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The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil (5th Edition Fantasy- OSR)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2016 05:10:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The freshman offering of Dark Naga Adventures clocks in at a classic 32 pages, with one page editorial and 1 page SRD, leaving 30 pages of content - and no, this does not include the front and back cover, since this book very much does not only hearken back to the classic era in tone - it is saddle-stitched and has a detachable color cover that sports maps on the inside - of course in the classic blue/white!


This module was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy. The review is based on this print copy of the kickstarter premium print edition.


Okay, before we dive into the nit and grit of this book's actual plot, let's talk a bit about the dual-system format of it, shall we? The module itself does feature the OSR stats in the respective entries and the module does not assuming an additive AC - i.e., you'll see THAC0s and the like. As for combat purposes, the final 3 pages feature the statblocks for OSR and 5e as well as the 2 magic items and special effects introduced herein. One of the magic items is basically a plot-device evil grimoire for the GM to utilize as she sees fit; the second would be a mace+2 that mentions disadvantage, but at the same time lacks the scarcity-entry of 5e's magic item statblocks...as well as whether it requires attunement or not. In the OSR-version, it is but a single line in the wielder's statblock that casts blindness on each hit.


Hiccups like this, unfortunately, do extend to the builds provided for the 5e stats, with e.g. the town drunk noting "STR", but no score. Similarly, if you expect from the 5e stats more than the basics, like unique abilities or straight class progressions, you won't necessarily find that - what's here suffices to run the module, but nothing beyond that. The statblocks also have glitches like a magic bonus from aforementioned mace not featured in atk. So, if you do have the luxury of choosing with which system to play the module, I'd suggest OSR over 5e for this one...though, at least for the weapon, you should probably at least read the 5e-section. The adversaries in the module tend to have an ancient ability called "linking" - in 5e, this allows a character to use their reaction to give an ally they can see +2 to atk, spell DCs and saves...which can be extremely brutal when played smart by the GM. As a nitpick, reactions usually require a specific trigger. In OSR, they can grant +2 attack, defense and a 2 point bonus to saves "and all party saving throws have a 2 point penalty" - at least in the OSR-systems I'm familiar with, I'm not aware of party saving throws. I assume that should refer to the saves of PCs targeted by the linked creatures.


In short: On a formal rules-language level, this is not the most precise of books. That being said, this adventure does have its merits and plays significantly better than it reads. Let me elaborate: For one, the cartography of three villages provided by none other than Alyssa Faden is excellent and player-friendly for these components; similarly, the regional map of the Boldon region in which this module takes place is nice as well. The region as such is lavishly detailed - it can easily be plugged into just about every fantasy gaming world and the relative lack of elves etc. means that the module works pretty well even in human-centric settings. 4 settlements (Boldon, Ponto, Maria, Sumer), all with maps, will be visited by the PCs and the module actually takes heed of consequences...


...and this is pretty much as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. From here on out, the SPOILERS reign, so potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! It starts, as often, with a tavern and a tale - on a full page, the local drunk and erstwhile productive member of the community, Fredu, has a tale to tell for sufficient alcohol - a tale of a temple forgotten from a bygone age, when evil reigned. The tale itself is a massive, 1-page read-aloud text in a module that otherwise requires the improvisation of the like. The drunkard, plagued by visions and blackouts, has stumbled upon a place dedicated to none other than Hastur and ever since, he has tried to quench the nightmares...saving him from certain death at the bottom of a glass is but one potential action the PCs may take. However, he also mentions having told more people about it - a retired wizard, for example...and then there is that fletcher, who is fashioning a map.


Beyond the tale, the module is very much a free-form sandbox, as the PCs follow the leads of Fredu's tale and try to find the hidden complex...which isn't that hidden, after all: The servants of Hastur have taken residence and the timer ticks: The dread statue contained within is fed continues sacrifices and its cultist-enhancing aura extends further and further. On an organization note, the aura's effects should have been noted in the overarcing chapter and depiction of its progression, not only in the room where it actually stands...considering the SERIOUS power it conveys to the cultists. That is a nitpick, though - there are a lot of things I absolutely adored in this module: For one, the old-school design-aesthetic. In an age where practically every puzzle and obstacle can be "rolled away", notes on how PCs have to be extremely lucky, regardless of level or doors that require you to find their combination due to the gazillion possible combinations feel very much refreshing.


Similarly, a highlight of the module, as strange as it sounds, may well be the legwork - PCs can be heroes and save old apothecaries from angry peasants, duke it out with loud-mouthed cultists and end on the wrong side of the law - whether due to their own actions or due to corrupt officers standing in their way, the module manages to evoke a sense of consistency and a feeling of being alive that you only rarely see. Similarly, the fact that there are A LOT of beautiful b/w-artworks, all with the same style (AND quality!) as the cover, lends a sense of consistency and continuity to the proceedings and makes for great hand-outs for the players to enjoy.


The sandboxy section here is pretty "realistic" in that it manages to convey exceedingly well and illusion of a group of mercenaries planning an excursion to a forgotten temple, while dark forces stir and try to stop them. Similarly detailed, notes on air quality, illumination and the like can be found for the complex itself. The intriguing component about this temple itself would once again not necessarily be the set-up - that's as classic as it gets; it's the focus on cultists and a dynamic environment, with entries on what cultists are doing when featuring in the respective rooms helping to keep things flowing. Regarding terrains and traps, this module is a bit on the weak side in this section, though. Ultimately, the temple is a pretty straightforward attack on the hide-out of a well-organized cult...and it is extremely deadly. Not kidding, if the PCs are dumb, they will die HORRIBLY in this complex. On a nitpick: The unique demons featured in the book could have used a detailed description - as provided, they remain a bit opaque. The cultists receive significant benefits here, particularly within the sphere of influence of their idol, and should not be underestimated - saves at disadvantage, cultist attacks at advantage. And no, this does not have an OSR-equivalent; familiarity with this component of 5e- terminology is assumed for that aspect of the module.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-level, it does have a couple of hiccups. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard. As mentioned above, both the copious number of artworks by Rick Hershey and the great cartography render this module rather beautiful and contribute a lot to its atmosphere. The print copy I have is certainly a module I am glad to have. I can't comment on the electronic version.


Kevin Watson's first part of the "Haunting of Hastur"-series is a module that is honestly significantly better than I expected it to be. You see, the set-up of the module isn't the most evocative and I tend to be a bit weary of dual-system books. That being said, whatever system you end up using, you won't have paid for a lot of content you won't use; the emphasis of this book is pretty much on the roleplaying aspect and the expert-level atmosphere this one manages to evoke. Were it just for the atmosphere, this undoubtedly would score higher, but the fact is that the dual-system approach doesn't always work too well in the book; OSR gaming seems to be the default assumption and then, suddenly, 5e-terminology seems to be featured in the default assumptions. It is my honest belief that the module would have fared better with one carefully crafted OSR-version and one for 5e, instead of this blending, but that may just be me. If you do not mind this, however, you pretty much get a module where you can mix and mash the two.


Sooo...do I recommend this? It ultimately depends. If you're looking for a challenging, atmospheric module with an old-school aesthetic in design and presentation, then yes, this may be a nice addition to your library. If you expect more new school handholding, preset DCs for actions and a bit more guidance, then you may end up disappointed. Similarly, this module should best be run by experienced GMs, since there is, beyond the beginning, no read-aloud text: You need to improvise that/know what's where and while e.g. conversations with NPCs provide an astounding depth of guidance via bullet-points and consequences of PC-actions, there is still quite a bit left up to the GM. How to rate this, then? Well, here things get a bit tough for me: You see, I really liked this module, but it does show a bunch of the freshman offering-hiccups that can tank the game for less experienced GMs.


In the end, for OSR, I consider this to be a 4 star module; for 5e, I'd rather consider this 3 stars, since the system's skills, proficiencies and similar components could have used more direct consequences within the module. Since this is a freshman offering, this gets the benefit of the doubt and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil (5th Edition Fantasy- OSR)
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Psionics Augmented: Soulknives
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2016 05:06:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


We begin this pdf with a selection of new blade skills for the soulknife to use: 34, to be precise - several of which, just fyi, are archetype-exclusives. In these cases, they sport the archetype's name in brackets, acting as an additional prerequisite to the ones pertaining other blade skills. To give you an example: Animal Senses nets you low-light vision and scent as well as +2 to Perception, but is only available for the Feral heart and requires the form claws class feature to take, basically adding the sensory aspect to the claw-theme. Blade Rush is pretty brutal - it allows for the swift action expenditure of the psionic focus to move up to the soulknife's speed as a swift action...which is strong. Where the blade skill does overshoot the target a bit is with the caveat that the soulknife provokes no attacks of opportunity with this movement. No "from adjacent targets" caveat - just flat-out no AoOs. At the same time, minimum 6th level does alleviate this a bit...but still, for less high-powered games, this is a very potent option and should probably be nerfed. Its follow-up allows the soulknife to move up to her movement speed as a full-round action (no AoOs!) and make a single melee attack at highest BAB -2 against each target she is adjacent to. The "adjacent" caveat is the only thing that keeps me from engaging in a full-blown diatribe here. Still, this is arguably MUCH better than any form of full-round attack you can usually perform, unless you're only fighting against one adversary (when action economy outclasses the foe against the average adventuring party anyways). The one balancing feature would be the psionic focus expenditure, which prevents you from spamming this move. The minimum level? 8th. Not any high-level trickery. 8th. This one completely outclasses similar one-use abilities granted at high levels, has only a resource determined by action economy and is rather overpowered for its minimum level.


That being said, as much as I consider this one problematic, the pdf also has some absolute gems that work for pretty much every game - Caltrop Spray, for example, where you break your own mind blade to create more potent psychic caltrops that can tell friend from foe for cool soft terrain control. Starting at 10th level, these guys can also expend their psionic focus to fold space as a standard action (move action at 16th level+), allowing for a level-wise great take on the phasing soulknife. And yes, there is actually a BALANCED low-level phasing trick for the soulknife as well - at 4th level, via Ghost Step, which has strict action economy/focus requirements and played rather neat in my games. Knife to the Soul enhancers, psionic focus-based dispels etc. can be found and combining the soulbolt's empowered strikes with unarmed attack/natural attacks is cool as well. As a minor nitpick "Deadly Fis" is missing its "t" in the end - but that's a typo. Similarly, empowering natural weapons. Manyshot mindbolts, better deadly shields and mind armaments. I am somewhat weary of improved psychokientic discharge, which lets the soulknife perform empowered strike full-attacks at range.


On the plus-side, a whip-shaped mindblade that can cause 1-round dazes on failed saves is cool, though the daze should probably specify that it's a pain-effect, at least judging from the fluff of the ability that justifies it via "intense levels of pain." Very cool for multi-limbed creatures: There is now a blade skill for more than 2 soulknives at once! Kudos for stitching that hole! Increasing power points, psychic grappling hooks (!!!)...pretty cool. Have I mentioned the platform they can now make? It can be slick, elastic...whatever the soulknife desires and has the concise rules to support it. Yeah - this is UTILITY beyond combat, ladies and gentlemen! Gaining psychic strike if it had been traded away, firing psychic strikes as blasts (or 10-foot splash bombs), gain mind armaments (see below) and there is a unique one: Speed of Thought + Mental Leap, with psychic strike's charge as an alternate means of paying for the expenditure required by the secondary abilities. Cool! Soulbolts can now also learn to form melee mind blades. I am not a fan of foregoing psychic strike charge to ignore all hardness or DR at 4th level - the lack of scaling regarding both render the blade skills problematic for some tables - I know I'll ban that one in my games or at least introduces a scaling mechanism that allows for the continuous progression of the ability instead of full-blown DR ignoring. Oh, and we have an infinite healing crap-ability. Deal only 1/2 psychic strike damage to heal this amount. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens and a HP-to-ally-transferring ability, please? Then we'll have infinite healing not only for the soulknife, but for the whole group. Blergh. A simple minimum-HD-caveat that scales with soulknife-levels would eliminate the issue, as almost all similar designs do by now. You may not consider it an issue, but I do - to me, such an exploit represents sloppy design and the low point of this supplement.


Okay, next up are the archetypes and one word of warning - they are COMPLEX. As in: They modify A LOT and certainly are not cookie cutters - we get really big ones here, with the Augmented Blade being the first. This archetype is basically THE option for all those rounds and games where the idea of a ghostly/energy-style soulknife didn't work with the feeling of the campaign: Instead of a mindblade, the augmented blade archetype gains a psicrystal, which is then attached to weapons to e.g. coat them in crystal or sport similar means of visual customization. Beyond that, the psicrystal can be attached to a variety of items, augmenting them in unique ways - and this works on a rather fluid basis, allowing for quick slotting and a lot of variables you can change on the fly - and yes, this renders the archetype rather fun to play, particularly considering the fact that the archetype learns to split the psicrystal AND has Metaforge/Aegis multiclass information. Absolutely GLORIOUS archetype that basically "unlocks" the soulknife for settings where it would not work, replacing basically the core class mechanics with new ones...and it thus plays differently, too! A prime example for a great archetype!


The second one would be the brutality blade, who uses Charisma as governing attribute for the soulknife class features and may manifest rage blades, which may not be thrown, must be single blades and they increase the enhancement bonus of the mind blade by +1, allowing the brutality blade (always hear Mortal Kombat's theme music when I write this, but that just as an aside), with 7th and 13th level increasing the bonus by a further +1. The rage blade can be maintained for 4 + Constitution modifier rounds per day, +2 per class level beyond 1st. Upon dismissing the blade, though, the brutality blade loses psionic focus and is fatigued for 1d4 +1 round, during which he may not regain psionic focus. Additionally, the brutality blade has a 10% chance to suffer psychic enervation when manifesting this godblade style mindblade on steroids, risking 2 times class level damage. So, as you see, the archetype basically functions as a barbarian-y soulknife on steroids with a sprinkling of wilder as for its base functionality. This becomes more apparent with 4th level, when the brutality blade gains the raging surge that adds +4 to Str while the blade's out, +2 to Con at 8th level, further +2 to both at 12th, Strength increases to +6 at 16th and both to +6 at 20th level. 5th level unlocks free action rage blade manifestation...but the archetype also gains unique wrath augments, basically specialized blade skills. For example, when using a rage blade, the brutality blade may, as a full-round action, expend psionic focus to jam the blade into the ground to duplicate Whirlwind Attack as soon as 4th level, balanced by the rage blade requirement. Growing in size as per expansion with claws of crude knives, expending psionic focus to reroll Fort- or Will-saves as immediate actions (again: Better balanced than mettle!), causing bleeding wounds and gaining a raging euphoria that can be shared with allies or a focus-based rend...the options are powerful, but well-placed regarding minimum-levels and feature glorious visuals. As a capstone, the archetype can maintain his blade even in null psionics fields sans issues and no longer suffers from a chance of psychic enervation. This archetype is superb - and its mechanical possibilities are not even close to being covered here - the enervation, rage blade and unique mechanics practically beg to be further expanded. The archetype plays like a completely different class and does so gloriously - it is one of the coolest godblade-style archetype/classes I've seen in quite a while and generally can be considered to be a cool, well-balanced addition to the game.


Thirdly, the psychic armory can be seen on the cover - with a panoply of blades circling her, she begins play with 1 + Wisdom modifier light and one-handed such blades, 2nd level unlocking an additional 1 + Wisdom modifier two-handed blades. These blades may not be used to attack in melee and are only quasi-real, until hurled psychokinetically at foes - and yes, they can be used to perform AoOs in melee range with proper rules-language covering all the bases. Expended blades replenish upon the armory's next turn. This panoply of weapons may not be used in conjunction with wielded weapons or off-hand/natural attacks, but the base damage-types employed may be changed for each weapon group used in the panoply of blades. Special abilities still require extensive meditation and may not be fluidly switched. I already mentioned psychokinetic throws, which basically translates to using Wisdom instead of Dexterity to determine ranged atk with the panoply and also adds Wisdom to damage, with regular light weapons duplicated having a range increment of 20 ft. and 1-handed ones a range-increment of 15 ft. 2nd level also unlocks throwing 2-handed weapons from her array with a range increment of 10 ft. Here's the unique thing, though: The armory may, as a standard action, direct the panoply to a place within medium range and have it explode in a 20-ft.-burst, using all her blades for the round in favor of 1d6 damage per class level + enhancement bonus, Ref-save halves, with the rules actually covering the blending of damage types and their substitution. 3rd level allows for the panoply to apply soulknife mind blade enhancements by weapon group and 5th level lets the armory call forth her panoply as a swift action. As a capstone, the archetype can maintain his blade even in null psionics fields sans issues.


Oh, and the archetype comes with more than one page of unique blade skills that allow for the panoply to gather into a temporary mind blade of a more traditional bent, increase the reach of the threatened area by +5 ft., increase the range, flurry with the panoply a limited amount of times per day at range (here, the pricing with minimum level 14th is appropriate) or use an opposed attack roll to counter another as an immediate action. While personally, I dislike the mechanic due to d20 vs. d20 being rather swingy, your mileage may vary here. Making the panoply lines, expand to becoming difficult terrain (and threatened area!) or form a barrier - the options are truly evocative. Oh, psychic armory...how torn am I regarding you. You see, this one is obviously in flair and style something more suitable for high-psionics/magic campaigns and for these it works OH SO WELL. My personal disdain for the d20 vs. d20 blade skill notwithstanding, the archetype is just so beautiful. Its three assortments of preconfigured mindblades are very powerful and, honestly, may be a tad bit too powerful. Similarly, unlimited 20 ft--burst long-range attacks that deal class level x 1d6 + enhancement bonus physical damage outclass A LOT of builds and classes out there. Alchemists can take their bombs and go home, sobbing, for example - at least until iterative attacks allow for outclassing of these blasts....but then again, the panoply's blast of blades is ALWAYS a standard action. You fire this burst...and then you're standing around with not even a weapon in your hands. You threaten nobody. If you get outmaneuvered using this ability, you're basically screwed very hard until your next turn, bereft of all the cool tricks you have. This makes the archetype play in a very unique manner - you need a bit of tactics here. The panoply also has another...potentially pretty nasty component - it can have multiple weapons in the panoply bearing psychic charges, which is a pretty big deal. Then again, can you see the class charging its blades and firing them? This is basically one of my favorite video game bosses of all times, the archetype (extra brownie points if you can guess which one I'm referring to!). The psychic armory can deal a lot of damage, is flexible, consolidates Dex and Str into Wis for her attacks...and honestly, I should be screaming OP by now. It...kinda is. For low-powered, conservative campaigns, this one should probably be reserved to powerful puzzle-bosses. In high-powered high fantasy/psionics-campaigns, though? OMG. While personally, I'll nerf this gal a bit, I absolutely ADORE this archetype. Sure, I wished it was a bit more conservative...but she plays just so beautifully!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and impressively good on a rules-level - this book may have a some minor typo-level hiccups, but it engages in very complex rules-operations and manages to do so very well. Layout-wise, the pdf adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdfs also sport nice, full-color artworks.


Chris Bennett has delivered a solid, massive piece of capital letters CRUNCH here. The pdf contains A LOT of material on its pages, with a very satisfying crunch-per-page ratio. Furthermore, the quality of the crunch, generally, is top-notch. You will not find any bland cookie-cutter designs herein and, while sufficiently mathfindery and combo-heavy to make the optimizers happy, this pdf excels in its concepts.


Yes, I consider the skirmishing blade skill to be underpriced. Yes, I consider the failed kitten-test to be simply unnecessarily sloppy in an otherwise extremely precise and evocative book. Yes, the psychic armory is not for every campaign. So, this is my warning: Conservative groups using psionics for less high-powered games should carefully run each component by the GM.


And this is as far as the grouchy, complaining part of my personality gets with this one. As you probably have gleaned from the above, my complaints rang this loud within the review because I absolutely adore more than 95% of this book. As in squee-level adoration. As a person, I couldn't care less that the psychic armory is too powerful for the default, non-high-powered campaign; I adore it. The brutality blade and the augmented blade are absolutely awesome for less high-powered tables and all three archetypes have in common that they damn well rock my world. They are basically what archetypes should be like. In fact, lesser designers would have probably sold them as full-blown friggin' base classes. Not only do they sport completely different visuals, they actually play radically differently, with the new array of blade skills filling holes in the rules that needed filling and providing cool, new options.


Yes, I may have complained about a few pieces herein...but the significant majority of content herein is just BEAUTIFUL. As in crunch-masterclass-level awesomeness. This is basically a book that put the middle-finger to all bland +1/+X abilities and modifications and cookie cutter archetypes. Its totality may not be for everyone; but I can guarantee that every single table out there that uses a soulknife will find something in this pdf they fall in love with. High-psionics campaigns NEED the armory in them. Low-powered games or those that dislike the laser-y flair need the augmented blade. Seriously. No exceptions for either. I'd also like to emphasize the sheer density of this volume - no broad borders, no filler - this pdf may look brief, but it really isn't, with very tightly formatted rules-text, you get a lot of bang for your buck here.


What I try to express with my inane rambling here is simple: I love this book. In spite of its flaws and hitting some serious pet-peeves of mine. I took about 5 minutes to modify (as in: Change min-level, add cool-down, the like.) a couple of pieces of crunch for my table and that's it - I have pretty much a truly superb book in my hands, one that is allowed in my main campaign, mind you. Even before these minor modifications, the book must be considered a must own addition for psionics-using tables; not one that should just be flat-out allowed for all, but definitely one that enriches all games it touches. And that, dear readers, is more important that nitpicking, my own pet-peeves or disagreements pertaining power-levels and pricing of a scant few abilities. While I don't consider this to be mechanically perfect, I thus will still rate this 5 stars + seal of approval - considering the complexity of the material, the amount of greatness and the unique playing experiences this offers, penalizing it for its minor flaws would be a disservice to the file. Yes, it's that evocative. Were it not for the minor hiccups, this would be a top ten candidate.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Soulknives
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Fifth Edition Options
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2016 05:04:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 79 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is this? Basically, this is a huge selection of variant rules for 5e that you can drag and drop in your game. We begin with alternate methods of ability score generation, with grid, dice pool, point-buy that goes up to 18 from the get-go and alternate ability arrays. Rolling 4d6, dropping the lowest and having the GM do the same and then dealing with the devil behind the screen is also mentioned. There is also a option by which class choice and backgrounds influence the attributes, with e.g. Warlocks gaining +1 to Int and Cha and those with a soldier background gaining either +1 Str or Con. The idea of racial maximum stats (here, 18) can be found, though with this system, dwarves get suckerpunched - they're the only race that has two capped attributes.


The pdf also provides rules for Small and Large characters, with Strength and Constitution being capped differently and minor modifications. The balance here, though, is off: Large creatures cap Str and Con at 22, gaina dvantage on saves against being pushed, tripped, etc. and have double the capacity of their Medium brethren. Downsides? None. Small characters cap Con at 18, Str at 16, get +1 AC and have only half the carrying capacity of Medium creatures. Yeah...that wasn't really thought through.


2d6 rolls to determine handedness, ability score proficiencies, feats at 1st level with various means of balancing the power-increase this represents - the book has a couple of rather nice customization considerations here. Similarly, the pdf introduces flaws, which can be rather flavorful, though GMs should take heed that the character who takes a flaw gets one befitting of the class: Foes gaining advantage on the first attack roll in melee is nasty, as it should be, but if the character keeps running from melee/ is a caster/etc., it loses some of its oomph. Still, I do enjoy these generally and their effects are generally potent enough.


As a whole, I enjoyed this chapter, though a bit more guidance pertaining the ramifications of the respective power-increases and caps would probably have been beneficent to the less experienced GMs out there. The pdf also provides means for the old-school gamer to play double or triple classes via a stunted XP-progression; basically think of this as the grognard's gestalting before there was gestalting. The pdf also offer variant XP-progressions (basically slow and fast track) as well as ability score increases by level instead of class, which becomes, obviously, relevant when employing the multiclass rules. The pdf also features starting wealth suggestions for higher level characters. If you wish for less lethal saves, adding +1/2 proficiency bonus is suggested for nonproficient saves...though I'm not the biggest fan here.


The second, massive chapter is all about skills: It suggests skill advancement at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, stat-like increases to skills or the altogether elimination of them as optional rules. Alternate skill lists are presented alongside an interesting take on expertise, which suggests using advantage instead, making you more reliable, but capping the maximum you can reach - this one makes A LOT of sense to me and generally can be considered to be one of the rules I'll certainly take from this book. Now the next section will either be useless or a godsend to you, depending on your perspective. 5e's skills are deliberately fast and loose to speed up gameplay; at the same time, one quick google will show you a lot of reddit-questions pertaining which skill to use when etc. - this chapter, thus, provides sample DCs for different tasks for the respective skills - in particular the vastly expanded animal handling DCs should prove to be helpful. While this may not be for every GM, I know that this section will be a rather significant boon for many a table.


Now, as long-time readers may note, one of the few components I liked about 4th edition was the introduction of skill challenges and this book does provide a 5e-twist on them with complex skill checks that require multiple successes that build upon another. The system introduced here is rather smooth and goes through the skills, skill by skill, providing some general guidance and examples for single skill complex checks, though these obviously can be combined. Similarly, complex skill-checks based on tools get a mention here.


Chapter 3 provides more detailed crafting rules that retain the straightforwardness of 5e design. Rules for simpler ammo-handling, impossible rest in armors, better crossbows and firearms that penalize armor, rules for masterwork equipment and new equipment options to enrich the game: From double weapons to those that can be folded or those that are oversized, the book sports quite a few of those, though e.g. doubled damage dice for the big ones with just the note that they "requrie training" and that characters aren't proficient in them can be deemed to be somewhat problematic. Come on, even Guts in Berserk can't swing his dragonslayer as fast as a regular sword. Want to distill poisons? Yup, rules for that in here.


The third chapter deals with combat - there is an alternate rule for rolling two smaller dice to make the hit point roll less swingy. Personally, I absolutely LOVED the slower healing, limited HD-expenditure and fatiguing injuries rules herein: D&D 5e already makes for a surprisingly good dark/low fantasy system and these alternate rules for grittier gameplay really add to that effect. On the other hand, if you dislike the element of chance when recovering, a fixing amount system can be found here as well. Similarly, if you liked the vitality and wounds systems, you'll have a 5e-iteration of the system here...including an ultra-gritty variant.


The pdf goes on with conditions - while 5e has a couple of them, older systems had more - if you're missing some of these, well - here's the list to cherry pick those you want back. The pdf also sports variant initiative systems: Rolling each round, while dynamic, slows down gameplay and round table initiative is simple, but also not that rewarding for all but the player who rolled highest - personally, I prefer that one for beer-and-pretzels-style games. Your mileage may vary, of course!


Minor tweaks like inadvertently hitting allies when firing into melee (default house-rule in my game) and tougher rising from the prone condition makes sense - default 5e is pretty lenient on that one, considering the effects of the prone condition.


Okay, the next section will be rather divisive, I wager. We get combat maneuvers. Including the whole Pathfinder array not covered by 5e as well as Power Attack, leaping on larger creatures etc. Myself, I am torn - Power Attack, for example, provides twice the penalty taken to atk as a bonus to damage, which I am not a fan of in the context of 5e. Then again, and this is a pretty big thing, the maneuvers remain worse than the comparative abilities of the Battle Master...at least as long as you don't add the loathsome feats introduced in the companion book to this one.


The pdf also has a variant rule for stacking advantages and disadvantages, more opportunity attacks, variant crits, inherent class defense bonuses, armor as DR (not a fan for 5e)...a lot of material. Rules for sniffing out magic items, for identifying them etc., while not necessarily the thing I look for in 5e-games, may well be welcome in some other tables. Similarly, feat-based better attunement may work for higher fantasy games. Personally, I'm a pretty big fan of the variant counterspelling for higher magic games, since it actually does allow for pretty quick and easy mage duels. Groups that wish to abolish the hard limit on spells in effect via concentration have a means to do so via this book and if you're missing bonus spells for high spellcasting ability scores, well, here's the table. Special conditions for simpler spell recovery, resurrection that permanently decreases attributes...quite a few nice tricks here.


The pdf also provides a simple fear-system for horror-games (based on Wis-saves) that does its job, but is pretty barebones. Doom, as an opposite of inspiration (somewhat akin to the Conan-RPG) is mentioned and extended inspiration mechanics are covered alongside a simplified XPsystem based on tokens. Alternate alignments based on convictions (very welcome in my game) with circumstantial advantage on certain checks based on the characters conviction are pretty neat, though the mechanical balance of them isn't always perfect. The pdf also provides three appropriately weak, barebones NPC-base classes and concludes with campaign templates, where a selection of rules are compiled for your convenience. Kudos!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good on both a formal and rules-language level. layout adheres to a parchment-style two-color full-color standard with solid stock artwork. In a minor nitpick, sometimes single letters in headers do look a bit larger than their brethren - might be a cosmetic font hiccup, but yeah. Artworks ranged from b/w-pieces I haven't seen before to full-color; it's generally nice, but not the reason you would get this book. The pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Brian Berg and Jason Sonia's 5th edition options...were a total surprise to me. After the horrendous book on feats, I honestly didn't expect to like this book. Well, guess what? I really like this book. No group will ever use all of the variant rules herein. Roleplaying games veterans will be familiar with the concepts. However, they actually have been updated to 5e rules with...care and precision. Total Party Kill Games delivers a complete 180; If I didn't know better, I'd refuse to believe that this book was crafted by the same company as the feat book.


This book utilizes proper rules; it takes complex variant systems and adjusts them for use with 5e. Wounds and vitality? Check. Crafting? Check. It provides basically the vast majority of alternate rules you can find out there, with only a complex crit/fumble-system à la Laying Waste or a complex Sanity system à la ToC/CoC missing. Apart from these two (which could be, scope-wise, books of their own), this pdf offers options. A LOT of options. Not all options will be great for all groups; not all rules will be utilized by any group out there. But whether you want a higher fantasy closer to Pathfinder, or a simpler, grittier lower fantasy closer to the darker OSR-options, this has the customization tools.


While here and there, I would have liked to see a bit more guidance for the respective GMs regarding the consequences of the respective rules-implementations to help them choose, the book as such does a great job in collecting a TON of alternate rules and ideas to customize the very tone of the campaign. Make no mistake - this is a toolkit. A big one and one that probably will have something for almost every 5e-game out there. While the required broadness of the scope also means that some further elaborations would have helped and that no group will ever use the totality of this book, I do consider this to be a fair and good buy, particularly for GMs hesitant (or too time-starved) to change the rules themselves. How to rate this, then? Well, you see, this is where it becomes difficult for me, since testing all combinations of rules herein is a sheer impossibility. I can see some conflicts/minor issues crop up - but generally, this is indeed a great toolkit. If anything, the main weakness of this kit lies in the fact that it does not have the one killer-variant-rule-system. It has, though, several small ones that can coalesce into cool templates to use.


In the end, this book will not elicit universal cheers on every page, but just about each group will find some nice material to scavenge within these pages. hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fifth Edition Options
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Tales from the Tabletop: Year One
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 10:55:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


Okay, now for something completely different: This book clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 7 pages advertisement (unless I've miscounted, 1 page back cover, leaving 50 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So how does this book work out? Well, basically, AAW Games publishes Jacob Blackmon's art and leaves speech bubbles open for the fans to fill - the funniest of the respective lines are collected in this book, with the respective authors of the lines credited, including the runner-ups, so even if you dislike one, you certainly will find a smile among the alternatives.


So this, ultimately, is a product of our community...and it is one that made me chuckle and laugh loud while reading this comic: When the party's hanging on a single rope and the characters caution against reminding the GM of maximum load capacity; when a paladin riding into a blackguard convention thinks of the worst blind date ever, when a dragon feeds the PCs a gelatinous cube and tells them to digest it before it digests them, then I got more than a few laughs out of the set-up and the on-point punchlines.


When a charismatic elf is bluffing a troll and a runner-up is "Hey, Billy Mage here with a new, fantastic offer!", I really laughed out loud!


How to rate this, then? Well, to me the artwork by Jacob Blackmon was great and similarly, the funny lines add a cool dimension to the comic itself. Humor, however, is subjective and not everyone will obviously consider every line funny; a couple of these, admittedly, didn't elicit the same sense of excitement than others, but over all, this book indeed provided what its goal was -fun! This collection of comics made me smile and that makes it very much worth it for me. So yes - this very much is worth getting if you're interested in some cool, gamer-humor. This pdf delivered what I wanted from it. Hence, my verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Tabletop: Year One
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Tales from the Tabletop: Year One (PDF)
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 10:52:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review


Okay, now for something completely different: This book clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 7 pages advertisement (unless I've miscounted, 1 page back cover, leaving 50 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So how does this book work out? Well, basically, AAW Games publishes Jacob Blackmon's art and leaves speech bubbles open for the fans to fill - the funniest of the respective lines are collected in this book, with the respective authors of the lines credited, including the runner-ups, so even if you dislike one, you certainly will find a smile among the alternatives.


So this, ultimately, is a product of our community...and it is one that made me chuckle and laugh loud while reading this comic: When the party's hanging on a single rope and the characters caution against reminding the GM of maximum load capacity; when a paladin riding into a blackguard convention thinks off the worst blind date ever, when a dragon feeds the PCs a gelatinous cube and tells them to digest it before it digests them, then I got more than a few laughs out of the set-up and the on-point punchlines.


When a charismatic elf is bluffing a troll and a runner-up is "Hey, Billy Mage here with a new, fantastic offer!", I really laughed out loud!


How to rate this, then? Well, to me the artwork by Jacob Blackmon was great and similarly, the funny lines add a cool dimension to the comic itself. Humor, however, is subjective and not everyone will obviously consider every line funny; a couple of these, admittedly, didn't elicit the same sense of excitement than others, but over all, this book indeed provided what its goal was -fun! This collection of comics made me smile and that makes it very much worth it for me. So yes - this very much is worth getting if you're interested in some cool, gamer-humor. This pdf delivered what I wanted from it. Hence, my verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Tabletop: Year One (PDF)
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Class Expansions: Apothecary Plaguewright Archetype (PFRPG)
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 09:42:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This PWYW-expansion for the plaguewright class clocks in at 3 pages -1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so what does the apothecary do?


Apothecaries must utilize benign strains in each of their vials (but still may also use malignant strains!) and gain a dosage pool at first level equal to their apothecary level. Whenever the apothecary draws a culture from his vials, he may spend a dosage point to add a terminal mutation known to the syringe as though it were present in the culture. He must add benign mutations to benign strains and malignant mutations to malignant strains.


Also at 1st level, all benign strains gain the terminal euphoria terminal mutation without occupying a mutation slot; this mutation heals 1 point of damage upon the mutation ending and may be taken multiple times (class levels determining the maximum), thus replacing discerning eye. As a capstone, terminal mutations added are treated as though they had been taken an additional time.


The pdf also provides three benign terminal mutations - as a nitpick, these do not have the terminal descriptor and only note being terminal in their name, but oh well. Terminal Bravado allows for fear-save rerolls, terminal clarity for limited DR-ignoring and Terminal Rehabilitation for the healing of attribute damage.


The pdf also contains two new feats: Chaser Coating makes you choose a vial and mutation known that is both benign and malignant. Cultures made in the vial get chosen mutation added sans occupied mutation slot, but mutations that take up two or more slots can't be chosen this way. The feat can be taken multiple times. Another feat lets you ignore the DR of willing creatures.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - apart from the descriptor-hiccup, which is pretty much cosmetic, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to IG's two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Bradley Crouch's plaguewright is one of the weirder classes that have come out of Interjection Games' oeuvre and it is COMPLEX. In fact, it is perhaps one of the hardest to grasp classes and this pdf offers a cool, free expansion for the class. While terminal euphoria is nice, I found myself wishing that its scaling was slightly more pronounced - the largest untapped potential for the plaguewright, ultimately, is that of a science-y healer for campaigns where the gods don't heal...or the PCs aren't on their good side. The archetype helps here, but the restriction pertaining the enforced presence of benign strains limits the offense capabilities of the archetype a bit. You can enhance these, both offense and healing, mind you - the class has a ton of moving parts with which you can work and, combined with Terminal Vigor and the temporary hit points from terminal health, the archetype works in interesting buff-combos.


So yeah, while personally, I'll upgrade that one's potency a bit, the pdf is also, ultimately, available for any price you're willing to pay and for a PWYW-book, this is certainly worth a tip and a download. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Class Expansions: Apothecary Plaguewright Archetype (PFRPG)
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Ponyfinder - Griffons of Everglow
Publisher: Silver Games LLC
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 09:38:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This beautiful hardcover clocks in at 64 pages of net content (excluding ToC, covers and SRD) and depicts the griffons of storied everglow, so let's take a look!


This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy.


Ah, the griffons of everglow - old and proud, with memories both accurate and long, predating the advent of ponykind's empire. We begin this book, as befitting of the proud race, with their history - from stopping the rampage of Apep to the altercations with the purrsians to witnessing the rise and fall of the pony empire and the arrival of bipedal races, the griffons have a long history and a unique perspective on everglow, somewhere between stoic conservatism and surprisingly progressive notions -so flavor-wise, we begin with one of the most evocative sections I've read so far in a ponyfinder book.


A discussion of the traits of griffons accompanies the presentation of racial stats - and people like yours truly will enjoy them: The first thing you'll notice is, that the section on griffons actually follows the standards of PFRPG regarding the depiction of racial stats - you know, proper attributes, not abbreviations and the like. Nice! Griffons gte +2 Str and Wis, have a base speed of 30 ft. and a bipdeal speed of 20 ft, a fly speed of 40 ft. with poor maneuverability, low-light vision, a 1d6 bite and they may treat clouds and mists as solid. The hippogriff gets +2 to one ability score, low-light vision, base speed 40 ft., bipedal speed 30 ft, 30 ft. fly speed, unique destiny and are treated as both griffons and ponykind via subtypes and effects. Both are quadruped - in an unfortunate typo, the trait is called "quadraped", though. Griffons can be modified via an aspect that takes into account different heritages - and here as well, the presentation is closer in line with PFRPG's standards, which is a big plus.


Default griffons have the predator aspect, while cheetahs increase their land speed, their charge, run and withdraw options and they decrease their flight speed by 10 feet and one maneuverability. Cursed griffons get -2 Strength, +2 Constitution and Wild Talent as a bonus feat (being naturally psionic), while prey aspect griffons lose their bite and get -2 Strength, +2 Charisma and increase their CL by 1 as well as their domain/mystery/blessing effects as though they had one level more, up to the cap of their HD - and yes, has the "no early access" caveat. Pride griffons imho are lopsided: +4 Charisma, -4 Wisdom makes them very minmaxy...and flavor-wise, it's a bit odd to have griffon diplomats suck at Sense Motive, but yeah. Scavenger griffons get +2 Intelligence and Dexterity, -2 to Wisdom and Strength. Sea aspect griffons decrease fly speed by 10 ft and one maneuverability, but gain a swim speed of 30 ft. and may speak and cast spells under water - this is considered to be strenuous activity for purposes of suffocation, since they still have to breathe. Finally, snow aspect griffons decrease their fly speed by 10 ft. and reduce their maneuverability by one step. They also gain +4 to Stealth in snow and treat it as a class skill, are Large-sized (not capitalized) and get Endurance, +1 to saves vs. cold (not typed, unlike other bonuses here), -2 to saves versus fire and heat and lose cloud walker, but gain the Endurance feat. VERY odd, though I do understand it balance-wise: Reach does not increase, making the Large size actually a liability...and the bonus to Stealth is completely negated by the size penalty...not sure whether that's intended...but I think it's not.


The pdf also sports 5 alternate racial traits - a claw attack (properly codified natural weapon type, unlike the bite in the standard trait - kudos!), +2 Perception and Sense Motive instead of low-light vision, small-sized griffons, +2/+4 Stealth in dim light/darkness or replacing bite with 1/day SPs light, prestidigitation, unseen servant can be found herein. The pdf does provide favored class options for barbarian, brawler, cavalier, cleric, druid (not bolded), fighter, ranger, rogue, skald, summoner (not bolded) and sorceror. The pdf has a nice heritage table to randomly determine avian and feline aspects as well as dominant coloration and unusual heritages. - the table is nice, though for age, height and weight, you have to consult the base CS.


The next chapter is extremely detailed and goes into the respective takes griffons have on the classes and then, we get 16 racial feats that range from bonuses to two skills that increase at 10 ranks (boring) to using Acrobatics while running sans speed decrease (cool!), 1/day free choice of mental attribute used in a skill check, gaining cloud walker, properly codified, minor DR-ignoring charges, longer breath, sun cat teamwork feat access, more stable flying...well, guessw what? This time around, they actually are functional! Seriously! While I still seethe when looking at lower-case skills, the material here...is nice! The griffons also get traits - which are similarly well-crafted. The book also contains 6 archetypes: Divine psions use Wis as governing manifester attribute and gain Empower Power at 5th level. Midmountii master monks can flurry with natural attacks and replaces stunning with blinding foes; at 7th level, instead of slow fall, they may earth glide via ki. Sky rider cavaliers may select big avians (unlocking them only later) and 5th level provides growth for the mount - with an odd caveat "Its stats are not otherwise affected." This is patently wrong, since size increases do affect stats - should we ignore these??


Talon Warrior fighters replace bravery with scaling bonuses to Perception and Fly and 2nd level eliminates penalties incurred by AoOs when performing combat maneuvers. 11th level unlocks pounce and 15th level potentially adds an extra claw attack when pouncing, but fails to specify at what BAB - though one can assume full BAB. Weapon mastery and training apply to both bite and claw. Storm Dancer fighters emit fog when attacked in melee, gaining 20% concealment miss chance, 50% for attacks after the first, but only while wearing light or no armor. Oddly, "this has no effect on ranged weapons." Do ranged weapons not trigger it or do they shoot through? Concealment may also block line of sight, which is relevant for spells and I'm not sure this was intended, since imho, the ability botches nomenclature pertaining concealment and miss chance granted by concealment. 2nd level adds secondary targets to bull rushes (at 15th level: also trip, disarm and dirty trick), 8th level no longer treats fog and smoke as vision detriments and as a capstone, the character becomes "immune to wind" and can only be moved by it if they wish.


Finally, the skycrown pledged samurai penalizes attacks of the challenged against other targets, gets a modified skill list, may, after failing an action, retry in the subsequent round 1/day at a +4 insight bonus (+1/day every 4 levels beyond 2nd) and at 8th level, they gain Great Cleave and a +1 dodge bonus to AC for one round for each enemy struck. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens? As a level 15 ability, these guys may spend resolve as an immediate action to intercept attackers.


The pdf also provides claw and beak tips, rules for (somewhat wonky) griffon-feathered arrows and three special weapon/armor properties - which aren't bad, in fact, though the lack of formatting for the creation requirements is annoying...and yes, spells are not italicized.


Okay, after this, we begin with an extensive introduction to the faiths of the griffons - from the Sun King to the huntress to white talon, the three deities come with extensive information, though it remains, apart from favored weapons and domains, fluff-centric. The book contains 5 spells that have all issues and represent the worst portion, mechanics-wise, of the book. Internal reference to spells is not italicized in some cases. There is a spell that allows for bonus damage to natural attacks which allows the caster to change elements - okay. However, with a Knowledge (arcana) check as part of attacking, rarer energies like sonic, negative energy or force can be chosen - which makes no sense, considering that force is superior to all other damage types at the cost of damage die reduction to d4. Changing elements is a move action, though - so no idea whether that supersedes the rare energy caveat or not or whether the rare energies only apply to one attack or all. The spell can be discharged, dealing 3d6 or 3d4 damage, thus implying that the energy change is maintained for more than one attack. Lionheart nets haste's extra attack when using a full attack and +4 Str AND Con - textbook power-creep. Eagle Soul seemingly contradicts itself - "until your next action" vs. duration of 1 round/level; however, at closer observation, one can assume the speed burst the spell offers to be the initial effect, the attribute boost to last longer - slightly cleaner wording would have helped here. Griffon's Majesty employs the non-existent "divine" bonus type. That being said, the mask of obedience cursed item is interesting.


Now, much like Forgotten past, the somewhat misnamed "Griffon Society" chapter (1/3 of the book!) contains information of famous griffons and ponykind, with numerous interesting NPC write-ups. These generally are well-written, feature advice for the GM and copious amounts of neat artworks....but, like the previous books, if you're looking for stats, I'll have to disappoint you. Similarly, the 6th chapter, which details settlements of the griffons and runs a wide gamut in themes and diversity, does not feature a single settlement statblock for the villages. The villages, cities, etc., however, are truly diverse -from deep waters sheltered in the forest of dreams to razorback ridge, the places are unique. One truly impressive facet here would be that the cartography of the griffon heartland and the metropolis of cuachan, which comes in even more details, similarly gets a truly GORGEOUS full-page map. These sections brim and bristle with the imagination and unique flavor of everglow - and it covers about 2/3rds of the whole book, making this section significantly stronger than in the other Ponyfinder books I've read.


The final section of the book provides a new "living trap" at CR 6 with cliffside eels as well as three new creatures - the CR 9 gem golem and with unique spell reflections and dazzling brightness is pretty great. The CR 13 mountain worm, in comparison, is a more conservative critter with no truly unique ability. Finally, the CR 6 sky mask can call down lightning - think of them as Super Mario's grumpy clouds. All in all, the critters aren't bad...but formatting and editing is less precise than in Forgotten past's bestiary, with bolding missing from the majority of the statblocks and some typos creeping in.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are SIGNIFICANTLY better than in the last two Ponyfinder books I read - while it still is flawed, the flaws mainly pertain rules-language formatting for the most part. While there are crunch components that are problematic, the respective issues are significantly less pronounced, though lower case skills, missing italicizations and the like still are here. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the book has a killer array of full-color artworks. The cartography featured in the book is similarly stunning. The hardcover I have is a beautiful book and certainly one worthy of owning. I can't comment on the features of the electronic version since I do not have it.


David Silver's griffons of everglow represent a return to form to approximately the level of the campaign setting; while there are some unfortunate glitches in the crunch and its presentation, it is functional! The content may not perfect, but it actually works and the book does not flaunt the established rules-language as much as the previous books, adhering to formatting standards and providing, as a whole, a significant improvement over the previous books in sheer, objective quality of the crunch. Now the fluff was never an issue for Ponyfinder and indeed, this book with its massive amount of flavor is evocative and not only fans of everglow will most certainly adore the well-written fluff herein. All in all, this book represents a great development for the ponyfinder-line - while still short of perfection, this is a nice purchase indeed and while the flaws of the crunch prevent a higher rating, I feel justified in settling on a final verdict of 3.5 stars; round down if you're in it for the crunch, round up if you want all the evocative flavor and prose. As for my official verdict, I will round up for this book, since its focus lies obviously on the flavor and campaign setting information.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ponyfinder - Griffons of Everglow
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Wheel of the Year
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2016 11:14:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Letters from the Flaming Crab-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 3/4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


As always, we begin this installment with a brief letter from the planes- and worlds-jumping vessel called Flaming Crab before we dive into the respective cntent - though this time around, we really get creative. You see, as the pdf's name implies, this is all about the wheel of the year, a concept probably rather familiar to those of you interested in mythology, pagan religions and the like - but before the respective holidays themselves, we start with full moons.


Structure-wise, the respective festival begins with a flavor-based explanation of the celebration, proceeds to mention which deity/deities (domain/theme-wise) is/are aligned with it and then goes on to introduce a mystic resonance as well as a ritual. In the case of full moon, masquerades and organized hunts would be common means of celebrating the festival, with feasts commencing thereafter. Mystic resonance-wise, the full moon, beyond the obvious association with lycanthropes, has actual game-mechanics, with spellcasters being able to cast a single transmutation (polymorph) spell as though quickened ( I assume, with them still requiring the preparation, since this information does not have the "without increasing the spell-slot-caveat, but I may be wrong here.), while druids may 1/moon wild shape as a swift action. However, conjurations are weakened, with durations reduced and summoned creatures requiring a save to avoid the effects of being temporarily confused.


Now I also mentioned rituals - these would be presented as spells for the respective holidays, however, as the pdf suggests, they probably should be freely available to the respective characters. Their casting time, unsurprisingly, is pretty long, with durations lasting e.g. until midnight. For the full moon, the spell would be call of the huntmaster, which can only be cast on a full moon and requires a bonfire. Effect-wise, this ritual makes ammunition magic, enhances one animal per participant with magic fang and provides expeditious retreat to the mounts of the hunters, making the hunting party significantly more potent and providing some serious flavorful potential for roleplaying.


During the Yule/Yuetide festival, light and fire spells may be enhanced (here with the wording being precise and sans ambigueties) and, in an interesting twist, there is a random chance that the respective spell slot is not expended, with spontaneous/prepared caster paradigms being accounted for. However, necromancy is hampered during the festival. Yule tree requires an animal sacrifice for the tree to be consecrated, but items may be summoned forth, but only one for each participant in a given year. Cool take on the festival!


Imbolc, halfway between Yule and spring equinox, is aligned with divination, poetry and growth and as such evocations lose a bit of potency (nice additional detriment to waging war in early spring/right after winter), with the spell associated, healing well allowing the ritualistic cleansing of the body via participation in a ritual featuring a well or spring, including losing a variety of negative conditions - which makes particular sense in the context of a less fantastic world where not every 2nd village has a high level caster capable of tending to all the needs. Ostara, if the name did not already elicit that connotation on its own, represents the vernal equinox and thus is associated with regenerative magics, once again hampering the forces of necromancy. The ritual is very evocative, featuring upright-standing eggs placed on the ground to ensure fertility...provided the gods deem to bless their followers.


Beltane, as, with Samhain, one of the more commonly known traditional festivals, enhances abjuration magics, with them being automatically affected by either Extend or Enlarge Spell, but all other magics are hampered on Beltane. The massive, bonfire-based rite imbues protective qualities, with even the ash of the fire providing some protective qualities. Midsummer is the festival of marriage and divination, with newly-weds embarking upon the seeking the fern flower ritual, which can either provide a monetary boon to those seeking it or an enhanced aid another for a year.


Lughnasadh, the harvest holiday, enhances transmutation magics, but hampers enchantment - those that manage to resist its effects may benefit from heroism for 1 round after the effect. Hero's shape, as a ritual, is interesting, rendering you literally larger than life and adding bonuses to all physical attributes. While the haste-effect the recipient may tap into could be a tad bit more streamlined in its wording, it is a cool ritual that requires some stamina from the caster to pull off. Mabon, the end of the harvest season, cuts all aligned spells in half regarding their duration and range, while spells affecting willing targets are Extended and basically rendered communal for the day - very unique! The harvest feast rite eliminates exhaustion and the like and provides a hearty glow to the participants. Finally, Samhain provides access to spells that allow for the speaking with other planes or the dead to spontaneous casters (at -2 spell levels!), but summoning during these times of thinned veils are hazardous, resulting potentially in lethal creatures showing up. Planar Horde, a high-level ritual, allows the caster to conjure forth 50 HD worth of outsiders, with an individual outsider's HD capping at 6, to do the caller's bidding - if he provides the payment.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on the formal side; on the rules-language side, there are some minor discrepancies that show the different authors that contributed here, though none truly impede the functionality of the pdf. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, with great Tarot-card-like artworks depicting them themes of the respective holidays. Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.


J Gray, JJ Jordan, Nate Love and Lucus Palosaari deliver one great pdf here; evocative, cool and flavorful, these holidays add a significant sense of the magical to the game world, with the mythological resonance and familiarity of the concepts employed adding a nice sense of continuity with our world to the subject matter. The festivals themselves, though, do retain their significant "magic", their flavor and unique concepts. I really enjoyed this system and believe that many a gaming world would benefit from holy days that are actually relevant - the general holidays herein already are very evocative and unique While, as a whole, the pdf may fall short of perfection, it is a great buy for a low price, a book that provides a LOT of cool ideas for adventures to come, a fun, flavorful addition to the game - in short, I consider this, in spite of my nitpicks, a great buy worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Wheel of the Year
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Mini-Dungeon #032: Howling Halls
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2016 11:12:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. It should be noted that this one's hyperlinks have a couple of omissions, i.e. not working, underlined hyperlinks. This does not really influence the usefulness of the file, though.


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


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


...


..


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Still here?


All right! The Howling Halls can easily be inserted into the context of a grander dungeon and generally represents a hauntingly cold crypt-complex, which makes neat use of the environmental rules. Beyond a couple of nice traps, the theme, obviously, would be undead regarding the enemies contained herein and the exploration yields keys with script that can be used to open the central rooms of the crypts and battle the progressively harder guardians of this place - finally wresting a magical key labeled "peace" from the final crypt - but for what purpose remains up to the GM to decide.


Conclusion:


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


Jonathan Ely's Howling Halls is a nice insert into a bigger dungeon complex. With two tower-like structures, the howling halls can easily be used by an enterprising GM as a kind of suture to connect two unrelated dungeon-levels and the challenges per se are nice, the content solid. The dungeon, in short, does what it's supposed to do and provides a fun, cool diversion and leaves an interesting hook for the GM in the player's hands. At the same time, it is just that - it does what it sets out to do well. For what it tries to be, this is a solid hub/sidetrek well worth 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #032: Howling Halls
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Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2016 11:10:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what are these? Focused disciplines, basically are advanced disciplines; ability-array that modify the discipline in question's non power-related abilities. As such, each has replacement abilities they replace with the new ones. Each discipline (minus athanatism) gains 4 such focused disciplines, so let's take a look!


Clairsentience begins with the aura sight ability at 8th level - as long as you maintain psionic focus, you can see the alignment of creatures, with the expenditure as a swift action allowing you to see the intensity of the aura, 14th level lets you smite evil at 1/2 class level 1/day (+1 every 4 levels thereafter), except it applies to any creature with an alignment different than yours. I'm...not a fan of this one, to say the least. I already dislike detect abilities that are at-will, but thankfully, players tend to forget these. This one's always on, which is extremely annoying from a GM and internal setting-logic perspective: When a significant array of people can see alignment sans even trying, hiding your alignment becomes even more annoying and may wreck quite a few of assumptions of modules. Not gonna get near my table.


Falsehood Allows you to expend your psionic focus, starting at 2nd level, to penalize the next two d20-rolls of a foe within 30 ft, with 8th level providing a 20 ft. AoE-bursty variant. Both allow for no save, but ultimately won't break the game. Reading provides, at 8th level, a retroactive bonus of +2 to an attack roll or saving throw 1/day, with every 2 levels increasing the bonus by +1 and adding 1/day use and 14th level allowing you to share the benefits with an ally. Also at 14th level, the discipline has another annoying metagame ability -1/day learn a creature's alignment, lowest and highest ability score and what classes it has levels in. If you also expend your psionic focus, you also learn the 3 highest skills and the creature's HD. Not a fan. Terror adds 2 rounds of shaken to creatures failing to save versus your clairsentience powers, with focus expenditure increasing that to frightened. Every 4 levels thereafter increase duration by +1 round. This one...is nasty. 14th level nets you an always-on-while-focused 10 ft. aura that works somewhat akin to a hex; on a successful save, the target's shaken and becomes immune for 24 hours, on a failed save, the target becomes panicked for 1d4 rounds. Personally, I think the immunity caveat should apply to the whole ability, not only to the successful save, but that may be me and is just a design-aesthetic preference.


Metacreativity sports the crystal discipline...and it has a problematic component: Crystal shot allows the psion to expend his psionic focus as a swift action to fire a 30 ft.-range, two range-increment piercing lance of crystal, with x3 crit mod. The lance can (but does not have to!) use Int-mod instead of Dex-mod to calculate atk. Base damage is 1d8, +1d8 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. On its own, this is not problematic, but the increased damage output, particularly for multi-class'd characters, can be nasty. At 8th level, the base damage of the ability is added to attacks with all manufactured weapons while maintaining focus. Guiding provides bonuses to all attacks against foes within 25 ft, with 14th level allowing you to expend your psionic focus as an immediate action to double the bonus for a single attack made within 30 ft. of you. Plasmic lets you create a skill-enhancing ectoplasma tool and 14th level makes your tools really potent. Steel allows you to expend psionic focus to temporarily buff your AC versus an incoming attack and 14th level provides an always-on-while-focused +5 shield bonus to AC.


Psychokinetists may opt for Blaze, which nets fire resistance and the option to temporarily extend its benefits to allies while damaging nearby foes. 14th level allows you to reduce the fire resistance of foes versus your fire-based powers, with creatures sans resistance being treated as though they were vulnerable to fire. Additionally, resistance reduced to zero results in fire damage for nearby creatures...which is a bit odd: So, does this damage also apply if a creature has no fire resistance? The rules could be interpreted either way.


Boom adherents add 5-ft-radius minor sonic damage to single-target powers and 8th level adds deafened for 1 hour to sonic-based single-target powers. Somewhat wonky: "You may expend your psionic focus to affect all creatures within 5 feet of the creature instead." I assume this only applies to the deafened condition and that the target still is affected. Chill similarly reduces all movement speeds of creatures affected by your cold damage dealing powers, but including AoEs this time around...which is pretty OP regarding terrain control. Oh, and it has no duration or means to cure. Speaking of which: 14th level lets you expend psionic focus to stagger foes - even on a successful save, but only for 1 round! Still, considering the power level of the staggered condition, this is OP.Spark grants you bonuses for successfully caused electricity damage for short periods of time, with high levels allowing you to reduce the duration to extend the benefits to allies within 20 ft., but only a limited amount of times per day.


Psychometabolism specialists can opt for the adrenal discipline, which nets you scaling dodge bonuses to AC and Ref-saves when manifesting psychometabolism powers and allows you to add buffs to your personal-range psychometabolism powers. No complaints here. Animalia adds an augment option to all psychometabolism powers to enhance your physical attributes at 8th level and 14th level allows you to retaliate when successfully critically hit via AoOs with bonuses, but only a limited amount of times per day. Second Gear enhances your movement rates while focused and 14th level allows you to manifest two powers that require a standard action or less as a full-round action, with your manifester level being the cap regarding total power point cost and +1 use at 16th, 18th and 20th level. Significantly stronger than resilient body and metabolic healing...not a fan. Storage nets you basically a built-in bag of holding and 14th level allows you to empty this pocket in an explosive burst as a standard action, dealing 2d6 per cubic foot you filled. the bag starts with oen cubic foot and gains + 1 at 4th level and every two levels thereafter. oh, and no save to halve the damage.


Psychoportation specialists that specialize on bypass may teleport 20 ft as a move action when expending their psionic focus and the ability contradicts itself - it says once "at-will" and then goes on to state daily limits that increase...so, which is it? Starting at 14th level, you may "gain insight on a single Stealth check to hide equal to your class level" -that should probably be "insight bonus," since "insight" on its own is not a thing in PFRPG. Drive allows you to short-range teleport willing allies, with higher levels providing group-ports. Labyrinth allows you to bypass tremorsense and blindsense and at 14th level, you gain skill-bonuses to Survival and Knowledge (geography). Retrieval lets you call unattended objects nearby to your hand, with 8th level providing a free returning to thrown weapons.


Telepaths may elect to specialize on channel: This allows you to link minds with a single creature...and unwilling creatures get no save to resist. Can you see the gaslighting plot? 14th level allows you to send messages to targets you linked with in the last week - which is generally cool and allows for some cool tricks. Specialists of the closed discipline allows you to render a creature temporarily deaf and bereft of telepathy, with higher levels increasing the damage you and your allies cause against the target. Personally, as much as I dislike it, I'd have made this precision damage due to internal consistency of the system. Informants add 1/2 level to all Knowledge and Diplomacy checks while focused and, on a failed Stealth check, they may, at high levels, reroll with a bonus when they expend their focus - a cool ability, but at 14th level very late. Mystique adherents can break a LOT of plots: They can concentrate on a target...and the ability is wonky as all hell: "As a standard action while you're psionically focused, you make a Sense Motive check. One intelligent creature within 30 ft. of your choice must then make a Will save." Okay, against which DC? the usual 10 + 1/2 level + manifester mod? The Sense Motive result? No idea. On a failed save, you gain 5 hours (!!!) worth of the creature's memories, +1 hour for every point by which they fail the save. Not functional as written can wreck A LOT of modules. The 8th level memory implant is similarly problematic - "If they fail, you convince them that they experienced something that they didn't actually experience. They may use your Bluff modifier instead of their own when convincing people of this." The "may" here implies that they can choose, which they shouldn't be able to. Also: The implanted memories lack specifics: Can you implant memories that supersede others? Can you rewrite a whole life? No idea, since the ability fails to specify the extent of its powers.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, on a formal level are top-notch. On a rules-level, it is less consistent in its internal terminology than I've come to expect from Dreamscarred Press - "expend your psionic focus" versus "expend psionic focus" and similar cosmetic hiccups can be found here, with some pieces of rules-language being simply not as clear as it should be. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version. Artwork-wise, the focus lies on fitting stock art.


Sasha Hall's expansion for psionics, let me reiterate that, isn't bad. Considering the tight wiggle-room that the concept offers, there are some seriously cool options here. If you don't share my loathing for metagame-y abilities, the pdf will gain a bit of appeal. At the same time, though, the overall pdf is uncharacteristically inconsistent for a Dreamscarred Press offering. The power-ratio of replaced abilities is off in quite a few places regarding the abilities replaced and comparable abilities offered in the very same book. That is one issue this has; the second would be that the book does have a couple of internal hiccups: The telepathy-lock-down, for example: Can it be used to sever the connection to a collective, as employed by the tactician, vitalist, etc.? The focused discipline hampers "all telepathic abilities" - which is NOT a defined term in the context of Ultimate Psionics. There are quite a few of these issues here and they accumulate. This may not be bad, but it does fall short of the standards established by Dreamscarred Press. In the end, this is a mixed bag and hence, my review will clock in at 3 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines
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Gunfighter Class (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2016 09:38:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. The review is based on V.1 of the pdf.


We begin this class with a brief, concise introduction to the subject matter at hand, including advice on creating a gunfighter and quick-build information. Gunfighters begin play with the option to create ammo and the like, with a nice, suggested alternate rule based on Intelligence modifier. In a minor nitpick, the material cost and maintenance-section of the item mentions $1.00 of the item's market value - a conversion rate of $1 = 5 gp is provided, but generally, considering the setting-agnostic nature of the class, this may be perceived as a needless complication by some. I won't penalize the pdf for it, but it is something to keep in mind. If a PC is not using at least 1 hour in a long rest to clean the guns he owns, natural 1s and 2s result in the broken condition for the weapon. A gunfighter can keep a number of firearms in good repair like this equal to his Intelligence modifier. At 13th level, you may craft twice your Intelligence modifier bullets during a long rest.


Now, let's take a look at the gun-rules required here: Ammo can't be salvaged (check!), broken condition requires an Intelligence saving throw on critical misses to avoid (no auto-blow-up). Focus is important - these weapons require steadying - as an action, movement is reduced to 0 ft. and, on the next turn, the gun can be fired. Guns are loud and can be heard FAR away and reloading is an action. Firearms with spread deal AoE-damage, but allow for Dex-saves based on you Intelligence modifier and proficiency bonus to negate.


The pdf provides 4 such weapons: Single action revolvers, repeating rifles, shotguns and buffalo rifles, with the latter being the only one requiring focus - and it better should, considering 4d10 piercing base damage, as opposed to 2d6 for the revolver.


The class gets 1d10 HD, simple weapon and firearm proficiency, vehicle (land) ans smith's tools as well as Dex- and Int-save proficiency and their choice of Animal Handling, Deception, Insight, Investigation (called "Investigate" here), Perception, Sleight of Hand and Stealth regarding skill proficiency. The starting equipment contains a revolver and a horse and includes notes on costs of animals in the Wild West. Gunfighters begin play with a gunfighting style that includes melee-shotgun-using sans disadvantage or double pistol fighting. The latter is somewhat awkwardly phrased "You can treat the weapons as light, and take advantage of two weapon fighting with them." Does this mean the style grants advantage on attack rolls when dual-wielding? I assume no, but wording wise, the use of "advantage" isn't too great. Duel specialists add Intelligence modifier to atk and damage when one-handing guns. Long-distance shooters don't suffer disadvantage at long range and add Intelligence modifier to attack rolls. Fast draw specialists have advantage on their first attack each combat and can't be surprised.


2nd level provides an action surge for +1 action, but only once per rest-interval as well as advantage on Dexterity saving throws versus effects you can see coming - like traps, spells, etc. Ability score improvements are gained at 3th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 19th level. 11th level allows you to attack twice instead of once.


At 5th level, you may reload one firearm as a bonus action and 6th level allows you to ranged disarm foes once per rest-interval.


Starting at 9th level, you may infuse cold, fire or acid damage into up to 12 of your bullets. 17th level nets you evasion and 20th level allows you to add Wisdom modifier either to attack or damage rolls...which feels a bit odd, considering that the base chassis of the class is otherwise themed around Intelligence and Dexterity.


As you may have figured, the gunfighter does gain the obligatory archetype-selection, this time around called gunfighter path. A total of 3 such paths are included and they net abilities at 3rd, 7th, 10th, 15th and 18th level. The first of these paths would be the bounty hunter, who can choose creatures as their mark, gaining advantage on Intelligence (Investigate[sic!] - should be Investigation) and Wisdom (Perception) checks, gaining +2 to attacks versus them...but they can only have Intelligence modifier marks a day, with long rests resetting the timer. They also deal bonus damage versus marks and at 10th level, heal minor wounds once per rest-interval. 15th level nets a potentially paralyzing shot. 18th level, allows for special double damage shots - oddly, the pdf refers to being affected by "Wing 'em" - which I suppose was a WIP-name for the mark. Still, slightly confusing.


Desperados gain cunning action at 3rd level, 7th level sneak attack (scaling up to +4d6 at 19th level), uncanny dodge at 10th level and vanish at 15th. 18th level lets NO attack roll against you have advantage....which is pretty OP, imho. Somewhat odd: "If you are hit, you may take a reaction to make an Attack against the attack that hit you" - I think, some text is missing here...or the wording's a bit odd. You can target an attack, okay...what happens if you hit the attack? Do you shoot a missile out of the air? Do you sunder an axe? Or should that be attacker? No idea.


Finally, the Lone Ranger is the outdoorsman and gains advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and Wisdom (Survival) and 7th level nets crits on 19s and 20s. 10th level "Adds another fighting style" - which should probably refer to "gunfighting style" instead and 15th nets you a stunning shot, while 18th level allows you perform 1 level of exhaustion causing shots 1/day. Pretty cool.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are generally good, though, oddly, the final pages seem to drop a bit regarding their precision. Rules-language similarly is mostly precise and well-crafted, with some minor hiccups. The pdf comes with great, thematically fitting photography-style artworks and the pdf has no bookmarks, but at 6 pages, that's still okay. Layout adheres to Tribality's two-column full-color standard and is clean and concise, though the upper and lower borders are pretty broad.


Michael Long's gunfighter is per se a damn cool class - and for the most part, it is precise and well-crafted, with the first couple of pages only featuring very minor hiccups like "Investigate" instead of "Investigation" or the aforementioned unfortunate wording choice pertaining advantage being good examples. The gunfighter paths have somewhat more glitches and unfortunately, the pdf does have some glitches that influence the rules-language. While the gunfighter is functional and elegant and appropriate for new players due to the relatively easy to grasp rules and low complexity, it is the collection of these minor hiccups that makes it impossible for me to rate this as high as I'd like to. The gunfighter certainly is no funfighter; the gunfighter is a cool class for its low, and more than fair, price point. While not perfect, it certainly deserves a final verdict of 4 stars - if you expect no perfection, you'll probably love this class as an easy to use, fun Western-class.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gunfighter Class (5E)
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Occult Character Codex: Spiritualists
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2016 09:33:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Legendary Games' collection of Occult Adventures pre-built NPCs clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of how to use/introduction to the subject matter, 1 page ToC, 1/2 a page blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Okay, it has been a while since I covered one of these, so let's recapitualte: The Occult Character Codex-series basically provides NPC-codex style entries for the respective class, utilizing automatic bonus progression as introduced in Pathfinder Unchained as well as buffing featured in the respective statblocks. The statblocks themselves feature a pre-buffing section where applicable and, for ease of reference, save DCs come with F, R, and W as shorthand for the saves in the respective spell etc. entries, allowing for an easy reference.


CR-wise, the NPCs herein range from CR 1/2 to CR 19, covering the whole breadth. The respective spiritualist builds, obviously, feature their respective phantom pet, rendering the overall statblock density of the book relatively high. The builds in the series do try to depict organically grown characters, i.e. the NPCs herein, while being efficient, also feature capabilities that ground them in the respective world, a decision I generally applaud.


As has become the tradition with the series, the NPCs featured herein diverge in their respective focus - while we do have some classic, CORE-races using spiritualists in the book, there also are samsarans and even grippli to be found among the builds. The onmyoji archetype is used in a few of the builds as well - so racial diversity's here; archetype-wise, the book could sport a bit more diversity.


Regarding the emotional focus of the respective phantoms, the pdf does provide a sufficient array of diverse options, with the foci generally fitting well the theme of the respective phantoms. The same can't be said about all of the spell-selections certain themes in spells can be readily identified - granted, there is diversity here, but it could have been a tad bit more pronounced. On the plus-side, while a similar observation can be made pertaining some feats, the overall breadth of strategies via builds is significantly broader. Kudos!


That being said, unlike the other OCC's I've covered, there is something I need to mention - the phantoms have some glitches in central abilities; unfortunately, these glitches tend to be rather crucial ones - slam damage is incorrect in some cases, correct in some and does not progress properly, extending the issue to the respective damage caused; similarly, DR-scaling of the phantoms is not accurate. The frustrating component here is that there are quite a few of the entries that work out well, but still, those are pretty central components in the respective build.


Does this make the book unusable? No. But it does limit its appeal.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good, though this time around, the uncharacteristic glitches in he builds do somewhat limit the book's appeal. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork-wise, we get some classic LG-artworks as well as the cool cover artwork.


Julian Neale's spiritualists are the weakest entry in the series and were a rather odd experience for me, reviewing-wise. Why? Because I happen to have the build-notes for them and while these also have hiccups here and there, they are other hiccups - while e.g. the DR in the build-notes for the level 20 NPC isn't correct, the slam attack base damage actually is. My theory is that: Something went wrong in layout/dev. Some of the glitches obviously are cut-copy-paste hiccups. EDIT: The author has contacted me and taken full responsibility - that takes guts and backbone, so kudos!!


That being said, there is still value to be drawn from this pdf - the builds themselves are pretty complex and even with their glitches, the pdf still represents some seriously spared time. The glitches mentioned can be relatively easily purged and while the pdf thus can't be considered to be the high-point of the series, neither does it deserve being dismissed. What's here, generally, is cool and GMs willing to invest a bit of work to fix the glitches get some complex builds out of this one. Still, the pdf could also have employed more in the archetype discipline.


In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars; if you're in it for flawless statblocks, round down; if you want the majority of grunt work done for you, you'll still find use for this. My official final verdict will round up due to in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Character Codex: Spiritualists
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Shadows over Vathak: Ina'oth - Player's Guide
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/26/2016 09:32:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second Player's Guide to the disturbing regions of the Shadows over Vathak setting clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After an excerpt from the journal of Yarick Eastermann - which, as another, handout-style piece of parchment elucidates, is not in as happy a state as he should be. After a brief introduction for players, we get to know Ina'oth - situated at the southwestern corner of the continent, is protected by the Black Sky mountains...isolated, one could say. Before madness came upon the Bhriota, they settled, breeding with the romni stock - and, in fact, Ina'oth may almost seem like a paradise, compared to other regions of Vathak. The land has seen its fair share of death, though, and as the vindari enacted the genocidal "great cleansing" in the name of their One True God, the land took a breath; of particularly foul miasma, for the Plague of Shadows eliminated 2/3rds of the population, leaving plague villages and ghost towns behind, only to abate 13 years ago...though its specter remains, as bhriota once again rally and quarantine and xenophobia remain...after all, every stranger could bring a new strain of the horrific pestilence that almost ended these lands...


The pdf goes on to pose questions that help players with the character creation in the context of Vathak, while also explaining the mindset regarding death and disease in general. The pdf then goes on to explain the details of places of interest - the settlements of Ina'oth, for example - with notes on approximate population, but without SPOILERS. After all, Auld's efficient death squads that hunt the diseased are a known fact there...Beyond these flecks of fragile civilization, the majestic landscape and its most commonly known legends are detailed next - from aforementioned mountains to the ruins that remain of Redfort. A total of 11 complex whispers and rumors you may have heard can also be found herein -and whether as red herrings, background knowledge or material for the GM to develop, they are great.


A total of 15 traits, correctly associated with their respective trait-subtypes (you'd be surprised how many files get them wrong...) can be found in the book...and they are awesome. Beyond the usual minor bonuses (with correct type!), always with some neat prose, they also have some very unique ones: 1/week acting in a surprise round as though you weren't surprised,, since the spirits warned you? That may well be the difference between life and death, with the restriction helping to balance it and damn cool fluff as well. Better healing capacities for devotees of the One True God, lingering madness that increases the DC of your mind-affecting spells (but at what price in the future??), being the friend of a priest...the traits are flavorful, unique and actually for once do their originally intended job: Facilitate roleplaying from the get-go.


The book also features a total of 6 feats: One renders you immune to exactly one disease (more important in a horror context...at least if the GM doesn't suck), temporarily granting bonuses to fort-saves to those affected by your channel energy, better social skills with the undead and a chance to live longer when reduced to negative hit points - all fitting, power-wise okay and flavorful as choices. The pdf also sports two metamagic feats: One allows you to add fear-based effects to spells and the other allows the undead you create to spread plagues - both are precisely crafted and solid, though, in an odd and purely aesthetic glitch, the second half of the latter feat seems to have slightly bolder letters - not fully bolded, though.


Now lineage feats have pretty much been one of the coolest things to come out of the new SoV-books from a mechanical point of view. Well, guess what? We get a new lineage, namely spirit. In case you didn't know: These basically grant you the wonderful roleplaying gold (and damn cool character option) of having a bloodline of power...which also comes with a curse. When you embrace your lineage via these feats, your power increases...but you also pay a price. The spirit lineage here can be likened a bit to the ghost-haunted Godefroy of Ravenloft, with a stronger emphasis on becoming more ghost-like (including, at the end, incorporeal stints). Two thumbs up - great for the horror context!4 types of cool, mechanically viable incenses can also be found in this book...and yes, they are very cool: There is, for example, one that makes it much easier for the consumer to perceive invisible creatures...


The magic items introduced in the book feature a flair of talismans and resound with lesser folkloristic traditions and lore - necklaces from corpse hair supposedly keep the living dead at bay; consuming ghoul teeth may delay the frequency of ghoul fever, granting you precious time; murderer's hands can continue to draw blood even after the demise of the killer (add bleed damage to attacks a limited number of times per day) and skin masks, a staple not only since Skinsaw murders, help you navigate the living dead...and animate them. Candles containing the toe and nail clippings of a hanged thief can help you outline secret doors and valuables...the items breathe a sense of the occult, of the twisted and make for perfect additions to horror and dark fantasy games. Two weapon special properties, maddening and penetrating are both aptly priced at +2 and welcome addition to the arsenal of PCs.


A total of 7 spells are next - with spectral hands attempting to drag targets to hell, the level 9 druid forest fire, the One True God's Hoy Word (perhaps not perfectly named) causing sinners to bleed from their orifices, Fortitude-enhancers, permanent aging (appropriate for a horror game!) and snakes of water, the visuals of the spells are great and their position within the spell-levels well chosen. No complaints whatsoever. The pdf also provides the Ancestral Armaments incantation, a ritual that binds bloodthirsty spirits into spectral weapons that guard you or attack other creatures...but, as always, failure to perform the ritual properly comes at a price...


The pdf also sports a new archetype, the Hellfire Evangelist, who only gets one domain, but may also choose Fire. As a full-round action, these preachers may use channel energy to bolster their silver tongues, converting the unbelievers. The rules for this signature abilities for this roleplaying heavy archetype are rock solid and it can easily be combined with other archetypes. Two thumbs up!


The pdf has one final, meaty section: The Plague Mage PrC. The PrC needs to be able to cast 3rd level arcane spells, is pretty easy to qualify for, gets d6 HD, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort-progression (interesting choice!) and full spellcasting progression, but only 2 + Int-mod skills per level. At 1st level, these beings can sacrifice spell slots of 3rd level or higher to spontaneously convert the spell into remove disease and they may prepare that spell without a spell book...however, here's the catch: The disease is cured as usual...and transferred to the plague mage. If he makes his save, the disease is stored within him and can be transferred to victims with a mere touch, ignoring onset time. 2nd and 7th level increase the DCs of such diseases (and spells et al. dealing in them) by +2/+4, respectively. Starting at 3rd level, the plague mage may lace carried diseases into his ranged touch spells. At 8th level, plague mages may expend spells to deal physical attribute damage to foes a ta mere touch. Finally, as a capstone, the plague mage may lace diseases into cone- and radius AOE-spells. Both PrC and archetype come with roleplaying tips.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch. I noticed not a single relevant hiccup in either formal or rules-language. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' full-color two-column standard and the pdf features a lot of stunning artworks I haven't seen before. This is a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


John Bennett's Player's Guide to Ina'oth is basically the perfect horror gaming player's guide; the book offers flavorful options that marry a crunch functionality with a LOT of roleplaying potential. The focus here is not to engage in the min-max-mathfinder game; it's to tell stories of unique and captivating characters in a rather disturbing land. This is a book for the roleplayers and horror-aficionados. Crunch is precise and well-priced for horror games and the quality of the prose is excellent. Beyond that, the book manages to paint a vivid picture of the region without spoiling crucial truths t the players - not even between its lines. Even more so than the colonies, this one is simply superbly written, fun and truly evocative.


The last time I have read a regional sourcebook I enjoyed reading this much was a long time ago. When even paltry little traits offer cool options and you can practically see the modules coming, the creativity blazing forth...well, then you certainly realize that you stumbled over something awesome. This book, in short, is absolutely excellent, evocative and inspiring. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans any inkling of doubt or hesitation. Fans of horror and dark fantasy should consider this a must-have addition to their library. (Yes, my fellow Ravenloft-fans - that includes you; this is the best regional sourcebook for the genre I have read since the end of the Doomsday gazetteers.) Oh, and if you want a module that thematically fits with the more savage and less sophisticated components of Ina'oth - may I suggest adapting TPK Games' "The Reaping Stone"? It hits the right notes and is sufficiently brutal...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Ina'oth - Player's Guide
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Kemonomimi - Moe Races (PFRPG)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/26/2016 09:29:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages, so let's take a look!


"When the kami placed their thumbprint unto the forehead of man, bretahing life into the husks of flesh, they wept tears of sorrow. Looking upon their children playing upon the ground, rolling in the fields of grass and running alone through lush tracks of wilderness, the Kami felt the hollowness of the human heartbeat, thumping alone." This is the beginning of the legend that talks of the creation of the kemonomimi, and it is but the beginning of a rather flavorful origin-myth, which is subsequently enhanced via age, height and weight tables before diving into the respective races.


Each of the racial write-ups comes with information on physical descriptions of the races, their society, relations, alignment and religion and adventurers as well as with, obviously, racial traits. However, beyond these, neither favored class options nor racial feats or traits are provided, making the depiction in each case rather minimalistic. On an aesthetically positive note, each of the races does come with one or two original piece of full-color artwork (exceptions: Fox and Tanuki-based races...but then again, for the former, Everyman Gaming's numerous Kitsune-artworks should do the trick). All of the races share the kemonomimi subtype and are humanoids, in case you were wondering.


The red panda-based Akaimimi get +2 Con and Wis, low-light vision, +2 racial bonus to Knowledge checks, +4 to Handle Animal and Wild Empathy-checks made to influence red pandas and similar creatures and 1/day augury as a SP (on a nitpicky aside: Not properly italicized). Interesting: The SP can be cast by akaimimi with ki pool (also not italicized, but then, italicizing ki never made sense to me) additional times by expending ki. At 10th level, they also unlock 1/week divination.


The raccoon-based Araiguma get +2 Con and Int, low-light vision, +2 to Disable Device and Sleight of Hand, the same Handle Animal/wild empathy-bonus to influence raccoon-ish creatures and they can use dowsing to lead them to fresh water; By washing food (but not water), they can purify it...which is pretty clever and cool as an idea!


Inumimi, based on dogs, gain +2 Str and Wis, low-light vision, Handle Animal/wild empathy affinity with canine creatures, +2 to Handle Animals and Survival and they are resilient against curses, gaining a +2 bonus to saves against them. This bonus extends to adjacent allies, though multiple such bonuses do not stack. Nice one!


Kitsunemimi, obviously based on foxes, get +2 Dex and Int, low-light vision, +2 to Perception and Sense Motive, fox affinity and a +1 bonus whenever they take 10, +2 when they take 20. Again, a unique racial ability. Basically, think of these guys as more down-to-earth fox folk that work well in campaigns where kitsune are a bit too much.


Nekomimi, based on cats, gain +2 Dex and Cha, low-light vision, +2 to Climb and Perception, cat affinity and may reroll a single die roll 1/day, thanks to their luck. Nice variant of the catfolk trope!


The tanukimimi, based on the tanuki, gain +2 Con and Cha, low-light vision, +2 to Survival and Stealth, tanuki affinity and can gain, 1/day as a swift action, temporary hit points equal to their character level + Constitution bonus (EDIT: The author has contacted me and told me that the pdf's "bonus" is indeed intended here instead of the more common "modifier" - which is pretty rare, but not unknown. So, negative Con-mod is not applied here. Just fyi!) - these last for 1 hour. Neat one!


Finally, the Usagimimi, the harefolk, gain +2 Dex and Wis, low-light vision, +2 to Craft and Profession checks, hare affinity and they gain +1 to atk and skill checks (not rolls) with weapons, tools and vehicles they crafted as well as +1 CL when using scrolls and potions they made. They also reduce the armor check penalty of armors they crafted by 1 and increase the earnings of Perform and Profession by 10%.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good. On a formal level, there is nothing grievous to complain, and while on the rules-level there are very minor deviations from the standard rules-language, these do, in no way compromise the integrity of the rules. Layout adheres to a full-color two-column standard with colored petal-like elements at the corners and, as mentioned before, a surprising amount of nice, full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but does not need them at this length.


Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose's kemonomimi races were a surprise for me. You know, I'm not the biggest fan of anthro races and I've seen quite a lot of them. Most of the time, or at least often enough, they either are lopsided, studded with "OMG, look how KEWL my athro is11!!"-arrays of abilities or the like.


This book is not like that. There is the old design adage of KISS - and this pdf very much is the application of it. The fluff is neat; the races, however, manage an interesting feat: They aren't boring. They are not jam-packed with skill-bonuses to x or z, instead, much like the fluff around them, exhibiting a Zen-like design-aesthetic. It simply does not take much to many abilities to make a unique race, just one good and unique one - and (almost) each of these has just that. Where many races I see are cobbled together from the pieces of the ARG, these guys all have their own, distinct trick that sets them apart and makes sense within the context of their respective fluff.


Suffice to say, I'd allow each of these races in any of my games; even in CORE-only games, these guys will not unhinge the game's balance...and they still feel distinct as races. I really like this racial design philosophy. To make this abundantly clear - in spite of not being too into the subject matter, I found myself intrigued and wanted to know more about these folks. Which brings me to the one detriment of this book - its brevity. The lack of favored class options, race traits, alternate racial traits and the like is the one downside of this very economically-priced supplement. It should also be considered to be the only reason this does not score higher than it does. The races per se are neat indeed and warrant a final verdict of 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kemonomimi - Moe Races (PFRPG)
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Kineticists of Porphyra III
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2016 06:43:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third of the kineticist-supplements in the ...of Porphyra-line clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of content, leaving us with 62 pages, though these are in the digest-like A5 (9'' by 6'')-format, but if the previous two books were any indications, this will be chock full with hard crunch...so let's not waste any time and dive right in!


In case you were wondering - this review is based on V.4 of the file.


After a brief discussion on kineticists and their interaction with the overall world, we are introduced to the selection of the archetypes herein - let's start with the racial one: The Elemental Brethren, for the suli-races (Still hurts me physically to write "Ifrit, Oread, Sylph, Undine" -the mythology nomenclature fail's so brutal...in this review, I'll refer to them just as "suli") must select the elemental focus associated with the element of the respective race, with non-suli at 1st level gaining the energy strike racial ability as being treated as the respective suli for the purpose of selecting the Extra Elemental Assault feat. Additionally, all of these brethren gain Incremental Elemental Assault as a bonus feat and may apply the elemental assault's benefits to the respective kinetic blasts as through these were weapons, but lose the 1st level utility wild talent. 3rd level allows for the expenditure of one round of elemental assault to reduce the burn cost of an infusion of up to third level by 1, with 8th level allowing for the expenditure of 2 rounds to reduce the burn cost of an infusion of up to 6th level by 1 and 12th level unlocking the option to expend up to 3 round to reduce burn of an infusion of up to 9th level by 1.


6th level similarly allows the kineticist to expend 4 rounds of elemental assault to fill 1 point of the internal buffer as a full-round action. 7th level provides and infusion on the list of those available at -1 level and gain both an infusion and utility wild talent instead of expanded element. 9th level lets the elemental brethren expend three rounds of elemental blast to increase the damage die size by 1 step for 1 round, replacing the infusion gained there. 10th level provides expanded element, but limits the choice available to the 4 primary elements, but they only treat their level as 2 lower rather than 4 for purposes of wild talent selection. If the ability is applied to an element already known, the archetype instead modifies a known infusion to work at -1 level as well as gaining an infusion and wild talent. At 15th level, the archetype reduces the number of rounds required to use elemental fuel, augmented internal buffer and blast burst by 1 round, to a minimum of 0, effectively de-limiting this resource - okay at this level. They also get an infusion or utility wild talent, but trade all of that for the expanded element gained. At 20th level, the archetype can expend 4 round of elemental assault to use any kinetic blast wild talent they don't know for 1 round. Alternatively, the archetype may wild card a wild talent for 24 hours and replace it with another of the same category - though the elemental restriction to fire, air, earth and water still persists. While I am still no fan of the races and themes, this is still a good example for a racial archetype done right, one that utilizes the unique capabilities and themes of the respective suli.


The second archetype contained herein would be the Corpse Puppeteer, who needs to choose viscera or void as elemental focus. At 1st level, the corpse puppeteer can create the eponymous corpse puppets from the bodies of deceased Small or Medium humanoids or animals (base stats provided): Void puppeteers get skeletons, while viscera specialists treat the creature as a construct. The construct is treated as an animal companion with kineticist levels standing in as full druid levels and may learn feats, in spite of being mindless, though the puppets are restricted to the companion's list. Corpses are dumb and can only attack, defend, stay and flee and they can only be healed via kinetic healing options. Commanding the puppet is a swift action and the connection may be severed as a full-round action. Establishing a new connection with a corpse costs 1/2 character level burn, min 1 - but for each additional corpse provided, said burn can be reduced by 1. 10th and 15th level unlock Large and Huge puppets, respectively, with options to accept burn to grow the puppets in a small quasi-ritual as well as the choice to instead commandeer multiple smaller puppets. This does consume the 7th level expanded element as well as the infusions granted at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level.


Corpse puppets may share spell-like utility wild talents that require a standard action to use, but this eliminates the standard action from the corpse puppeteer's next round and burn may not be accepted when doing so. This replaces the companion link and usual share spells abilities of companions. Starting at 4th level, fleshcrafting is unlocked, allowing the puppeteer to add the unnatural evolution permanently to a corpse, though only one such modification can be in effect at any given time, +1 at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 10th level unlocks the use of improved unnatural evolution instead. Corpses may also take Extra Evolution, using HD as level. This replaces the 4th level utility wild talent. 6th level keeps the corpses from decaying as though gentle repose'd and 10th level nets expanded element instead of a utility wild talent. As a capstone, the puppets gain a massive nasty boost to their capabilities. All in all, a delightfully creepy kineticist pet class.


The Dread Soul must be evil and has a corresponding aura and, if they die, returning them to life is hard, since they are on the express train to becoming evil outsiders in the lower planes. The blasts of dread souls are treated as though modified by the aligned infusion, not counting towards the substance infusion limit - but obviously, the ability's limited to evil and it replaces the first level infusion. 2nd level nets the Flesh of the Fallen unique elemental defense, which nets you scaling natural AC as well as resistance depending on the evil outsider (devil, demon, daemon) chosen; as always, burn can be accepted to increase these values up to a scaling limit (max +7) until you restore your burn. When you accept burn for a wild talent, your scales deal reflexive piercing damage equal to your elemental resistance to creatures assaulting you with non-reach melee weapons or natural attacks for 1 round.


Now 5th level becomes NASTY: As part of using any wild talent for which the dread soul must accept burn, excluding defense wild talents, they can target a living intelligent creature (Int 3+ - kittens and rats need not apply) to make a Will save or take one burn for the dread soul. Good creatures take a penalty to these saves and this delegated burn increases to 2 at 11th level, 3 at 17th level. If the creature manages the save, the dread soul is staggered until the end of his next round, but delegated burn does count, thankfully against the daily and per-round burn limits, avoiding abuse via fanatically loyal cohorts etc. - basically, the negative effects of burn are mitigated, but the resource as such is not tampered with. This may require a bit of book-keeping, but I wholeheartedly applaud the design decision and precision here. At 9th level, Con-mod times (Con mod times 2 at 20th level) per day, targets must succeed two saves against this to mitigate it, which does take a bit off the edge of the stagger on failure, but retains the gambit-y nature.


This ability eliminates infusion specialization 1, 3 and 5. At 6th,11th and 16th level, the archetype increases the amount of total burn he can accept a day instead of gaining internal buffer. 7th level expands the Flesh of the Fallen elemental defense to apply to a second element at slightly decreased potency and add a bonus to Intimidate checks equal to the natural AC-bonus to the benefits. Additionally, the archetype gets the soul burning substance infusion allows you to add, at 2 burn cost, +1 burn to your infusion, burn that is very hard, in particularly for good characters, to remove. At 10th level, expanded element is gained instead of the utility wild talent.15th level provides one of two infusions, one of which is gained instantaneously: Number 1 is an improved version of soulburning that deals lethal burn and requires greater restoration to remove. As a nitpick, the pdf failed to italicize the spell-name here. Number 2 would be an universal form infusion...and pretty much absolutely awesome: A foe reduced to 0 hit points is turned into a soulstone that flies to your hand, with the soulstone acting as an unwilling target for your burn-delegation - and best yet, the ability, while powerful, can't be cheesed. no kitten-failure, no follower-exploit...just all around awesomeness. And no, you can't stockpile them. Maximum 1. Finally, the second capstone ability lets you treat the delegated burn as not counting against your own burn maximum for a fitting, brutal capstone delimiter. All in all, cool evil kineticist archetype with some awesome visuals. Soul stones are just...shudder Also: Impressive from a design perspective regarding the lack of possible abuse scenarios - I tried hard to break this one and couldn't do it. Kudos!!


I've spared the most interesting for last - the Dimensional Ripper, who must select aether, time or void as focus (and this restriction is maintained for expanded element at 15th level). Instead of the 2nd level's utility wild talent, the class gets dimensional tear: As a standard action, these guys can accept 1 burn to create two tears in the dimensional veil. (Alternatively: Full-round action and no burn.) These must be within empty spaces within 50 ft (+10 ft. per level beyond 2nd) and require line of sight. Tears cannot be opened in hazardous terrain, are 5 ft. tall and wide and must be placed vertically on solid ground. They block line of sight and can be identified as via Knowledge (planes) and they cannot be opened where extradimensional travel is blocked. Tears closing on creatures deal 1d6 points of damage and shunt them to the nearest unoccupied free space. They automatically close upon a dimension ripper moving further than 100 ft. +10 ft. per level beyond their location. A given creature of size Large or smaller may enter a tear and exit at any given other tear to which it has line of sight and infinite loop-scenarios via tears end after the third iteration - so no eternal falling exploit. Attacks and spells shunted through a dimensional tear by any other character than the dimensional ripper emerge from a randomly determined dimensional tear (or re-emerge from the single tear, if only one's here). Kinetic blasts may be fired freely through dimensional tears by the dimensional ripper, though the maximum range may not exceed that of the kinetic blast. Melee attacks (such as via kinetic whip) can only travel through 1 tear and blasts modified with form infusions require the ripper to be within 5 ft. of the blast, treating the tear from which it emerges as the origin. Kinetic blasts with the ranged infusion increase the range of the blast by 10 ft. per tear they travel through, up to a maximum of 10 ft. per 3 class levels. The ripper can maintain a number of tears equal to twice the amount they can create with a single use at a given time - at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, they may place tears in the air (but only at 1/2 maximum range height), while also creating +1 tear (+1 tear per ability use every 4 levels thereafter). Additionally, tears created as a standard action no longer cost burn, and they can be created as a move action for accepting one burn. At 10th level, move actions no longer cost burn and the tears can be opened as a swift action (though the ability fails to specify that it costs burn to do so, that is apparent from the context) and standard action-created tears no longer require burn to increase their duration.


At 8th level, burn can be accepted to make the dimensional tears last longer and treat travel through rifts as if affected by the light speed travel wild talent. The dimensional ripper may also apply hyper-dimension blast for 1 burn to their blasts, as long as the blast travels through at least one rift. 9th level is interesting - for +1 burn cost, the dimensional ripper can increase +atk and damage by +1 per tear traveled through by the blast, with a cap of 1 per 3 class levels. Additionally, charges made through them with melee-centric tricks like kinetic fist get upgraded to pounce and increase the movement rate for each tear passed by 10 ft., with the same cap determined by level. 11th level becomes crazy cool -as a move action, they can move any number of tears up to 30 ft. - and they can, as an immediate action, be moved into the charge of an enemy, forcing them to save or be at your mercy regarding their egress point.


17th level is the "watch me obliterate you"-move: Shoot a blast into a tear...watch it emerge from ALL your tears (except the first one used), at half strength - sure, 3 burn...but this is so gratifying. At 20th levels, two rifts can be collided, causing them to collapse in disintegrating, devastating blasts...oh, and yes, the more used, the deadlier. This is basically the equivalent of all those Japano-RPG final boss total annihilation moves. You need set-up...yes. But you can kill basically anything with it. And at 20th level...I'm surprisingly okay with that. Why? Because the dimensional ripper is FRIGGIN AWESOME. As in: Even if the rest of this book was utter garbage (which it isn't!), this alone would warrant the asking price. It's the efficient, cool, yet restricted portalist that has enough options at each level; that can snipe through portals; that makes for a ridiculously brilliant antagonist and for a radically different playing experience. This guy is platinum.


...


..


.


You're still here, aren't you? All right, all right. So, guess what - no new elements this time around. Instead, we get an example that N. Jolly can write nice fluff as well - 5 elemental saturations, basically, for those not in the know, leyline-like nexuses of power for kineticists, are provided - with the shadeless citadel for light, the genus loci (the land made flesh) and similarly iconic places awaiting your kineticists to tap into their power - and while intended for use with porphyra, these places can be inserted into other campaign settings without hassle. The cool thing here: By e.g surviving the genus loci trying to eat you, you gain a means to convert 1 point of lethal damage into non-lethal damage. Bracing the chamber of compressed time can provide you a move and a standard action in a surprise round - these are powerful, yes - but they also are story-benefits and as such completely in the hands of the GM.


The composite blast-section begins with a clarification: Composite blasts treated as though affected by an infusion don't count the added effect towards the limits of substance of form infusions. The blasts themselves are, much like in KOP II, pretty versatile and feature interesting images: Blasts of gore, hellfire (fire + negative, +1 damage die step and burning infusion), rare-metal meteorites and there would also be complex mods like shatterstorm blast: While you reduce damage die size (erroneously called "hit die" here) by one step, you add +2 damage per HD and treat it as though the kinetic bomb infusion had been applied to it. Adding silverlight to positive energy blasts and reducing foes below 0 hp to ash...there are some ways with which one can be an utter, total prick here. Like it!


Of course, we once again get new infusion wild talents, with reprints from KOP I and II denoted as such, but contained for your convenience. At level 3, I consider ignoring 20 hardness and being treated as adamantine for 2 burn to be too early. The effects are generally valued as stronger than alignment DR and hardness is pretty much the best defense there is...so yeah, that one needs a whack with the nerf bat in my book. On the plus-side: Demoralizing via blasts? Cool idea, as it emphasis a bit more good ole' skill use. Upgrade-follow-ups for the burning infusion, frying creatures in water, level 5 burn 4 dismissal...pretty neat. Follow-up shot is basically a Rapid Shot/Flurry-style form infusion, but I consider the Pyroclastic infusion to be more interesting: Creatures currently on fire can become your own little kinetic fire bombs. And then, there is Vital Blade. It works like kinetic blade, but can be used with Vital Strike, Improved Vial Strike and even when used as part of a charge. Sorry, but no. This is friggin' OP. I know that plenty of people disagree with me on this one, usually people who like playing the theory-numbers game. I know quite a lot of gaming groups treat melee as a static of trading blows with minor movement here and there. My experience is, that fluid and dynamic combats that do not boil down to trading full attacks all the time, make for more exciting combats. If your enemy refuses to do the out-rambo-ing game with you, Vital Strike becomes extremely powerful; particularly so when combined with the damage-escalation tricks of the kineticist. For me, personally, this is broken. It may not be broken in your game - if movement in your game is worth less than in mine, which seems to be the case in some tables, then this won't cause too much of a hassle. That being said, as a whole, this is a nice expansion indeed!


We proceed according to plan in a similar fashion with utility wild talents - the pdf offers quite an array of different new ones, with reprints properly codified. Adaptive skin builds on reflective skin, allowing you to change resistance after the triggering attack, while aerial supremacy allows for up to two 90° turns in an aerial charge. Aquatic kineticists will enjoy taking bubbles of the sea with them, allowing them to use their swim speed on land (Cerulean Seas fans - get this!!). Okay, here, I'll just be a sour grape: Level 3 utility wild talent. Nets you dimensional tear. Only the basic one, sure...but please. It can also be upgraded via two follow-ups. Not close to the ripper, but still. The ability is ridiculously good. In my game, it will remain archetype exclusive - imho, easy access to them is too powerful. Elemental duplicates of the good ole' hand-spells-formerly-known-as-Bigby-spells on the other hand, are cool. Also: paper control is MUCH cooler than basic phytokinesis 8did we ever actually get useful rules for that one?) and can be taken in its place...this is a good thing, for basic phytokinesis kinda never did make it into Occult Origins, at least not into my copy. So kudos for this required upgrade! Now, the book also has some absolute winners for the thinking and planning crowd - Photographic Transference. You can see through your illusions. As in: "You literally see through them, becoming blind while the effect lasts and instead watch the world from the illusions you created. Yes, this can be pretty darn awesome. You can also deal fire damage to yourself (or allies) to end bleed effects or make your kinetic cover come apart as difficult terrain when it's broken. Quicksand sinkhole? Check. Modifying wind intensity (your sniper/artillery guy will thank you for it!) with appropriate levels for wind strength? Check. Oh, and you can play disco boy. No, seriously: Strobe Lights that fascinate targets. Drawing foes into dimensional tears or pulling out your own intestines and whipping foes with them? Yup. And yes, the latter has upgrades and feat-synergy. THANK YOU.


Beyond these, the book has EVEN MORE: Combo Wild Talents. Bone spikes wild talents, infused with biological toxins, for example. Oh yes. These made me very happy...and there is a lot of potential for more of them in the future. The pdf also introduces elemental mutations - basically, in Porphyra, the NewGod war etc. have tainted the elements. Kineticists may only have one such mutated element. Brutal is basically more powerful, but always takes lethal damage for Burn and burn altering effects. Conservative reduces damage, but also burn. Dense means that they treat non-physical blasts as physical...but need to attack regular AC. Intelligent mutation nets +2 class skills and skills per level, but requires a move action for gather energy and supercharge. These may btw. also help, scavenging-wise, campaigns that consider the kineticist's damage output to be too high. Combine detriments and there you go. That just as an aside.


The pdf also features new feats - basic kinetic training nets you one utility wild talent, while Composite Blast technique allows you to gain a composite blast for which you'd require an expanded element. Another feat nets you +2 Burn a day, +1 dimensional tear per use of the ability. There is also a feat that deserves special mention: Overwhelming Defense treats you as though you have accepted 1 burn for the purpose of elemental defense, +1 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. This is basically a power-upgrade for the Overwhelming Soul...and a good one.


The pdf also sports a couple of items - there would be the Elemental Heart artifact (Hint: Kineticists will want it!) Blaster's bearing is brutal - it's a sling bullet into which you can infuse kinetic blasts with substance infusions of up to 3rd level - and they make sense to me, with their warfare application and volatile nature keeping them from breaking in-game logic. Now burn fragments will not get into my game. these are one-use burn-reducers. Only by one, sure and the three variants and their caps are well-priced...but still. Not a fan. There would also be a robe that grants temporary hit points upon accepting burn.


The pdf concludes with Jade Strider, a CR 10 dimensional ripper sample character.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed a few glitches in the formal and rules-language department, though usually, they don't impede the functionality of the content. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly 1-column color-standard of Purple Duck Games, with A5 (9'' x 6'')-size. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks as well as gorgeous, original full-color artworks.


This is the third of the books by N. Jolly and team KOP (Jacob McCoy, Mort, Onyx Tanuki) and it is...grml...hrmpf...you know, I really want to complain about some of the options herein. I consider a couple of components to be too good. And, at high levels, a capable power-gamer can insta-kill pretty much everything by using this and KOP I + II...but that's, for the most part, a system-inherent issue. Until 17th level, even with all the options in the combined KOP-books, the kineticists expanded played like strong choices and worked surprisingly well. This series, as a whole, is something, though, which much like psionics or similar systems, requires the GM to really grasp how the kineticists work - with the significant fine-tuning options the KOP-series offers, that holds true even more. This book, perhaps a bit more so, should be carefully read by the GM, since not all components will be fitting for all campaigns.


That out of the way, in spite of me disliking/banning more components in this book for use in my nonplaytest-home game than in the first and second book, this is still my favorite installment in the series. The archetypes are friggin' inspired and the dimensional ripper alone is worth the price ten times. (Granted, I wouldn't allow for other kineticists to get tears...but you may. Just rest assured that the foes will weep...) Anyhow, the new locales, the pieces of content that I liked, shone like stars to me this time around. The fact that the dread soul can't be cheesed, the sheer complexity of the ripper that one ups the already significant complexity of the kineticist...this book is pretty much master-class level regarding in the difficulty of its designs...and it manages to make them work. That in itself is a damn feat and the level of creativity and coolness this one oozes is exceedingly pronounced. To sum up: Best archetypes in the series, best archetypes I've tested for the kineticist so far. Must own book. Even if you loathe the base kineticist with all your heart, get KOP I, II and III and see if the new elements, archetypes like the ripper or dread soul and elements like viscera don't change your mind.


In short: Considering the more than fair price-point, the complexity of crunch offered, the quality of the complex crunch offered and the absolutely impressive execution of these components, this is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the few hiccups herein.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kineticists of Porphyra III
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