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Akashic Mysteries: Guru
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2015 03:17:37
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Michael Sayre's Incarnum-style series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Depicted herein would be the Guru-base-class, who gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor and simple weapons, but not shields and enhance these based on class choices made - more on that later. Chassis-wise, the guru gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. They begin play with 1 veil and scale that up to 8 and 1 essence, which increases to up to 20. The veilshaping of the guru has the DC equal to 10 + points invested + wis-mod. Essence investment into prepared veils can be reallocated as a swift action.



I really enjoy the first level ability gentle touch - if a guru invests one point of essence into this ability, all damage he does with a weapon becomes nonlethal, but also receives + wis-mod bonus, rewarding not killing everything that crosses the PC's path. What's also pretty odd - per essence invested, the ability deals +1d4 nonlethal damage. Now the issue is - does this stack with the wis-mod bonus damage? If so, then this is pretty much a very powerful damage boost, perhaps beyond what one would expect. Also: Does the first, unlocking point of essence invested add the +1d4 as well or just the wis-mod? The double increase to damage makes me think that the wis-mod perhaps was supposed to replace Str or Dex for the purpose of BAB-calculation? Be that as it may, while not broken, this ability could use some clarification. Beyond this, I also believe that the ability perhaps could use an exclusion-clause for shuriken and the like - since the damage applies to everything, combining that with shuriken and/or multiclass'd flurries of stars...OUCH.



1st level Gurus also choose a philosophy,. which grants a linear progression of abilities at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter. Philosophy abilities tend to burn essence points, which means that the essence cannot be used or reassigned until the guru has had a chance to meditate, providing a complex game of resources between flexibility and power - you can't write player agenda in larger letters. Additionally, gurus of first level get stunning fist, but with some tweaks - the benefits can be applied to weapon attacks made with gentle touch and the guru can burn three essence to regain 1 use of stunning fist 1/day, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets chakra bind in the progression of Hands, Feet, Head, Headband, Neck, Belt, Body. 4th, 10th and 19th level increase the essence capacity of chakras by +1.



The 3rd level guru may interrupt the chakras of foes when executing an attack - this works as a standard action pretty much akin to vital strike and has a DC of 10 + wis mod, +2 per essence invested in gentle touch, which allows for a pretty nasty escalation of DCs - imho, this one should be nerfed to at least +1 per essence. You don't need me to make the math for unbeatable DCs. The negative condition lasts for wis-mod rounds (odd, seeing how the DC is essence-based - why not also increase durations here?) and scales up over the levels.



7th level nets an autohealing ability determined by the amount of essence invested, though essence invested in the limited-use ability cannot be reinvested until rest. 8th level allows gentle touch to act as sunder-attacks that ignore 1/2 hardness AND allows for the damaging of foes that are immune to nonlethal damage. 16th level provides, apart from a lack of bolding of the ability name, the option to expend stunning fist uses when attacking foes to double as what amounts to a single-target disjunction that leaves items intact. The capstone provides healing and even temporary essence to the guru when e.g. disjoining foes - cool and surprisingly powerful!



Now I mentioned philosophies - a total of 3 are provided, with each granting its own set of uncommon proficiencies the first of which would be the Akasin. When meditating in an area of bright light, they can gain a pool of temporary essence that is burned first by the respective philosophy abilities. Alternatively, these points can be used to execute as a veil of positive energy. At 4th level, healing blindness is possible, as is shooting rays - which deal an untyped damage AND lack information on their range. Both should be rectified. Higher level akasins further marginalize the poor shield bonus to AC, bypassing it alongside 2 points of AC with blades of light - it should be noted that expenditure of stunning fist uses can further upgrade this ability.



The akasin may also use an essence-burn-powered raise dead, thankfully with a daily limit. At 16th level, I am not complaining about taking essence burn of up to class level to add as bonus damage that ignores all resistances and DRs, though factor 5 is NASTY. I think adding a daily cap would be in order here for reasons of preventing (relatively inefficient) one-strike-builds- "After all, the guru can always conjure forth light and meditate for temporary essence points...blablaba" - you get the rationale: Burning temporary essence at 16th level would grant up to +40 to damage for one attack. Now this *looks* much worse than it is in game - meditating this one back would require 8 minutes, so no spamming AND it is a significant expenditure. See, that's why I playtest these classes - this one looks much more powerful than it is. So yes, I like the ability, though I believe it could be one that will sooner or later end in undeserved pointed fingers.



The sineater philosophy is somewhat problematic - it allows for the regain of essence burn via attacks of gentle touch when used against targets with an Int of 3+ . The ability also allows for the reflexive burn of essence to negate damage that would bring the guru down to below 0 hp - interesting, since the amount of damage negated is significant and would be overpowered, were it not for the restriction, thus making the guru a good candidate for last man standing. While the Int-caveat avoids failure of the kitten-test, I'm still not 100% sold here - though the rest of the philosophy is balanced against this - limited DR and limited fast healing/regeneration for essence burn make sense regarding the established, steep costs while allowing the guru to work as a functional tank. Burning essence to increase the damage dealt to evil outsiders, aberrations and undead on a 1:5-basis is brutal and allows for damage outputs that dwarf paladin smites, but only on singular attacks. So yeah, the guru is brutal here. 10th level provides atonement (lacking italicization) and some minor non-standard wording - inescapable unarmed attacks (powered by essence + grab quality...) and AoE unarmed attacks are cool, though the most powerful ability here lacks a duration for the paralyze effect -and if it's supposed to be permanent...ouch. Even at level 19 nasty.



The third philosophy would be the Vayist, who would be the agile trickster to the sineater's tanky playstyle - using essence burn to increase the range-increments of ranged weapons or duplicate spells (lacking italicization) as well as getting back up quickly. 10th level nets breath of life and is solid. The base ability allows for debuffs of foes that target creatures that are not the vayist, essentially making him a solid kiter - why? Because not including the vayist in attacks allows for them to regain essence burn - which works perfectly considering the emphasis on movement and flexibility - for players that enjoy flexibility and movement superiority, this one is fun indeed. It's also the most refined philosophy in that it imho has the least minor hiccups.



The pdf, obviously, also sports a significant array of feats, some of which you will probably know from the vizier's pdf - that is, obvious gestalting functionality is still maintained in the tradition of incarnum, surpassing the options of this system by quite a bit. Now some feats imho could be a tad bit more refined - when untyped energy damage (against which no DR or resistance helps) can be added to attacks, that's nasty. Increased maneuver-bonuses AND better damage outputs in conjunction with Piranha Strikes and Power Attack are pretty strong, though that is balanced by requiring, obviously, essence-investment. Enhanced Veil Capacity, still proved to be pretty much a no-brainer in my playtests. Life Bond proved to be somewhat problematic for akasin gurus - why? Because it lets you take damage and heal allies - since the akasin can heal himself indefinitely as long as he has time and access to light, we're seeing an infinite healing option for the group here and one that can break in-game logic pretty hard - can you see the nightmarish visions of guru-healing-batteries beyond the front-lines of the evil empire? I can. Damn. That imagery is actually cool. Still, I think there needs to be some limitations implemented here. This problem also extend to the Martyr's Toga veil, btw., though that one's wording makes me believe it was supposed to have a daily limit of uses akin to other healing veils.



Dual binding of veils is also possible and offers yet another tactical option. Essence of the Immortal provides 2 x essence pool bonus hp and counts as toughness - a pretty blatant power-escalation even without the additional essence granted by feats et al. - this can easily upgrade your hit points by ~50 for non-optimized builds. While fitting the theme of specific builds, I still consider this in need of a gentle whack with the nerfbat - or a different scaling mechanism that is not based on total essence. Perhaps grant a base hp-bonus and allow for essence burn to temporarily increase that?



The veils presented obviously have some overlap with those of the vizier, but are not limited to those already known from the first pdf - there are quite a few cool exclusives here! One theme you'll note is movement - from air walking to increased movement rates make sense - though the latter's lack of bonus type means it'll allow for a nasty combination of speed-types you usually don't see - with items and spells, you can get problematic speeds here. The Stalker's Tabi is a pretty nasty beast - unlimited short range teleportation and hide while being observed/in plain sight is slightly earlier than usual - 6th level, when usually HiPS is relegated to 7th or 9th level - perhaps include a level-based scaling mechanism here? The Eyes of the Hawkguard can be bound first as see invisibility, later even as true seeing - constant! And yes, this one gets the balancing right! Fluid partial conversion of energy damage taken to one favored by the guru is also an option provided by veils - one that can be considered an unique take. It should also be noted that some of these veils actually do interact in rather cool and unique ways with class abilities, including psionic abilities - providing further combo options and screws to tinker with.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can still be considered good, though I noticed quite a few instances of missing bolding, italicization glitches and the like on a formal level. Michael Sayre's rules-language is pretty concise and more refined than in the vizier, with a more concise terminology - on a nitpicky side, establishing one type of wording for essence burn vs. burn essence would make the pdf more concise still. The pdf comes in two versions, one in gorgeous 2-column full-color layout and one more printer-friendly version. The artworks are a combination of original pieces and stock art. Strangely, my full-color version had no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.



All the positive things I've said about akashic classes in my review of the vizier still hold true, so if you want to read about me rambling over the superiority of the system over incarnum, take a look at that review - it still holds true here.



I adore the akashic classes I've read so far - the classes are ALL about player agenda - there are so many options to choose, screws to tinker with, math to run - the flexibility of the classes and fully functional gestalting options are exceedingly versatile and utterly fun. They are also a nightmare to review, but that's beside the point - most classes I LOVE tend to fit that criteria. The guru's rewarding of nonlethal damage, of actually not being a murder hobo, is something that resonates deeply with my convictions of what it means to be good, so thematically, I ultimately ended up loving this class.



That being said, as much as I'd like to praise this in the highest tones, there are some instances where the wording still needs some refinement, some rough edges that need to be sanded off. If my review above seemed nitpicky, then mainly because I so want the final book to be perfect. One surprise of this pdf, at least to me, was that the guru, on paper, looked essentially broken, with many knee-jerk-reaction inducing choices that mellowed out when doing the math/actually playing the class. The grand potential of problems can be seen in Life Bond - the feat itself isn't that strong, but as soon as it allows for infinite healing (which it didn't for the vizier), one can see one tiny oversight in the rules-language that radiates outwards - this needs a daily activation cap akin to similar options to maintain functionality with the akasin - and to future-proof the system to prevent ample future abuse.



So how to rate this? I love Michael Sayre's akashic classes and can't wait for the final book, but with the rough edges still in here, I can't go higher than a final verdict of 4 stars for now - with the explicit note that this very much resonates with me - I am stoked to see the final book - it may be one for the EZG-Essentials-list if Dreamscarred Press can get rid of the rough patches!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries: Guru
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#30 Magic Tools (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2015 03:15:46
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So, know what pretty much I don't get? In all those high magic magocracies and settings, why are there no actual tools, you know, everyday-useful magic items to make life more convenient? I mean, literature is full of wizards using convenient items to render life more comfortable for themselves and in a setting where the crafting of deadly, costly magical weapons, it is only sensible that some of the funds circulated would be used to actually improve the tools used to generate the respective tools, right?



Right - so here we are, new magic tools. All of them are masterwork per default, as the pdf notices and framed by an aptly-written, short piece of IC-prose, we dive right in: The Arcane Anthology, for example, opens itself on the correct page and politely positions itself in front of the reader, levitating and leaving his or her hands free. If that is not inspiring to you in and of itself, then the short piece of history provided for each item should exactly help in that regard. Now this is pretty much awesome, though, alas, not all items herein reach this level of coolness - take the Brass of Binding: It prevents the rider from being dismounted "no matter what happens." No matter how good the CMB, no matter the circumstance - unless the points of the maple-leaf brass are tapped. Alas, this does not specify what type of action tapping the maple leaf's points is. Oh, and cost: 1000 GP. For never being dismounted, ever. WUT? This sounds like it needs a hard whack with the nerf-bat or rather, a tighter wording: It is clear this should only prevent dismounting due to the rider's own failed checks - and yes, I am very much aware that this is supposed to be a tool for the Ride-skill only, but as written, it does look like it can be used otherwise AND it still fails to mention the action required for (de-)activation, alas a glitch I noticed a couple of times when the item's text (à la mental command) etc. provides no clear means of determining the activation action, though I do assume the standard action default for wondrous items. But I'm rambling about a nitpick, so onwards!



A spoon that can purify any poison from food 3/day and detect it 3/day as well is a cool item, though personally, I think I'd prefer the detecting and purification to be based on poison DCs, but I am aware that this is just a personal preference and won't hold it against the pdf. There also would be an enchanted chisel that can carve into wood on its own. A compass that can lead you to food, animals or locations pictured in your mind is nice, as are gloves that turn held items invisible. The Flawpicker item needs a scaling mechanism - picking out flaws from gems is fine with me - eliminating curses from cursed items, on the other hand, imho should have a scaling rate of success chances. I do like the sight-enhancing magical kohl. Mantles that help you avoid detection are nice, but what about shoons that 1/day create a platform mid-flight to push off, adding +10 ft. height and length to a jump? Yeah, awesome. Pins to improvise opening locks and helping with escaping manacles et al. also are a-ok with me. What about a patch that allows for quicker application of liquids?



There also would be slippers that allow caught thieves to generate an illusion of an animal darting away, providing an excuse for any noises created? Using a needle to animate cloths and the like to entangle foes? Cool! What about a babelfish-like translating butterfly? Nice!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a couple of typos, italicization glitches and the like. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks consist of thematically-fitting stock art.



Liz Smith's items are glorious on the one hand - they make sense and in many, many cases, they can be considered awesome in their flair - breathing the spirit of fairy-tales and feeling like actual MAGIC instead of an accumulation of numerical bonuses, the tools herein may not be 100% perfect, but they have more soul than many magic item books I've read. Yes, there are some minor ambiguities and yes, I pretty much prefer Scaling options over those that work as a default - but in the end, most of the gripes I could field apply mainly to my personal preference, which has never been a sufficient reason for me to rate a pdf down, leaving as valid gripes only the glitches and non-preference hiccups, which ultimately are offset by the sheer imaginative potential herein. It should be noted that the items herein fit perfectly as rare items in a low magic game, so yeah, versatility is accounted for.

Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4. 5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Magic Tools (PFRPG)
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Subterranean Enclave: Dilath's Hold
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2015 03:13:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As mentioned before, you can essentially consider this a pdf that depicts a settlement of the storied underdark, wherein the less than pleasant races roam. In this case, most people who come to the place do not want to be here. Why? Well, founded by an exiled drow noble, Dilath's Hold is not a nice place - it is a slave hub. That being said, the danger rate of 10 the village's statblock provides should net you a good idea that this is NOT a place to take shelter in. The marketplace's offerings do mirror the theme of the locale and, as always, we not only receive a beautiful pencil-drawn cartography, but also DCs of the village's lore and short notes on the nomenclature of the dominant cultures in the enclave, here that being drow and duergar.



It should be noted, though, that this is NOT simply a slaver's village with a hack filing off of the serial numbers - from houses of gigantic snail shells to labyrinths of caverns and webs, this place breathes the wonder that should, nay, must suffuse subterranean settlements. Have I mentioned the nasty druid (fully statted!) with an unhealthy obsession of experimentation with fungi etc.? Finally, as always, some rumors which may or may not be true and sample events add a certain amount of local color to the place.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly high-res maps via Raging Swan Press' patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked.



Brian Wiborg Mønster's subterranean enclave could have very well been bland - when I read the premise of this one, I was less than excited about it - how many times have I seen the like? Well, I'm happy to report that, while I'm not 100% blown away by the concept, it is in the small details and power-dealings, in the unique sense of wonder conveyed, that this settlement manages to surpass what otherwise would have been a common premise and become something unique and worthwhile. Capturing the wonder of the underdark exceedingly well, the pdf does this component rather well. Then again, as a slaver's town, particularly as one so unique, I was missing the added spice - the unique drug used to ensure slave-compliance, the secret uprising in the making - some additional material would have definitely helped here. Now I am aware I am complaining at a very high level here, but still. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Enclave: Dilath's Hold
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Covenant Magic: Further Covenants
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2015 03:38:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second expansion to Purple Duck Games' great system of covenant magic clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We begin this pdf with a handy page of FAQ regarding some of the more peculiar questions of covenant magic that did not arise from issues, mind you, but rather from the system's admitted complexity. With a concise definition of occult spirits, the pdf does provide a nice list.



I do assume familiarity with covenant magic for this review, so in case you need an explanation of the concepts, I'll refer to my reviews of the original covenant magic pdf and its expansion.



We begin with a total of 6 new influences for mediums to choose from, with Dark Hedonism constituting the first and providing future-proof support for the Monsters of Porphyra II patreon project, though remaining perfectly functional without that - the focus here, obviously, lies on trickery and enchantment. The more benevolent Elysian Blessings influence provides a surprisingly diverse array of trance SPs that center around the theme of freedom, with covenants allowing for resilience and a focus on themes identified for azata.



Faith Slayers can be considered not only atheists - they are the true foes of the divine, engaging in pretty despicable acts with a theme of self-buffing and a latent Übermensch-style ideology suffusing the spell-like ability and covenant choices. I do consider this one slightly problematic in that it is codified straight as evil, with the capstone making this abundantly clear - while I realize that fanaticism never creates a helpful breeding ground, I have seen my fair share of religiously motivated hypocrisy and issues in real life - when taking this up to the n-th degree, one can easily construct cases in which direct and violent opposition towards deities in a magical setting does not need to be evil - imho, we have a lost chance for a shades of gray duality here, instead opting towards the general concepts espoused by the asura.



The Kyton Enlightenment on the other hand is more versatile than the oftentimes reductive depiction of kytons in mainstream PFRPG. Why? Because BDSM in most mainstream media, including PFRPG is codified as evil, as something to revile, as something inherently sinister - and I *get* why. That being said, I have always considered this to be a pretty much massive flaw, an undue reduction of a variety of compelling concepts - the self-flogging martyr achieving spiritual ecstasy through pain, the yogi - one can field ample examples wherein the concept of enlightenment through pain need not be connoted with evil and thankfully, the kyton enlightenment influence, while retaining the somewhat sinister theme of kytons is not coded as evil - nice!



Guardians of the fallen can elect to choose the new Sacred Duty enlightenment, associated thematically with psychopomps and thus can be pictured as slayers of undead, with a hex-like cap on the otherwise extremely powerful harm-only heal Spell-like ability. But all of these pale in awesomeness when compared to the qlippothic redeemer: Know how most qlippoths try to end all life yaddayaddayadda? Well, these guys are more constructive! The souls of chaotic evil beings flood the abyss and generate demons, right? So how can the qlippoths stem the tide, hope to regain their supremacy? Well, what about converting those pesky psychos and leading them on a path of redemption? I.e. doing the right thing for the most wrong reason possible? This enlightenment is GLORIOUS -related to an evil outsider race, it is predisposed to work well for good and neutral characters, mirroring in SP and trance covenant selection a theme of redemption and kindness. The roleplaying potential of these guys is VAST and the great full color artwork of one of them is ncie to see as well.



The Technophobe archetype is great for everyone using the Technology Guide, poaching in remove radioactivity and similar tricks - essentially, these guys can be considered the anti-technology mediums - solid!



We also get a diverse array of new covenants, ranging from least to superior - from magical khopeshs to strikes that temporarily neuter the ability to cast divine magic (with a hex-like 1/ 24 hours-balancing caveat), grant yourself regeneration (with means to offset it) or a stun-inducing gaze attack that also helps you take down those pesky demons. All in all, the respective places in which they're gained make sense, with superior covenants providing massive benefits, with least covenants provide nice imagery and solid low level options.



The pdf also provides statblocks - a medium 4/ranger 1, an animist druid, a tiefling, dwarf and green hag medium, even a tengu and a high-level CR 17 foe. The pdf closes with 3 minor pieces of errata for its predecessor file - which imho should have been updated in that file instead of featured in this pdf.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues. layout adheres to PDG's printer-friendly 2-column standard with a nice page of full-color artwork featured as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Julian Neale is one of the designers that deserves more attention than he gets - his designs tend to be not too flashy, that is true. But they have a very humble elegance in many instances and this is no different. Oh well, wait, it is - actually, here, Julian has went all out - the concepts as presented herein began pretty solid, if unremarkable and then, BAM, the qlippothic redeemer. This influence alone is worth the asking price for the vast myriad of narratives one can weave from the theme - I can literally sketch a whole campaign based on the concept introduced herein. Yes, this is awesome. The solid technology-related archetype is a nice bonus and the covenants provided are diverse as well. While I am not a fan of all design-decisions herein, with especially the amount of apotheosis-capstones boring me at this point, this does boil down to personal preference more than any true and valid gripe I could field against this pdf. In the end, this is an inspired expansion and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Covenant Magic: Further Covenants
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Cutthroats and Crew
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2015 03:35:01
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure path plug-in for any pirate-themed campaign/module clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages introduction/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So the first question you may have is: What does distinguish this from Legendary Games' Pirate Codex? The answer is pretty simple - the Pirate Codex is all about sample NPCs/statblocks - this book is about NPCs with an emphasis on the "C," i.e. the character component. Beyond that, this is pretty much a collection of NPCs that will prove a godsend to especially groups with less participating players - the collection of NPCs herein covers the roles that some of your players potentially don't want to cover: No motivation to cover the siege engines? Hire the feisty dwarven maid Jenna Ironflame, one of the last scions of the elite dwarven clan and you'll see how deadly siege weapons can be! Need a capable first mate? Lachlan Chardet, a fighter (cad)/rogue (pirate, scout) is not only an interesting build with both multiclassing and extensive templating, he's also more than up to the task! Need a ship's mage? What about Mayjen, the crossblooded gnome sorceror? Or do you need a good lookout? A total of +12 in Perception for a 4th level fighter/oracle multiclass is certainly efficient and up to the task.



Perhaps you are looking for some diversity - so what about adding a tengu cleric (separatist) as the ship's surgeon with Rukaia? A great sea-singer bard to keep up the morale, a changeling druid as the ship's mate or a bard (buccaneer)/fighter (weapon master) captain as well as a rogue (swashbuckler) carpenter and a half-orc boatswain (ranger with the freebooter archetype) all are in here, each NPC sporting a compelling little background story - obviously potentially also making for an alternate crew to pit against the PCs, should you choose to - of course, you could also use these NPCs as cohorts for higher level NPCs to take the naval combat completely out of their hands regarding the rolls.



Now, so far I've covered the "crew" aspect, but that would only be the first part of this pdf - the second covers the cutthroats and, if the moniker wasn't ample clue, these guys and gals are not to be trifled with -an array of dangerous villains, if you will. First among these nefarious beings would be an oracle that comes fully detailed with a nasty grimoire of dark magics, including preparation rituals and read-aloud text depicting it. Oh, have I mentioned the nice synergy with the Islands of Plunder-series?



Fans of Razor Coast especially will definitely appreciate the hobgoblin barbarian wereshark (scarred rager) and his megalodon mount as well as his wereshark henchmen riding hammerheads -all fully statted, mind you. And jup, wereshark shaman? Covered. Here I was thinking I'd one day get tired of weresharks. No, still awesome - especially when riding HAMMERHEAD SHARKS AND MEGALODONS. Come on, you have to love this! And yes, I will use one template or another to make the sharks shoot lasers from their eyes. Why? Because I can.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard for Skull and Shackles plug-ins and the pdf comes with an array of artworks, some of them new, some reused from previous LG books. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with the good type of hyperlinks to d20pfsrd.com for the more complex/unusual of rules.



Matt Goodall and Jason Nelson deliver big time - I absolutely adore this cool NPC collection -while specialized and unique, nothing keeps you from using the NPCs herein as templates for characters to use in your game. The nice thing about them, though, would be that they feel right - while optimized to a certain extent to fit their tasks, the NPCs herein do sport those nice, small tidbits that usually only develop from the quirks of players - you know, the hyper-optimized character who has a couple of ranks in Craft (glassblowing) - while the characters herein obviously aren't that on the min-maxy side, this extreme example should illustrate what I'm trying to get at - the characters feel organic and the level of detail provided is ultimately nice, fun and captivating. My one gripe with this pdf is that, personally, I would have loved one pdf for crew members, one for cutthroats - more villains, more crewmembers. As provided, I felt myself wishing there were more adversaries, more of these well-crafted crew-members to choose from - though, obviously, clamoring for more is a pretty good sign in my book.

Ultimately, this pdf delivers all it promises and more - and is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cutthroats and Crew
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Path of the Genius
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2015 04:17:39
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' mythic paths-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page SRD, 3 pages advertisements, 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of raw content detailing this new mythic path, so let's take a look, shall we?



Much like the previous installment in the series detailing the path of the stranger, we have a mythic path here that is intended for PC-use, so let's take a look at the genius. Framework-wise, we receive 3 Hp per tier and at 1st tier, we get a so-called genius idea, which is selected from 3 options: Brilliant Distraction allows you to expend mythic power to execute a melee or ranged attack as a swift action against a target within 30 ft, using Int in lieu of Str or Dex for purposes of atk and damage. If your attack hits, adjacent allies may execute a n AoO versus the target with your Int-mod as bonus. Also as a swift action, deadly throw allows you to use mythic power to draw and throw a weapon or bomb, rolling twice, taking the better result and adding tier to damage. Finally, immediate action rerolls allow allies (and only allies!) to reroll failed saves, using your Int as governing attribute for the save's base instead of Con, Dex or Wis.



Each level nets a path ability, with 1st tier abilities, but there is one more peculiarity of this path - a number of abilities herein require tinker supplies, which cost 1d6 gp times the HD the ability is used on, doubling cost for 3rd tier abilities, multiplying cost by 5 for 6th tier abilities. These costs may be halved via the expenditure of mythic power and a lab or town is sufficient to refresh the supplies, with weight being akin to gold, which is, btw., defined as 50 gp = 1 lbs. in a rule most players are unaware of - so kudos for including the info!



The path abilities themselves are quite diverse - while using Int instead of Cha for purposes of Bluff or Intimidate may sound boring, adding the fascinated condition to demoralize's array is interesting, especially since you can actually make the target subsequently reveal information via Bluff. of course, gaining the other genius ideas can also be accomplished via path abilities, akin to how the stranger handled that. Eliminating AoOs from imbibing (or drinking them faster via mythic power) and skill rerolls powered by mythic power work pretty well, though I'm not a big fan of analytical eye's metagaming returning once again. Providing numerical escalation for investigators inspiration class features and talents and better crafting would fall into the range of the expected. The Bulletproof power that not only improves your AC versus bullets, arrows etc., it also potentially negates their devastating criticals.



I am also partial to a particularly cool idea - when you have access to a library, lab or the like, you can spend time there to gain a kind of virtual mythic surge specifically intended (and buffed) to solve Knowledge, Craft or Profession-checks - but beyond that, the ability also allows you to deduce whether the proposed solution to a puzzle or riddle would work, helping immensely. What about nonlethal electro shocks that may remove detrimental conditions from the targets? Adding numerical escalation and increased splash radius will find some adherents among alchemists, while mundane healing that duplicates cure light wounds and its follow-ups can be scavenged with its table for no/rare magic campaigns - just replace mythic power costs with another limited resource and there we go! Nice, especially since the follow-up ability at 3rd tier increases the usefulness further! Providing divination-like glimpses of the future or at-will hypnotism are also covered. Brads will certainly enjoy the fact that bardic performance-related feats and class abilities can be applied to bardic performances and rangers/rogues et al. will enjoy a similar upgrade for trapfinding traps and ranger traps. Particularly useful should be the option to dabble in other paths akin to the trickster.



Pretty nice - as a shout-out to NeoExodus' popular machinesmith-class, mythic discoveries covers the tricks of this class alongside alchemist and wizard discoveries. Limited application of both Int and Wis to ability or skill checks or will-saves may not be my favorite application, but at least, the ability has a limit that prevents a constant numerical escalation. Using alchemy in lieu of Heal and making alchemical remedies should also be explicitly mentioned - including options to improve conjuration (healing) spells or extracts via mythic power, rendering them mythic, though here, the wording could have been a tiny bit smoother.



Upgrading implants that grant message, sending and later telepathic bond, with more mythic power allowing for even better links and an upgrading spy drone acts a similar duplicate of spells, with the obvious difference of being themed around concepts à la prying eyes, later even allowing you to cast spells through it. Negating misfires and support for the rules of the Technology Guide is also nice to see. Fans of the stranger may also recognize the exotic weapon-adaption ability I particularly liked there.



The 3rd tier abilities include making primitive firearms behave as advanced firearms, including additional options to enhance them via mythic power, making clockwork constructs and animating objects (again, with a scaling) and sabotage of equipment at a mere touch - all pretty cool. What about making dominate drones via implants? Yeah, cool! PCs annoyed by villains having cool escape plans (which are glorious) may enjoy receiving access to this ability as well, while fleshwarping potions cater to the mad scientist-fan-crowd.



I also enjoy "One Step Ahead", which allows you to spend mythic power to execute abilities which can counter that of your adversaries as an immediate action, allowing you to smirk and counter all those nice combos your enemies have planned for you.



6th tier provides the ability to temporarily clone non-limited class abilities of your allies and expanding the durations of elixirs et al. to a day is pretty massive. Want to go Frankenstein? Well, there would be an option for that via specialization of making Mythic Constructs. What about infecting foes with a nanite virus that kills them and turns them into zombies under your command? Yes, that one is awesome, though I personally would have preferred a unique template for nanite zombies (who become constructs and are treated as either regular or fast zombies). Fans of the technology guide will definitely like the ability that lets you convert magic items into technological items. As a capstone 10th tier ability, the genius may roll twice on all Int and Wis-based checks, skill-checks and initiative, taking the better result. For one mythic power, you are treated as having rolled a 20 and any surge-dice used are automatically maximized and sufficient knowledge versus creatures allows you a free cunning bane ability to add to ALL attacks you execute, while also increasing any DCs.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are almost perfect, I noticed no glitches apart from a box where a minus should be - cosmetic, really. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with copious amounts of full-color artwork, including some gorgeous 1-page pictures, though you may know some from previous LG-supplements. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Jason Nelson's Genius is a fun mythic path that provides an interesting array of options and cutting-edge awareness of other rules and subsystems, which is indeed nice to see. The path itself is well-crafted and versatile, though I wasn't blown away by the resurgence of the metagamey analytical eye-based abilities. Still don't like those. This path also has some overlap with the stranger and while that is only fitting, I caught myself being slightly less blown away here - the design here feels a bit more conventional, with slightly more escalation abilities - that, though, remains me being a nagging, spoiled reviewer. Ultimately, this is a cool path and fun, though one that remains slightly less (subjectively, and for me) awesome than its stranger-brethren. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal.



Now let the discussion begin - is Batman a Genius or a Stranger? ;)

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of the Genius
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Search for Lost Legacy 3: By Shadow's Grasp
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2015 04:16:10
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Search for Lost Legacy adventure arc clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 50 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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

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..

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All right, still here? Great!

So, at the end of the module, the PCs began traversing an underground river towards the third level of the dungeon and thus, this module kicks off with an encounter of a duergar expedition force, including full stats for a vessel, the Ironkeel. Alas, nothing is doen with the vessel. No vehicular combat - a missed chance. Once victorious, the PCs will find evidence that bespeaks of duergar trying to loot the complex ahead - they are not alone here. While I get why this choice was made from a dramaturgical perspective, it does somewhat dilute, at least to me, what made I and II so captivating - the sense of dilapidation and abandonment that suffused the complex, a feeling of isolation and shattered dreams.



At the same time, though, the complex manages to retain its believability to a laudable extent - that s, one can still see the themes that rendered the series compelling so far being represented within these pages. What am I trying to say by this? While the focus herein pertains more crucial rooms of Vargon's former complex, the respective rooms still feature an intriguing array of details of their former functionality. The defense-mechanisms and passwords that the PCs can unearth, as a whole, do provide a sense of realistic cohesion - the defense-mechanisms and checks provided makes surprising sense, even when referring to the unique fiendish minotaur herein.



The motifs of mephits and unobtrusive riddles still can be found within these pages, though one that refers to the initial letters of a rhyme imho requires more careful specification to be fair - as written, the players imho will have a very hard time guessing the intended solution. At the same time, this module does sport one "puzzle" that is downright awesome: There is a very strong xorn in here, who challenges PCs to a Tic-Tac-Toe variant, where the candidates put one hand on their head and then draw via the remaining hand(s) - i.e. one for PCs, two for the xorn, resulting in two xorn moves for any PC. And yes, this can allow the PCs to distract the guardian and plunder to their heart's content - just make sure, the creature is occupied by its "fair winning streak"...



Beyond the remnants of Vargon's forces, this level also constitutes a means for the PCs to meet their dangerous opposition - Tanrik and his henchmen have also infiltrated this level, providing additional opposition and, in Tanrik's case, the prime antagonist and boss of this level -his background story and the legend of the perished emerald band are recounted among the appendices and again, we have nice full-color maps including player-friendly versions provided.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - both on a formal and rules-level, there are quite a few minor glitches that plague the writing and constitute a detrimental factor in the details. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard with neat artworks and cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



I have noted in the second installment a strange fluctuation in writing quality and ultimately, this very much extends to this installment, but in a rather significantly exacerbated form - when e.g. alchemical potions can create expeditious phase I have NO IDEA what that is supposed to mean. As much as I love the use of diaries etc. to foreshadow the things to come and fill in the blanks of the story, sentences à la "He states that he has attained just enough spell power now to bring the magical barrier." [sic!] eject me straight from the level of immersion attained by the indirect story-telling. This does extend to magical item treasures, where a price modification could be in addition or as part of a piece of jewelry's price - small glitches like this, while certainly not hampering the GM to the extent as to make this problematic, ultimately constitute my main issue with this installment in the arc.



This is by no means bad, mind you, and it inherits the logic and feeling of realistic exploration as well as the series' proclivity for indirect storytelling. At the same time, John R. Davis' writing is less refined herein, with quite a few small issues, more so than in the previous installments. It should also be noted, that, while this does refer to 3.X in a couple of instances, no rules for this system are provided - this is very much a PFRPG-only module, not one of AAW Games' earlier dual-stat modules.



Over all, this installment proved to be less refined both as a reading experience and in actual gameplay - my experience did show that, while this can be the most challenging of modules in the series so far, it also runs slightly less smooth than part I and II. When I'm also taking aforementioned, partially content-influencing glitches into account, I can't unfortunately settle on a final verdict higher than 3.5 stars, though I will round up by a teeny tiny margin for the purpose of this platform due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Search for Lost Legacy 3: By Shadow's Grasp
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Psionics Augmented: Wilders
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/20/2015 06:47:30
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This pdf begins with a short introduction of the wilder class and a contemplation of its themes before diving right into the two new archetypes herein, the first of which would be the surging muse.



The surging muse is all about the Surging Aura-feat, granting such an aura even if the archetype does not have the feat or otherwise expands the range of it. More importantly, though, would be the fact that allies within the aura receive an insight bonus to damage equal to the surge's intensity. Surge blast is replaced with a very powerful ability - at the cost of expending psionic focus, the surging muse can add + her Cha-mod as force damage to all melee and ranged attacks of her allies within her aura and at 2nd level, the allies within the aura also receive a +1 dodge bonus to AC, which increases by +1 every 4 levels thereafter. I really enjoy the concept and generally, execution of this support archetype - the buffing capabilities are cool and the archetype is solidly written. That being said, the stacking of massive bonus damage to attack for all allies can very quickly escalate - badly. A wilder of 1st level can expend her psionic focus for AoE + 4 force damage, +1 for wild surge; that's AoE +5 to atk and damage at first level - presuming "only" a Cha-mod of 18. I've playtested this ability and it makes a meatgrinder out of any halfway decent adventuring group - +5 to damage at first level for all allies with 15 ft. may not seem like much, but try it in-game and you'll know what I mean. Additionally, I'm not that big a fan of force damage at first level, though here at least, the ability allows other PCs excel in the otherwise frustrating cliché shadow-boss fight that is sported in so many 1st level modules. One more thing - this ability makes dipping in the archetype much too good and resource-balancing wise, force damage is usually a limited resource for casters, not a semi-unlimited one, much less one available in this quantity. All in all, an archetype I really enjoy and one only a different, better balanced scaling mechanism (for said force damage) and some finetuning away from being really neat!



The second archetype herein would be a complex one, namely the voidheart. Not drawing upon emotion per se, but rather a sense of nihilistic emptiness, her surges actually decrease the manifester level of the surged power, but also decrease the level of means of dispelling powers and spells by such an amount. Effectively, this makes the surged powers less boomy, but also impedes means of actually eliminating them. And yes, this does get the complex wording required right. Voidhearts do not suffer from psychic enervation and receive immunity to energy drain in lieu of surge bond. More interesting would be the replacement of surge blast - by emitting a roar, a voidheart can affect a creature within medium range -on a failed save, this ability prevents any form of healing for Cha-mod rounds. I really, really, really love this ability - I've been experimenting with the like in my home-game and it adds an interesting dimension to combat. Now personally, I would have very much preferred an explicit statement regarding fast healing and regeneration, but since that is kind of subsumed under "healing of any variety", I won't hold that against the archetype. Further immunities centered on negative emotions and the theme of death and a surging euphoria complement this archetype further with a theme of an emotional vampire. The capstone allows for a 1/day-limited super surge at -10 ML that causes negative levels and power point loss. I adore this archetype. It completely changes playing experience, does not shirk from complex concepts and has style galore. Kudos!



Next up would be the first 5-level PrC, the cross-discipline master, who gets 3/4 BAB-progression, medium will-saves, d8, 5/6 manifesting progression, d8 and 4+Int skills per level. Yes, this PrC covers 6 levels, not the usual 5 or 10. As befitting of the name, at 1st level and every level thereafter, this PrC nets the character 1 power from a discipline chosen - even if it is not on the character's list. This gets multiple list-caveats right, btw. Additionally, the manifester level of the PrC for that discipline increases by a further +1. Conversely, it is this last component of which I am not a fan - Apart from 1 level, all levels net manifester level progression. This ability is supposed to broaden the options of the wilder, but, if you choose to, you can focus on one discipline, stacking up +6 ML for this discipline in addition to those granted by regular PrC-progression. Taking a look at the chassis of the PrC, I am pretty sure this is intended to offset the one progression-less level for the chosen discipline - so yeah, a slightly more precise wording to prevent a reading that allows for single discipline ML-stacking would be in order here.



3rd level nets 3/day swift action wild surges to temporarily learn a new power from a selected discipline for minutes equal to the wild surge's intensity, i.e. the plus-bonus. This is interesting since the PrC does not explicitly grant surging progression, making this a limited wildcard trick that broadens the very limited focus of the wilder without being broken. 5th level nets a decrease of all power point costs by 1, to a minimum of 1. 6th level nets an ability which hits one of my pet-peeves - you choose a metapsionic feat and can use it to manifest a power sans expending your psionic focus - 1/encounter. I do like the action economy and flexibility this grants, I really do...but why use a per-encounter-mechanic? Why not simply go with a cool-down based on actual in-game time?



The surge-adept gets d8, 3/4 BAB-progression, good will-saves, 4/5th ML-progression and, surprise, is all about the surge. The surge adept decreases her psychic enervation chance by 5% (to a minimum of 1%) and stacks class levels for the purpose of surge progression. At 3rd level, the adept may invoke her wild surge as an immediate action whenever an ally within 30 ft. manifests a power, lending the surge's effects to said ally, while the surge adept still is the one risking enervation. As a capstone, the PrC can 1/day declare a surge a master surge, ignoring power resistance and energy resistance equal to the surge adept's ML and does not cause enervation. The nitpicky sucker in me assumes that the ML in question is the one modified by wild surge, not the non-surged ML, as per default, but I won't hold this minor ambiguity against the PrC.



The 3rd one would be the Volcanic Mind, which uses the same basic class-chassis as the surge adept. They also stack wild surge-progression...but increase their psychic enervation chance by 5% every round not suffering from it, up to a maximum of 80%. Instead of suffering from a condition gained through psychic enervation, this PrC may opt to take 1d6 Wis-damage instead. Whenever a volcanic mind suffers psychic enervation, hostile creatures within 30 ft. suffer manifester level damage and become sickened for manifester level rounds due to the psychic eruption. Here, I am honestly not sure whether the ML of the surge that prompted the enervation or whether the unmodified ML is the one you go with. 2nd level nets cleaving power, a new feat, sans increasing power point cost - this works like cleave for targeted powers, btw., at the cost of +4 power points. Higher levels also add the deafened condition. More importantly would be that suffering from such a power eruption essentially negate the distance-requirements between wilder and target - the victims are treated as in range for as long as the effect persists. This is kind of problematic - while it works well for non-targeted powers with ranges à la close, medium, long, etc., the ability does fall apart to some extent when faced with powers of a different range, mainly because they cease making sense: Cover and concealment apply still, but what if the target teleports away? The ability explicitly states that it only requires the targets to remain on the same plane - no line of sight or line of effect. Is attacking foes that teleported away handled as attacking a target while blind? What about powers with a range of personal or touch? Can touch-based powers be enhanced like this? If yes, that is very powerful and pretty much an invitation for some very nasty, broken combos. What about otherwise personal powers? I firmly believe that this ability requires some clarification - I *think* the intent is to mitigate the range-restrictions. If that is the case, I'd suggest allowing for ranged touch attacks to work with it (providing rules for creatures out of sight/how the ability interacts with line of sight/effect) and explicitly excluding regular touch and personal powers. The Vent Agony feat, which extends overchannel or psychic enervation to the 30-ft.-radius and may one hostile creatures with its effects, also gets an AoE-upgrade and as a capstone, the staggered condition is added to the collective debuffs these guys can heap on opponents.



If the above was not ample clue, yes, this pdf does sport an array of new feats specifically for the wilder. In this chapter, the new [Surge] feat descriptor is introduced, which requires wild surge as an activation and prompt psychic enervation-checks. Enduring Mind and its follow-ups can be seen as providing a cushion for mental ability damage/drain, reducing that by 2, but thankfully not allowing for abuse regarding abilities of the character powered by burning mental ability, with the follow-up feat allowing for the expenditure of the psionic focus for full-blown negation while also scaling the base cushion up by a further +2. Gaining temporary hit points via psionic focus with a daily limit and follow-ups that grant fast healing (with a cool-down - hallelujah!) can be found alongside those that net you an AC-bonus while focused.

Not all of these feats are this well-crafted, though - I am, for example NOT sold on using wild surge as a resource to heal damage to physical attributes equal to the surge's intensity - while not bad at mid to high levels, the low prereqs of this feat allow for pretty easy healing of attribute damage at lower levels, where it is supposed to be a powerful resource that cannot be easily negated. Mental Equilibrium is a feat that must die. It renders immune to the effects of psychic enervation, your own or others, apart from hit point or power point loss. This essentially takes away one crucial component of balancing the already pretty uncommon and somewhat wonky wild surge mechanics - and its effects are opaque - "You still suffer any other effects of psychic enervation." - so is one immune or not? Does this render the debuffing of the voidheart moot? If one assumes immunity, one cuts off a significant amount of the cool tricks of volcanic mind and voidheart in addition to the benefits for the wilder. Oh, and what about the extended target/range-abilities of the volcanic mind? Do they still work or not? This feat can btw. be taken at 1st level. It opens a can of worms of issues and imho is jeopardizing the intricately-linked abilities presented in this pdf. Well, there would be an option to make wilders superb counterspellers/manifesters, reducing the ML/CL of spells by wild surge's intensity, but increasing your chance of psychic enervation. Feats like this add much-needed breadth to the wilder's arsenal, but become infinite toolboxes once this loathsome Mental Equilibrium is introduced, it invalidates their drawbacks.



This is especially jarring since I do actually enjoy the design-style. Another feat would allow you to form a psionic collective that allows you to disperse the negative effects of psychic enervation to willing targets, providing concise rules for dividing damage incurred via Overchannel etc. and making for a much more compelling experience of teamplay - while also begging to have its cool idea expanded. Piercing energy and power resistance via a feat may be powerful, but seeing the wilder's limited power selection, it renders some otherwise bad choices more viable. So that one's fine with me as well. Another feat that needs to DIE is Psychic Celerity. Expend your psionic focus to move up to your movement rate as a swift action. No limits. Know what one of the most powerful low-level items is? Quickrunner's Shirt. It has a 1/day cap, sure, but ALL of my players try to get it as soon as possible. Any breaking of the action economy is a VERY strong benefit and this allows for the nigh constant breaking of it. Usually, the very few limited means of doing the like on a more flexible basis are relegated to beyond 10th level, usually capped in daily uses - and they are powerful then. With only 2 feats as a prereq, this one is terribly broken and needs some severe smacking with the nerf-bat. On the other hand, using wild surges to enhance mind blades is pretty cool, as is a reflexive damage to attempts at unwanted telepathic contact.



The new powers introduced here also sport a unique new rules-innovation - surge augmentations. These augmentations are only applied to a power when it is manifested as part of a wild surge. Getting a buffer versus physical attribute damage can for example be used via surges on other characters or to grant you DR/- equal to the surge's intensity. Yes, these augments provide the one thing the wilder severely lacked - breadth and versatility and in one case, once can choose from 4 regular and 1 surge augment - pretty cool, especially considering that the increasing costs of the regular augment provide an interesting scaling mechanism to keep the power relevant over the levels. Not all powers are perfect, though - there are some ambiguities. Take Fracture Pattern - it essentially forces a foe to take +50% damage from a damage type -you create a vulnerability and one that makes sense for the levels. However, the augment can also add UNTYPED damage. You know, the kind that has NO means of being negated. Worse, it is not clear whether this added damage effect is also negated as the primary effect of the power on a successful save - I assume so, yes, but clarification would be in order. EDIT: Since this has been questioned - yes, I am very much aware of "Save negates" usually also referring to the effects of augments, but when an augment provides a unique secondary effect, I consider a wording akin to how it's handled in pretty much every spell-write up that distinctly notes whether the effect is prtially or wholly mitigated in order. An aura of crystalline shards that can either provide some defenses or nasty damage to nearby targets, plus bleed damage on a failed save. While this aura only covers 10 ft., I do think it could require a nerf - why? Because 5d6 slashing damage sans save to halve or negate is pretty much a meatgrinder. I love this power's imagery and flexibility, but its balance imho is off - take a look at comparable effects of 4th level powers and you'll get what I mean - 5d6 + 2d6 bleed for 1/round per level, no save to mitigate 5d6 damage....that's capital letter level nasty. I do not object to the surge augment using offensive and defensive at once, but the offense does need a nerf.



AoE sonic damage emanations are cool, though the wording here has a minor hiccup - "For each additional power point you spend, this power's damage increases by one die (d4)" - This may not be ambiguous, but usually, one would go for a wording à la "increases by +1d4". The words "increase" and "die/dice" in combination usually denote an increase in die-size from d4 -> d6 -> d8, etc. - now this will not influence the final verdict, but I still considered it worthwhile to mention. And yes, I am aware that psionics have used this type of wording before. As mentioned, a nitpick. Spreading fear-based affects between targets is also a cool idea - I btw. also like that this one has different power point costs for dreads and psions/wilders, though here, the massive debuff the surge augment grants is pretty nasty. Sacrificing up to 1/2 of your hit points to also deal this amount of damage to a target, with only a will to negate the added sickened condition would be another power that needs a heavy whack with the nerf-bat. It's terribly broken - a) The damage incurred by the target is untyped. b) The target has no save to negate. c) The damage is extremely reliable. d) The damage can easily be healed. If you can't see how this is broken as hell, make a high Con-character and combine that with reliable healing. If that's not enough to drive home the point I'm making, instead use a monster with high HP and add this power - this outclasses all 3rd and 4th level powers in damage potential as the numbers go up. "But Endy, surely that's not so bad?" - My group's 7th level witch has more than 50 Hp. Were the character a psion, that would amount to 25 points of guaranteed damage per round, with healing the damage being within the paradigm of what his friggin' cohort is capable of delivering. Need a better example? Give that power to a dragon. This archmage enshrouded in immunities and x protective sorceries? Pff, drop 100 hit points and booyah, guaranteed kill, no means to mitigate and through the PR you can cleave. If the dragon has wilder levels and surges, you could use the surge augment to instead deal 200 points of damage! Yeah, not gonna happen anywhere near my game - this 2nd level power outclasses harm and must DIE.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - I noticed no significant glitches, though here and there some minor deviations from rules semantics have crept in. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It also sports some nice original full-color artworks and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.



The wilder is the one psionic class I considered not too compelling -all about power, at the cost of limited flexibility. While nice for min-maxers who are okay with a limited array of options, I never considered the class too compelling due to its lack of breadth. Jade Ripley does a stellar job at expanding the options at the wilder's fingertips and I adore many of the choices herein: I love the voidheart. The PrCs are quite cool and while not perfect, they actually do some damn cool things with the wild surge - they feel UNIQUE and offer different playing experiences. The Surge-feats and Surge-augments are AWESOME choices and I sincerely hope we'll see many, many more powers with surge augments in the future -adding player agenda to alleviate the one-trick-pony playing experience of the wilder is EXACTLY what this class needs! I love this pdf for all of this and the total absence of anything that even remotely resembles cookie-cutter design -this is complex, worthwhile, high-concept material.



At the same time, I can't fathom how some of the feats and powers EVER got past playtesting. The numbers don't add up for the respective levels and some feats are more powerful than 10th-level-plus class abilities - essentially, there are quite a bunch examples herein that are textbook-broken. I'd honestly bash this further, but at the same time, this pdf provides several choices I absolutely adore - to the point where I was contemplating a 4.5 star + seal rating before properly analyzing the feats and powers chapters. Alas, these issues are here - and they are significant. I sincerely urge DMs to carefully consider allowing some of the options herein at the table, but at the same time, I find myself incapable of not recommending this pdf - it makes the wilder infinitely more compelling and offers some design-innovations I really hope to see expanded in the future - Jade Ripley has, in a nutshell, made a class infinitely more compelling, but also broke balancing HARD in quite a few cases, making this, in spite of the inspired components, a mixed bag that oscillates between "OMG, how awesome is this?" and *Plinkett-voice*"What were they thinking?" /Plinkett voice.

Still, as much as I love much of the content herein, with glaring balance-issues like this, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform - I can still recommend this to any GM seeking to add actual identity to the wilder, though - just be sure you check this carefully and ban the living hell out of some components - what works herein in stellar material, after all.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Wilders
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Nautical Heroes: Pregenerated Characters
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/20/2015 06:45:04
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of pregens clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial,1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



As always, we get the pregens presented herein as 20-point-buys, though advice for modification down to 15-point buy is provided for each character. The character itself is always presented not only with basic stats, but also a gorgeous artwork that represents the character alongside a nice in-character quote that helps get in the spirit of the character- layout-wise, the presentation here is great: Page 1 presents aforementioned artworks and quotes, whereas the second page covers the statblock of the respective character alongside the basics of physical descriptions etc., which continues on the third page. there, on can also find excessive advancement-advice for future levels of the respective builds. Finally, the 4th page also provides advice for the players to properly portray the respective characters. This decision may result in some blank spaces on some pages, yes, but it does make it very easy for the DM to print and hand out characters to the respective players.



So what are the characters herein? Well, for once, the first, right out of the box, would be a swashbuckler - yes, this pdf does have full-blown ACG-support and Aethan, the noble and romantic swashbuckler, makes for an interesting and fun leader for a respective group. Cathran, a beautiful cleric of Desna would be next up and yes, there would also be a halfling sea-singer and an elven sea witch, which, of course, also comes with a fully depicted familiar.

Now so far, the choices have been pretty much what you'd expect, but introducing an undine flowing monk into the fray imho is an interesting choice for those who prefer more uncommon races. Skull & Shackles is one of the APs wherein playing an evil character is pretty much supported and Evon Bloodbeak, the aptly-named tengu-rogue (swashbuckler) does cover this niche admirably - without overlapping with the ACG-swashbuckler regarding the build's focus, mind you.

Using age as a nice way to modify a character, a peg-legged oracle (with a smart focus on terrain-control and social skills) can be considered yet another interesting build. Of course, no Skull & Shackle-prgen collection would be complete without a gunslinger (buccaneer)...



The pdf's final page is devoted to foldable paper miniatures of the respective characters for use with battle maps.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect, with the most hilarious glitch being the language "polyglut." Layout adheres to Legendary Games' beautiful standard established for Skull & Shackles plug-ins and the copious artworks are beautiful indeed - with the exception of the undine, the artworks have, to my knowledge, not been used in other LG-supplements - and overall, are top-notch. The bookmarks suffer from a weird glitch where the first couple of them are missing and then, some do not read like character names, while others do. Rare rules and uncommon pieces of crunches have unobtrusively been hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com.



Neil Spicer's nautical heroes are AWESOME as pregens. Why? because they not only get the theme right from the get-go, they also generally adhere to the same level of optimization - none of the pregens felt overpowered, with all sporting some definite roleplayer's choices, while at the same time remaining competent at what they set out to do.

The AP's focus on naval combat offered a further potential for problems - namely naval combat and siege weapons - instead of shoehorning a 1st level character into such a role, the pdf wisely opts out of this in favor of putting such decisions into player-hands - you won't find the one siege-guy herein, or the one navigator/look-out - instead, you have aptitudes, yes, but not ones that lock you into an option.



While the minor glitches here and there and the minor bookmark hiccup are unpleasant blemishes, overall, I still absolutely adore these pregens and their general balance. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nautical Heroes: Pregenerated Characters
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Animal Races: Clan of the Pig
Publisher: Eric Morton Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/20/2015 06:42:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Animal Races-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The members of the pig clan may be medium (+2 Cha, -2 Dex) or small (+2 Cha, -2 Str) and have the orc subtype, normal speed (30 feet if medium, 20 feet if small), low-light vision, scent, natural armor +1 (scaling up to +2 at 10th level), a primary natural bite at 1d4 (1d3 for small pigs) and an array of 5 different racial heritages. Boar Clan nets +2 to Con and allows for Porcine Heritage to be selected as a rage power. Hippo Clan members get +2 Str and may select the Water Pig feat as a rage power. Orca Clan members get +2 to Str and may substitute a druid's domain or animal companion to get Water Pig as a bonus feat at 1st, 2nd and every 4 levels thereafter. The Pig Clan gets +2 Dex and may choose Porcine Heritage as a rogue talent. Warthog Clan members get +2 to Con and may select Hell pig or Porcine Heritage as if they were hexes. As always, we get age, height and weight tables.



So what do these racial heritage feats unlock as racial abilities? As always in the series, the feats can be taken multiple times, with certain amounts of feats taken unlocking better abilities. Porcine Heritage lets you substitute the bite with a better gore or increase your movement by +10 feet, thereafter first unlocking damage die upgrade for the gore and then, finally, ferocity. Water Pig also sports a bite upgrade in dice-step, aforementioned fast movement and also features 20 ft. swim speed and hold breath. Once you have taken these, two further +10 ft. swim speed enhancements, bite upgrade to gore level regarding damage dice and blindsense in water become available.



Here, a peculiarity should be mentioned in case the subtype was not ample cue - this pdf is very much aware of the history of the orcs and as such, the following feats all are available for any creature with the Orc or half-orc subtype. The first would be the Hell Pig, which codifies the tiefling racial traits darkvision 60 ft., fiendish sorcery and skilled in a similar way as the above heritage feats; if you have them, you can instead choose fiendish resistance and the SPs of tieflings. The Hell Rune feat nets a witch the infernal domain's bloodline spells as additional patron spells at the spell level of the sorceror and the Impressive Girth feat treats you as +1 size for the purpose of combat maneuvers and other size-dependent effects, though it locks you at max weight for your race AND provides a concise mechanic for the weight gain - this one covers all bases. Neat!



Now as always, the pdf also does provide some extensive take on genealogy and the way in which mythology and other creatures are perceived in the context of a world that contains them as well as a deity-write-up, this time detailing a truly despicable CE being devoted to avarice, gluttony and similar nice concepts. Also in tradition of the series, we receive an array of heraldic crests that double as traits for the diverse members of the pig clan, with bonus feats granted and balanced against drawbacks appropriate for the power-level of the respective feats. It should also be noted that one of these traits does postpone the feat it grants to 6th level - but then again, it's Disruptive and does not require meeting the prereqs, so eating -1 to will saves may still not be a bad idea.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the series' elegant, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for you convenience.



Eric Morton's pig clan is great - if you remember orcs having snouts and tusks, this is a trip down memory lane. If not, you'll still get one of the best installments in the great series: Balanced, deadly and versatile, this pdf provides a superb example for Mr. Morton's ability to provide very concise writing that oozes flair. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Animal Races: Clan of the Pig
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Imperial Relationships
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/17/2015 03:25:13
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 2 pages editorial/introduction, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of raw content, so what is this?



The short answer to this question is ultimately a very simple one - this would be the application of the relationship-rules (which unfortunately only work for 6-part-APs) to the Jade Regent adventure path.



Now obviously, as with the other AP-plug-ins, Legendary Games can obviously not use Paizo's IP and proper names, though it should be noted that you can't probably make the identity of NPCs more obvious to the discerning GM - each of the NPCs receives a precise moniker ("The Caravan Master") as well as an appropriate theme for the respective romances/relationships based on cards drawn by "The Mystic Seer."



The 4 NPCs covered herein all belong to the characters that denote the very core of the caravan and as such, have no real "abandon/joining the caravan"-clause - while each relationship does provide such lines, there isn't much that can happen in these regards. general affinity notes for the characters are provided and romance options depending on ranks are also part of the deal.



It should be noted that rank 7 usually is the one where PCs can initiate a romance, (with an exception, where that may be lowered to 5) and both 7 and 10 provide unique benefits for the PCs. On a nice side-note, the seeress does come with a cool prophecy to add to the game. The respective ranks doe provide sufficiently diverse challenges for the PCs seeking to get closer to a given NPC - whether it's showing your Knowledge of nature, proving your smarts or holding your liquor, the challenges can be pictured much like mini-skill-challenges. Now the respective challenges are not necessarily easy and require some forethought - people who don't have experience in nature will have a quite hard time wooing a certain elven lady, for example.



Now I mentioned unique benefits - these are interesting in that they can amount to almost class ability-level bonuses, rendering the wooing of a given character also mechanically something that rewards the PCs for the investiture in skills that would otherwise not necessarily be an optimized choice - I do like that.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games beautiful two-column standard for Jade Regent-plug-ins. The pdf comes with beautiful full-color artworks for the NPCs. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Mark Seifter's first applied take on relationships is one I considered believable and fun - ultimately, this provides a nice emphasis for roleplayers - the respective rank-infos provide all the necessary information to properly portray the scenes and the relationships themselves feel believable and nice. So all perfect? No.



For one, I would have enjoyed more complex challenges - while no one keeps you from stacking the DCs together, a small guideline for more complex challenges would have been nice to see.

I also would have loved perhaps a reaction-guideline for two-timing or cheating/jealousy - as written, there is not much consequence here and all those less pleasant components are left to the GM. While this in no way impedes an otherwise nice applied take on the relationship-rules (one that I hope will be expanded further by more relationship-pdfs!), it results in me feeling a certain lack when reading this pdf. hence, my final verdict will "only" clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.



You can get these nice ways to add dimension and roleplaying opportunities to Jade Regent here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com's shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Relationships
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Ultimate Relationships
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/17/2015 03:15:25
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page table-index, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We've all been there - a key-NPC just is more interesting to the players than a given module anticipated - whether as for romantic interests or just for the purpose of being buddies, the social component of interaction between characters is pretty much a component often neglected in PFRPG. Now this pdf provides a concise, no-frills base system to track how players and NPCs interact with one another. Basically, relationships are codified in 10 ranks, with rank 4, 7 and 10 being milestones. the default rank is 0, with 1 representing a basic alliance. Much like what happens behind the scenes with videogames from Mass Effect to The Walking Dead, these relationships are codified via the tracking of camaraderie points.



When a PC acts in concordance with a specific NPC, the PC gets 1 - 2 camaraderie points, with contrary actions potentially decreasing relationships. Whenever a PC levels up, he can assign 2 camaraderie points to assign to an NPC to represent the PC spending extra time with that NPC. Camaraderie starts at 0 for each new rank, but ranks are NOT lost due to camaraderie-loss - instead, the PC suffers a penalty according to negative camaraderie points. The higher the rank, the more camaraderie points one requires to rank up. Once the PC has accumulated enough camaraderie points to rank up, a talk is required, potentially also requiring a skill check or more. Failing to rank up does provide bonuses to future checks, so, much like in the Persona games, your relationships will not stagnate. Finally, there would be the component of affinities - essentially a representation on how a character interacts with a PC depending on diverse circumstances: A xenophobic dwarf may, for example, be a tough nut to crack for your elven character, while other dwarves find establishing a connection easier.



There also are so-called milestones (on the nit-picky side - the first reference to them points towards page XX, instead of the correct page-number) - one can determine these via providing about 5 per AP-book, with each providing different qualities of the interactions and gifts via a solid table of DCs - craftsmanship and repetition of such acts determine the target DC of these interactions to get camaraderie points. Rivalries are also covered in these contexts. A PC with a campaign-specific trait begins with a chosen NPC at rank 2, with +2 points towards rank 3.



Ranks achieved also net the PC XP-rewards and additionally, NPCs and PCs may actually end up with tangible, rules-relevant benefits from better relationships. Now one central flaw of this system, as much as I like it, remains the AP-focus: Both Base required Camaraderie to Rank Up and Milestone-frequency are not provided in a general system for DMs, but in one that is based on the progress in the 6-book-sequence of APs - if you instead homebrew or run a megamodule, you'll have to do the adaptation yourself without much guidelines, limiting unduly the generally awesome base array of rules.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to legendary Games' beautiful full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf provides a solid array of nice full-color artworks.



Mark Seifter's relationship system per se is absolutely awesome and at 2 bucks, very affordable to boot. At the same time, I do believe it falls short of its own potential - at this length, I did not expect fully fleshed out relationships herein, but I do believe that this pdf would have didactically benefited from one or two sample relationships to illustrate the system in game. This is the nitpick-category of complaining. What does keep this system from reaching my highest verdicts, though, would be the insistence of tying it to 6-book-structure of APs makes the system less versatile than it should be.



Why not tie it to character levels in relation to when an NPC is introduced in character progression instead? The result would be infinitely more usable and ultimately make it possible to use the system easily beyond the limited scope of running APs. Why this option was not used, I cannot fathom, but it remains the one detriment of an otherwise neat system. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Relationships
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Animal Races: Clan of the Turtle
Publisher: Eric Morton Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/17/2015 03:13:00
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Animal Races-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Not one to shirk obvious and established tropes, the clan of the turtle, as defined herein, is a surprisingly lawful cadre of individuals that have taken to sewers and shadows, providing shelter for the downtrodden and hunted, as an aptly-written piece of introductory prose establishes. Members of the clan of the turtle may be either medium (+2 Con, -2 Dex) or small ( +2 Con, -2 Str), are reptilians with the slow and steady quality, low-light vision and scent, +1 natural armor that increases to +2 at 10th level, a primary natural bite attack at 1d4 if medium, 1d3 if small. The race also has some truly unique benefits: For one, they may ignore the prerequisites of the Stalwart Defender-prestige class, choosing it as starting class. The turtle shell acts as a masterwork scale mail that cannot be removed - even if destroyed, it only is reduced to 1 hp and gains the broken condition. It does heal with you and you can sleep in it. Additionally, it can be enchanted as per the normal rules. Note that armor bonuses stack with all bonuses except armor bonuses, so yes, you can upgrade this, should you choose to, though the armor check penalty (-4) and the 25% arcane spell failure chance severely limit the draw of turtles for certain classes.



A total of 4 racial heritages can be chosen: Terrapin get +2 to Wis and may select Turtle Clan Mariner as a stalwart defender's defensive power. Members of the tortoise clan also get this attribute modification and trait, but may instead select Turtle Clan Heritage. Turtles are stat-wise identical to tortoises. Finally, Turtle Mutants get +2 to Dex and may select Turtle Clan Mutant as a ninja trick. What do these feats do? Well, the three feats mentioned provide access to an array of different racial abilities, gaining an upgrade to the available selection when the low level abilities have been gained. The regular Turtle Clan Heritage allows for increased shell hardness and upgrade to masterwork breastplate for the shell and bite damage-size-increase (to 1d6/14, respectively), with high level increasing natural armor. Turtle Clan Mariners also increase bite damage and breastplate shell upgrade, but may also choose swim speed 20 ft., with higher levels providing faster swimming and the natural armor upgrade. Finally, Turtle Clan Mutants can increase their land speed by +10 ft., improve their bite and the upgrades allow you to treat the shell as mithral and not impede monk et al. abilities like evasion etc. The high-level ability of the feat is the natural armor increase once again. There also is a feat that nets you +1 defensive power.



As with the other animal races, this pdf does provide pretty extensive information on folklore and mythology of the clan, covering interaction with dragon turtles, redcaps, kappas - whatever you desire, thus providing an interesting perspective and anchoring the clan within the frame of a campaign - this extends to a genealogy that makes surprising sense to me and thus maintains the tradition of the series providing a concise, smart racial presentation. The deity provided herein may be a surprising choice - The lawful evil Dark Warrior of the North, a warrior who sacrificed all in his quest for immortality, even his name.



Now one of my favorites in the series would be how it handles traits -instead of providing racial traits that exist in a vacuum, heraldic crests double as traits for the race, though the interesting point here would be the bonuses granted - when chosen as the first trait, some of these do provide bonus feats, though at the cost of a slight drawback: Combat reflexes as a bonus feat is strong, yes, but -2 to initiative is nasty. The interesting thing here would be that weaker traits are also properly balanced against drawbacks or lack thereof.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the series' elegant, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for you convenience.



Eric Morton's turtles had their work cut out for them - how easy it would have been to only make this a retreading of TMNT-tropes.... Thankfully, while present, that's not the way he chose to handle the material, instead weaving a tapestry of surprising variety and density. As always in the series, his talent for intelligent, concise writing manages to get a LOT of material into this short pdf. I also very much enjoy how this pdf provides a unique mechanic that makes the stalwart defender a more valid choice. That being said, at the same time, this focus means that members of the turtle clan SUCK at being arcane casters and with ACP, they also aren't particularly good rogues and ninjas - there is no means for the race to offset the penalties incurred by the shell's armor emulation, which somewhat limits the appeal of the race regarding its classes. I still very much enjoyed this pdf and it does several interesting things and sports a concise and smart prose - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Animal Races: Clan of the Turtle
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Search for Lost Legacy 2: By Water's Mirror
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2015 04:12:16
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The long-delayed second part of the Search for Lost Legacy adventure arc clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 44 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Having succeeded in the first module, the settlement Krisen, now complete with statblock, is still suffering from an imperceivable pall - the dread wizard Vargon, caught between the state of lichdom and mortality, is still in stasis and still, his descendant seeks to unearth the power of the fallen archmage. Having braved the mine and reopened it, it is time for the PCs to venture further below, into level 2 of the strange complex hidden beneath the soil of Krisen's mountains, with perhaps diplomatic contact established with gillmen further providing a means to gather information and learn about what dwells below, following the trail of the long-perished adventurer group that went by the name of "Emerald Band."



The complex of Vargon thus constitutes a collection of former quarters of his Crimson Guard, laboratory rooms, summoning chambers - essentially, what you have here is a complex that tells its own story in a rather interesting way - when e.g. salt mephits can be found and once were used in incubators to experiment with good dragon eggs, when a burning skeletal champion or a basilisk roam these places, they never feel random or strangely placed.



When e.g. extrapolations info for certain books and the like actually provides read-aloud material for the GM alongside information that contains hints for passwords, when riddles not refer to tired real world concepts, but actual in-game knowledge in a clever and obvious way (no, I'm not referring to roll d20 to succeed...), when skum gardeners, bereft of any true sense of changing years and studded with an inhuman psychology just want something different to eat, when a devil is so utterly bored, he is not frightening any more, but only wants to be dismissed from service - that's when you'll realize that this module does tell its story in a highly unconventional way - this complex, even more so than the first level, is all about indirect story-telling, in a mastery one only rarely sees from a given pdf.



The truly stunning thing, though, would be how this sense is evoked to create a sense of immersion - not every room has a deadly encounter or trap, though many do; what makes this work is the implied realism and the central leitmotif of decrepitude suffusing each and every read-aloud text and room - alongside the theme of abandonment. Much like some rare video games, this module actually managed to evoke a sense of melancholy, of abandonment of once high dreams squashed - when old fairy tale books provide hints, when loyal retainers still perform non-sense tasks and when conjured outsiders have been either driven mad by boredom or just have become hostile, adhering to commands long gone - then you'll realize what makes this module special, at least to me.



This module does come with a nice full-color map, which also comes as a player-friendly version, though annoyingly, the side-view of the overall layout of dungeon-levels on the player-map spoils dungeon-entries and location of levels 3 and 4 -I sincerely implore GMs to cut out these spoilers before handing out any part of the map to the players! That being said, I wholeheartedly endorse the pdf's player map omitting secret doors, allowing you to cut out the ma's components before handing them out, piece by piece, to your players as they explore - kudos! (Coincidentally, this, the intended use, also negates aforementioned problem with the dungeon's side-view...)



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches on a formal level. On a rules-language level, there are quite a lot of deviations from the default to be found herein, though that is less problematic for adventures than for crunch-books. Layout adheres to a beautiful, easy to read and organized 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports copious amounts of nice full-color artwork and a nice map.



John R. Davis' first part of the adventure arc, released way back, was promising - an interesting set-up, but it did leave me wondering whether he could maintain the fragile atmosphere - let's get that out of the way: He did. This is very much an old-school module in that it presents a dungeon crawl, yes. But one where the true draw lies beyond the immediate sum of the constituent parts: We do have nice encounters, chances to use social skills etc. - the diversity is here.



And much like its predecessor, this is an easy module and should not yield too many dead PCs when handled with care. The glorious component and the main draw of this module, though, remains its ability to actually retain a dense atmosphere of immersive, indirect storytelling wherein the PCs are not hit over the head with the story, but rather than that rewarded for speculation. This is one of the dungeons, where carefully planning PCs move from room to room and actually have this experience of unearthing a story by walking its corridors - a story of abandonment, failed ambitions and dreams that is represented by an omni-present decrepitude as a subtle leitmotif. Where part I subsumed the mechanics and challenges wholly under the focus on atmosphere, the second installment increases the challenge, providing at least 3 encounters that can go wrong for unlucky PCs, somewhat increasing the challenge posed by this module - while still not difficult, this does eliminate one of my major gripes with part I.



When I read this pdf, I was skeptical and not too blown away, but in actual gameplay, this worked out as a very immersive experience that surpassed part I by quite a bit, being simply more refined in all aspects, providing a welcome level of detail - when ancient beers can develop beneficial or detrimental magical side-effects, when read-aloud texts galore help you run a module, you even look past one or two turns of phrases that fall slightly behind in narrative quality, because the overall package just works. In parts, this felt almost like a slightly more playful Raging Swan Press adventure, and I mean that as a compliment towards the level of detail the dungeon offers. Especially less experienced GMs that are daunted by some of AAW Games' more complex modules should have a field day with the content provided herein.



I've been thinking for quite a while - my players very much mopped through this dungeon and felt it to be pretty easy and this module does not sport AAW Games' usual high-concept, unique takes and the like - but know what? It doesn't have to - it is an excellent example of what can be done to evoke a truly unique and compelling atmosphere and ultimately, my players really LIKED this module, in spite of it being too easy for their almost pro-gamer-like sensibilities - when an atmosphere manages to maintain immersion despite that, manages to evoke a theme so fragile, one cannot loudly complain, now, can one? In the end, this was a blast to run and constitutes an example of a truly well-crafted module, one only rarely marred by strange, sudden lapses of writing quality where evocative prose suddenly gives way to pretty bland, simple sentence-structures in an odd quirk. I really, really enjoyed the module as a whole, though- and hence, I will rate this 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Search for Lost Legacy 2: By Water's Mirror
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Remarkable Races Submerged: The Sunken Relluk
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2015 04:08:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This racial pdf clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1/2 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The Relluk-race as presented in Alluria Publishing's Remarkable Races-series has always been a favorite of mine in concept and imagery rather than in mechanical execution - strange, headless, crystal-topped living constructs that actually are balanced? Nice! The Sunken Relluk is more than a modification of serial numbers, though - beyond a modified imagery that makes the massive Tiki-style masks with bifurcated arms, the sunken relluks do sport some unique modifications. Racial stat-wise, they get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, racial buoyancy +25 and immunity to pressure (if using the Cerualean Seas-rules), are medium and have a swim speed of 40 ft. Sunken relluks do have a constitution score and have less immunities - they "only" receive immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, petrification, disease, nausea, the sickened condition and energy drain. They do not need to sleep, but still have to rest to prepare spells. To offset these massive bonuses, relluks may be healed by spells and effects targeting the living or constructs, but only at half efficiency. And yes, this extends to ability damage. Sunken Relluk gain +2 natural AC and may, as a standard action, belch forth boiling water to an adjacent square, dealing 1 point of steam damage. (see Cerulean Seas -or just substitute fire damage if not using that book) - their crystals emit light as a torch, but strangely do not penalize Stealth.



It should also be noted that sunken relluk lack their landborne brethren's ability to regulate their heat - out of water they quickly overheat and die, and information that imho belongs into the racial abilities, not exclusively amid the flavor-text of the physical description. Sunken Relluks also may add a vast array of so-called power-gems to their form -they can thus add armor spikes to their form, with magical gems providing a diverse array of benefits -and generally, I like the idea here, though the rules for them do not provide any slot-overlap with magical items, so that's something to take into account - but it is represented in the massive costs of power gems, so yeah. The pdf dos sport age, height and weight information alongside a selection of 8 racial feats.



The racial feats essentially constitute adaptations of relluk racial feats and like some of them, they are ridiculously weak - take Boiling Gore: 1/day, after dealing damage with a gore attack granted by another feat, you add 1d8 steam damage to the same opponent as a swift action. Swift action. Once per day. 1d8. Seriously? Where I can I sign up to one of the worst wastes of a feat-slot I've ever seen? I would have very much appreciated an upgrade here... 1/day 120 ft. jetting away at a speed of 120 ft. is better, but the non-scaling limitation does not make this a good choice either. The other feats remain in this category, btw.



The pdf does provide a racial PrC, the Kahikua, who gains d8, 8+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 ref- and will-save progression. This class can be considered a variant of the ARcheovitus PrC of the landborne relluk, with e.g. stonecunning and ruins walker being replaced with better options versus traps - apart from that, no modification.



The pdf closes with two statblocks for frozen and sunken relluks and advice on integrating them into your game. There are no favored class options or traits included.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, thoughnot perfect - I noticed some minor hiccups. Layout adheres to Alluria Publishing's beautiful 2-column full-color standard with a bunch of glorious, original top-tier full-color artworks and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Emily E. Kubisz's sunken relluks are conceptually awesome and they actually play differently from their land brethren - with armor gems being absent from them and power gems as a system allowing for unique customization options, this modification and system can be considered useful for regular relluks as well. The production values are superb, so that's also great. At the same time, I sincerely hoped the feats had been properly upgraded. The absence of favored class options and traits is also a bit disappointing and the PrC's new content boils down to two none-too-inspired abilities.



Whether you consider this worthwhile very much depends on whether you already own the regular relluk or not - if so, then you have to be aware that you're getting Cerulean Seas-support, nice prose and the power gems - almost everything else in addition is a straight adaptation of the base relluk's content, without further streamlining of polish. The PrC, like its original version, remains a pretty weak choice and the feats are horribly bad choices. Still, I like this race. Especially if you do not have the original book and are intrigued by the race, you'll want to get this - and if you're playing a relluk, the power-gems may be just up your alley. At the same time, this may be solid, but it is not mind-boggling or great; this does have some rough edges that could have been polished off. In the end, my final verdict for these relluks will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Remarkable Races Submerged: The Sunken Relluk
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