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Everyman Archetypes: Swashbuckler
Publisher: Everyman Gaming, LLC
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2015 02:48:36
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first Everyman Archetypes-pdf clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So, after a page that explains the basic design-tenets of the options herein, we are introduced to the daredevil. The signature deeds of this archetype allow it to use acrobatics and panache reactively to roll a skill-check versus an attack-roll to negate a particular assault. The expenditure of a finite resource saves this particular ability from the by-now old "EZG rants on skills versus atk"-tirade - while I remain not a big fan of it, I'll shut my trap for now. 3rd level sees a significant passive Acrobatics-bonus, increasing the mobility of the class. At 7th level, a kind of improved Spring Attack that also works with Vital Strike deserves special mention - why? Because the agile, devastating blow pretty much can be considered to be something the swashbuckler ought to have been able to do in the first place. Speaking of which - 5th level (and 9th) net the daredevil free Vital Strike with light and one-handed piercing weapons as well as a minor damage/atk-bonus, further emphasizing the concept provided by the aforementioned deeds. The capstone is an auto-crit-confirmer with better threat-range and multiplier, which, as you can probably glean, makes level 20 swashbucklers damage-monsters.



The dashing commander is essentially a cha-based specialist of Battle Cry, becoming immune to fear while under battle cry, with options to enhance ally-rerolls and morale benefits. The capstone also enhances the rerolls gained. Overall solid, if not that interesting. Oppugnant Duelists can use panache to gain surge-like 1d6-benefits to social skills - here, the interesting concept would be the exploding die: On a 6, the duelist may roll again and add the results together. Yes, I love this. Why? Because I will never forget the one time my elven Infiltrator managed to best an undead dragon in Shadowrun by making a check versus 37. The face of my then DM was priceless as the 6s came coming. Exploding dice rock. Even better, the archetype provides full synergy with the stellar Psychological Combat-pdf - while you do not require it, I do suggest you get this inexpensive gem. Another cool archetype, mainly because it plays like fun and can duplicate in game the unlikely deeds one associates with swashbuckling.



The Rapscallion gets 6+Int skill ranks per level and a modified proficiency list. Beyond these, they regain 1 panache whenever they roll a natural 6 on a sneak attack damage dice - sneak attack is gained at 3rd level and increases by +1d6 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. So yeah, this is the rogue-y swashbuckler and it makes sense, with rogue talents being added to the array of bonus feats available. The archetype also is particularly adept at using dirty tricks and feints. The class pays for this by losing precise strike, menacing swordplay and superior feint. I do like this one, but I am not sold on the sneak attack damage dice related panache-regain - it asks to be gamed and a cap per round, scaling upwards, would have somewhat mitigated the temptation of experimenting with number of attack-increasing trickery. That being said, on its own for more linear builds, the math checks out.



The Two-Weapon duelist gains a form of rend with two weapons and may utilize panache and AoOs as resources to render two-weapon combat more efficient -all in all solid, though I wished the pdf sported a means for the two-weapon specialist to be more agile - after all, that's the main drawback of two-weapon fighting in the first place and the one concept that does not line up well with the base class. Vainglory swashbucklers may gain personal deeds - they essentially can treat feats they do not own as deeds, with an ample list provided.



There also are new feats herein, though not all of them made me cackle with glee: Take Charmed Panache: While you have 1 panache, charmed life allows you to add cha-mod to all saves, with a failure ending it - this essentially triples the effect of the base ability and makes it passive. Nope, not gonna happen in my group. Feint targets of charges, on the other hand, is pretty much what I expected the base class to handle, so yeah, nice. There obviously is a Dex-to-damage feat and a means to negate AC-penalties imposed by feats you use via Bluff would be another one that may be okay, but also not earthshattering. A feat that allows for swashbuckling via natural attacks, on the other hand, pretty much is a huge enabler for a vast array of builds, so kudos there, though the built-in Dex-mod replacement makes the feat a bit stronger than the base take. Panache regain via natural 20s of combat maneuvers or skills is interesting. The pdf also sports a feat that allows you to swashbuckle with shields, emphasizing the blocker-aspect of the class and two-weapon precise strike synergy is nice as well.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's two-column full-color standard and sports actual unique full-color artworks - nice to see in such a small pdf. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Alexander Augunas is right now one of my favorite crunch-designers and there is a reason for that - not one of the archetypes herein is boring, all of them radically change the way in which the base-class of the swashbuckler plays, and imho, in most cases, for the better. More than that, the archetypes do interesting things with their mechanics, things I have not seen other archetypes do - and this is worth quite a bit to me. Among a flood of boring +/--exchanges, these stand out. What this pdf manages to achieve is impressive in that it takes a base class frame-work that did not impress me and refined it to the point, where the archetypes herein imho are closer to what the class was trying to do in the first place.



At the same time, however, I am not 100% sold on some design-decisions herein -now don't get me wrong, they are NOT bad; they tend to be mostly mathematically sound and some sample builds in action proved that they are functional. Not all are perfect, though and ultimately, I wished some of them went one step beyond, further utilizing the awesome base mechanics Alex has devised to a fuller extent. That being said, I do consider the archetypes herein to be a vast blessing for the swashbuckler class and ultimately, a must-have addition to the class's roster. Still, in the end, I can't bring myself to absolutely unanimously recommend it - perhaps I've been spoiled by Alex' designs, but I found myself wishing that some of the archetypes herein went one step further to set them apart versus the base class, that they did slightly more with their utterly awesome unique rules-components. This, combined with the minor concerns mentioned above, makes me settle on a final verdict of 4 stars, with the caveat that fans of the swashbuckler class who want it to actually work better in its chosen field should definitely get this inexpensive pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Archetypes: Swashbuckler
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Puppets of Porphyra [PFRPG]
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2015 02:46:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!



No, I'm not stumped that I'm reviewing a supplement on puppets. I've reviewed a base-class of this theme in the past. So let's take a look at the beginning - the pdf starts with a definition of puppetry as a sub-category of Perform, which fittingly also covers using the shadow puppeteer wayang bard archetype and the interaction with this one's class abilities.



Next up would be the new 10-level puppeteer PrC. Said class receives 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, 6+Int skills per level and 1/2 ref-and will-save progression as well as 7/10 spellcasting-progression. The PrC does not receive any proficiencies, but it does add its level to the duration of any enchantment spells cast - which is interesting, seeing how long some enchantments last in the first place; we're talking about hours and days. So, where things become interesting would be with the modification of summon monster - the spell conjures forth an elemental spirit to animate a previously constructed puppet. Now if animated objects seem tougher than regular summons, that would be true -and is balanced via costs to create the bodies to be inhabited by the spirits.



The PrC thus can be considered an enchantment/minion-specialist who also receives craft construct and a powerful capstone that allows his puppets to defeat even fearsome foes, bypassing DR and increasing the threat-range. Next up would be the new magic items - and oh boy, are they delightfully bonkers!



While the first one is pretty conservative, being a beguiling gift spell-in-a-can, it also provides for a discount when shopping. Now concept-wise, the puppets are a DELIGHT. I mean it - they are awesome - from synergy with bardic performances to thoroughly unique abilities, these puppets can be considered inspired in all the right ways - I've been smiling like the Cheshire cat while reading these. Then, I began analyzing and the sighing began. What do I mean by this? Take the "Giant's Fearsome Duo:" When donning these odd puppets (What action? One for each of the two puppets?) 1/day, the user is affected by enlarge person. Furthermore, the following happens: "The mawgriff-head becomes a fearsome beast’s head attached to the user’s arm, gaining reach and allowing a bite attack with a +7 attack bonus, doing 1d8+5 damage, attacking once per round. Out of combat, the mawgriff-head grants the user the scent ability, used with a +9 Perception score."



So, does the head replace the arm? If so, does the attack count as primary or secondary? What happens to objects held in the hand affected? If not, is it autonomous? If so, can the user deliver touch spells via the mawgriff head and respective class abilities? Is the +7 attack bonus autonomous from the user? Can the user determine which target the head attacks? If the head grants the scent ability, why does it have a fixed Perception check listed? The user would modify usually his/her/its own Perception skill by adding scent... Now to give you an inkling of my pain here, remember that this is HALF of the magic item. And yes, there are more solid examples herein, but I just sat in front of my screen with a frowny face and thought "Why?" I honestly don't get how such awesome visuals and concepts can be hampered by such a lackluster execution. And yes, mentions of bardic "distraction checks" - which do not exist, btw., can also be found.



The bard can make performance checks to use the Distraction ability, but there is no such thing as a distraction check. At the same time, capability is not the issue - we have e.g. means of using Punch and Judy dolls to use rounds of bardic performance to deliver attacks at close range versus targets as though they were flat-footed - talk about imaginative crunch and cool imagery! Cursed puppets that try to murder their owners are also interesting, though I do not get how they can automatically deal damage when they obviously ought to attack the wielder. We also receive a new artifact and 4 cool construction point-options for animated objects alongside 3 flaws for further customization options. Manipulating unconscious, paralyzed or sleeping humanoids or creating an unhittable vermin make for rather cool (and potentially hilariously annoying!) spells. We also receive 4 sample puppets (including variants!) as well as a sample character utilizing the PrC.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay- in some instances, I do think that the minor glitches can render the rules syntax more opaque than it ought to be. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports some gorgeous full-color artworks - kudos!



Author Perry Fehr has a distinct style I absolutely ADORE - his prose and ideas are ridiculously awesome and fun and this pdf, being bonkers, allows him to perfectly use his talents to the full extent. I love this pdf, I really, really do - why? Because its crunch-decisions are brave and innovative - there is no single item I'd consider boring - even when the puppets provide a spell-in-a-can, they also have additional, unique benefits, often of a refreshingly unique, glorious bent.



So, as a person, I did adore this pdf, I really loved it.



As a reviewer, though, I ought to rip this a new one. As much as I want to rate this 5 stars + seal of approval, the rules-language just does not allow for it. While the builds, PrC etc. are pretty solid, there are so many, let's call them by their name, blunders. This pdf at once showcases that proper rules-language is not beyond the capacities of the author and how superb ideas can be tarnished by an execution that simply is not as concise, as good as it should be.



Now personally, I can easily salvage everything herein and my game is better off for this - as mentioned, I adore just about everything herein. At the same time, I can see this making issues galore for less rules-savvy groups and loathe the at times sloppy execution of concepts that deserve refinement. If you are willing to work with this pdf, then GET it - it is a delightfully bonkers, high-concept book. For you, this very much may be a 5 star + seal of approval file. If you, however, expect water-tight rules-language or shirk away from refining rules to make content work, then steer clear of this. My final verdict, as much as I hate to do it, will clock in at 3 stars since I have to take the issues into account.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Puppets of Porphyra [PFRPG]
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Island Keep
Publisher: Ars Phantasia Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2015 02:44:58
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Map-pack comes in a zip-file that sports two folders: One containing high-res jpegs, one that sports pdfs.



Let's start with the jpegs - these come with full-color and b/w-versions as well as a rendition of the cover - both come in two versions: One sports labels that denote which buildings are which, whereas the others come without them for maximum immersion. (Nice if you're like me and HATE handing out maps with numbers detailing the hotspots...



First of all, this keep/village provides multiple levels of fortification - all but the southern shore of the island sports massive, rugged cliffs that jut from the ocean. The southern shore also sports a significant array of wharves, with a slum/shanty-town-like section below the lowest wall. After the harbor's wall, one can find a basilica and a steep stairway that leads towards a beacon, which uncannily lies at the south-eastern rise of the cliffs. At the northwestern part of the island, one can see a second, higher and elevated rise, behind a second wall, one can perceive a massive keep that looms over an island that conspicuously looks like an inverse eagle's or dragon's head...



The pdfs clock in at 23 pages each - 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 20 pages for the maps. The pdf first provides aforementioned maps that also are included as high-res jpegs - so if you require an overview of the keep, these would be what you want. Thereafter, we get 4 blown-up versions of the map - each iteration is provided in a version, wherein the map spreads across a total of 4 pages, thus allowing you to print out a big map. If you're like me a European, you will be very much in luck, for one pdf provides the maps in letterpack format, whereas the second delivers the maps optimized for the A4-format.



Conclusion:

Tad Davis delivers a glorious, fortified locale here, one that, by virtue of its very make-up, inspires the imagination. Infiltrating this place should be challenging, as should be escaping from this place. As an adventuring locale, this is one neat place that showcases a talent for great cartography and for locales that inspire - that being said, there is quite a bit of water here and, when compared to the rest of the map, the lack of waves and relatively bland uni-color water looks less alive, less evocative than the rest of the map, so this is definitely a component wherein the pdf can be improved. I also would have loved a version of the map even further blown up and studded with a grid for miniature uses, but I guess we can't have everything. Still, this is one fine map and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzietgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Island Keep
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Gibbous Moon Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2015 05:09:03
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The collector's edition of Gibbous Moon clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages editorial/intro, 1 page ToC, 1 page foreword/author bios, 1 page of advice for using the adventure, 1 page advice for reading statblocks for novice DMs, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let's take a look!



After a page providing an introduction, we receive a new and rather well-drawn one-page illustration and then dive into what sets this edition apart from its previous iteration: Barlow. What is Barlow, you ask? Well, essentially, the module has been expanded to provide a full-blown village backdrop for your convenience - no longer is the default village considered to be an opaque place to drop the module into. Instead, what we have here amounts to a full-blown installment in Raging Swan press' beloved series.



In case you are not familiar with my reviews of the series, this does mean that the town not only receives lavish cartography, but also a statblock, a market section for magical items, sample names and yes, dressing habits of the local populace. This also covers sites of interest and in this case, mroe sample statblocks for villagers. Law and Order and daily routine of the local populace are touched upon as well and PCs doing the legwork can unearth local village lore or dive deep into the box of tricks that does contain whispers and rumors which may or may not eb true and can be considered a great spray of local color/adventure hooks. Furthermore, a selection of short, local events helps you bring the picturesque village of Barlow to life - and alive it is: What started as an isolated druidic enclave has seen a recent influx of dwarves (originally rescued from redcaps), who brought with them a sense of modernity not known in the rustic place.



Now if you expect yet another nature vs. progress-struggle, breathe a sigh of relief - no, the dwarves are not the bad progress-guys here - they actually do submit to the village's way of life and thus thankfully deviate from the stereotype. The conflict at the heart of this place is one of change versus tradition - and as we all know, change is inherently painful, but sticking to tradition may lead to stagnation - a kind of subtle leitmotif that is part of the whole module. Oh, and have I mentioned that there is an actual dryad in the center of the village? Alas, in the last couple of months, some cattle have gone missing and racial tensions rise, while a grumpy hermit at the wondrous local Clear Water has been less than cooperative.



Going above and beyond, we even get a mini-woodland dressing for the trek from the village to the hermitage...



Since this is an adventure I'm reviewing here, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here? The adventurers are led to the Clear Pool hermitage after unearthing some additional pieces of information via social skills etc. in Barlow. Once at the hermitage, they can find not only the grisly remains of sheep, but also encounter a savage dire boar. The hermitage, located in cliffs near a waterfall, is presented as series of natural caves with RSP's trademark attention to detail being reflected in a table of carvings, carcasses to find etc. Speaking of grisly finds - in one of the caves, Viljo, lone survivor of his adventuring team, awaits - he was also sent to this place to recover saintly bones, but his companions have been slaughtered by the resident of this place, a man named Dunstan who subsequently made zombies out of Viljo's former companions.

Dunstan, himself once an adventurer and necromancer, was infected with were-boar lycanthropy and is responsible for the cattle thefts - he stole the livestock to quench his lycanthropic hunger and prevent the beast inside from turning upon the local populace. The moral dilemmata in confronting Dunstan are evident. While the man has acted to keep innocents from harm, he has resorted to theft to do so. Moreover, he has slain Viljo's comrades, animated them and infected the poor man with lycanthropy as well. He's not evil (yet) though, and while he is a necromancer, he's not one of the insane kind - so what do the PCs do? Kill him? Try to negotiate a deal between him and the village? Try to cure him? What is the right thing to do? This openness of the module is commendable and DCs to broker a non-violent solution, a cure for lycanthropy of his particular strain and multiple hooks for further adventuring are also included.



The pdf also provides 6 pregens for your convenience.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to RSP's concise and crisp standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for screen use and one to be printed out. Both files are small enough to not be a burden on mobile devices. The b/w-artworks and cartography are nice indeed.



So, the original Gibbous Moon was a solid, nice little sidetrek centered around a moral question and sporting a fun little dungeon with excruciating details. But it didn't manage to capture me to the extent that most RSP modules do - why? Because it felt a bit color-less in comparison to other supplements by RSP. Well, the collector's edition sweeps all of that away. We not only get a massive array of supplemental content, Creighton Broadhurst and Jacob W. Michaels deliver an utterly superior version with this module's expanded edition. The more detailed context lends a new unique leitmotif and sense of gravitas to the module that any DM worth their salt can develop into a full-blown awesomeness of consequences. Can a certain individual be reintegrated into a society already on the verge of change? Exciting and awesome, with resonating themes that surpass what one would expect from a short module like this, the collector's edition receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. Even if you have the original, the village backdrop-installment added to the module still makes this a valid purchase.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gibbous Moon Collector's Edition
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Mini-Dungeon #011: Buta No Shiro
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2015 05:07:58
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 (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf.



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 the PCs enter a certain town, they will end up on the hit-list of the reason of the local crackdown on any crime - a warthog-headed rakshasa has taken it upon himself to use his mind-reading powers to aid a local magistrate. To put a stop to the evil creature's machinations (before they end up on its hitlist...), the PCs have to infiltrate the hidden complex of the rakshasa, where advanced devils, shackled angels, a decadent harem and, of course, the dread mastermind behind the law-force's current efficiency loom.



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, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.



Jonathan Ely's Buta No Shiro is his first mini-dungeon I really like - not only is the premise awesome and cool, the complex's location is left deliberately opaque and the diversity of foes herein is also neat. Beyond that, smart tactics for the villain and nice prose render this a good mini-dungeon. While I would have enjoyed more terrain-hazards, this still is a fun mini-dungeon, well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4. If Jonathan continues to hone his craft, the next mini-dungeon could be pure awesomeness!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #011: Buta No Shiro
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Mini-Dungeon #010: Ghastardly Deeds
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2015 05:05:34
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 (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf.



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!



Torren and Jelax, two brothers, have recently rented a basement and people saw adventurers enter...but not leave. It's up to the PCs to find out what happened - and the basement is NOT a nice place anymore: The brothers have been chopping up the unwitting victims and established a vile shrine devoted to cannibalistic undead. Braving the nasty brothers and their butchery and ghouls and the like turns out to be rather interesting -including traps, terrain hazards and the like - nice!



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, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf has a nice piece of full-color artwork.



Michael Smith's mini-dungeon not only sports a straightforward, nasty imagery, it also manages to be rather diverse in the challenges it poses - from combat to traps and the like, the module delivers as much as one can expect from such a brief format. While I prefer more far-out set-ups, as far as basic ones go, this is pretty much all I could ask for - and well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #010: Ghastardly Deeds
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The Opened Mind
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2015 02:12:19
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



First things first - this is intended as an intro-adventure to psionics, so went in without expecting it to produce exceedingly complex or odd storylines. 2 pages providing a total of 4 sample pregens are provided for the convenience of players and DMs alike. This module can be used in conjunction with the Third Dawn-setting, but is not limited to it.



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

...

..

.

All right, still here? The town of Jace's Stanchion has a colorful past - when settlers came, they befriended a race called hanoshafyr, a peaceful tribal people and subsequently discovered psionically-conductive phrenoric ore, which they mined to use in lieu of metal. Alas, as often, when one mines, one risks the danger of wakening something horrible and indeed, the evil that burst forth from a submerged complex proved to be formidable - only due to the massive power and sacrifice of Jace, the town's leader, could the tide be stemmed. Alas, as often, the wards are crumbling and require maintenance - in the form of psionically gifted individuals that now sacrifice themselves to keep the degrading containment functional. Worse, the rather nasty ruling family has started abducting outsiders, with the erstwhile peaceful hanoshafyr having been driven insane, but still maintaining a distance from psionically-endowed individuals.



This is important, for the PCs are assumed to be caravan guards and the very first encounter is a CR 6 monster - the hanoshafyr assault and slaughter the caravan's men, but only deal nonlethal damage to the psionic PCs - whether "saved" by the "good" folk of Jace Staunchion or escaped to the village out of their own strength, the PCs are stranded. From here on out, the short gazetteer provided for Jace's Staunchion and the rather detailed tables that reward legwork and investigation of town and creatures. It should be noted that the production values here are superb - not only do we get a glorious full-color map and village statblocks (and notable locations etc.), the notable NPCs herein ALL get their own full-color mugshots. This is definitely impressive.



Speaking of which - the town's dark secrets managed to elicit a sense of slowly creeping, palpable threat that hearkened, at least for me, back to slowly unearthing the rituals in the Fatal Frame/Project Zero-series of games, with ample and multiple skill-uses that can be used to glean information. Eventually, the PCs will want to investigate the local mine, where, should they pass the racist sibling guards and the alarm traps, they may start to piece together - they may free a still-living unfortunate from the pillar of phrenoric ore and witness the oblation, the strange wall of ectoplasm themselves while also linking the seeping nastiness with the madness of the hanoshafyr. Confronting the ruler about the lull-like memory modification in town and the strange things they witnessed in the mine, the PCs will have to defeat the powerful man - and decide where to go from here. The barrier, the customs, the powerful ruling house, the mad hanoshafyr - there are so many ways to spin this story, it should not be an issue to devise your own plots here.



The pdf also sports the monster-entry for the hanoshafyr and the psionic items used in this module.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports a HUGE amount of glorious, original full-color artworks; more than I've seen in many a 60+-page module! Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard. The cartography in full-color is also absolutely stunning, though I wished we got player-friendly versions of the maps sans those annoying numbers and legend. I hate having maps with "hotspots". The pdf comes with a printer-friendly, second version - nice!



Okay, I did NOT expect this. I expected a bland little intro-adventure; you know the kind - kill a couple of orcs, slay the shadow/ogre-boss, done. The usual intro-adventure blandness that provides handholding and is just boring. This is the rebuke and anathema to all such modules.



Author Eric Hindley with Dave Harris, Jeff Lee, Josef Shindler and Paul Gazo has crammed into the few pages herein more local color, more diversity and more excitement that I've seen in quite a while. With dangerous combats, thrilling mysteries and a great combination of challenges, from combat to social, we receive a thoroughly compelling, inspiring mystery that practically DEMANDS sequels - it's that good. With the cool gazetteer and top-notch production values, the formal criteria are awesome, but they pale before the exciting narrative. While the module is challenging, it also is not overbearing or overcomplicated and, ultimately, is triumphantly psionic. It effortlessly manages to *feel* different in its execution, focus and leitmotifs. The Opened Mind blew mine; I did not expect this module to not be bland, much less expected it to actually captivate me and render me this excited! If this pdf did one thing, then it made me crave more mysteries and modules from Eric Hindley and this team - this is a stellar, inspiring psionic module and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars +seal of approval. Seriously, get this - it's pretty much a by-the-numbers example of how to craft an intro-module that is NOT boring.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Opened Mind
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Gossamer Worlds: Hollow Thune (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2015 02:10:03
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!



What happens if Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s thesis in Vril, The Power of the Master Race, of a subterranean master-race and their quasi-mystical super-technology was set against a backdrop of genocidal struggle between two competing races and then combined with a classic “you dug too deep” twist, unleashing dread Erebi on the genocidal victors of the struggle? We get one messed up setting. Add to that a sprinkling of hollow earth and H.G Wellsian Time Machine and we have even more of a mess – in the ruined, desolate planet (swallowed by a titanic shadow-like…thing, slowly breaking the world asunder) and its tunnels, survivors, ranging from degenerate morlock to the last surviving racist Übermenschen (the pdf gets the plural wrong - you add –en in the end), fight their desolate and doomed battles against reality-annuling aliens led by a Slenderman-esque figure, while an undead umbragunt may be the last champion of a planet doomed to die.



Hollow Thune is not a nice place, and if the above wasn’t enough, the writing and narrative voice further drives that home – essentially, the pdf not only borrows Bulwer-Lytton’s terminology from another age, but in the emphasis on Germanic Nomenclature and the quoting of concepts like the Black Sun, draws less than subtle parallels with the popularized notion of the Thule society’s mysticism, thus adding a nasty sense of gravitas to the whole setting.



That being said, as a German, I sometimes tire of the whole imagery, mainly since we’re bombarded with the atrocities of the Third Reich in both school curriculum and media and I have a hard time separating games and fun and the popularized stereotype of the Nazivillains from the gruesome realities of history. This pdf made this particular component relatively easy on me – with the clear condemnation of the socal-darwinism exhibited by the destroyed races of Thune, with the clear pointer not at the Third Reich, but at the intellectual streams that existed in literature, culture and intelligentsia of all fields, the pdf manages to evoke the themes, but do so in a thoroughly unique manner that is at once creative and still, very clear in the themes it quotes.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.



Matt Banach’s Hollow Thune could have devolved into an utter mess in the hands of a lesser writer – I have literally seen all components that make up the defining elements of this book in multiple cases, have read Bulwer-Lytton and thanks to my keen interest in history, I am pretty well-versed in the atrocities committed by different nations. Hollow Thune still manages to keep these together, to toe the line between the horrific and fantastic, never falling into the realm of tastelessness. And for that, I applaud it. The whole setting even would make for a great Dark Soul-ish background of a desolate world you slowly explore, a world of lethal adversaries…and once again, I find myself wishing, that this Gossamer World had more room to shine. Oh well, as provided, we get a great installment in the series and yet again, a verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: Hollow Thune (Diceless)
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Mini-Dungeon #009: Tiikeri's Revenge
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2015 02:05:32
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 (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf.



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!



The PCs have been contracted by a sect of local fanatics on the verge of eradicating weretigers, dangerous lycanthropes (coincidentally, those guys are mostly neutral, but never mind...) - arriving at the locale, the folk tell the PCs that the shrine's been closed for some time...which does not bode well. Exploring the complex, the PCs not only will have to find the various, hidden keys (which a handy table tracks!), they'll also quickly realize that NOT all is well here - information on the fanatics can be unearthed and what they find shows clearly that some kind of doom has befallen this place. Deadly traps and creatures room the halls and bespeak the revenge wrecked upon the incompetent clergy, visited upon them by Tiikeri, the rakshasa they brought into their midst, who, unsurprisingly, withstood the cleansing rituals and doubles as the big bad boss.



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, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.



Stephen Yeardley does it again - this mini-dungeon is awesome and every DM worth his salt can expand this even further. It breathes the flair of the exotic, of pulp, offers even a tinge of moral conflict - this is awesome 5 stars + seal of approval, my favorite one so far!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #009: Tiikeri's Revenge
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C04: The Play's the Thing
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2015 13:10:02
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This revised edition of the module is 50 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 45 pages of content, so let's check this out!



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



All right, still here? Good! Naytella is a goddess of relaxed, pleasure-driven life and one of her adherents, a man named Teatteri is finally settling down, has managed to ingratiate himself within the town of Bankside. Unbeknownst to most, their secret allegiance to the goddess made them clash with conservative authorities before and in order to secure permission to create the theatre, they have allied themselves with doppelgangers seeking the goddesses capability to provide joy and revelry.


Said shapeshifters have since replaced parts of the council and flyers that are charmed do their part in securing the steady flow of audience members to the theatre - after all, the goal is to convert a whole town to the worship of Naytella! The powerful men and women of the town may act as hooks for the PCs and the doppelgangers as foils, presenting us with a concise depiction of their agendas, ways to use them etc., providing a nice framework to set up a complex, smart investigation before entering the (still) closed theatre, where a gamut of theatre-themed, clever traps await enterprising PCs. The general set-up of the investigation component works rather well indeed, so kudos.



Before they can reach the cellar of the building (which btw. comes with 4 full-color maps, all of which come with player-friendly versions), they will also have to best the first group of NPCs. First group? Yes! A total of 4 different NPC-groups are part of the module, each coming with essentially "party-sheets" that include all the necessary pieces of information to run the parties on one page - supremely comfortable for the DM - I approve!


Now the cellar and dungeon below are interesting and highly chaotic in theme, including skulls chanting a litany that confuses the listeners (without deadly effects - the results are hilarious, after all, the servants of Naytella are chaotic and not evil!). The tactics of the servants of Naytella mostly reflect that as well - if the PCs get beaten, it's not necessarily their end. Now, when they find the intoxicated council alive and well, the PCs will have a tough decision at their hands - free the council? Join the adherents of Naytella? Help them escape the wrath of the citizenry? The options are there and the result up to your players.
It should be noted that the module also includes clothing-material golems as well as 4 pages of maps of the complex, both in a keyed and a keyless version.

The pdf also features the new companion of Naytella PrC, which grants d6, 6+Int skills per level, comes with a wide variety of potential means of entry, good ref and will-saves, 3/4 BAB-progression. The Companions gain the option to use multiple skills (like sleight of hand) at range, their cha-bonus to saves and even a sonic-based breath weapon and attribute boosts. They may also choose from 3 special abilities at 8th level. All in all, an interesting an more worthwhile alternative to the arcane trickster, with generally solid wording with only minor hiccups that pertain only aesthetic components of teh rules-language and do not obfuscate their intent. All in all, a solid PrC.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting of the revised version have been upgraded indeed - they can now be considered rather good. Layout has been completely revised and now adheres to a beautiful 2-column standard that is suffused with a plethora of full-color artworks, some of which are stock, whereas others are original - impressive to see the crew go the extra mile here. The module's 4 maps in full color are neat indeed. EDIT: Now with full bookmarks!


Make the primary antagonists Calistraeans or extremists of Cayden and this module will work perfectly in Golarion. The module's antagonists for once not being evil is a cool change of pace, as it makes the PCs ponder their own moral choices and honestly, the sheets to track the NPC-groups are extremely useful to run what would otherwise be very complex encounters. Kudos for the good idea! The location in which it is set, as well as the (potential, but mostly optional) investigative backdrop in the beginning adds also a nice touch that allows you to decide how to tackle the module with your group. Stephen Yeardley has crafted a neat module indeed and overall, I did enjoy reading these pages. The amount of content provided is also appropriate and overall, the module is a fun romp with a distinct identity that can argueably be played as sinister or as a lighthearted, fun diversion.



Beyond that, the level of care the AAW Games-crew have put into making this more aesthetically-pleasing is quite impressive - the cleaned-up layout is professional and makes running the module easier and the improved editing gets rid of some minor ambiguities. Now I wouldn't be me if I had nothing to nitpick now, right? The PrC, while generally managing a superb job in making it appeal and work for both 3.X and PFRPG, could have used a bit more unique tricks and choices. Here and there, from a rules-language-aesthetic point of view, one could have smoothed the wording slightly - "deal 2d8 damage of sonic energy" should read "deal 2d8 point of sonic damage". ... Yeah, I know. But this level of nitpickery I all I can muster here. The revised edition surpasses its predecessor and thus receives a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
C04: The Play's the Thing
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Demon Cults 4: The Hand of Nakresh
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2015 03:57:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Demon Cults-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 11 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The fourth Demon Cult the series offers would be the Hand of Nakresh - who is Nakresh, you ask? He is the forty-fingered simian demon-god of thieves, with his lower left hand reserved for his most daring of thefts - it is this hand that gives this cult its name. The leadership of the cult is firmly in the hands of the Five Exalted, which receive full-blown statblocks herein - a kobold alchemist, a gnoll trapper, a derro sorceror, a tengu cleric and a roachling sanctified rogue make up this illustrious party, which could pretty much be run as an opposing adventurer party,a rival group, should you choose to. Beyond the basics, you should be aware that the members receive background stories and minor, loving tidbits - like the roachling's mutation, which nets him 4 hands. Small special features like this and the superb equipment (yes, influences CR) set a group apart. Well done!



As always, the pdf does sport a significant array of exceedingly detailed adventure hooks involving the cult, grouped by rough APLs and once again, the hooks go beyond the boring default, establishing some rather cool and inspired ideas and providing enough fodder for DMs to base multiple adventures around the cult. Midgard-aficionados will be glad to hear that we receive advice for using the cult in Midgard. There is a new spell herein, a variant of mirror image, wherein the duplicates run in random directions if you move - I do like the concept and the spell is functional, but I would have liked to see interaction with damaging terrain - do the images running over such terrain ignore it? I assume so, but this conversely makes finding the true culprit easier.

The magic items sport a demoralizing aklys and a magic monkey's paw for luck - and an artifact. This one is a beauty: The Ley-line absorber can tie in with the agendas of some members, aiming to steal magic and absorbing it for a vast power-gain of the operator - now that is a high-profile heist!



"But wait", you say - "I don't use the Midgard-setting or ley lines!" Perhaps you are wary of the ley line magic rules or perhaps it doesn't fit your concept. Well, the artifact comes with a second version, one for ley-line-less settings! Now *this* is care! Oh, and then there is the new vehicle provided herein. Nothing I could write would drive home the awesomeness of the concept better than the one line before the devices' stats: CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Jeff Lee's cabal of master thieves is awesome - whether as a rival party, as high-class thieves or as elite criminals, I really, really like this installment. The writing of the fluffy hooks retains the significant quality established in the series and the artifact is a cool plot-device. While the new spell did not wow me and while I wasn't too excited about the solid new items (though I love the minimalistic style of the pulpy monkey's paws!), there is this level of detail of the characters I enjoy. We have nice little tidbits, resources worthy of such an elite force...and we have a CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB. Say it with me: "CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB." Hell yeah!



Before I ramble on - there is nothing truly wrong with this pdf and while not all components blew me away, there is a lot that did incite my imagination to run with it. My final verdict will hence still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Now excuse me, I need to get my villains a new ride...

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 4: The Hand of Nakresh
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Dire, Devilish Deeds (3 of 4): Devaneas Arcineum 1
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2015 03:56:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third part of the "Dire, Devilish Deeds"-saga clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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

...

..

.

Still here? All right! At this point, I do assume you are familiar with the premise of this series of modules - if not, please consult my review of the first 2 books. Now the second installment saw the PCs vanquish (hopefully) the first gauntlet of challenges and thus, if the inversion of the eponymous titles was not ample clue, this time around, we enter the second gauntlet. Now this warrants some explanation -this series could actually be considered a 2-part series in my book: Dire, Devilish Deeds I and II (collectively the Arcineum Devaneas-parts) covered the first gauntlet, III and IV (collectively the Devaneum Arcineas-parts) cover the second. Now, as before, the puzzles and challenges can definitely be scavenged from the books, should you choose to - but you could also easily run just one gauntlet - imho both halves can stand on their own without the second gauntlet. And indeed, the module does sport an introduction similar to the one sported in the first module of the series, thus allowing for the second gauntlet to stand alone - e.g. the tree of the worlds has been replaced by the cave of the worlds - we get essentially a kind of reskin of the intro..



The sorceror's gauntlet, which the PCs are about to enter, is obviously not a labyrinthine forest and instead takes the shape of a dungeon, which, of course, comes with a full-color map and a player-friendly version, though, as far as AAW Games-maps are concerned, this one is nothing special -it does its job, but do not expect something mind-boggling.



All right, so the premise is similar to the first gauntlet - each test herein provides first a puzzle with visual representations (including the solutions) before providing a combat challenge that can be likened to a puzzle itself, for the PCs are transformed stat-wise into creatures (apart from Intelligence and the option to communicate) - percentile HP are carried over between forms, which still require the somewhat clunky math to determine properly. Additionally, each of the combat challenges nets one letter that, collectively, makes up the final puzzle of the gauntlet.



The first puzzle already is pretty much different from the first two installments - we receive a grid with a blue and a red warrior on it, the blue representing water, the red fire. The players receive tokens that represent fire, water, earth and air-warriors - the goal, then, is to place as many warriors of non-identical elements on the board as possible - straight lines drawn through the warriors of the elements should yield no more than two warriors fighting one another, essentially avoiding a "flanking" position. Combat-wise, the PCs are transformed into celestial fire beetles that have to square off against dire rats, showing another difference - this time around, the PCs take the forms on magical creatures in their transformed shapes. If the puzzle above wasn't ample clue - in a subtle way, the puzzles of this second half of the series have a different style, working less via intuition and being based more on logic - nice to see such an example of indirect storytelling and differentiation.



Challenge number two also works this way, with an archway requiring the PCs to decipher a sentence, wheel of fortune-style (sans wheel) -perhaps it's the language-nerd, but yes, I considered this puzzle exceedingly easy. The combat challenge here would be an example wherein imho, the sorcerous creatures the PCs turn into aren't perfectly chosen - pitting celestial giant bees vs. dire bats does not feel that iconic as "arcane vs. natural" as I would have liked.



Okay, the third puzzle is kind of awesome - plates of a lot of strange combinations of arrows, plusses and the like need to be deciphered, with some symbol-combinations actually amounting to different letters. It's pretty much a nice glyph-deciphering puzzle here. The combat challenge, once again pits celestial animal PCs, here, dire badgers, against dire weasels. My previous criticism remains - celestial animals do not make interesting magical creatures for me, when there are so many intriguing options.



After this, we have a glorious puzzle - set within the earth, we can perceive a cross of massive emeralds - the task here is one of logical thinking and visual, geographic capacity - determine the amount of squares hidden in the shape of the emerald cross - neato! The combat challenge pits celestial lions versus dire boars.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard. The full-color artwork is neat indeed and the map of the gauntlet is also provided as a player-friendly version. The puzzles and solutions come in handy full-color and can easily be printed out.



Okay, so this one has me somewhat torn regarding direct comparison to its predecessors - it obviously inherits the necessity to tackle Stephen Yeardley's saga on its own ground. So no change there. What I adore, though, would be the change in focus of the puzzles - somewhat away from intuition towards puzzles that are more logical and thus, feel more arcane, at least to me. The puzzles itself, universally, surpassed the predecessors for me - I really loved these. At the same time, though, the choices of which creatures the PCs transform into felt mind-boggling to me - with so many awesome magical, arcane creatures, which choose the blandest of the bland, celestial animals? Seriously, that's just not awesome. Why not use archons, outsiders, etc. and provide some more unique set-ups for puzzle-combats? Instead, the celestial animal vs. animal dichotomy, at least to me, felt blander than in the previous installments, which saw animals and elemental creatures challenge fiendish creatures and devils. To me, these pairings do fall woefully short of the premise of "arcane" vs. "nature", especially when compared to the first two installments. That being said, this is still a superb and innovative module, but one that falls behind the previous installments in combat diversity, while upping the ante regarding the execution of the puzzles.



How to rate this, then? Well, obviously, I love this saga - if you've read my first two reviews of the modules in this line, you know how much I adore the unique premise and challenges of this series. This same love extends to this pdf, but it is a love with more trepidation than before - while the puzzles render this installment in this regard my favorite one in the series, the combat challenges fall far behind regarding my enjoyment of them. In the end, this made this installment somewhat less superb for me. Also, as mentioned above, unless you only wish to scavenge content, you need Part IV, for this is only half of the gauntlet, though this, at least, will not influence my final verdict.



My final verdict will, in the end, clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 - still, if you like the premise and enjoy the saga's great puzzles, this should be considered a must-buy.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dire, Devilish Deeds (3 of 4): Devaneas Arcineum 1
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Rite Map Pack: River Isle
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2015 03:52:39
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This map-pack clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving no less than 33 pages of content - so what's on the map?



Well, first of all, a couple of semi-transparent trees that allow for the easy placement of miniatures and determining line-f-sight. Secondly, we get Tommi Salama depicting drop-dead-gorgeous water that looks like you just want to take a dip. The map depicts a road leading past an isle in a body of water, with some irregular stones making for an eroded, makeshift bridge towards a small isle, on which five trees grow in a conspicuously pentagram-shaped pattern. While I enjoy small rocks near the solid land jutting forth from the waves, it is this subtle detail that provides a further level of a subtle, evocative visual element I truly enjoy.



Beyond the overview-style map featured on page 3, a total of 16 pages provide a blown-up version of the map for convenient use with miniatures for your perusal - and if you're price-conscious, the b/w-version provided thereafter should also suffice. Bookmarks render navigation to each easy. All versions of the map come with a grid.



Conclusion:

I've never made a fuss about my conviction that Tommi Salama is perhaps the heir of Jonathan Roberts - his maps are gorgeous - whether in this stunning full-color or in b/w (as can be seen in many a village backdrop by Raging Swan Press), his maps are a joy to look at. Now that alone may be nice - where things get great is when a map makes me ask questions and provides subtle hooks and unobtrusive nudges for storytelling like this one does. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval -a gorgeous, actually inspiring map for a fair price.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rite Map Pack: River Isle
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Vehicles of Legend (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2015 06:43:26
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Okay, the first vehicle herein is called the Calamar - and is a massive, bronze kraken. Yes, including deadly tentacle and arm-attacks. We're talking about a WAR-KRAKEN SUBMERSIBLE!! I thought "..of legend" was a bit much, but oh boy, what a furious first one! Better yet, beyond the default stats, the vehicle also receives a means for an emergency escape - heck yes! Do you prefer your vehicles less far out? Well the 1/day teleporting Century Osprey may then be just what you're looking for, especially thanks to the magical ballistae!



Speaking of superb - the Doom-Lord's Chariot would be the sarcophagus of a vanquished ancient lich, which is now used as a chariot that coincidentally can channel the energy of spells via the lenses of the sarcophagus, enhancing their potency. Even worse, the damn cool vehicle also contains a dread secret, but one I am not going to spoil for you... Thought this was nasty? You haven't seen the frost giant's war tower, a massive mobile fortress of destruction that DEMANDS to be used! What about a dirigible powered by mildly euphoric gasses, with a crew of drugged out air mephits as a crew?



The colossal iron leviathan would be a massive submersible in the shape of the iconic master of the seas. The Nomad of the Void would be a plane's walker's vessel, shielding its passengers from the rigors of the planes, whereas the Shrike as a mobile aerial hunter, can launch alchemical death upon foes and makes for a great representation of the steampunk dogfighter. An appropriate vessel for the terrestrial transportation of the discerning noble/mage, the intelligent carriage of Sir Cullen, the carriage offers means to not only create illusory horses, it can actually threaten foes and yes, trample adversaries. The final vehicle, the stygian warwagon, drawn by cauchemar nightmares, is a deadly thing of obsidian and destructive potential and rounds out a supplement of utterly impressive imaginative potential.



The final page is devoted to a vehicle-sheet for your convenience.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports bookmarks for your convenience. The pdf comes with thematically fitting full-color art, though you won't find direct representations of the vessels themselves.



Jeff Lee's vehicles of legend went completely under my radar. I only recently realized this pdf exists at all and honestly...ladies and gentlemen, this is a hidden gem. The name may sound pompous, but this book delivers. There is not a single "good" or mediocre vessel herein - literally each and every vessel herein is pure awesomeness. Each and every vessel does something mechanically unique and combines awesome special abilities with imagery that had me salivating like crazy. This book is exceedingly inspired, extremely affordable and downright fun to boot. I was honestly quite shocked when I realized for how long this went under my radar. I absolutely adore this supplement and the superb vessels herein. I absolutely recommend you get these inspired vessels - literally all-killer, no filler, this does no retread old tropes and can be considered perhaps the best vehicle supplement out there. A thoroughly impressive book and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vehicles of Legend (PFRPG)
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Genius Adventures: The Black Skull Laughs
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2015 06:40:13
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This genius adventure clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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

...

..

.

All right, still here?

This is, layout-wise - the most boring dungeon imaginable -10 identically-sized rooms connected by 30-ft-corridors. That's it. And yes, this is by design. The complex herein depicts a minor dwarven way station turned doom-laden crypt, recently disturbed, as per the tradition by bandits - who unleashed the so-called Black Skull. Now to clear this place and claim its riches, the PCs have an interesting task ahead of them: For one, they should get that there is a "safe route" - finding and deciphering the subtle clues that point towards it can significantly make the task ahead easier.



Now, as you know, one of my by now probably redundant rants is about how a good encounter sports proper terrain tricks and complications - well, this module *does* sport the like - in ample spades. If you realize that the author of this short module is Ed Greenwood, you also won't be surprised at the sheer level of imaginative things that happen in these rooms:



Take for example floating sarcophagi, flying skulls and crawling hands, magical tapestries...there is a LOT going on within the few rooms of this short dungeon and the challenges are as brutal as you've come to expect from master Greenwood, though without the optimization tricks mostly used in new school modules; this module is pretty much brains over brawns and should drive home, within a few rooms and via the magical taunts of the mad Black Skull (using the aristrocrat class as a base, btw.), that careful exploration is not necessarily a task for the foolish. Have I mentioned comets of raw magical energy streaking through one of the chambers, roaring testimonies of the deadly tragedies that have taken place herein?



In fact, beyond interesting encounters, which universally have something unique going for them, the module also is pretty much awesome in the way in which it handles its indirect storytelling - with some legwork prior to entering the tomb and open eyes, the PCs can very much glean what has happened here - and they better should; beyond the deadly challenges posed here, they may actually end up fooled by their adversary if they aren't careful...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf sports some solid stock-art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with unobtrusive hyperlinks. The cartography is solid, but I wished we got player-friendly versions of the map.



You can do some great indirect storytelling with complexes your PCs explore - from similar themes and locking mechanisms to traps and the like, there are a lot of indirect ways to maintain themes of e.g. a sunken culture etc. However, this also means that some complexes ought to be somewhat pragmatic, functional, even - and thus, for once, I applaud the premise of this module. Indeed, the module actually voluntarily handicaps itself by working with what can arguably be considered the most boring possible dungeon layout.



This is Ed Greenwood, though. I always liked his notion of realism and the nasty tendency towards difficult modules and this delivers both. Each encounter herein sports some kind of intriguing, unique theme or hazard and even in the cases where a given encounter is CR-wise not too deadly, the imagery makes up for it. Now don't get me wrong - I really like this module for its unpretentious premise and its exercise in what good ideas can do to flesh out the most basic of set-ups. That being said, at the same time, I would have wished the pdf had made slightly more use of the taunting adversary.



Now you should be aware of the fact that this module cannot be solved by rollplaying - it is pretty much old-school and rewards gamer-instincts and smart decisions. Personally, I like this, but some people might have probably liked DCs to negotiate with a giant burning head and similar solutions when the players are stumped. Now this is NOT a big flaw in my book, but something to be aware of - here and there, the deviation from what one expects as viable problem-solutions in PFRPG might well cause some consternation in groups not used to this type of thinking, this design-philosophy and here and there, a DM could probably have used a tad bit more guidance.



If you do not mind that - well, then this is indeed a cool, fun meatgrinder of a sidetrek. If old-school problem-solving or potentially very meatgrinder-y dungeons are not your cup of tea, then this is not for you - if you like them, though, then this is a great test of mettle for players and PCs alike. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4.5 stars - whether you round up or down very much depends on your personal tastes and whether you consider the premise sufficiently interesting. While I did enjoy this module and its evocative challenges and hazards, it also left me with a subtle feeling that it could have been even cooler by quoting more strongly the previous usage of the complex, hence, personally, I will round down. As a reviewer, though, I have a policy of in dubio pro reo and will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Genius Adventures: The Black Skull Laughs
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