|Paizo Pathfinder® Paizo Games|
|About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ|
Part II of my review:
Lycanthropes and Elementals would be up next, starting with Steve Winter's "Bad Moon Rising" for PCs level 6 - 8. If the title was not ample clue - set in the Barony of Loup-Montagne, the superstitious locals, wolves in the woods and similar set-ups make one thing clear: We're in gothic horror country here -this module could have been run in Ravenloft with only minor changes. The plotline, which includes sufficient red herrings, a bid for succession and a potentially doomed family, hits all the classic notes - for better and for worse. The module itself is pretty sandboxy and thus requires some GM chops, though admittedly, not too many. The twist itself, the culprit, was something my PCs saw coming in spite of the various red herrings - perhaps due to years of Ravenloft-experience. It's a solid version of a classic story-not more, not less. I got the most mileage out of this by combining it with Raging Swan Press' Wolfsbane Hollow, combining both plotlines into something less obvious, while retaining thematic integrity.
Skip William's "Death in Dyrgalas" is a pretty straightforward dungeon-exploration of a ruined pavilion, which does not specify its intended level - from the CRs, I'd suggest something along the lines of level 5 - 8, depending on your PC's power. The exploration itself pits the PCs versus wererats and weretigers and a highlight definitely is the interaction with a medusa. The module's appeal mostly stems from the interesting surroundings - other than that, this is solid, if somewhat unremarkable.
Michael Curtis' next module would be "The Darkening of Namjan Forest" for PCs level 6 - 8. Said forest is slowly, but surely becoming coterminous with the Plane of Shadows and to stop this, the PCs have to find and disable a dangerous artifact within the depths of this forest. The hexed map of the forest allows for an easy tracking of the progress of the darkening and the continuously draining effects of the darkening provided serves as an intriguing backdrop with rules-relevant repercussions. Via special quartz, the PCs may get themselves an edge versus the predominantly draining creatures herein - there are A LOT of shadows and similar creatures in this module, so depending on your PC's preparation and classes, the difficulty of this module may fluctuate somewhat. I really enjoyed the general premise and set-up of this one, the impending doom and the continuous representation of the ticking of the clock provided by the encroaching darkness. However, alas, there are some issues among the details herein - from sensory-deprivation tanks and similar magical apparatuses, there are quite some unique benefits to be gained here - and their rules-language is horribly opaque, rendering them VERY over-powered. I strongly urge a GM to take care before allowing the PCs to utilize these. In fact, I think they should be nerfed and/or replaced. This, though, constitutes the most negative thing about this module - the new creatures and the adversary are interesting and, in the hands of a GM willing to sand off the rough edges, this definitely is a very fun experience.
The next three modules have the theme of Men & Monstrosities, with James M. Ward's "Deep in the Vale" as a 1st level module being the first. The set-up is interesting in a way - the PCs are plain folks of the Vale, everyday people, and the module begins promising, with the Thor-ordained sporty trek around the vale that inevitably results in trouble. The module, obviously, tries to chronicle the step from everyday-Joe/Jane to hero and the tidbits on culture provided are intriguing. But this, as much as I'm loathe to say it, is one of the worst modules FGG has ever released. If I didn't know any better, I wouldn't expect Mr. Ward's pen at work here. Let me elaborate: The premise, is unique and hasn't been done much recently, but it suffers from this being an adventure - to properly invest the players in the setting a closer gazetteer, nomenclature, suggested roles and origins for casting talent - all of that should have been covered. They're not. Worse, everything here is a) clichéd and b) a non-threat in the great whole of things.
You see, there are essentially two catchers - a DM-PC, the horribly-named elf Smaragdus and if things get too heated, there's a wizard who can fireball everything to smithereens. I.e., the PCs and all their struggles essentially boil down to those two pricks not getting the job done/being lazy - it's the old issue of the Forgotten Realms, where some areas just had too many high-level NPCs for the PCs to matter. "Elminster is not available, please class later." Worse, the wizard herein does not have Elminster's realms-spanning responsibilities, so he has no reason not to ge his grip together and totter with the PCs to the woods. The adversaries are also horribly trite - wolves, goblins, orcs, giant spiders. And yes, the orcs come with an ogre. Only the shadow is missing from the clichés of boring low-level foes. We have a kidnapped damsel that is so obvious, I only expected the Timmy-character to show up next. Beyond that, the module falls prey to hackneyed logic - why does prodding the giant spider nets not endanger the folk outside?
Shouldn't heroes NOT endanger commoners? Why do the responses of the goblins, which look like taken from a choose-your-adventure-novel, make no concise sense from the goblin's perspective? Why does the non-read-aloud text AND the read-aloud text TELL the players what exactly they're doing if they choose A)? This is railroady, inconsistent, mechanically-boring and the only positive thing I can say about it, is that the few cultural tidbits are halfway decent. This looks like a "First module you run, ever, as a DM"-type of module, but for that, it's too opaque and does not do a good enough job challenging all players and making them feel important - only the strongest PC, the Blacksmith, truly has any connection. Fun fact: Strength has, counter-intuitively, NOTHING to do with being a blacksmith in rules - Craft would be the skill, so strong PCs sans the skill make NO SENSE for that. This module is a sore spot in the whole anthology - it does not fit the premise, fails as gazetteer, module AND introduction for novice GMs. It's horrible and drags the whole book down a small notch and I can't fathom how it got included herein.
Thankfully, Casey W. Christofferson and Scott Greene's "Irtep's Dish," for characters level 6 - 8, is a return to full-blown, awesome form - and I mean AWESOME, as in, glorious- situated in a city (Bard's Gate in the Lost Lands), this begins with an investigation of an eccentric wizard gone missing - a wizard who was not only smart, he also had a gambling issue. In an interesting blend of fantasy and noir tropes, investigating his former lover, colleagues and debtors can unearth pretty soon that there are ample people looking for the man - and not all are honest regarding their intentions, with a horrible curse being subtly and cleverly used for the wizard's downfall. Via this investigation, which brings the PCs to the city's largest casino (fully mapped), the PCs can get the pieces together to investigate the out-of-bounds wizard's tower - if they can get past the guards and inside, past the deadly puzzle in the beginning, which is btw. logical and fun. This is only where the fun starts, though - the wizard has retreated via an artifact into a petri-dish like environment and the PCs need to shrink down to microscopic size, battling protozoan orbs, flesh-eating fungi, nematodes and finally release the wizard, convince him to return and get his affairs in order. This section is bizarre, fun and played in an awesome, great way - if I may: If the PCs enjoy their trip into the realms of the microscopic, consider picking up Everyman Gaming's superb "Microsized Adventures" and keep the options for size-alterations. Oh, and yes, this module is pure awesomeness!
As if to apologize for the first module in this set, Matt Finch's "Perils of Ghostwood Pass", for PCs level 5 - 7, also hits this absolutely stellar tone in a completely different way: Potentially fitting into any cold pass-region, the Ghostwood Pass is a storied environment - here, legendary twins only recently defeated a powerful and nasty fey of the Winter Court, thus banishing the hyper-cold ghostwind to only a few instances per year. As the PCs begin this module, a timer is running - after that, the ghostwind strikes. The issue is that something is thoroughly amiss - the hastily erected Abbey of Saint Kathelyn may provide shelter, as may the local druid, though both do not deal well with another. The two factions also provide unique benefits for the PCs as they try to defeat the dreaded mountain queen - and unearth the truth behind the mysteries of the Ghostwind Pass. In case the above did not provide ample clue - wilderness survival, hexploration in the hostile pass, random encounters - all provided, alongside a cleverly entrenched mystery astute PCs can unearth. This module is SUPERB and would coincidentally fit really well in the context of Northlands with some minor reskinning. Oh, and the adversary build rank among the more challenging and well-crafted herein, which coincidentally provides a lead-in to the last triumvirate of modules.
This would be the updates of "Vampires and Liches," with Casey W. Christofferson and Bill Webb's "Sewers of the Underguild" for 11th level characters being the first - the premise of which is pretty simple: In a rather deadly sewer under ruins or a metropolis lies the hiding place of a guild of vampires. Exterminate them. This sounds simple, when it is anything but simple - the underguild were formidable foes, with numerous class levels, deadly traps and the like. Alas, here, the conversion somewhat botched - with vampires as a type being rather nerfed in PFRPG, and the increased options available for characters via classes and combinations has not been realized to them same extent as in the original version - essentially, the adversaries are a tad bit squishier, the module has lost some of its threat. Mind you, this still is a challenging module, sure, but it does not live up to its previous iteration's level of lethality. If you don't know the original, you probably won't wind, but this can also be seen in the next module, penned by the same duo.
"The Pyramid of Amra", for 12th level characters, pits the PCs against a monastery in the hands of lethal adversaries and finally, against a vampire-monk. The exploration of the areas herein is thoroughly compelling and lends itself well to the insertion of powerful adversaries and intriguing puzzles. And indeed, the final adversary *is* still deadly; however, I still found myself wishing the builds provided had been changed in a slightly more pronounced manner.
The final adventure, "Isle of Eliphaz", intended for characters of at least 14th level, is still LETHAL - while, when I ran the module, I made the whole place a selectively null magics/psionics zone, thus rendering it even worse, the base module already is brutal - exceedingly brutal. And, in fact, here e.g. the intellect devourer with class levels and the ancient, elemental evil's pathfinder iteration maintain the level of deadly challenge I enjoy from this series.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - in some of the older modules, references here and there remain and some of the previously unreleased, older modules feel a tad bit less refined than others, with unique benefits particularly not always perfectly syncing up with rules-language. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with copious, original & glorious b/w-artworks. The maps generally are well-drawn, though I wished the book had a player-friendly appendix of unkeyed maps for particularly the hexcrawl-sections.
Scott Greene, J. Collura, Matt Finch, Clark Peterson, Bill Webb, Michael Curtis, Skip Williams, James M. Ward, Ed Greenwood,, Casey W. Cristofferson, Steven Winter - these names should ring a bell and indeed, Quests of Doom, as a whole, manages to achieve the goal to create challenging, unique modules. While a couple of the modules did fall a bit short of the stellar quality established by the rest and while some do require a bit of GM fiddling, in the end, this book does contain several modules that simply blow me away - the whole "Bugs & Blobs"-chapter is pure gold, and, with the exception of "Deep in the Vale", "Men & Monstrosities" provides two of the most awesome modules herein. "Lycanthropes & Elementals" falls short of the average quality of the book, ranking in as "only" a solid/good chapter. Still, that leaves a total of 6 modules herein, 9 if you include the conversions, that would receive my seal of approval without a single inch of hesitation.
Indeed, I maintain that the stellar modules herein outweigh the minor rough edges AND the modules that do not reach the apex of quality and imagination. "Of Ants & Men", "Hidden Oasis & Temple of Thoth", "The Dead From Above", "Irtep's Dish" and "Perils of Ghostwind Pass" alone are worth the asking price of this module - and these are the exceptional, NEW modules herein. The rest averages at a very good to good, with only "Deep in the Vale" being what I'd consider a bad module. To put that in perspective - that's 13 pages. You still get so many awesome modules herein, that I cannot, in good faith, rate this lower than 5 stars - especially since the exceptional modules listed above absolutely deserve this rating and nothing below.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Part II of my review:
The pdf also covers some racial archetypes, the first of which would be the contemplative, whose awaken divinity ability remains at 1st level and spurn tradition can still be found here. Know the Unseen Disciples has been moved to 9th level, where it replaces improved evasion.
The Gray Disciple's fade from sight remains situated at 4th level, but all other spell-like abilities, including the earth gliding, entombing, etc., all have been redesigned as ki-powers, with earthen thrall being reduced minimum-level wise to 16th level to act as a potential alternate cap-stoney-high-level option that renders the archetype pretty flexible - I really like this modularity that allows you to customize the archetype beyond the non-unchained version's linearity.
The Ironskin Monk Hobgoblin archetype has some odd hiccups - the flurry of blows ability, for example, explicitly states that the archetype can execute it in light armor, when no line of the regular flurry of blows of the unchained monk prevents flurrying in ANY armor. Iron Skin and the bonus feat-list are retained, as is resilience. Ki-pool remains at 4th level and staggering blow at 5th - as a nice note: The DR the archetype can get explicitly stacks with diamond resilience as presented here. Like in Everyman Gaming's take on the archetype, surefooted is moved down a whole 4 levels to 13th - which may be a bit much for some groups.
Catfolk Nimble Guardians are subject to quite a modification in comparison to the base archetype, gaining Cha to AC and CMD and later increasing this bonus, making the archetype more Cha-focused, while also allowing them to substitute Cha for Wis for the purpose of Style-feat prereqs. Defensive Aid is gained at 3rd level and replaces, slightly odd, the 4th level ability still mind, with 5th level netting Defensive Mastery. Now here, thing become interesting - at 10th level, feline guardians do not lose their Dex-bonus to AC versus invisible attackers, nor are they caught flat-footed, as long as they have at least 1 ki point - this is actually great as it a) capitalizes on the trope of superb feline senses and intuition and b) emphasizes the guardian aspect further - a valid trade for the 10th level ki strike. Guardian Feline is gained at 13th level and replaces tongue of sun and the moon. Kudos and two thumbs up!
Oread Students of Stone are modified in that they no longer gain a bonus versus crit confirmation, but instead light fortification - interesting! Strength of Stone has also been significantly rewired, allowing for the gaining of scaling, ki-powered DR - kudos for rewiring Strength of the Stone thus! With Bones of Stone obviously thus rewired in the previous ability, the further upgrades replace improved evasion with better fortification, while 13th level nets soul of stone and 20th level keeping the capstone. The rewired DR makes the archetype more feasible - nice one!
The Vanara Treetop Monk has, oddly, Branch Runner mixed into Wood Affinity, though this part of the scaling ability is moved down to 3rd level, while freedom of movement replaces tongue of the sun and the moon at 13th level. A solid take on the archetype.
The Underfoot Adept's Underfoot Grace here has been redesigned...alas, here applies "If it ain't broken..." - the ability as presented scales your effective size, which is a good idea, but getting rid of the scaling of the base ability and granting level 1 full speed Acrobatics through threatened areas is pretty nasty and means that dipping into this archetype is MUCH too tempting. I really don't understand why the base archetype's sensible anti-dip scaling was done away here.
The Human Wanderer retains Far Traveler and long Walk, but oddly, the latter replaces still mind as gained at 4th level, not 3rd. 5th level nets Inscrutable, which oddly has been mixed with Light Step - an odd decision here - doubly so, since the ability is (EX/SP), when both base abilities are SU and obviously, the benefits are more mystical than mundane and the ki-powered SPs are obviously just that, something I never got in the original abilities. Still, a tad bit odd. Finally, the Disappear Unnoticed and Free Step abilities have been moved to 17th and 19th levels, delaying their acquisition significantly. Over all, a nerf I'm not sure the archetype required.
Editing and formatting are very good -while I noticed some very minor hiccups, the Purple Duck crew did a good job here. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no art but the cover, but needs none - I'd always take content over bling. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
When I saw this pdf, I wasn't particularly excited - checking unchained archetypes for consistency is a horrible pain in the behind and takes FOREVER. Furthermore, Alexander Augunas, one of the most reliably good designers of complex crunch out there has already taken the concepts and covered the archetypes. So no, I did not look forward to Carl Cramér's archetype-conversions herein. Well, I should have. While I won't lie - this review was grueling to write and research - the content here is very, very interesting.
What do I mean by that? The design-philosophy utilized herein differed from Alexander's in some key aspects. Everyman Gaming's Unchained Archetypes have opted for a very conservative paradigm, to which the individual archetypes are subjected. Subsequently, though, Alex genius as a designer did not have its usual space to shine, only breaking through when abilities required a radical rewiring.
This pdf, in comparison, did not establish a paradigm - instead, one can see how each archetype was hand-crafted and, when required, significantly modified to fit with Pathfinder Unchained. The intriguing part here is quite frankly this courage to play with the archetypes - to move abilities around -and to make some boring, linear archetypes more modular by codifying their class features as ki-powers, thus allowing players to select or ignore them. This level of choice, which the original archetypes did not provide, does result in overall more valid, more fluid designs and potential character concepts.
At the same time, a greater willingness to take risks obviously also translated into some minor hiccups I'm not 100% sold on and a less streamlined experience. If a 3rd level ability replacing a 4th level one via the application of an archetype annoys you on a design-aesthetic level, this pdf does sport cases like them. Personally, I don't mind much and instead enjoy the fact that the lack of a paradigm was translated into a higher playfulness with style strike-replacements and similar modifications of the base archetypes.
In fact, several of base monk archetypes I have always loathed, have simply a BETTER feel in Carl Cramér's Unchained take on them - most of the time, the archetypes now better represent the intent of their concept - and that is something that's worth a lot to me, something that does mitigate some of my more nitpicky complaints.
To cut a long ramble short - this pdf is MUCH better than anticipated, and personally, I actually even prefer it over the more streamlined approach of Everyman Gaming. If you're an experienced GM, you'll probably enjoy this pdf a tad bit more due to the ability to iron out decisions you don't like and the more variable frame-work. If you prefer a holistic, unified feel, Everyman Gaming's two pdfs may be more to your liking. But I'm rambling. My final verdict for this pdf will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a margin - kudos for a job done beyond what's expected and going the extra design-mile!
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
@the xiao: My reviews of Everyman Gaming and Purple Duck Games' books hopefully answer your question. If not, feel free to drop me a line. :)
Part II of my review:
Tangent aside: The conversions provided herein are more than solid - they're close to the original themes and in many cases expand these. Where the pdf truly shines, though, would be in the numerous cases where the respective archetypes needed to get new abilities to work with the unchained monk - it is in these cases that Alexander Augunus great design-skills show. This pdf is good - great if you want an archetype to work with the Unchained rules. At the same time, though, I kept wishing Alexander had changed more, tightened some balance-screws or mopped up some less than stellar design-decisions of the base archetypes. I get why this was not done (to a bigger extent), but still, I kept thinking "what if...". I can see the ton of work that went into this - it's impressive. But I'm rambling. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars, with a must-buy recommendation for unchained monk players that prefer conservative designs close to the base archetypes. See you in Part II of this series...
Posted here, on OBS, d20pfsrd.com's shop and sent to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine.
This free teaser for Hypercorps 2099 clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs left? Right! The organic soap corporation R.I.P.E. has a job-offering - and it sounds simple - but your fridge is empty and highjacking the shipment may be the more lucrative job offer - after the deal with Mr. Grey is concluded, a weird bird delivers a counter-offer (on an old piece of paper, included as a hand-out) and, indeed, however the PCs engage the assignment, they will probably see to much - i.e. a nasty, tentacled THING. If they press the matter, things may end up...unpleasantly...
Urban savages will try to get their hands on the shipment in the employ of hyper-otyugh dealer Bazzik, who may or may not prove to be a rather challenging adversary, with multiple lair-specific tricks...and yes, killing the transported monster is another option, though one that can screw their payday. The brief escort-module does feature 4 sample NPCs and 2 pages of nice full-color maps.
Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Hypercorps 2099's two-column full-color standard with solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This short escort-sidetrek is a great introduction to the over-the-top-flair of Hypercorps 2099 - while the theme may be similar to other cyberpunk games, Hypercorps 2099 is more light-hearted and yes, downright bonkers - and, at least as far as this brief mission is concerned, it works out pretty well. Mike Myler delivers his trademark levity here and the nice player-friendly maps alone make this worth the download in my book - a solid, nice teaser-sidetrek you can complete in about 2 hours, this does manage to interest me further in the setting - and it's FREE, so yeah - a nice, free, sidetrek worth a final verdict of 5 stars - as a FREE supplement, you can't do much wrong here.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here.
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed some hiccups, the majority of the book is indeed a clean and comprehensible work. On a rules-language level, the book is actually more precise than I anticipated, with quite a few complex concepts juggled and relatively few issues. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 2-column b/w-standard with nice, original full-color artworks and cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Unless I'm completely mistaken, this was the first book by Treyson Sanders I've reviewed and he has done a surprisingly good job - the book has identified several niches that are not well-covered in the rules and proceeded to provide options for them - while my personal tastes consider quite a few of them too powerful, this depends ultimately on the campaign you're playing and what you want to do with the characters - if, e.g. Alertness would NEVER be taken by any character ever in your game due to not offering enough incentives...well, here you go. The flavorful information on Azag-Ithiel was well-written and I found myself wishing, we got more information on the lands - this installment in the series has obviously been more crunch-heavy than previous ones. Personally, I wished the fluff was more extensive, but that may hearken to an issue I have as a reviewer here: Both me and my table are pretty much bored out of our minds by yet another elemental-themed class.
That being said, I actually like the idea of supplementing spellcasting with expenditure of a limited resource like primal charges - while I'm not sold on the balancing of all individual spells, with some primal charge bonus effects going clearly beyond what can usually be done with a spell at a given level, the system itself is intriguing and rewards player-agenda - which is nice indeed. At the same time, I found myself wishing the pdf had spread access to primal charges slightly further to diverse classes, granted more to the mystic and instead had nerfed the potency of the diverse bonus effects for a cleaner balancing. The system and spells won't break your game, but I'd still encourage GMs to carefully contemplate them.
It is evident that this is the "big" concept herein, with the two PrCs being pretty generic in my book; I've seen their like done before. The archetypes and feats once again provide some definite stars, though. And I love the lists and quite a few of the items. The racial variants generally are solid and while I like some ideas used, I also disliked some design-decisions there.
So, how to rate this? See, that's the difficult part - while personally, I'm simply not that blown away by yet more elemental spells, I try to award ingenuity (water being e.g. associated with nonlethal damage) and the primal charge tricks are pretty cool. At the same time, I did stumble over a few problematic wordings and some options that are definitely on the strong, depending on your campaign, potentially even on the OP end of things. In the end, I do consider this to be a mixed bag and slightly less intriguing than the previous installment, mainly due to Azag-Ithiel feeling more opaque, less defined than previous regions provided in Porphyra, some of which still rank among my favorite region-books/PGs out there. (Get Middle Kingdoms & the Siwathi Desert!)
Still, especially for a first offering, this is damn impressive and shows talent in diverse fields. My final verdict for this massive pdf will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform - I most definitely look forward to reading more from Treyson Sanders.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
This free pdf for the Hypercorps 2099-KS clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!
The netjacker base class receives d6, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref and Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons and one exotic weapon of their choice. They also are proficient with light and medium armors and 1st level netjacker begin play with an installed hyperjack and digiboard.
Netjackers are all about controlling robots - when in combat while controlling robots, they take a -3 penalty to AC, which is reduced by 1 at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter. At the beginning of a day, a netjacker chooses either a proxy or drones, both of which are collectively known as robots.
Robots progress with a 3/4 BAB-progression, d10, 6+Int skills per HD, only bad saves, AC-bonuses that scale from +0 to +16, Str/Dex-bonuses that scale up to +6 and scaling upgrade pools and bonus HP for proxies and drones. Proxy upgrade pools scale up from 3 to 26, bonus hp from 2 to 46. Upgrade pools for drones scale up from 1 to 9 and bonus hp from 1 to 24. Proxies act upon your initiative -3, drones at initiative -6. Sharing senses can be accomplished as a standard action -proxies can furthermore act as if properly possessed. Drones, obviously, as less powerful robots, can instead offer more than one active - 1st level netjacker can have 2 active, +1 at 8th and 16th level and possess these drones as well Netjacker receives scaling bonuses to Technology-related skills and at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the netjacker receives a hacking talent. Two sample proxie base forms and two sample drone base forms are provided.
These talents allow for the sabotage of armor, equipment, etc. - personally, I'm not a big fan opposed level checks used - especially since the wording could be read as a fixed value or as an opposing roll - not sure which it is: "The netjacker makes a Use Technology check opposed by a level check (her target's hit dice +1 per 2000bt of the item's value)." - Granted, this is a minor glitch and this a free teaser, so no biggie. Better hoverboarding, becoming invisible to tech - some nice options.
At higher levels, coordinated attacks allow the netjacker to expend actions of robots to grant himself a hyper bonus and further scaling hyper bonuses are interesting. 10th level expands the list of available talents to provide advanced talents and at the capstone, the class gets dual initiative a limited amount of times per day- once in the hypernet, once in the real world.
The final page covers the basic uses of Use Technology.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue array of ambiguities and the minor ones I found can still be streamlined. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with thematically-fitting artwork and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Mike Myler's netjacker class is an interesting take on a summoner-ish class without overbearing the battle-field - the lack of durations for the drones/proxies mean that the few robots utilmately will not overburden the battlefield and bog down gameplay unduly. Having had experiences with powerful riggers in Shadowrun, I am very much aware how powerful the sharing of senses with drones etc. can end up being, so ultimately, this ought to become a pretty intriguing class. Generally, the framework provided is solid and looks like it'll be pretty fun -but as written, I can only tentatively provide a verdict - I do not have the full rules, obviously, and thus cannot judge whether this'll prove to be balanced in the end - with Hypercorps 2099 aiming for a different power-level than base PFRPG, I also have no valid frame of reference I could compare this to. The only valid assertion I can make is that this class looks like it's fun and like it *may* be well-balanced with regards to Hypercorps 2099 - that's it. Personally, I think robots should cost something to replace and I also think that explicitly stating when and how you get new ones (I assume upon resting...) would be a good idea, but this being a teaser, I won't bash it for this omission.
This being a free pdf, I still can recommend you check it out and look for yourself whether this does it for you or not. It does look like a solid rigger to me and thus, my final verdict will clock in at a tentative 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and posted here.
This pdf clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of quotes at the back, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let's take a look!
This book went up on my review queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a fair and critical review.
It is the year 1983 and you pop in this awesome new game into your state of the art Commodore 64, studded with your cutting-edge Ultimax graphics card. You get ready for a truly immersive experience and let your stereo blast a wonderful mix of metal and synthesizer-infused wave-music and then, the unthinkable happens - blue laser beams blast forth from the screen and suddenly, you find yourself within the Crimson Dragon Slayer game, in the world of Thule - a powerful wizard, dying at the entrance of some ominous caves, gives you the brief run-down of the world you found yourself in:
Thule is a savage world, formerly invaded by aliens, then subject to the dread android uprising and plunged into a neo-savage post-apocalyptic bronze age that would feel like home to either Conan or Kull. Yes, Kull. I'll fight anyone bashing the gloriously cheesy movies...but back to the review. No gods can be found in this savage land - only horrific demons, and thus, the one "high" culture remaining, the Valeecians, are drowning their sorrows in excesses of wine, women, drugs and serialized entertainment. The fabled Queen of said realm is supposed to be the most gorgeous beauty in all the lands and only by vanquishing one of the legendary Crimson Dragons, employed by the dread wizard Varkon can one hope to win her hand - or be powerful enough to take her place, if female and/or not inclined to bed the queen. Of course, alternatively, destroying Varkon's legendary scepter or claiming his dread powers would also be options, but that lies far in the future - for now, you are stranded and realize that you don't even necessarily are a human anymore!
If this premise did not at least make you smile a bit, then probably because I failed to convey the subtle humor that suffuses the writing of this basic premise - and the whole book, really. After this intro, character creation is handled - under the header "You mean this game has rules? WTF!?" Yes, this is actually a good read, unlike many rules-books I've read.
Character-creation is very much traditional 3d6 for the 6 attributes Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Willpower and Charisma. Ability-scores range from 0 to 18 and provide a range of penalties and benefits ranging from - 2 to +2. Strength influences melee damage. Dexterity influences AC. Constitution influences bonus hit points per level. Intelligence influences languages known. Willpower directly influences how easily a target can be assaulted by a wizard - low scores translate to bonuses versus the character and vice versa. Charisma attracts followers and interns and obviously, your chances of getting laid. Massive tables allow you to choose previous occupations and a 3-part name-generator table provides the hilariously cheesy names - one of my players, a red-haired woman, got "Slaughter Haunt Strawberry" and almost fell off her char laughing.
The currency in Thule would be cyber crowns and all character begin play with 3d10. Characters also start the game at level 0, gaining their racial traits: Humans get +2 to two ability scores of their choosing and 10 HP. Elves get +2 Cha and Will, get an advantage when making a good impression and are resistant to the enthrall spell. Infernal Elves, essentially half-demonic elves, get +1 Int, Will and Dex and may choose a demonic patron, regardless of spellcasting ability. Both elven types get 6 starting HP. Dwarves get +2 Str and Con and 8 HP. Halflings get +4 Dex, -2 Str and may reroll 1/day a natural 1 in a non-combat situation. They get 4 HP. Robots get +4 Int and cast spells via Int, not Will and cannot be used for Will by other casters (more on that later). They get 8 HP. Reptilians get +4 Str and Dex, -4 Cha and are bad at diplomacy etc. They may attack unarmed for 1d6 damage and get 12 HP. Pixie fairy Princesses, all of them female and all of them princesses (how that works, no one knows...) get +4 Dex and Cha, -4 Str and have an advantage in convincing folks. They get 4 HP. Crystalline creatures get +2 Willpower and count as double when used to power spellcasting and take only half damage from lasers. they get 12 HP -and obviously are a good commodity for all evil sorceror tyrants out there. Finally, the book provides rules for making hybrids of the races. Do I consider the races herein perfectly balanced? No, but their unique benefits and drawbacks can be used by a good Dragon Master (this game's term for the GM) to make them all work out.
Crimson Dragon Slayer (CDS for short in this review) knows 4 base classes. When a class levels up, you roll the class HD and add the result to your hit points. Warriors have d10 and when they hit a target in melee, they may continue to attack targets in melee range until they miss. Wizards get d6 and can utilize magic and alchemy (more on magic later) and can only use daggers and staves. 5th level wizards get either a unique spell or item, creating more at a rate of one per level. Thieves can use short swords, daggers, slings, whips, clubs and crossbows. Thieves can skip their turn to attack in the following round with double the attack dice pool. At 3rd level, they can opt to become assassins or spell scoundrels - spell scoundrels act as wizards at -2 levels. Assassins can 1/day perform a death strike (2/day at 7th and 3/day at 10th level) - if they hit, it's con-based save or die. Thieves have d8. Finally, rangers have d8 and can produce healing moss in the forest, talk Lassie-style to animals and may use long swords, short swords, daggers, bows, slings, spears and polearms. At 3rd level, they can choose to become shamans or defenders - shamans can transform into a fox, deer, raccoon, badger, turkey or twin ferrets 1/day for level rounds. Defenders may protect allies within 10 ft with their shields or magic cloaks.
The game uses dice pools - d6s per level per day. These can be refreshed by resting, though recharging requires some sort of sexual gratification. Alignment is grouped in good, evil, neutral - simple. To attempt an action, you roll 6-sided dice and only take a look at the highest number - except 6s - each 6 grants a so-called dominance. These provide additional benefits that you may choose - the more, the more bonuses you can choose. A round is 20 second long. Struggling actions get 1d6. Average actions get 2d6, Easy ones 3d6. Advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out. Occasionally, you get super-disadvantages (1d6, take the lesser) or super-advantages (4d6). Special occasions can even grant 5d6, but should be accompanied by some awesome scifi/fantasy/80's reference and finally, the cap is 6d6...unless you're 10th level or a dragon - then, this is god mode.
Results are as follows: 6 is a critical success; 5 is a success, 4 is a partial success, 3 is a partial failure, 2 is a failure, 1 is a critical failure. Dominances allow you to perform special stunts, penalize foes, grant your next rolls a bonus, initiate side benefits, reroll weapon damage or add a second attack. Speaking of side benefits - these range from disarming foes to impressing fair maidens, spell durations are doubled - you get the idea. Upon reaching 0 HP r below, a character must make a death saving throw, with the dice pool being based on Con as per the regular dice pool rules. Oh, and yes, 4 sixes mean you regain full health. Somehow. And a 1 reflects a horrible death that can stun all onlookers.
Weapons are simple: Bladed weapons have exploding dice rules - i.e. max damage is rolled again and added together. Blunt weapons stun targets on max damage. Ranged weapons receive a penalty to dice pool versus more distant foes. Two-handed weapons let you reroll 1s rolled in damage. A massive list is provided, ranging from daggers to sonic switchblades and napalm grenades.
Armor Class, or AC, acts as DR. Ac starts at zero (unless your Dex is so low you take a penalty - which would mean you get MORE damage!) - the higher, the better. Cover reduces the dice pools used to attack the target. Shields stack with armor and are VERY useful in this system. Good armor does cancel out dex-bonuses, though. Default movement is 50 ft. per round, 40 ft. in chainmail, 30 ft. in scalemail and 20 ft. in platemail.
Initiative is simple: Flee or Charge first, then ranged weapons, then melee and natural weapons, then spellcasters. HP replenish after 8 hours of rest. Tending to another's wounds in battle takes a full rounds worth of actions and replenishes a single HD and can only be done once per victim until a short or long rest is taken. Experience and level-gain is tied to deeds your character must perform in-game.
Magic is simple: Each spell costs its level in willpower. Wizards may cast higher level spells, but at thrice the cost. Wizards may also use other creatures - by spilling their blood and touching it, they can siphon willpower from the creature at the rate of 1 per round and they may only store their level worth of these points. 0 willpower = unconscious for 8 hours. This means the more spells a character casts, the less willpower he'll have to resist spells himself. 3 spells per level are provided, from 0 to 9, ranging from basic detect magic to defensive force-fields, phantasm-style deadly silver balls to the cube of coitus that helps with seduction, the ice cream phantom servant (in three flavors!), great balls of fire, cylinders of fubar and finally, Power Word: Just F%*#in' Die Already! 10th level nets you Wish, obviously.
An array of magical items can also be found within these pages and a short gazetteer on prominent individuals the character may know, some information on the demon lords like Tsathag'kha or K'tulu etc. are provided. Monsters have half their HD as dice pool for attacks. Other OSR-system monsters detract 10 from AC in CDS and add it vice versa.
And that's all - all the rules required to play - simple indeed.
The pdf also sports a small introductory module, the aptly-named caverns of carnage. So, from here on out, the review will contain SPOILERS. Players should jump to the conclusion.
The caverns of carnage are essentially an old-school dungeon crawl in the friggin' best of ways. There's not much of a story going on, but we did not miss it for even a second. Why? Because the hilarious premise of the system, the writing that made reading the rules actually a pleasant experience, blooms to full-blown awesome-triple-plus levels here. If you have no humor, steer clear. If you do, you'll laugh more than you'll have in ages playing, as horror and comedy oscillate in a spectacle that is just FUN. What do I mean by this? The module is unabashedly, wonderfully, bonkers in the way that a self-ironic heavy metal cheese is. The random encounters include grey invaders, unholy things with too many tentacles (which may cause the characters to s%&% their pants), androgynous cigarette.smoking men that may prove to be Ziggy Stardust, Surf-Nazis and *drum-roll* PSYCHOTIC CARE-BEARS that can transform you into one of their own.
The PCs can also save gorgeous women from being sacrificed to demons (and yes, there are guidelines to which of the saviors they'll be attracted to...) - coincidentally, in my playtest,a female player scored all of them and had a total blast. So no, I do not consider this sexist - it's not mean-spirited in any way. But back to being bonkers - there is an AI-Smiley of Doom to be found herein alongside a hidden grub that just waits to bite off 1d4 fingers. Caveman-orgies, skeletal mermaids, portals into post-nuclear wastelands, including mad scavengers, demonic spider gods, cannibal zombie ninjas, a literally deadly tangerine dream, a deadly Rubix cube...there is not ONE encounter here that does not sport something utterly awesome. Oh, and there is a truly unique one that not only may net permanent bonuses (including extra lives!) that had me actually get a laughing fit - friggin' cthulhoid pacman-maze. Yes, there is a nasty maze wherein nice pretzels etc. provide bonuses while ghosts haunt you and a deadly gigantic Pacman wants to destroy you! WAKKA-WAKKA-WAKKA!!!
At the end of our playtest, we all had laughed so much, some of us had sore muscles on the following day.
The pdf also provides a nice character-sheet.
Editing and formatting are not perfect, but still can be considered very good. Layout adheres to an easy to read two-column b/w-standard and sports A LOT of gorgeous, classic Conan-artworks as well as thematically perfectly fitting original pieces. The pdf does have layers so you can make it more printer-friendly still, but alas, it does not have bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.
The softcover copy has a nice, glossy cover and is well-crafted -no complaints there!
When the author Venger As'Nas Satanis contacted me, I did honestly not expect much - I shrugged, sent my usual disclaimer regarding books, that I do dish out bad ratings unlike some reviewers, etc. - and promptly forgot about the matter in the daily hustle and bustle of reviewing. Then, one day, this big box with plenty of books arrived at my home and I started reading. OSR rules are nothing new to me and I use them once in a while to take a break, so yeah - again, no big expectations.
I understood almost immediately that this was not what I had expected. For once, I enjoyed reading rules. No seriously - while they could be slightly better structured here and there, as presented, they still are easy to grasp to explain them in 10 minutes, roll up characters and start playing. The system itself, isn't perfectly balanced and it's not exactly a stroke of genius or brilliant innovation - so the crunch itself is slightly above average. But roleplaying games are more than just the numbers.
The writing of the world, the blending of science-fiction and fantasy, is just downright awesome and the adventure included in this pdf is simply inspired - unlike some gory grimdark settings, this does depict a dark world, yes - but at the same time, Thule is a realm of awesomeness, where no concept is too outrageous. This book is gloriously invested in some of my favorite concepts, it resonates with a gleeful, tongue-in-cheek humor that mirrors what is awesome about movies like Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 - this is utterly unapologetic cheese that manages to skirt the very close line between taking itself too seriously and not serious enough: The world and dungeon, in spite of their numerous references, still feel concise - they make sense, and left me utterly stoked to read more. This book was like reading my first Conan comic-book for the first time again, then mixing in my favorite games and scifi-novels to me - and brought my table excessive amounts of joy. So yes, the writing is absolutely superb - and unlike many "Metal"-settings, it never is mean-spirited, grimdark or bleak - it is just FUN.
Now if the premise is something that does not sound awesome to you, then this probably is not for you; if you don't have humor and get acne when reading the price of a space station among the possible things to buy (instead of going HELL YEAH!), if you're offended by curses here and there or by the aesthetics, then this may not be for you - but you'd be missing out. Unlike e.g. Lamentation of the Flame Princess' extremely bleak dark fantasy/horror (yes, will review some of those as well!), this book is never truly dark - it is a celebration of pulp aesthetics and tropes, of the 80s, of nerd-culture and it actually made my players want to play the module a second time. So yes, you'd definitely be missing something.
Now, as much as I'd like to, the base system, racial balance etc. make it impossible for me to rate this book as high as I'd like to - the components even out at 4 stars. BUT: I enjoyed this so much, both reading, re-reading and playing it, that I'll gladly slap my seal of approval on this bad boy - if the gloriously over-the-topness I tried to convey in some way, any way, appeals to you, then check this out! If your humor is like mine and you have managed to keep that pubescent geeky boy/girl inside you alive, I'm pretty positive you will have as much of a blast with this as I did.
And yes, I will review the other books as well...
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
The 50th installment of Rite Publishing's FREE e-zine clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 11 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 30 pages of free content, so let's take a look, shall we?
We begin this installment with David Paul's editorial recapping the journey of the magazine so far before we are introduced to Steven D. Russell's new template - the grandmaster creature. At CR +4, it renders the target lawful and allows for the creature in question to assemble a cabal of creatures that can be teleported to the grandmaster creature by uttering their name. When calling the cabal, the grandmaster also receives a significant buff -better yet, the cabal receives essentially mini-templates - brute, genius, mystic and sniper all provide multiple unique abilities for the cabal members with the respective designated roles. Finally, disparaging remarks can be uttered as swift action debuffs for foes and the level 15 hobgoblin war master used as a sample creature can be considered a fun foe to throw at your players. A great template indeed!
Raging Swan Press mastermind Creighton Broadhurst also has something nice for us - a nice dressing article that provides no less than 20 sample things your PCs may find in a pit as well as 20 things to be found in a sea cave - nice! And yes, you should get GM's Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing and GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing, my number one choices of best product of 2014 - they indeed will enrich your game!
Thereafter, we dive into Elton Robb's first article covering the Leviathan Archipelago - the Questhaven setting's tropical/(under-)water-themed regions. Utilizing concise terminology, we are introduced to the concept of Light Zones, going on to explain the undersea topography and concepts like photic and aphotic zones in a concise and easily understood manner. Benthic Zones and their respective categories are also covered herein, with water pressure and currents also being noted. Bends and various means of covering pressure and its dangers have also been provided. Oh, what's that? You already have Cerulean Seas, the definite resource for underwater adventuring? Great, then you'll be excited to hear that this series endeavors to provide full-blown synergy with those races and rules. And yes, this has only further enhanced my vast anticipation of Questhaven and makes me look forward to the cultures hinted at in future installments!
Speaking of Questhaven - Steven D. Russell does provide a write up of Our Mother of Many Ways, a deity of both wine and inspiration, knowledge and madness, associated with hyenas. With the two nice subdomains, inspiration and prophecy, the well-written article receives some nice crunch back-up. 3 feats that allow you to convey retributive madness afflictions or make wine into a lethal poison - ouch! I'm very weary of a feat that lets you 3/day activate revelations with an activation of 1 round or less as a swift action -with a lack of prerequisites and a very broad focus, this feat can result in some rather powerful combos and personally, I allow too many sources to consider it a smart idea. The article also provides a rather interesting Paladin archetype - the Joyous Brother/Sister - essentially a chaotic good paladin with an aura of hope. These guys replace spells with wine-filled barbarian rage and may, at higher level, grant this euphoria-induced state to allies via the expenditure of uses of smite evil. The archetype is well-crafted and unique and comes with its own creed - neat!
David Paul showcases hereafter some of his Forest Spells (review coming soon!) before we get an interview with Owen K.C. Stephens - designers, take a look!
After this, we get a showcase of some of the best 3pp-products out there, with highly-rated product-reviews by Trev W. and yours truly before Jacob Blackmon's Path Less Travelled webcomic ends the book on an upbeat note.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard with some nice full-color and stock-art pieces inside. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
It's been a while since I've reviewed free products, mainly because I think my readers can easily verify for themselves what they like or don't like. With the sheer amount of books to cover, I try to tackle those first and thus, alas and much to my chagrin, I had less time than I would have liked to devote to Pathways-reviews.
Personally, I always enjoy my free monthly Pathways fix and I always gladly find my reviews published there. There usually is something awesome in each issue and quite a few articles in the magazine's history have made their way into my game. So yes, this is nice content FOR FREE. That's very hard to beat, you know - and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.