DriveThruRPG.com
Close
Close
Browse
 Publisher Info









Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Path of War Expanded
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2016 09:33:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The massive expansion to Dreamscarred Press's Path of War-series clocks in at 181 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with a massive 176 pages of content, so let's take a look!


But wait, before we do, let me make one thing abundantly clear: I am aware that Path of War as a system is a divisive topic. I am very conflicted regarding the core book for it, a tendency I expressed in my review back then. I stand by ALL of these criticisms and have defended them, time and again, so let's get this out of the way first: If something fails the kitten-test, I consider that a needless flaw in the design; I consider infinite healing not to be a part of the core of the game, since only a few combos allow for it, often due to these combos being based on at least one badly designed piece of crunch. I will complain about that. Similarly, I will complain about Skills-for-attack-substitutions, since skills are MUCH easier to blast through the roof via spells, items, etc. I consider all of these problematic. You are entitled to have a different opinion. I don't tell you how to play, that a certain type of game-style is the "wrong" way or any such nonsense. I just depict what my subjective experience is regarding the material.


Before we dive into the analysis of this pdf, let me first make some things clear -I am not going to judge this pdf as per the power-level of the base game and instead take a look at it in the context of Path of War and its increased power-level -anything different would be rather ridiculous regarding an expansion to said system, after all. Conversely, this is not going to be a rehash of all my different takes on individual rules-decisions of Path of War that ultimately, to me, are unnecessary design-relics. If you're not familiar with the gripes I have with the base-system (and the opinions which diverged from mine on that, after all, I do not consider my reviews to be the only valid opinion!), you can read up on them in the extensive discussion on my site and certain boards. Hence, I will try to limit my complaining about these old gripes to a minimum, should I encounter them. Please, please read the above again, carefully - I'm not here to prescribe an opinion, I'm here to give my honest assessment.


All right, that out of the way, let's begin with the latest iteration of my favorite previously-released Path of War class, now revised...so what does the Harbinger do? Chassis-wise, the Harbinger, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial melee weapons, light armor and shields. The harbinger begins play with 5 maneuvers known, 3 of which can be readied and 1 stance, increasing this to 16 known, 10 readied and 7 stances at 20th level. Maneuvers may be chosen from Cursed Razor, Riven Hourglass, Scarlet Throne, Shattered Mirror and Veiled Moon. For my issues with the old disciplines, please check my reviews of those. I'll return to the new disciplines later. Harbingers can be considered the brooding anti-heroes, the dark bringers of woe and as such, contemplating10 minutes of negativity allows the harbinger to ready other maneuvers. In order to regain spent maneuvers in combat, Dark Claim is used - as a swift action, the harbinger can claim a creature in close range she can see - this lasts for a number of rounds equal to 1/2 her class level and a number of creatures equal to class level can be claimed at a given time. Whenever a creature claimed is reduced to 0 hit points, the harbinger recovers initiation modifier expended maneuvers, and when he claims a target, he also gets 1 expended maneuver back. It should be noted that a harbinger is aware of the precise location of a creature claimed, though not being able to see the creature still nets total concealment.


Now if you've been expecting an anti-kitten-test rant here, I have to disappoint you - maneuvers are not a limited resource and as such I'm perfectly fine with the option of a harbinger carrying around bags of kittens to claim and kill...why? Well, because they can also regain a maneuver as a standard action, which renders the whole shenanigans moot. If played smartly, a harbinger will not want for maneuvers, though they can run out of them, requiring the expenditure of actions.


First level harbingers add 1/2 their Int-mod to attack rolls, 10th level harbingers also add full Int-mod to damage rolls, offsetting their 3/4 BAB. I am NOT a fan of dual stats to any roll, but that is documented by now, alongside the obvious means to min-max the s*** out of such a set up, right? They also get +10 ft. competence bonus to movement rate, increasing this by a further +10 ft at 10th level and this bonus is applied before any other modifications due to load et al.


At 2nd level, the class gets Dark Focus - a kind of specialization on one discipline, which nets a +1 competence bonus to atk and damage, increasing these bonuses by a further +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The focus'd discipline's save DCs are also increased by +1, though this bonus does no longer increase, eliminating one of my two main complaints about the first iteration of the class.


6th level nets wither Advanced Study or Discipline Focus as a bonus feat; 10th level nets a second discipline and 14th level provides the option to spontaneously expend a maneuver readied to spontaneously perform a maneuver known from the Dark Focus'd discipline, though it has to have a level equal to or lower than the expended maneuver. Finally, 20th level makes all maneuvers known of the chosen disciplines count as readied in addition to the ones readied regularly.


At 3rd level, harbingers may 1/encounter (thankfully now defined in in-game time in Path of War, so no more complaints regarding that!) move up to her speed as a swift action, increasing this by +1/encounter at 9th and 15th level; however, at these very same levels, harbingers can also opt for fly speed, swim speed plus immunity to inhaled toxins, climb speed with bonuses to disarm and grapple OR the ability to teleport up to her speed as a move action - while the latter sounds like it is the most powerful of these, that would be a flawed assumption - the action economy versatility does somewhat balance these out, though teleport and flight remain clearly the stronger options. On a nitpicky side, though, I do believe that this short-range teleport ability does need to specify that it is a conjuration [teleport]-effect. Why? To maintain balance with existing mechanics that block teleportation-effects. Still, not a grievous oversight here.


At 4th level, the harbinger may initiate a readied strike as an immediate action once per encounter whenever she reduces a foe to 0 Hp or below, with the strike being required to have an initiation action of one standard action, +1/encounter use at 10th and 16th level. IT should also be noted that the target needs to be adjacent, which is an important restriction in my book. The limit helps to keep this in line and makes it a good resort when a harbinger needs an extra oomph. Now granted, this ability, while not looking like much on paper, is actually very powerful - seeing how, in many games, the GMs are not as adept at drawing out combats, these abilities may be considered very painful for a continuous micro-novaing through "small" encounters.


5th level provides a +2 bonus to AC and Ref when moving more than 10 ft. in a given round, rewarding alacrity - as does the 11th level ability, which allows for the movement of 1/2 movement as an immediate action 1/encounter. I like this ability per se, but does it have the capacity to waste e.g. attacks or spells executed against the harbinger? I assume no. This messing with the movement economy is not bad, but some clarification would be nice.


7th level nets magic aura at will, though, in a minor complaint, the SP's not italicized. At 8th level, creatures flanked by the harbinger and his allies take a -2 penalty to saves and skill-checks. 12th level adds no-save shaken to a creature claimed and 13th level provides something pretty cool as well: The harbinger provokes no more AoOs for movement from claimed foes. 17th level allows a harbinger, as a full-round action, to move up to his speed and initiate a strike at any given point of the movement, while 18th level lets them initiate strikes as an AoO (OUCH! - and yes, has a restriction regarding activation action of the strike!). 19th level...is imho OP. All maneuvers initiated by a harbinger ignore ALL immunities possessed by the targets. Still...notice something? The thematically unfitting ability that let you stand around as opposed to skirmish is gone!


I consider the harbinger to be the best Path of War-class and I really like it; minor gripes aside, it is a great base line even if you dislike Path of War to create your own skirmishing class.


Archetype-wise, the harbinger gets 3 options, the first of which would be the crimson countess. The Crimson Countess deals damage to creatures claimed - 1d4 at first, then 2d4 at 6th level, +1d4 every 4 levels thereafter. The ability per se is rather cool, though I have an issue with the damage being untyped - the lack of a means to negate the damage renders the character extremely potent against any threat that is short on HP and great on alternate damage-negation. This, theoretically, allows for very easy high-DR construct-slaying, for example. Applying a proper damage type would help here. At 2nd level, the crimson countess receives a pool of vitae points equal o the number of claimed targets, with a max storage capacity equal to the class level of the countess. The pool drops to 0 after 1 minute out of combat and the countess receives +1/2 vitae points as morale bonus to atk and damage rolls made via maneuvers, +2 when executed against claimed creatures. The ability also scales with levels, providing additional means of utilizing vitae, with further untyped damage equal to her class level to all claimed creatures as a move action, additionally potentially providing 1d6 hp per creature claimed - the healing may be none too much, but it still makes me think that my countesses would carry bags of kittens around for handy claim-kills and infinite personal healing. sigh


On the plus-side, the ability does provide an expansion of the recovery options (4 vitae for one counter or boost) available, with higher levels netting 8 vitae points forced teleportation (which should specify that the effect is a conjuration [teleport]-effect for the purpose of interaction with base rules) and a 6 vitae option to shove off half damage (or ability damage) to a target claimed creature - the latter can be extremely powerful, though the archetype actually prevents the worst of the ability's potential for OP abuse. The capstone provides a lethal 10 vitae save or die; make it and take damage ability.


On the awesome side, the class receives the powerful ability to turn into a big pool of blood and reform at 9th level, getting a bunch of unique benefits while in said form. This archetype, in a nutshell, replaces agility with reliable damage-output - though swift action movement is still here. I love the fluff of this glorious beast. The Crimson Countess actually will see some use in my game (ONLY as an NPC-class) with very minor tweaks and imho, this archetype plays radically different, with the minimum of vitae points putting player agenda and planning higher on the agenda than I would have expected. This is not a cookie-cutter archetype and it is fun - some minor tweaks can make it work even within my conservative preferred power frame, though the infinite healing and untyped damage represent two needless glitches in this one's frame.


The second archetype, the Ravenlord, receives a bird-exclusive animal companion with the harbinger's Int that shares in several class abilities; slaying it deals Constitution-damage to the harbinger and it acts upon his initiative and does not gain bonus tricks or share spells, but it does share dark focus, but not the benefits of the bonus feat granted at 6th level. Now the unique thing is that the ravenlord may have the companion execute maneuvers: At 3rd level, the raven can initiate strikes and counters, though only one of the pair may initiate a strike in a given round. The interesting component here would be that they also generate a small area of debuffing gloom whenever the OTHER executes a strike, allowing for a fluid (and EXCEEDINGLY fun) switching between roles and benefits. Also: They actually can be defended against by being designated in proper rules-terms - good, since the penalties are massive. At 13th level, the gloom lasts longer and eliminates insight and morale bonuses. I really like this archetype!


The third archetype for the harby would be the previously unreleased omen rider, who gains Medium Armor Proficiency as well as mounted Combat at 1st level and may replace a discipline with Piercing Thunder. Also at first level, he gains a spectral steed that can be called to his side 3 +initiation modifier times per day, dismiss it as a move action. The steed has 1/2 the rider's HP, the same AC and shares miss chances, immunities and resistances with the omen rider. What's a bit overkill in my book: "The spectral steed is not affected by effects that target an area, nor is it vulnerable to effects that do not deal hit point damage." - So no fireballing them? Meh. I get the design rationale behind the idea, as the steed is pretty fragile, but still. The steed has a 40 feet land speed, +10 ft every 2 levels to a maximum of 100 feet and can bear the rider's weight + 50 lbs. +10 lbs per omen rider level. It also learns to traverse swampy, sandy etc. terrain unimpeded at 3rd level, at 6th level it can walk on liquids as though they were firm ground; 9th level nets fly speed equal to land speed (and initiator level bonus on Fly checks) and 12th level lets the rider call his steed and have it arrive with him already mounted as an immediate action. The steed can make the movement for the omen rider for maneuvers requiring it and benefits gained are extended to both. At 5th level, the steed nets +2 to AC and Ref to itself and the rider, 20% miss chance when it has moved at least 20 feet and 10th level provides infinite running, with prolonged sprints ignoring fatigue..."Denn es reiten die Toten so schnell..." 8th level nets the omen rider or his steed the option to gain 2x HD temporary hit points when he reduces a claimed creature to 0 HP instead of recovering maneuvers. All in all, an interesting, unique mounted harby with great visuals.


The second class herein would be the mystic, who receives chassis-wise d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light armors and shields, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and begins play with 7 maneuvers known (which scale up to 21) as well as one stance, scaling up to 7. Mystics can have 5 maneuvers readied at 1st level and increase that to up to 12...however, here, things become interesting: Much like To9S's Crusader, the Mystic does not have 100% reliable access to her maneuvers: The Mystic, before her first turn, determines 2 maneuvers, which are immediately accessible to her; thereafter, at the end of each of her turns, she gains one randomly determined maneuver from those of her readied maneuvers, unlocking this one for the remainder of the combat. If using the Lightning Recovery or Victorious Recovery feats, the mystic can immediately unlock such maneuvers, providing an option for players that are not 100% fine with the random nature of this mechanic. If, during a combat, the mystic would have no withheld maneuver to unlock left, she instead receives all readied maneuvers back and may choose 2 new ones to be immediately unlocked. The number of maneuvers granted at the beginning of combat increases by +1 at 3rd level, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 18th level by one maneuver, but unlike the base chosen two, these are randomly determined as well. Discipline-wise, the mystic can get Elemental Flux, Mithral Current, Riven Hourglass, Shattered Mirror, Solar Wind and Veiled Moon.


The Mystic key-ability is btw. Wis and the class also receives a so-called animus - this means that mystics count as class level arcane spellcaster levels for the purpose of prerequisites and stacks mystic levels with caster levels for the purpose of item creation etc. At the start of her first turn, the mystic receives 1 + Wis-mod animus pool; this pool increases by +1 every subsequent round and lasts for 1 minute out of combat. Whenever the mystic initiates a maneuver, she adds an additional +1 animus to her pool. Animus may be spent as part of a maneuver initiation action for e.g. a cumulative +2 insight bonus to d20 rolls (atk, CMB, skills) associated with that maneuver, up to a maximum of 3 animus spent for a +6 bonus, increase the DC by +1 per point of animus spent. 4th level unlocks 2 animus spent per maneuver for +1/2 class level damage. Alternatively, animus can be used to ignore 10 points energy resistance or 5 points of damage reduction. The latter is a bit problematic: DR is not a unified concept: DR/adamantine or DR/epic is significantly more powerful than DR/magic - a finer and more precise scaling here via animus spent would have made the ability significantly fairer and more streamlined.


At 9th level, mystics can target foes up to her base speed with a melee maneuver or move up to movement rate as a teleportation-effect as part of the initiation - nice to see the acknowledgement of it being a teleportation and the line of sight caveat. Also for 2 animus points, mystics may target creatures within 30 feet with melee strikes. 13th level and 19th level unlock up to 4 and 5 animus spent per maneuver, but do not unlock additional options.


Animus is important in other ways, though: Mystics are attuned to the elements and when they ready maneuvers, they select an active element and associated energy type. Whenever the mystic initiates a maneuver that deals damage, the mystic may spend one animus to change the damage type to the respective active element. As a standard action (or as a free action upon assuming a new stance) she can change the active element. If the character is psionic, her active element and active energy type are the same and if the mystic has the Elemental Flux discipline, she treats the active element as the active element for Elemental flux.


It should be noted that the class also has a reset for readied maneuvers, namely blade meditation: As a full-round action, a mystic can spend 1 animus to immediately receive and EXPEND (NOT initiate!) the maneuvers readied, the mystic receives a new set of maneuvers as per the default rules of the mystic's ready-mechanic. Being slightly more vulnerable during this period, foes attacking the mystic still have to contend with the raging elemental maelstrom unleashed: Until the start of the next round, foes attacking the mystic receive 1d6 points of active element damage, +1d6 per point remaining in the mystic's animus pool. The class also receives bonus feats at 2nd, 12th and 17th level, being able to choose from Item Creation and Combat feats. The mystic also receives solid chances of emulating unknown spells when crafting at 4th level.


2nd level provides a +1 insight bonus to AC versus psionics and spells (and psi-like and spell-like abilities), increasing by +1 at 6th level, 11th, 16th and 20th level by +1. At 3rd level, mystics may, as a move action, spend 1 animus to affect up to Wis-mod allies within line of sight with her elemental glyph, lasting 1 + Wis-mod rounds and new glyphs supersede glyphs already affecting a target. Glyphs are supernatural abilities and add new effects at 3rd, 8th, 13th and 19th level. Beyond the elements, metal, darkness and illumination provide associated buffing options - air e.g. is about movement, darkness concealment etc. At 5th level, the class gets an interesting ability: When targeted by spells/psionic powers or spell/psi-like effects that have a Fort or Ref-save partial, she may substitute a Will-save AND is unaffected on a successful save. If she fails, she receives 1 point of animus, but this ability only works while unencumbered and in light armor. The ability is very powerful, yes, but its limitations mean that it works actually pretty well in the Path of War-context.


At 6th level, the mystic may 1/day as a free action swap a readied maneuver with another one the mystic knows, +1/day at every 4 levels thereafter. At 9th level, the mystic may, as a standard action, utilize animus to suppress identified magical/psionic effects for Wis-mod rounds. Somewhat odd: The ability seems to contradict itself "In order to use this ability, the mystic must have identified an ongoing spell or power through a Spellcraft check or other method." and "This ability can only be used on effects within 30 feet, although the mystic does not need to identify the effect while it is within that range..." seem contradictory...I think this means to say that the requirement for identification is void while within 30 feet....which is somewhat odd, regarding the range...as written, you can't suppress effects farther away...


15th level allows for the expenditure of a move action to gain 1d6+Wis-mod animus points...which can be used outside of combat and lasts 1 minute. As a capstone, the mystic may create a glyph with the effects of two glyphs at the same time - brutal.


Archetype-wise, we get 3 for the mystic as well, with the knight-chandler being the first: The Knight Chandler on the other hand is a pretty detailed, complex archetype: The archetype needs to be non-evil and, at 1st level, receives a soul candle, a fist-sized mote of light that sheds illumination in a radius depending on the knight chandler's illumination pool. Once per round, the knight-chandler may will, as a free action, to move the candle up to her speed, ignoring difficult terrain, but being unable to pass through solid objects. If the candle is within the knight-chandler's space, she can have the candle move with her. Additionally, as a swift action, the knight-chandler may summon the soul candle to her square. Allies within 15 ft. of the candle gain resistance to the active element, equal to the number of illumination points in the knight-chandler's pool and the candle is only weakened in magic-dead zones, not suppressed.


Outside of combat, the knight-chandler has 1 point of illumination in her pool; upon entering combat, she adds +1 illumination point per round. She may also use a swift action to gain 2 illumination points and receives one whenever she initiates a boost. She also gains Tap Animus, which means that she does have animus in addition to her illumination pool. It should also be noted that levels stack with arcane spellcasting levels for spells known and purposes of feat-prereqs. Their attacks may add faerie fire and inflict bonus damage equal to initiator level at 4th level. At 9th level, 1/round, the knight-chandler may, as part of a strike, end an outlining effect via aforementioned faerie fire to heal 1/2 damage inflicted...which, once again, is infinite healing, can be kitten'd...you know the spiel by now. Not a fan. At 17th level, the candle can act as the chandler's position for line of sight and may teleport to the candle...which is honestly pretty cool and it has the teleportation effect caveat.


Starting at 3rd level, knight chandlers can utilize candle magic, beginning with votive effects and unlocking lantern effects at 8th level and bonfire effects at 15th level. The effects projected may be changed as a swift action and the ability has been refined - only one effect of a given type may be active at any time. The relatively close limitation of the soul candle's light is what makes these work, for the effects are rather brutal: More five-foot-steps, teleport, as a lantern effect flat-out immunity to death effects...and then, there would be the bonfire effects, which provide AoE fast healing for infinite healing for the whole group and even ability score damage healing for initiators and a life 3-style option to reduce the pool to 1, but also receive immediate healing for 1/2 maximum hit point total plus an end to just about all negative conditions. I consider the latter to be pretty problematic, since it basically flat-out prevents death negating any damage that would bring the character below 0 Hp when used. Then again, this one is draining and can only be used 1/encounter, which now prevents the total abuse of the ability.


Also, seeing the ridiculous amounts of damage initiators can dish out, abilities like this may be actually needed in the long run. This does not change the fact that the archetype once more provides basically infinite healing, meaning the archetype will limited in its usefulness for some tables - as much as I like the archetype's mechanical frame, it won't get anywhere near my table. At higher levels, knight-chandlers may share boosts or counters readied with allies and as a capstone, the archetype gets an apotheosis alongside an increased illumination pool minimum.


Another archetype would be the Aurora Soul, which gets a modified list of proficiencies and disciplines: These fellows get Broken Blade, Elemental Flux, Riven Hourglass, Steel Serpent, Thrashing Dragon and Veiled Moon as well as Heal as a class skill. Instead of the usual bonus feats, the archetype receives the monk-y bonus feats like Improved Unarmed Strike at 1st level and its Greater brother at 3rd level. 7th level adds initiation modifier to unarmed strike-damage and treats them as magic; 12th adds the modifier to CMB and CMD and 17th to unarmed confirmation rolls. At 2nd level, they get a defensive aura that is active whenever they have at least one animus, adding initiation modifier to AC, even to Touch or flat-footed AC, but not against attacks that hit her before her first turn.


The third archetype would be the gunsmoke mystic, who gains access to Elemental Flux, Rivn Hourglass, Shattered Moon, Solar Wind, Tempest gale and Veiled Moon as well as Sleight of Hand as a class skill. Additionally, they obviously are proficient with firearms and gains Gunsmithing at first level, with the option to upgrade the battered starting gun to masterwork quality for the usual costs. The issue of costly bullets is reduced by the option to make animus-based bullets, which also reduce the misfire value, not unlike the etherbullet mechanic I used in my own etherslinger. The archetype also has the option to use animus to clear the gun and may gun-fu firearms in melee. At 3rd level, they may spend animus to add initiation modifier to damage rolls with firearms and at 7th level, the archetype may spend a move action to increase a gun's range. 12th level provides a ricochet shot-combo with ranged strikes and 17th level nets free animus reload when initiating maneuvers. 1st level also nets Rapid Reload and higher levels quicker reloads for bigger guns. All in all, a solid take on the gun-wielding initiator that addresses many of the issues of the base firearm rules.


The book also sports a previously unreleased base class, the zealot, who gets d10, 4+Int skills per day, full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-saves. The class begins play with 5 maneuvers known (scaling up to 16), 3 readied (scaling up to 10), 1 stance (scaling up to 7) and 1 power point per day, scaling up to 70 at 20th level. The zealot has proficiency in simple and martial weapons as well as with all armors and shields, but not tower shields and receives access to teh Eternal Guardian, Golden Lion, Piercing Thunder, Sleeping Goddess and Solar Wind disciplines. The initiation modifier of the zealot is based on Charisma. Zealots begin combat with all maneuvers readied and may recover maneuvers via their zeal ability, which nets a +1 bonus and increases by a further +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. This bonus is applied to him and all allies within his collective when he hits a foe with a strike maneuver and also when he uses the aid another action.. When using aid another this way, it is a move action and lets him recover initiation modifier, minimum 2, maneuvers. However, this does not allow the zealot to recover maneuvers expended in the round the aid another attempt was activated and alternate uses of aid another do not allow for the cheesing of this restriction.


I already mentioned the collective and the presence of power points makes abundantly clear that this class has some psionic tricks: As a standard action, the zealot can generate a collective, with a maximum range of medium (limitless at 15th level, plane-border-transcending at 19th level), consisting of initiation modifier or 1/2 class level individuals, whichever is higher. Members who have their Wisdom score lowered to 1 are automatically removed. A zealot can initiate maneuvers with one of more willing targets (or harmless effects ) and a range greater than personal on a member of the collective. This extends to powers and spells as well, which imho overshoots the target, though, oddly, powers seem to require the [Network] descriptor. A zealot may also aid himself and at 2nd level, uses Cha instead of Wis for the purpose of psionic feat prerequisites.


Additionally, 2nd level nets the zealot a conviction (+1 every 4 levels thereafter), which lets him gain bonus feats, the option to spend power points to expend the duration of zeal, extend his zeal benefits to mindless creatures, get a Cha-based version of Combat Reflexes as well as 1/round move action granting...which can be exceedingly powerful. Additionally, fortification-like boosts, Psicrystal Affinity and similar options can be found here. Also at 2nd level, the class gets martyrdom, which allows the zealot to redirect 5 points of damage per zealot level from his collective's members to himself - but, rather cool, it does not contain a means to cheese this via resistances or immunities. The cool idea here is, btw., that zealots may spend power points to negate damage incurred thus on a 3:1-ratio (5:1 at 12th, 10: 1 at 17th) and, at 7th level, he may also affect ability damage thus, with power point expenditure as a means to offsetting the effect. This is actually a very cool ability, particularly in the very damage-happy Path of War-framework.


3rd level unlocks aid another at range through the collective as well as telepathic communication within it. Starting at 4th level, he may transfer maneuvers of a level lower than his highest with power point expenditure equal to the maneuver's level to allies in the collective. At 11th level, he may lend an additional one...and before you ask: When he recovers the maneuver, the ally loses it, so not collective death strikes. At 4th level, the zealot chooses one of three missions, basically means of using power points for effects, coupled with passive benefits; if applicable; the more powerful, active effects are learned at 8th level. He can spend a maximum of 1 power point + 1 for every 4 levels per round to power these. Creation provides the option to still save a creature killed via hit point damage in the round after and the zealot can spend power points to heal within the collective. Additionally, he may spend power points to generate walls of ectoplasm or suppress negative conditions. Destruction as a mission would be more offensive, ignoring up to 2 x zeal's bonus of hardness or DR (once again, does not distinguish between power levels of different DRs...), add bonus damage to strikes or extend maneuvers to affect 15-foot cone or 20-foot lines. Finally, Protection increases reach...and has a pretty OP, but perhaps in Path of War, required ability: At the expenditure of the psionic focus (which btw. is the determining factor for the passive benefits of missions), the zealot can halve the damage of an ally. Compared to that, the DR these guys can grant and power point based free counters, while powerful, feel less brutal.


5th level nets Diehard and more staying power, 9th level automatically lets him save versus the negative repercussions of the death of a follower of the collective, 13th level nets stalwart and at 16th level, the souls of his collective's departed are kept within it, allowing for easier resurrection. At 10t level, his collective may transcend death, allowing him to continue to operate in a limited capability while his physical form is destroyed.


Archetype-wise, the zealot receives two archetypes, the first of which would be the Discordant Crusader, who may use both good and evil desciptor'd maneuvers, regardless of his own alignment - he loses Piercing thunder, but gains Silver Crane and Black Seraph. He may switch profane and sacred damage via the expenditure of his psionic focus - which is only useful in a rather limited manner, considering that both damage types have been introduced by Path of War and that there are no creatures resilient to either...which remains, just fyi, a huge gripe I have with both disciplines. The theme of moral ambiguity is continued regarding weapons at 5th level and the inability to detect his alignment. Duality of Discipline Focus and different augments gained via mission, instead pertaining the two disciplines, as well as a dual-stance activation as a swift action complement this one.


The second archetype would be the void prophet, who replaces Golden Lion and Solar Wind with Cursed Razor and Riven Hourglass. Pretty cool: He has an alternate means of recovery, as he can add unwilling targets to his collective and debuff creatures affected thus. Beyond this, higher levels allow this fellow to reduce insight and morale bonuses and power-point-based, relegate countered attacks to collective members, with higher levels allowing the unwilling addition to the collective via strikes. Very interesting twist on the base frame!


Beyond the archetypes for the new classes, this also offers material for the classes introduced in Path of War: Brutal Slayer stalkers replace Thrashing Dragon with Black Serapth and Primal Fury. When this guy uses a full-round action, he recovers initiation modifier (minimum 2) maneuvers and gains 2 x level temporary hit points as well as DR equal to his initiation modifier, while also adding his initiation modifier as bleed damage to the next strike. The benefits last 1 round and temporary hit points stack with already existing ones. Whenever a brutal slayer crits, he increases his Strength for initiation modifier rounds instead of gaining deadly strikes ( first +4; +6 at 8th level, +8 at 16th). 4 new stralker arts are provided: Using ki to get brutal strike benefits versus targets, applying them to flat-footed targets, increased Str-bonus and the option to reduce damage to sicken the foe can be found. Instead of a dodge bonus, they gain a scaling natural armor and they add 1/2 Str-mod to AC and Ref instead of Dex, with 6th level providing full bonus instead - and yes, maximum Dex-mod of armors still caps that.


The second stalker archetype, somewhat unfortunately named vigilante, replaces Solar Wind and Veiled Moon with Primal Fury, Scarlet Throne and Tempest Gale and uses Int instead of Wis as initiation modifier. To recover maneuvers, he expends afull-round action for +4 to AC as well as the regaining of initiation modifier maneuvers, minimum 2. He can also move up to his speed and the next attack adds sneak attack damage. Alternatively, he can recover one maneuver as a standard action. The vigilante has an inspiration pool equal to 1/2 class level + initiation modifier, allowing for the expenditure of such points to add a +1d6 surge to the respective skill or ability check, with Knowledge, perception and Sense Motive requiring no such expenditure. For two points, this can be applied to atk and saves and applying it to saves is an immediate action. These guys also get trapfinding and full sneak attack progression instead of deadly strikes. They may select investigator talents instead of stalker arts and the capstone allows for free +1d6 to all attack rolls as well as the option to enhance DCs with the inspiration mechanic. It may sound odd, but this may actually be the first time I liked something as a private person about the crit-fishing stalker class...I pretty much enjoy this one on a personal level.


The Warder may elect to choose the fiendbound marauder archetype, which replaces Golden lion and Iron Tortoise with Black Seraph, Cursed Razor and Eternal Guardian. These guys manifest a fiend's grip - a spectral claw that has the reach and grapple properties and is based on the gauntlet the archetype wears and attacks with it are treated as though they have grab. They add the cursed condition to those marked and generally can be pictured as pretty adapt grappling specialists. The ordained defender gets either Eternal Guardian, Black Seraph or Silver Crane, depending on alignment and uses Wisdom as initiation modifier. They have an aura and gain limited access to inquisitions or war-priest blessings at level -2, with minor powers unlocked at 3rd, major powers at 13th level. Warlords may elect to become Desperados, who, bingo, would be gunslinging warlords: With Tempest Gale added and a gun as starting equipment, 2nd, 5th and 9th level for quicker reloads as well as access to grit and deeds and, at 5th level, scaling bonus damage when using guns with Solar Wind or Tempest Gale. Okay take on the subject matter, though personally, I consider the mystic archetype to be a bit more interesting.


There are also a lot of archetypes for non Path of War-classes. These begin play with 3 maneuvers known, 3 readied and 1 stance, scaling up to 15 known, 7 readied and 5 stances and unlocking up to 6th level maneuvers. From aegis customizations for maneuver access to barbarian primal disciples (yes, skills for maneuvers can be used in rage) to rubato bards that utilize a tempo pool to nightmare dreads, deadlier marksmen and myrmidon fighters (that have a very wide array of disciplines available!) as well as grit and deeds and finally offer a discipline-based fighter...) to monks of the silver fist, knight errant paladins, ambush hunter rangers and hidden blade rogues, this chapter is pretty impressive and useful. Why? Because it offers means to make the non-Path of War classes still valid in a game that utilizes the increased potency of the Path of War-system. Two thumbs up for this!


Beyond the massive selection of archetypes, the pdf also offers so-called class templates - these would basically be archetypes that can be applied to multiple classes, much like the general archetypes pioneered back in the day by Rogue Genius Games, with individual replacements for the eligible classes. Here, the Bushi, who regains maneuvers when sheathing a weapon, the mounted hussar, the alchemist/investigator polymath or the privateer can be found Inquisitors and Warpriests may elect to become warpath followers.


The pdf also sports three prestige classes, the first of which would be the 5-level animus adept, who needs to have animus healing as well as at least 5th level. Basically, these guys can be considered to be the PrC-based mystic-light-version, with basic, advanced and master glyphs allowing the character to partake in a variant of the mystic's glyph-system. The 10-level Landsknecht PrC, at full BAB-progression and medium Fort-and Ref-saves and is absically the mithral current/scarlet throne specialist reach-fighter, including a unique strike and stance that may either be counted as scarlet throne or mithral current. The third prestige class herein would be the phoenix champion, whose chassis is similar to that of the landsknecht, but, as you may have guessed, these guys would be the ranged combat specialists. The book also contains pages upon pages of feats and going into the details for each would bloat this review even further. Animus-based healing per encounter, 1/encounter combining a riven hourglass stance with a free counter from the discipline, blending of psionics and martial arts, extra x-feats, adding penalties to those claimed - there is a metric ton of crunch here and while I'm not a fan of all components, going into each and every one...well...this is already at the 12-page marker right now.


Pretty cool: We get favored class options for the path of War classes as well as new options for old classes -from new stalker arts to new gambits; some archetyes and previously released material also has now expanded options.


OKAY, so next up would be the disciplines. Now you are, of course, interested in the two new disciplines herein, right? Well, the first would be Cursed Razor. This discipline is associated with heavy and light blades and spears, with Spellcraft being the key skill. Spreading curses inside your aura, using brands to disrupt abilities - the discipline as such provides an intriguing array of options. The maneuvers also allow for paralysis - which is problematic since the maneuver in question ignores immunity to the save-or-suck effect. That being said, long-range teleporting foes into adjacent non-difficult terrain, attack with bonus damage? Cool! Plus: It gets the descriptor-thingy right! High-level stealing of abilities is also evil and fun. This is, no hyperbole, my favorite discipline so far -strategic, bereft of legacy-rules and logic bugs and focused on nasty debuffs and unique tricks, it is powerful - at low levels, perhaps a bit too much. But still - over all, the most PFRPG-feeling discipline I've read so far.


Elemental Flux, associated with Spellcraft and available for monk, thrown weapons and light blades. Elemental Flux requires elemental damage of some maneuvers to be determined in advance, but may choose this as a standard action. Furthermore, quite a few of the maneuvers in the discipline can be augmented via the expenditure of animus points. It should come as no surprise to the reader, then, that we're dealing with highly flexible offense/defense options here - unlike other disciplines, the significant flexibility of elemental flux is pretty hard to counter when combined by the resource-management of the mystic. For future-proofing purposes, this bears mention. As provided, though, the discipline is also highly interesting, with more than one maneuver offering wildly diverging in effects beyond just switching the respective energy damage types - and ultimately, I found myself enjoying this component most about elemental flux: While thematically, I did not consider the discipline too captivating, its flexibility is what ultimately makes me enjoy it. It should also be noted that the respective elemental benefits are pretty well-balanced among themselves. So yes, I was positively surprised here!


Eternal Guardian, a previously unreleased discipline in this book, is associated with Intimidate and represents the total conviction to an oath or task; favored by bodyguards around the world, its weapon groups are hammers, heavy blades and polearms. Cursing targets that strike you to save or become unable to move, allowing allies to not provoke AoOs while moving in your threatened spaces...concept-wise, I found myself enjoying this one. Similarly, intimidating an opponent to fail with an attack as a fear-based counter does make sense in a way. Teleporting between strikes, retributive tricks...all in all, I found myself enjoying this discipline as one of the better ones in the overall balancing.


Mithral Current, associated with Perform (dance) and the weapon-groups light blades, heavy blades and polearms, is up next. The discipline also has a unique flair and mechanical component: Being pretty much about Iaijutsu-style quick drawing, the discipline codifies a type of requirement for certain maneuvers that requires the wielder to properly draw a weapon immediately prior to utilizing the respective maneuver. The concise definition here is pretty much glorious and it should be noted that it does make basically for an optional component that can add additional effects to the respective maneuvers. It should also be noted that some maneuvers and stances here do allow for free sheathing of weapons as part of their usual effects. The discipline also does sport numerous rather interesting defensive tricks - alas, unlike some other more recent Path of War-installments, we once again have a more pronounced emphasis on skill-checks as substitutes for more valuable numeric options like AC etc., adding in the swinging effect more than in e.g. the harbinger's designs and making the content presented here feel less streamlined...and, again, more prone to being gamed. On the plus-side, the actual gaming flow of calm turning to brutal counter-assault and visuals of mithral current are fun.


The Piercing Thunder discipline, based on Acrobatics and with polearms and spears as weapon groups, is all about charging and defending against such assaults as well as reach-trickery. It should be noted that the Twin Thunder Stance lets you dual-wield weapons that would otherwise not be eligible. The strikes, counters and boosts also obviously had some dragoon-inspiration, with repositioning leaps and the capstone allowing for a massive, devastating line-AoE-charge.


The third discipline covered herein would be the Riven Hourglass, with the associated skill being Autohypnosis and the weapons being light blades, flails and hammers. It is this discipline I dreaded most...you may recall my indignation at some of these strikes right? Well guess what: E.g. the previously broken strike the hourglass level 1 strike now has a save to negate and a cleaned up wording. KUDOS!!!


That being said, granting an ally your move, standard or full-round action, to be taken immediately as though they had readied it, is still horribly broken in my book. It allows you to break any semblance of action economy and is chock-full with abuse the system to smithereens combos. While at least swift and immediate actions are precluded from this due to the boost's activation, the combo potential with other classes is vast. Riven Hourglass should be, as a discipline, carefully analyzed by a GM before allowing it - it may be the, group-dynamics wise, strongest discipline in all of Path of War...and that's saying something.


Shattered Mirror, the second discipline, focuses on heavy and light blades and close weapons and uses Craft (glassmaking, painting, sculpture or sketching. Shattered Mirror offers stances to curse temporarily foes hit by you and strikes that add nasty spell failure chances (also to divine casters!) - nice! There also would be a pretty interesting counter, one where I actually drum roll LIKE the fact that it's powered by a skill-roll. Why? Because it's a magical counter and it requires the target to be cursed - this requires set-up and provides a grounding of the odd mechanics within the context of the gameworld. Oh, and it helps that the effect is not one that vastly benefits from maxing the hell out of the skill. The Shattered Mirror lets you do something interesting - utilize, for example, the atk of the last attack of the foe, dealing nasty damage to the target. Know another thing? The Skill/attack-material here is intriguing - using a skill IN ADDITION to attack rolls to add benefits to strikes? Now that a) makes sense to me and b) is elegant and avoids the easy stacking of bonuses on skills - kudos! A very powerful maneuver would be Equivocate - choose a target: When said target is subject to a power, psi-like ability, spell or spell-like ability, you also receive the benefits - and vice versa. While VERY powerful, this also allows for a vast array of exciting tactics. I'm not a fan of using a craft-check in lieu of a save, but that one will not break the game. Doubling strikes and setting the range at close is powerful - as is a strike that curses a target to receive damage equal to what it inflicts - thankfully of the same type. Still - nasty and also open for abuse, though to a lesser extent. Imho, such a maneuver should have a caveat that precludes AoE-damage from being reflected multiple times. The capstone covers a save-or-suck strike that imprisons the target's soul - yeah, ouch. Cool imagery, though. Shattered Mirror is an odd discipline in that it imposes, much like Blue Mage/Mimic-style-classes, a task on the GM - namely one that should be very aware of the potential of NPC/Monster abilities being hijacked. This does not need to be an issue, but it could be one since that type of foresight usually is not required - and yes, I can see a GM walk face first into a brick wall here.


Sleeping Goddess associated skill is Autohypnosis, the weapon groups being flails, heavy flails, monk and spears as well as any mind blades or similar abilities. Sleeping Goddess adepts gain power points equal to the highest level maneuver they know, +1 per additional maneuver known, including stances. You also gain the psionic subtype. In a unique twist, several of the maneuvers of this discipline have a means of being augmented by the expenditure of power points, with a maximum of 1 power point + 1 per 4 initiator levels as the cap. The way in which these are used in pretty unique and also interacts with psionic focus - more often than not, the augmentation options offer varying, scaling means of increasing the potency, also using psionic focus as one of the resources you can use: A basic strike that debuffs, for example, can be divested of its save by psionic focus expenditure. While, in many cases, these seem to be justified, a strike that locks Sus, SPs, spells and powers is nasty when divested of the save...and there I am, getting ready to write a rambling diatribe...and there we have it: Duration reduced to 1 round. While this is still, nasty...I kinda like it, actually. At least in the ridiculously high-powered Path fo War context, it certainly makes sense! Blending false sensory input with strikes is also cool. I'm not a fan of the overpowering optimism boost - as a swift action, it instantly recovers your psionic focus AND, for 3 rounds, you pay no power points to augment...which, basically wrecks the whole limited-resource-aspect of them once you get this 6th level maneuver.


Tempest Gale would be the final discipline covered herein, with Sleight of Hand as the associated skill and weapon groups bows, crossbows, firearms and thrown weapons as associated weapon groups. This discipline also features a unique option, namely the fact that you may execute ranged combat maneuvers, which are treated much like melee combat maneuvers, with the exception that they do not provoke attacks of opportunity and that they apply range penalties, if applicable. From the classic disarming shot to negating cover to using Sleight of Hand as a ranged Disarm-attempt to negate attacks, the discipline feels very much like the classic wild-west-trick shooting option. In other rules-contexts, I'd probably complain rather hard about the power of ranged combat maneuvers, but within Path of War, it feels pretty much grounded when compared to the options some other disciplines offer. In fact, the rules utilized in this one may rank as some of the more easily scavenging materials for games that do not utilize Path of War. As a whole, I enjoyed this discipline and its flavor.


...Come on, can a guy get some applause, I have almost not complained about skill-rolls as substitutions for harder to buff rolls in teh whole discipline section! ;P


Kidding aside, we have one more section to go: Martial Traditions. No less than 14 fully depicted martial traditions await the reader, from the Acolytes of the Arrow to the Cirque de la Fumée, I really enjoyed this fluffy sendoff after the ridiculous amount of crunch this book smashed in my face, though the allegiance with such organizations does provide tangible benefits. An oath is required (and depicted!) for the respective traditions and common tasks and available services further help integrate the disciplines within the context of a world. If anything, I really wished this chapter was a bit longer - the write-ups were evocative, the read-aloud oaths nice...and it makes Path of War's options feel...well, less focused on crunch, more like something you can easily and organically introduce into a setting. The traditions also, obviously, help justifying why certain folks have access to these powerful maneuvers, while others don't.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed minor hiccups like missing italicizations or bolding instead of italicization, for the most part, this book excels in these disciplines. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard and the artwork within is a mixture of unique, new artworks and stock art. The book comes with a second, more printer-friendly version and the pdfs are fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Chris Bennett, Jade Ripley, Sabrina Bennett, Anthony S. Altovilla, Andreas Rönnqvist, Luke Williams - these would be the folks wrote this colossus of a crunch book. The question burning on your lips may well be: Should I get this?


Well, that kinda depends. If you didn't like Path of War and shared my trepidations regarding many of its design decisions, then, surprise, you won't like this either. What you may find, though, is more material to scavenge that in the first book: There are quite a few bits of content herein, more so than in the first Path of War, that make for great scavenging material.


That being said, this still represents a higher powerlevel than I usually use for my base-line of comparisons and, much like the first book, this is not for everyone. At the same time, this book does A LOT of things better than book I: The integration of now Path of War classes via a rich array of archetypes that sport the power-level of the system help making the content feel less like an intrusion. Similarly, the new classes are unanimously better than those in the base book. The harbinger is inspired and my favorite Path of War class - a great skirmisher, that, with some nerfs of the disciplines, may even work in less powerful games. The fact that the designers have listened and further improved this fellow is simply great, making this the star of the book, at least for me.


The zealot may well be the class that Path of War needed - with the massive defensive/damage reassigning/mitigation effects it has, it allows a group (and foes) to withstand the tremendous amounts of punishment the system allows you to dish out. As such, I consider it to be pretty much the most crucial class a Path of War group can have on its side.


I'm still not a fan of the mystic, though - I consider it to be the weakest of the new classes in terms of focus: It feels like a crusader-like chaotic maneuver-specialists that constantly apologizes to its player via options to exert control, when the unique selling point, to a degree, is the lack thereof. That being said, the animus-system here and the knight-chandler archetype in particular do unique, fun things with their complex rules - and, in direct comparison to the classes in Path of War 1, I still consider this one to be more interesting.


To cut a long ramble short: This is, as a book, better in every way than the first one. The classes are more creative, the adaptation of non-martial classes to the system goes a long way; heck, I consider the disciplines herein unanimously more interesting than those featured in the first book. And yes, I still grit my teeth whenever I read skill-checks versus X...but, and this may well be a subjective impression, I do have the impression that, via descriptors and counter-options, the totality in that regard is a bit more sound. Then again, with Veiled Moon already being the prime example of skill-abuse, there simply were not many possibilities to exceed that. On a more positive side, the fluffy traditions in the back, while perhaps the least flashy of the bits of content herein, definitely rank among my favorites - they ground these rules in the reality of a given world.


Before I ramble on even longer: If you play with path of War and like the system, then this will blow your mind. Seriously. It pretty much is as big a step forward as the APG was over the PFRPG Core rules. If you like Path of War, then you absolutely need to get this book. Right now. If your trepidations regarding the system sprang from a lack of support for regular classes, then this book also remedies that.


There are two specific warnings I'd wish to utter to fans of Path of War and GMs in particular: GMs, take a careful look at both Shattered Mirror and Riven Hourglass. Both disciplines can be extremely powerful. Similarly, this book pretty much plays loose with action economy, providing multiple means of trading actions among characters and getting more - which, as a comparison base-line, is usually capstone-levels of power. So that definitely warrants some careful probing for some games using the rules.


How to rate this, then? Well, I rated the original book according to my standard balance-base-line. I stand by that. Compared to most crunch, its power-level is off the charts. Same here...but this is the expansion. It's the book that builds upon the implicit playstyle enforced by Path of War and as such I can't well complain about that or have it influence the final verdict. if you have an issue with immunity ignoring, a ton of damage and the like...then this may not be for you. If you want to play a superhero level anime-like game with plenty of unique attacks and defenses, then this is just what the doctor ordered.


Damn, this is hard...you see, as a person, I love a lot in this book in style, flavor and execution. Similarly, as a person, I absolutely loathe a bunch of the design-decisions, needlessly failed kitten-tests, infinite healing as a base feature and similar gripes...but. And here comes the big BUT: As a reviewer, these already were present in the base book. They are established components of the exceedingly high power-level of the Path of War system. Thus, as a reviewer, I can't complain about that here. I can advise caution regarding the action-economy-switcheroos, but in the frame of the system, particularly with its already significant powerlevel, they are less jarring and broken then they would be in vanilla pathfinder.


How to rate this?


Well, for fans of Path of War, this will be the 5 stars+ seal-level of awesomeness best book of the year, simple as that.


Similarly, if you hated book 1, you'll hate this as well, perhaps even more so.


For those skeptical of the system, well...it's better than its predecessor in every way...but it's still containing all those gripes I (and plenty of other people) had against the previous book. If you were torn on the previous book and considered it, like I did, a 3-star-book, then this should be considered between 0.5 and 1 stars higher for you, depending on how badly cheesable skill-rolls versus x, kitten-tests, infinite healing etc. annoy you.


As a reviewer, my official verdict, ultimately, will be smack in the middle - at 4.5 stars. While personally, I'll round down regarding my own tastes...but as a reviewer, it frankly wouldn't be fair to rate this based on such a decision. I also have a policy of in dubio pro reo. Which means my official verdict rounds up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War Expanded
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Knowledge Check: Codes & Cyphers
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2016 11:53:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Fat Goblin Games' Knowledge Check-series clocks in at a massive 34 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief section of introductory prose, we delve right into the subject matter: The age-old problem of how to convey a message to a target without any other being realizing it or being capable of understanding it. In order to understand the content herein, we first need to define a couple of basic cryptology terms; the book differentiates between the following: A code is a system that uses letters and symbols as stand-ins for other concepts- thus, for example, "Ash" may be a stand-in for lord. Real life medieval arcane texts tend to be written in such analogues, often drawing upon mythology, most famously likening e.g. Jesus Christ with the unicorn or pelican.


Cyphers would be more delicate, using symbols, numbers or other letters as stand-ins for certain numbers or symbols - e.g. the word "Reviewer", when run through a cypher I used in my games, looks like this: "Zalxacaz". The original, unchanged text is defined as "plain text," the process used is known as "encryption" and getting to the real message is known as "decryption." Cryptography is the study of making such codes; cryptanalysis is the study of how to break encrypted texts and cryptology is the hyperonym, encompassing both disciplines.


We begin this supplement with a brief history of the nature of cryptology in real life; from Mesopotamia to ancient Egypt, we get a brief history of codes and cyphers within our history, spiced up with some adventure hooks and already pointing towards potential problems. Interesting, btw. - any form of literacy, to a certain extent, from the FuÞark to Latin or more arcane scripts, language and the written word have, for a long time, been used to convey meaning only to the initiated. Two sample, lesser known such scripts are highlighted as exemplary ones - Ogham and Enochian, which are pretty nice...and you can find fonts with a brief internet search, should you care to write texts in them.


Beyond that, we are introduced to the difference between encoding the message to be encrypted (steganography) and the means to encrypt the meaning of it, which is generally known as encryption. Beyond the historical means, the obvious means of concealing messages via shrink item is mentioned. Short texts can be easily concealed with transposition, with letters arranged to be read as a spiral as a sample. Depending on the size of the text, you can make pretty awesome hand-outs via this one - I used this once as a means of making a vortex-like message, concealed in the insane scribbling of an asylum inmate. The Spartan scrytale is mentioned as a similarly simple means of employing this type of concealing messages. The most common means of generating a hidden code employed by roleplaying games would be the substitution, where letters are listed and either inversed regarding their position in the alphabet (with c corresponding to x, for example) or similar changes. While frequency analysis can crack such codes, it nonetheless should provide an easy means for PCs to potentially decipher. The Vigenere Cypher would be even more famous and thus, the book also covers this one - and correctly identifies Ultimate Equipment's cypher book's source, misnamed though it may be, as an item that probably was supposed to confer to the variation of the substitution cypher known as Bablington Plot. The, at this point, pretty well-known One Time Code, a pretty much randomly determined number-based code. From the alchemical alphabet to the witch's alphabet (again -one google away from getting the fonts), we get two more, unique secret writing styles.


The second chapter sports secret rules and basically goes through a few of the more common classes (excluding those introduced in the ACG and OA), to then provide a new archetype, Courier Rogue, who is particularly adept at Bluffing and Sleight of Hand pertaining secret messages. Courier's Pockets, at 10th level, allows for a container to conceal messages as though it were magical, which is a nice modification. Linguistics as a skill receives a minor expansion in its uses to pertain to encryption/decryption. The pdf also sports a collection of 3 different feats, the first renders formulae less expensive for alchemists due to using the script, while Cypher Magic increases the CL of casting from scrolls. Cypher Script is similarly less expensive and makes spell transcription quicker.


Absolutely awesome: The book sports two new teams for the rules presented in Ultimate Campaign, the cryptologists and the espionage cell, including events that range from double agents to coups and shadow wars -awesome! Both aforementioned scytale and a cypher book for one-time codes can be found among the mundane items and we get three simple codes as samples - keyword substitution codes, keyword substitution and the classic straddling draughtsboard are used as samples to what you can do with properly used cryptography.


The third chapter of the book sports two new magic items and two new spells - with a monocle that allows you to read languages and lenses that scramble texts by passing them through protean souls (!!!), we get some pretty cool, high-concept items herein. The spells arcane cypher and discern encryption are somewhat less flashy by necessity, but they are well-placed regarding their level-range and provide neat options regarding their placement within the spells available. The pdf then concludes with a smattering of sample NPCs - the prismatic chamber, a small organization of code-breakers containing a total of 4 fully stated NPCs, running the gamut from investigators and rogues to a disguised axiomite. The characters generally are nice, though, in a somewhat annoying formatting peculiarity, the statblocks, while using italicization perfectly, don't seem to spot the bolding for some words that usually are standard and help read the statblocks - minor formatting glitches, sure - but glitches nonetheless.


Conclusion:


Editing is top-notch and marks this as a product of the newer direction of Fat Goblin Games, of the age where the company began excelling and publishing with care. Formatting does sport some hiccups on a cosmetic level, but none that really would break the game for you. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard with a mixture of thematically fitting full-color stock art and public domain pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Richard D. Bennett's knowledge check regarding Cyphers and Codes can be deemed an success - the book provides an easy to grasp, concise introduction to codes and cyphers for the uninitiated; if I had had this book 20 years ago, it would have blown me away and greatly enhanced my game. For GMs who already are using codes and cyphers in their game, chances are they'll find some new material herein...unless they have already spent time researching the subject matter on their own.


My personal highlights herein would be actually the additions to the Ultimate Campaign-systems provided in this book, with the rest of the crunch ranging from awesome (items + spells) to okay (archetypes + feats). Personally, I think it would have been quite a coup to get the fonts of the languages cited herein included in the deal, but I get why that wasn't done. What I don't get, though, is the obvious lack of alchemical writing and material based cryptology. Using e.g. silk worms to eat the true letters in a given missive, written with invisible, but edible ink? What about a chemistry-based alchemical subsystem for making diverse arrays of invisible ink or the like? I'm aware that this belongs to the field of steganography, but I still felt that this book could have used a section providing more details here.


In short: For novices, this is a great introduction to the subject matter; it's well-researched and concisely presented. Pros, though, may derive slightly less use from this pdf. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Knowledge Check: Codes & Cyphers
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Werespider
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2016 11:51:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 5 pages, with the front cover sporting the beautiful full-color artwork of the werespider as well as the social media icons and misfit studios-logo and the editorial on the second page; the SRD covers almost 2 pages, with the second page offering about 1/5 of rules-texts from the builds - overall, I am not a big fan of this presentation, since printing out the pdf does mean you have to waste ink on the SRD-page and the front cover material. On the plus-side, there is actually some flavor text on the first page.


The eponymous monster hunter Crawthorne does get to have a say on werespiders as presented here. A big plus: Werespiders gain swap sense, a new ability, in lieu of the woefulyl generalist default lycanthrope template, which is neat indeed. The pdf also sports 3 feats - Potent Poison allows you to improve poison created as Ex or Sus (good job for catching both!), increasing the DC to 10 + HD + Con-mod. The other two feats increase the DC to escape webs and make them stronger and harder to destroy (Hp= 2 your HD, DR 5/-), which makes the webs an actual threat - nice job here!


Beyond three solid adventure hooks, we also get the CR 2 werespider, with a monk 2 as a base creature, statblock provided in both human and hybrid form - kudos! Also nice: The pdf does provide a mini-variety - hunting werespiders replace their web-ability with +8 to Acrobatics checks...though, to nitpick, that should be "racial bonus", not "racial modifier".


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the original artwork provided is nice at this low price-point. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length - however, it does come with a printer-friendly version, which is neat indeed for guys like yours truly that print out books - that version has no backgrounds and is b/w apart from those jarring social media icons on the first page- kudos!


Steven Trustrum's Werespiders are a nice, solid addition to the canon of lycanthropic threats. While personally, I wished this had a bit more space to shine and some further things that set werespiders apart from other lycanthropes, the book still provides a solid creature for a buck. With not much to complain about, I consider this a solid addition to the series and thus rate this 4 stars - a good offering for the price-point, though not one that revolutionizes the critter.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Werespider
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2016 08:29:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first collection of the 20-things blogposts clocks in at 68 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page author bios/foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 59 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, before we start - you can get the content in this book on Raging Swan Press' blog - Creighton publishes new small tables in regular intervals there, so if money's tight, that may be an option. At the same time, though, you'd miss out on an extremely handy book. Let me reiterate: If you've been following my reviews for a while, it won't be a surprise to you that I consider Raging Swan Press' Dungeon and Wilderness Dressing books to be simply revolutionary. They are, frankly, the two books that have increased the quality of my games more so than any GM's guide, any other book. No matter the system you prefer, if you even remotely are into fantasy roleplaying, I guarantee that these two books will rank among your most often used books ever. There is a reason they made my number 1 Top Ten spots. I am literally a better GM with them, in spite of having to translate the entries on the fly to German. Yes, these books are that good. They will be used for decades to come.


This book, then, would be pretty much the little brother of these tomes, providing a vast array of smaller tables to use in your games that seamlessly interact with the dressings sported in the two legendary tomes. The book is organized by environment, with the first chapter depicting tables that help you flesh out dungeons: From effects affecting evil altars to pieces of cavern dressing and notable cavern features, the details are copious and abundant also sport cool effects that have an actual effect on gameplay: Unstable floor, with falls broken by ice-cold water, remnants of platinum ore in the walls...there are some pretty awesome things to discover. Strange things that can be found in abandoned mines, alchemist's laboratories, dusty crypts or the sanctums of dread necromancers - no matter the system you play, there is pure evocative gold to mine here. Tables of guardrooms, odd chests, unique triggers for secret doors - this book basically is the magnifying lens to add to the clarity already provided by the big books, the collection that sports the small details to the general renditions and particularly GMs weak on the improvisational side will adore this book for it.


What about a generator that can make up to 8000 pieces of graffiti to find on dungeon walls? But it's not just dungeons that get their due: Strange traditions you can encounter in towns and build upon, different kinds of noxious stench (associated, perhaps, with the objects you can find in slums?), creepy happenstances you can stumble upon in haunted houses - a lot can be found herein. And yes, there is a table of sights for the iconic seedy tavern as well.


Beyond the confines of civilization lurks the wilderness eternally, and from sea voyages and coastal caves to complications for journeys through swamps and marshes or forests to flotsam washed upon the shore, these tables in no way remain behind the superb quality of the rest of this book.


For newer fans of Raging Swan Press, you may have already thought that this leaves out the relative newcomer to the dressing-fold , but no - this book also expands the concept of the "I loot the body"-series and extends it - beyond a general table, one for rogues and wizards, we also get more unique ones: I particularly enjoyed the tables for things to be found in purple worm stomachs, in owlbear's lairs or within the very body of the gelatinous cube.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are, as I've come to expect from Raging Swan Press, top-notch. I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is nice b/w and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer.


Creighton Broadhurst's collection of tables...is stunning. You know, I actually lurk regularly on his blog and read what he has to say. I honestly wouldn't need to buy this book...but, as with the big books, this is a false conclusion. Why? Because this book is a superb example for the importance of structure and organization: Much like its big brothers, this book excels by virtue of its absolutely superb organization.


You take the book, flip it open and booyah, awesome. It may just be me, but I frankly can't derive the same sense of satisfaction from searching for a particular page; when I'm playing and I spontaneously need such a dressing-table, I don't want to search - I want to flip open my book. This installment of the GM's Miscellany-series is frankly no less inspired than its big brethren: If the big dressing books are the macrocosm, this provides the microcosm. As such, it has less entries for the more niche components, but to make up for that, the entries themselves are longer and more detailed, which is just what the doctor ordered as far as I'm concerned.


In short: I consider having this as either pdf or print just as vast an improvement for the game as the big books, though, by virtue of its size, obviously on a smaller scale. This does nothing whatsoever to diminish the superb quality of this offering, though. Hence, this book receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Get this great book!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

In The Company of Treants (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2016 09:02:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The latest installment of Rite Publishing's massive "In the Company"-series for playable monster races clocks in at a massive 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 43 (!!!) pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


Unlike most of these books, we do not begin with the in-character prose that guides us through the book itself - instead, we start with author Jonathan McAnulty noting taking us a long on a short trip through his mind and past, explaining why this book exists in the first place - and personally, I like that. It makes the book feel...well, more direct and establishes a context and theme against which one may process the following information.


After this, we dive right into what has by now become a crucial part of the identity of this series, namely the fact that it reads very well: The introduction to the playable treants featured in this book is narrated by a member of the race, structured alongside a song of the treants, as the narrator explains the mythology, the role of shepherds of trees and then proceeds to detail the life-cycles of treants, misconceptions of other races, the unique society, ethics and relationships with other races. This whole section is provided in stunning, captivating prose and extends its level of detail to nomenclature to the finer details as well, resulting in a truly captivating experience as far as reading material is concerned.


Now, an important component of the treant as depicted here is that the treants are plants, yes...but the plant traits, very powerful as a default, have been modified for balance's sake, which is a pretty big (and smart) decision right then and there. Unlike previous installments of the series, the treants provided herein actually are not simply one race: There are multiple options to choose from, the first of which would be the birchwalker.


Birchwalkers gain immunity to humanoid-targeting effects, paralysis, stunning and sleep effects as well as +1 + 1/2 HD to saves versus charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, phantasms and polymorph effects - these would be the modified plant traits mentioned above. They get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis, low-light vision and are always awake, though their spell preparation etc. work via a meditation, though this does not include penalties to Perception for sleeping. Birchwalkers gain +2 natural armor and are resilient versus starvation, suffocation etc. - they get +4 to Con-checks to avoid the like and gain +2 to Diplomacy, Appraise and Craft. (Here, a cosmetic formatting glitch has crept in, with the artisan racial trait not beginning in a new line; cosmetic, though and not a reason to harp on the pdf. Birchwalkers get +4 to Knowledge (Nature) pertaining trees and armor made for them costs twice as much. They also take +50% fire damage. Alternate racial trait-wise, they can have a slightly faster speed (and minor bonuses versus trip and bull-rush), +2 to Knowledge (nature), +4 to Diplomacy and Knowledge (local) or +4 to Profession (orcharist), increasing a region's plant productivity 1/year via plant growth-y tricks.


The second version of treant we get is the oakheart, who gets the same modified plant traits as well as +2 Str and Wis, -2 Dex, only 20 ft. movement rate (that is never diminished), cannot run, is always awake, gains low-light vision, +2 natural armor, the same photosynthesis-bonus versus starvation/suffocation/etc. (and yes, they still require sustenance!), speak with plants at will, +2 to saves versus spells, SPs and poisons, +2 to CMD vs. bull-rush and trip and the same Knowledge (nature) bonus to deal with trees. They also share the requirements for more expensive armor and being flammable. Alternate racial trait-wise, they can get +2 to Diplomacy and Knowledge (local), 1/day wood shape, +2 to saves versus electricity, cold and heat-based saves or an increased natural AC at the cost of further reducing movement rate, down to 15 ft.


Pretty cool and a nice showcase of 3pp-camraderie - instead of simply replicating another author's work or generating redundancy, there is also the seedlings included. First written by Marie Small and then published by Jon Brazer Enterprises, these characters would be the option to use if you wanted less powerful base race stats and are the version you'll take for the low-fantasy campaigns. While seedling-material is obviously included herein, the original book is by no means redundant and can be pictured as a nice companion-pdf to this book. It's great to see Rite Publishing giving credit where credit is due.


That's still not all, though - there is a FOURTH race of treants in this book, the Willowkin. These fellows also get the modified plant-traits, +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, darkvision 30 ft, low-light vision, +1 natural armor, photosynthesis, they can speak with plants at will, gain +2 to CMB when making trips and +1 initiative, +2 to Spellcraft checks as well as +1 DC when casting SPs and enchantment spells (not that big a fan of the SP-caveat since I know a couple of classes that cast exclusively SPs...) and 3/day daze, I assume as an SP - the trait doesn't specify, which makes figuring out the DC slightly more opaque than it should be. They also suffer from the more expensive armor and flammable drawbacks like their brethren. While their write-up, like those before, sports some of the cosmetic glitches, I noticed no formal ones. Alternate trait wise, they can get keen senses, +2 to Acrobatics (which should be capitalized, not lower-case) at the cost of natural armor, tremorsense 5 ft. instead of darkvision and 1/day healing by putting his feet/roots into water - which is a damn cool image.


The pdf provides a significant array of favored class options, but class-specific ones and general ones and then proceeds to provide racial archetypes, the first of which would be the Primal Forest Guardian, a treant barbarian that gets a modified skill-list and proficiency-list. Instead of uncanny dodge, improved uncanny dodge and DR, the archetype gains +1 natural AC per level and +1 DR/- per 2 levels, but also pays for this enhanced defense with reduced numbers of rage per day. Instead of fast movement, they become particularly adept at hurling boulders, trees, etc, increasing the damage output of these at higher levels and they begin play with a slam attack that scales in base damage. Pretty cool: At 11th level, the guardian can elect to forego iterative attacks in favor of an additional slam attack at full BAB, which improves the flow of combat. They do, however, gain less rage powers. Unique: The barbarian actually grows in size, up to Gargantuan at 20th level, with minor attribute bonuses and a single Dex-loss accompanying this feature. Bonus damage versus inanimate objects is nice, but more interesting would be that prolonged rages may animate trees in the vicinity of the primal guardian.


If you've read the above, you may have begun already contemplating how treant growth and multiclassing work - for you'd be correct in the assumption that all the archetypes herein indeed do sport such options. Their interaction is handled with a rather nice, explanatory sidebox that provides concise and succinct guidelines for the GM and players. Kudos!


The verdant healer would be the treant cleric and, like the barbarian, the archetype receives a modified list of skills and proficiencies and is locked into the healing domain as well as one domain of the player's choice from a brief list. Verdant Healers cannot channel positive energy to harm undead and gain 1/2 their class level to Heal-checks. They gain a scaling slam attack as well as natural armor bonuses that increase every 2 levels, with high levels also providing a bit of DR. At 3rd level, the archetype gains the option to use channel energy as a touch instead, which heals slightly above the median of rolls for regular beings, 6s for plants and allows the healer to even treat attribute damage and at the highest levels, raise dead. Think of this as a channel powered alternate lay-on-hands/mercy-ish option. They also are experts at brewing potions and gain, as mentioned above, growth, though size-wise, they cap out at Huge at level 20.


The tree master druid takes the tree animation one step further in a bonded forest and would probably be the incarnation of the treant character concept you think of first. This ability is powered by the quickening point pool, here equal to 2 + Charisma modifier, +2 per class level gained. This concept, just fyi, can be found in quite a few of the archetypes herein, with information on pool-behavior when multiclassing being provided as well. Obviously, wild shape is focused on plant shape iterations for a tonal consistency. The fighter archetype provided herein focuses on a combination of tanking akin to the barbarian brother and a focus on hurling devastating stones. The earthborn kineticist is locked into earth (geokinesis) as primary element and gains basic geokinesis as a wild talent and burn gets an interesting modification: Earth-related burn is reduced by 1 to a minimum of 1, while fire-related burn is increased by 1. Burn can also be accepted in order to temporarily increase the kineticist's defensive capabilities and they may infuse the power of earth in their slams.


The serene master would be atreant monk (which is a pretty powerful option, considering the fact that the armor-restriction is null and void for those guys) - and the combo of modified monk-AC-rules and AC-scaling means, ultimately, that these guys end up with better capabilities to survive the rigors of adventuring. While they do not gain stunning fist (thus locking them out of quite a few archetypes and tricks that use Stunning Fist as a resource), their damage-output is increased. Now here is an interesting option: At 4th level, they can deliver attacks by proxy via trees, allowing them to be supremely lethal combatants in forests. I was pretty skeptical about this one, but it ended up being rather cool, so kudos! (And yes, ki-powered, but balanced regeneration is included, though the ability lacks an activation action.) At higher levels, these guys can also swap places with trees. Prophets of the Glades oracles gain the new deep woods mystery, which sports among its revelations true strike-ish benefits alongside rock throwing as well as establishing an effect that lets your survey a tree and share damage with it...which certainly is powerful, but also evocative and in line with the treant mythology established in fiction. As a minor cosmetic nitpick, that one's name isn't italicized. Pretty cool would also be the second mystery, the weather mystery, which grants you bonuses depending on the current weather! You know...I actually really like this idea! Windy day? Your bonus applies to Dex. Cloudy? Wisdom. I think there's a class concept here. Three sample curses for treant oracles, from being hollow to being fire-scarred or stunted can be found as well.


More classic and in line with what you'd expect is the Woodland Stalker, a pretty straightforward ranger with treant-y abilities. The wald walker rogue is interesting in that it may, among other options, flank with trees a limited amount of times per day and has quite an array of nice, unique talents. The skald archetype provided similarly uses the treant-y tricks like slam attacks and hurling stones, but supplements them with unique performances. The arcane classes aren't left out either: Sorcerors can gain two new bloodlines, the ley line and fey woods bloodlines; the first featuring healing capabilities for the sorceror and the second being more closely aligned with classic tricks, including a vanilla quickening directed tree attack. Finally, the verdant scholar wizard gets a bonded tree that can aid him when making magic items and divide damage between him and the tree. Additionally, a selection of unique arcane discoveries are provided for the archetye. This one surprised me. Why? Because the bonded tree is narrative GOLD. "Look, the leaves of our protector's tree are falling...a great calamity is approaching" or "Defend the sacred tree of our guardian!"...damn cool and made me come up with multiple, cool ideas.


The pdf, as has become the tradition with this series, features a racial paragon class, the tree shepherd. Tree shepherds get d8 HD, 4+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with clubs, great clubs, spears, stones and slings. They begin play with the option to supernaturally animate trees with a range of 50 ft + 10 ft. per level, powered by 4 + Cha-mod quickening points, which are expanded by +3 per level thereafter. The animation takes one full round for the tree to uproot itself, though somewhat annoyingly, the ability does not specifically call that it requires the tree shepherd to expend this action, which means that the activation-action component of the ability could be clearer. The number of trees simultaneously animated and their power increases at higher levels. If a tree is left beyond the radius, it roots itself, but you do not need to spend quickening points again to reanimate it while the original duration persists. Charisma governs the number of trees a shepherd can have activated at a given time. The class also features forest stealth (+class level) while in forests as well as the scaling AC and DR-bonuses some archetypes featured as well. Obviously, the iconic slams and stone hurling can be found as well and tree shepherds get the powerful savage growth of treant barbarians, which means they cap out at Gargantuan size at 20th level.


At 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter, the paragon class gains a forest gift, which would be the talent-selection within this build: The talents themselves run a broad gamut of tricks: Moving a whole forest via quickening expenditure at high levels? Yup. Summoning elementals (maximum power based on shepherd size and point expenditure) may be nice, but personally, I really like the option to call forth mist in a 1-mile radius. Sure, only 60 feet visibility...but I know my players will LOVE this one....and visibility can be further reduced via additional points. Now get a character with mist sight and you have a great setup for a brutal infiltration. Conjuring forth an exhaustion-mitigating spring that also heals, gaining greensight or benefits depending on the season (YES!) render this class, alongside the numerous attribute bonuses, versatile and strong, but fitting for just about every campaign. In fact, I'd probably recommend it more for a lower magic environment that emphasizes magic as something mystical rather than as something common.


That's not even close to what this book has to offer, though: Beyond detailed age. height and weight tables, we get information on treant food and unique mundane and magical items: From fire extinguishing chalky powder to living chests or treant brew rations, there is a lot of cultural uniqueness to be found here.


Speaking of which: The new feat-section, featuring the options to animate vines and bushes, increase your photosynthesis as well as multiple styles render this section rather neat. Beyond the significant array of feats, rules for crafting vine traps alongside 8 sample plant traps (CRs range from 1 to 5) complement the well-ingrained ideas we have on treants. Bowls of light that enhance nearby plants, clubs that can be animated via quickening points or enchanted, returning rocks - the magic items are similarly uncommon and fitting. The pdf goes one step beyond, though, and provides a 20-level NPC class at full BAB-progression, good Fort-save, d8 and 2+Int skills for NPC-treants - which reduces the tricky bits of the previous archetypes to the base and may be a nice option for low-powered campaigns that want a manageable, straightforward treant-PC.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good; on a formal level and regarding rules-language, there isn't much to complain apart from a few hiccups. Formatting-wise, the pdf similarly sports a couple of minor issues, with in particular line breaks between abilities not being always clear - one more pass in those two disciplines would have made the book a bit more streamlined. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard with branchy-graphic elements based on public domain art in the margin, providing a nice, fitting aesthetics here. The full-color artworks in the book seem to be not only original, they also are rather beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Oh boy, this was work. But also a rather joyous occasion, at least for me. Why? Because I'm honestly glad Jonathan McAnulty has once again written a big, whopping book. Then, I started thinking about treants and started shuddering. I mean, seriously? How can you maintain their power and evocative tricks and retain a sense of balance? It seems like a losing game, no matter what you do: Get rid of the plant traits and the high-power games while whine; don't get rid of them and the low-powered games will start yelling "unabalnced!". How does this book solve this conundrum? Simple. In the best way possible. It's all in here. Want a high-powered treant? Go for birchwalker. If you're like me and like races to have powers and drawbacks and a unique flair, go for the oakheart. Want a more agile one? Willowkin. Something in line with the core races? Seedling. Better yet, the racial paragon class and archetypes generally sport the "treant"-feeling. They are not simply general archetypes with a racial coat - they feel and play distinctly unique, they are fitting for the races. The cornucopia of supplement information and fluff further enhance this book and render it, as far as player-agenda, table-variation and the pure imaginative potential is concerned, one of my favorites. The mile-mist...the moving of trees...beyond mathfinder abilities (which are there, fret not, my fellow crunchers!), this pdf offers great storytelling devices that may actually be useful above and beyond the limitations of the system. This book codifies what we know of treants from literature and our cultural unconsciousness and provides the definite book on playing the masters of the woods and, personally, my favorite in the whole line alongside the rakshasa-book. That being said, there are a couple of glitches herein, some of which pertain to ability activation and thus, the rules-language. While one can usually glean what they are supposed to be, that does remain as a minor drawback- Mind you, these glitches are few...but they're there.


So...let me reiterate that: As a person, I absolutely adore this book, particularly the extensive means to customize treants to make them viable for just about any campaign. As a reviewer, however, I can't let the glitches that are here slide...and thus, I'd arrive at a final verdict of 4.5 stars. I do know, however, that quite a few of you out there tend to share my opinions and prefer evocative, unique options that emphasize a cohesive theme over formal perfection of bland content. Hence, I will round up for the purpose of all the platforms - this pdf has its heart at the right spot and is a fun, great read that will make you want to call forth the shambling, ponderous masters of the forests deep.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Treants (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Mini-Dungeon #029: Heart of the Sacred Dawn
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2016 08:59:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


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!


In ages long gone, the lord of dragons Tenebrash was vanquished by the order of sacred dawn with the help of an ancient relic, the lucespel. Now, evil has returned to the lands of mortals and it is up to the heroes to find and secure the lucespel within the confines of the now ruined temple-keep of the order of sacred dawn. The deity once in command of the artifact remains purposefully obscure and can be considered to be a great placeholder for deities from Saranrae to Latander or Arden. Within these sacred halls, only the mightiest of heroes have a chance to prove their mettle - to do so, they must defeat exceedingly powerful knights turned to spirit of adoration. The ruins also sport a riddle that requires the PCs to collect certain words, which prove to be the answer to a simple riddle. When solved a templated great black wyrm dread ghost still stands between the PCs and triumph...oh, and that one downright sadistic trap...that, RAW, is even triggered when the correct key has been taken, which may be an oversight. 3 x Power Word: Kill at CL 20 is nasty and probably should not be triggered when the correct key is used. Similarly, that should be a trap or at least a haunt; the pdf has a tough option for legendary rogues to bypass the boss fight, but not to find and disarm the killer-magic...which could result in some complaining. Beyond these secured portals, the artifact beckons - though its exact powers are left for the GM to decide.


Conclusion:


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


Justin Andrew Mason's Heart of the Sacred Dawn is a mini-dungeon we can really use. Why? Simple: We don't have a lot of quality high-level material. The added requirements of high-level gameplay are tough to master and conversely, this pdf doesn't have the space to provide elaborate notes on the certainty of teleportation et al. That being said, the challenges are flavorful and diverse, with the kill-trap's trigger in either case being my one true structural gripe beyond wishing that the exploration required some more uses of high-level tricks and abilities. Apart from the combat challenges and overkill-kinda-trap, the module could be handled by lower level PCs as well.


How to rate this? Well, while not perfect, this constitutes a fun diversion for high-level PCs and in the hand of a good GM, this can be a pretty cool insertion. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #029: Heart of the Sacred Dawn
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2016 10:55:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive rule-book clocks in at 144 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page list of tables (important!), 6 pages of supporter-thanks, 1 page legal appendix, 1 page note-space, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 130 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Ähem. I feel old. ;) This is my birthday-review, my present from myself to myself, so please bear with me regarding the obvious deviation from my usual standard regarding reviewing. Kidding aside regarding age and the like...when I started playing, believe it or not, you young 'uns, the game didn't have that much to do with math. Sure, we needed it. But in contrast to taking hours upon hours to properly calculate the statblock of high-level foe xyz, those were simpler times. Heck, for the first 6+ years of my playing career, I didn't use any kind of battlemap...go wrap your head around this!


Why am I telling you this? Well, because this book basically represents the game I grew into gaming with; this is the old-school simple and distilled version of gaming. No looking up feats, no looking up complex interactions, no optimization. Different level-up caps for different classes. Fixed saving throws determined by level...next to no means to power-game and a lot of house-rules that continuously grew.


Okay, so what does this provide? Well, we already have the 6 classic attributes. Strength determines chances to kick open doors and modify carrying capacity, with melee to hit and damage modifiers ranging from -2 to +2 and -1 to +3, respectively. Fighters can use Strength for ranged weapons...if you follow the original rules. Constitution determines your chance to survive being raised from the dead...and nets you anything from -1 to +1 hit points per HD. High Charisma and Wisdom net you bonus XP (wrap your head around that!) and Dex, obviously, is important for all the thief tricks. Thief? Yup, once upon a time, it was thief, not rogue, ladies and gentlemen.


The classes provided herein cover the assassin, cleric, druid, fighter, magic-user, monk, paladin, ranger and thief...and yes, astute reader: Some of these are simply better than others. Why? Because back in the day, you needed damn good stats to qualify for some of them - which is still represented in optional rules. (Yep, that's where the "paladins are rare and all good-looking"-trope came from; Cha 17+ minimum. 18, btw., is the maximum you'll get with your 3d6...


Similarly, dual-classing and multiclassing are two different experiences, with dual-class characters requiring much more XP...but I digress. Non-human races often have an advancement cap for classes, but once again, alternate rules for this less beloved feature are presented. Oh, know what's also tricky: All classes cap HP at one point; depending on your class, you'll thereafter only get a single hit point per level.


While this may sound annoying, it's not - it keep the dreaded high-number mathematical breakdown all contemporary systems suffer from at bay. Oh, and alignment? Law, Neutrality, Chaos. That's it.


Okay, so item-purchases and equipment work pretty much as expected...but what about AC? There are two ways and two camps on how to handle the concept: Ascending and Descending AC. When you use descending armor as a rule, each character gets an unarmed AC of 9, with the lower results being better - a plate would net you -6 AC, for example. Ascending is pretty much the opposite and works like just about all contemporary systems in the d20-arena: 10 + value. Such stats are provided in brackets. So, whether you prefer one of the other, this book has you covered. Movement rate is similarly simple on ground and overland movement.


Swords and Wizardry, however, is NOT a simple reproduction - it streamlines and takes away some of the needlessly clunky components: Saves and XP, for example, both of which, frankly, have been sources of endless consternations among my players. ("Why is that a save versus spells and not deathrays?") So no, this is not simply an exercise in nostalgia. The round and its breakdown, swift and quick, is also presented in a concise manner - with multiple alternatives for specific tables. That being said, I really think a flat Attack-bonus would have been the simpler choice regarding attack rolls. Why? Because you have to consult massive tables dependant on the class to determine whether you hit or not. Sure, it's not rocket science...but it's a component I do not use in my OSR-games...boo and hiss, I use an atk-bonus. ;)


Still, do not take this is criticism on a formal level - it is just me stating a preference. Before I go on a further tangent or you stop reading - when using ascending AC, an imho easier to grasp table and one that does work well, and does the job admirably. Similarly, my games do have neutral clerics - an eventuality btw. also covered in alternate rules/referee-suggestions. Sample stronholds and information on hirelings complement this section...and then, there are SPELLS. A metric ton of SPELLS. They have a name. A range. A level. A duration. That's it. Simple and to the point.


This is where the referee section begins and it is this section alone that may be worth the download. Why? Because, beyond general and sound advice for GMs, the section actually sports multiple, nice dungeon-maps as well as tables upon tables you can use to generate creatures. Similarly, wilderness encounters and movement rates are covered...oh. And yes. Mass combat and siege combat. And unlike pathfinder's impotent, sucky siege engines (I house-ruled those so that PCs actually fear them), they friggin' kill you. Trebuchet hits you? You're DEAD. No, seriously. Game over, man. Game over. Call me a bastard GM...but I like that. Even Aerial Combat gets its section and is handled simply via maximum course alterations and minimum space between alterations - that's it. And while this may sound simple, it actually is a pretty ingenious system to make compelling dogfights.


And yes, before you ask, naval combat is here as well. These are the complete rules, so this book also sports an array of monster stats and advice on creating them - and if there is one thing that is a weakness of this book...well, alas, it's this section. You see, sans the massive math-laden statblocks, old-school games did tend to prosper in the fluff departments; where monsters had ecologies, societies, tactics etc. all spelled out in lavish detail, often inspiring the referee. You won't find that here. You only get the hard, cold and brief statblocks. That's it. The magic item-section on handing out treasure and the appropriate tables (yes, including cursed items) follow a similarly minimalistic approach - one suitable for the core book, yes...but also perhaps the one aspect where the book does not excel as much as in the previous sections.


The pdf, obviously, does feature a char-sheet, btw....and an impressive, very detailed index that makes using this book very easy.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column b/w-standard with a ton of new b/w-artworks that breathe the tradition of the classic - including ample wizards in pointy hats. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and yes, ladies and gentlemen...the Erol Otus cover alone may be worth downloading this. Unfortunately, I don't have the print version of this book...but I do own a ton of Frog God Games-material and they ALWAYS are great books.


Dennis Sustare, Marv Breig, Jason Cone, Allan T. Grohe Jr., Jerry Mapes, Bill Webb and Matthew Finch have created perhaps the best OSR-version for classic, fantasy roleplaying...and beyond simply being a highly customizable, easy to learn system, it affords for a great change of pace when you find yourself tired out by too many statblocks to crunch. This very much is not only a blast from the past, it is a great system to teach roleplaying...because it's simple. It's simple and elegant in its design without being restrictive. The "referee has the last call" rule trumps all and there frankly isn't much wiggle-room to power-game. This is delightfully easy to grasp and master and in presentation and quality a superb offering.


Oh, and it's FREE. As in: Doesn't cost a single damn dime. As in FREE. It takes the disparate classic rules and streamlines them without eliminating their wealth of options. Swords & Wizardry is, for traditional fantasy, my go-to OSR-rules-system and I wholeheartedly encourage you to check this out...who knows, perhaps you'll have an eureka effect as well; either because you haven't played a system this rules-light...or perhaps because you forgot how much FUN it actually can be. It's a different type of fun, when compared to the new systems, sure. But it is one I never want to miss, a type of game I'll always gladly return to. Get this. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Lands of Porphyra Campaign Setting (PFRPG)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2016 10:53:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive campaign setting clocks in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 219 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Porphyra...Purple Duck Games' in-house setting is massive, it's regional (and extremely crunchy) player's guide clocking in regularly at 60+ pages...and unlike most campaign settings, this world was not crowdfunded...it just slowly, steadily, came to be...which is an impressive feat in my book. Anyways, Porphyra's details and unique components are many and have been suffusing Purple Duck Games-supplements for years: Whether it's the unique mini-game arabakmpsi, the lovecraft gaming toolkit or other offerings - never obtrusive, but the hints, the nods were there. More so than the player-option-centric "...of Porphyra"-series, both the great Purple Mountain dungeon-crawl-AP and books on deities and elemental lords, all open content, mind you, have already shown a vast potential.


Then again, such a wide variety of different environments and ideas could be jarring, right? Well...no. You see, there is a reason Porphyra is called the patchwork-planet...and it's more pronounced than in similar settings. Let me elaborate: When TSR generated some of the grand classics we all have come to know and love, from Planescape to Ravenloft, they split their customer-base...which was one among many factors that led inevitably to the end of the company. (And yes, I am aware of the other countless number of issues...but that would go beyond the scope of this review.) The lesson that most RPG-companies took from this was simple: Focus on a core world, but allow for maximum customization within that world. Most famously and successfully, we can see that approach in Golarion: There is Ravenloft-country, science-fantasy country, magic metropolis, pirate-country, Greyhawk-ish borderland/bandit kingdom-ish regions...you get the idea. Golarion, while certainly not perfect, ended up being a truly astonishing, fascinating setting that maintains a level of consistency in spite of this tonal patchwork. Not the best consistency, sure - but that's a system-immanent issue; one can't have the cake and eat it, too. What I'm trying to say here is, that I like Golarion. It's a patchwork, but a nice one. Which brings me back to Porphyra...which is also a patchwork...so what's the unique selling proposition of Porphyra versus Golarion?


The answer to that question is more complex than one would expect it to be. In order to answer it, I'll have to go a bit into the history of Porphyra, so bear with me while I give you the woefully oversimplified cliff notes-version of the setting's history, all right? The history of Porphyra features a dominance of the faith in elemental lords in the past as well as a successful effort to smash the invading forces of the Great Old Ones - from these wars and the faith in the forces of the elements, the Zendiqi erected an empire that dominated the small planet...until a coalition of orcs and elves spoke THE WORD to fight the oppressors. THE WORD beckoned and sundered dimensional barriers, issuing the so-called "Calling" throughout the multiverse, speaking to deities and calling them to Porphyra - for the first time, the gods had come to the world and the elemental lords were no longer uncontested masters of all they oversaw...for the deities did not arrive alone. The gods from worlds far and wide brought with them a plethora of lands, forever changing the nature of Porphyra itself, tacking them on with the eponymous mystical mineral porphyrite...purple glowing borders, seams now were part of the daily reality...and a religious and cultural clash of heretofore unseen proportions shook Porphyra to its very core, as the NewGod War raged and the armies of genies and elementals fought the deists and their outsiders. The war was brutal, bloody and its effects can be seen to this date, more than 800 hundred years later, in the lands of Porphyra.


It is due to the porphyrite borders that arctic environments can exist alongside simmering deserts...and, GM's willingness provided, the borders can limit e.g. bacteria or similar micro-organisms as well, allowing for potentially interesting explanations on why and how a given place managed to stand the test of time with superior, hostile forces nearby. Basically, this is a twist on domain-borders taken to its logical extreme in a high-fantasy context...and it works. Instead of trying to hide the discrepancy between lands and their themes, Porphyra embraces them, highlights them in a big, purple marker and makes them part of the storyline...which is a big, big difference in comparison to Golarion.


Similarly, the time-scale of the settings is different: Porphyra's current equilibrium does not change the fact that it has, per default, not a ton of fallen empires written into it. It's, as far as a campaign setting is concerned, a pretty young world. But isn't it missing out on something? Well...no. The patchwork nature of the world allows GMs to pretty seamlessly integrate e.g. different serpentfolk empires. "Yuan-ti? But I thought Serpentfolk were the Valossians?" - "Well, they are...in that landed territory over there. Here, on this side of the porphyrite border, we fought the yuan-ti..." The very nature of the setting makes plug-and-playing even relatively lore-heavy modules a relatively simple endeavors. And yes, I'm one of the GMs that takes longer for the fluff-conversion of modules than for the conversion of their crunch...I'm that picky in this regard and I know that at least some of you out there are as well...so yeah. Porphyra does this very well. Passing such a border, just fyi, can be accomplished by a 1st-level spell...usually.


The second component that sets Porphyra apart, and more so that the aforementioned patchwork-component, would be the direct consequence of the nature of its form: With all those deities and their lands, we also obviously have introduced races to Porphyra. Beyond the new races featured in the respective regional player's guides, the setting has its own racial hardcover, Fehr's Ethnology, which actually does feature a couple of my favorite PC-races alongside some less interesting ones. Speaking of races: Erkunae? Yup. Included here. And the sciene-fantasy component I mentioned? Well, there is the Advent Imperiax, born from the crash of a powerful space-ship, but I'll go into more details regarding that region in my upcoming review of that area's Player's Guide. The plethora of origin myths and stories thus mean that the setting, from the get-go, assumes an organic, pretty concise baseline to make the vast array of races and cultures work in an oddly sensible way. Know hoe obscure new half dhampir/half construct race XYZ never popped up before in your campaign, but how a new book introduced it? Well, in Porphyra, the sudden appearance of such individuals and new races can be rationalized much easier than in most settings.


From the blistering Siwathi desert to the classic and less weird Middle Kingdoms or the Birdman Mountains, the respective regions of Porphyra are depicted with sample intrigues (adventure/campaign hooks) to make use of them - from the empire of the dead to the swampy Fenian Triarchy, Freeport, the Hinterlands of Kesh and the Frozen North, Porphyra has a place to stick basically any module or supplement, any type of module but those reliant on geopolitical struggles without any hassle. (And frankly, even these are relatively easy to insert...and you could always judge parts of the world to have been ripped to Porphyra...) While the massive map of the world has btw. not been included (but can be found for PWYW here), the book sports an ample array of full-color maps of the respective regions and current events for the regions paint a picture of a world in flux.


There is another thing that makes Porphyra interesting in my book: Know how Dreamscarred pPress' campaign setting and Third Dawn AP is stalling and taking a long time to finish? Well...Porphyra has psionics integrated into its framework from the get-go. You can ignore it, sure...but seriously, Ultimate Psionics is one of the best books you can get in the crunch-departments..so personally, I'd suggest running Porphyra as intended, with full psionics support. Similarly, animal-headed anumi and the other remarkable races by Alluria Publishing are actually part of the Porphyra-canon. With so many races, a summary of races by region (with distinctions of landed and native). Rules-wise, the pdf also provides the Pantheist cleric, who gets more domains (3) and favored weapons, but at the cost of spells per day. The book also sports brief sketches of the deities (though, for more information, you should really check out the gods-book!) alongside their holy symbols. These religions also come with numerous new faith traits - none of which sported any significant issues, though different authors become very much apparent here - some lacked the proper trait bonus type, while others had it, showing a discrepancy in rules-language handling skills.


The time on Porphyra, the days, trade and the basic value of spells cast provide components you can easily scavenge for other games, with alternate currency ideas, unique flora and fauna and detailed information on the languages spoken lending a level of credibility to the setting as a whole, despite of its patchwork premise. Holidays, including rules-relevant effects and weather phenomena, from hurricanes to glass seas, are similarly covered, and moon-based magic, chaos magic, rune magic, covenant magic, word magic - you name it, it's probably here. Beyond an array of domains and subdomains, basic advice on psionics and several organizations complement the vast panorama depicted in this book: From the Brothers of the Blue Star to the Cordionic Knights-Errant or the Illuminates of Chaos, there are quite a few organizations in this book; something all too often neglected in campaign settings.


Beyond 3 PrCs (think tanky deist quasi paladin-knight that only needs to be lawful; juju-gunslingers and self-destructive fanatic, zendiqi), the pdf sports a vast array of traits and campaign traits (with similar minor hiccups as mentioned before). Beyond these, sketches of personalities to interact with, including items of note, notes on what the NPC is famous for and mini-hooks.


As many a campaign setting, this one also features a brief introductory module, for 1st level characters. The module is set in the Middle Kingdoms, perhaps the most traditional region of the world. Similarly, the module as such is pretty traditional in its structure: By exploring the eponymous ruins of Greencastle, the PCs may manage to unearth the truth of how the fortress fell and a rather dire secret I am not going to spoil here. The enemy-choices are my highlights here, giving some seldom-seen foes a chance to shine, though I should mention that, in general, this is a pretty straightforward, solidly challenging dungeon-crawl. Not more, but also not less. The full-color maps are nice, though player-friendly maps would have been appreciated.


The pdf also provides a list of Porphyra-related books, explanations on porphyran nomenclature, elemental and protean lords as well as a massive, detailed index - which is incredibly important for a book of this size and information density.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good. While I noticed a couple of typos and minor hiccups here and there, the book generally proved to be an enjoyable read that was not marred unduly by glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with a lot of full-color artworks and cartography being part of the deal. The very user-friendly standard means you can easily print out this tome, which is a big plus for me. Fans of 3pps may by now know quite a few of these artworks from other publications, since Purple Duck games sells art, but generally, the artwork herein can be considered neat indeed...particularly when considering that this is NOT crowdfunded! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, so these authors made Porphyra a reality: Project lead was Perry Fehr; Contributions from: Ken Austin, Thomas Baumbach, Carl Cramér, Daniel Denehy, Perry Fehr, Mark Gedak, August Hahn, Noble Hays, John Hazen, Sam Hing, Sean Holland, N. Jolly, Chrstopher Kaiser, James H. Lewis, Chris Longhurst, Liz Mackie, Josh McCrowell, Christopher Mennell, Scott Messer, Angel "ARMR" Miranda, Julian Neale, Daniel M Perez, David Pryzbyla, Marc Radle, David N. Ross, Treyson Sanders, Justin Sluder, Todd Stewart, Stefen Styrsky, Mike Welham, Jeremy Whelan, Patricia Willenborg.


Porphyra is a massive setting; a setting that breathes a spirit of eclectic high fantasy, with a metric ton of things to enjoy and do. Porphyra is inspired in that it consciously inorganic - like its namesake. Instead of trying to put a layer of consistency over the hodgepodge nature that campaigns become when one allows a ton of material, it embraces the theme and makes it internally consistent; Porphyra's central achievement lies in the sheer guts of managing to properly depict a world that is rooted in a can-do attitude, in a design philosophy that embraces the diversity of tastes and themes. The restrictions imposed still allow for tonal consistency, while basically inserting a semi-permeable membrane. Porphyra is an exercise in cultural osmosis within our hobby; it is a world that operates in line with many a campaign - diffusion of ideas through a semi-permeable membrane; in this, it mimics how a GM's brain is working, by making the exclusion/inclusion decision a part of its very design.


Don't get me wrong - Porphyra is not perfect; it may not be for everyone. But personally, I am certain I'll gladly return time and again to this patchwork planet...whether to scavenge ideas and cultures, items, crunch from the player's guides or to actually play there. Porphyra is, in short, a fun, evoctiave campaign setting that particularly time-starved GMs tired of BSing a reason why cultural context xyz doesn't work, will come to love for its plug-and-play nature - it is, in short, the USB-port of campaign settings. My final verdict, alas, also has to take the glitches that are here into account and thus will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5...and since I really like the premise and have come to appreciate Porphyra's diversity, this also receives my seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lands of Porphyra Campaign Setting (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ASA:AIW Chasing the White Rabbit 5E
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2016 11:42:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first After School Adventure with an Alice in Wonderland-theme clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


First of all - this is the first of a series of 5 adventures that bring new players up to level 5; as written, it is intended to get PCs halfway to level 2. However, since the module as such is basically defined by its nature as a kind of minigame, this book can easily be inserted into most longer modules - including the superb Pixies on Parade, for which inclusion notes are part of the deal.


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? The module begins with the famous white rabbit popping up and who ever needed a chance to chase after the guy? Right! So, the PCs follow the fully statted, planeshifting and constantly teleporting white rabbit (whose statblock had a minor glitch that has since been rectified) into the dark green wood and here is where the module becomes its own minigame - you see, the map of the chase is basically a whole boardgame-style playing field. Each round, a character can move 6 squares, 4 if small on this playing fields. . (Alternatively, you can roll the dice for movement, which I'd actually recommend!)


The board has multiple challenge squares - stopping in one with a challenge helps you speed the process along. Magic challenges let you teleport to the next magic challenge field on a successful Spellcraft check, with failure sending them one square back. Save challenges are based on attribute-based saving throws, while shortcut and skill challenges are based on skill check rolls like Wisdom (Perception) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) etc. The first character at the final clearing receives a treasure, but also has to face the boss, the tangleme tree (challenge 1/2) alone for a whole turn before the other PCs catch up - in the tree's embrace, the rabbit awaited - and a cake that should be eaten later already hints at the next adventure to come. On an aside - the tangleme tree's build is actually more interesting than in the PFRPG-version, so kudos there!


If you want, btw., you can also enjoy the map of the chase in a 6-page blown-up version that you can assemble and use minis with, for example. Should you be picky about the like - the lowest bottom parts of the map sport a relatively unobtrusive advertisement, but one you can easily cut off. In my test, none of the kiddos minded it, though.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artwork is gorgeous and appropriate for even the smallest of kids.


J Gray's first trip to Wonderland was very interesting for me. Why? Because, frankly, I wouldn't have used the Alice-mythology. Having read so many treatises and twists on the subject matter, it's hard for me to see the material with the same wide-eyed wonder I did as a child. Among all those gritty and dark revamps, taking the tropes and making them innocent is something I appreciated more than I thought I would. At the same time, you have to be aware that this module is neither particularly complex or unique in its mechanics - by design.


Why? Well, this is pretty much intended for players who have never played and RPG before. The challenges are pretty much simple "learn to roll X"-types of challenges that teach the basics pretty fast. The combat at the end etc. also are solid and fun, though perhaps not suitable challenges for kids that already have amassed some serious RPG-experience: If your kids have e.g. already completed a toned down AP made more child-friendly...then this won't challenge them. If, however, you're looking for a great gateway module that doesn't demand too much and that, by virtue of its design, looks much like a familiar board-game, then this will do the trick better than any other module I've reviewed so far.


Even experienced groups can get something out of this, though; namely the fact that you can scavenge the chase and chase-board and increase the challenge. Personally, I think that makes it rather worthwhile. As for a final verdict: For me and my players, this was a good experience; not a stellar one, but a nice one. Unlike the first After School Adventure, it focused more on teaching playing mechanics rather than teaching; how you react to that pretty much depends on what you've been looking for. In the end, though, such a verdict would not be fair - this module tries to teach the truly young ones the game and does so in an appropriately non-threatening, fun manner with nary a chance for failure possible.


While this does not suit every table, particularly for bringing new kids into the game, this does a great job - and this is what its intention ultimately is. Hence, I will rate this according to its intended goal, which it achieves. For kids ages 4 -6, this is a neat introduction, in particular for the more sensitive ones that don't already want to be Red Sonja or a similarly uncommon character due to their parents or elder siblings - for this, its intended audience, this certainly is a 5-star module. Older players and groups should take aforementioned caveats into account when getting this, but nonetheless, I'm looking forward to seeing how this mini-AP continues!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA:AIW Chasing the White Rabbit 5E
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ASA:AIW Chasing the White Rabbit
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2016 11:40:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first After School Adventure with an Alice in Wonderland-theme clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


First of all - this is the first of a series of 5 adventures that bring new players up to level 5; as written, it is intended to get PCs halfway to level 2. However, since the module as such is basically defined by its nature as a kind of minigame, this book can easily be inserted into most longer modules - including the superb Pixies on Parade, for which inclusion notes are part of the deal.


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? The module begins with the famous white rabbit popping up and who ever needed a chance to chase after the guy? Right! So, the PCs follow the fully statted, planeshifting and blinking white rabbit into the dark green wood and here is where the module becomes its own minigame - you see, the map of the chase is basically a whole boardgame-style playing field. Each round, a character can move 6 squares, 4 if small on this playing fields. (Alternatively, you can roll the dice for movement, which I'd actually recommend!)


The board has multiple challenge squares - stopping in one with a challenge helps you speed the process along. Magic challenges let you teleport to the next magic challenge field on a successful Spellcraft check, with failure sending them one square back. Save challenges are based on saving throws, while shortcut and skill challenges are based on skill check rolls like Perception etc. - each nets bonuses on successful checks, not necessarily a penalty on failure. The first character at the final clearing receives a treasure, but also has to face the boss, the tangleme tree (CR 1) alone for a whole round before the other PCs catch up - in the tree's embrace, the rabbit awaited - and a cake that should be eaten later already hints at the next adventure to come.


If you want, btw., you can also enjoy the map of the chase in a 6-page blown-up version that you can assemble and use minis with, for example. Should you be picky about the like - the lowest bottom parts of the map sport a relatively unobtrusive advertisement, but one you can easily cut off. In my test, none of the kiddos minded it, though.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artwork is gorgeous and appropriate for even the smallest of kids.


J Gray's first trip to Wonderland was very interesting for me. Why? Because, frankly, I wouldn't have used the Alice-mythology. Having read so many treatises and twists on the subject matter, it's hard for me to see the material with the same wide-eyed wonder I did as a child. Among all those gritty and dark revamps, taking the tropes and making them innocent is something I appreciated more than I thought I would. At the same time, you have to be aware that this module is neither particularly complex or unique in its mechanics - by design. Why? Well, this is pretty much intended for players who have never played and RPG before. The challenges are pretty much simple "learn to roll X"-types of challenges that teach the basics pretty fast. The combat at the end etc. also are solid and fun, though perhaps not suitable challenges for kids that already have amassed some serious RPG-experience: If your kids have e.g. already completed a toned down AP made more child-friendly...then this won't challenge them. If, however, you're looking for a great gateway module that doesn't demand too much and that, by virtue of its design, looks much like a familiar board-game, then this will do the trick better than any other module I've reviewed so far.


Even experienced groups can get something out of this, though; namely the fact that you can scavenge the chase and chase-board and increase the challenge. Personally, I think that makes it rather worthwhile. As for a final verdict: For me and my players, this was a good experience; not a stellar one, but a nice one. Unlike the first After School Adventure, it focused more on teaching playing mechanics rather than teaching; how you react to that pretty much depends on what you've been looking for. In the end, though, such a verdict would not be fair - this module tries to teach the truly young ones the game and does so in an appropriately non-threatening, fun manner with nary a chance for failure possible. While this does not suit every table, particularly for bringing new kids into the game, this does a great job - and this is what its intention ultimately is. Hence, I will rate this according to its intended goal, which it achieves. For kids ages 4 -6, this is a neat introduction, in particular for the more sensitive ones that don't already want to be Red Sonja or a similarly uncommon character due to their parents or elder siblings - for this, its intended audience, this certainly is a 5-star module. Older players and groups should take aforementioned caveats into account when getting this, but nonetheless, I'm looking forward to seeing how this mini-AP continues!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA:AIW Chasing the White Rabbit
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Mythic Monsters #36: Mesoamerica
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2016 11:39:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this installment of the Mythic Monsters-series with an unconventional offering - while the couatl has already been covered in Guardians of Good, this installment features the 10-level Plumed Servant-PrC that gets 1/2 BAB-progression and Will-save progression, 2+Int skills per level, 6/10 levels arcane spellcasting progression. Requiring 5 ranks in various skills and 2nd level arcane spells as well as a roleplaying prereq and 2 languages, these casters get an aura of good and a domain at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter, though these only grant the domain powers. The spells associated with the domains can be learned as arcane spells when leveling up - and yes, this takes level-discrepancies between spell-lists into account. They gain a feather focus as an arcane bonded item in lieu of a divine focus and may use fly for class level minutes as an extraordinary ability. The higher levels provide detect alignment, stern gaze, scaling bonuses versus grapples and poison, elemental speech and may use plumes instead of potions for several items and they may make celestial armors from couatl feathers and skin instead of from gold. The fly-duration of the wings can btw. also be used as a resource to add metamagic to an array of spells. Detect thoughts, ethereal jaunt, timeless body and unlimited flight (coupled with freedom of movement) complement the PrC. Of course, this is MYTHIC monsters, so it should come as no surprise that full-blown mythic variants of the PrC's tricks have been included...which is nice - overall an okay option with cool flavor, but not a PrC that blew me away.


We are here for something different, right? Yep, the creatures! We begin with a classic: The CR 7/MR 3 Ahuizotl, whose voice mimicry is now supplemented by a fascination-causing illusion that drowns those unhappy enough to subject to it - and also extend its tail to a whopping 30 ft. A solid upgrade. The Cherufe,a t CR 16/MR 6 gets a retributive detonate, may generate ash storms, can throw exploding rocks, cause lava to burst forth by stomping and gets both fiery blood and aura - a great upgrade from the rather uninspired iteration in Bestiary 5 that makes the creature really come into its own!


At low levels, the CR 4/MR 1 chupacabra causes bleed damage and is a superb master of camouflage - and its chupar now causes mythic haste. Nice! The CR 10/MR 4 Guecubu can drag foes hit with it under the earth, burying them - awesome! Oh, and charges from burrowing and an aura of unluck complement another creature that now is a much better representation of the myths associated with it.


CR 21/ MR 8 and thus utterly deadly - the Lusca.Drawing power (and regeneration) from the carnage they inflict, decapitating bites, a mastery of sharks and a mythic-power-upgradeable bleed complement a lethal build. Peuchen get CR 12/MR 5 and may possess animals...and staggers foes that are constricted. With surprising coils, swift action vampiric touch and hypnotic scales, these can be considered, once again, a great upgrade for the base creature. At CR 6/MR 2, the saguaroi can grow additional limbs via mythic power for more slams or find even hidden sources of water - interesting potential ally....but not as cool as the mythic iteration of one of the coolest animals EVER: MYTHIC GIANT MANTIS-SHRIMP. Superb sight, great carapace, iterative pincer attacks (with the option to use mythic power to remove the penalties...) and sonic bursts that accompany their superbly fast strikes (including staggering foes) make this creature...GLORIOUS. And yes, their sight is incredible. Oh, and they get a superb full-color artwork and 3 variants.


The mythic tunche, at CR 21/MR 8 can absorb animals, plants and vermin, instantly killing them and incorporating them into their dread gestalt entity...which also allows them to split into multiple creatures. Oh, and they have a concentration-crippling aura and may use Rise of teh Jungle more than once...OUCH! The option to decrease their required actions for teleports also make them far more deadly than their already cool non-mythic brethren. Even more powerful, the mythic Tzitzimitl clocks in at CR 23/MR 9 and gets a lavish full-page artwork. Great: Eyebeams that combine dispelling, energy drain and damage...brutal. Their deeper darkness causes brutal cold damage, they can convert positive to negative energy and have an ability called apocalyptic harbinger that grants them some serious immunities. I really want to use this beast right now! (And yes, these guys have Sun Eater and Nailed to the Sky...'nuff said.


At the other end of the spectrum, namely at CR 1/MR 1, the xtabay is one of the most disturbing plot creatures I know - and that's all I'm going to say about them. The base creature is great; the mythic upgrade is also great, also thanks to one of several feats provided in this book to supplement the builds, here Mythic Feel Footfall. The CR 5/MR 2 Zuvembie can force the living to heed their call and can use nature's exile and power the undead they can animate as with mythic animate dead. Solid, if comparably less remarkable.


We end this pdf with a true legend - Xipe Totec, golden-skinned and clad in flayed skins. In case you didn't know - this is actually a deity in Aztec mythology, more popularly known as Tezcatlipoca and was the deity of life, death and rebirth. Either a former deity or on the verge of deific ascendancy, this CR 30/MR 10 killer with his flaying criticals, heart eating and the option to infuse creatures with spellcasting capacity, he ranks among the coolest builds in the series AND makes for a superb boss/plot-device...oh, and he's basically impossible to destroy. His artwork, btw., is absolutely awesome.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games two-column full color standard. The original pieces of full color art provided are high-quality and awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Mike Welham and Jason Nelson have crafted a great array of monsters here - while personally, I'm not too blown away by the PrC in the beginning and while a precious few creatures could have used a bit more, as a whole, this is a truly evocative, unique array of adversaries. More important, at least to me as a professed aficionado of Aztec mythology and Mesoamerican folklore, the creatures herein just are infinitely closer to what they ought to be doing. Increasingly, I can observe this series spoiling me horribly regarding monsters - I expect by now that a creature has a couple of unique, flavorful tricks up its sleeve - so much so that the last two bestiaries, from a mechanic point of view, often disappointed me. This pdf's achievement, then, would lie in actually making these evocative, classic and oh so awesome beings finally live up to their myths. Mythic indeed. 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters #36: Mesoamerica
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Fin Starling's Guide to Morsain
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2016 10:58:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive Player's Guide/sourcebook clocks in at 55 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Once upon a time, there was a massive, gorgeous hardcover that AAW Games made; so beautiful was the hardcover, it brought tears of joy to the eyes of many a GM out there as they marveled at the gorgeous artwork and the intricate details of the massive city of Morsain contained therein, as they read all the evocative ideas and plot-hooks that seemed to leap from the very page. But, alas, this massive mega-adventure had an issue - you see, it did draw upon one of the most recognizable fairy tales in all the lands of earth and its premise worked best if the PCs didn't yet know that.


This made quite a few GMs out in the land very, very sad: "Alas, woe betide me, grim is my lot - I can't just show off the book sans spoiling this reveal, but I do so want to let my players gaze upon the resplendence of this tome!" The cries did sound far and wide in the lands of Pathfinderia and its neighbor 3.Xia and the stricken GMs pulled their hair and tinkered with their tools, but so great was the work, they didn't do all too well in redacting the original.


It came thus to be, that, deep within the base of mighty AAW games, the hardworking wordmsiths and cartographers did hear the plight of their loyal supporters and, light a brownie properly appeased, went to work with fervor unmatched, the goal being a lofty one that was higher than the ole' beanstalk of Jack: To make a book for all the players to enjoy without spoiling the huge adventure they had made to such massive acclaim.


Thus, they did send out their ravens, far and wide, to all the lands and even across the ocean to their talented associates and had them draw like they had never drawn before - Justin Andrew Mason crafted a cover, Eric Quigley made visions astounding and as far as in remote Finland and Rumania, the eager quills of Mates Laurentia and Tommi Salama did move like the wind, making maps and art staggering, shining from the pages - with wrinkles and a parchment-look, all sans spoiling details for players far and wide. Jensen Toperzer took all of these gems, sent promptly back from the hands of talent most compelling, and promptly crafted a unified look, laid it all out for the people to marvel and rejoice.


And so it came to be, that, upon pages like wrinkled parchment, between prose penned by Will Myers, the conucopia of images and vistas came to life, depicting fair Morsain in all its glory - and all without mentioning or spoiling what this was about. And thus, the GMs rejoiced and cackled with glee, all according to their own temperament.


Alack and alas, this was not yet the end of the story, for the book was supposed to also have some new tricks for players to enjoy and that it did: There would be the alchemicalist, an alchemist most wondrous and different, one that sported a companion creature, a pet, if you will, which would then grow in both prowess and intellect. The concept of this complex build was most captivating, true - but in the details, some jealous creatures with intent most malign, did sneak in: You see, these masters of chemicals most uncommon get gels that replace the bombs of their brethren, but the gels, diverse and wondrous, do have some hiccups in the details, with mentions of heat damage instead of fire damage and similar minor glitches. The evil gremlins snickered and laughed, since now GMs would do need a bit of time to make this one work as smoothly as intended.


Undeterred by this, the wordsmiths made a royal guard archetype for the fighter -and here, the gremlins did not succeed in their malevolence: Designating wards, these stalwart champions made for compelling bodyguards that could truly protect their chosen wards and stagger those foolish enough to try to attack those under their protection and devoted to taking these fools alive.


Finally, they did weave the Gambler base class, which would get d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, good Ref- and Will-saves, proficiency with a unique weapon list and spontaneous spellcasting via Cha of up to 4th level, with its own list. The gambler can cast spells in light armor sans penalty and gains bonuses to social skills against creatures of an ever increasing array of types/subtypes. 4+ Cha-mod rounds (+2 per level), the gambler can begin a gambler's commentary, which was not unlike bardic performance, though the precise effects differed. With an emphasis on banter, the gambler also proved to be more resilient to sonic or language-dependant effects and skill bonuses when playing favored games, while also being favored by lady luck in his defenses and capable of drawing forth items or even, at higher levels, quickly take 10, and, in limited capacity, take 20. Alas, the gremlins swallowed and gobbled up the italicizations in the spell list, which also had two new spells exclusive to the class, with one allowing for scaling rerolls at level 1 - a good thing, it is exclusive!


But wait, this is not where it end - a zip-file was added with much care; two other pdfs included for your edification: A second version of the guide, not bar its beauty, one should say; a GM's booklet was included alongside, and in its pages, the Gobhoblin at the CR 8 and the Phocce at CR 12 await the gleeful use of worldsmiths far and wide, with copious amounts of tricks and unique flavor accompanying them, resounding mythologies on their heels - alas, the gremlins did succeed in this little book as well, swallowing a verb here and scrambling a number there - a warning to all, to of their mischief beware!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are, on the one hand, very good - the formal components of this guide are well done; at the same time, the rules-language does sport a couple of hiccups that made me gnash my teeth. While the glitches aren't as pronounced as to render this pdf problematic, they do transcend what I'd consider negligible. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard that is a sheer joy to behold, with a huge amount of stunning full color artwork and supreme full color cartography of player-friendly maps complementing a truly aesthetically compelling book that ranks among the most beautiful you can buy for in PFRPG 3pp-circuit - certainly in the Player's Guide subgenre. The pdfs all come fully bookmarked for your convenience.


So, how does the tale of the guide to Morsain end? Well, much like many of the best stories, with a happy end, though one tinted with a bit of tragedy. You see, this book's first half, frankly, can be considered to rank among the finest, most evocative player's guides I have ever read. The prose is captivating and engrossing, the book SPOILER-free and yet engaging - and I LOVE it for that. In fact, judged only in this regard, this would probably be one of my all-time favorite PGs and worthy of a candidate spot for this year's top ten.


Alas, the additional material, in quality, falls a bit short of what the rest of the guide offers: The alternate bard-style gambler and the alchemicalist archetype both have unique and captivating concepts, but both also have several instances where the rules-language feels like it could have used a streamlining: Damage-types, minor wording hiccups - the like. Both also, at least to me, feel like they should have been branded as alternate classes and expanded slightly - both aren't necessarily OP or anything and I don't think they'd wreck the game, but neither are they as concisely presented as they should have been. On the plus-side: The Royal Guard is pretty awesome - think of it as similar to Dreamscarred Press' Warder, but sans the Path of War power-level-increase or WuXia-style supernatural attacks, rendering it a feasible option for just about every campaign and one of my favorite takes on the bodyguard concept in PFRPG.


How to rate this, then? Well, this is where I am in a pickle - and where you can read this story two ways: For the crunch alone, I'd probably not recommend getting this; in that discipline, I'd probably rate this 3.5 to 4 stars. However, as a Player's Guide, this book excels in a triumphant and extremely immersive, unique manner. Will Myers and Stephen Yeardley have certainly upped the ante regarding the production values, quality and sense of immersion such a guide can get - this most certainly is a huge step up from the first Player's Guide AAW Games made; in fact, I'd consider the fluff and atmosphere evoked, the PG section, 5 stars + seal-level material. Ultimately, I tend to average the two scores in such an instance - which would result at a final verdict of 4.5 stars...but to round up or down? Well, if you want this for the crunch alone, I'd suggest you round down; personally, both due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this lives by its flavor and does its job so well, I will round up.


...and thus, the reviewer stopped typing for a second and lived, almost, happily ever after. Or, to paraphrase how those tales end in German: "Und wenn er nicht gestorben ist, so lebt er wohl noch heute." (Roughly: "And if he hasn't died in the meanwhile, he is still living out there today.")


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fin Starling's Guide to Morsain
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Secrets of the Taskshaper (13th Age Compatible)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2016 10:54:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This adaptation of the taskshaper class to the 13th Age rule-set clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is the taskshaper? In case you are not familiar with the exceedingly awesome background of the class - it is one of the most challenging classes to GM for in PFRPG, defined by the option to basically shapechange and poach abilities from monsters, a class suffused with great background info: You see, as the in-character prose that guides you through this pdf makes amply clear, the taskshaper is a creature changed by the fey, with themes of changelings and the mythological lord Auberyon being part of the deal. As such, after the well-written introductory prose, we dive into the particulars of the class.


The taskshaper has an original form - basically the race you had prior to becoming a taskshaper. They can choose either +2 Dex or Cha, provided they have not already increased said ability score, A smattering of sample backgrounds are provided for your convenience. You begin play with the gear of the latest person you impersonated, up to 50 gp worth and are wanted for a minor misdeed...or you halve starting gold and are not wanted and get decent clothes as well as light armor. And a simple weapon. Armor follows the 11 -> 13 -> 15 progression, shields netting +1.


The taskshaper being a unique creature regarding its flavor, thus proceeds to classify natural weapons by type - tables align these with one-handed or two-handed weapon equivalents and, from different bites to stings and special attacks, this classification is simple, to the point and easy to grasp. Ranged weapons gain a similar classification, just fyi. The taskshaper receives (8+Con-mod) x3 starting hit points, scaling up to x24 at 10th level. Each level nets a feat and 4th, 7th and 10th level provide ability upgrades, as noted. Damage bonus from ability score increases to x2 at 5th level and x3 at 8th level. The Form pool (more on that later) begins at 1st level and upgrades at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level. Ini is Dex + level. AC is 11 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis +level; PD is 11 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dex +level; MD is 12 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha + level. The taskshaper gets 8 recoveries, recovery rate of 1d8 x level + Con-mod, 8 background points (max 5 in one), 3 icon relationships and 3 talents. When transformed, their basic attacks can govern hit damage with Cha instead of Str or Dex, both in melee and ranged combat.


The first class feature of the taskshaper would be perfect imitator, which allows you to assist allies with tasks or repeat a task you have observed. At champion-tier, you can use a feat to learn a wizard spell and cast it 1/day. You cast this via Cha and may replace the spell with another, provided you can learn it from a spellbook. The Epic tier feat can even uncover repressed memories via this copying, provided you beat the MD of the creature. The second class feature would be Moment of Change, which allows you to 1/battle gain minor bonuses as a free action by reshaping your body. You may also use this ability as a quick action to shapechange into one of your forms known or the combination of forms known. Additionally, you can expend this moment to modify an assumed form. Adventurer feat nets +1 such moment, Champion-tier's feat increases the aforementioned bonus and nets another moment, while the epic feat provides +2 moments of change per battle. Additionally, 1/encounter, you regain all moments upon becoming staggered. Here, presentation is a tad bit confusing - the dev's note mentions 10 moments for a scenario of two epic-tier taskshapers duking it off, which is, obviously correct -it's 5 per character. The dev's note does make that sound like it's 10 per character, so a bit of confusion there. Moments of change are regained upon a short rest. Reverting to your original form, just fyi, does not require moment o change expenditure.


The taskshaper class also receives some talents, the first of which allows you to mimic an object - which becomes particularly unique at epic tier, when you can assume full properties of objects, including magical bonuses and special abilities, but the special abilities do require the expenditure of moment of change uses and size-requirements and restrictions still apply, but may be overcome with your shapechanging. Slightly odd from a wording point of view: The epic-tier feat also nets the option to conduct a ritual to make a functional non-combat utility copy lasting for 1 hour per moment of change used - this looks like you create the object, while the reversal clause does imply that reverting to your original form takes longer. Basically, I think the taskshaper turns into this item, but the wording is simply a bit opaque here.


Shift Condition is intriguing - it allows you to expend recoveries to delay/temporarily halt conditions, ongoing damage and last gasp saves, with epic tier allowing you to transfer these to adversaries...thankfully, this does reset the counters. Troll Blood improves your healing capacity, making the save easy to use full effect recoveries, with the epic feat granting you 10 hp of healing for 5 minutes. This is a bit odd, since even a regular troll's regeneration is tied to uses in battle, not a time-frame. Protean Touch makes your face and body malleable, allowing you to freely assume other guises and grants you a free 5-point background, with champion-tier weaponizing this to allow you to prevent touched foes from taking move or quick actions, while the epic-tier feat lets you grant limited shapechanging to your allies...and gain a touch that can pulverize foes.


So, what exactly do the forms do and how do they work? Well, you begin play knowing 4 forms, learning new forms requires a first-hand experience. Thereafter, provided you can learn a new form, one day of experimentation does the trick. You retain your size unless specifically noted and can speak in forms. Unless specifically noted, items do not change with you. Upon becoming disabled or dying, you revert to your original form and while forms have no duration, you only regain moments of change when resting in your original form. You may also use moments of change to only partially transform parts of your body - these never cause damage to yourself. You retain a certain recognizable quality when changed and forms assumed come with a 20-entry table that sports unique distinctive marks.


Now here is the cool thing regarding the forms - the respective transformations offer some non-combat utility, modifications of defense-stats, natural attacks and provide you with a selection of diverse abilities - you choose multiple such tricks when you assume a form. Beast Form, for example, would allow you to gain +2 to AC and PD in addition to the base form's modifications and make you venomous. Or, you could be venomous and constrict. Or increase damage die of your attacks and gain a 16+-triggered secondary attack. Some suggestions for e.g. which of these traits would be appropriate for e.g. bears, etc. are a welcome bonus. Starting at level 3, aquatic beast forms, ooze and plant bodies are unlocked, while level 5 unlocks the avian beast form, elemental body (air, earth and water). Level 7 nets you access to diminutive and large size, Elemental Body (Fire) and level 9, finally, lets you take the forms of dragons and, yes...even swarms! The forms themselves are varied and unique, their fluff being pretty awesome and they actually also feature quite a few interesting things to consider: Fire Elemental Body, for example, nets you a cool vs. PD attack with ongoing fire damage...but also makes you susceptible to non-flammable liquid and weakened if you have no material to burn.


That being said, personally, I'm a bit of a stickler for precision and partial change and its interaction with the forms could have used a bit of clarification -when I take e.g. the fire elemental's body, does this mean I get aforementioned weaknesses? The ability for the PD-attack mentions that it replaces the regular attacks - but what if one only assumed parts of this form? I assume that's not possible since it and a bunch of the other forms have the "body"-caveat, which looks like it means that it is only available for total change...but I am not sure. A bit of clarification for such cases would be nice, even though GMs can probably handle these decisions.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard, is nice regarding art-direction and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Patryk Adamski's adaptation of Steven D. Russell's cool taskshaper class works exceedingly well for the most part. While I consider the relatively few moments of change a bit too restrictive, (Boys, I need to take a short break...again.), that is a relatively easily changed component that can be attuned to a given campaign. The unique and complex options of the taskshaper are somewhat simpler in 13th Age than in Pathfinder, but that does make sense and actually does the class some good - the acquisition of forms and their limits ultimately requires no GM-book-keeping in this version, which is pretty awesome. At the same time, there are a couple of instances where the otherwise precise rules-language could have imho used some further clarifications regarding specific interaction with shapechanging objects, partial changes, etc. While these issues are not glaring, they do mean that the GM is required to make some judgment class when the class is used. Still, this does manage to convey the unique nature of the taskshaper to 13th Age - and that is a great thing.


How to rate this, then? Well, while not perfect, this is an inexpensive, evocative addition to 13th Age, one that particularly should be interesting for more experienced 13th Age-players. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Taskshaper (13th Age Compatible)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Drow of Porphyra - The Xelusine: Sirens of Sin
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2016 12:17:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third book taking a look at the diverse types of drow stranded on the patch-work world of Porphyra clocks in at a massive 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!


"You know us. You have always known us. We are what you wish you could be in your darkest moments, when you cannot help but give in to the worst of what you are. We have all the grace you lack then, and none of the regret." This is how this pdf begins, and it is a perfect introduction of both the in-character narrative that suffuses this pdf and to the nature of the Xelusine - they sprang forth from asceticism thwarted, from a wish most tainted and they killed their god, from his corpse erecting the primordial pillars of sin, metaphysically reaching out from the void beyond dreams and omens...and they don't even end up in either abyss or hell - an eternity of sin and debauchery await them in Hamarita.


The Xelusine are the poisoned honey on a voluptuous body, the shuddering ecstasy that changes one's life, the end of guilt; an embodiment of an addictive personality; the dark and handsome stranger; the smoking dame that just smelled like trouble that walked into the room; the decadent courtier; they are the relationship that is self-destructive and yet the most fulfilling you can imagine. They also sport a structure of circles and sin-based factions (obviously 7, one for each mortal sin), each with its own specialties - what the truth about them is, how they work - the in-character prose is delightfully crafted as it slowly reveals the truths of the race...or does it?


The pdf provides a full-blown, wonderfully detailed decadent code of conduct for the Xelusine, the dance, and the triumph of their decadence is indeed lavish, intoxicating even, in its depiction - with a Karza's call to war against them as a well-written counterpoint. Rules-wise, the Xelusine get the Silver-tongued racial trait, guidance, beguiling gift and unnatural lust as SP and also a vulnerability to diseases. It should come as no surprise that this subrace of drow features a significant array of alternate racial traits that tie in with fey-like tricks and sin-themed tricks.


The pdf provides favored class options for bards, clerics, druids, hetaera, monks, rangers, rogues and sorcerors, with clerics following the 7 sins, with associated domains and subdomains. FYI: This pdf comes fully hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com, with the good type of hyperlinks - nice! A vile rite of sacrifice and actually evocative, unique traits are provided - with cult leadership score modifications, etc. The pdf also sports relatively concise and brief rules for satisfaction and temptation. Wait, I should probably mention the rather cool Cult Leadership feat featured herein - why? Because it actually also has cool downtime exploits for the cult cell and even sports mass combat rules info! KUDOS! At 5th level, there is a feat called Masochism, which ties in well with the torture/interrogation rules and helps against Intimidation - and, as a nice bonus, it is NOT evil. Still, not the most compelling feat I know - but nice to see nonetheless. (Seriously, I really loathe the stigmatization of BDSM and coding of it as evil...)


The pdf, btw., has a template...created drow. Yes, the Xelusine can make non-drow drow.


Want to know, though, what made this pdf even more worth it for me? The concise rules to create custom aphrodisiacs. Think of that as a more complex variant of the Karza's poison creation, but for addiction-inducing things and practices. And yes, I really wanted this and it's the only PFRPG-book I know of that has proper rules for the like. The pdf also provides an armor-type that helps the seducer and, like previous installments of the series, we do get sample cities and adventure hooks for these.


Beyond all of these, the pdf offers a ton of domains/subdomains for the Xelusine - from the Apathy domain to its Conceit brethren, they are cool, though there are minor formatting glitches here - like a bolded ability name that should be italicized...but that's, ultimately, cosmetic. The pdf closes with two new spells - one that creates an extra-dimensional den of sin and the second one, which fires a sin blast - a victim struck sees his or her actions in the next round restricted according to the sin. (This one uses a d7-die to determine the sin- which is a bit odd. I happen to have one, but if you don't, use a d8 with 8= reroll.)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches in either formal or rules-language criteria - kudos! Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports gorgeous full-color artwork, one of which (in case you're prude) shows a tastefully drawn nipple. (Which probably is one reason this does not have the PFRPG-compatible logo.)


Okay, the Nalbrezu were already awesome; the Xelusine? Oh boy. Pure, glorious decadence; the poisoned nectar, the scions of delicious sin; tainted and evil, yes, but oh so rewarding. Patricia Willenborg has really hit her stride here; the aphrodisiac-rules are tasteful and concise; the depiction of the race superb and well-written. The supplemental material and balancing of the drow-subtype is tight and the writing is evocative, fun and inspiring. This book, much like its predecessor, is well-written, concisely presented and takes a novel, mature and unique take on the drow - one that does not shy away from the subtext that has been part of dark elf lore ever since their inceptions in various fantasy worlds.


I love this pdf; it was a great read and has provided more ideas for drow and encounters with them and how they operate than most other books I've read on the race. The Cult Leadership rules are tight and may be worth it even if you're not interested in the Xelusine as such - this is fun, unique, well-written and daring. Two thumbs up for this one. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Drow of Porphyra - The Xelusine: Sirens of Sin
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Telekinetic's Handbook
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2016 12:15:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second of Drop Dead Studios' patreon-powered Spheres of Power--expansion books clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page TOC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Well, but let's begin this analysis not from the beginning, but rather the end: telekinesis was one of the components in Spheres of Power that was awesome, but not necessarily perfect: Hence, this book provides needed clarification in its 7th chapter: Items held via telekinesis are considered to be attended or held and multiple telekinetic grapples are covered and the bludgeon-option of telekinesis is similarly clarified, eliminating all the small issues, including proficiency-questions and damage types - kudos! Hostile lift is also clarified alongside e.g. acceleration (which now works in conjunction with abilities that can be performed at the end of a charge). For our convenience, dancing weapon reaches are collected in a table by size and divided mind is similarly clarified.


Very useful: The chapter also sports a quick reference sheet that codifies density of materials, objects sizes with sample items and a handy table codifies weapon size in relation to item size: Ammunition is e.g. considered three size categories smaller than the weapon for it, while two-handed weapons are considered to be the same size as the wielder - exceedingly useful, not only for the purpose of this book. All right, now that we're on the current page regarding Spheres of Power-telekinesis, let's take a look at the new options presented herein after the introductory fluff!


The first piece of crunch the book offers is the Electrokinetic Elementalist - instead of weave energy, he receives access to the Destruction and Telekinesis sphere, with the Electric Blast Destruction talent as a bonus magic talent (here, the pdf has a superfluous plural "s"), but also gains the Energy Focus (electric blast) and Limited Telekinesis drawbacks sans bonus talents. If the character already had access to either of the spheres, he does not gain alternatives, but neither does he gain the drawbacks associated with the respective spheres. It should be noted that the character does gain a talent of his choice if he already has electric blast.


The character uses the full class level as caster level for purposes of electricity damage-causing destructive blasts and when using telekinesis to manipulate metal objects. Instead of bonus feats granted by the Elementalist class, the Electrokinetic may choose electrokinetic stunts, basically the array of talents of the class. A total of 8 such stunts are provided, and they range from making living creatures count as metal for telekinesis-purposes to the ability to see bioelectricity (translated as 60 ft.-blindsense that only applies to living creatures). Interesting: Using swift actions to charge metal bludgeoning telekinesis attacks with electricity-based destructive blasts...and no, before you ask:


They may not be modified by blast shapes - good catch there. Better healing and a kind of DR versus ability damage and drain also are pretty cool and I know that increased range will be one that more than a couple of PCs out there will enjoy. Redirecting electricity that failed to penetrate your Elemental Defense is also rather cool. Obviously, these guys are locked into electricity as a favored element, but subsequent levels provide no additional elements. Elemental Defense grants resistance 10 versus electricity and sonic, scaling to 25 and at 7th level, elemental movement is replaced with a fly speed that scales in efficiency (including maneuverability). 9th level nets Thunder Blast as bonus talent (full CL) and may now use destructive blasts dealing sonic damage, in spite of the Energy Focus drawback. While I am not the biggest fan of the Elementalist class, I really enjoyed this unique archetype - kudos!


The second one would be the Hekatonkheires Symbiat - and I have to come clean here: One of my favorite, gory, smart and disturbing anime is Elfenlied. I actually have the boxed set here. Well, the briefest means of describing this archetype is "Elfenlied - the archetype." The archetype gains the Telekinesis sphere as a bonus magic talent and treats symbiat levels as CL for the sphere, replacing mental powers. At 1st level, the archetype gains Thousand Unseen Hands. This works as follows: The hekatonkheires gains Mind Limb as a bonus feat, but gains +1 limb, both of which may be used via the same swift action and are capable of handling and manipulating items. Their reach is increased by +5 ft. and at 3rd level, the archetype may use said limbs as slashing damage-causing secondary tentacle attacks governed by Casting Ability modifier instead of Str, with increased size NOT increasing damage - kudos for catching that! At 6th level, these limbs may wield weapons and receive increased damage-output that increases again at 12th and 15th level, while additional limbs (which fall in two categories, strong and small mind limbs), reach and increased effective Strength with them are covered. This replaces psionics and 20th level provides free action, truly devastating mind limbs instead of Greater Psionics. Absolutely AWESOME archetype - kudos!


The armorist class may elect to become a Soaring Blade, who is proficient with simple and martial weapons and light armor and may only use telekinesis in conjunction with equipment summoned via Summon Equipment and Bound Equipment. This drawback may be bought off, but you only get full CL= class level in instances where the drawback would apply - basically, this is the telekinetic fencer/item-controller and as such, he may conjure fort equipment in telekinesis range - it is btw. here that oversized equipment as mentioned in the beginning of this review, becomes relevant: In contrast to regular armorists, these guys have a reason to conjure forth equipment. Dancing Weapons and increased AoOs per round with telekinetically wielded weapons are gained and the tricks further expanded by Divided Mind and Orbit. As a minor complaint: The 5th level House of Blades ability is not properly formatted. It should be noted that soaring blades may not select the heavy armor, movement or tower shield tricks, but the armorist does gain 8 new tricks...and they are pretty cool: Whether it's setting weapons to orbit you or calling forth a barrage of phantasmal blades, the tricks are cool and complement another well-crafted archetype.


The last archetype herein would the Unseen Horror thaumaturge, who is always accompanied by a lurking, unseen force gained at fourth level - invisible and capable of doing minor manipulations and moving options, replacing 4th level's bonus feat. At 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the thaumaturge may select one of 8 sample augmentations for this force instead of the usual bonus feats - whether it's very limited skills per level, increased Strength-score, gaining a second one or one with serpentine properties - a nice one for flavor, I guess.


Of course, the pdf also features quite an array of different feats available for your perusal: Beyond the usual +x class ability feats, the chapter introduces Protokinesis-feats, which let you apply telekinetic powers as innate SPs with a CL equal to you class level and an indefinite duration. They do not work while you're unconscious, but allow you to stand on e.g. thin objects that would otherwise be unable to support you, move on walls or ceilings or generate aforementioned mind limbs - these feats are awesome. Modifying telekinesis with enhancements or creating items of telekinetic force via overlap with the creation sphere similarly are cool tricks. I also like suffusing illusions with telekinetic force or swift action-based telekinesis-supplemented physical boosts. Similarly, the new traits, which interact well with drawbacks etc., constitute a well-crafted addition to the options presented herein.


Of course, there also are a lot of new talents for the Telekinesis sphere: Whether it's calling items to hand, accelerating, catching projectiles sans readying actions or shifting gravity (including information on heavy and light gravity) - the tricks herein are rather inspired and versatile and provide A LOT of tactical depth: Missed with that bludgeon? Well, if you have Homing, you can expend an immediate action to have the bludgeon circle back to the target. Want objects orbiting you? The option is here. Levitate objects or creatures sans seeing them? Kinetic Sense is what you require. And yes, you may even mimic simple tools. Glorious chapter!


The advanced magics section allows you to nail creatures or objects in the air...permanently! Wanted a Darth Vader grasp? Talent's here. Did you always think gravity was something for wusses or that your character should be its center? Well, objective and null gravity are options you have via gravity manipulation. And yes, even telekinetic puppetry of creatures is covered. 7 rituals and two awesome incantations further complement this section: The second incantation btw. allows you to make a ruined keep fly. Yes, AWESOME!


The equipment-section also deserves special note: Whether it's Arcsilver or the other two special materials introduced, they are pretty cool. Now the arcing property is pretty nasty - applied only to ranged weapons, it allows the weapon in question to describe a 90° turn, treating said turning square as the proper one for cover purposes. At only +1, I can make rather nasty combos here. Nice: Flying thrown weapons allow you to make full attacks at range, somewhat validating the often neglected thrown weapons. (And yes, don't use this with hurlers...but then again, those builds are brutal, so I won't hold that against this one...) The 5 specific magic items provided are similarly well-crafted and generally can be considered worthwhile.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, but there are some deviations from standardized rules-language. Layout adheres to Drop Dead Studios' two-column full-color standard. Artwork-wise, there is a solid mix of new and old full-color artwork and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Author Amber Underwood has done an impressive job - first of all, this pdf clears up the problems with regular telekinesis. That, in and of itself, would already be an impressive feat. Adding unique and evocative options beyond that...well, that's where this starts to become truly impressive. Particularly considering that this is the first supplement I've seen Amber Underwood tackle, the mastery of complex rules can be considered impressive. In fact, this whole pdf is pretty much seal-material, with the notable exception of the item-chapter, where multiple options go beyond what I'd consider appropriate for the respective power-levels. Granted, high-fantasy groups will not have issues there, but in the context of more gritty campaigns, some of the tricks here will prove to be problematic. My final verdict, considering the superb quality of a majority of content herein, will hence be 5 stars. If you're playing a relatively high-fantasy campaign, consider this a universal must-buy; even gritty round should get this, but take care regarding the items.)


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Telekinetic's Handbook
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 61 to 75 (of 2408 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates