An Endzeitgeist.com review
The first player faction-offering for the Vathak-setting is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Player faction? Well, yes, for this is more than an organization - devoted to the Book of Black Earth, an ancient tome of cataclysmic prophecies unearthed from ruins led to genesis of a secret organization - on available for PCs, though personally, I'D rather suggest this ephemeral cabal more as antagonists. But more on that later:
Drawing in a cool professional way on how factions in Golarion are presented, we get the basic faction rules regarding prestige explained to us before we delve into the order's history and rather disturbing indoctrination rituals. A long and concise list of benefits depending on TPA and CPA (total and current prestige awards) are there and offer some intriguing options - amongst other to exchange character traits for the two new faction-specific traits provided in the pdf - both of which come with a nice fluff and mechanics I can't and won't complain about. Suggested classes and 4 new feats are also part of what the order has to offer - including one that allows the user to 3/day cast the message spell as a spell-like ability, but only t contact other order members - a powerful tool for shadowy conspiracies indeed. The feats are solid in presentation and while spells are not in italics, the fluff and ideas make up for this minor shortcoming by oozing flair.
2 new spells also complement this faction, one that deals damage and infects with a more powerful type of Borer Worm (a CR 1 acid-oozing parasite-worm introduced in these pages as well) and a spell that conjures up an area of writhing, shadowy, con-draining tentacles. Aforementioned Borer Worms are also provided equipment style stats and we get one damn cool poison: By extracting tainted earth from the dread pit of decay (a mobile, gory, maw-like appendage that shows itself annualy and is tied to the Old One of the cult), the order may create a potent toxin by mixing the soiled earth with blood. This location is not the only special one sacred to the order - there are also the Worm Ways, hidden and weird tunnels that serve as twisted smuggle-ways. A special celebration, a holiday if you will, the so-called Worm-Solstice is provided as well in a compelling, twisted write-up.
Among the creatures, apart from the Borer Worm, we also get the Crawling putrescence and a sample CR 8 mastermind of the cult.
Editing and formatting are very good - apart from some minor aesthetic glitches like aforementioned italics-bungle I didn't notice any glitch that would have impeded my enjoyment of this pdf. The layout adheres to Vathak's beautiful 2-column standard and the artworks are nice indeed, especially for such an inexpensive publication. On the downside, we don't get any bookmarks, which is a minor bummer.
Wow! Kudos to the Fat Goblins! This pdf for the Vathak setting is not only a great cult for the setting, but for any setting really - DMs seeking to flesh out the Age of Worms or those using Morithal (from Clockwork Gnome Publishing's excellent pdf) should definitely get this as a means to further flesh out the cults. The prestige benefits and iconic locales and rites add further flair to a presentation of a thoroughly twisted cabal that should strike a chord with all DMs that like their fantasy dark and twisted. An enjoyable read for a fair price indeed and well worth 5 stars - me omitting my seal of approval only because of the minor glitches and lack of bookmarks.
With my head in my pdfs, I almost didn't notice - it's this time of the year again, when humble me takes a short, goth-related vacation to Leipzig.
I'll return on Tuesday and reviewing duties will commence as usual - with a bang and 5 new ones and me hopefully motivated as heck.
That being said, I didn't want you guys to have no new reviews, so I dug in my pile and took 4 drafts of very good, appropriately dark-themed pdfs and posted them on my site.
Furthermore, I'd like to draw your attention to a worthy cause: Christina Stiles spearheads an indiegogo-campaign to get writers to Gen Con - and yes, grandmaster crunch Owen K.C. Stephens is part of the group. Oh, and humble ole' me is a stretch-goal.
So if you ever wanted to punch me in the face for shredding your products, buy me a drink, talk to me about design, riddle me with questions on the world of 3pps or campaigns, on my house-rules, character-deaths madness-system etc. - this might make exactly that possible.
Oh, and I actually have a seal and way, so if you really want a real life seal of approval, I'd bring that along. :)
Thanks for the attention, ladies and gentlemen, I'll see you on Tuesday (and possibly at Gencon)!
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This FREE pdf is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Th pdf kicks off by introducing us to a new magical quality called “mirrored” that does not increase an item’s magical bonus, but only its base price. For every plus the weapon has, it gets 13 charges and upon using a spell-like ability, the weapon loses one of said charges. Every 13 charges that are depleted cost the magical item one of its +1 enhancements. This additional power is considered as being an item incorporated into the weapon price-wise. Furthermore, when two mirrored weapons clash, both abilities are activated without depleting a charge – otherwise, the activation is dependant on activation triggers that vary by weapon. Finally, mirrored weapons net bonuses when nearby allies also wield mirrored weapons and count as cold iron for the purpose of DR.
The first item provided is Cyrekksi’s Mirrored Spear, a +2 spear that protects the wielder with 1d4+2 mirror image upon botching an attack. These duplicates last 8 minutes or until hit.
Marizz’s Mirrored Club is a +2 club that may, upon striking a foe with a DR of a specific type, up to 2/day cast versatile weapon with a duration of 8 minutes – per se a cool idea, but does versatile weapon apply to the strike that prompted it or to the next one? Also, the charges of this one are unrefillable in contrast to the mirrored spear – a somewhat odd decision: Either make them all unrechargeable (would make sense to me) or make them all rechargeable.
The final weapon provided is the shortsword of enlarging diminishment, a +1 keened[sic!] shortsword (should be keen) – when wielded by a gnome or halfling, the sword may 1/day affect foes subject to a crit with reduce person, while the wielder benefits from an enlarge person. Unfortunately, the DC of this very specific ability is fixed at DC 14, meaning that the weapon will stop being useful fast.
The final 6 pages are devoted to providing versions of the items for 3×4 index cards and 4×6 index cards.
Editing and formatting is good, but not perfect – I noticed a couple of different minor glitches. Layout adheres to a full color standard with a parchment-style background that renders the pdf not particularly printer-friendly. Each weapon comes with its own artwork – and when taking into account that this pdf is FREE, the quality of them is actually rather nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but at this length needs none. More significant is the absence of a proper SRD, which might prove to be problematic in the long run for the company.
This pdf actually offers some nice magical weapons with uncommon mechanics and solid fluff to back them up, though the club could use some minor clarification and the short-sword’s fixed DC and very specific activation conditions mean that that one becomes mostly useless fast, though it’s concept is ok. Personally, I prefer scaling DCs that keep items relevant.
That being said, while not perfect, author Mike Myler has created a solid pdf for FREE and even if you don’t use the items, at least you get some artworks to show players – all in all, this is a solid offering that is FREE and as such is definitely worth a read and the space on your HD. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
This pdf is FREE but can't currently be purchased here and linking would be bad form.
This module is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1/2 page ToC, leaving us with 32 1/2 pages of content - and a missing SRD that needs to be included in the pdf. EDIT: SRD has been added.
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS, so potential players may want to skip to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! The PCs are recruited by a weird gnomish bard called Terrence Threncewell on behalf of a weird little gnomish settlement called Brandlehill, which is well-known for its weird clockwork contraptions. It should be noted that DM's who have an issue with fluff get a LOT of very detailed exposition - almost 3 pages are devoted to the recruitment of the PCs before they meet the Dwarven trademaster of the town, one Orin Hardtack who wants a grippli-town removed. Grippli-town? Yes, for Brandlehill's clockwork wonders are reliant on rare swamp herbs from the Zeranoth swamp and aforementioned grippli-tribe has mostly become hostile due to as of yet undetermined reasons.
The grippli waste not much time an attack soon - in numbers and the PCs will have to slug through quite a massive bunch of these froggy fighters -including the fact that the humanoids will try to flank the PCs en masse. The fluff also mentions a healing-impeding paste, though that one does not feature in the stats - an unfortunate disjoint between fluff and crunch here. After the attack, the PCs may follow the frog-people into the swamp to meet a grippli ranger called Ralka tells teh PCs about the sickness of the grippli's leader and the fact that the apprentice has ordered the attack - there is something wrong with the tribe...
Ralka escorts the PCs to the village (where btw. a section italicized as a flavor-text is none - a mayor layout/formatting glitch there) - where they will realize that the water-supply of the grippli has been tainted - probably by the ambitious former apprentice. The grippli are rather unhelpful and seek to drive the PCs out of town. Weirdly, on the following two pages, layout changes to a superior 2-column standard only to revert to the one-column standard before. They can find the remains of a fallen half-orc ranger, who not only returns as a ghost, but also suffered from a demonic disease. With the proof, they can expose the apprentice upon a return to the grippli-village - after killing more grippli. Alternate solutions like diplomacy etc. should have been included here - not to speak of stealth...
The corrupt apprentice, though, has fled to the Harhoa Cave, where he makes a final stand with a demonic frog, guarded by grisly trophies and traps. Upon dealing with the evil-doers, the PCs may return to Brandlehill to choose one of 3 clockwork wonders. The first, a grapple launcher, is a ranged weapon that hits foes with grab and damage as well as having the potential to halt falls - unfortunately rather overpowered. The second, a triple-shot crossbow makes up for that by being too weak, whereas the third, which provides bardic performances in a box, actually is interesting - though ALL items lack crafting-information and proper item-statblocks.
The magic item, Cyrkssi's Mirror Spear unfathomably follows the proper formatting, as does the magical Troll Wig-net. The pdf also features all the stats for the characters featured herein - but the statblocks lack italicized spells. The final three pages are devoted to neat 3 maps of beautiful full-color maps with grids.
Editing and formatting are ok, though not perfect - especially formatting is problematic, with DCs and rules-relevant information having to searched for in the text due to a lack of proper highlighting. Layout mostly adheres to a one-column standard, which bloats the page-count of the module and is not particularly comfortable to read - with the inexplicable exception of two pages. The pdf is not bookmarked, which is a massive comfort-detriment. The pdf does come with two versions, one being more printer-friendly. The artworks, while original, are with the exception of the cover ugly - the artist can draw inanimate objects well, but fails with regard to characters/monsters. The battle-maps provided are beautiful, but the lack of keyed maps to place traps and adversaries makes running the respective combats rather difficult. It is also unfortunate that we don't get a map of Brandlehill.
This module has quite some potential for being weird, funny and grotesque - and squanders it as it suffers from a myriad of beginner's mistakes: From the weird layout to the rather abstract battle situations, we have quite an array of potential problems. Environmental factors in battle? Mostly underdeveloped. As are the respective locations. It's weird really, how a module with such a massive array of fluff text can remain so abstract in combats and environments, failing to give measurements, exact dimensions etc., which render properly running the module much harder than it should be. Beyond that, the massive array of fluff often is not properly separated from non-fluff text, which is faultily italicized, whereas many formatting peculiarities like a lack of italicized spells render the statblocks less polished than they ought to be.
And then there is the railroad factor - there is zero possibility to jump off the rails on this one - the fluff text assumes actions on part of the PCs, which is a grand no-go and essentially the module not only lacks skill-DCs for navigation and non-violent resolutions, but is very stringent in its linearity. Since the origin of the problems the PCs face turns out to be rather obscure and esoteric, the ONE Chance to analyze the problem may be easily lost on the PCs - whereas they are railroaded to the source of the problem without any chances of doing research/information gathering. The alternate resolution including a full-blown annihilation of a settlement is introduced and never followed up on and the clockwork wonders are all over the place regarding balance. One substance is never given stats though the players should by all means also be afflicted by it. Alternate means of succeeding like stealth are touched upon, but sans DCs, guidance etc., rendering this module unfortunately an unfulfilling railroad.
This module has potential - its locales and characters are colorful, its ideas are not bad - but the overall execution is deeply flawed - as much as I love the battle-maps, they are abstract and the DM is left with figuring out where what is. Lack of environmental factors, alternate means of resolution, no bookmarks, sloppy formatting and the overtly railroady structure when combined with minor issues here and there unfortunately means I can't rate this even as mediocre - in fact, were it not for the interesting magic items, well-crafted maps and nice local color, I'd bash on this module even more. As written, my final verdict for this module will clock in at 1.5 stars, narrowly rounded up to 2.
You can get this module here on OBS, should you want to take a look yourself.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to GMS magazine and Nerdtrek and posted here and on OBS.
The guys from little Red Goblin Games have kindly provided me with the Alpha for their current Necropunk kickstarter and by now, I've had some time to digest it - if you're interested, you can get some in-depth information on my home-page.
Hope you'll enjoy! More reviews to come at the very latest on Monday! Cheers!
Sooo...as some of you may have noticed, I now have my own homepage, Endzeitgeist.com.
I post my reviews usually at least one day in advance there and have an RSS-feed that delivers all reviews conveniently.
Since you fine people here on the boards are essentially who I do this for, I'd like to ask you some questions:
1) I'm planning on tagging my backlog to make searching the site via tags/categories more efficient..BUT: Every moment I spend tagging, I can't write new reviews. What would you want me to prioritize? Tagging the backlog or writing new reviews? I can't judge what would be more useful to you.
2) What type of review are you most interested in? Short, Bullet Point-length files? Big books? All? I'm asking since e.g. Razor Coast for example will eat A LOT of time and I usually print out my books. Since the print book will come in summer, that would require reading the monster on screen when I could wait and read it in print.
3) Do you want me to join facebook/connect the page to fb? I don't like the platform one bit, but might bite the bullet if you folks tell me to.
4) Have you ever clicked on a link on my page to the respective product I reviewed? If not, what would make you? I'll be brutally honest: Reviewing as many files as I do, even with my at best erratic sleep-rhythm, takes a lot of time (it's almost a full-blown job by now) and at least being able to afford a pdf once in a while via affiliate sales would be nice.
5) Where do you read my reviews? Endzeitgeist.com? GMS magazine? Nerdtrek? Here? OBS? d20pfsrd.com's shop? Pathways? Lou Agresta's RPGaggression? What would make you visit my site?
Thanks for your attention and thanks for the continuing support and for reading my ramblings!
I have my own site now! Endzeitgeist.com will from now on be the first place I post my reviews - fret not, I'll still post them slightly later at all the usual places.
But if you do want to get the latest review, Endzeitgeist.com will be the site to go to - and no, you won't be annoyed by banners or flashy images - I promise!.
I've included links towards most 3pps and am in the process of tagging/sorting my massive backlog - so that e.g. you can click "monsters" and get all the latest monster-pdfs. I'm also sorting pdfs by series, author, publisher etc. If any publisher wants his/her link to their site removed, don't hesitate to drop me a line and I will do so ASAP.
Beyond a metric ton of reviews, this will also be the place where I post my musings, so in case you're inclined to read them, they'll be there as well.
Now, I'm new at this and tagging/sorting the reviews will probably take some months, but I'll still resume regular reviewing duties - first on the blog, then on all the other sites. Today saw 3 new reviews and more will follow.
Thanks for your attention and if you have some series/books that you want me to sort first, drop me a line. :)
Cheers and thanks,
I'm sorry if this is the wrong forum - if so, I apologize.
Now it has come to my attention that there are platforms that offer affiliate sales, i.e. you take a banner/add a suffix to the shop to the link you use and if the respective person buys in the store, you get a (very small) cut of the product's price.
I wanted to now whether Paizo has or has any plans to implement such an option and if so, how to qualify for it.
I'm simply asking because my reviewing has taken a dimension where, if my financial situation worsens in any way (which it might), I'd have to reevaluate how much time I can in good faith devote to reviewing and every option helps.
Thanks in advance and sorry for the bother.
This solo-adventure (no GM required) is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page author's note, 2 pages SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!
This being a module for strictly one player, I can't give away any of the content without spoiling the ONE person who will play it, so...I won't. Instead I'll tell you what to expect in the broadest terms:
In the style of the choose-your-own-adventure-novels, we get "if x, then read z"-formulae. There are a total of 21 different entries to read and in contrast to Kobold Press' "Party of One"-series, combat works via fully provided statblocks and the usual rules instead of any slimmed down version. That being said, there is not that much combat going on and while you hire a fully stated hireling to help you.
The module per is the definition of a short dungeon-crawl and has nothing too exciting going for it, though the maps overall are impressive at this price-point: 3 full color maps and one b/w-overview of the area schematic map are provided in the module. Now where the concept unfortunately falls a bit flat of its own premise is in its lackluster use of skills: The module railroads you much more into a given path than required: You can't e.g. opt for stealth and the module clearly presumes a rogue as pregen, but sans providing one: You have multiple times the option to pick a lock, but no DCs are ever given, neither is the option to use stealth being taken into account.
While a given base of railroading is inherent in such a book, this one in particular feels more linear than it should be. Additionally, if you opt to play this with a spellcaster (no pregen, remember), then the whole thing comes apart at the seams.
The overall production values of this solo-module are actually quite good, with nice cartography for the price and a commendable lack of editing and formatting glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, no-frills two-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but its "if then"-sections are linked for your convenience, which is a GREAT idea for a solo-module. The story of this solo-adventure left me rather cold and not much in the terms of characters to identify with, which is also reflected in the fact that no-one in the module seems to have a name: Neither NPCs, nor monsters.
The overall flow of the module works, though it is very constraining regarding your actions and their results, more so than feasible. The additional lack of options to take specific basic behaviors like "stealth" into account and the lack of pregen further hurt what definitely has potential. After playing through this, I felt positively surprised by the production values, but terribly underwhelmed with regards to story-telling/linearity. So much so, that it kind of spoilt the whole module for me. The line has definite potential and future modules may be better, but I'll settle for a final verdict of 2 stars on this one.
Posted this review here, on DTRPG and sent it to GMS magazine.
Endzeitgeist, runelord of evaluation, out.
This module is 40 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with a total of 35 pages of content, so let's check this out!
This adventure for the Sword & Sorcery genre and character lvl 8-10, while utilizing the PFRPG-rules, uses some default assumptions that are different from you standard fantasy fare, as befitting of the genre. First of all, 6 cultural archetypes for humans are presented in the first appendix. Due to a lack of humanoids like elves and dwarves in Sword & Sorcery literature, the versatility that is the spice of roleplaying comes from choosing cultural archetypes with their own distinctive attribute modifiers, special abilities etc. Decadent characters, for example, get bonuses on social skills, Cha as well as a penalty to their will saves to represent their unwholesome lifestyle. Personally, I LOVE this approach, as it makes the different cultures and humans feel more versatile.
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion. All right!
Still here? Let's go! Essentially, the module presented in these pages is almost as much gazetteer as sandboxy module and details the frozen north of the world of Xoth, just short of the polar circle and much like in the classic renditions of the north we know from pulp literature, the glaciers beyond the black hills and the frozen swamps of Thule hide old things indeed. There, in the realms of the men of Yg, where petty warlords and princelings clashed for dominance over their frozen lands, a love triangle both sinister and repulsive has will draw the PCs into the power struggle between the two most powerful beings currently active in the icy north: The dread Witch-King of Galuga, Arkanth Mal, is scouring the lands, enslaving and kidnapping beautiful women in a quest to restore his fallen witch queen Eliyh. Seduced by the White King Boras, the beautiful sorceress once left her king behind to bear the children of the White King - only to one day realize that the White King is a terrible creature from beyond the stars. Driven mad, she was annihilated in direct confrontation with the beast, but had her life-force transferred to the fabled Ark of Zamar. Now, Arkanth Mal, still in love with the insane spirit of his once beloved, scours the lands for a suitable body to serve as the reincarnated Eliyh.
Whether the PCs stumble upon slavers, find Eliyh's former familiar in the process of being killed or are captured, they will be drawn into the machinations of the powerful beings that rules the icy lands (which are btw. presented as a one-page, hand-drawn, nice map). As a gateway to adventure, the border-town of Tartuum is provided in rather excessive detail, though a settlement statblock per se is not provided, the details and fully stated NPCs with flaws and mannerisms make the town immediately come to life. Better yet, the areas like the Moors of Sul or the Frozen Tombs of Yg, though only depicted in short paragraphs, evoke enough iconicity to make them not only valid targets for side-quests, but interesting locales, though I noticed a distinct lack of a ride skill on a supposedly mounted bog mummy riding a bog mummy horse. Have I mentioned the disturbing Yg-tree, which not only is baptized by blood, but has tendril-like roots animate special spore-spewing undead or the cannibalistic Ma-Gu?
As mentioned before, the module also features the rather cool and excellent cultural archetypes for humans in the first appendix. The final appendix, then, deals with sample statblocks for the men of the north, providing a total of 10 additional statblocks as well as more information on organizations and ethnicities.
Xoth Publishing is sure to be either beloved or hated by people and I count myself among the former. Ever since I read Necromancer Games' Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia, I fell in love with author Morten Braten's vision of an age through which a Cimmerian barbarian might stroll. When his anthology "The Spider God's Bride" hit virtual shelves in the 3.X days of old, I loved it and still wholeheartedly recommend you checking it out - even if you're by now playing Pathfinder, the information on the World of Xoth and its assumptions will serve to greatly enhance your enjoyment and immersion into the spirit of this module - or should I say gazetteer?
Quality-wise, were I only to judge the writing, I'd immediately go for a full 5 stars, but unfortunately aforementioned minor blemishes, the lack of player-friendly maps and the fact that a tad bit more guidance would have been prudent, conspire to make me drop my final verdict down to 3.5 stars - UNLESS you're an enthusiast for the Sword and Sorcery genre like yours truly: We have far too few modules that cater to this genre and for me, as one who has all the Xoth Publishing releases so far, this is just awesome and 4.5 stars. After careful deliberation, I decided to round down in both cases, for final verdicts of 3.5, rounded down to 3 and 4.5, rounded down to 4 stars respectively.
Reviewed here, sent to GMS magazine, posted about it on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression and submitted it to Nerdtrek. The latter two have extensive links in case you're curious about the books I refer to in the review. Also, "The Spider God's Bride and Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery" has been converted to the Legend-system, links to that also in the former two versions of my review.
[Asparagus Jumpsuit] EZG reviews the Forager's Guild Guide to Missing Magic (formerly known as the Tome of Missing Magic)
The revised edition of what was formerly the "Tome of Missing Magic" is 141 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 139 pages of content, so let's check it out - again!
This pdf, sans frills etc., seeks to reproduce items from older editions and update them to PFRPG , including feats to make potions of higher levels and wands of higher levels (via a total of 4 feats). Without any ado, the pdf delves right into tables - a realize that this revision is not a half-hearted one: We get stock-art (which is ok) but more importantly, we get a completely reorganized pdf: Want random tables for potions? They are in the potions chapter. Much easier and intuitive to use than the split of tables first, contents later that we had before. Kudos!
Hence, we delve into the descriptions of potions, which include ones of bear's endurance, alter self etc. as well as potions that allow you dominate e.g. any type of dragon as per the dominate monster spell for 17 rounds. Sample scrolls of baleful polymorph etc. are included, but that's where the problems creep in: This pdf provides a lot of potions, scrolls etc. that can be created via the standard rules as well as e.g. items like rings of confusion etc. - all coming with solid statblocks, creation rules, auras etc., including entries that point towards the core-rules for e.g. rods of lordly might.
Per se, this pdf's massive collection of expertly presented items could be considered a nice professional offering, but honestly, the problem is that the items herein can be made by any DM worth his/her salt - no one needs these scrolls and potions, they can be created easily. The item-section could be considered an collection of them like the AD&D encyclopedias of old - but by now, we have the APG, UM and UC - all of which are utterly ignored, with all the rules introduced by them. Now yes, if you're like me, this pdf tugs at your heart's strings with phylacteries of eternal youth, ropes of entanglement and especially the artifact section, but more on that later. Manuals for all attributes get a d%-table to determine their bonuses. Old-school, yes, but do we really need this?
The artifacts especially are a blast from the past, coming with advice and sample DCs for knowledge checks to know about their past. And oh boy, is this nostalgia tugging at the heart's strings - whether it's the arch-lich's hand and eye or a staff made of 7 component parts - this pdf essentially provides you with the IP-free versions of artifacts like Vecna's Hand and Eye or the Rod of 7 Parts and mechanically, they actually aren't bad and come with nice consequences and means of destruction. They are well-made and have their own twists to set them slightly apart from their inspirations without being unrecognizable. Seriously nice.
We also get tables of e.g. banded mails, breast plates etc. from +1 to +5 with price, cost to create, total bonuses, max dex-bonuses etc., also in special materials - again, in tables upon tables, including modifications of e.g. mithral or adamantine, darkwood or dragonhide. Special weapon qualities (though called "templates", which is an incorrect term in PFRPG) are also displayed, e.g. providing the cost etc. stats for a general axiomatic melee weapon +2. And yes, these weapons may again have the benefit of being ready-made for your convenience, but again: Every Dm could create them him/herself. The final section of this pdf is devoted to types of ammunition, including e.g. shocking burst +2 ammunition.
In the end, a massive problem I have with this pdf is how to rate this: On the one hand, evidently a vast amount of work has gone into the creation of this pdf and generally, the result can be considered professionally appealing. The pdf, while still not beautiful, is much improved from its previous iteration. The price has also been reduced to a point where it is more than fair for teh increased value and usability.
There's a potential problem you might encounter, though: The lack of creativity. Much like academic writing and writing in general, game design is both an art and a craft - craft-wise, this pdf is devoid of flaws regarding the crunch, but it is also utterly artless. This pdf, for me, at once was nostalgic and terribly, utterly dreary to review. I couldn't find a single piece of creative spark, of soul in these pages. Much like a Sepia-tinged photo of an unremarkable day (in contrast to e.g. a wedding or cherished childhood day) gone by, this pdf elicits feelings of nostalgia and can be considered useful, but fails to truly evoke an emotional response or excitement. It signifies towards a nostalgia, but offers not much soul beyond that, remaining a solid example of crafting, but much like something produced in a factory, it lacks the charm of e.g. a work of the "Arts & Craft"-movement.
In the end, whether this is a good purchase for you depends utterly on how lazy you are as a DM and how nostalgic-prone you are. If you have fond memories of those items of old, consider this revised version a neat offering and 5 stars. If You're not that into it, this book still provides a LOT of hard work for you and should be considered a 3-star offering. While personally, in spite of definitely being prone to massive bouts of nostalgia and old-school gaming, this didn't grip me, I can consider the effort and dedication that went into the creation of this pdf and its revision a supreme example of a will to improve. My final verdict for this revised book will hence be between both extremes, at a solid 4 stars and thus a massive upgrade from its previous iteration.
Thank you for reading so many of my ramblings.
Thanks to all the publishers who consider my criticism and don't take bad reviews personal or who even stood up for me. Thanks to all publishers who great content that makes PFRPG-3pps so much better than the 3.X days.
Thanks for the encouraging words throughout the trials and tribulations I had in the last couple of years and for having my back and lending a hand when I stumbled. You know who I mean - I count myself honored to know you.
Thanks to each and every gentleman and lady who dropped me a nice line, placed trust in me and commented on my reviews - it's for you I do this.
Thanks to Paco of GMS magazine, without whom I could never afford even a fraction of the files I review.
Thanks to Jonathan Nelson of NERDTREK, Lou Agresta of RPGaggression and Steven D. Russell for providing additional places where I can post my reviews.
Thank you from the darkest recesses of my twisted heart, without you guys and gals, none of this would have been possible.
Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy my reviews.
I take a bow and salute you all.
More reviews are coming soon, also smaller files.
The latest installment of the Wicked Fantasy-line is 27 pages long, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages ToC/prelude, 1 page cover artwork, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 21.5 pages of content for the Wicked Fantasy-take on Rat-men, or as they have come to be known, the Roddun.
So what are the Roddun? Well, much like Warhammer’s Skaven or similar origin myths, they are humanoid rats, ratfolk so-to-speak, which have emerged by means not wholly mundane or understood – when a dread plague scoured the realms of men and its cities, whole quarters and neighborhoods were sealed off to fend for themselves, while the bodies of the infected sent blue flames and a sickly sweet scent upwards to the heavens. Into this void of lawlessness and desolation, a new force emerged – from nowhere, much like how the Haffuns emerged, came humanoid rats that looked after the infected areas, showed compassion with the infected and thus, while neither human, nor part of the society, managed to claim their place in the poorer regions of their respective new homes.
Mindset-wise, the roddun see the world in a model of concentric degrees of kinship that values the closer circles more than any others and much of their unique morality is structured around said circles and the concept of gratitude for favors rendered, which is inextricably linked with another key psychological mindset, namely that of necessity and ownership. Much like the infamous race of kenders, roddun have a unique sense of propriety, much dependant on whether an individual needs a respective good: Thus, for a roddun, a poor man’s wooden bowl might be of a greater value than one among 20 silver spoons a noble might own: At least favor-wise. Beyond that, they consider goods that someone doesn’t need valid targets for the taking, resulting in plenty of potential for conflict as well as a devaluation of coins, since they provide no true tangible benefit for survival.
Roddun that have left their fathers and mothers to fend for themselves in the world are organized in so-called mischiefs, which essentially constitute gangs that act as a kind of law-enforcement and seek to accumulate respect with the roddun’s shadow society – thus sooner or later pitting mischief vs. mischief and rodduns in positions where they have to duel for leadership of their gag, eventually rising to the point where they can challenge an area’s King Rat. A kind of super-enforcer, kingpin or godfather of such an area, the King Rat is not only the big boss, he is also the person that will ritually end old roddun’s lives. Once they have become old and meek, roddun ritually grant gifts to all associates, say goodbye, list their deeds to the King Rat and then challenge the King Rat in a vain attempt of seizing the throne. Since such challenges are always to the death, the King Rat will fight his now old follower/friend/family member and vanquish him/her, adding the final deed of “Challenged the King Rat” to a roddun’s list of deeds.
If my detailed description has not been ample indicator – as with all installments of Wicked Fantasy, the fluff and narrative, its description and dramaturgy is awesome and highly evocative. Unfortunately, much like the other recent installments of the series, the introduction of the crunch also means a distinctive break – not only from fluff to crunch, but also from high quality to something, well… that is not. Roddun gain + 2 to Str and Wis, gains a mischief pool of 3+Cha mod points (and additional points each level, but more on that later), immunity to mundane diseases, blindsight of 60 ft., 2 natural claw attacks and a natural bite attack AND fast healing 1 that improves over the levels. Immunity to disease. 3 natural weapons. Friggin’ Blindsight. AND scaling ‘*%&# fast healing? Honestly, what have the designers been smoking? None in his or her right mind could consider this clusterf*** of abilities balanced! Even when compared to similarly broken options, this one takes the powergaming-cake. Never gonna happen in my game. Ever. Have I mentioned their gemstone magic, which is represented via feats? They make a broken race horribly overpowered, extending for example disease immunity to magical diseases, double the blindsight range and add a kind of photographic (not eidetic) memory and increase the fast healing even further and upgrade claws to 2d4 base damage and bites to 1d6 – which is just as well, since the original damage values for the rodduns natural attacks are provided nowhere in the pdf, rendering at least this ability unusable sans the feat as written.
There is also one feat in this book I’d consider well-made and that lets you make a hostile takeover of another mischief and thus is tied with the section of rules herein I loved as much as I abhorred the racial traits: There are rules to measure respect and essentially recruit businesses to become a criminal overlord or godfather-like figure and extract favors from them – sheer, utter brilliance, as is the scaling of infamy AND good reputation in one person via heroic and villainous respect. The system is great, simple and a potential godsend for DMs running Thieves World-style campaigns or looking for a criminal-style campaign based in an urban setting – the one downside being that the system as an integral part of roddun way of life cannot, by design and basis, be extrapolated to wilderness, dungeon or rural locales. How do roddun interact with people in the wild, for example?
There also is a racial five-level PrC called King Rat to represent aforementioned Kingpins. King Rats gain d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, +6 to fort and ref over 5 levels (non-standard-progression: Not cool!) and full spellcasting progression. Apart from the glitch save-progression, the class is rather cool in concept, gaining a discount when shopping as well as being ahrd to kill: They gain their class-level on “dying saving throws”[sic!] – what does that mean? Death effects? Also spells that would kill them via damage when they fail their save? Falling rocks? Haunts? Traps? The wording is unfortunately non-standard and rather ambiguous. Apart from this faulty ability, the ability to curse foes with the king’s wrath, making killing them much easier is a cool capstone. We also get two archetypes, the first being the Junk Wizard, who is essentially a take on a hasardeur-style mage (i.e. wild mage): these mages can actually try to cast spells of up to 3 higher levels than they would usually have access to by expending multiple spellslots and risking a fizzling of the respective spell or evena catastrophic backfire. Generally a REALLY cool idea and while the implementation cool use some minor streamlining, I don’t have too much gripes against this one and consider the archetype actually enjoyable. The final archetype presented in this pdf is an urban legend, the Skootzik – a class of roddun that serves as direct killers of the King Rat and are a variant of the ninja that use a gem-dependant variant of ki that is fluffy awesomeness and gain 60 ft. climb speeds. “See the unseen” is yet another aspect of crunch gone horribly wrong:
Game design is both art and craft and while the embroidery of the Rodduns, the respect and reputation and mischief mechanics all work and are neat, the core of the product is terribly, completely, utterly flawed and in my opinion, broken beyond repair. DMs can use this race, sure, but as a player-race the roddun are far beyond the power-levels of even the ARG-races, which already feel a tad bit too powerful for my conservative tastes. Were I to judge ideas and fluff alone, this would be a straight 5 star +seal of approval-book, but the utterly broken accumulation of feats, flaws in basic ability, class and race-design as well as the at the evry best horribly sloppy editing and formatting mean that this pdf can at the very best, in spite of its cool ideas and premises, be considered a stay-away-candidate. Due to the reputation-rules (which use no standard pathfinder-mechanics and thus have no chance to fail at what they are doing compatibility-wise) and the coolness of the ideas which help to offset a tad bit the horribly failed crunch-design and the insulting bordering editing, I’ll settle for a slightly higher rating than for the last installment – 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 stars for the purpose of this platform due to slight improvements over the elves and gnolls.
EDIT: Reviewed here, on DTRPG and sent to GMS magazine.
Today, I want to take you back through a bit of my personal history:
When the 3.5-days of old were winding down, I was disillusioned with much of the rpg-offerings out there: I didn't like the encounter-format WotC was starting to promote, didn't like the direction 4th edition was going, my go-to publisher Necromancer Games was on hiatus and I was not sufficiently active online to know about the "secret" small companies that didn't show up at my FLGS.
Then I bought "Burnt Offerings" - and liked it. I liked the gritty minor bits and pieces and thought "I'll give this one final try". I bought "The Skinsaw Murders" and "Hook Mountain Massacre". And was blown away - here were finally authors being daring, with wicked, atmospheric characters and writing of top-notch quality.
That is when I started doing some research and found Nick Logue's by now legendary failure of a company called Sinister Adventures and while in time it wound down, it was there that I "met" Lou Agresta. Who pointed me towards 0onegames "The Bloody Fix". Essentially, that is what got me hooked. I was one of the most involved posters on Sinister Adventures and raged and seethed and wanted the company to succeed since it was covering EXACTLY what I wanted to see.
Alas, it was not to be. Life crushed down hard as it is wont to do and Razor Coast, this superbly ambitious and intriguing project, vanished, evaporated and almost saw the destruction of the reputation of a good man and stellar author - though admittedly, a bad business man.
It is during this time that I started to lurk on Paizo, began posting uninformative, dumb reviews and started getting into the whole 3pp-world and it is here that Steven D. Russell from Rite Publishing gave me my very first complimentary copy EVER.
Perhaps it's me being quixotic, perhaps I'm in love with what seems to be lost causes, perhaps I just like extremely ambitious projects - it is here I stumbled, again, via Lou Agresta, across Slumbering Tsar. The Magnum Opus of Greg A. Vaughan was in the limbo and, from the ashes of one of my favorite companies ever, rose Frog God Games to publish this gigantic, massive tome.
And well, they managed to pull it off. Since then, FGG has provided a lot of great books, among which is the by now legendary Rappan Athuk. The Frogs have managed to put out the very largest, most ambitious of products and time and again proved their commitment to quality and delivering.
Where is this leading? Well, Razor Coast has been acquired by Frog God Games. The kickstarter is running and better yet, the preorders are honored as well. And I REALLY want this extremely ambitious kickstarter to fund since if anyone can pull it off, it's probably the crew of Frog God Games!
I have seen the artwork, which is Paizo-level (including a Wayne Reynolds-cover). I have read parts of the unedited writing and it's glorious. I have the utmost confidence in Nick's ability as a writer and in the Frogs to actually deliver this monster of a book.
Without Razor Coast, I would have never started reviewing. This was what I wanted to see in the first place. I would have never found Rite Publishing, Open Design/Kobold Press, Frog God Games and perhaps, none of the over 900 reviews I've written so far would exist without this book.
What I'm trying to say is: Take a look at the kickstarter and if you like what you're seeing and can afford at least a couple of bucks, do me a favor and pledge. If this kickstarter works out, we may not only see one of the most ambitious projects devised by a 3pp, we may also set a precedent for what can be done by us, as a community.
And, you would make me a happy man indeed.
Thanks for reading this final ramble of the year! I'd like to take a short time to thank all 3pps who send me complimentary copies, in spite of my neutral reviews. I'd also like to thank Paco Garcia Jaen of GMS magazine, an all out great guy without whom I wouldn't be able to review half the books I do. Thanks also go out to Jonathan Nelson for taking me to nerdtrek.com.
I'd also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the community here, which has been more than supportive and encouraging regarding my illness and for reading my reviews in the first place.
All the best, peace and prosperity and a happy new year to all of you - may your dreams come true and may fortune smile upon you!
Oh, and here's the link to the forum-thread if you've missed it by any chance. Also submitted this post to GMS magazine, Nerdtrek and posted about it on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression.
Here's to my 1000th review coming in 2013! Bless you all!
This pdf is 96 pages long, 1 page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 95 pages of content, so let's check this out!
This pdf, sans frills etc., seeks to reproduce items from older editions and update them to PFRPG , including feats to make potions of higher levels and wands of higher levels (via a total of 4 feats). Without any ado, the pdf delves right into tables - a lot of tables, allowing you to make unbalanced treasure hoards via rolls of d%s: We get monetary treasures, magic treasures, items, potions, scrolls, scrolls of spells of wizards and clerics by level, 5 tables in miscellaneous items, rings, etc., ranged weapon abilities etc. pp. After about 10 pages of such tables, we delve into the descriptions of potions, which include ones of bear's endurance, alter self etc. as well as potions that allow you dominate e.g. any type of dragon as per the dominate monster spell for 17 rounds. Sample scrolls of baleful polymorph etc. are included, but that's where the problems creep in: This pdf provides a lot of potions, scrolls etc. that can be created via the standard rules as well as e.g. items like rings of confusion etc. - all coming with solid statblocks, creation rules, auras etc., including entries that point towards the core-rules for e.g. rods of lordly might.
Per se, this pdf's massive collection of expertly presented items could be considered a nice professional offering, but honestly, the problem is that the items herein can be made by any DM worth his/her salt - no one needs these scrolls and potions, they can be created easily. The item-section could be considered an collection of them like the AD&D encyclopedias of old - but by now, we have the APG, UM and UC - all of which are utterly ignored, with all the rules introduced by them. Now yes, if you're like me, this pdf tugs at your heart's strings with phylacteries of eternal youth, ropes of entanglement and especially the artifact section, but more on that later. Manuals for all attributes get a d%-table to determine their bonuses. Old-school, yes, but do we really need this?
The artifacts especially are a blast from the past, coming with advice and sample DCs for knowledge checks to know about their past. And oh boy, is this nostalgia tugging at the heart's strings - whether it's the arch-lich's hand and eye or a staff made of 7 component parts - this pdf essentially provides you with the IP-free versions of artifacts like Vecna's Hand and Eye or the Rod of 7 Parts and mechanically, they actually aren't bad and come with nice consequences and means of destruction. They are well-made. Seriously.
We also get tables of e.g. banded mails from +1 to +5 with price, cost to create, total bonuses, max dex-bonuses etc., also in special materials - again, in tables upon tables, including modifications of e.g. mithral or adamantine, darkwood or dragonhide. Special weapon qualities (though called "templates", which is an incorrect term in PFRPG) are also displayed, e.g. providing the cost etc. stats for a general axiomatic melee weapon +2. And yes, these weapons may again have the benefit of being ready-made for your convenience, but again: Every Dm could create them him/herself. The final section of this pdf is devoted to types of ammunition, including e.g. shocking burst +2 ammunition.
That being said, while at first the pdf may seem amateurish and its overall formal presentation surely is, it does a lot right: Adhering to PFRPG-standards in wording and formatting, item-blocks etc. I'll come clear with you: Reviewing this pdf was a colossal pain that took me forever, including checking many of the item's math and from what I could glean, they are correct, meaning that A LOT of work has gone into this pdf. The artifacts and their tugging of one's nostalgic heart's strings also means that grognards will probably find a collection of items that will have them smile.
In the end, a massive problem I have with this pdf is how to rate this: On the one hand, evidently a vast amount of work has gone into the creation of this pdf and generally, the result can be considered professionally appealing. On the other hand, the lack of bookmarks and artworks hurt this pdf when combined with one factor: The price. $14.00. Seriously? For this price, I can have a Paizo-module in print. Headless Hydra Games' Mor Aldenn city setting comes with artworks, maps etc. and costs less. And just about all other 3pps have a better bang-for-buck-ratio. And there's another problem: The lack of creativity. Much like academic writing and writing in general, game design is both an art and a craft - craft-wise, this pdf is devoid of flaws regarding the crunch, but it is also utterly artless. There's no soul, no creativity herein. This pdf, for me, at once was nostalgic and terribly, utterly dreary to review. I couldn't find a single piece of creative spark, of soul in these pages. Much like a Sepia-tinged photo of an unremarkable day (in contrast to e.g. a wedding or cherished childhood day) gone by, this pdf elicits feelings of nostalgia and can be considered useful, but fails to truly evoke an emotional response or excitement. It signifies towards a nostalgia, but offers not much soul beyond that, remaining a solid example of crafting, but much like something produced in a factory, it lacks the charm of e.g. a work of the "Arts & Craft"-movement.
In the end, whether this is a good purchase for you depends utterly on how lazy you are as a DM and whether you can live with the lack of bookmarks and artless presentation. If you can and are willing to pay the high price, this could be considered a time-saver and even a 3-star file. Now if you're looking for originality, soul and innovation beyond what to me feels like hollow nostalgic pandering, then this pdf will disappoint you as much as it did disappoint me. Personally, for me this was both a chore to read and due to the lack of bookmarks and lack of innovation not a book I will use and rather be a 1-star, overpriced pdf. My final verdict will be in-between both extremes, at a 2.5 stars - which I'll round down to 2 since at 14 bucks, not getting any bookmarks is downright insulting, no matter how good a book is - and yes, I stand by this verdict even with regards to the target audience.
This pdf is 29 pages long, 1 page editorial, ~1.5 pages ToC/introduction, 1 page cover-artwork, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23.5 pages of content for the very first very uncommon race covered by the Wicked Fantasy-line, the Gnolls, or how they call themselves, the Dach'youn.
Dach'youn translates to "we the trodden", an apt self-definition of the gnolls. In the origin-myths of the gnolls, the world was created by the sun, which turned vicious and even left the earth for a time, resulting in an ice-age that saw the gnolls starting to worship a trickster-style hero that returned the sun to the world as well as 7 moons known to gnolls as their guides and as seven sisters, serving as their guides. Thus, apart from a complex description of mating habits, old age (joining the "pack that cannot run" that is helped by younger packs) etc., we also are introduced to the central role of astrology for the Dach'youn:
With the reproduction cycle of the female dach'youn only taking 90 days and the orbit of their slowest moons also taking 90 days, the effects and associated characteristics and the moons result in essentially a variant of the superstitions of astrological signs, assigning characteristics to those born in the sign of the moons, with the new moon being considered cursed and sinister and there being a special festival every 3.5 years during which those of exceptional potential and destiny are born. Dach'youn of course are also scavengers and value scavenging skills rather massively and thereafter, the central social and mechanical element is introduced: The titular pack and its constituents.
A pack's leader (or alpha) is called Bach, the Beta being called Kech - both being usually gendered, with alpha being usually considered male and Beta being considered female and thus sex between both being encouraged as a concept of Duch'Khu, literally a union of heart and mind of the pack. Eechas, literally the noses of the pack are the scouts, Owouns being the mystics, Shu'shas the hunters, the Oosheh that question the decisions of the pack and finally, the Grr'khun, a pack's weapon. The three cardinal crimes in a pack, i.e. harming a pack member, murder and cowardice are detailed and their interaction with the reign of men and their habit of mud bathing is described as well. Hierarchy within the pack can be changed via ritualized duels between pack members
Crunch-wise, Gnolls get +2 to Con and Cha, can move at 40 ft when running on all 4s, scent, gain 3 pack feats and at 2nd level and every 2 levels after that, another pack bonus feat, grant every member of their pack access to their teamwork feats, +1 to Knowledge (nature), survival and, if available, Wild Empathy. They always treat survival as a class skill. Beyond that, they get +4 to profession (cooking) and can change their base attribute modifiers when born under a specific moon's sign and get a corresponding curse and blessing. Notice anything? This race is overpowered as written, with the cha-bonus feeling weird to me to say the least - the additional feats alone are enough to utterly break this race and we don't know whether the 3 starting gnoll-feats are in addition to regular starting feats or replace them.
Cha'ppa grants +2 to Dex and Cha. Beyond that, the moons always provide a bonus when full and a penalty when new, in Cha'ppa's case DOUBLING your bonus to sense motive and perception, while taking away morale and rally bonuses when the moon's new. And here the pdf starts to come utterly apart. "The Bonus" is doubled. Which bonus? the attribute-modifier? The overall skill ranks? In the end, this ambiguity does not matter since the ability is utterly overpowered in any way.
Gu'rgha grants +3 to Con instead of +2 - a non-standard design-choice that violates PFRPG-conventions and allow the gnoll to reroll failed fortitude saves once. Once per full moon? Once per save? The pdf does not say. When new, the moon prohibits the gnoll from making any knowledge check. Ähhhmmmm...ok? Weird? The moon Gu'sha grants +2 to Wis instead of Cha and get an ally to reroll a saving throw - here it does specify the ability can only be used once per full moon. When the moon's new, you either can't be magically healed, are deaf, mute, blind, lose scent or can't run on 4-legs. Why? Any explanation? This mechanic is utterly disjointed from the fluff, arbitrarily (literally - you roll the penalty) a detrimental condition. Can said condition be cured via magic? We don't know.
Hav'ha grants +2 to Str instead of Con, +5 to CMB when full and prohibits using the wis-bonus to any associated rolls. Okay, I guess. Or'gha grants +2 to Int instead of Cha and allows you to double your int-modifier in non-combat situations. Does this extend to bonus spells/preparation? What if combat erupts while using an int-based skill-check that takes time? The curse locks the CMD at 10. Which is ridiculous, since the int-based characters probably will be wizards etc. Sh'va grants +3 instead of +2 to Cha (again, non-standard odd attribute bonus...) and is perhaps the most broken of the moons. Yes. You heard me. Creatures with Int 8+ increase their starting attitude by 2 steps. By 2 STEPS! AHRGHH! When the moon's new, you gain a 10 ft. aura of untrust that automatically lets creatures notice you. We don't know whether e.g. invisibility can counter that, though. Finally, Vax grants +1 to any ability score. We don't get to know whether that's in addition to the standard modifiers or not. Worse, when making eye-contact for the first time with foes, you can enforce a fear-save (10+1/2 level + Cha-modifier) to make them flee. No limits. Usable unlimited times. *shakes head* Worse, the curse decreases starting attitudes by 2 steps, making this the other side of the unbalanced coin. Now how do both interact, the +2 -2 starting attitudes? Are multiple improvements of starting attitudes cumulative? The mechanics are unclear. Oh boy. I haven't even touched on the Pack rules.
A pack can consist of a maximum of beings equal to an alpha's charisma score (not modifier, SCORE). NPC gnolls only add +1 bonuses to the PC gnoll damages. While a way of abstracting their influence, it's also utterly, terribly lazy design: Why can't these gnolls attack? Can they be targeted as usual by spells and attacks? It makes no sense and is a prime example of bad design decisions. The roles in the pack are represented via archetypes and feats: Rouges can become Eechas, becoming faster (60 ft. 4-legged movement), +1/2 level to perception to track by scent and a scaling bonus to AC against surprise attacks or AoOs. Grr'khun-fighters replace bravery with +3 to intimidate checks to demoralize foes, add +5 to the DC of surviving their coup-de-graces. Kech-rangers gain the powers to issue commands as swift actions. Commands last for one round and at 5th level and every 3 levels afterwards, they gain another command. Members of the pack may follow the respective commands and gain bonuses depending on the command given - including cross-fire, distracting etc. They may also grant their allies half their favored class bonuses and command increasing amounts of allies at once.
It's sad, really. The command-mechanics are actually rather interesting! I just wished they were a bit more polished, as they e.g. fail to specify types of bonuses (I assume morale, but I'm not sure). Oosheh-bards can expend bardic performances to add their cha-mod to ally's non-combat skill-checks, cha-based checks and even switch around initiatives of her allies. Nice archetype! Owoun-sorcerors must be of 3 bloodlines, but gain a bonus to all knowledge-skills when under the moon equal to half their level. They also get an ability to howl a yes/no question at the moon that the DM has to answer truthfully on a successful diplomacy-check. This ability is unbalanced as well, as there's no limit to the knowledge provided and a starting attitude of indifferent is ridiculous when combined with the sorceror moon, which essentially renders rolling this skill a farce. The Shu'sha-ranger is the scavenger and gains improved navigation-skills as well as the ability to jury-rig (not Jerry-Rigg, as spelt in the pdf) mundane items and navigate swiftly through mazes. Per se a nice archetype, though I feel it should grant help vs. e.g. maze-spells and the like.
The second component of the pack-rules is handled via feats: Non-dach'youn can take a feat to gain membership in a pack or a gnoll can lose a feat to give a non-gnoll this membership. There's also a feat to gain more NPC-gnolls (see my rant above for their uselessness and the disjunction between existing as entities and working as static +1 to damage bonuses...) and a feat that allows you to make your pack larger - see my gripe with the last feat. Each of the roles in the pack also gets a mini-tree of 3 feats and they actually have a rather cool idea: They actually grant bonuses when adjacent to respective gnolls, allowing you to benefit from your allied gnoll's prowess
The pdf closes with the annoying restrictive allowed-class-list I've come to expect from Wicked Fantasy-products that disqualifies almost all PFRPG-classes as well as a graphical representation of the gnoll's complex moon calendars.
Reviewing pdfs like this makes me angry as all hell. As with all installments of Wicked Fantasy, the ideas behind this race are awesome - the fluff and culture in the beginning is, apart from the frequent editing and formatting hick-ups, a joy to behold and obviously where the passion for this product went. And then the gaming material begins. I should have stopped reading after the race's base abilities, I really should have, for they already constitute a major example for sloppy design with no rhyme, reason or interest for balancing the race with any of the core or even the arguably stronger ARG races. And then we get the moons. Per se, they offer a nice way of customizing the gnolls. In theory, that is.
In practice, just about every moon has one component that does not adhere to PFRPG design-standards, is ambiguous in multiple ways, flat-out broken or mystifying in how the hell it is supposed to work. Add to that the amount of book-keeping necessarily to track NINE FRIGGIN' MOONS and where they suddenly came from and you're in for a mess. Newsflash: Most settings have one moon. Moons affect the tides. And usually are represented in the pantheons of all cultures. Tying the abilities not to constellations, but to actual heavenly bodies means that integrating the content, even if it would work as intended, which it sure doesn't do, would be a colossal amount of work. And think about all those bonus-feats gnolls get as racial traits sans any paying. Ahrgh.
All right: Base-race: Broken and essentially unusable as written. What about the pack-rules? They use an abstraction for non-player gnolls, which is fine. But why not use THE LEADERSHIP MECHANIC THAT ALREADY EXISTS? Non-player gnolls essentially add +1 to damage when adjacent to PCs. Ok. Why? Can they be targeted or are they supposed to be these ephemeral wisps of abstract gnolls that don't get hit by spells because they don't feature the blinking PC-sign? And why for Pete's sake don't they just use the perfectly fine aid another rules? Better: Why can't they use them? Why can't they do tasks like usual followers or cohorts? The idea behind commands and the mini-feat-trees to benefit from the pack's components is cool and should work in the end to make the pack more the sum of its individual parts. BUT: There already are solo-tactics and teamwork feats. WHY NOT USE THEM? As an afterthought, they've been shoehorned into a design that was obviously neither aware, nor interested in the existence of said mechanics, much less grasping the repercussions. When compared to Rite Publishing's stellar "Secrets of the Inquisitor", I can only weep and shake my head at the laziness and general disregard for existing rules.
The elven pdf was bad. This is just as bad, perhaps even worse. The pdf forces you to modify your whole cosmology if you want to use it as presented and even if you do, you have to essentially revise the whole content and redesign friggin' everything. Worse, even if you do, the pdf essentially is not balanced in any way and omits a vast amount of options, prohibiting them e.g. from becoming summoners and witches, among a vast bunch of prohibited options.
Which is so infuriating since the fluff is imaginative and cool - but completely fails to supplement the ideas it presents with any rules that can be considered balanced or even well-written. In fact, the pdf hinders your creativity by its restrictive egotistic insistence on prohibiting a majority of the content assumed to be standard in PFRPG without providing adequate recompense for the lost options. Worse, the crunch herein shows no signs of effort. There is a distinct lack of knowledge of the more complex pathfinder-mechanics evident that borders on willful ignorance and just sloppiness. The crunch feels like ripped straight from a home-game - in all the bad ways, exhibiting failures in wording, mechanics, restrictions, etc., making the crunch feel like it was an annoying duty to properly sell what could be considered good fluff, but ends up a complete abject failure at game-design with sloppy editing that bespeaks of an ignorance or even contempt for the system in which this pdf presented. The admittedly cool command idea and ideas behind the pack-fighting feats are completely and utterly ruined by the rest of the pdf and its entwinement with the other mechanics. I remain with a verdict befitting of this utter failure: 1 star. Steer clear, even if you adore gnolls.
Reviewed here, on DTRPG, submitted to Nerdtrek and sent to GMS magazine. STEER CLEAR. They know why they aren't selling this and the elf-pdf here on Paizo... It's a disgrace.
This free guide to organized NeoExodus-play is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's check this out!
NeoExodus' idea is one of a setting involved in a meta-plot and NeoExodus-legacies-scenarios will deal with mini-campaign-arcs that allow players to shape the future of the setting - at least that's the idea. This being an organized play-guide, it includes basic terminologies and sets the rules for organized gaming by specifying types of adventures and how e.g. item-acquisition in a scenario is handled.
We also get a short primer on the history, nations of the setting, religions and dangers. The pdf also uses a 20-point-buy for attributes, specifies legal races and classes etc. as well as special rules for classes: Gunslingers must e.g. be from the Arman Protectorate, Alchemists may replace brew potion with extra bombs etc. Religions come with a table of alignments and domains and HP-progression of characters is fixed as well, with 3400 GP being starting gold.
Characters are supposed to be sponsored by a patron, who may or may not be known to the player. & sample patron organizations/courts are provided and the entries are interesting per se and they come with requirements and benefits. The pdf also sets the rules for organized play:
No PvP, only "extra gold" rewards when replaying scenarios, no bullying/being a jerk, only one character per player per scenario, no trading/selling between players. As soon as a character reaches 4th level, they can't be modified further apart from retraining. Each player may have only one combatant creature.
DMs are told to award creative solutions (which is nice) and handling death is also a part of the deal as is advice on elementals of courtesy like turning off cell phones etc. Also cool: Players will have the option to ask the Kaga and gather word on the streets. Each NeoExodus Legacy module grants between 1 and 9 XP. As soon as a character reaches 9 or a multiple of 9 XP, they gain a level. The monetary/item rewards, LRs for players and DMs and max item available per level-limit.
Prestige-acquisition is covered via Favors as using favors for NPC-spellcasting, item favors etc. is covered. The book also has 3 pages of lists covering the allowed books and 1 page that covers a sample Level Record, but no blank level-record sheet to print out, which is a pity.
This installment of the Treasures of NeoExodus-line is 4 pages long, 1 page SRD, leaving 2 pages for the magic item and 1 page for item-cards, so let's check it out!
The set of knives portrayed in this pdf is peculiar in that it supposedly belonged to the notorious queen of the people of Bal that was notorious for her impact and the way in which she carried the bloody religion of Khayne in a swathe of death and destruction into the lands of other nations. Her bloodmagic-infused 3 sacrificial knives did not vanish with her defeat, though, and like the bloody Khaynite religion, may resurface...
Mechanics-wise, the knives are +1 keen daggers that impose a -4 penalty on attacks, as they are ill-suited for combat. When coup-de-gracing an opponent, they compel the wielder with greater command to perform an elaborate, 3-round spanning sacrifice to Khayne. Whether the compelled wielders act as helpless, flat-footed etc., though, the text fails to state. Once performed, they grant a +2 bonus to saves to all Khaynites of the party (though not specifying HOW MANY can be affected) , +1 per additional knife used, up to +4 when using all of them. They also grant a +2 bonus to AC, both abilities lasting 72 hours, decreasing each time the knives are used until the bonus only lasts 24 hours.
Using the blades on non-sentient or dead beings potentially curses the wielder and effects on non-Khaynites are less powerful. Furthermore, the sacrifices are addictive, but their save does not stack up, remaining at a paltry DC 13.
The pdf also features item-cards for the knives.
The idea of addictive blood magic sacrificial knives isn't new, but the implementation could have been awesome. Could. The lack of information on how many people can benefit from the boon renders the item wide open to varying interpretations and unusable. And then there's the fluff - Ehudi is supposed to by this ancient warlord boogey-queen, a legend, and her knives and the bonuses they grant are surprisingly paltry. Worse, unless your PCs are utterly corrupt already, they won't use them. There's no seductive lure of power here, no spiral of addiction and ultimately no incentive for your players to use the knives in a setting like NeoExodus, where so many vastly superior weapons and ways to power are available. And breaking free of the sacrifices is a joke, even at the lowest levels. There's a massive disjunction between fluff and mechanics going on here and unfortunately, that ruins the item further in my eyes, making me arrive at a final verdict of 1 star. Good idea, but very flawed execution.
Reviewed here, on DTRPG and sent to GMS magazine. Cheers!
...the idea of a campaign-.setting spanning multi-3pp AP/module/mash-up à la Crisis of Infinite Earths?
...the second season of 0onegames' The Sinking?
...Marc Radle's Sahuagin-module for Raging Swan?
...the Third Dawn AP?
...Frog God Games posting new their products no longer here and on OBS?
Any answers would be appreciated!
(And feel free to add your own!)
as some of you may know, my health hasn't been the best for a while and unfortunately, it hasn't improved much and today's visit to the doctor confirmed that my situation might deteriorate and my circumstances in life are looking like they might be taking a turn for the worse.
To cut a long ramble short: I will take a time-out for a month, starting on Friday. Until the end of November, there probably (not sure whether I'll have access to the internet) won't be new reviews as I take a trip away from it all to clear my mind and reevaluate everything.
I WILL continue to write reviews after that and follow my usual modus operandi, i.e. first post reviews of the complimentary copies I got on a first come, first serve basis, then go on to the pdfs I bought with one exception, the Oathbound pdfs that I've been wanting to do and that simply slipped my mind.
I will continue to honor all pdfs I've got and produce the respective reviews.
Thank you for reading this. Thanks to the publishers & authors that keep creating great content. Thanks to the layout-artists and editors, the unsung heroes of the RPG-industry, without whom so many of our favorite books would suck. Thanks for the complimentary copies without which I couldn't afford half the pdfs I review. Thanks to the people that put their trust in my verdicts. Thanks to everyone who kept reading my ramblings for over 900 reviews. And a special thanks to everyone who has clicked a banner on one of my Nerdtrek or RPGaggression reviews and subsequently purchased something. Without all of you, I couldn't have done this many reviews in what amounts to an additional, non-paying job in terms of workload. Thank you. I take a bow.
Here's to hopefully cracking the 1000 soon! Cheers!
(And yes, there'll be reviews tomorrow.)
This pdf is 31 pages long, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover/full-color artwork, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1.5 pages ToC/foreword, leaving us with 25.5 pages of content, so let's check this out!
Rules-wise, Wicked Fantasy Elves get +2 to Dex and Cha, low-light vision and can nourish themselves via photosynthesis, which enables the elf to work sans food and water if they spend 6 hours per day in daylight. At 1st level and on 5th and all 5 levels after that, they can mix their saliva with soil or sap to create a salve that heals 1d6 points. Unfortunately, the saliva-salve does not specify what action it is to apply the salve. Depending on your heritage, you also get additional abilities. Cyffathelean, the tree-bound, get abilities depending on the tree they bond with and may take a feat that grants them a weapon from a great tree that is treated as masterwork and can be enchanted. Still, for a feat, this is a bad reward for the investment of a feat.
Oak-Bound gain the two-weapon fighting feat and when in melee combat in a one-on-one situation, you treat your Dex-score as 4 higher. Birch-bound elves can render opponents unconscious with a kiss that is delivered via a-5 attack roll. This ability is usable 1/day and an additional time at 4th level and every 3 levels afterwards. They can also force enemies to keep on looking at them on a failed save. Unfortunately, the kiss-ability, while providing a scaling DC, lacks a duration - as does the fascination that forces individuals to look at the elf. Does this preclude the person in question attacking the elf? Penalize attacks on foes that are not the elf? I don't know for the pdf omits this crucial information. Elm Bound elves can speak via trees with people holding a branch of one of the tree's branches. They can also withhold their actions against a declared target for a +1 bonus to attack against the target up to the maximum of their character levels. The pdf fails to clarify how long these bonuses are retained and on how many attacks the bonus is granted. Ash-bound elves gain precise shot as a feat and always get at least 1 action in any surprise round - but it is not specified WHAT kind of action - Full-Round? Move? Standard? Swift? I don't friggin know! Blackthorn-bound elves can make a coup-de-grace as a standard action (or a full-round action against a target with total concealment) and at 1st level, again at 5th and all 5 levels after that, the Blackthorn Bound can automatically succeed a bluff check 1/day. Read that again. Automatically. Succeed. A. Bluff. Check. "Bluff, bluff, bluff the stupid deity?" F*** this ability!
The soil-bound treat their tr-score as 4 higher in non-combat situations, age as humans and gain a DR 1/bludgeoning (+1 at 5th and +1 further every 5 levels) and may later take a feat that further increases the power of their thick skin. The Iron-bound cannot be magically aged, but measure their lives in days, advancing age categories in the span of years. They also don't gain the dying condition until they reach their will-save modifier in negative hit points. Again, cool idea, but does this include the wis-modifier or not? Again, the pdf fails to specify crucial information. They can also literally sacrifice parts of their life, up to their level in days, to add a likewise bonus to any of their rolls. Cool idea! Fool's Luck and Lucky Fool are two feats that reward death-defying actions by iron-bound elves, Fool's Luck granting them a +2 luck bonus to e.g. jump in the way of a brabarian's axe to save an ally. The second feat, available at 10th level, scales an attack you got hit by via the usage of Fool's Luck down to rendering you stable and unconscious at 1 HP instead of killing you. Per se a cool idea. I can see players abusing the hell out of it though: Elf jumps in front of wizard: Would die. Goes down. One healing spell and smelling salts by the cleric later and the elf does it again - ad infinitum. An elf with this feat and an enterprising party could soak ALL damage with this feat. Broken. Why isn't this tied to the iron bound's days, with each usage draining away his/her life? That would have been a cool and easily implemented way of balancing the ability.
From the enslavement of iron and conflict sprang the Dzunkaveth, literally "Abominations" - Half-elves. Half-elves can take home cities from "Wicked Fantasy: The Reign of Men" and can take a feat to trade their +2 to Dex to +2 to Con or Str or their +2 to Cha to +2 to Int or Wis at character creation to represent half-elves born and raised by humans. I don't like how this is a feat - by all accounts and PFRPG-design standards, this should be an alternate racial trait, not a feat.
The elven Priest-caste is represented by the Cyllawellan, a new druid archetype.They can take racial abilities on the respective tree-bound types of elves, but unfortunately e.g. neither the birch's "gaze at me", nor the elm's "patience-ability" are clarified, rendering both abilities just as useless in game as for the base-race: We just don't have a clue on how they are supposed to wwork. They also gain an NPC-cohort with whom they may share an empathic link and even spells - per se a nice idea, but the specifically mentioned option to make another PC the cohort means that this feature is barn-door-wide open for abuse. These guardians can also deliver touch spells held by their masters - again: Abuse. As if this wasn't bad enough, they also get spell resistance, can cast tree shape at will. Unbalanced to the point of being broken, the archetype is a cool idea that just doesn't work as intended.
And then there are the Durzhah, the alabaster-skinned, black blooded dark elves who have sold their souls to darkness in order to regain the immortality they lost to iron. And no, there are thankfully no good dark elves. Three of the base-classes are available to Wicked Fantasy elves exclusively via being Durzhah - to be precise, arcane classes. Only Half-elves may be wizards and summoners, sorcerors and witches all are exclusively Durzhah. Thus. dark elves are essentially represented by a common line of abilities of 3 different archetypes: All Durzhah replace low-light vision with darkvision 60 ft., halve their physical attributes when in direct sunlight, cannot be aged by any means and may change hair, nails, skin color etc. - all but the black color of their blood. Oghzhan summoners summon their eidolon into intelligent willing (or dead) vessels, enabling their eidolons to keep the vessel's int-modifier and subsuming most of the vessel's abilities under the eidolon's powers. Per se a cool idea, but what about undead?
Do they count as dead or as beings that require consent to act as an eidolon's host? Anyways, a rather cool idea. They also can summon their eidolons faster at higher levels. Szhaszh, the sorceror archetype, must select from a restrictive list of bloodlines, but replaces the first bloodline power with a touch that deals scaling "necrotic" damage, healing half of the damage. Thankfully, the ability has a limit on how often it can be used, but the fact is that there's no established damage-type called "necrotic" - I assume the authors meant "negative energy". Why am I so nitpicky? Because there are spells that protect against negative energy, but none that protect against the mumbo-jumbo "necrotic" type of damage. They may also freeze others in place via their eyes, also dealing 1d4 damage to Str, Dex and Con. While the effect ends as soon as the sorceror does anything, there's NO LIMIT imposed on a friggin' gaze attack that deals 1d4 to all physical attributes! No limit! And a DC of 10+Cha-mod+ CASTER level. Not character level, but caster level. You know, the one you can easily enhance via feats etc.? AHHHRGHHHH! This is so terribly broken, I don't even know where to start. Finally, the Vezhma, the witch is essentially an insult of an archetype. They get a limited patron selection and must choose a viper familiar. The viper can speak and if the witch takes the improved familiar feat, it gets the entropic or fiendish template and some bonus languages. That's it. Yep. You read it. Bland? Yes. No signature ability? Yes. An utter failure and the worst witch archetype I've seen so far.
Finally, for all the romantics among you, there's a new PrC, the Heart-bound Elf: The requirements mention "Charisma skills"[sic!] and 4 ranks in each, which does not adhere to standard formatting. Essentially, the elf finds a soul-mate, a love who accepts the elf and shares its soul with the iron-bound, thus providing the option of healing the partner when adjacent by transferring character level HP per day. They also die when their bound non-elven partner dies. They gain d8, full spell-progression, an improved version of Fool's luck almost identical to the Lucky Fool-feat, though stronger when protecting the partner, a scaling massive DR against iron weapons, an empathic aura that makes it hard to lie to them as well as the option to take negative conditions onto themselves and become immune to fear and even death effects. They also gain 3/4 BAB and unfortunately, the otherwise rather cool PrC suffers from two weird design-choices: First, they get +1 to both fort and will-saves PER LEVEL, meaning these two saving throws scale faster than even the best save-progression. This is simply ignorant design that flaunts the very basics of PFRPG-rules. The ref-save-progression is 1/2. Secondly, the class gets 5+Int skills per level, with odd numbers being non-standard in PFRPG and another design-flaw. Worse, the class only gets 4 class skills. They actually have fewer class skills than skills! Oo
The pdf also provides 2 pages of pronunciation primers on the Gaelic-influenced elven language (and its dissonant secret subscript) and a table of prohibited classes. That's one thing I hate about Wicked Fantasy races: There are VERY much classes that are simply forbidden for the respective races, which makes no damn sense to me. Why don't these elves get good nature-sorcerors? Clerics (of nature)? Inquisitors? Cavaliers? Magi? Alchemists? Tables like this make me always feel as if someone else wants to impose their home game's restrictions on my own game - indirectly.
Until now. As always with the series, the reimagination of the race is awesome, interesting well-written and compelling. The fluff is simply stellar. And then I read the crunch. It's almost universally broken. From non-standard design-choices that are not intentional, but stem from a lack of understanding of the system, its language and register to faulty formatting, missing information etc., the amount of grossly offensive design-blunders is baffling, especially by such an established designer. I wouldn't harp as much on it, would the glitches not reach a level where the race is essentially impossible to use as written. And then there's the class/race-restrictions: Half-elves are relegated to an origin and a feat, which is the culmination of faulty, non-standard design, doing what should be an alternate racial trait via a feat, a bad throwback to 3.X-design. Or take the dark elves: I love their fluff. But the whole race obviously consists only of summoners, witches and sorcerors. Since the racial traits are subsumed under the three archetypes, they alongside the prohibited class table e.g. show that there are no dark elves fighters, antipaladins (WHY?), Magi etc. - again, driving home what feels like an amateurish insistence on forcing the author's vision down the customer's throat. Why? Because the dark elven racial features obviously are supposed to be balanced within the archetypes.
I get restrictiveness. In fact, I encourage it. But a commercial product is supposed to enhance the customer's creativity and his/her respective vision, not stifle it and this pdf unfortunately does so via bad design-choices that provide you with excellent ideas, but fail to balance them and put them into a solid context of rules while at the same time, via omission and design-choices prohibiting you from making the necessary changes to properly use and modify these rules yourself. From racial traits to feats to archetypes and the PrC, the crunch is universally flawed.
This pdf made me angry. Very, very angry. Since the potential, the good, even genius ideas, are there. But the execution, be it via formatting or crunch, is sloppy beyond compare. This pdf needs a complete revision. Better editing. Better crunch. The stellar fluff deserves so much more than what this pdf provides. If it's not abundantly clear by now, my final verdict will be 1 star - for the high price of 5 bucks, a sloppy mess of design like this is unacceptable.
This pdf is 3 pages long, with about a page devoted to SRD and editorial, so let's check out this item!
Oathbreaker is an axiomatic guisarme that was originally crafted for a fanatic of the Sanguine Covenant, seeking to root out any pagan priests and subsequently falling from grace. The guisarme also grants +2 to saves vs mind-influencing effects, can cast 3/day cure serious wounds or remove disease, 1/day take control of a summoned creature and even potentially postpone the repercussions of violating a codex/code of conduct for some time.
The pdf comes with a page of item-cards.
My reviews will now also show up on NERD TREK and I've been busy the last couple of days submitting my reviews as batches/revised versions to NERD TREK.
If any of you 3pps don't want me to post my reviews of your products there, let me know. :)
This module is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, while SRD and editorial combine to take up about 1 page, leaving approximately 11 pages of content, so let's check out PDG's second Adventure locale-sidetrek adventure for DCC!
This being an adventure module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential player might wish to jump to the conclusion!
All right, still here? This pdf has the PCs venture into the halls that of a primitive tribe to reclaim a sacred skull and a magic club, making this module potentially a viable option for usage in a Sword & Sorcery-style setting. The exploration immediately kicks off with an exploration of the vanquished tribe's undead-infested tombs (including meticulously-detailed treasures) to the option to get blessed by the local mountain god and thus pass the deadly stone guardians - and potentially be goaded into a divine quest to vanquish the mountain god's foes or suffer a luck-draining curse.
In order to succeed, the PCs will have to venture into the depths of the mountain and destroy legions of small, humanoid crayfish-like jumping mites as well as brave the mud demons of Gelihedres and cultists serving the dark god to stop the mastermind of the cult from summoning an avatar of his dark god into the body of a dead young giant. The pdf also comes with 2 pages of DM-maps (with keys) and high-res jpegs both with and without keys for the two levels of the dungeon.
Reviewed here, on DTRPG and sent to GMS magazine. Posted here because AL 2 doesn't seem to be on sale here yet.