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Monster Classes: Giants and Reptiles
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2017 03:31:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, a page containing only a bit of glossary, leaving us with ~10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

All right, we begin with the Hill Giant, who, base race-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha, Medium size and normal speed, the giant subtype, low-light vision, +1 natural AC.

The monster class spans 10 levels and has d8 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and light as well as medium armor and shield as well as simple weapon proficiency. They begin play at 1st level with a slam attack that starts at 1d4 and increases to 1d6 at 4th and 1d8 at 10th level. 2nd level provides 40 ft. rock throwing, increasing the range increment at 4th level and every even level thereafter by 20 ft. 3rd level hill giants increase their natural armor by +2 and every 2 levels thereafter, a similar increase happens - oddly, though, it states a maximum of +9 instead of +10...does that mean that the final step only provides +1 or is there a glitch here? 4th level nets size increase to Large as well as +10 ft. movement rate. 8th level provides rock catching.

Attribute-bonus-wise, this one gets +12 Str, -2 Dex, +4 Con, -2 Int, -2 Cha. Once again, we have a pretty massive front-headed dispersal - +6 modifier built-in allows for some unpleasant combos and thus, makes the monster class not suitable for all types of groups...though, if your game does feature the like, I think the monster class should work for really high-powered games.

The Lizardfolk as presented here gets +2 Con, -2 Int, is a reptilian humanoid with normal speed and 15 ft. swim speed and +4 to Acrobatics. The 2-level monster class has d8 HD, 2+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, javelin, morningstar and shields. The class begins play with a 1d4 bite, hold breath and +3 natural armor. At second level, that increases by a further +2 and second level also nets claws with 1d4 damage. They also get +2 Strength...at first level. Personally, I'd have moved that to 2nd, but that's just design-aesthetics. This has plusses and minuses when compared to my favorite Lizardfolk iteration (from Advanced Races Compendium) and no balance concerns - nice one!

The third race/class herein would be the troglodyte, who gains +2 Str and Con, -2 Dex and Int, are reptilian humanoids with a speed of 30 ft., 90 ft. darkvision, +2 to Stealth (+4 in rocky environments) and +2 natural AC. The 2-level monster-class has 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, d8 HD, 2+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons and grants 2 claws à 1d4 as well as +2 natural AC at first level. 2nd level unlocks a primary bite at 1d4, doubles the skill bonuses the race grants and unlocks the signature stench. The spells referenced in said ability are not italicized. Troglodytes get +2 Con at 2nd level. Most groups should be okay with the power-level of these, though very conservative groups may want to go for the lizardfolk instead.

The 4th and final race/class-combo would be the troll. Racial trait-wise, these fellows get +2 Str and Con, -4 Int, -2 Wis and -4 Cha, are medium giants with normal speed, 60 ft. darkvision, low-light vision and +1 natural AC. The troll's 6-level monster class gets d8 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and proficiency with simple weapons. 1st level trolls gain 1d4 claws that increase to 1d6 at 4th level, where he also grows to Large size. Trolls are defined by their regeneration they begin play with regeneration 1, which increases to 3 and 5 at 4th and 6th level, respectively. There's a word missing in the "If the troll takes acid or fire damage, its regeneration on the round following the attack."-sentence. While the rules cover the starvation/suffocation-angle (nice), for balance concerns, I'd have expected a "no hit-point sharing"-caveat to avoid using HP-sharing with captive/allied trolls for infinite healing. Second level unlocks a 1d6 bite that improves to 1d8 at 4th level and also unlocks scent. 3rd level increases natural AC by +2 and the AC increases by a further +2 at 6th level. 5th level unlocks Rend. And no, I have no issue with this.

Attribute-dispersal-wise, trolls get +8 Str, +4 Dex, +10 Con for a total of 22 points, all among the physical scores, which renders these guys brutal shredders. In conjunction with the abilities gained, this makes the monster class too powerful for all but high-powered games.

The pdf provides the usual glossary and a massive 15 feats - some of which you'll know from other publications like Stupendous Strength, Aquatic Adaptation or Awesome Blow. Making troglodyte scent demoralizing is a nice one. having more heads or, as a troll, using your limbs to beat up foes is neat, though I'm pretty sure I've seen that done before. Cooperative rend is a nice idea for Teamwork.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports both unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has some bookmarks. The artwork is nice this time around.

Jeffrey Swank's Monster Classes for giants and reptiles are pretty much the definition of a mixed bag - power-wise, we have the giants being pretty strong (though the troll mops the floor with the hill giant) - which feels a bit weird to me. The two takes on the lizardfolks/troglodytes are solid and, for high-powered games, so are the hill giants. In the end, I think that most groups can take something out of this little booklet, even if not all will be suitable for all groups. Thus, in the end, I consider this a solid offering, slightly on the positive side, but not close enough to tip it over to being good -3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Giants and Reptiles
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Trail of the Apprentice: The Thieves' Den (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/15/2017 08:02:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the kid-friendly AP for beginning groups clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 pages. To these, however, one should add the art and map folio, which contains no less than 18 raw pages (already minus editorial/etc.) of maps, both with grid and without, provided sans key and with it - this service is amazing and the art can easily be used as handouts...so yeah, pretty damn cool. Love this.

The supplemental material this time around would pertain an ecology of the monster class hag, which is an adversary kids are probably pretty familiar with already, considering the dominance of Disney movies. The considerations are pretty nice, making them feel threatening sans going the German, classic route...which means, yep, once again, this module should work perfectly fine for all but the most squeamish kids ages 8+; as always, you know best. I certainly can see that work with younger kids, easily.

And this is as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! When last time we left our heroes, they may have succeeded in laying an old king back to rest, but unfortunately, they still are on the hunt for the two stolen serpent statues...and the culprit hired for the job would be none other than the notorious thieves guild Elverrin Skulk. We rejoin our heroes after a massive read-aloud text in the village of Arcadia, situated right next to the wild Umberwood...and it is here the pdf introduces the GM to a specific genre of adventuring I am particularly fond off: The wilderness exploration depicted as a hex crawl. It is a teeny-tiny hexcrawl, for sure, but it is one nonetheless, one in which the PCs slowly but steadily venture forth into the territory of the clawbiter tribe at the behest of Gunhild, the disguised hag who promises to lead the PCs to the skulk if they cooperate...you see, a barghest has taken control of "her" swamp and thus, she wants the menace eliminated.

However that bit plays out, the PCs will sooner or later indeed stumble over the entry to the lair of the Elverrin Skulk, entering, probably by means of pit trap...the gauntlet. The gauntlet is a trap-laden dungeon with a wide variety of traps that do not simply boil down to rolling a die - it rewards being smart...and indeed, it also sports secret doors that allow astute PCs who recognize the mindset of the mysterious Fox Prince, to bypass a significant amount of the challenges of this complex. Following the mission statement of the saga, PCs and GMs are taught something here: PCs get to understand the differences between complexes and dungeons and the rewards for thinking along. GMs are shows how to add an interesting "character" to a complex and how to generate tension without throwing monster upon monster at the PCs. While combat could be spliced in, I'd strongly suggest trying to run this as written - the tricky trap dungeon is something we see all too rarely done well. In the end, the PCs will probably have braved the Fox Prince's gauntlet...and have a chance of negotiating with the mastermind...who is reluctant to betray the confidence of his clients, but proposes a deal: One of his agents contracted a magical disease that could be healed with something in the possession of...bingo. Gunhild. Pointing the PCs towards the hag, they'll have a chance to deliver just deserts to the vile crone in a challenging and potentially even a bit scary final encounter.

Finally, the mastermind behind the thefts is divulged - a wizard named Belazeel...as well as the means to potentially get their hands on the wizard...but that will have to wait for the next adventure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games' nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice original artworks and full-color maps for your convenience. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.

Paris Crenshaw's third part of the Trail of the Apprentice is the first module in the series I can see work just as well for adults as for kids. Veterans of roleplaiyng games may not run afoul of the hag's deception, but that doesn't really matter - the star of this module is the simple mini-hex-crawl alongside the cool, trap-laden dungeon. In short: This teaches finer points of the craft of GMing in a more subtle way, continuing the trend of teaching by showing and slowly building upon the lessons of previous modules. Concise, well-presented and fun, this definitely constitutes the highlight of the series so far, even though, once again, I was missing nonlethal conflict-resolutions with the goblins. Still, the cool dungeon does offset this shortcoming in my book, which renders this well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of the Apprentice: The Thieves' Den (Pathfinder)
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Whispers & Rumours: Borderland Town System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/15/2017 08:00:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Once upon a time, rumor tables were a common thing you expected to find in a given module - while nowadays, they are, at best, rare occurrences. The pdf thus begins with a brief "how to"-list for GMs on how to employ these rumors with maximum efficiency - they can, if handled well, provide depth, make the world feel alive and steer the plot - or provide red herrings and local interests unrelated to the module. As such, the introductory page dealing with these and how to find them can be considered particularly helpful for GMs who missed the golden age of sandboxing, if you will.

After this, we begin with the first table, which spans no less than 3 full pages, delivering 100 local events that not only provide local color, they actually can double as adventure hooks: I mean, have you seen the town's beauty wearing the red ribbon on her throat that means she's spoken for? But who could the suitor be? And have you noticed those strange toadstools cropping up around the place? You know that they bespeak fey activity, right? More mundane rumors like local burglaries, domestic disputes or a recent call from the militia can be found, neck to neck, with the arrivals of tinkers in town. These would be the general, local color-type of rumors.

The second table herein, in contrast to that, does feature significantly more detailed hooks - basically adventure-igniting, very detailed set-ups: The table covers 20 entries and spans 2 pages: From gold being discovered and the springing up of shanty towns and such gold rush scenarios to human bodies being found in poacher's pits (pits where animal carcasses are thrown) or talks of new ways to pubish criminals - these events are very much evocative and versatile.

The third table, once again spanning no less than 20 entries, allows for easy combinations with the former - here, local legends are depicted: From scarecrows animating to the Fall of Tears, ostensibly a gateway to the realm of fey on holy nights to a stream that ostensibly is capable of removing the weight of the years when drunk from near its source, these legends add the mythological dimension and the supernatural to the proceedings - which means you have pretty much everything you need to craft/improvise a module here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is fitting b/w and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use.

Neal Litherland's collection of rumors, legends and events is amazing - the combination of local color, legends and events can result in truly inspiring environments or adventures. The respective entries are detailed and run the gamut from mundane to magical with panache aplomb.

The system-neutral version is 100% identical (apart from the cover) with the just as system-neutral black-covered version - but in this iteration I can't well complain about an absence of mechanics now, can I? As a system-neutral dressing file, this very much excels and deserves a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Whispers & Rumours: Borderland Town System Neutral Edition
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Whispers & Rumours: Borderland Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/15/2017 07:58:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Once upon a time, rumor tables were a common thing you expected to find in a given module - while nowadays, they are, at best, rare occurrences. The pdf thus begins with a brief "how to"-list for GMs on how to employ these rumors with maximum efficiency - they can, if handled well, provide depth, make the world feel alive and steer the plot - or provide red herrings and local interests unrelated to the module. As such, the introductory page dealing with these and how to find them can be considered particularly helpful for GMs who missed the golden age of sandboxing, if you will.

After this, we begin with the first table, which spans no less than 3 full pages, delivering 100 local events that not only provide local color, they actually can double as adventure hooks: I mean, have you seen the town's beauty wearing the red ribbon on her throat that means she's spoken for? But who could the suitor be? And have you noticed those strange toadstools cropping up around the place? You know that they bespeak fey activity, right? More mundane rumors like local burglaries, domestic disputes or a recent call from the militia can be found, neck to neck, with the arrivals of tinkers in town. These would be the general, local color-type of rumors.

The second table herein, in contrast to that, does feature significantly more detailed hooks - basically adventure-igniting, very detailed set-ups: The table covers 20 entries and spans 2 pages: From gold being discovered and the springing up of shanty towns and such gold rush scenarios to human bodies being found in poacher's pits (pits where animal carcasses are thrown) or talks of new ways to pubish criminals - these events are very much evocative and versatile.

The third table, once again spanning no less than 20 entries, allows for easy combinations with the former - here, local legends are depicted: From scarecrows animating to the Fall of Tears, ostensibly a gateway to the realm of fey on holy nights to a stream that ostensibly is capable of removing the weight of the years when drunk from near its source, these legends add the mythological dimension and the supernatural to the proceedings - which means you have pretty much everything you need to craft/improvise a module here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is fitting b/w and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use.

Neal Litherland's collection of rumors, legends and events is amazing - the combination of local color, legends and events can result in truly inspiring environments or adventures. The respective entries are detailed and run the gamut from mundane to magical with panache aplomb.

Now there's one thing, though: If you expect any PFRPG-rules herein, be it DCs, skill-references or the like...well, you won't find them in the pdf. This is basically system-neutral. That is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you -personally, I don't mind. But it means that this is pretty much identical with the system-neutral iteration, with only the cover making the difference. Considering that this is supposed to be the PFRPG-version, I would have appreciated a bit of minor crunch here and there, perhaps at least in the how to-section. Note, however, that this is me stretching to complain about something - this is a nice, inexpensive and flavorful dressing-pdf, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Whispers & Rumours: Borderland Town
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2017 10:44:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive bestiary for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at an impressive 146 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a truly impressive 139 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It has been a long time since Castle Falkenstein, beloved by many, has seen any proper support - which is, in itself, a surprise, considering its presence among many a favorite RPG-list...but it is also not surprising: Pioneering high adventure in the Edwardian and early Victorian age of an alternate world, it managed to miss both the rise of grimdark aesthetics and preceded the latter steampunk boom, which provided a slew of ill-conceived fads and sloppy prose - prose that would, had more people taken the time, paled before Castle Falkenstein's merits as a novel as well as a game. Castle Falkenstein's framing narrative of Tom Olam being stranded in this allotopia has always been a great selling point, at least as far as I'm concerned; it made reading the books a true pleasure rather than a just a joy.

This book takes up this framing narrative seamlessly, taking "previously unpublished" accounts penned by Tom Olam and converting them into the respective books - and thus we begin with prose, which represents the journey to find the missing manuscript of none other than Dr. Dolittle. It is hence that Tom Olam comments on the material found and retrieved, his work on the conversion...and fans of Castle Falkenstein will indeed notice the seamless consistence of the whole sequence.

That is, until the introductory rules-section begins. Here, we can clearly see the influence of the current age, and I mean that in the most flattering of ways. If you've read my review of Castle Falkenstein, you will notice that I am very much in love with system and setting...but my criticisms towards the system are profound. I consider myself to be a pretty experienced RPG-player, but the presentation of the rules was at times at obtuse and inconsistent as the prose and setting were inspired. The book, in short, suffered from what I'd dub "90s-itis" - an age where a lot of amazing RPG-books with glorious prose, particularly in rules-lite systems, were released, but often suffered from a less than stellar editing and inconsistencies in the rules. And yes, particularly in relatively rules-lite systems, that can really grind the game to a halt. Castle Falkenstein suffered from exactly this phenomenon, and while it certainly is nowhere near the worst offender in that regard when compared to my gaming library's relics, it did, from a current point of view, suffer in this regard. (Ahem, can we have a new edition? Please?)

Anyways, this book begins with PRECISION. Creatures in the Great Game are categorized as natives, faerie pets and things from beyond the Faerie veil, which can be things from other worlds, darker places...or pretty much any setting/trope you can come up with. Furthermore, we classify creatures in 6 different sizes and a handy table categories damage inflicted by creatures with an easy chart, separate entries for partial, full and high wounds and harm ranks included - including notes that wounds and size must not necessarily correlate. The same holds true for creature health and size, strength and size...and the pdf goes through the Castle Falkenstein abilities and notes how they apply to creatures: Flying/Running/Swimming speeds based on physique, for example, can be found here. Oh, and the book provides 5 abilities for use around, with and by creatures - Animal Handling, Animal Speech, Creature Power, Outdoorsmanship and Poison. All of these abilities are concisely presented and, while precise, still maintain the levity in theme and tone that made reading Castle Falkenstein's rules interesting and...well, less dry than in comparable settings. The book provides quick and easy creature creation guidelines and also spends a whole page talking about the ramifications of pets, sidekicks, animal companions - you get the drift. And yes, since Dolittle, Animal Speech, et al. is part of the parcel here, the book does cover, extensively, I might add, the role of intelligent animals in the Great Game - but only after a nice piece of prose, which keeps the overall flavor of the book consistent and high-concept...which btw. would be a term I'll return to! Have I mentioned the clockwork self-destruct mechanism codified in a side-bar?

Speaking of side-bars: Whenever you would begin considering the array of rules-clarifications provided start becoming dry, you'll find one of them: Like Beth-Ann, San Francisco's gigantic bear that was gifted to Napoleon. So yes, this book retains a very nice and inspiring reading flow, as far as the blend of prose and rules are concerned. I was talking about clarifications: TER (Thaumic Energy Requirements) for creatures are easily and precisely presented, codified by creature type...and both giant animals and familiars not only exist as concepts now - they have actual rules governing them!

Indeed, unlike in most bestiaries for roleplaying games, this is no mere accumulation of critters and stats; rather than that, we have vivid pieces of prose leading into the respective entries of creatures, elaborating upon them: Did you know, for example, that sphinxes are aliens, captured by faerie and thus particularly ill-disposed to their ilk? Did you know that true unicorns not only receive their bestiary entry, but also can act now as proper dramatic characters? And yes, this is still not the bestiary section, but rather the section leading up to it, telling us about the kingdom of Kongo in Castle Falkenstein's world, wild children and more.

Now the book does, obviously, begin a section clearly denoted as bestiary, providing creatures in alphabetical order, but unlike bestiaries provided for other systems and settings, the bestiary here takes its debts and associations with our own real world myths very seriously, retaining a mythology-enhanced plausibility: In a world where faerie is a very real force, it's not too hard to picture the existence of the amphisbaena or basilisks, correct?

Each of the creatures herein is not simply presented as a statblock, if you will - instead, the respective entries come with detailed ruminations on the creature, a brief cliff-notes version of it and detailed ideas for the host to employ the creature in question - often as basically a rather detailed adventure hook. The book's selection of creatures, as a whole, resonates very well with real world myths and contextualizes them properly in the allotopia of Castle Falkenstein.

Now, I have called this a bestiary and the moniker is truer than in pretty much every reference towards any Monster Manual-like book for other systems: Let me elaborate. Back before the period of enlightenment, when superstition and make-belief and the dogmatic realities constructed by the church still held sway over our cultures and science was indistinguishable from fantasy, there was a class of book called "Bestiary" - a zoological treatise on various creatures, both real and imagined: Think of this category as basically a category of literature resembling a blend of zoological encyclopedia and travelogue, one in which the fantastic and real blended into what we'd nowadays consider a form of magical realism, a representation of a form of weltanschauung that is in equal parts informed by a harsh reality and vibrant fantasy, by innocence and grime, if you will.

However, with the advent of a progressive secularization and ever more accumulating rebuttals to the world-views eschewed by organized religions, the scientific method began cleaving apart the previously existent "science" and founded the concept of a rationally definitive reality. Now, one accomplishment of this book is that it exists in the strange intersection between the grand psychological traumas mankind experienced in the transition to its (relatively) enlightened state and a more innocent or ignorant world-view when the world was defined by what we can now consider to be fantasies -in this strange no-man's land of transition that is quoted by Castle Falkenstein's allotopia, the question ultimately remains how this strange world, in this transitional phase, would behave if there actually was magic, if there actually existed faeries. Basically, if the medieval superstitions made the transition into a more enlightened era BECAUSE they turned out to be true...and what would happen if these moved with the times, how they would react to the transitional era in which Castle Falkenstein is set.

This is relevant for this book, because its sensibility is not merely that of a basic monster manual, but of a book that takes the established traditions of bestiaries and logically evolves them in a manner akin to how the core book managed to logically develop the campaign world under its chosen premises and contextualize the culture of these days. The book not only manages to retain the feeling evoked by the original Castle Falkenstein books, it progresses them organically and in a manner that bespeaks a deep and abiding love not only for the concept of the age of high adventure Castle Falkenstein depicts, but also for the magical realism and historicity demanded, nay, required by the setting.

This tangent may sound weird to you, but it carries more significance than me just listing critter upon creature and commenting on how they are well made; sure, I can tall you about hippocampi, hydras and the jabberwock - but what help would that be? We all have absorbed these mythological creatures via our collective canon of literature and media productions over the years - or so I hope. More interesting would be how they are depicted, how they are contextualized - as something more plausible and real than current-world cryptoids, as beings fantastic, yet real. The very existence of one such being can potentially radically change the ways in which aspects of culture and society evolved and it is the book's most impressive feat that it manages to retain the plausible consistency the beings require without losing their mythological impact and significance.

Scholars of mythology will smile, from kraken to mi'raj (also known as al-mi'raj or, more colloquially as "that weird unicorn bunny from myths around the Indian Ocean"), from monoceros to pushmi-pullyu to sapo fuerzo and yale - indeed, if you consider yourself a scholar of myths, even a casual one, you'll recognize many of the creatures...but chances are that several of the more obscure ones will surprise you indeed.

It should also be noted that a ton of regular, less fantastic animals receive their stats...but that, once again, would not even be close to encompassing the book, for there is also a chapter on characters and it is here that the ardent and diligently performed process of myth-weaving is exemplified even better: Obviously careful historic research and similarly careful thought has went into the respective representations of real life persons and fictionalized characters: You can find Black Beauty herein alongside famed naturalist Amalie Dietrich; Dr. John Dolittle is just as real here as Fantomas and Moriarti indeed has reason to fear M, the hidden paw. Dr. Jekyll and Mowgli are very real...and Mendel, understandably, is conducting experiments on faerie pets...with Auberon obviously interested in keeping the knowledge about DNA hidden...but why, what's his agenda? See what I'm meaning? We have a logical, and yet inspiring blend of fact and fiction, but one that very much is indebted to the concise realism of historicity as well as that assigned, constructed array of rules generated by the collective of mythology, literature and Castle Falkenstein's own established cultural pastiche.

Indeed, the research that went into this book is as evident as the obvious care and love that went into these adaptations - from Mme Pauline de Vere to Eliza Carpenter, the book presents a truly amazing array of beings for hosts to employ: And it also has no less than 10 dramatic characters, from true unicorn to paleontologist, from falconer to jockey. They universally are well-balanced within the context of CF's rules.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, particularly for a book of this size. The rules-language and prose is vivid and I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, with the artworks employing public domain stock art...which, for once, does actually enhance the feeling of the book more than original artworks would have managed. The artwork makes it feel...more consistent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.

So, the authors Mister Thomas Stubbins, Captain Thomas Olam and Doctor John Dolittle obviously are legends in our world as well as in others; the transcribing scribe, one mister J Gray may have so far received less universal renown, but one should indeed not remain silent regarding his accomplishments. I have read a lot of RPG-books, many with a quasi-historic context/setting; at one time, you begin to perceive the lines that separate the wheat from the chaff, the books that were made as tasks in opposition to those born out of true and honest passion and love. This book is such a book. From the rules-clarifications to every single entry, the vast array of in-jokes for history- and culture-buffs, the commitment to consistency... to both CF's style and its type of mythweaving, is not only commendable, but exemplary.

The first bestiary of any given setting, by any publisher or licensee, is a risky book and one hard to get right; more so in the case off a setting with such a distinct and hard to properly pull off thematic identity and theme as Castle Falkenstein. This pdf manages to accomplish exactly that feat with flying colors, providing excellence in all categories I can measure. How deep does the thematic consistency go? Well, look at the dinosaur section: Know why there's no T-rex inside? Because the first skeleton was discovered by Barnum Brown in 1902. I am SURE that someone is going to complain about that, but me, I applaud this adherence to truth, as it enhances the myths laid upon the history, as it adds a dimension, and, or so I hope, knowledge to those inclined to read...and pursue the handy bibliography included in the back. And yes, this big book is FULL with decisions like that and feels like it is extremely cognizant of its responsibility to the high concepts of the system.

In short: This is a phenomenal continuation of Castle Falkenstein, an excellent addition to this often overlooked gem of an RPG, a book that brings modern precision to the narrative gravitas of CF's mythbuilding and a book that makes me seriously hope for a 2nd edition, for more Castle Falkenstein books. This breathes spirit, love and soul in all the right ways, represents a carefully-constructed labor of love and is an amazing deal, even if you just get it for the purpose of idea-scavenging. In short: This very much represents a gem in Fat Goblin Games' library as well as among the books available for Castle Falkenstein and should be considered to be a must-have addition to any fashionable CF-host's library. Get this. 5 stars + seal of approval + candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Regardless of system, this is the best book J Gray has penned...eh...transcribed so far and sets an incredibly high bar for the product line.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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Mythic Minis 98: Intrigue Feats II
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2017 10:42:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go! Wait, one more thing - the SRD-page does contains two feats...don't forget about them!

-Cat and Mouse: Double dodge bonuses when not riposting. Also, when using parry and riposte, you may expend mythic power to successfully parry sans having to forego the riposte attempt. Slight complaint - it could be clearer when exactly the mythic power expenditure takes place - I assume upon activating parry and riposte.

-Drunkard's Recovery: Gain surge die + Con mod hit points when dying and drinking alcohol and also gain polypurpose panacea and which benefit of it applies. As a standard action, you can expend mythic power to convey the benefits of the feat to another character while giving him alcohol. Additionally, you can use mythic power to make alcohol act as lesser restoration or make the cure spells you receive mythic. VERY cool expansion of the theme!

-Expeditious Sleuth: Reduce multiple of normal amount of time to take 20 by tier. Also enhances Perception when used in conjunction with mythic surges.

-Fox Style: Add Int to feint in combat. Also sports swift action mythic power-based feints to create distractions. Okay, I guess.

-Fox Insight: Add Int-mod to Wis-mod to Sense Motive to notice feints and demoralize attempts. As a swift action, you may expend mythic power to increase the demoralize/feint DC by tier. While it can be deduced, explicitly stating a duration for the mythic effect would have been nice here.

-Fox Trickery: Use HD instead of BAB for the purpose of dirty tricks; also lets you use either Str or Int for the CMB of these maneuvers and if it's not at least a +4 you gain from the attribute, the bonus is upgraded to this.

-Sabotaging Sunder: Use the feat as a standard action, even if you don't have a free hand. If you do, you may use it in lieu of a melee attack and may even employ it in conjunction with charges, Spring Attack, etc. You may also AoO sunder with it and, as a full-round action execute up to 2 sunder maneuvers, 3 if you have 11+ ranks Disable Device, 4 if you have 16+ ranks. The iterative ones do receive penalties, though. Nice.

-Improved Sabotaging Sunder: You may sunder hidden objects, those inside bags, etc. and via mythic power expenditure, even those stored in extradimensional spaces. However, unless you can see inside the container, you affect a random chosen object inside it. Also nets you a Cleave-ish benefit to objects within a container. Damn cool!!

-Ranged Disable: Use it versus devices with cover or concealment, with the respective cover/concealment hampering you. For mythic power expenditure, you can affect complex devices.

-Sabotage Specialist: Allows you to precisely determine the timeframe after which a rigged device will fail, including whether that time needs to be in use, unused, etc. or based on an event and for mythic power, you can remote trigger it. AMAZING. Need. Want. Once again, a major house-rule/design scavenging-contender.

-Structural Strike: Still deal 1/2 precise strike damage when using it sans spending panache and attacking creatures otherwise immune to it. You may employ a swift action to spend mythic power and apply the full bonus versus otherwise immune creatures, sans needing the standard action cost or panache cost for 1 minute.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. Once again, some feats are underlined differently than others - purely cosmetic, though. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alex Riggs and Jason Nelson's collection of mythic feats herein is interesting and contains some serious gems. While there are a couple of less interesting ones herein, the gems do shine bright in this installment and make this useful beyond as simply an upgrade. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 98: Intrigue Feats II
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Mythic Minis 97: Intrigue Feats I
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2017 10:40:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go!

-Agent of Fear: Caps bonus opponents can get versus Agents of Fear at +4. As a swift action, you can use mythic power to reset the bonus at +0 for a single target within 60 ft. Also eliminates being alerted to you if the creature can't detect you anymore. LOVE it!

-Darkness Trick: use illumination-based weapon even when it's not active - flames shed no light etc. Additionally, you can use mythic power to make the weapon radiate darkness or generate a dazzling flash. Amazing feat!!

-Enrage Opponent: Enrage opponents with low Int-scores, but at penalty. Also eliminates the maximum number of enraged opponents-cap. Also lets you use mythic power to eliminate the panache cost for 1 minute.

-Feign Curse: Use it as a swift action or immediate action when rendered unconscious, killed, knocked out, etc. When used as a standard action, you get tier as a bonus. If you expend one mythic surge, you may roll twice and take the better result.

-Incite Paranoia: Paranoia incited lasts until the end of your next turn for a mythic foe, 1/2 tier rounds for non-mythic adversaries. Even far-fetched lies are considered to be believable.

-Notorious Vigilante: Use the feat to replicate Dazzling Display as a move action. You can affect all creatures that can see you, regardless of distance and may use mythic power to add 1/2 tier to the check.

-Ostentatious Rager: Earn twice as much when using feats of Strength/Intimidation to earn money. Also makes you REALLY good at causing a distraction. If a foe's hit due to the distraction, it becomes shaken for the remainder of the feat's duration.

-Shadows of Fear: Increases fear duration when sneaking or using hidden strike; also makes hidden strike work as though the target's unaware of you rather than flanked while it's subject to fear. Each hit after the first in a given round lets you expend mythic power to add hidden strike damage as though it was the first hit that round.

-Subtle Enchantments: Decreases chance to notice having successfully resisted your spell by 5% x mythic tier and increases the DC to notice your enchantments. Nice.

The SRD-page also contains one additional feat, namely Telepathy Tap: Increases the DC to keep you from tuning into both sides of a telepathic conversation. Also lets you, provided you have telepathy or a similar ability, send selective messages to members of the communication. Additionally, for mythic power, this lets you generate telepathic noise that AoE negates such communication. Adore it, another one for the scavenging- toolkit!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. Some feats are underlined differently than others - but since this is just cosmetic, it won't influence my verdict. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs deliver in this one - while not each and every feat is excellent, several actually do really imaginative, cool and novel things with the base concepts, often making them cool beyond the confines of being a mythic feat upgrade. I can see several feats herein acting as a perfect scavenging ground for houserules, monsters, etc. - that and the lack of issues make me settle on a final verdict of 5 stars and seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 97: Intrigue Feats I
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Deep Magic: Rune Magic
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2017 10:40:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Kobold Press' Deep Magic-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Rune magic works differently from other magic types in its PFRPG-version - and so it makes sense to use a different system in 5e as well: There is a feat called Rune Knowledge, which nets knowledge of 2 runes of the player's choice, granting the respective rune bonuses. Additionally, once per day, you can invoke a rune's rune power, provided you meet the prerequisite, for several runes have several rune powers, with progressively better ones being unlocked later. The feat may be taken additional times, with each additional time granting access to more runes and their powers. As a nitpick, I think rune powers should not be tied to days, but long rest intervals, but that is a mostly cosmetic gripe.

There is a follow-up feat, analogue to PFRPG: Rune Mastery. This feat requires the previous feat and grants you access to one rune mastery effect. As a minor complaint: While rune mastery abilities have prerequisite levels, the feat, unlike its brother, does not mention the requirement of meeting that prerequisite, which is relevant since some rune mastery powers don't unlock at 8th level, but rather at 13th or as late as 15th level, for example. Again, I think tying them to rest intervals instead of enforcing a hard daily cap would have made sense for rune mastery powers as well.

A rune's save throw DC is dependent on the rune employed - if it forces a Cha-save, for example, it employs Cha as governing attribute for the save, which follows the default 8 + rune maker's ability bonus + rune maker's proficiency bonus. In another cosmetic hiccup that will not influence the final verdict, usually you list the proficiency bonus first. Anyways, the runes are based on the FuÞark and basic meanings are noted.

Yes, meanings. Plural. The runes were not necessarily used as classic letters, but also have a very significant symbolic meaning...which is btw. the reason I almost get an aneurysm whenever someone wears some piece of gaudy jewelry that uses runes as a letter-substitution. Ahem. Anyways, their benefits run a pretty wide array of different benefits - the goal, from a design perspective, is obviously based on establishing breadth, rather than depth: While many runes provide minor bonuses to a certain skill (rune bonuses), the runes are more remarkable for the breadth they provide: Take the very first one, Algiz: It allows you to create elk horn wands, which represent a new magic item that allows the wielder to generate saving throw bonuses for a brief time and enhances dispelling. As a rune power, the user may scratch it on a wall or structure, granting bonuses to saves and effects versus sleep or unconsciousness that last for 8 hours.

Many of these runes are not only balanced by the steep cost of two feats, but also by their cultural context, hard-wired into the very design of the respective runes, with several explicitly stating that they unleash their power only versus foes of the Aesir, who have wrung their control from the well of Mimir. (Insert long-winded and at this time redundant digression about Norse mythology you have by now hear x times from me here...)

This contextualizes them well and makes them feel infused with the culture...and also provides a rationale for their design-philosophy deviating slightly from what you usually receive in 5e. In short: They behave like their own engine, which is something I applaud, considering that, at least as far as my experiences are concerned, it is said sub-engines that make certain class choices more popular than others in 5e. It is also why I am not complaining about colons instead of full stops in the formatting of the rune abilities.

I digress. I should also mention that several runes have multiple rune mastery powers, though only one can be invoked for each rune, with the benefits ranging from local plant growth to communing with the dead, making an item teleport out of a creature's hand once it dies...there is some serious narrative potential here, as several runes practically beg both players and GMs to embark on a collective narrative experience. Only one rune got a bit lost: Poor Raido does not have a rune mastery power, though its brief water walking and forced march enhancing capabilities make for a nice basic rune. One more thing that will make this pdf instantly more compelling to quite a few of my readers out there, a fact that very much makes this a viable purchase even if you're not interested in the concept of runes:

This installment of deep magic introduces the snowblindness condition and the 4-stage frostbite/hypothermia-engine, which ties into the amazing exhaustion mechanics of 5e (seriously, I love them!). These alone may be enough to justify getting this book, I kid you not. I am a big fan of environmental/wilderness gaming and 5e's base engine does a nice job at portraying a rigorous adventuring life in regular climates, but in the more extreme zones, it needed this expansion. Seriously: Massive kudos!

These conditions, btw., do not exist in their own little universe - instead, the runes and new spells make nice use of them and their effects. Speaking of spells: perhaps my favorite blending of runes and spells is that there are rune rituals that follow pretty much the format of rituals, but which can only be learned by the rune associated with them: Whether you wish to call forth the vaettir (whose stats are reprinted from the ToB) to transforming creatures into lycanthropes...the applications are fun. Now personally, I do believe that Tyr's Peace should rather be Forseti's Peace, considering that Tyr's area or expertise was primarily judgment/justice in regards to warfare, while the ritual penalizes bloodshed in general, not just among previous combatants...but one could argue for Tyr just as well...so yeah, I'm good with these.

I am NOT good with the new and updated spells herein. We can find instances where spells refer to caster level based damage progression sans requiring the usual increase in spell slot, first level spells that are basically on cantrip-level...or e.g. prismatic ray, which does not work analogue to its 5e-brothers and instead works closer to a pathfinder-spell. Not cool. Which is a pity, for concept-wise, quite a few of these are amazing.

Beyond aforementioned wand, we get the nithing pole wondrous item, which promises a curse to the named person that dares approach it. Two thumbs up! Now, I already mentioned the Vaettir, but one of my favorites from Northlands, the tupilak golem at challenge 4 can also be found within this supplement...and its 5e-iteration is surprisingly brutal for its challenge. I mean it. Love this guy...but if you encounter it...run and do your legwork, otherwise you'll be in for pain!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I did not notice too grievous hiccups. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports several truly gorgeous full-color artworks, some of which are original, while the vaettir, for example, will be familiar to owners of the ToB. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but not to individual runes or spells.

Chris Harris delivers regarding rune magic: I really, really like how he has converted the engine; the magic is suffused by a sense of the primal and fantastic, it breathes mythology and its generally conservative, but narrative-wise relevant bonuses and tricks are a boon and just make for great story-telling. I really like them. I ADORE the hypothermia-engine and snowblindness as well and the critters would similarly receive two thumbs up from me. While I have nitpicked quite a bit in the beginning, if that was all, I'd frankly slap, gladly, my seal on this. I like how this behaves as an engine, I like the wealth of options it provides and how it can be used to run gritty campaigns - I could see myself running a game sans regular magic, with only the runes in a really gritty setting.

But, oh, but. The spells. They represent cool, evocative concepts and tie n well with the flavor presented...but their balance and mechanics are off; they feel like very basic in their conversion and balance-wise, could have used a bit closer comparisons to the existent spells. They, in short, tarnish what would otherwise receive my highest accolades. Hence, my final verdict can "only" clock in at 4 stars, though I still HIGHLY recommend getting this if you plan on playing any adventure in the frigid landscapes of the North.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Rune Magic
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AA: Plague of Paucity
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2017 10:36:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little module clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page patreon-recognition, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 36 pages of content, though it should be noted that these adhere to the A5-size-standard (6'' by 9'') and as such, you can fit up to 4 on any given sheet of paper when printing them out.

This is a module for 2nd level characters, set in the Last Kingdom region of the patchwork planet of Porphyra, though adaption to other settings should be relatively easy, particularly in the context of Rokugan or a similarly slightly Asian-tinged environment. The ratfolk of the Last Kingdom have thrown off the chains of the oni, driving them back into the Shadowlands under the wise leadership of the Five Clans...eh, I mean "Truths." It should btw. be mentioned that there is a nice full-color regional map included in the deal here.

Anyways, this is pretty much as far as I can go without delving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

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All right, still here? Great! Doom has befallen the isolated Oran'Rai clan - their hospitality has been met with murder by the dread spirit Tailaan, slain in the conflict beneath the oni and the Five Truths, this wretched entity has taken command of the isolated ratfolk, driving them deep into squalor and servitude once more - but the ambitions of the entity range further, as a plague has been decimating the fish of the rivers...only a harbinger of what ill will befall the common folks if this thing is not stopped.

Thankfully, poisoned rivers have a habit of bringing adventurers to the fray and thus, it is via one of several hooks that the PCs sooner or later arrive at one of the warren entries towards the realm of the Oran'Rai. The different means of access to the warren also mean that different encounters may be had here, one of which makes use of a cool creature from the excellent Monsters of Porphyra II book. And yes, the pdf does contain full stats of all critters - including the alternate racial traits of the Oran'Rai.

The Oran'Rai warren...is pretty much a plague rat's haven, an otyugh's paradise: Under the dread oppression of Tailaan, the ratfolk have learned to resist poisons and diseases and now are perfectly capable of using rusted and basically broken equipment sans penalties. The defenses of the warren follow the theme of poverty and squalor - tetanus, trash heap traps...the atmosphere of desolation, decrepitude and decay is almost palpable and, from the river that winds its way through the warren to the respective caverns, the pdf sports a nice amount of detail and includes, among other things, an unreliably ally that may well lead to further adventures.

Ultimately, the PCs will have to not only destroy the blighting brew of the Oran'Rai, but also deal with the rogue creature tatterdemalion Tailaan, a powerful and cool boss, though I wished it had full stats - the base tatterdemalion can be found, once again, in the excellent Monsters of Porphyra II book, has been modified accordingly and the build makes the boss a nice change of pace as far as low-level dungeon crawls are concerned.

The pdf also features a magic item called blameless shroud, which helps the wearer attempting to lie, even when caught when doing so. Further adventure hooks and possibilities and a nice monster/challenge by region table with CRs, locations and XP and a similarly detailed treasure list help running this module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue amount of hiccups. Layout adheres to PDG's 1-column standard in booklet-size, as mentioned before. The neat full-color artworks contained herein are cool to see for such an inexpensive module. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The map of the dungeon is in nice b/w, though unfortunately no player-friendly, key-less version is provided. The overland map of the region in full color is nice.

Matt Roth's "Plague of Paucity" is what I'd consider to be an unpretentious, well-crafted little module. It has a lot of details for skill interaction, some nice combats and a pretty deadly boss, offset to some extent by the relatively easy difficulty of the dungeon itself. Personally, I think that a good group of 1st level characters can handle this, though the boss will be a deadly challenge if you opt to go that route. The dungeon itself sports a variety of challenges and exploring the place certainly makes for a solid module with an uncommon theme. Unpretentious, easy to insert and run (big kudos for the tables that allow for easy GM-modification of treasure and XP!), this is very much the epitome of a nice module, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
AA: Plague of Paucity
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Mythic Minis 96: Feats of Alliance
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2017 10:35:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go!

-Betrayal Sense: Nets you a passive chance to notice disguises and creatures intending to attack you by surprise. If you and foes act in a surprise round, you may expend mythic power to keep foes from acting...which is pretty OP, considering that they get no save and how powerful hitting first is in a mythic context. At least foes with a higher tier than you are immune, which is what keeps this from going totally off the rails.

-Improved Bravery: Bonus applies to Will-saves and is doubled vs. fear. Additionally, you are no longer affected by partial effects from non-mythic fear-based effects on a successful save. Nice.

-Legendary Influence: Gain mythic version of the feat gained as well for 1 influence gained. While séance-ing, you may expend mythic power to reassign feats to spirits, multiple ones at higher tiers. Very cool!

-Improved Legendary Influence: Use mythic power to negate a spirit's influence via Legendary Influence (cool!); also use mythic power to gain the mythic iteration of a second feat gained. Intricate and complex and cool. Like it!

-Inspiring Bravery: Increase the radius affected, with Improved and Social Bravery synergy; via mythci power, the effect may be temporarily maintained even if you're affected by negative conditions that would end it.

-Quick Favor: Use mythic power to hasten information gathering and 1/day shift a creature's attitude and make a request in only 5 rounds. Neat!

-Social Bravery: Bravery bonus times per day use surge with social skills sans mythic power expenditure. Nice ability interaction, even when the benefit's pretty conservative.

-Timely Coordination: Add 1/2 tier to bonuses granted; they apply to atk and skill checks, but only when you and an ally's readied action are triggered. Nice, though it feels like it could have used an additional benefit.

-Unimpeachable Honor: Automatically succeed opposed Cha-checks to resist commands that violate your beliefs/code. All damage you deal to allies while compelled to do so is automatically nonlethal. Finally, when violating your code, you may expend 3 uses of mythic power to cast atonement on yourself; you still need to atone. I love this one. Two thumbs up.

-Willing Accomplice: Use Bluff to aid an ally's social and thieving skills and allies may substitute your Bluff for their own check. Not a fan of this one, since it marginalizes the skills you helped for; basically, it makes your one Bluff skill substitute 5 skills of an ally. That's not fun.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs deliver an interesting collection of mythic feats here, some of which employ truly interesting and smart mechanics. While not all of them are winners, the gems do mitigate the in my opinion slightly problematic ones. Hence, this ends up as pretty much a mixed bag for me, slightly on the positive side, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 96: Feats of Alliance
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Mythic Minis 94: Criminal Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2017 10:34:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go!

-Careful Sneak: Ignore penalty for medium or heavy load while sneaking slowly; while less encumbered, you can Stealth while adjacent to cover or concealment and retain said cover for progressively harder penalties. Also enhances surges for Stealth. OH BOY, I LOVE this feat. Seriously, this is a prime contender for being scavenged for houserules if you're looking for a more Thief/Dishonored/etc. Stealth/Intrigue-heavy campaign. Two thumbs up!

-Cooperative Disabling: When being aided disabling, little failures count as you having helped your ally and 5+ failures only count if both have failed this bad. Cool!!

-Criminal Reputation: Bonuses apply to all influence checks and discovery checks with the individual influence system., but only versus criminals favorably inclined towards criminals. 10 ranks in the respective skills net the increased bonus. Also enhances Leadership, if present, but only if all followers belong to certain crime-themed classes. Very cool Godfather-style feat.

-Exquisite Sneak: Ignore ACP for light and medium armors to Stealth even when running or charging; mythic power expenditure to reroll Stealth checks. At 1/2 speed, you can even senak in heavy armor or with tower shields and mythic power may eliminate the ACP for these temporarily. Once again, a damn cool feat for espionage/heist/etc.-campaigns and a prime candidate for houserule scavenging.

-Graceful Steal: Use both Str and Dex when using Steal to replace Sleight of Hand and the DC to notice it is higher; mythic power expenditure to reroll and roll surge die twice when using in conjunction, taking the better result. Escalation, basically.

-Startling Getaway: Lets you withdraw instead of making a move action, stacking with any other actions, but with the limit that you may not use other actions to move that round. Nice one!

-Street Smarts: Increase bonus, mythic power expenditure for being treated as though you rolled 20. Decent, if not too interesting.

-Walking Slight: Drive-by-Sleight-of-Hand, basically. You may also Sleight of Hand as a swift action, though at massive penalty...unless you expend mythic power, which can cancel said penalty. Love it!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

While Jason Nelson and Alex Riggs do have a few less interesting upgrades herein, this installment of mythic minis does constitute one I'd consider obligatory: There are several feats herein that basically should be considered to be must-hae amazing for any espionage/stealth/intrigue-campaign. Beyond that, one could consider several of them to frankly be amazing scavenging potential for houserules, thus surpassing the tight focus of the product series. In short: This is a damn cool pdf, even if you don't use mythic rules and just look for concise rules to scavenge. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 94: Criminal Feats
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Hammers of the God
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2017 10:18:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 86 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 84 pages - these are A5-sized (6'' by 9'') and thus, you can fit up to 4 on a given sheet of paper when printing them out. The font-size is appropriate when doing so, mind you, so no undue straining of the eyes.

All right, it's a trope as old as fantasy gaming (older, in fact!) - the dwarven empire/civilization that crumbles. We've seen that before, right? Well, as it happens to be, the PCs have come into the possession of a map, which will lead them straight to one of the lost places where dwarves once dwelt. Now, as you may have gleaned by this, the module thus requires a dwarven civilization, yes...but as a whole, any referee worth their salt can add this into LotFP's pseudo-17th-century setting with minimal tweaking/emphasis of the mythological nature of these beings. The module is intended for characters level 3 - 5, though even stronger characters should still be sufficiently challenged by this. In case you're wondering, btw. - this is pretty much PG-13. While certainly not the most light-hearted of romps, it is not a grimdark or particularly gory/depressing module.

Anyways, the module does not take any prisoners and begins pretty swiftly and with a resounding drone...From here on reign the SPOILERS, so potential players should skip to the conclusion.

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..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, there are some common characteristics we ascribe to dwarves: They are stoic and pragmatic conservatives that carry grudges. So, what if the collapse of their empire was not one brought about by external threats, but by a series of well-intended decisions that ultimately brought down the culture...you know, like empires are wont to. To a certain extent, this reflects a downfall that was a whimper, not a bang. The dungeon the PCs are about to explore represents the very final death-throes, where the propensity for devastating grudges and shame turned towards self-destructive behavior on a massive scale. Below cascading purple mists, the PCs will find the remnants of an ancient massacre between humans and dwarves, undisturbed for ages untold.

When mankind entered the dungeon, the dwarven high-priest reacted to the failings of his clansmen in holding the intruders at bay with the spiteful, grudging finality of the ancient religion of the old miner, crushing specially prepared seeds which created the ever-present purple mist, its toxicity negated by the aeons, the mist may now only be cosmetic...but that does not mean that stupid PCs may not dig themselves a horrid grave here.

Now, I mentioned how the complex had rested undisturbed for ages and indeed, the module manages to convey a stunning and evocative sense of antiquity via its prose and internal consistency - combat-wise, there is not that much to defeat but animated dwarven spirits, more automatons than free-willed undead, as the PCs explore these ancient halls...but there doesn't have to be that much in this regard. The module reaches a level of detail that eclipses that provided for most dwarven sourcebooks I've read and evokes an overall sense of truly evocative consistency that is mirrored, time and again, in the varioustidbits and dressings provided - in some cases, literally.

There would, for example, be the tradition that EVERYTHING about an important dwarf's life should be chronicled...and thus, there are halls, where rune filigree-layer lies upon layer, with the intricacies of various layers and their exploration yielding new knowledge. There is also the library, which best exemplifies the truly impressive attention to detail this module sports: The library, you see, contains no less than 100 books. Here's the thing: There is a cliff-notes version provided for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I am so not kidding you.

Players and PCs interested in lore will have a true field day here and, more importantly, the books will provide actual benefits to the party, should they exert the due diligence and properly do their legwork. There is, for example, one trap, aptly called juggernaut, which is one of the two bottlenecks of this dungeon's exploration - a gigantic mechanism that may very well squash the whole party...but if they have taken care, it won't just boil down to quick wits to escape this doom. Much like all good modules, this rewards smart players and not just good rolls of the dice.

If you're into lore-rich modules, I will have probably sold you on this already, but it's important to mention that the religious doctrine and principles of the Old Miner's faith is mirrored in the challenges faced and that it is lore and attention to detail and player participation that will yield the true treasures of this module...while greed and the mindless plundering of tombs may well see the PCs stranded with cursed items and an immortal nemesis at their heels. Both are by no means mutually exclusive, mind you...though the true treasure as such lies in a portion of the complex the PCs may well never get to see.

You see, the monumental sense of antiquity evoked is constantly underlined not only by the grandeur of ancient dwarven designs and monumental pomp, but also by the subterranean nature of the complex: In the instances where the PCs reach "open ground", the sheer vastness of the realms below, the limitation of both light and darkvision in the endless black, are used in amazing ways: When the PCs walk an arch of stone over a gigantic, black chasm, lose track of the place they came from and only see the arc ahead, while hearing a myriad of things in the dark, only the most jaded or foolish of players will not become uneasy. Similarly, at the shore of a subterranean lake, there lie strange towers, high beyond the radius of any illumination the PCs are likely to have - and these towers, in fact, are type of crane that interacts with strange metal tubes...airtight quasi-submarines that need to be navigated through a whirlpool to gain access to the second part of the complex. Navigating the tides is VERY lethal and anyone foolish enough to try the outside will notice this the hard way - and indeed, dealing with the crane in this subterranean harbor carries its own risks. Oh, and PCs better check the tubes...they've been here a long way. Oh, and airtight, so think twice about torches...Yeah, this is most certainly something that not all groups will enjoy, because it is PROBLEM-SOLVING that is not contingent of rolling the dice. Personally, I absolutely LOVE it. We need more of the like.

So yes, this dungeon feels more like a true archaeological exploration and more like a true journey of discovery than your average hackfest; it is a module that, from rooms of ritual shaving to strange devices and lethal traps, rewards getting into the mindset of the culture, rewards behaving like an explorer of a civilization fallen and gone. This is a harsh module; it is NOT easy. However, at the same time, it is exceedingly fair - unless you consider PCs being bitten by potentially lethal snakes for poking sans checking, their finger into a hole bad form. Personally, I like that. I like that, by virtue of the impressive atmosphere, the PCs are faced with a complex that DEMANDS respect...but that also deserves it.

If all of that sounds very conservative, then rest assured that the PCs have the chance to not only find and fight the dread transmorph, which oscillates between forms and attacks, but also may poke through a wormhole...and potentially be poked back. Have I mentioned the chance to get a hyper-deadly butterfly that will kill the first living creature the PCs encounter after leaving the complex? Yes, there is the delightfully weird aspect, though it is, fittingly, I might add, subdued compared to the stars of this module: The complex and culture of the ancient dwarves.

The pdf, just fyi, comes with a solid map of the complex - no player-friendly version is included, but considering the fact that this complex very much lives by means of exploration, I am okay with that.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring accumulation of glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard in A5 (6'' by 9'') that comfortably fits 4 pages on one sheet of paper. Big plus for me, as a dead-tree purist: The printed out version is easier to read than previous LotFP-offerings when thus printed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports several nice 1-page original artworks - one of which in full-color, while the others are b/w - in particular the campsite at the subterranean body of water drives home perfectly the sense of gigantic proportions and solitude.

James Edward Raggi IV's "Hammers of the God" is a phenomenal module that borders on being an environmental setting book. I have rarely seen a complex presented this concisely, with an impressive thematic and internal consistency. The ancient dwarven culture depicted herein, with all its small peculiarities and aspects, is evocative, intriguing and provides an exceedingly strong leitmotif for the module. It can also be easily transplanted into just about every setting and manages to make the dungeon the star: More often than not, my insistence on cool terrain features and hazards is read as a condemnation of classic dungeons. Far from it! This module very much exemplifies what you can do with a VERY classic trope, how you can make one of the oldest concepts and make it shine - by details, details, details and consistency. Few modules have managed to capture the sense of being an adventurer exploring a complex with a distinct identity this well; at no point will anyone confuse this module's dungeon for any other dungeon. This has a unique, glorious identity. It, much like the "Grinding Gear", also rewards smart players, as opposed to optimized characters. No matter how lucky or optimized your characters are, they can and will die in these halls if the players don't act smart. You know. Like in a game less based on rolling dice and more on the wits of the players.

Now, don't get me wrong - there is plenty of dice-rolling...but personally, I love how this rewards brains over luck and how it has the guts to say: "Okay, you found the treasure...do you really want to plunder that tomb over there? All right, so these are the consequences..." Greed is not necessarily punished, but the rewards gained from it are double-edged and cut both ways, whereas understanding and dealing with the culture of the complex in an even-handed manner will yield slightly less treasure, but it's true treasure sans strings attached... This is a module that rewards choices above all else and does not hesitate to show the consequences.

As a whole, this can be summed up as one truly astonishing, well-crafted exploration of a fantastic complex, one that will bring a smile to any group that loves exploring sites with a rich and vibrant culture and history, as a harsh, but also fair module that provides challenge and wonder galore. This module, much like Grinding Gear, is good enough to convert to other systems, should OSR-gaming not be exactly what you're looking for; it makes for an excellent scavenging ground for ancient dwarven cultures and complexes and represents my reference module for dwarven complexes, kept from even higher accolades only due to the lack of a player-friendly map to cut up and hand out...but then again, drawing the map's supposed to be part of the exploration....Anyways, my final verdict for this gem will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hammers of the God
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Deep Magic: Clockwork
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2017 10:15:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deep Magic-series of 5e-pdfs clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, almost one page of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

There are few aspects I associate as much with Kobold Press' phenomenal Midgard-setting as clockwork magic. (In fact, only one: Fey...but I digress..) The magic which spread from the by now legendary city of Zobeck across the disk (Midgard's flat) is evocative and interesting...so how has it been translated to 5e? Well, beyond two clockwork-associated gods (surprisingly missing Rava!) after a brief introduction to the history of clockwork magic, we dive right into a new cleric domain, the, surprise, clockwork domain.

The domain nets proficiency in clockmaker's tools and heavy armor as well as advantage on attacks versus clockworks and constructs, with the spell-dispersal making sense and good use of the new material herein. Channel divinity lets the cleric hijack constructs if they fail a Wisdom saving throw - if they badly fail their save, the control extends in duration. Starting at 6th level, spells used to repair damage to clockwork creatures etc. always restore maximum possible hit points, which I consider problematic, considering the presence of a clockwork PC-race among the roster for Midgard - a purely gearforged group, for example. 8th level, you can designate a controlled construct within 60 ft. as a viable target for spells that usually only target the cleric. 17th level nets the ability to merge with a construct controlled, restoring all hit points. For the duration, you gain all immunities and qualities of the construct and may cast spells, use class features, etc. This can only be used once per long-rest-interval. I assume that this includes access to the special traits and features of the creature merged with, but I am not 100% sure - the ability could be slightly more precise here.

The warlock also receives support here, to be precise, the great machine patron. At 1st level, the warlock may decide to spring ahead in the initiative order to right before a given creature, and yes, this ability is concise and covers the changes in the order properly. This one, much like 6th level's ability, recovers on a short or long rest. 6th level's ability lets you reroll a missed attack witha dvantage. 10th level provides immunity to psychic damage and mind reading, unless you allow it and 14th level allows you to designate a creature within 60 ft. The creature must succeed a Charisma save versus spell save DC or take 10d10 psychic damage and must make another Cha-save to avoid being stunned for 1 minute. Once again, short or long rest to recharge.

Pact boon-wise, the warlock may choose a clockwork familiar, a changing blade or a pocket-sized device that replaces a book. Three eldritch invocations allow for gear barrage, +1d6 fire damage in melee and reflexive 1d6 fire damage as well as the option to overcome construct immunity to being frightened and charmed.

Wizards may opt for the path of the clockwork mage, who gain an aforementioned clockwork familiar. Their school lets them halve time and gold it costs to add a clockwork spell to the spellbook. The duration of animate constructs increases by proficiency bonus minutes, with 20th level providing permanence instead. 6th level nets metal shape, which lets you reshape metal of size Small or smaller under your control. Here's the amazing: For once, the ability requires familiarity with an object - no easy cheating via key-generation. Cool! 10th level nets golem form, which lets you retain mental faculties, but lets you assume the physical characteristics of a golem/clockwork creature with a CR less than the current level, lasting up to 1 minute per level. 14th level allows for an Int-based hijacking of constructs, analogue to the cleric tricks.

The pdf, after several class lists of spells, then begins to introduce new and updated spells: These include absolute command that lets you issue commands to constructs, animating constructs with size by spell slot and base stats for each. Armored heart nets an interesting option to, as a bonus action, gain resistance to the 3 physical damage types for 1 round, enhancing potential defense/withdraw-sections. Taking on a zelekhut's powers (stats included) - there are some cool tricks here. As a complaint, catapult for example does not specify the damage type it causes (I assume bludgeoning...).

This is not the only spell that misses the damage type, though the majority does have them. Rust is added to the list of afflictions available via contagion...all in all, a well-made selection of options. You don't know what rust does? Well, thankfully, the pdf does cover this! A ritual for hellforged gearforged allows for an interesting variant of the gearforged race. Sacrificing a construct to temporarily imbue a target with construct-tricks...very cool. Speaking of which - have I mentioned the spell that uses a music box to rip open the planes, allowing them to partially overlap? Pendulum is interesting as well, locking d20-throws at 20, 1, 19, 18...which is generally cool, but considering that it's concentration, up to 1 minute, it kind of loses a bit of its sting and is a better buff than debuff, which is pretty surely not how it was intended, unless it's supposed to be just one half swing of a pendulum. Interaction with memory gears and winding keys is intriguing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-level, some finer details can be nitpicked. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports high-quality artworks. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for the class features, but not the individual spells.

Scott Carter's translation of clockwork magic to 5e constitutes a well-crafted first installment for the series, though one that misses a couple of minor beats. There are some serious gems here and much of the interaction with e.g. gearforged etc. and the magic aspects that are integral to Midgard have been properly presented. While not perfect, this is a nice, inexpensive pdf and as such receives a final verdict of 4 stars. I'm looking forward to the next pdfs in the series!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Clockwork
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Cultures of Celmae: Gnomes
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2017 10:13:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Cults of Celmae-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this installment with a brief recap of the gnome's mythology - when forge father Adan's hammer blows created the azer, the sparks of his forge also made the dwarves and gnomes and, according to gnome myth, it was the gnomes that carved out Teran-Jarraian, the world below. As the myth states, it is during this age they made contact with the devastating gugs and pioneered many spells now common to spellcasters across the nations of Celmae. In this golden age, they raised a subterranean library of untold knowledge, but it would only be a matter of time before strife would send their realms into chaos, as the dwarves proceeded to breach the Deep Ore sphere in their quest for the legendary deep ore and thus instigated the core calamity of the setting: As magma erupted and the shattering began, gnomish wards failed and foulest monstrosities were spread across the lands; dragons awoke and the gnomish hero Kremenesh sacrificed himself and his comrades to reseal the dreaded World Dragon, ascending thus to god-hood - and ever since, the gnomes have started adapting among their shattered home, its cultures and environments...though, understandably, there are serious resentments towards the dwarves still lingering.

The myth-weaving in this history is pretty evocative and in fact, exceeds in prose quality that sported for the dwarves, making this a very interesting start for the pdf! Okay, racial trait-wise, the race is split between svirfneblin and the gnomes that took to surface and skies, the pech. Svirfnbelin mostly adhere to the racial traits we know, with some tweaks: Their hatred applies to reptilian humanoids and dwarves instead of goblinoids. They have slow speed in Celmae and receive a dwarf's stonecunning. They also lose fortunate's save bonus and low-light vision and the Stealth-bonus, tough the Craft (alchemy)- and Perception-bonuses remain - the former is btw. formatted as "Craft Alchemy." The SPs of the race are not italicized either and the attribute bonuses are not properly bolded - both of these formatting issues can be encountered multiple times, so if you read me referring to a SP, expect its formatting to be wrong. As a whole, a sensible nerf of the pretty strong base race.

Alternate trait-wise, these guys can replace defensive training with a 1/day darkness SP - that also features the following sentence: "A svirfneblin with the skilled racial trait gains a +4 bonus to Stealth skill checks to hide within the are affected..:" - which constitutes, alas, a pretty nasty fault: You see, svirfneblin in this iteration do not receive the skilled racial trait - it has been broken up into components, making this, RAW, not work. Darker SPs (that are formatted differently than those among the base racial traits) can be found...as can Spell Blocker, which is OP and does not work: When an arcane spell fails to pierce the svirfneblin's SR, the caster may not target the the svirfneblin again for 1 round - no save. It also replaces skilled and alchemical insight, which is puzzling - the base race does not have the "skilled" trait anymore. Speaking of problematic: What abut a constant, level 1 nondetection instead of the usual SPs, PLUS several stone-related high-power tricks? Yeah, not even trying to look balanced here. The final alternate trait works -+2 AC versus aberrations, +1 to atk, replacing hatred and defensive training. 1 out of 5...is not a good quota, particularly considering the easy nature of the design-task here.

The pech gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str, are slow and Small and receive the gnome magic. They gain +2 to saves versus fear, illusions and halfling luck. Skill-wise, they gain +2 to Perception and Acrobatics. Both gnome subraces receive proficiency in both gnome and halfling weaponry. In case you haven't noticed - pech are pretty much the replacement for the hairy-footed race.

The alternate racial traits for the pech allow you to lose the Acrobatics-bonus in favor of 30 ft. movement, with another replacing that and the Perception bonus in favor of Perform and Craft, while Wanderlust diverges from the benefits of the trait with the same name: Instead of the fear-save-bonus and hafling luck, you gain +2 to Knowledge 8geography) (correctly formatted!) and Survival as well as +1 CL for spells that enhance movement. 3 out of 3. Nice job.

The first city featured herein would be Carbas...and it is not a nice place: The inhabitants of this dismal subterranean place are afflicted by incurable black sores, as weird mold grows and the very walls ooze slime: The legendary city of gugs, Ukosh, once sealed, lies below - and its corruption seeps from the black monolith to the realms above....oh, and if that is not enough, the realms elow also hold Celmae's most notorious, magic prison. A look at the settlement statblock won't make you wonder why the place has a danger rating of +43.

Now, I already talked a bit about the hero Kremenesh and his sealing of the World Dragon and ascendance to godhood, but the pdf goes one step further, sporting a detailed, two-page recap of the legend in nice prose - much like Carbas, the flavor is certainly nice and interesting.

The pdf also contains a new hybrid class, the shadowskiver, who receives d6 HD, 6+ Int-mod skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, longbow, shortbow, rapier, sap, shortsword, whip and shields (excluding, as almost always, tower shields) and light armor. They gain Charisma-based spontaneous arcane spellcasting drawn from the bard's list of up to 6th level and sport a 3/4 BAB-progression alongside good Ref- and Will-saves. The class receives sneak attack at first level, increasing the damage output every odd level thereafter to a maximum of +10d6. As a purely cosmetic complaint, there is one instance in the table where the "d" in the sneak attack's damage tally is capitalized.

The class must spend 5 of its skill ranks in "Acrobatics, Bluff, Climb, Jump and Stealth." See the odd man out? Yeah, there is no Jump skill. Second level nets Quick Draw and evasion, with 3rd level providing Spell Focus (Illusion), with 4th level providing uncanny dodge, 6th Point Blank Shot - nice here: Bonus increases if the character has the feat. 8th level nets improved uncanny dodge and TWF, with 9th level providing Rapid Shot. 10th level unlocks the ability to no longer provoke AoOs when using thrown weapons versus adjacent characters as well as Snatch Arrows. 11th level nets an at-will supernatural cloak of shadows that grants concealment that can also provide means of using Stealth.

12th level nets a bonus to AC when adjacent to an opponent. 13th level nets free Still Spell for illusion spells, 17th Extend Spell for illusions, with 14th level increasing movement by +10 ft. as well as providing poison use. 15th level makes illusions infused with the essence of shadow and thus, partially real. The 16th level nets a 1/day (3/day at 20th level) variant sneak that can stun foes. At high levels, Snatch Arrows is upgraded and 18th level nets 10 ft. ranged flank, 19th level increased substance for shadowy illusions and 20th level master strike.

The hybrid class, as a whole, while not perfect, is a decent take on the shadowy rogue with spellcasting. Its very potent shadow tricks are somewhat mitigated by them being...well...squishy. Very, very squishy. However, it does have some issues: For one, its ability-progression basically forces you down one path - there is no choice here. One shadowskiver will be just like another. It has exactly 0 player agenda. Secondly, and more importantly - the niche's been filled by vastly superior takes on the concept. If you're looking for a light/dark-oscillation, going for Interjection Games' antipodism-classes will have you covered. If you don't want the nice variant system these use, I'd point you towards Ascension Games' excellent Path of Shadows-supplement instead.

The pdf also features racial feats, 4 for the svirfneblin, 2 for the pech: Svirfneblin can have a Dispelling Touch, which is interesting: 1/day (+1/day for every 4 levels), you may execute an attack as a full-round action. On a hit, you greater dispel magic and the opponent receives your SR, non-lowerable, mind you, while you lose it, with the transfer lasting for character level rounds. The feat can't affect characters with SR. As a minor nitpick here: I assume you can't have more than one use of the ability in effect at any given time - explicitly stating that would have been helpful. Still, I like this one - the daily limitations make sure it's properly kept in check, though the dispelling fails to clarify its CL. Not perfectly operational, but nice. Keeper of Secrets boosts your saves versus an array of mind-influencing/probing effects, while Knucklebasher is pretty cool: It lets you perform AoOs versus Large and larger creatures as though you were adjacent to them, provided they miss you. Nice one, and has a per-round limit that prevents abuse. The final feat basically nets you a type of freeze. Yeah, not too excited.

The pech feats let you treat, for class level round per day, a skill as a class skill or gain proficiency in a weapon., while the second feat lets you reroll a save versus an effect that results in a fear-based condition up to 2/day.

The pdf also contains 3 new background traits, all of which tie in well with the racial history of the gnomes, no complaints here! The pdf closes with 3 racial spells - detect kobolds is self-explanatory, while aura of inconspicuousness is interesting in that it only affects beings under nondetection and imposes a penalty on noticing them, based on the target's HD. Finally, renew air is basically a nice spell-version of the gas-annihilating spells of former editions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have improved in comparison to the previous offerings, though missing letters, missing italicization and obvious cut-copy-paste remnants are still here. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf's artwork is pretty nice, though I have seen the majority of it before. The pdf comes has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Robert Gresham, with additional design by Jeff Gomez and Jeff Lee, has improved his prose over the last installment - the shattering as a hallmark and the nice fluff in this book is more refined and reads better than that in previous iterations of the series....to the point where I honestly would like to read more about the setting. So that's a definite plus. On the down side, the formatting is pretty bad and could have used an at least casual glimpse by an editor/proof-reader. The fact that the svirfneblin alternate traits are mostly RAW not operational is a big downside, as is the fact that their balance is wonky. The base race-modifications are decent enough. The shadowskive is a better class than the one the dwarves got, though it does suffer from being very squishy and very linear - from power-levels to design-asethetics, it feels more like a 3.5 class than a PFRPG-class, with no choice, no player-agenda whatsoever and all unique abilities delayed to the higher levels. So yeah, while the craftsmanship is better, it's still not a class I'd consider a worthwhile addition to any game's roster.

On the plus-side, there are some gems in the supplemental material; from traits to feats and spells and the legend provided certainly paint a nice picture. HOWEVER, from a crunch point of view, I wouldn't consider these sufficient. Whether to get this or not ultimately depends on if you're interested in the setting or not: If you are, then this does deliver some nice ideas, a cool city (definite highlight herein!) and some nice fluff. If you're primarily interested in rules, however, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. In the end, this is a bit better than the dwarf-installment, but not by enough to elevate it beyond a final verdict of 2.5 stars. Whether to round up or down depends on what you're looking for. Due to my in dubio pro reo policy as well as the low price, my official rating will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Gnomes
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10 Rakshasa Magic Items
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/08/2017 09:16:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so what is this?

Well, these would be items for the, in my opinion, most awesome "In The Company of..."-installment released so far, the amazing book on playable rakshasa. I assume that you're familiar with it in this review...and if you aren't, be sure to check it out.

So, what do the items do? Blazing Spectacles net you burning gaze and if the wearer has a predation pool, hungerfire eyes as well - increased in duration, if you already have that predation. The circlet of crawling consumption outlines the prey of rarefied taste in silver, allowing for the tracking of the path of sin of a target through a population. Those with addictive feeding can enjoy synergy here. Leaping Hare is a powerful club, but alas, sports several glitches - the weapon's not italicized and the write up sports several confusing notes, probably remnants from pricing it: "4.5K, 4K," etc. - those should have been caught.

Links of Binding impose penalties on saves vs. abjurations on those hit and decreases, if present the cost of defense of the hunting grounds. The perfume of courtly nibbling can be nice for more discreet yaksha indulging in rarefied taste - instead of killing the prey, it receives 3 days to shake off the negative level and avoid death...which can also make tracking the predator harder. The Meat Hood of the Frugal Gourmet can indefinitely preserve humanoid corpses and support weight when pressed to a surface. Less utility-based would be the Rajaadharma staff, but in an AMAZING surprise, it not only enhances compulsions versus specific targets and sports some spells, it is also particularly potent in the hands of a vizier - yep, this is actually an item that is more potent in the hands of the amazing Akashic Mysteries-class. Nice!

Ravenous tongue of Meghanada is a powerful urumi (not properly italicized) is a raksaha-only, very hard to use whip-sword that bestows negative levels on those hit, heals its wielder and can even provide nourishment for the wielder...which, generally, is damn cool. Oh, and it can't be kitten'd effectively. Nice job! The expensive smoking jacket of deceptive light allows for move action maintenance of illusions as well, as, predation pool provided, enforced rerolls of saves...and some spells in a can.

The pdf also includes an item-class, the broken spirit bag, which comes in 5 iterations - they are basically gris-gris bags that can be used by yaksha with rarefied taste that kill humanoids to not gain sustenance, instead channeling the life-force in the bag, storing predation points, which can then be used to power predation abilities. Cool: They don't necessarily occupy an item slot, but if they do, they're less expensive. See, and that's how you make a mechanically boring item amazing via great fluff and cool tweaks...kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good on both a formal and rules-level, though the aforementioned glitches could have been avoided. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the artwork featured is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but at this length doesn't need them.

Wendall Roy delivers here - the items are universally reasonably priced for what they offer and flavor-wise, are FRICKIN' AMAZING. That being said, unlike most installments in the series, we don't get a quasi-artifact legacy weapon this time around, which is a bit of a pity. The series' items also tended to have various iterations in potency that you won't find here - so this is, as far as the series is concerned, more conservative than other installments. At the same time, the content oozes flair and panache and made me grin from ear to ear. While the glitches make it impossible for me to bestow my highest accolades, this still is a great purchase for a more than fair price, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Rakshasa Magic Items
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