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Starfarer's Arsenal: Shotguns
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2020 13:18:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Starfarer’s Arsenal-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The pdf begins with some observations I found myself applauding – namely that scatterguns are not shotguns, in either functionality or concept. Based on these observations, we begin with new weapon qualities. “Double” means that the weapon has two barrels, and may be fired with a usage of 1; however, as a full action, you can unload both barrels at once, expending 2 rounds of ammo, dealing additional damage as listed by the quality. “Imposing” weapons are load, bright, and somewhat flabbergasting – as such, if you use these weapons to hit and damage a target, the target gets no AoO against you until the start of their next turn. This is very strong versus some builds, but also adds a serious tactical angle to the gameplay that I really love.

The “Shotgun” quality means that you can fire scattergun shells, which come as slugs or shot; slugs behave as kinetic weapons, but may not eb fired with using a choke. When using shot, for each range increment beyond the first, you get +1 to atk, but also -minus 1 damage PER DIE. On 0 or less, the target takes no damage at all. A shotgun can be sawed off/have a shortened barrel, or a choke. A sawed-off has a shorter range-increment, determined in 5-foot increments, minimum 5; chokes increase the range increment by 10 feet. Chokes can be removed or replaced as a standard action.

The pdf presents 5 types of shotguns, all of which come in 4 different iterations. We have assault shotguns, combat shotguns (which are automatic), hunting shotguns, riot guns (imposing) and break guns (which get double). Combat shotguns get bleed as critical effect, while riot guns get wound; hunting shotguns and break guns get knockdown. Ranges and capacity make sense for the items, the former being obviously on the low end of the spectrum, and one weapon is presented for each of the 20 item-levels. They are classified as longarms, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork features on the cover is neat. The supplement has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Owen K.C. Stephens delivers big time here; from pricing to damage values to genuinely playing differently from scatterguns, this supplement delivers big time in its frame. This is a great little supplement, well worth getting for your Starfinder game. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starfarer's Arsenal: Shotguns
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Extinguish the Sun #02
Publisher: Apollyon Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2020 13:15:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Extinguish the Sun-‘zine clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a gander!

As the introduction notes, this book is essentially a genre-port/hack that takes the LotFP-rules (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), and adjusts them to apply to the cyberpunk genre. (As an aside, if you’re like me and considered the first issue’s setting to be promising – it’s been picked up by Necrotic Gnome!) The different focus can be seen in layout, with corporate logos and warnings provided.

The supplement presents 4 new classes; The cyborg gets d8 HD, save- and XP-progression of the dwarf, and the class gets 3 skills to be divided among 5 core skills; these behave like the usual LotFP-skills, and include Guidance (which covers navigation), Knowledge, Vision mods, Math, and Strength – the latter is a bit unfortunately-named. Why not call it “Feats of Strength”, “Muscles” or some such to avoid confusion between skill and ability score. The Lowlife gets d6 HD, save-, XP- and skill-progression as a specialist, with two unique skills introduced: The first is Acquisitions, which represents the ability to get their hands on goods, legal and illegal products, etc.; the second skill is Offloading, which is the skill used to get rid of stuff, fence contraband, etc. These two skills start off as 1 in 6, so the base values need not be purchased. The mercenary has d10 HD, an elf’s saving throw progression, and an XP-progression of the specialist. The mercenary can get odd jobs that pay 50 bucks per day, and they pick a primary weapon from a list of 3, a sidearm from a list of 4, and a special ability from a list of 4 (Skilled, Stout, Savage, Martial Arts). With the primary weapon, the mercenary has an attack bonus equal to their level, ½ their level (rounded up) with the secondary weapon. If choosing unarmed as secondary weapon, the mercenary deals 1d4 damage with those. Martial Arts upgrades unarmed secondary weapon damage to 1d8, if present, and when the character attacks, they get +2 to Ac until their next turn. Stout upgrades HD t d12. Skills nets 4 points that can be used in specialist skills, but not the new ones of the lowlife. Savage increases the daage die caused with all attacks by one step; d12s become d12 + 1d4, just fyi.

The final class, and the only one sans a delightful b/w-artwork, would be the Phreak who gets d4 HD, save-progression as a magic-user, XP-progression as a cleric. These fellows have embedded datajacks, and can jack into the Matrix. If they take damage while jacked in, they are ejected and take additional damage. Safely logging off from the Matrix takes a whopping 10 minutes. The Matrix as envisioned here is explained in detail; its structure is that it is made up of nodes, rooms, all interconnected, a vast, sprawling digital metropolis/dungeon-crossover. Equipment must be smuggled into the Matrix via a backdoor, and costs as much in the Matrix as in real life. Matrix-use items can’t be sold. Regular characters can only take 4 items with them, while phreaks get up to 6. Additionally, phreaks get d12 HD in the Matrix, and attack bonus equal to their level. The HD of other users is contingent on skin-quality of the avatar, ranging from d4 to d10.

The pdf also presents a basic equipment list that covers both melee and ranged weapons, as well as armor. Ranged weapons do tend to inflict A LOT more damage than melee; the pdf does not state how reloading, clip-size etc. is handled, and regarding the latter, no information whatsoever is provided. Considering the damage-discrepancy, I’m pretty sure that something’s missing here.

The pdf also features a brief summary of the setting, which is pretty much par for the course: 5 big corporations  rule the world, and they all get a brief paragraph of a summary, alongside their own corporate logos. Only a job at the big 5 is worth anything – everything else renders you an outcast, as the employment card doubles as an ID and credit card. Players are either ID-less outcasts  or have the very limited freelancer cards.

The pdf closes with a brief interview featuring Daniel Sell of the Melsonian Arts Council.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard with nice interior artwork by Evelyn M.; David Shugars’ layout is nifty for such a minimalist publication, and I really like Anxy’s cover art. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bit of a comfort detriment.

Chance Phillips’ cyberpunk hack left me exceedingly unimpressed; I’m a fan of the genre, and while the execution of what is here is decent, I don’t really see the necessity of the supplement; this is very much cookie-cutter cyberpunk without flair or novelty, and if you have ever read Neuromancer, or played 2020 or Shadowrun, you can probably improvise more complex and exciting  material. The conception of the Matrix as a dungeon stand-in is clever, but not sufficiently-realized/explained to make long-term campaigning make sense. As a whole, I’d be hard-pressed to play a compelling game with these rules, or a motivation to build on them. Unlike in the first installment, there simply isn’t much here to set this apart on either a mechanical, or narrative level. I can’t recommend this ‘zine. My final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Extinguish the Sun #02
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Extinguish the Sun #01
Publisher: Apollyon Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2020 12:33:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the „Extinguish the Sun“-zine clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The rules-set assumed in this supplement would be B/X, which means that it operates relatively seamlessly with Old School Essentials, my current go-to presentation on the B/X-rules.

So, this supplement assumes a kind of Mad Max-y/Tank Girl-y setting that is somewhat fantasy-post-apocalypse like; there is a subdued, slightly allegorical quality that is particularly prevalent in the environment depicted in the beginning of the ‘zine, namely the “City in Chains” – a rotting country, where the king watches from his sealed tomb, where are representatives of castes are caricatures or perversions of their erstwhile craft. The hazy notion implies that you have to want to get there, or you won’t find it, forgetting it; this dreamlike haziness is the strongest component of this write-up, for it adds a surreal aspect to the place. Chefs are blinded and have seared hands from being forced to check temperature by hand; the engineers are paranoid creators of strange weaponry, for there can only be a few, and to get a spot, you have to kill one of them; the generals rule and are decadent…you get the idea. Priesthood and taxmen are covered as well, and as a whole, we get an impression of a city rotting at the seams. It is an interesting piece of writing and setting, but one that suffers from its indecisiveness: If it is allegorical and surreal, it could go much farther and doesn’t; if it’s primarily supposed to be plausible, it feels almost like a caricature of such a place. The article was an enjoyable read, and certainly can inspire, particularly if you’re less jaded and versed in such literature or concepts than I am.

After this, we get the two new classes – both fit all relevant information on one page, and indicate with a handy scissor item that they can be cut out of a print version; the Marksman is an 8-level class with Dexterity 9 as prerequisite and Dexterity as prime requisite, who may not wear armor, but may use any weapon. The class gets d8 HD, uses the fighter’s XP-progression and (TH)AC0 progression, but sports a unique save progression. They begin play with an ancestral firearm, and may execute stunts. These must be announced before an attack roll is made, and apply a penalty to the attack. The pdf encourages making more than the 4 presented. These include doubled range at -1 to atk, save or die due to a headshot (if you roll a natural 20 only), ricochet and rapid fire. Weird: The class caps at level 8, explicitly says so, but applies the header “Reaching 9th Level” to a section that pertains to their capstone level. All in all, a decent take on a super-stripped down version of Pathfinder’s gunslinger. Okay, but doesn’t win any prizes.

The Librarian is much more interesting: This class has a prime requisite of Intelligence, but needs a minimum Wisdom of 9; it spans 14 levels and gets d6 HD; they may use any weapon, but no armor.  They use the thief’s XP-progression, but their (TH)AC0 only improves from 19 to 17 at 6th level, and to 14 at 11th level. Their “attract followers”-level is 11th; the librarians are conceptually awesome: You may not (necessarily) know how to read, but you know of the importance of books – that’s why you wear them on your body the whole time, clad in a thick coat of books that works as chainmail armor. This is a fantastic concept, well-illustrated in a one-page artwork by Evevlyn M. Downside of wearing so many book: You take double fire damage. What do you get for that? Well, at 4th level you can smell books, automatically detecting them if passing within 10 ft. of one; at 10th level, you get a 5-in-6 chance to passively notice secret doors. Their death/poison save starts off at an atrocious 16, and the other saves aren’t particularly great either. As always, HD are capped at 9th level, with further levels providing +2 HP. And yes, that’s unfortunately it. No ability to cast from the books; no papercut abilities; no paper-plane, no magical origami. Just a dude wearing books as armor. This is the biggest, almost criminal waste of an awesome idea I’ve seen in a while.

The pdf then provides a table of 9 firearms with their stats, as well as three general templates of a sort; the damage values and range seem plausible, as do the prices. While the table is concise and shouldn’t provide problems for experienced GMs, the tables also has a “Notes”-column that e.g. lists: “a, m, s, 2h, L”; particularly since quite a few GMs I know switch between rules systems frequently, getting a brief explanation here would have been prudent.

So yeah, so far, this ‘zine may have been rather underwhelming, but then comes a great reason to get this supplement for its low price: Vehicle rules that are simple and elegant. You generally don’t need to check when driving, just when attempting a special maneuver. You check by rolling 1d10 + your Dexterity adjustment versus a number that is, at the highest 10 – essentially a DC. You check a small table, which lists different numbers for going slow, medium or fast. The rows denote conditions like the area being off-road, flooded, etc.; Swerves, turns, halts and controlled skids are defined, and the vehicle engine provides stats and costs for bikes, compacts, regular and large vehicles, including #1 of seats, Hit Points, cost, base speed, etc. Oh, and they have upgrade slots! 13 upgrades are provided, which range from being solar-powered to having a mounted cannon. I genuinely enjoy this engine; it is by far the best component of the pdf as far as I’m concerned, and considering the low price point, might well warrant getting this for you all on its own. Then again, I wished the supplement had provided more upgrades, covered e.g. melee weaponry, etc. There is a lot of material that the engine could use and is missing, including suggested damage values for being run over.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with some neat pieces of original b/w-artwork that I really enjoyed. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Chance Phillips’ first “Extinguish the Sun”-‘zine started of in a solid manner; the  write up of the city, while not exactly novel, might be enjoyable for some less jaded people out there; I liked it well enough. However, much like the two classes, I feel it didn’t go far enough with its ideas. The classes are duds to me, with particularly the librarian’s cool concept deserving better: The increased HD over the thief doesn’t pay for the lack of reasonable stuff to do and the deadly Achilles’ heel. The vehicle rules, though? They are genuinely well-crafted. I wished there had been more of them, for if this had used one or two of its pages more to make them work, we’d have a system I’d wholeheartedly recommend. If you’re looking for the like, this will be worth the $2.00 price-tag for you; if not, then…well. Not. As a whole, I consider this a mixed bag that sports some duds, but also a fun and well-executed subsystem. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars; and due to the low and fair price point, I’ll round up for this one, if barely.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Extinguish the Sun #01
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Thunderscape: Heroes of Aden
Publisher: Kyoudai Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2020 12:28:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is this? Well, functionally, this is a collection of NPC allies with statblocks included. They are the named variety, so not the generic everyman’s statblocks, and the individuals make ample use of Thunderscape’s class array; if required, for example when a thaumaturge is concerned, we have the stats modified by the typically-channeled legend featured in brackets, with spirit points properly noted. Similarly, more complex rules operations are noted in brackets, which can be handy for some less experienced GMs.

We begin with Corbin Clark, who may be of Kuzark stock, though his name is that of an Arasteen native; he oddly is a staunch enemy of the concept of a rewarding life after death, but still is an ardent enemy of the wicked – a position I can relate to, and one rarely seen in TTRPG-products. Rules-wise, he is a fighter2/thaumaturge 4. Aforementioned use of brackets is somewhat inconsistent here, with the senses line noting a Perception of +8, which is the value provided for the legend; this extends to all such characters using thaumaturge legends, just fyi. The statblock is per se nice, but sports errors, like an incorrect initiative value and the magical shortswords not in proper italics in the offense section.

Next up would be Daevid, an echo bard 5/thaumaturge 4 (who ALSO draws on the warrior legend as a default), bereaved of his paladin love; a solid tragic hero. Davan Campos’ bloodline hails back to the  first Lord Protector of the Mistland Republic, he is an exceptionally driven and capable captain, a steamwright 18 who gets a new trait that allows for halved size for non-combat starting inventions. Kaera, Sorceress of the Free Cities, is at this point one of the most powerful benevolent protectors of the Coolwave Coast. Mechanically, she is a rogue 3/sorcerer 15, and while liked her background, her statblock lacks the HD lists, her AC similarly lacks the breakdown of how it’s calculated, her feats are lower case, her statblocks lists her iterative attacks, and her, build, as a whole, is VERY unfocused;  at her level, she is rather ill-prepared to face her appropriate challenges.

Magnus Arcane’s name, before you groan, is indeed a pseudonym, and the somewhat odd black sheep of the family, he’s taken to magic. His statblock (he is a universalist wizard 11) is btw. also missing HD-breakdown, AC bonus key, etc. Marek Celdyrm a level 8 thaumaturge, does not have this issue and lists the like properly. He is also drawing upon a different legend – protector, this time around; Marek is hunting a necromancer, seeking to end the family curse.  Michiko the Fox, an elven ninja, gets a ninja trick that lets her spend 1 point of ki to gain scent for 10 minutes, which is neat, but no activation action is provided; that should probably be free. Ridiculous: Know what scent helps most? Yea, noticing stuff and  tracking. Michiko has not a single rank of Survival. Her list of ninja tricks is also missing this one, and her CMD is listed as “+20”. Her weapon is incorrectly called “katana of frost” instead of frost katana, among other issues.

A mechamage of remarkable skill, Mykal the Toymaker is the lavishly-illustrated fellow on the cover, and being a friend of the fellow (a new trait that is not properly classified by trait type) makes a beginning golmeoid implant masterwork. It is odd, then, that such a potent fellow only ranks at 7 class levels. Odder still: While he comes with a doll golem, the text also mentions his dollhouse, a mobile manor house that can fit into a 30-foot-square, with rotating cannon-platforms. No, that’s NOT the doll golem. Yes, the issues in the statblocks are here as well, with CMD, among other things, being off. I really don’t get why the exceedingly cool Dollhouse wasn’t statted properly.

Nikkos Moran is fighter 5 who uses a single shortsword, not kidding; his CMB and CMD are also wrong. Most amateur players can make a better fighter. Ophelia Mimina is a bard 12 focusing on casting (no magic weapon, all defense) who erroneously lists her CMD as 13. Reinn is a fighter 3/ranger 5 multiclass, and is essentially described as a lone wanderer over whom little is known. The final NPC is Taela Dragonstar, a sorcerer 4 with the draconic bloodline, with 4 qinggong monk levels and 2 seer levels thrown in; is her build impressive when compared to what shows u at my table? Not really, but she is leagues better than  the majority of NPCs herein, and she feels like a character that could kinda happen in a game where the player focuses on making the development of the character based primarily on the story.

The pdf ends with some general advice on handling NPCs and a brief campaign framework of PCs as pseudo law enforcers in Mekanus.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good on a formal or rules-language level; I noticed too many discrepancies and hiccups that influence the rules. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a really neat full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a comfort detriment.

The different design skills of Shawn Carman, Chris Camarata, Rob Drake and Rich Wulf are, alas, on full display here: There are a few NPCs I’d consider to be worth introducing, but from the formal hiccups to the build validity on the characters featured herein, the supplement is highly inconsistent on a mechanical level. This tendency, alas, extends to the stories as well, which range from captivating and interesting to utterly bland; unfortunately, cool complex and good builds don’t necessarily correlate in the supplement, which renders recommending this something I simply can’t do. This is not the worst NPC book I’ve seen, but it is a long shot from being fully functional or something I’d recommend to a discerning GM. My final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Thunderscape: Heroes of Aden
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Legendary Planet: To Kill a Star (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2020 07:01:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the Legendary Planet AP clocks in at 172 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction (which also contains notes on assumed power-level, etc.), 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD ,1  page back cover, leaving us with 161 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, I was a backer of the kickstarter for Legendary Planet, but I was not involved in the creation of this book. This brings me to a big, important note: You see, the kickstarter back then barely made the funding required for this final module – and under that premise, it is exceedingly impressive to see that this not only is a full-blown module, it’s actually mega-adventure length all on its own, probably somewhere about twice to thrice the length of a regular installment. Making it thus right by the patient backers? That’s how you handle projects like this. Kudos for going all out regarding scope.

The book also comes with a ginormous Art and Map Folio. Ähem, for anyone in the industry reading this: “THE ART AND MAP FOLIO SHOULD BE INDUSTRY STANDARD.”  Apologies for the allcaps, but this really needs to happen. I’m so sick and tired of extracting art from pdfs, and with these, I have essentially a massive handout booklet. They REALLY enhance the game, are super-convenient, and just fantastic. The art and map folio this time around, btw.? 60 pages. And the artworks are stunning. Less stunning: The player-friendly maps sans labels included in the 1st,2nd,3rd and 5th installment of the AP are unfortunately missing here as well. I really don’t get why installment 4, 6 and this book’s folios were missing those, and I seriously hope that they’ll be added.

Now, as always, we do get read-aloud text and quite a lot of supplemental material for the module; the adventure is designed for 4 characters of 19th level, with 5 mythic tiers, and the module gives guidance regarding milestone advancement and Slow advancement. With the finale assuming level 20 PCs with 7 mythic tiers. The module does include the by now classic prose chapter by Chris A. Jackson.

As always, let us start by taking a look at the chapter dealing with supplemental material, to be more precise, the chapter that sports the header “BOOM” (from the feather of Jason Nelson) – the module is supposed to end with a huge bang, so we get a section on demolition by explosives. My players would love this, as throwing ridiculous amounts of explosives at problems has been a strategy of theirs whenever they get stuck…but I digress. The bombardier ranger archetype replaces Handle Animal and Knowledge (geography) as well as Knowledge (nature) with Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (engineering) and UMD; they reduce their proficiency list to light armor, simple weapons and explosives, and get the alchemist bomb class feature instead of favored enemy and master hunter; they also get one-half their level as a bonus to make or identify alchemical weaponry, and the bonus also applies to siege weapon aiming. The archetype comes with a custom combat style. Instead of favored terrain, 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter yield an alchemist discovery at level-2, replacing favored terrain. Also at this level, we have an increase of the save DC of alchemical weaponry and grenades, and this DC further increases over the levels, but does have a cap and explicitly states that it doesn’t apply to bombs granted by the class feature. 4th level nets extracts with a custom list, and instead of the whole hunter’s bond/tracking and hide in plain sight suite, we get a collection of bonus feats to choose from, which allow for some amateur gunslinging and better heavy weaponry/siege weapon usage. At 7th level, we get 8 benefits that apply to grenades and alchemical weapons, which include modifying missed throws, deadman switches, dual throws, add Intelligence modifier to hit point damage (RAW to regular and splash damage), etc. – and at 11th level and every 4 levels thereafter, we can use an additional one of these benefits each round. This archetype is a complex, potent engine-hack that plays radically different than both base class, alchemist, etc. – and it makes the respective weaponry valid.

The article is supplemented by the inclusion of 4 alchemist talents that focus on using bombs under water or further delay explosions of bombs. I don’t have all my tools from office and reference materials here, but unless I am sorely mistaken, these discoveries were originally featured in the Carrion Crown plug-in Beyond the Void. The pdf also reprints Grenade Expert and Distracting Explosions  feats for your convenience (pretty sure that these two were introduced in Ironfang Incursion), and features two more that are somewhat familiar to me, but I can’t say for sure or place them: Deafening Blast adds a short-term deafen effect to bombs and grenades (no, it’s not like the Hobgoblin racial feat), and Demolitions Expert makes you deal full damage to objects etc. with bombs and alchemical items. These feats are welcome additions to the chapter, well-designed, and I liked seeing their inclusion here. Oh, and guess what: We get a whole page of incredibly densely-packed grenades, reprinting the Technology Guide’s material, but expanding it with e.g. radiation-causing grenades, dwarf star grenades, tear gas, etc. – in short, this is the grenade reference page now; construction requirements included, of course. Beyond that, we get stats for contact and remote mines, and the stats for plasma thrower and rocket launcher are included as well, so you don’t need to flip books. This also includes featuring the scatter weapon quality for your convenience.

Beyond these, we get 3 new technological items in the alien treasures section (penned by Jason Nelson and Steven T. Helt), and one new magical item. The former would be the klaven spacesuit, which features self-replicating polymer that can repair it, if provided a charge, and it does have some boosters as well as special slots that facilitate potion consumption. Nice one. The second new technological item would be the black ray pistol, which fires a ray of disruptive energy that is classified as a necromancy [death] effect that still inflicts half damage to corporeal undead. The classification here allows the pistol’s untyped damage to avoid my scorn, since [death] effects are very much something you can protect yourself from. The disintegration torc is a torus-shaped ring grenade that causes untyped damage in a very small radius burst, potentially disintegrate-ing those slain by it; it also is particularly efficient at destroying force effects. Nice. The new magic item, which is illustrated in a great full-color artwork, like the disintegration torc, fyi, would be The Unbroken Blade, which is a +4 adamantine mythic bane falchion with properly codified mythic abilities. It looks epic and is powerful indeed.

The massive adventure does contain more, though: What about, for example, the INCREDIBLY useful chapter “Adventuring in the Void” (penned by Jason Nelson, Robert Brookes and Steven T. Helt), which recaps rules for gravity, maneuvering and momentum in the void, zero-g combat (including reprints from the Aethera Campaign Setting), radiation (including a spell to ward against it), vacuum…magic in the void is properly codified…and so is surviving in the void, where we get concise rules for the devastating effects of deep space, perihelion, etc.; oh, and the supplement also provides rules for the incredibly lethal prospect of getting close to a star, which frankly only the best equipped, highest level and toughest PCs have a chance of surviving. This chapter is awesome, as it provides a handy one-stop reference for truly brutal and suitably challenging space exploration effects. Two thumbs up! GMs running this module: Study this chapter very well – it’s super useful.

The bestiary penned by Steven T. Helt and master of meticulous, marvelous monsters Mike Welham, if you were wondering, is super-sized as well: We are, for example, introduced to the naturally-psychic CR 7 Yllosans, allies of the elali, who get an aetheric variant of telekinesis and naturally light-bending bodies; the former servitor-race Kaulvrex (CR 6) with their third arm and chemical communication (and option to chemically brand targets with their tails) are also neat; the Cr ½ Erebus come with their own racial traits, which are +2 Intelligence and Charisma, low-light vision, +1 to saving throw DCs for enchantment spells and SPs, and 1/day hypnotism  as a SP if their Charisma exceeds 15; they get +1 skill per level and their limited mental connection nets them a +8 racial bonus to pass secret messages via Bluff to other members of their race. They also get a +2 racial bonus to resist charms and compulsions, and get an additional save to shake these off if they failed the initial save. Though derived from human stock, they have their own humanoid subtype, as can be gleaned from their statblock, but not their racial traits. Not the biggest fan of them due to being somewhat lopsided, but I wouldn’t flat-out disallow them in my games. The deadly CR 17 griever from the Construct Codex is reprinted here as well.

The CR 11 explosive egg-throwing Pelkrev, eyeless and derived from draconic stock, are an interesting race that can draw power from spells failing to penetrate their SR. On the slimy side of things, we have the CR 11 living nebula, which is rules-wise super-interesting: It is gaseous, but not incorporeal, and has a unique twist that changes how its grapples operate. Combined with its alien mind and fiery aura, I really liked these alien things from a monster design perspective. Need a bit more? Well, what about a frickin’ CR 20 star blight ooze that distorts light and gravity and really wrecks the range of ranged weaponry in a rather large area? It can emit exotic ability score draining bursts of radiation and also have a stunning effect with their attacks, channeling the cold of space. Delightful! At CR 16, the earth/fire elemental Diamantem are pretty much what you’d expect: With super-sharp carbon slams, immunity to fusion, etc. and light, and prismatic spray-beams, they certainly are cool. The CR 13/MR 2 locusdaemon hits with the strength of falling stars and additional attacks in full attacks; they are surrounded by an aura of gravity that pushes targets to them, and has this cool unique property that makes it always face those observing it. A clever GM can use this latter ability to rather interesting and devious effect…just sayin’…

As always, it is highly recommended that the GM reads the Gazetteer section (penned by Darrin Drader, Jonathan H. Keith and Jason Nelson) before running the module; particularly this time around, since we’re dealing with the massive Great Sphere, the dyson sphere that represents the heart of the Ultari Hegemony. The write-up also features full settlement stats for capital Atlas Prime, as well as a law enforcement table and the stats to supplement them; beyond the stats featured in the main module, we get 4 extra statblocks, ranging from CR 6 to CR 20/MR 5 – the latter being btw. The supper deadly mythic myrmidon strike wing troop. Yep, not even super-high-level PCs are safe from the power of this empire! These constructs are BRUTAL. Atlas Prime is also unique, since the Ultari have managed to tap into mythic powers and utilize them, but also taint them for others; this is represented in the super-potent Mythic Ravage disease: This affliction is a risk whenever the PCs tap into the vast powers their mythic abilities grant them, and the affliction is nigh-impossible to get rid of, and the disease bypasses even condition immunities. It is also not a simple save or suck, instead coming with 5 progressions (KUDOS!), and the affliction does properly codify attempts to deal with it. It is a really cool affliction, and genuinely made me wish for a whole book of these complex, multi-stage effects at this quality.

Now, as far as the module is concerned, the PC’s unique Morphic Nature benefit does grant them a page of benefits when it comes to handling space, including means to use mythic power to temporarily gain some Zero-G expertise; the bottom line here is, that the PCs don’t have to start from scratch regarding functionality – but considering the totality of the adventuring beyond the void rules presented, as well as the threat of Mythic Ravage. The module does throw some serious problems at the PCs – and that is GOOD. The PCs at this level have vast resources, and they SHOULD need to think how to use these resources to survive what would be literally impossible for lesser heroes. Instead of taking away or limiting their powers, the module proposes a series of persistent challenges that the PCs need to work with. That is a very good basic premise even before the module kicks off, as far as I’m concerned. Optional random encounters are presented throughout the adventure; obscure feats are printed where required; in one instance, an ambiguous verbiage of an ability referenced is clearly defined (kudos); the module warns you when you need to be even more keenly-aware of the capabilities of the PCs; the book provides the effects of upgraded mythic spells (no book-flipping to LG’s super-useful mythic books); we also get advice for handling the more scifi aspects of the genre, tech,  psychic magic, psionics – you get the idea; in short: The module is as convenient as a super high-level adventure can be.

Okay, I’ve danced around the topic for too long, let us take an in-depth look at the mega-adventure-sized conclusion to the Legendary Planet AP! Unsurprisingly, the following will contain a TON OF SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, in the last installment, the military counter-offense launched by the Ultari Hegemony was thwarted by the PCs; thus, this module begins in media res, with the PCs emerging from the Scarab Relay in hot pursuit of the Ultari, right in the middle of a cloud of blue and white gas; provided they can beat the welcome committee left. Aluum titan (CR 16/MR 1) – and that is one of the easiest encounters in the adventure. The location of the Hegemony’s home system was purged from all computers and minds, but, you know, there is the trail to the Latere Nebula, a cosmic graveyard of dead gods mined by immortal champions in a bid to end all existence. Suffice to say, that’s not just space, it’s space coterminous with the negative energy plane, aligning the nothingness of space with those of metaphysical oblivion, courtesy of the mighty Titan’s Maw wormhole.

Yep, that’s how this module begins. And in contrast to the defenses of the finale of the last adventure feeling a bit off for the heart of a military operations, the same can’t be said here, as the annihilator robot welcome committee adds further potential to add the ole’ “Dead” to “Dead Space. The PCs have to navigate life-consuming nebulae, survive the assault of the CR 22/MR 2 blackstar nightwave Broln. Did I mention the assault by no less than 8 (!!) of the new locusdaemons? The photo-negative appearance nebula’s black spaces slowly coalesce upon traversal into the colossal shapes of gods long slain, and before long, Arasaim, The Darkness, a nightwalker antipaladin (!!) and his undead mi-go (cosmetic niggle: B4 reference not in superscript), will attack. This THING is functionally impossible to finally destroy right now: It offers leading the PCs to their enemies, if they kill the one living this in the Latere Nebula…and considering that Arasaim respawns whenever something dies in the nebula…well…if the first combat doesn’t do it, the second, third, foruth…you get the idea. High-level haunts of dimensional instabilities tell the tale of the Maw, and Arasaim’s target? Well, that’d be Ingulnexia, advanced void creature old umbral dragon and her retinue of shadow storms, and while not mythic per se, her lair in the bones of a long-forgotten god do help even the playing field. Interesting: both vile entities provide the means to progress – dragon and nightwalker know that passage through the wormhole will lead the PCs where they need to thread, and if the PCs are VERY clever, they might even be able to avoid fighting either of the two super-powerful entities, though, per default, the module does seem to assume that the dragon will be the one slain.

Oh, and an event horizon? In case you were wondering: You better spend a mythic power right away, or it’ll destroy you irrevocably. That’s the start. The start. Know how, rather often, players and PCs tend to lose their awe before phenomena that should frighten them?  “I fall off the cliff, so what?”; “Yeah, I’ll just walk into that burning house, no biggie.” – the PCs may be now be nigh immortal and super-potent legends. But guess what? If they think they can just take traversal of the wormhole, just because they’re high level…they’ll ALL DIE HORRIBLY. As they should! This is super-deadly, as it should be; even fully buffed high-level parties will suffer and potentially risk perishing. The module notes several means of increasing their survivability, but frankly, at these levels, the PCs need to be able to handle challenges of these proportions. This is as well a place as any to note: To Kill a Star pulls no punches. More so than even previous Legendary Planet installments, this module is clearly written with a look to the vast capabilities that the PCs and players by now have. The module warns in the beginning that it is “Incredibly Deadly” – I’d agree, but in a good way. Unlike quite a few comparable high-level adventures, the challenges posed here are seriously brutal; as brutal as they need to be to represent a proper challenge for characters of this excessive power.

Anyhow, so, the PCs are up to the Hegemony’s sphere – hopefully seriously-battered, but alive…but guess what: They’ll be catapulted into a potentially deadly debris field, and beyond, high-range railgun turrets have excellent sensors…and when their sensors are triggered, the PCs will be assaulted by Klaven Draconians and their sundragon steeds! Then, the PCs will have to still breach the sphere, which may or may not be done via the sentinel tower, from which the dragoons emerge; instead of wasting space on a dungeon through which the PCs would partially curbstomp, the tower is depicted in a highlight reel kind of way, from crucial place to crucial place – however, it should be noted that, while the PCs do get to best the regular teams, there are still plenty of dangerous high-level hazards here; just because this is no apex-tier set of encounters doesn’t mean that the Hegemony’s forces can be taken lightly! With the help of an Yllosan-possessed jagladine tech, the PCs will have a means to access the hypertube network that is used instead of the relatively dangerous teleportation as a means of propulsion in the sphere. As for teleportation: Orium-laced construction limits it, and same goes for the sphere itself – and yes, the PCs will probably know as much at this point. It should also be noted that the tower contains an encounter with aforementioned griever; one that has a pretty clever and potentially lethal set-up. But back to the tubes: Beyond potentially deadly scavengers, we have a routine inspection (that can result in a CR 18 encounter…), and the PCs will arrive at a ghost nexus tower, where their capsule will temporarily crash, requiring that the PCs hold off waves of undead as well as waves of negative energy. Provided they survive all of that (hopefully they get the capsule working before a routine inspection of more dragon-riding jagladine happens…), the PCs are off to Atlas Prime!

The capital city of the Ultari Hegemony is suffused by aforementioned Mythic Ravage disease, and if you ever dealt with the supremely weird and annoying customs clearance of an intercontinental flight, picture that, but for a super-powerful evil empire, and you’ll have the entry station for Atlas Prime! With psychoactive crystal that doesn’t block line of sight or mind-affectinf effects, as well as exceedingly potent adversaries, this is a thoroughly unique angle that I’ve never seen pulled off: The PCs may be able to break through, but if they’re smart, they’ll take the infiltration route and attempt to pass the interrogation by the inquisitors. If they make too much of a hassle, they’ll well meet Xaver Brun, the CR 24/MR 3 ultari techlord. Hint: This fellow is NOT playing around. It is here at the very latest that the GM should have read the gazetteer, for the PCs, by stealth or force, need to find the safe house and reconnaissance with the yllosans here, engaging in some serious high-level research, beyond basic research, that is anything but basic, the presence of the Opus Aeterna can unveil true secrets beyond – the reasons for the sphere; the meaning of the shaft of light seemingly piercing the sun called Axis Major…

And indeed, here things become interesting: The Axis Major is not a permanent fixture, and is indeed controlled by a pair of golden crystals dubbed Egg of the Phoenix by the Opus Aeterna – a singular device, split in twain. If this artifact were removed, it would disrupt the Axis Major and render the star unstable…oh, and guess what: Near the Axis, one could theoretically even enter the star!

But this alone? Well, it would be brutal now, would it? Few would be cold enough to doom millions – and the module knows this; instead, we get the chance for the PCs to e.g. visit the onaryx and engage in their deadly, militaristic trials (culminating in a battle against mirror of opposition-like doubles; provided the PCs play their cards right, the savage onaryx agree to rise once the Last Daughter falls. The second trip to destabilize the ultari deals with the jagladine – once more, the PCs will need to prove themselves worthy – but do share the fact that the Bountiful Bowl of the Sun may well contain the Last Daughter’s essence – the jagladine can help them retrieve the item, but it will teleport back to parliament within 24 hours: The PCs need to be ready!

They will need to get to the Daughetr’s Fane and deal with the deadly adversaries and mythic immortal ichor guarding the fragment of the egg there – CR 21/MR 8, btw.! And that’s before the deadly golems and the advanced juju zombie ultari medium! Beyond those challenges, the demiplane of the creche awaits alongside the CR 18/MR 1 Seven Sons, amniotic elementals and dangerous hazards, there is Invidia Ultimi (nice nomenclature there), Last Daughter of the Ancients. CR 26/MR 10. Of course, even if the PCs triumph, the aftershocks and the arrival of a frickin’ hekatonkheires titan…

But, well, chaos wracks the sphere. If the PCs did not want to deal with the evil onaryx and jagladine, some basic troubleshooting help is provided; if the PCs did ally with them, the chaos will be pronounced – city on lockdown, etc. Factions will war – but there is more: It turns out that the sphere, the star Faa Dlan, is actually a kind of living thing; akin to a gigantic biomechanical matrix, its tubes and everything alive, it is essentially a gigantic, cosmic honey trap left by the mysterious Patrons. Retrieving the second part of the Egg of the Phoenix will require a risky gambit: While the party can attempt to enter the Axis from outside; doing so is dangerous, deadly, but the module actually does cover it.

Speaking of coverage: The module actually provides very plausible set-ups and justifications for the operation of the magical special forces task ahead, but explaining them in the review would take a page or so; suffice to say, you know how much of a stickler for internal logic I am, and I certainly was satisfied, so kudos! The operation’s default strategy will require that the PCs enter the Ultari Parliament; the PCs need to enter the parliament, find a safe haven, and trigger a spirit-conduit with their allied yllosan, launching their spirits to the far side of the dyson sphere, to the dark duplicate of the parliament, where the other half of the sun-core system is found; The system needs to be destabilized and super-powerful enemies, including Brun and an advanced thanatotic titan. Ultimately, the PCs will have the Phoenix Egg – perhaps the most powerful destructive force ever statted for PFRPG; its power scale improves in increments of 10 mythic power: Even at 0, we have 1000 force damage in a 100-mile radius; at level 11, the highest storage capacity, we have 10,000,000,000,000 force damage in a distance equating approximately 2 light years. Yes, that suffices to destroy planets by the rules. The item can absorb energy – but its true purpose? Convert mythic power into full-blown destructive potential. It takes 10 points of mythic essence to activate it; after that, it can store mythic power; its destructive potential can be unleashed by a final donation by 3+ individuals with 6+ mythic tiers at the very place where it was created – the heart of Faa Dlan.

The sun shuttle to Faa Dlan will not provide a safe journey – a sudden impact will pit the PCs against star blight and diamantem alike in a complex encounter that threatens to derail their descent; and upon arrival, more danger lurks – including the chance of getting a taste of the things to come with a CR 18/MR 2 advanced variant giant invincible feral adult solar dragon – the “LARVAL” Hydragon. Yep, “hydra-” as in many-headed, as in multiple breath weapons per round. And the foolish players thought that this was hard so far! On the way to the singularity star’s heart, the PCs have to contend with sun worms and super-potent shining children, savage inhabitants of the sun. In the sun’s heart, the PCs can see them; dark shapes, imprisoned, with power beyond measure, just short of being freed and unleashed upon a universe incapable of stopping them; the Principalities are on the verge of victory…and only the PCs can stop them. Provided they live long enough, for a creature birthed by mere influence of these things, which may even be beyond deities, is approaching. The Maws of Faa Dlan, CR 21/MR 6, a stellar 6-headed hydragon – the quantum-tunneling entity is the star’s last line of defense, and no, the good ole’ vorpal trick won’t suffice; worse, the dragon’s actions will expose the PCs to stellar plasma, radiation, and gravity – but thankfully, the PCs won’t have top beat the nigh-unstoppable killing machine, just delay it long enough to activate the phoenix egg. Depending on how well it was charged prior to detonation (PCs dying get a chance to add their mythic power to it as a last ditch effort), the PCs may actually manage to well and truly beat the Principalities and the Hegemony – but in doing so, they obviously are annihilated as well – and reborn as gods, with each getting their own…Legendary Planet! (What an amazing end!)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language and formal level – apart from a few cosmetic superscripts, there isn’t anything to complain about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the book sports a ton of full-color artwork, much of which is brand new. The module comes with bookmarks for your convenience, and the art and map folio is a big plus. The absence of player-friendly maps is the main thing that hurts the module on a formal scale, but on the other side, the adventure is not really constructed in a manner that requires excessive cartography: With the vast mobility at the beck and call of the super-high-level PCs, this factor is less important. Unlike in the previous module, we have a less traditional structure that, in both the areas portrayed, and in the challenges posed, embraces less traditional dungeoneering approaches. Everything is presented less as a traditional dungeon, and more like the (more) free structure that high-level gameplay operates better with.

Jason Nelson, with the help of Darrin Drader, Steven T. Helt, Chris A. Jackson, Jonathan H. Keith, Mike Welham and Robert Brookes, seriously delivers. A name like “To Kill a Star” requires an epic scope; the target levels require a pitch-perfect understanding of what characters of this level can actually withstand. To give you a comparison: The final battle in my last campaign required that the PCs would be capable of dishing out damage while recovering from approximately 1,000 damage per round; that was non-mythic, mind you, and the only encounter; the PCs had time to prep, but you get my drift. PFRPG’s high-level gameplay, in the hands of veteran PCs and GMs, can be an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience, and I never expected to see a super high-level module that genuinely manages to pull off a super-deadly module, sport more than just war of attrition combats, and even push optimized mythic PCs to the breaking point. Granted it is not as deadly as I’m in the habit of scaling up, but it is the first time in a long, long time that I’ve seen an adventure get what makes high-level gameplay so rewarding in such a frankly beautiful manner.

To Kill a Star is EPIC in all-caps, with each letter the size of a skyscraper; it is indeed good enough to imho warrant running the AP all on its own. The only end-game adventure I’d put on the same level, would be the finale of the Zeitgeist AP, though the challenges posed by that AP are radically different, making a comparison between the two moot. Have your PCs curbstomped some Paizo AP finales? Did you throw optional superbosses at them before? Structurally and thematically, this is a proper and epic culmination of the AP, one supplemented by excellent material. We were patient, and the patience paid off. This is a finale worthy of an epic saga indeed.

So, are we done with Legendary Planet? No, for I’m still waiting for the big compilation books; once those show up, I’ll get back to the AP, and provide a more general “plus/minus” breakdown that focuses on what to be aware of when running it, and on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual adventures and AP as a whole.

Until then, I am left with only the task of providing my final verdict. Unsurprisingly, this gets 5 stars + seal of approval, and the book is nominated as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019. If you are on the fence regarding the AP, getting the first module and this may well provide a great way to judge it. Oh, and even if you don’t want to run it – with some narrative work and set-up, this module will make for a phenomenal capstone for your super high-level party.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: To Kill a Star (Pathfinder)
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Ætherjack’s Almanac Number 1 Engines & Elementals (Troika! Compatible!)
Publisher: Ian Woolley
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2020 06:59:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of Ætherjack’s Almanac clocks in at 2 pages – these are intended to be printed and folded in the middle, essentially providing 4 pages, with one devoted to the front-cover.

The ‘zine starts with a new background – the unemployed drive elemental: You see, in some savage spheres of the humpbacked sky, elementals are imprisoned in engines, but thankfully, you hail from a more enlightened place. You were at once licensed, bonded and insured. The possessions provided include some fractions of a mortal soul, an expired Intersphere work permit, undue overpaid traffic citations – there is a playfulness here that I rather enjoyed seeing. The Advanced skills section also is interesting – while we have 21 “ranks” of skills, the less specific ones like “Elemental Bureaucracy” and “Human Sexology” are just evocative enough in two words to spark ideas. The background also offers some directly functional advanced skills. The background also explains the 4 different pilot skills (and how to alternatively handle them) and nets you some ideas. I really liked this background.

The pdf then proceeds to present stats for apprentice, journeymental and master air/fire elementals, including mien noted, and differentiates between damage of air and fire elementals, provides some concise fluff, and mentions SR.

SR? Well, on the first page, of what would be the back cover if folded, we have the rules for engines: SR is the ship rating. For spell engines, SR is based on skill and level of the spell being cast; essentially, these engines are powered by fueling magic into them: As though casting a spell, you expend stamina, and the SR is Skill + level of the spell being thus “cast” – the verbiage here is a bit odd; just explaining the stamina cost would have been imho more prudent. Minor and major helm costs are provided.

Elemental engines have a SR based on the elemental’s Skill, and furnace-based engines always have a SR of 2, with consumption to operate for a week listed for iron, lead, semiprecious & precious metals, as well as for ultra-rare metals. What does SR do? Well, actually, the pdf doesn’t say and I so far only have #1, but I hope that future installments illuminate this for me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and good on a rules-language level. The pdf makes fantastic use of evocative public domain art, with one piece per page; I am particularly partial to William T. Horton’s “Path to the Moon” being used on the back cover.  The pdf has no bookmarks, but it doesn’t need them at this length; it has a delightfully old-school red/mustard yellow standard version, and a printer-friendly second iteration.

In case you were wondering: Yes, this little booklet does look like Spelljammer in Troika, with the game’s trademark humor. It is a refined offering, and certainly the best file I’ve read by Ian Woolley so far – enough to make me excited for more! Aesthetically-pleasing, the supplement has but one shortcoming, and that is that we don’t really get an idea what this SR actually does, even though it seems to be important for the future installments. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ætherjack’s Almanac Number 1 Engines & Elementals (Troika! Compatible!)
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Legendary Worlds: Polaris 7
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2020 13:43:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Worlds-series clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Orbiting a red dwarf star, Polaris 7 is best described as an inhospitable, frozen ball of ice, and one wracked by massive polar vortices; to make things worse, making the equatorial zone the only region habitable by any stretch of the word. The atmosphere is thin and requires supplemental oxygen for most humanoids. Why would anyone be here? Well, the answer to that, as often, is big corp – namely Polaris Industries. As an aside – this is not the 7th planet of the system; it was the seventh choice for the operation that is responsible for the sparse habitation of non-natives. The corporation found a serious amount of Tritillium deposits on Polaris 7, which is a superconductor that allows for the creation of relatively compact power plants.

The focus on the rare resource Tritillium is also mirrored in the supplemental crunch provided herein: We get stats for Tritilium Batteries as codified technological items: They hold 20 charges, and may be depleted in increments of 5 when recharging items; they may be recharged as usual, but only have a 10% failure chance when doing so. Craft DCs and cost are sensible for these, which is impressive: Since batteries are pretty much a cornerstone of the Tech Guide subsystem, tinkering with it requires the utmost care. So yeah, neat. Oh, and we do get the information for Tritillium Power plants as well – full weight, generator yield, hardness, HP, explosion, etc. These are powerful, but at 800 lbs. indeed something you can render mobile. KUDOS! One of the two feats, Tritillium Prospector, is intended primarily for NPCs and requires that you’ve mined in a proper Tritillium mine for at least 3 months; it nets you +2 to 3 Knowledge checks pertaining to mining and working Tritillium, and 1/day nets you a reroll versus a Tritillium-based trap or hazard, which, while specific, does potentially come in handy and salvages the per se not too exciting skill-boost feat. Cold-Endurance, the second feat, is basically the cold twin to Volretz’ feat that inures you to cold conditions. Not exciting, but well-executed. (Since the feat does reference those, and some of my readers do care about this as much as I do: As usual, temperatures are only provided in °F; no °C alternative is provided.)

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Prompted by the big corp Polaris Industries, the one city of the planet was constructed around the gate – and before you ask: Polaris City is a small city and gets a fully-realized settlement statblock, and one that actually has two different marketplace sections, with the better being exclusive to the corporate sector. And in case you were wondering: Polaris 7 is indeed a cold hellhole; have you played “The Outer Worlds” and marveled at the brutal late stage capitalism on full display in that game? Well, Polaris 7 came out earlier, but the corporate control over the life of the local populace is pretty much as brutal, including loans that are nigh impossible to pay back and indentured servitude running rampant. Attempts to formalize resistance and government, some sort of regulatory push, have so far been squashed by the corporation.

Polaris City is divided into 4 sectors, and comes fully mapped – somewhat to my chagrin, no player-friendly map is provided. All of the sectors are properly touched upon, and from there, we move on to the 8 (!!) factions that make up Polaris 7’s complex political landscape: We have the corporate overlords of Polaris Industries…but much to my pleasant surprise, this supplement does not dive into easy dichotomies and simplifications of corp=evil, union=good – no, this is a mature take on the complex subject matter…and the Miner’s Union may just be a tad bit worse than Polaris Industries! Good resistance fighters without a grand plan and a bad reputation, toothless, but good coalitions attempting to form a government, crime syndicates…and did I mention the raiders, or the fact that wolliped ranchers have a co-op? It’s genuinely been a while since I saw a per se classic set-up of factions and clashing ideologies has been executed this well, without jamming “x good, y bad” down our throats. While clear alignment notes are provided, the writing is nuanced enough to make clear-cut, simple solutions not feasible. Huge kudos for that.

While we’re on the subject of wollipeds – one of the new items, the wolliped wool tunic is pretty straight-forward, in that it protects against the elements, and even cold – the interesting aspect here is that is occupies the chest slot, and accounts for that in pricing. No complaints. The second item, the avalanche stone, makes an incredible amount of sense: It’s a stone that you activate, which’ll then use a modified dimension door to get you out of it…and if you are encased in ice and snow, unable to use it, it also goes off. I really like the narrative potential of this one-use item. It’s something I’d develop if stationed on an ice planet and capable of weaving magic. Nice! The pdf also contains a new spell, flash freeze, available at 2nd level for bard, sorc/wiz and witch, which is a multi-target spell that deals nonlethal and cold damage and fatigues the targets; it is per se pretty potent, particularly considering the number of targets affected, but its save does negate the nonlethal damage and fatigue. It’s a powerful spell, but not one that’ll break most sword and planet games. As a minor nitpick: Making it require indigo powder as a material component would have been an easy way to hand the GM a limiter, if desired.

What’s indigo powder? Well, it’s used to make addictive pharmaceutical Surge, which affects androids, auttaine and other characters with a significant amount of cybertech implants, making them awake and more attentive and quicker to act. However, well, it’s obviously addictive and comes with the cost of 1 Constitution and 1d4 Wisdom damage. It is a good type of pharmaceutical, in that it has a pronounced cost that makes abuse a bad idea, but it also has a sufficient bonus that means you’ll be tempted to use it. It’s also dirt-cheap and made from indigo powder, a waste-product of the process of refining Trillium, which allows GMs to potentially easily limit availability with in-game logic. The latter may seem like a small thing to you, but it really matters to me and quite a few of my readers.

Speaking of nice: The Prospector’s Basin that houses Polaris City is also mapped (alas, no player-friendly map included), and gives us overviews of the different mining sites…and their dangers. Dangers? Well, yeah, we do have a local creature that spells all kind of trouble: At CR 10 and lavishly-illustrated (not sure by whom: Simon Aan, William Henderson, Beatrice Pelagatti or Julio Rocha), the cryo-mantid is GLORIOUS: A Large mantis that shares both the cold and fire subtypes, with burning ichor and searing hot claws. And no, they are not remorhaz-like: With nasty SPs, ice-tunneling and scuttling, they feel like apex predators, and they do have an Achilles’ hell. In case you were wondering: OBVIOUSLY, the conflicting subtypes of the creature would usually contradict each other, but the vulnerability bestowed by each was changed to another energy type, while an additional weakness of similar strength was included, making the creature come out properly: The “rules value” of the subtypes was maintained. I btw. noticed no hiccups in the statblock. Great example of a critter that feels like an adapted, dangerous, magical beast.

As always in the series, we close the pdf with a series of 3 adventure hooks: All of these outline full sketches of adventures, and go beyond the usual “Go there, kill X” – I considered all of them interesting, particularly because they also provide alternate missions, in case you don’t like the primary one proposed.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, and top-notch on a rules level; I noticed not a single instance where I could nitpick even a single rules-relevant component. Layout adheres to Legendary Planet’s two-column full-color standard, and the original full-color artworks are great. The cartography is solid, but remains my only true niggle here – player-friendly, key-less maps would have been nice…but then again, none of the maps contain even a single SPOILER, so I’m not penalizing the book for that. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I expected to basically get the cold mirror-image of Volretz here, and I got something infinitely cooler, pun intended. If you read as many RPG-supplements as I do, you start to expect some things. One look at the cover, for example, made me go “Oh boy, second planet in a row (after Jowchit), and this one is cold, so it gets the obligatory magical aurora borealis that was creative and cool in Jowchit, but which is boring and expected for an ice-planet; the new creature statted will be a mostly harmless herd animal that was domesticated and gets some serious trampling and charging. It’ll also probably have cold elemental creatures analogue to Volretz.” The base premise “Evil mining operation”, on paper, also is not exactly novel, so I genuinely wasn’t that excited from the premise.

I am so happy when a book proves my first impression wrong in such a consistently delightful way. First of all, the writing: Russ Brown’s vision of Polaris 7 is clearly a homage to the tropes and genre, but the execution is what makes it shine: It is consistent, but never blunt; it knows its scope and focuses with a keen edge on it; it is nuanced and clever in its execution; in short, it is pretty much the antithesis to e.g. Carsis: It base premise may sound less exciting, but its execution, from the little narrative touches to the rules-relevant components, is absolutely fantastic. Polaris 7 is a great setting that can be taken as proof that the small details, the small touches that really show how much the author cares, can elevate a supplement, can mean all the difference. I genuinely love this planet. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Worlds: Polaris 7
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Axes & Orcs Compendium: Volume Two: Science-Fantasy Potpourri Backgrounds (Troika! Compatible!)
Publisher: Ian Woolley
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2020 13:42:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second Axes & Orcs Compendium clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page artwork inside front cover, 2 pages of editorial, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The back cover sports the stats for the plasmic cannon – a weapon that requires two hands to use, holds 3 charges, and ignores 2 armor; a damage table is provided, starting at 4 on a roll of 1, and escalating to 30 on a 7+, making it a very powerful weapon.

This book contains a whole new d66 table of backgrounds, Troika!’s combination of race and class, essentially doubling the available backgrounds in comparison to the core book. In many ways, Troika’s anything goes mentality, and system-inherent notion of a pretty high lethality work well in combination with this booklet, for the backgrounds herein are pretty powerful, and at times, a bit lopsided, but Troika’s system-inherent design does mean that none of these powerful backgrounds will break the game itself mechanically – particularly since the few backgrounds with a very strong slant towards one component have other potential downsides. I will note the ones I consider to be somewhat problematic. It should be noted that the pdf makes copious use of Troika’s notion of providing new advanced skills that, as a whole, tend to be self-explanatory.

I can only speak of the pdf-version of this supplement; while there was a limited edition print run of the booklet, I do not own it, and thus can’t comment on its qualities or lack thereof.

If you enjoy outrageous humor in your gaming supplements, you’ll have quite a bit of that here. Let’s take the first background, the “2.3 pounds of hallucinating pudding”; you may be a pudding; you may be hallucinating, and you have a rad, but disgusting bio-mech that looks like a normal person. Totally. You also begin with Anxiety as a possession –noting ”<This Is A Quest Item And Cannot Be Discarded Or Sold>” – which got a chuckle out of me. The second background is one of the ones that is one of the very focused and lopsided backgrounds: You can be a 1995 3/4ton pickup! Yep, a friendly compact car. You’ll have 5 Strength, 3 Drive and 2 Car Fighting…but, you know, you can’t speak. You can flash your lights and honk and stuff like that. And yes, Strength 5 may seem like overkill – until you try playing this fellow, for RAW, the communication can be…interesting! Oh, and the size, obviously… Plus, you don’t regain Stamina by resting – or eating, I assume, though that’s not specified properly; while you do come with a repair manual, but you need others to take care of maintenance. This should probably have a similar cap as healing by eating, though – as a whole, mechanically, one of my least-favorite backgrounds herein.

The book includes a Jessica Rabbit background (2D Girl in a 3D World), whose possessions include a fan-service outfit and assorted booby-traps…and you’re actually pretty darn hard to kill, like toons in the movie. There is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle background (Adolescent Anthropomorphic Assassin Animal), and there is a designated background for Biker Mice from Mars!! (As an aside, these come with customization options ranging from mechanical limb with built-in fusil to half-mask with multi-function flares.) Fan of Final Fantasy VII? Lionwolf is essentially Red XIII, who comes with 4 Brooding and 3 Hair Accessory Fighting, among other things. Want to be the Discworldian oblivious, but extremely wealthy Tourist? There’s a background for that. We have two pretty potent Transformers-backgrounds (the second, Truckbot, being the one background that is imho a bit too much regarding all the benefits it enjoys – I wouldn’t allow it in my game), a Robocop background, and if you’re a fan of Dark Souls’ Sif or the great old Okami-game’s rendition of Amaterasu, you’ll appreciate the inclusion of the swordwolf background – you get 6 Wolf, 3 Greatsword Fighting, 3 Tracking, 2 Awareness, 2 Calligraphy, 2 Run – but you can’t speak people. 6 Wolf looks like much, but functionally, it ensure you’re good at being…well, wolf-y.

Beyond pop-culture references, you can find backgrounds for being an astronaut, a cosmonaut dog (!!), an arcanotech engineer, a brain-in-a-jar (complete with 2 Obscure B-Movie Trivia and 3 Underwater Basket Weaving); cat-rabbit things, watercolor-world rabbits, cabin boys (with negative grog-drinking skill)…what about ghosts of chickens? Kitchen goblins and kobold bankers? L5ers and orcs made by magical mishaps may be found alongside a Troika-version of the Nautilium. Did I mention the orc exchange student, or the fact that you can be a space rock? No, really! Cannibal space mermaids and void squids are included alongside door-to-door salespersons – and don’t confuse a businessman with a business-slime. They’re very similar, but obviously rather different – the businessman has more equipment, but the slime has a special ability. Oh, and did I mention that you can now play a disenfranchised Lady of the Lake (Formerly Watery Tart) in search of new lands to distribute swords in? Or the fact that you can play a giant flatworm? This fellow has penis sword fighting, and I’d appreciate it if the supplement actually codified the damage to be used by that.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the compendium is much more precise than the first compendium, and it’s more often consistent power-level-wise with Troika’s standard backgrounds than not – with a few exceptions that imho go too far, or could use some slightly more precise rules, as noted before. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with no frills, and the artworks seem to be using public domain artwork and collage-techniques, with colors added. The pdf-version sports a bookmark every few backgrounds, which made navigation simple. The pdf comes in two versions – one intended for 6’’ by 9’’ standards, and one for A5-kudos!

As noted before, I can’t comment on the print version, since I don’t own it.

Ian Woolley’s collection of backgrounds got several genuine chuckles out of me; the irreverent humor and Troika’s rules blend very well. The backgrounds are functional, fun, and run a pretty large gamut of cool tropes. Particularly if you’re into pop-culture-references in your game, this’ll deliver in spades. If you’re looking for more of Troika’s more focused weirdness, or for something more subdued, then this won’t scratch that itch, and might be distracting in some instances. All in all, I consider this a fun addition for Troika games that enjoy plenty of pop-culture references in their games. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Axes & Orcs Compendium: Volume Two: Science-Fantasy Potpourri Backgrounds (Troika! Compatible!)
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Legendary Worlds: Carsis
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2020 13:39:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Worlds-series clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

A little more than one and a half millennia ago, the world of Carsis was wrecked by a cataclysm, as the rogue moon now known as the Heart of Carsis crashed into the planet, shattering the world and sending the polar regions into space, forming new moons and changing the planet’s gravity; meanwhile, the moon became the new core of the planet, absorbed into its molten core. This Armageddon reset essentially all life on the planet’s remaining 5 landmasses, and only 800 years ago, life properly returned. The pyramidal landmasses sport life all around, the tips heated by the core as the surface area is heated by the sun; the former regular moon of the planet now orbits the equator. And yes, this is illustrated by a proper map/graph, which made me smile indeed – this is one damn cool concept!

And then, things become a bit weird, as the pdf begins flat out talking about the landmasses having a distinct flavor, embodying aspects such as anger, love, hate, envy, joy, compassion, cruelty, and so on, all without an in-game context or rationale. The descriptions of the major land masses spell e.g. out that a place “embodies the struggle for life, epitomizing rebirth.” Don’t spell that out. Make it obvious from subtext, not text. A planetary opera game does indeed have room for the, as some might construe, sappy notion of applying human feelings to evolution, but it requires some finesse. And that’s just not done particularly well here. Even Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was more subtle there. The notion is also is lore-wise really weird: The pdf, for example, talks about the landmass Kerkor, embodying death and destruction, as the place where “the restless spirits of the shattering and undead seeking a home away from the vibrancy of life” have taken shelter. Undead fleeing life, instead of consuming it. This is…odd. Particularly since none of the rules of the planet support it. If Carsis had positive energy planar traits, okay, but this? It’s a stretch regarding Pathfinder’s internal logic for undead – or that of Starfinder or 5e, for that matter.

This is particularly grating, as all of these concepts are per se fine; they just are not executed with any degree of narrative finesse: The planet also gets write-ups for its moons and core and the trail left by the passage of the Heart, and one of the fragmented components, Milone, has a chaotic magic environmental rule that can increase CL and DCs hidden in the flavor text. Cool, more of that, please, and less of that “the planet may or may not have been sentient” stuff sans set-up. We also learn about the spaceport in Akeelan, the landmass, to quote the pdf: “Akeelan has come to epitomize the order necessary to rebuild a world, exhibiting great beauty within an ordered society.” See what I mean? How can a landmass be that?

The dominant species are btw. four-armed mantis-people, the Carsians (CR 7), who get gliding abilities, lunging and may execute particularly swift attacks. As a nitpick: They do not have “paws” as natural attacks – which would render their Weapon Focus feat inoperable. That should be “Claw.” There are playable race stats: Carisians get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Wisdom, proficiency with all weapons (!!) and light armor (!), neither of which should be granted by the race, +1 natural armor that scales at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, darkvision 60 ft., +2 racial bonus to Acrobatics, Stealth and Perception. They start play with the mandible special ability, which is missing both here and from their monster statblock as well, gaining Lunge at 5th, sudden strike at 7th and gliding lunge at 10th level. This race gets a plethora of abilities that they should not have; universal proficiency categories are a matter of class, not race. The missing mandible ability is weird. Dumb: The player-write-up is missing not only the mandible ability absent from the statblock, it is also missing the glide ability that the 10th level gliding lunge is predicated on. Not properly functional.

The pdf comes with 5 brief adventure hooks before presenting a sample-encounter/mini-sequence of encounters, the spawning of the Grizzat, intended for 4-6 6th-level PCs; the brief encounter-section does sport read-aloud text. The encounter is basically an introduction to the Grizzat monsters, with some read-aloud text provided, but no maps. The Grizzat comes as a CR 3 threat that sports wounding attacks, but offer no other remarkable features; I am also pretty sure that there are errors in the statblock. The pdf also includes a swarm version, the CR 5 Grizzat swarm, which is per se decent, but also has a snafu in the stats.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf is significantly less consistent than what we’ve come to expect from Legendary Games, and sports some serious issues in power-level and functionality. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of Legendary Planet-supplements, and the pdf comes with several really cool full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Carsis started off so cool for me: Anthony Adam begins this supplement by painting this fantastic concept of a world, where directional gravity, a recent cataclysm and the like practically demand for void-jumping, for hazards representing highly volatile evolution, for isolated eco-systems with specialized tasks! Carsis could have done pretty much everything with this amazing set-up… it is easily the strongest in the series so far. Let me make that abundantly clear: I LOVED this to bits. The author does have talent.

But what do we actually get based on that premise? Oh boy. So, we have essentially Thri-kreen with gliding wings as dominant species, with errors in stats and overpowered racial traits. Not new, but okay. However, the insect theme for a cataclysm-wracked world is somewhat unfortunate, as it results in direct comparisons with Kyoudai Games’ Thunderscape-setting Aden and the Darkfall, which is, by mere scope, automatically better off. The primary difference to Thunderscape, apart from the planet’s unique shape, would be the theme of emotions assigned to landmasses. In case you haven’t notice, I absolutely despise how this was executed.

This theme could have worked: Heck, Pathfinder has a whole magic type associated with emotions and concepts like the anima mundi, but the planet never establishes a proper mysticism, an occult lore, regarding its emotional themes. As a result of the absence of any reason, simply ascribing emotions to landmasses and evolution comes off as sappy and hackneyed at best; at worst, it contradicts how the concepts, on a metaphysical level, usually operate in Pathfinder. For me, a big part of the pdf was rather painful to read as a result, as I witnessed a great concept executed in such an underwhelming manner, furthermore severely tarnishing a set-up that had me already draw my seal from my virtual pocket.

This concept could have worked, easily; it didn’t need to be presented in such a shoehorned way; with localized planar traits, for example, this could have worked for the patchwork…

Wait.

The introductory paragraph and unique shape of the planet blinded me. Know what does this “country behaves as subworld/has a strong theme” patchwork-angle infinitely better? With special rules for lands, a reason for their differences, etc., and has a similar concept, minus planet shape? Purple Duck Games’ exciting Porphyra-setting.

Try as I might, I can’t look at Carsis as anything but a waste of an exceedingly fine planet-concept; instead of developing something befitting of the unique planet structure, it is just a mesh of Porphyra and Aden, and neither encounter, nor the flawed statblock/racial trait integrity can make up for the conceptual shortcomings due to their own issues. This is the weakest installment of the series so far, by a long shot, and the only one I’d recommend skipping, at least as is. My final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Worlds: Carsis
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Artifacts & Artifice, Volume 2 (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2020 12:34:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive hardcover clocks in at 378 pages of content, already disregarding front-end matter and the like – that’s the content.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a hardcover print copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased, critical review. My review is based on the hardcopy – I do not own the pdf-iteration.

This book shares a lot of its basic assumptions with the first volume, but there are also plenty of differences. We’ll begin with recapping the components that are the same. Feel free to skip ahead below, if you’re already familiar with the general set-up of these tomes.

BASICS: The first 11 pages are there to explain the peculiarities of Infinium Game Studios’ unique approach to game design. These include house rules like using reward stars, but extend beyond that: The book explains its color-coded boxes and icons, and, more importantly, the FlexTale concept of scaling: Statblocks are quadded in 4 categories: Low level (level 1 -4), moderate level (5-8), advanced (10-15) and elite (15+). The notion of quadding applies to statblocks, of course, but also to the respective individual items. This section also presents a random treasure table for use with the book.

The massive book contains a total of 47 different magic items – which does not seem like an awful lot; however, essentially, there are 4 versions for each of the items contained within; picture that like lesser, moderate, mighty and greater iterations, for example. These items sometimes adhere to linear progressions, but the respective items do not necessarily just adhere to just being a sequence of straight increases in bonuses. Each of the items also comes with a so-called “wielder” – that would be a NPC Codex-style NPC that comes with a quadded statblock as well. If the NPC sports a mount or the like, quadded statblocks for said entity are also included. As always with Infinium Game Studios, the NPCs come with cut-copy-pasted rules-texts of class features and the like to reduce page-flipping. The consequence of these inclusions is that you have a ready-made NPC to introduce the item, but on average, that’s also 3 pages, more if familiars etc. are present. The builds themselves tend to fall on the valid side of things, but do not expect to get builds that will challenge groups consisting of power-gamers or ones with a high degree of system- and optimization- mastery. Archetypes are used, but no classes from ACG (not too sad there, admittedly), Occult Adventures, Ultimate Intrigue or Wilderness are included – in short, the builds are pre-ACG.

The amount of detail featured by the items in the book goes beyond the inclusion of NPCs. We have descriptions, effects explained, and each item notes a line of whether it’s part of a synergy set…and while the book doesn’t do much with this aspect, there are items like the magister runes, which can be chained, so there is a bit more going on here than in volume 1. Quirks of ownership are also noted, though in the absence of intelligent items, these sections are not necessarily universally useful, and are included due to consistence.

On the more useful side of things, there are notes for the discovery of the respective item, a section that comments on the ubiquity of the item in question, and text that contextualizes the item in-game regarding its notoriety. The items also include oftentimes interesting notes on how the item was developed – we get brief background stories about all items. One of the most useful components of the book is the section on rumors and lore, for there are no less than 4 tables: One is the default context, the second is information gained from key NPCs, one for townsfolk with names, and one for blindly trying to obtain information. These tables further help ground and contextualize the items n the context of the game-world. The book goes beyond that: Each item also comes with VERY detailed notes on hooks for the items in relation to classes, with general hooks included as well. Furthermore, the items come with mini-quests, which are essentially quest-structure outlines. These tend to be better than most adventure sketches one can find in comparable publications.

As for the formatting of the items, the book does an above-average job at properly formatting e.g. the construction notes and the like, but in the run-on-text, the book tends to be less consistent with formatting item- or spell-references, particularly if these do not refer to the respective item in question. It should be evident at this point, that the selling proposition, and the focus of this book, is different from the usual magic item books you’d see in PFRPG or 5e.

Instead of a focus on pure rules, the majority of the content herein is devoted to the context of the item within the framework of the game world; it’s not just about the items, it’s also about how they interact with the world. The default here is Infinium’s Aquilae setting, though there are absolutely no issues integrating them into the frame of fantasy settings. In a way, the aesthetics often can apply to the context of slightly grittier settings as well, focusing on a sense of plausibility. This focus on the context and ease of integration of an item into the game changes, thus, the central focus of the book’s appeal and makes it behave differently than most comparable item-supplements regarding where the value of this supplement comes from.

/End of BASICS

Okay, now let’s discuss the content herein! We begin this book with miscellaneous items, and one in particular that I consider to be a genuinely useful and pretty darn awesome one, the concoctarium. This item is essentially a portable alchemist’s lab. Not a kit, mind you, a lab. It also provides increasing decreases of Crafting costs for items, and the higher-level iterations net you the equivalent of Master Alchemist, and, in the highest level iteration, the Instant Alchemy feat. The item is heavy (20 lbs.), but seriously, from the padded suitcase containing it? I can see characters from Van Richten to similar folks carrying these around. As a relatively affordable option, this is a true boon to e.g. alchemists in mega-dungeon campaigns, or far from civilization. This is pure gold, and I love it. The fetish of the Insali that follows, then, would exemplify perhaps the most annoying item in the entire book, bracing you rather well regarding the ups and downs of the tome. This wand is essentially the annoying detect x item. Know how divinations have a bad reputation with many GMs for being annoying, as the PCs constantly detect, like those get in the way of nuanced storytelling? Well, what about a wand that covers them ALL, with between 20 and 100 charges per day, and some of the detect spells having daily caps? The low level iteration starts off as kinda okay: At will detect magic and detect aberrations, +3/day read magic. The high level version can detect magic, aberrations, good, evil, chaos, law, poison, secret doors, undead, demons, scrying, snares and pits, thoughts. And read magic, obviously. I like the concept behind these, as a kind of magical representation of paranoid tendencies, but in actual play, you’d have to be a pretty masochistic GM to throw one of these at your players. Design-wise, it is also less interesting, being essentially an accumulation of a lot of spells in a can. Mind you, there are lots-of-spells-in-a-can items herein that are imho better – hell’s bells, for example, have quite a massive assortment of “evil” options – from inflict wounds to dispel good and mass suggestion, these offer quite a bunch of thematically-consistent tricks. Do I like them from a design perspective? Not exactly, but I can see the value these might have for some games, and the bell weighs 140 frickin’ pounds! That is genuinely interesting. I mean, I can see PCs and adversaries alike thinking about how to carry these around, and I can picture an evil “bell warden” barbarian carrying one around for his overlord. It’s a small touch, but it is an interesting one that elevates the item.

Thankfully, the book has more to offer – what about the harp of infinite melodies, which nets you more bard spells known and more bard spells per day, as well as some properly codified bonuses? As a whole, I enjoy this one, though the additional spells require a Performance check versus DC 15 + spell’s level to access, which is just busywork rolling. I mean, come on, which bard beyond the lowest levels won’t be able to make this check every damn time? I can see this work at low levels, but the higher level iterations make this check busywork. The beautifully-drawn harp of sorrows is another instrument enhancing your bardic prowess, and features scaling sonic-based abilities, as well as a damage-increase for sonic effects. Magister runes are runes captured in crystal, which allow you to duplicate a variety of symbols, and which, as mentioned before, can theoretically be combined with each other.

So, all cool? Not always. Take the razor crystal – this item per se is interesting, in that it is an ingredient for e.g. alchemist bombs and other alchemical processes – a consumable, an additive, though this could be spelled out more explicitly. (Btw.: It should be handled with protective gear – it is sharp!) I like the item per se, with one exception: They note: “+30% radius of area of effect results from all Alchemy creations.” Does this extend to Craft (alchemy)? Rounded up or down to the next 5-foot-increment? No real clue. This does not render the item unusable, mind you – it just feels a bit clunky. On the plus side, an amulet that helps you stabilize and nets you diagnostic spell uses? Yeah, sure, why not. Some of these items also, theme-wise, tie into being kinda akin to components – like the stone/earth/petrification-themed abilities bestowed by gorgon teeth. These might not be necessarily super interesting regarding their abilities, but the context makes them stand out. What do I mean by this? The lore of the item makes their genesis founded in a kind of magical freezing of ailing people, like a strange variant of cryogenic freezing. That’s a genuinely interesting angle right there.

There are also items here that leave me kind of ambivalent: Dreadslime webs are one-use items that duplicate the web spell and add negative energy damage and debuffs to the fray. I like them, though their debuffing can be brutal. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel that these would have made sense as weapons, instead of their current iteration. This, however, is admittedly a personal preference. Still, as a whole, this section delivered more consistently and in a more interesting manner than the entirety of the first book.

I fully admit to not exactly looking forward to the weapons covered in this book, as the first volume had many of its more pronounced design issues in the armor section; thankfully, the weapon-section is much better than the armor-section in the previous book. For one, the categorization of items regarding their enhancement bonuses is more consistent. On the other hand, the items also tend to do more interesting things. Not all of them, mind you, but to give you an example: Bludgeondarts not only deal more damage, they also add essentially the good ole’ Bigby hand spells (minus the WotC-iP, obviously – we’re talking Pathfinder here). This makes the dart (!!) actually useful, and there is a chance they may be reused. Nice. The focus on lore an in-game context can also be seen rather well with the bonespike - a cool-looking spear that increases its damage and adds debuffs, particularly on critical hits, versus vertebrate enemies.

Not all items are suitable for all campaigns: The blackhatch sabre would, for example, be an item that should be kept out of the hands of players with a more pronounced degree of system mastery. The weapon enhances bull rushes greatly, which is still fine and dandy. Up to +8 to critical hit confirmation rolls, though? OUCH. That being said, for each such instance, I can also point to e.g. a dagger made from an outsider’s pseudopod, with acid and poisonous abilities. I like this. A scythe with plenty of death related abilities on crits? Ouch! There are some neat angles here. A formal issue that may or may not be relevant to you: The write-up of the weapons does not classify them as the weapon type, which is relevant for proficiencies. Let’s take the pseudopod item – you’ll have to read the text and check the “additional ingredients” list to deduce the weapon type. The latter is btw. worth mentioning, for these can act in a way as ingredient lists. I really like that, as it grounds the items somewhat. And still “Counts as a +4 weapon” is technically not PFRPG rules-syntax, and is kinda bass-ackwards. This is particularly weird, considering that e.g. fingerblades (you know, those hardcore edgelord goth/black metal finger-rings, with a blade added to the front – and yes, I own a whole array of those, minus blades, obviously) are actually properly classified. I really like these, and there is more than one of these included in the book.

Potent bows and arrows for evil snipers can be found alongside lethal bone garrotes, which provide not only the required feats, but also suffocate you and may animate you from the dead, adding insult to injury for foes vanquished. These are btw. also correctly typified as mundane weaponry. Indeed, GMs and antiheroes will have quite a few potent items herein that tie in strongly with Aquilae’s lore – several items herein are based on the Dark Obelisks – from ioun stone like shards to obelisk mote bolts or obelisk shard swords. The latter force you to take the worse of the Fort- or Will-saves when hit, or be subject to an increasing array of crippling negative conditions. In the highest power-level, that’d be shaken, exhausted, staggered and frightened. Yep, that’s 4 saves, using, quite possibly, your bad save. Ouch. (This also contradicts the item’s text, which notes that the target gets to choose the saving throw used – which is it?) The item’s highest level iteration is also a longsword +4, inflicts an additional +4d8 negative energy damage to lawful targets, and 5/day, you can affect targets struck by chaos hammer, 3/day by bestow curse, and 1/day harm. These should specify their actions. And yes, that’s in addition to the previous save array. Priced at? 102,000 GP. There is no limit to the conditions caused, just for the added spell-like effects. You don’t have to be super familiar with PFRPG to note that this is an insanely strong item. A single hit can seriously neuter a target with bad luck for several rounds, and comparable items and effects usually have a “once you’ve saved, you’re immune to the effects for 24 hours”-caveat. These swords are essentially artifacts and, in Aquilae, they are associated with the devastating Dark Obelisks; the way they’re presented, though, and their pricing? Those are not ideal, to say the least. I challenge you to find a non-artifact weapon that is more powerful for the price. While pricing throughout the book is better than in the first one, these obelisk items tend to be seriously off.

Want another example of pricing being seriously off, one not based on something with serious in-game lore ramifications/context? Let’s take the scytheknife. It is essentially a dagger-like weapon, that starts off as a +1 weapon [sic!] that inflicts +1d6 bleed damage per hit, +2d6 bleed damage on critical hits 1/day, and that is returning. Returning is the equivalent of a +1 enhancement. As for bleed damage, there is a convenient special weapon property that’ll allow for comparison, namely wounding. Wounding is the equivalent of a +2 enhancement, and adds 1 bleed damage, which stacks with itself, and may be quenched with a Heal check. A +1 returning wounding dagger would hence be the equivalent of a +4 weapon, right? That’d clock in at 32,000 gp. Compare the scytheknife: Rules-wise, the item does not specify a DC to end the bleed effect. Its minimum bleed damage is equal to the effect of wounding. Its maximum effect is equal to the effects of 6 (!!) hits with a wounding weapon, not accounting for critical hits. Granted, the bleed caused by the scytheknife does not stack with itself, but it is still vastly superior to a regular item, right? Right. So, guess what the cost to purchase this one is? 9,400 gp.

I am so not kidding you. That is btw. the version for the lowest power-level. In short: The items herein tend to be SIGNIFICANTLY better than their brethren. To the point where the construction costs and values are glaringly off. They are not just subjectively too strong, but objectively, when seen in the context of PFRPG’s well-defined rules for making magic items. The consequence is a serious drawback of the book as a whole, and one that genuinely breaks my heart: It is VERY tough to determine for which groups the items would make for valid rewards. This may be less of an issue for experienced GMs, particularly if they prohibit making these items, but it doesn’t change the fact that the items, in the context of WBL-assumptions, are often simply overpowered as all hell. It also puts a burden of serious system mastery on the shoulders of the GM when determining when and how to award the items herein. Unless you think you’re up to this task, I can’t recommend this book to you.

The book btw. closes with 4 different “artifacts”, all of which are super-powerful (and not particularly interesting) spell-in-can-items, which only behave as high-end versions of other such items. These artifacts do not adhere to Pathfinder’s usual formatting for artifacts, lacking means to destroy them, and also coming with prices and construction notes, which is generally not a notion deemed to be an option. The artifact-wielders do get proper names and full-color artworks.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are significantly better in this book than in the first tome on a rules-language level. On a formal level, the book does a good job, particularly for a one-man outfit. Layout adheres to Infinium Game Studios’ two-column full-color standard with color-coded boxes and icons – the book is easy to peruse. I can’t comment on the electronic version, but the sturdy hardcover is a pretty brutal book. The artworks for the items deserve special mentioning – gorgeous full-color artworks are provided for each and every one of them.

J. Evans Payne’s second Artifacts & Artifice book is better than the first one; there are less issues with items grafted together, weird bonus type stacking, and the like…and plenty of items herein are genuinely evocative and interesting. While I don’t like spell-in-a-can items, the sheer amount of lore and context does enhance some of them beyond their mechanics, and the book sports quite a bunch of items that genuinely made me smile.

And then there’s the elephant in the room, with the consistently botched pricing and associated power-levels. A GM not as profoundly familiar with PFRPG that introduces the items without prior checking will be pretty flabbergasted by how much they exceed the power-levels of comparable options. This, in and of itself, is a dealbreaker for many, and can seriously impact your campaigns.

And yet, I personally got some serious mileage out of the book. And yet, I can see plenty of experienced GMs out there feel the same way. If you are careful about crafting, about how accessible you make these items, you’ll get a genuinely interesting book that benefits greatly from the significant lore aspects and details provided for the items.

Whether or not this is for you thus hinges on where you place your values, your emphasis. This objectively breaks the crafting engine, big time. Like its predecessor, it has a few odd glitches…but it also sports a genuinely interesting and versatile array of items. There are less issues in this one than in the first book regarding the details, and if you disregard the pricing-issue, you won’t find an item herein you can’t use. Whether and how you use them, however, is highly contingent on your campaign and GM-style.

…and, to be perfectly frank, this is my favorite objectively broken book in quite a few years. If this had focused a bit less on spells in cans, got the pricing right, you’d see me singing unmitigated praises here. There is a singularly interesting vision underlying this tome, and even the spell-in-a-can-like items never, not once, feel phoned in or entirely unremarkable – there always is that aspect of lore, that little twist, that makes them feel more interesting than they by all accounts should.

Which puts me as a reviewer in a weird place. Mechanically, I probably should rate this 3 stars, at BEST. But as a person, I do genuinely feel that this deserves better; that, in spite of its glaring flaws, it doesn’t deserve to be called mediocre.

IF, and ONLY if you can stomach the issue regarding power-levels, if you believe you can judge them, contextualize them properly, price them and finetune their mechanics, or if you’d just disregard the whole construction/pricing-angle, then you should consider this to be a 4 stars book. That’s what this book is for ME as a person.

However, if you want consistence with established PFRPG items, if you are particular about power-levels in your campaign, then tread very carefully – for you, this is, at best, a 2.5 stars tome.

As a reviewer, though? As a reviewer, I can’t well say ”I like the items, screw the rules, love this.” I was seriously tempted to do that, but it’d be unfair towards all the magic item books I’ve reviewed over the years. Which is why my official verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Artifacts & Artifice, Volume 2 (Pathfinder)
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Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr 2.0 (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2020 12:31:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-iteration of the expanded 2.0-version of the supplement depicting the village of Feigrvidr is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

If the name of this village does sound like quasi-Norse, there is a reason for that "feigr" refers to "near death" and has connotations with Odin's trances; "viðr" means wood - and indeed, this village would make a perfect addition to a mountainous region: Nestled in the headlands of the forbidding Titan Peaks, Svingal Halfbeard and his renegade band of (mostly) dwarven outcasts have tracked the flow of gold nuggets to this remote locale, ever since driving their mines into the depths of the mountains. What started as little more than an outcast's encampment in search for the big haul has since turned into a refuge for the persecuted.

Prosperous and notorious, Feigrvidr’s populace may seem rough and tumble, but there is both gold and glory to be found in this remote place. Somewhat to my chagrin, the helpful settlement statblock information present in the original iteration has been stripped here – particularly in this settlement, having it helped judge how dangerous the place is supposed to be. On the plus-side, the section that deals with life in Feigrvidr has been properly expanded, now also sporting e.g. a little paragraph on customs and traditions. On a nitpicky side of things, the dressing/event table has not been expanded as usual for the 2.0-versions: We still have 6 of those, even though the table implies that there’d be d20 of them due to a cosmetic glitch. Speaking of minor drawbacks: In 5e, we do not get a proper marketplace section of magic items for sale.

On a plus-side, the pdf of the 2.0 version does gain some serious appeal from the above-average write-up of the surrounding locality, a whole page of added content, which includes notes on demon-worshiping gnolls, among other things.

The thane's search for gold and giant artifacts continues and those that cross him tend to vanish. Whispers and rumors, a total of 6 of them, to be precise, have been included: A maze of shanties, decadent Sin's roost, halfling town and middens containing the refuse and slack of the numerous mines - the village manages to properly convey its unique take on a mining town, with 6 sample events to kick off adventures/action. As always, nomenclature and local clothing customs are mentioned.

Speaking of middens - here, a cool bit of quasi-realism blends with the fantastic, for the folk of Feigrvidr have bred challenge 2 pygmy-otyughs (fully statted!) to deal with refuse...but they tend to breed fast and true and swarms of them can be found there and the locals whisper that they also are the reason bodies of the thane's enemies tend to never be found... The 5e-statblock is mechanically correct, with my only niggle being that it only bolds two features that should both be both bolded and italics. Still: Cool critter!

In case you haven’t noticed: This village’s 2.0 version has been expanded SIGNIFICANTLY in comparison to the original PFRPG-iteration: We get 6 very detailed fluff write-ups for the crucial NPCs here, all of which go into much more detail than usual for the like, and the supplement’s final page provides 3 additional write-ups for less crucial NPCs – these are stat-less as well. Slightly odd: Raging Swan press tends to put NPCs against a grey background, but doesn’t do so on the final page. Considering that the whole page would consist of the grey boxes, this decision does make sense, and it almost certainly intentional. All of these statblocks reference the proper 5e default NPC-stats.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any serious glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. We get pretty neat b/w-artwork. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Stephen Radney-MacFarland's Feigrvidr is one glorious village that can stand with the best in the series; equal parts ethnic settlement, frontier/mining town and rough and tumble refugee camp, it oscillates between various themes and blends them in a concise and fun whole. The village is inspired, cool and breathes a sense of the fantastic without becoming too "unrealistic." Much like the best of the village backdrops, this immediately inspires and makes for a great "throw the adventurers in and wait what happens"-experience.

Feigrvidr has improved significantly, and it already was a great supplement. It provides more new content than most such 2.0-expansions/revisions, and I consider this revised version to be superior in almost every way. The 5e-version has been handled with care as well, and really deserves being recommended as a 5 star + seal of approval supplement. Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr 2.0 (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr 2.0 (P2)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2020 12:29:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The expanded 2.0-version of the supplement depicting the village of Feigrvidr is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

If the name of this village does sound like quasi-Norse, there is a reason for that "feigr" refers to "near death" and has connotations with Odin's trances; "viðr" means wood - and indeed, this village would make a perfect addition to a mountainous region: Nestled in the headlands of the forbidding Titan Peaks, Svingal Halfbeard and his renegade band of (mostly) dwarven outcasts have tracked the flow of gold nuggets to this remote locale, ever since driving their mines into the depths of the mountains. What started as little more than an outcast's encampment in search for the big haul has since turned into a refuge for the persecuted.

Prosperous and notorious, Feigrvidr’s populace may seem rough and tumble, but there is both gold and glory to be found in this remote place. Somewhat to my chagrin, the helpful settlement statblock information present in the original iteration has been stripped here – particularly in this settlement, having it helped judge how dangerous the place is supposed to be. On the plus-side, the section that deals with life in Feigrvidr has been properly expanded, now also sporting e.g. a little paragraph on customs and traditions. On a nitpicky side of things, the dressing/event table has not been expanded as usual for the 2.0-versions: We still have 6 of those, even though the table implies that there’d be d20 of them due to a cosmetic glitch. Speaking of minor drawbacks: In PF2, we do not get a proper marketplace section of magic items for sale.

On a plus-side, the pdf of the 2.0 version does gain some serious appeal from the above-average write-up of the surrounding locality, a whole page of added content, which includes notes on demon-worshiping gnolls, among other things.

The thane's search for gold and giant artifacts continues and those that cross him tend to vanish. Whispers and rumors, a total of 6 of them, to be precise, have been included: A maze of shanties, decadent Sin's roost, halfling town and middens containing the refuse and slack of the numerous mines - the village manages to properly convey its unique take on a mining town, with 6 sample events to kick off adventures/action. As always, nomenclature and local clothing customs are mentioned.

Speaking of middens - here, a cool bit of quasi-realism blends with the fantastic, for the folk of Feigrvidr have bred CR 2 pygmy-otyughs (fully statted!) to deal with refuse...but they tend to breed fast and true and swarms of them can be found there and the locals whisper that they also are the reason bodies of the thane's enemies tend to never be found... Unless I am sorely mistaken, the PF2-statblock provided has an error in its constrict ability – that should be 1d6+3, not 1d6+6. In case you haven’t noticed: This village’s 2.0 version has been expanded SIGNIFICANTLY in comparison to the original iteration for PFRPG’s first edition: We get 6 very detailed fluff write-ups for the crucial NPCs here, all of which go into much more detail than usual for the like, and the supplement’s final page provides 3 additional write-ups for less crucial NPCs – these are stat-less as well. Slightly odd: Raging Swan press tends to put NPCs against a grey background, but doesn’t do so on the final page. Considering that the whole page would consist of the grey boxes, this decision does make sense, and it almost certainly intentional. One of these is a former champion with the paladin cause, and as such noted as ex-paladin; we also reference aasimar as a race here briefly, something to take note.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any serious glitches on a formal level, and only the one hiccup in the rules. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. We get pretty neat b/w-artwork. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Stephen Radney-MacFarland's Feigrvidr is one glorious village that can stand with the best in the series; equal parts ethnic settlement, frontier/mining town and rough and tumble refugee camp, it oscillates between various themes and blends them in a concise and fun whole. The village is inspired, cool and breathes a sense of the fantastic without becoming too "unrealistic." Much like the best of the village backdrops, this immediately inspires and makes for a great "throw the adventurers in and wait what happens"-experience.

Feigrvidr has improved significantly, and it already was a great supplement. It provides more new content than most such 2.0-expansions/revisions, and I consider this revised version to be superior in almost every way. The PF2-version is well-executed, marred only very slightly by the slight hiccup in the statblock, though not enough to deprive it of a final rating of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr 2.0 (P2)
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Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr 2.0
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2020 12:27:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The expanded 2.0-version of the supplement depicting the village of Feigrvidr is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

If the name of this village does sound like quasi-Norse, there is a reason for that "feigr" refers to "near death" and has connotations with Odin's trances; "viðr" means wood - and indeed, this village would make a perfect addition to a mountainous region: Nestled in the headlands of the forbidding Titan Peaks, Svingal Halfbeard and his renegade band of (mostly) dwarven outcasts have tracked the flow of gold nuggets to this remote locale, ever since driving their mines into the depths of the mountains. What started as little more than an outcast's encampment in search for the big haul has since turned into a refuge for the persecuted.

Prosperous and notorious, Feigrvidr’s populace may seem rough and tumble, but there is both gold and glory to be found in this remote place. Somewhat to my chagrin, the helpful settlement statblock information present in the original iteration has been stripped here – particularly in this settlement, having it helped judge how dangerous the place is supposed to be. On the plus-side, the section that deals with life in Feigrvidr has been properly expanded, now also sporting e.g. a little paragraph on customs and traditions. On a nitpicky side of things, the dressing/event table has not been expanded as usual for the 2.0-versions: We still have 6 of those, even though the table implies that there’d be d20 of them due to a cosmetic glitch. The marketplace section provides general guidelines, but no precise items for sale.

On a plus-side, the pdf of the 2.0 version does gain some serious appeal from the above-average write-up of the surrounding locality, a whole page of added content, which includes notes on demon-worshiping gnolls, among other things.

The thane's search for gold and giant artifacts continues and those that cross him tend to vanish. Whispers and rumors, a total of 6 of them, to be precise, have been included: A maze of shanties, decadent Sin's roost, halfling town and middens containing the refuse and slack of the numerous mines - the village manages to properly convey its unique take on a mining town, with 6 sample events to kick off adventures/action. As always, nomenclature and local clothing customs are mentioned.

Speaking of middens - here, a cool bit of quasi-realism blends with the fantastic, for the folk of Feigrvidr have bred CR 2 pygmy-otyughs (fully statted!) to deal with refuse...but they tend to breed fast and true and swarms of them can be found there and the locals whisper that they also are the reason bodies of the thane's enemies tend to never be found...

In case you haven’t noticed: This village’s 2.0 version has been expanded SIGNIFICANTLY in comparison to the old iteration: We get 6 very detailed fluff write-ups for the crucial NPCs here, all of which go into much more detail than usual for the like, and the supplement’s final page provides 3 additional write-ups for less crucial NPCs – these are stat-less as well. Slightly odd: Raging Swan press tends to put NPCs against a grey background, but doesn’t do so on the final page. Considering that the whole page would consist of the grey boxes, this decision does make sense, and it almost certainly intentional.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any serious glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. We get pretty neat b/w-artwork. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Stephen Radney-MacFarland's Feigrvidr is one glorious village that can stand with the best in the series; equal parts ethnic settlement, frontier/mining town and rough and tumble refugee camp, it oscillates between various themes and blends them in a concise and fun whole. The village is inspired, cool and breathes a sense of the fantastic without becoming too "unrealistic." Much like the best of the village backdrops, this immediately inspires and makes for a great "throw the adventurers in and wait what happens"-experience.

Even better, the 2.0-version of the village, in spite of the imho puzzling decision to cut the settlement statblock information, is definitely the version you should get. Why? Because it simply has so much more compelling content than the original! It provides more new content than most such 2.0-expansions/revisions, and I consider this revised version to be superior in almost every way. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel that, for this village in particular, the loss of the settlement statblock information can make it a bit harder on the GM, which is why my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars for the 2.0 version. Still, if you even remotely enjoy the concept, get it!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr 2.0
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Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr 2.0 (SN)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2020 12:25:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The system neutral expanded 2.0-version of the supplement depicting the village of Feigrvidr is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

If the name of this village does sound like quasi-Norse, there is a reason for that "feigr" refers to "near death" and has connotations with Odin's trances; "viðr" means wood - and indeed, this village would make a perfect addition to a mountainous region: Nestled in the headlands of the forbidding Titan Peaks, Svingal Halfbeard and his renegade band of (mostly) dwarven outcasts have tracked the flow of gold nuggets to this remote locale, ever since driving their mines into the depths of the mountains. What started as little more than an outcast's encampment in search for the big haul has since turned into a refuge for the persecuted.

Prosperous and notorious, Feigrvidr’s populace may seem rough and tumble, but there is both gold and glory to be found in this remote place. Somewhat to my chagrin, the helpful settlement statblock information present in the original iteration has been stripped here – particularly in this settlement, having it helped judge how dangerous the place is supposed to be. On the plus-side, the section that deals with life in Feigrvidr has been properly expanded, now also sporting e.g. a little paragraph on customs and traditions. On a nitpicky side of things, the dressing/event table has not been expanded as usual for the 2.0-versions: We still have 6 of those, even though the table implies that there’d be d20 of them due to a cosmetic glitch. Speaking of minor drawbacks: In this system neutral version, we do not get a proper marketplace section of magic items for sale.

On a plus-side, the pdf of the 2.0 version does gain some serious appeal from the above-average write-up of the surrounding locality, a whole page of added content, which includes notes on demon-worshiping gnolls, among other things.

The thane's search for gold and giant artifacts continues and those that cross him tend to vanish. Whispers and rumors, a total of 6 of them, to be precise, have been included: A maze of shanties, decadent Sin's roost, halfling town and middens containing the refuse and slack of the numerous mines - the village manages to properly convey its unique take on a mining town, with 6 sample events to kick off adventures/action. As always, nomenclature and local clothing customs are mentioned.

Speaking of middens - here, a cool bit of quasi-realism blends with the fantastic, for the folk of Feigrvidr have bred challenge 2 pygmy-otyughs (fully statted!) to deal with refuse...but they tend to breed fast and true and swarms of them can be found there and the locals whisper that they also are the reason bodies of the thane's enemies tend to never be found... The statblock provided lists movement in feet (3’’/swim 12’’) in the small scale, lists HD and treasure types, as well as general Intelligence ratings and psionic abilities, but no morale. AC is noted only as descending, and while the special defense “never surprised” is self-explanatory, some additional elaborations on the disease special attack would have made sense. All in all, this is, by far, my least favorite iteration of the pygmy-otyugh. Even if you usually prefer the OSR/system neutral versions, it might be prudent to extrapolate your own build from the 5e or PF2-iteration, if you’re so inclined.

In case you haven’t noticed: This village’s 2.0 version has been expanded SIGNIFICANTLY in comparison to the original PFRPG-iteration: We get 6 very detailed fluff write-ups for the crucial NPCs here, all of which go into much more detail than usual for the like, and the supplement’s final page provides 3 additional write-ups for less crucial NPCs – these are stat-less as well. Slightly odd: Raging Swan press tends to put NPCs against a grey background, but doesn’t do so on the final page. Considering that the whole page would consist of the grey boxes, this decision does make sense, and it almost certainly intentional. The stats properly reference old-school classes.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any serious glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. We get pretty neat b/w-artwork. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Stephen Radney-MacFarland's Feigrvidr is one glorious village that can stand with the best in the series; equal parts ethnic settlement, frontier/mining town and rough and tumble refugee camp, it oscillates between various themes and blends them in a concise and fun whole. The village is inspired, cool and breathes a sense of the fantastic without becoming too "unrealistic." Much like the best of the village backdrops, this immediately inspires and makes for a great "throw the adventurers in and wait what happens"-experience.

Feigrvidr 2.0 is a great village, and it should be noted that all my niggles are ultimately me being super picky. That being said, while I loved the inclusion of stats for the pygmy-otyugh, I was somewhat disappointed by them in this version. They do their job, but nothing more than that. And in a settlement that otherwise brims excellence, that’s a pretty big drawback. That being said, even considering that, I just can’t bring myself to round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars here. The settlement is simply too cool. Still, if you have some experience with more complex systems, I’d recommend those iterations over this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr 2.0 (SN)
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Legendary Worlds: Jowchit (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2020 07:37:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Worlds series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 1/3 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 2/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Jowchit is a mostly subtropical planet in relative proximity to its sun, with endless rainforests sprawling, jungles and rivers, lakes, etc. – it is a green world and sports the clearest blue sky you can find anywhere but the elemental plane of air, with the largest metropolis situated atop the Hoopaka mountain range, and vanara, garil and girallons as the major species: Speaking of which: Jowchit’s girallons are highly-sophisticated (garil), and come with a CR 9 statblock for the jowchit girallon, as well as with a write up for the garil as a playable race.

The garil are Monstrous humanoids with darkvision 60 ft., a 20 ft. climb speed and if they win you over with Diplomacy, you get a -2 penalty to resist their Charisma-based skill checks for 24 hours. They have a 10 ft. reach, in spite of being Medium, which is VERY strong (as a nitpick: sizes are capitalized) and they get a +2 racial bonus to resist enchantment (charm) and (compulsion) effects and gain an additional save one round later if they failed the first. They also get +2 Strength and Charisma, -2 Wisdom. The reach ability is rather strong for certain builds, and something that needs to be monitored for some builds, but as a whole, I am happy with these fellows. There is but one hiccup here that makes the race seem less neat than it is: The write up lists a 2 HP-line, which was probably a cut-copy-paste oversight from SFRPG (which would also explain the very strong reach, as melee is less valuable in SFRPG than in PFRPG); another indicator for this would be that none of the racial abilities sport the (Ex) or (Su) classifications that Pathfinder has for most, though not all, of these traits. That notwithstanding, the race is fully functional and should provide no issues in PFRPG. If you need to nerf the race for your game, consider granting them the Lunge feat with a limited amount of daily uses until 5th level, where you take away that delimiter. To cut a long ramble short: Not perfect, but perfectly usable.

Now, in most instances, civilization would have never managed to get past the nomad/hunter/gatherer-stage on the planet. Why? Well, Jowchit is essentially Kaiju country, sporting more than 50 of the titanic monstrosities. Only when Kongarrath, an oracle sharing a bond with the white-furred titanic kaiju resembling a girallon (see cover) Zaiz showed up, could a vision of civilization be properly realized. A curtain of lights, the Aurora Prismatica that repels most kaiju, and Zaiz were both instrumental in establishing settled civilization in this world of titanic masters. And yes, the aurora actually has a tangible mechanical effect. The book then proceeds to walk you through the mountain range known as “Bones of the World”, and in a surprising attention to detail, the massive trees of the Deep Green get game-relevant information! The Deep green, which should come as no surprise, is also an incubator for a variety of dangerous diseases, and from the glade of delirium to the ratfolk monastery and the dinosaur graveyard, this hits tones exceedingly well. The footprints of the legendary first kaiju Jira also host a variety of adventure locations, including a purple-vined island that hosts undead dinosaurs, and a weird place featuring octagonal tunnels. These locales are top-tier as far as I’m concerned – they really got my brain going regarding unique vistas and adventure ideas. Did I mention the rogue free-spirited formian bard NoOne?

Speaking of bards: The book does contain a new bard archetype, the Apostle of the Green, who replaces bardic knowledge with +1/2 class level 8minimum 1) to Knowledge (nature) checks, which may be used untrained. The archetype also gets an untyped +2 bonus to Climb checks. The skill referenced is not properly capitalized here. The bardic performance of the archetype applies to plants as well, explicitly bypassing their immunity to mind-affecting effects with their bard spells. (Kudos for keeping that properly tied to class!) When gaining new spells, these fellows can choose from the druid or ranger list – as a nitpick, I think the archetype should specify how to operate when one spell is of a lower level on the ranger’s list than on the druid list. Ideally, the higher spell level should be used, as ranger spells can be rather potent. The archetype does lose countersong for this, though. Instead of inspire competence and dirge of doom, we get the song of the green: This is a bardic performance that entangles all but caster and Wisdom bonus allies in a 30 ft.-radius, allowing them to execute some pretty consistent and potent soft terrain control – like it!

Two cities are covered as well, both providing a lot of evocative ideas, but neither have settlement statblocks. The topic of religion is also covered in detail, and we have more rules-material: The book contains three drugs: Kaiju’s Breath nets a +4 untyped bonus versus fear and emotion effects; Kajarah nets you Kaiju Link as a bonus feat for 24 hours, and Vog provides fire resistance 5. The drawbacks and addiction danger correlate well to the power-level of the benefits granted, rendering all three of them welcome additions to the game. Jowchit comes with a proper breakdown of the environmental traits of the planet regarding global rules, with temperatures noted in °F; ideally, I’d have seen a value for °C here as well.

But I was mentioning that feat, right? Well, there are 7 new feats in the book: Greensage nets you +2 to Knowledge (nature) And Knowledge (arcana), which upgrades to +4 at 10 ranks in one of the skills. That’s filler. Greensinger does not properly capitalize the skills in the prerequisite line, but lets you choose druid or ranger spells instead of bard spells – basically the feat-version of the archetype feature. While kept behind 5 ranks, I do think the existence of this feat diminishes the archetype; if in doubt, I’d cut that feat. There also is the Lore of the Great Beasts feat that nets you a +4 bonus to Knowledge (arcana) checks made on Kaiju. That’s super-specific, and should probably have some additional benefit, or a reduced bonus and be a trait. Kaiju Sense lets you 1/day per Wisdom modifier determine the direction and distance of all kaiju within 5 miles. Really cool…but technically, it should probably list a prerequisite Wisdom that actually makes sure you have a Wisdom modifier to use the feat, you know. Or a (minimum 1) caveat. Otherwise, the feat could be rendered a useless “dead feat.” Kaiju Link provides an upgrade for one kaiju chosen – you are aware of the kaiju in a 10-mile radius. Kaiju Caster lets you 3/day add +4 to CL checks to overcome SR, and if it’s from the destruction domain’s list, you increase the damage die size. Minor nitpick: This should probably note that it’s used as part of spellcasting. Craft Kaiju Power Component does what it says on the tin – and should probably have the (Item Creation) descriptor, but that’s a cosmetic nitpick. And yes, we get general guidelines for use of kaiju pieces as power components for spells, which is pretty neat!

The final 2/3 of a page provides 3 well-crafted and interesting adventure outlines , in case the inspiring text didn’t do the job yet; hint: it’ll suffice, but there most assuredly are neat ideas here as well!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level: While there are some nitpicks and issues to be found, none are truly structural issues that compromise the ability to use the supplement, with the racial traits of the garil being the one thing I can see rubbing some people the wrong way. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with quite a few pretty awesome original pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

There is a strange divide going through George “Loki” Williams’ Jowchit – on the one hand, we have a fantastic vision of a planet that makes sense, that is plausible and interesting in many ways; the GM-facing aspects of the supplement, including environmental effects, drugs, and the writing that pertains to the setting, is fantastic. On the other hand, the player-facing materials, particularly the feats and the racial stats, feel almost as though they had been written by someone else. The feats include ones that were considered to be filler back in the 3.X days (+2 to two skills – oh joy), and frankly, I didn’t like any of them, save the two that let you sense kaiju; these have a narrative justification, and can be super-rewarding, particularly if used for NPCs, or when running a campaign on Jowchit. And, like the best installments in the series, I can genuinely picture myself doing that.

Jowchit is a fantastic world, and if you’re even remotely interested in the concept, I strongly recommend getting this supplement. If you’re in it for player-facing material, you’ll be less enamored with this booklet, granted…but it’s a setting supplement, and in that regard, it’s certainly a resounding success. While the aforementioned gripes make it impossible for me to rate this booklet the full 5 stars, this does get 4 stars and my seal of approval, for this vista is both fantastic and exceedingly exciting.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Worlds: Jowchit (Pathfinder)
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