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Monster Classes: Savage Races I
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:07:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

We begin with the bugbear, who, racial trait-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Stealth and are Medium goblinoids with normal speed.

Racial class-wise, they get d8 HD with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, 2 + Int skills per level and +1 natural armor for each of the 3 levels of the class. At 1st and 3rd level, they get +2 Str, at 2nd level they get +2 Dex. Proficiency-wise, bugbears get simple weapons + morningstar ad javelin as well as light armor/shields. Perception and Stealth are always class skilsl for the bugbear and 2nd level nets scent. 3rd level increases the racial skill bonuses to +4.

Second up would be the gnoll, racial trait-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Stealth and are Medium (gnoll subtype) humanoid with normal speed.

Racial class-wise (2 levels long, just fyi), they get d8 HD with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2 + Int skills per level and +1 natural armor at 1st level as well as scent. 2nd level nets +2 Str...making this a lopsided, but still excellent and balanced take on the gnoll. Proficiency-wise, the class nets simple weapons, light & medium armor and shields - since the tower shield caveat is absence, those are included, which is a nice touch.

Thirdly, we're introduced to the playable ogre - who gets +2 Str and Con, -4 Int and Cha, begin play as Medium with 30 ft. movement, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +1 natural armor and the giant-subtype.

The racial class covers 4 levels and sports 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2+ Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as medium and light armor and shields, except tower shields. Ogres get +1 natural armor upon taking the first ogre class level, +1 at 3rd level. 2nd level provides size increase to Large size and 3rd level nets +10 ft. base movement rate.

Attribute-array-wise, the ogre receives +8 Strength, +4 Con and -2 Str over its 4 levels - which makes them as lopsided as intended, but shouldn't mechanically break the game.

The pdf also provides an array of 12 feats reprinted and slightly altered - including Snapping Jaws, Vestigial Head and similar gems. Beyond these, the pdf provides two feats by DSP, one of which has previously been published: Lurker in Darkness, the amazing option to not auto-fail versus numerous Perception-modes is still a total gem. The second, Stupendous Strength lets you wield two-handed weapons one-handed or one-handed weapons as light weapons - nice take on the oversized weapon trope.

The pdf concludes with the handy glossary for the supplemental racial rules. As always, neither age., height or weight tables, nor FCOs or the like are provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version.

Jeffrey Swank's savage races are as lopsided as you'd expect them to be - they're focused on the physical aspects and aren't as well-rounded as I like my PC-races...but for what they try to be, namely proper representations of the monstrous races in a balanced context, they are awesome. Low-point-buy groups may consider the ogre to be nasty, but ultimately, none of the races/classes herein will unhinge any game they're used in...unless the other players REALLY suck at making characters that are efficient. Balanced, solid and nice, this is an inexpensive, nice little book and showcases how talented the designer is. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Savage Races I
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20 Things #4: Smuggler's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:05:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, so we begin this installment of the 20-Things-series with things that can be found in a smuggler's storeroom - and they are sufficiently diverse: From quality brandy to scrolls of animate dead (may annoy purists who want total system neutrality) to barrels filled with sand and strange eggs, the good are pretty cool. However, there is something slightly inconsistent here: Some of the entries feature gold values, while others don't - which makes sense: The aforementioned eggs, for example, could be anything the GM desires. However, I am irked somewhat by some entries featuring a sample weight while others, though ostensibly "heavy" don't. I would have loved weights for all. Granted, that was an issue with the entry in its original iteration in the excellent GM's Miscellany: 20 Things, but that book was LONG; here, in such a small pdf, it stands out more.

The pdf does pretty much immediately remedy that by quoting one of the gems from aforementioned book next - 20 Things that can happen in a rowboat have been properly cleansed of PFRPG-relics and 12 things you can find in such a boat provide nice, complementary bits of information for the experience.

The third array of dressing, things that you can find on the beach, similarly was featured before in the 20-Things-compilation, though its now system-neutral iteration certainly has its raison d'être - no Pathfinder remnants to be found here and 10 pieces of flotsam and jetsam make certainly for intriguing finds while wandering the wind-tossed beaches of the fantasy world you're playing in though they, much like the 20 things to be found in a sea cave-entry, also have originally appeared in the compilation.

That does not mean there is no new content herein, mind you - the pdf does feature 20 things to find in a smuggler's lair, from discarded sacks of now rotten grain to barrels containing salt water and crabs for stew, piles of driftwood or strange acoustic flukes, the entries are nice and are supplemented via 12 portable goods - all of which have proper value and weight. Kudos!

Alas, all lives must end and smuggling is a dangerous profession and thus, on their bodies, erstwhile fine clothes, torn maps, thigh-high leather boots with concealed daggers and more can be found. Finally, 6 things to be found in a cargo hold are similarly neat.

Conclusion:

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

Creighton Broadhurst knows how to write great dressing and formally, apart from aforementioned weight inconsistency, the pdf does not leave much to be desired. In fact, if you do not already have the big dressing-book, this delivers a thematically concise and dense, fun selection. The system-neutral entries work well...but if you already have the big book, this only sports 2 new pages, which, if you already have the big book, makes it only desirable for completionists...or those that really want no remains of PFRPG on the pages. Personally, I would have preferred more new content...but that's just me as a long-time fan of Raging Swan Press. For those that already have the big book and don't mind a bit PFRPG here and there, this is an okay, if skippable release; for people who do not yet have said book, this becomes more compelling immediately. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #4: Smuggler's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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20 Things #3: Wizard's Tower (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:04:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with 20 weird magical effects you can encounter in a wizard's tower - from beautifully-crafted illusions instead of tapestries to light-weighted objects starting to float, this selection is evocative and fun and, as supplemental material, sundials, impossible slender flagpoles and similar things are evocative, though system-neutrality purists may be annoyed by the reference to detect magic.

A total of 20 odd spell components and pouches are next - wool impregnated with dried wax, statuettes of bloodhounds, clay models of ziggurats and similar objects once again cover a nice array of themes, that are further emphasized by 20 odd objects to decorate a wizard's tower: Thick red curtains, battered suits of chainmail, soot-marred ceilings, pictures of "God-Thrones" and 8 odd sounds and a selection of 6 strange pickled and preserved things allow you to set up a nice level of creepy mood.

It should be noted, though, that aforementioned pickled things alongside the 20 entries for a Necromancer's Sanctum and the 20 notes on a wizard's laboratory can all be found in GM's Miscellany: 20 things Volume I.

There is more new content herein, though: The 20 entries that depict things you can find on a wizard's bookshelf (from cryptography to infernal genealogy) are amazing! Creative, diverse and inspiring and the 8 things you can find INSIDE these books add another level of coolness here. The final array of 20 things would be those that are found within a wizard's laboratory and the pdf sports some creative ideas here: A box with hundreds of little compartments that contain components, stone beakers or skull stands with lights flickering in the eyes - certainly an inspired array. 6 odd smells, some of which stick closer to the floor (and thus are noticed by halflings and gnomes) close the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion:

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

Creighton Broadhurst and Amber Underwood's dressing-file here is a neat installment; the new content provided is inspired in the best of senses - but at the same time, one third of the pdf can be familiar for gamers who already own the glorious GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I book. If you do not already have this gem, this pdf is excellent and 5 star + seal-worthy. If you already have this book, though, you do lose a portion of the file, which downgrades this to a good offering. In the end, my final verdict will clock in between both, at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #3: Wizard's Tower (System Neutral Edition)
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Don't Walk in Winter Wood
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:48:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of credits/thanks/reference, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? The simple answer would be that this is a cooperative, narrative, rules-light HORROR game set in a vaguely colonial setting in the United States. Society is one of rough and closely-knit, often isolated communities. Superstitions run wild and even well-meant belief may seem barbarous to us. Transportation is still mainly defined by equestrian means and print books are rare and expensive. AT night, it is still candles that are used to pierce the dark. Against said backdrop of, quite literally, dark times, there is the village. On its east side, there is the Winter Wood...and pretty much everyone agrees that its strange, unseasonal cold is not natural. The perpetual fog, its nature as unexplored and the people going missing - all of these mean that it is a place usually not visited.

Children grow up with folklore pertaining said dread wood - the first would be supplemented by Indian legends, underlined by e.g. The Algonquin Legends of New England, and war chiefs may still haunt this place. Similarly, the cowardice of erstwhile settlers may have brought the ire of a woman scorned, deprived of her husband upon the place - strange, legless apparitions and vanished women do not bode well...

The sad tale of Nelly Anderson supposedly has her taken by a strange crone of clouds and changing eye-colors; the purported Roe Witches, caught, according to statements, in some pagan rites and thus executed, replaced with effigies...deer with wolf-like, sharp teeth...and then there would be the soothsayer Caleb, who averted calamity from the village, only to give his life...consorting with a strange trophy...

Within the forest, there is a hole, which may lead to hell...and there was a strange tendency and occurrence of a grave robber paying dearly for his crime. A strange, horribly mutilated, perhaps undead bear, Scarfang...and, of course, wars and skirmishes among the colonial powers have also cast a dark shadow on this land. The chittering tress and a tale of cannibalism and, purportedly, eternal youth...and Mr. Buglesuede...the grey wolves and the dread meadow in the midst of the foreboding woods...oh, and those ghosts on the Indian hill... it is not wise to thread where so much darkness gathered...

The village does have a series of entries pertaining folk wisdom: Red thread around the throat of women does supposedly cloak them from evil. White grass supposedly kills you, inciting horrible hunger; doors are warded with iron nails or crucifixes and there is a secret sign to ward versus evil...of pagan origin, some belief. Similarly, the burial customs sport silver coins under the tongue and separate paths are taken home after burials. Of course, children's games are about dares here...but is it smart to recite the rhyme about the women of Roe?

So this would be the basic set-up - complex, evocative and suitable dark. How do you play it: Well, you have two types of players: The Walkers, each of which controls a single character. The second type would be the Watcher, who is basically the GM of the group. You need one six-sided die per player and some sort of object you can use as tokens. That's it. Regarding atmosphere, a dark place, slightly cold, is obviously ideal.

Character creation is dead simple: Make up a name, concept, motive - there you go. As a default, actions are described in the past tense and 3rd person, thus making it akin to the cooperative telling of a story. Whenever a character comes across something frightening or harmful, he hands the walker a cold token. Entering the wood nets you cold token #1. To determine whether you encounter something and for conflict resolution, the basic system is easy: You roll the d6 and compare it to the cold tokens you have: If you roll more than the cold tokens held, your result may become less pleasant - in short, this does mean that things escalate further, increasing the pace in the latter stages of a game. Upon gaining 6 or more cold tokens, you are taken out. And that's it. As simple as can be, right? Yep, but also deceptively efficient.

The game continues to provide a section on building proper scenarios for the game - these steps are simple and contain the notion to build a premise, then the woods, mood and climax of resolution. Sound advice regarding the generation of folkloric fear (subtlety is king, my friends, and so is the rule of omission) bespeaks an obvious knowledge regarding how to run evocative horror. (Fyi: A solid b/w-conceptual map of the area's provided.)

The pdf also features ready-to-play scenarios, which focus on saving a girl from a witch's curse, strange lights in the woods (love that one's antagonist(s), but won't spoil it here; there's also a gory take on a classic creature's haunting from American mythology; there are foolish kids, seeking to steal totems..The sample scenarios with their details mean that, basically, you can just take this pdf and play sans any preparation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard in b/w and the book is intended for A5 (9'' by 6'') in size, so you'll rather have a booklet-style offering. The pdf's artwork is thematically-fitting photo-montage-ish artwork I enjoyed. The pdf has 3 rudimentary bookmarks, but I'd strongly suggest printing this out - navigating this in its electronic iteration can be distracting and none too comfortable.

Clint Krause, with additional material by Daniel Bayn, Jason L Blair, Rafael Chandler, Jeremy Keller, Daniel Moler and Jason Morningstar, has created a ridiculously simple, amazing little game that shows that horror needs no vast rules. This game is simple, works amazing as a means to show non-roleplayers how amazing RPGs can be, understands its genre and generates a truly evocative, disturbing atmosphere. The fact that you can play it literally with one die, if you want to, makes it a perfect companion for urban exploration or trips in the wilderness...or spontaneous games on days like Halloween, amidst the darkness... You can explain the rules in less than a minute and a watcher who has read this book (and has a good memory) can literally run the game without a book! Handing off, deliberately, slowly, a cold token can be nerve-wracking and the various ideas presented should carry a ton of games.

This is as simple as it gets and as efficient as it gets. This understands proper horror. An awesome, inexpensive little game - 5 stars + seal of approval. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Don't Walk in Winter Wood
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Killer Clowns from Hell
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:44:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of how to use/introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages chockfull with content, so let's take a look!

Even before I read Stephen King's "It" or ever heard about a psycho called Gacey, clowns creeped me out - it was not full-blown coulrophobia, but rather an uncanny sense of unease - my infantile mind kept wondering what would make grown men paint their faces and generate antics. It is with some sense of self-conscious irony that I now look back on this and realize that, to a certain degree, the goth subculture and shock rock have taken the aesthetics of in particular the harlequin and reappropriated them...that my favorite supervillain ever is the Joker...that to this day, I consider the Jack of Tears introduced in 3.X's Blood Bayou one of the best villains to ever grace a d20-supplement. Evil clowns. They are creepy and awesome.

This pdf, then, would contain an assortment of outsiders that employ this most disturbing of tropes - but can the builds hold up to the legacy of the evocative theme? Well, let's look at the CR 9 Coulrodaemon: Think of these guys are daemonic harlequins, whose head floats above their body. They juggle burning skulls that corrupt the luck of those hit and also have an aura that generates pratfalls, which duplicate combat maneuvers...oh, and if you're like me and one of the folks who misses the time when monsters had a well-written habitat, ecology...you know, a story beyond stats, well, then this book does deliver just that!

The second clown herein would be the Mazzak demon at CR 10: Ogre-sized and covered with shaggy fur, these guys wield oversized hammers that can inflict negative conditions upon adversaries and generate a rain of shadowy objects that plummet from the sky, dealing damage to the unfortunates caught below, reflecting well their theme of gleeful sadism.

The CR 7 Paglichino (mockery devil) gets bardic performance akin to a court bard and may generate a shocking array of duplicates while turning invisible...and if he tires of laughing at foes being shocked, he can rematerialize and blow foes asunder...once again, a winner and one that reflects well the efficiency theme of devils.

The laetitius kyton can be found on the cover of this book and has a CR of 8...and if the war razor is no indicator...yep, these guys can take off their OWN faces and put them on foes, potentially suffocating them...and you thought slicing off faces was bad...delightfully disturbing!

At CR 14, the anglerfish-like Lophigogdue qlippoth look like gigantic misshapen anglerfish. Wait, what? That's not clowny, right? Well, wait a second...you see, these nasty beings veil themselves as travelling circuses! Oh yes, I can see that being truly sick...no wonder all the folks are weird, right? I never even thought of this one! Two thumbs up!

The CR 10 Bhozol Sahkil would be a hunched and lanky giant with terrible flexibility and a touch that can disfigure those afflicted; embodiments of the uncanny and fear of it, they may look humanoid...pretty harmless, even...but are anything but that. Emotional sadists, one and all, these critters complement the excellent array of critters presented herein perfectly.

The pdf also has a total of 6 new magic items for us, the first of which would be the capricious carriage, which comes with its own demiplane and certainly makes some twisted adventures possible. Clown shoes that enhance trip, but make you more clumsy and slow your movement are similarly neat. An enchanted hand-puppet theater (and a cursed, twisted version!) allow for cool storytelling and then there would be the slapstick armor, which allows you to Bluff foes easier (and generates your choice of funny sounds while you're being dismembered...). And yes, cursed version included.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a unique, gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf provides original, awesome full-color artworks for ALL monsters herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is the first book by Deborah Kammerzell and Chris Van Horn I have read...and OH BOY does it make me want to read more! I am not kidding when I'm saying that this is absolutely amazing - the level of detail and information, the monster builds with their unique tricks, the cool and creative ideas I haven't seen before...instead of just making yet another It-ripoff with balloons and the like, we get full-blown amazing killer clowns that made me immediately dust off the ole' Blood Bayou. This little bestiary is literally all killer, no filler and well worth every cent - 5 stars + seal of approval, given without any hesitation. Get this...or the clowns might get you!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killer Clowns from Hell
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The Outer Presence
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:41:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/system for very rules-light investigative horror clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/introduction, 2 pages of space for notes, 2 empty pages, 2 pages depicting the Kort'thalis glyph, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this book with character generation, which is pretty simple - we begin with choosing a profession from a list of 20, though adding new ones is heartily encouraged. For purposes of determining cohesion and identity within the world, 10 organizations and 6 possible relationships with said organizations can be found. A total of 8 different basic motivations and drives that push the character forward are similarly included and the system also assumes that you must pick one of 20 character flaws.

This background, mostly dressing, as you may have noticed, is in service to the very simple and important design paradigm that everyone is average until proven otherwise, which ties in with conflict resolution and basically anything. The system presented is based on the VSd6-engine also employed by other books by Kort'thalis Publishing, though with a modified focus towards the subject matter at hand. To reiterate: You usually roll a dice pool of 2d6 and consult the best value. Advantages on your end let you roll 3d6, disadvantages/slim chances are represented by rolling 1d6 and the worst cases require the rolling of 2d6 and taking the worse result.

The latter is particularly important if you wish to play a "Special" character - whether you're psychic, a sorceror, an alien or other weird entity or just hard to kill, the decision to become special has a serious drawback, namely that you either must take 3 flaws...or just 1 flaw. If you elect to pursue the latter option, you, alas, suck at your background and thus reduce your dice pool for related tasks by minus 1d6...which can accrue a lot of flack fast. You see, while the backgrounds mentioned before don't look like much on paper, they are your guideline to determine what you get to do and how many dice you can roll...

Dice pool interpretation is simple: 1 is a Critical failure, 2 is a failure, 3 a partial failure, 4 a partial success, 5 a success and 6 a critical success. I'd strongly suggest going with the optional rule, which lets you change your fate when rolling doubles, allowing for quirky twists of fate. Combat is also based on the dice pool system and the respective system: Even a roll of 4 wounds your victim and 2 wounds equal being rendered unconscious; 5 already knocks the foe out in one hit and 6...well. Instakill. It doesn't take a genius to determine that combat with this system is very lethal. Here's a very important aspect, though: You do get a bonus die per session, which you may use to increase your chances of success...and each session survived nets you another one. You'll need them. Trust me.

Encountering the truly weird, i.e. the insanity-inducing, pretty much is an instant efF-U for the poor sap of a character, who rolls a d6 and may immediately be converted to basically cultist status, assume fetal catatonia, begin ranting and raving, faint, develop a phobia...or, on a roll of 6, just shake it off. Yeps, a 1 in 6 chance to remain basically in control. You won't do a lot of fighting versus the weird (without dying horribly) in this system - a general notion I like as a fan of purist Cthulhu-esque games. Similarly, killing the basically unkillable is subject to GM-fiat more than just rolls and as such, can lend itself to appropriately bleak scenarios. Initiative, just fyi, is assumed to be handled via "common sense" - which may just boil down to rolling and going by results, but whatever works for your groups is fine. After the first combat, players won't be so keen to begin one anyways...at least they won't be after some of their own have died horribly.

Anyways, this is about the extent of the rules array; told you it was simple, right?

Anyways, the bulk of the book is actually devoted to a rather significantly-sized scenario, which lends the title its name. It is set in the 1970s (obviously) and begins when Dr. Karl Steiner and his expedition-force with rival Dr. Zachary Stevenson, assistant Vanessa Hargreaves and crony/lackey Elliot Richelieu and the student Jasper Johnson is lost in New Guinea, supposedly on an anthropology trip to study the Meepie tribe (which generates associations of "meek" and "sheeple"...at least for me) a random 12-entry table lets the GM easily determine what characters were doing when they got the class, for they are off to New Guinea on behalf of Miskatonic University!

...and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILER-territory. Players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, basically, while the system looks like it is geared up for bleak, purist Cthulhu-style horror, the scenario herein is actually somewhat of a Frankenstein-entity, which is a good and a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned. Even in the introductory scenes at university, a missive from Steiner can be found, which bespeaks already his madness and if that alone did not send your alarm-bells a-ringin' - well, then you probably haven't see the movies and read the books I have. Anyways, the first section of this module boils down to a bow before the exploitation classics like Cannibal Holocaust...or, if you'd be more literally inclined, "Heart of Darkness", one of the most misunderstood books ever written. The travel to the Meepie tribe, is, surprisingly, glossed over for the most part, which really surprised me, considering that Heart of Darkness is all about the progressive changes and the effects on the human psyche. Anyways, you may well insert and emphasize the journey - though the association with the aforementioned exploitation flicks becomes immediately obvious upon making contact with the Meepie - who are now lorded over by Dr. Steiner as a kind of god-king, leading them ever further into depravity.

The PCs will probably want to kill the Kurtz-ian villain that Steiner has become, but this is where the weird begins - for he does not perspire, victim to his self-inflicted, own horror and psychological devolution, but rather find out that the 7-eyes beast/deity Zor'raev Tsog is protecting the bestial man. Worse, his crony Eliot is very willing to kill. Let's hope the PCs keep their composure for now, for there are things to be found in the Meepie village - Jasper's journal, for example...as well as a scroll and a weird skull...but yeah. Between the feud with another tribe, the Kahli, and Steiner's atrocities, it should be possible to slip away and move towards the temple that seems to be Steiner's obsession - if the PCs manage to not be eaten by a giant snake, they may encounter an intriguing vignette here - the mountain does contain a weird, jellyfish-like thing, worshipped as deity by local tribesmen; examined by another expedition...and hunted by a large game hunter and his team, making for an intriguing dynamic...I just wished it had a bit more room to shine for its dynamics; at just one page, it feels like a captivating insertion and one you can easily cut in e.g. the convention-circuit. I think it could carry its own module...but onwards.

The second part of the module would be the exploration of Nafu Aata, the temple of dark secrets. The complex comes with a lavish map in b/w, though no player-friendly iteration can be found. Yes. Dungeon-exploration. With these rules. PCs will die. Horribly. The complex begins by throwing giant spiders at the PCs...thereafter, the hapless fools can find a statue of Zor'raev Tsog - who is lavishly-rendered in b/w...thogh, alas, in its obvious, awakened form. Pity that we don't get the non-fool-grabbing art to show the PCs...the artwork is amazing, but now will only be used when PCs are stupid enough to tinker with it. The rest of the complex's challenges, from water to strange, star-shaped entities, are surely sufficiently diverse...and include a battle of cultists of Zor'raev Tsog and teh Outer Presence sealed within the complex - both of which arrive from strange portals, ending in a combat of laser guns versus curved, magic daggers. The finale, ultimately, deals with the horrific-insight-granting, living black tentacle-studded relic. You see, the eponymous Outer Presence and Zor'raev Tsog don't really see eye to eye regarding the extinction/enslavement of humankind. Tsoggie sounds bad...but see that cover? That's what happens if the presence isn't stopped...which is nigh impossible. Thankfully, both Meepie, mad journal, the horribly-impregnated Vanessa that can be found here or other NPCs can fill in at least a bit of the blanks here.

The pdf concludes with further adventure suggestions as well as a nice primer of Meepie words for your roleplaying edification.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, cleanly-presented two-column b/w-standard. The pdf sports several absolutely gorgeous b/w-artworks, including full-page ones that make for cool handouts. Cartography is excellent, though a key-less, player-friendly version would have been nice. The pdf iteration of the book has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment -I'd suggest getting the print-version, which has thus the upside regarding the navigation aspects.

Venger As'Nas Satanis' Outer Presence is two things - for one, it is a simple, easy to explain and grasp roleplaying system that works rather well for purist horror modules. Oddly, then, would be the fact that the system eschews this basic strength (perhaps supplemented via a bit more investigation) and instead bashes you over the head with its barrage of the weird. This book is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face and, to make that clear, in my book, this is about as scary as a dungeon of bones and blood.

If you expect fully developed psychological horror, the system can deliver that, though the module employing it does not - this is very much indebted to the aesthetics of exploitation movies and pulpy explorations into the weird. Reading the module, it frankly feels like a jumbled mess of themes - Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness/Cannibal holocaust, interlude of weird set-piece, then dungeon, which includes sudden influx of potential scifi aesthetics. If your players stop to wonder and think this through, the module may crumble under its own weight and the fact that its themes feel a bit too crowded. You don't have one theme, but a rapid oscillation of horrible things. But guess what? In play, if you maintain a proper pace, you can actually employ this strategy to maintain a sense of wonder and surprise, always keeping the players on their toes. The Outer Presence, frankly, plays much, much better than it reads.

For all intents and purposes, this shouldn't work this well, but it does...which is surprising. At the same time, you should probably generate an atmosphere that emphasizes this pulpy aesthetic: If you go the whole way with sounds, lighting and locale, the module is too inconsistent in its themes to make full use of these components. There is no linear rise of tension, but rather a rapid succession of spikes and as such, a beer-and-pretzel-environment may actually work better here and make it still feel like pulpy horror; something also emphasized by the simplicity of rules.

So, while we had a blast, I'd hesitate calling the module-portion "horror" - it features horrific themes, yes, but the engine could do the horrific better than what is presented here. That being said, this can be an incredibly fun, pulpy experience of dying in horrible ways and marveling at what's around the next corner - think of this, in theme, closer to Cthulhu meets JohnnyQuest/Indiana Jones than bleak, nihilistic cthulhiana. In my own sense of the word, this is not horror - it does not generate fear, a sense of being disturbed or the like. This startles the players, it does not frighten them.

For people looking for a psychological scenario, I'd rate this as a low 4; however, for getting a fast-paced, easy to run and prepare pulpy one-shot, this is a fun book to have and works well in the context. Thus, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars...and while personally, I'd round down (since I'm very much a believer of the power of subtlety in horror, of establishing leitmotifs and themes and of some restraint being better than overkill), if you're looking for popcorn-cinema horror, this delivers in bucketloads and spades. Hence, my official verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Outer Presence
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Monster Classes: Undead
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:30:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

This pdf contains two such classes - the first of which would be the Deathless Ghost, who, race trait-wise, gains +2 Int and Dex and is undead with 50 ft. darkvision, normal speed and here things become interesting: Deathless Ghosts aren't incorporeal per se- they have no Strength-score and use Dex instead and may only benefit from ghost touch armor and no natural armor bonus. They get +4 to Stealth and Perception.

The 3-level racial class gets d8 HD, 4+Int skills,3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and begins play with channel resistance +2, which increases to +4 at 3rd level. 1st level also may use a corrupting touch as a standard action, causing 1d6 x HD damage (10 + 1/2 HD + Cha-mod DC), save halves. Not a fan of the untyped damage here, but it's true to the original creature. The ectoplasmic form nets a 10% miss chance at 1st level, which increases by +10% per class/character level; said chance is halved for spells, magic attacks etc. They gain Cha-mod to AC and 3rd level nets immunity to flight and a 30 ft. perfect maneuverability flight. 2nd level increase the Stealth-check to +8.

Attribute bonus-wise, the racial class gets a total of +4 Cha. Undeath makes fragile and the lack of options to improve via items offsets the powerful tricks this one gains beautifully. Powerful, but not overly so. I like this one!

The second playable undead herein would be the ghoul, whose basic racial traits are +2 Str and Int, being undead and gaining darkvision 60 ft. These guys get 2 racial class levels, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. The racial class gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, a 1d6 bite, 2 1d4 (1d6 at 2nd level) claws (properly codified) and +2 Dex at 1st level. 1st level also has +2 natural AC 2nd level also nets +2 Dex, +4 Wisdom and Charisma and provides ghoul fever and the signature paralysis.

The pdf also contains a total of 11 feats: These allow deathless ghosts to drain attributes from others, healing themselves. Someone hand me that bag of kittens, please. Urgh. A Frightful Moan, gaining the full incorporeal subtype, possessing foes telekinesis, Poltergeist-style, with a cooldown and high-level Rejuvenation complement the ghost...oh, and have I mentioned manipulating weapons?

There is a feat to use Int or Cha instead of Con for Fort-saves, a cool feat that nets you skill bonuses when you eat brains, gaining a burrow speed...or becoming Old as Dust - which means you're VERY hard to destroy - and is cool!

As always, we get a nice glossary, but no age-, height or weight table or FCOs/traits.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - no significant complaints. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The artworks are solid and partially stock, but nothing to write home about. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this point.

Jeffrey Swank's undead are impressive - particularly the deathless ghost, which screams OP by being incorporeal AND undead actually worked better than expected when picked apart. The ghost is impressive and cool...and I do like the Old as Dust feat - it's just cool. That being said, there's the unnecessary, failed kitten-test and the ghoul falls flat on its face in comparison: Kobold Press' Darakhul are the superior take on playing a ghoul, simple as that. More flavor, more options, better balance. Where does this leave this one? As a nice installment that certainly has more universal appeal than the previous installments. While not perfect, it's certainly a step in the right direction. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Undead
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Campaign Kits:The Mysteries of Hollowfield
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2016 10:46:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Campaign Kit clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This installment of the Campaign Kits-series is a charity product for the Roleplaying Game Creators Relief Fund and it is, to make that clear from the get-go, a "Pay what you want"-product. The original iteration has sported some glitches that have been identified and rectified, which is why this review is based on V.2.0 of the book.

So, what is this? Well, in short, this book contains 8 expanded adventure seeds: With statblocks and structure and all, just needing some fleshing out and get the GM grove on; if you're time-starved and don't want to start from scratch, this may well be what you've been looking for. Formally situated in the eponymous Hollowfield (isometric, CGI-created map provided, just fyi), the tales herein can conceivably be transplanted relatively easily to other locales - a wood and a body of water in the vicinity are pretty much all you need.

Now, in order to cover these, I will need to good into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Only GMs here? Great!

Adventure #1 begins with a commotion in the village square, where lichlytes, macabre fey that look like hummingbird-sized cadavers, have agitated the crowd and create a volatile situation they hopefully defuse. A quick investigation turns up that not all is well here: Villagers and foreign laborers in the Kaizermein saw mill have been feuding; at night, the clanging of metal can be heard; a prospector thinks he can reinvigorate the mines; bodies of livestock and the local cemetery show up across town; the pagan harvest festival has not been properly observed and then there's that old crone...enough potential leads yet? Anyways, the trail regarding the bodies will lead towards tunnels below the graveyard and there, pit the PCs in conflict with a redcap.

Once the PCs venture into the woods (or as an alternate lead-in, J Gray's adventure #2 will work: There, the PCs can find Lydia, a scared little girl of 6 years, who just wants to go home to Hollowfield...and indeed, provided the PCs can defeat the goblins en route, they will escort her home...only to realize that they have been escorting a ghost, for Lydia's dead and now, finally, home.

Jennifer R. Povey's adventure sketch has the PCs attend the pagan harvest festival only to be interrupted by the crone dubbed "Nasty Nellie" by the local population - whose apprentice Sera (cue in Final Fantasy XIII-reference and hundreds of "SERA!!!"-screams...) has vanished. The PCs will have to venture into the woods to retrieve SERA!!! and brave a nice take on the grasping wood as a haunt and deal with her standing amidst an ancient battlefield, possessed by the ghost of a general of days long gone.

Kiel Howell's up next and his adventure sketch starts with a mob threatening violence against a sweets seller. Why? because people have been losing their teeth...but oddly, only the adults. After some preliminary investigation involving barber and apothecary, the trail will lead the PCs to an abandoned mansion, where an advanced broken soul tooth fairy and her cadre of minions are behind the creepy happening. Now this hook is cool and amazing! I want to see that as a full module!

Matt Roth's Fallen leaves is up next and begins with the local lmber baron Johann Kaizermein inviting the PCs for dinner. Alas, not all goes according to plan and the PCs witness a incursion of leaf leshys, stained with autumn's touch, assaulting the groundskeeper. The maddening pestilence provides a neat autumnal decay angle, as the PCs venture into the forest to negotiate with the leshys (preferably sans being killed) and unearth the source of the corruption, a child lost and perished in the woods, now ascended to daemon-kind.

Kalyna Conrad's angle focuses on the disappearance of little Timeney, who was last seen in the vicinity of the half-elven, deeply prejudiced woodsman Edlemil - who not only has a nasty trap, but also a massive garden...in which a dread flower is growing that he uses to...well. Dispose of unpleasant (read: human) beings. Nasty and disturbing...I like!

We return to the Kaizermein mill in Garrett Guillotte's sketch, but oh boy, how we return: It's been some while since Gibs Greck was cut apart in what looked like a mill accident...but when the wood of the local tavern starts groaning, forming a face and uttering prophecies of doom, something obviously must be done...and indeed, there are other, haunt-based challenges to be found and dealt with, all based on the odd wood employed...oh, and then there's the spectral treant, whose power will be depending on the number of haunts dealt with. Another winner, at least in my book!

The final adventure sketch would be John Bennett's "The House Death Built", with one person, slumped over, being dragged away by shadowy servants to an abandoned house, which once belonged to Sir Erasmus Dratho - the house, which has been standing empty for a while, can be explored in a nice exercise of building tension, but the creepy hints the PCs can find, in conjunction with their nightmares, will suddenly make clear that the place is haunted and that there is some nasty darkness that needs to be laid to rest. If you need a reason why I consider John Bennett to be a master of horror/the creepy...this is a nice first glimpse of his talent.

The pdf comes with full statblocks for just about every critter and a map of the sawmill; the final appendix is a GM's cheat-sheet for the NPCs features in the town, be adventure. The town gets no statblock, though.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting of V.2. are good - I noticed some minor hiccups here and there, but not enough to spoil the book in any way. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with interior artwork being full-color stock. The cartography employed is CGI-based and does its job, but expect no player-friendly versions. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience.

The cadre of authors assembled here sports some delightful little adventure sketches suitable for the darker times of the year; particularly the tales of John Bennett (no surprise there), Kiel Howell, Garrett Guillotte and Kalyna Conrad managed to invoke a sense of "I'd actually like to build on this and run it!" While not perfect, as a charity product and PWYW to boot, this makes for a truly nice little book as Halloween approaches. If you're starved for time or ideas and want to play a suitably creepy adventure, this certainly will do the trick: With a minimum of work, you'll get some nice mileage out of this book. Better yet, you can download it, check it out and then reward the authors in a manner you consider appropriate. Alternatively, this may well be worthwhile to check out for the haunts to scavenge - there are some cool ones to be found here!

How to rate this...well, here, it becomes a bit harder for me, but ultimately, I consider this worthwhile and thus, this receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to its more than fair PWYW-status. If this was a full-priced title, it'd be somewhere in the 3 - 4-echelon, just fyi.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Kits:The Mysteries of Hollowfield
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Monster Classes: Earth Elemental
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2016 10:45:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

The earth elemental's base racial traits are +2 Str and Con, -2 Dex and Int. Earth elementals begin play as Small and are outsiders with the earth and elemental subtypes with 20 ft. speed, 60 ft. darkvision, +3 natural armor.

The 16-level racial class gets d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons as well as good Fort-and Will-save progressions and full BAB-progression. 1st level provides a slam attack at 1d6, which increases to 2d6 at 12th and 2d8 at 10th level as well as 2d10 at 13th level. At first level, the elemental may step through 5 feet of earth or stonebased difficult terrain each round, including the option to use this ability to 5-foot-step. They also start with tremorsense 30 ft., which imho is too early. The ability doubles its reach at 9th level. 2nd level provides Improved Bull Rush as a bonus feat as well as earth mastery.

Starting at 4th level and every level thereafter, the natural armor of the earth elemental increases by +1. 6th level nets DR 1/-, which increases to 5/- at 8th and 10/- at 13th level and the attacks are treated as magical. 4th level makes the earth elemental Medium, 8th Large, 10th Huge. 7th level provides 1/2 speed as burrow speed and 11th level nets earth glide.

Attribute-dispersal-wise, the class gets +22 Str, + 8 Con for a total of +30. This is ridiculously paradox - +11 to atk and damage basically take the assumptions of AC of even max'd characters and throw them out the window...then again, the math, system-inherently, starts coming apart at higher levels anyway...and the singular focus on the physical side of things actually make the earth elemental less problematic from a balance point of view than similar entries in the series.

The pdf sports 4 feats, which include Elemental Jaunt for 1/day plane shift, adding 1 point of acid damage to weapons (stacks with corrosive, which is not italicized) and better saves versus acid attacks and spells. Finally, there would be Groundbreaker, which is a cool ability that lets you rise and emit a shockwave that can render foes prone.

The pdf concludes with the usual glossary and, as always, no age, height or weight table is included and neither do we get FCOs or the like.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I only noticed minor, formal hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's earth elemental is a "Hulk, Smash!"-melee-focused beast, but we expected as much from the base creature. Interesting here would be that the balancing, in spite of the melee focus, is actually much tighter than in other monster classes releases so far. I can see myself allowing these guys, depending on the context/campaign style. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Earth Elemental
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20 Things #2: Looting the Body (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2016 10:44:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Looting the bodies of creatures is its own series in Raging Swan press' product roster, but this does not mean that we can't use more of these, right? Right! So, we begin with the remnants of 20 adventurers to loot, which sport healing potions, wooden scroll cases full of dungeon maps, trapmaker's kits - quite a few different entries that provide a sufficient diversity.

Beyond these, the pdf also sports an entry of 20 things you can find on the corpses of bards -as well as 8 outlandish costumes. Copies of The Tragedy of T'kar, weird, hexagonal gold coins, ornamental rapiers - the diversity and potential are right back to the level we have come to expect!

20 things found on dead clerics, 10 unholy symbols and 6 decisive unholy water flasks complement the page: Incense burners, secret compartments in symbols and jet black flasks with slightly mobile patches once again rock, though some of these entries will be familiar to Raging Swan Press veterans - in particularly those that own "I loot the Cleric's Body."

The rogue's respective loot-entries, with hidden-compartments in heels of boots, hollow-hilted daggers and pouches with secret items sown in, the items are cool - but, alas, the table is completely taken from the GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I -book, so if you have this book already, this will only be a retread for you.

The next page contains 20 things to be found on the body of a warrior, containing notes that can be part of a crude treasure map, weird, cinnamon-smelling powder or dried meat. This table is great and, unless my memory deceives me, I am pretty positive that I have not seen these before.

The same cannot be said about the wizard-table that's next - it once again has been taken from the excellent GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I compilation.

Conclusion:

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

Creighton Broadhurst, Ronald Calbick, Seamus Conneely, Taylor Hubler and Anthony Jennings deliver a nice installment of dressing here: I very much enjoyed pretty much all of the tables featured within...however, at the same time, I was slightly disappointed to notice the partial overlap with the big GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I-book: The completionist will want this pdf still and if you don't need the big book, you're good - but in the end, I couldn't help but feel that all-new material would have been a better way to reward the customers. The new material definitely is nice, but in the end, I can't go higher than 4 stars on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #2: Looting the Body (System Neutral Edition)
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20 Things #1: Seedy Tavern (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2016 10:41:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this dressing-file with a selection of 20 different seedy tavern patrons you can find in a seedy tavern. The respective individuals are presented with their name, followed by an alignment abbreviation, gender and race...though some of the entries, oddly, feature class names and levels as well, while others don't even though worn armor mentioned etc. would point towards an adventuring career. Drinking, boisterous dwarves, ancient gnome-beggars nicknamed "Filth" or an annoying, womanizing half-elf can be found here, while clerics review papers by candlelight.

Slightly more intriguing than the patrons would be the staff here: From friendly half-orc lasses with fractal tattoos to magic-supported gnome-barkeeps, they offer some more unique sketches. Beyond that, a table of 20 drinks and brief price-list for ales and wines 8only 4 entries) can be found on a page that also contains no less than 10 odd things that may be found behind the bar: Whole arrays of battered and broken shields, a dusty, cob-webbed bottle on a pedestal, a yellowed giant's skull - here, the level of imagination I expect from Raging Swan Press is back in full force.

The pdf then goes on to note 8 specialties of the house, 12 meals to order and a total of 20 things that may have been left behind in a tavern's given bedchamber- from deeply carved initials, paranoid scribbling, small metal flakes, rats with broken backs - there are some seriously diverse things that are hook-worthy. The 20 things to see in a tavern, from drunken half-orcs to scarred warriors and similar drunks, the focus here, alas, could be a bit more diverse - there only is one entry featuring a woman and breaking out in a drinking song...I don't know if that warrants an entry of its own.

The pdf's last page contains 6 different tavern brawl triggers alongside 20 things to see in a tavern brawl. The things that can happen here are intriguing and feature, for example, alcohol catching fire - it should be noted that this can cause 1 point of fire damage...which is relevant if you're very peculiar about that kind of thing or want it purged from a system-neutral file. Another instance of such a remnant would be a slick space, which still sports a DC and a note of Acrobatics being required.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch apart from the remnants that some entries taken from PFRPG-supplements sport. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there!

Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Gomez and Liz Smith know their dressing. The pdf isn't a bad offering by any means of the word, but at the same time, the Pathfinder-remnants that are still in here. Similarly, fans of Raging Swan Press will notice overlap with other tavern-centric supplements the company has produced so far, which may decrease the usefulness of this pdf for some readers. Similarly, not all selections sport the usual level of diversity and imaginative potential. As a whole, this offering left me slightly disappointed at a relatively high level, delivering a solid offering worthy of 3.5 stars, though I will have to round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #1: Seedy Tavern (System Neutral Edition)
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Four Horsemen Present: Comedic Character Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:18:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Ah, the art of comedy - a topic only relatively seldom used in gaming - all the more reason to take a close look at this particular little file, which begins with 6 new traits -these include being able to Disguise as a clown or properly insult adversaries, featuring mechanical relevance as well as a mundane prestidigitation effect via Sleight of Hand. Slapstick Offense is pretty powerful in that it offers unarmed strike damage at one size larger for characters with Improved Unarmored Strike, but only when dealing nonlethal damage. This is in addition to not provoking AoOs, but does not count as Improved Unarmored Strike. While not problematic in a vanilla context, I can actually generate builds where the strength of this trait exceeds what I'd consider viable for a trait. Considering the very fringe builds, though, this gets a pass. On a slightly annoying note, the traits do not feature the respective trait subtype.

After these traits, we move on to the archetypes presented herein, the first of which is basically a complete rewrite of the most awe-inspiring class in PFRPG: The commoner. Yes, you heard me - the Comrade archetype designates up to Charisma modifier buddies, which must be helpful humanoids he has spent at least 24 hours with. These buddies grant the comrade hit points, BAB, proficiencies, save-bonuses, skills, etc. Beyond that, they begin play with two aid another actions for one and may apply the benefits to the same target. 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter increase the bonus of aid another up to +5 at 19th level. Starting at 11th level, aid another automatically succeeds and 17th level adds a duration to aid another - 1 round, instead of one action. The archetype also provides an array of bonus feats chosen fro a list, utilizes Pathfinder Unchained's skill unlocks at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter and at 3rd level, these guys may emulate non-spellcasting 1st level class features of allies, which stack if he ever takes class levels in a class that has the ability. Additionally, at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, he gains another one of these. All in all, this archetype is a mechanically relevant and fun take on the comedic sidekick that bumbles along and will see ample use in less high-powered games. Two thumbs up!

The derelict paladin loses her aura of good and detect evil, but may turn a blind eye to evil-doers. 4th level provides channel negative energy (sans undead healing option) and 5th replaces divine bond with a mopey debuff aura. 8th level provides the "Aura of Whatever", which renders immune to confusion and emotion effects and confers a bonus to saves to allies. And yes, this one made me actually grin while reading it.

Utterly ridiculous in a world where gods are pretty much evident everywhere, the gnostic atheist cleric may have any alignment because gods don't exist. D'uh. They don't get domains, auras, but do get bonus spells - these are called "domain spells" in their header. They also gain SR + 6 + class level, upgraded to 11 + class level at 8th level versus divine magic and 4th level provides Improved Counterspell. 6th level and 12th level enhance counterspell capacity versus divine magic and 8th level allows for immediate action counterspelling, but at the cost of actions in the following round, reducing that to a move action. Finally, at 10th level, the archetype gains an aura that hampers outsider spellcasting and scales with levels. Hilarious and cool!

Mad scientist alchemists may make devices, which are a variant of extracts (which they can still make) and replace Brew Potion with Craft Wondrous Item. 2nd level allows for the poaching of sorc/wiz spells for formulae...but at the very real chance of blowing up the laboratory (and the mad scientist). Very powerful, but pretty funny! 2nd level provides also scaling bonuses versus fear that end in immunity at 10th level and 6th level nets SCIENCE!, which lets him sacrifice two prepared devices to create/jury-rig another device from his formulae book...and yes, the restrictions prevent abuse. Powerful, but cool...GMs of low-powered games may want to cap the experimentation ability to poach sorc/wiz spells, though.

Prankster bards replace Diplomacy with Disable Device and replaces bardic performance with antics: At first level, he has 4 of them and gains another at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, with saves adhering to the 10 + 1/2 class level + Cha-mod formula, if applicable. Some antics have an asterisk, which means that they have a mechanical component - they basically sport a cool-down of 1d4 rounds before they can be used again, though some of teh antics do have hard daily caps. Basically, instead of a linear sequence, we get a ton of antics to choose from - which is something I wholeheartedly support. Souring the mood of everybody via bad jokes, acid-squirting Joker-flowers, comical weapons, false appendages, immediate action debuffs, imitating horseplay to improve charges...pretty cool. Now the archetype, as a whole, is pretty amazing...but it does overshoot its target a bit in e.g. the inflatable image: As an immediate action taken as a response to being hit, but before effects/damage are rolled, he can declare the attack to hit an inflatable dummy, dealing no damage whatsoever to the prankster. I get the intent and like it, but considering that it's an limitless (apart from the cooldown) ability that can negate any melee (melee only - no help vs. spells/ranged attacks) attack, I can't help but see the lucky player dancing around a foe. Still, the restriction to melee keeps it from being totally OP, though I would have preferred a class-level scaling damage reduction instead. Have I mentioned the prismatic pie? It's pretty cool...though layout/formatting here is a bit deceptive - it has a minimum level of 15th, which looks at first glance as though it was applying to Shocking Gag. And for die-hard Ravenloft enthusiasts who remember the utterly horrid (but conceptually cool) jester darklord...guess what? At 18th level, we get the Killing Joke.

The pdf also offers a selection of feats: Dodecahedron Spell increases damage dice to d12; the higher the base damage of the spell, the higher the spell-level increase...and yes, this should let the poor d12 get some use. Extra Antics is self-explanatory; I Think I Can lets you retry failed skills with bonuses, but inflicts nonlethal damage. Better iterative attacks after missing are interesting and gaining the bonus even after an ally failed to aid you is nice as well...though if you do get it thus, you can't be aided by that ally in 24 hours. Oh, and rounding up on save DCs and class levels/HD, etc. Why? Because you're weird.

The pdf provides the classic inversions Bull's Grace and Cat's Strength as well as a properly as evil-designated spell that many a person can cast IRL: Dreaded Nag. Oh, and that cool animal companion/familiar/eidolon/phantom/mount of your foe? Let's see how well it does as an utterly useless rubber chicken. Oh, and when you or an ally deal precision or crit damage, neutralizes an opponent or drops him unconscious, you may cast the most annoying audible support ever - vuvuzela.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; while the missing trait types and the formatting of the pie-antic could have been better, that's not a game-breaker. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a number of thematically fitting b/w-artworks inside alongside the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for individual archetypes, feats, spells, etc.

Steven T. Helt's comedic character options are actually FUNNY. No, really. This book is pretty amusing and a nice read, in spite of being a very crunch-dense book. It is also a return to form, at least in my book - there is not a single filler archetype herein: All have some sort of unique mechanic that makes me want to play them or see them in action and from lowly trait to feat and spell, I consider none of the options herein filler. The buff-inversion variants maybe...but not everyone is familiar with that idea. Anyways, this is certainly one of the best character options the horsemen have put out and I wholeheartedly enjoyed just about everything here. My own gripes pertain ultimately personal preferences with one exception: The Mad Scientist should imho really have a poaching cap for sorc/wiz spells (or a bigger tradeoff!). This and the missing trait types are all that keep this from being a unanimous recommendation. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, but considering how good the majority is, I'll round up and since it's hard to do comedy and still get rules etc. right as well as the fact that I really like both fluff and crunch here, I'll also slap my seal of approval on this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Comedic Character Options
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Green Devil Face #2
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:17:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Green Devil Face e-zine clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page editorial/introduction - the cover-artwork and similar shenanigans is its own pdf...so what do we get this time around?

Well, something rather different - not a dungeon, but rather than that, trap-rooms! The first would be the eyes of Parsifur and Dunsane, penned by Kent. It should be noted that the following contains SPOILERS for the traps/encounters herein - only referees should read further.

...

..

.

Okay, so the first room is shaped like a cathedral and is EVIL: A troll thing, friendly enough, wants to paint the characters...and when he does, the character is imprisoned in the painting and replaced with a simulacrum loyal to one of the wizards. The encounter also allows for dungeon-exploration and various, truly devious means of dying, including some metagame challenges - I won't spoil more, considering the chance that players may still read this, but it is truly nasty and made for the most experienced of roleplayers. Like it!

There also would be a doppelganger room by Akseli Envall that features a very real threat of infiltration of the PC-group and a distinct symbolism...still, I have seen this trick before...a number of times, to be exact. The same author also has another one - which is significantly more interesting: Tar. Mummies. Silence. Darkness. Portcullises. Oh yes, this is nasty! A nice water-themed surveillance room of traps is also provided.

Brian "Trollsmyth" Murphy provides a nice take on the magical holding cell and Jeff Rients features "the incredible pedestal", a truly amazing and nasty, complex multi-layers trap that is absolutely amazing and will make them feel like magical safecrackers. Mr Rients also has a take on the magical giant chessboard...and it's okay, but no way close as awesome as aforementioned pedestal.

James Edward Raggi IV also has a couple of ideas - the skull with a gem in its mouth and potential uses for it...which is okay, but didn't blow me away, basically boiling down to "It's a time-waster" with some none-too-inspired alternative uses. More interesting would be the hallway, wherein things cease to exist and the lever that literally only frees the monster...but it's like the red button: Someone will need to pull it...right? Finally, he has a cool idea: pool, logs inside, rungs at the ceiling...piranha inside the water. Sounds straight-forward? Well, what about superheated rungs? Sticky or illusory logs? Oily ones? Yup, some seriously nice sadism going on here!

The final trap would be crafted by Wayne S. Rossi players will loath: A nasty idol that charms PCs into feeding it their hard-earned gold! Yeah, they will grumble, but it is a nice one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a no-frills b/w-1-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As a courtesy to Europeans, there are versions of the pdf optimized for A4 as well as those optimized for US-letterpack format. The b/w-cartography provided for the more complex rooms is basic, but functional. As a somewhat unfortunate layout decision, after each entry, the rest of the page is empty - so if a given trap/encounter only takes up 2/3rds of a page, you're left with some serious blank space, something I'm not the biggest fan of, as it eats more paper when printing.

Kent, Akseli Envall, J. Brian "Trollsmyth" Murphy, Wayne S. Rossi and James Edward Raggi IV have crafted some delightfully sadistic traps herein...and that for a more than fair, low price-point. The gems that are herein justify the more than fair asking price of this little pdf and can work well in games beyond OSR gaming if you're looking for some really devious material to challenge experienced players. Considering the more than fair asking price, I can definitely recommend this little pdf, even if not all traps/encounters reach the level of challenge and awesomeness the more sadistic ones do. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Green Devil Face #2
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Monster Classes: Erinyes
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:14:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred Press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. Another issue that playing monsters entails would lie within the arsenal of SPs at their beck and call - an issue that the series handles via an optional, but recommended replacement of spells instead of SPs - for the erinyes, this would be bard-like, Cha-based spontaneous spellcasting drawn from the cleric list, with minor image added at 2nd level, fear at 3rd and greater teleport at 6th level.

Base race trait-wise, the erinyes receives +2 Dex and Int, is a medium lawful and evil outsider, gains darkvision 60 ft., fire resistance 10 and immunity to poison.

The racial class covers 9 levels and sports d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and the class begins play with simple and martial weapon proficiencies and +2 natural armor, which increases by a further +2 at 5th and 9th level. They also begin play with SR 10 + HD, which is somewhat strong. At 2nd level, they can see perfectly in darkness.

2nd level provides gliding wings that upgrade to 50 ft. flight at 6th level (good maneuverability) and 4th level provides acid and cold resistance 5 and upgrades fire resistance to 20. The former increase to 10 at 8th level. 5th level nets DR 5/good and provides telepathy (range increases later). At 6th levels, these furies may use a 50 ft. rope to entangle foes as though affected by animate rope (spell not italicized) and may hurl the rope 30 ft; the DC here is Dex-based, just fyi. 8th level provides fire immunity.

The pdf provides 4 feats: Flyby Attack and the secondary wing attack-trick as well as Redeemed Soul, which helps good characters with the evil subtype (nice!) and a feat that unlocks 1/week commune with the dark masters as an SP.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the erinyes gains +4 Str, +8 Dex, +6 Con, + 2 Int +8 Wis,+10 Cha for a total of 38 attribute points, not accounting for those gained by the base race. This is, much like in the astral deva installment, too much for my tastes - the +5 spellcasting/SP-DC alone is NASTY. That being said, it's not as bad as in the deva's case, though it'll probably cause some issues in less high-powered games.On a plus-side, I spotted no hiccups this time around among the abilities and the general dispersal of when what is gained can once again be considered to be well-crafted. The pdf does come with a glossary of rules for types etc. that is handy to have.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - apart from the missing italicization of one spell, I noticed no botches. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports an okay artwork. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version and has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jeffrey Swank's erinyes is less OP than the astral deva...so that's something. It still won't get anywhere close to my games, considering that it gains more attribute points than most groups use as a base point buy for a class that has 6+ skills, good HD, full BAB-progression, etc. Yes, I am aware how outsiders work. Yes, I know what the goal here is - and frankly, at least I can see the erinyes being of some use for some games; it does gain more attribute points per level on average, but it has less levels to escalate. I still would advise extreme caution when using this one and won't ever allow it near my minmaxing players...but I can get why someone would like this. While nowhere near balanced in my book, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform....unless you're planning on running a really high-powered game, in which case, this will probably be right up your alley.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Erinyes
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Monster Classes: Astral Deva
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:11:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a page empty space, leaving us with about 6 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. Another issue that playing monsters entails would lie within the arsenal of SPs at their beck and call - an issue that the series handles via an optional, but recommended replacement of spells instead of SPs - here, this would be bard-like, Cha-based spontaneous spellcasting drawn from the cleric list, with invisibility and see invisibility added at 2nd level.

Now, the series acknowledges that it does ignore balance in some cases to faithfully reproduce the respective creatures. No matter how you stand on this decision, the matter of fact remains that it wouldn't have hurt to simply provide a faithful rendition AND a balanced one. That's at least my point of view...well, so how does the Astral Deva work: These guys get +2 Str and Cha, are medium good outsiders, have normal speed, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +4 to saves versus poison and their monster class has d10 HD and 6 + Int skills per level. They gain proficiency with simple and martial weapons.

Their racial class begins play at 1st level with +1 natural armor, which increases by +1 at 2nd level and every level thereafter to a maximum of +15. 1st level also nets a primary natural slam attack at 1.5 Str-mod damage that begins at 1d4 and increases to 1d6 and 1d8 at 8th and 15th level, respectively.

Astral devas also start first level with 10 + HD SR, which is very strong; most comparable options begin with 6 + HD and increase to 11 + HD at one point. 3rd level unlcoks immunity to petrification, 6th level cold and 9th level acid. 4th level nest indefinite change shape and 4th truespeech. The basic protective aura is gained at 5th level and provides +2 to AC and to saves of allies within 20 ft., increasing the bonuses to +4 at 9th level. 12th level makes the aura double as magic circle against evil and lesser globe of invulnerability. 5th level unlocks gliding wings, which are improved to 50 ft- fly speed at 10th level with good maneuverability, increasing that to 100 ft.

6th level has an issue: If an astral deva hits a foe twice with a melee attack in a round, it's save or stun - with increasing durations. Considering how easily you can get flurries and similar tricks, that can use a further limitation in my book. 7th level nets uncanny dodge, 9th DR 5/evil that increases to 10/evil at 15th level. 10th level, the class increases base movement rate on land by +10 feet. Framework-wise, the monster class has full BAB-progression and good Will- and Ref-saves.

The class also provides attribute improvements: A total of +14 Str, + 8 Dex, +10 Con, + 8 Int, +8 Wis,, +10 Cha are gained over the level progression. That's a total of +58 attribute points, not counting the 4 the base race provides. That translates to better than better than full BAB-progression (+7 atk + damage), + 4 Initiative and Ref-saves, +5 hit points and Fort-saves, +4 skills, +4 Will-save and +5 DC. It's not as bad as if the deva could choose where the boosts go...but it's still pretty bad. And no, regular attribute gains, items etc. are not included either. It's literally almost thrice the attribute array of most games.

I don't object to racial classes providing attribute bonuses; quite the contrary. I think racial classes should provide the like to make up for the loss of class features. The Astral Deva, as presented here, gets a lot of skills, spellcasting, better than full atk and all the abilities noted above. When used in conjunction with a 25-point buy game that has enough loot, it works; for lower point-buys, it is pretty OP, particularly when multiclassed. Less high-powered groups should certainly take care and contemplate at least prohibiting multiclassing and similar options. Which is a pity, for if you take the excessive attribute bonuses away or at least reduce them, you actually have a solid framework - from attacks to ability-gains, I don' have a problem with anything but the minor stun hiccup and the excess employed in attribute bonuses.

The pdf also features a total of 4 feats, including Flyby Attack, the ability to sense lawbreakers, the option to gain Wing Attacks (secondary, locked behind BAB +5) or inflict +1d6 damage versus evil foes, +1d6 per 5 character levels. This bonus damage automatically overcomes DR, energy resistance and immunity. Not a fan of those, as pretty much everyone knows by now. The pdf also features a handy glossary/reference array that sums up outsider type etc. - handy indeed! There are no age, height and weight tables and the pdf offers neither traits nor favored class options, in case you were wondering.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level, with the one stun hiccup mentioned before. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Additionally, it comes with a lite version that is more printer-friendly.

Jeffrey Swank's Monster Classes will be a rocky ride for me, I foresee that. On one hand, the dispersal of abilities exhibited here makes me hopeful for it, since it shows concern, care and knowledge. The astral deva presented here is very solid and the spellcasting option recommended by DSP actually proved to make the class more rewarding and balanced to play than the SP-array. This, alas, on the other hand does not change that the attribute bombardment the deva receives, to ALL ability scores, which ultimately makes the option problematic and too strong. I really hoped that this would finally bring me the playable angel I wanted, considering that Rite Publishing's In the Company of Angels, uncharacteristically for the series, provided an OP option that needs serious nerfing. Alas, the same can be said here.

I look forward to more in the series and for some of you that read this review and thought "What's his problem? That sounds amazing for minmaxing etc.!" this may be what you wanted; very high-powered games will enjoy the astral deva here - as for myself and quite a few GMs I know, this will get nowhere near their game. My final verdict hence will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Astral Deva
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