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Maniac Character Class
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/12/2020 10:59:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This class clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The maniac class gets d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, ½ BAB-progression and good Will-saves, as well as proficiency with simple weapons. Armor hampers the maniac’s spellcasting, which draws spells from the sorcerer/wizard list, using Charisma as governing spellcasting ability score, using that ability score instead of Wisdom or Intelligence for the purpose of e.g. telekinesis. The spellcasting is spontaneous, and unlocks the whole array of spells, up to 9th spell level. We begin play with 3 spells per day at 1st level, and that scales up to 6 per day for all spell levels except 9th. Maniacs can sacrifice unused spell slots (excluding 0-level spell slots) for emotive blasts as a standard action – these are handled as melee touch attacks, or as ranged touch attacks with a range of 30 feet, and inflict 1d6 nonlethal damage per spell level, explicitly bypassing DR. The effect is psychic, and can’t affect creatures immune to mind-affecting effects. Aesthetic issue here: The ability RAW should specify that only maniac spell slots can thus be converted. At 11th level, the base damage die of these blasts increases to 1d8, and the blast may deal lethal damage (should be typed, imho).

While the maniac is raving, the emotive blast adds Charisma modifier to damage, and the target must succeed on a Will save (DC 10 +1/2 class level + Charisma modifier) to avoid being subjected to an emotional drawback. At 10th and 20th level, the duration of this drawback increases by 1 round each, and the target gets the maniac’s emotion aura.

At 1st level, the maniac chooses a mania, with save DCs if applicable being the 10+1/2 class level + Charisma modifier formula; each mania has an emotion aura and a quirk – the quirk is always in effect, and each mania is associated with an array of bonus spells, which are added to the spells known list, but only while raving; in that state, the character also gets the mania powers and drawbacks. So, what is this raving bit about? Well, for up to 4 +Wisdom modifier rounds per day, +2 per class level attained, the maniac can enter a kind of magic rage. Temporary increases of Wisdom do not count for these purposes, and entering a raving state is a free action. While in this state, the maniac is treated as having Eschew Materials and casts spells as a psychic spellcaster, using emotion and thought components.

This explicitly does not prevent the casting of maniac spells due to emotion components, but can prevent casting spells from other classes. After ending a rave, the maniac can’t re-enter one for 1 minute, preventing cycling-abuses, and the character is shaken AND casting spells requires concentration (DC 15 + double spell level); I’d have liked a note on how this interacts with casting defensively. Calm emotions and analogue effects, as well as unconsciousness end the rave.

While in this state, as noted, the emotive blast carries the drawback as well – in the instance of e.g. the anger mania, that’d be an inability to use Charisma, Dexterity or Intelligence-based skills or any ability that requires patience of concentration. Manias also net you mania powers at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level. To give you an idea of what these do, let’s continue looking at the anger mania: At 1st level, when a target makes their save against your spell, you may, as an immediate action, declare the target to be the source of your anger. The next spell you cast before the end of your next turn is Empower Spell’d sans casting time increase, but only with regards to this target. Okay, how does this interact with AoE-spells? Why does this still RAW sport the spell-level increase? At 5th level, we have a reroll for one Will-save per rave; at 9th level, full damage to objects with blasts, including ignoring some hardness; 13th level net a minor rage aura, and 17thlevel the means to immediate action reroll CL-checks to overcome SR.

Beyond anger, we have boredom, compassion, confusion, courage, curiosity, desire, disgust, envy, fear, grief, hatred, joy, love, pain, pride, regret, surprise and tranquility as manias. Tranquility nets you a focus that you can expend (somewhat akin to psionics); surprise has the means to enter random manias; regret lets you redirect your spells, contingent actions etc. Pride can net you reduce gazes…you get the idea. As a whole, I was positively surprised by the manias featured herein. Considering that they essentially represent linear ability suites, they offer a surprising amount of diverging playstyles and character diversification. Few maniacs will feel like each other.

This becomes particularly interesting, since 3rd level offers the invoke mania ability, which lets the character rave with another mania; the choice must be made at the start of the day while gaining spells, but in those secondary manias, the character is treated as two class levels lower.

The class also features the telempathy ability at 2nd level, which lets them convey simple emotions in 30 ft., as well as granting +1/2 class level as a competence bonus to Bluff. 7th level nets at-will analyze aura, which, at 15th level applies benefits to all targets in a 60-foot cone. At 9th level, we get the emotive shield, which lets the maniac sacrifice spell slots as an immediate action to get a deflection bonus to AC equal to the sacrificed spell level, as well as a morale bonus to Will-saves of this amount. At 19th level, this extends to all allies within 10 ft., and nets a 15% miss chance versus ranged attacks, +5% per level of the spell sacrificed. The capstone ability nets indefinite raving with the primary mania, and +2 to Charisma while raving.

The class comes with two supplemental feats: Auratic Synergy penalizes creatures with the same emotion aura as you; Emotive Spell (Metamagic) can be applied to spells dealing the four core energy types, converting half of it into untyped psychic damage. Favored class options for the core races are provided – no issues with these. The pdf also features 5 archetypes, with the first being the Affector, who loses the flexibility of invoke mania, with the 3rd level ability to make the emotive blasts deal splash damage; at 5th level, we have the means to use them as cones, and 9th level allows for the use of one metamagic feat from a list. 13th level lets you rebound blasts, and 17th level lets them use metamagic feats with mania bonus spells with the normal casting time. 5th and 15th level net a bonus feat. Solid engine tweak.

The fractured soul is genuinely cool. These fellows have multiple personalities, which emerge in raves, potentially remaining in control after raves; while this does include some permanent penalties, it delimits the mania choice, which is VERY powerful and should, at least re bonus spells, have some limits. Instead of the analyze aura ability, we have the means to shake off enchantments and possessions. Okay, what about the upgrade of the ability? It RAW does nothing for the archetype. Furies get claws that are enhanced, a kind of rage and ivy gowns – I Like this re themes, but for a ½ BAB and d6 HD, this archetype is a BAD idea; without more staying power, this begs for death. The Korybant is a divine-themed brad-crossover, with limited performances instead of invoke mania. Finally, the temperamentalist is humor-themed and locked into one of the humor-related manias, with blast energy changed to associated energy types. I like the theme per se, but the execution could have used more to set it apart.

The pdf closes with 3 new magic items: Bassaris of heightened frenzy help unlocking mania powers slightly sooner; the kantharos of renewed ecstasy can at-will fill with wine, and 1/day enter a rave immediately. Maenad’s Thyros is a +1 club that 1/round channel the emotive blast through the weapon and enhance them.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are, for the most part, very good on both a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to Zenith games’ printer-friendly b/w-standard, with nice b/w-artworks, some of which I hadn’t seen before – nice! Annoyingly, the pdf comes without bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

This is the first design I’ve read by Gabriel Almer, and I was pretty positively surprised by it – perhaps it’s due to Jeff Gomez’ development, but as a whole? As a whole, this is a valid, interesting class that does a surprising amount of different things. Now, the class does have a few minor snafus in small components, yes. And yes, I am no fan of the untyped damage, but the psychic angle doe prevent undue abuse for the most part. While I wished it emphasized its maenad/bacchanalian angle more, this can be considered to be a success, particularly for a freshman offering – I can point towards several authors who did not attain this level of precision after several attempts. My most pronounced issue with the class is that it could do more with its sub-engines, and that some options are a bit trap-like, but yeah…then there’s the price point. This costs a grand total of a single buck. That’s insane, and the class is certainly worth picking up for the low price. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out,



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Maniac Character Class
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101 Cursed Items
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/01/2019 08:46:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so, the pdf begins with cursed item rules: Spellcraft 15 + item’s CL after identify et al. to note an item’s base properties, with DC 25 + item’s level denoting the cursed properties. Discarding cursed items is not automatic after remove curse, as the pdf specifies once more, but the pdf also specifies that this spell does not de-curse an item…obvious, but still handy. Intentionally and accidentally crafting cursed items is covered, and the pdf touches upon selling cursed items and where to buy them. The pdf, after this handy recap, presents optional cursed item rules, starting with automatic identification, carefully hidden curses and more complex curse removal scenarios. Degrading magic and particularly resilient cursed items are also touched upon. Nice array of options here.

Okay, so, what kind of curses do we get? We begin with the amulet of chatty fists, which makes the wearer’s hands sentient, obnoxious and chatty…and item whose curse can range from hilarious and kinda welcome to plain funny or gratingly obnoxious, focusing on the roleplaying aspect – something I genuinely liked seeing. Boastful sniper goggles are clearly worn by plenty of anime characters, for the wearer executing sneak attacks is compelled to boost about them. There are figurines of wondrous power that are berserk when activated, and figurines that work properly, but have a chance to turn the user into a figurine for the duration.

On the more mechanical note, the amulet of cumbersome flesh makes sense, as it does act like an amulet of natural armor, but also greatly increases armor check penalty. Boots of endless levitation make you levitate up to 2000 feet…and there are boots that levitate you upside down as well. What about a bracelet of friends that is missing an “r”, thus conjuring fiendish doppelgangers, while delaying the arrival of the target? Or what about a resilient ore that instead increases fire damage and makes the wearer vulnerable to fire? On the plus side, the latter item actually helps against the cold… The ring of delayed shielding stores an ammunition in an extradimensional place, delaying being hit by a blast from it. Clever: The damage is converted to force, preventing abuse. This has tactical value, narrative potential – love it!

The backhand of glory had me laugh out loud, as it essentially pimp-slaps the user (properly codified re damage type etc., mind you) for using some abilities. The robe of useless items also had me seriously chuckle. What about the bag of rabid animals, which does exactly what you’d expect it to? Or the cloak that makes you do a victory dance when you successfully save against an effect (no save)? The ring of the spell store infests the casting of the wearer in-game with microtransactions, demanding to be paid. Another favorite of mine: The rope of motivational climbing, which sets itself ablaze like a fuse, requiring quick climbing. Also explodes at the top. Genius! The shoes of the hurried firewalker similarly made me laugh – they do pretty much what you’d expect them to.

There are also items that are just nasty – like a cursed campfire bead that actually only generates an illusion of fire. Know that dream, where you fall to your death, only to awaken right before hitting the ground? The cape of the waking nightmare twists the sequence, teleporting you up when waking up or attempting to use its effects. Ouch. Or the cloak that baleful polymorphs you into a Fine spider? Some goth ladies I know obviously suffer from the corset of wiry witchcraft, which inexplicably snags on nearby things, making movement more difficult. What about the cursed vest that shrivels your eyes when attempting to use the deadeye deed? Sandals that may cause you to bond with trees akin to dryads? There is a belt that transforms head and torso (and only those) into that of a fish – hope that some water’s around (and this one can make for a really clever investigation angle…). What about horseshoes that transform creatures into tikbalang-like creatures?

The pdf also provides a variety of magical goggles that could dazzle you, cause near-sightedness, and what about a helm that makes you comprehend only one language. Helms and boots of sloppy teleportation are pretty much classics form the get-go, and what about an unreliable handy haversack? But there are also items that can arguably be rather potent when handled properly: Provided you can withstand the effects, the cursed horn of befouled air, a horn of fog variant that produces cloudkill centered on the user, can be rather cool. Rings of both-eye blinking are also clever – they do teleport the wearer, already…but they also force their eyes shut for a minute! Rods of maximum security send targets to a hellish prison, and the rod of wander actually may be better than the item it mimics, as it gets you away in a reliable manner…but sans control of where…

On the twisted side, what about a robe that steals your face, making you featureless (and very creepy) and blind/deaf/incapable of smelling unless wearing the robe? What about boots that let you cling to undersides of horizontal surfaces, but, alas, which get stuck? Super sticky finger gloves, or a chime that opens a portal to a detrimental room? Need an item that will result in a ton of raunchy heckling at the table? The wand of dribbling fireballs has the fireball dribble out, detonating in the user’s space. XD

The pdf does not stop there, though – beyond all these specific items, we also have a selection of 21 common curses and drawback qualities that can reduce item prices. These range from the standards to baleful advertisement curses! EEEEEWWWWW. Did I mention that I really like this book??

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level – better than usual for Zenith Games, in fact. Layout adheres to Zenith Games’ no-frills two-column b/w-standard with red headers, and the pdf employs public domain and stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is an unnecessary comfort-wise downside of an otherwise great book.

Jeff Gomez and Charles Kulick, with contributions by Kate Baker, Nik Geier, Kiel Howell, Matt Oatman, Andrew Ready and Maria Smolina, deliver a grand pdf. In fact, this is easily my favorite Zenith Games-book from all the ones I’ve covered so far. The cursed items herein are consistently cool: They are mechanically relevant without being bland; they often are clever, witty, and even funny. You know, in the way that’ll have your players laugh and say “Well played!” while their characters suffer. It’s not just fn and games, though – there also are plenty of different options that feature themes you’d associate with fairy tales, and there are a lot of cursed items herein that your players might actually want to keep around for some trickery. In short, this book is a resounding success with an excellent bang to buck ratio. Usually, the lack of bookmarks would strip the pdf of my highest accolades, but this one is simply too fun, too captivating, to penalize. 5 stars + seal of approval, highly recommended!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Cursed Items
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Superhero Classes: Superhuman, Animalman and Telepath
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2019 11:38:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The first class would be the superman, who gets d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 4 + Int skills per level, and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, but not with shields. (Captain America’s weeping…) First level nets resistance 1 versus acid, cold, electricity, fire and sonic resistance, which increases by 1 at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. The superhuman also may exist in temperatures from -50 to +140°F (-45 to 60°C) sans having to make Fort-saves. The superhuman loses this ability when wearing medium or heavy armor. 1st level also nets DR 1/- that increases at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter by 1. Once more, no armor synergy. The class begins play with Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat, and may execute attacks with this feat even with hands full and treat them as two-handed weapons. There is a damage-increase table that takes Small, Medium and Large characters into account. 10th and 20th level increase critical multiplier of these attacks by 1. 3rd level increases the Strength score for carrying capacity purposes by +4, which increases by a further +4 at 8th, 12th and 17th level.

At third level and every odd level thereafter, the superhuman gains an ability score improvement: +2 Strength at 3rd level, then +2 Dexterity at 5th, then +2 Constitution at 7th, and then, the whole sequence starts again, for a net gain of additional +6 Str, Dex and Con over the course of the 20 levels of progression – from this ability. The capstone further increases all 3 scores by +2, for a total gain of +8 to all physical ability scores over the course of the class progression. There is a bit of customization for the class: Starting at second level, we choose a superpower, and we gain an additional one every even level thereafter. These include three that further increase the physical ability scores. The abilities that can be taken here include low-range blindsight that slightly increases at 13th and 19th level, infinite use energy blasts (1d6, +1d6 for every 3 levels beyond 2nd, + ½ Constitution modifier) damage with a range of 30 feet, a bonus to Acrobatics that becomes slow flight at higher levels, a bonus to CMB and CMD based on size difference (Yay?), fast healing, or being able to work with less sleep, sans food and water, etc. We also get darkvision, increased speed, and a no-cooldown AoE 30 ft.-cone bull rush using Constitution instead of Strength. Limited teleportation, swimming, rock throwing, you get the idea.

Here’s the thing: None of these abilities are interesting or distinct. You can have all of them in more interesting iterations, gain pretty much all of them via magic items, etc. They translate classic superhero stunts, sure…but said stunts often are more interesting in the respective iterations provided by other classes. The superhuman’s blast gets boring very fast when compared to the kineticist, for example. So yeah, while not per se bad in the traditional sense, this is no class I’d ever play.

The second class within is the animalman, who has d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, 6 + Int skills per level, goof Fort- and Ref-saves, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armors and shields, excluding tower shields, and uses the same paradigm of physical ability score increases starting at 3rd level, including, which is rather lame, the same capstone. The class also gets the same superstrike unarmed strike progression as the superhuman. The class gets +1/2 class level to Perception and scent, and at 2nd level may roll initiative twice, taking the better result. 7th level allows for acting in the surprise round, and 11th level allows for rolling initiative thrice, taking one of the results. At 7th level, the class gets dominate monster, using class level as CL, for a duration of up to class level rounds. The ability may only target animals within the class’ portfolio and the saving throw DC is governed by Charisma. Nice catch: takes mindless targets into account. The animalman can speak with animals from his portfolio, which is governed by the animal aspect chosen at first level. The pdf includes 14 such aspects, which behave in many ways like bloodlines or orders, in that they provide a linear ability progression, granting abilities at 1st, 6th, 10th, 14th, 18th and 20th level.

These aspects range in utility and uniqueness rather drastically. Ant, for example, is interesting in that it takes the size modifier and special size modifier engine and tweaks it, with handy tables to supplement the changes. Bat nets you a couple of skills, Shatter Defenses and faster Intimidation. If you want play Batman, Interjection Games’ Gadgeteer and e.g. the Scholar by Drop Dead Studios do a much better job – just sayin’. Beast (which includes canines, felines, etc.) nets natural attacks (doesn’t specify the type of natural attack) and the capstone nets 1.5 times the Strength bonus to them. Which is USELESS, considering the damage progression of superstrike. Fish nets you +2 to atk and AC, and +2 to all saves while fully submerged, an aquatic companion at 10th level that may fly later, and the swim superpower at 1st level alongside trident and net proficiency. The capstone nets you regeneration 3 that’s bypassed by fire while submerged. That’s the entirety of the benefits granted. Lame? Yep. The archetype does come with an archetype that replaces the superpowers at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter and the capstone with a second aspect gained at 4th level, with the ability progression for these delayed by 2 levels. Pretty much all shifter classes, from the one by Everyman Gaming to the one by Legendary Games (and the awesome skinchanger) to the Interjection Games class to even Paizo’s subpar shifter are more interesting. If you want a superhero style class sans shifting that is a master of animals, then Purple Duck Games’ Animal Lords are superior.

Finally, there would be the telepath, who gains d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, ½ BAB-progression, good Will-saves and an ability score progression that instead grants bonuses to Wisdom, Charisma and Intelligence in sequence. The capstone instead nets +2 to all of them. Telepaths are proficient with simple weapons and light armors. Telepaths are full psychic spellcasters that5 may learn any spell from the wizard, cleric or psychic list, provided they are divination, enchantment or illusion, using the lowest spell level if a spell is available on multiple spell lists. The telepath is a spontaneous spellcaster, using Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute. 2nd level nets mental armor, which translates to +Wisdom bonus to AC as an armor bonus, which increases to 1.5 times Wisdom bonus at 9th level. The class begins play with at-will mage hand and telepathic strike: This is a ranged attack with a 30 ft. range-increment, using class level and Intelligence modifier to calculate attack bonus. This gains the benefits of haste, feats that enhance ranged combat, and the strike is mental and requires no free hands. It doesn’t qualify for TWFing and sniping penalties are noted. The strike deals 1d4 + Intelligence modifier damage and increases base damage die size at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, with 8th level also providing 1.5 times Intelligence modifier to damage, which RAW vanishes in subsequent damage die increases. D10s switch over to 2d6s and then, 2d8s. The ability fails to specify its damage type.

At 2nd level, the telepath may meditate for one minute to gain class level temporary hit points, usable up to Wisdom modifier times per day. Also at 2nd level, we have the option to use combat maneuvers with “telekinetic strikes” – which the class doesn’t have. The ability is called “Telepathic Strike” – though telekinetic strike would make more sense. 6th level nets detect thoughts at will, though creatures that saved versus it are immune for 24 levels. 4th level nets the first cool ability here, the option to move items and critters with sustained force, with the save to resist being governed by Intelligence modifier. Higher levels provide the option to manipulate larger items. 10th level nets telepathy, and 6th level the option to hurl targets, with the maximum size increasing at higher levels.

The telepath would be interesting were it not for the fact that Ultimate Psionics or The Telekinetic’s Handbook, to name just two, do a vastly superior and more interesting job at the subject matter.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good on a rules-language level, certainly better than the other early Zenith Games undead paragon classes, for example. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with colored headers, and the pdf uses b/w-public domain artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Jeff Gomez’ superhero classes would have been okay when the system was young; don’t get me wrong, they still would have been linear and internally uneven regarding the powerlevels of options noted; they still would have lacked supplemental feats, favored class options and meaningful archetypes.

But nowadays? Nowadays, we have a metric ton of archetypes, classes and options that do literally everything in the pdf, just better. In a more interesting manner. For each of the three classes, I could provide a list of its own of options that do everything herein, just better. In a more versatile, unique and cooler manner. The one reason to get this pdf, probably, would be the low price point, and the fact that the classes are comparably simple. Then again, they’re not so simple as to make them perfect beginner’s classes either, and lack the supplemental material you’d require. As a whole, this may not be bad, but it is woefully outclassed by pretty much all of its peers. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Superhero Classes: Superhuman, Animalman and Telepath
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Paragon Hags and Occult Covens
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/27/2019 08:25:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at a hefty 28 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, let us do this from the ground up: The pdf starts off with a summary of coven-benefits: If at least two coven members participate in the same occult ritual, they get +2 to all skill checks, saves and concentration checks for the ritual; when casting spells on another coven member, CL is two higher, but multi-target spells only gain target number increases by CL if all targets are members of the coven – great catch! The pdf sports a variety of coven related feats: Coven training is the “tax”-feat that enables you to form/join covens. Bones of the Coven nets you temporary hit points equal to the spell-level of harmless spells cast by coven-mates that target you. Claws of the Coven nets you +1d6 bonus melee damage (non-multiplied on crits) when a coven-mate has damaged the target in the same round. Personally, I think this should specify the type as precision or as being the weapon’s damage type, but that’s me nitpicking. Coven Casting lets you sacrifice a spell as a standard action, granting a coven mate a bonus to concentration and to penetrate SR equal to the spell’s level. If they cast the spell you sacrificed, they add your CL to their own for determining its effects – which can be MEGA-STRONG, considering that some (arguably sloppy) spells lack a cap, but that’s not necessarily the feat’s fault. Still, not happy with that, particularly considering that this has no range and RAW doesn’t require line of sight or effect to pull off. Coven’s Curse builds on that and adds the bonus to Curse DCs as well, which can be brutal – but since it is niche and fits the theme, I’m, good with it. Coven Rites nets your Charisma bonus as a morale bonus to occult ritual skill checks if all members are part of your coven. Coven’s Focus lets you apply touch range spells to any member of the coven currently touching their bonded object, familiar or soul focus item. Sight of the Coven lets you concentrate to see through bonded objects, familiars, etc. Wisdom of the Coven improves aid another for Knowledge checks made to assist the coven. Word of the Coven is a teamwork feat lets the coven members bluff better, requiring two rolls of Sense Motive (worse result) to discern deceptions, and the feat allows for the potential fooling of magic as well. Nice!

All in all, these are flavorful and don’t sport serious issues, so that out of the way, let’s take a look at the hag race presented herein: The hag is a Medium monstrous humanoid with darkvision 60 ft. and gain +2 to Strength and Charisma, as well as a +2 racial bonus to Perception and Sense Motive. They also start play with the Coven Training feat, qualifying as eligible participants, and they are functionally immortal – they never die of old age. No favored class options are included.

The pdf also contains the paragon hag base class, which sports d8 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, good Fort- and Will-saves, 3/4 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, and armor interferes with their casting ability. They have a 6-level spellcasting progression, and cast spontaneously, drawing their spells from the witch list and using Charisma as governing spellcasting ability. As such, they also gain cantrips and begin play furthermore with a claw attack that starts at 1d6 and increases to 2d10 over the course of the class progression, with 2nd level making the claws magical, 6th silver. At 10th level, they get a threat-range upgrade to 19-20, at 18th level to 18-20. These explicitly stack with keen, which I am, no surprise, not keen on. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I’ll put a dime in the bad pun jar. Starting at 14th level, the claws are treated as ghost touch. The paragon hag class is open to all races, but for the purpose of abilities etc., the members of the class are treated as hags. Minor nitpick: It’d have been prudent to state how this works when being treated as the actual race would be detrimental and being treated as a hag as positive by the same effect.

The paragon hag sports a so-called occult coven – up to her Charisma modifier targets may be part of the coven in addition to any additional targets qualifying via e.g. Coven training. Problem: The ability fails to specify whether it’s an action to make a member join – the paragon hag can freely dismiss coven members, but introducing them is not covered. When a paragon hag’s coven member fails a skill check as part on an occult ritual, the paragon hag may spend a soul point to allow the creature to reroll the check; the target must use the reroll’s result. Once more, there is no action on part of the paragon hag noted.

What’s a soul point? Well, at 1st level, the class gains a soul object. This acts as a kind of bonded object, and it holds a number of soul points equal to the paragon hag’s Charisma modifier. These replenish when preparing spells, or depending on the hag family chosen. 1/day, the paragon hag may spend spell level soul points to cast a spell via soul points instead of expending the spellslot. This may be used an additional time at 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter. At 7th level, a soul point may be used to use bestow curse as a SP, with 17th level upgrading that to greater bestow curse. At 13th level, the paragon hag may use soul points of other paragon hags, provided they are part of her occult coven and willing. Non-paragon hag arcane casters can sacrifice a spell 1/day, granting a paragon hag in the coven that spell’s spell level as soul points. Excess points are lost.

At 5th level, the paragon hag gains a +2 competence bonus to all skill checks made as part of an occult ritual, increasing that by a further +2 every 5 levels thereafter. Additionally, they may choose to halve the casting time of a ritual, and if the paragon hag succeeds on every check, the ritual’s CL increases by 2. This does not increase, but the CL-increase does stack with other paragon hag’s abilities – thus, three paragon hags could theoretically boost the CL by +6. I am not that happy with these unlimited, stacking increases. At 19th level, skill checks and saving throws related to rituals may be rolled twice, taking the better result.

The paragon hag class is most defined by the hag family to which they belong – these can be likened best to bloodlines. 10 such families are provided. Structurally, the families provide a list of family spells – these are added to the spells known. Furthermore, at 5th level, the paragon hag gains an occult ritual determined by the family – ritual spells. The paragon hag needs to be the primary caster, and the rituals require at least 2 secondary casters that must be part of the coven. These rituals have a fixed amount of required checks, a 1d4 Charisma damage backlash, etc.. The list of these ritual spells (a new one is unlocked every two levels) is in so far interesting, as many spells and slight tweaks of spells that you wouldn’t expect, situated in the upper power echelons, may be found here. The feat Expanded Ritual Spells lets you designate additional spells to be cast as rituals. 1st, 4th and every 4 levels thereafter, also grant a family power – these are a linear power-progression, and the family chosen also determines the capstone ability of the class. The abilities themselves are often what you’d expect in their themes, but managed to positively surprise me in quite a few instances with nice twists. If you choose, for example, the winter hag family, you get, no surprise there, cold and fire resistance, courtesy of a sheet of rime. However, when you take fire damage in excess of this resistance, the rime melts and takes an hour to reform. It’s a small touch, but it’s tidbits like this that make the families stand out a bit more. The abilities also sometimes interact with the soul point engine – say, for example, we stick to the winter hag family – the 16th level ability lets you spend a soul point when casting a spell with the cold descriptor. If you do, the target is blinded for Charisma modifier (minimum 1) rounds. Storm hags can, with their 4th level ability, sue soul points for ranged trips or disarms, using class level and Charisma modifier instead of CMB. The sea hag family builds on the evil eye hex and can enhance that at higher levels – you get the idea. Armor while you have at least a soul point left, the option to fire beams of moon light – there are some cool ideas here. However, e.g. the aforementioned beam does not specify its damage type properly. Hearth hag family members can get Anchored Spell (a new metamagic feat at +3 spell levels that lets you anchor a spell to a location, making it last indefinitely; you can maintain Constitution modifier of these, and they manifest as a rune that may be disabled), or, if you have it, add Charisma modifier to the number of anchored spells you may maintain.

The pdf presents 4 brief archetypes: Cauldron hags are basically hag alchemists, including extract list, a mutagen that makes them look innocent and harder to hurt. Coven mothers have more soul points, but need to be adjacent to coven members to use them. Family abilities are replaced with coven or teamwork feats, and the capstone also represents the coven buffer-angle. Focused hags can’t use soul points to cast spells, and instead use them to duplicate base focus powers their object needs to be of the appropriate form. Their spellcasting also allows for occultist poaching. The Mother of Steel takes a weapon as a focus item, gaining proficiency and improvements for the item instead of the claw improvements.

The pdf also features some additional feats: Grandmother’s Teeth nets you a bite attack; Grandmother’s Nose nets you scent; Hag’s Familiar replaces the soul focus object with a familiar. Hag’s Hex lets you choose from a limited list of witch hexes. Improved Soul Focus nets you +2 soul points and increases the maximum you can hold by 2. Sympathetic Spell does what it says on the tin. The pdf also provides 6 occult rituals. Crone’s walk makes a venerable target a hag; Dream child and embrace changeling are rituals designed to make targets adopt changelings and transform them into proper hags. Exact price is my favorite - the ritual is designed to represent hags demanding a non-monetary price for services rendered and features effects for selling your shadow, your memory, etc.; Hide life lets the hag cheat death by hiding in the familiar or similar being. Seeing ooze costs an eye, and generates a hag’s eye ooze. Grisly! Spell-wise. We have hag’s ride, an improved nightmare, hag’s touch (and its greater) iteration, a curse that ages targets (particularly neat when used in conjunction with the aging rules from Everybody Games’ Childhood Adventures).

The pdf closes with 3 new hags: Bone hags (CR 3) have a negative energy focus and may channel negative energy; hearth hags (CR 5) may dispel magic with their broom attacks, and while LE, they actually think they save kids from neglect etc., making for an interesting angle if they, well, are right. They are evil monsters, but not monstrous. Like it! Finally, moon hags, at CR 8, get untyped damage lunar blasts that can cause lycanthropes to transform, polymorph under moonlight – and, in a really cool twist, they are immune to silver. That just BEGS to be inserted as a twist into a lycanthrope adventure.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – the pdf is precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with red headers, and artwork employed is thematically-fitting stock and public domain art. Annoying and puzzling: The pdf lacks any sort of bookmarks, making it a pain to navigate.

Landon Winkler’s take on paragon hags and occult covens was a pleasant surprise for me: While there are a few combos herein that can use a limitation/cap, said caps would most of the time be required due to other design components not found in this book not necessarily doing a good job. The exploding CLs that covens can generate are very brutal and need to be handled carefully by the GM. While they won’t cause issues in a low fantasy/dark fantasy game, a high fantasy nation of hags would be the equivalent of an arcane atomic bomb. The material herein is solid as a whole and often manages to touch upon novel and fun ideas in a topic that has been covered in many a publication for both RPGs and beyond. More importantly, the material often shows in these little flourishes that the author really cares about the pdf – it’s small touches that make the material feel fresh and interesting. Granted, not everything is perfect, but considering the super low price point and the good bang-for-buck ratio, I feel I can recommend this pdf. The lack of bookmarks is really jarring, though. Ultimately, I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Paragon Hags and Occult Covens
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The Colossal Creatures Bestiary
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/29/2019 05:16:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive bestiary clocks in at 91 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 87 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, so there are a couple of things to note from the get-go; number one would be that this bestiary, if the page-count and low price point was not sufficient indicator enough for you, does not feature original artworks. I mention this because I know that it’s relevant as far as creatures are concerned for some folks; the interior artwork is a blending of b/w stock art and public domain pieces. As someone who always values content over shiny visuals, I have no issue there. Where I do take umbrage, though, would be that this huge tome lacks any bookmarks. Yep, almost 90 pages of monsters, no bookmarks, which means that printing this will be seriously the best way of using this tome.

All right, that out of the way, the CRs within range from 1 to the lofty heights of CR 40. Let us start going through the creatures, shall we? The book starts off with the Amgohran, massive turtles, ostensibly children of world-turtles. They are magical beasts with, obviously, armored shells and the ability to collect energy and use it to self-buff – kinda like a lite-version of gathering energy. Interesting one, and certainly more interesting than the more mundane CR 6 turtlehemoth. After this one, we get the 7-winged celestial angel (cue Savior Sephiroth-theme), an angel that has an overwhelming aura and the ability to emit blinding light and fire volleys of holy beams – at CR 25, these are essentially angelic war-machines.

Apocalypse men (CR 6) are tainted men, failed transmutation experiments, who now, grotesquely misshapen, roam the countryside, consuming magical energies. This makes the critter absorb energy that fails to penetrate their SR, and may fire deadly blasts. With a smile, I read about the CR 20 Arachnacthonus – a stony-carapaced, massive spider with magma churning underneath. Dark Souls, anyone? With an earthquake-ish aura and the ability to trail fiery magma, this one looks very cool, and they do get AoE melee attacks with their jumps. The doomweb, in comparison, is a more regular type of spider. Want a massive caterpillar? Azure worm, and if you want it a bit more magical stuff, Doomworm – poisonous skin, corrosive blood, abilities to fire electricity. There are a couple of “-hemoth”-versions of regular critters. Need a bear so large it can’t effectively use its muscles (ability score reference not properly capitalized)? You can check out the bearhemoth. The behemoth is covered in sticky honey (which may require universal solvent or copious amounts of water) to free weapons stuck to it. Its buzzing is deafening, and it carries an aura of bees. Beetlehemoths are less interesting – they only are immune to “cones, lines, rays and magic missile spells” – that’s not how that’s supposed to work. A) Why not other AoE-effects? B) Spell-reference not properly depicted in italics. C) Should probably reference force effects instead. Similar things can be noted about the reflective scales of the CR 25 Dracozilla. And yes, I’m aware that these verbiages are based on the Tarrasque’s carapace. That one isn’t as precise as should be either. There btw. also is a King Kong-ish critter herein, the Kongimus Rex. Boarhemoths can charge better. Okay. The camelhemoth’s spit, oddly, is a touch attack. At this size? That should be AoE, right? Ettihemoths are oversized ettins. Kinda lame. Flytraphemoths are CR 12 colossals flytraps – would have been cooler with some pheromones or the like, or some representation of being faster when striking than one would expect from a creature of this size. Griffohemoth are oversized griffons. That’s it. Gughemoths…bingo, are ginormous gugs. There are also Hippopotamuhemoths (try saying that 5 times fast…). You’ve got three guesses what a hydrahemoth does. Jellyhemoth are more interesting, having a unique representation of their tentacles – they don’t AoO, but cause damage at the end of the turn. Small operation, but I liked it. The manticorehemoth is, bingo, a colossal manticore. Obsidian gargoyles also fall into the category of oversized monsters. Guess what an octohemoth or an owlbearhemoth is? Yep. The latter has a brutal hatred of arcane spells, which is a nice angle – if it saves, it’ll be very angry. Owlhemoths, with animal telepathy and true seeing, represent another oversized creature that I considered to be interesting in its representation within. Scorpiohemoths are oversized scorpions. Shambling mountains are oversized shambling mounds, and sharkhemoths – bingo, oversized sharks. Much cooler here: We do get drumroll stats for the SHARKNADO!! (CR 18, fyi!).Wyvernhemoth and yetihemoth do what you’d expect them to.

I enjoyed seeing Hokkamus, Patriarch of Waterfowl here – CR 12. An animal with stench and a putrid plumage, it can clean itself to modify its stats, akin to having two different modes. Nice. I also very much enjoyed the iron-bark tree with its gold/mithril/adamantine/withered variants – there is some mythological resonance here. Having had the chance to walk once under the majestic sequoia, I loved that we get a CR 14 sequoia treant – even more so when I saw their explosive cones and ability to quickly lift targets to dangerous heights.

Also interesting would be the CR 21 braghummor, a kind of addition to the neh-thalggu lifecycle, who enhance their impressive abilities the more thralls they have enslaved. Aboleth mindmothers follow a similar paradigm – basically an elder brain-like thing, just for aboleths. The Cr 24 yuggothian shamble, with its heat rays, consistent of mindless fungal drones, was a winner here that positively surprised me.

Colossal beheaded are pretty much what it says on the tin, and they do come with some variants. Crystalbacks are massive humanoids with crystals on the back and resonance powers, including a mage’s disjunction, which is pretty cool and makes these deadly. Ocean elementals are a pleasant surprise – more than just an overblown water elemental, they sport extremely corrosive salt water, storm auras and the like – nice! Pyrrhan, the living conflagration, is another winner – with brutal novas, recharging meteor swarms and the ability to counter cold damage, these are brutal and cool.

What about a battering ram on spider’s legs, shrouded in perpetual silence? Yeah, this is what I’m talking about! Very cool! Compared to that, the colosogog smoke demon is less impressive. It is brutish and has an aura of smoke. It’s deadly and tough, but not very interesting at this level. Dreadnoghtus dinosaurs are generally cool but at a speed of just 20 ft., they’re more a hazard for lower level PCs than a creature, which is also enforced by not being too fast. There also is btw. an even larger T-Rex, the megarex. Low-level (CR 6) failed experiments to make draconic creatures. Speaking of draconic remains – what about constructs made from shed draconic molt? Cool. The earthen host is a taken on the elemental dragon, with auras of acidic vapors. Speaking of dragon – Ryujin, the 5-headed dragon gets a CR 26 statblock herein.

There is a CR 19 incorporeal nightmare with a massive array of SPs, but personally, I liked the duster more – a CR 8 hellish butterfly that can evaporate water and desiccate targets, all while clad in nightmarish illusory hellscape. Dypthera are less planar in angle – poison and tornado are the angles here, and we get two stats here – the second is for the larval stage. There also are lurkers in the depths. While we’re on the subject of magical beasts – what about a fish that can instill visions of lost civilizations, the immortal lurker in the deep? And what about the creature that mimics whole lakes with its illusions? The latter is interesting in that it gets to attack ALL creatures in range with 3 pseudopods. Yes, it has that many.

Etherworld fishers are ginormous jellyfish that can manifest their tentacles in the physical world and drag targets to the ether, including a rift aura. This is mechanically more complex and interesting than I expected it to be. I also liked the massive fenrin, a CR 9 wolf – that enjoys hunting in packs. Ouch. Nannuraluks are cool – mountain-sized bears with brutal roars and the ability to shake off rocks from their fur in devastating shard sprays. Thankfully, these apex predators hibernate for a long time… There also is a representation of a massive monkey mob.

I also liked the furnace mother – it’s something dwarves would make: A gigantic, heat-radiating smithing construct in the shape of a dwarven woman, with smoking wounds and the like. I did enjoy the CR 3 rusted colossi, once grand warmachines, now pitiful remants of the magic might of empires past.

At CR 1, graveblobs are massive ooze-like masses of corpses, which is pretty cool, though it could have used a few more HP – it’s slow, has atrocious AC and bad atks (-5), and I love the idea of a level 1 Colossal critter, but as written, it’s easier to kill than many CR 1 foes. Shrine oozes are clever – these can trick divine casters, making their magic less reliable, and consume the unwary. Greeneaters are massive oozes that can deforest whole woods or destroy the harvest, consuming vast amounts of vegetation. Gurggs, abyssal, sentient oozes get sprays and can turn into waves – I really liked this one – I tried it out, and it works surprisingly well, making for a damn cool ooze-boss for high-levels! Kudos! Puddinghemoths are less interesting – basically oversized black puddings. Same goes for pyrelights, save that these are oversized will-o‘-wisps.

While we’re on oozes – here’s a surprise: The highest CR creature, the CR 40 harbinger of time? It’s an ooze. With a cube-form and multiple devastating auras, it reminded me of Yadis, the super-boss of Final Fantasy 9 – in a good way. As an aside – with aging auras and the like, this is a great creature to use in conjunction with Everybody Games’ “Childhood Adventures” and age-modifying options. Just as an aside. Hungry clouds are also conceptually cool – and once more, they’re a ooze! Some really gems for our slimy friends herein!

Jotnar are trolls grown too large by their regeneration, while pastorix are basically living fey hillocks. Less benevolent, the shadowman is not only the title of one of my favorite Selofan-tracks, it’s a fey shaped as a wispy boulder with human legs – weird and unique...and has surprising staying power for a fey. Procyron are a nice notion – basically, a colossal scavenger, drawn to metropolises or kaiju rampages, it carries the lyssavirus, has a gaze attack and may generate darkness. The stormghost ship does pretty much what it says on the tin, and does so well, drinking life and sporting an aura of both lightning and despair. Speaking of storms – a lobster-tailed humanoid shrouded in a thundercloud, red lightning dancing around? Yeah, stormswimmers are weird in the right ways. Torthen, the lightning bird, would be another storm-themed being, this time around focusing on wind, thunder and electricity bursts. Titankarps are CR 22 ship-wrecking karps. When the gods are angry, they may send forth a swarm titan – massive conglomeration of insects, capable of consuming not only flesh and bone, but thoughts as well. Unicornicopia (kudos for the atrocious pun – love it!) are colossal unicorns that, bingo, can generate food to alleviate famine etc.

The second most potent critter herein is another favorite of mine – The Tribinual Wheel, a CR 33 instrument of divine punishment and law, a true world-ender that is full of unique abilities.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level – I noticed a couple of formatting hiccups. On a rules-language level, the pdf is surprisingly good; not always perfect, but considering how many people worked on this, solid. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with b/w-artworks taken from stock resources or public domain, and the pdf has no bookmarks, which, as mentioned above, is a serious detriment to the book’s immediate usefulness.

This book if the work of a lot of authors: Jeff Gomez, Jason Owen Black, Matthew Carroll, Kim Frandsen, Wojciech Gruchala, Scott Janke, Joshua Hennington, Matt Kimmel Jacob W. Michaels, Nikolaï Samarine, Joe Smith, Maria Smolina Jeffrey Swank, Robert Thomson, Margherita Tramontano, Jarryd Webber, Mike Welham, Landon Winkler. If you’ve been paying attention to who writes your critters, you’ll notice quite a few veterans here, and it shows – this book contains a lot of truly awesome and amazing gems. Particularly, to my surprise, the oozes get quite a lot of truly cool critters here, and the super-bosses are awesome. The magical creatures also manage to often evoke a mythological resonance, a sense of belonging, and there are also quite a bunch of creatures that do unique things.

At the same time, this book also contains A LOT of “oversized xyz”-critters that don’t gain anything but size and power. In a couple of instances, these were executed better, but there were plenty of these critters that fell flat for me. Similarly, the classic kaiju-takes did not exactly impress me, to put it mildly.

So, how do you rate this? Well, as a whole, I consider this to be a mixed bag with some filler, but also some true gems – and usually, I’d frankly round down due to the lack of bookmarks. HOWEVER, considering the very fair price point, I will instead round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. This is worth getting for the gems that you can find within this book!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Colossal Creatures Bestiary
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101 Spells for the Common Man
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/25/2019 05:02:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction, we get a rather nice list of spells by suggested profession – want to know which spells work for doctors and artisans? There’s a list here, and each occupation lists the respective spells by spell level. The spells only cover the spell-levels from 0th to 2nd, focusing on magic for the common man, as befitting of a magical society. If that seems inconvenient to you, fret not, for the supplement also provides spell-lists by class, which btw. also include the Advanced Class Guide and Occult Adventures-classes.

The spells, as would be expected, cover utilities, and the first, Abernathy’s abacus sets an apt tone for the entirety of the supplement, providing a purely mental abacus that helps you perform calculations, including notes on actions to operate it. There are two versions of magical bed-time stories, which send targets down the sequence of fatigue-related effects, and which don’t work in combat – nice! (As an aside: These do work imho even better when combined with Everyman Gaming’s Sleeping Rules)

I was really enamored by bonds of hospitality – a representation of the concept of not partaking in violence against a host whose food or drink you have consumed, using a sanctuary-like basis, Utility spells to boil water, to butcher carcasses or for a butler’s bell, with the latter based on alarm, we have quite a few cool ones here. There also is a really funny one that magical parents would love – castellan’s dungball attracts low weight/value physical clutter and makes it form a katamari-style ball that follows you around! Speaking of order: Categorical organization is great to order those treasure heaps, and chef’s crew lets you have a taste of being a chef in a proper cuisine, providing a crew of unseen servants to follow your directions. Bonus points if you give them red or blue jackets. ;P

Speaking of which: Phantom mannequins do pretty much what you’d expect them to do. There is a spell that allows you to better filter out background noise, and if your mansion isn’t exactly up to snuff, there is pleasing façade, which makes a structure take on the idealized appearance of a painting, while the painting becomes an exaggerated representation of reality – kind of like Dorian Gray lite.

Kidding aside, there is a handy spell that emulates a cock’s crow. I’m not as happy with coiner’s honesty, as it identifies nonmagically altered and counterfeited coins, without taking the skill of the forger into account. Moneylender’s mark allows a bank to make a debtor’s outstanding debt ever more apparent with a darkening sign. A godsend for scribes would be mirrorquill, which makes a quill duplicate your writing as you go.

With two spells, conjure cart and create ice, you could duplicate more wholesome fish/meat markets, and some farmers will certainly love create soil. Particularly in a setting where entities with defiler-like powers exist, this cantrip may be of vital importance. Distill cure is neat, as it enhances the usefulness of a nonmagical curative, allowing for the rolling of a save twice, taking the better result. A spell to make an animal hardier and better suited to working as a draft animal, a herald’s voice enhancer…some cool ones. If the painful time of having to let go of a creature has come, you may want to consult the euthanize spell, which btw. thankfully does come with caveats that prevents abuse. Kudos!

Immediate water-evaporation is nice, and exquisite display case is certainly neat to showcase your triumphs. Fey gift can be used to barter with fey and keep them away (and there is a version for spirits as well!), while invite house spirit does the opposite, inviting a benevolent, supernatural entity into your home. Fortify wine increases the potency of a given draft. Greenery light can help you handle the regenerative properties of plants, and herder’s ward can help you keep your livestock in place – and if you do lose animals, you can still fall back on locate stock, which is based on arcane mark. Quick plucking and defeathering of targets, raise irrigation and prize vegetable growth boosts can really help. And yes, there is a magical sow seeds, a scarecrow spell…

Inner clock does what it says on the tin. Tired of gritty and grimy surroundings and those nasty creepy-crawlies? Louse screen suddenly makes your game much more hygienic for the characters. Projection of memory is amazing, as it creates a visual illusion of an object prior to damage sustained, which can be sued for puzzle/narrative purposes by the enterprising GM. There is a road ward that enhances the integrity of streets, and roots to plowshares turns a tree stump into a plow – very handy! Scent wall blocks, bingo, what you’d expect. Schedule is absolutely glorious, and lets you put a cantrip/orison on a timer, affecting objects. I’d have this one cast all over my stuff! Shadow lockpicks nets you thieves’ tools that later upgrade to masterwork, and surgeon’s watch pings you when the target takes damage. You can also cast a spell to direct vermin to weave and assemble a nonmagic woven item for you, and with the right spell, you can warp glass!

The pdf also includes a 20-level arcane worker NPC-class, basically a caster-commoner with spells of up to 4th level, ½ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d6 HD and 4 + Int skills per level. The pdf contains also an array of sample NPCs – a CR 3 arcane artist, a CR 4 arcane baker, a CR 1/3 arcane farmhand, a CR 2 arcane parent, a CR ½ magical merchant, a CR 2 magical miner, a CR 2 singing tavernkeep, and finally a CR ½ town doctor.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with red headers. The pdf uses fitting public domain and stock b/w-art, with some other contributions and annoyingly, has no bookmarks, which represents a serious and unnecessary comfort-detriment for a book of this size.

Jeff Gomez crafted this book with contributions from Andrew Ready, Charles Kulick, David J. Rust, Jason Owen Black, Jennifer R. Povey, Kat Evans, Kate Baker, Landon Winkler, Maria Smolina, Matthew Morgans, Matt Roth, Matthew Oatman, Mike Welham, Nik Geier, Nikolaï Samarine, Robert Metcalf and Wojciech Gruchala. And while that are a lot of authors, the quality of the material herein is consistent and high, offering a fun assortment of creative and cool spells that help depicting magical societies. Not all spells herein will be fantastic for all games, but even low/rare magic games will find a couple of worthwhile and intriguing spells in this book. All in all, a great book, only hampered by the really grating and puzzling absence of bookmarks. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 Spells for the Common Man
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Occult Secrets: The Spiritualist
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/04/2019 14:34:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion file for the Spiritualist base class clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction, we begin this pdf with 3 different archetypes, the first of whom would be the forgotten: The forgotten exchanges Intimidate with Stealth as a class skill and at 3rd level is locked into the veiled or incorporeal bonded manifestation. The veiled one lets the forgotten, flavor-wise, hide in the cracks of history and nets a scaling sneak attack and makes the forgotten hard to directly attack or target, requiring a hefty scaling Will save DC to do so. Thankfully, this has a hex caveat that prevents abuse there. At higher levels, sneak improves and may strip targets of Dex-bonuses to AC, cloud the spiritualist in mind blank and even modify memory targets struck. Really cool! Instead of undead detection, the archetype can obscure significance and instead of seeing the invisible, the archetype can render itself invisible. While this looks like a minor tweak, it is a really amazing, flavorful little archetype.

The poltergeist replaces phantom and bonded sense with a kineticist telekinetic blast at one die size reduced, with 2nd, 5th, 2th and 17th level providing an infusion wild talent for said blast. The archetype uses Wisdom instead of Constitution as governing ability score, and instead of accepting burn, losing spell slots instead. 4th, 6th, 12th and 14th level net utility wild talents instead of spiritual interference, phantom recall, fused consciousness (should be greater spiritual interference) and spiritual bond. Instead of fused consciousness, 10th level nets the force composite blast (again, at d4 instead of d6).

The third archetype would be the totem bound, who is locked into the totemic emotional focus and may, instead of bonded manifestation, at 3rd level use a swift action to manifest the totem within herself for up to 3 + class level round. This nets -2 to AC, +2 to melee attack and damage rolls, throw weapon damage rolls and Will-saves. This does count as rage. Higher levels provide access to totem abilities while on this state and further enhances the bonuses. The total number of rounds is greatly increased at 17th level. The totemic focus is one of several new emotional foci.

It nets HD ranks in Survival and Knowledge (religion), with Skill Focus for them while confined in the spiritualist’s consciousness. Fort-and Ref-saves are made good, and the totemic phantom gets a kind of rage boost, with the subsequent abilities providing totem rage power access. The Location focus has Knowledge (geography) and Survival as skills, and, once more, Fortitude and Reflex as good saves. This one nets the phantom tracking and the attacks of the phantom may entangle targets. Problematic – several abilities reference a home terrain (including favored terrain-like boost), but the focus never properly codifies that. The focus includes greater teleport at 12th level in home terrain (1/day) and a DR-increasing shell of earth when manifesting in an ectoplasmic manner at 17th level.

The ancestral emotional focus gets Knowledge (history) and Sense Motive as boosted skills and uses Fortitude and Will-saves as good saves. The emotional focus increases the aid another bonus to +4, and its attacks briefly penalize attacks versus the spiritualist. Single target spells on the phantom have their duration increased and 12th level 1/day allows for the phantom to channel a spell from another spell list, allowing the spiritualist to cast the spell at the cost of a spell slot, which is increased to 2/day at 17th level. Finally, curiosity chooses two Knowledge skills as boosted skills and good Reflex and Will-saves. The focus gets a scaling bonus to the Knowledge checks while confined in the spiritualist’s consciousness. The strikes of the phantom can help detect thoughts and enhances this at 12th level. 7th level nets longer range free-roaming, and 17th level a 1/day moment of prescience like bonus. The Emotional Conduit feat, fractured mind archetype and spirit-bound blade note their benefits for the new foci.

The pdf also contains 6 new spells, though it should be noted that one, pierce the soul, is included in 6 variants: This is a mind-affecting spell with a close range that deals scaling untyped damage to the target, half as much on a Will save, with the damage applying also to e.g. phantoms. Not a fan of the untyped damage here. Aforementioned obscure significance obscures an item’s significance to e.g. psychometry, which is cool. Ancient guidance is a first level swift action spell that can temporarily net you a proficiency, a class skill (interaction correctly codified) or a cantrip/knack. Detonate phantom does what it says on the tin, causing damage and using the ectoplasmic splatter as a touch attack medium, this time correctly applying damage types. Nice one. Phantom charge is a knack that allows for a single attack at range from a phantom currently in consciousness. Neat! Ectoplasmic harvest is a third level spell that cannibalizes incorporeal creatures or haunts to heal fully manifested phantoms.

We also get 6 new feats: Bonded Movement prevents being surprised or flanked when using bonded senses, unless both spiritualist and phantom are surprised or flanked. Cleansing Recall lets you gain a reroll versus ongoing mind-affecting effects when recalling the phantom, and fortifies your will when in shared consciousness mode. Extra Bonded Manifestation does what it says it does - +3 rounds per day, may be taken multiple times. Phantom Insight renders the phantom’s focus skills class skills for you and allows you to take 10 in them when the phantom’s in your consciousness. Shared Tether lets you share phantoms for tether purposes, which can be really cool…and nasty. Spiritual Adoption, finally, nets you the AC-and save-bonuses conveyed by an allied phantom as though you were that phantom’s spiritualist.

Finally, the pdf features two occult rituals – at 4th level, command the forgotten allows for the calling of an insane queen and immediate retraining of NPC classes to spiritualist,. Which is a great angle to elevate an ally to a PC when a PC perished. Child’s guardian, at 6th level, makes the caster become a phantom for his offspring after death, which can be a rather cool narrative angle. The pdf also includes sample characters: Kalari, a CR 7 totem bound spiritualist and her phantom stone hawk, and Darag Chainwalker, a dwarven forgotten spiritualist CR 14 and his phantom nameless seeker. Both are pretty cool.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language level and a formal level. Layout adheres to the two-column b/w-standard of Zenith games, and the pdf uses b/w-art, many pieces of which I hadn’t seen before. The pdf, unfortunately, is not bookmarked, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.

Landon Winkler’s spiritualist expansion is a pretty impressive little pdf. While I am not that fond of two of the 3 archetypes, the new foci and the forgotten archetype really rock. The supplemental material, particularly the occult rituals, similarly are intriguing, and, as a whole, while I am not enamored with everything herein, I do believe that this is very much worth checking out. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Secrets: The Spiritualist
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Occult Secrets: The Occultist
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/20/2019 03:05:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Occult Secrets mini-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we begin with the invoker, who must choose a planar implement among the first level implements. The circles instead apply versus specific outsider races and non-alignment outsider subtypes. Okay. 8th level replaces outsider contact with a scaling planar binding for one additional mental focus when establishing circle, with another point as an optional expenditure available to add dimensional anchor. As noted, the planar binding and HD –cap improve at higher levels.

But wait…planar implements? Yep. These take the form of small metal discs with glyphs upon them, and they share the resonant power resonant planar affinity: For every two points of mental focus invested in the implement, the occultist gains +1 to penetrate the SR of creatures hailing from the associated plane, as well as +1 to attack and damage rolls against them. Additionally, the occultist gains a +1 insight bonus to Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate, Sense Motive, Perception and Knowledge checks. Cool: The bonus caps, with the cap scaling at higher levels. Additionally, all planar implements have the planar servitor base focus power. This lets you, as a standard action, expend 1 point of mental focus to summon monster, with the spell upgrading at higher level, but thankfully capping at one active servitor at a given time, avoiding slowing the game down. Mental focus may be expended to increase the duration of an active servitor, and creatures native to the plane (which is, all of them, as that is the base condition) get +2 natural armor and to saves. Both bonus types are properly codified. Nitpick here: Critters summoned thus: Can they act upon manifesting, or next round? This is something that usually is bypassed by the 1 round casting duration and needs to be clarified.

All implements gain alignment based focus powers – good aligned planes net flesh mend, evil ones necromantic servant, lawful planes purge corruption and chaotic planes side step focus. Neutral ones on the good-evil-axis net mind eye, and neutral ones on the law-chaos axis net future gaze. A total of 12 different planar implements are provided, all of them with spells noted and 3 focus powers. Abaddon nets shield other in conjunction with the servitor and lets you add an evil frost. The servitor gets death throes. Abyss provides spectral arms that can execute Intelligence-governed AoOs, staggering, mental-focus powered screeches or disguise self. Activation actions are not noted for the latter two, but being SUs, one could assume defaulting to standard actions – it’d be nice to have that spelled out, though. Planar implements aligned with the astral plane can add a psychic link to the servitor, poach/hide items in your own extradimensional space or track targets via astral residue. Elysium lets you temporarily turn into wind and lightning while charging, imbue weapons with special qualities or reroll dice modified by morale and luck bonuses. The implements associated with the ethereal plane lets you add ghost touch a weapon or armor as a swift action for one mental focus. Both property references are not italicized correctly. Mental focus powered Ectoplasmic Spell and shared see invisibility with servitor can be found. Cool: When you greater invisibility yourself, the servitor gains invisibility. This also modifies the servitor base power and allows for ethereal condition sharing.

The implements of heaven net you heavenly lanterns that can be discharged as short-range force rays, swift action protection from evil plus scent and sharing shield bonuses with nearby allies. Hell nets the option to enhance weapons with wounding, adding being treated as evil at 5th level (analogue to e.g. Abaddon’s frost). The second ability covers the same for flaming and being treated as lawful. The servitor may be enhanced with scaling atk and damage boosts. Limbo implements can cause random ability damage to creatures adjacent to servitors when they’re called. When the servitor power is used, you can make it also push away targets on a failed Fort-save…or pulled towards the creature. Nirvana’s abilities enhance servitor abilities to use aid another for you. For mental focus, the servitor gets Combat Reflexes and Bodyguard and emerging servitors can heal adjacent targets. Implements of the shadow plane let you use mental focus to add invisibility to yourself when casting darkness-themed spells, modify shadow weapons with a variety of effects or improve its effects.

Planar implements associated with true neutral purgatory nets you a mental focus powered touch attack with slow, suppress healing and sacred bonuses or negate enhancement, luck, morale and profane bonuses – interesting short-duration curse mechanics. Utopia, the lawful neutral plane nets the servitor access to your teamwork feats, Disruptive (and later Spellbreaker) or temporary hit points for both you and servitor. These planar implement powers turned out to be more differentiated than I expected, changing playstyles in a meaningful manner, and most of the time getting the complex rules-language required right. Kudos!

The second archetype would be the tattooed occultist, who gets a modified class skill list- Instead of physical implements, the tattooed occultist gains tattoos that obviously can’t be taken away – to make up for that, the archetype only gets one tattooed implement at first level. The archetype also gets Improved Unarmed Strike that behaves like a monk’s attacks, replacing the second implement as well as shift focus and outside contact. 2nd level replaces object reading with a combo of phrenology and read aura by studying a target’s body. They also get a scaling (half class level) to Craft (tattoo) and Heal and may use mental focus to enhance healing via medical care. This has mend flesh and purge corruption synergy. The archetype also has a replacement ability for implement mastery, granting DR 5/-. Interesting one, in that it represents a kind of yakuza-ish occultist. I like it.

The third archetype would be the totemist, who once more receives a modified class skill list and +1/2 class level to Knowledge and Survival checks to identify, track or learn about creatures, replacing magic items. The archetype need to choose one totem implement at first level, and at 5th level, aura sight is replaced with a universal creature detector based on detect undead, save for all creature type the totemist has a totem (implement) for. 8th level nets shapechange mastery, with the ability to use mental focus to enhance polymorph effects and higher levels allowing for the speeding up of casting such spells. This one also lets the occultist end spells quickly and replace outside contact. Warding circles are modified to interact with totems and binding circles similarly is modified.

Okay, you probably guessed it – this one also has a whole arsenal of special implements, the implement class of totem implements. The spells these grant may be exchanged for up to 2 druid spells when choosing them. This choice is permanent They also share a resonant power: Resonant favored enemy, which nets an insight bonus to Bluff, Knowledge, perception, Sense Motive and Survival, contingent on mental focus invested – once more, thankfully, with a proper, scaling cap. The totem implements are based on the standard creature types, but have individual base powers. Aberration, animal, dragon, fey, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, ooze, plant, undead and vermin are covered, all with their individual spell lists, base powers and 3 focus powers each.

The aberration totem implement fortifies your mind versus attempts to read it, and also enhances your saves versus charm person. This lasts for an hour and can be activated as an immediate action. The focus powers include all-around vision, and long arm can be enhanced with mental focus to net you tentacles, and similarly, water breathing and echolocation are modified. Similarly, immediate action fear-suppression is neat. Animal, in contrast, nets speak with animals as well as melee enhancers via free grapples (and grab synergy), bull rush and overrun tricks or trips – basically the classic animal tricks. The dragon implement nets you a mental focus-based breath weapon that scales, and which, thanks to a cooldown, can’t be spammed. The 4 (deviation from the standard 3 to account for base energy types) implement powers allow for multiple breath modifications that enhance the breath weapons depending on base damage type chosen. The fey totem allows you to get low-light vision and scaling DR, and take fey aspects, which include Perform, Swim or Survival boosts that may be shared. The magical beast totem lets you boost physical skill checks and petrify targets – thankfully, a HD caveat and save prevent abuse there. Healing that can prevent death and protection versus evil (single and later, magic circle) may be found here.

The monstrous humanoid lets you gain gore or bite or claw or slam options (In contrast to most herein, these are not specified re natural attack type, requiring defaulting to primary); the focus powers can make claws carry a debuff, ignore difficult terrain when charging with gores or add poison to bites. Oozes net compression and corrosive touches, use mental focus to become sticky (enhancing maneuvers and CMD) or gain temporarily translucent flesh. Plants allow for communication with them, as well as better healing (and superb resiliency in sleep as well as temporary hit points while asleep) as well as several plant-based spell modifications. Undead implement nets negative energy affinity; adding death effects to the coup de grace performed and temporary hit points based on target HD, preventing cheesing. When reduced to 0 hp or below, you can manifest malignant, spectral force and a vampiric pinning ability that nets temporary hit points for pinned targets. Mental focus expenditure requirements prevent this from being cheesed. Finally, the vermin totem nets the ability to converse with vermin, commune with them, repel swarms and fortify yourself versus poisons, with higher levels improving this.

The pdf also includes 4 feats: Dual Enhancement lets base powers or focus powers that enhance weapons apply their benefits to two of them, but these only remain active when both are wielded. Echoes of Mending nets you temporary hit points when using flesh rot or flesh corruption. Echoes of Servitude requires a necromantic servant and upgrades the servitor. Mental Ki allows you to substitute mental focus for ki on a 2 to 1 basis. The pdf also has two spells: Empower implement (3rd level) grants temporary mental focus. Lock the flow can prevent the target from using mental focus or ki on a failed save, and lasts multiple rounds. The pdf concludes with Keron Tiel, a CR 5 elven tattooed occultist.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal level are good on a formal and rules-language level, being very precise for the most part, in spite of the complexity of the material. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with red, blue and purple headers. The artworks are a blend of public domain and stock art, though I haven’t seen all of them before. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Wojciech Gruchała is a veteran, and this pdf shows – the expansion to the occultist allows for finer differentiation, and distinct, different playstyles depending on implement chosen. While not all implements are equally compelling or potent, this nonetheless represents a cool and worthwhile expansion for one of my favorite classes. While the lack of bookmarks is a bit sucky, the pdf is pretty inexpensive, which is why I will round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Secrets: The Occultist
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Jacob's Tower
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/07/2018 03:38:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mega-adventure clocks in at 152 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 149 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, Jacob’s Tower is a kind of mega-dungeon, with each level assigned to the respective APL of the group – level 1 for level 1 groups, level 5 for level 5 groups – you get the idea. Regardless of performance in encounters and enemies killed, the dungeon works under the premise of XP being awarded upon level-completion. The module is made primarily for groups of 4 or less (though 3 will be difficult) and suggests using the advanced creature template for larger groups. The module suggests how to handle smaller groups (make the PCs have a higher level than the floor), but considering PFRPG’s action economy constraints, I would not advocate this. Jacob’s Tower can generally carry a whole campaign, encompassing a total of 13 levels.

Now, the design of this mega-dungeon is somewhat different from most old-school mega-dungeons. This is not, at all, about the things we traditionally associate with them: The grind and accomplishment of clearing a place, establishing a base deep within, deciding on when and how to return to the surface, etc. – all of these factors don’t really feature in Jacob’s Tower. Instead, the aesthetic evoked is pretty much one that made me recall, almost from the get-go, videogames like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. There is a sort of window-less interplanetary bar, including a collective of winged construct barkeeps/servers/blacksmiths/etc. – this entity is called “Nine” and represents basically all the stuff you’d need to go to towns for: Purchasing, crafting etc. – it all feels like an elaborate menu between missions/levels; a kind of Velvet Room, if you’re a fan of the Persona franchise, f you will. This also, in a way, mirrors said games with Nine being a mystery and a creation of Jacob…but more on that below. 13 portraits in the bar represent the 13 levels. Nine does not identify items, and sleeping is free of charge. This extradimensional bar/menu-screen conceit also allows for pretty seamless integration into an ongoing campaign, should you choose to splice this module into your games instead.

This videogame-like aesthetic also applies to the respective levels – if you want an internally or thematically-consistent or organic dungeon, then this may not be what you’re looking for. If you instead want e.g. “levels” that feel, well, like videogame levels without having to mind consistency or the like, then this will deliver. This is also mirrored in some design decisions: There is, for example, a secret door on the first level that can only be opened by a super-high Strength-check that the PCs won’t be able to meet. Finding the door also shows two “magical chords” running along the walls, vanishing in them. These provide a clue that there are levers to be found on the level, which, when used, open the room. It’s basically a secret/exploration prompt. I actually do not mind this – I am a big proponent of not all DCs being beatable, of not all solutions being contingent on rollplaying, so yeah – that’s an aspect I can really get behind.

There are three crucial, final components that should be mentioned, both of which may not be immediately evident: One, the bar represents basically a “safe spot”, a means to recharge sans running the risk of encounters, of drained resources, etc. – this gets rid of the “global” attrition gameplay we traditionally associate with mega-dungeons. This is not to say that the module does not make use of attrition, mind you: In the dungeon levels themselves, it’s usually a very bad idea to sleep! Two, the lack of direct connections between the distinct levels mean that the PCs won’t necessarily “learn” to explore a traditional mega-dungeon – it’s not the intent here, and finishing the adventure will not have to the players in a position to e.g. have an easier time with Rappan Athuk. While their enemies can’t hunt them, neither can the PCs create base camps, trap gauntlets or the like and lure higher level foes down to “their” turf. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly for the GM, the level-based nature of this dungeon and the diverse themes employed mean that it’s really easy to cut up the module and slot the levels into ongoing campaigns.

As far as presentation is concerned, we get pretty much the definition of no frills: Two-column, b/w, stock art, if any. Formatting conventions are maintained for the most part, though e.g. hazards are not always specifically noted in their own entries, and sometimes, a hazard felt like a haunt to me, but that is nitpicking. You’ll also read sentences like this: “Our heroes must make a DC 12 Reflex save to half d6 slashing damage from the glass.” It’s “to halve”, and this deviates from rules-formatting. Number of d6s are usually noted and verbiage structure tends to be different. Similarly, there is no Dungeoneering skill – it’s Knowledge (dungeoneering).

The one thing that I really hate about this minimalist set-up, would be the maps. They are functional, showing squares and sometimes making use of color to e.g. denote chess-board like set-ups, but they are super-minimalistic. There are no player-friendly maps provided either, which struck me as odd in light of the videogame-like aesthetics of this mega-dungeon. More jarringly, determining the dimensions of the dungeon is pretty hard. Rooms don’t specify their precise dimensions, and neither do the maps offer any sense of scale. Depending on what you assume, the tower may thus end up as rather vast, or as rather cramped. The map-situation, to me, is a serious detriment here.

There is one more thing I usually mention at the bottom, in my conclusion, but here it’s really relevant. This 150+ page pdf…has no bookmarks. No, I am not kidding you. For a module of this size and scope, that is super-jarring and really hampered my enjoyment of the material within. Your best bet is to print it out, but VTT-groups will probably gnash their teeth.

I will now proceed to discuss the individual levels, briefly noting highlights and/or issues, where applicable. Considering the size of the pdf, I will not provide a step-by-step breakdown of all challenges faced. It should be noted that, as a whole, the adventure often makes use of interesting terrain features, which is a plus in my book.

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, level 1 is basically the tutorial level, which looks like a vanilla dungeon without much extravagance, and the enemies faced mirror this: Animals, low-level undead and pretty simple traps can be found, and the boss is an evil enchantress that has murdered her compatriots after running afoul of an illusion. My favorite part here were the grimples: gremlin-lice infested, disgusting nuisances with acidic vomit that interrupt sleeping attempts in ever-increasing hordes. Where do they come from? Well, if you’re asking this, then you’re not yet in the right mindset. They just spawn. Again, not judging, just observing. As a note regarding formatting: Their super-script “B”s sometimes used in statblocks to denote bonus feats…is not superscript. That’s something you’ll encounter time and again.

Anyhow, level 2 is interesting: The walls are of glass. The PCs can see through the level, and in the middle, encased in a forcecage, is a raging pyrohydra! The gimmick of this level is as follows: As the PCs explore, an illusionary hourglass will appear, counting down two minutes, which you should do as well as the GM. An easy riddle is provided (including DCs to brute-force it through rollplaying), and if the PCs solve the riddle in time, one of the hydra’s heads will be blown off, to never regenerate. These rooms also include some combat challenges, mind you: there is, for example, a red/green chessboard room, where the right level can cause bursts of flame or acid, which can help dealing with the amoeba attacking here. Ultimately, PCs that have failed at least one riddle get a final shot with a bonus riddle (here, a Tolkien-classic is used), and then, they’ll have to face the hydra-boss. Attempting to sleep on this level results in attacks by spawned in skums. This level represents a bit of a missed chance: Since the glass walls don’t block line of sight, this could have been used for really creative puzzles/enemy-encounters, and not just foreshadowing the boss.

Level 3 has a dual focus: It features chasms and tight corridors, as well as a theme of social interaction: There is a combination lock preventing progress, and there are the ghosts of 4 adventurers throughout the complex: these ghosts are not hostile, and each knows a number. Collect the numbers get out. This is basically a cramped-condition/social tutorial of sorts. The PCs get the chance to solve the ghost encounters with combat instead. Once more, no resting.

Level 4 takes the PC’s gear away, providing a prison level of sorts – and yes, halfway through, in the eminent tradition, they may reclaim their tools. Still, if your group’s a wizard, a cleric, a gunslinger and, e.g., an occultist, this may be rather…öhem…challenging. That being said, PCs with really good Handle Animal may get a dog and other prisoners to help…Ultimately, their jailor has met an unpleasant demise, and both a yeth hound and an aberration boss fight represent the toughest challenges here…though the traps pull no punches either. Sleeping here is possible, but lack of food means that there’s a risk of starvation.

In level 5, the obsidian walls are brimming with energy, and after a brief chance to make a skill checks that nets +2 on a save, the PCs will be subjected to a cool effect: Mindswitch. You hand your character to the next player that failed the save. This type of mechanic can be really cool if all players are rules-savvy…if not, then it may be frustrating. I once pulled that off at 15th level with my PCs, and there, they really gulped. At 5th level, this is still feasible, in spite of Pathfinder being relatively complex. That being said, the module acknowledges that this mechanic is not required. If your players have different degrees of rules-familiarity, you may want to forego this one – it’s really frustrating for players to have to play another player’s character and see their own PC be used ineffectively. Still, I very much applaud this effect! Interesting: If the mindswitched PC dies, the CONTROLLING player’s character perishes, while the dead PC is fully healed…so no screwing over your buddies. Wise decision. There are rune-crystals littered throughout the level, which need to be activated…and activating them switches minds again! The final boss here is a glass golem, and sleeping requires a save to avoid Wisdom drain. Still, by far my favorite level so far!

Level 6 is really cool. It’s called “The Gauntlet”, and upon getting there, the walls behind them will exhibit spikes, buzzsaws, etc. – and begin moving! The whole level is an exercise in quick problem solving, as the PCs escape the ever encroaching doom past enemies and magical walls designed to test their mettle and endurance. I really enjoyed this one…though here, the opaque nature of the complex really hurts the adventure, as scale is not evident, which makes movement tracking…challenging. It’s nothing an experienced GM can’t handle, granted, but it makes an otherwise inspired level feel rough.

Level 7 is an abject failure. Called “Gothic”, it expects the PCs to resurrect a vampire by collecting stuff in a “creepy” environment, that at best, comes off as tacky. Horror is contingent on psychology and the mindset of both players and GM, and the structure of this adventure, even more so than regular high fantasy roleplaying, is anathema to these notions. Horror must be developed and set up, and this does neither, hoping that creepy environment and the same old monsters will do the trick. They don’t. This level sucks.

Since we’re going through adventuring staples, level 8 has the planar theme – to be more precise, the inner planes theme for the elemental planes, positive and negative energy planes…and wild/dead magic planes? The idea here is nice, but I have several issues here: There are no planar traits noted, for one, and secondly, the module seems to labor under the misconception that angels hang out on the positive energy plane. I consider these deviations from established planar geographies to be rather unnecessary. The bosses are 4 Huge paralementals. Not a fan of this one.

Level 9 is called “Campfire”, and it is a really cool return to form: We have an outdoor area here, with the PCs in charge of a campfire. The fire must be fed, and a treant may disagree. A note (with a typo…) tells the PCs to keep the fire burning at all costs – and indeed, they better do this! Taking a cue from several survival games, letting the fire go out can result in seriously frantic struggles, as an endless supply of colors out of space begins manifesting when the fire goes out…so watch those flames! The PCs just have to keep the fire burning till sunrise…and how hard can it be? Hard. Very hard. Ettins, forest dragons, thriae and worse attack…and there are some other encounters as well. Basically, the level takes an event-driven approach, which makes for a great change of pace. Oh, and 1 minute before sunrise…and advanced T-Rex shows up. The PCs either need to survive 10 rounds or somehow kill this thing! The former is more likely, mind you! Two thumbs up for this level!

Level 10 is also rather creative: The PCs manifest in a disgustingly-fleshy environment – the insides of the body of one titan named Haradim, whose lungs are filled with water, the blood stagnant. A friendly ghost greets the PCs and tasks them to explore Haradim’s body and return the titan to life! Sleeping in this level may afflict the PCs with magical diseases, and as the PCs explore the level, they will have quite a unique environment on their hands. I really enjoyed this one, though I also found myself thinking that it falls short of the unique premise it has.

A gaudy Victorian manor awaits the PCs on level 11 – a grandfather clock tolls regularly, and inflicts nasty sonic damage to every PC on the level. Key will need to be collected…and frankly, this level does a better job at horror than the designated horror-level. Not that much better as far as true fright is concerned, but the surroundings and challenges, from ghostly butlers to dangerous pianos, make for an interesting, pretty dangerous location, one that sports a pretty tough boss that I did not expect to see. It’s basically challenging fantasy with a slight horror coating and less clichés than level 7 – it feels a bit like playing one of the early Alone in the Dark games.

Level 12 would be “The Arena” and sports a combination of combats (the arena transforms to suit the environment – and yes, this includes water…), a game-show-like quiz, a Performance-based challenge, an obstacle course and finally, pointing out a true ankou from doubles, makes for a gloriously over the top level that makes excellent use of the far out premise of the mega-dungeon. I frankly wished more levels would do stuff like this (or Campfire). And yes, we get different maps for the different arena-modes.

The final level of Jacob’s Tower…begins oddly. Nine is nowhere to be found. The backdoor is open, and the PCs can exit the place, seeing it swirl in the void. The PCs will cross the void, fall…and immediately face Jacob, supported by a paladin and an antipaladin henchmen. The mighty mage is guarded by energy walls through which he can cast, and defeating him sends the PCs to phase two of the combat, as the arena transforms and Jacob goes into Angel mode, in the great tradition of Sephiroth et al. He is supported by adventurer ghosts…and once form number two is bested, he morphs once more into dragon form!

If the PCs vanquish Jacob, Nine will show up, in truth the goddess of death. Turns out the gods wanted to have Jacob slain, but he tricked them. He'd be trapped in this dimension, but only mortals would be able to kill him. Which the PCs now did. After a sufficiently epic reward, the adventure concludes. Roll credits.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are inconsistent: on the one hand, I am frankly in awe how professional this is for Jeff Gomez’ first stand-alone offering. It’s a huge task to assemble a book of this size, and more so sans editor/developer. As a whole, formatting is pretty tight, though time and again, at times confusing rules-formatting deviations and nonstandard verbiage instances can be found. Similarly, e.g. items in statblocks aren’t italicized, superscript Bs not superscript – there are quite a few such hiccups in the book. Less than what you’d expect from a one-man offering, but still, more than I’d happy with. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard, with a few okay stock art pieces thrown in. The cartography is the worst part of the module – barely functional, not pleasing and basically just blocks and rectangular walls. The lack of bookmarks is a jarring comfort-detriment that also really hampers this book.

Jeff Gomez “Jacob’s Tower” was not written for me. I like classic mega-adventures and the safe zone is anathema to that experience; and I like dungeons that simulate a sense of plausibility. At the same time, though, I’m a big fan of a lot of videogames, and I found myself curiously less appalled by the module than I thought I’d be. While there are quite a few levels that I’d consider to be bland indeed, there also are several ones that really captured my imagination, that I thoroughly enjoyed. Sure, the metaplot is as flimsy an afterthought as that of e.g. “Devil May Cry”, and you better not start questioning the logistics or consistency of this place. This is literally the “A WIZARD DID IT”-dungeon. Yes, in all caps. When the module tries to provide a “regular” playing experience, it thus becomes annoying and jarring. When it embraces its ridiculous concept, it becomes amazing.

Now, if formal criteria tend to bug you, if rules-language deviations, player-maps, bookmarks and the like are what you want, then this will not deliver. That being said, for the asking price, you get A LOT of gaming out of this one. 10 bucks? That’s, length-wise, 15 pages per Dollar, basically a whole adventure. Now, these levels diverge greatly in quality, in imagination and in coolness, sure…but when they work, they work surprisingly well! To the point where I honestly consider them worth scavenging and refining! The highlights herein burn brightly indeed!

But just as much do the bad ones suck. Similarly, the formatting and editing guffaws show that a picky editor, or better even, developer, could have really enhanced this module to the point where it could have become something outstanding. The end feels anticlimactic to me, and the frame-narrative of the Inn could have yielded so much more interaction and relevance for the respective levels.

As a reviewer, I am ultimately in a difficult position regarding this book: On a formal level, just taking formal features and rules-language into account, I consider this to be in the 2.5 star-vicinity, while content-wise, it oscillates between 1.5 and 5 stars. Ultimately, I consider this to be a mixed bag, though one worth checking out if you’re willing to work a bit, polishing off the rough spots. If you do, you can scavenge some rather exciting ideas from the pages of this mega-adventure…and if that’s your goal, then add half a star or a star. If you want a go-play experience with any degree of comfort, though, then look elsewhere. Ultimately, I feel I can’t go higher than 3 stars for this one, at least not in its current state. With a detailed editing pass, player-maps and bookmarks, this most certainly would have had more universal appeal.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Jacob's Tower
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Seven Bizarre Races
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/31/2018 08:15:42

Perhaps a bit too strange!

I bought this book for ideas for a campaign that I am creating from scratch with its own rules. Of the seven races, two (the Painterlily and Shadowfriend) will be used in an altered form. A third, the Blesmolefolk, are interesting and I can see myself using them in some form in a different campaign. Finally, whilst I don't think Kindercloaks work as a PC race due to their hivemind, they could be a 'monster' race and so are 'possibles'.

Those I will not be using are Bunnytaurs (just silly), Merriepetals (there are better plant based racs) and Misborn (requires a specific background for what happens after death).



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Seven Bizarre Races
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Rocket's Red Flare: An Independence Day Tale
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/16/2018 11:33:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little module clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so beyond the adventure presented here, we do get pretty extensive rules for fireworks and their scoring; these rules begin with stating the different ways to create fireworks: Magic, alchemical mixture, magic powders or blast powders – all have skills etc. assigned. As for magical fireworks, up to two spells may be cast into a firework powder.

The scoring of a magical firework works as follows: The damage and effects of spells are treated as though they struck a 1 HD target and the target failed all saves. Randomized effects, miss chances, etc. are rolled. Area effects add +1 to the scoring process; if the fireworks cause conditions, these may also provide a bonus…or penalty. No one wants to look at a nauseating firework, right? Well, I’d honestly like to see one, but then again, I’m a weirdo. ;) Damage dealt and/or healed are summed up, then divided by 5 and rounded down to the nearest half – this is a bonus. Certain descriptors can also yield bonuses: Fire, light and sonic are obvious, but e.g. force, mind-affecting etc. are also codified – these range from +2 to +1. Finally, schools and sub-schools and e.g. concealment or cover granting components are taken into account and the highest spell’s level is added. This section is pretty damn cool – it basically breaks down and codifies spells according to their potential to awe. The system is easy to grasp and nice.

The more conventional fireworks are skill-based, though repetition is the bane of a good score: The PCs should alternate between the different types. Don’t have any of the primary skills needed for firework shows? Fret not: The pdf offers a variety of suggestions to use other skills to improve fireworks, making sure it’s a team effort. Accompaniment with music can also help and the pdf even provides a variety of descriptions of fireworks for different scores. A simple selection of entries for crowd reactions complements what boils down to a really nice teamwork-based skill-challenge that may be worth the fair asking price of the supplement on its own.

All right, now let’s proceed to the actual module. It is intended for characters level 5 – 7and takes place in the village of Washingtown on the island of Murca. It has recently seceded from a tyrannical empire (after a poison-laced tea party) and declared independence….which is now celebrated, obviously. If that section did not put a grin on your face, well…it’ll happen. The pdf, unlike previous holiday-modules by Zenith Games, clearly designates read-aloud text as such. While e.g. DCs or names aren’t bolded for your convenience, the fireworks-scoring-rules mean anyways that you’ll have to read the entirety of the module prior to running it.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

Last year, the half-elf Renedict Barnald, nicknamed Rocket, sold his soul to the forces of darkness for the ultimate display of fireworks. Upon completion, rocket was transformed into a fireworks elemental, who slew a lot of people, only to flee the scenery. The PCs are in town, one year later after these events, as the weirdly-dressed town elder Uncle Sam hires them to participate in the contest to ensure safety. The PCs get a proper workshop (Rocket’s former lab), and, as they explore Washingtown, they’ll realize that pretty much everyone carries a crossbow. “Never try to take a crossbow away from a Washingtownian.” The other teams competing would be the half-orcs, led by Samadam and the gnomes under the leadership of Bingimin Frinklin.

In the workshop, the PCs will only have 12 hours to prepare, but they’ll thankfully find a list noting the ingredients of Rocket’s special mixtures, which add to the score of the firework, big time. The first of these would be…Freedom Eagle droppings, which must be harvested in the vicinity of a nest. The magical beasts are fully stated (adults and eaglets) and they are, bingo, affected by a constant freedom of movement. Before you start yelling “Unamerican!”, killing freedom eagles is a bad idea, big time – they have nasty death curse, so non-lethal problem solution is preferred here.

The second ingredient can be found in the ruins of the nearby civilization of Biberty, where the desired moss grows near the feat of the Huge Statue of Biberty (CR 7) – once more, fleeing may well be prudent here. After getting these secret ingredients, the PCs get to prepare their show and compete with the other teams…and after that, the mighty Rocket’s Red Flare (CR 8) will crash down, attempting to steal the magical star-spangled banner. This potent item can be worn as a cape, granting freedom of movement, which may be activated as an immediate action. It also nets a +4 morale bonus to saves vs. fear (home of the brave, after all!) and even sports synergy with the cavalier’s banner-feature…but, well…retreat is never an option when you wear it. Cool item!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column standard of basically text; italicizations and bolded components have been properly implemented, and headers alternate, fittingly, between red and blue. The pdf has no bookmarks, which may constitute a minor comfort-detriment, though, at this length, I’m good with it. Artworks are public domain b/w-pieces. The module sports no maps, but doesn’t really need them.

Jeff Gomez’ “Rocket’s Red Flare” is by far the strongest of his three holiday-themed adventures. Structurally, we get a surprisingly deep firework-show engine that I will definitely use again; in contrast to the other modules, we have an emphasis on cooperation and tasks that don’t need to be resolved with combat. The boss is amazing and deadly…and the module is genuinely funny. It is a great little satire on American mentalities and peculiarities without being mean-spirited in any way – it is self-conscious in the best, most warm-hearted ways and a great example of self-reflection through the medium of RPGs. Now I can see die-hard Murica-above-else folks consider this module to be insulting, but frankly, it is so funny, enjoyable and, while it does sport satirical jabs here and there, they are in the tradition of Horaz, not Juvenal, attempting to cause reflection instead of tearing down the target. Now, while I am not an American, I know that many of my readers are and, from what I could glean, I am pretty positive that this may well be even funnier for Americans.

Even if you’re not interested in the module at all, the firework rules may well make this module worth getting, considering the low asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, for a genuinely funny module that lacks the dark cynicism of the previous two adventures.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rocket's Red Flare: An Independence Day Tale
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The Gobber: A Thanksgiving Tale
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/09/2018 08:41:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so one of these pages is devoted to a new race, the awakened turkey, who receives +2 Con and Cha, -2 Int, is Small and a magical beast with the augmented animal subtype. Turkeys has a base speed of 20 ft. and are natural gliders, taking no damage from falls and allowing them to glide 60 ft. per 1 foot they fall. They also get +2 to natural AC due to feathers…but any fire damage cancels that bonus until the turkey is fully healed. These guys also get a 1d3 bite attack (damage-type not noted, requiring the player to default to standard), which is properly codified with regards to primary/secondary. Kudos. They also get +4 to Handle Animal checks and always treat it as a class skill. The bonus should probably be racial. They also get Toughness as a bonus feat. There is an issue, though: Awakened turkeys are delicious. Animals attacking them get a +2 morale bonus to atk and damage rolls with bite attacks, as well as a +2 morale bonus to grapple or pin them…or to swallow them whole. Cool!

Now, it should be noted that this adventure is intended for 3-5 characters level 2 – 4. As with the other Zenith Games mini-modules, we do not get read-aloud text, though sections of the pdf can qualify as such. It would have been nice to see them highlighted/shaded to set them apart, but oh well. Rules-relevant components are not explicitly highlighted in the text. The pdf sports a map, which is player-friendly, b/w and rudimentary, but completely sufficient to run this adventure – what I like to call “functional.”

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The small town of Pilgrim’s Rest has basically the equivalent of Thanksgiving; Giblet farms and slaughterhouse is the institution in charge of providing the most succulent turkey for the celebration, but time after time, year after year, something goes wrong, costing the enterprise profits. Vandals wreck his enterprise. Thus, the PCs are hired by owner Gunther Giblet. The PCs, waiting for their appointment, bear witness to the aftermath of a verbal altercation with a lady before getting to talk to the Halfling – turns out, the lady has the name “Drumstick” and is, ironically, vegetarian and obviously the child of Gunther.

Drumstick would be a prime suspect, obviously, but Gunther dismisses any such claims, adding an off-hand remark about the Gobbler – he tells a sordid tale of a worker who fell into the machinery, being summarily executed by the machinery. Now, this may, depending on your type of campaign, be a bit of an anachronism, as industrial slaughterhouse were a product of a later age, so that may be something to bear in mind. (And yes, you can explain that away with clockwork or steampunk-y elements, but not every group will be happy with such a solution, so I figured I’d mention it.)

The PCs get a chance to take a look at the “farm” – basically a warehouse with cubbyholes and the machinery to slaughter the turkeys. Waiting here doesn’t yield much news, as the turkeys fall asleep: 11 PM, the door busts open to a warning of an elderly half-elven night-janitor, who tells the PCs that the previous years saw the slaughter of the predecessors of the PCs…and in a delightfully weird blending of tropes, he promises that the PCs will be visited by the Ghosts of Turkeys Past, Present and Future...and then, should they survive, the Gobbler will come to butcher them.

Things begin in a rather grisly manner once the old elf takes off, as a mighty turkey ooze forms from entrails and the waste components of the turkey; should the PCs prevail here, they’ll have to contend with deafening gobbling, as all cages burst open to have a swarm of turkeys assault them next. Once the swarm has been defeated, all cages are locked, the turkeys safe inside. Finally, a blinding flash of light will see a turkey knight, fighter and sorcerer manifest, pitting the PCs against basically futuristic sentient turkey adventurers. (Minor complaint: Spells not italicized.) Should the PCs emerge victorious once more, the gobbler will enter. Turns out, it’s Gunther. He has become afflicted with the curse of the dread wereturkey! Whether the PCs manage to subdue or kill him, the adventure ends with the defeat of the Halfling…though, yes, the PCs may actually be afflicted with the curse themselves…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally pretty good, no truly grievous complaints there. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column standard with brown-ish headers; the pdf is pretty printer-friendly. Artworks are public domain pieces in b/w and the map of the farm is,as noted, functional. Not aesthetically pleasing, but it does its job for the low asking price. The pdf does not sport any bookmarks, a minor comfort detriment, though, at this length, not one I’m going to penalize the pdf for.

Jeff Gomez’ Gobbler is a delightfully bonkers yarn. The module begins with a lead-in that makes you assume a heavy-handed morality fable, and it can be read as such; however, by quoting Christmas Carol and the increasingly surreal challenges, the pdf actually subverts this component, allowing the player/GM to draw his/her own conclusions. It is also this weirdness that makes the somewhat anachronistic components work in context, though a pretty far-developed larger city makes imho for a more sensible backdrop. As a whole, I ended up enjoying this adventure more than I thought I would. The matter of fact remains, though, that beyond being a sequence of combats, there is nothing going on here, and the terrain could have been more relevant to the proceedings as well. For the low asking price, this may well be worth checking out, though. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, though I feel I have to round down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Gobber: A Thanksgiving Tale
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Deck the Halls: A Christmas Tale
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/08/2018 03:22:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This is an adventure for 3-5 characters of levels 2 – 4. The module does not sport read-aloud text, if you’re looking for the like. Since my readers requested that I point out comfort aspects, you should note that e.g. rules-relevant components are not bolded etc. in the text. As a consequence, I recommend reading the module in its entirety before attempting to run it. Since holiday modules are popular for family-entertainment, it should be noted that I don’t consider this module to be suitable for kids. You’ll see why soon. The adventure sports basic maps, which, while not particularly aesthetically-pleasing, get the job done. One of them has the position of adversaries noted on it and no player-friendly version without them is provided.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, in the snow-swept town of Ivanheim, there exists the legend of the mad elf Santa Claus, who ostensibly watches over kids, nabbing them for his workshop. Then, one year, a couple of kids build a snowman Santa Claus and unfortunately, used the town sage’s magical top hat. The snow-elf disappeared…and soon after, so did kids. First, the town bully…then, progressively more innocent kids, with only a lump of coal remaining as a sort of mocking payment.

For 7 years, this has gone on. Parents have attempted to protect their kids, ending up horribly massacred, guts hanging between holly and mistletoe. The night of this grim harvest is named after the first kid to go missing: Chrismiss. (Clever!) This year, the few remaining kids have all been barricaded in the smokehall, with the town hiring mercenaries to guard them. That would be the PCs. Outside, a blizzard rages, concealing horrors. A single boy drums against the fear and paranoia, lifting the spirits while he lives; as the night progresses, the PCs will hear bells jingling; a knock on the door…and if the PCs have barricaded it, soon after, an explosion: Through the shrapnel, diabolical reindeer rush into the smokehall in waves, with Rudolf and his blinding nose entering last. Minor complaints here: The blinding nose does not specify its area of effect: I assume a radius/burst, but a cone would make sense as well. In a purely aesthetic peculiarity, damage notion deviates in a few, but not all statblocks from the standard: Values are noted as e.g. “d4+2” instead of “1d4+2”, but that is a cosmetic hiccup.

After the PCs have slaughtered the reindeer, a clockwork tin soldier leads nutcrackers into the fray. The latter nauseates male characters on a critical hit. Yes, I consider that to be somewhat funny.

When the PCs vanquish these foes, Santa will retreat through a portal – and the PCs hopefully will follow in hot pursuit. On the other side, they’ll b in a nightmarish workshop of rust and smoke, where undead children (!!) shuffle coal on conveyor belts. The PCs will have to kill the evil fey (who may well pummel the PCs to death with a bag of coal…) and butcher the undead children. Really weird: We get conveyor belts…but they do, RAW, nothing – no terrain features or peculiarities there.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally rather good, though not always perfect. Layout adheres to a 0-frills two-column standard – basically text, headers and statblocks, with headers in green. The artworks are public domain art and the cartography, as mentioned, is functional. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length.

Jeff Gomez’ “Deck the Halls”…is surprisingly grim and dark. I did not expect such a horror module here. While a sense of dark humor suffuses the module, the undead kids sans means of saving them, makes this a pretty bleak adventure. In should also be noted that this is pretty convention-module-like; there isn’t much roleplaying, skill-use, etc. – this is a series of combats, and one an experienced group can potentially finish in less than 1 or 2 hours. Now, personally, I would have loved to see more diverse challenges; I would have enjoyed to see the conveyor belts in the final module actually matter.

While this is an inexpensive, brief module, it falls short of e.g. Zzarchov Kowolski’s only seasonally available and pretty modular “Down in Yon Forest” or Everyman Gaming’s epic Christmas mega-adventure “Yuletide Terror”, which in spite of sporting “terror” in its name, is actually family-friendly and significantly less bleak than this one. I can see this module work, but ultimately, I wasn’t too impressed with this one – too one-sided and one-note. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deck the Halls: A Christmas Tale
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We Be Leshys
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/09/2017 05:09:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, first things first: This module works best as a one-shot, courtesy of its unique premise: If the similarity in the name wasn’t ample clue: In this scenario, the PCs play Leshys, namely the leshys known as Brindlewild’s Protectors – these special leshys all come with CR 5 sample statblocks and represent the pregens for the module. The pdf provides some notes for customization, should the like be desired by the PCs. The respective leshy pregens all can be roughly likened to the traditional adventuring class roles – Briam, the briar leshy, for example, is thorny and gains verdant channel: Interesting here: All of the leshy gain verdant channel, which heals plant creatures exclusively. This means that, theoretically, a group of these can create a significant healing burst and recuperate from nigh annihilation. It should be noted, however, that the leshy in question are generally more versatile than regular characters: Briam, for example, sports pretty potent vines that can cause bleeding wounds. Strandle, a seaweed leshy, has aswim speed, can fire water jets and may detach bulbs that grant water breathing. All in all, these leshys could easily be reappropriated as low-level boss-monsters, should you desire to do so.

The pdf does provide some scaling advice for more or less potent groups, though these remain somewhat basic, focusing on imposing penalties and bonuses to account for group power. Big plus: Each encounter gets a full-color map that can double as a player/encounter map – and they actually are nice, particularly for the low asking price.

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

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! A century ago, the sorcerer Varun forged a dark pact with a powerful demon, blasting the land with the dread artifact known as the Eye of Aragahz…and his reign of terror was unpleasant…until Tyrganian the druid manages to steal the artifact, causing the sorcerer to be cursed by his erstwhile demon ally. The Eye’s power allowed the druid to grow the Brindlewild Forest, but use of dark artifacts corrupts – and thus, the druid fell to promises most foul. Fighting the encroaching civilization with 9 super leshy as a kind of police, he stalled the march of progress. Relationships have been strained, but there is some semblance of an uneasy coexistence. However, the vile sorcerer has finally managed to track down the Eye, recruiting the people of nearby Blackwater and promising them to get rid of Tyrganian once and for all.

If you have Zenith Games’ “We be dragons”-module, all of this may sound somewhat familiar: If you extrapolate the leshy-themed dressing away and replace it with draconic themes, you’ll have an identical constellation, with the minor complication of a compromised mentor – not sure I’m particularly happy there.

But let’s look at how the module’s structure runs, shall we? We begin with a conversation between Ancient oak, the treant and the leshys – the treant represents a more moderate position and makes the PCs question their creation…before Tyrganian intervenes and send the PCs after tresspassers he senses in the druid’s domain.

Thus, the PCs move towards the intruders – the strongest fighters of Blackwater, led by Hettie – who wields a chainsaw. Full technology item-stats are provided for the powerful weapon and it is pretty much as deadly as you’d imagine. However, unbeknown to the elite-leshy, the incursion ultimately is a distraction to lure them away from Tyrganian…a fact they can determine if they question any surviving loggers.

Arriving at the sacred grove, the leshys face a scene of destruction, with their friend Ancient Oak smitten by dark magic – the treant holds on long enough to impart the information that the villagers seek to burn Tyrganian at the stake, before dark magics overcome him, rendering him a powerful and deadly foe who can conjure forth storms of negative energy, with multiple rounds of different effects – cool battle! (And yes, the treant can be saved, though it’s not necessarily simple…)

Making haste to the village, the leshys can attempt social skills or fight their way towards the stake, with rules on how to free their master included – kudos there. The badly wounded druid has a serious chance to perish here if the PCs don’t take care. After saving Tyrganian (or failing to do so), the PCs still have to catch up with the mighty sorcerer Varun – who will face them on dust-choked, charred land with Eye and Rift demon, but thankfully also with a significant amount of his potent arcane might spent already. Defeating the sorcerer and securing the Eye retains the integrity of the Brindlewild…but if the PCs don’t caution the druid, he may continue to use the Eye. Ancient Oak may or may not have survived his ordeal, a voice of reason that may help the PCs convince Tyrganian to refrain from using the dark artifact.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups apart from a missed italicization. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports thematically fitting b/w-stock art. The cartography of all the encounters is significantly better than that in “We Be Dragons” – kudos, particularly for the low price point, they’re solid! A downside of the pdf: The module does not sport any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

When I started reading this module by Jeff Gomez and Mike Welham, I was somewhat disappointed by the story – structure-wise, I did not expect something genius, but basically a reskin of the dragon-pdf? Not too cool. Thematically, it hist the same notes as well: Encounter, save mentor, deal with BBEG. That being said, this pdf is superior to “We be Dragons” in pretty much every way: The respective encounters are creative; the pregens are cool – each combat is meaningful, challenging and the signature items/abilities are really cool. Every single one of the encounters sports something cool and the player-friendly encounter maps add a serious plus to the module. That being said, the lack of bookmarks does constitute a somewhat unpleasant detriment and I would have liked stats for the artifact. As a whole, I did enjoy this module and my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
We Be Leshys
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We Be Dragons
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:20:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

If the appropriation of Paizo’s slogan for Goblin-PC adventures was no clear indicator – this module is set apart by one very crucial factor: The PCs are all dragons! While it is possible to use appropriate regular dragons, the module’s base premise works imho best if you use the plentiful pregens included. 9 of these are provided, all clocking in at CR 4 and representing, as a whole, a pretty diverse spectrum. The dragons range from arcane dragon to blood dragon, caustic dragon, corruptor dragon, harmonic dragon, radiant dragon – basically, these dragons get supplemental abilities that help them fill in adventuring roles: The blood dragon, for example, gets a rage, while the radiant dragon’s breath weapon heals the living and damages undead – you get the idea.

Beyond that, the pdf provides something I very much applaud – namely a cheat-sheet for Flight: Common uses and DC, etc. – it’s handy to have and makes for a nice hand-out when playing this module with players who are not as experienced with the intricacies of flight. The module does offer minor scaling variations, which can prove to be helpful.

Now, the aforementioned dragons are undoubtedly dragons you never heard of before – there’s a reason for that – they may be the last of their kind…but to go into more details, I have to start going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Balthazar Barrick was but a child when dragons annihilated all he had ever known. He founded the order of the wyrm and eradicated no less than 9 draconic bloodlines. Alas, his squire Elbin disagreed with his master’s trauma-fueled fanaticism. He saved a single egg from each bloodline, spirited them away and raised them for 15 years, far away from civilization, in a cabin affectionately called Scalehearth.

Alas, recent expansions of trading routes have brought civilization perilously close…and Balthazar is still looking for his former squire, seeking to fulfill his extermination of the dragon PC’s bloodlines. Elbin, in the meanwhile, plans to move deeper into the wilderness…but as the dragons arrive from a hunting trip back at the cabin, they find it burning, Elbin wounded with a nasty gut wound and a nasty and utterly obvious poison – thus, we begin with a tripartite skill-challenge type of encounter that is surprisingly fun to run – three tasks, all time-sensitive – cool way to kick this off!

We get different read-aloud texts and slightly different information, depending on whether Elbin lives, obviously – turns out that a scout of the Torn Company, a poacher group, have been hired to track Elbin and his draconic brood – the trail leads towards the wayside inn that was rather recently constructed – the Toasted Toad, where some interrogation by overt or covert means (bloodshed and violence optional) predates the arrival of the Torn Company…whether the dragons engage or flee is up to them.

The trail, ultimately, leads the PCs to the ruined remnants of Craggock Fortress, where the fallen paladin Balthazar beseeches the gods to reinstate his paladin-hood…but to no avail. Still, with the remnants of the Torn Company and a fallen level 12 paladin, the final fight will not be a cakewalk – not even for dragons…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with red headers. Interior artwork is solid b/w-stock. The pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a minor comfort detriment. Cartography is in full-color, but extremely rudimentary – it’s just a collection of color-coded squares. Even a pencil-drawing would probably have been nicer.

Jeff Gomez’ “We be dragons” is a fun one-shot – particularly suitable for convention-style gameplay or as a change of pace, it represents a fun diversion from the standard adventuring tropes and trying to reinvigorate one’s bloodline can make for a great, epic campaign goal that is pretty inspiring. The challenges are diverse enough and, in fact, very much fun. That being said, the lack of bookmarks and the pretty bad map represent some minor blemishes for the module. It should be noted, though, that at the extremely fair and low price-point, this is definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
We Be Dragons
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