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Book of Heroic Races Compendium (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/06/2018 04:13:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 117 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/introduction, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 110 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review at the request of one of my patreons.

All right, so this is a compilation with new materials added – it collects the first three spotlight-pdfs for new races released by Jon Brazer Enterprises, namely the Half-Faerie Dragon, the Seedling and the Umbral Kobold races. The latter have been released as part of the supplements intended for the Plane of Shadows-related supplements that, alas, much to my chagrin, never kicked off beyond a few initial supplements. Jon Brazer Enterprise’s Shadowfall material is definitely worth checking out.

Now, I have written full reviews for these 3 massive chapters/stand-alone supplements – they do several things right: The seedlings still rank as one of the most balanced plant-PCs out there, and the umbral kobolds do a great job remaining kobolds, while being a better PC-race choice. The book compiles these three sections into new chapters, improving sequence of presentation and the like. However, e.g. the balance-concerns I have about the half-faerie dragon’s breath weapon feat chain (which lets you get a breath weapon that affects targets even if they make their saves) still remains valid – that aspect hasn’t been cleared up. In short, these chapters very much remain compilation-chapters sans further refinement. While understandable, considering that the three racial files range within the upper echelon of quality levels, it’s a missed chance to make them universally laudable files; as written, the rich lore provided and execution renders the races basically a good-to very good selection of tricks. These also take up the lion’s share of the book – 87 pages of the content are devoted to this massive collection of material. So yeah, this would be the tl;DR-version; for your convenience, and since I had to go over the compendium and original files, here would be the compiled information of the 3 reviews, for your convenience.

---------Begin of Review Compilation---------

Half-Faerie Dragons:

. If someone had told me I'd one day review such a book, I would have laughed that person in the face - which is thematically fitting, as few words describe this race's outlook as well as "whimsy". As the superbly amusing monologue that starts this pdf proves, Half-faerie dragons may not be too wise, but damn, they can be fun to play as a race - or can they? Well, let's take a look at the mechanics: Gaining +2 to Int, Dex and Cha, but -2 to Con and Wis, they are fragile. They also get the draconic subtype, slow speed, are small, get darkvision 60 ft., can cast prestidigitation Cha-mod times per day as a spell-like ability, +2 to saves versus paralysis and sleep effects and courtesy of their butterfly wings, +2 to acrobatics and fly-checks. They can also 1/day breathe a cloud of euphoria-inducing gas that staggers and sickens those hit by it, but also makes them immune to fear-effects, making it possibly to use it both offensively and defensively. Generally, the race feels like it belongs to the upper power echelon, but not necessarily in an unhinging way.

Taking a cue from the first book of the series, we go on to get extensive descriptions on the physical characteristics of the race, relations etc. - all in all well-written and compelling and also links the faerie-dragons with wishing. The 5 new traits allow you to customize your half-faerie dragon to be naturally adapt at magic, good at running away from angry tricked larger folk or better at acquiring things. Also, if you want to sparkle, there's a trait for that - just take care you don't become a vampire if you do! (Or wait, THAT would actually be damn funny...). The race also comes with 5 alternate racial traits that exchange draconic resistance for the option to cast disguise self cha-mod times/day, for 1d3 claws and if you also lose the power to use prestidigitation, you can belong to the dragon type. Alternatively, you can just sacrifice your capability of arcane whimsy for +2 to AC or sacrifice your breath weapon for the power to cast sorceror spells at +1 caster level.

Favored class options for bard, cleric, druid, paladin, rogue, sorceror, summoner and wizard are provided as well, as is a discussion on Half-Faerie Dragon psychology that includes the Art of the Prank, their approach to technology and magic, love and mating, history and lore etc. - all painting a surprisingly logical, well-presented panorama of an uncommon race to say the least. Oh, by the way, age, height and weight tables are also part of the deal.

Three new racial archetypes are presented after that, with the bookwyrm (for the wizard) replacing his 5th level bonus feat with getting half his class level as bonus to all knowledge-checks and providing the option to make these checks untrained. Thieves with Wings replace uncanny dodge and a rogue talent with gaining the fly-skill as a class skill, the feat to allow them flight as a bonus feat and the flyby attack feat. Butterfly Troubadours may boast of their exploit to the extent where they believe themselves to be actually better, mock foes and subtly weave the usage of his breath weapon into his performance, which is perhaps my favorite piece of rules in this context. This chapter also provides the new faerie dragon bloodline for sorcerers, which allows for befuddling touches, the signature euphoric breath weapon, butterfly wings, swap locations at higher levels with other beings and finally become a Half-faerie Dragon/live up to your full draconic potential. Quite nice about the bloodline: Its abilities take half-faerie dragons also into account and expand their racial powers instead of granting them like the bloodline does for none-half-faerie-dragons. The pdf also includes a new PrC for the race, the Dappled Theurge, who gets d6, 2+Int skills per level 1/2 BAB-progression and medium will-progression. What's interesting about this PrC is that it grants full spellcasting progression to BOTH prepared and spontaneous arcane spellcasting classes, taking a holistic approach to both. Rather interesting is the ability to cast progressively higher (starting at first level and going up to fifth) spells she knows (but need not have the spell prepared) by sacrificing a spontaneous spell slot of one level higher. As a capstone, the class reduces the level-increase of meta-magic applied to spells by half to a minimum of +1 spell level Int-mod/day. A thoroughly interesting design and an intriguing PrC.

A total of 9 racial feats have been included in the book to develop the race further: Temporarily blinding foes with light reflected from your blade, beast-shaping into a faerie-dragon, chameleon scales that allow you to use stealth even when observed and unable to hide, telepathy as a spell-like ability and at 7th level a fly-speed are some of the new options. Breath weapons may be augmented to use them once every 1d4 rounds and via other feats, add the confused effect to the others AND even get an option to make the breath weapon make foes staggered, confused and sickened for 1 round EVEN if they save. And honestly, that is where the pdf kind of underestimates the power-level: We are speaking of a 30 ft cone every 1d4 rounds that has a save of 10+ 1/2 class level + Con-mod and inflicts move OR standard actions (No more full-round actions), -2 to ability, skill checks, saves, atk and damage and the effects of confusion - for 1d6 rounds per application, at least 1 even on a successful save. As a supernatural ability that CAN'T BE DISRUPTED. This is the pay-off of 3 feats. This is insane on so many levels: Once every 4 rounds would be insanely strong even sans the confusion added. Making it apply even if foes save is really, really bad. And offering no way to counter it (it doesn't even count as poison) is just the icing on my personal Broken-rules-cake. Yes, I get that the Con-penalty is significant regarding the DC, but for e.g. martially inclined half-faerie-dragons this mini-feat-tree is rather powerful and unbalanced. Either a fixed limit, getting rid of the effects even on successful saves or a way to counteract the breath weapon are required to salvage this. A feat that lets you cast any prepared spell spontaneously by sacrificing one prepared spell of one level higher would also set off my radar, but its limitation to being usable once per day saves it and makes it an actually rather interesting idea.

Among the new items introduced in this installment, we get a kind of hookah that mixes multiple breaths for a more hilarious story-telling, globes containing bottled breath, swords that deal less damage than similar ones, but count as cold iron and have a threat range of 18-20, timed purse-shaped color-bombs to stain potential thieves, laughing poison, patchwork armors and arrows that essentially are stinking bombs of the most disgusting variety. All in all, cool items!

The pdf also includes write-ups of Half-Faerie Dragon theology and 3 racial deities as well as the new butterfly and wish subdomains and 4 new spells that allow you to conjure up butterfly swarms, plaguing victims with a chaotic (and funny) curse that changes properties each day, conjure a phantom crowd to mock your foes and transform just about anything into a pile of apples or a giant apple. Why? Half-faerie dragons LOVE apples, as the flavor-text in the book shows... Thus, we also get 3 magical apple tree tokens and the "Bag of Awesome", a bag of holding that can vomit forth items in a belch of euphoria-inducing gas, has a tongue-like rope (that can be used for rope tricks) and can blast foes (while in rope-trick-form) with euphoria-gas. There is also a foolish cape and a fitting rakish hat you can use to disappear in - when the fickle magic works...

The two artifacts are also neat: One straight-forward crown and one an artifact-level rod-of-wonders-style item that can summon giant squirrels to do your bidding or rain frozen apples from the sky or turn foes into dark chocolate...

GMs daunted by integrating this race into their campaign will welcome the 4 sample communities (sans settlement statblocks or the like, but full of ideas) as well as the advice given for both players and DMs to avoid turning the inclusion of this race into a kender-fiasco V.2.0. Be sure to read this chapter carefully! We also get sample NPCs, with the first being a straight-forward bard level 1, the second being an illusionist/sorcerer 4/dappled theurge 2 and the final one being truly interesting: At CR 11, the character is a bard 2/fighter 2/oracle 2/ranger 2/rogue 2/sorcerer 2 - a jack-of-all trades, indeed, though one that uses all the broken breath weapon feats.

Seedlings:

Kicking off with in-character journal entries that depict the life of one of the race of seedlings, this book introduces us to the new race called Seedling: These beings get +2 to Con, +2 to Wis, -2 to Dex, low-light vision, +1 natural AC, +2 to con to avoid suffocation, drowning and starvation as they can draw sustenance from photosynthesis, can as a standard-action treeshape (and gain tremorsense 30 ft.), +2 to saves versus mind-affecting effects and paralysis, and 1/ day speak with plants. As you may notice, seedlings get the distinct fluff of being plant-like creatures and appropriate benefits without succumbing to gaining the subtype and its associated benefits, going thus a similar route as RiP's Ironborn did for constructs. If you want more alien plant-beings, I'd point you to Purple Duck Games' Fehr's Ethnology: Xhesa.

The race is extremely detailed and up to current rules-developments: From favored class options, alternate racial traits (which include resistance to fire and electricity, having thorns, hailing from the underdark with darkvision and burrow speed and resistance to disease and poison) to favored class options, all niches are covered. Better yet, I don't have anything to complain about!

In stark contrast to many race-supplements, we get quite extensive pieces of information on seedling-culture-lore and land and of course, also on their takes regarding other races and classes - two thumbs up for these avidly and well-written pieces that make the race stand out and feel integrated into a campaign world, not just some addition. The race also gets two racial archetypes, with the first being the Switcher, a fighter that uses the new weapon of the seedlings, the signature switch whip (which is essentially their hair) and allows it to be used to inflict bleeding damage, ooze a poison that makes its victims flat-footed, grow razor-sharp leaves on the head etc. VERY COOL! The second archetype, the tree spirit druid, is extremely adapt at scrying via trees by focusing senses into trees - again, very cool!

The race also gets an exclusive PrC, the negotiator. The PrC gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB and medium Will-saves as well as a gamut of abilities that allow them to form binding agreements and make them superb "face"-style negotiators. Nice! The 9 new feats allow seedlings to further expand their switch whip powers and also do some interesting things via their rooting-ability, allowing them to better weather assaults and also increase their healing/photosynthesis.

Beyond aforementioned switch whips, we also get a new armor, glow moss and a serum the seedlings use for ritual scarring and healing. Beyond these crunchy bits, we also get a massive genesis-story told in captivating prose, a write-up of their 4 deities (with appropriate domains, subdomains and mysteries - nice indeed!) and 4 cool new spells, themed for plants and seedling flavor and anatomy. Among the new magic items we get explosive seeds, the dread aurora pendant, heartwood, two iconic artifacts (one of which can grow a forest - over night!) and even more:

5 fluff-only community-write-ups (I.e. no settlement-blocks, but ideas galore) provide further ideas for GMS and players alike to capitalize on and the write-up also features extensive advice for DMs to fit this race into a campaign.

Finally, the pdf includes 4 sample seedling characters, using the content herein, all ready to be dropped into your game and spanning CR 1/2 to CR 14.

Umbral Kobolds:

Dale McCoy Jr., head of Jon Brazer Enterprises, was dissatisfied with the standard race of kobolds and an introduction of what this race is – essentially, a kobold-race ramped up to be on par with PC-races without using the identity of being koboldish. We also get a short rundown on Shadowsfall, the plane-of-shadows-setting of JBE before we delve into an actually very well-written piece of in-character prose. The short story gets you just in the right mindset before you get to take a peek at the mechanical traits of this race.

Umbral Kobolds get -2 to Str, +2 to Dex and Int, are small, get darkvision, +1 natural armor bonus, 2 to Craft (Trapmaking), Perception and Profession (miner). Stealth and Craft (Trapmaking) are always class skills for umbral kobolds. They also get light sensitivity, extensive pieces of information regarding their relationships with other races, alignment and adventuring etc. as well as thankfully a table for age, height and weight including starting age. They also come with 4 alternate racial options that may replace light sensitivity with albinism (weird choice, since albinism makes one not particularly appreciate bright lights either…), give them a blinding spit attack 1/day, make them especially tied to the plane of shadows (for increased caster levels in the dark, but also heavy drawbacks upon confrontation with bright lights and finally, kobolds that replace their natural armor bonus with +1 to Dex and +2 to stealth. With the exception of the albinism-trait’s minor fluff/crunch-disjunction’s exception nothing to complain about here.

2 racial character traits are also provided, one that nets you Knowledge (Planes) as a class skill and +2 on it and the other that gives you +1 to ref and initiative. After that, we're introduced to two new archetypes, with the shadowsneak getting bonuses to racial bonuses to movement and as well 1/2 rogue level to craft (traps) and Perception to discover traps. Solid, I guess, but nothing too special. The Mad Bomber alchemist archetype gets 10 + 3/4 level +Int to determine bomb-DCs, doesn't provoke AoOs when using bombs and counts as +2 levels with regards to alchemist discoveries related to bombs. Solid.

After that, we're introduced 4 new feats, with one allowing you to mitigate some issues related to 1s on disable device checks and gunslinger misfires, one that allows bonuses for saving throws for each kobold in range, one that doubles miss chance in dim light to 40% and one that allows you 1+Cha-bonus shadow jumps per day.

Two new items are also included, with a new nauseating, blinding poison being one and the other being a dye to color scales. 32 full-blown racial kobold gods are also here and after their well-written write-ups, we get 3 new spells - one that creates an illusory double you can blow up, assault foes with shadow-illusion coins and one to create an aura of darkness for which a swarm of shadowy kobolds panics foes. Among the new magic items, we get an incantation that makes shooting into melee versus undead easier, a crown that nets +2 to Int and Cha as well as form of the dragon I, black dust that sends the undead running from recollections of their past life and a kitchy talisman that guards you with minor bonuses versus specific types of death.

The pdf closes with 3 sample communities in neat write-ups (though sans settlement statblocks) that can be considered well-written indeed. The final piece of crunch is a CR 11 shadowsneak umbral kobold.

---------End of Review Compilation---------

EDIT: So, I totally managed to miss copying my discussion on the reaper-race into my review – because it had languished in the drafts-section. It was penned at a time when I was asked to hold on to the review, and while it was done back then, I never ended up releasing it. So yeah, with a bit of delay, for the first time.

Reapers:

After a brief bit of evocative introductory prose, we dive into the section on Reapers – what are these fellows? Well, they are basically a plane-touched race with psychopomp blood. Trait-wise, they get +2 Dex and Wisdom, -2 Charisma, are native outsiders, have darkvision and get a +1 racial bonus to saves vs. death effects, energy drain and negative levels – when wearing funeral masks. This is the only item type they may wear in the face slot, but masks may be enchanted. (Cool!) 1/day whenthey would die from hit point damage, they get a respite unto next round, potentially delaying their deaths or avoiding them – sufficient healing can prevent death. This only works for hit point damage, so rules-integrity is perfect here, though personally, I’d have made this abilityhave a scaling maximum – as written, they get even the 1 round when blasted to shreds by a deity, firmly anchoring them on the high-fantasy side of the thematic spectrum. They can, as a swift action, wreathe their scythes in a ghost touch weapon, and they may crit incorporeal creatures, unless these are also immune from a different source, such as being an ooze. Great catch. Additionally, they may damage haunts with their weapons as though they were positive energy effects – a great mechanic!! Use daily is equal to character levels. Reapers get +2 to all social skills (minus Sense Motive) versus undead and geta 5 ft. undead-sense that works akin to blindsense for undead only, but does not extend to possessing spirits. All in all, an amazing race! Slightly on the powerful side, but chock-full with flavorful narrative facilitator abilities that make them stand out. Great return to form and, with the seedlings, another highlight for the series!

As before among the races covered in this series, we do get a couple of interesting race traits and a selection of alternate racial itraits that include psychopomp bloodline synergy, the ability to 1/day manifest an incorporeal spirit of themselves when dead or dying, undead hunting – particularly the spirit-angle is really, really cool. Detailed information on lands and cultures are provided as well as notes on their languages and relations with other races. As far as class options are provided, we get a memento mori/anti-undead style druid who receives access to a tweaked spell-list, Knowledge (religion) and one appropriate domain. Solid engine tweak. The second class option would be the psychopomp bloodline, which, with its spirit touch and sepulchral veil, should be considered to be one of the better examples for bloodlines.

The pdf does include two PrCs – the memoriam amanuensis, who gets d6 HD, 4 + Int skills and good Will-save progression as well as 4/5 spellcasting progression. It spans 5 levels and basically represents a historian of the dead, who collects information from the dead and masters obscure knowledge to the benefit of allies – solid one! The second PrC spans 10 levels and would be the spirit guide. Here,w e have d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields, ¾ BAB-progression and ½ Fort- and Will-save progression. They are spear specialists and get really cool abilities – crossroads can lead them to souls in need of assistance, and they are specialists of the mask feats (more on that below) – they are one of the best “focused” PrCs I’ve seen in a while, making spears potent and focusing on more than just adding combat power versus undead. Big fan!

As before in the series, we get an assortment of new feats, many of which make up a kind of mini-tree: Bonded Mask makes your mask a kind of bonded item that can then be enhanced by the other ones, with a spirit inhabiting it, causing of fear, etc – rather nice, and reminded me somewhat of good ole’ Shadowman! (That’s a good thing!) Better undead sight and undead-affecting bardic performances complement this section. We also get a selection of really neat mundane equipment pieces, interesting deity write-ups, a new subdomain for Repose, the psychopomp subdomain and 4 neat spells that include a portal that sucks incorporeal creatures towards the afterlife! Oh yeah! Two magical masks and a potent artifact spear complement the arsenal of reapers.

We close the reaper-section with a selection of flavorful notes on reaper communities as well as sample NPCs ranging from CR ½ to CR 11.

Beyond these previously released, super-detailed races, the pdf also features 4 new races in significantly less detail – only a total of 18 pages are devoted to these new races, which means that, alas, we do not get the same excessive, cultural detail as for the first three races within. The first of these entities would be the Fosterling, a result of the dalliance of mortals with eldritch horrors from beyond. These guys get +2 Constitution and Wisdom, -2 Charisma, are Medium humanoids, and they may keep fighting as if disabled until negative Constitution modifier hit points. They can’t be reincarnated, and their bodies rapidly decay, so if they are to be returned to life, their allies should better hurry. The race gets Skill Focus for one knowledge skill chosen from a list of 4 at 1st level, as well as -3 to Handle Animal, but +3 to Diplomacy with aberrations etc. – the bonus type here should probably be racial, not untyped. They get a +2 racial bonus to saves against mind-affecting effects, may reroll the percentile die of being confused, and rolls to confirm crits against them suffer a -4 penalty due to their weird anatomy. Interesting take here! To supplement the race, we get 6 racial feats, each of which locks them as the progeny of one mythos-creature like mi-go, etc. The race also comes with an oracle curse. All in all, a solid take on the “touched by eldritch things”-concept, and one I wished had received more room to shine.

Melodians, according to legend, are the offspring of immaculate humans and fey songbirds, and they receive +2 Dexterity and Charisma, -2 Wisdom, are Medium and count as fey for the purposes of race-related effects. Minor complaint: Can they choose which type they count as for the purpose of e.g. a spell that harms fey while bolstering humanoids or vice versa? Or not? They get low-light vision and +2 to saves to resist fear- and despair-based effects and may 1/day reroll a natural 1. They also get +2 to one type of Perform check and add +1 to the save DC of spells with the sonic descriptor. Melodians with Cha 13+ get sound burst as a 1/day SP. This SP and DC-increase may be exchanged for 2 others via alternate racial traits, and other alternate racial traits allow for bard FCO-improvement, and one for better Linguistics instead of singing. The race also gets a fighter archetype that is a dervish-y one with minor bard tricks spliced in. The write-up also includes three feats and the songsteel material.

The Sashahar are Small reptilians that receive +2 Intelligence and Constitution, -4 Strength, who are also naturally psionic, and may use conceal thoughts and detect psionics at-will as psi-like abilities. They have only 20 ft. speed, but get a whopping +2 luck bonus to all saves. They also are ebrrations with the psionic subtype, which is a bit odd – I’d have expected humanoid (reptilian) here. The write-up includes 2 solid traits and 3 ones that provide alternat psi-like abilities. A minor psionic rogue engine tweak archetype and 2 feats are provided. One of these feats, Force Burst, fails to get the rules-language for psionics correct, mistakenly mixing the rules-language for attacks and powers for a somewhat confusing whole. 2 solid equipment types and a power to locate traps complement this fellow. I would have really enjoyed to learn more about this race – more so than the previous two, it would have greatly benefitted from having the room to develop a unique culture etc. to set it apart.

The final one of these new ones would be the Ursine, who, bingo, would be bearfolk that get +2 Strength and Wisdom, -2 Dexterity. Low-light vision and hatred versus aberrations and giants (+1 to atk), as well as +1 to CL-checks to overcome SR are also part of the racial traits. These guys get +2 to saves vs. polymorph spells and effects, diseases and versus ingested/inhaled poisons. In a pretty cool and unique ability, these guys may wield a couple of less impressive weapons as though they were a size larger, making them viable. Beyond these, the ability actually makes this “kind-of-a-size-larger” ability active, allowing for selective target choice. The race also get Lucerne hammer familiarity. This and the size-trick may be replaced with natural weapons, which are properly codified regarding type, but require defaulting regarding damage type. There is a means to replace low-light vision with scent. The save-bonuses may be replaced with Handle Animal bonuses, and the alternate racial traits include a Craft/Profession and more martially-inclined trait that also is pretty interesting. A spirit caller druid archetype is provided, which replaces the ally-summoning angle with spells. The archetype also has a surge-like self-boost and is a solid engine-tweak. There are 3 racial feats, with a 2-level mini-tree allowing for 1-handing a two-handed weapon or wielding a one-handed one of a larger size. This is, in a way, tapping into one of PF’s more problematic engine-parts, so yeah, not the biggest fan.

The first appendix collects a HUGE amount of favored class options for pre-ACG-classes as well as the pre-Psionics Expanded psionic classes: So Psion, Wilder, Psychic Warrior and Soulknife. FCOs for dhampir, drow, duergar, fetchling, grippli, etc. are provided – a ton of these can be found, including ones for the new races. Apart from the ones for the new races herein, many of these have been taken from the Shadowsfall Favored Class Options-pdf, though the Time Thief/Warden and Malefactor class option-references have been eliminated.

The second appendix comes with an assortment of engine-tweak-style racial archetypes for duergar, dhampir, dwarves, etc.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level, which is pretty impressive for a book of this massive size. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf contains quite a few really nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf is hyperlinked for your convenience.

Michael Eshleman, Dale C. McCoy Jr., Richard Moore, Mark J Seifter, Marie Small, Todd Stewart, R. William Thompson, George “Loki” Williams – this cadre of authors does know what they’re doing. The races within have one major benefit, as far as I’m concerned: None of them are boring. They all have an interesting angle, and the base races themselves should not provide any balance-issues with these, even if you gravitate to lower power-levels. This level of precision, alas, does not always extend to the supplemental material, and a couple of feats in particular should be subject to GM-oversight. The racial archetypes, as a whole, tend to gravitate to the engine-tweak side of things. All in all, this compilation is well worth getting, particularly if you don’t already own the seedlings, half faerie-dragons, reapers and umbral kobolds – the four previously-released races are the stars here and warrant the asking price.

That being said, you should be aware that the release of this one predates both ACG and Occult Adventures, so no synergies there. I am not going to penalize the compilation for this, as it wouldn’t be fair, but it’s something to bear in mind.

If you already have the four main-races, the compilation unfortunately has a bit less to offer – the new races are all interesting, but universally suffer from the brevity of their presentation. While we do get age-height and weight tables and basic rules-customization tricks and supplemental material for them, compared to the first 3, one can’t help but feel the absence of lovingly-crafted, detailed fluff and cultural information for them.

How to rate this, then? Well if you have the first 4 races, this’ll be a tough sell on you and probably is something only for the completionist. If, on the other hand, you have missed them, then you’ll find some interesting and creative playable races here. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars – whether you’ll round up or down will depend on how you value supplemental material in relation to the race: if you want in-depth cultures and flavor, then the first four truly deliver – round up; otherwise, the racial options presented tend to gravitate to the smaller and simpler side of things, so if you’re looking for complexity, you may want to round down. As a reviewer, I have an in dubio pro reo policy and thus will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races Compendium (PFRPG)
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Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/08/2018 07:54:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As far as supplemental material is concerned, the module includes stats for a Small negative energy elemental, which is nice, as well as an evil book contained some dark rituals and tricks for folks associated with the living dead. These, alas, do not come with proper rules-codification and thus render the book very much an evil story-item for the PCs to destroy – somewhat odd, considering that the presentation makes it look like a regular item, and since the defense mechanisms of the book have been properly codified. The module sports read-aloud text for your convenience and provides some guidance regarding negotiation etc. during the initial hiring talks.

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

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs are hired to retrieve a caravan’s crew, taken hostage by hobgoblins, and, if possible, a couple of barrels of wine the goblinoids stole. A mad beggar pronounced a dire warning as the PCs set off. En route, we have a random encounter chosen from a list of 6 (solid, brief ones; nothing too crazy), before the PCs arrive at the hobgoblin cave, where the first couple of rooms present a pretty vanilla hobgoblin crawl, with a CR 3 ranger and CR 2 acolyte statblock; the dungeon’s first 10 rooms offer some choice, aren’t linear and generally are nice. The one thing that’s odd in the complex would be all those weathered glyphs on the walls.

Well, turns out that this is a bait and switch scenario: the complex is neatly bisected into two different areas, with the final 4 areas across the river containing the remnants of agents of the cult of dread Tyrkaven: Extremely fast (50 ft.!) cursed zombies with CR ½ and the ability to emit a bolstering screech. Casting a single necromancy spell alerts these critters and has them burst into the rest of the complex! (The speed is important, also since they need to jump across the river and have no ranks in Acrobatics.) Chaos erupts, and chances are that the single hobgoblin who fights alongside the PCs may make for an interesting future ally. The Warmaster of these tyrkaven-zombies clocks in at CR 4, and the ghost of a madman can potentially provide further hooks. The pdf contains two handouts, which is a nice bonus. No template to create your own tyrkaven-undead is included, alas.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid full-color artworks. The cartography is similarly full color and nice, though, alas, no player-friendly version is included. The pdf has bookmarks that work, though they show up as gibberish in my version. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version. Kudos!

Dale McCoy Jr. provides a nice and solidly-executed bait-and-switch scenario. It’s not necessarily a groundbreaking one, but it doesn’t try to be. It executes its angle well and is enjoyable. That being said, there are a couple of small details in book, lack of player-friendly map, etc. that make this one feel less polished than the excellent, more recent installments in the series. All in all, I consider this to be a solid and fun module that plays better than it reads, at least in the hands of an experienced GM. Having an enemy-progressing chart/tracker would have made sense here. All in all, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven (PFRPG)
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Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2018 10:36:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves series of modules clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to being prioritized by my patreons.

Now, first things first – this is a high-level adventure intended for level 15 PCs, and as such, is bound to be challenging. A well-rounded group is very much recommended. The adventure, theme-wise, centers around a sun deity and a grand malfeasance befalling her most sacred of temples, and as such, the stats for the deity are provided in an appendix. Domains, subdomains, inquisitions and mysteries are noted, as is an occult ritual unique to this belief. Big plus here: The deity is easy to replace with Saranrae and similar sun goddesses and gods – the module does not require in-depth understanding of doctrine or the like to work, making adapting it simple. A CR 18 high-level monster is also introduced and doubles as the BBEG of this adventure – and yes, the demon is actually VERY destructive. This adversary is not the only fully statted high-level being herein, mind you.

As far as cartography is concerned, this module gets two thumbs up: The adventure comes with a second pdf that provides the map in a version with all keys and features, one sans keyed numbers and all features, and one sans features or keyed numbers, providing all the tools we expect regarding the respective cartography demands of the modern player. The maps are in full-color and neat. Big kudos for including full and proper map support here.

A big plus here would btw. be the terrain use of the module: With complicating terrain hazards and a global effect that makes the fire theme work in properly codified rules, the adventure makes clever use of obstacles, traps, curses, etc. – this is a big plus and a component that keeps the battles dynamic.

A big issue that many a GM faces regarding high-level dungeon exploration, is that most modules do not take player and PC-capabilities into full account. This module has a distinct and clever way to make the PCs explore the dungeon properly without handholding.

But in order to talk about how this works, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, bad things have been happening, and the PCs are asked to investigate the Temple of Luminescence, which is on lockdown. Bluffing or fighting their way past the guards, the PCs will soon realize the reason for the seismic activities haunting the area – it seem like the faithful have taken to a rather…well, let’s say, “radical” interpretation of their deity’s creed. The High priest plans to draw the sun closer to the planet, to bask all sinners and folks in the glory of a scorching sun. So yeah, the stakes are high – we’re talking about a global apocalypse here!

I did mention global effects for the dungeon before: Flame damage inflicted within stems half from divine energy, bypassing resistances etc., while maintaining the elemental theme. Furthermore, the seismic activities add further complications while exploring the already challenging temple. The clever idea I mentioned before, the one that makes the PCs explore the whole temple, ties btw. in with the ritual: The sanctum sanctorum can only be breached by defeating the Morning Priest and the Noontime Priest. In an interesting twist, this often puts the PCs in conflict with creatures only seldom faced in combat by PCs, for example devas and similar angels.

The traps, just fyi, are suitable for PCs of these lofty levels as well, and better yet, smart players may actually never get to see a few of them, as there is a sensible reason and means to bypass them – kudos for not sacrificing in-game plausibility for design here. That is not to say that they’re simple, mind you: One combo of a trap and a particularly nasty haunt (whose existence makes sense!) can be stated as something rather brutal, and delightfully so. The haunt is btw. fast, so yeah – this is a module that demands respect, even from high-level PCs – it’s not pleasant being blasted to dust by a photonic cannon or being crushed by a gravitic corridor, after all… That is a good thing. Not convinced yet? Well, one of the bosses that the PCs will need to best to get to the High Priest? Very old solar dragon. Did I mention the encapsulated singularity or the searing pulses of light? Light can be a cruel mistress indeed, and guess what? The High Priest is not the final boss! That CR 18 critter I mentioned? That would be a really nasty new form of demon, the sun demon. And no, he’s not so stupid as to fight those interlopers alone… So yeah, bring industrial quantities of magical sunscreen, you’ll definitely need them…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to the nice 2-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks – these are organized in a smart way, btw., featuring nested entries for specific sub-routes the PCs have to take. That’s going one step beyond and deserves applause. Interior artwork is consistent and mostly of the same style and quality as the cover. The cartography, as noted, is nice and full-color, and the player-friendly map support is a big plus for guys like yours truly that suck at drawing, or for those that play online.

An elemental dungeon at high levels? In the hands of a lesser author, this could have easily been a trainwreck. However, Mike Welham is a veteran, and his reputation is well-deserved: The Temple of Luminescence is an actually well-done, cataclysmic and dynamic dungeon. The clever use of traps, monsters and modular and local terrain hazards and effects can constantly maintain the gravitas of the situation at hand. It’s very hard to forget what’s at stake here, and the plot of the adventure, as well as the clever way to make the PCs actually explore the dungeon, is really cool. The adventure, in spite of being a rather technical dungeon crawl, never loses its unique and sensible atmosphere, never feels like “just another” dungeon. The clever adversary choices and diverse challenges render this an excellent example for rewarding high-level dungeon design that also has a BBEG who is surprisingly smart in how the last stand is set up – but you can see that for yourself.

In short: The “Temple of Luminescence” continues the streak of excellent adventures that have lately come out of the Deadly Delves series – this is a great adventure, worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence (PFRPG)
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Book of Magic: 10 Warlock Invocations (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/26/2018 04:20:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 1 page of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Chilling Blast and Poisoning Blast require chill touch and poison spray as well as eldritch blast, and allow you to change the damage of the blast to cold or poison damage, respectively. Eternal laughter lets you cast hideous laughter once per long rest interval via a warlock spell slot. Devil’s Darkness requires the devil’s sight eldritch invocation and lets you cast darkness without using a warlock spell slot, with a unique recharge mechanic: When centering the spell on yourself, you can regain it on a short rest as well; otherwise, it requires a long rest to use it again. I like this.

Starting at 5th level, the warlock may choose acidic blood, which inflicts your Charisma modifier in acid damage on targets inflicting slashing or piercing damage upon you with natural attacks. This should take reach/range into account and only apply to melee attacks – after all, a manticore’s spikes are natural, right? And it doesn’t make sense for the blood to damage a target far away. There is also a means to grant yourself advantage on one Charisma (Intimidation) check per short or long rest interval. Flavorwise, that one makes you look like a fiend, which makes me think that it may have been intended for the Fiend patron only – it doesn’t make much sense for Archfey-warlocks to emulate a fiend. (And yes, this is fluff-nitpicking. I know.)

The 7th level invocation Undersea Horror nets you swim speed and proficiency in Strength (Athletics) checks made to swim. If you’re already proficient in Athletics, does that stack? I assume no. You can also breathe underater and cast water breathing once per long rest interval as a warlock spell. 9th level unlocks the option to use teleportation circle via a warlock spell slot, and adds teleport to the spell list, allowing you to take it at 13th level as Mystic Arcanum. Fiendish accuracy lets you, once per short rest interval, cast true strike sans using a warlock spell slot as a bonus action, applying its effects this turn. There is one invocation that requires 11th level to take, as well as dispel magic: Arcane nullification makes the spell treated as though it were cast with a spell slot equal to half your level, rounded down. This one should specify the cap at 9th level, obvious though that may seem.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, with hyperlinks added where applicable. On a rules-language level, there are very minor nitpicks here. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard. The pdf has a bookmark for credits and content, in spite of its brevity.

As a whole, I like Dale McCoy Jr.’s warlock invocations. The class feature isn’t exactly the most exciting thing about the class, but what we get here, is, as a whole, interesting. Now, you probably won’t be blown away by this one, but if you're looking for an inexpensive way to diversify warlock options, this may be worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Magic: 10 Warlock Invocations (5e)
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13 Cleric Domains and Spells (13th Age Compatible)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/23/2018 05:00:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of class expansion-pdfs clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content – these include a gorgeous full-page full-color artwork and the introduction.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

The pdf begins with 3 new domains: The first of these would be Elements OR Weather – you choose one of the 5 base damage types, and may 3/session as a quick action to reduce damage of the chosen energy by d4 times Charisma modifier. As invocation, you may convert half damage of a holy damage-inflicting spell to the chosen energy type. The three tiered feats increase these damage reducing tricks in die size and net you additional energy types. The Epic feat allows you to provide 16+ resistance to a target protected and lets you use it offensively, making targets lose resistance or become vulnerable for Charisma modifier rounds.

The second domain would be Liberation OR Anarchy, which nets you a one-point positive relationship with an icon you don’t already have a relation with, once per incremental advance. The invocation lets a nearby ally pop free, which may, via the feats, be used as a free action even if it’s not your turn, also end the grabbed or stuck conditions and, via the epic feat, 1/day target all nearby allies with it. Cool! (And yes, the icon relationship angle does get a bit of GM-advice – kudos!)

The final domain presented would be Luck, which once per battle on respective turns as a free action, lets you or your allies adjust the natural value of a single d20 roll downward by 1. Allies need to be nearby. Cool! The pdf, alas, mirrors in layout one of the guffaws of the 13th Age Core book, namely that of the Love Or Beauty domain, which counter-intuitively put the invocation at the back end. I will not penalize the pdf for it, but it didn’t make any sense in the core book. That being said, the invocation allows for the reduction of a save difficulty, and the two feats (Champion and Epic tier) allow allies to not use these benefits and instead fuel a temporary increase to AC or PD based on escalation die, with Epic tier’s feat adding MD to the options. I like this one.

We get 3 new 1st level spells, the first of which would be the ranged divine opportunity, which targets yourself and an ally, allowing both to execute an interrupt action, which does count against the actions in the subsequent round. Higher levels yield longer duration and more targets as well as upgrading the interrupt to free. The adventurer feat speeds casting time up to a move action. The other two spells are both close-quarters, with martyr’s touch being a quick action spell with a 16+ recharge after battle. The spells allows for recovery transfer, with later levels allowing for immediate healing, hit point transfer of up to escalation die recoveries to multiple allies, capping at one per ally. The feats enhance recharge and make it 1/battle, via the Champion tier feat. Spark of hope is daily and you must be staggered to cast it; the spell targets a nearby foe and attacks via Wisdom + Charisma + level vs. MD, rendering the target vulnerable 18+ to the attacks of your allies until the end of your turn, as well as providing minor temporary hit points to nearby allies. The hit points granted and vulnerability improve over the levels. The Adventurer tier feat adds dazing, the Champion tier feat weakening.

The pdf includes two 3rd level spells: Compelling litany is a ranged, once per battle spell that targets up to 3 enemies and inflicts minor holy damage, but also allows you to prevent them from one type of action: disengage, intercept, making opportunity attacks. Higher levels improve damage and allow for more prohibited actions, with 9th level making enemies lose an action on their turn. The feats require that enemies save to end the spell and allow you to target less, but far away, enemies. Okay, do all enemies targeted have their own prohibited behavior, or do they have to share the same prohibited behavior? What does “lose an action” mean? Does the affected character get to choose which one to lose? This one needs clarification. The second spell, hallowed ground, is a close-quarters daily spell, and is really cool, offering holy damage based on escalation die, and alos allows you to mitigate environmental effects. The Adventurer feat makes this 16+ Rechargem the champion feat lets you cast it as a quick action.

The 5th level spells presented are both daily ranged spells: Castigation targets a nearby enemy with Wisdom + level vs. MD, causing holy damage and stuck on a hit, escalation die-based penalty to MD on a miss; Higher levels add stun and increase damage. The spell can be enhanced with a Champion tier feat, which adds a self-directed attack on a successful save versus the spell. Nice. March of saints can be cast for power or broad effects: This influences the damage and number of targets, and the spell targets PD. Odd: The cast for broad effect can be more potent than the power one, as allies may elect to target PD instead of AC in this variant. On a Miss, the target is treated as engaged, and when moving sans disengaging, takes half damage. The spell’s higher levels upgrade damage and targets. No feats for this one.

At 7th level, there are two more ranged spells: Divine dominion is daily and targets MD, inflicting either holy damage on demons, devils, etc. and hampers such beings, or assume temporary control over the target if its another type of creature. Miss adheres a roughly halved effectiveness. The Epic feat really rocks: Once per level, when hitting a staggered target, you can spend icon relationship points which came up as 5 or 6 to sway the target to your side! Really cool! Glimpse of perdition is a recharge 11+ one that can only target foes with 160 hit points (250 hp at 9th level – formatting is a bit awkward here) or less, targeting MD. On hits, the enemy targeted is temporarily helpless and must flee; on a miss, the enemy suffers from fear. Undead, devils et al. have a harder time ending the condition. The epic feat can banish such beings to their home plane or grave – neato. Foes thus sent away may return with a icon relationship to which you’re negative or conflicted. Nice angle!

Finally, there is one 9th level spell, the daily close-quarters deific weapon. The casting requires the cashing in of an icon relationship point for which you rolled 6, and you manifest the legendary weapon of your deity, overwriting any regular item chakra benefits. The weapon grants a +3 bonus and two epic powers. While escalation die is less than Charisma modifier, foes of your deity or icons you have positive relationships with, become vulnerable (16+) versus the weapon. When hitting such targets by 4+, you also ignore any resistances. Ouch!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though the aforementioned minor guffaw and some of the aesthetic formatting decisions slightly hamper the pdf. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with two great full-color pieces of artwork – kudos for such a small pdf! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity – once more, nice!

Richard Moore’s cleric options are my favorites among the 13th Age material he has so far released. There is more daring here – the pdf makes great use of the system’s escalation die and unique icon relations, rendering these effects really unique. While the minor guffaws noted slightly drag this down, it’s not by much – the pdf presents a well-designed array of tricks that dares to be creative: I’ll gladly take a minor glitch in an intriguing pdf over bland, but perfectly executed content. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13 Cleric Domains and Spells (13th Age Compatible)
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Book of Magic: Patron Hexes (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/23/2018 04:48:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Magic-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

Know what I really dislike about the base patron class feature? It’s not nearly as diversified and meaningful as it should be – as such, I have very much welcomed the introduction of patron-exclusive hexes, which btw. also help to potentially balance the power-levels of different patrons. This pdf then, provides a whole selection of such patron-specific hexes. After a brief introduction that also explains how to use this pdf, we begin with the hexes; we get two excludive hexes per patron covered, plus a major hex for each of the patrons. With over 25 patrons covered, that makes for quite a lot of hexes. Patrons from Advanced Player’s Guide and Ultimate Magic are covered. Where duration extension via cackle is possible, the pdf does note so explicitly. Let’s take a look!

We begin with Agility, which allows you to temporarily redistribute 10 ft. of movement to another character or decrease a target’s speed to 5 ft. for a round. The latter hey fails to specify how it works, though – does it require a touch attack? Has it a range? No idea. The major hex is really potent, allowing for move action short-range teleportation. The ancestors patron provide a fear-based short-range debuff and a brief, communion-based bonus to a Knowledge skill. The major hex is pretty potent, granting a wild-card hex from an ancestral witch. Personally, I’d put a hard limit of uses on this one to account for the superb flexibility. Not taking this hex would be insane RAW.

Animal is amazing: A target within 30 ft. sneezes a dire bat from the nose, which proceeds to attack the target, then turn into mucus that provides a brief atk debuff. Issues here: A Dire Bat is Large. What if it can’t fit in the space? Making this one an abstract effect instead of a quasi-summoning with all the issues that entails, would have been wise. The second hex allows for the temporary addition of the Giant Creature template to the familiar. The major hex, comparatively, is underwhelming. Become the same type of animal as the familiar? Okay. Death provides a fear-based, scaling debuff…that lacks the caveat that it’s a fear-based, mind-influencing effect. The second hex causes 1d8 + witch level negative energy damage with a touch, granting the same amount of temporary hit points. A target may only be affected once per 24 hours, but still – hand me my trusty bag of drain-fodder kittens to leech, I need my temporary hit points shield back. sigh The major hex imposes temporary negative levels on a failed save and continues to do so on subsequent rounds, capping at Int-mod.

Deception is interesting, but weird – it makes a target within 30 ft. look like the witch; allies must make a Will-save or be convinced that the ally is the witch, which is kinda odd, since the witch retains RAW her appearance. Glibness nets a Bluff skill boost with a daily cap. The major hex can make targets believe that its surrounded by endless copies of the witch. The hex should probably be codified as an illusion or mind-affecting effect. Elements nets either cold or fire resistance via eerie flames or relay short messages to targets, who may also reply at 5th level – discreetly, of course. The major hex allows for the witching of the 4 core energy types between prepared spells. I really liked this one!!

Enchantment is a save-or-suck that can force an enemy to attempt to help an adjacent foe. Instant friends is somewhat problematic, as it assumes Diplomacy to change attitudes to be quick – which it isn’t unless you take a huge penalty to the check. The major hex allows for the redirecting of enchantments. Endurance allows for the removal of fatigue and transfer of the condition to another target. This is broken. It allows for rage-cycling, provided the witch has a bag of kittens to transfer fatigue to. The second hex is a bland -2 to fort-saves for 1 round. On a failed Will-save. The major hex nets a scaling natural AC bonus and an Intimidate bonus due to warty skin. Healing provides a short-range stabilizing with minor healing (bad choice of your standard action…) and the second hex provides temporary hit points. The major hex can heal temporary ability damage or drain to one score.

Insanity lets you suppress fear effects or cause brief confusion. The major hex causes up to Int-mod creatures within 60 ft. to lock down and take nonlethal damage. No actions, though on a creature’s turn, this can be shaken off. This is very potent, as it can prevent immediate actions RAW. The hex-caveat prevents it from being broken, but I’d restrict this one to the highest levels due to a lack of initial saving throw. Light provides untyped damage versus undead, which stacks with channeling – interesting. As a nitpick – should probably be positive energy damage. The second hex nets zone of truth at touch range. The major hex causes reliable blindness – light sensitive targets take negative levels and on a failed save, the blindness is actually RAW permanent. Moon lets allies grow claws (damage type properly codified; I assume primary natural attacks as per default). The second hex lets you steal darkvision. The major hex provides a pseudo-lycanthropy buff.

The occult patron hexes comes with steal voice and turning undead. The major hex provides scaling undead anatomy for allies. Plague can fortify targets versus disease or cure them, or cause targets to become sickened – no save. The major hex lets an ally cause the sickened condition via attacks. Portents allows the witch to choose a target nearby and take the aid another action: The first ally to attempt an attack against the target gets the aid bonus. The second hex nets a skill bonus for a target. The major hex provides Int-mod forced rerolls, taking the worse result. This should probably have a 1/day per target caveat, analogue to misfortune.

The shadow patron can bestow a creature some control over its shadow, using it as a scout – this is tight and well-balanced. One of my favorites within. The second one is a ranged trip. The major hex deals major Strength damage, half on a successful save. The amount inflicted (1d6 + ½ witch levels) is overkill for save halves and the high save DC of hexes.

Spirits can provide a Perception bonus after communion, and a variant summon monster with the spirit creature template (included) added to the summon. The major hex provides an omni-magic circle that only true neutral folks can bypass. Stars provide a +1 luck bonus to attack, and may only a affect a target once per day, which is strangely underwhelming compared to e.g. fortune. Odd: Dazzling a target (weakest condition) is upgraded to dazed at 5th level…strange progression. The major hex adds +1d6 fire damage to ranged attacks for an ally, stacking with flaming et al.

Strength nets a short-range ranged bull rush governed by Intelligence (like all ranged combat maneuver hexes within) and may sap Strength from a target via touch. The major hex reduces a creature’s Strength to 1 on a failed save , by 1d6 on a successful one. While it can only be used Int-mod times per day, it should definitely have a caveat that it can’t affect a target twice per day. This is otherwise save or suck for brutes like giants, dragons, etc., and the damage on a successful save on its one can cripple most melee targets quickly otherwise. Time provides a physical attribute debuff…and has a super broken second hex: Touch a target, steal the next standard action and bestow an additional attack action (this could be a Vital Strike, you know…) on a target. Hand me my trusty bag of kittens! This time around, I won’t even have to kill them, just steal their time. This needs to die in a fiery blaze. Oh, major hex? 1 round TIME STOP. WTF.

Transformation nets enlarge person or an enhancement bonus for the weapon touched, with 7th level granting a +1 equivalent special weapon property. Okay, I assume in addition, right? The major hex temporarily transforms targets into harmless animals. It should specify being a polymorph effect. Trickery makes the target confuse friends and foes for Int-mod rounds – saves don’t end the effect and the hex lacks a range. The second hex allows for the touch-based reduction of AC bonuses granted by armor or shields. The major hex requires up to two saves – it fools the target to believe they’re covered in creepy-crawlies. If the first fails, the target is paralyzed; if the second fails, the target attacks itself. Should specify being a mind-affecting fear-effect.

Vengeance comes with a negative energy shield that can cause damage to targets hitting the witch in melee. The second hex forces a creature to attack an ally with the same attack that hurt the witch or her allies on a failed save. The major hex is a properly codified death effect, usable 1/day, that inflicts 10 times witch level damage. Oddly, still 1d10 per witch level, which is, comparatively, overkill. Water provides temporary swim speed plus water breathing and scaling DR. The major hex is odd, making the target gain an eel-like blessing: Electricity damage is halved (not how that usually works in PFRPG) and if the effect allows for a Reflex-save, the target is basically treated as having evasion. Additionally, hitting the target in melee causes electricity damage.

Winter provides save-less blindness lock-down within 30 range. This should have some form of limitation. The second hex slightly reduces speed, by 5 ft. Notice the power-discrepancy? The major hex provides a slow-causing blizzard (wind strength not noted, I assume blizzard standard) that the witch can move around. Wisdom, finally, can yield calm emotion or a debuff to Wisdom via touch. The major hex nets 12 + witch level SR – which can be misread to not have a fixed cap due to a verbiage guffaw.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, the material is inconsistent, though. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf has stock interior artwork – I’ve seen all pieces used multiple times before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Dale McCoy Jr. usually does better. The patron hexes herein feature a couple of truly amazing visuals and cool ideas…but at the same time, their internal balancing is really, really odd. There are a couple of hexes that frankly suck, and some that are UTTERLY OP. Reliable, save-less enemy lockdowns, a bunch of failed kitten-tests (can you abuse the ability with a bag of kittens?) and inconsistently applied classifications for effect types that make interactions potentially odd mar what could have been a solid, enjoyable offering. There are some really cool tricks herein, but once you start to analyze the details and compare the patrons (yes, I took spells into account to judge viability of the hexes), you’ll still arrive at a flawed book. While this does contain a couple of gems, it also sports more than a few problematic hexes – and, when listed, the problematic ones exceeded the ones I really loved in number. Hence, I cannot round up from my final verdict of 2.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Magic: Patron Hexes (PFRPG)
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13 Cleric Domains and Spells (13th Age Compatible)
by Robert G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2018 08:21:54

In other fantasy settings I don't enjoy playing clerics at all. 13th Age makes clerics fun for me. This book expands on that and adds some interesting spells and domains. I'm a fan of all 3 domains, but the luck one calls to me the most.

The spells are also interesting. They don't just do damage. There are some really interesting effects, like Divine Dominion where you might be able to take control of a target creature. I think my favorire spell is a damaging spell, but it uses the escalation die as a timer. Hallowed Ground is best when cast early on a boss and you will deal damage like a boss!

Well worth every penny.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13 Cleric Domains and Spells (13th Age Compatible)
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Book of Beasts: Monsters of the River Nations (PFRPG)
by David D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/18/2018 15:35:38

'Book of Beasts: Monsters of the River Nations' is a Pathfinder roleplaying Game compatible product from Jon Brazer Enterprises. I bought a printed copy since I greatly enjoyed another Book of Beasts in the past (Monsters of the Shadow Plane). You get a great bunch of interesting monsters, ranging from 1/2 CR up to 16 CR. Every mob comes also along with a black & white artwork picture. There are a lot of monster books on the market to find, so what makes 'Book of Beasts: Monsters of the River Nations' stand out from many other supplements? The answer is simple: no filler mobs by lack of creativity but interesting creatures to fit in any campaign. On top of that you get some useful appendixes (new templates, diseases, haunts, gambling games & drug, humanoid encounters) as bonus. My verdict: 5 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: Monsters of the River Nations (PFRPG)
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Deadly Delves: To Claw the Surface (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/29/2018 04:21:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 52 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review.

Now, it should be noted that this adventure provides a new NPC-race that is supplemented by 3 racial feats and a really kickass full-color artwork. The module furthermore includes a total of 5 new monsters and no less than 20 different fungal items; 2 cool mundane items, 2 variant weapons and 1 variant armor, a minor intelligent item, a cursed item and a tightly-codified campaign trait.

It should also be noted that the module comes with an extra Map-pdf that spans no less than 21 pages of maps, including all relevant full-color maps in a player-friendly version, both with and without grid. Furthermore, these full-color maps also encompass handy sideview depictions and maps that allow the GM and players to better picture the aspect of verticality inherent in this adventure. This is an adventure for 1st level characters, and it has, to a degree, a survival aspect. Copious amounts of read-aloud text are provided for your convenience.

And this is honestly as far as I can go without venturing deep into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

The module begins with the PCs in the employ of Macharun Hardfist, who is mining the more dangerous and notoriously cave scorpion-riddled passages of Granitetop Mountain, a place where the dwarves of old unlocked the secrets of copper mining. The module begins with a bang, as the PCs deal with an infestation of purple worm hatchlings – but alas, the worm-riddled floors end up collapsing, stranding the PCs entombed in the lightless, dark passages of Granitetop.

Stranded as the PCs are, they have to contend with the deadly vermin that skitters and crawls through the tunnels, all while also looking for food, water, sources of healing…and, well, ultimately, an exit. Oh, and damaged equipment may need repairs as well! Salvage from the collapse and appropriately visceral description of the ordeal of being caught in the collapse set an incredibly strong theme for the start of the adventure. Bracing climbs and confronting underworld fauna represent a great start for the adventure, and terrain hazards similarly help set the stage for a feeling of being threatened, not by creatures, but by the general situation – something that only precious few modules manage to achieve. This proceeds to escalate via a cool haunt, and the boos for the first section, a degenerate and venerable giant that makes for a potent foe for 1st level characters!

The haunt btw. represents an inkling of the shape of things to come, as the second section of the module has the PCs explore the ancient copper mines, now inhabited by grindylow, where echoes of a more fantastic pasts, with krakens loom, and even rust monsters are starving. Translating ancient dwarven adds to the sense of exploring basically a haunted, lost archaeological site, which should show how the discovery of iron allowed the dwarves to escape the yoke of ancient giants. Ultimately, the exploration will have the PCs approach the so-called Sky Tomb – provided they can get past the Sky Shy, a settlement of disturbing fungalfolk (yes, with settlement statblock!), where help, but also danger may be encountered. When the PCs find the sky stairs (which include a cool trap!), they’ll note that a meteor strike has blocked the exit in days long past – thus, they will have to pass duergar and dire corby foes…oh, and have I mentioned the amazing running battle on mine carts, as the PCs make their way to the Sky Tomb? They’ll have to brave massive gaps and sub-encounters allow for great customization options. This section is imho enough to warrant getting the adventure!

The final section, then, has the PCs explore the Sky Tomb, hopefully surviving the derro and red dragon wyrmling there – the final boss here being the one choice in the module that I’m not 100% in love with – but that’s because I prefer my dragons huge or larger, and suitably deadly. This is, though, a personal preference and will not influence my final verdict.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulations of hiccups on either a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a few excellent full-color artworks. The cartography, also done by the author, is fantastic, player-friendly and should render running this module simple enough, even with VTTs. This should be industry-standard. Huge kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Allen is one of the authors you should definitely watch. So far, he has shirked, with grace and panache aplomb, anything in his writing that would even remotely look like mediocrity or being "just" good; and this adventure is no different: What we have here, to put it bluntly, is excellence. The attention to detail and amazing atmosphere, the creative set-pieces that organically flow together, the blending and development of themes – they all fit together so well. It’s weird, really – the adventure is, for all intents and purposes, very technical in its craftsmanship. At the same time, though, it also manages to evoke a sense of atmosphere you only very rarely get to see. In fact, this felt in many instances almost like an OSR-module, with so much care poured into the details, the small bits. There is a subtle, playful artistry in this adventure, one that made me reminisce about Tomb Raider, about some survival movies, about classic dwarven-themed adventures and underworld exploration…but at the same time, the adventure manages to somehow transcend all these diverse influences, weaving them into something distinct, novel and exciting.

I’ll just come out and say it: This is one of the best 1st level modules available for PFRPG. It’s, in fact, good enough to warrant checking out even if you play another system. This is a true gem, and will receive 5 stars + my seal of approval, granted without any hesitation. It also qualifies as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: To Claw the Surface (PFRPG)
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Book of Heroic Races: Seedlings (PFRPG)
by David D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/17/2018 14:13:11

Having a printed copy of 'The Book of Heroic Races: Seedlings' from Jon Brazer Enterprises in my possession, I provide hereby a short review. This booklet is 26 pages rich, has a magnificient cover in color (both the art & choosen color palette), and has 21 pages of actual content in black & white. It provides you as player with a very interesting race choice for your character, the seedling and idem dito a very interesting NPC choice for the gamemaster in his/her campaign. So it is a rich addition to have for both players and GM's. Maybe you want as GM nature becoming more alive in your campaign, playing a more active role then it just being lovely scenery, then the seedling is a welcome option and a potential source for many adventures. Or maybe you as player are looking for a more special race to roleplay than humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves, halflings, and the like. This book could be what you were looking for.

It contains seedling racial traits, alternate racial traits, new character traits, favored class options, new archetypes (the switcher & the tree spirit druid), the negotiator as new prestige class, new feats, new spells & equipment, as well as new deities. The book begins with an excerpt from a seedling's forgotten journal (1 full page), providing the reader with a better insight of this tree-like race. Further, you can find in this book also full stats for 4 seedling NPC's: Seedling Guard, Seedling Prophet, Seedling Craftsman & Seedling Elder. Campaign tips are also provided for using seedlings into an established campaign or to keep players excited about this new racial option once the newness wears off. Layout and editing are good and you'll find among the pages some nice black & white art.

My personal verdict: a well written and detailed book, full of interesting stuff that is well -balanced in gameterms, a book that was created into being with care, love and a respected level of professionalism. This translates into 5 deserved stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races: Seedlings (PFRPG)
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13 Wizard Cantrips and Spells (13th Age Compatible)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/28/2018 03:54:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This crunchy little supplement clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page taken up by an old, but nice stock-art piece, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of material, so let’s take a look!

After an introduction, we begin with the one cantrip herein – that would be Quench, which falls firmly into the utility region and does what it says on the tin, with higher levels allowing for the extinguishing of far away fires or bigger ones nearby. Nice one. The pdf has 2 different utility spell: Arcane Eye. Yes, the beloved I-spy-with-my-little-eye favorite of any wizard-operator finally makes its way to 13th Age, at 3rd level, with upgrades for 5th, 7th and 9th level provided and a concisely defined limit regarding range and speed, as well as AC and PD. The new 5th level utility spell herein would be another classic – Wall of Stone. This one completely blocks out Adventurer tier characters, allowing only champion tier and up to break through or scale it, which isn’t a solution I enjoy. Why not work with modifications to the DC to prevent the wall from being breached based on the assailants? Both are ranged spells, btw.

For 1st level, we once more have two spells that scale at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level, the first of which would be two rolled in one: Enlarge/Shrink Object. The basic idea here is simple – double or halve the size, with Intelligence + Level vs. PD of holding person to resist. Now, where things become interesting, is with the different level-upgrades, where penalties and enlarged items rendering targets stuck making for really creative tweaks of the 13th Age game, setting the spell apart from its other incarnations across the different game-engines. This spell has no feat-based options. The second 1st level spell is another cult classic: Mirror Image. It’s codified as close range, and, on a natural odd hit, one of the 1d2 doubles are hit instead and wink out of existence, with higher levels upgrading the number and providing for means to take crits automatically or adding the escalation die’s halved value (I assume, rounded down) to the doubles created. The Adventurer feat nets a chance for recharges of the spell after battle, while Champion tier’s feat’s images can execute basic melee attacks that inflict psychic damage. Epic feat mirror doubles detonate. Sooo…I’m kinda torn here. Oddly, this spell can make hits inflict more damage than misses, which is a bit strange and an aesthetic choice I am not too fond of.

We also have two 3rd-level spells, the first of which would be the ranged spell Snowball Swarm, which may be recklessly cast for +1d3 targets, but a chance that allies may be hit. On the plus side, targets hit by such a cast may also be dazed on a failed easy save. Damage scaling is solid compared to e.g. Force Salvo and the thing that sets the base version apart from the 5th, 7th and 9th level versions. The three feats for the spell enhance the save for the recklessly cast spell, more targets affected by them, and the epic feat adds a chance to render the targets temporarily helpless. Web is a close-quarter spell and another classic brought to 13th Age. The spell dazes targets and render them stuck, with the escalation die tied to the daze-duration. The 5th, 7th and 9th level versions, we have more reliability for the spell, and it has a short-term natural even miss dazing as well baked into its base engine. The two feats improve the dazed save and add poison-damage-causing spiders to the webbing. Nice tweak here!

The 3 5th level spell include Acid Rain, a ranged spell that can render targets vulnerable, with half damage on misses. Champion and Epic feats enhance the vulnerability added to the damage, as well as a target-increase. Two close-quarters spells are provided, with Enlarge/Shrink Creature representing a buff/debuff, respectively, is a bit odd in the pretty hefty benefits for being enlarged, but yeah. It’s still a rather nice classic. Titan’s Fist, another close-range spell, allows yo to target more targets at increasing penalties for doing so. Nice one, though I’d probably cap that based on Intelligence. Damage-wise, this is solid, and the feat-upgrades are nice, adding stuck or flinging a target away – did someone say Bigby?

At 7th level, the first classic would be Reverse Gravity, which once more comes with a recklessly cast version for additional targets, at the risk of affecting engaged allies. The spell causes untyped damage, which is somewhat problematic, since its damage metrics are based on Transfer Enchantment (which uses psychic damage), with additionally, more targets affected by Reverse Gravity. Not a fan. Cool, on the other hand – analogue to the CRB’s Haste, we get a Slow spell based on it – it would have been nice to have interaction between these opposed spells, however. Plus-side: If the escalation die’s odd, the effect may persist.

Anyways, the final spell is another classic: The 9th level spell would be Prismatic Barriers, which makes good use of damage types of 13th Age and really potent defensive tricks. The epic tier feat lets you expand the barrier by 1d2 allies included and lower-tier targets being really hampered.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – the presentation is precise. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports one amazing, new artwork, and an oddly 1-page version of a classic stock-art piece. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, which is a nice thing to see for such a brief pdf.

Richard Moore knows his 13th Age – while I do not like every design-decision herein, and while balance is not always meticulous, this pdf should still be considered to be a good buy for all 13th Age Wizard-players, adding some cult-classic spells to the game, often making good use of the diverse options available in 13th Age’s engine. All in all, I consider this to be a good offering, slightly short of the Fighter Talents and Maneuvers presented in the companion pdf. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
13 Wizard Cantrips and Spells (13th Age Compatible)
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13 Fighter Talents and Maneuvers (13th Age Compatible)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/16/2018 05:46:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little expansion-pdf for 13th Age fighters clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreons.

The pdf begins with a brief introduction, which takes up the first page. After that, we are introduced to the 4 new talents herein, the first of which would be Bravado, which lets you once per battle, as a quick action (free for adventurer feat, +usable 2/battle, but only 1/day) roll 1d20 + Charisma vs. MD; on a success, AC and PD are lowered against your attacks by the escalation die value for the remainder of the combat. Mooks targeted extend this penalty to the whole mob. For the champion feat, this also reduces the target’s attack and damage rolls, and the epic feat adds hampered to the target once it’s staggered, with a save to briefly negate the condition.

First to Arms lets you spend a recovery to go first at the start of battle; if more than one character uses this, you go by Dexterity modifier, rolling d20 to break ties. At adventurer tier, we add the higher of Dex or Wis-mod to AC until the escalation die is equal to or greater than your level…which is pretty potent, considering the damage 13th Age characters can dish out. I’d have halved that. At champion tier, the feat also extends this bonus to PD and the epic feat lets you spend a full turn before everyone else does and still roll initiative normally after that, at the cost of a recovery. Okay can this be stacked with the base benefit?

Resist & Endure lets you 1/battle spend a recovery as a quick action to immediately reroll a save with a bonus equal to the escalation die. The adventurer feat improves that to free action, +1/day lets you sue it twice in a battle. The champion feat makes this an auto-success, sans need to roll. Not the biggest fan there. The epic tier feat makes a use of the talent free, but only the first after a quick rest/full heal-up. The final talent would be Taunt, which lets you roll 1d20 + Charisma + level vs. a nearby target’s MD. On a success, all allies gain resistance 12+ vs. the target’s attacks and power until the start of the next turn. However, the target’s crit range increases by 2 regarding attacks made against you for the same duration. Mooks taunted apply the penalties to the whole mob, and a target can only be currently taunted by one character. The adventurer feat causes the target to take your Charisma modifier in psychic damage when it attacks an ally. This damage scales to doubled and tripled at 5th and 8th level. The higher tier feats improve the resistance to 16+ and 18+, respectively. Nice: As 13th Age generally does not differentiate between types regarding the effect of psychological tricks like Taunt, the pdf does spend a bit of time explaining how to best handle the like.

Next up would be the maneuvers, two of which are first level maneuvers: Pommel bash triggers on odd misses and may daze a target for 1 turn on a failed normal save, with adventurer feat adding Strength modifier to miss damage. Champion feat modifies the effects and confuses the target for 1 turn before dazing him – no save for either condition. Compared to shield bash, particularly the latter seems a bit too strong. Cunning Feint triggers on natural odd misses and applies the higher or Int or Wis-mod to the next damage roll versus the target. The adventurer feat lets you convey that to a nearby ally instead. Both champion and epic feat sport formatting deviations from the standard – INT and WIS are not used in class feature text, instead using the full word. Effect-wise, we add the higher of the two plus escalation die/twice escalation die, respectively.

The pdf sports 3 different 3rd level maneuvers. Get Clear triggers on a natural, odd hit, allowing an ally to pop free from being engaged with the target as well as move to a nearby location. The adventurer feat adds escalation die to AC and PD for the ally vs. opportunity attacks, as well as to any disengage checks. The champion feat upgrades ally movement to a far away location, but at the cost of the ally’s next move action. Left You An Opening triggers on natural even misses while escalation die is 2+. You forego miss damage, but double the escalation bonus of an ally for their next attack versus that foe. The adventurer feat renders the target vulnerable to the next attack of the ally, while the champion feat adds an extra WEAPON die. I’m not 100% sold on the vulnerable benefit for adventurer, as most abilities that grant this are relegated to champion tier. Wounding shot triggers on a natural 16+ and you deal half normal base damage, but the target suffers ongoing damage equal to the higher of your Wisdom or Intelligence modifier, triple that at 8th level. The champion feat allows you to trigger it with a natural even hit, and ending the ongoing damage is a hard save.

There are also two 5th level maneuvers, the first of which would be Impaling Shot, which triggers on a natural odd hit. The maneuver potentially pins targets to terrain features, rendering it stuck. The target may expend a move action to attempt to free themselves with a normal save, taking ½ basic damage upon success. So, upon failure, no damage? I assume so, but this component could be a bit clearer. The maneuver has a Champion feat associated, which lets you target PD and increases the save to hard. Skullrattler triggers on a natural odd hit. The maneuver deals half damage, but hampers the foe for Strength modifier turns, with a normal save to end. Champion increases the save difficulty to hard, and the epic feat lets you inflict full damage.

Finally, the pdf has two 7th level maneuvers. Rain of Missiles is triggered on a natural even hit on escalation die 2+. You deal half damage, but also to all enemies who are engaged with the same creature as your target, with a maximum of Dexterity modifier. The epic feat extends range of the rain of missile to nearby the target. The final maneuver is Heroic Sacrifice, which triggers on a natural even hit, but requires that you’re staggered. The attack deals double damage, but you suffer half of it as well. Allies engaged with the target may pop free. The epic feat renders the target stuck unless it makes a hard save, but you also become stuck and vulnerable to the attacks and powers of the target.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Apart from aesthetics, I saw no issues. The pdf sports surprisingly great full-color artwork, including a 1-page piece. The pdf has no real bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Richard Moore’s fighter maneuvers and talents are interesting in that they reward fighters with decent attributes in the mental range – there is a reason to have a solid Wisdom score here, and this swashbuckl-y options are something I certainly enjoyed. The maneuvers can be considered to be a bit on the strong side of things, but offer some interesting teamwork and tactics. And there is the price-point. This pdf is really inexpensive. Considering the more than fair price point, I consider this to be worth getting – an interesting pdf that is worth 4.5 stars, and while I’d usually round down, the low price point and interesting design decisions make me round up instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13 Fighter Talents and Maneuvers (13th Age Compatible)
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Deadly Delves: The Dragon's Dream (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/03/2018 06:27:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review as the request of my patreons.

This is a high-level adventure, intended for characters of 16th level, and should bring them to 17th level by its conclusion. This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! Cout Larom has ordered the excavation of an ancient site, rumored to be the final resting place of the mighty crypt dragon Roanax. This mighty specimen, back when dragon’s ruled the region, was slain in a concerted effort by several of its lesser peers. However, when the magnificent beast was about to draw her last breath, she managed to draw herself, her hoard and her assailants into the eponymous dragon’s dream, endlessly living out her memories, the realities of dream slowly corrupting and changing her would-be slayers. Now, only her skull bears witness to the passage of aeons. The aforementioned excavation did, consequently, not find the mighty dragon’s hoard, merely her skull – and they reactivated its magic. The poor sods were drawn into the mighty dragon’s dream, slain and trapped…or enslaved by the horrid caricatures that Roanax’ foes had become. To complicate matters more, it seems like the dream can capture souls, creating a false afterlife of sorts, which has attracted the attention of a cadre of psychopomps, who fear that the dragon’s dream may well spiral out of control. Sounds awesome, right? While PCs are probably hired by the count to help salvage his archaeological expedition, the stakes may well become much higher…fast.

Now, the set-up for the module is actually more detailed than what you’d expect – we get read-aloud text for the count’s estate, as well as some serious notes pertaining legwork that the PCs might undertake to know what they’re getting into. Now, heroes of this caliber don’t grow on trees, and as such, the count is not above mentioning the fabled treasures that ostensibly can be found in Roanax’ hoard. As the PCs approach the singing pit, as the doomed location has become known locally, they will be greeted by further complications: The site has been occupied by a small tribe of stone giants (custom stats included), led by Verot the Godling, a horrid, dominating CR 17 ooze that brought me way back to Book of Beasts: Legendary Foes. And yes, the stats of the monster have been provided as well. When the godling is slain, a warped mass of draconic remnants manifests from its slimy hide, providing a first hint of some truly potent, mutating factors here. It should also be noted that the PCs can obviously meet aforementioned psychopomps and, hopefully, secure their aid: Consulting their meticulously researched material may provide some interesting hints. If the godling is defeated and the PCs are sufficiently charismatic, they may even secure the aif of the powerful outsiders. They’ll need it.

Further exploration of the lavishly-mapped pit will yield the remnants of a wasted opera house, where banshees act as singers, and the once proud green dragon Brithorn has been transformed into a forest blight. Corrupting dreams manifest as a specialized haunt that is susceptible to additional forces, and a dybbuk…and ultimately, they’ll reach the skull. Here’s to hoping that they befriended the psychopomps – Rakeshta is stationed here, and she is an olethros, which clocks her in at CR 17.

Activating the skull will drag mortals, including native outsiders and outsiders bound to characters, right into the dragon’s dream – and it is there that the PCs will need to go! The dragon’s dream itself is the main dungeon, and it is unique indeed: The complex begins rather regularly, with an orrery that can, when positioned correctly, open a door – failure will result in a battle versus a potent demodand. However, the truly amazing and captivating component of the dungeon would be the dragon’s memories. Throughout the complex, globes of light represent scenes from the dragon’s life, and touching them allows the PCs to live through the experiences of Roanax! Each of the memories has a condition to succeed, and once it is met, the light dims. Failure does allow for retries, provided the PCs in question survive the respective experience. This may not sound like much, but these vignettes are a perfect way to show the PCs the history of the mighty dragon, the trials and tribulations faced, all while they’re making their way past the potent guardians of the complex: Rune giants, mithril golems, jacks-in-iron, nightshade nightwalker with shadow giants…the regular enemies in the dream are no pushovers, with Roanax’ erstwhile vanquishers twisted into a series of exceedingly potent boss-monsters. The dreams themselves, which, while solvable via rollplaying and studded with DCs, are something that many of the more technically-minded high-level modules forget: Excellent venues for creative roleplaying.

I can picture many a player chuckling, when, in the skin of a mighty dragon, talking to an elven archmage who claims that he can’t teach more to such a magnificent being. The role-reversal is simply fun. From the banner of legions to mighty Roanax’ spellcrown, the dungeon also offers loot for particularly capable individuals. In particular the mighty staff of sands, focusing on time manipulation and memory tweaking as well as prescience can make for a formidable tool. Soul-trapping statues are just one of the examples where the forces faced require PCs to be up to their A-game. The dreams also contain vital information regarding this place. Ultimately, the PCs will thus progress through ahigh-light reel of the mighty dragon’s life, finally confronting the CR 19 variant old crypt dragon. Here’s the thing: The echo of the mighty dragon draws sustenance from unresolved memories and the fabled treasures she hoarded: Each potent item not claimed will yield her formidable powers; memories not overcome will manifest as shining children – up to 8 of them! If the PCs were sloppy during their exploration, they will probably have no chance to regret their decisions, for the dragon on her own is already a formidable foe! In a smart move, the optional boons granted by the mighty items are not included in the statblock, which means you won’t have to do a ton of reverse-engineering. Good call!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups in either formal or rules-language categories. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard. The artworks deserve special mentioning: The pdf sports a lot of really nice full-color artworks, including a glorious one-page version of the cover art. Aesthetically, there’s nothing to complain here. This also extends to the full color cartography by Justin Andrew Mason, which is excellent and evocative. Better yet, the module comes with an accompanying map-booklet that contains not one, but TWO different player-friendly versions of the maps! One of them sports details like ladders, blood-spatters and grids, while the other is completely barebones. Dear publishers, that’s how good map-support is done!

Landon Winkler’s “Dragon’s Dream” is a rare beast indeed: First of all, it is a high level module, a lamentably rare breed of adventure in itself. Now, the deadly delves series of adventures is pretty impressive in its technical aspects – the challenges posed etc. are generally interesting, and this holds true here as well. However, the module truly excels in its storytelling: There is a ton of interesting roleplaying potential suffusing the pdf, and the adventure ultimately rewards for the PCs caring, being invested in the story, etc. The backdrop is intriguing as well, with the bosses all chosen to signify something – which may become apparent to the PCs as they progress through the adventure. What first may seem a bit haphazard turns out to be a rather methodical theme. The furious final fight makes for a sufficiently brutal endgame scenario, and if your PCs try to get cocky and nova the scenario, they’ll soon realize that the dream’s eternal nature may just result in undead or twisted versions of their defeated foes – so no rest/kill/rest-15-minute-adventure day-ing either. (As an aside advice, dear GMs: This is where you pull out all those delightfully twisted templates from e.g. Rite’s Pathways Bestiary and similar sources and go to town…)

The module does not attempt to account for the vast capabilities of PCVs of this level, but its premise and set-up means that it doesn’t really have to. Once in the dream, the PCs are trapped, but otherwise, we have all the basic covered and enough guidelines to handle this as a proper and well-crafted high-level exploration. In short: This is an excellent module. The craftsmanship and production values are impressive, and the book manages to evoke a unique and concise atmosphere that breathes evocative high fantasy. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval – Well done indeed, Mr. Winkler!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: The Dragon's Dream (PFRPG)
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Shadowsfall: Temple of Orcus (PFRPG)
by David D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2018 16:27:10

I bought the printed version of this adventure module ‘The Temple of Orcus’, which is a nice introduction adventure to lead players toward the plane of shadows, also known as Shadowsfall. It is made for a group of 4 players of 5th level and this adventure module includes 4 sample 5th level characters for those who like ready to play characters in their campaign (has also its use as NPC idea-source to help populate your campaign if so desired).

From the 18 pages this adventure module is rich, it contains 14 actual pages of content, which is nice. It is a black & white print with a colored softcover. Without giving away any spoilers, I can say that it is a straightforward adventure to fill your evening. It can be played both with the use of miniatures or without for those who like more the theater-of-the-mind approach. This module includes 2 maps (each filling half a page) with squares (each square equaling 5 feet). Not only useful to the GM, but also toward players (if you remove a few capital letters and numbers) since the maps doesn’t contain any secret (=spoiling) info.

‘The Temple of Orcus’ adventure also include 1 introduction page to Shadowsfall, explaining in short what exactly the plane of Shadows is, how Dark Vision works on this plane, how Shadowsfall affects magic, … It has a good editing and formatting with a nice layout. For its price, you get a quality product that I personally find its 5 stars worth.

I would describe ‘The Temple of Orcus’ as a classic rescue mission where player characters attempt to rescue some NPC’s from the clutches of evil, the mission clothed in an atmosphere of horror. It can be easily adapted to fit in any custom made world and Ravenloft-lovers could swap the plane of Shadows with a domain from the demi-plane of Dread for example. There is no limitation except by the limitation of your own imagination.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall: Temple of Orcus (PFRPG)
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Book of Heroic Races: Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/28/2018 06:45:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

So, if the title wasn’t enough of an indicator, this book provides material for the occult classes, the Ultimate Intrigue & Wilderness books – namely, for the Heroic Races introduced in Jon Brazer Enterprise’s Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium. The races covered herein are androids, changelings, catfolk, dhampir, elan, lizardfolk, merfolk, samsarans, sashahar, skinwalkers, tengus, umbral kobolds, wyrwoods and wyvarans. Each of the entries for the races comes with favored class options for the new classes in the aforementioned Paizo-hardcovers, and we get class options, racial feats and otherwise unique options for each of the races herein.

Androids get two new racial archetypes, the first of which would be the living archive medium, who loses shared séance, haunt channeler and astral journey. This would be a good place to note that I like the formatting here: Each of the archetypes and more complex options note the associated class and race as well as the replaced and modified abilities in the beginning – this makes it easier to determine whether the archetype is for the build you have in mind. So yeah, I like this decision. Living archives use Charisma as governing sepllcasting ability and 2nd level nets spirit esoteric: One spirit is chosen as the specialty spirit, which means that the medium gains the chosen spirit’s spirit bonus even when not channeling it. When channeling another spirit, this bonus may supersede that usually granted by the spirit. 3rd level allows the living archive to perform a séance to channel this chosen spirit in places other than the favored location. 14th level provides SP legend lore, but requires that the target of the SP is “at hand.” I am not a big fan of this being at-will; on a formal level “at hand” does not constitute particularly precise rules-language – this should be within reach/require touching/etc. – some sort of tighter wording. And yes, I am aware that the storyteller medium archetype, for example, handles this wording construct thus. Doesn’t make it better.

The second archetype would be the splintered mind psychic, who loses detect thoughts, telepathic bond and telepathy. The archetype modifies discipline, who gains both the lore and self-perfection disciplines . Whenever the psychic gets a discipline spell or power, she chooses one from these two or a lower-level discipline power or spell chosen from the two. Wisdom remains the phrenic pool-governing ability score. 2nd level allows the splintered mind to use 1 phrenic pool point to use the nanite surge racial ability, even if she has already expended it for the day. 9th level allows the character to use nanite surge after failing a save versus an enchantment spell or effect to attempt a second save on the next round, with a bonus as if she had nanite surge’d it. Now, I assume that this still requires the expenditure of nanite surge’s immediate action activation, but the ability does not specify that and RAW could be used without an action. Or, you could make a case for standard action activation, which would make no sense, though. The ability would be slightly cleaner if it mentioned the activation action here. 17th level nets a failsafe spell: Spend 10 minutes of meditation and expend twice the spell’s level in phrenic pool point cost to get a contingency-style spell that is triggered as long as she has at least one nanite surge left. This, while functional, is a bit awkward: RAW, the base ability of the archetype does not grant new nanite surges – instead, it allows for the use of nanite surges via phrenic pool point expenditure when there are no uses left. I am pretty positive that the ability, in the context of overall archetype use, would be more elegant if the exchange was based on daily uses instead.

The race gets 3 new feats: Nanite Firewall lets you expend a daily use of nanite surge to mitigate influence; Nanite Maintenance lets you expend a daily use of nanite surge to reduce influence by 1d3 (minimum 1). Nanite Stabilization upgrades Logical Spell to not require higher spell slots while you have at least 1 nanite surge remaining. Psychic repair dispels ongoing effects that reduce the mental ability scores (does NOT cure damage, drain or burn!) and with a nanite surge to boost it, it can eliminate a charm or compulsion effect targeting the caster – the spell is personal, fyi. Solid.

The catfolk get the new feline interloper archetype, which replaces unshakeable. The archetype gets proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as shuriken, bola and whip and adds Handle Animal and Knowledge (dungeoneering) and (engineering) to the class skills. The archetype is locked into the stalker specialization and at 3rd level, gets + class level to Bluff checks made to feint. The archetype gets two social talents, one that acts as wild empathy with 1 + Cha-mod charm animal as a SP on top, which upgrades to charm monster at 7th level. Sounds OP? Well, it can only affect feline/felid creatures, so I’m good with it. The second talent nets better gathering of renown when stealing particularly valuable objects from a target. A new vigilante talent nets Improved Unarmed Strike and flurry of blows at unchained monk -3 levels. The second new vigilante talent allows for limited style strike poaching from the unchained monk. There are new mesmerist tricks here, including one that makes the subject emanate a dazzle-variant based on sound that can hamper spellcasting on the subject. The second trick can deny a target that moves adjacent to the subject their Dex-bonus versus the next attack executed by the subject, which is per se cool. However, the enemy gets an immediate action Sense Motive to negate this, which is interesting. There is a masterful trick upgrade of this one that should specify that it requires the base trick to take it, which it RAW doesn’t.

Changelings get the malformed eye mesmerist archetype, which loses consummate liar, hypnotice stare and painful stare. Instead, the archetype gets a witch’s patron and the evil eye hex, which allows for the addition of bold stare improvements as if it were hypnotic gaze. Okay, while the evil eye retains the hex-caveat and activation action drawback, I am not sold here – bold stare improvements are based on them being useful only as the focus of the hypnotic stare and RAW, the hex does not require the maintenance of stare and can be used to spam the penalties thus caused. Not sold. The archetype may also use forbid action as an free action, 1/round at-will SP, but the target may still sue the action. When doing so, the target takes scaling, untyped damage. This can only be triggered once per round, though. I like the flavor of this one, but I’m not sold on the archetype grafting rules-components on top of the stare-engine that are not intended to work as such. The race also gets a new medium spirit, the crone,, who applies spirit bonus to concentration, Int-based checks and Will-saves. The séance boon increases the CL of all non-instantaneous spells by 3 for the purpose of determining duration. Influence penalty applies to AC, atk, non-spell damage rolls and Ref-saves. The taboos are interesting. The lesser ability nets you use the mesmerists’s spells per day and expands your spell-list with witch spells. The intermediate power nets a non-stacking CL-increase for a school. The greater ability lets you accept influence to further boost per-round—duration spell durations. The supreme ability lets you 1/day use this in a better manner, and sans influence. The shifter gets the black cat aspect. Minor form nets you a minor luck bonus to AC as well as a penalty to nearby foes at 8th level, with higher levels increasing range of the penalty and the bonus. Minor complaint – penalties are untyped. The major form lets you assume a Tiny black cat shape, including a luck bonus to atk. Minor complaints here: Size categories are capitalized and the claw attacks don’t specify their damage dealt or damage types. Higher levels also grant Black Cat and extend the bonus to saves and makes the feat usable 3/day at 15th level. The favored class options here deserve special mention, as they are pretty complex and interesting.

Dhampirs get two new racial archetypes, the first of which would be the blood scion mesmerist, who loses touch treatment, mental potency and glib lie. Instead, 3rd level allows the dhampir to use a standard action to lock gazes with the subject of a hypnotic stare as a standard action, acting as charm person while under the dhampir’s stare. Interesting – the target loses the memory of being affected thus. Limited and rather potent, but also iconic for the vampire-theme. It is balanced by a hex-like caveat, so yeah -I actually really like it! 5th level allows for the summon nature’s ally-based SP of calling children of the night, with 10th, 15th and 20th level improving that. Huge problem: No daily uses. This is, RAW, usable as often as the character wants! 14th level adds the advanced creature template to the creatures called. 11th level allows for a better version of the archetype’s base ability, duplicating dominate person. Add a daily cap to the archetype and we have a really cool tweak here.

The second archetype is the grim warder occultist, who loses magic circles and outside contact. They are locked into adjuration and conjuration as first two implement schools, but casts spells from them at CL+2; however, necromancy implement school spells are cast at -2 CL and similarly, the level to qualify for focus powers of the school is reduced by 2. The archetype is also locked into these favored schools for implement mastery. 8th level nets warding circles, which are undead-only magic circles against evil that may be enhanced with death ward via mental focus expenditure, even suppressing, though not removing, penalties from negative levels incurred by creatures prior to entering it. 12th level provides an undead-only binding circle powered by mental focus and fast circle applies to these specialized circles. As much as I liked the first archetype, this one left me somewhat cold – a pretty vanilla anti-undead option. The race also gets the Hypnotic Charmer feat, which lets you take 20 or 10 when using Cha-based skills on targets of your hypnotic stare.

Elands are up next, and we get a new medium archetype, the generation channeler, who replaces shared séance. These fellows may spend 2 power points to increase the die-size of the spirit surge die. I assume only for one surge. Instead of a shared séance’s usual benefits, we get +2 to saves versus enchantment and mind-affecting effects. The archetype may also expend power points to ask additional questions to haunts channeled. Weird: The ability states that it costs 2 power points, but then goes on to note that we get an additional question for every 3 power points spent – which is it? Can the character expend more power points than 2? RAW, no, but the ability indicates it, even providing a cap. Looks like something got lost/mixed up in a revision here. The pdf also includes a new aether composite blast, at Burn 2 – the elan force thrust, which adds a bull rush t the blast and causes force damage. There is a new mesmerist trick that nets catapsi when targeted with a psionic power or psi-like ability, though it only affects the subject. There are new phrenic amplifications, the first of which is somewhat problematic: Use 2 power points for one phrenic pool point? OUCH. This really delimits phrenic pool points for primarily psions. The second amplification lets you expend power points to cast standard action divinations as swift actions or increase the DC of scrying or mind-affecting divinations. Elan vigilantes can get Ch-mod/day demoralize as a psi-like power plus class level power points; alternatively, another talent makes all vigilante melee attacks ghost touch and, later also adds a bonus of +2 to atk versus incorporeal targets, undead, mediums channeling spirits and spiritualist phantoms. Neat ones!

We also get a new medium spirit, the elan elder, whose spirit bonus applies to concentration checks and Intelligence checks and Int-based skill checks. The séance boon nets +2 to Will saves versus mind-affecting spells and powers . The influence penalty applies to Dex checks and Dex-based skill checks as well as Perception checks, but not on any saves. The taboos makes sense. The lesser ability lets you spend power points for capped bonuses when using psychic skill unlocks; the intermediate power lets the medium accept 1 point of influence for +4 DC for a medium spell’s or psionic power’s DC, which is pretty damn brutal. The greater ability requires to let the spirit gain 1 point of influence. If you do, you may manifest ANY psion/wilder power as if you were a psion/wilder of the same level. You expend a spell slot of a level to manifest ANY psion/wilder power of the level of the slot you expended. Metapsionics may not be added, but you can augment the power via power points. This is pretty brutal, but kept in check by the medium’s spell levels...or is it? The “of the same level” pertaining to class levels, or character levels, is odd and interacts weirdly with the slot-expenditure required, making this a bit wonky. The supreme ability lets you 1/day use the greater power sans spell slot requirements or influence gained – which makes me think that there is a bit of cut-copy-paste confusion going on here…or a version change or something.

The lizardfolk race gets a new shifter archetype that loses sharp claws, defensive instinct and trackless step as well as the shifter claw increases. 1st level nets scaling studied target and 2nd level a scaling, Wisdom-governed AC/CMD bonus, which is halved when wearing nonmetal shields/armor instead, otherwise akin to the way in which monk-AC bonuses work. 3rd level nets fast movement and 5th level extra precision damage when moving, which scales. The main meat of class options here would be shifter aspects, 5 of which are provided: Alligator/crocodile, gecko, chameleon, pteranodon and snapping turtle. The first nets better aquatic Stealth and a 1/minute boost to base speed at 8th level while in minor form; Kudos: The major form correctly codifies the natural bite attack granted and the abilities gained make sense. Chameleon also enhances Stealth in minor form, but less so and regardless of environment. It provides standard and move action in surprise rounds at 8th level, and the major form is cool, with high levels netting your sticky tongue bludgeoning damage based on racial claws or shifter’s claws. Gecko enhances climbing and initiative and the major form provides some true climbing superiority and bite enhancers. Pteranodon nets a bonus to AC and initiative in minor form, while major form nets you clumsy fly speed, which improves in speed and maneuverability later and also nets you Flyby Attack et al at 15th level. Snapping turtle is interesting, in that it nets an AC bonus that increases when the character doesn’t move or attack. All in all, I enjoyed these shifter aspects.

Merfolk get two new water blasts: Siren’s song is a burn 0 sonic simple blast at reduced die size of d4 to account for the rare damage type; the composite blast Shrieking Song clocks in at 2 burn and provides composite sonic with the same reduction. There also are two utility wild talents, the first of which is siren’s kiss. For 1 burn, the DC increases by 2 and the talent nets you unnatural lust, save it requires concentration to maintain. Siren’s call duplicates nixie’s lure, requires concentration and has a 100-ft.-range. Not a fan: If you accept 1 burn, you don’t need to maintain concentration and the effect is prolonged until you next recover burn. Merfolk mediums may gain two new legendary spirits – Charybdis and Scylla, based on marshal and trickster, respectively. Charybdis’ séance boon nets you +2 to grapple checks and the influence penalty applies to Int- and Int-based checks as well as CL for the purpose of determining duration and range, which is BRUTAL. You also can’t benefit from CL-enhancing effects. I assume that this does not include feats, but I’m not 100% sure. The spirit gets an intermediate ability: When an enemy targets the medium with a direct assault or counters or negates a medium’s action, the medium may allow the spirit to gain 1 influence to have the opponent suffer from crushing despair for a number of rounds equal to the medium’s highest spell-level known. Durations stack. Okay, a few issues: 1) This should probably have an activation action. 2) What constitutes “counters or negates the medium’s action”? Does not falling to a combat maneuver qualify? Making a save? This is woefully opaque and needs clarification.

Scylla, based on the trickster, applies the spirit boon to Dexterity checks, skill checks (yes, RAW, all of them) and Ref-saves. The séance boon nets a +1 bonus on one skill, which is also treated as a class skill. The influence penalty makes you not count as an ally for effects and also makes you not count as a willing recipient of spells. You must even be hit by touch spells, but you’re not forced to save versus beneficial spells. The unique ability here is classified as greater and is called…”Triumph of the Will.” … sigh I’ll just pretend that this unfortunate name was an accident and move on. The ability allows the medium to allow Scylla to gain 1 influence to either reroll a d20 or force an enemy to reroll; an enemy forced to reroll takes a penalty to the reroll equal to how much they’re outnumbered, minimum 0. OH BOY. Srsly? Okay, one: Range. What’s the range? Two: This is broken: Take an army of fluffy allied kittens with you. Have an ally cast any super-lethal/save-or-suck effect. Force a reroll. Marvel at how your army of hundreds of kittens makes the save DC impossible to beat.

We also get two mesmerist tricks: The first can be triggered on entering light, granting the target temporary hit points. The second grants darkvision upon entering darkness. Shifters gain a new shark aspect, which focuses on sensory improvements. The major form nets later a better bite. Minor and purely aesthetic wording quibble in the FCOs: “When gaining a taboo, the medium can use spirit surge without incurring influence one additional +1/4 time per day.” The final part of that sentence could be a bit cleaner.

Samsarans get a new occultist implement school, the eternal implements. The resonant power nets +1 competence bonus to Intelligence-based skill and ability-checks for every 2 points of mental focus invested, capping at 1 + 1 for every 4 class levels. The base focus power is touch of antiquity, which allows you to expend 1 point of mental focus to cause an object to age, inflicting 1d4 +1d4 for every 2 occultist levels untyped damage to an object and also cause it to be broken. Constructs may alternatively be targeted with a melee touch attack and a base damage die of 1d6, scaling the same way as the damage to objects. We get a total of 6 focus powers: One grants a combat feat, which must not have feat prerequisites, but otherwise, the target needs not fulfill the prerequisites. The power lasts for 1 minute and another feat is granted every 6 class levels thereafter and the feats may build upon each other, offsetting the no-feat-prerequisite caveat. Now this one is INTERESTING and well-executed...with one quibble: It fails to note that it requires mental focus expenditure, which it probably should have – the other focus powers get that right. Collective calm lets you choose multiple skills and take 10 in them, even under duress. Mantle of antiquity nets you a 20% miss chance and the option to automatically succeed a save, ending the mantle’s effects. To nitpick here: It should probably specify that the decision must be made before rolling. Personally, I also would have preferred a massive bonus over an auto-success. RAW, this would allow an occultist to even survive a deity’s assault. Reincarnation’s guise is a combo’d disguise self and +4 ability score boost. Restore grandeur is the inverse of the base focus power, restoring items and constructs. Living targets may also be healed thus, but only 1/day. Wisdom of the ages, finally, nets legend lore, but once more requires that the person or thing you learn about must be “at hand”, which still isn’t particularly precise rules-language. The implement school comes with its own spell-list – no complaints there. Samsarans also get two new racial feats, Empathic Healer, which lets you heal ability score damage via mental focus or phrenic pool points when using Life’s Blood, taking the damage yourself. Reincarnated Hero nets you a bonus on Cha-based checks in vigilante identity and helps renown when you gain it. While not perfect, style-wise one of my favorite chapters within! (And I don’t even particularly like the samsarans…)

The sashahar get a new legendary spirit with Sessinakka (based on Guardian), complete with taboos and gaining favor covered. The ability gained is intermediate and provides an extended spell-list and the option to use spirit surge to boost concentration and CL-checks when casting these spells. We also get a new implement school here, the sentinel implements. The resonant power here is applied to saves “against extraplanar creatures”. (Could be a bit tighter.) The base focus power is a swift action 20 ft.-burst that deals 2 points of untyped damage per class level, no save. Not a fan. We get 6 focus powers and a custom spell-list. Negating flanking benefits for one round per class level, a boost to CMD and saves versus attempts to move you and fighting on when almost killed by an extraplanar creature are three of the benefits. At 11th level, you can get a rather cool summoning-suppression-field, which I really liked per se. However, the field also suppresses medium spirits and spiritualist phantoms, which is somewhat sucky, as it doesn’t grant a save or the like and these are central class features. There should be some sort of mechanic for these two at least. Weird: RAW, eidolons are not impeded – and for them, the impeding would actually make more sense. Planar ward debuffs foreigners to your plane and nets a boost versus their tricks. I also really liked the high-level teleportation scrambler. We also get a new psychic discipline, the gate guardian, who uses Wisdoma s governing attribute. The first discipline power nets you temporary access to defense-themed monster abilities like fast healing, ferocity or light fortification and these improve at higher levels, also adding DR and AC-boosts and resistances to the mix. 5th level nets a scaling save bonus to either Fort- or Ref-saves, your choice. 13th lets you negate 1 critical hit confirmation per day, 2/day at 18th level. Nice one. There is a vigilante talent that nets the planar weapon quality and upgrades to +2 to atk versus creatures with the extraplanar subtype. Okay, so the weapon quality should be italicized and the bonus should probably apply to non-native outsiders as well, right? This is slightly unclear regarding the whole section, btw.

Skinwalkers get a pretty nice medium archetype that tweaks all of the standard spirits. The lunar spirits include: Witchbeast (archmage): Reckless and dislikes casting on allies, uses witch spell list. Ruler of Fangs (champion) nets better natural weapon base damage and martial weapon proficiency. Furred Warden (guardian) nets spirit bonus to AC and heavy armor proficiency as a lesser ability. The greater ability is wonky, though: When you or an ally in reach is grappled, you get a counter grapple fortified by spirit surge. Okay, this has a few problems: Spirit surge is a bonus applied to a roll and only applies to rolls modified by the spirit bonus: RAW, CMD is neither a roll, not a static value to which the guardian’s spirit bonus applies. Since using the spirit surge is not even an action, this allows for non-action counter-grapples. This should probably have an immediate action prerequisite.

Moonwatcher (hierophant) has the archmage arcana spirit power, using druid/shaman lists instead as a lesser power. The intermediate ability is pretty specific – it duplicates energy font, but instead causes all skinwalkers to change shape instantaneously. Overflowing moonlight builds on grace and the previous ability, modifying it accordingly. The Grinning Beast (marshal) gets only the basics modified, not the powers, and the same goes for the Sewer Grandmaster (trickster). All of the spirits have séance boons that grant bestial features according to the nature of the spirits. I really liked this one and wished it had more room to shine: The tying of bestial features with séances is smart, the taboos etc. are cool and I like the custom spirit array. This is worth returning to and expanding to full-blown class tweak, imho.

Skinwalkers also get a new vigilante archetype, the moonlight lurker, whose vigilante identity must incorporate the animalistic features of change shape. The archetype can shift identities as a full-round action, as a standard action in moonlight, using the change shape racial ability in conjunction with it. The lurker gets two bestial traits when usng change shape, which improves by +1 at 5th and 9th level. 13th level also nets a potent ability like fly, pounce etc. 17th level nets a second one from this list and 20th level provides regeneration 5, suppressed by silver. This does come with a price, though: No social talent at first level and, more painfully, no vigilante specialization. There are two lycanthrope-themed vigilante-talents, one for scaling attribute bonuses and one for scaling DR/silver.

The moonshifter loses chimeric aspect and its greater brother as well as final aspect. Shifter claw benefits are applied to two natural weapons gained via change shape and it may be activated as a swift action. 9th level provides a hybrid form when in minor aspect; this improved at 14th level and the capstone nets change shape/wild shape transparency as well as DR 10/silver.

Tengus are up next, beginning with the vinculum corrupter occultist, who loses magic item skill and aura sight. Additionally, he only gets ½ class level + Int-mod mental focus. However, he does get ½ level (I assume minimum 1) of vinculum focus. This behaves as a regular mental focus, but enhances the CL when targeting the owner’s type/subtype. Owner? Yep, for these points may only be invested in implements that rightfully belong to another, which is interesting. 2nd level yields +1/2 class level to Sleight of Hand and 5th level lets the archetype locate creature implement owners. The swaggering avenger vigilante loses the appearance-ability tree and the 2nd level vigilante talent. They are locked into the avenger specialization and gain Dazzling Display, usable sans weapon as a standard action, at 2nd level. +2 to atk versus foes demoralized thus. There is a talent that lets you make a creature hit itself via grapple or disarm – odd and makes no sense: This bypasses any DR but universal DR, which is WEIRD. 5th level nets Performance Combatant and a performance feat. 11th level nets temporary hit points with successful performance combat checks and 17th level lets you add damage as though you had hit an additional time when reducing an enemy to 0 hp. Oh boy. Does this include vital strike? Any modifications to BAB etc.? Not functional RAW. There is a complex phrenic amplification that allows you to steal mental energy, like focuses, mesmerist tricks etc. via spells, which is interesting and, more importantly, really smoothly designed: It can’t be cheesed with kittens, the save-interaction is tight and neat. The target is also temporarily staggered, and no, no stagger-locking the target. Impressive one! The shifter, finally, gets the crow aspect (doesn’t specify natural attack type, requires defaulting), but otherwise, solid. The favored class options here are interesting, though the occultist bonus requires a legacy weapon, making it only relevant for the transmutation implement school.

The umbral kobolds are up next, starting with the shadowpsychic, who gets more phrenic pool – but whenever he uses 2 or more points, the linked spell becomes a shadow spell. To make up for that, he gets telempathic shadow barrage and shadow targeting. The first lets you add debuffs to the telepathic bond via phrenic pool points. Shadow targeting is OP as F***. For 2 phrenic pool points, you ignore range, provided the target of the linked spell is in shadows or touching them. Range must be touch or greater, but still. OUCH. The race also gets the aether-based shadow blast simple blast, which adds +2 damage per die and makes damage nonlethal. At burn 0, that is a bit overkill, imho. At 15th level, composite blasts may also be enhanced thus, at the cost of 1 Burn. I think this would have made more sense as a utility wild talent. We also get a new medium spirit, Kurgog the Guardian. I assume this fellow replaces the regular guardian. The séance boon is applied to CMD and influence penalty nets you +2 to atk, but -4 AC “during the first attack or full attack of any combat”. The penalty should probably last for a round after executing it. Also: It’s called PENALTY. Not buff. The influence penalty should not provide an attack buff. The lesser spirit power nets Dodge, which also encompasses uncanny dodge at 10th level. The intermediate ability lets you, as a swift action, “expend 1 point of mental focus…” WAIT. WUT? Yep, we have a glaring cut copy paste error here that also extends to the greater ability. It’s okay to make another class’s ability available for a spirit, but it has to be MODIFIED to reflect the realities of the new class. Sloppy and non-functional as presented.

The wyrwoods get two new archetypes, the first of which would be the equinox infiltrator vigilante, who loses vigilante specialization, a ton of vigilante talents, dual identity and two social talents. They also share the druid’s prohibition versus wearing metal armor. They have 3 identities and change requires 1 minute of meditation. The archetype has one social and two infiltrator identities. Each of the infiltrator identities is associated with one domain chosen from the 4 base elemental domains and they may only use the domain powers while in the corresponding identity. They gain an additional such identity at 7th and 15th level and they get the hunter’s spellcasting, using druid spell list and domains exclusively. There are two feats to upgrade this fellow: Solstice Identity nets+ 1 identity with an extended domain choice. Specialized Equinox nets subdomain access for the equinox identity and the domain chosen.

The second archetype would be the phantasmagorist spiritualist, who replaces the phantom with a memorandum construct that does not have an emotional focus or ethereal form. Instead of an emotional focus, we get a sorcerer bloodline at 3/4th class level (minimum 1 caveat missing). Each bonus spell granted by this bloodline may be cast 1/day as a SP. LOL: While the memorandum is in the spiritualist’s subconscious, the character gains ALL teamwork feats of ALL allies within 30 ft. Yeah, not gonna happen in my game. Analogue abilities have restrictions for a reason. 3rd level’s bonded manifestation-tweak instead provides access to the bloodline-related powers. This is a bit wonky.

The final race would be the wyvarans. Here, we get 6 form infusions that represent cones and line-shaped blasts for any element, in three steps. Weird: The wyrmling’s minimum level is higher than the comparable fire form infusion, cost the same; (the cost should be higher to account for increased flexibility); the mature version has the same burn cost and level requirements and its water specialized spray – straight power-creep. And no, they don’t need the previous ones. The section also has a utility wild talent, the draconic mantle, which nets all creatures within 5 ft. energy damage equal to the number of burn you have. Energy types may be any energy blast you have. Dragonshifters lose the animal aspect gained at 1st level in favor of dragon aspect, which nets you a 1d4 rounds cool-down 15.-foot cone scaling breath weapon in minor form. Yes, at level 1. And there we go, disqualified at my table. Major form nets basically dragon boosts. This aspect is better than all shifter aspects. The archetype needs to lose more for the power gain.

The second archetype is the treasure hoarded occultist, who loses 14th and 18th level’s implements and outside contact. He suffers from diminished spellcasting and uses Cha as governing attribute for class features and spellcasting. He begins play with 2 implements, +1 at 2nd level and every even level thereafter, capping at 7 at 10th level. Öhm, wut? Add to that that 7th level makes all implements acts as having +1 focus invested in them, +2 at 20th level. Oh, and 14th, 16th and 18th level net another focus power. Yeah, that one fewer spell per day per spell level really doesn’t cut it there, needs nerfing. We also get a psychic discipline, the vishapakar, whose phrenic pool is governed by Intelligence. It nets at-will identify and the dowse occult skill unlock for ley lines and magic items even if untrained in Survival. We also get quicker ley line attunement and limited phrenic pool point recovery when doing so. Important here: Spellcasting is governed by Wisdom. The 5th level discipline power isn’t functioning as intended. It sports free, at-will short-range dimension door, with the caveat to break it into shorter ranges making me think that it’s supposed to have either a range-based cap or, you know, that it’s supposed to have a hard cap, like similar discipline powers. Only weak and passive 5th level discipline powers are always on. 13th level provides standard action attunement, provided you can touch a Large or larger carved stone touching a ley line. We also get two racial feats: Hoard Aura makes divinations fail to reveal worn and carried items unless the caster makes a CL-check. Also applies to a living area. Cool feat! Hoard Guard makes you keen eyed regarding items and provides AoOs when a foe attacks or seizes an object from you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are good; on a rules-language level, there are a couple of issues to be found here and there. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice full-color artworks that will be familiar to fans of JBE. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Quite a few authors worked on this: Joel Flank, Sasha Hall, Richard Moore, Kevin Morris, David N. Ross, Rachel Ventura and George “Loki” Williams. Alas, this diversity does show a bit here and there – some authors tend to be a bit more precise than others and what, rules-wise, works in one section may be slightly less precise in another. While analyzing this book, I realized pretty quickly that a few of the concepts herein could have used a bit more room to breathe – archetype-wise, we focus, with varying degrees of success, on engine-tweaks. The supplemental material, as a whole, sports a couple of interesting components, but also quite a few issues in the finer details of the rules. Occult classes are tricky to design for, and here and there, I found myself wishing that the material had been vetted/developed more carefully. This also holds true for the power-level of options, which oscillates a bit more than I’d have liked from author to author.

There are quite a few issues in the finer details of the rules, and while, for the most part, the material runs smoothly, this cannot be said about the entirety of the book. I attempted to be ultra-detailed in my coverage of this incredibly dense book – both so you should have a good idea of whether or not this book is for you or not, and to do the cadre of authors justice.

In the end, for me, this is pretty much the definition of a mixed bag. I liked a couple of components and disliked others; I was impressed by some rules-operations and flabbergasted by a few of the botches. In the end, my final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races: Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness (PFRPG)
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