gold-mining town, I was also puzzled by the adventure not mentioning a mine, which will probably be one of the first things the PCs will look for.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no issues there. Layout adheres to a three-column full-color standard and is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Rich Hershey provides a cool set-up here, one that a capable GM can develop into a compelling adventure. That being said, the third column does have a paragraph of free space, which could have been used to implement any or all of the aforementioned suggestions to make this a bit more immediately usable than it is. This is not bad, mind you, but it also doesn’t reach the heights of originality that some of these one-page Vs. Ghosts adventures manage to attain. This is, in short, a solid adventure-sketch, but not much more. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Ghosts of Pendergrass
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Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2018 05:23:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive hardcover clocks in at 211 pages, 207 if you don’t count editorial, ToC, etc. – 216 pages minus the usual aforementioned components, if you count by pdf pages and include the covers.

This review is based on the hardcover print version of the book, which I received in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. The book was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons and due to receiving the print copy of this book. I have also had the chance to take a look at the pdf to ascertain electronic functionality, but have mainly based my review on the print version of this book.

Now, first things first – this book is very much the big Midgardian crunch-book, i.e. it focuses on providing new mechanics for your 5e-game. The book does not consist wholly of new material, though: Instead, it also collates and refines material taken from the Deep Magic-series, as well as from e.g. Beyond Damage Dice, and the racial supplements, which were released to much acclaim for 5e, such as Midgard Heroes. That being said, the compilation aspect is very much secondary to the huge amount of new material featured herein.

As far as Deep Magic is concerned, the book does only include the player-facing installments of the series, which is, considering the rather problematic Doom & Blood-installment, a boon. At the same time, this means that you won’t find the excellent Void Magic-installment within these pages.

Now, this being a book that contains a huge amount of class options, new races, etc., I cannot simply provide you a breakdown of each and every feat, spell, archetype, etc. – if I did go for the level of detail I provided in e.g. my reviews of the Deep Magic-series, the review would be bloated beyond any usefulness and eat more hours of my time than I can devote to a single book. That means that I am going to paint in slightly broader strokes than usual.

It should also be noted that this is NOT a player’s gazetteer or the like – while the introduction mentions a couple of Migardian regions and themes, the book focuses primarily on rules components and does not offer regional explorations or the like, edited and freed of spoilers for player-use. This is a rules-book, not a setting book – though the setting-specific components do bleed into this book here and there, it is about as setting agnostic as you can be without compromising the flavor.

All right, got that? Perfect!

So, after the aforementioned quick introduction, we begin this massive tome with the racial chapter. Presentation-wise, this is oriented along the baselines established in 5e’s PHB, i.e. we get notes on nomenclature and the like, advice for the playing the race and the respective mindset, etc. This chapter also contains notes on subraces that correspond to certain ethnicities in the Midgard setting – for example, river elves, canton dwarves, etc. are mentioned. The racial chapter features a couple of favorites introduced before: The centaur, gearforged, dhampir, gnoll, kobold, minotaur, ravenfolk, shadow fey and trollkin make a return here, representing pretty much a best-of of the race-centric 5e-supplements released by Kobold Press so far. Beyond these, the chapter includes two previously unreleased races, the first of whom would be the bearfolk, who increase Str by 2 and have a 1d6 + Str-mod bite attack that causes piercing damage. They get 13 + Dex-mod natural AC and are treated as +1 size to determine carrying capacity. Bearfolk have proficiency in Athletics and Perception. The grizzlehide subrace gets +1 Constitution and may Constitution modifier times per long rest interval attempt an unarmed strike as a bonus action when making an attack, adding grappling. They are also resistant to cold damage. Purifiers increase Wisdom by 1, get 1 druid cantrip, using Wisdom as spellcasting ability, and once per rest interval, they can roll +1d4 and add it to a save governed by a mental attribute.

The second race would be the ratfolk, who increase Dexterity by +2 and Intelligence by 1, but also decrease Strength by 2. They are Small, with a walking speed of 25 ft, and have a swimming speed of 10 ft. Ratfolk get darkvision and may move through a hostile creature’s space as long as it’s Medium or larger. Ratfolk get advantage on attack rolls if an ally is within 5 ft. of the creature and not incapacitated. They get advantage on Handle Animal to influence rodents. All races come with notes on life expectancy, as well as height etc.

No complaints regarding the races-chapter – well-presented material here. The second, massive chapter deals with new options for martial and roguish characters, offering options for non-spellcasting classes. Now, even a cursory glance will show you one thing here: The material is not evenly spread, not by a long shot. We get one primal path, two bardic colleges, 6 martial archetypes for the fighter, two paladin oaths, two ranger archetypes and 3 archetypes for the rogue. So yeah, the barbarian gets the short end of the stick here, particularly since the one primal path is neither complex, nor particularly interesting. Advantage on Wisdom saves, once per rest interval calm emotions, a bit psychic bonus damage while raging and freedom of movement while raging will probably not really sell many players. The first bardic college, the college of entropy, has been taken from Deep Magic: Chaos Magic, while the Greenleaf college nets a slightly expanded spell list that nets users of inspiration dice temporary hit points, provides land’s stride and the option to remove diseases and detrimental conditions from a brief list – basically a slightly druid-y bard.

Now, as far as fighters are concerned, the clanking mercenary gets the option to temporarily improve armor or weaponry, with higher levels providing construct-themed benefits, like advantage on saves vs. frightened and charmed, reducing exhaustion gained by 1, thankfully usable only once per rest interval and the 18th level option to spend HD as a bonus action to negate some negative conditions. The elite of the Mharoti empire, the edjet, is a specialist of using both shield and versatile weapons, with higher levels providing the option to shoe multiple targets, quicker healing during short rests, once per long rest interval, and at high levels, a cool, defensive trick to help allies and improve your own AC when wielding a shield, all reaction-based. I liked this one, though personally, I would have made the defensive trick available sooner and instead have it scale. Morgau and Doresh’s ghost knights are pretty straightforward, in that they receive a find steed-based creepy horse that upgrades to undead at 7th level. It would have been nice to get stats for the undead steed. Frightening charges, necrotic bonus damage, requiring no more food or drinks and immunity to being frightened are unlocked. The 18th level ability lets you turn insubstantial, which is pretty neat. The second riding-themed option would be Zobeck’s griffon knights, gaining a griffon mount that scales with your level, which is an extremely potent option at low levels, compared to other pets, particularly since 3rd level provides 1/day (weird – why not once per long rest interval?) feather fall, which mitigates the primary danger of falling to your death. Higher levels yield aerial maneuvers, which increase damage (this scales) and total at 3, +1 gained at 10th level. This one is really strong, and frankly, I’d have preferred more versatility regarding maneuvers. The shieldbearer is a shield specialist, the sword-dancer, surprise, a somewhat dexterous light or no armor specialist. I found both to be pretty enjoyable.

The paladin oaths would be the oath of radiance, who has a radiance/light-theme versus undead and creatures from the shadow plane. This is relevant due to for example shadow fey hailing from there. A solid one, though one that made me wish it tied in with the cool angelic seal-engine. The second oath would be the oath of thunder, who focuses on somewhat Thor/Perun-like visuals, with the option to fire lightning bolts via Channel Divinity and a focus on crushing fiends and aberrations. Tenets are provided for both oaths. The vampire slayer ranger does what it says on the tin, providing anti-undead alternatives to those usually gained. Not the biggest fan of such nemesis designs, and 11th level nets +6d6 (RAW untyped) damage when making a melee attack versus a favored enemy. Zobecker scouts are more interesting, gaining the ability to be aware of select items, an expanded spell list and the option to create interesting alchemical devices. I wish we got more selections there, but this one, theme-wise, is one of my favorites in the chapter. The rogue duelist is really interesting; The archetype gets a point-based resource, prowess, which may be used to activate a variety of techniques, which manage to depict an interesting, rather well-balanced array of classic duelist tricks. One of my favorite takes on the concept. The rogue fixer focuses on commerce, securing items, etc. and is probably more suitable for NPCs than for PCs, at least unless you’re running a really gritty campaign. The whisper archetype, reproduced from Deep Magic: Shadow, but alas, sans tweaking the, admittedly minor complaints I had there.

Then, we are introduced to weapon options first introduced in Beyond Damage Dice, which I still maintain, are an awesome idea. Special abilities, depending on weapons employed? Heck yes. The base save DC is 8 + proficiency modifier + Strength or Dexterity modifier. Now, I think heavy weapons should be restricted to using Strength, but that is an aesthetic complaint. Now, Beyond Damage Dice, while a good idea, was less impressive, to say the least, in its execution. Needlessly swingy all-or-nothing parries (even though a perfectly serviceable parry-mechanic exists in 5e!) and a general uneven power-curve that makes some weapons better than others did detract from the per se genius idea. Javelins get, for example, an ability that only kicks in at maximum range, making it hyper-circumstantial…and no, it’s not potent. Spears are still non-existent in the engine, focusing only on polearms. This section represents a HUGE missed opportunity to clean up, expand and refine the subsystem. Alas, no such luck. Disappointing.

The next chapter deals with divine casters – we get a brief overview of Midgardian deities and a whopping 17 (!!) domains, rules to create a pantheist priest who circles patron deities…and has no drawback for the improved flexibility…and a whopping 1 druid circle. One. This would be the circle of the stones, who receives a spirit guide familiar, bonus spells with a theme of illusion and divination, the option to enhance your spells via a brief bonus action spirit dance, a lifeline of the “prevents death” type, usable once per long-rest interval and at 14th level, a potent spirit form. I like this one. But seriously. One paltry circle versus a metric ton of domains? Why? Anyways, the domains provided would be Apocalypse, Beer (Heck yeah, spirituality I can get behind!), Cat, Clockwork, Darkness, Dragon, Hunger, Hunting, Justice, Labyrinth, Moon, Mountain, Ocean, Prophecy, Speed, Travel and Void. The latter would probably have made for a cool tie-in with the void magic engine that is absent from the book, but that as a purely aesthetic observation. The domains are pretty straight-forward in their benefits. I am not the biggest fan of +10 to a Dexterity ability or skill check via the Cat domain’s channel divinity, and I’m concerned about the Travel domain’s easy, channel divinity-powered exhaustion level remover at 2nd level.

The next chapter deals with new options for arcane casters, encompassing two sorcerous origins (here called “sorcerous bloodline”), 3 warlock pacts, and 11 wizard schools. The Shadow bloodline is reprinted from Deep Magic: Shadow Magic. The other origin would be the mazeborn, which represents minotaur blood and thus doubles proficiency bonus to Charisma checks with them, if it does apply to the check. The base ability nets you the ability to bonus action cast a spell that requires a melee attack in conjunction with Dash – sans limits. 6th levels nets horns and the option to cast enlarge via 1 sorcery point. 14th adds + Cha-mod damage to spells that cause psychic damage, and one creature damaged by such a spell may also be affected by confusion for 2 sorcery points. The 18th level ability allows you to spend 3 sorcery points to create phantasmal labyrinth distortions, which can prevent reactions, imposes disadvantage on attacks against you, and requires concentration to maintain as a balancing factor. The warlock pacts include the genie lord from Deep Magic: Elemental Magic, the Great Machine from Deep Magic: Clockwork Magic and the Light Eater from Deep Magic: Shadow Magic. While these pacts are per se tightly presented, the few minor rough patches have not been addressed…and if you’re a fan of the Deep Magic-series, you get exactly 0 new content here.

Now, fans of the wizard will smirk at that, but we meet several old acquaintances here as well: The Angelic Scribe, the Clockwork, Dragon Masks, Elementalism, Elven High Magic, Entropy (chaos magic), Illumination and Ring Warden would be previously released options. Here, we have something I enjoyed seeing – the chaos magic, for example, has been streamlined and made a tad bit more precise, making it now one of the most compelling aspects of the book, at least as far as I’m concerned. Elven High Magic could still be slightly more precise in its details, but remains a favorite of mine as a person. Dragon masks, angelic glyphs, etc. are still frickin’ amazing. Now, what about the new stuff? Well, for one, we have the doom croaker, obviously a ravenfolk-inspired one, which halves time and gold for adding divination spells to the spellbook at 2nd level. The tradition is basically a slightly Norse-flavored divination specialist, flavor-wise aligned with the ravenfolk. In case you were wondering: No, strangely, it does not interact with the rune magic system. Speaking of which: Yes, it makes a return. No, Raido STILL has no rune mastery power. Urgh. On the plus-side, the appendix once more contains the stats for the Vaettir and tupilak golems, elk horn rod and nothing pole and the golem now gets proper flavor-text and formatting. The neat hypothermia and snow blindness rules from that installment can similarly be found in the appendix at the end of the book, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The phenomenal ley line engine for 5e is similarly included here and represented by the geomancer and in the general spellcasting section. This leaves us with the rather brief necrophagy tradition, which is obviously cannibal/dead-eating themed and as such aligned with the darakhul. This one is a necromancy specialist who gets an undead familiar (tweaks noted) and who can eat the dead to fortify himself. Kudos for the ability being kitten-test-proof, i.e. you can’t cheese it by eating a bag of kittens. Per se solid. The feat chapter focuses on the supplemental feats for the respective arcane traditions.

Now, the next section is one of my favorites in the whole book: We get 20 fully realized backgrounds, with two variants added on top. The backgrounds come with all rules-relevant material, as well as the personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bond-tables we expect, and they are actually INTERESTING. The titles say it all: Amazons of Perunalia, Arbonesse Exiles, Benmean Scholars, Blood Sisters (you know you want to play an evil nun!), Dancing Bear Guides, Dhampirs of Morgau, Exiles of the Black City, Ghost knights, Gnoll Caravan Raiders, Haunted Villagers, Krakovan Rebels, Mharoti Emmisaries, Miners, Mountain’s Witnesses, Mystics of Baba Yaga, Neimhein Gnomes, Northlands Reavers, Nurian Theurges, Seers and Prophets – the backgrounds provide some seriously awesome flavor, ooze the great Midgardian lore in many cases…and still offer some options that are applicable sans any reskinning. With the exception of Seer, Prophet and the 2 variant backgrounds (previously released in Unlikely Heroes), all of these, at least to my knowledge, are new – and they’re not reskins either: The gnoll caravan raider, for example, is different from the generic raider background previously introduced. A ton of flavorful, fun new material in this chapter. Huge kudos!

Now, obviously, with such a focus on magic, the final “big” chapter (I already touched upon the appendix) contains a ton of spells. The chapter begins with a spell list by character class, with the spells organized within by spell level. Huge plus here: The respective spell-lists, and the individual spells in the alphabetical presentation that follows the lists, sport tags that denote the magical tradition to which they belong. This is CRUCIAL in navigating this book, at least in my opinion. You see, it allows the GM to allow, for example, character x access to clockwork magic, while his buddy gets ring labyrinth magic. This is very, very important. However, at the same time, the organization of this chapter makes it ultimately slightly less comfortable to use than it probably should be – you see, this adheres to 5e’s, pardon my French, idiotic idea that it’d be smart to no longer note in a spell’s block what kind of classes can cast it. It’s one of the most inconvenient formatting decisions of 5e and one I intensely dislike – I also find it odd, since some Deep Magic-installments did note the classes for each spell in an improvement regarding that component. Oh well. That being said, since the book does adhere to the formatting convention established by the PHB, I will not penalize it for this decision. At the same time, the lack of an index does constitute a comfort detriment of sorts as far as I’m concerned.

Anyways, let us take a look at the spells shall we? The chapter encompasses, sans the aforementioned spell lists, a total of 55 pages of spells. Here, I can complement the Kobold crew: Previously not codified reactions now specify their precise conditions; verbiage that erroneously refer to “charm and fear effects” and the like was cleaned up, so the rules are definitely more precise than in their debut. There are still nitpicks to be found here and there, though – while in the context of walking wall, it’s evident that we’re talking about melee attacks, the text per se does not say so. Chaotic vitality refers to caster level, a concept that does not exist in 5e – on the plus-side, though, it now has its potential haste effect properly codified. To me, that is more important, since the CL-snafu, frankly, can be handled by a half-way competent GM…and it’s the only instance of this reference in the whole book.

Much to my pleasant surprise, some of the spells that previously were too potent have been adjusted to present more sensible effects. Shadow trove, for example, can no longer be used to get rid of artifacts, spilling its contents on the floor instead of vanishing them. Slither, the second level spell that turns you into a shadow not still nets you a potent defense and RP-options, but does so without being broken. Starfall has similarly been balanced in a better way to account for its increased flexibility when compared to other spells. Now, the book contains, spell-wise, three Deep Magic-traditions previously not codified as such: Labyrinth, Rothenian and hieroglyphs. The latter sports, for example, a potent 8th-level combined true seeing and detect magic that automatically identifies each spell witnessed, as well as the much-beloved beguiling gift, translated to 5e to the rejoicing of tricksters everywhere. Bless the dead prevents rising from death as an undead – and must be cast when touching the corpse. Boreas’ breath freezes water. Broken charge lets labyrinth specialists divert the path of an incoming adversary and inflicts minor psychic damage. Its low range and reaction (properly codified) casting time keep it in check. Confused senses, revelations via moonlight, calling forth scarab swarms, cursing targets to not be sated by food… there are some nice ones here.

On a purely formal observation, desiccating breath’s average damage value is not required for spells. This spell also refers to animals, which is not correct terminology in 5e – the creature type is “beast”. I am also not the biggest fan of e.g. eidetic memory, which, instead of giving you something unique to derive from its benefits, translates to a somewhat lame and slightly Pathfinder-y +10 to Intelligence checks. On the plus-side, an encrypt/decrypt cantrip makes sense, though more potent versions would be the first that I’d research... Exsanguinate’s damage at 5th level may be somewhat pitiful, but it reduces maximum hit points until a long rest has been completed and may incapacitate targets, which is rather potent. On another note, RAW, it causes bludgeoning damage, which is a slightly odd choice, considering that the blood drain of vampires, for example, is based on necrotic damage. It also can, RAW, affect creatures sans blood, which is even odder to me. Anyways, that is a more or less aesthetic complaint. Assuming a potent form of the gods (avatar stats included) is a neat idea. On the plus-side, having a target dragged away, potentially to death, by spectral ponies? Heck yeah! All in all, this chapter represents a pleasant surprise. The book has refined and steamlined a lot here, and the fact that it has retained the structure of the spell traditions means that A GM can pretty easily allow players access to the material that’s considered to be appropriate for the character.

The appendix, beyond the material already mentioned, includes notes of clockwork scarabs, special features for various breeds of Midgardian horses, notes on kobold mounts, and the ring servant also makes a return here. We also get snow cat stats and rules for alchemist’s smoke and clockwork caltrops.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, as a whole, very good. It is evident that care has gone into dealing with quite a few hiccups in previous iterations of material compiled within, both formally and rules-language wise. Layout, as always with kobold Press’ books, is gorgeous and adheres to a two-column full-color standard. The book contains a lot of gorgeous artwork, though fans of Kobold Press will be familiar with quite a few of the pieces. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The hardcover is a beautiful book with thick, matte pages and glossy front and back cover. Its binding is solid as well – so the recommended version of this book, without a doubt, would be print.

Designers Dan Dillon, Greg Marks, Chris Harris, Richard Green and Shawn Merwin, with additional design by Jon Sawatsky, Michael Ohl, Rich Howard, Scott Carter and Wolfgang Baur, have created the best crunch book Kobold Press has released so far. Kobold Press’ strength traditionally did lie more in the phenomenal lore woven, in the adventures and the popular Midgard setting’s amazing flavor. While this book retains some Midgard flavor, it also represents a strong focus on the mechanical aspects of the game, creating basically a second Player’s Handbook in scope and ambition.

This book is a tough nut to rate, for it is at once a compilation, yet still offers a lot of new material. This material, while not always as refined or as mechanically interesting (you won’t see much that can hold a candle to dragon magic, for example), contains some true gems that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you haven’t yet checked out Kobold Press’ 5e-offerings, then this is an absolute no-brainer: There are phenomenal pdfs compiled herein, and quite a few of the options have been improved, redesigned and streamlined. This is definitely better than the constituent pdfs.

At the same time, I confess to having expected slightly more. The fact that e.g. Beyond Damage Dice’s brilliant ideas haven’t been expanded and balanced struck me as odd. Another weakness of the book pertains the distribution of class options. If you’re a barbarian player or have a druid, you’ll be rather underwhelmed, while your cleric and wizard buddies drown in new options. I don’t expect books to offer something for every class, mind you, but the distribution of material herein is uneven to the point where it is somewhat jarring. My final gripe here is with the lack of an index.

That being said, all of these gripes, when looked at in the context of the whole book, with its inspiring backgrounds and flavorful ideas, do pale to an extent. The question remains, whether to get this or not. The response is somewhat tricky.

Fans of Kobold Press who already own the constituent pdfs may well consider the added refinement this offers worth it, may adore having the material collected and in a handy print tome.

On the other hand, if you’re such a fan and expected more rules-components that reach the level of brilliance of some of the more complex and mechanically innovative Deep Magic installments, then you may be disappointed at a high level by the majority of new content being solid, but also pretty conservative in its design-aesthetics.

If you’re new to Midgard and Kobold Press’ 5e-offerings in general, then get this – chances are that you’ll love it! Similarly, if you’re like me and vastly prefer proper print, then this is a no-brainer.

This book, let me make that ABUNDANTLY clear, is a very good, fun and densely packed book of cool stuff.

At the same time, it also, at least to a degree, could have been a tome for the ages. While some of the new martial options are amazing, while the improvements are significant, the book could have been a defining milestone. With evenly distributed material and more stuff for the poor barbarians, sorcerers, warlocks and druids. With a streamlining and expansion of, for example, the weapon options from beyond damage dice….you get the idea. This could have been THE defining crunch-handbook, an unofficial PHB 2…and it still can be seen as such. However, it also represents a book that, while compelling, interesting and well-wrought, feels like it doesn’t 100% reach the heights that it could have.

Ultimately, I have to take all those perspectives into account, and thus, I arrive at a final verdict of 4.5 stars. Whether you round up or down, ultimately depends on what you’re looking for in this book. Personally, I consider this to be closer to 5 stars, and as such, this is what my official verdict will be.

If you’re looking for some seriously huge tome of crunch for your 5e-game, then look no further than this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition
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Spheres of Might
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2018 11:13:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive rules-book clocks in at 238 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page forewords, 1 page blank,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 229 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreons.

All right, we begin this massive beast of a tome with a brief piece of introductory prose to get you into the proper mindset, before explaining the basics of the system: Each character gets a series of talents, called combat talents. The number of these is defined by the class, though a feat exists that nets you an additional one. A combat talent may also be spent to gain access to a combat sphere, gaining that sphere’s base abilities and providing access to the sphere-specific talents. If a character would gain a sphere they already possess, you instead choose a talent. Saving throws, if any, are based on DC 10 + ½ BAB of the attacker + the relevant key ability modifier, here called “practitioner modifier.” If a character uses a talent, but has no class feature that defines a practitioner modifier, you default to Wisdom. Multiclass characters may use the higher of the two modifiers of their practitioner modifiers – this is important, since it retains multiclassing viability sans requiring a feat tax. Combat training nets you bonus talents that usually, but certainly not always, mirror the BAB-progression: Full BAB is equal to “Expert”, ¾ BAB-progression to “Adept” and ½ BAB-progression is equal to “Proficient.” This codifies talent-advancement in a way that is independent from the classes and easy to reference, while also providing an elegant balancing tool. Furthermore, characters may choose to exchange feat-progressions they’d gain to instead purchase Proficient or Adept combat talent progression – this, fyi, maintains compatibility with Spheres of Power.

And that’s already the basis of the system! Nope, I am not kidding! It’s that simple and elegant. That being said, there is more associated terminology that we need to define, some of which you’ll know from standard Pathfinder. It is a testament to the foresight exhibited by the authors that e.g. the Attack action as such is properly defined – something that regularly causes confusion on the various messageboards. This step is also important, since some combat talents and e.g. Vital Strike, both modifying an Attack action, can be applied to the same attack. This also properly mentions the interaction, or rather, lack thereof, with e.g. Cleave and similar Standard action-based attack forms. In short: Attack action =/= standard action. The definition here also makes clear that we can expect the book to reward flowing combat, i.e. fights that do not boil down to just trading full attacks and waiting who keels over first. “Special attack actions” should also be noted – they behave pretty much like attack actions, but only one per round may be executed. This is an important balancing caveat.

“Associated feats” denote feats whose effects can be duplicated by specific talents, which also means that the talents can act as prerequisite-substitutions for the associated feats. This is important once we get to the feat-groups that require a significant array of feats to qualify for and retains transparency in that regard without invalidating the feats themselves.

Now, the book does something really clever with action economy to combat the tendency to constantly just trade blows. The book takes a two-pronged approach here. The first would be the battered condition, which imposes a -2 penalty to CMD and also prevents you from executing AoOs. Furthermore, certain talents have different activation actions or effects versus battered targets. The condition may be removed simply enough – the Life sphere’s restore does the trick, as do effects like lesser restoration…and here, things become interesting: You can get rid of it via taking the total defense action. This obviously costs you precious actions, but it makes sense – when we picture being subjected to a battering down, like e.g. in the original Star Wars trilogy or similar media, it makes sense that you have to collect yourself. The second approach here would be the introduction of the martial focus. Any character with a combat talent or a feat granting access, gets the martial focus after a minute of rest or after taking the total defense action. HOWEVER, you may never regain the focus more than once per round. You may expend this focus as part of making a Fort- or Ref-save to have the result rolled treated as 13, and, analogue to psionics, there is a VAST amount of options that is based on expenditure of the focus. Once more, we have an action economy game here, and one that ties into the battered condition: Since you regain the focus as part of the same condition-removing action, this encourages you to actually alternate between combat strategies. Additionally, the base ability use allows you to be more reliably competent versus things that you should be capable of evading.

This modification of basic combat strategies are absolutely amazing, but the book does not stop there, not by a long shot. We also get rules-clarifications for e.g. double-barreled weapons and e.g. improvised weapon damage by size. Similarly, unarmed damage now scales independent of class, which is a huge plus as far as I’m concerned. The number of talents the character has governs the damage inflicted.

Now, the book does not just leave you in the dark regarding actual expressions of martial arts in the game world. You do not have to read and digest the whole book to start using it: Instead, we begin with a massive chapter of martial traditions, some of which are gained as part of the proficiencies of a class. This codifies basically a talent array for you, not unlike e.g. combat styles of the ranger class. One could also see them as thematic suggestions and the book provides notes on designing your own martial traditions. This section, beyond codifying mini-talent-trees, can also be seen as a perfect guideline for your own tinkering. Want to have a shield master? Check the tradition. Steppe rider? Suitable talents noted. I love this.

Now, the book contains no less than 8 new classes. If I analyze these in the level of depth that I usually go for, then this review will become a bloated 30-plus-pages monstrosity, so I’ll be a bit briefer than usual. The first class would be the Armiger, who gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, proficient talent progression and may choose a mental attribute as practitioner modifier. This would also be a good time to note that classes here grant e.g. a martial tradition when taken at 1st level – this provides access, obviously, but also prevents multiclass-cheesing. The armiger is obviously inspired by games like the latest Final Fantasy, centering around the idea of customized weapons, each of which grants a sphere and talent – basically, you have combat modes hard-coded into the class, and no, you can’t cheese that with dual-wielding. Only one customized weapon grants its benefits at a given time – though TWFing with them, obviously, is still possible. The class also gains options to cycle through these special weapons, which also improve. The low general progression regarding talents is offset by the modes, making this an inspired class. I really, really adore it.

The blacksmith get d10 HD, 4 + Int skills,full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves as well as Expert martial progression, with Constitution as governing practitioner modifier. The blacksmith is obviously somewhat equipment-themed and can provide benefits to allies by finetuning their equipment, basically providing 24-hour buffs. They also are sunder/anti-construct specialists, gaining scaling bonus damage and later learning to damage natural armor/weapons. The class also has some serious crafting prowess going on and the class receives an array of smithing insights that can provide e.g. Gunsmithing, damage objects to hurt their wielders, etc. He can also learn to reforge items, which is pretty cool.

The commander gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and Adept martial progression, with Int or Cha as governing practitioner modifiers. Now, there are a couple of really good, commander-style classes out there. As far as favorites are concerned, Amora Game’s battle lord from Liber Influxus Communis, and, obviously, Dreamscarred Press’ Tactician come to mind. Where the former is a leader from the front, the latter is a coordinator defined by a psionic network and psionics. The commander is, chassis-wise, closer to the latter. The commander actually has next to no overlap with both: While tangible and potent benefits for allies are the bread and butter of these fellows, we also have terrain-specific tricks and logistics specialties – these provide really uncommon and intriguing benefits that focus on adventuring beyond combat. This class is fantastic. Love it to bits.

The conscript gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves as well as Expert martial progression, governed by one of the mental attributes. This is basically the “build your own” SoM-class type class. From dual identity to banner to studied target, it allows you to customize options galore and also comes with sphere specializations, basically bloodline/domain-ish linear ability progressions that kick in at 3rd, 8th and 20th level. This is the class for the folks who want a certain skillset be viable sans requiring a ton of multiclassing shenanigans.

The scholar gets ½ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, d6 HD, 8 + Int skills per level and proficient martial progression governed by Intelligence. Beyond being capable of providing some healing, we get flashbangs, DaVinci-style gliders, etc. – this is basically the Renaissance ideal of the universal scholar, embodied as a class. Super helpful, versatile, interesting – and perfectly capable of working in even no/low-magic games. That is not to say that this fellow is not viable in your regular fantasy setting though! I really love how the system allows you to play a really smart, versatile non-magical scholar. Another huge winner.

The sentinel gets d12 HD, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 4 + Int skills per level, as well as expert martial progression, using Wisdom as governing practitioner modifier. The class, unsurprisingly, is the tank of the roster, and is an actually viable defensive base class. It is pretty technical in comparison, but comes out rather nicely. I am not a fan of the decision to be able to use Wisdom bonus instead of Dexterity to govern the one, at least pro forma, bad save of the class, but the capping of class level here prevents low level characters with universally good saves. Otherwise, the focus on challenges, ability to lock down targets etc, is nice., and stalwart, one of my least favorite abilities in all of Pathfinder (evasion for Fort AND Will) is relegated to 9th level. So yeah, I enjoy the class more than I figured I would!

The striker gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, good Fort- and Ref-saves, full BAB-progression as well as Expert martial progression governed by Constitution. The class is something of a monk-ish specialist, but that, at least in theory, sounds less interesting in the system, with monk-ish powers not more broadly available. Well, instead of just slapping several talents on the class, the striker takes a different approach: It is, in essence, a mana-bar martial. Let me explain: The striker has a resource called “tension” that increases upon taking damage, upon successfully hitting creatures, and upon moving a lot. This builds and may be expended to generate special effects, with the class gaining striker arts, which can provide unique effects or expand the ways in which you can spend the resource. And no, you can’t hoard it out of combat, and it doesn’t have a dumb per-combat mechanic. The playing experience here is really interesting and fun – but from all the classes, this is one that has the most expansion potential. Basically, you have a cool resource-management game in addition to the spheres-engine, making this a surprisingly strategic class to play.

Finally, there would be the technician, who receives d8 HD, 6 + Int mod skills per day, good Ref- and Will-saves, 3/4 BAB-progression as well as adept martial progression governed by Intelligence. This class takes up no less than 18 pages, and it is a BEAST. This is, in essence, the practical inventor to the scholar’s more theoretic approach; the sapper, the golemsmith, the pulp fantasy exploring inventor. It is the most complex class herein and the one that requires the most amount of system mastery, but it rewards you for allowing for an impressive amount of different concepts being realized even before you begin diving into the depths of the spheres system.

Now, the book also contains a ton of archetypes for your perusal: Alchemist, antipaladin, brawler, cavalier, fighter, gunslinger, hunter, investigator, magus, monk, paladin, ranger, ninja, rogue, samurai, slayer, swashbuckler, thaumaturge and even the vigilante get their due here, and that is before we take a look at the archetypes for the new classes, some of which made me smile from ear to ear. Battlefield armigers, for example, modify their chassis to instead make an improbable weapon, like an axe-bladed crossbow or the like. The iron chef blacksmith is a neat take on the battle cook, while the techsmith provides the means to poach in the technician’s playground, while doctor or slime savant scholars make for meaningful tweaks of the base engine of the class. Some of these tie in with the spheres system to a rather impressive degree, with e.g. the adamant guardian changing the focus of the sentinel from challenges to patrols, while another interacts with the berserker sphere. There also would be basically a true neutral paladin-ish variant here. Striker can opt for blackpowder or mutation specialties, and expert shadowed fists, scouts and grappling specialists are covered here as well. Technicians may elect for the mad scientist archetype (yes, you can make shrink rays…), and a suit pilot and basically a mythbuster can also be found here.

The whole classes/archetypes-chapter has been a huge surprise for me. You see, as much as I like Spheres of Power, I’m not the biggest fan of its classes. To me, they always felt like vessels to conduct the sphere-engine, not like truly distinct concepts that would make me go for them on virtue of their own engines. This book does not suffer from this limitation. I absolutely would love to play, in slightly varying degrees, all the classes introduced within this book. There are a TON of amazing concepts here and the engines presented for the classes are actually compelling and interesting BEFORE you start adding the sphere-engine! Furthermore, the classes herein allow you to do unique things that set them apart before diving into sphere-selection. That is a huge plus as far as I’m concerned. Add to that the fact that the classes actually manage to present compelling engines that reward versatile playstyles even before the main meat of the system is in place, and we have what must be called a resounding success.

Now, approximately 60 pages are devoted to the respective spheres. I cannot go into in-depth analysis regarding all of them here, but to give you an idea of the different spheres: Alchemy, athletics barrage, barroom, beastmastery, berserker, boxing, brute, dual wielding, duelist, equipment, fencing, gladiator, guardian, lancer, open hand, scoundrel, scout, shield, sniper, trap, warleader and wrestling would be the spheres. Alchemy nets you options to improve classic items, fused grenades, condition-healing, stimpacks, etc. Athletics sports concise rules for climbing around on big foes, wall run, etc. Barroom covers your improvised weaponry and drunken master tricks. Berserker, much like in the Fate/Stay-series, is about staying power and destroying stuff. Boxing features a nice counter-mechanic. Brute nets you Hulk-like stomps, topple foes, etc. and gets manhandle options to add further debuffs. The duelist sphere has a well-designed bind weapon-mechanic and can generate nasty bleeding. The equipment sphere sports the item-specific tricks. Now, I am not the biggest fan of the Fencing sphere’s Parry and Riposte, as it is based on an opposed attack roll, but its use of martial focus prevents the mechanic from bogging down gameplay.

Gladiators are specialists of boasting and demoralizing targets, the former allowing for actually tangible benefits. Guardian has two packages – challenge and patrol, the former of allows you to kite, while the latter lets you set up a defensive perimeter of sorts. I really enjoy this sphere. Lancer also is really cool, providing concise mechanics for the impalement of targets, making spear-wielders etc. more interesting and viable. Open palm and scoundrel are pretty self-explanatory, while the scout sphere focuses on keen perception, taking abilities usually relegated to rangers and characters that fit the ranged specialist or detective trope and makes them more universally viable. The shield sphere allows you to spend AoOs to increase AC and makes the often maligned item class more viable. Huge plus there. The Sniper sphere is something I have NEVER seen before for Pathfinder: It is a BALANCED, yet potent option for the sharpshooter concept. Thanks to essentially bonus damage for single shots, trick shots and the like, it is actually very well made. It even has a viable, powerful, yet balanced variant on the headshot-concept. The trap and wrestling spheres and warleader spheres do what you’d expect them to. It should also be noted that some sphere nets you 5 ranks in an associated skill, with progressive levels providing further boosts at higher levels. Snipers can shoot into melee sans penalty, etc. – you get the idea. The chapter, as a whole, is inspired. I do not envy the designers that will work on e.g. expansions to impaling options, for example, as the engine is VERY concise and could break if handled without due care, but as a whole, this chapter must be, once more, considered to be a resounding success of epic proportions.

Now, this would be as well a place as any to comment a bit on the design paradigms employed and what they mean for you: Spheres of Might did not attempt to offset caster/martial disparity. This feat is only possible by making martials ridiculously powerful and allowing them to basically behave like casters. And if you do want full-blown responses for every eventuality, why not play a caster in the first place? I believe, firmly, that playing a caster and a martial character can and should be somewhat different playing experience. The central issue with martials lies in a plethora of design decisions of the core game. Low skills per level meant less out-of-combat usefulness, which hampers roleplaying. Spheres of Might addresses that and fixes it. More importantly, though, the system’s focus on iterative attacks makes single target damage seem like the end-all raison d’être for martials. There’s a reason so many threads focus on improving AC, damage output, accuracy, and the like. The issue at the root of a lot of player-frustration with regular martial characters does imho not lie in their potency, but rather in the playing experience itself. It simply isn’t that interesting to walk up to a foe, roll X standard attack rolls for as much damage as possible, rinse and repeat. GMs will need, in such cases, to focus on mobility of foes or start a numbers-race that isn’t fun for anyone. And yes, you can accumulate a variety of different options for martial characters, but it takes time, feat-investment, etc. In short, you’ll still be doing your specialized routine. Very well, granted, but the experience can still be somewhat stale. This issue can be further exacerbated by certain classes having what conceivably should be general notions, hardbaked into the chassis, making some martial classes always exceed others in their available options for certain ability-trees.

Spheres of Might changes that. In other terms, the central design paradigm employed here is one that focuses, with tremendous success, on breadth rather than depth. Instead of adding a fireball’s worth of bonus damage to your attack to make up for the “lost” full attack, the system focuses on giving you MORE options to choose from. Yes, damage-enhancers are a choice, but they are not your only recourse to contribute to a combat situation in a meaningful manner. You can buff. You can debuff. And the very core of the system already rewards variance, doing different things each round. Do you expend your focus and execute talent xyz? Or do you get rid of that battered condition first? Do you focus on damage, generate a set-up, debuff a foe? The system makes different attacks MATTER. They are no longer just vehicles to transport more or less static damage values. Playing a martial character suddenly involves strategy. Choices beyond making a certain build. This has a rather remarkable effect: Suddenly, low-magic games, ones with a more pulp-like aesthetic, perhaps even ones sans magic whatsoever, feel more interesting for the players. As an added benefit, this takes one of the toughest challenges a Pathfinder-GM faces off the shoulders of the GM. You are no longer solely in charge of making the battlefield dynamic, of making combats require more than “I hit as fast and hard as I can.”

This changes the playing experience all on its own and supports a rather impressive array of playstyles that are simply less rewarding without this system.

But what if you actually do want high fantasy, potentially perhaps more significant boons that those assumed by your average Pathfinder adventure? Well, that’s where the book thankfully takes a cue from Spheres of Power: The high-powered, truly potent and more fantastic options are found in their own chapter, codified as legendary talents, organized by sphere. Here, you can, for example, find double jumps à la Devil may Cry, leaving speedster-style afterimages, the rules to make a philosopher’s stone via alchemy, execute Final Fantasy-style dragoon leaps, infinite ammo, generate a staircase of arrows/bolts, fire-breathe alcohol, instantly call animal allies to your side, rip open space and time, generate cyclone cut dual-wield effects, etc., generate vacuum with your strikes – you get the idea. Basically, this chapter includes the more over-the-top, fantastic options. The decision to distinctly set these apart if one of my favorite components in Spheres of Power, and I am glad it was retained here. So yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too. We also get a couple of new feats (and ones referenced, meaning you won’t have to skip books – kudos!) as well as an assortment of new traits and a ton of favored class options. These deserve special mention, for they seem to follow the design paradigm that class/race combos that are slightly less optimal should gain slightly better FCOs. I like that. The book also contains new drawbacks and sphere-specific drawbacks, which can further help customizing martial traditions and differentiate between schools. The equipment section includes some stuff that made my southern German heart swell – I know I need a battle stein! And yes, 10-foot-pole as codified as weapons. Never leave home without it! A few weapon mods and magic components can also be found here.

Now, the book does not leave the GM sitting alone in front of the book. Advice on running cinematic combat, martial monster tactics and talents and traditions – all concisely explained. The book also contains a massive bestiary (CR 1 – 21) of sample monsters modified to use the system and furthermore features an NPC-codex.

Oh, and that’s not all. The final chapter provides a surprisingly tight conversion appendix for Starfinder, which is a definite plus. At the same time, applying the concise conversion notes will take time. Furthermore, while Starfinder is similar to Pathfinder, it is still its own beast, and frankly, I found myself wishing we’d get a full-blown version of the book dedicated exclusively to Starfinder. The conversion guidelines are better than I anticipated, but ultimately, they represent a graft for a system for which this wasn’t necessarily intended.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are pretty damn close. The proof-readers did a very good job here, particularly considering the massive crunch-density of this ginormous tome. Layout adheres to a solid two-column full-color standard and the interior artwork is significantly better than in any other Drop Dead Studios book I’ve read so far. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I do not (YET!) own the print version, so I can’t comment on its merits or lack thereof.

The team of primary authors Adam Meyers, Andrew Stoeckle, Michael Sayre and N. Jolly, with contributions by Amber Underwood and Siobhan Bjorknas, have provided an impressive…

…ah, who am I kidding?? This is a frickin’ masterpiece, pure and simple! Yes, I am not a fan of every single design decision herein, but I adore A LOT about this book. As in 99.999% of it.

As in: O M G, this is amazing. Spheres of Might is a jack-of-all-trades in that it allows for a wide array of different character concepts, but more than that, it actually enhances the experience of playing non-casters by making them significantly more rewarding. The classes are more inspiring than the vast majority of stand-alone classes you can purchase. The very engine this champions enhance the game all on its own, and the design of these martial spheres deserves lavish praise. More than even spellcasting, this completely tweaks, redefines and imho improves a central aspect of the game we all know and love.

Spheres of Might is one of the most inspired, well-crafted books of crunch I have ever read. It is not only well-made, it truly inspired whole settings, while campaign-ideas. Every single aspect of this book, every chapter, sports some truly remarkable ideas and gems. This surpasses Spheres of Power, a book I absolutely love.

The final verdict, hence, should not surprise anyone: This is 5 stars, gets my seal of approval, and is a hot contender for the number one spot of my Top Ten of 2017. Furthermore, this tome represents such an impressive improvement regarding versatility and playing experience quality, that it receives my EZG Essentials-tag – this book should be on the shelf of any self-respecting pathfinder GM.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Might
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Demon Cults & Secret Societies for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2018 11:08:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of this massive tome clocks in at 178 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 171 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: This book references, in some instances, the phenomenal Tome of Beasts. If you don’t have that book, I’d suggest getting it right now. The book also references three installments of the Deep Magic-series: Rune Magic (worth getting), Void Magic (excellent) and Blood & Doom (skip that one). While the book remains functional as a whole sans these other files, the experience is enhanced with them.

Okay, so I’ll actually start the review of this book by covering the final chapter first – in it, we discuss the concept of antipaladins in the context of 5e, represented by two antipaladin oaths. It should be noted that the tweak of the base class chassis as presented in the problematic Deep Magic: Blood and Doom, has not been reproduced herein. The first of the oaths presented here would be the Oath of the Crawling Beyond, which makes copious use of the spells introduced in the excellent Deep Magic: Void Magic file. The channel divinity option of this oath allows you to channel the cold starlight of the void. This only has a range f 10 ft., but on a failed Con-save, the target can’t talk for 1 minute, with saves on subsequent rounds allowing for saves to shake this off. Problematic: While creatures affected can negate this one, they can’t negate the secondary effect, which nets disadvantage on both Dexterity-based and concentration checks until the target completes a long rest. Pretty sure that should be negated on a successful save. The second channel divinity-based option gained here is the void-spun syllable, which forces all creatures within 30 feet to complete your void-syllable into a word, causing your Charisma modifier times d6 psychic damage and stunning the targets until the end of their turn. The verbiage here is slightly odd, as it almost looks like the targets need to complete the syllable on their turn. Upon reaching 5th level, the character gains the Marked feature, which grows tentacles somewhere that increase passive Perception by 2 and provide advantage on Perception checks. 7th level adds blinding to the already strong cold starlight – does it affect those that make the save? No idea. 13th level increases the range to 20 ft. and nets you 10 temporary hit points per target affected, up to a maximum of 20. 15th level nets a damage-increase for void-spun syllables and nets you domination over the targets, with concentration to maintain. The capstone nets you the option to use your action to transform into a horrid beast once per long rest interval, with +2 AC and a size increase, as well as advantage on all attack rolls and successful attacks being treated as critical hits. Creatures witnessing the transformation must save of fall unconscious.

The second oath presented would be the infernal oath, which also introduces two channel divinity options at 3rd level. The first would be the abyssal fires, which inflicts Charisma modifier times 1d8 fire damage to up to 3 creatures – odd: No sight-caveat here. Anyways, creatures that take damage (if they fail their Dex-save) are also charmed for 1 minute, with saves on the end of subsequent turns to shake it off. This also nets you a bonus to atk, ability- and skill-checks and saves equal to the number of creatures charmed with this ability. I am pretty sure that this should have an anti-nova-caveat: RAW, using this feature multiple times could be read as the bonus stacking. The second channel divinity option would be Sow Doubt, which targets 1 creature that can hear you. The target must succeed a Wisdom-save or be unable to take actions or abilities or spell to aid allies for Charisma modifier rounds. Okay, does that include effects that are already in place and require concentration to maintain? Upon reaching 5th level, the character becomes immune to fire damage and gains half the damage you would take as temporary hitpoints, up to a maximum of 10. This would be an infinite temporary hit point shield. Or so the ability would work in theory. The following sentence is right after stating immunity to fire damage: “Additionally, you gain temporary hit points equal to half the amount of fire damage dealt to you, up to a maximum of 10 hit points.” You’re immune. You don’t take fire damage. Thus, you don’t get temporary hit points. Ever. There’s a very important word missing here, namely “would.” 7th level upgrades abyssal fires to target up to 7 targets. At 15th level, sow doubt can apply to up to three creatures. Additionally, half of any damage inflicted to you is divided equally to the affected creatures as fire damage, which can be brutal. The capstone lets you use your action to conjure a 50-ft. column of green fire around you. The pushes targets up to 20 ft. away and deafens them on a failed save. Creatures within 5 ft. of you also take Charisma modifier times 1d10 fire damage on a failed save. You can also have the column topple over sans action, generating a 20-ft.-radius of 4d10 (average damage value included, oddly) fire damage and be grappled by the remains of the fire pillar until the end of the next turn. The chapter also contains 3 new spells, two of which are first level spells: Delay passing temporarily holds a recently slain target’s spirit back for interrogation. Feed the worms targets a creature dropped to 0 hp, which, on a failed Con-save, is instantly consumed and transformed into a swarm of insects. The third spell is the 4th-level wield soul, which is rather potent, as it allows you to tap into a dead creature’s spells or innate spellcasting abilities, choosing one, which you may then cast once as a bonus action. This should have a caveat regarding maximum spell-levels.

Okay, this concludes the antipaladin appendix of sorts, so let’s dive into the respective cults, shall we? Now, organization-wise, each of the cults comes with detailed write-up of its basics regarding organization and goals and the respective leaders are depicted as fully realized NPCs, often with gorgeous artworks. Beyond the named NPC movers and shakers, each of the cult-write ups also features stats for rank and file members of the cult, monsters, if applicable, as well as supplemental material, which depends on the respective cult, but generally represents crunchy bits. Now, as these rules-relevant supplemental materials are clearly intended for use by the antagonists of the PCs, I will judge them as such. Now, if I were to just list each individual statblock herein, we’d bloat this review beyond any immediate usefulness, so I’m taking the broad view here. It should also be mentioned that each of the cults comes with a suggested campaign/adventure-sequence outline of sorts, allowing you to plan the involvement of the cult as appropriate to the level of your party. These outlines deserve special mention, as they’re often rather creative and interesting – and they make the GM’s job easier, so kudos there. It should be noted, though, that these are OUTLINES, not fully realized encounters or campaign plots – they are a suggested skeleton of a plot that you can weave into your game.

It should be noted that the presentation of the cults does not come with backgrounds or the like, as the cults are intended as antagonistic organizations and not as cults for the PCs to join. Fans of Midgard will appreciate the tie-ins of lore for the respective cult entries to the lore of the evocative setting, and, indeed, while the cults can be used in pretty much every setting, they benefit greatly from the tie-ins with Kobold Press’ cult fantasy setting. That being said, some of the cults with deeper ties to Midgard instead come with notes to use them in other settings, which will be appreciated by quite a few readers.

All right, got that? As the following pertains some SPOILERS regarding the nature of the cults in question and their themes and arsenals, I strongly suggest that players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! The first cult would be a classic of sorts for many gamers – the Black Goat’s Flock is classic Cthulhiana, depicting a cult of good ole’ Shub-Niggurath, as seen through the lens of Midgard’s brand of dark fantasy: the cult attempts to reassemble the Veridian Codex, an attempt codified, rules-wise, the fully statted spellbook of one of the movers and shakers of the cult. The cult comes with 3 spells, the first of which would be the curse of formless shape (6th level, druid, wizard), which makes you amorphous and socially not acceptable, nets resistance to slashing and piercing damage and prevents holding items etc.; Morphic flux is a high-level (7th) buff that fortifies against crits etc., grants resistance to piercing and slashing and nets you a bonus action additional unarmed attack, the physical damage type of which you may freely choose. Selfish wish (9th level, sorc and wiz)is basically an evil wish variant that is twisted – something that many a campaign does with regular wishes, but oh well. The cult also gets three decent, if unspectacular items – a defensive cloak and a gore-attack granting mask that also sports a 1/day confusion gaze with a range of 30 ft. The third item would be the maddening Valcrist folio, which nets access to the mind-bending options of Deep Magic: Void Magic, one of my favorites from that series. The spells referenced are NOT reproduced herein. The new monster would be the challenge 9 flame-scourged scion, basically a fire-scorched dark young. The most interesting component here would be two of the three leaders, an androgynous fey from beyond the stars and a super-potent goblin cleric. The third is the man that lent his name to the aforementioned folio.

The next cult would be the first of an array of cults that depict a heresy of an established religion, which may require a bit more fiddling when using non-Midgardian campaigns; here we learn about a heresy of the god Baal-Hotep, deity of dragons and fire. The burning rune cult is led by one Ust-Ziyad, a potent challenge 10 Wisdom-based caster that makes use of the rules presented in Deep Magic: Rune Magic, i.e., he makes use of Midgard’s rune magic. We also get stats for a named phlogiston faerie. The most interesting components here would be the Altar Flame Golem at challenge 10, the new brenna-Þurfa rune and the ability to create timed scorch-bombs, which allows the GM to create some nasty death traps and evoke, through a fantasy lens, some modern anxieties pertaining our own safety in an age of globalized threats and urban guerilla warfare. Minor complaint: The rune bombs in 5e are pretty tame, as they require attunement by a master of the kaunen-rune, limiting how many of them you can potentially place. Personally, I think this makes the cult more tame than it should be and is a pretty crippling downside to it. Pathfinder executed that one better.

While we’re on the topic of heresies, let’s talk about the other cults that can be roughly summarized under this moniker. The first of these would be the Night Cauldron of Chernobog, which, when summed up, can be thought of as radical adherents to darkness, with the ultimate goal of bringing the eternal night. With winter hags and a potent alchemist at the top of their food chain, their methodology does differ significantly from e.g. the burning rune – something that also holds true for the third heresy in the book, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The rank and file members also deserve special mention here, making interesting use of derro, dark folk, etc. As far as supplemental material is concerned, we get a poison that causes both blindness and hamper rests and one that not only poisons for 8 hours, it also seeps away Strength. The spells make use of the Tome of Beasts, spawning a shadow beast from a slain target (6th level, cleric, sorc, wiz) and there is a 9th-level ritual for sorc and wiz that can yield permanent boons…but also result in e.g. vulnerability, if not performed properly.

The new items include a darkness-causing lamp (Seen those before. Often.) and the bituminous orb, which fortifies against necrotic damage and yields advantage on saves vs. radiant damage. The orb can also fire blinding and grappling rays that can be used to hold targets and crush them. Interesting translation of the item that I rather enjoyed.

The third heresy of sorts would be one that should be familiar to fans of Midgard in PFRPG – Selket’s Sting is introduced, for the first time to 5e here. Now, the thing that sets this heresy apart from the previous ones would be pretty obvious – the cult is presented in a manner, where the PCs may actually be servants of the cult. It adheres to a quasi-Egyptian leitmotif and represents basically a religious secret police that executes those that violate Selket’s divine mandate. Now, I have already covered this cult in my review of the Demon Cults-series installment for PFRPG, originally released as stand-alone pdfs to supplement the massive Southlands book. Since there previously was no 5e-iteration, here is what this one is about:

These fanatics include a challenge 8 dwarven master of explosives (whose bombs, oddly, cause force damage) and we get a gynosphinx, including several sample riddles. Downside: Sans Tome of Beasts, you won’t have stats for her – it would have been nice to see the standard gynosphinx stats modified for her. The daughter of Selkhet is a potent challenge 11 chosen of the god, including a giant scorpion mount/companion. Supplemental material-wise, we get a bracer that can help poison weapons and there is a spell to call forth a manabane swarm (stats not included). Oh, and the spell fails to specify for which classes it should be made available. A lost chance would be that, in PFRPG, the “serve the cult”-angle was further developed – in 5e, a background would be appropriate here. (As an aside, a general ex-cultist background would have suited the book rather well.)

So what are the doomspeakers? Are they the homeless persons with the "The end is nigh"-shields? Nope, and neither are they doom metal enthusiasts - in this context, the doomspeakers are the antipaladin champions that have drank deeply from the well of profanity that is the Book of Nine Dooms, chaotic demon-worshippers, one and all. If you're tired by moral conundrums, these guys fit the bill - it doesn't get more evil. These are guys that do not even try to seem morally ambiguous - we have capital E level, vile demon worshippers here and their methods and ideology reflect that. Now, unlike the first installment, we receive a bunch of statblocks, not one - from Narn, a straight challenge 10 evil (anti-)paladin dude (also known for crucifying captured enemies and minions) to a savage challenge 7 gnoll (anti-)paladin, the first two builds are nasty pieces. A somewhat tragic tiefling caster (challenge 9) is a more diverse character - severely mutilated by ignorant townsfolk, her descent into utter darkness was traumatic indeed. A challenge 8 gnoll veteran and an evil bardic type (challenge 6) complement this section. The new magic items here include a bone whip that may temporarily reduce maximum hp 1/day. Primal dooms are basically fiends in a bauble – not a big fan there. The section includes a new spell, the 5th level doom of ancient decreptitude, which is frickin’ OP: 2 levels of exhaustion upon casting, then 1 on subsequent rounds. Considering how fast exhaustion can kill you in 5e, this won’t fly, not even as an enemy-only spell. Sure, it’s a doom-spell and as such affects the caster as well, but yeah. Not a fan. The spell does not specify which classes should be able to cast it.

Next up would be the Emerald Order, a cabal of wizards that serve Thoth-Hermes and deciphered the secrets within the Emerald Tablets, the members have managed to attain increased magical prowess - alas, as per the truism, power corrupts and the Emerald Order, in the time-honored tradition of secret societies, is exerting significant influence of the bodies politic in the realms wherein they have established themselves. Guided in that endeavor are they by their fully statted leader Dromdal-Re, who is one badass challenge 13 caster. The section includes the emerald shard ioun stone that can absorb 5 damage from all incoming attacks, burning out at 120 points. The cult also sports the rules for the potent artifact Emerald Tablets of Thoth-Hermes, which are presented in a rather cool manner. The chapter also provides the stats for the challenge 12 smaragdine golems. In PFRPG, this cult came with a prestige class, and personally, I think that an arcane tradition to reflect the specific tradition would have been nice to see.

The Hand of Nakresh is named for forty-fingered simian demon-god of thieves, with his lower left hand reserved for his most daring of thefts - it is this hand that gives this cult its name. The leadership of the cult is firmly in the hands of the Five Exalted, which receive full-blown statblocks herein - a kobold bomber (challenge 11), a gnoll warrior with a hyenado companion (challenge 8), a derro arcanist (challenge 12), an albino tengu cleric-like caster (challenge 9) and a roach-like (challenge 10) killer make up this illustrious party, which could pretty much be run as an opposing adventurer party, a rival group, should you choose to. There is a new spell herein, a 4th-level variant of mirror image, wherein the duplicates run in random directions if you move - I do like the concept and the spell is functional, but I would have liked to see interaction with damaging terrain - do the images running over such terrain ignore it? I assume so, but this conversely makes finding the true culprit easier. The spell also allows for the changing of positions once per casting. The magic items included feature a monkey’s paw that can provide charge-based rerolls at +10 (feels a bit odd in 5e) and a clockwork siege crab-vehicle, which is pretty damn cool.

The Servants of the White Ape would be a cult that breathes the spirit of sword and sorcery: A disenfranchised aristocrat had to escape into the jungles and stumbled upon a hidden, ruined city, Josef Kranz would have not dreamed that the carnivorous white apes haunting the ruins would one day bow to him - and bow they do, for he is the summoner that commands the Great White Ape, what in PFRPG was his eidolon. In 5e, we get a relatively smooth transition of the entity being akin to their tribal deity. Over years of study and careful planning, the mad master, now known as the New Father, has commanded the white apes in combat, subjugating all that dare oppose him and his simian slaves. Kranz and his powerful avatar of the White Ape receive statblocks (though annoyingly, you have to puzzle together the stats of the standard giant ape and that of the avatar). His simian warriors also receive stats, but that's not all - the awakened apes spread a dreaded condition, the spellscourge, which not only renders those infected into primal, degenerate and evil undead savages, but also allows them to devour magic. Yes, this pretty much could have been drawn from the pen of Rider Haggard or similar authors. The father’s staff wielded by Kranz, makes for a potent staff and we get magic item stats for white ape hide, which is potent armor that has several abilities that can be activated sans action.

There are quite a few new cults beyond these, which had so far not been released for another system: There are those, for example the Chosen of the Demon Bat, who represent, at least at first glance, the servants of Camazotz.

Led by a derro variant vampire (you’ll have to puzzle together the stats here with the MM) with explosive concoctions and a darkness-themed, with a fungus-armored giant, the cult’s elite is interesting and we even get a unique challenge 16 demon bat, Vespertilo – once a high-ranking servant of Camazotz, the mighty demon has been exiled to the material plane and an unholy alliance with the mi-go! This makes the overall feeling of the cult rather distinct. The mi-go stats are in the Tome of Beasts. The cult gets a new feat, Paincaster, which nets advantage on concentration-related Constitution checks, immunity to charmed and frightened conditions while maintaining concentration and, and when a creature ends your concentration, it suffers from disadvantage to saves versus your spells on your next turn. We also get a new hazard with fungal pods and a variant form of strange spellbook with the ebon shards, which require attunement. The cult also gets a thematically-fitting staff as well as magical lenses and there is a new swarm, a poison that renders you unconscious and a spell that calls forth bats or birds to act as spies. Two vehicles are included, the fungal flyer, which is a horribly mutated, fungified dire bat, and the skittering skiff,w hich may once have been a carrion crawler. I liked this bait and switch approach to a cult that starts as straightforward and adds a complicating twist.

The Creed of All Flesh is tied to the concept of the intelligent darakhul ghouls in Midgard and their subterranean empire…and those mortals that crave the flesh of their brethren. Considering how cool the notion of darakhul is in the first place, it should come as no surprise that I consider the darakhul-themed cult as depicted here to be rather interesting. The leadership of the cult clocks in at challenge 10, 13 and 5, respectively, and the respective features of the NPCs are smart. The execution of the respective campaign-sketch is also pretty damn creepy, so yeah, theme-wise, a resounding success as far as cannibal cults are concerned. With magical broths and jerky, a mace-like rod that can attempt to bite creatures and heal the wielder and a nasty tome, these are nice. I am particularly partial to the lavishly-illustrated ghoulsteed mount-undead. One of my favorites herein.

Speaking of the living dead: As you all probably know by now, the Red Goddess Marena would be one of my favorite deities in Midgard; in the vampire-rules principalities of Morgau and Doresh, her worship is open and serves to justify the vampiric rulers; in essence, they are a sort of anti-Catholic-church, one based on a doctrine of tainted life and suffering as a promise for an elevated existence beyond the shroud of death, though here, it is not in some afterlife, but as a reborn vampire. Combine that with elitism and the notion that the deity has elevated the worthy and we arrive at a nice blend of the, by today’s standards, somewhat disquieting concept of divine providence for rulers and vampiric themes, which have resonated through class discourse throughout the ages. Marena also has covert agents, the blood sisters, who act beyond the confines of the vampire-ruled home-bases of the cult. (As an aside: Evil blood-magic nuns are just badass…and this provides the stats of Sister Alkava, probably known from her own little adventure. We also get a variant vampire whose stats you have to puzzle together once more, the stats for the church’s Grand Inquisitor…and yes, before you ask: Marena is also a goddess of lust. Her servants thus control brothels…The cult also includes two new blood magic spells to add to the arsenal presented by the Deep Magic-series, the sanguine spear, a spear of frozen blood drawn from the dead, and the stigmata of the red goddess, which causes the caster to take damage, but also buffs – the lack of concentration required here makes the spell mechanically interesting. The incantation bloodline strike is amazing…and much to my chagrin, completely absent from the 5e-version, which is puzzling, as it represented perhaps the coolest signature move of the cult. A dagger to exsanguinate and a magic scourge complement the supplemental section. The dagger in 5e regains charges on crits, which may be spent for bonus damage or to heal. Unfortunately, the latter lacks limitations. So while you’ll be going through a ton of rats and kittens to heal yourself with it, you can – a simple type or daily limit caveat would have made this work properly. The monsters associated with the cult include the blood hound and a variant blood zombie.

Whereas the blood sisters are basically an organized orthodoxy that is, theme-wise, in line with organized religions, the sanguine path, the second blood-themed cult within, takes a wholly different route: While the connotations of sexuality and hedonism as well as blood consumption remain, that is mostly due to our cultural associations with blood and sexuality, which are inextricably linked. Anyways, the cult is focused more on a theme of hedonism and oracular power, with sacred prostitutes generating a mythological resonance with e.g. the cult of Ishtar, though such associations, ultimately, should not be taken as an indication that the cult is benevolent. It’s not. Leaders that contain vampires, red hags and blood hags should make that clear. All of the leaders require that you piece together their stats, modifying the base creatures from MM and Tome of Beasts. The bloodwhisper cauldron has been demoted to very rare item that provides some healing, foresight and miasma, but loses the wish ability from the PFRPG-version, making it a less compelling cornerstone item for the cult, and decreasing the incentives to join it. Blood strike allows for the transfer of a spell or affliction to another member of the bloodline – which is cool. Once more, no suggested class provided for the ritual. The creature-section include the Blood-bound template, which grants power, but at the price of withdrawal from the elixir that bestows these powers…

The final cult within this tome would be the weavers of truth, which may be the last cult herein, but certainly not the least: The cult is devoted to Pazuzu and basically acts as a magical think-tank of firebrands and misinformation, with deception-focused seductresses, charlatans and the batlike echo demons (challenge 6) making them a formidable cabal of adversaries that probably will need to be fought less with blades and more with roleplaying. This is in particular represented by the absolutely glorious Incantation of Lies Made Truth, which THANKFULLY has been reproduced as a proper 5e-ritual. It can make for an absolutely mind-boggling twist as, it can turn whole organizations, kingdoms or cities around, rewriting what is considered to be truth. I also absolutely adore the carriage of whispers, a hybrid magic item/vehicle that allows a passenger to influence those it passes – which can make for an amazing showdown, in which the PCs turn from celebrated heroes to outcasts, as a whole city suddenly becomes ever more hostile, but this has VAST potential in my book. This cult is by far the most inspired in the book and I am glad to report that its transition to 5e has been executed rather well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good, though somewhat inconsistent regarding the formatting of creature features. On a rules-level, there are a few questionable components herein, but as a whole, the book can be considered to be solid in that aspect. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf contains a ton of really amazing full-color artworks, though fans of Kobold Press may be familiar with some, but by far not all of the pieces. I cannot comment on the physical version of the book, since I do not own it.

Jeff Lee, with additional design by Jon Swatskyand Mike Welham, delivers one massive book of interesting cults. While I do not consider all of the cults herein winners, particularly the doomspeakers and the Shub-Niggurath cult being somewhat less interesting than they should be, I found myself enjoying this book overall. In particular the Red Sisters and the Weavers of Truth make for some truly evocative and formidable adversaries, with the unique blend of the chosen of the demon bat coming in close behind them.

The 5e-version probably has the better bang for buck ratio for you, as the conversions of the respective cults had not been previously released. The cults per se manage to, in more than one case, become rather inspiring, and considering how stat-starved 5e is regarding interesting NPC-statblocks, the pdf may be worth getting for that alone. That being said, I also consider the 5e version to be needlessly inconvenient in quite a few instances. Now, I do not object to variant NPCs per se and I adore templates and think that 5e would benefit from more of them. At the same time, I am somewhat puzzled that quite a few statblocks require that you piece together an NPC’s stat from Monster Manual/Tome of Beasts, when page-count per couldn’t have been the big issue – the 5e-book is briefer than the PFRPG-version. This requires, in short, more prep-time for the GM than what I’d consider to be necessary. All 4 leaders of the Sanguine Path, for example, need to be pieced together thus.

This inconvenience left me with a strange ambivalence regarding the book. On one hand, some of the 5e-conversions are truly inspired; a certain summoner and his white ape come to mind. At the same time, this book feels very much like a conversion in some segments. When we get no background for Selket’s Sting, when the emerald order doesn’t get its own casting tradition…and in the less impressive antipaladin chapter, which, while okay, did not exactly wow me. The supplemental material stood out most when it focused on the story, rather than combat utility or other mechanical aspects.

However, the book, as a whole, makes for a compelling reading experience, with a ton of truly cool storylines to scavenge and modify and something for pretty much all tastes inside. While not perfect, my final verdict will acknowledge the book’s intended focus and cool ideas and thus clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults & Secret Societies for 5th Edition
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In The Company of Fiends
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2018 04:05:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

The revised edition of „In the Company of Fiends“ clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 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.

Now, as always in the series, we begin this supplement with an introduction to the race at hand, written from an in-character perspective. This time around, the race would be the nephilim, and the arguments fielded in favor are twisted, delightful and compelling, worthy of the logical leaps of e.g. Paradise Lost, as the narrator manages to sell, rather compellingly, that “Hell loves you unconditionally”, that “Do what thou wilt” as the whole of the law might well make for a rather compelling maxim to live by. The prose here is rather fantastic, as it is steeped in the unreliable prejudices of the hellish narrator – suffice to say, he has no good things to say about daemons, demons and the like. Fun here: Sidebars throughout the pdf provide somewhat alternate perspectives.

Now, rules-wise, the nephilim race gets +2 Constitution and Charisma, -2 Wisdom, is Medium and gets a base speed of 30 ft. Nephilim are humanoids with the evil subtype as well as a selected humanoid subtype, but are affected by effects that specifically target evil outsiders. As a minor complaint: What if an effect for example targets a nephilim with the elf subtype, granting a buff to the elf, but a debuff to evil outsiders? Which takes precedence? That should be clarified. Nephilim may be raised and returned from the dead as normal, suffering none of the usual outsider restrictions. Nephilim get darkvision 60 ft. and these beings, granted a mortal vessel, are chosen ones of the lower planes of sorts: 1/day, they may target an evil outsider of their subtype with less or equal HD and use command on them, suing character level as CL. If the target has less or equal to half the nephilim’s HD, the effect is charm monster with character level rounds duration instead. If the subtype matches the nephilim’s fiendish ancestry, the SP ignores SR and has a 1-hour duration. Save DC is Charisma-based.

What’s fiendish ancestry? It’s a racial trait wherein you choose one of 8 different fiendish subtypes, ranging from asura to qlippoth, granting an alignment-based subtype as well as passive bonuses to saves versus specific hindrances like poison, disease, etc. as well as minor skill boosts. Bonus types are correctly codified here. The fiendish ancestry also determines the fiendish resistance, generally to two energy types, with some of the ancestries allowing for limited choice of one of them: Devils get resistance 5 fire and may choose from either acid or cold as the second energy type, for example. Each nephilim has a dark master – an at least Balor-level potent being that has a lesser geas with an open-ended request on the nephilim. 8th HD frees from this obligation’s negative effects, btw. Nephilims are inhuman, and people conversing with them get a Sense Motive check to determine that something is afoul. Nephilim treat both material plane and that corresponding with their ancestry as the home plane, and may thus not be banished. Now, alternate racial trait-wise, we have the option to be Small, SÜs and skills to haggle with souls (including the presence of soul gems, etc.), replacing fiendish ancestry with sadism, which here translates to +1 to CL and saves vs. fear and pain effects, as well as +1 morale bonus to attacks versus those affected by them. Improved lying instead of fiendish resistance, being a better oracle, being bloodthirsty – some sinister options here. Cool, btw.: The latter comes with synergy with the dread power class feature – more on that later. Limited poaching of humanoid traits in steps is also a complex rules-operation done right here. Particularly cool: The pdf provides concise rules for becoming a nephilim. The section also provides favored class options for arcanist, barbarian, bloodrager, brawler, cavalier, cleric, fighter, dread (DSP’s psionic class), inquisitor, magus, mesmerist, occultist, paladin, rogue, sorcerer, summoner, warpriest, witch and wizard.

Now, the pdf contains a total of 12 racial feats for the Nephilim: Beyond the “Extra class feature” type, we have a feat that gets id of the Inhuman drawback, courtesy of having broken the humanoid soul trapped within. There’s a multiclass-enabler feat; a high level Style feat that makes unarmed/natural attacks adamantine or improves them further, even taking special DRs into account. There is a feat to enhance your body with grafts, though, being a feat, it provides numerical bonuses – personally, I prefer the subject to be represented with an array of actual grafts. There is a metamagic feat, Hellfire Spell, which labors under the misconception of there being such a thing as unholy damage – which there is not. SIGH AoE-demoralize as a full-round action, with a hex-caveat to prevent abuse, having a Symbiosis with the mortal soul within…some nice ones here. We also have a feat for bonuses versus an outsider type and a hellish one that allows you to twist language-dependent effects with your Linguistics. Really liked that one! High level wish-twisting and seeing a target’s sin is nice. Speaking of which: The pdf provides some really cool food for thought regarding that concept, quoting e.g. Gandhi. This little sidebar on sin inspired me more than many whole books on fiends.

Now, the heart and soul (haha!) of this pdf would be the fiendish exemplar paragon class, who must have an alignment corresponding to the fiendish ancestry, gets d10 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency in simple weapons, and +1 martial/exotic weapon if she does not gain a natural weapon. You see, 1st level nets either a natural weapon, or a proficiency or Improved Unarmed Strike. Natural weapons are correctly codified and weapons chosen can either inflict normal damage or consult a scaling table, which includes entries for Small and Large exemplars. The class gets full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves and ½ AC-progression. If this chassis seems too powerful for your preferred playstyle, fret not, for the book actually provides a second chasses, which only nets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression and comes with a drawback that prevents returning to life. Kudos for going the extra mile to account for table variance here!

Now, the fiendish ancestry chosen as part of the racial traits also determines further bonuses regarding the paragon class – the fiendish ancestry class feature builds on this, with 4th level and every 6 levels thereafter expanding the benefits of resistances, saving throw bonuses and, as soon as it’s granted, determining the DR. Fiendish ancestry also comes into play at 10th level, where it determines the unique aura granted.

Fiendish exemplars also begin play with a so-called dread pool, which contains class level + Charisma modifier points. The pool replenishes once per day after a 1-hour supplication period. Points can be expended as a swift action to grant bonuses to social skills, conceal alignment, duplicate detect desires (nor properly italicized, but comes with a hex-caveat to prevent spamming). Minor complaint here: The pool interacts with the talents of the class, the so-called dread powers, but the latter reference to “1 point of dread power”, a term not established in the pool’s class feature-text. Dread pool should contain “dread points” or “dread power points”, dread powers should probably be called dread talents or the like to set them apart. While this terminology snafu is minor and does not compromise the integrity of the rules per se, it can be somewhat confusing at first and is uncommon to see for both Rite Publishing and the author.

Anyways, the fiendish exemplar begins play with one dread power and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Some of these require specific ancestries and others don’t – as a whole, these represent the active abilities of the class, though a few passive ones can be found as well – even these, however, do allow for some way of spending dread power points. Saves, if relevant, are governed by Charisma. This massive list contains summoning tricks, telepathy, immediate action dispels, charging weapons with negative energy, adding negative levels to strikes, ruin bodies of water, maddening touches, blasts of hellfire (again, incorrect damage types), Empower Spell-Like Ability evil SPs…the section, as a whole, is pretty neat, with some unique effects added: E.g. on a natural 20 on a CL-check with aforementioned dispel, the target must save or be unable to cast divine spells for a round! Cool, right?

Anyways, at 2nd level, and then again at 4th and every two levels thereafter, the class receives a ruinous gift – basically, the massive talent array of passive abilities that the class offers. Some of these turn the exemplar progressively more inhuman and make concealing them harder…and the class feature also notes the skill check to determine the nature of the nephilim. Depending on your fiendish ancestry, you may select some of them sooner: Demodands can become adhesive at 6th level, for example, while others must wait for 10th level. Now, it should be noted that, while I called these “passive”, that is not entirely true – there are a tone of ruinous gifts that allow for additional effects to be added via the expenditure of dread power (points). Faster sprinting, Wisdom damage, resistance boosts, inflicting starvation on targets hit, getting a monstrous girth, spores, exuding shrapnel…there are a ton of customization options here. The capstone provides at-will commune and archfiend apotheosis, which only allows the target to be slain in one specific plane.

The pdf also contains a variety of different archetypes: The antumbra is a paladin shatters the preconceptions of evil nephilim, representing redeemed being, who subsequently replaces mercies with progressively better ways to attempt to redeem others. The corruptor mesmerist gains fiendish ancestry at the cost of one less spell per day, and touch treatment is replaced with scaling effects via touch, usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day, interacting with implanted tricks, if any. These effects include, as the archetype name implies, suggestions, etc. The painfeaster bloodrager receives a variant bloodrage, the so-called sadistic frenzy, which is governed by Charisma. While in this frenzy, the character can execute painful strikes, which behave as a variant sneak that causes non-lethal damage and which may target creatures subject to a fear-based condition or those sickened/nauseated. These specialized strikes only scale when the better bloodrages would be gained, though there is an interesting choice, as the character can enhance their potency by choosing to take some limited lethal damage himself. These painful strikes, however, do grant stacking temporary hitpoints and the ability, impressively, gets the interaction of the complex rules-chassis correct. The painfeaster may choose ruinous gifts instead of bloodline powers and is locked into a fitting bloodline. Higher levels allow for low level spells added upon entering frenzy and adding sickened/nauseated on successful critical hits.

The rules-wise most impressive achievement of this chapter, though, would be the Left Path archetype, which can be applied pretty much universally. The archetype nets a dread pool and allows for the selection of dread powers and ruinous gifts – but comes at a price: Either the character is willing or unwilling – in either way, the archetype pays for the gained power with ever more decreasing autonomy and deeper shackles to the masters of the lower planes. I really enjoyed the storytelling potential here. This is pretty much my favorite rules-component herein.

The final chapter is devoted to magic items, 9 + 1, to be precise. Trophy of the Damned requires a potent sacrifice, but grants access to a dread power once you have quenched its thirst. Fallen reliquaries can store dread power points for passive benefits, but they also act as a battery of sorts, which is interesting. Hellfire brand, bingo, labors under the misconception of unholy damage existing. Mother’s milk temporarily nets eidolon evolutions, but at a hefty ability score drain cost once its duration elapses. There is a piercing that must be worn prominently, but which can make pain instead translate to benefits and redistribute these effects via piercing/slashing weapons. There is a magic whip. A ring to twist language, a vest of misdirection made from saint’s bones, and soul’s essence, an intoxicant for evil outsiders. The final item would be the legacy item lance of the end times, which sports 8 progression levels and requires that you defeat progressively more potent good outsiders to unlock its superb powers. Beyond the more common special weapon abilities added, the lance also allows for 60 ft.-line-attacks at higher levels, coup de grace at range and call forth progressively more potent fiends.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, but not as pitch-perfect as usual for Rite Publishing – there are a couple more typo-level glitches here and a few minor terminology snafus. Layout adheres to the crisp, new full-color two-column standard and the pdf sports quite a few really nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though e.g. archetypes don’t get their individual bookmark.

Okay, I’ll be frank: Theme-wise, this resonates with me on several levels. For one, Paradise Lost’s sentiment “better to reign in hell” always resounded with me; I do not have a shred of faith in me and I’m very, very weary of the Judeo-Christian good/evil-dichotomy that suffuses our cultures and roleplaying games. All my games gravitate towards a more shades of grey mentality. As such, alignment tends to be more fluid in my games, and strange though it may sound, the suggestion of the diversification of the sin-concept is thoroughly compelling to me. Similarly, I found myself gleefully pouring through the logical leaps that the in-character prose provided. The alternate view-points and snippets provided in the sidebars similarly inspired me: Hearing a qlippoth-possessed nephilim claim that he can control the entity before being set ablaze, warning of its freedom being MUCH worse, for example, set the wheels in my mind in motion. Flavor-wise, this ranks as one of the best entries in the whole series.

The concept of the nephilim is inspiring and the execution is similarly performed on a really high and precise level. The scaled version as an alternative was really appreciated as well, allowing even grittier games to take part in the experience presented within. And yet, I found myself slightly less excited than I should have by the mechanics. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but it’s not the few and rather minor hiccups – they universally can be considered to be minor and can be neglected. It’s the scope. The very notion of the nephilim and what we associated with the various outsiders covers a TON of ground. Oddly and paradoxically, more so than even the aberrations, because the nephilim, as presented, are strongly charged with ideologies. As such, there are so many things that we expect from them, so many areas and tricks, that ultimately, this felt somewhat like the original, non-expanded “In the Company of Dragons” – it does a formidable job at depicting the notion of a playable fiend, but it cannot, by sheer scope, cover all the bases. This may be the one shortcoming of the pdf, for the concept presented by the race is genius in the hands of a good roleplayer. The notion of possession, of the diverse means of codifying the relationship between possessor and possessee, are interesting and narrative gold; so is the universal left hand archetype. On the other hand, mesmerist, items, the redeemer-pala…while well-executed, they feel slightly less mind-blowing than usual for the series.

Now, it is important to note that I am complaining at a very high level here – this is a very good book that contains a lot of really cool options. This is definitely worth owning and it can inspire whole campaigns. It may not be perfect, but my final verdict will still clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Fiends
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Demon Cults & Secret Societies for PFRPG
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2018 04:01:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The PFRPG-version of the massive Demon Cults & Secret Societies book clocks in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2/3rds of a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 209 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so I’ll actually start the review of this book by covering the final chapter first – in it, we discuss the antipaladin class in a way that is actually helpful – we begin with a brief summary of how to handle the fall from being a paladin to becoming an anitpaladin – as the book astutely observes, the personality structure of the paladin is, paradoxically, closer to its evil mirror than e.g. a regular or more moderate foot soldier would be to becoming a champion of darkness. This goes two ways, though, and similarly, an antipaladin’s road to redemption, though significantly less often depicted in gaming (in fact, I couldn’t name one example at the top of my hat), is definitely one that deserves consideration. We also discuss perhaps one of the most underutilized class features EVER, namely plague bringer. While theoretically interesting and wide open, the lack of clarification of how disease vectors spread has left this ability somewhat hamstrung in the eyes of many players and GMs, also courtesy of the general design and rules-paradigms of PFRPG. As such, this section provides some clarification for spreading pestilence without slowing the game unduly. The pdf also provides an array of new antipaladin cruelties. These include scaling bleed damage, dropping anything carried in the hands or spellcasting hampering…and, e.g., forgetting the last round. At higher levels, we get halted fast healing/regeneration, temporarily phasing out of existence or losing ALL energy resistance and DR, all SR, being temporarily petrified…or, at 18th level, dying if the target has less than 100 hp. There are some problems here, namely the clear codification of offense-options. The spellcasting hampering option, for example, is flavor-wise clearly a pain effect, but is not classified as such. The kill-if-below-100-hp cruelty should definitely be a death effect and as such, preventable. Petrification should be classified as a transmutation effect…you get the idea. It’s not that the cruelties are bad, it’s just that their interactions with defensive tricks RAW bypass immunities and defenses they should not bypass.

The pdf also contains a total of 8 different antipaladin archetypes: The Bloodwarg replaces spellcasting and the derived ability to use spell-trigger and spell-completion items, with wild shape. Fury knights follow the same design-paradigm, but get rage at -3 class levels instead. The Deathbolt Master replaces touch of corruption with a 30 ft.-range ranged touch attack that may deal damage or heal undead, but pays for this flexibility with decreased damage – only 1 per class level. The goremaster does not add Cha-mod to atk when smiting, but instead inflicts + Cha-mod as bleed damage when smiting. They are locked into the new bleed damage-causing cruelty, and their channel energy is based on d4s instead, but also inflicts minor bleed damage. When casting a spell classified as Blood Magic, as per the Deep Magic book, they increase their CL by 2 and the DC by 1. At 8th level, targets within 10 ft. take +50% bleed damage; this excess bleed damage is gained as temporary hit points, replacing aura of despair.

Knights of hellfire are LE and replace fiendish boon with scaling, modified summon monster SPs, usable Cha-mod times per day. Thankfully, only one such effect may be in effect at any given time, preventing annoying battle-field flooding. Aura of despair is replaced with darkvision and poison immunity and 9th level’s cruelty is replaced with acid and cold resistance 5, fire resistance 10. 11th level yields perfect sight in any darkness and telepathy with a range of 100 ft., replacing aura of vengeance. 15th level provides immunity to fire as well as acid and cold resistance 10 and his attacks count as lawful and evil instead of the usual cruelty. 20th level provides a devil apotheosis. The knight of many eyes, in contrast, would be an antipaladin devoted to the squirming things from the dark tapestry. Instead of fiendish boon, we get a tentacle attack (alas, not codified re primary/secondary, requiring defaulting) and eyes that prevent flaking, darkvision as well as a scaling chance of ignoring critical hits and precision damage from sneak attacks. Minor complaint regarding formatting: Reference to armor special abilities have not been properly italicized in the abilities. Higher levels add grab to the tentacles and add more tentacles gained. The capstone, unsurprisingly, would be an aberration apotheosis. The third knight-based archetype is basically a palette-swapped knight of hellfire: The knight of the abyss is, design-paradigm-wise, akin to its infernal brethren, just replaces the minor, defensive abilities gained with ones that are more in line with a demonic leitmotif.

Finally, the plaguebearer gets Heal as a class skill, is locked into the plague cruelty at 3rd level and at 5th level, replaces fiendish boon with an upgrade to the disease DC as well as immediate onset, making it more immediately useful in combat. Instead of aura of despair, the archetype gains the new Corrupting Smite feat, which adds a free cruelty to the first attack that hits and is executed against a target of your smite, with a Fort-save DC based on class level and Cha to negate. 11th level replaces aura of vengeance with another new feat, namely Channeled Cruelty. This feat nets you the ability to channel at half damage, but add a cruelty to the effect, with successful saves negating the channel altogether. 14th level replaces aura of sin with a +2 insight bonus to atk and damage versus diseased targets and 17th level nets DR 5/good as well as a penalty to saves versus diseases for nearby targets. The capstone yields further DR-increase as well as the option to afflict targets of smite with all plagues; same goes for channel, but at no damage instead. I like the theme of this fellow, but considering the amount of creatures immune to disease, it would have made sense to have some option to at least temporarily negate that.

The chapter also contains 7 spells, which include asking a spirit questions by delaying its departure from this plane, a charm person variant that only works against those affected by a fear-condition (including a mass version) and there is a death knell variant that also conjures forth a cockroach swarm. One spell sickens a target that is wounded sans save (and, as a litany spell, it can’t be combo’d with other litanies). There is a spell that temporarily lets a target detect as evil for the purposes of spell interactions sans forcing alignment changes and there is a better coup-de-grace type of spell that nets temporary access to 1 spell or SP with a casting time of 1 standard action or less of the deceased target. Personally, I think the spell should have a cap on the HD of the creature it can affect.

The pdf also provides an array of feats for antipaladins beyond those I already covered above. One nets the option to make a touch of corruption-based short-range aura, one imposes a -4 penalty to saves versus the antipaladin’s spells and SPs to targets of smite. Interesting: Use two uses of smite good to smite an evil target as though good – makes sense to me. High level double-cruelty inflicting also makes sense, And there is an option to expand auras as well as a +2 DC increase for cruelties. Now, Fast Corruption is a feat I would not allow in all my games, as it allows the antipaladin to execute touch of corruption as a regular attack, which makes the class feature behave rather nova-like. I liked the Misleading Aura, which fortifies against detection. Two feats allow for the combination of touch of corruption and cruelties with unarmed attacks. Finally, there would be Personal Sacrifice, which is pretty potent, as it allows you to accept 2 points of burn to use smite good/evil sans expending a daily use. Similarly, touch of corruption or lay on hands may be sued for 1 point of burn sans expending a use. The feat does have a problem regarding its rules-interactions: The kineticist’s burn is governed by CHARACTER level, whereas the feat erroneously references CLASS level. That should definitely be character level, otherwise the whole burn engine becomes wonky.

The chapter closes with a CR 7 and CR 14 sample antipaladin.

Okay, so this concludes the antipaladin appendix of sorts, so let’s dive into the respective cults, shall we? Now, organization-wise, each of the cults comes with detailed write-up of its basics regarding organization and goals and the respective leaders are depicted as fully realized NPCs, often with gorgeous artworks. Beyond the named NPC movers and shakers, each of the cult-write ups also features stats for rank and file members of the cult, monsters, if applicable, as well as supplemental material, which depends on the respective cult, but generally represents crunchy bits. Now, as these rules-relevant supplemental materials are clearly intended for use by the antagonists of the PCs, I will judge them as such. Now, if I were to just list each individual statblock herein, we’d bloat this review beyond any immediate usefulness, so I’m taking the broad view here. It should also be mentioned that each of the cults comes with a suggested campaign/adventure-sequence outline of sorts, allowing you to plan the involvement of the cult as appropriate to the APL of your party. These outlines deserve special mention, as they’re often rather creative and interesting – and they make the GM’s job easier, so kudos there. It should be noted, though, that these are OUTLINES, not fully realized encounters or campaign plots – they are a suggested skeleton of a plot that you can weave into your game.

It should be noted that none of the cults make use of the fame/reputation-mechanics, as they are intended as antagonistic organizations and not as cults for the PCs to join. Fans of Midgard will appreciate the tie-ins of lore for the respective cult entries to the lore of the evocative setting, and, indeed, while the cults can be used in pretty much every setting, they benefit greatly from the tie-ins with Kobold Press’ cult fantasy setting. That being said, some of the cults with deeper ties to Midgard instead come with notes to use them in other settings, which will be appreciated by quite a few readers.

All right, got that? As the following pertains some SPOILERS regarding the nature of the cults in question and their themes and arsenals, I strongly suggest that players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! The first cult would be a classic of sorts for many gamers – the Black Goat’s Flock is classic Cthulhiana, depicting a cult of good ole’ Shub-Niggurath, as seen through the lens of Midgard’s brand of dark fantasy: the cult attempts to reassemble the Veridian Codex, an attempt codified, rules-wise, the fully statted spellbook of one of the movers and shakers of the cult. The cult comes with 3 spells, the first of which would be the curse of formless shape, which makes you amorphous and socially not acceptable, hampers movement and prevents holding items etc.; Morphic flux is a high-level buff that fortifies against crits etc., grants all-around vision and nets you a slam. Selfish wish is basically an 8th level, evil wish variant that is twisted – something that many a campaign does with regular wishes, but oh well. The cult also gets two decent, if unspectacular items – a defensive cloak and a gore-granting mask. The new monster would be the CR 12 flame-scourged scion, basically a fire-scorched dark young. The most interesting component here would be two leaders, an androgynous fey from beyond the stars and a super-potent goblin cleric.

The next cult would be the first of an array of cults that depict a heresy of an established religion, which may require a bit more fiddling when using non-Midgardian campaigns, here a heresy of the god Baal-Hotep, deity of dragons and fire. The burning rune cult is led by one Ust-Ziyad, a potent CR 13 oracle and makes use of Midgard’s rune magic. The most interesting components here would be the Altar Flame Golem at CR 12, the new brenna-Þurfa rune and the ability to create timed scorch-bombs, which allows the GM to create some nasty death traps and evoke, through a fantasy lens, some modern anxieties pertaining our own safety in an age of globalized threats and urban guerilla warfare.

While we’re on the topic of heresies, let’s talk about the other cults that can be roughly summarized under this moniker. The first of these would be the Night Cauldron of Chernobog, which, when summed up, can be thought of as radical adherents to darkness, with the ultimate goal of bringing the eternal night. With winter hags and a potent alchemist at the top of their food chain, their methodology does differ significantly from e.g. the burning rune – something that also holds true for the third heresy in the book, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The rank and file members also deserve special mention here, making interesting use of the vast array of NPC-races. As far as supplemental material is concerned, we get a poison that causes both blindness and Wisdom damage and a spell that “…if it gained the phantasmal creature template (Midgard Bestiary) at 50% real.” Yeah, that’s not how this is usually worded; flipping up my Midgard Bestiary, the reason becomes pretty apparent: The template distinguished between different degrees of reality. Still, the spell proceeds to talk about “effectiveness” and non-rules-language entities, instead of concisely summing up the benefits of the template. RAW, this is not functional and really wonky to implement. The new items include a darkness-causing lamp (Seen those before. Often.) and an interesting dirk that renders the target incorporeal as well as potentially staggered, which can be rather intriguing. The write-up also includes a minor artifact, the bituminous orb, which fortifies against positive energy, and which may cause enervation as well as a 1/day Str-draining buff to CMB and CMD. Once more, the rules-language here isn’t perfect. On the plus-side, we do get a cool occult ritual that represents the followers undergoing a transformation into beings more aligned with shadow. I really liked that one. The CR 6 contaminant shade is a more devious take on the shadow, which I found myself enjoying.

The third heresy of sorts would be one that should be familiar to fans of Midgard in PFRPG – Selket’s Sting. Now, the thing that sets this heresy apart from the previous ones would be pretty obvious – the cult is presented in a manner, where the PCs may actually be servants of the cult. It adheres to a quasi-Egyptian leitmotif and represents basically a religious secret police that executes those that violate Selket’s divine mandate. Now, I have already covered this cult in my review of the Demon Cults-series installment, originally released as stand-alone pdfs to supplement the massive Southlands book.

In fact, this book, apart from its new content, acts as a compilation of sorts for the previously-released PFRPG-Demon Cults-series. This means that the Sword & Sorcery-themed cabal dubbed the Emerald Order of Thoth-Hermes, the somewhat generic order of antipaladins called Doomspeakers and the cool, highly uncommon crime-syndicate Hand of Nakresh can be found herein. Similarly, the Servants of the White Ape under the command of their potent summoner overlord can be found within the pages of this tome. Since I have already covered all of these in excruciating detail, I’ll just point you towards these reviews instead for the details – just click on the “Demon Cults”-tag on my homepage, and you’ll have them all conveniently listed.

There are quite a few new cults beyond these, those – for example, the Chosen of the Demon Bat, who represent, at least at first glance, the servants of Camazotz. Led by a derro alchemist and a masked oracle, with an advanced fungal cave giant, the cult’s elite is interesting and we even get a unique CR 18 demon bat, Vespertillo – once a high-ranking servant of Camazotz, the mighty demon has been exiled to the material plane and an unholy alliance with the mi-go! This makes the overall feeling of the cult rather distinct. The cult gets a decent, if somewhat unremarkable feat that nets a bonus to concentration when injured while casting. We also get a new hazard with fungal pods and a variant form of strange spellbook with the ebon shards. The cult also gets a thematically-fitting staff as well as magical lenses and there is a new swarm, a poison that renders you unconscious and a spell that calls forth bats or birds to act as spies. Two vehicles are included, the fungal flyer and skittering skiff. I liked this bait and switch approach to a cult that starts as straightforward and adds a complicating twist.

The Creed of All Flesh is tied to the concept of the intelligent darakhul ghouls in Midgard and their subterranean empire…and those mrtals that crave the flesh of their brethren. Considering how cool the notion of darakhul is in the first place, it should come as no surprise that I consider the darakhul-themed cult as depicted here and interesting. On a mechanical perspective, I liked the notion of a DR that can either be bypassed by magic or while in daylight, and the options previously presented in Midgard supplements that are copiously used in the NPC builds help to set them apart. The execution of the respective campaign-sketch is also pretty damn creepy, so yeah, theme-wise, a resounding success as far as cannibal cults are concerned. With magical broths and jerky, a mace-like rod that can attempt to swallow and bite creatures and a nasty tome, these are nice. I am particularly partial to the lavishly-illustrated Greater Festrog mount-undead. One of my favorites herein.

Speaking of the living dead: As you all probably know by now, the Red Goddess Marena would be one of my favorite deities in Midgard; in the vampire-rules principalities of Morgau and Doresh, her worship is open and serves to justify the vampiric rulers; in essence, they are a sort of anti-Catholic-church, one based on a doctrine of tainted life and suffering as a promise for an elevated existence beyond the shroud of death, though here, it is not in some afterlife, but as a reborn vampire. Combine that with elitism and the notion that the deity has elevated the worthy and we arrive at a nice blend of the, by today’s standards, concept of divine providence for rulers and vampiric themes. Marena also has covert agents, the blood sisters, who act beyond the confines of the vampire-ruled home-bases of the cult. (As an aside: Evil blood-magic nuns are just badass…and with the stats herein, you can use Kobold Press’ “Blood Vaults of Sister Alkava” with minimal fuss – the stats of the sister are included herein, alongside a potent vampire mesmerist, the stats for the church’s Grand Inquisitor…and yes, before you ask: Marena is also a goddess of lust. Her servants thus control brothels…The cult also includes two new blood magic spells to add to the arsenal presented by Deep Magic, the sanguine spear, a spear of frozen blood drawn from the dead, and the stigmata of the red goddess, which causes bleed to the caster, but also buffs. The incantation bloodline strike is amazing: Capture a target of a bloodline and make it thus a conduit to target other members of it. Classic and well executed. An dagger to exsanguinate and a magic scourge complement the supplemental section. The monsters associated with the cult include the blood familiar and blood zombie templates as well as the blood pudding creature.

Whereas the blood sisters are basically an organized orthodoxy that is, theme-wise, in line with organized religions, the sanguine path, the second blood-themed cult within, takes a wholly different route: While the connotations of sexuality and hedonism as well as blood consumption remain, that is mostly due to our cultural associations with blood and sexuality, which are inextricably linked. Anyways, the cult is focused more on a theme of hedonism and oracular power, with sacred prostitutes generating a mythological resonance with e.g. the cult of Ishtar, though such associations, ultimately, should not be taken as an indication that the cult is benevolent. It’s not. Leaders that contain vampires, red hags and blood hags should make that clear. There are two feats to supplement the cult, which are both highly specific and focused on enhancing blood-based divinations, which makes them less useful for PCs. The bloodwhisper cauldron is an artifact that provides some spells and which can 1/year generate a wish (not italicized in the book). Blood strike allows for the transfer of a spell or affliction to another member of the bloodline. The creatures include the Blood-bound template, which grants power, but at the price of withdrawal from the elixir that bestows these powers…

The final cult within this tome would be the weavers of truth, which may be the last cult herein, but certainly not the least: The cult is devoted to Pazuzu and basically acts as a magical think-tank of firebrands and misinformation, with deception-focused clerics, charlatans and the batlike echo demons making them a formidable cabal of adversaries that probably will need to be fought less with blades and more with roleplaying. This is in particular represented by the absolutely glorious Incantation of Lies Made Truth, which can make for an absolutely mind-boggling twist as an occult ritual. I also absolutely adore the carriage of whispers, a hybrid magic item/vehicle that allows a passenger to influence those it passes – which can make for an amazing showdown, in which the PCs turn from celebrated heroes to outcasts, as a whole city suddenly becomes ever more hostile, but this has VAST potential in my book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are very good, if not perfect: I noticed a couple of formal glitches, missed italicizations etc. as well as a few components where the rules-language could have been tighter. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf contains a ton of really amazing full-color artworks, though fans of Kobold Press may be familiar with some, but by far not all of the pieces. I cannot comment on the physical version of the book, since I do not own it.

Jeff Lee, with additional design by Jeff Gomez and Mike Welham, delivers one massive book of interesting cults. While I do not consider all of the cults herein winners, particularly the doomspeakers and the Shub-Niggurath cult being somewhat less interesting than they should be, I found myself enjoying this book overall. In particular the Red Sisters and the Weavers of Truth make for some truly evocative and formidable adversaries, with the unique blend of the chosen of the demon bat coming in close behind them. I also found myself inspired by the cultists of the burning rune and my take on the old cults and new ones should by now be pretty apparent. In short: This is per se a very good book regarding its ideas and the plentiful statblocks for NPCs and monsters add further value for the GM. That being said, the rules-components beyond these left me less impressed. The antipaladin chapter, while okay, did not exactly wow me and the supplemental material stood out most when it focused on the story, rather than combat utility – the rituals and incantations are infinitely more interesting than the regular spells and items. In the mechanical aspect beyond NPCs/monsters, I’d consider this to be a 3.5 – 4-file, at best.

However, the book, as a whole, makes for a compelling reading experience, with a ton of truly cool storylines to scavenge and modify and something for pretty much all tastes inside. While not perfect, my final verdict will acknowledge the book’s intended focus and cool ideas and thus clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up from that verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults & Secret Societies for PFRPG
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Deadly Delves: The Dragon's Dream (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2018 06:27:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This is a high-level adventure, intended for characters of 16th level, and should bring them to 17th level by its conclusion. This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! Cout Larom has ordered the excavation of an ancient site, rumored to be the final resting place of the mighty crypt dragon Roanax. This mighty specimen, back when dragon’s ruled the region, was slain in a concerted effort by several of its lesser peers. However, when the magnificent beast was about to draw her last breath, she managed to draw herself, her hoard and her assailants into the eponymous dragon’s dream, endlessly living out her memories, the realities of dream slowly corrupting and changing her would-be slayers. Now, only her skull bears witness to the passage of aeons. The aforementioned excavation did, consequently, not find the mighty dragon’s hoard, merely her skull – and they reactivated its magic. The poor sods were drawn into the mighty dragon’s dream, slain and trapped…or enslaved by the horrid caricatures that Roanax’ foes had become. To complicate matters more, it seems like the dream can capture souls, creating a false afterlife of sorts, which has attracted the attention of a cadre of psychopomps, who fear that the dragon’s dream may well spiral out of control. Sounds awesome, right? While PCs are probably hired by the count to help salvage his archaeological expedition, the stakes may well become much higher…fast.

Now, the set-up for the module is actually more detailed than what you’d expect – we get read-aloud text for the count’s estate, as well as some serious notes pertaining legwork that the PCs might undertake to know what they’re getting into. Now, heroes of this caliber don’t grow on trees, and as such, the count is not above mentioning the fabled treasures that ostensibly can be found in Roanax’ hoard. As the PCs approach the singing pit, as the doomed location has become known locally, they will be greeted by further complications: The site has been occupied by a small tribe of stone giants (custom stats included), led by Verot the Godling, a horrid, dominating CR 17 ooze that brought me way back to Book of Beasts: Legendary Foes. And yes, the stats of the monster have been provided as well. When the godling is slain, a warped mass of draconic remnants manifests from its slimy hide, providing a first hint of some truly potent, mutating factors here. It should also be noted that the PCs can obviously meet aforementioned psychopomps and, hopefully, secure their aid: Consulting their meticulously researched material may provide some interesting hints. If the godling is defeated and the PCs are sufficiently charismatic, they may even secure the aif of the powerful outsiders. They’ll need it.

Further exploration of the lavishly-mapped pit will yield the remnants of a wasted opera house, where banshees act as singers, and the once proud green dragon Brithorn has been transformed into a forest blight. Corrupting dreams manifest as a specialized haunt that is susceptible to additional forces, and a dybbuk…and ultimately, they’ll reach the skull. Here’s to hoping that they befriended the psychopomps – Rakeshta is stationed here, and she is an olethros, which clocks her in at CR 17.

Activating the skull will drag mortals, including native outsiders and outsiders bound to characters, right into the dragon’s dream – and it is there that the PCs will need to go! The dragon’s dream itself is the main dungeon, and it is unique indeed: The complex begins rather regularly, with an orrery that can, when positioned correctly, open a door – failure will result in a battle versus a potent demodand. However, the truly amazing and captivating component of the dungeon would be the dragon’s memories. Throughout the complex, globes of light represent scenes from the dragon’s life, and touching them allows the PCs to live through the experiences of Roanax! Each of the memories has a condition to succeed, and once it is met, the light dims. Failure does allow for retries, provided the PCs in question survive the respective experience. This may not sound like much, but these vignettes are a perfect way to show the PCs the history of the mighty dragon, the trials and tribulations faced, all while they’re making their way past the potent guardians of the complex: Rune giants, mithril golems, jacks-in-iron, nightshade nightwalker with shadow giants…the regular enemies in the dream are no pushovers, with Roanax’ erstwhile vanquishers twisted into a series of exceedingly potent boss-monsters. The dreams themselves, which, while solvable via rollplaying and studded with DCs, are something that many of the more technically-minded high-level modules forget: Excellent venues for creative roleplaying.

I can picture many a player chuckling, when, in the skin of a mighty dragon, talking to an elven archmage who claims that he can’t teach more to such a magnificent being. The role-reversal is simply fun. From the banner of legions to mighty Roanax’ spellcrown, the dungeon also offers loot for particularly capable individuals. In particular the mighty staff of sands, focusing on time manipulation and memory tweaking as well as prescience can make for a formidable tool. Soul-trapping statues are just one of the examples where the forces faced require PCs to be up to their A-game. The dreams also contain vital information regarding this place. Ultimately, the PCs will thus progress through ahigh-light reel of the mighty dragon’s life, finally confronting the CR 19 variant old crypt dragon. Here’s the thing: The echo of the mighty dragon draws sustenance from unresolved memories and the fabled treasures she hoarded: Each potent item not claimed will yield her formidable powers; memories not overcome will manifest as shining children – up to 8 of them! If the PCs were sloppy during their exploration, they will probably have no chance to regret their decisions, for the dragon on her own is already a formidable foe! In a smart move, the optional boons granted by the mighty items are not included in the statblock, which means you won’t have to do a ton of reverse-engineering. Good call!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups in either formal or rules-language categories. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard. The artworks deserve special mentioning: The pdf sports a lot of really nice full-color artworks, including a glorious one-page version of the cover art. Aesthetically, there’s nothing to complain here. This also extends to the full color cartography by Justin Andrew Mason, which is excellent and evocative. Better yet, the module comes with an accompanying map-booklet that contains not one, but TWO different player-friendly versions of the maps! One of them sports details like ladders, blood-spatters and grids, while the other is completely barebones. Dear publishers, that’s how good map-support is done!

Landon Winkler’s “Dragon’s Dream” is a rare beast indeed: First of all, it is a high level module, a lamentably rare breed of adventure in itself. Now, the deadly delves series of adventures is pretty impressive in its technical aspects – the challenges posed etc. are generally interesting, and this holds true here as well. However, the module truly excels in its storytelling: There is a ton of interesting roleplaying potential suffusing the pdf, and the adventure ultimately rewards for the PCs caring, being invested in the story, etc. The backdrop is intriguing as well, with the bosses all chosen to signify something – which may become apparent to the PCs as they progress through the adventure. What first may seem a bit haphazard turns out to be a rather methodical theme. The furious final fight makes for a sufficiently brutal endgame scenario, and if your PCs try to get cocky and nova the scenario, they’ll soon realize that the dream’s eternal nature may just result in undead or twisted versions of their defeated foes – so no rest/kill/rest-15-minute-adventure day-ing either. (As an aside advice, dear GMs: This is where you pull out all those delightfully twisted templates from e.g. Rite’s Pathways Bestiary and similar sources and go to town…)

The module does not attempt to account for the vast capabilities of PCVs of this level, but its premise and set-up means that it doesn’t really have to. Once in the dream, the PCs are trapped, but otherwise, we have all the basic covered and enough guidelines to handle this as a proper and well-crafted high-level exploration. In short: This is an excellent module. The craftsmanship and production values are impressive, and the book manages to evoke a unique and concise atmosphere that breathes evocative high fantasy. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval – Well done indeed, Mr. Winkler!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: The Dragon's Dream (PFRPG)
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Tyrants of Saggakar: Onero: City of Sins
Publisher: First Ones Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2018 06:26:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

Now, this supplement is situated in the Tyrants of Saggakar setting, which is intended as a vehicle for a “living” campaign. The setting has evolved out of the concept of LPJ Design’s NeoExodus, but has its very own theme and atmosphere. That being said, you don’t have to participate in the living campaign to make use of this supplement – what we have here is, in essence, a city, or rather, town backdrop of sorts. The city also serves as the backdrop for the “Paths to Ambition”-sequence of adventures, but for the purpose of this review, I will focus on taking a look at the general usefulness of the town. It should be noted that slavery and servitude and the massive control exerted by the First Ones serves as a central focus of the setting, as a sort of leitmotif – Onero, contrasted with that notion, is a city sans master, one that, in the tradition of many a den of vice, is shackled by the vices and freedom, by the decadence it breathes and requires to sustain itself.

Onero, obviously, is name-wise, smart as a choice, evoking both Nero and onereic connotations, and indeed, this dream-like haze constitutes a central leitmotif of sorts for this den of sin. We begin the supplement proper with a breakdown of the city, commenting on details like currency, imports, military, etc., and also sporting a settlement statblock. With the populace rather self-absorbed and uncaring, the alignment of the town is stated as CE, though its not the demon-worshipping type, but rather the uncaring “everyone for him/herself”-attitude that makes this den of sin a tough place to live in.

We also get a brief history of the city, which contextualizes Onero within the context of the setting, but as noted before, adaption is pretty simple. The vicinity of the town is also described, mentioning peaks where erstwhile prisons may now languish without master, Cinder Valley, eternally warm, where fabled Saggakar ostensibly came to the world, burning eternally. A sinkhole and a canyon faced by strange fortresses, dubbed the “unblinking sentinels,” complement a rather fantastic and interesting environment to situate the city.

Onero has three main gates and is dissected by the massive Markhem River, which also lends the name to 4 of the 7 districts of the town: North- East-, West- and Southbank are 4 of them, with food court, park and lecher’s ward being the others. The city comes with a rudimentary map, with districts color-coded, but remains, in that component, rather focused on broad strokes. There is no player-friendly extra version of the map per se. Each of the districts then proceeds to get its own write-up, with rulers noted and sites of interest briefly mentioned. These have not been noted on the map provided, so you’ll have to place them yourself. From fabled smiths to freak shows and gambling halls, the city sports all the illicit entertainment you could desire. Personally, I enjoyed that the most wealthy district, Northbank, sports gaslight, implying a level of progress more akin to the Victorian era than to the default medieval standards, something mirrored in points of interest like the museum of vanities The fact that there is a whole district devoted to the vices of the flesh also underlines a latent fin de siècle feeling, something I very much like – ruined abbeys now turned to drug dens and the like add further to the leitmotif of decay and decadence.

The pdf then proceeds to talk about the social strata of the city; the differences to the rather oppressive truths of the setting are noted here. The pdf then proceeds to introduce us to 15 movers and shakers in the city, with gender, race and class, if any, noted. However, neither class levels to gage relative power, nor stats are provided for these beings. We also learn briefly of outside influences that tamper with the city and proceed to discuss adventure locales: There is a cavern that spirits folks into the Mists (cue obligatory Ravenloft reference); a fortress that acted as a gargoyle nest, and now, with the gargoyles purged, houses a potent oracle. The cemetery of the city is maintained by the church of Sanlys, requiring gold to prevent the selling of corpses as undead. We also receive a whole page of various adventure hooks for you to develop, and the final page of the supplement is devoted to a new creature, the prickle, also known as the porcupine-rat, a rather dangerous form of vermin that is rather common in the sewers of the city.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, with the company’s logo in the background, the colored header at the top of each page. Interior artwork is a blending of public domain artwork and stock art – personally, I preferred the public domain pieces. The cartography is okay, but the lack of points of interest noted makes it less useful than it should be. The lack of a player-friendly version is also a bit of a pity. The pdf sports a pretty big downside, comfort-wise: The pdf has no bookmarks, making navigation less comfortable than it should be.

Randy Price and JP Chapleau present a city that I consider, per se, really cool. – the city has a strong leitmotif, and while I would have loved to see a tighter focus on adventures within the city, rather than in the vicinity, the material provided is per se intriguing. I enjoy the premise, and the writing is well-crafted, managing to evoke and eclectic and concise atmosphere. At the same time, the formal criteria like cartography and the puzzling lack of bookmarks drag down the rating of this supplement.

Onero, in spite of its per se concise atmosphere, also feels a bit less alive due to the broad strokes approach: While I know a lot about the power-structures and key locales of the city, I have a harder time picturing how the experience of actually walking down one of its streets would feel. Here, e.g. Raging Swan Press’s supplements, with their abundance of notes on sample events, local color and the like, offer the more compelling and immediately useful material. Similarly, neither local nomenclature or, dressing habits, street names, etc…. you know, the small bits that make a place come truly alive, are really discussed, and the prominence of the river intersecting the town could have been developed further. On the other hand, the city as a whole comes at a very low price point and offers captivating prose and cool ideas for the price point. How to rate this, then? Well, for me, this city represents a captivating location, though one that doesn’t manage to realize its full potential. While I’d usually round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, the comfort detriments, in particularly the lack of bookmarks, force me to round down instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tyrants of Saggakar: Onero: City of Sins
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Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2018 04:11:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

After a brief introduction, we’re introduced to the Fiendish Wastes – what’s that, you ask? Well, picture a section of hyperspace where planar boundaries collapsed, fusing a section of the abyss with hell. Yes, that means demons and devils in the same region. No, the results are not pretty. When attempting to cast a spell in the fiendish wastes, a character must succeed a Will save versus DC 18 or have the caster level reduced by 2. I assume to a minimum of 1, since no notes are provided for a caster level that sinks to 0 or below, though one could conceivably argue that spell failure would be a possibility. So yeah, this needs a bit of clarification. On a natural 1, the caster may also suffer from one of 7 nasty mishaps, which can result in confusion, fire damage to the caster, etc. The sequence is not 100% clear in all cases: “As soon as the spell is cast” could be read as when it is cast or after it is cast; the latter would make more sense. “Before the spell can be cast” is an example of a more precise wording here. Then again, I’m nitpicking here, since SFRPGs concentration-rules only fail your spellcasting on an attack that hits you or on a botched save – since the effects sport neither attack, nor save, they are functional. Two dangerous, poisonous gasses are provided as well, and the pdf mentions the boiling hot swamps, volcanoes and the passage f time in this hellish region.

Now, the majority of the book is devoted to something many a GM will rejoice to see: We have translations of classic demons and devils to Starfinder, all of whom receive their own full-color artworks. Now, these beings are not simply 1:1-copies of the classics, mind you – these fiends have been through hell (haha!), and now obviously seek to escape their hellish prison. 9 demons are included, covering babau, balor, dretch, glabrezu, hezrou, marilith, nalfeshnee, succubus and vrock. Babaus get tactical pikes, balors monowhips and dimensional slice as a sword weapon property…so there are some cool upgrades here. At the same time, I kinda face-planted, since it looks like a common glitch from PFRPG will continue to haunt me in SFRPG – there STILL IS NO SUCH THING AS UNHOLY DAMAGE. Now, as a whole, the pdf has done a pretty good job at getting rid of remnant Pathfinderisms, though e.g. the succubus’ profane gift erroneously refers to full-round action instead of full action. Cool: Mariliths can crush you into unconsciousness!

The pdf also includes 4 different devils, the hamatula, barbazu, osyluth and cornugon are provided. These are no less deadly, mind you, including 3/day swift action invisibility and e.g. white star plasma doshkos. Now, particularly cool would be that we actually get two new, fiendish ships . the abyssal readrazor, which clocks in at tier 10 and sports maw-like mass drivers, chain cannons, etc. The second ship would be the tier 6 hellish soulreaver, fitted with coilguns and heavy laser cannons. Now, it should be noted that these ships don’t have a hyperspace engine when encountered in the wastes; outside, they do. You see, a central plotline you can develop with the fiendish wastes, is that the fiends want to get out…and hence can really use the spare parts of your PC’s ship. Or, well, perhaps they are making a soul-powered hyperspace drive? In case you’re wondering encounter-level and power suggestions are provided for all level-ranges, and we also get an adventure hook for each level-region.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the majority of the book is very crisp and precise, with only few minor guffaws that don’t overly impede rules-integrity. Layout adheres to a rather beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artworks for demons and wastes and starships are copious and original – this is a beautiful book.

Michael Ritter’s supplement poses a simple question: Do you want your classic demons and devils? If the answer to that question was a resounding “yes”, then there will be no way past this supplement, simple as that. The Starfinder-conversions of the fiends have been undertaken with an eye towards being faithful, while also reflecting the new options and changed spell-engine of Starfinder. In short, this is a supplement well worth checking out, one that delivers exactly what it promises. Now, personally, I would have loved to see more ships, fiendish tech, etc., but it would not be fair to penalize the pdf for that. As a whole, I consider this supplement to be worth getting. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
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Everyman Minis: Shapeshifter Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2018 04:09:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, to make that clear: The options herein are intended for Everyman Gaming’s fun and flavorful Shapeshifter class, introduced in the Paranormal Adventures-book.

We begin with a new feat, which represents a base engine tweak: Corrupt Adaptation allows the shapeshifter, whenever he would gain a shapeshifter adaptation, to instead gain a shapeshifter corruption. What’s that? Well, 5 are provided, and they are basically “creepy” and slightly more potent options: Abnormal reach increases the reach of a chosen adaptation by 5 ft. Abnormal senses nets darkvision 30 ft. in animal shape (or +30 ft., if the shape already has darkvision); subsequent taking of this corruption further increase darkvision and then blindsense. Alien mind nets +2 to saves vs. mind-affecting effects in animal shape. Alien physiology nets +2 to saves vs. disease, exhaustion, fatigue and poison in animal shape. Finally, 25% chance to ignore critical hits and sneak attacks that stack with light/moderate fortification, but not other abilities. The minimum level-prerequisites are solid for all of them.

We get two new shapeshifter kingdoms: The first is the Crocodilian kingdom (Strength, Constitution), with the base shape providing quadruped (hold breath, limbs (legs 2), low-light vision, natural attack[bite],scent, skilled [Stealth], terrestrial. Shape sizes range from Large to Gargantuan. Crocodilian shapes have a base speed of 20 ft., swim speed 30 ft. 2nd level yields grab with the bite attack and 1/minute sprint, at 40 ft. land speed for 1 round. 8th level nets death roll versus your size or Smaller, grappled targets. 15th level nets swallow whole.

The second kingdom would be the Plant kingdom (Dexterity, Constitution), which nets the following base shape properties: Undulatory (blindsense 30 feet, low-light vision, natural attack [slam], terrestrial), biped (limbs [arms 1; legs 1], low-light vision, natural attack [slam], terrestrial), or centiped (limbs [legs 50+], low-light vision, natural attack [slam], terrestrial). This wealth of options also is represented in the shape, which can range from Tiny to Gargantuan. Speed of plants is 30 ft. for bipeds, 10 ft. for others. 2nd level nets the skilled ability for Stealth, but only in the plant’s native environments. Additionally, you get the varied abilities base ability. This base ability grants you any of the following abilities that the creature you plant shape is tied to possesses: darkvision 30 feet, energy immunity or energy resistance (grants energy resistance 1 per shapeshifter level), vulnerability. Finally, you gain a +2 bonus on saving throws made against mind-affecting effects, paralysis, sleep, and stun while assuming a plant shape. 8th level adds savage spirit bonus to AC twice when in plant shape, once as dodge and once as natural armor. Additionally, the varied ability is expanded to encompass constrict, grab, poison and darkvision. At 15th level, DR, farther darkvision, greensight, pull, push, etc. are also provided – the higher level options, in essence.

Now, the pdf provides no less than 3 subkingdoms as well, one of which is based on the plant kingdom – that would be the Mi-Go subkingdom (Dexterity, Intelligence), which nets a Medium shape size, hexapod shape, blindsense, claws, etc. as well as 30 ft. speed and 20 ft. clumsy flight (which may be an issue for some GMs at low levels, though the same holds true for the original kingdoms; mentioning it for completion’s sake). 2nd level nets the skilled ability in Bluff and Disguise as well as sneak attack, which improves by +1d6 at 8th and 15th level, respectively. You also get no breath and +2 to saves vs. mind-affecting effects, paralysis, sleep and stun while in plant shape. 8th level yields DR/slashing equal to the savage spirit bonus and improves fly speed and maneuverability. It also yields class level resistance to cold, fire and electricity. 15th level upgrades cold resistance to cold immunity and further improves flight. It also nets you + sneak attack damage with grapples and targets thus damaged take 1d4 ability damage to an ability score of your choice. It also nets grab for the claws and provides quicker flight beyond the confines of the planet and solar system.

Now, the eagle-eyed reader may have noted that the bracketed ability score deviate from the base kingdom – that is intentional here. Only one subkingdom follows the noted key ability scores of the parent kingdom.

The second new subkingdom would be the beetle subkingdom (Strength, Constitution), which is obviously based on the insect kingdom. This one ranged in shapes from Small to Huge and yields a 30 ft. movement as well as 20 ft. fly speed with clumsy maneuverability. 2nd level nets +2 to natural AC, which improves by +1 at 8th and 15th level and explicitly stacks with shapeshifter class features. Additionally, we get the ability to execute an overrun sans AoO. 8th level yields trample and an improved fly speed and maneuverability. 15th level nets acid resistance 5 as well as a 8d6 30 ft.-cone of acid with a 1d4 cooldown and save governed by Con. Personally, I’d have preferred daily uses, but considering the level, it’s okay.

The third subkingdom presented would be the eel subkingdom (which is employing the ability paradigm of the parent fish kingdom). 8th level yields an extraordinary variant of shocking grasp with fixed damage and a chance to stun targets that fail their save for 1d4 rounds. 15th level nets the grab special attack as well as automatic bite damage when starting a round with a grappled foe. Additionally, you get a second set of jaws, allowing you to perform a secondary natural bite attack versus such a grappled foe, though at one size category smaller than usually.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s printer-friendly two-column standard. The piece of artwork in full color is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza’s new shapeshifter options are rather potent and make for strong choices as well as unique modifications for the shapeshifter fans out there. The concept of corruptions in this context could have carried a bit more, and I’m not 100% sold on the options alone being worth the price of the feat for admission. That being said, as a whole, I found myself liking this pdf. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Shapeshifter Options
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