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This Map-pack not only is pay-what you want, it comes in a zip-file that sports two folders: One containing high-res jpegs, one that sports pdfs.
Let's start with the jpegs - these come with full-color and b/w-versions - both come in two versions: One sports labels that denote which buildings are which, whereas the others come without them for maximum immersion. (Nice if you're like me and HATE handing out maps with numbers detailing the hotspots...
The pdfs clock in at 23 pages each - 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 20 pages for the maps. The pdf first provides aforementioned maps that also are included as high-res jpegs - so if you require an overview of the village, these would be what you want. Thereafter, we get 4 blown-up versions of the map - each iteration is provided in a version, wherein the map spreads across a total of 4 pages, thus allowing you to print out a big map. If you're like me a European, you will be very much in luck, for one pdf provides the maps in letterpack format, whereas the second delivers the maps optimized for the A4-format.
What about the town - well, we get essentially a village of the most idyllic type, with a single (mage's) tower a bit off to the south and a small bridge crossing the meandering river. North of said small bridge, a mill and a few buildings loom, while the sparse trees show that this place probably lies in pretty civilized fields.
Tad Davis delivers a professionally-made, beautiful map-pack of a nice, picturesque village that could well be the starting point of a new campaign - as far as maps are concerned, this is a neat job and the drawing style is fine. While I caught myself wishing there was a version with a grid further blown up for your perusal with miniatures, at any price you're willing to pay, this is indeed a great offering of a professional, nice map.
My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
Sethvir & Malwing - from what I can glean, you folks know your crunch. So yeah, I'm not surprised you like this book. PoS is very impressive as far as freshman offerings are concerned.
I've been homebrewing ToM-shadow magic for a long time and this book really made me wish for more content in that vein.
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are pretty good, but not perfect - while generally, both the formal criteria and rules-language are functional, especially the rules-language could have used some polishing to get rid of the numerous none-standard wordings herein. While this would usually elicit my usual complaint-tirades, this supplement is pretty much unique in the fact that apart from the very scarce exception, the language still retains full functionality, in spite of its liberal handling of rules-semantics. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf sports both nice full-color artworks and full-color cartography. the pdf also comes with excessive bookmarks for your convenience.
So, this is pretty much the best player's guide I've read in quite a while. Perry Fehr and Mark Gedak have a storyteller's gift and his talent of making believable, organic settings and cultures bespeaks a mind basking in possibilities. While this region of Porphyra is relatively "normal", conservative even, it sports all the tidbits that make such a region come alive and feel distinct - in fact, when compared to just about any quasi-medieval chivalry/religion-themed examples I've read in alternate history settings etc., this guide blows its competition out of the water. I've read MANY such supplements and none managed to elicit this level of immersion. The crunch, with its high-concept emphasis on supplementing a realistic, believable society also enforces this. At the same time, the crunch, though, does sport an array of deviations from rules-language defaults - almost never to the extent of being problematic, but still - the impression I got was one of a supplement that "sweats the small stuff" - to the point where, would this be only a crunch-centric book, this would have crashed down to 3 stars, perhaps lower.
But within the context of world-building this awesome, I couldn't bring myself to bashing this book for what is functional, in the end. Still, I really, really would have loved this book to go the extra mile and purge the rules-language deviations.
I *love* this supplement. I was grinning from ear to ear while reading this and even as a scavenging box, this supplement is downright inspired and can be used to make one's setting come to life, to add this added level of detail and great concepts. The simple, yet very flavorful archetypes, the way in which conflicts between the divine and arcane, between the law and tradition and the changing times - how all of this is set up is just gorgeous, creative and fun. Were it for only the ideas herein, the world-building, I'd be recommending this in the highest tones. Alas, the small glitches, while not bad on their own, simply kept on accumulating - to the point where I can't recommend this book as highly as I'd like to - if proper rules-language and -syntax is important to you, this book will make you cringe and hence, I can't rate this 5 stars. If not, though, then you'll find inspiration galore within these pages. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars - but this is one is good enough to be one of the rare examples, where I will still slap my seal of approval on this book - the ideas and world-building are simply too good.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop!
Part II of my review:
The supplemental feats for the classes contain the obligatory +x limited resource class ability-array as well as e.g. more control for rock outs, options to stun devils in musical contests or reduce the speed of foes instead of dealing damage via rock out or solo. Pretty solid.
Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. Considering the imaginative, unconventional mechanics herein, the rules-language is also much more concise than what I've seen in "easier" mechanics. Layout adheres to, as mentioned, a 1 or 2-page standard and the pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks are mostly in full color, original and awesome.
Scott Gladstein, Thomas Lee Hornyak Jr, Christos Gurd, Dayton Johnson, Caleb Alysworth, Jeremiah Zerby - gentlemen, the acclaim Gonzo has received is pretty much well deserved. This is, indeed, at least in my book, the most refined Little Red Goblin Game-pdf I've reviewed. The rules-language with its eclectic concepts and innovative twists on the rules does not lazily recombine existing pieces, instead opting for something new with each and every class - and I love it for that.
At the same time, though, some of the classes herein can turn pretty problematic - the Craven in the context of WBL-deviations and the Living Bomb in particular can work superbly for some games, while being utterly broken in others, so careful consideration is in order here. Now at least partially, that's a system-inherent issue, granted, but it does remain one.
Now the surprise of this book would be the Punk-class - I expected to hate it and instead love it to death, with a fitting reskin, this becomes in a fixture in my games and in the context of WuXia et. al, this will work just as well and might constitute a great alternative to monk-gestalting. Indeed, I'd seriously consider this class one of the best gestalt-options I've seen in a while. So yeah, people, I love this!
Now granted, I am biased towards the Rockstar and adore the concept, but kept on wishing its interaction and sequential gameplay reached the level of complexity supported by Interjection Games-composition magic - I will probably make a crossover class at one point. Nothing wrong here, mind you, just me preferring things a bit less straightforward...and the class essentially already has the sequential nature built in, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.
So all's fine and dandy? No, there are, as mentioned above, several minor issues in the rules-semantics that weigh heavily when used with the more complex of options herein - but then again, I honestly prefer innovation over perfection.
And there is the layout. The font used, a typewriter-style old-school font, makes reading this book harder than it ought to be...and it cheats. The font has no italicization/bolding and while class abilities are red and blocky and easy to distinguish, the lack of italicization for spells etc. has been excruciatingly annoying for me. It makes reading so much slower and required more concentration to read the class abilities - there is a reason for the formatting convention and this flaunts them. Especially when providing complex concepts like this book does, the nonstandard layout and formatting can make understanding some abilities harder than it ought to be.
So yeah, there you have it - the thing is disliked most was the font. The rules-issues, where present, still leave the RAI pretty much obvious. Now that being said, if you want an easy, quick conventional book, then this is not for you - this book is one of the most experimental books I've seen for PFRPG and I applaud its guts!
Do I recommend this? Heck yeah! Even if you just are looking for abilities and ideas to scavenge, this provides both in ample spades. While not every class is for every game, just about all of them could be reskinned to some extent and introduced to most settings and a distinct joy is evident on the pages - plus, I really enjoy the fact that none of the classes took the easy way out. Not one class herein could be mistaken for another class or archetype - they are resoundingly distinct.
No, this is not perfect or for everyone, but it is an exceedingly fun, innovative book - and while its font, glitches and slight balance-concerns here and there prevent me from rating this the full five stars. In fact, were I to rate pdfs only on their formal properties and not also for the benefits of their imagination, this would probably fare less well - Gonzo is pretty much a a diamond that still needs to be polished. I'll still settle for a final verdict of 4 stars - while I firmly believe that the concepts herein deserve my seal of approval, the execution of the complex mechanics sports a tad bit too many hiccups for that and, depending on your personal preferences, you may consider the blemishes that are there to be more serious than I did. When adapting these classes for your game, you will probably need to do some minor tweaking here and there - at least I'd suggest doing so.
Still, in the end, I'll take courage and innovation over retreading anytime and I encourage you to reward the designers for the unmitigated joy that oozes from these pages, for the high-concept ideas, by checking this out...
Now excuse me, I have a certain Devil May Cry-style class to reskin for the upcoming Hell's Rebels AP...
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
Part II of my review:
The spell-chapter does provide a cool rules-clarification for spells utilizing the shadow of the caster and provide, obviously, a significant means of providing shadow/light-control. Interesting for other classes - there are spells herein which interact with e.g. shadow surges, making the latter not just an isolated class feature. Interesting would be terrain control spells to confine targets in e.g. areas of darkness, while shadowy wings that can also be used to attack foes and furthermore, allows for channeling 1/cast - nasty and versatile, but I like it. From the ageing capstone, there are other interesting effects - for example, a complex spell which alters an illusion to allow for the execution of quasi-real attacks via the infusion of shadow stuff - as such area attacks, attacks, energy etc. are covered with unique benefits. There are also lunar prophecies or the option to conjure forth the all-consuming maw of the nightwave. Ways to suppress extraordinary senses would also be an interesting move for spells. However, there also are minor modifications/improved versions, like e.g. a darkness/cold-based variant of flaming sphere. Shadow-based necromancy spell-duplication is also covered, as are chaotic overlaps between planes. I also like the concise definition of shadow length for attacks on a shadow, which reflects its damage to the origin of the caster. A new spell-class to summon evil, horrific creatures also can be found herein. There is also a highly complex class of spells that allows for the conjuration of umbral servants for the nightblades, which essentially act on their own after a nightblade's turn -these are fun, allowing e.g. a called magician to freely apply metamagic to certain spells cast close to it, etc.
The final chapter provides ample new magical weapon/armor qualities and specific items - with artworks depicting them that are downright inspired and rank among the best such I have ever seen in any given supplement - WOW. The twilight reaver scythe looks so badass, I just NEED to show this picture to my players, even without knowing that it's a +2 cold iron keen greater umbral scythe that allows for surge storage on crits...
The pdf also sports a handy two-page index and artist-credits.
Editing and formatting are excellent - I noticed no significant issues while reading this - none. The 2-column full-color layout used in this book is GORGEOUS. I mean it. This is one of the most beautiful roleplaying book I've seen any 3pp produce, an impression also underlined by the GLORIOUS original full-color artwork by Jasmine Mackey, Bryon Oshihiro, Danielle Sands, Al Savell, Nicoleta Stavarache and Trevor Verges - the artworks, from vistas to spells to characters adhere to a glorious style that is uniform and concise. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that this book, in visual, aesthetic quality, could have been a Paizo-book. It's that beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but I'd sincerely advise you to get this in print - unlike quite a few PODs, there is no big chance of an errata invalidating this book. This book looks better than quite a few kickstarted books I could name. Yes, THAT beautiful.
What a furious first offering! This is quite frankly the best first offering of crunch I've seen a novice designer produce in ages. Last year saw plenty of adventures of newcomers providing an extremely high quality, but new crunch tends to require most designers some time to get right. Well, this is Ascension Games' first product and it does NOT require any leniency on my part. Author (and layout/editor!) Christopher Moore seems to not only be able to edit his own texts, quite a feat, imho, he also provides a level of professionalism with regards to rules-language one sees scarcely, almost never among novices. The language is so precise, it can be considered on par with the errata'd, good Paizo-books. Beyond that, this pdf offered a level of system-mastery and a level of awareness of obscurer rules I quite frankly almost never get to see. While I have some personal gripes against one component or another herein, none really hold up on a professional level and boil down to personal preferences; number-wise, including extensive playtests, this book held up admiringly well. Few books can claim to withstand this level of deep scrutiny to such an extent, especially considering the level of interaction with obscure and complex elements among the design elements. I was positively surprised to see all of this - but where the book shines most is with the material that takes chances and provides things to do that no other spell or system can achieve - it is the unique effects, which stand out and while I absolutely adore the coverage of just about anything one could ask for in sucha context, I still would have loved to see even more of the inspired, unique effects that can be found herein.
Remember, this is just me being an utterly spoiled bastard of a reviewer - this book is, without engaging in hyperbole, up to the level of crunch-mastery exhibited usually only by established, experienced crunch-masters and blends this with production-values out of this world, visually more on par with Paizo than what you'd expect from a 3pp, much less a new one sans a KS providing the funds. This is a hugely impressive book that catapulted Ascension Games to the landscape of my table and to my radar; I can't help but be excited about the things to come and more such supplements and I certainly hope we'll see more material for the Nightblade - the class is inspired and fun and clearly, its potential is not yet tapped. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest hesitation, falling short of becoming a candidate for my top ten of 2015 only by a tiny margin. Still, this is thoroughly, exceedingly, impressive. Congratulations to the Ascension Games-team - you have impressed a jaded reviewer.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression, here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
@Kryzbyn: My reviews ALWAYS hit endzeitgeist.com before any other site - after all, I have to provide an incentive for people to take a look at my site, right? And personally, I loathe: "Here's a blurb, click here to check my review"-reviews, so that felt fairest to me - no hassle if one doesn't want to wait, quickest access to reviews if you check my site. :)
Also: Thanks for the linkage!
My dear readers!
Next week will see the fruit of my patron's collective generosity, as I start to come to the reviews that YOU asked for - i.e., so far "More Raging Swan Press, more Vathak-supplements"! Expect to see a lot of both next week.
To give you an update, playtesting of the LIC is progressing nicely and will continue this week-end.
The prioritized review for May asked for by Rite Publishing, the Kaiju Codex, will also hit site next week. If you are a patron eligible to a prioritized review, please let me know - the sooner I know, the sooner I can move it up my pile!
Also, I figured I'd provide you a list of what reviews I've published and finalized in the brief time since I've started my patreon, to show you that I am not slacking. ;)
I will continue to track my reviews this way and show you what YOU made possible! You will note a rather significant influx of work-intense reviews here - many big crunchy books that take time...and there are more to come! So once again, thank you for your support and enjoy your week-end!
Here's the list:
Rite Publishing - Gossamer Worlds: Glimmer Gloam
I remain yours,