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The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2019 11:16:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 128 pages; if you detract ToC, editorial, etc., you instead get 124 pages out of this book.

This review was moved up in my review queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book. My review is based on the print copy.

First of all: Don’t be fooled by the cover. Yeah, I know. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Once you flip open the book, however, you’ll be greeted with different aesthetics. But before we get into the nit and grit of this massive book, let’s state something clearly:

Even if you don’t play Castle Falkenstein, this may very much be worth getting. I will elaborate why below, but it is my ardent belief that anyone remotely interested in Da Vinci, steampunk and Jules Vernesian, archaic retro-scifi/punk-components should continue reading. (And yes, let it be known that Castle Falkenstein is about high adventure, and not a game infused with punk aesthetics – this does not change that the ideas herein have universal appeal!)

Why? Well, the first 110 pages of this book? They’re basically one ginormous player handout. You see, the core conceit of this supplement is that Da Vinci, with his superb gifts of observation, was somehow aware of the (theoretical) existence of magick. He made small strides with it, limited by our world’s issues in that regard when directly compared to New Europa – and then, Tom Olam brought the notebooks, by coincidence, to New Europa. Here, these notebooks, deemed lost, could change the very fabric of reality, were their contents made known.

The notebook itself has been encoded and was obviously written in archaic Italian, mirrored, etc. – and as a fun enhancer of the conceit presented, one such page is reproduced before the rest of the book has been decoded by proper magick. As a nice aside – this use or sorcery also accounts for the few anachronisms and odd manners of speech that may be found within. Clever! Throughout the book, the sidebars provide annotations by Tom Olam, Grey Morrolan etc. on Da Vinci’s theses. Structurally, the book is a combination of historical fact 8surprisingly well-researched!), tinted by a bias that can be assumed to represent that of Da Vinci, with events in our Europe providing often the inspiration for the different types of “Ingenium” herein – clever to use that term to differentiate these machines from regular engines.

Now, the lead-in is similarly smart: Da Vinci’s recorded notion of tank-like devices ultimately leads him into the more far-fetched designs for various kinds of ingenium within, and this very much brings me to a component of the book that needs to be praised. From the font to the parchment-like background with its brown sidebars, the book aesthetically really enhances the basic idea of the notebook, but the true benefit? The thing that really hammers home the idea and the illusion of having Da Vinci’s lost notebook in your hands? That would be the illustrations by James Higgins. Each ingenium within features its own Da Vinci-style drawing, and if the text and banter in the sidebars won’t get you inspired to implement these ingeniums, then the glorious drawings will.

So, your players can find the notebooks, what will they find within? Well, for one, one of the most delightful reading experiences I’ve had in a long while in a roleplaying game supplement – the deliberate decision to interject historical commentary in-between the respective ingenium write-ups makes the book read like a blending of a diary and a proto-scientist’s notes, spanning the years of up to 1502. Of course, the test-runs in such a magick-deprived world as ours may result in all manner of at times tragic, at times hilarious consequences for the genius…and the reader gets to share in that.

But why bother with this book, you ask? There are so many books to take inspiration from regarding magical devices out there, so many spells and magic devices/items out there. What’s different here? Well, there is one crucial difference here, and it is entwined with Castle Falkenstein’s magic(k) system.

WAIT. I know. If one thing in the game needs some revision and clarification, it’s the magick system. It is per se inspired and mighty once you understand how to use it, but its presentation has to be labeled as byzantine. However, the system also has one gigantic plus as far as I’m concerned. It explains how magic works. There is an internal logic to the limitations and ways in which magick works within the context the game; unlike many games, the rules focus on explaining the underlying principles by which magic works. Now, combining this very scientific notion of the functionality of magick, deeply ingrained in the game system with the notion of scientific devices innovated by Leonardo Da Vinci, and we have proto-magickal science that feels simply more plausible and grounded than in any other supplement I’ve read so far – it feels like, you know, depictions of magic like the ones you can find in occult literature and the manuscripts of ancient orders. Not a single ingenium stoops to the low of the dreaded “A Wizard Did it!”-syndrome. Instead, this book constantly is making full use of the quasi-mathematical precision and codification that the powerful magical system offers.

This is a subtle notion, but one that is emphasized, time and again, throughout the book, as the annotations and commentary discuss limitations and feasibility of the implementation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs. The combination of the very clever rules underlying Falkenstein’s magic and the conceit of Da Vinci’s design fuse in a perfect way – and it should be noted that reading the book may actually help you understand more intricate components of Falkenstein’s magick.

But what type of ingenium devices may be found within? Well, from earthquake machines to chests that disassemble contents (a kind of copyright-shredder), to devices that force targets to tell the truth to magickal steam engines, from dissolution engines to means to heal creatures of diseases, proto-fridges and the like, many of these are influenced by modern-day conveniences, but their contextualization makes them stand out as distinctly New European. Dimensional barriers, a temporal barrier, etc. – there are plenty of truly cool types of ingenium presented.

But what does that matter if it’s all flavor? Well, that’s the beauty! You see, not all devices are feasible or work as Leonardo envisioned them to; the final section of the book notes the suits, costs, operation and investment required, all in a helpful and concise manner. Similarly, and that is a definite improvement in contrast to the core rules, the rules presented for creating your own ingenium devices are actually very concise, easy to grasp and fun.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column parchment-style standard with brown borders that house the copious annotations for the different chapters. As noted before, the various artworks inside deserve applause – seriously. I can’t fathom why the cover is as comparably unappealing, when the interior of the book is so awesome. The softcover I have is perfect-bound and features the name properly on the spine. As noted before, I can’t comment on the merits of the pdf iteration. Considering the low price point of the print book, I’d recommend that one, but as you know, I tend to prefer dead tree.

Edward Bolme, with the help of Mike Pondsmith and Mark Schuhmann, has crafted a book I thoroughly enjoyed – more so than the other work by Mr. Bolme I’ve read before. Written entirely (yes, even the rules!) in character, this lost notebook not only is a glorious expansion for Castle Falkenstein, it also is a great handout, and, more importantly, the supplement is a genuinely exciting reading experience. I rarely encounter roleplaying books that focus on presenting essentially a new sub-engine for a rules-system that are not a chore to read, and this is the exact opposite – a joy to peruse, and yet another all-time-classic that has aged remarkably well. If the notion even remotely excites you, get this – this book has entertained me more than the entirety of the Da Vinci’s Demons series so far.

Final verdict? Highly recommended, inspiring, 5 stars + seal of approval. Did I mention that we need more Castle Falkenstein? I’d so love to see a new edition, a new game…Hey, perhaps CD Project Red will make that game next after Cyberpunk… one may dream, right?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
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20 Things #39: Black Dragon's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2019 11:14:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ much-beloved dressing-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, we begin the first page with 12 sample features for a black dragon’s lair – these include fetid pools of swamp water, glutinous mud, tangled curtains of roots, partially melted walls, and sinkholes and rotting trunks – this very much encapsulates the proper, grimy feel of swampy environments. 10 names for male dragons and 10 for female dragons complement the first page. I very much enjoyed this start!

The second page contains 20 dressing features for the dragon’s lair: From acidic smell in the air to dripping, dirty water, there are some nice ones here. I am particularly fond of ethereal-looking mud that may stoke the paranoia of players and PCs alike. Once more, the swamp/black dragon-theme is strong in these. The table of what the dragon is doing represents well the sadism associated with black dragons, as well as their cunning. A few generic entries are here – dragon sorting through hoard, chuckling? Seen that before. Compared to the so far very strong dragon-specific leitmotif, this selection was a bit weaker.

A list of 12 sample sights and sounds may be added to enhance the atmosphere of the dragon’s lair – these include a few different kinds of startling roars, jets of harmless steam, clouds of soot twirling and fake dragon’s eyes shimmering in the dark. The malign nature of the violent red masterminds is well-served here. An entry of 8 things the dragon may be currently doing can be found here. These include sorting through treasure, roasting human corpses slowly on a spear (cool!) or scratching itself. I’d have liked to see more red-specific entries, as e.g., the one where the dragon scratches itself with a wall is one I’ve seen before – and one I don’t consider too suitable for reds.

The pdf features a pretty massive 20-entry treasure and trinket selection, and includes a mechanical wind-up bird with ruby eyes (emerald or onyx imho would have made more sense there, but I’m nitpicking), a set of jade statuettes, blood-spattered tomes, hunting horns sourced from unicorns and the like – generally, I enjoyed this treasure/trinket selection, with its themes in line with the dragon species. 8 worn trinkets include colored mud used to draw strange sigils, eyebrow rings of gold, silver eye-monocles and the like – some nice ones, even though a few more black dragon specific touches would have been neat.

The final page is devoted to a total of 20 entries of hoard dressing, which this time around contains decaying, splintered wood, rotting barrels partially sunk in the floor, strange pyramids containing skulls, channels littered with wanna-be-dragon-slayer bones funnels water from the hoard, jars of honey, and more – these entries close the pdf on a definite high note.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very top-notch. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, with solid b/w-artworks included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and, as always, the supplement features two versions – one intended to be printed out, and one for screen-use.

Creighton Broadhurst’s dressing for black dragons manages to eke out that special sense of being very close to the dragon sub-species, while at the same time providing the full arsenal of cool dressing we’ve come to expect. With a stronger, dragon-species specific theme than in previous installments, this delivers a bit more, manages to be more specific – and that’s a good thing. Very few entries herein lack some sort of direct connection to black dragons, rendering this pretty much a success in my book. As such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #39: Black Dragon's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End. I much appreciate the effort and time and I'm glad you liked this book!
Trollback Keep
Publisher: The Merciless Merchants
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2019 05:29:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 31 pages of content, not counting cover, editorial, etc.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the adventure. My review is based on the print version; I do not own the pdf-version.

Rules-wise, this game assumes the For Gold & Glory rules-set, which is based on 2nd edition AD&D; as such, conversion to other OSR-rules is not difficult. In case you were wondering: We do get a THAC0, HD-ratings, sizes, morale and the average movement rate for humanoids is set at 9, with small targets instead having 6. All in all, this makes modifying the module for other old-school systems pretty simple.

The book contains a new class – kind of. Essentially, if you’re familiar with how archetypes behave in PFRPG, you’ll have an idea of how the sorcerer class herein operates: It behaves like a regular wizard, save that it operates with a different casting engine. The sorcerer has a mana pool that they use for casting spells, and regain class level mana points per 8-hour rest interval (which means that taking them along will require loooooong resting periods before climactic boss fights – not a fan there. The pool’s size is equal to the number of spells known, which begins at 3 1st level spells. The way in which the increase of mana is handled is simple: If you get the first spell of a new spell level, you add the spell level to the mana pool – gaining the first 7th level spell nets you +7 mana. Any subsequent spell gained for a spell level instead nets you +1 mana point. While this is explained with copious examples that make understanding how it behaves viable, the relative inexperience of the author(s) regarding crunch-design is evident here, as the phrasing is a bit more convoluted and awkward as I like in my rules-language. Unique: Each spell, regardless of spell level, costs one mana point to cast, and the class does not automatically learn to read magic; while learning to do so to start learning new spells is possible, it is a pretty penalized operation. I am particularly fond of a small rules operation – sorcerers see magic; they benefit from detect magic when casting spells. Bonus spells known are governed by Wisdom, while bonus mana is governed by Constitution – the bonus hit points per level also applies to mana. Essentially, we have a character here who can cast longer and harder, but has a less versatile arsenal – the quintessential sorcerer. While not mind-blowing, it is an okay take on the sorcerer concept, but one you can ignore with relative ease.

Now, the main meat of this booklet is devoted to the presentation of the Trollback Keep adventure, which is intended for characters level 4th – 7th, and it is my pleasure to report that it, difficulty-wise, is a harsh mistress of a module, but one that I’d consider to be fair at any of its twists and turns. In many ways, this module is dangerous and potentially deadly, but it does a really good job of telegraphing danger and providing an internally consistent sense of plausibility regarding the things going on. Similarly helpful for the GM: The fact that a sentence in italics tends to highlight the things immediately apparent for a given room.

As far as maps are concerned, we do get solid b/w-maps, though unfortunately, no key-less version with redacted secret doors etc. that you could cut up or use in conjunction with VTTs is provided. Structurally, this is a sandbox – basically a hex-crawl-y wilderness region with a situation described. The players determine how to handle the issues presented, and what component of the module they’ll get to see. It should be noted that magic items are presented in gray boxes, making their rules pop out properly, which is a plus – if your OSR-system of choice presents GP or XP values for them, you will need to improvise these values, though. A general plus: The magic items presented within feel, well, magical. There is for example a pipe that can generate 3/day wall of fog, and also 1/day create a smoke duplicate that you can command to move up to a specific distance away – the latter may not sound like much at first, but it’s one of the tricks that makes clever PLAYERS start thinking, and then use in creative ways – you know, like a good magic item. Want another example? Okay, so PCs can acquire a blade made of amber that has insects inside, which lets you talk to insects, make them attack you last, if at all, and also has a minor healing power. Come on, that’s cool!! These items generally had me more excited than I usually am, so definite plus there!

The module comes with a total of 7 different hooks, plus what I’d consider the main hook, which takes place as the PCs make camp upon entering the mountain valley that acts as the backdrop of this module. Here, Drixell will arrive – a precocious gnome, who shares a tale of woe that is represented, if required, in an appendix. This represents the only text you’d consider to be read-aloud material – the rest of the book assumes that you know how to set the mood, but here, the module should be applauded for the way in which it structures its room entries – monster stats are where they are supposed to be, spells are consistently italicized, magic items consistently bolded, and e.g. traps are similarly bolded, making it easy to run this module. Where it’s sensible, we also have bullet points featured.

The module includes pretty detailed tables for wilderness encounters, and does something I very much enjoy – in the back, you’ll find a massive table of stats by encounter area as a piece of rather comfortable GM-helper. The individual tables also show up in the regular text of the module, obviously, and the end also presents 8 different sample barbarian NPCs, which belong to one of the new humanoid races statted up within.

In order to talk about them, though, I will have to start going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? So, the book provides stats for spriggans and two new monsters, giant olms and zospeums – the latter being snail-huamnoids! And yeah, they can retreat into their shells, are blind, etc. – nice ones. The book also provides a small ecology of sorts for an ethnicity, the Verloren, survivors of an arcane cataclysm that have since turned back to a lifestyle that makes them hard and less reliant on magics – these are the Verloren of the Wolf Clan. I very much enjoyed this write-up, but as a native speaker, I do cringe a bit when reading “Verlorens.” Excuse me as I engage in a bit of linguistic pedantry that will not influence the final verdict: You see, “verloren” means “lost”; “I have lost my keys” – “Ich habe meine Schlüssel verloren”; if you make that a substantive, you’d get “eine Verlorene” for a female verloren, “ein Verlorener” for male verloren, and “die Verlorenen” for the plural equivalent of “the lost”; so “Verlorenen” would be closer to correct in this case. Anyhow, the tribe is actually presented in a pretty cool manner, in that they actually come not only with some flavorful notes, but also with unique rules – bringing them to the brink of death may result in a rather nasty berserker-move that, in a nice change of pace, uses checks instead of saves to operate.

Okay, so far regarding creatures – let’s talk about what this features, shall we? As noted before, a primary angle involved Drixell the gnome, who shares a story of woe. You see, the scarce game in the region? It’s actually due to the predations of the humanoids, who’ve become ever bolder and ever more successful. Originally rallied by a hill giant named Uthog, the humanoids have recently become bolder and better organized. And there’s a reason for that – you see, when Uthog, lazy as he was, relegated the task of leading raids to his underlings, he fueled the ambitions of his warlord Kron Mountainshaker. When the orc was sent to raid Drixell’s home, he saw his chance and forced the gnomes to create manacles, which he then tricked Uthog to take on – now, the erstwhile master and architect of the eponymous Trollback Keep is a prisoner in his own keep, peeing into a chasm, dreaming of revenge, all while Kron awaits the completion of means to also hijack the mind of the hill giant – and thus gain a living siege weapon under his command!

The gnomes have been stalling, but who knows for how long this will work. The second faction that can provide most, but not all of the information, would be the Verloren, who could be rather interesting, if volatile allies against the struggle to conquer Trollback Keep. (In the one somewhat grisly scene herein, the PCs can happen upon verloren females inside the keep, one mad from killing her half-orc offspring, the others pregnant, obviously against their consent at the hands of the orcs – yeah, there’s no doubt that these orc deserve to die…) You see, the keep comes fully depicted in a regular manner – it’s mapped, hunting intervals are explained, as do we learn about guards. How the PCs try to take the keep is totally up to them – this is basically a “take the fortress”-scenario, one that is entirely player-driven, which is certainly something I enjoy.

I mentioned before an above-average sense of plausibility here – this would be encapsulated best in the dungeon (which, while hard to miss, can be missed potentially). You see, the gnomes, honoring their deity, had a shrine erected below where the giant’s fortress now stands. This shrine, focusing on trickery and the abilities of thieves, contains a mighty treasure indeed, but its deadly traps foiled would-be adventurers for years, until no locals ventured inside. Erosion and earthquakes did their part, and indeed, only under Kron’s auspice has the work begun to unearth the shrine. The shrine itself comes as basically a dungeon cut in half – the occupants of Trollback Keep are digging from the entrance, not realizing that the chasm the imprisoned hill giant urinates into also leads below. (An ogre is fyi magically used as forced labor to clear the path, allowing clever PCs to have the brute aid them…)

Drixell and the local gnomes can warn the PCs of the dangers, sure – but when has that ever dissuades adventurers? The way in which the whole sandboxy aspect is set up is really clever – the verloren, for example, could be made more friendly by telling them where that elusive herd of elk has gone. Oh, and there is an awesome monster/magic item here – a braid of hair, which, when its original owner’s name is called, can be used to rope trick…but it can also animate as a nasty lasso that attempts to stow the party away, then close the dimension, trapping them potentially forever! This is easily one of the best spell-in-a-can items I’ve seen in a while.

Indeed, as mentioned before, the need to clear potentially a path into the shrine proper is an angle all too rarely seen; the shrine proper is rather interesting, in that it features plenty of water, cliffs and the like – it’s as non-linear as can get in such a context, and the presence of water lends further plausibility to the whole erosion/changing dungeon angle. The shrine itself deserves applause in that it manages to be challenging (that’s what the dungeon was created for – as a test!) and marries being something deadly not to be taken lightly with the notion of gnomish playfulness. When a magic mouth requires a knock-knock-who’s there-joke to bypass? Yeah, that is gnomish! And the party won’t forget that they’re treading the halls of gnomes – the contrast between the dungeon and keep is not only one of tone, but also of scale – while the keep has been erected with hill giants in mind, the gnomish shrine has obviously been made for gnomes, and is thus pretty cramped. I love this.

Structurally, this creates a tension of two totally conflicting styles – not once does the keep feel playful; it’s a place of grim and brutal savagery, bulky and makeshift, but also grand and imposing; the leitmotif of the shrine, in contrast, is one of cleverness, of dangerous, but also playful challenge. This contrast elevates and emphasizes the two different themes in contrast to each other, and adds a smart way to emphasize the unique nature of each environment. You may not consciously pick this up, but your brain does. It’s a small thing, but it’s surprisingly effective.

Conclusion: Editing on a formal level can be considered to be good – I noticed a few instances where prepositions are a bit awkward, or where multiple sentences started with the same fronted participle, which is not a practice conductive to the reading experience. These remain the exception, though. On a rules-language level, the module fares better – with the exception of the presentation of the per se interesting sorcerer class. The sequence of information presentation here is not exactly simple or intuitive, and considering the fact that this is not the most complex of concepts, this shortcoming becomes extra-obvious. That being said, what’s presented remains functional. Formatting deserves a big round of applause – plenty of old-school adventures tend to be sloppy in that regard, and this isn’t – the formatting conventions have been implemented in a tight and concise manner. Kudos! Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, which, from font used to style of presentation, reminded me of the good modules from the days of yore, with artwork consisting of b/w-pieces I’ve seen before, sure – but they have been chosen in a pretty darn clever manner. The b/w-cartography’s highlight would be the slightly-isometric hexcrawl map of the region itself, which, while it could be a bit more crisp, is really neat. A downside would be that none of the maps come in a version without the map key. Ideally, versions that are player-friendly (sans letters and numbers, and with redacted secret doors) can make for a great enhancer of the playing experience, as you slowly unveil rooms. This also speeds up play, so yeah – I hope that the Merciless Merchants will think about including such maps in the future. As noted, I can’t comment on electronic properties, but my perfect-bound physical copy, with its glossy cover, is nice – I certainly would advise in favor of going print.

For me, the passions of roleplaying games and good food are remarkably similar. I am ever craving new and exciting tastes, the jamais-vu experience of exotic and weird experiences; a new taste like a fusion-cuisine sushi or the like? Heck yeah, I’m on board. Same goes for RPGs – I really love that, after all these years, RPG-supplements can still surprise me. However, I’m no hipster – I love, in equal manner, a well-made staple. Present me with a proper American BBQ or a good steak, and I’ll be just as happy and excited.

In a way, Jon Bertani and Aaron Fairbrook deliver an excellent “steak” here; we are all familiar with the themes and tropes presented here; however, there is a reason you go to a steakhouse and not some run of the mill restaurant; much like a good steak, a good take on classic fantasy is actually much harder to execute well than most people think. Bereft of an exciting elevator pitch concept to hook folks in, the supplement must stand on more subtle virtues like texture. To further the comparison – in the case of Trollback Keep, that would be presentation, consistency, the small things – like fair and plausible traps. Like rewarding player skill over character skill. Or the fact that this really lets the players decide on how to tackle it. Or the fact that an obvious dose of extra love went into all the magic items to make them feel, well, magical.

Now, there is one aspect where the whole comparison admittedly falls apart, and that is a good thing: For, you see, classic fantasy has the issue that it can easily feel stale, redundant, like a “been-there-done-that” sort of thing; this is not the case here. Much like a good seasoning can coax out new dimensions of taste from a steak, so have the authors managed to coax something new from the classic tropes. The juxtaposition of sizes and leitmotifs is one such subtle nuance, the other would lie in the twists employed. Come to think of it, warlord dethroned and enslaved by second in command? GNOMISH shrine that actually managed to feel, you know, gnomish? Think about it. It’s so weird, but I genuinely can’t think of an instance where these particular scenarios have been employed, much less in this constellation. And I’ve read a metric ton of modules.

In a way, Trollback Keep thus constitutes a good and honest classic fantasy module will a slightly dark tint regarding the primary antagonists. This module executes its themes surprisingly well, and makes for a pretty impressive adventure. There is not much to complain about here, and indeed, I consider this to be excellent example of an old-school adventure with a smart and GM-friendly presentation – it feels like a classic module that has taken modern presentation standards on board, that can manage to elicit fun even from jaded veterans. All in all, this can be considered to be a success of an adventure. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up, since the module is closer to the 5 stars than the 4 in my book. If the above even sounds remotely compelling, if you’re looking for a novel module that feels like a classic, check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trollback Keep
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Corrupted Classes
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2019 13:05:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This plug-in for Wrath of the Righteous clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The first part of the pdf deals with so-called “Corrupted classes”, representing once pure targets that have been, in some ways, tainted by the harsh reality of the environment they work in – such as the Worldwound. The first of these would be the anarchist inquisitor, who receives access to mesmerist spells, but requires an (un-) holy symbol to cast them – this replaces monster lore and track. Domain is relegated to 3rd level, and all domain powers behave as though two levels lower, but to make up for that, the anarchist may freely choose domains and subdomains, disregarding deity portfolios, and change a domain or subdomain every 3 levels after 3rd. Minor nitpick: The ability’s header isn’t properly bolded here. Instead of detect alignment, we have a +2 to saving throws vs. divinations, and alignment may only be discerned if the CL exceeds inquisitor levels by 4 or more. At 3rd level, we replace solo tactics and 3rd 6th and 9th level’s teamwork feats with the graffiti ability, which is powered by judgment expenditure, but otherwise does not follow its rules. A graffiti is essentially an at-will arcane mark. Optionally, as a full-round action, a judgment use may be used to create enhanced graffiti, which defames a target, imposing a Charisma penalty on the target when interacting with creatures that can see the graffiti. The penalty scales, and duration may be enhanced by expending more judgment uses. Additionally, later, graffiti may duplicate glyphs of warding, that instead of holding a spell, either demoralize or alter a creature’s attitude. At 9th level, we then get the fully functional magic graffiti that can convey mind-affecting effects. Discern lies is replaced with class level rounds of detect charm per day, with said spell (hyperlink here not italicized) and suppress charms and compulsions added to spells known. The teamwork feats usually attained at 12th, 15th and 18th level are replaced by the ability to expend judgments to generate a potent and longer lasting variant of song of discord –proper riot instigation, essentially. 17th level nets immunity to mind-affecting divinations and compulsions instead of slayer. Really cool archetype here!

The Black Mage kineticist archetype is pretty out there – you first need to have the dark elementalist AND elemental annihilator archetypes to even contemplate taking this one – yep, it’s a third archetype stacked atop of the two! The black mage may freely choose on whether to use Intelligence or Constitution to determine the damage caused by wild-talents, the DCs and durations of Constitution-based wild talents, bonus on concentration checks and other class-related effects – this may be done freely and is NOT an action. The archetype nets two feats at first level, the first of which would be Burning Thunder of Omnikinesis. This one lets you choose to take a -40 penalty to Stealth, as you emit light like a sunrod. This feats also locks you into using it whenever you gather power, and it may not be used in social identity, if available through e.g. Incredible Hidden Power. When this feat is active and you use a feat, trait, wild talent, kinetic blast or kineticist class ability that deals one of the 4 core elemental damage types, you may freely opt to choose one of the other 3 damage types instead as a swift action, changing the descriptor, if anything, of the effect. Non-damaging effects remain unchanged, unless the changed energy type invalidates them, subject to GM’s discretion – and this is the key sentence here that prevents this feat from being ridiculously overpowered. That and the daily use cap of 3 + wild talent-governing key ability modifier. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a VERY strong option, but this caveat does indeed eliminate a lot of the tricks you can usually execute with blasts.

The second feat gained at 1st level would be Heir to Power Unstable, the single longest feat I’ve read so far…wait…do you also have a déjà-vu? Yep, this was originally featured in Occult Archetypes II. HOWEVER, close reading of the two actually yields an interesting observation – the feat as presented in this book, while still providing various unique effects depending on elemental focus, etc., has actually been changed in comparison – what previously caused bleed damage, for example, now causes animals and non-sentient animals to attempt to leave the area. The feat has been retooled, to the point where I consider it to be a flavorful and action economy-wise powerful option, and one that I’d allow in my campaign. Pleasant surprise! On the downside, this feat mentions rage or bloodrage in the prerequisite lines – both of which do not belong there.

I already mentioned Incredible Hidden power, another feat that makes a return here – this one also mentions rage/bloodrage, but here, it makes sense – the feat has been expanded, and in case you don’t remember it, it basically nets you a seamless guise/dual identity akin to the vigilante, with themagical child’s transformation sequence. It makes you social identity meeker, and the feat does scale at higher levels, with this book’s iteration also adding in a rage/bloodrage-interaction: These class features are not available per se in social identity, but may be used to tap into e.g. rage powers at increased costs, allowing for an interesting additional multiclass support-angle. The feat also provides a means to Bluff targets regarding your spellcasting in social identity, which, while something I appreciate concept-wise, would have been better off in another feat – this one already does A LOT, and this aspect imho is a bit overkill.

But I digress – let’s return to the black mage archetype. At 1st level, the character gets a masterwork staff that automatically rejuvenates if destroyed or lost upon resting, and that staff is required to use any supernatural kineticist abilities. The staff does not count as an occupied hand fo the purposes of kineticist class features, and all black mage’s wild talents are considered to be arcane, divine and psychic – all effects that resist one of the three are applied to all spells and supernatural effects a black mage uses as a kind of balancing drawback. Black mages only inflict half damage on undead or living creatures with negative energy affinity, and they may never gain kinetic healer. The black mage does not gain internal buffer, but is treated as having it for the purpose of the Force-Focusing Oath feat. This feat, alas, is still missing its prerequisite line. Kudos for the layout of Absorb Violent Energies, another feat from Occult Archetypes II – its presentation in this iteration is cleaner.

Black mages also are treated as having the Craft Wondrous item feat and a CL equal to character level, but only for the purpose of making a lich’s phylactery. While we’re on the subject matter of kineticist options, let us discuss some of the other feats within, shall we? By Blackest Ink lets you read scrolls and cast arcane spells from them at class level -4, and lets you use UMD to decipher them instead of Spellcraft – without read magic. (Spell-reference not italicized); the feat also nets you a scaling Intelligence bonus boost for the purpose of determining the spell levels you can cast from scrolls, which is pretty clever. Initiate of Thanatokinesis builds on By Blackest Ink, and nets you limited access to necromancy SPs, with burn costs – the feat may be taken multiple times, may not be used in sunlight, and is pretty damn cool.

Fierce Fiendish Brilliance allows you to BOTH be an Elemental Ascetic and gain the Dark Elementalist archetype, with free choice between Intelligence and Wisdom regarding the determination of what acts as key ability score modifier. This may be taken as a faith trait for adherents of evil deities, which makes sense, considering that it’s basically a multiarchetyping enabler – and before you scream that this is still too potent, if taken this way, it does come with a pretty extensive set of limitations and modifications. I liked this.

The pdf also contains 2 vigilante archetypes – the gore fiend is a vigilante with an evil vigilante identity; the archetype loses vigilante specialization and instead gets a bite attack, and damaging targets nets viscera points – these may be used to enter unchained barbarian-style rages and select rage powers, with higher levels providing the means to auto-cannibalize. Viscera may be used at higher levels for limited healing etc. Kudos: No kittens were harmed during the making of this archetype, i.e. you can’t cheese it by eaten harmless, cute animals. Rot Fiend is a feat for the gore fiend, which lets you gain viscera from undead. I like this one. Hellion vigilantes are the damned that have somehow escaped – they have one last chance at redemption (or existence) and may use hellfire. Annoyingly, this one of the archetypes that still hasn’t learned that there is no such thing as profane damage in PFRPG, which pretty much immediately disqualifies it for me. They use this make-believe energy type to enhance weapons, curse targets, etc. – nothing remarkable, and frankly, not worth the hassle of being riled up about the damage type.

The order of the blood knight cavalier order, on the other hand, is pretty cool: Unable to grant mercy, these fellows are bleeding specialists and can hijack the healing of challenge targets and cause bleeding to those nearby. Nasty and neat. The riven medium essentially gets a variation of dual identity that focuses on personality traits and alignment instead, representing compartmentalized component of nasty psychological traits. The archetype can tap into this power and manifest it to enhance spells to e.g. deal bleed damage, and being in mortal danger may see this personality surface. This does render the character more susceptible to evil effects, but we have DR and DC-increases to make up for this. Really enjoyed this engine-tweak with its unique roleplaying angle.

There are two class options presented for characters holding strong to their ideals, the first of which would be the grail knight paladin, who gets to choose an outsider subtype to detect, as though with detect demons, and may detect the chosen subtype via detect evil. This replaces third level’s mercy. Divine health is replaced with the Worldwound counting as favored terrain and immunity to the tainted plague. Channeling is tweaked to heal good and harm evil outsiders, and smite evil’s 4th, 10th and 16trh level uses are replaced with a favored enemy style passive boost versus the chosen evil outsider. Divine bond is replaced with the ability to designate a forged, holy cup as a grail-simulacrum,, which can enhance healing. Its duration may also be expended in a rather wide variety of ways that include SPs, anointing weaponry, etc. Mercy-synergy is also provided with it, and divine bond is relegated to 9th level, with the same level also enhancing attacks versus the chosen outsiders. All in all, one of the better nemesis-style archetypes.

Moon howlers are summoners with diminished spellcasting and a quadruped eidolon resembling a moon dog, with an obviously modified summon monster list. The archetype loses (greater) shield ally and merge forms with the ability to lick the wounds of targets, healing them with scaling effects, and the (greater) aspect as well as maker’s call and transposition abilities are replaced with a scaling array of howl-based supernatural effects that are balanced via a hex-caveat and and the use of summon monster SPs as a limited resource.

A massive section of the pdf is devoted to so-called cursed archetypes that begin play impoverished and with a minor penalty to saves, but also skill boosts and some spells added to spell list. Druid, shaman, bloodrager, kineticist, investigator, medium, mesmerist, occultist, psychic, sorcerer, spiritualist, sumnmoner and witch are provided, and oracle curse would be a leitmotif that may be found here, with the druid becoming a spontaneous spellcaster and gaining a witch patron being the most pronounced modification here – this is essentially an engine-tweak chapter, and one that I generally enjoyed.

Now, I’ve already touched upon quite a few of the feats from said chapter, but I should also mention the one that makes you a survivor of aforementioned tainted plague (which is btw. statted for your edification as a hazard); it is, alongside Thrallborn, Warped Mind and Twisted Flesh, one of the feats that basically help contextualize a character’s starting angle,as they are 1st-level only feats.

Blazing Bolts Against the Darkness requires being a Gray Paladin, but allows for the taking of divine hunter as an archetype as well; and with Oathbound, you can have further multiclass synergy with classes like slayer, inquisitor or gunslinger (if you have Mysterious Stranger). Dark Forces Adept would be another multiclass enabler, allowing you to use arcane pool, grit, ki, panache or touch of corruption interchangeably, and also nets some SPs with these resources. It should be pretty evident that this allows you to escalate resources fast – I’m not a fan, and would relegate this to NPCs only. (Granted, it’s only for non-good characters, but still…) Comprehend the Corrupted is narrative gold and allows you to determine whether someone would be swayed to your side, the motivations of the target, etc. Cruel Kiss of Thunder is a massive feat for antipaladins, druids or cityskin warlocks with the proper domains and feats, netting you cantrips, the modification of touch of corruption to deal half electricity damage and inflict bonus conditions, and also synergy of domains and bloodlines. Thrashing Heart of the Shockwave builds on that and nets you the Dark Force Adept feat as well as a further synergy there.Sorcerous Damnation provides a similarly complex operation, providing a crossover between Eldritch Heritage and antipaladin abilities. Fiendfoe is a bland anti-evil-outsider feat to identify them better and deal more damage to them. Not a fan. Flesh of Many Skins is a really cool wild shape tweak that lets you quickly change shapes and nets you partial swarm traits due to your rapidly-shifting proto-bestial form – however, this does also make you susceptible to AoE attacks. Redeemed Scoundrel nets you a couple of skill bonuses and two rogue class skills or a rogue talent.

There are also two complex feats for Pazuzu-adherents – Senses of the Shrike and Awareness of Dark Winds, which make you aware of your title/name being uttered, with such fools also suffering from you getting bonuses, treating them as studied target or favored enemy, and you may denote them as quarry; oh, and you may eat such fools to know when they first heard or read your name. This can make for a truly frightening, awesome villain. Love them! Warp Sense makes you potentially aware of teleportation and allows you to prevent teleportation-based ambushes. Useful one!

The pdf features two magic items – razor claw guards and razor mouthguard, which basically net you pseudo-natural attacks that may enhanced as a whole. Decent, but not mind-blowing.

The final section deals with feats based on a new one – Bright-Burning Super-Sanity, which requires that you can accept Burn. It allows you to mitigate Burn by one or more points, but when you do, you roll on a d20 table – these may entail becoming super-honest, a random phobia, language-loss, etc. – a phobia and obsession table is provided as well. One issue: I think defining “Mind Burn” would make sense - I don’t think I know what that’s supposed to be. I assume Burn applying to a mental ability score. The feats building on this allow for rolling twice (or choosing a 16), and the second lets you also roll a d8, gaining one of 7 (is there one missing?) effects. The 7th effect also lacks italics in the header, and a spell-reference is not italicized here.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a rules language and formal level are good, though not as good as usual for Legendary Games – there are quite a few missing formatting components (such as spell-references) and quite a few class feature-references that are nonstandard; considering the density of the rules presented here, those can make thing slightly more challenging for the user than they need to be. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the Wrath of the Righteous plugins (personally, my least favorite of LG’s layout templates so far), and the pdf sports a variety of full-color artworks that will be familiar to fans of LG. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Clinton Boomer, Jason Nelson, Carl Cramér, N. Jolly and Julian Neale are all veterans that regularly feature among my higher rated design supplements, and it shows here – the supplement juggles exceedingly complex concepts, and Clinton Boomer’s feats, which while always awesome, sometimes blow past the realms of the sensible, have remained more grounded this time around. The multiclass enhancing for character class combos is generally appreciated, and the archetypes (with the exception of the sucky hellion) tend to be pretty amazing and conceptually interesting. All in all, I consider this to be an interesting and fun expansion, one with a few filler feats that particularly stand out next to Clinton’s complexity-monsters, but nonetheless a book with a strong focus, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Corrupted Classes
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Starfarer Adversaries: Invader War Machine
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2019 13:03:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Starfarer Adversaries-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first thing – the invaders are not classified or codified, leaving them a mystery for the GM, which is a nice plus. It should also be noted that the builds make use of material from Starfarer’s Companion, but, as a huge plus, don’t require the use of the book – the special ability of the war machines referencing a spell has all relevant effects stated.

The invader war-machines within come in three classes: At CR 6, at CR 10 and at CR 14. From low to high CR, we have the scout-class, the assault class and the destroyer class. The builds use the combatant array. The war machines are technological constructs, and the latter two have a special ability invested to increase their saves by +1. The destroyer class’s base kick attack is off by 1 unless I’m sorely mistaken; it should be +25. The machines also seem to have counted Perception as a good skill granted by the array, when Perception is bestowed generally as a free good skill; consider that these are machines, I can get behind the choice to make the skill count towards the skill maximum here. I am a bit puzzled that all of the war machine’s attacks use the low attack column’s value as a base, though. Multiattack options have been properly implemented.

On a nice side, the critters do include unique signature abilities, namely the option to grab targets and stuff them into a prisoner cage – escape from these is properly noted (though “full-round” as a duration for attempted checks should probably instead refer to “full action”); prisoners may be used by the war machines as a kind of living battery, affecting them with vampiric touch – this would be aforementioned spell, and the effects, namely negative energy damage and healing of the war machines, are covered properly. The destroyer class war machine also emits toxic clouds as a reaction, which can nauseate those nearby when they have consumed 4 CR or more. This can be a tad bit wonky. Nice: A Small sidebar provides some suggestions for default prisoners.

It should be noted that the artwork comes in a one-page, handout-style version – neat!

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

Jacob E. Blackmon shows that he can not only draw cool artworks, he can also design some nice critters. The invader war machines are interesting and solid – not exactly world-shaking, sure, but they are fun and a nice addition if you need some nasty technological harvesters for your Mass Effect style invasion or similar storylines. Considering the low and fair price-point, I consider this to be worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Starfarer Adversaries: Invader War Machine
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Star Log.EM-061: Zoomer Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2019 06:07:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

This being an expansion for the Zoomer base class, I obviously assume familiarity with the class in this review.

After a brief bit of contextualizing the zoomer, we dive right in with new zoomer stunts. The pdf presents 8 different ones that may be taken at 2nd level. The first one is already pretty interesting in its execution – it halves the time required to take 20, and allows you to execute skill checks that require 2+ rounds in half the time. This may not sound like much, but it can mean the difference between death and survival. Extra kudos: The stunt accounts for social skills – since they are contingent on talking and not supernaturally quick thinking, these are exempt. Agile charge allows you to charge through difficult terrain, and also makes the target of your charge lose eligibility to an AoO when you charge it.

Broken Delay is anything but – it is a genuinely cool trick that’ll make the zoomer feel more novel: When you delay, you may do so at any point during your turn, even after taking actions. If you come out of delay, you only have the remaining actions upon going into delay. This is kept in check by requiring a rest of Resolve Point expenditure to use it again. This one imho warrants getting the pdf all on its own. Devastating momentum adds ½ class level to the damage output of your small arms or operative weapons when using a move action or charging as a full action. When firing a weapon in a vehicle chase, you roll twice and use the better result, providing the vehicle moved its speed or more. Cool! Fast fingers lets you grab or retrieve unattended or stowed/stored items as a swift action. You can’t do so if it would usually require a standard action or more, and it requires having the Quick Draw feat nice. (As an aside: There is a stunt that, bingo, nets you Quick Draw.)

Lock and load lets you reload a small arms or melee weapon with the operative and powered special properties as part of moving your speed – once more, you can’t do so if this would take longer than a standard action. Smooth piloting reduces your vessel-based Piloting penalty if moving at full speed; and yes, this has star ship relevant repercussions accounted for as well!

At 8th level, we have 7 more stunts for the zoomer: Confounding speed. When you move at least 10 feet and attack a target, the opponent must succeed on a Perception check; on a failure, they become flat-footed against all of the zoomer’s attacks until next turn. This also has extra benefits for vehicles and star ships! Now, as a minor nitpick, the stunt does not specify a DC here, which means you default to the default DCs – this is not bad, mind you, as the DCs are pretty sensible and reflect well the intention of the stunt, but explicitly stating such would have prevented less rules-savvy individuals being puzzled there for a second – to make that clear, this does not make you invisible or anything, but it makes skirmishing much more viable..

Gust lets you leave a blast of water or wind in your wake when charging , running or withdrawing – this can render targets prone or off-kilter (in zero-G) on a failed Reflex save. The stunt costs 1 Resolve Point, and being extraordinary, does not conjure forth water or air, as such being contingent on environmental factors. Maneuvering charge lets you combo charges with a maneuver chosen via Improved Combat Maneuver, and it has grapple synergy, which is nice. Minor nitpick: This should specify that it has Improved Combat Maneuver as a prerequisite, otherwise it doesn’t do jack RAW. A synergy with the racing attack class feature would have been prudent here as well, as that one doesn’t require the feat. Reactive dodge lets you use your reaction for a +4 dodge bonus to AC, but renders you off-target. Nice. Run for cover is not only one of my favorite Project Pitchfork tracks, it also allows you to move zoom dash distance as a reaction to move out of AoE effects, which is great – however, you better know your distances, for if you still end up in it, you incur a penalty to Reflex saves. I love this, as it emphasizes PLAYER skill over character skill. Parquor has rules for charging through blocked or movement slowing places and creatures – cool!

Temporal recall requires a rest and Resolve expenditure to use again, but oh boy. It lets you chronically affix your position and condition, and then, for 3 rounds, you may recall that state as a reaction. This is very strong, but also absolutely brilliant and super-exciting regarding what you can do with it. Love it!

The pdf also offers 4 stunts that are unlocked at level 14 for the taking: Accelerated analysis lets you either roll a d20 twice and take the higher result, or reroll a check, depending on whether you pay the Resolve cost before or after you roll. Love it! (And yep, this requires accelerated acumen.) Bamboozling speed builds on confounding speed and makes it apply to all targets threatened during movement, which is brutal, but also very much iconic. Blinding speed also builds on confounding speed and requires 1 Resolve Point to use, but adds the insult of being blinded to the injury of being flat-footed or off-kilter. It also explicitly allows you to hide in conjunction with the stunt – and yep, at this level, this type of stratagem is well-placed. Splintered time, finally, expands the iconic broken delay ability mentioned before. This one lets you spend Resolve Points when coming out of delay to regain actions – the costs are steep and a bit nova-y, but the tricks you can pull off with this? Oh yeah!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level – apart from one talent not listing an obvious prerequisite as a courtesy to players with limited system mastery, I am bereft of stuff to truly complain about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this point.

David N. Ross doesn’t hit one homerun, to speak in a baseball-metaphor, but a whole series of them as far as I’m concerned. This is a true must-own supplement for anyone wishing to play a speedster class. The potent, but sensible options for the zoomer class ooze awesomeness on every turn; from emphasizing player agenda to actually presenting meaningful skirmishing tricks and means to influence action economy, this humble pdf exemplifies how damn awesome a small expansion for a class can potentially be. I liked the zoomer before – now, I love it. 5 stars, seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019. Seriously, if you’ve been on the fence about the zoomer before, get the class, get this pdf, and start grinning. This is absolutely inspired!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-061: Zoomer Options
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20 Things #33: Red Dragon's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2019 06:06:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ much-beloved dressing-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, we begin the first page with 12 sample features for a red dragon’s lair – these include billowing clouds of scalding steam, partially melted walls, and splintered and scorched bone piles. Odd: The glitch from the white dragon installment is replicated in a different entry here: Entry #5 states “As #5, but the…” – that should be “As #4…” Black rock shot through with livid, hot veins and 8 names for male dragons and 8 for female dragons complement the first page. Kudos where kudos are due – not one of these entries is generic, all have a distinct red dragon theme.

The second page contains 12 minor features of dressing for the dragon’s lair: Interesting here: Giants corpses LACKING fire damage (what does that mean?), soot and flakes of ash littering the area fissures in broken walls, and trophies (giant and draconic skulls) add a sense of serious unease here. 8 distinguishing marks setting the dragon apart are provided – including eyes that literally burn with avarice, pockmarked wings full of holes, swept-back horns atop a sinuous neck – some nice ones. I’d have liked to see a slightly stronger emphasis on red dragons, but the write-up does include descriptions that are in line with several iconic red dragon renditions over the years.

A list of 12 sample sights and sounds may be added to enhance the atmosphere of the dragon’s lair – these include a few different kinds of startling roars, jets of harmless steam, clouds of soot twirling and fake dragon’s eyes shimmering in the dark. The malign nature of the violent red masterminds is well-served here. An entry of 8 things the dragon may be currently doing can be found here. These include sorting through treasure, roasting human corpses slowly on a spear (cool!) or scratching itself. I’d have liked to see more red-specific entries, as e.g., the one where the dragon scratches itself with a wall is one I’ve seen before – and one I don’t consider too suitable for reds.

The pdf features a pretty massive 20-entry treasure and trinket selection, which includes a giant-sized two-handed sword, blobs of precious metals molten together, raven-shaped brooches of obsidian and the like. Carvings of cresting waves and birds wheeling atop a sail ship, though, seemed rather odd and misplaced to me, though that may be an intentional attempt to go against the cliché. A couple of these entries could have used a stronger tie-in to the red dragon as far as I’m concerned. As before, the pdf provides a table of 8 entries that sport specific dressing habits – these are pretty darn cool this time around, and include the dragon having bathed in molten gold, signet rings speaking of noble champions long ago vanquished and a missing eye replaced with a gleaming blue gem – really cool entries here!

The final page is devoted to a total of 20 entries of hoard dressing, including moldering remains that would be more suitable for black or green dragons. Burned flesh in cages struck me as more sensible here. While this is a strong table per se with some cool ideas, its focus is more generic than I’d have liked to see here – many of these entries could work for any dragon, not just reds.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, with solid b/w-artworks included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and, as always, the supplement features two versions – one intended to be printed out, and one for screen-use.

Creighton Broadhurst’s dressing for red dragons is imho slightly superior to the white dragon entry – it manages to evoke a stronger sense of identity for the reds, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like there could have been a stronger tie-in with the nature of evil sovereigns and the quintessential master of flame here. This is a good dressing file well worth the asking price, but doesn’t quite reach the level where I’d adjust my rating – this is also a 4 star dressing file.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #33: Red Dragon's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for the review, End. Much appreciated! I'm glad you liked the book, but sorry I didn't sneak that fifth star!
Invasive Procedures
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/09/2019 06:54:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Fear Itself clocks in at 86 pages if you take away the editorial, ToC, etc., and the module was written for the first edition of the Fear Itself game. The adventure comes with rudimentary conversion notes for Trail of Cthulhu. It should be noted that my review is based on the softcover version of the supplement – I do not own the electronic iteration of the supplement. If you’re playing this module in conjunction with Fear Itself’s second edition, expect to do some conversion work, as this adventure obviously has medical themes, and 2nd edition provides some expansion there. If none of the PCs have such skills, this obviously is not an issue.

The module comes with 5 pregens, which work well in conjunction with the module, but unlike many GUMSHOE-scenarios, the adventure works actually very well when used within the frame of an ongoing campaign – it works rather well with characters other than the pregens. A slight bummer: We do not receive any cartography – personally, I suggest getting some hospital floor plans and/or merging the Silent Hill-series’ hospital plans for the purpose of the like.

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! This module take’s place with the PCs recuperating from a serious injury of some sorts in the old and somewhat remote “Our Lady’s Hospital” – should the characters be agents of e.g. OV, the presence of Dr. Clifford Drake, a world-renowned surgeon, makes for a great reason for them to be in this particular hospital.

How to handle flashbacks of being injured and the like is properly explained, and indeed, the module does an EXCELLENT job regarding its premise – as badly wounded as they are, getting out of bed costs the PCs one Health Point; similarly, stressful activity imposes the same tax. A full rest replenishes 4 Health, while an interrupted night only provides 2 Health Points. The hospital staff, fully detailed, is kind – though the module wastes no time: A patient breaks into the PC’s room – obviously mad, babbling and attacking the PCs, babbling about in German, for example, missing testicles. While the madman is retrained, the staff thereafter is properly apologetic. All seems as well as the initial shock may make it.

The module takes its time, building up a sense of anxiety, with the next day providing consultation, and the means to notice that the German lecturer from the previous night, Gavin Langley, seems to have met a nasty fate…provided the PCs are smart. If they botch this, then no problem – the module cranks up the tension in the next night.

You see, at night, the hospital turns into a Silent Hill-ish hellscape, with none other than the Practice in charge. What’s that? Think of them as Anti-Hippocrates doctors, morticians and nurses, transcendent beyond the confines of mortal life, turned into Outer Dark entities. PCs are overpowered, and dragged towards a painfully, horrible operation – this turns one character into someone with both sets of reproductive organs, internally, and there is a scar on the forehead…while another is missing an eye. Indeed, the Practice has turned on PC into The Eye. The scar on the forehead hides a not-yet-healed third eye that allows the user to see auras…but that will only slowly become apparent.

The hospital’s conveniently cut off from the rest of the world, with the somewhat grotesque porter as a strange foil for particularly clever PCs. Still, the daylight hospital is an example of almost painful normalcy as the PCs, probably increasingly panicked, proceed with their investigation. A second nightly operation will remove finger-bones from one character, replacing them with plastic, while creating a second, grotesquery, the Hand. This PC will be capable of using a limited (and painful) telekinesis. The visit of the Hospital’s overseer provides no respite – but at night and day, the PCs have hopefully at this point put the clues together.

You see, Dr. Drake has had a troubled career: Brilliant, but troubled, his career flatlined, hardcore, due to his erratic mood-swings. Dr. Drake is suffering from a split personality, with his more psychotic personality hell-bent on joining the Practice – the means to do so extracted with the help of the by-now dead German lecturer. The task of the Riddle of Flesh is complex: In one PC, there is a bezoar-like tumorous growth – this growth contains the key that provides the sole means for the PCs to escape the hellish version of the hospital at night. Drake will confront them, or they will find him – but here, we have another great thing: You see, while Drake was tainted and abused by the Practice, he’s the best chance of the PCs to retrieve the bezoar: The PCs will need to use the Eye to see the bezoar, the Hand to extract it. And yes, this can be very lethal to the poor sod with the bezoar. Drake is the PC’s best shot to perform the operation – while his regular persona is in command.

Escaping together is the best course here; for, to become a member of the Practice, Drake must die. If the PCs kill him, they actually transform him, and get a truly nightmarish and dangerous final confrontation with the ascended Drake – and of course, there’d be the issue of having earned the enmity of the Practice’s potent members…

The book does reprint the whole entry on the Practice from the Book of Unremitting Horror, just fyi.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, with a couple of really awesome b/w-pieces included. The book has no maps, which is a comfort-downside, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t comment on electronic features, but the softcover book is nice.

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan provides a genuinely awesome and truly creepy horror-adventure here. From body horror to a sense of reality breaking down, “Invasive Procedures” hits all the right spots. The NPC-cadre is nuanced, the investigation streamlined, yet challenging, and the resource-management game of Health adds further tension to the adventure. In short: This hits all the right spots.

This is creative, genuinely frightening and an all-out successful adventure that made me wish the author had written more Fear Itself and Esoterrorists material. My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Invasive Procedures
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Death is the New Pink
Publisher: DIY RPG Productions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2019 11:01:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 94 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page dedication, 4 pages blank, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 85 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so what is this? On a mechanical level, this is basically a post-apocalyptic hack of “Into the Odd”; in themes, this is very much inspired by Borderlands, Tank Girl, etc. – which you can also confirm in the Appendix N, which also lists Dredd and the music of KMFDM. The latter got, obviously, some serious cheers from me! So, to make this abundantly clear from the start – this is NOT a generic post-apocalypse toolkit. If you want something like The Walking Dead, The Road or a similar down-to-earth, somber game, this is not what you’re looking for. Its themes and terms employed for levels, characters, etc. clashes with these premises, and it does not have e.g. Vs. The Wasteland’s enormous customizing potential. If you’re looking for gonzo post-apocalypse? Well, then you’ve come to the right place! “Into the Odd” as a chassis means that the rules are pretty different from most retro-clones, using three attributes instead of 6, and electing for an even more rules-lite approach, just fyi.

Anyhow, this review is based on both the PoD-version and the pdf. While the pink, which is used as a third-color throughout, is really vibrant, the PoD version uses a more subdued tone of pink. Personally, I do prefer the pdf’s almost neon color, but that’s a matter of personal taste. It should be noted that, if the cover wasn’t ample clue, this is very much a game for a grimy post-apocalypse: Player characters are called meat bags, and there is plenty of cursing to be found within. If you are sensitive to that type of thing, then consider this to be your warning.

Anyhow, how does the game work? You roll 3d6 thrice, once for each Ability (score), and you can switch two of them. The abilities are Badassery (BAD), which denotes fighting. Fortitude, intimidation, etc.; Dodging Some Shit (DSS), which includes athletics, acrobatics, etc. and Moxy (MOXY), which is the catch-all ability for confidence, psychic powers, discipline and charisma. Additionally, you roll 1d6 for your Hit Points. Then, like in Into the Odd, you consult a massive table for starter packages. This will net you a weapon, an item, a characteristic, and either a Muscle UP! or a Doodad. Every character gets a flashlight, camping equipment, matches, a flare and rations, as well as 2d100+25 GB (gold bits).

Starter packages constitute one of the things that really impressed me about “Into the Odd” – the higher your ability scores and Hit Points, the worse were the tools you got; while this game follows a similar paradigm, I don’t think the balance is as tight as in “Into the Odd” here – having e.g. a deathwish is pretty much hard-coded into the game; throughout the book, you find a ton of references that basically state that existential ennui is one of the driving factors for meat bags to go adventuring – seeking a badass end. So yeah, while the game works well, the starter package table isn’t as cleverly constructed as in “into the Odd.”

Weaponry comes in 4 categories for melee and ranged weapons: Hand weapons deal 1d6 damage; two-handed and well-crafted one-handed weapons deal 1d8 damage, and badass melee weapons (like motorized saw-knives) deal 1d10. For firearms, we have 1d6 damage for light firearms, 1d8 for heavy firearms, 1d10 for heavy firearms like machine guns and sniper rifles, and 1d12 for badass firearms like handcannons, gatling guns, etc. The more damage a ranged weapon deals, the more GBs its ammo will cost. Ammo lasts for one adventure; if not used, it’ll carry over – no individual tracking of rounds, thankfully. Armor reduces damage; shields absorb a limited number of damage incurred (after armor) before becoming useless.

Values for miscellaneous items and hirelings can be found. The game knows 6 different levels – you gain level ups when you complete a number of trips to the wasteland, with 3rd and 5th level providing a Muscle UP! ability. 4th level nets you a cohort, a sniveling meatbag. Muscle UP!s fyi include damage increases, the ability to keep attacking after killing a target (old-school fighter, anyone?), the ability to actually understand machines and the like. Each level also lets the meat bag roll 1d6 and add it to their Hit Points, and roll 1d20 for each ability score: If the d20-roll is higher than the ability score, it increases by 1. As noted before, MOXY governs psychic powers, and if you gain psychic powers, you can generate fields of silence, use telekinesis, etc.

Exposure to weird stuff in the wastes can result in mutations, with the GM deciding whether they have a game benefit or not; each mutation reduces MOXY by 1d4, and at 0 MOXY, you become mindless.

Mechanically, the game is superior in one crucial aspect that immediately jumped out to me in comparison to “into the Odd” – we do actually get proper initiative rules, which are based on a simple DSS-test. A test is btw. a d20-roll under, with a 1 an automatic success, a 20 an automatic failure. On each of your turns, you get to move and perform an action such as attack. Difficult tasks/actions require a save: Roll under the associated ability score. Simple, elegant, easy to grasp.

As far as damage is concerned, damage is first subtracted from Hit Points, then from BAD. Upon BAD reaching 0, you die. If you take BAD damage, you have to make a BAD-save or take critical damage; if no one comes to help the meat bag, they die in one hour. DSS reduced to 0 equals being paralyzed. If a meat bag dies, the next character gets a Luck point, which may be used to change a failed save into a successful one. Reaction tolls are based on the instigating character’s MOXY, and morale tests similarly are based on MOXY.

Sometimes, luck is all there is to it – 4-6 on a d6 mean that the players are favored, 1-3 that the opposition (which is collectively known as “nefarios” in the game’s parlance) is favored. Doodads are grouped in two classes – regular and powerful doodads, and they basically represent pre-cataclysm tech and weird/powerful items – they are basically the equivalent of “Into the Odd”’s Arcana, but generally tend to be a bit more subdued due to their nonmagical nature. These include bombs that make targets vomit forth ridiculous amounts of acidic sludge, spiked collars that let you enslave targets, etc.

The pdf does include 5 different radiation levels, vehicle rules and hazards that include “melting face sludge”, auto-turrets and the like.

The book also contains a bestiary that is rather enjoyable – monsters are properly statted, come with some inspiring flavor, and a DRIVE, which is intended to represent, bingo, their main driving force to do what they’re doing. Here, the butcher may be found alongside bombing slugs (which approach and explode) and the chicken bear; there is a nasty quasi-undead psychic emaciated lady, 4-armed gorilla-things (yep, girallons), so-called “Fuck You Worms” obviously inspired by Tremors, and old-school Fallout fans will realize that “Mother Puss Bucket” is an obvious homage to good ole’ isometric Fallout. Mutants, killer robots and killer cows can be found alongside xam xams. Those would be fist-sized acid-spitting flies. EW.

The sample background setting Scratchtown is a pretty grimy place, with sample tables for 2d12 sample people and a quick, basic quest-generator providing some immediate use. Beneath Scratchtown, there lie the catacombs, and beyond the wastes, the book also mentions things far away, like the “Oshan” – whatever that’s supposed to be. ;)

The final section of the book deals with two sample adventures, the first of which represents a trip through the catacombs; structurally, this is basically a point-crawl that employs terse, brief notes for the general theme of the keyed locales, followed by an italicized description. Hazards and the like are underlines – as a whole, this renders the module pretty easy to run, and the adventure does come with an abstract map, though no player-friendly version. It is not possible to discern room dimensions from the map, so if you prefer to provide the like in VTT or other playing experiences, that’s something to bear in mind – this is strictly theater of the mind. Over all, I wasn’t too impressed by this one – it’s easy to run, but it feels like pretty much the “vanilla” experience for what this game and its far-out theme offers.

The second adventure is more of a regional overview of the area surrounding Scratchtown, with random encounter tables and some ideas to further develop. I enjoyed this one.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres, for the most part, to a one-column b/w-standard, which, like the artworks, uses pink as a highlight. The cartography operates under the same premise. The pdf, gratingly, does not have bookmarks, making navigation a colossal pain. For that, you should detract at least half a star from the pdf-version.

Mike Evans’ twist on the “Into the Odd”-rules is elegant, well-executed, and sports this interesting “no fucks given”-attitude; while, personally, I could have done with a bit less swearing in favor of more efficient swearing, this book manages to evoke a “life is cheap”-aesthetic of quick and fun beer and pretzels gaming. Clearly intended for fast and simple fun, this book represents, on a design-level, for the most part an improvement in precision and detail over the original game. At the same time, both starter packages and sample adventure did not hold up as perfectly as the components in “Into the Odd.” That being said, from a purely mechanical perspective, this is the superior game. If you’re looking for an easy to grasp, very grimy type of post-apocalyptic game that doesn’t focus on survival, but more on punk/industrial/metal aesthetics, then give this a try! My final verdict for the softcover print version, which btw. does have the title on the spine, will be 5 stars; for the electronic version, detract a star for the lack of bookmarks; this is the core-game; it should be easy to navigate.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Death is the New Pink
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Star Log.EM-060: Hacker Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2019 10:58:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

All right, as often with the series, we begin with some notes on the ever-expanding lore of the Xa-Osoro system before we dive into the new mechanics – these would be three mechanic tricks, the first of which would be the 2nd level trick Glitch Item. As a standard action, you can upload a virus into a touched item, requiring a Computers check (DC based on 15 + 1.5 times the item’s level); carried items require a touch attack versus EAC. If you have wireless hack, you can do so at short range; on a success, the item gains the glitched condition for 1d4 rounds, +1 round for every point by which you exceeded the Computers check. Thankfully, there is a caveat that makes an item immune for 24 hours to the condition after targeting, preventing lockdown exploits. At 6th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to bypass this, attempting to target the item again.

But wait, was is that “glitched” condition? Items that are glitched don’t work properly. An item may make a Fortitude save at the start of each round to shake off the condition, using either its item level or the wearer/wielder’s Fortitude save, whichever is higher. On a failure, the item takes a penalty governed by item type, and an Engineering check can determine whether an item is glitching. Armor increases its armor check penalty and decreases maximum Dexterity bonus, while also imposing a negative speed adjustment. Augmentations can’t be activated or provide no benefits and same goes for computers or technological items. Vehicles lose access to special systems and become uncontrolled, though a pilot may attempt to counteract that with Piloting. Weapons take a -4 penalty to atk, save DCs of critical effects and special properties, if any. Interesting: This penalty doubles on natural 20s to determine critical hits – analog weapons are immune – nice catch! Tiny nitpick of a purely cosmetic nature – while it is apparent from context, archaic weapons should be exempt here as well; while most archaic weapons implicitly are analog as well, this RAW does not necessarily have to be the case. There is another component here that GMs should be aware of, namely that RAW, the combination of wireless hack and augmentations etc. allows for the targeting of potentially vital systems to maintain the life of targets – since wireless hack does not require line of sight, this may be relevant. Personally, I actually like this component for once, as it simply makes sense to me, and there is still a save. Still, it’s something to potentially bear in mind as a component that needs to be observed closely.

The pdf also features two 8th level mechanic tricks, both of which require the glitch item trick as a prerequisite. The first allows you to substitute inflicting the glitched condition for your regular critical effect, and the second is unique: When glitching weapons and exceeding the DC by 5 or more, you may cause the weapon if it misses by 5 or more to ricochet into a nearby creature instead. This accounts for the differences between melee and ranged weapons, and even AoE weapon effects properly, and as a reaction, you can spend 1 Resolve Point when using glitch item to improve the effects as per this trick. Interesting!

The rest of the pdf is taken up by the magelock spell, though one should probably instead call it “spells” – it is available for technomancers at spell levels 1 – 6, and lock out special abilities behind mental firewalls. This spell-group is very interesting, in that it allows you to prevent the use of anything from racial features to themes to spells or SPs. The unique component here would be that the pdf, for one, does account for class features that have a representation in the game world (such as drones), makes the level-based scaling matter, etc. – it also RAW does not eliminate prerequisite-used features or feats – the respective ability is locked down, but RAW, the follow-up abilities are not. While the respective and pretty detailed spell level notes seem feasible, a kneejerk reaction to this spell would be to consider it OP, but the option affected is random, UNLESS you have previously identified an ability of the target. In short: The power of this spell is utterly contingent on the PC’s roleplaying and how well they do their leg-work – and that is a design-paradigm I can get behind!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level, apart from a who’s/whose glitch, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a nice artwork, penned in Jacob Blackmon’s signature style. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas and Sasha Hall provide a surprisingly fun and impactful Star log.EM this time around; if there is one thing to complain about here, then that would be that the concept and condition would have deserved a Star Log.DELUXE-sized installment to realize their full potential. As provided, this is a tantalizing glimpse of a cool mechanic, one that, while potent, is tied in a way I absolutely love to the notion of rewarding good roleplay, as opposed to simply providing numerical boosts. The fact that every very potent use herein is, to a degree, linked to doing the right investigative things is a big plus for me. As such, this does receive a final verdict of 5 stars. Can I haz moar?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-060: Hacker Options
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Legendary Races - Wyrmtouched
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2019 10:30:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what are wyrmtouched? As you could glean from the structure of the denoting compound, wyrmtouched are essentially a novel take on the draconic-heritage race; instead of assuming a singular cultural heritage, the race adheres to a similar origin paradigm as planetouched races, resulting in wyrmtouched being born to parents of different races, provided they have the requisite traces of draconic blood in their ancestry. The write-up thus assumes parental races for the physical vital characteristics, and then presents to provide the notes on alignment, adventuring, etc.

Racial stat-wise, the wyrmtouched have +2 Strength and Wisdom, -2 Dexterity, are Medium and are humanoids with the dragonkin subtype (properly codified, just fyi). They get a +2 racial bonus to Perception, and a properly codified primary bite attack for 1d6 damage. They have both darkvision and low-light vision, and a +2 racial bonus on saves vs. magical sleep effects and paralysis, and regarding creature type, they are treated as dragons. They also receive resistance 5 against the damage type of their supernatural breath weapon. This is chosen from among the 4 core energy types, and is either a 15-foot cone or a 30-foot line that may be used Constitution modifier times per day, minimum 1, inflicting 1d6 + Constitution modifier damage of the chosen energy type. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the damage output of the breath weapon by +1d6. All in all, a potent race, but one that I#d allow in all my games. Kudos!

A total of 17 different alternate racial traits are provided, and include natural armor instead of resistance, a powerful tail (properly codified) instead of resistance and low-light vision, and instead of breath and resistance, you can be Large. You could have vast lifespans, or get +1 HP per level at the cost of reduced speed and the loss of draconic resistance. You could also be Small, and application of these traits to generate sub-races is provided. This section deserves applause, in that it shows a very keen awareness of the power of all racial abilities and their respective payoffs. There is one alternate trait that may require a bit of oversight for some games – wyrm wings nets you flight from level 1 onwards, but only at a clumsy maneuverability and 30 ft., with higher levels later increasing that. While this does cost breath weapon, I personally prefer the “needs to end movement on solid earth or fall”-angle for the levels up to 5th, but then again, I tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to unassisted PC flight at low levels. The race does come with its own vital statistics, just fyi. Want a wyrmtouched that is sourced from a specific dragon-class? Well, fret not – the supplement provides 8 (!!) different variant wyrmtouched, each with their own ability score modifiers, and they replace the racial Perception skill boost with another skill. Huge kudos: None of the options here are lopsided or jeopardize the intricate balance of the base race.

The supplement also provides a total of 12 different traits, all of which are properly grouped in trait categories. They allow for e.g. the sue of Wisdom instead of Constitution as governing ability score for wyrmtouched racial abilities, enhanced maneuverability with wings, increased DCs, etc. – the traits per se are in line with the proper power-level for them, and remain viable options that alter the experience of playing a wyrmtouched in a meaningful way – in short, they are really nice examples of what you can do with them. The race also features a massive list of well-crafted favored class options for all Paizo classes (excluding ninja + samurai) – yes, this includes the ones from ACG and OA, as well as the vigilante and shifter. As a nice piece of service for folks like yours truly, the latter one’s write-up does provide an option to tweak it for the imho superior Legendary Shifter.

So, that would be the racial base-line, but we’re not even close to covering the amount of material featured within this book: The authors have obviously understood that, particularly for a race with an eclectic background like the wyrmtouched, there is a necessity to not just present them and let them stand as is; instead, the book realizes that a race ought to be more than just a write-up of a rules, that there is more to them. As such, the book explains the psychology and physiology of the wyrmtouched in commendable detail, as well as their culture. Note that this is not simply a section of background material – oh no! We do get notes on breath artistry duels (including the rules to supplement them!), a great narrative tool that makes sense on so many levels. I love it! From fashion to the relationship with magic to funerary customs, the book manages to present a truly encompassing and plausible, captivating portrayal of the race, with a sample community and even advice on adapting the race to your campaign provided! I was positively surprised in many ways by how well this whole section was presented.

The pdf includes a single race-exclusive archetype, the breath savant brawler, who needs to both have a breath weapon and a bite attack to select the archetype. In place of unarmed strike, these fellows increase the damage output of the breath weapon, as per its own table. EDIT: So, I read as a glitch what was intended design paradigm - the breath savant increases the base damage die of the breath weapon, and said increase may include multiple dice that function as a singular base damage die. This changes the tone of the archetype drastically and makes it solely suitable for higher-powered games - for my games, this'd be labeled over-powered and banned. HOWEVER, my initial reading that mistook base damage die increases of the breath weapon increase as the total actually makes for a super-easy way to retain the archetype even in lower-powered games without requiring design work by the GM. The breath savant may decide to change damage type inflicted by the breath weapon via martial flexibility, and treats [breath] feats as combat feats for the purpose of the ability. Instead of brawler’s flurry, we have Unbound Breath Weapon (which allows you to use your breath weapon every other round and should have, imho, a minimum level such as 3rd or so – the archetype ignores prerequisites, so it’s weird that it gets the feat later, and unlimited breath with just one round of cooldown can be pretty potent) and Combat Breath Weapon (which lets you use the breath weapon as either part of an attack action, or as part of casting a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, with the latter requiring the expenditure of a swift action; this feat has a 5th-level prerequisite, so here, the prerequisite ignoring makes sense) as bonus feats at 2nd level, with 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter allowing for the addition of an additional melee attack at cumulative -3 penalties when taking the attack action. 4th level replaces maneuver training with Flowing Breath – this feat eliminates Unbound Breath Weapon’s one-round cooldown and is situated at 3rd level prerequisites; note that, since the base breath weapon has the one-minute cooldown as well, this applies to both Unbound and non-unbound weaponry, in the former case unlocking unlimited breath weapons as soon as 3rd level. The AC bonus is replaced with +1 natural armor that increases further at 9th, 13th and 18th level. Knockout is replaced with torrent breath, 1/day maximizing breath weapon and increasing DCs by +2, with an additional daily use gained at 9th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 5th, 9th, 12th and 17th level make the natural attacks count as specific materials (scaling makes sense) for the purpose of overcoming DRs, replacing brawler’s strike. Instead of close weapon mastery, we have a bite attack damage increase based on breath weapon. While I’m not happy with unlimited AoE-attacks here, the archetype is pretty neat and probably won’t break the game of groups that do not adhere to a low and very conservative power-level.

The pdf also contains 4 other archetypes that may be taken by any race, but are particularly suited for wyrmtouched. One of these is the dragon touched, originally intended for the Legendary Shifter – the pdf notes that it may be rather strong for the regular shifter, and I concur with the assessment, adding just my 2 cents: You should be using the superior and more fun Legendary Shifter anyways. ;P Kidding aside, this guy is pretty much what it says on the tin – a shifter archetype that focuses on assuming draconic forms, using complex variations of form of the dragon as a baseline.

The dragon champion vigilante modifies dual identity (retaining archetype compatibility) to instead have a draconic identity, with the archetype sporting a significant amount of different, exclusive vigilante talents that include a bite attack enhancer (which stacks with keen et al. – not a fan), an anti-dragon attack that works in conjunction with options from Asian Archetypes: Martial and Legendary Villains: Vigilantes, a Dazzling Display variant, a breath weapon (and another one for an upgrade), and wings (locked behind an appropriate minimum level). All in all, a nice one.

The scaled scion is a magus archetype, who gains an arcanist’s spellcasting, governed by Charisma (making it work in conjunction with the Legendary Magus), and the armor proficiency abilities are replaced with natural armor bonus and resistance, as governed by energy resistance. The final archetype would be the wyrm researcher alchemist, who alters mutagen to instead provide natural armor and energy resistance corresponding to the character’s associated dragon bloodline; the character has a reduced bomb damage, and instead of 2nd level’s discovery, we get claws, with 6th level gaining wings sans duration while under the mutagen. Minor nitpick: Here is an erroneous reference to feral mutagen instead of wyrm heart. 8th level provides the means to choose two unique discoveries (for bomb/breath admixture), and poison immunity is replaced with wing attacks and 18th level nets immunity to the chosen element instead of poison.

The pdf provides a rather massive feat chapter, with aforementioned [Breath] feats allowing for various modifications of the base engine, often at the cost of base damage die of breath weapons – we can find e.g. the addition of negative conditions of breath weapons. Cool: One of the alternate racial traits nets you blindsense 5 ft. – with a feat, you can close your eyes and extend that range. It’s so simple, but I love the visuals. Breath Weapon Admixture is obvious in what it does; Breath Weapon Artisan allows the character to modify the breath weapon to change the area of effect of the breath weapon. Lacing weapons with breath weapon energy, excluding spaces from it, gaining minor DR, a climb speed, no longer requiring a free hand for spell combat – quite a lot of options here. Particularly notable: Drake Style not only has 2 feats based on it, but 5! The base Drake Style allows for wall-running (awesome) with a variant of attacking during the movement. The follow-up feats allow for the use of Drake Style in conjunction with living creatures, and you can catapult off of objects to further increase heights; higher levels allow for the addition of penalized attacks, etc. - Cool style!!

The chapter also includes a Vital Strike/bite synergy, for example – but there is more: The book has a whole sub-chapter devoted to legendary drakes – basically a companion engine for drakes. These guys only have head, headband, eyes, shoulder, neck, body, chest and 2 ring slots and do NOT count as animal companions. If they die, you do NOT gain a replacement. It takes years to gain a drake’s trust, thus making this a companion you do not want to throw into the meatgrinder.

The legendary drake companion requires a two-feat investment, with the first being a lame skill-enhancer that nets you a language and a better starting attitude for draconic beings. Their power is further capped by requiring additional feats to progress towards certain HD-caps. Legendary drakes have ¾ HD-progression (capped by the feat-based limits), ¾ BAB-progression, all saves progress to +9 over the 20 levels, and the companion has d12 HD. Skill ranks start as 3, and increase to 60 at 20th level. The companion begins with a feat and gains up to 8 feats over the course of the companion progression.

The drake companion begins play with darkvision and low-light vision, as well as immunity to sleep and paralysis effects. The drake increases natural AC by +2 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, and ability score increases happen at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 6th, 13th and 20th level net a size increase. At 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter, the legendary drake gets to choose a drake power from a massive list. Here, we can find aligned damage, breathing in water, breath weaponry and further power-upgrades thereof, swim speed, climb speed, etc. The selection also features a variety of asterisk’d powers that modify the bite attack of the drake. Only one of these may be applied per bite, and yes, there is a feat that lets the drake choose an extra drake power. There are variant rules provided for agile drakes, better armored ones, and construct and undead drakes, with the latter two thankfully taking some serious hits regarding their base stats to account for the immunities and powers bestowed by their states. Serving as a mount does btw. require a drake power, and the pdf does include, aptly, a magic saddle for drake riders. The reduction harness is an all but required item, as it allows you to take your drake, you know, actually with you into that dungeon? Considering the steep penalty for losing a drake, a kind of drake extra life, the drake heart is certainly an item you should purchase/craft, and finally, there would be two iterations of drake’s crests which grant access to drake powers.

The pdf closes with Ti’ri Karn, a wyrmtouched brawler (breath savant) 5, who is unique – a wyrmtouched in her prime, living with humans has taught her the fragility of life and made her almost feels like a benevolent grandparent, a funny and pretty cool contrast to artwork and racial stereotypes. Her boon also highlights this, as she provides long-term care for friends and their animals alike.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are as a whole, very good on a formal and rules-language level. While there are a few minor components that can be construed to be hiccups, none really hampered the integrity of the rules provided. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard, with a blend of new and classic artworks provided for your edification. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Okay, to be honest, I didn’t really want to review this book. I’ve covered so many pseudo-draconic PC-races over the years, the concept quite frankly exhausts me and has lost pretty much all of its intrinsic appeal. I am happy to report that Loren Sieg, N. Jolly, Amber Underwood and Siobhan Bjorknas managed to actually put a new and creative spin on the concept. The notion of spontaneous exhibiting of draconic traits may be simple, but it’s actually one that provides a fresh take that colors the race in different shades. While the archetypes this time around did not exactly blow me away, and while some feats may require a bit of oversight for more conservative games, in its entirety, this is a surprising little triumph of a racial supplement. The flawless execution of the base race and its variants in particular in conjunction with the fact that the book devotes the time and space to make them actually feel like a race, like more than a combination of stats, must be applauded. In spite of my preconceptions and fatigue with the notion, I found myself actually charmed by the material within. The legendary drake companion, obviously intended for high fantasy, is a powerful, but not overbearing option for regular games, though one that, with its feat tax and steep danger making for a compelling angle.

Now, would I allow everything herein in all my campaigns? No. Particularly the stacking threat-range expanding is something that generally just needs to die a fiery death – and, obviously, this is not necessarily a supplement that I’d be using in a down-low and gritty dark fantasy game. But here’s the thing: The notion of draconic PCs and drake companions, to me, is inexorably linked with high fantasy; that’s clearly what the cadre of authors was going for, and that’s how I’ll rate this. And in this context? Heck yes, this is a resounding success. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Races - Wyrmtouched
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20 Things #32: White Dragon's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2019 10:28:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ much-beloved dressing-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, we begin the first page with 12 sample features for a white dragon’s lair – these include fields of ice stalactites that generate strange shadows, ice bridges over vast chasms, and the like. Odd: Entry number #2 starts with “As #3 above…”, when it should reference #2 instead. Anyhow, a snow-based cave-in with razor-sharp ice-shards or a frozen clump of dragon meals may be found here as well. The pdf also provides 8 sample dragon names for male and female dragons.

The second page contains 12 minor features for the dragon’s lair: These include frozen, disemboweled sods in the walls, frozen pools of incredibly slippery water, large snowdrifts and the like. 8 distinguishing marks for the dragons themselves are provided, ranging from livid scars to missing talons and impressive crests. Heterochromatic eyes or mottled scales may also be found here.

A list of 12 sample sights and sounds may be added to enhance the atmosphere of the dragon’s lair – from sudden gusts of howling wind to ice suddenly ripped loose to the grisly fate of a horribly mauled frost giant child crawling into view, these dressings are pretty grisly and emphasize the animalistic nature of white dragons. The page also provides a series of 8 suggestions for activities the dragon might be engaged in, as the PCs happen upon it. These range from admiring treasure to pretending to sleep or being away, hunting. Only a few of these actually reference white dragon-specific activities – a tighter focus on white dragons would have been nice to see here.

More interesting would be the pretty massive 20-entry treasure and trinket selection, which includes beautiful battle-axes covered in frozen blood (metal!), diamonds hidden among ice crystals and the like – most of the entries here are great, though e.g. a generic unholy symbol would be the exception to the rule. 8 worn trinkets that the dragon actually brandishes have been included here, with golden rings on talon tips, a necklace wrought from a ton of smaller ones – and what about the box containing a lich’s phylactery? Yeah, these are cool.

The final page is devoted to a total of 20 entries of hoard dressing, which, for the most part, focuses admirably on the white dragon angle, with frozen yeti-corpses, frozen eagle feathers atop staves backpacks with snowshoes and the like putting a concise and well-executed emphasis on the snow and ice angle.

Conclusion:; Editing and formatting re very good. Layout adheres to Raging Swan press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, with solid b/w-artworks included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and, as always, the supplement features two versions – one intended to be printed out, and one for screen-use.

Creighton Broadhurst’s dressing for white dragons is neat – we get an interesting array of options to flesh out draconic lairs, and while a tighter focus on white dragon specific entries would have been appreciated, as a whole, this is a neat dressing pdf well worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #32: White Dragon's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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Wormskin Issue 8
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2019 07:49:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The eight installment of the Wormskin-zine depicting the strange Ur-forests of Dolmenwood clocks in at 36 pages of pure content (laid out in 6’’ by 9’’/A5), not counting editorial, etc. As always, my review is both based on the print and pdf iterations of the ‘zine.

The OSR-ruleset employed within this book would be B/X (or Labyrinth Lord), but the rules can be pretty easily tweaked to work for other systems.

All right, so the first thing you’ll notice, is that the ‘zine, in its slumber has obviously received an aesthetic upgrade: Leafing through the pages, I was surprised to see full-color, original artworks for all of the monsters featured within, which this time around, would be 5 different fungus-themed foes, particularly suited for the lower end of the level-range. Artist Emma Lazauski did a pretty fantastic job here – you see, fungi creep me out. Seriously. And the fungi herein manage to both be creepy (at least to me) AND actually look…cute? This juxtaposition is hard to achieve, and it elevated that section for me rather significantly. The monster-entries, as before, do come with sample traits that help the referee to differentiate between different individuals of the species and make them feel less run-of-the-mill. As since number #7, we no longer get the encounter and lair-sections for monsters in Wormskin, but in contrast to #7, I found I minded less here, courtesy of the installment focusing on unique creatures as opposed to NPCs.

That, and the artworks are a great replacement. Anyhow, what kind of fungi do we get? Well, there would be brainconks, semi-sentient bracket fungi that may be mewing and enjoy dropping on targets…to eat their BRAINS!! Beyond these, we have ambulatory fungi that can emit strobing pulses of light, and small pook morels that can emit horrific psychic impressions as a defensive measure. Massive ochre slime-moldy hulks can also be found, but my favorite would be the wronguncle. These fungi have grown from the dead, fusing a psychic remnant with the fungus: This makes them think that they are the deceased person, and they just look for home, won’t you help? Well, you think twice, for they will slaughter everyone, going completely bonkers upon returning. These are thoroughly horrific, and with the sample home table to supplement this one, the wronguncle is one of my all-time favorite Dolmenwood critters. Strange, potentially funny and at the same time, horrific. Two thumbs up!

The installment also includes campaign rules. Yes, seriously. And oh boy, these are smart. They are a great example of Gavin Norman’s precise and refined writing, which marries the simplicity we expect from OSR-rules with pinpoint precision. Finding a camp site, the influence of weather and characters, setting the camp, fetching water, getting the fire going (yes/no?) and concisely codified evening abilities that can be resolved super-quickly: The camp rules have it all; they have mechanically-relevant rules for sleeping, watch (including rules for falling asleep), etc. – and there even are 30 different campsites with potentially mechanically relevant features.

These rules are brilliant: They allow for the resolution of the setting up camp section in mere minutes of playing time, facilitate adventure hooks insertion, reward capable PCs, etc. – in short, they are amazing. They are so elegant, I frankly will adapt them for more complex games as well. A capable referee could even slot them into games like 5e, Pathfinder, etc. This is easily my favorite rules-centric offering in the whole run of Wormskin so far!! It is seriously worth getting the ‘zine all on its own.

Beyond that, we also once more have a massive table that deals with the strange, magical waters that may be found within Dolmenwood’s glades and clearings. This table is a classic d30-table, covers 3.5 pages, and nets quite an array of different, intriguing effects – and yeah, there obviously is synergy with the camp rules, right.

For the fans of Dolmenwood, there is also another massive section that unveils another grand mystery of Dolmenwood, namely the “Sisters of the Chalice and the Moon”, the sisterhood of witches that pretty much represents the second massive cabal of magic-users you can find in Dolmenwood. And yes, this is a take on witches; it, at first glance, uses all the tropes you’d associate with a variety of witch tropes, does twist them in a genuinely interesting way that renders them, and dealing with them, rather…STRANGE. As it should be in Dolmenwood!

The massive article does contain notes on the occult symbolism of these witches, and the write-up does note schemes and goals, their relationships with other mighty factions of Dolmenwood. Beyond rumors, symbolism and the like, becoming a member of the sisterhood is covered – and yes, there is some intriguing material herein, and how the gender-theme is depicted, is rather cool. If you liked the write-up of the Drunes, you’ll also adore this one – and yes, I do love it. I will not spoil the truths of the sisterhood, as these are denoted as deep lore – secrets to be unearthed by the players while enjoying the game.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard that uses neat touches of color to make the book more aesthetically-pleasing. Artworks are a blend of b/w-pieces in the pdf, and the supplement features amazing full-color artworks for the monsters. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the PoD, while briefer than previous Wormskin installments, is the version I’d recommend getting.

Gavin Norman penned everything herein, and he really upped his game. Meticulously precise, inspired and varied, the content herein is literally all-killer, no filler, making this installment not only my benchmark for the Wormskin magazine, but for all kinds of OSR-‘zines. This is a brilliant booklet that is inspiring in all the right ways. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 8
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Occult Skill Guide: Restorative Ritual
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2019 07:46:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Occult Skill Guide installment clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, as you could glean from the title, we have another great ritual to employ in SFRPG here, one that uses the rock-solid ritual-engine featured in the ritual-centric installments of this series previously. It should be noted that this is a stand-alone pdf – this means that all rules for the ritual base-engine have been included within, and that justifications of why rituals work and similar advice to implement them in your game also features within. (With the success of Grimmerspace, it should also be noted that implementation of the ritual engine seems like a perfect fit for that setting, but that just as an aside.)

Anyhow, I’ve already talked in length about the potent ritual engine in previous reviews of the series, so if you need guidance there, please do take a look at my reviews of the other ritual files – I’d rather take an in-depth look at the new material than repeat myself here. Okay, so first thing you’ll notice, is that the ritual doesn’t exist in a vacuum: Instead, it features two new technological items, the first of which is something I couldn’t believe wasn’t part of the core book – the handheld biometric scanner, which is a level 2 item. It requires the target to wear a hospital gown or the like, and allows you to make Medicine or Life Science checks to determine whether the target suffers from afflictions (and if so, which ones), and also determine whether the target suffers from corruptions. This takes a minute, so plenty of time to start thinking about means to fool the scan. A big plus here would be the smart way in which the DC to discern the nature of an affliction or corruption scales – only the presence of something odd has a fixed DC. I like that, as it does not hamper with narrative angles, while still providing information and progress. Kudos for this smart design decision.

The second item is actually really inexpensive for its level 4 item-level, but this is explained by its massive unwieldiness – a stasis unit, with 200 bulk, isn’t something you’ll be carrying around. It can hold a single creature of size Large or Smaller in suspended animation, and the process of awakening or being placed in stasis takes 1 hour. For the target, one day passes per 10 standard years. While they prevent mental atrophy, muscular atrophy is an issue – oh, and guess what? There actually is a properly statted “disease” that requires a victim to engage in a therapy regimen to be allowed to save. I like this – it once more puts the story in charge and makes the rules seamlessly support narrative angles. It should also be noted that the mere presence of stasis-units allows you to potentially really emphasize the vastness of space. If you e.g. love the good old classic “The Forever War” and always considered things like drift engines and the like to be detrimental for your conception of how a scifi/space opera game should behave, well, there you go – one item and all the stories about the ginormous nature of this vast space you could craft from it.

The ritual (categorized as belonging to the mageologic ritual school) featured within this installment would be the level 3 Restore the Broken Body, which requires 3 hours to execute – for the components, we need a biometric scanner, a stasis unit and a tier 3 computer; as a reagent, we require scrap computer components, nourishment agar, a break enchantment, a remove affliction and a 4th-level mystic cure spell chip. To qualify for being restored, the target creature must either be alive, or have died no more than 6 hours prior to the ritual’s start – this rather strict time-line obviously has quite a lot of potential for emergent play, as PCs hustle to try to get their fallen comrade back to their ship/base in time. The backlash for this ritual is pretty lenient – it only sickens and exhausts the targets; the ceremony itself is also comparably simple: The target is first stripped of equipment except biotech and personal augmentations that are essential for survival. The target is then thoroughly sterilized via Medicine or Life Science. After that, a pint of blood is drained from the body and provided to the scanner hooked up to the computer. The target is then placed in the chamber holding the nourishment agar, which, as a whole, requires three checks, including one for Computers/Engineering. After that, the computer scans the restoration chamber, determines nature and extent of damage sustained, and uses an overlay of an extrapolated genetic blueprint and biometric reconstruction drones (BRDs – as a German, that made me lol; around here, that stands for “Bundesrepublik Deutschland”) perfectly reconstruct the target.

Their capabilities properly codify their available medicinal level and Medicine bonus, and the ritual entails a brilliantly codified if/then system for additional effects – as noted before, the ritual can restore the dead back to life, heal poisons and diseases or break curses etc.; it can also heal ability drain and restore missing systems/body parts – the latter actually provides a concise sequence of how the ritual prioritizes them. Really cool! Finally, there also is the means to reduce corruption point total, allowing for interaction with the amazing corruption engine, also featured in this series. This, however, is NOT what made me smile most about this book – it’s impressive, sure – but guess what? The failure effect this time around is frickin’ brilliant. Each ritualist, on a failure, has a 50% chance of being subjected to flesh to stone, and additionally, the BRDs (chuckles) have a 50% malfunction chance that will cause the target Hit Point damage and actually worsen diseases or poisons, and they cause ability drain and ruin systems in sequence instead. My one complaint here would be that it would have been smart to codify the BRDs as either tangible or nanites – leaving that up to the GM is smart, but could result in a brief bout of confusion. Under the pretense that they are nanite-like, we have a pretty cool scenario, wherein PCs wake up from e.g. a TPK on board of a ship, surrounded by petrified folks, only to start suffering from mysterious ailments – finding out what happens makes for a great angle tinted with body horror.

The ritual is supplemented with a brief legend and two sample encounter-implementations. As before, we receive copious advice regarding the creation of our own rituals, which is amazing.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level – apart from a typo and the BRD-component, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artworks provided by Jacob Blackmon are nice and lend a cohesive visual identity to the supplement. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas is on a spree of knockout, awesome supplements with this series. I absolutely adore the Occult Skill Guides and what they represent. Not only do they emphasize the magical aspects of SFRPG, they do so in a manner that genuinely feels like magic that could exist in a space opera/scifi setting. Whether benevolent or horrific, this ritual allows for whole new angles, and allows a group to continue playing after suffering a TPK, which is always a plus. (So yeah, obviously a Mass Effect 2 plot-twist is very much in the cards with this!) All in all, I consider this and its vast potential to be well worth the low and fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. (Seriously, if you even remotely like the idea of a more magical setting, or if you are as excited for Grimmerspace as I am, do yourself a favor and buy the whole product line now. It’s worth every cent.)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Skill Guide: Restorative Ritual
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Ships: Katar Gunship
Publisher: Evil Robot Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2019 12:36:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Ship-supplement clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, first things first: We actually get two ships herein: They are represented by the same artwork, which is represented in both paper-mini-versions and as a massive one-page artwork, and we get filled-out spaceship-sheets for both of them.

The regular Katar gunship is a tier ½ Small shuttle with common crew quarters, a basic computer and budget short-range sensors. Powered by an arcus light power core and equipped with basic 10 shields, the vessel is armed with a gyrolaser and surprisingly neat mk 4 armor and defenses. Expansion bay-wise, we have cargo holds.

The heavy gunship also has common crew quarters, a basic computer and budget short-range sensors, and it is powered by an arcus light power core. At tier 1, it does have better shields (basic 20), and the same mk 4 armor and defenses as the base model. The main difference is within the offensive capabilities, with a light torpedo launcher on port and starboard side joining the forward facing gyrolaser.

Both ships get their own, proper Computers-table that helps your PCs determine how much they know about the ships in question. Both ships each get their own brief flavor text that notes how many troops/cargo may be transported, including e.g. how many folks in powered armor (erroneously referred to as “power armor” in one of the most common hiccups in SFRPG) – nice, and cool to see this going the extra mile!

Speaking of which: In spite of the vessels’ relatively small sizes, we do get a rather detailed full-color map of the ship-type, which really made me smile. The map is really great – you can see the details on the pilot’s nav-screen!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – both ships check out mechanically, in case you were wondering. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Getting a full-color artwork, handout and full-color map? Awesome.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan provide a neat little pdf here – one that goes one step beyond. Convenient, well-wrought, and fun, this is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ships: Katar Gunship
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