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Xeno File Issue 4: Titans, Sluagh, Death Pits (Starfinder/PFRPG)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2018 04:30:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of the Xeno Files-series clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This reviews was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

Okay, we begin this supplement with a new Starfinder race, namely the titans. The race gets 6 HP, +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis, making them a bit lopsided on the physical angle. They are humanoids with the giant subtype, not the usual racial subtype of Starfinder, which may in the long run cause type-issues, but for now, there’s not true issue in this. They get low light vision and are unaffected by high gravity, gaining an untyped (should be racial) bonus of +1 in environments with regular gravity. They also are immune to radiation, hailing from an irradiated gas giant. Titans stand close to 9 ft. and we get details on their physiology as well as their home world and the usual “Playing a X”-bullet-point lists. The story tells of a war fought against horrid foes and the write-up includes an age, height and weight table – as an aside, I cringed somewhat at the word “thru” here, which is a weird colloquialism in the otherwise nice write-up. The section also provides notes on adventuring, nomenclature and language as well as a brief planetary profile.

We also get a PFRPG version of the race: Here, titans get +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis, are Medium humanoids with the giant subtype and thus gain low-light vision. They can hold their breath 4 times Con-score rounds and begin play with High Gravity Adaptation as a bonus feat and where gravity is no more than twice as strong as usual, its effects are negated. In areas with less pronounced gravity, carrying capacity is increased as though the Strength score was 4 higher – nice way of representing that concept! Radiation immunity is slightly problematic in its PFRPG-version, as, while it protects against radiation effects, it also references the radiation descriptor, which does not exist. The race gets a reach of 10 ft., which is REALLY potent.

We also get a racial feat, Ancestral Birth. In PFRPG, it makes you Large and nets you +2 to Intimidate – should be a racial bonus. In SFRPG, you get +2 to Intimidate checks made to bully or demoralize does and add +2 to the DC of such checks against you. You also become Large. Both systems thus provide reach increase, but in PFRPG, we have a Medium creature with reach, which grows further, which would yield, once more, reach. Now I assume that this does not stack, but clarification would have been nice.

Now, in a nice article, we learn about the Union next – those humans that came from the Sol system, namely Terra…fun fact: Intoxicated grey teens crashed on earth, making first contact a rather funny matter – however, when the greys attempted to damage-control, other planets intervened, and thus, the seeds of the union were sown. All in all, a nice take on the trope. Enjoyable read.

Next up would be two new archetypes for Starfinder, the first of which would be the Neo Geisha, who trades in 2nd, 4th, 9th and 12th level, ability-wise, with 6th level being optional. At 2nd level, we get tea ceremony. You get Profession (neo-geisha) as a class skill and may brew tea over 30 minutes, gaining a +1 bonus (should probably be insight) to Culture and Diplomacy roles with targets partaking, but only while you still have 1 Resolve remaining. The bonus increases by +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Participants become relaxed and may, for 24 hours or until taking an 8-hour rest, spend a Resolve point to reroll a failed save against “being freighted and fear effect.” 4th level provides the option to lock gazes with an opponent as a move or standard action, using Bluff as a diversion, opposed by Sense Motive. When using a standard action, you get +2 to the roll – once more, untyped. On a success, you fascinate the target, Will saves to shake off the condition when faced with threats are available, but the neo-geisha may spend a Resolve point to make the target reroll the save. Maintenance of eye contact is a swift action. The effect is broken by becoming unconscious, dead, etc.

The gather crowd ability at 6th level allows the neo-geisha to collect a crowd with a 1d10 minutes performance, generating ½ character level times the result of the check. This can be a really cool tool. The 9th level ability would be soul focus, which penalizes the save to break eye contact with -4…and it contradicts the previous ability: The soul focus suddenly talks about threats automatically breaking fascination no longer, which is not how the base ability works. Weird. A target affected by eye contact ignores the shaken condition, which is interesting and something I like here. The 12th level ability nets charm person/charm monster, command and command, greater 1/day (+1/day at 13th and 17th level) as a SP. Weird: Why would I ever use the lesser of the two SPs? Looks like some sort of scaling was lost here.

The second archetype would be the burster, who gains alternate class features at 2nd, 4th and 6th level, with 9th and 12th level as optional exchanges. 2nd level yields pyrokinesis, allowing you to determine the size and temperature of fires and may use skills to determine sources. They get key ability modifier +2 fire resistance, which increases by 1 for every two character levels, starting at 4th level. The character can also shoot fire projectiles key ability modifier times per day, with 1d6 fire damage as the damage and +1d6 burn on a critical). Starting at 4th level, the character can spend Resolve Points to add +1d6 fire damage per point, or spend Resolve to gain an additional daily use. The projectiles attack KAC. A problem: We get no range; I assume the range of flame sense, but this needs clarification. 4th level yields burst, which inflicts both 1d6 fire and 1d6 bludgeoning damage in a 10 ft- radius, with a Ref-save to halve. The cost is a Resolve point and 9th level expands the area to 15 ft., 20 ft. at 17th level. This leaves you fatigued for 1d4 rounds; bursting again in that time-frame leaves you exhausted for 1d6 rounds and when bursting while exhausted, you become unconscious. Slightly odd: No scaling of the damage here.

The 6th level ability is actually a choice between 3: Detonator lets you sense objects etc. in range of your flame sense, which you can then detonate via Resolve expenditure. A table of examples with bulk, Resolve requires and damage is provided. Nice. Extinguisher allows you to quench fire – problematic here is both the reference to a PFRPG legacy action and the lack of classification of how large of an area you can extinguish. Thirdly, flame on nets you the human torch’s flight and a defensive flame ability. 9th level lets you choose another one of these options, a damage die increase of the base bolt, or an upgrade for the damage caused by the burst…to 5d6. Which is odd, as it moves from separate dice pools for the damage types to one, which is halved to determine the damage caused by each type. Not as elegant as it should be. The 12th level option provides another 6thor 9th level choice.

Next up would be the Death Pits of Oriab, penned by Chance Phillips. Oriab is a place both wondrous and horrid, a vacation hub that basically is a LE gladiatorial tourist planet. Weird header: “Who fights Death Pits?” – There’s an “in” missing here. Veterans of these cruel gladiatorial games can represent that experience with the Veteran of the Death Pits feat. The feat, in both PFRPG and SFRPG, nets more damage versus animals with more HD, as well as a bonus to atk versus targets with cybernetic enhancements. Minor complaints: In SFRPG, the feat should probably have a typed bonus and would have been more elegant when tying in with the significant threat mechanic instead. We also get two challengers here – the CR 10 T-Borg MK II and the vesk soldier Argorivortu (CR 8).

Beyond that, we also get a massive array of cool dressing tables: 12 random street vendor offerings,. We also get a NPC-generator of 1d12 random descriptions and 12 random quirks. A massive table of 100 different events further allows you to customize the experience here.

The next article, penned, by Allan Leeson, details the Sluagh: Founded by Jonas Sluagh, they evolved from a security enterprise to the Sluagh Research Group – basically, dark mirrors of the Pathfinder Society, bodyguards for xeno-archaeologists that found a dread relic, which allowed Jonas to render creatures slack-jawed automatons, courtesy of braces controlled with the respective control gauntlet. And yes, the company has since then managed to replicate these dread devices. As such, both the brace and the horrid things it can cause and the potent control gauntlet are provided. We also get basically a template for the braced and a CR 5 sample braced drone. Nice one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, but pretty weak on a formal level – I noticed a couple of issues. The rules-language is generally functional, if not always perfect. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports a nice blend of full-color artworks, with some really nice pieces.

Greg LaRose, Chance Phillips and Allan Leeson deliver a rather massive pdf for the extremely low price point – and while the rules-components sport a few rough edges here and there, the dressing and ideas herein deserve being acknowledged. Still, with the accumulation of minor hiccups, I can recommend this as unanimously as I’d like to. While absolutely worth getting for the low price point, my final verdict cannot exceed 3.5 stars, I don’t feel like I can round up here.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Xeno File Issue 4: Titans, Sluagh, Death Pits (Starfinder/PFRPG)
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Ruins of the Undercity
Publisher: Kabuki Kaiser
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2018 04:29:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is a toolkit for GM-less, solo-gaming that clocks in at 74 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/introduction, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 68 pages of content. It should be noted that pages are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means that you can fit up to 4 pages of content on a given sheet of paper when printing this – provided, your sight’s good enough, that is.

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

All right, so, this is a GM-less solo-adventure generator, which means that the only target demographic, the reader, will be also the one who’ll experience the potential SPOILERs…and that puts me, as a reviewer, into a bit of a conundrum. If I discuss the details of the adventure itself, I will automatically SPOIL it….but at the same time, I can’t just discuss this in broad strokes. Thankfully, this is not just a solo-adventure per se – it is not a choose-your-own-adventure type of experience; instead, it basically acts as a kind of DIY-procedural-generating dungeoneering experience, where the single player and rolling the dice replace the random generation methods that would usually be taken over by, for example, a CPU.

This means that the supplement is pretty much defined by a ton of random tables for monster, trap, magic effect generation, etc. - these represent an alternative use of sorts – even if you’re not interested in GM-less solo-gaming, you may well derive some use from them. Now, rules-wise, this supplement employs Labyrinth Lord as a default, which is, for once, also the system I’d strongly recommend that you use for the supplement, at least when using it as intended. Why? Even minor modifications of the simple base engine can lead to more work on behalf of the player, and you’ll be rolling a lot of dice.

All right, that out of the way, the supplement assumes the backdrop of Cryptopolis – a total of one page is devoted to describing this backdrop, depicting a sprawling metropolis on the desert sands, with sunken civilizations and tombs below – this section is inspiring, but also unfortunately very brief, which taps into one point of criticism I have regarding this supplement – but we’ll return to that later. This backdrop also influences the magic items that can be found in the city and in the dungeon – magic babushs and turbans as well as artifacts tie into the per se interesting, if painfully sparse, lore. While the formatting of these items is per se precise, it does sport a few cosmetic deviations from wording standards, though none that per se influence rules integrity. In a somewhat odd decision, red notes in an unusual font are provided here and there and throughout the pdf as annotations of sorts – specifying, for example, that a magical scimitar that allows you to fight underwater sans penalty doesn’t help you actually breathe underwater. Whether you mind that this is not included in the rules language of the item per se or not, depends on your preference.

Now, running solo requires some considerations: You first calculate AL (Average Level): You add up all character levels, divide by 3 and round up. Multiclass characters multiply their level by 1.5, rounding up. Final results below 1 are treated as ½. Beyond the AL, character progression is pretty simple, so creating characters of higher levels is not difficult.

The ingenious and smart decision here, though, would be the routine: You establish a routine for “In the City” and “Into the Ruins” – the first routine handles city crawling, equipment purchases and selling, the second dungeon exploration. Here, we determine marching order, resting, etc. In the adventure log (sheet provided), you’ll note down e.g. detecting etc. – this is very important, for putting things down on the log prevents you from cheating and randomly determining who is hit by attacks etc.

Now, the city time comes with a randomly-determined time spent covering shops etc. and finding equipment, with a massive array of tables. 20 different city events and encounters can be found, though the respective set-up for them is pretty bare bones.

In the dungeon, a total of 6 mini-geomorphs to start off exploration are provided, and from there on out, we roll on the main table: We can get corridors, doors, chambers, stairs, dead end or wandering monsters – these all point to their own subtables. Doors, for example, can be 5 different types; 3 door locations can be found and we get 4 spaces beyond doors. In corridors, we have an illumination subtable, which btw. is not found for chambers per se. That being said, whether or not you roll on all of these tables depends on your own preferences; the strength of the system as presented is the fact that you can pretty seamlessly expand all these tables. Traps can affect the first line, whole group or a single target.

The pdf also sports a full table of magic effects, and there are a lot of different loot tables as well. Now, as far as monsters are concerned, this would be where the AL mentioned before comes into play: AL is compared to a matrix and thus determines the chance of the respective monster levels. If a monster is encountered in its lair, you roll on a different table, but on LL’s hoard class table. Monster tables for random encounters range from level 1 to 10. The entries refer to either LL’s books or the new critters herein. The more complex critters come with a sequence of default “AI instructions” – Death knights lead with fireball, follow up with power word: stun, etc. – if you’re familiar with how for example monsters work in e.g. Frostgrave, you’ll know how this works here. As a slight aside: I wished we got slightly more complex behavioral patterns here – or variations. While this would take up a ton of real estate, it could also render repeat encounters more versatile and less redundant. (1-3: Spell A; 4-6: Spell B…)

The pdf also contains some suggestions for character goals in campaign games as well as a massive table on character backgrounds and quirks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level – not perfect, but really smooth, considering that this is the company’s freshman offering. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, with usually color being only used for the annotations mentioned before. Pretty minimalist, but printer-friendly. The pdf sports a couple of artworks, but if you’re familiar with stock art, you’ll be familiar with the pieces herein. The pdf actually comes with moderately detailed bookmarks, though e.g. sub-sections like magic turbans etc. don’t get their own bookmark – in short, it’s better than no bookmarks, but not yet perfect, particularly considering the solo-gaming angle. I cannot comment on the PoD-version, since I do not own it.

Patrice Crespin’s “Ruins of the Undercity” is at once a resounding success and a failure. It is a resounding success in providing the means to generate a solo, GM-less playing-experience with the Labyrinth Lord rules and achieves its goals in that paradigm with a resounding success. It can also be employed to “learn” the procedures of adventuring on your own; while many supplements explain rules, there is an implicit methodology that veterans often forget, so yeah, there is definitely value here.

At the same time, if rated based on the merits as an adventure, I’d consider this to be a failure. Any good GM knows that the details and unique components are what makes an adventure stand out; the terrain, the stand-out rooms, the bosses…and while the module does sport a couple of intriguing items and artifacts and goals, it sacrifices the details in favor of general appeal and replayability…and is worse for it: While you can generate an infinite array of dungeon levels with this booklet, my issue is…that they become somewhat redundant, somewhat bland. The little bit of lore that is here, is actually really cool, but it’s too little to make the city or the dungeon really come to life, to engage me. Then again, I’m a sucker for stories and indirect storytelling, so if you don’t mind procedurally-generated dungeon-crawler games, then you’ll love this!

If not, however, then this will be basically a huge amount of tables that won’t bring you too much joy. Rating this, then, is a tough job. As a person, this did nothing for me, apart from honest appreciation for the chassis presented. As a reviewer, though, I do have to take into account that this may well be exactly what you’re looking for. If you are less spoiled regarding what you expect from solo-adventuring, or if you don’t mind expanding tables, then this may well be what you’ve been waiting for. Ultimately, though, I can’t bring myself to see this as anything but a mixed bag – mechanically and design-wise interesting, but a bit too generic for its own good. My official final verdict will hence be 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ruins of the Undercity
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In The Company of Valkyries
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2018 05:25:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing’s „In the Company of...“-series 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 take a look!

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

Okay, the first thing you’ll note: New and improved layout! Really nice one, at that! Parchment-like background, central page numbers against a red backdrop, lion-like glyphs in the borders. Elegant and neat!

Now, as always, we begin this supplement with a missive to Qwilion of Questhaven, chronicling and interview with a member of the species in question, which means that, yes, this pdf, like all installments in the series, is actually a nice reading experience, as what otherwise would be dry notes, takes on a personal touch: “Hail and well met, scholar!” indeed, as this is how we begin the supplement. Now, obviously, valkyries are chosen, not born – the initiation sees the valkyrie, according to narrator Scorcia Stormcrow, gaze down a chalice in a hall, where no drop may be spilled; they gaze into a well, reliving the final, mortal fight, as weakness bleeds out of the valkyrie to be. The new initiate receives a mentor and the pdf proceeds to explain the details of the choosing, the importance of drink and poetry, and indeed, the valkyries retain some aspect of their erstwhile race, though it usually is cosmetic – yes, this means that half-orcs, elves, dwarves, etc. all can become valkyries. The pdf also explains the meaning of some famous names associated with valkyries.

Now, basic stats-wise, valkyries are native outsiders with +2 Strength and Charisma and -2 Dexterity. They are Medium, have darkvision 60 ft., resistance 5 to acid and cold and gain deathwatch as a supernatural ability 1/day, using character level as caster level – though only for the purpose of seeing creatures with souls. As battle-trained fighters, armor the valkyrie is proficient in never impacts her speed, nor does it add its armor check penalty to Ride checks. A valkyrie gains a valiant steed, which acts as a druid animal companion that does not automatically improve over the levels. The steed must be a horse, which is always combat trained and gains Light Armor Proficiency as a bonus feat. It does not gain share spells, and may be replaced if slain after a 1-week mourning period.

The signature ability, though, would obviously be the choosing of the slain: 1/day as a standard action, the valkyrie may draw a soul from a recently deceased body and safeguard it indefinitely, as per soul bind, but she may only do so for creatures willing to have their souls thus carried. The ability may only be used on a target if the target has been slain within a timeframe equal to a number of rounds that is equal or less than the valkyrie’s character level. If the soul is reluctant, the valkyrie may use Diplomacy to attempt to convince a target. In order to carry a soul, the valkyrie’s character level must be equal to or greater than the creature’s HD and she may only have one soul at any given time. She may free a soul as a full-round action. And before you ask: The pdf does talk about souls, what does or doesn’t have them, and retains full GM-control. The valkyries won’t wreck your world-building.

We get a proper height and weight table, fyi – being immortal, no age is given, obviously. The race comes with a total of 9 alternate racial traits. Instead of the standard darkvision and resistances, we can choose negative energy resistance and 1/day immediate action + Cha-mod (min 1)to saves versus negative energy, energy drain and death effects as well as +2 racial bonus to saves against the like – however, upon using this boost, the valkyrie loses the benefits of the trait for 24 hours. Cool! The resistances may also be replaces in favor of 10 resistance to one of the default energy types. Instead of being battle trained and the resistances, there is an option for a Charisma-based mage armor like effect and one for better divination CL as well as an initiative boost after casting such a spell. Speaking of divinations: We can replace the steed with a better form of augury 1/day. Fated sight may be replaced with Knowledge (planes) as a class skill and perfect knowledge of where she is in the planes as well as the knowledge about the closest gate. We also get a racial trait to make Small valkyries and the signature spear wielding: Instead of the steed, valkyries can use a standard action to call a masterwork spear to their side, which may be enchanted as usual and retains the enchantments, but may not be permanently destroyed. Finally, the steed may be replaced with wings: Here, we can see the mastery of the designers: The wings start off as gliding and synergy with the battle trained trait is covered. It should also be noted that the pdf qualifies these traits as racial feats – so yeah, you can take them sans trading in other options, and we get different prerequisites for qualifying traits!

Favored class options cover arcanist, bard, bloodrager, cavalier, magus, medium, occultist, skald, sorcerer, warpriest, witch and wizard as well as the racial paragon class., but more on that later.

Before we dive into the details there, let us talk for a second about the feats: We get no less than 18 racial feats, which include the ability to have the companion steed scale, quicker summoning and banishing of the spear, halving the duration of divinations with casting times exceeding a round, divination-based SPs…and yes, there is a feat-sequence that nets you flight! Yes, it is locked behind the appropriate minimum ranks/levels and will not hamper your game’s assumptions at low levels. The wings can be further upgraded to serve as natural attacks (properly codified!) AND the upgraded metallic wings may act as shields and cause bleed damage. HECK yes! (And yes, the prerequisites for these make sense, regarding level-range!) The paragon class can choose an extra insight (more on that later) and mid-level death ward that also acts as a safety net to keep you from falling below 0 hp, can be found. Aura sight is also here and really high-level valkyries can 1/day claim the soul of a living being.

Now, two of the feats tie in with Norse lore particularly well – these allow for the creation and improvement, respectively, of enchanted meads, a new item category of sorts, which can take four forms. The first is a more potent spell than what can usually be contained in a potion; the second allows for the creation of a potion-equivalent of up to 6th level. The third combines two spells into a single potion and the fourth uses strong alcohol to lower the cost of the brewing process, which is amazing – and before you ask: If you attempt to cheese these by being immune to the effects of alcohol…well, you can’t. The respective basic crafting mechanics are explained in a concise and precise manner that bespeaks that the authors did their math. Kudos! Beyond the basic crafting system expansion provided here, we also get 5 special, specific meads, which provide potent spell benefits, but, like the base engine, they come with risky drawbacks if you can’t keep your mead down. This represents, in short, the flavor of the race really well in the mechanics. We can all picture amused valkyries smirking over mortals that can’t keep their mead down, right?

Now, while pretty much every feat in the racial section is for valkyries (surprise), there are three that aren’t: The Valkyrie Style and its two follow-up feats. Valkyrie Style lets you wield a two-handed polearm one-handed while using a light shield or buckler, but, following the rules, you don’t get the 1.5 Str-mod to damage when doing so. The follow-up feat, Valkyrie Strike unlocks this damage boost and adds +1d6 precision damage with it – and this bonus precision damage bypasses all forms of DR. That is really interesting: Precision damage is easily one of the least valuable damage types in PFRPG and the DR-ignoring, while usually not something I like, makes it actually valuable. Kudos! The third feat, Valkyrie Fury lets you add a shield bash when making a full attack – sans losing the AC-bonus. Oh, and free trip attempt on a hit, sans AoO! Really cool style-chain! The base feat for this Style-chain also acts as one of the prerequisites of the Shield Maiden PrC, which represents one way other than dying to become a valkyrie.

The PrC requires the Valkyrie Style feat, BAB +5, 3 ranks in two Knowledge skills. Here is a great way to note one fact that made me smile and that is rather important for quite a few of my readers: Valkyries are obviously gendered entities, right? In another supplement, we’d probably read a “female only” line in the prerequisites for the PrC and be done with it. Well, guess what? Both regarding being chosen after slain and PrC only cares about how your character identifies – a shield maiden must identify as female, but doesn’t have to be female. This is really cool, as one could see the struggle, bloodshed and fights throughout a character’s progression as a symbolic, potentially cathartic representation of the struggle of transitioning, adding potentially deep symbological depth to the playing experience. So yeah, big kudos!

The PrC, on a mechanical side, gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields, excluding tower shields. The PrC gets full BAB-progression as well as ½ Fort-save progression. At 1st level, we get + Cha-bonus to saves (not stacking with the paladin’s divine grace, thankfully), and she may 1/day reroll a save, but upon doing so, loses the benefits of the ability for 24 hours. The shield maiden also gets the valkyrie’s ease when operating in armor at this level. At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the shield maiden gains a boon, chosen from a selection of 6: She may substitute the armor or shield bonus she has with her Charisma-modifier (thankfully, min and max values included); 3+ Cha-mod valkyrie-style deathwatch, gaining an insight from the paragon class, a bonus feat (fighter level caveat included), resistance and gaining valkyrie traits may be found here. 3rd level nets fatebond: Either, you get a cool spear with enhancement bonuses and special abilities (scaling, caps intact) or a steed – and paladin-synergy is once more covered. Kudos! 5th level nets light fortification while wearing armor, and, in a cool twist, actually provides synergy with armors actually enchanted to grant the property. 7th level nets glory, which is a mini-smite of sorts usable up to ½ class levels times per day, each use lasting 1 round. When confirming a critical hit against a target of her character level + 2 in CR or higher, she regains uses – cool, and uncheesable! 9th level yields a death ward that may be used reflexively and 10th level provides the coveted valkyrie ascension upon dying. Really cool PrC!

Now, we also get quite an array of different racial archetypes for valkyries, the first of which would the be fortune weaver witch, who is locked into a raven or eagle familiar. 5th level yields a cool ability that lets you 1/day speak a target’s fate, causing a suggestion – if the target disobeys it, he is cursed. Cool! The ability may be used more often by expending spell slots, but only may target a creature 1/day. Similarly, rerolls for allies (9th level) may also be used more often via spell slot expenditure and at 11th level, we get, following a similar design paradigm, the dispelling of charms, curses, compulsions or mind-affecting effects, potentially redistributing them. Two major hexes and grand hexes complement a flavorful, cool archetype. The keeper of souls warpriest is locked into repose and builds on it, with the soul shepherding and planar ally options representing the agent of the valkyries and their agenda – nice!

The raven feeder would be a bloodrager who modifies bloodrage to add bleed damage. Raven familiar and the ability to select alus instead of bloodline powers complement this one, building on the bleeding theme. The runecaster magus is one of the coolest archetypes for the class I’ve seen in a while: Basically, arcane pool is replaced with a rune pool, which allows for the improvement of weapons to provide passive benefits, from which other characters can benefit. These runes, once inscribed, may be activated, granting fitting benefits, getting stacking issues right and unlocking combo’d runes add higher levels, which is, engine-wise, amazing and could carry its own class. Runic tattoos and armor also are included. Cool one! The Saga singer skald’s song can yields Diehard and further improves if the target has Diehard already. The telling of heroic sagas (urgh, I shudder when writing that plural, even though it’s the commonly used one – to me, the correct term for the plural is sögur, but that as an aside) replaces several passive abilities with these active boosts, which btw. may be combined at higher levels.

Speaking of which: We get no less than 5 bardic/skaldic masterpieces, all of which are epic: Brynnhild’r Lament nets an improved rage; Deliberation of the Norns nets save rerolls for allies. Kenning is amazing, allowing for the prevention of verbal communication of tactics, aiding, etc. via potent poetic allusions. Love it! Saga of Unbreakable Fate nets a slew of immunities, and the epic Ragnarok’s Requiem, usable only by the mightiest of heroes, provides a combo meteor swarm/mass cure serious wounds. All of these are worth taking for their price.

All right, so let’s move on to the valkyrie paragon, shall we? The class gets d8 HD, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields, excluding tower shields. The class begins play with a mount that works as a druid companion. If the character has the valiant steed trait, the mount is treated as class level +1, which makes it really strong at low levels. The mount may be called to the valkyrie’s side 1/day. First level also nets 3 + Cha-mod deathwatch as a SP, usable versus creatures she is unable to see, but sans pinpointing them. 5th level allows for somewhat status-like information for those under the effects of her deathwatch. 7th level also adds knowledge of conditions to the information and 13th level makes the ability constant.

6th level yields a 1/day plane shift with up to 8 other creatures – it is not perfect, though, and may put the valkyrie and her entourage at other places if she is not familiar with them. Yes, random plane table provided. This risk is eliminated at 13th level and 19th level makes it flawless. At 11th level, the valkyrie can attempt to choose unwilling souls slain (which can be a really cool plot point!) and 17th level allows the valkyrie to destroy souls of the slain she carries to grant herself boons – a decision she should not lightly make. The capstone yields automatic critical confirmation against all creatures with a soul, as well as 1/day attack, skill, save or ability-check reroll with + Cha-mod added. Additionally, she can force such a reroll 1/day on a foe, using her Cha-mod as a penalty.

Of course, this is Rite Publishing, and as such, the class obviously sports some serious player agenda. This time around, that would be represented by the insights the class gets, which are the talents. The first is gained at 2nd level, with an additional one unlocked every 2 levels thereafter. Some of these build upon another and some have minimum levels – at 10th level, we for example have automatic planar adaptation. The theme of future’s sight is represented by the very potent augur’s strike at 4th level, which nets true strike as a SP, usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day…with the difference that she must select the foe against which the bonus applies and the fact that the bonus lasts and halves in subsequent rounds, as the ability represents seeing into the future. This also prevents novaing of the ability, which is a really smart way of handling the concept. Swift action performance-like minor boosts , bless with temporary hit points added, bonus feats…At high levels, full attack charges are possible (again, locked behind a sufficiently high cap), seeing in perfect darkness, sensing deceit, a variant lay on hands, retaining AC when charging, making the return of those slain by her from the dead harder, ensuring that the sanctity of the dead is retained – the insights are MANY. We get more than 4 pages of different insights, which run a gamut from mechanically potent and engine-wise interesting to extremely flavorful, often blending them. You can make a really potent guardian valkyrie with constant detect spells; you can make a fearsome charge, a true champion of spear fighting, guardians of the fallen and any combination of such themes. The leitmotifs are represented in a concise and well-crafted manner.

No, we’re not done yet! Remember how I mentioned the cup of welcome before? Well, the pdf also contains 6 potent valkyrie-themed items, including the cup, which represents the classic theme of hospitality from the myths; a potent armor, a shield, seiðr runes, a bracelet from the world tree and a very potent spear complement this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no issues in either. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s new two-column full-color standard and is really nice. The pdf is chockfull with cool full-color artwork, with only one piece being somewhat less nice. It should be noted that the artworks do not contain unbecoming cheesecake and just depict badass warrior ladies. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

As some of you know, one of my fields of academic expertise is actually Scandinavian literature and culture. I am actually fluent in Norse. I loathe most depictions of valkyries in mainstream media, mainly because they don’t get what makes them fascinating. The whole ideology and culture that provided the cultural underpinnings of the concept of the valkyrie is, ultimately, not one that has stemmed from the Judeo-Christian dichotomous thinking process and ideology that resulted in the creation of cultural artifacts like our RPGs – in a world where good and evil are absolutes, it is hard to properly convey the concept of valkyries and the depiction of paladin-like battle-angels makes me barf internally. It is testament to the obvious love and attention to detail, that the representation of the valkyrie-concept, in spite of being codified with the confines of a system where good and evil are tangible forces, works here.

The love for concept and lore is apparent in each of the design-components, and detailed stacking caveats and a vast amount of small stumbling stones are avoided left and right, with the grace befitting of the valkyrie. Now, Kendra Leigh Speedling has already penned one of my favorite hybrid classes, but I think this may be the first time I have reviewed anything by Mara Lynn Butler – and the two ladies and their designs seamlessly gel together herein. No authorial voice clash can be found and the book, beyond getting the tone right, juggles complex and unique concepts in an admirable manner. There is a ton to love in this book, with race and paragon class as well as archetypes being pretty damn amazing; the addition of the PrC as a central concept is another huge plus here, and once we’re almost done, we also get the neat mead-engine, which represents the cherry on top of something truly amazing. This is a phenomenal representation of the concept, that neither compromises the rich lore associated with valkyries, nor the integrity of PFRPG. The pdf manages to actually blend the two components in an elegant and amazing manner.

In short: This continues the streak of absolutely phenomenal books in the series, standing as an impressive and amazing example of the cool things you can do with the system, even after all these years: From tweaks to SPs to new items, this oozes care and passion, always takes, design-wise, the high road. Now, excuse me, I have a distinct craving to listen to the Crüxshadows, a ton of good pagan metal, and build some badass valkyries. Rating? Oh yeah, forgot that, didn’t I? Obviously, this is an easy 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation. “Fate is armed with arrows – and she watches our battlefields.”

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Valkyries
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Xeno File Issue 3: Halloween edition (Starfinder/PFRPG)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2018 05:22:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Xeno Files-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD; leaving us with 13 pages, so let’s take a look!

This series was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreons.

The first article was penned by Joshua Hennington and depicts the Rendeian race, thralls to the Qlippoth lord Sesser’vatn. Racial stat wise, they get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, 6 HP and are Medium humanoids with the shapechanger subtype, which represents a deviation from the standard Starfinder races. Rendeian subtype would have been standard here, but this aspect is pretty much cosmetic. Rendeians get darkvision 60 ft. and they gain a +2 racial bonus to atk and damage and saves versus non-qlippoths with an evil alignment, making them potentially uneasy allies. They also get +2 to Mysticism to glean information on the Outer Planes. They don’t need necessary ranks in Medicine to install augmentations and if they do, implantation time is halved, but only for implants for themselves, not other creatures. They also have a pretty strong adaptive physiology, which means they can either hand 15 ft. burrow speed, 20 ft. clumsy fly speed or 30 ft. climb or swim speed, which may be modified by taking a 10 minute rest that does not qualify as Stamina regaining. Potent? Yeah, but as engineered thralls, they also take a whopping -4 penalty to saves versus qlippoths. That would be the race in SFRPG.

If you prefer one of the scifi/space opera options for Pathfinder, there’s a conversion here: +2 Con and Wis, darkvision 60 ft. Rendeians are native outsiders with the shapechanger subtype (Minor quibble: line refers to Umvee instead). They get +2 to atk and saves versus non-qlippoth creatures with the evil subtype and always treat Knowledge (planes) as a class skill, gaining a +2 bonus to it. The adaptive movement rates are stronger in PFRPG, allowing the race to switch between movement modes as a full-round action that doesn’t even provoke AoOs. While the flight remains clumsy, the value of flight is higher in PFRPG, as is the value of burrow, which means that this aspect may not be for every campaigns and is something I’d look out for. More elegant would have been to start with gliding wings and upgrade them to flight at higher levels. Anyways, the save-penalty versus qlippoths is retained.

The race gets a supplemental feat, namely Rending Appendages, with benefits for both systems: In PFRPG, the feat nets an additional off-hand, in SFRPG the same applies. Weird in PFRPG: The additional appendage does not “Add addition attacks”, which isn’t how that usually works in PFRPG. That being said, the lack of higher level prerequisites means that I absolutely understand this limitation and consider it pretty much required. The feat may be taken 3 times, for additional arms or prehensile tails. I get what this does, but I’m not 100% happy with the implementation – the tails should offer different benefits than the arms, and perhaps a retooling in line with conventions of their effects would be in order.

Now, on the plus-side, we get a pretty detailed write-up for the race, adhering to SFRPG’s aesthetics: We get notes on playing them, physical descriptions, an age, height and weight table – nice! As engineered slaves, they lead short and volatile lives and, in an interesting twist, are sex-less, reproducing via a form of communal symbiosis of sort. We also learn about Rendei-5, their abyssally-blasted home planet and here, things become interesting: As hinted in the racial write-up, Rendeians are good at hunting down sinners: Well, it turns out that their culture prefers the sacrifice of “ripe” sinners, not the usual goody-two-shoes innocents! This makes them, in spite of their dark origins, a potentially interesting ally or PC-race without compromising their dark background. As servants of qlippoth masters, they seek to actually eradicate sin in the multiverse, which puts them in a hilarious twist on the same trajectory as religious zealots in their end-goals. Notes on nomenclature and adventuring rendeians are provided as well. Notes on language and 3 sample adventure hooks complement the write-up.

As masters of augmentations, rendeians get a total of 5 such augmentations: At level, there is the skinshedding implant, which lets you turn your skin transparent, potentially sickening onlookers (DC governed by Con). Cool: To offset this power, it renders you fatigued for one round afterwards and comes with a cooldown that you can pay off for immediate recharge with Resolve; otherwise, it replenishes with Stamina points. Outsider’s grasp is implanted into the hand, replacing it and clocks in at level 5, granting the hand the respective associated special weapon fusion. Metaplanar anchor is a brain implant at level 9 and lets you never be treated as extraplanar and renders you immune to alignment-based planar traits. At level 15, parasitic twin growth is both an arm and hand implant and nets you a 20% chance of having Will save-based effects instead affect the twin growth, sickening you for 2d3 rounds instead of the usual benefits. Additionally, it can act when you’re unconscious,. Through compulsions, etc. – 1 Resolve Point lets the growth act for 1 minute. Yes, it may even act when you’re dead (sans Resolve expenditure), using your bonuses. It can sustain 10 points of damage, uses your bonuses and AC, etc. Damn cool final “Hail Mary”-type of ability. The race also gets a new piece of level 2 tech, the sinscanner, which makes sense in the context of the race’s peculiarities.

All in all, I really liked the race – the SFRPG version is obviously the better one, with the conversion being slightly less impressive. Apart from the feat, I have no real complaints to field. Big kudos for an interesting, twisted race that makes sense as an evil PC even in a non-evil group!

After this one, we are introduced to the Accelerated Certification for Explorers, also known as ACE, as a cool pilot ace training company/corporation. Nice system neutral article!

The final article of the pdf deals with symbiotes, with the article written as a holo news story, making it a rather nice reading experience. Symbiotes range in size from Small to Tiny. A character can host as many symbiotes as the starting racial HP, which act as symbiote slots of sorts. Some symbiotes take more slots and symbiotes don’t stack with themselves, but benefits to the same statistic from different symbiotes o stack. Symbiotes have hit points, a life span and occupy a system slot as though an augmentation. They also have a bonding time. They also sport levels analogue to other SFRPG-components. The first would be the Adrenal tick: Roll 1d6: On a 6, it pops and dies; on subsequent days, roll a 1d6, with a cumulative -1 penalty, then compare that to a d6 roll: If your second roll exceeds the former value, the tick dies. The tick nets you a +1 morale bonus to saves vs. panicked and frightened conditions. Cearkifs allow for the temporary understanding of all languages, but can die after an hour of inconsistent speech with non-known languages. Gel clams are radioactive and can thus cause radiation poisoning, but can yield low-light vision and infrared and ultraviolet sight. Glitter spores can be massaged to spray glitter and be used as a ranged attack to blind foes nearby, who can mitigate this via a “full round action” – should be full action. I also assume this to target KAC, but clarification would be nice. Neurohedra can act as datajacks. Sum leeches can excrete a paste that nets you +2 to saves versus mind-affecting effects. I assume the massage to be a standard action, analogue to augmentation default, but I’m not sure there. Finally, Thaxion bark is interesting: The first time the host is knocked to 0 HP, it stabilizes automatically, the bark sacrificing itself to stabilize the character. It may be tricked into doing this when knocked unconscious due to nonlethal damage to remain in the fight. Okay, for how long?

Conclusion:

Editing on a formal level could be a bit tighter – I noticed a few minor hiccups and /too/to-glitches and the like. On a rules-language level, the pdf is mostly well-crafted, though a few of the cool symbiotes could have been more precise. Layout adheres to the nice 2-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf comes with quite a few nice full-color artworks I haven’t seen before – kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Joshua Hennington and Greg LaRose deliver a fun, inexpensive supplement here: The race is interesting and potent, but not to the extent where I’d consider it problematic, at least in SFRPG. The PFRPG-conversion is a bit less impressive. The other articles are nice as well: While the symbiotes do suffer from a few minor hiccups in the rules, they work, are interesting, and frankly, I want more. That’s a huge untapped potential here and they, mechanically, integrate pretty easily into SFRPG’s rules. So yeah, all in all, by far the best Xeno Files pdf I have covered so far. Were it not for the hiccups and minor issues, I’d give this 5 stars. Even with them, this is well worth getting for the low and really fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Xeno File Issue 3: Halloween edition (Starfinder/PFRPG)
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Feats of Legend: 20 Alcohol Feats
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2018 05:19:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Feats of Legend-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Without further ado, we dive into the feats, a couple of which may be considered to be base feats:

-Falling Down Drunk: Reduce falling damage by 10 ft. per alcoholic drink you consumed in the past hour.

-Drink Like A Demon: Requires Con 13+; lets you drink a potion, drink, etc. as a move action that does not provoke AoOs.

-Down the Hatch: Requires Drink Like A Demon. Lets you draw a potion or bottle from a holster, bandolier, etc. as a free action.

-Firebreather: Requires the previous two feats; as a standard action that provokes AoOs, you can take a drink and spit it through a torch, generating a 15-foot-cone of fire for 1d6 fire damage, with a Ref-save of 10 + ½ character level + Con-mod as a DC to halve. Breathing through a flaming weapon increases the DC by enhancement bonus, base damage to 2d6. Flaming burst weapons upgrade that to 4d6 and increase the save DC by enhancement bonus +2. Really creative take on the old trope. Kudos.

-One More Round: Requires Diehard and Con 13+ (misspelled as Die Hard); when dropped below 0 hp and you had a drink in the last hour, you can choose to be sickened instead of staggered.

-Hollow Leg: Requires Con 13+; lets you drink 1 + thrice your Con-modifier drinks. When you drink more, you’re sickened for 10 minutes per drink, rather than 1 hour.

Quite a few feats build on Hollow Leg as a prerequisite; these are as follows:

-Drunken Brawler: Nets you DR 5/- against nonlethal damage if you had a drink in the last hour.

-Fortune Favors the Drunk: Beyond Hollow Leg, also requires that you worship an appropriate deity. Nets you +2 to a save of your choice if you had a drink in the past hour. Taking a new drink allows you to switch the save.

-In Wine, Truth: Nets you +2 insight bonus to saves versus illusions. 1/day when failing a save against an illusion, you may disregard it as though you succeeded as long as you had a drink in the past hour. Afterwards, you’re sickened for 1d4 rounds, though.

-Mean Drunk: +2 melee and natural attack damage while sickened.

-Good For What Ails You: +2 (untyped) bonus to Fort-saves if you had a drink within 1 hour. 1/day, when failing a Fort-save, you may reroll it as an immediate action. On a success, you’re sickened for 1d4 rounds. Weirdly, not on a failure.

-Cast Iron Stomach: Requires Good For What Ails You; if you have drunk a drink in the past hour, you’re immune to the nauseated condition and instead become sickened.

-Can’t Feel A Thing: Requires One More Round and Drunken Brawler: Upgrades DR versus nonlethal damage to DR 10/- and also nets DR 5/- versus slashing or piercing damage, both contingent on having a drink within the past hour.

-Liquid Courage: Requires Hollow Leg and Good For What Ails You: +2 to saves versus fear effects after imbibing a drink; 1/day when failing a save versus a fear effect, ignore it while the bonus is in effect.

-Poison Chaser: Requires Hollow Leg and Drink Like A Demon; when failing a save versus a poison, you may imbibe alcohol as an immediate action to reroll the save. On a success, you’re sickened for 1d4 rounds, but negate the poison. You don’t have to have the drink in your hand.

Unrelated to the other feats herein:

-Glass Hammer: Requires Catch Off-Guard; increases damage with bottles or glass mugs to 1d8; when hitting a foe with a broken container, you may choose to blind the target for 1d4 rounds. You can break containers as a swift action. This one imho should not be limited to glass – glass was rare and costly in earlier ages and must tankards were not made of glass.

-Intoxicated Evoker: Lets you consume a drink as part of casting an evocation spell for + 1 CL.

-Staggering Drunk: +1 dodge bonus to AC and +1 dodge bonus to Ref-saves if you have consumed a drink during the last hour.

-Wind of the Divine: As Intoxicated evoker, but applies to divine healing spells instead.

-Words of Wine: +2 to Diplomacy if you had a drink in the past hour. Srsly?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no grievous glitches on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with a used-parchment-style background. The pdf sports two nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity – kudos!

Neal Litherland’s alcohol feats make one thing clear: It doesn’t pay to be a drunk, not even in a fantasy world. Froma design-perspective, there is a lot to like here: The floating bonuses, emphasis on player agenda and choices etc. makes for some fun decisions.

Here’s the problem: The cool ones are locked behind a feat tax and their benefits are not enough to warrant taking them, not even in the most gritty, low fantasy game I’d run. (And you all know how I gravitate to grittier playstyles!) Some of them are almost insulting. +2 to Diplomacy when you’ve had a drink within 1 round. That’s even weak for a trait, much less a feat! And then it struck me: The cool-down mechanic that’s a feat with its cap; the follow-up abilities…this looks like an archetype that has been disassembled and jammed into the guise of feats. The small bonuses, the limiting sequence – a large part of the feats herein needs one another to properly work, but doesn’t yield enough benefit to warrant wasting the feat tax on them, which would at least make that thesis seem plausible. This is not a bad supplement from an engine-perspective, mind you – if you’re looking for ultra-gritty, low-powered options, this may do something for you. But not even for flavor-purposes would any of my players even contemplate taking the feats herein. Alas, this means I can’t go higher than 2 stars on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 20 Alcohol Feats
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Deadly Delves: Nine Lives For Petane (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2018 05:00:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This is an adventure-review, and as such, it contains copious amounts of SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, in ancient times, the city-state of Khys arose, rules by catfolk, all under the auspice of the deity Heshatta, known as the Tomb Dancer; a goddess of limitless curiosity, amoral explorations and the unearthing of forbidden truths. Her high priests crafted the amulet of nine lives to honor her most powerful gift. When human barbarians destroyed her city-state, the deity sowed the lands of the dead with her living children, so that whenever death’s doors opened, the dead would not return alone. Ages pass by, and in a remote barony, Markail Petane, last of his bloodline, was lost at sea. His widow has a serious issue: The land is made temperate courtesy of the fairwind spire, which is tied to the bloodline of Petane; without an heir, she can’t extend the growing season, which will wreck the economy, preventing trade with dwarven allies – a chain reaction.

Growing season is still around, but ultimately, it will not last long enough. Thus, she sent her niece, a historian named Adene Corvuth, to procure a diamond for true resurrection, but neither diamond, nor scroll could be found…but the sage did find the amulet! Thus, the plan gestated to summon the mighty, long lost general Ourys Petane from the dead…but neither baroness, nor sage did know that the amulet is still cursed… If that does not work, story-wise for your game, you’ll be happy to note that the pdf does come with a variety of nice suggestions/hooks to customize the adventure. It should also be noted that there is an alternative: The bride would much rather have handsome and kind Akouryn returned from the dead, but while he may be able to use the spire as well…wouldn’t the hero of old make more sense? Or should the PCs listen to Adene’s desires? Interesting conundrum there, particularly if the heroes return with both champions of the house…And whether Akouryn, a young, adventurous fellow, wants to tie the knot is yet another question.

The PCs are tasked to find the body of Ourys Petane in the Tomb of Valor, devoted to erstwhile heroes of light in the Orcwall wars. The set-up of the briefing of the adventurers comes with serious details, including rationale why the baroness doesn’t wish to return her husband from the dead instead. Similarly, the NPCs, while trusting, are not fools and don’t just send the amulet alongside the PCs sans safety precautions. The transition to the tomb features random encounters, should you choose to include them.

Okay, this is where the module becomes awesome, but in a rather unique manner: You see, the crypts per se are a place of goodness, but they have, unbeknown to the Petanes, been taken over by a powerful demon cult, including a shemhazian demon. The amulet in the PC’s hands does make it possible for them to return up to 9 people to life, including the long lost heroes of ancient times, which can obviously act as a great plot-device for GMs to provide potent tools, new mechanics etc. at a late stage in the campaign. The secrets had just died with the hero in question! However, the amulet is cursed, and as such, it does have its price: Whenever it is used, the catfolk of the long-gone deity return as well – and for each of the resurrections, another array of fully statted champions of progressive power are provided. And yes, some of these include psionic characters! (For campaigns sans psionics, the pdf has enough statblocks otherwise to replace these fellows, just fyi.)

Anyways, the exploration of the fully mapped dungeon is interesting in that the PCs have a super potent tool…and may well need it. The builds employed for adversaries are diverse, deadly and should provide sufficient challenges for even the high-level PCs that will tackle this dungeon. The villains/foes called forth by the demon cult deserve special mention, as e.g. ghost clerics, graveknight bloodragers and ghoul soulknives make for deadly foes to challenge PCs, combining races, classes and class options in sufficiently potent combinations. We also get quite a few unique traps and terrain hazards to make the respective environments interesting.

In short: Between the dungeon exploration the threats that stem from use of the amulet, and the potent opposition, the PCs will have their hands full! As a sidenote: The deities assumed here are the Aesir, which means that this module can be smoothly and pretty seamlessly integrated into Nose/Northern-themed campaigns – replace Baron with Jarl and there we go. The module does justice to the “deadly” aspect of the series’ title – the dungeon is challenging indeed, and degrees of success are possible: Fully clearing the dungeon is a wholly different task than just getting out with a resurrected heir…and beyond new, demonic foes, the PCs may have inadvertently raised a long-forgotten deity and her deadly servants from the slumber of aeons – in any way, the module sports ample of adventuring opportunities far beyond the confines of these pages.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports full-color, original artworks, which is rather nice. The cartography of the dungeon is full-color, pretty neat and the pdf comes with a second pdf that contains player-friendly versions of the maps – two, in fact! One with details on the maps, and one without them! You basically get your choice of the level of detail of the player maps, which is amazing – after all, there’s a chance that the PCs can find out about the dungeon layout before. Hand them the detail-less version. Then, whenever they explore a room, cut up the detailed version of the room and superimpose on the map, showing the magic circles, blood spatters and pillars, etc. Huge kudos for going the extra mile for maximum convenience there!

I know Christen N. Sowards primarily as an author of crunch: The master of Lost Spheres Publishing knows how to create interesting rules that have a very strong tie-in to storytelling. As such, I wasn’t surprised to see this adventure sport pretty interesting and challenging adversaries. What did surprise me, though, was how well this adventure played. This is a dungeon that works better in play than on paper, and the tie-in with the easily replaced divine angles, demons and ancient cultures can make this work within the context of a ton of different settings; the catfolk angle would make this, for example, a natural tie in for Midgard’s Southlands, connecting north and south. So yeah, the module ties in pretty seamlessly with most common campaigns.

The amulet, as a powerful angle, can provide a helpful change of pace for high-powered games and potentially provide a cool angle to go further planar.

Beyond the stats and mechanical aspects, this module, as a whole, makes for one of the few rewarding high-level modules out there. All in all, this one does not necessarily reinvent the wheel, but doesn’t have to. It is a cool, interesting module that can, if you choose, provide a great transition towards the world of high-level gaming. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Nine Lives For Petane (PFRPG)
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Everyman Minis: Haunt Invocations
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2018 04:58:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 2 ages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so the basic premise here would be centered around the Phantasmal Invitation feat: As a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity, you can create an invited haunt in any space you are or that you threaten. You do not accidentally trigger these haunts, but may remotely trigger them as a standard action while within 30 ft. of them and while the haunts can detect you. Invited haunts last for a number of hours equal to your CL or until triggered, whichever happens first. They can always attempt saves against effects that deal damage to them, with a bonus equal to CL plus your highest mental ability score.

Now, the feat requires nongood alignment as well as the ability to cast psychic spells and a character level of at least 3rd. You select a haunt and get a convocation reservoir equal to your highest mental attribute modifier. Generating an invited haunt costs one of these points and CL is equal to that of the psychic spellcasting class. The reservoir replenishes after 8 hours of rest, which, however, need not be consecutive. Cool: Characters with arcane school (necromancy), bone mystery, aether or dream elemental focus, patron spells, undead bloodline etc. may also take this feat. It may be taken multiple times, increasing convocation points by 1 each time and nets you an additional haunt.

The alignment of haunts matches your own and they, as a default, occupy a 5-foot square. Their CL is equal to the one of the character that made them and the Perception check to notice them is 10 + ½ the creator’s CL + spellcasting modifier. They have CL HP and are, per default, triggered by proximity and do not reset as a standard. Their effects are instantaneous or last 1 round and save DC, if any, is 10 + ½ CL + key ability modifier. Purely aesthetic hiccup: The formulae for Notice and saves are different. Fully functional, though, so consider this a nitpick and move on.

A total of 7 such invited haunts are provided: Bloody hands cause physical damage /type is chosen upon inviting the haunt); cold spots cause cold damage, Ref for half. Disfiguring fingers attempt to dirty trick foes (and yes, they benefit from your enhancements!); feast of vermin causes Con damage on a failed save; grave mist penalizes a physical attribute of your choice for a few rounds on a failed save; summon apparition generates a Cr 1/3 commoner, expert or warrior that shares HP with the haunt; unholy power, finally, deals negative energy damage, Will save to halve.

Here’s the thing: We get an additional feat: Shape Invocation: It adds +1 to the convocation reservoir and lets you choose one of no less than 9 (!!) options: These allow you to REALLY customize the haunt: Make it free-roaming, item-bund, latent…or invoke it faster. Or fuse two haunts. Invoke at range, provide resets, increase DCs and spaces…and you may grant haunts weaknesses, reducing their costs! Damage-increase is also included. Very minor nitpick: It’s obvious from context that the feat should be available multiple times for the taking, but the usual Special line is not there. Considering the vast amount of options with their different costs, I frankly don’t care about this cosmetic lapse.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level, with only nitpicks of a cosmetic nature available to criticize. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column b/w-standard and the full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Clinton Boomer is a frickin’ BEAST. This DIY-haunt-engine is amazing and coincidentally, works pretty much akin to one I’ve been using in homebrews. It is elegant, easy to grasp, does not become OP, oozes flavor and adds neat tricks and versatility to the character. The rules are crisp, concise and manage to juggle the complexity of the subject matter in an admirable way. My only true gripe here would be that I so want MORE! The haunts are cool, but the concept could easily carry a regular full-length supplement. Still, this ranks as a superb example of how cool this series can be. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation. Can we get a sequel? Please?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Haunt Invocations
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Pathways Bestiary(PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/05/2018 05:46:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome clocks in at 229 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than 223 (!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so the thing that drew me to Rite Publishing back then was the blending of really imaginative concepts and deadly, highly template adversaries. Here were monsters that did not need me to beef them up to stand a chance against my PCs. When the Book of Monster Templates hit sites, I was ecstatic: It took the monster template concept from 3.X’s beloved Advanced Bestiary by Green Ronin and one-upped it. Not only were the templates super-interesting, they sported unique and diverse abilities, many of which pushed the boundaries of what I expected to see. I liked the Advanced Bestiary (who didn’t?), but I loved Steve’s Book of Monster Templates.

As the master of Rite Publishing, Steve continued to provide amazing templates – and for FREE/PWYW, no less, for every installment of the Pathways e-zine featured one of the templates, always with a unique sample creature added, often with absolutely gorgeous flavor. Now, I adored these, I still do; however, the game evolved, Rite Publishing grew to become Steve’s dayjob and the time-constraints and limited budget a free magazine, of a 3pp, no less, could afford, meant that there were a couple of instances where the wording could have been tighter, where editing needed to be rushed.

Even when I had to bash one of Steven’s designs, he took the criticism in stride, encourages and supported me; he was there not only as a publisher, but also as a friend, and when he was taken from us too soon, I was crestfallen. I miss him to this day and his writing continues to influence my games, my own writing, and what I expect to see. In many a way, he pushed the boundaries of what I dared to expect and demand from roleplaying games. I am incredibly happy that Rite Publishing continues to prosper.

Where am I going with this? Well, this book, in a sense, is a monument to Steve’s work. It collects the first 60 templates released in Pathways by him and his talented cadre of freelancers, and polishes them, brings them up to speed and presents them in a refined, new manner. In a sense, this is the second Book of Monster Templates that I always bugged him to write.

Now, from all of this you can glean that I am, to a degree, emotionally invested in this product. Frankly, I’d have a hard time going full-blown analysis-mode and review-bot, abstract my own emotional investment. But then again, Steve would tell me to buckle up, call things as I see them and tell me to rate this as neutral as usual. To review this the rite way and not to make any excuses on behalf of his legacy, so there goes.

After a brief introduction of none other than legend Owen K.C. Stephens, we dive into the respective creatures and templates. Here, I am going to deviate a bit from my usual formula. If I were to discuss the respective templates and monsters in detail, this review would be bloated beyond any usefulness for the customer, so instead, I’m going to paint the picture in broad strokes, all right? Great!

So, first things first: Know how the 7 deadly sins are kind of a big deal in Pathfinder, beyond the neutral evil outsiders? Did you want templates to really reflect them, to e.g. represent champions and creatures of the Thassilon empire? Well, we get one template plus associated creature for each of the sins. These are not just any templates, mind you: The gluttonous creature gets a grinning maw in its belly; the lusting creature’s gaze can wreck your equipment-based bonuses; prideful creatures fight not simply to win, but to prove their superiority – which is actually a thing, thanks to the rules. These examples do not even begin to encompass what the templates offer, though.

You see, the templates herein are not simply content with just providing some numerical bonuses and perhaps one cool ability; no, the templates in this book sport multiple unique signature abilities per template, sometimes even going so far as to add a whole subsystem of trickery to the ability complex bestowed on the base creature. In short, you will NOT just mistake such a creature for a weirdly colored version of its base creature; you won’t just find animals with slightly fiendish touches, or critters that add a bit of elemental energy damage. Instead, you’ll find templates that really make a difference in how the creature operates, in its options, etc.

Now, there are a couple of somewhat elemental-themed critters within: E.g. the +1 CR pyroclastic template. To give you an extent of the level of modification you can expect to see from each template within: We have type change to elemental, immunity to crits and flanking and precision damage, vulnerability to cold perfect flight as well as burrow speed. They get a long burn, that adds not only fire damage, but has it last. Their aura causes Con-damage on a failed save and they get a breath weapon. Gentlepersons, that is the least amount of modification you’ll see herein. Yep, beyond the usual play with abilities and standard offense/defense tricks, we get no less than 3 signature abilities. Oh, and you don’t want to add the template, but need a brutal boss ASAP? What about a CR 23 pyroclastic red dragon? AC 39, over 500 HP. Need I say more?

Okay, another way to illustrate the extent to which the respective templates go to make the playing experience unique, would be the Agent of Chaos. One of the abilities bestowed by the template is the chaos field. Whenever someone nearby uses supernatural, SP or spell, the ability automatically causes a mishap, and the ability takes longer effects into account. Here’s the thing: We don’t get one, or 20 different effects; no siree, we actually get a massive 100-entry-strong table of chaotic effects! These are not brief ones either – in total, the table takes up 3 whole pages. And yes, these are not just cosmetic, but mechanically relevant! And that is before the next ability, the warpwave, which can have 20 different effects! Speaking of which: There actually are two feats to further build on the warpwave, so yes, the monsters and templates herein do actually come with supplemental material where appropriate.

Speaking of the monsters: Take the amber template – obviously, this makes creatures adhesive, and the creatures can negate freedom of movement and they can encase and suffocate victims. The sample creature here, lavishly depicted in full color, would be The Glorious Snare – a CR 4 amber unicorn. Yes, it is CE. Yes, it actually is pretty lethal. There are also rules-components that exceed significantly the frame we usually expect from templates: Take the bladeleaf creature. Not just a template for plant creatures, it provides basically a statblock that is based in part on the stats of the respective base creature, representing the animated swarm of leaves. Yes, the template actually allows for swarm-creation. Blood magic creatures can enhance their abilities via killing other beings. In this case, we get no less than 4 new spells to tie in with the template, one of which actually conjures forth fully-statted creatures.

Need some creatures that embody the cataclysmic end of days? Well, what about a template that will do just that, increasing CR to 25? Speaking of super-potent stuff: What about the DIY-Kaiju-template Daikaiju? Divine champions can assume frickin’ avatar form…yeah, there is definitely a ton of amazing, high-concept stuff here.

Fans of the mythos aren’t left out, either: We get a Dark tapestry template and the many-angled template, for example. Really neat! That being said, even though the editing has improved, there are a couple of snafus left: In the many-angled creature’s write-up, we have an erroneous reference to the lostling instead; there’s a statblock that has a double “AC” in the line – this book is not perfect in that regard.

Now all templates are this epic in scope, though: Want a representation of the not-at-all-wholesome prankster? The deadly prankster template offers just that, turning whimsy to being full-blown creepy! Prefer something more twisted? The Mad Harlequin allows you to make your own Joker or works as a nice foundation for Jack-of-Tears-inspired creatures. Want an undead jester instead? Red Jester template. As a fan of things macabre and dark, these struck a chord with me.

Dichotomous creatures are another example I adore: The creature represents a duality, rather than a singularity in morals, allowing for the fusions of e.g. demons/angels. Not happy with all representations of some classic undead? Dread Banshees, Phantom Armors, Revenants, Sayona and Crucifixion Spirits make for brutal, interesting takes on the respective concept, more in line with the level of deadliness than the more standard iterations.

We can find dream killer and false idols represented here, and there is a template to turn you into a gallows-based construct. The grandmaster template comes with an integrated cabal of servants and unique tactical tricks that, in conjunction with similar commander options, make for a deadly threat. Combine these fellows with the destined kingkillers, a template representing figures like Mordred or V, and we have a great coup-d’état scenario. The kingkiller’s wounds are cursed, btw., and not in some pansy manner – they can only be healed under a specific circumstance, which makes the old “the good king lies dying” actually work within the confines of the game! And that is before the sub-ability sections. Oh, and yes, we get kingdom-building-rules-synergy for the kingkiller!

Heartless creatures take a trope from classic fairy tales, creating duplicates…and the only way to truly slay them, as they’re born of negative emotion, is to find the origin. If played to their capabilities, Heartless can make for a potentially world-ending threat…and make for a super-difficult, cool investigation if handled properly. The template only clocks in at CR +1, but frankly, I could see this carry a whole campaign.

Need more forward threats to throw against the PCs? Both hellfire and hero killer should do a good job there. And yes, the latter isn’t called “Hero Killer” for giggles. Are you one of the folks who wished that Iron Kingdoms had continued support for d20-based games? Well, this book contains the iron lich! Speaking of classics: Poison and Deep dragon templates

Now, Pathfinder is an offense-heavy game – it’s much harder to establish a good defense than a good offense – and if you’re a GM whose players just steamroll over most published monsters…well, then you may want to check out the nigh-invulnerable template. This template represents something I loved in 2nd edition, where a few creatures like Greater Wolfweres actually fully regenerated each round, unless killed in a very specific manner. Well, the template represents just that, allowing you to create a classic, nigh-unkillable monster. This template, on its own, could be used to duplicate a more classic horror gameplay. Just modify it to suit the respective creature, add/detract cooldowns, etc. Gold.

It’s not all evil, though: Creatures infused with the fires of heaven or beings that represent the concept of the sublime can make for potent allies for stalwart heroes, with feats like Too Pretty to Kill further enhancing this trope.

If you’re like me and enjoy esoteric, weird or philosophical concepts in your game, then the notion of the timebreaker creature will most certainly appeal to you as well….and even if the concept per se is not something you like to explore theme-wise, the abilities are uncommon enough to warrant integration. If you’re bored of the standard treasure golems, why not use the treasure hoardling to represent the concept of the self-defending treasure? And if you enjoy the aesthetics of the Soulsborne games, you’ll probably also enjoy the walking weapons, the disintegrating void creatures, the walking wastelands. Creepy and eternal, the eye-studded watchmen creatures eternally hold vigil, while witchfire and whispering phantasms speak of dark things just beyond your ken.

Beyond all those templates, the last 30 pages are devoted to appendices: We first get recaps of creature types, then subtypes, then universal monster rules, then templates by CR-adjustment. After that, we get sample monsters by CR. These appendices are incredibly useful and make navigation of the book simple and smooth.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in the original iterations and quite a few rough patches have been smoothed over and properly codified. However, there are more glitches in the book than in comparison to most of Rite’s recent offerings. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard used by Rite Publishing and the pdf comes with a ton of full-color artworks, most of which were previously used for Pathways covers, so yeah – the artworks, while not adhering to a uniform style, are amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As per the writing of this review, I cannot comment on the print version, since I do not yet own it.

Steven D. Russell, Matt Banach, Jonathan McAnulty, Will McCardell, Mike Welham and, of course, Owen K.C. Stephens are the authors of this tome, and they have in common that their names are synonyms for amazing books. All of these authors have, in more than a few cases, gained my highest accolades and they all know what they’re doing.

Now, as a reviewer, I have to admit to not being too happy with the minor verbiage deviations and cosmetic hiccups that have crept into the book; but frankly, I’d rather have a couple of those than a book full of bland standard templates. You see, this book is, in a way, an epitome of the Rite Publishing mentality: We receive a vast array of truly formidable, high-concept templates, with unique critters attached to them. The templates are not content with just representing the base concepts, they utterly embrace them and make them not a side-flavor, but the leitmotif of the creatures. They also do not shirk away from making creatures challenges, which is a huge plus for me. In comparison, the only series of monsters that, in design-philosophy, feels similar, would be Legendary Games’ Mythic Monsters series. Considering the amazing standards set by that series, this should be considered to be high praise indeed.

The creatures and templates within this tome are geared towards more experienced GMs and players, and the book is better off for it. Considering how often I hear from GMs whose players steamroll through many published modules, this book is pretty much required. Beyond the simple challenge, the design philosophy of the templates excels in another level: The book does not just escalate numbers. The templates grant power-boosts, yes, but at the same time, the book emphasizes smart tactics and roleplaying as well: Quite a few of the creatures herein can inspire whole campaigns and make for truly deadly foes, but at the same time, their strong motifs also make sure that clever players are rewarded when tackling them. Your brain and creativity will provide better angles to win than just rolling high with a min-maxed character. Now, that does not mean that folks who like ROLLplaying won’t get a ton of challenges here; quite the contrary. It is interesting, though, that the unique abilities of the templates go one step beyond the usual rules-confinements in favor of making the creatures distinct, unique and rewarding to face.

Now, this massive bestiary may not be perfect, but its ideas can keep your game going for literally decades. In the rare and distinguished air of its predecessor and Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary, I actually prefer it over them, courtesy of the truly distinct, creative and courageous design-decisions that suffuse the templates herein. My final verdict will, in spite of the hiccups here and there, clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This is absolutely worth getting and any GM I know will love pouring over these pages…and start cackling with diabolical glee. This is a wonderful monument to a design philosophy and the man that championed it. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pathways Bestiary(PFRPG)
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Tyranny and Manipulation
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/05/2018 05:41:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive toolkit/grab-bag clocks in at 134 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 131 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so let me state one thing: I never expected to see this book. Way back when Pathfinder was young, there was a 3pp called 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming. The company released several much-beloved books and then went belly under, alas. Purple Duck Games took over, fulfilled the outstanding KS-obligations, and proceeded to make things right, something for which the master of the Purple Duck, Mark Gedak, has my gratitude.

Anyways, back in the day, one of my favorite 4WFG-books was “Strategists & Tacticians”, which pioneered several aspects of the game that we’d later see represented in various ways in the game. In that book and the associated interviews etc., a sequel that would be more GM-facing was teased time and again – this book would be Tyranny and Manipulation, a devil’s grab-bag of GM-tricks and tools. That being said, the material herein is designed to NOT be used by players.

Beyond rules, though, this is, to a degree, a GM-advice book, which is evident from the get-go, as the book proceeds to provide guidance regarding so-called Overlord-campaigns/villains. What does that mean? Well, there is, in essence, a variety Leadership feat for minions, called Overlord, presumably in a nod to the videogame franchise. The interesting component here, as the pdf notes, is that the Overlord feats, minions, etc. are all ways to create back-door tactics and increase villain survivability – in a sense, the design paradigm here is similar as the one of using Legendary Games’s mythic rules, but focuses more on the behavior of the adversary and the resource available, as opposed to individual capacity. As such, responses and mindset are explained for the GM, helping you craft sensible plots in that regard. Motivations and NPC roles and how they can be thought about also help – and while expert GMs are probably cognizant of quite a few of these strategies, it always helps to see them spelled out in a clear and concise manner.

The theme of tyranny is also represented in two new base classes, which primarily focus on being representations of classic NPC-tropes: A shepherd is basically the evil preacher – 6th level spellcasting, physically feeble, but with several abilities to draw power from the flock, these folks are the evil, religious firebrands, the nasty fire-and-brimstone preachers, the corrupt leaders of their flocks of fanatics. The warmonger, in comparison, would be the full BAB-equivalent of the trope, focusing on the cruel captain of mercenaries as one of the central leitmotifs. While I would not use these classes as a PC-class due to their linearity, they are a great foundation as a NPC-class to represents their respective tropes.

Now, the book also sports a massive array of different archetypes and class options, which cover base classes as well as those featured in the Advanced Player’s Guide. Here, the age of the original concept does show a bit – I somewhat bemoan that Occult Adventure’s amazing classes, Vigilante, etc. do not get support here, but considering the history of the book, that was expected. I couldn’t help but chuckle when the alchemist-section noted that the alchemist would be one of the most complex of base classes, when nowadays, it probably wouldn’t even rank as mid-tier complexity. Anyways, all of these classes get a special archetype of sorts that should be helpful for GMs who have problems making characters: There is a simplified version of the respective class features to be found for all of the classes. I am a bit “challenged” here regarding my ability to see the necessity for these options, seeing how I frankly consider the classes all to be rather simple and easy to work with, but I am not a good way of measuring system mastery and GM prowess in that regard. So yeah, these simplified class options will probably find their fans out there.

Now, if I go into my usual level of detail regarding the archetypes and options, the review will easily blast past 10+ pages, so I’ll remain brief in my discussion of the respective concepts. Now, the alchemist gets a ton of new discoveries, many of which interact with Overlord (making minions explosive) and also with mutations. Mutations? Yep, the 4th chapter is actually completely devoted to mutations. Approximately 30 pages classify mutations as frameshifts or lobos and talks about the risks and tribulations of mutation; how it can happen is also noted – from exposure to magic, rituals, oozes and their deliberate creation (Craft (mutation) is a thing now!), the pdf covers quite a few angles there, talking about their use in the game as well as use in conjunction with PCs. They have slots, come with descriptions and a total of 3 stages, as well as Tuner’s notes, commenting on how mutation would be seen in context. Now, as far as natural weaponry is concerned, they classify primary/secondary and take size categories into account, but require defaulting to standards regarding damage types inflicted. Becoming centaurian creatures, bowed frames, swelled skulls – the classics are provided, and as a whole, I found myself very much enjoying the mutation chapter, even though I did bemoan the lack of occult synergy here – psychic magic (or psionics) and mutation go together like peanut butter and jelly, as far as I’m concerned. Well. Or so I’ve heard. I’m allergic to peanuts. Anyways, back to the class options.

The hermetic alchemist can designate a creature to be the one for which the extracts work – that may be him or a patron, which is interesting indeed. The angle is further enhanced with extract capsules. The tuner, as hinted at before, would be the mutation specialist. Barbarians get the caged barbarian, basically a side-kick/beta-type of barbarian, and the screaming chief, who is a representation of the barbarian leader. We get rage powers here as well, which once more tie in with the mutation engine. Bards of the dictator archetype cause Wisdom damage on successful saves versus their bardic performances, which is pretty nasty; jesters are a take on the anti-bard trope, but did not age too well in comparison with other takes on the trope. The cavalier of the order of the monarch is a ruler-feat specialist and the mounted guard is pretty much what it says on the tin. The privileged leader is a cavalier who gets into battle atop a lectica, a portable throne carried by underlings, and as such, is the overlord-y specialist of the archetypes for the class.

The cleric gets the disciple as the underling-representation, and the theocrat as the villain/overlord archetype, which is pretty potent: Channel rapture deals damage to non-believers and heals believers and is untyped. So yeah, would strongly suggest to limit this fellow to NPCs only, just in case you wanted that spelled out. The druid feral master is, bingo, the druid leader, while the mutant avenger makes use of the mutation engine featured herein instead of wildshape. Fighters that are comrades-in-arms would be the underling archetype, while the foot general represents, bingo, the fighter leader. Inquisitors can become cult leaders or sleepers, who get a telepathic link with their patrons – the latter is surprisingly cool for its relative simplicity. The Bakmei monk would be the leader, while the student of the basilisk gets a stunning fist flurry touch attack…which is somewhat dubious, in spite of the 1 save per round caveat. The black knight can self-atone and either rules or serves, which is a surprisingly interesting take on the concept. Farsighted palas are sunder specialists and get to channel force damage. Weird? What about mercies? What does the channel (which also gets combat maneuvers etc.) replace?

Rangers get a new whip-based combat style and a new terrain, which is designated as “hazardous” and encapsulates a wide open plethora of terrain hazards. Yeah, that’s not a good idea. The hazardmaster builds on this. The urban infiltrator is an urban ranger. The guild leader is the rogue lord, the wetworks rogue the killer minion for the rough stuff, who gets a surprisingly interesting variant of sneak, with a lot of different, unique tricks. We get a mutant bloodline for sorcerers and a really cool mini-archetype: The suppressed sorcerer needs his master’s approval to cast. I can see whole societies build on that. Summoners can become mutant masters, replacing summoning with causing mutations and the evolution engine with mutations. Sliders can move allies around the battlefield, which is, once again, pretty interesting for such a small archetype. The gifter witch can bestow boons or banes (doesn’t specify what that ability replaces) and tempt foes; the coven mother is the leader-style archetype. The patsy wizard is the minion archetype, the wizard lord the leader.

Okay, that out of the way, we take a look at suggestions for simplified feats, skills and spells for the purpose of NPCs. If you’re looking for means to simplify, this will be worth checking out.

After this, we get a massive feat chapter, in which, obviously, the theme based on Overlord, is pretty strong. And yes, unlike Leadership, Overlord does not penalize cruelty or sucky behavior/NPC-casualties. Feat-wise, the dichotomy between roles is represented here as well: Ruler and Minion feats are introduced, with obvious uses. These…are brutal. I mean it. Keep them out of PC hands at all costs and use them with care. There is a prerequisite-less feat that doubles the numeric bonuses you gain from allied minions, and the ones allied minions gain from you. Using a full-round action to make the CL of all your minions equal to your own is similarly something that even a halfway capable player can abuse to smithereens. What about a full-round action that nets you an untyped AC-bonus equal to the number of minions of the same ruler within line of sight? Yeah, this does what it should: It fortifies the AC of villains to reflect the minions – but the claim of player-facing transparency should be, quite frankly, just ignored. Think of this as a GM-only book. Now, the feat and spell-chapter spans 29 pages, so no, I’m not going to pick them apart individually. The spells btw. interact in cool ways with the ruler/minion-dynamic. Clone minion. Just sayin’. There also are undead-curing options and spells that make use of aforementioned mutation-engine.

Now, the final chapter of this massive tome would once more be something that holds universal and timeless appeal: 10 pages of hazardous environments, from sentient areas to ones where things fall out of the sky, where leaves rustle to leave, where springs seek to charm you – this section is pure gold, with advanced effects allowing you to exacerbate the severity of the challenge posed. These environments are presented somewhat akin to traps and haunts, with DCs to note them, ACs, damage thresholds required to overcome to damage them, etc. Now, there also is a template/subtype somewhat akin to troops, namely hordes – while one could argue that this would be redundant, the rules are different enough to generate a sense of unease and make it harder for the PCs to know what they’re up against – which is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

The pdf also comes with a bonus-file penned by Mark Gedak, the CR 3 Darlith critter – an adamantine-shelled tentacle-snail-thing, whose adhesive glands can be harvested.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are surprisingly good for a book of this size. I noticed no undue accumulations of glitches – an “e” missing from “morale” and similar hiccups are what can be found here and there. On a rules-language level, the pdf is per se precise, but has an unfortunate propensity for not always specifying which abilities are modified/replaced by archetypes and the like. Interior artworks are full-color and plentiful, though some may be familiar to PDG-fans, and the pdf adheres toa 2-column standard with purple highlights, one that is, as a whole printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with shiny, nested bookmarks.

Ryan Costello Jr., with additional content by Matt Belanger, delivers an interesting tome here. Tyranny and Manipulation, when seen as a grab-bag of the GM, makes for a book that is well worth the asking price. As a reviewer, I am in a bit of a conundrum, though: You see, whether it’s the new classes, the archetypes or the feats – the age shows in quite a few of them, and I thought more than once that it would have been amazing to see this with Occult Adventures/Ultimate Intrigue-contexts. The balancing decisions of quite a few of the options also is dubious at best…which makes sense. This book, as a whole, is intended to increase the survivability of villains, and it does that job admirably. My issues here stem from the insistence of a semblance of player-GM-transparency, which, frankly, isn’t there. A lot of the options feel, here and there, as though they kind of could have been intended for players.

I’m not going to mice words here: As a player-facing book, I’d, at best, consider this to be a mixed bag and a far cry from what I’d consider to be excellence. Beyond the (intentional) balance-issues I’ve found, both archetypes and new classes fall short of the customization options I’d nowadays expect to see – while the two classes do what they’re supposed to do, they are very linear and, compared to current classes, not exactly PC-material.

Here’s the thing: They don’t have to be. As a GM’s toolkit, this is damn amazing and provides something for everyone. While, for example, I don’t like, want or need the simplified classes, someone out there will love them. Similar things can be observed regarding several of the archetypes and feats – quite a few of the tricks herein can, in one swoop, make the difference between a recurring villain and maggot food, courtesy of their power. The mutation and hazard-sections hold universal appeal, though, and may be well worth getting the book on their own.

As a whole, I found myself stupefied by how much I liked this book, in spite of the apparent age of some components; there is a timeless quality to many of the options, at least from a GM-perspective.

You know, I gotta hand it to Purple Duck Games – polishing the material towards the ends of being a GM-toolkit makes a ton of sense and, ultimately, this is what makes the book worthy of recommendation as far as I’m concerned. I did struggle with myself quite a bit, trying to decide whether to rate this as both a player and GM book or as only a GM book. Not finding an easy answer per se, I looked at how the book is advertized: “A GM’s secret weapon”? Okay, that pretty much makes the decision clear.

Because, honestly? It succeeds in that discipline admirably.

So, to sum up my struggles: This is NOT a player’s book. It is not billed as such, nor intended as such. Thus, I will not rate it as such.

It is neither perfect, nor is every component of the book relevant for every game. But chances are that you’ll, even when using only ¾ths or 2/3rds of the book, get more than your money’s worth. The hazard-section alone is gold; the mutations are interesting as well…and you WILL find an archetype that inspires you (enslaved suppressed sorcerer is imho gold…), a couple of feats that’ll help your BBEG survive to fight another day. We have more than 130 pages of material, advice, tricks and options, and while it may be unlikely that you’ll love all of these pages, I’m pretty confident in my prediction that there will be quite a lot that you will love. The bang for buck ratio is pretty damn good here.

You know, I actually did not expect to arrive here. At all. I saw this and thought: “Oh great, obsolete book.” …and got ready for a slog through an outdated splatbook. Color me surprised. It’s not obsolete. It retains its relevance; and while it falls short of the highest echelons of my rating system due to the system having evolved, I still consider it to be a very good book, one that can help enrich pretty much any GM’s campaign in one way or another. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tyranny and Manipulation
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Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2018 04:02:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page kort’thalis glyph, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, first of all, what is this? Well, this is basically a sandbox supplement that is almost system neutral and setting agnostic. What do I mean by this? Well, one way of using this pdf is to use it as a hub in a post-apocalyptic game or as a grab-bag in that regard. The second use would be to make this a rather punk-aesthetics cantina-like region of Mad Maxy proportions in conjunction with scifi RPGs like Alpha Blue. In either way, the free Death Race-mini-game makes for a potential tie-in here. Since the rules-system assumed is Venger’s rules-lite VSd6, you will not encounter a lot of complex mechanical bits; the pdf focuses mainly on setting up the atmosphere.

Now, as a potential supplement for Alpha Blue, this supplement does mention sex and associated themes; a couple of the artworks sport exposed nipples, so if that type of thing offends you, then this may not be for you. That being said, compared with many Alpha Blue supplements, this is definitely on the tame side in that regard.

Following this type of dual use, the pdf starts with two tables: One that contains 6 reasons why starfaring PCs can’t immediately leave and another one assumes the PCs have been exiled as a rite of passage of sorts, being native – this table spans a massive 100 entries and is pretty fun, sporting anything from car phones to the 6th edition DMG, foreword by Venger As’Nas Satanis. Hey, it could happen!

A table of 20 myths and legends speaks of starmen that will unite the tribes, of cannibals in the wasteland and that there may well be Lady Liberty buried somewhere in the sands: “That means this is Earth!?! Wait, everyone already knew that? Oh yeah… never mind then.” Notice something? Yes, this is actually genuinely funny in quite a lot of the entries; in fact, it may be the most fun supplement in that regard since the original (and imho superior) Crimson Dragon Slayer. Have I mentioned the large Hard-on collider? (Yes, puerile. But honestly, I really got a laugh out of this one and puns of that caliber are what I throw around, so yeah…) And yes, dread MeowMeowBeenz may well be the future’s currency… D’unh-D’unh-Dunh!

The pdf also sports a table of 20 mutations, which include growing an additional penis or vagina, flesh like shimmering scales or the ability to hear perverted thought-waves. And vagina dentata or penis-worm-demons. A list of 12 weird customs is also included: Like dosing yourself in orange tang powder to stave off scurvy. Speaking of the gods requires a hand-gesture that also doubles, oddly, as the sequences for checking spacesuit seals. Punks adorn themselves with cock-rat and scorpion-skunk bones. And only cool guys wear fedoras. Purple, obviously, is bad luck.

Next up, we have 8 human factions: Sportos focus on athletic prowess; motorheads love vehicles and worship, obviously, the mystical “Ace of Spades;” they are also at war with the violent Bloods, who are basically post-apocalyptic blood-and-soil extremists. Geeks read, study and homebrew tables and are, basically, intellectuals and gamers. Sluts…are self-explanatory Wastoids are survivalists, dweebies are the guys that do the menial tasks and keep things running. Dickheads…are…well, bastards. Each of the factions lists what they can offer typically to the PCs. 12 rites of passage can also be found and include facing off with foes of other factions, ingesting potentially deadly jell-babies…or having your genitals pierced with bat bones.

Now, we get a really nice overview map of the wasteland (in color, with blood-splotches and faction areas noted), and we learn next about areas of interest: These include the forbidden zone, where the AI God of Many Faces creates mechanical animals to hunt down humanoids; the super-library Strax; the Z’roids that war between red and blue factions (Amazing reference to the old-school, hard-core Z-series)…It should be noted that encountering the Z’roids and how they react is elaborated upon in more depth later.

Hills with electric eyes should be an obvious reference. There are also three post-apocalyptic wizard towers; each of the wizards has a third of The Nocticulent Yearnings of Demons Undreamt, which, when completed, can have the Dark Ones return! In New Albuquerque (or Abulakwurq’ee), the largest city-state, the High Priest of Purifying Flame Mayo-Axe rules with an iron fist; the eponymous starport is vast, and yes, we also get a cantina. The Fuck Off Cantina. The bartender is a humanoid grasshopper. The stalls have no toilet paper, but sea shells and 6 random reactions can be found. 4 additional angles make using this easier.

Now starport and New Albuquerque are connected by Route 666, which makes for a solid way to integrate Death Race, should the random encounters not suffice. Cool: We get 3 monsters: The turquoise worm, the tentacled tentacle and the cactus critter. 6 random hazards can make the trek through the desert more interesting. Speaking of monsters: In the northern mountains, there is the Doom that Came to Taos, the endboss of the region, nigh unstoppable, even with starship weaponry. All tremble before the giant mutant squirrel and its 7d6 dice pool and 3 attacks. OUCH. The treasure is interesting here as well, tying into the story of a hermit named…Obi Wan’k. And there is a command phrase to activate a unique item. Gunter glieben glauten globen. Yes, got that reference. No, it doesn’t mean anything in German, though “Gunter” is a male name.

The town of Abulakwurq’ee also comes with a marketplace section of sorts – a table to determine what the market provides and prices: BBQ crock-rats, jars full of chilies, mind-controlled dildos…and in a less stable economy, price may vary as well, obviously. With the town under the rules of a fanatic, the concept of genetic infidels has been introduced and some claim that the caverns beneath have been taken over by Skull-Face and his death cult. Yes, the reference to several classics and e.g. Six Strings Samurai is probably intended. Yes, he has a plan. And he gets stats, and so do his cultists.

Beyond that, we have several extended adventure hooks that may be blended together, should you want to: From smuggling out contraband past the checkpoint, to…donating to save a dying race to an Alpha Blue archive of dirty secrets…and there is an Android revolution going on. They’re incredibly life-like, look like gorgeous humans…and they are sick and tired of being groped and treated like crap. They are led by former sex slave bot “Doctor Cute Butt”, now known as Doctor X, who is NOT particularly fond of biological life anymore. And honestly…that’s understandable. She and two of her fellows get stats and a couple of warning signs can make the PCs realize the upcoming uprising, doubling as signs to get away…or, well, you know, join? Security droids and not all androids and their role in the proceedings are also explained, including a potentially less extremist ally with complete stats. Once the revolution is unleashed, the SJAs (Social Justice Andoids) will pull out the castration machine…

We close with a 12-entry name-table. It should also be noted that the pdf comes with absolutely phenomenal maps: Glynn Seal provides an absolute GORGEOUS high-res jpg.schematic (300 dpi; 34 x22) of desert rovers (including internal layout etc.) and we also get a similarly phenomenal map of the starport. Even if the raunchy tone of the supplement is something you absolutely despise, the maps may well warrant getting the pdf on its own.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard that sports both blue and desert-orange. The pdf is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Easily my favorite layout in the Kort’thalis catalogue of pdfs. The artworks are mostly b/w and, as always for Kort’thalis Publishing, are top-quality. In short, this is a beautiful pdf. However, the maps are my absolutely favorites this time around, looking even better than the usual, impressive maps we get for Alpha Blue supplements. Glynn Seal outdid himself here. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version that is also smaller: The full-details pdf clocks in at 180 mbs, the more printer-friendly version at ~40. Both versions come with extensive bookmarks for your convenience.

This is Venger As’Nas Satanis at his best. We get relevant stats for everything; creative critters, hilarious tables – everything the heart desires. This is basically a mini sandbox that should fit in seamlessly with most gonzo, post-apocalypse, scifi or space opera games and anything beyond. If the sleazy references don’t bother you, then this will have you grin and chuckle left and right. This can be genuinely funny.

The pdf can seamlessly be dropped into most games with minimum hassle, whether that’s Traveller, Starfinder, etc. – and frankly, even if you are disgusted by anything remotely sexual, then the phenomenal maps still warrant the fair asking price, which was, as per the writing of this review, $6.66.

If you like Alpha Blue, then this is an absolute no-brainer: It is the funniest and best supplement Venger has penned so far; the organization and ease in which it can be used also shows that Venger has learned how to better organize content, making this work much more smoothly. This is one of my favorite offerings in all of his supplements, with only the legendary Purple Islands meeting that level of awesomeness. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If “gonzo wasteland” even remotely strikes a chord with you, get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport
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Starjammer: Medical Marvels
Publisher: d20pfsrd.com
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2018 03:59:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Starjammer clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf is framed by the audio logs of Dr. Karer, which adds a nice touch to the crunch-centric focus of the supplement and serves to liven up the material. The pdf begins with one of the components that I love to see in supplements and never would want to do myself: We take the Technology Guide’s items and classify them according to availability: Unrestricted (UR), Permit necessary (PN), Military Grade (MG) and Highly Restricted (HR); this makes sense in a scifi/space opera context and the pdf proceeds to provide table upon table of items, including the converted costs in credits. And yes, black market price restrictions etc. can be found. How many pages do we get? 9. 9 pages of properly classified items. If you’re like me and want that level of detail, but have no inclination to do all this work yourself, then this section on its own may well be worth getting the pdf for.

After this, we get a total of 13 new pieces of cyberware, all of which also come with their legality codes etc.: Amphibious rebreathers allow for the free breathing under water; auto injectors (Implantation 1) are really cool: They can be programmed to inject potions(pharmaceuticals under specific circumstances and up to 2 may be implanted at once. Really cool. A classic would be the hidden tooth compartment and the leg-based smuggling compartment and we also get ICDs – internal communication devices. Magesense modules act as detect magic and net +2 to determining the qualities of magic items or spells being cast. Magnetic hands let you spider climb on metal surfaces, which may be cool…but oddly, this one does not make disarming etc. harder. Night vision modules nets darkvision 60 ft. (or +30 ft.) and thermographic goggles net basically infravision – though at a penalty to atk versus adjacent creatures and those farther away. Pressurized jet streams net a 30 ft. swim speed (no upgrade if you already have it, alas), but the character can take 10 and take the Run action underwater, which is pretty neat. These must btw. be installed into cybernetic legs. Unlockable joints cut movement in half when unlocked, but also net you +10 to Escape Artist, +5 to Acrobatics to reduce falling damage…and +5 to CMD and DR 5/bludgeoning. The CMD bonus should probably not apply universally and is pretty high, considering the other benefits. One item straight from one of my favorite, most disturbing Black Mirror episodes would be the visual recording module. We also get an option to alter one’s voice.

Now, the pdf takes a cue from Shadowrun with an optional rule regarding cybertech: Usually, it is governed by Int or Con, as you know. Spirit is basically a derivative attribute based on the average of Charisma, Constitution and Intelligence. This score represents a numerical limit for the maximum implantation value a target can take. Implants in excess of that score take up the slot, but do not work and also imposes a whopping -4 to saves. Here’s the catch: When having cybertech implanted, you can attempt a spirit save, DC equal to 10 + implantation value. On a success, only half of the implantation value is applied! Creatures need to have at least two of the ability scores that make up spirit. This variant rule is easy to grasp, elegant and smooth – and for certain campaigns, it is absolutely amazing.

There is another optional rule here that has its origins, to a degree, in Shadowrun: Cyber sickness. Whenever a character implants more cyberware than the lower of either Con or Int, instead of not working, it does work, sans penalty. However, the character must succeed a save based on excess implantation values – on a failure, he contracts stage 1 cyber sickness. Every 30 days thereafter, the save is repeated, with increasing DCs. On a failed save, the affliction progresses to stage 2 and every 7 days require a save. Once the character has succumbed to stage 2 cyber sickness, he turns CE and becomes an NPC. Did I hear cyber-zombie? Both stage 1 and 2 comes with a full-page 12-entry table of effects each. And yes, the rules also include synergy between spirit and cyber sickness. I really liked these variant rules, which once more represent an excellent reason to get this.

Speaking of optional rules: We also get one for pharmaceutical addiction. Not all pharmaceuticals are addictive; those that are, have been designated in their own table. Unlike drugs, addictive pharmaceuticals cause no ability score damage. And yes, combining them may not always be a good idea. We receive a total of 8 such pharmaceuticals: Altraeg enhance melee damage at the cost of precision and AC. It also means you can’t retreat from combat and must fight until killed. Disinteril is an agent to cancel Tardinol. What does that one do? It delays the onset of effects! Yes, this allows you to set up contingency chemical cocktails. Or, you know, stories à la: “You’ve been poisoned…” Yes, I frickin’ love this. Nosufur is a potent pain killer that even nets you DR, but multiple doses make you sluggish and can knock you out or even die. Stablent is basically a Diazepam-like drug that steadies your hands for sniping or similarly delicate tasks. Velofleet enhances initiative and nets you a brief haste-boost, but leaves you fatigued. Vivify keeps you conscious and immune to sleep, and finally, Zorn (German for “Wrath”, fyi!) is an agent based on rabies, catapulting those afflicted by it into a murderous rage.

We get another variant rule here for pharmaceutical and potion miscibility: This includes potential allergic reactions and empowering of effects; while these not necessarily are bad, they also are not as smooth as I’d like them to be. They require some GM-interpretation and are, so far, the weakest component of the pdf, though e.g. the Tardinol variants as one pharmaceutical that interacts with another, is explicitly exempt from these rules. Still, while I like the chaos-factor here, I think that the rules could use better differentiation regarding combinations.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and similarly good on a rules language level – I noticed no undue accumulation of errors. Layout adheres to Starjammer’s nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a few rather neat full color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Ritter delivers a really nice, really convenient toolkit here: This lists alone represent a level of comfort I wouldn’t want to miss and I’m a big fan of the new pharmaceuticals and variant cybertech rules. While not all cybertech implants are perfect, and while the miscibility rules are less detailed and precise than what I’d like them to be, the fact remains that this is a pdf that is most definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starjammer: Medical Marvels
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Xeno File Issue 2: Dyson Alehouse (Starfinder)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2018 03:57:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Amora Game’s Xeno Files-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, this time around, we visit the Dyson Alehouse, which is basically a Western saloon coated in chrome and steel plates, docking stations scattered around…and a single automatic door at the front of the building. Okay, yes, antennae and neon lights are added as well, but still – a really surreal and intriguing place….though the inside is truly futuristic, with every section covered with doors, apertures and portholes and a bar of silver metal, tended by an insectoid android. In order to get a drink, the PCs will have to actually talk to it – and there is only a 50-50-chance it’ll respond in a broken dialect of their language: Basically, they have to get a ticket (visually represented in the file!) from a terminal. In order to get this ticket, the PCs will have to enter gold coins. Nope, not credits, gold coins. 100 of them. For that, the machine will spit out a 10-drink coupon. Where do the PCs get gold coins?

Well, you see, while the countless doors in Dyson’s can lead pretty much anywhere – there are basically fully-functional wormholes, making this a scifi-version of the traditional extra-planar tavern-hub trope. 3 sample more or less fixed destinations are mentioned, including a Valhalla-style meadhall. The tavern does not gain a proper map or the like, but we get a serious amount of different tables: There are 20 drink descriptions and 20 effects, for example: These btw. include falling unconscious sans save, hallucinations, recalling one’s fondest memories or getting transparent skin, etc. Another table lets you determine descriptions, shapes and miscellaneous qualities of a wormhole-door with 20 entries each. Now, each of the myriad rooms that connect to the tavern also has its own, strange rules – and a huge table provides all the material you need to craft adventure-hooks based on them: No less than 100 entries for rules, punishments and clientele of a given room can be found. We also get some advice on how to use the alehouse.

As far as supplemental content is concerned, we get two different articles: the first would be Daji, living goddess of the umvee (including a basic, subdomain-less PFRPG deity-write-up). The second article would be a conversion of the Umvee to PFRPG: +2 Constitution, +2 “Intelligaince”[sic!], -2 Charisma. The race is Medium, kemonomimi subtype. They get +2 to Survival and Handle Animals, limited telepathy…and the caste conversion has some glitches. Alphas mention e.g. Stamina increases per level, which MAY tie in with PFU’s rules, but I’m not sure. Betas get to choose two skills from Bluff, Diplomacy, intimidate and Sense Motive and get +1 to the skills chosen. Omegas get +1 to Knowledge (religion) and (arcana) and +2 to CL-checks and Zeats get +2 to saves versus disease, poison, becoming nauseated and sickened as well as mind-affecting effects. Not a bad conversion per se, but neither an inspired one.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; while I noticed a couple minor and avoidable hiccups in the pretty thin crunch, they did not overly detract from my enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard (with 3 pages using 1-column instead); the pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t exactly need them at this length.

Chance Phillips and Greg LaRose provide a nice, inexpensive, almost system-agnostic supplement here…which may be slightly to the detriment of the supplement. You see, I very much like Dyson’s. The idea and aesthetics are cool – but I found myself wishing we got a map or at least stats for the barkeep. Similarly, being knocked out cold by a drink, sans save, is not something you get to see in SFRPG or PFRPG, for that matter. While easily remedied, it is small hiccups like this that make this feel a bit less refined than what I hoped to get. Similarly, the tie-ins to Starfinder’s mechanics could have been much stronger. While still an inexpensive and fun offering, Dyson’s thus falls into the realm of being a solid, if not perfect little supplement. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Xeno File Issue 2: Dyson Alehouse (Starfinder)
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Into the Star
Publisher: Terra-Sol Games LLC
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2018 03:56:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, first things first: This acts as an introductory adventure for the Twilight Sector and also as a solo-adventure – not “solo”, as one GM and player, but as “choose your own adventure”-solo!

The pdf assumes the use of the Mutant Creation rules – you can play a Mod SIM (scientifically induced mutation, weak social standing -1) or a Natural mutant (NM, weak social standing -2); with Resis Capra, we get a sample pregen for your use if you don’t have the time or inclination to make one yourself. A d66 table for negative and positive mutations is provided, including the respective descriptions.

Upon reading these, you will, alas, notice that this was, obviously, the freshman offering of the company: The white borders around images have not been cropped, partially making text jumbled or overlapping it. E.g. the number for entry #6 is, annoyingly, hidden by an artwork. Also slightly annoying - #49 is basically: Try again! That could be in the respective failure conditions right there sans flipping pages. Entry number 50 is also completely obscured by the b/w-map. And no, I will not tell you what this adventure is about – it makes no sense to cover its details, considering that any coverage would SPOIL the adventure for the only person who’d undertake it. Suffice to say, there is some mystery set up for future scenarios…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, if not perfect – particularly the images overlapping text is annoying indeed. Cartography and interior artworks are b/w and nice. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and the pdf internally hyperlinked – clicking on “go to #X” will put you at the respective entry.

Michael J Cross and Matthew Hope deliver a per se nice, unpretentious solo-adventure here; while it’s not exactly mind-boggling, it makes for a solid form of entertainment for a while. That being said, the overlay issues are really grating and drag down the experience a bit. At the same time, this is FREE. And honestly, as a FREE supplement, this is worth checking out if you need your RPG-fix and are in the mood for some scifi/space opera action. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Star
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Blood Space and Moon Dust
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/01/2018 05:55:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This introductory adventure for Starfinder clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 45 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, first things first: This takes place in the shared Xa-Osoro setting of Everyman Gaming and Rogue Genius Games, to be more precise, in the somewhat lawless region known as Blood Space. In also assumes the PCs have their own tier 1 starship, which is provided, stat-wise. I know that my PCs would want to customize it before play, but yeah. That’s not a downside, just something to bear in mind. We also get 4 pregens for the adventure, which are presented with rules-relevant components and stats, but sans names, background, etc. – the mechanical framework is done, but that’s it. Alas, I noticed pretty serious glitches in one of them. I recommend disregarding them and making your own characters. Just make sure that they know their battle-stations. Huge plus: We get a fully mapped, full-color rendition of the starting ship – and yes, only with keys, but that’s okay – after all, it’s the PC’s ship! Other locations in the module come with b/w-maps and these maps actually come with player-friendly, key-less versions to print out, cut-up and hand out as you see fit. That’s a big plus.

Now, it should be noted that this adventure assumes that the PCs are less of a mercenary bent and that they behave heroically; for neutral or evil PCs, a certain section might well see them abort the module. Not a downside per se, but it’s something to bear in mind. The module sports copious amounts of read-aloud text, helping GMs less versed in flavorful improvisation.

…all right, and this is as far as I can go without delving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, after a brief read-aloud text, we begin immediately with a ship combat, as pirate raiders burst from the hazy red viscera of blood space! What’s that? It’s a cool unique terrain/hazard. It’s weird. Unsettling. And really cool: It’s the metaphysical blood of a dead star/deity and it may corrupt you and turn you mad. Fun! The pirate raider sports btw. a grappling beam, which is something PCs will probably want…but whether or not they lose the dogfight, the next step would be to deal with the mad raiders. And yes, their fervor has mechanical repercussions. That being said, we do not get a map of the pirate raider, so you may have to improvise there. Anyways, exploring the raider-ship is horrific and should conjure flashbacks of Firefly in the best of ways, as well as providing further angles.

Unbeknown to the PCs, the encounter with the pirates has left them with a stowaway, the xaosnarr…which is odd, yes, but may actually be befriended! In, what I take to be a nod to Futurama’s Nibbler, the critter can eat radioactive material and sniff it out – something that may prove to be rather helpful… Why was it aboard the PC’s ship? Turns out that their cargo hold contains a Hematomium artifact that the critter really wanted – dark, radioactive and potentially addictive.

Just two hours away, at the Dust City moon base Lunox, in the pre-paid dock, the PCs are scheduled to take their new drift engine anyways, which may be a good place to research and find out more. And yes, the pdf sports troubleshooting advice if the PCs kill the weird pet, fire the artifact into space, etc. – kudos! Dome 421 is btw. fully mapped and dialogues also provide sample guidelines. Here, the PCs may do a bit of space-sleuthing, find rumors and enjoy a nice cup of KafKafé –made of insects, obviously. This is probably one of the best things about this module: Without resorting to just a ton of exposition, the pdf brims with these small, glorious and inspiring details. Matt Banach’s myth-weaving and indirect storytelling really gets to shine here.

And yes, there is a cantina. With band. Drunken legionnaires. Come on, space bar fight! Once the Pcs have had their dose of exploration and sleuthing, we’ll have the antagonists make their play and attempt to steal the artifact from the cargo hold…or the PCs directly. Once more, there are multiple ways this can go and the wayang operatives (see Starfarer’s Companion for the racial stats) are nothing to sneeze at. Cool: Instead of railroading the PCs into losing the artifact, the pdf does account for their triumph! Big plus there! As an aside: Yes, we get stats for the authority here and the security droids – an optional complication, sure, but one I welcomed.

Either on a chase, or by comm.-device and a mutual agreement, the PCs will have to move outside on a buggy. The lunar surface has only a thin atmosphere, which makes for a complicating hazard here I enjoyed. Moon buggies are btw. stated and en route, the PCs can encounter hydrophagic wasps and silt sharks as they make their way to the security perimeter of atmospheric plant XJ-97, hopefully sans being killed by the security drones. Ultimately, the PCs will have to stop Targ Grazza, a corrupted variant solarian, from attempting to use the facility to disperse the artifact through the atmosphere, creating wide-spread madness, plague and genetic mutations…Oh, Tarq? Weregorilla. The mad solarian follows the dark cult of the Red Spiral…and yes, if that resounds with themes of Dead Space’s Marker, as seen through the lens of space opera, then you’d be correct!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good for the most part, though a few glitches have crept into the pdf, also in rules-relevant contexts. Not enough to impede the use of the module, but they’re there. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a few solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is b/w, apart from the PC ship, and high-quality. As noted, the player-friendly maps are a big plus. The pdf comes with a second version of a smaller size, which makes it more tablet/mobile device-friendly.

Matt Banach’s introductory adventure for Starfinder is inspiring. I had read about Blood Space before in the Star Log.EM-series, but until I read this module, I never got how unique, fantastic and imaginative the whole region is. The idea of strange, anomalous viscera in space, the echoes of bloody madness and the blending of the cute and innocent and the dark managed to evoke this rare sense of cohesion that really stood out. This, in short, reminded me a lot of the world-building of Firefly, without being a copy-cat. We have at once a fantastic section of space that you want to explore, that fires up the imagination; at the same time, it is a precarious line to thread and the cosmos may be a brutal place. Instead of the insistence of later Star Wars movies to cater to the lore established in hundreds of books and the throwing in of weird details to be explained at a later date, this supplement introduces, piece by piece, tiny tidbits of culture, creatures, processes and settings – unobtrusive, organically. It’s a presentation as we’d see it in a good novel, and the pdf is indeed better off for taking that route. Unlike many a supplement, the PCs also get to actually grasp the entirety of the plot, piece it together, etc. – in short, great storytelling.

In short: The adventure is fun to read. While it does sport a few minor hiccups, being an early supplement for a new system, it is one impressive adventure and one I’d wholly recommend checking out. While it may not be perfect, it is a fantastic first adventure foray for the author and I really hope we’ll get to see more from Matt Banach’s pen. My official, final verdict clocks in at 4.5 stars, though the minor issues noted before prevent me from rounding up. If you’re in for the lore (or enjoy the same things I do), then consider this to be 5 stars + seal of approval instead – for me, as a person, this is amazing, but as a reviewer, I can’t rate is as such.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blood Space and Moon Dust
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Save Yourself From Hell
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/01/2018 05:54:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure is intended as a one-shot for Alpha Blue and clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis glyph, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, first things first: This is a scenario for Alpha Blue, the rules-lite scifi-porn-parody game by Kort’thalis Publishing; as such, this contains copious amounts of gonzo and raunchy themes. If the like offends you, then you may want to skip this one. None of the artworks herein sport exposed boobs or primary sexual organs, though – artwork-wise, this is a tame one. Now the module does feature sexual themes, swearing, etc., but it is, as far as I’m concerned, not offensive. Then again, I’m from continental Europe and outrage over sexual themes has always puzzled me to no end. It should also be noted, that while this scenario is intended primarily for Alpha Blue, it can, rules-wise, be run in conjunction with Venger’s other VSd6-based games.

Speaking of which: The pdf provides a rules-update for all VSd6 games: Pulling a stunt. Once per session, a player may pull off a profession-related task without having to roll. This ability refreshes when dice pool comes up as triple 6s or when the character does something over-the-top-awesome and in-character. Stunt points may not be hoarded – you get one. As Venger probably would say: “Use it wisely, hoss.”

Now, as you could glean from the title, this module is basically a not-100%-serious take on the classic genre of scifi-horror in the tradition of many a darker tale, Event Horizon, etc. – but seen through the over-the-top lens of Alpha Blue. If you’re looking for cosmic bleakness, this is not what you’ll get here. Now, as with all kort’thalis offerings, we do get supplemental tables 12 male and female names, and 4 personality types. These cover: “Dick”, “Pussy”, “Asshole” and “Just Plain Weird.”

There is one further thing that sets this pdf apart from other Alpha Blue scenarios: Players don’t automatically get to steal the spotlight; instead, since a leitmotif of the adventure is reopening old wounds, we get a table of emotional traumata. When players vocalize the internal struggle and RP that aspect, they get double the dice pool. Each such instance must be fresh, so not rehashing of the same theme over and over. Towards the end, closure may be achieved – which once triples the dice pool. These do have a risk: If none of the dice come up higher than 2s, the PC goes berserk for 3d6 minutes, as trauma overwhelms him. The results here are represented as a table in the back of the adventure/epilogue, which makes sense when we get there. From an organizational point of view, a page number or getting that one in the front still imho would have made sense, but that as a presentation nitpick.

Now, since quite a few of my readers are interested in that component: No, we do not get an adventure synopsis or flow-chart or the like; in order to run this module, you should read it in its entirety and preferably, take notes.

Okay, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only SDMs around? Great! The pdf begins as the PCs are in a spa and hear a lady calling, who is currently getting a colonic irrigation with a blue liquid; she wants a towel…and there is a solid 50% chance of getting hit with the blue stuff. EW. The stuff causes hair loss, smells and hampers the ability to recall numbers. The lady’s name is Micayla, and yes, her preferences are noted.

Shortly thereafter, the PCs get a communication that there’s trouble brewing in hell’s Cluster – three potential hooks are provided to motivate the PCs to travel there, and more specifically, the friendly Eye of Asmodeus region. Contact with the X-III has been lost; this would be an abyssal-class spaceship with deep-space exploration track records; it is currently sitting on the periphery of the dread Eye and dimensional instabilities may be measured.

Slightly odd regarding presentation sequence: A key NPC of the ship is detailed before the PCs even get there: That would be Matey. Matey is the ship’s cat and just as intelligent as a humanoid. Oh, and capable of talking. Yes, this is the time where you pull out all those old Red Dwarf episodes and stock up your array of cat-like behavior, jokes, etc. How did he get off the ship? No idea. We don’t even get a random table here. Sequence-wise, the fellow would have made more sense later.

Anyways, before the PCs even reach X-III, they will be attacked by the bounty hunter Tengmarr Kouth, who seeks to blow them to smithereens with his gang of crystalline Q’xaanzee natives…who btw. are immune to energy weapons. Ouch. Nice: We get proper stats for them all. Before jumping to light speed, the PCs will have to refuel, but thankfully, there is a space truckstop just a few parsecs away. 4 sample complications/events can make the stay more interesting…and this is Alpha Blue: Yes, cheap sex can be had. Not all will be nice and dandy, though: Two one-eyes, barrel-shaped feathered lifeforms will demand passage to Hell’s Cluster – Gweez and Gwaaz are weird and can potentially commandeer the PC’s vessel! Further complicating the proceedings, the PCs will get a stowaway, who is carrying an omega device bomb taken from the space Muslims of the Caliphate – he wants to detonate the bomb in safety. Meanwhile Federation and Caliphate will want the bomb back. None of these passengers get stats, which is particularly weird concerning Gweez and Gwaaz, who are actually cultists that will try to turn PCs into sushi rolls sooner or later.

Once in hell’s cluster, the PC’s ship will probably be hit by a huge jar of raspberry jam and then attacked by kung-fu marauders. Here, we get a basic ship to ship combat, but oddly, no stats should the PCs attempt to fight off boarding crews. Finally reaching the vicinity of X-III, the PCs intercept an escape pod, where the almost naked Tana Drus tells the PCs about the X-III’s crew preparing for communion with the demons past the Eye…she is not in a good state and infused with demonic energy, potentially a big issue. The black hole seems to bring forth demonic energies, causing first strife, and then later full blown human sacrifice and worse.

Now, I noted before that the two aliens are cultists, and they may actually open a two-way portal to the X-III. Worse, the ship is…actually Hellraiser in space. There are demon-possessed spacers and three zenobites (stats for both included) that can be vanquished…as an aside, really hilariously: They are deadly, but if mocked sufficiently, they flee. Loved that! But ultimately, sooner or later, an anomaly will happen. The black hole starts to close and when it looks like it disappears, it instead turns into a dimensional rift, from which Cthulhu emerges. Yes. You read right. Cthulhu. No, you can’t blast him apart. Not even with kewl laz0rz. The only surefire way to save the universe, is to detonate the omega device, destroying the whole starsystem. Before Cthulhu emerges, obviously. This may or may not entail staying aboard the X-III or being blown to bits by the detonation. Now all of this sounds pretty cool, and it honestly is – but at the same time, the whole finale, where the pieces come together, feels more sketch-like than it should. The organization here could be tighter; as written, we have all these pieces – how exactly they come together is left pretty much up to the SDM. If you can pull it off and make the pieces fit, then it’s really over the top and fun. If not, well, then it can become a bit of a mess.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed a few minor typos. Layout adheres to a really nice full-color 2-column standard with blue veins and bloody splotches. Interior art is a mix of full-color and b/w-artworks, all of which are original pieces. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version - kudos.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ “Save Yourself From Hell” is a bit of an odd one; if you expected straight scifi horror, then this one will not deliver; instead, this should be considered to be a PARODY of the scifi-horror genre. Hellraiser in space, event horizon and a ridiculous amount of bad, bad scifi-mythos stories all get their due. MeowMeowBeenz are important. Anyways, once you understand that (and it’s pretty much evident from the get-go if you know Alpha Blue), the module can become really fun…but it feels less focused than what we usually get from Venger. The majority of the module takes place on the way to the adventure and is devoted to set-up, with the payoff resting almost exclusively in the hands of the SDM.

Whether you like that or not remains a matter of taste. Against this backdrop, the emotional trauma/closure-stuff feels oddly inappropriate. The module is utterly over-the-top and pretty ridiculous, in a good way. Adding heartfelt drama…just doesn’t fit. The serious, psychological horror-angle implied here simply does not work; it’s anathema to the parody over-the-top style of the supplement. This aspect feels like an afterthought, and frankly, I’d strongly suggest you disregard it.

The lack of stats for the kung-fu marauders is another thing I bemoan here. Most crucially, unlike e.g. Battle for the Purple Islands, the organization makes frankly less sense; it throws together amazing ingredients, but doesn’t really tell you how they best fit together, requiring that you do the hard parts in combining them, sequence of events, etc.. This is, per se, not something I dislike, but it is something that makes the supplement work more like a set-up, like a toolkit, and less like an adventure in the classic sense…at least in the final act. If the organization were tighter, this probably wouldn’t frazzle me, but as presented, the end feels abrupt and requires that you suddenly remember multiple dangling loose threads, which you then need to somehow weave together.

After the detailed voyage, we arrive in Act III, expecting that the play will last for at least 2 more acts…and then find out that Act III is indeed, the finale. This reminded me somewhat of series that were cancelled suddenly, requiring that all is jammed into the two final episodes…and as such, that may even be intentional.

That being said, I wholeheartedly recommend Rafael Chandler’s system neutral “Starship from Hell” supplement to flesh out the details of the X-III and provide the climax that this module per se deserves.

Oh boy. How in the 9 space hells should I rate this? The issue is really complex. The content’s organization is somewhat lacking and we don’t get stats for all relevant NPCs, which are detriments. The finale, similarly, feels sudden and less developed/detailed than I’d like it to be. At the same time, this book does the parody-angle really well and the finale, fragmented though it may be, can congeal into a slimy, gorgeous, over the top experience. Ultimately, whether you like this or not will depend on your angle: If you want a ready-made adventure, then the structural shortcomings and abrupt ending may be jarring. If you’re looking for an adventure-outline of sorts, are willing to develop your own finale and how things come together, then this may work rather well for you. As a person, I found myself annoyed by the issues in the structure and organization, which did detract from the enjoyment the hilarious hodgepodge of scifi-horror clichés otherwise generated for me.

Ultimately, this supplement is worth the low and fair asking price for what it is; at the same time, it very much feels like it falls short of what it could easily have been. This feels like the first part of a two-parter, where the second part has been torn away and reduced to the bare minimum. This could have easily carried twice the page-count, and in such a case, it could have easily made 5 stars + seal. With aforementioned file by Mr. Chandler, you can expand what’s here to emphasize the horror of the finale, before you bring the full-blown ludicrous anomaly that initiates the end of the module. In such a case, this can be glorious…but I need to rate what’s here…and what’s here is a bit weaker than what we usually get from Venger. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Save Yourself From Hell
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