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Files for Everybody: Nashi
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2021 05:42:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

..

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This class clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 43 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vathak 5e Character Options - Feats of Devotion and Deliverance
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Vathak 5e Character Options - Vathak Spells 1
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2021 12:43:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

So, the one page of this supplement contains three new spells, each of which does state the core classes for which it is intended. Good!

The first would be a cantrip, bellow of the grave, which is a necrotic damage-based combat spell; it has a relatively short range, is opposed by a Constitution saving throw (so no spell attack required), and its damage output clocks in below e.g. fire bolt; its unique angle is that a save failed by 5 or more causes the target to be frightened. Cantrips are a tight design-space, and this does something solid in the design space. I like it. The damage progression is also in line. The classes for which it is available make sense. No complaints!

The second spell would be the 1st-level hands of the dead, and causes the hands of the deceased to erupt from a 5-ft. square within the 50 ft. range. You get an additional square for every two spell slot levels above first that you use to cast the spell…and there is something interesting here: The grasping hands grapple Medium or smaller targets on a failed Dexterity saving throw, and if you affect at least two squares, Large creatures can be grappled as well. Escape DC is spell save DC, of course. So, a suckier version of entangle? Nope, because this spell has one crucial advantage: It doesn’t need concentration! This makes it a nice tool for low level villains to cover their escape, for example. I have two nitpicks re formatting to complain about: Size categories in 5e are in title case, so the reference to “medium” size should be Medium instead. Secondly, the “At Higher Levels.” Subheader should be both bold and in italics.

The third spell would be howl of the beast, a 3rd-level spell for bards, druids, sorcerers and wizards – class selection makes sense. This spell is interesting, in that it is a kind of fear-based sanctuary: You emit a keening howl, and can maintain it for up to 1 minute, provided you can maintain your concentration; like fear, the opposed saving throw is Wisdom. The radius is an impressive 50 ft. centered on the caster – but there is a crucial difference in comparison with e.g. fear: Enemies are frightened on a failed save, yes, but they do not drop their weapons: Instead, they cannot willingly move towards you, and are compelled to move to the edge of the spell’s area of effect. They can still use ranged weapon or spell attacks to assault you, but attacks are made at disadvantage, and subsequent rounds equal new saves to shake off the howl. Oh, and the effect doesn’t break if you move towards the enemy, but enemies that are cornered can very much hit you with melee attacks as well if you get within reach. This has serious narrative potential…and horror story potential. I like it. It’s the only spell without a neat material component (the other two are fitting!), but that’s just personal aesthetics.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, we have a few minor hiccups, but nothing that impedes functionality. Layout adheres to a nice full-color two-column standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Ismael Alvarez delivers 3 solid spells here; they all have something going for them, and while they are not all brilliant, the narrative potential of howl of the beast does make up for the minor hiccups. All in all a solid little pdf. For a single buck? Yeah, worth taking a look at. 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vathak 5e Character Options - Vathak Spells 1
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Vathak 5e Character Options - Magic Items 1
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2021 12:42:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

So, this supplement contains 6 magic items, 2 weapons and 4 wondrous items. Two are classified as uncommon: The first would be the undertaker’s oil, which, when applied to a weapon, makes a regular weapon temporarily capable of hitting undead as though it were magical; Geralt would be proud. :) The ghost ward lantern requires attunement and burns holy water; it glows eerily even when not lit (but sans mechanic effect regarding lighting), and when lit, incorporeal undead must succeed on a save to approach; those incorporeal undead within the 50 ft. radius when lit must succeed on the save or be briefly frightened and unable to enter the radius…but they are already in the radius? Do they have to move to its edge? Not sure. I love the concept, but the execution contradicts itself RAW.

One wondrous item has a weapon-like function for monks: Gladiator’s blood gloves require attunement, and for good reason: They let you add twice your Strength bonus to unarmed attacks, can grapple a creature one size larger than you, or 2 creatures of “the appropriate size” (should be your size or smaller), and you can initiate a grapple as a bonus action. This can be one hell of a benefit. I wouldn’t allow this item as written in my game, at least not as a rare item; this looks legendary to me. Longswords of piety are rare and require attunement; the sword is essentially a +1 weapon, and has one charge, which you may expend to automatically succeed at a saving throw; the charge is regained by bathing the sword in holy water while in sunlight. COOL! But…how long? How much holy water is required? Otherwise, I can see rather ridiculous scenarios in daytime warfare. On a cool angle, the sword falls from the wielder’s hands if they seek to harm an innocent, even while under compulsion, and can’t eb wielded by evil creatures. The latter struck me as odd, considering how Vathak tends to promote a more nuanced shades of gray morality than your average 5e-setting.

Swords of pursuit are also rare, require attunement, and are +1 weapons. They have 3 charges and are rather cool: When you hit a target, you can expend a charge to designate the target as someone you track: Until dawn, you gain advantage on checks to track the critter, and at dawn, you can expend another charge to maintain the effect, making this a cool bounty hunter’s/blood hound weapon. Charges replenish at dawn unless you are actively tracking a target. Minor complaint: The pdf confuses query with quarry.

The final item would be the teeth of the dead, a rare wondrous item that lets you 1/day insert them in a corpse to make it speak. A corpse that has been dead for more than a year only speaks its last thoughts, while younger corpses can converse. The teeth must be cleaned with a paste from cremated ash before using them again. See, this is cool. Relevant for narratives, cool, magical-feeling recharge, and yet limited. Really like it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, we have a few minor hiccups, but nothing that impedes functionality. Layout adheres to a nice full-color two-column standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Ismael Alvarez delivers a mixed bag of magic items here; there are some hiccups herein, but also some neat, if not revolutionary, ideas. As a whole, I consider this to be a good example of a middle-of-the-road pdf; for a buck you can do worse, but I don’t consider this to be a must-have. My final verdict is 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Vathak 5e Character Options - Magic Items 1
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Lost in the Wilderness
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2021 15:00:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This toolkit for Neoclassical geek revival (NGR) clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Before you skip ahead: While this has been written for NGR, its generators per se are useful for any fantasy game, particularly ones that tend to gravitate to the side of gritty realism.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue because it’s the only one of the NGR toolkits that I haven’t yet covered, and that triggers my OCD.

So, what is this? Well, if you’re familiar with Zzarchov Kowolski’s often absolutely amazing wilderness modules, such as the classic Gnomes of Levnec, you’ll recall the cool random encounter engine they use: One rolls a d8, a d6 and a d4, and the results let you check on tables that, together, make for an encounter that is more interesting. The cool thing, though, particularly for longer treks, would be the additions: If you roll doubles, called “dubs” (say, a 5 on both the d6 and d8), or triples, called “Trips” (say, a 1 on all three dice), then you get a rarer, often more fantastic encounter. If you have a run (say, 1, 2, and 3 on the dice), you also get special things, and when you roll the maximum (so, 8, 6, and 4), you get the special “Max” encounter, often dealing with high risks and rewards. The cool thing about this engine is that its very design lets you maintain and control the degree of the fantastic/weird rather well. It works.

The generators herein also use the Σ-sign, which denotes the sum of all dice rolled. After a brief one-page explanation of the engine, we get one of these generators per page, with the region also noting a travel speed and the health of the environment. The d8 denotes “Where” the encounter happens; the d6 “What” and the d4 something “Weird”.

To give you an example, I rolled 3,4,4 on the farm country generator. This yields: Where? Rotten remnants of huts or other outbuildings overgrown with shrubs. Hat? Wild game. This has an additional roll to determine the type of game—I rolled pheasants. And the weird aspect would be a small pond. If I had rolled 3,4,5 instead, I’d have gotten a special “Runs”-encounter: “Charcoal burners are heading to the nearest town. They carry backpacks of charcoal and hatchets.” A maximum result might see the outlaw king holding court in a commandeered farmhouse!

As you can see, these generators are rather useful and handy. The regions covered in addition to aforementioned farm country would be the royal woods, the river, the scrublands, hill country, olde woodes (druid, fey county; Margreve-ish), haunted forests, the barrens, the swamp, the coastline, the foothills, the mountains, the undermountain, the caves, the plains, the desert, the sand-swallowed civilization, the dust choked lands, the jungle, the endless savannah, and last but not least, the land that time forgot (dino country). So yeah, apart from proper oceans or tropical isles, this does cover quite a wide breadth of biomes/regions.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills 2-column b/w-standard, with a few b/w-artworks thrown in. The pdf, alas, has no bookmarks, which is really annoying when using the generators. I suggest printing the relevant pages when using the booklet.

I really enjoy Zzarchov Kowolski’s wilderness-encounter generators, and I maintain that they are useful far beyond the confines of the NGR-system; if you enjoy your fantasy on the gritty side of things, then these encounter-generators provide compelling dressing with just the right degree of strange sometimes just…happening. The fact that the special encounters are automatically rarer is also neat.

So, is there something to complain about? Well, the island/tropical angle and oceans are missing, and there is the lack of bookmarks; the latter is particularly egregious for a book that you want to use time and again. As such, I feel I can’t round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lost in the Wilderness
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Mothership: Player's Survival Guide
Publisher: Tuesday Knight Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2021 07:56:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The player’s guide/rules book for the Mothership RPG clocks in at 44 pages (in 6’’ by 9’’/A5), 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 42 pages of content. Yes, I mean 42 pages of content. In the saddle-stitched softcover version, the back cover is a handy player’s cheat sheet, and the player sheet is 2 pages, as is the ship sheet; if you take away these pages from the total, we’d be left with 37 pages, but these sheets are very handy.

This review was requested by my supporters and thus moved up in my reviewing queue.

It should be noted that this book is a great example for extremely tight information design: What at first glance might seem like a mess of arrows on e.g., the character sheet, quickly becomes a rather clear and easy to read example of very tight compression of information. This extends to the inside of the front cover doubling as a page of all weapon stats for easy reference. Mothership uses d10s for everything.

So, character creation is pretty simple: You roll 6d10 4 times and record the results in order: These are your attributes (aka stats in the game) Strength, Speed, Intellect, Combat. When you check something, you roll a d% under the stat to succeed. Unsurprisingly, you can have advantage or disadvantage (rolling twice and taking the better or worse result, respectively), which, as customary, cancel each other out. Advantage is indicated by [+], disadvantage is indicated by [-]. Simple, easy to grasp. There is an interesting twist here: If you roll doubles, it’s a critical! (so 11, 88, 77, etc.); if the roll would be a success, it becomes a critical success instead; if the roll would be a failure, it becomes a critical failure instead. 00 is always a critical hit, 99 is always a critical failure. In opposed checks, whoever rolls higher WITHOUT going over their own stat wins.

This mechanic ties in with skills: Each class (we’ll get to that in a bit) comes with skills. If you aren’t trained in a skill, you roll a stat check; skills are grouped in three layers: Trained -> Expert -> Master. Trained nets +10%, Expert +15%, Master +20%. These values are added to the stat check you roll, and the skills have a skill tree of sorts; in order to take an Expert or Master skill, you need to have ONE of its prerequisite skills. So, e.g., a Trained skill would be Piloting; once you’ve learned that, you can unlock the Astrogation expert skill, and from there, you can unlock the Hyperspace master skill. Trained costs 1 point, Expert 2, and Master 3 points. For prolonged tasks, you may need to succeed at multiple checks in a row—this would be a crisis check, and you can reroll a failed check by taking 1d10 Stress. Even with master skills, the more mathematically-inclined will notice that the average success rate based on the stats isn’t that high.

This is intentional; this is a scifi horror RPG, and as such, it is deadly. It also emphasizes the importance of teamwork and trying to get that precious advantage. And that you’re pretty screwed if you’re alone… Anyhow, there are 4 base classes, each with their own starting skill array, and individual points for skills to allocate. The classes (plus my unsolicited comments in brackets) are teamster (crew, aka monster-munch), scientist (probably mad), android (killer and/or creep-azoid model) and marine (shoot the hull/go berserk in 3.2…1). The classes determine the save values, and boyo, here you’ll have fun: There are 4 saves (sanity, fear, body, armor): Teamsters have 30, 35, 30, 35; androids 20, 85, 40, 25; scientists 40, 25, 25, 30; marines 25, 30, 35, 40. The choice of class also notes modifications to the stats on arrows: Scientists net +10 Intellect; androids +5 Speed and Intellect…you get the idea. Now that you have really determined your stats, you can multiply Strength with 2 – that is your Health.

But back to saves: They work like stat checks, but if you fail, you gain 1 or more Stress (you start with 2 Stress) and suffer some other consequences as well, depending on the save; critically failing makes you subject to a panic roll. More on that later.

Combat is fast and deadly and is classified in the traditional turns and rounds; a turn is when one creature/character acts, a round is the time during which everyone acts once. When you’d be surprised, it takes a fear save to act in the first round. Initiative is handled by the players making Speed checks. On a success, they act before the enemies, on a failure, they act after them. You get two significant actions per turn, such as attacking, checking wounds, opening doors, etc. Attacks are an opposed check of the assailant with Combat against the defender’s armor save. In close combat/melee, the opposed check can be Combat or a Body save instead. You can Aim by using both your actions. If you do not take damage during the round, you gain advantage with your next shot. Reloading is simple and actually has a small and efficient rule for trigger discipline being a factor with automatic weapons. Nice. Ranges are classified in three categories: short, medium (-10%), long (disadvantage). Cover nets advantage on the Armor save. Some weapons might penalize the Armor save, help with Combat checks, etc. Note that some weapons note their damage with an underline, e.g. 3d10. This is shorthand for a damage range of 30-300. You can move half your Speed stat in meters each round as a significant action, but in heavy suits, you might need a Strength check, or you move only half the distance.

When you take damage exceeding ½ your max health, or when you are critically hit, you need to make a panic roll. When resting for at least 6 hours, you make a Body save, and if you succeed, you heal Health of an amount by which you succeeded the save. If you failed, your wounds won’t heal naturally and need treatment, and on a critical failure, they become worse, and you take further damage. You can only heal wounds from resting 1/day. When you reach 0 Health, you make a Body save; on a failure, you die; on a success, the GM (dubbed Warden in Mothership) rolls on a nasty consequence table.

Well, that’d be the basics, but there is more to note: Beyond equipment and the usual shopping, the book also offers some flavorful patches to roll if you’re so inclined…and the XP system, particularly the optional aspect, deserves mentioning. Mothership knows 10 levels, and saving e.g. another crewmember’s life nets 3 XP, interacting with strange beings might net an XP, etc.; the cool stuff though, would be relegated to an optional list: XP by class. Marines, in that system, would gain 1 XP when they kill an enemy. Scientists when they secure a piece of tech or an organism; androids when they interface with alien tech…you get the idea. This rewards the players for acting in a way that is consistent with the genre tropes. It might not be WISE to do that…but few are the roleplayers who can withstand the delicious lure of XP…

When you level you can increase one Stat by 5 and another by 3 OR improve all saves by 4 – in both cases, the system caps advancement at 85. You also choose a minor benefit: 1 Resolve, remove one phobia or addiction, or heal all Stress. You also gain 2 skill points. The game is lethal, and as such, progression is pretty quick. Food & water and oxygen rules are provided. The booklet also provides the information for hiring mercenaries, determining their stats, motivations, and some sample personas.

But yeah, Stress and Panic. When you fail a save, when the ship’s hit, etc., you gain Stress. When you rest, you can attempt a Fear save to get rid of Stress: For every 10 by which you beat the save (rounded down), you lose 1 Stress; crits double that. Docking in civilized environments, therapy-related skills, drugs etc. can also help you deal with Stress. A panic check makes you roll 2d10 over your current Stress; on a success, you don’t panic and reduce Stress by 1. Equal or lower, though? You panic. This is bad news. You roll 2d10 on the panic table (which ranged from 2-3 to 30…with 30 being instant death), and this includes developing phobias, a death drive…or, if you’re lucky, a laser focus/adrenaline rush. For every Resolve you have, you reduce the result by 1. (so yeah, high results on the panic table are worse.)

The game also includes a rather succinct and simple, yet effective ship-builder system with some serious customization options; instead of Health, it has Hull, and 75%, 50% and 25% thresholds are important. Some basic ship classes are provided, or you can just take a careful look at the ship sheet: The good news here is that the engine used for characters also applies with variations to the ships. (As an aside note: Yes, there are rules for what happens when really big weaponry hits paltry small critters like player characters…MDMG. Mega Damage.)

Sooo…was that everything? Not exactly. You see, each of the 4 classes has a special feature: Teamsters may 1/session reroll panic; whenever a scientist fails a sanity save, every ally takes 1 Stress. Androids have great Fear saves (85!), but everyone else in their vicinity has disadvantage on Fear saves. And when a marine panics, every ally nearby must make a Fear save. Nice.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting of the current iteration of this extremely densely-packed RPG is impressive indeed, on both a formal and rules-language level; not perfect, but impressive indeed. In my print copy, there is one single example where the otherwise superb layout and information design falters slightly: The sample ship sheet that illustrates the ship rules covers two pages, and has 2 other pages in between the example ship sheet stuff. This may be intentional, but since the ship sheet also uses arrows from relevant components to explain how stats and other components are tied together, this imho makes grasping how it works actually a bit harder. Getting the full ship sheet first and then the rules, or vice versa, would have been the didactically smarter move, but I’m complaining at a very high level. The saddle-stitched softcover I have is b/w; its artwork (apart from the ones for equipment, which are solid), are okay, but probably won’t be the main reason for you to get this. The pdf is PWYW…and I can’t recommend it. Why? Because it…drumroll DOESN’T HAVE ANY BOOKMARKS OR HYPERLINKS.

It's a roleplaying game that is an exercise in incredibly TIGHT design; the booklet manages to cram a ton of well-wrought content into its few pages. It is an impressive achievement regarding how one conveys information. It requires close reading as a consequence, but yeah. Considering this, considering that Mothership actually has quite a lot of helpful “see page XYZ”-references, it’s doubly puzzling to me that the pdf has no hyperlinks, and no bookmarks. This makes navigating the pdf a colossal pain. In short: Consider the pdf t be a kind of teaser, but if you actually want to run the game, I suggest printing this, or getting the rather affordable print version. Using the pdf in its current state was aggravating to me.

That being said, this game written by Sean McCoy, with development by Donn Stroud, Nick Reed, Tyler Kimball, and Fiona Maeve Geist, actually succeeds VERY well at what it tries to do.

If you want to play a game of high adventure among the stars, of heroes fighting monsters…then this is not the game for you.

Mothership is focused on scifi horror. You will fail, even in your specialties, and do so quite a lot. There’s a good chance you’ll only rarely have a 50% success chance; without teamwork and care, you will fail and die. This is intentional.

The GM needs to adopt a fail-forward mentality to a degree, and indeed, I think that a Warden’s/GM’s guide as a companion tome to this pdf would be helpful, as getting the degree of lethality right isn’t as easy as one might think. Similarly, creature design, prolonged campaigning, when to allow for a proper rest, etc…there is a lot of stuff that lurks on the side of the Warden that definitely requires an experienced roleplayer, which might be an unnecessary complication for an otherwise well-presented game.

That being said, this review is here not to bemoan the absence of a Warden’s guide, but to rate these core rules/player’s guide, and what can I say: The game does a pretty darn fantastic job at depicting a gritty horror framework where player skill is important, but certainly won’t be enough to save everyone. Indeed, a part of the fun of this game is that it encourages, with its composition and class-specific tweaks, the escalation of plots alongside the lines of established tropes. The characters do have a good reason to take that sample on board, to kill that googly-eyed alien thingy; the game rewards the players for playing their roles and having the situations, as a consequence, escalate.

I really like Mothership. In its print version. The booklet is delightful to handle, and it does a great job conveying information. That version gets a serious recommendation from yours truly—5 stars. The same can’t be said for the pdf-version; the lack of bookmarks and even hyperlinks renders it a mess to use, and that’s a big no-go for a rules-book. The pdf gets 3.5 stars; in total, that’d amount to 4 stars, but there is one more factor to consider: The pdf is PWYW, and the softcover is really inexpensive. That has always counted for something on my scale, and in this instance, I’d give this +0.5 stars for being so fair. You can just check out the guide, and see if it’s something for you. This leaves me with 4.5 stars, and I’m going to round up. Why? Because all of my real gripes beyond the navigation aids amount to me wanting stuff that should not be in a player’s guide.

Will I get a Warden’s guide if we get one? Heck yeah. Until then, I’ll grumble, but also chuckle with glee with this highly lethal scifi-horror-game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mothership: Player's Survival Guide
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Sailing Aboard the Widow
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2021 06:24:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

My reviews of the eventure-series were requested by my patreon supporters.

Eventures, in case you’re new to the series, are rules-lite mini-adventures that focus on roleplaying and not on combat and similar components. The pdf does list a dressing-file from the #20-series you can use as a supplemental file to this eventure, and the module is roughly contextualized as part of the duchy of Ashlar region, that integrating the eventure in another setting is a no-effort job. The module is imho best suited for characters level 1 – 4, though it can be made to work at higher levels, provided the GM is willing to invest a bit of time.

The pdf provides pretty detailed information about the crew and NPC passengers (6 NPCs in total, with information on background, personality, secrets and read-aloud text for them); said NPCs do list race, alignment and classes/class-combination, but do not come with stats.

Speaking of read-aloud text: The keyed locations on the eponymous Widow do come with read-aloud text. Supplemental to the NPC and location set-up, we have 6 whispers and rumors as well as 6 minor events; these minor events, in an interesting twist, come in a sequential offering, so if you roll them a second time, the event actually diverges in how it is realized. These dynamic events are rather helpful. This is clever and interesting and maintains some replay value for the GM. I like it. The module itself takes place in the form of a sequence of events interacting with locations and NPCs and remains relatively free-form due to that fact. So, in spite of a relatively linear progression of event-based triggers, the adventure never structurally degrades into a railroad. This is very much player-driven.

Keyed locations? Yep, the Widow comes with a proper b/w map of its 3 decks; while the map has no size noted, it does sport a grid, which makes running it under the customary 5 ft. x 5 ft. assumptions rather easy. Much to my chagrin, no version of the maps without their labels is included.

Now, the eventure is all about a journey by boat, yes, but there is a significant difference between this module and comparable travel sidetreks, in that it is a mystery module; one could even claim that it’s a horror module, and one that has a sufficiently-subdued fantastic angle as to make it viable for low magic settings like e.g. LotFP-ish takes on our world, or for games like Call of Cthulhu. The module retains a pretty well-wrought free-form angle for its understated, and yet efficient horror/mystery angle: Slowly but steadily, a genuine sense of wrongness is established, and the presentation of clues and web of secrets laced throughout the module does a great job executing the theme.

And yes, I know that this is VAGUE. But I really do not want to SPOIL this one. Anyways, another important thing to note would be the system-integration: Raging Swan Press publishes their content for 4 systems as per the writing of this review, and that sometimes hurts the execution for a given system. At least for the PFRPG-version of this eventure, I am happy to report that this is NOT the case here. While I would have liked to see a sidebar dealing with auras and troubleshooting “detective-magic”, the module actually does a better job pulling off a mystery than many comparable modules I’ve seen.

And this cannot be understated: It is amazing to see a module for the system that does not devolve into a big monster jumping out and being bashed to smithereens. The fact that this eventure managed to stick to its themes of subtle, yet ever-increasing wrongness and unease? I love it for that.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the module comes with neat b/w-cartography. I just wished we got player-friendly maps as well. The pdf comes in two iterations, one for screen-use, and one optimized for the printer. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Bart Wynants delivered a truly pleasant surprise for me here; this little eventure knocks at least 90% of so-called horror-adventures for any iteration of PFRPG or D&D straight out of the water by realizing a crucial fact: You can jam as many bones, liters of blood and guts on something as you like, it won’t become more creepy, just more gross/grotesque (and that can work; most of the times, it doesn’t), and as soon as you can put a pointy stick in it, it’ll eventually be killed by the party.

Instead, this focuses on atmosphere. On providing a framework of something that feels wrong, on that growing, slow-burn sense of unease, and damn, does it do that well. This is not the “creepy monster jumps at you” school of mystery/horror; it is the more poignant, harder-to-pull-off style. And the module pulls it off. In literary allusions: This is more akin to James, Machen or Aickman than to Stephen King or Clive Barker.

Now, usually, I’d penalize the module for the lack of player-friendly maps…but it genuinely doesn’t deserve it. This is a great change of tone and pace, particularly for a game like PFRPG. I adore this, and considering the limited page-count and budget it had to pull off its excellence? Impressive indeed. 5 stars + seal of approval. Highly recommended if you want a change of pace from modules that can be solved by murder-hoboing everything.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sailing Aboard the Widow
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Sailing Aboard the Widow (P2)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2021 06:09:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

My reviews of the eventure-series were requested by my patreon supporters.

Eventures, in case you’re new to the series, are rules-lite mini-adventures that focus on roleplaying and not on combat and similar components. The pdf does list a dressing-file from the #20-series you can use as a supplemental file to this eventure, and the module is roughly contextualized as part of the duchy of Ashlar region, that integrating the eventure in another setting is a no-effort job. The module is imho best suited for characters level 1 – 4, though it can be made to work at higher levels, provided the GM is willing to invest a bit of time.

The pdf provides pretty detailed information about the crew and NPC passengers (6 NPCs in total, with information on background, personality, secrets and read-aloud text for them); said NPCs do list race, alignment and classes/class-combination, but do not come with stats. Particularly for PF2, referencing the default roster or giving some brief adventure-relevant abbreviated stats might have been prudent.

Speaking of read-aloud text: The keyed locations on the eponymous Widow do come with read-aloud text. Supplemental to the NPC and location set-up, we have 6 whispers and rumors as well as 6 minor events; these minor events, in an interesting twist, come in a sequential offering, so if you roll them a second time, the event actually diverges in how it is realized. These dynamic events are rather helpful. This is clever and interesting and maintains some replay value for the GM. I like it. The module itself takes place in the form of a sequence of events interacting with locations and NPCs and remains relatively free-form due to that fact. So, in spite of a relatively linear progression of event-based triggers, the adventure never structurally degrades into a railroad. This is very much player-driven.

Keyed locations? Yep, the Widow comes with a proper b/w map of its 3 decks; while the map has no size noted, it does sport a grid, which makes running it under the customary 5 ft. x 5 ft. assumptions rather easy. Much to my chagrin, no version of the maps without their labels is included.

Now, the eventure is all about a journey by boat, yes, but there is a significant difference between this module and comparable travel sidetreks, in that it is a mystery module; one could even claim that it’s a horror module, and one that has a sufficiently-subdued fantastic angle as to make it viable for low magic settings like e.g. LotFP-ish takes on our world, or for games like Call of Cthulhu. The module retains a pretty well-wrought free-form angle for its understated, and yet efficient horror/mystery angle: Slowly but steadily, a genuine sense of wrongness is established, and the presentation of clues and web of secrets laced throughout the module does a great job executing the theme.

And yes, I know that this is VAGUE. But I really do not want to SPOIL this one. Anyways, another important thing to note would be the system-integration: Raging Swan Press publishes their content for 4 systems as per the writing of this review, and that sometimes hurts the execution for a given system. The PF2-version does have me more torn than the other versions; while it manages to properly contextualize e.g. locked chests and the like, the module doesn’t offer the degrees of success/failure benefits associated with PF2, and I couldn’t help but notice that this version is slightly less beefy when it comes to crunchy bits than the version for the first edition of PFRPG. I would have liked to see a sidebar dealing with auras and troubleshooting “detective-magic.” More so, I do think that PF2’s systems lead themselves actually to representing the concept of the module VERY well AND explain how its mystery works, but the module doesn’t make full use of the system’s potential.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the module comes with neat b/w-cartography. I just wished we got player-friendly maps as well. The pdf comes in two iterations, one for screen-use, and one optimized for the printer. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Bart Wynants delivered a truly pleasant surprise for me here; this little eventure knocks at least 90% of so-called horror-adventures for any iteration of PFRPG or D&D straight out of the water by realizing a crucial fact: You can jam as many bones, liters of blood and guts on something as you like, it won’t become more creepy, just more gross/grotesque (and that can work; most of the times, it doesn’t), and as soon as you can put a pointy stick in it, it’ll eventually be killed by the party.

Instead, this focuses on atmosphere. On providing a framework of something that feels wrong, on that growing, slow-burn sense of unease, and damn, does it do that well. This is not the “creepy monster jumps at you” school of mystery/horror; it is the more poignant, harder-to-pull-off style. And the module pulls it off. In literary allusions: This is more akin to James, Machen or Aickman than to Stephen King or Clive Barker.

PF2 is a system designed to allow the GM and designer to tell amazing stories, and, somewhat to my chagrin, authors and game designers right now seem to still not be as confident in leaning into the system’s strengths as they should be. When I look at PF2 and this module, I see a match made in heaven, but the execution provided is functional, yes, but also a shot short of what this could have been: Going just by the system and its possibilities, this should have been the best of the 4 versions. It’s not. It’s still a very good, atmospheric sidetrek, a well-executed adventure, but it falls slightly short of the excellence it could have attained. Hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sailing Aboard the Widow (P2)
Click to show product description

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Sailing Aboard the Widow (OSR)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2021 06:04:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

My reviews of the eventure-series were requested by my patreon supporters.

Eventures, in case you’re new to the series, are rules-lite mini-adventures that focus on roleplaying and not on combat and similar components. The pdf does list a dressing-file from the #20-series you can use as a supplemental file to this eventure, and the module is roughly contextualized as part of the duchy of Ashlar region, that integrating the eventure in another setting is a no-effort job. The module is imho best suited for characters level 1 – 4, though it can be made to work at higher levels, provided the GM is willing to invest a bit of time.

The pdf provides pretty detailed information about the crew and NPC passengers (6 NPCs in total, with information on background, personality, secrets and read-aloud text for them); said NPCs do list race, alignment and classes/class-combination, but do not come with stats. The OSR-version tends to use proper old-school class references like “thief”, but for the purists, it should be noted that the supplement does use “wizard” instead of “magc-user”; not a bad thing, mind you, but some of my readers want to know that.

Speaking of read-aloud text: The keyed locations on the eponymous Widow do come with read-aloud text. Supplemental to the NPC and location set-up, we have 6 whispers and rumors as well as 6 minor events; these minor events, in an interesting twist, come in a sequential offering, so if you roll them a second time, the event actually diverges in how it is realized. These dynamic events are rather helpful. This is clever and interesting and maintains some replay value for the GM. I like it. The module itself takes place in the form of a sequence of events interacting with locations and NPCs and remains relatively free-form due to that fact. So, in spite of a relatively linear progression of event-based triggers, the adventure never structurally degrades into a railroad. This is very much player-driven.

Keyed locations? Yep, the Widow comes with a proper b/w map of its 3 decks; while the map has no size noted, it does sport a grid, which makes running it under the customary 5 ft. x 5 ft. assumptions rather easy. Much to my chagrin, no version of the maps without their labels is included.

Now, the eventure is all about a journey by boat, yes, but there is a significant difference between this module and comparable travel sidetreks, in that it is a mystery module; one could even claim that it’s a horror module, and one that has a sufficiently-subdued fantastic angle as to make it viable for low magic settings like e.g. LotFP-ish takes on our world, or for games like Call of Cthulhu. The module retains a pretty well-wrought free-form angle for its understated, and yet efficient horror/mystery angle: Slowly but steadily, a genuine sense of wrongness is established, and the presentation of clues and web of secrets laced throughout the module does a great job executing the theme.

And yes, I know that this is VAGUE. But I really do not want to SPOIL this one. Anyways, another important thing to note would be the system-integration: Raging Swan Press publishes their content for 4 systems as per the writing of this review, and that sometimes hurts the execution for a given system. The OSR-version was probably the easiest to pull off of the 4; in contrast to the other systems, we have less of an issue with “detective magic” here, and the supplement tends to use roll under mechanics where required.

Philosophy-wise, we tend to award roleplaying instead of checks, which fits with system-aesthetics.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the module comes with neat b/w-cartography. I just wished we got player-friendly maps as well. The pdf comes in two iterations, one for screen-use, and one optimized for the printer. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Bart Wynants delivered a truly pleasant surprise for me here; this little eventure knocks at least 90% of so-called horror-adventures for any iteration of PFRPG or D&D straight out of the water by realizing a crucial fact: You can jam as many bones, liters of blood and guts on something as you like, it won’t become more creepy, just more gross/grotesque (and that can work; most of the times, it doesn’t), and as soon as you can put a pointy stick in it, it’ll eventually be killed by the party.

Instead, this focuses on atmosphere. On providing a framework of something that feels wrong, on that growing, slow-burn sense of unease, and damn, does it do that well. This is not the “creepy monster jumps at you” school of mystery/horror; it is the more poignant, harder-to-pull-off style. And the module pulls it off. In literary allusions: This is more akin to James, Machen or Aickman than to Stephen King or Clive Barker.

Now, usually, I’d penalize the module for the lack of player-friendly maps…but it genuinely doesn’t deserve it. For OSR-games, this module might seem a little bit less novel, as more modules system-immanently focus on trying experimental things. Now, personally, I prefer it when an OSR-supplement commits to an actual rules-set. Why? Because the power-levels of, say, B/X (or OSE), LotFP and, say AD&D 2e (For Gold & Glory) diverge rather significantly, and having a concrete system with concrete mechanics helps me to contextualize a game in the rules-set I end up using, but this is a general note and will not influence my final verdict. I maintain that this retains an excellent bang-for-buck ratio, which makes up for the lack of player-friendly maps, and as such, this deserves a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sailing Aboard the Widow (OSR)
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Sailing Aboard the Widow (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2021 06:03:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

My reviews of the eventure-series were requested by my patreon supporters.

Eventures, in case you’re new to the series, are rules-lite mini-adventures that focus on roleplaying and not on combat and similar components. The pdf does list a dressing-file from the #20-series you can use as a supplemental file to this eventure, and the module is roughly contextualized as part of the duchy of Ashlar region, that integrating the eventure in another setting is a no-effort job. The module is imho best suited for characters level 1 – 4, though it can be made to work at higher levels, provided the GM is willing to invest a bit of time.

The pdf provides pretty detailed information about the crew and NPC passengers (6 NPCs in total, with information on background, personality, secrets and read-aloud text for them); said NPCs do list references to 5e’s default NPC-roster, which means you have full mechanics arrays to reference if required.

Speaking of read-aloud text: The keyed locations on the eponymous Widow do come with read-aloud text. Supplemental to the NPC and location set-up, we have 6 whispers and rumors as well as 6 minor events; these minor events, in an interesting twist, come in a sequential offering, so if you roll them a second time, the event actually diverges in how it is realized. These dynamic events are rather helpful. This is clever and interesting and maintains some replay value for the GM. I like it. The module itself takes place in the form of a sequence of events interacting with locations and NPCs and remains relatively free-form due to that fact. So, in spite of a relatively linear progression of event-based triggers, the adventure never structurally degrades into a railroad. This is very much player-driven.

Keyed locations? Yep, the Widow comes with a proper b/w map of its 3 decks; while the map has no size noted, it does sport a grid, which makes running it under the customary 5 ft. x 5 ft. assumptions rather easy. Much to my chagrin, no version of the maps without their labels is included.

Now, the eventure is all about a journey by boat, yes, but there is a significant difference between this module and comparable travel sidetreks, in that it is a mystery module; one could even claim that it’s a horror module, and one that has a sufficiently-subdued fantastic angle as to make it viable for low magic settings like e.g. LotFP-ish takes on our world, or for games like Call of Cthulhu. The module retains a pretty well-wrought free-form angle for its understated, and yet efficient horror/mystery angle: Slowly but steadily, a genuine sense of wrongness is established, and the presentation of clues and web of secrets laced throughout the module does a great job executing the theme.

And yes, I know that this is VAGUE. But I really do not want to SPOIL this one. Anyways, another important thing to note would be the system-integration: Raging Swan Press publishes their content for 4 systems as per the writing of this review, and that sometimes hurts the execution for a given system. At least for the 5e-version of this eventure, I am happy to report that this is NOT the case here. While I would have liked to see a sidebar dealing with auras and troubleshooting “detective-magic”, the module actually does a better job pulling off a mystery than many comparable modules I’ve seen, and its 5e-conversion is not simply “skin deep”; it actually uses proper phrasing and checks.

And this cannot be understated: It is amazing to see a module for the system that does not devolve into a big monster jumping out and being bashed to smithereens. The fact that this eventure managed to stick to its themes of subtle, yet ever-increasing wrongness and unease? I love it for that.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the module comes with neat b/w-cartography. I just wished we got player-friendly maps as well. The pdf comes in two iterations, one for screen-use, and one optimized for the printer. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Bart Wynants delivered a truly pleasant surprise for me here; this little eventure knocks at least 90% of so-called horror-adventures for any iteration of PFRPG or D&D straight out of the water by realizing a crucial fact: You can jam as many bones, liters of blood and guts on something as you like, it won’t become more creepy, just more gross/grotesque (and that can work; most of the times, it doesn’t), and as soon as you can put a pointy stick in it, it’ll eventually be killed by the party.

Instead, this focuses on atmosphere. On providing a framework of something that feels wrong, on that growing, slow-burn sense of unease, and damn, does it do that well. This is not the “creepy monster jumps at you” school of mystery/horror; it is the more poignant, harder-to-pull-off style. And the module pulls it off. In literary allusions: This is more akin to James, Machen or Aickman than to Stephen King or Clive Barker.

Now, usually, I’d penalize the module for the lack of player-friendly maps…but it genuinely doesn’t deserve it. This is a great change of tone and pace, particularly for a game like 5e. I adore this, and considering the limited page-count and budget it had to pull off its excellence? Impressive indeed. 5 stars + seal of approval. Highly recommended if you want a change of pace from modules that can be solved by murder-hoboing everything.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sailing Aboard the Widow (5e)
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Star Log.Deluxe: Aquatic Species Reforged
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/22/2021 06:42:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the sub-series of the Star.Log-series dealing with more modular playable races clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 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 patreons.

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!)

To recap the system: 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 “see page $$”-references; while this is not a deal-breaker, considering that the engine actually gets better the more of these pdfs you have, it still was worth mentioning to me. As a whole, I do recommend getting the entire product-line if you want to run with the species reforged anyways.

Worth mentioning: This pdf does uses two terms I enjoyed seeing: Recuperate refers to spending a Resolve Point in a 10-minute rest to regain Stamina; daily preparations is the term employed referencing when 24 hours and an 8 hour rest have passed. This makes the rules language MUCH more elegant than usual. Two thumbs up.

The first species herein would be the brenneri (Alien Archive 3, I think), who get their boost to Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom or Charisma, and can get a second boost to any of these by accepting a flaw; they have 4 HP, 30 ft. speed, 20 ft. swimming speed, darkvision 60 ft., 4 HP and hold breath…oh, and if you don’t have AA3, they are humanoid otters! (insert around 10.000 South Park allusions) There are 3 heritages to choose from: Lakedweller brenneri get two additional class skills, one of which must be Diplomacy or Sense Motive; Riverfliters increase their HP by 2 and get an additional Stamina at 1st level and every level thereafter. Seaborn brenneri, finally, increase swim speed to 30 ft. and also increases their hold breath capability further. The traits provided include using Acrobatics (if trained) instead of Athletics for swimming, +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and Sense Motive, blindsense (vibrations) 30 ft., +1 skill rank at 1st level and every level thereafter, and there is one trait that lets you designate a favored object; when recuperating with it, you once per day also recover ½ character level Hit Points.

Gentle combatant nets Improved Combat Maneuver (grapple) or Improved Unarmed Strike; linguist’s magic nets at-will message or 3/day share language. Mimicry of sound via Bluff is really cool, and there is a trait that nets you +1 racial bonus to saves vs. emotion effects, and by spending a Resolve Point as a reaction when failing such a save, you can retry next round, potentially shaking off the effect. Can be used once per recuperate interval.

The second species would be kalos (AA1), who are kinda like aquatic, humanoid bats (or rays), with boost to Dexterity, Intelligence or Wisdom, and an additional one for a flaw to Constitution. kalo get 2 Hit Points and have a speed of 20 ft. and a swim speed of 50 ft. They are also aquatic monstrous humanoids and get blindsense (sound) and low-light vision. I assume the range of blindsense to be the customary 60 ft., but the pdf doesn’t explicitly state this, which does somewhat compromise functionality. On the plus-side, the trait does explain both of these sensory abilities, which means you won’t have to flip books. Nice. Kalo get to choose from two heritages: Deepborn kalo get an additional kalo trait, and floeborn kalo can hold their breath for 10 minutes. This is important, since kalo are aquatic and not amphibious, and as such, need to hold their breath when on land.

The traits include two difference weapon familiarity traits: Aquatic weapon familiarity nets proficiency with basic melee, advanced melee, small arms and longarms with the aquatic weapon special property group. Now, here rules-syntax is ambiguous: The sentence could be read as the longarms being the only ones that need the aquatic special property, or that the restriction applies to all weapon groups; I assume the latter to be correct. The verbiage would be more precise if it stated: “…gain proficiency with weapons in the aquatic weapon special property group that are basic melee weapons, advanced melee weapons, small arms, or longarms.” 3rd level nets the customary weapon specialization. Alternatively, the trait nets you Weapon Focus applying to all aquatic weapons. Here, the phrasing is weird once more: “If you already have Weapon Focus, you gain Versatile Weapon Focus instead.” But…usually one can’t have Weapon Focus in all weapons with a special property? Is this trait supposed to be available multiple times for the taking? This genuinely confused me. Cryo Weapon Familiarity nets proficiency with basic melee, advanced melee, small arms and longarms in the cryo weapon group. (Same syntax thing applies here.) 3rd level nets specialization. The Weapon Focus consideration applies here as well. …and there is something really weird. The trait is listed twice, as the 4th and as the last trait. :/

The other traits include character level cold resistance, +1 circumstance bonus to atk when moving at least 5 ft. and assaulting a creature in zero-g. flight or in water who doesn’t have a swim or fly speed. Stealthy swimmer nets a +4 unytped bonus when using Stealth in water; pretty sure that should be a racial bonus. One trait nets you a class skill and a free rank for the skill every level. Jet charge provides ferocious charge under water and lets you trip in place of an attack when charging, sans the usual penalties. If you already have a similar ability, you can now charge thus through difficult terrain. Athletic swimmer nets Athletics as class skill, and lets you take 10 in the skill, and if you already can do so, you instead can take 20 to swim as a full action, making 5 ft. progress.

Morlamaw (introduced in AA3, unless I’m mistaken) get their boost to Strength, Constitution or Charisma, and a second boost to them for a flaw in Dexterity or Wisdom; 4 HP, Large monstrous humanoids, they have a 20 ft. speed, swim speed 30 ft., and are amphibious and get 60 ft. darkvision. The Morlamaw are…walrus people! Awesome! Less awesome: We only get one paltry single heritage, no choice. :/ The one heritage, the frigid morlamaw, treats environmental cold as one step less severe and get an untyped (should probably be racial) +4 bonus to Fort saves vs. cold, but also a -4 penalty on saves vs. heat, and they gain cold resistance as a bonus trait, which nets character level cold resistance.

The traits include +1 skill rank per level, blindsense (scent) 20 ft., which changes to blindsense (vibration) 40 ft. in water. We also get Stealth as a class skill (and +2 racial bonus to Stealth if you have it already instead); submerged in water, the morlamaw counts as having cover under water when using Stealth to hide from blindsense (vibration)—cool! The species can also get ferocious charge. Another trait nets a circumstance or morale bonus to AC, atk, saves or skill checks, they also get a +1 insight bonus to it. By contracting and expanding their blood vessels, some morlamaw can, as a standard action, fascinate targets within 60 ft., with the save governed by Constitution and if you beat the save, you’re immune until the morlamaw recuperates. Yes. PSYCHEDELIC WALRUS PEOPLE. SIGN ME ON!! :D I LOVE this!!

Mystic heritage nets Mysticism as a class skill and Connection Inkling; if you’re a mystic, you instead get Spell penetration. Natural weapons, unsurprisingly, is also included. (As an aside: Some Everybody Games pdfs do classify the natural weapon damage type; this doesn’t. Not a bash against the pdf, but something to note. Personally, I enjoy the damage being properly typed.) Finally, rapid swimmer lets them upgrade their swim speed to 40 ft.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level…but not as meticulously precise as I’ve come to expect from Alexander Augunas. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports neat full-color artworks for the species. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks; one per race would have been nice.

Alexander Augunas’ aquatic species leave me torn; in contrast to other species reforged pdfs, this one shows signs of a rough (or sped up) genesis; from the doubled kalo trait to minor hiccups, this feels like it suffered a bit in production. The morlamaw are awesome, but where is the heritage that gets hollow tusks and sonic abilities? Come on, siren morlamaw! (Yes, I genuinely think that’s a cool idea; they can already kinda strobe, so the whole musician/raver/stoner doom angle seems something worth pursuing…) Only getting one heritage for them was a bit of a downer.

That being said, do I love the 3 species? Yes. Do I think that they are superior in their reforged iteration? Yes. In fact, this would be an easy 5 stars + seal of approval once it gets rid of its hiccups, but as written, I should probably rate this 3.5 stars and round down…but I can’t bring myself to doing that, because the ideas? They are pretty cool. The psychedelic walrus people alone? Pure awesome. It’s based on the strength of the ideas that I justify rounding up from 3.5 stars, in spite of the rough patches.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.Deluxe: Aquatic Species Reforged
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Quests of Doom 4: The Covered Bridge (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2021 13:07:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module in the Quests of Doom-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This module is intended for 4-6 characters of levels 4th to 6th, and is set in the Lost Lands campaign setting, though adaption to other settings is pretty simple. The module features read-aloud text for encounters and areas, and a total of 4 fantastic b/w maps by Alyssa Faden, who is one of the best cartographers out there. The maps are stunning; while one doesn’t note a scale, the maps do something cool one doesn’t see too often and use different shading for different ceiling heights. The maps are stunning, impressive…and guess what we don’t get? You guessed it, alas: No player-friendly versions of the maps. Particularly considering how absolutely stunning the maps are, it hurts me within the dark recesses of my soul to see that.

Genre-wise, this module is a mystery/investigation with some strong old-school gothic leanings; the module is essentially a kind of passion-play mansion crawl, though, obviously, fantasy elements do exist. The tone suits the Lost Lands rather well.

Okay, 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! Sir Varral et-Casan was a fabled hero once; called by Thyr to a life of service, and in the process of his heroics, gathered loyal companions like Demoiselle Arbasa, the exiled Joln, a large raccoon pet called Dari. Two of these NPCs are statted, and both are not impressive from a build-level; they are functional, but…yeah. The statblocks also have some glitches in the math, something that extends to the remainder of the module.

How is this relevant? Well, as the adventurers cross the eponymous covered bridge, they read an inscription “In whose hand did the poison lie?” carved into the floor planks; reading it turns day to night, and the party stumbles into a battlefield against The Lord of Crows and its minions; this is essentially a sequence of combats. The combats are solid, if a bit unremarkable; it’s a test of endurance, if anything, and I wished it set up the cool boss a bit better. It is here that the party meets Sir Varral, and is invited to the Manse Loga, the mansion where the majority of the module takes place. The module presents the staff and dramatis personae, and also presents essentially an event-driven encounter array, with dressing needs outsourced to the Tome of Adventure Design, though I’ve found that the maps do help there (if only there were player-friendly versions); after dinner and some initial encounters and a murder committed by one of the guests, the adventurers have to venture to the menagerie, where, provided they survive the monsters there, they’ll find the murderer to be mad. In the mansion, the weird occurrences intensify, and ultimately are identified as the consequences of a particularly potent cloaker and a nightmare node…and then, the inevitable murder of Sir Varral happens, as it always has. The whole reality is a weird interaction with the dream world, so if the party does murder-hobo suspects, they’ll just return; the goal is not t prevent the murder, but to find out how it happened! Once Sir Varral dies, the party will be back on the bridge – and will have to present their findings to the paladin’s now-undead specter to identify the true culprits...and the situation is complex.

The man driven mad did poison the paladin, but so did all of his compatriots (courtesy of the telepathic whisperings of the true culprit)…and the raccoon is actually the demonic instigator. Yeah, the latter is a bit too close to one of the twists of a certain mega-adventure set in the Lost Lands that I adore. Still, this “Agatha Christie with Undead”-style whodunnit in the end was really enjoyable to me.

So, all well? Unfortunately, not really. While the poisons employed are sufficiently deadly to make it plausible that the paladin died to them, in spite of a good Fort-save, the module cheats in the most aggravating manner: I do not object to the vials of poison reappearing/thwarting attempts of PCs to prevent the murder; it has already happened, after all. And here, the dream-logic effect makes sense. But know what’s really, really weaksauce? The module just DM-fiats investigation spells away. Detect magic, detect evil? Poof, suddenly don’t work anymore. This is capital letters BAD DESIGN, taking player-tools away as one desires. The party should at least have some means to use them; one does not work against player capabilities, one works with them. This becomes even dumber if you realize that Sir Varral’s downfall must have meant that he and his allies are really, really dumb. Why? Well, the non-functioning PC-capabilities can at least be explained away by the weird nightmare-curse thing going on. Badly, granted, and it’s really BAD DESIGN, but it does at least make a tiny degree of in-game sense.

The quasit-masquerading-as-raccoon, though? It has no ability to actually evade...drumroll detect evil. I am not kidding you. The signature at-will SP of a paladin, and the module literally tells us that the critter has been observing the paladin for more than A YEAR without triggering that. Is that possible? Theoretically. Is it plausible? Heck, the eff no! Which paladin would be so damn incompetent when he realizes that the raccoon is tougher than usual, something the GM’s btw. supposed to play up according to the module! W-T-F? How did this get past any inspection? And no, the good Sir does not have Int and Wis as sub-8-dumpstats; Int 11 and Wis 17. Yeah…well…NO. This makes no frickin’ sense in-game. I guarantee you that this is not something esoteric—it will be the first thing that players comment on once the true nature of the demon is revealed “How in the infinite planes of the Abyss did he not notice that??” SIGH

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level; on a rules-language level, this module doesn’t fare well, but it’s serviceable. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ classic two-column b/w-standard, and features nice b/w-artworks. The cartography by Alyssa Faden is fantastic and detailed in just the right ways; the absence of player-friendly maps hurt me all the more. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kevin Wright’s “The Covered Bridge” (conversion by Dave Landry) is a great example for a 5-star module that stumbles, very hard. The set-up is interesting, and the investigation actually challenging. The atmosphere evoked is grim, foreboding and right up my alley. And the set-up gets everything, structurally ALMOST right. Now, granted, the GM/author-fiat to strip PCs of stuff they should be able to do? That’s the laziest way to handle this, and the least fun one. Why not work with the spells? Have them react with the unique set-up in ways that provide information that is not necessarily useful? It wouldn’t have cost more words, but made the module better. A similar issue applies regarding the in-game logic bug of the BBEG. One is subpar design, one is an error in setting-internal continuity, and both severely tarnish this module. BUT.

But both can be fixed by an experienced GM. And I genuinely think that this module is worth doing that for. There is fun to be had here.

As a reviewer, the module’s flaws do accumulate, though: Some rules-glitches, player maps missing, then add the two structural problems…and I can’t rate this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down. This might well be the best Quest of Doom-module I’ve read in the series so far; it almost reaches the awesomeness it deserves to attain, so if you’re in the mood for some mystery and don’t shirk away from the two issues mentioned, please consider taking a look. The module deserved better, yes, but at least it can be salvaged with relative ease. And it deserves being fixed.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: The Covered Bridge (PF)
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