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Star Log.EM-066: Therianthropes
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:29:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so if you don’t have the Occult Skill Guide: Classic Corruptions (WHY? That book is AWESOME!), the pdf does reprint the therianthrope template graft for your convenience. Therianthropes are btw. sapient creatures that have been corrupted with bestial instinct and rage, and the rules presented within do cover the wolf-like, most famous therianthropes, the werewolves, and more – two sample statblocks are provided, the first of which would depict a skittermander weremonoux operative (CR 3), and yes, before you ask, the grafts have been properly applied. Did I mention that I love skittermanders? :D

Of course, a classic werewolf can also be found – this build (CR 7) uses a human soldier as a baseline, with blitz fighting style and, much to my pleasant surprise, gear boosts noted as well. Cleave as a feat choice makes sense for the build, and the natural attacks as well as the melee focus of this fellow tie the build together well. Oh, and there is a new armor upgrade, the magical level 1 nanite reshaper that makes the armor automatically adjust to the shapechanging of wearers. The pdf also includes a new feat, Aspect of the Beast, which nets a vesk’s natural weapons racial trait, only that it’s MORE precise than it – it does properly specify damage type!! Oh, and at higher levels, the attack starts counting as magical and is treated as progressively better special materials – yep, including adamantine at 19th level. And if you already have natural weapons, you get these enhancements sooner. Kudos!

Finally, the supplement covers the one thing I had already structured as a “I’ll complain for a paragraph about this”-section when I opened this pdf – the supplement actually specifies how therianthropy works, at least to a degree. In a science-fantasy game such as Starfinder, having this flavorful elaboration of how moonlight triggers the transformation is rather cool indeed. Kudos for the extra mile regarding flavor here!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas delivers here – the therianthropes in this supplements are well-presented, and while personally, I prefer unique bloodlines for each type of therianthrope, the catch-all template-graft does an admirable job at providing one graft, but making it possible for the graft to provide a wide variety of different builds, courtesy of synergy with the polymorph-engine presented by Starfinder. All in all, a great little supplement, well worth its asking price. My final verdict will be 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-066: Therianthropes
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A Credit For Your THOTs
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:25:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look! Wait, why supplement? Because, while there is a module included here, it’s not the central focus – the main meat of the module is devoted to rules and help for prolonged Alpha Blue games.

Now, as always, this is an Alpha Blue module – this means that it’s inspired by 70s/80s porn parodies of scifi movies, and as such, raunchy material is included in this pdf. If you have an issue with sexuality featuring in your game, this may not be what you want to purchase. The adventure’s artworks are photographs, but they only are suggestive – you won’t see a nipple or the like herein, and many a music video will be more explicit than the material herein.

As far as rules are concerned, unsurprisingly, the system employed is the dice-pool based VSD6-system in its Alpha Blue iteration, which, by now, has grown to be perhaps the best of the VSD6-variations. The supplement does contain the Blue Balls Tracker, a handout-style page where you can check the effects of abstaining – in Alpha Blue, not having sex will have serious negative repercussions.

The module begins with a discussion about strategies to keep Alpha Blue from being a one-trick pony, and then proceeds to introduce the MeowMeowRating (MMR) – this represents general creditworthiness/Charisma and is rolled as a d%; female lifeforms get +10. A MMR-rating may be checked from up to 30 ft. away with the wristbands most people have. Here’s the thing: Having sex with a being with MMR 50 or more points lower than you makes the MMR go down by 1. If you have sex with a being with an MMR 50 above your own, your MMR increases by 1. Leveling up nets a +1d4 increase of the MMR – 2d4 if you’re rich. +25 MMR may be bought on the black market, with at least a 25K credits-investment.

This also ties in with another crunchy aspect: The supplement proposes granting a Health bonus based on sex – and the higher the MMR in relation to yours, the more pronounced the bonus will be. Similarly, the type of sex will increase the Health bonus – threesomes are worth more than masturbation. Having sex with the same being all the time decreases this bonus. 5 Health bonus increases thus gained can be increased for one additional option to steal the spotlight.

As an additional variant rule, good and non-so-bad-it’s-good-bad pick-up lines add/detract a d6 from the die pool. The supplement also features a table that provides bonuses and penalties to the attempts to score, depending on intoxication, introductions by mutual friends, winning altercations you didn’t start, etc. There is another 6-entry table that provides a quick resolution, if the above seems to complex – this table can also be used in conjunction with the former pool array, making everything less reliable, which is per se good, but which can also end up as potentially frustrating.

The supplement also includes a d30-table for hijinx that may ensure in the pursuit of sex, from partners turning out to be serial killers to someone getting jealous. There is a brief table to determine whether someone has done porn, and a generator with three columns and 12 rows to generate random porn titles. The pdf then proceeds to present 100 taboos that may apply in a given region of the galaxy, as well as 12 reasons for why it’s taboo and a 6-entry table to determine what happens if you get caught violating the taboo.

Okay, this covers the variant/additional/optional rules presented herein – next up is the scenario presented within. As always, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, only BDSMs around? Great! So, The Pink Sewer on Tanis 5 is where all Thots go after being processed – not really a prison, but more like a community center with armed guards. The massive bureaucratic overhead of the federation does mean that a lot of thots sentenced for tax fraud have been waiting…and waiting...and rumors of corruption abound.

Tanis 5 is protected by a plasma field that disintegrates everything on contact, but an interdimensional drive might just be capable of bypassing it – and the PCs just so happen to know someone one Nondol Haze (table with 6 reasons for knowing the guy provided). When the PCs arrive at Nondol’s place, they will have to deal with fully statted Andrazi droids. En route towards Tanis 5, the PCs get an alert about unregistered Thots at a bachelorette party that focuses on anus hyper-pigmentation – an inverse bleaching, if you will. The ladies are entertained by a wooky, and unless the PCs want to fight the fully-statted centurion droids, the best way inside will be disguising themselves as dancers. Oh, and the two Thots are actually pretty unique and interesting mechanically.

After this detour, once arriving at Tanis 5, the PCs can find that the local Magister, Dwen Zolax, has provided full surveillance and charges horny guys throughout the galaxy to watch the imprisoned Thots. The PCs can deal with the magister and his guards and possibly take over – if they want. Further adventuring possibilities are provided alongside a brief teaser for the next supplement/module.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the neat two-column full-color standard of the series, with white text on colored background – and it surprises me time and again that this doesn’t trigger my migraines. Artworks, as mentioned,a re color photographs that never exceed clothed pinups in raunchiness. The pdf, oddly has no bookmarks, which is an annoying comfort-detriment. The pdf has no cartography, but doesn’t necessarily need it this time around. The Blue Ball tracker (which is a cool tool to make Alpha Blue more mechanically rewarding) is also included as a proper png – the updated blue balls tracker is a very good reason to get this supplement if you enjoy Alpha Blue.

Zoltar Khan Delgado’s third Thot-supplement was a bit of a surprise to me – where the previous two had focused on delivering adventures, this one is, for the main part, a brief vignette prefaced with a lot of rules. The rules have in common that they enrich the game and reward the player characters for behavior that fits the tongue-in-cheek tone of Alpha Blue. I genuinely liked them as a whole. The premise of the brief adventure vignette is per se promising, but could have carried SO MUCH MORE: With all the stuff going on Twitch etc., this could have been a really rewarding supplement lampooning all the recent controversies, but instead restricts itself to the basics. The stats are appreciated, and I like what’s here, but this could have done so much more.

That being said, rules-wise, this should be considered to be a must-own for Alpha Blue fans, though one that drives home a very important note for the longevity of the game: Alpha Blue needs a revised edition. At this point, the best rules are spread throughout modules, adventures, etc., and the game is becoming a bit spread – having a revised core book that makes full use of the cool rules additions added over the years would imho really help the game. But that may be me. Considering the low price-point, I can recommend this as a supplement – if you’re 100% happy with Alpha Blue as is, or if you’re looking for just a module, this may be less what you’re looking for. The rules are great, the adventure cool, but too brief to capitalize on its ideas properly. All in all, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Credit For Your THOTs
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The Dragon Horde Zine Issue #2
Publisher: New Big Dragon Games Unlimited
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:22:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Dragon Horde-‘zine clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisement (one inside the ‘zine), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so first things first: The title is not a typo – it’s a pun, and the editorial confirms as much. Without much ado, we dive right into the first article herein, which depicts linnorms, 6 types of them, to be more precise. These list their respective bites, breath weapons and special abilities properly, but spell-references here are not set apart. That being said, we get full stats for them in both 0e/1e and B/X, and age categories note increases in HD and number of limbs – these also are used, in a rather clever manner, to govern the number of attacks they can field, their speed, etc. Some purists may scoff at breath weapons not being based, damage-wise, on Hit Points, but since they’re linnorms and not regular dragons, this may be actually an intended design choice to set them apart. As a whole, I very much enjoyed this iteration on the dragons, though I freely admit to being spoiled by newer games – I can’t help it but feel that draconic foes need more tricks up their sleeve. The absence of death curses also was a minor bummer, but consider this being me complaining about a perfectly fine and FREE take on the concept.

The next article is a perfect reason to download this ‘zine on its own – adapted from Rudolph Keyser’s work (I particularly recommend “Norges gamle Love indtil 1387” and the enlightening “Speculum regale: Konungs Skuggsjá”), we have a great two-page article on how Viking longhouses work – including a nice b/w-map. I’d have loved to get that map in a one-page-version, but having one? Super helpful. As someone with a degree in Scandinavian Literature and Culture, I consider this article at least to be required reading for authors attempting to depict Viking-related culture. Informative and immediately game-relevant. Two thumbs up! There also is a handy one-page explanation of using the þing, which, while basic, is similarly super helpful for GMs not too familiar with the ways of the North.

The pdf then presents the Völva (plural völur) NPC character class – part seer, part shaman, part jarl/kingmaker, the travelling ladies use Wisdom as a prime requisite, fights as a magic-user, but saves as a cleric. They have d4 HD and may not wear armor or carry a shield. The völva may only use her staff, and must have at least 9 in Intelligence and Wisdom. Cool: They do not have to memorize spells, instead using Seiðr, Spá-craft and Galdr, choosing freely from all available spells from her list each day. Higher levels yield shapechange, and they use the B/X-dwarf’s XP-progression and may gain up to 14 levels. The crafting of runed items is also cool. I really like this class, but there is one thing that bothers me – the custom spell lists include perfectly serviceable summaries of spells, but these do not come with the proper spell-formatting for B/X. Still, I’d allow this, and if you’re playing B/X or its current Old-School Essentials iteration, check this out!

The book also has a cool little article that proposes a wide variety of alternative means to deal with Level Drain: From temporary drain, to XP, to aging etc., there are plenty of interesting options here – that all have in common that they’re less annoying and cumbersome than the default, so once more – kudos!

Now, one of the advertisements of the ‘zine s for William Morris’ “The House of Wolfings”, and fans of the book get an added service: The Houses of the Mark are depicted, all with banner, number encountered, etc., and important characters note e.g. “Fights/saves as 8th-level Völva) and further information required to run them – not a full NPC-statblock, but enough to use them all.

The pdf also presents rules for guardian lamps, Mjölnir pendants and the ormstunga helm. These are okay, but not spectacular.

The supplement also includes an adventure for 4-6 characters of level 1 – 3, “Vifillmein.” It is good to have at least one nunhuman character, and random encounters are presented. The module does not come with read-aloud text, but features 4 sample hooks, 12 further rumors, and is surprisingly non-linear. NPCs and even random creatures are properly statted. We have an adventure n the rural countryside here, and while it can become deadly fast, any difficulty is the result of the actions of the PCs and how smart they handle everything. It’s also genuinely unique in several ways, and once more, is a good reason to get the module. It’s also an excellent adventure to kick off a new campaign with a more gritty, realistic flair – without being dark.

And this is as much as I can explain without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the small farming community Sællgarth has been beset by attacks from giant beetles! With the prevalence of belief in urðr, the locals have abandoned the place and renamed it (hence the name). However, a local boy named Egill has seen suspicious activity and is asking for help. The region’s map does something unique, in that it lists all the holes and beetle tunnels and differentiates between above and below ground encounters – the beetle tunnels are too tight for humans, but nonhumans, particularly halflings and gnomes, may crawl through them.

The cool thing here: there is no malignant intent per se behind the beetle infestation – just laziness and incompetence. The local and horribly untalented magic-user has simply botched handling a cursed item, and it’ll take a völva to lift the curse – who demands a hefty sum. Oh, and said magic-user? Finding him in his sunken longhouse, and getting him to own up? Yeah, that’ll be interesting. I really like this, as I’ve frankly made the experience that ignorance, incompetence and laziness are far more common than sheer malevolence. Kudos for going this route and using it as a hook instead of the standard arglblargl-I’m-so-evil angle!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, good on a rules-language level. The b/w-layout adheres to a variety of styles – from two-column standard used for rules text to three columns for the encounters to one-column for the adventure (with stats on the sides), the pdf may not be consistent, but it’s always efficient. It also, thankfully, uses a proper font and not the pseudo-typewriter-crap used in the first installment. Artworks are a mix of nice b/w and public domain pieces. The pdf, unfortunately, has no bookmarks, which is a comfort-detriment. Cartography in b/w is functional and solid, but no player-friendly iterations are provided.

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr.’s second Dragon Horde is vastly superior to the first: This book is educational without being boring or losing sight of being a game-supplement, and it assumes that the reader is intelligent, which is a plus indeed. The ‘zine has a tight leitmotif, and I like the völur as presented herein. The little adventure included is also remarkable in that it manages to set itself apart from a vast amount of low-level modules. The “use history/culture for gaming”-articles and the adventure particularly warrant getting this, while the rest is solid, if not necessarily mind-blowing. Considering that this is FREE? Definitely worth getting! My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Dragon Horde Zine Issue #2
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The Dragon Horde Zine Issue #1
Publisher: New Big Dragon Games Unlimited
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:21:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This ‘zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

So, first things first – this publication’s name is not a typo, but a joke. While hoard/horde is indeed one of the most common homophone errors I encounter, this time it’s no error. As for the rules-sets employed, the publication sports both 0e/1e stats and B/X-stats for the monsters included in the start – these would be a leech man, and a halfling/elf racial mix. Both are decent, if not spectacular critters. Both come with passable b/w-artworks.

After this, we have a one-page article that is system neutral – you can determine with a d30-roll where a weapon hits. The page is deliberately made to look like a hand-written excerpt from gaming notes (or represents a scan). It’s solid, if not spectacular, suggesting an optional rule for temporary loss of the use of a limb on full damage being rolled.

After this, we have a one-page list of familiar guidelines for “The System” by New Big Dragon Games Unlimited. Next up is a pixilated overview map (which seems to depict a continent, I’m not sure – no scale of context is provided), we are introduced to Lerdyn Chrisawn’s Chronicle, a kind of chronicle of everything that ranges over ten thousands of volumes from the era of Ante Chaos to Praeter Chaos – the writing here is nice, but lacks any type of context – with democracy and the like noted and the somewhat Aasimovian theme, an impression of a scifi theme is evoked, but from the text here, this remains hard to discern. An NPC-class, the Chroniclist, is based on this concept. The Chroniclist specializes in the chronicle and learns increasing amounts of specialized knowledge as well as a ridiculous amount of languages. The NPC-class uses d4 HD and gets spells of up to 4th level, as well as perfect memory, the ability to discern the true meaning of words and the like. I enjoy the concept, but I wished it had been balanced as a PC-class instead; the notion is cool, but the execution and its tie to the cool, if opaque lore, does limit the immediate usefulness of the class.

That being said, there are a couple of helpful things in here – there is a handy spreadsheet that lists which creatures speak what language and a pretty nice tavern patron generator that creates a patron in 4 die-rolls, plus optional roll for a Charisma score. I like this generator! The pdf also includes 7 magical weapons – none of them are particularly interesting. A spear that splits in two when thrown? A short sword that lets the wearer mirror image? Yeah, not blown away. This would also be the place to note that this pdf suffers from a layout decision that thankfully does not feature in the follow-up installments of the ‘zine: The majority of the ‘zine uses a font reminiscent of a typewriter font.

I HATE THIS FONT. With a fiery passion. I know, it’s supposed to look “old-school” and tug at nostalgic heart’s strings. It just annoys me, as there is no formatting for spells and rules-relevant components beyond a few instances of bolded text, and it’s harder to read. So no, it’s not just aesthetics, it does hamper the immediate usefulness of the supplement.

Ahem, excuse the outburst. The supplement also includes a brief low/rare magic-y module intended for 4-6 characters level 1 – 3. The complex features 45 keyed locations, though some of these denote empty rooms. The complex is surprisingly non-linear (a plus!), and the dungeon is of low to middle difficulty. It is per se pretty cookie cutter, but does have a couple of cool ideas – including the means to make figurines come to life. The main antagonist of the module is also nice, an intelligent panther revered as a deity (not a SPOILER – the introductory text states as much). The module has no read-aloud text and sports a decent one-page map with grid, but features no player-friendly version. Two random encounter tables are provided, but frankly, I can’t see myself running this one – it lacks too much in the way of actually interesting material. The other free offerings by New Big Dragon games Unlimited are more worthwhile.

Conclusion: Editing is surprisingly good on both a formal and rules-language level. Formatting suffers a bit from the font chosen. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, and artworks are hand-drawn or public domain b/w. Same goes for cartography, which, while functional, lacks player-friendly versions. Annoyingly, the pdf version lacks any bookmarks, making navigation a pain.

Richard J. Leblanc, Jr. has a lot of cool free and super-inexpensive material to offer. Unfortunately, this ‘zine is not exactly an example for “cool”. I very much like subdued and more realistic, low-key fantasy, but this supplement failed to excite me. It lacks a leitmotif, cohesion, and while I don’t object to a cornucopia/salad-bowl style ‘zine, here, the articles universally suffer from not having enough room to properly shine. As a person, I got nothing from this ‘zine. Nothing at all. This pretty much aggressively bored me, something that rarely happens.

As a reviewer, I have to account for the fact that this may not necessarily hold true for everyone, and this pdf is FREE, so yeah. Taking these components into account, my final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and being free. That being said, I strongly recommend getting the excellent and vastly superior “Vault of the Faceless Giants” instead to get an idea of the author’s capabilities instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Dragon Horde Zine Issue #1
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Village Backdrop: Ravens' Cradle
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:17:40

An ENdzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Raven’s Cradle is a prosperous farming community ruled by superstition and folklore; bandits are founded pecked to death nearby, and woe betide any who dare attempt to bring harm to this strange place. It may not be a surprise to veterans – but Raven’s Cradle makes for a pretty perfect fit for Ravenloft and similar settings/games that want to add a bit of folklore/horror in the vein of the Wicker Man to the game.

As always in the series, the pdf does come with notes on local dressing habits (which reflect the local superstitions) and nomenclature, and we do get some whispers and rumors, and a lore section that rewards PCs that do their proper leg-work. And indeed, this place is unique: On a pedestal, in the middle of the village, on an island, there is a massive diamond – and the “Bleakstone” is indeed not something the wise would attempt to steal.

The folklore angle is particularly effective in this supplement, with the belief in the raven spirit being only semi-covert, with special boards prominently displayed, etc. The Ravenloft-angle is also pretty pronounced, in that curses indeed matter in how this place came to be – the spirit noted, the diamond – all is entwined in a rather nice manner. The pdf does come with 2 different sample NPCs, presented in Raging Swan Press’ fluff-centric depiction (i.e. notes on personality etc. are provided, but no full statblocks), and the pdf also sports the by now traditional and much appreciated 20-entry-long dressing/event table.

The settlement sports a couple of briefer summaries for other NPCs as well, and notes goods to purchase where applicable. The PFRPG-version also has a proper marketplace section, though it does sport a typo – a “01” where a “+1” should be in the lore-rating.

The 10 keyed locations do come with their own read-aloud lines, and generally are awesome – there is but one aspect I’m not a big fan of: While the cursed diamond is cool indeed, and while I like the symptoms presented, it’d have been nice to get some proper rules for the curse.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

I enjoyed Steve Hood’s “Ravens’ Cradle” – the supplement knows how to evoke a proper sense of paranoia; it plays upon the PC’s greed, and ultimately asks a series of smart questions – are the PCs justified in trying to break the curse? Isn’t the place better off as it’s now? Things are not as simple as one would think, and I very much like this. At least in PFRPG, the supplement could have used a tad bit more crunchy components, though. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ravens' Cradle
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Village Backdrop: Ravens' Cradle (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:16:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Raven’s Cradle is a prosperous farming community ruled by superstition and folklore; bandits are founded pecked to death nearby, and woe betide any who dare attempt to bring harm to this strange place. It may not be a surprise to veterans – but Raven’s Cradle makes for a pretty perfect fit for Ravenloft and similar settings/games that want to add a bit of folklore/horror in the vein of the Wicker Man to the game.

As always in the series, the pdf does come with notes on local dressing habits (which reflect the local superstitions) and nomenclature, and we do get some whispers and rumors, and a lore section that rewards PCs that do their proper leg-work. And indeed, this place is unique: On a pedestal, in the middle of the village, on an island, there is a massive diamond – and the “Bleakstone” is indeed not something the wise would attempt to steal.

The folklore angle is particularly effective in this supplement, with the belief in the raven spirit being only semi-covert, with special boards prominently displayed, etc. The Ravenloft-angle is also pretty pronounced, in that curses indeed matter in how this place came to be – the spirit noted, the diamond – all is entwined in a rather nice manner. The pdf does come with 2 different sample NPCs, presented in Raging Swan Press’ fluff-centric depiction (i.e. notes on personality etc. are provided, but no full statblocks); in 5e, the NPCs reference the proper NPC default statblocks. The pdf also sports the by now traditional and much appreciated 20-entry-long dressing/event table.

The settlement sports a couple of briefer summaries for other NPCs as well, and notes goods to purchase where applicable. The items that are for sale in the village have been properly adjusted to represent the realities of 5e-gaming.

The 10 keyed locations do come with their own read-aloud lines, and generally are awesome – there is but one aspect I’m not a big fan of: While the cursed diamond is cool indeed, and while I like the symptoms presented, it’d have been nice to get some proper rules for the curse.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

I enjoyed Steve Hood’s “Raven’s Cradle” – the supplement knows how to evoke a proper sense of paranoia; it plays upon the PC’s greed, and ultimately asks a series of smart questions – are the PCs justified in trying to break the curse? Isn’t the place better off as it’s now? Things are not as simple as one would think, and I very much like this. I really wished the 5e-version had some crunch to back up the curse-components, though. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ravens' Cradle (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Ravens' Cradle (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2019 06:15:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Raven’s Cradle is a prosperous farming community ruled by superstition and folklore; bandits are founded pecked to death nearby, and woe betide any who dare attempt to bring harm to this strange place. It may not be a surprise to veterans – but Raven’s Cradle makes for a pretty perfect fit for Ravenloft and similar settings/games that want to add a bit of folklore/horror in the vein of the Wicker Man to the game.

As always in the series, the pdf does come with notes on local dressing habits (which reflect the local superstitions) and nomenclature, and we do get some whispers and rumors, and a lore section that rewards PCs that do their proper leg-work. And indeed, this place is unique: On a pedestal, in the middle of the village, on an island, there is a massive diamond – and the “Bleakstone” is indeed not something the wise would attempt to steal.

The folklore angle is particularly effective in this supplement, with the belief in the raven spirit being only semi-covert, with special boards prominently displayed, etc. The Ravenloft-angle is also pretty pronounced, in that curses indeed matter in how this place came to be – the spirit noted, the diamond – all is entwined in a rather nice manner. The pdf does come with 2 different sample NPCs, presented in Raging Swan Press’ fluff-centric depiction (i.e. notes on personality etc. are provided, but no full statblocks; the system neutral version does reference the proper old-school class names. The pdf also sports the by now traditional and much appreciated 20-entry-long dressing/event table.

The settlement sports a couple of briefer summaries for other NPCs as well, and notes goods to purchase where applicable. The items that are for sale in the village have been properly adjusted to old-school gaming.

The 10 keyed locations do come with their own read-aloud lines, and generally are awesome. In the system neutral version, I can’t well complain about a lack of mechanical representation for the massive diamond.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

I enjoyed Steve Hood’s “Ravens’ Cradle” – the supplement knows how to evoke a proper sense of paranoia; it plays upon the PC’s greed, and ultimately asks a series of smart questions – are the PCs justified in trying to break the curse? Isn’t the place better off as it’s now? Things are not as simple as one would think, and I very much like this. In the system neutral iteration, I can’t well complain about wanting more crunch for the curse, and as such, my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval for this iteration. Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ravens' Cradle (SNE)
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Book of Beyond: Herald Mythic Path
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2019 12:37:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mythic path clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 /2 a page blank, 4 pages SRD, 1 page back cover (erroneously referring to the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres book), leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so, like in the Wielder path file, this recaps that Lost Spheres Publishing’s supplements have the concept of different sources of power: The power-sources are arcane, divine, entropic, material, psionic and temporal. There is one more thing to note: The pdf introduces a rules term, namely the “source entity” – this entity is basically akin to the Wielder’s bonded item – the source of the mythic path’s power and the linchpin of the abilities presented within. The source entity may be anything, from a deity or outsider to a cosmic principle to a thing from beyond.

That out of the way, the mythic path grants 5 hit points per tier and begins by granting one of three “Channel the Master”-abilities. The first, “Fist of the Master”, nets you a slam attack as appropriate for your size; you may expend a use of mythic power to ignore hardness and DR as though the slam was adamantine for 1 minute. During this time, you also add tier to damage rolls. The second choice, “Breath of the Master”, lets you, as a free action, expend one use of mythic power to ignore a condition for 1 round per tier. Thirdly, “Dreams of the Master” lets you expend one use of mythic power as a standard action to manifest a psionic power or spell of your choosing of a power level equal to half your tier. Two problems: 1) This RAW does nothing at tier 1 – it lacks the “minimum 1”-caveat. 2) This should specify that it can only duplicate spells or powers of a casting time less than 1 minute; otherwise, this ability could be used to standard action-cast rituals, which is clearly not intended. As always, one 1st-tier path ability may be taken to gain an additional one of these abilities.

Unless I have miscounted, the pdf provides a total of 29 different 1st tier abilities, so what can heralds do? Well, there are some genuinely unique path abilities here, case in point, alien presence. You select one power or spell of half your tier or less that has the[mind-affecting]-descriptor possessedby your source entity, and emit it constantly in a radius of 30 feet per tier, with save DC, even if it usually does not have one, of 10 +1/2 HD + tier. You may spend a mythic power to activate or suppress the aura, and it remains in effect until you become unconscious – as a balancing tool, the ability has a hex-caveat: If a creature saves, it’s immune for 24 hours. Fits the herald theme very well. Calling tier-based henchmen, gaining access to psychic skill unlocks as well as a divination spell or clairvoyant power to use at will may be found. Scaling AC-bonuses that may be temporarily enhanced by mythic power expenditure, and there is an alternate surge that, while potent, prevents you from using mythic powers while in effect and ends with a period of exhaustion. There is a path ability that lets you use Breath of the Master to ignore multiple conditions at once.

As in the wielder-pdf, a peculiarity of the pdf is that it does not explicitly point out prerequisites required; while these are obvious, it’s something to bear in mind – this does require some system mastery. As a nitpick – the ability for additional condition suppression erroneously refers to “immunity”, which isn’t actually something it does….which becomes more relevant with another upgrade, which extends the duration of breath of the master. Cool: There are two path abilities that let you use mythic power to absorb energy the source entity is immune to, and use it to heal or replenish limited resources. Based on these path abilities, there is another that lets you temporarily help creatures touched this way as well; here, the prerequisite is properly called out. These abilities can be further enhanced and allow you to store energy, and you can unlock additional energies. I really like this path ability complex. There also is a means to spend a move action to share your experiences with the source entity; Fist of the Chosen can be combined with SP or Psi-like abilities granted by a series of path abilities that net you SPs or Psi-like abilities. Nitpick: These SPs/psi-like abilities should specify in the context of this combination that they can only apply if casting/manifesting time is 1 full round or less to avoid long cast exploits.

Gaining access to hypnotic stare, and building on that, painful and bold stare, is also covered. Limited access to an implement school, and bonuses to the influence threshold of the medium are also covered – the alter in particular is nice to see, considering that the medium badly needed means to increase that cap. Boosts to Knowledge skills (not properly capitalized) and slow, but perfect flight (which can be sped up with mythic power) makes sense. There also is a means to get limited access to an oracle mystery, and a medium spirit-like power, which represents the presence of the master. Wildcard feats and limited evolution points, allowing the master to speak through you, and bestowing source entity related enhancements to weapons or scaling telepathy complement this selection.

The pdf features 13 3rd tier abilities, which include immunity to an environmental condition or effect per tier (this could use some specifics), the ability to travel from planet to planet (cool!), share your flight, unleash stored energy in blasts, enhancement of aforementioned presence (for really nasty auras) and similar enhancements of the previous abilities. What started as a hunter’s skill boost to track down targets at 1st tier now allows you to track teleportation effects, and you may lesser evolution surge. Tapping into the source entity’s power for surges and communion can also be found here.

The pdf also features 7 6th tier abilities, which include mythic power-based plane shift/interplanetary teleport (spell-references not in italics), sharing the surges granted by the master, brings folks along through space, emit stored energy in brutal novas or imbue abilities in targets. The capstone ability lets you roll twice and take the better result when rolling an attack roll against a foe of your source entity, while creatures attempting to confirm a critical hit against you roll twice and take the worse result. 1/round when confirming a critical hit against a mythic foe of your source entity, you can regain one use of mythic power. As long as the source entity doesn’t have mythic kittens or rats as foes, this can’t be cheesed, so I’m good with it. ;) (Kidding aside, control rests firmly where it belongs – with the GM.)

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a rules-language level tend to be very good with a few exceptions; on a formal level, there are a couple of more snafus, like saving throw names not capitalized etc. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the artwork provided for the supplement (seen on the cover) is awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the pdf provides more content than you’d expect from the page-count.

Christen N. Sowards’ herald is a cool angle to pursue – the focus on the sourced entity is an interesting one, and the herald ultimately is rather different from e.g. Legendary Games’ Path of the Bound, feeling, well, more like a herald of a mighty entity. If you wanted to be Silver Surfer, you can definitely be that now. I particularly liked the energy storage and use sub-engine presented here, and there is a lot of storytelling potential going on here. At the same time, there are a few rough spots that cost this access to my highest rating-echelon; still, as a whole, I can wholeheartedly recommend this supplement if you’re looking for some cool mythic tricks! My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond: Herald Mythic Path
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Proteus Sinking (Psychedelic Fantasies #8)
Publisher: Geoffrey McKinney
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2019 12:36:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psychedelic Fantasies-series clocks in at 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Yep, we get basically a fifth of a page editorial and the like – and then, the rest is adventure. This series adheres to a pretty minimalist approach to module presentation – two columns of black text in a white background. Headers are bolded, but the small statblocks have no internal formatting – this is as minimalist as can be. As for the rule-set, the module does not subscribe to a particular OSR-game or edition, claiming general compatibility, which means that you will have to do some tweaking to modify the module for your preferred old-school game. 60’ (20’) are the default movement rates, HD are noted, and AC is provided only in that it notes “as unarmored”; the monsters denote their saves by e.g. using “F2” as a shorthand for saving like a second level fighter. Abilities, if relevant, are properly stated in this one, which is a plus in comparison to some other installments in the series.

As in all psychedelic fantasies, this has only the strength of its prose to lean on – no artworks, no read-aloud text, no handouts. The module is intended for levels 1 – 3. I’d recommend the module for levels 1 – 2, personally; it’s not a cakewalk. But the module isn’t exactly old-school hardcore regarding its difficulty – while there are scenes where careless PCs can die, the module is pretty fair regarding its handling of these situations. Thankfully, save or die situations are largely absent, with only one mutation of a creature potentially presenting such a threat. There is a functional b/w-map on the final page of the module, which comes with grid, but not with a proper scale. The map does not feature a player-friendly version sans location key, which is a bit of a bummer.

The adventure comes with a nice random encounter selection (all critters fully statted!), a d10 random mutation table and two event tables” – a d6 table to determine what happens when a pipe breaks, and a d10 table to determine what happens when you push a button. We also get a whole d20 table of treasures to be found in chests, which are suitably strange. The module features 3 new spells that are properly codified, though they do not state the casting class that gets them: Truth-seeing is a level 1 lie-detector (and isn’t that well-situated at that level); gelatinous transmogrification is a permanent level 2 spell that transforms air/gas into gel. This is the most interesting one. Sturmvorbereitung is German and could be read to mean “preparations for a storm”, or “preparations to charge” in an intrinsic ambiguity of the language; the latter seems to be intended here, as the level 2 spell nets a bonus to AC and attack. All in all, these spells are solid.

The module also contains 3 new creatures, but in order to discuss them, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great? So, the Proteus is a space ship that has crashed right on top of a massive tentacle beast – not it, slightly sloped, lies in a tarry, oily pit – the tentacle thing at once wants to get inside and keeps the ship from sinking. This may be the least well-considered component and my only structural niggle here – the presence of the tentacle beast (whose tentacles are one of the new monsters) and how it hampers access to the ship isn’t really considered.

Anyhow, inside the Proteus, the angle becomes pretty awesome: The pilots are the globonauts, humanoid slimes that seek to foster and understand happiness, but who are utterly incapable of feeling it. Huh…I guess my totem is the globonaut…Kidding aside, the reason why the ship crashed is pretty cool: You see, it is piloted by essentially brains-in-a-jar that usually are Lawful. However, the ship has become infected by a psychotropic virus, transmitted by vector of spiderlings – a monster-species that was created by the virus mutating the globonaut pet spiders. Yeah, this is awesome. Particularly since the spiders are pretty much omnipresent and can really create a sense of paranoia – they can move through the ship’s guts, and pushing the false button may upset them in their nest. Otherwise, they can be used to keep up the pressure and the paranoia-levels – which is great, particularly when contrasting them with some of the surreal scenes, like the room that is a globonaut-disco where everyone is awkwardly standing around, not really sure what to do.

The infection with the virus is btw. represented in an easy to discern, visual manner, and the PCs can actually save or condemn the Proteus and its crew – while infected globonauts tend to be nasty, there is actually pretty much room for proper roleplaying, which was something I very much enjoyed seeing. The module also gets something right few adventures do – the balance of “pressing random buttons” and the effects – the adventurers obviously can’t understand the Proteus, and some button-pressing can be fun. If it results in random death, as in many modules, that fun turns sour. Here, pressing the right buttons can change certain rooms, and if the Gm does their job right and tracks the effects properly, the PCs can actually learn which button does what. Considering the few pages this module has, that’s a pretty impressive achievement. And in case you were wondering – this may be a bit less psychedelic than some other modules in the series, but it does have a sufficiently weird style to make it fulfill the psychedelic fantasy-angle.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard and the module has no artworks and a rudimentary b/w-map. No player-friendly map is included, and the module has no bookmarks.

Björn Wärmedal’s “Proteus Sinking” provided a positive surprise for me. The module manages to create an alien and genuinely fun atmosphere that reminded me in many ways of Venger As’Nas Satanis’ writing with less pop-cultural references and slightly more surreal angles and internal logic. In short, this has a style I very much enjoy seeing. Oh, and guess what? The module is available for PWYW! This is definitely a plus, and a good reason for me to round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. Now I have to track down the author’s other work…

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Proteus Sinking (Psychedelic Fantasies #8)
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Village Backdrop: Gulls' Roost
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2019 12:15:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Gull’s Roost is a safe place where law abides – in the PFRPG-iteration, this fact is properly supported by the village’s stats, but even without them, PCs are bound to be impressed by the beautiful place: originally created as a summer resort for nobles to escape (akin to how e.g. the Viennese used to in real life) the summer’s stifling heat. Coated with mother-of-pearl and lavishly-painted, Gull’s Roost was doomed – it lured less than desirable entities, and a fort was erected to combat pirates and worse – but the reputation of the place as “unsafe” had been established – and thus, this place became the home of the workers that once toiled to create this gorgeous locale. One look at the b/w-artwork depicting it, next to cliffs, with a waterfall, a bay…it looks like a place I’d love to live.

Today, the quiet failure of this gem is reflected in the demeanor of the local populace, and, as always for the series, we do get notes on local lore that PCs may unearth, as well as rumors – 4 this time around. The PFRPG-version also clearly codifies a marketplace section. Speaking of marketplace: One of the 10 sample keyed locations (all with a brief read-aloud line) is actually a marketplace that comes with a small generator to determine which place is open. And while we’re on the subject of consumables, there are notes on items for sale by location as well. Kudos!

The pdf also sports 4 sample NPCs, depicted in the by now classic Raging Swan Press-style, i.e. focusing on distinguishing mannerisms and personality; the stats are not included, but race, alignment and class, if applicable, are noted. One of the best things about this place, though, beyond the well-wrought dressing/event table (20 entries, just fyi), would be that the overall leitmotif on the village-scale is extended on the personal level: You see, a couple of adventurers did settle here, and when the lady died and the kids left, the old adventurers started making a living doll facsimile of his lady…and it was not to remain the only one. These individuals have the surname “Doll” in local parlance, and from horror to questions of transhumanism, there are a lot of exciting themes this angle adds to the settlement.

However, more than all of that, expressionless visage and inflectionless voice, contrasted with warm-hearted behavior, the fact that the dolls are NOT evil…that’s what makes this stand out. The reason for their existence is profound sadness; but they, in a way, are an inverse of the town – which is gleaming and beautiful, but ultimately hollowed out; on the other hand, the dolls, while ostensibly hollow, are not – and all those contrasts are subsumed under a theme of genuinely touching melancholy.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels has written one of the best, most unique villages in the entire series here. The subtle melancholia as a leitmotif, contrasted with the idyll; the multi-faceted implementation of leitmotifs and their mirroring – they perfectly combine into a supplement greater than the sum of its parts. This is a grand little masterpiece, in that it has plenty of adventuring potential without throwing obvious threat xyz at the PCs…and because it manages to hit the subtle notes in between so well. I adore this place, and it resonated with me in a truly remarkable manner. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Gulls' Roost
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Village Backdrop: Gulls' Roost (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2019 12:14:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Gull’s Roost is a safe place where law abides –PCs are bound to be impressed by the beautiful village: Originally created as a summer resort for nobles to escape (akin to how e.g. the Viennese used to in real life) the summer’s stifling heat. Coated with mother-of-pearl and lavishly-painted, Gull’s Roost was doomed – it lured less than desirable entities, and a fort was erected to combat pirates and worse – but the reputation of the place as “unsafe” had been established – and thus, this place became the home of the workers that once toiled to create this gorgeous locale. One look at the b/w-artwork depicting it, next to cliffs, with a waterfall, a bay…it looks like a place I’d love to live.

Today, the quiet failure of this gem is reflected in the demeanor of the local populace, and, as always for the series, we do get notes on local lore that PCs may unearth, as well as rumors – 4 this time around. The 5e-version has no marketplace-section per se, but does list magic items by place where you can purchase them. Speaking of marketplace: One of the 10 sample keyed locations (all with a brief read-aloud line) is actually a marketplace that comes with a small generator to determine which place is open. And while we’re on the subject of consumables, there are notes on items for sale by location as well. Kudos!

The pdf also sports 4 sample NPCs, depicted in the by now classic Raging Swan Press-style, i.e. focusing on distinguishing mannerisms and personality; the stats are not included, but race, alignment and class, if applicable, are noted. In 5e, we have the proper defaulting to standard NPC-statblocks where applicable. One of the best things about this place, though, beyond the well-wrought dressing/event table (20 entries, just fyi), would be that the overall leitmotif on the village-scale is extended on the personal level: You see, a couple of adventurers did settle here, and when the lady died and the kids left, the old adventurers started making a living doll facsimile of his lady…and it was not to remain the only one. These individuals have the surname “Doll” in local parlance, and from horror to questions of transhumanism, there are a lot of exciting themes this angle adds to the settlement.

However, more than all of that, expressionless visage and inflectionless voice, contrasted with warm-hearted behavior, the fact that the dolls are NOT evil…that’s what makes this stand out. The reason for their existence is profound sadness; but they, in a way, are an inverse of the town – which is gleaming and beautiful, but ultimately hollowed out; on the other hand, the dolls, while ostensibly hollow, are not – and all those contrasts are subsumed under a theme of genuinely touching melancholy.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels has written one of the best, most unique villages in the entire series here. The subtle melancholia as a leitmotif, contrasted with the idyll; the multi-faceted implementation of leitmotifs and their mirroring – they perfectly combine into a supplement greater than the sum of its parts. This is a grand little masterpiece, in that it has plenty of adventuring potential without throwing obvious threat xyz at the PCs…and because it manages to hit the subtle notes in between so well. I adore this place, and it resonated with me in a truly remarkable manner. The 5e-version, to me, is in a bit of a weird place – not entirely as codified as the PFRPG-version, and not as free-form as the system-neutral one, but that is only relevant in direct comparison between versions. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Gulls' Roost (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Gulls' Roost (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2019 12:12:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Gull’s Roost is a safe place where law abides –PCs are bound to be impressed by the beautiful village: Originally created as a summer resort for nobles to escape (akin to how e.g. the Viennese used to in real life) the summer’s stifling heat. Coated with mother-of-pearl and lavishly-painted, Gull’s Roost was doomed – it lured less than desirable entities, and a fort was erected to combat pirates and worse – but the reputation of the place as “unsafe” had been established – and thus, this place became the home of the workers that once toiled to create this gorgeous locale. One look at the b/w-artwork depicting it, next to cliffs, with a waterfall, a bay…it looks like a place I’d love to live.

Today, the quiet failure of this gem is reflected in the demeanor of the local populace, and, as always for the series, we do get notes on local lore that PCs may unearth, as well as rumors – 4 this time around. The system neutral iteration has no marketplace-section per se, but does list a few properly codified magic items by place where you can purchase them. Speaking of marketplace: One of the 10 sample keyed locations (all with a brief read-aloud line) is actually a marketplace that comes with a small generator to determine which place is open. And while we’re on the subject of consumables, there are notes on items for sale by location as well. Kudos!

The pdf also sports 4 sample NPCs, depicted in the by now classic Raging Swan Press-style, i.e. focusing on distinguishing mannerisms and personality; the stats are not included, but race, alignment and class, if applicable, are noted. In 5e, we have the proper defaulting to standard NPC-statblocks where applicable. One of the best things about this place, though, beyond the well-wrought dressing/event table (20 entries, just fyi), would be that the overall leitmotif on the village-scale is extended on the personal level: You see, a couple of adventurers did settle here, and when the lady died and the kids left, the old adventurers started making a living doll facsimile of his lady…and it was not to remain the only one. These individuals have the surname “Doll” in local parlance, and from horror to questions of transhumanism, there are a lot of exciting themes this angle adds to the settlement.

However, more than all of that, expressionless visage and inflectionless voice, contrasted with warm-hearted behavior, the fact that the dolls are NOT evil…that’s what makes this stand out. The reason for their existence is profound sadness; but they, in a way, are an inverse of the town – which is gleaming and beautiful, but ultimately hollowed out; on the other hand, the dolls, while ostensibly hollow, are not – and all those contrasts are subsumed under a theme of genuinely touching melancholy.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels has written one of the best, most unique villages in the entire series here. The subtle melancholia as a leitmotif, contrasted with the idyll; the multi-faceted implementation of leitmotifs and their mirroring – they perfectly combine into a supplement greater than the sum of its parts. This is a grand little masterpiece, in that it has plenty of adventuring potential without throwing obvious threat xyz at the PCs…and because it manages to hit the subtle notes in between so well. I adore this place, and it resonated with me in a truly remarkable manner. The system-neutral iteration manages to retain the atmosphere of the other versions pitch-perfectly. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Gulls' Roost (SNE)
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Genie Riders of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2019 12:12:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 12 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

The genie rider class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields, excluding tower shields.

The class also comes with a so-called genie mount, which begins play with 1 bonus trick and increases these to up to 7 over the course of the class progression. Nitpick here – the write-up of bonus tricks erroneously references the druid class instead of the genie rider class in an obvious cut-copy-paste glitch. The mount gets full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves; starting at third level, it gets a +2 natural AC bonus, and increases this to up to +12 in increments of +2. Also at third level, we have a +1 increase to both Strength and Dexterity, which also increases in increments of 3 levels to up to +6. Additionally, 4th level and every 4 thereafter net a +2 ability score increase. The mount begins with 1 skill, and starts play with a feat and increases that to a total of 10 feats over the course of the 20 levels of progression.

The mount may be handled as a free action, and the rider gets +4 circumstance bonus regarding her mount, courtesy of evasion. 3rd level nets evasion, 15th level improved evasion, and 6th level provides Devotion, +4 to saves vs. mind-affecting spells and effects. 9th level nets Multiattack. The table of the mount is flipped 90°, which while understandable, can be slightly awkward when using this on a non-phone screen – not a major complaint, mind you, as most folks using this electronically will indubitably do so on phones, tablets, etc. The pdf comes with 6 mount choices: Camel, lion, horse, mawgriff, pony and wolf, with Medium genie riders restricted to horse/camel and the other options being exclusives for Small genie riders. Genie riders do not take armor check penalty when riding their mount, and the mounts are considered to be combat trained and start play with Armor Training. Minor nitpick: The pdf doesn’t mention anything regarding the means to replenish mounts after one has fallen in battle.

Genie riders begin play with the camaraderie ability, which allows the rider to use aid another to help allies within 30 feet, and the bonus granted increases by 1. Both 7th and 14th level provide a further +1 increase to the bonus. The class begins with the challenge ability: 1/day, activated as a swift action, and the bonus damage caused is equal to the genie rider’s level. The ability gets an additional daily use at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. At 12th level, challenges also penalize the AC of the challenge target versus attacks from other foes.

At 2nd level, a genie rider damaging a target prevents that target from providing a flanking for 1 round. 3rd level nets controlled charge, which increases the attack bonus granted by charging and negates the AC lost when charging. 5th level nets ½ class level thunderous charges per day as a full-round action. This works as a charge, and the end point of the charge is rocked, with nearby targets risking falling prone, and the option to exclude targets at higher levels. The radius of these quakes increases at higher levels as well. 9th level nets the mount the trample universal monster ability, but this does require, as a nice balancing tool, being properly commanded – at least until 18th level, where this restriction is lost, and damage further increases.

6th level provides symbol of courage, which means immunity to fear for mount and rider, and an aura that nets nearby allies a bonus to saves vs. fear effects. 13th level nets the ability to inspire allies as a move action, which nets all allies within 60 feet the rider’s Charisma bonus as a bonus to attack and damage rolls with weapons for one round (so not mount buff). This may be used 3/day, plus 1/day for every level beyond 13th and the effect is properly codified. 15th level nets “All Eyes On Me”, a supernatural ability usable 3/day as a swift action. Each foe within 30 ft. must succeed on a Will-save or become flat-footed and suffer a -2 penalty to AC against attacks from the rider’s allies.

At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the genie rider’s mount receives a genie tribe’s blessing, chosen from a list of 5. This means, ultimately, that all genie riders at 20th level will have all of the blessing benefits, which is a bit of a bummer. Djinni blessing enhances speed and later nets feather falk/air walk. Efreeti nets fire resistance and fire bonus damage; the blessing of the janni enhances saves and allows the mount to alter/disguise self at will, culminating in rerolls at 20th level. Marid’s Blessing helps retain concentration and allows for better Stealth, Ref-saves and swim speed/water breathing at higher levels. Finally, the shaitan’s blessing negates penalties incurred from armor, DR, an improved devotion and the ability to carry more.

The pdf concludes with a sample zendiqi genie rider, including mount stats and a brief story.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language level, and apart from minor cosmetic snafus, I noticed no issues on a formal level either. Kudos! Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights, and the artwork on the cover is nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is a nice plus.

Carl Cramér’s genie rider is basically a variant cavalier, for better or worse. It doesn’t address the linearity of the class that inspired it, and replaces the one choice we had, order…with nothing. The supplemental abilities are nice – the quaking angle? Heck yeah! Why don’t we have abilities for unique attacks, depending on genie blessings? Indeed, further enhancing the meaningfulness of genie blessing would be a huge step to make this class more compelling. Smoke charges, drowning attacks, aerial acrobatics – the awesome concept has its work cut out for it, but as presented, this does not capitalize on the cool idea, at least not to the extent that it imho should. All in all, if you’re looking for an Arabian nights-style cavalier variant, this is certainly worth getting for the low asking price. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, but I can’t round up for this fellow.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Genie Riders of Porphyra
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One Waiting One Prisoner One Sacrificed
Publisher: GM Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/19/2019 11:14:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement; each of the three chapters has its own sub-cover page, which means we arrive at 15 pages of content, laid out for 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

All right, structurally, this is one narrative that was released in 3 installments by the Gothridge Manor patreon; the three chapters each represent a nice mini-adventure, and depending on how fast your players are, you can potentially finish the entire module in a single, long session. Unlike many multi-part adventures, the different chapter manage to retain their own, concise themes while still gelling together as a cohesive entity.

Now, in case you’re new to GM Games, it should be noted that the tone herein is one of somber dark fantasy; Tim Shorts has a gift when it comes to depicting the small and large shortcomings of human(oid) beings and their consequences. Much like e.g. the Witcher games, there is no moralizing, no raised index finger. It should be noted that this module does include a kid that the PCs can’t save from death; if that sort of thing rubs you the wrong way, you can pretty easily modify the adventure, though. The module is pretty much a dark fairy tale, and captures the themes of the stories I grew up on rather well.

As far as rules are concerned, we have Swords & Wizardry (S&W) as the default rules-set here. Formatting of rules-components does deviate in some aesthetic components from the defaults. The module sports no read-aloud text. Each of the 3 parts of the adventure comes with its one map – the first and second adventure sport a hand-drawn full-color map, while the third sports a side-view b/w-silhouette of a tower. I really like that the maps look like the thing they are – hand-drawn. It’s rather charming. I am less enamored with the fact that there is no way to get rid of the annoying numbers on the maps – no player-friendly version has been provided. The maps of the first and second adventure lack grids and scale; the third one has a scale that designates the height of the complex, but not the width. That being said, the maps don’t really hamper the use of the adventure.

All right, so, this module has no suggested level-range for the party: Mid to low level makes sense, but the difficulty of the adventure ultimately hinges on how smart your players are; this is very much an old-school adventure, in that player-skill trumps character skill. The final boss is a pretty tough cookie, though – 6 HD, and a bunch of immunities versus weaponry means that having an arsenal of damage-causing spells is a must. This is the primary reason I’d recommend running this module no sooner than 3rd level, unless you really want to challenge your players with a brutal final fight. Most groups should consider this to be a module best suited for levels 4th – 5th.

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, a few days ago, on the celebration of the summer solstice, a group of 3 children went off in search of adventure, finding Denizon’s Folly – the ruin of a tower that was never completed. The ruins of the tower and the burned-out houses there represent the first investigation angle – and indeed, there are strange things going on – sentient specks of light drift hazily through the burned-out shells, subsisting on memories, and indeed, a fey trickster may also be found. Sage plants growing in a circle make for a cool twist on the access point to the fairy realm; with an apple in hand, entering will lead you there. If the players are stumped, the trickster’s thievery may provide a hint there.

The second part of the adventure takes place in the realms of the fey – it is essentially a mini-hexcrawl through the fey village of Osmolt. The is a chaotic means to manipulate time (which courageous players may attempt to use to save all children, but that as an aside that is per se not explored within), and the region per se is chaotic: A table lets you determine fey type, information they provide and mood the fey’s in, and the pdf pretty much does an impressive job here – the angle is weird, and the randomness of the whole information gathering fits the fey well. There also is the eponymous Osmolt, a very potent green man, and a roc. Yeah, you heard me. This section is where murderhoboing will get the PCs TPK’d faster than saying “Roll 3d6, 6 times, in order.” Like it! You see, the fey are frightened – they are currently holding one of the kids, Pauline, imprisoned at the command of their new overlord, the vile redcap Blaspheemus. And yes, the name’s a bit cringy, but it fits the redcap and fey angle. One more problem – Pauline, even if saved, can’t expect a happy end. She has aged physically to become a young adult, while mentally, she is still a little girl…and the village-dwellers will not abide the feytouched among them. I liked seeing this angle – it is a chance for the PCs to be surrogate parents…or true heroes, not just a group of killers with pointy sticks.

The third part of the module deals with Blaspheemus’ tower, a weird edifice overlooking the churning sea of mists. The tower is guarded by the two-headed hellhound Char and Sid, and ina unique angle, the tower is highly vertical – inside, you can walk on all walls, knockers seek to defend their valuables, and the PCs may encounter a horse running on the walls – an illusion given shape, which can cause confusion. The tower is pretty dangerous, including effects that can blind people, teleportation ioun stones that teleport your hand away…and what about the actually pretty competent non-combatant goblin chef? A massive d100-table of Blaspheemus’ loot is included here as well. Speaking of whom: The redcap is a brutal boss – he not only has excellent defenses, he also has a tricky magic item (that works only n the fey realm, so no, the PCs won’t be able to capitalize on it) – and in the end, the PCs will have a hard task, for within this 100-entry table, his keys are hidden – and slaying the redcap will cause the tower to collapse pretty rapidly. The PCs will need to find the keys to release the traumatized Alice, the second of the kids who’s still alive, and escape with her from the tower.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are not good – “abandon” where “abandoned” should be and similar typos can be found throughout. On a rules-language level, I have, thankfully, not encountered serious issues. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard with no frills. The cartography is per se nice, but, as mentioned before, doesn’t have player-friendly components. The pdf sports no bookmarks, which is an unnecessary comfort-detriment.

I really, really enjoyed Tim Shorts’ dark fantasy fairy tale here. It hits the right notes, and while its formal criteria aren’t perfect, this is certainly a module I’d consider to be among his best. If you can look past the formal hiccups, then you’ll get a rewarding dark fantasy fairy tale here, one with a surprisingly well-crafted atmosphere. Formally, this is, at best, a 3.5 star-adventure, but I genuinely found myself enjoying this adventure, and if you value atmosphere over perfection, then this will provide a fun adventure for you. As such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
One Waiting One Prisoner One Sacrificed
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Book of Beyond: Wielder Mythic Path
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/15/2019 14:11:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mythic path clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 /2 a page blank, 4 pages SRD, 1 page back cover (erroneously referring to the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres book), leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so one thing I enjoy about Lost Spheres Publishing’s supplements would be the concept of different sources of power – the pdf recaps these: The power-sources are arcane, divine, entropic, material, psionic and temporal.

Okay, so what do the Materia-wielders of e.g. Final Fantasy 7, Arthur and green knights have in common? They derive their power from things; as such, the wielder attempts to encapsulate this concept, and is recommended for occultists, wizards and rogues, or any other character who focuses on wielding items. The supplement does mention worlds and cabals known for wielders. A tier in this path nets 5 bonus hit points, and a wielder technique, chosen from a list of three – these are printed in italics, which this time around, does not impede the functionality of the rules-text (no spell/SP/item-name reference), but still struck me as a bit odd. Anyhow, the first of these choices would be dual trigger – this one lets you expend a use of mythic power to use two abilities of an item that would take a standard action to activate, or the same ability twice. Thankfully, other limiters, such as charges, mythic power required and the like still remain in effect, preventing this from being cheesed. The second technique, lightning finisher, lets you expend a use of mythic power as a full-round action to trigger a standard action item ability as a swift action instead. The DC, if applicable, of the action, is increased by ½ (tier +1) for every successful attack (such as one executed with a weapon) this round. Once more, other limitations remain in effect. This is known as “lightning Finisher.” Thirdly, there is the option to expend a use of mythic power to add tier to all attack rolls made with the bonded item. These attacks ignore all DR and decrease the effectiveness of energy resistances, if applicable, by 5 per tier for the purpose of energy damage caused by the item. All of these are extraordinary, just fyi. This ability is called “penetrating strike.”

“But wait”, I hear you say, “what if I don’t have a bonded item?” Well, for the purpose of this mythic path, a bonded item doesn’t necessarily have to be a bonded item granted from a class feature – any item granted by a class feature, feat or trait with sufficient importance for the character will do; this can include heirlooms, mind blades, etc. – while personally, I wished that the pdf had used a term that was not already “occupied”, once you know this, the path looks less restrictive. The path then proceeds to present 29 (unless I miscounted) 1st tier path abilities, and there are some creative ones to be found here beyond the obligatory one that lets you unlock one of the wielder techniques not previously chosen. Activated lore lets you select an occultist implement school that fits your bonded item. The item then grants you the base focus power as well as resonant powers of the implement. Spellcasters may add the spells to their spell list, and the item has a base allotment of 2+ tier mental focus invested in it; if you are an occultist, you increase your occultist level by ½ tier for the bonded item. You may select Extra Focus for it. Interesting: There is a path ability that lets your item transform into a creature, and if the creature is slain, the item goes dormant as if suppressed for as long as the creature was active. Forms available scale with tier. Minor nitpick: The ability would have been more elegant, if it tracked the rounds spent in creature form on a daily basis, but seeing how the ability costs mythic power to use, I am not adverse to this selection, as it discourages dispelling and renewing prior to battle. Smart design there! Magi can benefit from a path ability that increases the benefits of arcane pool points spent, and there also is a path ability that lets your item awaken as per either the intelligent item or psicrystal rules. There also is an option that makes the item not count as occupying your item slot. There is also a follow-up ability of sorts that lets the item use abilities when you’re dominated, paralyzed, etc. – of course, at the cost of uses of mythic power! I think this should only apply to abilities of the item itself, but could be read in a way that would grant the item autonomy over actions of your body, which is probably not intended. A slightly cleaner verbiage would be nice here.

Death charger is interesting – when you deliver the killing blow to a creature “within at least 1 level lower” and regain a daily or weekly charge limit ability, but the power recharged must be equal to or lower than ½ your HD or tier, whichever is lower, and you may only do so mythic tier times within a charge period. Essentially, this rewards you for mook sweeping by recharging limited use abilities, and it is very much cheesable – by design. There is a hard cap to the recharges, and while I am not 100% happy with it, it’s still a refreshing design that goes the inverse route of what we usually see from kill-to-recharge abilities. There also would be a path ability that nets you Leadership and the ability to share emotions with your followers – and let them know, as per augury, where you are or what you intend. I like this one – it has the potential to carry the concept of a whole campaign.

Now, I already mentioned the notion of power-sources, and it should be noted that there is a path ability that lets you choose a power source and treat the item as one or all of your power sources available – the utility of this one is obviously contingent on the amount of Lost Spheres Publishing books your using. You can also leech item charges or uses from it to replenish your own spell levels or power points, which is per se cool and requires very deliberate reading – only daily uses or charges qualify, so no, you can’t RAW get infinite spellcasting or psionic power points, even though it might seem like that for a second. There is also an inverse version, which lets you power your item instead. There are means to grant spell-like or psi-like abilities to the bonded item, make it count as a spell focus/material component substitution (with a scaling value cap based on tier), and there is a path ability that builds on penetrating strike – as a nitpick, this should specify that it requires penetrating strike; while obvious from the context and verbiage, it’d still be nice to have that listed. This also extends to a couple of the higher tier path abilities, so you should be careful when choosing them.

The options here also encompass having the item heal damage as though alive, a brawler’s martial adaptability, and the option to expend mythic power to prevent the use of invested mental focus. There also is a cool means to prevent the expenditure of rage or bloodrage (with a cap that prevents the abuse of kittens for infinite (blood-)rage), bonus charges for bonded staves(wands, a slight bonus pool of power points, and limited replenishment of resources like mental focus, etc. via critical hits – once again with a proper cap. Better resonant powers, item copies (fake shades of Excalibur, anyone?) sacred weapon-like boosts and, if you’re playing with Path of War, there also is the means to get some limited martial maneuvers – and yep, this includes Weapon Group Adaptation, but only for the purpose of the bonded item. There also is a path ability that lets an additional weapon count as bonded, one that merges two item-granting class abilities, and one that enhances your CL and spell DC by enhancement bonus.

Among the 12 3rd tier abilities, we have higher level Path of War maneuver access, the ability to duplicate other items you made, an increase of enhancement bonuses (should have a note that the +5 cap remains in effect), generate temporary magic items, increase the theoretical enhancement bonus maximum by ½ tier (here, the +5 cap remains in effect) or, have the item count as always in your possession – including the means to perceive the area around it. The spell-reference here is not printed properly in italics. Did I mention the ability to have your soul magic jar’d if you die, then to mind swap saps that take it? Yeah, cool!

The pdf closes with 6 6th tier abilities, which, once more, provide higher level Path of War discipline access, more means to bypass slot limits, free uses with some powers, further enhancing of the magic jar trick, additional targets affected by your item abilities, and change abilities between bonded items. Cool! The capstone 10th-tier ability lets you regain a use of mythic power when you defeat a mythic foe who has ONLY taken damage from your bonded item during an encounter.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting, while not always perfect, are pretty impressive – apart from a missed spell-reference and the tendency to not list prerequisites in abilities that build on others, there isn’t anything to seriously complain about – a rather laudable fact, considering that the pdf attempts some complex rules-operations. The pdf adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and only sports the cover artwork of Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres and the pdf’s cover artwork as interior art; it should be noted that there is quite a lot of content jammed inside, so don’t be fooled by the page-count. The supplement comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Christen N. Sowards’ wielder path is a creative and fun mythic path – the item focus is pretty complex, and the emphasis on uncommon power sources such as psychic or psionic energy makes it stand out. There are plenty of cool themes that you can execute with this one, as a whole, I genuinely consider this path to be worth getting and introducing to your game. While it does require some serious system mastery and close-reading, this can be considered to be a great supplement, particularly if you’re like me and are using a plethora of options in your game. All in all, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond: Wielder Mythic Path
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