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Trail of the Apprentice: The King's Curse (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 04:28:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Legendary Games' Trail of the Apprentice adventure arc clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content. The pdf does come with an art and map folio, which presents no less than 20 pages of artworks that you can print out for handout purposes, with most maps coming in multiple iterations - including grid and grid-less versions. The maps are player-friendly and in neat full-color - the variety provided allowing for easy use in any game. This is AMAZING and honestly, I think it should be industry-standard.

All right, when last we left our heroes in the making, they were en route towards the city of Fairglade, which is fully depicted for the convenience of the GM in the appendix - and yes, a map of the place is included, as is a proper settlement statblock. It should be noted that, if the first installment in this series was GMing 101, then this module begins introducing the finer aspects of the craft. Copious amounts of helping sideboxes and elucidations on the structure behind the environments similarly help new GMs run the best game they can, though this already requires a bit more preparation and improvisational skills than #1 - which is good, for we need to have a learning curve. The module, much like #1, should be appropriate for all but the most squeamish kids of age 8+.

All right, so this is pretty much as far as I can get without SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? When last we left the heroes, they were en route towards Lord Mayor Wolfe with a sealed letter of recommendation, hopefully to thwart the theft of a second serpent statue. Fairglade requires, just so you know, the peace-bonding of weapons (rules and troubleshooting provided) and the module begins with the PCs introducing themselves to Lord Mayor Wolfe and receiving a tour of his fabled, fully mapped museum - veterans will want to take in the sights of the tour and anticipate where this is going...

This type of social encounter does offer some serious roleplaying potential and the pdf sports, in copious details, the respective cultural treasures accumulated by the Lord, including in many cases, proper color artworks to show as handouts. During this tour, the PCs have ample chances to impress the lord with their knowledge, though even if they treat him badly or show no interest, the GM is covered with an alternative hook - the main thing to take apart from the tour and the inspection of the museum thereafter would be that it was secured rather well and that the PCs should find themselves employed to determine the identity of the culprits.

This leads into the first investigation of the campaign - the PCs are off to explore the city and find the thieves - with each quarter having its own modifiers. The detailed explanation of how this interaction between settlement and PCs, this slightly increased abstraction level works, is most certainly welcome and should allow novices to run this section smoothly.

As is the trope with such investigations, running afoul of the city watch (and potentially ending in jail/needing a bailout by the lord) and dealing with thugs (encounter map provided) will set the PCs on their trail. My criticism towards module #1 alas, as is repeated here - the final thug doe throw down his weapons, but PCs are not rewarded for not killing the thugs. The criminal points them towards their first lead, however - word is that the infamous thieves guild Elverin Skulk has been hired for a big job. The PCs can soon find their safe-house, where some junior officers and the gargoyle spike make for a challenging encounter. Spike the gargoyle is also where the PCs and GM learn about DR, how to handle it and how to tweak it, if required - in the aftermath, the PCs will find plans that show a tunnel onto museum grounds.

However, upon their return to the lord, they will realize that their task is not yet finished - the museum was broken into...AGAIN. The lord wants to PCs to explore the tunnels and deal with the threat, preferably sans involving the city guard. It is hence that the next section of the adventure begins, as the PCs explore the sewers and duke it out with hissing giant centipedes and even a wererat - which is where diseases, environmental considerations and handling lycanthropy and its cure are explained to the GM. It is also where undead are first introduced, which seems at odds with the child/young players focus...however, the pdf does provide ample advice on depicting the living dead while mitigating the chance for nightmares...kudos!!!

This would also be a good spot to have the PCs rest - such intermission spots are clearly denoted within the pdf. This is where the climax of the adventure begins, as the PCs enter the museum once again - and if they paid attention to the lord in the beginning, they will have an easier time here: You see, the undead rising are the result of a ruby stolen from the sarcophagus of King Udimmu. Returning the ruby to the dead king, a powerful mummy, after or while dealing with his skeletal retainers will end the king's curse that has taken a hold of the museum and reward them with the mummy showing his gratitude, making the living dead even less creepy and rather relatable. Oh, and PCs that took heed during the initial museum tour will have an edge here, even beyond the solution being more simple.

The curse is lifted, but the theft remains unresolved...and this is where we'll return in module #3.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column, full-color standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and the pdf sports a lot of nice full-color cartography and artwork, though fans of LG will recognize the sarcophagus artwork, for example.

Paris Crenshaw's second installment of Trail of the Apprentice is the logical progression of teaching GM skills and does a great job handling and navigating the challenges that running a game for young players sports. Unlike the very atomic roleplaying experience #1 sported, however, this book focuses on teaching the ROLEplaying aspects of the game more so than the ROLLplaying aspects - and it succeeds in that endeavor. The module allows a GM to come to grips with adventuring in a city, longer social encounters and is less of a hand-holding experience than #1. While this makes it slightly harder to GM (particularly, there is less read-aloud text), the progression is natural and required. More importantly, this module is fun for players of all ages. Where module #1's atomic experience will not excite any veterans, this very much can provide an easy, yet fun module for older players as well. Depending on the dressing and your narrative prowess, you could conceivably reskin this module's benevolent tone to be quite grim, should you choose to do so. That being said, this would be at odds with the relatively easy difficulty.

I am rambling, I know. In short - this is superior to #1 and makes for a well-crafted second part of the saga that teaches the skills that made us stick with the game: Changing tactics, roleplaying and making an impact. The fact that doing the right thing resolves the finale also adds a nice touch of morality to the proceedings, even though I still wished that dealing with intelligent foes in a nonlethal manner was properly covered/rewarded - I most certainly suggest to any GM to do exactly that.

How to rate this, then? Well, the module, as a whole, is a fun, if not necessarily perfect experience and as such, it receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of the Apprentice: The King's Curse (Pathfinder)
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Clerics of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 04:26:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "...of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page editorial, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, though these are A5 (6'' by 9'')-sized and thus, you can fit up to 4 of the pages comfortably on one sheet of paper.

All right, we begin this supplement with several new archetypes, the first of which would be the betrothed, sown to celibacy and being wed to the deity's principles. These characters receive just one domain, but receives a bonded ring as a bonded object for divine casting. These guys may also forego a +1d6 progression of channel energy in lieu of receiving a teamwork feat they qualify for, which is a nice rules-operation.

The second archetype would be the cycle thrall, who are prohibited from taking the Death and Healing domains and locked into an elemental domain. These clerics lose all healing and necormancy spells from their spell-list, but may choose up to 2 evocations from the sorc/wiz-list per spell level, which are then treated as divine spells. This power-boost does kill off spontaneous spellcasting, though. Additionally, their channel energy is significantly modified, instead being based on d4s, Ref-saves and it inflicts energy damage as per the element chosen. Nice take on the elemental cleric.

Dominionist clerics get only one domain, but selects 2 powers form the domain's subdomains. Instead of spontaneous spellcasting, they may 1/day as a SU cast any detect divination via their philosophical divine focus substitute. The favored keeper gets only one domain, but receives a familiar, but may channel energy through the familiar, provided it is within 50 ft. - as a swift action. I assume that the swift action is in addition to the usual activation of channel energy, otherwise, this would allow for +1 channel per round, which is pretty nasty. The wording here could be a tad bit more explicit.

The favored tamer, you guessed it, is locked into the animal domain and replaces the animal domain's usual companion with a full-progression animal companion and 5th level providing a DR or resistance based on the patron deity. Personally, I think the loss of one domain may be a bit overvalued here...but then again, clerics don't have Handle Animal and the domain doesn't grant it as a class skill either...so that may either be intended or a balancing mechanism. Personally, I would have added that to the archetype.

Friars receive +2 class skills and receive 4 + Int-mod skills per level and their proficiency list is cut down to 5 simple weapons, light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Now here is the thing - the archetype chooses a simple weapon to have affinity with at 1st level, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter - with these weapons, the archetype treats class level as BAB, becoming basically a full BAB-warrior. To offset this, these guys diminish their spellcasting by 1 spell each level and they are locked into the Community domain as one of the two domains chosen. Additionally, when channeling energy, they gain +1 to AC for 1 round, which increases by +1 at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter.

Left hand clerics do not gain access to inflict spells, adding Wis-mod when using healing spells or channeling energy and they may choose Healing and Protection as domains, even if they are not usually on the list of their deities - which usually are EVIL, if the name did not tip you off. Oh, and they may only channel positive energy, obviously. Before you're asking - yes, there would be a negative-energy-using Right hand equivalent for good faiths requiring some executioners.

Martyrs add Intimidate to the class skill list and must select the martyr subdomain. They gain a bonus to Intimidate skill checks, more so when they are below half maximum hit points - not the biggest fan of that. Cool: They can only channel when injured by an enemy, but may do so as an immediate action...oh, and there is a scaling percentile chance that they return from the dead as per resurrection.

The mysterious way archetype adds Bluff, Sleight of Hand and Stealth to the class skills and modifies the proficiency lists. They may choose Extra Rogue Talent as a feat, using cleric level as rogue level. Instead of channel energy, they may 3 + Cha-mod times employ Silent Spell sans spell level increase. Penitents replace channel energy with one penance - there are 8 provided and they are unique in that they eliminate magic item slots, but provide flavorful, interesting bonuses and restrictions - burdened clerics can e.g. carry significantly more and are better at resisting Bull Rush, Overrun, etc. Very flavorful and interesting.

Priests of the Covenant gains one domain's spells, but not its powers. They come in 6 variants, one per attribute, with 1st level providing passive benefits that scale and 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter providing SPs and further passive benefits, with the capstone providing significant benefits, like immunity to Con drain...speaking of which: Pretty nice to see is that aforementioned Con-covenant even has an undead-caveat. Good call!

The pdf also contains a hybrid class, the pillar, which is a blend of cleric and cavalier that receives d10 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves. Proficiency-wise, the pillar receives proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as with the deity's favored weapon and all types of armor as well as shields, excluding tower shields. The pillar also receives prepared divine spellcasting governed by Wisdom, drawn from the cleric's list. They chose two domains and only receive the domain powers, but not the respective domain spells.

Once per day, the pillar may engage in a trial-by-combat, which is basically a challenge that only works with the favored weapon, usable +1/day every 3 levels beyond 1st. The pillar adds + class level to damage, but takes a -2 penalty to AC versus attack from other targets and the ability is treated as challenge for the purpose of ability interactions. They also begin play with an animal companion mount, the so-called stalwart mount, which sports several modifications of the basic companion-engine. Starting at 3rd level, the pillar receives a bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate while mounted, which improves at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Of course, level 1 unlocks order, but does not grant the skill bonuses and class skills granted by the order. 5th level lets the pillar perform a ritual that offers a magic weapon to the deity, who then replaces it with an equivalent version of the favored weapon. Neat!

8th level lets him choose up to Cha-mod allies, granting them a +1 bonus to a single save for 24 hours. NO, they cannot be escalated/stacked - only one in effect per character. 11th level allows for the free maximizing of healing spells by increasing casting time to 1 minute, with 14th level makes the attacks during trial by combat aligned, while 17th level provides a single head slot item for the item's cost, rather than the price - cost to create would be more precise, but that is me nitpicking cosmetics. The capstone nets immunity to crits and bull rush, reposition and tripping for the mount. The class also comes with a diverse array of favored class options for regular and Porphyran races. All in all, a decent, if not too amazing hybrid class.

The pdf also sports the new porphyrite domain, which provides minor scaling resistance to all elements and use either positive or negative energy to damage elementals as well as reroll the 1s rolled there. 8th level makes all your weapons be treated as porphyrite, which bypasses an elemental's untyped DR. When choosing the borders subdomain, you replace the latter ability with the option to draw porphyrite borders that require Will-saves to cross for hard terrain control - cool! The second subdomain, geranite, is associated with time, allows you to perform a stuttering strike a limited amount of times per day - if you're not familiar with that ability of the 3.X chronorebel PrC - basically, a foe takes the same damage again next round. Spell-replacements etc. are solid - no complaints.

The pdf also sports a total of 16 feats that include adding anti-pala or pala spells to the pillar's spell-list (which is imho OP for a feat and further blurs the line between pala and pillar), limited access to druid spells, mastering the deity's chosen instrument or weapons, adding cleric spells to the bard spell-list, making daily sanctified bullets (no, can't be sold/cheesed) or use cure spells to repair items - which may be a true boon for all those construct-y races out there. Cool: Making 5 holy symbol shurikens per day from very powerful special materials. That being said, the feat should have scaling - adamantine is worth more than silver, for example, and as such should be unlocked at higher levels. though the feat's prereqs keep the option from being broken - not as elegant as I'd like it to be, but fine. Oh, and the option to use channel energy to make holy water bombs? AMAZING. Where's the cleric/alchemist aspergillum/holy water bomb specialist? I mean, seriously - this feat is inspiring and even gets damage type correct.

The pdf also features alternate rules - one lets 3 divine spellcasters of the same deity declare a divine parish, which nets a minor boon. I also like the idea of allowing a cleric to forego channel energy increase with a channel feat. If the mentioned favored music instrument elicited confusion, rest assured that the pdf does spell these out, making adaptation to other settings easy. Death god? Check Porphyra's version or the psychopomp ushers. And yep, elemental lords etc. included. The pdf closes with a sample pillar, Ceyda Broken-Shield, a hobgoblin...and yes, mount stats included.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. I was pretty impressed by the general level of precision employed - many of the deceptively simple things often overlooked are covered here. Layout adheres to the booklet-size 1-column a5 (6'' by 9'')-standard and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Urgh, ANOTHER cleric book. That was pretty much my first impulse. I've seen so many cleric archetypes and modifications, I am hard to please at this point. Let it be known that I was duly impressed by Aaron Hollingsworth's offering here. As you may know, I do tend to gravitate towards complex, high-concept archetypes and less towards small engine-tweakers, primarily because the latter school of design is often just an excuse for cookie-cutter design.

While this book does feature, as you may have noticed, primarily engine-tweaking options, they have in common that they, for the most part, provide meaningful and interesting customizations, often altering the playing experience significantly. Despite myself, I caught myself contemplating quite a few of these options and while I consider not all of them perfect, they are very well-crafted as a whole. The pillar-class, though, is a somewhat different case - in my book, its niche, the holy knight, is basically served by the pala...and trial by combat is simply not that different from smite, orders not that different from oaths - you get my drift. It is a well-crafted class, but one that lacks a unique niche or mechanics that set it sufficiently apart in the holy knight-routine. It's not bad, but unless you really wanted a knight with orders, it's somewhat superfluous and lacks the strong leitmotif its name (or the superb luminary hybrid class by the same author) promise.

That being said, both feats and alternate rules make up for this once again by helping multiclassing and sporting some gems. How to rate this, then? This book shows a deliberate, precise capability of operating with rules and should provide no significant problems at any table. The craftsmanship, in short, is excellent. And there similarly is artistry in this book - but whether it's the cool penance-idea or the holy water bombs, I frankly wished some aspects had been developed more in these evocative niches. The book feels a bit like it is playing it safe and does not sport this one component that makes you go ballistic. However, as a whole, it does feature a really impressive array of multi-class-themed engine-tweaks and modifications that add some serious versatility to clerics and their playstyles, often genius in their simplicity. Still, the pillar does drag this a bit down for me, which is why I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Clerics of Porphyra
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Mini-Dungeon #044: The Ascent of Tempest Tower
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 04:25:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. This one does not come with a .tif extra map, just fyi.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

On an open plain, surrounded by a devastating lightning storm stands one single tower - the eponymous structure contains an artifact, the heart of the tempest. To gain access to the tower, you must first deduce that the 4 symbols (represented on the map) hidden on the door correspond to energy types and then inflict said damage types simultaneously to the structure - only then, you can have access to the structure and brave the advanced stone golems, the devastating flame vortex and finally brave a tempest behemoth to reach the artifact - which may be the only way to deal with that powerful evil in your campaign's end-game!

Conclusion:

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

Justin Andrew Mason's high-level mini-dungeon has it all: An artifact, an evocative location, powerful foes, required high-level magic to best it. This would be pretty much an instant recommendation...but it has two issues, one of which is an RAW game breaker. One cube needs to be subjected to "shatter damage", which does not exist. Worse, the tower can only be accessed by inflicting multiple damage types - one of which is holy...which does not exist. RAW, there is no way inside. Granted, both can be handwaved by a competent GM, but still - that should not happen and seriously tarnishes what would be one interesting high-level set-piece. Still, in spite of loving the complex, I can't let these slide. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars and I can't round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #044: The Ascent of Tempest Tower
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Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons of the Mind (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2017 05:10:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This dragon-bestiary clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving su with 33 pages of content - quite a bunch, so let's take a look!

Okay, we begin this pdf with a recap on dragon age categories, general rules and all the different tools you require to make the respective dragons shine - though this section already sports some cool expansions with new dragon abilities that include power resistance as well as a percentile chance to negate targeted spells, powers or rays. Beyond that, powers and psychic magic can be found - yep, this means we'll both get psychic magic support as well as psionics support! The pdf also sports 3 dragon feats - Deflect Ray and its bigger brother Absorb Ray are pretty self-explanatory, while Slashing Pass is basically Flyby Attack on speed for aquatic combat, restricted to fin attacks. All of these supplemental rules are more than solid.

We begin first with new psionic dragons, the first of which would be the bloodstone dragon - it should be noted that each dragon introduced herein comes with an amazing full-color mugshot. Bloodstone dragons can narrow their breath weapon to a line of acidic, blinding sands and they also have a truly phenomenal defensive ability - they may touch objects to take on their defensive characteristics - yes, this includes potential weaknesses (like crystal shattering via sonic damage), but still, this does add some SERIOUS staying power to any halfway competent dragon...oh, and later, they can emulate liquids and gasses, making them fearsome infiltrators! Have I mentioned that their breath extends to the ethereal plane? CR 8, 12 and 17 versions of the dragon are provided for your convenience, just fyi - this extends to all the dragons herein, meaning you'll have ample statblocks at your beck and call.

Second in line would be the amazingly mineral-style, almost scifi-looking quartz dragon, whose breath not only extends to the astral plane, it may also partially negate an aegis' defensive abilities, providing potentially a rude awakening for those overly cocky. Their electric breath can shut down whole groups, staggering those affected, making these guys truly debilitating and fearsome foes - as they damn well should be! Oh, and they gain insight versus those struck and hitting them causes discharges...amazing.

The aquamarine dragon's icy breath can entangle foes or encase those below the waters completely in ice (and yes, this means rising to the surface - nice to see that dragon's breath is not wholly exempt from physics). Oh, and they may, as an immediate action, reroll any d20 a number of times per day determined by age category Fun fact - they also can manifest mind blades. Opal dragons have fire breath that bypasses immunity partially (OUCH!!) and their blazing light is so strong, they may permanently dazzle those affected...and it passes through walls of force. Have I mentioned the dazing aura of light or the prismatic spray? Their ability to exude a wave of debilitating body alterations that WRECKS physical attributes? Oh yeah, this guy seriously made me chuckle my most sadistic, gleeful GM-chuckle.

So, that would be the cadre of psionic dragons - all killer, no filler amazing so far, so how do the psychic dragons fare? Well, we begin with the BRIMSTONE dragon. (at this point, can you guess their theme/leitmotif? It'll become evident by dragon #3, at the very latest...) These guys can sense thoughts and their breath softens the area's ground affected, regardless of composition, as well as decreasing greatly the hardness of unattended objects. Their breath makes return from the dead an unlikely proposition. Oh, but coolest: Their breath features lingering gasses and chemicals that ignite when in contact with fire, allowing for combos. Yeah, this guy feels definitely distinct from the psionic dragons.

Quicksilver dragons can breathe either bludgeoning damage causing, poisonous metal that may smash you prone, these guys also have a psychic magic hampering emotion aura and may alternative breathe psychoactive gas...and even needles of phrenic metal that allow the dragon to exert absolute control over those unlucky wretches affected. Two thumbs up!

The subdued alchemy-theme continues among the psychic dragons with the aqua regia dragon, whose breath may generate a vortex of acid, combining the water elemental's trick with damage - as aquatic dragons, they lack wings, but more than make up for it with their powerful tails and mouths. Oh, and underwater, their breath weapon may deal less damage, but DOUBLES its AoE. They also sport an aura of mental static, deal all types of physical damage with their natural attacks and have a retributive damage...and their charges are devastating. Obviously, they can also obliterate and capsize vessels...and their breath actually can crush foes. AMAZING.

Last, but certainly not least among the psychic dragons would be the vitriol dragon, who may emit a pulse of homicidal rage inducing rage. Their alkaline breath is particularly effective versus certain creatures and they may change it into permanently blinding blasts of alkaline dust. Oh, and their very blood is poisonous. OH YES.

Speaking of "OH YES" - remember how the first "Dragons of NeoExodus"-book had those AMAZING dragon lords? Well, this one does also feature two of these campaign-end-game-level of threats, both of which come in regular and mythic iterations and feature full-body artwork, with the first being Prism, the corundum dragon at CR 25...or CR 30/MR 10 in her mythic iteration. Prism has superb control over her composite breath weapon's precise elemental and physical composition and the breath also adds a nasty debuff to those affected. She is shielded by an area of telekinetically-charged debris, her scales are fortified and she has a shield that converts regular damage to nonlethal damage...said damage may then be employed for devastating buffs or retributive prismatic ray. I love the words "retributive" and "prismatic ray" adjacent to one another.

The second dragon lord featured herein would be coterie, the dread cabal - a powerful entity of 3 spirits inhabiting the body of a single dragon, whose very breath may bull rush foe...but the by far coolest aspect of this dragon lies in its unique nature: The composite sprits mean that the entity undergoes physical changes, depending on the dominant spirit as well as that it is fortified versus mayn nasty tricks - the aspects, Phrenzy, Fatalis and Rigor also significantly modify not only the look of the dragon, they can make for a truly hardcore battle: A well-played dragon adversary will test the mettle of all but the best of adventurers; one whose powers can change mid--fight, however, becomes even harder to manage. Oh, and the entity eats spells and heals if magic fails to penetrate the SR of the dragon lord. The creature is ridiculously impressive in its regular iteration, more so in its mythic variety, and represents one of the best bosses I've seen in quite a while....particularly since the new tricks gained are...well, devastating.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no grievous hiccups in either the formal or rules-language departments. Layout adheres to LPJ Design's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, there's a smaller version of the file included, for easier use with tablets etc. - only approximately 3 MBs! Kudos!

Jeff Lee's first collection of dragons for NeoExodus was already amazing and felt like lightning caught in a bottle. This, then, would be proof that the installment's quality was no coincidence: The dragons featured within this book are universally killer - as they should be. Each has not only one, but several truly devastating tricks up their draconic sleeves; all have a damage output that should send GMs into BBEG-Muahaha-level plotting immediately. For my part, I certainly am contemplating when and how to integrate these beauties in my campaign. The fact that both psionic and psychic dragons have very distinct identities and themes that set them apart just adds this level of consistency and awesomeness to the table and shows a distinct understanding of what makes both systems tick, what makes them great. This is a superb addition to any game and a worthy candidate of 5 stars + seal of approval. Now get these dragons and start scheming -your players have been complacent for too long and these dragons should end any cockiness or demystification dragons may have undergone in your game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons of the Mind (PFRPG)
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Psychopomp Ushers of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2017 05:08:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf depicting the deity-level psychopomps found on the patchwork planet of Porphyra clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages, so let's take a look!

But what are these psychopomp ushers exactly? Well, the closest analogue would be empyrian lords, dukes of hell, arch-demons...you know, quasi-divine, extremely powerful outsiders. The concept is so simple and makes sense - subordinates to the Queen of Death, these beings allow for a nice array of customization regarding different types of takes of the concept of the shepherd/usher of souls and agents of death.

The interaction of these powerful entities with both the elemental lords of the setting and the numerous deities of the setting is covered in vivid prose, before we are introduced to 6 new faith traits - properly classified in trait type, which is nice. They all come with a brief sentence, encapsulating their flair and then go on to provide relevant bonuses - like +1 dodge to AC in a mausoleum, graveyard, etc. or an increased benefit from using a hero point. I generally like these traits and they, as a whole, represent some nice tricks. At the same time, the rules-language employed isn't always as precise as it should be - the rules-language may be functional, but something inside me cringes when I read: "...and gain +1 Knowledge (geography).", particularly when just adding in the proper bonus and streamlining it would be so easy.

A total of 8 psychopomp ushers are included, all of which note their target worshipers, favored weapon, 4 domains and 4 subdomains and favored animals. The first of these would be Anguta, Father, He Who Eats No Kin - the respective psychopomp ushers sport detailed and interesting legends, with Anguta offering insight into the myths of the ith'n ya'roo. Each of the respective psychopomp lords also comes with two exclusive traits that are classified as religion traits. Much like the previous traits, they are functional, but diverge in the way they're phrased from the standards.

To a point where it honestly annoys me and is something that really grates on my nerves.

One trait available for Anubis' followers, for example, reads: "You may cast restore corpse as a spell-like power once per day." We all know what's meant, but frankly, even pathfinder novices can spot which part of the rules-language is plain WRONG. And honestly, at this point, I'm somewhat out of patience; Perry Fehr's crunch is always like that: Inspired when he gets it right, but such hiccups litter it when he doesn't take the proper time, sometimes to the point where it's rendered broken. This is not the case here, but still - it's frustrating because it's so easily fixed.

Black Crow, omen giver and god of tengus is pretty cool...and a trait quotes "Last Resort" by Papa Roach, putting a bullet into the barrel of an empty gun with a 50% chance...which is pretty cool, though the combo of the song-reference and the content conjured up a very unfortunate memory for me...but that's not the pdf's fault. Particularly when here, I can't really compalin about any mechanics. Ereshkigal is similarly amazing - this entity is basically the incarnation of the last Material Plane that suffered the entropy death. Similarly cool - the Pattern Discepancy Phenomenon, aka Ghost in the Machine - the usher for constructs and golems, is concept-wise amazing and one for everyone who likes to insert a tinge of transhumanist philosophizing to the game.

The Guedia would then not eb a single entity, but is instead a conglomerate of various deities, with the more classic Hermes and Hekate completing the roster. The brujo class receives two new cabals and the pdf also introduces the neutrality domain, which lets you designate a target as neutral via the help of a sanctuary-ish effect and at later levels convey the neutrality special weapon quality (+2, included herein), which deals only +1d6 bonus damage versus good or evil targets, but may switch between good and evil for purpose of overcoming DRs - and yep, I think the increased flexibility and decreased damage output make this worthwhile. The subdomains lets you Wis-mod times per day touch a being - on a failure, they gain a bonus thereafter, on a success a penalty, making this an interesting, tactical ability...that conveys the make-belief "divine" bonus that does not exist. It's either sacred or profane. Indifference lets you emit an aura a limited number of rounds per day, which penalizes saves, makes the terrain difficult and prevents flanking and aid another. The ability does not sport an activation action and auras, more often than not, can be activated quicker than the standard default.

The pdf also features a 5-level PrC, the transdimensional eliminator, aka Ghost-Sunderer. And jup, it's basically a thinly-veiled Ghostbuster-PrC. It nets a d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. oddly, it requires spellcasting to qualify, but sports no means of upgrading that - no spellcasting progression. Also problematic: The PrC requires Exotic Weapon proficiency (heavy weaponry)...which does not RAW exist. Now, I get what this tries to do...but it just doesn't work that way. The first level nets the signature neutron gun, which similarly ALMOST works. It, pretty verbosely, manages to codify the neutron pack as a weapon in the ability-write-up...something that would have been more easier to work with if presented as a proper weapon. The pack causes untyped damage, which made me cringe a bit and may misfire on a 1.The wording is mostly functional, but deviated significantly from the standard: "...and had no damage reduction statistic." would be just one of several examples herein. The class also gets +2 to Perception and 2nd level nets 60 ft. blindsight for the purpose of noticing undead/spirits and distinguishing the living dead from the living.

An issue here is that the non-standard wording makes this look like regular blindsight and more opaque than it should be. 3rd level adds + class level to DCs to intimidate the character. 5th level nets SP see invisibility, usable 10 minutes per day, in 1-minute increments. 4th level provides +2 AC. Now here is the BIG issue: Know how you use the neutron pack? By expending level 1spell slots. RAW, this severely limits the blasts you can fire. It's not clear whether this activation only covers one attack, all attacks for one round, etc. Granted, 3rd and 5th level net one free use, respectively, but the lack of spellcasting progression makes the PrC a flavorful, but flawed idea that can only use its one defining feature rarely. Worse, all abilities beyond gaining the gun are not worthwhile, making any levels progressed herein beyond 1st pretty ineffective. Oh, and 4th level makes you immune versus the special attacks of "ectoplasmic" creatures - whatever THAT is supposed to be.

The pdf concludes with the CR 5 loa psychopomp.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, I really wished someone had properly rephrased the majority of crunch. The accumulation of non-standadized wordings is frustrating, to say the least. The pdf sports great symbols in full color for the ushers and has a nice artwork for the loa as well. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that is pretty printer-friendly.

Blergh. At this point, I'd love to shake Perry Fehr and ask him why he does that to me. You see, I love a lot about this pdf; the ushers are amazing regarding their fluff and the traits are, theme-wise, creative and fun. I just wished this had received either the due care or proper rules-language editing/development. The ghost buster PrC is pretty cool and gets it ALMOST right...which makes this so frustrating for me as a reviewer. If you care primarily about the fluff and don't mind making copious GM-calls, then this can be considered to be as good as 3.5 to 4 stars, while those who want precision in their rules can consider this as bad as 2 to, at best 2.5 stars. In the end, the frustration is what makes me consider this flawed - you see, this pretty much could have been very good, amazing even. As presented, it is at best a mixed bag - which is how I'll rate this: 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform, mainly because it does not deserve the 2-star-slap.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psychopomp Ushers of Porphyra
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Little Devils
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2017 05:06:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little PWYW-scenario clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages, so let's take a look!

If that stuff is relevant for your interests, the module makes use of ascending AC as well as the silver standard championed by LotFP et al. The pdf begins with a table of 10 male and 10 female names as well as 10 last names and 11 more fantastic names. From an internal consistency point of view, I don't get why the latter table has no separate column for male and female and separates them with an "or" - but that is just me nitpicking.

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

...

..

.

Only referees around? Great. So, 3 kids have gone missing, the friendly neighborhood murderhobos are contacted and the priest suspects the pagan burial site to be the source of the issue. The path to the mound can sport a random encounter (or not) - the creatures featured herein can be found on a total of two pages on cut-out style mini-cards.

The missing boys, btw.? They are a random encounter. They are talking of devils and want home....which may be, at least for mercenary type adventurers, an end for the module before it even began.

The culprits, the devils, would be the eponymous little devils - basically constantly cursing anti-cherubs that can spit with various effects: A 2d4 table lets you customize these fiends, with hair/horns making for a cosmetic variation and spit for a mechanical variation: Their spit can cause hallucinogens, grease, be acidic or be fire, with the stat-cards sporting the precise effects. The burial mound is a brief 4-room exploration and slash-fest versus these anti-cherubs...only to find a desecrated statue whose fingers have been broken off save for middle finger and thumb. It is said vandalism that births 2 of these devils an hour. Yeah...better solve the vandalism...with more vandalism and destroy it utterly.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, I noticed no significant mistakes. Layout adheres to a basic two-column b/w-standard with VERY bright, red highlights for tables. The (very) small map provided is decent enough and does its job. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Whether you enjoy Edward Lockhart's little devils depends on basically two things: Do you think that an adventure killing goat-legged, horned cherubs with vestigial wings and various spit attacks sounds like fun? You may like this. Do you think it'd be uncomfortable at your table? Well, don't get it. When seen from the perspective of a PWYW-monster-spotlight, this is a decent offering. As a module, it is severely lacking, with the burial mound being horribly opaque, bereft of interesting interaction points or atmosphere building. As written, exploring the place and not running into the kids is very possible, which mirrors a ploy used in a more controversial LotFP-module, though, due to its brevity, it can't really build up to it.

In short, as far as 1-page adventures (+supplemental materials) are concerned, I have seen better. Being Pay what you want, you can easily check it out and determine whether you consider it worthwhile. With the weaknesses in setting the locale, I can't go higher than 2.5 stars for this one, and in spite of being PWYW, I can't really round up - the trope with its shock value is represented better in other modules, if that's what you're going for.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Little Devils
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Unlikely Heroes for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:52:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third pdf converting unique Midgard-races to 5e clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a nice and brief introduction to the weird races - and the considerations that adventuring with them entails before diving into the subject matter. It should be noted that each race receives 5e's standard of fluffy introductions, guiding the prospective player towards making well-considered characters. Playing advice and nomenclature are similarly covered, which is nice to see - particularly when playing, for example, an insane derro! Yep, that would be the first race and the guidance is much appreciated. Speaking of dressing and guidance - a series of inter-connected tables helps you come up with endearing "eccentricities" for such characters - whether its irrational fear, taboos or the like, small objects and living creatures, delusions or physical effects like inappropriate weeping or hunchbacks - just a few rolls and there you go. This is the level of "one step beyond" I love to see in racial supplements.

Crunch-wise, derro increase Dex by 2 and Con by 1,a re Small and have a speed of 30 ft. They have superior darkvision and sunlight sensitivity, advantage on Constitution saves versus spells and saves versus the charmed and frightened conditions, courtesy of their insanity. Amazing, evocative, best iteration of the race I've seen so far.

Dhampirs would be up next and icnrease their Cha by 2, Dex by 1 and are Medium. They gain darkvision and have advantage on saving throws versus disease as well as resistance against necrotic damage. As an action, they may beguile a creature within 30 ft., gaining advantage on Charisma checks versus said creature for 1 hour, but thereafter, the creature will turn hostile. immunity to charm proofs against the ability and it requires a short or long rest to recharge. And thankfully, the blood thirst aspect has not fallen by the wayside (seriously, if you play a dhampir sans blood thirst, what's the point??) - the dhampir has a bite that inflicts 1 point of piercing damage, inflicting up to Cha-mod (min 1) necrotic damage while feeding. If the target is damaged thus, you regain a spent hit dice, but these thankfully cap at Con mod hit dice per rest interval, once again, minimum one. Powerful, yes...but not to the point where I'd consider them problematic, considering the stigma they will necessarily suffer from. That being said, I do have one complaint. Dark Thirst should only work on intelligent foes. RAW, you can carry around a snack-bag of kittens to satiate your thirst...which is despicable, but efficient. The rest interval cap does prevent me from going all ranty on it.

The Great Old Ones-worshipping dust goblins would be next - they increase their Dex by 2 and COn by 1, are Small, have a speed of 30 ft., gain darkvision and have advantage on saves versus being charmed or frightened. They have proficiency in Stealth and Survival. When they attack a creature from hiding, they must succeed a Wisdom save or be frightened for 1 round. Solid.

The jinnborn are next, with the name pretty much explaining the concept. They increase their Con yb 2 and gain darkvision 60 ft. as well as proficiency in Persuasion. They also are tied to the desert and every month spent apart from it results in a Charisma save or a madness incurred They also choose a mystic path, called siraati, which is aligned with one of the elements. The race sports two subraces: Speaker jinnborn receive an increase to Wis by 1 while shapers increase their Strength by 1. Speakers may, up to Wisdom modifier times (min 1) per long rest interval either gain advantage on a save or impose disadvantage on an attack made against them and they have advantage on saves versus stunning and extreme environments and on checks to navigate the wild and avoid being lost. Shapers, on the other hand, may up to Constitution modifier times per long rest interval add +1d6 damage corresponding to the siraati's energy to their attack, but only once per turn. They also gain resistance to the energy corresponding with the chosen siraati.

The humanoid plantskijani increase their Wisodm by 2 and another ability score of their choice by 1 and are plants. They gain darkvision and have proficiency in their choice of one of Arcana, History, nature or Religion. They enter a state of dormancy, but are immune to sleep-causing effects and unlock speak with plants at 7th level, cast as a 3rd level spell, with Wisdom as governing attribute. When below 1/2 maximum hit points, a kijani's serenity makes way to their primeval fury and they may once per turn add +1d4 to weapon damage or add +2 to their AC as a reaction to being hit. Nice!

The seductive and serpentine lamia are up next - they increase their Strength by 2, their Charisma by 1 and are monstrosities with a climb and swim speed of 20 ft., respectively. They gain darkvision and are proficient in Deception and Intimidation. Additionally, they gain advantage on attack rolls versus surprised creatures or those charmed by you or your allies as well as saves versus being knocked prone. HOWEVER, due to their serpentine body, they cannot benefit from any items, effects etc. that enhance legs or feet or require them - nice catch!

The Ramag may look like humans at first glance, but the erstwhile servitors of titans are a different breed entirely, with strand-thick hair and generally, an angular and spindly look. They increase their Intelligence by 2 and teir Dexterity by 1 and have proficiency in Arcana as well as advantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws versus spells. oh, and they can ignore class requirements when attuning magic items, which is pretty damn strong...but also cool. And since the other requirements are untouched, I'm cool with the choice.

Next up would be a classic - the sahuagin, who increase their Strength by 2, their Wisdom by 1 and they have a swim speed of an impressive 40 ft. in addition to the default land speed for Medium creatures. They gain superior darkvision, surprisingly sans the usually accompanying light sensitivity or blindness and a natural AC of 12 + Dex-mod. They may telepathically communicate with sharks within 120 ft. and are proficient with both claws and bite, each of which inflict 1d4 damage, slashing and piercing, respectively. As a bonus action, they may enter blood frenzies, which nets advantage on attacks versus creatures that do not have all hit points - weird: I figured this should not work versus constructs. Anyhow, the ability can only be used Con-mod (min 1) times in a long-rest interval. As a major downside, the race needs to be completely submerged once in every 4 hours or they begin suffocating, which is an apt balancing mechanism for the power gained.

All of the races come with an height and weight table and we also receive backgrounds - 4 fully presented ones can be found, including personality traits, goals etc. - not just the feature boil-down! Cannibal Headhunters can use their...unconventional practices to prevent hostilities with humanoids and savage beings, while prophets can generally hope to receive a helping hand from those inclined to believe in their patron. Scavengers can dumpster dive in settlements, scavenging low-cost items from refuse, while seers don't necessarily have divinatory powers...but they sure as hell can draw upon the well-meaning of the relaxation and favor of their patrons...which in itself sports copious amounts of roleplaying potential. All of these backgrounds come with appropriate benefits regarding languages, proficiencies and equipment.

Finally, we receive two variants of other backgrounds, the first of which would be the tinker, who modifies the guild artisan, who can use downtime to jury-rig traps and devices (cool!), while the urchin-variant beggar knows where to get basics and how to get by on less than a shoestring budget and also receives variant skill proficiencies.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no grievous hiccups in either formal or rules-language criteria. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with gorgeous full-color artworks for all races. The pdf comes bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

The four horsemen's 5e-specialist Dan Dillon, with additional design by none other than Kobold-in-chief Wolfgang Baur, delivers a thoroughly amazing collection of races herein. The totality of options here is balanced, evocative and flavorful, with roleplaying potential galore and mechanically unique, evocative components. The drawbacks, where present, are not crippling, but rather of the rpg-enhancing variety and the complete collection of critters ultimately can be considered to be better balanced than the PFRPG-iterations of the respective races, all without losing what makes them amazing in the first place. Add to that the cool and evocative backgrounds that do exactly what they should, namely help with the details of the characters in question, and we have a fantastic racial supplement, well worth of 5 stars + seal of approval. Midgard in 5th edition is shaping up to be even cooler than in PFRPG.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unlikely Heroes for 5th Edition
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Mythic Minis 93: Feats of Agility
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:48:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go!

-Acrobatic Spellcaster: Replace concentration with Acrobatics when casting defensively. Also allows you to expend mythic power as part of spellcasting to also move. The move, even for mythic power expenditure, is very powerful and takes away one of the few balancing checks spellcasters still have. Also: There is a reason spellcasters don't use a concentration skill in Pathfinder anymore. I can easily cheese Acrobatics very high. This one is not getting into my games, not even into the mythic ones.

-Careful Flyer: When flying at 1/2 speed, you gain a massive bonus vs. being checked or blown away and suffer less penalty due to high wind speeds. Expend mythic power to enhance skill check. Solid.

-Cat's Fall: Take less damage from falls softened by Acrobatics and convert more falling damage into nonlethal damage. Use mythic tier for a bonus on the check. Solid.

-City Sprinter: Increases bonus and allows for mythic power expenditure for quicker movement via skills. Solid.

-Deft Catcher: Use feat as a free action and when used as an immediate action, you can add tier to the check. You may use it even while panicked, stunned, etc. (cool!) and may expend mythic power to avoid falling prone on a failure. Like it!!

-Owl Style: Less Stealth penalty when charging, eve less when flying. When catching a foe unaware thus, you don't take charge's AC-penalty and add the charge's atk bonus to damage as well. Solid.

-Owl Dive: +1/2 tier to Acrobatics to move through enemy spaces. Use mythic power to temporarily get perfect maneuverability and if your charge ends at a lower place than it began, your charge will be more potent. Really cool one!

-Owl Swoop: No Acrobatics penalty while moving quickly. Also has an immediate action, mythic-power-costing parry built in. Okay.

-Sliding Dash: Numerical escalation - less AC-penalty, higher Acrobatics bonus. Nice: If you fail the Acrobatics-check, you may forego the attack to not provoke an AoO. if your Acrobatics-check's really good, the target loses an AoO. Love this one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs deliver some nice feats here - while a couple only are numerical escalations and while I consider one to be OP; even for mythic gameplay, there are also some nice gems herein. In the end, this, to me, is pretty much a decent installment with some serious gems inside. Particularly Owl Style's tree is pretty cool and so is Sliding Dash. Arkham series Batman, anyone? I digress. I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 93: Feats of Agility
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Mythic Minis 92: Intrigue Magic Feats II
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:46:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go!

-Extra Contingency: Cast two contingency spells that trigger simultaneously; cast two entirely separate contingency spells with separate triggering conditions or cast 3 contingency spells that use the same triggering condition, happening at 1/round. And we have an amazing must-have feat for pretty much every spellcasting adversary ever. Amazing!

-Fey Spell Lore: You gain the mythic versions of all spells granted by the feat and may prepare them as though you had Piercing Spell. Nice!

-Fey Spell Versatility: Gain all mythic versions of the spells granted by the base feat. You can also expend a number of mythic power equal to the level of a spell from this list you prepared to change it into another spell (and cast said spell's mythic version!), but at the cost of no longer being capable of preparing the spell for which you exchanged it. A Willing fey ally provided, you may switch spells when preparing spells without having to expend mythic power.

-Fool Magic: Add 2x mythic tier to Disguide and UMD-checks to emulate other races and alignments for the purpose of bypassing nasty effects or handling items etc. VERY cool: For one mythic power, your Disguise detects as the new alignment; for 2 mythic power, your Disguise can actually let you count as another alignment for spell etc. purposes. Amazing one!!

-Gaze Reflection: When averting eyes, subtract twice mythic power from the percentile roll to determine whether you're affected or not You may also expend one mesmerist trick to gain mythic tier rounds immunity to gazes. For two expended mesmerist tricks, you gain immunity AND reflect the gaze back at the creature, range 30 ft. Awesome!

-Read Spell Traces: Double the bonuses granted by the base feat; expend mythic power to automatically identify a spell from its aura and gain a rough estimate when it was cast. Nice for magical investigations!

-Sabotage Magic Items: When exceeding an item's DC by 5 or more, you can render it cursed instead of magic it cause a mishap; UMD can be used o negate the curse. Via mythic power, you may roll thrice on the common curse table, choosing which you'll take. Damn cool!

-Superior Scryer: Perception bonus by the base feat is increased and the save DC is similarly increased; however, it also lets you use a slew of spells through the sensor, which is pretty cool! As a minor and purely aesthetic hiccup - an "OA" that should be superscript isn't.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs' second array of intrigue magic feats is absolutely amazing - creative, evocative, with some seriously cool options, this once again transcends the use for mythic gameplay, offering scavenging potential galore beyond that. Well-crafted, creative and diverse, this is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 92: Intrigue Magic Feats II
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5e NPCs: Bullies and Brutes
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/31/2017 03:38:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of NPCs clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (including challenge ratings), 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

The pdf covers a total of 18 characters, ready to be inserted into your game, which range from CR 1/2 to CR 18. Fans of the Tangible Taverns/Tavern Tales product-lines will notice some overlap regarding the NPCs, as for example Pie-Eating Pete or Tuffy Brokehaft make a reappearance herein - which can be considered to be a slight detriment for some - personally, I would have preferred an all-new cast, but considering that the vast majority of NPCs is new, I can live with that.

Speaking of which - in case you are not familiar with Dire Rugrat's 5e-character design philosophy: Instead of making just numbers and replicating pre-existing abilities, one of the charming peculiarities in their books would be that characters do actually receive special, unique abilities. Beyond these, the characters each come not only with a statblock, but also with their own artwork - these either are hand-drawn or stock. Most, but not all characters herein also feature a word of advice in a small box on how to best use them.

Now, what type of characters can we find herein? Well, for one, e.g. Pie-eating Pete or Jaiblik Nibork would represent two characters best describes as, bingo, bullies - Pete's signature ability, for example, lets him consume insane amounts of food, while Mr. Nibork is known for his incessant cursing and rambling, which can be pretty distracting for assailants.

These guys and a particularly cantankerous lady would be more on the semi-social side of things, but they are not the only characters herein - if you're looking for an instant-villain, you'll find the like herein. Take Lockjaw, the half-orc cannibal who can initiate grapples with his bite and who receives temporary hit points for biting foes. More ambiguous in use would be Butcher Bill, the dwarven headhunter, whose prickly spiked armor and expertise at shoving foes deserves mention.

Need a slaver? Hesssk Ta'Vaoren and his two worgs deliver just that -and there is more to the trio than meets the eye, for Hesssk not only is a master of the whip, he maintains also quasi-telepathic contact with them, making surprising them pretty hard. There would be a half-orc, wondering of what may have been and his fellow she-devil with a sword. There also is an enchantress-information broker with a mega-powerful way of maintaining control over dominated foes. There is also a corrupt guard captain (ironically named "shill") and a half-elven, humans hating eco-terrorist ready to shed blood.

There would be a halfling enforcer with a fear-inducing reaction stare, who may not only break legs - her cold fury is something to witness. That being said, the ability diverges a bit from how 5e usually handles the like, providing a 3/day hard cap, instead of tying it to long rests, analogue to the barbarian's rage feature. The powerful drow evoker Vreix Azztelle may pinpoint AoE spells to instead affect single targets and is pretty cool - however, if you're very picky about this kind of thing, the character is missing the drow magic feature the race usually has. Aforementioned half-orc cad also does not have the usual relentless endurance feature. Now, it is pretty evident that such features were exchanged for others that fit the characters better, but depending on your stance on NPCs and racial features, it still is worth mentioning. In dubio pro reo - I will not hold that against the pdf.

However, where things become ever so slightly annoying from a reviewer's perspective would be with the per se pretty cool Kel, the Blessed - a tiefling underboss with several nice, luck-themed abilities, whose hellish rebuke is noted as innate spellcasting, which does not include the note at what spell-level the spell is cast - a mostly cosmetic hiccup, but a blemish in one of the coolest characters herein. Seriously a nice character, though -and yes, I am nitpicking hard here.

Speaking of cool characters: Urden Shalespear, the dwarven herald of entropy, pretty much looks like the NPC-version of a class/archetype I have recently written and gets some cool tricks: Beyond an aura that brings desiccation and destruction, he is reborn in a bleak phoenix-like burst when slain---but pays a hafty price for this power. Oh, and he can tear open a devastating gate into nothingness, duplicating a new 9th-level spell featured herein. Slight complaint: The spell does not note for which classes it is appropriate. A suggestion would have been nice to see.

The final character herein, Lady Davia Belcouer, would be a powerful champion of the hells: With a sword of wounding, a powerful magical armor and the ability to behead foes with discernible heads, she also has no less than 3 legendary actions to negate crits or use Charisma-saves instead of others, making her a viable campaign-endgame adversary.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant hiccups in the rules-language and the pdf is similarly well put together in the formal department. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a solid piece of full-color artwork for each NPC - some are stock, but most are actual pieces drawn by the authors. The older pieces here do show that they have refined their crafted compared to the newer ones. Still, nice to see. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kelly and Ken Pawlik's collection of 5e adversaries is a pdf worth getting, let's get that right out of the way. The price-point is pretty fair and the characters feel like actual characters. The lengths to which I needed to go to nitpick some aspects here should tell you something about this pdf, namely that it is a neat, well-made collection. The only truly relevant gripe I can field against this economically-priced, inexpensive collection would be the inclusion of previously-featured characters. Even if you take these away, the bang to buck ratio is still pretty neat, though - which is why my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5e NPCs: Bullies and Brutes
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Bloodforge
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/31/2017 03:33:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

This massive book clocks in at 98 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with a massive 93 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, the first race herein receives +... Wait. Wait a second. My usual in-depth analysis, piece-by-piece approach doesn't work here. This is literally a huge book of races and if I go into that level of detail, we'll be here come next Christmas-season. So, I'll paint a picture in broader strokes than usual, all right? First, if you're not 100% sure what this book is - this is essentially PFRPG's update of 3.0's Bastards and Bloodlines - a book much lauded for its creative race, but also somewhat notorious as one of the many, many ones in the 3.X era that had no idea whatsoever what this "Bahlenz"-thing is.

Speaking of this dreaded concept - the pdf does one thing right from the get-go: It ignores the flawed RP-guidelines established in the ARG in favor of an individual balancing, which I applaud. Each race comes with a short guideline as per name, appearance, demeanor, background and their relations to adventurers, with a handy table explaining the crossbreed-relationships. A massive age table and its corresponding height & weight-table also can be found herein, satisfying that pet-peeve of mine. The pdf begins by establishing the respective crossbreed subtypes featured within its pages, which is similarly helpful.

Another component of the racial design I generally can applaud would be the equilibrium of racial bonuses/penalties - most, though, alas, not all races herein receive a bonus to a physical and a mental attribute and one penalty, resulting in races that are not by their design geared towards specific career paths. It should also be noted that the pd thankfully avoids attribute-bonuses of more than +2 per the base racial traits. Another pet-peeve of mine (and many a DM out there), races that can fly at first level, also are thankfully absent here - instead, a two feat-chain that begins with slow-falling via vestigial wings and ends with proper flight, tied to HD when applicable and thus circumvents this issue. Excellent work there. I do have something I'd like to mention - the pdf always uses the phrase "X can see in the dark out to 60 feet." for Darkvision. Something in me cringes when I read this sentence. It's usually "up to" as a wording convention. Personal nitpick, though, and will not influence the final verdict.

Bastards and Bloodlines also did not have to deal with favored class options - which this massive book thankfully provides for quite a few of the classes, notably often also for Psionic classes, Akashic classes or Path of War classes. The minor hiccups in formatting previously present have been dealt with.

The races generally sport a couple of alternate racial traits for further customization (with e.g. the elf/unicorn-hybrid alicorn also coming with alternate racial traits for evil brethren...)and each race comes with full-color art - which represents one of the most poignant and immediate changes the revised edition featured: The previously at times needlessly cheese-cake artwork (and the couple of truly horror-inducing ones) have been replaced. While not all artworks adhere to the level of awesomeness featured on the cover, the majority of them actually now are amazing, high-quality pieces.

Movement rate-wise, we run the gamut from slow land speed 20 ft. to 45 ft. The respective races now all have their respective speed values for their movement rates properly codified and presented.

Before I go into the races: Please, read the whole review, don't just abort after a few lines. Why? Because I went very nitpicky on this one, showcasing some of the issues the races sport and you might construe that as problematic - however, there are concepts herein that warrant close scrutiny beyond the races and the flaws I'm about to point out. So, please - at least read the conclusion. Thank you.

So let's take a look at the races, shall we? These would be the elitist and proud hybrids of elves and giant eagles, the winged aellar - here, an interesting choice can be observed: Instead of providing Fly as a class skill via a racial trait, the race can opt into it via favored class options, many of which add the skill to the list alongside a bonus - though one that does feel a slight bit odd in the wording: "Gain Fly as a class skill and a +1/2 bonus." is okay wording-wise, but could have been slightly more elegant. On the plus-side, skill-starved fighters instead receive a full +1 bonus per FCO - I applaud that!

Where I get grumpy is with the option to use the fly-skill in lieu of their Reflex save when flying. Skills can easily be buffed through the roof. On the less nitpicky side, I do love how the previously slightly opaque ability to deal additional damage when charging while airborne has been made more precise. Similarly, the cool option to decrease miss-chances due to sight-based obstacles etc. now is as crisp and precise as it should be - kudos for improving it.

Instead of vestigial wings, some aellar receive claws, which, I assume, follow the default damage values for the type and scale up to d6 later - why "assume"? Because the ability does not specify the base damage value, nor whether they are treated as primary or secondary natural weapons - yes, one can assume the default, but from a customer's point of view the information still ought to be here, at one glance. This issue with natural weapons can be extended throughout the pdf, btw. The short fluffy write-up is inspiring and the revised edition, while still not perfect, is significantly improved.

So let's move on to the aforementioned alicorn, the first of quite a lot of fey-themed crossbreed races herein - the signature ability here being that the alicorn can transfer damage, diseases and poisons and ability damage to herself. The ability was a horrific clusterf*** before and has been significantly improved. However, it still has no daily cap, just begging an alicorn player to come up with a way to cheese it. I do believe that this may be an oversight, though, for the similarly fixed evil variant that can instead push these upon others now does have a daily cap.

Blinklings, the blink dog/halfling hybrids, on the other hand, are awesome all-around- 3/day reactive concealment as an immediate action? Yes, please! Extending their sight to the ethereal? Utterly unique and cool - and has some neat narrative potential. Seriously, I love this race and its write-up!

The ability that nets a blurring effect while moving has been reigned in and now is balanced versus the core ability - as a nitpick, its referred spell is not italicized, but oh well.

Decataurs, Elf/Centaur-hybrids sport a base speed of 45 ft., which seemed odd to me and they ignore movement and skill-check penalties caused by difficult terrain - which seems excessive to me - why not provide a scaling mechanic here instead of downright immunity? though, to be fair, the provided caveat versus damage-causing terrain helps. On the plus-side, the rest of the race is pretty much the best centaur-like race I've seen in quite a while. I feel obliged to mention that as per the writing of this review, the errata has not been incorporated into this book. Yup, this unfortunately means that the revised edition of this book does not contain the errata's information on hooves vs. feet. Oh, and as pretty much always (with ONE exception) when I review a centaur-ish race, I found myself shaking my head at the lack of notes regarding the handling of ladders and similar obstacles. On the plus-side, going for the 2-legged satyrkin alternate racial traits does alleviate this, so this kinda gets a pass.

The freedom-loving Dreigi, half-giants with an ancient grudge (against fey and chaotic outsiders) are flavor-wise one awesome piece of work, with an inspiring artwork etc. - but their massive scaling bonuses versus aforementioned creatures (+2 to saves, damage and atk, +1 more for every 4 levels), is too much in my book - though that one is easily scaled down, and it should be. Why? Because these guys get two damn awesome signature abilities: For one, their attacks count as cold iron; they may also create 1/day difficult cold-iron caltrop-y terrain. Secondly, they ignore the hardness of magical barriers and add their character level to damage versus them. Yes, this means they have a fighting chance versus walls of force and the like. I love this race and really would enjoy it more, had it not this one critical flaw that otherwise mars a superb example of race design - it's also unnecessary, mind you, since the theme of pro-freedom/anti-enslavement also is reflected in quite a few other racial abilities.

You may have noticed something - no Tanis-syndrome race so far. And indeed, you will not find mopey, angsty half-breeds herein. Take the Grendle, combining the best of parent race and troll, these guys are hardy and charismatic - and heal as if they had rested every hour. Apart from an unnecessary and imho rather OP ability to demoralize foes at +2 as an immediate action after being hit (or first level AoE-demoralize), the grendle is stylish and works very well. Strange, considering the revisions made to the book: The alternate racial traits still feel confused: One mentions "increasing a morale bonus to Str to +4" - a morale bonus thankfully cut in this iteration of the book, thus leading me to believe that we have a remnant of a previous iteration here. The ability the trait references simply does not exist. On the plus-side, gaining swim speed, but requiring 1 hour submersion in water to benefit from their healing each day is a pretty cool alternate racial trait, as is gaining a climb speed, but also fire vulnerability.

Half-Gnolls are glorious - powerful, but lacking any issues (apart from once being called "It", to which some gnoll-aficionados will vehemently object) - scent and claws plus pack hunting - exactly what you'd want and expect! Hunting down fleeing foes is also neat, though an ability that automatically deals bonus damage versus foes suffering from "a condition" should a) be more limited and restricted to the half-gnoll and b) once again, specify the damage type as belonging to the weapon used to execute the attack. Finally, since ranged builds already are pretty adept at the whole damage-dealing, I'd restrict the ability to melee - it's called Born Predator, not "I shoot you from behind my allies." ;) Still, all in all, a great race, though the alternate traits can use some finetuning.

Speaking of finetuning - the half-goblinoids, while melee-centric, all can generally considered pretty cool - though again, the alternate racial traits and what they replace does not always match power-wise: What would you take: A +2 bonus to Perception and taking 20 for 30 ft x 30 ft as a full-round action or +8 (!!!) to Stealth and +4 (!!!) to Escape Artist plus the option to squeeze through tiny-sized areas? Yeah, the fast search is awesome - I like it. But I don't see these two line up - the bonuses of the latter are too pronounced in my book; I'd cut them in half AT LEAST.

Half-hobgoblins still see better in the dark than their parent race (90 feet that pretty sure should be 60 instead...), but apart from that, both they and the half bugbears are pretty damn glorious! Also on the strong, but cool side, half-sahuagin may be slightly too well off on the winner's end-side regarding bonuses, at least for my tastes, but in groups that sport powerful races, the will fit in perfectly. Thankfully, the previously rather ill-conceived 4-arjm option has been purged.

The Hexbreather, heirs to the dreaded hags, have some nice hex-related abilities in the base form and yep, the revised book does fix some minor hiccups, making me generally more than okay with the result. One alternate racial trait also refers to the cursed condition, now properly defined (reference to Path of War Expanded, fyi).

The half-nymph Houri are a gorgeous example (literally) of this book's tricks - no issues, functional, versatile and unique signature abilities (debuff-beauty 1/day or friend to all animals...) -oh, and the new artwork rocks. The same can be said about the Kestrel - good, positive halfling/harpy-hybrids that use their powers for good- generally speaking, at least. The Kijin are the elf/oni crossbreeds and hit two rough spots for me - one, they have a per-encounter ability. You all know how much I love those. Secondly, they essentially cover the same niche as Rite Publishing's wyrd - and the wyrd benefit from a much more detailed and for me, compelling, cultural background courtesy of the expanded room within they can operate - full pdf versus couple of pages. I don't consider them perfect either, but in direct comparison, the wyrd are superior by a long shot. The same applies for the direct comparison of Rite's take on the lurker versus the one herein, though again, I consider both to fall slightly short of what they could be.

Nevertheless, this pdf does manage an utterly admirable job at rendering the respective halfbreeds distinct and culturally unique - to the point where some of the brief fluff-write-ups actually captivated me enough to make me consider playing the half-breeds - and that coming from a guy who went out of 3.X with a distinct oversaturation regarding fiendish/celestial creatures and half-dragons as well as a distinct dislike for mopey halfbreeds. So yeah, this pdf can be considered inspired in that regard - from the roper/dwarf bio-weapons created by the phrenic hegemony to the love-conquers-all children of merfolk and men to the inspired and monstrous ornibus, suffused with the essences of howlers, the halfbreeds manage to avoid thematic redundancy.

And, if the above exercises in racial nitpickery were not ample clue for you - over all, they tend to be almost awesome - during my analysis, I regularly found myself enjoying myself and getting ready to write a recommendation for a race, only to have some ability overextend what I consider viable. It should be noted, however, that the revised version does eliminate a couple of the big issues.

Generally, about 1 ability among the racial traits, more often among the alternate racial traits, can be considered too strong and in need of nerfing - or its balancing versus its replacement feels like it is wonky, but there are similarly races that work well. To give you an example - both the ornibus and the half-satyr pipers can be considered generally well-crafted. Similarly, the ophidian halfbreeds rana now have a scaling trick that lets them expend their psionic focus for better disarming...and they increase their AC in each round where they manifested something, providing a nice, built-in flux. And yes, if that and the examples above were not clue enough for you - there is yet another thing I need to address regarding the races - and it's a HUGE plus!

Know how the ARG-races tend to feel somewhat sameish? How many races are just a recombination of the same tools, again and again? Not so here - every race herein has at least one unique trick that sets it apart - a racial signature ability, if you wish. I love this general idea, if not always the execution of them. - the half-gargoyles may e.g. use their wings to take 1/2 damage of an adjacent ally - think of it as a limited, immediate action-based shield other and yes, the wording has been improved in the revised edition. It is an ability like this that really sets the race apart and makes it feel distinct - also in a mechanical way.

I have mentioned the tentacle-faced obvious heir to the half-illithids, haven't I? Yeah. The woodborn, which are just the race for anyone who ever wanted to tackle playing Pinocchio? Yeah, awesome. Even better - an alternate racial trait that nets you an assassin vine symbiote that deals more damage on a grapple just oozes style and its wording has been similarly improved.

Winterwolf/Hellhound/Worg/humanoid half-breeds also deserve two thumbs up regarding their ability-suites.

Now this pdf does have more to offer than just a metric ton of half-breed races - namely templates - for bi/quadruped creatures, half-doppelgängers/medusas, half-elementals (!!!), half-rakshasas and also so-called titanblooded creatures - the templates are pretty solid all-around, with ample cool ideas and tools for mad scientists/transmuters to play with - nothing grievous to complain about here.

The book furthermore offers a distinct array of feats, most of which have the [heritage]-descriptor. The feats run a wide gamut: We have for example one that substitutes a mental attribute (Wis or Cha) for Con - which would make me yell - however, it is restricted to bonus hp, not all the saves - which does, surprisingly, work for me. The presence of the Feral Fighter-feat feels a bit odd - it nets you claws or a bite as appropriate for your creature type. Why don't some of these races use this instead of the at times redundant or unnecessary-seeming amounts of natural weapons some receive? That would also put players agenda higher on the list. Bloodsong adept has thankfulyl been nerfed to now feature a cap -the feat allows you to use bardic performance only affecting your type/subtype, basically providing+1/2 your bardic performances additional performances as bloodsong performances that only affect your race. On the okay-side, there are multiple SP-granting feats and some that e.g. net grab to add to bites and tentacle attacks - not a fan of the latter, but that is personal taste.

Now on the other side, there is Mixed Blood, previously a feat, now a trait, which covers almost two pages and presents a wide variety of odd bloodlines/unlocked types. The re-evaluation here was well-made indeed, considering the ease by which it now can work in conjunction with various builds.

There also are 4 racially-themed PrCs - the brief run-down of them would be as follows:

The Bloodsong Heritor is the herald of his people - a solid, good bardic PrC with neat mechanics and not much to complain about - previously, its main issue did lie in the broken feat upon which it was built - now, it works and represents a nice PrC with unique performances that also include the expenditure of multiple rounds for interrupt-style effects while still maintaining the performance. Think of it as a less complex, much more limited and racially-themed take on what Interjection Games' Composition magic does.

The Kith Hunter is an okay slayer-type 5-level PrC. Seen better, seen worse. The Kithlord can be considered a solid racial champion PrC with commander-style tricks/auras and even teleports at higher levels - okay, though I'd be wary of this PrC in a uni-race group - mostly great for NPC-adversaries. Also has per-encounter tricks, if that bugs you. The 5-level mongrel has the most choices among the PrCs, offering quite an ability-array to choose from and some rather unique bonuses - including ways of getting rid of ability damage by leeching off magic - nice one.

The book also sports a small selection of new spells, which can generally be considered among the more powerful examples available - they are not bad, mind you, but the option to e.g. have earthskin and stoneskin overlap may not fit well with some groups. That being said, spells that provide minor bonuses versus e.g. kobolds and goblins will not break anyone's game. The spells are solid.

Finally, the book provides new magical items, including 4 new special abilities, one of which nets you a standard action in a surprise round for just the equivalent of +1...though you remain flat-footed. A +1 enhancement that bypasses the DRs of elementals and constructs essentially renders golems utterly useless at +1 enchantment - ridiculously OP and should be torn to smithereens. On the plus-side, conjuring forth a red blade of flame via bracers is pretty cool and the traveler's backpack will be a favorite for most wilderness adventures. So, all in all, solid section with some winners and some that obviously require significant nerfing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting in the revised iteration of this book have improved and taken care of the most glaring of issues. There are some minor deviations still here, but nothing too glaring. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has copious full-color artworks - the revised edition's artworks are pretty amazing for the most part and render this a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the file comes witha second, more printer-friendly iteration.

You may have gotten a wrong impression from this review - I actually like this book.

No, really. I was honestly positively surprised by this pdf.

The signature abilities provided for the races, the unique, non-redundant fluff and the overall balancing of the races is great. No, really, I mean it. Alas, even in the revised iteration, this book is also the very definition of flawed - almost every race had either a wording hiccup or one ability that just went beyond what would be considered balanced in all but high-powered tables. Essentially, I could play "look for the bit that's too strong" with a huge array of races I otherwise loved - races that feel more organic and viable than they have any right to, provided the limited room they each have. So let me state this again:

This is a good book; in the revised version, it is a good to very good book.

The thing is, it could have easily been an OMG-HOW-AWESOME-IS-THAT-book. Perhaps I expected too much from the revised version of this tome. Matt Medeiros, Jade Ripley and Andreas Rönnqvist have ultimately crafted a massive racial book that has been streamlined and improved SIGNIFICATLY since its previous iteration. It is, as a whole, vastly superior to the previous version of bloodforge (still available as per the writing of this review as a .zip included among the downloads).

I can see people hating and loving this book. The rules-language of the revised version has significantly improved, and similarly the big, really bad hiccups are all cleared up; the issues that remain are the small ones. I'd still only recommend it unsupervised for high-powered games, but the chance that a GM can say "yes" to this book as a whole has increased by approximately +40%, at least as far as I'm concerned. The races do feel iconic, they can be cleaned of the problematic bits and a capable DM can adjust them with relative ease to a lower power-level, if such is required. Oh, and they, and that cannot be under-emphasized, do not suffer from the sucky bloat of skill-enhancer racial traits (Get +2 to Skill A and B) that hound so many races since the ARG, instead providing something unique.

How to rate this, then? See, this is where I was frankly disappointed on a high level: When I saw the new cover, heard about the changes made, I was stoked and downright excited to see the final book, hoping I'd be able to praise it to the high heavens. I hereby do praise it - it represents a SIGNIFICANT improvement in both balance and aesthetic quality as well as rules-language precision. This does net the book +1 star, rating-wise. There still are some hiccups in the details here, though - and some aspects still need nerfing as far as I'm concerned. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for the revised edition. Whether you round up or down is contingent on how picky you are regarding wording and, more importantly, the power-level of your game: High-powered groups will want to definitely round up, while gritty groups may want to round down. As a person, I will round down, but as a reviewer, I do have my in dubio pro reo policy, which means my official verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodforge
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Deadly Gardens: Mulch Stalker
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/31/2017 03:30:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The pdf begins with two magic items made from natural items - the first of these being the manticore tail flail, which is amazing and can fire a limited array of spikes each day. The second one would be a frog's eye ioun stone, which helps avoid being surprised.

The critter herein, the mulch stalker, would btw. clock in at CR 3 - these critters consist of broad, overlapping leaves, with segmented, taloned branches jutting forth. Mulch Stalkers are small, but VERY fast - 50 ft, and may climb and leaf glide - they are, in short, very deadly in that regard. they have bites and talons. Speaking of which: These cause a form of rot that does not heal naturally. Ouch. Oh, and they can full attack when using a gliding charge. And they sneak attack. Oh yes, really nasty and cool critter...and they have Pack Attack! Yep, they are awesome and pretty much represent what I expect from the series, creativity/coolness-wise!

As always, we close the pdf with several natural items - including rust monster antennae, mulch rot powder or a medusa's head - which may also petrify the careless wielder or those around him. Similarly, size-reducing intellect devourer jelly is neat and now features significantly improved formatting and rules lingo. Hydra blood has increased its base price and nets fast healing 5 for 1d4 + 4 rounds, making it balance-wise more viable - not too bad and harvesting requires dead creatures, but still - one could argue that drawing blood could make an industry of the stuff. I's strongly suggest making them heart's blood or something like that/ the flavor more explicit. But then again, that is fluff-based.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good in the revised iteration. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the b/w-artwork provided is amazing. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked, which is nice.

Stephen Stack and Russ Brown deliver an amazing critter and in the revised version, the fixed hiccups increase the value of this further - to the point, where I can rate it 5 stars + seal of approval. For the low price, this is a steal indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Mulch Stalker
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Deadly Gardens: Deathcap Fungus
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/31/2017 03:24:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 5 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this installment with 2 hazards, the first of which would be a lesser form of cave-in, with the second being a patch of the eponymous deathcap mushrooms, which may generate bursts of negative energy - thankfully, in a limited manner, so healing abuse by undead is not possible. We also receive a new alchemical item, the salt bomb, which deals AoE damage to targets. EDIT: Now the bomb is typed, damage-wise. The salt spread by the bomb does inflict more damage for subsequent rounds to targets susceptible to salt, with the subsequent rounds, weirdly, causing "salt damage" - I think that's supposed to be acid.

Now, the pdf does feature 3 sample creature modified with the new template of deathcap creature: Crypt thing, ghoul and zombie (CR 6, 4 and 1). The template adds +1 to the CR, nets a bit of positive energy resistance, adds a bit of negative energy damage and death throes. Each gets its own artwork, though the artworks do not adhere to a uniform style and the ghoul's artwork, as featured on the cover, is the superior one.

The pdf also features a total of 10 different natural items, which are in and of themselves mostly not related to the deathcap fungus - we get notes for black pudding acid, darkmantle eggs or gelatinous slime bladders. Now it should be noted that, if you're not familiar with these, that unless otherwise noted, activating these is a standard action that provokes AoOs - so yeah, the hyperlinked free pdf for these, if you don't already have it, may be worth checking out. That being said, not all are perfect: Take Powdered ID Ooze: It hits foes attempting to telepathically contact you with confusion for 1 round.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are improved in the revised edition. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity. Nice!

Russ Brown's Deathcap fungi aren't bad by any means, but neither are they particularly impressive. They represent a plant-based upgrade for undead that is pretty basic. More damage, better defense, death throes, that's pretty much it. That's not bad, mind you, but it's not impressive either. The supplemental material is better now, but can't really make up for the template being pretty cookie-cutter. This is by no means a bad pdf, but at the same time, it falls short of the standard of the series. The low price does help to remedy it as far as I'm concerned, and the improvements made net this +0.5 stars, but I still can't round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Gardens: Deathcap Fungus
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Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 3
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/30/2017 04:47:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third collection of essays on game design by Daniel J. Bishop, intended primarily, but by far not exclusively, for the DCC RPG, clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 54 pages of content, though it should be noted that this book's layout is intended for A5 (6'' by 9'')-booklets and, as such, you can fit up to 4 of these pages on one sheet, provided your eyesight is good.

Please read the whole review, not just a paragraph or two. This is going somewhere.

All right, so...the topic is the sandbox and the author begins, wisely, I might add, given how opinionated we RPG-folks tend to be, with a subjectivity-clause: This pdf and its essays represent opinions and one way of dealing with the theme of the sandbox - this does not mean it's the only way, but yeah. It also helps if you've read Dispatches Vol. I, wherein the importance of choices and consequences was discussed - why? because frankly, the sandbox IS the result of saying yes to choices and consequences. Before we dive in, let me add my own subjectivity disclaimer: While it is in the nature of a review, that it is an subjective opinion, this one is more subjective than most and my criticism herein is offered in the spirit of discourse, not with the claim of owning a monolithic truth.

A sandbox is an attempt to create a breathing world, one that is not beholden to a given plot of a sequence of adventures; a simulation, if you will - you generate the playing field and contemplate how xyz reacts to various impulses and then throw your PCs in. It is how I've ran pretty much all of my campaigns. This obviously does mean that there is more preparation, or at least, consideration, involved in making a sandbox: After all, you have to create (or improvise) more than just the sequence of places the PCs stumble through on their railroad...but this endeavor is very much rewarding, s it can generate truly magical moments.

This does NOT mean that the sandbox has no plot, mind you - quite the contrary: At any given time, only your mind and capability to juggle them is what counts. If the PCs don't want to get involved in that brewing war between kingdom A and B, it'll still happen - just without them. In short: The sandbox does not revolve around the PCs, but rather turns on its own. This also means that a proper sandbox takes off the stupid CR-restrictions (if employed as restrictions, not as guidelines) popularized in many games in favor of, tie in Vol I, choice and consequence- if your PCs are dumb enough to challenge the old wyrm at level two, they deserve being killed. Similarly, just because they have level 5 does not mean that they should waltz, staves blazing, into your game's equivalent of Mordor.

We're coming full-circle here - the determinant of any sandbox game is not ONE plot, but the player's DECISION to follow one of the multitude of plotlines that happen at any given time. So far, the reasoning of the pdf is, as far as these aspects are concerned, flawless. It's a democracy of choice within the realm where the GM is the absolute ruler.

At the same time, the subjectivity clause is well-deserved, for ultimately, these well-construed and -reasoned points do unfortunately intersect with what I'd consider a classic case of preaching to the choir and the advent of opinionated gaming where you tell groups they or their system are doing it wrong. You see, I do agree that the lack of choice inherent in linear storytelling formats like APs can be stifling. I do not agree with the notion, however, that whether or not they are wholly rests on the shoulders of a great GM-narrator. Similarly, "skirmishing games", as an aside towards rules-heavy games, are not by definition opposed to the very notion of a sandbox. To deconstruct a couple of theses herein: The pdf claims that a system matters for sandboxing. This is, indeed, true to a certain extent - the less preparation a given combat encounter or social scenario requires, the easier it gets. However, this does not mean that it's hard or impossible to do so. It may require marginally more work, but ultimately boils down to a GM's willingness and creative muscles. Similarly, there are ample COLOSSAL sandboxes out there for rules-heavy games - one look at Frog God Games' library would for example yield several monstrously large sandboxes that represent massive rebuttals.

That being said, if you define sandbox as a whole world as opposed to an adventuring region, no matter how large it is, then a sandbox cannot be contained in any published module due to the constraints of any given product - this fallacy is rebutted later, thankfully. Under such a perspective, it is up to the GM (or judge, or referee, or...) to take a world and litter it with adventure - but when such a definition is used, the whole argument of pre-packaged modules not working, no matter their structure, has rendered itself ad absurdum.

Nevertheless, there is a truth here, no matter the barbs towards certain systems - namely that, by virtue of the limitations of space and popularized formats of pre-existing modules, many publishers and authors have started designing in a very video-game-y manner. Scene A -> Combat -> Talk -> Transition -> Scene B. That is the railroad. That is a lack of player-choice, and very often one that sports a distinct lack of interaction options. It is pretty much what disillusioned me regarding many video games and made me go pen and paper in the first place. However, it is not a design aesthetic that is INHERENT to any system - it is, instead, a design CONVENTION that many authors elect to follow. No matter how complex a game's rules are, you can always make a sandbox. The ability to do so does not rely on the system. Note that the pdf does not claim it does, but heavily implies as such.

Point 2 is that sequential, prepackaged campaigns are similarly not necessarily anathema to a sandbox - there are examples of very free-form ones out there; but beyond that, the validity of the point the author makes here is subverted by one guiding principle of his own philosophy - player choice. See, if the players encounter, for example, module #1 of an AP, elect to start playing it...and then abandon its plot halfway through to do something else, then that is their CHOICE. If they are intrigued enough to follow the plot to module #3 and then abandon it, then that's their choice as well - it's not a question of the structure of a system or its conventions for module design, it's an issue reliant on the GM saying yes to their freedom of choice and preparing accordingly. Now the slightly schizophrenic aspect here is that, in the partially well-justified criticism of sequential adventure formulae, the book later (down in the DCC-section) concedes exactly this point - that published modules, with all their limitations, do not necessarily destroy a sandbox - basically, the tune changes completely and becomes inclusive. Now, I get it. The issue the author fields it that railroady campaigns are the problem - when the campaign is all the world. Railroady single modules are okay, though. Here's the thing, though - no one forces a group to stick to one campaign and a campaign consists of...modules. Again, it boils down to convention of how a GM looks at the material available, not the formula of presentation - whether that's a hex-crawl or an AP.

Let me, at this point, quote one of the most beautiful sentences of genuine wisdom this offers, one that may well be worth getting this: "Present me with a word. If I want to change it, I will."

This sentence is absolutely amazing. It is poignant and glorious and something every GM ever should always bear in mind. In the face of such wisdom and beauty, it is my contention that the arguments fielded in the beginning are slightly lost in the opinionated way they're presented here, when looking at it neutrally may have not yielded the same cheers from fans of the respective rules-lite systems, but would have yielded the more stringent impact. Chances are, that the GMs who were bound to benefit the most from this gem and the enlightened stance taken later in the pdf may have put the file away at this point, with the proselytizing in favor of certain systems detracting from the appeal of those most in need of the guidance herein.

The task here is not to praise system a) for qualities, which are entirely subjective, not to bash system b), whose merits and flaws are similarly subjective and a matter of taste. The point is that the CONVENTIONS of how modules are presented and a lack of consciousness for their limitations and downsides, for their meta-structure, are what governs an inability to properly sandbox more than a rules system ever could.

I've already talked about the sequential AP-formula; so, while I do adore sandbox gaming, let's take a look at the downsides here, which the pdf could imho do a slightly better job advising GMs: The biggest one, obviously, is choice paralysis. This may not necessarily be a thing in your game; veterans generally tend to be able to handle it rather well and find things to do. However, in the long run, just exploration and stumbling into the week's latest dungeon/monster/weird settlement can be just as frustrating as a restrictive railroad. Granted, the task of plotting meta-narratives is up to the GM...but then, how to seed them and maintain them? I'm trying hard to be the advocatus diaboli here, mind you.

Another point made to emphasize how some systems are less capable of depicting a sandbox would deal with character progression - broad, rather than narrow, are the terms employed here. Broad implies that more options are gained, whereas narrow implies that the respective options are improved. Similarly, these denote the type of challenge a given group can tackle over a series of levels -can a challenge be relevant for multiple levels or does it require redesign, etc.?. 4th edition, for example, would be a very narrow system. If you've been following my reviews for a while, you'll know that I loathe the system. I really dislike it, but ultimately, you can sandbox in it. It takes serious effort, but it is possible. Ultimately, it depends on the GM being capable of and willing to modify stats, encounters, etc. It's infinitely simpler for retro-clones like S&W, LotFP or DCC - sure. And yes, I absolutely agree that system does matter in this discipline. But what matters most, ultimately, is a GM's prowess.

takes a deep breath All right, that is not to say that there are no theses with which I 100% agree: One, simulationalist approaches work best in sandboxes. It can be extremely thrilling to see PCs risk starvation while exploring a wasteland; in the right hands, such a set-up doesn't require a single combat to be a nail-biting experience. Speedy character creation and world creation are two aspects that most certainly work easier for rules-lite games - not going to argue there, just note that capable players and GMs can whip out new characters even in incredibly rules-heavy systems rather quickly. Or purchase them. Such systems do tend to have a plethora of NPC-books, pregens, etc.

Encouraging GM fiat can be an empowering aspect and one that current generations of GMs often forget - particularly in rules-heavy environments. As opposed to a proper game-designer trying to use the system, a GM can, regardless of system, be the final arbiter...and should be just that. It is one of the most troubling developments in rules-heavy systems to see this aggravating player-entitlement that complains about an enemy not being "CR-appropriate". It's a world - or rather, simulation thereof. If you're demonstrating for whatever cause and come to blows with a soldier and get your behind handed to you, you can't complain about it being not fair regarding power-levels. At the same time, GM fiat can be very frustrating - it puts a lot of strain on a GM, as corner cases need to be remembered, sample rulings kept in mind. Sure, you can discard those...but that takes away from the all-important immersion, the sense of a concise and organic world. So, like everything, there are two sides to contemplate here.

Once again, that is not the consequence of a system, but the consequence of the design-conventions in place for that system - and the GM-conventions in place for the system. CoC-Keepers will run games differently than DCC judges, Pathfinder GMs or OSR referees. Okay, so, I've rambled on long enough about my take on the respective theses in the set-up chapters, but the book has more to offer than that. We begin with considerations pertaining initial bases of operations and a MORE THAN APT revision of Ray Winninger's rules of dungeoncraft - these two guidelines make significantly more sense and do not feature the implied justification of doing only the basics - kudos for a thoroughly well-reasoned expansion. Similarly, the pdf provides handy guidelines on grouping NPCs, how to know where to get more involved etc. - basically, it is a nice way of establishing priorities. Similarly, establishing the basics of making an interesting outdoors area are covered in succinct and crisp detail and similarly, guidelines for lair placement, into how much detail you should go - and ample inspirational reading, from RPGs to beyond, provide an excellent way of generating the mindset for a GM.

Now, this is billed as a DCC-supplement, so judges are in luck, for, from the general, we move to the particular, at least system-wise - we begin with a consideration of what a good funnel should achieve as a kickstart of a sandboxy environment; similarly, from classic Hommlet to White Plume Mountain, via basics of the gaming classics, we receive some excellent models which are used to illustrate the craftsmanship aspects of sandboxing. While I know that both are classics, I did wish the book to a slightly broader approach here and included more current examples - once again, since those most in need of this book probably haven't heard about those two classics. Oh, and you may stone me and pull out the pitchforks, but I consider both to be somewhat overhyped.

...

Huh, no giant d20 squashed me. Guess I have to try harder at RPG-heresy. Kidding aside, the pdf does lead by example - a minor sample adventuring site and a 2-page full-color hex-crawl map with basic notes for the respective hexes help getting the feel of how to run such a game and are, as we've come to expect from the author, well-written. A ten-entry (one is roll twice, one is no special ability) d30-table for judges to add special abilities to centaurs and the sample centaur character Asbolus as well as an aspect of Chiron complete this section and provide a nice base-line to illustrate how you can get serious mileage out of a given work/creature.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard and the pdf features some really neat full-color artwork. The pdf also sports nice full-color cartography as well as bookmarks for your convenience.

Daniel J. Bishop's third collection of Dispatches from the Raven Crowking would have, to be honest, landed in my recycling bin if I wasn't a reviewer. After a couple of pages, I just shook my head at several of the argumentative fallacies committed and put the pdf away. Let it be known that it has haunted me for a couple of days, as I began formulating why some of the initial claims felt so wrong to me. I returned, as you can see, in due time - and I am glad I did. From the bottom of my heart.

Now, as you may notice, I very much disagree with several core tenets of the train of thought constructed by the author. Significantly. It is my firm conviction that, in spite of the subjectivity clause, the needlessly judgmental way in which some systems and presentation modes are depicted, hampers the point the pdf tries to make - with the audience that most needs it. The pdf, in short, could have taken a more diversified stance here and been, ultimately, more respectable in its argumentation here. Then again, it does have the material - the synthesis of thesis and antithesis comes late. Similarly, the pdf does not necessarily paint a diversified picture of the issues that a group can face while sandboxing, focusing on GM preparation and how to handle this aspect - but less about how to handle players dealing (or not dealing) with a sandbox. There is only so far reactions and the like will get you and while the pdf does cover these aspects, I believe they are very much born of experience here and could have used a more novice-friendly depiction.

Oh boy. I'm realizing right now that this all sounds very negative. And it shouldn't be. Whether by happy accident or just by impulse, my annoyance in the face of some statements herein made me reevaluate basic structures of the presentation of gaming materials and systems in general and has left me enriched for it. While, as my review above should make more than clear, I do disagree on several finer points and agree with others, much like any good discussion with a dissenting point of view that is presented in a strong and concise manner, this book has left me richer and, hopefully, more enlightened than I was before; not by assimilation of another opinion, but by contemplating my own.

This is, ultimately, all you can ask of from a series of essays on game-design and structures.

Oh, and the book also is a pretty neat guideline to sandbox gaming. Yeah, there was that aspect as well while I was getting lost in the argument.

So, worth getting? My answer would be a resounding "yes." Final verdict: 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Volume 3
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Vigilantes of Skybourne
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/30/2017 04:40:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion-pdf for the vigilante-class clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, we begin this pdf with a collection of archetypes, the first of which would be the living banner. At 2nd level, the archetype is locked into the inspired vigilante talent. At 3rd level, a unique peculiarity begins - the living banner receives access to the war sphere, using inspiration points instead of spell points. The totem abilities gained are always centered on the living banner and affect only allies while he's in the vigilante identity. In social identity, an ally within 30 ft. may be affected by the rally abilities, but not the totem abilities. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter net a talent from the war sphere. This replaces startling appearance and unshakeable. 11th level allows for a cool option: Whenever the banner would be reduced below 0 hit points while in vigilante identity, an ally within 30 ft may aid another for AC as an immediate action - if the AC bonus suffices to raise the vigilante's AC high enough so the attack misses, it is negated. This one replaces frightening appearance. 17th level nets the ability to allow allies to execute an attack as an immediate action against an adjacent target when the banner crits, replacing stunning appearance. All in all, a cool archetype.

The Iron Lord is basically an Iron Man archetype - instead of the default dual identity, the archetype can conjure forth a bonded armor that is of masterwork quality, +1 enchanted for every odd level beyond first, with the +5 cap maintained. Enhancements/special qualities can be switched upon reaching a new level. The armor vanishes once it loses the iron lord's possession and 7th level provides a second suit of armor for more flexibility, with changes between suits and identities following the normal dual identity rules Starting at 3rd level, the iron lord unlocks progressively better special materials to craft the suit from, with 7th and 11th level providing progressively better options. Now this is not meant as criticism and I won't penalize the pdf for it, but I would have loved to see some GM guidelines of when to unlock new materials beyond the standard Paizo stuff. Oh well.

The third archetype, the masked duelist, gains Weapon Finesse with one-handed piercing weapons and light weapons, replacing seamless guise. 2nd level replaces the vigilante talent with the swashbuckler's panache, including dodging panache and opportune parry and riposte, with 3rd level unlcoking precise strike and swashbuckler's initiative. 6th level replaces another vigilante talent nets Dazzling Display and treats all Weapon Finnese'd weapons as Weapon Focus weapons for the feat's purpose. A number of times per day equal to Cha-mod, the masked duelist can mark a foe as part of Dazzling Display, potentially dazing the adversary. You've no doubt discerned it - this is the Zorro-archetype. And I like it. One issue remains, though, one that is retained from the base swashbuckler - the archetype, much like the swashbuckler class, lacks a reliable skirmishing option, one that imho would have really benefited the archetype.

The next one is pretty interesting - the Possessed gains 4+ Int skills per level and instead of vigilante specialization, he gains possessed identity The possessed identity can either be construct, aligned outsider, elemental, plant, dragon or construct. The vigilante identity, before you start groaning, does not gain all immunities of the respective types (which is good), but still provides unique tricks: Construct possessed do not require air to breathe; undead are treated as both undead and living for the purpose of spells and effects and elementals provide speeds. The transformation is magical and thus faster - it can be completed in 5 rounds, but it is anything but subtle. Somewhat disappointing - no guideline regarding how loud it is was provided. The possessed is btw. treated as a low caster for the spheres system, using Charisma as governing attribute, he does not gain talents. MSB and MSD increase normally, but the spell pool only equals 1/2 + casting ability modifier points - odd: Why not use Cha here?

The secret police gains proficiency with the bow, sap and whip instead of martial weapons, shields or medium armors and replace seamless guise with Enforcer. These guys receive a scaling unarmed damage (Small and Large damage values included) and may execute these even with hands full and applies full Str-mod to damage, including off-hand attacks. Nonlethal damage does not impose penalties to atks with these. This replaces level 1's social talent. 2nd level replaces the vigilante talent with an inqui's judgment and 8th level provides a ring of protection that increases in power as more class levels are gained and this ring may conjure forth tears of death with an immediate onset, replacing that level's vigilante talent. I really liked this one - strong theme, well executed.

The sky marine adds Fly to the class skills and loses medium armor proficiency. The vigilante identity of the archetype relies on war paint, oils, piercings, etc., and as such does not gain any protection from scrying etc. usually conveyed by dual identities. That being said, the vigilante identity provides a scaling dodge bonus and improved startling/frightening appearance duration/AoE. This also kills off seamless guise, obviously. 6th level replaces the vigilante talent gained there and at 13th level as well as Vengeance Strike with the ability to enhance a ship he gains control of, with a handy table listing the quite significant benefits. Also at this level, the archetype may designate any spot on the ship as a temporary control device via cranks and pulleys - cool! 12th level either increases maneuverability (for engines) or nets the ship the ability to work sans sails. The capstone is so cool - it makes the ship return to the archetype within 1 week...and if the archetype is in contact with the ship, both marine and ship receive regeneration 5. Cool!

The next one would be the overwatch nets either a flying familiar or animal companion at full level, replacing the talent usually gained at 2nd level. 6th level nets improved empathic link, including the option to look through the companion's eyes, replacing 6th level's vigilante talent. The capstone lets the companion contribute up to 2 standard actions to vengeance strike. I consider this one somewhat problematic, taking into account the superiority of animal companions and their power at low levels; going druid-progression for them looks like a slight overkill to me. Ranger-route at -3 would have imho been smarter here, but it remains a pretty easy modification to execute, so yeah.

The uncanny archer loses medium armor proficiency and gains Precise Shot as a 1st level bonus feat. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter net a hunter's trick from the skirmisher ranger archetype, which may only be executed with ranged or thrown weapons. These may be used 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. This replaces 4th level's vigilante talent. 8th level replaces that vigilante talent with 30 ft.-range ranged maneuvers and 12th level provides a ricochet-shot. Decent, but not too interesting as far as I'm concerned. The vessel archetype is interesting - the archetype has no control between the identities - they have to start the day in the social identity and may not sue the vigilante abilities while in social identity. Starting at 1st level, when the vessel or an ally is below 50% hit points, the archetype can assume their vigilante identity as an immediate action. 5th level lets the vigilante transform 1/day as a standard action, regardless of ally conditions, 10th level lets them assume vigilante identity at will and unlocks the vigilante talents for the social identity. The form also nets class level x2 temporary hit points when assuming vigilante identity, though it should be noted that these cannot easily be cycled. Okay, so how would I play this? I'd find a fluffy little kitten. Then...yeah, you get the idea. I'd be angry and whop out my supernatural identity as well when a kitten is hurt. Anyways, at least you don't have to kill them...

Moving on, instead of vigilante specialization, the archetype receives a luck pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which may be spent as part of an attack or damage roll to add a surge-y +1d6 to atk, or +1d6 per 5 class levels to damage. As an immediate action, the vigilante may add this amount to saves, thus replacing vigilante specialization. Also as an immediate action, the vessel may boost an ally's save or AC by +1d6 by expending 2 luck points. I really like this mechanic, but alas, the ally option is a separate ability and does not specify when it is unlocked. Until 10th level, these cannot be used while in vigilante form.

The next chapter provides more archetypes, this time racial ones - if you remember my review of the PG and its gross power imbalances, you'll notice that this does not necessarily leave me stoked. So, for the purpose of this book, I'll just look at these on their own, distinct entities, all right? The Cecaelia deepstalker replaces Climb with Knowledge (history) and gains proficiency with heavy and light underwater crossbow, but loses medium armor and shields, excluding bucklers. 1st level nets poison use and seamless guise is replaces with a bonus to Craft (alchemy) and (traps) - how much? No idea - there is a box-like layout/formatting remnant where the bonus should be. I assume from context that it should be 1/2, though. 4th level replaces the vigilante talent gained with a ranger trap and 20th level nets a pretty hard to counter final death-y ability when reducing foes to 0 hp.

The aasimar divine avenger replaces 5th level's startling appearance with Call Truce and 11th level nets an ability in social identity that makes it hard to say no to the avenger, requiring a WIll-save to not have your attitude improved temporarily - which is cool. However, it replaces "startling appearance" - which is wrong. That ought to read frightening appearance. 17th level replaces stunning appearance with a stun versus anyone at least indifferent when the vigilante identity is revealed. Okay one, I guess, but nothing special. The fenghuang ebon phoenix can assume the eponymous ebon phoenix form in only 5 rounds (as always, talents can hasten that) - and once again, there is no guideline for Perception checks to notice the pretty stark transformation. 1st level locks the character in the Renown social talent and quickens the ability to gain renown in settlements with some fenghuang. The downside here being that it's pretty hard for these fellows to disguise themselves from their people. 2nd level nets bonuses to skills and atk and damage versus fey, which increase at 8th and 16th level. This type may be changed in a 24-hour-ritual that requires sufficient knowledge of the threat being lethal to his people. The capstone allows for a cold-based self-immolation + full-healing auto-resurrection that is particularly potent versus the chosen threat.

The cherufe archetype lava walker is only available for the amet subtype and all members of the archetype share the same vigilante identity, gaining a bonus to Intimidate. Interesting: No mundane or magical compulsion can make a cherufe give up a lava walker's identity. This replaces seamless guise. 2nd level last longer lava and +1/2 class level additional uses, allowing you to perform iterative attacks with it. The lava may also be added to wielded weapons and unarmed/natural attacks, with 5th level making it magical and 7th and 11th level increasing the damage output, the latter also increasing duration. This replaces 2nd level's vigilante talent. 12th level upgrades fire resistance to 25 (or 30 with hotblooded) instead of the vigilante talent. The Reimagined created has basically two modes - the vigilante form may have a different configuration of creation points, though each form per se is fixed.. 3rd level lets the archetype, as a standard action, move around the ability score bonus granted by the repurposed ability, with additional daily uses gained at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter.

The technophile tatulani replaces martial weapon proficiency with firearms and begins play with a battered laser pistol and replaces seamless guise with +1/2 class level to Craft (mechanical) and Knowledge (engineering). 1st level's social talent is exchanged for Technologist and 7th level provides the pretty amazing ability to, in 8 hours, repurpose a room into a crafting laboratory, cybernetics lab, medical lab or military lab, with the Craft-check made determining the charges available. The character also receives Craft Technological Arms and Armor and thus replaces the social talent gained at 7th level. I love this lab-improvising-mechanic...really cool, though I wished the archetype went one step further with it.

The cuazaj winged terror replaces 1st level's social talent with +1/2 class level to Craft (alchemy) and gains alchemist bombs instead of a vigilante talent at 2nd level, though he does not add Int-mod to damage.5th level's startling appearance is replaced with a 30 ft. average fly speed (40 ft. and good with Real Flight) and 17th level's stunning appearance is replaces with even better flight. Weird: While two of the appearance abilities are exchanged, level 11's frightening appearance still is here. Aesthetics-wise, I consider that choice a bit odd.

The pdf does feature archetypes for classes beyond the vigilante, the first of which would be the Beast Tamer for the damn cool Luchador-class. The beast tamer replaces skilled combatant with a full-progression animal companion (alongside a bonus on wild empathy and Handle Animal checks. Thing is...he does not get wild empathy, RAW. Oversight? I don't know. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide a teamwork feat, with class level acting as BAB for prerequisite purposes - all animal companions he has are treated as though they also had these feats. Basically a pet-luchador.

The cloaked killer ranger archetype replaces wild empathy with dual identity and replaces spells with the stalker's hidden strike ability at -3 levels and damage increasing by +1d8 per 2 levels thereafter. 7th level lets the killer move unimpeded through crowds and nets concealment as well as an Intimidate bonus to influence crowds instead of woodland stride. The mutator alchemist replaces the default mutagen with a so-called evolutionary catalyst, which, instead of a mutagen's usual benefits, provides a pool of 1/2 class level 8min 1) spell points as well as a single mutation vigilante talent. Brew Potion is replaced with dual identity and two discoveries and one grand discovery can be used to further enhance the evolutionary catalyst. More on those mutation talents below, just fyi.

The swordsmith fighter loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency, but gains 4 + Int mod skills per level (thank you!), +1 per level that must be used for Craft (weapons). 5th level nets Master Craftsman for Craft (weapons). Starting at 3rd level, the swordsmith designates one weapon he made the blade of legend, which receives a +1 bonus when wielded by him, +1 at every odd level, with the usual +5 cap in place. The assigned abilities may be changed via a ritual and drawing said blade adds the bonus of the blade to Ref- and Will-saves as well as Cha-checks when drawn: The swordsmith basically transforms into an alternate identity, which may even be of a different alignment. However, the character may still be recognized by keen-eyed individuals. This replaces armor training ad qualifies as dual identity for prerequisite purposes. 19th level nets DR 5/- while wielding the sword instead of armor mastery and 20th level allows for on the fly reassignment of blade abilities. Love this one. It's basically He-man. Damn cool!

The pdf also features two 10-level-PrCs, the first of which would be the hellsworn, who receives d8 HD, 4 + skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression and prereq-wise, 5th level access. Oh, and you have to pledge your soul to hell, obviously, which makes resurrection unreliable - the interesting aspect here is that dual identity, if present, means that only one identity is condemned to hell. 1st level nets the option to add hellfire damage (untyped) as a swift action to attacks with mutations, bombs, attacks, etc. The ability also improves at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, which extends to the skill bonuses it conveys. 2nd level provides class level DR/good and allows for quicker identity change. 4th level nets poison use as well as the option to conjure forth imp poison 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. 6th level nets 15 + class level SR and 8th level lets him inflict devil chills Cha-mod times per day. The capstone nets an aura of fear.

The second PrC would be the shrouded captain, who receives d8 HD, 6 + Int-mod skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and can be taken prereq-wise as soon as 4th level. The character does need a ship, though - and losing it is nasty. They begin at 1st level with a shrouded crew, which means that the captain can cloak their identity, crafting basically dual identity's lite version for up to 10 x class level beings...which is an AMAZING rpg-catalyst! 3rd level and every three levels thereafter provide a social talent, which may be then included in the generated identities for crew members, though they can't get Renown and the ship will always be the Safe House, if applicable. 2nd level nets jolly roger, which doubles as dual identity for the captain, but extends its benefits to the ship - it also allows for ship intimidation and provides a scaling bonus to crew members' damage rolls and saves versus fear. 5th level and 7th level net a teamwork feat, which may then be shared with all crew members within 60 ft., for a daily total of 5 x class level rounds. 10th level is amazing: If the captain dies and is not returned to life within 24 hours, a member of the crew may take up his mantle, becoming for all intents and purposes the fallen captain, including personality and identity. And yes, this interacts properly with captains later returned to life. Amazing PrC full of flavor, one of the best Pirate-y ones I've seen.

The pdf also features a significant array of new class options for the vigilante: The enigma specialization makes the vigilante a Mid-caster using Cha, with class level + Cha-mod spell points, but does not gain magic talents. Two magical talents may be foregone in favor of a mutation vigilante talent. Mutation vigilante talents are supernatural abilities that do not provoke AoOs and, unless otherwise noted, require a standard action to activate. Many double as sphere effects and may thus be enhanced by magical talents, but may not be enhanced by staves. MSB is based on class level. The massive collection of talents include discoveries for alchemist bombs, Alteration sphere traits (Bestial Form, the talent, is not properly italicized), a combined teleport/darkness, [meld]-scavenging or several SPs. (Once again, one is not italicized correctly) that scale with levels. generating light daggers which can later be used to 30.-ft-whirlwind also are amazing...and yes, dear reader, if you're like me and loved the "Cloak and Dagger"-comics (Mantel und Degen, for my German readers) - the light and darkness-related tricks here are an amazing homage to these characters. Fire-breathing, laced energy, preventing lying, firing ocular blasts and radically improved speed all make sure that the ample inspiration from the superhero genre was well integrated with both spherecasting and the vigilante's engine. Speaking of which: You get two nerd-cred-points if you can reliably state the inspiration for "There is only the Night", which "kills" off a social identity and allows you to build a new one. So. Cool.

Social talent-wise, we get a bit less - only 5. One nets you a copycat, which you can use to retain your identity's secret, one that lets him buy at military discount in an area of renown, one that lets him request the help of fighters, one to make a ship the safe house and one that is the opposite of the aforementioned one that lets the vigilante have his vigilante identity "die" - only to construct a new one. The pdf also features favored class options for the skybourne races and closes with 6 feats: Clangorous Crash deafens foes temporarily when you roll maximum damage with a bludgeoning weapon (finally a reason to use hammers...). Dazzling Blow is smart: Single attack dazzling foes that also renders them flatfooted against you...but only until the start of your next turn, making this a great AoO/tactics set-up that can't be cheesed. Kidney Cutter allows your potshots to deal continuous nonlethal damage (neat!); Mutation nets you, bingo, a mutation. Sealed Mind proofs you versus divination/Mind Sphere abilities and Tertiary Identity nets you another social identity - cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-level - the pdf juggles complex concepts rather well. At the same time, there are some oversights and formatting hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to a really nice full-color two-column standard and the pdf sports a blend of stock art and several amazing full-color pieces I haven't seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Sayre's vigilantes of Skybourne are pretty amazing as a whole; while not all archetypes wowed me, there are indeed some gems herein. In particular in the talent-selection, I kept grinning from ear to ear. As a longtime fan of Cloak And Dagger and as someone who grew up with He-man, there is a lot of heart's string-pulling involved here. The talents, if you're playing with Spheres of Power, are pretty much a reason of its own to get this. If you're not playing with the system, then this has less to offer, so let that stand as a warning.

To make that clear - SoP-using groups that feature vigilantes should consider this a must-have, though not all options reach the level of awesomeness as the ones I mentioned: The Zorro-archetype inherits the issues of the swashbuckler and the hellsworn, while obviously a homage to Spawn lacks symbiotic costume and the unique timer, ending up being basically just another hell-themed PrC...one that, theoretically and RAW, could be cheesed via the new talents that let an identity "die". So yeah, this is not perfect, but it represents a book worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vigilantes of Skybourne
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