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Night City
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 13:06:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Night City is a 184-page sourcebook, with two pages devoted to interior cover/editorial/TOC, leaving us with a mighty 182 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in exchange for a fair review. I am going to break my usual format big time in this review, so a few things: The book features b/w-artworks and maps, two-column standard, and the layout is great. The print copy is a softcover, and ridiculously inexpensive for the amount of content provided.

So, first things first – this book is pretty rules-lite: While there are fully statted NPCs herein alongside encounter suggestions/hooks/random encounters, the majority of this book is a sourcebook – one, as you open the pages, chock full with maps. Most of these are isometric, namely the ones for the city blocks; when e.g. maps of other environments are concerned, like Mallplexes etc., we instead have the traditional top-down view. The maps also includes some blank maps sans keys, so you can use those to design your own neighborhoods.

…you don’t care particularly about that, right? Okay, so, Night City is a city that never was (in our world), but something odd has happened in the time since 1991, when this book was released. Let me go on a brief tangent: When I first read 1984, I was but a kid, but even back then, the Orwellian nightmare depicted seemed cartoonish to me, a recipe for a steady flux of revolts and rebellions. When, not long after, I read “Brave New World”, I was utterly horrified by Huxley’s vision; if you’re not familiar with the vision – think about replacing soma, the wonder-drug and control mechanism in the book with media, and you’ll have some frightening. His theory of control for ruling classes requiring the consent of masses, which would need sedation, being divided, crucial information lost in a flood of irrelevant drivel with clever propaganda…whenever I see the sheer amount of adorable puppy/kitten-videos on youtube, something within me quakes and shivers…because I love them as well, and because I very much realize how successful these strategies are. As an aside: There btw. is an informative interview from 1958 with the man on youtube.

What does that have to do with Night City? Well, more than any other RPG-book I’ve read, it feels prophetic. When it was released, not that long ago in the grand scheme of things, many of its visions were dystopian…where today, I’d consider the city depicted herein more of an allotopia, an alternate version of our world, that is at once worse and better than ours.

In a way, cyberpunk as a genre is always about the anxiety of being shoehorned into a system; more than in any other literary genre, the “punk” aspect, the anxiety regarding Randian visions and corporate oligarchies very much are central leitmotifs for the genre, whereas aesthetically, cyberpunk often is a kind of retro-science fiction; in the case of the 1980s and early 90s, a genre about the feat of lack of corporate accountability, loss of privacy, dehumanizing technology, a society bursting apart into classes, deeply divided by a stream of electronic diversions that help us cope with a dog-eat-dog world where empathy is a luxury few can afford. All the surveillance via cred-chips and on the respective internet substitutions? Don’t they pale in comparison to what big data companies, facebook, google, etc. can do?

In a way, to modern, 21st century aesthetics, cyberpunk-themes, like its aesthetics, are starker, clearer – neon glow and black trenchcoats, a(n un-) healthy dose of ultraviolence…edgerunners/shadowrunners vs. corporate/”the man”…but is it actually more dystopian that internet lynchmobs driving people to commit suicide based on allegations? Is it more frightening than the decentralized social media-powered mob-rule, the conflict between ideologies and news spun in various ways, obscuring any semblance of a reliable narrative? In many ways, Cyberpunk’s aesthetics have developed from a frightening dystopia to something I genuinely considered to be less frightening than the realities we all face on a daily basis; it now feels like an alternate reality.

And here is the genius of Night City. Many old science-fiction scenarios or cyberpunk books suffer from technological advances outpacing their predictions in many ways we consider to be important, while excessively exaggerating others. In a way, Night City manages to be different, but hits the mark remarkably well – and this is due to clever writing that genuinely deserves being called “prophetic” in many ways, it’s this aspect that keeps this book relevant, that is responsible for the tome aging so ridiculously well.

What do I mean by this? Well, for once, the presentation is actually better than that of most contemporary sourcebooks, regardless of game: From the get-go, a central conceit is maintained that must have been so audacious, so far-out, that it’s a testament to the design-team’s skill and vision that they managed to pull it off: Night City is presented, as a series of dataterm entries, as a kind of online travelling guide/wiki/related series of articles – information that, if you replace dataterms with smartphones, mirrors frighteningly our own realities: We begin with the tourist board of sorts, cheerfully written in a manner that mirrors perfectly the luring and compelling tone that we’ve come to expect from tourist sites “Come visit XYZ!”” Sidebars that state “See also pg. XYZ” also provide an illusion of hyperlinks of sorts that furthermore enhances the ease of use of the book as a physical artifact.

Once you’ve consumed the basics about a region, what do you do? Bingo, you check out the maps of the region – and the supplement predicts in many ways how google maps operates: From state maps to maps of airports with dates of departure and arrival noted, to whole quarters, including ratings and comments on restaurants, bars and similar establishments, the book is utterly uncanny in the precision of its predictions, as well as in the sheer amount of detail presented.

In fact, and this may be construed to be a peculiar irony, it is the punk aspect that feels most fantastic – regarding the breakdowns of the gangs, for example, the augmentation-heavy gangs bordering on cyberpsychosis are the more fantastic, whereas the ones that follow more subdued themes can be considered to, once again, be uncanny: What about, for example, the gang called “bozos”, who are essentially Jokers from Batman beyond – or more violent antecedents of the phenomena of the Insane Clown Posse or the relatively recent horrorclown-hysteria? What about the Philharmonic Vampyres, a prankster gang/social activists that blend randomness and activism? They sound a lot like the Anonymous movement to me. Or, if you recall the 80s and 90s, what about the voodoo boys, an academic gang of essentially drug-selling posers? Their write-up reads like a delightfully scathing commentary on cultural appropriation running rampant during that age, with gang membership so hilariously over the top (bone through septum, for example…) in their ridiculousness, it’s hard not to chuckle.

Regarding ecology, Cyberpunk’s world may be less bad off than ours, or worse, depending on whether you believe that we’ve already doomed our planet with men-wrought climate change, or still have a chance to save it. We might not have the more garish and punk acid rain and poisonous smog (at least not in the same extent), but yeah – in that manner, the game is more extreme in its predictions…or is it? If you e.g. look up the issues in Ulan Bator, for example, one can’t help but wonder…It may not be as flashy as in Cyberpunk…but are we perhaps worse off than this dystopia?

So yeah, there is this whole angle where the book gets things right very often – but that alone would not suffice to make for a compelling sourcebook. You see, beyond the uncanny accuracy regarding themes, the book excels in how consequently it is devoted to even the most minute detail of its conceit. A sober guide to travelling to the US is included “telling it as it is”, in a voice less unreliable than the “Come to Night City”-propaganda. See how the whole Brave New World comparison comes full circle? We get threat levels and codes, reminiscent of police information; we get information on where and how people atop a certain social strata live; how Movers live a life inside the corporate hamster-wheel, not unlike the hollow existence of a certain Mr. Bateman, minus the murder. In most cases.

Then again, this is a gaming supplement, and gaming supplements, in one way or another, as supposed to generate a sense of fun, correct? Night City is not a dry reading experience – indeed, while I can’t ascertain this, I wholeheartedly believe that the over the top aspects of the “punk”-component, have, even back n the day, been consciously written that way, for the book ften dives into the at times scathing, at times hilarious territory of satire (hence the American Psycho reference above).

There are generally two types of satire; those in the tradition of Juvenal are supposed to break the individual, ideally make them (or aspects of their persona) cease to exist, while those of Horaz generally seek to redeem the target; Juvenal is scathing and destructive, and one could argue that e.g. the verbal duels in contemporary battle rap could be seen as the heirs of Juvenal, this book is more indebted to Horaz (Horace for English native speakers) in didactic strategies. For example, many of the more exaggerated aspects can easily be read as deliberately extreme forms of hyperbole. I mean, think about it: Combat taxis where you, as the ad in the book proposes, “leave the fighting to us” may exist in Cyberpunk, but what about really bad neighborhoods where no taxis drive? You’ll find that grizzled Uber/Lyft-driver who won’t flinch going there, probably with a handgun or a bigger caliber in the trunk. Are the two worlds really so different? Did I mention the right for disabled people to destroy vehicles parking in their designated spaces, including a signpost showing a person in a wheelchair with a big gun?

If your IQ is in the triple-digits, and I assume that to be the case, courtesy of you reading roleplaying games supplements, you’ll be gently nudged towards plenty of thoughts like this while reading this book. In a way, Night City has transformed over the years and, odd as that may seem, gained layers of meaning instead of losing them. Night City never is just a misery-filled, grimdark cultural pessimism; I was trying to watch “The Purge” while reading this book (I need multiple media to keep my mind busy and focused – overstimulated much? Guilty as charged. That, or I have some sort of neurological anomaly…), and I failed to derive any enjoyment from its ham-fisted attempts at social commentary. It is quite remarkable, then, that a humble RPG-book from the early 90s managed to present a more plausible and nuanced allotopia than basically a contemporary production with a budget infinitely beyond this book. Night City never becomes an exercise in Weltschmerz, it never becomes depressing, and remains nuanced, and plausible to a ridiculous extent.

Case in point: While writing this review, I was researching cities and routes in the US for a little journey…and in the aftermath, there was an uncanny effect – I almost thought I’d find Night City somewhere on the Californian map; not consciously, mind you, but I caught my eyes glancing towards the region where the NorCal/SoCal border is in Cyberpunk. In a way, the book’s structure and almost obsessive attention to even small details in a given city’s block generates an experience not unlike the one I had researching e.g. San Francisco or Seattle, the feeling of loading up on information before getting somewhere, and the sense that you can feel the character of a place before getting there.

In a way, Night City is many things – a ridiculously and lavishly detailed sourcebook full of handy maps; a great satire that manages to get its points across without coming off as talking down to the reader, an allotopia – and it’s a great piece of literature. In fact, it’s one of the few RPG-supplements that I’d genuinely recommend to get just for the sheer joy of reading it. Yes, that compelling.

Mike Pondsmith, Ed Bolme, Sam Shirley, Anders Swensen, Colin Fisk, Will Moss, John Smith, Mike Mac Donald and Lisa Pondsmith have penned an all time classic, a book that is at once educational and entertaining, that does not jam an ideology down your throat, but that can and will prompt contemplation on a wide variety of topics. In a way, it is a book we might well need in these times, where plenty of individuals and institutions benefit from generating divisions instead of emphasizing things we have in common. In a way, this is a book that may well be more relevant today than when it was originally released. How many books can claim that? 5 stars + seal of approval. This also gets my “Best of”-tag and should be considered to be an EZG Essential. If you’re a roleplayer living in these troubling times, consider picking this up. Sit down with your beverage of choice, put on some synthwave (I am partial to Keygen Chrurch, GosT and Perturbator, myself) and read. Think. And then think about how even the exaggerated behavior patterns in Cyberpunk are influencing us. You might well come out as a happier and more open-minded person. And even if you don’t, you’ll have read one of the most detailed, lavish sourcebooks ever penned for the cyberpunk genre, not only the Cyberpunk 2020-game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night City
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Star Log.Deluxe: Uplifted Animals
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 12:51:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This super-sized Star Log clock in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All righty, as always, we begin this supplement with a brief context for uplifted animals within the frame of the Xa-Osoro system shared by Everybody Games and Rogue Genius Games before diving into the uplifted animal race. Uplifted animals are very much defined by their progenitor species, and are treated as both animals and magical beasts, with the official type being magical animals. Huge kudos: The pdf accounts for effects that treat different types differently. Uplifted animals may only receive datajacks and augmentations gained via class features, such as a mechanic’s custom rig and have limited telepathy 30 ft. – good call. They also get low-light vision. The nanite technology that enhances them grants them +2 to any ability score, -2 to Charisma, Intelligence or Wisdom. Again – nice – these can cancel each other out, should you choose to make that decision. Speaking of nice: “If you’re an uplifted animal, you likely…” and “Others probably…”-sections are included.

The pdf then proceeds to go one step beyond – not only do we receive detailed notes on life cycle, physiology, etc., we also get vital statistics for different age categories. While they have no unified homeworld, the pdf does provide some intriguing suggestions, and from life milestones to cuisine, we do get detailed notes on them, all in all managing to make them feel like a distinct species, in spite of the wide open nature of the concept.

Now, I’ve delayed this for long enough: We get means to depict uplifted animals of sizes ranging from Diminutive to Gargantuan – and there is an interesting balancing mechanism employed: They all have a reach of 5 ft. Why? Smaller uplifted animals can dart to and fro, while the larger ones are more cumbersome. Space, obviously, varies, from ½ feet t0 20 feet, to be precise.

Small to Diminutive uplifted animals have 2 Hit Points, with Small, as a baseline, providing a +2 ability adjustment to Dexterity. This increases by +2 per size category, but Tiny uplifted animals also incur -2 to Strength, while Diminutive uplifted animals pay for their hefty +6 to Dexterity with -2 to Strength and Constitution. Yes, this means you can end up with a whopping +8 to Hit Points.

Medium uplifted animals get their choice of +2 to Constitution, Dexterity or Strength as ability score adjustment, as well as 4 Hit Points. Large ones loose this choice +2 Strength is proscribed, but they also get 6 Hit Points. Huge uplifted animals get +4 Strength, -2 Dexterity and 6 Hit Points, and Gargantuan uplifted animals get +4 Strength, +2 Constitution, -2 Dexterity and Intelligence. Complaint here: The Gargantuan uplifted animals lack a Hit Point rating noted; however, thankfully, the whole presentation is elegant in its math, allowing you to easily deduce that 6 Hit Points is the correct value, considering the symmetry of the design. As an aside: I’m not talking out of my behind: There are plenty of examples that illustrate how the engine works, and from them, you can deduce the correct values as well.

Beyond sizes, each uplifted animal chooses one locomotive ability, one major species trait and two minor species traits. Locomotive abilities are pretty self-explanatory, and include burrowing, being amphibious, all-terrain or gaining an extraordinary fly speed – the later increases in speed by +10 ft. at 5th level, just fyi. Some of the more potent locomotive abilities are balanced by decreased land base speeds, but allow for a pretty fine-grained differentiation: You could, e.g., choose to have an amphibious uplifted animal – that’d be 30 ft. regular speed and swim speed. Alternatively, being aquatic translates to 15 ft. land speed and 60 ft, swim speed – so yeah, regardless of what you choose, the uplifted animal remains playable, and from short-range flight to gliding and sprinting, plenty of nice options are presented.

Major species traits, unsurprisingly, represent the more potent options and include being multiarmed, ferocity, blindsense, natural defenses, trample, pounce, radiation immunity (with proper scaling – medium and high radiation at 7th and 13th level, respectively), the ability to squirt slime, creating difficult terrain, etc. (The careful reader will have deduced that Alien Archive 2’s abilities have indeed been taken into account.)

The pdf then proceeds to provide a pretty extensive list of minor species traits that include darkvision, additional arms (if you’re already multiarmed), being heat or cold inured, etc. Minor nitpick: Being heat inured only provides the “degree”-sign – it’s obvious that °F is meant, but if you’re like me and used to °C, that may briefly trip you up; not something that’ll hamper the verdict or negatively influences the pdf’s integrity, but something worth mentioning. Minor species traits also include being amphibious (as opposed to having amphibious movement as gained via locomotive traits– the distinction here deserves serious applause) and another thing that gets applause? Natural weapons is more precise than in the core book, thankfully properly stating that there is choice between the different damage types. Kudos. From having an yroometji-style pouch to prehensile tails and roars, there is a lot to customize here. Kudos: Bonus types are concise and well-chosen, even accounting for the fact that rolling charge has a circumstance bonus instead of the usual racial bonus. This also extends to the shed skin ability taken from the Ikeshti, which is uncommon in being untyped – deliberately so. Kudos for maintaining system-consistence here.

Speaking of kudos: This generator of sorts, while mighty, is still subject to GM’s discretion, of course, but can allow you to create uplifted versions of a ton of species and animals, even ones not found on good ole’ Terra. Anyhow, the pdf then proceeds to present two massive pages of sample uplifted animals made with this generator. The animals covered here are: Bear, cat, dog, elephant, fox, gorilla (Grodd!), hagfish, hamster (HECK YEAH!), hedgehog, hippopotamus, lion, penguin, raccoon, rat, shark (early 90s cartoons, anyone?), squox (!!) and tyrannosaurus rex (!!!). There are more than applications of the engine above, though – they also provide a guideline of sorts: The uplifted penguin, for example, has the unique Toboggan major species trait, while an uplifted squox gets squox tricks. The section, in short, highlights how to apply the engine. There is one complaint here: The uplifted raccoon lacks ability score adjustments and Hit Points, but you can look them up easily. The fellow should have 2 Hit Points (being Tiny), and have +4 Dexterity, -2 Strength, plus the ability score adjustments you can freely assign. So yeah, the concise nature of the engine keeps the material, in spite of this guffaw, functional, which makes this hiccup, ultimately, aesthetic only.

On the next page, we stare into the adorable picture of an alien space corgi, who seems to be the iconic for the uplifted animal paragon – you have to be an uplifted animal to take the archetype, and at 2nd level, you gain your choice of a major or two minor species traits, or choose a feat from a varied list though the GM retains some control here. This alternate class feature may be taken again at 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level. The pdf also presents 7 new feats: Bestial Body nets you multiple legs; Cornered Animal nets a bonus to atk, and increased damage when hitting a foe’s KAC+8, but only when the only creature threatening the foe. Internalized Translator is cool: When encountering a language you don’t know, you may make a Culture or Computers check – on a success, you get comprehend languages for 10 minutes per level; can’t be used again until you spend Resolve to regain Stamina. Nature’s Weapons nets you a vesk’s bite – and proceeds to provide the precision I lauded above. Primal Rage nets you a kind of lite rage, but one that feels perfect for gorillas etc. – including knockback unarmed strikes and fatigue afterwards. Cool! Talking Animal does pretty much what you’d expect – it makes you REALLY good at passing as your progenitor species. Wild and Free, finally, nets your + BAB to KAC, and BAB-2 to EAC while unarmored.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting, on a rules-language level, are precise to a t. On a formal level, as noted above, there are a few hiccups that can briefly cause the reader to stumble. Thankfully, the pdf is structured in such a smart way that the few bits of information that have fallen by the wayside can easily be deduced from the book, relegating the glitches to the aesthetic realm. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the artworks are cool. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length. They’d have been nice to have, but aren’t necessarily required.

I spent much more time with Alexander Augunas’ uplifted animals than I expected – this supplement is a very dense offering, even for the crunchy Star Log-series. Now, the size categories available will probably have elicited a kneejerk reaction of horror from most GMs accustomed to PFRPG, but since SFRPG handles size categories differently, this actually works better than an initial impulse would lead you to believe….particularly since the reach issue has been circumvented in a rather elegant manner. If anything, that’s how I’d describe this engine – it is elegant in all of its choices. The archetype allows you to create truly bestial uplifted animals, should you choose to; the base engine and its examples teach by showing, ensuring that the material presented within remains valid in the future. Now, personally, I am not too fond of more minmaxy races, and +6 to Dexterity is brutal; then again, e.g. the Shobhad provide a precedence for an ability adjustment of +4 to Strength. As a whole, comparing e.g. an uplifted hamster to a ysoki, things generally check out – the hamster has burrow speed and better senses, but is more fragile (!!) and lacks the ysoki’s moxie and gets one racial skill bonus less.

That being said, while I see no serious balance issues here, very conservative GMs may wish to restrict uplifted animals to the range of Small to Large; in that range, the engine purrs like a kitten. Even beyond it, it is smooth, mind you – and while personally I will implement such a limitation for aesthetic reasons, it is mostly a matter of taste and the same reason why I wouldn’t allow for Shobhad PCs.

As a reviewer, I can marvel at the elegance of the material presented here, and am glad that the few editing glitches that made it inside never compromise the integrity of the supplement per se. From Gorilla Grodd to the sentient mice and dolphins of Douglas Adams to TNMTs or other anthropomorphized animals from beloved cartoons, this encompassing engine is an inspired offering I can wholeheartedly recommend to all Starfinder groups. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, but I will round up due to the few glitches not hampering the book, and add my seal of approval to this supplement, for not only its elegance, but for the fact that it presents a mighty tool as a pretty kickass uplifted animal race generator that manages to retain its balance in spite of its wide open nature.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.Deluxe: Uplifted Animals
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Rock God Death-Fugue
Publisher: Steve Bean Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 12:40:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This two-shot for DCC clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page title, 1 page photo/art attributions, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue…because it’s the only Steve Bean Games book I haven’t yet covered, and I’m kind of OCD.

This review is based on the v3-version of the file, and it should be noted that its basic premise is that it takes place during the last leg of a Rock/Metal band’s tour through my native Germany. In the flavor text that litters the pdf. There is no need to play these folks, and a char-sheet is provided for your convenience. Being about the experience of rock/metal stars, the themes herein depict drug-abuse and sexual encounters, though the latter are not explicit. For me personally, I considered this to be pretty much PG 13, but if you’re particular about the like, that’s something to bear in mind. I definitely suggest tackling this with a mature group, as there is a Player versus Player (PvP) mechanic hardcoded into the experience. The pdf thus comes with a “contending for the limelight” tracker sheet, and a worksheet for players. As for the number of players – 4 is ideal, and it works with up to 6 players, but that does require some scaling up on part of the judge. Due to the one-on-one PvP-mechanics, I recommend only running this with even numbers of players.

It should be noted that Rock God Death-Fugue is very much indebted to the aesthetics of Black Sun Deathcrawl and Null Singularity, in that it could be likened more to an experience than to playing a regular adventure, though the PvP-mechanic radically changes the way in which this is played. Their fate is sealed – the rock gods will end some way, but how the world will remember them – well, that’s what this is about, and this “goal” ties directly in with PvP. As for rules, the rock gods use the basis of the wizard class, and determine two different ability scores that modify their spell check result – these are the only attributes they can spellburn. Vocalists can burn Strength and Personality, guitarists Agility and Personality, bass guitar players Strength and Intelligence, drummers Agility and Stamina, and other artists get to use Personality and Intelligence. It should be noted that rules don’t explicitly explain that – you’ll have to reference the character sheet for that.

The group should collectively decide the genre their band plays in. Each rock god is assumed to be looking for art in its purest form, which correlates with a sense of walking the tightrope between genius and insanity –and which comes with a driving force, a thanatotic urge – one of the dark 27, which represent central and crucial flaws that range from badly chosen sexual partners to addictions and the like.

These also, to a degree, also act as a justification for the means in which “spells” are used – the pure truth of artistic expression can highlight a caster’s fundamental falseness and destroy the moral compass, violate dignity and integrity, and at the same time, fuel the creative fires. I could list a ton of my favorite albums and artists for whom this certainly held true to a degree or another. In rules-terms, this is called “Crisis of Self” and it represents basically the corruption mechanic of the game. The pdf contains the two spells this knows, the first of which would be Aura of the Dark Muse, which is basically a means to control beings that is enhanced in its casting by the size of the audience. The Dark Muse Provides basically conjures forth an item ex nihilo – the bag of drugs, the shotgun, and so on – both spells are codified as level 2 spells and come with their own notes on unintended consequences (misfires) and crisis of self (corruption) effects. Unintended consequences and misfires are resolved after the PvP duel, and only is applied once per duel, no matter how many such instances were triggered.

At the end of each concert-encounter/scene, there is a limelight-encounter – one or more pairs of PCs find themselves in a rare artistic moment, invoking the Dark Muse as a metaphysical concept. The limelight battle is basically a simplified spellduel: the judge sets up the frame, and the players narrate their performances. The PC with the higher Inspiration ability (this one is btw. rolled differently – 4d4+2, not 3d6 like the others; bingo – this would be the Luck stand-in!) – and yep, you have to reference the character sheet at the end of the pdf to realize that. But back to the limelight: The players of PCs NOT involved in a limelight battle each award a crowd bonus that ranges from +0 to +4 to one player contending for the limelight, based on which roleplaying they considered to be better. These are written anonymously on a sheet of paper and handed to the judge; the bonus is awarded to the player with the higher average or with more awards. The bonus thus awarded should approximately be equal to the net difference between the two average values between players, and it decreases by a cumulative -1 for each spell check comparison the contestant has lost to the other player.

The duelists then secretly assign spellburn to positions 1 – 5. What are these positions? Well, to understand the rules here, you have to get back to the limelight tracker. After this, they roll 5d20, and record low to high in the respective row; after that, duelists compare modified rolls, and burn Inspiration, as desired – this is noted down on the worksheet, to prevent cheating., but both PCs can competitively burn Inspiration over a single roll The higher check wins and advances the PC’s tracker by +1; for every increment of 6 (rounded down), that the winner exceeds the loser’s roll, the winner advances another step. A spell lost means switching to the other; loss of the second requires spellburn to continue, with the burn retroactively added to results already rolled.

The positions on the tracker are then adjusted as desired, and the duel ends when the two contestants are 5 or more spaces apart. This is repeated if required. Burning through too much Inspiration early may make you easy pickings for your fellow rock gods, so be careful! No Spell duel comparison or counterspell power checks are made, and there is no phlogiston disturbance. At the end of a contesting for the limelight, the PCs dueling dice off in a contested Personality check. If the PC who won the duel has the higher roll on this check, they steal 2 points of Inspiration from the loser of this check – an added insult to injury, if you will. The win/loss-record of these limelight battles ultimately determines the fate of the rock god in question. The wizard base chassis is an interesting mechanic that requires, ultimately, that players are smart regarding the use of their spells in roleplaying and in (limelight) battle. The pdf does note that a dark fate is in store for the rock gods – it’s a foregone conclusion, and as such, it allows the players to dive into the oftentimes darkly hilarious themes of musical excess.

And that is it as far as the mechanics are concerned – in order to discuss the remainder of the experience/one/two-shot, I will have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only judges around? So, the “mini-campaign” this is contained herein consists of 13 encounters, which are sketched in a pretty minimalistic manner – and consist pretty much of a series of vignettes that lends a somewhat dream-like quality to the proceedings. Considering the themes of sex, drugs and rock and roll, this dream-like state makes sense and reminded me of movies like “Control”, wherein stage life is contrasted with the components beyond that. One could even speak of a fugue state of sorts. This means that the majority of the experience will be ultimately contingent on how the judge and players manage to fill in the encounters, but considering the down-to-earth locale, this isn’t as bad. The prelude has a weirdo fan show up – he wants the band to sign the cursed album of the band “Atramentous” – who recently died in a plane-crash. The strange guy is dragged away promptly. Thereafter, the encounters boil down to one-note set-ups that are wholly contingent on how the players and judge fill up these with meaning. We have fans out of control at a gig, who may need calming (stats provided)…and here’s to hoping that there’s an addict PC, because the second encounter wholly hinges on this addiction resulting in a score gone wrong.

This encounter also brings me to a component that kinda broke immersion for me – the thugs that crash the drug deal are all armed. With guns. In Germany. While this may not be utterly implausible, considering the obvious organized crime connection here, guns are strictly regulated in Germany. You won’t be bearing firearms in public, and if you get caught with even an airsoft gun (you know, an air gun that shoots plastic pellets), you may be in trouble. Statistically, quite a few of our criminals are more likely to bear such imitation guns rather than the real deal. I come from a family with a long hunting tradition, but beyond hunting rifles and VERY selective means to gain access to guns, things become very hard very fast for firearms proponents around here. How rare are guns? In all my 30+ years of life, I’ve never heard a gunshot outside a shooting range (and these are heavily and strictly regulated) or outside of hunting (ditto). An exceedingly small amount of people has access to firearms, and there are pretty strict background checks that check for histories of violence, mental illness, etc.

But I digress. A more problematic aspect would be that the other instances of the dark 27 have no such dedicated encounter set-up included. Indeed, drugs are a major focus – a fan that OD’d on heroin makes for an optional encounter; the next such vignette consists of an impromptu gig, wherein the PCs thereafter get to participate in a “swinger” scenario, i.e. the switching of sexual partners/casual sex with strangers, which includes a rather twisted rivalry/obsession between two NPCs that could turn to violence. Problem here – no stats are included.

After this, the PCs visit the concentration camp Buchenwald.

…yeah, this is the encounter where things become dark. I’ve been to Buchenwald, and Auschwitz, and a couple of other concentration camps for that manner. It’s a stark experience that is deeply unsettling, particularly if you’re a German with a functional moral compass and more than two brain cells. In the encounter herein, a semi-senile old lady mistakes the tattoo of a PC for a SS-insignia, and the wheelchair bound lady assaults the PC in question. She’ll have to be calmed…or she’ll die. This could be funny in another context – I have a dark sense of humor. Here, though? Utterly horrifying. Problematic here – how to stop here is never elaborated upon, neither are there suggestions on how to save here. In the absence of proper stats, we’re left with judge-fiat to determine success or failure, which is, frankly, frustrating.

En route to Frankfurt, we have easily the most complex vignette, because it actually is a multi-round encounter, wherein the tourbus of the PCs careens out of control – including a smashed windshield, a driver in flames, etc. After one final limelight conflict – the fan from the prelude, the weirdo with the Atramentous album, returns…and shoots the most successful PC dead. Roll credits, narrate epilogues. As a final nitpick: Kauptman, the last name of the perpetrator, is an anglicized version of the German name Kaufmann – using the proper version here would have added at least a bit to my sense of immersion.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are per se very good on a formal level; on a rules language level, the pdf could do a better job differentiating between steps and the like. Grating for me – sometimes, the text uses “2” when no specific number in the game context is referred to, and “two” when referring to actual game mechanics. This may be a small thing, but it exacerbates one of my main gripes with this supplement. I can’t comment on the print version, since I do not own it, but in an utterly puzzling move, the pdf has NO BOOKMARKS. The pdf uses shaded stock art and photography for a great effect, and combined with the layout, it makes for an aesthetically pleasing pdf – at a cost.

Layout – oh boy, layout. The book is aesthetically pleasing – its format is uncommon and more quadratic than you’d assume – this generates the illusion of a CD/DVD-booklet, an illusion that is further enhanced by the lyrics of bleak rock/metal songs that are printed in black letters throughout. I really enjoyed these…but guess what? The actual rules-text? That’s presented in a blue ink-like font that looks a bit like it is hand-written. The rules text and game-relevant material looks like notes in a notebook that have been added in on post-its etc. – like a sketchbook, paper clipped inside, partially covering the lyrics in the background. Here’s the issue – I’d honestly like to read the entirety of the lyrics…and the font of the rules is really, really ANNOYING. It makes reading the rules text take longer. It makes it hard to distinguish rules-relevant material, as there’s no bolding, no italicizing here. It means you’ll be reading the margins more than the rest of the book. And it labors under the misconception that adding in “#” for “number of” in a running sentence and using “b/c” will add to the illusion conveyed by the book. It does not, it is frickin’ grating. Add to that the inconsistency regarding the numbers. And then, there’s the main issue that’s exacerbated by this presentation: I have rarely seen a book this refined, that does such a bad job explaining its rules. There is no sensible sequence here. You need to flip back and forth to understand anything. You need to reference the character sheet to understand some rules references. (!!) Without looking at the character sheet, you’ll be hard-pressed to get how the rules work. Let that sink in. The pdf is, from a didactic point of view, needlessly obtuse. Far beyond the levels of obtuseness that e.g. Black Sun Deathcrawl or Null Singularity sported, to the point where I really considered it to be exceedingly grating. This pdf opted for style over substance, opted for not breaking the aesthetic vision – which is valid…up to the point, where the presentation sequence is such a pain that I would have just put this down and never attempted to use or understand it again, were it not for the fact that I’m a reviewer. Now, remember that this has NO BOOKMARKS, and you’ll be flipping back and forth from start to back until you get how this is supposed to work.

In short: This is one of the most inconvenient books I’ve analyzed in quite a while. And Steve Bean’s Rock God Death-Fugue didn’t need to be that – the contesting the limelight PvP mechanics are actually an interesting mechanic, though one that could have used expansion. Which brings me to my second major gripe with this supplement: Its scope. There is not much meat to this supplement beyond the PvP-component. The encounters are sketch-like, and when you read two paragraphs on an aesthetically-pleasing page and realize that this is the entirety of information you’ll get for the encounter, you’ll start being pissed off by the lack of actual content on the per se lavish pages. In a way, this is as minimalistic in its presentation as Black Sun Deathcrawl and Null Singularity, but without the singularity (haha) of purpose that these offered. By grounding this in reality, by creating an illusion of depth via the dark 27, we really could have used more meat here, we needed more complexity to contextualize this in its realistic backdrop. The presence of the spells also feels like they are, in a way, a needless addition, and particularly on repeat playthroughs, can become somewhat stale. As the system already simplifies spellduels, further tweaking for depth, perhaps with a direct correlation of the dark 27 and the abilities of the respective rock god, would have been amazing.

And no, I am not talking out of my behind: When you list the actual game-text on a word-doc, you’ll be left with MUCH less content than the page-count would suggest, and here, this lack of content actually hurts the game. And this is a genuine pity, because I damn well love the idea here. I love the scenario. As a lifelong Metalhead and aficionado of all kinds of rock music (minus soft rock), this is pretty much right up my alley. And the macabre “you are doomed”-angle? Genius!

At the same time, this supplement promises depth that it doesn’t have on a symbolic level. Whereas Black Sun Deathcrawl and Null Singularity have the necessity to find your own meaning and in-game identity hardcoded into their DNA, this one professes a level of depth in the title that it never lives up to. I am not making that up, mind you: The pdf does imply that depth, for a very brief time, tries its hand at symbolic depth: In case you did not know: “Death-Fugue” is a reference to perhaps the most well-known poem of the genre of Trümmerliteratur, post WWII-literature, in which Germany tried to reestablish a culture that wasn’t tainted in aesthetics and language with the verbiages and themes claimed by the Nazis; the poem, of course, would be the masterpiece “Todesfuge” by Romanian-born Paul Celan, and it has entered popular culture via famous oxymora like “Schwarze Milch der Frühe” (Black Milk of Dawn) and the often (mis-)quoted “Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland” (Death is a master from Germany); its melody, repetition and content is famous, stark and brutal. It is part of the German school curriculum, and it shows a glimpse of the horror of being in a concentration camp in a devastatingly effective manner. The only encounter in this pdf with any close ties to this theme would be the one in Buchenwald, and as noted, it lacks game-relevant information and ultimately is just another brief step in a sequence of token vignettes without gravitas on its own. It fails the theme of the Todesfuge as hard as it possibly can. It also is bereft of any ramifications; which also extends to the other more combat-y encounters. There isn’t enough going on beyond the PvP; there is no reason to be a team-player, to try to help to survive, etc.

Ultimately, all the depth of the exploration of the abysses of creative excess must come from the interaction of players and judge; the pdf provides the absolute bare minimum of set-ups, and all depth must be generated; but unless you and all players are musicians with experiences that resound herein, then you probably, ultimately, won’t be able to 100% understand the emotional aspect of the conditio humana experienced herein; much like folks that have not experienced true despair probably won’t get anything out of Black Sun Deathcrawl. Thing is: Being an artist is a more peculiar and personal experience than the ones evoked by Black Sun Deathcrawl or Null Singularity. The pdf brands itself as a tragicomedy, and I can see that; I can see this change of pace in the make-belief in our silly elfgames making for a fun offering. It’s fun to play the massive egos of caricatures of egoistical rock stars! But the game doesn’t embrace the ridiculousness wholly; instead, it has these tie-ins to a deeper, darker meaning, sports this pretension of depth, which ultimately only compromises the “fun” aspect of this supplement, at least for me.

In Buchenwald, at the very latest, all fun evaporates for me, and the change of tone can’t ever recover from that – which would be a GREAT thing – had this been the half-way point before the inevitable begin of the collapse. But Rock God Death-Fugue lacks the length and detail to properly develop this change in tone and pace. The brevity, scarcity or rules-and flavor-relevant material, coupled with the emphasis on style over substance, is frustrating –because Rock God Death-Fugue has all the makings of a true masterpiece.

It comes tantalizingly close to being a monumental experience that could have dwarfed, easily, Black Sun Deathcrawl. As written, though, I am left with a supplement, which, while beautiful, sacrifices functionality on the altar of aesthetics, and that requires serious player- and judge-mojo to reveal its true potential. With the right group, this can be a true masterpiece and a memorable experience; with the wrong group, it can be a frustrating failure…and I can’t rate the skill of hypothetical groups and player constellations out there. I can rate how this helps enhance player/judge interactions, how good a job it does at enhancing the roleplaying experience. And ultimately, my response, alas, is that this doesn’t do a particularly good job there. If you are intrigued by the novelty of the setting and premise, if you enjoy the cool premise and are intrigued by the PvP-mechanics, then this is worth checking out – you should round up from my final verdict.

But how to rate this? Ultimately, this had all the makings of a masterpiece, but fell short by a long shot, at least for me; as such, I wrangled long and hard with my own convictions here. I do consider this to have some really flashed of brilliance, but it’s at the same time, a very deeply flawed offering. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Rock God Death-Fugue
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The Undercroft #4
Publisher: Melsonian Arts Council
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 12:13:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Undercroft clocks in at 24 pages, minus one page if you take away the editorial; this is laid out, as always, in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look! My review is primarily based on the stitch-bound softcover version.

As always for the ‘zine, the rules employed are LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) rules, but conversion to other OSR rules-sets is not particularly taxing. Theme-wise, this is a horror-supplement; the easily-offended or squeamish need not apply.

So, let us begin with the crunchiest article contained within – penned by Marc “Lord Inar” Gacy, we have an alternate take on LotFP, attempting an engine to present a class-less system: Characters get 10 points at character creation, 4 on every subsequent level, and use the fighter’s experience progression. Saves start at Paralysis 14, poison 13, breath weapon 16, magic device 14, magic 15. The standard hit points gained are d4, with each subsequent die-size costing +1 point.; after 9th level, the fixed hp gained for free amount to 1, +1 per character point spent. An improvement to hit costs 2 pts; at 1st level, you can choose +2 to hit for 5 pts. An attack improvement may only be taken once per level. Saving throws may be taken twice at character creation, once per level. 2 points for +1 to each save, or for +2 to two of the five saves; for 1 pt., you get +1 to two of the five saves. A single skill point costs 1 point; for 3 points, you can get +2 in a skill. An improvement in an attribute also costs 2 points. Moving up a level in cleric spellcasting costs 3 points, magic-users pay 4 points.

Racial and class effects, such as being agile or being able to memorize an additional spell, gaining press, etc. –all covered. The system does present a full page of sample kits – 20 are provided for your convenience. The system acknowledges that its results are slightly weaker than standard classes, but ostensibly make up for that by the added flexibility. Whether you consider this to be true depends – for example, you get cleric spellcasting and HD as well as the save improvements over the default rules for 6 points, leaving 4 more points for you; however, the default cleric gains levels quicker. The same can’t be said for the magic-user, whose XP-thresholds are higher, making the class-level take on the magic-user actually better in pretty much every way. This doesn’t break the game, but it’s something to be aware of. Personally, I would have actually loved to see more different, unique abilities. All in all, a solid offering I ended up enjoying more than I figured I would.

Luke Gearing also has something for us – Smother. A kind of abstract infection that subsists on noise and light, the cool tentacle-y b/w-artworks here didn’t seem to fit the text as well as I figured they’d do – we essentially have a thing that seeks to consume sound and light, only defeated by starving it. Contact can result in a whole table of debilitating effects, as its non-attacks (attempts to grab the delicious sound-sources) instill catastrophic vibrations in the targets. These are cool, but getting an idea how well it hits/ a more traditional statblock would have made the entity a bit easier to implement.

Anxious P. also has a creature for us (also provided the deliciously surreal artwork), and one I am happy to say I really love – it reminded me of one of my current favorite tracks, Selofan’s “Shadowmen” – picture the Dream troll as a grotesque thing existing in the luminal state between waking and dreaming, a painfully goofy thing eliciting at once repulsion and pity, a stalker whose reality bending powers are contingent on sight. The combat effects the creature features make it genuinely interesting, and communicating about its presence will be hard, as memory sifts away like a bad dream. Even how it’s hit and how you can force it into combat are unique – a winner of a creature, as far as I’m concerned.

As in the former installment, master Barry Blatt returns with a complex encounter/faction-set-up that has been expertly-contextualized within the framework of the Early Modern period. (Seriously, I appreciate all the tidbits, including e.g. notes that discrimination was focused on faith and not race and the like – well-researched!) This time around, the article isn’t about horror in the traditional sense, instead focusing on the more psychedelic aspects we sometimes associate with LotFP. 3 sample NPCs, a unique magic item and a whole array of suggestions on how to get the PCs involved are provided.

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

… .. .

All right, only referees around? Great! A soldier in a London-trained band, ones James Hendricks, has managed to get his hands on one of those early 5-stringed guitars, playing with his buddies Noel Reading (viola da gamba) and Michael Mitchell (tabor) in London’s bar-scene. They are living the high life, accusations of Ranterism notwithstanding. Of course, the Puritans want them banned; Things become more complex when you take an English Catholic magic-user/musician into the fray, which includes a plot to mention a demon’s true name banned in a music instrument…and then there would be the clever Jesuit spymaster and his assassin troupe. This makes for a great “meta-quest” – you know, one that happens in between adventures, slowly building up between scenarios. Love it!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, but not as tight as in previous issues – I noticed a couple of typos, and rules-language components also were not as precise. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the pdf features quite a bunch of really nice b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a comfort-detriment. Personally, I’d suggest getting print. That being said, the front/back cover of this issue is not as hardy as the one used for the other Undercroft-‘zines, making it feel slightly cheaper.

The fourth Undercroft offers a nice array of options – I particularly liked Barry Blatt’s unique encounter/plot and Anxious P.’s creature. The class-level LotFP-engine is cool and something that the game may want to take a look at for the second edition, particularly under the premise that more things could easily be added to the material. What’s here is cool, but getting more would have had the chance to make this a true must-implement option. All in all, I did consider this one to be a tad bit weaker than the previous Undercrofts; not by much, but enough to make me round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Undercroft #4
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The Chest
Publisher: The Merciless Merchants
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2019 08:45:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, ½ a page editorial (the other half is an introduction/how to use), 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so as always for The Merciless Merchants, the rules-system employed is For Gold & Glory – based on second edition AD&D. Ultimately, this means that adaption to e.g. OSRIC is super simple, and that there is a lot of information given – We have size categories, morale, activity cycles (!!), organization etc. noted for creatures. Attack values use the good ole’ THAC0 ( What we knew as ETW0, for all fellow Germans reading this…), and HD-ratings as well as descending AC are standards. As you can see, conversion to other old-school systems thus is pretty simple. 7 new monsters are presented, and these do come with a bit of information on them, and a separate combat section that explains the more unusual properties of the creatures.

The pdf comes with a b/w map that deserves special applause, in spite of not featuring an extra key-less, player-friendly version. Why? Well, the secret doors with their obtrusive “S”s that SPOILER players? For the most part (but not in all instances, alas, they form a straight line with the walls – so in most instances, you can cut up a printout of the map, and the PCs will be none the wiser, for the telltale “S”-secret-door blocks are beyond the wall. I like this, and with the exception of a few of them, this does render the dungeon easier to use for the GM. Speaking of GM-convenience: While we do not get read-aloud text, dark areas are noted FIRST in descriptions; then, a comprehensive description (that makes most read-aloud texts hang their head in shame) follows – further information is presented in concise bullet points, which makes parsing information simple and convenient.

Now, this is a dungeon adventure and an old-school module – it is not designated for a specific level-range, and there is a reason for that. While low-level parties can very much successfully explore quite a few of the rooms herein, there also are more deadly environments that are designed to challenge mid-level characters – this complex is intended as a campaign-accompaniment, as a kind of downtime module, if you will. So yeah, to master this module, the PCs will have to attain mid-level range. Design-wise, the module is excellent – while there is e.g. a riddle door, failing to answer correctly does not stump progress – instead, success allows for the avoidance of an encounter. Traps are telegraphed in a way that is not too obvious, but remains fair. The module comes with a wandering encounter table as well as a couple of magic items, but the main treasure provided here is something else. It should also be noted that there is an inherent logic to the complex presented and the presence of all adversaries. Oh, and this module can be seamlessly inserted into ANY conceivable campaign, at any time, any place. How does it do that?

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the eponymous chest can be found any place you want it to be. The PCs will do the usual routine (check for traps, etc.), and then open it. There is no treasure inside. There are no traps. Instead, they see an impossible stairway leading down. The chest may be moved – it is an entrance to a demiplane of sorts, and full exploration of the place within, understanding how it operates, will allow the PCs to claim mastery and ownership of it.

Inside, there is a vault of sorts – the central hub rooms feature doors associated with different valuables – copper, silver – you get the idea. The chest spawns guardians appropriate for the respective region, and its depths also hide a kind of refuge…though that has been compromised. The aforementioned monsters mainly feature guardians associated with the precious metals, though e.g. skittering coin scarabs and a jewel golem may also be found. See, and this is where the variable difficulty curve comes into play: The copper region is pretty easy, while the refuge and the more valuable regions can be pretty deadly indeed. The greed of the PCs and players, their own willingness to take risks, very much governs the difficulty of this adventure.

Note that both players and PCs will find out the operation of this complex without requiring the rolling of the dice – the module is structured in a clever manner that way, and in case you do want to fill the party in on lore, there is a friendly gold dragon as one of the guardians. He does not attack, and can tell the PCs that something bad has happened. Turns out that a somewhat psychedelic monster (think eye-studded pyramid with tendrils that can shoot beholder-lite effects!) has intruded upon this place – and that the best-guarded door, currently sealed, seals the monstrosity as well. This is a brutal boss, but the party will have to face the monster sooner or later if they want to claim ownership of the chest…and they will want to do that. Safe, a secure place to rest, unfathomable potential for infiltrations, means to lure in enemies – the potential this magic item has? It’s staggering. (And the intruder creatures? The GM can use them as a means to discourage abuse of this potent tool…)

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good – while not perfect, the module is presented in a manner that will not result in issues for the GM, with precious few minor hiccups (such as a homophone error of waste/waist). Layout adheres to an elegant, old-school two-column standard that primarily presents nice b/w-artworks. While these are stock pieces, they perfectly fit what they depict and are rare ones – i.e. I haven’t seen them used in a ton of other supplements. The pdf does not have bookmarks, which is a slight comfort-detriment, but at this length still okay. The cartography in b/w, with its grid properly noted, is nice – as mentioned above, I wish the secret doors had been imperceptible in all instances, but that is a minor nitpick.

Aaron Fairbrook’s small adventure blows whole lines of adventures out of the water without even trying. It presents a module that is super easy to integrate into any campaign; it is clever, features a unique reward, is VERY inexpensive considering the quality provided, and it’s not boring. It is a genuinely creative, cool adventure that knows exactly what it is – it doesn’t try to aim for a world-ending plot, instead presenting a humble adventure that exemplifies how you can achieve excellence with even the tiniest of underdog budgets. This is an adventure that is both well-written, and well-designed, and precious few adventures genuinely get me this excited anymore….something that’s even harder to achieve when considering the limited scope and room this has. I could list a whole series of publishers that don’t have a single module as compelling as this humble mini-adventure.

It’s not perfect; the magic items found in the dungeon are not particularly mind-boggling for the most part, though I did love the glove that lets you call a fully statted silver falcon – come on, that’s cool! That being said, considering the goal and the price point, this is a no-brainer module that you definitely should check out! My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval. And if you like what you’re seeing, please also check out the City of Vermilion kickstarter – I so want this mega-adventure to fund! The Merciless Merchants definitely deserve it, and I want their mega-adventure in a gorgeous Friesens-hardcover!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Chest
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Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2019 08:42:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the Whispers & Rumors-expansions for Bloodlines and Black Magic clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with the black-eyed ones, penned by Tim Hitchcock – illustrated in a pretty nice one-page b/w-artwork that depicts a girl coming from a corn field. These Small humanoids are manifestations of the powers-that-be – black-eyed entities, often looking like kids, who can strike a bargain that carries serious repercussions for breaking it. Targets slain by these beings may be returned as black-eyed zombies, and they act as emissaries to Raum. Sample lore is provided for them.

Clinton Boomer is up next and provides 20 new oddities that your character may develop, and these contain some much-needed gems – the original book offered less of them than I would have liked to see, and the ones presented here? Awesome. They include being a walking cold spot, having an abnormal metabolism, ALWAYS getting a parking ticket, being seen as belonging to the observer’s gender…and what about always being described in an utterly weird way? What about looking half as strong as you actually are? From roleplaying to minor rules-mechanics, there are some great ones here – like needing to eat stupidly spicy food, but being unable to win any food contest. Hey, that describes me! ;P What about once per day seeing dark universe, twisted variants of corporate logos? Awesome!

Next up is Jaye Sonia, who introduces us to Plymouth Falls, Wisconsin, his backdrop for Bloodlines & Black Magic – or rather, he doesn’t – instead, we get some nice advice to utilize all the oddness, local legends etc. and make Bloodlines & Black magic work for your region.

We proceed with Arcana Mundi, penned by F. Gestu, where we learn about the Seb Libri Tres and the three spells contained within – one a misfire inducing immediate action level 1 spell, the other being a 1 minute casting duration hymn hat nets long-term care benefits during the next eight hours – in Bloodlines & Black magic, that’s super helpful! Thirdly, The Secret King’s Court is a better version of rope trick that comes with the option to forget about its presence when witnessing it. The spells per se are not that special, but the nice description and lore makes them work for me in that regard.

After a creepy clown-artwork accompanied by a no less creepy child’s rhyme, Tim Hitchcock provides advice on dealing with the magical currency dosh – basically a table with critter CRs, harvest DC and two gp-columns – I assume one is the regular success, the other the success by +5 or more – something seems to have gone wrong in layout, though – the first gp-value column’s header has moved up, looking like a header.

The final article herein, the mission church, is presented by Jaye Sonia – it’s a black site that can enhance healing, and to my pleasant surprise comes with a 1-page b/w-map. The map has no secret doors or the like, and no keys, but it does e.g. call a room “office”; I found this less of an issue here than in the regular dungeon environment, but ideally, I’d have loved to see a version without these designations as well.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard, with a surprising amount of nice b/w-artworks. The cartography provides is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length. A lite-version for mobile devices is included as well.

Tim Hitchcock, Clinton Boomer, F. Gestu and Jaye Sonia deliver a great little expansion for Bloodlines & Black Magic – particularly the oddities and the sample locale were fun offerings; the healing hymn spell is a nice way to speed up gameplay without requiring full-blown curative magic arrays. All in all, a cool little pdf. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors
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Who Would Just Leave This Stuff?
Publisher: Mind Weave RPG
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2019 08:41:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This generator clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, ½ a page editorial, leaving us with 17.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The generator is simple in its function – you first determine a furnishing item that best represents the container being searched. Then, you determine how exotic/magical the material should be on a range from 0 to 100 – 0 means mundane, 100 means all components are magical, exotic, rare, etc.. Then, you roll a 1d100 and add the number chosen and check the respective table. Each of the subtables provides descriptions, tables and an example – they also specify a suggested sample number of items that should be inside. 7 different tables are provided for various tables, and lucky adventurers may well find a raw hydra head or a flame butterfly…or, well, just charcoal and notepaper.

Regarding storage furniture, we have 7 different tables as well, and 3 different hidden cache tables have been included. There even is a final table for stuff below the floor. The respective tables for the containers could imho have been a bit longer, but this is me complaining at a high level. This is not where the pdf ends, though. All those curious items, like the everash pipe or fire ant eggs? They receive proper descriptions. A magic coin for illusory prestidigitation tricks? A coin that eats other cons? Gorgon blood rouge? There are plenty of really curious and genuinely interesting ideas here, including unicorn milk, vampire blood, etc. – even containers get some descriptions here. Very enjoyable, and certainly a nice addition for the dressing library of the enterprising GM.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language (what little there is) level. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard with yellow headers. The pdf sports nice, hand-drawn b/w-drawings as artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I really enjoyed James Eck’s small generator. While the individual tables could have used a few more entries, the sheer wealth of fantastic oddities to be found is rather cool, and can add some neat magic to the game. All in all, I consider this to be a nice addition to the game, and well worth owning for the low price of 2 bucks. That being said, while flavorful and fun, it falls slightly short of true excellence due to the relative brevity of the individual tables. A bit more differentiation could have made this a true gem indeed. Taking this into account, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down – worth getting if the concepts above seemed interesting to you.

Endzeitgeist out..



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Who Would Just Leave This Stuff?
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Book of Beyond: Spells of Boon and Burden
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2019 11:39:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Beyond-series clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 6 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the pdf begins with explaining the goal of this book – it seeks to provide a sense of unique identity and being “the best” at something for psychic magic – something that sets it apart from the arcane. The witch is included in a heavy manner as well. Conceptually, spells of boon are spells that provide benefits to allies at a cost to themselves. Spells of Burden, on the other hand, tap into the concept of spiritual balance. Both general concepts make sense from a metaphysical pointo to me, and as such, fit the theme of psychic magic. Undercasting is also explained. The spells are designated with the help of their respective descriptors.

After this introductory explanation, we receive a variety of spell-lists for psychic casters, by class, then spell level – as mentioned before, the witch is fully included as well. The presentation of the spells then provides them in alphabetical order, with Spells of Boon as a category coming first – good decision! A total of 29 spells of boon are provided. Going through all of them one by one would be redundant, so to give you an idea: Boon of Crimson Vitality, a second level spell, lets you accept a scaling amount of bleed damage, while an ally gains an alchemical bonus of +2 for every 2 bleed (erroneously called “blood” here) you incur. The bleed effect lasts for twice the spell’s duration, or until removed. At 5th level for spiritualist, 6th for the other occult classes and 7th spell level for the witch, we have Boon of the Drifting Form, which paralyzes you, but makes the recipient creature incorporeal. Boon of Floating Grace nets a creature +2 dodge bonus to AC, and fly speed equal to base speed, but renders you prone. This one, alas, is a spell that needed some clarification. You can end the prone condition by just standing up, which, I assume, is no option while under the spell’s effects. Furthermore, the spell does not specify a maneuverability class for the fly speed. This is somewhat exemplary regarding the problems some of these spells have – Boon of Dancing Steps does not type its bonuses, and e.g. Boon of Flowing Stone provides a primal bonus – a bonus type that RAW does not exist. Since this is the ONLY instance where I could find this bonus type in the Book of Beyond, I assume this to be a remnant of a version-revision. So yeah, while the integrity of the rules per se is there, there also are a couple of instances where the book could have used a slight polishing to iron off the few kinks that remain.

Wait! Why am I not screaming fire and brimstone? Why did I, of all conditions, choose the one with “prone” as an example? Simple. You see, the spells can’t be cheesed. Immunity to a condition does prevent you from casting the spell. This is per se a great catch. However, RAW that does not prevent you from gaining immunity AFTER casting the spell – the descriptor should specify that becoming immune to the condition accepted also ends the spell. It’s an easy modification for the GM to implement, but it’s one I’d strongly suggest adding.

Boon of Dual Minds lets the target make saves twice, once at their own value, and once using yours, but the caster is stunned. You can buff allies, granting them atk bonuses (properly codified!) and suffer the effects of various degrees of fear, as you literally grant them your courage. Boon of Imbued Vision grants an insight bonus to AC and an untyped bonus to Strength and Dexterity-based skill checks, as well as the Blind-Fight (erroneously lower-case’d) feat and uncanny dodge, but you’re blinded. Problematic from a balance point of view would be an extra move action (at the cost of the caster being staggered) as a first-level spell, and the enhanced action, which, as soon as level 4, bestows an extra standard action, +30 feet to all movement rates, but at the cost of the caster being unconscious. Ouch, right? See, this is why I explained the importance of airtight anti-abuse-caveats and provided the examples above –particularly because these boon spells? Swift action casting time, all of them. I adore the concepts and implementation, and assuming that the descriptor isn’t cheesed, they do make sense at their respective spell levels. They are still something to handle carefully as a GM, but flavor-wise and regarding execution? Yeah, I’ll be using them.

Let’s proceed with taking a look at the spells of burden, right? There are 6 of these spells here – however, they exist for a ton of spell levels each, making ample use of undercasting – they generally range from level 1 -9 or 6, with one instead capping at level 5. Burden of the Barbed Blade. This burden has you make a CL-check, with the target DC based on the creature’s HD, and causes bleed of BAB – ½ HD, rounded up; the target may accept a penalty to atk to prevent taking bleed, and the higher level iterations can cause fatigue, exhaustion and staggered once the target has taken a certain amount of bleed. The spell, obviously, does not affect full casters – something it specifies, rather elegantly, in its target line.

Burden of the Brilliant Soul imposes a penalty of CL, with the option to instead take “psychic damage”, which is something that does not exist in PFRPG. Psychic crush (and analogue spells in SFRPG as well, fyi!) cause untyped damage, yes – however, they are mind-affecting, which this spell-family is not. That is either a glitch in that regard, or an erroneous reference to the 5e-damage type. Burden of the Hungry Regalia is super interesting, in that it makes the items of the target hunger – accept negative levels, or the items cease working. Particularly at mid- to higher-level games, one damn cool spell. Same goes for the amazing Burden of Power’s Weight that actively discourages stacking ton of defensive incantations – for every effect, the caster can gain an enhancement to CL…or the target can dispel/dismiss the effects. I love this. At higher levels, this one also deals force damage, which reminded me of one of my favorite obscure 2nd edition spells. Burden of the Ready Mind enhances your CL for prepared spells the target has – but, you know, they could opt to lose them? I love the emphasis on choice etc. Burden of Sanguine Strain is a bleed spell that, conversely, can inflict pain on spontaneous spellcasters.

Finally, there would the spells of equivalence – these are interesting, in what they do – armor of influence (and its weapon of influence compatriot spell) allows a medium to enhance armor, with influence as a cap – the spell references a whole array of special armor qualities (not properly placed in italics) that may be added in a limited manner at higher CLs. Bloodrush causes untyped damaged based on already existing bleed effects. Very interesting, if a bit hard to grasp at first – the 5 Child of Suffering spells, which require that the caster has some sort of illusory duplicate. If so, and the caster takes damage, the spell may be cast as an immediate action. This grants you temporary hit points and siphons an amount of the pain you feel from an injury to the duplicate, which may attack on your turn as a touch attack in melee, inflicting damage. Successful attacks make the duplicate vanish. I like how this builds on mirror image etc. A mind-affecting diameter that deals damage to those inside or beyond it, and there is a spell that increases damage by distance – both of these should have maximum values, as they are cool, but can end up being very deadly in the hands of ingenious players. As a nitpick: These spells you say “You deal insert dice formula…” and never specify “damage” or types – being mind-affecting, I assumed that being untyped was intentional here. What about lacing negative conditions in your mirror images, and then potentially affecting those that destroy the images? Yeah, cool! Or, what about making your mirror images bobby traps of negative energy? Yeah, these are very cool.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are per se generally very good regarding integrity, attempting to tackle complex concepts beyond what we usually expect. In the details, the same can’t be claimed – I noticed both a few glitches, missing damage types, slightly odd verbiages, and an array of small hiccups. These, in a way, feel very much like they could have been avoided. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the full-color artworks are impressive – excellent, even. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Christen N. Sowards can claim one thing for absolute sure – he does not do boring. I have yet to see a book from his pen that does not attempt something that, at least in concept, makes me smile, and this is no different. Even after I’ve read more than 5000 Pathfinder spells, this managed to maintain a sense of being fresh and unique in a way I frankly did not expect. And the design-goals formulated in the beginning, of making spells that feel both properly occult AND give the classes some stuff that they do better than others? Heck yeah, resounding success. As a person, I really adore this little book. As a reviewer, I had to grit my teeth a couple of times – the book consistently almost gets high-complexity operations and the like done with pin-point precision, only to stumble in details. These usually do not break the rules, but they can generate ambiguities and represent wholly unnecessary imprecision in what would otherwise be an inspired book. Considering all of these, I frankly should round down, but then again, if you’re confident in your ability to add these small tidbits and make sure the small hiccups don’t adversely affect your game, then this is a surprising little treasure trove. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond: Spells of Boon and Burden
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Superhero Classes: Superhuman, Animalman and Telepath
Publisher: Zenith Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2019 11:38:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The first class would be the superman, who gets d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 4 + Int skills per level, and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, but not with shields. (Captain America’s weeping…) First level nets resistance 1 versus acid, cold, electricity, fire and sonic resistance, which increases by 1 at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. The superhuman also may exist in temperatures from -50 to +140°F (-45 to 60°C) sans having to make Fort-saves. The superhuman loses this ability when wearing medium or heavy armor. 1st level also nets DR 1/- that increases at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter by 1. Once more, no armor synergy. The class begins play with Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat, and may execute attacks with this feat even with hands full and treat them as two-handed weapons. There is a damage-increase table that takes Small, Medium and Large characters into account. 10th and 20th level increase critical multiplier of these attacks by 1. 3rd level increases the Strength score for carrying capacity purposes by +4, which increases by a further +4 at 8th, 12th and 17th level.

At third level and every odd level thereafter, the superhuman gains an ability score improvement: +2 Strength at 3rd level, then +2 Dexterity at 5th, then +2 Constitution at 7th, and then, the whole sequence starts again, for a net gain of additional +6 Str, Dex and Con over the course of the 20 levels of progression – from this ability. The capstone further increases all 3 scores by +2, for a total gain of +8 to all physical ability scores over the course of the class progression. There is a bit of customization for the class: Starting at second level, we choose a superpower, and we gain an additional one every even level thereafter. These include three that further increase the physical ability scores. The abilities that can be taken here include low-range blindsight that slightly increases at 13th and 19th level, infinite use energy blasts (1d6, +1d6 for every 3 levels beyond 2nd, + ½ Constitution modifier) damage with a range of 30 feet, a bonus to Acrobatics that becomes slow flight at higher levels, a bonus to CMB and CMD based on size difference (Yay?), fast healing, or being able to work with less sleep, sans food and water, etc. We also get darkvision, increased speed, and a no-cooldown AoE 30 ft.-cone bull rush using Constitution instead of Strength. Limited teleportation, swimming, rock throwing, you get the idea.

Here’s the thing: None of these abilities are interesting or distinct. You can have all of them in more interesting iterations, gain pretty much all of them via magic items, etc. They translate classic superhero stunts, sure…but said stunts often are more interesting in the respective iterations provided by other classes. The superhuman’s blast gets boring very fast when compared to the kineticist, for example. So yeah, while not per se bad in the traditional sense, this is no class I’d ever play.

The second class within is the animalman, who has d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, 6 + Int skills per level, goof Fort- and Ref-saves, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armors and shields, excluding tower shields, and uses the same paradigm of physical ability score increases starting at 3rd level, including, which is rather lame, the same capstone. The class also gets the same superstrike unarmed strike progression as the superhuman. The class gets +1/2 class level to Perception and scent, and at 2nd level may roll initiative twice, taking the better result. 7th level allows for acting in the surprise round, and 11th level allows for rolling initiative thrice, taking one of the results. At 7th level, the class gets dominate monster, using class level as CL, for a duration of up to class level rounds. The ability may only target animals within the class’ portfolio and the saving throw DC is governed by Charisma. Nice catch: takes mindless targets into account. The animalman can speak with animals from his portfolio, which is governed by the animal aspect chosen at first level. The pdf includes 14 such aspects, which behave in many ways like bloodlines or orders, in that they provide a linear ability progression, granting abilities at 1st, 6th, 10th, 14th, 18th and 20th level.

These aspects range in utility and uniqueness rather drastically. Ant, for example, is interesting in that it takes the size modifier and special size modifier engine and tweaks it, with handy tables to supplement the changes. Bat nets you a couple of skills, Shatter Defenses and faster Intimidation. If you want play Batman, Interjection Games’ Gadgeteer and e.g. the Scholar by Drop Dead Studios do a much better job – just sayin’. Beast (which includes canines, felines, etc.) nets natural attacks (doesn’t specify the type of natural attack) and the capstone nets 1.5 times the Strength bonus to them. Which is USELESS, considering the damage progression of superstrike. Fish nets you +2 to atk and AC, and +2 to all saves while fully submerged, an aquatic companion at 10th level that may fly later, and the swim superpower at 1st level alongside trident and net proficiency. The capstone nets you regeneration 3 that’s bypassed by fire while submerged. That’s the entirety of the benefits granted. Lame? Yep. The archetype does come with an archetype that replaces the superpowers at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter and the capstone with a second aspect gained at 4th level, with the ability progression for these delayed by 2 levels. Pretty much all shifter classes, from the one by Everyman Gaming to the one by Legendary Games (and the awesome skinchanger) to the Interjection Games class to even Paizo’s subpar shifter are more interesting. If you want a superhero style class sans shifting that is a master of animals, then Purple Duck Games’ Animal Lords are superior.

Finally, there would be the telepath, who gains d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, ½ BAB-progression, good Will-saves and an ability score progression that instead grants bonuses to Wisdom, Charisma and Intelligence in sequence. The capstone instead nets +2 to all of them. Telepaths are proficient with simple weapons and light armors. Telepaths are full psychic spellcasters that5 may learn any spell from the wizard, cleric or psychic list, provided they are divination, enchantment or illusion, using the lowest spell level if a spell is available on multiple spell lists. The telepath is a spontaneous spellcaster, using Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute. 2nd level nets mental armor, which translates to +Wisdom bonus to AC as an armor bonus, which increases to 1.5 times Wisdom bonus at 9th level. The class begins play with at-will mage hand and telepathic strike: This is a ranged attack with a 30 ft. range-increment, using class level and Intelligence modifier to calculate attack bonus. This gains the benefits of haste, feats that enhance ranged combat, and the strike is mental and requires no free hands. It doesn’t qualify for TWFing and sniping penalties are noted. The strike deals 1d4 + Intelligence modifier damage and increases base damage die size at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, with 8th level also providing 1.5 times Intelligence modifier to damage, which RAW vanishes in subsequent damage die increases. D10s switch over to 2d6s and then, 2d8s. The ability fails to specify its damage type.

At 2nd level, the telepath may meditate for one minute to gain class level temporary hit points, usable up to Wisdom modifier times per day. Also at 2nd level, we have the option to use combat maneuvers with “telekinetic strikes” – which the class doesn’t have. The ability is called “Telepathic Strike” – though telekinetic strike would make more sense. 6th level nets detect thoughts at will, though creatures that saved versus it are immune for 24 levels. 4th level nets the first cool ability here, the option to move items and critters with sustained force, with the save to resist being governed by Intelligence modifier. Higher levels provide the option to manipulate larger items. 10th level nets telepathy, and 6th level the option to hurl targets, with the maximum size increasing at higher levels.

The telepath would be interesting were it not for the fact that Ultimate Psionics or The Telekinetic’s Handbook, to name just two, do a vastly superior and more interesting job at the subject matter.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good on a rules-language level, certainly better than the other early Zenith Games undead paragon classes, for example. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with colored headers, and the pdf uses b/w-public domain artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Jeff Gomez’ superhero classes would have been okay when the system was young; don’t get me wrong, they still would have been linear and internally uneven regarding the powerlevels of options noted; they still would have lacked supplemental feats, favored class options and meaningful archetypes.

But nowadays? Nowadays, we have a metric ton of archetypes, classes and options that do literally everything in the pdf, just better. In a more interesting manner. For each of the three classes, I could provide a list of its own of options that do everything herein, just better. In a more versatile, unique and cooler manner. The one reason to get this pdf, probably, would be the low price point, and the fact that the classes are comparably simple. Then again, they’re not so simple as to make them perfect beginner’s classes either, and lack the supplemental material you’d require. As a whole, this may not be bad, but it is woefully outclassed by pretty much all of its peers. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Superhero Classes: Superhuman, Animalman and Telepath
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Stranger Stuff (TinyD6)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/11/2019 12:59:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This version of the “Stranger Stuff“-theme clocks in at 124 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 117 pages of content. The pages are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means you could theoretically fit 4 pages on a given sheet of paper.

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

Rules-wise, this game employs the rules you may know from e.g. Beach patrol, Tiny Dungeons 2E, etc., adapted for use with the Stranger Things-like set up that we could e.g. see in “Vs. Stranger Stuff” – in essence, this is the TinyD6-version of that game, substituting that engine for the VsM-engine. That being said, familiarity with said games is not required – this book explains all required to play.

There are plenty of differences, though – in the VsM version, the game champions three different playstyles, easy, normal and hard mode, and this iteration relegates easy and hard mode mostly to sidebars – these do tend to have serious implications when added to the game, as we immediately learn.

We dive into the rules – simple actions doe not require rolling the dice, but more complex or difficult tasks do – these require a so-called Test. These are the core mechanic of the game, and entail rolling 2d6 from the Dice Pool (more on that later). 5s and 6s are successes. Certain Traits selected at character creation can grant you advantage, letting you roll 3d6 instead; conversely, other tasks let you roll only 1d6 – these are known to be made at disadvantage. Important: If you’d have advantage on a Test, disadvantage OVERRIDES that – even if you’d usually roll 3d6, you only get one die! There are some few means to override this, but yeah – disadvantage is NASTY. Things you overcome with a Test (or roleplaying!) are called Obstacles. Then, there are Save Tests – these are required to stabilize, to prevent bad stuff from happening, and otherwise are used just as other Tests. The first page of the pdf btw. does suggest Save-or-Die Tests (self-explanatory) for hard mode games – which would have made more sense on the page that actually, you know, talked about Save Tests, but that is me nitpicking. Still, there is a big artwork here, big enough to fit that box…

When the action needs to be broken up in units of time (say, in combat), we enter Initiative Mode. Initiative is rolled by making a test, and adding the results of the 2d6 together. Initiative order follows from highest to lowest, with Kids (the name of PCs) going before enemies in case of a tie. Once all have acted, a new Turn begins – a turn is, per default, roughly equal to 6 seconds. Once per game session (dubbed Episode), each player gets one Cinematic Moment when about to roll a Test. The Player describes the action, and instead of rolling, we have an automatic success as though the check had been made at advantage and come up as three 6s. The GM may also declare Cinematic Moments – twice per session. The GM can make an NPC auto-succeed, or a Kid auto-fail. Okay. So what if a Kid auto-succeeds due to a Cinematic Moment, and the GM uses Cinematic Moment to make the Kid auto-fail? This very obvious interaction is not covered, at all – the absence of clear rules here is a pretty glaring hole.

Anyhow, during each Turn, you have two Actions – you can use an action to move, attack, use a Trait, pick something up, etc. Moving to some place may require a Test or multiple Actions, depending on what the GM decides. A rough rule of thumb baseline is provided – an Action used to move is approximately the equivalent of 25 feet. Riding e.g. a bike doubles your movement as a default, but can differ.

Attacks use a simplified rule-set: You have to be in range, and attacking is a simple standard test executed with 2d6, with the enemy being the obstacle. On a successful attack Test, you deal 1 point of damage, regardless of weapon, though good roleplaying, weapons, etc., could increase that. The degree etc. is wholly left up to the GM, though.

Beyond that, there are three special actions: If you Focus, your next attack will be successful on rolled 4s as well, but only for one attack. Focus actions don’t stack with themselves, and can’t be stored – they vanish if combat ends. Cover imposes disadvantage on attacks against you. Evade lets you test 1d6 until the start of your next turn if successfully attacked, damaged, or harmed. On a success, you evade and take no damage. Recapping this is interesting, as it emphasizes a pretty potent defense option array – hitting and defeating defensive targets will not be simple.

The game differentiates between three types of weapon – Melee, Light Ranged and Heavy Ranged. Weapon improvements are covered, and the game presents Easy Mode suggestions to handwave ammo consumption, if you want to de-emphasize the survival horror aspect of the game.

Toughness denotes how much damage something can take. On 0 Toughness, you’re knocked out. If an attack shows all 5s and 6s on the attack and might seem particularly potent, it can immediately knock out a target – this is known as Dramatic Knockout. Attacks made with Disadvantage can’t score such a knockout, but oddly, attacks with advantage have mathematically a lower chance to knock out a target. Weird decision.

Stress is basically the mental equivalent to Toughness – when reduced to 0, all actions suffer Disadvantage.

Toughness and Stress are both regained by resting/sleeping – 1 hour spent doing something relaxing replenishes 1 Stress; 1 hour of sleep replenishes one point of both Toughness and Stress. 6 hours of uninterrupted rest fully replenishes both pools.

If you are at 0 Toughness AND in combat, you reduce Stress by 1. As long as you have at least 1 Stress, you can make a Save Test to regain 1 Toughness and end your turn. If both your Toughness and Stress are at 0, you get one final Save Test at Disadvantage – if you fail this test, you die. The Healer trait or administered medicine might heal you as well.

From hiding and sneaking to other things that would require being pitted against someone else, there is no contested Test or the like – instead, one side checks with advantage or disadvantage, depending on the circumstances. Whether you like that or not depends on your tastes.

Okay, so how does character creation work? There are two main archetypes: Middle Schoolers get 4 Toughness, 6 Stress, and when an ally takes an action to help a middle schooler, they get Advantage. The Kid also gains advantage to avoid being seen or to sneaking, Disadvantage on checks that involve raw force. When hit, they can test 1d6 sans taking Evade. On a success, the middle schooler evades the attack. When they use Evade, they have Advantage on the Evade Test.

High Schoolers have 6 Toughness and 4 Stress. They have advantage on checks made to subvert authority and they can make Tests on stuff they shouldn’t be able to; if they actually have experience with what they attempt, they have Advantage.

The book also provides (optional) rules for adults – 8 Toughness, 5 Stress, and they have one Trait more.

Then, you choose 3 Traits and 1 Drawback – these are a bit like the Good/Bad Stuff from Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. Traits include gaining an additional Cinematic Moment per session, having Advantage on all acrobatic checks. There is a trait that makes your Stress act as Toughness as a damage soak, letting you contribute longer to the action before dropping unconscious, etc. We also have one that lets you Focus better, extending the success range to 3s as well. Drawbacks include Disadvantage on all Tests related to social interaction, having an impaired arm…or what about having a lack of self-confidence mean that the GM may, thrice per day (NOT per session!) take Advantage away? Sickly is also brutal – it reduces your Toughness maximum by 2, and makes you start the day at 2 Toughness less – as a middle schooler, this would render you comatose/dying without the aid of medication and treatment. Every Kid also starts play with an important piece of equipment, which might include age-restricted stuff. Write a description + tagline, and bam, done.

So yeah, all in all, an easy to grasp, rules lite system. The book then proceeds to the GM-section, which is particularly helpful for newer GMs, presenting maxims such as “keep is simple, make it fun”, advice on preparing/over-preparing, a suggestion of a 4-act structure for modules. We also get advice on the types of story to tell, some suggested adventure hooks, ideas for sidequests, etc. – and then we proceed to world-building advice – the game presents a pretty nifty series of rules here: Locations have costs to hang out, and associated rules components – they may have Good Features and Bad Features – which are akin to Traits and Drawbacks, save for locations, obviously. A location’s Cool is a bit like Toughness – the higher the value, the less likely weird stuff will go down there. Bad stuff happening can damage a location’s Cool, making it more susceptible to weird happenstances – you get the idea. All these location traits are tracked on a scale that ranges from No/none, Low, medium to High. The game also mentions an interesting means of using index cards as representations of locales and provides an array of different archetypical locations. A minor complaint – the locations don’t have the respective attributes spelled out in an overview, requiring that you parse the text – having a “mini-statblock” of sorts would have made that aspect quicker to use. Again, nitpicking here.

The pdf provides stats for 4 sample generic NPCs to use with non-named targets, and then proceeds to present a total of 3 fully realized antagonist NPCs. This section also presents a couple of (magical) items, rules for paranormal abilities, psionic powers, etc. – and, of course, we do get monsters, which come in 4 broad categories – Alien, Cryptid, Human and Supernatural. Really cool: The book presents a concise and quick to use engine to DIY build your own critters, with abilities, general types, suggested stats etc. – super helpful and quick. Speaking of which – there is a random adventure (outline) generator included in the book as well!

After these, we get some 1984s trivia (highest grossing films, billboards, etc.) and then an introductory adventure penned by Kiel Howell – “The Mask behind the Makeup.” It’s…and adventure about creepy clowns. Yep, another one. Yep, there already are quite a lot of those, and if you own Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, you’ll be familiar with this one – it’s a good adventure, and one I liked. We close the pdf with a b/w map of a sample town (that can be colored), and a sheet for locations and characters.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules language level – I noticed a couple of minor hiccups, but no undue accumulation of issues. Layout adheres to a one-column standard that resembles a notepad, with the artworks akin to pencil-drawings and modified sepia/b/w-photography – the unified aesthetics are nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari and Rick Hershey (with the module penned by Kiel Howell) deliver a solid alternative take on Stranger Stuff. The TinyD6-engine is employed in a robust manner. That being said, the system could use advancement rules, and has an issue – it has to compete with Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. And while it does have a different feel than that system, courtesy of the higher impact drawbacks etc., I couldn’t help but feel that the VsM-engine version is simply better. It has the Crestview Hills sample location information, and while it has less to offer than the TinyD6-iteration regarding powers, its rules are presented in a slightly cleaner fashion. I like this iteration of Stranger Stuff, and it shows a lot of promise, but I don’t love it as much as the VsM-engine version. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stranger Stuff (TinyD6)
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Wherein Evil Lies
Publisher: New Big Dragon Games Unlimited
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/11/2019 12:57:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This ‘zine clocks in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 42 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

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

Wait, what does the number mean? Isn’t that the third Dragon Horde-installment? Well, yeah, but the “Volume II” denotes the reboot with the new layout and the color cover; the issue is also PWYW, so you can leave a tip for the creator’s hard work.

Rules-wise, this book presents material for B/X, which makes conversion to other OSR-games simple, and which means that if you’re e.g. playing For Gold & Glory or OSRIC, things’ll be a bit easier for the party. Anyhow, we begin with 3 new classes:

The first of these would be the Deathslayer, who has Intelligence and Wisdom as prime requisites and only gets d6 hit points. The class may not wear armor or shields and only use one-handed swords or daggers. They attack and save as clerics, but may use magic-user-restricted magic items, save those that support or create the undead. They need to have a Wisdom score of 9. The class progresses over 14 levels and gains spellcasting as a magic-user of up to 6th spell level, with a custom spell-list provided that focuses, unsurprisingly, on anti-undead, detection, dimensional anchor, etc. XP-progression is that of the regular magic-user, and level-titles are provided. When a deathslayer starts the game, they must choose a specific type of undead – vampires, ghosts, etc. – this is the undead focus, and when fighting such an undead, the deathslayer gains a +2 bonus against attacks and effects attempting to alter their beliefs or actions, +2 to melee and ranged attacks, and the focus takes a -2 penalty to saves versus spells cast by the deathslayer. At 3rd level, the class gets to make glyphs of warding 1/day per 3 class levels, and at 9th level, we have the ability to create magic items. The glyphs allow for the creation of antiundead spell-traps or damaging blast glyphs, including trigger conditions. This class is basically a variant magic-user, with a bit of an anti-undead angle and a fixed spell-list, subject to the GM’s discretion to expand. All in all, a potent class that doesn’t fall into the trap of most nemesis-classes. What’s a nemesis class? It’s a class/archetype/prestige class that nets superb combat capabilities versus one creature type, such as demons. The issue most such classes face is that they become super strong versus the nemesis, bland versus regular targets. So yeah, this one doesn’t do that, and in fact, is an interesting take on the magical scholar fighting the living dead – that being said, I strongly suggest being careful with the spell-list: The class is balanced primarily by depriving the deathslayer of the flexibility of the magic-user, so beware there – otherwise, this becomes a 100% superior caster.

The second class herein is the witch doctor, who also has Intelligence and Wisdom as prime requisites. They use the cleric’s attack and saving throws, use a d6 to determine hit points and may not wear armor. They may use a shield made of natural components (no metal!) and weapon-wise ,are limited to medicine sticks (staves), daggers, darts and blowguns as well as other tribal weaponry, subject to the GM’s discretion. They only may use voodoo-specific magic items or weapons and require at least an Intelligence and Charisma score of 9. Witch doctor spellcasting is somewhat akin to that of the cleric, and features spellcasting of up to 6th level. The class sports a progression to the mighty 24th level (!!) and XP-wise gains second level slightly sooner than the dwarf – at 2,125 XP, with every further level requiring twice as much XP. Their spellcasting actually sports a pretty novel array of little tricks – they require foci to cast: Voodoo dolls, gris-gris bags and medicine sticks, tiki masks and ritual foci are all mentioned and concisely-defined. The class begins with the ability to turn/compel undead and gets an ever increasing range of undead detection that extends to the living dead. AT 5th level, we have animate dead, including the ability to animate ever more of those. Starting at 7th level, we have the ability to possess bodies, and 9th level lets the witch doctor bind spirits in shrunken heads, allowing for consultation of the dead. 14th level nets raise dead, and yes, we do get a custom spell-list that denotes the foci required. I LOVE this class! It reminded me of my very favorite Solomon Kane story! I want to play tehse dudes, and seriously, I want the class to get its own massive, more detailed supplement! The foci and XP-progression also keep the fellow balance-wise in check. Two thumbs up!

The third class is a race-class, namely the half-orc (assassin). These fellows have Strength and Dexterity as prime requisites, and they fight and save as thieves. The half-orc uses a d6 to determine hit points, and the class caps at 12th level. The half-orc may only wear leather armor or magical/elven chain and may use a shield, but not while using thieving abilities. They can use any type of weapon; they may use the same magic items as fighters, but don’t get the thief’s read magic ability and may not use scrolls. They must have a Constitution of at least 9, and their Charisma may not exceed 15. Half-orcs get 60 ft. infravsion and gain 2nd level slightly slower than clerics, at 1,550 XP, with every subsequent level requiring twice as many XP. A half-orc gains limited thief abilities – half the starting value of move silently and hide in shadows, as well as find/remove traps. Climb sheer surfaces starts off at 60% and improves by +4%, then by +2%, and after that by +1% per level attained. They also begin with a chance of 2-in-6 to hear noises, which progresses slightly asynchronous to the thief, with 12th level required for a 5-in 6 chance. Open locks starts off at -5% of the thief, with a base 10% chance, and pogresses by +5% up to and including 7th level, thereafter increasing by +10% per level. Half-orcs are trained in poison use and get +1 to saves vs. poison and starting at 7th level, they pass without a trace. While lacking the scroll use ability, they get a sneak attack/backstab - +4 to attack, and on a successful hit, there is a 50% chance of killing the target; this chance is modified by +5%/-5% per level of the target below/above the half-orc. If the instant-kill effect does not kick in, the attack deals double damage instead. This is very potent and potentially very lethal – personally, I think this should have a save or the like, but your mileage may vary in that regard.

The pdf then proceeds to present a couple of new spells for magic-users: Fatigue (1st level) nets -2 to Strength and Constitution and ½ movement rate for 2 turns. This requires a touch. Death rage (2nd level) lets the target make two attacks per round, or a single one at +2, and affected creatures never fail a morale check. Mummy’s touch infests with mummy rot, and ossify temporarily makes targets skeletons – this requires a touch versus the unwilling, and is no illusion. (There is also a greater ossify that can affect larger targets and is a 5th level spell.) Revenance acts as a shield to prevent the turning of undead, and wailing fear is a variant of audible glamer that can affect low-HD targets with fear. All of these are 3rd-leve spells. Necrotic portal (4th level) provides a portal through the negative energy plane, which is essentially a damaging/undead-healing two-way portal. Nice! Finally, aura of fear pretty much does what it says on the tin, instilling panic in low-HD creatures.

6 magic items may be found – while presented under the header “Designed for Evil”, not all of them are – the equinox orb can generate continual light/darkness; the fiendish mantle is obviously evil and provides some resistances/immunities associated with demons. The hammer of salvation has a moon on one face, a sun on the other face – the moon behaves as +1/+3 vs. undead, the sun-side as +1/+3 vs. natives of the lower outer planes, making it a potent weapon for good. Purity rings are no cynical way to sell ignorance and a suppression of healthy sexual development here, instead acting as a ring that nets +3 to saves vs. magical diseases. The plague mace is a +2 mace that can inflict nasty diseases on the target. Finally, there is the stole of radiance, which is only available for lawful (or good) clerics: The stole nets +1 to atk and saves, -1 to AC and enhances turning and acts as a level drain buffer. It also emits some light.

If you own the P/X: Basic Psionics Handbook supplement, you can find some new material herein: For psychometabolism, we have infuse terror as a new minor devotion: This one infuses a weapon so that those hit must save or be paralyzed by fear. While it may be used with ammunition, doing so is risky, providing a high chance of accidentally affecting the wielder – interesting balancing angle. As a major science, we have psychic vampire, which drains PSP from psionic targets, damaging all mental attributes for non-psionic targets instead. For clairsentience, we have the destiny dissonance minor devotion, which sickens the target with unreliable visions of the future, imposing -2 on atk, weapon damage rolls, saves, as well as skill and ability checks. There are two telepathic minor devotions: Aura of fear, which is mechanically different from the spell and has a low range, and psionic daze, which can prevent low-HD targets from taking actions on a failed psionic save. There is a telepathic major science with crisis of breath – in case you’re not familiar with it, this is basically a breathing inhibitor. This is deadly, but in a cool way, allows the affected target to decide on whether to struggle for air or e.g. attack (and risk blacking out). Finally, there is the shadow twin metapsionic major science, which conjures a shadow duplicate that shares hit points with the psionicist. This twin can shadow walk at will and has copies of the gear and access to the manifester’s psionic arsenal. The gear aspect is my main complaint here – the science should specify that the twin expending one-use gear/item uses drains those from the original’s arsenal. Otherwise, this is pretty easy to abuse.

The book also features a couple of new monsters – atori are undead with a ghastly stench that may render you unconscious, and they have a necrotic touch. Cacklers are per se incorporeal undead that manifest to cackle – this ability is potent, in that it can affect 3d6 HD of creatures of equal to or less than 4HD, preventing them from acting. To prevent abuse-scenarios, this has a cooldown. Still, needs careful handling. The crypt riddler is one of my favorites here – a crypt thing variant that poses riddles that kill you if you fail to answer on a failed save. Cool and imho more rewarding than the annoying random teleportation. Korper (Should probably have an “ö”) come in three variants and represent undead spellcasters who failed at becoming liches. They have a fear gaze, but otherwise are one of the more boring “failed lich”-undead I’ve ever seen. Hill haunts are cool: Enormous specters tethered to outdoors locations. They are great story-monsters, with their fixed location and powerful offense. The final creature is the Spawn of Chuamisi, a psionic naga-like being. Per se not too interesting. But there was this one line of lore that kicked my mind into overdrive: “Chuamisi is the elder evil that heralded the dawn of the Age of Serpents that brought the Great Poisonfall upon the world.” BAM. I want to know more. Awesome. Speaking of which: We also get Anguia Umbra, a new petty god with full stats and servant – this would be the petty god of iophilia, toxicophilia, shadow walkers and assassins. Deadly, and with some cool abilities, this finally managed to make me get the Petty Gods book.

My favorite rules component herein would be the optional rules for killing vampires, which makes the traditional things such as sunlight, stakes, head. burying etc. reduce HD. Cool! The pdf also features a couple of d30-tables – d30 quirks of becoming unhinged, d30 evil adventure hooks, and d30 methods of sacrifice. These are okay, but not exactly spectacular.

The ‘zine also includes an adventure for 5-7 characters of 3rd to 5th level. The module does feature alignment pretty heavily, making use of essentially two alignment axes in themes, while using only the traditional one-axis of B/X; while it acknowledges that the referee can adjust this to single-axis alignment assumptions, it does lose a bit of its flavor. (As an aside: No alignment is still the best option, and I really wished games got finally rid of this roleplaying-stifling blight; I just mentioned the alignment component, since some purists may balk at it.) The module suggests at least one thief and one cleric, a sound proposal. Wandering monster encounters are presented, and the end of the module presents all stats on one page – nice. The complex explored comes with a b/w-map, but no player-friendly version. Annoyingly, the maps has no grid noted, which makes playing with minis or VTTs a bit of a hassle.

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, local farmers have gathered a fortune for the PCs to act as trouble-solvers – lemurs have been rampaging through the countryside, and it turns out that the notorious “Black Chapel” is the likely source – and it kinda is. It is basically your average cultist hide-out and not too special – the one thing the dungeon does in a clever fashion, is that the cult’s leaders attempt to parley – a defect altar is responsible for the uncontrolled stream of lemurs, and they require a lawful cleric to perform the ritual to seal the rift – they do attempt to negotiate a nasty contract, which is kinda neat, but as a whole, I wasn’t thrilled by this dungeon. It’s not bad, and its presentation is solid, but it does lack special components to make it shine. Personally, I considered this to be one of the weaker parts of the ‘zine.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting deserve applause – on both a formal and rules-language level, the ‘zine is precise, properly putting spells etc. in italics, using bolding well, etc. Kudos for making this professional and easy to peruse. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the pdf uses excellent b/w-artwork sourced from the public domain. If you enjoy the cover, you’ll like the interior art as well. Great choices throughout. The ‘zine has no bookmarks in its electronic evrsion, which constitutes a comfort detriment. The map of the adventure is a step back in comparison to the last Dragon Horde, and same goes for the adventure. I can’t comment on the physical version of the ‘zine, as I do not own it.

Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr. delivers a passion project here – this is a professionally-presented ‘zine that features quite a lot of well-designed rules-material for B/X. While generally in the upper power-echelon, the incisions and balancing tools employed are smart; particularly the witch doctor is pure awesome. While I wasn’t too blown away by all of the supplemental materials or creatures, there also are some serious winners – the new petty god, the crypt riddler and the like? There are some gems herein. Usually, this would be a mixed bag on the positive side, rounded down (3.5 stars) but considering that it’s a PWYW-offering, my final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wherein Evil Lies
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Porphyra Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2019 04:42:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive game clocks in at 606 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 7 pages of SRD, 8 pages of helpful index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 585 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So before we dive into what this book is, and what it isn’t, let’s recap: Pathfinder Playtest very much defined that Pathfinder Second Edition would feel like a radically different game in many ways; as you have probably noticed, Pathfinder Playtest left me hopeful, but also filled with quite a lot of trepidation, and to say that I was ecstatic would be simply false. I am currently in the process of analyzing Pathfinder’s Second Edition, and I can say two things for sure: 1) It is a better game than Pathfinder Playtest in many regards. 2) It is a very different game from Pathfinder’s first edition.

This stark difference between systems offers chances, but also means that the game focuses on something else in many ways. Enter Porphyra RPG. Purple Duck Games’ Porphyra RPG, in many ways, behaves to Pathfinder’s first edition in a way that Pathfinder’s first edition acted in comparison to D&D 3.X – in presents a conservative refinement of the content of the system we’ve learned and loved for years. Much like Pathfinder’s first edition, it presents a series of changes, but as a whole, you can use the material for Pathfinder’s first edition without any issues in the context of a Porphyra RPG game. Somewhat like you can use e.g. OSRIC-material in a B/X-game. Sure, there will be some minor differences and aesthetics at play here, but where Pathfinder Second Edition opted for a new start, this instead represents a kind of progression for the game. As such, Porphyra RPG begins in a surprisingly smart and concise way – it briefly explains what an RPG is, and then presents rules conventions – it explains the core building blocks of its system, the minimum vocabulary, if you will, on one page – which also highlights several changes of the system. This page both serves as a recap for veterans and a helpful introduction for newbies – I like this, as it, among other things, explicitly explains the difference between caster and character level, for example. Similarly, descriptors are properly defined.

Ability penalties can never reduce a score below one; got that; things become more tight in the instance where the game explains saving throw defaults, spellcasting modifiers, etc. Similarly, halving/rounding up is covered; the game explains how its bonuses stack, and does something different here: Untyped modifiers and modifiers with different names add together – they stack. If you have two modifiers of the same name, only the greater of the two is used. This is particularly important for e.g. dodge bonuses and how builds based on them for defense are used. A second and pretty important difference would be the caster check – this is a d20 + caster level + spellcasting ability modifier. These are used BOTH as spell attack rolls, AND to bypass SR – in short, they have streamlined this process. Much like CMB/CMD, this is an aspect that will have to grow, and it is one where backwards compatibility with PF1 might present some rough spots: Touch AC does not exist anymore per se, which means that a full casters behave like a full BAB class when attacking with spells, making such options, balanced for use with ¾ BAB or ½ BAB-classes, something that requires oversight. So yeah, we have a pretty significant component that has changed here.

After these basics, we are talked through the process of making a character – traits have now been hard-coded into the basic character creation framework, but do remain an optional step. Ability score modifiers, bonus spells per day by spell level, etc. – all listed. Each of the ability scores provides a summary of what the ability score influences and modifies. This, once more, makes “getting” the game pretty easy.

Now Porphyra has a pretty rich lore, and this book touch upon a few choice, relevant pieces of lore before the race section – this information is carefully curated, and once more, smart, as it provides a small baseline and context, without throwing an info-dump on the reader; neither does this lock you into Porphyra per se as a setting. (Though I do genuinely encourage you to take a look at the patchwork planet!) The races presented here would be the Anpur (jackal folk), the dragonblooded (think of mighty human-like beings with magical blood), dwarves, elves, orcs, half-humans (yes, you can be a half-gnome or half-dwarf), erkunae (Cult at this point!), eventual (those with inevitable bloodlines), orcam (orca-folk; purely aesthetic nitpick – their ability scores are listed as the abbreviations, like “+2 Str” instead of “+2 Strength”, like the others) and zendiqi (Porphyr’s xenophobic natives, sworn to the elemental lords). Balance-wise, I was positively surprised by this chapter, as its different races are not only chosen with an eye towards cool creatures, but also sport a great blending of the strange and familiar. The different races also check out regarding their respective power-levels, offering a nice, yet potent baseline.

The section also highlights a series of different changes of the game: Darkvision lets you see in darkness and low-light areas sans penalty – there is no more range. Low-light vision works as before. You can also see ability score abbreviations in brackets behind some abilities – if e.g. a racial ability nets you a spell-like ability, it might state “(Cha)” behind its name – this designates it as being based on Charisma. Not all abilities have such a tag – it shows up when a spellcasting ability modifier is relevant. This is an elegant solution, as far as I’m concerned. There is another pretty important component – with some few exceptions (probably oversights), spell-like abilities and spells in the rules text are no longer printed in italics. I get how this makes formatting easier for a small publisher like Purple Duck Games, but it’s the first choice I am genuinely not a huge fan of, as it renders the parsing of information slightly harder.

The game then proceeds to explain different classes – these are called “Heroic Classes”, and from Hit Dice to skills to tables, all the little bits are explained. Class ability saving throws are also defaulted – 10 +1/2 class level + the respective key ability modifier. The game presents two HUGE improvements, as far as I’m concerned. 1) Iterative attacks suck less. At BAB +6, you get a second attack at +1. At BAB +11, however, you get another attack at full BAB, and one at -5 (+11/+11/+6); at BAB +16, you get a second attack at -5. (+16/+16/+11/+11). This keeps the iterative attacks at high levels relevant. You do not gain iterative attacks if using a mixture of natural and manufactured weapons or unarmed strikes.

The second major factor that changed is tied to magic – first of all, there is no difference between divine and arcane magic. The separation is gone. Spell lists are based on descriptors. These are both permissive and prescriptive – that is, they lists specify the descriptors that you HAVE access to, but also those that you NEVER have access to. If a spell on a list has a descriptor called out, and another not called out, you have the spell; however, if your class specifies that you NEVER have access to a descriptor, you also don’t have access to any spells featuring that descriptor, regardless of how many other descriptors you get the spell might have. Once more, this is imho a pretty elegant solution, and one that lets you use descriptors to make classes feature distinct identities without constantly requiring the reassessment of different spells, expansion of spell lists, etc. Spells also are grouped in three classes – simple spells are widely known; complex spells can’t even be mimicked by nonspellcasters, and exotic spells are often unique, nigh unknown, personal or signature spells – once more allowing for nuanced world/magic-building. IN a way, this takes two smart strategies of Pathfinder Second Edition and Arcana Evolved for a nice combination. In case you were wondering: Concentration is handled by caster checks as well, and the explanation of different spell baselines also includes a clearly presented hierarchy of items affected by spells targeting . I love this.

But back to the heroic classes – we have arcane archer and eldritch knight, as well as stalwart defender and wizard. Rogue, slayer, fighter etc. are provided. Among the classics, we have the fighter gaining a Stamina pool, combat tricks, etc.; rogues get additional sneak attack benefits; the classes have been changed to represent the design-aesthetics of unchained classes, with a variety of valid choices. This also is represented by other classes – like clerics, whose gods now actually (THANKFULLY!) have their ethos and require compliance with them. Deity and faith influence proficiency, domains, etc. Champions also show up – think of these as alignment-less paladins; if you know Arcana Evolved, you’ll get the idea of being a champion of a people, of a person, etc. – I liked this one as well. The rather impressive Assassin of Porphyra class has also been brought to the fold here, differentiated by the rogue getting e.g. skill unlocks. And yes, a stalwart defender is included. A big plus would be the inclusion of starting packages to choose from. This quickens introduction of new characters and helps newer players.

After choosing traits (massive selection provided, with bonus types properly codified), we move on to character advancement – and a quick glance shows us that the XPs required have been shrunk: The advancement speeds and advancement by milestone are provided, but the numbers required have been condensed to be much lower. We’ll see how this works out in the long run.

The skill chapter is another section wherein some streamlining has taken place – Swim and Climb are both now parts of one skill, namely Athletics. Similarly, Bluff and Disguise are now the Deception skill (which makes sense to me!); breaking objects and damaging them is now handled with the Sap skill, and e.g. Scrutiny is a new complement to the Perception skill – it lets you explicitly determine phenomena, interpret haunts, recognize patterns, etc. – it is basically akin to what Investigation does in 5e, save that it is a defined in a tighter manner. Autohypnosis is also a core skill now, and no longer just for psionic characters – it btw. lets you 1/day heal some hit points!

Feats have been similarly streamlined, now featuring a unified save DC formula, if applicable; they also have another aspect – many feats gain new benefits once the character reaches certain BAB or saving throw values, skill ranks, or caster levels. Some also require certain minimum class levels in a given class., or certain minimum class features – Elemental Channel, for example, gets its upgrade at channel energy 5d6. This paradigm of scaling feats keeps e.g. bleeding critical relevant. Blind Fight, for example, now lets you ignore any miss chance from concealment below total concealment once you’ve reached 10 ranks in Perception. This particularly makes styles more accessible – as e.g. there is no more style feat chain – instead, styles unlock the subsequent abilities once the character reaches certain requirements. Endurance now allows for sleeping in heavy armor and provides a bigger bonus if you reach 6 HD; Dodge upgrades to +4 dodge bonus at 3 HD for the purpose of moving through threatened areas – essentially rolling Mobility into the feat. Feats like Iron Will later unlock a 1/day reroll – in short, the chapter takes many classics and fixes some of the traditionally underwhelming options and decreases the feat-tax required for some of the more interesting combat options. As a whole, scaling feats are an excellent idea, and one I wholeheartedly welcome. Feat-chains still exist, but I noticed no more whole series of feats required to excel at one particular thing – Improved XYZ maneuver feats now scale, making their choice still required to excel, but not just an unlock. There are many design-decisions here that I genuinely liked seeing.

The book also contains a massive equipment section, once more explaining basics in a smart manner – critical multipliers and threat ranges, weapon damage by size, weapon categories and special features – you get the idea. There are some crucial differences – you can spend skill points to gain proficiency in ONE type of shield or armor – the heavier the armor, the more skill points. This also holds true for weapons – you can get weapon proficiencies with skill points – simple ones cost 2, exotic ones 6, to give you a framework. The equipment section also includes a metric ton of items, poisons, clothing, etc. From food to mounts to transport, the book covers a wide array of options. Vital statistics and encumbrance, movement tables (including handy overland walk distance covered etc.) is included. The card-based chase rules are also included, and since Sap changes pretty drastically how objects may be broken, this also includes a pretty extensive section.

Tactical combat is explained in an easy to grasp manner, and how actions are used, the whole tactical combat thing – everything explained in a pretty concise and clever manner. There is a massive list of arcane traditions, as well as domains – as noted before deity disapproval is a thing, and this genuinely changes how clerics etc. feel – and I love it. It makes the faithful more rewarding to play AND it makes them feel like, you know, agents of a higher power. And yep, it takes some time to lose your abilities – it’s not just an annoying, discussion-causing instant loss, it requires some time and serious wrongdoings. Spell interaction is also explained in streamlined in simple ways – if two spells operate in the same area, the higher-level spell operates, the lower spell doesn’t – INCLUDING the targets affected. Small explanations and rules-interactions like this add more to the game than I genuinely expected them to. Similarly, descriptors are tightly-defined.

A huge chapter of spells can be found here, and the book also covers rules for spellblights. Crafting gets an overhaul as well – you get Craft Points every level, and may use them to craft and assist. I do not yet have sufficient experience with the system to make a final verdict on this aspect, but it does look promising. Wealth by level, stats for walls and doors, rules for getting lost, a nice array of both creative and classic hazards are included. Suffice to say, we also get rules for storms, weather, winds, cold dangers…and traps.

The trap-making engine deserves special mention: It is an elegant and concise table, with damage, poison levels, spell levels, atk, etc. all defined – the engine is elegant and mighty and allows for quick and painless trap creation for simple traps – for the traps that are basically invisible lines of damage, this engine is super helpful. While it doesn’t allow for the generation of complex traps, it does what PFRPG’s first edition understands as the standard trap exceedingly well. Kudos!

Magic items are defined, and note their DCs to identify them in the header – super helpful! The game provides a massive magic item chapter; this also includes magic item creation, obviously. The book also features rules and abbreviated stats for sample NPCs, and curses, diseases and poisons – all covered. The latter use btw. the unchained-like rules, with progression tracks. It should, however, be noted that there now is a poison damage type as well, coexisting with the track-system – which makes sense to me, and yep, one glance at the Dc lets you know the default poison damage caused. The massive tome ends with summaries of terms, negative energy, SR, etc. – all helpful and easy to parse.

The game comes with a character sheet, and a SUPER-BRIEF errata that currently contains one entry regarding a single capstone.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Considering the vast density of the rules material herein, the book is exceedingly precise in its presentation of the subject matter. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard with purple highlights, and the book features a lot of rather nice full-color artwork. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, making navigation pretty simple.

Mark Gedak’s background in the higher education teaching sector shows rather well in this book – in a way, the Porphyra RPG’s presentation always makes sense in an almost uncanny manner: The book feels, much more than other d20-based books, like it guides you through the process of playing, like the sequence of information presentation simply makes sense. This is a huge deal for a core book like this.

The changes made to Pathfinder 1st edition’s chassis also proved to be, for the most part, absolutely welcome – the streamlining of the magic system, its spell classes and descriptor focus – they make sense and I adore what this offers – it makes spells feel more magical, allows for the creation of casting traditions and the like, for limitations, if desired. Similarly, the changes to clerics are excellent and welcome. The scaling feats also are great and truly welcome – as is the notion of using skills to pay for proficiencies. There is a ton to love about the system. There are a couple of instances, where the game needs more context and time to allow me to properly judge facets – how crafting points pan out, how the whole caster check to attack pans out, etc. – particularly the latter is something that does not instill me with confidence. On a personal note, I really dislike spells and SPs not being in italics anymore – and surprisingly, those remain my most pronounced gripes with this tome.

In a way, Porphyra RPG is a bit like one of the OSR-systems that don’t just seek to replicate a given edition; it feels like a labor of love, like a love-letter to Pathfinder’s first edition, and I really adore this book for it. While there are things I love about Pathfinder’s Second Edition, there also are components that I already can say that just, by virtue of different systems, will behave in different ways and appeal to me in completely different ways.

The best explanation, perhaps, would be as follows: I really like old-school games. I also love games like D&D 5e,Starfinder, etc. I wouldn’t derive the same sort of enjoyment from these; I’d use them to tell different stories. This very notion, to me, seems to hold true for Pathfinder 1st edition and its 2nd edition – the systems feel as different to me as e.g. AD&D and 3.X did.

And this is where Porphyra RPG comes in – it takes the heritage of Pathfinder 1st edition and adds a whole array of improvements and changes to the game, much like how Pathfinder 1st edition did for 3.5 – only to an imho more efficient degree. Pathfinder’s first edition, to me, only grew a proper identity with the release of the APG. Same goes for e.g. how 13th Age only came into itself with 13 True Ways. Porphyra RPG, on the other hand already feels like a very distinct streamlined take of PFRPG’s 1st edition, one with a distinct identity.

In many ways, I consider this to be a great game to own, and one I wish to see prosper – not only because of the money I have invested in Pathfinder’s first edition, but because I do believe that, regardless of how much I might like other systems, I will always enjoy Pathfinder’s first edition – and if I can have it with a lot of tweaks, heck, that’s a good thing. The sheer complexity of combat and build options available can make for seriously outstanding combat “puzzles”, if you will – in ways that a system with a more tightly-wound math can’t account for. Porphyra RPG revises without invalidating – and its changes and their extent, mirror in many ways how Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 used to operate. The changes in Porphyra RPG’s rules tend to affect the rules in an overall positive manner, while still allowing for the use of older components with a bit of quick hacking. In a way, this almost feels like a love-letter hack of d20-based games – the continuation for people who didn’t want a hard break.

If you’re fed up with the old Pathfinder, then this won’t blow your mind; if, however, you had hoped for a PF 1.75 at one point, for something akin to what Pathfinder’s first edition was for D&D 3.5, then this delivers, in spades. And considering that this was the work of such a small team, it is a genuinely impressive achievement. Speaking of team: Beyond Mark Gedak, Derek Blakely, Carl Cramér, Keith J. Davies, Perry Fehr, Kent Little and Patrick Kossmann have provided designs to this book, with the Purple Duck Games-patreon supporters credited also for their help; as such, I’ll mention these valiant souls as well: Derek Blakely, Raphael Bressel, Carl Cramér, Nicolas Desjardins, John Gardner, Brett Glass, Von Krieger, Gregory Lusak, Cecil Maye, Andre Roy, Justin P. Sluder, Mike Welham. Oh, and guess what? All herein is open game content. That’s impressive generosity, and while not new for Purple Duck Games, it still impresses me for a book of this size. Oh, and there is an evolving rules-wiki!

How to rate this? Well, if the above appealed to you, then consider this to be an explicit recommendation. My direct comparisons for this book would be PFRPG 1st edition’s core rules and 13th Age, as both are +.75-versions of previous games. Both of these books, divorced from the expansions that would help them come into their own, are 4-star books for me. And in a way, Porphyra RPG fares better in many regards. Yes, there are a precious few instances like caster checks to attack, which frankly worry me, as I can’t see their math working out, but I can’t yet fully judge how this will develop in the future. That being said, the vast majority of the changes are pretty significant and straight improvements, as far as I’m concerned. And yes, I freely admit to loving this game, not in spite of its inheritance, but because of it. So yeah. If you can manage to take a neutral look at Pathfinder’s first edition, you should probably consider this to be a 4-star game as well; however, if you enjoy the game, but want some evolution of what you already love, then this delivers in spades. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, and I’ll round up. Finally, this also gets my seal of approval – because I genuinely adore many of the decisions made herein. Here’s to the future for both this game and Pathfinder Second Edition – two distinct playstyles I both enjoy for different reasons.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Porphyra Roleplaying Game
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Village Backdrop: Blackhill Gaol
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2019 04:40:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Blackhill Gaol once was a one-way-trip – the place was conceived as a forced labor camp for debtors, for political prisoners, for the wicked – for those that were to never be free again. As such, the village was constructed in a pretty remote area that is known for being pretty darn dangerous. The prisoners, alas, revolted against their overseers in a coup masterminded by Lady Ephael Areva (who now has her base n the clock tower), and now remain a self-governing entity of sorts – they avoid reprisals as long as they don’t stray too far from the village, and as a result, this place has garnered a reputation for offering pretty much any blackmarket goods you want.

If you’d be thinking that the revolt resulted in a type of anarchist utopia, you’d be sorely mistaken – the leaders of factions have been vying for control ever since, making Blackhill Gaol a dangerous spot to visit – something that the PFRPG version also emphasizes via the settlement statblock information provided. This version also comes with a proper marketplace section.

As always, the supplement does include information on local nomenclature and dressing habits alongside several whispers and rumors – one of them mentioning that the well’s been poisoned, which, alas, remains a non-sequitur. It’d had been nice to have this represented mechanically as well. On the plus-side, since most buildings once were conjoined cellblocks, we do receive information of how difficult these once were to unlock, so that’s a plus in that regard.

A significant plus, as always, would be the section that provides 20 different entries on local dressing and events, as these act as an easy way for the GM to introduce some action and local color to the proceedings. As a supplement very much driven by factions, the place does come with 7 sample NPCs, all of which are presented in the fluff-only type that we’ve come to expect from the series – i.e. they note background, mannerisms and personality traits. They also come with a bit of read-aloud text depicting the NPC, and information on class/race/etc.

A total of 11 keyed locations may be found within this supplement, with all of them sporting a descriptive read-aloud line – where applicable, they list their own section regarding things you can purchase there, and a few of them also feature short quest/adventure hooks. Interesting here would be that many of the beings here have explicit or implicit consequences for interaction with the PCs. For example, a remaining staffer who survived the riot may well turn down a dark road unless confronted by the PCs. The commander of the “watch”´, Skella Grint, may recruit the PCs to help her clear up ritual murders and the like – a standard scenario, but one made more interesting by the village’s unique angle.

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

Jacob W. Michaels’ Blackhill Gaol is a per se cool supplement – with a clocktower and the cellblock angle, it has a unique atmosphere to it, one I genuinely consider to be fun. I’d have loved to see a bit more in the goods-department or sample prices for services rendered, but that is nothing that a good GM can’t provide. All in all, this is a well-crafted village. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Blackhill Gaol
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, End. I'm delighted you enjoyed Blackhill Gaol!
Village Backdrop: Blackhill Gaol (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2019 04:38:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Blackhill Gaol once was a one-way-trip – the place was conceived as a forced labor camp for debtors, for political prisoners, for the wicked – for those that were to never be free again. As such, the village was constructed in a pretty remote area that is known for being pretty darn dangerous. The prisoners, alas, revolted against their overseers in a coup masterminded by Lady Ephael Areva (who now has her base n the clock tower), and now remain a self-governing entity of sorts – they avoid reprisals as long as they don’t stray too far from the village, and as a result, this place has garnered a reputation for offering pretty much any blackmarket goods you want.

If you’d be thinking that the revolt resulted in a type of anarchist utopia, you’d be sorely mistaken – the leaders of factions have been vying for control ever since, making Blackhill Gaol a dangerous spot to visit. The 5e-version does not include a proper marketplace section.

As always, the supplement does include information on local nomenclature and dressing habits alongside several whispers and rumors – one of them mentioning that the well’s been poisoned, which, alas, remains a non-sequitur. It’d had been nice to have this represented mechanically as well. Most buildings once were conjoined cellblocks, and the pdf mentions an “DC 30 Open Lock“ in an obvious PFRPG remnant. One of the healing potions that may be purchased here also still follows the PFRPG nomenclature.

A significant plus, as always, would be the section that provides 20 different entries on local dressing and events, as these act as an easy way for the GM to introduce some action and local color to the proceedings. As a supplement very much driven by factions, the place does come with 7 sample NPCs, all of which are presented in the fluff-only type that we’ve come to expect from the series – i.e. they note background, mannerisms and personality traits. They also come with a bit of read-aloud text depicting the NPC, and information on class/race/etc. if applicable; in the 5e-version, the pdf references the default NPC-statblocks.

A total of 11 keyed locations may be found within this supplement, with all of them sporting a descriptive read-aloud line – where applicable, they list their own section regarding things you can purchase there, and a few of them also feature short quest/adventure hooks. Interesting here would be that many of the beings here have explicit or implicit consequences for interaction with the PCs. For example, a remaining staffer who survived the riot may well turn down a dark road unless confronted by the PCs. The commander of the “watch”´, Skella Grint, may recruit the PCs to help her clear up ritual murders and the like – a standard scenario, but one made more interesting by the village’s unique angle.

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

Jacob W. Michaels’ Blackhill Gaol is a per se cool supplement – with a clocktower and the cellblock angle, it has a unique atmosphere to it, one I genuinely consider to be fun. I’d have loved to see a bit more in the goods-department or sample prices for services rendered, but that is nothing that a good GM can’t provide. The 5e-version has a bit less meat on its bones than the PFRPG-iteration, and feels slightly rushed, particularly considering how few crunchy bits may be found herein. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars for this version.

Endzeitgeist out



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Blackhill Gaol (5e)
Click to show product description

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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, End. I'm delighted you enjoyed Blackhill Gaol!
Village Backdrop: Blackhill Gaol (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2019 04:37:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Blackhill Gaol once was a one-way-trip – the place was conceived as a forced labor camp for debtors, for political prisoners, for the wicked – for those that were to never be free again. As such, the village was constructed in a pretty remote area that is known for being pretty darn dangerous. The prisoners, alas, revolted against their overseers in a coup masterminded by Lady Ephael Areva (who now has her base n the clock tower), and now remain a self-governing entity of sorts – they avoid reprisals as long as they don’t stray too far from the village, and as a result, this place has garnered a reputation for offering pretty much any blackmarket goods you want.

If you’d be thinking that the revolt resulted in a type of anarchist utopia, you’d be sorely mistaken – the leaders of factions have been vying for control ever since, making Blackhill Gaol a dangerous spot to visit.

As always, the supplement does include information on local nomenclature and dressing habits alongside several whispers and rumors – one of them mentioning that the well’s been poisoned, which, alas, remains a non-sequitur. It’d had been nice to have this represented in some way. The buildings of conjoined cellblocks have a PFRPG-remnant that refers to a “DC 30 Open Locks”-check. On the plus-side, the sections pertaining goods to be purchased have been adapted properly to the realities of old-school gaming.

A significant plus, as always, would be the section that provides 20 different entries on local dressing and events, as these act as an easy way for the GM to introduce some action and local color to the proceedings. As a supplement very much driven by factions, the place does come with 7 sample NPCs, all of which are presented in the fluff-only type that we’ve come to expect from the series – i.e. they note background, mannerisms and personality traits. They also come with a bit of read-aloud text depicting the NPC, and information on class/race/etc. Kudos: These pieces of information represent the proper old-school nomenclature.

A total of 11 keyed locations may be found within this supplement, with all of them sporting a descriptive read-aloud line – where applicable, they list their own section regarding things you can purchase there, and a few of them also feature short quest/adventure hooks. Interesting here would be that many of the beings here have explicit or implicit consequences for interaction with the PCs. For example, a remaining staffer who survived the riot may well turn down a dark road unless confronted by the PCs. The commander of the “watch”´, Skella Grint, may recruit the PCs to help her clear up ritual murders and the like – a standard scenario, but one made more interesting by the village’s unique angle.

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

Jacob W. Michaels’ Blackhill Gaol is a per se cool supplement – with a clocktower and the cellblock angle, it has a unique atmosphere to it, one I genuinely consider to be fun. I’d have loved to see a bit more in the goods-department or sample prices for services rendered, but that is nothing that a good GM can’t provide. All in all, I consider this iteration to be slightly superior to the 5e-iteration – as such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Blackhill Gaol (SNE)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, End. I'm delighted you enjoyed Blackhill Gaol!
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