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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #5: Cabin Catastrophe
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2016 03:01:00

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 to d20pfsrd.com's shop 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. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


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!


So, what do we get here? Well, basically, we get a brief expansion of Snow-White in the traditional sense - know the Huntsman's cabin, how it doesn't really impact the plot? Well, this allows your PCs to properly explore the potentially rather creepy cabin of the Huntsman. The cabin itself has been rigged by the Huntsman - it now sports several traps waiting for the unwitting fools that would stumble in. Nice, if you're like me: The archetypical role of the Huntsman is made more relatable by using this mini-dungeon - there is indirect storytelling that tells you something about the motivations and character of the huntsman.


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.


Much like the previous mini-dungeon, this is very much an extension of the main-module, highlighting what could e considered a "deleted scene" - not necessary for the plot, but more than handy to have, we get a well-written exercise in indirect story-telling. Granted, the trap-centric challenges are not that diverse and the pdf is mechanically less interesting than the best in the series, but from a narrative perspective, this can be considered a great addition to the main module. That, and Will Myers' cabin is FREE. Free is hard to beat and a free expansion for the glorious main-module that seamlessly fits in? Heck yeah. (Oh, and if you need a slightly creepy, trapped hunter's cabin, this'll do the job!) Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval in the context of Snow-White. (As a stand-alone, it loses some of its charm - for such purposes, consider this 4 stars instead.)


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #5: Cabin Catastrophe
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #4: Glass Golem Go-Round
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2016 02:58:29

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 to d20pfsrd.com's shop 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. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


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!


Okay, so this one takes place just after the PCs have been recruited, but before they begin the sweep of royal chambers/gauntlet at the beginning of Snow-White....and basically, this is not a regular mini-dungeon; instead, one should understand this as an optional tie-in, for the castle's glass-domed dining courtyard shatters, as a lethal glass golem seeks to kidnap Lumi! (Yes, this adds yet another kidnapping angle to the main meat of the module - one I enjoyed!)


Featuring info on the golem itself and the rather complex set-up, the encounter is exciting and diverse and emphasizes PC-competence versus that of regular creatures - nice!


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. The pdf sports a small version of Ruhtin's excellent artwork from the main Snow-White book. 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.


Will Myers delivers a great expansion to the main Snow-White module; while not a dungeon per se, this instead opts to be a great encounter that supplements the main module well. It's just one encounter - but it's a great encounter with cool visuals...and it's FREE. Seriously, go get this right now if you're planning on running Snow-White! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #4: Glass Golem Go-Round
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Occult Character Codex: Occultists
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/30/2016 06:57:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Occult Character Codex-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page how-to-use, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I like Occult Adventures - a lot. It's one of my favorite Paizo-books out there and the classes rekindled my faith in Paizo's class design, even though the book has some rough edges here and there. Suffice to say, the rather complex classes are cool - but making characters with them takes obviously a bit longer than for less involved classes...and we're all time-starved anyways, right? This is where this series comes in - basically, we have a collection of characters herein, spanning the CRs from 1 - 20, all ready and set for your perusal.


So how were they made? Well, for one, the builds use Pathfinder Unchained's automatic bonus progression, which means that the characters have a better chance to stand against the PCs sans flooding the campaign with magic items. The builds are not made to be sheer exercises in powergaming superiority that exist in a vacuum, instead championing the approach of making viable characters that work concisely as though they were proper characters, complete with a brief personality sketch, though that component is less pronounced than in Purple Duck Games' codices. Options and buffs are included in the statblocks, though handy pre-buff sections provide the information sans them, should your PCs be able to catch the character unaware. There are also some minor pieces of advice for GMs using the character


As far as diversity of the statblocks is concerned, there is, particularly concerning the racial variety, enough going on: Tieflings, core races and even wayang and hobgoblins provide an overall diverse array of unique races. As in the previous installments, not all archetypes are covered - this time around, we get battle hosts as well as necroccultists, the latter including a baykok companion. Interestingly, age categories and spell selection appropriate for it, are covered as well - there would be e.g. an old occultist who casts age resistance as part of her buff suite. The pdf also sports the ordo metamorphic mundi, including information on the domains it grants.


Now, as in installments before, there are some builds that look a bit similar at first glance - but there are quite a lot differences once you dive into the nit and grit of the respective statblocks, you will notice diversity - both in skill and feat selection and focus of the respective statblocks. Similarly, implement school choices are diverse and run a relatively broad gamut. And yes, the spell-selection covers a lot of ground and does not restrict itself to doing the same thing over and over - instead, the choices for the characters make sense and emphasize their distinctions.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports several beautiful pieces of full-color artwork, some old, some new. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience


Julian Neale's Occultists are refined - as far as the statblocks I looked at are concerned, I saw no glitches and the characters are varied enough to make this a complex and fun collection of statblocks. While I would have loved for the other archetypes to be covered as well, the builds herein are neat, fun and sufficiently distinct to allow a GM to challenge his PCs with significantly different challenges herein. It's perhaps just me, but I did feel like the characters herein were a bit more diverse than in the previous installments, with different foci. Rock-solid stats, varied builds...what more can you ask for? My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Character Codex: Occultists
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #3: The Army Surgeons
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/30/2016 06:54:09

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 to d20pfsrd.com's shop 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. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


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!


This "mini-dungeon" is actually, much like "The Spirit Bottle" a rather unique set-piece: The Klavekian kingdom is not known for being particularly welcoming regarding the stance towards non-humans - and this pdf puts the players in a situation, where they witness one of the more unsavory practices firsthand: Leikata and Ommella Ruumis are both retired army surgeons - and now they're part of the Klavekian means to destabilize the "hostile" area called haunted forest, known hiding places of fey and non-humans alike...by controlling and re-animating zombies and sending them inside. The problem is: Something went wrong, big time, and now zombies roam...and the two clerics are locked inside their little abode, trapped by the undead and nearing death - in order to save them, the PCs will have to defeat the undead (potentially enjoying the neat plunder-table included)...and then make a decision...for while what the clerics do is not ethical, to say the least, they still follow orders and provide a service to the local populace by relocating the undead...


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.


Stephen Yeardley's third mini-dungeon intended as a Snow-White tie-in is interesting mainly due to the moral conundrum and potential for consequences it poses. That being said, beyond the basic idea, it does feel a bit less imaginative than the superb first two Snow-White mini-dungeons, which would mean, I'd usually refrain from slapping my seal of approval on this. However, this is FREE, and as a free offering, it provides a fun, intriguing set-piece, well worth of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #3: The Army Surgeons
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In The Company of Rakshasa (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/29/2016 04:44:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The latest installment of Rite Publishing's "In the Company of..:"-series clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 18 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.


We begin this supplement, as always, with a letter from a member of this race to Qwilion of Questhaven, one that has a sense of decadence and the disturbing reverberating in it, setting a great precedence, theme-wise, for what's to follow. The pdf asks the question whether you ever did STARVE - not just hunger, starve. Now if the implications of this very concept are lost, I'd very much recommend Knut Hamsun's legendary "Sult" (Hunger) Now here's the powerful imagery: The in-character narrator states "We are that hunger." That actually did send shivers down my spine.


When the in-character narrator speaks of "hunger and desires so terrible they transcend death", you believe it - the yaksha are CREEPY. Terribly so. And in fact, the leitmotifs of hunger and desire extend throughout the whole fluff, providing a slick and surprisingly suave justification for the predations of these beings - in case you haven't gleaned that by now - yes, the relationships with races, adventurers etc. actually are a joy to read here.


The rakshasa base-race here is the yaksha, a medium shapechanger which gets +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis. The race gets +4 to Bluff when lying (NOT when feinting) and has darkvision 60 ft. and they may alter self at will, but sans modifying ability scores and retaining darkvision. This ability allows the character to become small or medium. Thanks to their shapeshifting, yaksha get +2 to CMD vs. grapples and +2 to Escape Artist checks made to escape grapples. Now here's the deal, though: Yaksha are defined by their hunger, which can only be sated by consuming humanoid flesh - said flesh may come from a living or dead humanoid, but may not come from the undead (which interestingly puts them at odds with necromancers). Yaksha must consume their weight in humanoid flesh in a given month - failure to do so results in 1 negative level, more if the yaksha is starved further. See, this is interesting - by tying hunger to a long time frame, it becomes less of an active hindrance for adventuring and still retains its theme. Before you're asking - yes, I'd allow this race as presented, though the shapechanging is pretty powerful. The race sports age, height and weight tables and 7 alternate racial traits with which you can modify the base race. These include natural armor, saving bonus versus divine spells; a 2 RP or less wildcard ability representing the host race, better impersonating, +atk versus outsiders, better CL or better positive/negative energy - all of these are valid and feel balanced versus the abilities they replace - kudos!


The race also has favored class options for bard, brawler, luckbringer, monk, slayer, sorceror, time thief, rakshasa paragon...and vizier! Yup, we actually get support for the great Akashic class here! There also are racial archetypes in this book, the first of which would be the Cheeno (slayer) - these guys only get simple weapon and light armor proficiency. Instead of studied target, the archetype provides a predation pool equal to class level +3. These points can be used to activate predations, supernatural abilities, as a swift action, expending 1 predation point. And these are...brutal. Blissful Ignore of the Prey makes all humanoids within 30 ft ignore the cheeno for 1 round, being treated as unaware...ooh, and the memory of events involving the cheeno are eliminated as if subject to modify memory...and yes, this is properly classified as a mind-affecting compulsion effect. As long as the cheeno has at least 1 predation point, the character is protected from cold by endure elements. Cheeno can also use these points to gain scent, which increases in effectiveness versus the starving, cannibals as well as humans upon which the cheeno has fed and a 15-ft-range to pinpoint humanoids. At 1st level, the cheeno gets a 1d6 primary natural bite and gets a morale bonus after consuming sufficient humanoid flesh as well as counting as a rakshasa - this is known as hungerborn.


4th level provides a 10-ft. aura of 1d6 cold, Fort save to mitigate fatigue, which can be activated as a swift action, but only when in the original form. It can similarly be dismissed and otherwise lasts for 1 minute. At 7th level, the archetype gets the cannibalism rarefied taste (see my breakdown of the paragon class later) and an original form with features of a starved stag. At 10th level, the chenno can shapechang into a large form, complete with a gore primary attack and thabkfully sans shapechange-stack abuse. Additionally, at higher levels, the archetype may choose predations at full level and sports two unique ones - Snow striding (which also mitigates sleet or hail) and feast of ashes as an SP - note that, as a predation, this is subject to predation point consumption and has a solid DC. Quarry is limited to creatures fed upon, cannibals or the starving and 16th level allows the chenno to add class level in cold damage to a single melee or ranged attack, with the target also being denied Dex-mod versus these strikes, while 20th level provides full shapechanger apotheosis with cold immunity, SR and powerful natural weapons.


The second archetype would be the Hokhoku for the luckbringer class, who gets a pool of predatory chance that can be used interchangeably as predation points or moments of chance. Predation-wise, the aforementioned blissful ignorance trick is part of the deal...as is perfect maneuverability fly at 60 ft. (40 if wearing medium/heavy armor), but only for one round, upgrading to 1 round/level at 8th level. While this is restrictive, it still violates the prohibition versus unassisted flight at the lowest levels and can break quite a few modules - not a fan and, depending on your campaign, OP. This replaces weal or woe and narrow escape. At 1st level, hungerborn is gained. Instead of 3rd level's nothing is written, the hokhoku gains a rarefied taste (more on that in the paragon class) based on misfortune, which features an original form with avian features - they can feed on humanoids that fail at something of great importance (or that roll natural 1s on their saves) and may use fatespin to force rerolls of saves, using the lower of the two. Instead of 4th level's improbably, the archetype gets an ability that I have used in my home game for YEARS for some creepy magic - consuming the eyes of the dead plays the last minute of the dead person's life before the hokhoku's eyes. Creepy and awesome! 8th level allows for the consumption of the brain of the deceased for a speak with dead-like ability and 10th level allows for predations to be gained instead of improbables, basically streamlining them and using them interchangeably, with two exclusives being included: Both are activated as immediate actions - one combines a visually neat vanish with a debuff for the attacker, while the second increases the crit multiplier of the bite to x4 - based on action expenditure, of course. The archetype sports a similar apotheosis that instead of cold focuses on better crits.


The taotie monk gets an expanded skill-list and begins play with hungerborn and the archetype begins with a pool or predation, as with the other archetypes - predation-wise, they can use the pool to bite off chunks off her opponents, adding Con-damage and counting as having consumed 10 lbs. The second predation allows the taotie to ignore class level hardness when sundering objects with the bite - magic items consumed can potentially be reconstructed upon killing the monk...but that is not easy. Taotie are also excellent liars, gaining a predation that provides a significant bonus and may be even proof versus magic. As long as the taotie is not starving, she gains Cha-mod to AC instead of the monk's usual progression and 2nd level provides predatory resilience at fool level (see rakshasa paragon) instead of evasion/improved evasion. 3rd level provides rarefied taste: gluttony, which allows the taotie to feed on gluttonous humanoids and upgrades bite damage to monk unarmed damage. 5th level provides a 30 ft.-cone belch that sickens foes and may even stagger those that fail the save - nasty predation! 9th level provides addictive feeding and 11th level and every 3 levels thereafter provide a new predation, with a scent to smell out valuables or assume the form of statues, urns, etc. This one is full of potential! finally, 20th level provides an apotheosis, this time with an added focus of better DR and unarmed strikes.


All right, so the archetypes heavily intersect with the paragon-class - is it good? Well, framework-wise, it provides proficiency with simple weapons, no armors or shields, d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, 1/2 AC-bonus progression. 1st level provides the hungerborn class feature and similarly, the class begins play with a pool of predation. The class gains the blissful ignorance trick, the option to smell out mortals affected by emotion or fear-effects or that have been fed upon and they also get the silver tongue-ability. Every two levels above 1st, the paragon gets an additional predation - some of these require more predation points and/or have minimum levels - high-level paragons can, for example call adhukait, make illusions supplemented by shadow, compress her form (great for infiltrators) or become a predatory protector of the humanoids that nourish her - dismissal bite versus outsiders.


Size-increase to large, aforementioned gluttonous bite, marking humanoids on who's she fed as property (potentially useful not only offensively), sight that can pierce darkness and deathwatch...cool. But the most fun would probably be "playing with one's food" - i.e. magic jar-ing corpses or undead while in spirit form. Oh yeah, spirit form. HP-based precision damage that will end most foes via killing blows, assuming forms of specific individuals, beast shapes and suggestions, forming scaling figments, mesmerizing prey - there are a LOT of thoroughly unique, awesome tricks here - tricks that make the class highly viable beyond the martial role expected by the chassis - indeed, these often allow for awesome new tricks.


Now I did mention rarefied taste - chosen at first level, this determines the animal head and features and may draw nourishment from the respective rarefied taste - anger, cannibalism, curiosity, creativity, fear, heresy, lust, etc. - and yes, these allow the rakshasa to work in the context of good groups, depending on the taste chosen. However, this is not the limit of customization options - 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the paragon may choose a hungerborn gift - these include making being fed upon addictive, an affinity for asura, claws, at-will nondetection or a second head and high-level paragons may even get extra limbs, complete with hand and ring slot-rules-clarification - kudos. Better DR and SR are also provided...wait? Yeah, second level nets scaling DR and 10th level provides an outsider apotheosis and SR of 4+class level...as well as at-will command of lesser yaksha with HD of 10 or less. Finally, 20th level provides better SR, DR and unlimited yaksha command.


The pdf closes with 2 feats - one for +1 rarefied taste and one that allows characters sans the paragon class levels gain hungerborn and rarefied taste.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch - I noticed no significant glitches in either formal or rules criteria. Kudos! Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with plenty nice full-color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.


One caveat before we start: Yes, this is a powerful race/class; one definitely intended for high-powered gameplay - but you could have guessed that, right? It's a monster class/race and they don't necessarily mix well with gritty low fantasy. (Though, provided other PCs have similarly cool tricks, I can see this race working well in a gritty, but high-powered game.)


Wendall Roy shows how it's done. It's as simple as that. Wait...it totally isn't. Apart from the one unassisted flight ability of an archetype, which may be problematic for some campaigns, I'm pretty much left sans complaints. This is PRECISE. Exceedingly so. Natural attacks specify their type and damage dice properly; mind affecting effects are properly codified; otherwise boring spells-in-a-can-abilities get modifications that make them unique; there are ROLEplaying abilities that are super-useful and completely unique. Sure, you can go natural attack shredder...but you'll miss out some awesome tricks that make the class unique. The Full BAB-high-skill-combo is an uncommon chassis, but works. Best of all, though - beyond being a highly customizable array of options that puts player agenda high on the table, the concepts are awesome. Visually stunning. Oh, and as a further plus, guess what? This book's prose is also excellent.


So basically, we get a powerful, but balanced array of options with a cool base-race, awesome class options with great ideas and a superb paragon class that is also a joy to read. This is how such books ought to be crafted. I tried so hard to pick this apart, but can't find anything that sucks. Finally, one should not fail to mention the elegant sustenance mechanic utilized here - relevant and nasty, but it doesn't cripple the character. Overall, my favorite part about this book remains the fact that the pdf doesn't chicken out - it sports rakshasa as what they are, adds dimension to them and still allows PCs with less problematic alignments to use this book. Triumphant. My final verdict clocks in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This is how a race book's done.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Rakshasa (PFRPG)
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Occult Character Codex: Psychics
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/29/2016 04:41:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Occult Character Codex-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page how-to-use, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I like Occult Adventures - a lot. It's one of my favorite Paizo-books out there and the classes rekindled my faith in Paizo's class design, even though e.g. the kineticist's presentation in needlessly obtuse in comparison to the playtest...but that's just me being a nitpicking bastard, I guess. Suffice to say, the rather complex classes are cool - but making characters with them takes obviously a bit longer than for less involved classes...something that, as a GM, may prove problematic. This is where this series comes in - basically, we have a collection of characters herein, spanning the CRs from 1 - 20, all ready and set for your perusal.


So how were they made? Well, for one, the builds use Pathfinder Unchained's automatic bonus progression, which means that the characters have a better chance to stand against the PCs sans flooding the campaign with magic items - a decision I very much welcome. The builds are not made to be sheer exercises in powergaming superiority that exist in a vacuum, instead championing the approach of making viable characters, complete with a brief personality sketch, though that component is less pronounced than in Purple Duck Games' codices. Options and buffs are included in the statblocks, though handy pre-buff sections provide the information sans them, should your PCs be able to catch the character unaware.


Beyond that, advice on using the characters in combat and class-specific peculiarities are covered as well - and yes, bonus discipline spells are denoted separately, while psychics with the abomination discipline have dark half's rather complex ramifications included in the statblock for your convenience. Mimic metamagic, where present, does not sport a preselected metamagic feat to account for the individual campaign.


All right, so that would be the basics - how do the respective characters fare? Well, for one, the first thing you'll note is that the races run a gamut from the common core to the more exotic - sylphs, wayang, samsaran - there are some "oddball" races here among the builds, though not as much as in Purple Duck Games' comparable codices. Archetype-wise, we cover mutation mind and psychic duelist - so no formless adepts and amnesiacs herein. On the plus-side, the psychics do offer variety regarding age category and two of them sport 1 ranger level multiclassed in, though both of these take different approaches here.


For the psychic, spell and feat-selection as well as discipline-choice and phrenic amplifications constitute major decisions that provide diversity and indeed, the pdf does a GREAT job here. Granted, there are some cases of straight-progressions to be found, you'll still find a rather nice diversity of foci regarding the respective characters. While the flavor-text is pretty minimalistic, the tactics-section for the characters is rather extensive, which makes using them on the fly rather simple.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports several beautiful pieces of full-color artwork, some old, some new. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay. I know some of you skip past that first section of my conclusion, where I talk about formal criteria. I'd like to draw your emphasis to the "top-notch" and the "no glitches." As you know, I tend to not pick apart every creature statblock, but I do pick apart a couple of them in a given file - and more often than not, I notice a small hiccup here and there...sometimes a big one. I care primarily about whether a statblock can be used by the GM sans violating x tenets or botching some crucial things. When I started picking apart these...I found nothing. No glitch. I picked apart the next one...same game. This may sound like it's an easy thing...it's not.


Julian Neale's psychics herein may be on the short side regarding their fluff when compared to Purple Duck Games' more evocative codices, but the wildly diverse builds herein are exceedingly refined and polished - and for that I really enjoyed this pdf. While I wished it had covered the missing two archetypes as well, this is at best a minor hiccup considering the diversity otherwise exhibited. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Character Codex: Psychics
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Animal Races: Dawn of the Carnosaur
Publisher: Eric Morton Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/29/2016 04:39:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Animal Races-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Once, a great and terrible empire existed, one ruled by the saurians - but it fell and so did the carnosaurians, who resemble humanoid carnivorous reptiles (surprise!) - in an interesting take on the T-Rex stereotype, only inbred royals were supposedly afflicted with small arms...and yes, this shows awareness of recent discoveries, including mentioning of plumes. Society and relationships with other races are covered alongside detailed age, height and weight tables.


Carnosaurians may be medium (+2 Str, -2 Int) or small (+2 Dex, -2 Str), have the reptilian subtype, normal speed (20 feet for small ones), low-light vision, scent 5 ft. (increases to 30 ft. at 6th level), a primary bite attack at 1d4 (1d3 for small saurians); they begin play with +1 natural armor that increases to +2 at 10th level and three racial heritage clans to choose from. The Allosaurus clan provides +2 Cha and may select Allosaurid Heritage as a fighter bonus feat; the Maniraptor clan +2 Int (and may use Int instead of Wis for monk class features) and may select Coelurid Heritage as a monk bonus feat. The Megaraptor clan gets +2 Cha and can select Coelurid Heritage instead of a rage power.


So, what do these Heritage feats do: Allosaurid Heritage provides one of the following racial tricks: Claws, fast movement (+10 ft.), faster movement (+10 ft.), improved bite. Once you've covered all of these via taking the feat multiple times (you may do so once per two levels you have), you may choose gripping bite, pounce, primeval mind or rake. Coelruid Heritage works similar and offers fast movement, faster movement, improved bite, leap and talons as choices. After covering these, the feat offers improved talons, leaping charge, pounce and primeval mind. In case you're wondering: Primeval mind provides +2 to Will-saves and makes you immune to charm effects - the other options should be familiar.


Now, as has become the tradition with this series, we get neat information on genealogy and folklore, tying the race to specific creatures and enhancing thus organic immersion, while also providing information on their deity, the failed and deceased god Anzu. The default assumption is certainly that the empire has failed and fallen, potentially eradicating this clan - but nothing is forever, right? I mentioned those degenerate tyrants - well, there is a CR 3 statblock provided...and a CR 13 lizard tyrant lich included in the deal, though we don't get the unique two-sided traits based on heraldry this time around.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the series' elegant, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting full-color and b/w-art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for you convenience.


Eric Morton's carnosaurians are an intriguing, well-crafted offering - this is a balanced, cool take on the saurian race and blends his predilection for "realistic" takes on the animal aspects well with the fantastical, providing an overall well-crafted, intriguing supplement - at the low price-point, definitely worth a final rating of 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Animal Races: Dawn of the Carnosaur
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Snow White
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:14:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 243 pages, not counting front cover, back cover, editorial, etc; if you take away the KS-thank-you page and the SRD, this huge book still remains 240-pages strong. My review is based primarily on the hardcover of this book.


I backed Snow-White on kickstarter, but have contributed to this massive book.


All right, first: A brief history of this project. Back in 2013, AAW Games released a two-part adventure-saga as part of their A-series of modules, set in the campaign setting of Aventyr. The adaptation of Snow-White as a module was heavily inspired by traditional, non Disney-fied versions of the folktales; basically, the ones I grew up with, and did a LOT of things right - with several highlights and takes on the tropes, a lot of imaginative potential and unique environments, the series made my Top Ten list of that year. When the kickstarter was launched to expand upon this already excellent basis, I knew I'd have to get it. Now, a massive hardcover in full color graces my book shelf - but has getting the revised version been justified?


The short answer to this question is frankly "OH YES!!". The more complex answer is a bit longer. Before diving into the meat of this mega-adventure, let me clearly state that this is not just a module - this book basically doubles as a city/wilderness sourcebook and has greatly expanded upon the concepts of the original iteration of the adventures. All right, but before we do: A piece of advice for both players and GMs - try to not SPOIL yourselves - this mega-adventure works best when you do not immediately know what you're actually playing, so put up those GM-screens, fellows.


In order to avoid SPOILERS, potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs around? So the Klavekian kingdom and its more loyal vassals often have rather strained relationships - there is racism versus non-humans, the ever-present tax man looming and then monsters and hazards both mundane and magical exist in the world of Aventyr...plenty of work for adventurers. Unless you're at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, the war is far away and the resident adventurers are out there smiting the villains, who wisely hide in their hell-holes to bide their time until more turbulent times arrive. Indeed, in the lull and pastoral idyll seem to be but the precursor for a new golden age for the town of Morsain: The daughter of the town's lord Herttua Valta is about to be wed - to royalty, no less: Gorgeous, intelligent Lumi Valkea Valtatytar is about to be joined in wedlock to none other than the Klavekian Prince Ruhtin - and, seeing how the job-situation is pretty bad, the PCs have accepted guard duty - not knowing they'll be guarding nothing short of a royal wedding!


Suffice to say, the module thus begins in an unconventional manner - guarding the festivities, after all, is not an undertaking you embark on while armed to the teeth with weapons of magical mass destruction and in grimy, blood-caked armor - the PCs will be pretty much naked regarding the magical arsenal, which provides a unique change of pace from the get-go. So, Castle Morsain - in the original, this place was little more than a backdrop for the mechanically relevant components. Here, nothing could be further from the truth: The castle sports a huge full-page illustration (one of many, just fyi) and detail-wise even explains the flag-based warning-system employed. Moreover, the massive castle actually sports drop-dead-gorgeous isometric full-color maps made by map wizard and heir apparent to Jonathan Roberts, the one and only Tommi Salama. Yes, I may be a bit ecstatic regarding them...but they're just so beautiful!


Ähem, beyond the gorgeous presentation, the beginning of the module has been streamlined - in order to prove their mettle, PCs will still have to deal with the security of the castle's respective rooms, which conspicuously contain a significant gauntlet of traps - now here's the interesting component: The respective traps escalate in power - in a surprisingly linear way, but they did so in the original...the trick this time around is that the skill DCs provided generally sport degrees of success. Of course, the increasingly devious traps and poisons employed only are a means to determine the capabilities of the PCs and, if in doubt, there is a means to save lethally poisoned PCs in the guise of the famous and beloved queen attendant Haijyin. Of course, this should already incite paranoia and distrust - are the grinning ragamuffins (think of them as a cross of racial-equality/anarchist/anonymous-like guild) behind the traps? To make that clear - No. The traps are there to provide a means to judge the competence of the respective adventurers - for, eventually, after investigating the local crème-de-la-crème, sooner or later, Lumi is very likely to drop down during the pre-wedding banquet - and a member of the elusive group is running - fast.


Whether or not the PCs manage to grab the fugitive, Lumi will be unconscious, courtesy of a brilliant, nigh impossible to detect 5-component-based super poison. Under the stern auspice of a less than amused prince Ruhtin, the PCs will be assigned guard duty....and, obviously, the night will not be kind: Awoken by a hustle, the PCs will have to storm Lumi's room, only to witness swarms upon swarms of bats and even dire bats trying to abduct Lumi! Worse, each area of effect attack in the noble chambers will be VERY expensive...so yeah, fireballing the swarms is NOT a smart move... This particular encounter was a bottleneck in the original module - well, this time around, we have scaling bats depending on the capability of your PCs and the proceeding chase across the roofs is wonderfully detailed and smart. And yes, the module goes on whether the PCs manage to retrieve her or not - Lumi will be kidnapped...potentially by a doppelgänger of a PC, whisking her away right from under Ruhtin's eyes, implicating the PCs to be in cahoots with the ragamuffins...but I'm getting ahead of myself.


On the next day, the PCs will certainly have their work cut out for them - after convincing Ruhtin of their noble intentions, the hunt is on - how exactly, well, that does very much depend on the sensibility of your group - thanks to a scroll of locate object, the PCs may actually find a culprit - who promptly dies when captured, of course...but there is a more..let's say, wicked: The Huntsman, with Lumi in tow, leads 4 horses into the woods - and the PCs will have a highly complex and entertaining chase on their hands (it is here that you can use the chase-deck, should you own it) - the chase offers alternate obstacles and is pretty brutal, as the PCs make their way through the never-ending sea of trees. However, the huntsman actually is VERY smart - 4 horses, an orb of misleading and invisible correct horse - unless the PCs are up to their very a-game, they'll be on a wild goose chase. But, alas - while Lumi may be lost in the woods, the Huntsman doesn't manage to finish her off - instead, he is destined to meet his end at the poisonous mandibles of strange albino-centipedes...and the PCs will stand in front of royalty without anything to show for. However, the albino-centipedes and complex investigations (with a streamlined mini-game) may provide a means that points towards the catacombs beneath caste Morsain, sealed beyond a logical lock with a connect-the-dots-puzzle.


However, before (or while the PCs are crawling through these catacombs, you may wish to have them explore the massive, fully detailed town of Morsain - the colossal place is a true fairy tale town - perhaps THE evocative fairy tale town. What do I mean by this? Well, know how I said that this was a sourcebook as well? Guess what: Morsain has enough material to run a whole campaign in it - and I certainly hope we'll see many more adventures here, for the potential is MASSIVE. If you consider yourself a scholar or someone versed in mythologies and fairy-tales, this will be an exercise in proving your mettle: No less than 144 locations (!!!) are provided, plus 6 delightful adventurers - these are fluff only, but hilarious: Sandoval Poe with his tame ravens Eddga and Alleynne is fun, but obvious; a kid grippli ranger is fun - but see, the 144 locations and shops cover...just about all of Grimm's Fairytales - including the more obscure ones. The truly astounding achievement about them, though, is how they all add a unique spin on the material, codifying it in the context of the roleplaying system: The Bremer Stadtmusikanten become polymorphed bards in the guise of animals; Hansel and Gretel are selfish witch-killers, spirit-bottled secrets sold by a night hag in disguise, shops that always see you make a loss, Bluebeard as a barber - all of this just breathes imaginative potential and literally can occupy you for years, should you choose to develop the material. The chapter also features rules for varying proficiencies in a given language (simple and long overdue!) and, as a whole, renders this massive chapter exceedingly compelling. Obviously, the city is fully mapped.


Speaking of maps - the aforementioned catacombs, which, in the original, were nothing more than a short filler, now are a proper dungeon, 4 levels strong, with the elements as a theme - before you groan at an elemental dungeon: One, it comes with superb isometric maps. Two, and more important, this is a dungeon for the thinking man - sure, you can waltz through this one - but the whimsical fairy-tale style riddles and puzzles contained in this dungeon actually make it a delight to run - with a lock of hair as rewards for braving the dangerous dungeon, the PCs return to an enraged prince and lord, if they manage to survive the snipers, that is. Only to have Hajyin teleport them after the hair, smack into the middle of the haunted forest - which has its name for a reason...and it's COLD. VERY COLD.


Remember when I said that this was also a wilderness sourcebook? Well, the haunted forest comes with a massive alchemist's journal of magical plants - from bladebark leaf to ghost flute shrooms, the massive chapter sports a huge array of lavishly illustrated plants that have intriguing alchemical uses, come with harvesting and use-information...and yes, this section also covers unique non-combative fauna - fey elk, frost crickets, frogs of ice, beetles with leprechaun-like faces...and have I mentioned the miniscule minitaurs or the laughing squirrels...there also are paralytic fleas...angel moths...and quite frankly, with these unique plants and creatures and the detailed random encounter pages, you can run encounters for weeks before even touching the main plot of this free-form section of the adventure. The haunted forest does have several places that can prove to be rather lethal, depicted in more detail, though. The first of these and one of my favorite hazard-encounters ever, would be the bottomless pit - a predatory, intelligent pit. No, I am not kidding. And yes, careless groups can actually be TPK'd by this beast.


More on the whimsical side, which is never far from the dark in this eerie forest, would be an opportunity to play kasta, a unique mini-game with some fey in their fully mapped glade...and also find out about a fey currently entombed in a coffin of crystal - this being is tied to another sub-storyline of the forest, namely the forest's maze. The maze now sports a much more complex design, has an absolutely gorgeous map, more versatile encounters - and, it has a twist: Like every good maze, it obviously has a minotaur - who waits, weapons drawn, at the center, guarding a girl forever asleep - though the strange fruit that caused this sleep can also be found in the forest, obviously their effect can only be broken by true love's kiss - something you either roleplay or check via tables provided. This girl is btw. tied to the fey - they both fell afoul of the dread fruit - and yes, the minotaur, fearsome though he may look, is the girl's guardian and family, so murder-hobos will potentially be in for a shock.


Anyways, sooner or later, the trail will lead the PCs, e.g. via the girl they just saved, to a hidden cabin close to some gushing waterfalls - and yes, the cabin is fully detailed with isometric maps as well...and by now home of the 7 dwarves (AAW Games' crew being represented in their awesome artwork - including my dear departed friend Joshua...he would have loved this...) who are currently kinda-but-not-really are holding Lumi hostage/thinking on what to do with her - after all, the position of non-humans in Klavekian society is anything but nice: Capable and actually nice, their traps and fighting capabilities are pronounced, so a friendlier approach may be in order - whether by fight or party, the misunderstanding is hopefully cleared - but meanwhile Lumi has fallen to the wiles of her adversary, put into stasis by the queen attendant's cursed items, guarded by dangerous flora - and yes, you can actually run this first and then have the PCs search the forest for potential cures, leading to the girl etc. - the whole haunted forest, ultimately, is thoroughly modular - and so is the solution to this module.


You know, there is more than one way to awaken Lumi - alive or unconscious, in love or not, allied with the dwarves or not - and this ultimately determines the social climax of this module, the homecoming - no less than 8 (!!!) final scenarios are detailed for the GM. Now here's the catch, though - the PCs may, even after all this, potentially not realize what they played...or they lack evidence of the exceedingly cunning queen attendant - who has a superb means of escape in her repertoire. So yes, she will probably get away...but there may be a wedding after all. Sure, the honorable and reasonable scenario sees a wedding with Ruhtin, right? Well, I always had a thing for pale, black-haired women with red lips and blue, grey or green eyes...so personally, were I playing this module as a PC...I'd try to go for true love, become an outlaw and try to fulfill my childhood fantasy of living happily ever after with Lumi...which would put the mightiest nation of Aventyr hot on my trail...but I guess that would be a tale for another module...


Now obviously, this module is not limited to the adventure - there is an array of unique magical items to be found in here and none other than Wolfgang Baur has crafted an array of unique spells -which includes spinning straw to gold or animated, dancing hatchets? Have I mentioned the wall of animated gloves that may chaotically poke or slap you around? There is also a poison- and trap-index, full stats for 3.5 and PFRPG and Ed Greenwood provides a tragic twist on the classic tale in his "The Things We Do To Chase Beauty" short story, which expresses sympathy for the devil. If you're not familiar with the unredacted tale...the classic Grimm-tale is included herein...oh, and one thing made me grin from ear to ear: You know, all those gorgeous, massive maps? They come in an appendix...and with extra, player-friendly, key-less versions. And yes, beyond the isometric ones, we ALSO get top-down versions - now THIS is how map-support for such a premium module ought to be done - absolutely gorgeous!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - for a book of this size in particular, the editors did a great job. A special shout-out to the layout artists Justin Andrew Mason and Jensen Toperzer - the 2-column layout is STUNNING - with apple blossoms and apples as borders for read-aloud texts and gorgeous initials, this very much aesthetically feels like a beautiful, old fairy tale tome. Similarly, the artists Mates Laurentiu, Jacob Blackmon, Justin Andrew Mason, Jen Page, Bruno Baxila, Eric Quigley, Jack Holiday and Jeff Ward have achieved something remarkable - in spite of the different artists, this book's huge array of artworks, many of which span whole pages, are not only original - they have a distinct, unified visual identity and style, basically think about classic roleplaying artwork in full color quoting fairy tale imagery. THEN add the absolutely superb maps by Tommi Salama, player-friendly versions included. Oh yeah, the electronic version is fully bookmarked - but if you have the option, get the hardcover. It's gorgeous.


SERIOUSLY, if you usually skip my conclusion's first paragraph, please read it this time around - these folks deserve recognition for the fantastic work delivered. This is one of the most beautiful, huge adventures I've ever read and seriously is so concise in its aesthetic direction it is a pure joy to just flip through the pages.


Stephen Yeardley, Jonathan G. Nelson and Will Myers, with contributors Jacob Blackmon, Justin Andrew Mason and Joshua Gullion (R.I.P.) have taken an already legendary two-part-saga and crafted something thoroughly outstanding from it. Where the original modules had some bottlenecks and minor filler places/weaknesses, this new iteration of the material is absolutely legendary in every way: What was before a bland filler mini-dungeon is now a thoroughly unique dungeon; what was before a bit opaque or linear is now thoroughly modular: If your PCs out-or underperform in the module, the narrative is there to catch you - basically, this module is now as nonlinear as it can be and can be considered a thoroughly unique take on a tale as old as time. The adversaries are smart and the book goes one step beyond - the city of Morsain and the haunted forest would be great stand-alone source-books - even as "only" a scavenging ground of backdrop for your own stories, this is a massive success and worth every cent of the asking price a hundredfold -personally, I'm particularly impressed by the immense feat of making a linear tale we all know thoroughly modular and FRESH.


So no, there can be no question, not even an ounce of a doubt regarding the final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval + BUY THIS!!!-recommendation. As a reviewer, I face only one conundrum - the original modules already made my Top Ten-list of a year (which should tell you something about how good this is now!) and I have a policy of not nominating books twice for my Top Ten lists - otherwise, e.g. Strange Magic's constituents or Ultimate Charisma would grace my lists in the respective follow-up years. As crunch-books, I could at least designate them as EZG-essentials, though.


However, there is a huge amount of new material in this book...so what to do? Well, Frog God Games' Cyclopean Deeps was a two-part-saga and Part II has been retroactively added to my Top Ten of 2014. Here, however, that wouldn't feel right, for this would score higher than the initial books. I thought long and hard...and know what? This deserves a Top Ten of 2015 spot...so I'm cheating my own system, hopefully retaining my fairness regarding the other nominees: This gets an unranked bonus-spot on my Top Ten of 2015 -this would be on the list, high on it, were it not for the previous wins. Consider this as basically a thoroughly impressive, wonderful book that could work just as well with younger audiences. I know who I'm running this for soon... Ähem...oh yeah, once again: Get this!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White
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Urban Dressing: Bridge Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:10:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Urban Dressing series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, so what one may easily forget these days would be that once, not all too long in the industrious past of us homo sapiens, rivers presented significant obstacles - I think it may take a hiking trip and stumbling over even a small river to drive home the importance of bridges for commerce and traveling - much more so when water may hide fantastic threats! Thus, it should come as no surprise, that at least partially the first 100-entry strong table of sights and sounds herein is devoted to the aspects of commerce and traveling...and, surprisingly, with an entry that should resonate with everyone: A sign " You must be this tall to cross." What's obvious racism versus the small folks resonates because it quotes the "Must be this tall to ride"-signs we loathed in our childhoods. VERY smart! Similarly alive bridges that ask you to get off their back (or is it a camouflaged creature?) add a sense of the weird to the plentiful entries sporting more grounded, mundane things to behold.


The second table deals with businesses that can be found in bridge towns and from city engineers to rickshaws, tax offices and similar places, we have a nice array of diverse places that emphasize the theme and add dimensions to it - as soon as a bridge can only be covered by rickshaws, for example, you may wonder why...and perhaps your mind goes down the same paths as mine and thinks about aerial security like wyverns or manticores eating horses...


Now if that doesn't do the job, then you'll be very glad to see the deviation from the formula exhibited herein - for instead of fluffy NPC-write-ups, this installment features no less than 50 unique sample bridges: Whether one constructed from a huge skeleton, gargoyle-nests or bridges with central gongs - the entries are thoroughly inspired, remarkable indeed, and deserve being called great - personally, I hope for future installments to feature similarly evocative lists.


Finally, the book closes with 20 complications - which include the customary troll demanding payment to an odd phenomenon, where the PCs cross a bridge...and end off getting off a completely different one! This phenomenon alone is an adventure or even campaign in itself. And what if the mayor asks the PCs to round up homeless people? Do they accept for safe passage? Only you and your players will know once you visit these bridge towns.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' crisp two-column b/w-standard with nice, thematically-fitting b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, one intended for screen-use and one intended for the printer.


Josh Vogt has turned the mixed bag of a series that urban Dressing once was and turned it into a reliable source of pure dressing-excellence, never really hesitating to try to one up himself. The deviation from the established formula of tables exhibited in this one further refines the series in my book, rendering this installment quite frankly pure, inspiring excellence - with his curious trademark blending of quasi-historical realism and the fantastic and yes, in instances, the weird, Josh Vogt delivers a furiously excellent Urban Dressing that stands out even among the numerous great installments he has crafted - my final verdict will hence clock in at five stars + seal of approval, granted without even the smallest semblance of a doubt.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Bridge Town
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #2: The Spirit Bottle
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:05:08

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 to d20pfsrd.com's shop 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. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


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!


This is not your usual mini-dungeon: See, the spirit bottle is pretty much the worst tavern you can find yourself in: Owned by a night-hag, the PCs will have to visit this place...and when the current patrons, a derro, doppelganger and barghest (I know there's a good joke in this constellation...) aren't ample clue - yes, this is a dangerous assignment. So basically, the PCs can do this the Diplomatic or...more combative way - and they both have their challenges. Oh, and the pdf sports a table of 8 weird spirit-bottles with different magic effects, entries for how they look...and immediate reactions upon opening them...some of which can get ugly very fast...


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.


Stephen Yeardley is a wizard of mini-dungeons. Whenever I think he's done all you can do with the limited space, the limited word-count, he pulls off these amazing stunts. This is a glorious set-piece and could easily become either a one-shot or a permanent campaign-fixture to the evil underbelly of fantastic society. Absolutely awesome in every regard...and better yet, FREE. This would be 5 stars + seal of approval even sans being FREE. It's free, though, so don't hesitate, get this beauty NOW!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #2: The Spirit Bottle
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #1: Fitcher's
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:01:09

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 to d20pfsrd.com's shop 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. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


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!


Lintu Fitcher is an uncommon person in the town of Morsain - he is not only an avant-garde necromancer and taxidermist extraordinaire...he's also a deranged serial killer that has his undead procure "raw materials" - 3 weekly incidents are provided, allowing for a slow-build-up to the secret tableau's finishing touches, his twisted work almost complete.


The PCs will have to do some careful legwork to avoid a nasty trap, compromising the man while authority is in range to cover him (he's got friends in high places)...but sooner or later, the PCs will be able to enter his basement - where not only the twisted madman and his undead await in a truly twisted area, we also get a full buff/defense-suite with a round-by-round break-down of actions. Now this is how it's done!


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.


Stephen Yeardley amazes me time and again - what he can wrestle out of those little mini-dungeons is absolutely amazing and impressive: Dark, twisted, with a whimsical edge, this is a SUPERB mini-dungeon...oh, and it's currently FREE. This would be 5 stars + seal of approval even if it were a for pay title...but as provided, it is just an amazing little piece you should get ASAP. Now. Download it now!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #1: Fitcher's
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Directive Infinity X
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2016 11:09:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 2 pages of editorial, leaving us with 53 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I received this module prior to public release and playtested it. It was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.


The premise is pretty much fantasy modern day: In a world that is pretty much like our own, monsters and the like are common and pose a significant risk to the populace. The government has two choices for the truly dangerous creatures out there: Submit to a painless death or be confined and become property of the state for scientific scrutiny in one of the Infinity Directive's hidden prisons. The PCs are agents of 7th level and the module assumes a medium XP-track and get Exotic Weapon proficiency (Firearms) as well as Technologist.


...and this is as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


So, the module begins with a detailed introductory briefing - the agents are told that a certain secret prison facility, Facility X, has been compromised: While the dimensional barriers are intact, the neurotoxin to pacify the powerful inmates has not been released, evacuation protocols are in place. The facility is on lock-down and no one knows what's going on in facility 10 - so yeah - there you have it. On the plus-side, there is only one way to enter or exit the facility, so no huge amount of powerful inmates will scour the land...for now. The agents receive dossiers for the most powerful of inmates - and they are awesome: Handouts, fully realized each and every one of them, they bring the agents up to what to expect...and it sure ain't pretty. Urdefhan death cult leader. Intelligent frost drake. Quickling con-artist. Vampire. A soul-bound mannequin called Experiment 42...hag sisters...a psychotic efreet...yeah, this will be fun.


Shaped cylex explosives may prove to be important - and thus, the agents are off to deal with the situation. Below a storage tank, the PCs can enter the sewers - and they'll have a brutal welcome committee: For one, they will encounter cranial crabs. Think of them as headcrabs with laser torches that detonate, but instead of killing you, they try to render you helpless and implant cranial bombs in your skull. Fun. Even cooler: Swarm-version included. Once this module is over, PCs will HATE them. Oh, have I mentioned the cyborgs? I should mention the cyborgs. For example the cyborg scrags with chainsaws for hands. And yes, the artwork makes them even more awesome than I can convey here. I mean, come on: Scrags with chainsaws for hands. YES.


More importantly, the actions of the PCs pretty much matter from the get-go, for the peculiar location of the complex makes flooding a VERY real option/potential problem: The maps of the complex(based on the modular dungeon-maps by Gaming Paper) come with an easy codification that lets you track flooding of the prison.


Because we know that cranial crabs and cyborg brineborn marsh giants and the rogue's gallery down there isn't yet enough of a challenge, adding flooding to the mix makes things even more interesting...oh, and yes, the overseer robots are compromised and dangerous...and the traps spread throughout the complex are nothing to sneeze at either. Oh, and guess what? The true mastermind behind the incident has a timeline - the longer the PCs take, the more creatures/villains from the rogue's gallery will come under the gray eminence's control. Have I btw. mentioned the barghest serial killer or the werewolf? The prisoners shot chock-full with drugs?


Agents progressing far enough will also be harassed by doom-pronouncing whispers and it soon becomes apparent that simulacra pose a significant risk. Speaking of risks: Laser tripwires. Gravity mines. EMP...and there is a fission reactor the PCs better stabilize...oh, and that pesky permanent gate must fall...it may non-functional for now...but for how long? Oh, and yes, the final confrontation (no, not spoiling against who or what) is downright delightful and brutal!


(And here's to hoping that none of the high-profile prisoners got away...otherwise, the agents will have their next assignment cut out for themselves...)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches, the overall presentation is solid and well done. Layout adheres to Gaming Paper's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports 11 glorious dossiers for the villains as hand-outs. The artwork provided is surprisingly copious, in gorgeous full-color...and here's the kick: See that front cover? The internal artwork is the same, high level of quality - and visualizes perfectly quite a lot of the adversaries herein. Showing the players the artwork really works well here - kudos! Cartography is based, as mentioned before, on Gaming Paper's modular rooms, which per default are player-friendly. The pdf sports no extra player-friendly maps beyond that, but I won't hold that against it. EDIT: Now, this module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, eliminating basically my one complaint!


Stephen Rowe knows how to craft absolutely awesome adventures - this one basically reminded me of a glorious, classic Marvel storyline, wherein Venom instigated a prison break in the super villain prison. The module does practically everything right: It sports unique adversaries, does a great job of blending modern day concepts with fantasy and scifi-elements sans making things awkward, sports cool new critters, is challenging, has options for social encounters, environmental hazards and also features smart foes. If anything, this module made me wish it was more than a one-shot, that it had a whole 300-page book of setting information and delightful prisoners/villains, SCP and/or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.-style. This is an extremely entertaining modern module with generally awesome aesthetics. This module sports so many downright awesome components and ideas, with the handouts being the icing on the cake - so yes, Stephen Rowe once again proves that yes, he can write very good crunch...but oh boy, is he a master of writing brilliant modules! This is absolutely inspired and will leave you asking for more!


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


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Directive Infinity X
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Remedial Tinkering - Arcanotech
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 18:43:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition


The latest Tinker-expansion clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This expansion of the tinker base-class ties in with the superb Happy Little Automata and the Pimp my Alpha-expansion, though neither are required for the use of this one. Thematically, we have an interesting deviation from the feeling of the tinker - whereas, so far, the class has been pretty much designed as a science-y class regarding its abilities, we have the magical now suffuse the class - this is represented by the new arcanotech invention subtype. Since magic tends to make mechanics malfunction, only one such invention can be applied to a blueprint at a given time.


We begin this supplement after a recap of the invention subtypes with 4 innovations: Starting at 6th level, you may take the shielding innovation which adds Int-mod temporary hit points sans fixed duration whenever you deploy an automaton. Based on this, you can learn Alpha Shielding, which lets you realign these when deploying an automaton while the alpha is within the master's presence ability. The Buffered Construction innovation breaks the "only one arcanotech invention"-cap and extends it to 2 per blueprint and Cybertech Arcanotech lets you choose two sorc/wiz cantrips, which you then can cast at will at full character level, with Int as governing attribute.


The latter can be further upgraded to grant access to two 1st level SPs from the sorc/wiz spell-list, which you then can cast 2/day each. A third innovation (also a greater one) grants 3 2nd level SPs that can be cast 1/day. Finally, a high-level greater innovation sets Alpha Int to 12 and makes you choose one school other than transmutation. The alpha learns to cast spells from this school and transmutation as though it were a 3rd level wizard, but CL can never be enhanced by any means.


All right, so what kind of inventions await us? Well, for example, Alphas may learn to activate 1st level and lower wands as directed standard actions. Regular automata can only learn 0-level wand use. Personally, I'm not a fan of flat-out ignoring 2 DR of any type and would have preferred scaling according to DR value, but considering damage output of physical automata attacks, I can live with it. It should be noted that the follow-up tricks allow for 5 and 10 DR to be ignored - the latter of which can be nasty versus creatures with DR/epic, since that DR usually isn't that high.


VERY interesting: Autoexecution Script: This lets an automaton execute an offensive invention that requires a directed action as part of an attack directive...and yes, it can be installed multiple times, at increasing BPs.


The arcanotech delivery system is...EDIT: now properly balanced: Master Crouch has eliminated this exploit, which nets + 0.5 stars, as it eliminated the one balance-concern of this pdf.


On the plus-side, adding weapon enhancement bonuses and special abilities of +1 value is interesting. (Yes, upgrade to +2 available for both; upgrade to +3 available for the enhancement bonus.) There would also be basically a cantrip catapult for evocations that can sling up to one of two evocation cantrips when used in proper conjunction. A failsafe to mitigate kamikazes is sure useful at 0 BP - but it also takes a bit of the whacky planning aspect away. Personally, not a fan, but if you're all for maximum control, well, then, I guess you'll like it.


Now what really intrigued me would be lead paint - a paint invention that eats the first 5 points of spell damage. Here's the deal, though: Regardless of damage type! Considering the combo-potential of paint, that's pretty awesome! Also rather nice: A means for an automaton to 1/day grab a harmless, potion-base-spell out of the air and create a potion - and no, it can't be sold, but yes, it can be upgraded for more daily uses.


Skill programming gets an upgrade as well, allowing for the use of the skill as though the automaton was a real boy. (i.e. as though it were a regular character) Sniff Okay, so notice an absence of the whacky so far? Well, there is a collection of these: The Toaster-Invention-tree! No, not gonna use the acronym here... The base invention allows the automaton, which now has a built-in toaster, to do the cooking if it has the skill and arms. With a follow-up invention, the toaster can go thermonuclear, inflicting bonus fire damage...and it has a synergy...with toaster of TERROR! 3/day, these automata can blast forth short-range cones of incendiary material that may light foes on fire. The aforementioned invention increases the damage output of the cone by +1d6. If that were not enough, the toaster of terror's blasts can, at high levels, ignore resistance, increase the reach of the cone and render targets shaken as an added insult to the injury of being killed by a walking toaster.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on either a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' no-frills printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf is art-light. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


So, I did honestly fear Bradley Crouch extending the complexity Moloch that is the tinker to the arcane sphere - but surprisingly, for the most part, the content herein is more than solid - the toaster builds are hilarious and tricky and the weapon-upgrades for automata have been long expected - so, on one side, I do love this pdf. While I'm not a fan of flat DR-ignoring, that's not bad. EDIT: The one balance-concern has been reined in. No more complaints.


That being said, the pdf does offer a plethora of imaginative and cool options otherwise - I can't wait to see what combos my players come up with regarding lead paint, for example. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, EDIT: rounded now up due to the one balance-concern missing.


ENdzietgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Remedial Tinkering - Arcanotech
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Mini-Dungeon #028: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 17:52:11

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 to d20pfsrd.com's shop 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! The PCs are contacted by artificer Vythis Targain, who hires the PCs to investigate an ancient tomb complex. Inside the complex, the PCs can find a weird throne - and have already entered the realm of dreams, where a puzzle based on gems ad (unfortunately, trial and error) awaits. I like the puzzle, I loathe the lack of options to find out how it works.


In the complex where Dream Spiders, Dream Eaters and an Animated Dream of ages past must be defeated, the PCs can unearth dream rods - one ruby, one sapphire and an emerald...and if they solve aforementioned puzzle, they can escape the dreams and use these rods to insert them into sarcophagi in the first room, where they were teleported first into dreams, resulting in a challenging final encounter versus mummies.


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 mini-dungeon is one I really wanted to like - I love the inclusion of a brief puzzle and the pdf manages to instill a sense of antiquity in spite of its brevity and breathes the spirit of sword and sorcery - this could be taken directly from the Chronicles of Conan. However, at the same time, trial and error puzzles are unpleasant, particularly when the codified rooms by rods would have made for a great way to provide subtle, logical hints. As provided, the mini-dungeon instead, as much as I like it, feels more opaque than it should be. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars, though fans of sword and sorcery may still want to take a look.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #028: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams
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The Grande Temple of Jing
Publisher: Hammerdog Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 04:15:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This mega-adventure dungeon-crawl-saga clocks in at 505 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page backer-list, 4 pages of blank space for notes, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 493 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


So what is the Grande Temple of Jing? Well, basically, this is the personal playing ground of the trickster deity Jing, who baits people into entering the temple with promises of untold riches - but exiting the temple is pretty difficult. The stay is limited to a number of Jing days, which (imho, annoyingly) deviate from solar days in being cumulative - 6 solar days would equal 3 Jing days, for example. These reset the dungeon upon elapsing. Leveling up in the temple requires an offering of gold equal to the number of XP needed to gain the next level...so, does this mean TOTAL XP or the difference between old and new level? No idea. After this donation, characters auto-level. The temple recognizes factions: Visitors, Honored Guests, Trespassers, Templers, Devout and Defilers - certain effects inside the temple affect only those that belong to a given faction.


The temple has 10 so-called Grande Levels, which can be divided into sublevels by Jing-blocks. These are unique and usually are closed when encountered. They block all teleportation and scrying as well as means to bypass them and are impervious to damage. Cloaked blocks are undetectable until uncloaked. Phased blocks are keyed to creatures and objects - these beings can pass through them. Non-keyed entities treat the block as solid. Each Jing block can be opened by a lever or similar means. The Grande elevator and highway represent the basic means of traversing the levels. Thankfully, the phased blocks are pretty well-explained and even sport a visual representation illustrating how they work. Various Jing statues with unique benefits and challenges associated can be found here as well. There are additional peculiarities: Getting on Jing's bad side can prove problematic for divine casters (though it's admittedly not easy to accomplish), which may result is less reliable spell gaining. Jing's favor is codified in certain blessings that unlock e.g. the aforementioned highway and similarly, combat-relevant blessings can be gained. The most important of these would be the boon of life - basically, an extra life. Upon dying, you dematrialize and are reconstituted at the next Jing day in a preset location. And yes, this means that dying can be actually used as a tactical gambit, provided you have the boon...


Now the dungeon also sports a specific design decision I am not a fan of: Namely, it cripples your PC's capabilities in several places: The trickster god's dungeon forces you to play his game and e.g. flight, teleportation and similar tricks are often impeded or outright countered from the get-go. More interestingly, there are special jingxes, which can change how a spell works, instead e.g. limiting the distance you can fly. I get why this was done and the in-game rationale is sound as can be, but ultimately, I consider this to be cheating - the challenge of high-level dungeon-crawls is to make them work, even with the PC's massive capabilities. Jing Blocks already constitute a pretty harsh restriction regarding the PC's options and these specific hampering options, ultimately, hurt the dungeon more than help it, as they enforce a particular way of dealing with the challenge "as the author intended" as opposed to "how PCs creatively solve it with their own, grown capabilities."


Flavor-wise, a unique currency is part of the deal and 7 sample storylines as (kinda) optional metaplots govern the idea, though ultimately all take a back seat to the narrative of the dungeon itself. (That being said, e.g. Xorn Poker is pretty cool - and yes, Jing is pissed they're not cutting him in on the action...) If the above was no indicator, Jing being a god of mischief, the mega-dungeon does offer instances where humor is the theme - which is nice to see. Missions and basic questlines as well as 20 sample end-games are suggested. 100 myths and rumors about Jing and the temple are provided in a dressing file, and the Grande Highway's function is explained in detail, so if the PCs manage to gain access to it, they'll have an easier time traversing the temple. Taking a further cue from video games, parties that are underleveled and stumble into certain areas can benefit from a "positive level" and, surprisingly, the rather complex implications of these are covered in sufficient precision. Speaking of the highway - there is a cool quest that requires the collection of the fully depicted song "The Language of Birds", which is based on exploration and fluff, rather than sheer numbers - it also makes the book feel magical and old-school in a good way.


That being said, if the video-gamey rules regarding extra lives and the like were no indicator, there also are a couple of room designators that obviously fit in that vein: There are, for example, gauntlets and arenas and vaults - defeating these challenges, some of which require Gold to participate in, reminded me of bonus levels in games like Devil May Cry and the like - basically, they are challenges you can (or have to) complete to progress or gain special benefits - and yes, I am vague here because the intent of this dungeon lies in a massive exhibition of modularity regarding quest-structure and, to some extent, rewards - this is very much designed to be exceedingly modular and can be taken apart for multiple modules, should you choose to go that way.


The pdf also sports information on Jing-enchanted items - these are keyed and sport drawbacks. The book sports a rather complicated-looking default configuration of the dungeon, though the actual use is less complex than the presentation may make you believe. Also, much like the highway's basic look, my pdf's text on this page strangely is less crisp than on other pages, making it somewhat harder to read - perhaps a compatibility issue with adobe's reader or something like that - not sure and since I don't have the print copy, I can't tell you whether this extends to the dead tree version.


Anyways, the dungeon ultimately begins with the entry-chamber level that already sports the leitmotifs of the temple - namely, a presence of puzzles, somewhat wacky entities, suffused humor...and a potential for death not being the end. Without spoiling too much, there is an exceedingly gruesome way to (temporarily) die that needs to be passed to enter the temple - fortes fortuna juvat...or rather "Jing favors the bold" is rather important to bear in mind.


If that component hasn't been ample clear so far...well, this is a huge module and as such, it is pretty much impossible for me to cover everything contained herein. As such, the following review will cover the contents of the Grande Temple at the very best in broad strokes.


I have already covered the entry chambers in as spoiler-free a means I can muster, but from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion of this review.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs left? Great, so the respective sublevels all have their individual taste, the first of which would be kobold caverns, sporting a corridor of exploding doors hiding the proper caverns. The kobolds are domesticating protean jellies in a rather nice take on dungeon-ecology. At the same time, their leader King Lickabutt XXIII and his familiar Buttlick's names may elicit some groans from some readers.


There would also be an interesting undead-themed mini-dungeon that sports skeletons that animate depending on whether they're in light or darkness - which is a cool idea that could have been used to make the level favor the smart and provide a significant challenge, but as presented, it's pretty easy. Beyond a pretty run-of-the-mill orc-dungeon, a filthy dungeon covered in sticky slime (difficult terrain) is more interesting.


Here, the dungeon breaks from the level by level formula and instead goes on to present the exploration of the upper highway and the first trial/gauntlet, which, btw., constitute size-wise smaller dungeon-levels of their own. The training ground would constitute a more uncommon level - here, the dungeon not only sports a potentially lethal adventuring training ground, it's also the first time the players REALLY need their wits, with multiple levers and moving platforms (and prohibited flying/climb-enhancers) making this partially a platformer level in the vein of old NES-classics - basically, it constitutes a kind of puzzle...and yes, the level sports riddles and a subquest that pertains the ultimate riddle.


There would also be a goblin-themed dungeon, complete with hangman-minigame of guessing names of deceased kings. There would also be the twinklestar caves, which allow the inhabitants of the temple to find much needed water. A smaller level would provide a means to test the mettle of the PCs in ziggurat-containing caves against troglodytes. The next gauntlet and trial are fire/cold-themed. More interesting would be a truly uncommon level that has challenges according to rough representations of children's board games - and yes, here, you can play operation with a storm giant...and there's a tipping maze... Unique and evocative!


Chaos is also a leitmotif in two levels - one depicting more the primal chaos-cultist caverns, whereas another represents more of a deranged trickster deathtrap dungeon with unique hazards and hobgoblin denizens. Crab-themed river caves (including an apparatus) and the front door of the dungeon (including the great library) are next before the next trial, gauntlet and arena-section.


In a further cave-complex, the god of cave-stars shatir sleeps the aeons away, while bat-people do their best to avoid it. A section of rolling hills contains its fair share of ogres is once again a pretty much run of the mill level, before the nexus of doors becomes interesting again - ridiculous amounts of odd door qualities and a surreal atmosphere make this puzzle-style level very atmospheric and intriguing, while the troll-laden swamp level is less unique.


Back to full-blown weirdness and uniqueness is the dungeon when the PCs find a level where cyclones are generated and exported. Oh, and yes, the PCs may have to fight rhinoceraptors here. Yes, they are exactly what they sound like. On the nitpicky side of things, the infernal observatory is all about demons and devils...and pretty much a solid, if none too remarkable level with a damsel-in-distress-angle that doesn't work for any group with a modicum of experience, but oh well. The pdf is back on its more imaginative side with further explorations of the highway and the trial that emphasizes choice and grants benefits based on them and similarly, the gauntlet of the Jing Ring, which emphasizes teamwork, ir rather interesting.


A huge forest, including the council of trees and a vast plateau makes for a ncie change of scenery and also provides an option to embark on various quests and storylines - this area alone can generate a vast array of roleplaying options. Further levels here are a ruined, decrepit snake-themed temple and a subterranean forest. There would also be a fey forest quest that brings the PCs to an ancient observatory and a living labyrinth, wherein weretaurs can be encountered. For PCs looking for something cooler, a journey into the heart of a remorhaz-breeding ground or a trip through the caverns of the yeti-queen may be more to their liking. Another level presents clouds upon which you can walk and massive (rather sketchy) harpy-town, while a more trite and less imaginative smithy of salamanders and devils provides potential for new weapons...or conflict.


Okay, it's been some time since we had something more novel, right? Well, there is a level that made smile from ear to ear: There actually is a level that features intelligent oozes that behave basically as though they were 1930s-gangsters. Yes, including the slimefather. Hilarious fun and unique - I just wished this level had more room to shine! Meanwhile, the turtlefolk of the Koniyata want their totem returned to their caves, while the gravecaves sport an ever-increasing doom-counter and, surprise, legions of undead. The deranged gauntlet of heads, comparably, is more tame, while another level is all about size increases and fighting giants - personally, I'd suggest the more detailed rules from Everyman gaming's Microsized Adventures here - apart from that novelty, the level doesn't have that much to offer.


Fun for people like yours truly: The level containing a river of gold actually has a duo of interesting characters called Sam...and Max. And yes, these guys will always be my favorite LucasArts-characters, so bonus points in excess of providing one of the more unique and evocative areas. An underwater level full of mantapeople, while the gray zoo sports an unpleasant guy who seeks to put colars on the PCs to transform them into monsters.. In a skull-and-bones-shaped level, evil outsiders and undead vie for control over one book of power (which usually means: PCs kill everyone), while stormwrack caverns sport mystic weather that contains e.g. transformative lightning. A one-page entry on the back-door exit and the last section of the highway are next...and then we're in the deeper levels, the first of which is an antimagic desert...at least until the rainbow phoenix is slain. Yeah. Ouch. Next up would be the quintessential mad cultist's dungeon, where they call forth cosmodingus, the horror beyond the stars...yeah, I don't consider the juvenile funny name-thing funny. Sorry.


The Hall of the gods provides shrines and a quest where the PC can worship...basically Jing posing as other gods and get passports that award a blessing if all are visited. A reference to New Jersey is part of the read-aloud text, just fyi. More to my taste would be the gauntlet of a deranged ettin mathcaster, who grades the performances of PCs and their deductive abilities. The 9th level of the temple would be the massive, aquatic-themed area, aptly named the undersea, and it sports a ghost ship (the Grim Fandango...of course), a corrupted water temple, the demesne of an ancient sea god. At the end of the road, the PCs can btw. challenge a particularly nasty CR 25 dragon with unique breath tricks in an arena, but personally, I really loved the surreal level devoted to madness more, where lethal icosahedrons, a sublevel made of frustration and a moebius strip need to be navigated.


A thanatotic titan can be found past norns and challenged aplenty (here's to hoping the PCs are up to their best behavior...) and there is also a superbly lethal flower-themed Grimtooth-gauntlet, which may be required to escape.


The book also contains a short fiction by Dave Gross, aforementioned song of birds, a crapton of riddles and a ton of creatrues/statblocks, though the latter generally fall into the "more restrained and less original than I would have expected"-category. The magic items introduced generally are pretty cool, though they sometimes fail in the details - the gearblade forces you to expend an immediate action upon rolling a natural 1 - but what if the wielder has none? The book also contains a huge amount of sample stashes by APL and two empty maps.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are generally impressive for a freshman offering of this size - one can see the hand of industry veterans in editing and formatting in this book -Amanda Hamon Kunz did a good job here - if you need any proof regarding my claim that editors are the unsung heroes of the industry, take a look at the player's guide. shudder While here and there a "see above" or reference to a "table above" now should refer to "below" or to the next page, probably due to a layout-change, generally, this is well done. On a rules-language level, the book is also concise for the most part, with glitches, when they do come up, pertaining minor aspects. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports A LOT of absolutely original, gorgeous artworks of top quality. The same, alas, cannot be said about the cartography - while some levels sport neat maps, others were made with dundjinni (which isn't bad per se!) but also used in a rather pixelated version. High-res would have been better here and I've seen what you can do with that software! A massive issue that gall me to no end, however, is that we do not get player-friendly maps for any level - no keyless versions, none sans secret doors...sigh On the plus side, the book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


As mentioned, I do not have the print version and hence can't comment on its virtues or lack thereof.


Lead author Danny O'Neill has amassed an illustrious cadre of additional authors: The book credits Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Ed Greenwood, Jim Ward, Grimtooth, Stan!, Chris Pramas, Larry Wilhelm, Matt Mayfield, Dave Gross and Kevin Andrew Murphy as authors, while a significant list of kickstarter backers has provided additional development.


The Grande Temple of Jing is a huge book. It took me a couple of months to properly take this apart, re-evaluate and get back to it, time and again. I feel I have arrived at a point where I can fairly assess the strengths and weaknesses of this book. As far as the strengths are concerned: The Grande Temple of Jing manages to capture the sense of wide-eyed wonder that featured so prominently in quite a few of the classics, it manages to recreate that sense of weirdness and happy-go-lucky-adventuring. In the best instances, it's a wonderful romp of the creative ID running wild, when dice golems try to pummel you to death, when you stumble into a level that represents boardgames we all know and love, when slime mobsters rule...this is where you fist-pump and smile from ear to ear.


However, there also are quite a few levels I'd consider boring filler; granted, they tend to have at least one interesting idea, but some levels are tiring, unimaginative slugfests through the same creatures, again and again. with so interesting builds or similar means of mitigating the dreary "it's the goblin level, guess what tries to kill you..."-symptom. Btw.: Thankfully, the annoying make-believe Jingcraft skill is not required a single time in this book. It's not even mentioned! So if you DID take it, heeding the advice of the horrid player's guide, hoping you'll do something unique with it...No. You won't. Retrain.


Speaking of creatures: Don't expect anything regarding interesting or innovative builds. There are reskins and modifications here and there, but unique templates or the like, smart builds or even a fully employed roster of PFRPG-classes can't be found in here - you'll be facing mostly creatures from the basic sources and core classes and monsters, spiced up, somewhat arbitrarily, via Jing's boons...which don't really interact well with their CR-ratings. Oh, and the "final boss", the toughest challenge? Ashardalon did that schtick better in the days of 3.X. Utterly lame and anticlimactic. 'Nuff said.


A massive plus of this mega-adventure, beyond its feeling of the magical, the truly "anything goes", would be the sheer amount of riddles, mini-games and puzzles - in a day and age where dungeons often devolve into slugfests, these are more than welcome and provide scavenging potential for campaigns galore and may even justify the purchase on their own. In fact, I'd rather recommend this as a scavenging ground for ideas than as a full-blown campaign. Why? Because no matter the overarcing storyline you choose...there is not much going on. The promise of fractions and the like in the beginning really doesn't pay off that much over the course of this mega-dungeon. The puzzles, flair and challenges are unique, but story-wise...well, let's just say that if your players want more in that regard, you'll need to do some work. Even Rappan Athuk and similar old-school mega-dungeons did a better job at creating a meta-narrative - here, there's nothing at stake but gold and glory.


Since we're speaking of Rappan Athuk, here's two subtle weaknesses of the Grande Temple of Jing: For one, even though the elevator and highway seek to evoke a sense of depth, there is not really one - the dungeon-levels themselves are rather flat and I'm quite frankly surprised to see no more 3-dimensional levels, even though several of the areas lend themselves perfectly to these peculiarities - the rules do offer for some great means to use more dimensions. Still, a good GM can add these elements...though ultimately, a GM seeking to run this will need to add more - expect no siege weapons or playful use of planar traits. You see, one of the core issues of the Grande Temple lies in its terrain: Basically, most areas and combat-centric regions could have frankly used a bit more going on: Pits, sharp rocks, exploding patches of shrooms, hazards...the like.


Instead, this book tends to use Jing's blanket effects...and they ultimately aren't utilized to their full extent...and they cheat. Basically whenever a particular spell or item would be especially useful, be it flight or teleport, the book prohibits it - not with a powerful effect you could potentially break for a short time...but with a blanket "doesn't work/screws you over" instead. This may fit thematically, but it also is lazy and enforces a playstyle rather than rewarding creativity. I consider that stifling and bad design - working WITH the system instead around it would have been significantly more elegant, particularly considering how the Jing blocks on their own could still work as progress blockers and prevent abuse. Still, it is when the book becomes prescriptive for the sake of enforcing a playstyle that it's the weakest.


Similarly, the video-game-esque components and design decisions here and there may annoy some of you out there, though they offer some of the more creative tricks - but ultimately, they also take away the threat of finality and...of the challenge. The Grande Temple of Jing is not easy; it can be brutal...but it lacks, by virtue of its design and particularly due to the not-so-interesting foes, the sense of stakes and ultimately, the sense of achievement that accompanies beating an old-school killer-dungeon. Since death is marginalized pretty much from the get-go, there is a higher acceptance for risk-taking, yes...but the sense of danger and threats is diminished. Sure, you can play the dungeon as though you were an adolescent again, doing odd and weird stuff sans fear of perma-death...but, to me, that was what made it fun. The challenge. The bragging-rights.


So...over all...I really did not like this book as a whole. As a whole, I will never run Grande Temple of Jing - too many components rub me the wrong way and I consider the framework itself to be not that intriguing.


BUT WAIT. This book DOES have a lot to offer - while falling short of perfection and the self-aggrandized goal of being the archetypical dungeon (No. Sorry. Just no. I can list at least 3 megadungeons at the top of my head that did that job better.), the Grande Temple of Jing excels at being a truly astounding scavenging ground - the puzzles and ideas contained within this massive tome make it worthwhile to have and I do not regret analyzing it: There are so many unique tricks I WILL use in my games, so many riddles to scavenge, so many level-concepts and rooms to steal that even when used in this way, the book is worth having.


This book sports a lot of unique ideas and it is these ideas that elevate this mega-dungeon beyond the self-imposed restrictions and gyves. When this shines, when its ID runs rampant, then this is a book of awesome ideas, which is ultimately what elevates the book to being a worthwhile read. Taking the great and the less than stellar into account, I arrive at a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars for the purpose of this platform due to this being the freshman offering of Hammerdog Games.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Grande Temple of Jing
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