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Wherein Evil Lies
by Nope J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/04/2020 06:09:00

Truly excellent old-school evil. The Black Chapel is a great dungeon



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wherein Evil Lies
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d30 Sandbox Companion
by Karl L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/20/2020 18:07:22

Definitely appeals to anti-Railroad adventure style people. Its a concise cute brilliant utility and method to keep the flow of sponteneity and creativity going for multiple choices. GM's shouldn't deny players to roam freely with unforseen unknown surprises. You don't really absolutely need to get the odd 30 sided dice for this book. Just roll 1d10 + 1d6(1-2 = 0, 3-4 = 10 & 5 -6 =20) for equal probability as a single d30 die.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d30 Sandbox Companion
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d30 Sandbox Companion
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/25/2019 05:40:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive gaming toolkit clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page index, leaving us with 49 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, the first thing you need to know, is that while this has been penned with an eye towards the 0e, 1e and B/X-rules in particular, the VAST MAJORITY of this book ultimately works for most games – whether they be 2e, another retro-clone, or even modern games; one could use the majority of this book just as well with e.g. 13th Age, PFRPG (1 or 2) or 5e.

To start off with an important thesis of mine: This is one of the most OCD, capital letters WORK supplements I have ever reviewed – and I mean that as a compliment. Making this book, if you’re even remotely familiar with how game design works, must have been a tremendous amount of WORK.

As before, in the D30 DM’s Companion, the supplement kicks off with an explanation of how to use the D30 in conjunction with the tables herein. To recap: There are essentially 3 rolling conventions: A single result can spring from a single d30 roll; two results can be sourced from a single roll, and thirdly, there is the convention where the d30 (almost) faithfully replicates a simultaneous rolling of a d3 and a d10. The tables sport 4-letter title codes for quick and precise referencing, the respective entries, if leading to other tables, reference the respective pages, and there are plenty of alternate tables – these are denoted by the same capital letter and number, plus a lower case letter.

After thus establishing how to use this toolkit in a concise and easy to grasp manner, we proceed to the sandboxing generators, which can roughly be categorized in three chapters: We have the means to generate material on a hexcrawl level; we have means to generate material on a settlement level, and we have the NPC-level. All three levels have their own helpful record sheets included, and the hexcrawl-level also sports glyphs for mines, mountains, mountain strongholds, different terrains and even floating strongholds (!!). Yep. There is a map glyph for floating strongholds. See what I meant by “OCD”? Who includes a separate map glyph for floating strongholds? Better yet – there are properly drawn glyphs, and there are abstract ones. And the abstract ones are so easy to draw that even ole’ me, with my hand-tremors, can use them without much hassle. Huge kudos for that. Anyhow, as in the D30 DM’s Companion, I would have loved to have the option to drag and drop the glyphs on hexmaps, but that may be me.

Of course, not all hexcrawls take place on an equal scale, and as such, the worksheet does include room for noting down the scale, entries for key locations and there is room for 4 d10 tables of wandering monsters – AND these sport lines to “check every…” While we’re on the subject of the worksheets included: The settlement worksheet establishes keys for vendors/shops: Magic supplies? MG; Fletcher? FL. Boatwright? BW. These are detailed, but focus on professions that, in some way, may be relevant to adventurers. In case you’re totally stumped regarding adventures, the next two pages provide a quick and dirty baseline: 10 tables, which include trigger, major goal, obstacle to goal, location, location feature, phenomena, villain goal/reason, artifact, theme and key NPC. Each of these has 30 entries, so you could for example get the following:

“The group is prompted by a trap (trigger) to root out spies (major goal); in order to do so, they need to race against the antagonists (obstacle) to an undercity (location), its access hidden by a well (location feature). Inside, strange vegetation (phenomena) exist, and the villains are actually motivated by honor (reason); a magical scarab may be found (artifact), and the general theme will be freedom. As for a key NPC involved, we have a pilgrim.” This is, obviously, not yet an adventure, but it most assuredly is a great little outline that nets a good skeleton you can flesh out.

After this, we receive something I very much adored: A massive weather generator organized by climate zone, season and month of the season, with two versions – the simple one has you just consult the table; the advanced method sports modifications for the median temperature of the day, and them are yet more mean temperature variations. It probably says a lot about me that I’ve smiled a lot while reading this one – it’s just so beautiful to me, and something I wouldn’t bother making myself, but certainly love having. One downside if you’re like me from a country using non-Imperial measurements and temperature scales: The book doesn’t designate them as such, but it’s in degrees Fahrenheit, which never made even the remotest bit of sense to me. I have a decent grasp of feet, inches and yards due to years of roleplaying. Degrees Fahrenheit, though? They make no sense (just look up how the system came to be…) to me. Even with all my immersion in American culture, I just can’t get wrap my head around it. I guess you have to be born into that. Anyhow, the point of my long digression: I’d really have appreciated a second value for degrees Celsius; as much as I adore the table, I won’t be using it due to the Fahrenheit measurement unit employed.

What does make sense, though, would be the next table, which has my unconditional appreciation. How can you get more OCD than the median daily temperature? What about a precipitation generator? No, I am NOT kidding you! The generator differentiates between non-severe and severe cells of storms, with the tables providing entries for rain, wind, hail and sleet and hook chances to determine tornadoes. The weather thus generated can be pretty extreme for European sensibilities, but if you’re from the American continent or some rougher climates/the tropics etc., this’ll feel right for you. Heck, even as a European, I can get behind the harsh clime generated here – it feels fantastic in both depth and severity. The book goes farther, though: We have a whole page determined to three degrees of getting off course, using the d30 to an absolute perfect extent – even if you’re using another game, the visual representations of being lost and randomly determining the direction, is absolutely awesome.

The book also presents a very simple foraging/hunting engine by season and terrain, with chances based on d30 rolls, including a non-specific game type generator and an optional hunting success table – this lets you determine number of missiles used and number of animals killed. While I personally prefer my own foraging/hunting engine (which you’ll see one day), I can get behind and genuinely appreciate the simplicity and elegance of the system provided here. After this, we have tables of natural phenomena by terrain type, including lava tubes, blowouts, cuestas, cypress domes, pseudocraters, etc. – it may sound weird, but these actually added to my dressing table array as easy modifiers/replacements for more commonly featured things such as groves, glades, etc.

Okay, so, what about settlements and the content of the individual hexes? Oh boy: The settlement generators differentiate between 5 different inhabitation levels by population density, with habitation types noted and some further instructions; you see, the generators include a subtable of special inhabitation types by terrain, as well as inhabitation types by population density. Unsettled land? You can find hermits and monasteries, for example. Are you beginning to see the attention to detail? This extends beyond the settlements themselves – types of ruin, degrees of decay and inhabitants + rough numbers…there is a lot here, though the suggested inhabitant table seems like an afterthought. It should also be noted that this supplement is not about detailed dressing; the book and its generators are there to present frameworks to work in, to provide a baseline to expand upon. So yeah, you still will want e.g. Raging Swan Press’s Wilderness and Dungeon Dressing files to fill out the details, but as a metastructuring element? Gold.

The book does not stop there: D30 tables to generate temples with brief types and descriptions included; add to that the cult generator, and you can have pretty easy means to provide baselines for cults out there – interestingly, the 5-tables cult generator can provide more interesting results than quite a few modules out there. “The partnership of the sun follows a rakshasa, wants to destroy libraries/books and its weird practice is zoösadism, i.e. animal cruelty.” – immediate framework to elaborate upon. There also is a magical place generator, with each entry sporting a boon that can be achieved at the location. These are obviously one of the components that are ruleset-specific; minor component here: Formatting of magic items/spells isn’t implemented in that table. The book also contains a massive pilgrim generator (!!).

The pdf then provides road encounter generators – not ones for individually distinct components, but ones that focus on the general structure: Marker, ambush, etc.; the respective NPCs are focusing on classic humanoid races, and a quick and brief treasure generator for these is included, alongside an attitude/reaction component. Once more – this is a structural baseline – add dressing, and you’re good to go.

The book then proceeds to provide a pretty massive castle/keep/stronghold generator – you can roll to determine owners, patrol sizes and makeups, castle types and sizes (yes, including halfling shires and tree strongholds) and optional construction tables. With 2d30s, you can generate a huge array of heraldic crests, with the division and charges all coming with their sample icons – I loved that! Once more, a drag and drop/color book style-version would have been awesome, but that is me complaining at a high level, particularly since there are 7 additional tables to further expand the heraldic crests.

Need a general background? You can determine the government, reaction to outsiders, economic background, settlement issues and nearby threats for a settlement. Need more adventuring fodder? Unprovoked attacks, annoying encounters, propositions to PCs to engage in illicit activities and celebrations/events allow for further modifications here. Need a detailed generator for city guard, city watch and border patrols and their armament? Included.

On the more grisly side of things: What about a d30-table of methods of execution and/or torture? Yes, I liked these, considering that punitive judiciary measures were very much the norm during medieval and early modern periods.

Don’t want to choose be hand which shops are present? Guess what? A massive settlement supplier generator by size is featured alongside shop stock, interior and keeper being covered. The availability and pricing modifications and bartering information? All part of the deal. The book also features a massive tavern name generator as well as a means to determine available accommodations, rooms and beddings, physical features, reputation and food available.

On the more rules-specific side, we have 0e/1e & B/X-relevant classed NPC generators that determine class, race, sex, and level as well as quick ability score generators. The book also features quick NPC character inventory generators (including class specific ones) and similarly, a magic item generator. The latter might be mighty, but it’s easily the weakest thing in the book – it’s frankly boring and pretty vanilla.

More interesting would be the massive NPC occupation generator that yields almost 2.5 million different combinations of freeman occupations. A similarly mighty generator is provided for nobles and their household personnel, and there also is a ginormous sage specialty generator. NPC physical traits and persona/behavior generators can also help providing a base line, with e.g. bad habits, burdens and quirky behaviors included…and you can quickly expand on that: You can determine NPC parents, additional family information, personal life, eccentricities and talents, and end up with surprisingly well-rounded base personalities that only need some dressing to become full-fledged characters. Oh, did I mention the massive table to determine NPC languages?

And of course, there is a massive henchman/hireling recruitment generator, which includes reactions to offers of employment, recruitment modifiers and a brief retainer loyalty modifier table.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal level; on a rules-language level, magic components often are not formatted as something that stands out, but otherwise, the book is precise. Layout adheres usually to a landscape standard to account for the plethora of tables; the book is b/w, easy to parse, and a massive amount of content is on every page. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and I can’t yet comment on the merits of the print version, since I do not YET own it; I will buy it sooner, rather than later, though – the book is, frankly, too useful, and I love having this type of book in print.

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr.’s second D30-companion manages to do the almost impossible: It outdoes its predecessor.

This is, once more, NOT a setting supplement; it is a TOOLKIT. This is not a book you’d usually READ. It’s a book you flip open when you stare at the blank page and have no ideas; it’s a book you open when you’re as obsessive as I am regarding the details, have your main adventure planned out, and want to simply fill in the blank bits. You know, all the tedious work that goes a long way making your world seem plausible and organic? The type of WORK that makes even the remotest off-the-rails region feel organic? Well, this book VASTLY speeds up the process, allowing you to focus on the stuff you actually WANT to focus on. Combine this with e.g. Raging Swan Press’ Dungeon Dressing and Wilderness Dressing books, and you can create vast stretches of lavishly-detailed lands in a few hours. I’d be willing to bet that I can use these books to craft an entire continent in lavish detail in a single afternoon – and have a bunch of details that can spawn adventures ready. all good to go to see which hooks the PCs will engage with.

In case you haven’t realized it: This is a TOOL. And I genuinely love it as much as my grandpa’s carving and carpentry knives; this is a genuine tool of the highest caliber, a book that not only is a HUGE time-saver, it also is fully cognizant of what it is. And it retains its relevance even beyond the old-school systems that it has been written for; just modify the respective system-specific entries with the equivalents for your system of choice, et viola!

This is a phenomenal resource, one that I can recommend unanimously to pretty much any GM out there who really likes their fantasy to be detailed and structured. 5 stars + seal of approval, and as an all-time favorite, this does get my EZG-Essentials tag, as a supplement that truly makes the GM’s job so much easier and rewarding.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d30 DM Companion
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/19/2019 09:26:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page ToC,.1 page index/SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue at the behest of my patreon supporters.

Okay, so, this supplement begins with a page that explains the D30 (and how you can use it I conjunction with this supplement); this includes e.g. referencing d30’s digits separately to index two resulting outputs on the same table: There are essentially 3 rules conventions: A single result can spring from a single roll; two results can be sourced from a single roll, and thirdly, there is the convention where the d30 (almost) faithfully replicates a simultaneous rolling of a d and a d10. The tables sport 4-letter title codes for quick and precise referencing, the respective entries, if leading to other tables, reference the respective pages, and there are plenty of alternate tables – these are denoted by the same capital letter and number, plus a lower case letter. This may sound like a lot to wrap your head around, but you can essentially use this book without even taking a look at this admittedly helpful introduction.

This out of the way, we get a whole page DM mapping glyphs – which include slide traps, one-way-doors, etc., and a worksheet for the dungeon. I loved this inclusion, and there is but one thing I was slightly disappointed by: I’d have loved for the mapping features to work via drag and drop. Why? Because I am INCREDIBLY bad at drawing maps. I suck so bad that even the super handy glyphs suggested here are a bit of a stretch for me (and they ARE mega-simple), so having a drag and drop version would have been the icing on the cake here.

As far as rules are concerned, this attempts to be as system agnostic as possible, with B/X as a frame of reference – the more your game/system deviates from this classic baseline, the more minor modifications you’ll have to include…or not. It should be noted that a significant part of the tables presented herein remain valid for pretty much any D&D-adjacent fantasy game featuring 6 ability scores.

The next thing you’ll need to know, would be that this is NOT a supplement intended to inspire you; it is no grand dressing generator. Instead, this is essentially a DM’s/GM’s aid that needs to be thought of as a capital letters TOOL. If you’ve ever attempted to build something from Ikea with only the throwaway tools included, you’ll have developed a serious appreciation for a good tool; same goes for a screwdriver that really fits your hands. The more you work with something, the more you’ll appreciate having the right tools for the job.

In that way, this supplement can be considered to be an omni-tool that eases the GM’s burden – particularly if you enjoy making your settlements, worlds, etc. detailed and plausible. Take the classes character attribute generator: It’s super smooth: You check out a table that features all 6 ability scores, and assigns letters to them – for example an A in Strength, a C in Charisma; some have minor choices and list two letters – if you’re using the higher letter in one, you’ll use the lower letter in the other ability score. So, for example “B/A” in Dex and “A/B” in Con, you’ll choose A for one, and the other will be automatically B. Then, you roll a d30 and check it against a small table, looking at the respective letter’s row: A starts at 15, and ends at 18; B starts at 13 and ends at 15 – you get the idea. It should also be noted that non-combatants are covered as well; and we have a general d30 table of broad motivations. Quick character inventory (including ones for classes such as druid, monk, etc.) also help render the process as painless and quick as possible; weapons are determined by the 1s digit, armor by the 10s digit. Never again spend much time fretting over village cleric or bandit chief creation – with a scant few rolls, you’re done – and that includes the dreaded “list mundane equipment “stuff.

After this, we get to dungeon feature generation: The first roll determines the general construction and lighting used; additional features can be added, and further tables net door types and door obstacles/drawbacks; beyond these, we have miscellaneous dungeon embellishments like talking items, magical furnishing, religious items, general weirdness and geological phenomena. Did I mention the two tables of miscellaneous debris, or the remains generator? The latter lets you determine sex and race, then property and degree of decomposition/damage, and then we have physical evidence of altercations and even a separate table for olfactory evidence of combat.

Did I mention the mighty generator that lets you make 27K different molds, slimes and mushrooms? I mention that one, as it, in spite of being mostly system-neutral, actually notes miscellaneous effects that can range from tightness of breath to abdominal issues? As a language nerd, I also learned new words here – like “infundibuliform”, which means funnel-shaped. And yes, this is explained, so no need to take out your thesaurus! Cool! I wouldn’t be the asinine German I am without mentioning one nitpick here: There is a typo here – the word describing shrooms with central bumps/knobs should be “umbonate”, not “ubmonate[sic!]” unless I am sorely mistaken and ignorant of a variant spelling.

The room trap generator is also pretty impressive – while it doesn’t put spell-reference in italics, it does denote them (MOSTLY) consistently with “as spell”, with blinding light being an exception; type area of effect, trap difficulty and ceiling/floor/barrier traps are all covered. Containers and magic traps/treasure protection are provided for as well. A quick and dirty poison generator is also presented, with only the damage determination outsourced to the GM. This section does help with making such traps, but it does not help with foreshadowing them in a fair manner. I would have loved seeing that taken into account as well.

The next couple of pages are filled with MASSIVE tables for monster encounter generation; the “#AP”-column denotes the number of monsters appearing – you roll a d30 on the bell-curved results table, and there is a chance for second rolls here as well. The engine takes classed encounters into account as well, and features separate columns for common and uncommon encounters; the d30 denotes whether you roll on uncommon or common, and at higher levels, namely 6-9, there is a chance for differentiation between 3 subgroups as well. We get tables for all levels from first to 9th, and a table is provided for edition-specific monsters such as good ole’ copper colossus to lamia, ranging the gamut from 0e to 1st edition Fiend Folio. A human and demihuman encounter table is also included, with some standard magic items – these are not very interesting, and a generator to make more interesting ones? Would have totally been nice.

“But endy,” you say “I’d have to flip tons of books!” Nope, you don’t. The companion sports a MASSIVE monster list. This list notes HD, AC, attacks and damage, move, saving throws (using the class equivalent notion of e.g. B/X – saves as Fighter 2 is noted as F:2), treasure types and special attack: Rhinoceros beetle: Horn = 6’ long”; “teleporting “blink” attack (10’-40’ feet) for the blink dog, etc. Does this mean that you don’t have to know how these work? No. But an experienced DM/GM can use this as a great frame of reference. Particularly with e.g. B/X etc., this runs very smoothly.

After pages of pages of these lovingly compiled lists of data, we get a very detailed and smooth treasure hoard (mistyped as “horde” – a pun or hint at the ‘zine?) generator, which lets you roll the details of even electrum pieces found! B/X GMs get treasure type conversions for direct use with their system as well. Jewelry gets a generator as mighty as that for the molds, with distinct tables for dwarves and elves, and also some magical properties – these remain pretty vanilla, and represent one of the few instances where this book is not pitch-perfect; The magical item creation does come with dressing, basic types and additional powers, with scrolls e.g. including ivory tubes and the like, but I’d have loved to see some more interesting effects and/or drawbacks security measures here. The two pages of tables for miscellaneous items fare better here. There even is a whole page devoted to tables to make summon/control/etc. items. The potion table does that better: It features tables for taste, odor, color and look – so if your players ask how that weird potion smells? You’ll always have an answer.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – particularly considering that this seems to have been the first book penned by the author! Layout reflects the demands of the tables – from massive tables to multiple small ones, there is the maximum amount of content jammed in per page. This is a super-dense supplement to process. The pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks, and the inclusion of worksheets is very much appreciated. I can’t comment on the merits of lack thereof of the print version, since I do not yet own it.

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr.’s companion is a supremely mighty tool; if you’re as OCD as I am regarding the finer details of encounters, items and, in some instances, dressing, then this will help you mask the material that you lovingly handcrafted and the stuff that you handwaved and/or didn’t account for. The book is conceptualized in a way that allows you to use most materials contained herein in a fluid manner without interrupting the flow of the game. This is not a dressing file or typical GM aid – it is wholly focused on functionality, and it does this task exceedingly well.

Much like proper tools help you assemble Ikea furniture quickly, so does this greatly speed up one of the more tiring aspects of your GM duties. This may not take the big concepts off your plate, but it does help you deal swiftly and efficiently with all the boring, tedious busywork of GMing, and allows you to focus more on the fun. This may not be a book that many will immediately love – but it is a super-powerful, detail-oriented and helpful tool for your arsenal. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars….and due to the super low and fair price-point (just $3.00 for the pdf) this also gets my seal of approval for an exceptional bang-for-buck-ratio.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d30 DM Companion
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FX1 Fifty Fiends
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/28/2019 06:30:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover/editorial, 1 page ToC/introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 71 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by one of my patreon supporters.

In many ways, this is a love letter to the Fiend Folio of old (not the 3.X version), and rules-wise, this employs the B/X rule-set, making this pretty much Old School Essentials-compatible, even if Gavin Norman’s new presentation of the classic rules is not explicitly pointed out, the description of the respective attacks and special abilities does look very much like the presentation of his work: On each page featuring one of the fiends, you’ll have the statblock in the upper left quarter of the page; to the right of it, you’ll have a b/w-artwork (all adhering to the same style, with quite a few looking genuinely creepy!). The lower half of the page then tends to feature the attacks and special abilities first, and if there is still room, we have more information on the respective fiend’s order, appearance, ecology, languages, etc. – I some instances, there obviously wasn’t sufficient room left for particularly exciting information here. Sometimes, reaction tables are included. If you’re like me, and consider the loss of all the delightful flavor to be one of the downsides of most contemporary roleplaying games, then you might feel the same and wish that the book provided a bit more flavor than what we get for these critters.

In case B/X means nothing to you: Descending AC, HD and HP values, saves reference class tables, morale values are provided, as well as treasure types. Super helpful, considering the nature of adversaries herein: Each statblock has a resistance/immunity section that notes e.g. when the creature only takes half damage from acid or gas or iron or untyped magical energy, also sporting required weapon enchantments to hit, if any. If you enjoyed the P/X: Basic Psionics Handbook, you’re also in luck, for quite a few creatures herein use the rules from that book. Even if you don’t have it, though, you’ll still get plenty of critters out of this bestiary.

Now, grognards might be shocked to hear that this pdf does assume a dual alignment axis angle, as its fiends are pretty differentiated, and the massive appendices not only explain it in detail, the book also contextualizes the (outer) planes of existences in this context as well as the inner ones. A pretty detailed schematic notes the means to progress between different planes via magic. Psionics, pools, items, etc., providing a more codified, and to me, interesting way to think about planar interactions. While the system may look a bit daunting at first, it is actually a rather simple model once you’ve understood it. The planes are described briefly, and it should be noted that neutral evil fiends herein are not daemons, but rather yamadutas. From true names to diabolical signatures, to recapping the properties of fiendish orders, the pdf does an admirable job presenting a book that’s useful even if you don’t have 20+ years of roleplaying experience and background knowledge about the planes.

All cool? Not exactly. The book also contains a pretty massive amount of spells, which, while mechanically precise, include e.g. lesser variants of banishment (that require the true name and are unreliable, granted) , aforementioned banishment, spells like blasphemy, etc. These are not bad, but we’ve seen them in various iterations by now, and a couple of them have always been rather clunky or frustrating…and e.g. the holy word counterpart for the often frustrating blasphemy is missing. Personally, I also tended to like that there was no dimensional anchor/lock spell here, but your mileage may vary. If you wanted B/X-versions of those, there you go. The magic item appendix follows the same paradigm, and isn’t exactly exciting, as far as I’m concerned. Then again, I’m looking for more wondrous material from my old school games; if you play old-school games like back in the day, then you probably won’t mind that a ring of the planes works like the amulet, but only affects the wearer. On the plus-side, a recap of languages, a treasure type table, and even a pronunciation guide for the fiend names? Heck yeah, I can get behind those!

Now, I already mentioned that the monsters have their own artworks, and the author (who also did the drawings!) may be proud – they adhere to the same style, yet are distinct; some are grotesque or even a bit funny, but many are just alien: Think, for example, of a satyr-like entity with a jundej’baht as a weapon (a root topped with a crystal), and a head defined by what I’d call a Klingon’s bone-ridges going out of control and taking over the face in a rather grotesque manner. There would be the one-eyed empress of enmity, who btw. may have exposed breasts, but seriously? Nobody will be aroused by this lady- From infectious dung fiends, and diminutive critters with a maddening chatter to a demogorgon-like fellow with two vulture-heads, from Xibalban bat-things to insects from Limbo with a hive mind and mental bonds, from thorn devils to armored creatures that reminded me slightly of the Giger Alien or 3.0’s steel predator, we have quite a selection – including strange, genderless…things, or Shezmu, the demon lord of executions, we have a rather interesting critter array, The latter is, btw., in aesthetics something you’d expect from goetic traditions – so no matter where your preferences regarding outsiders/fiends may lie, there’ll be something to enjoy.

Of course, I should also talk about “save or die”, a bit of a contentious topic. This book champions what I’d call “good” save or die – if a creature has a very powerful ability that can cause a save or die effect, it tends to either be a ruler (demon lords, archdevils, etc.), or have some limitations that make it fair. Aforementioned dung fiend? He can, once every 5 rounds, generate a squart – accidentally swallowing that causes a save or die. Good roleplaying (such as a covered mouth, saying that you clamp your mouth shut, etc.) can prevent that. Another creature taints water – drinking from the water causes save or die. Once more, clever players can avoid having to save in the first place. From cooldowns to simply good roleplaying, the book sports plenty of means to help make these creatures deadly, harsh…but also kinda fair.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no serious accumulation of glitches, and indeed, encountered only the rare and mostly cosmetic hiccup. Layout adheres to an elegant, no-frills two-column b/w-standard, and getting a single original artwork for every creature? That’s awesome. Less awesome would be the fact that the pdf version has no bookmarks, which makes navigation a colossal pain.

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr., with assistance from David Welborn, has crafted an impressive book, considering that he seems to have made ALL of it. The bestiary is more refined in many ways than his first collection of creatures, but it also is, courtesy of its fiend focus, a bit less versatile. There is less of the magical realism angle here, less goofy oddness – and that’s on one hand good, on the other hand, I couldn’t help but bemoan their absence.

That being said, there’s one more thing: This book costs a grand total of $1.00 as a pdf. I am not even kidding you. This is insane, and yes, the book is worth that price at least half a dozen times over. Literally. In fact, I really love the monsters herein; while not all are brilliant, many made me want to use them. The same does not hold true for the supplemental material, and once I had finished the book, I couldn’t help but feel that more lore instead of spell/item conversions would have elevated this book. Then again, I’m complaining at a very high level.

Heck, even if you don’t play OSR-games at all – you get a ton of weirdo b/w-artwork and monster concepts for a buck. A buck. A single American Dollar. Even if you are not interested in B/X at all, I wager you’ll get your money’s worth from this book. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FX1 Fifty Fiends
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d30 DM Companion
by Trevor H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2019 20:47:30

This is the second best thing I have purchased from drivethru. The best thing was the D30 sandbox companion. This one is good too. useful stuff. buy a D30, then get this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d30 DM Companion
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d30 Sandbox Companion
by Trevor H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2019 20:45:46

This is the best thing I have ever purchased from drivethru. I have purchased 400+ things. this is the best.
If you dont own it, do yourself a favor and buy it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d30 Sandbox Companion
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Wherein Evil Lies
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/11/2019 12:57:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This ‘zine clocks in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 42 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

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

Wait, what does the number mean? Isn’t that the third Dragon Horde-installment? Well, yeah, but the “Volume II” denotes the reboot with the new layout and the color cover; the issue is also PWYW, so you can leave a tip for the creator’s hard work.

Rules-wise, this book presents material for B/X, which makes conversion to other OSR-games simple, and which means that if you’re e.g. playing For Gold & Glory or OSRIC, things’ll be a bit easier for the party. Anyhow, we begin with 3 new classes:

The first of these would be the Deathslayer, who has Intelligence and Wisdom as prime requisites and only gets d6 hit points. The class may not wear armor or shields and only use one-handed swords or daggers. They attack and save as clerics, but may use magic-user-restricted magic items, save those that support or create the undead. They need to have a Wisdom score of 9. The class progresses over 14 levels and gains spellcasting as a magic-user of up to 6th spell level, with a custom spell-list provided that focuses, unsurprisingly, on anti-undead, detection, dimensional anchor, etc. XP-progression is that of the regular magic-user, and level-titles are provided. When a deathslayer starts the game, they must choose a specific type of undead – vampires, ghosts, etc. – this is the undead focus, and when fighting such an undead, the deathslayer gains a +2 bonus against attacks and effects attempting to alter their beliefs or actions, +2 to melee and ranged attacks, and the focus takes a -2 penalty to saves versus spells cast by the deathslayer. At 3rd level, the class gets to make glyphs of warding 1/day per 3 class levels, and at 9th level, we have the ability to create magic items. The glyphs allow for the creation of antiundead spell-traps or damaging blast glyphs, including trigger conditions. This class is basically a variant magic-user, with a bit of an anti-undead angle and a fixed spell-list, subject to the GM’s discretion to expand. All in all, a potent class that doesn’t fall into the trap of most nemesis-classes. What’s a nemesis class? It’s a class/archetype/prestige class that nets superb combat capabilities versus one creature type, such as demons. The issue most such classes face is that they become super strong versus the nemesis, bland versus regular targets. So yeah, this one doesn’t do that, and in fact, is an interesting take on the magical scholar fighting the living dead – that being said, I strongly suggest being careful with the spell-list: The class is balanced primarily by depriving the deathslayer of the flexibility of the magic-user, so beware there – otherwise, this becomes a 100% superior caster.

The second class herein is the witch doctor, who also has Intelligence and Wisdom as prime requisites. They use the cleric’s attack and saving throws, use a d6 to determine hit points and may not wear armor. They may use a shield made of natural components (no metal!) and weapon-wise ,are limited to medicine sticks (staves), daggers, darts and blowguns as well as other tribal weaponry, subject to the GM’s discretion. They only may use voodoo-specific magic items or weapons and require at least an Intelligence and Charisma score of 9. Witch doctor spellcasting is somewhat akin to that of the cleric, and features spellcasting of up to 6th level. The class sports a progression to the mighty 24th level (!!) and XP-wise gains second level slightly sooner than the dwarf – at 2,125 XP, with every further level requiring twice as much XP. Their spellcasting actually sports a pretty novel array of little tricks – they require foci to cast: Voodoo dolls, gris-gris bags and medicine sticks, tiki masks and ritual foci are all mentioned and concisely-defined. The class begins with the ability to turn/compel undead and gets an ever increasing range of undead detection that extends to the living dead. AT 5th level, we have animate dead, including the ability to animate ever more of those. Starting at 7th level, we have the ability to possess bodies, and 9th level lets the witch doctor bind spirits in shrunken heads, allowing for consultation of the dead. 14th level nets raise dead, and yes, we do get a custom spell-list that denotes the foci required. I LOVE this class! It reminded me of my very favorite Solomon Kane story! I want to play tehse dudes, and seriously, I want the class to get its own massive, more detailed supplement! The foci and XP-progression also keep the fellow balance-wise in check. Two thumbs up!

The third class is a race-class, namely the half-orc (assassin). These fellows have Strength and Dexterity as prime requisites, and they fight and save as thieves. The half-orc uses a d6 to determine hit points, and the class caps at 12th level. The half-orc may only wear leather armor or magical/elven chain and may use a shield, but not while using thieving abilities. They can use any type of weapon; they may use the same magic items as fighters, but don’t get the thief’s read magic ability and may not use scrolls. They must have a Constitution of at least 9, and their Charisma may not exceed 15. Half-orcs get 60 ft. infravsion and gain 2nd level slightly slower than clerics, at 1,550 XP, with every subsequent level requiring twice as many XP. A half-orc gains limited thief abilities – half the starting value of move silently and hide in shadows, as well as find/remove traps. Climb sheer surfaces starts off at 60% and improves by +4%, then by +2%, and after that by +1% per level attained. They also begin with a chance of 2-in-6 to hear noises, which progresses slightly asynchronous to the thief, with 12th level required for a 5-in 6 chance. Open locks starts off at -5% of the thief, with a base 10% chance, and pogresses by +5% up to and including 7th level, thereafter increasing by +10% per level. Half-orcs are trained in poison use and get +1 to saves vs. poison and starting at 7th level, they pass without a trace. While lacking the scroll use ability, they get a sneak attack/backstab - +4 to attack, and on a successful hit, there is a 50% chance of killing the target; this chance is modified by +5%/-5% per level of the target below/above the half-orc. If the instant-kill effect does not kick in, the attack deals double damage instead. This is very potent and potentially very lethal – personally, I think this should have a save or the like, but your mileage may vary in that regard.

The pdf then proceeds to present a couple of new spells for magic-users: Fatigue (1st level) nets -2 to Strength and Constitution and ½ movement rate for 2 turns. This requires a touch. Death rage (2nd level) lets the target make two attacks per round, or a single one at +2, and affected creatures never fail a morale check. Mummy’s touch infests with mummy rot, and ossify temporarily makes targets skeletons – this requires a touch versus the unwilling, and is no illusion. (There is also a greater ossify that can affect larger targets and is a 5th level spell.) Revenance acts as a shield to prevent the turning of undead, and wailing fear is a variant of audible glamer that can affect low-HD targets with fear. All of these are 3rd-leve spells. Necrotic portal (4th level) provides a portal through the negative energy plane, which is essentially a damaging/undead-healing two-way portal. Nice! Finally, aura of fear pretty much does what it says on the tin, instilling panic in low-HD creatures.

6 magic items may be found – while presented under the header “Designed for Evil”, not all of them are – the equinox orb can generate continual light/darkness; the fiendish mantle is obviously evil and provides some resistances/immunities associated with demons. The hammer of salvation has a moon on one face, a sun on the other face – the moon behaves as +1/+3 vs. undead, the sun-side as +1/+3 vs. natives of the lower outer planes, making it a potent weapon for good. Purity rings are no cynical way to sell ignorance and a suppression of healthy sexual development here, instead acting as a ring that nets +3 to saves vs. magical diseases. The plague mace is a +2 mace that can inflict nasty diseases on the target. Finally, there is the stole of radiance, which is only available for lawful (or good) clerics: The stole nets +1 to atk and saves, -1 to AC and enhances turning and acts as a level drain buffer. It also emits some light.

If you own the P/X: Basic Psionics Handbook supplement, you can find some new material herein: For psychometabolism, we have infuse terror as a new minor devotion: This one infuses a weapon so that those hit must save or be paralyzed by fear. While it may be used with ammunition, doing so is risky, providing a high chance of accidentally affecting the wielder – interesting balancing angle. As a major science, we have psychic vampire, which drains PSP from psionic targets, damaging all mental attributes for non-psionic targets instead. For clairsentience, we have the destiny dissonance minor devotion, which sickens the target with unreliable visions of the future, imposing -2 on atk, weapon damage rolls, saves, as well as skill and ability checks. There are two telepathic minor devotions: Aura of fear, which is mechanically different from the spell and has a low range, and psionic daze, which can prevent low-HD targets from taking actions on a failed psionic save. There is a telepathic major science with crisis of breath – in case you’re not familiar with it, this is basically a breathing inhibitor. This is deadly, but in a cool way, allows the affected target to decide on whether to struggle for air or e.g. attack (and risk blacking out). Finally, there is the shadow twin metapsionic major science, which conjures a shadow duplicate that shares hit points with the psionicist. This twin can shadow walk at will and has copies of the gear and access to the manifester’s psionic arsenal. The gear aspect is my main complaint here – the science should specify that the twin expending one-use gear/item uses drains those from the original’s arsenal. Otherwise, this is pretty easy to abuse.

The book also features a couple of new monsters – atori are undead with a ghastly stench that may render you unconscious, and they have a necrotic touch. Cacklers are per se incorporeal undead that manifest to cackle – this ability is potent, in that it can affect 3d6 HD of creatures of equal to or less than 4HD, preventing them from acting. To prevent abuse-scenarios, this has a cooldown. Still, needs careful handling. The crypt riddler is one of my favorites here – a crypt thing variant that poses riddles that kill you if you fail to answer on a failed save. Cool and imho more rewarding than the annoying random teleportation. Korper (Should probably have an “ö”) come in three variants and represent undead spellcasters who failed at becoming liches. They have a fear gaze, but otherwise are one of the more boring “failed lich”-undead I’ve ever seen. Hill haunts are cool: Enormous specters tethered to outdoors locations. They are great story-monsters, with their fixed location and powerful offense. The final creature is the Spawn of Chuamisi, a psionic naga-like being. Per se not too interesting. But there was this one line of lore that kicked my mind into overdrive: “Chuamisi is the elder evil that heralded the dawn of the Age of Serpents that brought the Great Poisonfall upon the world.” BAM. I want to know more. Awesome. Speaking of which: We also get Anguia Umbra, a new petty god with full stats and servant – this would be the petty god of iophilia, toxicophilia, shadow walkers and assassins. Deadly, and with some cool abilities, this finally managed to make me get the Petty Gods book.

My favorite rules component herein would be the optional rules for killing vampires, which makes the traditional things such as sunlight, stakes, head. burying etc. reduce HD. Cool! The pdf also features a couple of d30-tables – d30 quirks of becoming unhinged, d30 evil adventure hooks, and d30 methods of sacrifice. These are okay, but not exactly spectacular.

The ‘zine also includes an adventure for 5-7 characters of 3rd to 5th level. The module does feature alignment pretty heavily, making use of essentially two alignment axes in themes, while using only the traditional one-axis of B/X; while it acknowledges that the referee can adjust this to single-axis alignment assumptions, it does lose a bit of its flavor. (As an aside: No alignment is still the best option, and I really wished games got finally rid of this roleplaying-stifling blight; I just mentioned the alignment component, since some purists may balk at it.) The module suggests at least one thief and one cleric, a sound proposal. Wandering monster encounters are presented, and the end of the module presents all stats on one page – nice. The complex explored comes with a b/w-map, but no player-friendly version. Annoyingly, the maps has no grid noted, which makes playing with minis or VTTs a bit of a hassle.

Okay, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, local farmers have gathered a fortune for the PCs to act as trouble-solvers – lemurs have been rampaging through the countryside, and it turns out that the notorious “Black Chapel” is the likely source – and it kinda is. It is basically your average cultist hide-out and not too special – the one thing the dungeon does in a clever fashion, is that the cult’s leaders attempt to parley – a defect altar is responsible for the uncontrolled stream of lemurs, and they require a lawful cleric to perform the ritual to seal the rift – they do attempt to negotiate a nasty contract, which is kinda neat, but as a whole, I wasn’t thrilled by this dungeon. It’s not bad, and its presentation is solid, but it does lack special components to make it shine. Personally, I considered this to be one of the weaker parts of the ‘zine.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting deserve applause – on both a formal and rules-language level, the ‘zine is precise, properly putting spells etc. in italics, using bolding well, etc. Kudos for making this professional and easy to peruse. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the pdf uses excellent b/w-artwork sourced from the public domain. If you enjoy the cover, you’ll like the interior art as well. Great choices throughout. The ‘zine has no bookmarks in its electronic evrsion, which constitutes a comfort detriment. The map of the adventure is a step back in comparison to the last Dragon Horde, and same goes for the adventure. I can’t comment on the physical version of the ‘zine, as I do not own it.

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr. delivers a passion project here – this is a professionally-presented ‘zine that features quite a lot of well-designed rules-material for B/X. While generally in the upper power-echelon, the incisions and balancing tools employed are smart; particularly the witch doctor is pure awesome. While I wasn’t too blown away by all of the supplemental materials or creatures, there also are some serious winners – the new petty god, the crypt riddler and the like? There are some gems herein. Usually, this would be a mixed bag on the positive side, rounded down (3.5 stars) but considering that it’s a PWYW-offering, my final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wherein Evil Lies
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The Dragon Horde Zine Issue #2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:22:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Dragon Horde-‘zine clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisement (one inside the ‘zine), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Okay, so first things first: The title is not a typo – it’s a pun, and the editorial confirms as much. Without much ado, we dive right into the first article herein, which depicts linnorms, 6 types of them, to be more precise. These list their respective bites, breath weapons and special abilities properly, but spell-references here are not set apart. That being said, we get full stats for them in both 0e/1e and B/X, and age categories note increases in HD and number of limbs – these also are used, in a rather clever manner, to govern the number of attacks they can field, their speed, etc. Some purists may scoff at breath weapons not being based, damage-wise, on Hit Points, but since they’re linnorms and not regular dragons, this may be actually an intended design choice to set them apart. As a whole, I very much enjoyed this iteration on the dragons, though I freely admit to being spoiled by newer games – I can’t help it but feel that draconic foes need more tricks up their sleeve. The absence of death curses also was a minor bummer, but consider this being me complaining about a perfectly fine and FREE take on the concept.

The next article is a perfect reason to download this ‘zine on its own – adapted from Rudolph Keyser’s work (I particularly recommend “Norges gamle Love indtil 1387” and the enlightening “Speculum regale: Konungs Skuggsjá”), we have a great two-page article on how Viking longhouses work – including a nice b/w-map. I’d have loved to get that map in a one-page-version, but having one? Super helpful. As someone with a degree in Scandinavian Literature and Culture, I consider this article at least to be required reading for authors attempting to depict Viking-related culture. Informative and immediately game-relevant. Two thumbs up! There also is a handy one-page explanation of using the þing, which, while basic, is similarly super helpful for GMs not too familiar with the ways of the North.

The pdf then presents the Völva (plural völur) NPC character class – part seer, part shaman, part jarl/kingmaker, the travelling ladies use Wisdom as a prime requisite, fights as a magic-user, but saves as a cleric. They have d4 HD and may not wear armor or carry a shield. The völva may only use her staff, and must have at least 9 in Intelligence and Wisdom. Cool: They do not have to memorize spells, instead using Seiðr, Spá-craft and Galdr, choosing freely from all available spells from her list each day. Higher levels yield shapechange, and they use the B/X-dwarf’s XP-progression and may gain up to 14 levels. The crafting of runed items is also cool. I really like this class, but there is one thing that bothers me – the custom spell lists include perfectly serviceable summaries of spells, but these do not come with the proper spell-formatting for B/X. Still, I’d allow this, and if you’re playing B/X or its current Old-School Essentials iteration, check this out!

The book also has a cool little article that proposes a wide variety of alternative means to deal with Level Drain: From temporary drain, to XP, to aging etc., there are plenty of interesting options here – that all have in common that they’re less annoying and cumbersome than the default, so once more – kudos!

Now, one of the advertisements of the ‘zine s for William Morris’ “The House of Wolfings”, and fans of the book get an added service: The Houses of the Mark are depicted, all with banner, number encountered, etc., and important characters note e.g. “Fights/saves as 8th-level Völva) and further information required to run them – not a full NPC-statblock, but enough to use them all.

The pdf also presents rules for guardian lamps, Mjölnir pendants and the ormstunga helm. These are okay, but not spectacular.

The supplement also includes an adventure for 4-6 characters of level 1 – 3, “Vifillmein.” It is good to have at least one nunhuman character, and random encounters are presented. The module does not come with read-aloud text, but features 4 sample hooks, 12 further rumors, and is surprisingly non-linear. NPCs and even random creatures are properly statted. We have an adventure n the rural countryside here, and while it can become deadly fast, any difficulty is the result of the actions of the PCs and how smart they handle everything. It’s also genuinely unique in several ways, and once more, is a good reason to get the module. It’s also an excellent adventure to kick off a new campaign with a more gritty, realistic flair – without being dark.

And this is as much as I can explain without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the small farming community Sællgarth has been beset by attacks from giant beetles! With the prevalence of belief in urðr, the locals have abandoned the place and renamed it (hence the name). However, a local boy named Egill has seen suspicious activity and is asking for help. The region’s map does something unique, in that it lists all the holes and beetle tunnels and differentiates between above and below ground encounters – the beetle tunnels are too tight for humans, but nonhumans, particularly halflings and gnomes, may crawl through them.

The cool thing here: there is no malignant intent per se behind the beetle infestation – just laziness and incompetence. The local and horribly untalented magic-user has simply botched handling a cursed item, and it’ll take a völva to lift the curse – who demands a hefty sum. Oh, and said magic-user? Finding him in his sunken longhouse, and getting him to own up? Yeah, that’ll be interesting. I really like this, as I’ve frankly made the experience that ignorance, incompetence and laziness are far more common than sheer malevolence. Kudos for going this route and using it as a hook instead of the standard arglblargl-I’m-so-evil angle!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, good on a rules-language level. The b/w-layout adheres to a variety of styles – from two-column standard used for rules text to three columns for the encounters to one-column for the adventure (with stats on the sides), the pdf may not be consistent, but it’s always efficient. It also, thankfully, uses a proper font and not the pseudo-typewriter-crap used in the first installment. Artworks are a mix of nice b/w and public domain pieces. The pdf, unfortunately, has no bookmarks, which is a comfort-detriment. Cartography in b/w is functional and solid, but no player-friendly iterations are provided.

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr.’s second Dragon Horde is vastly superior to the first: This book is educational without being boring or losing sight of being a game-supplement, and it assumes that the reader is intelligent, which is a plus indeed. The ‘zine has a tight leitmotif, and I like the völur as presented herein. The little adventure included is also remarkable in that it manages to set itself apart from a vast amount of low-level modules. The “use history/culture for gaming”-articles and the adventure particularly warrant getting this, while the rest is solid, if not necessarily mind-blowing. Considering that this is FREE? Definitely worth getting! My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Dragon Horde Zine Issue #2
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The Dragon Horde Zine Issue #1
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:21:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This ‘zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

So, first things first – this publication’s name is not a typo, but a joke. While hoard/horde is indeed one of the most common homophone errors I encounter, this time it’s no error. As for the rules-sets employed, the publication sports both 0e/1e stats and B/X-stats for the monsters included in the start – these would be a leech man, and a halfling/elf racial mix. Both are decent, if not spectacular critters. Both come with passable b/w-artworks.

After this, we have a one-page article that is system neutral – you can determine with a d30-roll where a weapon hits. The page is deliberately made to look like a hand-written excerpt from gaming notes (or represents a scan). It’s solid, if not spectacular, suggesting an optional rule for temporary loss of the use of a limb on full damage being rolled.

After this, we have a one-page list of familiar guidelines for “The System” by New Big Dragon Games Unlimited. Next up is a pixilated overview map (which seems to depict a continent, I’m not sure – no scale of context is provided), we are introduced to Lerdyn Chrisawn’s Chronicle, a kind of chronicle of everything that ranges over ten thousands of volumes from the era of Ante Chaos to Praeter Chaos – the writing here is nice, but lacks any type of context – with democracy and the like noted and the somewhat Aasimovian theme, an impression of a scifi theme is evoked, but from the text here, this remains hard to discern. An NPC-class, the Chroniclist, is based on this concept. The Chroniclist specializes in the chronicle and learns increasing amounts of specialized knowledge as well as a ridiculous amount of languages. The NPC-class uses d4 HD and gets spells of up to 4th level, as well as perfect memory, the ability to discern the true meaning of words and the like. I enjoy the concept, but I wished it had been balanced as a PC-class instead; the notion is cool, but the execution and its tie to the cool, if opaque lore, does limit the immediate usefulness of the class.

That being said, there are a couple of helpful things in here – there is a handy spreadsheet that lists which creatures speak what language and a pretty nice tavern patron generator that creates a patron in 4 die-rolls, plus optional roll for a Charisma score. I like this generator! The pdf also includes 7 magical weapons – none of them are particularly interesting. A spear that splits in two when thrown? A short sword that lets the wearer mirror image? Yeah, not blown away. This would also be the place to note that this pdf suffers from a layout decision that thankfully does not feature in the follow-up installments of the ‘zine: The majority of the ‘zine uses a font reminiscent of a typewriter font.

I HATE THIS FONT. With a fiery passion. I know, it’s supposed to look “old-school” and tug at nostalgic heart’s strings. It just annoys me, as there is no formatting for spells and rules-relevant components beyond a few instances of bolded text, and it’s harder to read. So no, it’s not just aesthetics, it does hamper the immediate usefulness of the supplement.

Ahem, excuse the outburst. The supplement also includes a brief low/rare magic-y module intended for 4-6 characters level 1 – 3. The complex features 45 keyed locations, though some of these denote empty rooms. The complex is surprisingly non-linear (a plus!), and the dungeon is of low to middle difficulty. It is per se pretty cookie cutter, but does have a couple of cool ideas – including the means to make figurines come to life. The main antagonist of the module is also nice, an intelligent panther revered as a deity (not a SPOILER – the introductory text states as much). The module has no read-aloud text and sports a decent one-page map with grid, but features no player-friendly version. Two random encounter tables are provided, but frankly, I can’t see myself running this one – it lacks too much in the way of actually interesting material. The other free offerings by New Big Dragon games Unlimited are more worthwhile.

Conclusion: Editing is surprisingly good on both a formal and rules-language level. Formatting suffers a bit from the font chosen. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, and artworks are hand-drawn or public domain b/w. Same goes for cartography, which, while functional, lacks player-friendly versions. Annoyingly, the pdf version lacks any bookmarks, making navigation a pain.

Richard J. Leblanc, Jr. has a lot of cool free and super-inexpensive material to offer. Unfortunately, this ‘zine is not exactly an example for “cool”. I very much like subdued and more realistic, low-key fantasy, but this supplement failed to excite me. It lacks a leitmotif, cohesion, and while I don’t object to a cornucopia/salad-bowl style ‘zine, here, the articles universally suffer from not having enough room to properly shine. As a person, I got nothing from this ‘zine. Nothing at all. This pretty much aggressively bored me, something that rarely happens.

As a reviewer, I have to account for the fact that this may not necessarily hold true for everyone, and this pdf is FREE, so yeah. Taking these components into account, my final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and being free. That being said, I strongly recommend getting the excellent and vastly superior “Vault of the Faceless Giants” instead to get an idea of the author’s capabilities instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Dragon Horde Zine Issue #1
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PA1 Vault of the Faceless Giants
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/14/2019 06:25:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, ½ a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, first of all: This adventure assumes that you’re using the Basic Psionics Handbook, the impressive psionics-rules provided for B/X. While it is possible to run this without access to said rules, the module does lose some of its unique flavor and requires some serious GM-work to adapt, so I strongly suggest getting the Basic Psionics Handbook, also due to flavor reasons.

Why? This module assumes a jungle/quasi-Indian/Hindu-style background, with the chakras that govern the Basic Psionics Handbook’s interpretation of psionics a serious part of the appeal of the adventure. The module sports e.g. visual representations of the chakra symbols as one handout, and a basic explanation of components of lingam symbolism as featured herein as the second handout. If that wasn’t clue enough, let me spell out that this module tends to fall on the “realistic” side of things – the dungeon to be explored makes internal sense; the adversaries react in ways that are reasonable, and if you gravitate to the lower end of the fantasy spectrum, this won’t disappoint – while magic (and psionics) are very much present and provide a sense of the magical, it is one very grounded in a sort of quasi-reality – something I definitely enjoyed.

The module comes with 3 new monsters, 5 statted non-unique NPC types, and 9 pregenerated characters that list sex, class, ability scores, alignment, hit points, AC, equipment, and, if relevant, spells/disciplines. The module strongly suggests a well-rounded party, which, in this case, means that a mystic, a magic-user, and a cleric are highly recommended. Having a monk or fighter and a thief, as always, is prudent as well. For level-range, the module suggests being primarily intended for 1st level characters. Personally, I’d rather suggest it for 2nd to 3rd level, unless your players are experienced veterans of dungeon-crawling. This module can be pretty tricky, but, like in most good modules, the difficulty is highly contingent on how well the PLAYERS play, not necessarily on how optimized characters are. This module can be very much doable for 1st level characters, but groups that want to murderhobo everything may well find themselves overpowered fast.

That being said, I’d consider this to be a moderately-difficult adventure, slightly on the difficult side, and for the most part, its difficulty is fair. While there is a save-or-die cobra, I can live with that. Similarly, I’m totally fine with a save or die poison needle trap in a chest. Unfortunately, the adventure does feature one instance that is pretty dickish. I’ll get to that in the SPOILER-section below.

From aesthetics to the boxed read-aloud text to the b/w-artworks, this encapsulates well the spirit of early 80s TSR-modules, though it does, alas, also feature their grating lack of player-friendly maps for the dungeon.

All right, and this is about as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs are on board of a ship, going upstream into the jungle – a couple of hooks are provided, but ultimately, it’s a means to get your Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now Redux vibe going on for setting the stage, particularly since the vessel sinks in the introductory paragraph, which sees the PCs venture to the tiny fishing village of Phroumi Sramol (player-friendly map included) – the greeting they receive is contingent on a reaction roll, with 5 fleshed out different scenarios presented. During the feast, there is a woman who makes a scene – her child is missing, and she claims that a temple set into a cliff’s side, once a center of worship for vile Rahb, was the source of beings who snatched her baby. The evil cult, ostensibly once vanquished by the legendary hero Somnang, may have returned – though the chief and villagers deny the like, one of the chief’s sons asks the PCs to intervene.

If the PCs do their legwork, they may become privy to the 20 rumors going around, and there are 12 persons that may be willing to accomplish them on their expedition – all have names, ages, HP and special properties noted. Wandering monsters and weather in the jungle are both covered, and hey, the repair of the boat will take some time, so why not do some proper adventuring, right? Groups that know to gather information first will also easily be pointed towards a local mystic – the old man mystic, who will have a gift for the PCs – a pearl of planar mending, though the PCs will probably have no means of detecting the like. He can also act as a support for the PCs and mop up after them if they were shoddy in their exploration, but that just as an aside. This fellow can also act as a transition to further adventures – while there were at least two additional adventures planned in the series, they haven’t materialized yet as per the writing of this review, which is a bit frustrating. That being said, apart from the tantalizing hints left for the GM, the module is very much self-contained for the players.

Anyhow, set inside the cliff-face are 7 faceless, massive statues, all exuding an ironic mockery sense of peace – the eponymous faceless giants. There is more than one means of entering the dungeon beyond, and the complex has different wandering monster tables for illuminated and darkened areas. You see, the complex contains two planar breaches – one just dumping those that enter in the extended vicinity as a kinda random teleporter; the second, though, leads directly to the Abyss and Rahb’s dread lands. The map color-codes these areas in an easy to use manner. Very cool: mystics can use special glyphs for secret passages and will have a lot to do. You see, the dread cult of Rahb indeed awaits in the complex – though the small army is mainly kept in (meditative) stasis to keep them from consuming too much resources. And this is where player smarts come in – the cult isn’t stupid, and has means of alerting the complex, and if the PCs have to face the bundled might of the Votaries of Rahb, they will most assuredly perish – so smarts and clever adventuring are what can save the day. Considering how the module makes sense, how its cultural tropes are so different from standard euro-centric modules, this focus works exceedingly well. Save in one instance. There is one room that houses a psionically active yellow mold. You open the door…BAM, save or die. Granted, it’s a secret door. Granted, it is telegraphed in the read-aloud text – but AoE save or die PLUS psionic attack? That is pretty nasty.

Anyhow, the task here is for the players to close the correct planar breach and defeat the Rahb cultists, obviously.

The module doesn’t end there, as there is a second mini-adventure added – originally intended as a transition to the second adventure in the series, it depicts the Kar Slab shrine, a second and pretty trap-heavy dungeon – though one where correctly using a certain item can eliminate the undead stick-skeletons and similar threats found.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the classic no-frills two-column b/w-standard, with nice pieces of b/w-artworks and handouts provided. The cartography is precise and surprisingly plentiful, though the lack of a player-friendly, spoilerless version for the dungeons is a bit of a bummer. Speaking of which: The pdf lacks bookmarks, which sucks. I can’t comment on the print version yet.

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr.’s psionic adventure here is pretty damn good – it’s vastly superior in comparison to not only his Egyptian-style free module, it also offers more content, a more interesting setting, and the use of psionics is another plus. Now, usually, this module would score a final verdict in the 4-star-range; however, there is one more thing to consider: This is FREE. Not even PWYW, but FREE. This is a price that is very hard to beat, and considering the overall quality, an impressive offering. After all, I could, at the top of my head, recite a VERY long list of modules that are not as fun and well-crafted as this one. This generosity is what makes me round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars – this is most assuredly worth downloading, and personally, I am hopeful that we might one day see the two planned sequels teased in this adventure.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PA1 Vault of the Faceless Giants
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CC1 Creature Compendium
by Barry S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/05/2019 10:42:07

I threw ya a $20 because, well, people that makes such amazing online content such as this product deserve to be paid for it fairly. Any other print title with as many cretaures in it as CC1 has would be over $20. I enjoy purchasing monster tomes and this one certainly qualified. Well done! A+



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CC1 Creature Compendium
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Petty Gods: Revised & Expanded Edition
by John B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/03/2019 21:49:12

I want to say its worth the price, since its free, but its largely just a PDF of the author's "Wouldn't it be funny if there were a god of ____" pop-culture reference stand-up routine.

For the most part this PDF contains things that aren't really useful to a campaign or setting, and are largely just there for you to go "There's a god for that in the pdf I downloaded! LOL" if someone makes an offhand comment about something at the table. As some examples; there is a god of Holding in Farts, a goddess of sexy Elven barmaids, a goddess of repeatedly giving into sexual urges, and a god of "Seemingly random misfortune and fortune while in combat". The majority of the selections are of similar quality, with a few exceptions buried under the pile of thoughtless entries.

There is decent material. The section on cults seems interesting, and a few of the gods are well developed, but this material is so densily written and overwhelmed by the useless padding material that you'd be better to seek the information it provides elsewhere.

The artwork is extremely inconsistent, likely because the book has what looks to be 100+ artists. Its detailed, but not very interesting. There are a lot of random naked chicks and the pictures are most of them are generally uninspired subject matter. For example, lot of the gods' are either just a smudge of fog/mist/shadow/ooze, a hooded figure in dark robes, or a completely mundane person or animal. Like the aforementioned Goddess of Elven Barmaids is a computer-drawn clipart of a girl in a skimpy german barmaid costume with elf ears.

Its mostly done in a style that mimics the sort of old D&D artwork, but with little charm or distinctive characteristics between the subjects the art captures. It feels like too much time was spent making jokes or pulling together artwork, and not enough time was spent assuring that the artwork was evocative or inspiring.

For the most part this PDF contains things that aren't really useful to a campaign or setting, and are largely just there for you to go "There's a god for that in the pdf I downloaded! LOL" if someone makes an offhand comment about something at the table.

I want to say its worth the price, but ultimately the fact that you have to sift through a majority of useless content to find the few interesting bits makes it too much effort for too little value.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Petty Gods: Revised & Expanded Edition
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PX1 Basic Psionics Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/10/2019 05:14:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

One of my patreon supporters pointed this book out to me, and asked me to cover it, so that’s what I’m doing!

First of all: If the title wasn’t enough of a clue, this is intended for use with the elegant and minimalist B/X-rules. If that sounds like a squaring of the circle, then you’d be right. But let me give you a brief rundown: You see, today, psionics, particularly those championed by Dreamscarred Press, have become a staple in many modern high-complexity games like Pathfinder, but it took until D&D 3.5 until the rules presented for psionics became anything that resembled “elegance.” While I, as a GM, always enjoyed monsters with psionics, the AD&D rules back in the day were notoriously fiddly, and indeed, the same held true for the 3.0 iteration. It took Bruce Cordell and his Malhavoc Press offerings, as well as Dreamscarred Press, to make them as popular as they are now. Psionics haven’t always been this elegant.

The first iteration of psionics, at least to my knowledge, was introduced in Eldritch Wizardry, and took a class, the mystic, and disassembled it, which may well account for some of the chaos that was to follow. Anyway, this book does attempt to reassemble the class, which is one of the two base classes provided within.

But before we take a look at the classes, let us first cover a couple of things that are important for folks coming from a more contemporary background, from a more rules-heavy game: Psionics, as presented herein, is NOT magic, so there is, per se, no transparency between the two. The term used to denote a character with psionic abilities is “psionicist.” PL (psionic level) is analogue to character class level, and, as is the case to this date, psionics operate by using PSP (psionic strength points) to pay for the abilities; these replenish analogue to how spells do, after an undisturbed meditative 8-hour rest-period. Psionic saving throws are based on the saving throw vs. paralysis, modified by the character’s Intelligence-based adjustment (see below); when a save vs. paralysis is called for, the Intelligence-based adjustment is NOT applied. Close reading is required here.

There are two ability score relevant for psionics: Intelligence governs resistance to psionics: Particularly low or high Intelligence means that you can have anything from a -3 to a +3 bonus on saving throws versus psionics. High Wisdom scores, on the other hand, can yield up to a +3 bonus to psionic combat rolls. (If you’ve been around since before 3.5, the sheer mention of psionic combat will have had you groan.) Important to note: Creatures with Intelligence 2 or lower are immune to psionic attacks, but not psionic disciplines –there is a difference between the two.

Psionic abilities can be roughly categorized in two groups: On the one hand, there are disciplines, and on the other, there are the modes.

Modes are employed in psionic combat. There are 5 attack modes, and 5 defense modes – these can be telepathic or telekinetic in type, and list the targets they attack, or protect, respectively. Attack modes may be used against psionic and nonpsionic targets. Using a psionic attack prevents you from moving or taking any other action, and psionic attacks versus psionic characters tend to have additional effects. Defense modes must be decided upon before initiative is rolled for the round, and come into effect AFTER spellcasting and psionics use is declared. The book does present an easy to grasp sequence that shows the modified phases of a turn, when and where the psionic combat modes come into effect, etc. A cursory glance at them makes them seem akin to spells, and frankly, that’s pretty much how they operate – with one exception. The dreaded Attack/Defense-mode interaction table. You see, e.g. mental barrier provides a +3 bonus to saves vs. area attacks, and halves telekinetic damage, for example. This means that ego whip and mind thrust are very effective against this defense mode. The downside here would be that, probably due to blending two iterations of the system, two defense modes are clearly “superior” options, where previously, they could be risky. The pricing of them also can be a bit weird – for the same PSP-cost, you can unleash an AoE damage + stun, or a single-target attack that deals ½ class level+1d6 more damage than the massive AoE-blast. It lacks the stun the AoE has, fyi.

Yet, I should like this rock-paper-scissors principle; it even has a table. I really, really don’t. I tried for years playing with it, and the whole defense/attack mode-sub-engine never fails to at least bring the game to a stutter; make that a grinding halt for groups less familiar with it. Now, admittedly, the implementation here is better than a lot that I’ve seen – the utterly grating hourly regeneration tracking and the like is thankfully gone, and the boil down of the ridiculous combat matrix to a 5 entry by 5 entry-table helps make this “on par” with 3.0’s implementation…but still. This is an instance where I don’t see the payoff for the complexity; I never have. Then again, leaving this aspect out would probably have had SOME grognard out there screaming blasphemy in rage – there are bound to be folks out there that enjoy this. I am not one of them, and I usually enjoy complex systems. Make of that what you will.

The good news is that you can arguably cut the attack/defense mode stuff from the psionics engine presented herein without breaking it.

All right, where was I? Oh yeah, the mystic: The class is presented as a full 20-level option, and begins play with 5 PSP, gaining 5 more per level after 1st. as far as experience point progression is concerned, we begin analogue to the dwarf, with 5th level onward providing some minor discrepancies from the dwarf’s progression. The mystic, thus, can be situated slightly below the magic-user in how much XP a level-up takes. The class uses d4s as HD, but saves are pretty solid – in sequence (poison, petrify, breath, wands, spells), the class begins with 10, 11, 15, 14, 15 and improves them at 5th level and then again at 9th, 13th and 17th level.

If you are playing with attack and defense modes, you begin play with one attack mode and will have unlocked all at 8th level; the first defense mode is gained at 2nd level, and all 5 will be available at 10th level. All levels have until 11th have individual titles, just fyi. Mystics use Intelligence and Wisdom as prime requisite, and a score in either of 12 or higher nets a 5% XP-bonus. Intelligence of 13 or more AND Wisdom 16 or more upgrades that to 10%. Mystics use the attack table of thieves/clerics, and may wear nothing more protective than leather armor. They may not use shields, and are restricted to daggers as weaponry. Furthermore, they draw their power partially from a disdain of the physical, and thus may not carry more treasure than absolutely necessary for survival. The mystic may only carry treasure with the goal to grant it to those in need. A mystic furthermore may NOT own a magic item, and may only use them in the service of others. The exceptions here are those that allow fighters to use them, and psionic items. Wearable items may only be worn while actively adventuring, and impose a hard cap – per item worn, the mystic must meditate two turns per day.

Psionics in this system are associated with the seven chakras – root chakra, for example, corresponds to psychometabolism; the chakras can be tough of as spell-schools, or in Dreamscarred Press’ parlance, as “disciplines” – be aware that this means something else in this book!!

There are two special cases – the third eye requires that the mystic has access of all other chakras and is associated with metapsionics; the crown chakra represents something that only divine beings may attain – this means that, for the purpose of playing, 6 chakras are relevant. These are usually gained in a linear fashion as the game progresses, but, in a nice touch, there is an alternate system included that allows development to adjacent chakras from one chosen, and one that leaves it all up to chance.

Each chakra features multiple disciplines, the spell-equivalent, which are basically what later iterations of the psionics system called “powers;” these themselves are segregated in two categories – major sciences, and minor devotions. To give you an idea: The mystic begins play with one major science, and 3 minor devotions, and get an additional major science every odd level, but at first receives two devotions per level, with 5th level+ slowing that to 1/ level, for a total maximum array of 10 major sciences and 25 minor devotions at 20th level.

Each chakra sports 7 major sciences and 12 minor devotions to choose from, so quite a lot. A nice component here would be that the respective disciplines presented feel very much…grounded? The notion of the mystic/ygi-like figure, the magical ascetic, if you will, as the guy with the strange powers is well-represented in the powers chosen. The curator’s care of establishing themes and maintaining classics here is rather pronounced: Yes, there obviously is a dimension door, but so is there a sensitivity to psychic impressions, telekinesis, molecular manipulation and, of course, the classic…ultrablast! A big plus: Since effects like schism or ultrablast are major sciences, (both btw. metapsionics, so relegated to higher levels) are very potent, the book balances e.g. the latte one’s power with a pretty long countdown and the chance to knock yourself out. All in all, I do enjoy the psionics baseline presented and encapsulated by the full-caster class here.

This book contains a second character class, which sports a pretty analogue XP-progression and has 16 levels – this would be the monk, and if you’re familiar with d20-based iterations of the game, you’ll get what you’d expect: The class starts treating its unarmed strikes as silver at second level, and later increases them to be treated as up to +5. Melee damage inflicted begins at 1d4 and increases to 3d12+12 at 16th level, and the class has unarmored armorclass improvements baked into its core engine, beginning at AC 8, and improving that to -4 at 16th level. So far, so expected – not for the nit and grit: The class uses d6 as HD, and have their own saving throw table that starts at 11, 12, 14, 13, 16 (poison, petrify, breath, wands, spells) and improves at the usual pace established above. They attack using the fighter’s table, but may not use shields or armor, nor employ magic items that are protective; they may use items that provide attack and damage bonuses. Prime requisites are Strength and Dexterity – 13 or higher in both nets 5% bonus XP; for Strength 13 or higher and Dexterity 16 or higher, that becomes 10%. Monks regain twice as many hit points when resting, and they begin play with 2 PSP and one minor devotion. They gain 2 PSP every level, unlock their first major science at 2nd level, and in the end, will amass up to 6 major sciences and 16 minor devotions when reaching 16th level.

If you’re playing with psionic combat modes, they are REALLY squishy against them – and same goes for wildcard psionics, if you use that optional rule. Having latent, but not really developed psionic powers may be more of a curse than a blessing, considering how several effects hit psionicists harder than regular characters…depending on your vision of psionics, this may be considered to be either a bug or a feature.

Okay, beyond these classes and the base system, the book also contains a psionic bestiary of sorts, focusing on classic creatures that have been rebranded to avoid IP-violations – aboleth may be found alongside limbo/astral gith (githzerai/yanki), there are four-armed “mantis-men” for fans of Dark Sun, and from various intellect devourers to “Mind Threshers” most folks won’t have an issue understanding the critters. They do come with decent b/w-artworks each, which is a plus, particularly for newbies. Some more obscure ones, like a psionic wooly white rhinoceros, or ki-rin and hollyphants may be found within as well. Did I mention the Zowl?

The book also highlights the interaction of psionics with certain items like helmets of telepathy, provides basic rules for psionic items with some examples, a cheat-sheet of magic/psionics interaction, quick notes on monster rules, a means to make phrenic creatures, etc. The book even has a detailed index, a cheat-sheet of disciplines by chakra and handy PSP cost/bonuses/attack-defense-mode listing page that practically begs to be used as a GM screen insert.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. From a didactic point of view, I applaud the formatting of key terms without undermining established conventions – it makes the book easier to read and grasp and enhances the reading flow. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and is pretty down-to-earth, bereft of frills and printer-friendly. The artworks within are b/w and range from really nice to slightly goofy in a charming, old-school way. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and I unfortunately can’t comment on the merits or lack thereof of the softcover, as I do not own it.

Richard J. LeBlanc Jr.’s Basic Psionics Handbook is an exciting example of rules archaeology and reconstructive speculation done right, for the most part – the rules-integrity per se is tight, precise, and shouldn’t upend the balance of B/X-games. It manages to instill a sense of identity and culture into psionics that sets them apart from regular magic, but doesn’t relegate them exclusively to tentacle-studded monstrosities. In that way, it is a resounding success that blows the classic old-school renditions of psionics clear out of the water.

The one issue of the book is perhaps immanent in its genesis: It attempts to remain faithful, when the slaughtering of some sacred cows would have been very much in order. The streamlining of psionic attack/defense may be a step in the right direction, but ultimately only brings the system up to the approximate level of quality that 3.0 psionics had, when going one step further here in design paradigm would have been warranted for a playing experience as smooth as we’d expect from B/X. The clinging to fidelity also creates the few ripples of rules integrity and balancing that I managed to spot – the author clearly realized the issues present, but either didn’t want to go all the way, or didn’t dare to due to fear of the notoriously vitriolic backlash that such changes might have yielded. Here, a brave “Fortes fortuna adiuvat” and a forging ahead might have been in order – after all, the complexity of the options, the variety is here – why not finish the job fixing the mode-material?

The flaws of this book notwithstanding, it is a professional, well-wrought supplement; it may have missed the label of true greatness, but it most assuredly is the best old-school psionics system I have seen; it is not a step, but a leap in the right direction, and considering the success of Necrotic Gnome Production’s “Old-School Essentials” project of premium, streamlined B/X-rules, one that will find plenty of fans. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – this is a good book worth its asking price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
PX1 Basic Psionics Handbook
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TM1 The Ogress of Anubis
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/27/2019 07:11:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This module is intended for a group of characters level 4 – 6, with the suggested number of characters contingent on a) system chosen, and b) the skill of the players. This adventure, unlike most OSR-modules, does not simply subscribe to a single rule-set, nor does it provided barebones basic stats – one of its big advantages would be that the module truly covers 0e, 1e and B/X stats, noting discrepancies when applicable. This is not just a lip-service declaration, mind you – this extends to spells known, alignment notation, etc.

In light of this multi-system approach, magic items are bolded in the text, spells properly italicized, and the pdf does contain 12 sample pregens for your convenience. The module, apart from the introductory section to set the scene, does not feature read-aloud text, and comes with pretty detailed, nice b/w-maps. These maps do not come with player-friendly, unlabeled versions, but they do sport proper scales, excluding the small overland hex-map. On the plus-side, the pdf has a great bonus for guys like me – 5 different, player-friendly maps for tombs, 2 maps for sample caves, and one for a part of a sunken city are provided. These sample maps are genuinely cool and definitely make getting this worth if you like drawing maps as much as I do. (Read: Not at all.)

The pdf also sports a full page of hooks for further adventuring, and no less than 7 different types of animal mummies are provided, with stat notation correct for the systems covered. The pdf also features random monster tables for the overland section and the main adventure locale, differentiating between day and night, with different creatures to be encountered. The pdf also provides the stats for these, meaning you won’t have to engage in book-flipping. A definite plus! Speaking of which – the design-paradigm is ncie: While deadly snakes are included, their bite has a countdown to death instead of save-or-die, which allows the PCs to save their allies. Big plus for that! It’s simply more fun without neutering the threat or difficulty.

Speaking of which: This is not an easy module if your PCs are gung-ho and try to kill all opposition, but neither is it one of the harder OSR-modules out there.

The module, as evident from the title, takes place in a quasi-Egyptian setting. To talk about more details, I will have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the module takes place in a mostly even plains-based area that features no less than 7 sample villages. Ako And Azibo, two villagers, beseech the PCs do something about Azeneth, the daughter of the recently-deceased high-priest of the temple of Ptah. Azeneth has proclaimed herself to be the chosen of the vulture goddess Nekhbet, and proceeded to extract heavy tithes from all around. Ostensibly able to command serpents, she rules by fear, not by love. Now, children have begun vanishing from the local towns, and rumors of human sacrifice abound – Azeneth must be stopped – which is easier said than done, for the fully mapped temple is now off-limits to all but her loyal guards, cult members and cherthebs – the low priests.

The temple and the small surrounding tent-city are properly noted, and I particularly enjoyed the reactions-tables provided for the respective types of servants. PCs attempting the brute force approach will have to shed a lot of blood, and probably be wiped out, but the reaction tables do a good job at supporting the obvious infiltration angle. Small pyramids containing animal mummies provide a nice risk-reward-ratio here; and the walled compound itself is actually also guarded by living statues, some of which are watching from the temple’s roof…

All of this is very much a sandbox – a problem is provided, and how your PCs get to solve it? That’s totally up to them.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills b/w-2-column standard, and the pdf uses public domain art to a surprisingly good effect. The cartography in b/w is solid and more detailed than I expected – and while the lack of player-friendly, unlabeled versions is a bit of a bummer, the inclusion of player-friendly bonus maps is a nice plus. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a slight comfort detriment.

Richard J. LeBlanc Jr.’s “Ogress of Anubis” doesn’t reinvent the wheel – this is essentially a go-play easy to use module that is nigh perfect for the instances when you need a module, but don’t have one prepared. You can basically run this as is with minimum fuss, also thanks to the attention to detail regarding the systems supported. This is not a mind-blowing adventure, but a solid, unpretentious sidetrek I’d usually rate somewhere in the vicinity of 3.5 stars, rounded down. However, this is actually FREE. Not even PWYW, FREE. And for a FREE module? Heck yes, totally worth downloading! My final verdict hence will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
TM1 The Ogress of Anubis
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