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This Pay-what-you-want-optimization guide clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so what exactly do we get here?
Firts of all - this is exactly what it says on the tin - an optimization guide. In case you're not familiar with these, usually, a color code of Red, Green, Blue and Purple is applied to skills, feats, spells etc.pp. to denote at a glance the feasibility of options available.
That being said, personally, I'm not too big a fan of optimization to the oomphteenth degree, mainly because some of my players *are* into it - adhering strictly to these can get in the way of making a character rounded, if you adhere too strictly to a guide. Those little touches like your PC being a baker's boy - they don't contribute to the combat capabilities and thus are often left by the wayside. Rogue Genius Games proposed bonus skills per level for exactly such "non-relevant" skills and introducing this house-rule into my game helped quite a bit.
That out of the way, the more pressing question on your mind will probably be "Why play a commoner?" And the pdf delivers answers - in brevity, here are *my* answers, for I have actually already pulled off this stunt. 1) The challenge. My players are extremely capable and taking away all those class features makes for a very challenging game-play less based on system mastery and more on guerrilla warfare and player smarts. 2) Get a perspective. I do like my main campaign (the non playtesting one) gritty and beyond 15-point-buy, players are wont to forget *why* those commoners keep on buggering them to kill threat xyz - even 15-point-buy heroes are exactly that - HEROES. This means they have so much more capabilities to deal with threats than average joe. Playing a commoner can make that apparent and drive home the reason why those guys don't deal with threats themselves. 3) Go for a tactics-high game. Every item, every purchase in a commoner game is relevant - each little bonus precious. 4) A change of pace. The PCs have been captured and those guys they saved time and again may now be their only hope - as an alternative to a TPK, the "PCs are captured"-scenario that has the players save their characters via commoners is better because the adversary not necessarily has underestimated the PCs, but failed to take those nameless, faceless losers into account - and that, ladies and gentlemen, is rather easy to justify and believe...
So these are my basic suggestions, so what does the pdf offer - well, essentially an optimization break down of attributes, core races, skills - one by one, with feasible and well-thought suggestions. It should also be noted that general combat styles (as in not-style-feats) receive their break-downs - suddenly those light crossbows and halfling slingstaffs don't look so bad anymore, don't they? Fascinating, what a few lacking attributes, feats and proficiencies can do...
It should be noted that even non-recommended styles d receive concise break-downs of options to make them work. Traits mainly are glanced over, with highlights pointed out.. Beyond these options, advice on granting at least a bit of starting gold, weapon-selection and magical/mundane items rounds out this pdf.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Misfit Studios' two-column full-color standard with artworks ranging from b/w to full-color and being stock as far as I could tell. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This is intended as a teaser and first introduction to the matter at hand for author J. M. Perkin's "The Adequate Commoner" kickstarter to making commoners not suck...so much. As an optimization Guide, it does a decent job and is actually a good read, though you should be aware that it does not go through all options available at the level of detail found in some guides online - it can be considered a basic optimization guide that is well-written and actually fun to read. It offers smart advice for truly low-power-level gaming and as such can be considered a well-crafted book. This being a "Pay what you want"-file, it can be obtained for free, though I do suggest some sort of donation. But how much? Basically, this guide is good at what it is intended to do - it's a teaser, a help, an introduction and does that job well. If you have expected a full-blown, ultra-detailed 100+page guide of covered options, well, then this pdf does not deliver - surprise.
What it's intended to do, it does well and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 pages, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
This one's very close to funding and what I've seen so far is rather cool - and most of all: unique. As in "Can't mention another setting that is like this unique. While still being plug and play. I'd love to see this book happen and the dead tree-buy-in is very low...so consider this a bump and an endorsement! I'm hoping very much this funds!
Thanks for the kind words, Mark et al. - the Reveler indeed is awesome: When gaming unobtrusively manages to say something profound about the condicio humana while providing superb, imaginative crunch and combines that with great prose - well, then you have me hooked.
And yes, I think that the class is just that - a look in the mirror not only for me, but for everyone who uses it - whether consciously or subconsciously. Especially true in our digital age.
So yeah, we all have the potential to be revelers - the question simply is whether we are fey-touched enough to unleash it. ;)
I'll focus on "gothic" horror - i.e. psychological horror as opposed to "kill scary stuff".
-Bleak House. One of my all-time favorites. Downside: Works best if your players are in Ravenloft and familiar with the doctor.
-Hour of the Knife. Ravenloft Jack the Ripper. Nuff' said.
-Against the Cult of the Bat God
-Mockingbird (Richard Pett, in "It came from the Stars"; Coincidentally, also the other modules from that book.)
-Ship of Fools by TPK Games
-Dream Harvest by Matt Banach, in Adventure Quarterly #3
-Up from Darkness by Rite Publishing (set in Kaidan)
-To Walk the Dark Road by AAW Games
-End of Autumn by Murder of Crows Publishing may not be much regarding presentation, but it's a great Ravenloftmodule minus serial numbers.
-0onegames' The Bloody Fix - even as a stand-alone perhaps the best haunted house for D&D 3.X
-0onegames' A Pound of Flesh - great urban horror investigation
These were teh first that came to mind.
Ravenloft (If the best authors who really GET the setting and SUBTLE horror took over...Think VRG to the Shadow Fey/Gazetteer-series/Bleak House)
@GM_Solspiral: I totally get that reaction and the link me me laugh! It's good to be passionate about your creations, but keeping them in check and reacting as professional as you did, is the mark of a mature being. So yeah, thanks! (And I'm sure there are a lot of designers out there who could empathize with this post...)
That being said - thank you for the glimpse behind the curtain and, as mentioned - I've seen MUCH worse than what you guys deliver. Mostly, the issues can be fixed and a lot of the problems boil down to beginner's mistakes that can be fixed.
@theheadkase: ItB Witch is done and will hit my site some time next week.
Part II of my review:
The Bladecaster gets d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB progression, 1/2 fort-save progression, 8 levels spellcasting progression, limited martial maneuver progression- notice a similarity? Yeah, this one is the arcane equivalent. At 1st level, the PrC can " The bladecaster may select one arcane spellcasting that he possesses;" and cast that sans arcane spell failure in light armor. What is "one arcane spellcasting"? A spell? ALL spells granted by e.g. levels in wizard? One arcane spell-list? Don't know, though I assume the second option... The PRc also gets a special stance that allows the PrC to sacrifice spells for bonuses - and this one is insanely powerful - damage-potential of the spells outclasses the benefits by far. Or so it seems - you get e.g. +1d6 bonus damage per spell level - of the sacrificed spell's energy type if applicable OR, if not UNTYPED. Not even force, UNTYPED. You know, the damage-type you can prepare against? Now even slashing, piercing - UNTYPED: Urgh. What about spell level to ALL saving throws? 5 x spell level resistance to ALL ENERGY TYPES? Yeah, duration only scales up to 3 rounds, but still. (Don't get me started with cantrips, btw. - the class ignores them completely.) Then again, the class gets a martial strike/cast spellcombat-like ability - as a swift action, useable 1+ initiator-mod times per day. Which renders me baffled - does this override the casting duration of the spell in question? Is it in addition to the swift action/action required by the strike? Does the spell still elicit a SR/save etc.? This ability needs severe cleaning up and gets utterly OP at later levels, when it actually gets a REACH. Countering spells via initiator-checks may also be powerful, but at least the ability works as intended and sans wonky mechanics. As a capstone, spells requiring an attack can be used to deliver martial strikes - even as a capstone in Path of War, broken - no more range limits. All melee strikes on range. Against touch AC. Urgh. At least the casting still potentially provokes AoOs here...
The third PrC, Dragon Fury, gets d12, 4+Int skills per level, +1 maneuver at every odd level, +1 readed per day at 3rd, 6th and 9th and +1 stance at 3rd level, full BAB-progression, 1/2 fort+ ref-save progression and is all about two weapon fighting - less penalties, power attack as if main-hand for both (or even as if two-handed), repeated counters - all mostly cool. At 8th level, the class gets a kitten-bag-fail ability that recovers an expended maneuver for every foe brought to 0 hp.(Insert Kitten-Bag rant again, plus nonlethal damage still not taken into account...). The capstone is cool, though - move 2x movement rate and attack like crazy. Neat capstone. The first PrC herein that I don't want to throw into the deepest fiery pits of hell - this one's actually cool. Nice!
The Mage Hunter, at d8, 4+Int, 3/4-BAB-progression, 1/2 ref-save progression and get access to spontaneous spells up to 4th level. Which they can cast governed by their initiator attribute - which is a blatant breaking of how spells are cast by any class. Int, cha, wis - can see that. I'm so tough/strong, I can cast magic? Nope, sorry. Admittedly a nit-pick, though. The mage hunter may expend spells as part f martial strikes to dimensionally anchor foes (which is nice, though aforementioned feat is better...), add damage-dealing dispel magic effects to strikes etc. The criticism of the former iteration of the simialr ability still applies here. There is also a class ability/stance that allows the mage hunter to cast spells as a swift action as part of a martial strike (see criticism above) AND not take any damage when making a save vs. an effect that has partial effects. That is a combined mettle and evasion. Mettle was broken in 3.X and has, for good riddance, not reared its ugly head in PFRPG. This is worse, even in the context of Path of War. Nuff said. The capstone, which eliminates the option to cast defensively, is the other nail in the coffin for this class - Knowledge (Martial) DC 21 to realize it before hand? Nice, only casters don't get the skill as class skill...Also: Hit point regeneration via SR and even granting temporary hit points. Doesn't sound so bad? AT this level, your PCs will have At-will abilities, which translate, once again, to INFINITE healing, though this time "only" for the character, not everybody. Still, broken as hell, even for a capstone.
The final PrC, the Umbral Blade, gets d10, 4+Int skills. full BAB-progression. limited maneuvers and 1/2 ref-save progression and is all about a connection to the plane of shadow, increasing power of veiled moon etc. Which is kind of cool, though I'd suggest a minor re-fluffing here, if only to avoid confusion in planar environments that lock out cross-planar effects. Using wis INSTEAD of str-mod to damage is in this context fine with me -kudos here! What leaves me utterly baffled would be "Blade of Night:" As the umbral blade’s shadow blade becomes a conduit for darkness and shadow, he is capable of opening a dread gateway within his soul to cause this darkness to surge through him and through the open conduit that is his weapon. The umbral blade may charge his shadow blade with this power as a move action, and later when needed, he may release this power as a free action as part of an attack or martial strike. This hungry and chilling darkness inflicts cold damage, and Blade of Night is added to each attack that the character makes during the round it is activated on." What the friggin' hell does this mean? Does it change regular damage to cold damage? If so, is there a more convoluted way to say it? I don't get, at all, what this ability does. Which is a pity, for the signature stance of the class rocks and is really evocative in its imagery, increasing its power over the levels into essentially an area, where it nets at-will blink (no italicization in the text), bonus HP and even turning incorporeal. One potential issue - the pyramidal way martial maneuvers are organized means that the changing effective stance level can lead to some confusion here. Better stealth, hide in plain sight and shadowy apotheosis also work. Over all, another solid, if not perfect PrC.
Editing and formatting are worse than in previous Path of War-installments, with more glitches and rules-ambiguities. Layout adheres to DSP's 2-column full-color standard and the pdf utilizes stock art that is thematically-fitting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, with one being more printer-friendly.
I feel like I've jinxed it. Author Chris Bennett's last two Path of War-supplements on the Warder and Warlord were vast improvements and had cool rules, neat ideas, streamlined design. They were not perfect, yes, but still - they worked. And honestly, the archetypes herein do mostly a good job and left me generally smiling. Then came the feats and PrCs.
All right, to make that clear - I judge this pdf not by regular PFRPG-power-levels, I don't compare it with fighter or, whatever divine being you worship or ignore, rogues and monks, but rather by the one implied by all previous Path of War-installments. The characters therein can compete with spellcasters on a damage-output level, while not suffering from depleting resources - which changes the dynamics of the game, yes, but it remains manageable. Most abilities are single target and somewhat restricted by atk, by a balance that may not be standard PFRPG, but it exists - good, that leaves SOMETHING for the casters to do beyond utility spells. The martial PoW-classes are a bit on the short-end regarding in-class variation, so adding archetypes = exceedingly good idea. In fact, I was utterly stoked about this release. Then I read it. So many failed kitten-tests. Infinite maneuvers. And then, the feats came. Want to know how broken some are? I can name HORRIFICALLY OVERPOWERED feats by Rogue Genius Games I'd rather allow into a 15-point-buy-low-magic-game than letting "Defensive Web" get anywhere near even a mythic game. This is not an increase, it is an escalation. Not starting with the caster/martial combo-classes that make the magus run to the next corner and cry his eyeballs out. Even if you just shrug at the power-level and think "Endzeitgeist is an idiot who's just nitpicking and complaining" - riddle me this: Do you consider PrCs that can net a whole group infinite healing good design? Nope? Thought so. This pdf is far from unsalvageable and indeed, some of the content works for me and fared exceedingly well under scrutiny/playtesting. That being said, this is still the most flawed of the Path of War installments to date and has ample issues that require fixing. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 for the purpose of this platform.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
This book for the mean DM is 82 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So...Bill Webb has somewhat of a reputation for not only being FGG's mastermind, but also for being a capable and deadly DM - one I didn't yet have the honor to play with, but from what I've heard - wow. And this book, well, it contains some of his nastiest tricks - which makes for an interesting read, so let's see if even jaded DMs like your truly can draw some neat tricks out of this one!
The pdf kicks off with an introduction -and something that makes the book rather interesting in sensibility - Bill's game is a blend of old-school, Sword & Wizardry and 3.X/PFRPG sprinkled in and hence, throughout the book, Skeeter Green has boxes, where he explains changes in terminology in the system, provides spell-conversions into a given system and generally elaborates peculiarities, making this book MUCH more useful than it would be otherwise. All right, got that?
One glorious house-rule herein is rather interesting -XP for GOLD SPENT. No, seriously - think about it: Clerics building temples and sniffing good incense, paladins giving alms, rogues and fighter gambling and whoring -it makes for a great way to handle e.g. XP gained via downtime etc.- even better if you want to have leveling actually take some time and entail some...things that happen. A great roleplaying catalyst! Alternate weapon damage, attributes and bonuses, travel etc. are also provided, though these will probably primarily be a godsend for DMs who want to defuse the rules-heaviness of PFRPG's crunch, for they represent essentially concise, but still a bit quick and dirty simplifications. Now the "got lost" charts and rolls on the other hand are truly awesome and simple for just about every system they're used in -especially thanks to proper survival DCs etc. also provided.
Simpler rules for food and drink, foraging etc. are also in here - more interesting and yet another godsend-level table would be the concise 50-entry-three column table to generate unorthodox door opening mechanisms - so simple and yet so flavorful - awesome! This also extends to actual specific trigger-mechanisms for traps.
We all have been there - the moment where players just are incredibly LUCKY. I once had it happen that a PC could ONLY survive by a) winning initiative (enemy rolls 1, he a 20) - he did that. Thereafter, he had to crit the foe and confirm - two twenties required, both rolled. THEN he still had to roll max damage with a d10 and 5d6 AND then, in order to not be destroyed by his godlike adversary, he would have to roll a 10 on a d10 (indicating fatal head wound) and then a natural 100 on a d% in order to manage an instant-beheading according to the crit rules I used back then. Every other outcome would have seen him SLAUGHTERED. Well, do the math - I did not expect this character to survive. He did. Players are lucky...and this one suddenly had the regalia of literally one of the most powerful warrior-lords EVER to walk the lands, plus his fortune as by custom of trial by combat.
Where I'm getting at with this anecdote is - sometimes players are lucky, deservedly so - but the consequences might prove to become issues for the balance of the campaign. Hence, the next chapter is all about handling players with too much treasure via quite an array of options - several of them rather nasty, but concise and best of all: They make sense -both in a historical context of fantasy and in-game - just think about all those times in the stories and comics Conan got a fortune and was subsequently deprived of it (when he didn't squander it to convert gold to XP, that is!) - yeah, that level of loss. Now here's a huge issue I have as a reviewer - I *could* go into detail regarding all of the tricks, as I usually do - but that would somehow defeat the purpose of this book.
As soon as the tricks as made obvious, players are more likely to consider them as such and not as just a concise development of the campaign - by exposing them, I'd hurt their effectiveness. So I'll refrain from that - just one thing: Whether it's an AP kind of on the wrong side of a despotic city's law, a certain mythic incursion into an abyssal landscape or a certain kingdom-building experience - there's a fitting trick for just about every context here.
The next chapter is called "Situational Advantage" - and is glorious - generally, it is a DM's primer for some cool environmental hazards/modifications/tactics, with neat mechanics to supplement them - and you gotta love the Pepé-Le-Pew giant skunk-entry. Now there are also some other glorious terrain books out there, but this chapter still makes a great supplement for some rather nasty hazards...
Next up would be a chapter that my players would HATE - because I've used similar tricks: Magical keys that do nothing, Unobtanium and similar nasty tricks and time wasters are exceedingly efficient at making players not analyze EVERYTHING - but there's another benefit: A DM can use these tricks as blank spaces to later revisit and improvise contexts that weren't there before, retroactively fit in storylines and the like - and no, not going into all the details of this chapter. Once again - less effective if players know what they're up against.
The next two chapters also are smart - Wolves-in-sheep's clothing and vice versa - with these, you can drive home the fear of the unknown, read advice on unkillable (no, seriously! You CAN'T kill these! Yes. Pointy sticks and arcane fire aren't always the solution!) monsters or traumatize your players to be afraid of mold. No seriously - my players start gibbering and running whenever something mold-related comes up. Demons? Pfff. Bring out the unmoving fungus! With the tips herein, you can make YOUR players afraid of whatever you like! (And if you require further assistance - drop me a line!)
Now the trick-chapter is also interesting -from stacking certain hazards/obstacles to puzzle-style combat to tesseracts and portals - a lot of goodies here.
Finally, we have a great chapter called "Greed is bad" - from pointing towards the timeless "Don't drink two potions at once"-table from 1E (seriously - hunt that one down!) to some other...interesting tricks to make players stop succumbing to Karzoug's favorite sin, this is a fitting conclusion to this nice booklet.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard reminiscent of small booklets like digests. The print-edition, which is btw. of top-notch quality, does also adhere to this size.The pdf provides ample, cool and iconic old-school b/w-artworks. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Wow, this was an uncommon ride for me - mainly because reading this book was somewhat a blast from the past, with many tricks implicit in the old-school of adventure design properly and concisely spelled out. While the house-rules herein may not be to everyone's liking, DMs and groups looking for simplification got one awesome resource here. Furthermore, some of the tricks are glorious, while others elicited a "D'unh" from me - the latter though, as I realized, mostly due to me coming from kind of (though not wholly - Bill Webb's old-school credibility vastly outclasses mine!) this school of DMing. I.e. my game is lethal, PCs die and the world is not conveniently CR-stacked for PCs to slaughter. I started thinking, and relatively soon realized that most new-school modules simply don't use tricks like these - and worse, were limited to the module, whereas most of the tricks herein actually help keeping a campaign going, not a simple module.
And as every DM who ran something that was not a plot-driven AP can attest, it is campaigns, with freedom, strange choices and especially sandboxes that can provide the problems this booklet combats. As such, and due to the ridiculously low price, I can wholeheartedly recommend this useful book - even if you're a better Dm than me and know every trick in this book already, it still makes for a cool blast-from-the-past-style reading and should inspire some rules-changes/refreshing of the mentality at the heart of FGG's success. Congrats to Bill Webb and developers Skeeter Green and Matthew J. Finch - well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Since it was asked - the main reason I did not start reviewing Paizo-material was...Paizo doesn't need the publicity as much as 3pps do.
At least not as much as small 3pps. Another reason was to help separate the wheat from the chaff and highlight great 3pps and their products while calling out bad products and helping designers to improve by providing constructive, informative feedback.
I *could* review Paizo-material, but I doubt, I'd make much of a difference there. Most Paizo-products already get A LOT of reviews, so why would anyone care what ole' End has to say?
My reasons for not reviewing Paizo-stuff thus don't have much to do with length/crunch-intensity - I do FGG-books, Psionics etc., but more with what I'd consider useful for the consumers, the designers etc.
Now if Paizo asked me to review xyz, I wouldn't decline, of course, but I probably wouldn't review everything released - there would be no time left to cover other publishers.
That being said, I *will* review Wayfinder #10 since it was requested on my site. :)
Thank you, Arnwyn. I honestly though about going full-blown rant-mode against the Tulita, because, quite frankly, their content almost universally pissed me off. This and the premises actually made me put the book away for a while and got ready to go scathing.
But when I returned, I still had to concede that at least SOME of the portrayals, though the minority, aren't as positive. Personally, I'll purge the noble-savage-stuff in favor of a no less unpleasant, but more varied take on colonial dialectics.
It *may* be my bias, but when I returned, I also managed to see all the good stuff herein. And when taken into relation to another, to me the good stuff (writing, locations, critters, NPCs etc.) made up for one issue that can be dealt with by reskinning.
Now the premises...I won't try to make any apologies for them. They suck. Hard. They almost suckered me into not liking this book. Only when they turned out to be essentially missing from the meat of the book, did I appreciate the actual content.
So: Tl;dr - Arnwyn, thank you for your praise. This review's been one of the hardest I've ever written. And I understand why the Tulita soured you on the book.
Part 2 of my review:
Is it for novice-DMs? Hell no. Is it polarizing? Yes. Is the crunch universally awesome? Nope. But does this belong into every PFRPG-DM's library? In my opinion, yes. Razor Coast is a gloriously wicked tome, superbly written and while it is not perfect, I don't regret a single cent I've spent on it. (And yes, I went all-out on the KS.) Is it the perfect tome of superlatives that years and years of expectations painted it in, in many a mind around the globe? No, but it honestly couldn't have been. What it is, is a great mega-adventure in a unique setting, full of unique, interesting characters and a living piece of PFRPG-history, a mega-adventure your players WILL keep talking about for years to come. And while it didn't make my Top Ten-list of 2013, it came damn close, by virtue of its originality, scope and ambition, by its narrative clout and the hard work of Nicolas Logue, Lou Agresta, Tim Hitchcock, John Ling, Ton Knauss, Frank Mentzer, Richard Pett, Craig Shackleton, David Posener, Greg A. Vaughan, Adam Daigle, Wolfgang Baur and Brendan Victorson.
To me, this tome is still 5 stars + seal of approval must-have material. It may not be perfect, but it is different, ambitious and downright evocative. And we need more books of that caliber, that take chances with something different, both in form and ambition. Oh, and if you're an experienced DM, you'll be hard-pressed to find a given module to better show off your skills - in the hands of one, this vision will come alive in all its blood-drenched, tropical glory.
Posted first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and RPGaggression as well as here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.