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Cultures of Celmae: Elves
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/28/2017 07:49:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Cultures of Celmae-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, quite a lot for the low price-point, so let's take a look!

The elves, in an interesting twist of the traditional myth, are not the oldest humanoid race of Celmae: Instead, the mysterious beings have suddenly appeared on the world as the Shattering was unleashed...alongside many a significantly less benevolent entity. As such, the arrival and war-effort of the elves against the creatures unleashed was met with a mixed response, with treaties confining them to their chosen forest homes for the most part...though a dwarven prophecy of global annihilation at the elven hands still floats like a portent of ill omen over the race's dealings with the stout folk. Considering that Delwynndynn Morningstar, greatest hero of the elven race, succumbed to ghoul fever and turned into a horrible mockery of his erstwhile noble nature (think Athas of Warcraft-fame, in elven), that prophecy may yet come true. And yes, this legend is indeed represented herein as a badass CR 19 dread ghast magus/slayer. Oh, and guess what? You won't believe that: His stats, while not perfect, italicize the spells! Okay, the magic items are not italicized properly and there are some formal hiccups here...but it's a start! On a plus-side, his artwork is phenomenal and cool.

But I digress: Things turned more confusing for outsiders with the arrival of the Dray-kel'aravaas, a completely different type of elf who promptly won an internal war against the other elves, one that also meant an end to the previously-enforced exile and confinement of the elven people. This reorganization also meant the splitting of the elven people according to the lines of different houses, with the original elves being further known as members of the house of the lost. The scholar Brezzleman has an interesting and somewhat controversial report that tries to explain the elven mystery: He claims that the Dray-kel'aravaas are aliens, who have been sent by their Mi-Go-masters to find the fugitive original elves, who were led away by a mythological figure. The Dray-kel'aravaas were then abandoned by their fungal overlords...and it is hinted that elf-like behaving orcs may be tied to the Dray-kel'aravaas as well, allowing for a Middle-Earth-y overlap, should you choose that aspect to be true. So yeah, much like Golarion's elves, these guys are aliens, though the focus is admittedly different.

Racial trait-wise, the elven people herein are modified from the default: Their weapon familiarity is changed to hand crossbow, lightning rod, rapier and short sword and instead of elven magic, they can cast dancing lights, darkness and faerie fire 1/day as a SP - oddly without requiring the standard minimum of 11 in a pertinent ability score. They also get +1 to atk versus dwarves (not as a racial bonus) and SR 6 + their class levels. This, as a whole, constitutes a significant upgrade of the power of the race. The Houses represent different alternate racial trait packages that alos modify the weapon familiarity: The House of the Sun gains +2 Str and Cha, -2 Con and applies the grudge bonus to orcs instead of dwarves and loses darkness. The house of the moon gets +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Con, +2 to Sense Motive (erroneously called "Keen Senses") and changes the SPs to detect magic, enhanced diplomacy, guidance. The House of Stars gets +2 Int and Cha, -2 Con (making them lopsided caster-focused), +2 to all Knowledge Checks, daze, charm animal and charm person as SPs, making them imho stronger than other houses. There is one background trait included (erroneously referred to in the plural) that nets +2 to intimidate versus non-elves, -2 to Diplomacy versus non-elves. The trait is not properly formatted and does not feature the proper nomenclature and verbiage regarding bonus type etc.

The pdf mentions elven short- and longblade as alternate origins of katana and wakizashi, though the latter is not spelled out and must be deduced from context. The pdf also introduces us to two elven nations: the island-nation of Aravaasa (including the settlement stats of the city Moonmeadow), as well as the forsaken forest of Endiel, which is now haunted by Delwyndynn Morningstar and his ghoulish legions. The description of this region and its horrid transformation represents one of the highlights of this pdf, so kudos there - though if you expect to see the level of detail allotted to the Briranor's realm, you won't find that here.

Marsila Moonbow, patron deity of elves, is depicted herein as well, with 4 domains and subdomains assigned to her and both elven long- and shortblade as favored weapons. As always, this can result in some favored weapon interaction chaos, but considering the thematic unity and rules-precedence that treat a daisho as one entity (like Oriental Adventures, back in 3.X), I can kind of, sort of, see it. Kind of.

Next up is a new class, the forest warden, who receives d6 HD, 4 + Int-skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light as well as medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The class receives 3/4 BAB-progression and a completely weird save progression that begins with good Fort- and Ref-save progression and then switches it up to make Will the best save, culminating with +9 Fort and Ref, +13 Will at 20th level. I am not a big fan of this decision.

Oh, and the class receives Wisdom-based spellcasting that is spontaneous (uncommon, but I don't mind that attribute-choice) drawn from both ranger and druid-list, using the lowest spell level if it shows up on multiple spell-lists. That in itself would already be pretty strong, but starting at 5th level, the class can also select spells from the sorc/wiz-list, the most powerful list in the frickin' game. So, spellcasting alone...makes this class overpowered as F: We combine two of the most powerful spell-lists in the game, cherry-pick the lowest level AND add a spell-list (ranger), whose 1st level exclusives are balanced for 4th level access. Oh, and guess what: They're divine spells! You can cast in armor! F ME. If that sounds horrible, wait for this gem: "A forest warden cannot use spell completion or spell trigger magic items (without making a successful Use Magic Device check) of sorceror/wizard spells of 7th level." You can read that in the spell-section. So, what about 8th level and 9th level? No idea. Oh, and 8th level nets you the option to ignore arcane spell failure in nonmetallic light or medium armor...which does not apply in the first place, since the class casts divine spells. This class is a mess. So base spellcasting is jumbled wreck and even with that unlock, even if I'd assume the base spellcasting had the proper wording to prevent that...this ability would provide full armored sorc/wiz-casting in addition to all the druid/ranger/hunter-tricks.

And yes, this being a hybrid of hunter and sorc, we further add animal companion and focus, bloodline (at 5th level), trackless step, woodland stride, etc. And no, I'm not going to dignify this abomination of a class with a detailed breakdown. Whoever wrote this chucked out any notion of balance out with the bathwater. This is better than both druid and sorc. That says everything. Unless you go for insanely powerful gaming, this class is broken - and when you do, you'll have issues with rules-precision, something VERY important in high-powered games. I usually try to find something positive to say about every class. I tried really hard. I can't.

takes a deep breath We close this pdf with two pages of elaboration on the various houses of the elves, which here make up the seelie court...which can provide a fluff-disjoint if you sue that nomenclature for fey, but that at least remains a nitpick that you can ignore.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good: There are several obvious formatting issues in the rules-language and the hybrid class is confused and not balanced in any way, shape or form. Layout adheres to an aesthetically-pleasing two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a blend of amazing new artworks and older pieces. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Robert Gresham, John C. Rock and Michael Whitney provide a pdf on elves here that sports some nice fluff. The power-upgrade for the elven race(s) herein puts them on one level with the more powerful races, meaning that they eclipse regular gnomes, dwarves and humans of Celmae in direct comparison. The prose is generally nice, though a couple of hiccups do exist on a formal level. The hybrid class should have crashed and burned alongside the elven starship and seriously needs to go back to the drawing board as one horribly overpowered mess.

...this leaves me with not much to recommend. The prose is nice. The background flavor has some pretty nice bits and the inclusion of high-CR villain stats are nice...but the statblock sports several formatting glitches and errors as well. I like much herein, but if crunch is involved in any given section, you'll find an error here....and prose can only do so much to salvage a pdf, even one that is relatively inexpensive for the page-count. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down. If you're not in it for the fluff, steer clear of this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Elves
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Wrath of the River King for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2017 04:31:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page backer-thanks/introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 60 pages, so let's take a look!

My review is mainly based on the print version, though I also had access to the electronic version.

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

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Okay, so before we begin: This is one of the modules that perfectly encapsulates what sets Midgard apart from your run-of-the-mill fantasy setting, for its begin in the small village of Riverbend is steeped in the feudal structures that should be inherent in all fantasy worlds. Let me elaborate: The miller in ancient times doubled as a taxman of sorts and was directly put in charge by the respective lords: There was no free choice of where to go, etc. and you had to pay miler and lord when having your grain processed. It is thus that the stereotype of the greedy miller came into being. An edge of the sinister had always stuck to the profession in a fairy tale-context, one perfectly exemplified by Ottfried Preußler's "Krabat", building on the Wendish legend. Not only does the book perfectly highlight the horrors of love and war and poverty, its use of mystical numbers and general plot have influenced magical traditions in my own games for ages. It is, in short, glorious and if your German is good, I'd strongly recommend the folk-rock cd "Zaubererbruder" by ASP, a poetic and really catchy version of the tale that has some really smashing tunes like "Denn ich bin Dein Meister" ("For I am your master") or a brilliant portrayal of a duel of polymorphing cat and mouse - literally!

I digress, back to Riverbend: The miller here, as often, was the target of not an undue amount f jealousy...and worse, he actually had an elven wife! (Note: In Midgard, elves are VERY rare and considered to be closer to fey than regular mortals, making them feel more mythological.) The elven wife of miller Froderick has vanished, alongside with his millstone and people are pretty sure he has murdered her...after all, someone who consorts with fey is prone to be suspicious, particularly if he's also the miller! The presence of the fantastic is making itself felt in town, with the omnipresent fey (exemplified as bugbears and forest imps) making the area dangerous...oh, and guess what: poor Froderick is facing the gallows if the PCs don't help him. Indeed, investigation of Riverbend may yield the PCs some interesting information: For one, a band of satyrs with a talking bear have taken refuge at the local inn, much to the panic of the local population. Getting them out will require a complex skill-check-interaction...which brings me to one of my favorite parts in the module, at least from a design perspective.

You see, this was originally released for D&D 4th edition and while I loathe that system, its skill challenge mechanic is interesting: Basically, you set a complex task in front of the party and allow the respective PCs to accumulate success and failures based on skill-use. Let me make up an example to illustrate the concept: A tree blocks a trade road. The mage may use Knowledge (engineering) to discern the best way to move it, the fighter uses his Strength (or Profession (Woodman) to cut off some big branches and finally, the ranger or druid use Handle Animal to make the horses draw the tree away. Sure, you could depict that in sequence, but the beauty of complex skill challenges lies in the variety of options and the teamwork aspect inherent in besting them. The system is ridiculously easy to understand and I sometimes wish that particularly deadly traps used such a system more often, instead of relying on one roll. So yeah, the inclusion and proper conversion of these skill challenges is a big plus for me and I can't figure out any drawback to their inclusion.

Beyond the satyrs, there is a flaxen-eyed kid in the mill - who is very nervous and claims that it belongs to him. The PCs don't yet know that...but this boy is Froderick's son. Ellesandra, his missing wife, was pregnant and raised the boy in the Summerlands, where time follows different laws....a magical place which can, just fyi, be accessed by the mill pond...which also explains the presence of a rather potent sidhe knight and his squire there...and they're not pleasant beings. Speaking of not pleasant: The module makes an excellent display of highlighting the strange and capricious nature of fey, whilestaying true to the myths: If the PCs take a look at the accounts of Froderick, they may well find out that there is something missing...confronted with this discrepancy, the strange coincidences may make suddenly sense, as Froderick confesses to having had an enchanted millstone that he had to grind each day in order to keep his wife's love...oh, and his wife was gifted to him by a fairy lord, to whom he was sending the missing tribute...but he vehemently denies being the shape that was seen attempting to drown his wife. (On an aside: Morally compromised, but well-meaning man, young and gorgeous wife that is only kept entranced with him, courtesy of his toil...you can see some nice social commentary here...yep, the like has even existed back in the times quoted by fairy tales...)

It seems that the PCs will have to dive deeper into the matter at hand and brave the mill pond if they want to get to the bottom of this mystery...literally here, for the tithe collector of the fairy, one nasty hag (who also, coincidentally, knew about the miller skimping on the due amount and who is the culprit of the attempted drowning) has sunk the mill stone in the mill pond...so the PCs will have to dive down...and there, finally, brave a kind of mini-game, if you will, as you're diving into the river - getting to shore in the lands of the fey will be not an easy task...but once the PCs have managed to reach shore, things turn very much wondrous, as the Summerlands feel, without a doubt, like a realm both wondrous and magickal, as PCs get a chance to encounter eel hounds, witness the dance of moths, deal with frog-riding goblins...and save Elessandra from a fey bandit...and she is willing to fill the PCs in on her marriage being arranged...and thus that the woman has no intention of ever returning to the realms of mortals...but her wedding ring makes for a somber way of hopefully getting the miller off the gallows...but while the GM may elect for this encounter to just happen, it is very much at this point that the linearity you'd expect from a module like this...completely vanishes.

Sure, there are aspects that can be presented in a certain sequence, but, at this point, any remotely capable GM and group can either go in sequence through the specific dressings and NPC/monster-encounters, sure - but the goal itself and how they achieve it will depend in a very nice emphasis of player-choice highly upon the interaction with the mythologically-resonant cast of character: You see, with the miller not delivering the proper tribute, Riverbent is actually bound to become part of the Summerlands unless the deal can be renegotiated and the River King's wrath quelled. Oh, and even if the PCs just want to run...well, they may have access to an incantation that lets them navigate fey roads...but that does not mean they can simply return home!

Thing is: Fey are elitist. And cold. And alien. And they seem to have taken a liking to some of the feudal structures seen among the mortals - thus, the PCs will definitely need to make some allies with powerful entities...and the entities being fey, well, let's just say that strings will be attached, new roleplaying potential generated as the PCs make their impact known among the noble fey. In fact, the PCs may even claim a title, encounter the dragon Tatzel and there would be the Birch Queen's magnificent and unearthly fair to visit. An evil lord of verminous butterflies, scorched treants and similarly wild beings allow for plenty of deadly encounters...or corresponding opportunities for roleplaiyng opportunities with some of the most interesting creatures to interact with in a while.

In order to save Riverbent, the PCs not only have to reach the source of the river and gain access to the court of the river king, they will also need to make a case for the claim of lord Flax on the lands being spurious...and negotiating with a personified force of nature...well, is not an undertaking to be taken lightly or disrespectfully. Fey are capricious, though, and the hag may well demand for a duel...oh, and in order to return to the mortal world, the PCs will have to defend the fairy-realm version of the mill from the forces of Flax in a furious siege...and, much like real-world fairy tales, this ends with a melancholy and bittersweet note, for Flax is Froderick's son, the humble kid the PCs saw before, grown quickly and prematurely, providing a somber tone to contrast with the wondrous and impressive nature of the summerlands.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I have noticed a couple of minor hiccups, but nothing grievous. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard. The pdf sports several unique and beautiful full-color artworks and the pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is glorious full color, though there are no player-friendly versions included. The print softcover, unlike earlier Kobold Press books, is just as gorgeous and full color as the pdf and definitely well worth getting.

Wolfgang Baur's Wrath of the River King, beautifully and expertly translated to PFRPG by Ben McFarland was for a long time one of the blind spots in my Midgard-collection: While I have all the early Open Designs, I sat this one's funding out back in the day, since I had no interest in 4th edition. That being said, after the glorious conversion of Courts of the Shadow Fey, I was hoping we'd get to see this one as well. When I finally got my hands on this book, I was surprised to see its relative brevity... but don't be fooled: There is a metric TON of gaming to be had from this module. I'd be seriously surprised if any group can finish this book in anything below 6 full-day sessions unless they skip everything: This book not only manages to create an ambiance wondrous and miraculous, it also, much like the excellent "Courts of the Shadow Fey", GETS fey. Where the shadow fey excursion was all about the dark and somber shadow fey, this one very much is all about the wondrous fey that are in tune with nature; this pdf pits the PCs against an alien and intriguing incarnation of the capricious forces of nature. From the small dressing bits to the NPCs and environments, the module oozes flavor from every single word and manages to be extremely concise while doing so.

This belongs in the hall of fame of the precious few modules that truly manage the feat to tap into the wonder and feeling of fairy tales and translate it to the medium of roleplaying games, only being paralleled by the amazing Courts of the Shadow Fey and AAW Games' superb Snow White for PFRPG. This is a true gem that basically demands a place of honor on your shelf next to these classics. In short: It is not only one gorgeous book that manages to cram an insane amount of crunchy bits in its page-count, it also manages to perfectly evoke the sense of the fantastic. This should be considered to be one of the modules that need to be experienced by anyone who even halfway enjoys the world of Midgard, a module that I'd consider core-canon and brilliant. Particularly the beauty of the ending and its resonance of classic tropes is genius and an emotional note only few modules manage to hit. This is one superb offering and effortlessly receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval as well as a nomination as a candidature for my Top Ten of 2016.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wrath of the River King for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Dinosaur Companions
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2017 04:28:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Letters from the Flaming Crab-series clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 18.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf, as always in the series, with the reproduced letter from the planes-hopping vessel UCS Flaming Crab, which has obviously landed, at least for now, in a dinosaur-filled world! More than that, however, the pdf begins with a really handy index that dinosaur aficionados will very much adore: A massive table that lists the dinosaurs released for PFRPG in alphabetical order, with CR, size, environment, whether they make animal companion or familiars...and the ERA! If you're conscious of internal consistency, that is the extra mile and I love that the pdf included this. Oh, and guess what: The table's hyperlinked for your convenience. Yeah, really, really nice.

So, we're off to a good start. The pdf itself can roughly be compartmentalized in two sections after that: Section 1 depicts dinosaurs that would act as potential animal companions, ranged from the humble CR 1 scipionyx, the CR 2 tupandactylus, the CR 3 stygimoloch and neptunidracos all the way up to the CR 15 argentinosaurus. The CR 6 Baryonyx, Tethyshadros and Maiasaura, CR 8 Concavenator and Deinocheirus, CR 5 Corythosaurus and dilophosaurus as well as the CR 4 dracorex and the CR 13 utharaptor can be found here alongside the CR 7 excalibosaurus. All of these dinosaur companions not only come with proper monster statblocks, they also have companion statblocks included for your convenience.

Nice: Most receive their own artworks. From a mechanic point of view, the dinosaur companions are generally situated along the higher echelons of animal companion power and feature the respective dinosaur companion's unique tricks. I don't have serious trepidations regarding the power level of the options contained herein...so yeah, nice array! You will also probably notice that these dinosaurs make use of lesser known species, which constitutes a serious plus. I have not seen stats for these dinos in any iteration of d20, so big plus here as well!

The second part of the pdf covers the dinosaurs that are suitable as familiars. As such, the bonuses they convey are collected in a handy table for you. A total of 10 of these fellows are included, ranging from CR 1/4 to CR 1. These once again represent nice options and, in case you're wondering, the dinosaurs covered here are coelophysis, jinfengopteryx, leaellynasaura, mei, micropachycephalosaurus, microraptor, parvicursor, scansoriopteryx, nyctosaurus and sordes. Speaking of the latter: The pdf actually offers more here and features a cool CR 5 sordes-swarm! Tiny swarm of dinosaurs chewing folks to pieces? Heck yes.

The pdf also has another section, aptly titled prehistoric encounters. These represent encounter-sketches: 4 of these are for CR 6, one for CR 4 and one CR 1, providing some nice set-ups that include mating season, the corythosaurus' soundshock...or that they have to deal with dinosaurs while scaling a cliff.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and the artworks chosen for the respective dinosaurs are nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Angel "ARMR" Miranda, Kelly Pawlik and Margherita Tramontano deliver a nice, fun installment here: The dinosaurs generally tend to adhere to one generally consistent power-level and there are some seriously nice tricks here: The special abilities always retain the basic sense of plausibility that I expect from animals and dinosaurs in RPGs. So yes, this is a nice installment in the series and a definite must-have for anyone looking for a Lost World-type supplement: The table alone may warrant the fair asking price for some of you out there. This is, as a whole, a well-crafted supplement and certainly justifies receiving a final verdict of 5 stars. Well done!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Dinosaur Companions
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Six Packed
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2017 04:27:47

An Enzdeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Esoterrorists clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page references, leaving us with 22 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.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! Our take centers on the machinations of two individuals, namely George Bingham and Fred Seymore, Ulster Loyalist Defense Force loyalists who seek to re-incite the hostilities in Northern Ireland by means of terrorism. With their group recently losing most members due to disillusionment, the two have killed the son of an IRA member, one Jeremy O'Leary - and act that has shown a gulf between the two, for George seems to not mind, whereas Fred was less enthusiastic. Alas, even that semi-botched hit (which included a car crash) was not enough to make the terrorist goals work - it is here that George, in his desperation to see his cause fulfilled, met one woman named Deborah McArgill - who is an esoterrorist. She introduced George to the ritual to call forth torture dogs to carry out acts of terrorism, requiring "only" the sacrifice of a loved one and 4 children per torture dog. The ritual was carried out in a slaughter house and was successful, leaving Deborah and George in charge of 5 of the hellish beasts - and they plan on using them, as Deborah has secured a job at a hotel where the North Irish Catholic delegation is hosted.

After a brief flow-chart illustrating the structure of the module is helpful and the module is particularly designed to allow for scene-skipping, which makes it pretty well-suited for convention gaming etc. The OV agents begin their investigation with the aforementioned slaughterhouse (which comes with a VERY basic, schematic b/w-map) - it is here that the PCs will find the body that gives this module its name - in case you didn't know: "Six Packed" is a non-lethal form of punishment, in which someone is shot through the feet, ankles and hips - oddly, though, the man has thereafter been killed, which is very weird. It should be noted that the rules-nomenclature has changed since this was released, so that is something for the GM to bear in mind, but yeah. PCs will notice that the blood under the body is too plentiful for one being, which may point the PCs towards the meat-grinder, where the remains of the immigrant children used in the massacre can be found.

At the scene, the PCs may question a Polish girl working at the plant and the chef of the meat processing plant - though oddly, one of the bullet points in Jenny's write-up lacks the results for spending some points, which is weird. Vince can potentially identify the thugs that borrowed his facility - which points towards the Alexis family...but further investigation of these notorious persons does not yield the suspect, but does net the information that Fred and George were those that rented the facility...and may also note that the family is NOT amused by having the facility "blow up" - and thus no longer be any good for future...problems. As an optional encounter, this may result is a bit of combat, as the Alexis family sends a hit team after the PCs, with a car-chase/fire fight. The consequences for a veil-out here could have used a bit more guidance.

At Fred's apartment, an old lady may yield the clue that Fred was seeing a girl (that would be Maggie)...and indeed, both her and Fred's laptop (in her possession) yield the information that he was planning on leaving the ULDF - it is also from the old lady, Maggie, and the laptop that the PCs can piece together that George and a mysterious lady were cooperating...and that they are prime suspects for the dread massacre that cost Fred his life. At this point, the PCs will probably have a lead on a mediterranean catering service...and it is here at the very latest that the PCs can find out the final location of the intended hit, as Deborah, with a new hire (George) has left for the Ancient Farm Hotel housing the delegates.

Here, things take a turn for the dangerous: Deborah and George are armed with silenced weapons and are driving away - a hostile altercation may send the MI5-operatives running...but nonetheless,, stopping the esoterrorists may be worth the harder veil-out...but the timer's ticking: The drugged torture dogs have been brought inside the hotel and the PCs better hurry...the drugs will soon wear off and the PCs have a veil-out to think about. Torture-dogs (which come with a glorious, twisted b/w-artwork) have btw. an integrated drill, toxic spikes that generate a sensory link between the creature and the PC and telepathy...yeah, OD entities are not there to cuddle.

Weird: The veil-out doesn't even mention the potential car chase and killed esoterrorists, though the process in the hotel has some basic coverage, though it is not very detailed, making it an afterthought at best.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not as good as in later offerings by Pelgrane Press. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and the pdf has 2 nice b/w-artworks and a stock photo in color as artworks. Cartography is as basic as it gets black lines on white, abstract and pretty rudimentary, but functional. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Paolo F. Bongiovanni's "Six Packed" represents a linear, quick to play scenario that makes most sense as an introductory scenario, for the plot itself is pretty much the atomic esoterorrist storyline. The hotel could have used more details regarding people present, infiltration methods and finding the ODs, making it pretty evident that this section is intended to be glossed over in favor of getting quickly to the final confrontation. This is not bad, mind you, but neither will it blow any experienced GM away. It hasn't aged that well and while the low price makes it still a decent offering, it is not something that will blow veterans away. How to rate this, then? Well, as a first scenario, it works well and I will rate it as such - 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. If you're already into your Esoterrorist game, have experience with ToC or NBA, round down instead - players experienced in GUMSHOE games will waltz through this. The one exception to this would be convention gaming: For a convention, this may be worth getting and rounding up, as its simple structure allows for quick modification if time concerns are a factor.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Six Packed
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The Brain Gorger's Appetite
Publisher: Gamehole Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2017 05:47:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page blank, leaving us with 37 pages of content. Not included in this page-count would be the two full-color maps on the inside of front and back cover and the front/back cover.

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving the print copy of this module in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. Additionally, it should be noted that my review is based on the print copy exclusively.

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

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..

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All right, still here? Great! This module takes place in the town of Ockney's Hold. The place's moderate wealth derives from the export of azurite over the meandering Oriana River. The local baron, one Oliver Reinson, has recently, quite weirdly, changed his behavior. His interests are changed, the chamberlain has taken a more proactive role and the former captain of the town's guard has been replaced by a half-orc with a nasty temper, one Drast Grimbank. This has significantly changed the atmosphere of the town...and High Steward Braxton Tavaras has determined that something is SERIOUSLY going wrong in town...which is why he meets the PCs in a dingy tavern...though it should be noted that town and tavern-establishing shots/background information are provided with extensive read-aloud text for your convenience...and briefing itself has a lot of interesting components in details - perceptive PCs may, for example, note a pin on Tavaras' sleeves that denotes him as a member of a cadre of beings devoted to the ideals of good government - a kind of benevolent kingmakers/maesters, if you will. The whole module has these small tidbits that make the scenes feel more alive, those little informational nuggets that make it feel pretty organic.

Anyway, Tavaras' task is that the PCs are NOT to engage the baron, but should definitely find out what is amiss. We begin thus with an interesting premise: Thanks to Tavaras' connections and recommendations, the PCs enter the service of the Baron. It is here I can comment on the cartography of the module; apart from the aforementioned full-color maps in the front/back-cover, the internal maps are b/w pencil-drawings and there are a lot o them. The tavern? Mapped. Mansions? Mapped. In the latter case, the map is very detailed and actually makes for a nice handout, in spite of being keyed. In the former, a secret door's included, which means that you'll have to draw a player-friendly iteration. So no, alas, no player-friendly iterations.

Where was I? Oh yes, the PCs are by now in the service of the baron, giving them an inside look of the baroness Helda not being too excited about the change of personality the baron has been exhibiting. The keep is not mapped, but that is due to the relatively brief stay here - you see, the PCs will pretty soon have a chance to save the baroness in the middle of the night from a mimic, of all creatures, that has made its way somehow into the keep. Perceptive PCs receive a direct hint regarding means of egress to the baroness' chambers that may put them on track for the next sequence of the investigation, but smart players are not necessarily reliant on this - the similarly changed Chamberlain Brice would be the next suspect - brusque and uncooperative, shadowing the chamberlain may put them, after some legwork, on trail towards a refinery aptly named the Brick, where the PCs can listen in on both chamberlain and owner of the refinery - and it seems like they have a conspiracy afoot, as a nebulous mastermind is mentioned...of course, they may well be caught and have a fight up their hands, having to deal with the unpleasant master of the refinery...who btw. has his own unique ability to set him apart.

It should definitely be clear after that, that investigating the Brice Manor would be the next step - and btw., the garden is anything but safe, containing several carnivorous plants from 5th Edition Foes, reprinted herein for your convenience. The inside of the manor has btw. a response team of capable individuals, one led by Thaldar, a VERY powerful adversary...and the chamberlain does react with appropriate indignation to the invasion of his home. Here's the thing, though: Smart PCs will want to interrogate the folks...and thus deduce that the captured chamberlain has been replaced by a doppelganger...who, true to convention, when caught, can spill some serious beans.

It seems like a nasty syndicate known as the Ceaseless has driven its claws into the town - you see, the aforementioned primary export of the region, azurite, actually acts like a drug to creatures of certain...anatomies. Namely brain-gorgers, which are basically illithids stripped of closed IP. Yeah. OUCH. Now the ceaseless may have underestimated the impact of addiction to azurite by putting just such an individual in charge of the operation, which is directly a reason the otherwise pretty subtle operation became noticeable, thus drawing in the PCs. In order to save the baron and the town and break the brain-gorger's hold on the baron, the PCs will have to make their way towards the copper mines, provided they manage to survive the response-team sent to deal with them...

The 3-day journey through the wilderness has, just fyi, keyed encounters for each day and interesting things that happen, so yeah - more than a sequence of simple encounters....and then, the PCs will have to navigate the mines and finally deal with the brain-gorger. Wait. At what level? 1 -3? Well, yeah, but guess what - thanks to the addition of said villain, the PCs actually have a fighting chance.

Beyond stats for all monsters employed, the module closes with a nice 2-page gazetteer of the town.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no grievous glitches in formal or rules-language departments. Layout adheres to a crisp two-column b/w-standard and the pdf's b/w-art is nice, as is the cartography. The cartography may not provide player-friendly iterations, but generally is high-quality. The printed softcover comes with glossy cover, thick, nice paper and is generally well-made and doesn't feel cheap - so yeah, if in doubt, I'd recommend print.

This is, to my knowledge the freshman offering of Gamehole Publishing and author Alex Kammer and it hits all my sweet spots. Its descriptive text if evocative. It assumes competent and smart players. It has pointers for GMs for the dialogues; it sports a variety of thematically diverse creatures...and it's not a module that hands you victory on a silver platter. In fact, I consider this to be delightfully old-school. If your players don't act smart, they'll DIE. Horribly. The bosses herein are BRUTAL. The module offers investigation, combat, dungeon- and wilderness-exploration and a captivating, fast-paced plot/unearthing of a conspiracy. In short: This very much reads how I tend to design adventures for my own campaign. Including the challenge it poses. If you're a pampered player who is not used to modules being actually hard to succeed, then this may come as a shock...but victory is EXTREMELY gratifying. You can pretty much play this as dark fantasy, as high fantasy or anything in between - whether it's Oerth, the Forgotten Realms, Golarion or another world, the module will fit in.

Theme-wise, it makes a perfect fit for the Borderlands Region of Frog God Games Lost Lands or, with an emphasis on more horror and a slight reskin of some humanoids, a great fit for Ravenloft. Why? Because its design-aesthetic is so damn beautiful. I know, I know. Call me hypocrite, but most commercial modules for the big systems (exceptions do exist by the spades, mind you) feel a bit too easy for me. I've always been a GM and player who WANTS challenge. I want my choices to matter and make a difference and I want character death to be a possible component of the game. It is here. Now, at the same time, we actually did not lose a character playing this one. By a hair's breadth. But no, this is not, I repeat, this is NOT a meat-grinder. It is not a nega-dungeon either. It is just a thoroughly well-crafted little gem that pits the PCs against brutal odds and a powerful opposition, but has ample in-game rationale why they can triumph.

My one relevant point of criticism pertains the lack of player-friendly versions of the maps, you know, sans key and secret doors etc. That being said, this is one of the most impressive first books I've seen a publisher and author produce in quite some time, and I do have a policy of cutting such first offerings at least a bit of slack. So, while usually the lack of player-maps would cost this my seal of approval, for once, I will retain it here. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and as far as I'm concerned, I'm stoked to see the sequel module hinted in the aftermath of this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Brain Gorger's Appetite
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Amazing Weapons, Armor, and Equipment for 5th Edition Fantasy!
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2017 04:11:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This item-book clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

One thing I really enjoy about 5e would be the assumption that magic weapons and equipment is rarer and more wondrous. Conversely, this does carry some issues when looking at the equipment available for low- to mid-level characters, though, namely that the pretty restrictive array of tools and weaponry available restricts the customization options available and thus, player agenda. the pdf's reply to this conundrum would be the inclusion of special types of items - the first of these would be the succinctly-named "quality" item. Following 5e's pretty hand-waving item creation rules, the pdf does not seek to impose a linear system for the creation of such items and instead suggests percentile chances, narrative angles and the like, emphasizing GM-control.

Beginning with quality armor, we receive a brief table that lists them alongside whether they can be applied only to shields or armors or both - here is also a cosmetic glitch, a ")" that does not belong and should have been caught, being pretty obvious. Now each armor may only have one such quality feature and they actually allow for some interesting operations: Basher shields, for example, may be used to inflict 1d6 bludgeoning damage and, when shoving with them, they can inflict damage. Now, as a nitpick, I'd love to know how this interacts with TWFing and whether shields generally are treated as regular martial weapons or not. Granted, this is only relevant in some interactions, but yeah. Nice: There would be durable items that not only gain advantage on saves to avoid destructions, they also have a 50-50-chance of avoiding destruction, even when they'd fall prey to it.

Armor with a once for day-cycle blessing of good fortune (deliberately not tied to resting mechanics), armor that helps making a good first impression...pretty nice. Taking a cue from mythology, there would be the mirrored shield that nets you advantage on saves versus gaze attacks. Another quality would be nimble, which helps when wearing armors that hamper Stealth and have a minimum Strength score. Resilient armor is one type of armor that a group will either adore or outright ban: You see, you choose one type of physical damage with these upon creation. The wearer may use his reaction to gain resistance to the chosen damage type, but only versus one attack. Now, this is a pretty potent option, but one that taps into 5e's restrictive action economy to work. Furthermore, it is based on the rock-paper-scissors-principle I personally enjoy very much in 5e's mechanics. Still, as much as I personally enjoy this, the matter of fact remains that some groups won't like this - hence me drawing awareness to this one in particular.

Soul armor is similarly an option that will polarize groups: A total of 3 times, the armor can prevent you from being reduced to 0 hp, instead resulting in you being at 1 hit point. The limits are harsh, thankfully: Only 1/encounter (insert all my rants ever regarding how per-encounter abilities make no sense in game...regardless of system)...and once the armor has saved you thrice, it will never do so again. Granted, this would still allow a character to gain another soul armor, so seriously restricting these is very much in the interest of the GM. At the same time, this very much represents a cool take on an ancestral armor that saves the hero while also reducing the potential for player frustration if your group tries to minimize PC death. At the same time, one that will be divisive would be stalwart armor, which allows you to use your bonus action to stay in place for one turn, but which also locks you in that spot, preventing voluntary movement. I am not the biggest fan of such abilities that deal in absolutes, though the cost of the bonus action can, depending on the class employed, be a steep cost indeed. As far as I'm concerned, I think that a scaling mechanic or one based on a save or advantage would have been more elegant. An armor that helps versus no thirst/starvation or supernaturally-caused exhaustion, but helps against the other types on the other side, should have universal appeal. Slight inconsistency: One type of armor is called "tastes bad" in the table, "bitter" in the text.

Weapons receive similar qualities, with ammunition, for example, getting the chance to be particularly accurate: "This ammunition confers advantage, allowing you to attack at long range without penalty, or to attack at short range more accurately." So, does that mean no disadvantage at long range AND advantage on the attack roll? Or does that mean it gets advantage on the attack roll at short range, no disadvantage at long range? The item's benefits are not 100% clear here, alas. The power of these pieces of ammunition is mitigated slightly by them not being able to be scavenged, but still, this one should only be used after careful consideration by the GM - inclusion of this ammunition will further increase the potency of ranged weapons. Very much cherished by yours truly: Dual purpose weapons, which have more than one damage type, allowing for, among other things, the representation of Kyuss' evocative favored weapon, to just note one example.

Macabre weaponry nets you advantage on Intimidation checks, but penalizes your attempts to hide the grotesque weapon. Protecting weapons are VERY cool and add a serious element of tactics to the game play: These allow you to forego your bonus action; if you do, you may use your reaction to impose disadvantage on an incoming ranged or spell attack. Very cool visuals of parrying rays and the like here and the deliberate choice and lost actions mean that player agenda is increased. Two thumbs up! Allowing a character to use his bonus action to attack again after missing with an attack is another interesting option, if one that represents a straight power upgrade.

Now, since I have complained about one piece of ammunition, it is only fair that I also mention one of my favorites herein: Tenacious ammunition is the classic representation of barbed ammunition: After being hit, you shouldn't move too much, for it'll cause damage otherwise...until it is removed with an appropriate Medicine check. I like this one very much.

The pdf does offer more than weaponry and armor: Tools may, for example, be particularly impressive, granting recognition and prestige to those that use them, helping in social situations. Efficient tools decrease the amount of time required for a given task and the good ole' manuals make an introduction of sorts: Instructional literature. Each comes in a set of 6 volumes, and you gain a +1 bonus per volume studied for the skill or tool in question, capping at proficiency bonus - sufficient and long-term studying of the whole set can net you proficiency in the respective skill or tool, replacing the bonuses granted before. The cool component here, obviously, is that the item speaks to the collector and can be used as a nice way of leading PCs to certain tasks...and due to the massive donwtime required to learn the proficiencies, it is unlikely the PCs will ever be able to cheese this item-class.

We can also find notes on toolkits that are particularly feasible for carrying around, and the pdf comes with suggested pricing and selling guidelines as well. The next section is very interesting as well: Between the special quality items and the full-blown magical ones, the pdf introduces so-called charms. Charms allow for a limited specialized benefit, which is, internally consistent, tied to the cycle of dawns. To give you an example: The charm of the defender can be activated as a bonus action when you hit a creature. Said creature must then succeed a Dexterity save versus DC 13 or restrained, with a success yielding halved speed. The restrained condition can be ended by the saves on subsequent rounds, but RAW, the reduced speed has no duration, though one round would make sense to me. Charms require attunement and are added in a relatively simply process to weaponry, armor, etc. and their benefits, unless explicitly stated otherwise, do not work in conjunction with magical items. RAW, more charms can be attached to one item, but the maximum attunement limit obviously still applies, preventing abuse there.

Armor that may change its precise look as an action, a charm that cloaks an item as useless or broken - the pdf has some cool tricks here. I am also really liking the charm that allows for the use of a reaction to teleport 30 ft. in a cloud of mist, negating the attack on a successful save for some nice ninja-action. A charm that negates the Stealth disadvantage on an armor also makes for a cool option...but the charm actually requires that you spend time doing charitable work to recharge it - cool angle! Spell trick charms can store level 1 and 2 spells and tie them to a condition, on which they are triggered, which is pretty amazing, though personally, I would have preferred a hard word-cap for the determining of the condition...but that may be me.

The pdf also sports charms that include the option to temporarily gain access to a skill or language of a vanquished creature and adding an Intimidation upon defeating a foe makes for an interesting option. Also cool: Making a melee weapon behave as a thrown weapon that returns to you or a charm that allows you to recall a nearby weapon to your hand...some nice tricks here!

The engine is pretty nice and is supplemented by 3 magic items: One that allows for charm-recharge (but crumbles thereafter), one for additional uses and a sash that allows you to attune two charms to it, which then proceed to grant their benefits/work in conjunction with all weapons/armor you're wearing. Nice!

The pdf concludes with a brief tour of the fluff-only set-piece of Zagoren's Curios Emporium, a magic shop, if you will, and his interesting shopkeepers alongside sufficient advice on how to integrate this into your campaign.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, but slightly less precise on a rules-language level; as noted above, there are a couple of verbiage instances that could be a bit clearer. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ismael Alvarez' item options represent a worthwhile purchase for the extremely low and fair price point. Regarding the quality items herein, the pdf represents a bit of a hit and miss for games - not necessarily because the items are problematic, but because they represent different types of power-upgrades that may or may not be welcome in a given game. I'd strongly discourage allowing all types of quality items in a given game, but for cherry-picking, this represents pure gold.

Speaking of which: The charms as a concept and engine are amazing and definitely need further support: There is so much to be done with the cool concept and as far as I'm concerned, they should not result in issues in any game. While the minor hiccups prevent me from rating this as highly as the amazing gems herein would warrant, when I consider the low and fair price-point into account, this most certainly is worth getting. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4 stars and I'm signing off with a definite hope for a sequel.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Amazing Weapons, Armor, and Equipment for 5th Edition Fantasy!
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Hybrid Class: Armjack
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2017 04:07:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The armjack hybrid class presented here represents a hybrid of bard and fighter that gets a d10 HD, 6 + Int-mod skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armors and shields, including tower shields. The armjack gets a full BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-save progression.

The armjack is a hybrid of bard and fighter and thus begins play with cry to arms, a variant of bardic performance that is started as a standard action and then maintained as a free action, with 7th level and 13th level reducing the activation action to, optionally, a move action or swift action. Nice catch: the original activation action can still be used. 1st level can yield +1 to atk, +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets a bonus to Will-saves as an option (improving at 6th level and every 4 thereafter); 4th level features a 60 ft.-range +2 to damage that increases by +2 at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 6th level can yield temporary hit points, 1 per HD of the affected creature. Nice: Has a cool down. Finally, 10th level allows for the ignoring of 5 DR (including, RAW, DR/epic), which increases to DR 10/-. The ability can be maintained for 3 + Cha-mod rounds, +2 rounds per level.

Additionally, the class begins play with judder strike, which allows for the free action addition of 1 sonic damage, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 2nd level, alongside every 4 levels thereafter, nets you a combat feat and the armjack may substitute Charisma for Strength for the purpose of combat feat effects. For these feats, the armjack is also treated as a full-progression fighter. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the armjack reduces the armor check penalty of armor worn and increases the max Dex-value of them. Unique: The armjack adds an armor's AC bonus to saves versus language-dependent/sonic effects/deafening/etc. Like that! Starting at 7th level, the armjack may select an advanced armor training instead of the numerical increases the ability provides and the ability counts as armor training for prereq-purposes.

At 4th level, the armjack can Cha-mod rounds long gain a combat feat he meets the prerequisites for, +1 daily use for every 4 levels beyond 4th. At 5th level, the armjack selects a weapon group, gaining +1 to atk and damage with it, with every 4 levels thereafter adding another group and increasing the bonus of a previously gained group. The bonus damage thus gained is once again sonic and the armjack may, at 9th level, be replaced with instead an advanced weapon training option. 6th level provides a minor bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate and lets the armjack ignore racial prerequisites in feats, courtesy of his outlandish ways, with 10th level providing proficiency with all exotic weapons. 12th level makes the armjack be treated as lawful, even though he isn't, with DR 5/chaotic and benefits from axiomatic weaponry and spells etc included. Starting at 14th level, the Will-save bonus no longer consumes daily uses of cry to arms and at 16th level nets 1/day heroes' feast as a SP. At 18th level, he may use cry to arms even when paralyzed, unconscious, etc. and 19th level nets immunity to sonic damage and the deafened condition while wearing armor and shield. As a capstone, he reduces any penalties to atk etc. granted by weapons by Cha-mod and may apply Weapon Focus etc. to all his weapons. Pretty annoying oversight: It is pretty evident that advanced weapons/armor training refer to the class option by the weapon master and the pdf notes "see below" for these, when the respective lists are curiously absent from the pdf, requiring some research, which was no problem for me, but may annoy or confuse less rules-savvy players.

The hybrid class does receive some serious supplemental options, with favored class options for a metric ton of Porphyran races as well as two archetypes included: The first would be the Glory Hound, who receives a variant cry to arms that focuses on keeping allies standing/last stand like visuals. Instead of outlandish ways, he may use Cha-mod instead of Dex to calculate Ref-saves and has an aura that allows for rolling twice when trying to resist fatigue/exhaustion with 16th level netting a 1/day sympathetic vibration. The second archetype included here would be the revolutionary, who replaces judder strike with Gunsmith and is locked into the firearm weapon group, with several unique benefits. Solid.

The pdf also features 12 new feats, though some, like gaining +4 to Bluff to convey a secret message, must be called filler here. The judder strike mechanic of the class can be modified via different feats,, adding for example save-or-be-deafened effects to judder crits, a 15th level quivering palm duplicate...and there are other interesting tricks: Sharing temporarily combat feats via drills, for one. Also nice: Healing while affected by bardic performance...and yes, it cannot be cheesed. The fire-damage-dealing enhancing Flamboyant Style is pretty cool. The pdf concludes with Captain Mynxie Marie, a nice CR 10 sample armjack who even comes with a brief ditty.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches in the rules-language. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf has no art apart from the cover.

Aaron Hollingsworth's armjack is frankly better than I expected it to be. From the base-classes and the blurb, I expected the class to be an identity-less option, one of these "let's smash two classes together"-hybrids. The armjack is NOT like that. The class options and playstyle are distinct and set it apart as a class from both of its parents, which is a big, big deal for me. On the downside, when compared to the author's amazing Luminary (seriously worth getting!), its identity is less pronounced - when you see the class in combat, you won't necessarily identify it immediately as an armjack.

That being said, I consider it pretty jarring that the advanced training options have not been included, particularly since they would have offered a means of further tweaking the established options in favor of new and unique tricks. That being said, the class even manages to sneak in some mechanic innovation here and there. So, how to rate this? That's where it becomes a bit difficult for me: The armjack is a viable, well-crafted hybrid class, but one that feels like it does not realize the full extent of its own potential. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - a nice, if not perfect addition to the Porphyran class roster.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Armjack
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Character Options: Oracles
Publisher: Rusted Iron Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2017 04:04:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 6.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin after a brief introductory passage with three oracle mysteries, the first of which would be "Giant World" - the class skills added here would be Intimidate, Perception and Knowledge (nature), with the bonus spells running the gamut from giant forms to enlarge person. The revelations available allow you to increase size (and weight!) of unattended items at touch temporarily, a Brew potion and later, heroes' feast-duplicating cauldron, making an extradimensional giant's home that scales in potency, gain greater resilience (Toughness, Great Fortitude, Improved Great Fortitude) and, pretty impressive, an ability that deals with the mess that are oversized weapon-rules in a way that is actually functional by means of two spell-analogues. Energy resistance based on giant blood, a booming voice with associated SPs...the mystery is thematically concise and culminates in increased size as well as attribute bonuses, natural AC and the giant subtype.

The second mystery herein would be the masks mystery, which nets Bluff, Disguise, Intimidate and Perform (acting) and, spell-wise, begins with disguise self and moves up to overwhelming presence. The mystery takes its concept not necessarily as literal and rather as metaphyiscal - so adaptation to below water, elemental spell enhancers and resistance, nondetection that upgrades to mind blank, quick changing of masks...wait, what? Yep, the mystery actually employs a nice focus-mechanic for the abilities, which introduces an interesting RPG-angle to the class option, one that also sports a suggested sample table. The capstone, finally, eliminates that component. And yes, the pdf codifies mask-changes etc.

Thirdly, there would be the mirror-mystery, which nets Knowledge (arcana), Perception and UMD and spell-wise begins with mirror polish and moves up to gate. The revelations include summoning from mirrors, ignoring age penalties, doing the Narcissus-move and fascinate a creature with its image, create mirror images, divine from it, replace Dex for AC and CMD-purposes with Cha or use mirrors to generate cones that suppress a school of magic. A mirror dimension/magnificent mansion and the transferral of wounds to a mirror image further enhance the cool options available here. Cool: As a capstone, you gaina construct duplicate behind the mirror and while you may not enter this reflection, you can transfer willing/helpless creatures and items back and forth. Very cool! By far the best of the three mysteries - oozes flair!

We also cover a total of 6 oracle curses: Claimed oracles can't aid another, do not count as flanking allies and are exempt from teamwork feats etc., but receive Mobility and a couple of bonus spells. Entranced oracles suffer a penalty to Perception and Sense Motive, but gain immunity to being fascinated and receive a bonus to concentration as well as Iron Will and later, its Improved brethren alongside commune and find the path. Oracles with a halo suffer from faerie fire when casting divine spells, wrecking Stealth, but gain light-themed bonus spells. One-handed oracles have a wrecked off-hand and gain, bingo, hand-themed bonus spells, from humble mage hand to grasping ahnd at 15th level. Stonehearted oracles have taken a cue from fairy tales, having literally a heart of stone, which excludes them from all morale bonuses, but nets them a bonus versus emotion effects and immunity versus heart-targeting effects. 5th level provides emotion- and mind-affecting immunity, which is rankly too much for the level. 10th level nets 25% fortification and 15th level 1/day ignoring of an insta-kill/destruction ability. I've seen the idea of the whispering voiceless oracle before, which is exempt from voice-based skills and e.g. the shout spell (not properly italicized here). 3/day Silent Spell sans spell-slot increase and some bonus spells complement this one.

Finally, the pdf offers an oracle archetype, the ironwood oracle. These guys get a modified proficiency-list, draw their spells from the druid list and may choose a revelation that allows for longer, quasi-wild-shape-y shapechanges. Pretty much the definition of bland filler and cookie-cutter.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - I did not notice any glaring mistakes, though a couple of minor hiccups can be found. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games' two-column full-color standard, is relatively printer-friendly and the artworks used are solid stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity, which is a definite plus.

This is, unless I am sorely mistaken, the first pdf by Maria Smolina I have reviewed and it is not bad for a freshman offering. Indeed, I am pretty enamored by the mirror mystery and while I wished the mask mystery used the intrigue rules, this pdf's release preceeded that of Ultimate Intrigue, so it gets a pass there. The mysteries presented here are pretty worthwhile, though I do wish they were a bit moe daring in their designs: Bonus feats and spell-duplicates don't really excite me all that much. That being said, they are thematically concise and even when they go spell-in-a-can-y, they tend to at least provide an interesting framework. The mask-engine for the corresponding mystery could have carried more than what is allotted to it. The curses left me less impressed for the most part, with the stonehearted curse, while overshooting its target a bit, being my favorite. With a slight nerf/redistribution of abilities, it'll be one damn cool option. The archetype is by far the weakest part and pretty much constitutes a non-entity compared to the rest of the pdf.

How to rate this, then? Well, this is, as far as I'm concerned, pretty much a mixed bag that shows potential; at the same time, it shows hesitation to dive into the more complex facets of design, a hesitation which, from what I have seen, is not necessarily justified. Next time, dear Maria, in case you're reading this, dare to go all in! There are some aspects here I did like, which is certainly more than I can say about the installment on witches. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, though honestly, I can't find it in me to round up - while nice stuff is in here, I feel it's not enough to make this transcend being a mixed bag.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Character Options: Oracles
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CE 7 - The Giggling Deep
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/23/2017 01:59:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Campaign Elements-series of set-pieces/modules/environments for DCC clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, ~1/2 page editorial, 1.5 pages SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pages are A5-sized (6'' by 9''), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on one sheet of paper if you print it out.

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

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..

.

All right, only judges around? Great! So, somewhere in a complex of your choosing, there is a stone cap, bedecked with runes. Via brains or brawn, read magic or thieving skills etc., the PCs can open this cap, unearthing the cap - and one it is sealed, it cannot be opened from within...so definite care should be taken. Oh, and fumbles opening it receive their own table! Beyond the cap, a natural cave system lies, illuminated by bioluminescene that is generated by strange, floating motes, by slime and glowing globules, driving home the weirdness of the place. The cavern is uncomfortably hot and humid, requiring Fort saves with progressive -1d penalties, with sloped tunnels adding a sense of verticality and depth to the complex - so yes, as far as the basic complex is concerned, I am pretty impressed here.

This flavor of a truly strange place is further enhanced in the random encounters, where crosses between dragonfly and enormous earwigs glitter with opalescent sheen (full color artwork provided!), ants made of metal with globs of orange jelly for heads, albino koala-like bears covered in glowing pus-sores with prehensile tongues and stranger beings loom. Furthermore, the goremera can be found here: Shapeshifting between a vaguely humanoid form and that of a chimera made of viscera, this dread entity can only be truly slain in these caverns, is highly resilient to most types of damage and reforms after death, making for an amazing and horrific recurring antagonist. In a lesser module, that creature could carry a whole adventure - here, it is just one of the wonders the PCs will encounter.

The level of detail and interesting ideas also extends to treasure, with wands coming with proper command words and treasures, from jade scorpions to endless quivers (that only remain endless as long as no arrow is sold or given away...) - the rewards are cool and breathe the spirit a good DCC module should have - one of wonder and fear in equal parts. The PCs, while exploring these caverns, may have run afoul of violet jellies - their destruction may well get them into deep trouble, as the creatures are the sensory organs of Mycarnos, a powerful sentient fungus. Oh, and the things on the cover? With the long, paralytic tongues? They're smart...so if one of your fellow PCs is suddenly missing, he may be in the process of being chewed to bits by these ambush predators.

At a hidden shrine, the PCs may trade secrets for divine boons; they may encounter spiked tortoises...and of course, there is a MASSIVE, several table-spanning generator to randomly make mushrooms from the fungal forest that the PCs choose to consume - the generator spans 4 tables, which should result in a vast array of wildly different benefits...and risks. Kudos for going the extra mile here! Have I mentioned that intruders into a hidden sanctum may be forced to deal with terrorpins, basically upright-walking mecha-turtles with razor-sharp claws? These receive their own, neat full-color artwork...alongside the red-robed wizardess Vos, the Spell-thief, who makes these caverns her lair. Kudos for her artwork, btw.!

Well, and then there would be the eponymous Giggling Deep, whose depths and susuring murmurs contains secrets untold, particularly for magic-users and elves...but at a terrible, potential lure, for the vast chasm of the giggling dark awaits the PCs, calling to them...and those that listen to the dread giggling may well find their steps irrevocably drawn to the edge, to jump and join the mysterious cacophony...

The pdf also contains notes for the judge to get the utmost out of the pdf, which is a damn fine touch.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to the 1-column booklet-size-standard and the pdf generally is pretty printer-friendly. The full-color artworks provided are nice and the cartography in b/w is neat as well, though I wished the pdf had a player-friendly iteration to cut up and hand out.

Daniel J. Bishop is an amazing AUTHOR as well as an adventure-designer. While I like his designs, I am mostly drawn to the wealth of grotesque and wondrous weirdness, the precise and evocative prose, which he employs when painting the picture of locations inhabited by creatures wondrous and weird, with properties that bring home the mystery of the magical. In short: This is an amazing location to drop into your game. It features unique critters, a reason to return to the place, copious chances for RP and interaction, has the potential to provide several cool boss fights and recurring villains, can be inserted pretty much everywhere...what more can one ask of such a humble book? This is evocative and cool enough to warrant converting if you're playing another system - just as an aside. So yeah. Amazing. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CE 7 - The Giggling Deep
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Trail of the Apprentice Adventure Path
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/23/2017 01:57:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 295 pages; 292 if you take away editorial, foreword, etc.

Now, if you're new to Trail of the Apprentice: This is basically a campaign that strives to teach new gamers, both players and GMs, the ropes - for Pathfinder's beginner's rules or those provided for 5e D&D, it is intended as an experience of the basics of adventuring. Theme-wise, it is a campaign intended for family gaming night and as such is significantly less "dark" or "scary" than some other published modules - as a whole, I believe that kids ages 8+ should not experience any issues in this campaign, unless they are particularly sensitive. Conversely, if your kids are younger and already enjoy reading LotR, Conan or the like, they'll have no issues here. (Hey, you never know! I've been reading since I was very, very young and once I found fantasy books, I devoured them religiously! It all depends and you'll know best!)

That is not to say that adults can't enjoy this, mind you - in fact, the campaign works just as well for introducing older players and GMs to the ropes and skills. One more thing: The one big lost chance regarding running this for kids would be that "good" behavior is not really rewarded: Enemies defeated are generally assumed to be killed by the PCs and adding an easy way to subdue intelligent foes and rewards for such a behavior would have added some moral-forming, unobtrusive dimension which I'd strongly suggest a GM implement.

Now, my review is based on the massive hardcover of the book...but there's one more thing to be aware of: You see, at this point, I have covered all 5 modules in the series in detailed reviews and I'm not a big fan of repeating myself, so if you want a really in-depth break-down of each module, go to my site (if you're not already there) and click on the "Trail of the Apprentice"-tag of this review (or search for it) and there you go. I assume you'll be familiar with these in this review.

Now, particularly astute readers may notice that the page count of the modules and this book does not align - there is a reason for that: The module section covers 220 pages, with appendices taking up the rest of the page-count. These include a sheet of paper for notes, a 2-page character-sheet as well as player-friendly versions of most maps, which come btw. with grids. Most maps? Jep, the ruin-maps of module #4 are not included in the appendix (the versions in the module are relatively player-friendly, but copying them from the book wastes 1/2 a page each), there is no player-friendly map of the hexcrawl in module #3 (BOOO!), and, much like in the stand-alone version of module #4, the test-dungeon lacks the numbers for the rooms, but features their names (a nitpick, granted).

Back to the appendices: The first of these would be a gazetteer of the kingdom of Threll on the world of Terralien, complete with an overview map, which, alongside all its information, helps a lot in contextualizing the respective modules - a big plus. There also are a couple of magic items interspersed here, including an amulet that heals you when reduced to 0 hit points, being particularly useful with easily frustrated folks. As a formal complaint, it sports a spell reference that has not been italicized. The second appendix contains a bestiary-section that features 7 new creatures: The CR 2 undead-looking fangbat, the CR 1/2 "imp-lite" foul needler, the whip-using CR 7 maestro fiend, the CR 5 scissor toad, the animated much-being sludgemaker at CR 4, the frightening-looking CR 3 yahldrid-maggot and my favorite, the CR 6 lodmaw: Think of that as a more rocky, oversized tribble with multiple maws and skittering, tiny legs that make it vulnerable to being knocked back: Mechanically the most interesting of them, though what the monsters bring to the table in spite of the limited options of beginner rules-sets is impressive. A bit of a missed chance: The new creatures, with the exception of the lodmaw, which features in adventure #5, do not show up in the adventure-series.

The pdf also has a handy monster-index by page, has notes for continuing adventuring, 7 pregens...and a couple of new rules: The book contains beginner's box-rules for the alchemist, gunslinger and witch-classes, all of which are presented in a pretty concise manner, taking potential splash-damage frustration into account (and providing an easy solution) and the book provides proper firearm rules. Considering that these are not included in the individual pdfs (alongside all creatures but the lodmaw), that is an argument in favor of this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect - I noticed a couple of missing italicizations, minor hiccups, etc. Layout adheres to the nice 2-column full-color standard of the series. The book has several nice full-color artworks. Cartography ranges from beautiful (module #1) to serviceable (module #4). The hardcover I have uses matte paper of the usual PoD-level of quality for lightning source.

Paris Crenshaw, with additional design by Mike Welham, Matt Goodall, BJ Hensley and Linda Zayas-Palmer, has crafted pretty much a nice introductory-campaign: From the atomic experience of module #1 to the finale, Trail of the Apprentice represents a solid campaign. Module #3 and #5 in particular can be fun experiences for veterans as well, with #2 being similarly well-made: While easy, veterans tackling it at level 1 instead of 2 will have their hands full with a neat challenge.

As for the intended target demographic, the series does a neat job with the notable exception of the rushed-feeling fourth module and I'd strongly suggest contemplating my suggestion for the finale of the series, if you feel you're up to the task. I have a tradition of trying to rate books by their intended goal and this series succeeds pretty well at presenting a gradual, easy introduction to the games we all know and love while telling a solid story. This is not perfect, has its minor hiccups, stumbles and unrealized potential. The additional material in this hardcover is nice and well-crafted, but the book does not fix the minor hiccups in the series, so while nice, I feel it's not enough to warrant a full star bonus. When I add up my ratings for the individual installments and average my rating, I arrive at a final verdict for 4 stars, which mirrors well my thoughts on this - it's a good series that has a bit of room to improve. Veterans of countless games should probably detract a star, unless they really want a nostalgia trip to their earlier modules. (Not to be confused with hardcore old-school modules...)

That being said, I believe that this fulfills an important task and hope to see more Legendary Beginnings-books in the future. We need more people that play and if this series even made one group play that otherwise wouldn't have...well, then it is worth it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of the Apprentice Adventure Path
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Trail of the Apprentice: The Wizard's Dungeon (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/23/2017 01:54:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the Trail of the Apprentice-series clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content. To this, we can add a nice 12-page (already minus front cover/editorial) art-and-map-folio, which contains GM and player maps as well as a version sans grid and the original pieces of art for hand-out purposes. Neato!

As always, Trail of the Apprentice is made for family game night and with the express purpose of teaching new groups of players and GMs how to play the game. Kids ages 8+ should be good with this series, unless they are extraordinarily sensitive. Younger kids, depending on temperament, may enjoy this as well. As always, I strongly suggest rewarding kid-groups in particular for nonviolent and nonlethal conflict-resolution, something the whole series, alas, does not account for.

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

...

..

.

All right, still around? Only GMs here? All right, so last time we saw the heroes, they had slogged through the oracle's test and were rewarded with knowledge of Belazeel's plan with the stolen serpent statues: Seems like the wizard is trying to use them as keys to open the so-called Basilisk's Shroud and unleash a dread entity known only as the "Sorceress", hoping to learn her arcane secrets. The PCs, in the aftermath of the last modules, may have additional information that will prove helpful as the PCs embark upon their journey into the shadescar rift, where an access to the underworld of Terrallien awaits - a place where mysterious things lurk and the planar boundaries have grown thin. Somewhere down there awaits the thieving wizard Belazeel and it's up to the PCs to stop him.

Thus, the PCs venture forth into the time-tested environment that has ignited countless imaginations, the underworld: Nice on this account, as the PCs begin exploring the respective environments: Terrallien's emphasis on planar overlaps allow for a very diverse array of micro-biomes; it's providing a logical rationale for strange compositions of cavern-features and foreshadows an integral component of the final dungeon. Also nice: The PCs will, pretty much in the beginning, already find earth elementals and may actually employ Diplomacy to avoid trading blows...but the elementals speak of bitter earth...and indeed, as the PCs progress, they will stumble into a rather major altercation, wherein savage troglodytes assault svirfnbelin.

Helping the deep gnomes (hopefully, considering the information supplied by the oracle in #4...) is a relatively easy task...at least in the beginning. They have been cut off from their people and can guide the PCs to the Heart of the Stone, the final dungeon and Belazeel's destination...but in order to do so, the PCs will have to deal with the new "god" of the troglodytes - a nasty, vile-tempered black dragon named Kezzerex. Now, this arguably hits a pet-peeve of mine.

I consider using dragons in early game a waste of the oomph and gravitas that should accompany these apex-predators. It waters down the experience and awe that should accompany finally dealing with such an engine of destruction. That being said, this is a personal issue and will not influence the final verdict. The pdf does use a tried and true means of driving home the power of dragon, though: Basically, the monster is CR 8 and as such POWERFUL to the point where the PCs better heed the suggestions of the oracle and the svirfneblin and deal with a mimic, gather magic weapons, etc. - the dragon is rendered beatable due to several custom-made anti-dragon magic items strewn through the section: From an acid-absorbing shield to a dragon-killing sword. These tools provide the mathematic edge to triumph versus the dragon.

This gambit is not new, but in play, the experience worked well this time around: Thanks to hazards/terrain and the limitations of the dragon's maneuverability, the PCs have a reasonable chance to succeed without making the combat feel too easy. There are 2 things that really irked me, though: One, the dragon is not the BBEG and being reduced to basically the half-way-boss is not too impressive...and it sets high expectations for the final boss. Secondly, and more importantly, there is pretty much no option to use guile or Stealth to bypass the dragon. If the players refuse to deal with the svirfneblin and instead try to somehow get past the dragon...the module does not really cover that. Transition from these caverns to the final dungeon is a story-device alone - the PCs can't track Belazeel, can't sneak past the dragon...and the lack of such options takes away from player-agenda. And yes, this happened in my game.

Now, once the draconic menace has been dealt with, it is time for the PCs to tackle the eponymous wizard's dungeon, the heart of stone. Nice, btw.: A fully credited new creature with a nice Achilles heel sets the tone from the get-go: You see, the dungeon is basically the pdf introducing the concept of planes-lite to the players. Each of the rooms of the dungeon has a required activation, which rewards problem-solving skills and does not boil down to just roll-playing; the rooms, upon activation, take on planar traits, which smart PCs can use to their advantage as they make their way through the dungeon. Speaking of the dungeon: It is really nice to see its Sephirot-shape (not, not the FF VII character, but the 16th century-version of the Kabbalah's concept!) - and indeed, upon the final activation of the respective room, the path to Da'at is free - to knowledge. It is here I'd like to truly commend the author - aligning e.g. the room corresponding to Keter with positive energy, for example, bespeaks a careful thought-process and deliberate decision to structure the dungeon this way. Kids probably won't notice, but adults interested in occultism will most certainly appreciate this added level of care. Kudos!

Within the central chamber corresponding to Da'at, the PCs will see the scene depicted on the cover: The two serpent statues have grown to an entwined, massive size, with glowing power emanating from it. Here, Belazeel, his bodyguard Jubal, his familiar and a fiendish giant spider ask for the final dance with the PCs, but after handling the adventuring group in #4, that should not be an issue. And it shouldn't be. See, the PCs better hurry, for the Basilisk Shroud is torn, and sooner or later, the legendary Sorceress will emerge from the shroud. Turns out that the magical mirror the PCs found earlier may provide them just the angle to win here...considering that the dread entity is weakened: Her arcane power amounts to making force weapons and force bolts. No spells, no other unique tricks...which is rationalized with the prolonged imprisonment, sure. Yes, she is deadly. But the PCs have killed a dragon in this very adventure...which renders the final encounter sslightly anticlimactic. It's a good two-phase boss battle, but in context, it does lose a bit of its impact due to what has gone before. A missed chance: Her HD do not represent her power and if the PCs think about sending her back (after all this build-up, they may well believe her to be far beyond their means to defeat!) into the shroud, the module does not account for such a smart decision.

Which brings me to my main gripe here: It boils down to kill this legendary entity. The PCs can't really stack the deck in their favor before this encounter, which means that it's quite likely that they'll fight her on relatively fair terms (fairer terms than the dragon-encounter) and in the end, comment about how she was not all that powerful. If I may: A significantly more rewarding way of depicting her would be for the GM to allow the PCs access to the whole dungeon. They have explored and "learned" all those planar traits, so using them against the sorceress, going through the dungeon in reverse with snatched serpent statues to reseal her as she gives chase and promises power unimaginable, can make for a significantly more memorable scenario. Just give her a 3-round cool-down instead of bringing her out directly and let the statues revert. Sow hints for the like before and you'll have taught the PCs not only that rollplaying does not always triumph, but you will have also engaged their faculties, rewarded their observation and diligence. And the reward will be an out-of-breath "We did it!" instead of a "And she was supposed to be that strong??" - the players in such a scenario will feel like they have played in the big league without diminishing the achievement of defeating the legendary BBEG. So yeah, the finale is solid, but it could have been easily a legendary one, considering the structure of the dungeon.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full-color artwork and cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Paris Crenshaw's finale of Trail of the Apprentice is very much a two-part affair: The first part in the underworld is solid, if not the most amazing excursion into the wondrous realms below. The planar overlaps steal a bit of the show that would usually be reserved to the unique environment. The section does not make much use of verticality, the presence of ceiling, etc. - it's not bad, but it did not blow me away. The eponymous wizard's dungeon, part II of the module, on the other hand, is pretty much one of the two most brilliant highlights in the whole series: The structure and themes of the dungeon are strong, the challenges diverse and the only other section that could stand up to it in the series would be #3's excellent dungeon. The final boss fight is similarly a mostly rewarding experience, though one that, considering the amazing dungeon, feels a bit tacked on. Particularly experienced GMs may want to consider my suggestions above to add some oomph and gravitas to the proceedings. Heck, even new GMs may want to consider that - after all, modifying modules are a crucial GM-skill and if you've managed to get through #4, you'll have at least a bit experience in that part.

From a structural point of view, the linear progression from Part I to Part II represent one weak point of the module...and as far as I'm concerned, I would have loved the evocative dungeon to get a bit more space (and less underworld-stuff), since it actually is really, really cool and since the underworld acts mostly as an XP and treasure-source. That being said, this represents a worthy conclusion for the series. It does not reach the level of amazingness it could have easily reached, but as a whole represents a fun, if not perfect end for the series. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of the Apprentice: The Wizard's Dungeon (Pathfinder)
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Mini-Dungeon #045: Peril at Lamiaks Bridge
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/23/2017 01:50:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. This one does not come with a .tif extra map, just fyi.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

Lamiak (singular lamia - somewhat unfortunately named, considering we already have lamia in PFRPG) would be nymphs with the webbed feet of a duck, while mairuak would be friendly giants - both btw. taken from Basque mythology, so the name-convention conflict gets a pass.

Anyway, this is basically a nice and interesting, pretty fairy-tale like encounter: You see, the lamia have built a bridge cross a stream, with the map depicting the vicinity. The stone the bridge was taken from, however, is uncommon and was stolen from a mairu (aptly named Peril), who jealously guard this type of stone. He and his brothers Wrath and Sorrow are about to demolish the bridge, while the two lamiaks are about to unleash their fey tricks. It'll take some negotiation by the PCs to defuse the situation sans it coming to a violent resolution... That being said, the encounter can be resolved by adept PCs pretty smoothly, which may render this encounter a rather brief affair.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches on a formal side. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Justin Andrew Mason's encounter here is fun; the tapping into a none-too-often employed mythology is appreciated and a GM that can capitalize on the wonder and fairy-tale-ish nature of this set-up can certainly make this work as a fine and memorable roadside encounter. At the same time, the encounter doesn't have that much meat on its bones. RAW, a single check can resolve it, which feels somewhat anticlimactic. This is good and, in the right hands, can shine...but similarly, it can fizzle pretty badly. A more complex negotiation situation would have helped making this more captivating.

Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up, but only barely due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #045: Peril at Lamiaks Bridge
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Psionics Augmented: Mind And Soul
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:52:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Psioncis Augmented-series 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!

We begin this pdf with a welcome and well-explained discussion of the basic differences between psionics and psychic magic: As noted by yours truly before, psionics are drawn from an internal power, while psychic magic channels effects and draws its potency from an external source of power - but beyond that, the pdf goes on to discuss the interaction of both and the potential that can be drawn from their interaction in both narrative and mechanical terms, discussing how class features and overlaps do work between the two. (For an example how AMAZING this blend can be, look no further than the glorious Living legend penned by Forrest Heck...)

Now, that may all be nice and all, but let's look at the archetypes contained herein, shall we? We begin with the mesmerist mindrender, who replaces consummate liar with +1/2 class level to Intimidate. He replaces towering ego with + Cha-mod to saves versus fear and emotion effects. His touch treatment allows for the progressive removal of increasing fear-based conditions (including cowering when he can treat greater conditions). Additionally, the mindrender may expend one such use starting 2nd level to inflict minor untyped damage and temporarily eliminate immunity to fear, with 7th level allowing for the addition of mindrender terrors from the custom list. Said terrors can be activated as a swift action.

Now here's the thing: The terrors can delivered via both distressing touch and hypnotic stare. Terrors are governed by Cha, can be used class level + Cha mod times per day and the archetype retains compatibility with other terror-granting classes. The most powerful terror requires 16th level to choose and may kill, though a once per 24-hours hex-like caveat retains balance there. Temporary hit points for allies, fear-inflicting. At 14th level, inciting paranoia, leeching life and the implanting of multiple tricks represent some seriously nice options. Instead of manifold tricks, the mindrender can, at 5th level, employ his gaze to "mindlock" a foe, which leaves the foe free to act, but allows the mindrender to employ terrors usually delivered via distressing touch at range. 11th level is interesting: While the mindrender is generally immune o fear and emotion effects, he can willingly suspend this immunity - the more such detrimental spells affect him, the more his power grows. This is wording-wise a pretty impressive and uncheesable one. Kudos! The capstone nets DR, SR and 1/week may reincarnate upon dying from the fears of a creature affected by his fears and terrors! Very, very cool!

The second mesmerist archetype contained within would be the ringleader, who replaces consummate liar with bonuses to Diplomacy and Intimidate and Expanded Collective as a bonus feat gained at 3rd level. Wait, what? Well, the ringleader receives a cool variant of the psionic collective called carnevale, replacing painful stare: The tricks the ringleader can employ make excellent use of this telepathic, Will-enhancing bond, allowing for mobility increase and repositioning effects added or grant significant bonuses to allies/daze foes. 2nd level provides the option to 2/day as a swift action enhance the next spell cast, with the maximum spell level the ability can affect, allowing for the proper support of allies. Starting at 3rd level, the ringleader may use his gaze to force hostile creatures to become part of his carnevale, allowing the ringleader to move certain detrimental effects to the respective character and force the poor sap to reroll checks. Starting at 11th level, this does not even require hypnotic stare. Guided meditation may target any member of his carnevale, with 7th level allowing for a bold stare improvement taht can potentially affect mindless creatures at the cost of psychic inception. Creatures removed from the carnevale may be drawn back in at a glance, sans range, with higher level options allowing for almost Joker-like mocking debufss and the capstone rendering the carnevale almost addictive, penalizing the Will-save to resist the ringleader...oh, and those nearby may be drawn in as well. Oh BOY, I love this! The creepy ringleader of quasi supernatural powers is such an AMAZING and time-honored concept. Caligari, anyone? JAck of Tears? I adore this complex, amazing archetype.

The next archetype herein would be the athanatic channeler spiritualist receives psionics of up to 6th level, drawn from the dread list, with up to 20 powers known and a power points increasing to 120 at 20th level from a humble one, using Wisdom as governing attribute. Instead of knacks the archetype receives two dread talents and a phantom adjacent to the athanatic channeler may be affected by powers manifested on herself when within 5 ft., replacing share spells. 4th level replaces the detect undead ability, instead detecting creatures immune to fear and mind-affecting effects, which is one intriguing twist, allowing the channeler to treat detected creatures as not immune for Wis-mod rounds after detecting them, making a lame detect act as a two-step-set-up for a combo. Nice psionic alternative to the spiritualist.

The second spiritualist archetype within these pages would be the crystalline binder, who harbors the phantom in her psicrystal, gaining Psicrystal Affinity (reprinted for your convenience!) as a bonus feat at first level. Being close to the crystal nets bonuses to saves versus mind-affecting effects as well as skill bonuses determined by emotional focus and 1/day, they may shunt mind-affecting effects into the crystal, at the temporary cost of these skill bonuses. AT higher levels, this works even when the phantom is manifested. Starting at 3rd level, the crystalline binder may 3 + class level rounds fuse psicrystal and phantom into a powerful gestalt entity, granting it AC and DR as well as bite attack (properly codified: THANK YOU!) and later even attribute bonuses, making this entity...AMAZING! Phantom recall draws the phantom back into the psicrystal and at 17th level, the total duration of the gestalt entity is increased to 3 + twice class level. AWESOME.

The pdf also contains archetypes for phantoms, the first of these being the unpatterned, who gain a touch attack inflicting 1d6 + Cha-mod damage that bypasses all DR and resistances, but loses the damage progression of the usual slam attack for this reliable output, which makes it actually okay as far as I'm concerned! 4th level increases this damage to 1d8 and enhances CMB when sundering, further increasing that at 10th level. Interesting: When such a phantom attacks, it rolls 2d20: If it uses the higher result, it deals normal damage; if it uses the lower result, it increases the base damage dice by one die...which is a cool gamble, though, as a nitpick, the ability should specify that the choice must be made before results are made known. At 12th level, the unpattern can generate a 10-ft.-whirlwind attack instead of delivering touch spells. Really, really cool.

The final archetype herein would be the shadow aspect, dealing not with shadow as a physical concept, but more as a Jungian concept: An emotional negation that puts into question whether wilder or shadow aspect is truly in charge. The archetype receives access to a phantom which is harbored in the wilder's psyche and dispelled upon being reduced to - Con-score hit points. Manifesting the phantom requires 1 minute. It may be affected by spells (not italicized) and does not naturally heal. Being entities of base desires, they thankfully have a caveat that prevents them from manifesting alongside other pets. This replaces surge bond and improved surge bond.

The phantom thus called is affected by the negation phantom archetype, which replaces share spells with share powers and may deliver touch powers. They do not gain Skill Focus, but gain skill ranks determined by the emotional focus. The phantom also receives access to a limited array of powers that can be manifested as psi-like abilities. This special phantom also ties in with the shadow aspect's special wild surge, which is called shared surge: Increased manifester level at the cost of more power points, with 7th, 11th and 19th level providing increases to the bonuses. Cool: The archetype may expend psionic focus to pay for the increased power point cost, but doing so increases the chances of shadow enervation to 25%. Shadow enervation? Well, instead of the normal psychic enervation, the shadow enervation (base-chance 10%) ends psionic focus when the phantom is not manifested; if it is manifested, the two swap places - and yes, the wording accounts for dimensional lock (not italicized) and similar effects and even space issues. Additionally, when the phantom woud be dispersed by an attack, the wilder may choose to pay power points on a one-to-one ratio to prevent the dispersal of his phantom. This tether, however, also links the two entities together and means that both cannot be far away from one another.

As a standard action that requires expenditure of the psionic focus, the shadow aspect may unleash a 10 ft. Aoe force damage blast around the phantom, with damage scaling depending on shared surge, replacing thus surge blast. 4th level provides a buff to phantom attack, damage and saves in the aftermath of a shared surge as well as temporary hit points, with higher levels increasing the bonus and a 1/day Will-reroll thrown in for good measure, replacing surging euphoria. As a capstone, the archetype may 1/day manifest TWO phantoms at once, but at the cost of psionic focus and an inability to regain it while they're manifested. have I mentioned the fact that this cloning operation actually manages to get item-duplication and interaction,s omething also covered by the phantom wording, right? This archetype is glorious, high-concept, strong, and OOZES roleplaying potential. Its powerful pet is paid for by several key wilder tricks, making it a damn cool addition to the game.

The pdf also contains 4 feats: One for multiclassing phantoms (usual up to +4, up to character level formula), one for 6 more crystalline bond rounds, one that makes the phantom a free part of a collective and enhances synergy between phantom-granting and collective-granting class and a phantom feat that nets far hand (not italicized)at will while contained within the spiritualist's psyche or incorporeal.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, with only a couple of missed italicizations as hiccups. On a rules-language level, the pdf is precise like a razor's edge, in spite of the highly complex subject material. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the art employed is amazing and thematically-fitting, dark art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Project lead Forrest Heck, with design by Doug Haworth, Kevin Ryan and Adam Boucher (Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher are credited as designers for this one on OBS), delivers the second psionics augmented-installment that knocks my socks off so hard, they slap back on my feet. The athanatic channeler is the one archetype herein that I expected to see: You know, a well-made psionic spiritualist. It was pretty clear that this would be in the series sooner or later. But even that one has a couple of cool operations. I already discussed in my review of the amazing Living legend-archetype the fact that Occult Adventures bakes in roleplaying potential and smart options into the very classes and this pdf excels at employing exactly this design paradigm.

Let me state this load and clearly: This pdf is one all- killer, no filler gem of pure amazing, glorious, high-difficulty, high-concept designs. Even the most complex of rules-operations is executed with bull's-eye-precision. The ringleader and shadow aspect alone are worth twice the asking price and the other archetypes are similarly inspired and have truly distinct, unique and exceedingly impressive options. No kitten-failures; no ambiguities. Even when damage is untyped, it is untyped for a reason that works perfectly in the concept of both low-powered and high-powered gaming. The archetypes feature player agenda, intricate interactions of amazing class-features at the highest difficulty and complexity level, glorious visuals and high concepts. in short: This is anathema to bad cookie cutter design; this is the antidote to lame archetype design. It is precise, balanced, and reading the ringleader and shadow aspect made me really want to be a player for once: The roleplaying potential included in them is staggering and can be harnessed in highly intelligent and evocative manners towards the funny or creepy in equal amounts. This, in short, is alongside the absolutely stellar Living Legend, the second Psionics Augmented-pdf I consider an absolute must-own.

If you do not already have this glorious gem, get it right now. Unless you have serious design chops, you won't be able to pull off designs of this beauty and precision. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans the slightest hesitation. I so hope that this remains the direction of awesomeness the PA-series will continue to follow. This book has two archetypes that rank among my Top Ten PFRPG-archetypes. That good. Get it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Mind And Soul
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Tower of the Stargazer
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:50:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page b/w-version of the cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, though these pages are A5-booklet-sized (6'' by 9''), which means you can fit about 4 of them on a given sheet of paper, provided your eyesight is good enough.

This review is based primarily on the print-version with new layout from 2014, though I took the electronic version for reference purposes.

So, first things first: This is intended as an introductory module...perhaps not necessarily for gaming as such (more on that later),but for LotFP's distinct style of design. What do I mean by this? Well, this module is suffused with numerous designer's notes that elaborate on specific design decisions and rationales, helping the referee understand why and how certain things are the way they are. At the same time, if you're expecting copious read-aloud text or the like, you're at the wrong place here. If you expect mercy or a gradual learning curve, then you'd be similarly in the wrong place. This module is pretty much sink or swim for referee and players alike.

The hook is as simple as it gets, intentionally so, and the dungeon is very much a contained and relatively static environment, making that aspect "easy" - but only that aspect. The story's simple: There was a wizard known to gaze at the stars; his tower remote and removed from the nearest civilization. People talked about him in hushed whispers and his only lackey took care of most things pertaining paltry mortals. It's been a long, long while since anyone saw the wizard. The intrepid group of victi...ehrr, I mean murderhob...ehrr, I mean "valiant adventurers" has decided that the tower's rife for the plucking.

....and this is about as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Only referees left? Okay. So...know how I consider both "Grinding Gear" and "Hammers of the God" hard but fair? This one...makes sense in a similar manner, but is mean. Logical and methodical in its meanness, but yeah. We begin in the field before the tower: Iron spikes rise from the ground equidistantly, ringing it and the open ground between the spikes and the tower is a blasted ruin, where lightning bolts keep striking. Do the PCs carry long poles? Metal armor? Then they should hurry and get inside. Between the spikes and the tower, there is a percentile chance to be hit by lightning...something a level 1 character is not likely to survive. In order to get in the tower, two options present themselves: A knocker and a handle. The knocker makes the doors open themselves. The handles are shaped like serpents...and touching them makes them come alive. Bite the touching character. Save vs. poison or DIE.

That may sound harsh, but when you think about it, it makes sense in-game: Guests should knock when visiting an evil wizard...and the handles are serpent-shaped. The detail is there...and this is a level 1-module in a relatively rules-lite system. It also serves a purpose of establishing a design-paradigm: Details matter and internal consistency is important. In fact, the whole module can be seen as a conditioning, a teaching experience if you will...one that is gleeful in some of its more sadistic moments...but never one that can be considered to be thoroughly haphazard. There are some moments that are nasty, though: There would be wine as treasure, for example: Well, one bottle has gone bad: Drinking it will cause...bingo. Death. The wine's worth something, so with some ill luck, either a PC or a client may die there...which can spark further adventures, sure...but considering the lack of options to detect the spoiled one, it feels cruel.

Speaking of cruel: You see, the aforementioned lackey of the wizard's been gone for many a year, frustrated by the constant misuse by his cruel master...whose spell he sabotaged, trapping the wizard in a circle of salt. The PCs can find the old stargazer. He's been standing, upright and still, confined in the circle, for more than 50 years and his mood is foul...but he does try to put on a benevolent Dumbledore-act...and if the PCs buy it, he asks them to go. If they refuse, he drops his act and becomes threatening. But as long as the PCs don't do anything, he can't do jack. It's the choice and consequence paradigm.

At the same time, the wizard tower depicted here feels very much magical: Within these halls, one can find a levitation shaft used to navigate it, a frozen storage containing vials of blood (which animates and becomes aggressive) and a ghost custodian of the eldritch section of the wizard's library. This ghost challenges the PCs to a game: Select chess, darts, anything you have that can engage your players and potentially is over quick to not stall the game...if you're too good at chess, for example, and doubt that your players could beat you...well, then don't play chess. Why? Well, if the PC fails, the ghost is freed and the PC dies, taking its place. There is no salvation for the eternal guardian here.

One highlight of the exploration of the dungeon would certainly be the wizard's workshop, where an acidic pool of liquid contains strange fish and a complex telescope-like device allows for the opening of the tower's roof...and perhaps the most hilarious, amazing and mean part of the module: All this arcane machinery pertains the wizard's studies: He's been obsessed with other planets and wanted to learn to get there.

Unless the PCs were VERY thorough with their research, they may be in for a surprise: Looking through the telescope, they can see strange entities on another planet. With some serious experimentation, item-use and the like, they can use the device to fire a transport-beam t the planet...but unless they have VERY carefully done their research (unlikely), any PC foolish enough to try to use this beam will be transported to that planet...his molecular consistence changed to something that is considered a delicacy there...and he'll be eaten/drunk/slurped up. (And yes, there is an artwork of a view of the entities...) This whole procedure requires A LOT of effort on part of the PCs, is mean and memorable and pretty unlikely to happen...but it exemplifies to a degree the philosophy of magic being very dangerous, demanding respect.

Oh, and regarding internal logic: It makes sense. Traps and dangers are where intruders shouldn't be. When the PCs find a corpse, sewn up with gold thread in the basements and loot the thread, they'll be attacked by the animated organs inside - deservedly so, I might add! Another aspect I'd consider haphazard in its design: Several magic mirrors provide either significant benefits...or suck in a character, consuming his soul after 3 days, with no means of saving him: Breaking the mirror kills the PC. Sure, anyone who's read Kull-stories knows that gazing into wizard mirrors is a bad idea...but still. Somewhat akin to a deck of many things in its randomness, without the warning the item carries. There is no way to determine the function of mirrors before, btw. - no reward for being smart or observant. Such unfair sections are what tarnish this module in my book, which is a pity, for the atmosphere evoked is cool indeed: In which other module can the PCs find a 16-armed skeleton in a cell...complete with artwork...and have it have no function apart from sparking the player's imagination? The dressing and details are great and evocative.

Heck, the module even has a puzzle - a simple one, but yeah: The treasure chests are contained beyond damaging force fields and the PCs will have to manipulate a console and try to find the right combination to lower the force-fields and gain access to the significant treasures contained in the wizard's vault...provided they don't panic and run into them when they're separated by them...you see, if your PCs believe they can smash their problems away, they'll be in for a rude awakening that is bound to be pretty terminal: There is a very real possibility of the whole tower blowing up in a devastating nova if the PCs try to use brute force to solve the problems of e.g. the workshop. I get it. The angle here is to cultivate a consciousness for when to tamper with something and when not to...but, at least in my opinion, Grinding Gear and Hammers of the God did that job much, much better.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a nice and easy to read two-column b/w-standard. The b/w-artworks provided herein are amazing, particularly for showing weirdness rather than the usual suspects of monsters, rooms, etc. - they show stuff when it matters that it has an artwork. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover booklet is printed darker than the pdf, being mostly grey-black...which, ironically, enhances rather than detracts from the artworks...though the cover is pretty much a mush of black, the stairs nearly imperceptible. Cartography is detailed and functional b/w, with furniture etc. included. there are no player-friendly maps included as a cut-up handouts or the like.

James Edward Raggi IV's "Tower of the Stargazer" is actually a well-written crawl through a wizard's tower - as in: The ideas and environments are amazing, the things that can be found are interesting and the emphasis on player choice refreshing: The more greedy the PCs are, the higher is the chance they'll die horribly. And, for the most part, the module is fair in its risk-reward-ratios. For the most part, for there are a couple of scenes, some save-or-die-sections, that can only be described as dickish and completely out of left field.

Where Hammers of the God rewarded deliberate exploration and meticulous respect for the environment and its story, where Grinding Gear's whole set-up required care, precision and a keen mind, this one has this tint of haphazardness not only within the roll of the dice, but within its underlying structure. It feels a bit like an "You must be this tough to play here."-sign that exaggerates subjective flaws (or merits, depending on your perspective) and clichés some folks attribute to old-school gaming. In short: This was obviously written, at least in parts, as a kind of proving ground highlighting some of the best, but also some of the worst aspects of old-school gaming. As a whole, this feels, at least to me, like the weakest of the early LotFP-modules. It showcases the aspects that made the other modules stand out and has the very distinct narrative identity, but, both in comment and design, it also requires you to buy into a certain mindset of capriciousness when it comes to the lives of PCs that contradicts the paradigm of successfully letting PCs dig their own graves, so perfectly exemplified by the telescope, the animated organs, etc..

I like this module, but as a whole, I do feel like it undermines its own point regarding the way to game it tries to teach. Then again, perhaps I'm overanalyzing this and the module's playtest ran too smooth, requiring a couple of middle-finger save-or-sucks. I don't know. If you enjoy HARD, brutal and unforgiving modules, if you don't mind a very real potential for a sudden, not entirely deserved PC-death, then this makes for a great, challenging and atmospheric dungeon. If you firmly adhere to the "reap what you've sown"-school of GMing, I'd suggest getting Grinding Gear or Hammers of the God instead. How to rate this, then? Well, this is not a bad module, but neither did it blow me away. For groups that like the dark and weird that consider themselves to be hardcore...this is worth checking out. As for my final verdict...well, while for me as a person, this is closer to 4 stars than 3, as a reviewer, I can't round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
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Advancing with Class: The Witch
Publisher: The Knotty-Works
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:48:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advancing with Class-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages fo content, so let's take a look!

All right, after a brief and solid piece of introductory prose, we begin with 5 different patrons, with 3 being tied to fey, one representing a more scholarly bent and one being an antithesis of winter. More interesting than these (though their spell selection is pretty interesting) would be the metric ton of hexes that can be found herein, which are further categorized by theme - Eldritch, Fey, General and Shadow would be the respective leitmotifs. Fey hexes are restricted to fey with a fey patron, shadow hexes are restricted to witches with the shadow patron - simple and makes sense, though, as a minor complaint, last time I checked it was "patron" and not "patron theme" - but that's just cosmetic and hence will not influence the final verdict.

Now eldritch hexes are basically a means of grafting a warlock-like blasting chassis on the more utility-centric witch; this is primarily done via the hex bolt hex, which causes 1d6 untyped (sigh) damage per 4 class levels, with a ranged touch attack to hit, a range increment of 15 ft. and a maximum of 10 range increments, which, while a bit rocky considering its behavior, can be considered to be somewhat of a balancing thing. Now, where the verbiage becomes confusing is when it spells out that the bolt is considered to be magic and thus bypasses DR - the wording can be read as ignoring all DR, not just DR/magic. Only one such bolt may be fired at any given round, regardless of iterative attacks. The bolt is treated as a 2md level spell for casting defensively purposes and is not lost on a failed check, but rather receives a penalty to attack The second major theme to be found among these hexes would be the hex forged hex, which lets you weave untyped bonus damage into melee or natural weapons (not unarmed attacks? Why?). Taking a cue from kineticist wording, there are also infusion hexes, which can be applied to either hex bolt or hex forged, with the exception of energy infusion, which replaces the base energy type of a hex bolt to one of the base energies or "sound" -which does not exist. It's sonic. Energy infusion hex bolts apply resistance, but ignore SR and the other infusions net deafening, frightening, blinding or sickening properties to the bolt. Higher level hexes add further effects to choose from.

Weird, btw.: Neither major, nor grand hexes sport the distinction by hex type in their respective arrays, with the major hexes building upon hex bolts providing cones, fireball-like long-range exploding bolts as well as a weird Cleave-y modification. These, alas, do also sport some oddities: A maximum range of a non-range-modifying bolt, for example, contradicts the maximum range of hex bolt. Similarly, the shaping modifications do not specify whether infusion-type hexes affecting hex bolts work with these shaping tricks. While, unlike the annoyingly infinite hex bolt, these do have a hard cap, I am frankly not sold on the whole sequence. I've seen warlock-y classes done better than this graft, which feels like a basic attempt for some blasting capacity that could have been refined into a mighty engine...but wasn't. When compared to e.g. Interjection games' ethermagic or kineticism, it also promotes doing the same each round, namely blasting. Not a fan and the deviations from standard rules-language are fatal in such a chassis.

The fey and general hexes feel more "witchy" in tone to me and ultimately, to me, are the better examples from a design perspective: Here among the general ones we can find hexes to hamper spellcasting, the ability to deliver messages via avian messengers, the option to pass unimpeded through rough terrain or undergrowth sans taking damage or gaining a mildly toxic nettle-skin. Spitting iron nails at short range that may bypass mage armor et al. is a cool visual. That being said, e.g. the traveling itch could have used a bit of a power upgrade - a -1 penalty to atk for class level rounds does not warrant taking. Also: There are no typed penalties in PFRPG. Interesting - there is a touch that nets the witch and allies bonuses versus the recipient, with the major hex providing an AoE-version of deep slumber, thematically codified as a faerie ring around the witch...while only one such ring may be in effect at a given time, it basically exacerbates the sleeping issue that riled up so many GMs, though personally, I consider it valid...but I wished its wording was slightly more refined. Among the fey hexes, there is an AoE-20 ft-gaze that kills standard actions of targets and a nice sequence of hexes that blinds the target selectively to the witch, which is pretty cool.

The shadow hexes...are basically every shadow-themed class ever. Cloak weapons in shadow for damage-bonus? Check. Stealth-bonuses? Check. Minor sneak attack? Check. They're not that bad or problematic, but neither do they blow me away when compared to the better takes on theme. The feats contained in the pdf mostly concern themselves with witch multiclassing, but also sport better attacks via staves or brooms as well as enhancements of new hexes or archetype abilities.

The new archetypes herein follow a similar trend: The Eldritch Witch, for example, would be, surprise, the archetype for hex bolts/hex forged, with the fey-touched witch the specialist for the fey-themed hexes, one that receives a fey familiar, whose table collates two levels per row, which is slightly problematic from a RAW/convention-perspective. The harrowed harlequin is interesting and receives several social skills as well as a gremlin familiar. Weird: Adding damage to feint attacks at high levels is a bit wonky in its implementation...and does not specify a range, whether only the witch can use it for her own feints, etc. - after all...you don't want to get into melee with a full caster. The madness matriarch may cause insanities and the mystic astrologer is one of the more interesting ones, sporting some solid fate-based rerolls and similar abilities. The high-level option to negate actions retroactively, gained at 18th level, is pretty cool in theory, but its wording is mega-opaque and needs clarification.

The occult scholar receives more brainy skills and is a expert scroll-user, while the shadow mistress, bingo, would be the shadow hex-themed archetype of the collection. The pdf concludes with 3 sample characters, 2 at CR 4 (elven fey-touched + human madness matriarch) and a CR 8 serpentfolk eldritch witch.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are issues on a formal and rules-level. From apostrophe-hiccups and similar typos, the pdf lacks italicization for pretty much every spell and violates rules-formatting in several instances., rendering the content more opaque than it should be. Frustratingly, not to the point where the pdf is not operational, mind you...but yeah, you'll have to reread some passages and will stumble over oddness here and there. The pdf adheres to a 2-column, full-color layout-standard with decent stock art. The pdf is internally hyperlinked and fully bookmarked.

John Buckley's take on the witch is frustrating to me: It takes several cool concepts and proceeds to sport some really ingenious tricks: The nail-spitting, for example, is amazing from a visuals point of view. At the same time, it contains some serious filler and...well...didn't blow me away. I've seen warlock-y blasting done better numerous times; I've seen shadow done better numerous times...and the hiccups in formatting and verbiage make some components...well. Weird. The internal balance is also somewhat inconsistent, with some hexes being clearly significantly weaker than others.

I don't hate this pdf. It does have some gems and if you're willing to iron out some of the verbiage glitches, you'll find some seriously fun concepts herein. At the same time, I can't see the pseudo-warlock graft exciting anyone when there are better options. Same goes for the shadow tricks, rendering a significant portion of the pdf...kinda obsolete and slightly redundant from a thematic point of view. In the end, I can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Advancing with Class: The Witch
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