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Scroll Puzzle Generator
Publisher: Mind Weave RPG
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2021 05:20:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

So, this generator, ideally, cuts up an image you choose and disperses it among scrolls, which the players can then use to solve a puzzle.

The deal includes a 3-page “How to”-pdf, which explains the process; you choose an image for the puzzle. Then, you choose a background image; you also select a scroll and a paper image.

Then, you determine the parameters of the puzzle: The number of scrolls and the height of pages, and a bottom buffer: The larger that is, the easier the puzzle can be solved. The puzzle generator (html-file) also includes an option for a background change and a message overlay option.

The archive included here features a series of different artworks from Mind Weave RPG’s library. These include some cover artworks, backgrounds, some paper textures, etc. The archive features one image folder that includes the aforementioned, and also a puzzle-folder that includes 3 pregenerated puzzles. The puzzles you generate must be copied into this folder.

Additionally, we have a 3-page pdf that provides a kind of in-game context for the puzzles, providing a sort of sample encounter, which comes with some advice on using checks as hints. The encounter set-up was intriguing, and it assumes a 5e frame.

The pdfs also explain the core mechanic of these puzzles, and a kind of b/w handout-seal of the NPC that contextualizes the generator.

I have tried making scroll puzzles in both Firefox and Chrome; both browsers worked perfectly.

The main criticism I can field against this generator would be that the image selection is very limited and not that appealing; getting more paper textures or artworks/sigils for the actual puzzles would have been nice. On the plus side, you can use your own images, if you have any.

Structurally, the puzzle is VERY simple as far as I’m concerned and is more a matter of perseverance than genuine brains, but that may be years of adventure game-experience speaking; I can see some groups being rather challenged by this puzzle. Unfortunate: Once you realize how the puzzle operates (which I did within a minute or so…), the gig is up and solving the puzzle remains a matter of slogging through it. Some means to modify the factor behind the solution would have been nice; a scramble variable would have greatly enhanced the longevity of the puzzle generator.

How to rate this? The generator works but didn’t exactly impress me in either depth or complexity, but for a single buck, this might be worth checking out. As a whole, I consider this to be a mixed bag, and as such, my final verdict will be 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Scroll Puzzle Generator
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Scenic Dunnsmouth
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2021 05:26:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure-toolkit clocks in at 114 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 3 pages of editorial/front matter, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 108 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’/A5, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters. My review is based on the pdf, the LotFP-released softcover, and also the version included in the limited edition Zzarchov’s Adventure Omnibus Vol.2. For the purpose of this review, only the softcover and the pdf are taken into account for the verdict, though, as the omnibus cannot currently be purchased by the public.

Okay, so what is this? Remember those Ravenloft adventures where you’d use cards to randomize key aspects of the adventure? Yeah? Well, now picture that the randomized nature was amped up to not 11, but 12, and beyond. Scenic Dunnsmouth is intended for a well-rounded party of adventurers levels 2-5, but it is not a classic adventure. Instead, this is an incredibly potent randomized “assemble-it-yourself” toolkit. The replay value is VAST, and the depth of the content provided is also impressive. It should be noted, though, that this toolkit is not one you quickly assemble. While the creation-process is pretty quick, the intricate combinations and variables do mean that you should take some time, though you won’t need more than for most module-preparations. With one exception: I hope you like drawing maps. None are included. I hate that.

Theme-wise, the toolkit is firmly entrenched in the dark fantasy/horror genre, so if you’re easily offended and want your fantasy fluffy and clean, steer clear of this. This is grimy, gritty, and contains taboo subjects. At least to my German sensibilities, it is never gratuitous, though: This is frightening and mature without devolving into a grimy schlock-fest. Dunnsmouth is, as implied by the name, cursory related to the Innsmouth theme popularized by Lovecraft, but only in the theme of a remote and xenophobic community; there are thankfully no Deep ones or other tired mythos critters in this book. Dunnsmouth is supposed to be an isolated, perpetually mist-shrouded community, and the most likely adventure hook provided would be that of the tax collectors, which did make me smile.

So, how does the generator work? You need a deck of playing cards, a d4, 10 d6s, a d8 and two differently colored d12s. Then you take a sheet of paper and roll all dice on the sheet, taking note where they fall; the d4 denotes the location of an important artifact, and its value denotes the infection level; each d6 is a home in Dunnsmouth. If the value of the d6 is equal to or less than the infection level, then the home is infected. For each home, you also draw a playing card, and each playing card corresponds to a specific inhabitant of Dunnsmouth. The suits of the cards are aligned with one of the 4 “great” families of Dunnsmouth. The value of the respective d6 also determines certain properties of the inhabitant. The d8 is the local church, and its value determines the state of mind of the priest, and if the d8 is less than infection level (only if it’s less!), the priest is infected.

The two d12s are special: On a 1-6, they are another home; on a 7+, they are a special location; each of the two dice has different special locations. The die that lands farthest from the d4 is the home of Uncle Ivanovik (more on that later), with the die result denoting the fellow’s level. The total tally of dice is used for determining treasure. 1 inch is considered to be 10 minutes of travelling by foot, 2 minutes by boat. The “step-by-step building Dunnsmouth”-explanation is provided twice; once at the start of the pdf, and once in the back, where the generation process is illustrated with various diagrams. 9 pages are devoted to the step-by-step sample process in this appendix. The toolkit also includes a handy quick reference appendix of 3 pages of statblocks; 3 sample spells properly balanced within the frame of the rules-set (which is LotFP, i.e., Lamentations of the Flame Princess – no surprise there) and 6 magic items are included, not including the aforementioned artifact. This back of the book matter also provides some sample suggestions to clarify beforehand: One of the great families is partially defined by an ancient shame, and two sample ideas are presented. Both are interesting.

While we’re on the playing card angle: It is HILARIOUS to me that particularly kooky characters and somewhat intrusive NPCs are assigned to the cards you were supposed to take out of the deck. So yes, if you left the jokers inside, the poker rules card or an advertisement card…you actually have an associated NPC for those as well. There are a ton of b/w/red-artworks for the inhabitants of Dunnsmouth: Jez Gordon uses an interesting combination of b/w-art and red shaders that gleam almost in a metallic manner in the softcover for a rather neat aesthetic identity, and the sheer amount of mugshots included (alongside other artworks) is neat to see and helps establish the theme. Usually, each set of inhabitants, say, the 4 of clubs, gets their own page that lists the card, the NPC/home description and the mugshot-artworks for (almost all) inhabitants, with presentation switching to a one-column standard, making organization pretty easy on the referee. The downside of this is that there is quite a bit of blank space on most pages; the majority of NPC-write-ups come with approximately half a page of blank space.

It should also be noted that each NPC clarifies what’s different when they are infected, and in a pleasant surprise, I often found the non-infected write-up sections more interesting than the infected scenario; the depth and potential interconnectedness is VAST. I created a whole slew of Dunnsmouths, and how differently they turned out was impressive; the sheer replay-value for the referee is GINORMOUS, and indeed, this is one of the very, very few adventures that you could run once per year with the same group and still have radically different experiences without becoming redundant. Of course, it’s very tempting to make Dunnsmouth LARGER. Frankly, one can get an incredibly deep and complex web of relationships by increasing the d6s and NPCs included, but adding in stuff you didn’t roll, even though that’s not the intention of the toolkit.

Okay, in order to discuss this in more detail, I will need to go deep into SPOILER territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. Seriously. Don’t SPOIL yourself. (Even if your version of Dunnsmouth will be different from all I have made.)

… .. .

Okay, only referees around? Great! So, let us talk about the 4 families and other players, shall we? The Duncasters (Heart) struck me as southern upper middle class, with impeccable joviality and friendliness, but also strong familial bonds; they are probably the closest to a traditional allied family the party may have. The Dunlops (Diamond) are moderately-wealthy, and in contrast to the Duncasters, are somewhat elitist. The Samsons (Club), allied with the Duncasters, curiously are perhaps the most unpleasant of the families – they are angry, xenophobic, inbred and consistently aggressive, and they manage to fill that role superbly and without treading into the classic Lovecraft themes. Finally, the Van Kaus (Spade) are quasi-Dutch/Germanic and have a kind of austere, almost Amish style and a hidden secret that the referee needs to specify. We have 13 cards per family, and the aforementioned 4 wildcard cards. These families are an example of fantastic writing; they feel organic, nasty, plausible and captivating; some of the best webs of NPCs I’ve read in all my years of roleplaying. I’m not doing them justice with these short breakdowns.

Beyond these NPCs, we also have e.g. Uncle Ivanovik, who delivers your crazy trapper/hermit-angle, and his lair is modular as well; there also would be Magda, an ageing Romani magic-user, who is very likely to be a solid ally for the party. (And she is, unlike most LotFP magic-users, not some ridiculous psychopath.) There also would be Father Iwanopolous, the priest…and yes, Magda and Ivanovik can theoretically be here. There are a lot of changes that might happen depending on infection level, and individual Dunnsmouth creation. The special locations that you can roll with the d12s include elven spies, an inn, a foundry, a sawmill, a fort, etc. To give you an example for the modularity: let’s say, you rolled the sawmill: There are special considerations if Aces were drawn, if Uncle Ivanovik is in the sawmill, if Magda is here…or if the original spider is here.

Original spider? Yeah, there are two sources of malign weirdness here, the first being the spider. You see, there is one type of spider whose bite charms those bitten, making them consider the spider akin to a child. And with the strong family-theme…well, you get the idea. Those thus inducted and bitten tend to have a rather good chance of producing spider-human hybrid creatures as offspring; these are not cursed, but naturally born that way…and there is a chance that, when infected parents procreate, a whole swarm of these spiders may be born. The genetic corruption of humanoids is simply a part of the lifecycle of this spider. (The power of the spider is pretty much randomized as well, just fyi) This and the NPC set-up means that the party will need to make a ton of hard decisions.

Now, while it is very likely that this spider-cult is a driving force of the hostility in Dunnsmouth, it is not guaranteed. There actually is a chance that there won’t be a cult at all, and that the original spider has already died! I love this!

The second angle of weirdness is actually a subtle cultural reference: The artifact that influences the mist-shrouded and rather nasty atmosphere of Dunnsmouth would be the Time Cube. In-game, the artifact is sufficiently alien and dangerous, volatile and odd, and manages to be that without being yet another “Lol, all die 11!!!! So grim, so mature”-bullshit. It’s high impact in a good way and may manage to pit you against Old Man Time, who may well be an allusion. Anyhow, for the purpose of this toolkit, I’m pretty sure that the author actually read the batshit-crazy Time Cube theories and used them to, at least partially, influence the subtle numerology mirrored in the spider-theme, in the corruption of family ties, and in how these insane notions affect the choice of the actual NPCs. To give you some context: Picture one absolutely harebrained, but incredibly complex theory of everything and its random rules and dictates, and then picture using that as a structuring and incredibly subtle principle to build a dark fantasy structure atop it. From a design-perspective, this is so subtle and elegant it made me smile. If you are not familiar with the tragic story of the crazy pseudo-Weltanschauung of Time Cubism and want to learn more about it, I recommend watching the “Down the Rabbit Hole: Time Cube” documentary on youtube.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language and formal level. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with red/purple-ish shades used for accentuating the artwork; as noted above, the NPC-write-ups adhere to a 1-column standard. There are a ton of artworks, primarily mugshots, included...which is actually my main point of criticism; see below. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The softcover is perfect bound and has the name on the spine (good), but it also didn’t survive the rigors of constant use too well; the glue of my copy is coming apart.

Zzarchov Kowolski’s “Scenic Dunnsmouth” is a frickin’ masterpiece of adventure design; this toolkit spits out modular and compelling swamp backwater sandboxes like nobody’s business, providing compelling adventuring time and again; it is testament to how incredibly good this is, that I consider its results to be more compelling and interesting than almost all fixed adventures with such themes. If you’re doing Innsmouth-like horror, get this, roll up a sample Dunnsmouth, and if your module isn’t better, then learn from this. The writing for all those NPCs is brilliant. The HUGE replay-value this offers is pretty much unparalleled, particularly considering how WELL this runs. And if you disregard the die-limitations in creation, you can create a super-Dunnsmouth of sheer unrivaled depth. And yes, it can be funny in the author’s darkly-hilarious way. Particularly if you don’t remove those cards that you were supposed to remove from the deck, so if humor in your dark fantasy isn’t your thing, you do retain full control over that aspect.

Now, I do consider this to be a true masterpiece, yes. But not one I love sans reservations. Why? Well, creating Dunnsmouth is, by necessity of its modularity, a pretty involved process. That’s all fine and dandy. But for me, the process of settlement creation got much more involved, and to the point where I do not want to do this too often. You see, I suck at drawing maps. I HATE drawing maps. It takes me forever, and I derive no joy whatsoever from it. Know what’s conspicuously absent from this toolkit? MAPS.

And the thing is, each location/house/shack can have quite a few rooms/areas in theory; cellars, hatches. The map-drawing for Dunnsmouth can occupy you literally for months. Which brings me to the artwork. You know, I like artwork as much as the next fellow, particularly if it’s nice. But the art-budget for this book? In my opinion, it was wasted on a wealth of pretty but functionally nigh-useless NPC-mugshots, when getting actual maps (or modular map-components that we can assemble, like in e.g. “Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter”) would have taken a huge boatload of work off the back of the referee. Considering that Dunnsmouth has paranoia and xenophobia as leitmotifs, and considering that details are the spice of an investigation, I do think that the lack of maps genuinely and truly hurts this product. I like theater of the mind playstyles as well, but here? Here so many instances basically scream for maps. This holds particularly true for the special locations, but frankly also extends to the regular homes.

In many ways, this is what derives this book of my “best of”- and “EZG Essentials”-tags, and if there ever is a revised version, I certainly hope for an inclusion of proper maps, because right now, that is what prevents me from using this again. The thought of drawing so many maps.

As it stands, this is still a truly phenomenal piece of dark fantasy/horror-writing that I consider to be a great investment even if you’re playing in a completely different system. For most referees, this will be a masterpiece, perhaps even become the annual Halloween-module. If you’re like me and loathe the map-drawing aspect of the game, then consider this a limited caveat emptor: This is still worth getting and investing the time and effort in, but you probably won’t do it more than once.

My final verdict, though, will still remain at 5 stars, because this is a masterpiece by any metric I can apply to it. Except for the lack of maps. Did I mention that the lack of maps really annoyed me? Did I mention that this should have maps? …that was actually the sole point of contention for me. I really wanted to strip this of my seal of approval because of the lack of maps…but as a reviewer, that would be a disservice to the design and narrative depth of this supplement in favor of a pet-peeve of mine. So, there you go. With gritted teeth and grumbling, this does get the seal of approval, even though, for me as a person, the lack of maps would derive it of that.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scenic Dunnsmouth
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Whisper in the Crags (S&W)
Publisher: Fail Squad Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2021 04:55:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover/thank you, leaving us with 13 pages of content.

This review was requested by one of my supporters and moved up in my reviewing queue at their request.

Okay, so this is an adventure for 4–5 characters of 4th level; while the pdf does have boxed text, it’s not really read-aloud text, but rather what some NPCs might say; the module, structurally, is pretty linear and included a really nice full-color region map. The regional map is missing a scale and grid, and there is no player-friendly iteration included, which struck me as a huge pity. The module also sports a smaller and significantly less-impressive mini-dungeon map, which does have a grid, but no scale. There also is no player-friendly version of it, and the map is very small, so not that useful for VTTs. The artwork used herein is impressive indeed: Raven Metcalf provides artworks that reminded me of some of my favorite creepy gothic manga like Bizenghast; for the non-otakus: Think of a slightly more sinister aesthetic than Tim Burton; more scratchy lines and slightly more wicked. Love that. As a system, this uses Swords & Wizardry.

Now, an important warning note: This is an incredibly dark adventure in more than one way. I don’t think it can be called grimdark; for me, this edges straight into misery-tourism land. You have been warned if you’re sensitive. Here there be dead children.

Okay, in order to talk more about this, I will need to enter SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the adventure is set in the small settlement of Lorview, which is not really detailed; in a somewhat puzzling decision, the name of locals and the information they provide have been relegated to an appendix, which makes rendering the start of the module a bit weird. It should be noted that one of the background knowledge entries refers to 2:00 AM, which does imply a church or the like, or other form of reliable time-measuring, so that’s something the GM has to bear in mind. The module begins with the party patrolling near the settlement, finding a doll; the tracks to follow are really hard and no consequence for failure is given, which is odd, since that’s the sole lead-in provided for the module. There also is a hidden stash here. Hope your party includes someone who gets an autoroll…

This is the best point in time to note that this module does not do a particularly good job at OSR design, alas; we have a creature reference that is a 5e-remnant; we have references to e.g. STR checks; disorientation mist suddenly is anti-magic (why? No clue), and Know direction isn’t taken into account. Like in the 5e-version, read-aloud text and NPC statements are not clearly set apart from the remainder of the text. In an investigation, some details “may be noted” by the party, but no “how” is really presented. This is bad; really bad…but at least it’s not as borked as the 5e-version. Design-wise, this doesn’t get that part of the charm of OSR gaming is the decreased emphasis on fighting, with a higher focus on problem-solving and the like; this module railroads the party into several combats that can’t really be avoided, stacked in favor of the party, etc.

Anyways, what I’m trying to say is: If rules-integrity or ease of use is important to you, then this’ll test your patience to the limits. If you’re really into the whole problem-solution-angle of OSR-gaming, then this will also be something that disappoints you.

If that were the only issue, though, this could still be salvaged. Alas, it is not.

You see, the hard to follow trail leads to a weird sight: A local girl, Lottie Fisher, having tea in the forest with a troll! And yes, with an appropriately dainty tea-service. How would your party react? If the response was anything else than “Troll, kill it with fire! (Or Acid!)”, then this module may not be for you; the chance for a social encounter, for the party not murderhoboing towards the strange pair isn’t even considered. The troll lifts up Lottie, and runs, quite literally, for the hills. What follows is a sequence of bland encounters as the party runs after the troll: Wolves, vine blights and bugbears. Oddly, the “chase” is scripted in a way so that the party only loses the troll if they rest; it’s also weird that the wolves can’t be dealt with by druids/rangers, and that the bugbears may be negotiated with, but that’s about it. The pdf is also littered with remnants from the (Pseudo-) 5e-version.

Lottie is returned to her grateful parents, and all seems, kinda, well in Lorview. On the next day, the schoolteacher’s terrier is found gruesomely murdered, its entrails used to form some sort of rune; after a VERY rudimentary investigation (we don’t really have much regarding locals; much of this needs to be improvised/designed by the GM), the party will find one villager missing, Joey Blakely, who is found murdered and sunken in One-mile Creek. Late the following evening, a local woman claims to have seen Lottie run by, and she has left the head of a local handyman. A fire also erupts and fails to specify what it takes to contain the flames. If all of this sounds railroad, btw., then because it is. This is preordained, and the actions of the party matter not one bit.

Anyhow, Lottie flees to the family barn, and seems to have written pleas in blood to a local bogeywoman to save her; some floorboards are loose, and under them are 12 dead children Lottie murdered. …

  1. Dead. Children. Just for shock value, mind you. They make no sense whatsoever. No, there is nothing the party can do to prevent that. No, they curiously don’t seem to draw the attention of a ton of flies, maggots, scavengers, etc. You see, Lottie is essentially a night hag spawn, a kind of changeling, so she is kinda possessed, but not really because she is also somewhat intrinsically predisposed to be evil. sigh Anyhow, if the party uses the toys of her, they can cause her to briefly pause. Okay. So, the fellows who slaughtered her buddy…Ach, never mind.

…Yes, it’s ALSO one of those modules. This module’s plot revolves around a way in which night hags procreate that is different from established D&D canon.

The module concludes with the party going into the crags, finding Sleepless Sally’s hideout, dealing with two generic rooms in a nano-dungeon of sorts (two keyed rooms, two dead ends) …and that’s it. Lottie’s actual mom’s dead, Lottie, a child, is essentially a magical psycho-serial killer…but now that Sally’s dead, surely that will have no repercussions. Right? Right??? This module either forces the party to kill a kid or assume that a settlement is totally A-OK with a kid who killed more than 10 (!!) other kids.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are bad on a formal level, and also fails at the simple job of rules-language for an OSR-game. Ouch. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard, and as noted in the beginning, I genuinely liked the artworks by Raven Metcalf. The cartography is okay, but extremely limited in its actual utility, and the encounters that needed maps don’t get any. The pdf comes with two basic bookmarks and a second printer-friendly version – kudos for that!

Lloyd Metcalf’s “Whisper in the Crags” is, design-wise, a disaster. The OSR-version doesn’t suck as bad as the 5e-version, but still is a long shot from being good for the system; structurally the module is bereft of almost any player-agenda. It’s a straight railroad from start to finish, and one that forces the party into cruel, unpleasant decisions.

How unpleasant? I consider this to be more mean-spirited and depressing than “Death Love Doom”; DLD was at least so over-the-top and grotesque, it kinda came out on the other side as a gory schlock-fest, and it had player-agenda. It also didn’t force the party into the roll of unempathetic murder-hobos and present essentially a child serial-killer; it went for mercy-killing, which was dark enough. And yes, I’m a frickin’ edge-lord. I liked Death Love Doom for what it was. I did not like this. The ramifications and reactions of the village and party are pretty much a joke.

This reminded me of The Last of Us 2; a sucky railroad that forces you to make bad, miserable decisions due to a lack of any agency and then constantly asks all players “Are you feeling bad/guilty yet?” That, or it assumes that we just LOL the hardcore themes away.

Thankfully, I don’t have to take the moral implications of this module into account at all. Why? Because this is structurally so bad it sinks itself even if you and your group are totally okay with the themes. Because it’s a boring, miserable railroad that knows combat, combat and more combat. Because, for OSR-versions, the rules may be less important, but the structure underlying a module becomes more important, and this fails miserably there as well. The “investigation” is nothing but a series of cutscenes; the party has no real bearing on the story, and this has plot holes so large I could fly a dragon through them. I can make out no saving graces. 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Whisper in the Crags (S&W)
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Shoony: Pug People for Starfinder
Publisher: Michael Mars
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2021 04:52:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Shoony get +2 Dexterity and Charisma, -2 Constitution, 2 HP, are Small and have a speed of 30 ft. and low-light vision. EDIT: The bonus types have now been codified properly. They get a +2 racial bonus to saving throws against inhaled threats such as gasses, stench, etc. courtesy of their short snout, and they get a +2 racial bonus to Acrobatics checks to move through threatened squares. They also get +2 to Diplomacy and Bluff, and may change attitude by up to 3 steps, and get a +2 racial bonus to Survival checks. Shoony get Practiced Improvisation as a bonus feat. Personally, I'd have enjoyed a tighter version here, but they work as written.

The flavor information has been properly adjusted, including notes on homeworld, playing a shoony, etc. Alternate adjustments include +2 Intelligence and Charisma, -2 Constitution; -2 Charisma and +2 Constitution and Dexterity; and -2 Charisma, +4 Strength.

The alternate racial traits from the PFRPG version have been modified; you can still exchange the snout and the feat (Practices Improvisation) for scent. Snout and feat may now also be exchanged for claws (with damage type codified properly and the usual level 3 specialization) The social boosts can be exchanged for +2 Bluff and Intimidate (type missing). The feat may also be exchanged for a 1/day reaction that lets an ally within 10 ft. roll a save twice and take the better result. The ability to walk through swampy natural terrain is even more circumstantial in SFRPG and doesn’t make for a good exchange. The social skill boost and Survival bonus can be exchanged for skilled, and as before, the Survival bonus can be exchanged for cold resistance 5.

The feat-section has been expanded: Sodbuster still nets 10 ft. burrow speed; Practiced Paddler nets ½ land speed swim speed, but only for one shoony sub-species. Practiced Improvisation makes clubs and improvised weapons no longer count as archaic. Imperial Combat Training makes natural attacks count as unarmed, and you may use them sans using hands, including combat maneuvers, even if hampered in some ways. Catch Off-Guard adds Weapon Specialization bonus damage, if any, to attacks with improvised weapons, and unarmed opponents are flat-footed against attacks you make with improvised melee weapons; also eliminates the atk penalty.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good on a rules-language level. One alternate racial trait is still missing the bonus type, but that's a minor hiccup. Artwork employed is a selection of neat, comic-style pug artworks, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf comes in three versions: One regular-sized one, one with a smaller file-size for mobile devices, and one printer-friendly iteration. KUDOS!

Glen Parnell’s conversion of Michael Mars Russell’s shoony species is solid, but pretty unexciting; quite a few components have just been copied. Now, I get it: SFRPG doesn’t have the same design space for races as PFRPG, but more than some alternate adjustments would have been nice. Similarly, the lack of a subtype graft for the species did disappoint me a bit.

All in all, this is an okay conversion; it’s not exactly spectacular and is less meaty than the PFRPG-iteration, but for a buck, it’s worth checking out for pug enthusiasts. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the very low price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shoony: Pug People for Starfinder
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Vathak 5e Character Options - Amoral Prodigy Background
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2021 07:53:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 3 pages, with 1 page devoted to editorial/SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content.

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

Okay, so the amoral prodigy is someone who absolutely excels at one field, and as such has a bit of leeway when it comes to some behavior that may not be possible (due to time constraints or morals) for others. Nice touch: The pdf does explain how e.g. a LG amoral prodigy might operate, as the background obviously works best for neutral or evil individuals and/or Vathak’s shades of gray morality.

Proficiency-wise, we get skill proficiency in Deception and Stealth, as well as one tool proficiency of your choice. The verbiage for the tool proficiency is somewhat opaque: “Your proficiency with

this tool is always doubled.” This could apply to the entire value, or just to the proficiency bonus. For an example of how that would be phrased usually, the rogue’s Expertise feature can be consulted. The text should read: “Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make with the chosen tool.” On the plus-side, this ability does note that it doesn’t stack with other options that might let you double your proficiency bonus, so good catch there. The equipment includes the tool or kit, two sets of forged documents for new identities, an award relating to the tool, some gp and a cloak. On a formatting nitpick: In backgrounds, Skill/Tool proficiencies, languages etc. have a colon after them, not the full stop that 5e otherwise tends to favor.

The background’s narrative feature is cool: It essentially nets you a degree of trust from authorities and a somewhat solid reputation that lets you get away with things you otherwise wouldn’t.

The pdf provides the customary d8 personality traits, d6 ideals, d6 bond, and d6 flaw tables to add character to…well, your character. In the Ideal-table, the sub-headers like “Self.”, “Duty.”, etc. have not been bolded properly.

Conclusion:

Editing is good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, we have a minor guffaw. Formatting also sports some deviations from 5e’s defaults, though these tend to be internally consistent and cosmetic. The one piece of full-color art is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Ismael Alvarez’ amoral prodigy background is cool and interesting background rife with roleplaying potential, particularly for darker settings like Vathak, or when you always wanted to play a somewhat sociopathic Sherlock or character like the good ole’ Dr. Frankenstein…or a certain bard… Either way, I very much enjoyed this background. While the minor guffaws do partially influence rules-integrity, the background does retain its functionality for most GMs, and the low price also made me decide to round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. For a single buck, this is definitely worth checking out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vathak 5e Character Options - Amoral Prodigy Background
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Whisper in the Crags (5E)
Publisher: Fail Squad Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2021 06:12:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover/thank you, leaving us with 12 pages of content.

This review was requested by one of my supporters and moved up in my reviewing queue at their request.

Okay, so this is an adventure for 4–5 characters of 4th level; while the pdf does have boxed text, it’s not really read-aloud text, but rather what some NPCs might say; the module, structurally, is pretty linear and included a really nice full-color region map. The regional map is missing a scale and grid, and there is no player-friendly iteration included, which struck me as a huge pity. The module also sports a smaller and significantly less-impressive mini-dungeon map, which does have a grid, but no scale. There also is no player-friendly version of it, and the map is very small, so not that useful for VTTs. The artwork used herein is impressive indeed: Raven Metcalf provides artworks that reminded me of some of my favorite creepy gothic manga like Bizenghast; for the non-otakus: Think of a slightly more sinister aesthetic than Tim Burton; more scratchy lines and slightly more wicked. Love that.

Now, an important warning note: This is an incredibly dark adventure in more than one way. I don’t think it can be called grimdark; for me, this edges straight into misery-tourism land. You have been warned if you’re sensitive. Here there be dead children.

Okay, in order to talk more about this, I will need to enter SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the adventure is set in the small settlement of Lorview, which is not really detailed; in a somewhat puzzling decision, the name of locals and the information they provide have been relegated to an appendix, which makes rendering the start of the module a bit weird. It should be noted that one of the background knowledge entries refers to 2:00 AM, which does imply a church or the like, or other form of reliable time-measuring, so that’s something the GM has to bear in mind. The module begins with the party patrolling near the settlement, finding a doll; the tracks to follow are really hard: DC 22, and no consequence for failure is given, which is odd, since that’s the sole lead-in provided for the module.

This is the best point in time to note that this module does not understand 5e’s rules. At all. The high DC is the least of the adventure’s issues, with formatting off, and even worse, off in a way that is not even consistent: “DC 15 INT – Perception”, as an example. Anyone who ever played 5e knows that Perception is not governed by Intelligence. That is literally the system’s 101. We also have instances where it’s obvious that the author has no firm grasp on when to use a check and when to use a saving throw. The module also uses a critter that are WotC’s closed IP and NOT in the SRD, but that just as an aside. Modifications and additional attacks provided for one creature are formatted wrong, range in a ranged attack? Wrong. Sequence? Wrong as well. In the hazards, there is a spell-reference sans the appropriate DC. The one fully statted creature’s statblock has more than 10 glitches I noticed on a cursory glance. It’s actually quite difficult to get 5e-stats that wrong. The one magic item is also boring and wrong.

Anyways, what I’m trying to say is: If rules-integrity or ease of use is important to you, then this’ll test your patience to the limits.

If that were the only issue, though, this could still be salvaged. Alas, it is not.

You see, the hard to follow trail leads to a weird sight: A local girl, Lottie Fisher, having tea in the forest with a troll! And yes, with an appropriately dainty tea-service. How would your party react? If the response was anything else than “Troll, kill it with fire! (Or Acid!)”, then this module may not be for you; the chance for a social encounter, for the party not murderhoboing towards the strange pair isn’t even considered. The troll lifts up Lottie, and runs, quite literally, for the hills. What follows is a sequence of bland encounters as the party runs after the troll: Wolves, vine blights and bugbears. Oddly, the “chase” is scripted in a way so that the party only loses the troll if they rest; it’s also weird that the wolves can’t be dealt with Animal Handling, and that the bugbears may be negotiated with, but no DC is given. The troll, ultimately, will fight the party at the precipice of the eponymous crags, and has a custom attack (that includes several glitches) that has a chance to push the characters over a cliff. No map or DC for that is included. Anyhow, troll is slain, child is duly traumatized her buddy was killed. Great job, adventurers. The crags have a couple of interesting hazards, but all that are not combats are, well, not operational in some way.

Lottie is returned to her grateful parents, and all seems, kinda, well in Lorview. On the next day, the schoolteacher’s terrier is found gruesomely murdered, its entrails used to form some sort of rune; after a VERY rudimentary investigation (we don’t really have much regarding locals; much of this needs to be improvised/designed by the GM), the party will find one villager missing, Joey Blakely, who is found murdered and sunken in One-mile Creek. Late the following evening, a local woman claims to have seen Lottie run by, and she has left the head of a local handyman. A fire also erupts and fails to specify what it takes to contain the flames. If all of this sounds railroad, btw., then because it is. This is preordained, and the actions of the party matter not one bit.

Anyhow, Lottie flees to the family barn, and seems to have written pleas in blood to a local bogeywoman to save her; some floorboards are loose, and under them are 12 dead children Lottie murdered.

Dead. Children. Just for shock value, mind you. They make no sense whatsoever.

No, there is nothing the party can do to prevent that. No, they curiously don’t seem to draw the attention of a ton of flies, maggots, scavengers, etc. You see, Lottie is essentially a night hag spawn, a kind of changeling, so she is kinda possessed, but not really because she is also somewhat intrinsically predisposed to be evil. sigh Anyhow, if the party uses the toys of her, they can cause her to briefly pause. Okay. So, the fellows who slaughtered her buddy…Ach, never mind.

…Yes, it’s ALSO one of those modules. This module’s plot revolves around a way in which night hags procreate that is different from established D&D canon.

 The module concludes with the party going into the crags, finding Sleepless Sally’s hideout, dealing with two generic rooms in a nano-dungeon of sorts (two keyed rooms, two dead ends) …and that’s it. Lottie’s actual mom’s dead, Lottie, a child, is essentially a magical psycho-serial killer…but now that Sally’s dead, surely that will have no repercussions. Right? Right??? This module either forces the party to kill a kid or assume that a settlement is totally A-OK with a kid who killed more than 10 (!!) other kids.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are bad on a formal level, atrocious on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard, and as noted in the beginning, I genuinely liked the artworks by Raven Metcalf. The cartography is okay, but extremely limited in its actual utility, and the encounters that needed maps don’t get any. The pdf comes with two basic bookmarks and a second printer-friendly version – kudos for that!

Lloyd Metcalf’s “Whisper in the Crags” is, design-wise, a disaster. The 5e-rules are botched in pretty much every way, and worse than that, structurally the module is bereft of almost any player-agenda. It’s a straight railroad from start to finish, and one that forces the party into cruel, unpleasant decisions.

How unpleasant? I consider this to be more mean-spirited and depressing than “Death Love Doom”; DLD was at least so over-the-top and grotesque, it kinda came out on the other side as a gory schlock-fest, and it had player-agenda. It also didn’t force the party into the roll of unempathetic murder-hobos and present essentially a child serial-killer. The ramifications and reactions of the village and party are pretty much a joke.

This reminded me of The Last of Us 2; a sucky railroad that forces you to make bad, miserable decisions due to a lack of any agency and then constantly asks all players “Are you feeling bad/guilty yet?” That, or it assumes that we just LOL the hardcore themes away.

Thankfully, I don’t have to take the moral implications of this module into account at all. Why? Because this is structurally so bad it sinks itself even if you and your group are totally okay with the themes. Because it’s a boring, miserable railroad that knows combat, combat and more combat. The “investigation” is nothing but a series of cutscenes; the party has no real bearing on the story, and this has plot holes so large I could fly a dragon through them. I can make out no saving graces. 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Whisper in the Crags (5E)
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Shoony: Pug People for Pathfinder 1st Edition
Publisher: Michael Mars
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2021 06:09:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so we get the usual information regarding society etc. for the shoony, including notes on interesting aspects such as an inability to sweat; rules-wise, shoony get +2 Dexterity and Charisma, -2 Constitution, are Small and have a speed of 30 ft. EDIT: Minor syntax glitch in the pdf was fixed. They get a +2 racial bonus to saving throws against inhaled threats such as gasses, stench, etc. courtesy of their short snout, and they get a +2 racial bonus to Acrobatics checks to move through threatened squares. EDIT: Bonus now properly typed. They also get +2 to Diplomacy and Bluff, and may shift creature attitude by up to 3 steps, and get a +2 racial bonus to Survival checks. EDIT: Bonuses now properly typed. Shoony get Catch Off-Guard as a bonus feat and have low-light vision.

Catch Off-Guard and the snout may be exchanged for scent; the acrobatics bonus can be exchanged for ignoring natural difficult terrain in swamps; these paddler shoonies can also take one of the racial feats to gain a 20 ft. swim speed. The Survival bonus can be exchanged for cold resistance 5.

The pdf comes with a TON of different favored class options, which include the ACG and occult classes and the vigilante; these are generally interesting, and e.g. barbarians increasing armor bonus of hide and bone armors? That got a chuckle out of me. Neat! I was also fond of the rogue option to reduce non-proficiency penalty, gaining even proficiency when the penalty is reduced to 0.

Beyond the racial feat I already mentioned, there are two more: Small but Vicious nets a 1d3 natural bite attack. I know that’s not always consistently listed by Paizo. The author still took the extra mile and spelled out damage type. Thank you! Sodbuster requires 5th level, and nets a burrowing speed of 10 ft.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, and now also on a rules-language level. Artwork employed is a selection of neat, comic-style pug artworks, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf comes in three versions: One regular-sized one, one with a smaller file-size for mobile devices, and one printer-friendly iteration. KUDOS!

Michael Mars Russell delivers a charming little playable race; the shoony are well-made, and while the pdf is pretty basic in what it covers (no race traits, no racial archetypes), it also costs a grand total of one buck. And for one buck you get a solid, well-wrought race. The fixes for the minor glitches elevate this to a straight 4-star file.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shoony: Pug People for Pathfinder 1st Edition
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Comeback Traits
Publisher: Michael Mars
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2021 11:06:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is the review of the revised version – kudos to the author for fixing some snafus!

This pdf clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so comeback traits are traits for people who hate failing; as the author explains, they are named after Strong Comeback and the pdf acknowledges the existence of exemplar comeback traits, with one provided. It should be noted that exemplar traits occupy both trait slots, but eliminates the usual 1 trait per category restriction that traits are subjected to. The exemplar trait provided for comeback traits would be Certain About One Thing lets you 1/day instead of rolling an atk, save or skill check take 10. You may do this an additional time for every 2 other comeback traits you have.

The other traits do not have this issue, though: A Little More Left in the Tank has been properly rebalanced and revised, and is now a neat kineticist option.

Accidental Flourish lets you 1/day when you roll a natural 1 on an attack and miss by 10 or mor reroll the attack. Solid. Duck and Weave is the same design-paradigm, but for saving throws. Not Nearly As Incompetent As I Look would be the skill check version, but its failure condition is 1 or failing a skill check by 10 or more.

Grazing Strike lets you 1/day ignore a natural 1 attack roll when the attack would otherwise hit, and deal minimum damage instead. Just Breathe On it is a bit weird: Whenever you reduce an enemy to 0 or less hp in melee and do not kill them, they drop unconscious. Okay, that usually happens? What if the target has Diehard? Ferocity? This one still isn’t operational as written.

Conditional Success helps you negate natural 20s of enemies when they negate non-damaging spells or abilities, having them suffer the effect until the start of their next turn; usable 1/day. Really like it! Forceful Spells is one that I really didn’t like, but not due to design concerns, but simply because I can’t wrap my head around how this trait’s effects manifest within the logic of the game world: when you cast a damaging spell, if all targets avoid taking damage, one target instead takes force damage equal to the spell’s level. I get the design intent: Reliable, minor damage as a consolation; I just don’t see the logic within the magic system in the world. Your mileage may vary for this one, though.

That Should Not Have Hit lets you 1/day when an enemy rolls a natural 20 that would otherwise not have hit instead take minimum damage. I REALLY like this aesthetically, and it now also has a caveat that covers effects like e.g. vorpal weaponry and similar effects that trigger on a 20. Kudos for cleaning that up!

Frenzied Defense nets you a +2 trait bonus to AC and saves when you miss with all attacks in a full attack, but only against the targets of your full attack. Can see that. Saving Grace lets you 1/day if you roll a natural 1 on a save, but otherwise pass, ignore the failure. On Second Thought lets you retry recall information checks as a move action within 1 round of the first attempt. Nice. Once More With Feeling can be very powerful, but also extremely rewarding: A 1/day ability that fails to have an effect may be regained by becoming fatigued. I love this, particularly since the rules have been cleaned up further, now accounting for immunity to fatigue, etc.. Kudos!

Maximized Minimum lets you 1/day treat all rolled damage dice 1s as 2s. Rub Some Dirt In It is the healing version for channel/lay on hands. Solid. Pooled resources ties in all those pool abilities: When you spend 2 points on an ability and it has no effect, you are refunded one point. Nice. Rain of Arrows lets you reroll a ranged attack you missed against an enemy adjacent to an ally, with an equal chance of hitting each creature adjacent to the original target. Odd on a design level: This requires the permission of every ally adjacent to the enemy, which makes no sense in-game. I get it: It’s to prevent inner-party strife, but that sort of thing should not require rules. Heck, any halfway competent party can work with that. Perhaps I’m too hardcore there. Not a complaint, mind you.

Saving Magic nets you a spell’s level as temporary hit points when you cast a non-damaging spell and all targets negate the effect; nice: temporary hit points have a duration and the proper non-stack caveat. Slow and Steady Wins the Race is interesting: It nets you a +4 trait bonus to initiative, but only if you ROLLED lower than all enemies. Note the emphasis here, as the result is not what counts. Interesting, and due to its unconventional rules, not something one can cheese.
Training Trumps Luck, finally, lets you 1/day when an enemy rolls a natural 20 to avoid the effects of a damaging spell or ability that would not normally suffice, ignore that and instead deal minimum damage.

Finally, there is a new feat, Comeback Kid, which makes a 1/day ability of a comeback trait usable 3/day instead. The interaction with the exemplar trait is noted properly.

Conclusion: The editing and formatting, particularly on a rules-language level, has improved significantly: Kudos! Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column standard with some solid b/w-artwork familiar to fans of Frog God Games. The pdf has no bookmarks and needs none at its length, but much to my pleasant surprise, it comes in three versions: One for the PC, one for devices where HD-space is more important (smaller file-size) and one that is printer-friendly, omitting colors and artwork: NICE!

Michael Mars Russell delivers a rather intriguing array of traits here; traits are a difficult design space: One doesn’t have much room to maneuver in, and it’s easy to either be boring, redundant, or too strong; now, for the most part, this pdf does a solid job at presenting pretty open traits with a unified theme that I very much enjoy; the revised iteration has gotten rid of the majority of wonky bits, leaving only one instance where the functionality of a trait isn’t given. The pdf is inexpensive, though, and this is the author’s freshman offering (apart from conversion work, which is a different beast); that does grant this a bit of leeway. The revised edition is a significant improvement in almost every way, which means that the final verdict will be upgraded to 4.5 stars, rounded up in spite of the one remaining minor hiccup.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Comeback Traits
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Monsterarium
Publisher: Knight Owl Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2021 12:37:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This bestiary clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look! My review is based on the pdf; I don’t have the print version.

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

Okay, so, the first thing you should know about this booklet would be that, yes, this is a bestiary, but it’s not a book of things designed to be hacked apart as throwaway monsters; this bestiary focuses on what I like calling “narrative monsters”, so creatures that have a more significant impact or that are intended to form the center of a narrative. The second thing would be art: Co-author Nahid Taheri has a truly unique style. Look at that cover. Each of the creatures herein has an illustration done in the same style, which I’d call uncanny and slightly creepy old fairy tale illustration. I like that style; it gives the book a genuinely unique visual identity and helped me retain my memory of these monsters. It’s been a long time since I first read this bestiary, and I still could recall every single critter herein.

Now, on a less impressed level, it should be noted that this book does not actually subscribe to a specific OSR-system. You know what this means: We only get very basic stats, and depending on the old-school system you favor, you’ll need to do some adjusting. It also makes it more difficult, at least for me, to actually decide how hard a critter should hit. If I e.g. run a B/X-Old-School-Essentials critter in a retro game based on AD&D 2e, I know by how much I need to upgrade it; same goes in reverse for running e.g. an AD&D 2e critter is OSE, obviously. These “general” OSR supplements lack this frame. Some of my readers might shrug this off, while some will very much think that this does matter. Anyhow, each creature notes an alignment on the law-chaos axis, a movement (120 seems to be the default value), an ascending AC value, the number of HD, the number of attacks, the damage dealt, and a single save value, which uses a descending value. Each creature has its special attacks and/or weaknesses listed after their flavor text.

Thematically, the creatures herein are partially original creations, and partially drawn from the rich and oftentimes untapped resource of Persian folklore, with which I share a particular fascination. That being said, the book does manage to maintain a sort of consistence in its themes and feeling I enjoyed. An old-school non-Disney fairy tale/folklore-esque angle suffuses the supplement.

Okay, so, the pdf doesn’t start on its best foot with the Al, an invisible roughly female thing that hunts mothers and seeks to kill their newborn and steal their livers; their teeth can cause bleeding wounds, and interestingly, they will be hard to confront: They free sharp objects. This is a great creature, but the prose accompanying it, the description, felt rough. To give you an example: “Al appears as a tall and slender older woman with long and unbound rough black hair. It is naked though covered in very short fur. It has long fangs that reach past its chin. Its teeth act as blades that never dull or chip.” Now, thankfully, this somewhat staccato-like aspect does not extend throughout the pdf, but since it shows up on the first critter, I figured it’d be worth mentioning that the prose gets better.

Cord legs are AWESOME. They appear as a person in need, and ask to be carried on the back; if they are, they wriggle their cord legs around the adventurer, and can quickly and efficiently kill those they are riding. The poor sods being ridden by a cord legs have Charisma 8, or -2 Charisma if less than 8. Okay, what if one has Charisma 8? No penalty? Hmmm. Carrying them around can permanently enhance your Strength if you get rid of them, which is codified. In spite of my nitpickery, I like these critters: They have the folklore angle, need to be outwitted, and there is something gorgeously grotesque about them.

Ejdohogo is a plot device disguised as a weird dragon, wingless and plumed…and its tail has this classic trick, where, if all present fail to save against it, the next adventuring session will be bizarre and weird, and actually a completely illusory adventure. If the adventurers live through it, they awake dehydrated and starved with 1 hp. Okay. What effect does the tail have if NOT everyone fails the save? No clue, no rules or even suggestions are provided.

Faux sirens are another puzzle boss of sorts: They actually are plants and have an ability that causes one random target to defend them – no save. Yep. Not even a save. I don’t like that, and think it’s essentially GM railroading. Not cool. And they have a siren’s call that lures targets to them, and while it notices that this is enough time to drown in bogs, the ability and generic OSR rules provide no frame of reference regarding whether this operates more akin to a charm or a dominate.

Hair that had a human, on the other hand, is grotesque and amazing in all the right ways: Long locks of floating hair with a human face, the long locks concealing a child’s body. Oh, and they are FAST, can become even faster and if they catch you, it’s save or die! And that save or die? You only get it if you’re adult. Kids are screwed. Need a good folklore-ish horror critter? This one fits the bill and is actually one of the few times where I consider an instant-kill move suitable. Two big thumbs up!

The lich queen…is weird. She has an entourage of zombies and skeletons and style galore, sure, and yes, she has not one, but two abilities that are save or die, but at a paltry 4 HD. I fail to see the appeal, and the two save or suck abilities are horribly lame. The one saving grace of this critter would be her hand-wand dependency: If she loses the wand, she casts “all her spells at half strength.” But she has no real spells. Just zombie/skeleton summoning and two instant-kill abilities sans rhyme or reason. Also, what does “half strength” mean? Do you only die half? This doesn’t work as written.

Loot wyverns are cool: Little winged lizards that eat treasure that are good at surprising targets, and a good bite can consume silver/treasure. Their claws scar over with gold. AWESOME. How much is such a gold scar worth? No clue. This is frustrating, as the treasure-scar mechanic is cool…but it WILL be cheesed and could wreck entire economies, obviously…but it has a lot of potential. Does the scar reduce maximum hp? This BEGS for proper rules.

Night hags take the shape of shadowy ravens in this interpretation, and lie down on the sleeping, stealing their sleep. They sport this intriguing section of text: “They might kill the person if no one is awake around, but they are not always interested in killing. They cannot rest, so often they steal sleep from humans in this manner.” Guess what we get no rules for? Bingo. For stealing sleep. For potentially killing the sleeping. Nothing. A perfect example of a cool, evocative critter tarnished by subpar design.

Peri are little fey-ish creatures with butterfly like snorkels that can sing and duplicate anything they heard, including spells; they drain Constitution and grow, and take additional damage from iron weapons; they come in two castes of sorts, the lesser wingless and the greater winged peri. Keeja, the chief of the peri, is also included in the book’s second section, and can dine on the saving throws of adventurers, and use a dandelion puff that actually is quite lethal. Two thumbs up, though adherence to a system would have made this one work slightly better. The tremulous troll is the last troll in the world; she takes next to no damage from all attacks, and has 6 types of magic fungi with spell-like effects…but she fears blades, and she fears light even more, for it is the one thing that truly hurts her. An interesting NPC-style creature.

The second part of the book is devoted to the creatures of the wood, and ties in, to a degree, with the aforementioned array: The first critter presented in this section would be the faun that s also depicted on the cover, lord of the peri and the wisps; he can alter memories of those it meets, and it can initiate raves, which may or may not tie in with Meatlandia Chaos DJs. Wisps, just fyi, are sentinet magic focused on a crystal set in a vial, and they increase in power by finding wisp stones, of which 6 are codified; an alternate, the wisp wizard, is also presented – these are pretty deadly, as one can imagine. They also want to get their hands on the torchbearer.

Who is that? Well, this lady was once an adventurer, but had to witness her fellows being slain; now, she is a quasi-mystical being who might show up to those in need and lead them to safety, sate their hunger, or even grant them Wisdom! A really neat mystical ally. Flying goldenfish are also amazing: They, when consumed, can, for 24 hours, grant you significant boosts to your stats (but you can also lose maximum HP)…and you’ll incur the ire of denizens of an extra-dimensional town…and they may well send the AL after you!

Harpy summoners are something rather different: Occupants of the Lajwardian mountains, these women left the realms of men behind to live free from the reign of men, and as such, they have the power to call harpies to defend them. Interesting flip of the traditional harpy mythology. The spate nymph is a creature of beauty; so much so that the apathetic lady causes those that witness her to forevermore lose Charisma…but her flying fish, if beseeched, can grant wishes. Keeja does hate her and wants her dead. And yes, there are more connections between the creatures than I’ve mentioned.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are…uneven. The supplement oscillates between sufficient precision and aggravating opaqueness, which is only partially due to not subscribing to a specific rules system. This phenomenon also extends to the prose. Layout adheres toa two-column full-color standard, and while the artwork of Nahid Taheri is most assuredly a matter of tastes, I really, really liked all these original full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the print version.

The Monsterarium of Ahimsa Kerp and Nahid Taheri left me torn like very few bestiaries over the years. To make that abundantly clear: Conceptually, I adore this booklet. It has a distinct identity, and not one of the creatures herein is boring or bland; even when the creatures make use of classic folklore tropes, they have an execution distinct from the defaults. In some creatures, this reminded me of how Alana I. Capria’s feminist twists on fairy tales, just in a less grotesque and gratuitous manner, so if you enjoy flips like that, this’ll be intriguing. Similarly, if you enjoy your monsters as creatures informed by folklore, then this has a lot to offer and contains some true gems.

That being said, the decision to not properly adhere to a system hurts this book to a significant degree; in some instances, it breaks the functionality of the creatures and leaves the referee scratching their head of what was actually intended here. Combined with the inconsistent editing, this renders the bestiary a study in contrasts, and not in a good way.

To make that abundantly clear: If you’re after concepts and ideas, then this should be considered to be a 5-star file; if you also want mechanical integrity of the creatures, then this pdf unfortunately loses a lot of its splendor, and does so without any actual need. If find myself wanting to slap my seal of approval on this, but I simply can’t; for that, this is too flawed a gem. Still, I do encourage you to take a look if the above even remotely intrigued you. My final verdict, though, can’t exceed 3.5 stars. And while I will round up, I do so for the concepts. If you want the rules to properly work so you can simply plug and play, then I suggest rounding down instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monsterarium
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Files for Everybody: Acrobatics Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/23/2021 11:21:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, on the introductory page we actually get content, namely a new background…the surfer. This one nets you an ability boost for Strength or Dexterity, and a free one, and makes you trained in Acrobatics and Ocean Lore. Additionally, you get the Surf feat, which brings us to the new feats herein, which all, to some degree, require, no surprise there, at least being trained in Acrobatics.

Surf takes an action, and lets you surf horizontally over the surface of a liquid, using the Athletics check DC to swim through it, and you thus ignore terrain features that would usually impede you, but wouldn’t impede your board. Helpful: Even though snow is technically not a liquid, the rules-text does mention it as a valid surface, and the rules also mentions the requirement for force acting upon you, such as gravity, the push of a wave, etc., and if said force would push you farther, you must keep surfing each round or fall, with a proper differentiation between critical successes, failures, etc. being provided.

Quick Grab is one of the feats that may not sound like much, but that is super useful and will see tons of use: Stride up to your speed and Interact to pick up an item if it was within reach during your movement. The feat accounts for alternate movement modes, and your proficiency in Acrobatics determines the maximum Bulk of the item you pick up. Cool! Okay, so these are the level 1 feats.

For level 2, we have 3, all of which require expert proficiency in Acrobatics: Blinding Squall requires a fly speed and flying at ground level and lets you kick up dust in a short-range burst to generate a concealing cloud that briefly lasts; this is obviously contingent on material to kick up. And nope, it doesn’t actually, you know, blind targets. Confounding Tumbler adds critical success and success effects to Tumble Through, allowing you to render the enemy flat-footed against your next attack, or attacks until the end of your turn. Skillful Contortion makes the enemy trying to Grapple you instead target your Acrobatics DC, and if you’re a master or legendary, you get some benefits if an enemy critically fails to Grapple you.

At level 3, we have Trap Dancer, a one-action feat with the secret and move tags, and which requires that you’re aware of a hazard. With it, you can make an Acrobatics check to move past hazards sans minimum proficiency to disable, and with a critical success, you can even trigger them in a way that prevents them from affecting your allies. If your proficiency in Acrobatics is higher, you can manage to use this feat with traps that require a higher minimum proficiency rank to disable. This one is gold for NPCs escaping, and for characters that enjoy planning/setting up ambushes.

At level 4, we have Perfect Balance, which builds on Steady Balance and requires a rank of master, and makes Shove and Trip attempts against you target Acrobatics DC instead of Fortitude. It also lets you Grab an Edge if your hands are tied or restrained. Level 5’s Cat Pounce builds on Cat Fall, uses your reaction, and lets you weaponize your falling when landing on enemies. The feat scales and, being situational, even a critical success will see an enemy take minor damage. The interaction with Cat’s Fall is also smooth.

At level 12, we have another reaction-based feat, namely Pin the Blade, which lets you retaliate against a missed weapon attack from an adjacent enemy (“Adjacent” is important – the feat works against ranged weapons as well this way, but only if they’re used in close quarters; clever and makes sense!): You make an Acrobatics check vs. the target’s Reflex DC, jumping on the weapon to reduce its effectiveness. The success/failure effects represent rather well what you’d expect here. Neat.

Finally, there would be Step In, another reaction-based one, which requires legendary proficiency in Acrobatics and which may be taken at 15th level; it’s triggered by an enemy of your size or larger using an action with the attack, manipulate or move traits, and makes you use Acrobatics vs. Reflex DC, and can immobilize the opponent and render them flat-footed AND unable to use actions with the concentrate trait. The effect ends, obviously, when you move or are forcibly moved.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level; on a formal level, the pdf is very good as well, though I did notice a few minor things, like “Expert” in the prerequisite-line being title case, when it usually is lower case, but that is cosmetic. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a really nice original full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Dustin Knight’s Acrobatics Feats were a pleasant surprise to me. Cat’s Pounce is a bit situational as far as I’m concerned, but as a whole, the feats include several definite winners, not a single sucky one, and with Quick Grab we have a feat that should have been core. That gem alone warrants imho getting the pdf. The feats that emphasize the slippery scoundrel angle also help a lot here. As a whole, this is a great example of an unpretentious and extremely useful little pdf. 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Files for Everybody: Acrobatics Feats
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Files for Everybody: Nashi
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2021 05:42:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 21 (!!) pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so the nashi might be familiar to fans of Everybody Games; to summarize them: They’re raccoon folk with extremely sensitive hands. They get 8 HP, are Small, have a 25 ft. speed and their ability boosts are to Intelligence and a free one; their precise touch nets them tremorsense 5 ft., but not as a vague sense, but rather as a precise one. This is already a pretty awesome component that makes them potentially contribute something to the party that other ancestries wouldn’t be able to do. Oh, and there is something else I adore: This ancestry is not simply a collection of stats: The pdf explains the species’ culture, architecture, etc., making it genuinely feel like an organic and viable addition to the gaming world. Their language, rooted in Sylvan is explained alongside their cuisine, their nations, etc., and yes, their ethnic groups, including the tanukun and the seafaring Zumei!

There are no less than 10 heritages to choose from, which includes a knack for filching items, low-light vision and better chances of noticing concealed creatures with Seek, magical talents, being a socialite, etc.—oh, and yes, there is a heritage that actually represents a tanuki heritage, represented by making you a shape changer!

Unless I have miscounted, there are 11 level 1 ancestry-feats, which include being swifter, a representation of the nashi knack for tinkering regarding their proficiencies, a jaws attack, keen senses, a climbing speed, and means to further capitalize on the excellent tactile senses of the species. We also have the means to use Athletics for initiative as a reaction to scramble up inclines with Climb. This one can be very helpful if your GM is as hardcore as I am. Just sayin’…

The pdf also presents 3 5th-level feats: Sensate Strike is particularly cool: It combines the tactile sense with unarmed attacks, and lets you combine a Strike with actually looking for concealed objects! Among the 3 9th level feats, the one that lets you concentrate to enhance the range of your sense deserves particular applause as far as I’m concerned, and 4 13th level feats complete this part of the pdf.

Beyond that, though, we do get MOAR. Alchemists, for example, will like to hear that we receive a new Gunpowder research field, and this leads me into another aspect of this pdf: This file actually includes tight and well-crafted gunpowder weapon rules, including weapon traits for revolvers (chamber), weapons that let you fire bombs, weapons with spreads and the like. Malfunctions and means to clear them and basic combat actions for Spread Strikes complement this system…and seriously? Paizo’s system will need to best this one. It’s ridiculously cool. Bolas cartridges? Check. Flamethrower-y cartridges? Check. Cartridges that let you infuse alchemical items in them? Check. Rock salt? Smokescreen? Essentially flechette? Check, check, and check again. This system interacts incredibly well with the new alchemist feats, and the whole alchemy-trick-gunslinger build array that you can craft with this pdf? Pure gold. If you want to play a trick-shooting alchemist? Get this. It’s incredibly awesome.

Beyond that, we have a new sorcerer bloodline supplemented by 3 focus spells, two of which deal with reshaping your body, with one even allowing you to make fingers or other body parts into items, Mr. Fantastic/Plastic Man style, and yes, this interacts properly with the item level system. Did I mention Spell Sake, which makes it possible to make your spells into potions? And yes, these will render the imbiber buzzed; the “sake” moniker is not cosmetic. Magitechnician wizards focusing on Crafting are also covered, and the pdf also features the tinker archetype, supplemented by a couple of feats. Particularly shield-users will welcome the fact that this one lets you swiftly cobble together shields, but the utility of this one goes beyond that. Obviously.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level, and the pdf also excels on the formal level. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports really nice original full-color artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which does constitute a comfort-detriment at this level.

…a comfort-detriment that would usually make me rate this lower. BUT hot damn, does this file deliver. This is a perfect example of not going one, but several extra miles. The pdf offers a genuinely compelling ancestry for your game, one that offers a distinct playing experience with a lot of customizing options…and it makes the nashi species feel organic, plausible, vibrant. And then you also, you know, have this very smooth and elegant alchemy firearm system as a frickin’ bonus. And all those class options. Alexander Augunas keeps piling cool stuff on an already excellent species.

The result? Frankly, the bang-for-buck ratio for this one is superb. Even if the firearm system is not something you’d want to use, I’d genuinely recommend giving it a shot (haha!), and once Guns & Gears releases, this’ll be the system it has to compete with/beat as far as I’m concerned. Now, usually I’d axe a star or my seal for the lack of bookmarks, but considering how much cool stuff we get, that’d be mean-spirited and asinine at best. This deserves the full 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Files for Everybody: Nashi
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Acid Metal Howl: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e and OSR versions)
Publisher: Dungeon Age Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/15/2021 08:30:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module set in the Dungeon Age setting (easy to drag and drop into any other world) is presented for two systems: OSR, and 5e. Before you have the impulse to groan, wait a second: We don’t get one of these annoying, jumbled messes; the low price of admission actually includes two versions, one for OSR, and one for 5e, so you can just print the version you want. Kudos for that.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a printout of the adventure.

Both versions come with okay b/w-maps, but we do not get unlabeled versions for VTT-use, and the maps lack grid and scale, which does limit their utility. The module comes with read-aloud text and pretty clever information design – I’ll comment on the latter more below. The read-aloud text is well-written and atmospheric. Structurally, this is a sandbox module that depicts a desert city that long remained dormant, and now has different factions in it; the module manages to evoke a sense of genuine jamais-vu: If I had to describe this and its atmosphere, I’d call it an almost Dark Souls-like sense of antiquity and mystery coupled with aesthetics that reminded me of some of my favorite stoner doom metal bands. That’s the soundtrack I heard in my head when reading this. I’d also ask you to read the entirety of the review, because this’ll be a polarizing one, and I’m extremely torn about it.

Also very important to note, and something I structurally love: This module sports A TON of interactivity. There is a huge amount of stuff and things for the party to actually do. So that’s a huge plus.

The OSR-version does not adhere to a specific system, which isn’t ideal, but as far as system-agnostic OSR goes, it does a solid job: The book states HP, HD, gives AC as an equivalent of e.g. unarmored or plate, and attacks list an ascending attack value plus damage, with saves given as analogues to e.g. fighter 5. The module assumes differentiated saves, you know, like save vs. poison, but adapting it to a single-save system is very much possible without much hassle. The OSR version clocks in at 41 pages, with 37 pages of content. For OSR-games, the module is just noted to be for mid-level parties; I’d adjust that to state that mid-to-high-level works best; at e.g. level 5, this’ll be one brutal module.

The D&D 5e version clocks in at 48 pages, with 44 pages of content left; the increase in length is obviously due to the extended length that 5e’s stats etc. require. The 5e-version is billed at intended for levels 5–8, and it can be solved at this level; it is a difficult module, and certainly can be called “old-school” regarding its difficulty; personally, I enjoy that.

Now, there is one pretty big strike against the 5e-version, and that would be the integrity of the rules and statblocks. On the plus-side, we get the proper ability scores listed, and all that is required for the stats to be used? All of that’s here. However, the stats cheat in some ways. For example, the HP-values don’t list the formulae used to calculate them, and since the creatures also don’t list their challenge, the whole mechanical aspect becomes pretty obscured.

This is in as far relevant, as the builds for the creatures are, no two ways around that, wrong in quite a number of ways. This is never as bad as I’ve seen, though. To make that explicitly clear: The author does know 5e and hasn’t just written one of these aggravating pseudo-5e-supplements. The majority of aspects of statblocks? They’re actually correct. Yet, there are hiccups in most of them. To give you some examples:

For one, no 5e-critter usually nets 2,000 XP. Challenge 5 = 1,800 XP, Challenge 6 = 2,300 XP. And yet, e.g. the dwarf miner herein notes 2,000 XP. While we’re on creatrue-issues: The dwarf miner is listed as having a Strength saving throw of +7, a Dexterity saving throw of +5, and a Constitution saving throw of +6. Due to the missing information on challenge, determining the proficiency bonus is a bit opaque, but it is clear that +3 is the intended value. Why? Because that checks out with the attack values and the Strength saving throw. (The fellow has Strength 19 (+4), Dexterity 16 (+3), and Constitution 17 (+3).) This, however, does mean that the Dexterity saving throw is incorrect, and should be +6. When one takes a look at the listed skills, Athletics +10 and Intimidation +5, the build gets it right: Double proficiency + Strength modifier = +10 for the fellow, and the same goes for the saving throw DC of one of the attacks. Said miner is also missing the senses line, when dwarves definitely have darkvision, and thus leaving out the line can’t be just explained away with “only listing relevant information.” Passive Perception is also sometimes incorrect: The fleshflood (NOT a typo!) has, for example, a -4 Wisdom modifier, but still passive Perception 10, and it doesn’t have proficiency in Wisdom (Perception). The most likely proficiency bonus would be +3 for the creature, which’d mean passive Perception 9, Perception -1 for a proficient creature. On the other hand, the attack value and escape DC? Correct!

How the jaghul, with a Dexterity of 15 (+2) can have Stealth +3, is beyond me; pretty sure that should be +4, based on the irregular XP value, which places the critter below challenge 4, and thus, at proficiency bonus +2…something the author got perfectly right when it comes to the attack values. Contrast that with e.g. the statblocks for a NPC, where saves and skills are perfectly correct.

On the formal level, creature feature names and action names are only bolded, not bolded and in italics; while e.g. Melee Weapon Attack is properly italicized and the attack sequence correct, Hit, oddly, is not set in italics. The damage values caused by creatures also do not list average values. These are quality of life aspects for the consumer, but I personally can live without them. However, as noted above, this tendency also has some glitches as a consequence that are, well, not cool.

Spells are not properly set in italics, okay, that’s not pleasant, but cosmetic. But spellcasting fails to specify the spellcasting ability score used by the NPC, and also fails to list spell save DC and spell attack bonus. That sort of thing compromises function and is annoying for the GM, can grind the game to halt. I do not have an issue with statblocks only listing relevant aspects; but I couldn’t help but feel that the decision to do so here has engendered a rather wide variety of glitches in the critters that the author would have been more likely to catch if he adhered to the default presentation for the stats. This also extends to magic items, and their rules-language. To give you an example from the adamantine shield: “Enemy must make a DC 13 CON save or be blinded by this shiny shield until the end of their next turn.” Okay, how does that work? Does it work at range? Only in melee? Shouldn’t this require a bonus action or reaction on behalf of the wielder? Adamantine helmet lists that the wearer is immune to psychic damage and head injuries. Okay, what is a head injury? No, I’m serious. Would e.g. a mind flayer’s Tentacles attack be a head injury? I think not, because they can do damage otherwise with them, but then again, this sets up Extract Brain, so it is a head injury? And that’s why concise rules-language is important. Items also do not come with the customary ubiquity-rating, or information on whether they require attunement. We have items like Ketil’s Adamantine Cuirass, which is a breastplate that nets AC 19 for 7,000 gp. Another charm protects from stinging insects (okay, does that keep them away, or just prevent damage?), and “grants resistance to all poisons.” Does this mean resistance to poison damage? What about the poisoned condition? No clue. Again, this is why rules-language is important. In OSR, does that mean one is immune to poisons? Or a bonus to saving throws? Because, you know, resistance is not a rules concept in the classic sense in most OSR-games? No clue.

And it’s puzzling, because the module per se does an excellent, and I mean EXCELLENT job, in both iterations, when it comes to presenting information in a way that’s useful to the GM…which does include highlighting spell references. These are title case, bolded and set in italics in the module text (when 5e’s standard would just be italics), but I can live with that, as it makes sense from a house style perspective. DCs, whether checks or saves, are bolded in adventure text, and key terms for each location are bolded and underlined: When you read “…flowering vines…” in the well-written read-aloud sections, you can look at the bullet point list below the readaloud text, and immediately skip to the bolded header for the Flowering vines-section that starts the information for this aspect. This is AWESOME. You also tend to have all relevant information for a keyed location on one page. So yeah, in the “comfort-to-run”-department, this module is top-tier…once you have fixed the statblocks in the 5e-version/adjusted them in the OSR-version to your system of choice, that is. So yeah, top tier in information design, subpar at best when it comes to the actual integrity of the rules that one requires to run the module…not, let us talk about the actual module’s content.

The following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs/referees around? Great! Deep within the desert, the sheltered city of Yumar, nestled among sheltered cliffs, thrived – and then it happened: The earth was torn asunder and spat acid, and among the earthen poisonous bile, a mysterious metal sphere was catapulted into the air by geysers of poisonous corrosion. The light of the sun, reflected off the sphere, proceeded to set the city ablaze. The city’s people diverted water to thin the pools, built a roof over the sphere…but alas, it was too late. The city of Yumar died the obscure death that only settlements can, falling into a semi-mythological half-existence, as its reputation was, unsurprisingly, a teeny tiny bit tarnished.

Now, a team of dwarves has found their way into the city, mining the metal sphere for its mighty adamantine, while three nuns, adherents of Zerah, the angel of chaos and change, have taken up their silent vigil…and they are not happy with the dwarves. Of course, a desert city of ruins was also a hide-out of thieves…but said thieves now hear a voice in their head, and the voice tells them to repent; they are days from starvation, and pretty repentant…or so it sure seems.

The regions in the city come with a ton of notes on rumors, random encounters, small treasure, little pieces of flavor such as a barely audible giggling, and when run, manages to evoke an atmosphere so dense and unique, so suffused with wonder, it’s a marvelous and unmitigated joy. Encounters presented differentiate between night and day, and there is a ton of environmental stuff, unique mundane treasure (like a glass butterfly and the like), and the hazards? They are neat. That murky water? First, it’s poison damage from the fumes; then it’s acid damage from touch/immersion, and then, if you’re still alive, you’ll have to content with silver leeches in the acid, which’ll have a blast eating you. And yes, these acid-leeches can make you into a leech-walker. The NPC write-ups, with their bolded key-words like Wants or Plans also adhere to this level of detail and play.

But the level of detail is not what sets this apart for me. It’s how…magical this is. Like the Dark Souls games, this module emphasizes the importance of attentive players, and it is suffused with lore; it is indirect storytelling, and it is awesome. There, for example, are nightmares…and one of them may have the party meet a strange woman…and touching her? Well, that’ll be one mutation for you, gratis, no save. And yes, in this instance, I’m very much fine with there not being a save. Actions and consequences, right? There are several belltowers throughout the city as well; there are ghoulish jackalfolk…and there is the gilded shrine. There is magical ink that can provide similarly magic, but chaotic tattoos…did I mention the spiral tower with its swirling rainbow lights? The collapsible hand glider that provides unreliable flight? Well, in a book with this sort of equipment, we also get aerial encounters. Not even kidding you. I love that sort of thing. I would love it even more if that sort of transportation was required to access some places, but that’s just me nagging at a very high level.

That being said, as a whole? As a whole, I adore this. And fyi: The sphere contains a herald-level powerful angel-being that is all about change for change’s sake, whether good or bad. A bit like old “Bald Anders” from German folklore—which btw. translates to “Soon Other/Different”. She was scheduled to be unleashed ages prior, but wasn’t…well, that may well change due to the party’s meddling. And, well, even in dreams touching her can mutate you. So…yeah. This’ll be interesting times for the party…

If this wasn’t abundantly clear by now: I genuinely LOVE this module. I think it is inspiring in just the right ways. It can't be smoothly run as written, but everything about it makes those GM-neurons fire and elaborate upon what’s here. Did I mention the geckos?

Conclusion:

Editing is good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, it’s bad. Not atrocious, but not at a level where I can even call it okay. There are plenty of glitches that compromise the functionality of rules-relevant aspects, errors in the math, etc. It can still be run as written if you play loose and fast with rules and don’t care too much about consistence or balance, but as far as I’m concerned, this is borderline functional at best, with pretty severe creaking in the mechanics-department…at least for 5e. For the OSR-version, we have the usual issue of needing to adjust the material to a specific system and reevaluating balance etc., and the rules-language also has hiccups in components like magic items. Formatting, on one hand, does a ton right: Read-aloud text is clearly set apart, the pdf uses bolding to structure information flow exceedingly well, and as far as that is concerned? Great! Then again, there are a few instances where things that should be bold due to the house style aren’t, and e.g. formatting of spells, magic items etc. deviates needlessly from the defaults and compromises the integrity of the content. This also extends to deviations from 5e-defaults that compromise rules integrity or slightly diminish the direct utility at the table.

Layout adheres to an efficient 2-column color-standard with a white background: printer-friendly, and unlike many color pdfs, the book loses nothing of its ease of navigation when printed out in b/w. Kudos for that, but there is generous white space here, also due to how the module tries to have relevant information for a locale on one page. The pdfs come with massive, nested bookmarks for easy and comfortable navigation. The cartography is solid, but the lack of scale and grid, and the lack of player-friendly versions of the maps would be another comfort-detriment.

Oh boy. Joseph Robert Lewis is an exceptional talent when it comes to adventure writing. I genuinely mean it. This reminded me, in price, in ambition, in vision and what a single person can accomplish, of talents like the legendary Richard Develyn, whose 4-Dollar-Dungeons are some of the best modules ever written for PFRPG. (And beyond; seriously, each of his modules is worth the asking price, even if you’re playing totally different systems.)

What I’m trying to say is, that this module is serious “Best of”-material…or rather, it would be. I adore this. As a person, this module blew me away. It scratched the right itch. It inspired me. It’s AWESOME. But it also made me yell at my screen and at my printout more times than I care to count. Because this is so close to excellence. It’s not that the author can’t do the math. There are plenty of examples where math checks out in 5e.

In many ways, the issues with the details in the design-parts is less pronounced in the OSR-version, which only has a couple of hiccups in the items. On the downside, I actually prefer the 5e-version, warts and all. Why? Because of the sheer density of stuff that is rules-relevant, that has genuine effects…that sort of thing just works better in D&D 5e, because OSR tends to solve a lot more via narrative/cosmetics.

And here I am. I’m looking at a book that is absolutely fantastic and inspired, dirt-cheap for what it offers…and I can’t sing the praises that I so desperately want to sing, even though the book is so close to actual greatness, to “best of” hall-of-fame-levels awesome.

Were I the soulless mechanics-review-bot that some seem to think I am, and rate this solely on the virtues of its mechanics, this wouldn’t get past the 2.5 stars, rounded down, for 5e. For the OSR-version, I’d probably settle on something in the vicinity of 4.5 stars. However, if one does take the time to go through the 5e-iteration and fixes it/polishes it, one has a genuine masterpiece.

So, how in all 9 hells am I supposed to rate this? This does deserve a pummeling for its shortcomings (including the map situation), and I can’t just ignore the serious issues herein. But neither can I bring myself to put this even remotely close to the, at best, 3 stars that the module would deserve from a technical point of view. The situation becomes even more complicated, because I have to settle on one single verdict for the D&D 5e and OSR versions. The OSR-version is, craftsmanship-wise, more refined…but it also loses a bit of the artistry that make the 5e-version shine so brightly.

In the end, my official final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up, and this is one of the exceedingly rare books that gets my seal of approval, in spite of its glaring flaws. It is INSPIRING in just the right ways, and it served as a great reminder why reviewing can be so fulfilling. Now I genuinely hope the author manages to iron out these last hiccups regarding rules and formatting, and we’ll have one true master right there.

If you’re like me and want your modules precise and proper before running it, expect to invest a few hours fixing stats, items, etc. If that bothers you and you’re not willing to invest that time, then consider this to be closer to 3 stars; conversely, if your group plays fast and loose with the rules, or if you want to convert this anyways, then consider this to be closer to 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Acid Metal Howl: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e and OSR versions)
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Solomani Worlds: Vehicles from the Rim (MGT 2e)
Publisher: Mongoose
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2021 05:49:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, now that Traveller 2e has come around, Jon Brazer Enterprises took a bold step, creating the first supplement not situated in the Foreven Worlds sector; this does not mean that the Foreven Sector support’s been canceled, mind you – but it’s a nice way of diversification within the Traveller game. All of this is explained within the introduction, and the book is framed in a way that features a new customization option for studios on the final page, which also includes a handy index.

Now, this book contains, no surprise there, vehicles, but it deserves some kudos for how it does that and how it organizes its content: Each vehicle type fits neatly on one page, with the stats at the top, followed by equipment/traits, and then, if relevant, environmental variants alongside modified costs and equipment/trait changes if relevant. Flavorful descriptions complement the vehicles. If there is sufficient space left on the page we also get an artwork (a few b/w, others full color and CGI-ish). Additionally, the vehicles are organized by TL, not alphabetical, which makes more sense to me from a utility standpoint. Kudos! It should be noted that this is also represented in the bookmarks-organization, which means that this book excels in the utility sector, big time. Actual use at the table is really smooth.

Okay, so, let’s talk about the respective vehicles! For TL 8, we have the rotary autonomous deliverer (Aka RAD), a pilot-less cargo-delivery system that comes with variants for corrosive, hostile and insidious environments. The second TL 8 vehicle would be the Stock Ground Car Racer, employed by the SCAGRI (Stock Car Association of Ground Racing). What’s that? Well, think of a ridiculously upgraded version of NASCAR, but each racer also adopts a public persona, somewhat akin to wrestling’s kayfabe. Statwise, these have a fast (high) speed and a range of 800 (1,200) and an impressive 9 Hull for such a small vehicle. I’d certainly watch that sport, and the vehicle actually made me come up with cool adventure and character ideas…so yeah, big plus.

At TL 9, we have the book’s first military vehicle, the J-235B Trifighter, armed with 2 light autocannons, classified as something closer to a wavesled than a waverider; it also reminded me of the crafts of certain rebels against a dark empire in a galaxy far, far away. Terrascouts have a massive 50 K communications range and solid sensors as well as Recon DMs, making them good recon vehicles for planets inimical to human life.

While we’re on that: In TL 11, we have the Instartech AV-8BC Prospector is also a vehicle designed for staying on hostile planets, but it’s not a scout, it’s a workhorse: It can hold a crew of 4 for a week sans food or atmosphere resupply before having to return to base, but in contrast to the scouts, the communications only have a 500 km range, and the prospector’s mining equipment (digger blade + manipulator arm) can be used in defense, if required. The recycling and refuse hauler once more comes with environmental variants, but also features a version specialized for vacuum, and is one of the vehicles that I very much enjoy seeing in scifi, because it adds that level of realism…and because I‘m sometimes a bit of a soft-hearted tree-hugging hippie who very much want to think that humanity in the future wouldn’t litter. ;)

TL 12 has a massive 5 vehicles: On the utility side of things, the AN-72 construction mech comes with loadouts for various environments, including vacuum, and in a nice piece of flavor, it’s not just used in construction anymore, but also in Mechball! Really cool allusion to a cult classic there, and not on the nose either! The Eagle 5 recreational vehicle promises a fun experience for the whole family, including mini-kitchen and vacuum protection; the skill level 3 autopilot and +2 Navigation DM also make sense. And Armour 4 everywhere? Makes sense. At the same armour, we have the Ginstar 385 family grav car, also known lovingly by its moniker “Pete”, and as a grav flyer, it actually also has some massive storage space in trunk and frunk.

Continental gravjets are another vehicle that just makes sense to me, and with variants for cargo, vacuum, and vacuum cargo, these’ll are sure to feature in games. 1,000 km range communications also make them good places to run adventures in. Forget snakes on a plane! Think of weird extraterrestrial things on the gravjet! Not enough? Want to amp up the stakes? Jumbo gravjets, once more in aforementioned 3 variants let you amp up the scale further! As an aside: I really like how cargo/passenger space are handled in these: The cargo variants obviously have less passengers, but massive cargo holding capacity.

Oh, and guess what? This pdf has stats for the K.N.I.G.H.T. Rider, for the discerning customer whose life is in serious danger. 16 Armour, on-board life support, electronic decoy, stealth mode, smart wheels. Damn, this made a kid in me ridiculously happy. Oh, and the SFS-56 Quadwing interceptor, kinda akin to X-wings, with gauss cannons. Oh, and in case you were wondering, their nickname is “DIE”, which obviously stands for Dual Iconic Engines. Obviously. You know. ;) EDIT: Minor bookmark hiccup rectified! That's awesome to see!

For TL 13, we have 6 vehicles: On the utility side of things, there would be the PNG Motors G118 G/Bus, essentially a shuttle bus for ferrying travels to planetary and orbital destinations in style and comfort. Want more comfort? With the House G/Yacht, the rich and famous can get a smooth vehicle with hot tub., holosuite, wet bar, etc. – all for the low, low price of slightly over 31 million credits… Rather funny: The Chandria gravitic DB-32 news skiff has the farthest communications range of any vehicle in the book, with 100K km, and comes with an armored variant for use in dangerous regions. With long term life support, advanced stealth capabilities and advanced electronic countermeasures, these are focused tightly on what they should do…and gave me some neat ideas for adventures.

At this TL, we also have 3 military vehicles: For airborne combat, we have the P.173 transatmospheric flyer, equipped with plasma missile racks and gauss cannon, and actually has a function closer akin to a bomber than a regular flyer, but without sacrificing much in the vein of mobility. Beyond that, we also have two walkers, the first of which would be the dual gun battle walker, which sports two plasma gun-Cs, and with prismatic aerosoal dischargers, decoy dispensers, etc., they are actually a kind of urban legend: No holo-capture of them exists, so some do think they are still in the concept phase…or, well, this might also be due to the advanced stealth and camouflage capabilities…you decide. Definitely existing: the Voidspace Goliath battle mech, equipped with a fusion gun-x, 2 rocket pods and a Vulcan machine gun, these are the classic walkers with a crew of two and brutal capacity to deal out punishment. Need a lethal mech boss? There you go!

EDIT: A minor hiccup in the bookmarks has been rectified! Excellent customer service! Where there is a NASCAR equivalent, we obviously also have a formula equivalent, right? Right! With ridiculous hypersonic speeds (cruise speed of “only” supersonic), these things are fast and have a 10k km communications range, and obviously, this is a highly-lethal sport, so these racers focus on more picturesque environments. The second TL 14 vehicle would be the medium autonomous cargo hauler, which works sans crew, and comes with the usual environmental variants as well as in a version equipped to haul life cargo in short term, at the cost of half a ton of cargo space. Also, you know, the acronym for them is the MACH truck. That got a bonafide chuckle out of me.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the TL 15 Terran hypercycle G/bike. Open design, supersonic speed, these super-smooth vehicles are particularly enjoyed by law enforcement, and, it being Imperium tech, some loyal citizens are also allowed purchasing them…but this loyalty condition obviously also marks the owner as a target for anti-Imperium groups and extremists.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no snafus on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to an efficient 2-column standard in b/w, with the full-color CGI-artwork as color-nuances. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. EDIT: A minor hiccup in the bookmarks has been fixed! :D

Dale C. McCoy, Jr. delivers big time in this collection of vehicles: Inspired and interesting, these vehicles help flesh out culture and how things operate in the game, adding a sense of plausibility to aspects of life that I very much adored seeing. While the pdf does feature pop culture references here and there, they are actually executed gracefully and with enough skill to render them a welcome addition that can be just ignored or glossed over, if you choose to. That’s actually difficult, mind you, and helps make the pdf more timeless, and also makes it not simply a cultural snapshot.

All in all, I really, really enjoyed this pdf. It is executed skillfully and stylishly, and did inspire me. As such, this gets 5 star + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Solomani Worlds: Vehicles from the Rim (MGT 2e)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to review this. We are very glad you enjoyed this book so much. We corrected the bookmark errors that you mentioned and hope that these changes make the book even better.
Ethermagic Expanded - The Etherknight (PFRPG)
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2021 05:47:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This class clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 43 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.

The etherknight base class gets ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, d8 HD, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, and they are proficient with simple weapons and void blades as well as light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The etherknight does not incur arcane spell failure when wielding these. The etherknight begins play with an etherfusion known, and gains another at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter. The begin with 3 techniques known, and learn an additional technique on every attained class level. More of these later.

Unsurprisingly for most, this class makes use of the ethermagic engine, which is essentially a refreshing infinite magic source particularly geared towards blasting, and it’s imho still the most unique and rewarding to play infinite blaster for PFRPG. (Kineticists are not infinite blasters.) This pdf works as a stand-alone file, though I do suggest checking out Strange Magic 1 first, as this class is geared towards experienced ethermagic players. (It IS complex!)

Balance-wise, the ethermagic framework uses its resource as a refreshing resource per round, and power-level-wise, the class works sufficiently tightly to not unbalance even more conservative games. Ethermagic is measured in EP (ether points), and an etherknight has class level + Charisma modifier EP. The etherknight regains 1/3 their class level (rounded up – important!) every round. Ethermagic consists of two components – the etherheart (which is a kind of core template/theme) and the manifestation, which modifies the respective ethermagic. Alterations have different manifestations than e.g. voidmelds. The etherknight gets two etherhearts: Alterations, which are used for (self-) buffing, and voidmeld. Alterations are old companions for ethermagic users; they cast as a standard action, and have an EP cost of 1 + ¼ class level, rounded down. The etherknight gains them at 5th level, and the etherknight gets an additional alteration every odd level beyond. Voidmelds are cast as a swift action and have a duration of 1 round/level, with an EP cost of 1 + ¼ caster level, rounded down. I am pretty sure that this should be class level. The etherknight begins play with 2 voidmelds known, and gains an additional one at 2nd level and every even level thereafter.

To cast a manifestation, the etherknight needs to have a Charisma score of 10 + the respective manifestation’s level, and the saving throw DC is 10 + the highest manifestation level sued in the etherspell + the etherknight’s Charisma modifier. While a manifestation is in effect, the caster’s maximum EP is reduced by the total EP cost of the etherspell in effect. If multiple casting times conflict, the longer takes precedence. All etherspells have somatic and verbal components. An etherknight may not have more high-level manifestations than low level manifestations; so, let’s say an ether knight knows 2 1st-level manifestations and 2 2nd-level manifestations; the etherknight would need to take a third 1st-level manifestation before being allowed to take a third 2nd-level manifestation – this is also called the “pyramid rule”, though I personally tend to think of it more as a pillar.

Now, etherfusions were rarer in the core system, but they become more important here, as hinted at before; these are powered by ether jelly, classified by the fusion pool; fusion pool contains fusion points (FP), and has a size of class level + Charisma modifier, but it only replenishes after 8 hours of rest. Etherfusions count as etherspells for counterspelling purposes, and have a duration of instantaneous, unless otherwise noted. These also have modifiers that unlock over the levels; if an etherfusion has multiple modifiers, it can be taken multiple times. If two modifiers of such a shared origin are applied to the same effect, any FP cost of 0 is treated as FP 1 instead.

Starting at 2nd level, the etherknight can, as a full-round action that provokes AoOs, reduce her maximum EP by 1 to add 1 to her fusion pool; this reduction to maximum EP lasts until the etherknight finishes the customary 8 hours of rest. 3rd level nets a variant of lay on hands, with each ability costing 2 FP, healing 1d6+1 for every 2 etherknight levels attained. This is a standard action when sued on other targets, swift action when used on self. Etherknights can use ether to heal constructs and undead as well. 5th level builds on that with a class feature that applies a limited amount of mercies, and includes a modification of Extra Mercy for the feat; 5th level starts off the mercy aspect with one mercy, and adds one mercy every 4 levels. Etherknight mercies can remove conditions caused by curse, disease and poison without eliminating the source; in such an instance, the effects return after 1 hour if the underlying ailment has not been taken care of. 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th levels unlock new mercies to choose from; those that can be unlocked at 5th and 9th level cost no FP, while those that can be unlocked at 13th and 17th level cost 1 FP. Some have prerequisites. Minor formatting snafu: the “Staggered:”-relieving mercy is the low one that doesn’t have its name in italics.

While we’re still talking about etherfusions and give you an example: Buffering Infusion targets 1 creature and has a duration of 1 minute, and nets the target 1 hit point, +1 for every 5 etherknight levels; the modifiers for this one increase the hit points granted by +3 for 1 FP, while another nets DR 3/- while they have temporary hit points. Ether Restoration heals 1d4 temporary ability damage, freely divided, and the modifiers let you remove temporary negative levels, heal all temporary ability score damage to a single ability score, or heal ability drain at a minor gp cost; the modifiers have different class level prerequisites. Ethergel Aegis nets +2 deflection bonus to AC and +2 resistance bonus to saving throws for 1 round/level. Sharing damage, rerolls, etc. are also available here. At 7th level, the etherknight gains +1 Focus the first time he casts an etherfusion each round – see techniques below. These also can, btw. interact with lay on hands, set targets aflame, etc. – it is a rather neat engine, but only a component of the etherknight’s entire package.

The etherspell manifestations, obviously, do include old favorites like the initiative booster A Thousand Eyes or the Ultraviolet Shift manifestations that made one of my players’ PCs an incredibly fearsome assassin by trade, if not by class. Beyond these classics, though, the pdf does include a variety of new tricks that tie in with the novel parts of the class. This also holds true for the voidmeld manifestations, obviously: If you are new to this etherheart: Think of it as the godblade etherheart; the weapon-shaped hole in the multiverse. It’s essentially one-handed or light, and enhancement bonuses are hard-coded into the class, with 10th and 20th level upgrading the damage die. The volatile black-hole-blade. The manifestations of this etherheart include bleeding damage, additional damage, having the weapon also cause force damage in low-range cones, adding mighty cleaving. And yes, this means that “I manifest my voidblade with Kiss of the Nuclear Fireball, Icy Grip of the Outer Spheres and Greater Knife Edge of Nowhere.” Is something you can and probably will say. Call me cheesy, but I love that. And that’s just the shape of your blade, not the sword laser martial arts you’ll do with it.

But wait! That’s not all! Remember those techniques I mentioned at the very start? Well, it’s time to start talking about them. Their DCs are 10 + highest manifestation level known + Charisma modifier. New techniques are unlocked at class level 2nd, and every 2 levels thereafter, with the higher-level options tending to be rarer: 10th, 12th and 14th level only unlock a few new ones; the lion’s share of techniques are unlocked before that. Techniques are, in essence, a modification of the engine championed in the rather awesome assassin class presented by Interjection games. Techniques have a so-called “Focus”, and at 1st level, the etherknight is locked into a technique with a Focus Change of +1 as one of their choices; this is a safety precaution so the player can actually use them. Focus is measured by a focus pool, which caps at 4; the focus pool begins empty, and is charged by using techniques with a positive focus change; similarly, some techniques decrease the focus and thus first need building. Focus only works in combat, and is lost after Charisma modifier minutes without combat. Puzzling: This lacks a kitten-caveat, so if you can antagonize those furry kittens, you can pre-build focus RAW. Uncommon oversight as far as I’m concerned.

That being said, the etherknight’s technique engine does come with so-called ether crashes available since level 1. These are essentially finishing moves and can only be performed with a focus of 3 or 4, and have a -3 Focus Change. They are used as a standard action, and one chooses three techniques, with the following limitations: One technique has a Focus Change of +1; one has a Focus Change of +1 or 0, and starting at 6th level, a technique with a Focus Change of 0 or -1. The ethercrash has the longest range of all techniques; if one technique is supernatural, then the crash is supernatural; otherwise, it is a spell-like ability. If at least one technique is delivered via ranged touch attack, then it is delivered as a ranged touch attack; otherwise, it is a standard ranged attack. Using a melee weapon you are wielding, you make an attack roll against a creature in range (of the technique!); if you hit, an arc of energy slams into the enemy, applying the combined effects on a hit.

If you’re familiar with this type of engine, you’ll know what to expect: The ethercrash has an escalation that unlocks at 11th level. 20th level btw. eliminates the distinction between Focus and FP (and via FP, also with EP), using FP to pay for Focus, etc. – up to a maximum of Charisma modifier points per day.

Okay, so what about those techniques? These allow you to temporarily grant shields to allies, execute melee attacks at range, bypass some types of DR. With e.g. Breath from Beyond you can sicken targets, and alternatively, sue the escalation at higher Focus Change and Cost, nauseate targets. Subverting resistances first and then, after the 3-round duration ends, adding class level damage sans save? Neat insult to injury. These btw. also include the ability to temporarily steal a part of a target’s magic, which depends on style of casting for the effect; this includes truenaming, ethermagic, psionics, etc.. I also liked the ability o swap two targets you hit, provided they both botch their save…if only one botches, things become painful. Hitting with a sword-laser and then granting a temporary hit point buff?

Yeah, at this point Strange Magic veterans will have realized the core difference between the etherknight and the ethermagus on a thematic level, right? The ethermagus is essentially the assailant that goes in for the assassin-style kill; the etherknight, on the other hand, is essentially a ranged laser-sword combatant with a combo-engine!

Of course, this wealth of engines and combo-options in the ethercrash-finishers also means that there is bound to be a plethora of feats that allow you to tinker with aspects of the engines: Unless I have miscounted, we have 27 feats, which include classics such as Zero Master, but also new ones like Technique Specialization. These feats do come with a bit of flavor, and sometimes even humorous. I really got a chuckle out of: “Okay, fine. They're all sword lasers, but you have a favorite nonetheless.“ The feats also include the ability to immediately get 1 Focus when your FP to drop to 0 for the first time per day…this might sound like a lame benefit, but when planned properly, it ca make that final expenditure really matter more. (And yes, standards like Extra Etherknight Technique etc. are included.) The interjection of systems can also be seen in the manifestations, btw.: The Artificial Focus Alteration nets you 1 Focus, for example.

Of course, the pdf also includes a variety of favored class options for various races, including a selection of general ones that everyone might take. Some of these favored class options are btw. really brutal: Elves may, for example, once they have taken their FCO three times, reroll technique attack rolls as an immediate action, and may be used 1/day for every 3 uses. Dwarves can gain DRs from their techniques, and vishkanya and drow can unlock a special etherfusion at +0 FP via these. Much more meaningful than usual for FCOs. Of course the usual +1/6 of XYZ etc. style options are also here.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. The book juggles ridiculously complex rules concepts and engines with panache aplomb; a few minor hiccups have found their way into the entirety, but these are primarily cosmetic. Artworks are b/w-pieces, and the pdf adheres to Interjection Games’ two-column b/w-standard. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but generally only for chapter headers, not for individual techniques/manifestations, or e.g. the favored class options. So yeah, minor convenience detriment. I do recommend printing this and working with it that way.

…but then again, I do recommend that anyway. The etherknight, even more so than Bradley Crouch’s usual classes, is not a plug-and-play thing. You need to invest some prepwork to make your sword laser paladin work, but when you do, you’ll have a rather remarkable and rewarding-to-play class on your hands, and personally, I am very, very fond of the notion of making my own finishing moves via the ethercrash-engine. Plus, the relative proximity in concepts to Bradley Crouch’s other Focus-based engines does mean that a talented designer can create MOAR and/or convert techniques from other classes.

So yes, no surprise, I do very much enjoy this class…with one caveat: Please, do yourself a favor and increase the poor sod’s skills per level to 4 + Int. 2 + Int sans Intelligence as key ability modifier just sucks.

That notwithstanding, I had a blast with this class; it is really cutting edge. … Okay, I’ll stop; this gets 4.5 stars, rounded up, and my seal of approval.

As a final sentiment: As per the writing of this review, this was the last thing the author published. I do hope he’ll one day return to game design. I very much enjoyed his unconventional classes and alternate systems.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ethermagic Expanded - The Etherknight (PFRPG)
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Vathak 5e Character Options - Feats of Devotion and Deliverance
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/29/2021 06:18:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content.

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

So, the one page of this supplement contains 3 new feats, with the first being Bestow Piety, which requires proficiency in Intelligence (Religion) or the ability to Channel Divinity to take it. The feat nets you one use of Channel Divinity, or increases your uses of the feature by 1 before you need to finish a short or long rest. When you take the feat, you choose one of 3 options: Purity lets you create a cylinder that protects from poisoned condition, grants resistance to poison damage if the targets do not have it, and those affected by poison or disease get a reroll to end the effect unless it’s caused by a curse. Cool! Hope lets you ward up to three creatures against fear for 1 hour, and also nets inspiration; frightened creatures get a reroll. Clarity nets a 1-hour aura that nets advantage on saves against madness or effects like confusion, and it can be triggered as a reaction—I assume to such an effect, though the verbiage does not specify this. That being said, this is a minor nitpick, and the feat can be chosen multiple times, it effects stacking, and each time nets a new ability.

The second feat, Disciplined Mind, requires a Wisdom of 11+ and increases Wisdom by 1, to a maximum of 20. It nets advantage on saving throws vs. the frightened condition, and to remove it. The feat also nets advantage on saves vs. the charmed condition if it originated from an aberration, fiend or undead, and you are always aware of attempts to read your mind. Interesting!

Slayer of Horrors, finally, has no prerequisite and lets you choose either aberrations, fiends or undead. Against the chosen type, you 1/turn add proficiency bonus to damage and 1/turn ignore one type of resistance of the chosen enemy when making an attack. (So does not work for spells etc. that require no attack.) Thirdly, you may, as a reaction, distract a creature of the chosen type as it attacks, but before it rolls. The creature makes the attack at disadvantage. This one only can be sued once before needing a short or long rest to use it again. I am generally not the biggest fan of specialized creature type hunting abilities, but as far as they are concerned, this is a solid payoff, considering the cost of feats in 5e. There is but one thing my personal aesthetics would require: Stating that the character needs to know about the creature facing them being of their chosen type. It’s a small thing, but considering the prevalence of body-snatching, possession and illusions, it’s imho an important one.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules level. Layout adheres to a nice full-color two-column standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none. Ismael Alvarez’ three feats herein are pretty cool and worthwhile. They balance cost and benefit well, can unlock some cool adventure scenarios, and are presented in a tight manner. Apart from minor nitpickery in the final feat, I have no serious complaints, which means that my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, and I’ll be rounding up due to the low and fair price-point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vathak 5e Character Options - Feats of Devotion and Deliverance
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