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Gnome Jambalaya
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2020 06:07:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/supplement clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 41 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) booklet size, so let’s take a look!

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

Before we get to the main meat of this supplement, it bears mentioning that this book actually has some serious player-facing stuff, so let’s start with that! Oh yeah, and because someone is bound to think that: Ähem…BLASPHEMY! DCC HAS NO GNOMES!! ;) Well, in case you missed the (properly-credited to Yves Larochelle!) CRAWL!-zine #6, you might not have been aware of there actually being such a race-class, and it has been reproduced and expanded here. Speaking of proper credits: Even suggestions by a user on the Goodman Games-boards are credited! That’s awesome and seriously deserves applause!

In case you missed the class so far: We have d5 HD, 20 ft. speed, training with sling, staff, dart and dagger, and are limited to attaining 5th level. Gnomish magic is restricted to illusion and deceptions, and gnomes can’t have patrons; they get to choose 3 1st-level spells from their list, and cast like wizards via Intelligence, with the exception of the Trick Die, which is rolled to determine the caster level. The spell check is rolled with 1d20 + Trick Die + Intelligence modifier, and spell failure only applies if both dice come up as 1s. Gnome illusions can become “sturdy” if the judge deems it appropriate and the Trick Die comes up as 3 or higher, becoming tangible and potentially dealing an automatic 1d5 damage per level of the gnome; if the Trick Die comes up as 5 or higher, the target must also succeed on a Will save vs. the spell check or flee. Sturdy illusions can cause elemental damage, if that’d make sense. Trick Die starts at 1d3 and improves one step up the die-chain every level, up to 1d7. Each level nets a spell known, with 5th level providing two, and the maximum spell level increases by 1 at 3rd level and every level thereafter. All saves kick off at +1, with Reflex improving the quickest. Gnome attack bonus caps at +3, and the class uses crit die 1d6 (improving to 1d10) and table I throughout. Action die remains 1d20, with only 5th level adding +1d4 to that; the action die can be used for attacks and spell checks.

Gnomes are resistant to magic, having a 10% chance per level to not be affected by magic; gnomes can also roll the Trick Die to render animals/insects with less than 1 HD friendly; they can see in the dark up to 60 feet, detect the presence of gems (10% chance per level), and apply their Luck modifier to all saving throws versus magic attacks and spells. 0-level gnome information is provided, and we get a 1d14 table of Zero-level occupations.

This class is also supplemented by the scripted illusion spell, which pretty much does what you’d expect.

Beyond the interesting gnome class, we also have an expansion of the awesome faerie animals class introduced back in Faerie Tales from Unlit Shoes: Creeping Beauties of the Wood (seriously, if you haven’t checked out the series and even remotely like dark faerie tales, then get the entire series now…); the expansion focuses on bayou-themed animals, with class table etc. provided alongside a massive alternate occupation/animal type/etc./table.

The supplemental material also includes a d20-table of swampfolk occupations, and also features notes on how to tie it to a selection of other Purple Duck Games supplements (excellent ones), and hints at something I’d rather love to see.

Now, as for the main adventure featured herein, it is a funnel and was tested with gnomes + faerie animals; it should be noted that the module is pretty deadly when run as such, and puts a serious focus on player skill, but not exclusively. It does work well as a 1st level adventure for 4 characters, just in case you were wondering.

The module sports well-written read-aloud text, and a pretty massive array of modular/random encounters, which include infected spoonbills, swampfolk, quicksand, etc., running a pretty good gamut between the grounded and dangerous, and weird. And these only are the random ones.

Structurally, the module is essentially a sandbox of the Blackwater Bayou. The hex map of the bayou is presented in full-color and comes with a keyed encounters noted for the GM; GMs get two versions, one with hexes, and one without them; however, even better, the supplement comes with a player-friendly iteration of the map, which is also presented in proper pngs for VTT-use. A player-friendly version of the final location of sorts is also provided. HUGE kudos, considering that the lack of player-friendly maps is often one of my main gripes with DCC adventures. A hex s assumed to be 1000 ft. and take 10 minutes to traverse, and paths and trails are noted on the maps.

It should be noted that the adventure does a pretty neat job at setting up global effects such as drinking swampwater, and it does have a rather rarely seen vibe, somewhere between twisted fairy tale, classic weird and southern gothic.

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

… .. .

Okay, only judges around? Great! So, a meteor…WAIT. I know, it’s a trite old cliché at this point, but a) the module does frankly acknowledge its inspirations and b) the devil’s in the details. In many ways, we don’t have a full subversion of the classic trope here, and instead focus on an execution that lives and breathes a unique atmosphere by virtue of its small tidbits. The “infected” creatures I mentioned above are infected by a weird fungal lifeform spreading from the carcinoma, and there is a risk of fusion with the horrible hellscape these things hail from.

So far, so predictable – but you won’t call the curious bottle witch with her d7 tables of dark and light liquids. These can include the shadows of the slain (who might later rise, when the PC passes the place they’re buried in) or gain other benefits. But, being a witch (she’s illustrated in full color, btw.!), she does demand a price – and these not only note the price and consequence, but also how it is taken, be it soul, shadow or dream. A proper engine for her oracular readings and effects is also provided, just fyi.

From skunk apes and snapping turtles to strange swampdweller villages and beached skiffs, there’s quite a bit to uncover as the PCs need to brave a crossing – and what about that instance where frogs, like in the old Budweiser ad (yep, even I know that one, and I’m from Germany!) croak the name of their demonic patron? (Which also doubles as a chance to take ole’ Bobugbiliz as a patron…)

As the PCs progress, they will find villages of zombie-like individuals controlled by a dread petalhead, vanguard of the potential invasion…and if you enjoy the timeless/dimensionally-confused themes, you’ll geta chuckle out of the New Orleans 65 miles sign. If you don’t want that angle in your game, you can easily change it, with guidelines provided. This holds true for all such instances, btw. En route, the party also has a chance to potentially experience a deity’s positive influence (and/or end that…), making for a potential cleric (-to-be) angle.

Ultimately, the party will reach the carcinoma, and the nightmarish petalheads, which are also illustrated in full color. And they almost feel tailormade to scare the living hell out of me. You see, I consider sunflowers to be creepy. They move too much for plants, are too tall, and I always feel watched by them. It’s the one truly irrational fear I have. The petalheads? Picture three leg-like things, a stalk, hands, and a sunflower-ish head with an eye-studded mass in the middle. I genuinely can’t look at the artwork for long, and my response at the table would be to scream to purge these things with fire and extreme prejudice.

Ultimately, the party needs to eliminate the strange machinery slowly doing its horrid work, hopefully sending the carcinoma back to its homeplane/world of Hellgoth.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the module comes with a couple of really nice full-color artworks. The cartography in full color is neat as well, and the presence of player-friendly versions that are VTT-friendly is absolutely great. Not so great: The pdf unfortunately has no bookmarks, which is a comfort detriment; once the PoD-version goes live, I’ll get that; until then, I suggest just printing out the pdf – its layout makes this pretty printer-friendly.

Daniel J. Bishop’s “Gnome Jamabalaya” is a great example of a supplement that is greater than the sum of its parts; when someone had told be about the individual components, of the relatively grounded aspects, with slowly mounting weirdness and some Easter eggs thrown in, I’d probably have yawned, which makes describing the appeal of this module pretty hard for me as a reviewer.

You see, there are goofy elements here, there are playful elements here; however, these are contrasted with a surprisingly effective rendition of growing horror, which, while not subtle, performs in an effective slow-burn that mounts towards the finale, which btw. can best be solved by smart players.

So, as a whole, I consider this booklet to be a neat success; it is not the author’s best module, but it is yet another example of how a great author can wring gold from even tired tropes. As a whole, I consider this to be a module worth getting if you’re looking for something playful that yet can be run in a truly creepy manner. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the player-friendly maps.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gnome Jambalaya
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Book of Beasts: Warpriest Codex (PF 1e)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2020 08:15:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Beasts-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, what is this? Well, if the name “Codex” implies, this supplement is all about NPC builds, and provides statblocks in roughly the same manner as you’d expect from e.g. the NPC Codex. The book provides one statblock for every level ranging from level 1 to level 20, and presents between 1 and 2 statblocks per page; in the lower level-ranges, we sometimes have two statblocks per page. It should be noted that these statblocks per se are designed to be provided for generic NPCs, but often also come with brief flavor descriptions that allow for immediate, well-rounded NPC use – again, much like the NPC Codex, though the amount of sample prose in this book is higher than in comparable supplements. The majority (around 23rds) of the NPC statblocks are supplemented by this prose. These also offer some roleplaying suggestions for the respective character, which I considered to be a nice touch. Base statistics are also provided for the characters, which is a big plus, imho. Many of the statblocks also come with advice for use in combat encounters, and I mean beyond the notes in the statblock itself

Okay, so, another nice touch is that the statblocks list the respective movement rates without armor, and it should be noted that the statblocks that I have reverse-engineered checked out both regarding math and formatting – which is admirably concise and precise. Speaking of precision – it may be a small thing, but I enjoyed seeing that favored class options were not always defaulted to the same choice for every build, and it should also be noted that there are no simple build progressions. By this, I mean that e.g. the level 8 statblock is not simply an upgrade of a level 4 statblock previously used; the NPCs are genuinely different builds. There also is an above-average unity between build and story, when applicable.

For example, it makes sense that the CR ½ Azathoth cultist warpriest, hurt and abused by all, has a good AC for her level and a spell/blessing selection that lets her retaliate against the world. The level 2 gnomish warpriest, in contrast, is a smart one that can use the combination of terrain control and SPs + spells to make up for a lack of mobility as a surprisingly effective low-level guerilla. Interesting here: The gnome actually is pretty charismatic, something that e.g. the grizzled mercenary priest (Charisma 6) most assuredly is not; before you consider that to be illogical, do note that the fellow has some Diplomacy skills in spite of Charisma being the dump stat. This decision makes in-game sense and does not compromise the build. Need a skirmisher? Okay, what about a wyvaran airborne reanimator who uses mobility and minion animation as valid strategies. The more charming corsair chaplain is interesting, in that he represents a distinctly swashbuckling angle that uses Dexterity as a dumpstat, making up for this with magic and smart blessing choice. A half-elven forgepriestess, or what about a gnoll-embalmer of Anubis? It’s really nice to see that the concepts behind the builds and their respective executions form a unity, and if you e.g. wanted to see an efficient ranged warpriest for a change of pace, you’ll find the like herein as well. From glamered armor worn by champions of greed to ritual bloodletters sporting manacles of cooperation and e.g. a blood reservoir of physical prowess, to an infernal dragoon shocktroop of Asmodeus focused ruthlessly on efficiency, we have this unity of flavor and rules mirrored everywhere, and also receive e.g. builds for hobgoblin saviors trying to establish a proper homeland for goblinoids, and if you need a good mentor/high-level ally, the pdf obliges as well, with e.g. a neat CR 16 aasimar demon slayer whose build is not exclusively fearsome to the spawn of the Abyss.

While we’re speaking of high-level NPCs, there are creative concepts here as well – the eternal artisan, for example, would be a samsaran warpriest of Hecate, at once excellent creators of potent magic items and fearsome foes. Of course, mighty dwarven high priests and lethal Cthulhu cult leaders of gillman stock can also be found. While the variety of builds per se is neat, from divine commander to champion of the faith to forgepriest, we also have a couple of nifty archetypes used in the builds.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. To the point where it was a genuine boon for me. I’ve been working on quite a few books with serious formatting issues, and this one persistently managed to get all the little components right. Layout adheres to a nice two-column standard with a black border on the side – this border may not be too printer-friendly, but it most assuredly is aesthetically-pleasing. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with individual bookmarks for every warpriest, presented in a clean manner. Artworks are of the same quality as the cover, which is another nice plus.

Dale C. McCoy, Jr. and Richard Moore have provided a pleasant surprise for me: You know, I usually am not that keen on reviewing NPC Codices, because they’re a ton of work for me, and hard to keep saying meaningful things about, if done right. You know the kind. They’re stats. Done. In a way, this book does a lot right here: It manages to provide a union between concepts and individual characters; the builds are diverse and fun, and go the extra mile in a variety of ways; from the absence of builds that are simple progressions to the small details prevalent everywhere, this pdf shows that the authors genuinely CARED.

That care translates to the reader. I’m not a big fan of the warpriest class per se, but after consulting this book, I found myself wanting to use these builds in my game, a response that only precious few NPC codices manage to instill. In short, this is a genuinely well-wrought NPC Codex that manages to endear me to statblocks for a class I am not particularly fond of…and that’s seriously worth something. My final verdict will be 5 stars, and for the care, the small touches, the going the extra mile, this also receives my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: Warpriest Codex (PF 1e)
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Star Log.Deluxe: Blood Space Species Reforged
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2020 10:27:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third pdf providing reforged versions of Starfinder spcies with plenty of customization options clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, so, at this point, I think you’ll all be familiar with the base concept of the reforged species series – if not, please consult my reviews of the first two Star Log.Deluxe-installments dealing with them. (If you’re reading this on my home page, just click on the star log-tag, and you’ll have the list.)

Anyhow, this book covers no less than 7 species rewired in the tradition of this series, starting with catfolk, who apply their ability boost to Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence or Charisma, with a second boost available at the cost of a flaw to Wisdom. Catfolk get 4 HP, have low-light version, and ignore the first 10 feet they fell, take 1d6 nonlethal damage for the next 10 ft., and then 1d6 lethal damage after that. As long as they have 1 HP remaining, they are not prone after the fall, and they can attempt to make a fall a deliberate fall with an Acrobatics check, whose DC increases by distance falling. 2 heritages are provided. Junglewalkers get climb speed equal to base speed, and pridemane catfolk get an extraordinary frightful presence that is governed by Charisma and scales with level, used as a move action, and saving successfully renders you immune for 24 hours; the effect is emotion, fear and sense-dependent mind-affecting. This descriptor array is why I’m not complaining about it not being tied to Resolve, though personally, that’s how I’d have handled this. 8 species traits are provided, and include the ability to assume cat form, rolling a Reflex save twice and taking the better result (at the cost of Resolve after the first use), skill enhancers, climb speed (odd that the junglewalker heritage ability can be gained as a species trait, but not the frightening roar…), charging sans penalties and ferocious charge, blindsense (hearing), properly codified natural weapons (YES!!) and an ability that lets you fall farther sans damage, based on Acrobatics ranks. Solid array! The reference to the page featuring the catfolk species traits is wrong – it should be 7, not 17.

Kitsune apply their ability boost to Dexterity, intelligence or Charisma, and can get a second one for a flaw to Strength or Wisdom, are humanoid shapechangers, and also get 4 HP. They have low-light vision, get change shape into an alternate human form, and there are three heritages to choose from. Feral kitsune get natural weapons, kyubi scions get magical tail and may take it as replacement class feature at certain levels, and yokai kitsune get either realistic likeness or fox shape. 5 species traits are noted, and while fox shape and realistic likeness are pretty much self-explanatory (same goes for natural weapons, which btw. lets you choose slashing or piercing – NICE!), lithe grace lets you choose skill bonuses from a list (including the option to get a single skill as a class skill with bonus as an alternative use). Magical tail is the most interesting one: It nets you witchwarper spellcasting based on CE (Chakra energy) points, with CE costs equal to level and cantrips at-will, with additional taking of the trait providing higher-level spells and CE-increases.

Kobolds get their boost to Dexterity, and can get a second one to Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence or Wisdom in exchange for a Strength flaw, are Small,, get darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision, as well as 2 HP. They also get natural weapons, and while they get natural weapons, they get a variation that works differently, making their unarmed strikes count as non-archaic, and specifying no damage type; for type, I assume bludgeoning. I also think it’s slightly odd to have this blending of unarmed and natural weapons, but this may be just me being traumatized from some builds my players came up with back in PFRPG. Still, rules-aesthetics-wise, I’d have preferred this to have its own name and not be called Natural Weapons. For the purpose of most games, this should not be an issue. There are two heritages provided: Deepwarren kobolds can extend their darkvision to 120 ft. when resting in dim light or darkness to regain Stamina Points, but at the cost of also getting light blindness. This short rest based mode change is a really cool angle! Kudos! The second heritage is the wyvaran, which makes you a dragon with the kobold subtype and nets +2 racial bonus to saves vs. paralysis and sleep, extraordinary fly speed of 30 ft. with average maneuverability. The latter has btw. a catch that makes you land or fall at the end of your turn until 5th level; in zero-g, maneuverability increases to perfect. In direct comparison, this one seems stronger than the deepwarren angle. 8 species traits are provided, including a bonus to attack rolls versus flat-footed, off-kilter and prone targets, Companion Creature Adept as a bonus feat, a Resolve powered, scaling breath weapon, climb speed, skill boosts (or gained as class skills with bonus) chosen from a list, immunity to one effect or a save bonus based on a dragon graft chosen, or Extra Resolve. My favorite one, though, would be hurried retreat, which nets Mobility, and lets you decrease Mobility’s bonus to increase your speed temporarily. Cool!

Mechanoi determine their boost by heritage chosen, and can get a second one in exchange for a flaw to Charisma. They get 6 HP, are technological constructs and count as living creatures for healing effects, but halve Hit Points regained thus (should specify rounded down), and they require Engineering instead of Medicine when it comes to healing them. They are immune to bleed, disease, death effect, poison, nonlethal damage and sleep effects, but may be targeted by humanoid-only effects, gaining a +4 racial bonus to such saves instead. They don’t eat or drink, but need to go into an offline-mode akin to sleep to recharge their batteries. They also don’t breathe and don’t suffer in vacuum. Three heritages are provided: Compact models get their boost to Dexterity and get a bonus mechanoi trait and reach 5 ft.; Giant model mechanoi are Large and get a bonus mechanoi trait and a reach of 5 ft.; the standard model is Small (boost to Dexterity) or Medium (boost to Strength), and a bonus mechanoi trait. 5 species traits are included. These include the option to get low-light vision and upgrade it to also include darkvision 60 ft., having a technological item or cybernetic augmentation integrated into you (with item level as guideline), drone mods, skill routines…and one trait that is pure awesome, namely the transformation matrix, which nets you an alternate shape as a weapon, technological item or vehicle! Yes, you can play transformers! Epic! And yep, the respective item categories are properly explained. I generally like the mechanoi, but considering how important Stamina is, I think that the construct immunity array is a bit overkill; I’d have made this a selection with a species trait to buy into more of them, particularly considering how e.g. poisons etc. are better in SFRPG than they were in PFRPG.

Nagaji get both the reptilian and nagaji subtypes, have low-light vision, 4 HP, and get both a +1 racial bonus to natural armor, and + racial bonus to saving throws vs. poisons. They apply their ability boost to Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom or Charisma, and may choose a second one in exchange for a flaw applied to Intelligence. Three heritages are includes: Hooded nagaji get mighty presence (Intimidate), a new species trait that nets you +2 to one of the social skills and lets you ignore the prerequisites to a feat based on the skill chosen. Nalaasei have no legs, and instead have a speed of 20 ft, but may move at full speed while using Acrobatics and Stealth as well as Lunge as a prerequisite-less bonus feat; the third heritage, the servitor nagaji nets focused training, which translates to your choice of Skill Focus, Spell Focus, Versatile Weapon Focus or Weapon Focus. The species comes with 8 species traits; these include the ability to spit acidic venom that has the blind critical effect and scale with damage. It is properly codified regarding proficiencies, dirty tricks etc. – cool. We also get natural weapons (the good, precise kind), scent, and a trait that nets you swim speed at land speed + 10 ft. Tolling twice on Will saves, with Resolve for uses beyond the first, and the species can also choose a hypnotic gaze, which lets you use Bluff or Diplomacy to fascinate targets, with additional uses costing Resolve. Really cool one!

The nuar (Medium minotaurs, essentially) get their boost to Strength or Intelligence, with the option for a second boost at the cost of a flaw to Dexterity; they gain 6 Hit Points, and have a base speed of 40 ft., have darkvision, and have a special level-based check instead of Piloting or Survival to orienteer themselves, and they increase this with ranks in Piloting and Survival. The reference to the page featuring the nuar species traits is wrong – it should be 17, not 15. The three nuar heritages include the option to become Large and get natural weapons (reach still 5 ft.); the second nets tech savant (skill bonus/class skill gain), and the third ones nets you Mystic Inkling, or Spell Focus/Spell Penetration if you’re a mystic. 8 species traits are provided, including ferocious charge, weapon familiarity, natural weapons (the good, precise kind), a scent-based blindsense, Improved Combat Maneuver (with synergy, if you have ferocious charge), adding wound critical effect to unarmed strikes (which improves at 13th level to severe wound), and there is a means to use Profession as a substitute to Piloting/Survival and use the combo skill as well as with the regular one.

The final species would be the uramae, who get to choose where to apply their boost, and they can get a second one for accepting a flaw based on heritage: deoxyians can’t apply the flaw to Intelligence, wsjr can’t apply it to Constitution. Minor nitpick: The page reference to species traits is incorrect and should be 19, not 17. They get 40 ft. speed and 4 Hit Points per level; they get a bonus when taking 10 or 20, with further uses costing Resolve; the heritages here matter a lot: deoxyians choose a living species and get the deoxymorphic subtype (would have been nice to get that one here for reference) and that of the chosen species, counting as both creatures, and whatever is worse, if in doubt. This unlocks the species’ senses traits, inherent traits or species traits and movement types, and expand the number of traits by using replacement class feature, representing this part of the species’ relentless genetic engineering. The mumiyah heritage changes your type to undead and the deathly trait (gets dual type right), as well as a +1 racial bonus to saves vs. diseases, exhaustion, fatigue, mind-affecting effects, paralysis, poison, sleep and stunning, unless these also apply to undead. Wsjr uramae get +2 Hit Points at 1st level, and toughness-representing bonus feat (the save boosters or Toughness). The species gets 6 species traits to choose from: These include skilled, gaining one of the save-boosting feats the skill/class skill booster, further enhancing the take-10/20 ability, ferocious charge, and additional augmentation slot.

Beyond these, we also get a couple new universal heritages, which includes being blood-scarred by the blood space phenomenon, which nets you bonus traits at the cost of one bane chosen from a list; being a genetically-engineered giant version of your species is included, and samsarans and vishkanya are represented as heritages as well, which makes so much sense to me. The pdf closes with 9 different universal heritages, which include Skull Focus, being multilingual, +2 Hit Point total, Hauler as a bonus feat, and 5 different shapechanging focused traits, which include options to demoralize and feint with shape changing, using in conjunction with standing up, etc. – these are pretty darn cool!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, if not as perfect as in the first two species reforged pdfs. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with neat full-color artworks for all species provided. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas’ third species reforged pdf is a great continuation of the series, if one that falls slightly short of the lofty excellence established in the first two installments. On the plus side, we have what I really love, namely species traits that really change the playstyle of the respective species in a compelling and unique manner; it should really be noted that the species are universally better and more compelling than their first iterations. So yeah, I consider this to a success, one that mainly suffers from having to live up to the nigh-perfect balancing of the first two installments; in this pdf here, there are a few different instances where I’d personally tweak the balancing slightly, but it should be noted than most SFRPG tables will experience no issues here whatsoever – this is Alexander Augunas at the helm, after all!. Minor niggles notwithstanding, as a whole, I consider this to a success, which is why my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.Deluxe: Blood Space Species Reforged
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Quests of Doom 4: Forgive and Regret (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2020 10:26:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as part of a series of requests by my patreon supporters.

Well, this module was originally penned as part of the criminally underrated series of environmental sourcebooks penned by Tom Knauss. To be more precise, this module originally was released as one of 3 modules in the “Marshes of Malice” swamp sourcebook, which I also own. Unlike the modules in “Mountains of Madness”, the adventures featured in “Marshes of Malice” do not constitute a mini-AP of sorts, which is good news for standalone presentations like this one.

This module takes place in the region known as the Wytch Bog in the Lost Lands setting and is formally a freeform sandbox with a surprisingly deep lore. Thematically, I’d call this gothic horror with a distinct fantasy slant – if you enjoyed the better Ravenloft modules back in the day, or Arthaus’ excellent 3.X Ravenloft-supplements, then you’ll adore the themes of this adventure as well.

Indeed, the set-up provided here is absolutely compelling, and better than many modules of twice that size: While a well-rounded party of characters is definitely suggested, simple murder-hoboing is not what’ll lead to success here (for a well-executed round of murder-hoboing, use Fishers of Men instead); this module rewards investigation and clever parties – in fact, it demands it. Proper roleplaying is required to solve the adventure, and, as a huge plus, the GM is not left alone with the capabilities of a level 8 party to deal with. The module requires that the party makes use of their powers and resources to triumph here.

Structurally, the module makes use of events, set-piece encounters and residents, but how things come together is ultimately left up to the GM, so this does require some preparation. Read-aloud text is provided in some instances, but is generally more on the sparse side of things, considering the freeform nature of the adventure.

All right, and 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, Hamish MacDuncan was not a peasant man – but that holds true for most of the xenophobic people in the Wytch Bog, as they are most assuredly hardened by the harsh and merciless life here. He was, however, a man with even less scruples, and when the horrible Archdeacon Bucá of Gurbynne pronounced and edict of extirpation for the traveling folk of the Viroeni, the poor people found themselves in this inhospitable place.

Hamish promised to get them to safety – but took their gold, as well as that of the local populace, and with his martial expertise, enacted a genocide in the bog – with only the sons of the matriarch escaping. Vengeance should prove to be brutal: Hamish was caught, put in a coffin, and condemned to the watery depths, turning into a grotesque nosferatu, cursed to remain for as long as the bloodlines of the treacherous and xenophobic bog-folk remained.

Now, unearthing all of this is very much possible, as the PCs travel the bog, from one inhospitable residence to the next. Hamish claims almost absolute dominion, and seems to want to end the bloodlines with his minions; thing are further complicated by the deadly inhabitants of the bog, like will-o’-wisps, a broken soul with class levels, etc. – there is a surprising amount of lore to be unearthed here, and Hamish has several hideouts and counter-strategies to dealing with the PCs.

Indeed, from surviving entities filling power-vacuums to the potential for multiple encounters with the multiclassed nosferatu, this module gets its tone PERFECTLY RIGHT. Hamish having a haven that requires magic/and/or being clever and contingencies (not the spells) in place further adds to that – he is a great dynamic antagonist, and not some idiot waiting to be slaughtered.

This is a fantastic dark fantasy/gothic horror yarn, and I’d play it in Ravenloft, the Witcher RPG etc. in a heartbeat. I seriously love this adventure.

HOWEVER. The stand-alone module, despite most assuredly having the room, does not fix my main gripe with the module in the hardcover. Out of some stupid reason I can’t fathom, the Wytch Bog regional map, which the PCs will explore, lacked a player-friendly version back then, and still does. Considering that plenty of letters act as spoilers on it, that’s a downer and serious comfort detriment. So the module hasn’t improved.

There is something worse, however. It actually got worse. In the original, e.g. a burning bush referenced the hazard rules of the hardcover; while the reference “see chapter 3” has been purged, guess what hasn’t been added? Bingo, actual information for its effects. RAW, this is CR 5 for no danger. Things get worse. See, Hamish has this cool angle that emphasizes his leitmotif: Skeeters, blood-sucking insect-things. They are his primary force of minions. Guess who is lacking stats in this stand-alone iteration? Bingo. The “see chapter 6”-reference-lines have been deleted, but the module still lacks the frickin’ stats! WTF. These creatures are his eyes and ears and foot soldiers – and sans stats, this renders the module essentially RAW unplayable, as the GM has no clue regarding their capabilities. Of all the creatures herein, the one missing is the most prominent one! How could this happen??

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the omission of the central minion creatures or hazards referenced is a bad blunder that seriously tarnishes a per se neat module. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the adventure sports neat b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, but as noted before, lacks the player-friendly map to make this convenient to run.

Of all of Tom Knauss’ modules deserving better stand-alone versions, this one irks me the most. It is a per se fantastic adventure, a perfect example of great and consistent adventure-writing, and ironically, it’s been sunk like its antagonist in its stand-alone version. The hazard-hiccup is unpleasant, but not the worst part. It’s not one encounter, or some sort of tangentially relevant thing that’s missing: The most prominent creature herein lacking frickin’ stats is an unmitigated disaster, particularly since the creature helped emphasize the themes of the module. If you can get the hardcover, get that version. This version, though? It’s not operational as written. It breaks my heart, but all this does, is to make me regret getting this version; I can’t forgive this blunder and can’t go higher than 2 stars for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: Forgive and Regret (PF)
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Battle Lord (Pathfinder 2nd Edition)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2020 12:42:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The PF2-version of one of my favorite martial commander classes for PF1 clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

The battle lord’s key ability boost is applied to either Strength or Dexterity, and we have 10 plus Constitution modifier hit points. The class properly features notes for the class during combat or social encounters, while exploring, etc., and initial proficiencies are as follows: Expert in Perception, Trained in Fortitude and Will, Expert in Reflex; re skills, we have Society, Heraldry Lore, Warfare Lore and one skill determined by specialty (see below), as well as 2+Intelligence modifier additional skills – all as trained. The battle lord is also trained in unarmed attacks, simple, martial and advanced weapons, as well as in light and medium armor and unarmed defense, and in its battle lord class DC. The DC increases to expert at 11th level, master at 17th level.

The enlisted training ability nets you a specialty, which then proceeds to govern the benefits of enlisted, officer (9th level) and ruler training (19th level). The specialties available are medic, overwatch, scout and soldier.

To give you two examples: Medic is trained in Medicine, and gets Tactical Healing and Battle Medicine as feats at the enlisted training; officer can use Battle Medicine to make a Medicine check to counteract a couple of conditions, with the DC formula clocking in at 15 + creature/hazard level for unlisted DCs; ruler lets you use Battle Medicine to counteract more severe conditions and expend all Battle Medicine uses for that character to return a character who died within the last 3 rounds to life at wounded 2. Now, personally, I’d have preferred conditions with variable numerical values to differentiate between them, but that may be me. In case you were wondering – there is a feat that lets you sue Battle Medicine on a target Intelligence modifier times per day (cool!) – but in a pretty nasty glitch, that feat is called “Tactical Medicine” – there is not Tactical healing feat.

The overwatch specialty nets you trained in Survival, and the feats Survey Wildlife and Marking Strike. The latter is a new level 1 feat that takes 2 actions and requires a ranged Strike with an arrow etc. If you hit, the target becomes flat-footed versus you and allies benefiting currently from drills, with Interact as a means to end this, and oozes etc. being not affected, subject to GM discretion. 9th level makes Intimidate trained, and the option to use a reaction to an ally you can see being damaged by an opponent to attempt to Demoralize the opponent. The ruler training nets all allies a +1 status bonus to AC and saves, and a +2 status bonus to initiative, both applying while you can see them.

The scout specialty makes you stealthier and lets you lead allies behind enemy lines, while the soldier specialty nets the pretty self-explanatory Striking Disarm and gets improving heavy armor proficiency at higher levels.

2nd level and every even level thereafter nets a class feat; 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter a skill feat, and 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter a general feat. 3rd level increases your proficiency rank for Will saves to expert and successes versus fear effects are treated as critical successes. Additionally, frightened reduces its value by 1. At 9th level, Fortitude increases to expert, and Reflex to master, and when you get a success on Reflex saves, it’s instead treated as a critical success. 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter net a skill increase, with 7th and 15th level as master and legendary thresholds. 5th level and every 5 levels nets an ability boost, and 5th level and every 4 thereafter an ancestry feat. 5th level nets you expert in all proficient weapons and critical specialization effect access with all weapons of expert proficiency or above. 7th level upgrades Perception proficiency to master and nets you a +2 circumstance bonus to Perception and initiative, and if that sounds familiar, then it’s because that’s Battlefield Surveyor, and 7th level also nets weapon specialization, with 15th providing greater weapon specialization. 11th level nets an increase to expert for light and medium armor and unarmed defense, as well as armor specialization for medium armor. As you can glean, the battle lord’s core chassis is pretty akin to that of the fighter, though it does have a couple of differences – and before you ask, drills are still here, still available from 1st level on: They are centered on a point within 60 ft. of you that you can see, and you must have walked allies through a drill 1/day as part of daily preparations. Allies no longer able to see and hear you lose drill benefits, but in a cool twist, long-term blindness and deafness is accounted for. Allies can only benefit from one drill at a time, and if they can choose between two drills, switching is an Interact action. Drills all have the Flourish trait, and only one flourish action may be executed per round. The base class feature comes with the Team Precision drill for one action: You make a Strike vs. a creature within 30 ft. or you and an ally; if you hit, the allies gain a +1 circumstance bonus to attacl the target for 3 rounds.

As far as class feats are concerned, we have 5 level 1 class feats, which include e.g. the auditory two-action Command Attack, which lets you spend to actions to make an ally benefitting from your drills a melee Strike as a free action, which is not adjusted by multiple attack penalty. The 6 2nd-levelfeats included ranged weapon Aid Another and a movement-enhancing drill, or a two action drill that lets you Stride while also buffing your allies’ Acrobatics and Reflex saves. The level 4 class feats (5 provided) include a drill that lets you prepare alchemical concoctions that add briefly +1d6 damage of one of the 4 core energy types to Strikes, or get a feat that lets you use Society to get Earn Income tasks or Gather Information/Make an Impression. This level also nets a companion with the right feat.

Level 6 feats include Attack of Opportunity and reaction based boosts to Reflex saves that interact with a drill for further benefits, and Shield Block can be sued to help adjacent allies with Vanguard’s Shield. 8th level has 5 feats to choose from, including the two-action means to Stride or Step up twice and make a melee Strike at the end, rendering allies Quickened 1 until the end of your next turn, with the caveat that this can only be used to Step, Stride or Strike. Quickened, to my knowledge, has no numerical value. A similar ability includes adding Slowed 1 temporarily to enemies. That being said, at 8th level, this is pretty damn strong, considering that it applies to all allies that can see or hear you. Compared to resistance equal to half your level to the three physical damage types, I’d certainly know which of these I’d choose. This one would have benefited from only applying to a single ally, with options to build on this, but that may be me.

There also is a feat tree of sorts (tied to aforementioned drill that adds energy damage) which lets you gain Alchemical Crafting and the option to prepare alchemical items. Reaction buffs for ally ACs, gaining success and critical success Demoralize benefits for ranged Strikes and the like can be found among the 10th level feats. In the 12th-level range, we have Combat Reflexes and a stance for drill-range increases, or a means to affect allies with up to 2 drills at once, including making the first drill per round not count as having the flourish trait. Forced Retreat is pretty clever, in that it forces a Will save or the enemies nearby retreat from you, but does sport a caveat that prevents enemies from wasting more than one action. 14th level has e.g. the option that lets you command an ally to gain two actions they can use to cast a spell from their repertoire spontaneously – only one spell may be cast per command. 16th level also includes the means to get a second specialty’s enlisted benefits, rendering enemies doomed, etc. The 18th level includes a further “alcehmical” one and a further one building on the mount options, as well as a frightening blow, and there are three level 20 feats provided, two of which are drills. These both do not have the usual flourish trait that the global rules stated that drills always have, but I’m not sure whether this is intentional due to them being capstones. Then again, quite a few of the other higher level drills are also missing the flourish trait, so not sure if the global rules are incorrect, or if that trait went missing from some of the drills at some point.

As a whole, I enjoyed these feats and what they deliver, though I would have liked to see a few more combos; the feat-trees present are interesting specialization options, but I think it’d have been nice to see either more of those, or more general ones, particularly at higher levels. This supplement certainly does feel like the battle lord has more to give. The section does come with a handy table for the feats, as well as information for using the battle lord as a multiclass archetype.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect – I noticed a few it’s/its glitches, and, as noted above, the feat name inconsistency and drill trait component do bother me a bit. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with some solid full-color artworks, some of which veterans will know. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a minor comfort detriment at this length…however. Speaking of which: While the text can be selected, oddly, I consistently failed to find any text while searching the pdf, which is, in conjunction with the lack of bookmarks, something that renders this pdf somewhat inconvenient to use. New feat referenced? Text not found, so you start scrolling. I Genuinely recommend printing this when using it.

Michael Sayre knows PF2, and it shows; putting a class like the battle lord out there while the system is that young is gutsy, and requires some serious considerations, and while I’m not happy with the internal balance of all components, I am happy with the vast majority of them. The battle lord has a serious influence on tactics, and rewards the frontline fighter-style character for not using their action (always) to attack, which is a hard balance to strike. The class becomes more interesting when it starts to apply its benefits to a degree that changes the overall strategy of the party beyond immediate tactics, and, as a whole, can be considered to be a successful conversion of the concept to PF2. Now, I do think that the class would have benefitted from a wider array, but once more PF2 hardcovers are released, I certainly hope we’ll get expansions. Is it perfect? No, but with a few tweaks, I’ve allowed the fellow in my game, and consider it to be a welcome addition. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battle Lord (Pathfinder 2nd Edition)
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Star Log.Deluxe: Vesk Empire Species Reforged
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2020 10:42:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of the Star Logs that reforge species clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, since I have already explained in detail how the core engine underlying the reforged species works in my first review of this series of pdfs and hate repeating myself, I’ll skip that aspect – the tl;dr-version is that the species behave more akin to how PF2-species work. The universal traits can be taken by the species herein as well – I suggest getting Star Log.Deluxe: Core Species Reforged alongside this pdf.

This pdf covers a total of 3 species in the modular and revised manner, first of which would be the squid-like ijtikris, who can add their ability boost to Strength, Constitution or Wisdom, with the option for a second boost in exchange for a flaw to Intelligence. They get 6 HP, and a swim speed of 30 ft. They are Medium aberrations and get darkvision 60 ft., as well as the ability to move half their land speed while crawling and Kip Up as a bonus feat, which makes sense, considering their physiology. The species has 3 heritages to choose from: You can elect to be amphibious, with the aquatic subtype (explicitly noting that you can still survive on dry land), and when off-kilter, you don’t take the usual penalties or become flat-footed. Alternatively, we can choose a +4 racial bonus to saving throws versus critical effects, and reduce the damage taken from critical hit by an amount of your Constitution bonus + your character level or CR, minimum 1. The third option nets multiarmed (4), but wielding items in more than 2 hands will reduce your speeds.

8 traits are provided for the squid-people: These include natural armor, an extra combat feat, +2racial bonus t a skill and a 1/day SP based on coloring (6 provided), blindsense (scent), the classic jet ability or Minor Psychic Power. Two traits deserve special mention: The first  would be the ability to squirt ink as a move action, potentially blinding, sickening or rendering targets off-kilter. The second very remarkable one lets you grapple with locomotive tentacles instead of your prehensile ones. If you didn’t notice – these do significantly change playstyles, and yes, they are balanced. Awesome!

The second species would be the cat-like Pahtra, who add their ability boost to Dexterity or Charisma, with the option for a second boost in exchange for a flaw to Strength or Constitution. They get 4 HP and low-light vision and can choose either darkvision or blindsense (vibrations). 3 heritages are provided: The first lets you spend 1 Resolve Point to reroll a saving throw; the second lets you install up to two biotech augmentations into a system that already has an augmentation, but doing so costs you 1 Resolve Point (min 0) and imposes a -2 penalty to Fortitude saves. The third heritage nets you both pahtra senses – darkvision and blindsense (vibrations). Speaking of which: While blindsense defaults to a 60 ft.-range (so this is no glitch!), having that spelled out here in the species write-up would have been convenient.

Once more, we get 8 traits to choose from. This time around, we have +2 racial Hit Points as well as Toughness; +2 racial bonus (+5 instead when balancing) to Acrobatics, Acrobatics as a class skill, natural weapons that properly specify damage type (THANK YOU!), the ability to smell diseases (and better Medicine when treating them),skill specialization in skills associated with your ability boosts, a bonus to saves vs. charms and compulsions, including the option to spend Resolve for a reroll 1 round later. Interesting: Standing up as a swift action and no off-kilter penalties/flat-footed plus ignoring 5 ft. worth of difficult terrain that stacks with Nimble Moves – and yes, this lets you guarded step in difficult terrain. Another one lets you spend 1 Resolve Point to grant allies 1 Inspiration Point, capping at 1 + Charisma modifier Inspiration Points granted. These can be used for rerolls, and a creature can only have 1 Inspiration Point at a point, and after spending one, they must take a 10-minute rest to regain Stamina to benefit from it again.

Oh, and know what the third race is? SKITTERMANDERS! :D

Skittermanders get their ability boost to Strength, Dexterity or Charisma, and can choose a second boost in exchange for a flaw to Intelligence. They get 2 HP and are Small, and receive low-light vision, are six-armed, and have 3 heritages to choose from:  The first represents cultural assimilation, and nets you a +2 racial bonus to two skills chosen from Athletics, Culture, Intimidate and Perception. These become class skills. The second one represents traditional skittermanders and has a similar paradigm, but applies the benefits to Acrobatics, Diplomacy, Medicine, Survival. The third heritage offers the same for Bluff, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand and Stealth, but only grants one as class skills. To make up for that, the bonus increases to +5 against loyalists of the Vesk Empire. Cool!

The skittermanders get 9 traits: One nets you bonuses to Perception and Profession and may be taken multiple times, increasing benefits; we can also find Improved Combat maneuver (grapple), proficiency with all infinity rifles that upgrades to weapon specialization at 3rd level, (or, alternatively, Weapon Focus) climb speed, or what about gaining +2 racial bonus to one skill chosen from the traditional skittermander list. Obsessive Focus lets you gain Skill Focus and build on it over the levels, and better aid another, covering fire, harrying fire can be found, including a Resolve-powered ability. Of course, the signature hyper ability, including  proper cooldown and cost, is also provided.

Pleasant surprise: The universal heritages included herein are actually all new ones: Planar scion Aphorites can generate crystal dust that nets you 20% miss chance via Resolve expenditure, among other things. Chillborn and Heatborn do pretty much what you’d expect, representing adaptation to extreme environments. You can elect to go for a deep one hybrid heritage, which provides low-light vision, hold your breath and decreases your speed, but grants you swim speed. Nice: This does account for already slow characters, reducing the impact for them. Oh, and of course, you turn into a deep one NPC upon becoming a mature adult…want to play a doomed hero? There you go!  Designer children modify the ability boosts and flaws system to apply to a class, representing being geared towards that pursuit. If you want to play someone from a high-gravity environment, that’s very much possible…oh, and did I mention the option of becoming a skittergoblin, with the exact benefits different, depending on which parent race you build this? SKITTERGOBLINS!! :D

The pdf closes with 5 additional universal traits, which include additional uses for SPs (0-level spells get more uses); a bonus feat that requires a specific anatomic requirement you must meet ; there is one trait that makes you better while crawling (further upgraded if you’re an ijtikri), guarding smaller creatures (and being able to occupy their space sans penalties), and being a polyglot.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with neat full-color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Huh, so here I was, happy I had found a glitch in one of Alexander Augunas’ carefully-crafted reforged species pdfs…and then, I downloaded the most recent version and realized it had already been addressed. That’s customer service!

Anyway, in case you were wondering: I love this little pdf. All three reforged species have a distinct playstyle, one or more angles that makes playing them different from other species. It is these tactical angles beyond the sheer customization that I truly adore. Bereft of things to complain about, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all fans of Starfinder who want more out of their species.

5 stars + seal of approval, given with a smile! Also: This shares the first file's EZG-Essentials-tag for SFRPG.

Need another reason? One word: Skittermanders!! :D

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.Deluxe: Vesk Empire Species Reforged
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The Riot Act - (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2020 12:24:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion-module to the massive (and excellent) Bard’s Gate city supplement clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters; I never even noticed it came out back in the day, until one of my patreon supporters told me to get it and review it recently. Being pretty OCD and surprised that this flew under my radar, I went ahead…

The Riot Act is a module set in Bard’s Gate (and yes, you should have that book to run it, unless you’re willing to make some serious modification), situated in The Lost Lands, for 4 characters of 2nd level. The module mentions that a rogue or bard is helpful, and I’d concur – skills will be useful. More than that, you’ll need means to dish out SERIOUS amounts of damage and high Will saves – scratch that, the boss is simply unfair if played even halfway decent by the GM, but I’ll get to that below.

The module features no player-friendly maps, and two of the maps are missing a scale, one of them even a grid. One of the potential combat encounters could have used a map, but has none. For overview, having a map of Bard’s Gate is extremely useful, but that doesn’t provide these location maps either. The maps present in the module do not come with player-friendly iterations.

The module does have a handout, which is per se a cool thing – unfortunately, it is the most stupid kind of handout in which the antagonists have WRITTEN DOWN their evil masterplan on PAPER, including gloating. This was a real immersion-breaker for me, and one of the few instances, where I genuinely think that the module would have been better off without a handout – and a better plot instead.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The module also contains 3 magic items – one nets unlimited daily magic missiles, but if used more than once per day, one strikes the user. It also fails to mention an activation action – I assume spell completion. There is an item for nary more than 1K gold that lacks an activation action, but ends ANY musical effect automatically – yes, even that of a level 20 bard. And worse, those affected can’t use the like for an hour afterwards. In a world where this item exists, any music-based characters and abilities are useless. This is badly-designed and broken. The final item ties in with the boss.

The module does offer random encounters and read-aloud text. Okay, so structurally, this is a railroad, but unfortunately not one of the good ones – and yes, there are plenty of awesome railroad adventures.

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

..

.

So, a lady called Asmarisa has purchased a large building of the Bridge district, opening her theater, the Motley; her first play, “The Maiden’s Kiss”, has become a super smash-hit – to a strange degree, and thus, the lyreguard investigated, but turned up with no evidence, and in fact, very happy with the play. The adventure kicks off as the PCs are walking through the Bridge district and become embroiled in a riot – after the much-sought-after tickets for the next show. The rioters use the stats from bard’s Gate, and can attain tickets either via force or Diplomacy and subterfuge.

Unfortunately, this is where the module starts to fall apart in a variety of ways. The PCs attend the performance, and halfway down the read-aloud text, said text tells the PCs what to do, namely joining in thunderous applause. Read-aloud text should NEVER hijack control from a PC – particularly since, well, it’s not guaranteed. No surprise: The play is enchanted, PCs must make Will-saves while attending, but the read-aloud text forces them to applaud either way. Oh, and the play affects the PCs with a “powerful, but undetectable mass charm.” It’s also “latent.”

SERIOUSLY??? You mean…like, it’s a whisper in the ear? Like, I don’t know…a frickin’ suggestion?

Also, regarding this whole set-up?

NOT HOW PFRPG WORKS.

PFRPG has a) a VARIETY of valid ritual engines; b) a VARIETY of spells that actually do what the module wants to do – and mass charm? DOESN’T EXIST. It’s mass charm person. Or charm person, mass. Also c) Bards have this engine that does exactly what the module needs. It’s called masterpieces.

Anyhow, the PCs navigate past the stage crew and into a passage beneath the Motley. In the passage, there are two adjacent rooms: One contains 12 rage zombies, one contains guards whose music pacifies the zombies. Why? How? Things become even better. At one point, there’s a magically-sealed lock that requires a tune – said tune is played by the guards, and it’s on a sheet of music…that is never mentioned before, in the section of the guards. Also weird: The door’s XP-reward for bypassing it with the proper “puzzle” if you can call it that, is less than the CR of the trap.

The PCs emerge after this section on a shoreline just a few feet from the Stoneheart River, where the evil entourage has their camp. (Why didn’t the lyreguard notice them?) The troupe is pretty numerous (22 rank-and-file goons, +1 CR 2 dude and a quasit), so you better hope that you have a character with maxed out Stealth who is also lucky. There are also some minor problems – like, what’s the save you use to avoid flames spreading? Well, the module seems to think that “Fortitude” is correct – which it isn’t, and also fails to type the damage as fire, but that, at least, is a nitpick. This is also the part when the PCs ostensibly either hear a NPC extolling their moustache-twirling plan and evil intentions, or find a written account that is no less dumb.

It gets better. When/if the PCs retreat, the final section will be a rooftop chase of the lady, while the city breaks out in riots. This mini-chase may per se be decent, but the boss Asmirasa? Well, she has wasted a feat on Weapon Finesse, but wields a weapon that can’t be finesse’d (smart) – and clocks in at CR 7. Yep, 7. You see, she was turned into a succubus by an evil item, the ring of demonic deception. Why is this bad news? Well, for one, she has charm person, at will. The DC? 22. At 2nd level. Remember, she also has a fly speed that lets her reliably stay out of reach of any PCs, AC 20 and 84 HP. She also has energy drain, which, when used even halfway smart, will guarantee an unfair, unrewarding type of TPK.

But that’s not where it ends, oh no. Her item, the ring of demonic deception, eliminates an outsider’s ability to cast spells or use SPs of third level or higher, eliminates DR and halves SR. But guess what? ANY magic to detect them and discern them fails and nets only a ping as a frickin’ commoner. This is NOT an artifact, and it can RAW be REMOVED AT WILL. Mortals also can turn into succubi/incubi, but who cares – the ring could be mass-produced by the forces of the abyss, and generate a perfect infiltration force of outsiders. Never mind that there are plenty of precisely codified spells and effects that do all of that (at higher levels), and that have appropriate safeguards. Oh, it gets better. The ring’s worth 90 K. At 2nd level – WBL adieu. “But they can’t sell an evil item?” Perhaps not, but there are plenty of options for PCs to convert magic item values into other benefits, devour it, etc. pp. Provided the PCs mind that selling evil stuff is a bad idea in the first place, that is…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are formally good, if not particularly good regarding rules. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard with neat to okay artworks, some of which fans of Frog God Games will recognize. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is not as good as usual for Frog God Games, and is missing player-friendly maps as well.

This is the worst module by James M. Spahn I’ve read; both he and the authors that contributed additional material, Jeff Harkness and Skeeter Green, are usually indicators for something I’ll at the very least like.

This was not the case here. I don’t object to difficulty, never have – I’m a killer GM, and I like old-school modules. I think adventures should be hard, because, you know, if there’s no chance of failure, why bother playing? I also don’t object to railroads – heck, I’ve 5-star#d plenty of them over the years.

I do, however, object to the extremely sloppy rules that this module presents – because they destroy the central premise of the mystery to uncover, and because they, due to being so sloppy, undermine very valid strategies for the PCs. I object to read-aloud text forcing actions upon players – not feelings, atmosphere, a glance or the like – full-blown “this is what you do.”

I object to the module undermining the plausibility of the Lost lands setting, which generally is pretty darn good at catching such issues.

And I object to the fact that the villains are moustache-twirling stupid-evil.

This reads like a failed, phoned-in Pathfinder Society pitch, with Bard’s Gate slapped on.

…you know, when I have to bash a module by Frog God Games (doesn’t happen too often), it’s usually due to mechanics, or something going wrong in conversion. But even then, there’s usually something I can get out an adventure. Awakenings, for example, may not be mechanically-good in PFRPG, but oh boy, story? Totally worth going through the hassle of fixing it.

I got nothing here. This is both bad on a mechanics/logic-level AND on a story-level AND on a design-level.

I actually went through my massive Necromancer Games/Frog God Games-collection, and know what? I think this is the worst module by them I own. It’s their first module in years that I genuinely wouldn’t put on my shelf.

I can’t recommend this module to anyone. Get any other Frog God games modules; for example the excellent Rogues in Remballo. But steer clear of this bland, unfair, uninspired mess. 1.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Riot Act - (PF)
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A Day Out at the Executions
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2020 08:42:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Raging Swan Press‘ eventures clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is an eventure? Well, know how much or modern gaming is about tactics and combat? Now, I LOVE that, I really do. I enjoy brutal combats that are essentially numbers-puzzles. HOWEVER, this has become a very dominant paradigm, to the point where many modules consist solely of such challenges. But roleplaying is more. If you recall some truly remarkable sessions and things your players talk about, there’s a good chance that some NPCs and interactions are remembered fondly because they were NOT combat.

This is what an “eventure” is – a module or mini-event-booklet focusing on roleplaying, and NOT on combat. Okay, so what does this one offer? Well, if you’re a bit familiar with how medieval societies handled executions, you’ll know that they tended to gather quite a crowd – in many ways, the punitive systems back in that day generated a kind of spectacle. (For more insight on how executions were handled in the 16th century and the realities of the hangman’s job back then, I recommend checking out the diary of Meister Franz Schmidt of Nuremberg and/or Joel F. Harrington’s “The Faithful Executioner”– there are solid English books on that topic, and if you’re fluent in German, I’d recommend checking out the scans of his diary!)

But I digress – if you need hooks for your players, a couple of them are provided, and then, the supplement features an overview of justice in the Duchy of Ashlar – the brutal punishments are described, and while not reveling in the realities, the descriptions are all about, well, executions. With classics like sawing and the breaking wheel included. The module is situated in the lavishly-detailed city of Languard, namely the low city, (see City Backdrops: Languard and the Languard Locations-series) and as such explains the history of the Traitor’s Gate, but the eventure remains pretty easy to adapt to other environments. The Last Chance tavern, with rules-less notes on NPCs and prices provided alongside two hooks certainly sees some serious business.

Since an execution is an event, a lot of people will show up – as such, the eventure provides the fluff-centric write-ups for such NPCs and groups them by category:  We get, for example, write-ups for 4 beggars, including cripples to a madwoman and a charlatan. Nice: One of these individuals also acts as a possible link to Shadowed Keep of the Borderlands. Street vendors and entertainers, as well as other townsfolk, are provided as well, and the section is supplemented by a list of 12 rumors – these do come with DCs etc. - nice.

This basic set-up out of the way, we come to the day itself – the eventure structures the monthly execution day by time of day, beginning from dawn, with the show starting at noon – the criminals to be executed are all depicted in the same flavor-centric manner as before (read: no stats). From hardened criminals to those claiming innocence, there is a nice breadth here, with the afternoon going through the sequence of the executions. If the executions and potential for adventuring there didn’t suffice, you can also make use of the further adventuring section – one criminal’s daughter will have been made an orphan, for example, and what about entrepreneurs for execution-related components seeking a little extra coin? In short: One has to be a very poor GM indeed to not get some serious mileage out of this day at the executions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and in two versions – one optimized for the screen, and one for printing it.

Creighton Broadhurst’s day at the executions (additional design by Amber Underwood) is a cool eventure, but does have two minor weaknesses: For one, the lack of anything pertaining to DCs beyond the rumors and context, while probably intended, means that this is pretty much almost system neutral in all but name, when e.g. thieves etc. would have warranted some guidance; secondly, the execution’s scene per se has no map – just a small excerpt from Languard’s map, and that doesn’t show the details, like the place where things happen, stands, etc. – and since there’s a decent chance at one point that the characters try to save someone or prevent the like, this makes that component of the supplement slightly less useful than it could have been. As such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down: A good and flavorful offering, but one that requires a bit of GM-work.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Day Out at the Executions
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A Day Out at the Executions (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2020 08:40:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Raging Swan Press‘ eventures clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is an eventure? Well, know how much or modern gaming is about tactics and combat? Now, I LOVE that, I really do. I enjoy brutal combats that are essentially numbers-puzzles. HOWEVER, this has become a very dominant paradigm, to the point where many modules consist solely of such challenges. But roleplaying is more. If you recall some truly remarkable sessions and things your players talk about, there’s a good chance that some NPCs and interactions are remembered fondly because they were NOT combat.

This is what an “eventure” is – a module or mini-event-booklet focusing on roleplaying, and NOT on combat. Okay, so what does this one offer? Well, if you’re a bit familiar with how medieval societies handled executions, you’ll know that they tended to gather quite a crowd – in many ways, the punitive systems back in that day generated a kind of spectacle. (For more insight on how executions were handled in the 16th century and the realities of the hangman’s job back then, I recommend checking out the diary of Meister Franz Schmidt of Nuremberg and/or Joel F. Harrington’s “The Faithful Executioner”– there are solid English books on that topic, and if you’re fluent in German, I’d recommend checking out the scans of his diary!)

But I digress – if you need hooks for your players, a couple of them are provided, and then, the supplement features an overview of justice in the Duchy of Ashlar – the brutal punishments are described, and while not reveling in the realities, the descriptions are all about, well, executions. With classics like sawing and the breaking wheel included. The module is situated in the lavishly-detailed city of Languard, namely the low city, (see City Backdrops: Languard and the Languard Locations-series) and as such explains the history of the Traitor’s Gate, but the eventure remains pretty easy to adapt to other environments. The Last Chance tavern, with rules-less notes on NPCs and prices provided alongside two hooks certainly sees some serious business.

Since an execution is an event, a lot of people will show up – as such, the eventure provides the fluff-centric write-ups for such NPCs and groups them by category: We get, for example, write-ups for 4 beggars, including cripples to a madwoman and a charlatan. The NPcs herein reference the default 5e-statblocks. Nice: One of these individuals also acts as a possible link to Shadowed Keep of the Borderlands. Street vendors and entertainers, as well as other townsfolk, are provided as well, and the section is supplemented by a list of 12 rumors, with proper DCs provided..

This basic set-up out of the way, we come to the day itself – the eventure structures the monthly execution day by time of day, beginning from dawn, with the show starting at noon – the criminals to be executed are all depicted in the same flavor-centric manner as before (read: no stats). From hardened criminals to those claiming innocence, there is a nice breadth here, with the afternoon going through the sequence of the executions. If the executions and potential for adventuring there didn’t suffice, you can also make use of the further adventuring section – one criminal’s daughter will have been made an orphan, for example, and what about entrepreneurs for execution-related components seeking a little extra coin? In short: One has to be a very poor GM indeed to not get some serious mileage out of this day at the executions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and in two versions – one optimized for the screen, and one for printing it.

Creighton Broadhurst’s day at the executions (additional design by Amber Underwood) is a cool eventure, but does have two minor weaknesses: For one, the lack of anything pertaining to DCs beyond the rumor-section and context, while probably intended, means that this is pretty system neutral in all but name; secondly, the execution’s scene per se has no map – just a small excerpt from Languard’s map, and that doesn’t show the details, like the place where things happen, stands, etc. – and since there’s a decent chance at one point that the characters try to save someone or prevent the like, this makes that component of the supplement slightly less useful than it could have been. As such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down: A good and flavorful offering, but one that requires a bit of GM-work.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Day Out at the Executions (5e)
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A Day Out at the Executions (System Neutral)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2020 08:39:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Raging Swan Press‘ eventures clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what is an eventure? Well, know how much or modern gaming is about tactics and combat? Now, I LOVE that, I really do. I enjoy brutal combats that are essentially numbers-puzzles. HOWEVER, this has become a very dominant paradigm, to the point where many modules consist solely of such challenges. But roleplaying is more. If you recall some truly remarkable sessions and things your players talk about, there’s a good chance that some NPCs and interactions are remembered fondly because they were NOT combat.

This is what an “eventure” is – a module or mini-event-booklet focusing on roleplaying, and NOT on combat. Okay, so what does this one offer? Well, if you’re a bit familiar with how medieval societies handled executions, you’ll know that they tended to gather quite a crowd – in many ways, the punitive systems back in that day generated a kind of spectacle. (For more insight on how executions were handled in the 16th century and the realities of the hangman’s job back then, I recommend checking out the diary of Meister Franz Schmidt of Nuremberg and/or Joel F. Harrington’s “The Faithful Executioner”– there are solid English books on that topic, and if you’re fluent in German, I’d recommend checking out the scans of his diary!)

But I digress – if you need hooks for your players, a couple of them are provided, and then, the supplement features an overview of justice in the Duchy of Ashlar – the brutal punishments are described, and while not reveling in the realities, the descriptions are all about, well, executions. With classics like sawing and the breaking wheel included. The module is situated in the lavishly-detailed city of Languard, namely the low city, (see City Backdrops: Languard and the Languard Locations-series) and as such explains the history of the Traitor’s Gate, but the eventure remains pretty easy to adapt to other environments. The Last Chance tavern, with rules-less notes on NPCs and prices provided alongside two hooks certainly sees some serious business. The NPCs reference the proper old-school classes, just fyi.

Since an execution is an event, a lot of people will show up – as such, the eventure provides the fluff-centric write-ups for such NPCs and groups them by category:  We get, for example, write-ups for 4 beggars, including cripples to a madwoman and a charlatan. Nice: One of these individuals also acts as a possible link to Shadowed Keep of the Borderlands. Street vendors and entertainers, as well as other townsfolk, are provided as well, and the section is supplemented by a list of 12 rumors – handled appropriately sans rolling the dice here, with costs noted.

This basic set-up out of the way, we come to the day itself – the eventure structures the monthly execution day by time of day, beginning from dawn, with the show starting at noon – the criminals to be executed are all depicted in the same flavor-centric manner as before (read: no stats). From hardened criminals to those claiming innocence, there is a nice breadth here, with the afternoon going through the sequence of the executions. If the executions and potential for adventuring there didn’t suffice, you can also make use of the further adventuring section – one criminal’s daughter will have been made an orphan, for example, and what about entrepreneurs for execution-related components seeking a little extra coin? In short: One has to be a very poor GM indeed to not get some serious mileage out of this day at the executions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and in two versions – one optimized for the screen, and one for printing it.

Creighton Broadhurst’s day at the executions (additional design by Amber Underwood) is a cool eventure, but does have a minor weakness: While I can’t well complain about being very lite on the rules for the system neutral version, the execution’s scene per se has no map – just a small excerpt from Languard’s map, and that doesn’t show the details, like the place where things happen, stands, etc. – and since there’s a decent chance at one point that the characters try to save someone or prevent the like, this makes that component of the supplement slightly less useful than it could have been. As such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up. A good and flavorful offering, but one that requires a bit of GM-work.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Day Out at the Executions (System Neutral)
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Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (P2)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2020 08:36:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

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!

…wait. Fraywrack, Fraywrack…that wasn’t nominally a Village Backdrop before, right? Indeed! Fraywrack was originally released in the Places of Power-series, but even in its original iteration actually was, well, a village. As such, having the expanded version adhere to the formula regarding presentation makes sense, particularly since the original already pretty much adhered to that standard.

Formally, the supplement has been expanded in the usual way for these second visits to locales: That means, we get more extensive information regarding the surrounding locality, and the very helpful notes for the GM on life in the settlement, local laws and customs and tradition all are here. The super helpful dressing/event table has been expanded from an original 6 entries to 20, making it much easier to portray the place as an alive and organic environment. Unlike most of the supplements in the series, this has not received read-aloud text for the keyed locales. The revised version also introduces a new keyed location, EDIT: The map-glitch has been taken care of.

 Fraywrack is rather captivating:

On a lonesome shore of rocky headland, known as the Harpy's Head, there lies the wrecked ruin of an erstwhile powerful ship - and it conceals an alliance most peculiar: You see, a flight of harpies has lured the vessel ashore - but the wreck contains no signs of slaughter, but rather an impromptu war-camp, for the harpies thus forcefully recruited the crew of survivors as soldiers in their desperate fight against Dagon and his strange, deformed minions that rise from the depth in a truly unique coalition.

The unique constellation of characters is a boon here as well: From harpies not being too keen to be forced to play with their food to drunken sailors, there is an intrinsic tension that suffuses the set-up that, by means of its very definition, is upset by the arrival of PCs.

It is btw. nice to see that the pdf does come with a nice marketplace section for consumables, magic, etc., featured among the keyed locales. The location sports also a ramshackle settlement, as you can imagine - and honestly, I could elaborate on how the individual locations are cool and evocative, but frankly, that would be redundant as far as I'm concerned - the set-up at the grand scale is creative and full of potential, something that is continued seamlessly to the individual locales, generating a truly amazing location. Much to my chagrin, the revised edition has not seen fit to include some modifications or stats for the 4 new NPCs featured, which are depicted in Raging Swan Press’ usual, fluff-only manner. Getting some unique attacks or abilities for them would have been neat.

Mechanically, the pdf per se handles adjustment to PF2 well, but, as often, tighter integration into the (critical) success/failure mechanics would have been nice for the checks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on a formal level, though the map-glitch is pretty damn bad. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' Fraywrack s creative, cool and unique - the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential. EDIT: The map-glitch has been fixed. This is the first version for PF2, and as such, does have a value for PF2-purists. The writing is top-tier, and with the map-issue fixed, I think I can award this 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (P2)
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Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (OSR)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2020 08:33:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

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!

…wait. Fraywrack, Fraywrack…that wasn’t nominally a Village Backdrop before, right? Indeed! Fraywrack was originally released in the Places of Power-series, but even in its original iteration actually was, well, a village. As such, having the expanded version adhere to the formula regarding presentation makes sense, particularly since the original already pretty much adhered to that standard.

Formally, the supplement has been expanded in the usual way for these second visits to locales: That means, we get more extensive information regarding the surrounding locality, and the very helpful notes for the GM on life in the settlement, local laws and customs and tradition all are here. The super helpful dressing/event table has been expanded from an original 6 entries to 20, making it much easier to portray the place as an alive and organic environment. Unlike most of the supplements in the series, this has not received read-aloud text for the keyed locales. The revised version also introduces a new keyed location, EDIT: and a previous map-issue has been fixed.

Fraywrack is rather captivating:

On a lonesome shore of rocky headland, known as the Harpy's Head, there lies the wrecked ruin of an erstwhile powerful ship - and it conceals an alliance most peculiar: You see, a flight of harpies has lured the vessel ashore - but the wreck contains no signs of slaughter, but rather an impromptu war-camp, for the harpies thus forcefully recruited the crew of survivors as soldiers in their desperate fight against Dagon and his strange, deformed minions that rise from the depth in a truly unique coalition.

The unique constellation of characters is a boon here as well: From harpies not being too keen to be forced to play with their food to drunken sailors, there is an intrinsic tension that suffuses the set-up that, by means of its very definition, is upset by the arrival of PCs.

It is btw. nice to see that the pdf does come with a nice marketplace section for consumables, magic, etc., featured among the keyed locales – it has been properly adjusted for the realities of old-school gaming. The location sports also a ramshackle settlement, as you can imagine - and honestly, I could elaborate on how the individual locations are cool and evocative, but frankly, that would be redundant as far as I'm concerned - the set-up at the grand scale is creative and full of potential, something that is continued seamlessly to the individual locales, generating a truly amazing location. Much to my chagrin, the revised edition has not seen fit to include some modifications or stats for the 4 new NPCs featured, which are depicted in Raging Swan Press’ usual, fluff-only manner. Getting some unique attacks or abilities for them would have been neat.

Mechanically, the pdf is not necessarily OSR in that we’d get old-school stats for the NPCs (which’d have been easy enough to fit in), but rather an expansion of the system neutral version of the original pdf. So if you expected some juicy mechanics, you won’t find them.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on a formal level, though the map-glitch is pretty damn bad. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' Fraywrack s creative, cool and unique - the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential. EDIT: The map glitch has been fixed. The writing is top-tier, but the decision to omit any old-school rules per se also is a missed chance; this is essentially based on the system neutral version of the original, and fails to add relevant mechanics. If you have the original iteration, I’d round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (OSR)
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Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2020 08:29:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

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!

…wait. Fraywrack, Fraywrack…that wasn’t nominally a Village Backdrop before, right? Indeed! Fraywrack was originally released in the Places of Power-series, but even in its original iteration actually was, well, a village. As such, having the expanded version adhere to the formula regarding presentation makes sense, particularly since the original already pretty much adhered to that standard.

Formally, the supplement has been expanded in the usual way for these second visits to locales: That means, we get more extensive information regarding the surrounding locality, and the very helpful notes for the GM on life in the settlement, local laws and customs and tradition all are here. The super helpful dressing/event table has been expanded from an original 6 entries to 20, making it much easier to portray the place as an alive and organic environment. Unlike most of the supplements in the series, this has not received read-aloud text for the keyed locales. The revised version also introduces a new keyed location EDIT: The map-glitch has been fixed.

Fraywrack is rather captivating:

On a lonesome shore of rocky headland, known as the Harpy's Head, there lies the wrecked ruin of an erstwhile powerful ship - and it conceals an alliance most peculiar: You see, a flight of harpies has lured the vessel ashore - but the wreck contains no signs of slaughter, but rather an impromptu war-camp, for the harpies thus forcefully recruited the crew of survivors as soldiers in their desperate fight against Dagon and his strange, deformed minions that rise from the depth in a truly unique coalition.

The unique constellation of characters is a boon here as well: From harpies not being too keen to be forced to play with their food to drunken sailors, there is an intrinsic tension that suffuses the set-up that, by means of its very definition, is upset by the arrival of PCs.

It is btw. nice to see that the pdf does come with a nice marketplace section for consumables, magic, etc., featured among the keyed locales. The location sports also a ramshackle settlement, as you can imagine - and honestly, I could elaborate on how the individual locations are cool and evocative, but frankly, that would be redundant as far as I'm concerned - the set-up at the grand scale is creative and full of potential, something that is continued seamlessly to the individual locales, generating a truly amazing location. Much to my chagrin, the revised edition has not seen fit to include some modifications or stats for the 4 new NPCs featured, which are depicted in Raging Swan Press’ usual, fluff-only manner.

Mechanically, the pdf per se handles adjustment to 5e well on a basic level, with NPCs referencing default monsters/stats. Getting some unique attacks or abilities for them would have been neat – Fraywrack’s unconventional location begs for some cool lair actions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on a formal level. EDIT: Map-glitch fixed. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' Fraywrack s creative, cool and unique - the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential. EDIT: Map-glitch fixed. If you have the original, round down; otherwise, round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (P1)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2020 08:25:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This expanded version 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!

…wait. Fraywrack, Fraywrack…that wasn’t nominally a Village Backdrop before, right? Indeed! Fraywrack was originally released in the Places of Power-series, but even in its original iteration actually was, well, a village. As such, having the expanded version adhere to the formula regarding presentation makes sense, particularly since the original already pretty much adhered to that standard.

Formally, the supplement has been expanded in the usual way for these second visits to locales: That means, we get more extensive information regarding the surrounding locality, and the very helpful notes for the GM on life in the settlement, local laws and customs and tradition all are here. The super helpful dressing/event table has been expanded from an original 6 entries to 20, making it much easier to portray the place as an alive and organic environment. Unlike most of the supplements in the series, this has not received read-aloud text for the keyed locales, and in the PF1-version, the settlement stats are missing. The revised version also introduces a new keyed location, which is per se nice.

EDIT: The map-issue has been corrected.

Which is a pity, because Fraywrack per se is rather captivating:

On a lonesome shore of rocky headland, known as the Harpy's Head, there lies the wrecked ruin of an erstwhile powerful ship - and it conceals an alliance most peculiar: You see, a flight of harpies has lured the vessel ashore - but the wreck contains no signs of slaughter, but rather an impromptu war-camp, for the harpies thus forcefully recruited the crew of survivors as soldiers in their desperate fight against Dagon and his strange, deformed minions that rise from the depth in a truly unique coalition.

The unique constellation of characters is a boon here as well: From harpies not being too keen to be forced to play with their food to drunken sailors, there is an intrinsic tension that suffuses the set-up that, by means of its very definition, is upset by the arrival of PCs.

It is btw. nice to see that the pdf does come with a nice marketplace section for consumables, magic, etc., featured among the keyed locales. The location sports also a ramshackle settlement, as you can imagine - and honestly, I could elaborate on how the individual locations are cool and evocative, but frankly, that would be redundant as far as I'm concerned - the set-up at the grand scale is creative and full of potential, something that is continued seamlessly to the individual locales, generating a truly amazing location. Much to my chagrin, the revised edition has not seen fit to include some modifications or stats for the 4 new NPCs featured, which are depicted in Raging Swan Press’ usual, fluff-only manner.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on a formal level. EDIT: Map-glitch fixed. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

Jacob W. Michaels' Fraywrack s creative, cool and unique - the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential. EDIT: map-glitch fixed. As such, my final verdict increases to 4.5 stars - round up if you don't have the original, down if you already have it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (P1)
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Bloodlines & Black Magic: The Crescent City
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2020 11:58:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/introduction, 1 page back cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 48 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

These pages include a 3d10 Oddity gained table, as well as a tracking sheet – I found both to be helpful when using this book.

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

Important note: While intended for use with Bloodlines & Black Magic (BL&BM), the supplement’s content imho retains much of its utility when employed in conjunction with other games, such as Esoteric Enterprises or Pelgrane Press’ GUMSHOE-based games like Esoterrorists or Fear Itself. If you’re into modern horror/dark fantasy, you may wish to keep reading even if you don’t play BL&BM.

This book is divided in two halves – the first is a depiction of the Crescent City, New Orleans, NOLA – the second would be an adventure, the eponymous “The Book of Faiyum”; the latter is intended for 3-5 characters of 1st to 2nd level. The module features read-aloud text, suggestions for the proper soundtrack to set the scene (nice!) and features b/w-cartography. Somewhat to my chagrin, the cartography for the module is not provided in a player-friendly manner – the maps are labeled…partially. You see, the one map where I’d have really thrown a fit over labels, the one that really works best for handouts…is presented in a player-friendly manner. Yeah, this gets a tentative pass in that department.

The book provides statblocks for 3 CR 2 creatures – the Drowned One will be an old acquaintance for fans of BL&BM (Bloodlines & Black Magic), while the American alligator and Louisiana black bear are new critters – and yes, they are new, not simple paste-jobs. Kudos! The latter come with rebuild rules and notes on their value within the context of BL&BM’s occult underground, i.e. regarding the magical currency dosh.  The book also provides a madman, but I’ll cover that fellow in the SPOILER-section.

Okay, that out of the way, we begin with essentially THE gazetteer for New Orleans in a dark contemporary fantasy/horror game. Now only is the publisher a former transplant of New Orleans, the author of this section George “Loki” Williams is essentially a walking encyclopedia regarding the his home, so let’s see how this section fares.

We begin with a general overview of the demographics and then quickly start off with urban legends, ranging from the famous LaLaurie House to the Dueling Oak and ones that are less famous, but no less interesting – for example the notes on the LeBranche curse (unfortunately, misspelled a few times as “LaBranche”…which also brings me to e.g. a plural mistake in the section – editing could have been tighter…) or the delightfully mysterious and grisly fate of the St. Charles Writer’s Club.

But, you know, this is not all – you see, one of the appeals of Bloodlines & Black Magic that let me see past some of its flaws and rough patches was always how it blends history with its very own brand of mythweaving, and this is where the supplement takes the reins to paint a picture that is at once familiar and strange – with a quote by good ole’ Lafcadio Hearn (mostly known for his translations of Japanese Kwaidan) contrasted by New Orleans as established Passage Sur, a kind of neutral ground comprising there parishes – and yes, this book is genuinely educational regarding the different ethnicities to be found in the city, its timeline blending in captivating prose the illustrious history of this city with the supernatural. Before you ask – yes, violating the sacred compact of neutrality has severe repercussions, with the pactbreaker’s mark being a pretty nasty curse. Minor nitpick: A spell-reference has not been properly italicized in its write-up.

And if you’ve ever walked the streets of New Orleans, it should come as no surprise to you that the veil indeed is thin here, the occult barely occulted by the haze of drink and the highly eclectic blend of eccentricities. From leitmotifs pertaining corruption and reputation, but also of the sheer heat, the musical tapestry and festivals – the book manages to capture much of the city’s essence here, with notes on the impact of high water tables and local construction techniques adding a sense of plausibility.

The book then proceeds to take us all on a quick tour of the city’s neighborhoods – of course, these include the Vieux Carre, but the Low Garden District and Fauburg Treme are similarly covered. After this brief overview, we proceed towards locations: I’d, for example, make sure to visit the Azure Gem, a classic goth and punk scene bar, and if you’re into something macabre, you might also want to visit the corpse of Jazzland, what remained of this amusement park after Katrina wrecked it – suffice to say, in BL&BM’s magical iteration of NOLA, this is even less of a place you’d want to go unarmed…Of course, the popularized and famous cemeteries and the Muses Street are also rather exciting locales.

The supplement proceeds to cover briefly a variety of local NPCs, who are presented with rough ideas of their power-levels and suitable classes, but no full stats, before we essentially get the local color section – from brass bands to tour groups to scam artists, common sights and sounds are listed. New Orleans Native is a new feat – which, beyond its normal benefit, also acts as a neat way to introduce the new skill unlocks, which include locating celebrities, or using Linguistics to identify tags, lineage symbols, etc. This section also provides the commune with city spell. 6 additional feats are provided, which include being Bayou Born (+2 to Handle Animal, Survival and Knowledge (geography) in marshes, swamps, etc., double that bonus while within 7 miles of the Passage Sur. The feats are per se solid and cover cool concepts, even if their actual benefits aren’t that exciting.

More interesting: We get a variety bishop chess piece implement, Paul Morphy’s Bishop, which offers its unique focus power. Oh, and cursed dice….that actually also are an implement, which requires a “DC 22 check to master” – okay, what check? I like the idea of a cursed variant implement very much, but having the dice note implement school, if applicable, etc. would have been nice. I like this so much thematically, but this could have used some polish.

On the plus-side, we get an array of haunts and spirits – a pretty massive curated list of appropriate creatures (ordered by CR and noting bestiaries!), and a whole array of grisly haunts. I LOVE the haunts – they are cool, flavorful and well-presented. As an aside: One of them has a suicide theme, and the book has a clearly-visible box that provides a help-line and encouraging words for the depressed. Having lost too many people to suicide myself, I definitely applaud the inclusion of this boxed text.

Okay, and from here on, we move towards the aforementioned adventure. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

The module by Tim Hitchcock kicks off when cell phones across the city project a blank text – that requires Pierce the Veil to realize that it’s not blank after all: “Find Faiyum, Contact Eratosthenes.” Yep, the man of Cyrene, the polymath – the ghost librarian needs a favor, namely the retrieval of a stolen tome, the trail of which, bingo, leads straight to NOLA, namely Madame Estelle Verdereau. The flight may seem uneventful, but establishes a woman named Sophia – the roleplaying with her is flirtatious enough, but things aren’t exactly as innocent as it seems, she is working for one El Santiago – the aforementioned tracking sheet provided for the handout allows the GM to keep her actions in mind.

Anyhow, once arrived in New Orleans, the PCs will have to deal with the rather uncooperative butler of Mme Estelle, only to find the woman slain and transformed into a poltergeist; with some proper detective work, more information on the eponymous book may be unearthed, before the trail branches off either towards Algier’s Point and a warehouse owned by “El Santiago”, the club Alexandria, that El Santiago likes to visit – obviously a boat, or a place in the country. The fellow is btw. not to be trifled with – provided his goons haven’t made that abundantly clear already. The man is working for the Archons – but he might well seem to be the lesser of two evils, considering that suspect/interested party number two, one Mr. Onnos, a pseudo-pharaoh and protector of remote St. Armand (hexploration map, player-friendly, included), is a werecrocodile. So he’s evil. Right? Well…actually, Onnos has pretty much a legitimate claim to the book; El Santiago is clearly the worse person, so stealing the book back from his warehouse…might be a solid call. Then again, you know…ahem…were-crocodile. Onnos is not to be trifled with. As a whole, the investigation here is open-ended, accounting for different sequences in which the locations might be visited.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed quite a few hiccups in formal criteria, and some pertaining to rules. In these disciplines, the book needed more fine-tuning. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, with a single red line through from top to bottom; the line has a breadth of one pixel, and is confirmed as intentional. Personally, it irritates me to no end. The artworks used are nice b/w-pieces, and the cartography in b/w is also pretty nifty, though I’d have loved to see a map of NOLA “occultified” included. Player-friendly maps for the encounter areas beyond the hexploration part of the module would also have been nice.

This book by George “Loki” Williams, Jaye Sonia and Tim Hitchcock oozes passion project in all the right ways; it is a brief city guide that misses nary a paragraph without providing some sort of interesting information that you can use in play.

Let me make that abundantly clear – what is here, to me, oscillates between “I love it” and “nice.” This is a compelling book.

And yet, it is also a flawed book.

The module is probably even better than Tim Hitchcock’s “The 58th Seal” and delivers a surprisingly compelling and modular investigation that falls more on the “occult politics” than on the “horror”-angle f the game/setting; I just wished that a) the information design/structure was a bit smoother and required a tad bit less close reading, and b) that the whole “here’s an agent”-angle had been developed slightly more; you know, with more encounters in the city, chances to meet, etc.; the individual in question even gets a handy tracking sheet, so having more impact there? Would have been awesome. That being said, I like the set-up of antagonists, and while it’s not exactly a scary adventure, it captures the spirit of the city.

…as much as I like the module, though….I’d have preferred to get more content on the city itself. The genuinely interesting and inspiring notes on the city cover 20 pages of the supplement, and I feel like it barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do with NOLA in a BL&BM game, of what makes it tick. From the culture and history to the surrounding landscape…heck, music alone could probably provide a whole chapter worth of ideas and hooks.

In an ideal world, there’d be a book of this total length or more on NOLA, and a companion module with slightly more pages.  Jamming both into one book wasn’t a good call as far as I’m concerned.

As presented, this supplement feels like a first glimpse – and the authors acknowledge as much, mentioning in the introduction that one should consult the bibliography at the back.

Guess what’s been cut? Bingo. The bibliography. :(

As a reviewer, and as a person who genuinely loves what he’s seen of NOLA, this leaves me in a weird spot. On one hand, I very much want to love this book, and love a lot of what’s here. On the other hand, the issue of Storm Bunny Studios’ editing sometimes being not as tight? On full display. On the one hand, the authors’ expert writing made me feel like I was back in a weird, changed NOLA…and on the other hand, I was almost annoyed when I realized that the gazetteer-section had already ended, that I had arrived at the module. My mind’s questions rang loudly – “But what about…??”

In a way, the same holds true for master Hitchcock’s module to a less pronounced degree– it is a cool one and plays well, but it is a scenario that feels like it’s missing a few pages to reach peak awesomeness. Both components of the book have their charms and downsides.

It took me quite a while to enunciate, but ultimately, I love what this begins to do both regarding the sourcebook and the module parts; I only like what it actually does with them.

In many ways, this is a book that’s easy to love if lore and concepts are your focus; if you’re primarily into the rules aspect, you’ll probably be less enamored with it, particularly if you’re picky regarding typos and player-facing rules; I can see this range from anything between 2 to 4 stars for an individual, depending on your focus, your preferences, etc.. For me, the range here gravitates to the upper end - I like what's here too much.

In the end, my final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars; anything more would be plain wrong to me, and anything less would be a disservice to how cool the book is.

If anything, I sincerely hope that Storm Bunny Studios gets the funds to continue BL&BM for a long time, and to improve and perhaps even expand upon this book at one point. I’m not done with NOLA, and I have a feeling that neither are the authors.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: The Crescent City
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