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Advanced Adventures #17: The Frozen Wave Satsuma
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2019 02:55:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front/back-cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon-supporters.

All right, so this module does have a bit of a culture-clash vibe, in that it taps into some Oriental Adventures-style content, but fret not – the material within can be slotted into pretty much any quasi-early-modern-period gaming. If you’re not familiar with some terms employed within, a brief glossary has you covered. As always for the series, the module is penned with the OSRIC rules-set in mind, but can be translated to most OSR games with relative ease. Similarly, as has become tradition for the series, formatting conventions do deviate from the standards set by OSRIC, but are pretty concise in these instances.

The module contains 5 new magic items – one that allows a horse to move through underbrush and not be tracked, a figurine, and two ice-themed items that help mitigate the environmental challenges faced within. The most interesting item presented would be a harp that can lock listeners ina loop of their last actions. The new monsters aren’t particularly interesting as far as I’m concerned. Two are provided, an ice-squid and a sahuagin-variant with tentacles for legs. The latter is, somewhat unfortunately named “Krabben”, which is the German plural for crabs. They have nothing to do with either meaning here. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

The complex to be explored within is fully mapped in b/w, but no player-friendly iteration is provided. The adventure is intended for a group of level 3 – 5 characters, though it should be noted that the players should behave in a smart manner – otherwise, they may encounter something that may well see them wiped out. Apart from a brief section of introductory prose, the module has no read-aloud text.

In order to discuss the adventure in more detail, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great! So, when an oriental magic-user turned bonkers, things took a rather uncommon turn: The magic-user turned north, supporter by his ogre-mage and ice-elven buddies, and managed to secure the eyes of frost men, using them in a rite to craft a ginormous junk (the ship!) from ice itself – the eponymous Frozen Wave Satsuma. Recruiting the notoriously nasty wako (basically pirates), he set sail to plunder the realms of barbarians (i.e. Westerners, i.e. the realms of your players), just as the magics that hold the vessel together continuously chip away at his mental state. It’s been a few weeks since the alien vessel has started haunting the coastal regions, and it’ll be up to the PCs are trouble-solvers to stop the raids that set forth from the unearthly ship once and for all.

As far as premises are concerned, this is already better than a ton of modules out there, and the ship of ice, with its frigid temperatures, icy mists and slippery surface makes it clear that the complex is just as much the enemy as the foes faced. The global effects of the dungeon help to constantly remind the players in which type of weird ship they will find themselves. Lighting conditions etc., the need for footwear and the like – all is concisely presented, including taking tracking etc. into account – and that is important, for the module has a timer of sorts. When the PCs assault the Frozen Wave Satsuma, a seriously massive raiding party is currently…well…raiding! They will return sooner or later, and if the PCs have by then not made sure that they have a valid plan to deal with them, they will find themselves overwhelmed.

The good thing here is that the terrain and “dungeon” offer plenty of ways for clever players to deal with this issue: You see, the ship is VAST, cavernous, and actually pretty dangerous. The deeper holds and decks are infused with darksome magics, generating an almost palpable sense of foreboding, one that is contrasted in interesting ways by small tidbits like noting that a character is a master of rhino-karate. The hostile NPCs/commanders present also feel alive – curious players that play their cards right may find out a lot about the power-dynamics, relationships etc. of the characters on board, which could well yield the edge they need to survive if things go wrong. Or, well, they can also try to murder-hobo everybody…but considering that there is e.g. a level 8 samurai on board, this may be a tougher call than what you’d imagine.

The PCs can free slaves, reclaim pillaged relics, and end the threat of the Satsuma, they can free e.g. a snow leopard to attempt to get the beast to deal with the overwhelming force of wako; they can attempt to use the creepy (and deadly) haunt-like effects inside to shake off pursuers…there is but one thing that felt like an utterly unnecessary addition here, and that would be the partially flooded lowest level, where the Krabben, including the ice-squid lurk. Their presence doesn’t make that much sense and feels like a late addition that dilutes the focus of the module a bit. On the plus-side, if you don’t mind their inclusion, they can act as a good further adventure hook – not that the module would have required it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect –a pronunciation guide for the glossary would have been nice and I noticed a few instances of spell-references etc. not formatted correctly. Layout adheres to the no-frills classic 2-column b/w-standard of the series, and the pdf sports a few pieces of solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The lack of player-friendly versions of the b/w-maps is a comfort-detriment.

Joseph Browning and Andrew Hind joining forces on this one was a good call indeed. “The Frozen Wave Satsuma” may be a short module, but it actually manages to capture the spirit of old-school modules, the nostalgia these types of adventure aim for WITHOUT being derivative. This is a huge plus in my book. The interesting complex, combined with the design-aesthetics highlighted throughout the module, ultimately makes this feel like a lost classic. It recaptures that ephemeral flavor AND manages to be novel and interesting. Is it perfect? Nope. I’d have loved to see more detailed tactics, perhaps means for PCs to hijack the vessel…

But honestly? This module has entertained me more in its 13 pages than many modules of twice that length. It is easily one of the best installments in the series, and one that I’d definitely recommend checking out. This managed to capture my imagination, and really achieves attaining the goal that this series of adventures has – to provide new modules that feel like classics. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars…and while the formal criteria-hiccups would usually prevent me from doing so, this one really captured my imagination, which is why it also receives my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #17: The Frozen Wave Satsuma
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Star Log.EM-035: Arich
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2019 02:54:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

As always, we start with the query-like meta-narrative of characters accessing the Star Log-databank, and a contextualization, which this around, is pretty entwined with the awesome history of the Xa-Osoro system: The spiderfolk known as Arich are nomads and orphans, survivors of a vanished planet that did not make it into the Nova Age. Stemming from the survivors of a vast vessel, the arich as encountered today represent what was considered to be the best of their species – athletes, scholars, etc., who created an idealized microcosm of the conditio arichana, if you will. Surprisingly, a sense of optimism and openness to other species characterizes their dominant approach to other cultures, and indeed, in a refreshing take on the trope, the arich are not angsty or traumatized. We learn all of this and more in the flavor-centric write-up, which is only missing the “If you are an arich, you…” sidebar.

Rules-wise, the arich get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, 4 HP and are monstrous humanoids with a 20 ft. base speed and, interestingly, a 30 ft. climb speed. I’d really love to see what a creative designer/cartographer could make from this as far as space ships are concerned, but I digress. They have exceptional vision, i.e. both low-light vision and darkvision 60 feet, and are treated as under the constant effects of an extraordinary variant of spider climb. As ambassadors to the arich way of life, they get a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and Sense Motive, and +2 to saves vs. slow and staggering effects; additionally, they increase the duration of haste and similar effects on them by 1 round, implying a cultural narrative of time as a net, which once more is something I’d love to see expanded upon.

The race comes with a properly codified subtype graft to represent arich and associated creatures, as well as 4 feats: Arich Bite nets you a natural weapon (1d3 damage, not codified type-wise, alas – akin to the blunder of vesk, though, so I won’t penalize the pdf for it). The other 3 feats represent a miniature feat-tree that is based on Arich Web, which lets you 1/day spray web on a 10-ft.-square within 30 ft. Versus creatures as a standard action; this targets EAC and entangles targets, with the Strength check to break free equal to 15 + the Arich’s Constitution modifier. Said modifier also determines the number of rounds this web remains valid, and webbing HP scale over the levels, and webs are vulnerable to fire damage. On squares, webbing instead generates difficult terrain. Something missing? Yep, the second feat in the tree, Resolute Web allows for the Resolve-based replenishing of the ability. Two feats seems a bit costly to me, but I get the design decision here. Odd here: The usual caveat for Acrobatics as a means to escape the web is missing – RAW, only Strength allows for escape. While I would have deemed this a conscious decision, this does not seem to be the case, as the final feat in the sequence does reference Acrobatics, which makes an oversight likely. Not a bad hiccup, mind you, but yeah.

Arich that can use Arich Web and that also have Improved Maneuver for grapple may elect to take Web Grappler, which nets a +2 bonus to grapple attempts; at 6th level, you may spend 1 Resolve upon pinning a target as a swift action to cocoon the target, prolonging the pinned condition until the target uses Acrobatics or Strength to break free. KAC is properly defined, and fyi – this one does reference the means to escape webbing via Acrobatics.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language, there is the one oversight noted, but apart from that, nothing to gripe about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none. Jacob blackmon’s artwork for the race is neat indeed.

Luis Loza is a veteran, and the arich show – a friendly cosmic race of utopian spider-folk? Heck yeah! Conductive to all those spider-man puns you can throw, the arich are an interesting species that has, courtesy of its design decisions, plenty of potential to flesh out, make unique…and ALIEN. In the best sense of the word. Playing against trope and making them nice, master diplomats even, is cool. A minor downside would be that the unique web ability would have imho made for a good core race feature, perhaps supplanting one or two of the racial abilities; I think they’d be cooler with it. It’s also notable that the feats require Constitution 13+ to take, which is an uncommon choice, seeing how that’s the penalized ability score of the race.

That being said, they are conceptually genuinely interesting, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to them being too interesting for a 3-star rating.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-035: Arich
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Star Log.EM-034: Wyvarans
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2019 03:39:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

We begin this supplement, as always, with the introduction and a little section that contextualizes the wyvaran race within the Xa-Osoro setting shared by Everyman gaming and Rogue Genius Games.

The description of the race includes notes on the physical traits of wyvarans and their home world, society, etc., as well as their take on adventuring, but not “If you are a wyvaran, you…”-section is provided. On the plus-side, we do get a creature subtype graft for the race.

Wyvarans, as codified here are Medium dragons with +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, 2 Hit Points. The dragon type here could be an error, as there is some overlap between type and subtype graft granted abilities, but considering graft interactions and the ability to apply grafts to race-adjacent creatures, it might as well be intentional. Personally, I’d have preferred humanoid as base type, as type-based effects are bound to spread further as the game sees more releases. But I digress, and this concern is mostly about future-proofing.

Wyvarans are immune to sleep and get a +2 racial bonus to saves vs. paralysis, darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision, and extraordinary flight speed of 30 ft. with average maneuverability, which becomes perfect in zero-G. They also get natural weapons and, kudos, properly codify their natural damage type – nice catch and big props for being more precise than e.g. the Vesk! The pdf also includes a new feat, Enhanced Low-G Flying, which extends the maneuverability improvement to low gravity environments as well. Additionally, in vacuum, you can attempt a DC 20 Acrobatics check to fly as a swift action for one round as though atmosphere was present. Rather cool visuals there!

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

This is the first pdf by Randal Meyer I’ve read, and it’s a promising offering – his wyvarans have a unique angle with the take on flight, are precise and didn’t leave me with any complaints. The fluff is neat as well, and while I wished we got a bit more material for them, they work better for me in this iteration than they ever did in PFRPG. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the freshman bonus. Congratulations!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-034: Wyvarans
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World-Quest of the Winter Calendar
Publisher: Steve Bean Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2019 03:39:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive adventure clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 52 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review is part of a request of one of my patreon supporters.

Now, first of all: This adventure is unlike any other I’ve reviewed so far; it genuinely managed to evoke a sense of jamais-vu, which is a rare thing for me these days. It should be noted that a portion of the proceeds from selling this adventure will be donated to a charity focusing on technology education for rural, Latino youth. Formally, this is a DCC-funnel. That is, it is a module for 0-level characters. 3 -4 per player, for some will die. It is also an adventure that actually defines a lot of the campaign world into which the PCs will be thrust. We have plenty of read-aloud text, in case you were wondering.

While one could construe it to be a holiday adventure of sorts, in that is has themes of the year ending etc., it is, ultimately, a module that works just as well during any other time of the year. It is also a module that has left me deeply conflicted, more so than almost all other adventures I have covered over the course of my reviewer’s existence. As such, I’d urge you to read the entirety of the review, for there is a lot of ground to cover.

Since some of my readers tend to ask: This module is pretty deeply entrenched within DCC’s rules aesthetics, so it’s not any easy module to convert in a linear manner; while the module offers a rich and easy panoply of things to mine conceptually, I think that converting this one would prove taxing for me. Make of that what you will.

Okay, so the default assumption of the module is that it takes place in the region of Varjorma, basically a frigid north where the border between world becomes tenuous and thin. The PCs are assumed to be Zvart as a default – lithe, olive-skinned demi-humans with a slightly animalistic cast. A 10-level race-class is provided, and we have a progression of up to +6 for Fort and Will-saves. Action die starts at d20 and upgrades to d20 + d14 at 6th level,, +d16 at 7th, to culminate at d20 + d20 at 8th level. Crit die and table begin at d6/II, and improve to d16 over the course of the race-class progression. Attack improves to +6, and we get 5 titles for levels, culminating at 5th. Zvart get 1d8 HP per level, are trained with single-edged daggers, darts, slings, javelins, short spears, clubs and short swords. They are sensitive to iron like elves, getting a free mithril armor and weapon at first level. They have infravision 30 ft., and they are lucky: They may burn Luck to lower the results of enemies that would attack, damage or use spell-like tricks or skill checks that would harm the zvart. This only works when direct harm is the result. A zvart may burn a maximum of 1 + class level points of Luck to affect a single roll of the bones.

Zvarts may make an action die roll to lay on hands as a clerics, and they may not heal undead, constructs, etc. Stamina modifier and level are added to the action die, and treats the target of restoration as being of adjacent alignment for the purposes of determining effects. The race-class comes with a d24 occupation table. Hmm, personally, I think these fellows are a bit overkill, and they don’t exactly fit my vision of DCC’s flavor, feeling more like a high-fantasy race. That being said, it is easy enough to ignore these fellows and run the module with other characters.

Now, the adventure also presents two fully-depicted new patrons, including invoke patron tables, but it should be noted that these are inextricably entwined with the story presented within. Thus, in order to discuss both them, and the narrative framework of the adventure, I will now go into SPOILER territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! In the ancient times, two evil demi-gods coupled, spawning the Nine Afflictions – one of those being Grim Inchyron, inventor of colic and artificer most foul. An agent of Chaos most foul, the entity managed to murder Lamushea, the Law-Shaper, wearing the deific face to instill untold chaos among mortal agents, prompting untold suffering to spread. Unbeknown to the entity, Lamushea was not truly slain – instead, the divine essence had fled into the mighty Krytz, a potent scrying device and divine symbol. However, on the eve of victory, the plans of Grim Inchyron were foiled by the most unlikely of things: An act of moral transcendence, wherein mortals forgave their obviously mad deity. This act struck down Grim Inchyron, making it a mere shadow of itself, the devil-wraith. The corporality of the legendary Artificer of Anguish fused with Lamushea’s essence, becoming something else entirely – Laylokan, the God of Weighing the Cost of Balance. The birth of this god stripped the world of any memory of these world-shaking events, and these memories converged into a kind of planar morality tale, which encapsulated both devil-wraith and the Krytz. Laylokan fashioned the eponymous winter-calendar to contain this lost tale, and he has borne the massive thing ever since.

The PCs meet Laylokan in a penumbric glen, in the space between planes and worlds, trapped, in a way: Barbed imps assault the wintry clearing and drive the PCs towards the vicinity of the world-calendar. Communication with Laylokan will, among other things, yield this:

"The Winter Calendar Contains the tale Of murder and miracle That upended the scales Hubris for both: Devil, and 'wisdom impearled;' The morals you glean Will reshape the world!"

In order to return from the penumbric twilight, the PCs will have to enter the morality tale in order, from chapter 1 to 7, exploring the Sacred Krytz Mystery. The god emphasizes that the PC’s task is NOT to stop what is happening – the events have already come to pass, after all. It is their job to witness, and they cannot influence the ultimate outcome of the story. After 4 intervals of the story, the PCs are to relate what they witnessed within the chronicles, and determine the moral of the tale. One or more PCs MUST take the perspective of Law; one or more PCs must take the perspective of Chaos – this ultimately provides a lens that is a great example why I loathe the alignment system as a simplification in all D&D-related games with a fiery passion. Here, the dichotomous nature of the Law/Chaos-conflict looks particularly bad, as DCC favors the old-school notion of Chaos equaling…well, Warhammer chaos. The thing with tentacles that’ll end worlds. I was pretty surprised, considering the dichotomous set-up, to see the consequences here slightly more nuanced than what I expected to witness.

But back to moral-making. The remainder of PCs will decide on the preferred interpretation, and if you don’t want to handle the like solely on the basis of roleplaying, there is a mechanic solution presented as well, and some guidelines for judges are presented. A moral should, for example, not exceed 12 words, and some example from playtesting help judges contextualize material.

Now, in contrast to my expectations, this indeed makes good on its promises as per the vast impact this adventure can have on the world: The first of the aspects, and most obvious one, would be the two new patrons. One of these would be the aforementioned devil-wraith as a remnant of Grim Inchyron. On the other side, we have the Logos of Lamushea the Law-Maker, a radical and stern adherer to the law, who is, depending on your interpretations and personal point of views, just as dangerous as the devil-wraith – less overtly malign (doesn’t make tainted PCs spread colic to kids, unlike the devil-wraith…), and more Judge Dredd-y, if you will. Both of these do come with proper invoke patron tables, patron taint tables, spellburn and no less than 3 signature spells per patron. These patrons may end up replacing a major deity of the campaign world or never materialize, depending on the choices of the PCs.

Moreover, the decisions of the PCs influence pretty much EVERYTHING. How stifling and restrictive or how loose and inefficient laws are, religious freedom, warfare, government, morality and ethics – Law, Chaos and Neutrality all have the consequences of triumphs for a given field noted in specific sheets, and a sheet for the judge allows for easy tracking of the consequences of the PC’s decisions. These decisions not only influence fluff – they also greatly influence how some class mechanics and in-game crunchy bits work. This commitment to consequences is the greatest and most impressive aspect of this adventure, and something that made me smile with honest glee. At the same time, it also represents the crucial failing of the adventure itself, but in order to elaborate upon that, I need to start discussing the respective chapters into which the PCs are thrust.

You see, the fact that the module per se does not recount the tale as exposition (that would be boring) means that it sports basically scenes from the epic conflict between law and order – the first scene, for example, puts the PCs into the homebase of Grim Inchyron, the labyrinthine undercroft ( a nod to Melsunian Arts Council’s ‘zine?), where the horrid entity if currently recounting his masterplan in a kind of pulpit, while his demonic legions haunt the caverns. The complex comes with a small map (no scale provided) and mechanically is navigated via Stealth and Navigation checks – d20 + Int modifier + 1 for related occupation +1 per successful assist. The PC’s task is to escape, to survive, and enough successes mean that they get out. Pretty detailed tables closely correlate exact performance and thus help, though the features the PCs happen upon doe not really mirror the pretty small complex. Basically, ignoring the map and running this like an abstract labyrinth are the best course of action, as the horrid Affliction rants on and drones. And yes, the rant is represented.

Sounds like a cool encounter? Yeah, it is. Here’s however, the failing of the module, and it is a pretty crucial one, as far as I’m concerned. The actions of the PCs and the themes of the respective encounters do not correlate to the things the PC’s moral making influence in the world to come. The first component here is about government …yeah, I could draw a (very) flimsy connection here, but ultimately, there is no really pronounced one. This is so obvious to me, and kinda sad, for the story told is epic enough to actually feature such themes, to correlate to the things changes. Not every encounter has its own moral-making, mind you: This whole sequence prompted moral making number 1, whereas the next two encounters have one moral making process assigned to them, not 2.

The second encounter, though, blows this one out of the water – big time. The PCs are transported to a place of fundamental power, to witness Grim Inchyron’s assault on the forces of Lamushea. (As an aside: The pdf previously stated that Laylokan would not utter the devil-wraith’s name, yet here it’s stated in the read-aloud text.) This place of power is a ginormous tower fashioned of house of cards style clay tablets, and it’ll be assaulted by slag hellions, and clever use of sticky clay vats and terrain can help the PCs stave off the horde, as a fight of most epic proportions rages. Well, or here things become actually cooler, you can blend this encounter (which is hurt slightly by the lack of artworks or maps – I had to really carefully read this to get what’s going on) with Jenga or a similar game as a prop/mini-game to supplement the proceedings! This is epic and a really creative alternate way of determining the extent of foes faced(how well the PCs prepared. Kudos!

Encounter 3 has the PCs meet an elven arms dealer working with grim Inchyron, and then infiltrate the Foundry, where the horrid entity is creating the Ferro-Zefir (think infernal bull mecha, it’s there to impersonate Lamushea) – there are different means of getting out of the sweltering heat and choking fumes of the foundry, and falling unconscious is just as possible as stealing the Ferro-Zefir – the escape clause here is truly banal. There is a minor layout glitch that cuts off half a sentence here, though, and this would be another good point of criticism against the module. It is utterly puzzling, from a player-perspective, how to beat this one. There are multiple ways, and failure is very unlikely here, but ultimately, in this one, following the task of just witnessing is all that’s required….where previously, getting out was required. Just waiting did not suffice. I strongly suggest to all judges running this adventure to provide some additional hints by Laylokan – otherwise, this can become a bit frustrating, as player’s attempt to guess what’s required.

In encounter 4, the PCs are to bear witness to the world suffering by the claws of chaos, but are told that they can lessen that harm – ultimately, that has no consequence, though. The PCs witness the forces of Grim Inchyron attempting to burn the Chapel of Akaa – instead of providing a reward, failing to stop the firestarter devil-things will expose the PCs to a chance of gaining a corruption…or to dissolve and die. As an aside: The chapel’s artwork features a black sun, which may be a hint towards the rather…potentially dark components of too strict law-adherence. Or it has been chosen by accident/for its non-political meaning. This encounter and encounter 5 are linked as far as moral making is concerned, and encounter 5 rocks: It has super-shrunk PCs in a ginormous living room of Grim inchyron eats sprites – these can be freed and grant luck…but freeing them will cost time, the carpet is a horrid thicket, and the dire rat? It’s, relatively to the PCs, gargantuan. These two encounters feel like they should easily have a direct correlation to morals, but they are associated with…war and racial conflict. Okay

The final scene within the calendar presents an emotionally brutal decision. The betrayal of the Artificer of Anguish is in full swing, and the PCs happen upon a priest being in danger of being slaughtered by an enraged mob. Forgiving the god is a noble act…and if no PC volunteers, a little girl will do so, but whoever offers forgiveness…is actually slain. No save. The character is transformed into pure, redemptive force, part of the energy that created Laylokan in the first place. Well, correction – only the PC with the highest Personality is slain – the others instead get a +1 Personality and Luck…which isn’t really fair from a game-design perspective and could be somewhat frustrating. Indeed, the module seems to acknowledge that this represents a WTF-moment that may require explanation – but, you see, that is one of the issues here. If there was a correlation between encounters and moral making, this would be more evident. Similarly, it would be fairer if the player whose PC actually died received some form of reward. PCs trying to take possession of the Krytz is also covered here, and after a final moral-making, the PCs are sent back to their world.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect on either a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features a few decent b/w-artworks. The cartography is basic, with the exclusion of the cool isometric map of encounter 5. No key-less, unlabeled player-friendly versions are provided. The pdf does come with two hand-out style artworks. The pdf does have bookmarks that point towards these aforementioned small graphics, but that’s it. In a puzzling decision, the pdf has no bookmarks apart from these, which renders electronic navigation a colossal pain. I strongly advise in favor of printing this when using it, particularly since you’ll want to use the moral making sheets for reference. I can’t comment on the merits or lack thereof of the print version, as I do not own it.

Steve Bean and Julian Bernick, with development by Roy Snyder and Brendan LaSalle, have created a truly UNIQUE adventure that particularly jaded “been there, done that” players will appreciate. I certainly have never read anything like it, and the idea behind the living morality tale to form a world? Pure frickin’ genius. Indeed, the same could be said about a few of these encounters. This module provides the means for the PCs to play in the mystic high-fantasy land that Appendix N literature usually relegates to the past, referencing it only in remarks and subordinate clauses. Theme-wise, this is more high fantasy than what we usually get to see in DCC, while still sporting the general notions and aesthetics we associate with DCC-adventures.

That being said, as much as I love the sheer ambition and creativity of many of the encounters and the overarching plot, I also consider this module to have failed. The lack of correlation between encounters and the things the PCs shape via their morals makes the whole tale and the consequences feel disjointed, and the module does not do the best job of providing the exposition that would make it evident for the players what actually happened. The cosmic plot and struggle, ultimately, can be hard to grasp. This may be intentional, but I don’t think it is in this case, as the success-scenarios of the respective encounters also suffer somewhat from this issue. In one instance, passivity and focusing on survival is rewarded, whereas in another, failing to intervene results in a save-or-die. The module is inconsistent. It also clearly depicts Chaos as evil – granted, something that DCC tends to do, in the tradition of old-school gaming, but here and there, glimpses of a more nuanced concept of law and chaos can be glimpsed at, with the patron for Law featured within being potentially rather creepy.

In a way, this adventure feels like it almost achieves true greatness, but then falls flat of what it could have been. The puzzling inclusion of the new race eats some pages that the encounters could have used to flesh out their challenges or differentiate between successes. Anyways…as noted in the beginning, there is a lot to love about the ambition and high-concept idea of this adventure, but similarly, it’s easy to dismantle the scenario and show the flimsy connections between the cosmic plot, the morality aspect and the consequences ultimately encountered, almost as though the morality angle had been added in hindsight.

But I’m speculating here. When this module works, it has impact, gravitas and works exceedingly well – using a funnel to shape the campaign world is a glorious angle, and one that plenty of judges can certainly reappropriate to their own scenarios. But when the encounters feel suddenly very down to earth or even banal, when the success-conditions are opaque and when players are suddenly punished for things that were clearly fair game an encounter ago, the module can also be excruciatingly frustrating in how close it gets to greatness. Instead, all those glitches, lack of bookmarks, etc. do accumulate – unfortunately to the point where I can’t rate this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down. If you do think that the type of tale woven here, that such a world-shaping funnel would be fun for you and yours, then this is worth getting. Just get ready for some work to polish the connective tissues of this adventure’s narrative.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
World-Quest of the Winter Calendar
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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2019 03:21:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Venger’s advice-pdfs on the art of adventure-writing clocks in at 18 pages,1 page front cover,1 page kort’thalis glyph, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 15 pages of content, though it should be noted that there are no less than 4 truly stunning full-page b/w-artworks inside. (Plus a half-page one.)

The original Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss pdf, ultimately, at least for me, turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, as it focused on adventure writing for a group, and did not even briefly talk about the aspects of, you know, commercial adventure writing and the ins and outs there, so let’s see if this fares better!

We are off to a promising start, where Venger outlines his personal 3-month writing process, and then proceeds to note an overview of the module – her, I’d like to note that most customers, me included, actually do prefer getting a synopsis to contextualize the adventure, so yeah, his notion of providing an overview may be noted as not exactly required, and he is right in that insertion, but it’s definitely something that’s preferred by most folks out there.

We next move towards the importance of artwork and the importance of a map and when to include them. Personally, I’d like to add that a key-less, unlabeled map, sans secret doors etc., particularly in the age of VTTs, is a big draw. Include one, if at all possible! Venger’s discussion of artwork, particularly cover art (and interior art) also is wise. Folks will want nice artwork, and his suggestions for art-distrubtion make sense. I also like how he explicitly notes that there are multiple styles, and that full-color artwork doesn’t always trump b/w-artwork – a fact that this book perfectly illustrates with its lavish artworks. In a hilarious “teaching by showing moment”, he has a sentence in an atrocious font in the middle of the page, stating that the module should, you know, use a proper font that’s easy to read. As someone who has actually gotten migraines from having to stare for hours on end on a sucky font that is hard on the eyes, I found myself thinking: “Yes! This x1000!”

His discussion on finding a balance between being overtly descriptive and being bland, the daring to leave gaps for further adventuring, also rang true. I also liked that he clearly states that you don’t want just an outline – other folks will run it, so you need to abstract what you know and provide a more detailed adventure than some GM-notes. I genuinely did not expect to see this piece of advice, as Venger is very fond of evocative adventure outlines, but yeah – big kudos for abstracting author-bias here!

The next page then deals with the ingredients of your adventure – you should offer an evocative location, and the pdf does note that the PCs should have means to chew the scenery, interact and gain benefits…but balance that with not handing things out too easily. The insertion of complications also helps here. I’d also like to affirm that we don’t need a full curriculum vitae for every NPC. Unless it’s relevant for the plot, the GM doesn’t need to have spelled out that a certain NPC is lactose intolerant, when specific NPCs have their bowel-movements, etc. Crucial details to set them apart help, but don’t go overboard.

This piece of advice also ties in with a truly helpful observation: Monsters should have something to do. An ogre in a barrel-filled room? Boring. An ogre in a drunken rage, barricaded behind barrels, throwing them at PCs? Now that is interesting! Adverbs and adverbials are your friends, even in brief encounter-lines. This aspect, mechanically, also ties in with GM agency, something that you should definitely account for. The pdf also provides notes on (optional, obviously!) twist endings, so you don’t end up Shyamalan-ing your module. We all know at this point that Venger’s fond of random encounter tables, and so am I – his advice here is something that I’d second – though I’d note another aspect that the pdf doesn’t mention. Random encounters can be used to ground a module in a semblance of realism and plausibility. Many classic-style adventures do that, focusing on a few bandits and humanoids, perhaps some animals and vermin – this can end up being boring if the module doesn’t offer much more exciting this, but if you need to contrast the regular landscape from the dimension-tearing hellscape that this meteorite impact created, well, then a deliberately mundane random encounter table, contrasted by a full-blown bonkers and weird one, can really help distinguish components.

The pdf also provides a few notes on encounter design – if the encounter’s barely worthy of a footnote, describe over it. Don’t let mighty heroes (and their players) waste their time with crappy low-level foes…unless they are still a threat and part of a war of attrition before the big bad guy, but then again, they’ll be mid-level foes then…but that is my addition to the advice provided. Conversely, advice for which encounters to maximize and tweak is also noted. (Nice aside: A little box features a great twist that will make many a GM better for having read it…no, not going to spoil it here…)

4 general, different types of ending scenario are presented as well, and some bullet points to determine what should and shouldn’t be included in NPC-introduction are rather helpful. The formatting of stuff that is obvious, and stuff that is hidden, as noted in the advice provided for room description, is nice. If the module has a map, you won’t need dimensions – if it doesn’t, be sure to note them! Otherwise, the GMs and players will be stumbling through an abstract blob of a dungeon, and not in a good way. The pdf also notes that not all trailer-like first ideas can, in the end,c arry a whole adventure – and that linear dungeons are boring as all hell.

Venger came up with a good phrase here: “Needs more tentacles” – this doesn’t refer to tentacles per se, but is a call to be exceptional, to add this one twist to make it dark, make it weird, make it memorable. Similarly, his notion of creating images that stick “like Golden Honey” is something that can I can subscribe to; while a flawed freshman offering, Venger’s very first module, “Liberation of the Demon Slayer” may have a couple of weakpoints…but it’s not boring. In fact, many of his adventures have at least this one resounding, great imagery that just…sticks. The means by which a greater whole and moods can be conveyed is also highlighted here.

The pdf also, another pleasant surprise, actually deals with rules required for an adventure – that you should not rewrite game-rules, but that you well should provide new ones if required. The potential importance of factions and how to make them compelling is similarly discussed.

And then, the supplement provides advice that really helped ole’ me. How to be funny. I am not funny. I suck at writing funny or cute. I do horrific, dark and disturbing rather well, but that’s about it – the advice provided here is definitely appreciated. Aesthetic concerns, like how to present vital information, makes sense and quite a few folks should take a look here. He also notes that getting excited about writing something’s a good sign…and vice versa. We also, once more, have a serious and helpful checklist that should help authors avoiding railroading players.

And finally, the pdf talks about reviewers and roughly categorizes them in three categories, which somewhat mirrors my experiences. I certainly hope that I’d be classified as a neutral reviewer, i.e. someone who talks about the good and bad of a product. I’d also like to state that his advice on finding a reviewer that understands your design is appreciated – and his warning that one has to acknowledge that nothing’s perfect would make my job infinitely easier. If I had a dime for every time someone take criticism of a supplement as a direct attack and responded with vitriol…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no typos or the like. Layout is gorgeous, as we’ve come to expect from Kort’thalis Publishing – veins and splotches lighten the pages without diverting attention from the text. The b/w-artworks, with a Conan/Red Sonja piece, warriors and a slightly suggestive (but perfectly PG 13) one, as well as that of a female being dragged, unconscious, into the maw of a monster, while a hero jumps down, axe ready, are pretty damn kickass; certainly beyond what you’d expect from such an inexpensive file. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and also features a second, more printer-friendly version.

Venger’s second advice-booklet on the art of adventure-writing turned out to be an impressive surprise for me. This little booklet compiles a ton of genuinely helpful and clearly put pieces of advice that really help you start making great adventures. While it is, by necessity of scope and by being system neutral, not an all-encompassing advice pdf that can get into the details of the respective systems, but it’d be unfair to expect this.

What we do have here, is a little gem of a checklist, quite frankly the opposite in utility when compared to the first pdf. Much to my pleasant surprise, Venger has succeeded in extrapolating much of his own aesthetic bias, which only shines through where it belongs – in examples, in the way in which he illustrates his points. We’re left with a surprising amount of wisdom and plain good guidance for new adventure-writers, particularly considering the brevity of this pdf. This is much more useful than many comparable books, stripped of superfluous meanderings, and, and that is important to note for Venger’s writing, it is genuinely well-structured. It doesn’t jump back and forth and provides a vivid and helpful guideline for writing modules that is, as a final plus, also surprisingly fun to read. All in all, this can be considered to be a resounding success, well worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval…and if this represents his accumulated knowledge, consider me very excited about his current project Cha’alt!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II
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Star Log.EM-033: Powered Weaponry
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2019 03:18:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content – it should be noted that a part of the weapon table is on the first SRD-page, so don’t overlook that part.

After a brief introduction that also contains a bit of fluffy material, we are introduced to the new powered weaponry types within: All but one of the weapons within come in 4 different classes, we have cryobows, composite bows that get a jet of supercooled gas for a C & P combo-base. The weapon is categorized as a longarm, and its usage-values, item-levels, etc. check out. Critical effect-wise these bows stagger targets. The second ranged weapon herein is the only one that “only” has three different classes – the incapacitator bolas are a special weapon,come in versions for level 3, 9 and 14, and their damage value may not be as high as you’d expect. They are categorized as shock, but only inflict bludgeoning damage (slightly odd there…but a close glance shows why: they do have the stun property!), but they can trip targets. Yes, proper Starfinder rules employed.

As far as one-handed advanced melee weapons are concerned, we get harmonic scimitars in 4 iterations, blending slashing and sonic damage, with appropriate damage values and deafen as the critical effect. They get the mobile property…which is one of the 4 new weapon special properties within: These tap into your kinetic energy: Whenever you move at least half your speed, you treated rolled 1s on weapon damage as 2s. The property does note how it interacts with vehicles, but, as a nitpick, it’d have been nice to note explicitly that it’ll apply to only the attack after the movement for onslaught etc. interaction, but that is me being nitpicky.

Uncategorized, with piercing damage as the damage inflicted, the ion-jet tridents feature the new pin down special weapon quality, which allows you to entangle targets, with Acrobatics and Strength as means to escape – but unlike the entangle property, they pin a target to a surface – and come with biometric scanners that prevent others from powering them off. Critical effect is knockdown, fyi. Cool!

On the two-handed weaponry side, we have magnetar hammers, which are plasma weapons (E & F) with the wound critical effect. These are stance weapons that have two stances: In defensive stance, they get block, and in offensive mode, weapons with this property can have a variety of different properties – in this example, reach. Changing stances is a swift action. Love this one! The final weapon class within would be electron choppers, classified as shock weapons, and as such, dealing E & S damage. This one has a new weapon property named sunder that adds +2 to sunder maneuvers. The weapon class also uses the new critical effect shatter, which applies weapon critical damage to an object held or obviously worn by the target.

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

David N. Ross’ new weapons are a thoroughly well-crafted arsenal that left me with only ridiculous nitpickery; the weaponry within is cool, the values check out, and the properties add some neat customization options to the arsenal of GMs and players alike. An easy 5 star-rating for this pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-033: Powered Weaponry
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The Assassin - The Sanguinity Hot Technique Tree
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2019 03:17:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Assassin base class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Assassins with the sanguinity tree gain the blood pool feature upon taking the first sanguinity technique. This pool begins play with 0 points, and has a maximum capacity of thrice the assassin’s class level. Whenever a creature within 60 ft. takes damage from an ongoing bleed effect, the assassin gains 1 blood point for each point of damage taken. This pool resets upon resting.

Unless I have miscounted, the pdf contains 15 different techniques, with 2 of them being passive: Off the Top, available as soon as second level, adds + 1 bleed damage to the first weapon attack executed each round, with 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter increasing that by +1. Bleed damage from this ability stacks with itself, and the ability notes a Heal DC to quench the bleeding. The second passive would be blood sense, which nets you blindsense 60 ft., but only for the purpose of detecting creatures suffering from bleed damage and objects they’re interacting with.

As far as active techniques are concerned, we have e.g. “Bleed the Self” which has a presence required of 0 to 3 and nets a +1 presence change. The ability is a standard action or may be executed as a part of a full-attack action. The technique basically adds bleed that deals 1 ability score damage to an ability score that is randomly chosen each round. Interesting. Blood tithe decreases presence by 1 and requires presence 1 – 4; once more, it’s executed as an attack, providing a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution that increases by a further +1 at 7th and 13th level. This buff ends when the target has not bled for one round or died. Upon executing this technique, you must spend blood points of up to class level, and the effect otherwise lasts for 3 + blood points spent rounds. This technique has an escalation option that modifies presence required and presence change, but if you opt for this iteration, you also penalize the target of your attack, essentially leeching the ability boosts.

Bolster the Blood allows you to expend blood points to enhance a target within 30 ft., providing temporary hit points that last for a round. Due to being activated as an immediate action, it also clarifies interaction with technique per round cap. Bolster the Self is the self-only version of this one, but interestingly, it’s NOT a prerequisite for bolster the blood. Cauterize causes fire damage to a bleeding target at presence change 1, and while there is no save, this does end any ongoing bleed damage of the target. Yes, ability bleed is properly codified. Crimson Font has a range of 60 ft. and targets any number of creatures – the ability inflicts 1d3 +1 piercing damage per class level, divided however you wish among the targets within 60 ft., with a Fortitude-save to halve damage. At -4 presence change, it requires some setting up, though. For each point of piercing damage you inflict, you also inflict a bleed damage…which makes this a great combo-finisher.

Enfeebling strike is easier to set up: At just a presence change of -1, enfeebling strike temporarily penalizes Strength of the target hit by 1d6, +1 per two assassin class levels, with 1 being minimum. Fortitude save halves, and the duration of the penalty is governed by the amount of blood points expended. Exsanguinate the Self nets a -4 presence change, and thus must be considered a combo finisher of sorts. You expend any number of blood points, up to class level, and inflict one point of random ability bleed damage for each blood point expended, to be distributed among any number of targets within 60 ft. A single creature can’t take more ability bleed than half the number of blood points expended, which helps make this avoid being a dragon-slayer. Fort-save negates.

Make it flow is a swift action with a 60 ft. range, and causes 1 point of bleed damage, which, at 0 presence change still makes for a good kick-off. Puncturing blow changes the weapon’s base damage die to bleeding damage instead, at presence change +1. It lasts for 2 rounds, and increases twice at higher levels. Transfusion has a -1 presence change and lets you touch a creature. Expend up to assassin level blood points, then roll d8 for every blood point. The target regains hit points equal to the amount rolled, and the assassin takes a penalty to maximum hit points equal to 1/4th of the rolled amount, rounded down. This reduction ceases after resting. Transruption, which, like Transfusion, is a presence change -1, lets you bind two creatures together. Whenever one of the bound creatures takes damage of the three physical damage types, then half that damage is siphoned off to the second target. When a bound creature takes bleed damage, the second creature does take the full bleed damage as well, but unlike the physical damage dispersion, this propagation of bleed damage may be resisted with a Fortitude save. Duration is governed by blood points expended. Finally, vermillion blade, at -2 presence change, is a melee touch attack with an empty hand. On a hit, you draw a fully formed blade of blood from the target. The weapon begins at +1, and increases its potency at higher levels, allowing for the use of some weapon special abilities.

There are 3 different feats included in the pdf: Blood Focus increases the maximum amount of blood points you can expend on a technique by +1. Bloodbonder Adept nets you 2/day an additional immediate action for bolster the self or bolster the blood, provided you did not perform them already this round. Odd regarding verbiage here: Does this mean that you lose an additional round worth of swift actions in the aftermath? If not, then why not simply allow for the use of these techniques sans requiring an action or building on free actions, with the appropriate not-your-turn-caveat? Anyhow, Transfuser, the final feat, nets you a transfusion pool with points equal to your assassin level. This pool acts basically as a buffer for transfusion, allowing you to expend its points instead of accepting the maximum hit point reduction that the transfusion technique usually requires. Nice one.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, juggling complex and intriguing concepts. Layout adheres to Interjection games’ no-frills two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Bradley Crouch’s sanguinity tech tree is pretty cool – a blood-themed warrior angle for the assassin class? Heck yeah, why not. The concepts are varied and interesting, and there are some cool tricks here that reminded me of one of my own designs. The finishers are deadly, the minor healing welcome, and many of the attacks have neat visuals as well. All in all, an inexpensive, fun expansion well worth owning, though one that could use a sequel to build on it. The concept and theme are strong, and I couldn’t help but feel like there is more waiting in the wings here. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. Definitely recommended for assassin-fans!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Assassin - The Sanguinity Hot Technique Tree
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Level Drain #1: The Pillars of Pang
Publisher: Death Machine Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2019 03:15:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is the first installment of releases by Level Drain, a collective of creative people living with mental illness, and comes with a heartfelt dedication. The pdf clocks in at 2 pages of content, with only a small paragraph of SRD-information.

The module itself adheres very much to a one-page dungeon aesthetic, including an isometric map – and a surprising amount of information jammed onto the page. The adventure depicted here is suitable for 0-level and 1st level groups.

The following contains SPOILERS. Only judges should keep reading. … .. . Only judges around?

The presentation adheres to a stark aesthetic, with white boxes, a black background, and the pencil-drawn artworks supplementing an overall artpunk aesthetic that evoked, at least for me, associations with some of Scrap Princess’ artworks, with the games from Harvester (like Downfall and The Cat Lady) – and it resonated. It feels authentic, in that it gives an aesthetic representation to the sense of how the abyss of mental illness can feel – fitting, considering that Pang is a psyche – a kind of plane that exemplifies an emotion – here, despair and anguish come alive.

The road to pang is frequented by pangolin-pilgrims, and this little supplement depicts a 3-room excerpt from this alien landscape, where a monolith hums of despair, where a seemingly endless ladder looms. Foul white worms wriggle, and there is “the Creature”, whose write-up takes up the second page. This being has a head for each adventurer, which may manifest a nightmare, or represent another of d7 associated traits; the being also has a breath weapon with d5 effects.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good, particularly considering that this is PWYW. Layout is, as noted, very artistic, with stark b/w-artworks and the layout helping to drive home the desolate atmosphere of the place. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

This is, so far, the only installment of Level Drain I know of. This is a genuine pity as far as I’m concerned, for it is evident that the folks that created this know what they’re doing, know what they’re writing about. Art from adversity. It rings true. It is a supplement that shows a level of authenticity and compassion that is impossible to fake. If your life, like mine, has been touched by mental illness of some sort, at some time during your life, I hope you have emerged from it – not untouched, for that is impossible. Scarred, mayhap, but stronger for it. If you have made such an experience, firsthand or secondhand, you may have developed a radar of sorts for a certain aesthetic, for a certain type of writing that draws its strength, that draws its creativity, from the sheer boundless dark. I know that I have learned to draw strength from dark and macabre media, from Nietzschean abyss-gazing, if you will. It looks back, sure – but it’ll do so anyway, so staring it in the eye and facing it down can help. Some folks, at least. And yes, roleplaying games, as noted in my review of Black Sun Deathcrawl, can act as a means of conveying how e.g. depression can feel, how you can use the medium to evoke genuine understanding. Writing down the darkness, binding it on paper – art from adversity. It is a powerful tool.

This form of catharsis is powerful, and it is, at least in my opinion, impossible to fake. This module, humble and short though it may be, does have exactly this kind of resonance. Much like Silent Hill or similar forms of media, it manages to achieve this ephemeral bleakness that is hard to describe, and harder to rate. Many folks won’t like it and consider it grimdark, while others will love it – it is, much like abyss-gazing, an acquired taste. I for one, firmly belong in the second category, and while I bemoan both the brevity of this supplement and the fact that there isn’t more from Level Drain and on this strange land for me to read, considering the fair PWYW-nature of this pdf, I will award this 4.5 stars, rounded up. Definitely worth leaving a tip for – I know I did.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Level Drain #1: The Pillars of Pang
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Star Log.EM-032: Levialogi
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2019 03:51:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

With an original debut in PFRPG’s Paranormal Adventures, levialogi were high-CR threats, tailor-made to withstand the punishment that high-level PCs can dish out, designed to NOT be a wet paper-towel under stress…suffice to say, I absolutely loved them to bits, and now, they have come to Starfinder!

In a great bit of encrypted (and already decoded) introductory prose, we are introduced to the threat of the levialogi, with [redacted] components enhancing the atmosphere generated from the get-go. Originally, levialogi were inspired by the Leviathan as depicted in the Supernatural TV-series, and as such, their original shape is pretty much liquid. Encountering flesh, it can rewrite the creature’s genetic code, creating indistinguishable copies of the originals, stalking among mortals. Careful and calculating, they are intelligent and combine themes of doppelgangers, body horror and cthulhoid horror. And I mean horror. They are genuinely frightening.

Their bites ignore all DR, and when they devour at least a light bulk’s worth of flesh, they can assume that flesh’s owner’s appearance. With a ton of immunities and resistances, they thus retain a crucial function they had in PF, perhaps doing that aspect even better: Know this anticlimactic scene, when player cheers turn muted as they realize that their strategy/insane luck has just one-shotted/crited to smithereens this cool adversary? When being really good isn’t as fun anymore? Enter these fellows. Unbeknown to the PCs, the mastermind was a levialogos, and bam, suddenly, the combat turns into a whole new thing! Beyond immunities, they also have regeneration and DR, both of which are notoriously hard to deal with – and full functionality is provided, in that the levialogi get a full subtype graft write-up that codifies traits and how they can emulate class-based abilities, all perfectly in line with the Alien Archive’s graft-system.

The pdf also contains three sample statblocks – the CR 1 Cessilogos that still has to consume an appearance, and the mighty CR 20 Erythologos (with soldier tricks), as well as the CR 25 Leucologos, who seems to have feasted on an operative. Their stats are within the parameters of what you’d expect from really difficult targets – as a minor nitpick, the Leucologos’ EAC and KAC are not properly bolded. A minor nitpick that won’t influence the verdict: It would have behooved the pdf to mention that devour appearance’s class graft granting does not provide the benefits of the class graft’s adjustments, if any. While this can be deduced from studying the Alien Archive, it may be a minor stumbling stone for less experienced GMs.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Star Log.EM’s two-column full-color standard, and the artwork is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ levailogi have been translated exceedingly well to Starfinder. Indeed, I do believe they may fit Starfinder better than Pathfinder; the statblocks are solid (though some signature tricks would have been nice – but then again, their subtype already provides a ton of them…), but the subtype graft is where the gold lies. The levialogi graft just plain rocks, and I’m sure to use it in the future! It makes creating them swift and painless, and allows crafty GMs to create a failsafe to make sure that, even if in the future power-creep changes the power-balance of SFRPG, the old materials can still be sued…just add in a levialogi subplot and add some serious staying power to the big bad guys and gals and other things… A nice toolkit indeed, this gets my recommendation at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-032: Levialogi
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Kobayashi Maroon
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2019 03:47:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first part of what once was supposedly the last Alpha Blue supplement, released on its own as this file, clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page kort’thalis glyph, 1 page blank, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, the following disclaimer applies. Alpha Blue is a gleeful parody of 70’s/80’s scifi porn spoofs, and doesn’t take itself seriously; there is puerile humor, drawn nudity and the like herein. If you are offended by naked bodies or the like, then steer clear. This supplement makes use of Alpha Blue’s iteration of Venger’s rules-lite VSd6-dice pool system, which is based on d6s, so mechanically, there isn’t that much depth (unless you combine all the disparate optional rules spread throughout Alpha Blue’s catalogue), but since the main-draw here would be concepts anyhow, I don’t see why you couldn’t create stats of the like for systems like “Stars Without Number”, should you choose to do so. If beer-and-pretzels gaming is what you’re looking for, then stick to Alpha Blue, obviously. I assume familiarity with Alpha Blue in my review, so if you have no clue about the setting, I’d invite you to read my reviews of its supplements. I’ve covered all of them released up to this one, and if you read this in a couple of months/weeks after release, probably all of the,

The supplement does start with a couple of pieces of advice for roleplaying in Alpha Blue, easing them into the more explicit themes.

All right, that out of the way, let’s dive in! The following discussion contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only BDSMs (Bold Dungeon Space Masters) around? Great! The PCs start aboard the vessel “Get Woke Go Broke”, when they witness a distress signal by the space-luxury line “The Vanessa”, which is breaking apart due to proximity to a pink hole. The first set-piece lists a bullet-point suggestion of what may entail when the PCs do enter the rare space phenomenon. Some suggestions for strategies to save the folks will help – but in the aftermath, the PCs will witness a Great Old one oozing from the hole, asking them its favorite color – further exacerbating the situation, and potentially killing PCs for answering incorrectly. And yes, as the title suggests, this was a simulation – and the PCs get to roll on random tables if they shat their pants. But why? There are 6 random reasons for having subjected yourself to it. All of this fits on two pages, and as you make have noted, this is pretty much an adventure outline.

The second chapter, episode #2, starts as a solo-adventure, but may be quickly expanded to cater to a whole crew of PCs. This episode takes place during Pr0n Fa’ar – the Vulcan parody should be readily apparent for everyone. The module begins with read-aloud text that references a Hendrix song, as well as a wife wanting to take the space cardboard with you. I…could relate there. Minus space, obviously. XD As the PC returns, he finds himself cuckolded by an alien, and, to make things worse, the no-longer-BAE lady has actually been an agent in disguise all these years. Both the alien and the unfaithful wife are btw. fully stated, in case the first reaction of the PC has something to do with an itchy trigger-finger…or otherwise existent pseudopod. Going through Agent Spectra (true name of the wife)’s phone will yield a reference to a space station, where the agent is not there – his vorpal whoopee-cushion, though, is. (Including a d8 appendage severing table.) Random (and kinda funny): If the agent-contact is killed (stats provided), the PCs will be teleported by his failsafe device into the middle of a Mexican standoff between S’pock, two martians from Sesame Street (I meant, the Seza’ame System…), Fade Hardkockian, Clint Eastwood…and a Tron Girl, for a fat battle royale – for the price of the last female of an all but extinct species, including sexual encounter aftermath random table. Funnier than the first one (objective though that may be), I enjoyed this quick series of encounters more than the first scenario; it’s more of an adventure, and less of an outline.

Episode 3 is the longest of the 3 short modules and begins with a read-aloud message for zith lord try-outs, with a fortune and the right of the first night in the whole system. Thus, they are sent to a big VIP-laden party, which is supplemented by 8 sample, suspicious NPCs. This section also has notes on “safe language”, which translates to being penalized for blowing stuff out of proportions. Space muslims attack the party, and when a bonafide zith lord enters, things can become more dangerous…though the contest for the title may also be resolved via a vagina eating contest, which is resolved in a quick and dirty (haha) mini-game with the usual dice pool mechanics.

The pdf also has a rule for sneak attacks, a d100 table of “WTF are NPCs doing right now” (and a d6 table to determine how they take the interruption)…and, apart from the backstab rules, also a pretty interesting optional rule – for blue balls (or ovaries, I guess): Not having sex in Alpha Blue, with this system, will brutally penalize you, the less often you get off. 7 steps, from bonuses to brutal penalties, are provided, and the pdf comes with a Blue Ball tracker (also included as separate pdfs in color and mono). This brings me to one point: Right now, the best rules of Alpha Blue are spread out over x supplements. At one point, a second edition that collects a new array of core rules may be a smart move. Just sayin’, since this is a nice method to gamify and reward roleplaying in convention with the system’s lewd themes. It should also be noted that an 8-name table (with a column for male, female and non-binary entities) is provided, and we do get stats for none other than Venger Satanis himself, who btw. does come with full stats. He’s brutal.

As you could glean here and there, there are a few politically charged terms used herein, which may or may not annoy you. It is not my place as a reviewer of RPG products to comment on the lampooning of these terms in a product for a game that focuses on parody.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level; Venger’s (pardon, Zoltan’s) rules-fu precision has increased. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with several nice full-color artworks, which of course feature nudity. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Venger’s (Pardon, I mean: Zoltar Khan Delgado’s) Kobayashi Maroon collection alternates in its usability somewhat. The great premise of the eponymous scenario, episode #1, is somewhat marred by being little more than a sketch; while the second episode does feel a bit random, it is also wild – the scene on the cover? That actually happens in the adventure! The third scenario is a bit more straight-forward. While they all have wild vignettes, they ultimately feel like brief sidetreks – which they are. The presence of proper stats for all involved is a plus, though, and the optional rules herein rank among the best in the whole series. Frankly, the blue-ball tracker mechanic is smart, and having a visual representation helps. Backstab rules are overdue as well – these rules should become core, should there ever be a second edition of Alpha Blue.

So yeah, within the confines of the rules-lite VSd6-system, the rules were my favorites here; simple, cleanly presented, easy to grasp, fun. This may actually be the first Alpha Blue supplement where I genuinely liked the rules presented and what they bring to the Alpha Blue table more than the modules/adventure outlines did. If you’re no fan of Alpha Blue, this will not change your mind. If you like what you’ve seen so far, this provides more of the same, with some cool vignettes, but ultimately, the variant rules will be the biggest drawing point…with the probably and notable exception of the scene on the cover. Which is pure, glorious madness.

That being said, while Venger, äh, Zoltar, has definitely improved the structure of his writing, I couldn’t help but wish that one of these scenarios had instead been extended to proper module length. As written, Alpha Blue has a metric ton of sketch-like vignettes, but not that much in the vein of longer modules – at least not without the GM extrapolating from Venger/Zoltar’s outlines. All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable addition to Alpha Blue’s canon, though the influx of politically-charged terms may irk some folks. It’s not the best supplement in the product line, but for the low price point, it represents a fair offering. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kobayashi Maroon
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Eldritch Elementalism
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2019 12:26:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, though, as always for Legendary Games, these are cock-full with content – many other publishers wouldn’t have crammed this much text on a given page.

Okay, so, in a way, this pdf represents partially a player’s option booklet, partially a GM’s toolkit that also is somewhat relevant for players…but in order to explain that, we should take one step at a time.

Upon opening the pdf, we are greeted with something I did not expect, but very much enjoyed: The book presents us with a variety of ecologies for the respective elementals for the 4 core elements. This may sound like a small thing, but to me, text like this helps getting the creative juices going, and indeed, few beings require this little help as much as elementals do…but I’ll get back to what I mean by that later.

For now, let us take a look at the two new archetypes, which both aim to fill a hole in the rules regarding elemental-themed support. The first of these would be the elemental channeler druid archetype, who receives Knowledge (planes) as a class skill and chooses an elemental focus among the 4 core elements. For the focus, the channeler gets a +1 bonus to CL when casting spells with the corresponding descriptor. This also determines the opposing element. The archetype has diminished spellcasting, but gains access to a kineticist’s simple blast associated with the chosen element, with 6th level increasing the range of the blast to 120 ft. – and another ability nets basic aerokinesis for air, geokinesis for earth – you get the idea. The elemental channeler treats the latter as at-will SPs. Nature bond, nature sense and wild empathy are lost for these abilities, though. At 3rd level, the elemental channeler can learn a 1st level utility wild talent associated with the chosen elemental focus, which becomes an at-will SP or SU, depending on the utility wild talent in question. Every 3 levels beyond that yield an additional such utility wild talent, which must be of a level equal to half the elemental channeler’s class level or lower. Instead of being governed by Constitution, they use Wisdom as governing key ability modifier, and instead of accepting burn, they are powered by expending a spell slot of a spell level equal to the wild talent’s level.

The archetype can also choose to learn the element’s defense wild talent, though here, the spell slot expenditure required is equal to the amount of burn accepted. Instead of woodland stride and trackless step, we get different abilities depending on the chosen element. Instead of resist nature’s lure, we have a bonus to spells and effects originating from elemental creatures with the druid’s subtype. A purely cosmetic hiccup: A bit of a sentence here is bolded that shouldn’t be. This does not impede functionality, though. Wild shape is altered to allow the druid to assume elemental form, counting as +2 level for the purpose of assuming the form of the chosen element, but prohibiting her from assuming the form of the opposed elemental. Instead of a thousand faces, the archetype, finally, has an apotheosis to native outsider with the chosen element’s subtype, but sans the immunity/vulnerability, and with the explicit caveat of that not hampering raising from the dead. All in all, an interesting kineticist-y engine tweak for the druid.

The second archetype within would be the elemental witch, who is locked into Elements, light, Mountains, Storms, Water or Winter as patron. The elemental witch chooses a single element to focus on, and the choice is in part determined by the patron chosen, and the elemental witch does not have an opposed element. At 6th level, the witch may choose to gain another elemental supremacy in place of a hex, and she may select several, provided they are allowed by the patron chosen. Subsequent choices after the one at 1st level are treated as witch level minus 5, though. We get custom elemental supremacy effects for each of the elements, and I was surprised to see some interesting angles here – air, for example, allows you to ignore wind effects up to a certain strength, while also providing +2 to Fly, a bonus that increases over the levels. Air descriptor spells get a +1 CL, and the supremacy includes an at-will SP, with 5th, 10th and 20th level providing upgrades in the face of additional SPs and better defensive tricks. This paradigm applies to all of these supremacies, though in different ways. Beyond supremacies aligned with the 4 core elements, we also have a supremacy for cold and storms.

At 4th level or whenever she gains a new hex, the witch may choose Improved Familiar instead, gaining an elemental patron associated with the respective patron. 6th level nets elemental shape, basically a wild shape variant for elemental shapes only. Minor complaint: One reference to elemental body I is not italicized properly. The ability upgrades at 8th, 10th and 12th level, with durations and uses per day increasing per level. The ability replaces the 6th and 12th level abilities. The archetype also may choose from among 8 unique major hexes, which include Augment Summoning elemental summoning, and the option to grant some supremacy benefits to other summoned creatures. We also have a cyclone, a crashing wave that can push targets away, etc. – these are interesting, and, you guessed it, contingent on the patrons chosen. All in all, a nice archetype!

The pdf also contains 5 feats…for elementals! Smothering Grapple is a feat for air and water elementals, and allows an elemental to suffocate grappled targets. Manifest Armaments is an overdue trick for elementals, allowing them to manifest armor and weaponry, with unique benefits depending on the elemental subtype – air elementals have weaker armor, but get scaling miss chances, for example, while earthen armor is better, but bulky, and thus subject to an increased armor check penalty. Improved Manifest Armaments increases the range of the base feat, now allowing for the creation of medium armors and two-handed weaponry, or light and one-handed weapon at once. Cool! Manifest Earthen Bulwark increases DR granted by the armors, and unlocks heavy armor equivalents. (As an aside: The feat is called “Earthen” because it’s earth-exclusive.)

Shape Summons is a key-feat here – it’s not for elementals, but for their summoners, allowing the summoner to apply elemental templates to called elementals. This brings me to the lion’s share of the book’s content, namely what I always wanted – rules-relevant tweaks to diversify elementals, here, in the guise of a plethora of templates that may be applied to elementals. Before you ask, yes, interactions with planar ally et al. are covered, and each of the templates comes with a sample creature, many of which come with actual full-color artworks! One of these fellows you can see on the cover – it’s an air elemental with the CR +1 avian template applied, the “Roc of the Gales.” We also get templates for cephalopod elementals, exemplified in application…by the sky squid! The pdf does contain rules for the CR +2 draconic elemental template (yep, they’re indeed harder than regular elementals…) and, as you could probably deduce from aforementioned Armament feats, there is the humanoid elemental template, which, also at +1, would be a great place to note that the respective sample creatures are NOT just lazy applications of the base template. Instead, e.g. the sample humanoid elemental does make use of the new feats…and has class levels. (As a cosmetic note: The armor class-header is not bolded in the template.) Predatory elementals take the form of hunting animals and beasts, while piscine elementals – bingo, resemble fish…and yes, you can make a piscine fire elemental! Finally, there would also be serpentine elementals – the last three all clock in at CR +1, btw.

However, beyond these roughly creature-shape-themed elemental templates, there is more to be found within: Consuming elementals, at CR +1, can consume the elemental energy, and a kinetic blast-based breath weapon. Speaking of which: The kinetic elemental gets kineticist tricks that improve based on HD. A pleasant surprise for me was the presence of the CR +1 radioactive elemental template, which draws upon the Technology Guide’s radiation rules, with HD governing radiation strength. The sample critter here is particularly neat: We get a consuming radioactive kinetic humanoid earth elemental with invulnerable rager levels! CR 17. You know you want to send this fellow to kick your PC’s behinds! On the more down to earth side, the unbound elemental template at CR +0 represents a more mutable elemental.

Beyond all of these, the pdf also contains two eldritch elementals as a bonus of sorts: The Flamboyant Flame, a CR 13 humanoid fire elemental swashbuckler that masquerades as a graceful efreeti – and yes, we have notes to call this fellow via planar ally. And then there would be the endboss. If your players ever laughed about the notion of a campaign ending in a battle versus an elemental that is not a prince or, well Tharizdunian in theme, here you go: Infernatrox, the Draconic Conflagration, is an advanced draconic mythic fire elemental that clocks in at a cute CR 25/MR 10. AC 47, an ability called “Immortal Flame” that not only has him detonate upon death, but makes it possible for allies to quickly and fully revive the fellow, an ability called “Everything Burns” that bypasses all resistance and immunities of nonmythic targets and also compromises that of mythic beings…and I’m just getting started. An interesting thing about this brutal beast, though, is that it is designed to reward planning and clever PCs. Several abilities have specific means to offset them – yep, mythic characters can, with a clever trick, benefit from resistances and immunities versus his flames. In a way, this is a great build that is both mechanically interesting and a small puzzle of sorts. Really enjoyed this fellow!

Conclusion: Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting sports a few more glitches than what I’m accustomed to see from Legendary Games, but none of them are impediments to grasping the concepts within. Layout adheres to the blue-tinted two-column full-color standard of the reign of Winter-plugins, and the pdf sports quite a few nice full-color artworks. While I had known a few before, I also found several new ones within. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Deborah Kammerzell, Chris van Horn and Jason Nelson have crafted a pdf I frankly did not expect to like. At all. When I read “elemental” on most books, I get this immediate yawn-reflex. I have seen elemental options done so often, and often so well, that I am hard to excite. However, the simple form-templates for elementals in this book really serve a niche: they provide a quick and painless, fun toolkit for the GM to finally make elementals top being so damn boring. If you have ever bemoaned that e.g. no birds of lightning, no fish of fire graced your table, here you have an array of templates that elevates elementals from boring hunks of elemental matter to actually interesting adversaries that get players talking: That eel of lightning sure was creepy, right? Anyhow, if there is a minor weakness here, then that would be that I would have loved to see a few more outré templates for the elementals. Predatory, for example, is a pretty simple one, and not all of them are equally exciting. However, that is me complaining at a high level. The pdf does have its genius moments, and some of the sample elementals indeed go above and beyond.

All in all, this represents a pleasant surprise, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – a super-handy toolkit for GMs, and particularly if you’re too lazy to make all these small templates yourself, a real time-saver. (Plus: Sample critters rock!)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eldritch Elementalism
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NIGHT SOIL #zero — for the DCC RPG (Dungeon Crawl Classics) — INNER HAM
Publisher: Inner Ham
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2019 12:25:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The #ZERO issue of the Night Soil ‚zine for DCC clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, laid out in approximately 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), meaning that you can theoretically fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this.

As the editorial page makes clear, the theme of Night Soil as a ‘zine would be art – or, to be more precise, the art of the 4th printing of the DCC core rules. Basically, we get rules that correspond to the artworks in that book. Thus, content herein is not governed by type of material, but instead, in its sequence of the artworks that inspired their respective creation. While I do get the notion here, from a purely practical point of view, I am not particularly happy with this decision, as it ultimately makes finding a specific bit of content harder if you’re e.g. looking for a magic item. On the other hand, if you’re skimming through the DCC core rules for inspiration and flip this open right next to you, well, then it works as intended…but still is, at least in my book, somewhat inconvenient.

Anyhow, I will attempt to structure this review by content, not be the sequence of the art that inspired it. All right? Great! So, another thing you have to know, is that this ‘zine follows the tradition of e.g. many articles in Gongfarmer’s Almanac and similar ‘zines (Yep, do own those – however, as they’re free/at-cost for print compilations, I won’t review them unless tasked to do so by my patreon supporters) for DCC, in that it employs a quasi-type-writer style font. While this obviously is intended as a draw for nostalgia, as a callback to the old days of DIY-‘zines, it’s not a decision I am particularly fond of. While DCC is not exactly intense and hard to grasp regarding its formatting conventions, the adherence to this typewriter-style font means that even basic formatting conventions like bolding and italicization of certain rules-materials, are not properly implemented within. In essence, the pdf chooses nostalgia over convenience, and while DCC is not as reliant on such formatting conventions, they do exist for a reason. They make processing information simpler and quicker. For me, this is a definite drawback.

Anyhow, the first piece of content within would be a monster, the terrordactyl (guess what that fellow is), which has a nasty stench and can actually insta-gib you on a natural 20. Not a fan of that one. As an aside note – the movement ratings throughout the ‘zine tend to lack the feet-indicator, presenting only the number. I know. I’m nitpicking. Phlogiston elementals are more interesting – pretty powerful at between 6d6 and 10d6 HD, they have act 1d20 + 1d14 and are more vulnerable versus wooden weapons, while metal ones are less efficient. I like this type of design paradigm. We also get somewhat unremarkable stats for unicorns, that are primarily relevant due to the notes on using them as mounts. The coolest creature herein, both conceptually and mechanically, would be the lobsterclops: Beating the fellow on initiative isn’t necessarily beneficial, and its tongue-lick can cause freakouts on a failed Will-save. Cool! Stalking demons are pretty creepy, and can wreck your movement until there literally is no escape.

The pdf also has brief notes on dogmen, who can only advance to 3rd level in cleric, thief, warrior and wizard. These fellows are Small, have a 1d3+Strength modifier bite attack, get a keen sense of smell, and bones they discover that are used for magical effects get a whopping 40% increase when employed in the presence of the dogman. They are easily distracted, though, and must make Personality checks to avoid being distracted, which translates to losing an Action Die when confronted with such stimulants, or move a step down the dice chain when saving. On the semi-stat-like side, we have a brief write-up for catbat familiars, as well as for zombie retainers, and one for “Death Guards” – basically schmucks that have been indoctrinated to think that they have great fighting powers – which they don’t have. However, as long as enough of them are standing, they actually can rise above their crappy stats via 4 different inspirational tactics, though the verbiage here could be clearer: Do all guards get the benefits? Can each choose their own benefit? Can the group use a total of one trick per encounter, or is that tracked by death guard? And finally: Why, for f**’s sake, per encounter. Per encounter mechanics have never made any form of in-game sense. insert my tired old rant and examples*

Now, the ‘zine also contains a collection of different magic items: Horseshoes of returning are certainly one of the most inconspicuous weapons I can think of, and they are particularly intended for halfling use and for thieves. Speaking of halflings: The pipe of contentment can only be used once every two days and takes a calm hour to smoke. Upon finishing the pipe, the user gets either a temporary luck boost on a failed Fort-save, or a longer lasting temporary luck boost and also heal Intelligenceor Personality damage. Halflings get better boosts and proceed to heal the two attribute damage types faster for a couple of days. A brief sequence also notes 4 uses for a dead giant, which mentions the skull being desirable as a witch’s cauldron (sans mechanics) and effects of feasting on the flesh of a giant personally killed. 5 effects are provided. The other uses are closer to story-relevant and turned out to be pretty cool: Polar kraken bait? Heck yeah! Vorpal swords get an interesting mechanic: 1-in30 chance of decapitating the target on a critical hit, which increases by 1 every time the decapitation’s not rolled. Sigh Hand me the bag of kittens…I’ll start slaughtering until the heads-off effect is higher… Aethereal quarterstaffs can only be held by one of 3 persons, and a wielder can call it to the hand or send it to nothingness. Okay, how do you become the guy that can call it to your hand? No idea.

The Not-two brooch of time has a nice mechanic and can bolster spell checks and deflect incoming spells on a 1-in-5, as well as stop missiles. The dagger of fire steering can generate a 5-in-7 reliable bubble of fire-negating on the wearer, and it can hasten or slow the spread of fires by 50% The cauldron of contact is one of my favorites within, coming with a d20 table of side effects, and requiring specific wood to use. Horned caps enhance Luck burns regarding animal or fear-related spells slightly. Dragon staffs can 1/day be thumped to the ground to net a unique power from dragon table VI for level rounds. Ouch! The amulet of six segments requires a cleric to use and is aligned – each of its segmented effects can be used exactly once. Solid. Enchanted skull bookrests act as magical ciphering tools for wizards – remove the scrambled book from the skull, and you have gibberish. Yep, textbook example of “Quest for it!”-material. Straddling the line between item and plot-device, speaking headstones do pretty much what you’d expect them to, and there are rules for a collection of inspirational lore. An armlet of Azi Dahaka helps traverse desert storms – provided you’re a disciple of the dread entity.

Speaking of somewhat dressing-related things: A submerged skull of a titan, and some unusual effects for a hanging tree can be found herein, and the pdf also notes a weird monk-tradition that inscribes spells on insect-based scrolls that revert to live insects upon being cast…unless the caster’s lucky, for there’s a chance these scrolls are not consumed.

The pdf also depicts three new spells: At level 1, we have shadowblend, an AC-buff for wizards. The pretty lame eye of chaos that pretty much is an anti-law alignment spell and clocks in at level 2 – both of these are wizard spells. Clerics can get the new level 2 spell seeking shrieking shrike, which fires an animal-shaped bolt of energy that takes a while to hit the target, but does pretty decent damage. Not genius, but this one is at least conceptually compelling, in contrast to the previous two.

Finally, the pdf also contains a few hazard-like obstacle/creatures: Lock defenders are tiny beings that can attempt to prevent intrusion into a lock, but most importantly, carry all sorts of nasty diseases. Frogmoths are a winner, drifting through the air. They are loud, then exhibit a hard shellack coating stuck to the surface, making for a weird kind of temporary armor that makes movement impossible. Minor complaint: No suggestion is provided for a movement speed reduction when putting these moths on you – other than that, this represents one of my favorites in this book!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language. I noticed a couple of typos and some instances where the rules-language could have been clearer. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with quite a few sketch-like b/w-doodle-style artworks that range from nice to not-so-nice. Like the cover? You won’t mind the aesthetics. As noted before, I’m not a fan of the layout decisions within. The pdf version, alas, has no bookmarks, which provides a further comfort detriment.

Bygrinstow’s Night Soil #ZERO is a solid grab-bag of miscellaneous things for your DCC game. The content within ranges from inspiring and cool, to bland renditions of classic tropes. While the cool components that get this DCC-weird-vibe, this Appendix N-flair, definitely are in the majority, the formal criteria and lack of bookmarks are hard to ignore. All in all, I consider this to be a good example of a mixed bag – some aspects are definitely worthwhile. The low price, however, does net this half a star, but not enough to round up. My final verdict will hence be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
NIGHT SOIL #zero — for the DCC RPG (Dungeon Crawl Classics) — INNER HAM
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Languard Locations: Under the City (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 03:22:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. Where applicable, the 5e-iteration references the default NPC-stats, and where this would make no sense, a combination of class-name and suggested level allow for easy contextualization. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables. Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux, a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. The 5e iteration holds up to the comparison with the other two versions of this installment, retaining the strengths of the supplement. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Under the City (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Creator Reply:
Thank you so much for this review, End. I much appreciated it and I'm delighted you enjoyed the book!
Languard Locations: Under the City
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 03:16:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables. Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux, a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Under the City
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Creator Reply:
Thank you so much for this review, End. I much appreciated it and I'm delighted you enjoyed the book!
Thank you so much for this review, End. I much appreciated it and I'm delighted you enjoyed the book!
Languard Locations: Under the City (SN)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 03:12:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point. The system neutral version properly references old-school class nomenclature – you won’t see rogues or newfangled wizards here – it’s all thieves and magic-users.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables. Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux, a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. The system neutral version of this supplement retains all the strengths of the other iterations. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Under the City (SN)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

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