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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.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so what do we get?
Well, first of all, we begin, as always, with a bit of flavor-text and the history of the "bigger on the inside" idea that has accompanied mankind from Santa Claus to Doctor Who - and it shows awareness of a possible reason for the initial introduction of the classic bag of holding into the context of the games we know and love.
I feel obliged to go on a little digression: As you may have noticed, I can be a bit of a stickler for encumbrance, carrying capacity etc. - it just helps my immersion in a given game and I am very much what you'd call a simulationalist GM. I want to know where the weapons etc. are. The problem here, is, alas, that tracking a ton of items can become tedious and time-consuming...but ignoring packing, carrying capacity etc. them altogether (like many a game I witnessed do) rubs me the wrong way. Similarly, I have spent literally whole sessions of players just buying equipment for a massive wilderness trek, haggling with the merchants and the like - and I *enjoy* sessions like that...most of the time. Sometimes, I just wished the system had a means for characters to be "crazy prepared" and just draw an item from the pack...within reason. Unfortunately, most of the time, takes on the crazy-prepared mechanic simply don't work as smooth as they should. This pdf approaches this conundrum by introducing the practical pack mechanic.
The mechanic itself is dead simple: There is a chance a character has stored an item away in the practical pack, assuming the item is under a set weight and cost. Determining whether the item is stored inside is handled via an associated skill-check (or Int/Wis, if you have no ranks in the associated skill) - characters with ranks in Climb are more likely to have packed tools for climbing, for example. Now thankfully, the pdf does not leave you alone to associate skills with items: A massive table does that work for you and should you desire to extend the mechanic from the mundane and masterwork items to e.g. weapons and armor, you'll find some guidance herein as well.
Such practical packs are usually containers of some sort - and from the bandolier to saddlebags, a lot of different sample containers (including volume information) allow for more precise takes on what can potentially fit in such a container - an no, as written, specific keys to locks could not be duplicated, though lockpicks could - which is nice in my book. How does filling the pack work? Well, you determine a value and go shopping. When you draw an item ex nihilo from the pack, the item's price is detracted from the value used in shopping - unlike quite a few "crazy prepared"-takes, no chance of suddenly drawing forth odd items when finding treasure. No single object in the pack can weigh more than 1/4 of the weight of the pack and total weight cannot exceed the weight of the pack, so cheating encumbrance via these can't be done efficiently either.
How to draw items from it? Well, the skill-check is a simple DC 10 + cost in gold of the world. Less than 10 Copper means DC 10, silver is rounded up to 1 gp. Common items reduce the DC by 5; uncommon items increase base DC to 15, rare ones to DC 20. You also reduce the base DC for each factor of 10 the item is less than the value of the bag. As an example: A 40 gp alchemist's kit would be DC 50, but if the practical pack has been filled with 400 gp or more, you'd calculate 40 gp/400 gp, arriving at a DC of 14. If the value of the pack were 4K gp, you'd instead arrive at a DC of 11 - 10 base, +1 for a value exceeding 1 sp. If this sounds complicated to you at first - it really isn't; in fact, in practice, it can be done fluidly on the fly. If you botch the skill by 5 or less, a GM may allow you to draw forth a substitute, adding in degrees of success/failure - a design-notion I really enjoy!
If you require multiple items of a type and wouldn't usually carry multiples, the pdf has you covered as well, providing concise rules for that as well. Some items, like flint, a non-combat knife and similar tools are codified as always available and rechecking for similar items is also possible.
Very important: If you're one of the GMs or players who hates minutiae like this - the pdf does offer a simplified version of this system as well. They are based on bag quality (4 steps) and fit comfortable on half a page, covering all bases. Now this is accounting for table variance!
Okay, so this is where things get even more interesting: Rather than rehashing the ole' bag of holding rules, the pdf continues to develop the aforementioned rules and applies them to magic bags: There are, for example, mercane bags: You drop items in for the mercane to sell, but may, yourself, request magic items from the mercane by putting your hand inside...and yes, this easy reselling of loot is thankfully balanced via market value modifications. Two particularly nasty cursed satchels are provided as well - the bag of devouring that tries to eat you and your items...and there is a bag into which you can throw items...only to get worthless junk back.
Really fun: The evil, demonic and intelligent chomper, a devouring bag that not only is malevolent, you can swing it at foes to bite them. Cool visuals! The helpful steward of the bag is intelligent as well and could be visualized as a bag of holding with an integrated butler that lists all objects inside. The mythic bag of needful things takes a bow before one of Mr. King's better books and can generate objects. Finally, the artifact of this installment of Call to Arms would be the doorknocker to a private sanctum - basically a doorknocker you can affix to any door, open it, and enter your very own private demiplane...which can btw. be altered, in case you were wondering.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice artworks in full color by Rick Hershey. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Lucus Palosaari's magic satchels...are BRILLIANT. I'm not even going to try to slowly lead into this. Magic Satchels as envisioned here are exactly what I always wanted - this book pretty much looks and feels almost like it was written for me. This streamlines the extensive shopping trips and planning required in simulationalist gameplay without sacrificing the need for planning in advance; this provides almost the ease of GM-handwaving encumbrance and actually creates suspense: The cheers when players draw forth the third stake they needed on a hard skill-check...is glorious and adds actually a fun, novel component to the gameplay...and all without falling into the innumerable pits and traps this type of design sports: From weight to scarcity to even a simpler system, this book covers ALL basics in its deceptively few pages.
The page-count may not sound impressive...but if you're like me, you'll celebrate this system for its grace and elegance, for its innovation and seamless integration in gameplay as well as for speeding up the game sans losing the threat and excitement of e.g. prolonged wilderness trips. Oh, and the simple alternate system is great for less detail-oriented games, providing supreme support for different table types.
This is a truly brilliant little pdf that will feature in each and every one of my campaigns from now on. I adore this book. Its final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and it receives EZG Essential status: If you love your details, but want an truly elegant way of speeding things up sans breaking your game, get this!
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Most work-intense review of my career, no kidding. And I'm thankful for the drafts etc. - without them, the review would probably have hit sites sometime in October... ;P
In 1977 (paperback 1980) - a year previous to Wilson et al.'s study (also titled Necronomicon) - one L.K. Barnes and the self-professed adept known as Simon released unto the world a volume also bearing the simple title Necronomicon. The reader will soon realize that this Bares/Simon Necronomicon takes the millennia-old Sumerian tale of the war between the forces of the leviathan sea-goddess Tiamat and the warrior-god Marduk, and casts it as the struggle between the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods. Tiamat stands on the side of Chaos with Cthulhu and his clan, while Marduk's forces - Anu, Inanna, Enlil, Enki, Shamash, and the rest of the gods of Sumer - are the civilizing, protective forces of Order. It is presumably Simon's contention and literary construct that this is the original version of the Tiamat/Marduk story; that the beings Lovecraft would later adopt into his tales made their first appearance in human literature in this pre-Christian Era epic, and that the version with which we are more familiar has been edited to remove all references to them. This train of thought has been applied broadly throughout Lovecraftiana and has representations in both linguistic structure as well as themes and mythological structure; it is hence I called these deities "Lovecraftian," since ultimately, the symbolic charge and contextualization here are distinctly lovecraftian.
+1 to everything Anguish and ladydragona said.
Additionally, and this cannot be overstated: Have the writing at least mostly done, UNLESS you already have veteran writers that always deliver on time. Scratch that, have the writing at least 80% done -I could rattle off a couple of delayed projects that didn't take that into account that are severely delayed. (Stretchgoals not counting.)
We all want more content, but don't stretch yourself too thin: Jeremy Smith, one of the head-honchos of the highly respected Dreamscarred Press once posted that too much stretchgoals can be highly problematic - so make sure the goals are aptly priced so they don't sink your calculations.
Also, make sure you STAY active during the KS. On social media, the boards, KS itself. I saw a KS fund 3/4s in 2 days...and then go dark; authors etc. go incommunicado. It stayed at exactly that amount...and then evaporated. Go to all blogs, sources, magazine you can find...and ask them fr links, coverage, etc. Visibility, especially for small 3pps, is key.
Finally, if you ever want to run a KS ever again, well, then stay communicative after it has funded. There is a certain 3pp company that was in exceedingly high regard and critically acclaimed, had a KS and...well, to this day only delivered ~1/3 of the content we backed for. Sans explanations, plan presented to deliver the goods or the like. Months on end sans update or visible progress. Behavior like that is not only bad for one's own business, it can be bad for the 3pp-scene as a whole, so please, provide at least bi-monthly updates, even if there is nothing new to report.
Just my 2 cents, of course.
This Pay What You Want April's Fool-release clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!
The first new archetype herein would be for the currently-in-playtest discipline-using class, Medi...and it's called Ambu-Lancer. These guys get Ride as a class skill and a mount with light armor proficiency at first level. When riding said mount, the ambu-lancer takes no armor check penalty to Ride skills and killed mounts can be replaced sans cost after just 1 week, analogue to the cavalier. Medic's expertise is replaced with Mounted Combat and in an interesting twist, maneuvers that have a movement component may be used with the mount's movement instead of the ambu-lancer's - basically, it replaces the animal companion's usual share spells with discipline-related movement sharing. Similarly, the triage ability may be used in conjunction with the mount's movement.
Absolutely hilarious: At 4th level, instead of +1 triage use, the archetype gets a Stealth-WRECKING minus 30 Stealth when activated siren that grants Improved Overrun when attempting to move somewhere to use triage - MEDIC!!! XD Instead of 5th level's medic's expertise, the archetype may drag allies healed atop the mount! Pretty cool archetype...and hilarious.
The Edge Lord harbinger had me laugh so hard, I had to stop and go outside for a second - the archetype gets proficiency with simple and martial weapons and the katana, but not with any armor or shield. Discipline-wise, they replace Riven hourglass and Scarlet Throne with Unquiet Grave and Mithral Current. At 1st level, the archetype gets Quick Draw and dons a leather coat of black or red leather that provides Int-bonus to AC (+1 dodge bonus at 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter) - this ability replaces accursed will and is called..."Become So Numb." Starting at 4th level, the edge-lord may teleport a limited amount of times per encounter before or after initiating a strike. This is called "One Step Closer." Come on, now you've got it, right? It's friggin' Linkin Park-the-class. XD Instead of elusive shadow, the archetype gets immunity to emotion effects and replaces sorcerous deception with Mixed Combat and Weapon Focus - X-Ecutioner Style. If you didn't grow up with these, you may not consider this as funny as I do...but boy...I could throw myself away right now...Increased crit range via Papercuts and the option to teleport crited foes unwillingly complement this very well - basically, if you ever wanted to play Dante or Vergil from Devil may Cry...yeah, that's a pretty good way to do that. Two thumbs up!
The Madman monk may not use class features with monk weapons, only with unarmed strikes. This archetype...is basically an exercise in how M-A-D you can make an archetype - all saves are governed by two attributes: Str and Con for Fort, Dex and Int for Ref, Wis and Cha for Will. For the lulz, his unarmed strike attacks use Int and Str to atk, but Con and Cha to damage rolls. And no, this cannot be changed. They deal bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage at once via unarmed attacks. Dex-based skills are enhanced by Str. Cha-based skills are enhanced by Wis. The MADman may substitute psychoses for attacks in his flurry, with save DC being equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + highest attribute modifier + lowest attribute modifier. In case you haven't got that yet - no, you can't choose anywhere and yes, negative modifier decrease the efficiency. So what's a psychoses? Well, it's basically the talent array of these fellows. They get one new psychosis at each odd level, with later levels unlocking new ones. Now here's the mechanically interesting component: The more successful psychoses (success/failure-conditions provided individually), attack and maneuvers the madman has performed before in a given flurry, the more potent becomes the specific effect. And yes, these include reality-bending stunts like flying (for as long as the flurry persists...). Also interesting - high level psychoses have powerful effects - when executed AFTER 5 successful prior attacks...otherwise, they have no effects. And yes, the archetype does have multiple capstones to choose from. This whole archetype is basically a meta-joke on the monk...and it still kinda works. While perhaps the least serious-feeling component herein, the archetype sports several impressive and cool ideas. with the psychoses and flurry-combo-idea in particular being worthy of closer examination.
Next up would be the Daring Hero 10-level PrC, which sports Elan's (The OotS-character, not the race) Razor Wit as a prerequisite bonus feat. The PrC grants d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and full BAB-progression. Every even level, the PrC provides +1 maneuver known, chosen from Mithral Current, Scarlet Throne and two previously available disciplines, chosen upon taking the PrC. PrC-levels count as full initiator levels and 3rd level and every 3 thereafter add +1 readied maneuver. 4th, 6th and 10th level provide +1 stance. The PrC allows the character to substitute Charisma as initiation modifier for all mental attribute modifiers for all class features and maneuvers - which is pretty OP. Additionally, this enhances Razor Wit and provides benefits for soulknives. Dramatic Entries, better starting reputation...okay. Using counters sans expending immediate actions 1/encounter at 3rd level, +1/encounter every 3 levels thereafter, is pretty powerful. At higher levels, the plot armor stance can be used and these guys get gold for the fanfiction written about the. As a capstone, the hero can't die anymore...unless it's fittingly climactic.
Next up would be the Drowmedary-race,a combination of drow and gamla - these folks get a full age, height and weight-table (with a minor grey-line-formatting glitch) and are humanoids with the elf and akashic subtypes. They have normal speed, +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, get +1 bonus essence and get poison spit that scales with the levels - usable 1/minute, range 10 ft. The spit can stagger foes and even knock them unconscious and essence can be invested in it as though the ability were a veil - essence invested increases reach and DC. Personally, I think the DC-increase is a bit excessive here - in my game, I'd rather increase the reach-increase from 5 ft. per essence invested to +10 ft. Also, since the alternate, difficult-terrain-causing class feature that spits webs instead is rather outclassed by this one. Drowmedary also get a teamwork bonus feat they can share for Cha-mod rounds with all allied drowmedaries within 60 ft.. See, this is one of the abilities that looks fine in a general adventuring group - but when all players play the race, it gets ridiculous fast. I'd strongly advise in favor of a daily limit or similar factor to prevent this getting out of hand. Instead of this, they can also get climb speed via spidery legs.
The pdf has one more thing to offer, namely the gelatinous cube monster class - HD d8, -4 Dex, +4 Con; Ooze type, speed 15 ft., acid immunity. The cube is considered intelligent, blind, has blindsight, can't be tripped and gets 2+Int skills per level. They get a slam attack and transparency at 1st level. Their class spans 4 levels, has all bad saves, 3/4 BAB-prgression and nets +4 Con on every level but the 1st, but also -2 Dex per level. Paralysis potency increases every level, 3rd provides +1d6 acid damage and 4th level nets size-increase to large as well as engulf. The write-up also sports two racial feats - one that nets you a pseudopod and a second feats allows the cube to assume humanoid form. If you really want to go cubey, I'd also suggest checking out Rite Publishing's "In the Company of Gelatinous Cubes", their April-product last year.
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, very good on a rules level - the wordings are generally tight, though some minor glitches can be seen here and there. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' full-color two-column standard and the pdf has no artworks. It does, however, have bookmarks and it comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.
Anthony S. Altovilla, Forrest Heck, Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Jeffrey Swank and Kevin Ryan provide some hilarious options here - with a wink, sure...but functional nonetheless! While I am not sold on each and every design decision, I do love a lot of the components herein - the Edge Lord made me laugh so hard and the drowmedary are similarly fun. (2 cents if you play one dual-wielding scimitars...) Yeah, yeah, endy has to complain about blabla... but guess what? I don't want to. This is a pay what you want product that offers significantly more great ideas than many commercial releases. Sure, I don't consider all perfect - but you can literally take a look and then tip the authors...and seriously, you should. The material is worth it, particularly for Path of War-fans, for whom the majority of content herein is intended. This may not be perfect in formal criteria or balance-wise, but it's fun and there is no component herein that will truly break anyone's game. Taking that and the PWYW-aspect into account, I arrive at a final verdict of 5 stars.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.