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Modern Adventures
Publisher: paNik productions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2017 04:33:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 234 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 231 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This massive tome was gifted to me by one of my patreons for the purpose of a prioritized review. It has thus been moved up in my review-queue.

The first thing you'll undoubtedly notice is that the above does not feature an editorial section - there is a reason for that, namely that each page has a sidebar on the left or right, which is used to provide commentary and elaborate on the content - the editorial can be found in such a side-bar on the very first page.

The first thing the pdf makes clear would be a decision I very much applaud - namely that, while this is clearly based on d20 Modern, it does not translate e.g. the classes to PFRPG and tries to instead provide its own solutions for modern gaming, a strategy based more on archetypes and the like. The pdf does note some changes in the gameplay first, e.g. the fact that modern gaming does not know massive, exceedingly potent armors - as such, AC will be lower and thus, further emphasize concealment etc. This may be one of the more problematic aspects of the game, as it further tilts the balance between offense and defense, already strongly in favor of offense in PFRPG, towards the offense side of things, but let's talk about that after having taken in the whole of the rules.

The pdf also acknowledges that guns inflict a lot of damage at lower levels, but do not scale, damage-output-wise, as well as other options and the loudness of their shots make them less than subtle. A big plus here would be the reality of our modern work - prolonged gunfights are prone to draw the attention of the authorities. So, in fact, the campaign's implicit realities may be a balancing factor here.

The next thing to consider, obviously, would be the reality of magic in the game: If you presume standard magic, there are potentially infinite permutations of effects on the game: From the use of dancing lights in warfare as signals to the consequence of create water and the like, the results are potentially endless and even exploring e.g. the fact that you can generate electricity from nothing or permanent fire and how that influenced our cultures and how the world works. The pdf does come with different standard magic levels: In worlds with fading magic, successfully casting a spell requires a concentration heck versus DC 20 + the spell's level and magic item creation takes twice as long. Alternatively, there is an interesting option that makes spells basically behave like rituals - they receive a casting time in full rounds equal to their spell-level and all magic items of +3 or higher will be basically artifacts, with lower-powered items requiring thrice as long to create. Spells with full-round casting times multiply their casting time by 3 times the spell's level. There are a couple of issues with this otherwise interesting system: For one, it does not take spells that can be cast as immediate, swift, etc. actions into account and metamagic feats that increase casting duration similarly become problematic. Additionally, spontaneous casters are extremely nerfed by this system, losing what made them work in the first place - their spontaneity. SUs take a full-round to activate and continuous ones reduce their save DC (erroneously called "resistance DC" here) by 2 and suffer from halved effects.

The next option would be aspected magic, which suggests limiting magic to suit the needs of the particular campaign. No hard rules are provided here. Localized magic assumes that magic functions only under specific circumstances or in specific places and supernatural magic as an option basically eliminates spellcasting and mentions that it works best for horror/survivalist types of games - a cursory glance at the potency of supernatural class options, however, can make this assumption slightly problematic as well. Finally, there is the option of playing sans magic - dead magic, if you will. The issue regarding math is evident to anyone who has crunched the numbers of PFRPG at one point - in order to make the math come out right, you need magic at one point.

If all of this sounds harsh, then rest assured that it's not intended to be taken as such - but the pdf's "solutions" for these choices are somewhat lackluster - I expected more crunchy alternate bonus type progressions and rules to supplement these respective choices - as provided, they unanimously will generate issues.

Onwards to the next section, which deals with the general classifications of history you can embark on: In covert history, magic is real, but a closely-guarded secret. More interesting would be the concept of secret history, where a force called "The Shroud" shields our memory and perception from the ability to perceive magic creatures, elves, etc. living among us properly. Finally, divergent and alternate history are touched upon - these sections generally constitute nice starting points. Races and how common they are and magic-level combinations are touched upon, discussing the respective core races in a modern context, while also providing alternate racial traits (which deserve applause - they are generally well-balanced!) and favored class options for the new classes.

Which brings me to the subject matter of classes, which are codified according to magic-levels and whether they're appropriate for the respective world. Class skill modifications, if appropriate, are included for the classes and the table also contains the aforementioned new ones; it should be noted that the classes covered here are restricted to core and APG-classes - neither magus, nor the UC, ACG or Occult classes receive consideration here. Sorcerors are big winners in this chapter, gaining 4 bloodlines to represent common tropes of real-life magic - pyrokineticism, telepathy, telekinesis and spiritualism. The rules are generally solid here, though there are a couple of minor guffaws in the rules-language - save DC-formulae switching from 3rd person to second, willpower saves instead of Will saves and the like. More annoying - spell references that are capitalized instead of italicized. That is a big and pretty annoying formatting hiccup that can be found here and there throughout the pdf. Which is baffling to me, considering that spells have been properly italicized in e.g. the bonus spell sections of the bloodlines...and indeed, in later sections, more often than not, the pdf gets it right.

Okay, so, the new classes. The first of these would be the Charmer, who gains d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, sword canes, handguns and light armors. They gain 1/2 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. The class begins play with Expertise as a bonus feat and a mesmerism pool equal to twice the class level + the Charmer's Charisma modifier. As a standard action, the charmer can spend a mesmerism point to fascinate a target, which may be maintained as a move action and the fascination is not automatically broken by nearby combat, but only by direct attacks on the target. The ability thankfully has a range and a save to resist and is properly codified - though, as a nitpick, the save-DC formula is presented in the incorrect sequence - it's 10 + incremental level scaling + attribute modifier, not first the attribute modifier...but that remains a mostly cosmetic hiccup. The class can use Bluff to run short-term cons to gain money and gains +1/2 class level to Diplomacy as well as +1 insight bonus to AC that increases every 4 levels thereafter to a maximum of +5. Second level yields NPC contacts, which slightly confusingly refers once to "begins play" - which is usually 1st level. But that is a cosmetic gripe. Danger-sense, though, is weird - it nets a second "roll to avoid being surprised" - what's that supposed to mean? No idea. It is also somewhat unfortunately-named, considering the rogue ability of the same name.

Things get interesting with 2nd level, as the charmer gets an ever-increasing array of uses for the mesmerist points, with fatigue instilling or suppression and the like - the abilities interact with conditions, though, if you expected choice here, I'll have to disappoint you - the sequence of ability gains is strictly linear. On the plus-side, the pdf seems to get condition-interaction right, allowing for e.g. the reduction of exhaustion to fatigue, etc. Higher levels yield black market connections, the option to duplicate an extraordinary version of charm person/monster. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield an alternate identity, though since this predates Ultimate Intrigue, the ability feels a bit brief and very much a flavor option. Starting at 5th level, either via hero points or 1/level, the charmer can gain favors from NPCs. One ability lacks the level it's gained in the text, though the table does mention it. Starting at 13th level, they learn to instill manias, delusions and phobias and archetype-wise, gambler, undercover spy and romancer are included. I am not a fan of this rather linear class.

The second class is the entertainer, who gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, pistols and light armors...and they basically represent a bard-like option: The class knows 6 types of different performances, drama, comedy, dance, instrumental, oratory and sing and the emotion effects performances are capable of capable of generating benefits and penalties, with each performance having two emotion effects assigned. It is pretty cool to see the requirement for Int for some, but I am not 100% sure whether a given performance triggers both effects or just one. The class extends the range of affected targets and the emotion effects provided for the respective performances, which is pretty cool. The class gains +1/2 class level to Knowledge (pop culture), a bard's fascinate, better total defense and they can use limited wild card skill. Unlike the charmer, the entertainer is more flexible and has a lot more options and some actual customization, for second level and every 2 levels thereafter yield a shtick, the talent-array of the class. These allow for enhanced emotion effects, feats, etc. and generally are interesting.

The class does come with abilities to emulate the class abilities of other classes and, while it gets multiclassing-synergy right (kudos there), I still consider the rules-language to need a bit more oomph here due to the wide-open nature of the ability - still, kudos, this ranks as one of the best examples of such an ability I have seen in a codified manner. The further abilities of the class allow for teamwork feat adaptation and recommend items, have a steady income, etc. - Stand-up Comedic, Stuntman and Professional Athlete would be the archetypes included for this class. All in all, a better class than the charmer.

The third new class would be the gadgeteer, who gains d8 HD, 8 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves and proficiency with simple weapons, handguns, machine pistols and light armors. At 2nd level, they get their first gizmo and a total of 4 levels. The gadgeteer can basically generate gizmos, duplicating different spells. These are somewhat unstable and hard to use for other classes- the class also gets so-called eureka gizmos, with additional options being made available at higher levels. The class provides several skill-based options to mitigate the broken condition, with class abilities focusing on tech, laying traps, granting equipment bonuses to items and at higher levels, they learn to craft Futuretech items - i.e. stable versions of the prototype gizmos. The interesting component of the class, however, would be that they receive basically a robotic construct companion that scales with them - these companions are programmed via macros. They are command as swift actions and three sample means of controlling them are provided. 12 different basic frameworks are provided, ranging from exoskeletons to spider drones, mini-tanks or even motorcycles and the like - so yes, you can play Knightrider with this class. The respective base forms generally are solid in their balancing and obviously provide different playing experiences, with certain limits applying to them. This section, as a whole, is surprisingly well-crafted, with unique macros for e.g. swarms and the like. Once again, three archetypes are provided, namely racer, hacker and saboteur. While I do have takes on the concept I personally prefer, this is definitely not a bad option and, considering the complexity, a rather well-made one.

The investigator class gets d8 HD, 8 + Int skills per level, 3(4 BAb-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and proficiency with handguns, simple weapons, light and medium armor and basically represent exactly what you'd think - a chassis to play Sherlock Holmes, CSI-guys, cops, etc. - as such, the class abilities feature the ability to size up opponents via Knowledge (psychology). They get a variant of favored enemy for cultural groups and networks of informants and the class has a massive, expansive talent section, which includes penalty-less non-lethal combat, skill-bonuses, spell-duplication and so much more. Forensic investigation, forcing confessions and the like - the class has a lot to offer and represents a surprisingly good take on the trope. Archetype-wise, we get the bounty hunter, gentleman detective, muchraker and superfan. Once again, not a bad class!

The scholar class would be another kind of skill monkey, with d6 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, good Will-saves, 1/2 BAB-progression and proficiency with only simple weapons. They can brew concoctions, which act as potion-like abilities, with a pretty wide array of options available. Beyond that and the obvious theme of Knowledge skills, they also gain theses on every even-numbered level - these represents a massive, multiple pages spanning list of talents to choose from. At higher levels, scholars can mislead (read: daze) targets temporarily, generate plans that convey bonuses and become resistant to mind-influencing and emotion effects with a selective SR. The archetypes are the engineer, geneticist, psychologist and skeptic - once again, a generally well-made and compelling class.

Finally, the stranger gets d12 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with simple and archaic weapons as well as light armors and shields: They are the catch-all class for the hardened survivors: make-shift armors, Endurance, favored terrain, uncanny dodge, better movement - you get the idea. The Archetypes include the drunken bum, the parolee, the street preacher, traditional tribal warrior and survivalist. A decent class, if a bit linear, as far as I'm concerned.

The pdf also mentions NPC classes and their basic modifications of the classic ones and goes on to update the skills available for modern gaming, with new Craft and Knowledge skills, Computers and Pilot. Similarly, the pdf contains various feats and feat clarifications of classic feats. Starting cash in dollars, equipment (including a wide variety of guns, use of firehoses as damaging sources, flare guns, flamethrowers, alternate ammunition, suppressors, explosives - basically, this doesn't leave much to be desired and also includes restrictions of e.g. availability of certain objects. From fake IDs to night-vision goggles, this huge chapter provides a lot of cool material. IT should be noted that the pdf does cover rules for automatic fire and overlapping fields of fire.

Somewhat annoying if you're looking for something specific: The pdf provides magic items in the side-bars throughout this chapter, which makes finding a specific magic item a bit of a hassle. Damn cool: We get vehicle stats for jet fighters, trucks, various cars, motorcycles and the like and the pdf does provide a concise overview of various costs of living and the respective standards. Beyond these rules, we receive 12 new spells, from discern password to magical masking of metal and clarifications for the use of traditional spells in a modern context can also be found.

Now, I touched before on gizmos as unstable prototypes - they and the more stable futuretech are discussed in their own chapter: From pocket flamethrowers and rocketpacks to psychic screwdrivers (Dr. Who fans will smile here...) to endure elements duplicators, these act basically as an alternate take on "magic" items - they have CLs and are presented as such, so if you've been using the Technology Guide, don't expect compatibility here. That being said, the section generally is rather nice. The more unique and impressive eureka gizmos I mentioned before get their own section, just fyi - and they increase their effects, though the respective upgrades do come with a hefty price in additional to the minimum level requirements for the upgrades.

After this, we get a chapter on real diseases (curable ones only) and poisons before we are introduced to the sample campaign world, which is designated Fifth World: While the name may generate some cringing fro SR-fans, the setting is actually interesting - it takes the basic framework of Norse myth's nine worlds and applies it to a modern context. A brief adventure outline and some encounter sketches can be found here as well, though these are very basic and bare-bones. The second campaign setting sketch we get would be silicon gothic, a futuristic high-tech espionage dystopia under corporate control. Three encounters sketch a sample adventure in this setting. It should be noted that both of these settings come with a few sample statblocks.

Conclusion:

Editing is surprisingly good for a crunch-book of this size - on a formal level, there isn't much to complain. The rules-language is similarly an interesting experience, for while there are a couple of formatting glitches and deviations from the default, as a whole, the rules-language is surprisingly well-crafted and the classes offer significantly more (and better!) options than what d20 Modern's roster provided. Layout is a weak spot of the book - the use of the sidebar, generally, isn't bad or anything, but e.g. cramming magic items there can make navigation more of a hassle. That being said, the book employs a 1-column standard. The book sports a lot of full-color artworks in the same comic-like style that you can see on the cover - they did not impress me as a whole, but don't hurt the book either. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive, nested bookmarks and a second version, optimized for mobile device usage as well as sample character sheets.

M. Andrew Payne, with contributions from Jason Bean, Andrew Boggs, Nik Palmer and Antoinette Riggs has crafted a rather massive and pretty impressive toolkit, one that does a better job at bringing modern gameplay to PFRPG than many approaches I have seen; in fact, I was surprised by this, as it had completely flown under my radar. This does a lot right: The new classes make sense, and with the exception of the charmer and stranger, provide a lot of player-agenda and viable options. The equipment section, gizmos, etc. all constitute viable playing options as well. At the same time, I think I managed to highlight why I don't consider this to be perfect: Beyond the small hiccups in the rules-aesthetics, in particular the campaign customization leaves a bit to be desired. If you present variant campaign settings and address the magic-conundrum, then that somewhat has to be mirrored by rules - be it with suggested automatic bonus progressions or a similar way. As presented, the defensive options available in a modern game will be quickly outpaced by the offensive ones and just balancing via the implicit world, while a viable strategy, on its own isn't wholly satisfying to me.

That is the one true failure of the book: I believe that it could have been a representation of true greatness if it had addressed these issues. Since it doesn't, it basically represents a good book, for some it may even be very good. The options in this toolkit are diverse, interesting and bring, in one handy tome, a rather impressive and solid toolkit for modern gaming to Pathfinder...so if that's what you've been looking for, look no further. If the notion never really interested you or if one of the more advanced pathfinder options (OA, Tech-guide, etc.) should be part of your game, then you'll have to join me in waiting for, hopefully, an expansion at one point. As is, this book is worth getting. It does its job admirably-well and, as a whole, certainly deserves the obvious work that went into this being acknowledged. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - a good toolkit for modern gaming, but one that does leave some work in the hands of the GM.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Adventures
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Publisher Reply:
Sorry that placing the magic items in sidebars was vexing. We never intended that to be a comprehensive list, more of an inspirational "here's some cool stuff you can make by applying the existing magic creation system to modern items" sort of thing. I nonetheless see your point. If and when we do a second edition we'll include some sort of index for just that reason (or break magic items into a chapter of their own). Likewise, the sample campaigns were meant as "sketches", intended to inspire possibilities more than full-on source books. I would have liked to have made Modern Adventures compatible with the Pathfinder Technology Guide but alas, it didn't come out until 4 or 5 months after we'd already published. (I hope this doesn't come across as defensive; it's just that the calendar worked against us on that issue.) If I may pick your brain: With the Charmer class we considered giving them the ability to cast Enchantment spells (possibly as spell-like abilities) but decided that they'd be better off with their own mechanic. If we had gone the other way, would the class be more interesting to you? Thanks for such a thoughtful review, M. Andrew Payne
Weird Adventures
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:39:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 161 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? Well, picture a setting, the Strange New World, that puts fantasy tropes in an era reminiscent of the interim between the two World Wars, as seen through the lens of the classic pulp magazines of old. The history of the world is thus somewhat akin to what you'd expect, though it should be noted than nice, poster-style artworks provide cliff-notes versions of what once was. It should be noted, though, that the focus of this book lies exclusively on the New World - which sees enough problems of its own with drought, etc., spiraling the country towards a great depression. The pdf provides notes on days and months, holidays, etc.

Race-wise, the Ancients brought the Black Folk to the new world before the arrival of the Ealderish, the Europe-stand-in, if you'd like. Natives and Yianese also make for obvious substitutions and feature twists that set them slightly apart from real world equivalents. A similar approach is taken for religion - old-time religions would be those based on variations of the montheistic writings; Oecumenical hierarchate practices religion more stringently and adds saints and the like for a ore Catholicism-like version. Beyond that, eikones exist - i.e. personifications of concepts and yes, pagan gods do exist. It is interesting to observe that this book does talk about the ramifications of the possibility of journeys to hell and heaven, respectively!

Magic follows roughly two different paths: thaumaturgy, which denotes basically the scientific/academic form of magic, while mysticism is more intuitive - somewhat akin to the divide between prepared and spontaneous casters, though rules-wise, there is no difference here apart from the extensively elaborated upon different social ramifications. The continent, just fyi, is fully mapped in color and from here, we embark on the gazetteer-section of the book, which provides an interesting look at the nations, sometimes with a wink and a smile: The US-equivalent would be the "United Territories of Freedonia", for example, while Zingaro, the great Meso-American stand-in, mentions e.g. Sainted Mother Death and the like - we have magically icy winds in the north and little bits and pieces with crunch as well as plot-seeds galore. Have I mentioned the settlement Cuijatepec, where interred bodies mummify and walk the land (complete with a b/w-picture of a badass mummy mariachi gunslinger), deadly jungles, 10 sample ways to die in the deep - this chapter provides a nice "big picture"-view of the Americas in this setting.

From the big picture, we move inwards towards a tad bit more details, with the chapter "On the Weird Road" (nice Kerouac-nod there!), a chapter which goes into the details of the Union, including its currency (with fitting nicknames), explanations of the government and interesting twists - when e.g. monster-hunting paladins of great families inherit their father's swords to their offspring. Arkham, including a famous asylum, can be found...and then there is the City, whose hegemony extends beyond the holdings of the Five Baronies - the City is vast and its constituents include an alien city with an unstable topography that may or may not exist at any given time, the gambling paradise (or hell) of Faro City, a New Orleans equivalent...and the smaragdine mountains...have I mentioned the rules for magical bootleg alcohol, a dwarven city, an infernal mafia or the dustlands, haunted by wrathful elementals? The monster-haunted Grand Cany...eh, Chasm, rushes for the Black Gold and the center of the entertainment industry, Heliotrope, home of the legendary gunslinger hero Big Jim Trane, who is sometimes riding a giant prehistoric cat. Occult feminism, cigarette-"ads" for djinn cigarettes - it is nice touches like this that manage to lend a sense of authenticity to the proceedings.

From this, we move on to the City proper, which, as mentioned before, is roughly separated into 5 baronies. It should be noted that the map here is functional, but pretty barebones, with the exception of the fully depicted Empire Island, which contains the Central park equivalent as well as TON of highly detailed locales and hooks: From the slums of Hardluck to the financial district, we run a wide array of themes and tropes, supplemented by random encounters (fluff-only). Inevitables haunt those that would resist the taxation or wish harm on the Municipal Building (fitting!), while being an exterminator in such a setting, obvious, is a rather dangerous profession. Also cool: Little Carcosa. Just figured I'd mention that one. ;) Grimalkin village, ziggurats topped with Tesla coils, loan sharks and the race of barrow men ( CON and CHA +1, +2 to saves vs. poison, disease and contagion, can horrify targets with a variant of fascinate, penalizing saves), ghoulish undertown...have I mentioned the Lady of Amaranth Park, the airship dock contained in Grand Terminus, Dwergentown or the mysterious Mr. Nick Scratch? Or the degenerate, human-slaughtering eikomne? The charities that lord over the circus district?

Here, you can find phantom automats, meet gentlemen mentalists, realize that vampires are pretty much very dangerous addicts, go to "Sal's Paradise, Jump!", listen to magical jazz...and have I mentioned the area that now is straight out of The Magical Monarch of Mu (guess what that one is the analogue of...) or the theft of an elephantine colossus by notorious lich Hieronymus Gaunt?

The pdf also provides a variety of different monsters: These come with both ascending and descending AC-values, HD, number encountered and a general idea of movement rates ("fast flyer", for example), allowing for relatively easy integration into a given specific rules-set. These include black blizzards, undead, illithid-like brain-invaders, crabmen, hitfiends (hilarious!), gatormen, living ghost-towns, hill-billy giants, living totems, lounge lizards, murder ballads that conceal themselves in songs, pink elephants (!!!), the Reds (agents of the underground civilization!)...and much more.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has color maps that are decent and an amazing full-color artwork on the inside of the front cover. The interior-artwork is original and b/w and really nice. It should be noted that "advertisements" in the style of the 20s and 30s are littered throughout the book, adding a sense of authenticity to the file. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. I can't comment on the physical versions, since I only own the pdf-version.

Trey Causey's Weird Adventures did not have an easy standing with me. You see, I love the pulp genre and I love the fantasy genre. Thing is, I don't think they mix well. At all. Similarly, I have read so many allotopias and near-earth settings, they tend to end up boring my socks off. In short: This is one book I would have never bought or read, were it not for my reviewer status.

Guess what? I'm honestly glad I did read this! You see, this pdf actually manages to properly blend the fantastic and the pulp genre without getting bogged down in Tolkienesque tropes. It draws from a vast wealth of knowledge and obviously careful research and its ideas go beyond winking "add fantasy" variants of real world phenomena, creating a world that is at the same time radically different and thoroughly grounded in our cultures....while changing them rather drastically. In short, this actually manages the nigh-impossible task of blending the two genres with panache aplomb. Now personally, I do not necessarily love this - but I am absolutely impressed by the depth of imagination and by the obvious love that went into this book. This is obviously a labor of passion and it shows on pretty much every page. It is very rules-lite, which makes conversion to pretty much any system really easy as well - and what more can you ask for? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. If the ideas even remotely sound like they could interest you, check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weird Adventures
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Places of Power: Visionary's Perch
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:34:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required skills may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience and, big plus, we do get a nice marketplace-section depicting thematically-fitting minor magic items for sale here.

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question.

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia's tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more...and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention - they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' "Visionary's Perch" is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope's as old as time...but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that's mostly cosmetic.

In short, this is a very useful, evocative and cool location - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Visionary's Perch
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Places of Power: Visionary's Perch System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:32:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required knowledge may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience. The marketplace-section is absent from the system-neutral version.

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question.

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia's tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more...and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention - they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' "Visionary's Perch" is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope's as old as time...but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that's mostly cosmetic - still, considering that the system-neutral version loses the marketplace, the bonus content would have been nice, which makes its absence weigh slightly more in this iteration. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will still round up for this version. If you have the luxury of choice, the PFRPG-offering provides slightly more content.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Visionary's Perch System Neutral Edition
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Places of Power: Visionary's Perch (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:30:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required Intelligence check may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience. The marketplace-section is absent from the 5e version.

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question - provided the PCs meet the respective Charisma checks.

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia's tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more...and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention - they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' "Visionary's Perch" is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope's as old as time...but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that's mostly cosmetic - still, considering that the 5e version loses the marketplace, the bonus content would have been nice, which makes its absence weigh slightly more in this iteration. While most characters are represented by NPC-statblocks from the classic 3 D&D core-books, I am a bit disappointed that we don't get a sample statblock for one of the characters like Eudonia. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will still round up for this version. If you have the luxury of choice, the PFRPG-offering provides slightly more content due to featuring a marketplace.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Visionary's Perch (5e)
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5E Mini-Dungeon #028: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 10:26:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

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

In the complex where invisible stalkers, a spirit naga and a vrock must be defeated, the PCs can unearth dream rods - one ruby, one sapphire and an emerald...and if they solve aforementioned puzzle, they can escape the dreams and use these rods to insert them into sarcophagi in the first room, where they were teleported first into dreams, resulting in a challenging final encounter versus wraiths.

Conclusion:

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

Justin Andrew Mason's mini-dungeon is one I really wanted to like - I love the inclusion of a brief puzzle and the pdf manages to instill a sense of antiquity in spite of its brevity and breathes the spirit of sword and sorcery - though the pdf loses its leitmotif in Kyle Crider's conversion. 5E does not have the same array of unique´, thematically-linked critters and it shows here. At the same time, I did like how the rods to be found were codified as proper magic items. With 2 ioun stones and 3 rods, some conservative GMs may consider this to be a bit loot-rich, though. However, trial and error puzzles are unpleasant, particularly when the codified rooms by rods would have made for a great way to provide subtle, logical hints. As provided, the mini-dungeon instead, as much as I like it, feels more opaque than it should be. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #028: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams
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Psionics Augmented: Host of Heroes
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 05:02:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Occult branch of Psionics Augmented clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages introduction (which also contains notes on how to handle psionics and psychic magic in the same game, themes, etc.), 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 10 pages of content, though it should be noted that two pages are devoted to reference material, ensuring that you get the most out of this and have all required material in one place - kudos!

The host of heroes is an archetype for the aegis base class, but one so massive, it can basically be called a class of its own. The host of heroes (which I'll just call "host" from now on) adds Knowledge (history) to his list of class skills. Instead of an ectoplasmic armor, the host calls upon legendary roles of old each day to form his astral suit. Each day upon regaining power points, one such legendary role is chosen and then emulated and the astral suit can only be formed into one matching the host's chosen role. Activation is btw., a swift action. The host is always proficient with his respective astral suit and each of them has different free customizations that never count against the host's total number of customization points spent on the astral suit. The appearance of the suit is not strictly chosen - instead, the suit mimics the appearance of the legend in question - as though he was channeling a larger than life version of the respective legend. Dismiss ectoplasm and no-psionics/magics field and interaction are properly covered, with manifester level being treated as class level. This replaces astral suit, but counts as it for the purpose of meeting prerequisites.

Instead of craftsman, the host gains a +2 bonus to two skills, as determined by the role he emulates with his suit, with 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter increasing the skill bonuses by +1. The host is considered to be trained in these skills. A big smile covered my face when I saw the theory (though I am not 100% sold on it) of the monomyth represented as the 3rd level ability. Each of the legendary roles has a list of customizations associated with its iteration of the associated facet of the monomyth theory. If you're not familiar with it, picture the monomyth as a reduction of stories to an archetypic journey, which receives different facets in its various versions. For the purpose of the class, this means that the archetypic mythic roles represent such a version - and the more you spend, customization-point-wise, the more you get to embody that respective tale. When the host spends customization points on a customization (excluding free ones), he can assign it to a particular role, provided it is on that role's list. A customization can only be assigned to one monomyth. A maximum number of such customization points equal to his class level may be assigned. If at least 3 points have been assigned to one, he begins unlocking special abilities - these are covered in steps of 3: 3, 6, 9 and 12 points are the respective thresholds to unlock new abilities.

In other words: The host can assign customization points to the roles he emulates, unlocking new abilities, adding further ability-choices: The host can assign these freely - e.g. a 12th level host could assign 3 points to 4 roles, unlocking 4 3-point monomyth abilities. Alternatively, he could assign 9 to one monomyth and 3 to another, unlocking the 3, 6 and 9 point abilities of one role, and the 3-point ability from another.

Additionally, each of the roles has a rite of passage, an action or test that the host can complete, starting at 3rd level, to gain a benefit from his role while his suit is activated - this bonus remains until he rests or violates the taboo associated with the respective rite of passage. Starting at 5th level, the completion of the rite can also gain a benefit, once for every five class levels, with cumulative effects - these include enhancement bonuses for armor, shields and weapons. As a minor complaint - the interaction with magic items potentially can be read to break the cap here. A caveat would have been prudent. This replaces damage reduction. At 4th level, the host can expend his psionic focus as a swift action to change the legendary role he emulates for Int-mod + 1/2 class level rounds, retaining customizations chosen, putting a damn cool twist on the reconfigure ability it replaces. The archetype also gets a custom capstone, saga's end, which renders his suit dispel-proof. Additionally, when killed or affected by a death effect, he can choose to dismiss his suit "sacrificing" the legend - he is healed to full maximum hit points and unaffected by the attack...and before you start groaning - this burns the role for one week, preventing cheeses at even this high level. Kudos there.

The host of heroes may also choose from a list of a couple of new 2-point customizations: Beacon outlines a target that has hit the host for his allies making the foe easier to perceive/hit (and foes don't see the light). Cunning represents basically a scaling headband of intellect, though personally, I think the skill ranks granted while wearing the suit should be locked at one skill - otherwise, this acts as a pretty potent skill wild-card. Faith nets a limited array of 1st level cleric spells, with subsequent takes unlocking higher levels. Magecraft does the same for sorc/wiz-spells, Potential for the psion-list. Skilled nets skill-bonuses and Wise Wisdom-enhancement analogue to Cunning - interesting: Most of these customizations have a limit on how often they can be taken, unless the host has the proper role emulated - this further entwines the concepts and rewards embracing the mode-style gameplay.

Okay, so, I've beaten around the bush long enough, let us take a look at the legendary roles in question, which, surprise, analogue to medium, etc., are based on the mythic paths in name and concept; I'll just touch upon each, as covering them in-depth would bloat the review further. Beyond the classic roster, the overmind mythic path is also covered and the pdf does provide a handy sidebar that tackles Path of War-interaction with maneuvers and roles. The respective roles, as mentioned before, offer both passive benefits and active ones, have associated customization lists and the monomyth and rite of passage abilities - in short, they offer more than many archetypes out there and can be considered to be rather diverse and intriguing roles. The first would be the archmage, who gains defensive mirror images as part of his astral suit and these even respawn via psionic focus and unlocks item use, with monomyth abilities adding to the defensive capabilities, providing energy blasts, expanding the blast to spreads and using it for iterative attacks...and, at the highest level, psychoport. The champion bulks you up via the suit and focuses on gaining feats via the monomyth abilities - at 9 points monomyth, you can even use power points to make one of them behave like a wildcard,

In contrast to that, the guardian gains adhesive feet, flexible suit and push and lets you bolster allies via psionic focus expenditure, with monomyth bonuses increasing your AoOs and defensive capabilities. The hierophant sports, surprisingly, cunning (and not wise) and fortification and unlocks cleric abilities as well as limited channel energy. The marshal gains flexible suit and ghostly guidance (reprinted in the reference material) and lets you spend power points to disperse teamwork feats temporarily to allies...and in a powerful and interesting trick, while psionically focuses, as a standard action, you can grant an ally a move action, which is taken immediately. Personally, I think this should have a cap of the ability only affecting a creature once per round, since otherwise, a group of hosts could spam move actions for one target - sure, not OP, but a weird image nonetheless. The overmind role nets you Int-bonus or 1/2 class level to AC and Deep Focus via monomyth and can also net you flight. The trickster role nets you climb and speed (2) as free customizations, emphasizing speed and provides proper trap disarming, power point-based, limited rerolls and better Stealth.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level - the pdf manages to capture highly complex concepts in a concise and well-presented manner. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the artwork featured on the cover is badass. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Doug Haworth, with Forrest Heck as design lead and Kevin Ryan and Adam Boucher as additional designers, delivers a potent, thoroughly amazing archetype here. The host of heroes seamlessly stand next to the thoroughly amazing, high-concept occult psionic options the series has brought us. Conceptually indebted (the pdf acknowledges as much) to the amazing Living Legend, the Host of Heroes has a similar leitmotif, but the execution and exact gameplay is absolutely distinct - this is not just a reskinned living legend. The roles and gameplay of these strange suits is truly evocative and allows for a wide variety of options - and the archetype does something interesting. You see, the aegis can be one of the more potent psionic classes in the hands of a good player. Instead of going into depth regarding the options of the class, the genius monomyth-engine manages to increase the flavorful themes of the base class and add flexibility, big time, to the options of the archetype. This flexibility, when properly employed, however, also takes away from the min-maxy spikes of the aegis - the archetype actively rewards you for playing a flexible, well-rounded character.

There are a few instances herein where I'd consider a caveat for lower-powered games appropriate and the archmage can be pretty brutal, but ultimately, the host of heroes makes for a truly amazing, flexible and well-crafted monster of an archetype. We need more options like this. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Host of Heroes
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Veranthea Codex: Into the Veil 2.0
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 04:59:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This revised expansion to the evocative Veranthea Codex-setting clocks in at 52 pages of content, 1 page of front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 47 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

A SIGNIFICANT improvement of the pdf over its previous iteration would be that it feels more organic, courtesy to the detailed elaboration on trade routes, how the trade interacts with the aquatic cultures and how the right of quarantine is enforced - in short - there is a bunch of new material that helps tie the disparate regions together - which represents a significant increase in the general sense of overall consistency this sourcebook offers - and yes, proper maps for the routes etc. are actually part of the deal.

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

Speaking of H'gal, the southwestern landmass is tied to his history; the deadlands, a wasteland deemed inhospitable until the successful settlement Gearingsport sprung up. This section, just btw., also introduces magnetite, a new material that treats weapons made from it...as though the user had spellstrike, usable Int-mod times per day. Oh, and it may hold touch spells for hours equal to the enhancement bonus, with a swift action activation. In the revised edition, this material has had its prices increased significantly - it is potent still, but for the high-powered gameplay Veranthea assumes, it makes sense. The section also mentions the disturbing blackblood plague...and guess what? The revised version now actually has proper stats for this most horrific of plagues. Kudos!!

The northeastern part of the Veil features tropical Caramballa, an archipelago where Port Balas provides the sufficiently Caribbean flair you may want...though there is the component of the sinister lurking behind the surface, as youngsters tend to suddenly leave for the jungles, never to return, to follow the mad whims of Carambal, the Last Irrational, a character previously statted and reprinted here. The details provided for the region also mention a Will-fortifying brew, and the revised version now sports a price for the draught. A note on the shadow war between H'gal and his mysterious mistake (I'm not spoiling the truth in this review) extending to beneath the waves make sense and we get a cool environmental hazard/trap at CR 15 - which would be even more amazing if it was formatted slightly better - white text over a full-color artwork in the background...not a fan from a layout-perspective. The pirate-county here would be Port Ciaro, once again fully statted.

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

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

After that, we are introduced to the Alterran race that spawned H'gal, now thoroughly revised: These guys get +2 Dex, +4 Int, -2 Con, -2 Cha (while still prone to being very potent, it is less lopsided than its previous iteration) and are monstrous humanoids with 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft, stability, light blindness, +1 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), plates that grant a +1 natural bonus to AC and a 1d4-talon attack that is now codified properly as a primary natural attack. Instead of darkvision and light blindness, they can gain +1 to Climb, replace the two skill bonuses with UMD and Knowledge (arcana) or gain a 1/day SP detect undead. To sum up - while I still am not the biggest fan of the base racial stats, the previous hiccups in craftsmanship have been completely cleaned up - kudos!!

Some alterrans replace their tinkering expertise with 1/day silent image, mending or obscuring mist (italicizations missing), while others lose the natural AC and reduce speed to 20 ft. ... for DR, which now, in the revised edition, sports an elegant scaling mechanism - kudos!! Another racial trait has also been nerfed, now increasing the miss chance granted by dim light to 30% instead, which is viable for the trade-off. Nice: We get a TON of favored class options for the race, covering the advanced class guide and occult adventures options, including a previously ambiguous wording that has been fixed and streamlined.

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

The second archetype would be the colonial outcast, who increases sneak attack damage dice when used in conjunction with talons to d8s, but other weapons instead use d4s. 3rd level nets +1 to Disguise, Intimidate and Sense Motive vs. humanoids, which increases by +1 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, replacing trap sense. 4th level replaces the rogue talent (typo-level hiccup fixed) with the option to ignore up to 15 ft. of difficult terrain when using Stealth; 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase that range by +5 ft. The pdf also features more items: Chitin salve helps detect alterrans and increases an alterran's natural armor bonus, but at the cost of reduced movement. Ystill-grath nests are generally a cool item: A bio-mine that is really flavorful - and this revised edition has significantly improved the rules-language of the item. Big props indeed!

Beyond the aforementioned feats, one that adds a talon attack to grapples, one that adds a spedd lockdown while grappling and one that nets a climb speed for alterrans can be found. The pdf also features 3 magic items - an item to fly in space, a gauntlet that disperses goodberries to wounded wielders as well as a vat that may use greater restoration, disintegrate those inside and when used to destroy creatures, it helps retraining their tricks...pretty cool. 3 spells can also be found: Gene Thief lets you steal racial traits - but only lets you employ those that you could, limb-wise. The spell's language has been streamlined, clarifying now properly how it interacts with natural attacks that you could potentially have, anatomy-wise, but not regarding your features.. Perfect Integration immediately integrates a biodevice and stellar journey basically is the magic equivalent of a rocket drive, allowing for the passage into outer space.

The pdf concludes with 2 pages of random encounter-tables and the revised edition now also sports the Matoriksu - basically a magical anglerfish of monstrous size, previously released as a stand-alone teaser...and it is AMAZING. It is so big, it is less of a creature and more like an amazing adventuring environment, one that generates a horrid false reality for those it captures! The pdf presents the creature as basically a collection of several potential encounter-themes, hooks, etc., with DCs and the like provided as well...and in the hands of a proper GM, this can be one amazing offering indeed.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting has been SIGNIFICANTLY improved in version 2.0 - the new iteration works very well in these categories. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and, as with pretty much all of Mike Myler's books, there is A LOT of information on every given page, which makes the book pretty busy, but also chock-full. Artwork-wise, the pdf sports a blend of public domain and amazing full-color art and also offers some seriously nice maps of the region.The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Nicholas J. Giebel's "Into the Veil" took a pretty serious beating from me in its first iteration. That being said, the book has improved in every single way in this revised 2.0-iteration. While, as a person, I don't agree with all design-decisions, there is a ton of cool material to be found herein and the craftsmanship aspects have improved significantly. Moreover, the revised edition feels very much like its own book - one of the worst aspects of the original was that the respective environments were not really connected - they felt like fragments - and the consistency of the region's structure, the interactions etc. have been greatly improved by the inclusion of the new content, by the elaborations and fine-tuning employed herein.

In short: The Veranthea-team has taken the criticism, ran with it, and the result is a thoroughly amazing, weird and wondrous regional supplement - whether you're looking for scavenging material or to run this region in its entirety, there will be stuff herein you'll adore. In short - the revised edition represents a significant step up regarding quality, consistency and also balance. Now, you should be aware that this is very much a high-light reel - this is not lavishly detailed, it paints its vision in broad strokes. But unlike its previous incarnation, the resulting picture now actually comes together. In short: This is a great, evocative, balls to the wall crazy setting. Some folks may want to nerf some aspects, but considering Veranthea's general assumed power-level, I am very happy with this revision. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars - pretty much worth getting for everyone who's looking for a creative, evocative high-fantasy naval environment!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Into the Veil 2.0
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5E Mini-Dungeon #027: Kaltenheim
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 04:57:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

In the frigid north, rumors abound that a massive raider has begun striking at nomads wandering the snowline: Dubbed Koloss and accompanied by an oni, this boogeyman has recently called an NPC of importance - and now it's time to put him in his place for once and for all. The trail leads to a complex of frigid, natural caves, which contain not only multiple, powerful yetis (reskinned hill giants) and subarctic shriekers acting as a natural alert-system.

More important for the module, the little pdf sports intriguing terrain features beyond the shriekers and they serve another function: The dread Koloss turns out to be an frost giant accompanied by his aforementioned oni buddy and the PCs will be challenged by these adversaries...but if they manage to out-stealth them, they may actually catch them unaware! Have I mentioned the elemental nodes associated with arctic water?

Conclusion:

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

Jonathan Ely's Kaltenheim has a very distinct flavor that makes it unique and interesting - it rewards capable PCs and sports a cool (pardon the pun) boss.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #027: Kaltenheim
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Death Slaves of Eternity (DCC)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2017 07:14:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive adventure clocks in at 80 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a MASSIVE 76 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, first of all, this is a funnel (0 level adventure) and as such, the review will contain SPOILERS later...but it also is a bit more than that: The adventure actually has quite a bit of interesting supplemental material, so let's start by discussing that: One of the appendices contains various curses for plundering the dead; there is a nice 100-entry-strong loot-table for judges and we can find a d30-table of magic items, which include enchanted gladiatorial paint, magic veils, vine made from golden pomegranates, the iconic hand of glory, the horror in clay that can be sent after foes, starsteel items and purple lotus dust. I encountered no issues in this section - the items are evocative and cool.

The pdf also contains the ancient god-king Mog'malu as a new patron, complete with 3 new spells, spellburn table, etc. - and yep, they are well-crafted. Similarly, clerics of the patron can be found, with unique sacred mysteries, titles by level and disapproval-table. The pdf also features something fans of Sword & Sorcery will appreciate: Reskins of halflings, elves and dwarves, who become pirates, cultists and soldiers, respectively. So yes, this is a surprisingly crunchy offering for a module...

...but you want to know about the module, right? Okay, so let's start with the SPOILERS! Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion!

...

..

.

All right, only judges around? Great!

So, this module is made for 12 to 16 player characters - true to the concept of the funnel, not all will survive this: The module is challenging, so pack your spare character. ;P

The Mad-Sultan fancies himself the heir of the god-king Xothula, deeming his right to rule divine; as such, this decadent tyrant has reinstated the practice of Servus Mortem . the use of the eponymous death slaves, destined to accompany beings of high standing to the afterlife. The sultan drugged his wife with the help of his physician, entombing her "dead", but really just sleeping body and her children in the sacred crypts of eternity...and you don't become tyrant while leaving loose ends...and so the physician joined, much to his horror, the ranks of the death slaves.

Meanwhile, the queen on her funeral bier, with only the wailing of her children to break the silence of the tomb, attracted the attention of a thing from the Outer Dark - and thus, arise she did, awash in cosmic filth, reborn as the Crypt Mother, kept in the equilibrium between devil and mortal, life and death. It has been decades since and the Mad-Sultan is growing old - his son, blood prince Sabal-Ya, visited the PC's humble abode...but the prince was slain and the investigator, the Holy Vizier, declared that all must suffer for the prince's death - and as such, the PCs are condemned as Servus Mortem to the crypts as death slaves...but unbeknown to the PCs, the blood prince has faked his death in a mad gambit: Convinced that he was bound for an eternity of torment, he is obsessed with reaching the gates of paradise contained in the crypts - it is the prince's gambit that flooding the dungeon with death-slaves will allow him to reach his goal.

The PCs get their starting occupations, circumstances of their arrest and starting luck influences the additional information they may have. The starting occupation, btw. is represented by a massive table that also determines the equipment the poor death-slaves will bring along, 12 rumors and superstitions and a massive 1-page read-aloud text help setting the scene.

Within the crypts awaits btw. Mog'mula -ram-headed giant and true godking, to whom Xothula was bad an ill-fated apprentice, who nonetheless managed to seal the giant. The dungeon complex features lavishly-detailed and well-crafted read-aloud text galore, and the clues the PCs can find offer degrees of success, allowing for fine differentiation. Similarly worthwhile mentioning would be the fact that sidebars help the judge to depict the respective NPCs properly. It should also be noted that "floating" encounters not tied to a specific locale come with the same, lavish attention to detail that is afforded to the exploration of the complex itself. Lightning is generated by strange witch-light that gleam in unholy, green radiance...and rumor tables among the servus mortem and advice on replacing PCs that have fallen to the complex.

The crypt of the faithful comes with a handy table if the PCs get lost (and don't want to try to find their way...) and truly, within these halls challenges galore can be found mind maggot prowlers, undead, cackling fools with their infected blood...have I noted the crypts of the mother and the maddening visions? The glorious direct and indirect storytelling? The fact that this module combines the best traits of a dungeon-exploration and investigation?

The module is also studded with copious pieces of full-page full-color artworks, many of which depict the iconic creatures and strange rooms the PCs can - like the chamber of gleaming, black stone, the walls arranged as though they were stars of a mad geometry, with a black block in the middle, from which a rune-carved, gigantic tusk rises. Oh yes, this dungeon is EVOCATIVE. Unique. It is wondrous...and even regular rooms often feature prose that is as captivating as the sword & sorcery greats that have inspired this module - when dead kings, forever crowned in sorrow, corrupted concubines and the wings torn from an erstwhile god await...then you're not just playing an amazing dungeon that epitomizes the aesthetics that set DCC apart - then you're playing a module that is amazing, regardless of the system you're using. (Though, seriously - play it in DCC!) Oh, and yes, there obviously is a guardian down here, a cosmic horror, whose artwork is fantastic in its weirdness...and the conclusion is perhaps the most furious becoming an adventurer-narrative I have read in ages....and no, I am not going to SPOIL the finale...I want you to get this.

The handy appendices keep monsters, NPCs, etc. all in line.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious accumulation of glitches. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf comes with A LOT of original full-color artworks that help render this an aesthetically-pleasing experience. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The cartography is in full-color and really nice - my only complaint here remaining that there is no key-less, player-friendly version.

Marzio Muscedere's Death-Slaves of Eternity is a massive...ah, eff it, I can't do that neutral shtick here: THIS IS AWESOME. Seriously, this funnel OOZES amazing Sword & Sorcery flair, pure weirdness, is creative, has precise crunch, copious amounts of well-written prose and oozes style, flair and panache galore. This is one downright glorious, massive module - and if you even remotely like the subject matter, you should definitely get this. I mean it. Even if you don't play DCC, this module is frankly a glorious, rewarding and creative funnel that leaves nothing to be desired and may be worth converting, even if you do not play DCC (but then again...why? DCC is a damn fine system...).

Anyways, this module has a TON of material, great prose, cool critters that actually have a reason to be there and make sense - in short, it has it all. 5 stars + seal of approval. Given without hesitation!! Get this gem!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Death Slaves of Eternity (DCC)
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Derelict Generator
Publisher: Ideagonk
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2017 07:11:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This creator is pretty simple and so are the instructions: You take 1d4, 4d6, 1 d8, 2d10, 1d12 and 1d20. That's the baseline for big ships, though you can use the system to create smaller or more massive derelicts by adding or subtracting dice.

Okay, now that you have the dice ready, you drop them on a standard sheet of paper - US letterpack or Din A4 both work. Notate where each die lands. Remove the die from the paper and note, in its place, the die size and what it did show -a d8 showing a 7 would be noted as d8-7, for example. This is called a "node".

Now draw a line from the node to another node - this is called a "connection." Each node must be connected to at least another node. This establishes the basic shape of the derelict and can really kick off your imagination - then, you look up the results of the nodes on the dice tables, changing results that do not fit your vision accordingly.

The respective tables are as follows: d4 denotes the ship's reactor, with a 1 meaning imminent meltdown, 4 denoting full power. d6s represent common modules like cargo bays, habitation, contraband, etc. d8s cover weaponry and defense, d10s unique places (like cryochambers, illegal labs, etc.), d12s depict the command area (with entries like corporate interest or AI)...and d20 represents plot-twist-y components: Like rooms filled with desperate survivors, occult chambers, scrappers, etc.

And that's about it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring issues. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read and printer-friendly one-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artwork apart from the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity - kudos!!

Karl Scheer's derelict generator is a nice, unpretentious little pdf. It does what it says on the tin and dice-dropping does a pretty good job at creating derelicts...at least for the most part. On the downside, the respective dressing entries from the tables, while not bad by any stretch, left me underwhelmed when compared to e.g. Rafael Chandler's "Starship from Hell". Let me reiterate this: This is by no means bad and it may be worth the very fair asking price, but I'm not sure I'd get it again. With the dressing being decent, but not inspired, I probably won't be using this again - either I design my material by hand, or I am time-starved and need a more comprehensive tool, and the pdf does not deliver the latter. As such, I consider this a bit of a mixed bag. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Derelict Generator
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Dynastic Races Compendium
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2017 11:00:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This MASSIVE sourcebook clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, 1.5 pages of KS-backer-thanks, leaving us with 152.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

So, what is this? Well, first of all, this would be a massive sourcebook that takes 4 races of the PFRPG-game and provides the details we always craved; two of these have been covered before - namely the Kitsune and Samsarans, in their respective compendiums - if I am not mistaken, roughly 90% of the content from these books should be available herein as well. However, this is more than a partial rehash of previous material: Instead, we gain massively expanded content. Beyond the previously noted two races, this pdf also takes a look at the nagaji and wayang, two races, which, much like the samsarans, have received basically no love whatsoever.

Now, as some of you may have noticed, I have a very firmly-held conviction that races are more than the sum of a couple of racial traits. At least, for me, they better should be. A race that is not human should have a distinct culture, a distinct outlook and, hopefully, some unique mechanics...but these alone do not make a race. Hence, I was less than enthused by the way PFRPG introduced a wide variety of races without really contextualizing them in a cultural context. This was changed for the two aforementioned races when Everyman Gaming released the respective compendiums - the attention to detail and lore provided for the races suddenly made me actually enjoy both kitsune and samsarans, two races I previously did not even consider introducing to me game.

How did those pdfs, and by extension, this book, achieve such a goal? Simple: By writing an actually believable ecology and psychology for the races into them, by elevating them from the status of just collections of stats. Now, the respective racial write-ups do replicate the stats for these races, obviously, but beyond them, we are taught about psychology (loyalty, shapechanging and a kitsune's trickster-reputation can make for intriguing combos), their life cycle, internal and external physiology and more: Coming of age, childhood, falling in love, death, clothing habits, what one can expect from the respective race's communities...heck, we even get to know about clothing, cuisine, familial structures, languages and the stances towards other races - the attention to detail exhibited here is a beauty to behold, the prose crisp and 5 truths and falsehoods commonly associated with the race represent fun stereotypes to play with.

Beyond that, the races also sport ethnicities, which is a big plus as far as I'm concerned: polar fox kitsune? Yep Black- or White-furred ones? Included. This whole section also features the respective alternate racial traits commonly associated with the ethnicity, adding crunchy components to the massive flavor. Speaking of flavor: What about diversified and unique origin myths and, indeed, even deities? Heck, the pdf does talk about chakras, mythic ascension and the like within the context of the respective races, generating an overall sense of holistic coverage basically never seen in gaming supplements...and yes, I am aware that I have so far not talked about the crunch supporting these extended ethnologies - there is a reason for that, namely that it has been collected in its own chapter - which, to me, is a good idea, organization-wise, but more on that later.

Now, I previously touched upon the kitsune and while this book does provide significantly more material than previously released, I'd like to spend a few lines talking about the nagaji: Their culture is noted as xenophobic and based on might makes right, but also values experience as a crucial factor - we learn that the nagaji do not worship nagas...and no, they do not hatch from eggs and they actually have a sense of humor. It is interesting to note that the revulsion often sparked by their snake-like appearance can be one of the reasons they have a reputation for being no-nonsense and xenophobic - when interacting with species likely to potentially want to kill you, you do become a bit...let's say...cautious.

The life cycle is interesting to observe as well, as moulting and birthdays are touched upon and the reserved traditions for love and death similarly fit seamlessly into a vision of a highly structured and traditional society, basing them on fictionalized Asian cultures, but with enough twists to make them more than simply a reptilian version of real life cultures - instead, we basically have a race on our hands that can be summed up as a logical consequence of the respective cultural components interacting in a concise manner. Less verbosely: I can picture them existing, which is a feat in and of itself. Eel-like or cobra-headed nagaji and those seemingly descendant from nagas in their coloration and heritage add an interesting caste-like structure to their society that adds further adventuring potential and local color.

Beyond all of this, the tradition of scale bindi, adorning one's chakras, makes for a flavorful and potentially very rich collection of culturally distinct signifiers.

The samsarans, if you recall my review of that race's original compendium, aren't a race I was particularlyl fond of: The lopsided racial traits and powers made them not interesting to me, a fact Alexander Augunas changed back then - the race, with its unique psychology and outlook on life and its focus on constant reincarnation, renders the race's expanded lore one of the most successful examples of excellent storytelling in crunch-design I have seen in quite a while - the way in which their unique mythology and psychology shapes their cultures and the attention to detail provided therein render the samsarans as presented herein significantly more compelling than what the sum of their crunchy bits would suggest. The logic employed throughout the pdf is also extended towards the concept of ethnicities, codifying them for samsarans by whether they're awakened, slumbering, reborn - you get the idea. And yes, reborn samsarans get their own set of racial traits, deeply aligned with Occult Adventures, as befitting of a race with these esoteric themes.

Beyond the philosophy of samsarism, the wheel of rebirth is fully elaborated upon as well in this section, making for an overall extremely compelling reading experience...but many of you may have guessed that. If you're like me, the race that will probably have you guessing the most would be the wayang - only recently introduced and bereft of predecessors in the traditional sense, the race very much felt like tabula rasa to me - so how has its void been filled?

Well, the wayang as depicted herein are shy and reclusive and, somewhat akin to e.g. the Aztecs, they expect life to e painful and full of toil; they also place a high value on survival and their discomfort in daylight obviously has significant repercussions regarding their culture and racial psychology. Indeed, from the wayang's perspective, they have been exiled and damned to an existence in a world that is unerringly hostile to them, instilling a significant amount of Weltschmerz, quite literally, into their culture. A general distrust of curiosity is also a trait only rarely touched upon in cultural write-ups, but one that can provide a lot of interesting food for roleplaying interaction.

The alien nature of wayang also is represented in their physiology and life cycle, as we learn that they are born blind...and while they are pretty glum, at least for me as a goth, I consider their pessimism at least partially amusing - with love vows like "I will love you to the day my soul dissolves into the eternal shadow of night...and beyond.", which frankly could have been spouted by particularly kitschy, lovestruck fellows of my sub-culture...so yeah, while you can play them as angsty guys, there is an inherent melancholy and romanticism here, one that the right player can showcase with a wink. Dining etiquette and familial structures similarly are taken into consideration, as the book enumerates the consequences of the deeply-ingrained cultural belief of being stranded in a thoroughly hostile environment. Have you btw. known that their boogeymen, unsurprisingly, would be the lurkers in light?

Unique scarification techniques set e.g. the beber wayang ethnicity apart, while gedong wayangs limit this practice to their faces, giving them a unique, mask-like appearance. Indeed, body modifications, from split tongues to implants and brandings set the respective ethnicities apart in rather intriguing procedures. The tragic history of the race and their philosophy, the "Dissolution, road to the eternal night", can also be found herein: Big kudos, btw. - the racial philosophy, while tied to nihilism, is for once not evil. Oh...and then there would be the dayseekers...but most wayang will be loathe to talk about those folks...for good reason, if you have read the origin myth...but a great way to play a wayang distinct from the traditional racial ideology.

Okay, so I mentioned that I consider the structure of this book smart: Well, at this point, we have pretty much covered the first 100 pages of this tome and everything that follows is rock-hard CRUNCH, which makes this a rather dense book in that regard The structure employed in this chapter is as follows: We begin with alternate racial traits for the respective races, as well as the favored class options, in sequence. The astute reader will recognize, however, that the latter does cover newer classes like vigilante and occult classes, which constitutes a big plus. Alternate attribute arrays can also be found herein, with e.g. the kitsune getting an option for a mental, lopsided +2 Wisdom and Charisma - not the biggest fan there, but oh well. on the plus side, favored class options and alternate racial traits actually make use of the respective unique options and themes represented by the race. It should also be noted that, in spite of the sheer massive density in this section. bonus types generally are very concisely defined - while there are a precious few instances where the bonus remains untyped, for the most part, this is impressively concise, as we've come to expect from Everyman Gaming. Other nitpicks here, purely cosmetic, would pertain e.g. the italicization of ki, which is inconsistent in single abilities...but then again, it is inconsistent throughout the whole gaming oeuvre, so consider this me just being a nitpicky prick. Nagaji can become masters of exotic arms via traits, gaining a thankfully limited charming gaze or increased potency when handling poisonous magic. Samsarans "slumbering" still can benefit from a variety of base racial traits, aligning them with more common races and further diversifying the concept for the player (and allowing for awakening storylines...), while the propensity of the wayang for scarifications and body-mods can yield a surprising diversity of pretty cool options as well.

Once we have taken all of that in (and believe me, it's a LOT!), we move on to the significant cadre of racial archetypes. Now, as much as I'd like to go into details regarding each and everyone one of them, that would bloat the review even further and wouldn't be too helpful, so, in all brevity, let's take a look at the options: The (nagaji - the archetype works for everyone) paragonchemist basically gains a variety of mutagen, the paragogen, which heightens one aspect of the racial attributes at the cost of others, emphasizing the notion of becoming a heightened, more pronounced version of one's race's virtues. There are arcanist exploits that allow for the temporary switching of how subjects react to positive and negative energy (really cool!), distort magical illumination or hijack polymorph effects - unique and make sense, as far as I'm concerned. Rage power-wise, we get poisonous bites and raging/shapechanging combos. A total of 6 bardic masterpieces can be found herein, tying into the respective racial components - from the eternal cycle, represented in two of them, to Sun's Requiem, these are neat.

The bloddrager kitsune bloodline features the kumiho form and spellcraft and the high-level option to snatch the beating heart from the chest of your opponents. Badass! The guru cleric represents an investigator/cleric-crossover with diminished spellcasting, while the scripture-scribed priest takes the wayang obsession with body mods and applies it religiously: Less domains, but they etch their spells into their own bodies...they may later even scribe scrolls into their body - to resume my asinine nitpicking: In one of the book's rare glitches, a spell-reference here in not italicized, but that remains a purely aesthetic glitch. The book also features 3 subdomains: Agriculture, Kami and Manasaputra - all of these are balanced and bereft of complaints from yours truly.

The dancing blade would be a fighter with panache and deeds. Okay, I guess. The reincarnated hunter is really interesting - slightly diminished in spellcasting, they can tap into past lives, gaining abilities based on previous lives when tapping into them. Interesting, if strong option. The skulker hunter gains the slayer's studied target and a modified spell list. Inquisitors may elect to gain the communal guardian archetype, gaining a kind of collective-like bond with tactician-like tricks. The shapeshifter hunter inquisitor should be pretty self-explanatory. Two brief investigator talents are part of the deal and the enthraller mesmerist gets a fascination-style gaze instead of 1st level's mesmerist trick, which higher levels enforcing further the charming/fascination focus, replacing the touch treatment tree of abilities. The kyubi visionary monk, unsurprisingly, blends SPs with martial arts and the higher level option to use ki to refresh the SPs. The monk of a million lives is pretty cool and focuses on reincarnation and also features Childhood Adventures-tie-in. The serpent-fire discipline represents a kineticist/monk crossover...and frankly, I'm not the biggest fan of this one, as flurry + blast =...ouch. So yeah, I wouldn't consider this one a good idea for grittier games.

The formless ninja kitsune archetype focuses on shapechanging and ninja tricks allow for wildcard combat feats as well as trapping the souls of the slain. The nine-tailed mystic oracle focuses on the Magical tail engine for the kitsune. Oracles can also choose the reincarnation oracle mystery. The seinaru paladin replaces the aura tree of abilities with potent banners and a wide array of rogue talents are geared towards letting them choose boons, panache, etc., with advanced talents providing limited hex access. The wandering swordsman would be a finesse, defensive samurai. The Jiuweihu shaman uses the kitsune star jewel concept and, once again, the tail-engine. The spirit seer shaman is a minor modification. 2 slayer talents are included and sorcerors can choose to become reincarnated sorcerors, with the kitsune bloodline being provided as an additional option...and if that's not far-out enough, what about the kyubi mutated kitsune bloodline or the nogitsune bloodline based on the oni bloodline?

The caller of ancient fangs spiritualist gains a modified naga phantom and a modified spell-list, but these may only be cast (at least until 10th level) while the phantom is within the character's consciousness and the phantom does not grant the Skill Focus of its emotional focus. The concept of the ronin is represented via a swashbuckler archetype. Vigilantes with the wildsoul archetype may choose the vulpine natural course, which combines evil eye and feinting for cool combo game-play. The new witch-hexes include the jewel-bound familiar (the basis for aforementioned star jewel) or the option to assume the form of a past life.

Beyond this massive chapter of archetypes, we also gain a ton of racial feats: For example, the Body Modification feat, which alone spans almost a page, providing subdermal implants, neck elongation and more - here I can once again nitpick something - while it is easy to default to the standard, I would have appreciated the codification of a bite attack as primary here. Speaking of nitpicks: Technically, only the base feat of a chain of Style-feats gets the style-descriptor, since these generally requires actions to initiate, so while I love the styles herein, the descriptors they use are a bit misleading. This is a bit puzzling, considering that there are Styles that get this right herein. Equipment tricks for kitsune star gems can be found and the helpful sidebar regarding the optional remedial shapechanging rules makes a return - nice!

Forced and voluntary theriocephic transformations, detecting shapechangers, magical representations of ghostlights and ancestral spirits, rebirth (a better reincarnate with more control) and the like make for some solid spells and a ton of race traits (ALL with proper bonus types!!!), some nice religion traits and drawbacks complement this section and before you ask: The appendices help as well: Age, height and weight tables for all races; background rules for the races (see Ultimate Campaign), rp-breakdowns for the races and a detailed two-page index complement the book, making navigation easy.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, considering the length of this book: While a few hiccups can be found, they generally are aesthetic and do not wreck the integrity of the crunch - as expected from master Alexander Augunas, the rules-language is very crisp and precise. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and features a metric ton of original Jacob Blackmon artwork - the aesthetic vision is pretty holistic and seamless and in particularly the representations of the racial ethnicities deserve applause. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I cannot comment on the qualities or lack thereof of the print version, since I do not own it.

Alexander Augunas' Dynastic Races Compendium ranks as one of the best racial books I have read for any iteration of a d20-based game. While not every little component herein is pitch-perfect, the holistic vision exhibited herein has managed to take 4 races I did not like in their original iteration and made me really cherish them - never before have Kitsune, Samsarans, Wayang or Nagaji felt so alive, so organic, so worthwhile. Fans of these races will consider this a no-brainer anyway, but frankly, this is worth getting if you're like me and hated crunch-only races, if you always wanted races to make sense. The depth of the cultures herein make them all practically demand being included in your game - their unique outlooks and worldviews, their cultures and traditions practically jump from the page. The prose is captivating and, even better, the crunch supports the complex and rich cultures presented within this book. In case you haven't noticed: This should be considered to be a "This is how it's done" for racial books; this attention to detail and realism, in lack of a better word, is what makes races work, what captures the imagination.

In short: Even if you consider the races herein lame, give this book a shot - as mentioned before, I very much went into these books disliking them all and ended up a convert, if you will: I can't wait to have my PCs encounter these unique cultures. My final verdict, unsurprisingly, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dynastic Races Compendium
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Castle Falkenstein: The Second Tarot Variation
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2017 10:54:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Tarot-based alternate rules-pdfs for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, first, before we do: If you have not yet picked up the first Tarot Variation, please do so NOW. It has made my Top Ten RPG-product list for a reason - it is brilliant. The genius idea here is to use the Rider-Waite-Smythe tarot deck instead of the regular playing cards deck - the result has not only been an increase in atmosphere, but also a more interesting gameplay. I literally never want to play vanilla CF again.

...

Okay, that out of the way, to a degree, this pdf represents more of an amazing thing, we begin with establishing the connection between suites of playing card decks and tarot decks corresponding to another. The values for cards of the minor arcana are properly assigned their values. Since the deck contains one more face card per suit, but no jokers, the fortune deck includes 4 cads worth 15 points instead of 2.

The major arcana deck requires some choices to be made by the game's respective host: First, are major arcana cards held in a player's hand or apart. If they are held as regular cards, that decreases the number of minor arcana cards potentially held and as such, there is a balancing component there. If the major arcana is held on a separate hand, the plot-twisting elements of these cards become more potent, obviously.

The second decision would pertain how many cards the players can hold from the major arcana suite. If players hold these cards in their regular hand, the cards should be limited to a maximum of 1 or 2 held to maintain the option to keep succeeding at tasks via minor arcana. If a separate hand is chosen as the option to go for, the host can elect to cap the total at 3 or even 4 - the more of these a player can hold in a separate hand, though, the more volatile the game becomes, at least potentially - but that does fit well with Castle Falkenstein's high-adventure aspect.

Thirdly, an easy means to balance the impact of the major arcana is the third choice -here, the host determines how many major arcana cards can influence one given Feat. As you may have noticed, this does assume a host at least familiar with the game and confident regarding the ability to interpret on the fly the respective results.

These basics out of the way, the rest of the pdf is devoted to listing the major arcana and their effects - these range from spectacular successes, to conversions into other cards, the option to exchange cards for one minute (nut not those drawn to power sorcery). Returning cards just played to the hand, increasing success levels...and drawing e.g. Justice can result in either fumbling or high successes of the Feat in question. Increased success-levels at the cost of injury and there is also an option to draw a card and increase an ability ranked Poor to Good for the action in question - in short, the proceedings become more volatile.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that is beautiful and the pdf doesn't sport artworks, but requires none at this length. Same goes for bookmarks - the pdf has none, but doesn't require any at this length.

J Gray's second tarot variation is amazing - while the novelty of the concept and enriched coolness obviously does not extend to the second of these, the matter of fact remains that this represents a glorious option that enhances the gameplay of Castle Falkenstein in much the same iconic manner as the original. All for a single buck. So yes, this is very much worth checking out - and a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Second Tarot Variation
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20 Things #14: Hill Giant Steading (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2017 10:50:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with 10 dynamic events for a given hill giant steading, created to evoke the illusion of a dungeon that's alive - from orc slaves carrying bloody wolf pelts to the smoke of burning meat and strange impromptu games (tied to another table herein), the selection is nice.

But how do you know these deadly foes are near? Well 10 things you can discover nearby ought to give you a clue, provided you know that triangular accumulations of stones, topped by wyvern skulls, may be territory markers...and the classic, deep footprint may also be a tell-tale sign. And yep, that crucified, moldering corpse yonder? That once was an orc before the giants got their grimy hands on him...

Of course, giants, in the right circles, are known for their bags, which may contain a variety of miscellanea, both wondrous and vile in nature - hence, when you open such a bag, the proper page of this pdf may yield freshly killed sheep, half-emptied vinegary wine...or the heads of those slain. Special stones that break asunder for shrapnel-like attacks (unbeknown to the giant!) or giant-sized, spliced together ropes make for an interesting selection here.

But what about the steading? Well, we once again do receive specialized dungeon dressing, customized for hill giant abodes: And yes, the degenerate, stupid giants indeed highlight their characteristics in their abodes: Wood that rots, macabre trophies, soiled clothes and gigantic bronze gongs speak of the dilapidated and haphazard nature that characterizes their behavior towards others and the regions they inhabit.

In the context of this pdf, hill giants have an affinity for wolves as pets, (dire wolves in particular) and thus, 10 entries for wolf appearance dressing and 10 battle tactics/peculiarities can be found - after all, the hill giants won't properly combat train them, so fear of fire, opportunistic pets and the like add a nice touch of strategy and character here. It should also be noted that standard read-aloud text for unmodified creatures is included here - nice!

The hill giants themselves receive pretty much the same treatment: 10 entries for appearance, including being a berserker ("A berserk" sounds a bit weird to my ears...) or grossly overweight, 10 battle tactics and 10 treasures and trinkets complement this mini-hill-giant generator.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there! The pdf sports several pieces of nice b/w-artworks.

Creighton Broadhurst's take on Hill Giant Steadings is a nice installment of the series and I welcome the dressing for the giants and wolves; however, at the same time, I do feel that the steading component could be slightly more pronounced: Only 3 of the entries actually pertain the environment, with the rest of the pages being devoted to creature and loot dressing. This is no bad, mind you, but it did leave me wanting a bit more regarding the steading itself. Considering the more than fair price-point, however, this still makes for a nice dressing-file to add to your giants - my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #14: Hill Giant Steading (System Neutral Edition)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End. I'm glad you liked this instalment!
Empath Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2017 10:48:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The empath is a hybrid class of cleric and psychic, who receives d6 HD, 4 + Int-mod skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons as well as light and medium armor. At 1st level, they may, as a standard action, cast analyze aura (not properly italicized) at-will to see emotional auras - this is supernatural, which is weird to me, but okay. The empath gains knacks and casts psychic spells of up to 9th level, governed by Wisdom (attribute not properly capitalized -a problem throughout the file) and draws spells from its own custom spell-list. at 2nd level and every even level after that, the class may replace an empath spell known with a cleric or psychic spell.

At 2nd level, the class gets deep bond - as a standard action, the empath may touch a living being to form a bond that lasts one minute. While this is in effect, the target may use the higher of the empath's saves or his own. Slightly rules-wise redundant: "At the start of the empath's turn, as a full-round action, the empath may heal the bonded target 1d6 hit points. This increases by a "d6" (should be +1d6) at 4th level and every even level after that, capping at 18th level. This can be used 3 + Cha-mod times per day and only one bond may be in effect.

Every empath chooses an emotional sensitivity, which nets abilities at 1st, 5th 10th and 15th level and also determines the capstone - basically the discipline analogue. a total of 7 such sensitivities are provided, the first of which would be anger, which yields a short-term buff, an improperly codified, wonky bite attack that instills rage, +2 Str and Con for the bonded target at at-will full-round calm emotions. The capstone is cool: Anyone affected by rage or with a rage power or spell with it in the name can be dominated as a standard action. Makes sense to me! However, it should be noted that the capstone name is different in table and actual abilities - that should have been caught in editing.

Awe has a pretty cool basic ability: Dazzle foes briefly (sucky, I know!), but the enemies lose readied or delayed actions. Interesting! 5th level presents the option to negate a selection of negative conditions suffered by the bonded creature. Gaze-based condition sharing, rerolls for saves of allies and a capstone that may render foes flat-footed collectively make this one really nice. Courage provides a scaling Will-save bonus, AoE, versus fear, reflexive second saves versus fear and at 15th level, 60 ft. perfect flight for allies while charging (only for the charge). This IS pretty cool - but RAW doesn't work. It is activated as a swift action and targets a charging ally - it should be activated as an immediate action. Swift actions can't be used outside of a character's turn. 15th level yields the temporary doubling of morale bonuses, once per deep bond and the capstone provides a series of passive upgrades that conspire for an all-around more potent nexus.

The desire sensitivity has a gaze that penalizes Sense Motive (not properly capitalized) and lacks a durationThe 5th level allows for the expenditure of unused spell slots to buff social skills greatly, but fails to specify the spell slot required - 9th level spell slots are RAW worth as much as 1st level spell slots. 10th level yields at-will suggestion (which, being Su, should note activation action) and 15th level yields a short-term dominate. 20th level allows for the learning of a creature's desires via prolonged concentration. Despair allows for the decreasing of fear-based conditions, 5th level allows per the absorption of morale penalties, and 10th level provides a nice debuff with a hex-anti-abuse-caveat, a means that also balances the slow 15th level ability. The latter lacks an activation action The capstone provides serious benefits when nearby creatures are affected by fear-conditions.

The euphoria sensitivity nets an at-will AoE polypurpose panacea, which is overkill for 1st level; 10th level yields limited daily uses of haste (erroneously capitalized) and 15th level provides a buff that last 1 round as a full-round action - which is comparatively weak at that level. As a capstone, the empath gets euphoria-inducing skin with a no-save daze that kicks in when hit by natural attacks or unarmed strikes and it can also be used as a touch attack. Interesting! Finally, the horror sensitivity provides an Intimidate-enhancer, immunity to fear to the deep bonded target at 5th level,, a 30-ft. fear aura at 10th level that can be projected on allies and, at 20th level, an empath may, as an immediate action, consume a creature's fear, gaining a powerful buff. Okay, what's the range?

The pdf also sports archetypes: The central mind replaces emotional sensitivity and emotive master with a kind of mental communication, which, at 10th level, may transfer touch spells...okay, does the character still have to hit with touch attacks? Instead of deep bond, they may place nodes as a full-round action of a creature. Creatures with nodes can't be surprised unless all creatures with nodes are surprised. Hit points may be transferred via such nodes by the character as a standard action. The character can place nodes equal to 1 + Wisdom modifier for every two levels - which allows for ridiculously huge networks that are basically undefeatable. Not a fan, as this basically demands being cheesed.

Instead of emotional sensitivity, the instinctual driver can treat creatures as humanoid for the purpose of spells and effects, with higher levels yielding charms versus such creatures at decreasing actions required. Spells are not italicized here and the 15th level ability refers to dominate and charm interchangeably, which THEY ARE NOT. This one's a mess.

The sensorial replaces deep bond may enhance senses of creatures, increasing the potency of the granted abilities at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Pretty interesting, though one of the sub-abilities lacks the italicization of its sub-ability header. The final archetype would be the sycophant of pain - these guys can grant temporary hit points to allies, but nauseate them. This generates pain points, of which a maximum of class level + Cha mod may be held. These may be expended to deal no-save damage to nearby enemies - the damage is untyped and imho shouldn't be. The affected number of allies and temporary hit points scale, obviously. Weird: This replaces the capstone without giving anything back. Instead of deep bonds, these fellows gain the wounding well ability, a debuff bond that imposes massive penalties...but the creature affected may end this effect by taking damage. Interesting alternative to deep bond.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, the latter in particular, are the bane of this pdf. There are a ton of formatting glitches. The rules-language is better than usual for these hybrid classes, but still could have seriously used a rules-dev - there are quite a bunch of finer points in the rules-language not working properly and missing activation actions and a couple (but not many) balance-concerns here and there. The layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has nice full-color artworks. The lack of bookmarks is annoying; just as annoying would be the fact that the book has copying and highlighting of text disabled, which is supremely asinine when trying to e.g. copy abilities to a char-sheet.

Jarrett Sigler's Empath ranks as one of my favorite Wayward Rogues Publishing classes so far: While it has issues in editing and formatting, the issues are significantly less pronounced than with other classes. Unfortunately, the rules-hiccups that should have been caught in editing extend to components that affect functionality. At the same time, the class does feature actually unique options and has some really nice ideas. If you're willing to work a bit with this, then it can be considered a worthwhile offering. If this gets fixed, it certainly has the potential for 4 or even 5 stars...but with the accumulated flaws and comfort-detriments, I can't rate this higher than 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Empath Hybrid Class
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