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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This massive collection of modules clocks in at 192 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 11 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 177 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This pdf kicks in with a blast from the past for me - a discussion on the upcoming Lost Lands setting and how different places in the world implied by all Necromancer Games/Frog God Games modules and supplements. If you're like me, this is damn interesting...but let me go back for a second.

When 3rd edition came around back in the day, I was kind of skeptical - but then again, after seeing the very real limitations rules-light systems can sport at one given point, I converted - also due to my players simply enjoying reaping the benefits of system mastery. So I went into the new system, bought books etc. - the whole deal. That is when I realized that balance was terrible and fluctuating - if you've been there during the "Sword and Fist"-era, you'll know what I mean. At the same time, I got modules and while there were some fine gems, WotC just didn't produce enough - and while I will never forget how my PCs defeated Ashardalon (upgraded to CR 38, epic etc.), most, but not all of the new school modules left me craving *something*, feeling like something had been lost in the process. It took me quite some time back in the day to grasp what the problem was - in the advent of massive statblocks, the things that provided the immersion into the world took a step back. In its place came very straight: "This is treated as spell x" descriptions that made the whole system more concise. Additionally, bestiaries went away from complex discussions on habitat, ecology, etc., instead providing almost only crunch, rendering books I used to love to read into something I read once and then used at the table - but never read for pleasure.

The increased size of statblocks also rendered modules simply less detailed - less space to devote to the respective areas and inhabitants, their tactics etc. While this changed over the course of 3.X and in PFRPG is less of a problem, mainly due to a vast array of superb modules, in 3.X's days, it made me feel as if the system was superb in its math, but also soulless. Then there was the issue with player-entitlement, which also became a problem during those days - or rather, the slavish adherence to CRs and a "balanced chance" in every encounter felt to me unrealistic and soulless - it detracted immensely from my sense of immersion.

On the plus-side, the OGL provided a whole bunch of interesting 3pps, so I was browsing shelves in my FLGS. I noticed two old-school looking modules there - "Crucible of Freya" and "Tomb of Abysthor." I bought them. I read them. I cackled with glee. Here we got modules that had line-of-sight-featuring maps of guard-fires, great cartography - and the balls to throw a CR 6 troll at a 1st level party, proudly, defiantly against the zeitgeist, stating that PCs acting dumb ought to result in death. This very philosophy of proper challenges and smart, detailed surroundings was glorious. Better yet, the modules were not afraid of not codifying everything - providing unique terrain hazards, additional encounters (heck, in ToA the PCs can avoid a whole level if they don't want to explore everything!). A couple of years later, I had almost everything Necromancer Games had produced and ordered every book I could get my hands on.

Then, PFRPG happened and I was complaining about Slumbering Tsar, about how much I wanted to see it and had graduated from forum-lurker to reviewer. The rest is history.

Here, for the first time, the free introductory module Wizard's Amulet, Crucible of Freya and Tomb of Abysthor are collected in one massive book, all updated for PFRPG. (And that's damn well and good, for ToA, for example, was nigh impossible to get anymore!) Furthermore, while the original modules utilized various pieces of content from the Scarred Lands Creature Collection-books and the Relics & Rituals-tomes, this revamp sports completely new takes on the respective topics, without these old pieces of content. And yes, this does extend to a point where the crunch can influence the fluff and actually, rather than restrict the narrative capacities of the module in question - see for example th "sorceror's amulet"-sidebar. Better yet, some of the more significant encounters actually come with different tactical suggestions and conditions based on the difficulty level you're aiming for, making this book worthwhile even for less experienced players. (Though people, when you go for FGG, you might as well go hardcore - it's what makes winning awesome.)

Additionally, it should be noted that this is no lazy repackaging - new encounters, mapped mini-dungeons, copious amounts of superb b/w-artworks - there's a lot of new material and the inclusion of e.g. the APG-classes in builds does result in a very organic, defiantly pathfinder change of the basic modules. What about a misanthropic druid who has developed a wand to control stirges, for example, with a hilarious picture of the poor guy being annoyed by the bloodsucking pests. Ruined waystations and monasteries breathe a significant sense of danger and desolation.

And yes, the CR20+ slightly cthulhoid adversary of ToA, who belonged to a now IP-protected species has been replaced with a rather cool multi-class build...of what race? No, not going to spoil that...

On the crunch-side, the book does sport new takes on archetypes and prestige classes for the foes, numerous magic items and a variety of non-standard creatures to be encountered within these pages.

What is this module about? I'm not spoiling that. This is a piece of roleplaying history that one should experience for oneself. Just one hint: Beware the font and its endless skeletons...

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks herein are glorious, especially the new ones; some original artworks have been used as well. The cartography is neat as well, I just wished we had player-friendly versions for them.

I'll make this short - Bill Webb and Clark Perterson are legends for a reason. But Erica Balsley, Greg A. Vaughan and Skeeter Green as contributing authors should be proud as well. Developers Skeeter Green and Ken Cliffe have taken this collection and made it more than the sum of its parts, rendering this book more than the sum of its parts.

This is a defiantly old-school mega-adventure, a mini-setting-sourcebook and enough adventure material to provide enjoyment for quite a while. Finally, if your players think they're hard - back when I ran Ravenloft campaigns, I played these modules with the following stipulations:

-all damage-dealing magic causes madness checks

-max one starting piece of magical equipment

-+ DR 10/special material or DR 20/special material to all supernatural adversaries, with special materials to be determined by research

...and much more. Yes, a lot of PCs died. They still talk about the experience with a gleam in their eyes and when PC upon PC sacrificed himself to buy some time in my modified finale...well, let's just say that this was simply glorious. If you're interested in that, drop me a line.

Back to the review: I have not SPOILER-tagged the module for a reason - this is less about the story, more about the atmosphere. About the feeling of this massive book. About the freedom, the non-linearity, the sense of danger and a world that has turned forward, a feeling that what little civilization is there, it's in danger. This is a document of roleplaying game history, carefully and respectfully refreshed to the PFRPG-rules and one of the books that should grace the shelves of all PFRPG-DMs -beyond being a great old-school module, this constitutes the best iteration of the material so far, both in production values and builds. That being said, Frog God Games has since back in the day raised the bar by quite a bit, so while this module is still great and awesome, it has aged a bit when compared to some of the glorious modules FGG has produced in the meanwhile. And if your group has played the original modules, this may be the better version, but for me, personally, I wouldn't play this massive array again and instead use the new content as supplemental wilderness encounters. What I'm trying to say is - if you already have the originals, this is optional, not mandatory. If you don't have them, though - this is literally roleplaying game history.

My final verdict will still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - this is a book that every group that liked old-school should have played at least once.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This expansion for Pact Magic clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

Okay, in case you forgot - binder secrets require you to have an occultist level and can be taken in place of regular feats or bonus feats. This pdf provides 3 special types of binder secrets: Aspects, Alterations and Rituals.

Alterations secrets alter the mayor granted ability of a spirit and increase the number of rounds it is expended by 10, 8 if the binder has the rapid recovery feat. Only one aspect can be applied at a given time.

Aspect secrets modify the constellation or monstrous aspects with the secret's aspects. a binder can only benefit from a given aspect once, even if she makes multiple good pacts. She can, however, benefit from multiple different aspects secrets. It should be noted that high-level binders can learn new secrets herein to mitigate the restrictions imposed on these secrets.

Rituals take 10 minutes unless otherwise specified and require the execution of knowledge tasks as well as spirits.

All right, got that? Among the aspects, we receive the option to receive aligned strikes and benefit from the associated protection from... alignment's effects, reduced armor check penalties, healing (thankfully limited to 3+cha-mod times per day to avoid abuse), reroll skills or even gain wings at higher levels! Aforementioned healing can be upgraded by charismatic high-level binder to be usable as a means of raising the dead or to affect an area of targets, btw.

The alteration secrets tend to be more impressive, seeing how they interact with mayor abilities - they including clinging damage for acid and fire-based abilities, the option to exclude a creature type from the effects of mayor granted abilities as well as making mayor granted abilities disruptive. Replacing a mayor granted ability's damage type with elemental damage may be nice, but isn't that interesting to me - more exciting would be the option to delay the onset of a given ability - this can *really* change the dynamics of combat and open up some great tactical avenues - kudos! Electricity or fire damage may be supplemented by a dazzle-effect and yes, the obvious choices à la enlarge etc. are part of the deal as well. Maximizing damage against the favored enemy of a given spirit may be a bit hardcore. Also interesting would be the ability to maintain precarious concentration on an ability before unleashing it upon foes, increasing the save DC. Forcing rerolls is also possible and if you can think of one of the regular metamagical enhancements, it probably has a representation here.

Rituals include some of the stars herein -what about a ritual that allows you to take a creature's soul and put it into a receptacle, forcing it to do your bidding? Yes, this does come with great limits and yes, this is narrative gold for use by both PCs and NPCs. Not all secrets are this cool though - a ritual for a magic circle? Really? Thematically fitting, yeah, but a wasted secret-slot. Some feats granting spell-like abilities to e.g. detect pact spirits or using a constellation's 1st level patron spell 2/day as a spell-like ability just didn't wow me. Wildering in the samurai's class features, granting resolve, is more interesting - especially since the follow-up secrets provide some interesting, varied combo-potential - here, the pdf shines. Scaling summon monster as a spell-like ability didn't wow me either, but I can see the reasoning behind it. More interesting would be the option to prevent physical contact by creatures of the chosen alignment.

Pretty brilliant is the secret that allows you to choose one spirit and enter a trance to temporarily gain access to the ability traded for the vestigial companion of the spirit. Unbarring class features barred by tunneled lore also makes for a nice benefit. Speaking of interesting - temporarily marking foes as favored enemies of ALL of one's spirits also makes for a pretty neat ability - though one, which, in spite of its cap, can be pretty nasty. Remember this max-damage-versus-favored-enemies secret? Have I mentioned that marking an adversary doesn't seem to require an action, nor does it allow for a save? Yeah. Ouch. Of course, pretty regular benefits like +3/day minor granted abilities can be found herein as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's 2-column full-color standard and can be considered pretty printer-friendly. The pdf has nigh no artwork, but needs none at this length. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked.

Alexander Augunas is pretty much Mr. Pact Magic for PFRPG and, much like Dreamscarred Press' take on psionics, he is right as the pulse of his subsystem of magic. That being said, I do consider this pdf slightly less than it could have been. The secret-types help provide distinct benefits and the complexity of the wording required for them goes beyond what one would usually have to execute with feats and similar pieces of crunch. It is my pleasure to report that the wording of these abilities flows well - a requirement for this complexity. For yes, this took a lot more time than one would assume to reviews, mainly due to the significant amount of looking up of abilities and their finer interactions I needed to do.

That, and occultists have quite a few abilities with a cooldown - tweaking these can have pretty massive repercussions. Balancing especially the metamagic-like secrets is pretty hardcore and yes, this pdf does have some "OMG, how great is that?"-feats that can truly change the flow of battle. That being said, the pdf also sports a couple of feats I'd consider filler and the favored enemy + max damage combination is pretty nasty and could use some nerfing - guaranteed max damage, even with a 10-round cooldown just doesn't gel with me and enforces an unnecessary frontloadedness of the binder. One final note - this pdf takes the binder and makes the class, balance-wise, more like a caster. Which isn't bad, but it's a change of focus you should be aware of in case you're playing a low power/magic campaign. So how to rate this? Well, i consider this pdf to be a good addition to the Pact Magic-rules, but not one I can unanimously recommend. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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***( )( )

This pdf clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page SRD, 1 page introduction on the first page, leaving us with two pages for the relic, so let's take a look!

So what are relics? well, relics were introduced in the Genius Guides to Relics of the Godlings I + II and they essentially are Rogue Genius Games' take on magic items that increase in power with your character - and if you know anything about my stance on that topic, then you won't be surprised by me really liking this take. Now unlike Rite Publishing's Legacy Items and Purple Duck Games' Legendary Items, most Relics are inspired by real life mythology, for better or for worse, and increase in power every level.

Speaking of real life mythology - we begin with a concise explanation of what this item actually is, which should prove enlightening to those not as thoroughly versed in the intricacies of the Arthurian myth and its variations. Much like its predecessor item, the blade has, if required, a CL equal to the blade's wielder's character level. At 1st level, Caladbolg is considered magical for purposes of overcoming DR and grants scaling bonuses to diplomacy alongside scaling electricity resistance. The blade also becomes a+3 shocking burst elven curved blade and grants bonuses to Dex and Cha that scale up to +6 at 20th level. Finally, the blade allows you to call forth lightning storms a limited amount of times per day.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no truly significant glitches, though e.g. once the weapon special abilities have not been properly italicized. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard with a neat full-color artwork of the relic. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Author Andrew Marlowe provides a version of Caldbolg that is, quite frankly, as much loathe as I am to say it, nothing special. Standard enchantment progression, a spell-in-a-can thrown in and some attribute bonuses may make for a suitable, powerful weapon, yes. But nothing I couldn't have made myself and imho not worthy of the cool legend. There's nothing wrong here, but tomorrow, I'll probably have forgotten this relic. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This pdf clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page SRD, 1 page introduction on the first page, leaving us with two pages for the relic, so let's take a look!

So what are relics? well, relics were introduced in the Genius Guides to Relics of the Godlings I + II and they essentially are Rogue Genius Games' take on magic items that increase in power with your character - and if you know anything about my stance on that topic, then you won't be surprised by me really liking this take. Now unlike Rite Publishing's Legacy Items and Purple Duck Games' Legendary Items, most Relics are inspired by real life mythology, for better or for worse, and increase in power every level.

Got that? Great, so what does the scabbard do? Well, first of all, the wielder becomes more adept at healing as well as the option to bind a sword to the scabbard, thus increasing its potency over the levels - by e.g. increasing its hardness and hp, temporarily applying the keen property etc. What about repairing the weapon? At what CL? At the wielders' character level. The same holds true for the limited healing capacities the wielder receives over the levels. Bonuses to constitution can also be found herein alongside increasing fortification effects. What slot does a scabbard use? belt, of course.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no truly significant glitches, though e.g. a sentence lacks a verb. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard with a neat full-color artwork of the relic. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Author Andrew Marlowe delivers an uncommon relic - magical scabbards are a thoroughly neglected item-class and I *really* like what he has done here. On their own, the abilities may not be too impressive, but combined, they gel well. I really enjoyed this item and while it did not completely blow me away, its fair price-point and nice design make me settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down by a slight margin.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

The third installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Situated at the edge of the subterranean jungles of twilight flora and fungi, erected atop the last remnants of a civilization long perished and amidst the bones of ancient beasts, the troglodyte enclave of Fanghome makes for an uncommon place to visit - and probably, the reason to visit these disgustingly smelly lizards would probably be their trade in the enigmatic Zji Zji berries - sought after by drow fleshcasters and strange other traditions of the underworld.

Beyond racially-distinct places like spawning pools and the enigmatic Orb of Sithrak that hosts the eco-system, the uncommon race, location and emphasis on trade make for interesting takes. Additionally, lore sections, rumors, events etc. add further hooks to the village's uniqueness of this place, even before delving into the potential for inner-tribal intrigue; And what about the chief's hut, the skull of this ancient beast? A vast array of options and iconic imagery can be found in this settlement's presentation, even before the fully statted fighter 4/cleric 3 included in the deal.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly maps on Raging Swan's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked.

Brian Wiborg Mønster delivers in this little pdf chock-full of brilliant hooks: From a wholly iconic place, to a unique economy and the smart consideration for the needs of an inhuman race, this place is a great enclave to visit, breathing the spirit of early pulp in all the right ways - hinting, inspiring, without prescribing, all while delivering just enough to make this an astounding read. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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