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The Wraith
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/13/2019 08:15:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The Wraith clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s check out this fellow!

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

The wraith-class is proficient with simple weapons, scythes and light armor, has 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, d8 HD, and is a Mid-Caster using Charisma as governing spellcasting ability modifier, with a spell pool of class level + Charisma modifier spell points per day. The class has a ¾ BAB-progression, as well as good Reflex- and Will-saves. On a cosmetic note: Rows 1-7 and all save columns of the class table lack the plusses before BAB and save values, respectively. This should really have been caught. It’s evident at one glance. Magic talents are gained whenever the wraith gains a caster level increase.

1st level provides a haunt path, which acts akin to bloodlines and similar abilities with a linear progression array: At 1st level, these paths grant the listed path sphere or talent from the sphere if you already have it, and for these class level is treated as CL. 2nd level nets the path possession ability of the path, with 8th and 14th level providing the improved and greater path possession abilities, respectively; at 4th level, we add ½ class level as insight bonus to a listed skill. Unless I have miscounted, there are a total of 9 paths provided (as an aside – the excellent Sanguinist’s Handbook does have a path as well!).

In all brevity: The Path of the ancestor is aligned with the Protection sphere, and allows the character to act as a buff/beneficial entity, including (aegis) talents at higher levels. Anima is associated with Nature or Weather, and allows the character to possess natural material, creating elemental-style and use talents associated with the elements; higher levels also unlock plants. Associated with Death, the Path of the Corruptor lets you possess dead bodies (as though reanimate-d) and later undead. The Path of the Despoiler, also for the Death sphere, lets you possess vermin and attract/generate swarms to possess – nice!

Path of the Cryptid is associated with animal possession and Alteration, providing shapeshift (not properly formatted) synergy; the path of the poltergeist lets you possess unattended objects, and as such, is obviously (for veteran sphere-users) associated with Telekinesis, though it s limitations are based on Enhancement’s Animate Objects. Higher levels allow for construct possession and possessing multiple objects at once, generating a construct swarm! OUCH! The Path of the Phantasm is associated with Illusion, and becomes more potent versus targets in illusions – with higher levels providing means to bypass immunities and safeguards. The Path of the Spook is basically a terror-inducing option, with the Mind-sphere as associated path sphere, and penalties to saves versus Mind sphere effects.

At 1st level, we have wraith form, which lets you, as a move action (ending it is free) for class level + casting ability modifier rounds, gain the incorporeal subtype with some modifications, including a slowly descending, but perfectly maneuverable gliding speed – and yep, if you’re going the high-fantasy route, there are optional rules for you here. In case you need a bullet point summary of the modified incorporeal state, a handy sidebar lists it all. The capstone btw. delimits wraith form and refunds previously spent class talents (so-called “wraith haunts”; more on those below) that modified the ability.

But we’ve been talking a lot about possession in the brief list of paths, so how does it work? At 2nd level, you may possess a creature in natural reach as a standard action as a mind-affecting possession effect. The challenge rating of the creature governs the possession duration, with guidelines for companions and the like provided. The target may resist this attempt with a Will save based on DC 10 + ½ class level + casting ability modifier. There are two types of possession: Passive and active. Passive possession grants no control over the target, and an attempt to passively possess a target costs a spell point. The wraith maintains his mental ability score modifiers, BAB, alignment, mental abilities, extraordinary abilities not derived from his physical form, combat talents, supernatural abilities and magical abilities including spells, sphere abilities and SPs. If the host is dazed, stunned or unconscious, the wraith can control the body as though via active possession. Passive possession MAY go unnoticed if the wraith is sneaky!

Active possession entails the full hijacking of the target, retaining the boy’s physical ability score, natural and automatic abilities. Extra limbs don’t allow the wraith to make more attacks, and 6th level needs to be attained to trigger extraordinary abilities, 12th for supernatural ones. Active possession also imposes stringent level caps on when the respective combat talents, sphere abilities etc. may be accessed. Any time the wraith would force the actively possessed target to do something against their nature, they may make a saving throw attempt to end the possession. Self-harm or suicidal actions are not possible via wraith possession. This type of possession also btw. costs a spell point. A target that ends or resists a possession increases the spell point cost for further such attempts by 1, stacking with itself, thus discouraging wraiths from trying to spam-possess the same target. Here’s the cool thing: As a move action, the wraith may change an active possession into a passive one and vice versa – unwilling targets get a save to resist this change. Beyond the different details, there is another reason to switch possession types – time. The duration of different types of possession differs between active and passive possession, even differentiating between willing and unwilling targets! (And yes, the rules-language gets this right.) And before you ask: Yes, the rules do cover the possession of unconscious targets. Wraiths may end possessions as a free or immediate action, appearing adjacent to the possessed target, and the wraith may expend a round of wraith form to manifest in his incorporeal (and less squishy) form. Careful: Mind-affecting effects targeting the possessed body don’t just end for the wraith jumping ship, and immunities, if any, are not shared!

At 6th, 12th, 16th and 18th level, progressively more knowledge of the host body’s capabilities are unearthed to the wraith – oh, and guess what? We have Dreamscarred Press-psionics synergy. If possession seems complex, the because it system-immanently is, but a handy table does help you keep track of active possession effects. 10th level provides Greater Possession, which allows the wraith to retain control over a possessed target while jumping to another, and the wraith may divide actions between possessed targets! This is kickass and really, really cool! The wraith can “only” possess up to casting ability modifier, minimum 2, creatures at one time.

At 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, we have wraith haunts – basically the talent array of the class, which, if requiring a save, employ 10 + ½ class level + casting ability modifier to calculate DCs. As mentioned before, there are talents that enhance wraith form, allowing for e.g. immediate action concealment, for rounds per day and the like. We have Technology Guide synergy (cool!) as well as a properly gated always on flight. There is an option for willing possessions to grant Silent and Still spellcasting for serious Stealth/infiltration synergy, and options to phase through objects and walls (awesome!). Possession is something folks remember, so if you’d rather have them forget that, well, there’s a haunt for that as well! Wraith form may be shared and even, with a follow-up haunt, be forcefully applied to adversaries AoE Intimidate (with Spheres of Might synergy) and enhancement-sharing – these talents surprised me in how creative they apply a wide variety of benefits!

Favored class options are provided alongside two feats – one nets you an additional wraith haunt, while the other enhances your possession for multiclass characters. There are three casting traditions and a martial tradition included.

The pdf also includes 4 archetypes: The Draugr loses wraith form and replaces it with basically being a blended training Spheres of Might-crossover archetype with rage and the Berserker sphere, with rage sharing and a properly-themed ability array replacing the usual haunt path. The Mistshade is interesting, in that it replaces wraith form with becoming mist – this form prohibits certain actions, but allows for the creation of mist beyond the wraith’s form, better flight, squeezing through holes, etc. – it’s an interesting change of the class paradigm. The Swarmheart, you guessed it, replaces wraith form with the means to discorporate into swarms in a variation of e.g. Swarm transformation, which is btw. also accounted for regarding prerequisites. The archetype gets a couple of solid, exclusive haunts. The Unbodied, finally, is a means to let a perished character contribute – they are locked in wraith form, taking damage while not possessing a target, and no, this damage can’t be healed! If slain, the character becomes a mindless haunt; as such, the archetype also accounts for limited possession at 1st level, with higher levels allowing for the limited assumption of corporeal form, and the capstone providing the means to reassume proper form.

Ninja, (unchained) rogue and slayer may elect to become ghost steppers, losing sneak attack and3 talents/tricks in favor of wraith form, with options to gain a spell pool via talents and the ability to take wraith haunts. The pdf also contains the spirit blade armorist archetype, which is massive: A blended training archetype that “has the Fortitude and Will saving throw progression of the Incanter” (read: Bad Fortitude saving throws, good Will saving throws) and the shapechanger subtype at 1st level. Instead of summon equipment, we have the ability to assume the form of a weapon, counting always as attended, becoming a weapon that may then possess the wielder, using their actions to direct the wielder’s body! This basically allows you to play one part of a kinda-gestalt-y character, which is a truly unique experience! Particularly since higher levels allow for BAB-sharing, directed AoOs, teamwork feat sharing and the like – while very powerful and not for every campaign or group, I adore this archetype. It’s complex, deadly and utterly unique in its premise. It also spans multiple pages, coming with its own massive array of haunts. Yes, this class hack could have carried a base class of its own. Really like it. And it seems like the author agreed, for we not only get a sample NPC for the wraith class, but also for this cool archetype! (Both at CR 5, fyi.)

The book closes with an appendix containing the rules for incorporeity and swarms for your convenience.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are not perfect, but can be considered to be good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the class juggles impressive high-complexity tricks I genuinely enjoyed seeing. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artwork provided is neat.

Andrew Stoeckle is a force to be reckoned with as a designer – slowly but steadily, he has garnered, at least with me, a reputation for never shying away from mechanically-creative and compelling, complex top-tier difficulty designs that few designers can pull off reliably. The wraith is another example where he flexes his design muscles in a way that, in spite of the system’s age, manages to be fresh and novel – there literally is no other class that does what the wraith does, let alone this precise. That being said, playtest has shown that the wraith can be pretty potent, depending on the skill of the players and overall party composition, but this is not an issue or fault of the class, and instead can be construed to be rooted in the system-immanent nature of the concepts presented. In short: Not the fault of the class. In an interesting change of pace, this power does not stem from an escalation of numbers, but from creativity – the wraith is a class that thrives in the hands of players thinking in terms of breadth and creativity, rather than just a min-maxing of numbers, and as such, presents a power level (and means to control it, if required) that I genuinely enjoy seeing. While the formal criteria of the file could be a bit tighter (CAB not bolded in one statblock and other minor snafus), this nonetheless is a genuinely cool and worthwhile addition to the roster of spheres-options, and as such, will receive a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up, with my seal of approval added for good measure. Well done indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Wraith
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Starfarer Adversaries: Saline Horror
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/13/2019 08:13:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Starfarer Adversaries-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Fans of Dark Sun (and/or its Ravenloft spinoff domain) will know what to expect here – an slimy, slick creature with no visible eyes or ears, but a lamprey-like mouth – and the hands of these horrors similarly contain such maws. Build-wise, the saline horror in SFRPG is a CR 6 creature using the expert array. The monstrous humanoid graft has been properly applied, attack and damage-values check out, SPs list their proper DCs, and the creature has a signature attack, which it can use to drain immobilized or grabbed targets of their saline, inflicting Constitution damage. Even its scent-based tracking and blindsense have been properly noted. And yes, we get a one-page handout-style version of the artwork.

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

Jacob Blackmon delivers a nice critter here – nothing to really complain about, save that it’d have been nice to get a second statblock or some other form of supplemental material. Still, all in all, a worthwhile addition to the SFRPG-roster, which, at $1.95, is certainly worth its fair asking price. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Starfarer Adversaries: Saline Horror
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Nagaji of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2019 11:38:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the „...of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, though it should be noted that one of the SRD-pages also contains a bit of information taken from a magic item update. The pdf is laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper.

As always: While this is intended for the Porphyra RPG currently being playtested and streamlined, the book as a whole is properly compatible with PFRPG 1e with minimum fuss.

After a brief bit of introductory prose, we start with notes on the physical description and ecology of nagaji, and their society – which seems to be hell-bent on amassing enough money and power to reclaim a glorious past that may never have been; hell-bent of punishing the Porphyrite Dragon (which, while awesome, should be referred to as awful from the nagaji’s perspective) and reclaiming a glorious empire, the by now tribal people worshipping Empress S’sluun certainly represent an interesting angle on the racial concept. Ironically (for serpent people) poisoned by ideology and religion, the race includes notes on various faiths prominent among the nagaji-people of Porphyra. Proper vital statistics are included, and nagaji in Porphyra get +2 Strength and Constitution, -2 Intelligence, are Medium reptilians with a normal speed, low-light vision, +1 natural AC, +2 to saves against mind and poison descriptors (nice taking advantage of one of Porphyra RPG’s improvements), and a +2 racial bonus to Perception and Handle Animal.

7 alternate racial traits are provided: The skill boost and low-light vision may be exchanged with darkvision (which works differently in Porphyra RPG and thus has no range listed – that’s not a glitch!); the save-boost may be exchanged with one that applies to disease and poison and includes being able to go longer without food and drink before starving. The skill boost may also be exchanged with a 1/day SP hypnotism, using HD as CL. The spell-reference is not italicized here, which may be subject to change depending on the way in which Porphyra RPG ends up establishing formatting conventions. Similarly, nagaji may exchange their resistance with a +1 racial bonus to attacks against prone or flanked targets. There also is a trait that replaces the reptilian subtype with the human one and nets you a nasty social skill penalty, but also a boost to initiative. Poison use can be chosen in lieu of the skill-boost and the armor can be exchanged for a boost to Stealth, courtesy of darker scales.

The pdf includes 5 race traits that actually are mechanically-relevant, power-levels-wise in line, and that do tie in with the race’s lore – nice! After this, we get 6 different new racial feats that highlight another nice thing in Porphyra RPG – they have a line below, after which they note a BAB-value. Once you reach this value, you unlock new benefits! Blood of the Serpent requires that you fail two saves to move down the poison progression track, and at BAB+6, you get to choose two tracks and become immune to poisons of those tracks. Cool! Guarded Thoughts nets +4 racial bonus to saves vs. mind descriptor spells, and BAB +11 upgrades that to include immunity vs. divinations with the mind descriptor. Naga Speed lets you bite as an immediate action when a flanking ally hits, and BAB +8 upgrades this to allow an ally an AoO when you hit with the bite. Snaketongue lets you communicate with snakes, and BAB +4 makes snakes helpful. Sharp Fangs nets you a properly codified bite attack (strength should be capitalized, though); at BAB +8, you get a poisonous bite. S’sluun’s Warrior nets proficiency with the sawtooth sabre, and CMD to resist demoralization increases by +4 while wielding the deity’s favorite weapon. BAB +9 makes the sabre deal 1 point of bleed damage and renders you immune to being demoralized.

The pdf proceeds to provide two racial archetypes: The Fanged Assassin for the Assassin base class gets proficiency with simple weapons, kukris, sawtooth sabres and short swords, and replaces poison use with the Sharp Fangs feat; Venomous Bite is gained at 2nd level. 16th level makes the bite ignore poison immunity, and the archetype comes with its own racial assassin secret. Class-skill-wise, this means we get Deception, Knowledge (dungeoneering) Knowledge (religion) and Survival . ½ class level (minimum 1) is added to Athletics and Sap checks, and the class features provide scaling poison damage, the option to spit venom, and poison upgrades.

The Naga Clanpriest cleric may use Knowledge (religion) instead of monster lore checks, and retry each Knowledge (religion) check once. At 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the clanpriest may choose one of 6 marks; these represent fanatic devotion, and sometimes are double-edged swords. 3 unique and rather cool poisons are presented next, from red lotus powder to rapture, and we get 4 new exotic nagaji spells: Agony of the Naga Empress caused crippling pain that renders the target helpless. As an aside – the description did remind me of my own migraines…and yep, you are struck no matter what by pain – the save determines whether this is permanent. OUCH. At level 8 and properly gated by spell scarcity etc., suitable in a way. Breed Posion makes use of Porphyra RPG’s poison engine, enhancing duration and frequency. Shape of the Sacred Snake is a painful process that transforms the caster, body and mind, into an emperor cobra. Shedding Flesh makes you hallucinate that you’re shedding your flesh – not good for morale…

The pdf also sports 5 new magic items: We get write-ups for arrows with a magical sleeping effect, idols that provide serious penalties, but reward those suffering through them with a boost (should specify that they don’t stack in effects with other idols), daggers that allow for the use of detect thoughts, and we get cursed rings that slowly kill targets in excruciating agony as a twisted kind of magical sacrificial device. Rings of the serpent make the wearers aware of other wearers, making for a deadly tool of elite strikeforces.

The pdf also surprised me by diving deep into nagan politics, with multiple faction leaders noted with their positions and ranks, adding some serious flavor to the pdf. The bastion of the naga, the Asp Fortress, receives a full settlement write-up as well, including a fully realized settlement statblock that lists qualities ad defenses, etc. The pdf also provides some neat updates penned by Mark Gedak – from universal monster rules referenced to emperor cobra stats to two magic item updates, this appendix renders the supplement easier to use. Nice one!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. The few glitches I found were cosmetic in nature. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly one-column standard with purple headers and highlights, and the pdf features some rather nice 1-page full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is, at least to my knowledge, Quinn Carter’s first offering, and I am happy to report that I ended up being duly impressed: The flavor is interesting, and the execution of the rules is precise. The supplement does a great job highlighting several of the improvements and unique components that Porphyra RPG brings to the table. All in all, I consider this to be a great example of what a well-crafted racial supplement can achieve. It also has achieved something that is worth noting: It genuinely serves as a great pitch for the entire Porphyra RPG. The changes to the rules presented, the concepts – they managed to make me truly excited about the game, making this a great first-exposure-pdf. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars; and the combination of showing the system improvements, flavor and freshman bonus combine to grant this my seal of approval. If this type of book is what we can expect, then the future looks rosy…erh…I meant…purple, of course!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nagaji of Porphyra
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Occult Skill Guide: Actual Cannibal Corruption
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2019 11:36:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the so far absolutely amazing Occult Skill Guide-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 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.

So, on the introductory page, we already have something I genuinely enjoyed seeing, namely a more diversified take on addiction. As you all know, Starfinder treats drug addiction as a disease that progresses each time a drug is taken. Which, come to think of it, doesn’t always make sense – addictions certainly develop when a drug is consumed, but withdrawal effects occur from abstinence, and not indulgence. As such, the pdf presents a variant for addiction as a disease (drug use). Save and track are specified by the respective drug, while the effect is as follows: Every 1d6 days, the victim must attempt a saving throw against the disease, with the DC equal to the drug the victim is addicted to, +2 for every time the victim consumed the drug within the last 7 days. On a failed save the victim progresses from the latent to to impaired, to a maximum of weakened. Each hour, the victim attempts a new save progressing to the next step on a failed save. This continues until the victim uses the specified drug or succeeds on 3 consecutive saving throws, after which the addiction reverts to the latent stage for 1d6 days.

Each addiction starts as a minor addiction, and on 3 failed consecutive saving throws, progresses to moderate,, and after that, we reach severe. These have new maximum steps to progress to. Cure is noted as well. This is pretty elegant, in that it presents a frame-work that is easy to tweak – the cooldown in days, the penalty to the DC – all components that can be tackled on their own. Plus, for gritty games, this allows you to portray the effects of addiction decoupled from individual drugs, or in conjunction with individual drugs. Speaking of which: This framework does work smoothly in conjunction with the awesome item-level scaling drug-rules presented in the phenomenal Pop Culture Catalog: Vice Dens.

Now, as before, this is a stand-alone book: All the rules required to introduce corruptions into your game have been provided in this pdf, and since I’ve explained them already, I will refrain from doing so again – suffice to say, they are damn cool, one could call them…addictive. See what I did there? ;)

The Cannibal corruption is associated with Will as save and Wisdom as the relevant ability score modifier, and the source is obvious here: The target has partaken in sapient flesh of their own race, either willingly or unwillingly due to wendigo psychosis or sadistic compulsions. As far as save DCs are concerned, they scale with the corruption’s victim’s level and start at DC 13 and progress to 19, with each stage tracking its save DC increases separately, making the progression per se less burst-like and more steady.

Wait. You don’t have rules for wendigo psychosis? Well, guess what! We have a unique simple template graft to create wendigo creatures, including howl, properly codified airwalking (based on a supernatural equivalent of force soles) and the psychosis codified as a proper curse! But let us get back to the corruption: You progress through it whenever you consume sapient (properly-codified, fyi!) meat – 1d6 corruption points; if the target consumed is of your own race, it’s 1d20 corruption points for you! The latent stage also nets an addiction to consuming the flesh of creatures of their own race, and latent stage nets Cannibalistic Euphoria – which provides a bonus to an ability score of your choice for 10 minutes, which doesn’t stack with augmentations whenever you consume flesh of your own species. Higher corruption stages increase this bonus. At this point, simply abstaining from meat-consumption for long enough (provided the addiction lets you!) suffices to cure this. At Stage 1, consuming flesh of your species also heals you with a scaling mystic cure, with higher levels and corruption stages also adding remove condition/affliction to the roster of benefits. Sure you want to get rid of this?

Stage 2 nets you proficiency with entangle, grapple., gravitational, mire, throttle and trip weapons, or +1 to atk or save DCs/skill check DCs related to them, if you already are proficient…gotta hunt your meat, Hills Have Eyes IN SPACE!!!-style. At stage 3, only death and a proper cleansing ritual before resurrection may revert the horrific corruption the character has underwent. This also provides some serious benefits – including skill ranks, bonus feats, and means to stay in the fight – basically, at this point, you’re almost Jason. And before you ask, yes, the rules of the corruption are presented in a way that lets you apply it to NPCs without much hassle.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the series elegant two-column full-color standard, and the artwork featured is neat, and an original full-color piece. Kudos: The pdf is fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity.

Alexander Augunas’ cannibal corruption kicks behind and takes names; the entire Occult Skill Guide series so far has been nothing but a joy to review, and this is is no different. Corruptions are an amazing concept, and how the author manages to portray the lure that their powers offer, while contrasting them with nasty detriments, is awesome. This is role-playing gold, and I seriously recommend getting all of them, particularly if you’re as excited as I am for e.g. Grimmerspace, for which these pdfs imho make a natural fit. All in all, a great offering, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Skill Guide: Actual Cannibal Corruption
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The Celestial Host
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2019 13:30:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book contains 150 pages of content if you disregard the materials like ToC/editorial, etc. Not included in this tally would be the 2-page bibliography in the book that I considered to be rather helpful. I have received a physical copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. It has thus been moved up in my reviewing queue; it was also requested to be moved up in my queue by my patreon supporters.

This book was made as the first big product of RPG Design Camp – an enterprise that seeks to fill the hole that kickstarter left in the RPG-scene. You see, while kickstarter is great and all, at one point, patron-funded projects by Kobold Press (then known as Open Design) and trailblazers like Rite Publishing used a sort of crowdfunding before that; a type of making books that integrated feedback and ideas provided by the patrons funding the books in a rather direct manner. In a way, the dazzling creativity of this time left a huge mark on me, and it was also then that I got my first design-chops in published books. As an institution, RPG Design Camp is pure amazing, and I sincerely hope that it’ll continue to provide the means to have amateurs having their material critiqued and refined by veteran authors and designers. Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not intended to bash kickstarter! The kickstarter-funds for these projects do allow publishers to make high-quality books with stunning layout, professional editing and great artwork, and indeed, this very book was funded by kickstarter. However, compared to current projects, many of those early patron-powered books may almost seem quaint, sporting few artworks, less stunning cartography, etc. These books, for the most part, had to stand on the strength of their ideas alone. They may have been less refined, but they had this creative spark of jamais-vu that really excited me.

What does that have to do with this tome? Well, “The Celestial Host” was originally conceived as an offering that was supposed to provide about 20,000 words on each pantheon featured within. You don’t have to be a math savant to note that this book’s page-count vastly exceeds this projection. It is a testament to the RPG Design Camp and Storm Bunny Studios-crew that this massive tome came together in this shape, going indubitably vastly over the projected budget. In spite of going over wordcount in such an excessive manner, the massive book features a ton of original and rather impressive high quality full-color artwork. Why do I mention that? Well, because there are a couple of instances where this book is a bit rough around the edges, much like many of the old patron-funded projects of yore, though in a somewhat different manner. You’ll see what I mean by this below. This is clearly a labor of love for those involved, and I applaud the commitment to presenting this book in its current form – not only is it vastly bigger than anticipated, it also has A LOT of content per page. This is a busy book that seeks to cram into its pages as much information as possible. I can easily picture certain layout-choices with broad borders etc. bloating the page-count to over 250 pages. No, I’m not kidding. This is a VERY dense book.

Okay, so, theme-wise, this is a kind of heir of “Deities & Demigods”, at least in a way. WAIT. If that elicited groans from you, then please continue reading nonetheless; if that sounded interesting, then by all means, do go on. First of all: I wasn’t a big fan of 3.X’s Deities & Demigods-book. Having had the old-school books on gods inspired by real-world myth, at one point, I started being more interested in fantastic cosmologies and novel mythologies, in part due to my frustration with how real-world mythologies tend to be handled in many gaming supplements. They are often grossly inaccurate or so “authentic” that they lose any direct applicability to the game, relegating the PCs to mere sidekicks for cosmic forces that tell a story we’re all familiar with. This may be a spoiler of sorts, but this book handles this aspect with more grace than I expected it to.

Three mythologies are covered: The Arthurian myth, the Tuatha Dé Danan, and the Norse mythology. From the get-go, this includes two of my favorite mythologies, so that is a plus. It should also be noted that this makes ample use of Rogue Genius Games’ Feat Reference-file, which unlocks PFRPG’s Golarion IP-flavored feats for a broader audience, providing the means to ensure compatibility with the Obedience-engine from the Inner Sea Gods-hardcover. Additionally, it should be noted that the builds included make use of Mythic Adventures-rules, which is a plus as far as I’m concerned. This book also does not commit the cardinal sin of statting deities (which would then just end up being slain by some power-gamer) – instead, the book goes a different route.

What route? Well, that takes some time to explain, so please bear with me. So, both the Deific Obedience feat, and the new Deific Reverence feat, allow for devout characters to gain a benefit for fulfilling an obedience. The new feat allows any character to gain these benefits once every 8 –minus character level, minimum 1 days. As such, obediences for e.g. Arthur, Lancelot and Gawain are provided to illustrate how not just deities, but also mythic individuals that represent certain character traits, flaws and virtues may inspire such obediences. Indeed, in the Arthurian context, this makes more sense than having obediences for e.g. the Christian God, the lady of the lake or the grail – which do get a brief, rudimentary deity-write-up, but which are, obviously, more removed from mortal affairs. Thus, one could speak about a thematically fitting and sound re-contextualization of what obediences and their powers apply to. This is not necessarily something you consciously and immediately notice, but a subtle design decision that can slightly alter the way you think about these mechanics.

The second engine presented would pertain Regency. As all of you know, medieval Europe’s social strata were justified in much parts by the notion of “Gottesgandentum” – the idea that social standing and the right to rule were based on the divine grace of god, and as such, raising your hand against a noble when you’re only a peasant, was considered to be not only an affront, but an upsetting of the divinely ordained balance of the world, an act that may well endanger your very soul. It comes as no surprise, then, that the prominence of rulers with quasi-magical abilities, protected by god’s grace, have become pretty much a staple in legends. Even before that, there were plenty of societies and cultures were the right to rule was justified with a direct claim towards some sort of deific mandate of stewardship over mortals.

In fantasy gaming, this notion has found traction in the rather cool concept of regency and rulership providing genuine power – and in this book, we have this concept codified via the Regency point engine. When you gain a territory, you receive 3 + your Charisma modifier, and may spend these points for an untyped bonus equal of twice the number of regency points spent, with the amount of points spent per round capped at the character’s level. As a minor complaint, while it is evident that these points are intended to apply to all types of rolls, this is not explicitly specified, and neither is whether you can spend them retroactively after results are made known. The focus here lies clearly on the narrative implications, suggesting e.g. mythic power to be available within the respective Territory claimed, and while I love this as a concept, the engine is a bit threadbare and only features 7 mythic feats. It also mentions the ability to perform specific acts of mythic power, and doesn’t really codify the regency-gain within the frame of mythic adventures’ rules – is it a universal ability? If so, of what tier? The section also misses quite a few spell-references, failing to put them properly in italics. So yeah, the execution is rough and somewhat rudimentary here, probably courtesy of the limited space available in the tome, but its idea, its concept, is by no means unsalvageable. My personal suggestion would be to graft regency points atop Legendary Games’ excellent Mythic Marvels system, using them as an alternate resource.

The next section deals with something rather crucial – it discusses the means of divine ascension, and how it should be handled, how deities should be handled. Indeed, this section could be seen as the reason for the absence of deity stats: The book champions an approach, where only VERY specific weapons and circumstances can result in the slaying of a deity and in divine ascension, and I applaud that. It also talks about some rather interesting notions regarding the interactions with mythology – if you slay Thor by exploiting the notions of his foreordained doom, what happens? The book does offer some exceedingly clever angles there, and indeed, from notions like fated masks, to ascended mortals, different means of thinking about divinity are provided…and before you ask, yes, this does include the notion of gods being aliens so widely spread among the more far out. esoteric circles. The book does not fall into the common trap of prescribing any solution, and instead presents the individual concepts in a broad term, establishing a common ground of ideas, which is later elaborated upon in individual story- and campaign-seeds.

Speaking of which: You do not have to consult the bibliography presented (though I personally do recommend you do!) to use this book. The core legends and beliefs are explained in a rather intriguing manner for the respective three chapters. My one complaint on a thematic level here would be that both Tuatha Dé Danan and Norse mythology draw a lot of their individual appeal for me as a person from the curious absence of binary thinking that, in Derrida’s terms, values presence over absence, that conceives of the world in stark good/evil contrasts, but this may just be me. And yes, I get it. Many of our roleplaying games are burdened by a morality system that thinks in binaries along one or two axes – Pathfinder on the good-evil and law-chaos axes, but I’d still have loved to see the difference of thinking about the world and a brief primer on the morality stemming from it as a breath of fresh air. Then again, I may be alone with this desire, and thus will not penalize a book that already overdelivers, content-wise, in an exemplary manner. For the Arthurian myth, the rendition of the Fisher King story most deeply steeped in Christian lore, though, this very much works perfectly.

Speaking of which, we do get quite a lot of sample builds here: Arthur Pendragon, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, Gawain, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, Mordred, and even King Pelles the Fisher King and Morien, the Moorish knight, receive stats herein. The builds of the statblocks rank among the upper echelons of complexity, employing a nice combination of archetypes, class-combos and mythic paths to render the builds, complexity-wise, above average. With notes on heraldic crests, secrets, character traits and the like provided, these legends indeed are not just simple builds, but feel like proper characters. The vast majority of them also get stunning, original full-color artworks, with only two of them using well-chosen artworks I’ve seen before. While I did find a couple of minor hiccups, their general integrity is above average. More than that, though, the book contains an impressive amount of different artifacts and magic items: From Excalibur to the blades of the other knights, to Lancelot’s ring bestowed onto him by the Lady of the Lake, the respective items deserve special mentioning – it is in these that we can find quite a few rather interesting rules: We, for example, have exploding dice (roll highest damage number again, and add results) with Lancelot’s sword and similar ideas that make them feel rather creative.

The book also provides, fyi, stats for so-called “shades” of the mighty swords – lesser versions of the mighty artifact-level weaponry for those that follow the tenets and ideals of the respective knights. It should also be noted that we e.g. get dismembering weapons – a lesser form of vorpal weaponry that can sever limbs. The fisher king build reflects the mythic vulnerability to spears and makes the character take damage for moving fully. It’s in the small aspects like this that veterans of PFRPG can plainly see truly novel components, where we can perceive that the authors really did care – there is not a single item that’s phoned in herein. While the rules language of a few of them could be more elegant, they still have this tangible sense of new voices coming into their own.

Beyond this, we have influence-rules (from Ultimate Intrigue) represented with the Knights of the Round Table, as well as the cult of the Children of Logres. As one of the “rough” patches I mentioned before, the “-uence” of “influence from the knight’s table has been partially obscured by a sidebar. A couple of sample spells (including lance-throwing and making a shield grow and fall atop a target) may be found here as well, and the section concludes with basically an extended hook that is centered on a fey ritual lampooning the Knights of the Round.

The second chapter, that pertaining the Tuatha Dé Danan, is slightly less crunchy, but not in a bad way: As a generally lesser-known mythological cosmos, the book acknowledges their obscure history and the nature of the rather diverse pantheon that seems to feature a surprising amount of overlap. The section mentions the Door or Dor’Eld, and we do get rules for the blood-craving dozen idols of Crom Cruach; as before, we do receive a ton of artifacts and magic items – from Nuada’s Silver Hand to the Spear of Light and the fabled Golden Gwyddbwyll, which also includes rules for the two games you can play with it, this section follows a different paradigm and theme, as befitting of the mythology. Indeed, much to my pleasant surprise, Celtic practices like the importance of poetry, sacred groves and wells or the tradition of sacred marriages may be found. The book also features 4 sample traits suitable for Celtic-inspired campaigns. We get 12 full write-ups for various Celtic deities, with plenty of surprisingly inspiring story seeds included, and flavor-centric notes on planar allies and religious heroes noted. Heck, we even get a sample poem in the Brigid write-up, penned by Kimberly A. Murphy, has been provided here. On the downside, Goibniu does lack the “deity statblock” that list epithets, alignment, domains, favored weapons and centers of worship that usually start off the write-ups. As far as statblocks are concerned, we do get Maidens of Morrígan (leanan sidhe bloodragers) and Sreng, the slayer of Nuada, we receive quite a few interesting statblocks here as well.

The third chapter presented within deals with the Norse gods – and fittingly, we do get a fully depicted Incantation of Gods’ Blot as a ritual representation. Freyr’s war antler gets weapon stats (so does, btw., the sling-staff in the Celtic chapter), and 7 deities receive their full write-up, with associated omens, cults and manifestations noted; valkyries do receive their own entry here as well, and while this obviously does not include all of the deities, much to my pleasant surprise, often neglected deities like Forseti do receive their due on a smaller scale as well. Nice: Instead of providing the oomphteenth take on stats for the get of Loki, we instead get fearsome and fully statted iterations of both Surtur and Thrym, the most famous giants from Norse myth. The chapter includes the evil Røkkr Niðr-cult – seeking to hasten Ragnarok’s arrival, with 3 cult-specific traits provided. Traits to represent the high value of oaths and a feat that provides rune-themed alternate channeling options may be found here, including a cleric archetype, the Vitki, which is rather cool, in that it blends Kobold Press’ Northlands-runes with the engine from Rhûne.

As far as items are concerned, we do get Muninn’s feather, Thor’s Mjolnir and the like. And yep, alas, the names have been Anglicized, but on an interesting note, the mighty hammer of Thor actually, in its mechanic execution, may not be 100% smooth, but is rather creative in that it clearly is a homage to how the item worked back in 2nd edition. Its rules are a bit tougher to understand due to the missing formatting of spells and the like herein, though. On the plus-side, some truly creative spells, notes on a couple of cults and holy sites and plenty of story seeds that often go beyond the ones we expect from RPG-adaptations of the mythology, is a pretty big plus.

The final chapter of the book is devoted to the “Ode of the Crimson Eagle”, an adventure for 7th level characters penned by Andrew Christian. Its premise is rather unique: Every summer when the sun reaches its highest peaks, Sir Avon of the Knights of the Round, Thane Fjolmod Ulfhedin and the Celtic priestess Rhoswen gather at the Grand Moot – this time on Harolde Island. A surprisingly nice rendition of the isle as a player-friendly handout is included, and NPCs/factions provide proper intrigue-stats for verbal contests. 4 different small handouts have been included. The module does not sport read-aloud text.

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, after some politicking and establishing the scene, there will be an attack threatening the Moot – unbeknown to the factions, the Crimson Eagles, seeking to claim the mighty spear Ascalon, have infiltrated the island, and once the PCs have rebuffed the initial assault, they will be faced with something rather interesting – clues that represent basically a riddle that will allow them to hopefully claim the magic weapon before their adversaries, and before hostilities erupt. The main part of the module is all about a free-form sandboxy treasure-hunt – gathering clues, traveling to and fro – and yes, traveling speeds from locale to locale are provided in a handy table. The challenges faces, with giants, dragons and fey, tie in with the respective mythological themes, and the Crimson Eagles are nasty adversaries. The module features various degrees of success and failure and provides a surprising amount of material for its wordcount. I usually am disappointed by “back of the book”-modules like this; they are often phoned in. This is not – it actually managed to blend the mythologies and themes in a surprisingly sensible way. Kudos!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language level. There are quite a bunch of glitches herein, ranging from typos like “Excaliber”, hyphenation mid-sentence sans linebreaks, to inconsistencies à la “Harold” vs “Harolde;” rules-language adherence to the verbiage structures we’d consider standard also fluctuates somewhat, with a couple of components being exceedingly precise, while in other instances, there are some issues in the verbiage. Spells and magic items are often properly formatted, while in other instances, the italics are missing. Generally, functionality is maintained, though. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that jams a ridiculous amount of content into these pages, and artworks, for the most part, are exceedingly impressive original full-color pieces. The respective chapters are color-coded, allowing you to quickly flip to the relevant chapter – nice touch there. The softcover is a nice book.

Ben McFarland, Brian Suskind and Jaye Sonia, with contributions by Darren Belisle, Craig Campbell, Andrew Christian, Andrew Durston, Robert Fairbanks, Jeffrey Hersh, Les Hostetler, Chad Middleton, Christen N. Sowards and Kimberley Murphy Watson, provide an impressive book here. Granted, in an ideal world, this would have received a strict editing pass to get rid of the sheer number of minor glitches, which do accumulate. However, between that, and having a page-count so far above what the project initially promised? Heck, I’ll take the additional content every single time! Particularly since this book, its formal glitches notwithstanding, manages to evoke a sense of wonder that I frankly did not expect. I expected to be at least partially bored; after all, I’ve seen the concepts done multiple times, am thoroughly familiar with the mythologies provided, and have read plenty of RPG-supplements on the respective topics. Picture my pleasant surprise when, in the small details, from nuanced explanations of characters to a plethora of magic items, we, time and again, get rules that often do genuinely creative things.

In that way, this book is truly a rightful heir to the concepts pioneered back then by Open Design; it manages to capture that spirit of creativity, and infuses old themes that have been, by all accounts, done to death, and instill them with a sense of the novel and genuinely interesting. Heck, even the “back-of-the-book”-module actually manages to pull off a blend of the three mythologies and add something beyond what you’d expect. This book may be formally rather flawed, but it oozes passion and a sense of joy that is hard to convey. It provides fresh voices, and while e.g. formal editing is not up to the standards we expect nowadays, I am, in spite of my repeated annoyance, glad that I have this book.

“The Celestial Host” brims with creative story hooks, unique items, cultural tidbits – it brims with ideas, both on a narrative and rules level. It is rough around the edges, yes. And if you’re very nitpicky regarding editing, then this will annoy you. However, passing on this book would also deprive you of a book that is more creative than Deities & Demigods for 3.X ever was. As noted, I genuinely did not expect to like this book enough to write this, but in spite of the numerous formal flaws, I consider this book to be very much worth getting. It is, in spite of the age of PFRPG, a book that feels fresh, a book that hearkens back to the glory days of Open Design, where fresh and creative ideas revolutionized what we expected from d20-based supplements and adventures. We need more books of this caliber. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars + seal of approval, with the caveat of a tolerance for formal glitches being required to enjoy this to its fullest; if you don’t have that tolerance, then do detract a star. Personally, I found myself enjoying this more than I imagined, and while, as a person, I will consider this to be a rounding up candidate, as a reviewer, I have to round down. Still, if you harbor even the remotest bit of love for the mythologies covered, do take a look – I bet that you’ll find material herein that will indeed make you smile.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Celestial Host
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The Fey Binder's Handbook
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2019 13:26:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my readers and patreons.

All right, we begin this supplement, as always, with a nice piece of in-character prose, before diving into the nit and grit. As with the Blood sphere, we have a new sphere introduced in this book, though this one previously did have its debut in Skybourne. The sphere as presented within is no longer restricted regarding who can access it, and has been rewired, so let’s see how it holds up – as with the Blood sphere, it makes most sense to start off the discussion of the subject matter at hand by taking a look at the base sphere first before getting into the details of archetypes etc.

The Fallen Fey Sphere’s base ability would be the fey-link: As a swift action, this allows the caster to change creature type to fey for 1 minute per caster level; this transformation only applies to your base type, not your subtypes, so bane and similar effects possibly contingent on subtypes still apply. While in this fey-link form, you may spend 1 spell point as a free action to gain the benefits of a fey-blessing until the end of the fey-link. There is no maximum cap to the number of fey-blessings you may have active at a given time, but they all end with the fey-link. Renewing the fey-link does not renew the durations of currently active fey-blessings and, indeed, ends all currently active ones.

Upon gaining the Fallen Fey sphere, you gain the nature connection fey-blessing, which potentially could have the (fey-blessing)-tag, as certain magic talents also have this tag when they grant additional fey-blessings, though the various fey-blessings themselves don’t have this tag. Personally, I think making the individual fey-blessings provided by (fey-blessing) talents have a kind of descriptor would make sense from a rules-syntax perspective; it may be more feasible to call the talents “Fey Gift” or some such, since the rules are based on individual fey-blessings. Then again, this is purely aesthetic and will not influence the final verdict. The pdf does cover the interaction of activating fey-blessings when already of the fey type. It should be noted that both fey-link and fey-blessings are tracked individually regarding their caster levels.

Anyhow, the nature connection fey-blessing nets you an untyped +1 bonus to initiative, Knowledge (geography), Survival, Stealth, and Perception check in a terrain of your choice that you choose when the fey-blessing is cast. The bonus increases by +1 for every 5 caster levels you possess. Weird: Something has gone seriously wrong in verbiage here, as the blessing states that it may be gained multiple times, choosing a new terrain every time. Okay, how? As a magic talent? I assume so. But then, it still contradicts itself, implying once that you have to choose one terrain, while a few sentences before that, it allows for full flexibility whenever you cast it. Which is it?

On the plus-side, this book does account for the obvious thematic overlaps between the Fallen fey sphere and the Alteration sphere, specifying that fey-blessings maintained during shapeshift reduce the traits that may be assigned by 1 per fey-blessing applied. Additionally, Unthreatening Form functions as an analogue of the blank form. This would btw. be a talent that allows you to shapeshift into a Diminutive or Tiny animal, though attacking, using a supernatural or spell-like ability or sphere-effect immediately ends this. While in unthreatening form, you get movement modes of the form as well as abilities it may have, with a concise list presented. The talent includes modifications of the physical ability scores noted in a table, and powerful abilities are locked behind a minimum level that makes sense.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s go back to the base sphere: If you also have the Divination sphere, you may Detect Faetouched. The sphere comes with two general talents: Share Link allows you to designate a creature within close range as beneficiary of your fey-link, with a Will-save to resist for unwilling targets, and such targets cost you a spell point; such targets may also share in your fey-blessings while the target is in close range, and spell point-contingent talents use your spell points, not that of your ally. Minor nitpick: I assume those decisions to be free actions, but the talent doesn’t really specify an action economy for e.g. fey-blessing sharing. Second issue: RAW, the target only has to remain in your vicinity for the purpose of sharing the fey-blessing, nor for its maintenance, which makes this aspect of the ability very strong, particularly in conjunction with the second general talent.

The second talent, Greater Link, increases the duration of the fey-link to 10 minutes per caster level, with the option of spending 1 spell point to instead increase the duration to 1 hour per caster level. Overall, we have more the 40 (fey-blessing) talents included in this book. The latter imho should have been relegated, at least in its hour-duration version, to the realm of advanced talents. While fey-blessings do cost spell points as a hard limiting cap, the increased duration of a couple of these options can make them, well, very, very potent group buffs.

Take, for example, Aelfwine, which conjures forth a type of faerie drink, which you can drink as a move action, with allies capable of drinking it as a standard action on their turns. This has 4 applications, all but one of which last for 1 minute: The first nets you temporary hit points equal to CL; the second nets you the Barroom sphere or a (drunk) talent; the third lets you suppress [emotion] effects for 1 round per CL on a successful magic skill check, and the last one nets you a scaling bonus to fear saves. The balance of this talent is contingent on the fact that you can only consume 1 + 2 times the Constitution modifier alcohol (minimum 1 missing) before being sickened for 1 hour per number of drinks beyond this. Okay. Know how easy you can get rid of the detrimental effects of alcohol in PFRPG? While the talent thankfully notes how it can’t affect creatures immune to alcohol, it could still be easily deprived of its limitations by getting rid of the sickened condition time and again. This should have some further, hard capping implemented to prevent abuse-strategies. Also, since this blessing has a physical representation, I am also not 100% sure how it interacts with Share Link’s ability to share fey-blessings. While the talent notes that the flask can be called back to the caster’s hand, RAW, the Share Link talent’s baseline would suggest that allies receive their own flask? I am genuinely not sure.

The second talent presented, Animate Hair, makes your adjacent squares harder to move away from for enemies, requiring a Reflex save and a Strength/Escape Artist check to move away from you on a failed save. You may also use hair to execute properly codified (NICE!) slam attacks and hold items, load weaponry, etc. as a swift action. Neat execution there! Beastward has multiple applications, which allow you to benefit from better default dispositions of animals or vermin, or repel animals or vermin. Nice: This does take the Beastmastery sphere into account. Problem here: The repelling effect for vermin specifies that they are shaken if forced in ranged, which contradicts the fact that mindless creatures (like most vermin) are immune to mind-affecting effects, of which fear is one. This should note that the shaken condition here specifically overrides the immunity to fear they thus usually have. There is also a talent that lets you go Disney princess and beckon animals to you, fascinating them with your beckoning call. We also can find a talent that lets you temporarily don a crown of a court of the fey, making associated beings incapable of attacking you, which is per se nice. Once more, the talent here is tied to a physical manifestation, which makes the interaction with the fey-blessing sharing aspect of Share Link somewhat opaque – a problem that also extends to e.g. the music-related Enchanting Music talent and similar options within.

On the plus side, the music talent offers multiple, neat effects that, while offering e.g. the means to stagger targets on a failed save, does not allow for stagger-locking exploits. Gaining concealment via the signature fading tricks of fey and another talent nets you a variety of different fairy dusts (this one comes with 9 types of dust!!!) – which is per se awesome, but oddly lists its last dust type below the global rules that govern the application of fairy dust. (And yes, for reference, this is also one that has a physical manifestation, which means that interaction can be weird – and frankly, at this point, I think that such fey-blessings were probably intended to be cut out of the sharing, as this would generate a ton of pouches of dust, which becomes problematic considering that a couple of the more potent fey-blessings have a hex-like limiting caveat, which would necessitate specifying that a shared fey-blessing still is treated as one instance of the same fey-blessing. On the plus-side, we have a properly balanced flight, and an option to generate enchanting lights, which, while cool, could have used some synergy with the Light-sphere’s glow-engine, but that may be me. We also have the options to spoil or unspoil food or target enemies with a sickening spew of vomit (nauseated for spell point expenditure). Some numerical boons may also be found.

Fey Secrets once more becomes an issue: Once before the end of your fey-link, you may add a 1d4, +1 per 5 caster levels, insight bonus to an ability check, skill check, attack roll, CMB check or initiative. While you can’t use it for the same roll multiple times, you can take the talent multiple times, increasing the uses per link by 1 each time. RAW, this may be shared, but is there still only one roll when used with Share Link? Or does every target get one? On the nitpicky-side, the tag of this one lacks the hyphen. Grace of the Sidhe, on the other hand, is nice – it nets you either evasion, or a 20% miss chance when moving far enough each round – like it. Indeed, while the above may have come off as harsh, and while I do maintain that there are some kinks to be worked out in the core engine of the sphere here, the book does offer quite a few of really cool talents – there are, for example, talents associated with the seasonal courts, short-range teleport and the like. On the downside, Listen to the Wind lets you just find North, and makes you privy to the natural weather within 48 hours – some Weather synergy would have been neat here. Dominion over components of the natural world, being a friend to plants (including the option to have primarily wood-based weaponry be less efficient against you), sabotage of civilization (yep, Gremlin-themed talent included) and the iconic means to steal shadows all may be found here. The latter is particularly nice if you’re playing in conjunction with one of the numerous options of spells and class features that use a target’s shadow as a kind of resource. Entangling fungal bombs and anxiety causing spores, glances that may stun targets etc. can be found within as well. Did I mention the options to clothe yourself in cinders and see through smoke or sense objects with Zolavoi’s Mantle? Yeah, some cool stuff here!

A total of 8 advanced talents may be found within: These include the option to banish targets to the realms of Faerie, traveling faerie rings (and determine their locations – just fyi, there are rituals provided for both functions as well! Additionally, there’s a proper incantation to create them yourself – nice!!), and there is one that makes you a fey – and allows you to turn others into fey! Minor issue: Fey Invisibility, while based on Fade, lacks the (fey-blessing) tag that its prerequisite talent has, and with the lack of an activation action or cost noted explicitly, I’m pretty sure it should have the tag. There is also a means to reincarnate (spell-formatting incorrect), a version of a nymph’s blinding beauty, a nereid’s drowning kiss and the ability to steal skins constitute notable fey-blessings that are situated properly as advanced talents.

The pdf comes with 5 feats, with Enchanted Performance building upon aforementioned Enchanting Music/Disney princess-style talents, providing synergy with bardic performance or raging song. Fairy Dust and Alchemy sphere synergy is neat, and we also have Trap sphere synergy. Adding forbidden lore bonus to CL for the purpose of summoned fey limits and a water geomancing is another interesting one, though feat-descriptors could have been a bit more stringent – pretty sure that quite a few of them should have the (Champion) descriptor…

Anyhow, this out of the way, let us take a look at the class options, shall we? We have 3 archetypes: For the shifter, we have the fey incarnate, who loses Climb and replaces it with Bluff, and who has Charisma as casting ability modifier. Instead of shapeshifter, we have Alteration and Fallen fey as bonus sphere, with Beast Soul and Lycanthropic drawbacks granting Fey Transformation (from the Shapeshifter’s Handbook); Fallen Fey sphere effects applied on herself and Fey Transformation talent both use class level as CL. Instead of enhanced physicality, we have the means to combo Fey Transformation and fey-link, and the option to take (fey-blessing) talents instead of bestial traits, as well as 7th level enhancing Charisma by +2, which increases by a further +2 every 6 levels thereafter. The capstone nets a fey apotheosis, with fey-blessings applied to herself being now free of charge and extraordinary.

The second archetype would be the feylord for the commander class, who gets a BAB of an incanter – which is a needlessly convoluted way of stating that the archetype has ½ BAB-progression. We also have d6 HD, but the feylord is a Low-Caster using Charisma as governing ability score., with level + Charisma modifier spell points. Every level nets one combat or magic talent, and first level changes type to fey, including low-light vision (or increasing pre-existing low-light vision’s effectiveness). Instead of battlefield specialist, we have the option to treat class level as CL for fey-link and fey-blessings cast upon self. Where this becomes awesome is 7th level: Instead of call in a specialist and its options, we get fey subjects, which provides not only a cool array of abilities – these abilities also come with applications for use in conjunction with kingdom-building! Awesome!

The third archetype would be the Sidhe invoker fey adept, who gets fae points equal to ½ class level + Charisma modifier instead of shadow points et al., trading in shadowstuff and shadowmark. Interesting here: The archetype can basically generate a sort of illusion/transposition of fey logic/reality with a so-called ringfort: Basically an area where the laws of nature bow to the will of the fey adept, allowing for control over terrain, magic, time, etc. – this includes Wild Magic-synergy and features some genuinely cool tricks – I wished there was a bit more for this one, but considering its synergy with [surreal] feats, it does have ample options for creative players. Create reality is modified to account for the new engine, and we have , instead of HiPS (hide in plain sight) full reality for Illusions within the created reality…which can be awesome in the hands of a creative roleplayer!

Beyond this, we have a fey domain (with Seelie/Unseelie subdomains) and 2 incanter specializations – for 2 points, fey servants, and for 3 points a sphere-specialization. Warpriests and (unchained) rogues also get a bit of material. There are alternate racial traits for more fey-ish races included, as well as two properly codified traits, which both are mechanically relevant and not boring. Two different traditions, the ley-line tapper and elf-shot hunter can be found alongside two general drawbacks. Some sphere-specific drawbacks would have been nice to see.

The magic item section includes a compass that points to the closest fairy ring while in the land of the fey; we also have an item-based version of aforementioned stagger-inducing music trick, thankfully retaining the anti-abuse caveat. We also have bells that notify you of gremlins and rules for the sphere in conjunction with the crafting rules. A neat CR 1 and CR ½ gremlin, as well as concise and well-presented rules for fairy rings, travelling through the lands of the fey etc. may be found within as well, and the book closes with some solid advice for applying fey-themes in your campaign – helpful thoughts to consider, basically.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are not as well-executed as usual for Drop Dead Studios; while the material as a whole remains functional and often admirably precise in the details, there are a few aspects that have a somewhat compromising effect on the overall integrity of the material within. A bit of refinement and a careful pass has the potential to make this a true gem, though. (Indeed, capable GMs can benefit from this book in its entirety right now, though some minor judgment calls may be required.) The pdf adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a couple of solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I really appreciate what Andrew Stoeckle did here – the base-engine of the sphere is interesting, in that is super-lenient regarding its action economy, but punishing regarding its costs. This is a smart way of handling the design here, and it makes the sphere feel very DIFFERENT from the other spheres – and I certainly enjoy that! The respective abilities often ooze flavor and made me smile time and again. I’m not sure whether the issues I noticed are due to version-conflicts or simple oversights, but particularly considering the unique action economy situation, there needs to be some serious clarification regarding the interaction of sharing fey-blessings. That being said, if you take this one crucial component away, the remainder of the book provides often evocative and interesting benefits. As a whole, I feel justified (though, admittedly, barely) in rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, with the express hope that the sphere will receive the fine-tuning it deserves to shine as it should.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Fey Binder's Handbook
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vs. the Wasteland
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2019 06:39:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive VsM-Engine based game clocks in at 110 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a mighty 105 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 patreon supporters.

It should be noted that the book does feature a location sheet and a character sheet for you to use.

Like the excellent second season of Vs. Stranger Stuff, this game differentiates between Easy, Normal and Hard mode, allowing for pretty solid customization options to modify the game to suit your respective tastes. Player characters are, aptly, called “Survivors” in this game, and the person doing GM duties is the “Dystopian Master” – DM for short. Clever! The book walks you rather well through the process of creating your character. You begin by selecting a name and writing a short biography (a few sentences, tops). Survivors have 5 Attributes: Offense and Defense are self-explanatory. Mental and Physical are the catch-all Attributes used for non-combat skills. Mutations would be number 5, and it is used to account for a wide variety of strange powers.

When creating a new survivor, you assign fixed scores to these Attributes: 5, 3, 3, 2 and 0. A 0 in Mental means you’re braindead, in Phyiscal, it means you’re paralyzed from the neck down – and as such, the 0 should not go there. The book, in a rather neat gesture, does tell novice players. A 0 in Offense or Defense just makes you terrible at that part of combat, while a 0 in Mutation makes you a normal human. This is surprisingly elegant – you pay for strange powers automatically by the distribution of these Attributes. In case you were wondering: Easy Mode has, well, no surprise there, higher Attribute values to distribute, while Hard Mode makes them lower.

All Survivors start the game with the same Health of 10, unless modified by Gimmicks. There are two types of Gimmicks – Good Gimmicks and Bad Gimmicks. You can choose up to 4 Good Gimmicks – but there’s a catch – for each Good Gimmick you choose, you also have to select a Bad Gimmick. In Easy Mode, you btw. get a free Good Gimmick sans the drawback of a Bad Gimmick. These Gimmicks include, to give you a general idea, drawing an additional card for melee or ranged attacks, increases of an Attribute by 1, being capable of operating civilian or military aircrafts (reducing the penalties) – you get the idea. Nice here: Not all Gimmicks are based on numerical advantages regarding the drawing of cards – we can, for example, find the means to get a kind of 6th sense that warns you of impending danger, which can be rather fun indeed. Similarly, having a friendly mutant deus ex machina out there to save your behind? That may very well be worth biting the bullet for a Bad Gimmick. It should also be noted that quite a few of these feature the (Reward) tag – this designates Gimmicks you can attain over the course of playing the game. Similarly, there are Gimmicks for NPCs and e.g. being versed in Sumo Style actually manages to be mechanically interesting, in spite of the rules-lite nature of the game, with the distance you can shove foes contingent on the type of card you draw and its suit.

To give you an idea of what you have to pay for these Good Gimmicks, let us talk about the Bad Gimmicks as well: Here, we can find allergies (and rest assured, I can vouch for allergies being a real detriment in and out game…), being plain annoying (one card less in social interactions), being afraid of flight, being a drunk, reductions of Attributes, reduced melee attack damage and the like. Being afraid of mutants, having a nemesis, missing a limb – you get the idea.

Now, while you do have control over your Gimmicks, the same doesn’t hold true for Mutations – here, you’re at the mercy of the cards, which makes sense. You draw a card and then consult one of the 4 tables, each of which is associated with a given suit. Drawing aces nets you two powers – unless you’re playing in Hard Mode, when you instead get to choose a power within the card’s suit. In Easy Mode, you get to redraw any Spades-card. The Hearts suit includes claws, being able to project illusory copies, having a force field, being able to mind control targets – basically a whole smattering of X-men-ish tricks. Diamonds and Clubs net you slightly less pronounced powers, like Attribute increases, being immortal (but NOT invulnerable!), having an extra arm, etc. Spades, as per VsM tradition, is bad news – here, you can end up with an antagonistic arm, being susceptible to certain types of energy, etc. However, not all of these suck – you can end up being an anthropomorphic animal, and in one of the most curious options, there is one entry that allows you to teleport the contents of your bowels into another target. Being capable of removing limbs or levitating similarly does not constitute a drawback, so yeah – if you do draw Spades, don’t be too bummed.

Cool about the Mutations – where applicable, the Mutation score obviously governs the potency of the respective abilities, governing e.g. potency or number of uses of the abilities. The core mechanic of the VsM-engine remains untouched: You draw your relevant Attribute in cards, and compare the value of the highest card drawn with a TV – the Target Value. If greater or equal the TV, the task succeeds. Res suits are generally “good”, black suits are generally “bad” regarding their associations. If you btw. really don’t want to play with cards, you’re in luck – the book does offer information for using the game in conjunction with your polyhedral friends (read: dice). Teamwork is very important in the game: When multiple Survivors cooperate on a given task, they draw the highest applicable card allotment, and add +1 per assisting Survivor. Example actions and associated TVs help the DM keep tabs on what values are sensible for a given task. Should you require a bit more differentiation, optional rules for varying degrees of success can be found. As an aside: This is, in spite of its theme, not a grimdark supplement: While definitely on the serious side, the example of “Parkour through a settlement to avoid your ex” made me chuckle. This is not a dry read.

As per usual for VsM-games, movement is handled in a narrative manner, using Physical and Mental, if in doubt. Melee attacks let you draw Offense, using the target’s Defense as TV. For ranged attacks, you instead compare Offense to either the Defense-based TV, or a TV based on range: Very long distances (25’ +) require Ace to hit. Yes, this focuses on thrown weapons and handguns. And yep, there are long-barreled rules – e.g. a proper sniper rifle will have a massive multiplier to range. Simple, elegant. Like it. In case you prefer using battle maps and the like, the book has you btw. covered as well.

If a Survivor hits a target, they draw one card for each card that beat the Defense attribute. Compare the value of the card with the attack’s damage cap; each card equal or below this cap deals 1 Health damage. For the purpose of damage, Aces are considered to be a 1 here. Armor reduces the damage cap of a weapon, and a reduction to 0 or fewer makes impervious to attacks from said weapon. You probably won’t punch out the guy in power armor. Some weapons have a minimum damage value. As in other iterations of VsM-games, we have pain thresholds, 50%, 20% and 10% of the Health – for most characters, this will mean 5 Health equals minor pain, 2 Health moderate pain, and 0 Health extreme pain. Each step reduces all Attributes by a progressive -1. The Diehard Good Gimmick btw. also modifies these values, as represented in a handy table. -1 Health means you’re knocked out, at -2 you’re dead – unless you have Diehard, obviously. Hard Mode has an interesting mechanical tweak here – Health in this iteration means physical health, while Pain tracks basically non-lethal damage. It should be noted that Health is not as easy to regenerate – and pain killers etc. are all covered. If you do want fast healing and video game logic, you can very well have that! Highly modular in its design, the game does provide rules for more “casual” experiences.

Situational modifiers for TVs, optional rules for critical hits – you guessed it at this point: Pretty much every different component herein can be combined to generate your own customized version of Vs. The Wasteland. Equipment lists for clothing, living space, work space, transportations, etc. are provided. Want to track fuel because you enjoyed a certain biker-game in a post-apocalyptic environment? There are rules for that in here. Similarly, we can find a ton of different weapons with damage caps and special features – enough to allow you to make informed design decisions regarding your own designs, from railguns to Fat Mans…and yep, from forcefields to The Bomb to Palm Computers, pre-cataclysm tech may be found.

All the information so far can be found at the front of the book – which is nice, as it allows you to tell players to read until the Dystopian Master chapters and stop there. You see, the game comes with quite an array of different pieces of advice for the DM, for example on how to handle unique rewards, bonus draws and the like. Really cool: Bonus draws may be traded in Hard Mode into an experience point-like resource that allows you to buy new Gimmicks, buy off Bad Gimmicks, etc. Advancement in VsM doesn’t always necessarily equate improvement – you can also end up gaining new Bad Gimmicks. Downtime rules for self-improvement, and we get quick and easy means to resolve “sidequests” – basically components of the game that can be glossed over and be resolved quickly, allowing you to streamline the narrative experience.

Of course, the wasteland can be a frightful place: As such, there are rules for fear challenges, broken bones, burns, plagues, wasteland madness and a ton of environmental hazards: These rules include e.g. acid rain, endurance over time, falling, and e.g. easy to recall rules for food, water and air consumption. Light and radiation, drowning, weather – pretty much whatever you’d want handled, you can find here.

Vehicle rules work as follows: You have a Crew, a Handling penalty that reduces your number of cards drawn, movement, Health, Armor (which reduces the Damage Cap of weapons), weapons, etc. A smattering of vehicles from standard bicycles to tanks may be found.

As far as locations are concerned, the game encourages you using the new sheet and writing up the basics of a locale. Different locations have costs (to hang out there) and rules (how order is maintained); akin to Survivors, locations have Features – these are basically the location’s Bad and Good Gimmick-equivalent. A bunch of suggested sample places within the respective locale can be found, and the book features quite an impressive array of sample NPCs…did I btw. mention the fact that this has horde rules? We obviously also have rules for mutants, which are presented in a cool manner – the “Shelter 23 Survivor’s Notebook”, which is basically the GM’s little VsM-Engine Mutant engine, featuring a whole array of unique abilities. From filth fungi to glow moths, to mist-bound souls, there are quite a few inside. Did I mention the Giant Space Gerbil? There. If you haven’t been sold before, now you have, right? Come on! Giant Space Gerbil! I want one as a pet! And yes, there are robots, a “nightmarish cross of a wasp nest and a vulture-headed scorpion” – and more!

Don’t want to spend time making your starting village/location? Fret not, for Rustville is provided – a fully-fleshed out sample settlement, including stats for the major NPCs. Yes, these include…drumroll Raptor Jesus! Told you that this can be genuinely funny! Need more food for your DM-imagination? There are plenty of adventure hooks included, and the book even includes a simple generator to make your own scenarios!

The final 3 pages are devoted to a standard difficulty mode sample scenario that centers on Gravel Road –a work camp, from which your Survivors hopefully manage to escape! Solid, if very narrative-driven introductory scenario, though having a map, patrol routes or the like would have been nice.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with a serious array of nice b/w-artworks. A few pieces may be familiar to some, but I found quite a few cool artworks I hadn’t seen before. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben Dowell, based on designs by Lucus Palosaari and Rick Hershey, delivers big time here – the only VsM-game that imho can stand up to this gem is Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. This massive book allows you to play anything, from Tank Girl to a gritty “The Rain”-like apocalypse sans superpowers to Fallout-like scenarios. No matter what you want to play, be it something akin to The Walking Dead or something goofy, this delivers. The exceedingly modular engine is at one of its strongest iterations ever, allowing for maximum customization of the playing experience. The book sports some genuinely creative ideas, and whether you want to play it for fun, grimdark, or a mixture thereof, this game delivers. It’s also a really fun reading experience that managed to make me chuckle time and again. The addition of mutations also enhances the longevity of the game. What more can you ask for? This is a great little, rules-lite game that delivers what it promises in spades. 5 stars + seal of approval – highly recommended if you’re looking for an easy to grasp, rules-lite RPG that you can teach in minutes!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. the Wasteland
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Village Backdrop: Aubade 2.0 (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2019 06:37:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This 2.0 installment of RSP's Village Backdrop is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

So, 2.0. Why? Well, for one, even a cursory glance shows you that the layout has been modernized, and for the first time, this is available in a 5e-iteration, with the pdf making proper use of the sample statblocks presented in the Monster Manual and tweaking them in a sensible manner, combining e.g. the stats of a monster with the spellcasting ability of a sample NPC.

Like all village backdrop-files, the village of Aubade features a significant amount of local color- from rumors to market place info (yes, the items available have been adjusted to 5e’s aesthetics), and even information on general villager looks and sample names, the aptly-depicted village provides the level of detail we've come to expect from this series.

So, Aubade is a prime example of what happens, when a catastrophe triumphs over sound reasoning - when a particularly nasty disease started ravaging the community, a scapegoat was soon found - a local witch ended her life in the flames of the pyre and her dying curse ultimately are what made Aubade distinct - what do I mean by this? PCs will probably visit this place not to visit the place, but rather to purge it -after all, strange stories of vampires, cults and worse abound. And indeed, the town does look a bit like a ghost-town - no one's outside, no response to knocking inquiries- it just looks like the town has been swept clean of inhabitants. Well, the town of Aubade is peculiar in that, at night, people come out - pale people, yes, but people nonetheless. The 2.0-version of Aubade also comes with distinct notes on customs and traditions, as well as a 20-entry-strong dressing/event-table and information regarding the surrounding area.

No, the village dwellers aren't just goths like yours truly that prefer the night, nor are they night-owls - the witch's curse on the town makes everyone that identifies as a villager and touches the sun burst into flames. Yup, nasty and uncommon and further complemented by the witch's ghost and her familiar as well as the proper stats and terms of the disease and the curse - and every DM worth their salt can craft these into a superb cocktail of weirdness and odd investigations! 4 fully sample NPCs are included, with notes on mannerism, personality, etc. noted, and there is also one brief write-up for the local deity. We also receive a properly statted version of the choking disease that has struck the place, choking its reputation for song – said disease was btw. responsible for the curse. The curse has been properly adjusted to 5e-rules, in case you were wondering.

Nice: We do get adventure hooks provided for certain locations, and the PCs may well prove to be the saviors of Aubade – provided they can move the ghost of the wise woman’s ghosts, that is!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard, with pretty impressive b/w-cartography and artworks provided. The pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels delivers one of the most impressive Village Backdrops in the whole series, and 2.0 actually enhances Aubade’s appeal even further - and in a series with SO MANY excellent installments, that indeed is a feat! Aubade's multiple trials and tribulations and the unique, resulting culture and potential for adventures is simply inspired - the curse, its repercussions and the strange happenstances definitely evoke the sense of living in a world where magic still abounds, a world in which humans still are humans and thus subject to the weaknesses and harmful decisions that desperation may entail. Now that this gem is available for the first time in 5e, I strongly recommend getting it!! My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Aubade 2.0 (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Aubade 2.0 (System Neutral)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2019 06:34:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This 2.0 installment of RSP's Village Backdrop is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

So, 2.0. Why? Well, for one, even a cursory glance shows you that the layout has been modernized, and for the first time, this is available in a system neutral iteration, with class-name references adjusted to represent the old-school classes.

Like all village backdrop-files, the village of Aubade features a significant amount of local color- from rumors to market place info (yes, the items available have been adjusted to old-school aesthetics), and even information on general villager looks and sample names, the aptly-depicted village provides the level of detail we've come to expect from this series.

So, Aubade is a prime example of what happens, when a catastrophe triumphs over sound reasoning - when a particularly nasty disease started ravaging the community, a scapegoat was soon found - a local witch ended her life in the flames of the pyre and her dying curse ultimately are what made Aubade distinct - what do I mean by this? PCs will probably visit this place not to visit the place, but rather to purge it -after all, strange stories of vampires, cults and worse abound. And indeed, the town does look a bit like a ghost-town - no one's outside, no response to knocking inquiries- it just looks like the town has been swept clean of inhabitants. Well, the town of Aubade is peculiar in that, at night, people come out - pale people, yes, but people nonetheless. The 2.0-version of Aubade also comes with distinct notes on customs and traditions, as well as a 20-entry-strong dressing/event-table and information regarding the surrounding area.

No, the village dwellers aren't just goths like yours truly that prefer the night, nor are they night-owls - the witch's curse on the town makes everyone that identifies as a villager and touches the sun burst into flames. Yup, nasty and uncommon and further complemented by the witch's ghost and her familiar as well as the proper stats and terms of the disease and the curse - and every DM worth their salt can craft these into a superb cocktail of weirdness and odd investigations! 4 fully sample NPCs are included, with notes on mannerism, personality, etc. noted, and there is also one brief write-up for the local deity. We also receive a properly statted version of the choking disease that has struck the place, choking its reputation for song – said disease was btw. responsible for the curse. Impressive: The write-up for the disease accounts for the different saving throw names for different old-school systems. The curse is properly represented in rules as well, just fyi!

Nice: We do get adventure hooks provided for certain locations, and the PCs may well prove to be the saviors of Aubade – provided they can move the ghost of the wise woman’s ghosts, that is!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard, with pretty impressive b/w-cartography and artworks provided. The pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels delivers one of the most impressive Village Backdrops in the whole series, and 2.0 actually enhances Aubade’s appeal even further - and in a series with SO MANY excellent installments, that indeed is a feat! Aubade's multiple trials and tribulations and the unique, resulting culture and potential for adventures is simply inspired - the curse, its repercussions and the strange happenstances definitely evoke the sense of living in a world where magic still abounds, a world in which humans still are humans and thus subject to the weaknesses and harmful decisions that desperation may entail. If you already have the original, this may not necessarily be a must-buy, but if you’ve so far missed Aubade, get this pdf ASAP! My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Aubade 2.0 (System Neutral)
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Village Backdrop: Aubade 2.0
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2019 06:33:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This 2.0 installment of RSP's Village Backdrop is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

So, 2.0. Why? Well, for one, even a cursory glance shows you that the layout has been modernized.

Like all village backdrop-files, the village of Aubade features a significant amount of local color- from rumors to market place info, and even information on general villager looks and sample names, the aptly-depicted village provides the level of detail we've come to expect from this series. Minor downer: The PFRPG-version does lack the settlement statblock information.

So, Aubade is a prime example of what happens, when a catastrophe triumphs over sound reasoning - when a particularly nasty disease started ravaging the community, a scapegoat was soon found - a local witch ended her life in the flames of the pyre and her dying curse ultimately are what made Aubade distinct - what do I mean by this? PCs will probably visit this place not to visit the place, but rather to purge it -after all, strange stories of vampires, cults and worse abound. And indeed, the town does look a bit like a ghost-town - no one's outside, no response to knocking inquiries- it just looks like the town has been swept clean of inhabitants. Well, the town of Aubade is peculiar in that, at night, people come out - pale people, yes, but people nonetheless. The 2.0-version of Aubade also comes with distinct notes on customs and traditions, as well as a 20-entry-strong dressing/event-table and information regarding the surrounding area.

No, the village dwellers aren't just goths like yours truly that prefer the night, nor are they night-owls - the witch's curse on the town makes everyone that identifies as a villager and touches the sun burst into flames. Yup, nasty and uncommon and further complemented by the witch's ghost and her familiar as well as the proper stats and terms of the disease and the curse - and every DM worth their salt can craft these into a superb cocktail of weirdness and odd investigations! 4 fully sample NPCs are included, with notes on mannerism, personality, etc. noted, and there is also one brief write-up for the local deity. We also receive a properly statted version of the choking disease that has struck the place, choking its reputation for song – said disease was btw. responsible for the curse. The curse has been properly represented in rules as well, just fyi. Nice: We do get adventure hooks provided for certain locations, and the PCs may well prove to be the saviors of Aubade – provided they can move the ghost of the wise woman’s ghosts, that is!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard, with pretty impressive b/w-cartography and artworks provided. The pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels delivers one of the most impressive Village Backdrops in the whole series, and 2.0 actually enhances Aubade’s appeal even further - and in a series with SO MANY excellent installments, that indeed is a feat! Aubade's multiple trials and tribulations and the unique, resulting culture and potential for adventures is simply inspired - the curse, its repercussions and the strange happenstances definitely evoke the sense of living in a world where magic still abounds, a world in which humans still are humans and thus subject to the weaknesses and harmful decisions that desperation may entail. If you already have the original, this may not necessarily be a must-buy, but if you’ve so far missed Aubade, get this pdf ASAP! My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval…provided you don’t have the original iteration. If you do, you may want to detract a star – it’s still an excellent locale, but I’m not sure the 2.0-version warrants getting it again.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Aubade 2.0
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Campaign Guide 2 - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2019 05:14:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second campaign guide for the unique What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page Kickstarter-backer-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 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 patreon supporters.

All right, this campaign guide begins with a recap of the story so far, before taking a look at a central component of the AP as a whole: The mysteries at the heart of the rather intricately-constructed plot of the series. Considering how the components of the storyline do hinge on investigation and smart players piecing together the truth behind several grander mysteries, this guide presents some trouble-shooting advice, if you will. These range from pretty straight-forward visions, to e.g. research in Anduria’s vast library featuring books penned by alumni of mythos-related writing – from S. Peterson to A. Blackwood. These, in parts, do even come with their own read-aloud text, which is a nice plus. On the downside, one of the read-aloud texts to be applied in “Ignorance is Bliss” does designate something obviously only intended for the GM’s eyes as read-aloud, so you should be careful with that one.

The book also presents different notes on magical research regarding e.g. the runestone necklace, which, in the 5e-iteration, is rules-wise properly codified. On the plus side, various means of learning a certain NPC’s runic magic may be found – and yes, there is more than one way to potentially implement this into your game. Mechanically, it’s mostly what I’d consider to be a narrative-driven benefit, so while mechanically not necessarily mind-blowing, it does have plenty of use in the context of this Adventure Path’s storyline – so yeah, I like that.

After this section, we get several additional bits of troubleshooting regarding evolving play, a section plenty of GMs will appreciate greatly – whether it’s handling PCs rejecting becoming semi-official law enforcement or some other components of the series, we have quite a few suggestions here to keep the gameplay smooth and the story on track.

The book then proceeds to present two new sample NPCs – the first of whom, Quintus, a sorcerer-turned-lawyer, can help the PCs navigate the intricacies of Anduria’s legal system. He also despises the Seekers and has a rivalry with Damien going on, so plenty of dynamics added here. The 5e-version of his stats can be considered to be superior in pretty much every way – while his key features are just bolded (when 5e usually bolds their names AND puts them in italics), and while “Hit:” in his attacks isn’t properly set in italics either, those are just cosmetic nitpicks that don’t impede the functionality of his build. The second NPC would be airship captain Octavio Velderve, whose damage with daggers is off by 1. He shares the formatting glitches of his buddy, but also, weirdly, doesn’t properly bold the names of his weapon-based attack actions. Both NPCs come with their own, really nice full-color artworks. Good ole’ Damien gets a challenge 13 iteration as well. Formatting here is off in a different way, as e.g. “Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack:” is bolded instead of being in italics. His bomb damage is also off. The statblocks, as a whole, while not perfect, are decent enough that they won’t break the game – the glitches here are somewhat minor.

The book also contains a total of 4 different sidetreks designed for characters level 6 – 8. The individual locales don’t generally sport read-aloud text, but do come with surprisingly nice full-color cartography, which brings me to a big plus of the series as a whole: We get proper, handout-style jpg-renditions of all maps featured in the sidetreks, with one being an isometric overview map of a general region; the others, which are more suitable for combat scenarios, come with grids – and the maps included in the archive are completely player-friendly, making them not only great full-color handouts, but also facilitating online play. Huge plus there!

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, the first sidetrek would be “Airship issues” can serve as an introduction to the new NPC Octavio, and centers on the attempted theft of one of the cities’ few remaining airships, the Emerald Vision (which is sometimes referred to as “Emerald Dream.” On the plus-side, we do get proper stats for the ship and airskiffs featured in this swashbuckling encounter, and in the 5e-iteration, this can be a really fun, neat sidetrek – the airship’s plentiful interaction points note ACs, damage thresholds and means to jam components via the application of thieves’ tools correctly, even if skill-reference formatting is deviating quite a bit from the standards,

Bank heist centers around an item that can serve as a means of severing Eiria from the Echo of Faith – the horn of shackle breaking, and as such, happens off screen if the GM elects not to run the scenario. The PCs are called upon to defend the vault in the noble ward against hydras, elementals and the like, reaching the scene of a massacre in progress, as hopelessly outgunned watchmen struggle against the monsters. The heist also does make the PCs witness the warping effects of a particularly nasty component of the Machine, which works properly in 5e, as opposed to the ill-fated PFRPG-iteration. The artifact in question, the horn, works better in 5e as well.

The third side-trek, “Beneath the Waves”, focuses on PCs being hired for a kind of treasure-hunt – potential proof that legendary hero Drexel has actually existed may have surfaced, and as such, are hired to travel to the Sunrise Isles and dive below the sea – this whole trip is pretty neat, and the trip below the waves with optional diving gear for added tension, work rather neatly in 5e. Add to that a challenging crab-monster boss, and we have a sidetrek that is certainly worth embarking upon.

This final side trek, lost souls, has the PCs tasked by Silvira to enter the nine hells through the gate in Silverton to retrieve the soul of the dragon’s mate. Yep, it’s a trip to Avernus, and an interesting one, as it basically is a mini-sandbox in a distinctly-different scenery that includes rules prohibiting mortals from flight, notes on how to handle death while in hell, and the like. The rules here also make great use of 5e’s brutal exhaustion-engine – the trip is dangerous and, indeed, grueling. Did I mention the DMV-like stations, the hilariously nefarious hellish bureaucracy, and the means to rid the party of an item, and we have a nice change of scenery here. And yes, for their troubles, the PCs will be awarded a “call a dragon” one-use wildcard item…here’s to hoping they use it wisely.

Conclusion: Thankfully, editing and formatting on a rules-language level are rather good in the 5e-iteration. While certainly not perfect on a formal level, the second campaign guide presented here in functional and represents a solid addition to the campaign. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the book features solid full-color artworks. The cartography is well-done, full-color, and plentiful – I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, particularly the inclusion of the player-friendly versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Micah Watt’s 5e-version of this guide is a welcome addition to the campaign – it adds some nice additional NPCs, provides trouble-shooting advice, and all of the sidetreks have something interesting and neat going on for them. In short, the 5e-version is a book I can definitely recommend. While I wouldn’t consider it a must-own offering for the AP, it provides what it sets out to do, and allows your group to diversify the tones and atmosphere of the campaign, which is a neat plus. All in all, the 5e-version is definitely worth getting – 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide 2 - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Ships: Katar Mining Freighter
Publisher: Evil Robot Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2019 05:12:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Ship-supplements for the intriguing Galaxy Pirates-line clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

The mining freighter clocks in as a tier 4 ship that uses the transport frame. It is powered by a pulse green core, has a basic drift engine, and a basic computer, as well as basic medium-range sensors; I like that, once more, the katar have spared no expense and actually provide good quarters for their crew. As a freighter, the expansion bays are used for cargo holds.

The shields clock in at 50 (Erroneously called “basic”, when 50 is the start of “light” shields), and defense-wise, we have both mk 4 armor and defenses. As far as offense is concerned, we have gyrolasers on port, starboard and aft, and on the front, a heavy laser canon and a laser net; the turrets feature fire-linked light torpedo launchers, which brings the ship very close to its build point maximum. Minor nitpick: The crew stats don’t list the ranks, but AC, TL, etc.-wise, the build checks outs.

As always, we get a fully filled-in ship-sheet for our convenience, and the pdf also features paper-mini-versions alongside a one-page full-color artwork of the ship that doubles as a great handout. The pdf comes with a full-color map of the ship, noting where what can be found – much like the light freighter, it does not have the katar garden, but much to my joy, the map does properly reference the main weaponry of the ship and makes sense in that regard.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork presented is awesome. I love the look of the freighter. The full-color map that notes access ladders, cargo, quarters, etc. is detailed and amazing as well. The addition of paper minis and ship-sheet add further convenience here. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver yet another really nice ship with cool maps and great supplemental material; very focused and nice, I enjoyed the very distinct visual design of the mining freighter, and how it’s set apart from the other freighter ships of the katar. This feels very much like the authors took that extra time and contemplation to make it stand out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – well worth getting!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ships: Katar Mining Freighter
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Campaign Guide 2 - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2019 05:11:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second campaign guide for the unique What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page Kickstarter-backer-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 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 patreon supporters.

All right, this campaign guide begins with a recap of the story so far, before taking a look at a central component of the AP as a whole: The mysteries at the heart of the rather intricately-constructed plot of the series. Considering how the components of the storyline do hinge on investigation and smart players piecing together the truth behind several grander mysteries, this guide presents some trouble-shooting advice, if you will. These range from pretty straight-forward visions, to e.g. research in Anduria’s vast library featuring books penned by alumni of mythos-related writing – from S. Peterson to A. Blackwood. These, in parts, do even come with their own read-aloud text, which is a nice plus. On the downside, one of the read-aloud texts to be applied in “Ignorance is Bliss” does designate something obviously only intended for the GM’s eyes as read-aloud, so you should be careful with that one.

The book also presents different notes on magical research regarding e.g. the runestone necklace, which, in a nitpick, isn’t properly italicized, while a bonus type is. This, though, is cosmetic, and as a whole, the formatting of such components has been properly executed. Slightly more annoying, a Knowledge (arcana) check is erroneously referred to as Arcana – it’s a cosmetic glitch, but it’s one that could be easily prevented; there is more than one instance of the like to be found within, with e.g. later flavortext referring to a Religion check instead of a Knowledge (religion) check. On the plus side, various means of learning a certain NPCS runic magic may be found – and yes, there is more than one way to potentially implement this into your game. Mechanically, it’s mostly what I’d consider to be a narrative-driven benefit, so while mechanically not necessarily mind-blowing, it does have plenty of use in the context of this Adventure Path’s storyline.

After this section, we get several additional bits of troubleshooting regarding evolving play, a section plenty of GMs will appreciate greatly – whether it’s handling PCs rejecting becoming semi-official law enforcement or some other components of the series, we have quite a few suggestions here to keep the gameplay smooth and the story on track.

The book then proceeds to present two new sample NPCs – the first of whom, Quintus, a sorcerer-turned-lawyer, can help the PCs navigate the intricacies of Anduria’s legal system. He also despises the Seekers and has a rivalry with Damien going on, so plenty of dynamics added here. He does come with a solid statblock. The second would be airship captain Octavio Velderve. Both NPCs not only come fully statted, but also with their own, really nice full-color artworks. Good ole’ Damien gets a CR 15 iteration as well. The statblocks, as a whole, while not perfect, are more ambitious than what we usually see in heavily story-centric supplements, with hiccups falling on the smaller side of things, like CMB being off by +1 and the like. You should run into no significant issues using these.

The book also contains a total of 4 different sidetreks designed for characters level 6 – 8. The individual locales don’t generally sport read-aloud text, but do come with surprisingly nice full-color cartography, which brings me to a big plus of the series as a whole: We get proper, handout-style jpg-renditions of all maps featured in the sidetreks, with one being an isometric overview map of a general region; the others, which are more suitable for combat scenarios, come with grids – and the maps included in the archive are completely player-friendly, making them not only great full-color handouts, but also facilitating online play. Huge plus there!

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, the first sidetrek would be “Airship issues” can serve as an introduction to the new NPC Octavio, and centers on the attempted theft of one of the cities’ few remaining airships, the Emerald Vision (which is sometimes referred to as “Emerald Dream.” On the plus-side, we do get proper stats for the ship and airskiffs featured in this swashbuckling encounter; on the downside, the rules here do not hold up. At all. The interactions like landing on deck refer to “athletics” checks, lower-case “acrobatics” checks, and while the ship per se has a TON of notes on steering mechanisms, interaction with machinery, etc., none of these have been properly translated to PFRPG, coming all just with the 5e-iterations, noting ACs, damage thresholds and HP, and things like Dexterity (thieves’ tools) checks. The details, in short, are non-functional.

Bank heist centers around an item that can serve as a means of severing Eiria from the Echo of Faith – the horn of shackle breaking, and as such, happens off screen if the GM elects not to run the scenario. The PCs are called upon to defend the vault in the noble ward against hydras, elementals and the like, reaching the scene of a massacre in progress, as hopelessly outgunned watchmen struggle against the monsters. The heist also does make the PCs witness the warping effects of a particularly nasty component of the Machine, which, while better, does at one point refer to the incapacitated condition in one of its effects’ entries – that should be helpless in PFRPG. The artifact in question, the horn, similarly has a minor snafu, referring to a 9th-level slot, when it should employ different verbiage in PFRPG. That being said, while not perfect, the conversion here is significantly better, though e.g. CMB-values and the like are off for one statblock. You can run this as written, though.

The third side-trek, “Beneath the Waves”, focuses on PCs being hired for a kind of treasure-hunt – potential proof that legendary hero Drexel has actually existed may have surfaced, and as such, are hired to travel to the Sunrise Isles and dive below the sea. While this excursion is pretty neat, the rules for diving gear (tubes etc.) have not been properly converted to PFRPG, making that component simply not work (poison and psychic damage reference, damage threshold – you get it) – which is a pity, considering that this might have elicited a bit of anxiety from the players, akin to how “The Terror”’s first episode ad this awesome scene. But I digress. The dread crab, the boss? It hasn’t been converted to PFRPG; it’s a 5e-statblock. WTF.

This final side trek, lost souls, has the PCs tasked by Silvira to enter the nine hells through the gate in Silverton to retrieve the soul of the dragon’s mate. Yep, it’s a trip to Avernus, and an interesting one, as it basically is a mini-sandbox in a distinctly-different scenery that includes rules prohibiting mortals from flight, notes on how to handle death while in hell, and the like. Huge problem: The big, bad devil that has the soul? The rules for interacting with the fellow are based on 5e-skills, and make reference of item rarity. Which does not exist as a concept in PFRPG. And that after the hilarious DMV-ish reference and the per se much better rules-integrity here. That being said, on a successful sojourn, the PCs do get the means to call the mighty dragon to their aid once.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on both a formal and rules-language level are not even close to what Pyromaniac Press usually offers. I seriously don’t understand it. The book features more formal hiccups than I’ve come to expect, but beyond that, its rules-integrity is so compromised, the sidetreks barely work. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the book features solid full-color artworks. The cartography is well-done, full-color, and plentiful – I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, particularly the inclusion of the player-friendly versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Micah Watt’s PFRPG version of the second campaign guide can barely be called such; littered with 5e-remnants, this is not up to the quality-standards we’ve come to expect from the AP. Formal hiccups and smaller glitches in PFRPG’s complex statblocks can be excused in great narratives, provided they don’t impede the playing experience, but this? This does impede the playing experience.

This is utterly heartbreaking for me, but I can’t consider this to be a good offering, even if you’re like me and have been more than excited by the What Lies Beyond Reason AP so far. Now, I do get it – I guess the PFRPG-audience for this is rather small. But still, I have been sorely disappointed by this conversion and its obviously rushed incarnation – RAW, half of the side treks are practically non-operational, even if you can look past the typos. My final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up only courtesy of the neat maps.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide 2 - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Starfarer's Codex: Legacy Dragonrider
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2019 05:26:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Starfarer’s Codex-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, the dragonrider class gets proficiency with basic melee weapons, light armor, small arms, and elemental arms – these basically would be weapons depending on the type of the dragon: Black and copper. For example, net access to disintegrator advanced melee weapons and longarms as well as acid dart rifle longarms, while red and gold get access to flame advanced melee weapons, to give you two examples. There is a nice bit of future-proofing with the solar dragon going on as well – it’d usually provide proficiency with laser advanced melee weapons, but in absence of them, plasma is used. The class gets to choose its key-ability modifier: Either Strength or Charisma are eligible candidates. The class nets 7 + Constitution modifier Stamina Points and 7 Hit Points, and has 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level. The dragonrider has full BAB-progression and only good saves, which is pretty potent.

Of course, the signature ability here would be the bonded dragon steed – at 1st level, the dragonrider already has a bonded dragon, and multiclassing into the class results in an eligible dragon approaching the PC within 30 days. A bonded dragon may carry its rider if it is of the same size category or greater, provided, its Strength suffices. Bonded dragons can fly at full speed even if heavily encumbered. Carrying of smaller creatures is accounted for. If a dragon dies, we are looking at a -1 penalty to atk and damage rolls.

So, let’s take a look at the steed, shall we? Hit Point-wise, we have a fixed progression, with a starting Hit Point array of 15, increasing to up to 295 at 20th level. Odd: While generally, the Hit Points are much less than e.g. those of a comparable combat array creature, 2nd level sports 25 Hit Points, which makes this level on par with the combat array default values. The bonded dragon has ¾ BAB-progression, and saves that start at +2 and increase up to +9. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon gets a +1 ability score increase, with the ability scores available depending on the dragon type. The dragon begins play with a feat, and gains another at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, though feats requiring a BAB of +1 are locked until 3rd level, and the Armor and Weapon Proficiency feats are explicitly prohibited. Ranged weapons they are proficient with may be mounted on their shoulders at no expense. The dragon gets to choose a single skill chosen from a list, gaining the dragonrider’s class levels in it. Acrobatics and another skill, as determined by the dragon type, is also gained thus. At 4th level and 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon gets an additional skill from the list to which these benefits are applied.

The base breath weapon is obviously dependent on the dragon steed type, with the Reflex save DC equal to DC 10 + ½ the dragon steed’s level + the dragon steed’s Constitution modifier. The breath weapon may be used 3 + the dragon steed’s Constitution modifier times per day, with a 4-round cooldown to prevent spamming between uses. At 10th level, the dragon gets ½ its level as Resolve, and may then spend 1 Resolve Point to regain a daily breath weapon use as a 10-minute rest. As the dragon progresses, its breath weapon increases in potency to 15 times the dice and 5 times the range. On the nitpicky side, while the universal rules for breath weapons establish that Reflex saves halves, it’d be convenient to have the action to activate and the caveat noted here – not complaining, mind you – just stating that this takes a bit more system mastery than it needs.

The core concept here, beyond these, would be the mystic focus: Without the dragonrider establishing mystic focus, the dragon only takes a move actions each round and reactions and things that don’t require an action. Each dragon steed requires a different action to establish the focus that lets the dragon and its rider bypass this – more potent dragons require more investment regarding action economy. Mystic focus must be established each round anew. True dragons generally require more valuable actions; when “free action” (not a term in SF – as the pdf knows and thankfully specifies!) is listed, the focus may be established as part of taking a standard, move, swift or full action. The focus may only be established during the dragonrider’s turn. While the focus is in effect, no verbal communication is required between steed and rider, and the dragon takes its turn on the dragonrider’s initiative count. The pdf specifies what happens when the dragonrider is incapacitated or unconscious. The two share a link and always know each others’ direction and distance while on the same plane, as well as any conditions suffered. 3rd level nets evasion (erroneously called “Evation”[sic!] in the table), and it, as well as 16th level’s improved evasion, only works while the dragon is unarmored and unencumbered, and obviously, the benefit is lost when the dragon is helpless or unable to move.

Third level nets the standard weapon specialization benefit of e.g. the vesk, and 5th level nets share spells. 6th level provides a +4 insight bonus to Will saves against enchantment spells and effects, 11th level nets Multiattack – three attacks at -6 to atk. Each category of dragon steed advances in two steps – we get starting stats, and at 8th and 16th level, we get growth and advancement stats for them. Beyond the chromatic and metallic classics, we have lunar and solar dragons, time, void and vortex dragons. The respective steeds do btw. gain signature abilities beyond the hard numbers of these stats – acid pools, striking through space, etc – these do, however, cost breath weapon uses. Minor nitpick: Not all of them properly list their activation action – the black dragon’s acid pool, the bronze dragon’s repulsion gas lack either a reference to “instead” of their usual breath weapon, or a listed action to activate these abilities. Not a game-breaker, but slightly inconvenient.

On another note: I do like that the respective steeds do differentiate between fly speed types as yet another balancing component. On the down side, I noticed two utterly unnecessary comfort detriments in the presentation of these steeds: We get the base ability scores listed, but the ability score modifiers are not listed. Sure, at this point we all can recite them by hard, but still. More grievous would be that natural attacks like bite and claws fail to list their proper damage-types, which flew back in PFRPG due to how sloppy that game handled them, but dragons in Starfinder very much codify these – to spare you the hassle of double-checking: Bites cause piercing damage, claws slashing damage.

But let us return to the dragonrider: 2nd level nets low-light vision, or darkvision 60 ft. if he already has it; otherwise, darkvision range doubles. 3rd level nets resist energy to the bonded dragon’s breath weapon,, starting at 5, and increasing to 10 at 8th level, and by another +10 at 13th and 18th level. This stacks with other resistance sources, and changes with the change of steeds. 2nd level nets spell-like abilities, with the spell-list determined by the dragon type, and DC equal to 10 + spell’s level and key ability score modifier. PRETTY sure that should be Charisma instead! Otherwise, choosing Charisma over Strength doesn’t make much sense regarding key ability modifier choice. This begins with 2 0-level at-will spells, and 6th level provides 2 1st-level spells, usable 3/day; 10th level, 14th and 18th level provide 2 spells from the respective higher spell levels, with lower spell levels gaining more uses and up to 2nd level spells becoming at-will. The at-will casting is not something that should be available for PCs – it begs to be abused to smithereens. This needs a nerf. Additionally, the verbiage on its own made it impossible for me to determine whether the limited uses of these SPs are tracked by SP, or by level of the spell of the SPs – granted, a swift check of the defaults of how SPs are tracked for critters does make that clear (it’s tracked per SP, just fyi), but I couldn’t help but feel like a slight verbiage tweak could have prevented the requirement for less experienced players to look that up.

3rd level nets Weapon Specialization for each weapon the class is proficient in, and 4th level provides arms training, choosing heavy weapons of the same type as elemental arms, all longarms, all advanced melee weapons, or all sniper weapons. Specialization is these is gained with a 4-level delay, and at 8th level, a new category is chosen, which then gets the Weapon Specialization benefits 4 levels later, etc. 4th level allows for the summoning of the steed as a “full-round action” 1/day, +1/day for every 3 levels thereafter. This ability is treated as a SP, with a spell-level equal to ¼ the dragonrider’s level.

5th, 9th, 12th and 17th level net a bonus feat chosen from a list; 6th level nets darkvision or limited telepathy, 10th level blindsense (scent), 14th level blindsight (vibration), all with notes on how they interact with senses granted other sources. 16th level nets +5 level SR, which is shared with the steed, and the capstone allows the dragonrider to 1/day use a 6th-level polymorph to take the bonded steed’s shape, though oddly, the fly speed type and the like are fixed, not based on the steed.

The pdf features notes for how the class interacts with altered/replaced class features.

The pdf features two new items – at item level 1, the dragon envirocollar wyrmling nets the Large or smaller dragon environmental protection, and the second is level 8, and helps for larger dragons.

This is not where the pdf ends, though: The pdf introduces a new starship combat role, the Draconic Harasser, which allows the dragon capable of spaceflight to play their part. (A magic item for dragons with extraordinary flight would have been nice), Draconic Harasser actions occur in Phase 4, after gunnery, and you can have as many of them as you have dragonriders + steeds. They have a range of 8 hexes. The actions available include using Survival to impose basically disadvantage on the next attack roll; alternatively, you can intercept TL-targeting weapons, grant +2 bonuses to Gunner or Science Officers courtesy to scouting, or provide a minor buff to AC and TL. Opposing gunners or pilots may take AntiDragon actions, which can checkmate you for the round and cause damage – so yeah, starship combat for dragons is nothing for wusses!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level, and good rules language level – I noticed a few inconveniences, a PFRPG-remnant, a missing “a” here and there – cosmetic stuff that doesn’t impede functionality per se, but that accumulates in its collective inconveniences. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and interior art is solid, but doesn’t reach the unadulterated level of awesome that Jacob Blackmon’s cover evoked for me. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Joshua Hennington’s conversion of the dragonrider class to Starfinder is a well-crafted supplement per se – while potent, the dragon is a valid and solid option, and I love the starship combat option. That being said, I do have several complaints that do extend to the rules: For one, the class doesn’t offer much differentiation beyond the steed-selection. Dragonriders with the same type of dragon are pretty similar. Secondly, the unlimited SPs need to die a fiery death. Thirdly, the pdf feels like it could have used a final editing pass to make it slightly more newbie-friendly.

These in and of themselves don’t make this a bad pdf by a long shot – this is, themewise, a great little booklet – one that could have reached the apex of greatness, but as a whole, these small gripes do add up. My final verdict thus can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. Just watch out regarding those SPs and be ready to do some very close reading.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Starfarer's Codex: Legacy Dragonrider
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Star Log.EM-067: Terragaru
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2019 05:23:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

On the first page, we have a new size-category –Supercolossal. All creatures of this size are even larger than Colossal critters, and receive the Massive extraordinary ability. Creatures with this ability ignore difficult terrain and environment-based movement-impairing effects of up to 1/4th of a height or depth of the creature’s space. These creatures may not be flanked by critters that are Large or smaller, and receive +2 to AC against attacks from such targets. They also only take half damage from effects from such targets. These critters also get an untyped +2 bonus to all saving throws against effects with sources Large or smaller, and obviously, supercolossal creatures can’t be grappled by Large or smaller targets, and supercolossal creatures don’t gain the grappled condition when grappling or pinning Large or smaller targets.

This pdf contains two different statblocks – the first (and lower-powered one!) would be the Colossal Joey of Terragaru, a mighty CR 20 magical beast that has an extraordinary fly speed of 100 ft. via mighty leaps, a bulk that can hold literally more than a ton – 10, or 2K bulk, to be precise! Objects may be transferred to and fro as a swift action, and as a full action, the joey can attack all creatures in a 15-foot cone with the tail, using an ammo-less version of the automatic property to provide a properly contextualized AoE attacks with their tails…which btw. also can be used to grapple multiple targets, depending on target size-category. The joey doesn’t have space and reach noted, which may be a glitch or a conscious design decision, considering how it interacts with the adult terragaru. Odd: The joey has two subtypes noted that the adult Terragaru doesn’t have. This is probably a glitch. On the plus-side: I love that senses like blindsight (scent) have their ranges extended to a range that actually makes them sensible for creatures of this size.

The big terragaru is Supercolossal CR 25 monster that further improves upon the massive defensive qualities of the joey; the mighty leap has a whopping 500 ft.-range, and the big buddy’s kicks actually cause massive bleeding and even Constitution drain! Nice: While it also has mighty leap, it does not have the joey’s stipulation of needing to end on a solid surface, and thus has maneuverability noted. Easy to overlook – kudos for catching that! Oh, and while speaking of small details I enjoyed: Being inside a joey’s pouch is a hassle, being inside the Terragaru’s pouch is deadly – if the joey is inside the pouch, that is! Kudos: Damage here is based on the joey’s presence, and as such uses the joey’s stats – it’s a small touch, easy to overlook, but I loved seeing it!

Their sweeping strikes can attack targets in a massive 250-foot cone, and these guys can even grapple multiple Gargantuan targets! The massive being can attempt rerolls on failed saves vs. paralysis, petrification, polymorph, mind-affecting effects, etc. sans action, and 1/year, when they’d be reduced to 0 Hit Points, the terragaru can enter a lethargic state as a reaction, becoming nauseated, but also regaining a massive array of Hit Points, retreating into a kind of hibernation…but any attacks will end this state’s effects and retreat, and make the terragaru hit back for round #2! As a creature of massive size, every step of the vast creature is accompanied by a massive earthquake, and as a full action, they can not only leave a localized quake in their wake, but cause a massive 1-mile radius quake!

How does that work in SFRPG? Well, fret not, for pdf does come with a new 6th-level mystic spell, earthquake, which btw. may not affect e.g. environments like starships that sport no seismic activity. The spell does miss one thing in the conversion to SFRPG – the damage it causes should probably be typed as bludgeoning.

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

Alexander Augunas’ depiction of a massive kaiju kangaroo for SFRPG rocks – the massive monster is deadly, and I certainly can see it decimating whole invading fleets, as noted in the flavor text; similarly, I can see the besieged local populace of yroometji venerating the massive being as a destructive protector. The flavor puts a nice spin on this force of nature. While not perfect, this is a delightful and interesting critter-pdf, with some cool angles hard-coded into these creatures. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-067: Terragaru
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