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Mini-Dungeon #073: True Lovers Run Into Strange Capers
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2018 05:12:43

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

Immortality can wear down even the most strange of beings – and when the renegade tataka rakshasa met an ankou fey, they finally found what had eluded them. Love. Becoming a truly deadly power-couple, they now inhabit their own demiplane, which includes some truly strange critters (clockwork sleep-gas breathing infiltrator dragon – just sayin’!) and woe to any intruders that dare disturb their bliss. Oh, and yes, that includes the PCs!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley’s yarn of an immortal love of the darkest type is BRUTAL. The enemy-choices are as smart as we expect them to be and the backdrop is unique and truly creative. Engine-tweaks employed are interesting. No complaints. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #073: True Lovers Run Into Strange Capers
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5E Mini-Dungeon #074: Temple of the Secret Power
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2018 05:09:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a 5E-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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

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, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. 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!

There are forces out there that few truly understand – one such item would be the omnihedron, an artifact with a snide intelligence that is capable of temporarily imbuing items with magic, which is used to some effect to upgrade the ravenfolk cultists that worship at this place. (And yes, I like how the conversion-team chooses the proper monsters from Tome of Beasts here, with hyperlinks provided.) Still, the temporary items can be somewhat of a killjoy for the PCs when the magic items their opposition wields lose the magic. The artifact doesn’t get stats per se once liberated, and may or may not enhance the weapons of the PCs. There is a puzzle, but it amounts to being very rudimentary.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

Michael McCarthy’s “Temple of Secret Power” is a bit weaker than usual for the author. The mini-dungeon’s artifact-conceit is a bit frustrating for players and the lack of definition for the artifact’s precise powers render this more opaque than it imho should be. The conversion by Chris Harris and Kyle Crider is solid and neither stronger, nor weaker than the PFRPG-iteration – personally, I like the change from ratfolk to ravenfolk. Still, I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #074: Temple of the Secret Power
Click to show product description

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Mini-Dungeon #074: Temple of the Secret Power
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2018 05:08:42

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

There are forces out there that few truly understand – one such item would be the omnihedron, an artifact with a snide intelligence that is capable of temporarily imbuing items with magic, which is used to some effect to upgrade the ratfolk cultists that worship at this place. This can be somewhat of a killjoy for the PCs when the magic items their opposition wields loses the bonuses. The artifact doesn’t get stats per se once liberated, and may or may not enhance the weapons of the PCs. There is a puzzle, but it amounts to being very rudimentary.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Michael McCarthy’s “Temple of the Secret Power” is a bit weaker than usual for the author. The mini-dungeon’s artifact-conceit is a bit frustrating for players and the lack of definition for the artifact’s precise powers render this more opaque than it imho should be. As such, I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #074: Temple of the Secret Power
Click to show product description

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The Monolith from beyond Space and Time
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:41:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover,2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of back-list, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 pages of content, laid out for 6’’ by 9’’.

My review is primarily based on the print softcover version I received from one of my patreons, who requested a review of it at my convenience. I have also consulted the pdf-version to ascertain electronic features etc.

That being said, I would have reviewed this module either way. Why? Because it is one of the worst-reviewed Lamentations of the Flame Princess books, one that I only got for completion’s sake. I had the pdf-version for a while before this was requested by my patreons and only then started reading it. Now, usually, I steer clear of other reviews in order to avoid coloring my point of view. Here, I never expected to write a review when I got the book, and as such, was very cognizant of the backlash this generated.

Now, I am not saying that most reviews get it wrong – while there are some negative ratings and reviews that stem from being offended by a horror product, there are more eloquent ones out there that frankly made this sound like an unmitigated mess. To make that abundantly clear: I do not share this point of view, but I think I know where these notions come from. Hence, I will try to explain why this book did elicit these responses.

Let’s begin with a clarification of terminology; I promise to be brief: This is a lovecraftian adventure. The “n” here is important – this does NOT deal with Lovecraftiana or the Cthulhu mythos in the traditional sense. In fact, nowadays, we can make a claim that the mythos has actually ceased to have any notion of being “lovecraftian.” In stark contrast to most depictions of the Cthulhu mythos in media, the term “lovecraftian” usually denotes a sense of cosmic nihilism and futility oozing into our world; a sense of cosmic insignificance and unknowable forces. The sheer amount of material collected on Cthulhu et al. undermines this notion rather vividly and once the brave PCs/investigators have fired tank shells at ole’ Shubby, any sense of dread beyond that which a sword-wielding murder-hobo might feel in front of a dragon, has been thoroughly lost. In short: The mythos has been codified and elaborated upon to the point where, paradoxically, while obviously a crucial part of Lovecraftiana, it is no longer lovecraftian in the strictest sense of the word. Similarly, it does not attempt to depict the lovecraftian as seen through the lens of psychology, but more as the unfiltered, played glimpse at a harsh, Lacanian real.

The second unfair claim I have seen voiced against this module, is that it has “unfair” components. I’d frankly beg to differ. Yes, this is a very difficult module, but it is NOT difficult because of badly designed save-or-die mechanics. It does not just randomly punish PCs – all they experience is ultimately their own doing.

It is difficult because it actually works as a module for ANY levels. In fact, it may work better from mid- to high-level characters. How does it achieve that? Well, more than ANY OSR-module (and most RPG-modules, regardless of system), success in it is utterly and thoroughly contingent on PLAYER-skill. NO matter how optimized your character is, no matter how OP your items are, this module can and will destroy you if you are not up to your A-game. If you and your group usually just want to murder-hobo through a dungeon, then this will ANNIHILATE you. It should be noted that players with copious horror-gaming experience will be MUCH more likely to succeed here. This requires very methodical and smart PLAYERS.

There is no pattern on a global scale to the monolith’s effects – and there’s a reason for that – it is not sentient, and there is no global, guiding intelligence. It just IS. It is indifferent and weird. While the phenomena can be analyzed and exploited/bested, they cannot be made sense of. They cannot be explained away. This is actually very deliberate and smart here – because, y’ know, when does the horror-movie start to suck? When does the book start to fall apart? Bingo, when the authors explain too much and provide human motivations to beings/things that are more akin to forces of nature, inscrutable and unknowable. You can’t reason with the weather, but you can witness the tempest blaring or a tsunami, and you can observe patterns in these individual manifestations of it. There is serious fun in that, in finding the tricks for survival.

Even in this context, this remains a horror-module. Bad things will happen to PCs and a palpable doom hangs over everything. There is no true victory, but also no true defeat here. This is a difference in mentality that anyone with horror-experience, from CoC, to GUMSHOE or Ravenloft, will be familiar with – the fun in these horrific things is to roll with the curveballs they represent, not to complain about them.

It is actually pretty likely that the PCs will survive, but it is also very likely that the module will have serious repercussions that can change the course of whole campaigns.

The module is not only demanding on the players, though: This is a lovecraftian adventure and as such, it can include some seriously mind-bending components that require that a referee is capable of conveying somewhat mind-bending dissolutions of space and time in eloquent speech. It is my firm belief that quite a few folks who experienced this as less than fulfilling did so because the referee did not manage to convey the concepts, because the group did not approach this with the required, deliberate care. Granted, one weakness here is that the module does have a bit of James Edward Raggi IV’s sarcasm shining through, when one description comments “Good luck describing that to your players!” – that can feel like an insult to a referee who already did struggle with understanding the notion in question. It may be another reason why some considered this to be problematic. (In the Spoiler-section, I quote the passage in question, so you can see for yourself why this indeed requires some serious referee-mojo…but it’s definitely not impossible!)

To cut a long ramble short: If you like horror-gaming (and I’m not talking about some dark fantasy, slightly gritty hack and slash, but about HORROR; if your players are veterans and like challenges; if your group loves having their brains challenged; if you are an experienced referee, capable of conveying complex concepts in vivid descriptions, then this may well be a true masterpiece for you.

As an aside: This adventure can also double as a great scavenging toolbox – the encounters and weird effects basically demand being used, and a great degree of variance allows for a rather high replay value.

Now, to go into more details, I need to venture into SPOILER-territory. Folks who wish to actually play this module should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Somewhere in the world, a wooden valley has appeared. Mist-shrouded and uncivilized, in its midst, there is a strange monolith, a weird thing somewhere between rock and rotted flesh. It is into this valley that the PCs set foot. This, alone, may well be enough to doom them. No, I am not kidding you. You see, the distance to the monolith can be feet, yards, hundreds of yards, miles…or astronomical units. You roll once for dice-size/number, and one for the unit of measurement. You can, theoretically, end up with 1000 astronomical units of distance. See, that’s why I mentioned that smart and methodical PLAYERS are required – distance is recalculated every time the valley is entered. Failing to grasp the spatial distortion can essentially strand the PCs in a nigh-infinite valley. There is another complication that is utterly glorious: The monolith effects. Beyond the distance, there are 10 complex, global effects, one of which kicks in whenever the PCs enter the valley.

These include the “Doom of Hierarchy” – all members of the party roll a d20, rerolling ties. Everyone must obey the letter (if not the spirit) of an order issues by a member of the party with a higher roll. Slowed lifeforms. Oh, and if you really think your Referee-mojo is top-notch, try for “Light defeats Distance.” To give you a quote: “This condition prevents characters from traveling across space during the day, no matter how far they travel. Whatever destination the player characters have in mind, when they travel, they will appear to cross distances (and intervening terrain), but they will never get any closer to their destination and in fact will have not moved at all. They have effectively been walking in place the entire time. Thrown or discarded objects (or spells!) will be observed as traveling to their destination, but will never arrive. If something is tossed (or shot) from one person to another, the one throwing/shooting will perceive the object as reaching its target, while the character on the receiving end will perceive the object as having been wildly misdirected. The object will not be found again. Items can be physically passed from person to person normally.[…]”

Told you that this one would be a challenge, right? Can you see how some groups will be utterly flabbergasted and frustrated by this? I can. I can, however, also see how incredibly AMAZING this effect can be in the hands of a capable referee! Can you see the PLAYERS figure that one out and how to get past its effects? Oh yes. The mutation effect sports btw. no less than 20 different entries in a subtable. Impossible weather, distorted time flow…and what if the monolith makes things the PCs and players wish for come true? These effects alone had me grin my most malicious of GM-grins – and indeed, they are relevant beyond the confines of the rules-system for which they were written.

This emphasis on PLAYER-skill over PC-skill btw. continues throughout the whole module. There are exactly two possible encounters en route to the monolith that are more classic: The first is an encounter with a nudist colony of pacifists, supernaturally ageless and fertile, the colony subsisting on its own children. Yes, this is disturbing. Yes, that would be the shock-value encounter to piss off folks. It didn’t do much for me, but neither was I offended. The second deals with basically a mutated, ginormous angler-fish monstrosity, which would be a perfect place to note that Aeron Alfrey’s illustrations throughout the module are PHENOMENAL. Weird, disturbing, glorious art. Love them.

Anyways, the more interesting encounter would be the contribution by none other than Kenneth Hite, who wrote “The Owl’s Service.” The PCs happen upon strange statues ringing a clearing, a corpse, which may have a possession that is starkly like one held by the PCs – and in the aftermath, the PCs may well find their SPELLSLOTS infested by owls after disturbing dreams. The infestation may well spread…and the head of that corpse was bashed in…perhaps to let out the owls? There is no explanation here; no easy remedy. Just a plainly weird and encroaching doom that any campaign can handle as befitting of its own paradigms and dynamics. It could be just a curse to remove, but it similarly could be a world-threatening magical disease that spreads from caster to caster…

Arriving at the monolith has its own hazards and, indeed, represents another potential fallout during/after the adventure – seeing the monolith has the PCs invaded by microscopic invaders, whose civilizations in them rise and fall, becoming even more hyper-advanced. Unfortunately, this also hijacks the PCs when they are asleep, making them invincible killing machines with a pretty extensive kill-boundary. Once more, this is provided as a problem that can have dire consequences for the PCs, but when handled properly, it can make for a truly horrific revelation at the table…and solving the problem can be amazing. Unlike the owls-issue, closing the monolith can deal with this one, rendering them dormant…but yeah. I can see how these invaders can really irk folks only used to “I’m good, therefore I kill evil stuff.”

The monolith also has a guardian, who is a rather dangerous entity…and once more, represents something the PCs can’t bash apart. See a theme there? As noted above, this is not a module you can rollplay to win.

The inside of the monolith continues this almost psychedelic nightmare – there is only the way in which the character is facing. Closing eyes also ends the way, entrapping the character, unable to move until the eyes are once more opened to The Way. The tunnel is always in front of the character, a single line. Distance does not truly exist, and an example of how this works is given – within the monolith, the PCs have basically already reached the treasure-chamber…if the players understand how to get to it! The monolith allows access to other worlds and times, contains strange healing pods – and attempts to find the “control room” or the like will actually have the PCs within the brain of the respective PC who voiced that wish. And yes, destroying stuff there may not be wise. Weaponry-wise, the PCs can find a slime/ooze-drinking worm-symbiote…and the head of Carter Holmes. This is actually the main “treasure” of the adventure, and it is twisted. The man is a thoroughly vile magic-user. Pardon. Was. He’s just a head now. Literally confined to this place for all eternity. He wants to die. And tells the PCs about the kewl loot they can get – they just need to eat his brain. Yes. The disembodied head offers for his brain to be eaten.

If your players think that eating the brain of a thoroughly wicked magic-user in a weird dimension-warping monolith is a good idea, then they totally deserve what they get – for better and worse, for Carter’s brain can convey 6 unique spells, all of which are comparably very potent; similarly, PCs may gain agelessness (at a potentially dire cost…), faster reflexes or the option to move between the lines…but he was a loathsome, despicable psycho. As such, the PCs may also have their minds tainted by his horrible insights, which double as serious insanities. It’s all about the luck here – and if they complain, you seriously just have to point out that they ATE A BRAIN to get power.

How can the monolith be banished? How can the PCs win in this nightmare? You can hold the door shut. From the inside. For an eternity. Yes, there is no easy solution. There is no cop out.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are topnotch on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the artworks, as mentioned above, are b/w and Gigeresque in their amazing weirdness. The softcover has the letters on the spine and is solid. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and s layered, so if you want to save ink/toner, you can turn off background etc. – huge kudos there! The module sports no cartography, but needs none.

Now, I have only touched on some highlights featured herein – James Edward Raggi IV’s module actually contains more than I mentioned. I also tried to remain as opaque as possible, mainly because the emphasis on player-skill/encountering the horror as the central tenet and focus of the adventure.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-run, low-impact, generic hex-crawl with a bit of weirdness and tentacles, then look elsewhere. This is not what you’re looking for.

Similarly, if you’re relatively new to GMing, or if your players have no experience with horror-gaming, with problems that can’t be solved by rolling high enough, then you may want to ease them into horror-gaming with other modules.

If, however, you’re an experienced referee and if your players are experienced and smart as well, if they enjoy weirdness and strange problems that can’t be solved by waving a metal stick at them, then this is a psychedelic masterpiece of a nightmarescape. A good litmus-test may be whether you and yours enjoy purist-Cthulhu-modules: Do you like the weirdness, the fact that only your wits stand between you and death/gibbering insanity? Can you live with strange and dire effects? Do you like roleplaying the solving of complex and bafflingly weird phenomena that highlight the uncaring and hostile nature of the cosmos? Then, oh boy, will you love this one!

To make that abundantly clear – I am not trying to disparage other reviewers and folks who did not like this; I can see this crash and burn horribly for newbies, for folks that need a focused leitmotif/mystery to solve, for groups that have only ever played fantasy, etc.. Unlike Death Frost Doom, for example, this is not even dark fantasy. This is cosmic horror, pure and simple. Its premises are different, its focus is different and its challenges are different – there is no overwhelming force, no super-strong foe, no easy solution – just the uncaring, insentient, almost divine obelisk.

So yeah, many, though not all, points of criticism voiced against this module can be considered to be valid to a degree.

At the same time, I’d argue that these bemoaned points are actually features, not bugs. They are very deliberate design-decisions rooted in an aesthetic that differs radically from traditional D&D-esque adventure-design. They are not made to screw over PCs, but to present truly horrifying challenges to the players. How you navigate and solve them is another thing, but to me, this module is more successful in its attempted and clearly-stated design-goals than 90% of CoC-modules I’ve read. Considering the very clear mission statement, I cannot help but think of this as a resounding success. I am probably going to get some blowback for this, but personally, I prefer this over pretty much all of the early LotFP-modules.

Why? Because it dares to be radically, defiantly DIFFERENT. Because it, in spite of being downright brutal, this adventure is actually inspiring. As an aside: Most of the global effects and challenges herein translate rather well to more complex systems or more rules-lite systems, courtesy of their focus on player-capabilities over those of PCs.

This adventure is weird. It is challenging. And I am 100% positive that no player that went through it will ever forget it. It absolutely DEMANDS a truly experienced referee and similarly skilled players, but it delivers for them, in spades.

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If you’re a fan of horror-adventures and feel like the above has resounded like something you’d enjoy, then consider this to be a must-own purchase, regardless of system you’re playing in.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Monolith from beyond Space and Time
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5E Mini-Dungeon #072: The Stuff of Dreams
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:37:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a 5E-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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

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, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. 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!

So, we have a theme-dungeon this time around: This whole dungeon is a fungus/plant-based dungeon, situated in a massive biomass that, unknown to its explorers, is hanging hundreds of feet above the cavern floors! The complex has been raided by a NPC adventuring party as an element of chaos that may resurface any time (or after the complex has been cleared) and the use of the plant monsters herein is absolutely inspired and makes the complex feel delightfully icky, with neat, minor tweaks of the base engines in some cases!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from a critter missing its bolding. 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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

Stephen Yeardley’s “Stuff of Dreams” (here, I believe, erroneously attributed to Justin Andrew Mason) is a truly enjoyable little dungeon with a weird atmosphere, creative choices and some neat challenges. I really liked this one. The 5e-conversion by Chris Harris and Kyle Crider makes ample use of Kobold Press’ amazing Tome of Beast plant monsters, providing proper hyperlinks for them. This retains the strong leitmotif of the dungeon.

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only because it would have been amazing to have the biomass deteriorate, making mechanical hazard-style use of the unique, hanging dungeon-idea.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #072: The Stuff of Dreams
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Mini-Dungeon #072: The Stuff of Dreams
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:36:03

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

So, we have a theme-dungeon this time around: This whole dungeon is a fungus/plant-based dungeon, situated in a massive biomass that, unknown to its explorers, is hanging hundreds of feet above the cavern floors! The complex has been raided by a boggard hunting party as an element of chaos that may resurface any time (or after the complex has been cleared) and the use of the plant monsters herein is absolutely inspired and makes the complex feel delightfully icky, with neat, minor tweaks of the base engines in some cases!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley’s “Stuff of Dreams” is a truly enjoyable little dungeon with a weird atmosphere, creative choices and some neat challenges. I really liked this one. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only because it would have been amazing to have the biomass deteriorate, making mechanical hazard-style use of the unique, hanging dungeon-idea.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #072: The Stuff of Dreams
Click to show product description

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5E Mini-Dungeon #071: The Unwise Young, They Say Do Ne'er Live Long
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:34:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a 5E-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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

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, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. 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!

Paladins can make mistakes. Uskonto the unshakeable manned up to causing the death of a child, venturing down into the Underworld, seeking atonement. The PCs follow the hero, and the trail leads to a complex that is a haven of sorts, but considering that we’re talking about the underworld, the waystation complex houses both neutral and evil designated areas and, provided the PCs don’t die to biting off more than what they can chew when dealing with the residents, they may well find the erstwhile paladin, who has become rather…different…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

If PCs attempt to kill their way through this one, they may probably die horribly. There are unique traps and strange allies and finding the target will not necessarily be the end. Surprising, how much Stephen Yeardley managed to cram into this brief module! And yes, the creature choices in the PFRPG-version are as creative as you expect them to be from Mr. Yeardley’s mini-dungeons, which presented some issues for the conversion team of Chris Harris and Kyle Crider. The solution is smart: The mini-dungeon does use a ton of creatures from Kobold Press’ fantastic Tome of Beasts, but unlike in previous mini-dungeons, this one does not include the relevant stats. They simply wouldn’t have fit on the card. In short: You absolutely need Tome of Beasts to make the most out of this, as e.g. the devilbound gnoll prince or the grim jester has not been hyperlinked; sans the book, you should detract 1 or 2 stars from the final verdict.

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #071: The Unwise Young, They Say Do Ne'er Live Long
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Mini-Dungeon #071: The Unwise Young, They Say Do Ne'er Live Long
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:32:21

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

Paladins can make mistakes. Uskonto the unshakeable manned up to causing the death of a child, venturing down into the Underworld, seeking atonement. The PCs follow the hero, and the trail leads to a complex that is a haven of sorts, but considering that we’re talking about the underworld, the waystation complex houses both neutral and evil designated areas and, provided the PCs don’t die to biting off more than what they can chew when dealing with the residents, they may well find the erstwhile paladin, who has become rather…different..

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

If PCs attempt to kill their way through this one, they may probably die horribly. There are unique traps and strange allies and finding the target will not necessarily be the end. Surprising, how much Stephen Yeardley managed to cram into this brief module! And yes, the creature choices are as creative as you expect them to be from Mr. Yeardley’s mini-dungeons! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #071: The Unwise Young, They Say Do Ne'er Live Long
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5E Mini-Dungeon #070: I Am Not Of Your Element
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:30:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a 5E-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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

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, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. 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!

When a faultline had a wave of unearthly energy flow into the underworld, it decimated a fire giant monastery down to just a few devotees. Now, a traveling and injured fellow remains, almost having fallen prey to one of the horrid beings from beyond. You see, while in PFRPG, the module excelled via its strange nanite-creatures, the 5e-version takes a different theme and instead provides the stats for both shoggoth and the urochar (strangling watcher), substituting a strong dark tapestry-theme instead…and the module works just as strongly in this case!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

Chris Harris’ conversion of Stephen Yeardley’s module retains the draw of the original – while, system-immanently, the system sports less monsters, the use of Tome of Beast critters (stats included) and the change of theme are smart decisions. My final verdict will thus also clock in at 4 stars for the 5e-version.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #070: I Am Not Of Your Element
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Mini-Dungeon #070: I Am Not Of Your Element
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:28:47

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

When a faultline had a wave of unearthly energy flow into the underworld, it decimated a fire giant monastery down to just a doombringer. Now, a travelling and injured shadowdancer awaits, as a massive swarm of gray goo seeks to change folks; it has animated a brass golem and a fire giant banshee-variant (stat-modifications provided) can be found. The place is one of wrecked glory, as a ghorazagh plans the final take-over of the place…and indeed, smart players may well contemplate at least a temporary alliance with the fire giant doombringer…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley’s take on a subterranean monastery haunted by a recent catastrophe is interesting, mainly due to the clever enemies employed. While I would have loved to see the terrain matter a bit more, this is a fun sidetrek. (Come on, nanite-infused lava!) My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #070: I Am Not Of Your Element
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5E Mini-Dungeon #069: The Broken River
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:26:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a 5E-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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

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, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. 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!

How does a river break? Well, in this instance, easily, for its origin is not natural, but a set of decanters of endless water. While dangerous, the river must be recreated and erosion thwarted – as such, the PCs explore a pretty dangerous place, including weird critters and special ore that attracts magic…and the module actually also notes further adventuring options! This is pretty cool…however, less scrupulous PCs could abscond with the potent items, which can be problematic.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

Colin Strickin’s little sidetrek is a fun adventure worth checking out. The premise is magical and interesting and the execution neat, with further adventuring baked into the module for the GM’s convenience. Nothing to complain here. The conversion by Chris Harris is solid. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #069: The Broken River
Click to show product description

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Mini-Dungeon #069: The Broken River
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 04:25:13

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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

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!

How does a river break? Well, in this instance, easily, for its origin is not natural, but a set of decanters of endless water. While dangerous, the river must be recreated and erosion thwarted – as such, the PCs explore a pretty dangerous place, including weird critters and special ore that attracts magic…and the module actually also notes further adventuring options! This is pretty cool…however, less scrupulous PCs could abscond with the potent items, which can be problematic.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. 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 .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Colin Strickin’s little sidetrek is a fun adventure worth checking out. The premise is magical and interesting and the execution neat, with further adventuring baked into the module for the GM’s convenience. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #069: The Broken River
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Everyman Minis: Occultic Singularity Ritual
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2018 01:12:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 3.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, this pdf depicts a new occult ritual, if the title and cover were not enough indication. I know, captain Obvious-Endzy is obvious. The ritual presented here is the Macabre Pledge of Occultic Singularity, which clocks in at 5th level and has the compulsion and evil descriptors. The ritual has a 5 hour casting time and its components are amazing and manage to generate the appropriate flair: 18 black candles, infused with the ash of those sacrificed to the cult’s object of veneration; identical regalia for primary caster, secondary caster and target; a feast worth of food etc. – and an “alter” (should be “altar”) adorned with ebony, onyx and obsidian. Come on, you can picture that ceremony, right?

The ritual must be performed outdoors when the sun doesn’t shine. Each member of the secondary casters is designated a role in a hierarchy for the ritual, recognizing 4 different ranks. Unlike most rituals, this one acts as a party of sorts, requiring 10 secondary casters per skill bonus. It should also be noted that the hierarchy is not cosmetic – it determines who can contribute. The ritual includes an eerily wordless bacchanal of debauchery as candles are lit and the targets are painted with cultic symbols and signs. Those affected by the ritual, secondary casters and targets,a re bound to the primary caster, which makes scrying attempts reveal all members, but also a nasty backfire. Secondly, all non-primary or secondary casters are rendered helpful to the cult’s cause and ideology in a super-potent form of brainwashing that is really hard to cancel. The primary caster may use witness as a SP, with a massive range of 1 mile per caster level, targeting members of the ritual at will. This allows the primary caster to transfer bardic performance effects, spells of 4th level of lower with a range of touch, short, medium or long to the target as if adjacent to it. Worse, members that vanquish others in combat can dominate their victims. The ritual also has no less than 4 different means to enhance the ritual beyond the basics. Utterly, utterly creepy.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good; apart from the one type, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Clinton Boomer delivers a super-creepy, amazing ritual here: the ritual itself has a strong Eyes Wide Shut-ish vibe and can be considered to be almost Lynchian in its visuals. The consequences of it are potent as well, adding a gloriously paranoia-inducing sense of omniscience to the proceedings. The conversion of targets just adds to the glorious conspiracy vibe this evokes. In short: The supplement can really make a cult that is “just another cult” stand out and become a force to be reckoned with – potentially changing the dynamics of whole cities and environments. In short: This is a glorious narrative tool and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Occultic Singularity Ritual
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Heroes of the Seven Principalities
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2018 01:09:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the neat Porphyran Player’s Guides clocks in at 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 69 (!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first of all, we begin with a well-written little piece of prose that introduces us to the Seven Principalities and life there – these 7 islands (+one below the waves) are a pretty unique environment and the roles assumed by the races within the respective contexts are explained in each of the racial write-ups, which also make up the first chapter of the book.

We begin with the Erkunae, traditionally one of my favorite Porphyran races. These near-humans are treated as humans for the purpose of abilities and the like and gain +2 Strength and Intelligence, -2 Constitution. They gain +1 to Bluff, Sense Motive and Knowledge (nobility) as well as Knowledge (engineering) and (dungeoneering) as well as to Stealth while inside a building or construction of some sort. Additionally, they gain +1 to atk when facing down a single opponent, who must be armed with a weapon – so no bonuses versus monks and similar martial artists! This is interesting to me, but as a minor complaint, the bonuses have not been properly codified as racial. The erkunae are distinguished by their pacts with elder powers, 6 of which are provided to choose from. These duplicate a limited form of summon monster as a SP (not italicized properly) and allow for the calling of elementals, skeletons as well as calling forth a familiar or animal companion – to nitpick here, the ability should specify that the called creature uses character level to determine the potency of the respective companion. Also, the called companion/familiar should specify that it can’t be stacked on top of an already existing companion. So yeah, these two need a bit of clarification. The other pacts include getting a masterwork brineblade or using guidance via conch shells. I liked the latter 2, but they make it quite evident that the companion/familiar summon should be nerfed. Erkunae are obsessed with blades and inflict -1 damage with piercing and bludgeoning weapons, but get proficiency with all slashing weapons – I assume this includes weapons capable of dealing more than one damage type. There are three race traits (erroneously called “Racial traits”, which can be confusing at first – that’s something else! Annoyingly, this guffaw extends to the other races as well.) that are interesting – for example, there is one that nets a 1 in 6 chance of having the first two rounds of rage or bloodrage a day as free! Cool! That being said, the traits don’t use the proper bonus type.

Humans in the 7 principalities get 6 additional choices to choose from, each one representing a different focus – here, bonus types are tight and I found no issues. Kudos! The three race traits provided are solid, though we once more lack the proper bonus type. Now the next race is interesting: We are introduced to the Kanseeran, the crabfolk! Yes, crabfolk! They are medium creatures with a slow speed and a swim speed of 20 ft., are amphibious and get +2 Str, +4 Con, -2 Cha and Int. This makes them lopsidedly geared towards martial pursuits and the high Constitution score bonus makes them a bit more min-maxy in that regard than what I personally enjoy. They are amphibious and get a +2 natural AC. They have darkvision and the dwarf subtype and get two pincer claws that inflict 1d4 damage that is treated as all three physical damage types. These claws net them a +4 racial bonus versus disarm attempts when wielding two-handed weapons, but also prevent them from using light or one-handed melee weapons. The claws are not codified as primary or secondary natural weapons and its somewhat hard to default here, considering that they share characteristics with bites. Anyway, they get a +2 dodge bonus versus sahratan natural attacks and +4 racial bonus to saves versus their lure ability. They also get +2 to Appraise and Profession, which is oddly not typed, but oh well. They can charge sideways, providing a +1 racial bonus to atk and damage when charging. The traits are nice, but lack the type once more. As an aside: The race gets one frickin’ AMAZING full-color artwork!

The lizardfolk of the principalities get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Int, are reptilian humanoids with a swim speed of 30 ft. They get hold breath and a 1d3 bite and two 1d4 claws – here, the natural attacks are properly codified. They get +4 to Acrobatics when balancing, courtesy of their tail and +2 natural armor bonus. The traits are nice, but, bingo, miss their bonus types once more.

The second thoroughly unique race featured herein would be the Partatingi, or parrotfolk. These fellows are Medium, get +2 Int and Dex, -2 Con and gain a +4 racial bonus to Linguistics and learn 2 languages per point invested in the skill. They get one bite and two talon natural attacks, all of which clock in at 1d4s, and they are properly codified. Kudos. They may use ventriloquism as a non-magic ability for 1 minute per character level per day and get a +1 natural AC as well as +4 racial bonus to Acrobatics to balance. Here’s the thing, as the tea-cup holding Partatingi-artwork perfectly illustrates: They have wing hands. Yes, they get a fly speed of 30 ft. with average maneuverability. However, when holding anything, that drops by 10 ft. They can’t hold tools or manufactured weapons while flying. This does somewhat limit this ability. Still, a more elegant solution would have been to impose a hard cap on unassisted flight at low levels and then delimiting it around 5th level, when PFRPG assumes unassisted flight to be available. I am not complaining too loud here, since the feathery wing-hands mean that they can only wield light melee weapons effectively, taking a -2 penalty to attack with all other weapons. They do get a +2 bonus to atk with light melee weapons, though – oddly, this one is not classified as a racial bonus. The race traits once more are interesting. Okay, I liked this race. It’s not for everyone, but the wing-hands with finger-feathers? I can get behind that inspired weirdness.

Okay, form this section, we move on to the history of the seven principalities, which once had been the luxurious Eight Delights of the erkunae, basically colonies/vacation spots until the empire collapsed; thereafter, war ravaged the lands until Romos the Beguiler, prince of now sunken Torl, made the erkuane lords wage their wars on tabletops instead. This was all fine and good, but then, Asterion came. The mighty minotaur mage took control of the island of Huq, and when the council met to decide on his claim, he promptly used a potent artifact to sink the whole island, drowning everyone. He rules with an iron fist until adventurers managed to deduce that his artifact had but one use and then managed to assassinate the mighty beast. Still, only two of the group survived, and they took the mantles of rulership for two of the new 7 remaining islands. In the defeat of the dread despot, trade is picking up and alchemy flourishes. Really cool: We get global modifications for item category prices – metal is, for example, more expensive and carved seashell (called “Simbi”) or milled obsidian (called “Black”) are commonly used as coinage. These are small aspects, mind you, but reading how these are carried and used makes the area come alive for me. From here, we move to the neat full-color map and then proceed to cover the respective settlements that can be found within the principalities, all of which btw. come with flavorful introductory text and a proper settlement statblock as well as hooks galore for the enterprising GM to develop.

Speaking of “for the GM to develop” – Asterion was a minotaur. As such, he had a famous mega-dungeon-labyrinth of sorts, one of stacked demiplanes which PCs can now explore. In a nice take on the subject matter, the pdf recommends an online labyrinth creator and mechanics. We also get a nice sample labyrinth map. The pdf then proceeds to cover the notable personages of the islands, providing inspiring fluff-only entries for the islands of the principalities, with 3 such NPCs provided per principality. These characters also note remarkable possessions, alignment and suggested class levels, adding a bit of guidance for the GM. One of my favorite chapters in the book, as the NPCs are interesting.

Now, this being a player’s guide, we also get a ton of class options: Alchemists can opt to become brine bakers, who replace Brew Potion with the option to create weaponry from sea water. These brineblades inflict bonus non-lethal damage on critical hits, which is further increased over the levels, replacing the poison resistance/immunity ability tree. The archetype’s discoveries allow for the creation of abjurant salt or grave salt. I actually like this one. It’s an interesting, flavorful ability modification. Now, Asterion may be vanquished, but his shadow still looms – one of the class options that represent this would be the bullman antipaladin, who replaces detect good with a horned, crimson helmet that acts as an unholy symbol, can inflict 1d8 damage (type missing) and nets Improved Bull Rush. Okay, what if it goes missing/is sundered? No idea. Does it occupy the helmet slot? This is an item, confused as a class ability, and as such sports some serious issues in the finer rules-interactions. The archetype gets a smite-variant and replaces plaguebringer with immunity to being flat-footed. Unholy champion is replaced with 1/day create demiplane, usable only in subterranean environments. The Gray Blades swashbuckler, former navy turned pirates, replace Profession with Stealth. They get limited per day uses of better stealing instead of charmed life and replace swashbuckler training with Improved Steal and baked in bonuses.

The high beast unchained barbarian replaces danger sense with a bonus to CMD to avoid being swallowed whole and a bonus to AC versus natural weapons and to Perception to avoid being surprised. They get +4 to saves versus poisons when raging, replacing indomitable will. They get a rage power that nets bonuses to damage versus targets with natural attacks and save-less stunning crits versus animals and magical beasts. The order of the bear is interesting in that they represent somewhat swashbuckly rebels who can cancel their charges and the like with a bonus 5-foot step, which can be rather interesting. The unchained rogue rigger gets a modified proficiency list as well as specialized Equipment Trick rope tricks. These are cool, interesting and make sense. Storydancer bards get a specialized sign language that allows them to convey concepts to intelligent species. They also eliminate the language-dependent descriptor for spells and replaces well-versed with a bonus to concentration checks with somatic spells. Here’s the issue: RAW, the spells still have verbal components and I’m pretty sure that spells that lose the language descriptor should not be potentially be made Still as well – otherwise, we’d have spells sans any components, and the theme of dance-based casting would be lost. The tribal surfer ranger gets access to tower shields and is a specialist of the paddleboat style, perfectly navigating the waves. Nice one. The volcanic bloodline presented labors under the misconception that eliminating the arcana suffices to make it viable or mechanically consistent for bloodragers as well. That is not the case. No, I am not going to bother listing the myriad of reasons why. They are evident enough.

The pdf also contains two 5-level prestige classes, the first of which would be the pirate hunter, who gets good Fort-saves, full BAB-progression, d10 HD and 4 + Int skills per level. Prerequisite-wise, it requires a lawful alignment and 3 different skills at 5 ranks and Leadership. Proficiency-wise, the PrC nets proficiency with simple and martial weapons and a firearm as well as light and medium armor. The archetype builds on Leadership, granting a commissioned ship and may 1/day cancel a steal, sneak attack or critical hit, 2/day at 5th level. Third level nets a gold/item-bonus and 2nd, 3rd and 4th level net a prince’s edict. These include gaining cannons or Amateur Gunslinger and the like. Okay, but nothing mind-blowing.

The second PrC is the royal messenger, who needs 3 skills at 5 ranks and the Noble Neutraility feat as well as the lore master class feature. The PrC nets 6 + Int skills per level, d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression and slightly non-standard Ref- and Will-save progressions, scaling up to +4. The PrC nets spellcasting progression on 4 of its levels and grants proficiency with simple weapons as well as longsword, rapier, sap, shortsword and shortbow. They are also proficient in light armor and shields (excluding tower shields) and don’t incur arcane spell failure when using these. They also get immunity: “Any being with an intelligence of 6 or better must make a roll of 10 + the messengers Charisma bonus + his royal messenger bonus to make a melee attack against him.” What’s this ominous “royal messenger bonus”? I have no idea. Next ability isn’t better: “When performing any verbal-based action, such a starting a bardic performance or casting a spell with a Verbal component, a royal mes­senger also treats his initiative roll as a 20, if he chooses.” WHAT THE F***. Seriously?? This is SUPER-OP. Also: I have no idea how in the infinite layers of the abyss this is supposed to work. You decide when you act on your turn, not at the start of the round. Can the messenger retroactively increase initiative? Total mess of an ability. Added spells known, evasion, money “a free masterpiece” (should be bardic masterpiece)…yeah, I like the idea here, but the execution is messy.

The pdf also includes a pretty massive feat chapter. One nets +6 to saves versus fear effects. … Yeah, not impressed either. We get the xth feat that nets bonuses when outnumbered, increases to favored terrain bonuses. We get a limited daily use option to expend prepared spells to increase Dodge’s bonus, which is neat and one of the feats I liked. I like the notion of a muffled gunshot as well, but “add +2 to critical damage, if achieved.“ is painfully non-standard verbiage. It also fails to specify whether the bonus damage is multiplied or not. Swim speed for monks of 3rd level and Con 13 is a flavorful option. This is a feat text: “You may ignore the effects of any one of the following, once per day: successful Intimidate check, unsuccessful Sense Motive check (reroll), unsuccessful Will saving throw (reroll).” So, can I reroll a Will save or Sense Motive check, or can I ignore a failed reroll? That’s just sloppy. As a whole, the feat chapter is the weakest in the history of Porphyran player’s guides. The rules are weak and the benefits are not interesting for the most part.

The spell-chapter is an improvement in quality overall, featuring a 3rd level combined protection from evil/chaos that also affects undead vreated by evil effects. The spellcaster debuff aphasia is nice and the spell that requires water to execute a line-shaped (I assume 5-ft.-width) brinestrike is similarly a cool visual. A chaos-themes spell is interesting in its oscillation between buff and debuff, though I wished bonuses were properly codified. Sacrificing targets to elementals, fantasy islands (lavishly illustrated), getting temporarily the no breath quality – the chapter is not necessarily perfect, but nice. Cool: The magic item chapter includes the legendary weapon Asterion’s Soul – a blade that increases in potency with the wielder’s levels. We get partatingi/bird-folk blades (with serviceable, if non-standard verbiage benefits), opaline helmets and gemstone blades. Not all items are perfect, though – there is a trident that is missing the activation action from its active, secondary use. On the cool side, there is a vest that can produce magical pistols and Asterion’s island-disintegrating artifact can be found here. All in all, rules-wise my favorite chapter herein; not perfect, but has some nice components.

The mundane equipment contains pipes that can be turned into blowguns (heck yes!) and paddleboats and the pdf provides a ginormous list of available items, grouped by types and the like. This should seriously be standard for ANY player’s guide. Big plus, as the section is super-handy for GM and players alike, taking the annoying and time-consuming minutia back and forth of “You can’t get that here.” “Can I have XYZ?” “Yes, but it costs…” off your hands. Big kudos.

The pdf concludes with an NPC codex of sorts, providing a CR 8 erkunae brine baker, a CR 17 half-elf bullsman, a CR 4 human gray blade, a CR 3 kanseeran high beast, a CR 11 human cavalier, a CR 10 kanseeran pala/pirate hunter (including his ship!), a CR 4 lizardfolk rigger, a CR 10 paratatingi bard/royal messenger, a CR 8 partatingi storydancer, a CR 7 erkuane tribal surfer and a CR 14 lizardfolk sorcerer with the volcanic bloodline. All of these come with brief stories, adding a touch of character to them.

The pdf comes with a bonus-file penned by Mark Gedak, which depicts the Leiopleurodon, a CR 5 prehistoric aquatic animal that is a potent ambush predator and which can accelerate in brutal bursts. Nice one.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are weaker than usual for Porphyran player’s guides – there are a couple of formal hiccups, but more importantly, the rules this time around are much more inconsistent in quality and precision than usual for the series. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and nice, full-color artworks, some of which are downright amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Huh. Weird. Aaron Hollingsworth and Perry Fehr’s last collaboration was much stronger than this one from a rules-perspective. And indeed, this is rather painful for me to say, but this Porphyran player#s guide is perhaps more contingent than any of its brethren before it on why you’re interested in it. You see, theme-wise, this is EASILY one of my favorite player’s guides ever. Yes, I kid you not. I mean, a weird Caribbean-like environment, with sprinkles of Krete and ancient Greece strewn in? Alchemists that make weapons from brine? What’s not to like. I adored the flavor and theme of the region, and while I do not subscribe to all design decisions made regarding the new races, I really LOVE the notion of crab-dwarves and parrot-folk. Come on, that is damn cool, different and creative! The fluff herein and the setting per se are fantastic and inspiring.

At the same time, the mechanics underlying them oscillate rather significantly in quality – while some of the components are very precise, to the point and well-made, there also are plenty of hiccups in the details, some of which seriously affect the functionality of some components. There also is a bit more filler material in the rules-relevant options here. Compared to the series’ previous installments, the crunchy components fall somewhat flat, which is a damn pity. The lack of occult adventures-support is somewhat sad, considering how cool a crabfolk mesmerist would have been. Speaking of which: Where are the eye stalks as a alternate racial trait? Where is the partatingi option that lets them parrot messages and later spells in a limited manner? The concepts herein are amazing, but the execution of the supplemental rules-material left me rather unimpressed. I would have loved to see more here; the themes and amazing flavor deserve more. So…how to rate this. See, this is where it gets tough. Regarding glitches and issues and rules, this falls into the mixed bag territory. Regarding flavor and ideas, this is fantastic and worthy of the highest accolades. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars. If you’re in it for the lore, then round up and check this out – it in inspiring! Otherwise, though, I sadly have to recommend rounding down. Now, I try to take the type of book into account when reviewing, and while I would not recommend this on the merits of its rules, I can recommend it, with reservations, on the strength of its concepts as a player's guide/region sourcebook. As such, my final verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes of the Seven Principalities
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Transcendent 10 - Psionics of Conflict - Zones of Power
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2018 01:07:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

So, Lost Spheres Publishing, back in the day, began with the Transcendent 10-series. While these represent the early works of the company, the company flew under my radar for a long while, so it’s high time we took a look at the series, right? It should be noted that the company has evolved since then – reviews of more current books will hit sites soon as well. But how do these early works hold up against the test of time? Let’s find out!

One thing I really enjoy about this series would be the designer’s commentary that is provided for each respective piece of design – they help a GM and player to properly contextualize the content, which is particularly helpful for folks who don’t have a veteran’s level of system mastery. This pdf was released after Dreamscarred Press had expanded the roster of psionic classes, but before the most current, occult psionic options and classes – as such, it is 100% Ultimate Psionics compatible.

Anyways, this pdf is 8 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 4.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with a definition of the eponymous zones of power: They have a visual display and are indiscriminate. They very palpably emanate from the character in question and they move with the manifester. Now, and this is important, zones do NOT allow for saving throws and, RAW, they ignore power resistance, which sends all my alarm bells into alert-mode. No save and no resistance can be rather brutal. But let’s see how they hold up! The first would be the battlefield manifestation zone, which is available as a 3rd level power for psion/wilder, cryptic, marksman, psychic warrior and tactician. All creatures in this zone except the manifester have cover, and movement is restricted as if by “hindering terrain” – that should be “difficult terrain.” For 2 power points, the zone can be extended by 30 ft., while 1 power point allows for the exclusion of one square, which is cool – but can this square be reassigned? Since the zone can move, this would make sense, but RAW, the hole thus created cannot be reassigned. This is particularly problematic since all the zones sport these two basic augments. There is another augment here, one for 4 power points. This augment makes a move action only amount to 5 ft. (WTF) and makes the zone grant total concealment. Yeah, that is utterly OP and should be handled with a movement penalty and minimum movement instead.

Dimensional interface zone is available for nomad and cryptic as a 6th level power and basically makes the zone behave as a plane, copying its planar traits. The augments have a 5-ft.-square exclusion for 1 power point, +30 ft. radius for 2 power points and for 4, you can extend the duration to 10 min/level. Empathic transfer zone is a 3rd level power for psychic warrior and vitalist (5 power points), 4th level for psion/wilder (7 power points) and 2nd level for dread (3 power points). When you take damage for the first time in a round, roll 1d6 – all targets in the zone take this much damage. The total of this rolled damage is then subtracted from any damage you would take. Broken as all 9 hells. Does someone have a bag of kittens to cheese the hell out of this one? Next.

Energy amplification zone costs 5 power points for psion/wilder and psychic warrior and clocks in as a 3rd level power for them, while kineticists (the psionic ones) can get it as a 2nd level power for 3 power points. Once more, we have the augment for +30 ft., for 5 ft.-square exclusion. The power adds +1d6 to all energy damage of a chosen type. This should specify the energy types available. (What about force, sonic, negative energy? Can it be used to enhance those?); For +2 power points, you can add a second energy or increase the damage by a further +1d6. Not a big fan of the number-escalation here. Lifeforce flare is available as a third level power for psion/wilder, psychic warrior and vitalist. The zone nets a 10 temporary hit points buffer that any creature within can use to decrease damage incurred. The usual shaping augments are included and for +1 power point, you get +10 temporary hit points. Okay, do these replenish each round or not? I like the idea, but the execution is rough.

Necrotic corruption zone is a third level power for psion/wilder, psychic warrior and vitalist, at 5 power point cost, 2nd level for dread at 3 power points cost. It can be shaped with the standard two shape augments for increased emanation radius and 5 ft.-holes. The zone adds +1d6 negative energy damage o each attack, +1 bleed and nets undead fast healing 1. OUCH. For +2 power points, the damage increases by +1d6, for one additional power point, you can increase the bleed incurred by 1.

Probability distortion zone, defensive clocks in at 3rd level for psion/wilder, psychic warrior and tactician, 2nd level for marksman and seer. It nets +1 insight bonus to AC and saves. For 3 power points, this increases by 1. Compared to the other zones, this is pretty weak. Probability distortion zone, hostile clocks in at 3rd level for psion/wilder, psychic warrior and tactician, 2nd level for dread and seer, with power point costs at 5 and 3, respectively. This one is the inverse of the previous zone and instead provides the penalty. Minor nitpick: Penalties in PFRPG are untyped. Probability manipulation zone clocks in at 4th level for cryptic, psion/wilder, psychic warrior, tactician, costing 7 power points. Seers get it as a 3rd level power for 5 power points. This…doesn’t really behave like a zone. Only the manifester has control over it. It nets an immediate action d20 reroll. +2 power points for an additional reroll before it discharges. Odd one.

Finally, warp strike zone clocks in at 3rd level for dread, nomad and psychic warrior, 4th level for the tactician, with 5 and 7 power points as base costs. Okay, this is another zone that needs to die in a fiery blaze. All targets in the zone are treated as eligible for touch attacks by the manifester. I kid you not. The augment for 4 points can even extend that to a 5 ft.-square to get this benefit. Yeah. No. Just no.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting shows, alas, that this is an early work – the later offerings by Lost Spheres Publishing are MUCH better. Bolding isn’t consistent and rules-language in the base chassis has problems. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with red highlights and the pdf has no artwork apart from the cover.

Yeah, to be honest, this was what I kind of expected from early works in the series. The Transcendent 10-series has positively surprised me with its unique and complex concepts and honest gems that shine through the lack of experience the author had back then. (And rest assured, the new stuff is much more refined!) This extends, to a degree, to this offering. However, unfortunately, the very base engine of the zones is flawed. Moving zones are tricky in PFRPG – I should know, I’ve written a whole class based on the concept and have juggled the concept in more than one of my designs. The zones as defined herein are interesting per se and less problematic than I expected them to be; alas, they sport some seriously problematic exploits and a rather big flaw in the base engine. At the same time, the active zones for manifesters only at the end feel odd, almost like the author had run out of ideas for the base engine. They are, comparably, boring. While I maintain that the concept attempted here is cool and definitely worth pursuing, the execution here, alas, leaves quite a lot to be desired, requiring imho further design-work by the GM to streamline them and make them work properly. As such, my final verdict cannot exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Transcendent 10 - Psionics of Conflict - Zones of Power
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