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This free teaser for Hypercorps 2099 clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs left? Right! The organic soap corporation R.I.P.E. has a job-offering - and it sounds simple - but your fridge is empty and highjacking the shipment may be the more lucrative job offer - after the deal with Mr. Grey is concluded, a weird bird delivers a counter-offer (on an old piece of paper, included as a hand-out) and, indeed, however the PCs engage the assignment, they will probably see to much - i.e. a nasty, tentacled THING. If they press the matter, things may end up...unpleasantly...
Urban savages will try to get their hands on the shipment in the employ of hyper-otyugh dealer Bazzik, who may or may not prove to be a rather challenging adversary, with multiple lair-specific tricks...and yes, killing the transported monster is another option, though one that can screw their payday. The brief escort-module does feature 4 sample NPCs and 2 pages of nice full-color maps.
Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Hypercorps 2099's two-column full-color standard with solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This short escort-sidetrek is a great introduction to the over-the-top-flair of Hypercorps 2099 - while the theme may be similar to other cyberpunk games, Hypercorps 2099 is more light-hearted and yes, downright bonkers - and, at least as far as this brief mission is concerned, it works out pretty well. Mike Myler delivers his trademark levity here and the nice player-friendly maps alone make this worth the download in my book - a solid, nice teaser-sidetrek you can complete in about 2 hours, this does manage to interest me further in the setting - and it's FREE, so yeah - a nice, free, sidetrek worth a final verdict of 5 stars - as a FREE supplement, you can't do much wrong here.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here.
This free pdf for the Hypercorps 2099-KS clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!
The netjacker base class receives d6, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref and Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons and one exotic weapon of their choice. They also are proficient with light and medium armors and 1st level netjacker begin play with an installed hyperjack and digiboard.
Netjackers are all about controlling robots - when in combat while controlling robots, they take a -3 penalty to AC, which is reduced by 1 at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter. At the beginning of a day, a netjacker chooses either a proxy or drones, both of which are collectively known as robots.
Robots progress with a 3/4 BAB-progression, d10, 6+Int skills per HD, only bad saves, AC-bonuses that scale from +0 to +16, Str/Dex-bonuses that scale up to +6 and scaling upgrade pools and bonus HP for proxies and drones. Proxy upgrade pools scale up from 3 to 26, bonus hp from 2 to 46. Upgrade pools for drones scale up from 1 to 9 and bonus hp from 1 to 24. Proxies act upon your initiative -3, drones at initiative -6. Sharing senses can be accomplished as a standard action -proxies can furthermore act as if properly possessed. Drones, obviously, as less powerful robots, can instead offer more than one active - 1st level netjacker can have 2 active, +1 at 8th and 16th level and possess these drones as well Netjacker receives scaling bonuses to Technology-related skills and at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the netjacker receives a hacking talent. Two sample proxie base forms and two sample drone base forms are provided.
These talents allow for the sabotage of armor, equipment, etc. - personally, I'm not a big fan opposed level checks used - especially since the wording could be read as a fixed value or as an opposing roll - not sure which it is: "The netjacker makes a Use Technology check opposed by a level check (her target's hit dice +1 per 2000bt of the item's value)." - Granted, this is a minor glitch and this a free teaser, so no biggie. Better hoverboarding, becoming invisible to tech - some nice options.
At higher levels, coordinated attacks allow the netjacker to expend actions of robots to grant himself a hyper bonus and further scaling hyper bonuses are interesting. 10th level expands the list of available talents to provide advanced talents and at the capstone, the class gets dual initiative a limited amount of times per day- once in the hypernet, once in the real world.
The final page covers the basic uses of Use Technology.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue array of ambiguities and the minor ones I found can still be streamlined. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with thematically-fitting artwork and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Mike Myler's netjacker class is an interesting take on a summoner-ish class without overbearing the battle-field - the lack of durations for the drones/proxies mean that the few robots utilmately will not overburden the battlefield and bog down gameplay unduly. Having had experiences with powerful riggers in Shadowrun, I am very much aware how powerful the sharing of senses with drones etc. can end up being, so ultimately, this ought to become a pretty intriguing class. Generally, the framework provided is solid and looks like it'll be pretty fun -but as written, I can only tentatively provide a verdict - I do not have the full rules, obviously, and thus cannot judge whether this'll prove to be balanced in the end - with Hypercorps 2099 aiming for a different power-level than base PFRPG, I also have no valid frame of reference I could compare this to. The only valid assertion I can make is that this class looks like it's fun and like it *may* be well-balanced with regards to Hypercorps 2099 - that's it. Personally, I think robots should cost something to replace and I also think that explicitly stating when and how you get new ones (I assume upon resting...) would be a good idea, but this being a teaser, I won't bash it for this omission.
This being a free pdf, I still can recommend you check it out and look for yourself whether this does it for you or not. It does look like a solid rigger to me and thus, my final verdict will clock in at a tentative 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and posted here.
This pdf clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of quotes at the back, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let's take a look!
This book went up on my review queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a fair and critical review.
It is the year 1983 and you pop in this awesome new game into your state of the art Commodore 64, studded with your cutting-edge Ultimax graphics card. You get ready for a truly immersive experience and let your stereo blast a wonderful mix of metal and synthesizer-infused wave-music and then, the unthinkable happens - blue laser beams blast forth from the screen and suddenly, you find yourself within the Crimson Dragon Slayer game, in the world of Thule - a powerful wizard, dying at the entrance of some ominous caves, gives you the brief run-down of the world you found yourself in:
Thule is a savage world, formerly invaded by aliens, then subject to the dread android uprising and plunged into a neo-savage post-apocalyptic bronze age that would feel like home to either Conan or Kull. Yes, Kull. I'll fight anyone bashing the gloriously cheesy movies...but back to the review. No gods can be found in this savage land - only horrific demons, and thus, the one "high" culture remaining, the Valeecians, are drowning their sorrows in excesses of wine, women, drugs and serialized entertainment. The fabled Queen of said realm is supposed to be the most gorgeous beauty in all the lands and only by vanquishing one of the legendary Crimson Dragons, employed by the dread wizard Varkon can one hope to win her hand - or be powerful enough to take her place, if female and/or not inclined to bed the queen. Of course, alternatively, destroying Varkon's legendary scepter or claiming his dread powers would also be options, but that lies far in the future - for now, you are stranded and realize that you don't even necessarily are a human anymore!
If this premise did not at least make you smile a bit, then probably because I failed to convey the subtle humor that suffuses the writing of this basic premise - and the whole book, really. After this intro, character creation is handled - under the header "You mean this game has rules? WTF!?" Yes, this is actually a good read, unlike many rules-books I've read.
Character-creation is very much traditional 3d6 for the 6 attributes Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Willpower and Charisma. Ability-scores range from 0 to 18 and provide a range of penalties and benefits ranging from - 2 to +2. Strength influences melee damage. Dexterity influences AC. Constitution influences bonus hit points per level. Intelligence influences languages known. Willpower directly influences how easily a target can be assaulted by a wizard - low scores translate to bonuses versus the character and vice versa. Charisma attracts followers and interns and obviously, your chances of getting laid. Massive tables allow you to choose previous occupations and a 3-part name-generator table provides the hilariously cheesy names - one of my players, a red-haired woman, got "Slaughter Haunt Strawberry" and almost fell off her char laughing.
The currency in Thule would be cyber crowns and all character begin play with 3d10. Characters also start the game at level 0, gaining their racial traits: Humans get +2 to two ability scores of their choosing and 10 HP. Elves get +2 Cha and Will, get an advantage when making a good impression and are resistant to the enthrall spell. Infernal Elves, essentially half-demonic elves, get +1 Int, Will and Dex and may choose a demonic patron, regardless of spellcasting ability. Both elven types get 6 starting HP. Dwarves get +2 Str and Con and 8 HP. Halflings get +4 Dex, -2 Str and may reroll 1/day a natural 1 in a non-combat situation. They get 4 HP. Robots get +4 Int and cast spells via Int, not Will and cannot be used for Will by other casters (more on that later). They get 8 HP. Reptilians get +4 Str and Dex, -4 Cha and are bad at diplomacy etc. They may attack unarmed for 1d6 damage and get 12 HP. Pixie fairy Princesses, all of them female and all of them princesses (how that works, no one knows...) get +4 Dex and Cha, -4 Str and have an advantage in convincing folks. They get 4 HP. Crystalline creatures get +2 Willpower and count as double when used to power spellcasting and take only half damage from lasers. they get 12 HP -and obviously are a good commodity for all evil sorceror tyrants out there. Finally, the book provides rules for making hybrids of the races. Do I consider the races herein perfectly balanced? No, but their unique benefits and drawbacks can be used by a good Dragon Master (this game's term for the GM) to make them all work out.
Crimson Dragon Slayer (CDS for short in this review) knows 4 base classes. When a class levels up, you roll the class HD and add the result to your hit points. Warriors have d10 and when they hit a target in melee, they may continue to attack targets in melee range until they miss. Wizards get d6 and can utilize magic and alchemy (more on magic later) and can only use daggers and staves. 5th level wizards get either a unique spell or item, creating more at a rate of one per level. Thieves can use short swords, daggers, slings, whips, clubs and crossbows. Thieves can skip their turn to attack in the following round with double the attack dice pool. At 3rd level, they can opt to become assassins or spell scoundrels - spell scoundrels act as wizards at -2 levels. Assassins can 1/day perform a death strike (2/day at 7th and 3/day at 10th level) - if they hit, it's con-based save or die. Thieves have d8. Finally, rangers have d8 and can produce healing moss in the forest, talk Lassie-style to animals and may use long swords, short swords, daggers, bows, slings, spears and polearms. At 3rd level, they can choose to become shamans or defenders - shamans can transform into a fox, deer, raccoon, badger, turkey or twin ferrets 1/day for level rounds. Defenders may protect allies within 10 ft with their shields or magic cloaks.
The game uses dice pools - d6s per level per day. These can be refreshed by resting, though recharging requires some sort of sexual gratification. Alignment is grouped in good, evil, neutral - simple. To attempt an action, you roll 6-sided dice and only take a look at the highest number - except 6s - each 6 grants a so-called dominance. These provide additional benefits that you may choose - the more, the more bonuses you can choose. A round is 20 second long. Struggling actions get 1d6. Average actions get 2d6, Easy ones 3d6. Advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out. Occasionally, you get super-disadvantages (1d6, take the lesser) or super-advantages (4d6). Special occasions can even grant 5d6, but should be accompanied by some awesome scifi/fantasy/80's reference and finally, the cap is 6d6...unless you're 10th level or a dragon - then, this is god mode.
Results are as follows: 6 is a critical success; 5 is a success, 4 is a partial success, 3 is a partial failure, 2 is a failure, 1 is a critical failure. Dominances allow you to perform special stunts, penalize foes, grant your next rolls a bonus, initiate side benefits, reroll weapon damage or add a second attack. Speaking of side benefits - these range from disarming foes to impressing fair maidens, spell durations are doubled - you get the idea. Upon reaching 0 HP r below, a character must make a death saving throw, with the dice pool being based on Con as per the regular dice pool rules. Oh, and yes, 4 sixes mean you regain full health. Somehow. And a 1 reflects a horrible death that can stun all onlookers.
Weapons are simple: Bladed weapons have exploding dice rules - i.e. max damage is rolled again and added together. Blunt weapons stun targets on max damage. Ranged weapons receive a penalty to dice pool versus more distant foes. Two-handed weapons let you reroll 1s rolled in damage. A massive list is provided, ranging from daggers to sonic switchblades and napalm grenades.
Armor Class, or AC, acts as DR. Ac starts at zero (unless your Dex is so low you take a penalty - which would mean you get MORE damage!) - the higher, the better. Cover reduces the dice pools used to attack the target. Shields stack with armor and are VERY useful in this system. Good armor does cancel out dex-bonuses, though. Default movement is 50 ft. per round, 40 ft. in chainmail, 30 ft. in scalemail and 20 ft. in platemail.
Initiative is simple: Flee or Charge first, then ranged weapons, then melee and natural weapons, then spellcasters. HP replenish after 8 hours of rest. Tending to another's wounds in battle takes a full rounds worth of actions and replenishes a single HD and can only be done once per victim until a short or long rest is taken. Experience and level-gain is tied to deeds your character must perform in-game.
Magic is simple: Each spell costs its level in willpower. Wizards may cast higher level spells, but at thrice the cost. Wizards may also use other creatures - by spilling their blood and touching it, they can siphon willpower from the creature at the rate of 1 per round and they may only store their level worth of these points. 0 willpower = unconscious for 8 hours. This means the more spells a character casts, the less willpower he'll have to resist spells himself. 3 spells per level are provided, from 0 to 9, ranging from basic detect magic to defensive force-fields, phantasm-style deadly silver balls to the cube of coitus that helps with seduction, the ice cream phantom servant (in three flavors!), great balls of fire, cylinders of fubar and finally, Power Word: Just F&&+in' Die Already! 10th level nets you Wish, obviously.
An array of magical items can also be found within these pages and a short gazetteer on prominent individuals the character may know, some information on the demon lords like Tsathag'kha or K'tulu etc. are provided. Monsters have half their HD as dice pool for attacks. Other OSR-system monsters detract 10 from AC in CDS and add it vice versa.
And that's all - all the rules required to play - simple indeed.
The pdf also sports a small introductory module, the aptly-named caverns of carnage. So, from here on out, the review will contain SPOILERS. Players should jump to the conclusion.
The caverns of carnage are essentially an old-school dungeon crawl in the friggin' best of ways. There's not much of a story going on, but we did not miss it for even a second. Why? Because the hilarious premise of the system, the writing that made reading the rules actually a pleasant experience, blooms to full-blown awesome-triple-plus levels here. If you have no humor, steer clear. If you do, you'll laugh more than you'll have in ages playing, as horror and comedy oscillate in a spectacle that is just FUN. What do I mean by this? The module is unabashedly, wonderfully, bonkers in the way that a self-ironic heavy metal cheese is. The random encounters include grey invaders, unholy things with too many tentacles (which may cause the characters to s~ their pants), androgynous cigarette.smoking men that may prove to be Ziggy Stardust, Surf-Nazis and *drum-roll* PSYCHOTIC CARE-BEARS that can transform you into one of their own.
The PCs can also save gorgeous women from being sacrificed to demons (and yes, there are guidelines to which of the saviors they'll be attracted to...) - coincidentally, in my playtest,a female player scored all of them and had a total blast. So no, I do not consider this sexist - it's not mean-spirited in any way. But back to being bonkers - there is an AI-Smiley of Doom to be found herein alongside a hidden grub that just waits to bite off 1d4 fingers. Caveman-orgies, skeletal mermaids, portals into post-nuclear wastelands, including mad scavengers, demonic spider gods, cannibal zombie ninjas, a literally deadly tangerine dream, a deadly Rubix cube...there is not ONE encounter here that does not sport something utterly awesome. Oh, and there is a truly unique one that not only may net permanent bonuses (including extra lives!) that had me actually get a laughing fit - friggin' cthulhoid pacman-maze. Yes, there is a nasty maze wherein nice pretzels etc. provide bonuses while ghosts haunt you and a deadly gigantic Pacman wants to destroy you! WAKKA-WAKKA-WAKKA!!!
At the end of our playtest, we all had laughed so much, some of us had sore muscles on the following day.
The pdf also provides a nice character-sheet.
Editing and formatting are not perfect, but still can be considered very good. Layout adheres to an easy to read two-column b/w-standard and sports A LOT of gorgeous, classic Conan-artworks as well as thematically perfectly fitting original pieces. The pdf does have layers so you can make it more printer-friendly still, but alas, it does not have bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.
The softcover copy has a nice, glossy cover and is well-crafted -no complaints there!
When the author Venger As'Nas Satanis contacted me, I did honestly not expect much - I shrugged, sent my usual disclaimer regarding books, that I do dish out bad ratings unlike some reviewers, etc. - and promptly forgot about the matter in the daily hustle and bustle of reviewing. Then, one day, this big box with plenty of books arrived at my home and I started reading. OSR rules are nothing new to me and I use them once in a while to take a break, so yeah - again, no big expectations.
I understood almost immediately that this was not what I had expected. For once, I enjoyed reading rules. No seriously - while they could be slightly better structured here and there, as presented, they still are easy to grasp to explain them in 10 minutes, roll up characters and start playing. The system itself, isn't perfectly balanced and it's not exactly a stroke of genius or brilliant innovation - so the crunch itself is slightly above average. But roleplaying games are more than just the numbers.
The writing of the world, the blending of science-fiction and fantasy, is just downright awesome and the adventure included in this pdf is simply inspired - unlike some gory grimdark settings, this does depict a dark world, yes - but at the same time, Thule is a realm of awesomeness, where no concept is too outrageous. This book is gloriously invested in some of my favorite concepts, it resonates with a gleeful, tongue-in-cheek humor that mirrors what is awesome about movies like Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 - this is utterly unapologetic cheese that manages to skirt the very close line between taking itself too seriously and not serious enough: The world and dungeon, in spite of their numerous references, still feel concise - they make sense, and left me utterly stoked to read more. This book was like reading my first Conan comic-book for the first time again, then mixing in my favorite games and scifi-novels to me - and brought my table excessive amounts of joy. So yes, the writing is absolutely superb - and unlike many "Metal"-settings, it never is mean-spirited, grimdark or bleak - it is just FUN.
Now if the premise is something that does not sound awesome to you, then this probably is not for you; if you don't have humor and get acne when reading the price of a space station among the possible things to buy (instead of going HELL YEAH!), if you're offended by curses here and there or by the aesthetics, then this may not be for you - but you'd be missing out. Unlike e.g. Lamentation of the Flame Princess' extremely bleak dark fantasy/horror (yes, will review some of those as well!), this book is never truly dark - it is a celebration of pulp aesthetics and tropes, of the 80s, of nerd-culture and it actually made my players want to play the module a second time. So yes, you'd definitely be missing something.
Now, as much as I'd like to, the base system, racial balance etc. make it impossible for me to rate this book as high as I'd like to - the components even out at 4 stars. BUT: I enjoyed this so much, both reading, re-reading and playing it, that I'll gladly slap my seal of approval on this bad boy - if the gloriously over-the-topness I tried to convey in some way, any way, appeals to you, then check this out! If your humor is like mine and you have managed to keep that pubescent geeky boy/girl inside you alive, I'm pretty positive you will have as much of a blast with this as I did.
And yes, I will review the other books as well...
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
The 50th installment of Rite Publishing's FREE e-zine clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 11 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 30 pages of free content, so let's take a look, shall we?
We begin this installment with David Paul's editorial recapping the journey of the magazine so far before we are introduced to Steven D. Russell's new template - the grandmaster creature. At CR +4, it renders the target lawful and allows for the creature in question to assemble a cabal of creatures that can be teleported to the grandmaster creature by uttering their name. When calling the cabal, the grandmaster also receives a significant buff -better yet, the cabal receives essentially mini-templates - brute, genius, mystic and sniper all provide multiple unique abilities for the cabal members with the respective designated roles. Finally, disparaging remarks can be uttered as swift action debuffs for foes and the level 15 hobgoblin war master used as a sample creature can be considered a fun foe to throw at your players. A great template indeed!
Raging Swan Press mastermind Creighton Broadhurst also has something nice for us - a nice dressing article that provides no less than 20 sample things your PCs may find in a pit as well as 20 things to be found in a sea cave - nice! And yes, you should get GM's Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing and GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing, my number one choices of best product of 2014 - they indeed will enrich your game!
Thereafter, we dive into Elton Robb's first article covering the Leviathan Archipelago - the Questhaven setting's tropical/(under-)water-themed regions. Utilizing concise terminology, we are introduced to the concept of Light Zones, going on to explain the undersea topography and concepts like photic and aphotic zones in a concise and easily understood manner. Benthic Zones and their respective categories are also covered herein, with water pressure and currents also being noted. Bends and various means of covering pressure and its dangers have also been provided. Oh, what's that? You already have Cerulean Seas, the definite resource for underwater adventuring? Great, then you'll be excited to hear that this series endeavors to provide full-blown synergy with those races and rules. And yes, this has only further enhanced my vast anticipation of Questhaven and makes me look forward to the cultures hinted at in future installments!
Speaking of Questhaven - Steven D. Russell does provide a write up of Our Mother of Many Ways, a deity of both wine and inspiration, knowledge and madness, associated with hyenas. With the two nice subdomains, inspiration and prophecy, the well-written article receives some nice crunch back-up. 3 feats that allow you to convey retributive madness afflictions or make wine into a lethal poison - ouch! I'm very weary of a feat that lets you 3/day activate revelations with an activation of 1 round or less as a swift action -with a lack of prerequisites and a very broad focus, this feat can result in some rather powerful combos and personally, I allow too many sources to consider it a smart idea. The article also provides a rather interesting Paladin archetype - the Joyous Brother/Sister - essentially a chaotic good paladin with an aura of hope. These guys replace spells with wine-filled barbarian rage and may, at higher level, grant this euphoria-induced state to allies via the expenditure of uses of smite evil. The archetype is well-crafted and unique and comes with its own creed - neat!
David Paul showcases hereafter some of his Forest Spells (review coming soon!) before we get an interview with Owen K.C. Stephens - designers, take a look!
After this, we get a showcase of some of the best 3pp-products out there, with highly-rated product-reviews by Trev W. and yours truly before Jacob Blackmon's Path Less Travelled webcomic ends the book on an upbeat note.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard with some nice full-color and stock-art pieces inside. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
It's been a while since I've reviewed free products, mainly because I think my readers can easily verify for themselves what they like or don't like. With the sheer amount of books to cover, I try to tackle those first and thus, alas and much to my chagrin, I had less time than I would have liked to devote to Pathways-reviews.
Personally, I always enjoy my free monthly Pathways fix and I always gladly find my reviews published there. There usually is something awesome in each issue and quite a few articles in the magazine's history have made their way into my game. So yes, this is nice content FOR FREE. That's very hard to beat, you know - and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
This massive book clocks in at 201 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front-cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC,1 blank page at the end, leaving us with 195 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
This massive core-book for the revised edition of Eldritch Roleplaying (ERP) begins with an introduction that sums up several of the virtues of this system - adequately so, I should mention. At the same time, though, personally, I felt this component to be somewhat overblown, much like a sales-pitch when the very presence of the book clearly does not necessitate this component - this may be a personal pet-peeve of mine, but I do not think games should try to tell their readers how awesome they are and instead stand on the virtue of their own merits - but let's see whether this works, shall we?
The default assumption of this system is a world of fantasy, obviously. We begin with a glossary of terms and what they mean - since the following review will make excessive use of them, I'll give you the brief run-down:
-Ability: This specifies a skill or innate capacity.
-Ability Branch: A single component of an ability tree, specifying Specialties and Masteries. An ability check is made via such a branch, with no more than one roll of the basic tier, plus one specialty, plus one mastery.
-Ability Check: Each such check involves one ability branch, rolling up to 3 dice to beat the target number.
-Ability Tree: Base ability + all branches. Tier 1 denotes base abilities, tier 2 denotes specialties and each specialty further branches off into different masteries, which constitute tier 3.
-Base Tier: First tier, always has a single die (from d4 to d12)
-Branch Rank: Term used to establish general competence in an ability branch. Just add max values and check the table.
-Character Points: Point-buy for abilities.
-Damage Reduction: Reduce threat points before the active defense pool.
-Defense Pool: Number of points used to mitigate or cancel threats
-Defense, Active: Using active DP to mitigate one attack via the corresponding ability.
-Defense, Passive: One passive defense pool or fortitude.
-Die-rank: Value of any creature's single die of an ability tree tier; ranges from d3 to d20 and includes d14, d16 and d18.
-Max Value (MV): Highest die-result possible with a given die or die combination.
-Needed Number (NN): Measure for spellcasting difficulty.
-Restricted/unrestricted Ability: Restricted abilities can't be used without having at least a certain die-rank, most of the time, a d4. Consider this the ability to only use certain abilities when "trained" in them.
-Special maneuvers: Combat maneuvers, essentially.
-Threat Points: Measurement of the potential harm from a specific ability branch - the damage potential from which active defenses etc. are detracted to determine the actually inflicted harm.
So, to sum it up - we have a system that is very much skill-based, using a combination of dice over specializations and pitting rolls vs. rolls, with minor fixed value modifications, kind of like a variant of Shadowrun that utilizes more die-types over increasing numbers of d6s.
Character creation is simple: You have 30 character points. Assigning age and sex is free and you can modify the value by taking advantages (at cost) or disadvantages (increasing your character points). It should be noted that adolescence is considered to take for all races to reach - while I get the streamlining rationale, such a factor inherently makes me wonder how the "better" races have not yet developed a more stable population
Each race MUST buy the minimum ranks in certain abilities associated with them, which range from 15 (dwarves) to 4 (humans) and racial advantages, if appropriate - all dwarves must expend the 3 character points for night vision, for example. While the individual abilities and costs are provided, a quick glance also shows you the total value, including the modifications of the compulsory advantages/disadvantages hard-coded into the race. Over all, the ability-package as presented makes the races work pretty well and choosing them rather simple - at the same time, the restrictions imposed here by a lack of racial customization directly contradicts the assertion of supreme control over character concepts claimed in the slightly overblown introduction, but that just as a snarky side-note to emphasize why I consider intros like that undue.
The advantages and disadvantages provided run a pretty broad gamut of abilities, again, bringing Shadowrun to mind, just instead of the modification of dice-pool sizes, we have the die-step improvements. This allows for e.g. magical defense that allows a caster to extend it to physical attacks in two steps, with the more costly version also applying to ranged attacks. Subtle casting, attractiveness and similar benefits can be gained as well. Personally, I really enjoyed and loathed one particular advantage at the same time: Literacy. It always galls me in any fantasy setting, when the default assumption is that people can read - it's an obvious anachronism not supported by the infrastructure in most areas. So yes, kudos for including that.
Being able to read and write ALL languages for one meager character point more, though, actually sabotages quite a few narratives - from strange languages to deciphering ancient tongues, this advantage counters quite a few potential plots, thus rendering its upgrade problematic. Now here would be as good a place as any to mention the easy customization capacities of this system - are you like me and utterly loathe this concept? Just modify the advantage to instead apply on a point per language basis. Want discrepancies in fluency and capacity? Build your own ability-tree. The system is ridiculously easy to modify in these finer components without breaking it, a huge plus when it comes to modifying it to apply to different settings, something you will want to do -but more on that later.
From darkvision (here called Night Vision) to underworld contacts, the advantages are generally solid. Among the disadvantages, one can find addictions, compulsions, missing limbs - you get the idea.
Abilities, as mentioned above, are governed by the size of the die: Unrestricted abilities begin at d4 and cost a cumulative +2 character points to increase. Restricted abilities cost 2 character points to get to d4-size and subsequent costs of die-size minus two for the respective rank. (D12 costs 10 character points, for example.)
On a didactic side, the presentation of the values of character points it takes to rank up is pretty much more opaque than it should be: As presented, one can read the process as the cost depicted representing the total cost of character points or as the cost to increase from the previous rank - while one can deduce the correct way from the examples provided in the book, I had exactly that issue come up during character generation for playtesting, with different players having different opinions. Abilities are noted as P (Primary), S (Support), R (Restricted) and U (Unrestricted). While we get a short list, I can't help but feel that a proper table would have been preferable here.
Magic items, buffs etc. that sport a +1 to a given ability increase the die-size by +1. In a nice idea, characters can also pursue occupations as an optional general orientation that codifies the character as being, more or less aligned with the role of a given "class." It should be noted that this is more of a cosmetic accumulation of traditional nomenclature than a description of the capabilities of the character as a whole deal package.
Next up would be the calculation of the character's defense pools, of which there are two: Active Defense and Passive Defense. Active Defense includes parrying, dodging, agility and unarmed combat and can incorporate static DR via shields. Passive Defense is determined by Fortitude and includes DR via armor, if applicable. The Defense Pool calculations are dead simple - add up the maximum values of the ability tree, including all specialties and masteries. Once again, the basic explanation of the features, alas, could have been more concise - as presented, the basic step leaves you wondering whether active defense accumulates and adds parrying etc. or not - only by delving deeper into the grit of the system does this opacity become resolved, which, once again, presents a thoroughly unnecessary confusion-barrier for novices to the rules that could have been rectified by one simple sentence providing clearer rules language.
Starting equipment and character concept are determined in conjunction with the GM, with suggestions for general, broad roles provided for the individual character roles - melee types for example receive a weapon, armor, shield and steed, whereas rogues get thieves' tools, light armor and a weapon. Currency substitutes "crowns" for "Dollars" or "Euros." Equipment, especially mundane equipment, is pretty much glossed over by the system, claiming it does not require the level of detail etc. - we will return to this claim later.
First, we'll now take a look at the action resolution system: This is actually as simple as opposing rolls get - you roll the dice and if there is active opponent, both applicable rolls are compared, with specialties and masteries adding their die-sizes to the fray if applicable: Let's say you have someone specialized in Stealth, a subcategory of Skullduggery, with a Mastery in Urban environments - he'd add all 3 to an ability check when sneaking around in an urban environment, but as soon as the character would seek to apply his skillset in the wilderness, he'd only receive the dice from basic Skullduggery and Stealth, but not the bonus for Urban Mastery.
On a downside, I do believe the example provided, which I have here consciously quoted, would have benefited from actually stating that it is opposed by Perception - while pretty much self-evident, clear opposition-structures, especially when explaining the base system, do help. At the same time, the way in which whether a specialty or mastery applies is explained can be considered exceedingly concise, so kudos there. Challenges imposed by the GM follow a similar structure - the GM selects a set of dice to describe the general difficulty, rolls them and compares them to the player's roll. Here, I have a slight issue with the game - the good-roll-makes-possible-syndrome. it is a matter of taste, but the most difficult tasks are set at 3d12 -and yes, these can be nigh impossible. At the same time, though, a character who is lucky can achieve things the GM considered beyond him.
While, once again, easily modifiable via static DCs or GM-fiat, the general inclination of this swingy assumption of dice vs. dice means that you'll have a relatively pronounced luck-factor when tackling such challenges - theoretically, you may beat the set-up with a paltry d4. Yes, the chance of this happening is pretty paltry (as anyone with even a cursory understanding of math should know, but I *have* seen rolls like that - more than one...) - so ultimately, whether you consider this a bug or a feature ultimately depends on your personal inclinations. The undeniable benefit of this would obviously be something that works its way through the whole system - namely that you never become truly invincible to paltry/low-level threats. Yes, it becomes increasingly unlikely that you fall to them, but the chance still exists, which is a component that personally appeals as much to me as the swingy distribution does not.
What very much appeals to me and tends to find its way into all of my games in one way or another, would be the pretty concise and easy to use degrees of success and failure that further enhance the randomness factor and reward/punish the respective rolls. Oh, since I failed to mention this - if in doubt, resolutions tend to favor the defender, which is an interesting component that makes generally defensively-inclined characters work better than in similar systems of e.g. the d20-basis.
In case you wondered, btw. - weapons and equipment and fighting also follow all of these rules, with the ability melee weapons leading into very broad weapon groups specialties and particular weapon type masteries, which, in practice, makes surprising amounts of sense. Speaking of combat, let's take a closer look, all right?
I already mentioned the different defense pools available (and should note that this system makes shields actually relevant and mechanically distinct, which I do enjoy immensely!), so how does initiative work? A round is 15 second long, with a descending order of battle phases, scaling via Agility's ability down from d12 to d4 in 5 phases, with each phase taking 3 seconds. Creatures with an even higher or lower Agility take their corresponding place in the initiative order and act before (or after, in the latter case) the others. A creature gets exactly one action per round, which can be used to take actions, cast spells, activate magic items or use special abilities. Initiative is governed by the ability tree of Agility, Reflexes and Reaction Time, with equipment further potentially modifying this value. But what if creatures act in the same phase? Here, envision my smile evaporating - fixed order: PC, exceptional creatures, standard creatures, minor creatures. This suggestion allows you to metagame the "named" NPCs out of a crowd and makes no sense within the world - and as such, I loathe it, in spite of the inclusion of NPCs/special creatures having the option to be treated as PCs. Ties between foes and PCs are always won by the PC, another component I'd personally switch on its head, but that ultimately remains my forte because I'm a mean, mean GM Thankfully, a GM can easily, once again, devise a modification of the suggested system to remedy just about every component of the system as presented herein.
But what about surprise? There is a distinction between simple and total surprise, with the latter locking the defending characters out of their active pool defense pools -OUCH. Simple surprise only takes away your action in the surprise round. A character may move 18 yards + MV Agility per round, more if the character incurs a penalty, with masteries further enhancing this. Oddly, the penalty incurred by faster movement makes surprising sense in in-game dramaturgy. Interesting here - the actual feasibility of defensive characters. The D-pools a character has deplete over the course of a combat and simulate fatigue, much like the ones in the classic German old-school RPG Midgard - once they are depleted, you take damage to fortitude, so there's a difference to Midgard here. At 0 fortitude you drop unconscious, at minus MV fortitude, you die. So that's how you die. But how do you make creatures die?
I already mentioned the threat pool: This is weapon/magic pillar + weapon group (and bonuses)/spell type + specific weapon/spell mastery. Note that some spells may bypass specific defenses fielded against them, increasing the required roll. It should be noted that no two defense pools can be combined - you either try to dodge or parry, for example - not both. Willpower is used to resist non-physical threats. Dual-wielding characters incur a battle phase penalty and yes, there are simple rules for attacks of opportunity, here called opportune attacks. Interesting here: A character may sacrifice a specialty or mastery to add its MV to the associated defense pool. While not engaged in hand-to-hand or melee, a character may revitalize, regaining 20% of all D-pools. D-pools are tied to encounters, which I LOATHE - you're all by now aware of why "per-encounter" anything ultimate lands on my "oh why"-list; they make no sense. At the same time, though, the system presented here does have the easy option for the GM to customize this limit away and replace it with a fixed duration of rest etc. - in fact, I'd suggest such a system for pretty much any strenuous activity beyond combat, but again - that's my preference and not something that impacts the review.
Magic in the system is separated into 7 so-called pillars: Alteration, Arcanum, Conjuration, Elementalism, Illusion, Invocation and Psychogenics. Failure to roll the needed number of the spell to be cast may incur unpleasant effects for the caster, so there is a certain sense of unpredictability inherent in the system, one further enhanced by the basic set-up of swinging distribution of the dice-results inherent in the system. Saving throws are either based directly on willpower and its follow-ups or directly on fortitude. It should also be noted that quite a few spells have essentially built-in metamagic, with modifications to the NN. It should also be noted that aforementioned degrees of failure-philosophy also applies to the general rules of spellcasting. In order to allow for a broad array of customization and homebrewing, what amounts to a DIY-spell-building kit with sample effects and NNs provide a surprisingly concise amount of guidance for the GM and trigger summonings, casting spells as rituals etc. all can be found among the options presented here. It should be noted that, while each pillar receives its array of spells, the focus here lies on the toolkit.
I've been talking quite a bit about "GM this and GM that" -well, instead of XP as another resource to track, ERP directly awards character points, cutting out the middleman, so to speak. An elegant solution within the confines of this system. Traps and creature development are also covered with concise rules and plenty of examples for the GM to choose from, alongside tables of generic treasure. Much like 13th Age, monsters are provided in a plentiful array and sport very simple statblocks that do not feature much beyond type, threat dice, extra attacks, DR, HP, Saves and Agility ranks - a minimalistic approach, though at the other side of things. Where monsters in 13th Age derived their rules-symmetry from the lack of swinging dice, the beasts in ERP derive their rules-symmetry from the fact that they swing just as much as PCs do. From classic horses to Lilith herself, the section covers quite some ground, though ultimately, you should not expect too much from the variety of the monsters themselves - vampires may have vampiric bite or hypnotic gaze, yes, but that is all that remains codified - the rest is left to the GM.
Also, much like 13th Age, ERP does feature a kind of primer of a sample campaign setting, with the default world of Ainerêve, whose morphological nomenclature I enjoyed as much as the Tennyson-reference leading into the chapter. And indeed, the somewhat linguistically-versed GM will not be surprised by a rather interesting component of this setting: For one, the world coexists undetectably with ours, as a kind of shadow. More importantly, the dream-connotation is further enhanced by a presumed mutability of lands - folk beliefs, convictions and ideologies transform the world and have significant power, with proximity in establishment being governed by conceptual and ideological nearness. This is at once brilliant, but at the same time also somewhat reductive in that it organizes the world in a fashion that is easier to structure - over all, the world still manages to feel pretty concise in its make-up and depiction, with sample NPCs, information on local law etc. being sported for many in ample details, going so far as to produce a pronunciation guide, nomenclature etc., with ample random name-generators. As awesome as the world is as a conception and as strongly as it might resonate with me and the themes of real world mythology, I still felt myself slogging through the campaign world's information - this is not a bad world and its premise is utterly AWESOME - but what was crafted from the premise pretty much disappointed me as a rather vanilla fantasy world - hence my assertion in the beginning that you'll want to apply your own modifications regarding the campaign setting.
The book also sports handy GM two-page cheat-sheets and 2 page character-sheets, which are horizontally aligned.
Now before I jump to the conclusion, what is missing here? 1) Encumbrance. The stance here is "encumbrance is not fun", meaning you can carry tons of stuff around/potentially generating the Christmas Tree syndrome. Sample poisons/diseases - while provided as hazards, some examples would have been nice and virulence tec. does not feature - the two components exist pretty much in a half-defined limbo that leaves much in the GM's hands, in spite of plenty of interaction with spells and abilities. I also think the system does require non-battle fatigue systems for weather/exposure etc. - once again, yes, they can be devised by the GM, but I still feel they deserve more focus.
Editing and formatting are okay, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of glitches herein. Especially formatting, quite honestly, annoyed me. Obvious bullet-point lists are simple lists, which detracts from the readability. And personally, my eyes glaze over when I read the statblocks. Why? Because of the overabundance of ">." You see, "Ability > Specialty > Mastery" is the format and whenever I looked at such a sign, I felt the layout-need to actually insert an arrow-graphic. It may just be me, though. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that still retains a pretty printer-friendly basis, so that's nice. The artwork...well. It exists. It neither adheres to a uniform standard or style, nor did I consider the pieces particularly nice. It doesn't get better than the cover, so art-fanatics may not want to get this for the aesthetic values.
Dan Cross and Randall Petras have crafted an interesting system here - one that is governed by chaos and swinging results, yes, but also one that is pretty transparent in its rules. In fact, ERP is ridiculously easy to learn once you have someone explain it to you - or are an experienced roleplayer. The book, alas, is pretty much as "eldritch" in the beginning as its name implies - the first explanations and sequence of rules-presentations is NOT simple, nor didactically well-chosen in all occasions, which made running this more frustrating that it really should be - for it's actually easy! When I read the book for the first time, I saw the claim of "easy character generation" and thought "Yeah right! I have no idea what's going on!" - the key-word here is patience. The sequence of rules-presentation is not particularly well-chosen, so if you don't let that frustrate you, ERP actually *IS* so easy to grasp and run - you just have to get past the annoying introduction and to the point where all the pools are actually concisely explained.
Now if the above review wasn't ample clue - I intensely dislike a plethora of design-decisions, not from a reviewer's perspective, but from a personal one, so no, I am not going to bash the system for it. This dislike never extends to the base mechanics, mind you, but rather to many of the details - and here, the genius component of this roleplaying system shine: This is perhaps one of the most easily customizable systems I've seen in quite a while. Don't like terrain-rules being swingy? Replace with fixed values. Don't enjoy the tilting of the scales in favor of the PCs to give them a slight mathematical edge in the game of swinging dice vs. swinging dice? Eliminate it in favor of more lethality. This system is extremely customizable and makes defense worthwhile while providing a combat that is streamlined. In my experience, it is NOT necessarily faster than other systems, though - why? Because rolling competing throws of the dice does take up time that cannot be reduced. (Ask anyone who's ever played a game featuring them...) Yes, you will not be flipping rule-books much and look for obscure rule xyz, but still - obscure rules can be learned, whereas the rolling of the dice versus another always takes the same time.
In fact, this is my second attempt at writing a conclusion, since my first was focused on demolishing the introductory text - and the game does not deserve this. As much as many design decisions rub me the wrong way, as much as I consider the setting's potential unrealized and as much as I dislike the simple monsters, all of that ultimately does not matter that much. Why? Because anyone halfway versed in crunch-design or houseruling material can customize the hell out of this system, which ultimately is the huge strength of what is presented here - the mathematical elegance of chance and the simplicity of the system's swinging numbers translate to a game that transcends the limitations of its imho subpar presentation and slight didactic hiccups.
Know what I honestly did not expect, especially considering how much I do not like the setting? I actually found myself enjoying this system - it feels like a great framework. one that can use expansions, polish and a nicer "coat" (layout + art), one that can use expansions to deal with detailed alchemy, necromancy etc. While not absent from this book, the traditions of the like imho can certainly use a more refined and explicit depiction in future publications. Now I won't use this all the time - the swinginess of results, while endearing for some narratives and stories, ends up annoying me as much as permanently running the cruise-control monsters of 13th Age. But I will return to ERP in the future. It is an interesting system and, if what I wrote, if the customization, is what you're looking for, then be sure to take a look at this. My final verdict, in spite of gripes and some opacity in the presentation, will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. Why? Because to me, l good content and basic structure trumps a nice polish and because I thoroughly appreciate the versatility of this system.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
This expansion for the tinker clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!
As the pdf observes, this pdf offers options for lower levels tinkers - though this time around, a minimum of 3rd level to get properly started. It should also be mentioned that this pdf links up with rules in the SUPERB tinker-expansion Happy Little Automatons, which every fan of the class should have.
We have three new invention types herein - compartments and fireworks. Compartment inventions are introduced to streamline the compartment-questions provided in previous installments that featured some sort of fuel/etc. Fireworks-inventions are special inventions that occupy space in a given compartment as though they were goods - they thus need compartment space and may, important, NOT be launched by hand, only by the respective invention. Fireworks have a range of 30 ft., max 150 ft. and they are executed against grid intersections (AC 5) and may target occupied and unoccupied intersections, thus deviating from splash weapons, though occupied intersections are treated as ranged fire into melee, including potential for penalty negation via Precise Shot. Intersections sans walls etc. also have their AC increased. On a miss, we determine how it missed, also providing concise rules for determining z-axis issues when shot into the air (or into a pit).
Finally, there would be propellant inventions, which modify all fireworks in a given compartment at the time of deployment; only one propellant can be added per compartment.
All right, got that? We thus gain 3 new innovations: One that negates the chance of fireworks exploding when going unlaunched, one that increases capacity of all compartments by +1 as though they were improved compartments for the purpose of holding different substances and one that lets you break the "only one propellant"-rule and allows you to add 2 in a single compartment.
And then, we have inventions - and at this point, anyone who has ever made a tinker starts cackling with glee, mainly because the by now beautifully customizable system benefits from the expansions made so far: Take e.g. Alphas that contains vast amounts of fireworks that furthermore has an increased propellant capacity, increasing the value of the fireworks stored by the alpha.
The base for fireworks would be firework tubes or hot pockets, reloading from a chosen compartment as a move action, launching them as a directed attack, with potential options to fire multiple fireworks and synergy with Rapid Reload and Rapid Shot. Hot Pockets may be used to prime fireworks and fire them all at once as a directed attack, though primed fireworks continuously decrease their maximum range and may even explode in the automaton if the tinker fails to direct the attack, making the base system work essentially like a pretty interesting game of action-economy conversion and set-ups. And yes, e.g. The Late Bloomer can be used to increase the radius of launched fireworks, while a propellant may be added to increase the range of fireworks - a potential synergy with another range-increasing tube-modification.
Even general fireworks end up having something interesting going for them, with AC-penalizing caustic fireworks, propellants that may dazzle those adjacent to the flight or fireworks that contains hundreds of angry spiders (!!!)?
Want something cooler? What about a propellant that makes it hard for undead to cross the exhaust-line left by a rocket for smart terrain control? Or ones that contain entangling good? What about a glitterdust-y emission of tracer particles? Have I mention condition stacking, damage to adjacent creatures in the flight path? Oh yeah!
Oh, and btw. - yes, the pdf has a list of which inventions get the compartment-subtype. Kudos!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard and sports thematically fitting b/w-artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks and does not necessarily require them at this length.
The last Remedial tinkering-expansion by Bradley Crouch was absolutely AWESOME in that it not only provided great low-level tricks, its combo-set-up potential was thoroughly inspired. Now, one can say pretty much the same for the content herein, with one minor gripe on my end: It quite frankly took me longer than I would have liked to piece together how exactly fireworks are launched - a slightly more concise explanation in the beginning would have certainly helped here.
That being said, not only do the fireworks here work how they should and in a mechanically distinct way, they also sport a damn cool array of combo potentials. Now I might grumble a bit here, but then there's one more thing to consider: This is FREE. It costs zilch, zero, nada, nothing - and who am I to nitpick on a quality, fun and simply interesting expansion that is free to boot? All in all, I'm glad I can now add this cool array of options to my tinkers, though I certainly wished that a) this was longer and b), it explained the process of launching fireworks in a slightly more concise manner. That being said, this is still a great expansion and one that requires literally zero investment from you - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars +seal of approval.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This pdf clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So, in case you're not 100% sure - yes, this is an April's Fools product. And yes, I'm reviewing it in August. Sad, but better late than never, right? So this begins with a basic, humorous introduction of poles - both in the game worlds and in real life. Let me go on a slight tangent here: If you do not know 10-foot-poles, they are perhaps the source of more anecdotes and prevented PC-death in old-school gaming than any other item. They also are the punch-line of more dirty jokes than rods of lordly might - and in case you're new school and never got see their awesomeness in action, take a look at 2 pages of long (and surprisingly viable!) suggestions on how to use these poles and potentially prevent your character's death - you'll never want to leave your home without your trusty pole.
I'm sorry. I'll put a buck in the groaner joke jar. So, during the years, 10-foot poles, their usefulness undisputed and tried and tested by more adventurers in varying degrees of success, have obviously spawned an array of variants, many of which can be found herein - from butterfly nets with which you can capture those annoying pixies to balancing poles, there are quite a few nice variants to be found - of course, including the 11-foot pole for the customer who goes one step beyond. This also includes folding poles and the combat ladder - an exotic weapon with the brace, blocking, disarm, grapple, monk, performance, reach and trip qualities. Overpowered? Perhaps. But -6 to atk and CMB when using it sober are at least some nice drawbacks. I just wished the basic drunkeness rules of PFRPG were better. If you actually plan on using this weapon, I'd strongly suggest using it with Raging Swan Press' rules for barroom brawls and tie it to the hammered condition featured in that book. Technology Guide-based hydraulic poles, vermin attracting giant toothpicks, stilts - the mundane objects herein, while not always perfectly balanced, generally fall within the purview of being rather well-crafted indeed.
Of course, some poles are magical, they grow when... Ouch. Yes, I'll stop. Sorry. Must be the summer heat BBQing my brain. *puts another dime in the groaner jar* Here, we can find bandolier containing toothpicks that can extend to proper poles; Decoy poles with hats etc. on top that act as protection from arrows. Poles with continuous flames on top; those that behave like a compass needle pr one that can be transformed in a cat with a limited movement radius. No, this pun was not one of my creation! What about a robe containing multiple useful poles? Hej, my clothes...OUCH. Yes, I'll stop.
One step beyond these, there also are cursed poles - petulant ones that refuse to properly modify; magnetic ones...or what about the pole-ka, which is best combined with playing Weird Al instrumentals irl? Yes, the poles here are genuinely funny. What about an intelligent limbo pole that acts as a one-way portal through walls...if you can limbo under it, becoming progressively harder? There even are mythic poles herein, and I'm not talking about...Ouch. *puts another one in the jar*
What about the Staff of Sun Wukong (aka Son Goku?) Yes, cool. The giant stick bug, which may also act as a familiar, makes for a nice additional creature, before we dive into the new bard archetype, the pole dancer. Pole dancers replace bardic knowledge with a battle dance - with the effects only affecting the pole dancer and initiation actions required scaling. They also are masters of fighting with ten-foot poles, gaining dex to atk and damage with them and allowing them to treat the weapons as other types regarding damage. The overall slight decrease in power is offset by an increased capacity to use alluring abilities and the ability to substitute Perform (Dance) for Acrobatics, making them save that skill-investment.
At higher levels, battle dancing pole dancers are treated as hasted and in an interesting way, they may quicken spells by expending move actions while casting spells. Powerful defensive dances that heal damage and moving while making attacks and the capstone nets an attack versus all foes in range during any point of a move. The pole dancer is an interesting archetype I very much like concept-wise. At the same time, it suffers from some issues - it is not clear whether battle dance is gained in addition to bardic performance or replaces it - I assume the latter, since the former would be pretty OP. Conversely, I assume the battle dances have a round-cap akin to performance, but the ability doesn't specify it, which is a pity. Some of the other abilities also sport minor ambiguities that can be problematic, the most glaring component here would be the absence of weapon statistics for the 10-foot pole. I assume an improvised large weapon, but I'm not sure. On a nitpicky side, the archetype also switches genders mid-sentence, which I consider supremely annoying.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - some entries sport font-changes and there are some minor hiccups in the rules-language here and there. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color two-column standard with nice, stock artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a detriment regarding the convenient use of this pdf in my book.
Quite a team has worked on this one: Ismael Alvarez, Jeff Gomez, J. Gray, garrett Guilotte, Kiel Woeell, Taylor Hubler, Lucus Palosaari, Matt Roth, Jessie Staffler, Jeffrey Swank - surprisingly, now, this does not translate to a feeling of disparate voices.
I did not expect much from this book and was positively surprised - yes, this is a joke offering; and yes, not all content herein may be perfect. But this book actually manages to be something only a few roleplaying books achieve - genuinely funny. Beyond this rare achievement, portal limbo poles are a stroke of genius and quite a few other ideas herein a delightful, playful and, best of all - feel magical. Whimsical even. While, alas, due to aforementioned glitches and minor hiccups, I can't rate this among the highest echelons of my rating system, this still very much is a good, and more importantly, fun offering and thus well worth a final verdict of 4 stars - oh, and you can get it as a "Pay what you want"-book, so no reason not to check this out!
This was moved up on my queue at the request of my players.
The prologue-adventure for Legendary Games' Sword and Planet-AP clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial introduction leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
While this module is designed to act as a prequel for the massive Legendary Planet AP, it also easily works on its own. The following being a review of an adventure, the following does contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Whether to reclaim family property, at the behest of a seer or due to some other hook, the PCs find that their first journey has brought them to the otherwise pretty unremarkable village of Holver's Ferry (fully mapped, btw.) - but even at the ferry leading into the town, across a swift river leading into lake Shimmermere - alas, the drunken ferryman has no good fate in store: While he tried to quarantine the village, he failed - and he is about to pay the price, as psychotic villagers hack him apart. Oh yes, enter the PCs. Unresponsive and clearly driven mad, the PCs have to defeat the bloodthirsty villagers in a thematic callback that made me remember Resident Evil 4 - in all the right ways. Crossing the river one way or another, the impression that Holver's Ferry has been hit by some tragedy pretty much becomes apparent.
A sense of apocalyptic dread, piece by piece, encounter by encounter, will slowly seep into the consciousness of PCs and players alike, as a depressed widow endeavors to commit suicide, as they explore abandoned houses that look like their inhabitants have simply evaporated - something is odd. Hanged people dangle from the town's sacred oak and child survivors hide from anyone out there. The local inn shows signs of struggle, of desperate defense - and a man who had locked himself in, now just as bloodthirsty and dangerous as the first farmers encounetred. Things have become so bad that even goblinoids have entered the village. The priest is insane and burning undead can be found among the village's houses - a sense of grim doom has come to Holver's Ferry, and as the PCs find the halfling berserker (berserker Zimm - boy did I laugh when reading that one!), the gnome apothecary who retained his wits or draw the conclusions due to the hints left in the sheriff's office - the dread mystery needs to be solved.
This sandboxy horror section is well-presented and offer multiple means to draw the PCs further into the topics, whereafter the trail leads towards the Orphanage of mother Oddle. You see, what has happened here is an unlikely and far-out scenario: An invader from another world has engineered a mind-reprogramming bio weapon, the eponymous assimilation strain. Alas, the targeted viral strain's first iteration proved to yield a temporary, highly infectious burn-out rate and chaotic, terrible symptoms - the ones the PCs have witnessed firsthand in the horror at the town. The dread invader, a vanguard of the planned invasion, has since perfected a better strain of the virus and infected one powerful lumberjack, Silam Oddle - controlled by a disgusting, black tumor-like lump at the back of his neck, the PCs can save him, yes - but perhaps they have to take the poor man down. Beyond that, have I mentioned that his mother's mummified remains still remain in her room? Yes, creepy.
Rexel, the gnome alchemist, in the meanwhile, has probably gone missing, abducted by an adherer made from the remains of the town's erstwhile, missing sheriff. The trail leads towards Arvarenhode Manor's ruins, where the catacombs await under the rubble - provided the PCs can best the deadly creatures inhabiting the upper part of the ruins (the 4 areas of which are btw. the only ones not mapped - the catacombs themselves sport, once again, a neat full-color map). In the catacombs, the PCs may save Rexel, battle the adherer and navigate a complex inhabited by a cool, uncommon selection of adversaries, with thematically-awesome descriptions and rooms. Finally, defeating the xoraphond creature behind the dread conflict ends the jagladine empire's invasion plan, while also providing a first taste of the things to come. The pdf concludes with alien technology (Technology Guide-compatible) and the new creature and two templates provided.
Editing and formatting are very good - apart from some minor typos, I noticed nothing significant that detracts from my experience. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column standard that is still pretty printer-friendly, with copious amounts of full-color high-quality artworks for each major player in the storyline. It should also be noted that the layout does not try to generate more pages by wide margins - there is a lot of information on each page, making the module more detailed and longer than you'd expect from most modules of this page-count - in my playtest, it took my exceedingly fast group 2 sessions to clear this module. About 90% of 32-page modules tend to be finished in 1 session, so yeah - quite a bunch of content. Cartography is beautiful and plentiful - though my only gripe with this module would be that I would have LOVED to see play-friendly maps included; you know, the ones without keys and hotspots so you can cut out the dungeon map and hand it to your players, so you can just take the village map, slap it on the table and ask where the PCs head. The adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Tom Phillips has, slowly but surely, become one of my go-to authors regarding any scenario that provides horror, challenge and mystery - he knows his craft. Add Neil Spicer and the duo has created one awesome, damn cool low-level module that is challenging, potentially a bit disturbing and interesting. With a diverse, uncommon array of enemies that never falls into the bland 1st level routines, a mix of sandbox and dungeon-exploration, this module provides quite a bunch of cool ideas. The best component of this module, to me, is a more ephemeral one, though: The pacing of this module is impeccable. Horror and mystery, both as genres, hinge on timing and means of creating suspense, of build-ups and gradual escalation -and this module gets this component perfectly.
As a GM, you can obviously just spoon-feed the information to your PCs via various proxies, but not only are there multiple ways of unearthing the truth, there are several red herrings - and in my playtest, I kept as much information as possible opaque, making my players draw the conclusions themselves. Now if the players get stumped, you still have several means of putting them on track within the logic of the module. Furthermore, the module has ample instances wherein heroes can be heroes and actually save lives - an approach I always welcome in modules.
I honestly did not expect the prologue to Legendary Planet to be a mystery, much less one that is this good; whether played for weirdness or downright horror, this module makes clear from the get-go that it's not your standard fantasy fare. But only in hindsight. As a piece of advice: Don't tell your players necessarily that this will be a sword & planet module. There are several themes that make for delightful red herrings in the hands of a capable GM, making the realization of what is truly going on have even more of an impact.
The assimilation strain is an excellent module and a furious first in the series, one that makes me very happy I've been able to back the kickstarter. With great production values and content that must be considered awesome, this module is a great way to kick off the AP, one that has me stoked to see what's in store for us. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
As per the writing of this review, the Assimilation Strain is not available yet to the general public - however, you can get it before its public release by backing the post-kickstarter funding of the Legendary Planet AP (and make the final book even more awesome) - here is the link to LG's page and how to get in!
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here. Will post it at the product's page in the usual places once it becomes available to the general public.
Our favorite goblin merchant of items both wondrous and weird is back, this time at 14 pages, with the cover doubling as introduction, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Each of the items herein comes with a well-written piece of introductory prose as well as an adventure hook, both helping to root the items in the lore of the game. The first items would pair a pair of deadly cesti/warhammer, both providing very powerful synergy-effects for magi, including a new enhancement that adds a stagger/daze/stun-effect to spellstrike-criticals, with severity scaling up according to the critical modifiers. Speaking of powerful items - what about a plate that increases the range threatened by 10 ft.? Yeah, OUCH! 50+K value may be much, but the benefits definitely outweigh that...thankfully, this only extends to movement-provoked AoOs...interesting. The plate also allows you to use up your movement as part of these AoOs (so you don't have to swat at thin air), utilizing movement rate of the next round as a resource - pretty smart.
A fire-themed variant of shocking grasp with a splash-dazzle added in makes for an interesting variant spell. At 2nd level, an improved entangle that causes damage and potentially bleed could be slightly clearer regarding whether the bleed damage is in addition, though one can argue that's the intent. Worms of light that cause Con-drain bleed at high levels provide one spooky imagery, and yes, they can effect undead, with modified wording. A canned trapsmith is a small, cute mechanical construct that can spot and disable traps autonomously. A pair of goggles that can not only perceive certain auras, but also make the visible to those not wearing them, may be interesting for some people.
A spell that increases damage-output versus creatures suffering from perception-impeding spells and effects is an interesting one in that it combines spellcasting, conditions and attacks/sneak attacks. Now where the pdf becomes glorious would be with the bandoleer of distractions, which consists a significant array of unique - from prone-knocking balls of fur to animal-frightening whistles, this item is made of awesome and win!
If you're like me and enjoy rock throwing monsters, what amounts to an enchanted orb that can cause earthquakes and the like as well as acting as a nasty piece of ammunition will be right up your alley. *cough* Giant Slayer Ap */cough* And yes, weight = 216 lbs. - player will have fun trying to haul this piece of loot around...
The final item herein would be the cremated ashes of a loremaster, which help identifying command words and items and by rubbing them on one's eyes, one can apply the wisdom of the ancients temporarily to one's own Perception.
Editing and formatting on a fromal level are top-notch, with the notable exception of italicization often being not implemented perfectly. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides copious full-color representations of the items in question - nice to see! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Wendall Roy knows his craftsmanship -while the pricing of a bunch of items herein feel a bit too liberal and low for my conservative tastes in that regard, the items themselves and their prose/hooks deliver - why? because not one is just a lame variant of accumulation of benefits. Instead, they come with unique, mechanically-relevant bonuses and often, complex rules-language that properly makes these qualities work. Indeed, this is one of the best little magic item books I've seen in a while - though, balance-wise, I'd still consider omitting my seal of approval, especially due to the added italicization oversights. But on the other hand, this pdf's items are, in part, gleefully bonkers and some are downright stupefying - they're FUN. They actually feel magical, unique, more than the sum of some bland bonuses - and for that, in spite of the minor flaws, I'll gladly rate this 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Incursion Earth 626 is one of the infinite allotopias (i.e. alternate earths) than can be reached via the Grand Stair - but is a unique one. In 1985, reality cracked - this time not due to earth's humans screwing it up, but due to an extremely expansionist empire called the "Incursion" piercing the veils of reality. These technocratic conquerors botched something, though, when they arrived in this reality and mankind suddenly was faced with a vast influx of psionic power - from pyrokinesis to uncontrollable telepathy, the sudden rise of powers left the world almost in an apocalyptic state, when Switzerland, for example, paid for its lockdown with utter annihilation, becoming a creepy ghost-country. Just as things began to settle, with the powers-that-be establishing elite-squads of psionics, the incursion attacked.
With brutal displays that annihilated Washington D.C. and Moscow, the Incursion established supremacy over earth, rendering it one of its colonies. Now, two decades later, life remains pretty much normal for the average citizen. Once you've gotten accustomed to the shadows and drones, no issues. Unless you are psionically active, in which you immediately become a target for the incursion's forces...especially if you are a psycher - one of the powerful, almost demigod-level psionicists. Speaking of which - multiple ways to handle psionics and distinguish (or not distinguish) it from sorcery are provided. The incursion's renegade commander, Tau-Psi-5 receives full stats and beyond the threat of the incursion, the hidden remnants of the erstwhile secret service are creating their own cadre of super-psychers to reclaim earth, while Irkutsk is now the place, where a lot of earth's psionics are brought - for what purpose, though - none knows so far.
Oh, and then there would be the rise of a new spiritualism, with ancient, strange psychic entities rising, possessing people and turning them into nightmarish creatures...Yes, there is a lot of lethal potential for storytelling.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach's Incursion Earth 626 is interesting, with a special shout out going to the interior artists Tarakanovich, Wataboku, Michael Richards, David Revoy, Justin Nichol, J.J. Tarujärvi - the artworks stand out even in this series and create an atmosphere that reminded me of Death Note's N as a psychic in some frames, creating a unique visual style. The potential of the world is vast - from teh Incursion's motives to the obvious potential for ALL kinds of X-men-style narratives, this place sports adventuring potential galore and is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 220 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us a massive 212 pages of content, so let's take a look at this!
This review was chosen as a prioritized review and moved up my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons. Furthermore, I received a hardcover copy of this book for the expressive purpose of running it and providing a fair, unbiased review.
Wait, there's one more thing - after I ripped Tomb of the Lich Queen, the first part of the trilogy, a new one, why don't I review Part II, Machine of the Lich Queen next and instead jump to the final book? Simple - because Machine and Tomb still receive some polish/revisions and I'd rather review and playtest the best iteration of a given book. All right, so that out of the way, we begin this massive book with a truly extensive and well-written chapter of prose detailing the legends of the 9 fragments the lich queen has stored in her mental palace, providing further and somewhat tragic exposition for the genesis of this being- and after that, the crunch begins.
This being an adventure-review, unsurprisingly, the following will contain massive SPOILERS. Potential players should thus jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! The lich queen's hall of world-spanning mirrors lies shattered by her hand, the machine grinding and stuttering - and to reach the palace of her, the PCs will have to traverse what amounts to a gigantic array of planes-hopping. If you're familiar with Savage Mojo's Suzerain Continuum, that may not come as a surprise; if not, let me give you a run-down - there are *A LOT* of what amounts to campaign settings galore, each with their own, unique takes. Beyond just taking a look at either of them, the respective chapters essentially provide a means for the PCs (and players) to glimpse at the wondrous realms provided - think of them like a selection of Gossamer Worlds for Lords of Gossamer and Shadows or akin to the strange alternate realities provided in Shadowrun's classic Harlequin's Return-saga. So while the cynic in me considers this a kind of advertisement, the fanboy grins and considers this a very smart move - why? Because, let's face it, at the end of a campaign, there is always the discussion on what to play next - here, more than its fair share of interesting options are provided.
Now, by design, this does mean that each world is represented in what amounts to a short vignette (I'm using this term through the review to denote the literary function implied by its meaning, not one of the others) that sums up some peculiarities and pits your PCs against a target adversary, aligns them with a positive figure and provides a bonus for success, a story-hook/future conflict in the case of failure. The first array of these vignettes, happening in day-time, send the PCs off to a true myriad of established settings and new ones: A Greece-inspired scifi-setting with mechanic pegasi would just be the first of these excursions - beyond this strange world, the PCs get a glimpse at a dystopian cyberpunk citystate controlled by a monolithic church, struggling to find a chosen child that can shatter the boundaries of reality, all while being besieged by strange anarchists and probably playing into the very plans of a silver-tongued angel in service of true darkness. In a celtic world, an assault on a ritual site against armies of demons awaits and fans of Greek mythology may actually fight side by side with Jason and pit wits and magic against none other than Circe.
In a steampunk world of highly-spohisticated goblins, a time-travelling tub and an aerial chase through the dangerous skies provides for a change of pace, before, sooner or later, the PCs get a chance to test their mettle against a demonic incursion to free the Dark One from his celestial prison, finally fighting against a tainted solar...and said being may not even want to escape his eternal prison. When none other than the sung-god Ra draws up on his chariot (a hyper-modern sports-car) to take the PCs on a trip through his hyper-technological pyramids and finally, stop agents of Set in a night-club, including zombie-ravers, that's awesome. Stopping agents of chaos from exposing the rigidity in a hyper-lawful realm may sound conventional, but at that point, the PCs enter a realm of pure science, elevated to the realm where it becomes indistinguishable from magic - when you're defending a mad scientist from his elemental Frankenstein's monster and what amounts to a revenant-igor, all while powerful spirits that embody chemistry, physics and biology try to kill them, your players WILL continue to talk about the wealth of ideas here.
What about a planet where hyper-powerful cybertechnology has been blended with wild west stand-offs or one where hyper-technological dinosaurs duke it out in an alternate stone age? There is also a vignette wherein the 3 ages of Relic blend in a kind of temporal disjunctions, a swashbuckling-themed, fast-paced one wherein the PCs get to defend a ship from a massive sea-dragon and yes, a terrible post-apocalypse of nanite and radiation-caused mutations and doom, where an impending nuclear strike might well be within the range of options. Have I mentioned the sojourn to what amounts to the Plane of Fire or the City of Brass, where agents of an unknown entity seek to extinguish the eternal flames of the grand braziers? Now each of these places does have something to offer for the further journey -and after all those short vignettes, finally, night is upon the PCs as they traverse the myriad worlds - and from here on out, the lethality of the vignettes, in which the PCs so far have shaken hands with legends and gods, increases further.
Here would as well a place as any to note several peculiarities I noticed so far - for one, by necessity for a module that spans this many realities, the respective vignettes are somewhat sketchy - do not expect handholding or excessive read-aloud texts - it is very much assumed that, provided the massive array of high-level statblocks, you as a DM can properly portray the respective worlds. While reading this, I was extremely skeptical whether this worked out in practice, but the frenetic pace assumed by world transitions did, in actual playtesting smash so many unique vistas over my PC's heads they didn't mind - whether this whole chapter works depends very much on an experienced DM who can maintain a fast pace that does not allow for too many in-depth analysis on parts of the player - as well as assuming a pretty cinematic transition from key-scene to key-scene. At the same time, though, this actually can work in favor of the module: This high-fantasy realm-stuff, these clockwork-gadgets or high-scifi-stuff you always wanted to use? Well, here you can. I ultimately failed to resist the lure of adding my material and some unique worlds to the fray - after all, how often do you get a chance like that? And at this level, very much all gloves are off - your PCs are called demigods by the module for a reason... Now, this slight opaqueness, which was an exacerbated issue in the first part of the saga, ultimately is here, yes, but at the same time, this book is very much concrete - the key-scenes, like the clockwork aerial chase, provide full vehicle-rules, terrain-hazards and features where applicable, are fully integrated and the book makes smart use of the troop-subtype alongside many items and yes, even the Technology-rules in a minor way. Among the nighttime-worlds, fighting in an alternate Shanghai versus huge mobs of vampires and braving deadly haunts in a realm of gothic horror only constitute two examples of proper rules-usage that supplements the narrative - a significant step forwards, especially considering the fact that the complex builds for the high-level adversaries and allies, while not always being flawless, generally come out on the good side of things.
Not on the good side of things, at least for the players, would be a venture into imperial Rome, where Ceasar has just been slain by demo cultists and only defeating a massive shadow kraken may provide an escape...though this world has a particularly nasty story-game-over for a bad, bad decision on the player's side... From an imperial Rome in the throes of demonic possession, the journey continues onwards into a tale of American noir, where possessed train yard cranes await. The realms of winter, complete with their nasty fey, do something I would have expected from a certain Dresden File book - including a fey lord that encases himself in a gigantic frost-mecha. In an alternate version of Tokyo, the PCs can duke it out against magical girls corrupted by a powerful hero-hunting demon, before they ultimately are deposited in a realm of darkest fantasy, including a blotted-out sun and a showdown in a ruined abbey before entering the Red Realm, a prison plane, and, more importantly, a nasty place where insanity abounds and a silent hill-esque array of perception-tricks, as well as a harrowing escape await. The final two vignettes pit the PCs against the horrors of a full-blown China Miéville-style fantasy...and has them battle Fafnir. Who makes proper use of the kaiju-subtype. NICE!
Then, finally, the chaos of worlds ends and the palace and its 7 halls loom: Here, this book becomes a much more conservative killer-dungeon once again - with each of the massive halls providing ever-escalating danger as well as full-color maps with solid detail, though you should be aware that no blow-up 1-page versions are provided. In the first hall, massive, lavishly-illustrated briar worms, demonic apes and finally, the Great Beast await the PC's prowess - only to have to face down the mashine gun-like efficiency of the deadly archer Tianet - though personally, I used the Deadly Aim-feat when modifying Tianet's build - at her firing rate, the damage piles quicker up that way -oddly, this will not be the last they've seen of the huntress and smart fighting is rewarded here. In the Garden Hall, flytrap hydras and the Lich Queen's foster mother Grandmother Maugh await and the Hall of Grandeur pits the PCs ambitions as well as djinns to finally defeat another mentor of the queen - the erstwhile djinn-binder par excellence, turned into her mayor-domo, Ranalek the terrible. The 4th hall does offer a new challenge - the hall of pleasure, where the lich queen's consort awaits alongside untold pleasures that can destroy one's spirit, memory and thus, identities - in this gilded hell, the lich queen's consort is the gatekeeper and, upon defeating him, the PCs will note he in fact is an automaton - the true fate of the poor sort is cataloged in the adventure "Consort of the Lich Queen", which I do not own. Even if you don't have it, though, you'll notice something - obviously, Ayrawn has purged any thoughts of doubt from her mind to retain her sanity- perhaps the one shot the PCs truly have to defeat her - and defeat her they'll want after the next hall, wherein the PCs are subject to a nasty, never-ending array of tortures - which may permanently cripple them, if they are not smart enough to escape their mistress.
Speaking of smarts - a vast library may see the PCs fight - but only if they behave in a manner unfitting of the place - otherwise, they'll find an agrippa, a man turned into a tome and librarian, master who once told Ayrawn to purge memories from herself, seeking freedom - and offering a further piece with which the PCS may shake the immortal confidence of the legendary lich queen. In case your PC's swords have since then dried of viscera, the hall of bones will end that - while the lich queen's tutor and lich here also provides a further piece of information about a skull with which the PCs can shake the confidence of the legendary adversary, she also follows her commands and unleashes not only her own might, but also that of a vast horde of powerful undead - and yes, the combines stats span multiple pages.
Finally, after much tears, exposition and pain, the PCS can final track down Ayrawn in her Hall of Broken Mirrors - her and all her mayor allies not yet slain, rendering this confrontation potentially very, very nasty - worse, the lich queen's phylactery is the very dungeon itself and only by shaking her confidence, only by understanding, can the PCs cause a realmsquake and breach the phylactery...and only then will the lich queen truly be slain by their efforts. Should they achieve this miraculous feat, they'll bear witness to the collapse of dungeonlands and possibly even ascend beyond the providence of mere mortals - in any case, infinite possibilities await.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a few italicization glitches, minor errors in statblocks and the like, but seeing the size of this tome and the complexity of the statblocks, that is not surprising and well within the level of tolerance. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that conspires with a mix of gorgeous full-color and b/w artworks to render this book a truly beautiful book to behold -aesthetically, there is nothing to complain about here. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and my hardcover sports nice, thick, matte high-quality paper and a shiny cover - all great in that regard.
Kevin Andrew Murphy, Darren Pearce, George "Loki" Williams, Allan Hoffman, Andrew Hoskins, Brendan LaSalle, Matthew Medeiros, Richard Moore, Monte Reed - this is one epic book and it was a fun ride to embark on. But also one that is terribly hard to rate.
Why? For one, there would be the issue of high-level gameplay requiring a lot of foresight - pre-written modules have a hard time properly predicting PC-capabilities and one massive issue with the first book was the arbitrary stripping of powers from PCs and the issues with rules-interactions. I am more than happy to report that this book sports NONE of these. Neither will you find "Pcs have to solve this EXACTLY like this"-solutions and similar issues - instead, this massive mega-adventure essentially provides vignettes, vistas and general storylines - you can skip through them at your leisure, ignore some, substitute your own or expand them to full-blown module length.
When handled properly, these vignettes can act as epic, never-ending climaxes - if you took the final scenes of a vast array of stories and stitched them together, a kind of cool-moment-collage, if you will. Better yet, where applicable, the places do sport nice rules-tidbits from mutation-tables to steampunk gadgets. While not all such tidbits are perfect, this is a module and the like is simply not the focus of this review. The world/planes-hopping vignettes ultimately can be a vast amount of fun if handled properly, but they could also go horribly wrong - if you are accustomed to handholding, extensive read-aloud texts and not good at making transitions and filling in the blanks of the respective vignettes, that may result in massive issues - essentially, do not expect any guidance beyond a basic plot-summary and the statblocks for the respective adversaries. Yes, this DOES include a lack of maps for the respective vignettes, but not one I'm going to fault the pdf for - why? Because the focus on cinematic transitions ultimately, at least here, does not require them necessarily. In my game, this went off pretty well after my players sopped trying for the analysis-route.
The second part is a more old-school killer-dungeon and it is very much worth the status as a finale - the palace itself is exceedingly deadly, full of iconic adversaries and challenges and provides a great way for the DM to provide some exposition regarding the dread lich queen. The background story, as written, is surprisingly intelligent and beyond what you'd expect from a killer-dungeon, so yeah - kudos here. On the downside, the lack of one-page maps to print out can be considered a comfort detriment.
So, what does that mean? It means that this module, more so than many others, will prove to be a very polarizing book. If you can see the vignette-style planes-hopping working for you, then chances are, you'll love this beast and enjoy it immensely. On the other hand, if you as a DM have problems generating transitions or fleshing out details on the fly, or if your players are all about the small details, then this one may result in some issues - the discrepancy between whether this will be awesome, or, well, not so great - it all very much depends on your group's tastes, capabilities etc..
At the same time, this book, unlike the first one, does not cheat in obtrusive ways - one instance where a sleeping gas may send players to their sleep sans DC or stats comes to mind, but, quite frankly, if DC 40 is too hard for the PCs at this point, they're doing it wrong anyways... So overall, this book can be considered indeed one of the few examples of high-level modules that truly managed to captivate me - the glimpses at realms beyond the regular, whether released or yet unpublished, is interesting indeed and provides some pretty imaginative ideas and a much needed change of pace, while also providing a sense of the epic to the whole experience.
It struggled quite a bit with how to describe this massive module - and the closest analogue was delivered by one of my players - this is pretty much a module-equivalent of an all-star-movie akin to Avengers - it provides components for each world and concept to shine and show what's cool about it - but there is, by virtue of its format, no room to linger on the individuals, to go into depth regarding the individual vignettes and their characters. So do not expect the module equivalent of primer or a TV drama, but rather that of a big-screen all-star action movie. Personally, I tend to prefer more detailed modules, which is also why I'm pretty happy to have been able to test this module in detail -and while I did not have an easy time as a DM and preparation did take a lot of time, the results proved to be very entertaining and my players, surprisingly, enjoyed the continuous barrage the weird of the continuum threw at them. While some minor oversights can be brought to field against this book, the amount of material that works and shows an understanding of the intricacies of Pathfinder does offset this in my book.
Yes, I'm rambling. My final verdict, ultimately, will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform, while less experienced DMs should probably round down due to the significant skill this requires to pull off.
Personally, I loved the massive array of cool ideas spotlighted and hence, I'll add my seal of approval for the vast imaginative potential.
This expansion for the Tinker base-class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
What do most of the *really* cool Tinker-expansions have in common? Jup, quite a few of them come into play in mid and high levels. So this pdf is geared for 1st-level usefulness, though admittedly, it will retain its usefulness far beyond the low level range. The pdf also handily points out that this and the excellent grafter PrC as well as the Tinkering 301-pdf provide some pretty interesting synergies.
Better than this, this may well be the most concise tinker-supplement to read so far: We get an explanation of the alpha and design-descriptors as well as some of the BP-tricks one could execute with the copious supplements for the class. A short explanation on interaction with the grafter also helps here. Among the basic explanation, one can also find the rationale for the unobtrusive Bob Ross-jokes herein, the new paint-descriptor. Essentially, inventions with this subtype provide a coat of paint for a target automaton and, per default, only one paint-job can be applied to one automaton - still, this is Bradley Crouch we're talking about here, so yes, there are means to break this rule.
A total of 6 innovations are provided to modify and play with this pretty interesting concept: When, for example, an alpha would lose an invention with both design and paint subtypes, the alpha retains the bonuses for class level rounds. Further innovations allow you to apply paint to yourself and relatively spontaneous reassignment of paint jobs to grafted creatures and adjacent automatons can also be executed. This quick, spray-based paint job may also be utilized as a makeshift flamethrower and yes, you can potentially change the coats of more than one target at once via spray nozzles. A greater innovation allows for "happy little accidents" for quicker paint jobs and expand the inventions used in conjunction with soem of your innovations. Where things become VERY tactical is with the means of doubling kamikaze-directives with paint-dispersal. And yes, if you think about this one, you can set up absolutely awesome "See what I did here"-combos! A thing of beauty indeed!
Okay, let's take a look at those inventions, all right? The base one would be the primer coat, which renders an automaton eligible for becoming a target for the painter's station. This invention, usually only applicable to Alphas, allows the automaton to change the paint-coats of deployed automatons 1/day; additionally, automatons deployed with the primer coat invention can have their coats changed after being deployed, thus bringing aforementioned BP-limit-shenanigans into play. Oh, and yes, whirlwind splashing of colors is possible. Need to get rid of primer coats in another way? An automaton with the Homogenization Enforcement Protocols can be deployed to eliminate primer coats and replace them with any paint invention part of its BP. Oh, have I mentioned the invention that allows for two paint coats at once? The combo-potential of this system is VAST! It is utterly beautiful!
Automatons with paint-jobs targeted by fire may elect to burn the paint to burst into flames or lose their paint to get DR 5/- versus an attack...or lose their paint to net additional uses of low level inventions with a limited number of uses. The combo-potential keep stacking up - but you're probably wondering whether the basic paint coats are worth anything. Short answer: YEAH! Long answer: What about a paint coat that nets temporary hit points (with anti-abuse caveat), dazzling added to kamikaze, increased base speed, DR 1/-, save-bonuses, better feinting or a reroll, though at -2? Yes, you may note that some of these benefits look slightly stronger than the others - well, they come balanced via a once per 24 hour-caveat. I also like the paint that nets your automaton + 1 fire damage by day, +1 cold damage by night - cool!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none for this length.
Beyond the awesome imagery evoked, Bradley Crouch delivers perhaps the most awesome base-system-expansion I've seen for one of his classes so far. The paint-jobs with their massive combo-potential and versatility exponentially expand the options at your disposal in so cool, diverse ways, I can't wait to see even more of these great tricks. More so than even the previous installments, this expansion does not simply roll with one high-concept image - it gives you a stellar toolkit to play with, one that has changed how tinkers, all tinkers, work in my game.
This is perhaps THE must-have expansion for the class, provided with a superb quality that makes the fair price-point an utter steal. It is also the single best example for the fact that the tinker's concepts are not yet depleted - the combo-system provided herein renders the class more fun and can easily be further expanded. No other tinker-expansion made me this excited, made me want more this much - this humble pdf enhances the class in absolutely stunning ways. Everyone using this great class NEEDS this pdf. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So what is dragonhearth? Well, if the name wasn't ample clue for you, let me fill you in: It is a world of DRAGONS...yeah, I'm proud of my astute observation as well. kidding aside, everything on this world is draconic to some extent - from serpentine waves of light to myriad forms of draconic life, there are a lot of supreme serpents inhabiting this place. So attuned to the very notion of dragons is this world, that even plants and most predatory animals share some component of lethal grace with the serpentine masters...oh, and paltry little squishy creatures from other realities, i.e. neither dragons nor the two draconic humanoid races, tend to suffer from a disease as the reality of the very world wastes them away - unless they enter a dragonbond. This can be pictured as an abstract relationship of friendship, love or simple subjugation - various strengths exist, some of which can transcend even the boundaries of gossamer realities. And yes, they have rules-relevant repercussions.
Now so far, so common - at this point, dragonhearth may not seem too impressive -I mean, apart from the continent-sized dracoliches and the system of reincarnation that governs life. Wait, what? Yes, concise rules for dracoliches are provided and hoards etc. are rationalized by a metaphysical reality that acts as a ruthless karmic meritocracy - which is cool on its own - but the whole thing becomes interesting with the existence of the golden wyrm Khemezatron (fully statted, btw.), a dragon awakened to the existence of the Grand Stairs and recently returned. beyond a gorgeous illustration, Khemezatron also introduced a nanite-based psychoactive virus to dragonhearth, courtesy of some highly-developed world she visited. Styling herself as a benevolent messiah, she infects draconic life, severing dragonbonds and rendering those subject to her dread disease thralls to her will, bonded to her technological assault on the very metaphysical powerstructures that govern life on Dragonhearth...for now, unopposed, but sooner or later, the world itself will take out the big, big guns and we have adventure potential galore.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach provides a setting that could theoretically be reduced to dragonsploitation - with draconic themes everywhere, I can well imagine a certain fatigue setting in sooner or later, so for my part, I'm not that blown away by the basic premise, no matter how good it is executed. However, the introduction of the alternate bond and the obvious theme of changing times that echoes the central conflict of umbra vs. eidolon makes this a rather unique and awesome set-up: If not for a whole campaign, then at least for a sojourn of one or more adventures - Khemezatron is a damn cool villain that provides a truly unique imagery. My final verdict, hence, will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover/editorial,1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!
This supplement, obviously, provides fighting styles inspired by fantastic creatures, with each style sporting a nice, short fluff-paragraph that anchors the style in a kind of background you may scavenge. The first of these styles would be the cockatrice style, which increases the DC of both Gorgon Fist and Scorpion Style, while also adding wis-mod to damage versus foes with reduced speed or in the staggered condition. Wait, I hear you say - Scorpion Style? But one can only be in one style at a given time unless one uses archetypes etc. - you would be right, but Paizo botched nomenclature - Scorpion Style is NOT a (style)-feat - just a combat-feat. ;) The follow-up feats allow for added Dex-damage when using Gorgon's Fist and Scorpion Style and the option to add an unarmed Gorgon Strike as a swift action against a target failing to save versus your Scorpion Style. Interesting blend of the two concepts.
The Couatl Style adds wis to damage versus foes denied their dex-bonus to AC versus your attacks and also adds wis to Bluff skill checks - not a fan of dual attributes to a skill. Additionally, feinting dazzles foes for one round. The follow-up feats allow for an immediate action feint that eliminates opponents as counting for flanking or whether you provoke AoOs, whereas the final feat allows for a 10-foot AoO feint when using a standard action to feint foes while in Couatl style. Additionally, foes feinted this way treat foes other than yourself as having concealment. Interesting!
Doppelgänger Style (sorry, can't write it with an "a" sans cringing) nets you a dodge bonus versus foes using style-feats and allows you to use swift actions to emulate a style employed by a foe who missed you for 1 round, while also netting you a minor buff. This one is pretty much brilliant - nuff said. The follow-up feats allow for the emulation of the feat-chain of said style, while the final feat allows for an AoO that allows you to disrupt another style, hence denying the target temporary access to the style's feat-chain. Sick...and awesome.
Manticore Style allows you to draw light thrown weapons as a free action and do no longer treat ammunition or darts as improvised weapons. The follow-up feats allow for a flurry with two additional attacks at -2 atk - but does that stack with flurry of blows/stars? The second one allows you to move full speed and execute a full attack's attacks at any point while doing so, but requires you to use unarmed attacks, light thrown weapons or ammunition to do so. This one feels too strong for my tastes - indeed, this is the first style that imho can benefit from a bit of streamlining - one feat needs ability-stack clarification, the other should be limited to a subpar weapon group - full attack plus movement with unarmed strikes is NASTY.
Peryton Style allows you to deal bludgeoning or piercing damage with your unarmed attacks, with piercing having a crit of x3. Additionally, you can choose to render a foe to cower instead of being frightened or panicked instead, but only for 1 round. Per se cool, but cower as one of the most powerful conditions is nasty - still, average duration shortened to 1 round balances that. The follow-up feat-chain allows for better charges and a scaling save-based selection of additional detrimental effects to impose on foes of your charge. The final feat allows you to coup-de-grâce cowering or stunned foes, and add an AoE-demoralize as a swift action when executing a foe like this. I like this style, but it is very prone to being cheesed: Coup-de-grâces are almost guaranteed kills and the relatively easy set-up for this finisher means that the style in itself is deadly - when combined with another character that deals in fear (Nightblades or Dreads come to mind...), this style can become broken pretty fast. However, at the same time, it is just glorious in the hands of assassin-style NPCs.
Phoenix Style nets you +2 CMD and unarmed strike damage when facing opponents with a higher Str-score or larger size. The bonus is doubled if a foe power attacks you. The follow-up feats allow you to increase your reach when only executing a single melee strike versus foes, alos netting you a dodge bonus to AC versus foes not adjacent to you. Finally, the third feat allows you to add a second attack to a charge and also allows you to use Acrobatics to move past the foe sans AoO. The feat also allows for a reflexive means to avoid grapples at the cost of movement in the next round.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-.color standard and the pdf sports numerous nice full-color artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.
Wendall Roy delivers an interesting pdf here - I was honestly surprised to see the styles herein not shirk from the most complex of concepts and executing the rules-language required with laudable precision - with minor hiccups here and there, this pdf tackles top-difficulty concepts and executes them rather well - to the point where I will most definitely use this pdf's content in my campaign. So kudos for aiming for the top! Alas, I am not sold on the balancing of a couple of the styles herein -namely the Manticore Style and the Peryton Style imho require some streamlining - the former due to number of attacks stacking, the latter due to its extremely lethality with a pretty basic combo. These blemishes, though, do not drag down what is undoubtedly a cool pdf that should bring a grin to all aficionados of WuXia. While not perfect, I will hence settle on a verdict of 4.5 stars, just short of utter awesomeness. Since the issues mentioned impact balance, I will round down for what can be considered a quintessentially good pdf.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
All right, as always, one day before I post it around here:
I've finished a massive, huge review for Amora Game's Liber Influxus Communis.
I figured I'd make this milestone review of a book that is very much a product of this community: Spawned by threads here, with designers chosen from the wonderful 3pp-commmunity and reviewed by myself, very much a product of this community.
I usually don't link to my page like that, but please bear with me, for this also commemorates officially my 2000th review posted here on Paizo - and that is not including revisions, products exclusive to other vendors, etc., but it's the most accurate count I have, since I didn't save them until I hit review ~400.
So, as always with milestones, this is the time for me to get sentimental, so if you don't want to read about me gushing, please just take a look at the review. :)
I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the following publishers and persons in general, in no particular order:
-Rite Publishing, for being the first 3pp to provide copies for me and Steven D. Russell in particular for making me develop my reviewing style from a ToC to the style you see now.
-Rogue Genius Games, in particular Owen K.C. Stephens, for the encouragement, support and civility shown over the years.
-Raging Swan Press, in particular Creighton Broadhurst, for teaching me what one can do with the right mindset and for providing diversions from constant crunch analysis with products that have vastly improved my game.
-Frog God Games, the whole crew, but in particular Greg Vaughan, for making some of the most epic books ever and for being supportive of my whole reviewing in general, as well as for just existing.
-AAW Games, in particular Jonathan Nelson and Joshua Gullion (KtFish7, Rest in Peace, my friend) for being the first company to actually take a chance with my writing and design.
-LPJr Design, in particular Louis Porter Jr., for being a prime example of how to step one's game up and for the support and professionalism in conduct with me, in spite of some pretty nasty reviews in the beginning. I also love your transparency agendas - keep up the good work!
-Dreamscarreed Press, in particular Andreas Rönnqvist, with whom I had some excellent conversations on the world, time and everything else.
-Legendary Games, in particular Jason Nelson, who has been a scholar and gentleman in all of our interactions.
-Purple Duck Games, in particular Mark Gedak, whose cool work nowhere near receives enough spotlight, for the damn cool supplements that have enriched my game.
-TPK Games, in particular Brian Berg, for being the first company to take a chance with my crunch-design.
-Kobold Press, in particular Wolfgang Baur, for taking a chance with me on the AR-Compendium kickstarter at a time when my perspectives seemed very bleak.
Beyond these publishers, the following persons deserve my gratitude:
-Bradley Crouch: I have learned more about good design from working with you on Strange Magic than I ever deemed possible. You're an enrichment to the community and I'd also like to thank you for taking a chance with my insane classes.
-Richard Develyn: Your modules bring vast amounts of joy to my table - you are an artist among writers. never stop what you're doing!
-Alexander Augunas: Your designs are a joy to read and you're an awesome person to boot - never stop!
-Scott Gladstein from Little Red Goblin Games: You have created a setting the captivates me like no other - so thank you for providing a space for my dark visions of the future!
-Will McCardell for showing me what a great developer can accomplish, for the support and for pushing the envelope with your designs.
-Steven T. Helt for the awesome conversations.
-George Williams for the nice talks and cool links.
-Christina Stiles for taking a chance with me.
-John Bennett for the support shown to me and for making Vathak a setting I actually enjoy.
-Morgan Boehringer for teaching me some important things about design and development and for being a pillar of the community.
-Mike Myler for his industrious and numerous additions to my own campaign and the nice discussions.
-Julian Neale for his kind words and designs.
-Paco Garcia Jaen of GMS magazine,w ithout whom there would be no endzeitgeist.com.
-Louis Agresta for the friendship and encouragement.
...and if your name is not on this list, please bear with me - I do appreciate and value each and every one of you and value all those friendships and the kindness exhibited, especially considering how many of you had to endure critical reviews and still remained courteous and kind, differentiating between my reviews and me as a person. I really appreciate this!
I'd also like to extend my gratitude to everyone who ever submitted a product for review, to everyone of you who reads my reviews, and, in particular, to all of the supporters of my patreon, without whom this review would not exist - ladies and gentlemen, it's been a blast interacting with you, so THANK YOU!
I remain yours,
This Map-pack comes in a zip-file that sports two folders: One containing high-res jpegs, one that sports pdfs.
Let's start with the jpegs - these come with full-color and b/w-versions as well as a rendition of the cover - both come in two versions: One sports labels that denote which buildings are which, whereas the others come without them for maximum immersion. (Nice if you're like me and HATE handing out maps with numbers detailing the hotspots...
First of all, this keep/village provides multiple levels of fortification - all but the southern shore of the island sports massive, rugged cliffs that jut from the ocean. The southern shore also sports a significant array of wharves, with a slum/shanty-town-like section below the lowest wall. After the harbor's wall, one can find a basilica and a steep stairway that leads towards a beacon, which uncannily lies at the south-eastern rise of the cliffs. At the northwestern part of the island, one can see a second, higher and elevated rise, behind a second wall, one can perceive a massive keep that looms over an island that conspicuously looks like an inverse eagle's or dragon's head...
The pdfs clock in at 23 pages each - 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 20 pages for the maps. The pdf first provides aforementioned maps that also are included as high-res jpegs - so if you require an overview of the keep, these would be what you want. Thereafter, we get 4 blown-up versions of the map - each iteration is provided in a version, wherein the map spreads across a total of 4 pages, thus allowing you to print out a big map. If you're like me a European, you will be very much in luck, for one pdf provides the maps in letterpack format, whereas the second delivers the maps optimized for the A4-format.
Tad Davis delivers a glorious, fortified locale here, one that, by virtue of its very make-up, inspires the imagination. Infiltrating this place should be challenging, as should be escaping from this place. As an adventuring locale, this is one neat place that showcases a talent for great cartography and for locales that inspire - that being said, there is quite a bit of water here and, when compared to the rest of the map, the lack of waves and relatively bland uni-color water looks less alive, less evocative than the rest of the map, so this is definitely a component wherein the pdf can be improved. I also would have loved a version of the map even further blown up and studded with a grid for miniature uses, but I guess we can't have everything. Still, this is one fine map and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
What happens if Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s thesis in Vril, The Power of the Master Race, of a subterranean master-race and their quasi-mystical super-technology was set against a backdrop of genocidal struggle between two competing races and then combined with a classic “you dug too deep” twist, unleashing dread Erebi on the genocidal victors of the struggle? We get one messed up setting. Add to that a sprinkling of hollow earth and H.G Wellsian Time Machine and we have even more of a mess – in the ruined, desolate planet (swallowed by a titanic shadow-like…thing, slowly breaking the world asunder) and its tunnels, survivors, ranging from degenerate morlock to the last surviving racist Übermenschen (the pdf gets the plural wrong - you add –en in the end), fight their desolate and doomed battles against reality-annuling aliens led by a Slenderman-esque figure, while an undead umbragunt may be the last champion of a planet doomed to die.
Hollow Thune is not a nice place, and if the above wasn’t enough, the writing and narrative voice further drives that home – essentially, the pdf not only borrows Bulwer-Lytton’s terminology from another age, but in the emphasis on Germanic Nomenclature and the quoting of concepts like the Black Sun, draws less than subtle parallels with the popularized notion of the Thule society’s mysticism, thus adding a nasty sense of gravitas to the whole setting.
That being said, as a German, I sometimes tire of the whole imagery, mainly since we’re bombarded with the atrocities of the Third Reich in both school curriculum and media and I have a hard time separating games and fun and the popularized stereotype of the Nazivillains from the gruesome realities of history. This pdf made this particular component relatively easy on me – with the clear condemnation of the socal-darwinism exhibited by the destroyed races of Thune, with the clear pointer not at the Third Reich, but at the intellectual streams that existed in literature, culture and intelligentsia of all fields, the pdf manages to evoke the themes, but do so in a thoroughly unique manner that is at once creative and still, very clear in the themes it quotes.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach’s Hollow Thune could have devolved into an utter mess in the hands of a lesser writer – I have literally seen all components that make up the defining elements of this book in multiple cases, have read Bulwer-Lytton and thanks to my keen interest in history, I am pretty well-versed in the atrocities committed by different nations. Hollow Thune still manages to keep these together, to toe the line between the horrific and fantastic, never falling into the realm of tastelessness. And for that, I applaud it. The whole setting even would make for a great Dark Soul-ish background of a desolate world you slowly explore, a world of lethal adversaries…and once again, I find myself wishing, that this Gossamer World had more room to shine. Oh well, as provided, we get a great installment in the series and yet again, a verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.
This Map-pack not only is pay-what you want, it comes in a zip-file that sports two folders: One containing high-res jpegs, one that sports pdfs.
Let's start with the jpegs - these come with full-color and b/w-versions - both come in two versions: One sports labels that denote which buildings are which, whereas the others come without them for maximum immersion. (Nice if you're like me and HATE handing out maps with numbers detailing the hotspots...
The pdfs clock in at 23 pages each - 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 20 pages for the maps. The pdf first provides aforementioned maps that also are included as high-res jpegs - so if you require an overview of the village, these would be what you want. Thereafter, we get 4 blown-up versions of the map - each iteration is provided in a version, wherein the map spreads across a total of 4 pages, thus allowing you to print out a big map. If you're like me a European, you will be very much in luck, for one pdf provides the maps in letterpack format, whereas the second delivers the maps optimized for the A4-format.
What about the town - well, we get essentially a village of the most idyllic type, with a single (mage's) tower a bit off to the south and a small bridge crossing the meandering river. North of said small bridge, a mill and a few buildings loom, while the sparse trees show that this place probably lies in pretty civilized fields.
Tad Davis delivers a professionally-made, beautiful map-pack of a nice, picturesque village that could well be the starting point of a new campaign - as far as maps are concerned, this is a neat job and the drawing style is fine. While I caught myself wishing there was a version with a grid further blown up for your perusal with miniatures, at any price you're willing to pay, this is indeed a great offering of a professional, nice map.
My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So what is GlimmerGloam? The easiest way to describe it, would be to call it a realm of dark, dualistic whimsy – somewhere between the narratives of the realm of the fey and classic tales of Alice, albeit more akin to American McGee’s interpretation. It is a world, where different species of fey abound and the Umbra rules – where counting steps or latent attempts at cartography only result in the very land thwarting your attempts. It is also a place, where the only influence of eidolon manifests in groundhog-dayish repetitions of feuds, where adversaries conveniently killed the night before suddenly exhibit an improbable twin or downright ignore death or decapitation (and it’s rude to point that out, mind you!) – GlimmerGloam, in a nutshell, is insane and you better know what you’re in for.
Thank the stair, there is this nice BungleCat – not akin our classic Cheshire friend, but oh so much worse – much akin to Rite’s classic Smiles-under-the-Bed NPC, this beast may be nice, but seeing things in a different light, more often than not can be taken literally in GlimmerGloam – the realm is defined by a plethora of meanings being assigned in alternating and even simultaneous patterns to EVERYTHING, with lighting conditions often triggering a flux. Hence, the friendly cat may pretty quickly turn into a xenophobic stalker or even a dragon-sized demon-being trying to murder you and everyone that crosses its path – all in good fun, of course. For reliable information, you may instead wish to consult the jabberwock’s severed head, now employed as the realm’s most deadly jack-in-the-box. Much can be gleaned, if you can survive the deadly eye-rays, madness-inducing aura…you know, all in good fun.
Oh, and if you thought the red queen was bad – GlimmerGloam’s fully statted ruler, the white Rabbit Queen, is nothing to sneeze at – with various forms, an intelligent mirror aptly named delirium and a vorpal needle-cum-sword, she makes for a fearsome ruler – in spite of the half-crashed supposed-to-be-floating castle and similar oddities. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that the oddity of the realm also results in actually unique special properties for the realm?
Matt Banach has a gift for providing environments, in which the imagination is incited, runs rampant and his experience with the realm of dreams (as in his Lost in Dream-novel and in the work for Coliseum Morpheuon-related products) and the odd, irrational logic which applies there. This can easily and perfectly be seen in this installment of Gossamer Worlds – when each character and locale not only resounds with literary quotations, but also with symbolic gravitas, we receive a rather interesting supplement full of entwined meanings, evocative connotations conjured forth by clever use of nomenclature and symbols. It’s also a nod towards one of the most influential, creative and complex myths in literature and I love it for that. So do yourself a favor, get this, use it, and if you have it, get your Norton Critical Edition Annotated Alice – with the latter, you can further amp up the already impressive content herein by at least a factor of threleven hundsand! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
First posted on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
Ladies and gentlemen,
apologies for the intrusion.
As you all may be aware, my situation is not particularly rosy to say the least - I've been asking around the boards, on my page, etc. for a quite long time and since the consensus was this step and since I'm always open to listen to you and your suggestions, there is now finally...
I have also endeavored to answer all questions you may have, so please, consider taking a look at the patreon, and also please consider reading the Q&A here on my site - whether and in what form my reviews continue to exist very much depends on you!
Even if you can't pledge (or don't want to), please consider spreading the word about my patreon!
Thank you for your kind consideration and all the support over the years,
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Okay, so what happens if the gritty cyberpunk future of Shadowrun, minus magic, gets utterly and thoroughly one-upped? We receive cities sprawling continents and oceans, suffused with a constant overpopulation and stimulation, facilitated by the omnipresent MegaWeb that requires your ping every half a second to continue to cater to your needs. The look into this world is at once fascinating and disturbing – when the vast corporations like Uni-Goggle or the Kocha-Cola corporation have suddenly influence over just about everything, including the reality show to you by those thrifty, cool Enhanced Reality goggles, when all food and consumables come with mood enhancers and medical support similarly is tied to implants, chips, etc., you’ll be clamoring for the quaintness of the Rhine-Ruhr or Seattle megasprawls of Shadowrun.
This vista portrayed here is frightening for its winking proximity to our very own world, its relative believability – genetic tailoring, body-modification and similar complex cultural codes prosper, while the MegaWeb and its advertisements and influence on the minds of the populace reminded me of Andri Snær Magnason’s dystopian novel LoveStar. Beyond the omnipresent might of corporations, Mars as a truly red (read: communist) planet makes for a no less disturbing alternative, while a mega-powerful set of insurrectionists under the command of mysterious Zeus try to bring down a foe that outnumbers them more than a billion to 1. And then there would be the sentient AI Yuki, CEO of the Sen-Zaibatsu and avatar of eidolon (fully statted, btw.), well aware of the asset/threat that Lords and Ladies of Gossamer and Shadow represent… (Can I hear Renraku arcology, anyone?) Short rules for acting in the web can also be found – alongside one last refuge – Australia, protected by the strange Uluru-effect, blocks electromagnetic waves and could either turn out to be cataclysm or salvation for the world…
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of a blend of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach’s Neo_Neo unabashedly pays homage to Shadowrun and the cyberpunk genre in a vast array of its ideas and concepts – and then cranks them up a notch. If you’re like me and considered the change of the matrix and magic-systems a spellplague-level disaster, then this pdf will bring a smile to your face – what we have here, would be a less magic-infused take on what Shadowrun could have become. And I mean that as an honest compliment. If you’re like me and enjoy a bit of cyberpunk once in a while and were looking for an easy way to use all of those Shadowrun books in your LoGaS-game – well, here you go. And even if you just get this for a short visit, the concepts alone are inspiring, yet detailed enough to provide you for more campaign-fodder than you could ask for. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval…now let’s hope our children never get to see 64-lane-highways…
Posted here since I couldn't find it on Paizo.
This installment of the Mythic Magic-series clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 4 pages of hyperlinked ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 41 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
So, what does this book cover? well, obviously not spells from one big hardcover, but instead spells found in: Animal Archive, Demon Hunter & Dragon Slayer Handbook, Distant Worlds, Faction Guide, Inner Sea Gods, Inner Sea Magic, Inner Sea World Guide, Mythic origins, People of the Sand (& stars) and the rival guide as well as the osirion sourcebook. (The new one, not the 3.X Player's sourcebook).
Now I can't cover every spell herein without bloating the book. So I'll give you a selection. Additionally, I should mention that I do not endorse all spells mythified - indeed, I do consider some of the books from which the base-material for the mythic spells herein not particularly well-balanced. This will have no impact whatsoever on my analysis of the mythic spells herein - I am taking them completely on their own ground. To help orientation regarding source, concise superscript abbreviations help the reader's orientation. As always, if you do not have the books this is based on - fret not, for the spells herein tend to show up on the respective SRDs and sites like the useful archives of nethys. Got all of that? All right, then let's dive in!
The anti-summoning shield, for example, can have its summon-failure chance enhanced by 5% x mythic tier and, as an augment, be cast as an immediate action. Rolling craft twice per day when utilizing arcane reinforcements also can be considered a nice trick up one's sleeve - crafting two items at once can be pretty powerful, especially when used for magical items. Of course, plenty of spells deliver solidly scaling numerical escalations based on mythic tier and mythic power, but that is a given at this point in the series. More interesting, at least to me, would be enhancements like Baphomet's blessing now also granting the powerful charge ability and immunity to maze-spells.
When a mythic version of a monster or spell manages to actually render a base version more flavorful, more exciting by expanding the very concept of the base version into something more unique - that is when mythic rules shine in my book. From a rules-perspective pretty impressive would be Blade Snare -with increased benefits, interactions with non mythic creatures and weapons etc., the base version is beautiful. While the nitpicky guy in me wants to complain about a missing minus-sign in the augment-section of the spell, the option to maintain the snared weapon and even snare 1/2 mythic tier weapons at once for 2 mythic power makes for a pretty damn neat option.
Terrain-control via Brittle Portal, instant mythic mummification via canopic conversion and curse based control as an augment to the creation of such mummies make for rather iconic options that can be used for narrative purposes as well - not only do mummies freed from such a control gain free will back, they also receive a rather nasty buff. Can I hear mummy-revenant crossovers approaching? Yes, I can.
Channel vigor's flexibility is also pretty nice, with unique effects depending on the limbs into which you channel the effect. Other modifications are small, but still flavorful - adding blightburn sickness to cosmic rays? Heck yes! Discharging dazzling flashes to blind adversaries would also be a rather neat option. Diverse additional options, both in the regular mythic spell's text and the augment option of deadeye's arrow also provide some neat bonuses and added condition-penalties. While everyone who regularly follows my reviews knows that I'm not a big fan of detect spells, at least detect demons receives a pretty unique augment that turn demonic auras clearly visible, helping against foes shrouded in deceptive magic et al.
The defensive excellent enclosure is also pretty interesting in its concise interaction with other spells - the various effects of mythic geniekind also fit thematically seamlessly and organically within the context of the base spell while increasing its potency by means of added spell-like abilities depending on the geniekind chosen. The increased incremental control of fractions of heal and harm also can be considered a pretty cool way of tackling the base spell's concept and making it more flexible. Now this is a very personal preference, but the augment to make the mythic ghoul pack summoned by the spell of the same name subject to haste fit thematically very well within the frame of my own conceptualization of ghouls.
The low gravity options added to the cool gravity sphere should also be mentioned. Now personally, I consider the temporary dexterity penalties imposed by the mythic gravity well slightly less interesting than the concept deserves, but that may just be me really liking. Now perhaps it's due to my favorite in-game card-game being Tarokka or due to the superb "Harrowing" module by Crystal Frasier, but the spell never clicked with me and the relatively conservative card-discarding/numerical escalation of the mythic variant, alas did not change that. Now where things turn interesting once again would be with imbue with flight - the option to utilize mythic power to make objects of huge, gargantuan and colossal size to fly, including the option of sharing the mythic power required, ritual-style, between characters. It's a small thing, but a glorious one that resonates well with quite a bunch of cool fantasy tropes.
Interplanetary teleport now does feature several benefits for its augmented version, helping you survive in less than hospitable environments. Orchid's Drop now allows for the free allocation between regular and ability score healing - pretty sweet. Speaking of pretty sweet changes - shared sacrifice not only has its casting time decreased, it also does not end with the target moving outside of the area of effect, instead being suppressed to kick in once the target is in range again. Siphon spell also receives a nice upgrade that lets you roll twice on dispel checks and continues until you have siphoned a minimum amount of spell levels, with the high-level augment allowing you to ignore the cap at the significant investiture of mythic power - cool! Spawn Calling is also rather epic - why not call the tarrasque or another spawn of Rovagug instead of the Star-spawn? Summon the tarrasque. Yeah. Awesome. In a nice bit of synergy, summon accuser ties in with Mythic Monsters: Devils, but also provides a nice alternative. Sustaining Legend feels a bit strong, with healing and condition negation/decrease added to targets using mythic power in any shape way or form, but that may be me.
More deadly teleport trap may be nice, but transfer tattoo is imho more interesting - you can essentially store an inoperable tattoo with this for some time - can you see the narrative potential? "Your task is to bring the tattoo of power to the missing grand master..." Face theft via transplant visage has also not been this nice for a long time... Well, that came out wrong...
Vision of the Beast Mother's mythic version makes followers of Lamashtu much more fearful...why, you ask? Well, what about sending other spells along with the nightmare? Yep, really, really nasty and once again sporting quite an array of cool story-telling options.
Editing and formatting are good, though quite a few minor typos and various superscripts that have not been superscripted slightly mar an otherwise well-edited book. The pdf adheres to legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and sports numerous gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though oddly, once again, we have additional out of order bookmarks in the beginning, this time duplications of two spell-bookmarks. Since this does not impede functionality in any way, I will not hold that against the pdf.
Okay, after having reviewed 6 Mythic Magic-pdfs by now, I can somewhat fathom how Jason Nelson must have felt: While design is fun, doing so many mythic spells might also be considered one thing: exhausting. This must have been serious *work* - that being said, I can see another thing about this pdf: In spite of the vast amount of mythic spells before these, there still are simply unique tricks herein. A lot of them, actually. More so than I expected to find herein.
While one can see that, unlike in the great mythic magic installment for the APG, this is the work of one designer, the job Legendary Games' chief has done is not only thorough, it is more varied and interesting than one would expect. When it would have been easy to just phone in augments to spells like detect demons or duplicate and recolor spells à la "works like this, but with acid"; when formulaic numerical escalations would have been the easier route, this instead goes the extra mile by providing unique little tidbits to enhance the flavor of the spells. Not all are winners, but in the face of this many spells, that should be no surprise; the quote of cool and imaginative spells is definitely much higher than I anticipated, though, and thus, this can be considered a superb offering. While slightly below the superb APG-installment, this still is one of the best of the all-but-required mythic magic-pdfs; my review will hence clock in at a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the small glitches here and there.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek, GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Part II of my review
Still here? All right! The first mission is all about two cults warring on Altair, both of which have purchased a biological weapon that now kills the primitive inhabitants. In order to stop the plague, the PCs have to unearth the origin of the plague, its design-specifics from a cell-phone, and request help from Hazioth. In the next mission, they are to follow up on this issue and thus defeat lizardfolk, kobold tinkers' berserk reverse engineered Cyborgs and finally defeat the Kurion spy and his evil druid assistant. The next mission sees the PCs stranded on Tajano, a Kurion-controlled planet, where they'll have to survive in the wasteland, deal in trading bunkers and scavenge in hostile terrain featuring both living machines and marauders - fully mapped, btw.! Finally, the PCs will need to travel to the city of Lixian, where they'll have chances to interact with a living machine nursery and even infiltrate a military base before finally repairing the ship and escaping first the world, and then the system- I would have LOVED this mission being depicted in full-blown mega-adventure-detail - it is rather fun, but due to its format also requires severe work on behalf of the DM to flesh out. The next mission is more straight-forward and has the PCs hired to deal with pirates attacking a particular asteroid-colony -when properly played up, this one may become VERY creepy. Neato. The next mission has an uncommon target - the PCs are to crash a Kurion series and prevent psionic rift drive components from falling into the hands of either competing Kurion nobles. This, of course, is harder than it seems at first and includes infiltration and finally entering a huge ice-lump in space (with ship to steal the prize. Again, neat!
The massive appendix includes fluff-only write-ups of sample NPCs, random encounters (CR 6 - 15) and an example for ship to ship combat to help you get how the rules work.
Benjamin Martinali's "Between Chains & Starlight" is an extremely ambitious setting - and in its first iteration, it failed to realize to unify all of the copious components, which was to be expected for a project of one man. Still, it did show promise galore and know what? After my admittedly very critical review of the original pdf, I wouldn't have been surprised if he had abandoned the project. It is my utmost pleasure to report that this reviewer at least is very glad he didn't. My criticism, unlike in most books I review, wasn't directed (primarily) on the rules, though some remnants were there that required revision. Instead, the main issue of the first iteration of this setting was simply that its internal logic and writing didn't gel well together.
This is almost an impossible feat to fix and it didn't expect the focus of the revision to actually lie on making the whole setting more consistent.. Benjamin Martinali has done it. I can actually see myself running this system, this setting, with its nigh infinite possibilities. The formal issues of the book have almost completely vanished and version 2.0 does not have any need to hide behind the big setting. From all original full color art, to much more believable, ultimately more interesting renditions of the factions, to better prose and additional content, this is one of the most significant improvements I've seen in my whole career as a reviewer. Now it should be noted that ships and vehicles sport their own rules, so there's not much overlap in that regard with Paizo's take on vehicles - and in this case, this is probably a good idea. What really made me grin from ear to ear were the small parts -the fixing of special energy weapon types, the more "realistic", less stereotype laden-portrayal of societies, the very fact that this massive book simply reads infinitely better than its predecessor.
Let's get that out of the way: "Between Chains and Starlight V.2.0" is a damn good book and even more impressive as the achievement of a single author. It is a labor of love and it shows in all the right ways. Beyond the inspiring ideals and streamlined mechanics, some rough patches can be identified, but a system that, from currency to politics, manages to cover such an extent is damn impressive. Now who does this compare to Necropunk or Amethyst Renaissance? It doesn't - the two are completely distinct entities at this point, with BCaS setting the focus much closer to blending scifi and fantasy...and actually achieving that. Where the former two focus on real world issues, philosophical ideas and transhumanist concepts, struggles between ideologies etc., BCaS is more focused on portraying a fantasy-like take on a scifi setting, moving away from this gravitas into the realms of space opera; mind you, this does not mean that the setting can't support these themes and does touch them, just that it's focus it completely different. Now I *could* nitpick components of the world-building here and there, but that wouldn't do this book justice.
There is one more factor to consider - this is a "Pay what you want"-book on OBS. That's a pretty powerful enticing factor for it. After carefully considering the book's virtues, I can definitely recommend spending at the very least 5 bucks, probably even 10 - 15 on it. Why? Because even if you only end up using some customization options, the weapons or the monsters (or the modules!), you'll get your money's worth.
This is the scifi/space mash-up quite a few people demanded and V.2.0 makes for a compelling, massive and unique setting that has greatly matured since its first iteration. The incorporation of the material from "Dragons in Space" also helps the book alongside added art, maps, expanded space combat etc. Never, for the life of me, would I have imagined this revamp improving the first book to this extent. And know what? I actually might use quite a bunch of the material herein - whether for Iron Gods or one of my numerous scifi-infusions in regular gaming. My final verdict will hence clock in at a very warm recommendation of 4.5 stars; I'd usually round down here due to some unnecessary deviations from the base system and some minor rules-relics, but seeing the amount of bang herein and the generous gesture of making this "pay what you want", I'll instead round up to 5 - people, take a look and give this a read. It is worth your time.
Oh, and my heartfelt congratulations to the author - it takes true dedication to provide such a massive overhaul.
I sincerely wish all of you (including those among you who don't like my reviews or opinions) a wonderful time; may everyone who reads this have a great time in the circle of beloved people; may you receive wonderful presents and may, should you write, the creative juices continue to flow.
Have a great time!