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Rampaging Monsters
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2018 09:32:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

The revised edition of this little generator clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page inside of back cover (with a nice little artwork of a slimy golem thanking us for the reading the file, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, as we’ve come to expect by Zzarchov Kowolski’s books, this one sports a rather neat and dry sense of humor, evident from the introduction onwards – sometimes, you don’t have the time to prepare a new plot, right? You’ll need filler, because “that Golden Girls marathon doesn’t watch itself”, to paraphrase the supplement. Well, the solution this booklet proposes is to generate a rampaging monster that scours the countryside!

The generator provided here indeed allows you to generate a creature, depending on your speed and familiarity with Neoclassical Geek Revival (NGR)-rules, in less than 5 minutes, so the convenience angle is definitely fulfilled – you could, in theory, do this behind the screen while the PCs are shopping, for example. Now, an important note here: Unlike many offerings by the author, this is NOT a dual-statted NGR/OSR-product – we have only Neoclassical Geek Revival support here and thus this does not translate too well to e.g. S&W or LL since NGR (which you should check out!) is pretty far away from standard OSR-rules.

All righty, that out of the way, how do we proceed? Well, first, we think about the monster’s size in relation to humans and then, we take a look at attributes – 6 values are provided, allowing you to quickly and easily generate scores with descriptors – very dexterous monsters would have Agility (A) 16, very clumsy ones instead Agility 7 – simple, quick, convenient. If in doubt, you revert to rolling 3d6. Now, in the new version, these pieces of information are clearly assigned mini-tables, and they employ one-letter abbreviations – this is made possible due to some rules-nomenclature changes of the system in its latest iteration. Then, you determine how a monster behaves and assign pies to the monster as though it was an NPC. Does it stalk its prey? Rogue. Bruiser? Fighter. Does it spread plague? Priest. You get the idea. While not all abilities may seem like they seamlessly apply, the pdf provides a bit of guidance there. The new iteration also provides a suggestion for when pie pieces of fool would make sense.

Here, the pdf becomes actually valuable beyond convenience for the GM – for next up, we get combat tricks…and if you recall my review of NGR, you should know how much I like the modular combat and its tactical depth…in spite of how easy to grasp and run it is. Size 8 monsters may e.g. damage foes by jumping up and down; shaking vigorously can cost grappled targets their actions, etc. – while these may not look like much, they can actually be employed in rather cool ways. If you’re like me and absolutely ADORED “Shadow of the Colossus” back in the PS2-era, you may be smiling right now – yep, the content herein does allow you to create such scenes…though, this being NGR, they will be much deadlier than in SoC…but the cheers will be louder. Believe me. Snatch attacks, knock-down assault with wings…pretty cool. This design-paradigm also extends to innate monster spells, which translate just as seamlessly to NGR. The examples cover the cool basics – breathing fire. Breathing exploding balls of fire…and LAZER-EYES[sic!]. Yes, this is a misspelling in the pdf. Yes, it made me cringe. Still, laser-eyes? Heck yes! Here, we can also see some system-changes: Breathing explosive balls of fire, for example, now either affects areas or Long Missile Range, and the innate spells of monsters no longer have a complexity rating, which makes sense to me.

Anyways, so now we have a monster…but why does it rampage? Motivation is up next – 6 basic ones, ranging from hunger to greed and malice, add at least a little bit of depth to the critter created.

Need a hamlet to destroy? Roll a d12 and a d8 and compare it with a table of 24 entries – 12 for the first part and 12 for the second part of the name. The position of the dice denote which one you’ll use for the first part and which for the second. These names will also hint at the peculiarities of the place – hamlets named “Carp-something” will e.g. sport ponds etc. Now, the new version has the two columns more cleanly laid out, so that’s a plus. The pdf sports 4 sample rewards for slaying the critter.

Finally, if you absolutely have 0 time left, a sample giant, a big statue, a wyrm and a T-rex are provided, should you need a monster to drop immediately. The presentation of these monster stats imho really benefits from the new presentation: It’s clearer, using bolding and smart structure to make reading the statblocks swifter. Obviously, the stats have been revised and adjusted to reflect the new version of the game as well. However, in the new version, we get more: A wyvern, a giant skull floating in a pool of ectoplasms, a giant spider and a cockatrice complement this section now, doubling the sample monsters featured.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good – I noticed no glaring issues in the rules and only minor typos. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The pdf use fitting b/w-artwork, but is mostly text – the pdf’s new layout is much cleaner and makes the pdf easier to read. Information is compartmentalized better, and the overall impression is one of a more professional file. Utterly puzzling: In stark contrast to the previous version of the file, this one has no bookmarks, making navigation slightly harder.

Zzarchov Kowolski’s little toolkit is still helpful, fun and easy to use; in particular the combat tricks and monster abilities, both mundane and magical, made me smile from ear to ear. The generator does what it’s intended to do…and yet, it made me realize how much I would have liked a full-blown monster-expansion book for NGR. The tricks and abilities presented are cool and fun and made me crave more…to the point, where I almost lost sight of what this tries to be and what it doesn’t try to be. This is not a big monster-enhancer toolbox for NGR – it is a generator for the time-starved referee caught unprepared…and though I very much would have loved to see a big monster book, and though this made me CRAVE more, it would not be fair to rate this generator according to a premise which it never intended to fulfill. As a generator for monsters ravaging the country-side, this does a great job – not a perfect one (it is hampered a bit by its economical size and the corresponding loss of depth that it could have had), but yeah. Now, while it looks like the revised version is shorter, that’s not the case – the new presentation is just tighter, and we actually get more content! While I’d usually contemplate upgrading my final verdict, the loss of bookmarks in the revised edition does partially mitigate the benefits of the streamlined layout and additional content. Thus, this remains a neat book for NGR-referees that is well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rampaging Monsters
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Hark! A Wizard!
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2018 09:24:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

The revised edition of this supplement clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages blank in the back, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, first things first: Unlike most books by Zzarchov Kowolski, this is NOT a dual-stat book. This toolkit is intended for NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival); while there is some value to be found within this for other rules-systems, but in the end, the majority of this books contents NGR-material. I assume familiarity with NGR in this review.

So, what is this about? Well, I think that pretty much any GM has encountered the random wizard issue before. Unlike sorcerers and similar spontaneous casters, the wizard sports a big issue for the referee: The reward-to-work-ratio for making wizards for random encounters and anything other than BBEG often just isn’t right. Making spellbooks and selecting spells is a chore…and with some bad luck, your cool, detailed wizard will be crited to smithereens after one spell…or perhaps before that.

Things get worse when books note “choose xyz spells” or “1d6 random spells” – it honestly infuriates me. Anyways, this book is intended to remedy this issue to a degree in NGR. The first20-entry table contains general grimoire names for wizards to hold on to; after that, we get 8 different tables, 8 entries strong each, with different themes like hedge magic, wizard schools, quasi-religious tomes, etc. – you get the idea. After that, we get the in-depth entries for the grimoires, including read-aloud texts. The read-aloud text is often inspired, and it also sports the subtle and hilarious humor of the author here and there: The Book of Aarrrgh… for example is so named due to the supernatural entity bound within, conveniently unleashed upon reading the book… The Rot on the Roots of Yggdrasil talks about the dread MiGo, here envisioned as a demon-god…or is that a misunderstanding? The referee will ultimately decide. Little handbooks, strange astrological tomes on constellations on the Western pole…you get it. Really nice diversity here! There have been minor improvements here: E.g. the text missing in “Secrets of the Nightsky” now properly notes its sorcerous rite as “A master of constellations: Dead Pixie in a Jar” – this is not a spell, but Pixie Dust may be reached from the corpse. The pdf then provides a brief and succinct write-up pertaining the use of the Sage power to reverse-engineer the abilities of strange creatures as spells. It’s a third of a page and works perfectly in conjunction with NGR. The aforementioned pixie autopsy has been added to the list of examples featured here.

The remainder and lion’s share of the book, though, would be taken up by a massive selection of different spells for NGR. They note their respective templates to difficulty, cost, range and complexity and add some further depth to the engine. Take “A Master of Constellations”, which allows you to set a condition to a spell to activate or deactivate, tying magic to astrological or astronomical conditions, explaining a metric ton of unique complex properties and things you see in many a module…and, obviously, letting players for once use this type of thing can be really rewarding! And yes, toggling on/off can also be done with this one. Organization is tighter here: “A Master of Constellation” no longer can be found at the start of the spell presentation, instead featring among the “M” entry of the alphabetical presentation. It should also be noted that the new edition of NGR no longer features complexity ratings – these are thus absent from the revision. Blood Pact is a new one, as is Conjure Poltergeists. The easily cheesable “Defiler of Gaia” spell has been eliminated, thankfully. Gazing into embers via Ember Trance is a nice new one that lets you scry targets, and “A Mighty Yarn” allows you to command ropes and the like. There also is a spell to interact with sizes, and these are pretty potent in NGR.

Generating illusions in a limited square, DR, enhancing items by inscribing earth runes of “Base of the Mountain”, concealing yourself in starlight…the spells have a subtle aesthetic that hearkens closer to actual real-world beliefs regarding magic, less to the flashy magic-laser-beams. This ultimately makes the chapter feel more alive and evocative. That being said, there are damaging spells – like a conical “Bee Swarm” blast or one that lets you use Beelzebub’s hellish flies. Spells for gaining influence via “BFF” are here, and there is a spell, where you can conjure forth vents, inflicting a nasty disease that may cause the target to return from death as an undead, making great use of NGR’s engine.

Speaking of spells that evoke themes we are familiar with and that tie in with game-mechanics: What about drinking blood under moonlight to replenish mana? The new version now causes intoxication, preventing abuse by less scrupulous PCs. “Carrion’s Debt Foreclosed” can generate undead from carrion eaters and there is a representation of containing spells in bubbling broth or potion, though its power will decrease over the course of time – so yeah, no stockpiling…and power-loss once more ties in perfectly with NGR’s spellcasting engine.

Now, this is something you either may like or hate, but the “Congress of Yig” no longer requires sexual intercourse with serpents, instead tying into the mutation engine component. This does prevent abuse of the spell and renders its design better. It’s less icky, but, you can take care of that, should you so choose.

Mechanically interesting would also be “Cooled Passions”, which allows for the indefinite increase of a spell’s duration at the cost of not being able to cast the spell again; alternatively, the spell can be linked to a trigger spell, which can act as a means to end that binding. Thoroughly creepy: “Cordyceps Mammalia” does the “Last of Us”-move and animates the dead via cordyceps fungi, potentially with free-willed consequences. Yes, I am freaked out by this one.

Siphoning magic from eggs is also really cool, and the verbiage is now tighter and accounts for cases like mammalian eggs and those of fish etc. There would be a spell that helps eliminating mutations at the cost of stress…which may actually hasten the transformation of deep one to hybrid, for example. Funny and interesting: “Fireworks of Happyland”, which only deal damage on a 1 or 6, with 6s adding more dice for potentially brutal consequences, otherwise focusing on blinding foes temporarily.

The “Grand Idol of Bhaal” allows for the caster to bind demons, djinn, etc. in idols, once more codifying a classic trope within the context of the game. What about “Happily ever after”, a spell that acts as a trigger based on e.g. a prince’s kiss. Or Influence-based hypnotic gaze, appeals that damage supernatural targets or a spell to remove texts, images, etc. via” lost to the ages”? On the necromancy-side, we get a spell to animate a target you have personally drained as a vampire…and, really macabre (and some might argue, tasteless), one that animates a stillborn child as an undead. Yeah…personally, I could have done without the existence of this one. On the plus-side, strange spores, calling miniature comets and tapping into the power of e.g. eclipses makes sense and works well.

There is also an advanced locking spell…and Schmetterling (German for Butterfly, just fyi): A flight spell that only allows the target to be attacked in melee by non-fliers when interrupted while attacking someone in melee. There is a spell to create a portal in the shadow of objects…and one that lets you emit a horrid blast of static, white noise-like shrieking. Oh, and what about locking supernatural targets into the skulls of targets? Yes, they may be alive. Yes, those voices may either be insanity…or dread magic…Well, you get 3 guesses what Toad! does…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on either formal or rules-language levels. The new design decisions made herein are tighter and less open for abuse. The revised edition’s öayout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice, original b/w-artworks inside. The new presentation makes using the pdf smoother, so yeah, an improvement there. The content-expansion, however, is paid for with an absence of bookmarks that is puzzling and constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Sooo, I really liked Zzarchov Kowolski’s “Hark! A Wizard!” – but I kinda did not get what it says on the tin.

The official description reads: “Hark! A Wizard! Is a generator to give NPC wizards a cohesive set of spells in just a few seconds. It is a useful tool for further lowering the prep required with a game of Neoclassical Geek Revival.” This is not what I got. Not at all.

Did I love the cool modifications and options presented in all those spells? Yeah! The revised rules are tighter, clearer and less prone to abuse. Similarly, I really, really liked the sample read-aloud texts and diverse ideas for grimoires, making spellbooks feel, well, interesting and creative. The subtle, dark humor of the author makes reading this rules-book actually enjoyable.

But know what? I got this pdf because I expected a generator to make wizards quickly. Are the modifications herein capable of making the NGR-magic rules more versatile and smart? Yeah! They are! They are great. They help you make spells more unique, modify them, etc. Pretty much everything here is really cool…

…but it’s not a way to give NPC wizards a cohesive set of spells in a few seconds/minutes. It’s an expansion of the magic-engine. That rocks. It sports great spellbook dressing. Which once more rocks. However, as a generator to make quick wizards for NGR? Honestly, I don’t even get where that aspect is coming from. The revised edition STILL does not really offer that. Beyond the grimoires, it does not expedite the process of making a wizard in the slightest.

As a reviewer, that leaves me in a weird place, particularly since the revised edition had the chance to make finally good of its promise. Frankly, I should rate this down. Were I to rate this on its merits as a generator, I’d have to pronounce this a failure, as an, at best as a mixed bag. Then again, if I rated this as a spellcaster’s expansion for NGR that adds depth and fun to the already impressive magic system, then this would be a 5 star + seal of approval recommended masterpiece.

The matter of fact remains, though: This is NOT what it was advertised as. While I consider this to be a must-won expansion for fans of NGR, I have to take that into account as a reviewer.

As a wizard generator, I’d consider this to be a 2-star file. As a magic-expansion for NGR, I’d consider it to be 5 stars + seal of approval. The new content and design-wise streamlining makes this better than before, but lack of bookmarks mitigates this improvement. In the end, my final verdict will fall in between these, at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hark! A Wizard!
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Treasury of the City
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2018 04:57:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of items clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content. Now, as always, there is a lot of content within these pages, courtesy of Legendary Games consumer-friendly layout, so let’s take a look!

On the first pages, we have a list of all the items featured within this pdf, listed by price for your convenience, but before we dive into the specifics, let’s start with the new special weapon properties featured within. There are two ones that have a +1 equivalent, the first of which would be deceptive. This one adds twice the weapons enhancement bonus to Stealth and Sleight of Hand checks to keep it hidden from prying eyes, and similarly, the bonus is added to the DC of Diplomacy or Heal checks made to gather information about it – big kudos for taking that investigative aspect into account. Additionally, when striking a flat-footed or unaware target, a glamour is implanted that scrambles divinations pertaining the attack, serving as a misdirection, save that the wielder gets to decide the false information. This is genius. I mean it. This weapon quality alone may be worth getting the pdf for. This provides so many truly evocative and complex investigation angles, I can’t even begin to list them all. Easily one of my favorite special abilities for a weapon ever.

Partisan weapons are attuned to a city, nation, etc., and if the wielder is a member of this group, she receives a +4 insight bonus to Bluff, Disguise and Sleight of Hand to conceal it from members of other nations, cities, etc. On a critical hit versus a flat-footed humanoid member of another nation, that target must succeed a Will save or be shaken for 1 minute. The wielder also receives a +2 bonus to confirm critical hits versus other such members of different nations. The attuned nation, city state, etc. must be determined upon creation. Another winner in my book! The third one would be a +2 special ability, namely treasonous, which is basically the upgraded version of partisan, increasing its enhancement bonus by +2 versus members of other nations and +1d6 damage, which is not multiplied on a critical hit. It also makes the Sense Motive DC to determine lying etc. harder. Okay these latter two are amazing once you think about it – what they mean for nations and how they work, how that can influence the game – impressive indeed.

Beyond these, we also 4 armors and one specific shield. The first armor would be the crypt warden’s plate, which prevents the wearer from being raised from the dead; it’s also deathless and shows the difference between good and bad item design: In another book, the armor would just detect undead by some means. Here, however, the armor actually describes how it reacts to nearby undead – cold, glow, etc. – this adds a tangible sense of the magical here. The lavishly-illustrated hauberk-in-motley is so light, it does not penalize Acrobatics with the armor check penalty. Additionally, as a standard action, the wearer may make a Perform (comedy) check to fascinate nearby targets if they fail their save. A hex-caveat prevents abuse, and the armor provides synergy with the fascinate bardic performance for hideous laughter 3/day, and characters skilled in Perform (comedy) can allow for the increase of the save DCs. Quickchange studded leather is amazing: It can be donned quickly and may be loosened as part of making an Escape Artist check. Love this one! The scale of endless bureaucracy has 25 scales that may be removed, transforming into sheets of paper. 10 of these may be used to create perfect copies of nonmagical text. There also are scales that can transcribe spoken words. The transcribed request can then be forced upon recipients, compelling them to fulfill the requests. The final scales allow for the creation of compelling forgeries and the wearer’s skills pertaining law etc. are greatly enhanced. An utterly inspired armor here, one that feels truly evocative. The shield I noted would be the roofrunner’s buckler, which may be placed on the ground. A creature that’s not too heavy may place it on the ground and have it levitate short distances. Really cool!

The pdf also includes three specific weapons: The captive blade can be used freely while entangled or grappled, and is particularly potent when wielded against restraints, manacles, etc. The forgetful sap can add memory lapse to attacks, with a save to negate. The DC is higher for unaware targets. Creatures not armored too well can also be touch attack memory lapse’d. Thirdly, the nightwatch crossbow has a darkvision glass scope and may 1/day fire a daylight bolt. Cool.

The pdf contains 4 different rings: The diplomat’s signet is a low cost skill boost stacking with the other two diplomat’s items. These are wondrous items that also enhance diplomacy and net different Knowledge boosts. While I like sets, this one is, compared to the other items herein, not particularly interesting and doesn’t net anything unique beyond stacking bonuses.

The ring of erudite alacrity consists of 3 rings, and spinning the gold band lets you perfectly memorize one area or up to 1000 words of text, for 24 hours. This is perfectly codified. The platinum band allows for quicker spell research, magical crafting and locating written information – and yes, the item does take losing and retaking the item into account regarding total duration calculation! The final band provides a short-term initiative, Ref-save and AC-boost. Ring of the treacherous advisor mirrors the alignment of casters attempting to discern the wearer’s alignment; the second ability allows the wearer to lie even in magical zones. The scabbard ring can hold a weapon in tattoo form on the forearm of the wearer.

The pdf also contains a new rod, the heartstone rod, which nets blindsense – by virtue of hearing creature heartbeats! It also can affect targets with the curse of the tell-tale heart, making targets that lie or attempt to stretch the truth suffer from racing heartbeats and become both fatigued and shaken. So cool! The wondrous items with include the bracelets of freedom and are super tough to notice, netting the wearer a massive +20 bonus to hide them from inspection. These enhance Escape Artist, and, as a swift action, all but guarantee escape from manacles and similar restraints, making is a great item when attempting an extraction of a target of an infiltration under the guide of having been caught. The bracers also allow you to make inspection seem like you’re still restrained. Cool one! Candles of the sacrament blesses those nearby and may affect evil targets nearby with bane. Okay one, I guess. Chain caltrops are magical, cause bleeding damage, entangle like tanglefoot bags and are reusable. For 600 gp, certainly worth getting! Cool one!

The pdf also includes two stylish pieces of headwear – the cheater’s hat makes the target super lucky in games of chance, with suitable rules-representations of the effects and some nice storytelling potential. As an item for the crooked, the pilferer’s gloves complement it and have a built-in set of masterwork thieves’ tools and, beyond enhancing Sleight of Hand and Stealth used to steal or the steal maneuver, it also alerts the wielder of magical alarms and the like and may be used to dispel such effects. During Disable Device checks, the gloves can also shroud the wearer in silence. With the threefold knocker glove, you may knock on a door and emerge from another unlocked door within the same building or 100 ft. With three knocks, you can even bring allies with you. Love it! And if someone catches you – well, there’s always the toxic scabbard for light weapons, which can bypass detection and becomes even more useful for those with the poison use ability.

The second hat would be the detective’s cap, which enhances Perception and Sense Motive and allows for tracking In cities via Knowledge (local) – fun twist there! If you’re wearing that cap, you may also be interested in the mark of the authority, a badge that enhances your own CMB and that of nearby allies with a couple of fitting 1/day spells. With the inspector’s bullhorn you WILL be hear – it basically acts as a megaphone. It helps to Intimidate those in the cone, and the horn enhances the DC of sonic-based effects channeled through it. It also can 3/day greater command/greater forbid action, as chosen. The horn also allows the user to demand that targets show themselves, negating invisibility, blink and similar effects. If already visible, the affected targets must move towards the user. Damn useful!!

The beautifully-illustrated clockwork spotter is an intricate clockwork birdy that, upon activation, becomes a clockwork raven that can locate creatures and objects and help find the path. Really neat!

The cloak of the drifter helps generalize the wearer and disguise as nonspecific targets and helps blend in crowds. Nice one! Glassee gloves tightly codify making items transparent. The senator’s stole helps with social skills and allows the wearer to instruct targets with know peerage and it enhances language-dependent effects and fortifies the wearer versus charm and dominate while enhancing the wearer’s harmless charms, making them harder to dispel. At, ironically, twice the price of the stole, the ratty robes enhance Sleight of Hand and fortifies the wearer against poisons and diseases. The robe also prevents rats and rat swarms from attacking the wearer, and allows the wearer to turn into a rat swarm once per day. Even cooler: this may be used as a reactive dispersal to mitigate the worst brunt of assaults. The third such equipment would be the gorgeously-illustrated sewer suit, which acts as either a +1 leather armor or in conjunction with it, as a garment. The hood filters filth and helps versus disease and nausea and swarms. It also helps you hold your breath and allows for quicker movement through bogs etc. Cool! Finally, there would be portable waterworks, buckets that can turn into wells or fountains!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that crams a lot of information on every page, and the pdf sports some really cool, new original artworks in full color. The pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks, making navigation comfortable and smooth.

Jason Nelson, Victoria Jaczko and Loren Sieg show how it’s done. As befitting the names of two of these designers (Victoria meaning triumphant, Sieg being German for victory), this collection of items represents a triumphant victory: While the diplomat’s set is somewhat lame, that’s the only item herein that is not amazing: Even when the items are very much spell-based, they offer unique flavor, cool tweaks, and make them feel distinct. The items here are a godsend for a wide variety of campaigns, making this transcend its intended use as a Curse of the Crimson Throne plug-in. The items within this pdf are a boon for GMs struggling with making investigations or heists; any low-magic campaign will adore these; if you even remotely are interesting in espionage or heist scenarios, then this is pretty much a must-have offering. This humble pdf strings inspired items back to back, and it does so in a truly inspired manner – quality over quantity, this delivers in spades and is worth every cent. Get it! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Treasury of the City
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Everyman Minis: Paladin Mercies
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2018 04:55:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

On the introductory page, we get a new spell (most spellcasting classes, including occult ones qualify): Remove pain is either a 2nd or 3rd level spell. The spell nets a +4 morale bonus versus fear effects for 10 minutes, while also suppressing pain effects currently affecting the target, and acting as a counter for inflict pain. Nice one.

The second page contains an assortment of new paladin mercies, grouped by levels at which they become available: At 3rd level, we can find 7 new ones: These include 1 round of good hope, mitigating the entangled condition, AoO-less standing up from prone position or providing uncanny dodge for a 1 round. Cool: If you already have it, improved uncanny dodge is gained. If the target has improved uncanny dodge already, they add the paladin’s Charisma modifier to the level to determine minimum rogue levels required to affect them. A couple of these, btw., are deity, or rather, domain-granted specific. If the deity grants Artifice or War as a domain, the paladin may pick up or draw an item as part of using lay on hands. Nice! Save benefits, making a d20 roll of 10 or less count as 11 a limited amount of times per day – there are some surprisingly creative tricks here!

There are 8 different 6th level mercies, with one providing the aforementioned remove pain spell, another providing fire or cold resistance (or acid/electricity for another one) and another repairing items or constructs. Helping a target get out a grapple, augury and a harmless true form variant or being nourished…some creative tricks here. The pdf also has two 9th level mercies, with one duplicating break enchantment for mind-affecting effects only; paladins whose deity nets the healing domain allows for further healing at the cost of the paladin’s health.

Finally, there are 5 different 12th level mercies. Jester’s jaunting targets, daylight, breath of life, repairing destroyed items (and magic item repair is tightly codified) and a telepathic bond complement the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the new, 2-column artwork-bordered standard of the series and the pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need them at this length.

I did not expect to find anything interesting in David N. Ross’ paladin mercy-mini. They are not particularly interesting, after all, right? Well, wrong. The mercies are really interesting and offer some rather surprising modifications that offer more tactical decisions than I expected to find. This is certainly worth getting and is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars – if you have a pala, get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Paladin Mercies
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GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops V
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2018 04:53:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fifth compilation of Village Backdrops clocks in at 89 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 82 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This massive compilation includes the following villages: Black Wyvern, Bleakflat, Byrnfort, Dawnmarsh, Farrav’n, Lanthorn, Needlebriar, Quey’s Glade, Ronak, Skaalhaft, Suurin and Woodridge.

I have written reviews for all of these villages, discussing them in detail, so if you require detailed guidance regarding the individual villages, you may want to check out these reviews. Since I loathe repeating myself, and the actual use of a number of Village Backdrop-reviews stringed together would be of dubious use, I will leave it at that. Now, in direct comparison to the individual pdfs, we get quite a few neat new pieces of b/w-artworks, and that alone is a big plus.

Now, the villages, as a whole, are of the exceedingly high quality we expect to see from Raging Swan Press – no surprises there. However, it should be noted that this still is “just” a compilation – while this could have been used to fix the few more problematic components of some villages, the like has not happened. There is still mentioning of poisoning a plant creature, which RAW still doesn’t work in PFRPG. Similarly, the great magical lanterns of Lanthorn still remain opaque backdrops sans concrete rules. This is a compilation of files – nothing less, nothing more.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the book features great b/w-artworks. The b/w-cartography by Tommi Salama and Maciej Zagorski is amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two different versions – one optimized for screen use and one intended for printing out. I can’t comment on the print version, as I do not own it.

John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Gomez, Richard Green, David N. Ross, Amber Underwood and Mike Welham are all top-tier authors, and it shows in these settlements. The villages within are evocative, fun and cool – and yet. In direct comparison, the compilation has missed the opportunity of refining the less amazing villages within, updating and improving them, which would not have been hard. This compilation could have been one of the strongest in the long and storied history of high-quality backdrops in the series, a jewel. The lack of further refinement, however, does hurt the compilation somewhat. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a great book of backdrops, but it could have been a great one. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops V
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Uncertain Worlds
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2018 04:51:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 96 pages, 2.5 pages of ToC, leaving us with 93.5 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5). I own both the electronic and print version of this booklet, and my review is based on both of them.

So, what is this? This is basically a collection of fragments, of odds and ends, of what I’d call a GM’s Miscellanea, a toolbox if you will; more detailed and specific than dressing, less detailed than finished supplements, this is a book to open when you’re looking for some inspiration to get your design-engines going. The content was curated from author Patrick Stuart’s blog, but the super low asking price for the convenience to have this all collected makes sense.

Now, this is system neutral, yes, but it is not genre-neutral; it also should be noted that it gravitates towards darker subject matters and the weird, but in an inspiring way. And I mean “inspiring” in the truest sense of the word. This particularly pertains the locations that kick off this book, which would fit perfectly in dark fantasy or horror games…or post apocalyptic ones. Or planar ones…

The first of these is the “Caliphate of Holes”, and after I got this book on a whim, it was the one that hooked me. The Plains of the Sifir, or Plains of Nothing, are bereft of life. Now, I spoke about this being inspiring, right? So instead of blathering about, instead of rambling, take a look at this:

“Only in the shadowed micro-climates of the black, broken kaiju temple shards, bigger than buildings, will life appear, and then only the clenched octopoid charcoal-vermilion corn that grows in tangled bezoars.”

Kaiju temple shards. Octopoid corn growing in bezoars. I can see that messed up landscape in my mind’s eye! Why were temples erected for kaiju? Were they erected from them? What destroyed them? I love this. Limestone pyramid reflections carved into the earth provide shelter for a civilization that insists on marrying for love, that values poetry, and that is spread out and connected by the caravans treading the blasted plains…and that is but an excerpt of the wonders held within this one singular entry.

There is an in-character report from an island, and there are cities within. Oh, are there cities! Like Lanthanum Chromate, a city exemplifying a last desperate kindling of life at both ends, a Sentenced-song personified (kudos if you still remember one of my favorite bands…), a city slowly falling, crumbling into the edge of a city, loathed by the kings of hell, maintained by the stubbornness of dwarves to withstand the nightly apocalypses unleashed upon it.

There is Pluvial, on the plains of Ennui, fed by Lethe’s flooding, where flensed bodies are animated by poetic backwash and where the ruler of the city, the Prince of Carcasses must be disparaged in any conversation. Decadent in a ridiculously, blackly-humorous way, this place is gothic in the extreme, in the old sense of the word, a place so suffused with ancient madness, it touches everything and makes life conform – basically the notion of romantics, condensed into a city-wide metaphor. Tuesdays are banned fyi – the Prince considers them gauche.

What about a city of spies, playing a planar level of espionage as a collective that, in scope, exceeds anything I’ve read to this point? There are also three rivers provided here, each more detailed and inspiring than many full-blown settlement books; we learn about the Navigating Houses of Nox that traverse oceans by nightmare and a mariner’s song of the nightmare sea is fully provided – and, much to my joy, annotated with further, often hilarious, commentary and inspiring tidbits!

And encounter with aforementioned Prince of Carcasses is sketched out, and there is a 6d6 based quest generator to alleviate the manifold sorrows of the Thane of Coates. 7d7 doppelgängers, a snail-knight generator (didn’t mention them before – they are part and parcel of the Caliphate of Holes…),,,this is a treasure trove of ideas.

Do you prefer science fiction? What about the concept of the Omnistructure of Decay? Or perhaps, you want some unique ideas for science fiction fortifications? What about write-ups for three ancestral mechas and 4 songs/poems that tie in with the whole sword & planet vibe? Cryogenic Rats? A 2d10 exo-suit of hot girls generator (fans of Alpha Blue, take note…) a massive HackShip generator (3d6, rolled 6 times)…or what about a 10-entry “Masks of the Creatures from Before Time” generator?

Do you prefer super hero games? 6 sample heroes and 10 villains are included, and a d30 signs of trouble dressing table alongside a d20 list of villain means of destroying PCs is provided. To give you an example: “Politicise ratling codeboys with engram induction techniques hidden in fast-delivery cheesewheels, aim them like a gun at the mirrorcogs of liverpools moneycore, bring it all down in debt.” Come on, that is far out and neat!

In the miscellanea section, we get a bunny world generator. (Names like Pontifex Thumps…) a system of time with names added to all hours, and a d10 generator that is simply titled “She Is” – this one made me remember a whole array of of my favorite songs, from Diary of Dreams to more experimental materials…another favorite of mine. The pdf closes with an “achingly portentous prophecy” that spans multiple pages and should make for great poaching grounds.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the one aspect where this is not particularly good – there are a couple of hiccups here and there that made wish there had been tighter editing. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column b/w-standard. There are no artworks inside. This is all content. The softcover PoD version has nice stock art on the cover and the pdf comes with detailed bookmarks, making navigation easy.

Okay, to spell this out loud and clearly: For the editing glitches, I should penalize this pdf.

I can’t bring myself to doing this. I just can’t. This humble little collection has more inspiration oozing from its pages than 99% of frickin’ campaign settings and regional sourcebooks I have ever read. This oozes an inspiring sense of jamais-vu; it presents dark visions that are tantalizing, different and strange, suffused with an irreverent, unobtrusive sens of dry and midnight-black humor. These tidbits represent one of the most inspiring GM’s miscellanea books I have ever read. If you even remotely are drawn to darker and outré concepts, if you want to add a dash of the creative and weird to your game, then this delivers by the boatload. The softcover costs a measly $6.32, the pdf just $1.50. Seriously, you will find that this Patrick Stuart’s work is worth every single cent a hundred times over.

After reading this, I frankly wished the author had penned a whole cosmology, a vast array of massive campaign settings for me to read whenever I get bored. This is a truly phenomenal offering, more than worth the super fair asking price. Get it, read it, be inspired. My final verdict will be 5 stars + my seal of approval. Truly amazing!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Uncertain Worlds
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Star Log Deluxe: Zoomer
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2018 04:50:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log-series clocks in at 10 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 6.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This supplement clocks in with the usual introduction, which also contextualizes the class in the context of the Xa-Osoro system. The zoomer’s key ability modifier is Dexterity, and the class gets 7 HP and 7 + Constitution modifier stamina. The class gets 6 + Int skills per level, with Acrobatics, Athletics, Engineering, Perception, Physical Science, Piloting and Profession as class skills gained. The zoomer class gets a free skill rank in Acrobatics and Piloting at each zoomer level, as well as Skill Focus in them both. Furthermore, the bonus granted increases by +1 at 11th level “land” 8should be “and”) every 4 levels thereafter. This puts the zoomer, skill-wise, on par with the operative.

Proficiency-wise, the zoomer gets light armor, basic melee weapons, grenades, small arms and full BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-saves. The zoomer begins play with the Deadly Precision feature, which nets a bonus to damage rolls with small arms, thrown weapons (except grenades) and operative melee weapons equal to Dex-mod (min +0), capping at zoomer class level. At 3rd level, if you have Weapon Specialization with small arms or operative weapons, you add class level to damage with them, +1/2 class level in other classes. This is relevant since 3rd level nets you Weapon Specilization for all weapon types this class nets you proficiency with. This bonus damage does not stack with bonus damage from attacks made as part of a class feature. Also at first level, we get the jitters ability, which is a +1 bonus to initiative that further increases by +1 at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter.

The most important starting ability, though, would be the zoom dash – either granted by a freak accident or tech. If you choose gear, it does not influence slots available and merges with footwear. This gear may be replaced via Engineering, but it is…well, tech. Supernatural sources of this ability are subject to appropriate limitations. The ability increases your land speed by 10 ft., further increasing this by +10 ft. at 3rd, 9th and 15th level. 2nd level nets evasion.

Starting at 5th level, the zoomer may, as a standard action make a charge sans charge penalties, and may substitute a combat maneuver for the attack at the end of the charge. At 11th level, the ability lets you make two attacks at -4 at the end of the charge; at 20th level, you may execute 3 attacks at the end of the charge, at -6 penalty. These tricks, level-wise, are solid in their placement compared to established core classes.

5th level provides the zoomer’s advance ability: You can spend 1 Resolve Point as a swift action to move up to your speed; at 9th level, you may spend 2 Resolve Points to move up to double your speed as a swift action; 13th level upgrades this to triple speed for two Resolve points, but triple movement requires a move action. At 17th level, you can move quadruple speed as a move action for 2 Resolve points. This may not be used while encumbered, in power armor, etc. 7th level provides the operative’s uncanny agility, i.e. immunity to the flat-footed condition and foes don’t get bonuses for flanking you or attacking you while prone. Covering and harrying fire also don’t provide benefits against you. 1th level nets zoomer’s onslaught – as a full attack, you may make up to three attacks, at -6 penalty. The capstone doubles your speed when you charge, run, withdraw, and you may run a s a swift action sans provoking AoOs, though this swift run requires a 10-minute rest to use again.

At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the class chooses a zoomer stunt, basically the talent-array of the class. 8th and 14th level serve as caps where new zoomer stunts are unlocked. These allow for e.g. ending a charge with a small arms weapon or a thrown weapon, which still provokes AoOs – however, you may end a charge 10 ft. prematurely, provided you moved at least 10 feet. Better snap shot attacks and vehicle-born firing, expanding the edge…and really interesting, not counting as prone while crawling and retaining the zoom dash bonus to crawling speed make for interesting tricks. A more flexible charge contingent on Acrobatics and enemy CR is okay, and I liked preparing two actions to ready, with concise restrictions. Using reactions prior to acting for the first time in combat, and quick assertion of control over a vehicle is interesting.

Among the stunts unlocked at 8th level, you can catch targets off guard via charges, provided you succeed an Acrobatics check, non-stacking concealment when moving, guarded step, limited auto-haste, upgrading class features further – some cool tricks here. (As an aside: there is a slightly confusing type here, one that notes “reading” instead of “readying.”) Another issue here is that there is one stunt that allows the zoomer to forego readying three triggers to ready a full action. This is problematic, since readying an action is a standard action. Note that RAW, readying actions can only be done via a standard action, preventing cheesing here. The highest level stunts unlocked at 14th level include, among other things, improved evasion and a further upgrade for the movement contingent miss chance. Most mechanically interesting would be the zoomer whirlwind, which has a radius and area of effect contingent on speed, with maximum number of targets affected also defined by this. A handy mini-table helps here, and the effects differ for e.g. whirlwinds made on liquid. The ability is, design-wise, precise, as the base ability codifies skill checks and saves, if any – these are governed by Dexterity, fyi.

The class loses zoomer stunts for multiclassing at 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th, and 18th level. At 9th level, the pdf notes “Your zoomer’s advance class feature improve at 9th level.“ – There is a “doesn’t” missing here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on a rules-language level. On a formal level, there are a few hiccups here that could have been caught, some of which may cause a bit of confusion. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf sports solid full-color artworks of Jacob Blackmon’s characteristic style. The pdf has no bookmarks.

Alexander Augunas’ zoomer is a fun class that won’t break your game. It focuses on agility and skirmishing, and does so in a rather interesting manner. The zoomer’s mobility makes the class pretty potent, but not to an extent where it eclipses e.g. operative or solarian etc. Their charges can be deadly, but the focus on these does limit them somewhat. All in all, I liked this class, though I felt it could have used a few more tricks like the whirlwind. All in all, I consider this to be a solid, if not perfect class, worthy of a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log Deluxe: Zoomer
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Thunderscape Nights: Trouble at the Dunswood Inn
Publisher: Kyoudai Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2018 04:49:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This brief adventure clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure is intended as an introductory module for Aden, and as such, for 1st level characters. The module does feature read-aloud text and also has a side-bar based option to make the module slightly darker, as befitting of Aden’s flavor.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the pretty sizable family of Knut Bjornson has weathered the Darkfall, and Knut’s no-nonsense attitude may have spelled doom: One of his younger sons, Magnus, is an aspiring mechamage, largely self-taught. When bandits arrived, one an arcanist and one a golemoid and Knut refused protection, Magnus snuck out, offering to help the golemoid to keep the family safe and satiate his thirst for knowledge.

The module features 4 scenes: The PCs happen upon a man being attacked by nocturnal fire elementals (fully statted) – unless the PCs intervene, the golemoid is as good as dead. Problematic – the man is ostensibly difficult to move while unconscious, but no weight value is provided, which locks the PCs into seeing Knut and his guards approach – the man offers Magnus’ services. As the PCs accompany the Bjornsons to their stead, they rest…and on the next day, the man has died, to be committed to the pyre. Here’s the thing: Why would the PCs not guard the man from the weird folks that suddenly showed up? The module crumbles apart with even a modicum of PC care, for it is contingent on Magnus removing golemoid components. Whether the golemoid was still alive or not depends on how dark a ton you’d like to evoke.

Magnus, in the meanwhile, has taken off to his bandit buddies – defeating the 3 remaining bandits (fully statted) ends the module.

Conclusion:

Editing is tight in all regards, but formatting is not nearly as tight: Italicizations are missed left and right. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the sports a nice artwork that Aden fans will recognize. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length. The pdf has no cartography or battle maps, which is a problem: Since the description is not exactly precise regarding combat environments, the battles feel opaque. As there are no maps, there also are no player-friendly maps.

Shawn Carman’s brief sidetrek has a good idea, but ends up as a horrible railroad. There is zero player-agenda here, and while the background notes on the NPCs are nice, they have no bearing on the plot. The eponymous Inn is utterly opaque – I have no idea how it looks, how rooms are arranged, etc. The module is also contingent on superbly incompetent players that lack even a modicum of the paranoia that characterizes even journeyman adventurers. In short, while the prose and production values are solid, this does not work. Not even for the low price. I don’t consider this to be a worthwhile introduction or a good adventure. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Thunderscape Nights: Trouble at the Dunswood Inn
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DNH4 - Confronting Hastur - 5th Edition
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/14/2018 03:31:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of the Haunting of Hastur-series clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 34 pages of content – this does not take the sturdy wrap-around cover into account. This cover is detachable, and the inside of this massive cover, is a GORGEOUS map of the city of Meavold, depicted in full color and in a player-friendly version – you can just hand it to your players. Big aesthetic plus!

The module, like every installment in the series, does come with an alternate introduction to the series, should you and your players be new to the series, making it easy to get into the series. This is easier this time around, courtesy of the structure of the module, but more on that later. My review is based on the Kickstarter exclusive premium print edition, which I received in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.

If you have been playing the series, you will have heard about Meavold before – it is the human city on the surface that is the primary trading partner of the City of Talos, now that the PCs have hopefully ended the self-imposed isolation of the Formene Elves.

The pdf does sport a total of 5 different statblocks, one of which belongs to a new creature, a so-called brain-drinker – you can probably glean from the angle that this fellow is basically a reskinned Illithid. This critter, with a vole’s head, is a pretty deadly adversary and its rendition is pretty solid. Annoyingly, the statblocks don’t provide the values for all attributes in the statblocks, which may require a bit of GM-mojo on your end – much like the previous installments. That being said, chances are that these minor hiccups won’t impact your game unduly. Skills are noted in allcaps, attribute checks are bolded and the like – the formatting deviates in several crucial ways from standard 5e conventions, so if that type of thing annoys you, it’s something to take into account.

Now, this module is unconventional in its structure, in that, much like the previous modules, it doesn’t really offer the traditional read-aloud text for new school modules or the like. Genre/structure-wise, this adventure is a sandboxy investigation that covers quite a few influential people. These NPCs are depicted with detailed background stories and characteristics and feel well-constructed and multi-faceted. The respective homes of these NPCs are fully mapped in detailed and high-quality maps – in the pdf, these are full color; in the print version, b/w. The maps by Justin Andrew mason are amazing and if you need a ton of mansion/upper-class mansions and stuff like that, then this may be worth getting for the maps alone.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? So, the PCs are contacted by Wyatt, a human agent of Talos – and he has unearthed troubling intelligence. The cult of Hastur, thwarted in the first adventure, has basically gone one step further: Wyatt is convinced that the cult is once more attempting to create a statue-vessel for Hastur, somewhere within Meavold. The consequences, obviously, would be dire, so it’s once more up to the PCs to thwart the machinations of the cult. Wyatt has thankfully started the investigation and limited the number of suspects : It obviously takes quite a lot of resources and clout to generate a larger statue of Hastur and keep the shrine/cult hidden – and this does limit the list of suspects in the massive city down.

Thankfully, the PCs still get a rather sizable list, and clever players will be able to already disqualify quite a lot of these beings. The encounters to do so and these easily disqualified NPCs are noted with names and occupations, but the module does not provide details regarding these. Some GM skill is required here to make these exclusions work. Alternatively, you can just handwave this away, but personally, I think that reducing this aspect of the module does take a bit away from the achievement of the module. The main meat of the module is devoted to the 5 primary suspects, all of whom feel alive in an interesting manner…and they all feel alive. The maps provided for their mansions and the like are super helpful. The fact that we get maps helps a lot to make them “qualify” as a potential villain: The players can’t just deduce the validity of the NPC being a villain by the presence or absence of detailed cartography. The details provided for the NPC-backgrounds also help regarding these fellows, and while we get ability scores noted for these NPCs, we don’t get detailed stats of sample hit points for them. As noncombatants, this is no issue, though. Associated NPCs are also noted, which further emphasizes the concept of a living, detailed cadre of NPCs.

Now, there are plenty of secrets to be unearthed regarding these NPCs – there are illicit affairs, for example, and there are folks trying to escape the bonds imposed by the prudish morals of Meavold’s upper class. One individual involved in an affair attempts to manipulate the partner to assassinate the spouse and hang for it, for example. A former smuggler gone legit has been goaded into a duel that he can’t win without help, and his thoroughly professional relationship with his unique live-in-chief can provide an interesting further angle. The fact that his manor has an observatory obviously makes him suspect. There also would be a brilliant businessperson, ages ahead of their time, who has a sham of a marriage and a long-term same-sex relationship…alas, their spouse has plans to get rid of them and end the charade, which may well result in rather disastrous consequences. A mighty dynasty of landowners has also been stretching their fingers towards the underworld, and a well-respected, reserved Royal Explorer complements this section.

The presence of the brain drinker also means that there is some rather dangerous aspect to the investigation – beyond the requirement to tread delicately when investigating the most powerful people of Meavold. Here, the adventure misses an obvious chance: The presence of the brain drinker could have allowed the GM to justify making any of these NPCs the culprit, but the adventure instead opts for a fixed culprit. While this does slightly decrease the replay value of the adventure, a GM halfway worth their salt will be able to modify this aspect thus. Still, as a reviewer, I think this could have made for a cool twist of the angle presented. Now, ultimately, the PCs will find the thankfully not-yet finished statue devoted to Hastur – and destroying it is simple enough, but in the aftermath, the Old One will have had enough – in a blast of unearthly light, the PCs will be spirited away to the final adventure’s locale – to the dread Carcosa Complex, but we’ll get to that in module #6.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the adventure could have provided more regarding NPC stats and the like. Formatting also deviates in multiple ways from 5e’s standard. Layout adheres to a two-column standard and the module sports quite a bunch of original nice b/w-artworks. The cartography is particularly impressive, and the impressive amount of maps makes for a great selling point for the adventure. The print version is a nice book that embraces its old-school aesthetic in a concise manner, and the full-color map of Meavold on the insides of the detachable wrap-around cover is nice.

L. Kevin Watson’s “Confronting Hastur” is, in a way, the logical progression of his sandboxy adventures. Where #2 was limited by locale and #3 was focused on depicting a general timeline, supplemented by set-pieces, this one is, as befitting an investigation, as wide-open as possible. You can’t run this spontaneously, and novice GMs may well feel overwhelmed here. This adventure basically provides an array of plot-lines and complications, red herrings and the like, and requires that you run the module as the PCs explore the possibilities. I at once love this, and am somewhat disenchanted by it: On the one hand, the sheer amount of cartography and eccentric NPCs work exceedingly well: They make sense, are intriguing and won’t make the solution readily apparent. On the other hand, I can see some GMs annoyed by this – you get these lavishly depicted places, mansions and castles, but anything that happens here needs to be structured by the GM. This is both a crucial bug and a huge feature for the adventure – what we have here, is essentially a set-up. What you do with it is up to you.

Now, unlike adventure #3 “The City of Talos”, you’re left without set-piece tidbits to splice into the module. All such concrete components herein need to be crafted by the GM. Now, on the plus-side, the complex NPCs and their detailed agendas and exciting characters do mean that these basically write themselves, but it’s still something to bear in mind. Whether you can handle this or not, and whether you consider this an issue, depends on your own priorities. If you’re looking for a ready-to-run adventure that doesn’t require work, then this may not be for you. If, on the other hand, you want a complex investigation with amazing maps, one that sports unique NPCs, if you enjoy the idea of having a complex, fully mapped investigation scenario at your hands, then this may well deliver what you’re looking for. If you’re willing to properly flesh out the components of the adventure, that is. Now, I do consider this module to be a really worthwhile experience, but similarly, I can see this not work half as well for some groups.

As a reviewer, this puts me in a rough spot – I could see this work really well, and I can see it not live up to what some folks might expect. That being said, if you are aware of the sketch-like set-up and would like to see a great investigation set-up, then is definitely worth getting! Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DNH4 - Confronting Hastur - 5th Edition
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Swords & Wizardry Continual Light
Publisher: Triumvirate Tavern Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/14/2018 03:29:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page SRD, 2 pages blank at the end of the pdf, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, first things first: What is this? Well, Swords & Wizardry Light is a super-brief twist on the classic Swords & Wizardry OSR-rules-set – and it’s available for free, so you can check it out without any hassle. All basic rules are presented in the file, and it really helps getting newbies into gaming – no need to read hundreds of pages of rules and the like. That being said, its use is contingent on an experienced gamer filling in the brevity-immanent holes, and it does not suffice to play a longer campaign. It is intended to provide easy access to gaming at, for example, conventions, but from a longer-term perspective, it is not stand-alone in the traditional manner. This is where this pdf comes into play: Based on Swords & Wizardry Light, this is a slightly expanded version – one that is still rules-lite by pretty much every definition of the word, but does feature all the components you’d really need to run the game without requiring background knowledge of a big book – in that way, it’s a take on the light version that is “continual.”

All right, so, how does Swords & Wizardry Continual Light (SWCL) work? Well, we have the 6 classic ability scores. You roll 3d6 for them, and stats of 15 or higher net you a +1 bonus, with the respective attributes noting to what the bonuses apply. Race-wise, dwarves, elves and halflings are covered. Dwarves and halflings may only become fighters and thieves, while elves also qualify as magic-users.

Now, as per the base system, AC values for both descending and ascending ACs are provided, something to bear in mind. In this review, I will opt for noting bonuses as ascending – if you read plus X, this means it’s a bonus, not a penalty. Dwarves get +4 to AC versus Large targets, +1 Find and Remove Traps and Open Lock, +1 to hit and damage versus orcs and goblins, and +4 to saves vs. magic and poison. Elves get +1 to hit versus orcs, goblins and undead, immunity to paralysis, +2 to saves vs. magic and +1 to Hide in Shadows and Move Silently. Halflings get +4 to AC versus large enemies, +2 to hit with ranged weapons and +1 to Open Locks, Pick Pockets, Hide in Shadows and Move Silently. Humans don’t get bonuses, but qualify for all classes.

Now, as far as classes go, the system knows 7 levels. Fighters begin play with 1+1 HD (might have made sense to spell briefly out what that means for novices) and a BHB (basic hit bonus) of +0, improving that by +1 at every level. Save begins at 16 and improved to 10 in a linear manner. The fighter gets a HD every level. True to old-school, fighters get one attack per level versus foes with 1 HD or less. They also have +1 to saves vs. death and poisons. All classes come with multiple gear sets to choose from.

Clerics gain 6 HD over their levels (4th level netting just +1) and their BHB improves from +0 to +3. They learn cleric spells of up to 3rd level. The cleric gets +2 to saves vs. death and poison, spells of up to 3rd level, has the traditional weaponry restrictions (blunt weaponry and slings) and comes with a turn undead table. There is no daily limit of uses for the cleric’s turning. Saves progress linearly every level, starting at 14 at 1st, improving to 8.

Magic-users get +2 to saves vs. magic, up to 4 HD (every even level nets just a +1); saves begin at 15 and improve in a linear manner, and the class only gets +1 BHB at 5th level, which improves to +2 at 7th; armor restrictions and weapon restrictions apply, and magic-users unlock spells of up to 4th level.

Thieves have the same save-progression as magic users, starting off with 15, but get up to 5 HD, with 3rd and 6th level just yielding +1s. BHB scales up to +3. Thieves may use any weapon, but are restricted to leather armor. Backstabbing foes nets +4 to hit and deals double damage. Thief skills are noted not in a percentile manner, and instead offer a X in d6 chance that increases by +1 at 3rd and 5th level, capping at a maximum 1-5 chance of success. This thankfully makes the 1st level thief moderately competent and not useless.

Levels are gained by completing adventures. Simple and easy. However, the book does offer a bit more: There’s a value in brackets here – it’s for so-called optional classes. These include monks, assassins, bards, druids, paladins, rangers, necromancers and swashbucklers. They are more powerful than the standard classes. Assassins and Swashbucklers in particular tend to be tougher the regular classes. Anyways, there are three optional rules I’d very much advocate following: Maximum hit points at 1st level, allowing humans to swap the lowest ability score with a 15 and one that treats 1st level clerics as having 0 1st level spells, granting a bonus spell for high Wisdom.

Beyond 7th level, PCs may accumulate perks by paying with credits – one credit is gained per adventure completed. These may be used to pay for more hit points, lowering saving throws, etc. Class-only options are also covered. These are solid. The pdf does include a series of weapons and ammunition is not tracked in SWCL. Damage ranged from 1d6 – to 1d6 +1. The game knows 5 types of armor and some adventuring gear is also included.

Combat is simple: You determine initiative: 1d6. Side that rolls higher goes first. There is a chance for a tie – “the sides are considered to be acting simultaneously. How does this work? No idea. Options for the game are simple: Moving, attacking, casting spells. Characters can attack and move or cast a spell and move. Characters within 10 ft. are considered to be in combat. Missile attacks into combat have an equal chance to hit enemies or allies in combat. Targets with 0 hp die, and a day of uninterrupted rest nets 1 hit point. Monsters save by subtracting their HD from 19. Base movement per round is assumed to be 90 ft. for the small races 120 ft. for humans and elves. Running doubles that. Spells are depicted in a minimalist bullet-point style, noting range and duration. Traps are categorized in 4 different lethality degrees, and the pdf contains an impressive array of critters from the classics, with special monster traits noted in the back. Mundane and magical treasure is also included.

We end with a handy glossary and half a page of advice to convert Swords & Wizardry to SWCL and vice versa. The pdf comes with a no-frills character sheet.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language and formal level. The pdf is easy to grasp, pick up and play – sequence of presentation makes sense. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column b/w-standard with a mixture of really nice and some less impressive b/w-pieces. Annoyingly, the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment when using this. Particularly rules-sets, even rules-lite ones, should allow for quick navigation.

Zach Glazar, James M. Spahn and Erik “Tenkar” Stiene’s take on Matt Finch’s original retroclone is a resounding success in what it attempts to do. This is traditional old-school gaming, with the classic attributes and everything, envisioned in a way that is as accessible as it’s bound to become. This is a fantastic way to get into gaming. Now, I do think that there are a few components here that could use a tad bit of streamlining. Death attacks should have a save, imho, and I’d limit swashbuckler armor choices. Similarly, the fact that there are ascending and descending AC values can be slightly confusing for newbies, and the +1 in the HD table should be explained. Apart from these nitpicks, many of which were born from tradition and the desire to remain faithful to the source material, this represents a resounding success for a more than fair price point. While not perfect, I consider this well worth checking out – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swords & Wizardry Continual Light
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Omnilibertas: The City of Freedom
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/14/2018 03:23:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The city of Omnilibertas (sometimes written as “OmniLibertas” or “OmniLiberatis” within, with no discernible reason for doing so – those two are just from the first column of text, mind you…) is the heart of the Republic of Unchained Helot, with the river Thadmuss neatly bisecting the city and acting as the central lifeblood of the place, bringing trade and new people to the place. The city, as its name implies, puts prime value of self-realization, fiercely celebrating individuality.

In a somewhat odd peculiarity regarding the prose, the quality is somewhat inconsistent and, in some paragraphs, becomes staccato-like. “The citizenry prepares for the Freedom games. The growing event brings people from all over the world within the borders of the city. The games change every four years. They are perhaps the only constant tradition with the city walls. That and the growing power of the prime minister.” Or: “The founding of OmniLiberatis was turbulent. Slaves seeking freedom found an old fortress. Tired, pursued, and scared. The hero Derrock Stockman led his people here.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t object to minimalist sentence structure, but the syntax is pretty repetitive and really hampers the reading flow in some instances.

This is particularly jarring, since it’s the only thing I can justifiably rate. Why? Well, while this is designated as a Pathfinder-product, it offers not even rudimentary information regarding the population, alignment or the like the city has. Its size is opaque and not defined – at all. We don’t get a settlement statblock. While there is a full-color map that would be nice, we get no player-friendly version, and colored overlays in various colors designate the different districts. However, we don’t know anything about how you become a citizen, the power brokers, etc. Even the system neutral versions of Village Backdrops released by Raging Swan Press offer infinitely more detail.

While citizenship seems to be something to aspire to, we get no idea how to actually gain this status, and this opaque nature really hampers, much to my chagrin, what would be an interesting place: Omnilibertas (or however this place is supposed to be called) notes unusual customs and laws that feature a rather libertine approach to morals and rules – and a direct opposition to the notion of ownership of other sentient beings can yield interesting consequences: Even children are not necessarily claimed as belonging to one couple, as that would imply ownership. The consequences and their development can make for compelling concepts to develop, particularly in a campaign setting, wherein morals are bound to be more conservative than in our world.

And indeed, with all the points of interest noted, the city offers quite a few intriguing places that makes it feel radically modern in many ways – even more modern than e.g. Andoran, and as such, there is a distinct feeling of a kind of Utopia to be found here, a notion only rarely explored in gaming. Interestingly, the points of interest do offer quite a few interesting glimpses into the city’s daily life. The issue, however, remains – while these tidbits are interesting, the city never really becomes alive, as its big frame, the stuff that is supposed to hold things together, that is supposed to contextualize this, simply is not there.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are bad – considering that this is very much a system neutral book sans rules-language and the like to screw up, it’s a bit appalling to note the numerous glitches and inconsistencies in these few pages. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that is aesthetically pleasing, and the pdf sports nice, original artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks. Annoyingly, you can’t copy text from the pdf. If you want to prepare excerpts for your players or just get rid of the ton of typos, you’ll need to copy the text by hand, typing it as you go. If you do, you’ll become even more cognizant of the bad editing and flaws in the flow of the prose. Cartography would be nice, but the color-shaded overlays mar what would have been an aesthetically-pleasing map. There is no player-friendly version provided.

Jarrett Sigler’s “Omnilibertas” is an exercise in frustration for me. I really love the idea of a utopian metropolis, and the idea underlying this is neat, but the execution is lackluster, and the absence of settlement stats can be excused for settlements in modules, but not for sourcebooks, no matter how brief they may be. This has to stand up to supplements like those by Raging Swan Press, and this woefully falls short of this level in every conceivable way. This does have a ton of potential, and with a picky editor, this, even in its current state, could have been a solid introduction to the metropolis. As written, it alas falls short of what it could have been, of what the idea deserved. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Omnilibertas: The City of Freedom
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The Culinary Magic Cookbook
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/13/2018 03:53:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 117 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page photography credits/KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page dedication, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 107 pages of content, so let’s take a look! There is one peculiarity you should be aware of: This book does not have the standard dimensions of RPG-books, instead sporting the somewhat landscape-like format that most of my cookbooks have – this makes it work pretty smoothly in the kitchen without adding chaos to the cooking book shelf. It also means that there is a surprising amount of content to be found within the pages of this book - more than the page-count would lead you to believe! My review is primarily based on the hardcover print version of the metric version.

Metric version? Well yeah – there are two different versions of this book, one for imperial measurements, and one for metric measurements. I really appreciate the latter, as I am a European and ounces, gallons, etc. mean nothing to me – I always have to do quick calculations. Same goes for degrees Fahrenheit. Distance measurements I can get behind, but temperature and weight? Compared to the metric system as based on multiples of 10/100/1000s, which make sense and are easy to implement, I just could never get into it. I guess if I had been born and raised in the US, that would have been different. Same goes for degrees Fahrenheit; degrees Celsius are elegant: 0°C? Water freezes. 100°C? Water boils. Simple, efficient, elegant. But I digress – that’s probably just the German in me speaking! What I’m trying to say here in my own convoluted way is this: It’s great to see a roleplaying game company take care of their international customers, allowing us all to choose freely! Grown up with/accustomed to the imperial system? You’re good! Same goes for those accustomed to the metric system.

There is another huge plus here: No matter which version you get in print, the pdf-component actually includes BOTH versions! So, if you’re for example an expat or just are interested in the alternate measurements, the book has you covered! You’ll have your print version with the preferred measurements and both measurement systems in pdf! This is particularly cool if your group contains folks accustomed to either system. Your book is in imperial measurement, but you wanted to lend it to your buddy accustomed to the metric system? No problem, you have the pdf! Many other publishers would have you buy both versions separately – so huge kudos to Flaming Crab Games for doing the right and customer-friendly thing there!

As you could glean from the above, this review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.

So, Culinary Magic was one of my biggest surprises to come out of the criminally underrated “Letters from the Flaming Crab”-series. Culinary magic is a form of everyman’s magic – it does not require taking a new class, it does not require an archetype or learning a complex system. The magic system is based on Craft (culinary), which acts as a catch-all skill for Craft (cooking) and Craft (baking), which is a sensible unification here. The buy-in, nominally, is the Culinary Magic feat, which nets you +2 to Craft (culinary) when preparing mundane meals. You know recipes equal to your skill rank and get new recipes upon gaining a new skill rank. Additionally, you can learn recipes from other cooks, books, etc. In order to learn such a recipe, you must succeed a Craft (culinary) check vs. the meal’s DC + 10. The first time you cook a meal, the price to create it is doubled. If your game is particularly high fantasy and high-powered, it should be noted that the system is robust enough to work with the feat (sans the +2 bonus) simply baked into (haha!) the character options available. Culinary magic will not break your game.

It should be noted that the cookbook does not contain precise temperatures for each dish, but does specify the suggested minimum temperatures provided by the FDA to cook meats – these temperatures are provided in both °F and °C, regardless of version you end up using.

Recipes note the name of the dish, the DC to Craft it, provide descriptions of the dish, ingredients, how many servings the recipe creates (important to determine affected targets and how many folks you can feed), prep & cooking time, costs (as noted in a general rating score, since prices vary from place to place – while “exotic” goods, eating out in really great restaurants, for example, are comparably cheap in the US, I was utterly flabbergasted how expensive fruit, vegetables etc. are! Then, we get the directions to create the dish, followed by the magical benefits the dish offers and the duration of these benefits.

Now, since PFRPG is a game where WBL and the like are important, the general ranking of the meals, we get gold prices for ingredients and servings noted, tables for rare ingredient prices by CR of the entity from which they hail, and the pdf even talks about which meals are available for characters with a Vow of Poverty. A super-handy index with DCs, costs, effects and durations noted is in the back of the book, listing all dishes first by category, and within the categories, alphabetically. From a usage perspective, this is as convenient as it can be. It should also be noted that numerical benefits, if any, often scale and improve depending on how well you did preparing the dish in question, providing increasing degrees of success and retaining the viability of the dishes throughout the levels.

You will already have realized the main draw here, right? Bingo – this is not simply a gaming supplement! These magical recipes? Well, we actually can make them ourselves! This book blends real life and gaming in the most delicious of ways, providing tangible benefits for…you know, making proper food for the gaming group! Not just eating super fatty fast food and chips. So yeah, if you have someone passionate about cooking in your group, this can be pretty amazing – obviously, magical effects will be in-game only, but yeah, love this.

While I have attempted to get a good overview of how these recipes fare in practice, there is one thing you need to know here: I suffer from a ton of allergies. I can’t eat nuts, apples and a ton of other things, and while I’m not lactose intolerant, my system doesn’t handle cheese or food with copious amounts of milk well, rendering me tired and unable to concentrate properly for days on end. Thus, my examples noted below will focus on foodstuff that doesn’t feature either of those. That being said, I’m a HUGE fan of proper BBQ (and you can’t get good BBQ, or proper Mexican food, for that matter, around here…) and a chili-head. Since a few of the dishes make use of hot sauce, allow me to provide my unsolicited advice:

So, regarding hot sauces, I heartily recommend, depending on your preferred level of heat, the very mild and tropical Blair’s Sweet Death for beginners; for pros, I’d definitely recommend Blair’s “Shot to Hell” and, if you can get your hands on them, any of the 4 limited edition Blair’s FF15, particularly the amazing FF15 Passion. If you’re living in or near Texas, my favorite hot sauce combination ever for meats is to mix the ghost pepper and habanero hot sauces by Black’s BBQ in Lockhart. I’m getting hungry just thinking of them… The combination, at least to my palate, is divine and transcends the sum of its parts. For chilies, I suggest sticking to habaneros or jalapenos (if you’re not that into spicy food) for most dishes; unless you’re really experienced and the dish complements the distinct flavor, I’d suggest being very careful with ghost peppers. As always: Super hot sauces and spices are no laughing matter, and no one should be tricked into eating these.

Not, to make that abundantly clear: Most of the dishes herein do not use hot spices or the like, so don’t be afraid there! The dwarven curry recipe uses ghost peppers, and since hot sauces are either optional or vary greatly in their heat levels, customization is very easy. The book also is relevant to the interests of vegetarians and vegans – there are quite a bunch of recipes that can be enjoyed even by folks that have elected to not consume meat, fish or animal-based products – and for the other dishes, the usual substitution tactics work rather well.

Now, similarly important would be the need to comment on the difficulty of the dishes presented within this book: Even the highest DC culinary magic dishes within these pages do not require special equipment. There is one single dish that probably works best with a deep fryer; other than that, any household kitchen should be able to handle these dishes. Similarly, you don’t have to be a chef to make the meals within this book – the dishes are on the simpler side of things, and the directions regarding prep time and how long it takes to make these end up on the conservative side: I managed to make quite a few of them in a fraction of the time noted, in one instance making a dish that was assumed to be 3 hours of work in half an hour. So yeah, this is, in a way, very much a beginner’s cookbook. None of the dishes within exceed 5 steps required for preparation, and sometimes one of these steps pertains the magical nature of them, and can thus be ignored IRL. Most dishes can be made in 3 simple steps, and the dishes and their recipes can fit comfortably on a single page.

There is another aspect here regarding the food chosen that is rather important: Most of these dishes do not require constant micromanaging. You can either prep them in advance, or prepare them pretty quickly during the smoking/get beer/etc. breaks, if any, at your table. This makes prepping quite a few of these dishes actually really friendly while sitting at the table.

Okay, that being said, this is not a dry reading experience, and there is one aspect that very much requires a degree of experimentation from prospective cooks. You see, this book is very consistent in its conceit of sporting magical recipes from another world, right? It should hence be no surprise that you can’t just shop for kaiju nigiri or cockatrice flesh in your local grocery store. Thus, for us real life persons, we’ll need to substitute a couple of mundane ingredients. This is relevant and of interest for, to note one example, mushrooms and the like – it is obvious that different folks will enjoy different mushrooms, so some experimentation is required here to customize your recipes in real life. That is not a flaw of the book, mind you, and if you’re a novice to cooking, don’t be dissuaded or stumped by it: A lot of my favorite dishes evolved via experimentation, and cooking is an art-form that thrives on creativity and customization, so if one aspect of the dish doesn’t match your tastes, change it! I know, sounds dumb, but as someone who is rather compulsive regarding adherence to formulae and the like, I wish someone had spelled that out for me when I started cooking.

Structure-wise, the book begins with a breakfast chapter, then moves on to soups and salads, entrées and sides and then provides recipes for beverages and sides as well as desserts and treats.

Anyways, now, from a game-design perspective, the recipes within have a tough challenge ahead of them: General accessibility means that they could easily negatively impact a setting’s internal balance. Beyond that, there is another thing to consider: As PFRPG is mechanically complex, just another set of numerical bonuses would, ultimately, not provide a particularly exciting incitement to dive into making these dishes, right? Well, the book handles this rather impressively: When applicable, bonuses are tightly codified regarding proper types, so that’s a formal plus. Indeed, the book is precise in its usage of the rules. If we, for example, partake in divine pecan pie, the consumer is shielded by a sanctuary-like effect, though the Will-save is 10 + ½ the cook’s Craft (culinary) skill bonus. Additionally, enemies attacking the consumer take 1d3 points of damage, half of which is fire damage, while the other stems directly from divine power. The pdf avoids falling into the trap of assuming holy damage exists in PFRPG – it doesn’t, but it’s still a thing that a ton of books get wrong, so kudos! If that sounds super powerful for eating a pie (the DC can become really high!), the effect has a duration AND ends when the consumer moves, ensuring that this meal, while useful, will not break your game.

Now, there are other examples for this subdued, but still very much relevant design-paradigm employed here. One of my favorites, the Dragonbane Soup, would be one such example: The ingredients of this vegetarian soup (you can easily make it vegan) are associated with the chromatic dragons, noting the significance of the ingredients and how they relate to the dragons in question. What does it do? It lasts for 3 hours, and the first time someone who has eaten it is targeted by a dragon’s breath weapon, they completely negate that damage! Now, usually I’m a big enemy of flat-out negation, but this makes sense to me: It’s limited by time and duration and can provide a last second save for PCs that may well spell the difference between success and death. Is your group going to battle the big bad dragon in this week’s game? With this book, you can make the food for the game and provide a tangible benefit for your PC buddies as well – and we all know that a properly-played dragon requires that you make use of all tools at your disposal…

Eating a clouded miso mushroom soup can extend your eyes-based sight modes (including the clouded vision oracle’s) by 10 ft. Partaking in Armanthore’s Manticore Chilli (usually eaten with manticore spine chopsticks, obviously!) makes you hit hybrid creatures harder. Oh, and YES, contrary to what one would expect, the rules do clarify in a concise manner what hybrid creatures are for the purpose of this effect. If you’ve eaten a Moonlight Croissant, you’ll get a bonus to saves to resist lycanthropy, and, as a cool aside…you can use them as THROWN WEAPONS versus lycanthropes! Death by croissant! That is frickin’ hilarious!

If these sound like dishes you may know already, what about indlovu omkuhulu phuthu pap, a putu pap recipe that can be preserved for a few days and provides a short burst of 10 minutes alchemical bonus of +2 to Strength. The white porridge made from ground corn and drenched with onions and tomato sauce makes for a surprisingly effective and fun side that can be tweaked and further customized easily – both IRL, and regarding the benefits it conveys in-game! Speaking of modification: Due to my own, previously noted dietary restrictions I couldn’t eat the default Kaldor’s Breakfast Eatzza, which is a breakfast pizza-ish dish, but the recipe did give me all the ideas I needed to make my own version, which turned out to be delicious. Flavorwise, this one alleviates homesickness and thus provides skill-bonuses that help you fit in.

Serving citrus posset can detect undead, as the liquid meal bubbles when undead are nearby – though consuming it does not convey this benefit. To give you an example regarding the impressive internal consistency of this game, this is justified by the sunlight stored in the citrus fruit used in its creation, which makes sense regarding the in-game logic. As a German, born and raised in Bavaria, I’m a horrible snob regarding pretzels, so I’m probably not the best guy to comment on the merits of the Fairy Ring pretzels – however, I can comment on Mushroom Flowers, which are one of my go-to low-cost dishes when finances are tight: They take me less than 20 minutes to make and are utterly delicious. For filling, my own recommendation for filling is a blend of chanterelles, king oyster mushrooms and smoked, diced bacon, plus any vegetables you fancy. The champignons take on the taste of the more costly mushrooms, the dish is super filling, and the king oyster mushrooms and their herby taste mean that you don’t even need much spices to make the dish amazing!

One of my favorite dishes was contributed by a backer – such dishes note their authors, and the dish would be mushroom and apricot stuffed pheasant, contributed by André Roy. Truly delicious, and interestingly, the effects complement each other: the pheasant itself helps you climb, making you lighter. The stuffing, on the other hand, helps decrease falling damage. The stuffing is btw. its own dish. And yes, the two do note what happens if you eat the whole deal, so yeah, kudos to editors and development for catching even such easily overlooked potentially confusing cases!

What about hot spaghetti that allows you to breathe fire a limited number of times? Or what about a fried, lotus-like onion that is so inspiring, it enhances Perform checks? Really fun: Regarding cocktails, wands of air bubble are noted as ingredients, obviously to add fizz to the drinks, soda-style. It’s little touches like this that make the book feel so concise. What about spider silk noodles? Twisted herb-infused bread? Whiskey Jelly Jar Ohs? There also are fairy cakes that allow for levitations, with the effects contingent of the consumer’s emotional state? The ability to craft fully statted gingerbread golems is cool, and while we’re on the subject manner – what about a gingerbread house trap? Chaos cupcakes have one of 8 different, randomized effects, depending on the flavor – this can make for a fun game that surprises both players and PCs alike! Now, if you do use these flavors yourself, you can thus simulate the PC surprise IRL! Love it.

And yes, since I haven’t noted that before: The book does codify how long it takes to eat, how much you need to eat, and who can benefit from culinary magic.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level: The book is exceedingly precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to a 1-column landscape-ish standard as you’d see in cookbooks, and aesthetics wise, the recipes look like they have been printed on paper, glued into the book, much like you’d expect from a DIY cookbook. From small splotches to alignment of these, the layout manages to provide a captivating and distinct visual identity. Instead of artworks, we get delicious, mouth-watering photographs of the meals. These look like food, mind you, not like the disgusting plastic-like food photography we often see in glossy papers. The pdf versions come fully bookmarked for your convenience, but particularly if you’re planning to use this to cook, you should get the hardcover/print – personally, I get antsy when taking my device into the kitchen, where hot plates, water, etc. await.

Designers Alex Shanks-Abel, J Gray (who also did the layout!), David S. McCrae, Angel “ARMR” Miranda, Kelly Pawlik, Rodney Sloan and Margherita Tramontano, alongside head chefs Luca Basset, Rhiannon Davis, Grimlaf, the High Family, Arvin “Kazefirst” K., Steven Kohn, Richard “Rysky” Lawson, Donavon McClung, Terrence “TERENTIUS” Micheau, Francois Michel, Tina Porter, Joshua and Brigitte Root, André Roy, Jacqueline Vanni Shanks, Solux, and Tenacious Zod, have created an amazing resource.

The Culinary Magic Cookbook is not only a design-wise tight and precise book – its use transcends gaming and the confines of the PFRPG system. Yes, I can convert this book easily to other systems, but that’s not the point – the recipes are easy to make, diverse and sport some real gems. Additionally, the book makes for a great gift for e.g. couples where only one of the two games – it’s, after all, useful beyond gaming. The recipes are really simple and fun to pull off, and yield tasty results. Add to that the fact that both metric and imperial systems are supported, add the surprising internal consistency that never breaks the magical cookbook conceit, and we have a little masterpiece. If you’re a bit of a foody like I am, if you want a change of pace from yet another pile of chips at your table, then check this out. The book is worth its asking price and showcases the passion of the authors. I adore this book and am extremely happy that it exists – it has provided delights beyond gaming, and is an admirable achievement – I hope there will be sequels at one point! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Culinary Magic Cookbook
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The Culinary Magic Cookbook (Metric)
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/13/2018 03:53:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 117 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page photography credits/KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page dedication, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 107 pages of content, so let’s take a look! There is one peculiarity you should be aware of: This book does not have the standard dimensions of RPG-books, instead sporting the somewhat landscape-like format that most of my cookbooks have – this makes it work pretty smoothly in the kitchen without adding chaos to the cooking book shelf. It also means that there is a surprising amount of content to be found within the pages of this book - more than the page-count would lead you to believe! My review is primarily based on the hardcover print version of the metric version.

Metric version? Well yeah – there are two different versions of this book, one for imperial measurements, and one for metric measurements. I really appreciate the latter, as I am a European and ounces, gallons, etc. mean nothing to me – I always have to do quick calculations. Same goes for degrees Fahrenheit. Distance measurements I can get behind, but temperature and weight? Compared to the metric system as based on multiples of 10/100/1000s, which make sense and are easy to implement, I just could never get into it. I guess if I had been born and raised in the US, that would have been different. Same goes for degrees Fahrenheit; degrees Celsius are elegant: 0°C? Water freezes. 100°C? Water boils. Simple, efficient, elegant. But I digress – that’s probably just the German in me speaking! What I’m trying to say here in my own convoluted way is this: It’s great to see a roleplaying game company take care of their international customers, allowing us all to choose freely! Grown up with/accustomed to the imperial system? You’re good! Same goes for those accustomed to the metric system.

There is another huge plus here: No matter which version you get in print, the pdf-component actually includes BOTH versions! So, if you’re for example an expat or just are interested in the alternate measurements, the book has you covered! You’ll have your print version with the preferred measurements and both measurement systems in pdf! This is particularly cool if your group contains folks accustomed to either system. Your book is in imperial measurement, but you wanted to lend it to your buddy accustomed to the metric system? No problem, you have the pdf! Many other publishers would have you buy both versions separately – so huge kudos to Flaming Crab Games for doing the right and customer-friendly thing there!

As you could glean from the above, this review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.

So, Culinary Magic was one of my biggest surprises to come out of the criminally underrated “Letters from the Flaming Crab”-series. Culinary magic is a form of everyman’s magic – it does not require taking a new class, it does not require an archetype or learning a complex system. The magic system is based on Craft (culinary), which acts as a catch-all skill for Craft (cooking) and Craft (baking), which is a sensible unification here. The buy-in, nominally, is the Culinary Magic feat, which nets you +2 to Craft (culinary) when preparing mundane meals. You know recipes equal to your skill rank and get new recipes upon gaining a new skill rank. Additionally, you can learn recipes from other cooks, books, etc. In order to learn such a recipe, you must succeed a Craft (culinary) check vs. the meal’s DC + 10. The first time you cook a meal, the price to create it is doubled. If your game is particularly high fantasy and high-powered, it should be noted that the system is robust enough to work with the feat (sans the +2 bonus) simply baked into (haha!) the character options available. Culinary magic will not break your game.

It should be noted that the cookbook does not contain precise temperatures for each dish, but does specify the suggested minimum temperatures provided by the FDA to cook meats – these temperatures are provided in both °F and °C, regardless of version you end up using.

Recipes note the name of the dish, the DC to Craft it, provide descriptions of the dish, ingredients, how many servings the recipe creates (important to determine affected targets and how many folks you can feed), prep & cooking time, costs (as noted in a general rating score, since prices vary from place to place – while “exotic” goods, eating out in really great restaurants, for example, are comparably cheap in the US, I was utterly flabbergasted how expensive fruit, vegetables etc. are! Then, we get the directions to create the dish, followed by the magical benefits the dish offers and the duration of these benefits.

Now, since PFRPG is a game where WBL and the like are important, the general ranking of the meals, we get gold prices for ingredients and servings noted, tables for rare ingredient prices by CR of the entity from which they hail, and the pdf even talks about which meals are available for characters with a Vow of Poverty. A super-handy index with DCs, costs, effects and durations noted is in the back of the book, listing all dishes first by category, and within the categories, alphabetically. From a usage perspective, this is as convenient as it can be. It should also be noted that numerical benefits, if any, often scale and improve depending on how well you did preparing the dish in question, providing increasing degrees of success and retaining the viability of the dishes throughout the levels.

You will already have realized the main draw here, right? Bingo – this is not simply a gaming supplement! These magical recipes? Well, we actually can make them ourselves! This book blends real life and gaming in the most delicious of ways, providing tangible benefits for…you know, making proper food for the gaming group! Not just eating super fatty fast food and chips. So yeah, if you have someone passionate about cooking in your group, this can be pretty amazing – obviously, magical effects will be in-game only, but yeah, love this.

While I have attempted to get a good overview of how these recipes fare in practice, there is one thing you need to know here: I suffer from a ton of allergies. I can’t eat nuts, apples and a ton of other things, and while I’m not lactose intolerant, my system doesn’t handle cheese or food with copious amounts of milk well, rendering me tired and unable to concentrate properly for days on end. Thus, my examples noted below will focus on foodstuff that doesn’t feature either of those. That being said, I’m a HUGE fan of proper BBQ (and you can’t get good BBQ, or proper Mexican food, for that matter, around here…) and a chili-head. Since a few of the dishes make use of hot sauce, allow me to provide my unsolicited advice:

So, regarding hot sauces, I heartily recommend, depending on your preferred level of heat, the very mild and tropical Blair’s Sweet Death for beginners; for pros, I’d definitely recommend Blair’s “Shot to Hell” and, if you can get your hands on them, any of the 4 limited edition Blair’s FF15, particularly the amazing FF15 Passion. If you’re living in or near Texas, my favorite hot sauce combination ever for meats is to mix the ghost pepper and habanero hot sauces by Black’s BBQ in Lockhart. I’m getting hungry just thinking of them… The combination, at least to my palate, is divine and transcends the sum of its parts. For chilies, I suggest sticking to habaneros or jalapenos (if you’re not that into spicy food) for most dishes; unless you’re really experienced and the dish complements the distinct flavor, I’d suggest being very careful with ghost peppers. As always: Super hot sauces and spices are no laughing matter, and no one should be tricked into eating these.

Not, to make that abundantly clear: Most of the dishes herein do not use hot spices or the like, so don’t be afraid there! The dwarven curry recipe uses ghost peppers, and since hot sauces are either optional or vary greatly in their heat levels, customization is very easy. The book also is relevant to the interests of vegetarians and vegans – there are quite a bunch of recipes that can be enjoyed even by folks that have elected to not consume meat, fish or animal-based products – and for the other dishes, the usual substitution tactics work rather well.

Now, similarly important would be the need to comment on the difficulty of the dishes presented within this book: Even the highest DC culinary magic dishes within these pages do not require special equipment. There is one single dish that probably works best with a deep fryer; other than that, any household kitchen should be able to handle these dishes. Similarly, you don’t have to be a chef to make the meals within this book – the dishes are on the simpler side of things, and the directions regarding prep time and how long it takes to make these end up on the conservative side: I managed to make quite a few of them in a fraction of the time noted, in one instance making a dish that was assumed to be 3 hours of work in half an hour. So yeah, this is, in a way, very much a beginner’s cookbook. None of the dishes within exceed 5 steps required for preparation, and sometimes one of these steps pertains the magical nature of them, and can thus be ignored IRL. Most dishes can be made in 3 simple steps, and the dishes and their recipes can fit comfortably on a single page.

There is another aspect here regarding the food chosen that is rather important: Most of these dishes do not require constant micromanaging. You can either prep them in advance, or prepare them pretty quickly during the smoking/get beer/etc. breaks, if any, at your table. This makes prepping quite a few of these dishes actually really friendly while sitting at the table.

Okay, that being said, this is not a dry reading experience, and there is one aspect that very much requires a degree of experimentation from prospective cooks. You see, this book is very consistent in its conceit of sporting magical recipes from another world, right? It should hence be no surprise that you can’t just shop for kaiju nigiri or cockatrice flesh in your local grocery store. Thus, for us real life persons, we’ll need to substitute a couple of mundane ingredients. This is relevant and of interest for, to note one example, mushrooms and the like – it is obvious that different folks will enjoy different mushrooms, so some experimentation is required here to customize your recipes in real life. That is not a flaw of the book, mind you, and if you’re a novice to cooking, don’t be dissuaded or stumped by it: A lot of my favorite dishes evolved via experimentation, and cooking is an art-form that thrives on creativity and customization, so if one aspect of the dish doesn’t match your tastes, change it! I know, sounds dumb, but as someone who is rather compulsive regarding adherence to formulae and the like, I wish someone had spelled that out for me when I started cooking.

Structure-wise, the book begins with a breakfast chapter, then moves on to soups and salads, entrées and sides and then provides recipes for beverages and sides as well as desserts and treats.

Anyways, now, from a game-design perspective, the recipes within have a tough challenge ahead of them: General accessibility means that they could easily negatively impact a setting’s internal balance. Beyond that, there is another thing to consider: As PFRPG is mechanically complex, just another set of numerical bonuses would, ultimately, not provide a particularly exciting incitement to dive into making these dishes, right? Well, the book handles this rather impressively: When applicable, bonuses are tightly codified regarding proper types, so that’s a formal plus. Indeed, the book is precise in its usage of the rules. If we, for example, partake in divine pecan pie, the consumer is shielded by a sanctuary-like effect, though the Will-save is 10 + ½ the cook’s Craft (culinary) skill bonus. Additionally, enemies attacking the consumer take 1d3 points of damage, half of which is fire damage, while the other stems directly from divine power. The pdf avoids falling into the trap of assuming holy damage exists in PFRPG – it doesn’t, but it’s still a thing that a ton of books get wrong, so kudos! If that sounds super powerful for eating a pie (the DC can become really high!), the effect has a duration AND ends when the consumer moves, ensuring that this meal, while useful, will not break your game.

Now, there are other examples for this subdued, but still very much relevant design-paradigm employed here. One of my favorites, the Dragonbane Soup, would be one such example: The ingredients of this vegetarian soup (you can easily make it vegan) are associated with the chromatic dragons, noting the significance of the ingredients and how they relate to the dragons in question. What does it do? It lasts for 3 hours, and the first time someone who has eaten it is targeted by a dragon’s breath weapon, they completely negate that damage! Now, usually I’m a big enemy of flat-out negation, but this makes sense to me: It’s limited by time and duration and can provide a last second save for PCs that may well spell the difference between success and death. Is your group going to battle the big bad dragon in this week’s game? With this book, you can make the food for the game and provide a tangible benefit for your PC buddies as well – and we all know that a properly-played dragon requires that you make use of all tools at your disposal…

Eating a clouded miso mushroom soup can extend your eyes-based sight modes (including the clouded vision oracle’s) by 10 ft. Partaking in Armanthore’s Manticore Chilli (usually eaten with manticore spine chopsticks, obviously!) makes you hit hybrid creatures harder. Oh, and YES, contrary to what one would expect, the rules do clarify in a concise manner what hybrid creatures are for the purpose of this effect. If you’ve eaten a Moonlight Croissant, you’ll get a bonus to saves to resist lycanthropy, and, as a cool aside…you can use them as THROWN WEAPONS versus lycanthropes! Death by croissant! That is frickin’ hilarious!

If these sound like dishes you may know already, what about indlovu omkuhulu phuthu pap, a putu pap recipe that can be preserved for a few days and provides a short burst of 10 minutes alchemical bonus of +2 to Strength. The white porridge made from ground corn and drenched with onions and tomato sauce makes for a surprisingly effective and fun side that can be tweaked and further customized easily – both IRL, and regarding the benefits it conveys in-game! Speaking of modification: Due to my own, previously noted dietary restrictions I couldn’t eat the default Kaldor’s Breakfast Eatzza, which is a breakfast pizza-ish dish, but the recipe did give me all the ideas I needed to make my own version, which turned out to be delicious. Flavorwise, this one alleviates homesickness and thus provides skill-bonuses that help you fit in.

Serving citrus posset can detect undead, as the liquid meal bubbles when undead are nearby – though consuming it does not convey this benefit. To give you an example regarding the impressive internal consistency of this game, this is justified by the sunlight stored in the citrus fruit used in its creation, which makes sense regarding the in-game logic. As a German, born and raised in Bavaria, I’m a horrible snob regarding pretzels, so I’m probably not the best guy to comment on the merits of the Fairy Ring pretzels – however, I can comment on Mushroom Flowers, which are one of my go-to low-cost dishes when finances are tight: They take me less than 20 minutes to make and are utterly delicious. For filling, my own recommendation for filling is a blend of chanterelles, king oyster mushrooms and smoked, diced bacon, plus any vegetables you fancy. The champignons take on the taste of the more costly mushrooms, the dish is super filling, and the king oyster mushrooms and their herby taste mean that you don’t even need much spices to make the dish amazing!

One of my favorite dishes was contributed by a backer – such dishes note their authors, and the dish would be mushroom and apricot stuffed pheasant, contributed by André Roy. Truly delicious, and interestingly, the effects complement each other: the pheasant itself helps you climb, making you lighter. The stuffing, on the other hand, helps decrease falling damage. The stuffing is btw. its own dish. And yes, the two do note what happens if you eat the whole deal, so yeah, kudos to editors and development for catching even such easily overlooked potentially confusing cases!

What about hot spaghetti that allows you to breathe fire a limited number of times? Or what about a fried, lotus-like onion that is so inspiring, it enhances Perform checks? Really fun: Regarding cocktails, wands of air bubble are noted as ingredients, obviously to add fizz to the drinks, soda-style. It’s little touches like this that make the book feel so concise. What about spider silk noodles? Twisted herb-infused bread? Whiskey Jelly Jar Ohs? There also are fairy cakes that allow for levitations, with the effects contingent of the consumer’s emotional state? The ability to craft fully statted gingerbread golems is cool, and while we’re on the subject manner – what about a gingerbread house trap? Chaos cupcakes have one of 8 different, randomized effects, depending on the flavor – this can make for a fun game that surprises both players and PCs alike! Now, if you do use these flavors yourself, you can thus simulate the PC surprise IRL! Love it.

And yes, since I haven’t noted that before: The book does codify how long it takes to eat, how much you need to eat, and who can benefit from culinary magic.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level: The book is exceedingly precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to a 1-column landscape-ish standard as you’d see in cookbooks, and aesthetics wise, the recipes look like they have been printed on paper, glued into the book, much like you’d expect from a DIY cookbook. From small splotches to alignment of these, the layout manages to provide a captivating and distinct visual identity. Instead of artworks, we get delicious, mouth-watering photographs of the meals. These look like food, mind you, not like the disgusting plastic-like food photography we often see in glossy papers. The pdf versions come fully bookmarked for your convenience, but particularly if you’re planning to use this to cook, you should get the hardcover/print – personally, I get antsy when taking my device into the kitchen, where hot plates, water, etc. await.

Designers Alex Shanks-Abel, J Gray (who also did the layout!), David S. McCrae, Angel “ARMR” Miranda, Kelly Pawlik, Rodney Sloan and Margherita Tramontano, alongside head chefs Luca Basset, Rhiannon Davis, Grimlaf, the High Family, Arvin “Kazefirst” K., Steven Kohn, Richard “Rysky” Lawson, Donavon McClung, Terrence “TERENTIUS” Micheau, Francois Michel, Tina Porter, Joshua and Brigitte Root, André Roy, Jacqueline Vanni Shanks, Solux, and Tenacious Zod, have created an amazing resource.

The Culinary Magic Cookbook is not only a design-wise tight and precise book – its use transcends gaming and the confines of the PFRPG system. Yes, I can convert this book easily to other systems, but that’s not the point – the recipes are easy to make, diverse and sport some real gems. Additionally, the book makes for a great gift for e.g. couples where only one of the two games – it’s, after all, useful beyond gaming. The recipes are really simple and fun to pull off, and yield tasty results. Add to that the fact that both metric and imperial systems are supported, add the surprising internal consistency that never breaks the magical cookbook conceit, and we have a little masterpiece. If you’re a bit of a foody like I am, if you want a change of pace from yet another pile of chips at your table, then check this out. The book is worth its asking price and showcases the passion of the authors. I adore this book and am extremely happy that it exists – it has provided delights beyond gaming, and is an admirable achievement – I hope there will be sequels at one point! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Culinary Magic Cookbook (Metric)
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Masters & Minions: Cult of the Mirrored King
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/13/2018 03:42:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Masters & Minions-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, this is a toolkit for a basically ready-to-play evil cult. As such, there will be some SPOILERS below. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All righty, only GMs around!

So, I can summarize this pdf in one sentence: This is Vidocq, the gaming supplement. If you haven’t seen the 2001 movie, then do so at your earliest convenience. I used its visuals and aesthetics with great fun in my Ravenloft game back in the day – it’s an inspired supernatural mystery movie with a pretty subdued magical angle that makes it perfect for low/rare magic or gritty games, though it works just as well in a high fantasy context. And yes, this would work perfectly in Fat Goblin Games’ Shadows over Vathak. As an aside: The title track was contributed by Apocalyptica featuring Matthias Sayer, the singer of Farmer Boys, an obscure German metal/rock band that is criminally underrated. The music video for Hope Vol.II, said track, made me get the movie, and it floored me as much as the excerpts from the video made me hope it would. It’s not a super high-budget blockbuster, but it’s still one of the movies I’d consider true, hidden cinematic gems.

Now, there are some differences between the movie and the supplement – instead of the singular “Alchemist” serial killer in the movie, we have a cult on our hands here – one that serves the eponymous Mirrored King, a mighty devil who specializes in deception and overthrowing authority – and interesting decision to represent the methodical approach here, as opposed to the chaos of demonic agendas we’d usually associate with overthrowing authorities. Now, while in the movie, the chemical component is represented by the title “The Alchemist”, it is here provided via the angle of a drug manufactured by the cult – Unachieved Dreams. This drug, obviously, helps capture the seedy, grimy aesthetics of the movies without having to use established drug-stats for, for example, opium, which do not fit the narrative requirements.

So, this magical drug nets 4 hours of sleep, uninterrupted, and imbibing it risks severe addiction with a nasty DC 24 Fort-save. At 1 gp, it is pretty inexpensive and nets +2 to Charisma checks (not properly capitalized) – here is the nasty twist: While the imbiber sleeps, they witness their greatest desires made manifest, but unbeknown to the imbibers, their souls are drawn to the Mirrored King’s palace in hell, where they actually experience these; upon reduction to Wisdom 0, the souls of the addicts are magic jar’d by the nasty entity, and their body, outsider-possessed in a way, may continue functioning. This has horror potential galore and can be really frightening when played right.

Now, such a drug operation obviously does require some muscle and cogs in the machine to work – this time around, this is represented by three CR ½ flunkies: A bruiser, a drugrunner, a catburglar, and we get a CR 4 cult initiate – all of these come with full statblocks using NPC classes. Beyond these generic NPC stats for the lower ranking cult members, we get stats for Borunda “Smasher”, the CR 4 barbarian muscle of the cult – alas, her statblock does have a few glitches – her raging version’s CMB and CMD, for example, are incorrect – they do not take in the boosts. Easy enough to fix, but kinda jarring. For more delicate tasks, there would be “Shorty” Mirrek Novos, a CR 4 halfling rogue, who takes care of accounting as well. This fellow’s stats do get CMD/CMB right, btw.

The star here, though, would be the Mirrored Man, the stand-in for the primary antagonist in the movie: The mirror mask-wearing mastermind of the cult: The Mirrored Man clocks in at CR 10 and is an interesting cleric 6/alchemist (mindchemist) 5. We get a background story here, and in an interesting twist, the stats here do come rather close to the tricks the character can pull off in the movie. Speaking of which: The mask is represented here as a mighty, unique magic item, the mirrored mask, which allows for excellent redirection of divinations, and enhances Disguises – the hands of an evil vigilante, this one could become even worse… As a minor missed chance, it would have been nice to see the movies’ soul-glass angle represented here as well.

The supplement does not stop here, though: We get a summary of the current goals of the Mirrored Man, with the plots woven by these smart and dangerous foes and their considerable ambitions noted. Beyond these angles, the pdf also depicts the Tavern of Achieved Dreams, the headquarter of the cult – and guess what: We get a surprisingly nice, full-color map of its two floors, with squares noted. Getting a full-color lair map, particularly one you can use just as a handout, makes for a great additional option here, and ends the pdf on a high note for me!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – I noticed a few minor snafus, though nothing that wrecks the supplement. Layout adheres to a fitting and flavorful two-column full-color standard with blood splotches etc. – this is an aesthetically-pleasing pdf, and we get quite a few nice full-color artworks I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kim Frandsen’s tribute to Vidocq is a truly fun little pdf – but I have a hard time rating it. You see, I’m a pretty rabid fanboy of the movie, and its one of the very few movies I watched more than once. On one hand, I do think the lore does have more potential than what we get in here; on the other hand, I really enjoy the twists that have been made regarding the concepts the movie provides.

Let me make that very clear: This is a riff on the subject matter, and a good one at that.

Now, personally, I’d be making the mirrored master of the cult a gestalted mythic alchemist/skinchanger (Legendary Games’ excellent hybrid class), but one can’t conceivably expect the like from a supplement intended for mass consumption. While it has a few rough edges, the pdf delivers on what it promises, and it could have easily really botched the pretty demanding subject matter. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeit



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Masters & Minions: Cult of the Mirrored King
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Execution Corner
Publisher: GM Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/13/2018 03:38:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

This is essentially system neutral, sporting no rules-relevant components, but the supplement obviously works bets in quasi-medieval settings.

Now, if you’re even halfway familiar with the history of the penal system, you will know that, at one point, we realized that basing a penal system solely on corporeal punishment, instead of focusing on reeducation and rehabilitation, would in the long run hurt society. I’m not going to bore you with a summary of Foucault’s Surveiller et Punir (Discipline and Punish), as pretty much every freshman gets to at least read a summary at one point; just let it be known that executions and corporeal punishment were routed in parts in the Christian notion of the world being a valley of tears to cross for a better afterlife – a notion we have thankfully, mostly, managed to at least lessen, courtesy of the wonderful advances of modern life.

However, in fantasy gaming, this notion does indeed ring true – because it kinda is. Particularly if your world is pretty grim and down to earth, the medieval notion of life being short, painful and something to be endured while people die like flies makes sense. That being said, beyond the spectacle of execution, the executioner himself, much like butchers and those working on leather, traditionally were rather shunned. When, after a lifetime of diligent service, Nuremberg’s Meister Franz Schmidt managed to gain citizenship rights in the city, that was a truly impressive achievement. As an aside, I have read his journals (he taught himself to write), which are still available for insight in Bavaria, and they are worth reading. For the less academically-bent, I can wholeheartedly recommend “The Faithful Executioner” by Joel F. Harrington for insight into the profession and this fascinating character, but I digress.

Unlike cities, most communities and villages had no resident executioners, often requiring that these folk travel through the rather unsafe roads from place to place, or sporting singular hangman’s cottages between the settlements, so that no settlement would have to necessarily count the hangman as one of its denizens. This pdf depicts one such rural set-up, with a hand-drawn full-color map (sans squares or other indicators of scale) depicting the execution site, the home of the executioner, as well as the little industry that sprang up around it: We learn about a baker selling bread on execution days, about an enterprising gentleman selling the ostensibly magical hair of the hanged, and about a tavern that has sprang up to cater to the folks that come to gawk. The nearby fields of the corrupt are where the executed are then buried in unmarked graves. Nearby creeks and woods are also explained, and 5 miscellaneous assorted facts provide further food for thought for the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal level. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard and manages to cram quite a lot of content on the one page. The map provided is nice, and while it does sport names for the depicted locales, no immersion-breaking numbers are provided. Big plus! The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Tim Shorts is up to his A-game here. This humble pdf is fun, evocative and cool. While I really wished that Tim Shorts had spent a full-sized book on the subject matter and its vast, mostly untapped potential, this pdf provided a fun supplement. It’s not a pdf that will change your life, but it does its intended job well – as a PWYW-pdf, this is certainly worth leaving a tip! My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Execution Corner
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