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Raisa’s Auction Most Wondrous (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2021 07:27:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

And no, that was no typo; an eventure is essentially an adventure-like set-piece that does not focus on combat, and instead emphasizes actual roleplaying. This one is intended for low to mid-level characters, with lower levels imho working a bit better.

Okay, so, this one deals with something you almost ever see in RPGs, and when one does, it’s usually executed badly: The auction. At this point, I’ve encountered that set-up less than 5 times in my reviewing career, and most of the time, these auctions only served as a cutscene-heavy backdrop without much actual player-choice involved. So, how does this supplement handle things?

Well, for one, there is great news right off the bat: The book actually comes with a fully player-friendly, detailed b/w map, and we’re speaking 4 floors + cellar. AWESOME. If you’re like me a great fan of the city of Languard and its associated Languard Locations-series, you’ll be happy to hear that Raisa’s is indeed situated in that city, though, for everyone else, it should be noted that it’s a 0-effort-required job to plug the auction house into pretty much any other fantasy city. Additionally, the pdf does suggest some handy dressing files from the #20-Things-series that you can employ to further enhance the experience, if you need some additional dressing. Indeed, one advantage this one certain has over previous installments in the series would be the utility of the art-assets: We, for example, get a massive 1-page artwork of the eponymous Raisa, and the pdf actually does come with a one-page handout-flyer. AWESOME. This is how art budget should be used; so the players actually get to see it. Big kudos!

The supplement begins with a brief run-down of the notable NPCs working at Raisa’s—fluff only, as usual for Raging Swan Press; and as usual for the 5e-versions, we do get references to the standard NPCs, for all but one of the NPCs. This automatically renders running the auction easier. Why? Because you can have those Deception vs. Insight rolls, that Intimidation roll versus a NPC-bidder to step down. This makes gamifying the auction easier in the 5e-version than in all other iterations. (The one NPC sans reference statblock would have warranted values, though…) 3 hooks and 12 whispers and rumors are provided as means to lead into the eventure, and as usual for Raging Swan Press supplements, we also get this nifty list of minor events (12 rather detailed ones this time, taking up ½ of a page) that help an environment feel alive.

Now, design-wise, an auction represents an interesting conundrum: If you do plot out the auction in detail, you are essentially teeter-tottering around the risk of it devolving into a railroad, an extended cutscene, where the GM has to depict multiple NPCs, the party interacts with that, and everything becomes confusing or bereft of player agenda. This pdf does things in a smarter and more playable manner that sacrifices being something you can spontaneously pull off in favor of the auction actually mattering, an excellent decision as far as I’m concerned.

Beyond the aforementioned set-up regarding hooks, events, etc., the supplement handles its auction by giving the GM fluff-centric brief notes on NPCs (3 of which get a slightly more detailed take, including a paragraph of read-aloud text), and then presenting 8 curios that may or may not have actual rules-use…these can be items for the auction, sure. But the main star? That would be the 5 lots included. These are specific treasures, including a read-aloud description. They have main powers (usually core/standard magic items) and additional powers that can be useful/elaborated upon, if desired.

The section “Provenance” provides a story-context for the item, and with reserve price and notes on bidding and further development, the lots do a surprisingly good job at contextualizing items that would usually be considered to be less than interesting. How good a job? Well, there is the Ever-True Blade (in a formatting glitch, the “ever” isn’t properly set in italics), which is actually just a +1 weapon with a light effect; and yet, its story context and brief notes did make me actually interesting in an item that couldn’t be duller on a mechanics level if it tried. But the nice thing here is: The pdf seems to be cognizant of the limited direct allure of the items for some GMs and provides design notes for the items, providing some guidance for the GM, for example when it comes to Agananxer’s Wondrous Rod. Will I make the items more unique? You bet I will! Am I going to change the set-up/context? No need.

This is a clever way of handling an auction; sure, it requires a bit more GM mojo and prep-work than the previous eventures, but it certainly has its priorities straight and execution down. The prices of the items have been adjusted accordingly, and actually tends to gravitate to the lower end.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious glitches apart from very minor things like the aforementioned instance of italics partially missing. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artworks deserve special applause: I am a big fan of properly used art-budgets, and getting two handouts and a player-friendly, amazing b/w-map in such a small pdf? That’s fantastic indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for screen-use, and one intended for people like yours truly, who prefer to print out their pdfs.

Creighton Broadhurst’s take on roleplaying-centric auctions is precise, executed in a clever manner that prioritizes the right things, and as a whole, represents a supplement I really, really like. And in the 5e-version? That enhanced playability aspect, more or less coincidentally granted by the referenced default statblocks? It adds tremendously to the experience of running this fellow. And one NPC where one has to (perhaps) improvise a skill/ability score value? Not enough to penalize this supplement. In direct comparison, this is the strongest iteration, and gets 5 stars + seal of approval. Certainly, a pdf worth the low asking price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Raisa’s Auction Most Wondrous (5e)
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Raisa’s Auction Most Wondrous (OSR/SN)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2021 07:25:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

And no, that was no typo; an eventure is essentially an adventure-like set-piece that does not focus on combat, and instead emphasizes actual roleplaying. This one is intended for low to mid-level characters, with lower levels imho working a bit better.

Okay, so, this one deals with something you almost ever see in RPGs, and when one does, it’s usually executed badly: The auction. At this point, I’ve encountered that set-up less than 5 times in my reviewing career, and most of the time, these auctions only served as a cutscene-heavy backdrop without much actual player-choice involved. So, how does this supplement handle things?

Well, for one, there is great news right off the bat: The book actually comes with a fully player-friendly, detailed b/w map, and we’re speaking 4 floors + cellar. AWESOME. If you’re like me a great fan of the city of Languard and its associated Languard Locations-series, you’ll be happy to hear that Raisa’s is indeed situated in that city, though, for everyone else, it should be noted that it’s a 0-effort-required job to plug the auction house into pretty much any other fantasy city. Additionally, the pdf does suggest some handy dressing files from the #20-Things-series that you can employ to further enhance the experience, if you need some additional dressing.

Indeed, one advantage this one certain has over previous installments in the series would be the utility of the art-assets: We, for example, get a massive 1-page artwork of the eponymous Raisa, and the pdf actually does come with a one-page handout-flyer. AWESOME. This is how art budget should be used; so the players actually get to see it. Big kudos!

The supplement begins with a brief run-down of the notable NPCs working at Raisa’s—fluff only, as usual for Raging Swan Press. In a minor inconsistency, we do reference NPCs as thieves, but also as wizards; this does not influence the verdict, I just mention it for the purists among my readers who prefer magic-users as the term for these system neutral versions. 3 hooks and 12 whispers and rumors are provided as means to lead into the eventure, and as usual for Raging Swan Press supplements, we also get this nifty list of minor events (12 rather detailed ones this time, taking up ½ of a page) that help an environment feel alive.

Now, design-wise, an auction represents an interesting conundrum: If you do plot out the auction in detail, you are essentially teeter-tottering around the risk of it devolving into a railroad, an extended cutscene, where the GM has to depict multiple NPCs, the party interacts with that, and everything becomes confusing or bereft of player agenda. This pdf does things in a smarter and more playable manner that sacrifices being something you can spontaneously pull off in favor of the auction actually mattering, an excellent decision as far as I’m concerned.

Beyond the aforementioned set-up regarding hooks, events, etc., the supplement handles its auction by giving the GM fluff-centric brief notes on NPCs (3 of which get a slightly more detailed take, including a paragraph of read-aloud text), and then presenting 8 curios that may or may not have actual rules-use…these can be items for the auction, sure. But the main star? That would be the 5 lots included. These are specific treasures, including a read-aloud description. They have main powers (usually core/standard magic items) and additional powers that can be useful/elaborated upon, if desired.

The section “Provenance” provides a story-context for the item, and with reserve price and notes on bidding and further development, the lots do a surprisingly good job at contextualizing items that would usually be considered to be less than interesting. How good a job? Well, there is the Ever-True Blade (in a formatting glitch, the “ever” isn’t properly set in italics), which is actually just a +1 weapon with a light effect; and yet, its story context and brief notes did make me actually interesting in an item that couldn’t be duller on a mechanics level if it tried. But the nice thing here is: The pdf seems to be cognizant of the limited direct allure of the items for some GMs and provides design notes for the items, providing some guidance for the GM, for example when it comes to Agananxer’s Wondrous Rod. Will I make the items more unique? You bet I will! Am I going to change the set-up/context? No need.

This is a clever way of handling an auction; sure, it requires a bit more GM mojo and prep-work than the previous eventures, but it certainly has its priorities straight and execution down. So, all great? Now, personally, I’d have preferred no actual rules be given for the system neutral version, instead focusing more on flavor or delivering more narrative abilities, but that may be me. The price for which the items are sold also strike me as low for an old-school game.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious glitches apart from very minor things like the aforementioned instance of italics partially missing. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artworks deserve special applause: I am a big fan of properly used art-budgets, and getting two handouts and a player-friendly, amazing b/w-map in such a small pdf? That’s fantastic indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for screen-use, and one intended for people like yours truly, who prefer to print out their pdfs.

Creighton Broadhurst’s take on roleplaying-centric auctions is precise, executed in a clever manner that prioritizes the right things, and as a whole, represents a supplement I really, really like. I don’t love it, though; as noted above, having a more narrative approach over the none-too-interesting suggested base items would have been appreciated for this version.

As presented, this is a well-wrought supplement that almost attains excellence; hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, but I can’t bring myself to round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Raisa’s Auction Most Wondrous (OSR/SN)
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Raisa’s Auction Most Wondrous
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2021 07:23:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

And no, that was no typo; an eventure is essentially an adventure-like set-piece that does not focus on combat, and instead emphasizes actual roleplaying. This one is intended for low to mid-level characters, with lower levels imho working a bit better.

Okay, so, this one deals with something you almost ever see in RPGs, and when one does, it’s usually executed badly: The auction. At this point, I’ve encountered that set-up less than 5 times in my reviewing career, and most of the time, these auctions only served as a cutscene-heavy backdrop without much actual player-choice involved. So, how does this supplement handle things?

Well, for one, there is great news right off the bat: The book actually comes with a fully player-friendly, detailed b/w map, and we’re speaking 4 floors + cellar. AWESOME. If you’re like me a great fan of the city of Languard and its associated Languard Locations-series, you’ll be happy to hear that Raisa’s is indeed situated in that city, though, for everyone else, it should be noted that it’s a 0-effort-required job to plug the auction house into pretty much any other fantasy city. Additionally, the pdf does suggest some handy dressing files from the #20-Things-series that you can employ to further enhance the experience, if you need some additional dressing. Indeed, one advantage this one certain has over previous installments in the series would be the utility of the art-assets: We, for example, get a massive 1-page artwork of the eponymous Raisa, and the pdf actually does come with a one-page handout-flyer. AWESOME. This is how art budget should be used; so the players actually get to see it. Big kudos!

The supplement begins with a brief run-down of the notable NPCs working at Raisa’s—fluff only, as usual for Raging Swan Press. 3 hooks and 12 whispers and rumors are provided as means to lead into the eventure, and as usual for Raging Swan Press supplements, we also get this nifty list of minor events (12 rather detailed ones this time, taking up ½ of a page) that help an environment feel alive.

Now, design-wise, an auction represents an interesting conundrum: If you do plot out the auction in detail, you are essentially teeter-tottering around the risk of it devolving into a railroad, an extended cutscene, where the GM has to depict multiple NPCs, the party interacts with that, and everything becomes confusing or bereft of player agenda. This pdf does things in a smarter and more playable manner that sacrifices being something you can spontaneously pull off in favor of the auction actually mattering, an excellent decision as far as I’m concerned.

Beyond the aforementioned set-up regarding hooks, events, etc., the supplement handles its auction by giving the GM fluff-centric brief notes on NPCs (3 of which get a slightly more detailed take, including a paragraph of read-aloud text), and then presenting 8 curios that may or may not have actual rules-use…these can be items for the auction, sure. But the main star? That would be the 5 lots included. These are specific treasures, including a read-aloud description. They have main powers (usually core/standard magic items) and additional powers that can be useful/elaborated upon, if desired.

The section “Provenance” provides a story-context for the item, and with reserve price and notes on bidding and further development, the lots do a surprisingly good job at contextualizing items that would usually be considered to be less than interesting. How good a job? Well, there is the Ever-True Blade (in a formatting glitch, the “ever” isn’t properly set in italics), which is actually just a +1 weapon with a light effect; and yet, its story context and brief notes did make me actually interesting in an item that couldn’t be duller on a mechanics level if it tried. But the nice thing here is: The pdf seems to be cognizant of the limited direct allure of the items for some GMs and provides design notes for the items, providing some guidance for the GM, for example when it comes to Agananxer’s Wondrous Rod. Will I make the items more unique? You bet I will! Am I going to change the set-up/context? No need.

This is a clever way of handling an auction; sure, it requires a bit more GM mojo and prep-work than the previous eventures, but it certainly has its priorities straight and execution down. So, all great? Well, ideally, the base items would have been more interesting as far as I’m concerned. Furthermore, know what would have really rocked for the PFRPG-version? Ultimate Intrigue social combat support. Unrealistic for such a small pdf, I know, but it’d have elevated this.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious glitches apart from very minor things like the aforementioned instance of italics partially missing. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artworks deserve special applause: I am a big fan of properly used art-budgets, and getting two handouts and a player-friendly, amazing b/w-map in such a small pdf? That’s fantastic indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for screen-use, and one intended for people like yours truly, who prefer to print out their pdfs.

Creighton Broadhurst’s take on roleplaying-centric auctions is precise, executed in a clever manner that prioritizes the right things, and as a whole, represents a supplement I really, really like. I don’t love it, though; As noted, I did not expect to see Ultimate Intrigue support herein, though it would have been amazing; however, it wouldn’t have been hard to add in Sense Motive, Bluff and Diplomacy values for different bidders, nor would it have been difficult to make the items a tad bit more creative. You know, influencing bidding? That’d have been the icing on the cake.

As presented, this is a well-wrought supplement that almost attains excellence; hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, but I can’t bring myself to round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Raisa’s Auction Most Wondrous
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Creatures of Shadows over Vathak (5th Edition) Mudwake Boar
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2021 06:06:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page for the new critter, 1 page for editorial/SRD/etc., so let’s take a look!

My coverage of this series was requested by my supporters.

Note: This is imho a boss critter for a horror setting; at challenge 4, this fellow is a tough cookie for the challenge, but that’s how I like it, and its stats do allow clever players to deal with it.

Okay, so, the mudwake boar is actually more interesting than one would expect—and more scary. For one, the creature type is actually “elemental” and the Large boar thus has abilities associated with earth, such as the option to glide through earth and create an aura of mud; coupled with its Aimless Fury (tactical combat/opportunity attacks against this fellow are risky) and the expected Charge, the critter actually does a good job blending themes of a boar and an elemental. The math of the critter is 100% correct, and apart from Multiattack erroneously referring to a gore attack, when that should be tusk, there is nothing to complain about.

As an aside: As somebody who managed to scramble up a tree as a kid when attacked by a wild boar, this thing struck a chord with me. The critter feels “boar-like”, and yet weird; it has this “angry nature spirit” touch, and the combination works well.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, very good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the critter-artwork by Rick Hershey is nice, but I’d have enjoyed the elemental theme being more pronounced in it. A layer of the like would have really made this shine. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Ismael Alvarez’ mudwake boar is a fun critter; it’s a suitable brute for its challenge, and its theme of stupid ferocity is executed well. It didn’t blow me utterly away, but it certainly is worth the low asking price. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creatures of Shadows over Vathak (5th Edition) Mudwake Boar
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Creatures of Shadows over Vathak (5th Edition) Abyssal Elk
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2021 06:04:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page for the new critter, 1 page for editorial/SRD/etc., so let’s take a look!

My coverage of this series was requested by my supporters.

The abyssal elk is a boss-style critter for a horror setting, and comes with a pretty hefty hit point tally for its challenge of 5. It has an animal-like focus, gaining double proficiency bonus on its 3 skills; the creature has a frightening aura (thankfully with a brief frame where you’re not affected: On a successful save, you can’t be affected by it for 1 minute) that also can cause short term madness if you bungle the save particularly badly. Abyssal elks have an array of innate spellcasting abilities, with the DC listed, but not the spell atk value, and it should be listed, since the critter has innate spellcasting that requires attack rolls. The passive creature features are missing the italics in the feature names, but are otherwise correctly formatted. Speaking of missing italics: The Melee Weapon Attack and Hit sections in the attack sequence are missing their italics, but the damage value is correct. Weird: The one attack of the creature seems to calculate its attack bonus with Dexterity, but the damage inflicted with Strength; either that, or, more likely, it’s off by 1. Why is that more likely? The DCs for the abyssal elk’s aura are off by 1, considering its proficiency bonus and most sensible ability score to calculate it. 1/day, these creatures can swallow life-force, dealing necrotic damage to all targets of their choice within 30 ft., healing as much damage – nasty surprise incoming.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but on a rules language level, the italics are missing from some features and parts of the attack sequence. As noted, I’m pretty sure that tehre’s a glitch in atk and DCs. There may be a hiccup in the math, but it might also be a weird (and nonsensical) design-decision. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the critter-artwork by Rick Hershey is really cool and has a Darkwood-vibe I very much enjoy. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Ismael Alvarez’ abyssal elk is a bit of a lost chance, as far as I’m concerned. The creature has an amazing artwork, a cool concept…and doesn’t do that much with it. It’s a nasty boss, yes, and its 1/day screw-you-feature made me chuckle, as it lets the GM go for phase two without necessarily being TPK-evil…but it’d have been nice to get some lair actions or additional, unique tricks. The execution of this critter does not live up to its potential. For the low asking price, it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a brute-style boss with a nasty surprise. My final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the low price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Creatures of Shadows over Vathak (5th Edition) Abyssal Elk
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Star Log.Deluxe: Legacy Species Reforged
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2021 13:51:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth pdf in the Species Reforged sub-series of Star Log.Deluxe clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

In case you’re new to these pdfs: The series essentially focuses on rewriting a whole host of playable species in a manner that emphasizes player agenda and lets you customize the experience to a higher degree than usual. This design paradigm is very much indebted to how Pathfinder’s 2nd edition deals with species/ancestries, and is also a design-paradigm that I could see in Everybody Games’ upcoming and highly anticipated RPG Eversaga. (Seriously, Eversaga is right now my most anticipated game!)

It's been a while since we covered one of these pdfs, so to recap: Write down all 6 ability scores and put 10 next to them. You get an ability boost, which you assign and can’t reassign without a mnemonic editor or the like and add 2 points to the ability score for the boost. You can also choose a flaw, which means you need to subtract 2 ability points from a chosen ability—if you do that, you get another boost, and you may not apply a boost and a flaw to the same ability score. A species’ vital traits entry lists the ability scores you can boost, but flaws remain yours to freely choose, at least usually. Then, you apply the theme’s ability score increase, and after that, you get 10 point to customize your character on a 1-for-1 basis. You can spend these however you want, but at the game’s start, ability scores cap at 18. Points must be spent and can’t be saved for later. Simple, right? So, how does the engine proceed to work? Well, each species gets its vital statistics, which note the eligible scores for ability score boosts (and flaws, if relevant), the Hit Points, sizes, speed, sense traits (designated with the word “sense”), inherent abilities (designated as “inherent”), heritages (which may be specific or universal), and the character chooses two species traits, chosen from the character’s species or the “universal” list. The character gets an additional species trait at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Minor nitpick: The “universal” list is not actually in this pdf, but the explanation of the engine does refer to it with 2 “see page $$”-references; while this is nota deal-breaker, considering that the engine actually gets better the more of these pdfs you have, it still was worth mentioning. Okay, so what playable species are covered? The first would actually be the dragonkin, which get their boost to Strength, 6 HP, and are Large. They can get a second boost for a “flay” (should be flaw) to Dexterity. They only have a 5-ft. reach and get a 30 ft-fly speed with average maneuverability, and until 5th level, they need to end their movement on ground, or fall—nice way to retain the function of low-level modules. Less nice: The dragonkin fails to specify whether their fly speed is extraordinary or supernatural; I assume the former, but this must still be considered to by a glitch. Dragonkin get darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision, immunity to sleep effects and a+2 racial bonus to saves vs. paralysis. The dragonkin chooses one heritage and one dragon graft at first level. The species gets two heritages to choose from: Compact dragonkin helps with size and nets you compression (nice!), while terrestrial dragonkin get a 10 ft. reach. Both of these provide meaningful, but situational benefits to the playing experience. The traits include blindsense (vibration), natural weapons (including a caveat that determined damage type), partner bond and the two traits that really interact with the graft thingy: One would be breath weapon, and the other lets you scavenge the chosen dragon graft’s abilities, including Resolve-powered auras, etc. This one precisely codifies e.g. resistances and immunities and balances them against the level; particularly for the more outlandish dragon abilities, this is one impressive design-achievement.

Dwarves assign their boost to Strength, Constitution, Intelligence or Wisdom, and can get a second boost by accepting a flaw to Dexterity; they have 6 HP and a base speed of 20 ft. that is not modified by encumbrance or heavy armor, and they get darkvision. There are three heritages: One reduces HP to 2, but nets you Skill Focus or Skill Synergy, and an additional skill rank at 1st level and every level thereafter. Duergar get see through darkness, extending to magical darkness, and the third heritage nets the classic +2 racial saving throw bonus vs. poison, spells and SPs. The traits include +2 to AC vs. AoOs and reactions/readied actions triggered by spellcasting; artisan lets you determine a type of goods and then nets you a +2 racial bonus to two skills determined by the type of equipment chosen. Master crafter lets you craft faster: When your ranks exceeds item level by some thresholds, you become even faster.

Opposite reaction lets you choose a combat maneuver, increasing your KAC against it, and when an opponent fails at it, you can attempt to counter with reposition or trip. Stonecunning is included (the bonus type should probably be “racial” and not untyped), and your combat training can matter: You can either get an offensive +1 atk bonus or a defensive one…that nets you a +4 racial bonus to attack rolls? Pretty sure that this is a cut-copy-paste glitch, and that this should be a “+4 racial bonus to KAC against attacks rolls of the creatures with the chosen type graft or subtype grafts.” On the plus-side, I like that the ability applies either to one type, or two humanoid subtypes. Another one nets you a +2 racial bonus to Engineering, Physical Science or Profession (miner), which also becomes a class skill, or a +1 enhancement bonus if you already have it as a class skill. Finally, we have proficiency with basic and advanced melee weapons, and specialization at 3rd level.

Elves apply their ability boost to Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence or Charisma, and a second boost can be attained by accepting a flaw to Constitution. Elves get 2 HP and have low-light vision as well as immunity to magical sleep and +2 racial bonus to saving throws vs. enchantment. Their heritages let them choose a swim speed as well as the aquatic subtype and amphibious universal rule. Forlorn elves et a bonus universal trait; telepathic elves get 30 ft. limited telepathy; traditional elves get a bonus elf trait, and drow get darkvision 60 ft. and can opt to get +2 HP at 1st level, but if they do, exposure to bright light blinds them for 1 round and dazzles them thereafter. The traits include adding a skill to class skills (or gaining a +2 racial bonus if it’s already a class skill) and +1 skill rank each level that must be used in that skill; additionally, this trait enhances Skill Focus and class features that net a bonus in the skill. Elf Magic lets you choose two benefits: A +2 racial bonus to Mysticism (and added to class skills), a +2 racial bonus to overcome SR, Minor Psychic Power (better if drow or taken twice) or a 0-level SP. Elves can choose weapon familiarity a keen senses Perception bonus, a speed of 35 ft. (including better Acrobatics/Stealth) and a bonus feat: Cool little angle for the latter: the elf may only choose a feat that lists an ability score of 12 or higher in an ability score you applied a boost to as a prerequisite. Cool angle.

Gnomes apply their ability boost to Constitution and can get a second one in exchange for a flaw in Strength or Wisdom, are Small with 30 ft. speed and have 4 HP. Gnomes get low-light vision and only need 5 minutes after spending a Resolve Point to recover Stamina, and heal 2 HP per character level with a full night’s rest, 4 per character level with complete bed rest. When they regain Hit Points, they gain additional Hit Points up to their level, capping at ½ the number of Hit Points the effect would usually heal. The gnomes get 4 heritages: Bleachlings must apply their second boost, if chosen, to Intelligence, and gain the trickery resistance trait (+2 racial bonus vs. illusions, and you get an auto-check when passing within 10 ft.). Feychild gnomes get to choose either eternal hope or ecstatic joy as bonus traits. The latter nets a saving throw bonus vs. pain and anger effects and nets you a minor bonus for a round when you roll a 20 on a d20; after the first use after daily preparations, this trait costs Resolve. The former nets you a +2 bonus vs. fear and despair effects and lets you reroll a d20 after you rolled a 1, and you need to take the second result. As before, additional uses cost Resolve.

Hyperspace gnomes get Kip Up and are not flat-footed, nor do they take penalties when off-kilter. Neblin gnomes get 60 ft. darkvision. Gnome magic nets you the classic SPs. Chameleon helps you with Stealth and Disguise, courtesy of limited control over skin pigmentation. Curiosity helps you if you enjoy legwork: When using recall knowledge or gathering information about something, you gain more information. Finally, gnomish obsession is a focus on a special skill, with bonus, free skill ranks and scaling Skill Focus.

Goblins get their boost to Dexterity, and can get a second one for accepting a flaw to Charisma; they have 2 Hp and are Small with a 40 ft. movement speed, darkvision 60 ft., and 3 heritages to choose from. Chomper goblins get a natural attack (including the usual specialization); junker goblins get tinker as a bonus trait: This one lets them repair equipment via Engineering or Mysticism in half the time, or, as a move action, remove the penalties of broken equipment until the start of your next turn, but if you do, it becomes unusable for 10 minutes. Monkey goblins get 5 arms, two of which act as “legs” holding something n one of them slows you down and prevents guarded steps, but you can do it! The traits include fire resistance, climb speed, advanced melee weapon and longarm weapon familiarity, and eat anything nets a bonus vs. ingested poisons and increases the meal quality of something you consume—oh, and you can consume super-poor food sans becoming sick. You can also choose some scrounging-related skills and gain bonuses/add them to class skills. With the scuttle trait, you can use a reaction when an opponent moves adjacent to you to use guarded step; to prevent abuse, additional uses require Resolve UNLESS you first take a 10-minute break to regain Stamina. Goblins are also obviously really good battle-rappers: They can use Profession (singer) to demoralize targets, and that lasts longer. Finally, tehre’s a trait that increases your HP to 6 and nets you DR versus falling; and if that eliminates falling damage, you don’t end up prone.

Haflings are Small (30 ft. speed), get 2 HP and their first boost can be applied to Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom or Charisma; the second boost can be attained in exchange for a flaw to Strength or Constitution; halflings get a +2 racial bonus to Perception, +1 racial bonus to all saves, and 3 heritages. Country halflings treat their Strength as 3 higher for the purposes of Bulk and becoming encumbered, and get Survival as a class skill, or a +2 racial bonus to Survival if it already is a class skill. Streetwise halflings get the city slicker trait, which reduces gather information time by half. Fated halflings can choose either the jinx trait (reaction; apply -1d4 penalty to an opponent within 30 ft. rolling some d20-based roll; additional uses cost Resolve to balance it) or the lucky charm trait ( +1 bonus for allies within 30 ft. as a reaction, same Resolve-based metric to use it additional times). Beyond these, the halfling traits include an enhancement to the halfling’s luck vs. fear effects, including reduced durations. Human mentorship nets a bonus feat; skittish boost initiative and atk vs. flat-footed foes, and also provides you a buff when affected by a fear effect. Sneaky enhances your Stealth for moving and sniping. Sure-footed boost two movement-related skills and nets them as class skills, provides a bonus, or Skill Focus. Winsome looks like it’s supposed to do something similar, but it’s probably glitched: The traits states “Choose two of the following skills: Bluff or Diplomacy“; after reading the remainder of the trait carefully, I’m pretty confident that the trait works as intended: It’s just supposed to read “Choose one of the…”

Orcs get a free ability boost, and can get one additional one to Strength for a flaw in Intelligence. They have 6 HP, darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity. There’s also a glitch in their conditioned focus ability: “Choose one skill that’s associated with the skill that the orc applied their first ability boost to and add that skill to the orc’s list of class skills.“ That’s supposed to read: “Choose one skill that’s associated with the ability score that the orc applied their first ability boost to and add that skill to the orc’s list of class skills.“ As usual, if the orc already has the skill as class skill, we have +2 racial bonus instead. If the boost chosen was applied to Constitution, orcs get Toughness instead. The species comes with 2 heritages: Feral orcs get the orc ferocity trait, which lets you keep fighting for 1 more round when reduced to 0 HP, and yes, this has a Resolve caveat to prevent abuse for uses beyond the first time after daily preparations. House orcs instead gain he enhanced conditioning trait, which builds on the conditioned focus ability and enhances the benefits by allowing you to choose to grant yourself a bonus to it. (And yes, orcs that choose Constitution are not left hanging!)

The other traits for the species include +2 skills to apply conditioned focus to, a combat feat, losing light sensitivity, weapon familiarity in analog advanced melee weapons and longarms, better saves vs. diseases and poison and reduced damage from dehydration and starvation. Fierce survivalist lets you unlock Athletics, Intimidate or Survival as a class skill (+2 bonus otherwise, or Skill Focus); combo’d with conditioning, this can be pretty nifty if you’re gunning for depth; personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the combo. Resiliency lets you reduce critical hit damage by level (Resolve employed for balancing), and finally, there is a scent-based blindsense.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level; while, as we’ve come to expect from Alexander Augunas, the precision of complex rules operations is commendable, there are a few typo-level hiccups that partially do affect rules-integrity; never to the extent that the pdf’s utility would be compromised, but they’re there. Layout adheres to the series’ neat two-column full-color standard, and each species gets a cool full-color artwork by Jacob Blackmon. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bit of a comfort detriment.

I was so not looking forward to covering a pdf that deals with the legacy species. This may be me, but SFRPG gets me most excited when it does something that feels distinctly oddball and steeped deeply in scifi/space opera, hence also my fondness for weirdo races like skittermanders or msvokas.

But it’s Alexander Augunas. I know no other author with such a consistent track-record of making me really enjoy content which I was sure I’d hate. This applies here as well. While the classic races, by necessity, won’t conceptually blow you away, HOW he implements them in SFRPG is awesome and shines in little design-flourishes that genuinely make the playing experience distinct. I was particularly fond of the implementation of the luck-angle for gnomes and how he dealt with halflings. Similarly, from a design perspective, seeing dragonkin handled in such a way was impressive. This is, most assuredly, one of the best and most interesting takes on the classic races I’ve seen for a while in a rpg-supplement, and it is worth getting. Were it not for the minor hiccups, this’d be a 5-star offering, but as presented, I can’t go higher than 4 stars. Still highly recommended, though—the species reforged engine is a pleasure to play with.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.Deluxe: Legacy Species Reforged
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Creatures of Shadows over Vathak (5th Edition) Graven Earth Elemental
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2021 13:23:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page for the new critter, 1 page for editorial/SRD/etc., so let’s take a look!

My coverage of this series was requested by my supporters.

Okay, so the graven earth elemental clocks in at challenge 9 and has a massive hit point pool, as well as the Earth Glide and Siege Monster features that you’d expect from such a colossus. In fact, this fellow gave me a distinct Resident Evil: Nemesis vibe; a hulking brute who can spawn the undead, with slightly more ponderous ranged attacks…yeah, thematically, this works. It does have damage resistances, and a vulnerability – and no, not going to spoil the latter. These hulks execute two slams per round via Multiattack, but, alas, the attack value is set at +8, which is incorrect: The attack value for the elemental should be +9 (+4 proficiency bonus, +5 Strength modifier); the critter also has a ranged Bone Throw, which, ideally, would have featured in the Multiattack feature, but the absence here might have been intentional. Bone Throw also suffers from the incorrect attack value. Weird: Those slain by the elemental’s Slams have a chance to rise as undead; the Bone Throw also has a necrotic bonus damage (which explains this ability), but the necrotic damage in Bone Throw is erroneously noted as 2d5; pretty sure that should be 2d4.

The graven earth elemental gets 2 legendary actions per round, which can be taken at the end of another creature’s turn: Additional Slam (2 actions), Bone Throw (1 action), making nearby terrain difficult until the end of its next turn, or conjuring a hand of earth (2 actions) that restrains a target until the end of the creature’s turn if they fail their save.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. On a rules language level, the math is mostly correct, but does show signs of the critter being a bit rushed, with the d5 typo and atk value off by one. (The latter may also be due to challenge being increased in development, without properly implementing the change’s ramifications.) Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the critter-artwork by Rick Hershey is really cool and this one? It really looks like the critter! The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Ismael Alvarez’ Graven Earth Elemental would score a solid 5 stars, were it not for its hiccups; this thing is frightening, and will have the party run/retreat, and makes for a great hunter/stalker-style boss that needs to be whittled down. The massive hit point pool and resistances will make it one of those things where the players go “Why won’t it die???” I like that. This is a good horror critter. Now, I can’t rate it as high as I’d like to due to its hiccups, but for the low price? Personally, I think this is worth checking out and unleashing on your players. My final verdict will hence round up from 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creatures of Shadows over Vathak (5th Edition) Graven Earth Elemental
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Creatures of Shadows over Vathak (5th Edition) Zombie Worm
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2021 13:22:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page for the new critter, 1 page for editorial/SRD/etc., so let’s take a look!

My coverage of this series was requested by my supporters.

The zombie worm is a challenge 1 critter, an it is defined by its bite, which grapples creatures hit, regardless of size; the DC to rip off the zombie worm is weird (should be 1 higher or 1 lower), and the interesting thing here is that the attached zombie worm gets the host’s resistances and immunities – and any damage applied to the worm is also applied to the host. To add insult to injury, the worm, if killed, detonates in a low-range burst of necrotic energy. The worm can’t attach itself to elementals, constructs or undead, and living creatures that have the worm attached to them can’t gain the benefits of rests, food or sleep. At 35 hit points, the worms are tough as nails, particularly for a challenge 1 critter…and that’s with the incorrect HD: Either their size should be Tiny (likely), or they should have d6 HD.

…I don’t think this critter does a good job at what it tries to do. It tries to be a bad news type of parasite, but none of the strategies to dispatch it are actually rewarded. Take it off? Extra damage! Attack it or kill it? Extra damage. This makes the critter functionally an endurance test for hit points between worm and host. And that’s not necessarily fun. This critter needed some actual strategy to get it to relent, to reward smart roleplaying.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but on a rules language level, the italics are missing from all features and the attack sequence. There are hiccups in the math. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the critter-artwork by Rick Hershey is solid. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Ismael Alvarez usually is good at making 5e-critters, but this one? It feels rushed. It’s neither clever, nor does it have a strong theme. If anything, the critter is sadistic in a “GM/Designer tries to screw the party” kind of way. I don’t think this critter is compelling, or well-designed, for that matter. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars, and that only due to the generally solid rules-language and low price. I’d suggest getting any of the other Vathak critters over this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Creatures of Shadows over Vathak (5th Edition) Zombie Worm
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Shadows over Vathak: Explorer's Guide (5th Edition)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/10/2021 05:05:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This FREE pdf clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of a supporter of mine.

So, what is this? This is an introduction to the benighted world of Vathak, and if you’re new to Vathak, think about it as a whole setting of Bloodborne-esque aesthetics: The Great Old Ones are very real and a dominant force opposed essentially by the Church of the One True God, so all those creepy nods towards Catholicism in various media? Easily transplanted to Vathak! Additionally, it should be noted that Vathak also has the good, fun bits that one associates with Ravenloft: Vampires, werewolves, a wandering people often ostracized with supernatural powers…and so much more.

In short: If you wanted a setting with dominant themes of cosmic horror and gothic trappings, Vathak scratches that itch perfectly. (And adapting Vathak material to Ravenloft and vice versa tends to be pretty simple.) The supplement begins with a general overview of the lands of Vathak, and this overview is as focused on the general notions as it behooves a player’s supplement to be: Enough to grant a good idea of what the world is about, but not enough to spoil crucial aspects.

The guide then proceeds to contextualize the classic fantasy races in Vathak (RAW no dragonborn, obviously), and provides racial rules for humans, who increase two of their ability scores by 1, and also choose one culture: Bhriota (proficiency in Intimidation, battleaxe. Handaxe, Warhammer and light hammer), Romni (proficiency in one of two skills, depending on one of 6 clans chosen, and a tool proficiency) and Vindari (advantage on saving throws versus madness and corruption spells, and when you critically hit, roll one weapon damage die again and add it to the total). There is but one issue I have with this section, and it’s cosmetic: racial feature names in 5e are usually bold and in italics, followed by a full stop. In this section, they are not: Just bolded. I might be just anal-retentive, but that sort of thing makes my eyes twitch.

The clergy of the One True Gods also gets an overview that includes proper ways/forms of address. (These titles are German, and I was grateful that the team didn’t butcher the German titles!) But seriously, that sort of thing was so important in real life, more games should take that sort of thing into account. It also genuinely enhances roleplaying. Also: This does mention the most famous Saints etc.

The pdf then proceeds to present three new weapons: The Lord’s Hammer lets you shove creatures two sizes larger than you. Romni Crescent Swords lack special properties, and Vindari Hellraisers are powerful and impose disadvantage on the first death save of those downed by them, but also do not allow you to knock a creature out with them. It should be noted that two of these weapons allow you to change damage types between two types: personally, I think they should have a rule akin to Versatile that at least costs you the reaction or the like to change the grip and damage type, but that may be me.

Conclusion: Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting is slightly less impressive, but still pretty neat. Layout is impressive: Full-color, with historic artworks modified and contextualized with original artworks; this is an aesthetically-pleasing pdf. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Vathak is BACK! Rick Hershey, Lucus Palosaari and Ismael Alvarez did yours truly a big favor when they decided to bring Vathak to 5e, as I still contend that Vathak deserves much more exposure! The setting is clever, and the emphasis on social realities within the world manages to ground Vathak, highlighting the horrific elements of the setting in a neat way. Having this act as essentially a FREE player’s introduction to Vathak is something I definitely appreciate. So yeah, I like this pdf. I do think that dhampir, hauntling etc. would have been nice to see here, and that some additional notes on roleplaying the status of ethnicities/non-human races and how they are perceived would have been nice, but that may be me. It may not be perfect, but it is a really handy file, and it’s hard to say “no” to a free introductory player’s guide, right? Taking this into account, my final verdict for this pdf will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Explorer's Guide (5th Edition)
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Ultimate Strongholds
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2021 13:36:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This (final) installment of the Ultimate Campaign plug-ins clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page lead-in + Table-Index (nice), 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so we start with something rather nice, namely a cost differentiation via furnishing quality levels: The supplement introduces 4 new quality levels – 2 below (destitute and poor) and two above (wealthy and extravagant) for rooms, with corresponding effects. Good catch: All rooms take at least a day to make and the cost of a room may not be reduced below zero when skimping on its actual properties. This is just the start, though: The book does something I really wanted to get, and that is materials: The book establishes wood as the baseline for room construction and then proceeds to provide a massive table that lists thickness, hardness, HP/inch, costs (in GP and LB), cost of gold and goods per wall segment, and labor/time factors – and the materials are vast: Want that lead-coated lab? Possible. Want elysian bronze or frost-forged steel? Force fields? Well, guess what? Now you can! Did I mention the option to make even stuff from frickin’ viridium? And yes, magical treatment is included. This table is massive, makes sense, and is awesome. Want paper walls? Or ones of frickin’ angelskin or griffon mane? Well, guess what: This has you covered.

The pdf also provides the means for room augmentations: Concealed doors, secret doors, fortifications – really cool! This is a strong start for the supplement indeed!

The pdf then proceeds to do something useful: While I know that my players prefer to exactly plan out dimensions of a building etc., I know that not all groups are interested in that sort of thing, so if your group prefers handwaving such details, you’ll still get two different methods that let you quickly calculate the size of a building, one if you haven’t decided on squares for each room, and one that works if you have. This is smooth, and many a table will welcome the increase in speed this offers. Minor nitpick: There is a pg. XX remnant here, but it only would have pointed back 3 or so page, so there’s no comfort detriment here. At a later point, there’s a Table x-5 reference that should instead point to 2-5, but once more, not a deal breaker.

We proceed to cover exterior walls and roofs, including their augmentation possibilities, which include parapets and embrasures, buttresses and more. Windows and the like are covered before the next section that made me smile from ear to ear: MOBILE BUILDINGS. Including walking, rolling, flying, teleporting, etc.! :D Yes, now you can make your own Baba Yaga hut! You can make your own anime-style rolling fantasy-tank fortress! And we get more: Dumbwaiters, dimensional locking, extra-dimensional rooms, stable and sealed environments…and yes, of course, fortifications are also covered.

…know what? It’s really funny. The engine presented so far has actually inspired me as a GM to tinker with the material. It has inspired adventure ideas I need to try out. And we’re just 11 pages in at this point.

The book adds another level of strategy and tactics to stronghold creation, in that it actually takes the terrain into account, with material costs by location! I love this. Chapter 1 is already a resounding success, as far as I’m concerned.

Chapter 2 then proceeds to deal with siege warfare, classifying materials by Structure Points (SP), with conditions damaged, breached and destroyed offering some sensible differentiation, and yes, HP per inch are also provided, allowing you to seamlessly run the respective environments in either “level”; the table has the rather nice additional property of actually allowing the GM to judge, at a glance, whether that spell actually managed to make a dent in the wall. That instance of the party using a wand of lightning bolt to blast through a wall? One glance at the table, and an experienced GM is set to go. Siege-weapon assembly with workers required, costs, weight, etc. is also handled: a heavy trebuchet clocks in at 10 tons, for example, and dismantling it requires some serious damage output! From double to repeating scorpions to springals, this chapter once more delivers and put a big smile on my face. Of course, where there are ranged siege weapons, there’s bound to be ammo, so from caustic shots to fetid (manura, corpses) shots to grappling bolts, there’s a lot going on here…and yes, we obviously also have escalade ladders, bridges, etc. Once more, this is a gem of a chapter.

The book then proceeds to talk about how these downtime-rules-level building rules influence the game on the kingdom-rules-level, which includes accounting for the Ultimate Rulership options and the bombardment rules in Ultimate War. Kudos!

Want more fantastic elements in the game? Well, chapter 4 has you covered, presenting exotic materials like bone or ooze as well as elemental stronghold rules such as sky castles or water fortresses, including unique hazards that can help drive home how unique these places are: Staring through a floor of solid cloud/air can be disquieting, slamming into a torrent of water acting as a wall rather painful – you get the idea. Really neat. If you are less inclined towards the elements, and more towards the fey, you’ll be happy to hear about the crystal palaces, hedge forts…or places with hive walls. Or flesh walls. Or web walls. And what about a castle that literally is a ghost/spirit? Well, guess what? Rules included. Awesome.

The pdf then proceeds to introduce the notion of stronghold spells: Spells that (optionally – and I recommend adhering to that) work only within a stronghold to which the caster is attuned over a multi-day process. This pretty lengthy process also allows for the writing of some cool modules: Hold the fortress until the archmage has attuned to the stronghold! Nice. The spells include means to animate artillery, a battering ram like force bolt, and e.g. a very powerful spell that makes e.g. bardic performance apply to the entire stronghold (cool and sensible in fortress combat under the limitation noted before); extended consecration/desecration that applies to the entire stronghold, animating defenders as undead, making the fortress absorb (or emit) light, an extended variant of expeditious excavation, magical seals, creation of cauldrons, warning against aerial assaults (a magical air raid siren)…and there is a mighty spell that makes it really hard to outcast the lord of a fortress, wo gets some serious counterspelling mojo. This last spell is pure gold and makes sense in so many ways. I have read so many PFRPG spells at this point, it’s not even funny. As such, it should be noted that some of these managing to get me as excited as they did? That’s a big thing.

Next up is the castellan 5-level prestige class, which gains up to +3 BAB-progression, +2 Fort- and Ref-saves, +3 Will-saves over its progression, 4 + Int skills per level, and requires both Intelligence and Charisma 13+ as well as multiple skills at 5 ranks…and a serious inventory of the stronghold. (As an aside: I like story-requirements like this.) Castellans get an investigator’s inspiration, treating their castellan levels as investigator levels and stacking levels for the ability, if applicable. While in their stronghold, castellans can move unimpeded in darkness, through crowds, etc.- - they literally know their stronghold like the back of their hands. Oh, and this includes bypassing difficult terrain (if it’s relatively static), traps, and free action opening of doors, including secret ones. Oh, and they can use a swift action to trigger traps they bypass with a 1 round delay. Chasing these guys in their home turf will not be fun for the poor sods that attempt it! They also have a very keen eye for disturbances in their chosen demesne.

2nd level lets the castellan expend inspiration while making a save in their stronghold, adding +1d6 to the save. The castell and all allies at least 2 levels lower gain a +1 morale bonus to atk and damage and a +1 dodge bonus to AC while in the stronghold. These bonuses also apply to skill checks when operating siege engines. 4th level upgrades that to +2 and lets allies who gain this bonus within 30 ft. of you ignore difficult terrain and gain the door trick. You also get to use inspiration as a standard action to inspire competence or courage as a bard (again, stacking if applicable). 3rd level allows the castellan to use their inspiration to duplicate a variety of magical effects pertaining to the stronghold, including some of the new stronghold spells.

At 3rd level, we have a +2 circumstance bonus on all opposed checks in the stronghold, immunity to feat and a +2 morale bonus on all saving throws (+4 vs. mind-affecting), and, if a spellcaster, immediate action inspiration use for counterspelling. This level also allows for object related magics via inspiration-expenditure. 5th level nets Leadership (or an upgrade for it) and the option to teleport around within the stronghold via inspiration use. I’ve seen a lot of PrCs. This is a great one. It’s focused without losing its theme, it has some seriously cool narrative tricks, and manages to capture the feel of the concept very well. Kudos.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very strong on both a formal and rules-language level; with the exception of the XX-remnants noted above I noticed no issues worth complaining about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artworks provided will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. Now, there is one thing that made me grit my teeth: This book has no bookmarks. NONE. For a reference pdf that you’ll use time and again, with tables and all; that’s a SERIOUS comfort-detriment as far as I’m concerned. If you only want to go for the pdf, detract a star from my final verdict. Personally, I’d recommend getting print + pdf anyways for this.

Ben Walklate and Jason Nelson deliver pure frickin’ excellence. … Want to know more? Okay, so, if you’re using the kingdom building rules, this s a must-own purchase, but you already know as much by now, right? Well, even if you are NOT interested in kingdom building AT ALL, if you couldn’t care less, this is STILL worth its asking price. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to play a badass siege scenario? The castellan PrC can make for a truly frightening boss for a party to face down…or intercept! The stronghold spells will require some serious thinking and tactics even from the notoriously powerful PFRPG adventurer group trying to best a stronghold, and the plethora of siege weapons and their stats alongside the wealth of cool global features for fortresses is useful in regular dungeon design as well. In short: This is a fantastic purchase even if you really don’t like the regular kingdom building/mass combat rules! So yeah, this is an apex-level product, Legendary Games at their very best. It’s good enough that I can’t bring myself to strip a star of my final rating for it, in spite of the annoying lack of bookmarks. However, there is one thing the book has to lose, and that’d be my “best of”-tag, which it REALLY deserved; for a module, I might have shrugged off the lack of bookmarks, but for a rules-book, that really hampers the utility of the pdf. Hence, my final verdict will “only” be a resounding recommendation to pretty much all fans of PFRPG’s first edition, with 5 stars + seal of approval. For use at the table, get print; other than that, there is no caveat that diminished the unadulterated joy I felt when tackling this book and its content.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Strongholds
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Star Classes: Envoys
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/05/2021 07:15:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Classes-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, this pdf starts off with a somewhat troubling observation that was pretty widely-spread at the start of the system’s genesis, namely that the envoy is too weak. This notion is one that is understandable, as it is born from the approach of looking at the envoy as though it was a PFRPG-class; it is still an assertion that doesn’t hold up to actual playing experience. The envoy is an excellent support character in SFRPG, with unrivalled Stamina replenishing options, among other things. The envoy isn’t strong in the sense that their direct damage output is concerned, but in the way in which they act as a support character and damage multiplier for other classes. They are, in a way, both the party face and commander, and unlike the bard, they have a lot of different routes to go by.

In order to put the “weak” envoy class into context, let us take a look at it before going into the nit and grit of this book.

The envoy’s clever feint lets you select an enemy you can sense and make a Bluff check. If you FAIL, the enemy is flat-footed against you through your next turn. If you SUCCEED, this extends to the entire party. This is a LOT for a standard action, one of the best reliable debuffs there are. Dispiriting taunt is also a potent reliable option. At 4th level, with clever attack, you get that for free. Mathematically, alternating between Clever Attacks and full attacks will net you a higher DPR than sticking to full attacks – even if you’re on your own, without the impact this has for your allies! Combo’d with convincing liar, this is even more brutal.

Get ‘Em lets you retain your damage output due to the activation action, and doesn’t require a skill-check, so it’s consistent. Improved get ‘em makes a strong option even better. Sudden shift is a great commander repositioning gambit that is super useful and phenomenal for realigning the battlefield. Same goes for hurry – while it doesn’t seem to be as potent on paper, cover and positioning are more important in SFRPG (they make up the equivalent of 3 – 4 item levels in AC!) than they were in PFRPG, so yeah – potent even in its base version. This is btw. also the reason watch out is pretty darn awesome in all but melee. This one is particularly hardcore when combo’d with an operative. And the improved version? Grant an ally an extra standard action SANS RESTRICTIONS. Don’t quit allows you to help ignore save or sucks.

Inspiring oration is a gamechanger that can and will make the difference between success and TPK more than once. Inspiring boost is better than the mystic’s spells for instances where you need to keep the party going through multiple encounters…etc. And that’s just the basics.

Add to that the solid chassis, and you may not be out-DPRing the operative, but frankly, I’d rather have an envoy in my SFRPG party than a mystic in most circumstances. Also, know that the envoy has grenade proficiency, and that they can cause choking and are super cheap?

The envoy doesn’t have to be a fighter if they don’t want to be one—you can actually play a pacifist envoy and still contribute to the game without sucking. They are an excellent support/buffing/debuffing class that has a ton of no-limit abilities and transcends all comparable SFRPG-classes, and if you want to play any type of leader-style starship captain? Envoy. The class is incredibly cinematic in its playing experience, and frankly, I’ve never seen an envoy not rock in play.

So yeah, I think that the central premise underlying this supplement is WRONG.

That being said, let us take a look at the suggested modifications to the envoy class: The pdf suggests providing an additional expertise talent at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, rather than every 4 levels. Additionally, the pdf suggests Extra Resolve as a free bonus feat at first level, as well as Combat Familiarity for free. Additionally, this pdf suggests getting rid of the prerequisites for any envoy improvisations, and if you do meet these prerequisites, you get the rapid action improvisation for the improvisation as well. Rapid action is a new 4th level improvisation that lets you choose on envoy improvisation that doesn’t require an attack roll from you or your ally, reducing the action to activate by one step. The improvisation may be applied up to twice to another improvisation, and it may be chosen more often. This is very strong – and ultimately not that rewarding, as it gears the envoy towards doing the same thing over and over instead of diversifying the tactical options.

The pdf also suggests one envoy improvisation per level, and at 10th level, the rapid action improvisation for all envoy improvisations. The pdf does note that these should NOT all be used at once, and that they should be added if the class doesn’t perform in the way you want to.

The pdf then provides two archetypes: The engram channeler has alternate class features at 2nd, 4th, 6th and 12th level, and the 2nd level ability nets an untyped +2 bonus to Engineering, Mysticism and Physical Science, and this bonus is also added to allies benefiting from Aid Another. 12th level provides a tale 10 option, take 20 with Resolve expenditure. The 4th level ability lets you meditate to manifest an incorporeal engram with KAC and EAC 15 as well as 1 Hit Point per level and SU flight using your skill bonuses. Problems here: ACs don’t scale, and if it’s destroyed, you lose “all engram-based abilities” for the day – okay, what’s that? All archetype-granted ones? This should have been clarified. At 6th level, we have the means to use a standard action to “trace a path up to 60 feet long” and make one attack targeting EAC. All enemies in that area take “1d6 electric[sic!] damage” – allies are exempt, and you are proficient and gain weapon specialization with it. Okay, this is not how the like is phrased in SFRPG. Also: 1d6?? At 6th level?? WTF. This should scale.

The second archetype is the polymath, whose alternate class features are at 2nd, 6th, 9th and 18th level. 2nd level nets Second Identity, one of the new feats herein, as a bonus feat, and you may choose it multiple times, selecting a new theme each time. Second Identity lets you choose another theme, and switch between your themes in a process that takes one hour, but thankfully not the ability score bonus. 6th level lets you make Disguise checks (not capitalized properly – quite a few formatting snafus in the book; skills and Resolve often erroneously in lower caps, for example) when changing identities to escape notice. 9th level lets you spend a Resolve Point to change identities “As a full-round action.” SIGH This action does not exist in SFRPG. 18th level lets you have the benefits of two active themes at once.

So, what about the improvisations? 2nd level has an option to ignore immunity to mind-affecting effects with your envoy improvisations, which is something I can get behind, but probably would situate at a higher level – or, even better, make the immunity selective and scale with class level/CR where it applies. Beyond the aforementioned rapid action, we have the option to spend a Resolve Point to make up to Charisma modifier allies not surprised when you aren’t. Anatomical exploit is a bit weird: When you or an ally deal damage, you get to spend a Resolve Point to add your expertise die to the attack’s damage roll. Hint: This is usually NOT worth spending a Resolve on. Oh boy, +1d8+3 damage at 17th level. If you spend Resolve on this ability, you’re frankly doing it wrong. Adding a penalty to saving throws to the effects of get ‘em can be found here; get out there lets you spend a swift action and a Resolve Point to select an ally – this ally acts on your initiative count -1, rather than on their own. At 12th level, this applies to Charisma modifier allies. Okay, so what if the ally has already acted before the envoy? No idea. The weird thing here is that this improvisation RAW exclusively works if the envoy is faster than the ally. On the plus-side: Spending a reaction and a Resolve Point to make an ally reroll their save, with a per-rest caveat? Yeah, I can see that one!

The 6th level improvisations include an option that requires you spend 1 Resole Point and a move action and it provokes enemies into attacking you, but also grants allies AoOs versus them if they do. 10th level upgrades this to also include you. Considering that making an AoO requires a reaction, this one is a risky gambit. Compare that to continued inspiration, which lets you, as a standard action, extend the effects of an active envoy inspiration that usually lasts until the end of your next turn. This applies to allies within 60 ft. Okay…by how long? By a round? No clue. The ability doesn’t say. Using Resolve to change the flat-footed, off-kilter or off-target penalty to a crippling equivalent of your expertise die? Oh, and what about replacing the benefits of your covering fire, harrying fire or flanking to expertise die for one round? Brutal. This should definitely specify that the effects only apply to a single target per use. Compare that with push onwards: That one lets you, as a move action, grant an ally within 60 ft. an untyped +1 bonus to saving throws, and a save to prematurely end an effect on them, with 10th level upgrading that to AoE. The upgrade is very strong – the base version? Not so much. I also don’t think that a flat end should be here; since Don’t Quit already is perfectly serviceable.

The 8th level improvisations include expert attack sans Resolve expenditure, Intimidate when an ally affects or damages a target, and reaction inspiring boost? Can see that one.

The pdf also provides an array of new expertise talents that include broader proficiencies, the option to add expertise die to an ally’s check via aid another. I also liked the option to forego adding the expertise die when intimidating targets already shaken to increase condition severity. Indeed, the expertise talents with their options to forego adding the die for various effects. 1/day planar binding as a SP is interesting, and avoiding zone of truth etc.? Yeah, I like that. (As an aside – in this section, the persistent lack of italics for spells, which are sometimes presented in lower caps, sometimes as though they were feats, really irked me.) Depending on your build, always getting to roll expertise die twice and taking the better result can be a bit over the top.

After this, we have an extension of skill uses: For example, using Bluff to appear as though an attack was lethal, or fool targets to think that another person made an attack. The latter can be very strong, just fyi. Calling for a truce and striking bargains, feigning death and manipulating your vocals, intuit assumptions and relationships – this section is pretty nifty and interesting. The new feat section includes rendering allies adjacent to you immune to being flat-footed, which can be pretty potent. Substituting a guarded step for an AoO, executing a combat maneuver or making an attack against a creature missed by an ally can be found. Another feat lets you substitute a critical effect that hit a target within the last round for your own – not sure if this is worth the feat. Reduced penalties for Deadly Aim exists, and Escape Route makes you not provoke AoOs when moving though spaces adjacent to your allies – this one is pretty epic with its tactical implications. I also liked Squad Maneuvering, which lets you take a guarded step as a reaction when an ally moves through one of your spaces. Squad Flanking is over the top: When you and an ally are adjacent to a creature, the creature is automatically flat-footed against your attacks—note that this is not an envoy-exclusive feat, and it has no prerequisites. Unbalanced Attack is pretty much…well, unbalanced. When making a combat maneuver versus a flat-footed target, you execute against KAC, not KAC +8. Remember: Another feat makes flat-footed versus you pretty much a given. Still, as a whole, there are more feats here I enjoyed than ones I’d consider problematic.

The pdf closes with envoy creatures – a CR 16 vesk, a CR 18 copper dragon, a CR 9 human, a CR 10 devil, a CR 5 android, and a CR 6 oulbaene. The latter has the boldings missing in the offense section. The dragon lacks them in the first section. Statblocks featuring fly speeds don’t specify whether they are Ex or Su, and the devil lists a maneuverability of “good”, which doesn’t exist in SFRPG – that should be “average.” So yeah, couple of snafus here – the creatures are usable, though.

Conclusion: Editing is weird and oscillates between being very precise and well-done, and being problematic. The same can’t be said about formatting – it’s just bad. If something has a formatting convention in rules, there’s a good chance the book misses it. I expect better from Legendary Games. Layout adheres to the series two-column full-color standard, with full-color artworks, some of which will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.

Matt Daley, with additional material by Jeff Lee, Lyz Liddell, Jason Nelson and Mike Shel, delivers a somewhat uneven supplement here, probably due to the different authors at work here.

For a context that explains a lot: This book was released right in the time of the early days of the system, when the backlash to the envoy was in full swing—it took time to get used to the class, and as such, I think that the suggested power upgrades can and should be ignored. Thankfully, the book isn’t all about ramping up the power-level of the envoy, though it does require close GM-scrutiny—some aspects are imho OP. The incisions into the action economy of the class can end up being very strong, and I also think that quite a few of the options provide pretty excessive numerical boosts. That being said, at the same time, I can see several genuinely cool options in this book, and I’ll definitely pick a couple of them and add them to my game’s roster. Still, as a whole, the book is not a particularly unified experience regarding quality and power-level of its content. Now, usually, I’d consider going slightly higher for the gems herein, but considering the consistently and annoyingly flawed formatting here, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Star Classes: Envoys
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Maze Rats
Publisher: Questing Beast Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2021 05:42:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, so Maze Rats is a rules-lite, condensed version of the OSR-style of gaming; the system is more akin to games like Into the Odd than e.g. AD&D; depending on which pdf you consult, you’ll have pdfs of 12 or 14 pages – why? The 14-page version is intended for booklet-printing! Nice! The game comes with a character sheet in an extra-pdf; the sheet is included in the booklet-version as well.

This review was requested as a prioritized review by my patreon supporters.

You start the game by choosing one of 6 ability distributions (or rolling a d6 and consulting the table): There are three ability scores: Strength, Dexterity and Will. You will always end up with +2 in one ability score, +1 in another, and +0 in the third. As an alternative, you can roll 1d6 for each score: On a 1-2, you have +0, on a 3-4 you have +1, and on a 5-6 you have a +2.

Each PC begins with 4 maximum health, and 4 current health. Each level attained nets +2 maximum health. PCs recover 1 health when eating a meal and resting; 24 hours of rest recover all health. Medicine restores 1 health but only once per day. 0 health = death.

Each PC also gets one starting feature: +1 to all attacks, a single spell slot (usable once per day), or one of 4 paths: Briarborn (tracking, wilderness stuff), fingersmith (theft, thief stuff), roofrunner (acrobatic stuff), shadow jack (stealthy/infiltration stuff); in the danger rolls for the respective chosen path, you roll with advantage on danger rolls.

Wait, what? Yeah, well, I skipped ahead to character creation. The core mechanism of the game is that, when there is danger/chance of failure, etc., roll 2d6; on a success (10 or higher), danger is averted. You add Strength, Dexterity and Will bonuses to suitable danger rolls. Opposed danger rolls between characters call for the higher result. If a roll has advantage, 3 dice are rolled instead, dropping the worst.

The pdf offers a list of starting items, combat gear, and offers a table for appearance descriptors, physical details, backgrounds, clothing, personality, mannerism (all one-word lists).

The game knows 7 levels and has a brief table with XPs and the table lists benefits; you can choose each level, and either get an ability bonus or can pick a feature, so no class-corset and one meaningful choice per level attained.

Initiative works in a simple manner: You roll 1d in the game’s parlance (the game only uses d6s, but I’m using 1d6 instead for clarity), and the higher side goes first; the entire side. Yes, this means that you have a chance each round for two consecutive turns for the entire party, or the entire opposition. Ouch! Each round, a character can move 30 ft. and take one action. Casting spells, attacking, drinking potions, etc. – all actions. Ambushes make you go first and yield advantage on all rolls during the first round, with the leader of the opposition getting a Will danger roll to avoid it. Combat works thus: Characters have a base armor rating of 6; light armor nets +1, and so does a shield; heavy armor nets +2. Characters in heavy armor can’t gain advantage on Dexterity danger rolls or surprise attack rolls. Heavy weapons require two hands and inflict +1 damage. Attacking works via the core mechanic: You roll 2d6 and add the attack bonus applicable (sourced from your ability scores); you can’t attack with a ranged weapon in melee. The attacker’s total is compared to the defender’s armor rating; if it’s MORE than the armor rating, the attack hits and deals damage equal to the difference between the armor rating and the result. A result of double sixes is a critical hit and doubles damage. If a hit character has a shield, they may choose to sacrifice it to absorb all damage.

The system comes with a simple NPC-reaction chart, and encumbrance is also interesting: Belts can hold two properly-sized items; backpacks can hold what a backpack can hold, but it takes 1d6 rounds to retrieve something from it. Magic is pretty free-form: You roll 2d6, one die indicating row, one indicating column: We have essentially physical effects, physical elements, physical forms, and the same for ethereal effects, elements, forms. The magic system requires some degree of GM skill regarding improvisation, and RAW lacks any meaningful PC control – “Magic, do what thou wilt!” Whether that’s a bug or a feature for you depends on your tastes. The pdf also provides a brief mutation, insanity and omens/magical catastrophe list.

The monster rules are simple and work pretty much analogue to the character rules, but with +4 being the highest bonus critters can have. You can roll quickly on a base to determine aerial, terrestrial or aquatic animals, then add monster features, traits, abilities, tactics, personality and weaknesses. These all are pretty much one-word baselines.

The pdf has such one-word tables for civilized NPC professions, underworld NPCs, wilderness NPCs, a list of female and male names, upper and lower class surnames, assets and liabilities as well as NPC goals, misfortunes and missions. Add methods, appearances, physical details, clothing, personalities, mannerisms, secrets, reputations, hobbies, relationships, divine domains, and a brief carousing table.

Treasure and equipment follow a similar approach: Basic prices are given for item categories, and then, we have category-style lists, like “Tool Items”, “Miscellaneous Items”, etc. These one-word tables are also used as a baseline for city-creation, wilderness-creation and dungeon-creation. The pdf does include a brief play-example, and offers some beginner’s advice for GMing/creating the respective environments, etc.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard sans art. (It should be noted that one page contains 4 columns.) This is a very dense game. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t absolutely require them at this length.

Ben Milton’s “Maze Rats” is probably one of the best “teach to play roleplaying” games I’ve seen in quite a while; it is easy to grasp, concise in its presentation, and manages to actually squeeze some meaningful choice out of its rules lite, simple and elegant chassis. Indeed, pretty much everything on the player-side is very elegant; on the GM-side of things, the relatively free-form magic would have perhaps warranted some guidance, but that’s about the worst thing I can say about this game. Maze Rats triumphantly succeeds at what it sets out to do, and personally, I prefer it over the author’s other rules-light game Knave, though that is primarily a matter of taste. There is but one thing that kinda annoyed me: You can’t copy text, and you can’t search the pdf; I am no layout artist, but that stuff bothers; since I run lots of different systems, being able to parse together my own cheat-sheets its really helpful.

That being said, for a paltry $3, you get one damn elegant ultra-rules-lite game. This is geared for one-shots and very short-campaigns (as evidenced by the swift XP/level-progression), but man does it handle its subject matter well!

Now, as a person, I like more choice and build diversity in my game, I prefer campaigns, and I’m not a fan of the free-form magic, but as a reviewer, I do see the value of a system of this simplicity and smooth elegance, and what is a bug for me might well be a feature for you. As a reviewer, my preferences should not unduly influence the verdict, and frankly, I can’t help but admire how condensed, precise and elegant this little piece of RPG-design is.

As such, my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval. If you’re looking for an easy to teach ultra-lite setting-agnostic fantasy RPG, then this will be what you definitely want to try out.

Oh, and there is one other benefit for fellows like yours truly, even if the book, in the long run, is not your cup of tea: If you or your Maze Rats players at one point want more choices and means to differentiate characters mechanically from each other, then the mechanics of this game will make it easy to adapt to Best Left Buried, easily one of my favorite games. Heck, I’d teach people to play with this game, then graduate them to BLB, but that’s just me.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Maze Rats
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Quests of Doom 4: Pictures at an Exhibition (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/01/2021 11:46:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let‘s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters.

This module is intended for 4–6 characters of levels 4th to 6th, and as always, it is better to tackle it with a well-balanced party. The module offers rather detailed readaloud text, and it offers essentially two handouts and a single b/w map; the map does not come with a player-friendly version, which is a rather significant comfort-detriment. One of the handouts is essentially an exhibition list that takes up slightly less than half a page – having that on its separate page would have been preferable as far as comfort questions are concerned. Personally, I enjoy handing the like to my players without having to cut out half a page.

It should be noted that this module begins on a cruise ship in the real world, not in a fantasy setting, and then quickly moves to a waterfront museum, so if you’re opposed to that sort of set-up, you might need to do some rephrasing. Indeed, the whole real-world angle is utterly superfluous: This works perfectly fine in a regular fantasy world with slight rephrasing. The module does have a minor weakness in the transition to the actual gaming: The adventure expects the player characters to move past the rope towards one of the pictures – which’ll suck them in and position them in a fantasy world. Now personally, I’d never step beyond the rope in a museum, and same goes for my players, so you might have to push the party a bit there. Structurally, each picture is a short little vignette, easy to place in ongoing campaigns.

There are other oddities in this module: I noticed a reference to an adventure called “Tourist Traps” by Frog God Games. That does not exist to my knowledge. Furthermore, we have a few instances of rules hiccups in the mechanics. The conversion to PFRPG isn’t exactly the smoothest. “Mostly Functional” is how I’d describe it.

Each vignette has an objective, but also means to fail the respective vignette.

And that is pretty much as far as I can go without diving into serious SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, only GMs around? Great! So, in vignette #1, we have a puzzle that is solved only by player-skill, which is a nice thing to see per se: A Christmas gnome is surprised by the arrival of the PCs, drops presents, and the party needs to put them on the correct place in a diagram that looks like the Star of David. I LOVE this idea; this setup is also represented by a nice handout – which is great! HOWEVER. The handout actually spoils the solution. When the party arrives, only three presents are on the diagram, the rest is under the tree or dropped; they have different wrappings that should correspond to the sigils on the diagram. The places on the diagram are probably intended to be numbered (Horseshoes in location #8, but there are no numbers on the diagram…), and at one point, this probably was a pretty cool puzzle. As presented, it’s ridiculously simple: Present with shield on its wrapping goes on the shield space in the diagram. That’s literally square shape goes in square hole toddler-level of difficulty. The contents of the presents are somewhat lame magics, or pretty powerful – scroll of cure wounds (does not exist in PFRPG) vs. a +1 mace. Or “Wisdom +1 (Or Intelligence +1 for a magic-user)” [sic!] – it is pretty evident that this wasn’t properly converted. It also feels like something went wrong in production: Perhaps the handout was commissioned before the puzzle was finalized?

Vignette #2 has the players witness a balladeer serenading a princess; in the aftermath, the party’s supposed to help them elope, either by scaling the tower, or by fighting through laughably weak guards. Since the keep has no map, it’s also too opaque to make it a proper infiltration. Not challenging or interesting, next.

Vignette #3 has the party arrive in the aftermath of a bear having been stolen in a public plaza; the trail leads them to a ship, and if the party beats the weak crew, they’ll find a chained man below deck, who turns into a bear and attacks if freed below deck, only to calm above deck. Okay. There is no indicator of the transformation; this should be codified with magic items or spells. It’s also a weird railroad, since the module does not account for Handle Animal etc. to calm the bear.

The next vignette is another puzzle, one that deals with a cow-drawn cart and its sick entourage. This one is actually, genuinely, great: The cart’s entourage seems sick, and the cart sports runes: These cart runes are based on a selection of 12 runes. One, for example, looks like the rune for “iron” and that of “water” – this is the key to unlock it: Splaying blood on the rune eliminates it! While a rules-relevant reference is incorrect, this puzzle (it does come with visual representations of the basic runic array, but not of the cart-runes) is genuinely nice and well-presented. I liked it!

The next vignette is a battle in an amphitheater against 6 harpies. Okay. That happened I guess. Hope the group has serious ranged combat capabilities.

Next up, we have a moral dilemma: Smuggle a rich orc or a poor orc out of the city. Since we have no maps, no real established setting, this falls flat. There is no proper way to plan any exfiltration. The poor orc offers a family member as a slave for payment – distasteful, I know. The paragraph notes: “If the party accepts this deal, any character wearing a protection amulet is immediately burned for 1 point of damage per round until it is removed.” What damage? What is a “protection amulet”? No idea, it’s never mentioned before or after.

After that, we have literally a Solomon scenario, i.e. two individuals claim that something belongs to them. No, the solution is NOT different from the classic solution. It’s just a reskinned version. LAME. No means to solve it via Sense Motive or magic are provided either.

The following vignette is the mapped one: A vampire is at work, much too strong for the party. Flying, chanting skulls do help, though. The skulls belonged to holy people, taking from their sarcophagi. Returning the correct skulls to the correct sarcophagi is the goal here, and each skull utters a somewhat cryptic sentence that helps assign it. This one works and is genuinely fun.

After that, we pit the party against a witch in a chicken hut: Weakest take on the Baba Yaga trope I’ve seen so far, and there are errors in the witch stats, the stats of her familiar and the hut. Funniest glitch herein: The chicken-feet hut specifies that it is “Male” in the statblock. Call me puerile. That mental image made me laugh.

The vignette after that takes place in war and has the party try to reach a gatehouse; the conversion fails to specify DCs for the locks and actually has the boss of the vignette comes with the proper stats. The PFRPG-statblock has errors, and the module actually also has the OSR statblock erroneously included. WTF. This should have been caught be even cursory editing. The module also doesn’t understand how Diplomacy works in PFRPG.

And that is all.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are bad on a formal and rules-language level. Not just mediocre, but bad. There are errors in rules, some oddities that compromise the integrity of one of the puzzles, and constant absences of proper rules. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w standard with one nice handout, one inconvenient ones. The cartography provided for one encounter is solid, but the absence of a player-friendly map hurts it. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, but not ones to individual vignettes.

This is the second module by Dennis Sustare I’ve reviewed, and I know he is a legend. From this module, though, that is certainly not evident, and the first wasn’t better either. Half the vignettes are uninspired combat challenges with lame adversaries; the real-world framing device needlessly limits how this can be used. There are hiccups in mechanics and structure of some of the vignettes, and Anthony Pryor’s PFRPG conversion is rudimentary at best. There are two vignettes which, while rough regarding the rules, actually are fun and rescue this module from being utterly useless: The cart puzzle and vampire-scenario are both fun and show what the author can do, flawed rules notwithstanding.

Let me make that abundantly clear: Were it not for these two, I’d consider this to be a 1-star module, but these two are so fun that it might elevate this module for some GMs out there. They are worth scavenging, imho. But the module as a whole? Rushed, carelessly presented. It’s genuinely heart-breaking to me. Hence, my final verdict will be 2 stars. I’ve always considered myself a fan of Frog God Games, but the modules released under the fourth Quests of Doom-series so far have been painful, to say the least. And not in a fun way. Here’s to hoping that the remainder of them work properly.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: Pictures at an Exhibition (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: A Midnight Council of Quail (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/26/2021 11:40:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This module is intended for 4–6 characters of levels 3rd to 5th; in contrast to many modules in the series, it is actually not as brutal as you’d expect it to be. The adventure didn’t prove to be too challenging for a decently optimized band of adventurers. While a well-rounded group is suggested, the module is, difficulty-wise, very unlikely to result in PC deaths; if you’re running this for 3rd level characters, the PCs need good tactics in the final combat, but otherwise, the adventure is rather manageable.

Structurally, the module features slightly more of a page of magical and alchemical items, which range from functional (a ring to fortify you against poison) to rather creative ones like enchanted spurs; these spurs, by the way, also include a minor snafu in the item rules, missing a bonus type when there should be one. Another rules issue would be an instance where a Dexterity check is prescribed, when an Acrobatics check would be used for the sort of check instead. That being said, these two minor hiccups won’t break the experience.

The module can be thought of as a cursory investigation and a brief dungeon. As often for these modules, we get read-aloud text for the encounter areas in the dungeon, but not for the investigation section, which takes place in a small village. The module features a b/w-map for the village, and one for the dungeon, but both of these do not come with a player-friendly version sans glyphs/numbers. Serious comfort detriment there. The village map has no grid, and the dungeon map does not note its scale; I assume each square to be 5x5 feet.

Okay, there is one more rules-relevant aspect that needs to be addressed, but in order to do so, I need to go into SPOILERS. As such, I’d like to ask potential players to jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the module has a REALLY strong opening that hearkens back to old-school aesthetics, when high-level druids were rare (and only a fixed number per level existed, worldwide – to level up you’d need to eliminate a superior…): The party is approached by a flock of Quail, one of whom can speak: The bird has gained sapience (as well as speech – only this one bird speaks) due to proximity to an arch-druid. The birds have observed a weird tendency in a local village, with a new despot moving in and all people behaving more or less apathetic. They ask the party to investigate, and the first section of the module begins.

Here, the adventurers investigate the strange occurrences. The village is peculiar in a few ways, as it sports a wunderkind of sewing, which means that all peasants are very well-dressed, and with things like gong farmers taken into account, we have this subdued sense of weird that I very much enjoyed in the author’s 3.X offerings back in the day.

Structurally, the investigation is not particularly well-structured; a trail of clues or the like isn’t clearly laid out, requiring a bit more prepwork than necessary. However, on the plus side, the whole thing is created in a way that makes the PC’s actions matter more – it is relatively free-form and may well boil down to the party simply forming their own conclusions. The respective keyed encounters note “Infected” for a household that’s compromised, but ultimately, that is not relevant: You see, the obvious despot who moved in is part of the issue, one of the two villains responsible. This fellow is a wereboar who uses one of the new items, a ring of human control, to assert his dominance. This ring generates charm person 3/day, and has a CL of 1st.

…yeah, that’s unfortunately not how it works. RAW, this would mean that he can maintain 3 charm persons, for an hour each; on a failed save, mind you. That doesn’t suffice to keep all people in the village noted as “infected” under control. So yeah, RAW, the premise doesn’t work out as provided. Not even close. It should also be noted that, in PFRPG, there are plenty of ways to detect the presence of enchantment magic, so that is imho the likeliest outcome of the investigation. As a whole, this investigation feels like it has been cut down and/or simplified a bit, and that it doesn’t really account for all the cool things PFRPG can do.

Granted, you can fix that by explaining the flawed ring-rules away with a side-effect of the work of the second villain: You see, there is a hidden complex, where a mad druid lurks, who is under the effects of essentially a kinda-radioactive ore. I like this ore; it has a 6-stage progression (indubitably due to 5e’s influence), but the GM can potentially explain the weird villagers that way.

Anyhow, ideally, the party deals with the wereboar and the hidden druid, the latter being btw. the one difficult combat in the module: A young grizzly plus a CR 7 druid can be hard for a level 3 party but provided the party can keep the druid from using his spellcasting to full effect, it is very much possible to triumph in this module without having too hard a time. The small dungeon is solid; not much to complain there, but also not that much stood out to me.

Which brings me to one issue of the module that GMs need to be aware of: This module breaks the WBL-assumptions of the game, big time—not in a game-breaking manner, and indeed, I consider e.g. a flag that you can use to make use of the clouds as signals to be thematically amazing…but if that sort of thing is important to you, it still bears mentioning.

…and there is, sort of, the elephant in the room: The setup of this adventure is top-tier, and the village is rather neat as well; the Quail-hook is really cool. But I couldn’t help but feel that this great hook is totally wasted on the banality of the antagonists of the module. I mean, picture it: If the party actually had to use the Quail as a surveillance-force, combined with a schedule for villagers, you know, some actual real investigation, that would be SO COOL; but the module doesn’t really make use of its premise, instead opting for something safe. It’s so cool, but it’s only window-dressing. Alternatively, having a Quail surveillance hive-mind as an opponent would have been rather awesome, right? What has been done with the setup is okay, but not half as cool as mind-blowing as the premise deserved.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, okay on a rules-language level; the module is mostly functional as presented, with only details as slightly problematic factors. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, with solid b/w-artworks. The cartography in b/w is nice as well, but the lack of player-friendly maps is a big comfort detriment. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lance Hawvermale’s midnight council sports the trademark subdued weirdness I always liked in his writing; there are aspects of fairy tale-esqueness here, with a subdued and interesting punk-sprinkling on top. There’s just this tiny bit of it that makes it feel distinct and novel, while still hitting the classic Lost lands vibes. Dave Landry’s PF-conversion also works better in this module than in many other modules of the series. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel like this had been cut down to a much smaller size than originally intended…or like it squanders its absolutely fantastic premise. The investigation aspect of the module, structurally, is so barebones and obvious, and without that much to actually actively thwart the party, that I couldn’t help but feel let down after it kicked off so strongly.

In a way, this is almost a mirror-image of Quests of Doom: Awakenings: Awakenings was dragged from the lofty praise it deserved by formal issues, whereas this one is stronger in the formal components, but promises much with its hook, only to then underdeliver a rather mundane story. Now, as a person, I vastly prefer Awakenings over this module, but as a reviewer, I have to account for this adventure actually working as penned. In the end, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down…but this one gives me hope for the remaining modules in the series.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: A Midnight Council of Quail (PF)
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Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 2 (5e)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/25/2021 12:25:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book of races clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, structurally, this book contains 4 new races, with each race receiving between 2 and 3 pages of information, which include physical descriptions, notes on the society of the respective race. Each race gets one stunning artwork, with the androids getting 2 additional ones that are slightly more comic-like in style, but also neat.

Two of the new races herein are constructed beings: The first would be the androids, who increase their Intelligence by 2, and get a kind of combination of low-light vision and darkvision: Within 60 ft., they treat dim light as bright light and darkness as dim light, but when in darkness, they only see in shades of gray. Imho, this should just be called Darkvision, the Perception proficiency outsourced elsewhere, but that’s cosmetic. Androids have advantage on saving throws against poison and enchantment spells; this is slightly ambiguous, for the reference to “poison” here could refer to the poisoned condition, and/or to poison damage. In comparison, the rules-syntax of Dwarven Resilience made that clear by contrasting it with resistance to poison damage, but this is admittedly nitpicking; I assume that the poisoned condition is meant. They also get proficiency in a weapon of their choice, and in Perception, but otherwise are Medium, 30 ft. speed. Two android subraces are provided to choose from.

Alchemical androids increase Dexterity by 1, their speed to 35 ft., and gain proficiency with their choice of alchemist’s supplies, cartographer’s tool, glassblower’s tools or tinker’s tools. Technological androids increase their Constitution by 1, and get advantage on saves against lightning damage and also have resistance to lightning damage. They also get an additional language.

The second construct race would have a less pronounced science-fantasy angle: The Geppettoans. The race’s name makes it obvious: We have the wooden Pinocchio-style race. Originally created by a fair and kind-hearted man, the design to create these intelligent servitors was quickly abused…until the race broke free. They increase the Intelligence and Constitution by 1, are Small with a 25 ft. speed, and are proficient with club, greatclub, quarterstaff and spear. They are immune to disease, but can ingest potions etc. like living creatures. They do not need to sleep, but must spend 4 hours a day maintaining their animating runes. This race has no subraces.

Beyond these constructed races, we have the Gillfolk free of their erstwhile aboleth masters. A warlike people, the Gillfok here reminded me less of the traditional Lovecraftian angle, and more of the subjects of e.g. Aquaman (or Prince Nemo, if you prefer Marvel); they increase Strength by 2, are Medium and have a land and swimming speed of 30 ft. They are proficient with net, spear and trident and the Athletics skill. Gillfolk who spend more than a day sans being fully immersed in water for at least one hour suffer disadvantage on all actions for that day. They can, obviously, breathe both air and water.

Two subraces are presented: Deep sea gillfolk increase Constitution by 1 and gain nominally the same Enhanced Sight feature as the androids, save that it actually has different effects: It has a range of 120 ft., but does not offer proficiency with Perception, and yet has the same name as the android feature. I think different names would have been preferable here, They also are have resistance against cold damage and advantage on saving throws vs. cold damage. Shore line gillfolk increase Charisma by 1, and know the shocking grasp cantrip. At 3rd level, they can cast speak with animals 1/day, and at 5th level, misty escape 1/day, all using Charisma as their spellcasting ability.

The final race would be lizardfolk, who increase their Constitution by 2 and gain proficiency with blowgun, handaxe, javelin and maul. They come with 2 subraces: Dragonsired lizardfolk increase Charisma by 1 and gain resistance against your choice of acid, cold, fire, lightning or poison, and also advantage on saving throws against these effects. Here, it’d be interesting to know how this works regarding poisoned condition/poison damage, and they also get a cantrip of their choice from the sorcerer spell list, using Charisma as spellcasting ability. Swampkin lizardfolk increase Wisdom by 1 and gain Hold Breath as well as +1 natural armor bonus…which isn’t how 5e handles natural armor. 5e uses natural armor as an alternate AC-calculating formula that does not stack with e.g. Unarmored Defense etc. Then again, this doesn’t break the game. As an aside, I’d have preferred to see a non-draconic lizardfolk subrace, after all, we already have dragonborn as a core player-race.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level there isn’t much to complain about either, with all my niggles being nitpicks. Layout adheres to the series’ standard, with green stripes on top and bottom, and the artworks deserve special mention: The prestige artwork that accompanies each race is really nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Dale C. McCoy Jr., Richard Moore, and Kevin Morris deliver a really nice supplement here. All of the races herein are power-wise within the same rough area and shouldn’t unbalance most games. Now, personally, I’d have liked to see some supplemental material for the races, or at least one instance of slightly more daring design; the content herein is pretty conservative in what it offers. But considering the low asking price, I do think that this is worth taking a look at. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 2 (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to review. I updated this product based on your review and I hope I fixed the issues you pointed out.
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