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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This base class, commissioned via Interjection Games' patreon by Brandon Funderburgh, clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 33 pages, so let's take a look!

An assassin-class? Another one? Why would anyone care? Well, there *IS* a reason and this one was crafted by Bradley Crouch, so I'll expect something rather unique here...so please continue reading. What does the assassin class get?

Chassis-wise, the class gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-save progression and proficiency with simple weapons, blade boot, hand crossbow, katana, kukri, rapier, sap, scimitar, short sword, shortbow (including composite), shuriken and wakizashi as well as light armor. The class begins play with sneak attack +1d6 and increases sneak attack damage by +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter. As a minor nitpick, the table lacks the "+" before sneak attack, but is at least consistent in that regard. 2nd level nets evasion, just fyi.

The first defining aspect of the assassin class would be assassin techniques - the class begins play with 4 of them and learns a new one each level, up to 23 at 20th level. Techniques have two categories, "hot" and "cold" techniques and a save Dc of 10 + 1/2 class level + Int-mod, if applicable. Unless stated otherwise, only one technique per round may be executed. Hot techniques interact with Presence: An assassin begins play with the ability to exploit emotions and instinctive reflexes of targets - and uses them to accomplish deeds otherwise impossible. When a non-allied creature approaches within 60 feet of the assassin, the creature gains a presence pool, which can hold a maximum of 4 presence points and the pools are lost when a creature leaves the 60 ft. range for the assassin's Cha-mod minutes. Techniques modify the presence pool and can increase or decrease the presence pool of the creature in question. Thus, hot techniques have a presence source, which is usually single target (affecting the presence pool of a single foe); the more fantastic techniques have a certain presence required and they sport a presence change that modifies the presence points of the affected foe.

In contrast to hot techniques, cold techniques do NOT modify the presence pool and instead modify the assassin's technique pool. The assassin gains technique pool points equal to class level + Int-mod. These points replenish after 8 hours. These cold techniques ignore the presence required and presence change entries. They are paid from the technique pool and cost a number of points equal to the presence change. Finally, there are "lukewarm" techniques that may be executed as either hot or cold techniques. If that sounds complicated, rest assured that it really isn't once you've read the pdf.

Each of the two technique types also has 4 categories, which could be likened to schools - for hot techniques, we get acupressure, execution, initiation and magehunting, while cold techniques encompass infiltration (not properly italicized), intuition and poison. A system of this versatility does look like it could suffer from not having the necessary ease of building, but the class has a total of 5 universal techniques hard-wired in the class: At 1st level, studying a target can net you a presence change (and this one can be used in conjunction with other techniques). Later, creatures with HD equal to 1/2 assassin HD or less, you may reduce the presence pool of such a foe down to 0 and net you a temporary technique pool against the target, allowing for relatively quick dispatching of mooks. At 8th level, at the end of your turn, a nearby creature with 0 presence gets +1 presence (at 20th level all creatures are affected). 12th level lets you reduce a target's presence to 0, but also execute + 1 technique this round and 14th level nets you a luck bonus versus creatures with a presence pool that increases at 18th level.

As always, we get favored class options for aasimar, drow, hobgoblins, kitsune, kobold, orc, puddling, tiefling, vanara, vishkanya and core races and the class comes with almost 20 new feats for the class - beyond the obligatory increase of the technique pool, the feats allow for absolutely impressive, creative operations: Adding presence to adjacent foes after using an execution technique, retaining more stolen spells spells, spells as SPs... but there is more to be found: For example teaching an ally technique pools and the basics of assassination for 24 hours! Absolutely awesome and may be expanded! Gaining the option to add presence in surprise rounds is neat indeed. Have I mentioned gaining an infiltration technique. These feats allow for unique gambits, daily limit tricks, passive and active tricks - all in all an inspired set-up!

So, let's take a look at the technique lists! Structure-wise, we have the majority of techniques sans prerequisites, level 4, 6 and 8 as further prerequisite-levels and the techniques are listed by specialization and prereq-level in handy tables for your convenience. Let's start with the hot techniques: Acupressure techniques allow you to cause foes to drop objects, deafen or blind them or force them to move - basically, it takes all those cool chakra control and acupressure tropes we know from Easterns, WuXia movies and anime and codifies them as cool tricks.

Execution is awesome as well - Take the eponymous execute technique: It requires 4 presence, but deals damage to the target equal to the damage taken so far, max 1d6 per level, allowing you to finish off critters with awesome precision. I have never seen an ability that takes this concept actually work - here it does. Impressive. Nasty debuffs, bleeding wounds and adding feints combine brutal end-game attacks and set-ups. Awesome and absolutely glorious. Initiation allows for sniping: Instant throwing knives, disarming shots...oh, and what about hitting a target and then causing its actions to damage the target? That is mechanically intriguing and the sniping tricks work perfectly for Hitman-style assassins - get your inner 47 on!

Magehunting is similarly awesome and something I mentioned before: Spell-pilfering, penalized CLs, better saves, making homunculi from mages slain (!!!), dispel magic or copy spells you saved against - this one technique officially makes the assassin my favorite take on the anti-mage killer/ (slightly) arcane trickster trope ever.

Cold techniques are nothing to sneeze at either: Quicker movement, instant Kip Up, leaping through difficult terrain, walking up walls, blending with crowds: Infiltration makes you the badass secret agent/killer the assassin should be.

Once again taking the tropes of the Eastern/WuXia/tropes associated with mystic assassins, Intuition is all about preternatural awareness with lie detector tricks by touch, store d20s to later use (and even share with allies) - the tricks here go far beyond what we usually see and are creative, different and simply impressive. Finally, poison specialization autogrants poison mixology, which nets you daily, highly customable poisons as a basic framework that is used by all techniques, featuring additional doses, the option to drink poisons to heal (!!!) and squirt it from your eyeballs (!!!!) at foes. Making lethargic liquids to impose increasingly powerful conditions on foes...absolutely amazing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some formal hiccups, these never impede the rules-language, which is impeccably precise, as we've come to expect from Bradley Crouch. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports solid stock art. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, but does not feature bookmarks for the individual techniques.

OH MY GAWD. Sorry, I can't contain myself here. I read this and liked it. I tested it and loved it. I picked it apart and truly adored it. I saw it and thought "Great, yet ANOTHER assassin class." Don't be fooled. I am NOT kidding when I'm saying that:

A) This plays incredibly well, allowing for all the things that assassins were always supposed to do.
B) From all the classes and takes on the concept I know of, none even comes remotely close to this class in versatility and, more importantly, in the category of fun.
C) I have literally not seen about 90% of the tricks this class has before, and when I have seen one before, it was usually the one truly impressive trick of a class, not one among the vast numbers of unique options.

The momentum and point engines interact absolutely beautifully and the math framework is a beauty to behold if you pen it down: You have the passives, the set-ups, the daily tricks, a vast assortment of customization feats and, on a whole, truly different focuses in the specializations - each of them alone can make for glorious playing experiences, but mixing and matching is even cooler. With a ton of options in combat and beyond, this class is simply one of the best, most rewarding and unique playing experiences I know of for Pathfinder. It perfectly takes the much-maligned and often sucky trope of the assassin and makes it work perfectly, flawlessly and awesome for the first time in PFRPG.

Whether you want to play Assassin's Creed, Ninja's Scroll, Raj' Al-Ghul's killers, Codename 47 or any combination of these guys - this delivers and oh boy, do I want MORE!

This class may quite literally be my very favorite class from the pen of Bradley Crouch; it's that good. Let me reiterate: Even among his unique roster of classes, this stands out far above and beyond in concept and execution. It finally gives the superb concept of the assassin the proper due it deserves and actually has replaced the swordmaster as my favorite non-spellcaster class. Easy to grasp, with a glorious playing experience, this is a must-own class, one of the best classes out there and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars, my seal of approval and is a candidate for my Top ten of 2016. Oh, and it is from now on my go-to class for assassins and thus gets my EZG Essential tag.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This book clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what kind of player's guide is this? The answer is simple: It's the type of guide you read because you want to read it. The theme is relatively simple - instead of just confronting players with a dry synopsis of the respective regions, this pdf is written to emulate a collection of letters/correspondences and documents of characters that are traveling the borderland provinces that will be the adventuring location for the players. The intriguing component with this approach is that this approach actually not only manages to shine diverging focuses upon the things going on and thus highlight different aspects of the regions:

We can get a glimpse of intrigues and politics through the motivations of nobility; we can witness a character fall to the devil opium and slowly sink into the clutches of demon-worship; we can see clerics fighting the heresies that spring up and realize the truth behind the supposed commoner. Each of the characters has his/her own narrative voice, with the letters of a barely literate knight using a more phonetic writing style full of at times humorous glitches, showing that the character in question probably had one too many jousting lances to the head (or used Int as a dump stat).

Via the letters of these characters, we move through the borderlands and accompany their triumphs and tribulations, their fear of the untamed wilderness and the draconic doom lurking right out there sinking slowly to the reader. unlike the quasi-early modern period, a sense of medieval structures is conveyed in a believable manner. The city of Manas, capital of Suilley, does get a full-page map for the convenience of players and the final page provides a collection of no less 8 heraldic crests, which help players identify the knights and holdings - when the GM describes the crest of a tower with a crown above it, the players will know to expect the Exeter province's holdings and retainers. Exeter? Yep, nomenclature is associated with central European nomenclature, with Aachen and Vourdon, as further examples, illustrating well the linguistic aesthetic.

In the hands of lesser authors, this could easily backfire, but t does not in this book. So yes, after reading this supplement, I sure as hell knew that I wanted to play in the Borderland Provinces.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' two-column b/w-standard and the cartography and artwork in b/w are neat indeed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed bookmarks and the print copy is a qualitatively neat booklet with good paper - as we've come to expect from frog God Games.

I have become a big fan of Matthew J. Finch's writing and he delivers herein, creating a tantalizing atmosphere. Furthermore, he highlights the different, interwoven leitmotifs of the region in a compelling manner and makes you excited to check out the region and unravel all the plots and options I have seen in such guides. This is a player's guide well worth the asking price and a neat companion book for the big tome. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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***( )( )

One central component of any sandbox campaign worth its salt is the component of the journey - whether because wine and wenches await in a far-off place or because something needs to be delivered - whether a secret missive, a caravan or something altogether different. The problem that a GM does have here is that it is hard to come up with meaning full journeys - enter this book and its 2 different types of journey generation: Number one creates journeys focused on getting to the adventure, whereas the second generator creates journeys that represent the main meat of the adventuring experience in question. It should be noted that this book, obviously, focuses on the Borderland Provinces - hence, we get a total of 12 tables, one for each of the respective provinces and a table that features a variety of patrons and supplemental motivations for the patrons. The patron tables could have been a little more versatile, though: A lot of diplomatic missions, tasks for churches, etc.

The pdf goes on to provide a table of 10 simple journey details; for more complex journeys, 10 objectives, 20 locations, 10 groups and 10 immediate threats can be quickly rolled and combines. 14 general monster themes, 20 related objects and 5 possible complications allow for flexible modifications. The journey completed, 5 entries for the final wrap-up of the journey can add a final sense of unpredictability to the proceedings.

Beyond these basic setups, a quick price change table for quick trading makes for a fun and smooth trading rules array. Of course, the pdf also has a massive table to generate roadside inns, with name patterns, creature and item adjectives, creatures and items, etc. Basic descriptions of inns, religious hostels and a neat what's for dinner table. The book also sports 10 conditions and events to further add to the journey and the book concludes with 31 fully detailed sample journeys.

Conclusions:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has neither artworks, nor bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf is fully bookmarked and the hardcopy is of the usual high quality for Frog God Games print books.

I *really* like Matthew J. Finch's Journey generator and the tables to quickly generate locations to precise locations in the Borderland Provinces makes this a pretty useful book. But at the same time, it feels like it does fall a bit short - I am pretty spoiled by Raging Swan Press' absolutely legendary GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing and regarding the details of the journey, I'd very much suggest taking this legendary book (#1 of my Top Ten 2014, just fyi...) to add all the evocative dressing you require to the basic journey generated herein, since this booklet simply doesn't have that level of detail. I was also pretty disappointed, for a journey-book depicting a specific region, to get no handy table of distances between places and projected number f traveling days by foot, horse or cart. This does not mean that this book is bad, mind you - it just means that it falls short of its own potential. While useful for the Borderland Provinces, the pdf could have been significantly more useful with a bit more room to shine and the lack of travel-distances decrease the usefulness of this one for me. A solid book slightly on the positive side, my final verdict for this one will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purposes of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

This booklet clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The Borderland Provinces Player's Guide took a rather brave and evocative step by focusing exclusively on the atmosphere created, on providing a book that conveys properly the unique flavor of the Borderland Provinces. At the same time, this book alone would some tables leave wanting the harsh facts, the breakdown of the lands to be found in this illustrious region and notes on the history of the place - after all, when you have lived here for a while, you will probably know a bit about this place, right?

So, as opposed to the player's guide, which provides the totality of the atmosphere and leitmotifs of adventuring in the provinces, this one focuses on instilling the overview information. To be more precise, we get a *MASSIVE* chronology of the lands here, with 3 different calendars! The hyperborean incursions, the rise and fall of Foere and the recent Suilleyn secession and imperial aspirations are noted and establish the basic, global dynamics.

Beyond the chronology of the respective regions, the player's gazetteer then goes on to depict the various regions, from Aachen to Exeter and Gaelon. Beyond notes on population and notable settlements, unique terrain features, humorously inappropriately named dark and brooding forests (Forest of Hope - really got a chuckle out of me!) to notes on trade and diplomatic relationships as well as trade and commerce - the tapestry woven here is great and the guide. More importantly, the gazetteer does provide information and inspiration...but does not dive into SPOILER-territory, retaining full functionality for its player-book-status.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports unique and original b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the hardcopy is a booklet of the usual, high FGG-quality.

Matthew J. Finch's pen is mighty indeed - the more I read from him, the more I love his prose and talent of weaving evocative worlds. This gazetteer is a great little supplement that delivers exactly what was missing from the Player's Guide. Which brings me to the one reason this does not gain the seal of approval: In my opinion, combining the two guides into one would have been the smarter move and made book-organization easier, but that may just be me. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*****

The first installment of Steelforge clocks in at 16 pages,. 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief foreword by the authors, we dive right into the respective items contained herein and the first item-class already makes pretty much clear that this is NOT a standard magic item book - we begin with 3 inexpensive types of auto-loader magazines for crossbows. What do they do? Well, they make crossbows on par with bows. Thank you. That being said, I am a more than a bit weary of the ability to copy enchanted bolts in an infinite capacity - once you insert a bolt, the magazine copies the bolt's properties on other bolts contained herein - insert mundane bolt, add one powerful magic bolt, get infinite copies of the powerful bolt. This would be utterly broken, were it not for the VERY smart caveat of it being impossible to taking any bolts out of this magazine sans destroying them, putting a hard cap on the number of bolts you can copy. This catapults the item class immediately from problematic to all awesome. Chest-slot-assigned natural armor enhancers, corsets that enhance your saves, girdles of protection and the like can also be found here.

In case you need that spelled out: The items here utilize other slots than e.g. the standardized slots - which may be a blessing or curse, depending on your take: While I really like the fact that now cloaks and rings aren't necessarily occupied to make the high-level math work, this also allows for some optimization tricks that weren't possible before. Since this issue is pretty much system-immanent, I will not penalize the pdf for it. That being said, I did notice an uncharacteristic glitch: The construction prices of the aforementioned corset are equal to the market prices, which is an obvious error. (As an aside: I do believe that prices could have been used to account for the value of the respective slots and some balancing here, somewhat offsetting the gained flexibility, but I digress.)

This is not all, though - hate seeds allow you to utilize the dread's paranoia terror (cool!) and ironbody cloaks contain temporary hit points, which help in particular to offset the squishiness of some characters at high levels...or in high damage output games like those employing Path of War or similarly optimized characters. Headset-style earrings are damn cool and tie in well with collective rules and dimensional anchor nets have been a staple in my games for a while - nice to see them represented here as well! Seriously underpriced at 12K, Steelwalker's Boots may add to the flexibility and flow of combat by allowing 1/2 movement in conjunction with full attacks, but they also cheapen all skirmishing builds I know. I'd hate this item like crazy, were it not for the fact that, unless you actually hit, you are staggered, making this a high-risk/reward item I actually ended up liking!

There is also a nice take on transferring magic enchantments from items to items (somewhat akin to Interjection games' glyph wrappings).

More important would be the highly versatile charming trinket-systems: There is a bracelet and necklace that can each hold charms, with a ton of them provided in two groups, included upgrades for Claim-limits, ki points, etc. Nice customization array, though its flexibility and low price point, while cool, may not be what every GM is looking for, they do sport some serious value.

This is not all, though: We are introduced to the 3rd-level flightbreaker spell and the absolutely glorious endeca's gregarious gravity slime: Somewhere between intelligent slime and item, you rub these slimes on weapons, attack foes and watch them do their magic. The slime is AWESOME and evocative and comes with a rather cute artwork. No complaints.

The pdf also feature the gravity slime master PrC, which covers 5 levels and adds a total of +3 BAB and Ref/Will-saves as well as two levels of class feature progression, d8 HD, 4 +Int skills per level. As a minor nitpick, Dreamscarred Press has established a time-frame in concrete time for per-encounter abilities that is not reprinted here, in spite of the PrC using such mechanics. The PrC can launch damaging, DR/resistance-ignoring untyped damage dealing gravity slimes at foes - while I have no balance concerns here, I still wished it wasn't untyped. The gravity slime master also receives a gravity slime guardian at first level, basically a kind of variant eidolon that gains a series of free evolution, but no pool of its own or magic item-sharing with the master. And yes, at higher levels, it gains more evolutions and can act as a mount. The gravity slime master's launched gravity slimes get additional, hampering effects at higher levels and starting at 3rd level, this impact ability extends to gravity slimes added to weapons. Really evocative little PrC.

The final chapter of the pdf covers a topic near and dear to my heart: Combating the Christmas Tree syndrome. This section pretty much is worth getting the pdf on its own. Why? Well, while most of Dreamscarred Press' recent offerings have been geared towards high-powered gameplay, this chapter will provide a ton of benefits for pretty much all groups I can think of: Rare/Low magic campaigns can employ it and its massive table to codify the value of saving throw bonuses, armor class bonuses (by type) or resistances to be added to items, allowing for customization of more unique items and adding their benefits. Since the enhancements are listed in steps, they do take the slot component into account. This section is pretty minimalistic, yes - it basically covers the must-own enhancers to make the math come out right. I absolutely love it. The section is made primarily for GMs and can prove to be extremely helpful when pricing items that feature these options among others - from legendary items to legacy items, these humble two pages will see A LOT of use in my own game. One note, though: In spite of the non-stack caveats and very precise presentation here, I'd suggest GMs keeping a tight control over these rules, since, again, system-immanently, the added variety does allow for combos otherwise impossible. This is very much a feature in 99% of the cases, but it can be a bug, in spite of the section doing everything right.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both rules-language and formal levels - with the one exception regarding prices mentioned above, but that one is pretty obvious as well. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, it comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. Kudos for going the extra mile there!

The authors of this pdf Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Anthony Altovilla and Forrest Heck have crafted an intriguing pdf here: All crunch, steelforge's first book is not a traditional item book; instead, it could be best described as a design-paradigm toolkit that provides item-options and tricks to customize your game. More importantly, several of its items address some gaps in the system; in particular, the temporary HP granting items can be a true blessing for high-powered gameplay. Other aspects of the pdf provide increased flexibility for magic items, interesting variants and options as well as some serious designing help for DMs looking for an easy price-cheat-sheet for the modification/design of legendary/legacy weapons or an end to the Christmas tree syndrome, making this pdf a valuable asset for lower powered games as well. That being said, considering the nature of this pdf, I do believe that some guidance for GMs regarding the ramifications of introducing some contents herein would have been helpful: This is basically a massive engine-tweak, but it does require a bit more understanding of the consequences of adding the content than I consider necessary. While this does mean that the pdf remains very focused on the crunchy aspects, it also makes it a pdf that requires some serious thought on behalf of the GM on which options to employ in the end.

It should be noted, however, that thinking about this is rewarded; Steelforge's Book I has some truly glorious ideas and the gravity slime is a cool concept that can, engine-wise, certainly be expanded in future releases. I consider Steelforge I an excellent book that only misses my seal of approval due to the fact that it, as more of an engine-tweak than a traditional item book, could have used more didactic guidance for less experienced GMs. Still, consider this well worth getting - my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars,. rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.


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