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Drow of Porphyra - Nalbrezu, Devils in Disguise
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2016 09:19:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second installment of books detailing the subtypes of drow that exist on the patch-work planet of Porphyra clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 21 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Unlike other planets, Porphyra, defined by the NewGod War and the Calling, is a unique place regarding the drow - taking vastly diverging drow from various worlds, they are NOT all the same. The Nalbrezu, in particular, are a radically different take on the drow: On their home world, the ran perhaps one of the greatest cons of all time, self-styling themselves as a race of immortal rulers...and then, a meteor hit. Drow died. The gig was up, as the in-character prose tells us. The uprising against the decadent drow-rulers was bloody and swift and demonic enslavement in the Abyss wasn't nice either...but the Nalbrezu got out, courtesy of the forces of hell.


Now, they run the empire of whispers - basically, consider that an ultra-lawful race-wide spanning guild. Think of them as a whole race of conspiracy, undermining other drow and races, guided by the code of the Nalbrezu - which is completely depicted with sanctions and decrees codified in 3 tiers. Oh, and guess what? There is actually power in upholding the respective laws, via incentives, providing a crunch-based rationale for the upholding of the detailed code of these drow. Similarly, they do not have slaves - they have indentured servants and paying one's dues is crucial to the way in which their unique society is structured. And yes, this installment also provides information on greater and lesser noble houses of the Nalbrezu and their society, surprisingly, is rather egalitarian, but determined by meritocratic ideologies. Also, marriage and divorce is handled in a rather nonchalant manner - basically, these guys feel like an intriguing mix between the tropes one would associate with old school Cosa Nostra and drow, with a surprisingly inclusive bent. Nalbrezu do not penalize necessarily the negative impulses - the courts of corruption, each of which has a specialty, ranging from gambling to assassination.


A society with such a structure obviously also features unique symbols, some of which are represented in a nice piece of artwork. And yes, the generally surprising level of tolerance extends to the religions. Racial stat-wise, they are akin to normal drow, but gain +1 to Bluff and Diplomacy and +1 language per point in Linguistics, message, vanish and detect thoughts as SPs and two energy resistances 5 of two of the following: cold, electricity or fire. The nalbrezu also have a racial geas - once per level, they need to help someone fulfill vengeance... The race is pretty modular regarding alternate racial traits, with alternate SPs, quick Stealth, luck or fiendish resistance. These are well-crafted and generally balanced.


The pdf also sports favored class options for alchemists, bards, clerics, fighters, monks, rangers, rogues and sorcerors - all are nice and focus on the themes of the Nalbrezu.


Like the previous installment, we do get an array of interesting faction traits for houses or courts - though, unlike the last book in the series, the bonus types here have not been properly codified as trait bonuses. Oh well, they are still interesting, gaining e.g. one use of the Div bloodline's spoiling touch ability. Granted, they are not always perfectly worded, but generally, they are well-phrased enough to work sans problems.


The pdf also provides rules for Sleight of Hand-ing objects and people and points towards 4WFG's classic Inkantation-tattoo-rules, while also sporting...drumroll Torture-rules! The higher your Intimidation ranks, the more degradation techniques and reinforcement techniques you can get to adjust attitudes, implant suggestions in targets and break their will...potentially even shift the alignments of the poor saps subject to the Nalbrezu's ministrations. These rules are unique, concise and will get some use at my table!


The pdf also sports feats, which include means for Nalbrezu to increase their energy resistances, switch SPs or base Intimidation on Strength or Intelligence. As masters of infiltration, eye color dye, hidden compartments and secret pockets provide cool items.


More than that, GMs looking for more inspiration can find it herein in the guise of several sample nalbrezu nooks and intrigues that provide suitably cool hooks for these drow.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good on a rules-level - while none of the deviations from standard rules-language are truly problematic, they are here. The pdf's layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks herein are original, full-color and gorgeous - kudos!


Patricia Willenborg's second book of Porphyra's drow...is AWESOME. Seriously, at a point where I was certainly bored by most depictions of drow, the nalbrezu are a huge breath of fresh air. I'd even argue that the nalbrezu as a race are more player-friendly and balanced than the default drow. The torture rules are cool...but more importantly, even if you don't want to use anything herein...this is a great read. No, seriously. Being written mostly in in-character prose, this pdf suckers you in, much like the nalbrezu themselves, and manages to slowly make you sympathize with these guys...which mirrors perfectly the devilish methods and ideology of the nalbrezu themselves. Fun, unique and radically different from all those tired takes on the drow, this is glorious and has a ton of great ideas. While not perfect, it is an inexpensive, fun and evocative supplement well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5...and since I really enjoyed this book, I'll also slap my seal of approval on this pdf.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Drow of Porphyra - Nalbrezu, Devils in Disguise
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I Loot the Rogue's Body System Neutral Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2016 09:16:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Raging Swan Press' "I Loot the Body"-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right - after a brief, nice introduction to the subject matter, we dive right into the first table - which contains 50 sample rogue outfits that range from startling color-combinations to dark vests over white shirts...and e.g. goggles and gas-mask-like outfits for a surprisingly diverse assortment of evocative sample outfits.


Beyond these, rogues, perhaps more so than other classes, sport an important tool of the trade...and if you're like me and tie of saying "you find a masterwork lockpick"...well, then the next table is for you: At 100 entries, you can find cracked spyglasses, brass ear horns with the initials "R.W.D.", spools of copper wire, chains, thin silver wires...now these are inspiring tools beyond the old and tired clichés. Well done!


The third table in this book, then, covers the insides of rogue's pouches - which means that from bottlecaps from diverse breweries to pickled eyeballs of demons and mouse skulls, you'll find a lot of actually interesting material in this table - what poor fey was deprived of its gossamer wings? Why doesn't the box with the hand-crank open? I don't know yet - but these nifty bits certainly make for an inspiring starting point to further develop such angles from!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, as we've come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to the crisp and printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It should also be noted that the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use - kudos for the extra-mile there!


Eric Hindley's collection of dressings for the deceased rogues is, in one sentence, a fun, inexpensive and versatile list of tables that enhances the game by providing ample angles for the GM, more interesting finds for the players and a neat combination of the common and uncommon - if anything, however, I do believe that this installment is relying a bit too much on the "find item engraved with XYZ"-gimmick - there are quite a few such entries herein. That being said, overall, this does not tarnish what otherwise is a nice, fun book - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Rogue's Body System Neutral Edition
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I Loot the Rogue's Body
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2016 09:15:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Raging Swan Press' "I Loot the Body"-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right - after a brief, nice introduction to the subject matter, we dive right into the first table - which contains 50 sample rogue outfits that range from startling color-combinations to dark vests over white shirts...and e.g. goggles and gas-mask-like outfits for a surprisingly diverse assortment of evocative sample outfits.


Beyond these, rogues, perhaps more so than other classes, sport an important tool of the trade...and if you're like me and tie of saying "you find a masterwork lockpick"...well, then the next table is for you: At 100 entries, you can find cracked spyglasses, brass ear horns with the initials "R.W.D.", spools of copper wire, chains, thin silver wires...now these are inspiring tools beyond the old and tired clichés. Well done!


The third table in this book, then, covers the insides of rogue's pouches - which means that from bottlecaps from diverse breweries to pickled eyeballs of demons and mouse skulls, you'll find a lot of actually interesting material in this table - what poor fey was deprived of its gossamer wings? Why doesn't the box with the hand-crank open? I don't know yet - but these nifty bits certainly make for an inspiring starting point to further develop such angles from!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, as we've come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to the crisp and printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It should also be noted that the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use - kudos for the extra-mile there!


Eric Hindley's collection of dressings for the deceased rogues is, in one sentence, a fun, inexpensive and versatile list of tables that enhances the game by providing ample angles for the GM, more interesting finds for the players and a neat combination of the common and uncommon - if anything, however, I do believe that this installment is relying a bit too much on the "find item engraved with XYZ"-gimmick - there are quite a few such entries herein. That being said, overall, this does not tarnish what otherwise is a nice, fun book - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Rogue's Body
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Tides of War: Magus/x Feats
Publisher: Flying Pincushion Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2016 09:13:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Tides of War-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!


As the first pages of introductory fluff clarifies, this pdf is intended to provide feats that facilitate a magus' means of multicassing synergy - so what do the feats do?


-Arcane Brew: The alchemist crossover feat allows you to spend arcane points as part of casting your spell or attacking to ignore penalties imposed on Intelligence or Strength by mutagens or cognatogens, respectively. Solid, functional, no complaints.


-Arcane Challenge: 1/day, spend 2 points from the arcane pool to get +1 challenge; alternatively, spend 1 point change challenge target. Cool, flexible, no complaints.


-Arcane Performance: After preparing spells, spend up to 1/2 magus level arcane points to gain +3 rounds of bardic performance or raging song for that day per point spent. Nice! Also, 1/day, expend 4 rounds of bardic performance or raging song to regain 1 point for the arcane pool.


-Arcane Rage: After preparing spells, spend up to 1/2 magus level arcane points to gain +3 rounds of rage or bloodrage for that day per point spent. Also, 1/day, expend 4 rounds of rage or bloodrage to regain 1 point for the arcane pool. Interesting - the increased potency would make this a superior trade-off when compared to the previous feat, but base class layout and multiclass-interaction isn't as strong. Comes out as balanced.


-Blood of the Magi: If the 1st level bloodline power has a limited number of uses per day, spend 1 point of the arcane pool as a swift action to regain 1 such daily use. Nice!


-Cantrip Combatant: When using spellstrike or spell combat, you may cast any cantrip with a casting time of 1 standard action in conjunction, not only those from the magus spell-list.


-Focused Smite: Also get +4 to concentration when casting defensively while adjacent to the target of the smite and to concentration-checks prompted by the target of the smite. 1/day regain 1 arcane pool point when defeating the target of the smite. Nice!


-Focused Favoritism: Gain favored enemy bonus to concentration-checks versus one chosen favored enemy. This bonus only applies when casting defensively or adjacent to the target. 1/day regain 1 point of the arcane pool when defeating a favored enemy. May be chosen multiple times, with each new choice applying to a different favored enemy.


-Link Diversion: Gain +4 to concentration while adjacent to your eidolon or phantasm and an enemy. Smooth one! Avoids exploit via melee caveat - NICE!!


-Persistent Hexing: Expend 1 point from the arcane pool as part of using a single-target hex to try to affect the target, even though it has already saved versus that hex within the last 24 hours. May be used 1/2 magus level times per day.


-Spellstrike Infusion: When you accept burn for the kinetic blade infusion to execute spell combat or spellstrike, you can expend 1 point of arcane pool to treat your HD as CL for the spell cast. Nice one!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on both formal and rules-language levels. Layout adheres to Flying Pincushion Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full-color stock art. The pdf has minimalist bookmarks, but more is not required at this level of brevity.


Frank Gori's Magus-multiclassing-feats are a return to form for the series after the rather problematic installment on volley archery feats. The feats in this humble pdf are smooth, balanced, lack means to easily abuse them and enhance the multiclass synergy of the magus, in particular for class-combos that would usually be more problematic...and what more can you ask of such a brief little pdf? Granted, I would have loved to see a feat or two more, but what's here works rather well. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars - for one buck most certainly a nice array of feats.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tides of War: Magus/x Feats
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The Genius Guide to More Witch Talents
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2016 05:45:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The inevitable expansion book for the talented witch clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content - quite a lot, so let's dive in!


After getting once again the patented wall of text (which also categorizes them by utility) before diving into the new edges - and there are no cookie-cutter edges in this one - we begin with the complex (and awesome) curse bag: An item-class into which the witch can put all kinds of nasty curses and enhance them - these enhancements are concisely codified by the item's spell level increase for creation purposes. Utterly iconic, seen in fiction and opens a ton of cool tactics and tricks - Brilliant! Cooler still: Being a curseslinger and firing cursed bullets at your foes! Yes, using curse bag rules. SO. AWESOME. I'm going to adapt that item class for my etherslinger in my home game... Gaining the ability to summon either infernal or celestial servants (somewhat akin to a summoner lite is also interesting - unlike regular spellcasting for the talented witch, these do scale! Oh, and what about witch's curses, similar to those gained by oracles? Nice selection here!


The pdf obviously also features talents - a lot of them. But can they maintain the level of coolness of the edges? Well, let's take a gander: We get some talents that are conservative, but also novel for the witch class - like arcane school specialization. Okay, I see you not being impressed here? Well, what about better crafting of cursed items? Now that one has some serious roleplaiyng potential.


Oh, and there is a rather supernatural-ish talent in these pages as well: Cremate. This hex lets you touch and disintegrate bodies, potentially also dealing significant damage to the incorporeal undead spawned from them! Enhancing wall-spells to also require Will-saves to attack, dispel, pass through etc.? Now that makes for nasty crowd control! Truly evocative (and a bit disgusting) - what about having a seeping wound that also acts as a bag of holding?, increasing in storage capacity? Gaining a spirit servant à la unseen servant or being able to bestow a benevolent blessing on targets - we get quite an array of diverse, cool tropes in this pdf. And yes, included are proper outdoorsperson-style talents, transforming arcane spells into psychic spells, being very hard to topple...or what about witches that enhance the checks of nearby sailors? What about having a key, which, when once used to open a lock, can unlock/lock the respective lock as a standard action? Oh yes, this is narrative gold.


Among the major talents, animating a creature's shadow or temporarily rendering a willing creature undead (!!!) certainly sent my mind spiraling regarding some unique tricks you can pull off with that - both as a GM AND as a player...Holes in the rules like the lack of overland flight object-hexes (come on, you know the stories about the Blocksberg, right?), becoming a carrier of diseases and an area of countermagic. What about a curse that forces the target to either lie or tell the truth? Or creating hard to pass demarcation lines? Punishing creatures trying to teleport away? Oh yes. If a witch has a spirit serving her, she may, as an immediate action, cause the spirit to grant herself or an ally 25% miss chance (50% when fighting defensively)...damn cool. As is a curse of gullibility.


Have I mentioned the option for benevolent witches to provide atonement? Or curse a target to suffer aggravating delays? What about being able to use herbalism and long-term care to duplicate spell effects? Notice something? Yep, these are exceedingly unique and brim with pure awesomeness and narrative potential! Binding oaths, flexible energy resistance, causing groups of creatures to fall into a berserker rage...frickin' yeah!


Okay, so what about the grand talents? 25 such grand talents can be found in this book. Being savvy in all kinds of esoteric knowledge thanks to ancient whispers, blessing targets with madness, uttering blood curses, immortality, geas-fate-control, 1/day auto-resurrection for witches of the death patron...heck yeah. (Particularly since the death patron sure could use a powerful upgrade like this...) Oh, and witches can have their own dominions, wherein they have limited control over reality! All those cursed forests and kingdoms? Yep. Do it yourself! Rapid aging curses can be found as can one find means to jijack mind-affecting effects, becoming a holy avatar...and have I mentioned the wall of force that can ONLY be broken by artifacts? What about cursing a target to become invisible and silent to all those they care and love? Know the Simpson's monkey's paw episode, where the "things turn out the worst possible way"-aspect is so aptly illustrated? There's a talent for that as well. Ever wanted to crush your resistance with a giant hand of stone or travel through the lightless void of space? Talents for all of these and so much more are in here. Oh, and yes, gaining a true name. One where you ALWAYS know who utters it. And the reverse-aging curse is in here as well. Obviously.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with several nice full-color artworks, some of which I haven't seen before. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Stephen Rowe is a bit of a phenomenon in my book. The output of qualitatively high material he maintains seemingly effortlessly is staggering. But there is more to him as a designer - for one, his craftsmanship is exceedingly good. I only very rarely find anything that can be abused in his work. His wording is precise, he is kind and open to feedback...and his work-ethics, as demonstrated by the talented witch, are impressive. Quite frankly, I wouldn't want to design a "talented"-book. I like them, don't get me wrong - but they are capital letters WORK - this much I certainly can attest to from my own design experience. Anyways, his talented witch was an excellent example of great craftsmanship. I was honestly more excited about this one, though. Traditionally, the "more talents"-companion books have fluctuated a bit for me in term of whether I like them or not - but I was pretty positive, Stephen would excel here. Why? Because he has a gift for evocative crunch.


You know my old spiel about how design is both a craft and an art, by now, right? The thing is, Stephen has a mastery for the art-component as well. Where a lesser designer would slap down an SP and call it a day, he takes basically a spell, wraps it in neat prose, adds an evocative concept, weaves gorgeous fluff around it and then does something radically different to the crunch, something that sets it apart, something governed by the evocative concepts provided - to the point where you read a book of crunch and don't just start thinking about builds, efficiency, numbers and minmaxing an efficient character...you think about the story, the narratives you can weave. You are, in short, inspired by the book. This humble little pdf is one such offering, a stunning little gem that is simply...wondrous.


All those tropes are here, all the things you never knew you missed. It's beautiful. And this does NOT mean that this is bland from a crunch perspective - far from it! I need to make curse-bag/bullet-specialists after reading this. Seriously. It's almost a compulsion. I was thoroughly bewitched (haha! I'll slap myself for that later...) by this pdf. This breathes the spirit of fairy-tales and even if you're not at all interested in the base talented witch...well. This book is honestly an excellent reason to get it. I'm not kidding and not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that this is by far the best selection of witch material I've read for PFRPG. And I've read quite a bunch. Superb, evocative, cool - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. I got more inspiration out of this book than out of the last 20-or-so witch-option books/witch-option-containing books I've read.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to More Witch Talents
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In The Company of Dragons (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2016 05:43:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The conversion to 5e of the massive book on playable dragons clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, which leaves us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Okay, so the first thing you need to know as a 5th edition player - the In the Company of...-series started off as a PFRPG-exclusive line of unusual races that codified monstrous races as balanced player options, often utilizing a class to represent progression into becoming a proper full-blown member of that race. This class was optional and thus allowed you to play the race sans progressing in it, at the cost of losing the ability-progression you'd associate with the respective monstrous entity. In the Company of Dragons was arguably the biggest of these books and will become even bigger soon, with an upgraded kickstarted version waiting in the wings.


You have to know a couple of other things: I LOATHE the concept of playing dragons. As a person. I hate it. Seriously. Not as much as I hate Dragonlance and dragon companions, but still. I want my dragons to be the huge, big, bad bosses, the nigh-unbeatable army-squashing apex-predators. It's a personal thing, though and, diligent review that I am, I actually reviews the original ItC:Dragons. And, picture me saying this through gritted teeth...I actually really liked it. Damn.


Why? Well, the reasons for this are manifold, but at least partially are found in the superb in-game prose provided: You see, Rite Publishing's crunch books tend to be actually good reading experiences. I know, odd, right? Kidding aside, ItC-books are written from the perspective of a member of a given race, which here would be the taninim -a kind of proto-dragon that lives in an isolated area/demiplane/suit your needs-type of locale (hence allowing easy integration into a given campaign setting), roughly aligned with Rite Publishing's Questhaven setting that is assumed as the backdrop of all their books. Before you groan - integration into just about any setting is dead simple - no big hassle required. So yeah, by making this decision, the author managed to make dragons viable sans making wimps out of the dragons our players came to fear.


Here's the next thing, though: Beyond this interesting narrative framework, the dragons depicted herein actually also, in the PFRPG-version, had a fearsome array of power and customization options to tailor-make just about any type of dragon you wanted...and they were pretty high up on the PFRPG-power-scale. (In play, this did even somewhat out since most people will try to take down the big, nigh-impossible to overlook dragon...) Anyways, enough of a history lesson - why should you care? Well, as you may have noticed, 5e has a bit of a different design aesthetic and power-level than PFRPG: A conversion of such magnificent beasts has to walk a very thin line indeed...but does it succeed?


Well, racial traits-wise, taninim get Con and Cha-increases by +1, darkvision, proficiency in in Perception and Insight and may hold weapons in your claws, but make attacks with them at disadvantage and only walk half your speed. The quadruped stature of taninim means that your slot-array is changed and they get a bite that uses Strength and deals 1d4 piercing damage...oddly sans gaining proficiency in the bite. 3 subraces are provided - truescales get +1-increases to Str and Wis and a "fly" speed of 30 feet. That should be flying speed in 5e. In a formatting glitch, Deadly Tail is written twice and nets you 1d8 (2d8 if Large or greater in size) Strength-governed bludgeoning with a range of 10 ft....as a bonus action. Not "as a bonus action when making a melee attack". As a bonus action. Oh, and you get a wing attack that deals 10-ft.-AoE-damage to nearby foes and has the potential to knock them prone on a failed Dex save with DC being governed by Strength.


Lung dragons get an increase of Strength by 2 and walking as well as climbing speed of 40 feet as well as +1 natural armor and spines that deal damage to creatures grappling the lung. Lung are proficient with their claws and deal 1d6 base damage with them. Feykin dragons increase their Dexterity by 2 and are of a tiny size, with a base walking speed of 20 ft and a fly speed of 30 feet. They gain advantage on saves versus being charmed and "cannot be put to sleep." They also learn one sorceror-cantrip governed by Charisma.


So, base-race-wise, we do have an issue here - base flying speed. Now while there already are precedents for flying races in 5e, a GM should take heed in this regard and always remember what great targets those flying PCs make... Apart from the minor hiccups mentioned, though, this iteration of the taninim can be considered a well-crafted option.


The pdf also provides class options: The Scaled Juggernaut fighter gets a new fighting style, namely claws and scale - which nets proficiency with claws (base damage 1d8) and also nets you +1 AC. Claws are improved at 7th level, increasing their base damage and making them count as magical. 3rd level nets you resistance to fire and cold and adaption to extreme temperatures. 10th level provides proficiency in all saving throws and at 15th level, you can combine a Dash with a melee attack that can drop foes prone on a failed save and at 18th level, these juggernauts can make claw attacks after reducing a foe to 0 HP - as a free action. 5e usually codifies this type of behavior with bonus actions.


The dread white worm, the undragon of taninim myth, also gets a new cleric domain - with generally solid spell-selections and the option to use channel divinity to consume damage you incur. Any amount of damage. God-strike of deadly annihilation? No problem...at least if you still have a channel divinity uses left. Personally, I would have prefered a scaling amount of damage absorbed here - absolute "I absorb everything"-type of abilities tend to cause issues sooner or later. 2/day, you can, at 6th level, disgorge a massive swarm of nasty grubs. Pretty awesome - at 17th level, when failing a death saving throw, you can spend your reaction to reassemble your body at full HP, at the cost of suffering "1 point of exhaustion" - which should be "level of exhaustion." The ability can only be used 1/day - but still: Damn cool.


Sorcerors may elect to become trueblood sorcerors, gaining a draconic essence (more on that later) at 1st level, but there is a chance of material components being consumed in you casting spells - and yes, this means that these sorceror have to eat the components before casting spells...which can btw. result in rather hilarious roleplaying for the more disgusting components. These sorcerors also get a breath weapon with short rest recharge that increases in potency and can be improved via "sorceror points" - which do not exist - that should be "Sorcery Points". Higher levels increase these potencies and unlock a second draconic essence.


The pdf also contains the conversion of aforementioned racial paragon class, obviously - the draconic exemplar, who gets d12 HD and no armor, weapon or tool proficiencies with saves being Str and Int and three skills chosen from Arcana, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Nature, Persuasion and Survival. The class gets no starting equipment, but begins play with proficiency in claws that scale from 1d6 to 1d12. Claws can be used as an attack action AND as a bonus action. You also get an AC of 10 + Dex-mod+Con-mod, courtesy of your scales. Your size increases at 5th level from Small to Medium, then by one step every 5 levels thereafter, with corresponding weight increase. Similarly each increases by +5 ft. at 10th level and 20th level. As a minor complaint, I think Lung taninim should probably get some replacement benefit here. Bite attacks scale up from 1d6 to 2d10 in base damage. The base class also provides a draconic gift - 3 are provided and grant abilities at 1st, 6th, 11th and 17th level. The Gift of the Behemoth allows you to regain hit points (short rest recharge) as a bonus action and renders you immune to being frightened. Personally, I think Pinion Strike needs a save - striking a foe with an opportunity attack automatically sens the creature prone to the floor...which is a bit...well. Odd. Flinging foes sans dealing damage is cool and trampling foes similarly rocks.


Gift of the ancients provides elemental bonus damage to bite and claws (OUCH) as well as a shield and reflecting magic that targets you back at the caster is nasty. While this is wording-wise pretty much in line with established wording, it imho could have used a bit of clarification regarding AoE-effects for e.g. spells like fireball etc. - since 5e got rid of the "target"-line in the spell-statblock, this can otherwise be a bit problematic/cause confusion. Not a bad gripe, mind you, but one I noticed. The gift also nets you an elemental aura. The gift of the third eye provides a charming gaze that improves over the levels. On a nitpicky side, the 6th level ability's light should probably specify the spellcasting attribute for it on a design aesthetic level, but as written, it is functional.


The class also undergoes dracomorphosis, which is the name for all the aforementioned attack/size/weight-increases - with feykin dragons gaining the option to ignore them for spells based on Cha gained instead and advantage on Dexterity (Stealth)-checks. I already mentioned draconic essence - these basically determine sclae-color, damage type of your breath weapon and its shape and also offer a compulsion, basically a drawback - to e.g. have to save when trying to retreat, etc. - a total of 20 such essences are provided and allow you to tailor the chassis to generate the taninim you want to make. Aforementioned breath weapon is, fyi, unlocked at 2nd level and 3rd level provides a single alternate humanoid form so your taninim doesn't have to wait outside the dungeon that's too small for him. Ability score improvements work as usual and extra attacks are gained at 5th and 14th level. 7th level provides advantage on initiative rolls and 9th renders your claws magical. At 13th level, you can crush foes beneath you and at 18th, you get a terrifying roar - recharge durations for these class features make sense.


The pdf provides also a significant selection of feats and while their formatting looks rather Pathfinder-ish, they still very much are products of 5e - i.e. they provide significant benefits, usually more than one...and if they provide only one benefit...well, then they at least offer one brutal benefit - take Appendage Severing. This one makes your bite crits incapacitate targets until the start of your next turn and makes them drop an item they're holding. Similarly, size-increases for non-paragon-class taninim are cool and necessary feats like Flyby Attack are included - though here, the wording could be clearer - "If you target a creature with a melee attack, you no longer provoke opportunity attacks when you fly out of that creature's reach." All right. For how long? As written, one attack suffices to never provoke opportunity attacks from that target again -which is clearly not the intent. A high-level, balanced option to decapitate foes can be btw. also found here - and yes, it has legendary action, head-less etc. caveats.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, slightly less refined on a rules-level - while the basic rules-language is precise and to the point, there are some minor hiccups to be found here. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a ton of glorious dragon-artworks in full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Wendall Roy and Joe Trotter's conversion of this book to 5e proved to be honestly much better than I imagined it would be - the taninim as an intricate, customizable power-house have been transported well to the 5e-rules and generally are a fun race to play...but also, much like in PFRPG, a very strong race. While I'd hesitate to call it overpowered, the race itself is certainly on the strong side and honestly, when comparing lung with truescales, I think the lung got the short end of the stick. There are some components that I consider to be a bit strong, with most of them being that due to bonus actions for additional attacks not being tied to melee, allowing for a bit to much flexibility for my tastes. As for rules-language, while there are some minor Pathfinderisms herein, these do not unduly impede the functionality of the options presented herein.


All in all, this is a well-crafted, if not perfect conversion of an exceedingly hard to convert book and as such, this must be called impressive. Still, with the couple of flaws noted throughout the review, I can't award this my highest honors. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, roundd down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Dragons (5E)
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Sir Reginald Lichlyter's Trusty Tavern Tome
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2016 05:42:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive supplement clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 57 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief introductory prose and a short history on alcohol, we begin this pdf with a chapter that is aptly named "How to get drunk" -and if you've taken a look at the GMG, you'll know that the rules leave something to be desired there - hence, this pdf codifies drinks in sizes - basically, from shot to huge kegs, you get the respective number of shots contained. Much like Raging Swan Press' excellent Barroom Brawls, this pdf focuses on stages of inebriation - but with a different emphasis. Where RSP's booklet took a look at the slightly inebriated states, this one takes a closer look at truly plastered conditions, providing 3 additional grades of being utterly drunk. But wait, you say - there is a difference in potency! Well, yeah, and the pdf accounts for that and the pdf also presents guidelines for intoxication of creatures of unusual size - getting Colossal creatures drunk is hard...


The pdf also sports rules for hangovers (=fatigued), but provides no guidelines for the duration of such a handover, which is a bit disappointing. Oh well, the next component of the pdf is interesting in its details - we cover drinks, a lot of them. Each drink sports a source, a suggested supporting geography/culture, a cost, the serving size usually employed and a brewing DC to make the drink. The respective drinks feature proper elaborations and cover favorites of mine like Absinthe (Goth-cliché checked off!) and goes on to cover cordial, dandelion wine, mead, mezcal or various sorts of beer, the section is rather nice. As a born and bred Franconian, I could have used notes on more diverse beers, but then again, I'm a huge beer and whiskey snob...so no surprise there. ;P


Pretty cool, btw. - the pdf also covers a wide array of mixed drinks, with e.g. xorn vomit being a mixture of absinthe and brandy. I may be a bit odd - but precise measurements for the ingredients would have been fun to me...perhaps since, once in a while, when my PCs gather in a bar, we actually drink as players. The pdf also sports signature drinks - like my beloved doppelbock, dwarven stouts, hammermine porter, hobgoblin haggruh, melonmashs or yam beer - and that was only a very small look at the selection of beers! Mead types, wines and odd distilled drinks come in similarly detailed selections, providing a wide variety of cool subtypes, though these specialties sport no crunchy information.


Then again, we're talking about drinking in a fantastic context -as such, magical drinks make sense and are provided. Each such drink sports a drink type, serving size, cost as well as a description and a note on popular brands - one star denoting 80% of list price, two and three stars = 100% list price and higher star ratings meaning that the drinks will be more expensive. Here's the interesting thing, though: All fantastic drinks require Fort-saves - failing them nets the drinker the side effects noted for the respective duration instead of getting the benefits. The drinks also have a compounding line, which denotes the amount of times a character can benefit from the respective drink in a given 24 hour period. Oh, there is one thing I should note pertaining the side effects - they are kinda hilarious in some instances - when you drink, for example, cat fat tonic, it has a sequence of 6 failure - upon each failure, you permanently take on more feline features like whiskers or a cat's tail. You wake up after a long night of boozing in a back alley. Suddenly you look like a catfolk. WTF has happened??? That does sound like a cool module to me! That being said, at the same time, this rare type of elixir can also be cheesed - its benefits are "Character gains a +1 towards Move Silently, Hide and Balance checks" - which is not proper rules language. Unfortunately, this does extend to a couple of the drinks herein. At the same time, it should be noted, however, that the drinks themselves make interesting suggestions regarding the effects - consuming a particular spirit can e.g. help you not be hampered by the miss chances of displacer beasts. While I really want to like these drinks, there is one rather glaring hiccup herein - all but 2 of the drinks lack the note on how long their benefits actually last. They lack the benefit duration-line. Basically, compounding this with the lack of bonus types etc., this makes the whole section not that useful, which is a pity.


Magical brews, then, as opposed to the former category, are somewhat more streamlined - the rules-language are significantly more precise and their formatting adheres closer to being uncommon potions: Bitter basilisk Ale lets you spit lancets of flame. That being said, the activation option of spitting the gouts of flame here is missing. That being said, this is still a rather cool selection -and yes, wine of sex shifting included.


All right, beyond all those drinks, this pdf also covers inns and taverns of different sizes and qualities, with a handy price-list , patron-maximums, costs to purchase, initial stock provided etc. Pretty cool, in case you're looking for quick and dirty tavern management rules - by type and size, you get a nice daily spending vs. daily earnings table that can streamline day-to-day business to a single roll. Similarly, inns also receive this thoroughly detailed take. The final section of this pdf sports something most of us will have encountered at least once - the random drinking buddy/type of drunk - a total of 16 such archetypes, from the antisocialite to the bragger or spendthrift can be found within these pages, allowing GMs to quickly whip out a personality trait for the respective NPC, with quite a few of these traits also sporting rules for resisting their quirks.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are ok, but not perfect - there are quite a bunch of formatting hiccups and typos in here and rules-language oscillates between being precise and opaque as well. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full color standard and the pdf sports numerous neat full-color artworks -as often with fat Goblin Games, this is a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Rick Hershey, master of Fat Goblin Games, is perhaps most known for his prolific output of unique artwork, but it is evident that he also knows how to design some intriguing game mechanics. I honestly didn't know what to expect from this book, so here's the deal - this is, in essence, a kind of Call to Arms-type of book for drinks and taverns: You get the level of detail the simulationalists among you will adore as well as a couple of rules-plug-ins one can easily use to supplement the game. I particularly liked the streamlined inn/tavern rules. I also really liked the level of detail regarding specialties, but wished they had a bit more details regarding their crafting. Similarly, I really enjoy the risk/reward type of magical alcohol.


I really like a lot of the components in this book, but when the rules-language is flawed in some of the components, it simply made my heart drop a bit. You see, I'd like to unanimously recommend this one, but ultimately can only do so to an extent -if, as a GM, you're willing to take care of the rough edges and like the ultra-detailed approach, then I'm pretty confident you'll enjoy this book. As a general dressing/consideration-book, this certainly is a feasible addition to one's arsenal, if not a perfect one - and while I want to round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, I ultimately can't - hence, for the purpose of this platform, we'll arrive at 3 stars, but with the express caveat that this book can be a pretty inspired resource for certain groups.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Sir Reginald Lichlyter's Trusty Tavern Tome
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The Genius Guide to the Talented Witch
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2016 09:45:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This HUGE book clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial 1 page SRD, leaving us with...54 pages of content. Yep, that's right... brutal!


The witch class, as rebuild in the talented line, mostly is identical in chassis to the base witch - though one noticeable discrepancy is an upgrade in skills per level from 2 + Int to 4 + Int, which may not be required for the witch in general and/or constitute a glitch.


At this point, I am assuming you're familiar with teh concept of the talented class redesigns - basically, you have class features as a grab-bag, taken from archetypes and codified as two types of "talents" - hence, talented. D'uh. Anyways, talents are usually less valuable, while edges constitute more crucial class components. The talented witch begins play with 4 edges and 1 talent and then gets a talent at 2nd level and alternates between gaining talents and edges at every level. Major talents are unlocked at 10th level, grand talents at 18th level. Got that? Great. Now you already basically know how the class operates.


Where appropriate, brackets denote the type of archetype an ability is taken from and edges and talents are grouped by basic type - want a hag-style witch? Consult that line and you get them all - bite, claws, etc. Want a familiar? that's an edge. Occult prowess via Psychic Sensitivity? Edge. Patron? Edge. Speaking of which - you can be patron-less! Oh, and you can be either a spontaneous or prepared witch via these rules (yes, spells per day tables provided) - but here's the thing: Spellbook or similar spellcasting conduit that allows you to learn spells beyond leveling? Well. Edge. And no spellcasting does not simply progress - you have to take one edge on a level sufficiently high to get access to spells of a new level - which means full spellcasting with eat your edges like crazy. And no, you can't combine prepared and spontaneous spellcasting to make a low-level abuse-scenario in e.g. an E6-campaign. Sorry...wait. No. I'm not. That's a good catch. ;)


Beyond the massive, ridiculous amount of edges, over 140 talents await. Yes, you read that right, and yes, once again, they are grouped by category. Beyond this, however, the pdf also collates all hose familiar options including special benefits for your convenience. And the Improved Familiars. And TEMPLATED Improved Familiars. Oh, have I mentioned the list of patrons? The list of patron domains? Or the huge, massive, compiled witch spell list that incorporates all the big Paizo hardcovers, including Occult Adventures? These massive, exceedingly handy appendices are very, very useful, not just for players aspiring to make talented witches, but also for GMs.


Oh, right, hexes...I should talk about them, right? Well, they're talents marked with an asterisk. Yes, that simple. And yes, the pdf does remember to state the synergy-clause for feats and abilities like Extra Hex etc..


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Kudos! Layout adheres to Rogue genius Games' two-column full-color standard and sports a blending of full-color artworks of different styles, several of which, though not all of them, fans of 3pps may recognize from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Stephen Rowe of the four horsemen is definitely a BEAST. This massive tome transcends in scope even the older talented class-pdfs, is crafted with his trademark precision and makes a lot of sense from a customization standpoint - with this, you can make just the witch you always wanted - which witch? Well, the witch which I wanted to make was a white-haired dwarf with bonethrall that masquerades as a bum. Got the rules. What more can one ask for? Well, not much - just oen piece of advice - with great power comes...slap Sorry. this one's so trite, but it's true - the customization options here are powerful, but they also place responsibility on the player, so choose wisely, young padawan! My final verdict will, also thanks to the HUGE and extremely useful amount of supplementary lists etc., clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to the Talented Witch
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The Mists of Akuma - Primer
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2016 09:43:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This primer for Mike Myler's Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page sales-pitch for the kickstarter - so what do we get in here?


Okay, this is pitched as eastern fantasy noir steampunk for 5th edition - basically what would happen if you took the eagerly anticipated Steampunk Musha and infused a hefty dose of Ravenloft with more emphasis on the fantastic. After a brief page of introductory prose, we get the one component that may alone very much justify downloading this primer: The Mists of Akuma. These would basically be a variant of the mists of Ravenloft crossed with Rokugan's Shadowlands - essentially, they require a Dignity saving throw (DC 8 + 1 per previous save in the last minute) and, on a failure, increase your haitoku attribute. Much like fatigue, the effects of these mists come in multiple levels, 8 to be precise, but they do feature some severe...changes. What begins with hallucinations quickly turns to include mutations and later, death and transformation into an Oni!


The pdf also introduces a new attribute - Haitoku, which can be considered to be the fall from dignity, or the corruption of the character. The most approximate translation, if my rusty and rather rudimentary Japanese doesn't deceive me, would be "immorality". This attribute can be raised by roleplaying and actions and one can draw upon it to act while unconscious, resist madness and accomplish similar feats. 3 sample feats based on haitoku are provided, showcasing how the corruption interacts with dignity et al. On an aesthetic point - Prerequisites of attributes in 5e usually sport "attribute required or higher", not just the attribute required line, but that is, admittedly, a cosmetic gripe.


4 new character backgrounds, all with flavorful features can be found - interesting: Background influences Haitoku as well as Dignity. The pdf also sports a variety of human subraces, two variants of shikome and two types of tanuki. On a nitpicky side, the rules-language, while generally precise, is a bit internally inconsistent, sometimes using "your Strength score increases", while other times stating "Your Strength increases..." - again, a cosmetic gripe...but I figured I'll point it out for the final book's benefit anyways. Paladins may select the samurai sacred oath and Warlocks the Wu-Jen pact...and this is where the pdf already ends.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good, but not yet perfect - seeing that this is free and that generally, it can be considered well-made, no complaints. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with public domain art. The pdf sports a nice map of the lands by Michael McCarthy and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, I have to once again harp on that one: This is no primer. This is a sample - while this is a small book that highlights components of Akuma, I don't really know that much about the setting after reading this book. I know that some races exist, some obvious traditional class options exist and that haitoku is an (awesome!) thing and that the mist rules are sufficiently cool to make me excited about this project. But it's not "introductory". I know there are a bunch of cool components to scavenge here; I certainly like what's implied - e.g. that augmentations can affect dignity, the blending of steampunk and noir aesthetics - I like just about all I see...or I think I do. Because, honestly, I have a hard time putting the pieces presented herein together. So no, I don't consider this a primer. However, I consider it a great teaser for Mists of Akuma - and one that certainly has a lot of scavenging potential! Being FREE doesn't hurt either, which ultimately makes me settle on a final score of 5 stars for what's in here as opposed to what's not in here. Take a look at this scavenge and take a gander - chances are, you'll find something intriguing.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Mists of Akuma - Primer
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Death to Alignment!
Publisher: Quasar Knight Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2016 09:40:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This supplement clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, ~1 page of artist contacts, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin this supplement with 1 page of opening fiction before diving right into the nit and grit of this book's lofty goal - abolishing a system deeply ingrained in d20 and its derivatives. And, much like the author, I absolutely LOATHE the alignment-system. I consider it poison for portraying complex characters and have abolished it in my non-playtest games for more than 10 years. It took a lot of work to get there - but can this book take this effort and burden from a GM's shoulder's? Well, let's find out!


This book begins in a rather promising and didactically-relevant manner - by listing influences of alignment on rules-components by material influences: Whether it's classes, prestige classes, feats, traps or items - the pdf takes carefully stock of material covered and does so in a rather fine manner. After this handy list (which, with the new big rules-books may no longer be complete, but retains its usefulness), we dive into the respective rules-operations, beginning with options to strip classes of alignment. Interesting: The author takes the same route I did regarding clerics, rebranding them as clerics of life and death, respectively. Ranger's favored enemy outsiders obviously no longer have their subtype, slightly widening that component. Sorceror bloodlines are mentioned and particularly interesting would be the paladin - who now may detect magic, smite any hostiles...and replaces good/evil with heavenly/hellish - more on that later. Interesting, btw.: Bless Weapon bites the bullet to account for paladin power-increase and the Cloak/Aura spells are replaced by an alignment-neutral version.


In lieu of a Law Domain, we get the Control domain, instead of Evil Corruption, instead of Good Purity - etc. - these alternate domains are well-crafted and actually sport some interesting and thematically fitting domain powers. Since alignment is good, some rather detailed analysis is given on DR in concert with DR-bypassing. Now I mentioned heavenly et al. as new magic item properties - these are now applied by subtype. (Once again, just fyi - just how I handled that.) Sun blades now are problematic for undead and creatures with light blindness, etc. Overall, this pdf has me seriously impressed so far.


Beyond these carefully-filtered options, the pdf also sports variant alignment systems - the axis of purity vs corruption (see all anime with creepy angel-nazis ever for ideas how creepy purity can be...), a three alignment-system (good, neutral, evil) and a classic one based on Law, Neutrality and Chaos - here, somewhat erroneously called allegiance, but whatever - a total of 5 feats complement this system, which has this fuzzy tint of old-school-nostalgia.


I was somewhat surprised to see the obvious choice not in this book, the one I personally use: Allegiance to a concept of ideology: Be it faith, a form of government or a town. But oh well, I certainly won't bash the book for taking a different road when it does such a good job at it!


The book is not yet concluded, mind you: We also get some rather interesting though-experiments, the first would pertain a humble paladin and similar concepts that allow for an imho more concise depiction of paladins in a given context, including incremental punishments for code of conduct violations. Similarly, necromancy gets quite a bit of coverage, with multiple takes on why it may be stigmatized - from just having a bad rep to actually being toxic. A further experiment for human interaction that helps a GM realize the relativity of alignment nomenclature can be embarked upon as well and finally, advice on not sweating it too much and finally, the pdf contemplates what makes "evil" evil in game- and honestly...I don't concur here. RAW, it is pretty easy to make good guys do horrible things in PFRPG. In fact, from an out-game perspective, I consider most good guys EVIL. How many groups out there are like mine and enforce a "killing is not what good guys do, unless there is absolutely no other way"-policy? Yep, figured. The game's not made that way...and similarly, by applying real world ethics to game ethics, we open a fun can of worms. Just diverging in opinion here this should not be misconstrued as criticism of this book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, certainly more refined than in the other books by Quasar Knight Enterprises I've read. Layout adheres to a1-column full-color standard, which is a bit annoying if you print this out: The pages have a yellow background that drains ink/toner like crazy. The pdf's artworks are in full-color and while rabid fans of Purple Duck Games may know them already, they are beuatiful. A big strike against a booklet like this, though, would be the lack of bookmarks Without them, electronic navigation is cumbersome and printing this, as mentioned, is a serious drain on the printer.


Ray Chapel's Death to Alignment is quite frankly by far the best book he's made in my opinion - it's concise, logical, well-presented and fun. But I wouldn't be me if I had no complaints, right? So there we go: One of the unfortunate realities of such a book is that it ages by definition - this is no exception. The game has moved on and this could use an expansion. For example, where would you draw the dividing line between paladin and antipaladin in such a setting? How would you depict shifts in tendencies? What about all the new classes and materials? This book, while detailed, obviously can't cover all of that...but it would be nice if it did....and that remains, content-wise, my one complaint.


Know what robs this of the seal and an even higher rating? The very printer-unfriendly presentation and the lack of bookmarks. This is a book you'll use often, one you'll consult multiple times...and consulting it, in either option, just isn't that comfortable. The topic is far from exhausted - and I honestly hope this'll get a sequel. Until then, I remain with a final verdict of 4 stars for a useful, if not perfect book.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Death to Alignment!
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01AE01 - SagaRPG Arc Excursions: Barrow of the Cursespawn (PFRPG) PDF
Publisher: SagaRPG
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2016 07:02:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Wait, before we do - I need to apologize. This is one of the cases where a file fell into the digital cracks of my HD and between prioritized reviews and the hustle and bustle of real life, I fell short of my duties. Consider this me rectifying this shortcoming.


Before we dive into the nit and grit of this module, let me elaborate what the Darkwood Saga is - basically, it's a series of interconnected modules, with the big ones being the main meat of the storyline, while these excursions represent the "sidetreks". Why the quotation marks? Because that moniker does this module injustice. The unique and absolutely awesome component of the first of the main modules could be summed up in the following way: We get basically a fantasy setting that combines the virtues of fantasy gaming with organically and concisely implemented tropes of gritty Westerns and Americana for a jamais-vu type of unique, awesome cultural identity, with a leaning towards dark fantasy and weird fiction. If you're like me, that ought to have sparked your interest - and if that did not suffice, please read on...


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! The pdf begins with an interesting background story that develops the Ahsen'i people - basically the native inhabitants of the lands around Darkwood. This story develops the intriguing components of their history and how their relationships to the spirit world...became strained. Things got worse, though - inter-tribal conflict and jealousy did abound and ultimately resulted in a totahatem becoming the haunting ground of a once pure and gorgeous woman, Cha'Risa, now a deadly cursespawn. This threat, secluded in realms South of Darkwood, remained for the years...but that is about to change.


We join our adventuring heroes in the Crosswind Saloon of Darkwood, where an unpleasant group of rival adventurers tries to pick a fight with them - and in the tradition of these modules, actions have consequences...The PCs will then be recruited by Captain Billious Vinsalt, who wants to recruit the PCs: One of his mining operations has seen significant issues and he wants the PCs to deal with that - and yep, there is danger involved. The first people to try it were wiped out with the exception of Khaindala Knight Tallen Warnshelm, who, while weakened and rattled, can provide at least some information.


But that's not all - the PCs soon find a mysterious note, wherein the EMTC under the command of Garret Trask seeks to hire them to instead destroy Bill's sluice mine - and again...actions have consequences, including the faction system used in the main saga. The travel to the totahatem near the sluice mine is pretty uneventful, but has a nice array of random encounters, should you feel the need to spice things up. if you're like me and one of the readers who enjoys learning something, information on how the sluice mine works is provided as well - including a schematic drawing. Nice! Arriving at the totahatem's entrance, the PCs will have to face the first of the dreaded worm wights - and yes, full cartography provided for the respective encounters.


In case you're wondering how the exploration of the once-sacred burial site goes - it is GLORIOUS. Not only are the PCs and players rewarded for trying to understand the foreign culture depicted herein, the chalenges are diverse: There is, for example a puzzle that resolves around closing chests (and yes, the explanation is concise) and just about every room has multiple intriguing hotspots. More intriguing still - the combat challenges are difficult, but reward smarts: The PCs can, for example run afoul of a bone golem. Here's the cool thing, though: In order to win, the PCs will not only gain an understanding of the culture of the Ahsen'i, they will also need to conduct a cleansing ritual (for a potent magical item) and navigate a cool, deadly puzzle room in which a sequence of crushing stone blocks sequentially make the reliquary tighter and more dangerous. Oh and fyi: If the PCs are mindless looters, they'll take a pretty pissed spirit with them who'll continue to haunt them until his grudge has abated.


But in order to truly end the curse of this place, the PCs will have to brave the heart of the Totahatem, where spirit and mortal world overlap and the half-woman-half-slug-thing that once was Cha'Risa awaits with her protoplasmic slug swarms. And yes, she's as deadly as she sounds - and depicted in a truly gorgeous artwork. The pdf provides full stats for the well-crafted, awesome adversaries herein, sports information on a new language and a new affliction as well as the mazaeli subtype.


Oh yeah, and this does provide 4 pregens.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are excellent - I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides a LOT of awesome artwork in full-color and similarly great cartography. While the pdf has no player-friendly versions of the maps, this is in this case not big of an issue. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Nick Johnson and Lars Lundberg's Barrow of the Cursespawn is quite frankly one of the best modules you can get for the exceedingly low price-point. The module is a great reading experience; the presentation is gorgeous. And it costs 3 bucks. Seriously? I can't fathom how this can work. I really can't. This is a high-quality module that oozes passion, that feels organic and immersive. The glimpses of a culture both foreign and familiar and the blending of tropes is done in a thoroughly compelling, awesome manner, making this a true steal, even if you're not interesting in the main arc of the Darkwood saga. This module is so good, I actually got it in print as well - and the print-version is just as beautiful. (I hope the second excursion will get a PoD as well at some point...) Being a module that challenges both brains and brawns of the PCs, one with a unique flavor and great ideas, I can btw. recommend this to fans of other rules-systems as well - this lives primarily by its extensive, glorious atmosphere and its cultural savoir-faire. In short: This is an all-around great, ridiculously inexpensive module you definitely should get. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans any hesitation.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
01AE01 - SagaRPG Arc Excursions: Barrow of the Cursespawn (PFRPG) PDF
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Mortars & Miniguns 5E: Zane's Guide to Pistols
Publisher: One Dwarf Army
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2016 06:54:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf depicting pistols for 5e clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page almost blank (only a small part of a sentence is on it, so I'm counting it as blank), leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the general gun rules herein: Basically, on a 1 on an attack roll, a weapon jams and can't be used until you spend an action to clear it. Guns as portrayed here have a rate of fire - a single shot is just that. A burst of fire consumes 3 rounds of ammo, but adds +1 damage die to the damage output of the weapon - 2d6 become 3d6, for example. This increased power, however, also means that the weapon can jam on a 1-2. Finally, there would be full auto fire, which allows you to target a single 10-ft. cube within long range: Every creature in the area must succeed a Dexterity saving throw (DC 8+ your Dexterity modifier, + proficiency bonus, if any) or suffer the weapon's damage on a failed save, none on a successful save. Creatures beyond the normal range have advantage on the save, which mathematically and logic-wise makes sense. Saves in 5e are pretty swingy and advantage somewhat alleviates this. Auto fire consumes 10 rounds of ammo and most weapons cannot perform more than one such shot, even if you otherwise would be capable of attacking multiple times. Auto also can jam the weapon on a 1-3.


Additionally, every weapon has an ammo score, which denotes the number of pieces of ammo it can hold before requiring reloading, which consumes an action. Guns can prematurely be reloaded. The pricing for the ammo is pretty pricey, btw. - the least expensive bullets, for .38-guns, costs 30 gp per 50 bullets, which renders this ammunition significantly more expensive than e.g. crossbow bolts or arrows (1 gp nets you 20 of those, in case you need a direct comparison). One minor nitpick that won't feature in the rating of this product: While the PHB states that half the ammo fired can be retrieved after a battle, this obviously shouldn't hold true for gun ammunition. It would have behooved the pdf well to mention that, but since logic is a pretty smooth guideline here, I'll let that one slip.


The pdf then goes on to depict the classic guns - a total of 7 such guns are depicted, all with a nice bit of in-character prose by Zane Ironheart, dwarven mercenary. Since the gun-rules obviously are a tad bit more complicated than the base weapon rules, each of the weapons gets a short mini table listing its respective quality, making presentation of autoloader, combat magnum, etc. pretty concise. And better yet - there also is a classic at a glance table in the PHB's style. No complaints! Most guns depicted here are simple ranged weapons that range in damage from 2d4 to 2d6, but vary in the details: Autoloaders are light weapons, whereas hand cannons do not suffer from malfunctions and allow you to move only up to half your speed while reloading...but these get the option to reroll the lowest damage die and keep the new result. Mini-shottys get +1 to attack rolls versus foes up to 10 feet away, but deal only half damage at close range. To make up for that, their scattershot also allows you to make bonus attacks against a creature within 5 ft. of the original target when scoring a 15-20; on the downside, this goes both ways and, when botching, you can similarly be forced to make attacks versus allies - friendly fire. One important balancing factor here would also be Heavy Recoil - the more efficient of these weapons have a minimum Strength score - not meeting this score means you'll suffer disadvantage on attack rolls. OUCH. Cool, btw.: It makes a difference for the purposes of this drawback whether you one-hand or two-hand-wield the gun.


So what do the martial guns provide? Well, for one, the machine gun gets burst fire and full auto, even if the other traits aren't that impressive and the one-shot express...shoots basically one round and then is toast...so make it count. So that would be the basic framework.


After this, the pdf goes on to depict "the exotic stuff" - i.e. a collection of diverse magic guns - interestingly, not just sporting a general scarcity, but also providing a more fine-grained value, which is a nice touch for control-freak bastard GMs like me. Now the respective items run quite a broad gamut: There would be an autoloader that allows you to mark a foe as a bonus action, gaining +2 to attack and damage rolls versus said foe, whereas a mini-shotty deals +1d4 damage on a damage die roll of 4...which requires a bit of clarification: On a 4 of the bonus damage, do the dice explode further? Better sniping via the aptly-named Bullseye. The one-shot express cannibal-gun can be enhanced by sacrificing life to it, while another gun fires corrosive bullets that have a chance of ruining a target's armor...which is pretty interesting, particularly considering that the pdf manages to take natural armor healing into account...which heals at 2 points per day....which does not really gel well with me. Why can't magic, regeneration and similar abilities heal this properly? More details and a more fine-grained approach would have been prudent here. Also problematic - the ability fails to take resistance or immunity into account - neither has any bearing on the corrosion of natural armor, which feels plain wrong to me.


Increased ammo-expenditure for increased damage can be found as well. A very powerful weapon, Deadly Scanner, is pretty nasty - it's threat range for critical hits increases by +1 for each subsequent shot fired at a target, whether it hits or misses...and the gun deals bonus damage on crits. Lightning-laced six-shooters that can stun the target - on a plus-side, fyi: In contrast to aforementioned acid-based gun, resistance and immunity do feature herein, even though I consider the potential stun nasty.


However, I'm not sold on a weapon with otherwise great visuals - there is a magnum herein that deals bonus lightning damage. For each 6 on rolled on one such damage-die, a lightning bolt is created and fired at a target within 50 feet of the victim. Cool per se, right? Great image? Yep, but the effect fails to specify the precise shape of the lightning bolt: Is it a single-target-arc? A line that affects anything in the way? I have no idea. I assume the ability to adhere to the standards set by the lightning bolt-spell, but I can't be sure considering that the pdf does not properly denote whether "lightning bolt" refers to the spell or just a bolt of lightning via either formatting or text.


The fire gun allows for no save to avoid being ignited by the shot (what happens to flammable materials carried?) and the cold gun can paralyze you. Pretty cool: There is a MIB-style thunder-damage causing legendary autoloader that has enormous recoil, while the Lucky Punk is an obvious nod to Dirty Harry - any roll of 5+ does not consume any ammo...which is pretty powerful, considering the high costs of ammo. A charge-based, life-leeching gun...there are quite some solid ideas here. A particular gun may be problematic - allowing for charges to generate basically remote bombs you can detonate is cool...but the charges can be activated as either an action or reaction, sans specifying the type of reaction. On a nitpicky side, the pdf mentions a "Heal check" here to remove charges, which is not correct 5e terminology.


The pdf also sports two new feats, Guns Akimbo and Pistol Expert. While nice, the former does not account for potential heavy firearms a GM may devise, which is a bit of a pity. Pistol Expert allows, among other things to reduce recoil and reroll1s of damage dice AND increases the reload action economy penalty, which may be a bit much for one feat. The pdf also allows for a double tap fighting style and provides the gunslinger martial archetype for the fighter, which generally can be considered a cool take on the tropes - at 15th level, you can e.g. do the Lucky Luke and take reactions to ranged attacks before the triggering ranged attack is resolved. The interesting thing of this one, mainly, is that it allows for extra control regarding attacks via luck and a bit of ability control, providing some serious bonus attack combo potential - whether you like or dislike that ultimately is up to taste.


Conclusion:


Editing is pretty tight on both a formal and rules-level, though formatting sports some deviations from the standards - though it should be mentioned that one generally can understand what an item is supposed to do. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked fr your convenience.


Georgios Chatzipetros of One Dwarf Army's freshman offering is much tighter than I honestly expected it to be: The basic firearm rules follow the time-honored tradition of power at a price, with ample subsets of rules to make them feel different from crossbows etc. I like the frame and the pricing is also pretty tight, with none of the clutter/issues that other systems have. That being said, at the same time, I do believe that several of the magic weapons could have used simply tighter rules. There are a couple of glitches here and the focus lies very much on MOAR damage - to the point where you can outclass all other weapon types easily. This may be an issue in mixed settings, so beware of that - a focus on more utility, less damage escalation via exploding dice-like mechanics may be prudent. And mind you, I like exploding dice. I'll never forget a PC of mine blowing a moss's head clean off with 5 consecutive maximum d10s on a musket in a previous edition, thus saving the whole group from a TPK...but in view of the small die-sizes employed, you'll statistically get quite a bunch of rerolls/bonus damage. How and whether that still works in the context of later installments, where auto- and burst fire are more common...we'll see.


For now, the framework is solid, the craftsmanship nice, if not yet perfect...and the price-point is more than fair. As a freshman offering, this is solid for a buck and due to this bonus, I'll round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mortars & Miniguns 5E: Zane's Guide to Pistols
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Drow of Porphyra - Karza, Children of the Loomqueen
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2016 06:52:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf detailing drow of Porphyra clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD (featuring a bit of rules text), leaving us with a bit more than 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Porphyra is unlike other campaign settings - the patchwork planet has been very much defined by the NewGod War and the Calling - and when the creatures called out for the reach of other worlds and deities...they got more than they bargained for. A LOT more. One of the drow (yes, ONE of the nations of these guys and gals know for their kind hearts) that responded were the Karza, named for the demon queen that created this race, one entity called Karzerothrine. These drow are pretty much the creatures we'd associate with the classic spider iconography, matriarchal structures, etc. - oh, and guess what? Some are born with sipder-like or arachnid features....not as penalties, but as divine boons. Guided to a titanic cavern in the new world, it is here that these drow struggle.


The pdf provides information on daily life of the drow and yes... even the familial structures. And here things are interesting: Unlike according to the classic depictions, years upon years of hardship and struggle have crafted a societal structure that may be decadent and pleasure-focused, but also one expecting struggle and satisfaction, generating a structure that is in constant flux, but not necessarily bereft of affection. It's not guaranteed...but neither is it anathema and the focus of mutual exploitation and power-garnering means, oddly, that e.g. looks are less important. It should come as no surprise, then, that karza laws are few and far in-between - there are two, though: Heresies are crushed and all drow need to convert or die, adding a surprising sense of fanaticism to the drow that brings the component of evil firmly back into the fold. The pdf does cover the 8 great noble houses of the karza, with interests and specialties as well as reputations covered.


Statblock-wise, karza feature the standard drow traits, but replace their SPs with ghost sound, blend and spider climb. Things become interesting regarding the alternate racial traits, though: Remember how I mentioned drow with arachnid traits? Yep, from bites to different toxins to burrow speed, natural armor or blindsense...or even spider legs or scorpion tails, these alternate racial traits are pretty awesome, though, from a nitpicky perspective, I'd have loved to see bites/stings properly list the respective damage-types...but then again, one can assume the default for these. On a more relevant nitpick, the scorpion stinger lacks information on whether it's a primary or secondary natural attack, unlike the bite. And yes, one of the new feats allows you to gain more of these, in case you want to play a rather arachnid/weird karza...or pit one monstrous foe against the PCs.


The karza do gain unique FCOs for the alchemist, barbarian, cleric, druid, fighter, inquisitor, ranger, rogue and sorceror classes - and yes, they are solid! The pdf also sports 8 faction traits for the Karza and yes, these get the bonus types right. The pdf also provides a nice, uncomplicated rule to harvest poisons from creatures encountered. Similarly, feats allow for variable poisons.


Speaking of poisons - the karza, as a whole, pride themselves on the vast plethora of poisons they can create - which results in a rather well-made and quick custom poison generation system - granted, one that could be didactically better presented, but once you get how it's supposed to work, it turns out to be pretty smooth.


Now I already mentioned some of the prior feats, but it should come as no surprise that poison-supplementing feats can be found here. Not all feats are winners, though - a pretty lame +2/+4 skill bonus (plus option to influence vermin) and a pretty weak teamwork feat for better attacks versus AoO-provoking foes won't necessarily wow you.


On the plus side, the general tendency to create a culturally concise picture of these drow is further emphasized by providing concise rules for hair dyes and liquid skin tones, precious metal body paints and the like actually provide an inspiring glimpse at some potential encounters and cultures - and I know I'd love to recline in a spidersilk hammock! Some fluff-only, brief summaries of karza cities can be found in these pages as well, with several intrigues, basically adventure hooks, further helping GMs looking for an idea.


Aforementioned demon lord gets a full deity-write-up (with gorgeous holy symbol), the verminkind domain and spider subdomain - both of which are solid.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are pretty good - while not always perfect, the pdf's crunch is generally concisely presented and hard to misconstrue. The rules-language could be a tad more concise in the presentation, but ultimately, the pdf suffers no grievous issues. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks deserve special mention here: The pdf sports several gorgeous full-color pieces of karza with spider/scorpion-features. NICE!


Patricia Willenborg's karza were not a group I was looking forward to covering. Spidery drow? Oh boy, innovation prize, anyone? Yes, this is the classic depiction of drow...and it isn't. The VALUED aspect of mutation is an intriguing component that reminded me of a classic elf-based comic in the past...and the explanation and ecology of the lives of the karza is sufficiently distinct from the classics to make them feel different and interesting.


At the same time, the pdf does have some places where it stumbles - when spider legs, e.g., note that they can be "adorned with magical items (taking up shoulders, body, hands, wrists or ring slots)" I unfortunately have no real idea what that means - do the legs take up one of those slots? Can they duplicate such a slot? The wording here could have used some streamlining and it's not the only instance herein - while the pdf gets the fine component right in some cases, in others it misses the mark - not badly, but still. In spite of this and while falling short of perfection, this treatise on the karza remains an interesting book that should provide some nice material for GMs looking for a twist on the spider-themed drow. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since the great ideas herein deserve being acknowledged.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Drow of Porphyra - Karza, Children of the Loomqueen
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13th Age: Eyes of the Stone Thief
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2016 18:19:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 364 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 7 pages EXTREMELY detailed ToC, 3 pages index (useful), 1 page magic item index (even more useful), 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 347 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!


This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy. While we haven't yet finished this massive monster, quite a bit of playtesting went into this review.


We begin this book with an interesting explanation - while this massive hardcover very much does present a mega-adventure, it aims to provide maximum customization options to make this book really your own, to account for your table's tastes. Hence, we begin with a list of icons and how they interact with the stone-thief...but the GM is NOT left hanging beyond that: Instead, we get detailed, smart observations regarding the structuring of the campaign and potential plot-lines to embark upon - this does include advice when to kill or not kill a PC, the effects of the escalation die on traps...well, and the submergence die, a handy and easy mechanic to track excursions into the stone thief and drive home the unique nature of the dungeon.


The pdf also sports advice on handling leveling in the dungeon, etc. A chart provides the default configuration of levels at one handy glance in three configurations and then, we are introduced to the nature of the levels and denizens and yet another chart helps you keep track of relationships between fractions, icons and movers and shakers within the framework of this campaign - two thumbs up!


...


..


AHRGH, I can't do this! Before my face turns purple-red: Players, seriously...skip to the conclusion NOW. I need to get into SPOILER-territory right now!


...


..


.


Okay, seriously, if you want to play this (You do!) as a player, skip to the conclusion.


ahem


Through the underworld, colossal structures roam - barely sentient, they move forward, mindlessly assimilating anything that gets in their way, integrating it into their structures. The keyword here is "mindlessly." Picture, if you will, standing on a keep's wall, guarding your home. Suddenly, the earth starts to quiver, then shake...and then, the green orchards burst open, like a violent ripple of storm-tossed waters, only that tons upon tons of earth are moved aside as the most titanic thing you've ever seen approaches: You see a thing so big it boggles the mind and results in a temporary paralysis, as your brain tries to comprehend the doom approaching: You see a titanic, churning mouth of pure destruction, where crushed pieces of steel and towers loom, where ridges of arcades and erstwhile spires create a grotesque, titanic gullet that consumes not people...not dragons...but whole towns.


An (un-) natural disaster of epic proportions given sentience, a massive dungeon of power from ages long gone, a place with an agenda and the intellect to pursue it, a problem the Icons couldn't really fix. Your town is doomed...but you and your allies may manage to infiltrate this huge thing, like microbes in a whale, riding on the pieces of town, keep and structures, in a churning maelstrom of stone, rock and blood - for before you is none other than the stone-thief, and it needs to be stopped. The stone-thief - Makh Miz Adaor, she who undermines. Makh Adaz Akor, the Howling Pit. Khazar Vuk Varag, oldest of hatreds. That's how the dwarves know the stone-thief...and their lord personally wants it dead. The prince of shadows considered the stone-thief dangerous enough to steal its eyes (hence the title), blinding what otherwise would be a deadly threat...to anyone. The stone-thief may well be the creature to break the stalemate between the icons...so a lot of different icons want this beast either eliminated...or as the crown jewel of their arsenals.


If your first impulse of this was "Living dungeons?" - well, the absolutely awesome component here would be that the stone thief is its own world, if you will: Ever moving and blind, this titanic...thing's capabilities are incredibly sensible: Whether it's the structure of its levels (which btw. come with info on suggested levels, encounter-dispersion, etc.) that includes the gizzard you use to enter or its details - you always get that this is no simple dungeon to crawl through: Having limited control over its constituent parts, the stone-thief grows ever more powerful, reviving and controlling its denizens.


Even death cannot save you, as the stone-thief's diverse denizens have means to recreate adversaries - flesh-forming, the undead...the stone-thief knows how to keep pesky small folk out...for the most part. I already mentioned the submergence die: You see, while this colossal thing burrows its paths through the planet like a poisonous worm in the proverbial apple, its insides contract, often in deadly ways...so one would assume that there is no life inside, right?


WRONG.


You see, while the stone-thief has a lot of control over its configuration, this control is not absolute: Deep inside, generations of people led by a witch live, trying to ultimately assume control over this powerful being.


The Orc Lord has sent an excursion that has established a foothold inside...but obviously, the green-skins shouldn't be allowed to control this beast either...but at least they keep the cult of the devourer in check: Basically a group of insane apocalyptic terrorist-cultists, these people worship the living dungeon and hope to bring ruin to the realms above. Oh, and then there would be a council of spirits within the very walls - the custodians, who not only engage in complex power-plays among themselves, they also guide the dungeon and make sure it does what they want - if the dungeon should ever regain its eyes, they'd lose their status...and perhaps, their usefulness. Within in the pit of undigested ages, treasures of ages past loom and an apocalyptic settlement of the desperate hide within the stone-thief's innards -Dungeontown. Whether that's a safe haven, a despotic, sick settlement or anything in between - all up to the GM, though the seeds to develop this haven are all there.


It's hard to talk about this dungeon without mentioning the structure of this mega-dungeon. So here goes: One issue of mega-dungeons is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" structural problem. As anyone who has ever played and defeated one of these iconic dungeons can attest, there are two basic approaches, both of which sport their own issues.


The classic mega-dungeon would be static one, which I'll call "structured" for the purpose of this review: You get full maps for the whole thing, players and PCs can familiarize themselves with and secure areas and the process of exploration is classic, fun and all...but sooner or later, there will always be the session, where players are wasting time with a particular area; where the structure of the dungeon gets in the way. When you, as a GM or player are itching for an epic boss battle or the like, but you know you'll have to slog through x rooms of minion-combats first. It is then that structured mega-dungeons are at their most frustrating. On the plus-side, the story told, the familiarity gained of the areas explored - all of that really makes the dungeon feel lived in, unique. These dungeons, like e.g. Frog God Games' Lost City of Barakus, Cyclopean Deeps, Rappan Athuk, etc., excel at indirect storytelling, but their structure can get in the way of direct storytelling.


Similarly, dynamic factions can easily be moved around within. Modular dungeons are a different manner - E.g. Savage Mojo's Lich Queen-saga champions full control over the dungeon for the GM: Instead of a concise overview map, one gets rooms and encounters that can be moved around at your leisure. While this does provide the means for the GM to always retain maximum control over the respective tension and requirements at the table, this approach has an inherent problem: You obviously don't t get a concise overview map, have a lot more GM-work on your plate and no matter how good you are as a GM, you probably will never reach the level of familiarity within the dungeon and the sense of actually exploring the place. These dungeons lend themselves to better direct storytelling than structured dungeons, but ultimately invariably suck at indirect storytelling, which, to me, is a component I value just as highly. By necessity of this approach, dungeons will feel more like a highlight-reel, less like an organic place.


I see pros and cons for both approaches and can enjoy both - I can rattle off excellent examples for either approach.


This mega-dungeon, however, transcends the limitations of this dichotomy: All levels herein come with gorgeous, isometric maps, with the respective encounters using the environment in the best of 13th Age traditions to modify the surroundings and utilize the terrain in combat. Similarly, scaling for the rooms is provided...but here's the thing: The dungeon's structure allows for the recombination, inversion and resetting of areas and surroundings - and the book accommodates your needs: The killer-trap level the PCs will always have to traverse, the gauntlet, has more nasty traps and encounters than it needs - for your sake, so you get to choose, so you can maintain control over the pacing.


So you can keep the area familiar...yet fresh. Your PCs and players will grow familiar with components - revived foes may let them pass after having their butts kicked before, for example - but the dungeon does not suffer from the issue of potentially becoming stale or stagnant: The recombination of rooms and inhabitants within the levels is a glorious idea...and the whole mega-dungeon always has a sense of urgency due to the submerge die: Once the thing starts rumbling, the PCs better start getting out (or to a safe zone!)...which ends a perfect means to track and for a GM to rack up the tension if the PCs are idling...and yeah, there are plenty of actions that increase the submergence die...


The genius of this book, indeed, can be found in the fact that, much like the stone thief itself, it is a structure...that is alive and feels modular. It is inorganic and organic at the same time - to use a genre-wise inappropriate analogue, but one that my academic readers will understand: This is a cyborg dungeon. It is uncannily close to being what we know, but the capabilities are beyond that of the regular. This is no Frankenstein-hodgepodge - it is basically an evolutionary step ahead. Now I mentioned the requirements of direct and indirect storytelling. Indirect storytelling in structured dungeons works well - you crawl through the dungeon, because it is there and by virtue of room arrangement and the like, you slowly get a picture of what's going on. This works herein as well. However, the massive book does not merely leave you with a room-by-room accumulation of descriptions - no.


Instead, this book presents a huge assortment of handcrafted stories beyond the structure of the rooms - the Quests. These are not simply brief outlines à la "PCs go to room xx, then to room yy, then get..." - no. The quests provide basically campaign-level fodder and ideas for excursions in and around the stone-thief - for the premise is that the PCs will have to evacuate the dungeon more than once! (And yes - one idea includes the stone thief sloughing off the part with the PCs in it while submerged under an ocean...)


These quests can be ignored or used, combined at your leisure and much like the premise to explore the stone-thief and all relating to it, customized in a myriad ways. And if you're time-starved...you can still run the dungeon pretty much by the book. While I'd suggest reading this before running it as a whole, I tried running one level sans any preparation, blind - and it worked tremendously well.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are superb - for a book of this size to excel in both qualities to this degree is a thoroughly impressive feat. The superb organization via ToC and indices guarantees furthermore that you have a very easy time finding the actual information you're looking for. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard established for 13th Age-products and the book comes with a metric ton of awesome artworks, with a lot of the bosses sporting downright evocative pieces in the distinct aesthetics established for 13th Age. The cartography of the respective levels comes in absolutely gorgeous isometrics in full color and leaves NOTHING to be desired. The electronic version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The print-version is a glorious full-color hardcover and, sans hyperbole, one of the crown-jewels of my RPG-book collection - its production values are superb, the paper is thick and the binding great. This book is made to last...and it needs to.


Okay, this review took a lot of willpower to not immediately burst forth with what I really wanted to say:


Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan's Eyes of the Stone Thief...is the BEST MEGA-DUNGEON I HAVE EVER READ.


Regardless of system and setting.


This has all the strengths of both structured and modular mega-dungeons and none of the weaknesses. The characters herein brim with creativity. The challenges, whether they be traps, hazards, creatures of the stone-thief itself universally are simply SUPERB. Excellence. Platinum-Standard. This is innovative regarding the rules, smart in its depiction, exciting to read and a single level has more ideas than some whole dungeons I've read.


The intriguing nature of the dungeon itself makes sure that the stone-thief basically is one of the coolest villains I've ever read: More so than the myriad of foes in this book, the dungeon itself is what will draw the ire of players and PCs and the advice for depicting it, the exceedingly concise presentation of the mechanics and rules to which it needs to adhere, the thoroughly evocative settings, the stunning modularity of the setting and structure...every page, every sentence in this huge tome breathes pure, unadulterated, undiluted excellence.


Let me once again emphasize that: This is my platinum standard for mega-dungeons from this day onwards. It quite frankly makes many of the mega-dungeons I've read look like a grade-school-flutist trying to compete with a world-class prodigy. This is pretty much a whole class of its own - it is smart, well-written, brims with more creativity than just about any mega-adventure I have read and...I'm running out of superlatives to heap on this book. No matter the scale you apply, this is apex-level excellence.


I'll go one step further: Know how console video-games are often branded as system-sellers? This is, to me, one of the very, very few books I'd consider worthy of this title.


This book is so good, I urge every GM, no exceptions, to get it. Even if you and your group have no interest whatsoever in 13th Age and its rules or setting. This book is so good that, on its own, it suffices as a reason to learn the rules. It can be converted and does not lose much, though you may want to give careful throught and special considerations regarding Koru behemoths -> replace with kaiju of your choice) and icons. Still, I wholeheartedly believe that learning 13th Age for the express purpose of playing through this book is worth every second, every dime. Even when taking the price of the core-rules etc. into account...this still is worth it a hundredfold.


This book is a glorious read, plays even better...and...let me give you a bit of context: I've read many 1st and 2nd edition modules. I have a HUGE collection of 3.X material. I own a metric ton of PFRPG-material. I have several 4E-books. I have a bunch of 5E-books. I have an extensive collection of OSR, CoC, GUMSHOE-books and a bunch of Midgard and Shadowrun books. My Pdf-only folder of books that I do not own in print is over 90 GB and this folder does NOT include pdfs of books I own in print.


I have literally read more than a thousand modules. I have a lot of modules, both big and small, that I consider awesome for vastly diverging reasons. From superb-investigations, spine-tingling horror to massive APs or superb sandboxes with concise structures. Among all of these modules, there are pretty much only a handful I'd even consider mentioning in the same breath. This is basically the 1% of the 1% of the 1% in terms of quality and ranks as one of the best, perhaps the best mega-dungeon ever published. At the top of my head, the only book I'd consider truly on par with it in imaginative potential and scope would be Frog God Games' Sword of Air - and that one is not a mega-dungeon, but rather a superb combined wilderness/dungeon/investigation-sandbox...and my number 1 spot of last year's Top Ten.


Now I know, this was released in 2014...but I only recently got into 13th Age and thus, as a consequence, into this book. And it needs to be honored properly. This gets a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016...and should honestly be in any GM's library. Even for scavenging purposes, this is worth it. Even if you want to convert it to your system of choice, this is worth every second spent converting it. This is apex-level adventure-craft...and I really hope it has not forever spoiled me rotten regarding my expectations for a mega-dungeon. If you want to get one mega-dungeon...get this one. It doesn't get better than this.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age: Eyes of the Stone Thief
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Advanced Options: Arcanist Exploits
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2016 08:36:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rogue Genius Games' Advanced Options-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The pdf does not lose a lot of space before diving into the new options presented for the arcanist base-class, and neither will I. The options contained herein allow an arcanist to spend 1 point of his arcane reservoir to temporarily enhance the physical attributes of the arcanist, with a nice option to immediately end the effect prior to its regular expiration as an immediate action for single buffs to values like AC/CMD and even heal ability score damage to physical scores. There is similarly a second exploit for the mental attributes. Immediate action rerolls of saves versus spells or spell-like abilities can also be found. Or what about an exploit that causes damage to those that successfully disbelief your illusions. A nimbus of dazzling power that increases in potency at higher levels? Yep.


Gaining temporary hit points for energy prevented by the energy shield? Yup. What about the option to expend arcane reservoir and unused spell slots to heal the undead. Higher level options include generating damage die rerolls of 1s and 2s or enforcing multiple rolls and taking the worse result. A reactive shield that provides a means of protection in the surprise round also is rather neat.


The pdf does not stop there, though - within these pages, you'll also find a selection of archetypes, the first of which would be the bloodletter, who gains an arcane bonded athame in lieu of consume spells as well as a significant array of unique exploits that allow for the self-buffing (including ranger-ability-poaching). Odd: A less expensive, arcane reservoir-powered permanency does mention a target creature's blood, even though the exploit itself does not mention such a creature. Scrying via blood samples and alleviating ability score damage via blood and arcane reservoir points is also pretty intriguing. Powerful, but interesting: Dying creatures can be off'd for arcane reservoir regains...and yes, the ability is kitten-proof, since it requires ever increasing HD from the creatures it's used on.


The second archetype would be the galvanist, who may use his unique exploits to bolster constructs and hijack constructs. DR-reducing attacks, golem-like placing of scrolls in the mouths of constructs (bypassing the construct's magic immunities) or temporarily imprinting an alignment on a construct render this an evocative, cool archetype.


The thriomancer may study creatures to gain an insight bonus to atk and damage against them instead of consume spells and replaces 5 exploits with progressing erudite strikes, which are similar to insightful strikes or sneak attacks and scale up to +5d6. Now here is the cool thing about these guys: Their exploits allow them to, for Cha-mod rounds, emulate a spell or supernatural ability he has witnessed, with the creature's daily limits, arcane reservoir and base creature HD as well as action economy providing the tight limits that are required by such a powerful ability. Yes, later with reactive option. And yes: AWESOME. This is a functional, balanced blue mage. Two thumbs up!


The wandmaster may spend arcane reservoir and a spell slot to activate a wand sans consuming the charge, thus replacing consume spells. They can also learn to fire a wand on the run, counterspell wand spells with the counterspell exploit (or wands) and even activate two wands at once, but at a hefty arcane reservoir cost. The other exploits, obviously, deal with wand metmagic etc. Once again, pretty cool concept!


The ward weaver, then, replaces consume spells with teh ability to generate warding charms versus specific schools of magic...and then, things become interesting: These guys can fashion wards that discourage enemies from taking specific actions, dealing nonlethal damage to the offenders. And yes, the rules-language is sufficiently precise. Shielding symbols, temporarily enhancing these tricks, sending magic they're warded against back on their foes - this archetype does A LOT of the nique things we know from fantastic literature, codifies them in a great manner...and may be worth the asking price on its own.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full color standard and the pdf's artwork is solid stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, confession time: I don't like the arcanist. I think the class is pretty much soulless and not distinct enough from wizard, witch and sorceror. I playtested it, realized what it can do...and moved on. Why? Because it did not inspire me to make any characters with it. Sure, the mechanics are there...but I didn't see the "wow-factor". Suffice to say, I did NOT look forward to reviewing Richard Moore's arcanist exploits. And indeed, the exploits in the beginning, while nice, continued the tendency of providing cool rules-operations without that much of a unique concept behind them. They are good design, mind you. Very good, even. But not inspiring.


Enter the friggin' archetypes. If the above was not ample clue - it is my fervent opinion that these archetypes provide the distinct identity I always wanted to see from the arcanist. The archetypes, more often than not, are pure genius in the way in which they translate iconic concepts from literature to game mechanics. In fact, even if you do not have the ACG or have banned it in your home-game, this pdf is totally worth purchasing for the ability scavenging alone - a capable designer can reappropriate the unique options of these archetypes and exploits for other classes and designs. Yes, they're that good. Oh, and, to make that VERY clear - arcanist players NEED to get this glorious little pdf - it provides the much-needed "See what I did there, wizards and sorcerors?"-uniqueness the class sorely lacked. It makes the arcanist feel like it has more of a concise, unique identity...and what more can you ask from humble 9 pages? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Options: Arcanist Exploits
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