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Scorpions of Perdition
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2016 09:23:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This module is intended for 8th and 9th level characters and can be easily inserted into Iron Gods, obviously...

...and that is pretty much as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs left? Great! The Drifter has wandered the ominously named region of "The Dust" for as long as anyone can remember, hunting a similarly long-lived outlaw named Shadrax. The drifter was once in charge of a prison ship that crashed on Golarion - and he is basically android Clint Eastwood with a laser gun. He has spent hundreds of years hunting down the escaped convicts, but Shadrax, the engineer of the riot that caused the ship to crash, has evaded him. Since then, his programming has changed and he considers himself the law in the region of "The Dust", hunting down evildoers and seeking his nemesis. Shadrax, meanwhile, is as nasty as it gets: Infused with nanites, the xill has time galore and as such, has tried breeding out the nanites that keep it confined to the material plane over generations, but to no avail; worse, her little slave empire has fallen, the dread xill buried in a stasis pod...and now, hundreds of years later, the Drifter's fuel starts running out. When the PCs, by one of the angles, come to the region and hopefully help him taking care of some harpies, he already shows signs of decreasing efficiency.

The dialog with the drifter does feature some read-aloud text (nice!) and the drifter tries to recruit the PCs to help him acquire a means of charging him - he knows where the object is, but needs help getting it. Oh, and if you're wondering: Shadrax' spawn do get modified abilities noted in a sidebar. Arriving at Perdition (fully statted, fyi), the overseer Perdy is facing down a mob of people who want to leave; as its name points out, Perdition has seen better days...and thus, the PCs are off into the mine to deal with the issues of the town...only that this is easier said than done. You see, there is a so-called mud-spawn of shadrax stalking the mine and it is a delightfully sadistic critter with paralysis and earth glide, a perfect adversary to generate paranoia, fear and an atmosphere of frickin' HORROR. Oh, and it is glorious - you see the mud-spawn pretty much is a puzzle boss that you can try fighting fairly, but a massive 1-page guideline of running the critter should make sure that that doesn't happen - instead, exploring the complex and paying attention as well as clever problem solutions will be required by the PCs to defeat this adversary. And yes, there are other critters in the dungeon as well...so yeah... in the best of ways, the module rewards smart actions here.

Making their way through the mine, the PCs find a location both wondrous and frightening, a massive necropolis with a palace and an irradiated river, all under the ground and lavishly illustrated with a one-page artwork that doubles as a cool handouts. The map provided here, just fyi, is player-friendly and in the place, Shadrax awaits with its priests - the progenitor is deadly indeed: A xill gunslinger (depicted with a cigar in one of the 4 hands!) makes for a truly deadly adversary.

The second part of the module deals with the so-called "Temple of the Burning God", aka the wreckage of the ship...part of which hangs over a cliff, vertically, only attached to the remainder by a catwalk. Yep, vertical dungeon exploration. Yes, the adversaries obviously make good use of this uncommon environment. Yep, the dungeon is amazing and one of the few places where paltry CR 2 adversaries will really make the PCs sweat. As a minor complaint, the maps of the ship and the aforementioned palace do not come with player-friendly, key-less versions, so if you're like me, that may be slightly annoying.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to legendary Games' neat 2-column full-color standard for Iron Gods-plug-ins and the pdf sports a mix of previously used full-color artworks and amazing new pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography in full color is nice, though the lack of player-friendly maps for some of the adventuring locales does constitute a downside in my book.

Alex Riggs and Nicholas Logue deliver a wonderful lovesong to Clint Eastwood's legendary "High Plains Drifter" - I adore the dirty, grimy Westerns and, seen through the lens of science-fantasy, with ample horror spliced in, Scorpions of Perdition can be considered to be one amazing module indeed, with the Drifter making for a potentially glorious ally for the PCs. The flavor of each and every location is unique and internally consistent; the locations themselves sport details galore and represent unconventional, intriguing challenges for the PCs. In short, this module does everything right apart from the lack of player-friendly maps. That being said, this should NOT keep you from getting this inspired, amazing module - it ranks as one of the best Legendary Games modules released so far. It should also be noted that, much like the excellent Starfall, this module very much works perfectly on its own - in fact, I'd encourage getting it for a taste of the unusual in just about any context.

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scorpions of Perdition
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Fat Goblin Games Presents - Creating New Armors
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2016 09:22:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, we have all probably been there, at least the GMs and designers among us - the point where you want to make a new armor. The system presented herein is simple - there are 3 base armor types and shields featured: First, you take the basics and base-price...and then you multiply the price by the DP - the design points. You can have armors or shields of horn or stone and then you determine the armor qualities.

The heavier the armor, the more often you can gain additional design points, a 0 DP quality. Adding boots, helmet and gauntlets is covered and modifies cost, but not DP; camouflages/muffled armor etc. and the different base types, like chain, can be added via DP to modify the basics of the respective armor, fleshing out the abstract proto-armors. Pretty amazing: Lamellar material, dependent on the base material, can be found. The book is also VERY useful in that an easy one-glance table codifies the DP for the respective qualities and to which type of armor they can be applied: Once glance, done. Two thumbs up!

Obviously, there need to be shield-only options as well - want a lightweight tower shield with a blinder? Sure, why not. Quickdraw, weapons and weapon slits...really neat! The pdf also presents two sample items created with the system. Oh, have I btw. mentioned that NOT using the points makes the armor/shield less expensive? Yep, rewards for not going feature-bloat! Cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column, full-color standard. The pdf sports nice full-color art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience - with nested bookmarks. Kudos for going the extra mile for the brief pdf!

Garrett Guillotte's little system is amazing; for the low-price point, it provides a balanced, immediately useful design tool at the tip of your fingertips. Simple, elegant and fun, the system is easy to use, fun, inexpensive...in short, this pdf is awesome and more than worth the fair asking price. Can we have expansions for special materials, please? This is a fine purchase, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fat Goblin Games Presents - Creating New Armors
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Mariner Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2016 09:20:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages, so let's take a look!

The mariner as presented her gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields except tower shields. As a minor complaint: The header is not bolded here. The class gets a full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves and begins play with +4 to Swim checks (untyped) that is increased to +6 when the mariner has 10 ranks in the skills. The mariner gets +1/2 class level (minimum 1) to Survival checks made to follow ships and aquatic creatures. The class also gains +1 to Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Survival and Sense Motive checks and +1 to atk and damage, increasing by +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. They may also make untrained Knowledge checks to identify marine creatures.

2nd level provides the net and trident style - basically a nice combat style, but the feats may only be used while in medium armor or less. 3rd level provides endurance as well as aquatic armor training, which is represented by the fighter's armor training and being treated as class level +4 fighter levels for the purpose of armor training. A slight complaint here. The ability mentions the "normal swim speed" - but swim speed is a rules term of its own. It's clear that it's supposed to apply to the speed reduction inherent in wearing medium armor. Anyways, 4th level lets the mariner spend a move action to gain allies flanking with him or an ally +2 to atk; range here's 30 feet. 4th level provides limited prepared spellcasting that goes up to 4th level, governed by Wis. Spells are drawn from the ranger list. 5th level provides weapon training, with every 4 levels after that adding another group.

At 7th level, the mariner gets a coastal variety of woodland stride as well as +4 to Swim checks. 8th level unlocks scent, 9th evasion, 16th level improved evasion. 12th level renders you immune to the detrimental effects of the depths of the ocean (like pressure etc.) as well as the option to hide in aquatic terrain sans cover or concealment. 17th level provides a kind of Hide in Plain Sight you may use in aquatic terrain and 19th level nets you DR 5/- when wearing armor or using a shield. As a capstone, the class gets Weapon Mastery, may move at full speed while using Survival to track underwater and make an attack as a standard action against an aquatic enemy (Does that refer to the subtype or the environment he's in?) - on a hit, it's save-or-die. Alternatively, there's a nonlethal option. It can be used 5/day.

The pdf also contains 8 feats: Fast Folder lets you fold nets faster, Net Combat increase the DCs to escape your DCs and concentration to use it. Improved Net Combat provides quicker trailing rope control. Ocean Brawler lets you use a bludgeoning or slashing weapon sans penalty as long as you're not off-balance. Sudden Brace lets you use an immediate action to brace 1/round. Wiggle Free nets you + 2 CMD versus a grapple by a net...which may be too specific. Finally, Underwater Shot helps using thrown and ranged missile weapons underwater - it's still not perfect, but you can at least use them! The pdf ends with a quick note on tracking underwater.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are solid; I noticed some minor editing/formatting hiccups, but nothing too serious. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf's art is solid and full-color - one piece original, one I have seen before.

Robert Gresham's mariner is pretty much what you'd expect - a coastal themed ranger with bits of fighter sprinkled in. It's not brilliant or mega-creative, but a couple of the net-feats are pretty worthwhile and before you design the material yourself...well, you can get this. Personally, I think the class should probably grant swim speed at some point instead of piling ever more Swim-bonuses on it, but that's an aesthetic gripe. It should be noted that this is a PWYW-book - and as such, it is definitely worth downloading the book and then, if you like what you see, leave a tip you consider appropriate. Personally, I'll settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, and while I like it's PWYW-nature, I can't really round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mariner Hybrid Class
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Maiden Voyage of the Colossus (OGL/DCC)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2016 09:16:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let's take a look!

First things first: This module was written for the Iron GM-contest (which is frickin' amazing!) that basically makes GMing a competitive sport and it's cool to see a module published based on this amazing event. Seriously, huge fan of it!

That being said, the module as presented here is dual format, for PFRPG and DCC, with PFRPG-material being denoted by purple headers, DCC material by black ones - the color-coding is a nice touch here.

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

...

..

.

All right, only GMs/Judges around? Good!

We begin with optional hidden agendas to assign to PCs, though these obviously hearken from the convention circuit: Sabotage is interesting, for example, but e.g. the need to gather proof of a traitor in the PC's midst with the threat of assassins nearby feels weird: How can assassins be there all the time? The rationalization doesn't make much sense here, but I digress. The city's abuzz as the notorious Gearswave Inc. is about to launch the eponymous, gigantic airship, but their competition, Clock-Works, is supposedly determined to see the maiden voyage end in disaster. Via various offers, the PCs may choose different rewards for trying to save the maiden voyage. Smuggled into the colossus as covert operatives, the PCs leave the crate to find that they have 4 hours. The colossus is pretty interesting, featuring e.g. levitate-based parachutes. There is a bit of discrepancy to be found - e.g. forcing a lever has only DCC-rules, none for PFRPG.

The PCs will have to explore the airship, with the crew mostly drunk, handle tiefling saboteurs, oozes, undeed and e.g. sober up the pilot, who has a chance to " fix any mechanical problem on the airship with 75% efficiency" - whatever that is supposed to mean. From decadent upper classes to weird gnomes, to the unique means of internal communication, handling the ship etc., the exploration of the ship is interesting, and the BBEG's combat is also relatively neat. The pdf comes with stats for both PFRPG and DCC, a deity-write-up of Gearswave Inc. that has a nice spell to enhance/penalize Disable Device and a DCC-patron-iteration of Gearswave Inc. The pdf comes with full-color maps of the vessel, but no key-less player-friendly iteration is provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are decent - I noticed a couple f formatting and editing hiccups, but nothing too grievous. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, is printer-friendly and the pdf sports several full-color artworks. The cartography is nice, but hampered by the lack of player-friendly maps.

Perry Fehr's Maiden Voyage has a couple of issues; DCC's DCs are pretty high; the chance for success is smaller in DCC than in PFRPG. And this is where we have to discuss dual format modules. You see, it is my firm conviction that they unanimously are a bad, bad idea. From a customer point of view, you pay for one system you will not use.

There is a more galling problem here, though: Different systems have different math, different expectations of player and PC capability, etc. No matter how good your crunch design is, you ultimately will always stumble over something, unless you do a proper conversion, including modifications to plot etc. The example of flight would be pretty famous: Easily achieved in PFRPG at certain levels, much less common in other systems. More currently, 5e's cool exhaustion mechanics translate less fluidly to other systems.

There are examples, when design has managed to cover wildly different systems, most famously perhaps EN Publishing's legendary Zeitgeist AP. However, even that one basically cheats by modifying the ground rules of the world to nerf Pathfinder's options and bring player capability in line with the options available for 4th edition characters. The only reason it got a pass from me is that it concisely presents these changes as a fundamental aspect of the rules governing the whole world. Similarly, Pelgrane Press' Esoterrorists/Trail of Cthulhu/Fear Itself/Night's Black Agents share a common rules-frame-work with different expansions/modifications and thus allow for a sequential progression/switching of systems, though one that takes serious work; still the general rules-frame-work is the same, the tones are similar, so in those cases, yes, it works. PFRPG and DCC do not have either capability- or tone-consistency.

Where am I going with this? Well, this may sound harsh, but the book is utterly delusional regarding its compatibility with DCC. I'm sorry to say it, but apart from DCC-rules being here, this pdf has NOTHING that even remotely pertains DCC's aesthetics. DCC's general assumption is that magic's weird, uncontrollable and volatile; its whole premise is grittier, darker and the whole depiction is radically different, with the emphasis on patrons etc. On the other hand, Pathfinder features reliable magic and is geared significantly more towards high fantasy gameplay. At one point in the introduction, there is "A Note for DCC Players", which reads as follows: "The Porphyra Campaign Setting is great for locating your DCC adventures, with its epic conflict of Gods and Elementals! Check out Lands of Porphyra and our other Porphyra game setting materials soon for lots of neutral-system game ideas today!" This is patently false. Porphyra is an amazing setting; I really, really like it. But it's as high fantasy as they get. Several cultures and races that are present violate pretty much all relevant design aesthetics of DCC. The flavor is all wrong for gritty DCC gameplay and frankly, while some elements of the setting certainly can easily be used in DCC, the vast majority CAN'T. Or rather, shouldn't be to avoid tonal whiplash. Porphyra is excellent high fantasy, but about as compatible to DCC's tone as 4th edition's modules were. I called this "delusional" for exactly this reason - there is nothing in tone, scope or...well...anything, really, that would gel, resound with DCC's implied world(s), the manner in which the system's rules govern the world, etc.

Which brings me to another aspect that hurt me in this module: As we've come to expect from Perry Fehr, this is a great, high-concept environment - there are a ton of cool, small ideas herein...but as a whole, the module felt static. The airship always remains just an evocative backdrop; there isn't much happening in the environment category and the utter incompetence of all NPCs is galling. It may be a personal gripe, but I hate it when NPCs behave like the biggest idiots around and the story of this module, high-concept and evocative though its environments may be, made no sense to me. The ship is also very static - there isn't much dynamics to be found, either regarding the ship, or its inhabitants, making the module, even if taken at face value, frankly lifeless and the weakest module I've read by Perry Fehr...and with some minor work, it could have been truly amazing, which renders this doubly painful.

So let me reiterate: This is NOT a DCC-module in anything but numbers provided; it does nothing to reconcile DCC's aesthetics with the changed assumptions of this module and should be considered to be a disaster for the system, a 1-star offering. Alas, Pathfinder does not fare that much better - the internal flaws of the story and static behavior are baffling to me, particularly considering that Perry Fehr has created more dynamic environments in the past. I'd strongly suggest getting the cool Purple Mountain Dungeon modules for an example of what kind of awesomeness he can generate. This module, though, at the very best, can be considered to be a 2.5 stars offering, from which I'd round down. My final verdict will take both into account and thus clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and me enjoying the set-up/idea, if not much else.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Maiden Voyage of the Colossus (OGL/DCC)
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Hygiene
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2016 09:36:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This installment of Flaming Crab Games' delightfully oddball Letters-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As always, we begin this installment with a nice letter from the planeshopping vessel, thankfully salvaged for our collective delights by J Gray.

Now we've all been there: The PCs have just battled through a horde of foes, are covered in blood and guts...and then, they walk into a tavern. As if that does not look weird. And no one cares. We begin this pdf thus, appropriately, with a nice and handy table pertaining social modifiers - these can be added or subtracted, depending on the context, from the respective social skills: A foppish Taldan dandy may indeed consider someone covered in gold dust to warrant +4...while the savage orc chieftain will be more inclined to hand an asswhooping to the pansy that came before him thus clad. This includes filth/bathed-status and perfumes, including race-specific ones as well as notes on hair/beard-care or the status of one's teeth...which were notoriously problematic before the advent of modern dentistry.

And indeed, hygiene may influence a lot: Disguises that do not correspond to expected hygiene levels may suffer from a penalty; whether fleas or bedbugs, lack of cleanliness may net you itching, annoying parasites. (Yep, provided as a nice infestation) and concise and simple dental cavity rules allow you to track bad breath et al. Similarly, a handy table pertaining body odor and how easily you may be tacked via scent etc. can be found. And yes, you may actually develop a disgusting stench aura!

Now, the medieval period had a significantly different concept pertaining hygiene than we do: Performing the act of love on piles of mist was not uncommon - the offal and straw kept heat pretty well. Similarly, throwing the bedpan on the streets was pretty much common practice prior to the advent of proper sewer systems. At the same time, though, this time wasn't as filthy (or prude!) as you'd imagine - in Nuremberg, for example, the existence of bath houses is well-documented. They were a space for citizens to relax, consume food...and yes, also indulge in more carnal activities, much to the chagrin of many a hardliner or prude. The exact structure and conventions of places related to bathing differ wildly amid cultures - and thus, much to my delight, we receive several fully mapped bathhouses: The Ishiyu Onsen hot spring with a feudal, Japanese touch; the quasi Greco-Roman Thermae of Pulsatilla and the White Blossom Bathhouse, which should make fans of WuXia or European bath culture both happy - the respective entries also feature notes on nomenclature, showing that the team did the research. Nice!

Obviously, though, hygiene on the road would be a slightly more difficult subject matter - and here, we receive the also fully mapped cascade pools, which may draw washers (or make for a phenomenal boss-fight arena). A barber shop and a salon further complement the ready to drop in locales (again, mapped) that are depicted within, all with adventure hooks...though frankly, I would have enjoyed an acknowledgment of barbers doubling as physicians and the type of "healing" they provided.

The pdf does provide concise lists of the services offered, all collected on one page in a handy GM cheat-sheet and similarly features a neat selection of associated mundane items - from the collapsible bathtub to alum, an oil that prevents you best suit from being spattered in blood and guts, shaving kits...and for the more magically-inclined actually working hair-growth tonics are included. And yes, singed hair may be regrown as well...and a collective sigh of relief went through the dwarven population...

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is a mix of b/w-art and stock and manages to generate a concise visual identity. The maps provided for the locations are generally minimalistic and b/w with blue and green highlights - amazing, btw.: Flaming Crab Games listened - now, we get scales for the maps and the pdf also features player-friendly maps for each of the locations! Kudos for improving the book in this crucial way!! (Seriously, the cascades alone make for such a cool arena...) Lukas Buergi's installment on hygiene can be a godsend for intrigue-heavy campaigns, particularly those favoring a simulationalist approach...like mine do. Personally, I enjoy this VERY much. The component of magic in such a context deserved a bit more coverage in my opinion: While prestidigitation and the like are acknowledged and talked about, I wished that this took the fantastic angle up a slight notch. While I adore the sample bathhouses included, general toolkits for the design and development of hygiene traditions would have made more sense to me - you know, sand baths, cleaning by fire for fire resistant beings...the like. The bathhouses can be used once...a general toolkit could be used all the time. Similarly, suggestions for culturally specific social modifiers based on hygiene or uniquely elven/dwarven/weirdo race xyz-suggestions for traditions would have elevated this further.

The pdf, as a whole, is a more than fairly-priced, evocative file and deserves being bought, even if it does not reach the level of depth and coverage that the coin-installment offered. In the end, this is pretty much a good buy and should be considered, particularly in light of the topic not nearly being covered in its totality - and weird little books like this require and deserve support! With the integration and improvement of the maps, the book offers now some seriously fun set-pieces for a more than fair price-point, though - which is why my verdict for the revised version is upgraded to 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Hygiene
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Veranthea Codex: Lost Legends of Urethiel
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2016 09:25:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Veranthea Codex clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what do we get here? Well, we get a massive, high-concept NPC Codex/bestiary with a WuXia-theme. From the mountains of Nestraka, the CR 8 Amigara hail, deadly constructs that encase mortals to use them to tap into the life energy of mortals entombed in their bodies - they can be found in the canyon of the spiral, which features a total of 3 short descriptive sketches to use in concert with the critter.

The pdf continues to provide the Fukujin subtype - native outsiders that embody the virtues of good fortune, with two such entities provided, both of which should put a smile on the faces of genre-aficionados: Benzaiten and Hotei, both at a nasty CR 15, make for powerful, benevolent entities. The Fire Naga at CR 12 comes with a new spell that is basically dominate on speed and the naga can generate enthralling, hypnotic orbs or fire...pretty cool and best take on the concept I've seen so far: In spite of the name, this is no one-trick-pony. Orang-Bati are CR 3 winged apes with a fear-inducing howl. Okay, I guess, but I've seen the concept often enough to not be impressed here.

Now the next critter made me smile from ear to ear: Horror-fans may know of the Orang-Minyak, the oily men - well, guess what? Now we get the guy as a neat CR 6 adversary with cool, connected abilities - two thumbs up! The Seong-Saman, the fan-lady with her aura of breathlessness, night terrors and ability to become corporeal is another critter at CR 5 I very much enjoyed to see here - and gaining one named iteration with mesmerist levels is a neat icing on the cake here. At CR 4, the long-tailed hornless goat sigbin may drink blood from the shadow of creatures (!!!) and is yet another cool critter that very much made me grin. The 3 magic items associated with the creatures just add more dimension to it and the notes for catching it make it feel as something deeply rooted in the mythology of Urethiel.

Tek-tek, undead upper torsos with an axe-blade where the lower body should be, with their vertebrae axe and deranged chittering is also amazing...oh, and they can be taken as familiars or companions via feats, though frankly, I consider them too strong for either. The three magic items (two axes, one set of bracers) are neat and evocative, though. I was positive surprised to see the tsuchigumo translated as a CR 10 aberration, with powerful webs and the horrid ability to create tsuchigo thralls via the CR +3 template provided.

Next up would be sample characters: a human druidess 2, a dwarven samurai 5, an elven pyrokineticist, a half-orc vigilante, a half-elven hunter, a forsaken human two-handed fighter, a blessed alchemist/ninja/monk-multiclass, a forsaken slayer, a halfling oracle and a shòuquán invulnerable rager/conduit are provided, spanning the CRs from 1 to 18. It should be noted that, where applicable, companions are included in the stats. Amazing for guys like yours truly: This pdf features an artifact...that is the Death Note. Not kidding. Could your PCs have bested Light? It's time to find out...

The pdf also sports information on a unique city - Tian-Ti Ang, the city of vampires! The place not only comes with a settlement statblock, it also features notes on the houses, the local laws and rivalries and conclude the pdf on a high note with a deadly vampire ninja at CR 12.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres, for the most part, to a two-column full-color standard, though the pdf switches this up with one-column passages where appropriate. The artworks, for the most part, are public domain, but fit the theme, with some stock thrown in. Like all Veranthea codex books, this book is chock-full with information, but doesn't feel as jammed and busy as previous books, which is a good thing in my book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Luis Loza's Lost Legends of Urethiel delivers in spades: The critters, for the most part, are creative and drink deeply from the wellspring of lesser known pieces of mythology. The NPCs are similarly diverse in their builds and feature some characters that make good use of Urethiel's unique birthrights. More importantly, this pdf left me with the DESIRE to actually use quite a few of the creatures herein. While the lack of artworks for the critters is always a bit of an issue for bestiaries, if you are not solely focused on that component, you will love A LOT of the critters herein: Instead of doing the standard Yuki-no-onna, penanggalan-routine, this instead opts for creatures you haven't yet see hundreds of times. In short - this is a great, fun supplement. While I am not a fan of the two feats and while not all NPCs are genius or that creative, the critters are creative and fun and so are the NPCs - as a whole, a supplement well worth getting, making me settle on a final verdict of 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Lost Legends of Urethiel
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Divergent Paths: Roil Dancer
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2016 09:21:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of Divergent paths clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this guy? The short reply would be that this is a kineticist archetype employing the Path of War rules.

As such, the roil dancer's power-level adheres to the increased power assumed by Path of War and obviously is intended for high-power gameplay. Low fantasy/power-rounds need not apply. The pdf assumes that you have Path of War Expanded and if you do like the Path of War system, there is frankly no reason you shouldn't have that one already.

Roil Dancers add Perform and Spellcraft to their class skills and, discipline-wise, may choose Elemental Flux, Mithral Current, Solar Wind and Thrashing Dragon. A roil dancer begins play with 3 maneuvers known, all of which may be readied. He learns up to 15 maneuvers and may have 7 readied at any given time. 4th level and every even level thereafter allows for the retraining of a given maneuver and roil dancers may learn maneuvers of up to 6th level. Roil dancers begin encounters with all maneuvers readied. At 1st level, he knows once stance and learns another one at 4th, 7th, 11th and 13th level, replacing thus the infusions gained at 4 level and every 4 levels thereafter.

The presence of elemental flux has pretty much made that clear, but the archetype also receives animus equal to 1 + initiation modifier (minimum 1) at the start of his first turn. Each turn after that, the archetype gets +1 animus. Roil dancers receive an additional animus in every round in which they initiated a maneuver. Animus vanishes 1 minute after hostilities have subsided. When the roil dancer initiates a maneuver with his kinetic blade, he may expend animus to reduce the number of burn he takes - 2 animus reduce burn by 1. Additionally, maneuvers that allow for the execution of multiple attacks may be enhanced by spending 3 animus, gaining 1 additional attack with his kinetic blades.

We need to talk about those: 1st level provides kinetic blade as a bonus wild talent and may use it as part of initiating martial maneuvers that use weapons and also reduces burn cost by 1 when doing so. If a given maneuver allows for multiple attacks, his kinetic blade obliges to accommodate the maneuver's requirements and additional blades may be employed, potentially with different effects. Full attack maneuvers allow for two kinetic blades. In the case of ranged maneuvers, the blade can be thrown 30 ft. and the benefits may be used in conjunction with kinetic blade.

Okay, got that? Great, for I do have a minor question: The animus expenditure that allows for extra attacks when using a maneuver: Do these additional attacks also benefit from the effects of the maneuver? Or are they vanilla kinetic blade attacks? I assume the ability to allow for the execution of multiple kinetic blade attacks to conform with multiple-attacks-granting maneuvers, but since the ability does not specify whether the number of attacks is still capped by the maneuver (or neither does it say anything about full BAB or the like), it could be read as meaning that you can exceed the number of attacks granted by the maneuver with extra, animus-powered kinetic blades. Beyond that, maneuvers that feature an animus augment can be further enhanced - by accepting 1 point of burn, he can augment the maneuver further, even beyond the usual limits...which frankly is nasty, even for Path of War's power level.

The elemental focus chosen by the kineticist component of the archetype carries over to both Solar Wind and Elemental Flux - regardless of active element, the damage is defined by the element chosen: Aether deals slashing damage, wood positive energy damage ( See Seventh Path...or a sidebar for that one...), etc. - it should be noted that physical damage types are treated as magical and subject to DR and that any resistance ignoring benefits instead reduce DR appropriately.

The roil dancer's gather power is tied into the animus ability: it costs 1 point of animus to gather power as a move action, 2 to gather it as a full-round action. In the former case, he regains one expended maneuver; in the latter, he regains his initiation modifier expended maneuvers, minimum 2. Roil Dancers with supercharge recover an additional maneuver. The significant power of the maneuvers he receives is somewhat reduced by the decreased progression of kinetic blasts -a roil dancer begins play with the default value, but only increases kinetic blast's power at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Metakinesis, thankfully, only applies to the blast itself, not any damage caused by maneuvers or stances used in conjunction with it. Roil Dancers also lose the ability to quicken kinetic blades/whips.

The pdf also provides 8 feats: Augmented Elements nets you a simple blast from any element, but at a burn cost increased by 1. It also grants you the psionic subtype, unlocking psionic feats etc. for you and may be chosen at 1st level. Inner Fire is pretty nasty and frankly, I'm not sure I'd allow it near my game: For the expenditure of your psionic focus, you reduce the action needed to alleviate burn: If you take a swift action, you count as though you had used a move action. if you take a move action, you're treated as though you had gathered power for a full-round. Sure, it's a robbing Peter to pay Paul kind of situation, but it uses an infinite resource to significantly enhance the action economy of a conservation method of a limited one. In the context of Path of War, it works, but in less high-powered games, this should receive a bit of scrutiny, considering its 1st level availability. Kinetic Duelist nets you TWF kinetic blades. AWESOME! Mind Afire is also cool: If you use a non-Con-attribute to determine hit points, you may now use it for burn, DCs, blasts, etc. Ripple in Still Water lets you stack kineticist levels with ki pool-granting class levels for purposes of ki pool-size and for kinetic blast base damage. Basically the monk/ninja/kineticist multiclass feat.

The pdf also features three feats with the Gather Power-descriptor: Number one is awesome: After gathering power, blast adjacent (or 10-ft. away if you gathered as a full-round action) foes with burn. Solar Flare adds a dazzle/blind to your power gathering and Syphon Vitality (shouldn't that be "siphon"?) offers the sickened condition - the durations/saves are feasible, balanced and cool and make gathering power more rewarding...can we have more?

Finally, the pdf also sports a magical item, the flicker gauntlet, which costs a paltry 1000 Gp and may hold an item of up to 20 pounds for up to 1 minute...oh and they match your active elements with appropriately colored swirlies! Fashionable!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level - in spite of the significant complexity of the subject matter, there is not much to complain in that regard - kudos! Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' nice 2-column full-color standard and the original piece of artwork is nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity and with a second, more printer-friendly iteration - nice to see that level of consideration.

Forrest Heck's Roil Dancer is an impressive, precisely oiled machine that manages to blend two complex subsystems almost seamlessly. Apart from the one ambiguity in the animus-options, I have found nothing worthy of complaints. Balance/power-wise, the roil dancer should fit seamlessly within the high-powered gameplay assumed by Path of War. The feats deserve special mentioning as supplemental material, for while I consider some to be problematic in more conservatively-balanced rounds, they do feature some serious gems that will see use in my games beyond the confines of Path of War. They need scrutiny when employed in less powerful games, but as a whole, even divorced from the pdf, can offer some serious fun - particularly the gather power feats are a concept worth expanding upon.

Now usually, I'd frankly round down in this case, since the one ambiguity I found is pretty crucial to judging the power of the archetype...but at the same time, I am pretty sure I have deduced the proper intention from context AND the level of crunch-density and complexity offered here makes this inexpensive pdf very much worthwhile. It is thus due to the overall difficulty and the ambition (and execution to match it!) of the designs here that I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Divergent Paths: Roil Dancer
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Call to Arms: Shields
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2016 09:20:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 42 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As always, we begin this pdf with a flavorful piece of prose before diving into the history of the shield before we receive rules for the respective shield types: The pdf classifies a total of 4 shield types, providing a nice overview of what you can and can't do with shields - like heavy shields preventing you from doing anything else with that hand, while light shields allowing you to use the hand to carry items - which makes sense, I guess, but I would have liked some finer modifications there: Penalties for delicate work like disarming a trap while a shield's still strapped to your arm, for example. Also slightly problematic: "You cannot use weapons with it." I get that...but do e.g. tanglefoot bags count? Torches? The improvised angle could have used some coverage here.

Somewhat annoying: Tower Shields are rebranded as "Body Shields". In a rules-system as crunchy and terminology-heavy as PFRPG, that is just unnecessary and a potential cause for confusion. I get why: The new term is used as a hyperonym, whereas tower shields are used as a subcategory. The issue, though, is that there is a Proficiency for tower shields, but RAW, none for body shields. Shield designs and materials are next...and left me a bit disappointed. Where usually, the Call to Arms-series excels in providing these nice little rules-tweaks for simulationalist games, here, we are basically left with: "It's fluff, no mechanical repercussions." This left me somewhat stupefied, in spite of the discussions being solid - the pdf acknowledges the traditions...but does nothing with them. Weird.

Now where we actually do get some crunchy bits is when it comes to wielding a shield: A total of 3 grips are provided. Shields strapped to your arm require a standard action to strap and loosen, but grant you +2 CMD versus attempts to disarm your shield. Argive grip lets you drop the shield (or don it) as a move action, with Quick Draw-like bonuses for BAB +1 characters, allowing the shield to be drawn as a swift action accompanying a regular move. Finally, the boss grip can be dropped or used as a move action (the pdf here mentions "readied", which is a loaded term in PFRPG - that could have been more elegant), but can be drawn as a free action as part of a move y characters with a BAB of +1 or higher.

The main bonus here in contrast to the Argive would be that you can draw it and a weapon as one action if you have TWF and draw/put back it as a free action if you have Quick Draw, treating the shield as a quickdraw shield. There are, unfortunately, a couple of issues here: 1) Why ever use argive? It's objectively worse than both other grips, bringing literally no benefit the others don't. 2) Regarding boss grip and quickdrawing: Quickdrawing shields, as far as I can remember, exist only for light shields. Heavy shields in PFRPG do not have that option by default, and neither do tower shields. Particularly when looking at the latter and the significant action-investment their use requires, one cannot help but ask whether boss grips can be made to modify tower shields. The interaction of the new rules with the existing ones, alas, is not as precise as I've come to expect from the series.

The next section here covers a diversity of different shields that are used as weapons - think of this as the collating section, where you get all the info in one place, from the tiger claw shield to the klar or the throwing dueling buckler....the array of weaponized shields presented here is nice, but the table's messed up: One, the table lacks cost entries for many of the shields - probably due to them being shield + modifications...but why not simple provide the total cost for convenience's sake? The very first entry has a glitch, where the crit multiplier wandered into the range column and from a layout perspective, the Exotic Ranged Weapon-row does not feature the grey background to set it apart that the other sub-headers feature.

The collated shield modifications provided are intriguing - integrated firearms, bladed edges and throwing shield modifications all are cool. However, considering the usual mission of collating and collecting relevant information, I was somewhat puzzled by the omission of the boss modifications already existing for PFRPG. On a more positive side, the rules for providing shields as cover (first presented in a sidebar-installment, unless I'm horribly mistaken) is nice and adds some tactical dimension and useful upgrade for the shield: You know, hiding behind a tower shield to survive a dragon's breath, etc. - neat. And yep, you can't Stealth-abuse them, which is a nice catch.

Speaking of nice: The pdf provides some generally cool variants of new shield designs; from dueling bucklers to jousting shields, provides a cool selection of new and interesting modifications - but, alas, the devil's in the details here as well. When a dueling buckler notes "Treat this shield as a standard buckler when shield bashing." I cringed a bit. Bucklers cannot, RAW, be used for shield bashes. It's these little glitches that add up and make the chapter less refined than it should be: Granting adjacent allies shield bonuses can be fun and the pdf does have these little glimpses at what I expect to see from the Call to Arms-series.

Among the modifications, straps to keep dropped shields attached make sense, but fail to specify hardness, hp or anything like that - even though sooner or later someone will try to sunder them. Again, one of these avoidable glitches that hamper a great concept. On the plus-side, reinforced straps or integrated weapon sheathes - there is amazing to be found here. The pdf then goes on to collect special materials for shield construction - though only a part of Paizo's materials are collected here. One new material can be found, wicker shields, which are lighter and more buoyant. The pdf also provides relatively concise rules for shields with special bosses etc. - and yes, a sidebar provides Captain America-build guidelines.

After the material component, the shield special abilities are next - on a slightly nitpicky side: The glamered quality has been renamed "glamOred" and lacks italicization. It's these little glitches that are just unnecessary. There is new material here as well, like shields that feature a nice breeze to keep you cool and may also create, for short bursts, clean air and protect against lethal gasses. Feather fall-inducing shields are nice - shields that can turn into gliders are cooler still. I also liked the shield that has a minor glamour to hide you from foes when using total defense (erroneously called "defence" once...). The offensive shield properties are not reprinted and, oddly, they are not organized by bonus, but alphabetically...weird internal inconsistency there, but aesthetic only.

The book then goes on to depict specific magic shield - it basically collects the info from Paizo-books...sigh, but the battlement shield's formatting is messed up. Something you can actually see at one glance. That being said, we also get an array of new shields among the reprints...but, alas, they are missing from the table in the beginning...why? On the definite plus-side, the shields that are new generally provide cool visuals and options: Does e.g. a Bullette Maw turned shield sound amazing? What about a buckler that helps with burglary and may turn into tools 1/day? Yeah, it's cool - but e.g. an italicized name in an item's header once again would be a cosmetic, but still, easily avoidable glitch. Charge-enhancing Line Breaker is another nice example; not so cool: The Savage Quill's shield bash is locked into a full-round action, converting its bonus...which makes it a bad choice for shield bash specialists. Amazing: Slider's Shield is basically a shield and a hoverboard at the same time. The pdf also contains two cursed shields, one that is a reprint...and one is a shield -2. Yay? No GM has ever needed a -2 shield designed for him/her. The intelligent shield, Rovan's Round...is not as cool as usual: No unique abilities and "protect others from spellcasters" is pretty bland, even before at-will (!!!) dispel magic. Nope, can't see myself using this guy.

There is a reprint of a mythic shield ability and a shield as well as a new shield, Breathtaker, which adds nonlethal damage after bull rushes...which is per se no big issue. What is an issue is that it justifies this by the target beginning to suffocate. Are non-breathing critters immune? Can you hold your breath? No idea. Oh, and, more importantly: THIS IS NOT HOW SUFFOCATION WORKS IN PFRPG. Artifact-wise, the Aegis is reprinted (oddly, again, with italicized header), as is the Shield of the Sun - but there's also a new one, namely Centurion's Fortress - this one can both animate and dance, allowing it to execute autonomous defense and shield bashes. Additionally, the wielder can designate a target as a swift action and have the shield attack the adversary, potentially even adding bull rushes to bashes while granting cover and it may 1/day spawn copies to prevent flanking etc. - while the wording's not perfect here, I love the visuals and everything's functional...so yeah, I may end up using this guy!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not up to the standard the series usually has; a glitch here and there is okay, a slipped row can be forgiven when the information's clear...but this pdf feels rushed. There are literally a ton of formatting hiccups that even casual observation should have caught. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks as well as with some neat full color artworks.

Taylor Hubler, CtA-team...what has happened here? I don't get it. Let me make that abundantly clear: I don't object t the reprints herein - that's pretty much the deal of Call to Arms: Collect information and expand it. Here, however, there is not that much new information...and I wouldn't mind even that. If only the new material, the cool rules-tweaks that you can usually find in these books, would be here, the spark of the amazing. It's not. The supplemental rules-material feels half-done; not checked. The pdf acknowledges so many facets...and doesn't really work with them. And when it does, there are some serious hiccups to be found, some of which impede the functionality and the toolkit appeal significantly. I...honestly was flabbergasted here. I usually look forward to reviewing Call to Arms-books, because they often have this neat spark of brilliance this one so sorely lacks.

In fact, at one point, I was just stupefied - between this and other, recent Fat Goblin Games-releases like the awesome Player's Guide to Vathak, the installment on Ropes or Lucus Palosaari's Mantles of Power yawns a huge chasm in ambition, quality and execution. (Btw.: Get those!) In fact, this pdf, to me, felt very much like a WIP, perhaps handed in with a delay and thus rushed through editing/development...that would kinda explain the significant discrepancy. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought this was the first CtA, from even before Axes. And it's about shields, of all things, which have so much amazing untapped potential, which can use the coolness-upgrade so hard. sigh Don't get me wrong, there are gems herein...but you have to look for them. The problem is that modification-engines like the one this tries to provide, ultimately, require significant precision and when the crunch feels just not as carefully generated...well...then you have a problem. It breaks my heart, it really does, mainly because I went into this wanting so hard to like it; looking forward to reading it...but I can't go higher than 2.5 stars on this one, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Shields
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The Luchador
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2016 13:49:36

An Endzietgeist.com review

This base-class clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The luchador class, chassis-wise, receives d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and gains basically a monk's unarmored AC-bonus progression, but uses Charisma as governing attribute for it. Similarly unarmed damage increases to 2d10 at 20th level...and yes, Small luchador-damage-table included. First level nets the luchador the vigilante's double identity, with his masked persona being his larger than life luchador personality and thus, discovering his social identity is usually not as big a problem. He also treats his luchador levels as both vigilante and monk levels for the purpose of feat/talent/etc.-qualifications and receives Improved Grapple as a 1st level bonus feat. The luchador also uses his class level instead of his BAB to calculate his CMB and CMD and is treated as having at least Intelligence 13 for the purpose of combat feat prerequisites.

Similarly, at first level, the luchador chooses one of three stables: Freestyle luchadors gain +1 to Acrobatics and Intimidate checks made to demoralize, +1 per every 5 class levels gained, Oil Wrestlers may spend 1 minute preparing themselves to gain +1 to CMD vs. grapple, bull rush, drag, reposition, increasing similarly Disguise faster also decreases the oil application time, which is a nice addition here. Finally, the sumo stable weigh twice as much and may target adversaries of +1 size larger than they usually could with combat maneuvers, with subsequent increases in weight and size categories you can affect. Yep, you could potentially suplex dragons or even the tarrasque. Come on, that is one awesome visual!

The luchador also has a form of social/spiritual clout called Corazon, which is gained at 2nd level; for as long as they have one, they add +1/2 class levels to feint DCs and Intimidate to demoralize DCs. Corazon is lost upon being unmasked, which requires being pinned or the like. Corazon is regained by defeating an opponent of a CR greater or equal than his own sans assistance...or defeat a foe who has previously unmasked him. Starting at 2nd level, they also inflict + Charisma modifier damage whenever they inflict nonlethal damage via unarmed strikes, grapples, etc., +1d6 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, rewarding heroic, good behavior. Like it!

Starting at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the luchador may select a social talent, with 6 new ones added to the array provided by the vigilante. Some of these have the corazon-descriptor, decreasing their efficiency when the luchador has no corazon left: Ancestral Guidance improves the Knowledge (nobility, hostory and religion)-checks. Mchaismo/Marianismo lets the luchador take 20 on a non-UMD Cha-based check once per day, +1/day at 7th and 15th level (take 15 sans corazon). Shamanic Inheritor lets him 1/week call a shaman of his class level to perform a spell for him (cool) and at 12th level, another talent even may provide a means to be raised from the dead 1/month by such an entity. Stable Master nets you a neat stable income (get it...hahaha...sorry, will put a buck in the bad pun jar later) and The People's Champion provides a chance to be warned of ambushes, plots, etc. in areas where his renown has spread.

4th level provides the aerial takedown class feature, increasing his jumping distance, further improving it by +10 ft. per 4 class levels, allowing for a combination with a charge, grapple at the end, and potentially crash flying creatures to the ground. So cheesy and awesome - I adore it! Also at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the luchador may select a stable talent, which contain the option to wear armor in conjunction with their unarmored AC, swashbuckler poaching (including the Dueling Cape Deed), short-term dazing, immediate AOE-demoralizes after knocking foes out, directing escape attempt, including teleportation, into devastating throws, ki-poaching (including short-term flight)...and so on. There also are amazing stable-exclusives like setting yourself ablaze if you're an oily wrestler, gaining nigh-inescapable sumo-grips, follow up attacks to grapples or trips...or, obviously, gaining a vigilante talent, though this one probably should have a "can be taken multiple times"-caveat.

The talents deserve special mention in particularly when combined with the 15 (unless I miscounted) new feats: Cloak throws that combine feints with grapples and throws, Dragon Style-synergy special charges, gaining a tattoo that lets you enchant your unarmed strikes, Dopkicks, Suplexes, alternate damages caused via Eagle Strikes of the Serpent that double as short-term debuff, combining elemental fists with grapples, eyegouging and nosebreaking and even Tag Team's an option. Why am I talking about the feats now, right in the class discussion? Well, because they are precise, complex, employ concepts you can't usually execute well...and because they help the class gain something you only rarely see: When you take the feats in conjunction with the talents, you can generate an absolutely amazing combo-playstyle that lets you do something different a lot of the time; I have not seen a martial class with this much combo potential often; favorites like Interjection Games' Master of Forms, Assassin or certain Akashic classes or the Swordmaster come to mind - I love this one's options.

The capstone nets DR 10/- and fast healing 1 and eliminates aging ability score penalties.

Beyond the basic set-up of the class, the pdf also features a ton of archetypes, 8 to be more precise: The Blood Breaker gets a mutagen instead of skillful combatant and may select associated discoveries...but I wish its engine had further emphasized this. The Dancing Dervish must Perform (dance) to gain an AC-bonus and instead of the 4th level talent, momentum helps him substitute his check for attacks, with 10th level's whirlwind strike providing this for all attacks, with modified math. Not a big fan of this one; it doesn't click and while the skill vs. CMD with the mods is okay, the matter of fact remains that skills can easily be cheesed. The Earthbound gains the stalwart defender's defensive stance at 4th level, gain a social skill bonus and a capstone, that increases their defensive abilities. Okay tweak of the engine, but could have gone further in my book. The Ki Striker gains Elemental Fist at 1st level, are locked into spiritual power as the 4th level stable talent and may, at higher levels, send forth surges of energy via ki and gain a deadly array of ki-powered strikes at a higher level. I like this one, though it once again could further develop the theme.

The Lichador would be one of my favorites, gaining undead resistances, additional damage versus the undead as well as several unique stable talents - from blood drain to a vargouille's paralyzing shriek (yep, with an end after one attack for balance's sake - thank you!) and high level energy drain/mummy rot or becoming shadowy, the theme of this archetype is amazing and it ALSO changes the engine to play differently LOVE this one! The Masked Beast gains the hunter's animal focus via his totem mask, with different abilities depending on the animal emulated and they also gain a proper natural weapon - codified perfectly and 4th level unlocking wild shape - another definite winner here that radically changes the playstyle! The Masked Saint would be the pala-crossover option. Finally, there would be the rudo - these guys usually are the villains, the heels, the guys you love to hate - masters of dirty tricks and sans corazon. They also gain teamwork feats and an accomplice cohort...and I kinda like the idea here, but considering the loss of power that the lack of corazon provides, I don't really consider these guys perfectly balanced - they can use an upgrade.

I am a HUGE fan of how the pdf handles favored class options: Instead of a bland one-line note of crunch, each race covered also notes the take of the race on the class - and the FCOs are neat and go beyond core: Skybourne's extensive race-catalog receives support here - kudos for going the extra mile!

The pdf also features rules for wrestling oils, two types of masks, steel-backed folding chairs and tables and 7 magic items: Laces that enhance your charging (and prevent embarrassing stumbles), powerful championship belts taht combine deflection bonuses to AC and a bonus to Strength and Con, further enhancing the item's potency when defeating worthy foes (yes, concisely defined). A vial of renewing oil and a total of 4 enchanted masks complement this section. Personally, I'd have priced the belt higher, but that may be me. Amazing: One of the masks provides a means to heal when attacking, but cannot be abused and comes with an appropriate Achilles heel. Two thumbs up!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, excellent on a rules-language level. The pdf tackles highly complex subject matter and boils it down to concise options. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column, full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The original pieces of full-color artwork are internally consistent and employ Jacob Blackmon's signature style.

Michael Sayre's Luchador takes one of the most maligned, hated mechanics in Pathfinder and makes it amazing - I usually don't grapple a lot as a GM, nor do my players...the luchador may well change that. The damn cool combo potential of the class allows for some seriously cool experimentation and exceedingly rewarding "OMG, SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?"-moments - so yes, the luchador class-frame with its feats is amazing. Similarly, I loved the detail given to the racial options and the magic and mundane items also are great. So all amazing? Well, almost. On the archetype-front, this felt a bit like it followed two design philosophies: On one hand, we get a lot of minor engine-tweaks and then there are those amazing bits like the Lichador.

When seen back to back, it becomes pretty much immediately apparent, that the Blood Brother, for example, could carry SO MUCH MORE. I mean, come on, Mr. Hyde luchador? That's 10 types of awesome and deserves some cool combo-mechanics - burning mutagen duration for special tricks, blood lusts, odd mutations, acid pustules...there is so much to be done here...and the pdf settled for the base minimum. I know that this is me being a damn, spoiled brat of a reviewer, but I do feel that the excellent base class deserved more of the complex, cool archetypes.

To sum this up: The luchador is an excellent class and one that will, with a cosmetic reskin, feature for several monk orders in my games. It is a design-feat and fun to play and definitely a class for players that usually are bored by martials. It is rewarding and great...but the archetypes, as a whole, only reach the level of good to very good as a total, not the excellence of the rest of the pdf. As such, the pdf misses by seal of approval by a tiny margin, but I will still remain with a definite recommendation of a 5-star-rating.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Luchador
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Cybergeneration: The 2nd Edition
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2016 05:29:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive game clocks in at 250 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of ToC,1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive245 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreons. Additionally, said patreon has graciously provided a print copy, thus moving this further up in my reviewing queue. Thank you, Chad!

So, what is Cybergeneration's 2nd edition? well, you probably know the grand daddy of cyberpunk RPGs, right? No, not Shadowrun, talkin' bout Cyberpunk 2020, my friends! Anyways, the original cybergeneration was basically a subsystem, whereas this, the 2nd edition, constitutes a stand-alone setting that still maintains compatibility. Got that?

Well, so what about the world? You see, this book's focus is pretty radically different than that of most other cyberpunk games. What does the genre evoke for you? Probably some images of steel-clad towers, mighty arcologies, horrible megacorps and a fight for survival within the shadows of the moloch of an industrial complex that is grinding all free will, right? Well, this one takes place in 2027 and the big fight between the revolutionaries and counter-culture advocates of the 2020s has been decisively won - much like the Hippie culture and many another counter-/sub-culture movement, the sell-out happened. 2027, the former rebels have sold out and been mostly integrated into corporate structure; parents work 16-hour shifts and the nuclear family's a thing of the past. In the absence of family ties, a tribal structure has developed among the chronically bored, the desolate and lost kids of the age. Additionally, the presence of a mysterious plague, oftentimes lethal, but just as well survivable, has basically introduced special mutations among the youth, enhancing them beyond the normal - these are the members of the cybergeneration. This book is the chronicle of their tales.

Anyways, we begin unlike any other roleplaying game I have ever witnessed. You read a screen. A mysterious figure named Morgan contacts the juvepunkers and tries to steer them to safety. You give them a map. It shows weird signs. Some of them represent the patrols out to get them. They avoid them as spinners (advanced aerodyne vehicles) rush overhead. They need to get to safety...and once they have, it's time to choose an allegiance or gang, if you will. Yep. You heard me right. Character creation happens mid-adventure. And after each decision...well, the plot goes on.

The book provides a COLOSSAL amount of options here - a total of 18 such groups, called yogangs, are provided - each featuring notes on how you involved with them, how your relationship with other juvepunks is. Each of these yogangs grants access to a particularly powerful/unique skill that is exclusive for the gang. All right...so what are they? In all brevity: ArcoRunners are the ones who explore the intestines of the grand arcologies - the tunnels, shafts...and use this knowledge appropriately. BeaverBrats are suburbanites, tricksters and infiltration experts. BoardPunks would basically be the cyber-skaters. EcoRaiders would be the radical green terrorists and defenders of nature. FaceDancers are beholden to the idea of a fluid identity and employ technology and acting to impersonate others. Glitterkids are the new money scions of the famous...or famous themselves. GoGangers would be the cyber-equivalent of hardcore bikergangs. GoldenKids are those born with a golden, diamond-encrusted spoon in their mouth...think Dangerous Liaisons. Goths...well, are goths...or what the author thought goths were about. sigh They're not goths, they're friggin suicidal vampire-posers. I digress.

Guardians would be basically a combo of neighborhood watch/boyscouts and police; MallBrats are blackmarket dealers and know their way around the megamall complexes. MegaViolents think of themselves as heirs of the Vikings and the warrior-cultures, looking for the thrill of deadly combat...Clockwork orange, anyone? Rads are the smart kids that try to employ the methodology of the system to break it from within. Squats are the consummate beggars/scavengers. StreetFighters would be the disciplined martial artist equivalents to the berserker MegaViolents. TinkerTots are juvenile techs and engineers; Tribals eschew hightech and basically can be called badass urban Neo-native Americans. Finally, vidiots are urban guerrilla media & communication sabotage experts. As a whole, these yogangs can be envisioned as the tropes for groups of youths, seen through the lens of cyberpunk and amped up to 11. The respective write-ups are incredibly evocative, providing unique terminology employed by the group (aka, group-exclusive slang) and thus further increase the sense of immersion.

Once the players have reached the safehouse , it's time for their assessment of the mysterious man (or is he a man?) named Morgan. This would be when you assign your attributes. There are 9 of these: INT (Intelligence), REF (Reflexes), COOL (Cool - resistance to stress/willpower), TECH (Technical ability), LUCK (Luck - these points may be expended to modify die rolls; they regenerate on the next session), ATT (Attractiveness), MOVE (Movement), EMP (Empathy), BODY (Body type; combo of Strength and capability to sustain wounds). You have 50 points and you MUST place 2 in each attribute; you can assign up to 8 points. Assign all 50...and character generation's almost done.

Cybergeneration knows 12 skills per character (one is the yogang skill) - you assign between 1 and 8 points to these and get 40 points to assign. These skills, however, do NOT include hacking, advanced pharmaceutics or heavy weaponry - they represent basically skills kids could have - and considering that the suggested maximum age for a PC here is 19, you can kinda understand why. It should be noted that the book does feature means to "translate" the skills of the youths into "proper" adult skills, so if your game translates their youthful escapades to more serious, adult themes, you're all covered. In fact, the book does expect that, sooner or later, the yogangers will pick up some "adult" skills. The seamlessness of the transition-mechanics is pretty impressive.

Now I've already hinted at the quasi-sentient Carbon Plague; this is where the X-men comparison comes in: There are 5 default mutations the plague may cause in adolescents (and no, as written, you have no control over as what you end up): Tinmen become pretty much living cyborgs without the hassle of humanity. Alchemists contain nanites and may break down and reassemble things they touch. Wizards are basically the equivalent of Otaku in Shadowrun -they understand binary fluently, conjure up virtuality icons by just thinking about them, etc. And yes, you may learn to make familiars, independent AI programs. Scanners let you see moods of others and take advantage of this, being basically human lie-detectors/thought-readers, while finally, Bolters can fire quasi-wires - basically, they are living tasers and may recharge easily, shock others...and no, before you ask, you can't use them as grappling hooks. The rules provided are concise and detailed, with noemnclature definitions accompanying the well-crafted fluff. Using a lot of skills will net you IP - Improvement Pints at the referee's discretion. You use these to increase your skills, though not all skills cost the same IP to improve. Learning proper edgerunner skills, obviously, is tougher for yuvegangers.

Your starting equipment is what you purchase at the mall, where massive two-page spreads not only provide the rules, but also the visuals...with the exception of the nice artwork of a pizza place. You buy blackmarket guns. Blackmarket's the emphasis, hence only an artwork of yuvegangers eating pizza. Amazing and retains the internal consistency.

All right, so how do skill-checks work? You take 1d10, add your attribute and if you roll equal or higher the DC, you succeed. 10s are critical successes, 1s critical fumbles and there are opposed checks, obviously. Stat-checks mean you roll 1d10 and try to stay below your attribute. Simple, right? The book also has its own combat system, dubbed "Saturday Night Skuffle." It knows two time units, turns and rounds: Turns take 10 seconds, rounds 3. One turn contains 3 rounds. At the start of each round, one player rolls 1d10. The Referee rolls for the opposition. On a tie, the players go first. Players then decide on order or go by the highest REF-stat. You may wait for an action, but only ONCE per turn. (An optional rule lets you delay two actions thus, though the second is penalized.) One round equals movement based on your MOVE stat. Line of sight is called "Facing". If you fire at a foe, you total REF, your skill, weapon accuracy (WA) and 1d10 - if the result exceeds the difficulty number of the shot, you hit. You may attempt to dodge on your turn, increasing said difficulty number. Auto is really lethal, just fyi: For each point over the difficulty number, one bullet hits the target. Genius guns require no skill, but have a percentile chance to hit, though scramblers etc. may modify that. Microwavers, EMP guns and cap lasers work similarly simple.

Melee works as follows: Total REF, skill, WA, add 1d10 and compare it to the defender's REF + Skill + WA +1d10. When attacking edgerunners, yogangers halve their skills, though -proper training hard to replace. Weapons are categorized in damage classes and hits reduce BODY; at -4, you're dead. The higher you roll, the more damage you'll cause - just compare to the table and there you go. The book covers falling damage, poisons and armor has 2 values: AR (armor rating) and EV (encumbrance value) - EV is subtracted from your REF; AR reduces the damage incurred by its value. Simple, clean and easy to use. Nice, btw.: You may speed up combat by rolling different-colored dice. I tried it. It works perfectly.

Now, obviously, the net is yet another crucial aspect of any cyberpunk scenario - and thus, both wizards and regular licensing is covered. The level in which the like is defined is very concise: AIM Overwatch may take an interest in you any time and programs come with a massive list. Cyberdeck stats and everything in that regard is pretty easy. Even dataforts and combat is similarly simple - simpler in fact, than non-net altercations. The presence of Virtuality, i.e. web/reality-overlap, also means that you have an easy means of adding yet another dimension to the proceedings.

So, character generation's done; the rules are covered...and now, we'll contemplate crucial takes on the adolescent themes; indeed, the book takes some serious time to talk about the mentality of the yuvegangers: Yuvegangers don't do things for money; at this time, idealism runs high and firepower will not solve anything. Let's talk about the elephant in the room: Yes, sex may be on the minds of the adolescents and adults RPing this may be awkward...but at the same time, it is a great plot-element and the book takes on the theme in a mature manner - much like X-men, the problems by e.g. the Carbon Disease and romantic involvement between people with abilities can make for a variety of unique narrative twists. Theme-wise, this is less Bladerunner, and more Streets of Fire - drugs, treachery, the leitmotifs of the yogangs and the option to join the revolution, there is a ton of stories to pursue.

The book also featured a ton of information on the timeline of the ISA, its structure, life in corporate zone America and details of the corps with their equipment and resources. The book also features one massive city - Night City, fully mapped, for your immediate use and provides the stats of edgerunner legends/mentors like Alt Cunningham, Mister John Silverhand and Morgan Blackhand.

The aforementioned adult skills are fully depicted (no need to flip books) and an easy life path generator helps speed up the process. Obviously, though, we do need more than that, particularly the referee: Hence, the final chapter of the book depicts the bad guys - their deadly cyberware; the nasty and not-so nasty organizations in 2027. The book e.g. depicts the plague-survivor-alliance, who may be helpful for the victims of the Carbon Plague, sure...but their mindset also allowed AIDS II to spread and while they are good, they may well require the help of the yuvegangers...or do more harm than good. Of course, more straight villainous organizations can be found as well. Moreover, the book features different sample NPC-stats, as well as a selection of named NPCs for your perusal.

Finally, the book does feature conversion notes from Cyberpunk 2020's base rules.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch and professional, I noticed no significant glitches in either formal or rules-language criteria. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the book features a ton of great, original b/w-artwork. The pdf does have one seriously annoying issue: The bookmarks do not work and are scrambled - the handful of them that are here, that is. A book of this size NEEDS proper, nested bookmarks. If you can get your hands on the softcover, it may not be the most perfectly made of books, being softcover, but at least my copy is significantly more useful as a dead tree. So yeah, if you can get it, get dead tree or have the pdf printed and bound.

The team of authors Mike Pondsmith, Edward Bolme, David Ackerman, Eric Heisserer, Wade Racine, Karl Wu, Tristan Heydt, James Milligan, Steve Sabram, Craig Sheeley and Benjamin Wright have delivered something I would have never, ever expected.

Heck, I'm German. There is some truth to the cliché that cyberpunk's incredibly popular around here and the one game I have more experience as a player than as a GM/Referee, it's Shadowrun. I'm also pretty big on Cyberpunk 2020...and I had never even HEARD about this book. Without Chad Middleton getting me this book and telling me to review it, I would have never even looked for it. I would have been poorer off for it. This book is remarkable for 2 things: Number 1, this book features pretty much one of the most amazing, immersive means of character generation I have seen in any roleplaying game; swift, creative and immersive, the experience of running this for the first time is pretty amazing.

Secondly, and more importantly, this book provides an aesthetic I have frankly never seen before. An honest jamais-vu-experience. When properly run, this is something I would have considered to be a contradictio in adjecto: Light-hearted cyberpunk. Instead of the doom and gloom noir aesthetics, this can be pretty much a futuristic take on the "Lausbubengeschichten", i.e. the tales of the hijinx of adolescents, as they outsmart and outwit the establishment, the adults. Think of a possible theme that of Emil i Lönneberga or Tom Sawyer crossed with Home Alone and cyberpunk aesthetics. Of course, more serious themes can similarly be used, spliced in; as the characters progress, some may the theme and style mature.

In fact, if there is one regret I have regarding this book, then that I didn't have this when I was a kid/adolescent myself. Cyberpunk's grim and gritty themes may not be 100% amazing for kids...but this can be run as kid-friendly...like e.g. the animated X-men cartoon with a cyberpunk-coat. The range of themes you can take from these cartoons and comics, combined with the whole cyberpunk cosmos ends up with a vast diversity of available tropes. In the end, it can generate a stark and amazing blending of dystopian cyberpunk and more light-hearted themes. What should not work, ultimately and against all possibilities, does work and generates perhaps one of the coolest coming-of-age narratives you can wish for.

This is a hidden gem if there ever was one; the book, frankly, should be much more widely known, more popular. Cybergeneration 2027, frankly, is one of the books that made me really appreciate being a reviewer. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - if you like cyberpunk, please check this out and if you have kids/adolescents intrigued in scifi or cyberpunk aesthetics, this will be a perfect way to introduce them to the game and slowly increase the maturity factor as they age! This may well be the first coming-of-age-roleplaying game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cybergeneration: The 2nd Edition
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Everyman Iconics: Drake
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2016 05:26:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Everyman Gaming's Everyman Iconics-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, who is Drake Windchaser beyond a character that we've seen in plenty an Everyman Gaming supplement's artworks? Pretty simple if you know one series: Are you watching Supernatural? He's Dean Winchester. (Get it? If you've got really sloppy pronunciation, Windchaser <-> Winchester...) Raised on an open road, lost his mother to a shadow demon; brought up as a hunter of evil by his father, who then vanished, estranged from his brother Sal, who has taken a back seat from adventuring...yep, this is pretty much, note by note, Dean Winchester's origin story and the personality provided matches this as well.

Build-wise, Drake Windchaser, unsurprisingly focuses on identifying monsters and dealing with them with extreme prejudice, with his base-classes being gunslinger and ranger, though the ranger is modified with the monster hunter archetype and the gunslinger with the pistolero archetype, both of which have been reprinted here for your convenience. Though his first level is gunslinger, Drake's build focuses more on the ranger aspect, with the ratio of levels being 5: 15 between the classes over his 20-level progression.

The character table provided notes the advancement chosen for feats and attributes at the respective levels and the table also features a special column that lists the choices granted by combat styles, favored terrain, etc. As befitting of the pistolero archetype, drake employs a number of close-quarters feats over the course of his levels, emphasizing flexibility with his pistols. Once again, the respective feats are reproduced herein. Drake's chosen traits, killer and kin-bond are well-chosen and reproduced here alongside his deeds.

Now the monster hunter archetype, in case you didn't know, was originally created in Paranormal Adventures and as such, the pdf provides guidance to replace the archetype and go with a non-archetype'd iteration. The spells chosen by Drake are listed and provide flavorful choices that do a nice job of emphasizing the choices made.

And then, the massive meat begins - we get drake, fully statted, from humble level 1 to his level 20 iteration. Drake's build is pretty efficient; not minmaxed to the n-th degree, but a character that should work just fine within the confines of most games. Drake, as provided, employs heroic NPC wealth and ability scores.

Finally, the last couple of pages represent a more printer-friendly landscape layout change to depict drake as a sample pregen for 1st, 4th and 7th level. Very nice: here, the abilities are fully depicted, which renders "getting into" the characters mechanics pretty simple. At the same time, this is also a point where I need to nitpick a bit: Drake's pregen versions, as presented, do not state the point-buy used, nor do they feature notes on how to scale him up or down; that would have been the icing on the cake.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - apart from some minor hiccups like a missing blank space or the like, I found no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to a nice full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though individual statblocks (or the pregens) do not get bookmarks, which is a bit of a pity. The pregens being more printer-friendly than the rest of the pdf is a nice touch. Artwork-wise, Jeff Strand and Jacob Blackmon manage to generate a concise aesthetic.

Alexander Augunas' build for Drake is effective and solid and hits its mark, representing Dean Winchester in PFRPG, pretty damn well....or not, depending on your perspective, for the build has the unfortunate drawback of me having seen every single episode of Supernatural so far - my girlfriend's really into the series and I get why. While I personally think the series has peaked when they killed off the supporting cast and basically made the "final episode" and has since nuked the fridge, I consider it to be enjoyable schlock (meant in the most endearing of ways!) - but it is frankly here that I feel the structure of the Everyman Iconics-series should have accounted for the stuff that happened. I mean, come on! Spent time in Purgatory, mark of Cain, agent of diverse entities, beloved of the Darkness...there is so much cool stuff you could do with templates to the NPC-version of this guy...

Instead, the Dean...eh...Drake iteration we get is pretty much a progression of the character through the 20 levels that is, personality-wise and build-wise, a linear progression of an early Dean...eh...Drake, when the source-material would have lent itself to so much more insanity. That is not a bad thing in itself, but it also means that, with the minor hiccups mentioned, I consider the character to be slightly less than what his potential would have yielded. If you want a nice, efficient build, Drake is worth getting. If you want the extra-mile and a representation that follows the series, you may end up disappointed on a high level. Hence, my final verdict will clock in between, at 4.5 stars, though I will round down for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Iconics: Drake
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The War Mind
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2016 05:24:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We have a psionic prestige archetype here, one that combines the war mind PrC and the fighter class. Chassis-wise, the class must be non-chaotic, receives d10 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with all simple and martial weapons,, all armors and shields, but not tower shields. The class has full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves and begins play with a Combat feat as well as Wild Talent. 1st level nets one psychic warrior power and every 3rd level after that, he gains another one and Wisdom is his governing attribute for his psionics. The maximum power level he can manifest is 5th.

2nd level unlocks the ability to consult the codex for 1 round, gaining a +1 bonus to AC, CMB, CMD, initiative, melee attacks, melee damage, ranged attacks or ranged damage. The bonus increase to +2 at 6th level and further increases by + every 5 levels thereafter. 3rd level allows for the free action +2 Str and Con-self-buff, lasting one minute. This can be used 3/day and is increased to +4 at 13th level. 5th level, he may, as a free action, buff his AC by +2 3/day, increasing the bonus to +4 at 15th level. At 9th level, the war mind may pay 4 power points to gain an additional use of either ability.

3rd level nets bravery (relevant for use in conjunction with Rogue Genius Games' amazing Bravery Feats, for example) and 6th level and every 6 beyond that lets the war mind replace a combat feat with a psionic feat and the pdf has a caveat that prevents the swapping of prereq-feats.

7th level nets DR 1/-, which is upgraded to 2/-. at 17th level. 11th level lets the warmind choose a square adjacent to the one he attacks, applying his attack to both squares. Cleave-synergy is provided for and, as a limit, these attacks may not be performed after having moved 10 ft. or more. 19th level lets the war mind 1/day add +10d6 damage as part of an attack and as a capstone, they may reassign the floating bonuses granted at 2nd level as a swift action.

The pdf comes with excessive favored class options for core races as well as uncommon ones, porphyran races, etc. As a minor complaint, the skulk's FCO's absent. The pdf also features a sample character, garish Falnor, an half-ogre war mind, who is presented at 1st, 5th, 10th and 15th level.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no grievous hiccups apart from the missing FCO. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column standard with purple highlights and the pdf has no art apart from the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. Nice!

Mark Gedak's take on the war mind is a solid blending of the concepts; the class plays as intended, is a valid choice and ability dispersal is neat as well. That being said, I found myself wishing that this did a bit more with the floating bonuses and the power points to enhance the self-buffs...but that may just be me. In the end, this is a decent, inexpensive little prestige archetype, well worth the asking price. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The War Mind
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Lost Lore: Divine Hunters
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2016 05:21:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Frog God Games' Lost Lore-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Gods in pretty much most fantasy games loathe directly interposing their will on the mortal world; there is, for the most part, a good reason for that from a narrative point of view. While I loved the gods coming down to Faerûn as much as the next guy, the fallout of direct deific intervention opens up a lot of questions: Pertaining the importance of mortal free will, of why the deities don't fix all the issues themselves, etc. The Scarred Lands back in the day, with their post-apocalyptic, dark nuances did a great job and depicting the aftermath of divine struggles and deities with a more hands-on-approach, while in the vast landscape of ridiculously powerful characters in Faerûn, the impact of deities frankly wasn't as pronounced due to the sheer number of quasi-demigods stalking the lands. At one point, one of my players observed that every second town seemed to have its own archmage...and while I don't concur with that assessment, I do understand the sentiment.

Anyways, in the Lost Lands, deities do have their agents to send after mortals that really annoy them (and don't (yet) warrant a herald or full-blown crusade. These beings, the divine hunters, are called nel'barzoth, formed from the very stuff of the planes and upon being destroyed, they evaporate into a nauseating fume...an information that can only be found in the flavorful introduction, but oddly not in the respective entry. The hunters are divinely customized to match the alignment of their deity. Similarly, damage reduction relies on alignment: Good nel'barzoth receive DR/evil and vice versa. Neutral nel'barzoth instead receive DR/silver. As an aesthetic nitpick, the wording here slightly deviates from the usual nomenclature - "gaining evil DR" is not appropriate rules-language last time I checked. All nel'barzoth are immune to cold and poison and has resistance to acid, electricity and fire, determined by their power level, i.e. 5, 10 and 15 for lesser, intermediate and greater nel'barzoth respectively. They also gain SR equal to 11 + CR and may 1/day cast atonement and 2/day plane shift, but only to arrive at the target's location, with both being cast as an SP. Finally, the spell-like abilities of these critters include healing options, with their relative strength being determined by the power of the divine hunter. Nel'barzoth gain the domain powers of one of their deity's domains - conveniently pre-chosen, yes...but frankly, to avoid the skipping of books, actually including the domain powers granted in the statblock would have been nice. As written, I must, for example, look up the precise effects of bleeding touch. Granted, it's a minor inconvenience...but still.

The weakest of the nel'barzoth would be the xillix at CR 4; quinbacs clock in at CR 9 and Ziphnas at CR 15. All of these creatures have in common that they have access to the smite infidel ability, which means that they add +5 Cha-mod to atk and + HD to damage versus the target creature. They also gain a deflection bonus equal to Cha-mod to attacks versus the foe and +1 to atk and damage versus those helping the infidel in the case of the xillix. More powerful nel'barzoth receive more significant boosts to their attacks and damage and may more easily confirm crits or a more devastating nature versus the target. This ability is a bit weirdly named, considering that smite usually implies an activate choice absent in the ability - the creature is created to hunt down the trespasser/heathen and thus, the target is pretty fixed. Though, again, this is primarily an aesthetic nitpick. The Ziphna also adds his Charisma bonus to AC and CMD as a sacred or profane bonus (I assume neutral ones to have a choice of either, but am not sure) that is even maintained while flat-footed. Weird: The Ziphna has this cut-copy-paste glitch: "At 8th level, as a swift action.." - they don't have levels, which make the weapon master ability a pretty obvious cut-copy-paste glitch of the domain. Yep, oddly, here the domain ability has been copied in.

This is not the end, however - the pdf does provide notes on the option, at the GM's discretion, of 3rd tier mythic characters with the divine source universal path ability gaining the limited ability to create these beings, though doing so, ultimately, is very taxing. Speaking of the mythic: The Ziphna is not the most powerful nel'barzoth - that would be the CR 22/MR 9 mythic ziphna, who do not automatically miss on natural 1s. Unfortunately, we once again have pretty obvious cut-copy-paste inconsistencies - the ability employs the 2nd person singular, directly speaking of "you." Additionally, 1/round, they may compare an attack roll with an attack that hit, negating it on a successful roll - not a fan there, considering the swingy nature of such rolls. The domain ability suffers from a similar cut-copy-paste hiccup as that of the Ziphna...and I couldgo down through the abilities of the monster, one by one, and determine by how they are worded the type of context they were originally taken: "You", "The monster", reference to non-mythic ziphna...and no truly unique ability. You may not care about one ability talking about "you" and another using the 3rd person - I actually do, not when it's one hiccup somewhere...but if it is persistent...well, then I do. It's a simple thing to catch and there is basically no reason for this to be here, apart from "was cut copy pasted and never edited."

The pdf concludes with advice on creating your own nel'barzoth and 1/2 a page empty.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not up to par to the standard Frog god Games has set - from cut-copy-paste remnants to non-italicized spell-references, the pdf has a couple of inconsistencies that should have been caught. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The b/w-artwork provided is excellent.

Gosh darn it. I like John Ling's nel'barzoth. I would love them to come with a selection of unique abilities by domain and more customization options, but I enjoy the concept and the execution is generally solid. However, it does show that John also doubled as editor and developer. Editing and developing one's own writing is SIGNIFICANTLY harder than taking care of the material of others. Believe me, I'm speaking from my own experience. I understand how this has happened, though the extent of obvious cut-copy-paste glitches goes beyond what I would consider understandable.

Don't get me wrong...the nel'barzotha re functional as presented...but the glitches make this feel rushed. And frankly, the anger over such glitches somewhat soured the pdf for me. Let me reiterate: This is not a bad pdf...but considering the awesome critters out there, several penned by John Ling himself, I can't help but pronounce the divine hunters as presented wanting. They could have been good, but as presented, I can't go higher than 2 stars for these guys.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Lore: Divine Hunters
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FT 2.5 - Three Nights in Portsmouth
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2016 10:12:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/expansion clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, what is this pdf? In short, it could be considered to be the anthology/director's cut-version additional content for the second part of Daniel J. Bishop's AMAZING "Faerie Tales from Unlit Shores"-series, The Portsmouth Mermaid. As such, there will be minor SPOILERS for that one in here as well, but mostly of a structural nature.

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

...

..

.

All right, only judges around? Great, so "The Portsmouth Mermaid"'s middle section is pretty much a free-form sandboxy investigation with weirdness happening in the middle section. My one piece of minor criticism was that the section could have used a bit more for the players to do - if you have good investigators, it may be a bit too simple. These modules, then are perfect to splice in or to use as a bridge to the next installment of the series. As simpler scenarios, they can also be transplanted as brief modules beyond the context of the series pretty easily. Since "The Portsmouth Mermaid" is set against the backdrop of Yuletide celebrations, the default season herein in supposed to be winter.

Scenario number one would be "Blood for Cthulhu!", wherein cultists of the tentacled one capture an ally of the PCs (or a PC of a player conveniently not present) - this adds a sharper focus on this cult, which fell behind the depiction of the Dagon-worshippers integral to the plot of the Mermaid. As an alternative, there may not even be a kidnapping villain, with all being a set up of the Dagonite cultists to interrupt the lesser of two evils. (Yes, in case you haven't read FT 2 - it's perhaps the one scenario I know that features frickin' Cthulhu-cultists as the LESSER evil...go figure why I like it...) The trail leads into the salt marsh, where a roll with Intelligence and Luck determines the route taken, the opposition encountered...as well as the time passed, for a timer's ticking...something to bear in mind while the PCs deal with salt hounds, weird cultist chanting and a chance to break into a massive array of naked cultists conjuring forth a horrid being - if the PCs are too late, a polypus white thing may await the PCs...and they may find an idol, which is powerful, but yearns for sacrifice. The deadly consequences...well, can be cataclysmic for your psyche, though.

Scenario number two, Trail of the Rat, has seemingly less repercussions, as giant talking rats abduct a child and drag it into a deserted building. The whole set-up here, fully mapped for your convenience, is tailor-made to introduce PCs stuck in the investigation to the tunnels below Portsmouth, while dealing with the Pied Piper of Portsmouth and introducing the PCs to the ghouls of Portsmouth in a not necessarily hostile manner. A nice little expansion!

Scenario number 3 deals with the hiding place of a stack of pirate gold, supposedly hidden in the earth: The Open Tomb contains actual names for those interred in the crypts and the level of detail presented here is neat indeed. Sooner or later, the PCs will stumble over a strange, house-sized beast of lethal proportions - the mythical sea dragon, a strange amalgam of scale-less fish and salamander and a horribly powerful adversary. Thankfully, PCs itching for combat will have a chance to deal with a deadly soul hunter and an elemental grue here, both of which feature significant and flavorful components. On a success, the PCs may go out of this sidetrek with some serious treasure, which is exceedingly detailed...but the PCs will have paid for it dearly.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; while I noticed a minor formatting hiccup or two, but no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-artwork is fantastic, original and high-quality. The full-color cartography is nice, though I would have liked player-friendly versions sans keys. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.

Daniel J. Bishop's 3 little scenarios here greatly enhance the experience of running part II of his amazing series, but also as standalone scenarios, they are very flavorful and fun. That being said, sans "The Portsmouth Mermaid", the scenarios do lose a bit of their potency and flavor. As a whole, this module offers some cool sidetreks and expansions that render the main module a fantastic experience. I have to rate this on its own, though - which is while I will settle on a final verdict of 4 stars for this; however, if you do get "The Portsmouth Mermaid", consider this to be a superb and must-buy expansion.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
FT 2.5 - Three Nights in Portsmouth
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Veranthea Codex: Into the Veil
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2016 10:08:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion to the evocative Veranthea Codex-setting clocks in at 42 pages of content, 1 page of front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this expansion with a brief history of the veil. But what is the veil? The far North of Veranthea's oceans contain a colossal screaming maelstrom, a twisted wall of winds that stretches for as far as the eye can see. Most sane captains avoid the massive hazard, but time and again, the foolhardy and unfortunate are drawn into the veil...and those that survive find themselves in a region of scheming city states and pirates...think of the area basically as pirate country. A total of 4 greater landmasses can be found within this region, with the map featuring common routes. The mystical nature of the horrid storm are fully depicted - and traveling out of the region is a near suicidal attempt, as beyond the perpetual storm, the roaming reefs, made of a constructy components of chitin and sinew...and yes, there is some truth to the speculation of the storm, nay, the whole region, feeling a bit like a prison....for this is where the legendary mythic lich H'gal and his legions battle the puppetmen, constructs with an uncanny ability to infiltrate humanoid society, all in order to contain his greatest mistake, something even he could not undo...

Against the backdrop of this not-so-subtle shadow-war, we have settlements made of flotillas dubbed anchorages, one of which receives a full settlement statblock and some notable locations that generally are intriguing, but no map. Now onward to the major geographic locations that move with this massive storm: The first of these would be the coldest, Polis Prime, which has a unique aesthetic of viking long-houses in the country meeting full-blown pseudo-democracy under the Misteria Conglomerate and its massive industrial complex - in the hands of a capable GM, this can be an intriguing backdrop indeed, with once again, a statblock for the metropolis and information on its quarters, but alas, no map or the like. A colony of trectyori exiles can also be found here (once again, with stats) and the technology featured within the region may well be the result of the adversary of H'gal, adding a magic vs. tech-angle to the whole proceedings.

Speaking of H'gal, the southwestern landmass is tied to his history; the deadlands, a wasteland deemed inhospitable until the successful settlement Gearingsport sprung up. This section, just btw., also introduces magnetite, a new material that treats weapons made from it...as though the user had spellstrike, usable Int-mod times per day. Oh, and it may hold touch spells for hours equal to the enhancement bonus, with a swift action activation. For +2500 GP for light armors, more for better protection...but still. Nope, this is underpriced for its potency. Not getting anywhere near my game. The section also mentions the disturbing blackblood plague...but does not provide a mechanical representation for it, reducing it to an anecdote about a crafty being...a missed chance there.

The northeastern part of the Veil features tropical Caramballa, an archipelago where Port Balas provides the sufficiently Caribbean flair you may want...though there is the component of the sinister lurking behind the surface, as youngsters tend to suddenly leave for the jungles, never to return, to follow the mad whims of Carambal, the Last Irrational, a character previously statted and reprinted here. The details provided for the region also mention a Will-fortifying brew, but alas, no price. A note on the shadow war between H'gal and his mysterious mistake (I'm not spoiling the truth in this review) extending to beneath the waves make sense and we get a cool environmental hazard/trap at CR 15 - which would be even more amazing if it was formatted slightly better - white text over a full-color artwork in the background...not a fan from a layout-perspective. The pirate-county here would be Port Ciaro, once again fully statted.

The final region would be the Ostershain Isle, where rich soil provides food aplenty and a mercantile, stern enclave of mages rules. The order of the chambermages, with the secret of their prodigious power and their silent sentinel order or potentially anti-magic guardsmen certainly can be used as a nasty magocratic body of adversaries.

Now, as you may have noted, there is a very strong, high-concept leitmotif underlying the whole region - that of the conflict between H'gal and his mistake. The supplemental material further emphasizes that: H'gal's stats are reprinted alongside a cool trap, a nasty venom, a disease that covers your weapons with bleed-inducing blood (cool, but dangerous)...and we also get a cool new critter as well as stats for basically the end-game of the metaplot, which boils down to the PCs either using an intelligent doomsday device against a cthulhoid mecha or vice versa...or grow to mecha size themselves to duke it out with these threats...which is incredibly amazing and epic. The pdf also provides ample adventure seeds for your consideration.

After that, we are introduced to the Alterran race that spawned H'gal: These guys get +2 Dex, +4 Int, -4 Con (too min-maxy and lopsided for my tastes) and are monstrous humanoids with 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft, stability, light blindness, +1 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), plates that grant a "+1 natural bonus" (lacks an "armor" or "to AC") and a 1d4-talon that does not specify whether it's a primary or secondary weapon. Instead of darkvision and light blindness, they can gain +1 to Clim, replace the two skill bonuses with UMD and Knowledge (arcana) or gain at-will detect undead, which formatting-wise/rules-language-wise may be intended as a supernatural or spell-like ability. I don't know, since the pdf doesn't mention it.

Some alterrans replace their tinkering expertise with 1/day silent image, mending or obscuring mist (italicizations missing), while others lose the natural AC and reduce speed to 20 ft. ... for DR 5/bludgeoning. While I consider DR to be grossly overvalued regarding design, lumping the DR all in at first level is too much - why not employ a more elegant scaling mechanism here? Others of these guys gain 50% miss chance in dim light instead of the natural armor bonus, which is similarly OP for the trade-off. Nice: We get a TON of favored class options for the race, covering the advanced class guide and occult adventures options. Not so nice: The kineticist FCO, for example, could use some clarification whether it allows for the addition of acid damage to electricity blasts and vice versa or whether it only enhances the damage output of the blast with the corresponding element.

The race also receives two racial archetypes: The biojammer corsair for the magus, who gains a modified skill-list and a modified proficiency-list, which includes the armerrufe -basically a bio-engineered quasi-musket that targets touch AC and deals electricity damage. They slowly recharge and the wielder may recharge them quicker as a swift action, taking nonlethal damage when doing so. At 3rd level, the corsair gains an arm with such a weapon integrated into the arm, allowing the character to one-hand-wield the weapon, but leaves the weapon fully charged all the time for infinite blasting. 5th level nets Craft Biodevices, with only a +15% price increases and 11th level netting the feat a second time, eliminating the price-increase. 10th level allows them to survive in the starless void for up to 10 minutes per arcane pool point expended... I assume the expenditure to be a swift action, but the archetype fails to specify that. Now what does the aforementioned feat do? Well, it is based on Knowledge (nature) and duplicates magical effects, but lets the item in question work in wild magic/no magic, but only up to 6th spell level. It must be integrated to some extent into a users body. Generally, a pretty decent feat...with some flavor, but honestly, I don't get why the mechanics here do not tie in with the technology rules that imho make more sense in that context...but that may just be me.

The second archetype would be the colonial outcast, who increases sneak attack damage dice when used in conjunction with talons to d8s, but other weapons instead use d4s. 3rd level nets +1 to Disguise, Intimidate and Sense Motive vs. humanoids, which increases by +1 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, replacing trap sense. 4th level replaces the "rogue trick" (should be "rogue talent") with the option to ignore up to 15 ft. of difficult terrain when using Stealth; 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase that range by +5 ft. The pdf also features more items: Chitin salve helps detect alterrans and increases an alterran's natural armor bonus, but at the cost of reduced movement. Ystill-grath nests are generally a cool item: A bio-mine that is flavorful...but honestly, it took me more than one reading to get how the item is supposed to work; the rules-language is operational, but it could use some refinement to make the great concept shine.

Beyond the aforementioned feats, one that adds a talon attack to grapples, one that adds a spedd lockdown while grappling and one that nets a climb speed for alterrans can be found. The pdf also features 3 magic items - an item to fly in space, a gauntlet that disperses goodberries to wounded wielders as well as a vat that may use greater restoration, disintegrate those inside and when used to destroy creatures, it helps retraining their tricks...pretty cool. 3 spells can also be found: Gene Thief lets you steal racial traits - but only lets you employ those that you could, limb-wise. Unfortunately, I think the spells needs more clarification: Can a creature gain a bite attack thus? Or would that not qualify? No idea. Perfect Integration immediately integrates a biodevice and stellar journey basically is the magic equivalent of a rocket drive, allowing for the passage into outer space.

The pdf concludes with 2 pages of random encounter-tables.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting isn't per se bad, but it also isn't as tight as usual for Rogue Genius Games, with a couple of hiccups extending to rules-language. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and deserves both criticism and praise: On the one hand, much like previous Veranthea-supplements, it crams a TON of information on each page, but on the other hand, this time around, I felt that the rules-info and similar components sometimes suffered a bit by how they were jammed in on the page. The book is very busy...and this business may account for a couple of the small oversights, like a lack of stats for minor alchemical items mentioned in the flavor. Artworks are mostly full-color stock art, with public domain images spliced in. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Nicholas J. Giebel's "Into the Veil" has been an interesting experience for me: On one hand, I absolutely adore the metaplot, the endgame-scenario of it, the vehicles that supplement it...these components are amazing. The concept of the whole region, similarly, is damn cool...but at the same time, in spite of being chock-full with information, this book left me wanting. You see, Veranthea Codex is a high-concept setting, but here, it feels like the amazing high concept drowns the whole setting sourcebook component. The respective regions lack the maps and details to really shine/outshine the metaplot...which brings me to another issue. The whole region has a "imprisoned/stranded" leitmotif and doesn't really deal with the means of escape properly. The exceedingly evocative and amazing theme, the underwater connection...all of it is mentioned, but not really elaborated upon.

You have this glorious conflict and components...but the details that allow a GM to really make it his/her own, those need to be provided by the mind of the GM. It took me a long time to properly enunciate what this feels like: Into the Veil is an amazing sketch of a mega-adventure or of an AP and if you tackle it as such, it can offer some serious fun. At the same time, I have no idea regarding local nomenclature, habits, etc. - there is a lot of details missing here, to the point where the whole region becomes shadowy. To visualize it: Imagine a tapestry of amazing lights that look intriguing...but having a hard time connecting them to form a concise image. The presence of cthulhoid entities and biotech could have provided a wellspring of utterly amazing crunchy options in conjunction with the backdrop and the underwater-connection, but the pdf does not really deliver in that regard.

From a rules-perspective, this book left me universally pretty unimpressed; while I like the biomechanics concept-wise, I think the pdf is reinventing the wheel here; Veranthea already has arcanotech, there is the tech-guide...why add another, brief and none-too-detailed obscure subsystem here? Anyway, I don't want to come off as too negative - this pdf does have some great ideas. If anything, it buckles under the ambition of its theme: This would have made for a superb 100+ pages mega-adventure or similarly-sized sourcebook; at the page-count provided, even with the impressive amount of information crammed into its pages, it feels like it is too brief, not detailed enough to make everything come to life.

The pdf could have either used splitting up and development of different books or a tighter focus. So, once again, while I do believe that this does have value, it also falls short in the regional sourcebook category it is situated in. While not bad by any means, when I compare this book to the Vathak regional guides, Purple Duck games' region books or Frog God Games' mighty Borderland Provinces tome, it falls short. I hope to one day see this mutate into a massive mega-adventure that is bound to be awesome, a cool, detailed sandbox that transcends the sketch-like nature this offers...but, as a whole, in spite of loving the metaplot, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for this book.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Into the Veil
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