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The Complete Vivimancer
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome Productions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2017 11:03:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 85 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages adhere to a 1-column standard and the pdf is formatted for an 6'' by 9'' (A4)-booklet size-standard - if you print this out, you could potentially try to fit multiple pages on one sheet of paper, but I would not recommend that here, due to some elements of the layout. Instead, I'd suggest going for the PoD-softcover. My review is primarily based on the print version of this supplement, which was kindly provided by one of my patreons, with the task of finishing a review of this pdf at my earliest convenience.

All right, so the default OSR-rules-set for this supplement would be Labyrinth Lord, though conversion to other rules systems is pretty simple. The vivimancer class gets d4 HD, 9-level spell progression and behaves basically like a magic user specialist. In basic games, only humans may be vivimancers, while in advanced games, elves and half-elves also qualify, capping at 11th and 10th level, respectively. For our convenience, the level-progression and save-tables have been reproduced.

Magical research is unlocked at 9th level, and 11th level usually provides a stronghold. House-rule options for the transparency between vivimancer and magic-user tricks are included. Some vivimancer spells reference a save vs. polymorph, which is treated as the petrify/paralysis save.

But what is a vivimancer? Something absolutely awesome. I mean, everyone, at this point, knows necromancers. Well, vivimancers are just as creepy, if not more creepy: Scientists of life, often disturbing and amoral, who can twist the very forces of life to their very whims. Existing in the borderland between science and magic, they allow you to blend the weird and icky; or add science-fantasy to the game...or add some other thematic ideas. The magic per se can be reskinned in a variety of ways...but before we get to the magic per se, let me mention something I adore here:

You see, the spells the vivimancer gets reward planning and consideration - but they often require a bit of forethought: The concise rules for laboratories and their constructions is a dream. They fit on one page, are crisp and can easily be tied into e.g. LotFP's magic-user lab-rules. They also present a resounding rebuttal to the notion that OSR-supplements don't need or require precise rules or that they restrict imagination - this page is beautiful. Similarly, the concise rules for experimental subjects and tissue samples taken are BEAUTIFUL. Oh, and guess what? All rules fit on 3 pages, 4 with the table. And they can't be misread. Old-school designers, take a cue here. This is how it's done.

Now, the beauty of this crisp, extremely professional presentation continues with the spells:On the left-hand side of each page, you have the spell-name, duration and range, and if applicable, suggested houserules. Better yet: Houserules do actually include observations in how they impact game-balance, allowing the referee to make informed decisions about their inclusion. Now the spells are organized by spell level first, alphabetically second, and they are not only creative, their balance with regular magic-user options is pretty much impeccable as well: From the utility tricks like a not 100% reliable means of detecting poison (so no, it doesn't wreck any plots) to binding familiars; from conjuring forth creeping homunculi to warp the bones of your victims, the spells evoke a very powerful leitmotif of biomancy: The manipulation of flesh to form pockets, to control hormones, to enhance senses or meld the flesh of victims all evoke a sense of the delightfully uncanny, with a tint of body horror thrown in for good measure. Surges of temporary life, accelerated bodily functions, absorbing faces (!!!), using insects as messengers - the classic tropes of witches etc. are blended with the strange and evocative for spells that fit perfectly and that feel somewhat...real, in lack of a better term. The magic generally feels like it could work as a strange form of pseudo-science, adding a sense of almost occult legitimacy to the spellcasting tradition.

Staunching or speeding up the flow of blood, reversible anthropomorphism, growing new appendages...have I mentioned the spell to decode the genome of a target? Artificial creatures can thus yield the name of their creator from their genome, while enhancements thereafter provide a similarly cool angle to pursue Reverting biology can be pictured as a means to offset the power of the vivimantic arts - with a sole focus on preparation and the modification of living tissue, vivimancy is potent, but ultimately, it is balanced ingeniously and perfectly via its limited focus and the means to undo its radical incisions into nature. And yes, dear fans of Jack Vance, the vats of creation, to a degree, represent the backbone and heart of this tradition. Need I honestly gush more about how amazing these spells are? I do? All right: When I read this book, I immediately felt compelled to convert the spells to ALL of the rules systems I play in. I absolutely adore this tradition and its superbly creative spells. Have I mentioned the 9th level option to create an artificial intelligence? The CONCISELY-presented psionic awakening? Have I mentioned how much I love how PRECISE and yet open the crunch herein is? And yes, if you don't have a preferred psionics system, an option for the like is included among the appendices.

The book is not just the vivimancer and his spell-list, though: We also get a wide array of thematically-concise "magic items" - which may well be creatures in this case. Let me mention some names - they're pretty much all you need to know: Assassin bug. Brain leech. Lockroaches. The latter are btw. stick insects that you can use to open locks. This could be straight out of a China Miéville novel. Lab equipment. Seeds that grow huts. A whole class of magical lenses. Let me quote something here: "This [...] tree [...] looks like a normal tree, bedecked in exotic yellow flowers. It is only upon closer inspection that one may notice that the tree is actually covered in a network of blood vessels. Indeed, if the tree's flesh is cut, it will bleed..." And yes, they produce healing fruit...though eating that is a rather gruesome, bloody affair...Mandrake types, philters that prevent or enhance the fertility of the target creature (allowing for those delightful interspecies crossbreeds...), solvents that reduce to essential salts... these items are amazing in their creativity, their focus, their themes. Wands that instill spasms can also be found.

Oh, and yes, animal and plant mutations all get their own page of tables for randomly determining them, and we get a basic spell-list with 12 spells per level as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to a crisp and cleanly-presented 1-column b/w-standard with nice sidebars. The b/w-artworks sport the same style as the cover and can sometimes contain a bit disturbing visuals - but that lies within the nature of this magic. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a major comfort detriment that costs the electronic version 1 star - I'd strongly suggest going for the print version. The softcover has the name on the spine and is well-made, so yeah, get that one.

Gavin Norman's "The Complete Vivimancer" is a joy to behold: Precise and to the point, it provides the glorious innovation that you can find in OSR-gaming and supplements it with tight, crisp and precise rules. The balancing of the spells makes sense; the spells are glorious and the magic items chapter is similarly glorious. In short, this supplement is FANTASTIC. This book is worth getting. Heck, even if you don't like OSR-gaming, this should be worth its asking price: The material is inspired and warrants conversion. Yes, that good. Fans of dark fantasy or weird fantasy, LotFP, DCC, etc. should definitely consider getting this gem. In fact, if what I mentioned even remotely strikes a chord with you, then get this. I know that NONE of my campaign settings will ever lack the art of vivimancy. As an aside: A conversion of these guys may actually make running a cleric-less/divine magic less setting easier.

This is absolutely fantastic and one of my all-time favorite old-school rule-supplements. It should be part of the library of any self-respecting OSR-referee. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete Vivimancer
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Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome Productions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2017 11:01:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 138 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 131 pages of content, so let's take a look!

First things first: This review is mainly based on the softcover, though I do also have the pdf. Both were provided by one of my patreons for the purpose of a review at my leisure. The pdf is formatted for an approximately 6'' by 9'' (A5)-booklet-size and you can, if you choose to print this out, fit up to 4 pages on a single sheet of paper.

The default rules-set assumed by this supplement would be Labyrinth Lord, and the material, over 160 new spells codified for three magic-user specialists, is not just simply lobbed at the reader: Instead, we begin this book with a series of considerations for the referee (or labyrinth lord) to add these to the game: The book provides exemplary guidance in that regard, talking about consequences of introducing this material. Similarly, there is an assortment of options to tweak the game using these spells: From fallible scroll-us to limited or reduced chances to learn, the different options are presented in a concise and crisp, exemplary manner, providing perfectly concise rules for both Basic and Advanced era games . The notion of spells as treasure is also explained in a rather detailed manner - it has been a while since I felt that a book offered guidelines this concise.

The book, generally, sports 3 different sections: The Elementalist chapter would be first, and the design notes continue the theme of guidance and explanation, providing an insightful expansion to the subject matter at hand. The elementalist, just fyi, does not simply focus on one element, but is a master of the classic 4 - and while elemental summoning is very much a potent aspect of the class, the spells do not just run the gamut of the classics, including the high-powered option to conjure the deadly and hard to control brimstone monolith, or with power word: petrify. What about a bubble of atmosphere? The power to lift land into the air to generate floating castles and the like? Yes, this is an evocative section.

We also receive a great selection of items - amalgams of contradictory elements, the ashes of leng that blow away with visions...some cool items here.

OSR-gamers who have been clamoring for a crisp and precise representation of the necromancer can similarly find that within this book: From binding spirits to choking targets, pronouncing rotting curses or taking on the visage of a corpse, the spells cover the classics, beyond the standard undead control tricks and death magic. Exterminating vermin, preserving bodies...and of course, zones of weakening, death magic and the like can all be found for these guys here.

Once again, we do get a selection of magic items, including the blood jewels of Orcus, magic shrouds, rules for skeleton keys (literal ones) and variant shrunken heads are cool - and yes, there are teeth that you can plant to grow skeletons...yeah, the material does quote classic tropes, and does so well.

Regarding the presentation of the spells, we have spell, name, spell level, subtypes/schools listed, as well as range and duration. Spell presentation is by level first, alphabetic second. The final (and imho by FAR best) chapter of the book details the vivimancer - though unfortunately not all of it: Still, this is a great teaser, though if you're primarily interested in the class, get "The Complete Vivimancer" instead. It has more material that that contained within this book.

The book closes with a brief bestiary, with b/w-artworks for all critters - death cap fungi, para-elemental stats, elementines (mini-elementals), flame agarics, monstrous fly agarics, fluid beasts, soil beasts, wind horrors and leprous dead make for a solid array of creatures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. The content is crisp, concise and well-balanced. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard. The artworks with the full version are really nice b/w-pieces (though it should be noted that a few show exposed nipples in a non-erotic manner, so if you're prude about that, bear that in mind). The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment for the electronic version. The softcover I have sports its name on the spine and is a nice little book - I'd recommend print, if in doubt.

Gavin Norman's massive collection of magic tradition is an inspired look at three iconic traditions. It is extremely fair to allow the customers to get the art-less FREE version to check out the content, so if you're in doubt whether it is something for you, check it out. That being said, I am frankly not 100% sure I'd get this again. The book is crisp and its precise rules-language is, for the most part, really well-made and professional. However, the best part of the book, at least to me, is the vivimancer...and to get the most out of this guy, you should get "The Complete Vivimancer"; in direct comparison, this book feels more like a teaser.

This also extends to presentation and layout - the vivimancer book just looks better to me, with its crisp layout.

While this sounds negative, it shouldn't be - this is an amazing book of OSR-magic, with even old and tired tropes like necromancers and elementalists getting some concise and well-made, creative options.

So, how to rate this? Should you get this?

Well, I'd STRONGLY suggest getting at least the art-free version and leaving a tip - if you like what you see, get the book. If you're like me and a jaded bastard who has seen too many books and thus isn't too into the first two chapters, check out the vivimancer chapter and get the phenomenal book on this specialist.

All right, then...how to rate this? To me, at least, this is a good book - but a third of it can be found in the vivimancer book, in a greatly expanded manner. For a FREE book, this is phenomenal - that version most assuredly deserves 5 stars, in spite of the lack of bookmarks. The commercial version is cool, but not necessarily a must-own in my book. My final verdict for the regular version will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition
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Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition (No Art)
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome Productions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2017 11:00:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 138 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 131 pages of content, so let's take a look!

First things first: This review is mainly based on the softcover, though I do also have the pdf. Both were provided by one of my patreons for the purpose of a review at my leisure. The pdf is formatted for an approximately 6'' by 9'' (A5)-booklet-size and you can, if you choose to print this out, fit up to 4 pages on a single sheet of paper.

The default rules-set assumed by this supplement would be Labyrinth Lord, and the material, over 160 new spells codified for three magic-user specialists, is not just simply lobbed at the reader: Instead, we begin this book with a series of considerations for the referee (or labyrinth lord) to add these to the game: The book provides exemplary guidance in that regard, talking about consequences of introducing this material. Similarly, there is an assortment of options to tweak the game using these spells: From fallible scroll-us to limited or reduced chances to learn, the different options are presented in a concise and crisp, exemplary manner, providing perfectly concise rules for both Basic and Advanced era games . The notion of spells as treasure is also explained in a rather detailed manner - it has been a while since I felt that a book offered guidelines this concise.

The book, generally, sports 3 different sections: The Elementalist chapter would be first, and the design notes continue the theme of guidance and explanation, providing an insightful expansion to the subject matter at hand. The elementalist, just fyi, does not simply focus on one element, but is a master of the classic 4 - and while elemental summoning is very much a potent aspect of the class, the spells do not just run the gamut of the classics, including the high-powered option to conjure the deadly and hard to control brimstone monolith, or with power word: petrify. What about a bubble of atmosphere? The power to lift land into the air to generate floating castles and the like? Yes, this is an evocative section.

We also receive a great selection of items - amalgams of contradictory elements, the ashes of leng that blow away with visions...some cool items here.

OSR-gamers who have been clamoring for a crisp and precise representation of the necromancer can similarly find that within this book: From binding spirits to choking targets, pronouncing rotting curses or taking on the visage of a corpse, the spells cover the classics, beyond the standard undead control tricks and death magic. Exterminating vermin, preserving bodies...and of course, zones of weakening, death magic and the like can all be found for these guys here.

Once again, we do get a selection of magic items, including the blood jewels of Orcus, magic shrouds, rules for skeleton keys (literal ones) and variant shrunken heads are cool - and yes, there are teeth that you can plant to grow skeletons...yeah, the material does quote classic tropes, and does so well.

Regarding the presentation of the spells, we have spell, name, spell level, subtypes/schools listed, as well as range and duration. Spell presentation is by level first, alphabetic second. The final (and imho by FAR best) chapter of the book details the vivimancer - though unfortunately not all of it: Still, this is a great teaser, though if you're primarily interested in the class, get "The Complete Vivimancer" instead. It has more material that that contained within this book.

The book closes with a brief bestiary, with b/w-artworks for all critters - death cap fungi, para-elemental stats, elementines (mini-elementals), flame agarics, monstrous fly agarics, fluid beasts, soil beasts, wind horrors and leprous dead make for a solid array of creatures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. The content is crisp, concise and well-balanced. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard. The artworks with the full version are really nice b/w-pieces (though it should be noted that a few show exposed nipples in a non-erotic manner, so if you're prude about that, bear that in mind). The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment for the electronic version. The softcover I have sports its name on the spine and is a nice little book - I'd recommend print, if in doubt.

Gavin Norman's massive collection of magic tradition is an inspired look at three iconic traditions. It is extremely fair to allow the customers to get the art-less FREE version to check out the content, so if you're in doubt whether it is something for you, check it out. That being said, I am frankly not 100% sure I'd get this again. The book is crisp and its precise rules-language is, for the most part, really well-made and professional. However, the best part of the book, at least to me, is the vivimancer...and to get the most out of this guy, you should get "The Complete Vivimancer"; in direct comparison, this book feels more like a teaser.

This also extends to presentation and layout - the vivimancer book just looks better to me, with its crisp layout.

While this sounds negative, it shouldn't be - this is an amazing book of OSR-magic, with even old and tired tropes like necromancers and elementalists getting some concise and well-made, creative options.

So, how to rate this? Should you get this?

Well, I'd STRONGLY suggest getting at least the art-free version and leaving a tip - if you like what you see, get the book. If you're like me and a jaded bastard who has seen too many books and thus isn't too into the first two chapters, check out the vivimancer chapter and get the phenomenal book on this specialist.

All right, then...how to rate this? To me, at least, this is a good book - but a third of it can be found in the vivimancer book, in a greatly expanded manner. For a FREE book, this is phenomenal - that version most assuredly deserves 5 stars, in spite of the lack of bookmarks. The commercial version is cool, but not necessarily a must-own in my book. My final verdict for the regular version will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition (No Art)
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Everyman Minis: Yroometji
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2017 04:37:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review. Furthermore, I received an advance copy in order to have the review done on release day.

So, what are the Yroometji? Kangaroo-folk. They gain +2 Con and Cha, -2 Int, are Medium, get low-light vision, +2 to Acrobatics made to jump (and are always treated as having a running start, +1 natural AC and a natural slam attack (cosmetic complaint - you need to resort to default - it does not specify being primary or secondary) at 1d4 bludgeoning and piercing damage and a crit-range of 19-20 when using their feet, or 1d6 bludgeoning damage with the tail. Readied attacks with the tail deal double damage versus charges, as though it had the brace quality. Additionally, they have a pouch that can hold up to 1 cubic foot volume or 10 pounds and if no armor or clothing restricts access to the pouch, transference of an item to or from it requires a swift or move action. Armor that grants pouch access costs slightly more and what constitutes restrictions to pouch access is concisely defined. All in all a solid race that should not provide any problems, regardless of campaign tone or power-level.

Now, as has become the tradition with Everyman Gaming's take on races, this is not where we leave off - the yroometji depicted here are more than what you'd usually expect, with notes on physical descriptions, life cycles, cultures, religion, etc. all being depicted in surprising and neat depth for a pdf of this size. Favored class options for brawler, skald, shaman and druid have been included.

Speaking of brawler: The first of the racial archetypes within this pdf would be the Five-Strike Slugger for yroometji brawlers. These guys reduce their proficiency regarding weapons to simple weapons and may not use monk or close weapons as part of their flurries, but may use their slam attack in conjunction with it and also deliver abilities that require unarmed strike use with it. Nice: Instead of maneuver training, these guys can choose combat or psychological maneuvers from a list and add them to the effects of slam attacks, with 3rd level unlocking the first of these and every 4th level thereafter providing a new one. This ties in with the ability that replaces weapon mastery, namely to gain an unarmed strike or slam attack at full BAB minus 5 after affecting a target with a psychological or combat maneuver. And no, it can't be abused in combination with flurries or the free maneuver added to slam attacks, thanks to an explicit piece of rules-language.

The second archetype would be the ancestral hunter for, bingo, the hunter class. Instead of animal focus, these hunters get to choose from a wide array of spirit foci, ranging from knowing the way to communication, blur, etc. - 8th and 15th level provide upgrades for the spirit choices. 3rd level yields the shaman shapeshift hey, with minutes of spirit aspect being usable to shapeshift, but nice vice versa. Additionally, the companion may be thus transformed into a Medium or Small humanoid while under the effects of spirit aspect. This replaces the bonus feat gained at 3rd level. Flavorful and interesting, rather cool tweak of the hunter class!

The race also comes with a 2-feat mini-feat tree based on Vital Strike: hop on the tail and execute a particularly potent feat slam, with Acrobatics acting as a means to increase damage - but thankfully capping via the weapon damage dice rolled. pretty interesting -while I'm usually not a big fan of this type of feats, it does work rather well here. The follow-up feat, Disembowling Kick, adds Con bleed to such assaults - ouch!

Really cool would be the 2 spells included: Handy pouch makes your pouch act as a variant handy haversack and pouch ally lets you shrink down allies and carry them in your pouch! Amazing!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features a neat full-color artwork. The pre-release copy I have has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas' yroometji are actually a mechanically interesting race that also comes with an interesting flavor and theme; I haven't seen the kangaroo folk done well before and the visuals of the race are compelling, juggling complex concepts. The spells in particular are gold and I really like the race - in fact, I like it so much I hope it'll get full Compendium treatment with details galore on these unique fellow and their culture. You see, my only gripes regarding this pdf ultimately are due to the format: We don't get age, height and weight tables, alternate racial traits and the like and while we do receive a glimpse at a compelling race, that's all there is, all that this humble pdf can provide - when the race is so cool it deserves more. Don't get me wrong - it is amazing to see how much content and flavor can be found within this mini, but it still left me wanting a bit more and I hope a lot of you will check this out, so we do get a massive book on the race. Still, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 stars for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Yroometji
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Everyman Minis: Kumiho
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2017 04:34:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman mini clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, first things first: After the introduction, we learn what a kumiho is - in the context of the game, it is a take on the fox spirit that is neither benevolent, nor malevolent, blending the different takes on the trope from real world mythology.

The Kumiho is also something you should FEAR. It is Tiny. You'll stop laughing once you take a look at the impressive defensive capabilities of this CR 17 shapechanging magical beast that can stop time, has a breath weapon, sneak attack and may rip the heart out of the breast of unsuspecting beings...oh, and they are both kami and kitsune, which provides a wholly unique array of class skills, making the build as a whole a rather impressive affair indeed! Have I mentioned that, while casting spells as a sorceror, they may substitute emotional components for their spells, but still have them count as arcane?

Really cool: The pdf goes the extra mile and sports notes on how to make less potent kumiho, by listing the abilities and when they're gained based on the HD of your custom kumiho. Really cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's two-column b/w-standard for the series and the full-color artwork of the creature, as seen on the cover, is cool. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas' take on the kumiho blends the different mythologies well, creating a deadly and worthwhile nature spirit that can easily stand in for "THE fox-spirit", as opposed to a playable kitsune. The kumiho makes sense, is deadly and should put the fear of Tiny threats into the hearts of players. The scaling notes add further oomph to the appeal of the pdf. Well-done, cool and evocative, this delivers all you can ask of such a humble pdf. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Kumiho
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Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2017 04:31:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This compilation of side-trek modules for 5th edition clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we go any further, one important note: You need the Tome of Beasts, Kobold Press' massive and gorgeous hardcover of 5e-monsters to properly use this supplement, as statblocks have not been reproduced herein.

Structure-wise, these encounters/sidetreks are pretty easy to grasp: We get a background and then the different Adventure Elements that make up each sidetrek - usually, but not always, 2 - 4. These can all be combined or modified - here, we can find fight choreography, mini-events to keep modules dynamic and complications. Basically the moving parts, which come, where applicable, with read-aloud text. The areas themselves are also covered this way and each of the respective sidetreks gets its own full-color map, with one of them being isometric. The maps sometimes have fitting annotations and graphical elements like scribbled symbols, blood-spatters and the like.

All right, this out of the way, let us take a look at the modules within! This, unsurprisingly, entails SPOILERS. Potential players should most certainly jump ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

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

The first mini-module herein would be "The Impregnable Fortress of Dib", intended for characters level 1 - 2. The eponymous "Dib" would btw. be a goblin who, with his buddies, has a penchant for wrestling. Goblins being goblins, this entailed copious destruction and thus, these guys were exiled from their clan, building a fortress (with pitiful, half-finished moat) from a tipped over, abandoned wagon. It is this "fortress" that makes the short adventure interesting, for the fortress behaves somewhat like a creature of its own, with initiative and attack/defense options - and from burning it down to tipping it over, the means to deal with it are nice. Oh, and below is a brief cavern-complex. All in all, a creative and fun sidetrek!

The second quest is for level 1 - 3 characters and is called "The Marrow Mines" - in it, the PCs explore, starting from a cavern, the skeletal wing of a titanic dragon, wherein the addictive marrow is mined by kobolds...and holds visions that may tie in to a greater plot.

For 2nd level PCs, the "Vault of Pallon the Pious", a pirate who turned lawful in his twilight years; ostensibly, this caused him to go mad and now his famous scales are still hidden there...but are they really magical? The module also sports the subtle humor we could see in the first module with the word "Wrongteousness" making for a key leitmotif. You'll see...

The "Claret Wellspring", for level 4 - 5 characters has the PCs follow strange lights to an oasis, where blood-red waters and arcane secrets of old await...and the mini-module is surprisingly atmospheric, focusing on the strange and wondrous...and the adventure sports a rather cool reskin for a monster. So far my favorite!

"The Room with 5 Corners" for characters level 6 - 7, deals with a streegang that has recently been taken over by a dread aberration, who is extracting the solidity from victims, rendering those that survive partially ethereal and unable to cast a shadow, with eldritch symbols awaiting...as well as a disquieting portal...but where does it lead? Can it be easily closed?

"Upon the Icebound Terrace", for characters level 6 - 7, pits the PCs against the machinations of an exceptional ice mephit, who plans to open a planar gateway to the plane of ice...and with the relatively complex terrain and the arrival of an unintentionally summoned dragon, things get even more complicated. Tactics-wise, this is one of the stars in the compilation, with the blizzard not helping in the assault, and it is certainly one of the more complex set-ups, though, much like before, it rewards smart players.

"In Its Horrid Wake" put 7th level characters in the aftermath of an attack on temple: The dread demon that compromised it may have moved on, but the gnolls that travel in the aftermath haven't - and they plan on finishing a ritual to receive the favor of a fang of Nikshi: The scavengers have to be defeated, lest more woe follow the stride of the grand demon.

"A Bad Night for Betting" puts level 8 - 9 characters in the remote village of Bleak Rock, where dog mole wrestling is pretty much the only form of viable entertainment...but unfortunately, the alchemical concoction sold to the owners of the beasts is about to result in some seriously lethal mutation...enter the players.

"The Burning Crater", for level 9 - 10 characters, has the PCs find a crater containing a strange metal object - and closer inspection reveals that it is hellshot - basically a cannonball that contains hellhounds...while the fire giants developing this artillery have obviously not perfected it, the arrival of the scout and mere existence of it should prove plenty of motivation for stalwart PCs, beyond the confines of the sidetrek.

"Atop the Mountain", intended for 11th level characters, centers on a fountain, once a planetar rewarded and transformed thus, which lies atop a mountain - the previously pure waters are spoiling, so it's up to the PCs to save the angel...but easier said than done, for careless spilling of the devilish blood of the corrupting fiends may well spell doom for the erstwhile champion of good's immortal soul...

"Under Reveler's Feet", for characters level 12th to 13th, has the PCs explore the basement under a very busy feast hall, and indeed, in the dark below, undeath looms while above, the party continues...

The final sidetrek, "The Obsidian Pass", is intended for characters level 14th to 15th and has the PCs help defend a fey village and resting place of a powerful artifact from the greedy hands of a sorceror, who is in the process of constructing an arcane siege weapon...and whose clockwork soldiers and golems are all too ready to attack....

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports amazing full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is amazing as well...though I am quite a bit sad that we don't get key-less player/VTT-friendly iterations of the amazing maps.

Jon Sawatsky's collection of 5e-sidetrek and encounters is creative, diverse and fun - pretty much every region and gaming group should find a worthwhile, instantly-prepared scenario herein that can be run on the fly. The options are diverse, the creature selection is fitting and the modifications of creatures with new abilities, the terrain hazards and the like all conspire to make this a worthwhile collection. That being said, the absence of player-maps, particularly considering the no-prep angle of these scenarios, hurts the pdf even more so than it would a regular module. Personally, redacting maps and/or drawing them myself is pretty much the worst timesink in my whole preparation routine (and I suck at it). Considering the gorgeous maps, it really hurt me to note that, quite realistically, my players would never get to see them. If you don't mind that, then consider this a 5 stars-offering. If you're like me and consider that an issue, detract a star. Ultimately, my official final verdict will clock in at a rating in-between: 4.5 stars. I'd usually round up, but considering the go-play mission-statement of the compilation and that, at least for me, it does not fulfill it perfectly, I'll round down instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
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Gunslingers Unchained
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2017 04:28:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content. It should be noted that these pages are formatted for booklet-sized supplements, meaning you can fit up to 4 pages of the pdf on a given sheet of paper when printing it out, provided your eye-sight's good enough, that is.

The unchained gunslinger presented herein gets d10 HD, 4+ Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, as well as proficiency with simple and martial weapons and firearms as well as light armors. They begin play with Gunsmith and blunderbuss, musket or pistol as choices. The gunslinger must maintain the weapon each morning - failure to spend 10 minutes with a gunsmith's kit means that he loses the Gun Training bonuses. These are gained at 4th level and require that the gunslinger chooses one specific firearm: he gets + Dex-mod damage with it and reduces the misfire rate by 1 to a minimum of 0. Misfires with it increase the misfire value by only 2 instead of 4 Every 4 levels thereafter, the gunslinger gains gun training with a new gun and further decreases the misfire value by 1 - I assume for all guns, but RAW, it could be read as pertaining only to guns with previously existing gun training. When a gunslinger gains a new guntraining, he gains a +1 bonus to damage with all firearms chosen for gun training on previous levels A new gun training is gained every 4 levels after the 4th, excluding the 20th. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a bonus feat chosen from the combat and grit-feats.

True grit, just fyi, remains unchanged, though there is a serious change to grit: For the unchained gunslinger, it is governed by Intelligence, rather than the default Wisdom, which makes the gunslinger class more skill-friendly.

Okay, so far, so common, right? Well, this is pretty much where the similarities to the regular iteration come to a screeching halt: The deed-system has been completely revamped: For one, you do NOT automatically get a variety of deeds at certain levels - instead we have player agenda, namely a new deed gained at 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter. Furthermore, the deeds each now have an active AND a passive component: The passive one is always on as long as the gunslinger has a point of grit left. The active one may be activated by spending the grit cost. Furthermore, the class recognizes so-called Trick Shot deeds as a subcategory, which may be activated as part of an attack, even a full attack, with free selection of which shot will be used - however, only one trick shot deed may be performed in one full attack, providing some nice tactical considerations.

The benefits of the respective deeds tend to scale in two steps and some feature minimum level requirements. Saving throw DCs, when applicable, are btw. governed by Intelligence. - but let's take a look at their precise benefits: Advanced Training hinges on choosing two skills; one of these may be a non-class skills, which becomes a class skill: These skills gain a surge-like bonus while the gunslinger has grit, one that actually behaves like an exploding die: Rolls of "4" let you roll again and total the maximum, with Intelligence modifier capping the exploding die. While one sentence is slightly awkward in its verbiage here, the intent remains pretty clear. By expending one point of grit, the gunslinger gains the Skill Unlock's benefits for the next application with one such skill. I assume that ranks still matter and that this works with taking 10 and 20, but clarification would have been nice here, if only to err on the side of caution.

Where things get really nasty is Cheat Death: When reduced below 0 hp, spend four grit to instead be reduced to only 1 hit point. This can thankfully only be done 1/round. Passive bonus-wise, we have scaling bonuses to Fort-saves to stabilize...wait, what? That would not be correct - stabilizing requires Constitution checks last time I checked, not Fort-saves! The 4 grit-cost is brutal and means you won't be doing it often - neither can you maintain a reliable invincibility, which is a good thing in my book. Still, I do think this should have a minimum level. A level 1 gunslinger being able to withstand a meteor swarm just feels wrong to me.

We can also find deafening or fascinating shots, the option to cause sonic damage in bursts to those nearby when firing, fire dazzling flares (including the option to shoot them at targets for scaling fire damage instead). Duck for Cover now provides evasion as a passive benefit, and the option for an adjacent ally to use the worse of the two rolls of the gunslinger's Ref-save - which makes sense to me. There also is an improved version, with higher range and better benefits. Flash rounds are also interesting, increasing condition severity at higher levels as an option included. Fluorescent blasts can be neat as well. At 6th level, there is a deed that lets you spend 1 grit to bet on how often you hit. You wager 1 point of grit per attack you think will hit - if you match or exceed your bet, you gain bonus damage on all shots fired equal to 1d4 times the number of attacks that hit in the following round; if not, however, you lose double the amount of grit wagered AND imposes a penalty to damage equal to the amount of grit wagered. The passive benefit reduces the penalties for attacks beyond the first by granting a +1 bonus that scales up to +3 - which is not only insanely strong, it also can leave you in the awkward position of e.g. having a better BAB with off-hand than main hand.

Quick clear's passive benefit, just fyi, now reduces the misfire rate by 1. Quick draw provides scaling initiative bonuses (which can be very strong, particularly in mythic gameplay, I'd disallow that). Firing rounds that scent the target and make him easy to track thus are pretty damn cool, as is the option to increase movement - and upon getting far enough away from hostile creatures, you regain one grit Which is dumb. Add signature deed and you have infinite grit replenishment. after combats. This is a puzzling oversight to me, since quite a few of the deeds do take this potential reduction into account.

At 1st level, 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the class gains a really cool innovation that further sets it apart: Contraptions. These represent mechanical devices and knickknacks, which are mundane or supernatural. Contraptions have limited uses, which replenish upon resting. The verbiage that explains that Intelligence is the governing spellcasting attribute, class level the caster level for those that duplicate spell effects is somewhat jarringly non-standard, though at least functional. Similarly, there are a couple of instances throughout where italicizations have not been implemented properly - remnant (i)s have not been closed a couple of times.

But let's talk about contraptions: From earhorns that grant echolocation to breach explosives that can wreck doors, cream that temporarily increases object hardness, the ideas are really cool, though e.g. the mixing of damage types in the otherwise cool dead man's explosive west could be clearer - is it 1d6 fire + 1d6 bludgeoning damage per gunslinger level or it half fire and half bludgeoning damage? On the plus-side, yes, we do get the info to disarm them! An exoskeleton that grants haste feels weird to me - it should have stats, weight, occupy a slot...or have different dressing. I get the angle, but it doesn't really work for the benefit here. On the plus-side: Horseless carriage? 9th level breath of life-defibrillator? Engines that make food and water (prolonged use can make you really nauseous, though...), named bullets - there is a lot of cool stuff to be found, often with slightly science-fantasy-ish flair.

The pdf provides 3 archetypes: The bootleg alchemist replaces grit and the 1st level deed with an unstable mutagen and loses all deeds, replacing them with a unique formulae-progression for extracts, though he can still gain deeds via Extra Deed. The archetype also comes with sample discoveries.. The construct tinkerer can choose one of three base construct companions, gaining upgrades instead of bonus tricks - kudos: natural attacks are properly codified and having an afterburner on your companion rocks. The spell-reference to at-will mend should refer to the proper name, mending, though. It thankfully only allows the tinkerer to fix the companion. And yes, it RAW does use Handle Animal - you get a robo-dog/copter...thingy in exchange for 5 deeds. The motley gunman, the third archetype, gains the vigilante's dual identity and may choose one of three versions of his cloak of motley colors. Unfortunately, the higher level options, with some patches only being available for some cloaks, are pretty hardcore. They are, fyi, replacing the contraptions with magic abilities and a exploding dice mechanic for temporary hit points that is tied to them in per se interesting ways that do, however, oscillate regarding their power.

The feats include Extra Deeds, Contraptions, Patches and Upgrades.

The pdf comes with a cool bonus-pdf penned by Perry Fehr that depicts the Beavertail (aka Bebruzila), a Small fey with adamantine teeth and a particular aptitude for item creation when wood is concerned - nice critter!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a weak point of this pdf: We have quite a few remnant "(i)"s that should have been caught and oh boy, could I pick apart non-standard wording in this one. Which brings me to the rules-language...which is actually surprisingly good! I mean it! This is a rather complex modification and for that (and the fact that this is, to my knowledge, the author's freshman offering!), this is a pretty impressive book! It is precise...for the most part. But there is a reason I harp on maintaining the precise wording - the issues that can be found fall in one of two categories and one is the glitches due to nonstandard verbiage. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column standard with purple highlights and the pdf provides a solid full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Zachery Cothern's unchained gunslinger is an impressive freshman offering - while verbiage of quite a few abilities deviates a bit from the standard, for the most part, this is a well-crafted class. The author's inexperience does show in a couple of the balance- and design-decisions, but it rears its head significantly less often than I would have expected from such an offering. More importantly, the unchained gunslinger herein actually is a more rewarding class than the base gunslinger. The Int-focus, use of contraptions etc. makes this a really interesting and, dare I say, fun option. Mathematically, a 3/4 BAB would have made sense and gotten rid of the "I always hit"-syndrome gunslingers at higher levels experience, but you can't have everything, I guess.

This pdf offers a ton of things to love and I found myself enjoying this significantly more than I thought I would. At the same time, I wish a strict rules-developer had gone over the verbiage and some of the more questionably balanced options and smoothed them over. This is, with a bit of work, pretty much a 5-star class regarding its chassis. At the same time, I can't rate what it would be with some work; I have to rate what's here. And that could, in parts, use a whack with the nerf-bat here, a minimum level requirement for a deed there - you get the idea.

If you're a GM and willing to invest a bit of time to make this fellow shine, then you'll never look back to the vanilla gunslinger. I mean it. I like this class much more than the standard version, balance-concerns of some tidbits be damned - this class is more versatile and rewarding and I love the revised deed-system with its active/passive-abilities. With one dev-pass by a veteran, this can be made into a true star of a pdf!

On the downside, if you want a class to just plug and play, then this fellow can yield some issues in the details, particularly for lower-powered gaming groups. Hence, my final verdict would be 3.5 stars, for a quintessential mixed bag on the positive side, one with brilliant highlights, but also dark shadows. I'd usually round down here...however, since this also is a freshman offering, it gets the freshman bonus and thus, my final verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gunslingers Unchained
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Shapeshifter (Base Class)
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2017 06:36:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This new base class clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

All right, so another take on the shapeshifter? This'll be interesting! Chassis-wise, the class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level as well as proficiency with light and medium armor and simple and martial weapons. They get full BAB-progression as well as good Fort-saves. At first level, the class gains a pool of primal energy equal to the class levels. Primal energy can be spent or invested - reallocating these points is a standard action and spent points replenish after 8 hours rest. At 5th level, points may be reallocated as a swift action, at 10th level as an immediate action.

Starting at 1st level, the class gains visages, which are prepared - 2 at first level, scaling up to 13 at 20th level. Visages prepared may be changed via 1 hour of meditation. This can be done up to twice per day: The first time, this fatigues the shapeshifter, the second time it exhausts the shapeshifter. A new visage level is unlocked at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter - so yep, there are 10 levels of visages. Visages, somewhat oddly-named, can be considered to be less pronounced modifications of the body of the shapeshifer - they represent a cross between talents and spells - like talents, they provide continuous bonuses, but like spells, they must be prepared and can be switched. It is an interesting set-up and one that actually makes the class feel distinct. We can find electricity damage added to unarmed strikes, extra arms (sans combat capability, thankfully), the option to squeeze into tight spaces, natural attacks and armor - interesting tricks here! Primal energy may btw. be invested in natural attacks to upgrade them to primary attacks and the shapeshifter may grow mouths from legs, horns from hands, etc. and thus may have multiple variants of the same natural attack. Have I mentioned fleshpockets? Firing spines?

The flexibility these options offer and the choices available make the shapeshifter a potent class from the get-go, one that quickly increases and allows for the duplication of summon spells, use primal energy to heal, boost saves, create deadly toxins, grow internal extra brains...the abilities grow progressively strong, but know what's absent, for the most part? Means to regain primal energy. While switching and passive abilities are free, the big whoppers and more potent tricks also mean that the flexibility decreases - I have rarely seen a class that makes you want to spend a resource so badly...and not spend it at the same time! While the highest levels allow for very limited energy regaining via autophagy (no, you can't cheese it). The section, just fyi, is massive.

Starting at 2nd level, the shapeshifter gains predatory focus - he can study a target within line of sight as a swift action, gaining an untyped bonus of +1 to atk versus that creature, which increases by a further +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. In addition to this bonus, predatory focus has an additional effect, with 8 choices available. These include bonuses to critical confirmations (which upgrades to autoconfirms at 15th level), ignoring parts of DR (taking different types of DR into account) or bonuses to Knowledge checks. The power levels of these choices oscillates quite a bit. Slightly problematic: Using focus as part of an initiative check. Does this count as a swift action? does it end being flat-footed? I assume no, but I'm not sure. On a cosmetic side-note, a sidebar has been formatted as another ability here, which is, formatting-wise, a bit annoying.

Starting at 4th level, the shapeshifter gains the power to consume the essence of a creature via the mantle class feature. In order to do so, they must kill a creature who is the target of the predatory focus, gaining the mantle associated with the creature. A mantle requires an amount of primal energy to work, requiring investment. Only one mantle may be active at any given time and investing primal energy is either a swift action or used in conjunction with the shapeshifting ability that allows for primal energy reallocation. The ability, while working smoothly, could didactically be phrased a bit better: As I see it, you may gain the mantle upon slaying a creature with the focus, but it only becomes activated upon investing primal energy. I admit to being first slightly confused by the sequence here in absence of a duration for the consumed essence, but yeah. Consider this just me complaining at a high level.

A total of 9 such mantles are provided and their activation costs range from 1 to 3 primal energy. It should be noted that these provide scaling benefits and thus also increase the activation cost at higher levels - with the exception of two mantles, who only have a fixed cost. Mantles grant abilities at 4th level, 9th level, 13th level, 17th level and also sport a capstone ability each. There are interesting abilities here - let us take the aberration mantle, as an example: If you make a Will-save, the prompting creature must succeed a save against the same DC or be affected by confusion for one round. 9th level provides a very potent debuff: Targets suffer -2 to saves to resist fear effects and the shapeshifter gains a +2 bonus to Intimidate as well, with both scaling - and creatures affected by the shapeshifter's fear-effects take an equal penalty to AC, attack and damage rolls. In combination with some options out there, this can make for pretty crippling debuffing. 13th level yields a morale bonus suppressing aura and at 17th level, they are aware of such bonuses and may flip them via primal energy expenditure into penalties - pretty cool! As a capstone, they get a bonus after slaying foes that may be granted to allies.

The Mantle of the beast nets either Fight or Flight when below 1/2 maximum hit points: The former lets you reroll minimum damage (not just weapon damage - that should have a caveat) and increases the damage output by 1, while Flight makes them no longer provoke any AoOs from creatures they are aware of...which is VERY, very strong. The abilities activated may btw. be switched as a swift or immediate action. This duality extends to the options at higher levels, including double rolls for attack or saves. 13th level provides the option to add a full attack after a crit confirmation, with a bonus, no less, and when in flight mode, they may perform immediate attack actions when subjected to a critical threat. This mantle is exceedingly potent, to the point where I wouldn't allow it - and yes, I am aware that the 1/2 max hit point caveat is intended to provide motivation to not have these constantly unlocked, but making abilities available all the time sans this bloodied-style limitation and making them less potent would have imho made this one run more smoothly.

The construct mantle, with save rerolls, SR and 13th level spell immunity that is powered by primal energy expenditure makes for a really cool and potent anti-magic defense option (with high-level options to converse dispersed magic into force damage bursts!) - really like that one! The mantle of the dragon nets draconic tricks (properly codified claws, natural armor and energy resistance (or DR) based on the dragon used to trigger the ability. The free 9th level breath weapon may look like a bit much, but subsequent uses require primal energy expenditure and cooldown, preventing spamming as well as imposing a hard cap. Once again, a well-wrought mantle. Fey can yield an immediate action Bluff feint, including self-granting concealment, with higher levels allowing the use of the ability when a foe misses. Alternate effects like dirty tricks are unlocked as well. The mantle of man is also interesting - it focuses on better social skills and features some cool social tricks, like using primal energy to not have creature attitudes worsen towards them or undermine hostile mind-influencing magic. Nice one!

The ooze mantle allow for the free movement into the square of other creatures and may even attack creatures within them - here, a sidebar dealing with reach etc. would have imho made sense to explain the various interactions that this uncommon option provides. At higher levels creatures that share squares with the shapeshifter at the start or end of the round take acid damage - and at following levels, Con damage is added to it (with a save to negate) and this damage nets temporary hit points, 20 per creature within...which is eminently cheesable. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens for massive amounts temporary hit points, please? The plant mantle nets tree stride and photosynthesis as well as high-level terrain control - no complaints there. The undead mantle begins with the negative energy affinity-like positive/negative energy change (healed by negative, harmed by positive) as well as temporary hit points. At higher levels, they can add negative energy damage to attacks, replenishing the temporary hit points of the mantle. These hit points are also used as a resource for becoming e.g. incorporeal at 13th level. Once again, an interesting mantle!

Beyond the base class and its various mantles and visages, we have 3 archetypes - one for the barbarian, one for the druid and one for the rogue, all of which can be summed up as losing a bit of their base tricks in favor of access to the visage engine of visages up to 7th level. Two feats allow other classes to dabble in the engine, while two other feats net temporary hit points for polymorph-spells casting casters. Fleshy Foxhole is OP - it lets you use items while merged with your form, which can prevent means of destroying them. Similarly, and I did not think I'd say that at one point, the Extra Primal Energy and Extra Shapeshifting feats, which net +4 primal energy or +1 visage (or two, if they're lower than your highest level visage) prepared are BRUTAL. They are both so good, taking another feat is basically pure foolhardiness, which is not a good sign as far as I'm concerned. While they have caps of how often you may take them, I'd strongly suggest capping them unless you're playing a really high-powered game.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have two sides herein: On one hand, I was really impressed by the rules-language. While its wording deviates from a couple of standard conventions, it manages to get complex concepts done right and does so, as a whole, sans serious hiccups. On the formal editing level, we have minor plural hiccups, doubled letters and the like, so not so perfect there. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard with original pieces of full-color artwork - many of which are actually quite cute, like the little oozes on the ooze-mantle page. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Designer Dayton Johnson had a really tough job here: One) I have literally analyzed more than 5 base classes dealing with the subject matter...and if I take archetypes into account, it gets worse. Two) He did not go the easy, standard route - the class does NOT use the eidolon chassis or that of the aegis or similar classes - instead it presents its own subsystem with a vast assortment of unique abilities, many of which are actually rather creative! This is NOT a phoned-in class - it is unique and creative.

In particular, the resource-management that lies at the heart of the shapeshifter is a true joy to behold: The game of switching visages is absolutely amazing and seriously fun, with a ton of combos hardwired into the class - it feels, at times, almost like a class penned by Bradley Crouch in that regard, and I mean that as the highest form of compliment! At the same time, the free access to all visages once the respective level unlocks, combined with the mantles, makes the shapeshifter a VERY potent class in the hands of an experienced player. GMs running a gritty or less high-powered game should consider implementing alternate restrictions, perhaps limit the visages available and nerf some of the mantle options a bit. What I'm trying to say is that the nitpicker within me could make a case that this class may be too strong, but I honestly don't want to. Why? Because I really love how it plays. While I will adjust the chassis and details of the class for my game, the playing experience presented by the shapeshifter is rather impressive - if I were to rate just the engine and how it behaves, I'd consider this an easy 5 stars. However, I do have a couple of complaints regarding some options herein and their power and similarly, but to a lesser degree, the glitches do annoy me a bit.

How to rate this, then? Well, for me as a person, this is a 5-star+ seal file for the engine tweaks I'll take out of it and for the actually creative and interesting options it has. As a reviewer, though, I do have to take my balance concerns and the hiccups into account, though, and from threat range increases that lack the stacking caveat to the other tricks, there is quite a bit to be potentially munchkin'd. I could rate this down to 3 for them, but that would not even remotely do this justice. Just note once more: This is a VERY potent option and not for low-powered games!

All in all, this drags my official verdict down to 3.5 stars, rounded up since it does not deserve being called mediocre - it is an exceptional, creative class, though one that imho needs a bit polish from the GM. If you don't mind the editing and are confident you can balance and tweak it, then get this ASAP - this is one cool class!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shapeshifter (Base Class)
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Veranthea Codex: Forever Dark
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2017 06:33:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion to the Veranthea campaign setting clocks in at 86 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 79 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this massive pdf represents the underdark sourcebook for the world of Veranthea, which, as you undoubtedly have surmised by now, is called "The Forever Dark" in this setting. We begin the survey of these realms with a general list of the peculiarities of the place, including the ever-present darkness, animals having an instinctual fear of the place, shifting mazes, Trekth remnants (represented by a variety of hyperlinked traps and then proceed to move on to a brief list of the respective notable locales (more on that later) and the history of this extensive area.

Now, we have before commented on the way in which Veranthea classifies races and people and this notion is expanded with another notion - that of the Horror People, which encompass the traditional underdark races as well as doppelgangers, leugho, mongrelfolk, etc. - wait, what? Yep, the pdf does introduce three new player races. The leugho represent souls that have not journeyed properly to the afterlife, reincarnating instead as a conglomerate of seething, roughly humanoid ooze. The race gets -2 Dex, -4 Cha, is medium and humanoid, slow and steady, has darkvision 60 ft and may breathe both air and water. The race gains the ooze's immunities to crits, magic sleep effects, paralysis, precision damage, poison, polymorph, sneak attack (kinda redundant...) and stunning. They also suffer from light blindness to balance the potent immunity array. FCO-wise, they gain a rather nice array, including some options for occult classes.

The leugho racial archetype included would be the quivering master monk, who replaces stunning fist with agitated strike, which leaves a disgusting slime on foes that proceeds to cause scaling damage. 3rd level and every 6 levels thereafter yield a natural armor bonus instead of still mind. Starting at 11th level, the archetype gains adhesive, which automatically grapples foes hit via ki-expenditure...but unfortunately, the rules here are a bit wonky and have 5E-remnants - the activation action, for example, is "a reaction" - which, alas, makes the ability hard to judge. It also requires clarification regarding the grappling of significantly larger creatures. The race also gets 3 pieces of mundane equipment, one of them being a draught that fortifies leugho Cha, but is poisonous to other creatures. Pretty cool: The second piece of equipment allows the strange race to use part of its body as a kind of grappling hook. Really cool! Thirdly, a Disguise-enhancing acid can be found. The race comes with 3 racial feats: Fluid Form nets +2 to Escape Artist and allows you to squeeze through narrow confines. Magic Souls nets you very limited spellcasting (cantrips and 1 first-level spell) that can be sometimes changed. Veteran Souls is interesting: As a swift action when making a combat maneuver, you can add +1d4 as a luck bonus to CMB, at the cost of -1 to AC for one round. The feat requires that you choose the maneuver, but may be taken multiple times.

There are 3 magic items: Clinging belts increase climbing capabilities and AC, but make you slower and penalize Escape Artist. The focusing tiara penalizes Perception, but helps with Sense Motive and concentration. Additionally, as a standard action, the wearer can focus on a skill based on a mental attribute, which may then be rolled twice, taking the better result. The latter is pretty potent for the price-point. Finally, the helm of altering form is a variant hat of disguise that allows leughos to gain alter self's benefits. The 3 racial spells employ tendrils - deflecting tendrils temporarily yields Deflect Arrows; reflecting tendrils extends the benefits to ranged attacks made with spells and SPs, while tendrils of vengeance extends the AoO-reach of the leugho and nets a slam for such assaults. Additionally, it has a nice synergy with the previously mentioned spells. As a race-related monster, we get the CR 6 iteration of the by now notorious Orang-Minyak-monster from Indonesian lore - cool, though I do not get why it was not included in the bestiary section, where it belongs...

The second race is a classic, namely the mongrelfolk: These guys get +2 Str and Con, -4 Cha (making them a bit lopsided), are medium humanoids with darkvision and they gain +4 to Stealth and Sleight of Hand. Additionally, they gain the sound mimicry universal monster ability. Once again, a serious array of favored class options for them can be found herein. Equipment wise, we get a variable saddle and an analyzer that helps discern the main minerals of a given object. The softwhip can never deal lethal damage, but it is perfectly silent and never cracks...and it makes training easier. Granted, my brain contorts a bit regarding how the whip cannot crack, but "a wizard did it" makes sense, I guess.

Racial feat-wise, we get Bioforging, which can decrease costs of objects via using flesh. Instincts of the Beast can be used either Str or Wis-mod times per day and requires that you choose a hunter's animal focus upon taking it: As a standard action, you can temporarily grant the focus to yourself. I am not a fan of the fact that the feat can be taken additional times, with separate daily uses - it is not clear whether you gain all benefits in one activation, or whether you require separate activation. Wild Limbs, finally, nets you the option to temporarily transmute your limbs (limited daily uses), gaining modes of movement or natural attacks (not codified as primary or secondary, but you can resort default there). taking the feat additional times expands the options available.

The magic items included would be the megagun, a massive weapon that generates its own ammo (when does it regenerate the ammo?) and it inflicts bonus damage when exceeding the target's AC....and it may fire cones, but does not specify how much ammo that conical blast consumes. The item's issues stem mainly from not being categorized as a regular weapon: Do you need proficiency for them? Do they count as firearms? No idea. This is particularly puzzling since the ultrabow properly specifies that it's used as a firearm - it btw. inflicts 6d6 piercing damage, firing javelins...and it being partially squid-y and alive, those that succeed Handle Animal checks can reload them Cool visuals here. The nightmare scepter connects a target to the brain stored in it, requiring Intelligence checks to break free of the strange enchantment. Racial spell-wise, we receive 3 different spells - arcanalus' spell condenser imbues low level spells in items; attuning vibrations grants a vehicle a kind of sonar. Destined touch lets you touch a creature, which then may use swift actions to look into possible futures, though there is an increasing chance that the opposite effects take place, making the spell a bit chaotic.

The third race would be the Pantako, rock-like beings who receive +2 Str and Con, -2 Dex and Cha, are humanoids, slow, get darkvision 60 ft., have a slam attack (properly codified!). They may also curl up as a boulder, charge foes and inflict double slam damage as well as gaining a free trip attempt. Cool: Inclines used here are taken into account by the rules. The race also gets stonecunning and +4 to Stealth in rocky terrain. They also are experts at flinging stones

Instead of the boulder tricks, these guys can choose to gain light fortification and a +1 natural armor bonus to AC. The Martako-variant increases the darkvision range and they may even see through magical darkness. Additionally, they can use their Stonestealth bonuses when in dim light or less. Once again, we do receive quite an assortment of favored class options for the classic classes.

The racial feats include an upgrade option for the damage of the flung stones via Deadly Stones. Perfect Roll lets you immediately stand up as a swift action after a boulder charge, with a second taking of the feat allowing for quicker kip-ups in other situations as well. Destructive Roll provides a further damage increase for these rolling charges, provided you have enough room to charge. The racial archetype included for the pantako would be the rolling warrior fighter, who gains Exotic Weapon Proficiency for the new weapon included here, the pantako spoke as well as Perfect Roll at 2nd level, replacing bravery and 2nd level's bonus feat. Starting at 5th level, the rolling charges as treated as the chosen weapon training ability and also yields Improved Overrun while using them. 8th level delimits overrun attempts when using rolling charge and increases reach for the purpose of making trip attacks at the end of such a charge. The ability does not note which one it replaces - I assume armor training. 11th level yields basically a full attack/rolling charge combo - but the ability could use some clarity: Are these attacks made as though they were charge attacks or are they treated as regular attacks?

Now, I already noted the spoke, but we also get a stone that temporarily helps camouflage in the dark and a concealing rock that can hold objects. Magic item-wise, we get a rolling cloak that lends a pantako's rolling charge and stonestealth. Sharpening gloves change the damage type of flung stones and stonelobbing goggles grants (or enhances) the stone-throwing. The 3 racial spells include the pretty self-explanatory stone stride, a lesser version of stoneskin and a spell that adds electricity and sonic damage to a charging pantako - +2d6 each, to be precise.

Okay, now that we have covered these races, let us return to the Forever Dark itself, shall we? We learn about the Vehoro of the Trekth, an unknowable mechanism that rearranges parts of the underdark according to its mysterious whims. A brief, cliff-notes summary is provided for outposts in the darkness and we also learn about 4 different cults and conspiracies - which feature two "see page @@"s leftovers.

The respective continents of Veranthea then proceed to get their own write-ups: In Grethadnis' case, we have the shining cities of the morlocks - most may be just like beasts, but they do have a caste of geniuses ruling and generating basically an utopian society in a radical twist of the concept - the dangers of these places, including the strange ash giant known as the Tollman and the weird rivers - like the river of forgetfulness and the like...and yes, there is a sample such metropolis included. Yawwil, archmage of Veranthea, has his stats repeated here as well - CR 37/MR 10, using some hypercorps rules...just in case you have forgotten.

The continent of Urethiel's underworld is defined by the dynasties of the dead, which are ruled by immortal yami in a mirror of the upperworld of Urethiel. The concepts of honor, inverted magic and the power of undeath here generally enhance undead and tip the playing field towards them - which is cool...but damn, did I wish we got more on this region. Various brief write-ups depict the diverse undead here and include minor CR-modifications for some of them, as the respective write-ups include minor stat-changes...which are nice, I guess, but I did wish we'd learn more about these darkened halls. The pdf also reproduces the deity-write-up for Death here. While nice, I would have loved to learn more about the yami dynasties here instead...but oh well.

Thirdly, the forever dark under Trectoyri consists of the Fleshmazes - once not a spawning ground of monsters, but a sprawling subterranean empire once known as the Formless Empire, where citizens had mastered their bodies. Craft Biodevices, a variant of Veranthea's steampunky/techy rules, can be found representing this concept here and the influence of the nightmare gods (all three of which have been reproduced in the book, alongside their heralds) can be felt here. Additionally, beyond the hordes, starvation and the like, there is a good chance that you'll contract a fleshwarp mutation from Horror Adventures. Once again, beyond these special terrain traits, we do get a few tweaks for existing creatures....and once again, frankly, I wished we learned more about these inspiring regions.

From here, we move on to the concept of the horrid caravans - the travelling settlements of the mongrelfolk that endlessly traverse the forever dark (sample settlement statblock included, btw.), defined by fire power and a blending of magical creatures, weaponry and golems - this section also includes a variety of unique and interesting items, from flashlights to fungi generating darkness - though we once again have a "See page @@"-remnant here.

The chthonic evil of the Nightmare Gods is opposed by the cult of the dragonminded, who come in 4 variant sects and as a 10.level PrC that has been reproduced here for your convenience. Since I haven't done the detail-analysis of it before, there you go: It requires a BAB of +6 or higher and the character to be psionic. Chassis-wise, we get d12 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, proficiency with firearms and 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression. Power points increase from 5 to 95 over the course of the PrC. (The table's reference in the text reads 5-X-X instead of 5-1, but that's cosmetic). The PrC can enter a fugue state as a swift action, up to 3 + Wisdom modifier rounds per day, +1 round per class level. This state nets +4 Str and Con as well as Power Resistance 10 + class level + Wisdom modifier -basically a slightly altered rage, but one that has pretty tight rules. 2nd level yields a 1/day use of Fort instead of Will, +1/day use every 3 levels beyond 2nd. 3rd level yields power resistance 5 + 1/2 class level + Wisdom modifier.

At 6th level, these guys can use a standard action to duplicate antipsionics field for Wisdom mod rounds per day - this one is strangely listed before the 4th level ability, manifestation, which lets a dragonminded generate an ectoplasmic duplicate as a standard action while in a fugue state. Thankfully, the actions available to such a duplicate are pretty limited and maintaining them requires swift action expenditure, which eats big time into the combo-array available to psionic characters. 7th and 9th level increase the options available to these duplicates and the capstone provides unlimited substitution of Fort-saves for Will and immunity to all effects that require a Will-save...which is weird, as it makes the use of the now unlimited ability moot due to flat-out immunity.

New options for the prestige class would be the two archetypes included for it: The outermind replaces the Fort-for-Will-Substitution with the option to summon monsters and replaces the regular benefits of the fugue state's double with a summoner's eidolon of levels equal to twice the PrC's levels. The phantom gains Skill Focus in a chosen skill while in fugue, but may only use this skill - instead of a double, the phantom creates a swarm of tormented soul fragments that inflict swarm-like damage to targets, increasing the damage via scaling on subsequent rounds. Not a big fan of these two. The Lesser Fugue feat is too strong for its prerequisites: As an immediate action, you can grant yourself the mindless quality. Sure you can't cast, manifest or use skills while in this state, but it still blows other defenses hardcore out of the water. Sure, it only lasts a round and has a hard cap, but yeah...not a fan here, either.

The section depicting the nightmare gods also sports cool terrain features, suggested associated creatures and then proceeds to expand upon the material presented in previous releases - while this does mean that there is some serious overlap here with previous publications in the Veranthea-line, it also collates all information in one handy section. The section also reprints the stats of mighty Sciemaat, the Shattered and mentions some extended hooks for stories set in these depths - also providing a page on the nature of serpentfolk (with hilarious accumulations of "s"-letters in the respective headers). As sources of psychic magic, these dark gods also come with 3 occult rituals - as a nitpick, spells mentioned here have not been properly formatted.

From here, we move on to the bestiary section, which covers, as mentioned before, some reprints of heralds, for example, as well as the darkness-maddened creature template, including a sample witchwyrd creature. Beyond that, we are introduced to the forever crow and its petrifying gaze - these strange creatures may petrify adventuring groups, only to lead others to them to un-petrify them. At CR 8, the forever knight is an unerring tracker...and is nigh-impossible to permanently destroy, auto-respawning unless defeated in very specific circumstances, which makes it a great impeccable plot-device monster.

At CR 13, mongreldragons can employ mirages and confusing breath and the pdf reprints the obitudaemon and the ocual. The CR 5 tunnel wasp (amazing artwork, btw.!) comes with an acidic miasma, while underlambs are pretty poisonous...but can make for delicious food when prepared properly...The pdf also features random encounter tables for the different sections of the forever dark and reprints the information on the collector cabal.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can be considered to be good - I noticed a couple of glitches. Layout adheres to Veranthea's pretty busy 2-column/1-column full-color standard, cramming a ton of information on one page. The pdf comes with a blending of original full-color artworks, some reused pieces from previous books and public domain stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael McCarthy & Mike Myler, with contributions from Jeffrey Hersch, have written a compelling, inspiring sketch of the underworld of Veranthea. The idea to basically blend wild west tropes with distinct iterations of the underworld as a connecting leitmotif makes sense and is cool. I personally enjoyed the importance of terrain and unique rules presented for the respective areas. At the same time, there is quite a lot of overlap with previous books in the Veranthea-line, and often in sections where I really, really, really wished that the page-count had been used for new material.

You see, the general characteristics of the various versions of the Forever Dark are genius, evocative and practically DEMAND being used - but they don't really come together well. They present evocative, inspiring sketches, but that's about it - this is less of a region sourcebook and more of a "very broad stroked"-general toolkit.

Whether you'll like this book thus very much will depend on how much you value these inspiring tidbits. The new races are a bit of a mixed bag - the leugho may be my favorites here, in spite of their immunities, they end up being a pretty balanced choice. The mongrelfolk's items made me much more interested in the race...while the patanko... exist for me, but probably will never be used. They also scream "abuse the heck out of my charging mechanics" to me, but that may just be me. I was kinda bummed by the absence of age, height and weight-tables for these races, though.

How to rate this, then? Ultimately, for me, this is a mixed bag - on the one hand inspiring, on the other sketch-like in details and somewhat disjointed regarding the global perspective and details. On the one hand, we get some seriously cool ideas, but on the other hand, we also have a bunch of old material seriously chomping away at the page-count and some seriously avoidable glitches. Thus, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars - if you value ideas, terrain and some cool monsters etc., round up; otherwise, round down. My official verdict will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Forever Dark
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Places of Power: Fraywrack
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2017 06:31:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

On a lonesome shore of rocky headland, known as the Harpy's Head, there lies the wrecked ruin of an erstwhile powerful ship - and it conceals an alliance most peculiar: You see, a flight of harpies has lured the vessel ashore - but the wreck contains no signs of slaughter, but rather an impromptu war-camp, for the harpies thus forcefully recruited the crew of survivors as soldiers in their desperate fight against Dagon and his strange, deformed minions that rise from the depth in a truly unique coalition.

Following the tradition of the series, we do get notes on Lore and the appearance of local folk, as well as the nomenclature employed. The 6 events and rumors further enhance this unique constellation of characters - from harpies not being too keen to be forced to play with their food to drunken sailors, there is an intrinsic tension that suffuses the set-up that, by means of its very definition, is upset by the arrival of PCs.

It is btw. nice to see that the pdf does come with a nice marketplace section for consumables, magic, etc. The location sports also a ramshackle settlement, as you can imagine - and honestly, I could elaborate on how the individual locations are cool and evocative, but frankly, that would be redundant as far as I'm concerned - the set-up at the grand scale is creative and full of potential, something that is continued seamlessly to the individual locales, generating a truly amazing location. Still, I did hope we'd get some crunchy bits, a statblock or the like.

Conclusion:

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

Jacob W. Michaels' Fraywrack s creative, cool and unique - the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential. In short: This is an amazing offering and a great example for the cool things you can do with the Places of Power-formula. My final verdict for this little gem will be 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Fraywrack
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Publisher Reply:
Curses! Missed out on the seal of approval! ;-) In any event, glad you liked this instalment. Thank you for the review!
Places of Power: Fraywrack (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2017 06:30:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

On a lonesome shore of rocky headland, known as the Harpy's Head, there lies the wrecked ruin of an erstwhile powerful ship - and it conceals an alliance most peculiar: You see, a flight of harpies has lured the vessel ashore - but the wreck contains no signs of slaughter, but rather an impromptu war-camp, for the harpies thus forcefully recruited the crew of survivors as soldiers in their desperate fight against Dagon and his strange, deformed minions that rise from the depth in a truly unique coalition.

Following the tradition of the series, we do get notes on Lore and the appearance of local folk, as well as the nomenclature employed. The 6 events and rumors further enhance this unique constellation of characters - from harpies not being too keen to be forced to play with their food to drunken sailors, there is an intrinsic tension that suffuses the set-up that, by means of its very definition, is upset by the arrival of PCs.

The system-neutral version has been properly converted, using the correct old-school classes in the brief, fluffy descriptions of named NPCs and the pdf even sports a small marketplace section for generic, minor magic items (healing potions) and consumables to be purchased. Kudos there! The lore-section, just fyi, has similarly been given over to the GM to do as s/he pleases, as befitting of old-school gameplay. Minor complaint: The text at one point mentions a couple of specific magic items to be found - some flavorful descriptions would have been nice here; it's not hard to find and covert them, but yeah.

Conclusion:

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

Jacob W. Michaels' Fraywrack s creative, cool and unique - the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential. In short: This is an amazing offering and a great example for the cool things you can do with the Places of Power-formula. My only complaints here are nitpicks - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Fraywrack (SNE)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for this review, End. I'm glad you liked Fraywrack!
Places of Power: Fraywrack (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2017 06:25:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

On a lonesome shore of rocky headland, known as the Harpy's Head, there lies the wrecked ruin of an erstwhile powerful ship - and it conceals an alliance most peculiar: You see, a flight of harpies has lured the vessel ashore - but the wreck contains no signs of slaughter, but rather an impromptu war-camp, for the harpies thus forcefully recruited the crew of survivors as soldiers in their desperate fight against Dagon and his strange, deformed minions that rise from the depth in a truly unique coalition.

Following the tradition of the series, we do get notes on Lore and the appearance of local folk, as well as the nomenclature employed. The 6 events and rumors further enhance this unique constellation of characters - from harpies not being too keen to be forced to play with their food to drunken sailors, there is an intrinsic tension that suffuses the set-up that, by means of its very definition, is upset by the arrival of PCs.

On the formal end of the spectrum, we have two entries among the NPCs that clearly are remnants from the system-neutral edition, mentioning the thief and magic-user classes instead of a 5e-NPC/monster-statblock. Big plus: We do actually get a properly converted Marketplace-section for the 5e-version, so big kudos there!

Conclusion:

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

Jacob W. Michaels' Fraywrack s creative, cool and unique - the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential. In short: This is an amazing offering and a great example for the cool things you can do with the Places of Power-formula. The minor hiccups do hurt this, but only in the formal criteria - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Fraywrack (5e)
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for this review. And thank you for spotting those typos. I'll be uploading a corrected version of the book shortly!
Game Master's Guide to Kaidan
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2017 04:39:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome clocks in at 221 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 216 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review. Furthermore, I was a backer of the KS that made this book. I was not in any way involved in the production of this book.

However, there is one thing you need to know: I am a Japanophile of sorts and as such, I am predisposed to liking this book.

But what exactly is Kaidan? The short answer, obviously, would be "A Japanese Horror Setting." - This, however, does not really help, so let us take a step back for now and talk about the representation of Asian cultures in most (Western) RPGs. You see, at least if you're like me and really into foreign cultures and their myths and peculiarities, you'll quickly notice that the way in which Asian cultures tend to be blended - influences and concepts from Chinese and (sometimes) Korean myths are blended with Japanese concepts to create a hodgepodge. Now that per se it not something I have an issue with. In fact, I do enjoy, to a degree, this melting pot blending.

At the same time, this left me, at least partially dissatisfied. Beyond modern authors like Murakami or classics like Dazai, the classics, from Genji to the folklore faithfully transcribed by Lafcadio Hearn, the Japanese culture has a truly distinct cultural tradition I adore. Moreover, the mythology and tales offer a vast panorama of adventuring potential far beyond those usually quoted by modern roleplaying games.

Kaidan, then, tries to be very much an authentically Japanese setting; at the same time, it does not fall into the trap of just reproducing cultural texts by different names or a varied emphasis, weaving a myth of a land that is similar, yet also very much distinct. This is more of a feat than you'd think at first glance, particularly considering the way in which mythology and religion has influenced and continues to influence Japanese culture to this date. But let me explain: The history of the islands known as Wa at one point, destined to become the lands of Kaidan, is one of immigration, paradoxically - it is a tale of the human ethnicity of the Anu and their beliefs mingling with that of the yokai, ultimately giving birth to what would develop into the stand-in for Shintoism, the Yokintoism. Kami, shrines, the concept of Mitama - all have been properly represented. Similarly, the second religion that has deeply influenced Kaidan, perhaps more so than Ykintoism, would be Zaoism...but more on that later.

Before we come to the original catastrophe that wrecked Kaidan, we should take a gander at the races featured herein: Anu (human variant, distinct from the Kaidanese), Henge, Kappa, Kitsune, Korobokuru and Tengu are included in the deal: While fans of Kaidan may recall a couple of them featuring in previous Kaidan-supplements, it bears mentioning for the new folks that the balancing of these races is pretty much pitch-perfect - the henge-variants, for example, never are lopsided. In short: The races are suitable for even grittier games and low-powered gaming, also courtesy of their unique abilities and racial traits: Korobokuru, for example, have an intrinsic loathing of violence, whereas the kitsune featured herein may e consummate shapechangers, yes - but at the same time, when in great distress, their concealing magics may partially fail, revealing fox-like characteristics. It is these small tidbits that make the races align more closely with the myths we know - and at the same time, they represent narrative angles and roleplaying potential steeped deeply within the lore of the setting and its culture. It should be noted that this is the GM book and while age, height and weight tables as well as some alternate racial traits have been included, no favored class options or the like can be found - I expect those to show up in the Player's Guide.

The existence of these races beyond the realms of myth is by the way more than window dressing - the races and their unique perspectives on religion, etc. and their interactions with the humans have ultimately shaped the land; they are not only believable cultures, they are deeply entrenched within the setting, with histories of dogmaticism and conflict engendering further a form of isolationalism and distrust towards strangers that not only extends to gaijin. Kaidan is wondrous, but it should not be thought of as a realm defined by being welcoming to strangers.

Which brings me back, full circle, to Zaoism. Zaoism is one of my favorite re-imaginations of basically any philosophy or religion ever. It fills the role that Buddhism has in Japanese cultural development, but does so in a genius way. Why genius? Because, as an atheist and humanist, Buddhism's philosophical teachings, if not the beliefs, resound with me. Kaidan inverts them thoroughly and constructs a take on the concept of reincarnation that is shattered - and it ties in with the famous feud between the Minamoto and Taira clans that most scholar of Japanese lore should be familiar with.

Let me engage in a brief digression here: Kaidan literally can be transcribed as the kanji for "recited narrative" and "strange, supernatural or uncommon occurence"; during the Edo period, telling ghost stories became a kind of competitive endeavor, a past time ostensibly reaching back to samurai testing their will, morale and mettle in an age where enlightenment had not yet vanquished the phantasms of superstition. As such, the tales had a performance character and, all too often, a psychological component - they were not focused on being in your face or startling in the traditional sense, instead building on tension and dread, slowly, steadily - often subverting the sense that the "world was right", if you will. A certain existential anxiety regarding merciless rules of the spirit world or a breaking, unwilling or not, thereof, suffuses these tales and makes them effective, even to this date.

And this is what ties in, once again, with the Minamoto/Taira-feud and Zaoism - you see, the Minamoto, much like in our world, won. However, unlike in our world, magic exists. And forms of malevolence exist as well. And thus, the curse was born: The ritual suicide and curse of the last of the Taira was so potent it severed Kaidan's connections from all but two spiritual realms: Jingoku and Yomi. Mists arose (And here, ladies and gentlemen, would be the OBVIOUS Ravenloft angle - Kaidan works PERFECTLY in conjunction with our favorite demiplane of dread...) and envelopped the lands. Escape seems impossible, with only death seemingly providing release - but not even death can save the populace, for the wheel is broken - the concept of enlightenment through pure living can no longer be attained. Kaidan is an eternal purgatory, represents the horror of perpetual, eternal spiritual stagnation....one represented perfectly by the eternal emperor and his undead daimyo, risen from the waters to reign forevermore over these lands...but then again, at least the undead overlords keep the oni hordes at bay...

This concept and the logical consequence of an undead ruling caste seeking to establish a power base ties in perfectly with the historical developments of the lands of Kaidan and explains in a succinct and concise manner not only the nature of the caste system in place here, but also how it came to be...and why it has been deeply ingrained in the moral fiber of the people living in these lands - the rationalizations and secrets revealed here make perfect sense and give further credence to the pervading sense of authenticity that suffuses this book.

It should be noted, that, from Miko Shrine maidens to warrior archetypes for NPC Sohei, the book also addresses, in quite a lot of detail, in fact, how class options interact with the world - that, for example, most priests do not have the powers of a cleric and instead are experts; that not all religious warriors are the undead-slaying yamabushi paladins...the general sense evoked by these balanced and flavorful class options is that they represent the exception, tying cultural status and a role within the respective social strata into the concept.

Let us reiterate: The web of culture, history, religion, and classes generates a thoroughly sensible and unique panorama, one that is supported by an interesting cosmology indeed. However, the main meat of this book undoubtedly would be the gazetteer-style overview of the fully-mapped regions of the archipelago, including a vast array of settlement statblocks...and secrets. This is the Gamemaster's Guide, after all, so the identity of lords, adventure hooks and the like can all be found herein - and since these would constitute undue SPOILERS, I will refrain from commenting on them.

What I will comment on, however, is the wonderful fact that we get whole chapters on life and death of the populace - and yes, if you've been a fan of the Project Zero (aka Fatal Frame) games, you should realize that the amount of truly horrific potential and dark rites depicted in these games make for a perfect fit, theme-wise, for Kaidan. is a land where NOONE is free. The concept of reincarnation, any life after death, has an inherent horror that is used to great effect by pretty much all religions - from the threat of hell to "demotion" to a lesser creature. In Kaidan, it is very much real and the inevitability of the broken wheel of reincarnation just further emphasizes the futility of struggle, the illusion of free will that is, ultimately, the consequence of a life after death - after all, this eliminates the freedom to choose annihilation. In Kaidan, paradoxically, there is no enlightenment - not even the reward, the consequence - instead, we get a karma system to determine player reincarnation one that ultimately comes full circle for even the most potent of nobles. Via magic diseases, as yurei or via other means - there is no end, no breaking of the cycle, a samsaran's ultimate nightmare of a world gone haywire, of a deck stacked against all of the world's inhabitants: As the book astutely sums up: Evil is ascendant, life is hard, the supernatural is hidden, magic is divine, tenmei is absolute and death is not the end.

The book, being a GM book, also elaborates on the types of fear you may wish to evoke and the strategies. Organizations, extensive mundane equipment, armor and weaponry complement the book, and from honor to wealth (and the relative scarcity of metal), there are a lot of different factors - and they, ultimately, all make SENSE. Speaking of which: The traditions of magic and the feeling of the setting, to a degree, is greatly enhanced by the spell-section of all candidates. Steven. D. Russell (at least if I understand correctly), has written a metric ton of power word-spells for all levels, as that is a dominant casting tradition in Kaidan. The effects are actually subtle: At low levels, maintaining health, already important, can become even more vital. Similarly, with options that can cause characters to attack allies or take one out of the fights for a few rounds, the combat requires more flexibility and strategy by the players - and indeed, the spells change the paradigm of quite a few encounters, potentially adding some very iconic scenes to the fray. And yes, condition-power and hit point limits are correlated in a rather well-crafted manner. While I would not allow all of these spells in a high fantasy game, where min-maxing and option-breadth can provide horrid combos, these work perfectly in the context of Kaidan.

Tsukumogami, haunted objects, if you will, are covered in the book with a variety of evocative and cool examples, and so are ancestral relics, magic items that grow in potency over the levels. From teh bones and remnants of the fallen, to enchanting brushes, we also get a couple of nice magic items and some solid feats. Shikigami stats can be found and the book concludes with a great, inspirational appendix as well as a glossary. And while we're speaking of language: Did I mention the dialect rules? Well, now I did.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level, though, on a formal level, one can find a couple of minor, typo-level glitches like one of the magic items having a weight of "ZZ" - nothing serious, but notable for perfectionists. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with red headers. The gorgeous original b/w-artworks throughout the book are amazing and thematically consistent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the softcover is most assuredly a nice book I'm glad to own.

Kaidan's concept was envisioned by Michael K. Tumey, penned by Jonathan McAnulty, with additional writing by the late and sorely missed Steven D. Russell - and all of these gentlemen did a fantastic job here. Kaidan is not a splat-book in disguise - it is an honestly amazing campaign setting oozing with detail; it is a campaign setting that is characterized perfectly by its exceedingly strong leitmotifs, by its internal consistency and the strong authorial vision that shaped the book. This does not try to accommodate Western tropes and mindsets where they don't fit, instead electing to concisely weave together elements into a whole that is infinitely more compelling than the sum of its parts. This is not the book to get when you're looking for high-powered options; the crunch, while solid, is not necessarily the draw here. This is a horror setting with a thoroughly disquieting, subtle sense of wrongness pervading the world, a tome that has tragedy and the creepy hardwired into its very fabric.

It is in the nature of the setting that I can't write "OMG; CHECK OUT THAT CR 40 OLD-ONE!!"; this is not about startling, about escalation - this setting is subtle in its horror, building dread and tension slowly without relying on cheap shocks. I tried hard to convey why I adore this setting the way I do, but it is hard to convey without representing the totality, as, much like in the weaving of real world myths, it is not simply a narrative that exists in a vacuum, but rather an organically-grown complex. It should be taken as a testament to the authors' respective prowess. In short: Kaidan is awesome. It is a great, inspiring read and if you even remotely are interested in Japanese horror, then this is a no-brainer. Even if you have never contemplated checking it out, this may well be a true breath of fresh air for you. As you may have gleaned, I adore this book. It is inspired and inspiring in all the right ways. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Game Master's Guide to Kaidan
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Corruption Codex
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2017 04:38:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 5 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, so if you've read my review of the Horror Adventures hardcore, you will have noted that I am slightly ambivalent regarding the corruption system taking away player control at high level; I also noted that this aspect could be eliminated from the respective corruptions with a minimum of fuss, making that a definite mechanical strength for tweaking the corruptions in question. Now, I will not hold it against this pdf that it mirrors the design-paradigm of the Horror Adventures corruptions, but I most assuredly will take note on whether the respective progressions remain as tweakable. Note that I do this for the sake of my own fancy, rather than as in a reviewer-capacity; it would not be fair to complain in an official context about a tweaking option that represents my private sensibilities, after all.

All right, so what types of corruptions do we get? Well, the first of these already is interesting, in that its very concept represents an anxiety that steeped fin-de-siècle aesthetics...and those that went before and after: The first corruption herein is the concept of Devolution, an evolutionary regression to a more instinct-driven state. The corruption does this with an ingenious way: It tallies a sentience score that is the sum of all mental ability scores. When engaging in a manner that is bestial or primal, you are tempted to take it and acting on such an impulse nets you a Will-save - on a failure, you roll 1d20 and lose that much sentience. Upon reaching 0 sentience, you advance a stage. It should be noted that the variety of Manifestations provided make perfect sense for the concept: Gaining alternate means of locomotion, an improved physiology and toughness or particularly potent skin. Scaling skill bonuses in physical endeavors and instinctual cunning can also be found among these. I really love this corruption, as it not only is iconic, its sentience mechanic's replenishment allows for an exceedingly easy tweaking option to customize the corruption to your campaign's needs. As a fearsome aside: Offspring sires while in the throes of the corruption actually shares the ability score reductions that progression in the corruption stages net you... Oh, and know what's cool? We get a ML 9 sample character to highlight what you can do, mechanically, with the corruption. In fact, each of the corruptions featured within this pdf has a nice sample NPC!

The second corruption featured herein is one I consider rather creepy indeed: The Fungal corruption. It shares a theme with the subversion of one's mental faculties, obviously, but it is completely distinct in the ways in which its stages are handled. Once again, this engine allows for pretty easy tweaking, with time being a major factor - and no, a simple remove disease (not italicized) won't suffice. Those that have been infected with these horrid fungal matters can spawn horrid fungal caricatures of regular summoned creatures, draw sustenance from the earth or decaying matter and you may even exhibit a strange, fungal rot, enhanced senses, the ability to influence plants and the like. And yes, the sample artwork for the infected character is actually really creepy. And yep, poisonous spores and blood are part of the deal.

The Kaiju corruption takes a different stance - as you probably have gleaned by its name, it is one usually gained by being subjected to truly malevolent magic - and its effects are serious, tapping into Ultimate Charisma's amazing antagonized condition: The poor victims can't end it simply and treat all the world as the antagonizing target, with. once again, corruption stage advancement being tied to an easily modified mechanic that is based on damage inflicted while being enraged by it. Beyond rock catching and the like, the theme here obviously would be the transformation into a mindless, gigantic, rage-driven monstrosity that lashes out against the world - very cinematic, and yes, cool!

Poor beings that have fallen prey to the voidspawn corruption have been touched by one of the innumerable forces of malevolence in the cold void between the stars - and there is some sentience to this infection, this tarnishing of terrestrial flesh: The progression this time around focuses on using its powers (which you will want to...) as well as the discorporation generated by teleportation et al. - being torn up in molecules and reformed seems to facilitate the work of the vile corruption. Beyond the nightmares that haunt those touched by the void, the tendrils so aptly showcased on the cover, the summoning of things from the void. The gifts also feature vastly extended reach for these tendrils, warping space, which grants progressively better effects and begins with ignoring difficult terrain and also nets a touch attack that deals untyped damage and feeds you. I'm never a fan of untyped damage, but considering the nasty stain (when you're touched, roll a Will-save or use it...your healers and support casters will love that...), I can see it work. Miss-chances due to non-Euclidean anomalies and all-around vision (which, alas, prevents you from closing your eyes versus gaze attacks...). Have I mentioned the option to gain bisected limbs (no, you won't be doing 4-Weapon-Fighting)?

The pdf does feature more than these corruptions, though: We are introduced to a variety of interesting feat-options, with the (Corrupt)-feats building in unique ways on the influence of corruptions: E.g. taking Abandoned Heritage eliminates your original subtypes if it is not the same as the one tied potentially to a corruption: Humans would, e.g. no longer be affected by abilities specifically targeting them. Gaining bonuses, courtesy of the malevolent forces that have touched you. There also would by the Corrupted Style-feat-tree, which enhances a chosen weapon or natural attack, and which may cause Wisdom damage with follow-up feats...and worse, at the pinnacle of the tree, you may spread your corruption via your attacks...Additional limited-uses of corruption abilities can also be found and there are (Salvation)-feats, which work perfectly for the more heroic horror adventures and characters, who wish to keep their corruption at bay.

More than the significant array of content we have covered so far, the pdf also offers templates to represent the creatures touched by corruptions in the book - which brings me to another aspect: Pretty much every corruption herein could carry an adventure of its own. The pdf also sports a CR 6 voidspawn drone as well as notes on greater voidspawns. On the item side of things, we get a bane variant versus those corrupted and a weapon that can mend itself by damaging those tainted by the darkness...oh, and its wielder can gain temporary hit points, with a fitting maximum limit. The despoiling feaster rapier is particularly potent in the hands of a creature with a manifestation level, while a set of harnesses can act as helpful boosters for corruption manifestations. The diamond of corruption expulsion allows you to extract your corruption, Mr. Hyde-style, while specific masks that sport taboos offering protection. The pdf also sports the Dervish of Dawn and Leshy Warden archetypes and two feats as reference material for the proper use of the NPCs featured herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, with only minor hiccups (like a plural glitch and some straggling italicizations missed). Rules-language-wise, the pdf is as precise as I like it to be - no complaints there. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks featured are nice original pieces done in the same style as that on the cover - i.e. Jacob Blackmon's distinct style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas, N. Jolly and Isabelle Lee deliver big time in this cool supplement - the corruptions have unique angles, worthwhile gifts and twisted stains. The supplemental material is similarly qualitatively high and the items sport some cool angles as well. Each of the corruptions has the ability and potential to carry an adventure or series of modules and plentiful character concepts. The Kaiju corruption should find its fans even in the hardcore fantasy crowd that doesn't like horror, while the devolution corruption just begs to be used in the context of pulp games. In short: This pdf is most assuredly useful and amazing beyond the confines of its thematic focus - and what more can you ask of such a book? I most certainly want more/a sequel! This is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Corruption Codex
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Echelon Expansions: Draconic Bloodlines
Publisher: Echelon Game Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2017 10:22:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

The revised and expanded edition of this pdf clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 6 pages of SRD, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 47 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

So, I'm not starting with the subject matter, but with the houserule mentioned on the first page: It's kinda weird that bloodline spells are learned later, so the pdf provides an interesting and concise way to fix that without increasing the power of the class. Beyond that, we also get alternate rationalizations why a given character may have the draconic bloodline, from constellations to soul-wrenching rites of passage, this makes for a basic and pretty nice introduction. The pdf also presents suggestions of how a given bloodline may influence the character's behavior, which is a nice roleplaying aspect in the crunchy tome.

But what is this truly about? Well, to put it bluntly, the author at one point realized that it is kind of dumb that one draconic bloodline represents the influence of all of dragonkind, with its distinct and widely diverging branches. So, while we reiterate the basic draconic bloodline as a starting point, we from here on out extrapolate the respective, more customized ones. This usually not only changes a couple of bloodline spells and powers, but makes them work as basically their own, unique and distinct entities. The respective abilities are formatted in a slightly unconventional manner, with the respective ability names in power-point like bubbles and tabs on top, denoting the precise ability type and the level it's gained - while not immediately aesthetically pleasing, from an organizational point of view, this solution proved to be surprisingly efficient in conveying the necessary information - so yeah, I actually grew to like it pretty quickly.

Speaking of sensible and smart ways of conveying information: The sub-chapters of the pdf begin with tables that denote the spells, breath weapons and powers of the respective draconic bloodlines in tables that render the use of the pdf extremely comfortable. Now, as mentioned, the draconic bloodlines featured herein do not completely change the draconic base bloodline, instead opting for what could be considered to be an approach similar to mutated or wildblooded bloodlines, though the changes made. A sorceror who traces his ancestry to a black dragon, for example, gains the sire's ability to breathe underwater and freely use spells, breath weapon etc. while submerged - which makes all kinds of sense to me.

Where applicable, scaling mechanisms have been included - for example regarding the electricity aura of sorcerors hailing from a blue bloodline. That being said, in some of the scaling information bits, very minor and purely aesthetic hiccups have crept in: While it is evident that the damage increase should cause electricity damage, the pdf omits the damage type for these increases. That is me at my nitpickiest, though, and should not be taken as a complaint against the rules-integrity of the pdf - from context, the damage type is perfectly evident and referenced a sentence before. Amazing: The blue bloodline sorcerors get WINGS OF LIGHTNING. That actually interact with breath weapon etc. at higher levels. Come on, those visuals are cool! Sorcerors with a red sire can, as a capstone, learn to incinerate foes utterly with their breath, as another cool example of such custom abilities.

While the first section of the pdf covers the chromatics, as you no doubt have gleaned by now, the second section proceeds to cover the metallic dragons, where brass dragons get the sandstorm capstone of their parentage, while scions of bronze receive water mastery and the ability to generate vortices at higher levels. It should be noted that many of these abilities in themselves do feature a scaling mechanism, improving over the course of the respective bloodline's ability-steps.

Thirdly, beyond these two classic families of dragon, we take a look at the primal dragons as well, with the cloud scion's lightning fog at 9th level constituting a neat example for the ability. Minor hiccups in rules-syntax have, just fyi, been taken care of. Kudos there!. And yes, even the claw progressions of the respective bloodlines also tend to differ in some ways, which was a welcome surprise to me. That being said, while it is easy to resort to the default, I still would have appreciated the natural attack abilities specifying whether they're primary or secondary - still, that is purely aesthetic and won't influence the final verdict, as it is based on the way in which the original bloodline was worded. On the plus-side and to give you an example, umbral-blooded sorcerors gaining the ghost touch property for their claws makes sense to me.

The pdf doesn't even stop there, though - the imperial dragons are yet another massive group of dragons covered with proper bloodlines, which should elicit cheers from the WuXia crowd...and, once again, the ability-modifications make sense as a whole: Forest dragon-bloodline sorcerors gaining huntsman claws and a capstone that lets them petrify foes, for example, makes sense to me and sets them apart from a flavor point of view in an interesting manner. The capstone for sky dragon bloodline sorcerors to ignore electricity immunity and resistance with their breaths makes for nasty surprises and the sovereign dragon's heritage, which increases the DC of spell saves and allows for the conjuring of golden armor (and a master counterspelling capstone) also fits the themes of the draconic sire.

"But wait, endy," you're saying "that's not all dragons!" You'd be right. Even the frickin' outer dragons are covered! Solar dragon sorcerors get lay on hands - and yes, the pdf does provide information for what happens if you multiclass with paladin, just fyi. Big plus: The verbiage of the ability and its multiclass interaction have been cleaned up and now provide full synergy without a means to misread the material.

.

Speaking of which, the pdf is not always perfect regarding its abilities: The time dragon's "second chance"-ability, for example, reads: "At 3rd level, you get a bonus to initiative checks equal to 1/2 your sorceror level." (VERY potent - keep it away from mythic gaming!) and provides rerolls at higher levels - the ability, which could previously be misread if you tried hard, has been streamlined further and now works in a precise manner. Kudos.

The revised iteration of this book, however, features more tweaks: Accounting for the Player Companion: Legacy of Dragons, the pdf now includes the expanded draconic bloodline options, such as arcana for the draconic families and the breath weapon types. The Draconic Manifestation feat has also been integrated into the material - and it should be noted that the form of the exotic/alien dragon spells have been integrated into the various different bloodlines. Better yet, the pdf actually explains some very minor (and imho justified) divergences in design paradigms here. And yes, the book has changed more than half of the bloodline arcanas herein to maintain compatibility and a unified perspective. What I'm trying to say is this: The pdf has not only taken the minor hiccups and fixed them, it went the extra mile while doing so. I really appreciate this mentality.

The pdf ends with designer's notes that explain why esoteric dragons have not been included, the design-goals and an exceedingly helpful and detailed six-page index for the pdf that makes navigation really, really comfortable. And before you're asking - I actually checked the index - yep, it has been updated to represent the changes made to the file and the expanded content - again, big kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have been improved from their already impressive original iteration - this is now top-notch. The colored ability-headers can be a bit of a drain on the printer, but other than that, no complaints in that area. The pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes with very detailed, nested bookmarks that render navigation comfortable. These, in conjunction with the index and the clean and crisp presentation generate an overall extremely easy to use pdf.

Keith Davies' "Draconic Bloodlines" fix a hole in the rules that is so evident, it's a wonder it hasn't been taken care of earlier. I have often wondered why the draconic bloodline has been neglected thus and this massive differentiation of the material is more than appreciated. Better yet, the themes of the respective draconic sires often feature unique and rather fun visuals that set the respective sorceror apart. This book is a godsend for campaigns wishing to play with multiple draconic characters, feuds, etc. and I'm certainly going to use it in Legendary Games' upcoming dragon-AP.

Balance-wise, the abilities sometimes exceed that of the base draconic bloodline by a slight bit, but considering that it is not the strongest of options in the first place, I am good with that - the pdf should not provide any difficulties regarding balance, even when used in gritty campaigns. In short: Even the most hardcore gritty and restrictive of games should encounter no issues while using this pdf.

The revised edition goes the extra mile and not only updates the very few minor hiccups I found, but also expands the content further, making this a rewarding, cool and well-presented file. The design decisions make sense to me and the overall presentation of the material makes this, as a whole, a pdf certainly worth getting for the more than fair asking price. My final verdict of the file will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Just one note: Fans of Bloodragers won't get anything out of this file, but then again, there is always the chance of a sequel.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Echelon Expansions: Draconic Bloodlines
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