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Part II of my review:
The Shattered Mirror lets you do something interesting - utilize, for example, the atk of the last attack of the foe, dealing nasty damage to the target. Know another thing? The Skill/attack-material here is intriguing - using a skill IN ADDITION to attack rolls to add benefits to strikes? Now that a) makes sense to me and b) is elegant and avoids the easy stacking of bonuses on skills - kudos! A very powerful maneuver would be Equivocate - choose a target: When said target is subject to a power, psi-like ability, spell or spell-like ability, you also receive the benefits - and vice versa. While VERY powerful, this also allows for a vast array of exciting tactics. That being said, it is WIDE OPEN for abuse. You can elect to fail saves, so this one ability makes dragon-slaying pretty easy - establish this one, no save, eat harm and watch the colossus eat it as well - have I mentioned that the effects apply to single target spells and so on, even mitigating invalid ranges. OUCH. This needs some serious nerfing in my book. I'm not a fan of using a craft-check in lieu of a save, but that one will not break the game. Doubling strikes and setting the range at close is powerful - as is a strike that curses a target to receive damage equal to what it inflicts - thankfully of the same type. Still - nasty and also open for abuse, though to a lesser extent. Imho, such a maneuver should have a caveat that precludes AoE-damage from being reflected multiple times. The capstone covers a save-or-suck strike that imprisons the target's soul - yeah, ouch. Cool imagery, though. Shattered Mirror is an odd discipline in that it imposes, much like Blue Mage/Mimic-style-classes, a task on the GM - namely one that should be *very* aware of the potential of NPC/Monster abilities being hijacked. This does not need to be an issue, but it could be one since that type of foresight usually is not required - and yes, I can see a GM walk face first into a brick wall here.
I maintain, though, that integrating a scaling-mechanism into the ability-hijacks would help maintain a balance for less experienced GMs.
Much like Cursed Razor, I really like this discipline - though, once again, there are some maneuvers herein that can, even in Path of War's context need a serious whack with the nerf-bat and restrictions - still, very much more refined and versatile than what I've seen so far and, especially regarding the design-aesthetics, closer to the conventions of PFRPG. This does feel more like an offering belonging to PFRPG for me.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant formal glitches. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes with nice artworks (partially stock) and is fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes in two versions, with a second one being more printer-friendly.
So, I was not looking forward to reviewing this. Path of War was a colossal amount of work and ended up, in spite of me trying to be very clear regarding my gripes and issues with the system, a controversial review. I honestly wondered whether I should review Path of War Expanded at all since the fans seemed to, at least partially, not want any criticism of the system and since the detractors just wanted me to bash it - neither of which ultimately was my intent. In the end, when Dreamscarred Press sent me the file, I admired the company's integrity and figured "What the hell."
I pulled out my copy and scheduled playtests for the material herein. Granted, playtests whose announcement did not elicit much excitement from my players, but when I actually read and ran this one, it turned out to be a thoroughly interesting class - my favorite in the whole series, in fact. The harbinger feels distinct, very distinct - more so than the original Path of War-classes. It is also, thankfully, bereft of any infinite-healing exploits ( with the exception of the Crimson Countess, who can be kitten'd and does get fast healing in blood pool form, but only late in the game), streamlines obsolete mechanics away and instead incorporates the heritage, including mechanics, in a frame that fits more organically with the PFRPG-rules. Chris Bennett and Jade Ripley have, on a formal level, created so far the best Path of War-class out there that has the most refined design-aesthetics. No make-believe damage types, no easy +20 atk.-exploits...nice.
That being said, purists may want to be aware of the very much annoying need to still specify what is "cursed" - which, ultimately, alas, could devolve in the final book into yet another inorganic make-believe term that requires massive revision on part of the GM like the loathsome '*&%§$ that is holy/unholy damage. Let's hope the definition does not go this route. EDIT, since two people have made this observation: Yes, I am aware of Cursed Razor specifying what "cursed" is in the intro-text of the discipline. Alas, there are a couple of issues with that: The cursed condition has no direct effects, which is a violation of how conditions work. Secondly, the term "cursed" is already heavily used in Pathfinder in a context where it does NOT pertain to effects of Cursed Razor, rendering the referring to the "condition" somewhat problematic. In order to future-proof this beast and render it less ambiguous, I'd strongly suggest a fixed definition of the condition set apart from the discipline as well as a new name for the condition that is not already assigned to a plethora of contexts. Or at least very specific referrals towards the condition as specified, as opposed to the other meanings of the word.When e.g. a boost refers to "when you initiate this boost you gain a +1 luck bonus to AC for each cursed opponent within medium range (100 feet + 10 feet per level), up to a maximum bonus of +5." there is no mention of the cursed condition, which creates a gaping loophole.
And yes, much like previous Path of War classes, the optimization threshold for the classes is pretty much non-existent - you *will* get a *very* efficient character out of this without needs to optimize; If you do, you'll get a beast, which also remains one of the reasons I am pretty much convinced that, as much as I like this class, the harbinger will not fit into low-powered games.
The harbinger is a fun glass cannon/controller/skirmisher-hybrid that plays very much like a magus on steroids that specializes in actually effective skirmishing tactics over move-into-melee and kill, something the PFRPG-rules usually discourage. Now yes, the class does have some balance-streamlining issues - the escalated save DCs are NASTY and blow the saves against the maneuvers to a point that is beyond what I'm comfortable with, even in a Path of War context. So yes, I do believe that there is some streamlining to be done here. At the same, I have to applaud that the archetypes actually radically change the playing experience. This pdf, essentially, constitutes very much what I hoped to see from the get-go from the series. Would I allow the class in a regular power-level game? No! The harbinger is a debuff monster that can be very nasty and its overall optimization-requirements are very, very low. But I actually *will* do the work to nerf it for use in my game. Why?
Because I genuinely like the concept of the class and because the new disciplines have some pretty unique tricks I will use for monster special abilities etc. and to make some REALLY nasty adversaries. Plus, I am actually going to use this class in more high-powered games for adversaries, since none of the design-decisions create a frame I can't fix or modify to suit my needs. So yes, this can be considered a good class, one that borders, in the context of Path of War, on the edge of greatness. And as a reviewer, I absolutely applaud what this pdf represents!
At the same time, I still am very much conscious of this class being not for every group - if what you observed in Path of War galled you to no end in components that pertained to balance as opposed to those related to design-aesthetics, then this will still not be made for you.
Now if the minor hiccups are cleaned up and with minor filing off of rough patches to streamline some unbalanced components, this has the potential to be glorious. My final verdict, after much deliberation, clocks in at 4 stars, mainly due to the balance-concerns I still have, even in a Path of War context. Note that, much like the original Path of War, this amps up the power-curve of your game and if you're conservative regarding PC-balance and interaction with established concepts (or if you're playing gritty low fantasy etc.), you should detract a star, though all herein is more refined than the first book. Consider my interest for the series reignited!
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Also: Thanks for the linkage, Insain! :)
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This pdf clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So, in case you're not 100% sure - yes, this is an April's Fools product. And yes, I'm reviewing it in August. Sad, but better late than never, right? So this begins with a basic, humorous introduction of poles - both in the game worlds and in real life. Let me go on a slight tangent here: If you do not know 10-foot-poles, they are perhaps the source of more anecdotes and prevented PC-death in old-school gaming than any other item. They also are the punch-line of more dirty jokes than rods of lordly might - and in case you're new school and never got see their awesomeness in action, take a look at 2 pages of long (and surprisingly viable!) suggestions on how to use these poles and potentially prevent your character's death - you'll never want to leave your home without your trusty pole.
I'm sorry. I'll put a buck in the groaner joke jar. So, during the years, 10-foot poles, their usefulness undisputed and tried and tested by more adventurers in varying degrees of success, have obviously spawned an array of variants, many of which can be found herein - from butterfly nets with which you can capture those annoying pixies to balancing poles, there are quite a few nice variants to be found - of course, including the 11-foot pole for the customer who goes one step beyond. This also includes folding poles and the combat ladder - an exotic weapon with the brace, blocking, disarm, grapple, monk, performance, reach and trip qualities. Overpowered? Perhaps. But -6 to atk and CMB when using it sober are at least some nice drawbacks. I just wished the basic drunkeness rules of PFRPG were better. If you actually plan on using this weapon, I'd strongly suggest using it with Raging Swan Press' rules for barroom brawls and tie it to the hammered condition featured in that book. Technology Guide-based hydraulic poles, vermin attracting giant toothpicks, stilts - the mundane objects herein, while not always perfectly balanced, generally fall within the purview of being rather well-crafted indeed.
Of course, some poles are magical, they grow when... Ouch. Yes, I'll stop. Sorry. Must be the summer heat BBQing my brain. *puts another dime in the groaner jar* Here, we can find bandolier containing toothpicks that can extend to proper poles; Decoy poles with hats etc. on top that act as protection from arrows. Poles with continuous flames on top; those that behave like a compass needle pr one that can be transformed in a cat with a limited movement radius. No, this pun was not one of my creation! What about a robe containing multiple useful poles? Hej, my clothes...OUCH. Yes, I'll stop.
One step beyond these, there also are cursed poles - petulant ones that refuse to properly modify; magnetic ones...or what about the pole-ka, which is best combined with playing Weird Al instrumentals irl? Yes, the poles here are genuinely funny. What about an intelligent limbo pole that acts as a one-way portal through walls...if you can limbo under it, becoming progressively harder? There even are mythic poles herein, and I'm not talking about...Ouch. *puts another one in the jar*
What about the Staff of Sun Wukong (aka Son Goku?) Yes, cool. The giant stick bug, which may also act as a familiar, makes for a nice additional creature, before we dive into the new bard archetype, the pole dancer. Pole dancers replace bardic knowledge with a battle dance - with the effects only affecting the pole dancer and initiation actions required scaling. They also are masters of fighting with ten-foot poles, gaining dex to atk and damage with them and allowing them to treat the weapons as other types regarding damage. The overall slight decrease in power is offset by an increased capacity to use alluring abilities and the ability to substitute Perform (Dance) for Acrobatics, making them save that skill-investment.
At higher levels, battle dancing pole dancers are treated as hasted and in an interesting way, they may quicken spells by expending move actions while casting spells. Powerful defensive dances that heal damage and moving while making attacks and the capstone nets an attack versus all foes in range during any point of a move. The pole dancer is an interesting archetype I very much like concept-wise. At the same time, it suffers from some issues - it is not clear whether battle dance is gained in addition to bardic performance or replaces it - I assume the latter, since the former would be pretty OP. Conversely, I assume the battle dances have a round-cap akin to performance, but the ability doesn't specify it, which is a pity. Some of the other abilities also sport minor ambiguities that can be problematic, the most glaring component here would be the absence of weapon statistics for the 10-foot pole. I assume an improvised large weapon, but I'm not sure. On a nitpicky side, the archetype also switches genders mid-sentence, which I consider supremely annoying.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - some entries sport font-changes and there are some minor hiccups in the rules-language here and there. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color two-column standard with nice, stock artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a detriment regarding the convenient use of this pdf in my book.
Quite a team has worked on this one: Ismael Alvarez, Jeff Gomez, J. Gray, garrett Guilotte, Kiel Woeell, Taylor Hubler, Lucus Palosaari, Matt Roth, Jessie Staffler, Jeffrey Swank - surprisingly, now, this does not translate to a feeling of disparate voices.
I did not expect much from this book and was positively surprised - yes, this is a joke offering; and yes, not all content herein may be perfect. But this book actually manages to be something only a few roleplaying books achieve - genuinely funny. Beyond this rare achievement, portal limbo poles are a stroke of genius and quite a few other ideas herein a delightful, playful and, best of all - feel magical. Whimsical even. While, alas, due to aforementioned glitches and minor hiccups, I can't rate this among the highest echelons of my rating system, this still very much is a good, and more importantly, fun offering and thus well worth a final verdict of 4 stars - oh, and you can get it as a "Pay what you want"-book, so no reason not to check this out!
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
All very good suggestions I'd also wholeheartedly recommend - especially the Book of Monster Templates sees use all the time in my game! There is also no way past Beasts of the Boundless Blue regarding aquatic foes.
- 20 Variant Wordgs & 20 Variant Red Dragons by Rite Publishing
If you're going for a Japanese-inspired setting and want to add some horror, I also strongly suggest you check out Rite Publishing's Kaidan product line. It's pretty much glorious. The #30 Haunts...-series also pretty much still is my reference for haunts.
I agree that conversion to 5th edition *can* work pretty smoothly; as long as you do not have specific mechanical features required by the plot; in my home-game, I convert adventures from all kinds of systems. Would I publish these conversions professionally? No. Because one can always handwave things behind the screen in one's home-group. The same does not hold true once an adaptation hits the shelves. Difficulty-curve is another factor that may not be an issue at home, but in a commercial module, it can become problematic; it doesn't have to, but it can. Imho, the implicit capabilities of PFRPG vs. 5th editions are just as pronounced as those to 13th Age - they are just more subtle. But that's just my 2 cents. :)
However, the question pertained to multi-stat modules and I maintain that everyone is better off with proper conversions done.
Your example absolutely works; I have Achtung, Cthulhu! and Delta Green and I'd argue it only works because they're both a SETTING that caters to two different playstyles:
a) Pulp action with a bit of Cthulhu-painting/theme, as supported by Savage Worlds
b) Brutal horror as supported by CoC.
This dual synergy, however, only works because both systems already support the theme.
I own both CoC's "No Man's Land" and the superior German version "Niemandsland und Grabenkrieg", the latter of which sported actually GOOD wartime Chulhu-modules, albeit in WW I; so war + cthulhu already exists - kind of, in CoC.
That being said, as you know, there is a pretty hard divide between CoC-fans regarding what modules should be - pulp vs. investigative/purist. The system does support both concepts and it uses the same-ish magic, just tinkers with the repercussions. And that's what Delta Green and Achtung, Cthulhu! do.
The problem shows up when one writes a module and thinks one can simply exchange mechanics in system A for those of system B and all works out. A simple example for a *minor* issue would be CoC's sanity vs. ToC's sanity and stability-system. A more major one would be the design-aesthetics of failing forward versus hitting a dead-end in a particular investigation.
I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm saying that it does show issues very fast and makes fans pay for content/word-count they'll never use.
I also think that a multi-system approach pretty much works best with settings and source-books, but NOT with adventures; for the latter, I'd pretty much advise in favor of a proper conversion for each system, especially with rules-intense games like PFRPG, 13th Age, et al.
Now granted, I have not yet read the more complex, newer Achtung Cthulhu modules (for the record, I was not impressed AT ALL by the pre-KS-offerings, which, to me, felt like a complete, thematic mess - unlike the books that came out of the KS...), so you may well have pwn'd me there, but I can't really see the duality of systems work well for adventures in the context of Parsantium for the suggested systems.
The sobering reply is: There are none.
This has a reason, which becomes pretty much apparent when you take a look at the finer details of adventure design for a given system. Not only do the capacities of PCs oscillate between systems, so do the assumption of what they'll be capable of and how the very world works.
Whether it's flight or divination, assumptions when abilities become apparent or even structuring elements of the power of classes and their options, different systems have different design requirements.
To give you a more concrete example:
Pathfinder is pretty much about the nit and grit of plentiful and small options, of grid-based tactical movement in combat. 13th Age consciously gets rid of that, making abilities etc. work completely differently. Level-structure is different. Versatility is different. PFRPG sports quadratic casters, 13th Age (and 4th edition) is closer to being linear.
Utility magic and assumptions of availability thereof differ VASTLY. Same goes for healing and for what magic can or can't do.
Then, there would be general design paradigms - PFRPG's small bonus tracking and mechanics-crafting versus 5th Ed.'s simpler and less math-intense go-play aspects that require less detail-tracking.
This does not necessarily look like a big issue; it is once you start actually designing the finer bits of a given module and the issue is continuously exacerbated with each level anyone gains - be it PCs or NPCs.
The collective of these discrepancies accumulates a momentum that makes it very hard to tell a believable story that works within the rules-paradigms of all systems - even 2 can already be a jarring mess. I've recently read quite a bunch of 5th Ed and 13th Age material, for example - and the systems work differently.
So yeah, I'd *strongly* advise against multi-statblock modules for several systems at once. It's is system-inherently impossible for the quality not to drop. Additionally, you'll have, by necessity, have your customers pay for pages of a system that they neither want to use, nor care about.
Earlier AAW Games' modules had dual stats for 3.5 and PFRPG and even in 2 systems so closely related, there were sometimes issues in the narrative cohesion. Now think of how that would work in systems that are further away -even if thematically linked, a 1:1 conversion between Call of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu requires modification of the module's assumptions, in spite of setting and topic being the same.
Thinking that one can just cram in the mechanical bits and make it work in all systems may seem like a feasible assumption; in practice, it does not survive contact with reality.
I'd strongly advise against multi-stat modules in favor of full-blown conversions - there, I *can* actually point you towards my favorite conversion EVER:
Kobold Press - Courts of the Shadow Fey. Ben McFarland did a superb job in converting it from 4th edition to PFRPG.
Beyond that, there'd be EN Publishing's Zeitgeist AP, which is dual-format for 4th edition and PFRPG. Surely, an AP I rate this high does work, right? Actually, no.
Why? Zeitgeist cheats. I don't mind that it cheats, but what the AP does is that it tailor-made its campaign-world so that it imposes rules-restrictions that make PFRPG operate closer to how 4th edition works. This is the ONLY reason the AP works and does not collapse under the narrative ramifications of the system-differences. It's logically consistent, but since you branded Parsantium as a drop-in city-setting, I do not think you want to alienate customers by going this route and tell them to modify their cosmology and basic rules.
Just my 2 cents, of course.
Part II of my review is in the product discussion:
My emotional response, as much as I love the sheer smarts of the module, how it plays etc., still considers this somewhat inferior to Richard Develyn's best works. Mind you, that does not say much - Richard's modules have continuously scored my highest possible accolades and even made the number 1 spot of my Top Ten of a given year; I'm complaining here at a level that most authors cannot dream to reach.
Why? Well, while I do not require a breath-taking story-line, it remains a huge plus and this one, with its subtext being so layered, has the main story suffer a bit; if you do not care for semiotics and symbolism, you'll miss out on some of the module's appeal, since the basic plot is pretty simple. Secondly, the subtext and diversified theme of the module ultimately render the encounters themselves hazy, dreamlike - a good GM can make them feature in a manner that will remind you of the logic of dreams, hence also my reference to "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs" before. (If you require a less pretentious allusion: Picture a symbolism akin to the one of the original "Death Bed, the Bed that Eats," only less convoluted, game-themed and skippable via "I attack it." and similar methods.)
Ultimately, Holy Island is, much like its predecessors, an adventure that can be considered art. However, it is an art that may be less accessible in its entirety than previous modules. The non-analyzing way to play this beast, obviously grounded in Silver Age comic-book aesthetics, is something, alas, utterly and completely lost on me, for while I recall my enjoyment regarding that time of my life, I unfortunately completely lack the psychological capability to access this memory through the haze of nostalgia goggles due to my excellent memory.
One could say that the regular way, the standard running and reading experience of this module is just as lost to me as my overblown analysis of the subtext above may be lost on some of you out there. What ultimately makes me still consider this a superb module, in spite of its glitches, is the fact that it can be read, run and enjoyed as nostalgia-driven pop-corn cinema or as an intellectual exercise - or as anything in-between. This module is odd, but I am exceedingly glad it exists.
So if you do check this out, run it before shaking your head and walking off - you may just be surprised in more than one way. My final verdict will, pretty much exclusively due to the quality of the writing here, still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of an alarming rate of minor glitch-increases. I've been thinking quite a bit on whether to make this a candidate for my top ten of 2015 - but in the end, I will do so; not necessarily due to me particularly liking the plot or set-up, but due to the achievement in generating a unique feeling, mood and theme that I can sincerely call a jamais-vu-experience. Check it out - it's only 4 dollars, after all, and I'm confident you won't find a module this strange and unique at this price-point.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
This was moved up on my queue at the request of my players.
The prologue-adventure for Legendary Games' Sword and Planet-AP clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial introduction leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
While this module is designed to act as a prequel for the massive Legendary Planet AP, it also easily works on its own. The following being a review of an adventure, the following does contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Whether to reclaim family property, at the behest of a seer or due to some other hook, the PCs find that their first journey has brought them to the otherwise pretty unremarkable village of Holver's Ferry (fully mapped, btw.) - but even at the ferry leading into the town, across a swift river leading into lake Shimmermere - alas, the drunken ferryman has no good fate in store: While he tried to quarantine the village, he failed - and he is about to pay the price, as psychotic villagers hack him apart. Oh yes, enter the PCs. Unresponsive and clearly driven mad, the PCs have to defeat the bloodthirsty villagers in a thematic callback that made me remember Resident Evil 4 - in all the right ways. Crossing the river one way or another, the impression that Holver's Ferry has been hit by some tragedy pretty much becomes apparent.
A sense of apocalyptic dread, piece by piece, encounter by encounter, will slowly seep into the consciousness of PCs and players alike, as a depressed widow endeavors to commit suicide, as they explore abandoned houses that look like their inhabitants have simply evaporated - something is odd. Hanged people dangle from the town's sacred oak and child survivors hide from anyone out there. The local inn shows signs of struggle, of desperate defense - and a man who had locked himself in, now just as bloodthirsty and dangerous as the first farmers encounetred. Things have become so bad that even goblinoids have entered the village. The priest is insane and burning undead can be found among the village's houses - a sense of grim doom has come to Holver's Ferry, and as the PCs find the halfling berserker (berserker Zimm - boy did I laugh when reading that one!), the gnome apothecary who retained his wits or draw the conclusions due to the hints left in the sheriff's office - the dread mystery needs to be solved.
This sandboxy horror section is well-presented and offer multiple means to draw the PCs further into the topics, whereafter the trail leads towards the Orphanage of mother Oddle. You see, what has happened here is an unlikely and far-out scenario: An invader from another world has engineered a mind-reprogramming bio weapon, the eponymous assimilation strain. Alas, the targeted viral strain's first iteration proved to yield a temporary, highly infectious burn-out rate and chaotic, terrible symptoms - the ones the PCs have witnessed firsthand in the horror at the town. The dread invader, a vanguard of the planned invasion, has since perfected a better strain of the virus and infected one powerful lumberjack, Silam Oddle - controlled by a disgusting, black tumor-like lump at the back of his neck, the PCs can save him, yes - but perhaps they have to take the poor man down. Beyond that, have I mentioned that his mother's mummified remains still remain in her room? Yes, creepy.
Rexel, the gnome alchemist, in the meanwhile, has probably gone missing, abducted by an adherer made from the remains of the town's erstwhile, missing sheriff. The trail leads towards Arvarenhode Manor's ruins, where the catacombs await under the rubble - provided the PCs can best the deadly creatures inhabiting the upper part of the ruins (the 4 areas of which are btw. the only ones not mapped - the catacombs themselves sport, once again, a neat full-color map). In the catacombs, the PCs may save Rexel, battle the adherer and navigate a complex inhabited by a cool, uncommon selection of adversaries, with thematically-awesome descriptions and rooms. Finally, defeating the xoraphond creature behind the dread conflict ends the jagladine empire's invasion plan, while also providing a first taste of the things to come. The pdf concludes with alien technology (Technology Guide-compatible) and the new creature and two templates provided.
Editing and formatting are very good - apart from some minor typos, I noticed nothing significant that detracts from my experience. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column standard that is still pretty printer-friendly, with copious amounts of full-color high-quality artworks for each major player in the storyline. It should also be noted that the layout does not try to generate more pages by wide margins - there is a lot of information on each page, making the module more detailed and longer than you'd expect from most modules of this page-count - in my playtest, it took my exceedingly fast group 2 sessions to clear this module. About 90% of 32-page modules tend to be finished in 1 session, so yeah - quite a bunch of content. Cartography is beautiful and plentiful - though my only gripe with this module would be that I would have LOVED to see play-friendly maps included; you know, the ones without keys and hotspots so you can cut out the dungeon map and hand it to your players, so you can just take the village map, slap it on the table and ask where the PCs head. The adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Tom Phillips has, slowly but surely, become one of my go-to authors regarding any scenario that provides horror, challenge and mystery - he knows his craft. Add Neil Spicer and the duo has created one awesome, damn cool low-level module that is challenging, potentially a bit disturbing and interesting. With a diverse, uncommon array of enemies that never falls into the bland 1st level routines, a mix of sandbox and dungeon-exploration, this module provides quite a bunch of cool ideas. The best component of this module, to me, is a more ephemeral one, though: The pacing of this module is impeccable. Horror and mystery, both as genres, hinge on timing and means of creating suspense, of build-ups and gradual escalation -and this module gets this component perfectly.
As a GM, you can obviously just spoon-feed the information to your PCs via various proxies, but not only are there multiple ways of unearthing the truth, there are several red herrings - and in my playtest, I kept as much information as possible opaque, making my players draw the conclusions themselves. Now if the players get stumped, you still have several means of putting them on track within the logic of the module. Furthermore, the module has ample instances wherein heroes can be heroes and actually save lives - an approach I always welcome in modules.
I honestly did not expect the prologue to Legendary Planet to be a mystery, much less one that is this good; whether played for weirdness or downright horror, this module makes clear from the get-go that it's not your standard fantasy fare. But only in hindsight. As a piece of advice: Don't tell your players necessarily that this will be a sword & planet module. There are several themes that make for delightful red herrings in the hands of a capable GM, making the realization of what is truly going on have even more of an impact.
The assimilation strain is an excellent module and a furious first in the series, one that makes me very happy I've been able to back the kickstarter. With great production values and content that must be considered awesome, this module is a great way to kick off the AP, one that has me stoked to see what's in store for us. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
As per the writing of this review, the Assimilation Strain is not available yet to the general public - however, you can get it before its public release by backing the post-kickstarter funding of the Legendary Planet AP (and make the final book even more awesome) - here is the link to LG's page and how to get in!
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here. Will post it at the product's page in the usual places once it becomes available to the general public.
As for me, I'd love to see:
A Native American-inspired setting. NOT Wild West, but full-blown age of myth.
An African fantasy setting. There is not ONE such supplement out there for PFRPG.
South-American fantasy inspired by Aztecs, Mayans, etc.
All of those, when done right, would be instant buys for me.
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are excellent, especially considering the size of this massive book - on both a rules-language and a formal level. Layout is the one component of this book I positively loathe - each page has wide margins left and right, above and below, which also sport colored graphics in the background. Not only does this mean that this pdf takes more pages when printing it out, it also drains more printer. I don't understand why the fragmented artwork, mostly obscured by the main area of text anyway, still remains - it has NO FUNCTION and does not look good: What help is half an elven lady's head o the left side? The only thing this does is distract me from the text and wonder why the artwork has been cropped into the borders. Urgh. On the plus side, you will be hard-pressed to find a 3pp-pdf with such a vast density of qualitatively high full-color artworks: Jacob Blackmon's distinct style is evident in every artwork and renders a sense of visual cohesion to this pdf that somewhat serves to offset the layout faux-pas. So kudos to master Blackmon! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive nested bookmarks for your convenience.
The author-collective/roleplaying think-tank called the The Four Horseman, consisting of Steven T. Helt, Stephen Rowe and Dan Dillon have a reputation with me - why? Because their templates rank among the very few monster books that still elicit excitement from me. Let's face it - with over 2000 reviews and most 3.X monster books by 3pps at my place, I've read more monsters than I probably should have. I still have all those second edition appendices and still remember the time when monsters were defined by story, not just mechanics. PFRPG's current development, at least in the 3pp-market, has thankfully moved away from the bland reconfiguration of mechanics towards unique and compelling creatures - but still, at one point or another, you have just seen SO MUCH. You get déjà-vus ALL THE TIME.
Where am I going with this rant? Well, usually it falls to Rite Publishing's complex builds or Legendary Games' unique mythic abilities to provide this sense of the exciting and new to me. This pdf manages exactly this feeling as well. Once you've read a certain amount of books, you get a kind of radar for when an author phones in a creature. You won't find that in here. Indeed, it can be considered stupefying how many unique tricks can be found in this massive bestiary/toolbox- for this is exactly that: A huge kit to render constructs relevant and exciting, a smart book full of inspired concepts that reward brains. Now the toolkit aspect, imho, is also a minor flaw of this book - for as inspired as I consider the monster/item sections, I would lie when claiming that I was blown away by races or archetypes.
The player-centric material, while solid, just does not have the space and detail to shine - from missing FCOs to traits, age, height and weight-tables etc., it is evident that these components are bonuses that have been included to make this a definite resource - and in the end, at least to me, they detracted more from the book than they added to it. Why? Because the other components, from the expanded animated object options to the mythic abstraction golems universally reach a level of quality only seldom seen in a bestiary, much less so in one with such an excellent bang-for-buck-ratio. It is against this backdrop of stellar concepts that anything "only" good seems infinitely less compelling. So, at least for players, this is perhaps not the revelation that it most definitely is for GMs.
The golems and options here are varied, unique and inspired - and were all components of this book as awesome (and the borders not as &%$§$), this would be a candidate for my top ten. As written, it remains one STELLAR, huge book that showcases well the reason why the Four Horsemen have developed a following in such a short time. This belongs in the library of any GM looking to make golems interesting and fun...and, most of all: Versatile. This is one of the best monster books I've read in ages and demands 5 stars + seal of approval - and rest assured in a book of a lesser quality, my rant on layout et al. would have been much more pronounced. Here, though, both that and the aforementioned pieces just are swallowed by awesomeness. Get this!
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com'shop.
You and me, Insain. Michael is not only talented, he also has a very open mind regarding feedback and a keen eye when it's warranted and when not.
Also, on a personal level, I have never felt like I was wasting my breath when interacting with him - you don't get inherently flawed arguments when discussing with him. This ability to distance one's self from one's work is a crucial skill of any designer.
Oh, and thanks for the kind words! :)
@Frank: Indeed, it shows - I'll take high-concepts over perfection any day and this one is VERY close to working perfectly, so kudos!
Okay, so the charioteer saw use last session in my main-campaign, when a PC's charioteer cohort took to the field during a massive incursion of over 1000 Undead suffused by necrotic flames sought to burn a northern frontier town (AAW Games' Rybalka) to the ground. The PCs had 2 hours to prepare for the onslaught and made the whole village essentially one gigantic death trap - they had the people erect haphazard barricades, sniper nests on the roofs and created impromptu traps galore - all went pretty well for the PCs until I unleashed 4 massive, unique and templated undead elementals as well as a stamped of blackfire mammoths on the barricades, whereupon they collapsed like cinder and the retreating battle began.
The charioteer was exceedingly awesome in providing PC mobility - beyond trampling the lesser undead and cleaving paths through the horde, hard veering brakes that catapulted the paladin/swordmaster hybrid right into the face of a mammoth, had him, Smite-crit the beast and then, run from the collapsing carcass to jump right at the 18 ft. Gravestone-infused Earth-elemental while the charioteer crashed into its legs would probably constitute the high points of this archetype's use during the combat. :)
Part II of my review:
The second PrC is the Obsidian Knight gets full BAB-progression, medium fort-and will-saves, 7/10th spellcasting progression, d10, 2+Int skills per level and require both 2nd level divine spellcasting and a cavalier's order as prerequisites. They do not gain any weapon or armor proficiencies. Obsidian knights receive elemental channel as a bonus feat, affecting all types of elementals, usable 3+Cha-mod times per day. If you already have channel energy, instead add +3 uses of channel energy instead. The PrC also can use this to generate an aura that increases the weight of metal armor etc. to make the targets suffer heavy encumbrance for Cha-mod rounds. The obsidian knight can also use this to conjure forth thin walls of earth that work as stationary tower shields and his weapons can receive obsidian-based benefits to weapon enhancement as well as the ability to react to being hit by elemental spells by adding the appropriate weapon quality temporarily. Bull rushes in a straight line, very lethal caltropy shard-fields and a potentially ray-deflecting shield complement this PrC further. Guess what - I really, really like this earth-related PrC. Kudos!
The Rime Reaver gets d10, 2+Int skills, no new proficiencies, full BAB-progression, 1/2 fort and will-save progression, 7/10th spellcasting progression. At 2nd level, the rime reaver gets cold resistance 5, which increases by +5 every two levels thereafter, stacking with the bloodline power. Jup, this is intended to work as a conjunction of sorceror and cavalier. The PrC replaces the companion with a polar bear and stacks class levels with sorc levels for purposes of bloodline powers. 3rd level nets a weapon of ice that is treated as adamantine, dealing half damage as cold damage and as a capstone, the companion becomes mythic. Once again, a solid PrC with some cool imagery.
The pdf also provides a new order for cavaliers, the order of the bow. members of this order may apply challenge benefits to ranged attacks when mounted and attacking someone within 30 ft. and obviously, is a ranged specialist. At high levels, they may shoot targets of charges of allies as immediate actions. A nice order.
The pdf also sports a +2 equivalent enchantment that enhances trip and disarm and adds free trip to crits. The pdf also provides stats for jousting lance tips, better tethers and an alchemical goo that frightens mounts. Resting saddles and standing saddle stirrups also provide for nice items.
Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed some instances of minor flaws in punctuation and missing spell-italicization. Layout adheres to Flying Pincushion Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf provides some solid full-color artworks, ranging from neat to stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
The cavalier has a troubled history in my games - while I love the concept of the class, there is no other base-class that has this bad a ratio for player agenda - you choose mount and order and that's about it. Not particularly compelling as a chassis to work from. That being said, this pdf manages to provide some form of flexibility with several of the options provided herein and enhance the base-class with several distinctly fun and high-concept archetypes and class options, widening the limited scope of the base class.
Frank Gori, Jeff Harris, Taylor Hubbler, Jason Linker, Andrew Hoskins, Kiel Howell, Jacob Michaels, Richard Litzkow, Mikko Kallio, Mark Nordheim - congratulations! Why? Because this is one review I very much enjoyed writing. The "Into the Breach"-series took a bad beating from yours truly with some of the installments, but this here is a huge step forward. Where before, even simple rules-language sported issues here and there, this one feels infinitely more refined. Indeed, if there are glitches to be found herein, they often can be mitigated by a capable DM and/or stem from daring to tackle some rather complex options. Now, as you can glean from the above, this pdf is certainly not perfect, but it works much, much better than any book in the series I've read so far. To the point where both charioteer and briar knight (though the letter with nerfed tanglevine strike and some finetuning) will make appearances in my campaign. The majority of the content herein is solid and there are glimmers of brilliance here and there that make me confident in Flying Pincushion Games further improving to become truly awesome. While not perfect, I value the high concepts higher than the problems and consider this pdf a fun addition to one's games and thus will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
I've been asking for prioritized reviews over at patreon and provided updates and the like accordingly both there and on my homepage. I apologize if that is not transparent enough and try to do better. I will explain exactly what "prioritized review" means on both my homepage and patreon. So far, contacting me via homepage and patreon seems to have worked rather well for my patreons...at least, I hope so.
The tl;DR-version is: I ask at the beginning of a month for prioritized reviews on patreon. I do my best to get them done in a month. If something takes longer, I tell the patreon.
Regarding stacking: Generally, no. The level of patronage for prioritized reviews is constant; If a patron elects to ask for only "small" files, I'll provide more than one. But as per the writing of this, I do not consider stacking more than one request for prioritizing a valid option - I'm glad if someone wants to contribute more than the amount I asked for, but that's pretty much it. Things get too muddy if I try to scale multiple people. If, for example, two people told me they'd want the same review prioritized, I'd tell one to please choose another book, since it is already covered.
Now as far as a google.docs-list is concerned, I will dig into that - the suggestion is solid and I think it is worthwhile, though admittedly, I'm somewhat weary of it - say I can't decide whether a product in the top spot should get 4 or 5 stars and think I need more playtesting to fairly judge it. Another scenario would be a day, where I have crunch overload and need some fluffy supplements to recharge my batteries because my concentration is tanked on a given day - as soon as there's a concrete list with numbered spots, that flexibility is lost and I'd spend a lot of time justifying my actions, because, let's face it, I'd be annoyed when someone told me I was next up and then had to see another product be released before that. I think time I'd take to justify that would be better invested in writing reviews.
As I'm writing this, I have finished 2 prioritized reviews for June and am in the process of finishing 2 more, which will all hit site in time before July.
These are, in sequential order:
Flying Pincushion Games - Into the Breach: Cavaliers
Regarding certified reviewers: I like the idea, but at the same time, it's a problematic notion since I can't really take responsibility for the actions of other people...will ruminate on that.
Thanks for all the suggestions!
Racial perks! More perks for people who don't want cohorts/followers. (Hey, almost every table has one of those guys, right?) Perks for the air! Perks for the sea! I second the option for perks for dynasties. Technology perks! Pact Magic perks! Psionic perks! Story-perks! (Perks that work like story feats, unlocking their full potential once a given task is accomplished!)
Suffice to say, you achieved this goal! You write analytical, informative reviews, with this one being particularly good. Kudos! And thanks for the props!
Now HotJO - oh boy, that one was WORK; I think the doc was 14 pages long and I reviewed it thrice: Once for AE, once for PFRPG and then again for the revised PFRPG-version. Glad the work paid off for you! :D
Part II of my massive review:
The 7th level also nets the demiurge the option to create a thesis facsimile, a facsimile with a limited free will and a buffing aura and yes, they may heal allies via reclaimed quintessence.
Now to get back to the enlightenments I mentioned in the beginning? Take Agathon - this enlightenment has the final quintessence cost of facsimiles reduced by 1/4 class level and get a 6th slot, which costs half as much. At 2nd level, one can have one free facsimile with only 4 slots and a significantly-reduced effective level of class level -3, while also allowing for some on the fly modification. Artifice demiurges can create objects, while befuddlement allows for the creation of shadow facsimiles - in case you haven't noticed - each of the 6 enlightenments provided radically changes the way in which the class plays. The capstone is an interesting apotheosis, at least as far as that type of capstone goes. The bonus content covers 11 sample facsimiles. I adore the demiurge class - it is a thing of mechanical beauty, vast options and is utterly, completely unique. With all those pet-classes out there, it still is more unique and interesting and while it only belongs into the hands of experienced players, it is GLORIOUS. Any fan of classes with customization options and complex tricks needs to take a good luck at this class - a piece of advice: Just make a sample character. It makes *getting* the class rather easy and seriously, I don't get what the hassle is regarding the complexity of this class. It's not simple, sure, but it is damn rewarding and I can't bring myself to bash it for one ability with a wonky exploit due to a wording ambiguity. I adore this class and playtest showed it works in awesome ways - though, as a piece of advice, much like summoners et al., one should make sure the player can run it quickly and doesn't hog the spotlight. Still, probably my favorite class in ages and one that will be very hard to top!
After this complexity beast, the medium is rather simple: At d8, 2+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, good will-saves and 3/4 BAB-progression, the class looks a bit bare-bones. As a full-round action, the medium may channel spirits and let herself be possessed by her spirit companion as a full-round action, the duration clocking in at 4 hours, starting at 5th level instead for 1 hours per medium level. Interaction with being killed etc. is covered aptly by the wording, including memories etc. A medium can channel spirits equal to Cha-mod timer per day and the effect cannot be blocked by regular possession-preventing magic. The medium can use a standard action to provide minor bonuses and she may use séances to duplicate augury. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the class receives a revelation chosen from a limited list, interacting with their ability to channel spirits and utilize séances - here, an alternate nomenclature to make them deviate from the oracle's revelations would probably have been in order. So, the spirit companion...this is the defining class feature of the medium and shares your ability modifiers and hit points; however, the spirit does have class levels - yes, this class can be essentially summed up as gestalt, the character - you can essentially shift between forms and from leadership to spellcasting and psionic powers and feats, the spirit companion is handled pretty neatly - and the capstone allows for a true fusion of the two. Btw.: Yes, the revelations interact with the class choices you make for the spirit companion.
Archetype-wise, there would be one with less powerful spirits, but who receives more spirit companions, one that can be considered an oracle-crossover as well as one that specializes in revelations that interact with the physical world. And yes, there would also be one psionic medium archetype. Eric Morton's Medium is a solid, fun class that especially will be a boon to tables with less players that need to cover more roles. Two thumbs up!
The Metamorph-class with d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and natural attacks, but no armor, good 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and ref-saves and begin play with a maximum number of 3 attacks and an evolution pool of 3 that scales up to 26 at 20th level. Metamorphs also have a built-in natural armor bonus that increases over the levels and ability-increases dispersed over the levels. 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter see bonus feats. 1st level metamorphs may choose their genesis, determining the key-ability modifier for the class and modifying the class skill list. Now unlike some other takes on the evolution-based class framework, a list of phenotypes, which determine ultimately the evolutions that become available for the class - a total of 8 phenotypes are provided and a massive table helps the player determine which evolutions are eligible for the phenotype chosen. Only fey and undying may for example choose the basic magic evolution, whereas only bestial, monstrous or reconstructed metamorphs may learn the trample evolution. A metamorph has 2+class level evolution points, +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Evolutions can be reassigned upon gaining a level. The class also sports 3 archetypes - one that wilders amid sorceror bloodlines/eldritch heritages, while metamorphic abominations may wilder in racial heritages. Finally, the Transmogrifist may wilder in the alchemist's toolbox. We also get a sample level 13 character here.
I honestly was NOT looking forward to yet another evolution-based class - after masquerade reveler, underterror and iron titan, I was simply burned out on them. However, Wojciech Gruchala's metamorph ultimately may be one of the most user-friendly and easy to balance takes on the concept - while I prefer the fluff of the masquerade reveler still, the metamorph may be the most user-friendly take on the concept - with the handy table and restrictions that prevent abuse as well as thanks to the cap of maximum attack and the lack of flexible changes of the basic evolutions chosen. All in all, a solid take on the concept I can't really complain about.
The Mnemonic gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and one weapon of choice, full unarmed strike progression as a monk, 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. Menomincs may execute a standard action to identify one or more feats a target creature possesses by making an Int-check versus 10 + CR, with creatures of a CR greater than the mnemonic's HD further increasing the DC by +3, revealing a scaling amount of feats a target has - the better the check, the more feats are revealed. Why would he waste an action like this beyond the tactical information? Thought Strikes. A mnemonic may execute class level + Int-mod of those per day and they can be executed as part of an attack action - somewhat akin to stunning fist, the targets receive a save, which may see them impeded by escalating negative conditions. Instead, a mnemonic may forego said detrimental conditions and execute a memory theft, to steal a skill bonus or feat for class level rounds.
A mnemonic still has to fulfill the prerequisites of a stolen feat to make use of it and stolen feats only lock down feats that build on the original feat, not those that only have it as a prerequisite. The amount of skill bonuses, feats, etc. a mnemonic can steal at a given time is handled via a nifty table and starting at 5th level, the mnemonic may eliminate spells as well, though without being able to cast them himself. Finally, it should be noted that mnemonics may expend thought strike uses to retain a given stolen feat for 24 hours, though future maintenance of this stolen knowledge progressively erodes the mnemonic's thought theft capacity further, preventing the infinite storing of a stolen feat. now granted, this can be cheesed simply by passing the feat from mnemonic to mnemonic, but in that case, I'd consider it a somewhat interesting plot-point/narrative device and, more importantly, not something that would in itself break the game - so yeah.
Beyond this theft component, a mnemonic of 3rd level may also copy extraordinary abilities and combat feats he has seen in the last 24 hours, with an effective class level decreased by -4, though, thankfully, only for 4+Int-mod rounds per day. High levels allow for the recalling of abilities and even sharing of them, thanks to the nice addition of telepathy-style abilities to the fray. It should also be noted that they may imprint part of their mind into objects, making them essentially intelligent with all the consequences - which is a kind of awesome additional twist for the class. Essentially, this is the brainy monk we know from Anime and WuXia who copies your moves and uses your own tricks against you - and it is more efficient than the woefully underpowered base class thanks to its tricks. Speaking of which - the amnesiac archetype, with its battle trance, hearkens also back to these media and provides a pretty cool alternative to the base concept. Hungry Minds would be evil mnemonics that may heal themselves via thought strikes (limited resource, so kitten-proof), while thought rippers replace the detrimental conditions of regular thought strikes with scaling non-lethal damage. Solid and nice- overall, a fun class - designer Mike Myler did a neat job here!
Next up would be the momenta, pitched by Erik Ottosen and written by the Amor Game-staff, and I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that I haven't seen a class like this before. We all have seen the trope in literature - the faithful, loyal companion that makes the heroes excel, the squire that does the grunt-work - that is the momenta. The class gets 6+Int skills per level (with 2 to be freely chosen as class skills), d, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armor plus shields, 1/2 BAB-progression and good will-saves as well as prepared arcane casting via Int of up to 4th level, from their own spell-list, with the caveat that they can ignore "somatic components of up to 50 gold in value" while holding the book in their hands- I assume that should be material components. Additionally, as written, the momenta incurs spell failure chance for casting in light armor, which she probably shouldn't, seeing how she can only cast spells outside of combat in the first place (but only has a 6 hour required rest for spell memorization). It should be noted that limited spellcasting in combat can be achieved via the class's talents. Momenta of 4th level may cast cure light wounds as an arcane spell by either spending a motivation point or by spontaneously converting one of her spells. And these would be the momenta's central resource: A momenta receives Cha-mod motivation points in the beginning of a battle, +1 per ally that acts before an opponent.
Alas, this mechanic is utterly broken. First of all, it utilizes the nonsense per-encounter mechanic, which makes in-game no sense whatsoever. I've been VERY vocal about that not working, so I'll spare you my usual rant regarding this topic and just point you towards them. Tl; DR: Makes no sense since it is based on a fluid measurement of time rather than a concrete one. Secondly, the system can be gamed due to a lack of definition as to what constitutes an ally - master summoner conjures a lot of creatures with good initiative, momenta doesn't know what to do with this huge amount of points. A clearer definition is definitely in order here. A similar complaint can be fielded about how motivation is used - as a free action, the momenta can add 1d6 to the result of any one of her checks or that of an ally. One, there is some ongoing disparity which type of free action we're talking about - while some free actions can be used out of turn, this does not apply to all free actions - so yes, we have an issue with the base system here the class fails to address. Secondly, shouldn't the ability have some kind of range, audible or visual component? As written, it does not require the like, which feels odd to me. 2 Motivation points can also be used to reroll saving throws or attack rolls as an immediate action - no action-economy complaints here on my part.
A momenta also can utilize motivation via so-called stimuli, essentially the talents of the class, which are either extraordinary or spell-like abilities. These include being able to pay for metamagic with motivation, spell recall and the like - most importantly, though, the stimuli allow for the switching of initiative orders and allows the momenta to let allies act out of turn - an ability that can also be used offensively, by the way. So yes, the momenta per se is very powerful - even before non-stimulus abilities that include tactician and the like. However, the infinite resource of motivations also radiates into the stimuli - with an infinite capacity for encounters (versus infernal kittens, for example), the momenta can use infinite healing by utilizing motivation. So yes, this frame needs a daily cap for healing and a proper, codified time-frame instead of per-encounter.
Now all of this sounds pretty negative and it ultimately, alas, is. However, the basic premise of the class is awesome and while the framework looks weak, a momenta can provide a significant power-boost to a group -even as a cohort, the class excels pretty much. So let me emphasize this: I absolutely adore the concept and the unique tricks the momenta has, but I wished the Amora staff had slightly polished it more; as written, it can easily be fixed, but without fixes, I wouldn't use it. Still - the concept is so unique, so awesome that it is actually one of my favorite classes herein! Yeah, who would have thought? The pdf also provides 2 archetypes, one with less spellcasting and an option to knock out foes a limited amount of times per day and a second one that has limited bardic performances. Solid.
Next up would be the Mystic, who receives d8, 4+Int skills per level and either improved unarmed strikes or weapon focus at 1st level; proficiencies are determined by the elemental path chosen and the class gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as all good saves. They also receive a ki-powered elemental strike (class level + wis-mod) and while they have at least one point of ki, they add wis-mod to AC. Elemental Strikes use the class level as BAB and damage scales up over the levels from 1d6 to 2d8. Ki can also be used for skill-boosts, adding additional attacks to full attacks. The class also receives a mystic talent at 2nd level, +1 every even level thereafter. There would be a higher-level option to make elemental strikes not cost ki anymore, evasions, finesse and the like - a solid kind-of-monkish array, with 10th level expanding the list by advanced talents. The capstone also sports choices, which is nice to see.
Now I mentioned elemental paths - these do not only influence class skills and proficiencies, they also net a basic ability associated with the element. Furthermore, each path provides a significant array of unique talents and 3rd level and every odd level thereafter nets an elemental technique from a list determined by the path, granting either a feat or a ki-powered spell, with DCs, if applicable, being governed by Wis. A total of 4 elemental paths plus the force path are provided, with each of them feeling utterly distinct.
While the force path has a force-blast and ranged combat maneuver-option, the limited range makes that one steer clear of my rant regarding that. The book also sports 3 archetypes - the ancient gets a reflexive reincarnate and sooner access to elemental techniques, but pays more for elemental strikes. Crossroads Mystics receive decreased damage dice for elemental strikes, but gets more ki and can select elemental techniques from all paths, but at higher costs. The final archetype, the kenjin, has more expensive elemental strikes, but gains access to ninja tricks. Alexander Augunas' Mystic has a bit of a flavor-issue with me - I'm utterly burned out on anything elemental-themed and this class is essentially the elemental bender-style character...or the Jedi. I don't like Star Wars. That being said, mechanically, the class is honestly beautiful - I prefer it over qinggong monk and the like and it executes its concept admirably well, with Alex's zen-like ease. At the same time, it has a cool idea - a sidebox talks about retooling the flavor to correspond to the alchemical humors - and the fluff I pretty much adore, which leaves me without any valid gripes to field - making me like a class whose concepts left me with disdain is a huge feat - congratulations!
Sasha Hall pitched the Pauper class, which was then developed by the Amora staff. The pauper gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, 3/4 BAB-progression and good will-saves. Paupers are defined by their two pools - hope and despair. Hope begins play with a maximum of 1 and scales up to 11, with despair beginning play with3 points, scaling up to 13. A pauper can execute a full-round action to turn despair points into hope points. Despair is gained whenever the pauper witnesses an act of strife or desperation, seeing an ally suffer a lethal wound and when witnessing cruel acts. Hope is conversely gained when seeing an enemy fall, acts of kindness etc. When one pool contains more points than the other, the pauper benefits from a unique effect. Paupers may execute nonlethal attacks versus allies to grant the ally a morale bonus. Pretty odd - the pauper can get all "morale, sacred and profane" penalties of allies and draw them upon herself. Only thing is - penalties are untyped, so the ability does not work as intended. Fr each penalty chosen to take upon himself, the pauper gains wis-mod temporary despair points.
The pauper's abilities, alas, at least to me, feel somewhat unfocused - they establish an empathic bond with a limited array of people (somewhat akin to how Dreamscarred Press' psionic networks work). The class also allows for minor healing as well as an aura that can either act as a buffer or a debuffer, depending on which pool is dominant. High-level paupers may transfer abilities from one ally to another, but thankfully with numerical and limited resources being subject to relatively stringent limitations. Strangely, supernatural abilities are not covered by the ability transference. All in all, the pauper has many makings of an interesting class, but it ultimately feels odd in many of its choices - aid another as a move/swift action for points may sound okay...but at 11th level, that's pretty late. The class also is completely linear - there is NO choice to be made here - not even the cavalier has such a small array of player agenda - the abilities, all unique ones, no groups, fall in line as a linear progression, making all paupers essentially the same. Beyond that, the class is dependent on two resources, which, in spite of a side-box, ultimately are highly circumstantial ad thus can only hardly be quantified - and thus, as feared by yours truly, the result will be a lot of arguments about hope and despair. Some tighter definitions would have imho helped here. The pauper gets an archetype with only one pool. Overall, the first class I really didn't like - conceptually, it feels not focused enough and mechanically, I've seen the interaction of fluid pool done better in some Interjection Games-releases. The class is not necessarily bad, mind you, but it's not up to the others.
The commander in chief of Little Red Goblin Games, Scott Gladstein, provides us with the Survivor, who gets d12, 6+Int skills per level, simple and martial weapon as well as light and medium armor proficiency, full BAB-progression and good fort-saves. Survivors not only can live off the land and can provide some of his class features with allies via the safe passage class feature, which provides a bonus to allies, usable Con-mod + 1/2 class level times per day. Bonus feats at 2nd level and 6th and every 4 levels thereafter are also there Beyond uncanny dodge, evasion et al., 3rd level, 7th and every 4 thereafter allow for DR, natural armor or elemental resistance, with each quality being selectable more than once. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provides a survival tactic, a unique, mostly defensive trick that can be considered the talent-array of the class - many of which can also be granted to allies. Level 13 nets essentially mettle (evasion for will- and fort-saves), called stalwart here, and at that level, this is okay.
The survivor has been my absolute surprise here - while not particularly complex on paper, this class works superbly in play -straightforward, fun and ultimately, it does just what you want: A ranger-y class sans all the mystic mumbo-jumbo, but who can make his allies so much better and harder to kill. This class is a great example why playtests of the complex classes herein was required - it fared much better in actual gameplay than I expected - the survivor is exceedingly fun to play, so kudos! 4 Archetypes are provided for the class - the feralist with simple weapon-exclusive vital strikes and modified feat/tactics-list, the seething survivor (with full barbarian synergy), the parkour specialist thrill seeker and the kind-of-rogueish urban survivor. A Synergist/survivor level 20 multiclass makes for a cool NPC.
Morgan Boehringer, the mastermind of Forest Guardian Press, presents the Synergist, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armor and shields and gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good fort- and will-saves. Synergists establish a kind of network akin to psionic networks equal to Cha-mod allies, with her being required to be part of the so-called "cast." The more creatures in the cast, the higher the shield bonus granted to the synergist. Via swift actions, members of the cast can coordinate, making firing into melee easier and teamwork feat granting is obviously part of the deal as well. Better aid another among the cast is also part of the scaling progression. At 1st level, synergists may create a synergy 1+Cha-mod times per day, +1 per 3 class levels. A synergist gets "+1 bonus synergy counters" for each successful attack, save or skill check, +2 for confirmed crits or nat 20s on non-attack-rolls. A synergist may store class level + Cha-mod counters. Synergy counters may be bestowed upon members of the cast, with a duration of Cha-mod+ 1/4 class level rounds. The counters can be used to enhance skill checks, temporary hit points, concentration, CMD, AC, etc. - this ability is glorious and fun.
At 1st level, the synergist may select a technique from a selection of 3, with 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter providing an additional array of new techniques, continuously expending the pool of options to choose from - NICE! Now where things become even more interesting is with the gaining of passive abilities and the collective bestowing of Lunge - a synergist can also negate critical hits and even enhance at higher levels the action tax required by a given action - the synergist pretty much, when played right, can radically change the way in which a unit of adventurers works - and it is awesome. Ultimately, the synergist can literally be the glue that holds a group together in combat and plays surprisingly efficient and different from classes with a similar concept - when to see something ridiculously flexible? Synergist plus Battle Lord. Add in a Tactician and cackle with glee. The archetype for the class falls somewhat behind the main class in coolness, with minor debuffs being just not that interesting - especially seeing the direlock by Morgan, I would have expected something a tad bit more special, but don't let that detract from the coolness of the class.
The Umbra (unfortunately named in my book - it has nothing to do with shadows...) would be a class by Interjection Games' mastermind Bradley Crouch and as such, it is complex: As a basic frame, it gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency in light armor and shields and weapon proficiency according to the primary embrace chosen. In heavier armor, planar powers suffers from arcane spell failure chance. The umbra gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good will-saves.
So what are those embraces? Well, they signify the heritage of the Umbra, with the primary being the dominant one and chosen at 1st level, the secondary embrace being unlocked at 5th level. Each embrace is assigned a pool of points - the primary embrace has primary points (PP), the secondary embrace secondary points (SP) - collectively, both are called embrace points (EP). Ep scale up from 2 PP to 12 and 1 SP (at 5th level) to 8. Umbra gain resistance to the energy of the primary plane equal to their class level, 1/2 class level for the secondary embrace and each plane has an assigned skill, which receives minor bonuses. At 6th level, the umbra may, as a swift action, generate a temporary EP to assign to a planar power or trait, which lasts for Cha-mod rounds, +1 point granted at 10th level and every 4 levels thereafter. This can be used Cha-mod times per day. There is an unfortunate error in one of the abilities, which specified that an ubiquitous power is gained at 3rd level, +1 at 5th and then +1 at every 4 levels thereafter, when the tables puts that at second level instead. Either that, or quickswap needs to be moved to second level. What does quickswap do? it allows for the reassignment of planar powers 1/day, scaling up by +1/day every 4 levels thereafter, making me belief that the first ubiquitous power ought to be gained at 2nd level.
Ubiquitous powers can be considered the "general" talents of the class, whereas the embraces cover the specialist tricks - the basic elemental planes and both positive and negative energy planes are available for the umbra to choose from, with each having assigned proficiencies. But the choice is more relevant than that - each plane has powers and traits associated. traits require an investiture of 1 point to use and then are static and passive. Powers, on the other hand, allow for more customization - the more points you invest in a given power, the longer you can activate it/the bigger its potency. Now, as you might expect, the benefits are pretty unique - what about a weak reflexive shield that can be dismissed to execute a smite? Yes, the benefits tend towards the unique side of things and some abilities utilize a cooldown mechanic I pretty much enjoy.
Now I'm an old-school Planescape fanboy, and thus, the further tricks of the class brought a smile to my face - yup, at 10th level, the umbra becomes a kind of embodied demiplane-intersection of his primary and secondary embrace. When assigning EP, an umbra can elect to convert either PP or SP into demiplance emergence points (abbreviated DE), but her SP pool must remain larger than the DE pool. Now the interesting part here would be that each demiplane's powers tend to work differently - some reward stockpiling DE-points. Some require their expenditure. Some ignore them mostly in favor of other counters, which are gained in means pertaining to the elemental condition in question and instead make for the resource of the demiplane: Cinders nets, for example, 1 "sputtering charge" whenever the umbra utilizes a power, but does not bypass the cooldown - this charge can be used as an additional invested point in an ability for a short while or expelled as a blast of negative energy and flame, with DE governing the damage output of the sputtering charge-powered blast. Have I mentioned the capstone that lets you make your own plane? Yeah.
Damn, LIC, what are you doing here? Here I am rambling about how bored I am by elemental classes and themes and now I have a second class with such a theme I actually like. Damn. Kidding aside, the umbra is an interesting class with essentially a highly customizable array of tricks that makes it surpass the one-trick pony component inherent in most elemental-themed classes. I generally like it, though I still don't get where the name comes from.
The penultimate class herein would be Wayne Canepa's Warloghe, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, custom weapon proficiency and no armor or shield proficiencies. The class is built on a 3/4 BAB-progression good fort- and will-save chassis and their bond with a twisted spirit provides prepared arcane spellcasting from a custom list of up to 6th level, based on Wis -uncommon. However, alternatively, instead of spellcasting, a warloghe may select a binding pact with a spirit, gaining a linear, bloodline-like array of abilities, but more on those later. 2nd level warloghes get an essence pool equal to 4 + 1/2 class level + wis-mod, with a passive benefit and the option to expend points to inflict negative-energy based touch attacks, with higher levels allowing for AoE emanations and debuff conditions. At second level and every two levels thereafter, the warloghe selects a taboo - essentially the talents of the class, governed by Wis, with some being exclusive to certain twisted spirits chosen. These include SPs, upgrades to the vortex, dabbling in necromancy, familiars at -5 class levels - quite an array. The 5th level class feature, though, would be one of my favorites - warloghes may leave their soul behind as haunts, moving forward as a soulless shell! Damn cool! However I really wished the pdf sported a kind of instant-haunt-generator for warloghes that does not require handing GM-books to players. Taboos are expanded at 10th level to include more powerful choices. The taboos, when active, more often than not require the expenditure of essence points, which also powers a linear array of spell-like abilities granted over the class's level-progression.
A total of 5 twisted spirits, each with a custom spell-list and custom binding abilities, are provided - it should be noted, though, that each of them also results in a tainted soul, which translates to a continuous, negative effect on the warloghe that denotes his sinister dealings - however, they also provide a unique base benefit. The individual benefits are pretty unique and include stacking bleed damage, placing marks of vengeance, etc. The warloghe class gets an okay capstone, but 3 archetypes: One gets binding pact and spellcasting, but no taboos, while another can craft totem-constructs instead of getting the haunted ability. the final one may channel spirit strikes through his weapon and not waste points on misses, but loses the vortex AoE-control. Unremarkable, as far as archetypes go. The warloghe is pretty much a sinister glass cannon that feels a bit like a more damage-focused take on the witch-fluffed gish - now the class isn't bad and its damage output is balanced by being VERY squishy (more so than the magus) and I like the fluff, but I really think it would have benefited from significantly more spirits - those that are here are solid, though ultimately, the class suffers from me having years upon years of Pact Magic as a frame of reference and the latter just feels more versatile to me.
The final class is a new iteration of an old acquaintance of mine, the Warsmith, written by the Amora crew - at d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, hammer, picks and pilums, light armors and shields as well as 3/4 BAB-progression and good fort-saves, the warsmith is a retool of Amora Game's tinker - can it hold up? Well, first of all, beyond the craftsman bonuses and the significant bonuses to sundering via edifice recognition, the warsmith now may grant bonuses to armors and weapons, even duplicating special abilities at higher levels. At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the warsmith receives a talent, here called design, which allows him to modify class features, expand crafting capabilities and even poach in alchemist/rogue territory with bombs or rogue talents. While not particularly complex, that ultimately is the strength of the class- it is a straightforward craft/sunder-specialist who is really good at what he does. Now personally, I'm not a big fan of e.g. a prone-knocking fissure having a fixed save-DC instead of a scaling one, but still, this remains the best iteration of the concept so far.
Since I have already covered the class options and archetypes above, I will only glance over the feats provided, all right? All in all, many of the feats here have a teamwork aspect and +x uses/+ longer uses of abilities for classes are provided alongside some interesting teamwork feats (since they don't suck for many classes herein) - unarmed fighting for non-monks, a style that makes combat maneuvers work sans improved-feats (and that while remaining balanced!) and some unique tricks, like playing switcheroo with magic item abilities, overall, this section can be considered well-crafted. In the cases where one may be familiar with some feats from previous publications of Amora Game, they tend to have undergone a streamlining of their wording - so yeah, while not 100% perfect, the vast majority of this chapter proved to be a fun read! Kudos!
Okay, so only one chapter to go - Adapt, Overcome, Survive - and it is GLORIOUS. Evocative haunts with nice flavor text ranging from CR 1 to 9 are complemented by environmental hazards... like exploding rats. Yes. You read it. Awesome! Two quick templates for magically-contaminated/infused creatures can also be found herein before we get rules for magical pollution of varying severity - think of them as the magical equivalent of radioactivity (and yes, just as deadly) - but with the nice added benefit of also coming with a ton of spellblights, of which we also get a quite significant array.
The pdf closes with a handy facsimile-sheet.
Editing and formatting are not perfect, but still pretty good - in a book of this size, with so much crunch, it is testament to the quality of the authors and editors/developers that almost no significant errors have crept into the complex matrixes of the class-crunch. Layout adheres to a crisp two-column full-color standard with a blending of stock and original artworks. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The print-copy, which I urge you to get, is well worth the price - I got mine from being a supporter of the KS and it sports a solid frame and high quality., glossy paper. This book has seen quite some use and it does not show. As a note for 3pps: Amora Game sent me the best-packaged book I have to date received from any 3pp - with significant amounts of bubble-wrap and a big package, the book has made it past the transition across the ocean and the careless hands of the postal service without even a dent. Kudos for gong the extra mile - a creaseless book is a definitely nice change of pace to receive!
The Liber Influxus Communis grew from the PFRPG-community, the community of which I consider myself a part of and for which I ultimately write my reviews. While Amora Game took a beating from me in the past, they never gave up and when their KS ran, I *think* I may have been the first backer - I wanted to believe in them. This was the reason I decided to make this my 2000th review - and I was hoping that my hopes would not be unjustified.
Now what Greg LaRose did was smart - he got essentially all 3pp top crunch-designers not too involved with their own projects: Alexander Augunas, Bradley Crouch, Daron Woodson, Eric Morton, Mike Myler, Scott Gladstein, Wayne Canepa, Will McCardell, Wojciech Gruchala, Kevin Bond, Linda Zayas-Palmer, Michael Sayre, Morgan Boehringer. Realize something? This is pretty much an all-stars-list and the content of this book shows it - each designer herein has brought his/her strengths to the table - from relatively simple to exceedingly complex, the classes provided herein all breathe a spirit of cooperation, of being unique and run the gamut of providing simple plug and play as well as highly complex tinkering classes that require significant planning to get right. The classes herein have one thing in common that transcends the differences in design: They are not boring. I consider no single class herein bland, no single concept to be redundant. In fact, I loved most of the classes, and I mean *loved* - when a book makes me enjoy two classes that sport a theme I loathe, you'll know you have something awesome at your fingertips.
Now this book is not perfect - I wasn't blown away by all archetypes; the momenta, which I love to death as one of my favorite classes herein, imho requires a second editing pass/a capable DM to streamline and take the rough edges off. The Demiurge's laser battery needs a nerf-whack. And the pauper left me singularly unimpressed, having seen the interacting pools done more in a precise and organic way. Heck, I even made a class with two fluid pools interacting with one another. That aside, the pauper also feels oddly linear and as if it were part of another book. Similarly, not all feats blew me away, but if I broke that down for you, the review would go on for even longer. And I honestly am not sure whether anyone will read this monstrosity as it stands.
Ultimately, though, none of the gripes I could muster, whether they be typos or the above, can stand before a superb appendix and no less than 13 classes I will definitely use in my games - this is pretty much the highest density of classes I have ever allowed a single book to contribute to any game of mine and that is a significant achievement. Now as you all know, I'm a stickler for the more complex classes, but even the simple ones herein have something unique going for them, a playing experience that deviates from what other classes can offer - and what more can you expect from a new base class? In the end, the Liber Influxus Communis may not be a perfect book, but it is still an excellent and inexpensive way to add a vast array of pure innovation to your game - a smörgåsbord of unique mechanics and things no other class can do. And I love it for exactly that. This book exemplifies the work of some of the finest designers in the field and I have, ultimately, always valued innovation and slight rough edges higher than bland mechanical perfection - and, as such, the few mechanical bumps that are herein could in no way stand in relation to the awesomeness that this book brings to the table, they simply pale and fade when seen in relation with the vast array of cool tricks the content herein makes possible. My final verdict thus will be 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this book as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.
And if you're still reading that, let me extend my heartfelt thank-you to you for sticking with my ramblings and reading my 2000th review. I write them for you and remain yours,
Review posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
@Michael: The Battle Lord is a thing of beauty, especially with bravery feat-synergy. It has replaced the War Master class in my game. Kudos!
Also: Thanks for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed this massive analysis.
All right, as always, one day before I post it around here:
I've finished a massive, huge review for Amora Game's Liber Influxus Communis.
I figured I'd make this milestone review of a book that is very much a product of this community: Spawned by threads here, with designers chosen from the wonderful 3pp-commmunity and reviewed by myself, very much a product of this community.
I usually don't link to my page like that, but please bear with me, for this also commemorates officially my 2000th review posted here on Paizo - and that is not including revisions, products exclusive to other vendors, etc., but it's the most accurate count I have, since I didn't save them until I hit review ~400.
So, as always with milestones, this is the time for me to get sentimental, so if you don't want to read about me gushing, please just take a look at the review. :)
I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the following publishers and persons in general, in no particular order:
-Rite Publishing, for being the first 3pp to provide copies for me and Steven D. Russell in particular for making me develop my reviewing style from a ToC to the style you see now.
-Rogue Genius Games, in particular Owen K.C. Stephens, for the encouragement, support and civility shown over the years.
-Raging Swan Press, in particular Creighton Broadhurst, for teaching me what one can do with the right mindset and for providing diversions from constant crunch analysis with products that have vastly improved my game.
-Frog God Games, the whole crew, but in particular Greg Vaughan, for making some of the most epic books ever and for being supportive of my whole reviewing in general, as well as for just existing.
-AAW Games, in particular Jonathan Nelson and Joshua Gullion (KtFish7, Rest in Peace, my friend) for being the first company to actually take a chance with my writing and design.
-LPJr Design, in particular Louis Porter Jr., for being a prime example of how to step one's game up and for the support and professionalism in conduct with me, in spite of some pretty nasty reviews in the beginning. I also love your transparency agendas - keep up the good work!
-Dreamscarreed Press, in particular Andreas Rönnqvist, with whom I had some excellent conversations on the world, time and everything else.
-Legendary Games, in particular Jason Nelson, who has been a scholar and gentleman in all of our interactions.
-Purple Duck Games, in particular Mark Gedak, whose cool work nowhere near receives enough spotlight, for the damn cool supplements that have enriched my game.
-TPK Games, in particular Brian Berg, for being the first company to take a chance with my crunch-design.
-Kobold Press, in particular Wolfgang Baur, for taking a chance with me on the AR-Compendium kickstarter at a time when my perspectives seemed very bleak.
Beyond these publishers, the following persons deserve my gratitude:
-Bradley Crouch: I have learned more about good design from working with you on Strange Magic than I ever deemed possible. You're an enrichment to the community and I'd also like to thank you for taking a chance with my insane classes.
-Richard Develyn: Your modules bring vast amounts of joy to my table - you are an artist among writers. never stop what you're doing!
-Alexander Augunas: Your designs are a joy to read and you're an awesome person to boot - never stop!
-Scott Gladstein from Little Red Goblin Games: You have created a setting the captivates me like no other - so thank you for providing a space for my dark visions of the future!
-Will McCardell for showing me what a great developer can accomplish, for the support and for pushing the envelope with your designs.
-Steven T. Helt for the awesome conversations.
-George Williams for the nice talks and cool links.
-Christina Stiles for taking a chance with me.
-John Bennett for the support shown to me and for making Vathak a setting I actually enjoy.
-Morgan Boehringer for teaching me some important things about design and development and for being a pillar of the community.
-Mike Myler for his industrious and numerous additions to my own campaign and the nice discussions.
-Julian Neale for his kind words and designs.
-Paco Garcia Jaen of GMS magazine,w ithout whom there would be no endzeitgeist.com.
-Louis Agresta for the friendship and encouragement.
...and if your name is not on this list, please bear with me - I do appreciate and value each and every one of you and value all those friendships and the kindness exhibited, especially considering how many of you had to endure critical reviews and still remained courteous and kind, differentiating between my reviews and me as a person. I really appreciate this!
I'd also like to extend my gratitude to everyone who ever submitted a product for review, to everyone of you who reads my reviews, and, in particular, to all of the supporters of my patreon, without whom this review would not exist - ladies and gentlemen, it's been a blast interacting with you, so THANK YOU!
I remain yours,
The versatility of vainglory was great - high player agenda. The exploding dice-tricks can be awesome if handled properly. I also loved how the mechanics made the swashbuckler more mobile in general - basically anything that helps the poor hybrid classes be what their name actually implies. And yes, i will keep a close eye on he skald - the result of this pdf was that the base swashbuckler still does not see any use in my games, but some of my players will play the archetypes once in a while, so that's a triumph.
Btw.: Samsaran Compendium and Microsized Adventures coming up next, in pretty quick succession. Both having their testing done. :)
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
What happens if Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s thesis in Vril, The Power of the Master Race, of a subterranean master-race and their quasi-mystical super-technology was set against a backdrop of genocidal struggle between two competing races and then combined with a classic “you dug too deep” twist, unleashing dread Erebi on the genocidal victors of the struggle? We get one messed up setting. Add to that a sprinkling of hollow earth and H.G Wellsian Time Machine and we have even more of a mess – in the ruined, desolate planet (swallowed by a titanic shadow-like…thing, slowly breaking the world asunder) and its tunnels, survivors, ranging from degenerate morlock to the last surviving racist Übermenschen (the pdf gets the plural wrong - you add –en in the end), fight their desolate and doomed battles against reality-annuling aliens led by a Slenderman-esque figure, while an undead umbragunt may be the last champion of a planet doomed to die.
Hollow Thune is not a nice place, and if the above wasn’t enough, the writing and narrative voice further drives that home – essentially, the pdf not only borrows Bulwer-Lytton’s terminology from another age, but in the emphasis on Germanic Nomenclature and the quoting of concepts like the Black Sun, draws less than subtle parallels with the popularized notion of the Thule society’s mysticism, thus adding a nasty sense of gravitas to the whole setting.
That being said, as a German, I sometimes tire of the whole imagery, mainly since we’re bombarded with the atrocities of the Third Reich in both school curriculum and media and I have a hard time separating games and fun and the popularized stereotype of the Nazivillains from the gruesome realities of history. This pdf made this particular component relatively easy on me – with the clear condemnation of the socal-darwinism exhibited by the destroyed races of Thune, with the clear pointer not at the Third Reich, but at the intellectual streams that existed in literature, culture and intelligentsia of all fields, the pdf manages to evoke the themes, but do so in a thoroughly unique manner that is at once creative and still, very clear in the themes it quotes.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach’s Hollow Thune could have devolved into an utter mess in the hands of a lesser writer – I have literally seen all components that make up the defining elements of this book in multiple cases, have read Bulwer-Lytton and thanks to my keen interest in history, I am pretty well-versed in the atrocities committed by different nations. Hollow Thune still manages to keep these together, to toe the line between the horrific and fantastic, never falling into the realm of tastelessness. And for that, I applaud it. The whole setting even would make for a great Dark Soul-ish background of a desolate world you slowly explore, a world of lethal adversaries…and once again, I find myself wishing, that this Gossamer World had more room to shine. Oh well, as provided, we get a great installment in the series and yet again, a verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.