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Kefitzah Haderech - Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals
by Christopher M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2020 16:59:12

Super fun to read! Next time you are running an improv game and hopping dimensions, crack this baby open.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kefitzah Haderech - Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals
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Macchiato Monsters
by Greyson Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/26/2020 09:43:37

I only recently got into the OSR scene, and this has easily become my favorite system (next to Mörk Borg, which I like for different reasons). It's flexible, classless, and rules-light; it takes the best from Whitehack; it takes the best from The Black Hack; and it feels kind of like an OSR version of Everywhen. It's flexible enough that it could be easily hacked into many genres (like The Black Hack has). The only thing I want to see is more. I'm so glad I looked past the kind-of-silly name (because I love coffee anyway) and checked this out because it has exceeded my expectations.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
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Macchiato Monsters
by Christopher G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2020 12:38:48

A very interesting and rules light DnD system. It makes heavy use of tracking things through resource dice, which have a chance to drop down by a size each time they are rolled.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Odd
by Ian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/07/2020 13:27:53

Into the Odd is great, really user-friendly and great for new players. Only knocked off one star as Electric Bastionland is out now, and is even better!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Odd
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Kefitzah Haderech - Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/18/2020 08:15:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This booklet clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page thank you note, leaving us with 30 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) – and yes, the pdf does not have the front and back cover as part of the pdf itself. I also own the PoD softcover, which is a stapled booklet. My review is based on both versions.

While this book is designated as OSR, it is actually almost system neutral – apart from singular references to SAVE or the sparse damage value here and there, the book is not limited to such games in its utility.

So, the pdf begins by explaining the Hebrew expression of “contracting the path/shortening the way” – which is a perfect way to think of portals and gates. The supplement then begins to talk about portals and gates in a game context: As a plot device, as a shortcut, and about their significance regarding connections – this might be me talking in a post-COVID-19-world, but after playing Death Stranding, I have actually a greater appreciation of using and not using portals as far as their significance.

The supplement then proceeds to talk about types of portals – one-way portals, coupled ones, hubs and portal nexus set-ups, and, of course, relays and portal groups. Particularly portal relays are criminally underrated as far as I’m concerned, so thinking in a methodic manner about the subject matter? Seriously helpful.

Beyond that, we take remote perception, as well as awareness of the portal and its accessibility into account. In short: We begin with a serious of considerations that helps the Gm think of the content herein in a structured manner.

The book then brings us to the portal itself and provides a d20 generator with three columns, which lets you determine portal frame, opening and extras – to give you an example, I got a frame of living flesh, with the opening consisting of psychedelic colors and which emits an alkali odor. Cool!

Portal keys are up next – they can be physical objects, non-physical concepts, or simply esoteric names – and once more, we get a d20-based generator with 4 relevant columns: I got an “Exegetic shibboleth of the unearthly peregrination.” Come on, that is cooler than just some portal key, right?

Of course, the construction of portals also requires some consideration, and the supplement suggest 5K gold and a week of work – this is what I’d suggest for OSR-games; for others, I’d adjust the price accordingly – unless you want some serious portal hopping. The section provides a d10 table of considerations pertaining to construction: Perhaps portals can only be erected on ley lines, or the mystic toponyms must be carved into the portal…but unfortunately, they also must be palindromes (have fun making your PCs deal with this…)…and what about the implication of requiring the bones of twins, shuffled and then separated? shudder Really neat ideas!

However, the main meat of the booklet is devoted to the massive PORTATRON, a gigantic portal openings generator. This generator consists of a d10-table “The Portal looks like…”, and 1d6 “…and you will find it” – Here, I got “A well or pit in the ground, which when opened is filled with mist, which will be found in a shrine, with an altar located in front of it. The next table has a promising header: “And do you remember when I told you it was safe? I lied because…” – this table has 17 entries, and is rolled on a d30; I got entry 6, which is: “IT BURRRNS!!! Take 3d6 fire damage, SAVE for half damage. Maybe due to lasers: PEW PEW PEW! Or RADIOACTIVITY!!!” There is a fun and often irreverent tone in some entries, but never to the extent where I found it intrusive. As you can see, while the book does have notes like “save” or “Save or die”, it is for the most part system neutral – the damage values and negative consequences for some portals lend themselves to old-school playing, but also represent one of my gripes: I don’t think that using a portal (unless it’s sabotaged/the PCs have botched something should be lethal; save or die is warranted when the players screwed up. So yeah, not a big fan of this aspect.

Next, we have a d12 table of “the Key is…” – most of these have 6 to 8 subentries, which then might have more subsections. In my sample run, I got “An action, which must be carried out in front of the portal”;subentry + sub-section: the password must be sung.” The key in my test-run was related to ( a d4-table)…nothing specific. After that, we get a 10-entry d20-table to determine why the key’s special. Here, I got that the key can open d6-in-6 portals, but always one-way and towards the same destination.

And then, we have the largest table herein – a massive d666 table. The tongue-in-cheek “you end up in R’lyeh”-entry can be found, but is certainly not representative: The PCs might end up in a fortress of petrified soldiers, actually a child’s toy, or in a jungle in a huge impact crater, where a osmium-iridium meteorite is constantly seeping oozes. My test-run delivered the following entry: “ The study of the great sorceress Edonoplechtus VI; 1-in-6 she’s here researching some crossbreed monsters; else she just left all her pets here. Now yo have a good excuse to unleash the lobstegasuaruses, crocodingoes, ducksharks and roosturgeons you found in that monster manual.” I loved this one. It made me stat up a lobstegasaurus. This table, btw.? Its entries are massive – 12 pages of destinations!

The final pages of the supplement are essentially a portal-relevant appendix N, with each entry properly explained and contextualized, from Ultima Underworld II to Planescape, Portal, Dr. Who, Stargate, etc.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good ona formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard with minimum frills, and the supplement features tastefully-chosen public domain art. The pdf annoyingly has no bookmarks, which makes using it a colossal pain – I’d recommend print over pdf here…also because this is a book that you can use time and again.

Paolo Greco’s portal booklet is one of these nifty GM-evergreens that you can use time and again. The book starts off with some handy considerations when it comes to thinking about portals, and then provides this ginormous, quick to use and incredibly diverse generator. If I have any valid complaints against this, then that’d be that I’d have loved to see it subscribe to a proper system for adequate pricing of portal construction, or to go full-blown system neutral. That, and the few save or sucks, which are simply not that helpful in a book about random portal generation.

That being said, the playful tone that never became obtrusive, the sheer imagination here, and the fact that this covers a topic only scarcely touched in such detail certainly makes this one of the handy booklets I’ve been using time and again. For the pdf version and its diminished utility, you might want to subtract a star, but my gripes notwithstanding, I’d be a colossal hypocrite if I rated this anything but 5 stars + seal of approval – I’m using this too often, and have too much fun doing so, to rate this any other way. If you want to make your portals more diverse, esoteric and strange, look no further.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kefitzah Haderech - Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals
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Marvels & Malisons
by Edward R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/06/2020 18:03:12

Along with "Wonder and Wickedness" these two titles have replaced the magic system for my low-magic campaign. I just really dig the weird nature of magic as presented here. Simple and elegant.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvels & Malisons
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Wonder & Wickedness
by Edward R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/01/2020 20:23:28

This is one of the coolest magic supliments I've ever purchased, along with Marvels and Malisons. I switched out my entire magic system and replaced it with these two books. I know, that sounds a little crazy, but there's a vibe to this little book of magic that really resinates with me. It gives magic a weird, palpable feeling. That said, I run a low-magic campaign and this one works great.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wonder & Wickedness
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Marvels & Malisons
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/27/2020 04:07:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

Huh, that went fast! Turns out that the publisher had an updated and improved version, and that this version hadn’t been uploaded properly to OBS! So yeah, this is the review of the revised edition, which clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page foreword/ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page colophon, leaving us with 53 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5); the front cover is included as a jpg, in case you were wondering.

That’s a lot of additional pages, for the booklet now comes with a LOT of original b/w-artwork

In this review, I assume familiarity with Wonder & Wickedness, and will not explain the whole system once more. I strongly suggest reading my review of Wonder & Wickedness before continuing. Why? Well, while I criticize sub-systems on their own merits and in a global context of their systems, it makes less sense to criticize an expansion for a sub-system for duplicating flaws of the base system. I rate expansions within the frame of the system in which they operate.

For Wonder & Wickedness-derived books like this, that means that will not complain about ranges and areas of effect being opaque and not clearly defined.

Okay, that out of the way, let us take a look at the new proposed variant rules/modifications for Wonder & Wickedness. The first being spontaneous sorcery, which posits that a sorcerer has 1 mana per level, optionally with Wisdom or Charisma modifier added to that pool. Mana recovers every day – which could be a bit clearer: At one time during the day, or after a rest? This may sound like nitpicking, but the results are very different in implications. This opacity has not been cleared up in the revised edition. Mana-based spellcasting lets the sorcerer cast a spell by using one mana and one round of casting. Yes, that’s full round here. Personally, I’m somewhat partial to increment-casting, so an alternate rule in that regard would have been cool. Spells requiring a sigil still take a turn. Sigils are still considered to be permanent, but each sorcerer may only have one sigil per spell.

Which brings me to sigils and magic item creation, for the book posits formulae for costs by day, or depending on the enchanter’s stats, as well as ingredients. These suggestions are per se pretty sound, and fit with the general tone Wonder & Wickedness goes for.

The book also presents rules for empowering items, which require the expenditure of a mana point or memorized spell to power. The book also posits the optional rule to allow non-sorcerers to choose one specialty and learn a single spell from it, but casting the spell for them requires an Intelligence roll – obviously, a roll-under is intended here, but spelling that out or getting some alternatives would have been nice.

There is one rule I absolutely adore herein, where the utility is obviously grand for pretty much any implementation of Wodner & Wickedness: Instead of getting directly a spell catastrophe upon overcastting, the book suggests two saving throws: The first lest you cast the spell, with you otherwise suffering your maleficence, the second to avoid a spell catastrophe, or, if playing sans them, to avoid collapsing senseless for 1d6 turns. I LOVE this rule. It’s elegant, keeps magic volatile, but decreases the frequency of the powerful catastrophes without rendering them obsolete. Huge kudos for this one! The book then proceeds to present comprehensive spell-lists, including the specialties from Wonder & Wickedness, and then presents 6 different starting packages per specialty.

What can I say, you can see some of the finest minds of the OSR-scene at work here. As a diabolist, you can start with a disguise-as-acceptable-cleric-type kit, or you could have a black goat that whispers during new moon. Or you could have a plague doctor mask vs. miasma. If you’re an elementalist, you could start off with a functional dowsing rod – or you could have 3 puppies “perfect to please curmudgeon chthonic spirits or at least placate their crotchetiness.” Here, we can see the editing by Fiona Maeve Geist at work – the book has been significantly improved in that department. Psychomancy specialists could start off with Dreamy Blue, a vision-granting cheese (probably from Stilton), or what about spiritualists with a bottle of spirits. You know, spirits. XD What’s in the bottle? Spirits.opens it Ahhhh!!! The spirits are btw. drunken. Obviously. 6 such starter packages are provided for each specialty, including the 5 new ones. A nice touch here: Each of these lists is accompanied by a nice b/w-artwork on one page, and occupies a whole page – 6 starter packages are provided per specialty, and 6 slots are left empty for the GM to fill in. This is a decision I very much welcome in the revised edition, for one must be truly creatively drained if these entries don’t spark some sort of writing impulse. Kudos!

The first of these new specialties would be Apotropaism, which is the grand defensive option: Amulet of the Open Hand lets you give an amulet to a target, who then gets a retroactive bonus to the first failed save vs. magic made. Deliver from Malison lets you break curses via questing/story-means; Heka-Mirror lets you revert maleficences and spells upon the caster, though two facing each other can have catastrophic consequences. With two seal spells allowing for the creation of barriers or entrapment of targets – and there is a Scapegoat spell that does exactly what you’d think it does. That’s not all, but it should be enough to give you an idea of why I consider this specialty to be a resounding success.

The second specialty is more conventional: Arachnomorphism is, unsurprisingly, about spider-themed tricks, which include charming spiders, assuming an Arachnid Aspect, summoning swarms and webs, or getting Venomous Fangs. This specialty is a bit boring, with two winners elevating it: Silky Spinnerets net you essentially Spiderman’s web-flinging/swinging, and Tarantella is the most pun-tastic spell I’ve seen in a why. “The caster dances frantically as though affected by the venom of the Tarantella spider.” XD As noted before, the improved editing of the revised edition really helps make the supplement more captivating.

Physiurgy is the healing specialty, and it’s interesting in several ways: In a level-less spellcasting system, differentiating between spells is hard, and many of the spells of this specialty provide different amounts of healing. Cure, for example, nets you 1d6 + 1 hits per level. Okay, level of caster, or of recipient? I assume the former, but I’m not sure. Cure also cures a diseases, provided the caster succeeds a Save or Healing check. Salvific Apport nets you balsamic, white goo that heals 3d6 hits if spread on wounds, or that can be swallowed to cure a poison. Last Oath provides AoE-healing in a short radius, but makes the caster take temporary damage for each ally affected. There even is a “return the dead to life”-spell with Death Unto Life, which is balanced by requiring two saves: Failing the first nets you 1d6 days of coma; failing the second makes you unable to cast spells for a week. Failing both kills you. Those returned are also bedridden at first, so no in-combat spamming. I like this specialty from a design-perspective – it manages to attain a surprising diversity of options with its simple chassis; differentiating meaningfully a whole slew of healing spells that have the same hierarchical place is not as easy as it sounds!

However, the best, or at least some of the best, come last here: The penultimate specialty would be Cunning Craft, which is inspired by Scottish/Celtic folklore, with Blackstaff weapons, shelters hidden in Bramble Burrows, the Seven Steeped Stones as a means to heal, make magic sling stones, or an extra save versus curses or diseases. I love the latter, but it’s a ritual that takes time, and the healing function, for example, it much worse than the tricks Physiurgy has; this could sue a power-upgrade. Since the author commented on this spell in particular: Yes, I do see the extended flexibility this one offers, and that it is sigil-based; that being said, one of its flexible uses requires a whole day of cooking, and the regular one also requires cooking in abundant milk, something that can be pretty hard to come by. I do still maintain that a slight increase in healing power here would have been salient.

I really liked the idea of the Tune of Yondkind, which detects presences and their origins, but not necessarily positions. Using a severed head of a slain target as a kind of alarm/sentry is nice, and with classics like Geas, Witchmarks securing thresholds and the like, the specialty oozes a cool, folksy old-world magic vibe.

Finally, there would be… Rope Tricks! These allow you to create a Tangle that hampers spellcasting, makes charging impossible, etc., or use Shuffle the Mortal Coil to make ropes behave as constricting serpents. If you’re lucky (5% chance), you may even get a deadly rope that requires a save or die! The spell can also be used to turn serpents into ropes, which can result in permanently-spliced-together abominations. Using a rope as a hand via Rope is Always Handy s also neat, but particularly cool would be the Cat’s Cradle tricks: These require complicated figure work from the caster and thus take time. However, once you have created the Opening form (of which there are 4), you can use the spell to change into various effects, which include opening nearby doors, setting nearby things on fire, causing low-level foes to flee, or making rope animals to ride. I love this.

With baited breath I saw the length of the revised edition, and I hoped fervently– but alas, much to my chagrin, the revised edition unfortunately also does not offer spell catastrophe write-ups for the new specialties. So yeah, if you’re like me and loved Wonder & Wickedness’ volatile shenanigans-inducing spell catastrophes, particularly in conjunction with the variant rule herein, then you’ll have to make those yourself. Which isn’t as simple as it seems at first. SO yeah, that’s the one big strike that remains in the revised edition.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting of the revised edition have improved vastly – on a formal level, this is much more refined. Layout adheres to the same no-frills, but elegant one-column b/w-standard used for Wonder & Wickedness, and the improvements made for e.g. the starter kits help render this a table-useful booklet. If you’re into unique artwork, then there’s great news – none other than Evelyn M. lent her talents to the revised edition, and it is positively decadent regarding the amount of new artworks with their neat, dream-like style. Furthermore, much to my joy, the revised edition actually has bookmarks, making navigation much smoother!

Paolo Greco has a tendency to make unique books that feel special in some way, and the additional content by Lloyd Neill, Luka Rejec and Eric Nieudan fits pretty seamlessly into the book. The revised edition gets rid of all the big formal hiccups – with bookmarks, better editing, etc., it genuinely becomes a supplement I’ll gladly recommend. I genuinely love a LOT about this book, and its rules-lite design is NOT simple.

I consider most specialties herein to be more inspiring than many from Wonder & Wickedness, and I adore their unique takes on magic. While I would have appreciated at least some fuzzy range and Area of Effect guidelines, Wonder & Wickedness lacked those, so not complaining about them here. Beyond a few instances where the rules-language could be a bit clearer, there is but a single complaint I have left as a reviewer against the revised edition: Where are the spell catastrophes? I know, I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I genuinely liked them…

Anyhow, that absence notwithstanding, Marvels & Malisons, to me personally, is actually superior to its predecessor, at least in this revised edition. As such, my final verdict for the revised edition will increase to 4.5 stars, rounded up. It should be noted that the new specialties, except one, are all seal of approval material and as a whole more novel than Wonder & Wickedness’ options, but that the spell catastrophe-lack cancelled the seal of approval this would have otherwise received.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvels & Malisons
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Wonder & Wickedness
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/25/2020 06:30:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 88 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 83 pages of content. That’s 84 with editorial; these pages are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), and my review is primarily based on the perfectbound softcover PoD-version, though I did also consult the pdf-iteration.

Now, in order to talk about this supplement properly, we need to clearly state what this is, and what it isn’t. If you’re looking for a spellcasting engine compatible with a high-complexity system such as 5e or PFRPG, then this won’t do you much good. The spellcasting system herein gets rid of spell levels, which makes all spells suitable for all magic-using characters; for the purpose of this supplement, such beings are referred to as “sorcerers.”

The engine presented herein is not adhering to any given system, but it works best for low- or rare-magic games and ends up on the rules-lite side of things. One of the major changes this brings to the game, is that it reduces the power-escalation that magic-users have been experiencing since the hobby began; in short, sorcerers using this system do not escalate their power in the same way, which makes this a surprisingly valid alternative for games/settings such as Dark Albion, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, etc. regarding sheer power.

The rules are simple: Sorcerers begin play with 3 spells; new spells must be discovered, and an Intelligence check or similar roll is required to learn a new spell; on a failure, the spell can never be learned by the respective sorcerer, which has an old-school-ish result of diversifying spell-lists. Each sorcerer can prepare one spell per class level. So, a 4th level character could prepare 4 spells; a 7th level character could prepare 7. These spells are wiped after being cast, in the traditional vancian manner. Unless otherwise noted, a spell has a duration of class level times exploration turns; an exploration turn is equal to 10 minutes.

Specialist sorcerers have a couple of benefits: They may always choose to roll on the table of their specialty instead, and must never make Intelligence checks to learn their specialty’s spells, and all spells of the chosen specialty gain an additional exploration turn duration. However, specialists must choose one specialty of magic, and may never cast spells from it or learn its spells.

Some spells make use of sigils, which are magically-inscribed runes that are clearly visible and act as a signature of sorts. A sorcerer may only ever have one sigil of a given type (for one type of spell) active at a given time, and inscribing a sigil takes an exploration turn (10 minutes); creating a new sigil associated with a spell eliminates a previously created sigil of the respective type. This means that sorcerers can create persistent effects, but it takes time, and the engine prevents spamming the same sigil over and over.

The system has two components I really like: The first is that it makes magical duels possible: Any prepared spell may be expended to protect one person per sorcerer level from the effects of one spell. This decision must be made before damage or saving throw dice are rolled. Additionally, any prepared spell may be expended to generate Maleficence. Each sorcerer’s maleficence is unique and is determined at character creation. Maleficence targets all creatures in melee range, or a single target – it deals two dice of damage (d6s, which the pdf should spell out; it’s obvious from context, though), with a saving throw for half damage. If both damage dice come up as 6s, you get to roll another die and add it to the total, continuing to do so as long as 6s are rolled.

The result of these two rules is simple: You have a pretty reliable defense option against magic, and you have a pretty reliable offense option with the flavor that you wanted for your character. Both are not overbearing, but certainly add to the magic system operating tighter than it should as a system agnostic rulebook.

The book knows 7 specialties, each of which comes with 8 spells: Diabolism lets you bind creatures, erect the classic circles of protection, seal covenants or conjure forth the miasma f hell, to note a few. The latter is a good example of one of the spells that could have benefitted from being a tad bit more precise, as it does not specify the area of effect or range – which is the one thing that consistently irks me about this book. The system never specifies a default range, which is curious, since some effects do mention ranges. This also extends to spells useful in battle, such as Elementalism’s pyrokinesis or the trapped lightning. Said specialty lets you btw. also call forth a tumult of air elementals via chariot of air, which let the sorcerer fly, but drown communication in a cacophonous roar. Opening mouths in the earth (ostensibly the mouths of an elder earth deity) or control the weather.

An odd inconsistency of the book is also that it sometimes spells out that it uses d6s for damage in some spells, while others, like Necromancy’s death ray, deal “three dice of damage” if the target makes their save; aforementioned, very powerful battle spell is btw. balanced by a 1-in-6-chance that a creature slain with it will either later or immediately rise to haunt you. Similarly, animating the dead via lich-craft is risky – it may net you permanent minions, have them simply return to the land of the dead, dissolve…or turn upon you. Necromancers can also transfer youth or vigor via life channel. Much to my chagrin, the spell does nowhere specify that the target needs to have a certain minimum intelligence, so yes, hand me my bag of kittens to drain…

Psychomancy is the specialty that includes enchantment classics like dominate, but also a spell to e.g. decipher an encrypted message or put people to sleep with dust of the sandman. Spiritualism includes ethereal barriers that block magics, use other persons as relays for magic, or open plasmic locks of secured objects, with some sample keys suggested, ranging from the sacrifice of a sinner to a debt to an angelic being, a severed finger, or a song. Translocation is the specialty that includes options to fold space, make targets a living gate (painful for target…), travel the dangerous mirror road, or recall teleport to a previous sigil. Vivimancy, finally, lets you incite bloodlust, using genoplasm to mutate matter and make it collapse (and potentially spawn…things), and it is also here that we can find the system’s variant of haste , the quickening, which does carry the risk of falling unconscious due to the stress it imposes on the system.

Now, you may have noted that, with the base system offering simple offense and defense options, these spells tend to gravitate towards being both specific and feeling very much in line with magic we know from various pieces of non-gaming literature; in many ways, the magic presented here feels magical and volatile. This notion is further enhanced by the presence of spell catastrophes. When non-sorcerers cast, when you’re damaged, when casting beyond normal spell allotment – depending on what you decide, there’ll be a spell catastrophe, with 12 entries presented per specialty, for a total of 84 spell catastrophe entries. These are listed by specialty, but also note a number ascending from 1 to 84, so if you want to roll on a large table instead, you can roll a d% and disregard anything above 84/reroll...or, if you’re sadistic, roll twice.

Now, what makes a good spell catastrophe table? Well, first of all, there should be an impact – a spell mishap should not be something you just shrug off. Unfortunately, plenty of supplements fall off the other side of the band wagon, instead being overly punitive. A good spell mishap is, to borrow Zzarchov Kowolski’s term, a “shenanigans generator”, and not a “lol, you die, so random”-BS. Because that’s an end, and not a chance to roleplay. It is my ardent pleasure to report that the spell catastrophes in this book firmly gravitate to the high-impact roleplaying conductive side of things. So, your diabolism spell failed? Well, what about ALL your associates growing horns? That town cleric and paladin will not be amused…What about being seen as horrifying by those with second sight? Being haunted by plasmic spirits? Now, I did mention that I consider these spells best suited for games with an intrinsic distrust for magic-users, and there are plenty of high-impact reasons in this supplement. What about a botched cast animating all shadows in a nearby settlement, which proceed to try to kill everything? This may not end a campaign, but it certainly puts a serious spin on things…There also are spell catastrophes that make you forevermore require regular rooting, as your limbs require tree-like sustenance. Yep, that would be from the vivimancy mishaps.

So yeah, the spellcasting part of the booklet works imho best for old-school systems that champion a volatile magic that feels occult and forbidden; in many ways, I think this book magics for a better LotFP-spellcasting engine than the default. Similarly, if The Hateful Place’s spellcasting is too overkill for you, this might do the trick.

The second part of the book deals with magic treasures – a total of 50 items are included. These do not come with suggested gp-values, item scarcity or the like – they live solely on the strength of their concepts. To give you a few examples: The Armor of Grogaxus leaves footprints of moist sludge wherever they tread, and ride waves of earth or animate pillars of earth to attack targets; however, a spirit is bound within, and whenever the elemental powers are used, there is a 1-in-20 chance it will be released… The ardent reader may have surmised here that there is no range given for the attack, nor for the speed-increase granted by the wave of earth. Coins of bewitching make those that take them subject to one command from the one paying with them. What about a crown that may erase you from existence? There is a cymbal of names that usually remains silent – but if a name is said and it struck, it sounds if the target is within 100 paces. There is a ridiculously tall hat that renders you invisible if you remain motionless for a long time; what about a cat statuette that can transfix targets? A strange armor with insectoid plumes and feelers that can make inexact dreamstuff duplicates of items. What about a feylight lantern that not just illuminates the vicinity, but which also renders armor weightless?

The goblin-birthing knife lets you slice open the belly of a slain human-type creature (the item prevents the kitten-exploit!) to birth a goblin with a favorable disposition. The meteor lure is placed in the ground, and after a day, makes a meteorite crush everything in the size of a large house. What about a dark mace that can permanently transform you into an orc? The Mizuthian battle-shroud revives one of the fallen, but taints them with dark magic – on a second death, the target becomes a crazed wraith…There are also tablets, which, when placed against a door and shattered, will shatter the door as the tablet does. What about a net that transfixes a target in time?

Yeah, as you can see, these items tend to gravitate to the potent, but dangerous side of things, fitting in rather well with the remainder of the book. The supplement ends with an alphabetic spell index.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are per se very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the book system-immanently suffers somewhat from being system-agnostic; I don’t mind that. I do, however, mind that it’s at times slightly inconsistent, and the lack of suggested standards of guidance regarding areas of effect and ranges of spells is neither required for a system-agnostic rules-lite spellcasting engine, nor appreciated. So yeah, this will need a bit more work than e.g. the rulings that enhance e.g. the more charming aspects of B/X. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard without much frills, with pretty large letters and massive headers – this book could have been much shorter in theory. The interior b/w-artworks by Russ Nicholson deserve special mention: Detailed, unique and inspiring, they really elevated this booklet for me. The pdf-version of the supplement comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The perfectbound softcover sports its name on the spine, which is certainly appreciated. It should be noted that my copy’s cover is not exactly black, but rather dark-grey.

B. Strejcek’s “Wonder & Wickedness” honestly took time to grow on me. At first, I was frankly disappointed by being left alone regarding intended ranges and areas of effect; and yes, a good designer can certainly quickly and painlessly extrapolate those, but they really shouldn’t have to. That being said, once I got over that aspect of the book being not as detailed as I’d have liked to see, the book did grow on me. It manages to make many classic concepts feel fresh, and it breathes that ephemeral, hard to capture notion of magic being both volatile and seductive. I particularly consider it to be a perfect fit for games like LotFP, especially if you want magic to have an impact without destroying your campaign. The system presented here is high impact enough to allow for tactical depth and result in sorcerers being feared and ostracized – but it does not go so far as to make it a bad proposition for groups to bring sorcerers with them.

As such, while this does require some work on parts of the referee/GM, it can be a godsend for specific campaigns and playstyles. If that does not sound interesting, or if you’re looking for a replacement system for your high/standard fantasy campaign, then this is not what you want; if you’re looking for a volatile, occult-feeling system that doesn’t constantly derail your game, then this delivers. The closest analogue, perhaps, would be a simpler DCC-engine: And it GENUINELY is simpler: It has a simple base engine, is easy to parse, and gets successfully rid of the spell-block. So some people will love it for that.

How to rate this, then? Well, ultimately, I think it does very well what it tries to do, leaving me only with complains regarding minor inconsistencies in presentation, and the lack of range/Area of Effect complaints, both instances that simply were not required by the system to operate. These are what ultimately costs this my seal of approval (which it could have easily attained) and half a star, but I can’t bring myself to rounding down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars – I got too many genuinely great ideas out of this booklet.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wonder & Wickedness
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Genial Jack - issue I
by S.A. S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/15/2019 00:58:57

This ended up being a lot more than I expected. The art is fantstic. The layout is professional. The writing is competent, but more importantly gives you just enough to get a sense of the city to run a functional campaign while not so detailed as to make it difficult for you to add your own creative elements. I was especially impressed by the new races, all of which fit in with the nautical theme and - more impressively - all of which are given their own role to play in the functioning of the city. The amount of content here for the price is truly impressive: a true bargain.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Genial Jack - issue I
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Genial Jack - issue I
by Robert S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/11/2019 22:53:03

I'm not sure I'll actually ever use the book, it's a little gonzo for my vanilla tastes, but just reading it gets my creative juices flowing, and I love the art, I LOVE THE ART, and I'll be buying Issue 2 as soon as it is available.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
by ypikaye y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/08/2019 03:29:22

Tout simplement excellent ! Les meilleurs concepts des hacks sont rassemblés dans Macchiato Monsters, parfaitement ajustés et bonifiés. Un création de perso ouverte mais cadrée avec des choix forts et la logique de trait permettant tous les styles, combats rapides, l'usage d'un dé de risque (ou d'usure) poussé au max et un bon nombre de tables aléatoires bien pensées. La souplesse et la facilité de prise en main de l'ensemble m'a charmé immédiatement. Le hack "Café Noir" démontre tout le potentiel créatif de MM. Pour le prix c'est un carton plein. Bravo M. Nieudan !



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
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Wonder & Wickedness
by Maria A. S. C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/06/2019 12:00:33

This is just a nearly systemless list of spells, not worth 10$ especially if you already own any book of spells for any game. All the effort to integrate it in your game is yours to make, so I feel it is nearly worthless.



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
Wonder & Wickedness
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Creator Reply:
Hi! I'm sorry you are disappointed. Can I help you with the integration? If you tell me which system you want to integrate it with we can probably help.
Macchiato Monsters
by Michael D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/16/2019 07:46:45

I bought this on a whim and read through this several times. I really like how simple and flexible the system is. Converting monsters from D&D has proven remarkably easy (and entertaining!) using the 50 Shades of Macchiato Monsters given in the book. I am excited to be running my first adventure with this cool little system tonight!

I would like to to comment on the name - "Macchiato Monsters". I get the cuteness of the story behind the name, but it's taken me weeks to convince my players to take the system seriously enough to even try a session. The name just doesn't inspire respect and this game system deserves more.

Regardless, I anticipate a fun evening of exploration - perhaps many more!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
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Macchiato Monsters
by John D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/01/2019 10:54:57

In many ways, Macchiato Monsters is a periodic table of RPG elements brewed together with a single-minded dedication to randomness infusing the game. You’re going to be rolling a lot of dice. For everything. For the right group that’s going to be a lot of fun.

I would argue that it doesn’t improve on the White or Black Hack or feel as innovative as either of those games, but by taking their best elements and cranking them it carves out a space for itself. If you love usage dice, random tables, and improvisational gaming and co-creation, you’re going to dig it. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you shouldn’t take it too seriously either. As an experiment, it’s really interesting and has a marvelous energy. Worth the cost of a latte.

My full review here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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