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Steve was one of the reasons I stuck to Pathfinder. This is no hyperbole, this is the truth.
I became a fan of his AE-material back in the day. He was the first publisher to publish my writing, the first man who gave me complimentary copies on a regular basis. He was the one man who continued to provide feedback, who helped me evolve into my own reviewing style. He was the first to tell me that I made a difference with my rambling feedback. He never minced words, but neither did he confuse me as a person with my reviewing "duties"...
His designs have brought countless hours of joy to my table.
But more than that, he always had my back. When I fell upon hard times back in the day, he helped me recover with stern, constructive advice; with an open ear and a big heart. He was not only a publisher and designer I admired, a motor for creative and innovative impulses...to me, he was a friend.
My hands still shake. I still don't want to believe it. I'm stunned.
We have lost a giant. I can only fathom and extrapolate the impact he must have had on those people blessed enough to know him better than I did.
Rest in peace, Steve, and thanks to the Paizo-crew for the entry.
If you assume a default of early firearms being available fireworks behave as alchemical weapons, as they are based . That being said, there is a caveat for handgonnes and similar weapons in the lead-in section that discusses availability.
The section on firework weapons (New Firework Weapons) puts them directly in the same category as the fireworks in UE. Hope that helps!
Revised my review in all the usual places. Feel like a prick for it, but there you go. As a person, I like it less now than before, with the dual forte archetype being imho utterly broken. :/ Didn't penalize it further due to the GREAT revision of the Acrobatics forte and the fact that the update is free. So sorry I couldn't upgrade this to +seal status...I really hoped I could. :(
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are good; on a formal level and regarding rules-language, there isn't much to complain apart from a few hiccups. Formatting-wise, the pdf similarly sports a couple of minor issues, with in particular line breaks between abilities not being always clear - one more pass in those two disciplines would have made the book a bit more streamlined. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard with branchy-graphic elements based on public domain art in the margin, providing a nice, fitting aesthetics here. The full-color artworks in the book seem to be not only original, they also are rather beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Oh boy, this was work. But also a rather joyous occasion, at least for me. Why? Because I'm honestly glad Jonathan McAnulty has once again written a big, whopping book. Then, I started thinking about treants and started shuddering. I mean, seriously? How can you maintain their power and evocative tricks and retain a sense of balance? It seems like a losing game, no matter what you do: Get rid of the plant traits and the high-power games while whine; don't get rid of them and the low-powered games will start yelling "unabalnced!". How does this book solve this conundrum? Simple. In the best way possible. It's all in here. Want a high-powered treant? Go for birchwalker. If you're like me and like races to have powers and drawbacks and a unique flair, go for the oakheart. Want a more agile one? Willowkin. Something in line with the core races? Seedling. Better yet, the racial paragon class and archetypes generally sport the "treant"-feeling. They are not simply general archetypes with a racial coat - they feel and play distinctly unique, they are fitting for the races. The cornucopia of supplement information and fluff further enhance this book and render it, as far as player-agenda, table-variation and the pure imaginative potential is concerned, one of my favorites. The mile-mist...the moving of trees...beyond mathfinder abilities (which are there, fret not, my fellow crunchers!), this pdf offers great storytelling devices that may actually be useful above and beyond the limitations of the system. This book codifies what we know of treants from literature and our cultural unconsciousness and provides the definite book on playing the masters of the woods and, personally, my favorite in the whole line alongside the rakshasa-book. That being said, there are a couple of glitches herein, some of which pertain to ability activation and thus, the rules-language. While one can usually glean what they are supposed to be, that does remain as a minor drawback- Mind you, these glitches are few...but they're there.
So...let me reiterate that: As a *person*, I absolutely adore this book, particularly the extensive means to customize treants to make them viable for just about any campaign. As a reviewer, however, I can't let the glitches that are here slide...and thus, I'd arrive at a final verdict of 4.5 stars. I do know, however, that quite a few of you out there tend to share my opinions and prefer evocative, unique options that emphasize a cohesive theme over formal perfection of bland content. Hence, I will round up for the purpose of all the platforms - this pdf has its heart at the right spot and is a fun, great read that will make you want to call forth the shambling, ponderous masters of the forests deep.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted in ath usual places.
Dear Fellow Paizonians!
(An apology to the patreons and readers of endzeitgeist.com who will see a variation of this message in their patreon-feed!)
As some of you will know, my financial situation isn't the best - quite frankly, without my patreon, I couldn't do any reviews at all. As in: "I'm working all day to scrape by." The patreon literally keeps the lights on right now.
While my trip to Copenhagen and job application there and at other places (as some of you may know, I've been pretty busy in that regard) *may* remedy that situation, for now, my resources are incredibly stretched; they have been so for quite some time and I'm working hard to change that fact. I don't really talk much about it or advertise much of that aspect of my life since frankly, I'm ashamed of being poor in spite of my qualifications.
Anyways, I am working hard to change that reality, but this post is about something awesome - something that can benefit you:
There's a colossal bundle of AWESOME books gathered together by publishers, authors and friends with one goal: To make it possible for me to actually attend Gencon. The flight is far beyond my capabilities to afford; same goes for the other components associated with attending. It's a long shot, but guess what? You have nothing to lose and the bundle contains some of the most glorious books out there!
AAW Games' "For Rent, Lease & Conquest"; Fro God Games' legendary "Cyclopean Deeps"-saga; Rite Publishing's "Breaking of Forstor Nagar" & "Secrets of the Masquerade Reveler"; Kobold Press' "Courts of the Shadow Fey"; Everyman Gaming's legendary "Ultimate Charisma"; Legendary Games' glorious grimoires and must-own "Mythic Solutions"; Rogue Genius Games' classic make-Bravery-suck-no-more "Bravery Feats" and "Hellfire Magic"; the glorious "Pixies on Parade" by Playground Adventures; LPJ Design's awesome Ultronesque Cyrix - and that's not even close to everything in the bundle! Notice something? These are pretty much crème-de-la-crème of files, the top-tier-OMG-must-have-books.
And yes, when I got back from my trip and saw this, I actually teared up!
So take a look at those gems and the HUGE discounted bundle of awesome material here.
If you just want to get me to Gencon and don't care about those awesome books (or already have them), you can actually donate here on OBS via Pay what you want - so yeah, if this works out, I may actually be able to *finally* meet some of you awesome folks in person and roll the bones with you! Finally, if you dislike OBS, you can also directly donate here on paypal!
I'd certainly love to talk shop with you all and talk to you fine folks in person!
Thank you for reading this. And to all the publishers that contributed to the bundle and everything -I'm absolutely blown away. Words fail to properly encapsulate what I'm feeling right now. Roleplayers are simply stellar people. Thank you.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
And now for something *completely* different - this book clocks in at 92 pages. While I do own the electronic versions, I'd suggest getting the print version if you can - mainly since I'm old-school and have based this review on the print copy.
This book was moved up in my review queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in exchange for a critical, unbiased review.
Okay, so what is this? It is, at least to me as a German, a piece of gaming arcana: Back in the 3.X days of old, there was a Living campaign of organized play called Living Greyhawk, shaping the classic world, with different regions sporting different adventures. During the impressive 8-year run of Living Greyhawk, the region Bandit Kingdoms produced more than 130 unique modules. These modules, to my knowledge, have never been published in a concise form, which renders a part of this region's turbulent history...opaque.
Well, no longer. The bandit kingdoms in their diversity are laid open in this book's summaries and depictions. Okay, but why should you care? Well, let me elaborate for a second my own personal stance towards Greyhawk. I know this is tantamount to blasphemy, but here goes: I was never the biggest fan of the setting. Sure, I was pretty excited to get to know the place Mordenkainen called home, where Vecna and Kas feuded...but ultimately, the 3 settings I truly loved from the classic TSR/WotC-IPs will always be Ravenloft, Planescape and Dark Sun. Perhaps it's my own predilection for darker fantasy and horror and the weird fiction in general, perhaps it's just a resonance of the disillusion that accompanied many a book and gaming-supplement for 3.X's FRs and the mounting feeling that this world needed no heroes. I'm not sure. But at the end of the 3.X era, I had the feeling that the realms had devolved into a mess, where every hamlet had a level 16 blacksmith. It's subjective. I still like the realms...but from afar. It should hence come as no surprise that I never went truly deep inside the Greyhawk's canon's evolution during these times.
Turns out that that was a colossal mistake. The flair and old-school vibe of a world close to the brink, with mature shades of grey mentalities and ideologies, the sense of threats I enjoy in offerings by Raging Swan Press, Frog God Games or TPK Games can be found within these pages - as the introduction aptly puts it "I had to save the bad guys from the other PCs." In the Iuz-dominated and war-torn bandit kingdoms, royals are forged by tourneys of madness, taking the crown may spell your doom and heroism has still its place, although it's tinted with a healthy dose of survivalism and realpolitik. From 591 - 598, this book chronicles the adventures that were undertaken by countless players, shaping the destiny of the bandit kingdoms in struggles that deviate from the tired challenge-rating-appropriate-formula in quite a few instances, breathing a sense of old-school danger that has been absent in far too many publications. A handy index sums up the respective scenarios by year for your convenience and we also get a glimpse behind the screen, wherein author Casey Brown, one of the meta-organization coordinators, discusses the respective issues with scenario designs and encounter design problems that resulted from some...well, let's say less than well-conceived design decisions that were imposed on the respective authors.
Now here is the interesting component - this massive book provides a comprehensive list of extensive summaries for all those aforementioned modules. The respective modules come with their own designation, the name of the author and list the AP they are associated with - with AP here denoting the sequence of modules that form a cohesive story, not the "whole campaign"-meaning the term has lately taken as its primary meaning. Each of the respective modules comes with a synopsis of the plot as well as a commentary.
Here would be as good a place as any to talk about Casey Brown's obvious experience in academia: From informative and properly placed footnotes to an easy to read, compelling style, what should by all accounts have been a pretty dry read actually became rather engrossing and kept me awake at night while digesting all the information contained herein - also from a mechanical standpoint, for e.g. calling out the Spell compendium (still hurts to type that book's very name). And yes, these tangents are brief, but their very existence is something I truly appreciate. Additionally, if that sound tiring or bland to you, the respective entries often feature extensive commentary that satisfy another craving of the conditio humana we experience: The human element. When e.g. a knight has won a crown as part of his retirement and steps down in favor of his competitor, only to have said competitor be soultrapped by the vile opposition, you can practically see the tables upon tables of players staring in utter disbelief. When an arrogant player's letter results in him becoming part of the metaplot, when a dwarf's famous last stand becomes a symbol for heroism in a region known for cut-throat politics, betrayal and dishonor - then the knowing roleplaying veteran nods and realizes that there are some stories that are only written in our medium, at least in the extent and impact they have on lives and collective ideologies shifting.
The compelling and intelligently-crafted political landscape of the bandit kingdoms, slowly unraveling before my eyes, complete with a powerful (almost) undefeated dragon, a kind of elder evil and Iuz' nigh-unstoppable forces ultimately provides a truly compelling insight into a whole campaign's worth of material, with a massive list of adventures by associated AP and a timeline that chronicles the events by year from CY 576 onward, this book offers a fascinating insight into the rich landscape of this region.
Beyond that, the pdf also offers intriguing miscellanea: Including favorite quotes...and they are hilarious: "You say medusa, I say artist." DM: "You hear a bloodcurdling scream from down the hallway." Player of a rogue: " I Take 10 searching the square in front of me." "We have two kinds of heroes: dead ones and...we have one kind of hero, actually." This book ends with a list of those who served as triad and Iuz circle members.
Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no glitches of hiccups. The book's layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting stock art. One thing that may annoy you is the tendency to have a blank page at the end of a chapter, but that's about it regarding complaints in formal criteria. The electronic version comes in three formats: Pdf, EPUB and MOBI and the print and the classic cover style, with the book sporting the 8 x 02 x 10 inch-dimensions. The pdf, in a minor complaint, is not bookmarked, which is a bit jarring. The paper used in the print does its job regarding its thickness and consistency.
Okay, so why should you care about a by now non-existent, discontinued living campaign? The obvious reason would be nostalgia on part of the participants...but that alone does not do the job. More important, for me as a reviewer is that this book made me actually want to participate in organized play. Pretty much for the first time. I'm not a fan of formulaic or necessarily "Balanced" or "fair" modules - I want a compelling, evolving world and this is a truly astounding glimpse right into such a world. I am neither a big fan of Arcanis, nor of the Pathfinder Society or Greyhawk, as a setting for that matter. But damn, I want to play this. Had I lived in Texas and Oklahoma during this campaign's run, I probably wouldn't have missed a single adventure. The picture painted vividly in this chronicle is that of a campaign that is mature, compelling and dynamic. Beyond the knowledge on the formal aspects conveyed herein, this can be considered to be one of the most compelling takes on roleplaying history I have ever read - and it is an inspiring book. I put this book down and started scribbling scenario-ideas and campaign seeds right of the bat - so even if you are not at all interested in Greyhawk, bandit kingdoms or anything like that, you still get a lot of mileage out of this book.
Casey Brown, Britt Frey and Austin "Theo" Judd have crafted a thoroughly unique document that has its special place of honor on my bookshelf - whether for the Lost Lands, the anarchic regions of Golarion or any other campaign setting, really - this book has a ton to offer for people who don't care about Greyhawk at all. An inspired chronicle that got me excited, a book that is testament to the fact that major story-changes by players can and should happen in living campaigns, a book that does show that there is fun to be had in darker settings and dangerous challenges - what more can you want? This is an inexpensive, awesome book and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and amazon.com.
Oh, one thing: Before anyone flags this as in wrong forum: This very much works with PFRPG, being mostly about the ideas and the structure, hence why I posted this here as opposed to the "Other RPG"s-section.
@Mosaic: Same thing happened to me; but unlike Throne of Night, they at least were open about everything and explained it. *AND* the KS was intended, from the get-go to keep them in business, not grab products, so at least for my part, I'm glad the ultimate goal there succeeded. I won'T lie, I was somewhat annoyed as well, but in the end, the qualitatively high follow-up books made it worthwhile for me.
Aye, but you *can* do that potentially; as mentioned, in my test, the PCs considered them a threat ("You're not colonizing ANY planet!"), but the ally angle works as well. I was particularly interested how the module begins intentionally as "generic adventurer sidequest xyz" and then completely flips the expectations. So yeah, this played rather well. And, as always, thanks for the kind words, Eric! :D
Wraithguard, for what it's worth Cerulean Seas is an EZG Essential book; that means I consider it a must-have in all of my campaign for the inevitable underseas adventuring. I haven't regretted having a single book from the product line. They're worth their normal price (and owning them in print); at the reduced price, they are a steal.
Aye, the review will hit Paizo et al tomorrow. :)
And thanks for the kind words, Tom!
Eric: I'm currently knee-deep in a big 5e-conversion job, a big PFRPG-dev-job with lots of complex statblocks and obviously I strive to maintain reviewing at my usual frequency I also had the most important assessment center test of my life on Tuesday (keep your fingers crossed for me!) and...then there's real life concerns. So yeah, crazy busy, but not necessarily in a bad way.
LG does not own AAW Games; The chief of LG is Jason Nelson, the master of AAW is Jonathan G. Nelson, same last name, but completely different people. As far as I know, adventures are just as expensive and generally have thinner profit margins than e.g. crunch-options. That being said, I hope Alluria can continue producing material - I supported their last KS and would love to see some modules in Cerulean Seas.
Part II of my review
Wait, wait, wait - what? Iteration? Era? Well, yeah - and this is pretty intriguing: The campaign setting proceeds to grant us glimpses into the respective eras of the empire and Everglow, with faction advantages and liabilities, traits and alternate ponykind-versions and associated racial feats for the associated era. One result is that the GM has some control over tones and themes, can still blend the topics at hand...and the pdf, ultimately, thus already has a bare-bones set-up for an era-spanning type of campaign ingrained in its DNA.
But settings are more than just timelines and factions - they require locales and the book does not disappoint: This book sports basically a gazillion of well-crafted settlement entries with ample of intriguing hooks and cool ideas included. The one thing I was missing here would be the settlement statblocks - none are provided with only basic breakdown of the bare minimum of demographics provided. Apart from that, prose-wise, this chapter was a surprisingly well-crafted and easy to read section. Beyond these notes, the movers and shakers, famous and infamous among ponykind, from the cool rebel to the legendary scholar, are provided with detailed fluff-only write-ups - so no, the statblocks for these guys will have to wait for a later book. Still, once again, a significantly more nuanced array of characters than I expected, since some of the names and artworks do point a bit towards "this is the cliché-XYZ-guy"; instead, most have some component that sets them somewhat apart. The chapter also includes an array of adventure hooks and groupings to provide more subject matter for the GM to develop.
Beyond this massive chapter, the pdf also sports an assortment of items, mundane and magical for your perusal - crystalline slippers fit for a queen, enchanted spectacles and a small assortment of spells, including a stunning lightning wall, is nice, though e.g. non-italicized saves and the like can prove to be a bit galling for the rules-language sticklers like yours truly. Oh, and a spell to temporarily grant you hands? Covered. So if you really want ponies with hands - here is the tool for just that.
Beyond even more nice, properly codified traits, we arrive at the brief Everglow bestiary in the back of the book, where creatures illustrated in full color, from the CR 1/3 flutters to the CR 12 inevitable vanguard and a ghost variant await. These monsters are okay and generally pretty neat, though there are some minor hiccups here and there in the math and formatting.
Editing and formatting are the weak spots of this pdf - while pretty impressive on a formal level, the rules-language does show that this book is the work of a then inexperienced company and sports some deviations from the default. On the plus-side, the pdf, most intriguingly, in spite of this, manages to work mostly sans ambiguities or issues. While there are some issues that extend into the rules, they are few and far in between - as a whole, this is an impressive freshman offering. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a solid background and generally nice artworks, though at the end of some racial entries and chapters, there are a couple of pages that are mostly blank and feature only a bit of text - not a big fan of those. I don't have the print-version of this one, but if the other Silver Games print copies are any indicator, print would be the way to go here. Why? Simple. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks, which is pretty annoying for a book of this density and size. Artworks range from superb to okay and are generally original pieces, which is nice. The cartography of the continent of Everglow is colorful and nice.
Stephen Ritterbush, David Silver and Anthony McKaskle's Ponyfinder...is much better than I expected it to be. In fact, while suffused with a spirit of cheerfulness, you won't find the level of saccharine "Friendship solves everything"-approach in this book: And that's a good thing, even if you are an MLP-fan. Why? Because, let's be honest - that simply does not make for that interesting fantasy gaming. That being said, this still is the antithesis of the grimdark setting - this is cheerful, positive high-fantasy. Surprisingly, the tight racial balancing is consistent throughout in its valuing of racial abilities. The basic premise of assumed flight as relatively widely available means that other narratives can be crafted and are supported. The presentation is surprisingly professional, in particular for a freshman offering...and. Wait.
Okay, imagine jaded, cynical grimdark-loving me sitting in front of the screen with a black metal corpse paint for maximum comedic effect, gnashing his teeth and blurting out...I actually kind of liked the setting. No, seriously. I am so not the target audience of this campaign setting and I still managed to take some cool ideas out of this pdf. At the same time, I should emphasize that this is not a hyper-detailed campaign setting - this should instead be considered to be basically the Ponyfinder core-rules, with a bunch of setting information...but if you're looking for in-depth information, that will have to wait for future books. Still, this setting is significantly better and more evocative than quite a few I have read. It's not for everyone and if you hate the very idea of ponies, you probably won't be convinced anyways. But if you're like me and indifferent to the concept, you'll probably find quite a few cool tricks in this book and be just as surprised by a well-crafted, unique setting with ample potential.
Rules-language purists may shudder sometimes while reading this, get annoyed by e.g. how natural weapons are treated, etc., but as a whole, significantly less often than one would expect from the baseline - the majority of content herein is solid.
How to rate this, then? Well, while there are a couple of rules/balance-hiccups and issues, they are pretty few and far in-between. While the rules-language is wobbly, it generally maintains an unambiguous functionality and, more importantly, establishes a solid balance baseline for the setting regarding the options it provides. This may not be perfect, but it is an impressive first book and well worth a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the freshman offering bonus. See you around next time, when I'll pick apart the Tribes of Everglow hardcover...
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com'S shop.
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are rather good - though admittedly not as tight throughout the whole pdf as in quite a few Rite Publishing releases. There are some hiccups on a formal level, though none too much. More significant would be that the rules-language sports some instances where damage-type classification or slightly more precise rules-language would have helped. Layout adheres to Rite's two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports gorgeous artworks and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
BJ Hensley and Steven D. Russell have glimpsed into my twisted mind. Why? Because, believe it or not...I absolutely adore "The Last Unicorn." I always have the track on my MP3 player and have, unlike 98% of movies, watched it more than once without being bored out of my wits. (Yes, I mean America's version of the song, just fyi.)
Yeah, I'm a guy and I love the iconography, the subtext - everything about unicorns is simply evocative to me. And know what? I really like this pdf. I really enjoy how the hand-less/shapechange-issues have been addressed. I love how many aspects work. At the same time, though, there are some grains of sand in the machinery of this pdf - while the majority of options works exceedingly well, even while juggling complex concepts, there are a couple of hiccups. Take e.g. the aforementioned short-range teleportation that is a component of how the silvermane retains its movement superiority (powerful for full BAB-classes) - it does not note that it is a conjuration [teleportation]-effect, nor a CL, which means that its upgrade at 8th level, which duplicates dimension door, may now suddenly no longer work under certain conditions, while the teleport worked before. YES. I know, I know. I'm a stupid bastard. Any GM worth her or his salt can handle that and knows how it works. I know. Still, RAW, this is in here.
Still, the like would not and does not sink the pdf. While the silvermane is a very powerful melee combatant, the slot-restrictions and later, size-increases alongside the pool-based mechanics sans means of regaining the points actually evens out what looks much worse on paper than one would expect - while not too great for low-magic campaigns and grittier adventuring, in most campaigns the silvermane and options herein will even out as a balanced option. In grittier campaigns, less combat-focused silvermanes will probably still work if predicated by a proper agreement between players and GM...so yeah, overall, this is a nice job. At the same time, a couple of the abilities do sport some uncharacteristic oversights pertaining damage-type, some minor paste-errors...and some less minor hiccups. Similarly, not a fan of the save-or-suck tricks or the use of untyped damage in some cool abilities.
But then again, this is pretty much "The Last Unicorn - the class"...with literally everything you expect to see. And it's a great read that actually gets me excited, that inspires me. So...how do I rate this? Well, I have to say, I do consider this somewhat less refined that the take on rakshasa and the hiccups do extend to the mechanics in some instances. However, at the same time, this does make up for a lot in evocative prose, unique abilities and the sheer fact that it does not go the easy route - the vast majority of options in this book are unique and not something other classes could do - so it's not a "I poach class feature xyz" experience and when it does stumble, it at least does so valiantly in the pursuit of uniqueness instead of redundancy. In the end, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform, with the caveat that GMs should take a good look at how some of the abilities interact before allowing them.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
@Rifts Guy: Take a look at AAW Games' Rise of the Drow saga and Underworld Races/Classes-pdfs. While the former deal mainly with fighting against drow, the majority of the AP takes place in the Underdark. The Underworld Races/Classes-pdfs sport A LOT of unique, imaginative races and class options, from a race of blind beings to crystal-suffused beings to guys that kill you with exploding shrooms. To my knowledge, no other publisher has this extensive of an array of options that would fit perfectly with ToN.