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Everyman Minis: Brawler Archetypes
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2017 09:28:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf begins with a brief introduction and then, the pdf sports two new feats: Feral Pugilism lets you use a natural attack in conjunction with abilities of Improved Unarmed Strike, specifically allowing the use of brawler’s flurry and close weapon mastery as though the natural weapon were a close weapon. This is potentially VERY potent and should have careful GM oversight, as the close weapon group restriction represents one of the problems here. Versatile Pugilism lets you choose one melee weapon, which may be a natural attack – this attack may be used in conjunction with brawler’s flurry and makes it count as a close weapon for the purpose of close weapon mastery…yeah. This lets you use two-handed swords, earthshakers, spears etc. in conjunction with brawler’s flurry. While I am sure that a lot of folks will enjoy these feats to increase the power of their characters, I don’t like them conceptually or balance-wise; they allow you to bypass what makes the brawler a brawler and the class, as such, is not necessarily in need of a power upgrade.

The pdf then proceeds with a selection of new archetypes: The brute is proficient with simple weapons and great club as well as light armor and shields (except tower shields). The archetype gains Weapon Focus (club) as a bonus feat at 1st level and applies all weapon-specific benefits for the club to the great club as well, and vice versa. At 5th level, the brute’s melee attacks with clubs ignore 1 point of DR, + 1 point at 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter. DR/- is not ignored and the benefits stack with Penetrating Strike and its Greater brother. This replaces unarmed strike and brawler’s strike. Brawler’s flurry may only be used with clubs and great clubs (strangely, referring dynamo’s flurry in a cut-copy-paste-hiccup) and 8th level modifies close weapon mastery to instead apply to clubs, using the brawler’s unarmed damage at -4 levels as a possible substitution, if it exceeds the damage of the club. See, this archetype very much makes my point regarding the feats for me – the feats are better than the archetype.

The hurling dynamo replaces proficiency with the close weapon group with thrown weapons. The dynamo’s flurry only works with unarmed strikes and thrown weapons, but both may be used within a flurry, with ranged weapon attacks counting as benefiting from Quick Draw while flurrying. Okay, so do the benefits of the modified brawler’s flurry stack with Rapid Shot? 2nd level locks the character into Precise Shot as a bonus feat. Instead of maneuver training, 3rd level yields either Ranged Feint or the option to use a chosen combat maneuver within one range increment, maximum 30 ft., using Dex-modifier to calculate CMB. This is penalized, though. The first attack of a flurry may be replaced with a maneuver or action chosen with this ability (nice catch re feinting!) and 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield another maneuver choice. 5th level modifies the close weapon group mastery to instead work, at -4 levels, based on brawler unarmed damage, provided that damage would exceed that of the weapon.

The kiai master replaces maneuver training with menacing shout at 3rd level, whenever the character hits at least once in a brawler’s flurry, she can make a demoralize attempt against a target thus hit as a swift action. 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the number of affected targets by 1. This cap is weird, considering that the base ability does NOT have a cap of a maximum of 1 target affected at a given time, though the scaling implies just that. Starting at 4th level, the demoralize attempt, if successful, causes 1d6 sonic damage, but a given foe can only take this damage once per round. 10th level adds deafened to the target for 1 round, and 16th level increases the damage to 2d6 and increases the deafened condition to 1d4 rounds. This replaces knockout.

Finally, there would be the style savant, who only gains the benefits of style feats and combat feats based on style feats when using martial flexibility – the style savant can ignore the feat’s respective prerequisite, excluding Elemental Fist. Yep, this allows you to directly skip ahead to the final feat in a style chain. That is problematic, as the ignoring of prerequisites contradicts the central limitation of martial flexibility and prevents the viable reference to the default ability to clear the rules-language. Also from an action economy perspective – can the respective later feats building on a Style feat only be used when entering that style, which RAW, the archetype can’t? This is weird. At 1st level, the style savant treats his brawler level as fighter or monk levels for prerequisite purposes and also as the number of skill ranks in all skills for the purpose of qualifying for style feats or feats that list one or style feats among the prerequisites, replacing martial training. Maneuver training is replaced by two abilities – savant’s style, which lets the character mix two styles known into a more flexible style, allowing the character to be in two styles at once – cool: The action economy here is concise and at 19th level, the character can be in 3 different styles at once. At 7th level, the style savant may use martial flexibility as a move action to enter all allowed stances, which improves to 15th level as a swift action. So, what are “All allowed stances”? All style feats she can enter at once via style savant? What if they exceed the limit? I get what this is supposed to do, namely let the style savant enter multiple styles from her list at once, but the verbiage is a bit wonky here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, there are some oversights in the details to be found here, alas. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column standard with a b/w-background and a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Sasha Hall’s brawler options have in common that they seek to generate new choices and engine tweaks for the brawler class, which is generally something I applaud. However, at the same time, the options presented herein are problematic from a balance point of view and also feature some rough edges – not in their basics, but in the deeper interactions of the rules-language, which renders them RAW less precise and refined than what I’ve come to expect. As a whole, I would not allow this pdf as written at my table; the feats are straight power upgrades that invalidate one of the archetypes completely and the others also feature some potential stumbling stones. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad file, but it is a long way from something I’d be able to recommend. My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Brawler Archetypes
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Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/09/2017 05:13:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This setting book clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

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

Old Earth isn’t even a legend anymore, even its location lost to the ravages and vastness of space and time. An undetermined time after humanity spread to the stars, the Archaics rose in their floating, crystalline cities, constructing a hyperspace travel network and engaged in planetary-scaled engineering; theirs was an age where a noble may rule a whole world – but, as Hari Seldon may have noted, all empires must end. The Great Collapse, which may have been as long as 1000 years past, took place, kickstarting a Dark Age of dissolution, where mysterious cultures rose and fell in what once was core human space: The mysterious Zurr, seemingly primitive, yet spread across planets, and the faceless ones, research-sadists, who replaced their faces with incredibly potent sensory apparatuses. When the long night ended, it was the radiant polity that rose, claiming stewardship of paleo-mankind and mastery over hyperspace travel: “We civilize; we do not govern. We end war; we do not wage it. We guard; we do not control. Our thoughts look always to the future.” – This is their creed and it reminded me in a positive manner of Rome’s excellent tripartite album “Die Aesthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit” on the concept of anarchy as a philosophical world-view, but that as an aside.

The default setting of this space opera setting would be the Modern Age ushered in by the polity’s radiant lords. The book classifies the sentient beings as sophonts – biologics contain humans, Star Folk bioships, etc. Moravecs are sentient, self-replicating robots and infosophonts are basically AIs, digital minds and other entities sans physical form that choose to live in the noosphere. As you may have noted, the books makes admirable use of linguistic terms to classify and categorize the campaign setting’s reality. And no, the book never devolves into a garbled mess, though, as often in good fiction, it takes a bit to get into the terminology of the setting. Really cool: Sample artworks explain e.g. clothes worn, weaponry, etc. in a concise manner that manages to squeeze a surprising amount of information on each page – a picture of a space captain, the afro-wearing, badass lady Stella Starlight, for example, feature sidebars on salvage and the lost ancient starships.

The book also showcases the hyperspace gates and their connections between regions of space – which would be as well a place as any other to note how this pdf is laid out, for the layout is brilliant: The artworks and bits of information are depicted in a manner not unlike the Star Trek/Star Wars almanacs – artwork, explanations, trivia, graphics – the similarity even extends to the advertisement mentioned before, which included an “action figure” in the artwork.

Anyways, we continue from the big picture to the more detailed observations of the regions of hyperspace – from the Outer Rim, where the vaguely feline Djägga live and places of interest include Fortuna IV, a gambler’s planet, Gogmagog, the planet of giant robot battles (!!) and Boreas, an ice-covered moon, where boreal sea life was weaponized, including bacteria that reanimate the dead. Yes, amazing. There also would be the Alliance (think of a smaller Federation), the Instrumentality of Aom, a theocracy founded on cold practicality (with Illuminatus!-easter-egg-nod), the Coreward Reach…have I mentioned phantasists selling mass-produced neural dreams and oneiric experiences? There is also the Vokun Empire, once fearsome conquerors in decline, who even have a slave-race of humanoid computers….and we even take a look at a cantina (Star Wars association obviously intended), with several NPCs noted, each of which featuring his/her/their own angle for adventuring.

Nomadic clades (the name for race employed herein) sans homeworld are also covered and so are pirates and other criminals – the sample artwork for the latter looking like a cross between a yeti and a tarsier. A list of most wanted, notes on the pharesmid syndicate – there is a ton of adventuring potential here. Where there are species and more or less peaceful societies, there are bound to be those outside – hostile species generally considered to be bad news. These include the Kssa, oviparous humanoids with reptilian characteristics, ruled by the Cold Eggs, the Ssraad (coincidentally somewhat similar to the classic, closed IP Slaadi) and we also talk a bit about psi and psionics and their roles in the galaxy.

The book also sports notes on terminology, a pronunciation guideline and concludes with 5 basic operation guidelines, each of which coming in 8 variations – these are one-sentence hooks to develop.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. The layout by Lester B. Portlyis FANTASTIC: With the extremely high full-color artwork density (there is an original piece on almost EVERY page) and the cool structures reminiscent of classic scifi almanacs, the pdf is a beauty to behold. The pdf sports no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment – if you can afford it, I’d strongly suggest getting the PoD-version. The book is worth it, production value-wise.

Trey Causey’s Strange Stars is frankly inspiring in the best of ways. When I saw the page-count for the book, I did not expect much, particularly considering the density of artwork herein. It is BAFFLING how much flavor and information the author managed to cram into the pages – there are a ton of inspiring tidbits herein, enough to inspire campaigns galore. While I really wished this book was a really huge campaign setting, I have seen a ton of books with 3 or 4 times the pagecount deliver less – this is a great supplement if you’re looking for some inspiring nomenclature, ideas, etc.

As an aside: The astute reader may have noticed some serious potential for crossover regarding the history of Strange Stars and Starfinder – the ideas contained herein can be added to Starfinder pretty easily…and yes, the same holds obviously true for Traveller, Stars Without Number, etc.

How to rate this, then? Well, the lack of bookmarks for the electronic version costs that version a half a star (4.5 stars, rounded down), but the print-version I’d consider to be 5 stars + seal of approval. As mentioned, I’d suggest getting the PoD-version.

Endzeittgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
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Strange Stars OSR Rule Book
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/09/2017 05:11:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The OSR rules-book for Strange Stars clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now, this is the rules-companion book for the system neutral Strange Stars-book – and as far as OSR-rules goes, it employs my favorite rules-set for space adventures, namely Sine Nomine Publishing’s excellent and deservedly acclaimed Stars Without Number. As you can glean, provided you’re familiar with SWN, the task of converting the rules material to another OSR-system is relatively simple, though some peculiarities are potentially lost in translation, as a system-immanent procedure of translation.

Anyway, we begin with a brief recap of the nomenclature of the setting, explaining terms like clade (referring to a group of organism derived from the same ancestor or template – relevant distinction in a setting where sentient robots are a thing), the definition of intelligent and self-aware being (sophont) etc. - it is with these that we begin:

Strange Stars knows the following types of sophonts: Biologics are either humans or aliens; it should be noted that Mandate Archive: Transhuman Tech’s body-swapping rules are more commonly used in Strange Stars. (Which should also provide a nice example how well this is ingrained in SWN’s possibilities.) Bioroids are artificially-created biological beings that are worn by a mind – whether it’s an infosophont (bodyless AI) or a Ghost, Ghost in the Shell-style – full-blown transhumanist options here. Finally, Moravecs constitute self-replicating, sentient machines.

From here, we move to the specific clades: More than 20 (!!!) are provided: From domed-skull humanoids capable of cataloging language to the insectoid Blesh, the feline Djägga, the engineer isopods (with a dditional limbs and body-swapping), gnomes, the bone-clawed hwuru, avian humanoids, humanoid computers…and yes, emerald-skinned humanoids…there is a wide array of races with concisely defined abilities here. Each race gets a brief note on physical and psychological characteristics and class preferences/restrictions, backgrounds available and attribute requirements, if any. The pdf also classifies the clades by hyperspace region, which is helpful. Now, there is a downside to the variety of races presented herein – that is that they very much are reliant on the GM/referee to properly account for differences in raw power: There are several races that obviously eclipse the others in sheer power, which means that some discretion and skill is advised here.

On a more positive aside, the pdf does contain a wide variety of backgrounds to expand the background system featured in SWN – from bureaucrat to business sophont, psytech or data prospector, there are several provided, with some allowing for choices within a skill’s arrays – other than that, we have the 4 skills per background you’d expect – with some backgrounds allwowing for one freely chosen skill. The backgrounds thus can be considered to be well-crafted – no complaints.

Chapter 2 deals with tedchnology in the context of Strange Stars, beginning with the metascape, the augmented reality that most people experience – and yes, it may be hacked. The Noosphere is the cyberspace of the far future, where disembodied AIs live, for example. Implanted cyberware and brain-computer interfaces are very common, which allows for some interesting uses of the Computer skill, obviously. Strange Stars also features Fabbers – matter compilers. These act as hyper-advanced 3D-printers, while programmable matter is…well, just what it says on the tin. That these technologies have a serious impact on economy should be pretty evident. Alien and archaic tech are also mentioned.

But how does space travel work? Well, per default, it uses the Hyperspace Network erected by the Archaic Oikumene prior to the dark age and Great Collapse. Think of these as somewhat akin to Mass Effect’s acceleration nodes. The tech is partially psionic, poorly understood and travel time depends an is color-coded: Travel time equals the color modifier (ranging from 18 to 6750) time the distance modifier (ranging from 1 – 5) in kiloseconds. This is for the range of the network, mind you – space is unfathomably huge. SWN fans will note that the FTL travel is very much different from Strange Stars’ node-based system. It should be noted, though, that these need not exclude one another: It is pretty easy to drop Strange Stars within the vast universe of Stars Without Number – FTL beyond the nodes, node-only in the Strange Stars-clusters. That as an aside.

Starships are discussed as well – gravity generators and inertial suppressors would be crucial pieces of tech. The rare and sought-after drive-boxes, hyperintelligent, but not self-aware AIs crafted by the Archaic also makes for an interesting aspect of piloting spaceshifts…with potential for adventuring galore.

Beyond these, we take a look at setting assumptions (with the Great Catastrophe accounting for vast differences in tech-levels) – and these include semi-hard scifi (as a fan of hard scifi, I wholly applaud the setting’s commitment to plausibility – it sets this space opera setting apart from others) as well as the fact that intersystem travel is fast, intrasystem travel slow, thanks to the mysterious hyperspace nodes. Post-internet and transhumanism and the evolution of fiath in the vastness of space similarly represent concise components of Strange Stars. As a whole, a complex of leitmotifs I thoroughly enjoy. GMs will also cherish a brief list of the hyperspace regions introduced in the setting book: Each comes with a brief one-sentence run-down, a note on what type of story it’s best suited for and some very much appreciated inspiration books for further reading: Mini Appendix N-sections, if you will – and yes, often quoting media beyond the scifi/space opera genres.

We also get a brief adventure base-line generator: 6 basic adventures are presented: The challenge, the heist, the hunt, the gauntlet, the rescue, the unexpected. Each sports at least 2 different d8 tables you can use to generate the adventure, with 3 featuring 3 tables instead.

Next up would be a massive bestiary/NPC-codex section, with SWN’s descending AC, atk bonus, etc. all concisely codified. The entries are brief and while each critter gets at least a short fluff-pragraph, it should be noted that we do not get artworks for these. Big plus as far as I’m concerned: The nice fraction-rules from SWN are properly supported with 7 factions and we also take a look at the worlds noted in the great campaign book: We codify these with world tags (some of which are new, some changed) – there is, for example, no perimeter agency in Strange Stars, and much forbidden tech is considered to be common instead; hence, the tag’s meaning is pretty much inverted and denotes an overly restrictive world. 6 new tags, from luddite worlds to banking centers, can be found and the pdf also sports a really cool habitat generator: Habitat shapes, population…from spheres to rings or Knights of Sidonia-style cylinders and classic asteroids, the pdf covers a lot of cool aspects, including a table of natural bioclimes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. Artwork partially reuses some assets from the campaign book in b/w, but also sports a couple of new pieces in b/w. The lack of bookmarks in the electronic version is galling – particularly considering that this is a rule-book you’ll consult more often. The electronic version hence should be considered to lose one star over the PoD-version.

Trey Causey’s OSR-rules for Strange Stars are surprisingly concise – no, really. They can definitely be considered to rank among the better OSR-rules out there, managing to implement the tight rules-language of Stars Without Numbers. Speaking of which: It is very much evident that the author is very familiar with SWN, using some of the more amazing aspects of the system in a concise manner. That is a big plus, as far as I’m concerned – too often, relatively rules-lite systems are used as an excuse for sloppy rules-language. This is thankfully not the case here: The material is concise and well-made. That being said, without the amazing flavor of the system-neutral setting book, this obviously loses a lot of its appeal. If I rated this on its own, I’d complain about it being sketch-like – but that’s pretty much the point here – the book is intended to supplement the setting book and I’ll rate it as such.

Now, as much as I love the vast majority of the content herein and the care which was taken to ensure SWN-compatibility, there are a couple of aspects I enjoy less: One would be that the races diverge in power – there is not a good baseline here and some species depicted here are simply, rules-wise superior. Whether you care about that or not depends on your game, but personally, I would have loved to see more advice on handling the more potent races regarding stigmas, flaws, etc. Secondly, the lack of bookmarks represents a serious detriment for the electronic version. For the print version, I think I’d rate this 4.5 stars; the electronic version loses half a star for the lack of bookmarks…and usually, I’d round up, but I feel that this is closer to the 4 for me. Hence, I will round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars OSR Rule Book
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We Be Leshys
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/09/2017 05:09:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, first things first: This module works best as a one-shot, courtesy of its unique premise: If the similarity in the name wasn’t ample clue: In this scenario, the PCs play Leshys, namely the leshys known as Brindlewild’s Protectors – these special leshys all come with CR 5 sample statblocks and represent the pregens for the module. The pdf provides some notes for customization, should the like be desired by the PCs. The respective leshy pregens all can be roughly likened to the traditional adventuring class roles – Briam, the briar leshy, for example, is thorny and gains verdant channel: Interesting here: All of the leshy gain verdant channel, which heals plant creatures exclusively. This means that, theoretically, a group of these can create a significant healing burst and recuperate from nigh annihilation. It should be noted, however, that the leshy in question are generally more versatile than regular characters: Briam, for example, sports pretty potent vines that can cause bleeding wounds. Strandle, a seaweed leshy, has aswim speed, can fire water jets and may detach bulbs that grant water breathing. All in all, these leshys could easily be reappropriated as low-level boss-monsters, should you desire to do so.

The pdf does provide some scaling advice for more or less potent groups, though these remain somewhat basic, focusing on imposing penalties and bonuses to account for group power. Big plus: Each encounter gets a full-color map that can double as a player/encounter map – and they actually are nice, particularly for the low asking price.

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

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! A century ago, the sorcerer Varun forged a dark pact with a powerful demon, blasting the land with the dread artifact known as the Eye of Aragahz…and his reign of terror was unpleasant…until Tyrganian the druid manages to steal the artifact, causing the sorcerer to be cursed by his erstwhile demon ally. The Eye’s power allowed the druid to grow the Brindlewild Forest, but use of dark artifacts corrupts – and thus, the druid fell to promises most foul. Fighting the encroaching civilization with 9 super leshy as a kind of police, he stalled the march of progress. Relationships have been strained, but there is some semblance of an uneasy coexistence. However, the vile sorcerer has finally managed to track down the Eye, recruiting the people of nearby Blackwater and promising them to get rid of Tyrganian once and for all.

If you have Zenith Games’ “We be dragons”-module, all of this may sound somewhat familiar: If you extrapolate the leshy-themed dressing away and replace it with draconic themes, you’ll have an identical constellation, with the minor complication of a compromised mentor – not sure I’m particularly happy there.

But let’s look at how the module’s structure runs, shall we? We begin with a conversation between Ancient oak, the treant and the leshys – the treant represents a more moderate position and makes the PCs question their creation…before Tyrganian intervenes and send the PCs after tresspassers he senses in the druid’s domain.

Thus, the PCs move towards the intruders – the strongest fighters of Blackwater, led by Hettie – who wields a chainsaw. Full technology item-stats are provided for the powerful weapon and it is pretty much as deadly as you’d imagine. However, unbeknown to the elite-leshy, the incursion ultimately is a distraction to lure them away from Tyrganian…a fact they can determine if they question any surviving loggers.

Arriving at the sacred grove, the leshys face a scene of destruction, with their friend Ancient Oak smitten by dark magic – the treant holds on long enough to impart the information that the villagers seek to burn Tyrganian at the stake, before dark magics overcome him, rendering him a powerful and deadly foe who can conjure forth storms of negative energy, with multiple rounds of different effects – cool battle! (And yes, the treant can be saved, though it’s not necessarily simple…)

Making haste to the village, the leshys can attempt social skills or fight their way towards the stake, with rules on how to free their master included – kudos there. The badly wounded druid has a serious chance to perish here if the PCs don’t take care. After saving Tyrganian (or failing to do so), the PCs still have to catch up with the mighty sorcerer Varun – who will face them on dust-choked, charred land with Eye and Rift demon, but thankfully also with a significant amount of his potent arcane might spent already. Defeating the sorcerer and securing the Eye retains the integrity of the Brindlewild…but if the PCs don’t caution the druid, he may continue to use the Eye. Ancient Oak may or may not have survived his ordeal, a voice of reason that may help the PCs convince Tyrganian to refrain from using the dark artifact.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups apart from a missed italicization. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports thematically fitting b/w-stock art. The cartography of all the encounters is significantly better than that in “We Be Dragons” – kudos, particularly for the low price point, they’re solid! A downside of the pdf: The module does not sport any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

When I started reading this module by Jeff Gomez and Mike Welham, I was somewhat disappointed by the story – structure-wise, I did not expect something genius, but basically a reskin of the dragon-pdf? Not too cool. Thematically, it hist the same notes as well: Encounter, save mentor, deal with BBEG. That being said, this pdf is superior to “We be Dragons” in pretty much every way: The respective encounters are creative; the pregens are cool – each combat is meaningful, challenging and the signature items/abilities are really cool. Every single one of the encounters sports something cool and the player-friendly encounter maps add a serious plus to the module. That being said, the lack of bookmarks does constitute a somewhat unpleasant detriment and I would have liked stats for the artifact. As a whole, I did enjoy this module and my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
We Be Leshys
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The Swamp of Sorrows - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:26:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning, with the rules recapped for your convenience: After all, the water weirds that represent minions here (full stats included) can be pretty nasty. On a minor downside: The attack damage seems to be off by 1 in an otherwise solid statblock.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the CR 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities: She can fire thorn volleys, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher: With the terrain and at-will entangle, the PCs need to be up to their A-game if they don’t want to join the slain hanging around as decorative warnings. Then again: They have plenty warning that the dryad is not to be trifled with. Her statblock is btw. absolutely worthy of such a potent foe and the absolute highlight of this supplement!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good: Apart from the minor hiccup mentioned before, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, warrants the extremely fair asking price. At this price-point, I can’t recall any sidetrek of comparable quality regarding the challenge posed and overall presentation– which is why, in spite of the minor hiccup, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars. If your players crave a meaningful challenge, check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - Pathfinder
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The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:25:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning. The peculiarity of 5e has been properly acknowledged here, using rules analogue to suffocation – kudos!

The water weirds that represent minions here can be pretty nasty, so yeah, the PCs have been warned in more ways than one.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the challenge 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities, including legendary actions: She can fire lash out with vines, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher. The dryad is deadly, but, to put my nitpicker’s hat on, the lady does suffer from a minor hiccup: She refers to the entangled condition, which RAW does not exist – while it’s simple to default to the spell’s effects, it’s still an imperfection that can cause a bit of confusion. I am also a bit puzzled how her skills came to be: At proficiency bonus +3 and Wisdom 16, her Perception should either be +6 or +3, not +4, for example.

Oh yes, dire bear. You see, we actually get dire bear stats herein as well – at challenge 5, this fellow is DEADLY. However, it should be noted that a few glitches have crept into the statblock: At challenge 5, he should have a proficiency bonus of +3, which means that the attack values should be one higher; similarly, the Perception skill should be one lower. I may be missing something, but yeah. Considering how lethal the lady is, this is a bit puzzling.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. The statblocks themselves sport a few minor hiccups, which unfortunately accumulate. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, may warrant the more than fair asking price. The 5e-conversion per se is nice (big kudos for the dire bear stats), but at the same time, the hiccups in them, while not impeding your ability to run the module, may upset some of the more mechanically nitpicky GMs out there. As such, I cannot go higher than 4 stars for the 5e-iteration.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
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Classes of the Lost Spheres: Shadow Weaver
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:21:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/Introduction, 6.5 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, we begin this pdf with something I really applaud: The book notes all the cool shadow-themed 3pp-options (with hyperlinks – big kudos!!) out there as it states its mission: You see, the class depicted herein is distinct from the other shadow-themed options in a variety of ways, namely in its focus:

One look at the shadow weaver base class makes that clear if you skipped the intro: The class gets d6, 2 + Int skills per level, ½ BAB-progression and good Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons and light armors. In short: This is actually a shadow-themed full caster! The shadow weaver uses Intelligence as the governing spellcasting attribute and is a prepared spellcaster. HOWEVER, unlike a wizard, the shadow weaver’s spells are NOT expended upon being cast – instead, the class consumes a spell slot of the appropriate level. Metamagic may be spontaneously applied and increases casting time if this is done – like a spontaneous spellcaster handles these. HOWEVER, at the same time, the shadow weaver can elect to prepare the spells in question in advance with metamagic applied – in this case, they do NOT increase their casting time. This increased flexibility means that the class, pretty much from the get-go, provides a bigger value for taking metamagic feats, making them more viable – a fact I generally applaud.

Now, as a medium for storing spells, the shadow weaver treats his shadow as a kind of spellbook – the shadow weaver’s shadow is also infused with shadowstuff, which allows him to cast spells with the [shadow] descriptor while not on the plane of shadow. Cool: Shadow weavers may study the shadows of spellcasters to transcribe these spells, provided the spells are on the class’s spell list. The shadow weaver is automatically cognizant when a creature succeeds a Will-save to disbelieve a shadow weaver’s illusion. This disbelief, though, infects the psyche of the shadow weaver – all observers of such an illusion automatically disbelieve it, which does not end the illusion, unless it is a phantasm. This is a REALLY smart balancing mechanic right there.

The shadow weaver gains an additional spell with the darkness or shadow descriptor at each spell level, gaining such a bonus spell at every odd-numbered level after 1st. Additionally, spells cast by the shadow weaver can superficially resemble other spells: Illusions can resemble any spell, but spells of other schools are limited to looking like other spells from the same school. This even fools detect magic (YES!), but can be noticed via greater arcane sight etc. Components, which would otherwise be a tell-tale sign, seem to vanish, btw. – identifying such a spell is hard; the ability increases the DC to identify it by the shadow weaver’s class level. Disbelieving one of the shadow weaver’s illusions does btw. NOT allow for automatic Will saves to disbelief the others – this ties in with the re-jigged illusion-balancing mentioned before. There is one more crucial component to the class’ spellcasting engine that needs to be mentioned: The shadow weaver’s spells are classified as umbral spells: They have thought components and emotion components, somewhat akin to psychic spells. Thought component spells have a concentration DC of +10 unless the shadow weaver previously spent a move action to center herself. Unlike psychic spells, umbral spells may be cast while under the effect of an emotion effect, though the base concentration DC is equal to the spell’s save DC + twice the spell’s level. Some umbral spells may be undercast, following rules analogue to those of psychic spells.

At 2nd level, the shadow weaver gains silhouette – an illusion stitched to her own shadow, which maintains a constant effect. The Will save to disbelieve the silhouette, if any, is equal to 10 + ½ class level + Int-mod. If an observer has successfully disbelieved a silhouette, he is immune to that shadow weaver’s particular silhouette’s effects for 24 hours. Only one silhouette may be in effect at a given time. There is no action given for the switching of silhouettes, which makes me believe that the switch is free. A new silhouette is gained at 7th level and every 5 levels thereafter. These sport some SERIOUSLY cool options: Like making someone who disbelieves your illusions believe that he may be disbelieving existence itself – on a failure of the save, the target refuses to disbelieve anything! This ability is great, as it can screw with the PC AND the player. Prolonging spell effects, anchoring illusions (swift action illusion maintenance) and equipment made of shadow – there are some seriously evocative tricks here and we can also find a Tiny shadow companion. Starting at 12th level, silhouette selection is expanded to include the greater silhouette choices, including e.g. the ability to gain the dread’s shadow twin, mirage arcane with 50% real false conjuration VI-effects – really creative, cool, complex tricks here!

Starting at 2nd level, the class gains weave reality, which is a second array of supernatural abilities – these have their saving throw DCs governed by Wisdom and 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield an additional daily use. Weave reality’s benefits are gained in a linear manner: At 2nd level, if a target is adjacent, enchanted or demoralized, the shadow weaver may force the creature via an immediate action Will-save against it to accept the illusions. 3rd level unlocks lighting control. At 8th level, the shadow weaver may channel hit points between two living or two undead targets. Starting at 10th level, the shadow weaver may unleash cones of energy, opposing energies witnessed last round – negative energy heals undead, positive the living and the elemental oppositions are concisely codified. Really cool! At 16th level, the shadow weaver may render a target creature quasi-real and at 18th level, the ability-suite nets the ability to polymorph any object serious amounts of matter.

Starting at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the shadow weaver adds one divination, enchantment or illusion spells from the cleric, druid, psychic, sorcerer/wizard, shaman, or witch spell list, storing it in the shadow. 4th level yields piercing glimpse: Basically, a sense-based option that ranges from constant aura sight to darkvision (or an upgrade thereof), a further bonus when gaining circumstance bonus to atk, saves or AC due to position etc., better Sense Motive, wild empathy – you get the idea. 9th level and every 5 levels thereafter yields another piercing glimpse and, if applicable, the governing attribute is Wisdom. 14th level enhances the selections available to include blindsense, etc. 14th level yields 3/day, maximum 1/round move action shadow step.

That’s not all, though: The class also has a bloodline-like ability-suite: Chosen at 1st level, this is called “Perspective” – each perspective modifies the spell-list of the shadow weaver is meaningful ways (and yes, e.g. the curiosity perspective allows for synergy with Purple Duck Games’ glorious illuminatus chaos mage’s wonder-engine!) and each perspective nets a 1st level ability, one that is gained at 6th level and determines the capstone. These abilities grant massive, meaningful tweaks to the engine: Take duality of probability: You gain 1 + Wisdom modifier luck points. When attacking, saving, using a skill or CL-check, you can choose to roll twice and take the lower result – if you do, you gain a probability point, which may then be used as an immediate action to roll twice the effects of a wonder, ability or attack, including an illusion’s full effect – this limit prevents cheesing. Increased reality and capstone full reality can be found in the same suite. A total of 7 such perspectives can be found herein and from mimicking spellcasting (with a limit) to using Wisdom or Charisma as governing recall and perfect recall to an animus companion or channel energy, the perspectives represent major, meaningful tweaks of the base engine of the class.

The pdf comes with a MASSIVE class spell list and false versions of abjuration, necromancy, etc. in 9 iterations each, allowing for maximum shadow spell flexibility. The pdf comes with 4 feats for quicker piercing glimpse change to extra silhouette and piercing glimpse. Another Perspective allows you to add spells of another perspective to your spell list at 1 level higher.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and this pdf IS DENSE. There is a TON of text on each page – the margins are small. This sports a lot of content. The original artworks deserve special mention – a cool iconic that’s not rail-thin gets two thumbs up for me, diversity-wise, and the character looks badass, big time! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lost Spheres Publishing went completely under my radar until one of my patreons requested me taking a look at this file. If this class by David N. Ross is any indicator, then that is an oversight I need to remedy ASAP. I don’t know if developer Christen N. Sowards changed a lot, but the result that came out of design and development is utterly beautiful: We not only get player agenda and meaningful choices left and right; the class can be played in a wide variety of meaningful, different ways and the class is AMAZING, allowing for the flexible, rewarding use of illusions and shadow spells – this is, in short, my favorite full spellcaster class in AGES. The shadow weaver does a ton of unique and interesting things with the spellcasting engine and, from spellcasting to the abilities gained, it is a thoroughly rewarding, complex and fun class. While it doesn’t sport much supplemental material (FCOs etc.), that remains my only true gripe. The shadow weaver plays even better than it reads: The perspectives offer playing experiences so different from one another that most archetypes out there deliver less. Add to that the customization options and spells and we have a cornucopia of unique and cool tricks.

In short: This is the excellent full shadow caster we always wanted. Taking the top tier design difficulty into account and we have a major gem of a class here that deserves being added to your roster -5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest hesitation. The only reason this is not a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017 is that it doesn’t sport that much supplemental material – still, get this glorious gem!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classes of the Lost Spheres: Shadow Weaver
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The Malefactor Class: Revised & Expanded (5E/PF)
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:20:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting…are what brings down this pdf. While the formal criteria are still okay, the fact that the rules-language is compromised in several key instances is highly problematic. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard, and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports two really gorgeous one-page full-color artworks (one being a pole-dancing succubus or tiefling) and a couple of less impressive, but decent color-pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I love Brian Berg’s malefactor class. (Additional writing by James Olchak and Rick Cox). It is one of the most unique, interesting classes I know for the PFRPG game and the combo-skirmisher/debuffer is a cool role. The class oozes flavor galore and provides utterly unique tricks to pull off.

In short: It deserves better.

The annoying presentation that alternates between the systems can be grating and is utterly baffling to me. But while I was reading the PFRPG-version, the old fire returned – I caught myself smiling. In spite of the formal hiccups and nonstandard wording instances, I couldn’t help myself. It is a cool class, albeit one that could have really used a picky developer to file off the rough edges here and there. Then I started looking at 5e. Oh boy. The base chassis is, apart from referencing several rules-concepts that don’t exist in the system, pretty solid. But the class falls apart in the archetypes, where crucial abilities simply don’t work. The amount of remnant Pathfinderisms is baffling and something even a cursory editing pass should have caught. I’m sorry to say this: While in Pathfinder, bonus types and several aspects of the finer rules-language could be a bit smoother, the 5e-version is simply sloppy and not up to the standards.

This review breaks my heart. The base chassis, in both versions, is cool and utterly unique. It is, however, also a prime example for why I consider editors and developers to be the unsung heroes of the industry. One careful pass could have rendered this class, in both iterations, a 5-star + seal masterpiece, annoying presentation notwithstanding. Instead, we’re left with class that is flawed, that has serious issues in one system and minor hiccups in the other. I’d love to rate this separately, but alas, I can’t. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, barely rounded up for the purpose of this platform, courtesy of me really loving what’s here, what can be salvaged.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Malefactor Class: Revised & Expanded (5E/PF)
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101 5th Level Spells (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:23:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of spells clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. I did receive this pdf prior to public release in order to allow for a speedy release of the review.

We begin this supplement with massive lists of the respective spells by class, before moving on the alphabetic presentation of spells. Now, obviously, I can’t go through each and every spell contained here, but I’ll try to give you a good idea of what to expect. Let’s begin with the first spell, alter metal. This spell modifies the damage threshold of affected objects and is particularly potent when affecting armor etc. – the spell properly differentiates between attended and unattended, magical and nonmagical and even intelligent items. Kudos. Fans of Diablo and similar franchises will also enjoy a spell, which renders skeletons into ticking shrapnel bombs.

Now damage spells herein generally sport a valid alternative and contextualization compared to core spells. Take e.g. arrow storm. The spell inflicts 8d6 piercing damage to all creatures within 30 ft. of a point in range (150 ft.), potentially inflicting the restrained condition as well on a failed save, necessitating cover or a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) to end the condition. The affected area may be farther away than e.g. that of cone of cold, but the PHB’s spell affects a larger area, has a slightly superior damage type and, with d8 damage-dice, a slightly higher average damage output. In another example, namely force ram, we have 12d4 damage and an unerring, automatic hit – but also the danger that shield completely negates the spell.

There also are utility type spells herein – or spells that you’d consider to be more relevant for the purpose of the more narrative aspects of the game: The befoul spring ritual can, for example, taint a water source. Bitter vintage can render wine into poison, with the caster gaining several different options regarding which poison to transform the vintage into. And yes, the transformation may be detected by savvy PCs. On a minor complaint regarding the formatting: The “At Higher Levels.” Has not been bolded and italicized properly here. There are spells like blood to sap – the spell deals poison damage on a failed Constitution saving throw and poisons the target for the duration, which reduced the target’s speed and imposes disadvantage on Dex saves, but also provides an AC bonus. Regarding damaging spells that also impose negative conditions, it is nice to observe a lack of save-less spells and the fact that the conditions and their potency receive the respect they should have. The pdf does sport some evocative visuals in the damaging spells it has, e.g. in brimstone cloud.

Campfire lullaby is interesting, in that it allows a character to get the benefits of completing a long rest more than once per 24 hours – the long casting time and duration and the caveat that lets it affect a character only once in 5 days act as good balancing mechanisms for this potent spell, though. There are carpets of fire and options to chastise foes with psychic damage. There is a means to generate circles of moonlight, protection against shapechangers and the undead. The pdf also sports a contingent healing spell, which is neat – and yes, these cannot be stacked…and they can be used offensively versus the undead. There also is a long-range curing spell – which is pretty cool, aye, but considering the impact of long-range healing on the game, it deserves to be noted that it may not be for all groups. Speaking of which: Eternal charm is permanent. Whether or not you like the ramifications of this depends on the type of game you run.

Sifting through thoughts via crystal probe, cursing targets with narcissism…what about changing the look of terrain and hiding it from the prying eyes of enemy spellcasters? There is also a powerful spell to compel targets to deliver messages for you. You can conjure forth earth barriers that bludgeon those foolhardy enough to attack you. Elfhome attunes an area in forests to elves and creatures, providing climb speed and quicker movement. What about first conjuring a tree and then having it fall on enemies? Really cool: Flatten makes you two-dimensional. Guard Dog conjures forth a variant dire wolf with modified stats to guard an area and the knave purge ritual provides a type of magic protection against thieves. Minor complaint – spell-references in the text tend to lack the italicizations.

We can find one-way pain circuits, the ability to travel through stone, several pahnatsms (lichs, nymphs, swarms…) – there are a lot of spells, some of which provide significant changes to the engine: Take remove condition, for example: The spell can even negate instantaneous effects like petrification via magic and may end the attunement to a magic item causing the condition, though curses are maintained. Now personally, I like this for the ability to make more controlled use of items with big drawbacks, but it does remain an aesthetic preference. Speaking of spells I like: Scry reverse does exactly what you’d think it does. I like the tactical option, but I can see some Gms not being as in love with it.

There also would be a powerful spell that requires the willing sacrifice of a mortal being to enhance your powers – suffice to say, that one is evil to the core. Potent songs that suppress spellcasting and magic item use make for amazing tools in the arsenal of bards – really cool. Spell grounding is a very potent defensive option: While within the range of a spell that does not have a range of touch, you may use your reaction to negate the spell, ending all effects and damage. No check, no differentiation between spell levels, no discharging of the spell – personally, I believe that this should have an “At Higher Levels”-scaling for maximum spell level affected and it should also have some wording regarding interaction of enspelled terrain into which you move – which imho should be exempt. While it is clear that this is supposed to work only for rays and chains, RAW, it is much more flexible, depending on your reading of the spell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very goo: I noticed a couple of missed italicizations and a few rules-language points that could be slightly clearer, but, as a whole, this is a well-made supplement. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports fitting full-color artwork, mostly stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ed Kabara’s conversion of Steven D. Russell’s classic spells does a valiant job at translating the vast plethora of spells to 5e. As a whole, the balancing of the material herein is pretty tight. The spells generally fit their respective levels. There are some spells that change how some aspects of the game work, which may be a matter of taste. Beyond the few hiccups herein, there is one aspect to be aware of: 5e sports less flexibility with the spells offered than PFRPG – spells have a higher value in direct comparison, often being entwined, availability-wise, with class features or feats as a kind of pay-off. This book does not provide the like or a means to contextualize the spells themselves – it literally only presents a ton of spells. Just putting them all in the game will, by necessity, generate a power-increase, courtesy of the increased flexibility. This is not bad, mind you, but something 5e-GMs should nevertheless be aware of.

As a whole, I consider this collection of spells a good example of how Rite Publishing has stepped up its 5e-content’s quality – of all the spell-collections I have read so far, this is by far the most refined. All in all a worthwhile collection of spells to grab and choose from – my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 5th Level Spells (5E)
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Oracle Mysteries of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:22:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Porphyra-expansion books clocks in at 17 pages,1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages are laid out for booklet-size – 6’’ by 9’’ (or A5), which means you’ll be able to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, provided your eyesight’s good enough.

All righty, let’s not dilly-dally and dive right into those mysteries, shall we? This humble pdf contains no less than 5 complete, new mysteries, the first of which would be ascension, which, unsurprisingly, focuses on ascending to a nascent divinity. The class skills granted would be Climb, Fly, Intimidate and Swim and from illusion of calm to create greater demiplane, the spell-selection makes sense. Among the revelations, we have darkvision (including stacking caveat AND scaling improvements at higher levels that are tied, really smart, to alignment – evil oracles can see in magical darkness, while non-evil ones also gain low-light vision and scent – cool!), a limited use energy blast, scaling DR (with an appropriate level-cap), natural weapons (that are properly codified – HECK YES!), resistances, telepathy…and the ability to grow wings (which begin as humble levitate and improve to proper flight, retaining the soft balancing mechanism of flight). The final revelation provides at-will greater teleport. Immaculate, makes sense – two thumbs up!

The celestial mystery nets Fly, Linguistics, Perception and Perform and focuses on the traditionally “good” spells like dispel evil and, alter, even holy sword. Sounds boring? Sounds like “been there, done that”? Well, what about infusing a small area with planar traits? Creating difficult terrain via heavenly meadows? Overcoming alignment restrictions (and undetectable alignment at higher levels?) or firing balls of sparks that can be separated into smaller blasts? This one represents a minor confusion, though: You can use more than one daily use to increase the affected area, but the pdf fails to specify by how much. On a nitpicky side, it’s electricity damage, not electric damage. Still, the options that are here are surprisingly creative!

On the other end of the alignment spectrum would be the Infernal mystery, which nets Fly, Intimidate, Knowledge (nobility) and Survival. And no, it is no lame alignment-flipped version of Celestial; while planar infusion is also here, we have the ability to tap into the pits and barriers of hell, rendering targets flat-footed. We also get the ability to infuse hellish power in weaponry or cause painful bursts of hellfire – minor complaint here: Reflex should be capitalized.

Nimbus surrounds you with the energy of light or darkness, focusing on a ref-fluffed array of force effects, represented, spell-wise, by the gamut from mage armor to crushing hand. The revelations include making weaponry ghost touch and indestructible by means short of disintegration. The mystery also nets a potent force-damage touch attack that can later by used as a limited use AoE-blast. The revelation also nets scaling negative conditions, though the save to negate these and halve the damage as well as the alignment-based nature of the ability keeps it from becoming too much. SPs (dark or light), scrying – as a whole, a creative mystery.

Finally, there would be the pontifex mystery, which nets Knowledge (arcane), Linguistics, UMD and Intimidate – it focuses on conjuration, bonus spell-wise, beginning at summon monster I and scales up to greater planar binding. Here, things become interesting – these guys can choose the terrain control options of hell and heaven alike and even generate abyssal terrain. Constant planar adaptation, including the option to use it as an SP at higher levels and quicker summoning of an outsider subtype and limited use flexible energy descriptor changes make for yet another interesting spin here.

And then there’s the bonus pdf: The Bosch Fiend, penned by Mark Gedak, a nightmarish thing reminiscent of Hieronymus’ visions. Or rather, a massive plethora of critters. You see, this is basically a “Make your own twisted thing”-toolkit, with 3 menus of abilities and 9 (!!!) sample stats provided. The bonus pdf sports 9(!!!) pages of bonus content! And I really love the critter’s concept. Seriously, worthy of being upgraded further!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level and very good on a rules-language level: While I noticed a few minor hiccups, they did not compromise the integrity of the rules. Similarly, not all wordings are perfectly smooth, but they work. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard that is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf has no interior artworks, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Carl Cramér’s oracle mysteries turned out to be a pleasant surprise: Theme-wise, they didn’t exactly elicit excitement from yours truly, but that changed pretty quickly once I started looking at what they offer: Instead of rehashing bland standards, the little pdf manages to generate some actually unique, fun options beyond what you’d expect. Add to that the more than fair price, the glorious bonus pdf and frankly, the minor flaws pale to the point where I feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars to the full 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Oracle Mysteries of Porphyra
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We Be Dragons
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:20:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

If the appropriation of Paizo’s slogan for Goblin-PC adventures was no clear indicator – this module is set apart by one very crucial factor: The PCs are all dragons! While it is possible to use appropriate regular dragons, the module’s base premise works imho best if you use the plentiful pregens included. 9 of these are provided, all clocking in at CR 4 and representing, as a whole, a pretty diverse spectrum. The dragons range from arcane dragon to blood dragon, caustic dragon, corruptor dragon, harmonic dragon, radiant dragon – basically, these dragons get supplemental abilities that help them fill in adventuring roles: The blood dragon, for example, gets a rage, while the radiant dragon’s breath weapon heals the living and damages undead – you get the idea.

Beyond that, the pdf provides something I very much applaud – namely a cheat-sheet for Flight: Common uses and DC, etc. – it’s handy to have and makes for a nice hand-out when playing this module with players who are not as experienced with the intricacies of flight. The module does offer minor scaling variations, which can prove to be helpful.

Now, the aforementioned dragons are undoubtedly dragons you never heard of before – there’s a reason for that – they may be the last of their kind…but to go into more details, I have to start going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Balthazar Barrick was but a child when dragons annihilated all he had ever known. He founded the order of the wyrm and eradicated no less than 9 draconic bloodlines. Alas, his squire Elbin disagreed with his master’s trauma-fueled fanaticism. He saved a single egg from each bloodline, spirited them away and raised them for 15 years, far away from civilization, in a cabin affectionately called Scalehearth.

Alas, recent expansions of trading routes have brought civilization perilously close…and Balthazar is still looking for his former squire, seeking to fulfill his extermination of the dragon PC’s bloodlines. Elbin, in the meanwhile, plans to move deeper into the wilderness…but as the dragons arrive from a hunting trip back at the cabin, they find it burning, Elbin wounded with a nasty gut wound and a nasty and utterly obvious poison – thus, we begin with a tripartite skill-challenge type of encounter that is surprisingly fun to run – three tasks, all time-sensitive – cool way to kick this off!

We get different read-aloud texts and slightly different information, depending on whether Elbin lives, obviously – turns out that a scout of the Torn Company, a poacher group, have been hired to track Elbin and his draconic brood – the trail leads towards the wayside inn that was rather recently constructed – the Toasted Toad, where some interrogation by overt or covert means (bloodshed and violence optional) predates the arrival of the Torn Company…whether the dragons engage or flee is up to them.

The trail, ultimately, leads the PCs to the ruined remnants of Craggock Fortress, where the fallen paladin Balthazar beseeches the gods to reinstate his paladin-hood…but to no avail. Still, with the remnants of the Torn Company and a fallen level 12 paladin, the final fight will not be a cakewalk – not even for dragons…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with red headers. Interior artwork is solid b/w-stock. The pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a minor comfort detriment. Cartography is in full-color, but extremely rudimentary – it’s just a collection of color-coded squares. Even a pencil-drawing would probably have been nicer.

Jeff Gomez’ “We be dragons” is a fun one-shot – particularly suitable for convention-style gameplay or as a change of pace, it represents a fun diversion from the standard adventuring tropes and trying to reinvigorate one’s bloodline can make for a great, epic campaign goal that is pretty inspiring. The challenges are diverse enough and, in fact, very much fun. That being said, the lack of bookmarks and the pretty bad map represent some minor blemishes for the module. It should be noted, though, that at the extremely fair and low price-point, this is definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
We Be Dragons
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Alternate Paths: Martial Characters 2: Fight Smarter
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2017 03:54:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the Alternate Path-series clocks in at 79 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, which leaves us with an impressive 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so the Alternate Path-series has carved a rather unique niche for itself in the context of splatbooks, focusing less on just adding to the pile of options and instead, showcasing some experimental and rather unique options – this time around, smart combat is the theme, and as such, the book begins with its mission statement and advice for the GM to make combats more interesting – and to not penalize players for not taking certain skills. This, among others, mentions the importance of terrain and skill challenges, the all but forgotten option to yield in combat and the like – as an aside, for skill challenges, check out Everyman Gaming’s phenomenal Skill Challenged Handbook – it should be core. It’s that good. Anyways, milestone-based leveling is also touched upon, before we dive into the new rules.

The first of these variant rules would be reactions: These are not a copy of 5e’s reaction-system, mind you: Instead, it allows the player to take a standard action as a reaction, with the two actions behaving just like swift actions and immediate actions. This adds a massive increase of dynamics to the combat – on the plus-side, implementing the system devalues bland “I hit 6 times with my weapons” full attacks (as they can’t be performed when you took a reaction). However, at the same time, this vastly changes the combo-dynamics, devalues AoOs and AoO-based builds and de-emphasizes long-term strategy for combats or at least increases the variables to an extent where prediction becomes very, very hard. Suffice to say, readied actions lose all relevance upon implementing this – and thankfully, the pdf does offer serious in-depth advice regarding the implementation of reactions: Class-based restrictions, basing them on feats, imposing of penalties – there are some serious and helpful pieces of advice there. Whether you like the flow of combat thus modified or not ultimately depends on your table – if your group is like mine and already has a lot of fluid movements and changing front-lines, then this may perhaps not be as amazing. If, however, you’re struggling to make combat something else than trading of full attacks, then this may be really amazing for you. All in all, an interesting variant rule-set.

Secondly, we look at the options for the conservation of attacks – iterative attacks are not particularly well-regarded in most tables I know. The system allows characters to sacrifice these iterative attacks in favor of bypassing hardness/DR, a +1 to atk, 3 may be sacrificed for a 5-foot step and 2 may be sacrificed for reloading or fighting defensively sans penalties. I am not a big fan for the atk-bonus benefit and as a whole and while the system does prevent abuse via TWF, flurries, etc., I do think that just replacing the iterative attacks with a kind of pool of options would have made sense. The implementation of this rule greatly favors single, devastating attacks – so if you’re building god strike characters or focusing on Vital Strike etc., this can be a bit ugly. Here, some discussion on the ramifications of the implementation would have been nice.

Next up would be simple grapple rules – which, while functional, do decrease the options available to the grapplers. The pdf suggests providing free Improved combat maneuver feats to increase their value – which generally is not necessarily a good idea, considering how other options build on them. Going with an extraordinary ability would have probably been smoother and retained the feat-tree-structure. I am, however, a HUGE fan of the variant aid another rules presented here: Providing a leg up and allowing for variant swift and full-round action aid anothers adds a tactical dimension to aiding your fellow adventurers.

The pdf also provides a couple of variant, inverse skill-uses: Torture via Heal, Ignoring via Perception or Misusing Magic Items – the first of these is less interesting, but in particularly, Misusing Magic Items can yield hilarious results – a successful check lets you roll d20 on a massive table. And yes, you can bestow transient sentience on an item. (As a minor formal complaint – spell-references are not always concisely italicized in the book.) We also get brief rules for wall jumping and running (cool) and a really cool fill-in of a rules-hole: The pdf contains an adept and sensible way of dealing with burrowing movement: The 3D-movement, hardness of surfaces and DR granted by material per 5 feet certainly will be used in my game. Speaking of 3D-movement – the proposed levels-approach makes sense and is easy to implement.

Finally, we have rules for cooking strange stuff in dungeons – as a minor complaint, “and large size creatures count as x2 large size creatures.” Should read “and Large size creatures count as x2 Medium size creatures.” – sizes are capitalized and there is a slightly confusing misnomer here. As a whole, I wasn’t too smitten by this cooking-variant. I’ve seen the concept done in a more rewarding manner.

The pdf also sports new classes – 5, to be precise. The first of these would be the calculator, who gains d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armors and shields, excluding tower shield, as well as with battle tomes. Calculators may enter computation mode as a swift action – this requires concentration and further swift actions to maintain and fear effects end it. While in computation mode, the calculator deals minimum damage and may not be affected by morale bonuses. However, they receive the computation bonus to all Knowledge checks and attack and damage rolls with ranged weapons, finesse weapons and one-handed or lighter melee weapons. This computation bonus equal to ¼ of the calculator’s level and may never exceed the character’s intelligence modifier. Okay, so is that minimum 1? No idea, alas. More importantly would be that the calculator gains 1 point of brilliance at the start of the calculator’s turn while he maintains computation mode. Question: If the character enters the mode for one round and then proceeds to end it on the second round, does he get this point or not? A calculator can only sustain the mode for a maximum of 1 minute and proceeds to take 3 times their class level in nonlethal damage upon ending computation mode.

A calculator’s brilliance pool may never exceed ½ class level (minimum 1) + Intelligence modifier (minimum 1) and may meditate for 1 minute to fully replenish the brilliance pool. The calculator begins play with one formula (the “average formula”) – formulae may be entered as a free action while in computation mode and they are incompatible with combat styles. Another formula is gained at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. The aforementioned formula lets you deal average damage, btw. Other formulas allow the character to e.g. treat an attack as using full BAB, gain Quick Draw and Combat Reflexes for 1 round, etc. – these formula, unsurprisingly, cost brilliance to activate. Immediate actions can be used to reduce the damage incurred to minimum damage. Finagle’s Law can be a bit problematic, allowing the character to deal maximum damage – with high critical multipliers and multiclassing, this one can be very, very potent and should probably be relegated to the higher levels or feature another restriction.

2nd level, weirdly, nets a +1/4 class level bonus to saves versus illusion spells or those with the emotion or fear descriptor and imposes a similar penalty to all Charisma-based skills. This lacks the minimum 1-caveat, making 2nd level in essence a dead level RAW. Mathematical savant is interesting and gained at 3rd level – it grants an approximate idea of the success-chances of certain actions – and yes, GMing-advice is provided. Problem: No activation action is provided. Also at 3rd level, the class gets to choose a calculator axiom, with another one gained every 3 levels thereafter – these basically represent talents sans activation cost – including proficiency with firearms, constant detect chaos/law and the ability to ascertain morale bonuses/penalties (not a fan) and bonuses to AC versus lawful targets, damage versus chaotic ones. There also are a couple of such abilities that require brilliance point expenditure.

There also are some interesting stances here – a minor complaint: Improved stances do not require their base stances as prerequisites, which they should, seeing that they have no effect without them. Ally-boosts to concentration or precision damage caused are also interesting. Apart from these minor inconsistencies, this section is rather interesting. Probability prediction, gained at 5th level, is interesting: As a free action, the calculator may 1/round at the start of an enemy’s turn call out an action – if the enemy follows this action, the calculator imposes penalties on the enemy or otherwise hampers them via ally-support. At 8th level, whenever the calculator in computation mode rolls a natural 3, he can spend a point of brilliance to invoke Pi and treat the result as a natural 20. At 19th level, the calculator may spend 1 point of brilliance at the start of their turn, treating all attacks as using the highest BAB – nasty shredder, even at 19th level, and strangely favoring TWFs. The capstone renders immune to death effects, critical hits and possession and lets the character assume an “intangible state” as a swift action. This does not exist. I think this is supposed to mean “incorporeal”.

The face-changer would be obviously inspired by the Men of Braavos, must be non-good and gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light armor. The shapechanger begins play with the ability to disguise self as a Su, which does not allow for a Will-save to bypass. Okay. What’s the duration? CL for purposes of dispelling/ability-interaction? He can use it ½ class level (min 1) + Charisma modifier times per day. Starting at 2nd level, as a touch attack, they can store a creature’s mind – only one may be stored at any given time. The mind stored may then be accessed via Intelligence checks to recall information from it. 4th level upgrades this to work via touched objects that have been at least a year in the target creature’s possession. 3rd level’s surgical strikes is problematic: On a natural 15 or higher, you roll to confirm: If you do, effects that usually only trigger on a critical hit do trigger and you add + Dexterity modifier as precision damage to the damage caused. This makes fishing for crit builds and those that add critical hit effects via weapons or abilities very potent. Also at 3rd level and every 3 level thereafter, you gain a spy craft, which helps when going in deep cover – speaking a language sans actually speaking it, bonuses versus targets whose minds are held, changing places with a creature slain (generating the impression that the assassination attempt was foiled), morphing into the form of a loved one of a target – the abilities are interesting, but some are slightly exploitable: Killing spree nets you +2 to damage per foe killed, up to +1/3rd class level. Hand me the kittens, please. Similarly, there is an infinite, slow healing exploit. 4th level allows for the swift action reshaping of features, altering gender, race or age automatically. Okay, what’s the DC to notice the face-changer? 8th level provides a fluid form variant as an upgrade and 12th level nets polymorph – which is, unlike the previous ones, a SP. The previous ones have the magic interaction issues noted before.

7th level yields assassination – Dex-based save after 1 round study, on a failure, the attack’s target is reduced to 0 hit points. The ability may be used 1/day, +1/day for every 3 levels thereafter. The capstone lets him perform unlimited assassination attempts per day. 15th level upgrades the action required to swift and 20th level provides unlimited doppelgang…which is weird, for RAW, the base ability doesn’t specify a concise duration as the governing CL-component is opaque. Also weird: The pdf talks about allies and enemies and lets the face-changer define these anew each round, which is per se an amazing mechanic – the class, however, doesn’t do anything with it. Also, since quite a few abilities etc. sport caps on maximum number of targets, this can be a bit weird at the table.

The third class would be the nobody, who gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with hidden and rogue-y weapons and light armor, ¾ BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. The nobody’s defining class feature is nonperson: As adherents of the grand Nothing, nobodies are hard to remember – it takes Intelligence-checks to recall them and 7th and 15th level further make it harder to remember them. While the class addresses how issues with adventuring companions are handled, the pdf does fail to italicize a spell-reference here. The nobody may enter a null state as a move action, for up to 4 + Intelligence modifier rounds per day, +2 rounds per level after that – that should be class level. Nobodies in a null state are hard to recall: The first time a creature sees them, it has to succeed a Will-save to perceive them. Fats movement or attacks etc. end a null state in progression. Creatures get +4 to notice the nobody when they can see him enter a null state. Yeah. This is pretty much a better variant of Hide in Plain Sight at first level. And frankly, it is very, very potent – not because of what it does, but because the ability is not codified regarding balancing components like effect-types etc. At 5th level, he can choose invisibility (improved invisibility at 9th level)as a SP instead, regarding the benefits – which, frankly, is worse in quite a few cases. 9th level also, confusingly, upgrades the null state to being treated as natural invisibility. This looks like a revision at some point went haywire.

Additionally, they get limited use touch attacks that deal scaling force damage and that impose negative conditions and later, even dispel effects and more creative tricks. These do NOT break the cloaking of the class. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield upgrades to the array available, not unlike deeds. These include phasing targets away to the nothing for a round, being forgotten, etc. However, the abilities do have in common that they are missing some balance-components: Forgetting folks should be mind-affecting; silence-like effects lack a duration, spells are not italicized. It’s frustrating, really – the effects are interesting and generally, make sense. 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the nobody gets to choose a powerful sense and becomes undetectable by it, requiring Perception to notice them. 5th level yields void spike, the ability to cause negative levels with a 1d4-round cooldown, with 9th level and every 4 levels thereafter increasing the amount of negative levels caused by +1. 6th level nets constant nondetection and 10th level provides the option to become incorporeal while in null state at an increased round cost. The capstone provides immunity to critical hits and precision damage as well as the option to 3 + Int-mod times per day, as a standard action, destroy a creature on a failed save – 20d6 on a successful save. Ouch. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class gets to choose an obscura, the talents of the class, which include entering null states as immediate actions in response to being targeted by a spell, attack, etc. Since this doesn’t move the character, I assume he is treated as invisible, with line of sight broken. More rounds of null state, fast stealth -you get the idea. AoE force damage, pocketing items into the Nothing – the class has flavor galore, but the important balancing tidbits, from clarifying durations to effect types make it problematic as a whole. A non-turn-ending, move action dimension door, exclusively to an adjacent to creatures, for example, is pretty damn cool and it, like many components of the class, would have deserved a bit more delicacy. As written, it is a VERY, VERY potent Stealth class. Unlike the previous classes, this one does get favored class options, btw. It also gets an archetype, the student of the sphere: Instead of the touch attack, they can basically conjure forth the lite-version of a sphere of annihilation and instead of void spike, he can later split these in smaller orbs. See, this one is really, really cool; amazing, even. That holds true for the whole class, mind you – with a bit of fine-tuning, this is a great class.

The sapper class gets d8 HD, 8 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves and begins play with Catch Off-Guard and proficiency with simple weapons, throwing axes, handaxes, picks (light + heavy), saps and all martial ranged weapons as well as firearms, if the campaign uses them. They are proficient with all armor and shields, including tower shields. The begin play with Int-governed bombs (like the alchemist) and these have a ½ class level damage progression, capping at +10d6 at 20th level. While they last only one minute, they CAN be handed off to allies…and they are Ex. So yes, they work in zones sans magic. Sappers also start the game with sabotage: A target hit by a bomb becomes flat-footed (or even prone, on bad failures) or takes a penalty to d20 rolls, governed by sapper levels. Only one sabotage can be used on a creature in a given round and the critter gets a Ref-save to resist the effect.

At 3rd level, sappers can consume bomb uses as a swift action to create distracting harrier auras with a scaling range. 15th level allows for the regaining of bombs via item destruction – with a cap to prevent cheesing the ability. 19th level increases the Dc to resist the harrier aura. The capstone potentially breaks non-magical items in the aura and suppresses magic items – which may then break…REALLY cool.

5th level nets an insight bonus to damage with firearms, on damage rolls vs. objects and with sundering weapons. They bonus increases every 4 levels. 10th level yields interdiction, which can drain spells, rage, ki and similar limited resources with sabotage – damn cool! And yes, the list cannot be comprehensive – that’s why the pdf has guidance to determine the points/slots thus consumed. Kudos! 2nd level and every even level thereafter yields a sapper art – these include bomb discoveries, obviously, but also adding the sunder property to bludgeoning weapons, counting as being equipped with a portable ram and crowbar, Disruptive, better dirty tricks, putting down landmine-bombs and terrain control via bombs, creating bridges, barriers or clearing underbrush, no longer misfiring…this class is a) balanced, b) cool. Now I wished the class got more sabotages as it progressed, but after the concerns with the previous ones, I was rather happy to find this fellow. Now, due to the lack of spellcasting, I’d strongly suggest giving this fellow more bombs per day as the levels progress than what he currently has, but that as an aside.

The final new class would be the scout, who gains d8 HD, full BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves as well as 8 + Int skills per level. …WUT? With that chassis?? Okay. Proficiency-wise, he gets simple weapon and all martial ranged weapon proficiency, proficiency with all exotic ranged weapons (!!!) and all simple and martial firearms as well as light armor. Scouts have a stamina pool equal to their Constitution score, which is increased by certain feats like Endurance, Diehard, etc. Starting at 5th level, they get +1/3 class level to the total stamina – I assume, rounded down.

Scouts may duplicate a lesser version of invisibility (Stealth-bonus equal to scout level, minimum +2) while not moving, ½ scout level (minimum +0) while moving – they can activate it for 1 point of Stamina. Starting at 6th level, hostile actions do not break this cloaking. Starting at 10th level, cloaking does not cost stamina anymore and at 10th level, the scout may spend 1 stamina as a move action to dimension door, sans ending movement. I think the cost is supposed to be higher: 14th and 18th level reduce it by 1 to a minimum of 1, but the cost already IS 1…Ridiculous: Range is equal to the scout’s overland movement.

They begin play with darkvision 60 ft. (+30 ft. if they already have it) and double that range at 5th level and they are treated as having keen senses for the purpose of prerequisites. Starting at 3rd level, the scout gains more options here: First the options to not be caught off-guard by invisible targets and better noticing them, then all-around vision (plus seeing through magical darkness) at 7th level, x-ray vision at 11th level, lifesense at 15th and true seeing at 19th level. This array is prefaced by the following: “Starting at 3rd level, the scout can gain the following suite of abilities provided they expend 1 stamina at the start of their turn as a free action:” Okay – does that mean 1 point per round of activation? Can the scout have multiple effects in place at once? Do the costs in stamina stack? No idea.

When unencumbered, the scout also gets scout movement – ½ class level as a bonus to Acrobatics to bypass obstacles and ignore difficult terrain at 1st level. RAW, this includes damaging terrain, which it imho shouldn’t. 3rd level adds scurry (+10 ft. movement rate, scales up to +60 ft.); 6th level provides feather fall and caps falling damage at 5d6 and 9th level provides spider climb (italicization missing). These cost 1 stamina to activate and once again, I have no idea whether the costs are cumulative or not. At 1st level, the class can spend a free action to gain a +1 competence bonus to atk against a creature until the start of their next turn, increasing that by +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 2nd level provides evasion and the ability to make a party travel overland at the scout’s speed. Additionally, targets more than 60 ft. away take +1d6 precision damage per 4 scout levels, minimum +1d6, from the scout’s attacks. Starting at 5th level, the scout is constantly under the effects of a mundane variant of the alarm spell’s benefits. 4th level yields uncanny dodge, 8th level improved uncanny dodge. As a capstone, the scout auto-confirms ranged critical threats and recovers 2 stamina per round.

Starting at 5th level and every odd level thereafter, the scout gains an exploit. These are the talents of the class and they include combat feats (at fighter level -4), ranged combat maneuvers, 1/day regaining Constitution modifier stamina points upon reaching 0 stamina, spending 3 stamina to double base movement rate for a round, swift action 3-round haste for 3 stamina, doubled range increments for all ranged weapons…you get the idea. Basically, the class does what it sets out to do: Depict a nigh untraceable, extremely potent ambush sniper. If you ever thought that the ranged combat ranger’s DPR was too bad or that he was too easy to pin down, this class is basically that guy on speed. Suffice to say, I won’t let this anywhere near my table. I shudder at the thought of what even moderately competent optimizers can do with it.

The pdf also sport a ton of new feats: Extra class ability feats, for example (erroneously referring to Nobody as Cipher). There is an Indiana Jones-style use-whip-as-hand feat that’s actually well-made and really cool. There is a feat to remain hidden at -8 to Stealth while attacking. The Befuddling Basics Style is an interesting take of unlocking combat maneuvers while retaining the feat-tree. There is also a feat, weirdly with the [Tag]-descriptor, that lets you combine two combat maneuvers. Another feat lets you make an attack with a creature you have just killed. OP: Over-Prepared Combat renders a target you have identified flat-footed against your attacks after identifying it. A take on the concealed damage trope is okay – but personally, I really liked the option to use razor wire to generate protection from arrows – problem here: Duration? Does it move with you? If so, does the movement require actions to maintain the globe? Using razor wire to make traps etc. is pretty amazing. Reminded me of how bad-ass Walther in hellsing was and really made me want to use these, in spite of the minor inconsistency noted. Seize the Initiative lets you retroactively grant yourself +4 to initiative, -4 to atk in the first turn and prevents the use of precision damage. Still, considering how damage outclasses defense most of the time, this is problematic. There is also a feat to stand up from prone position that is better than restricted class talents. Not a fan. Several feats allow for magus-spell-poaching. Spellwire Style combines razor wires with touch spell delivery – which is 5 kinds of awesome – seriously – the wire-feats here are damn cool and there is another feat-tree for them beyond those already noted. Problem: RAW, the Style-trees don’t work. The follow-up feats have the [Style]-descriptor – a character may usually only be in one style at once and the follow-up feats are usually combat feats, making the descriptor-choice here plain WRONG. That doesn’t break them, mind you, but it is jarring.

The chapter also depicts a new type of feat, namely [Friend] feats – these require a bond between player characters and provide synergy boons: AC-bonus while near a wild-shaped druid friend, save-bonuses versus the school of your wizard buddy, +5 ft. movement while near your raging barbarian buddy. These are nice ideas, though one deserves special attention, as it represents more of an alternate rule and the pdf acknowledges such: Collaborative lets an ally take a prerequisite-less feat of yours to qualify for a given feat, prestige class, etc., but this locks the feat and prevents retraining. This can, obviously, provide some issues, when e.g. follow-up abilities build on the loaned feat; at the same time, it can make sense in some contexts, so yes – I’ll treat it as a valid variant rule, since the pdf clearly designates it as potentially causing issues.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not the strong suit of Little Red Goblin Games. While not bad per se, there are a lot formatting issues. More importantly, this pdf’s rules-language could really have used a strict and nitpicky dev to look at the power and finer rules-interactions. The big picture works, mind you – but its small things like effects not properly codified that turn a potent ability into a problematic one. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Scott Gladstein, Ian Sisson and Christos Gurd’s latest Alternate Path was frustrating for me; you see, I REALLY like a ton of what I’m seeing in this book. The LRGG-crew is best when they’re experimental and you can say many things, but they don’t do cookie-cutter or bland. None of the classes or options herein are boring or sucky. At the same time, I really wished this had gone through the hands of a really picky dev. The options presented herein do have some issues in their rules-language and the details of their functionality and that drags them down quite a bit. Apart from the scout. The scout is just…takes a deep breath Anyways, what I’m trying to say is, is that this is SO CLOSE to being truly amazing. All of the classes have something really cool going for them, but whether it’s the inconsistent absence of FCOs for most of them or the finer details in the rules, this feels like a very much raw offering; like a beta-test of a very good, perhaps even a great game, but one that needs some serious work before it reaches the excellence and awesomeness it promises. From grossly undervaluing the power of Stealth (when playing by the rules) to the potent tricks, there is a strange sense of less balancing here. Take the sapper in contrast, who could really use more bombs over the levels, seeing that all cool class features are reliant on the expenditure of them and compare that to the others.

Can I recommend this? Tentatively, yes. You see, if you don’t consider this to be a run-as-is supplement, but rather a collection of experimental rules, and if you’re confident in your abilities to judge the impact of these options, then oh boy, I’ll guarantee that you’ll find some gems herein. At the same time, this is a very raw offering that fluctuates in the potency of its tricks rather wildly. A game that embraces the scout’s power will sneer at the relatively tame sapper and vice versa. The rough-edges in some of the ability interactions will require GM-calls. Still, while I should hate this book, I don’t. I enjoy it. Heck, I can see folks loving this. Why? Because it is creative and sports some seriously intriguing angles to pursue, significantly more so than many, many books I’ve read. As taken in its entirety, I can’t go higher than 3 stars for this: We have a mixed bag with some true gems, but also some less amazing components here. That being said, if you instead rate this for the cool scavenging options, you’ll get some real gems out of it – when rated as a grab-bag where you take some and leave some, then this suddenly becomes much more compelling – even with the flaws, this is at least 3.5 stars, rounded up, in such a context- And since I have a policy of in dubio pro reo, this is what my final verdict will be.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Martial Characters 2: Fight Smarter
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vs. Ghosts
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2017 03:52:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 58 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages are laid out for the digest-size (A5/6’’ by 9’’), which means that, if your sight’s good enough, you can fit up to 4 of the pages on a single sheet.

So, what is vs. Ghosts? To put it simply, it’s a game hat lets you play in a Ghostbusters/Supernatural-esque scenario; whether you prefer grim realism or a fun, kid-friendly Scoobie-Doo-esque playstyle depends on your personal taste, though the often really FUNNY text herein and the comic-style artwork does emphasize the less serious takes on the tropes.

The GM (Ghostmaster) is…the GM. To play, you eed one deck of playing cards, sans Joker. Character creation is simple: A character has 5 Attributes:

Offense and Defense are used to attack/defend in physical combat. Mental is the attribute for knowledge, willpower, etc. Physical is the Attribute used for feats of strength, endurance, etc. Investigation is used for noticing clues, research, etc. You assign the following values to these attributes: 6, 4, 4, 3, 3.

You also get to choose Gimmicks: There are Good and Bad Gimmicks and you can have up to 4 good gimmicks. For each Good Gimmick, you have to take a Bad Gimmick, and when you take more than 2, you have to lower one Attribute by 1 for each additional Gimmick – I assume this refers to Good Gimmicks – otherwise, each Gimmick beyond 2 would cost 2 Attribute points, one for the Good and one for the Bad Gimmick. These include Attribute modifications and other tricks and include classics like allergies etc. on the Bad Gimmick side.

A character begins play with 10 Health, which represents how much damage you can take.

The core mechanic of the game is as follows: when performing an action, you draw a number of cards equal to your appropriate Attribute score. The highest card’s value is compared to the target value of the difficulty of the task – if you equal or exceed the target value, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. As cards are drawn and used, they’re put into the discard pile. When no more cards can be drawn, that pile is shuffled back into the draw pile. Jacks are equal to 11, Queens 12s, Kings 13s and Aces as 14. However, low cards are better when dealing damage, so aces count as 1 there. A dice-based alternative is provided, but personally, I’d suggest sticking to cards here.

When multiple characters use teamwork to best a challenge, the highest score is used and +1 card is drawn per assisting character. Opposed actions are resolved by drawing and comparing the highest value.

Combat is divided into Turns, which are not precisely codified – they could last an hour or a few seconds, depending on your needs. Typically,a character may move and attack during his turn. Other actions, like drawing weapons etc. can freely be taken. Initiative is determined by drawing cards. Ties of the card-values are resolved via the Physical attribute, and if that still ties characters, we go clockwise. Surprise is represented as a free attack. A character can move a number of units equal to his Physical attribute. Ranged combat determines its difficulty by range. Melee attacks are resolved as a contest between Offense and Defense.

A character takes a penalty to all attributes at 50% Health and 1 Health and 0 Health equals death, unless playing with an alternate rules for death at -1 or below. If you succeed in hitting your foe, you take a look at your Offense cards: Each card that managed to surpass the target’s Defense lets you draw one new card. The value of each of these new cards is then compared to the damage cap of the target: Each card that has a value BELOW the damage cap then inflicts 1 Health damage. Character recover 1 Health for every 10 hours of uninterrupted rest. If a physician attends the character, he may also draw a card – if it’s a heart, he gains an additional Health. Situations may instill bonuses or penalties to attributes.

Equipment is gained at the start of each session: In initiative order, the players name one equipment and then draw a card: If the card drawn is equal to or exceeds the equipment’s value, the character gains the equipment; otherwise, it’s a failure. After a maximum of 4 successes (or one failure), the next player may draw. 4 successes do net a bonus card, though. Old equipment is kept. This also includes living space, transportation, etc. – just fyi. And yes, you can get less reliable vehicles, for example. Weapons come with values and damage caps, range modifiers etc. and the section also includes ghosthunting equipment like lucky totems, aura analyzers, etc….and yes, these include e.g. spirit containers.

At the end of each session, a player may remove a Bad Gimmick, improve an Attribute, add a Good Gimmick or take a bonus card from a separate deck – this card can then be substituted for one the player draws at a later time. If it’s a 2, the player can use it to add +2 to the value of a card instead.

The pdf provides simple rules for window-dressing NPCs (bystanders) and Nemesis rivals as well as simple rules for hordes of foes. Extras are NPCs that make a difference, and as such, the pdf provides some sample stats and unique Bad and Good Gimmicks. Ghosts can similarly easily be created. Fear is resolved by drawing Mental attribute number of cards and comparing them to Offense + Defense of the target (OUCH!) or the value determined by the GM. Failure imposes a -2 penalty to all Attributes for a length of time determined by the GM.

This is where we begin with the GM-section: “Dr. Corontze’s Spirit Guide” – which comes in a COMPLETELY different layout, looking like an old, weathered document – kudos for going the extra mile, aesthetics-wise. It also looks sufficiently different to keep e.g. kids from diving head-first in, looking less playful. In this section, GMs learn about the divisions of ghosts, special abilities…and there are some sample ghosts, with sketch-like drawings/stock-art/photos that actually can be a bit creepy – nice array. The pdf concludes with a selection of sample hooks to create adventures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – apart from the aforementioned one hiccup, I noticed no glitches on a formal or rules-based level. The language employed is furthermore didactically sensible and makes grasping the system EASY. That’s a big plus. Layout adheres to a nice, full-color two-column standard with kid-friendly, comic-style artwork…apart from the GM-section, which becomes more creepy, though not to the point where it should become problematic for all but the most sensitive of younger readers. Pretty cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Okay, let me come clean first: I didn’t want to review this book. Vs. Ghosts didn’t interest me. At all. I like Ghostbusters etc. well enough, but I’m not enamored with the franchise. Furthermore, it was explained to me as pretty much a nostalgia-trip. Well, I don’t do nostalgia well. Perhaps I’m too analytical or cynical for it, perhaps my excellent memory is responsible – but those nostalgic goggles…they just don’t work for me.

Well, I got the first coupon. Deleted it. The I got another. Ignored it. This went on for a while. Then I finally caved and figured I’d give it a fair shake.

Guess what? My congratulations to Rick Hershey and Lucus Palosaari – this game is actually MUCH better than I anticipated it’d be. Vs. Ghosts is no complexity monster, but it doesn’t try to be – it’s a perfect game for a longer trip, for a relatively quick session – it plays fast and rather well, can easily be modified and while it can carry real horror stories, its RAW focus on the goofier aspects makes it a real good candidate to teach folks how to play. The tactile notion of drawing cards can be fund for kids and the easy teamwork rules similarly can make the game particularly rewarding for younger audiences.

In short: This is a well-made game using cards as randomizer; it’s easy to learn and explain, the presentation is concise and makes grasping the rules super simple. The stereotypes and tropes employed don’t necessarily hit home with me, but that may be because I am probably as far away from the target audience as I can possibly be. In spite of that, I do consider this to be a neat, inexpensive and fun, relatively rules-lite game, well worth owning. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts
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Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 4 - The Clockwork Catastrophe (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2017 03:51:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth level of The Halls of the Eternal Moment clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, we begin with notes on the general property of the dungeon’s level – walls, light, etc. After level 3’s relatively tame treatment of PCs, the fourth level is back to the attrition tactics – 40% chance of being attacked, per hour. OUCH. Now here’s a mind-bender: Once the alarm is triggered, the dungeon RAW becomes easier – the ambushing default encounter is replaced with a reactivation of dormant constructs, which are finite. One note: The statblocks provided for these encounters sport some glitches: Formatting (bolding inconsistent) and also ones that influence the rules. On the plus-side, a total of 6 ghostly phenomena (harmless dressing to enhance atmosphere) is provided.

Utterly puzzling: Remember how level 3 had temporal anomaly effects? Well, they’re gone once more, in spite of level 4 being lower. I don’t get it.

All righty, let’s take a look at the content, shall we? From here on out, the SPOILERS reign – potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, just GMs around? Great! So, the basic premise is that the dwarven engineer Talpidae tried to dig into the dungeon with a massive clockwork contraption. That did not go well, as the title very much implied. The catastrophe killed the crew, who now haunt these halls – they are a persistent threat…and strangely, once alarm has been triggered, they vanish. Instead, clockwork laborers and archers animate…and indeed, the pdf does employ the theme of temporal twists a bit: There are rooms stuck in time, for example. Downside: As mentioned before, the mechanical aspects fall a bit by the wayside and no, there are no puzzles that employ this angle. The PCs can’t prevent the catastrophe or influence it.

On the plus-side, while the AMAZING potential of the premise isn’t used fully, there are some nice hazards and pieces of the engine that are still operational…and lethal. Down-side: Their damage type hasn’t been properly codified. That being said, the mole machine is really interesting: Its mobility is limited and it behaves mostly like an amazing hazard – smart PCs can have a BLAST here, while those foolhardy may well end up being blasted to shreds. Defeating it is HARD, but incredibly satisfying, making this the highlight of all levels released so far. In fact, the cool encounter against the machine single-handedly improves the rating this pdf would have received. On the downside, a visual representation would have helped, big time, picturing this threat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay – there are a couple of glitches that should have been caught, including several that influence the rules-integrity of the content herein. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard. The pdf’s artwork is stock and has nothing to do with the module. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography, as in the whole series, is very rudimentary and somewhat inconsiderate – while we get a key-less version, secret doors etc. are not either version and they are not redacted.

Jeff Lee, Michael McCarthy, Rich Redman and Louis Porter Jr.,’s fourth dungeon-level does a lot of things right: The leitmotif of the dungeon does tangentially influence the proceedings. The level itself is, theme-wise, interesting. The boss fight is creative and phenomenal. In fact, this has the makings of a good, even a very good, dungeon-level. But it feels like interest was lost at one point – one careful pass to fix the issues and slightly streamline the aspects that, mechanically, are rough around the edges, and this could have scored higher. But as much as I like the boss, from the lack of global effects to the minor inconsistencies, the hiccups accumulate and tarnish what would be an easy 5 star + seal module, had it received a bit more care in realizing the evocative, cool premise of both dungeon and level. In the end, I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for this – it is VERY rough around the edges and needs some work by the GM to shine, but concept-wise, it does have its definite strengths.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 4 - The Clockwork Catastrophe (PFRPG)
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Head Shot! Zombie Apocalypse Action Roleplaying
Publisher: Magic Vacuum Design Studio
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2017 04:26:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Hack to depict a Zombie Apocalypse with the Cortex Plus rules clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in question. My review is mostly based on the print copy, though I have the electronic version as well. The review is based on V.2..

We begin with some basic considerations on why zombies walk the lands and then proceed to instructions on how to use this and how to apply components of this book beyond the confines of its frame – particularly nice there. After this, we take a look at terminology-changes in comparison to the Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide: Agents become Survivors. Flourish Dice become Head Shot Dice. The book uses the optional rules for flourishes and contested actions. The consequence of losing a contested action is being Taken Out of the rest of the scene – this is pretty scary in a zombie context. Taking a d6 Complication is a way to get out of the conflict and must be declared before the dice are rolled for what looks like the final exchange of a Contested Action. This can, obviously, make things very lethal very quickly – hence, the book spends some time explaining nuances to the GM regarding this mechanic.

Interesting, btw.: Survivors attack zombies in the head. Period. There is no complicating mechanic here. Regular zombies come as either crawlers or shamblers – both of which are pretty self-explanatory.

Character creation has been slightly updated: 2 methods of attribute distribution are presented: Either 2 attributes get a d10, one a d8 and two a d6 or one gets a d10, 3 a d8 and one a d6. The character gains 3 distinctions. They also gain 2 specialties at d10, 2 at d8 and 4 at d6. The rest are d4s. The character gains two signature assets at d6. Characters have 0 mission successes at the start of the game and start with one plot point.

Instead of roles, the characters have attributes, which are pretty self-explanatory: Beguile, Bold (willpower, psychological stamina, etc.), Brains (how smart, not how long it takes a zombie to eat you… ;P), Brawn, Brisk (hand-eye coordination). Particularly fitting distinctions are presented in a concise list. Specialties are NOT tied to a givenrole/attribute, instead having a die rating assigned to them. A significant array of them is discussed, from driving to sneaking or tricking folks. Signature assets can include super backpacks, entrenching tools, dogs, doctor’s bags, etc. Lacking roles, talents are tied to attributes instead, but the original restriction remains in place: You must have a d10 in the attribute to have the talent. There are also talents sans required attributes and those that can be qualified for via multiple attributes. The next couple of pages cover these and show not only an impressively crisp rules-language, but also a generally solid balancing of the talents in question.

From here on out, we have already covered the necessary player-rules and move into “The Guts” – i.e. the anatomy of GMing/running the hack.

Missions are the respective adventures: They are structured by the Objective and the Difficulty Die rating; 8 sample broad objectives are included. The mission’s difficulty die is usually stepped back until the mission proves to be a success…though getting back to safety is an added challenge posed to survivors. The mission die behaves like a complication that only is used against the party when pertaining directly to the given situation, with the conditions, i.e. the steps that can be taken to achieve the objective, can be individually adjusted by the GM. The general notion created by Cortex Plus’s system here does btw. a rather good job at depicting the hindrances and “everything can go wrong” tropes that we all know and love from zombie-based media.

The second mechanic that is crucial to Head Shot!’s gameplay would be the rather hackable viral pool. Usually, that pool starts at a d4 and it is a representation of zombie density. The viral pool’s increase can be handled over time, by action, via moaning zombies etc. – all ridiculously easy, and once it passes a d12, a second die is added and so one. The pool may decreases by keeping quiet, staying hidden etc. When the viral pool steps up, a number of zombies equal to the die roll of the newly stepped up pool show up at Long Range – which may be down the block at the end of a REALLY long corridor in an airport, etc. When the viral pool reaches d12, an Alert occurs, which can result in encounters, the jeopardizing of resources or e.g. ammo running low – and, as the whole mechanic, this component can be scavenged and adapted rather easily. There are also variations on these – like Friendlies doing something stupid, enemy survivors appearing, etc. This chapter, as a whole, provides some really cool modifications and constructs that can prove valuable even beyond the confines of this hack.

In chapter 3, we take a, in-depth look at the basic zombie types: We discuss their general senses, the effects of their moaning, the level of agility, endurance, strength and intelligence exhibited. The effects of decay and possibility of mutation or the possibility of a hive mind are mentioned. The basic zombie range from crawlers (d6) to shamblers (d8), runners (d10) and behemoths (d12) – the latter being particularly large or strong super-zombies. The variants discussed would be Screamers, Infested, Spitters, Fused zombies and Leaders, who retain a semblance of a spark of cunning. The respective variants do come with discussions of their tricks and examples from media. The details of the zombie virus and how it spreads are not codified per se, instead providing a general notion of how everything works out. Horde zombies and elite zombies are an easy way of thinking about these and the pdf makes sure that you can properly use them. Voodoo-zombies are covered, and the Unliving variant of them provides another modification that fans of the genre will appreciate.

As in TWD, the true antagonists, more often than not, will not be the zombies themselves – hence, we take a look at classic foes next: Bandits and Raiders, warped cults, voodoo cults, madmen and psychopaths, protectors, undead harvesters – the big classics all get their due consideration here.

Environment is, unsurprisingly, often represented by location traits – the most fitting have been noted, and the pdf adds quite a few more to the mix: Vehicle graveyards, pitch darkness, untraveled roads – pretty cool. Finally, we take a look at wild (and dangerous) animals and vermin and end with an afterword as well as a character sheet. This sheet, just fyi, has been included in a form-fillable version – big plus there!

Speaking of which: No matter the format of your GM-screen, the pdf ALSO comes with color-inserts that note the respective pages, crucial rules, etc. – once, these come with a two-column layout and once with a three-column layout – big kudos for going the extra mile here!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches herein. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard (with blotches, stylized zombies etc.) and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artwork within is solid. The softcover is a nice booklet and pretty inexpensive, so kudos there – personally, I prefer it.

Tim Bannock’s passion for the zombie-genre show on pretty much every page: This is a true zombie-enthusiast’s supplement – it is a love-letter to the genre that covers pretty much all the basics we come to expect from zombies as a whole. I enjoyed picking apart Cortex Plus’s peculiarities while testing this and indeed, the book provides value beyond the confines of its rules-system: An experienced GM can scavenge e.g. the Viral Pool and reappropriate it; the design is interesting: Much of the mechanics here simulate something akin to an AI director in contemporary computer games: Alien Isolation, for example, has two AIs operating: One for the Alien and one that is in charge of keeping up the tension, directing the alien roughly in your direction, etc. Similarly, TWD and similar zombie movies seem to operate both on the drives of individuals and a second, impersonal dramaturgy that this system simulates really well.

Mechanics-wise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. That being said, the focus on the more widely-represented zombie-types does mean that the pdf won’t provide mind-blowing new zombie-types; neither the plant-animated zombie, nor radiation zombies, alien-experiments or the like are covered – this is about the classics, though I couldn’t help but feel that going to the far reaches of the genre would have provided the triumphant finishing flourish for this supplement.

As provided, I enjoyed Head Shot! More than I thought I would; its ideas and design-paradigms have enriched my games, even if the discussion of the classic zombie types didn’t bring that much novelty. Still, rated as a crunch-book and hack, this represents a worthwhile offering. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Head Shot! Zombie Apocalypse Action Roleplaying
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