DriveThruRPG.com
Close
Close
Browse
 Publisher Info









Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Village Backdrop: Coldwater
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2015 04:36:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement


Coldwater is perched upon an inhospitable, mud-drenched coast, with one access by land, its harbor is in the delta of a miserably stream that empties its contents into the sea - and if that does not reflect a place you'd like to visit, then that's pretty much a representation of how most folks see this place. Nearby caverns sport strange stair-like features that only rarely become visible and the inhabitants of the village are just as sullen and unfriendly as the weather suggests. Both village lore and statblock reflect the relative hostility and rugged nature of the village rather well, while a Finnish-inspired nomenclature emphasizes an association with the colder climes.


Indeed, the rustic and eccentric locals e.g. sport a man named Holg, who has a well-stacked ware-house, but lets no one in - you have to tell the old man what you're looking for and mysteriously, more often than not, he procures the object from within the depths of his dubious "locker." Indeed, one cannot really fault the locals for their sullen outlook on life: As the events and the subtle wrongness in the tides underline, there is something wrong here - you see, there is a terrible template herein that is applied to many of its citizens: The Deformed creature - how and why the poor folks of this village are struck by this curse ultimately is up to the GM, but the presence of the template and its varied effects alongside the stigmatization such folk may experience should drive home pretty well that something is wrong here...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.


Creighton Broadhurst has skill - and this one shows it pretty well. The mastermind of Raging Swan Press delivers what I'd like to call a wide open sandbox: We are faced with problems and the respective NPCs mentioned can be used to exacerbate it, change it...all depending on your whims. Basically, this is one of the village backdrops that is so compelling, it can make PCs pretty much write their own tale: Throw them in and watch what happens. In this aspect, though, this one is slightly inferior to Kennutcat. However, at the same time, it sports local color that made me think of the slight surreal elements that made Twin Peaks so compelling, at least for me -from the dwindling fortunes of one family to female, hard-working and drinking half-orc, there is a lot of quirkiness, a lot of unique bits and pieces here; enough, to make this thoroughly compelling and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Coldwater
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Into the Breach: The Inquisitor
Publisher: Flying Pincushion Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2015 06:21:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Flying Pincushion Games' class-centric "Into the Breach"-series clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of crunch, so let's take a look!


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


As always, we begin the book with a selection of archetypes, the first of which would be the Circuit Judge, a mounted inquisitor that exchanges the domain for the full mount progression at first level. 3rd level nest the mounted tactician ability, which nets the mount the teamwork feats of the circuit judge. At 5th level, the archetype gets "Stain of Guilt," which lets the judge cancel out ally-based bonuses (like flanking etc.) on a failed save and is treated as an enemy for all creatures and their spells/spell-like abilities etc. This curse-based ability is unique and pretty fun, though its details require some clarification: The ability lasts for class level rounds per day and is increased analogue with bane (the ability it replaces), which is a nice way of depicting this. However, the ability, prior to this information, locks duration as one round - so which is it? Additionally, a range of the effect would be appreciated - as written, it does not have one and would allow a character affect creatures at very long ranges. 12th level nets the circuit judge's mount the benefits of judgments instead of bane. I like stain of guilt - the ability is unique and fits the class well, but it does require a bit of fine-tuning. Other than that, a great mounted inquisitor, particularly fitting, flavor-wise, for e.g. Kingmaker campaigns.


The Duplicating Accessor is obviously inspired by comic book character Multiple Man and similar characters: Instead of spells, first level Accessors get Never Alone, a spell-like ability that can be used 1/2 class level, minimum 1, times per day as a standard action. The ability creates a shadow double either adjacent to the inquisitor or up to 10 feet away (I assume failure if that space is also occupied). The copy, unlike mirror images, does have all stats of the Accessor, though attacks can be disbelieved via a Will-save versus DC 10 + class level. The Accessor can direct all copies as a standard action. All copies? Yes, at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the Accessor gets +1 copy from the ability.


Now the interesting part is yet to come: The accessor may sacrifice Wisdom (which regenerates upon resting) to further enhance the copies: 1 point damage makes one copy semi-real, possessing half the Accessor's hit points. For 2 points of Wis-damage, a copy may partake in the Accessor's bonuses granted by the active judgment and finally, for 3 points, a copy can have all the Accessor's class abilities, drawing from the same pool of daily limits. Instead of domains, the Accessor may touch an ally and grant said ally a class ability, with the exception of Never Alone or teamwork feat ability. This lasts for one round per class level or until used and the target uses the Accessor's stats for the ability. At 6th level, the Accessor can affect +1 character with this ability, +1 for every four levels thereafter.


The 3rd level lets the Accessor use duplicates as a kind of mirror image-y effect instead of solo tactics and the capstone doubles the number of copies and may daze anyone surrounded by him and his doubles, also increasing the flanking bonuses versus victims. This archetype is utterly unique - it juggles exceedingly complex concepts and even gets illusion-subtype effects for the SPs right...and it plays in a unique and intriguing manner. While the Wis-damage as a resource is uncommon, it does work out here within the framework of the archetype. Have I mentioned that you can't heal the Wis-damage thus incurred by regular means, preventing spell-based cheesing of the ability? Aye. Apart from one very minor thing (what happens if all adjacent squares and all within 10 ft. are occupied?) pretty much a textbook definition of a creative archetype with a unique concept and playstyle, executed almost at perfection-level - pretty damn impressive!


The Lineage Master gets a blood call, which acts a point-based resource, totaling 3+Wis mod points. These points power the class abilities and the class can expend a point upon scoring a critical hit to add scaling bleed damage to the attack. Additionally, this resource may be used to get the favored enemy bonus of a ranger of equivalent level versus a foe for class level rounds, with higher levels allowing for the maintenance of multiple creature types at the same time. 2nd level (upgraded at 10th) nets 3+Wis-mod blood biography (at higher levels with additional information gleaned) to the fray. On the nitpicky side, this should be SP, not SU - as presented, it lacks CL.


Instead of bane, the lineage master can generate a ward that sickens allies of the affected creature - again, on the nitpicky side, the ability's fluff implies the necessity of shedding the blood of the target creature, while the crunch does not support this restriction - clarification would be appreciated here. 8th level nets point-based Bestow Curse, again classified as a SU, when it should be SP. The capstone allows for a save-or-die judgment that may also generate blood golems under your control. This archetype has nice, visceral imagery, but the ability-type issue is somewhat annoying. Finally, one could argue for a disjoint between crunch and fluff here: While the abilities very much emphasize blood as a component of importance, the crunch does not reflect this...which is rather relevant in a fantasy game, where not every foe has blood... Finally, the archetype suffers from having a very restricted base ability that is pretty front-end heavy. By tying the base ability's scaling to class levels instead, this could have been mitigated. Not a bad archetype per se, but also a long way short of being a truly awesome one.


The Ossuary Chaplain gets proficiency with simple weapons and firearms and diminished spellcasting and gets a gunslinger-like firearm at first level instead of a domain. The interesting part, though, would be the option to generate scrimshaw bullets from bones: 1 at 3rd level, +1 every 3 levels thereafter, which also doubles as the limit of such bullets you can carry at a given time. Now here's the interesting thing: When you defeat a creature with a CR equal to or greater than 1/2 your own, you can create a scrimshaw bullet from such a foe. Better yet, bullets made from such foes also get a so-called "potent ability" - an extra boom, if you will. From creation of the bullets to their creation, the rules here are solid, with animals, devils, demons, dragons, (monstrous) humanoids, undead and vermin sporting different bonuses. The interesting thing here is that thus, the character can refresh scrimshaw bullets on the fly when defeating foes, rendering the very conservative limit crucial for balancing: E.g. humanoid bullets deal additional force damage! Without such a limiting factor, the ability would be too strong. On the downside, I really abhor the archetype inventing the "potent bonus" nomenclature - just keep it untyped and don't invent bonus types or phrase the ability differently. Apart from that, an archetype with nice visuals and a cool playing experience.


The Relic Seeker replaces monster lore with better item identification, gains trapfinding instead of stern gaze and locate objects 1/day at 2nd level, +1 every 4 levels thereafter - and it should be SP, not SU - it's lacking the proper CL for SU, if that's intended - which it shouldn't be. This is pretty much a textbook variant SP. The relic seeker may choose rogue talents instead of teamwork feats (advanced rogue talents at 12th level) and may expend judgment uses instead of limited daily use rogue talents - interesting interaction here. 5th level nets arcane sight, which is the proper SP, but did not italicize the spell and 11th level nets SR versus abjuration spells only - the SR can be lowered. Apart from minor hiccups, a nice archetype, probably particularly suitable for e.g. Mummy's Mask.


The Revelator replaces bane, greater bane, monster lore and domains with a mystery sans spells at 1st level, +1 mystery at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Instead of stern gaze, solo tactics, track and teamwork feats, the revelator gets a revelation chosen from any mystery for which he qualifies and has learned, using Wis instead of Cha. 5th level and 10th penalize the character's Will-save by -1, with the penalty reaching -3 at 15th level - however, in exchange for that, the class can activate two revelations with a standard action as required activation at once - interesting! Mysteries and revelations are strong, but the restricted access and tight balancing reigns here keep the archetype functional - nice and very distinct in playstyle.


Righteous Assassins replace the ability to cast spells with the ability to conjure forth a phantom weapon as a move action (scaling regarding the DRs it bypasses), and get an expanded spell-list. Furthermore, 3rd level nets sneak attack, +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter - for these tricks, though, the righteous assassins pay with spellcasting as well as with solo tactics and bonus teamwork feats. The conjured weapon is enhanced at 5th level and every odd levels thereafter by +1, for a maximum enhancement bonus of +5 (plus/mixed with special weapon abilities up to a total of net +8) and a highly customizable magic weapon, all in exchange for the judgment. This "godblade" archetype can be pretty powerful, but also rather one-dimensional. Personally, I prefer Jason Linker's ethermagus (see Interjection Games' Strange Magic) for a similar, but more versatile concept, but per se, the archetype is okay.


The Sacred Commander replaces lore with +1 improved aid and instead of solo tactics, the archetype gets two unique judgments: Assistance allows the commander and allies within 30 ft. to aid another as a swift action, increasing the bonus granted at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter by +1. The second judgment, Tactician, allows for the 30 ft.-radius share of teamwork feats. This replaces solo tactics. 11th level nets the sacred commander the option to bolster an adjacent ally's save by his Wis-modifier as an immediate action. An okay commander-style archetype, but I've seen the concept done in more detailed ways.


The final archetype would be the Varying Verdicist, who gets diminished spellcasting, but may 3+Wis-mod times per day change her size to large or tiny, scaling up to huge and diminutive at 10th level - the size modifiers are conveniently listed...or at least, parts of them are. Here, it is obvious that a small table listing them and including the modifiers regarding CMD etc. as well as reach etc. would have been appreciated...The capstone allows for the spending of 1/3 of the daily uses to grow to gargantuan size. I really like the size-changing tricks here, but the presentation of this archetype is very user-unfriendly, omitting several crucial changes for the sizes and requiring players to be properly familiar with the size-change rules beyond the numerical benefits granted. I like the idea, but Everyman Gaming's SUPERB Microsized Adventures should probably be used by any player wanting to play this one - the book provides all and more) than you need to properly use this archetype.


The pdf also depicts an alternate base-class, the Vengeant. The class needs to be within one step of the patron deity's alignment and gets d10, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, 4+Int skills per level, simple and martial weapon proficiency and proficiency with the deity's favored weapon. No, I did not forget something - no armor proficiencies. A vengeant may choose a domain or inquisition and 4th level nets Wis-based prepared divine spellcasting from the inquisitor's spell-list. The base ability of the class would be oath of vengeance, which can be used 1/day, +1/day at 4th level and every three levels thereafter. The character gets +2 to skill and ability checks versus the target thus designated via a swift action and may perform oath strikes against the foe: These attacks provoke AoOs from each target that is not the chosen adversary, but do allow the vegeant to roll each attack roll twice and take the higher result.


As a minor nitpick, the end of oath of vengeance is tied to the dead/dying conditions, thus discouraging nonlethal means of enemy neutralization...but then again, that may be intentional. The class also gets a monk's Wis-based scaling AC/CMD-bonus and adds Wis to Initiative in addition to Dex. (Yes, in mythic game play with its emphasis on quick, hard assaults, I'd nerf this ability.) 3rd level nets the vengeant a so-called censure, +1 every three levels. When successfully performing an oath strike, the vengeant adds a censure of her choice to the attack's effect, to be resisted with a DC of 10 +1/2 class level+Wis-mod and save-type depending on the censure. The censures include negative conditions, extra damage, minor retributive damage etc., with 6th and 12th level unlocking new censures, deed-style. These later censures allow for caster-hampering and even free combat maneuvers.


Higher level vengeants get an interesting ability that lets them move towards their oath's target sans provoking AoOs, extending her rerolls to allies at 11th level. 14th level provides exploit weakness (ignore DR when criting and potentially lock down regeneration temporarily) and 17th level eliminates ALL movement-based AoOs. The capstone lets the vengeant reroll the first attack each round and take the better result. As the developer states, this class is based on the avenger...and it does a pretty good job at what it sets out to do. In practice, the class is a glass cannon and one that requires some planning by the player...but then again, it's also pretty satisfying to crash as the unarmored fanatic into your foes. A niche class with a nasty damage-output, sure, but a fun one with a significant Achilles heel.


Next up are the PrCs, the first of which is the Infernal Enforcer, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, 1/2 spellcasting progression, 1/2 save-progression for all saves and 3/4 BAB-progression. Every odd-numbered level, the infernal enforcer increases his effective monk-level by +1 regarding an array of monk abilities. The class also gets an infernal essence pool equal to class level + Cha-mod. From second level onwards, each level is associated with a circle of hell - the abilities thus granted can be cast as SPs or SUs for the cost of 1 infernal essence (unless otherwise noted) each and saves are equal to 10 + class level + Cha-mod. From Vanish & Blur to healing and DR, improved mobility and debuffing touch attacks to a potentially highly lethal wave of roiling insta-kill hellish power (balanced by HD akin to Cloudkill). Each circle but the ninth sports multiple abilities and3rd level and every odd level thereafter puts player agenda on the table: Via boons, infernal enforcers can learn to customize the respective circle abilities, increasing their potency, making them less expensive, etc. I pretty much yawned when first reading the premise, but know what? This take on the infernal martial artist is actually pretty damn cool - I made a sample character and really enjoyed it. In fact, this may well be my favorite PrC from Flying Pincushion so far!


The second PrC, the Soul Arbiter, sports 5 levels and gets d8, up to +3 BAB, 1/2 Fort-and Will-save progression and 4+Int skills per level. The class gets 3 levels of manifester level and power point progression and 2 levels divine caster level progression. The first level ability allows for the standard action implantation of phobias in target creatures, though a trigger needs to be available...and, alas, while the ability has a hex-like 1/target/24-hour cap, I do think the ability should specify its range - the fluff implies crunch or close range, but I'm not sure. First level also adds +2 to mind-influencing or "telepathic" power DCs...which deviates from Dreamscarred Press' established nomenclature. At 2nd level, the soul arbiter adds +1 to the effects of her judgments and stacks prestige class levels for the purpose of judgment effects. 3rd level has a broken ability: No Bluff or Diplomacy when someone is under the effect of a soul arbiter's telepathy - this makes in-game logic come apart HARD. 4th level allows for CL or ML-checks versus alignment hiding effects and 5th level provides nonlethal damage and Wis-damage when a target tries to lie to her and ignore immunity to mind-influencing effects. While wording-wise not perfect, the PrC still can be considered kind of okay - not my favorite part of the book, though, and as far as rules-language goes, the least precise component herein.


Okay, this is NOT where we stop, though - we also get inquisitions, a LOT of them, though there are central themes, the first of which is the Foe Slayer: Aberration Slayer nets you, for example bonuses against Will-based effects and retributive, potentially stagger-inducing damage for those that try to break your mind, while construct slayers get Disable Device as a class skill as well as the option to hamper them via your skill in minor ways. Balance here is not always perfect, though: Smite Evil at full paladin level for Fiend Slayers, for example, is a bit of overkill. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, as well as DSP's Elans and Maenads get racial inquisitions. Particularly interesting is the elven ability to make all unattended objects within 60 ft. count as attended - haven't seen that one before and it allows for some interesting tricks...


At the same time, the Elan's option to burn ability points for power points needs a note that it can't thus exceed the power point maximum and the 8th level ability also asks to be broken: As an immediate action, for each 2 power points you spent, you increase the CL or ML by 1. No cap. This rewards nova-style gameplay and while I get the intent (making psion/inquis keep up regarding CL), this is not the right way. The Maenad on the other hand is pretty cool - retributive skin when outbursting and an aura that can end mind-influencing effects fit pretty neatly into the racial concepts. The final page provides 6 new mundane items - from the folding holy symbol for secret agent inquisitors to gauntlets housing scrolls and holy dust, the items are interesting. The traveler's shrine (collapsible altar) also makes a return. Particularly so the bolt feed - up to two of these can be attached to a crossbow, allowing for swift action reloads that make crossbows suck less: THANK YOU.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good -while I noticed minor formal glitches here and there, there are less than in previous installments of the series. The rules-language is also more polished than in previous iterations of "Into the Breach." The pdf adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a great cover artwork and thematically fitting, though slightly less awesome interior artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Dylan Brooks, Kiel Howell, Richard Litzkow, Jeff Harris, Jacob W. Michaels, Jason Linker, Mark Nordheim, Taylor Hubler - congratulations. This is, by far, the most refined Into the Breach-supplement in the whole series. While the last one oscillated between highs and lows, this time around, we're all about solid and yet far-out options. A significant array of the archetypes and options provided in this book are fun and cover niches that so far did not see much love, many of which resonate with powerful concepts - that's a very good thing. An even better fact about this book is that the balancing, over all, is much more streamlined than in previous offerings by Flying Pincushion Games. Indeed, to the point where I can recommend this pdf - not simply for the shining stars, but for the majority of the content herein. While there are some pieces in this book that are less refined, over all, this is a quality supplement that adds some nice tools to the inquisitor's arsenal. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. If the crew of authors can maintain this pace of improvement, I'll be able to slap my seal of approval on one of these pretty soon. So, again: Congratulations!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Breach: The Inquisitor
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Omega: Dawn of a Thousand Wars (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2015 05:45:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The final adventure in the Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Campaign Serial clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Now if you want to know what happens if the PCs did not play all the sidetrek and thus have not yet reached the required 4th level of this module...well, the book already hints at what to expect from "Crisis of the World-Eater," as a handy sidebox provides suggested fluff-only adversaries from diverse worlds to be inserted after the first encounter of the module: Whether drow from AAW Games' Aventyr, Puppeteer-ridden humanoids from Dreamscarred Press' Third Dawn, leather-clad ladies from Legendary Games' Hypercorps 2099, goblin firestarters from Rogue Genius Games' Veranthea or ghouls from LPJ Design's Obsidian Apocalypse - there is some serious diversity here regarding the suggested adversaries to bridge the XP-gap.


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! Atlantis folly and hubris are well-documented in the myths we weave o earth - struck down by a cataclysm of deific proportions, the Atlanteans drew back from the worlds and their nexus gateways - until recently, when the Deltans, former colonists, re-established contact to save their home world from the forces of Entropy. Bringing Atlantean weapons to bear, the inexorable advance was slowed, but not stopped. Where Atlantis fell into fatalism, the vespans didn't - and thus, Sodan took control of the legendary city and sent forth legions to scour the worlds for something to save Delta. He found what he was looking for on NeoEoxdus, in the guise of the rather unpleasant animancer Pushae, whom the PCs hunted back in module alpha. Thanks to the work done in the previous sidetreks, the PCs and their mentor Large-Biter can finally narrow down the activity of the Vespan's to one particular gateway - and beyond that lies the answer to their questions - stepping through the portal with the nexus key (or not, if you want to reiterate the cool portal activation in "Speaking the Same Language", the PCs arrive in the buffer - where a Comozant Wyrd awaits - and after this line of defense, there lies Atlantis.


The beautifully mapped (player-friendly, btw.) city then constitutes the backdrop for the PC's further investigations - and if visitors from hundreds of worlds were not ample clue, then the Vespan patrols will be: They better be low key. Alas, unfortunately news travels fast, even in Atlantis - hence, the module tracks PC notoriety, with certain special encounters happening upon PCs crossing a certain threshold. It should be noted that multiple skills and degrees of success are featured here for a pretty fine-grained investigation, particularly for a module of this one's brevity - bravo! Indeed, finding Pushae may go both ways - with either the PCs finding the animancer or him coming after them - still, exploring the wondrous vista while laying low does have its appeal in either way. Sooner or later, the PCs will have to venture forth to Old Atlantis and the soul crucible there. And exploring the place does reveal some terrible truths: Beyond the scrupulous guards and assistants, traps and people stripped of their souls do not bode well as the PCs explore this fully mapped mini-dungeon (including a player-friendly version, just fyi!) - and finally, the PCs will be face to face with Pushae inside his Soul Crucible. Interesting here: Pushae is a powerful foe, but as a researcher convinced of the necessity of his work, he is thankfully underprepared for the PCs.


The module does not end here, though: As Pushae's own soul is consumed by his crucible, Sodan and his vespans enter the building, telepathically contact the PCs...and make clear that they just literally stuck their faces in the wasp's nest: From here on out, the PCs will be hard-pressed to run...fast...and hopefully, to the artillery range...to sink Atlantis! As legions of vespans assault the PCs, they'll have high-powered atlantean siege-weaponry at their disposal to mow down scores of attacking foes while the Obliteration cannon charges - 10 rounds. Believe me when I'm saying that 10 rounds can be a nail-biting experience. It should be noted that this encounter is not run as a siege-weapon combat, but rather as a mini-game - a welcome change of pace in this instance...and yes, notoriety also features in how quick Sodan can muster his troupes...


Soon after Atlantis' hull is breached, its final defense mechanism kicks in - and the city warps to NeoExodus, stranding on the planet! Let's hope that the PCs can escape in the chaos...but this is not yet the end of either the story of the pdf: 12 hook allow for further customization and the pdf ends with a brief gazetteer of Atlantis, fully depicted Atlantean siege engines (like miniguns and tesla lances) as well as magic items and stats for the no-longer fully human CR 6 Atlanteans and the powers - which includes a domination aura that does look a bit like Khaynite tricks to me...but we'll see.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches (apart from one instance mentioning "Hypernet 2099", which should be "Hypercorps 2099"...); the pdf's layout adheres to LPJ Design's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf's artworks are pretty gorgeous, as is the cartography. The book comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. had me curious, but ultimately skeptical regarding the end of the "Chronicle of the Gatekeepers"-serial - I wasn't sure whether the omega-adventure could live up to the hype and anticipation generated by the previous modules, particularly after the more down-to-earth sidetreks. Then I saw the page-count and my heart just dropped. I couldn't conceive the module living up to its ambitious premise and title in so few pages. Well, I'm glad to report that the omega adventure of "Chronicle of the Gatekeepers" is a fast-paced, exciting action-romp par excellence: Partway infiltration/espionage, partway full-blown action-movie escalation, this trip to the legendary city is not only well-structured, it is downright cinematic and bombastic in its concepts and settings - most AP-ending adventures do not manage to evoke such a palpable sense of high stakes. At the same time, the module does have one "flaw", if you will: Due to its brevity, the legendary city explored in this book does not get that much space to shine, when it, by concept alone, could have carried an epic 100+ page plot of a mega-adventure. Oh well, GMs can add to this unique location, so if you're like me and excited for this...well, there you go.


The furious finale, with its alteration and reveal of one damn cool addition to NeoExodus' metaplot made me conclude this module with a palpable sense of gravitas and foreboding, but also with a lot of excitement and anticipation for the world-spanning "Crisis of the World-Eater." Oh, and the unique finale's mini-game is, in the hands of a capable GM something players will keep talking about for years to come. Beyond being a very good module, this also constitutes, in my opinion, Michael McCarthy's best module so far and a worthy conclusion of a series that saw me skeptical and managed to win me over via the diverse, unique challenges offered - in short, a final module for the serial well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Omega: Dawn of a Thousand Wars (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Summoning Spells
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2015 04:45:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of 13th Age Monthly clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!


13 True Ways introduced summoning for two new classes - druid and necromancer, and now, we get rules for the core-classes as well - but can they stand up? Do they maintain balance? Let's take a look! Summoning creatures is a standard action and they take their action immediately after the summoner in the initiative order. Summoned creatures fight until the end of the battle or until reduced to 0 hp - if they are defeated, you take psychic damage equal to the creature's level. Creatures may be dismissed as a quick action. Unlike druid and summoner, the summoning options presented herein do not limit the character to one in effect at a given time - they do require the actions of the summoner to be fully effective, though. Integration of these rules is made more streamlined by a rather interesting idea: There are three types of summons -ordinary, superior and independent. Druids and necromancers summon superior creatures that have the regular array of actions.


Conversely, clerics and wizards using these rules summon ordinary creatures, unless otherwise noted. Ordinary summoned creatures only take a standard, move and quick action if a summoner used a standard action to control the creature on his/her own turn. If not controlled thus, you roll a d6 to determine the default action the creature takes, varying from creature to creature. Lesser summoned creatures thus can take a full turn when controlled directly - but when more are available, you have to decide which one to control. An exception to this would be the option to summon mook swarms - the whole mob is considered to be one creature for the purpose of being controlled. Summoned creatures also are not quite as real as the...well...real deal. As such, they lack some of the better tricks the "proper" creature could pull off and most commonly is represented by less hit points. Summoned creatures may use the escalation die, but can change its value only during the turn they are summoned - this rule rewards PCs not immediately spamming creature upon creature on the battle field. Summoned creatures also count as allies - which means that they may soak up random recoveries and the like - another reason not to have too many of them around all the time.


Summoned creatures also get no recoveries and heal only your level when subject to a healing spell based on recoveries and no, they do not get nastier specials. Personally, I am not a fan of the sloppy way in which the creatures are codified as spell or creature: Basically, the pdf says that they behave as spells when being cast, thereafter as creatures...unless the GM rules otherwise. More precise guidance would have been called for here.


The pdf begins with lantern archons (level 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 stats provided) and hound archons (lvl 5, 7, 9 stats provided) as summons for the cleric, with both coming with appropriate feats for all tiers - though personally, I don't think the epic feat for the lantern archon is fitting - on a crit, it becomes a superior creature for the rest of the combat. How? Why? I don't get the in-game logic behind this. And yes, the feat belittles you for taking it: "Surely there must be something better you can do with


an epic feat? No? Very well then:" - I kid you not, that's what's written here. I don't get why the designers of 13th Age insist on such unprofessional conduct. Not often, but here it is again - it's probably intended to be funny, but it comes across as arrogant and belittling. Thankfully, the other summons do not feature such a line. On the plus-side, I do like how certain feats reward having certain domains...though the relative scarcity of spells herein means that only some domains are covered.


Okay, as for wizards, there are two types of summoning, with the first being demon summoning? As the pdf aptly observes, the floating pentagram on the cover? That's the archmage's innovation and, like an ironic halo, it allows for at least rudimentary control of demons. Alas, it's not fool-proof - on an attack versus MD that scores a natural 18+, the summoner must save or see the pentagram canceled for 1 round. Thankfully, dismissal/death is covered in detail here. On the downside, the formatting here is a bit cluttered and makes the rules-text continue right below the last statblock of hound-archons. Interesting: There is an eternally laughing type of demon that can be controlled more easily...but still...having an abyssal engine of destruction that continuously laughs can grate on your nerves...especially when you think the joke's on you... The other and more reliable means of summoning would pertain to earth elementals, which are provided as an example (lvl 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 covered) - so no, no sample water, air or fire elementals. :(


As for demons, we get the imp (lvl 3 and 5), frenzy demon (lvl 5 and 7) and aforementioned laughing demon (lvl 7 and 9) as summoned creatures...and the laughing demon as a non-summoned, standard creature - and their nastier special is joker-gas-level brutal. Psychic damage whenever you save. Including death saves. Yeah. Ouch.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - however, I do not understand the strange decision to clutter text together to the point, where one statblock and the text of another chapter almost visually blend together - that's just odd. The pdf comes with nice full-color artworks and layout adheres to 13th Age's 2-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, when it's one of the longer installments in the series and one more likely to see a lot of use - I don't get why they're absent from this installment.


Rob Heinsoo knows his system and it shows - mechanically, there is quite literally nothing to complain about here - the rules provided are concise and playtesting did show them to be pretty balanced - no necro or druid will complain about them stealing their thunder and the unreliable demon summoning in particular can be considered to be pretty awesome. At the same time, this feels like a band-aid pdf...for a bullet wound in the system. Summoning creatures pretty much is a staple of fantastic gaming and this pdf does manage to introduce this component into 13th Age for two classes that ought to have had it in the first place.


Still, that's good. For two classes.


If you're a sorceror, chaos mage or the occultist wishing to dabble into summoning - tough luck, you get nothing; No special rules, no unique tricks - nothing. That's one gripe I have against this pdf. My second gripe would be that non-combat summoning, utility-summoning, if you will, isn't covered well here - and the scope even within the classes and in combat, is too limited. Want fire elemental summons? Design them yourself.


Basically, we have the topic for a big book here, condensed down to its very basics. Sure, what's here is solid - but the sheer amount of what isn't here feels downright jarring. Relationship-effects on summons? Nope. Not even PCs in league with the Diabolist get some special tricks. Gold Wyrm/Priestess clerics and archons? Nope, no synergy. The domain-component is solid, sure, but the only thing this pdf accomplished in my group was to incite grumbling about the rules not supporting the character-concept my players wanted.


This is not a bad pdf and a capable GM willing to do a lot of work can use it to make A LOT of summoning spells and creatures, sure. But my point remains that this should have been a big, concise book or expansion. With the limited scope it has, we get a solid offering, but one that does not cover the topic at hand in sufficient depth. While personally, I was annoyed by the half-assed and belittling epic tier feat for lantern archons, you may disagree here, hence I will not take this into consideration for my final verdict - just a note: Belittling your audience and players may not be a smart move in the long run. I know that at least one of my players is really pissed and I am inclined to add my name to the list...


What remains, what's here, is a solid pdf that manages to avoid balance-issues and the spam-syndrome associated with summoning in other systems. But also a pdf that leaves a lot to be desired, a long shot from a comprehensive array of summoning magic in 13th Age. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Summoning Spells
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

A Friend in Need
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/26/2015 02:58:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page inside back cover (which doubles as a picture you can color), 1/2 a page advertisement, leaving 20 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review was moved forward on my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.


First of all, before I go into details: This module is intended for a younger audience - basically, this is intended to be a very kid-friendly module - to be more precise, for the age-range of about ~ 6 years. I ran the module in my playtest with a mixed group spanning the ages of 4 - 11 and the players that had most fun were those in the lower ages, so personally, I'd suggest this approximately for ages 4 - 8. The module does take into account the changed requirements of the target demographic - namely by calling out when a good time for a break would be, when to guide them by incorporating suggestions into your "What do you do?"-questions, when to explain the discrepancy between character and player-knowledge...the like. For parents not sure whether their kids can handle "killing" adversaries, an alternate wording is provided as well, with the defeated "returning home." The copious amounts of advice provided are generally not only welcome, they tend to be very sound.


I, for example, wholeheartedly endorse the notion of taking away nonlethal damage penalties in combat encounters and rewarding PCs for doing "what's right" and handing off defeated foes to the proper authorities. It is my experience that kids become pretty adamant about doing "what's right," particularly when bonus XP are on the line - this may sound stupid to adult readers, but it is my firm conviction that acting like this can help kids develop their moral compass. Even distribution of candy/gummibears used as monster-substitutes on the map also is a pretty sound advice, since it prevents instances of jealousy and kill steals, while still providing immediate gratification.


All right! Children/players, in case you're reading this, please jump to the conclusion. No one likes a cheater and I'm going to explain the adventure now. If you continue reading, you'll only make the adventure boring for yourselves and have an unfair advantage that will be noticed by your GM. Please do what's right and jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


The monastery of the monks of the kneeling wind is a tribute to the elements and, visually inspired by Japanese aesthetics, well-represented by a truly beautiful full-color map. Alas, all things must end, and so did the time of the monks - and after they were gone, the crystal dragon Azhuryx chose this place to rear her precious wyrmling Kurisutaru. Alas, once again, trouble brewed and the mother dragon did not return from a hunt, leaving Kurisutaru terribly bored with the soulbound doll left for him, yet cautious of strangers. One day, Kurisutaru saw a child folding origami and was left overjoyed when he saw dragons among the figures crafted - he thus swooped down to talk with the magical prodigy Azumi, who, in a panic, conjured forth an origami crane (made possible via the new spell) and sent it forth - said crane is what jumpstarts the module in earnest, as the PCs happen to find the origami swan and read the cry for help on it.


In order to reach the monastery, the PCs have to start climbing the mountain (a great way to btw. use the hazard here to explain altitude sickness as they encounter it to the kids for a nice educational interlude) and on site, the exploration can commence - the PCs can for example brave the most huggable earth elemental I can imagine. A Wisteria tree whispers to the PCs that the key to Azumi's location is hidden in the koi pond and indeed, swimming in can yield it. Underwater, the PCs encounter a friendly, awakened koi who breathes bubbles on them and wants to talk to them: He'll give them the key, if they answer a simple riddle. Beyond the moon-viewing tower, there are animated dog statuettes that may attack (impotently) the PCs - less defense and more offense would have probably made this encounter slightly more enjoyable, but that may just be me.


The PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against the haunt-summoned non-evil undead weapon master of the monks in honorable combat. In the just as lavishly-rendered map of the complex beneath the monastery, a Sudoku-puzzle beckons alongside a friendly haunt testing the PCs whether they can distinguish reality from illusion, while another requires balancing on a rope to swing a bell...in an interesting twist, the spectral teachers of the monks may provide guidance in-game to stumped players. Combat-challenges include dealing with the dragon's overprotective soulbound doll and some animated objects.


When the PCs finally happen upon the dragon, they'll think they have a deadly fight on their hands...but Azumi intervenes and the PCs have a chance to make friends with the dragon, the positive modifiers of which btw. also entail playing a game of hide and seek with the dragon...and hopefully convey to him that kidnapping others, no matter how well-intentioned, is not a good way to make friends. In the end, though, capable PCs will probably leave on Azumi's origami riding cranes, with Kurisutaru's friendship bracelet for a fine, tasty dinner at Azumi's house - who now has a friend most unique.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a Japanese-looking, beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book provides ample of child-friendly artwork from the pen by Jacob Blackmon -more so than in many modules of this size, rendering it a nice, visual treat. The unified and beautiful style also extends to the gorgeous cartography by Travis Hanson, which also features player-friendly versions that you can print out, cut up and hand out to them as they go! Extra kudos for that update!


Jenny Jarzabski and BJ Hensley have already proven that they can make good crunch; however, as it turns out, they can also write captivating modules. "A Friend in Need" is a great first module for the small ones, breathing a bit of the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki's movies and the innocence conveyed therein. It is not perfect, being a freshman offering, with minor hiccups like the somewhat tedious combat versus hardness 8 animated dog statues...but it is still a pretty impressive one. You see, the module does a lot things right: The flavor is child-friendly. Even the spirits of the monks, which may evoke a slight sense of creepiness (in a good way), still provide more aid than hindrance. The challenges are diverse and the inclusion of social encounters, riddles and puzzles make sure that the players actually are challenged in more than one way, which is a good thing in any module, particularly so in one intended for kids.


Now personally, I do believe that even small kids can handle a bit more threat and danger than this module featured (see e.g. the pretty serious themes of fear of loss and reorientation in "My Neighbor Totoro", for comparison), but I will not hold that against the pdf. It should be noted that I ran this with a 4-year-old among the players and the module proved fitting for children this young as well, while the kids in the age-range of 8 and beyond would have liked a bit more grit. Now the good thing here is that, should you not endeavor to cater to a crowd as diverse as I did in my playtest, you'll have no issue slightly increasing the creepy-factor of the benevolent monk-spirits - in my playtest, I added some minor creepy-dressing to them and thus managed to engage the kids even more - if you heed this advice, though, please make sure you know what your players are comfortable with - a tiny scare is okay, but not more.


How to rate this, then? Now that's the tricky part: You see, I very much believe that we need more modules like this. In fact, many more modules.


I have vastly benefited from my roleplaying in both terms of foreign languages, vocabulary, problem-solving and social skills and the sooner we can get such a positive development going, the better. At the same time, I am somewhat hesitant of awarding this per se very good module my highest accolades - it is my firm belief that a slightly more pronounced emphasis on morality (or a slightly more complex hide-and-seek-encounter) could have added that little je-ne-sais-quoi to this already very good module.


Ultimately, we are left with one well-crafted module for young children - hopefully, only the first of many more to come. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for this freshman offering, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform. Congratulations to the authors for an impressive first sojourn that certainly made the children ask for more.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Friend in Need
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Fehr's Ethnology Complete
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/26/2015 02:55:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive compilation of Purple Duck Games' "Fehr's Ethnology"-series clocks in at an impressive 130 pages, 1 page editorial/ToC, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 126 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin with a brief introduction of the subject matter and how to use this book before delving into the races themselves. Each of the write ups not only comes with the basic information on the race's stats, but also extends to new race traits, alternate racial traits and favored class options. Beyond that, we get mundane and magical equipment for the respective races as well as unique racial archetypes, spells and feats - all of these help particularly in making the unique races fit within Purple Duck Games' unique patchwork planet Porphyra. The inclusion of age, height and weight-tables for the races featured is also rather appreciated.


The first race covered would be the Avoodim. Essentially, they are a melancholic race cast down from heaven - having failed at becoming archons, they in their shame didn't try again and hence have been sent down to earth, looking for a way, a purpose, a chance for redemption. Avoodim get +4 Con, +2 Str,-2 Dex and Cha, are native outsiders, get darkvision, celestial resistances, +2 to craft or profession-checks related to stone/metal, and +1 to atk against all outsiders, the option to use doom on foes as well as a racial susceptibility to bouts of melancholia and despair. The increased potency over the previous iteration of the race is justified via a 1/day forced reroll on a natural 20, as creation itself seeks to keep them low. (And yes, there is a feat, which, while lacking the "Benefits"-header, lets you mitigate this - and yes, the feat is more solid than in the previous pdf.


While an uncommon mechanic and while I'm not a fan of the martial bent of the race (preferring races to have both bonuses for physical and mental attributes), this balancing mechanism can be nasty...and pretty unique. It also should show you something rather significant: Unlike many compilations out there, this is not simply the sum of its parts - it has been tinkered with, retooled and changed. While not all components like traits are 100% precise in their wording à la "You may cast virtue as a spell-like ability 1/day, only on yourself.", one can glean the intent of the range being modified to personal from this still -not perfect, but it's functional. Similar hiccups à la "sightline" for "line of sight" and the like continue to crop up throughout the book and while they are neither glaring, nor crippling, if you're a stickler for rules-language, you may feel a certain twitch when reading such components. At the same time, e.g. getting temporary assistance of avoodim NPCs at level-2 once per month can be pretty cool. It should be noted at the same time, that the aforementioned hiccups in rules-language are not a constant throughout this book, mind you: Some of the new archetypes/class options provided, like the anti-mook fighter "One-Man-Army" get highly uncommon, yet interesting abilities, the signature of which lends you +1 attack at your lowest BAB when attacked by more than one creature. While this looks like it can be kitten'd, that's not the case - the requirement for even attack dispersals between valid targets prevents any cheesing of the ability - NICE.


The quadribrachial dhosari are an interesting race - flavor-wise, bred as slaves for the Erkunae, these uncommon beings not only have 4 arms they can bring to bear - their additional archetypes and material are also interesting; alas, at the same time, the race has still inherited some of the issues from the individual installment first detailing them. The pdf still does not specify, for example, whether they can wear two sets of bracers, 4 rings, etc. and I still consider their abuse-potential quite frankly too high.


The same can thankfully not be said about two of my favorite races from the original series, namely the dragonblooded and the erkunae - both races are pretty well-balanced and yes, inspired even. To the point where I allow both in my own games, though, again, the rules-language is not always perfect in either cases. The yeti-like Ith'n Ya'roo have btw. also been cleaned up: The broken feat-granting trait is gone and instead, bleed damage via bone weapons becomes feasible and the prior first level immunity to cold has been properly nerfed to a significant, but feasible immunity. Granted, the racial trait "Resistance to Cold Adaptation" should probably just read "Cold Adaptation," but at least the ability works. This level of fixing and expansion btw. also extends to the formerly pretty ridiculously-named Hhundi (which sounded like the German equivalent of "doggie") being renamed Kripar: Gone is the broken "roll twice" trait that constituted the race's most grievous glitch: Instead, we get a nice race of solitary lurkers and ambush predators - and yes, now we get a proper age, height and weight table.


The psionic, mute cat-people Qit'ar still can be considered nice and e.g. a solid psychic warrior path among the new features makes sure that I am not going to revise my rather positive stance on the race - I like them. My favorite plant-race out there by now, the wonderfully weird Xesa (and perhaps the one race where I swallowed my disdain for +4 attribute-races) also are further expanded...including a psion-archetype that allows for the limited and controlled burning of Con to gain power points, which is pretty nice. The fact that they also gain +1 power per level as long as psion is their favored class, though, is too much. I'd cut that down to at least +1/2. Still, a compelling write-up. The most problematic race among the original series was the Urisk-race and while, balance-wise, I am still weary of it and consider the thematically-awesome fey-hillbillies too strong for my tastes, I should note that e.g. the highly problematic Dance of the Fey-feat has since been cleaned up and now has a precise, functional wording - so yes, such changes overall make the race better than it was before.


The book also sports new material regarding whole races, btw.: Take the Eventual:+2 to Con and Int, -2 Cha native outsiders with darkvision, electricity resistance 5, 1/day shocking grasp, at-will tongues and law affinity for sorc-spells and abilities render this law-centric variant of the outsider-blooded theme pretty solid regarding the foundation, something that thankfully generally extends to the traits and alternate racial traits. The racial feats allow you to further build on the inevitable-flavored heritage of the race. Indeed, e.g. a counterspell specialist-feat can be taken as example for what I love and hate about this book: The feat per se is solid in its intent, but we have a wording like this right in the middle: "Your Spellcraft check you must succeed at to identify an opponent’s spell is equal to 20 plus your opponent’s spell level, but you are able to cast as your counterspell any spell from the same school as the foes." That's the middle of the three sentences and yes, I pasted it straight from the book...and yes, it hurts me to have to complain about hiccups like this, particularly among concepts I enjoy. One spell that allows for a limited time-reversal is somewhat problematic and should be controlled rigidly by GMs, but it may also be truly outstanding for some groups. The saberhagen lawful barbarians with their rigid rage codes may be locked into a progression according to the code chosen among the 3 available, but they are interesting enough. All in all, a solid racial addition.


The second newcomer herein would be the Polkan, who is a somewhat centaur-like race that gets +2 Str and Wis, counts as monstrous humanoids, is large (but wields medium-sized armor + weapons), can see twice as far in starlight/dim light (low-light vision by any other name - why not use the proper name?), a base speed of 40 ft, +4 quadruped bonus vs. trip and limited retries on failed Diplomacy-checks. Generally, I like the race and its racial options - the feats, hoof-spikes and similar supplemental contents provided are nice; alas, much like all centaur-like race takes I've seen so far, the race fails to provide the proper information regarding the magic item slots it should have and neither does the race fix the old ladder-conundrum.


Now, I like to end reviews on a high note and the xenophobic, elemental-worshiping Zendiqi definitely are just that. Being one of the few races that have managed to secure a permanent place among those in my campaign - something precious few races managed to achieve, mind you, the Zendiqi are simply inspired and work well in just about any campaign - from Sword and Sorcery to high fantasy. The introduction of e.g. an archetype of the hero-point-based infinyte-class is more than welcome here: The archetype takes the narratively intriguing fluff of the base-class and expands it by a flavorful concept, introducing a kind of antibalance, a champion of change by virtue of order or chaos. Speaking of high notes: The extensive rules-index in the back of the book helps keeping tabs on all the options contained herein.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' slightly streamlined, printer-friendly two-column standard, with quite a few nice full-color artworks and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for our convenience.


First things first: This is the type of compilation pdf for which I do not mind re-reading the whole material - this is due to two facts: 1) Perry Fehr's fluff is excellent. While the main author of this book imho is much better with fluff than with crunch, one can see both his and Mark Gedak's talent in the expertly-written, high-concept fluff provided herein. 2) The compilation here actually took the vast majority of the more grievous issues and balance-concerns and cleaned them up, something also by far not all compilations do. And then, there would be the SIGNIFICANT array of new material provided in this book, which I btw. only cursorily touched upon in this review.


Indeed, if this compilation did one thing right, it would be that it further expanded upon the strengths of the material herein and were I to rate concepts alone, this would be my favorite racial pdf in a long time. At the same time, however, and there is no denying that, the rules-language, while functional for the most part, is simply imprecise. I'd indeed harp on it much more, were it not for the fact that, time and again, the book gets it right..and then restarts the glitchy parts. It's odd and somewhat frustrating, at least from a reviewer's perspective. There is a lot of non-standard wording in these pages and if you're like me, that may make you cringe a bit. The book, alas, also suffers from a few questions not answered regarding e.g. minor balance-concerns with some of the races herein.


The question thus is valid - to get this or not to get this? I am quite frankly hesitant to pronounce an all-out recommendation for this book, considering the hiccups contained herein - they are somewhat glaring and, at least to me, tarnish the otherwise inspired content herein. Undoubtedly, though, few books on the topic of races have managed to inspire me to the extent that this book has and fewer still had their featured races enter my game to the extent this book has. GMs confident in their abilities to iron out the rough spots and capable in determining whether a given race is for their game should definitely take a look - for the low price, this indeed is a good haul of not always perfect, but always inspiring, content that is bound to inspire with its prose, content and cool races. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since this book does not deserve being relegated to the middle grounds.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fehr's Ethnology Complete
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Dracoprimia 2: Undertrek
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/26/2015 02:54:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second installment of the Dracoprimia AP clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? We rejoin our heroes and the draaki Verja (recently saved from his forced employment as a curiosity in a circus) on their trek towards Verja's home - in a nice sense of continuity, PCs doing well in the first installment can witness the fruits of their labors - the better they performed, the more discount they'll get when shopping for supplies, potentially even getting the adventuring gear of Zhira Medved. Thus, the unlikely travelling companions travel across the Klavekian plains (complete with random encounters table) to the Silent Forest, the domain of the elves. The xenophobic, isolationalist people thankfully know of the prophecy that sent Verja and thus allow for safe transit....but only after issuing a warning: A vikmordere hunting party has pursued a wooly rhinoceros into the forest and the wounded, powerful beast has been wrecking havoc in the forest - and indeed, in the evening, the dangerous creature, half-blinded, stumbles into the PC's camp - but will they jeopardize their role in the prophecy to finish the half-blinded beast, which is, in spite of its wounds, a highly dangerous adversary? Or will they leave the elves to a brutal fight? Slightly odd - I don't get why there's a (nice) mammoth-artwork here.


After some more traveling, the PCs can find the fungal entry to the rhizomorph road into the underworld, to be more precise, into the Grey Liana jungle of vast fungal proportions (fully mapped). Once again, this unique environment does sport random encounter-tables...and acid puddles. PCs better watch their step to avoid trudging into nasty, corrosive puddles and fungal caps. And if that were not bad enough, the jungle is haunted by vegepygmies (with lavish artworks), which consistently try to kill/abduct PCs while they trespass in their terrain. Whether the PCs elect to try to eliminate the vegepygmies for once and for all (destroying the village requires taking care of the mold, obviously - though this aspect is left pretty opaque) or not, they will have to cross the boiling river that bisects the subterranean jungle. Once again, unique hazards are provided here.


The final stretch of the journey takes the PCs through tunnels named lava vents - once again, sporting nice artworks, unique hazards and a random encounter-table, providing a solid player-map and a GM's map of the vents. We end this module with the PCs en route towards the Drage caves, towards their destiny. I wondered why there was no player-friendly version of the fungal jungle's map, though.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring issues. Layout adheres to the beautiful 2-column underworld-series-standard, mirroring the location of this module - nice! The pdf's artworks are unanimously beautiful full-color and a joy to look at. The cartography is generally top-notch, though the player-friendly version of the magma vents-tunnels is "only" good. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Mike Myler's Undertrek is a fun trip through the underdark to read through - the larger obstacles usually have more than one solution and the pdf covers a lot of bases, so that's nice. I also enjoyed the significant array of hazards herein - kudos for making the undertrek feel alien and unique. This is a nice overland journey in the underworld and it oozes alien vistas, dangers, etc. - atmosphere-wise, Undertrek is a great module to read. At the same time, though, playing it confirmed my fears - it does fall flat of its premise. While not as railroady as "Into the Green," there is still not much active choice here. And yeah, sure, that's somewhat inherent in the structure of a journey. But e.g. the superb "Twin Crossings" still did that aspect more modular, put player agenda higher on the priority list. Basically, we have two BIG locations (fungal jungle + magma vents), and in both, there is not much to discover - no hidden tomb, no remnants of explorers, no veins of ore or unique plants etc.


As wondrous as the locations are, as sterile do they feel when the players scratch the surface. What do I mean by this? The magma vents have three tunnels leading through them - 3, to be precise. What your PCs don't know: Their choice here doesn't really matter. The adventure continues as intended. What if the PCs go off the rails and look for exotic shrooms in the jungle? After all, other AAW Games-modules sport numerous wondrous shrooms? None to be found here. Now you can counter that by saying that Verja can steer them back on track, sure. That opens another problem, though: It is predicated on Verja being more than a story-facilitator, predicated on him being an ally the PCs come to cherish and talk to. The problem here is that the GM is left in the dark regarding Verja's task. Information on his enclave, the festival, the prophecy, his role beyond securing the PCs, even the route he took when he went to the surface? Nope - nothing. Verja is a black story hole that can frustrate those who want to know him and generates undue paranoia that resulted in one playtest group trying to abort the whole deal - I had to tell them out-game to get back on the railroad, for nothing in-game could have salvaged that. I am GOOD at BSing explanations and the like on the fly, but the slow, deliberate pace and the lack of information exacerbate the issue to highly problematic levels.


Basically, this module can go two ways: If your players jump on the train and don't rock the boat, this is a wondrous, exciting journey. If they are like mine and want to poke environments, look for the hidden bonus treasures and really interact in-depth with everything...well, then you'll have issues. Both Verja and the environments, as awesome and wondrous as they may be, ultimately remain pretty shallow, perhaps, though not necessarily so, due to the brevity of this module. Overall, it feels like this adventure should have taken more time to develop the wondrous surroundings - after all, the upperworlder PCs WILL want to interact with the jungle; they will want to get the most out of these locales.


Undertrek can go off as a great, if a bit brief overland journey...or turn into a complete mess that is frustrating, if certainly not particularly taxing, to GM. I've had both happen. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo 3 stars - in spite of the cool environs, I just can't go higher.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dracoprimia 2: Undertrek
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: Speaking the Same Language (PFRGP)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2015 05:22:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the chronicle of the gatekeepers campaign serial clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1/2 page advertisement, leaving us with 5.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


Okay, only GMs around? There is something odd, about similarities between worlds when you think about it: From dominant races to linguistic similarities, there are parallels in spite of vastly diverging cultures. I mean, oddly, PCs had not much acclimation issues on NeoExodus, right? Well, Large-Biter needs the PCs to verify something - namely whether the activation of the Nexus Gateway that brought them here was a fluke - and hey, if they're stranded on the other side, at least they're home, right? Pretty neat: If the PCs have played In His Bad Books, they'll have an easier time activating the portal - which, btw., turns out to be a Stargate-esque task of activating different dials to properly calibrate the portal.


Calibration is a tricky business and actually a fun, old-school-ish puzzle that rewards PCs for thinking about how the device works...and yes, they may, for a brief second, open a gate to a sun and be slightly toasted by the experience (they should thank the creators of these gates for the failsafes...). Other failures like the void or other worlds may pit the PCs versus proteans or vespans, but at home, they will meet a local monk...and prymidian bards: These beings from NeoExodus are exceedingly gifted polyglots and have determined on the PC's home planet, that the similarities in languages and cultures are highly unlikely - so much so, that a common influence has to be assumed. Just as they're about to discuss this further, something emerges from the gateway - a creature that WILL require the assistance of the NPCs...or a quick escape, for a Hound of Tindalos has tracked the PCs here - and even with their allies, the PCs will be hard-pressed defeating this creature. That being said, escape back to NeoExodus is an option - though it might waste the portal, requiring another way home at some point...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to LPJ Design's elegant 2-column full-color standard for the series and the module comes fully bookmarked and in a second, slightly more printer and mobile phone-friendly version.


Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr.'s Speaking the Same Language is an inspiring sidetrek: Much like the previous installment, it has a unique, creative central premise, here the activation of the gateway. This premise of gate activation alone is imho worth the asking price and can easily be scavenged for similar planar portals and gateways. The emphasis on intelligence-gathering and some truly intriguing repercussions from the knowledge gained also render this brief module more fun that one would expect from its brevity. Finally, the extremely challenging final encounter is a nice reminder of the things that lurk out there and the fact that sometimes, escape may be the smartest move. All in all, a damn cool sidetrek and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: Speaking the Same Language (PFRGP)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Bite Me! The Gaming Guide to Lycanthropes
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2015 05:19:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 126 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page backer-thanks, 3 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 113 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


But first, before we do, let me mention something: This massive book is basically a compilation of material I have already reviewed...at least, for the most part: We have the lycanthrope-archetypes, the wereblooded races, the skindancers and the excellent advice/rules-book on actually playing lycanthropes and how to handle them in your campaign - I have already covered, in extensive detail, mind you, all of these pdfs, so in case you require an in-depth analysis, I'll just point you there.


The book begins with a nice introduction to the subject matter by Ann Dupuis before venturing forth into the chapter on playing lycanthropes - which still remains one of the most useful components for a GM or player contemplating the use of lycanthropes in the game - the section is absolutely glorious and exceedingly useful.


The section on archetypes is still solid - the archetypes provided cover most classes and add an option to spice your character up with lycanthropic options. The archetypes are mostly solid, though e.g. the cleric one may be a bit problematic. Still, an overall nice section. The wereblooded get some significant expansion, with Mike Welham providing no less than 7 new minor wereblooded clans. Charchardons get a 1d3 bite attack, can smell blood, hold their breath longer and get +2 to Swim. Chiroptera can lick weapons to make them cause bleed-damage, get +2 saves vs. ingested poisons and diseases as well as becoming nauseated/sickened; they also get +2 to perception and slightly reduce miss-chances granted by concealment as well as vestigial wings.


Crocodylus wereblooded get +2 to Swim (and +2 to Stealth while swimming), an anti-trip vestigial tail, the same plague/disease-resistance and a 1d3 bite. Mantids get +4 Stealth in a certain terrain, +2 to saves versus mind-reading/charm/compulsions and vestigial wings. The Meles must take either +2 Con or Str and get a minor barbarian-like frenzy. The Rattus consider Escape Artist and Swim class skills, get the anti-plague/disease trick at double strength and can squeeze into smaller confines - nice one! Sinuae get +2 CMB for bull rushs and overruns while on the ground and 1d3 tusks. All in all, a solid array of complimentary clans here that further improve the already pretty cool wereblooded material!


The skindancers remain an intriguing alternate race that has some downright glorious potential, but at the same time, they should be considered the most breakable component herein that has some obvious potential for issues; I'd suggest only experienced groups take this one and only once both player and GM have talked about balancing the character properly. Still, the narrative potential makes these guys interesting indeed and they make for truly superb villains with some powerful, evil options.


Now if all of this does not (yet) sound like too much, then you'll be happy to note that this book, more so than its component parts, acts pretty much as a kind of NPC-codex, with quite a few intriguing NPC-builds provided for the options contained within - with most of them even featuring their own artworks!


If you're a fan of well-written fiction, you most certainly will also appreciate the short story "The Duke's Tramp", provided by Dave Gross at the end of this book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are excellent, particularly considering the length of this book. Layout adheres to Misfit Studios' elegant and relatively printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with ample artworks. Additionally, a more printer-friendly version is provided - nice! The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks and navigation etc. is simple indeed.


Ann Dupuis, Robert H. Hudson Jr., Jeff Erwin, Rich Howard, J.M. Perkins, Mike Welham, Morgan Boehringer, Jim Wettstein, Ben McFarland, Dave Gross -note something? All of the authors accumulated herein tend to fare pretty well regarding their offerings; they are all talented people and this book does show that. The added amount of content that can be found within these pages most certainly makes the book even more useful and for the asking price, we indeed have a more than fair offering on our hands. While not perfect in every instance, we nevertheless get a massive, concise book on the subject matter that should be appreciated by anyone remotely interested in the material. While I would have loved for some potentially rough edges to be sanded off in comparison to the constituent pdfs, the added content does somewhat alleviate my gripes in that direction. Over all, this is a useful resource indeed and well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bite Me! The Gaming Guide to Lycanthropes
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Eidolons
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2015 05:16:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of 13th Age Monthly clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


By a route obscure and lonely,


Haunted by ill angels only,


where an eidolon, named night,


on a black throne reigns upright,


I have reached these lands but newly


From an ultimate dim Thule


From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,


Out of space - out of time.


Sorry, I couldn't help myself. It's my immediate association whenever I hear the word "eidolon" - and no, in 13th Age, they are not the customizable pets of summoners. Instead, eidolons are pretty much powerful spirits shaped by a central core reality and governing principle - they basically are single-minded agents of a concept or ideology given form. Their origins are shrouded in mystery and their devotion to the core-concept that constitutes their reality may put them at odds with one another or make them unreliable allies of the PCs - in any way, these creatures of soul-stuff (classified as the new type: spirit) and weirdness do sport a vast plethora of forms, something represented in their unique abilities:


They can switch initiatives, split parties between realities and even reposition targets...and worse: They are undying. They can be defeated, but you don't kill an idea. Need something even cooler? What about the concise and rather lethal, optional insanity point-mechanic introduced here? (Yes, including the traditional "You know things you weren't supposed to..."-knowledge to be gained from insanity...) Different base forms for the eidolons are provided - a total of 4 such forms are fully statted here, with all of them sporting at least one interesting ability.


The opinions of 5 icons (Why not all 13? What about the Occultist?) on the creatures are also provided...and perhaps, you can wrestle the true name of an eidolon out of one of them to gain some control over them...but then again, they may exist to test the mettle of heroes - thus, 3 sample blessings and even more curses to be uttered by these creatures can be found here. Need even more inspiration? What about half a page of adventure hooks? That's my one gripe - why not make the final page full of hooks? As provided, half a page of blank space at the end looks a bit lost.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to 13th Age's 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The full-color artworks are neat.


ASH LAW's eidolons are a damn cool, interesting creature type - with narrative potential galore, utterly unique tactical options and a broad diversity of applications, they are pretty much a textbook definition of a great critter - and that is before the fluff, the optional madness rules and the neat blessings and curses. When all I can complain about amounts to "half a page is blank, you could have written something there," you know that a given pdf is pretty much awesome. That being said, the eidolons very much feel, at least to me, like they ought to have a tie-in with the Occultist and I couldn't help but feel that opinions of all 13 icons on them would have felt more comprehensive than just covering 5. These two missed chances remain my only valid complaints here - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eidolons
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: Not of the Same Mind (PFRGP)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2015 03:58:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the chronicle of the gatekeepers campaign serial clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


All right, only GMs around? One of the most unique races of NeoExodus would be the Cavians - rat-like humanoids that are all psychics...and that differ radically from any other race by one crucial fact: The race sports a hivemind, which renders them unique and alien in an uncanny way. Large-Biter has news - a group of cavian monks is nearby and may prove vital intelligence on the Vespan's work and the flare of activity of the Nexus gateways. It should soon dawn upon the PCs that there are some racial tensions here - indeed, even before they venture forth towards the Cavians, they'll be confronted by villagers warning them in no undue terms - tensions are flaring and, indeed, this module is about the two disparate groups.


The module tracks every little interaction between both groups, so here's the deal: Teryth's natives are pretty hostile towards the Cavians and thus, each interaction, each wrong word, may provide a mob point; the interaction with the Cavians may yield Diplomacy points alongside information and the PCs better take heed - upon their return to Teryth from the trip to the Cavians, the local populace seems awfully interested in the details of the Cavian's strength, numbers, etc. - and yes, here the PCs better ought to remain unspecific. Now the cool thing here is the following: The points ultimately determine how the final showdown between the two groups turns out - and there are a lot of different, fine-grained results here, with the non-bloodshed ideal case being pretty hard to achieve...but not impossible.


The module also sports one cavian magic item, just fyi.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to LPJ Design's elegant 2-column full-color standard for the series and the module comes fully bookmarked and in a second, slightly more printer and mobile phone-friendly version.


Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. provide one extremely elegant sidetrek here: Focusing on Diplomacy, this humble little module offers a welcome change of pace from the usual adventuring fare, with interesting supplemental rules that render running this one pretty easy. Additionally, this module rewards Diplomacy and bring heroic (i.e. not kill-happy) - it's ideal solution is that no one gets hurt. More importantly, while there are ample skill-checks here, many of the actions and actual points the PCs get depend on roleplaying as opposed to simply rolling a die - a fact that further improves this already cool set-up. I am seriously impressed by this cool, little sidetrek - it is different in all the right ways, fun and a great chance for actual roleplaying to shine. Barring any proper complaints, I can wholeheartedly endorse this fun, uncommon sidetrek, since it exemplifies what you can accomplish with even limited space. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek:  Not of the Same Mind (PFRGP)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Feats Reforged: Vol. IV, The Magic Feats
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2015 03:57:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The fourth installment of TPK Games' series that redesigns feats to scale with character levels covers the feats from Ultimate Magic and clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a blank page, leaving us with 24 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, by now you know both the basic principle of the series and how the series works: Basically, you get additional benefits at certain character levels, with common progressions being 7th and 14th level; 9th and 16th level also constitute a common progression ladder and some feats also increase in potency at 18th level or 10th and 17th level - basically, the idea is a rough 7-level progression for most of them.


Now regarding the scaling benefits, much like the third installment of the series, we get effects that go thankfully beyond straight numerical escalation - Extra Ranger Trap, to give you an example, adds +2/day uses of ranger traps at the first scaling threshold and later increases their DC. Action-economy progression for e.g. Fast Empathy also deserves mention. Gliding Step's third progression allows for the expenditure of ki at 18th level to ignore all difficult terrain for 1 round in addition to its straight scaling benefit - which makes sense at such a high level. Remote Bomb's scaling distance (only requiring line of effect), is also nice, and Resilient Eidolon allows you to keep your eidolon around while you sleep at higher levels.


In fact, some of the feat-upgrades herein allow for whole new builds to be efficient - the Shaping Focus' scaling, to name one, allows for up to character level = druid level for the purposes of wild shape - at 18th level more than okay, especially considering the solid scaling step before. So yes, this book does have its moments, where it shines and does so brilliantly. At the same time, this one is less refined in its rules-language than Vol. III: Spell Bluff's scaling options e.g. mention that "you gain no negatives when dueling a caster whose spells are modified by Silent Spell or Still Spell" - the thing is: The vanilla rules for spell duels do never result in "negatives" - did the author mean "penalties"? I don't get how this one is supposed to work and reading up on spell duel rules didn't help. On the plus-side, Starlight Summons getting concealment and later Hide in Plain Sight? That's quite badass. Versatile Channeler getting rid of the -2 penalty for channel purposes at 14th level also is rather interesting.


I also like the decision to make Word of Healing, at 14th level, apply at full potency at a range of 40 ft. Adding two spellblights via Blighted Critical can also be considered a rather nice option in my book and Channeled Shield Wall's scaling bonuses and high-level DRs make sense and implanting bombs is nasty - after 24 hours, long-term implanted bombs no longer count towards your daily limit - evil empires and villains will make ample use of this one...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no particularly glaring glitches, though there are a couple of italicizations missing. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with solid b/w-artworks thrown in. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


The Feats Reforged series is hard to review - basically, you have a bunch of feats that you already know and add scaling benefits to them - as a reviewer, what to do? List feat upon feat's scaling options? Boring. Complain about base feats? Unfair. However, if you're a bit familiar with me and my work, you'll probably have guessed correctly that I do loathe quite a few feats out there - and Ultimate Magic is partially banned at my table for a reason, so no, I don't have a high opinion of the source-material this pdf draws on.


At the same time, though, as a reviewer, my task is to determine whether the feats herein do a good job at translating the source-material to a system wherein the feats scale. It is in this context that I'm rating this book. And it is in the context that I can say that Neal Litherland and Brian Berg have done a good job.


While there are some rare and minor hiccups among the formal properties, the vast majority of the scaling feats herein makes sense and even adds dimensions and new build options to the base feats. It is with new effects and intriguing effects beyond the numerical scaling (which is usually implemented in a well-done manner) that this book shines. While I STILL refute, adamantly, I might add, the series' claim that unilaterally adding these to the game does not change balance (this is wrong since some characters frankly get more feats and thus more use out of scaling feats), I gladly acknowledge one fact - even in the cases where I frankly dislike the base feat, the reforged iteration tends to add something new, something more to the table.


A further benefit of this series is that it helps in rare-magic/low-magic games to keep the scales - though wide-scale implementation for the monsters etc. will be a lot of work for the GM, I can see a lot of tables that will welcome this particular aspect over the annoying Christmas Tree syndrome. How to rate this book, then? Well, ultimately, we get a lot of good material here. While personally, I preferred Vol. III and considered its formatting/wording a teeny tiny bit more precise, this still constitutes a worthy addition to the series. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats Reforged: Vol. IV, The Magic Feats
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

13th Age: The Strangling Sea
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2015 03:35:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module for 13th Age clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This was moved ahead in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a critical, honest review.


We begin this module with a briefing and a selection of the icon patron for the PCs - and, let me state this from the beginning, this section is very detailed: Each of the patron icons and also, each of the antagonist icons you can choose to frame the narrative in, changes the subject matter in subtle ways - though arguably, I'd suggest involving the Dwarf King in some way - you'll note why when reading the module.


And this is the extent to which I can get regarding the module without delving into the SPOILERS. From here on out, only GMs should read on - seriously, even when playing another system, you may want to move on to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, so it should come as no surprise that in a highly magical setting like the Dragon Empire, there sooner or later emerges a genius. In the case of the 13th Age, this Leonardo DaVinci-style super-genius would be Inigo Sharpe. However, the brilliant man takes "problematic" to whole new levels. What do I mean by this? well, the man has made a living out of solving (partially) the issues of an Icon and then getting the hell away, leaving shambles and large bills. Yes, he is not a nice guy and while the concepts his inventions would have had for the respective icons are massive, none work as intended/are completed - instead, this brilliant man elected not to put even more power in the icon's hands.


This does not, however, change the fact that, at some point, Inigo had to jump ship time and again - and then, he vanished. At the behest of their patron icon, the PCs have to track down Sharpe..with the only good trail leading to Silver Cove and a burned former partner of Sharpe left to clean up one of his messes. Indeed, the mage Frigin's dome soon comes under siege by some hoodlums, showing the PCs that they are not the only ones on the hunt for Sharpe. The annoyed and frightened mage does have a means of tracking down Sharpe, though - a concealed, magical boat that always returns back to its port of origin, to be activated via a peculiar song.


Thus, the PCs board the vessel, sing...and on it goes. The magical boat brings them right into the ocean, to be more precise, to the eponymous strangling sea. This would be a tightly-interwoven mat of Sargasso, fungi, wrecks and worse, all clumped together to form a floating, unstable place. Navigating the strangling sea's less than reliable: One false step can see you crash through the ground and into the sea that's teeming with lethal predators...and then there would be the inhabitants: The strangling sea features a tribe of degenerate, xenophobic goblins on the verge of becoming something wholly different and these beings, with their psionics-inducing parasites are just one issue. The other factions contain a group of shipwrecked people and a huge metal box, which is an experimental dwarven ship of metal. Oh, and there are, obviously, deadly parasites and flesh-eating fungi to be found here as well in one of the most unique iterations of this trope I've seen in ages.


Finding Inigo here is hard - particularly, since neither the paranoid, hostile dwarves, nor the other factions prove to be friendly: The PC's arrival changes the strangling sea's power-dichotomy, with their boat being a grand prize to be wrestled from the PCs...and the desperation and paranoia of the locals makes sense. Why? Because the strangling sea houses a malevolent, chthonic intellect that drives its inhabitants into desperation, paranoia and even suicide. Yes, darker than you thought, hmm? The brilliant rules-representation of the Strangling Sea, though, is what makes it shine even more: Basically, the Strangling Sea gets a kind of evil relationship die that can further influence PCs in ways most unpleasant. I expected the neat rules for swimming under the sea - I did not expect this awesomeness.


Better yet, the fully mapped sea (player-friendly, just fyi) retains the modularity promised by the set-up: You see, Inigo can be freely placed...and there's a reason for this. The PCs won't simply find the eccentric inventor - unless they are smart: You see, Inigo's "death" was not just perfectly faked...he kind of died. However, he downloaded his personality and mind into a steampunky replacement body...of which only the head remains. So yeah, the goal here is to escape the strangling sea alive, sanity mostly intact, with a severed and still very conscious (and talkative...and extremely abrasive) head of a century's genius... whether their ship is stolen or not, whether they reactivate the massive dwarven ship or not - one way or another, the PCs can hopefully return - to a final encounter that amounts to rugby/American football with Inigo's head. And yes, this encounter, like each and every one in this book, has several cool, unique factors that make it more unique.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to 13th Age's printer-friendly, elegant 2-column b/w-standard. The original b/w-artworks are copious and nice and the strangling sea's map is neat. The electronic version is fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover version comes on glossy, thick high-quality paper.


All right, let's cut this short: GET THIS! This is the 13th Age introduction-module you always wanted: Beyond the absolutely awesome location, the icon-related customization options and the story, this awesome sandbox offers unique, cool encounters galore. Even if you're not playing 13th Age, the creative and well-written module practically demands to be converted into other systems: Robin D. Laws has executed a firework of high-concept awesomeness in these pages that render this a joy to read and the playing experience actually surpasses this still.


The unique use of 13th Age's rules and the diverse selection of foes and scenarios render this sandbox one thing: Superb. If I had one complaint, it would be that I would have loved the module to be longer, for there to be even more madness and time in the Strangling Sea...so yeah. I literally couldn't get enough of this. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and a must-own recommendation for any fan of 13th Age.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age: The Strangling Sea
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Tomb Raiders
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2015 03:31:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second of Legendary Games' Mummy's Mask plug-ins clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page hot-to-use, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content detailing the exploits of Lara Cro...wait, I'm just kidding!


The most interesting component of the Mummy's Mask AP, beyond the focus on a kind of archeology-like theme, is the competition between teams of explorers, at least to me - alas, NPC-groups of rivals take a lot of space to properly portray...and it is here this book comes in. What we have here is an array of competing adventurer groups, ready to really sour the day of the PCs, with the first being Eskelpian Acquisitions (Unltd). Led by the alchemist Alermo Eskelpian, plus rogue, brawler and sorceror, this group is interesting in that it works like a slightly more professional murder-hobo group: They try to get the material and then get the hell out - preferably sans bloodshed, but if it can't be helped... Beyond that, their reliance on combat-drugs adds an interesting exploitable twist to the team. One thing you'll note right from the get-go here is that the team has its character-dynamics and methodology explained in lavish detail, a courtesy that not only makes the group more memorable, but also helps the GM properly portray them and their methods - and yes, this level of detail is provided for all groups.


The second group would be the Nazir family, united by their blood-ties: With several means of getting dupes...ehem, I mean "allies" to do their dirty work, a cultivated semblance of wealth, rogue, barbarian, sorceror and tracker make for a group tailor-made to fool others and get out - and the barbarian btw. has a new, unique rage power. One note to mention here pertains to the sometimes rather hilarious quotes also provided for the respective characters: When Jaul Nazir begins a tirade on how the desert is alive...only to nonchalantly exclude the guy they just killed from the diatribe, you'll be smirking.


The Third group, the Twilight Four, also have an intriguing angle: Their relationship is, first of all, strictly professional and not based on sentimental concepts such as friendship: Instead, the daemon-spawn tiefling witch, brawler, skald and bladebound magus are mostly driven on by the agenda of the magus' blade, Nightshard, which sports a hunger for esoteric lore of all kinds. Ranging from CR 5 -8, they are also some of the more competent competitors after the previous low level groups. The skald's statblock does sport a very minor hiccup in the formatting of his hyperlinks, but nothing to truly fuss about.


As you may note, there's a trend going on here, from shady down the alignment axis - and if the name was not ample clue, guess what - the Court of Slaughter is not a nice group. They are pretty much the opposite, consisting of a vampire cleric separatist, a mummified sniper stygian slayer, a skeletal champion boodrager and a good bard archivist - yes, these undead menaces are as deadly as you'd think and pitting their combined force against the PCs will make the players loathe these CR 12 - 9 villains even more.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the gorgeous, beautiful 2-column full-color standard of Mummy's Mask plug-ins and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with the well-made, unobtrusive hyperlinks that actually work and help. Beyond what may be one of the most beautiful layouts among the diverse array LG uses, the aesthetics-department has done a great job here: Each of the adventurer-groups gets their own 1-page full-color depiction, all of which adhere to the high level of quality you see on the cover. This is a beautiful book indeed.


It is also a pretty long book: Not only are the 4 teams of tomb raiders distinct in methodology, flavor and challenge, each of the characters contained therein has roleplaying potential galore and is memorable in some way - there is literally no filler NPC in here. Better yet, the mechanics supplement the characters well - from the combat-performance enhancing drugs to unique fighting styles, archetype-combos and classes used, the level of care and love that went into these NPCs is readily apparent. Jim Groves, Jonathan H. Keith, Benjamin Bruck and Mike Shel deliver a truly inspired supplement I wouldn't want to miss from Mummy's Mask games - and indeed, more so than in many AP-plug-ins, these characters can be used in just about every circumstance, thus rendering this book extremely useful even in contexts beyond the AP. My final verdict will hence clock in at unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tomb Raiders
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Baleful Sorcerer of Tsathag'kha
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2015 03:25:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This free supplement clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, so let's take a look!


We begin this pdf with a one-page introduction of the origin of the class. The baleful sorceror gets d6, may not wear armor and are proficient with daggers, short swords, sickles and scimitars. They may also use poison as a thief of the same level and may rebuke, command or destroy undead as a cleric of the same level. This sorceror learns one spell of a higher level every level, though more power can be gained via trafficking with dreaded Tsathag'Kha, putting that control in the GM's hands. The sorceror may also try to cast more potent magic than he can, requiring a save. If he fails, he takes the Constitution-drain of the magic himself and is whisked away by Tsathag'kha's servants to be looted and/or forced to sign a pact in blood.


This power obviously needs some balancing: Baleful Sorcerors of Tsathag'kha can never acquire a familiar, multi-class or be lawful/good. Upon death, his soul is forfeit and there is a 7% chance that the sorceror rises as a lich after dying. These guys do not require spellbooks. Aforementioned Constitution-drain either is equal to the spell-level or as noted in the spell's description, but these may be relegated to willing and unwilling targets, provided blood was drawn by the sorceror, and no more than 1 hour prior to the casting. Constitution recharges at 2 points per hour of uninterrupted rest, but characters below Con 3 must save to avoid systemic shock and subsequent death from the recovery.


The spell-list runs the gamut from magic detection (rolling a bunch of spells into one) to infernal conducts, blackish-purple tentacles, green, ichorous infernos and insta-kill at level 9. I wished the spells had more detailed casting/duration-infos, but ultimately can live with what's here.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf has a damn cool b/w-artwork in addition to the full color cover.


Venger As'Nas Satanis provides a solid, nice character kit here; by virtue of the rules being designed to work with several iterations of OSR-rules, the crunchy parts are a bit less precise than what I personally enjoy, but ultimately, the class works with a minimum wok required - and that is pretty impressive. Oh, and it is FREE. FREE is hard to beat indeed and hence, I will award full 5 stars + seal of approval in spite of this minor nitpick for this pdf - well worth the download!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Baleful Sorcerer of Tsathag'kha
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 91 to 105 (of 2126 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates