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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. The review is based on V.1 of the pdf.

We begin this class with a brief, concise introduction to the subject matter at hand, including advice on creating a gunfighter and quick-build information. Gunfighters begin play with the option to create ammo and the like, with a nice, suggested alternate rule based on Intelligence modifier. In a minor nitpick, the material cost and maintenance-section of the item mentions $1.00 of the item's market value - a conversion rate of $1 = 5 gp is provided, but generally, considering the setting-agnostic nature of the class, this may be perceived as a needless complication by some. I won't penalize the pdf for it, but it is something to keep in mind. If a PC is not using at least 1 hour in a long rest to clean the guns he owns, natural 1s and 2s result in the broken condition for the weapon. A gunfighter can keep a number of firearms in good repair like this equal to his Intelligence modifier. At 13th level, you may craft twice your Intelligence modifier bullets during a long rest.

Now, let's take a look at the gun-rules required here: Ammo can't be salvaged (check!), broken condition requires an Intelligence saving throw on critical misses to avoid (no auto-blow-up). Focus is important - these weapons require steadying - as an action, movement is reduced to 0 ft. and, on the next turn, the gun can be fired. Guns are loud and can be heard FAR away and reloading is an action. Firearms with spread deal AoE-damage, but allow for Dex-saves based on you Intelligence modifier and proficiency bonus to negate.

The pdf provides 4 such weapons: Single action revolvers, repeating rifles, shotguns and buffalo rifles, with the latter being the only one requiring focus - and it better should, considering 4d10 piercing base damage, as opposed to 2d6 for the revolver.

The class gets 1d10 HD, simple weapon and firearm proficiency, vehicle (land) ans smith's tools as well as Dex- and Int-save proficiency and their choice of Animal Handling, Deception, Insight, Investigation (called "Investigate" here), Perception, Sleight of Hand and Stealth regarding skill proficiency. The starting equipment contains a revolver and a horse and includes notes on costs of animals in the Wild West. Gunfighters begin play with a gunfighting style that includes melee-shotgun-using sans disadvantage or double pistol fighting. The latter is somewhat awkwardly phrased "You can treat the weapons as light, and take advantage of two weapon fighting with them." Does this mean the style grants advantage on attack rolls when dual-wielding? I *assume* no, but wording wise, the use of "advantage" isn't too great. Duel specialists add Intelligence modifier to atk and damage when one-handing guns. Long-distance shooters don't suffer disadvantage at long range and add Intelligence modifier to attack rolls. Fast draw specialists have advantage on their first attack each combat and can't be surprised.

2nd level provides an action surge for +1 action, but only once per rest-interval as well as advantage on Dexterity saving throws versus effects you can see coming - like traps, spells, etc. Ability score improvements are gained at 3th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 19th level. 11th level allows you to attack twice instead of once.

At 5th level, you may reload one firearm as a bonus action and 6th level allows you to ranged disarm foes once per rest-interval.

Starting at 9th level, you may infuse cold, fire or acid damage into up to 12 of your bullets. 17th level nets you evasion and 20th level allows you to add Wisdom modifier either to attack or damage rolls...which feels a bit odd, considering that the base chassis of the class is otherwise themed around Intelligence and Dexterity.

As you may have figured, the gunfighter does gain the obligatory archetype-selection, this time around called gunfighter path. A total of 3 such paths are included and they net abilities at 3rd, 7th, 10th, 15th and 18th level. The first of these paths would be the bounty hunter, who can choose creatures as their mark, gaining advantage on Intelligence (Investigate[sic!] - should be Investigation) and Wisdom (Perception) checks, gaining +2 to attacks versus them...but they can only have Intelligence modifier marks a day, with long rests resetting the timer. They also deal bonus damage versus marks and at 10th level, heal minor wounds once per rest-interval. 15th level nets a potentially paralyzing shot. 18th level, allows for special double damage shots - oddly, the pdf refers to being affected by "Wing 'em" - which I suppose was a WIP-name for the mark. Still, slightly confusing.

Desperados gain cunning action at 3rd level, 7th level sneak attack (scaling up to +4d6 at 19th level), uncanny dodge at 10th level and vanish at 15th. 18th level lets NO attack roll against you have advantage....which is pretty OP, imho. Somewhat odd: "If you are hit, you may take a reaction to make an Attack against the attack that hit you" - I think, some text is missing here...or the wording's a bit odd. You can target an attack, okay...what happens if you hit the attack? Do you shoot a missile out of the air? Do you sunder an axe? Or should that be attacker? No idea.

Finally, the Lone Ranger is the outdoorsman and gains advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and Wisdom (Survival) and 7th level nets crits on 19s and 20s. 10th level "Adds another fighting style" - which should probably refer to "gunfighting style" instead and 15th nets you a stunning shot, while 18th level allows you perform 1 level of exhaustion causing shots 1/day. Pretty cool.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good, though, oddly, the final pages seem to drop a bit regarding their precision. Rules-language similarly is mostly precise and well-crafted, with some minor hiccups. The pdf comes with great, thematically fitting photography-style artworks and the pdf has no bookmarks, but at 6 pages, that's still okay. Layout adheres to Tribality's two-column full-color standard and is clean and concise, though the upper and lower borders are pretty broad.

Michael Long's gunfighter is per se a damn cool class - and for the most part, it is precise and well-crafted, with the first couple of pages only featuring very minor hiccups like "Investigate" instead of "Investigation" or the aforementioned unfortunate wording choice pertaining advantage being good examples. The gunfighter paths have somewhat more glitches and unfortunately, the pdf does have some glitches that influence the rules-language. While the gunfighter is functional and elegant and appropriate for new players due to the relatively easy to grasp rules and low complexity, it is the collection of these minor hiccups that makes it impossible for me to rate this as high as I'd like to. The gunfighter certainly is no funfighter; the gunfighter is a cool class for its low, and more than fair, price point. While not perfect, it certainly deserves a final verdict of 4 stars - if you expect no perfection, you'll probably love this class as an easy to use, fun Western-class.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This class for D&D 5e clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review is based on V.1 of the file.

The alchemist class comes with a sufficient array of introductory fluff, quick build rules and then proceeds to provide the respective crunch: The previously missing plusses have been added to the proficiency bonus and the notation of the HD, 1d8, now also 100% conforms to D&D 5e standards. Proficiency-wise, alchemists gain simple weapons, blowgun, hand crossbow and net as well as Aachemist supplies plus herbalism or poisoner kits. Saving throw proficiencies, fittingly, would be Con and Int and skill-wise, two from Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, perception and Religion are available. The starting equipment choices are sufficiently varied and allow for a nice array of customization and properly adhere to the standards established.

Alchemist spellcasting works a bit differently - while they gain cantrips, they refer to their spells as mixtures. While alchemists do gain 7th, 8th and 9th-level mixture slots, these only can be used to trigger or empower formulae from 1st to 6th level or utilize class features. Alchemist casting is a bit different: You expend a slot and then get the mixture's effects...but you may delay the onset/use of the mixture to a later date, with proficiency bonus denoting the cap of mixtures you can have ready to trigger at any given time. Here's the kick, though: Creatures with an Int of 4 or higher can spend their Action to trigger the mixture - you don't have to do so yourself! Attacks made by other characters with your mixture use their Intelligence modifier, but your proficiency bonus - this previously slightly wonky sentence is now streamlined and can't be misinterpreted anymore. Kudos!

You can prepare formula to turn into mixtures on a given day equal to Int-mod +alchemist level, minimum 1. Preparing a different formula does not require a short rest, only 1 minute of preparation per formula level. You need to succeed the concentration checks, if any, for your mixtures, even if someone else triggers them...unless you have reached 9th level and 15th level, at which point you may delegate the concentration of one or two mixtures simultaneously to other characters. The governing attribute for mixtures is Intelligence.

Some formulae can be prepared as rituals, provided they have the correct tag and alchemist formulae have Somatic and Material components, but no verbal components. At 1st level, you begin play with 6 1st level formulae, with each level providing +2 formulae of your choice. Formulae may be copied from spellbooks, scrolls, etc. and alchemists may attune magic items usually restricted to the sorceror and wizard classes as well as other, general spellcaster-exclusive items. 2nd level nets you more item preparation efficiency for alchemical items (proficiency modifier per day of downtime with your kit), excluding poisons or herbalism-based items. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter (minus 20th, plus 19th) net you ability score increases. The capstone lets up to 3 creatures maintain concentration in your place.

The defining feature of the class, though, would certainly the alchemical tradition chosen at 3rd level, which truly defines the class - basically, these are the domains, the archetypes of the class. Each tradition sports bonus formulae, which are added to the formula-list of the alchemist in question, with the first such tradition being the artificer. At 3rd level, they get proficiency in three toolkits and at 6th level, the jack-of-all-traditions ability - which lets you add 3 formulae from other traditions, though these do not count as bonus formulae. 10th level lets you ignore class, race and alignment restrictions for item-attunement.

Additionally, you may choose to not regain mixture slots upon completion of a long rest, instead maintaining the functionality of those you already have created. 14th level becomes interesting: When you use a 7th level slot to prepare a mixture of 4th level or lower, it may be triggered twice before being expended. Long rests eliminate, as usual, both uses and rest the process. If the duration exceeds instantaneous, it can only be used a second time after the first use has elapsed. As soon as you have access to 8th level slots, you may do the same for this slot and mixtures of 5th level or lower.

At 18th level, 9th level and mixtures of 7th level or lower get a different upgrade - namely, duration: It increases to 10 days!!! If it is instantaneous, the mixture may be trigger your Intelligence modifier times per day. Effects that require concentration can be suspended as a bonus action and resumed as an action. Linked gates can be reopened by resuming concentration.

The second tradition would be the Herbwarden, who gains proficiency with Herbalism kits at 3rd level (which may be redundant if you haven't chosen poisoner kit at first level) and either Medicine or Nature, with Medicine being governed by Intelligence for you. Also at 3rd level, you may use field medicine to allow a target to expend HD as though he had completed a short rest, with higher levels increasing the number of HD a target can spend. Once a creature has thus been healed, it can't be healed again this way unless it has completed a short rest, providing a nice anti-abuse caveat. 6th level nets advantage on saves versus poison and versus effects generated by oozes, plants and plant creatures as well as increased item creation in downtime with herbalist kits, analogue to the previous archetype's crafting-enhancement.

10th level lets you double Int-mod when making Intelligence (Nature or Medicine) checks and when making healing mixtures. 14th level's ability has been revised and is rather cool: After a target has been healed or stripped of a negative condition or disease by you, it can choose, upon failing the next saving throw or ability check, to reroll one failed ability check or saving throw. 18th level nets the herbwarden the option to expend a 9th level slot to animate plants as a shambling mound that can be commanded via telepathy.

The third tradition would be the Irezumi, most of whose mixtures are intricate tattoos. As such, they gain proficiency with tattooing supplies at 3rd level -a new kit that now comes with a base price and weight.. Also at 3rd level, the irezumi gains two cantrips from any spellcasting class. At 6th level, irezumi can create mystic tattoos in an 8-hour process. Once the tattoo is created, you can charge a number of mystic tattoos equal to your proficiency bonus. You can charge the tattoos of other irezumi, if you want to. Tattoos can be triggered by the target as an action much like mixtures and the benefits last one hour.

The benefits depend upon the region: Arms grant resistance to one damage type chosen upon being tattooed, which imho could have used a finer restriction, since physical damage types and e.g. force or radiant are situationally more powerful and useful than others. Head can net you Advantage on Insight or Perception or Darkvision; Legs can provide these benefits to Athletics/Acrobatics or net +10 ft. movement and the torso nets advantage on one saving throw. 10th level allows the irezumi to grant a subject up to 2 mystic tattoos and 14th level allows you to charge a bonus formula of 4th level or lower into a mystic tattoo, allowing the user to trigger that formula.

Here's the thing, though: The formula is permanent. It is not expended upon being triggered, but any use beyond the first in a long-rest-interval incurs one level of exhaustion. I am a bit weary of this one in the long run - for as long as D&D 5e maintains the very high value of exhaustion, this is okay. As soon as a game has means of mitigating exhaustion, this may become problematic. This is just me being meta, though - so far, exhaustion remains one of the most crucial conditions in 5e and thus, this is solid. 18th level lets you create a master tattoo, which works analogue to the aforementioned tattoo, only with up to 6th level qualifying and two levels of exhaustion incurred upon repeated use.

The metamorph is pretty much the Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde alchemist - at 3rd level, expenditure of a 2nd level slot lets these guys trigger a combined alter self/enhance ability/mage armor with a duration of Concentration, up to 1 hour - but for the duration, you gain disadvantage on a mental ability's associated rolls. 6th level lets you use Int instead of Con to determine hit points, retroactive to 1st level, and 6th level further enhances the mutagen's effects. At 10th level, stoneskin is added to the fray and at 14th, regeneration is added alongside better natural weapons, advantage on concentration checks and an enhanced duration. Finally, at 18th level, the benefits are further expanded. Cool one!

The next one would be the poisoner, whose bonus formulae are considered to be poison effects. At 3rd level, you gain 6 doses of basic poison and now, also proficiency with the poisoner's kit. You also get proficiency in Sleight of Hand, Stealth and may apply poisons as a bonus action (3 for ammunition). You create proficiency bonus doses of poison per day in downtime and the may be ingested, inhaled or injury and deal 2d6 poison damage on a failed save- now properly used damage-type-wise. Kudos! After a long rest, you may refine poisons not crafted by you to apply benefits to them as though they were made by you - which now, in a didactically cleaner manner, directly points towards the respective abilities.

Well, yeah - at 6th level, you increase their save DC to your mixture save DC and when you harvest poison, you instead get proficiency modifier doses from a given creature. At 10th level, targets also acquire the poisoned condition when succumbing to your poisons and your poison creation quickens, now also for non-basic poisons. At 14th level, you may expend mixture slots to weaken targets versus poisons and diseases or even bypass poison immunity/resistance. At 18th level allows you to expend slots to make mixtures particularly lethal and poisons generated thus nigh impossible to negate.

The penultimate tradition would be the pyromancer, who can manipulate the damage-type of evocation-cantrips and spells by changing it to one of the classic energies or physical types. 6th level provides resistance to one of the classic energy damage types, though you can change the type after a short rest. 10th level adds Int-mod to the damage of evocation mixtures and 14th level provides an array of benefits that allow you to double the radius, range or make the AoE into cones or single squares by using a 7th level slot for a 5th level or lower evocation. The 18th level ability fails to specify the level it is gained, but imposes disadvantage on saves versus 7th level or lower evocations prepared via a 9th level slot.

The final tradition would the nod to ole' Herby West, the re-animator, who gets find familiar at 3rd level and may choose a crawling claw or homunculus . Any familiar is undead, though it gains advantage on saves versus effects specifically targeting the undead. Also at this level, you double your Int-mod for Medicine-checks and gain sneak attack progression of up to +5d6 at 18th level. At 6th level, undead you create also have the advantage of your familiar and at 10th level, you gain advantage on saves versus disease, poison and fear as well as the option to use a bonus action once per activity interval to temporarily gain resistance to damage from non-magical weapons and advantage on ability checks for 1 minute. At 14th level, you can use create undead to make (or assert control over) flesh golems and revenants and at 18th level, you can make either two flesh golems or two revenants...provided, for both abilities, that you expend the high-level slot.

It should also be noted that the pdf has a nod towards the intriguing Salt-in-Wounds-series (Think high, dark fantasy with a society based on the regenerating flesh of the subdued tarrasque) and advice on creating your own traditions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved and now are top-notch. Where the rules-language wasn't 100% perfect before, it now is. The sub-abilities no longer are italicized, which means you can easily see the now properly italicized spells. Even cosmetic and didactic complaints I nitpicked are fixed. Kudos indeed! Layout adheres to an elegant two-column, full-color standard with pretty big borders at the top and bottom and several pieces of thematically fitting art that has a photo-like-look. First, I considered it to be a bit jarring, but it rather grew on me.

Rich Howard and Tribality Publishing have taken an already good, evocative class and sanded off teh rough edges, showing that they care for their books, rendering the new alchemist superior in every way to its predecessor. The special casting of the class and its internal nomenclature are surprisingly consistent. While I wasn't blown away by all traditions and while I think they do vary slightly in power, I was particularly surprised by the poisoner and irezumi. While the latter can be considered to be perhaps one of the strongest options herein, it also is a class that requires the interaction with a group to prosper. And seeing unifying tattoos on a group by the same artist can be pretty cool roleplying material. If an irezumi dies and a survivor looks at the tattoo as someone asks how she got it...well, let's just say that I think the class and its modular traditions (of which we'll hopefully see more in the future) proved to be interesting to me.
The level of care and detail that went into updating this pdf and the significant improvements make this revised edition now well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, the submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.

Endzeitgeist out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The 5e-version of Tuffy's Good Time Palace is, fluff-wise, pretty identical to the Pathfinder-version: I.e. Tuffy's is still a seedy dump of a bar with an eccentric, female, dwarven barkeep and a somewhat less-than-bright brute at the piano. Scantily-clad women dance here and shady groups, two to be precise, scuttle through the shadows, as a surprising amount of patrons seems to vanish behind a door behind the bar...the set-up of a seedy bar, complete with the chance to contract mild food poisoning has been translated very well into the 5e-rules-frame, with the notable exception of one Wisdom (perception) check that retained the, for 5e rather high DC 15 from its Pathfinder sister file.

The supplement does come with extensive rumors and events to facilitate roleplaying within the context of Tuffy's - each of the respective entries is rather detailed and can be considered a good and rather detailed hook. One of the main draws of the file, though, would be the depiction of the owner, her employees and the two shady groups of people frequenting the establishment.

Here, the change in systems is more pronounced and honestly, it is here that the pdf had its most significant challenge: The PFRPG-builds utilized several rather specific mechanics-combos and translating these in spirit to 5e would not be an easy task. Instead of restricting itself to the class features of the default classes featured in the PHB, the pdf instead opts to go the more interesting way, granting unique features to the respective NPCs.

Tuffy, for example, has several tricks that render her particularly lethal in the environments of her bar, with the big mastermind gaining a unique, charming presence as well as a damn cool BBEG-escape trick. As a whole, the builds provided in this pdf turned out to be pretty intriguing. The fact that the Dire Rugrat-team went one step beyond in these builds is something I really appreciate. Challenges of the NPCs range from 1/2 to 10.

The tavern does come with a serviceable map in b/w, but sand a print-out-sized version or one that is key-less/player-friendly.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, no-frills two-column b/w-standard. It's minimalist and functional - no significant complaints here. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and cartography is nice, particularly in such a low-cost little book. The b/w-artworks are flavorful and nice.

Kelly and Ken Pawlik's 5e-version of Tuffy's, surprisingly, actually turned out to be more interesting to me than its PFRPG-iteration. The characters are pretty cool, though we don't get scaled statblocks for characters in this version. Beyond its colorful characters and nice flavor-text, the pdf des share the lack of a menu or prices with the PFRPG-version and, like it, there is no clear distinction between the introductory prose and the rules-relevant section - generally, the tavern could have used a bit more fleshing out, with the majority of the appeal here stemming from the cool potential of the NPCs and their local color.

Still, this is, ultimately, me complaining at a high level. My final verdict, ultimately, will clock in at 4 stars for this one as well - while it is slightly briefer than the PFRPG-version, it is slightly more creative in my book.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.

Endzeitgeist out.


Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, etc.


Part II of my review:

The CR 11 avatar of anarchy is an attaching, blood draining tentacle monster that can lay eggs in the fallen - if they are returned to life, they infect the target.The larvae tell the host about this, though, making the whole exercise pretty pointless from a life-cycle perspective. Oh well, logic and RPGs and such. At CR 6, we get a take on the sand golem - pretty much the bare minimum sans unique abilities. The CR 10 tomb guardian would be a purrsian mummy-variant that reduces damage "vs. small piercing weapons (arrows, bolts, darts, shuriken, thrown daggers and other ranged piercing weapons" - the wording's unfortunate, for one can read that as either pertaining to the size of the weapon employed to fire them or make a point that the missiles shot be Large creatures affect it. Codifying this in a more established manner would have been prudent. The statblocks do contain glitches, in case you were wondering.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, that much I can say, are better than in Tribes of Everglow, though they still contain issues. On a rules-language level, the components are still pretty bad, though not as bad as in aforementioned book. In direct contrast, I had no "WTF is that supposed to do???"-experience in this book, only frustration at the flaunting of even basic formatting conventions and some broken bits and pieces here and there. Still, the rules-language is not fully operational, requiring an ample array of GM-interpretation and handwaving in the finer details. Layout is a highlight - Full-color, gorgeous 2-column-standard with a metric ton of absolutely gorgeous, original pieces of full-color artwork. This book is seriously beautiful and gorgeous. The hardcover I have is solidly bound, with nice paper - no complaints. I don't have the electronic version, so I can't tell you about bookmarks etc. or the lack thereof.

David Silver & Byron Mulvogue's Forgotten Past is a book of contrasts and an exercise in frustration for me. Why? Because the setting-information herein is very creative, fun and well-written. Similarly, the NPC-fluff-write-ups, supported by copious amounts of art, is a joy to read. But we're not looking at a system-neutral book here. We're looking at a roleplaying game supplement. Don't get me wrong - the glitches are not as pronounced and jarring as in "Tribes of Everglow" - this *is* the better book, by leaps and bounds. But at the same time, a significant majority of this book's crunch not only flaunts established rules-language that could literally be looked up at one glance, it also thus opens the floodgates for ambiguity, rules-issues etc. I like quite a few concepts herein; there are instances where the book gets its right. That deserves emphasis. But we have established a kind of quality standard among 3pps regarding the required rules-precision and this book, as much as it pains me to say it, fails that standard. My impulse is to give this 3 stars to account for the cases when it works, for the great fluff... but I have rated down books for significantly less issues than those found herein. I have rated mechanically okay, but uninspired books 3 stars...and this one may have some good ideas, some nice pieces...but it also has some broken bits; some seriously wonky mechanics and generally fails brutally.

It would, frankly, not be fair to rate this 3 stars - objectively, the craftsmanship of the crunch isn't at this level. It's better than in tribes...but not by enough. That being said, the often inspiring ideas and the bits and pieces that do work elevate this slightly above said book. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars. If you are in it for ideas and ideas alone, then round up - this book does achieve the goal of making the Everglow setting very much intriguing, to the point where I want to see those strange dungeons in play, where I want to see functional rules for age-category-switching dungeons and the like. As a reviewer, though, and for those that expect a certain functionality from their roleplaying sourcebook's rules-information as well as a sense of consistency with the base rules, this must be rounded down.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek, GMS magazine, posted here, etc.

Endzeitgeist out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and the usual places.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This class for D&D 5e clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The alchemist class comes with a sufficient array of introductory fluff, quick build rules and then proceeds to provide the respective crunch: It should be noted that the class table lacks the plusses before the proficiency bonus in a minor deviation from the established presentation. Similarly, the HD (1d8, fyi), are depicted as "d8", which is another aesthetic deviation from the standards of the PHB, where number-less dice notation refers to dice-size or them as a resource, as opposed to other notation of dice...but I'm nitpicking aesthetics here. Proficiency-wise, alchemists gain simple weapons, blowgun, hand crossbow and net as well as Alchemist supplies plus herbalism or poisoner kits. Saving throw proficiencies, fittingly, would be Con and Int and skill-wise, two from Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, perception and Religion are available. The starting equipment choices are sufficiently varied and allow for a nice array of customization and properly adhere to the standards established.

Alchemist spellcasting works a bit differently - while they gain cantrips, they refer to their spells as mixtures. While alchemists do gain 7th, 8th and 9th-level mixture slots, these only can be used to trigger or empower formulae from 1st to 6th level or utilize class features. Alchemist casting is a bit different: You expend a slot and then get the mixture's effects...but you may delay the onset/use of the mixture to a later date, with proficiency bonus (here erroneously called "proficiency modifier") denoting the cap of mixtures you can have ready to trigger at any given time. Here's the kick, though: Creatures with an Int of 4 or higher can spend their Action to trigger the mixture - you don't have to do so yourself! Attacks made by other characters with your mixture use their Intelligence modifier, but your proficiency bonus. (Minor complaint: This sentence could have been a bit clearer in the pdf.)

You can prepare formula to turn into mixtures on a given day equal to Int-mod +alchemist level, minimum 1. Preparing a different formula does not require a short rest, only 1 minute of preparation per formula level. You need to succeed the concentration checks, if any, for your mixtures, even if someone else triggers them...unless you have reached 9th level and 15th level, at which point you may delegate the concentration of one or two mixtures simultaneously to other characters. The governing attribute for mixtures is Intelligence. On a nitpicky note, the pdf fails to italicize spells in the rules-text of abilities, which is somewhat annoying.

Some formulae can be prepared as rituals, provided they have the correct tag and alchemist formulae have Somatic and Material components, but no verbal components. At 1st level, you begin play with 6 1st level formulae, with each level providing +2 formulae of your choice. Formulae may be copied from spellbooks, scrolls, etc. and alchemists may attune magic items usually restricted to the sorceror and wizard classes as well as other, general spellcaster-exclusive items. 2nd level nets you more item preparation efficiency for alchemical items (proficiency modifier per day of downtime with your kit), excluding poisons or herbalism-based items. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter (minus 20th, plus 19th) net you ability score increases. The capstone lets up to 3 creatures maintain concentration in your place.

The defining feature of the class, though, would certainly the alchemical tradition chosen at 3rd level, which truly defines the class. Each tradition sports bonus formulae, which are added to the formula-list of the alchemist in question, with the first such tradition being the artificer. At 3rd level, they get proficiency in three toolkits and at 6th level, the jack-of-all-traditions ability - which lets you add 3 formulae from other traditions, though these do not count as bonus formulae. 10th level lets you ignore class, race and alignment restrictions for item-attunement.

Additionally, you may choose to not regain mixture slots upon completion of a long rest, instead maintaining the functionality of those you already have created. 14th level becomes interesting: When you use a 7th level slot to prepare a mixture of 4th level or lower, it may be triggered twice before being expended. Long rests eliminate, as usual, both uses and rest the process. If the duration exceeds instantaneous, it can only be used a second time after the first use has elapsed. As soon as you have access to 8th level slots, you may do the same for this slot and mixtures of 5th level or lower.

At 18th level, 9th level and mixtures of 7th level or lower get a different upgrade - namely, duration: It increases to 10 days!!! If it is instantaneous, the mixture may be trigger your Intelligence modifier times per day. Effects that require concentration can be suspended as a bonus action and resumed as an action. Linked gates can be reopened by resuming concentration.

The second tradition would be the Herbwarden, who gains proficiency with Herbalism kits at 3rd level (which may be redundant if you haven't chosen poisoner kit at first level) and either Medicine or Nature, with Medicine being governed by Intelligence for you. Also at 3rd level, you may use field medicine to allow a target to expend HD as though he had completed a short rest, with higher levels increasing the number of HD a target can spend. Once a creature has thus been healed, it can't be healed again this way unless it has completed a short rest, providing a nice anti-abuse caveat. 6th level nets advantage on saves versus poison and versus effects generated by oozes, plants and plant creatures as well as increased item creation in downtime with herbalist kits, analogue to the previous archetype's crafting-enhancement.

10th level lets you double Int-mod when making Intelligence (Nature or Medicine) checks and when making healing mixtures. 14th level is cool: After a target has been healed or stripped of a negative condition by you, it can choose, upon failing the next saving throw or ability check, to succeed instead, but only once...thereafter, a rest is required to benefit from this powerful ability again. I *like* the idea here...but not the auto-success. It is a system-immanent issue that auto-succeeds will, sooner or later, be abused in a rather ridiculous way. Why not simply go with a significant bonus or advantage? Or tying the auto-succeed to the specific effect you cured instead? As written, I'd be very weary of this one. 18th level nets the herbwarden the option to expend a 9th level slot to animate plants as a shambling mound that can be commanded via telepathy.

The third tradition would be the Irezumi, most of whose mixtures are intricate tattoos. As such, they gain proficiency with tattooing supplies at 3rd level -a new kit that is not defined as an item, but within the ability as such...which is somewhat problematic, since it leaves no price-baseline. Also at 3rd level, the irezumi gains two cantrips from any spellcasting class. At 6th level, irezumi can create mystic tattoos in an 8-hour process. Once the tattoo is created, you can charge a number of mystic tattoos equal to your proficiency bonus. You can charge the tattoos of other irezumi, if you want to. Tattoos can be triggered by the target as an action much like mixtures and the benefits last one hour.

The benefits depend upon the region: Arms grant resistance to one damage type chosen upon being tattooed, which imho could have used a finer restriction, since physical damage types and e.g. force or radiant are situationally more powerful and useful than others. Head can net you Advantage on Insight or Perception or Darkvision; Legs can provide these benefits to Athletics/Acrobatics or net +10 ft. movement and the torso nets advantage on one saving throw. 10th level allows the irezumi to grant a subject up to 2 mystic tattoos and 14th level allows you to charge a bonus formula of 4th level or lower into a mystic tattoo, allowing the user to trigger that formula.

Here's the thing, though: The formula is permanent. It is not expended upon being triggered, but any use beyond the first in a long-rest-interval incurs one level of exhaustion. I am a bit weary of this one in the long run - for as long as D&D 5e maintains the very high value of exhaustion, this is okay. As soon as a game has means of mitigating exhaustion, this may become problematic. 18th level lets you create a master tattoo, which works analogue to the aforementioned tattoo, only with up to 6th level qualifying and two levels of exhaustion incurred upon repeated use.

The metamorph is pretty much the Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde alchemist - at 3rd level, expenditure of a 2nd level slot lets these guys trigger a combined alter self/enhance ability/mage armor (here, the italicizations are there!) with a duration of Concentration, up to 1 hour - but for the duration, you gain disadvantage on a mental ability's associated rolls. &th level lets you use Int instead of Con to determine hit points, retroactive to 1st level, and 6th level further enhances the mutagen's effects. At 10th level, stoneskin is added to the fray and at 14th, regeneration is added alongside better natural weapons, advantage on concentration checks and an enhanced duration. Finally, at 18th level, the benefits are further expanded. Cool one!

The next one would be the poisoner, whose bonus formulae are considered to be poison effects. At 3rd level, you gain 6 doses of basic poison...but oddly not proficiency with poisoner's kit, in a strange deviation from herbwarden etc.'s proficiency dispersal. Oh well, you do get proficiency in Sleight of Hand, Stealth and may apply poisons as a bonus action (3 for ammunition). You create proficiency bonus doses of poison per day in downtime and the may be ingested, inhaled or injury and deal 2d6 damage on a failed save- which is a formal oversight: That should be poison damage. 5e has the damage type, so let's use it! After a long rest, you may refine poisons not crafted by you to apply benefits to them as though they were made by you. Benefits?

Well, yeah - at 6th level, you increase their save DC to your mixture save DC and when you harvest poison, you instead get proficiency modifier doses from a given creature. At 10th level, targets also acquire the poisoned condition when succumbing to your poisons and your poison creation quickens, now also for non-basic poisons. At 14th level, you may expend mixture slots to weaken targets versus poisons and diseases or even bypass poison immunity/resistance. At 18th level allows you to expend slots to make mixtures particularly lethal and poisons generated thus nigh impossible to negate.

The penultimate tradition would be the pyromancer, who can manipulate the damage-type of evocation-cantrips and spells by changing it to one of the classic energies or physical types. 6th level proides resistance to one of the classic energy damage types, though you can change the type after a short rest. 10th level adds Int-mod to the damage of evocation mixtures and 14th level provides an array of benefits that allow you to double the radius, range or make the AoE into cones or single squares by using a 7th level slot for a 5th level or lower evocation. The 18th level ability fails to specify the level it is gained, but imposes disadvantage on saves versus 7th level or lower evocations prepared via a 9th level slot.

The final tradition would the nod to ole' Herby West, the re-animator, who gets find familiar at 3rd level and may choose a crawling claw or homunculus . Any familiar is undead, though it gains advantage on saves versus effects specifically targeting the undead. Also at this level, you double your Int-mod for Medicine-checks and gain sneak attack progression of up to +5d6 at 18th level. At 6th level, undead you create also have the advantage of your familiar and at 10th level, you gain advantage on saves versus disease, poison and fear as well as the option to use a bonus action once per activity interval to temporarily gain resistance to damage from non-magical weapons and advantage on ability checks for 1 minute. At 14th level, you can use create undead to make (or assert control over) flesh golems and revenants and at 18th level, you can make either two flesh golems or two revenants...provided, for both abilities, that you expend the high-level slot.

It should also be noted that the pdf has a nod towards the intriguing Salt-in-Wounds-series (Think high, dark fantasy with a society based on the regenerating flesh of the subdued tarrasque) and advice on creating your own traditions.

Conclusion:

Editing is very good on a formal level, good on a rules-level - while a few glitches can be found and nomenclature is not always perfect, as a whole, the book is solid. Formatting, though, is inconsistent: The lack of plusses for proficiency bonuses in the class table, while cosmetic, annoyed me. Also a rather unpleasant choice: When an ability has a sub-set of options, the whole text is italicized. This means that spell references, usually denoted by italicization, are indistinguishable from the regular text. Italicization of spells is also inconsistent throughout. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column, full-color standard with pretty big borders at the top and bottom and several pieces of thematically fitting art that has a photo-like-look. First, I considered it to be a bit jarring, but it grew on me.

I think this was one of Tribality's first offerings and it does show that in the aforementioned details. At the same time, author Rich Howard has created a surprisingly diverse, cool take on the alchemist. The special casting of the class and its internal nomenclature are surprisingly consistent. While I wasn't blown away by all traditions and while I think they do vary a bit in power, I was particularly surprised by the poisoner and irezumi. While the latter can be considered to be perhaps one of the strongest options herein, it also is a class that requires the interaction witha group to prosper. And seeing unifying tattoos on a group by the same artist can be pretty cool roleplying material. If an irezumi dies and a survivor looks at the tattoo as someone asks how she got it...well, let's just say that I think the class and its modular traditions (of which we'll hopefully see more in the future) proved to be interesting to me. That being said, the small hiccups, while mostly cosmetic, do add up. Hence, I cannot go higher than 4 stars on this one, in spite of considering the book a more than promising and fun class. 5e players looking for a neat take on the alchemist definitely should check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.

Cheers!


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

And now for something *completely* different - this book clocks in at 92 pages. While I do own the electronic versions, I'd suggest getting the print version if you can - mainly since I'm old-school and have based this review on the print copy.

This book was moved up in my review queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in exchange for a critical, unbiased review.

Okay, so what is this? It is, at least to me as a German, a piece of gaming arcana: Back in the 3.X days of old, there was a Living campaign of organized play called Living Greyhawk, shaping the classic world, with different regions sporting different adventures. During the impressive 8-year run of Living Greyhawk, the region Bandit Kingdoms produced more than 130 unique modules. These modules, to my knowledge, have never been published in a concise form, which renders a part of this region's turbulent history...opaque.

Well, no longer. The bandit kingdoms in their diversity are laid open in this book's summaries and depictions. Okay, but why should you care? Well, let me elaborate for a second my own personal stance towards Greyhawk. I know this is tantamount to blasphemy, but here goes: I was never the biggest fan of the setting. Sure, I was pretty excited to get to know the place Mordenkainen called home, where Vecna and Kas feuded...but ultimately, the 3 settings I truly loved from the classic TSR/WotC-IPs will always be Ravenloft, Planescape and Dark Sun. Perhaps it's my own predilection for darker fantasy and horror and the weird fiction in general, perhaps it's just a resonance of the disillusion that accompanied many a book and gaming-supplement for 3.X's FRs and the mounting feeling that this world needed no heroes. I'm not sure. But at the end of the 3.X era, I had the feeling that the realms had devolved into a mess, where every hamlet had a level 16 blacksmith. It's subjective. I still like the realms...but from afar. It should hence come as no surprise that I never went truly deep inside the Greyhawk's canon's evolution during these times.

Turns out that that was a colossal mistake. The flair and old-school vibe of a world close to the brink, with mature shades of grey mentalities and ideologies, the sense of threats I enjoy in offerings by Raging Swan Press, Frog God Games or TPK Games can be found within these pages - as the introduction aptly puts it "I had to save the bad guys from the other PCs." In the Iuz-dominated and war-torn bandit kingdoms, royals are forged by tourneys of madness, taking the crown may spell your doom and heroism has still its place, although it's tinted with a healthy dose of survivalism and realpolitik. From 591 - 598, this book chronicles the adventures that were undertaken by countless players, shaping the destiny of the bandit kingdoms in struggles that deviate from the tired challenge-rating-appropriate-formula in quite a few instances, breathing a sense of old-school danger that has been absent in far too many publications. A handy index sums up the respective scenarios by year for your convenience and we also get a glimpse behind the screen, wherein author Casey Brown, one of the meta-organization coordinators, discusses the respective issues with scenario designs and encounter design problems that resulted from some...well, let's say less than well-conceived design decisions that were imposed on the respective authors.

Now here is the interesting component - this massive book provides a comprehensive list of extensive summaries for all those aforementioned modules. The respective modules come with their own designation, the name of the author and list the AP they are associated with - with AP here denoting the sequence of modules that form a cohesive story, not the "whole campaign"-meaning the term has lately taken as its primary meaning. Each of the respective modules comes with a synopsis of the plot as well as a commentary.

Here would be as good a place as any to talk about Casey Brown's obvious experience in academia: From informative and properly placed footnotes to an easy to read, compelling style, what should by all accounts have been a pretty dry read actually became rather engrossing and kept me awake at night while digesting all the information contained herein - also from a mechanical standpoint, for e.g. calling out the Spell compendium (still hurts to type that book's very name). And yes, these tangents are brief, but their very existence is something I truly appreciate. Additionally, if that sound tiring or bland to you, the respective entries often feature extensive commentary that satisfy another craving of the conditio humana we experience: The human element. When e.g. a knight has won a crown as part of his retirement and steps down in favor of his competitor, only to have said competitor be soultrapped by the vile opposition, you can practically see the tables upon tables of players staring in utter disbelief. When an arrogant player's letter results in him becoming part of the metaplot, when a dwarf's famous last stand becomes a symbol for heroism in a region known for cut-throat politics, betrayal and dishonor - then the knowing roleplaying veteran nods and realizes that there are some stories that are only written in our medium, at least in the extent and impact they have on lives and collective ideologies shifting.

The compelling and intelligently-crafted political landscape of the bandit kingdoms, slowly unraveling before my eyes, complete with a powerful (almost) undefeated dragon, a kind of elder evil and Iuz' nigh-unstoppable forces ultimately provides a truly compelling insight into a whole campaign's worth of material, with a massive list of adventures by associated AP and a timeline that chronicles the events by year from CY 576 onward, this book offers a fascinating insight into the rich landscape of this region.

Beyond that, the pdf also offers intriguing miscellanea: Including favorite quotes...and they are hilarious: "You say medusa, I say artist." DM: "You hear a bloodcurdling scream from down the hallway." Player of a rogue: " I Take 10 searching the square in front of me." "We have two kinds of heroes: dead ones and...we have one kind of hero, actually." This book ends with a list of those who served as triad and Iuz circle members.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no glitches of hiccups. The book's layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting stock art. One thing that may annoy you is the tendency to have a blank page at the end of a chapter, but that's about it regarding complaints in formal criteria. The electronic version comes in three formats: Pdf, EPUB and MOBI and the print and the classic cover style, with the book sporting the 8 x 02 x 10 inch-dimensions. The pdf, in a minor complaint, is not bookmarked, which is a bit jarring. The paper used in the print does its job regarding its thickness and consistency.

Okay, so why should you care about a by now non-existent, discontinued living campaign? The obvious reason would be nostalgia on part of the participants...but that alone does not do the job. More important, for me as a reviewer is that this book made me actually want to participate in organized play. Pretty much for the first time. I'm not a fan of formulaic or necessarily "Balanced" or "fair" modules - I want a compelling, evolving world and this is a truly astounding glimpse right into such a world. I am neither a big fan of Arcanis, nor of the Pathfinder Society or Greyhawk, as a setting for that matter. But damn, I want to play this. Had I lived in Texas and Oklahoma during this campaign's run, I probably wouldn't have missed a single adventure. The picture painted vividly in this chronicle is that of a campaign that is mature, compelling and dynamic. Beyond the knowledge on the formal aspects conveyed herein, this can be considered to be one of the most compelling takes on roleplaying history I have ever read - and it is an inspiring book. I put this book down and started scribbling scenario-ideas and campaign seeds right of the bat - so even if you are not at all interested in Greyhawk, bandit kingdoms or anything like that, you still get a lot of mileage out of this book.

Casey Brown, Britt Frey and Austin "Theo" Judd have crafted a thoroughly unique document that has its special place of honor on my bookshelf - whether for the Lost Lands, the anarchic regions of Golarion or any other campaign setting, really - this book has a ton to offer for people who don't care about Greyhawk at all. An inspired chronicle that got me excited, a book that is testament to the fact that major story-changes by players can and should happen in living campaigns, a book that does show that there is fun to be had in darker settings and dangerous challenges - what more can you want? This is an inexpensive, awesome book and 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, on OBS and amazon.com.

Oh, one thing: Before anyone flags this as in wrong forum: This very much works with PFRPG, being mostly about the ideas and the structure, hence why I posted this here as opposed to the "Other RPG"s-section.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Astonishing Races-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving su with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As in the installment on gripplis, we begin this supplement with an extensive amount of fluff that properly sets up the race - and yes, this basic set-up divorces kobolds from the dragon-angle, so if that is what you've been looking for, it's a nice alternative. Takes on alignment, nomenclature etc. are covered.

Racial stat-wise, dog-faced kobolds get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, are Small goblinoids witha base speed of 30 ft. and gain darkvision 60 ft., scent and the swarming ability, meaning that two can occupy the same square. They also get +1 to Stealth and Survival and may use said skills sans penalty while moving 20 ft. Overall, this makes them a pretty solid race on par with core and not a penalized issue like the default 5-RP-kobold. (though playing such a character has its charm!) Age, height and weight tables are included and do not deviate from those of the standard kobolds.

The pdf also includes a significant array of alternate racial traits for your perusal - hatred versus gnomes, Beast Trainer, a 1d3 bite (As a cosmetic complaint: This one's not noting damage type, but gets, and that's more important, primary/secondary classification right!), a rash-inducing skin, better initiative or tripping...some cool customizations here. Similarly, better darkvision at the cost of being automatically dazzled in bright light can be found. And no, I did not list all of those.

"Wait", you'll be asking, "where's the dog-faced aspect coming in?" Well, that would be via the racial heritages. These basically constitute alternate racial feature-packages: Golden Champions get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int and +1 to AC and Ref versus larger foes instead of swarming. Flat-faced kobolds get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Int and +2 to select skill as well as Craft (traps) and Stealth as class skills instead of ambusher. Seaborne kobolds get Str and Wis +2, Int -2 and a reduced speed of 20 ft, but +1 Profession (Sailor) and 10 ft. swim speed instead of ambusher. The house kobold, finally, gets Dex and Int +2 and Wis -2 as well as proficiency with snare poles and nets instead of swarming. These packages universally are balanced, solid and I see no issues with them.

The pdf, as the first one, also contains a TON of favored class options: And unlike in most publications, you actually want to read them for more than the mechanical benefits, as they have some nice fluff that grounds the class in the context of the race. The favored class options, just fyi, are VERY extensive and cover the ACG and Occult Adventures classes as well as the classics. Mechanics-wise, there also are some uncommon choices: More channel damage to creatures caught sans Dex-mod, for example. Interesting and fitting. Slightly weird, though: The format is slightly inconsistent: Usually in these Astonishing Races-books, you get the flavor in plain text, the mechanical benefits in italics. The bard lacks the italicization and Shaman and Slayer lack the flavor-text, which is something that should probably have been caught - their absence is apparent at a single glance, the rules-text there, obviously, not italicized. I'm not complaining hard here, mind you - just stating that this inconsistency wasn't necessary.

The pdf also provides racial archetypes, the first of which would be the Guerrilla Leader (Brawler), who gets proficiency with simple weapons and thrown weapon fighter group weapons and light armors. They may use Brawler's Flurry with spears and thrown weapons, but not monk weapons or those from the close group. This ability does NOT grant Quick Draw (erroneously called "Quickdraw" here), which means that, for full functionality, we have a feat tax in the ability. It should be noted that pretty much all follow-up abilities of the archetype build on the concept of swarming, so that racial trait is locked in as well. The unique shtick of the archetype, just fyi, is entering the space of a creature as a quasi-combat maneuver, thus causing both the brawler and the creature to receive the entangled condition. Later, they can drag allies into the same space, which is pretty funny in my mind. This is kinda cool in theory, but in practice less useful, considering the archetype pay for the scaling improvement with maneuver training and the awesome blow abilities. Additionally, it leaves me with the question whether e.g. single-target effects that move one target in the square now move all three or not - since moving through squares occupied by hostiles is problematic. Basically, this is a cool idea, but needs some clarification - as written, it is a can of worms waiting to be opened. Using martial flexibility for teamwork feats is interesting, though.

The second archetype, the trapster rogue, is, you guessed it, a trap specialist - relatively nice: The archetype has a couple of rogue talents with which he can steal portable traps and even add the effects of select rogue talents to traps and add additional triggers. Not bad, but neither too novel - and some sample weights for traps that are carried around would have been useful for the GM.

The pdf also sports a selection of mundane items - from bird netting and feed to territory markers in 2 variants, trapped cages and whistle traps, the selection here is solid.

The pdf also sports 5 racial feats: Expert Trainer allows for the quicker training of animals (and is named like a Paizo feat that does something completely different), False Trail lets you put down, you guessed it, a false trail. Hidden Ambusher is a sniping feat for moving from concealment to concealment, while Swarming Expert and Swarming Sacrifice provide means to exempt kobolds from AoOs of foes and 1/day force a foe to roll twice, take the lower result and hit your ally. The feats range from useful to should have been a feat-use to, in the latter case, should scale regarding daily uses - 1/day reroll when having a kobold share a square with you may be cool...but on its own, it's not worth a feat.

The pdf also sports 4 magic items: Scepters of Subject Summoning allow you to whisper into them to have minions, cohorts or followers hear your message. Pricey, but an item that, due to lack of range limitations, can be very useful...or at least flavorful for the villain. Incense of Creature Location lets you determine the distance and direction of creatures or subtypes. Swarm Collars net animal companions the swarming ability and allow them and their master to be considered flanking when attacking the same foe from the same square. Wild Growth Grit can make difficult terrain...or even impassable terrain; it can also be thrown to ineffectively entangle targets. As a nitpick: Imho there should be a work-intense way of clearing impassable terrain - I can't see overgrowth withstanding a meteor swarm and retaining its impassable nature...then again, at 10 K and with only 10 applications, this is a costly means of delaying pursuers and one mostly appropriate for campaigns with a somewhat fairy tale style bent.

The pdf closes with a massive dressing table of 50 random dog-faced kobold features: From loving the moon and sometimes howling at it to considering oneself to be a miniature worg, hiding from everyone...or worshiping the squirrel lord, this table had me smile, drips with humor and roleplaying potential and ends the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - there are some hiccups among the finer rules-interactions and, as mentioned above, some minor formatting inconsistencies and typos - not much, mind you. But they can be found. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard for this series and the pdf comes with bookmarks. Artworks are nice and full color, as we've come to expect from master Hershey's company.

Taylor Hubler's dog-faced kobolds are a nice alternative for the default kobold-PC-race: While generally, one could conceivably blend the two and not lose too much, it's nice to see a 10+ RP variant of the kobold. The alternate racial traits are varied and fun and the subtypes similarly make sense, with none being overpowering -the base race material herein is suitable for even low fantasy campaigns - which is a good thing in my book. As in the first Astonishing Race-pdf I reviewed, I was positively surprised by the favored class options in this book.

A more mixed bag would be the archetypes and feats - both vary in potency a bit and while I like the swarming-trick as such, it also opens up a couple of issues in the math and rules-interactions: Special size modifiers, really big foes, interaction with movement forcing effects...While these instances are rare and the rules that are here are concise, I still consider that component problematic. On a plus-side, the alchemical and mundane items are flavorful and the dressing table at the end is gold.

How to rate this, then? That depends - if you're in it for the feats and archetypes, you probably will be a bit disappointed. Similarly, if you wanted a more thorough emphasis on the dog-aspect or more variety there, you may end up wanting more diverse heritages and/or more "doggy" traits and tricks. This pdf will also not blow you away with crunch innovation...but that isn't its goal in the first place.

If you were looking for a balanced take on the kobold on par with core races and a slightly different, generic, yet sufficiently distinct fluff that still feels "koboldy", then this may well be for you. All in all, I can see purchasers either considering this a 3 star or 4 star-file, depending on what they're looking for and how one weighs components. Since I really can't decide, I will settle on a verdict in the middle - 3.5 stars...and will round up due to my policy of in dubio pro reo. I can see people enjoying this book and considering it good, even though, personally, the crunch didn't blow me away.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


Part II of my review:

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - I only noticed a handful of glitches in a book of this impressive size, making this one of the most refined books you can find. Layout adheres to Pelgrane Press' superb 3-column full-color standard for Night's Black Agents and the book is chockfull with awesome full-color artwork - if there is an NPC, he or she will have a great artwork. Add to that great establishing shots and a high art-density in general and we have a gorgeous book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, while the print copy (which you *should* get) is a high-quality hardcover with glossy, thick paper - a book made to last. My copy also featured a gorgeous cardboard 1-page-sized rendition of the glorious artwork of a potential castle of Dracula.

Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, with support from Heather Albano, Paul Baldowski, Kennon Bauman, Walt Ciechenowski, Justin Farquhar, Elsa S. Henry, Carol Johnson, Marissa Kelly, Shoshana Kessock, Shawn Merwin, James Palmer, Nathan Paoletta, Will Plant, Wes Schneider, Christopher Sniezak and Paul Veccione have created a book that can only be described as a master-piece...and then, it still doesn't doe the experience of the Dracula Dossier justice.

If you read my reviews of Esoterrorists, Eyes of the Stone Thief or similar books, you'll notice a tendency: Pelgrane Press is actually becoming rapidly one of my favorite publishers. Much like these absolutely superb tomes, the Dracula Dossier can be considered to be a book that pushes the envelope by means of its depth, customization options and the vast, ridiculous array of unique options herein. Suffused by truly unique ideas and historic accuracy, a humbling amount of unique details and more material than you can shake a stick at, the Dracula Dossier as a whole is an experience that not only ranks among my favorites in my whole reviewer-career, it is also simply superb in just about every way. Its careful research and level of detail, its interaction with Dracula Unredacted - both conspire to basically render this book a nigh unprecedented experience: The fact that Dracula Unredacted generates a real-world experience supported by research undertaken by players enhances the immersion in unprecedented ways. Better yet, this colossal tome's genius organization renders actually running the campaign a feasible task, even for directors that are new to the GUMSHOE-rules-set: The tie-ins with the Zalozhniy Quartet allow for easier, more structured beginnings to get used to the themes of the game, while also planting the seeds for the highly modular campaign-smörgåsbord contained within these pages.

This book cannot only be considered to be excellence in game-design, it is also educational and pretty much the pinnacle of careful, deliberate and capable research. I honestly sat down with my own copy of Dracula and compared texts. I did research...and ended up being more impressed rather than less by the attention to detail and care that went into this book. Note that most texts, whether academic or otherwise, tend to elicit the opposite response from me.

This is, pretty much, a system-seller experience unlike any other you may have encountered during your experiences with investigative RPGs. It's, in one sentence, a milestone for our hobby as a whole. Obviously, my rating cannot be anything but a full 5 stars + seal of approval for this masterpiece. And yes, this is obviously a candidate for my Top Ten of this year; in fact, it is a hot contender for the number 1 spot! Seriously - even if you aren't interested in Night's Black Agent's - at least get the Dracula Unredacted book...though, if my prediction holds up, that book will make you get this Director's Handbook as well. They are simply too good to pass up. And yes, I hope I'll be able to review more of these absolutely superb GUMSHOE-books in the future!

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.cm, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, Lou Agresta's RPGaggression, rpg.net and amazon.com.

Endzeitgeist out.


Part II of my review:

Which brings me full circle to this book - this is literature, yes. This is the original Dracula...but it is more. The premise of this book is deceptively simple: Dracula is real, there was a conspiracy, things went horribly wrong. Now the original file has fallen into your hands - with annotations by no less than three generations of agents fighting the vampiric conspiracy...or are they? Dracula has always existed in the fringes, in the haze; the demarcation line between light and day, passion and control, norms and rebellion - and now, once again, his narrative is put into the context of a new age, a new medium that is, much like Dracula, at the same time an old medium: This is a gaming supplement and it is literature. It is a fusion of the old and new, of nostalgia framed by no less than 3 meta-narratives - whose intrusion into the text is handled surprisingly smart. In color-coded hand-written notes and annotations, they tend to ultimately crop up in the filler-scenes, remark upon small, seemingly unremarkable details...and add whole new meaning and ultimately, terror to the book. When one can see the inevitable happy end approaching, one knows that it's, in fact, not the end - and we get to know why.

One of the achievements of the annotations and new content is that they take the small bits and pieces and point them out to the readers; Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan did their research: Did you know that the first, Icelandic edition (Makt Myrkranna - Sagan af Drakúla greifa) of this book has a preface that mentions Jack the Ripper? Well, I did, but only because I studied both Icelandic and English literature extensively. Well, this book is full of such interesting tidbits...and the sheer fact that the original Dracula and his behaviors have become alien to our sensibilities, that he, indeed at this point is different from our expectations of what Dracula is, makes reading this book intriguing to say the least. But what about the clash of narrative voices? I actually indulged in a little experiment and handed this book to a friend of mine who had not read the original Dracula - and guess what? She was flabbergasted when she realized that this was not all penned by Mr. Stoker - Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan have mastered the peculiarities of Stoker's style and vocabulary to the dot and, as a whole, this rendered "re-reading" Dracula actually a fulfilling experience, in spite of my excellent memory..

How good is my memory? Well, unless I have to look up a particular wording, I do not read any books twice. I can still recall the plots of movies, books, comics...the whole shebang I have consumed. My memory, at least for the purpose of retaining this type of information, seems to be quite pronounced. This means I basically remembered the whole original book. I still had more than just a bit of fun - the 3 meta-narratives and their epochs that are reflected in verbiage and in how they interact, lend a whole new dimension to an already inspired, intriguing book and the new bits and pieces integrate so seamlessly into the overarcing structure, they actually enhance the plot rather than just stretching it - this is, in fact, a better piece of literature than the original.

We are gamers. We are roleplayers. This is literature and, at the same time, the most massive hand-out I have ever held in my hands. So go out there, get this book, preferably in print - and when your investigators or agents or simply bibliophile players find a strange unredacted file, just hand them this book. It's perhaps the most awesome set-up for a campaign you can wish for, a huge, immersive facilitator of play, a book that they can analyze, engage and pick apart - this is a gaming supplement, exceedingly educational for players and GMs alike and a glorious supplement beyond the confines of Night's Black Agents, though, obviously playing The Dracula Dossier will amplify the experience beyond belief. By the way - those strange notes spread throughout the text? Those numbers? They are here for a reason, but since that reason is relevant to the gaming aspect and not necessarily required for the enjoyment of this book, I'll cover them in the second part of this review - the one on the game mechanics book, the Director's Handbook.

For now, let me express my gratitude for reading my rambling analysis of this wonderful supplement...and then go. Get this.

I'm old-school, I'd suggest the bound hardcover I used when writing this. But the pdf has also its glorious charm: Why? Because it's a glorious handout as well - you can *tease* this book...perhaps the PCs find some pages with one annotation type...and others that have another: You see, the pdf is layered and allows you to turn on and off the annotations of the respective agents and even the text. Hand them a white paper with only some cryptic annotations and watch agents trying to find the obscure means of making the text reappear. Yes - this is awesome from both an in-game and out-game point of view, exceedingly ambitious and a sheer joy to read and digest - a Dracula for our age. Now go ahead and weave your story with this, read a tale both old and new, literature that is a game in its experience and in its nature as a supplement. You won't regret it.

My final verdict, obviously, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and though this was released last year, I only managed to read an analyze it now - hence it is nominated as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Get this and read Dracula like you've never read or experienced the yarn before.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek, GMS magazine and rpg.net and posted here and on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf depicting pistols for 5e clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page almost blank (only a small part of a sentence is on it, so I'm counting it as blank), leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the general gun rules herein: Basically, on a 1 on an attack roll, a weapon jams and can't be used until you spend an action to clear it. Guns as portrayed here have a rate of fire - a single shot is just that. A burst of fire consumes 3 rounds of ammo, but adds +1 damage die to the damage output of the weapon - 2d6 become 3d6, for example. This increased power, however, also means that the weapon can jam on a 1-2. Finally, there would be full auto fire, which allows you to target a single 10-ft. cube within long range: Every creature in the area must succeed a Dexterity saving throw (DC 8+ your Dexterity modifier, + proficiency bonus, if any) or suffer the weapon's damage on a failed save, none on a successful save. Creatures beyond the normal range have advantage on the save, which mathematically and logic-wise makes sense. Saves in 5e are pretty swingy and advantage somewhat alleviates this. Auto fire consumes 10 rounds of ammo and most weapons cannot perform more than one such shot, even if you otherwise would be capable of attacking multiple times. Auto also can jam the weapon on a 1-3.

Additionally, every weapon has an ammo score, which denotes the number of pieces of ammo it can hold before requiring reloading, which consumes an action. Guns can prematurely be reloaded. The pricing for the ammo is pretty pricey, btw. - the least expensive bullets, for .38-guns, costs 30 gp per 50 bullets, which renders this ammunition significantly more expensive than e.g. crossbow bolts or arrows (1 gp net you 20 of those, in case you need a direct comparison). The revised edition now clearly states that gun ammo cannot be retrieved - good!

The pdf then goes on to depict the classic guns - a total of 7 such guns are depicted, all with a nice bit of in-character prose by Zane Ironheart, dwarven mercenary. Since the gun-rules obviously are a tad bit more complicated than the base weapon rules, each of the weapons gets a short mini table listing its respective quality, making presentation of autoloader, combat magnum, etc. pretty concise. And better yet - there also is a classic at a glance table in the PHB's style. No complaints! Most guns depicted here are simple ranged weapons that range in damage from 2d4 to 2d6, but vary in the details: Autoloaders are light weapons, whereas hand cannons do not suffer from malfunctions and allow you to move only up to half your speed while reloading...but these get the option to reroll the lowest damage die and keep the new result. Mini-shottys get +1 to attack rolls versus foes up to 10 feet away, but deal only half damage at close range. To make up for that, their scattershot also allows you to make bonus attacks against a creature within 5 ft. of the original target when scoring a 15-20; on the downside, this goes both ways and, when botching, you can similarly be forced to make attacks versus allies - friendly fire. One important balancing factor here would also be Heavy Recoil - the more efficient of these weapons have a minimum Strength score - not meeting this score means you'll suffer disadvantage on attack rolls. OUCH. Cool, btw.: It makes a difference for the purposes of this drawback whether you one-hand or two-hand-wield the gun.

So what do the martial guns provide? Well, for one, the machine gun gets burst fire and full auto, even if the other traits aren't that impressive and the one-shot express...shoots basically one round and then is toast...so make it count. So that would be the basic framework.

After this, the pdf goes on to depict "the exotic stuff" - i.e. a collection of diverse magic guns - interestingly, not just sporting a general scarcity, but also providing a more fine-grained value, which is a nice touch for control-freak bastard GMs like me. Now the respective items run quite a broad gamut: There would be an autoloader that allows you to mark a foe as a bonus action, gaining +2 to attack and damage rolls versus said foe, whereas a mini-shotty deals +1d4 damage on a damage die roll of 4 - and now, the previously ambiguous wording has been cleaned up. Better sniping can be achieved via the aptly-named Bullseye. The one-shot express cannibal-gun can be enhanced by sacrificing life to it, while another gun fires corrosive bullets that have a chance of ruining a target's armor...which is pretty interesting, particularly considering that the pdf manages to take natural armor healing into account and now also includes a note on interaction with magic - once again, great work cleaning that one up and yes, this *does* include notes on interaction with resistance/immunity!

Increased ammo-expenditure for increased damage can be found as well. A very powerful weapon, Deadly Scanner, is pretty nasty - it's threat range for critical hits increases by +1 for each subsequent shot fired at a target, whether it hits or misses...and the gun deals bonus damage on crits. Lightning-laced six-shooters that can stun the target - resistance and immunity do feature herein and the effect now is properly balanced!

One of the most visually stunning guns now also works perfectly - a magnum that deals bonus lightning damage and has a chance to spawn single-target arcs of electricity - the Electrifying Cueball. And no, I can't misread that one any more- it's proper and precise. Kudos!

The fire gun now allows for a save to avoid being ignited by the shot and the cold gun can paralyze you, all while taking defenses into account. Pretty cool: There is a MIB-style thunder-damage causing legendary autoloader that has enormous recoil, while the Lucky Punk is an obvious nod to Dirty Harry - any roll of 5+ does not consume any ammo...which is pretty powerful, considering the high costs of ammo. A nod to Judge Dredd can also gbe found within these pages alongside charge-based, life-leeching gun...there are quite some solid ideas here. The bolter than can inject microexplosives into targets now also features a properly cleaned up entry and can now stand as an epitome of the most awesome guns in this book.

The pdf also sports two new feats, Guns Akimbo and Pistol Expert. While nice, the former does not account for potential heavy firearms a GM may devise, which is a bit of a pity. Pistol Expert allows, among other things to reduce recoil and reroll 1s of damage dice AND increases the reload action economy penalty, which may be a bit much for one feat. The pdf also allows for a double tap fighting style and provides the gunslinger martial archetype for the fighter, which generally can be considered a cool take on the tropes - at 15th level, you can e.g. do the Lucky Luke and take reactions to ranged attacks before the triggering ranged attack is resolved. The interesting thing of this one, mainly, is that it allows for extra control regarding attacks via luck and a bit of ability control, providing some serious bonus attack combo potential - whether you like or dislike that ultimately is up to taste.

Conclusion:

The editing and formatting of the revised edition are cleaned up and significantly smoother on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As a minor nitpick, one page is almost empty - that does not feature in the final verdict, but in case you're particular about that kind of stuff

Georgios Chatzipetros of One Dwarf Army's freshman offering is much tighter than I honestly expected it to be: The basic firearm rules follow the time-honored tradition of power at a price, with ample subsets of rules to make them feel different from crossbows etc. I like the frame and the pricing is also pretty tight, with none of the clutter/issues that other systems have. The focus lies very much on MOAR damage - to the point where you can outclass all other weapon types easily. This may be an issue in mixed settings, so beware of that - a focus on more utility, less damage escalation via exploding dice-like mechanics may be prudent. And mind you, I *like* exploding dice. I'll never forget a PC of mine blowing a BBEG's head clean off with 5 consecutive maximum d10s on a musket in a previous edition, thus saving the whole group from a TPK...but in view of the small die-sizes employed, you'll statistically get quite a bunch of rerolls/bonus damage. How and whether that still works in the context of later installments, where auto- and burst fire are more common...we'll see.

More important than that, though, would be the simple fact that the author took the time to clean up and vastly improve the weaknesses in the previous iteration of this pdf, replacing minor glitches with pure awesomeness and, in many cases, juggling relatively complex concepts. The revised version has thus earned a rating-upgrade - this is now a 5 star-purchase, well worth the more than fair asking price!

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


Reviewed first in endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 57 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introductory prose and a short history on alcohol, we begin this pdf with a chapter that is aptly named "How to get drunk" -and if you've taken a look at the GMG, you'll know that the rules leave something to be desired there - hence, this pdf codifies drinks in sizes - basically, from shot to huge kegs, you get the respective number of shots contained. Much like Raging Swan Press' excellent Barroom Brawls, this pdf focuses on stages of inebriation - but with a different emphasis. Where RSP's booklet took a look at the slightly inebriated states, this one takes a closer look at truly plastered conditions, providing 3 additional grades of being utterly drunk. But wait, you say - there is a difference in potency! Well, yeah, and the pdf accounts for that and the pdf also presents guidelines for intoxication of creatures of unusual size - getting Colossal creatures drunk is hard...

The pdf also sports rules for hangovers (=fatigued), but provides no guidelines for the duration of such a handover, which is a bit disappointing. Oh well, the next component of the pdf is interesting in its details - we cover drinks, a lot of them. Each drink sports a source, a suggested supporting geography/culture, a cost, the serving size usually employed and a brewing DC to make the drink. The respective drinks feature proper elaborations and cover favorites of mine like Absinthe (Goth-cliché checked off!) and goes on to cover cordial, dandelion wine, mead, mezcal or various sorts of beer, the section is rather nice. As a born and bred Franconian, I could have used notes on more diverse beers, but then again, I'm a huge beer and whiskey snob...so no surprise there. ;P

Pretty cool, btw. - the pdf also covers a wide array of mixed drinks, with e.g. xorn vomit being a mixture of absinthe and brandy. I may be a bit odd - but precise measurements for the ingredients would have been fun to me...perhaps since, once in a while, when my PCs gather in a bar, we actually drink as players. The pdf also sports signature drinks - like my beloved doppelbock, dwarven stouts, hammermine porter, hobgoblin haggruh, melonmashs or yam beer - and that was only a very small look at the selection of beers! Mead types, wines and odd distilled drinks come in similarly detailed selections, providing a wide variety of cool subtypes, though these specialties sport no crunchy information.

Then again, we're talking about drinking in a fantastic context -as such, magical drinks make sense and are provided. Each such drink sports a drink type, serving size, cost as well as a description and a note on popular brands - one star denoting 80% of list price, two and three stars = 100% list price and higher star ratings meaning that the drinks will be more expensive. Here's the interesting thing, though: All fantastic drinks require Fort-saves - failing them nets the drinker the side effects noted for the respective duration instead of getting the benefits. The drinks also have a compounding line, which denotes the amount of times a character can benefit from the respective drink in a given 24 hour period. Oh, there is one thing I should note pertaining the side effects - they are kinda hilarious in some instances - when you drink, for example, cat fat tonic, it has a sequence of 6 failure - upon each failure, you permanently take on more feline features like whiskers or a cat's tail. You wake up after a long night of boozing in a back alley. Suddenly you look like a catfolk. WTF has happened??? *That* does sound like a cool module to me! That being said, at the same time, this rare type of elixir can also be cheesed - its benefits are "Character gains a +1 towards Move Silently, Hide and Balance checks" - which is not proper rules language. Unfortunately, this does extend to a couple of the drinks herein. At the same time, it should be noted, however, that the drinks themselves make interesting suggestions regarding the effects - consuming a particular spirit can e.g. help you not be hampered by the miss chances of displacer beasts. While I really want to like these drinks, there is one rather glaring hiccup herein - all but 2 of the drinks lack the note on how long their benefits actually last. They lack the benefit duration-line. Basically, compounding this with the lack of bonus types etc., this makes the whole section not that useful, which is a pity.

Magical brews, then, as opposed to the former category, are somewhat more streamlined - the rules-language are significantly more precise and their formatting adheres closer to being uncommon potions: Bitter basilisk Ale lets you spit lancets of flame. That being said, the activation option of spitting the gouts of flame here is missing. That being said, this is still a rather cool selection -and yes, wine of sex shifting included.

All right, beyond all those drinks, this pdf also covers inns and taverns of different sizes and qualities, with a handy price-list , patron-maximums, costs to purchase, initial stock provided etc. Pretty cool, in case you're looking for quick and dirty tavern management rules - by type and size, you get a nice daily spending vs. daily earnings table that can streamline day-to-day business to a single roll. Similarly, inns also receive this thoroughly detailed take. The final section of this pdf sports something most of us will have encountered at least once - the random drinking buddy/type of drunk - a total of 16 such archetypes, from the antisocialite to the bragger or spendthrift can be found within these pages, allowing GMs to quickly whip out a personality trait for the respective NPC, with quite a few of these traits also sporting rules for resisting their quirks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are ok, but not perfect - there are quite a bunch of formatting hiccups and typos in here and rules-language oscillates between being precise and opaque as well. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full color standard and the pdf sports numerous neat full-color artworks -as often with fat Goblin Games, this is a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Rick Hershey, master of Fat Goblin Games, is perhaps most known for his prolific output of unique artwork, but it is evident that he also knows how to design some intriguing game mechanics. I honestly didn't know what to expect from this book, so here's the deal - this is, in essence, a kind of Call to Arms-type of book for drinks and taverns: You get the level of detail the simulationalists among you will adore as well as a couple of rules-plug-ins one can easily use to supplement the game. I particularly liked the streamlined inn/tavern rules. I also really liked the level of detail regarding specialties, but wished they had a bit more details regarding their crafting. Similarly, I really enjoy the risk/reward type of magical alcohol.

I *really* like a lot of the components in this book, but when the rules-language is flawed in some of the components, it simply made my heart drop a bit. You see, I'd like to unanimously recommend this one, but ultimately can only do so to an extent -if, as a GM, you're willing to take care of the rough edges and like the ultra-detailed approach, then I'm pretty confident you'll enjoy this book. As a general dressing/consideration-book, this certainly is a feasible addition to one's arsenal, if not a perfect one - and while I want to round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, I ultimately can't - hence, for the purpose of this platform, we'll arrive at 3 stars, but with the express caveat that this book can be a pretty inspired resource for certain groups.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf depicting pistols for 5e clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page almost blank (only a small part of a sentence is on it, so I'm counting it as blank), leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the general gun rules herein: Basically, on a 1 on an attack roll, a weapon jams and can't be used until you spend an action to clear it. Guns as portrayed here have a rate of fire - a single shot is just that. A burst of fire consumes 3 rounds of ammo, but adds +1 damage die to the damage output of the weapon - 2d6 become 3d6, for example. This increased power, however, also means that the weapon can jam on a 1-2. Finally, there would be full auto fire, which allows you to target a single 10-ft. cube within long range: Every creature in the area must succeed a Dexterity saving throw (DC 8+ your Dexterity modifier, + proficiency bonus, if any) or suffer the weapon's damage on a failed save, none on a successful save. Creatures beyond the normal range have advantage on the save, which mathematically and logic-wise makes sense. Saves in 5e are pretty swingy and advantage somewhat alleviates this. Auto fire consumes 10 rounds of ammo and most weapons cannot perform more than one such shot, even if you otherwise would be capable of attacking multiple times. Auto also can jam the weapon on a 1-3.

Additionally, every weapon has an ammo score, which denotes the number of pieces of ammo it can hold before requiring reloading, which consumes an action. Guns can prematurely be reloaded. The pricing for the ammo is pretty pricey, btw. - the least expensive bullets, for .38-guns, costs 30 gp per 50 bullets, which renders this ammunition significantly more expensive than e.g. crossbow bolts or arrows (1 gp nets you 20 of those, in case you need a direct comparison). One minor nitpick that won't feature in the rating of this product: While the PHB states that half the ammo fired can be retrieved after a battle, this obviously shouldn't hold true for gun ammunition. It would have behooved the pdf well to mention that, but since logic is a pretty smooth guideline here, I'll let that one slip.

The pdf then goes on to depict the classic guns - a total of 7 such guns are depicted, all with a nice bit of in-character prose by Zane Ironheart, dwarven mercenary. Since the gun-rules obviously are a tad bit more complicated than the base weapon rules, each of the weapons gets a short mini table listing its respective quality, making presentation of autoloader, combat magnum, etc. pretty concise. And better yet - there also is a classic at a glance table in the PHB's style. No complaints! Most guns depicted here are simple ranged weapons that range in damage from 2d4 to 2d6, but vary in the details: Autoloaders are light weapons, whereas hand cannons do not suffer from malfunctions and allow you to move only up to half your speed while reloading...but these get the option to reroll the lowest damage die and keep the new result. Mini-shottys get +1 to attack rolls versus foes up to 10 feet away, but deal only half damage at close range. To make up for that, their scattershot also allows you to make bonus attacks against a creature within 5 ft. of the original target when scoring a 15-20; on the downside, this goes both ways and, when botching, you can similarly be forced to make attacks versus allies - friendly fire. One important balancing factor here would also be Heavy Recoil - the more efficient of these weapons have a minimum Strength score - not meeting this score means you'll suffer disadvantage on attack rolls. OUCH. Cool, btw.: It makes a difference for the purposes of this drawback whether you one-hand or two-hand-wield the gun.

So what do the martial guns provide? Well, for one, the machine gun gets burst fire and full auto, even if the other traits aren't that impressive and the one-shot express...shoots basically one round and then is toast...so make it count. So that would be the basic framework.

After this, the pdf goes on to depict "the exotic stuff" - i.e. a collection of diverse magic guns - interestingly, not just sporting a general scarcity, but also providing a more fine-grained value, which is a nice touch for control-freak bastard GMs like me. Now the respective items run quite a broad gamut: There would be an autoloader that allows you to mark a foe as a bonus action, gaining +2 to attack and damage rolls versus said foe, whereas a mini-shotty deals +1d4 damage on a damage die roll of 4...which requires a bit of clarification: On a 4 of the bonus damage, do the dice explode further? Better sniping via the aptly-named Bullseye. The one-shot express cannibal-gun can be enhanced by sacrificing life to it, while another gun fires corrosive bullets that have a chance of ruining a target's armor...which is pretty interesting, particularly considering that the pdf manages to take natural armor healing into account...which heals at 2 points per day....which does not really gel well with me. Why can't magic, regeneration and similar abilities heal this properly? More details and a more fine-grained approach would have been prudent here. Also problematic - the ability fails to take resistance or immunity into account - neither has any bearing on the corrosion of natural armor, which feels plain wrong to me.

Increased ammo-expenditure for increased damage can be found as well. A very powerful weapon, Deadly Scanner, is pretty nasty - it's threat range for critical hits increases by +1 for each subsequent shot fired at a target, whether it hits or misses...and the gun deals bonus damage on crits. Lightning-laced six-shooters that can stun the target - on a plus-side, fyi: In contrast to aforementioned acid-based gun, resistance and immunity do feature herein, even though I consider the potential stun nasty.

However, I'm not sold on a weapon with otherwise great visuals - there is a magnum herein that deals bonus lightning damage. For each 6 on rolled on one such damage-die, a lightning bolt is created and fired at a target within 50 feet of the victim. Cool per se, right? Great image? Yep, but the effect fails to specify the precise shape of the lightning bolt: Is it a single-target-arc? A line that affects anything in the way? I have no idea. I assume the ability to adhere to the standards set by the lightning bolt-spell, but I can't be sure considering that the pdf does not properly denote whether "lightning bolt" refers to the spell or just a bolt of lightning via either formatting or text.

The fire gun allows for no save to avoid being ignited by the shot (what happens to flammable materials carried?) and the cold gun can paralyze you. Pretty cool: There is a MIB-style thunder-damage causing legendary autoloader that has enormous recoil, while the Lucky Punk is an obvious nod to Dirty Harry - any roll of 5+ does not consume any ammo...which is pretty powerful, considering the high costs of ammo. A charge-based, life-leeching gun...there are quite some solid ideas here. A particular gun may be problematic - allowing for charges to generate basically remote bombs you can detonate is cool...but the charges can be activated as either an action or reaction, sans specifying the type of reaction. On a nitpicky side, the pdf mentions a "Heal check" here to remove charges, which is not correct 5e terminology.

The pdf also sports two new feats, Guns Akimbo and Pistol Expert. While nice, the former does not account for potential heavy firearms a GM may devise, which is a bit of a pity. Pistol Expert allows, among other things to reduce recoil and reroll1s of damage dice AND increases the reload action economy penalty, which may be a bit much for one feat. The pdf also allows for a double tap fighting style and provides the gunslinger martial archetype for the fighter, which generally can be considered a cool take on the tropes - at 15th level, you can e.g. do the Lucky Luke and take reactions to ranged attacks before the triggering ranged attack is resolved. The interesting thing of this one, mainly, is that it allows for extra control regarding attacks via luck and a bit of ability control, providing some serious bonus attack combo potential - whether you like or dislike that ultimately is up to taste.

Conclusion:

Editing is pretty tight on both a formal and rules-level, though formatting sports some deviations from the standards - though it should be mentioned that one generally can understand what an item is supposed to do. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked fr your convenience.

Georgios Chatzipetros of One Dwarf Army's freshman offering is much tighter than I honestly expected it to be: The basic firearm rules follow the time-honored tradition of power at a price, with ample subsets of rules to make them feel different from crossbows etc. I like the frame and the pricing is also pretty tight, with none of the clutter/issues that other systems have. That being said, at the same time, I do believe that several of the magic weapons could have used simply tighter rules. There are a couple of glitches here and the focus lies very much on MOAR damage - to the point where you can outclass all other weapon types easily. This may be an issue in mixed settings, so beware of that - a focus on more utility, less damage escalation via exploding dice-like mechanics may be prudent. And mind you, I *like* exploding dice. I'll never forget a PC of mine blowing a moss's head clean off with 5 consecutive maximum d10s on a musket in a previous edition, thus saving the whole group from a TPK...but in view of the small die-sizes employed, you'll statistically get quite a bunch of rerolls/bonus damage. How and whether that still works in the context of later installments, where auto- and burst fire are more common...we'll see.

For now, the framework is solid, the craftsmanship nice, if not yet perfect...and the price-point is more than fair. As a freshman offering, this is solid for a buck and due to this bonus, I'll round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 96 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial,2 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 89 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved forward in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

This pdf does not waste any time, beginning almost immediately by depicting a new base class for your perusal, which, what else could it be, would be the chef. The chef base class, chassis-wise, gets d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves as well as proficiency with simple weapons and light armor and shields. They may also use all kitchen-utensils as improvised weapons sans penalties, with some samples given - tenderizers work like light maces, woks make for shields, etc. As a nitpick, since this probably was not intended, considering the proficiencies: The class RAW gets proficiency with tower shields since it lacks the exclusion caveat for this item class.

Chefs add their class level to Profession (Cook) and may always take 10 on their check. Additionally, they may earn check result gold instead of half that amount, with higher levels increasing that further - including freebies in proper restaurants and later even potentially titles, with 20th level allowing them to cook for a god's discerning palate - potentially resulting in granted wishes or miracles. The spells are not italicized correctly in the text.

At 1st level, chefs may prepare special meals - these meals grant all characters participating in their consumption one of several benefits of the chef's choice, +1 such benefit at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Here, we do have some issues in the mechanical details of the class. For one, the ability is supernatural - which is nice. But the benefits are extraordinary, which, to me, makes more sense. Why can't a chef prepare such a meal in a magic-dead environment? More significant: there are 6 such benefits...which means all of them are covered at 13th level...but here's the issue: The rules-language of the benefits is flawed. to say the least. While e.g. "+5 temp hp" makes me cringe, it's functional. More problematic: With the exception of one bonus-granting ability, the bonuses conferred are morale bonuses. You know, the bonuses that are the most common ones? The ones where only the highest one applies? Here is where the clusterf*** begins: "All bonuses stack and are extraordinary in nature." Okay, so these stack with themselves...but they also stack with other morale bonuses? This is needlessly confusing, potentially a source of a lot of GM-confusion and frankly unnecessary. The ability should also note that one benefit can be chosen multiple times, which it doesn't - meaning that RAW, you run out of things to choose at 13th level. That being said, on a lighter side, the class does have a nice caveat that prevents multiple chefs from stacking benefits via multiple meals.

Also starting at 1st level, chefs may prepare snacks - these act like potions brewed with Brew Potion, but utilize Profession (Cook) as governing skill. Here is where things get problematic fast: Chefs have a recipe book for them, begin with "3+Wis bonus" (that should be 3 + Wisdom modifier) recipes...drawn from ANY spellcasting list. Yes, this means these guys can, very quickly, prepare all those nifty paladin, ranger, etc. spells. A restriction of spell-lists imho would have helped here. Another issue: The Brew Potion FEAT requires 3rd level CL as a prerequisite; the pdf ought to refer to the alchemist's Brew Potion extraordinary ability instead - RAW, the chef can't create a single snack or at least has an issue as far as CL is concerned. The ability does specify that new snacks are learned as per the rules of formulae, but unfortunately, the brewing component is not included in that one. Now I know, I know - I'm a nitpicky prick. One can sort of understand how this is *supposed* to work...but fact is, RAW, it doesn't. Which is painful to me, since the class has a pretty cool idea with "fresh snacks" - 1/10th the cost, but an expiration date of 24 hours and a significantly decreased time to prepare - only 1 hour. This ability may be good scavenging material! Also at 1st level, chefs get fire and cold resistance 4, +2 every level, until 20th level turns that into immunity - and the benefits of these resistances stack with other resistances.

Starting at 3rd level, the chef can make a melee touch attack against metallic objects to alter temperature, potentially dealing +2d4 fire or cold damage as well ashaving a utility use to keep armor warm (or cool) as a swift action- sounds cool, right? It is! But the rules-language once again lacks precision "This ability can be applied to up to a number of objects equal to 1 + 1 "per point of Wisdom bonus" *cringes at rules-language*. Okay, I'll play - does that mean the ability can be used 1+Wisdom modifier times per day? I assume no and that it instead can be applied an indefinite amount of times, with the cap denoting parallel uses, since duration is indefinite. The utility use can protect from "inclement heat or cold" - specify! There are different degrees of cold and heat weather hazards! The ability further specifies that it can cause "armor to deal the listed damage to any foe striking the wearer with a natural attack or unarmed strike."...Does that mean that the wearer of the armor thus heated/cooled down also takes the damage? The damage increases by +1d4 at 5th level and every 2 levels thereafter...and reads "the chef may choose to deal an additional 1d4 fire or cold damage with this ability." Does that mean you have to choose either fire or cold to get the damage-boost on a given level? Or does the "or" here mean that both damage types are increased. No idea. Worse: The ability is OP: It can be maintained at will, so touch an armored foe, teleport away...the guy will die. Armor takes a LONG time to take off. It's the cadre of knight-assassinating chefs, I guess...*sigh*

Starting at 2nd level and every other level thereafter, the chef gains access to culinary arts, the talents of the class - and they generally are interesting: Meals that grant bonuses to Intelligence or Wisdom and being able to instead have a result of class level instead of what you rolled on a Knowledge check. Also cool: Caliente lets you fling blinding/scent-negating spices as a ranged touch attack - that provides no immediate save, but allows a creature to take a move action to rub the spices away (Fortitude-save versus DC 10+ 1/2 chef level + chef's Wisdom modifier) and the pdf also extends the benefit-options of meals to fire and cold resistances. Other such options grant skill bonuses (and yes, skills are not properly capitalized) or..."+1 fast healing when below 1/2 of full hp." Okay, does "full hp" include temporary hit points? Why is there no cap for the fast healing provided? How does it interact with natural healing? If you e.g. eat a meal and rest, is natural healing added after reaching the 1/2 maximum HP? No idea. Also, in case you have not noted - this is infinite healing. Limited infinite healing, but infinite healing nonetheless, which disqualifies this class for grittier rounds for which the class seems to be otherwise geared. Also interesting - you need a feat to have the meal of the chef count as something to postpone the effects of starvation...which is extremely counterintuitive and not noted in the base ability. Btw.: If a talent has prerequisites, that also does not conform to how such prerequisites are usually presented for class talents, instead sporting a feat-like prerequisite note in the beginning.

Balance also is a bit wonky with some: Evil chefs may add HD of a dragon, humanoid, fey or monstrous humanoids or class levels to make better meals that provide +1 benefit per 5 HD/class levels of the creature eaten - which is per se cool, but how long do such creatures last? Could a chef pickle meat of a powerful dragon? If so, how much? Another issue: The base talent specifies that only creatures with an Int below 2 can be cooked, a restriction that should be RAW alleviated by the follow-up talent. Delayed poisons, immunity to fear or poison and diseases...there are quite a few such immunities granted to the chef. Granting Extra +X feats via meals and making class specific meals for allies is smart - here, for once, let me express being pretty impressed by the craftsmanship of the rules. I also enjoyed the talent that lets you make leshy. 20th level provides an array of different capstones -a total of 5 of them.

All in all, the chef has potential, but a lot of rough edges to file off...and it doesn't play that interesting. You prepare your snacks and they are basically all flexibility you get. You make meals...and that's pretty much it. Playing a chef is a very passive experience.

The class does feature a lot of favored class options, which generally are nice. Cooler, though: The pdf sports 6 sample recipes - and yes, I tried the dwarven pickled carrots and the tiefling scones. Nice and tasty! The pdf does sport several archetypes: Olfactory arcanist wizards are interesting: They require more expensive aromatherapy to learn spells instead of spellbooks, but may "cast the same spell again without using a spell slot" one round after casting a spell. And YES, this cannot be abused and has a caveat that prevents you from getting infinite casting loops...though the archetype does end up being VERY strong.

Hungry barbarians get less rounds of rage per day, but can prolong their rage by eating food via a standard action...or by inflicting 10+ points of damage with a bite attack. ...I have a barbarian with a bite attack in my game. He can't, EVER, NOT deal eat least 10 points of damage with a bite in range. If my barbarian had this ability, he'd run around with a bag of kittens, tear foes asunder with his claws and bite off the head of a kitten once per round for infinite rage...or until the kittens run out *sigh* Oh, and they can eat slain foes to regain rage, which is where the kitten-abuse just becomes ridiculous. Not gonna get near my table - in either the normal or Pathfinder Unchained-compatible version.

The food fighter is basically a chef/fighter crossover, while the Ale-chemist gets less bomb damage (die-size reduced by 1) and lasting splash damage and it's cool that this one has a splash-weapon abuse caveat...but at the same time, the rules-language, while pretty solid, is less precise than it should be. The archetype also can't decide whether it's alechemist or ale-chemist. Mutagens make the ale-chemist drunk and can cause nonlethal damage to creatures by pouring alcohol on weapons...cool! I really love this one, though I wished it had a tighter rules-language. Still, one that is fun and one I can see using myself.

Fruit ninjas can grow poisonous fruit...and regain ki by eating meals. *Sigh* Insert rant on eliminating the limit on a class resource. Also: At 8th level, they gain +2 damage per weapon damage roll they already made that round. Okay, does that include AoOs? I assume it does. But seriously - are shurikens and flurry of stars not nasty enough already? *sigh*

The bad apple antipaladin is interesting - they can smite regardless of alignment and teach this ability to paladins! Oh, and they can clothe foes in auras of evil, get an aura of rot, etc. - the bad apple spoils the bunch...and yes, while observing spellcasters preparing spells, they may potentially steal them. Absolutely awesome archetype, in spite of some minor hiccups in formatting. The vegetarian druid gets plant shapes and loses all animal-specific spells. The bunslinger thrown weapon specialist is pretty cool as well. The butcher chef would be the full BAB-version of the class, with hungry monks replacing flurry of blows with ever increasing, precise Vital Strikes...and yes, once again with an unchained version.

Fighting food summoners create animated creatures of food instead of an eidolon, which as such count as animated objects with increasing evolution points. And yes, once again, including an unchained version.

The pdf also introduces new feats: Calorie feats include burning of consumed meals, with uses beyond the number of meals consumed, tallying up to days of starvation. Constitution checks can be made to mitigate those days of starvation and increase DCs. While negative conditions incurred by starvation are brutal, the chances to die are rather minimal. The food-feats herein are nice, but aforementioned claorie-feats that allow for the burning of meals...are pretty damn OP. Why? BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO LIMITS. The one limit they have is "not dying due to damage" - we get CL-enhancers, attribute boosts and even more actions. 30 meals equal, for example, two full-round actions. The math is nowhere near functional regarding these feats, which is a pity, since idea-wise, I can get behind them. They'd just need stricter limits per round - as written, a creature can hold 3+Constitution modifier meals, with Large creatures holding 4 times as much and every additional size category allowing for 8 times this capacity. A single Large PC or one grown via magic by size completely breaks down any semblance of balance.

The spells in this book, on the other side, do not suffer from these issues: Linking stomachs, meal-eliminating hunger (including mythic upgrades) - no complaints here. The magic item section is also very creative - with weapons that take samples from foes for further use in spells to armor that makes you look appetizing or whisky ioun stones (erroneously called "Ion" stone in the beautiful full-color artwork), the items are creative and fun - though the formatting of aura, price and construction requirements, while complete, still violate just about EVERY formatting standard established for them. The pdf does also offer quite a lot of material for GMS - from 100 adventure hooks themed around cuisine to considerations of exotic ingredients, the importance of trade and food and the like, these chapters did indeed provide... wait for it...food for thought! HA! ...Sorry, I'll hit myself later for that. What I'm trying to say is: This chapter does offer several cool ideas for GMs. Kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a two-edged sword: On a formal level, both are pretty great, particularly for a new publisher. Rules-language and particularly its formatting is one of the worst components of the pdf. If there is any component of rules-formatting, chances are the pdf will break it - spells are not italicized, Attributes not capitalized, etc. This would be fine and dandy and cosmetic...but such standards exist for a reason - they prevent glitches and issues. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color standard that champions a 1-column standard. While I'm not a big fan of 1-column-standards, it works here. Btw.: This book sports a lot of gorgeous full-color artworks and comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Gregory Ducker's freshman offering is generally a perfect example for a freshman offering that sports all the makings of a talented and artful designer...but also all the pitfalls. The pdf, in many cases, manages to get complex rules-operations right...kind of. At the same time, its rules-language often downright fails to adhere to the established standards, making quite a few components needlessly opaque or harder to grasp than they should be. From information of base abilities hidden in optional talents to rules being spread out, the pdf is not didactically well-constructed. Similarly, there are quite a bunch of balance-concerns and violations of the finer, implicit conventions that make up crucial balancing mechanisms of Pathfinder. And frankly, these accumulate.

I'm a HUGE fan of the concept of fantasy cooking and the recipes included are pretty cool; similarly, this pdf does show care, passion and that it certainly was created by someone who deeply cared about the subject matter - this book has soul. I just wished it had a proper balancing editor, a more active base class and an editor familiar with the peculiarities of PFRPG's rules-language. Why? Because this book gets almost everything almost right. Almost. De facto, all class features of the chef have at least one issue in the rules-language, even when ignoring formatting deviations. And then there is simply the problem that size-increases blow the whole meal/consumption mechanics completely to smithereens.

So...mechanically, this requires A LOT of careful work by a capable GM to work properly. And honestly, even taking the significant array of cool ideas and fluff into account, I'd usually round down for this one...but since this is a freshman offering, it gets the benefit of the doubt: I will round up from my final verdict of 2.5 stars to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

To close with something positive: This book shows a lot of promise and I certainly hope that the author will continue to hone his craftsmanship. There is potential here.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive pdf clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 42 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, at this point it's not a big secret that I'm not the biggest fan of 13th Age's vanilla icons - while recent installments of 13th Age Monthly and similar supplements have added dimensions to some of them, I still consider them to be a bit too archetypical. Similarly, the rather freeform approach to icons can be challenging for a GM, which is why this pdf provides pretty much a rather simple, yet more streamlined and concise nomenclature regarding icons and the interaction with them.

A proxy, for example, would be an NPC that serves as a reliable intermediary/liaison between PCs and icon, meaning that your low level PCs don't always get to hassle their icon, diminishing the effectiveness of actually interacting with them. An investment is a gift, an object or piece of information that provides a permanent advantage in the grand scheme of things, while an event would be a single occurrence that fits the theme of the respective icon. Similarly, the pdf provides the term of "thematic adjustment", which means that the GM reskins a given area to fit more closely with the themes of the respective icons.

As a nice nod to one of the cooler aspects of Rite Publishing's conversion of the superb Breaking of Forstor Nagar-module, the pdf also provides dead simple, elegant basic rules for hazardous terrain/attacks by the terrain. Two thumbs up!

Now before I get into the nit and grit of the respective icons featured within these pages, I'd be grossly negligent to mention an aspect that may well enhance your 13th Age GMing prowess, particularly if you are a relatively new GM - the rather handy step-by-step break-down and explanation of Relationship Dice and how to handle icons in the game. This section is VERY detailed and, particularly for GMs that aren't as good at improvising, pure gold - with advice on staging events, balance-considerations regarding aforementioned investments and thematic adjustments, it is a handy section to have, though one more experienced GMs won't require.

Now I mentioned new icons, so what's their schtick? Well, basically, the 6 new icons herein are based on 6 cards of Tarot's major arcana, with the first, the Fool being reimagined as the adventurer. (And yes, dear fans of the Persona-franchise, I'm thinking the same thing here and really want to expand that aspect...) The general presentation of the respective icons in this supplement sport information regarding heroic, ambiguous and villainous adventurers and d8 themes that can be mixed with the following to provide contexts relevant for the icon. Each of the icons sports a d6-table for proxies, events and investments that can be blended with the aforementioned leitmotif. Each of these d6-tables sports negative spins for the respective entries.

Based on the reversed fool, the revolutionary would be the next icon - where the adventurer is happy-go-lucky and all about the challenges in a given moment, the revolutionary is methodical and exists to take a stand - particularly in the regular 13th Age context with its plethora of established icons, this guys makes for an interesting addition as a more methodical wildcard. The order, in contrast, based on the Emperor-card, is, as the card shows, perhaps the most redundant of these - while one can envision it as a cabal that enforces the status quo, the obvious thematic overlap with the emperor icon and similar icons is apparent, though conflict between the two may make for an interesting narrative.

A similar duality can be seen with the Cult of One, based on the reversed emperor - this one is basically rooted in the belief of individual exceptionalism and can be used to spin it in a priestess-like believe in a messianic figure or twisted towards an ideology seeking to create a new species under an enlightened leadership...and history has certainly provided ample of examples how horribly wrong this type of ideology can turn out. The Monster, based on the devil arcana, would be an icon that is useful for the opposition: Brute, vile, tainting evil, this icon would be the mirthless, raving sledgehammer as opposed to the diabolist's razor or the crusader's pragmatic discipline - the icon of vile perversion, mutation and unwholesome change.

The more elegant and less overt evil icon herein, the tempter, also based on the devil arcana, could be bast summed up as the more subtle part of that, providing some overlap with the diabolist - basically, you can envision the methodology here as the devilish equivalent to the monster's demonic brute force, more Faustian than brute force.

This pdf does not stop with these icons, though: The book also sports some handy tools to add depth to the game, beginning with 10 abbreviated NPC-write-ups, several of which sport unique abilities alongside general guidelines and backgrounds as well as trappings. Beyond these, the book also sports no less than 7 sample organizations, ranging from the Fireworks, Demolishing and Quarry Blasting Company to the order of knight-hospitalers and adventurer guilds, the respective entries sport information on goals, structure, status and key areas of influence - but, as often, all may not be as it seems, which means that the GM is also presented with 6 secret agendas that include a claim for domination, being fronts for invaders from beyond and similar unpleasant, if classic twists.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard with nice, full-color artworks...though fans of Rite Publishing may have seen a couple of them before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Patryk Adamski's Book of Icons is a good read and particularly useful for less experienced GMs - anyone who has had issues with the presentation of icons in 13th Age and handling them in-game can consider this to be a useful, nice sourcebook - which is also pretty much the theme for this book: The general presentation of the new icons, NPCs etc. is overall solid, easy to grasp and well presented, providing some additional structure to the icon-rules, while retaining the flexibility championed by 13th Age. Novice GMs and those who had/expect to have issues with icons and relationship dice should consider this well worth the investment.

At the same time, while certainly not a bad book, personally, I didn't take much out of this book - as a longtime veteran GM and someone who can improvise PFRPG-statblocks and whole adventures, I had no issues adjusting to the icon-mechanics of 13th Age. The new icons presented herein, by necessity of them being setting-agnostic, felt a bit opaque to me and while I like the Tarot-idea, the restriction to only 3 cards means that the new icons on their own can't really replace a pantheon of existing icons - and, more jarringly to me, they offer quite a bit of serious thematic overlap with 13th Age's default icons - unnecessarily so, at least in my opinion. By emphasizing other aspects of e.g. the tempter or the order, they could have been made more distinct...but perhaps that's just me being spoiled and expecting something akin to what Icons of Parsantium or the Midgard icons delivered regarding facets and depth.

Please take my criticism of this book with a grain of salt, for, as mentioned above, I may simply not be the target audience - for less experienced GMs and those struggling with integrating icons, this pdf may well be a godsend, though veteran GMs get decidedly less out of this book. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform - a good offering, though one that could have done a bit more to also provide material for the veterans.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to NErdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Lucien's Guide-series for Rite Publishing's critically acclaimed Diceless system clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 16 pages of content!

This pdf, presented as an account of famous Lucien, depicts various legends and ominous tales that make their rounds among the blessed beings capable of navigating the Grand Stair - generally, the respective entries begin with a brief legend that can be encountered, to then go on and discuss the truth...or one of it, behind the respective legend. The first of these we encounter would deal with Doorghuls - the legend of mimic-like creatures, masquerading as doors, waiting to swallow hapless travelers...

The second legend herein is a more complex one and one that will bring smiles to fans of the Dark Tower - it pertains the Fall of Gilead, reimagined as an inconceivably powerful world, one possibly shut down or destroyed by the Dwimmerlaik...or...well...perhaps they have chosen isolation? Instead of King's gunslingers, the fabled champions of this iteration of Gilead were the paladins and we do get concise rules for the 57 point paladin armor as a sample relic of fabled Gilead. By the way, have you heard about the darkened doors, that seemingly can't be opened, sealed from one side or another? For what reason, none can fathom...

Know how the Grand Stair is reasonably free of detritus? Well, in the drowned expanse, this is not the case, with partially and fully submerged doors leading...somewhere. To be more precise, the realms of a once unified lizard-like people called the Notar -and these fellows, as a whole race...can NATURALLY navigate the stairs. It's not rocket science to grasp the implications of such a race existing...and lets you gulp when thinking about the progenitors that engineered them. Lucien, btw., does not believe in the Old Ones that presumably exist beyond Eidolon and Umbra.

If you've read my review of the Gossamer World detailing the ramifications of colonization by the Incursion, you'll already be familiar with some of the problematic implications of this empire - which consider the Stair foremost a logistic problem - one they are methodically solving, step by step...and sure, their empire may have collapsed...but perhaps, they are just preparing themselves to rise...this time, with magic as well.

The legend of the infinite door is dismissed pretty quickly, but the nature of dragons and their interaction with the Stair...well, let's just say it's hard to find reliable sources. Oh, btw. - there is a section of the Grand Stair called God's Passage - where doors range from 60 ft - 200 ft....and if that doesn't unnerve you, you probably are a fool...particularly since they all lead to dead worlds, burning under a red sun. The pdf also talks about the forest of doors and Old Man Cavendish, who has lived through all tragedies of the Stair. Really cool: The cupboards - think of the Grand Stair, but only for interconnected cupboards...as though for mice or similar beings...

Finally, the pdf talks about broken stairs - the hypothesis being that the Grand Stair may shed sections of it, which then tumble as separate entities through time and space, but continue operating on a smaller scale...which is narrative gold.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard with ample of high quality, glorious full-color art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Rob Donoghue's Lucien's Guide to Legends and Lies is a truly inspiring read that provides not only ample intriguing ideas and narrative potential, it also lets you ask some important questions pertaining the nature of the Grand Stair, while providing an indirect glimpse at the psychology of those that travel its expanses as a social entity. This is an inspired pdf and 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.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This FREE little supplement clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page (gorgeous) front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, so the first thing you'll notice is...well, as Uteria is an E8-setting, the ranger class depicted herein sports 8 levels. The second thing you'll notice is a modified list of ranger favored enemies...and one crucial change: Spellcasting works differently in Uteria and hence, the class gains no spellcasting progression - instead, it gains mana - based on Dexterity. Ranger with Dex<=14 get the first mana point at 5th level and can reach up to 4, while those with more than Dexterity 14 get the first mana point at 4th level, +1 every level thereafter, with 8th level providing a bump, increasing mana by +2 instead.

The spellcasting of these rangers is explained as natural talents. These require a Dex-score of 10 + talent tier to perform and save DC, if applicable, is 10 + tier level + Dex-mod. They are treated as spell-like and are used spontaneously. To regain mana, a ranger has to meditate for 1 hour and Cl is equal to ranger level -3.

Next up would be the lists of 1st tier (mana cost 1) and 2nd tier (mana cost 3) natural talents, both of which sport a new talent: the tier one ability Dazing Strike can daze foes of 4 HD or less. The talent also, oddly enough, explains the difference between being dazed and stunned, which could be considered to be somewhat confusing. The tier 2 talent, Stag's Reflexes increases AC and Perception by +2. Here, the explanation is downright incorrect, stating "...+2 Armor bonus (as a Dexterity bonus, though it does not raise the ranger's actual Dexterity)." You see, there is no "Dexterity bonus" unless you're talking about a bonus to Dexterity - there is a Dexterity modifier, which is applied to AC...and a metric ton of bonus types that could have been used here instead of this wonky wording.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, though the rules-language sports some hiccups. Layout adheres to a solid full-color two-column standard and the artwork, both the cover and the interior art, are phenomenal. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Michael Bielaczyc's take on the E8-ranger is per se interesting, if not too remarkable. I consider the Dex-based casting interesting, but rules language is ultimately not as tight as it ought to be - still, this is a FREE book and as such, it gets a bit of a leeway...and the nice artworks may make this worth for you. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to being FREE.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


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 RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

In this installment of Raging Swan Press' by now legendary series, we travel to the village of Wellswood - which is aptly-named: Situated in the midst of a gorgeous forest, the settlement sports numerous wells - both natural ones and those crafted by dwarven hands, for the settlement sports a significant dwarven population, who faithfully serves the local dour and somewhat greedy, but none too unpleasant lord Ilmari Issakainen.

The uncommon occurrence of a forest-bound dwarven clan also results in a surprising amount of fortified stone buildings jutting forth from the massive forest. While secure, the rather significant taxes imposed are not to be trifled with, though merchants and travelers won't have too much of a problem paying them. No less than three inns (all coming with information on accommodation-prices and food) are detailed within these pages, as befitting of a village under the auspice of a church of travelers - which btw. includes a brief deity-write-up. Industry-wise, the local lake with its fishing (requiring permission of the lord...which is, again, taxed) is based mostly on the massive influx of travelers passing through.

Oh, but I've failed to mention the interesting component here: You see, aforementioned lake, much like the hold of the dwarven clan, is subterranean and heavily regulated - though that does not mean that there are no means of getting down there sans the lord knowing...if you know whom to ask. Yes, the subterranean lake actually writes adventures of itself, considering the plethora of potential dangers there and the mere presence of it makes a potentially cataclysmic earthquake all the more dangerous - so yes, plenty of development options are provided here, from the local color (the village sports notes on nomenclature, clothing, magic items for sale etc.) to more massive storylines - after all, there is a reason the dwarves are here - but to know that, you'll have to travel to Wellswood yourself!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out and sports a great artwork of a fishing trip on the subterranean lake.

Creighton Broadhurst's Wellswood is a compelling settlement that manages to strike a precarious balance: On the one hand, it is a pretty pleasant place that, in itself, is not yet an adventure and the lack of a central conflict means that you don't have a streamlined narrative cut out for you. However, unlike many a supplement with such a broad focus, Wellswood still manages to retain a sense of holistic integrity, a feeling of concise options, ready to be explored at any time. From politics to potential threats, whether as just a waystation or as a new home for the PCs, the village manages to support and accommodate threats both significant and trivial. While the supplement does not achieve the highest echelons of the series, it remains an excellent book that does offer a significant, tight array of interesting options for GMs and players to explore and, more important, a tight and unique place to visit. The system-neutral version loses nothing of the brilliance that made me love the original iteration - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so what do we get?

Well, first of all, we begin, as always, with a bit of flavor-text and the history of the "bigger on the inside" idea that has accompanied mankind from Santa Claus to Doctor Who - and it shows awareness of a possible reason for the initial introduction of the classic bag of holding into the context of the games we know and love.

I feel obliged to go on a little digression: As you may have noticed, I can be a bit of a stickler for encumbrance, carrying capacity etc. - it just helps my immersion in a given game and I am very much what you'd call a simulationalist GM. I want to know where the weapons etc. are. The problem here, is, alas, that tracking a ton of items can become tedious and time-consuming...but ignoring packing, carrying capacity etc. them altogether (like many a game I witnessed do) rubs me the wrong way. Similarly, I have spent literally whole sessions of players just buying equipment for a massive wilderness trek, haggling with the merchants and the like - and I *enjoy* sessions like that...most of the time. Sometimes, I just wished the system had a means for characters to be "crazy prepared" and just draw an item from the pack...within reason. Unfortunately, most of the time, takes on the crazy-prepared mechanic simply don't work as smooth as they should. This pdf approaches this conundrum by introducing the practical pack mechanic.

The mechanic itself is dead simple: There is a chance a character has stored an item away in the practical pack, assuming the item is under a set weight and cost. Determining whether the item is stored inside is handled via an associated skill-check (or Int/Wis, if you have no ranks in the associated skill) - characters with ranks in Climb are more likely to have packed tools for climbing, for example. Now thankfully, the pdf does not leave you alone to associate skills with items: A massive table does that work for you and should you desire to extend the mechanic from the mundane and masterwork items to e.g. weapons and armor, you'll find some guidance herein as well.

Such practical packs are usually containers of some sort - and from the bandolier to saddlebags, a lot of different sample containers (including volume information) allow for more precise takes on what can potentially fit in such a container - an no, as written, specific keys to locks could not be duplicated, though lockpicks could - which is nice in my book. How does filling the pack work? Well, you determine a value and go shopping. When you draw an item ex nihilo from the pack, the item's price is detracted from the value used in shopping - unlike quite a few "crazy prepared"-takes, no chance of suddenly drawing forth odd items when finding treasure. No single object in the pack can weigh more than 1/4 of the weight of the pack and total weight cannot exceed the weight of the pack, so cheating encumbrance via these can't be done efficiently either.

How to draw items from it? Well, the skill-check is a simple DC 10 + cost in gold of the world. Less than 10 Copper means DC 10, silver is rounded up to 1 gp. Common items reduce the DC by 5; uncommon items increase base DC to 15, rare ones to DC 20. You also reduce the base DC for each factor of 10 the item is less than the value of the bag. As an example: A 40 gp alchemist's kit would be DC 50, but if the practical pack has been filled with 400 gp or more, you'd calculate 40 gp/400 gp, arriving at a DC of 14. If the value of the pack were 4K gp, you'd instead arrive at a DC of 11 - 10 base, +1 for a value exceeding 1 sp. If this sounds complicated to you at first - it really isn't; in fact, in practice, it can be done fluidly on the fly. If you botch the skill by 5 or less, a GM may allow you to draw forth a substitute, adding in degrees of success/failure - a design-notion I really enjoy!

If you require multiple items of a type and wouldn't usually carry multiples, the pdf has you covered as well, providing concise rules for that as well. Some items, like flint, a non-combat knife and similar tools are codified as always available and rechecking for similar items is also possible.

Very important: If you're one of the GMs or players who hates minutiae like this - the pdf does offer a simplified version of this system as well. They are based on bag quality (4 steps) and fit comfortable on half a page, covering all bases. Now this is accounting for table variance!

Okay, so this is where things get even more interesting: Rather than rehashing the ole' bag of holding rules, the pdf continues to develop the aforementioned rules and applies them to magic bags: There are, for example, mercane bags: You drop items in for the mercane to sell, but may, yourself, request magic items from the mercane by putting your hand inside...and yes, this easy reselling of loot is thankfully balanced via market value modifications. Two particularly nasty cursed satchels are provided as well - the bag of devouring that tries to eat you and your items...and there is a bag into which you can throw items...only to get worthless junk back.

Really fun: The evil, demonic and intelligent chomper, a devouring bag that not only is malevolent, you can swing it at foes to bite them. Cool visuals! The helpful steward of the bag is intelligent as well and could be visualized as a bag of holding with an integrated butler that lists all objects inside. The mythic bag of needful things takes a bow before one of Mr. King's better books and can generate objects. Finally, the artifact of this installment of Call to Arms would be the doorknocker to a private sanctum - basically a doorknocker you can affix to any door, open it, and enter your very own private demiplane...which can btw. be altered, in case you were wondering.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice artworks in full color by Rick Hershey. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari's magic satchels...are BRILLIANT. I'm not even going to try to slowly lead into this. Magic Satchels as envisioned here are exactly what I always wanted - this book pretty much looks and feels almost like it was written for me. This streamlines the extensive shopping trips and planning required in simulationalist gameplay without sacrificing the need for planning in advance; this provides almost the ease of GM-handwaving encumbrance and actually creates suspense: The cheers when players draw forth the third stake they needed on a hard skill-check...is glorious and adds actually a fun, novel component to the gameplay...and all without falling into the innumerable pits and traps this type of design sports: From weight to scarcity to even a simpler system, this book covers ALL basics in its deceptively few pages.

The page-count may not sound impressive...but if you're like me, you'll celebrate this system for its grace and elegance, for its innovation and seamless integration in gameplay as well as for speeding up the game sans losing the threat and excitement of e.g. prolonged wilderness trips. Oh, and the simple alternate system is great for less detail-oriented games, providing supreme support for different table types.

This is a truly brilliant little pdf that will feature in each and every one of my campaigns from now on. I adore this book. Its final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and it receives EZG Essential status: If you love your details, but want an truly elegant way of speeding things up sans breaking your game, get this!

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Endzeitgeist out.
Endzeitgeist out.


So, totally posted this review with endzy's account at his site, Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted it here, on OneBiscuitSale and the unpronounceable SRD-store...signing off for now!


This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

Coldwater is perched upon an inhospitable, mud-drenched coast, with one access by land, its harbor is in the delta of a miserably stream that empties its contents into the sea - and if that does not reflect a place you'd like to visit, then that's pretty much a representation of how most folks see this place. Nearby caverns sport strange stair-like features that only rarely become visible and the inhabitants of the village are just as sullen and unfriendly as the weather suggests. The village lore reflects the relative hostility and rugged nature of the village rather well, while a Finnish-inspired nomenclature emphasizes an association with the colder climes.

Indeed, the rustic and eccentric locals e.g. sport a man named Holg, who has a well-stacked ware-house, but lets no one in - you have to tell the old man what you're looking for and mysteriously, more often than not, he procures the object from within the depths of his dubious "locker." Indeed, one cannot really fault the locals for their sullen outlook on life: As the events and the subtle wrongness in the tides underline, there is something wrong here - there are the deformed, both in mind and body- how and why the poor folks of this village are struck by this curse ultimately is up to the GM, but the presence of the template and its varied effects alongside the stigmatization such folk may experience should drive home pretty well that something is wrong here...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst has skill - and this one shows it pretty well. The mastermind of Raging Swan Press delivers what I'd like to call a wide open sandbox: We are faced with problems and the respective NPCs mentioned can be used to exacerbate it, change it...all depending on your whims. Basically, this is one of the village backdrops that is so compelling, it can make PCs pretty much write their own tale: Throw them in and watch what happens. In this aspect, though, this one is slightly inferior to Kennutcat. However, at the same time, it sports local color that made me think of the slight surreal elements that made Twin Peaks so compelling, at least for me -from the dwindling fortunes of one family to female, hard-working and drinking half-orc, there is a lot of quirkiness, a lot of unique bits and pieces here; enough, to make this thoroughly compelling. The system-neutral version loses nothing of the luster of the original and is 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.

Endzeitgeist out.


The Player's Guide for Frog God Games' massive Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms-book clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This player's guide is very much interesting in its format - we begin each section with a paragraph of italics, excerpts from the memoires of fabled rogue Titus the Grey, while the main meat of each respective section elaborating on the fluffy bit of text before. Beyond a hex-sporting overview map of the lands, the pdf further elaborates on the diverse ethnicities of the region, with gorgeous b/w-artworks - from the Erskaeloi barbarians to the Ramithi. Travel, both on roads and beyond, is covered as well, with wilderness inns and roadhouses - 7 of them are detailed herein in impressive prose, with quite a few hooks and intriguing tidbits included. Similarly, which patrols to consider benevolent and which...not much better than bandits is explained.

Speaking of bandits and associated villains and scoundrels: Gnolls, orcs and ogres and their roles in the local environments alongside basic information on tribes etc. can be found here. For more civilized regions within these wild lands, a mini-gazetteer of 3 cities and 5 towns/villages are provided - the larger of which sport multiple sites of interest.

The final section of this little book is devoted to the lore, legends and places of mystery in the sundered kingdoms - beyond a brief primer on the cults (alongside a truly astounding piece of b/w-art), the haunted moonfog hills, where the Hyperboreans have been repelled by the wild folk, the ruins of Trevi (again, with a super artwork) and a brief recount of the witches of Southfell conclude this little tour through the Sundered Kingdoms.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. As always with Frog God Games print-products, we get a glossy cover and thick, high-quality paper. The true star here, though, would be the fantastic art: Artem Shukayev, Felipe Gaona, Brian LeBlanc and Marcin Rudnicki make this very art-heavy book a joy to hand to one's players.

This system-agnostic book pretty much epitomizes a good Player's Guide for me - no SPOILERS, yet a metric ton of intriguing flavor, awesome artwork and basic knowledge that makes these lands come alive from the get-go: Anthony Pryor did a superb job here. My final verdict will clock in at unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and tabletoplibrary.com.

Endzeitgeist out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This Pay What You Want April's Fool-release clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The first new archetype herein would be for the currently-in-playtest discipline-using class, Medi...and it's called Ambu-Lancer. These guys get Ride as a class skill and a mount with light armor proficiency at first level. When riding said mount, the ambu-lancer takes no armor check penalty to Ride skills and killed mounts can be replaced sans cost after just 1 week, analogue to the cavalier. Medic's expertise is replaced with Mounted Combat and in an interesting twist, maneuvers that have a movement component may be used with the mount's movement instead of the ambu-lancer's - basically, it replaces the animal companion's usual share spells with discipline-related movement sharing. Similarly, the triage ability may be used in conjunction with the mount's movement.

Absolutely hilarious: At 4th level, instead of +1 triage use, the archetype gets a Stealth-WRECKING minus 30 Stealth when activated siren that grants Improved Overrun when attempting to move somewhere to use triage - MEDIC!!! XD Instead of 5th level's medic's expertise, the archetype may drag allies healed atop the mount! Pretty cool archetype...and hilarious.

The Edge Lord harbinger had me laugh so hard, I had to stop and go outside for a second - the archetype gets proficiency with simple and martial weapons and the katana, but not with any armor or shield. Discipline-wise, they replace Riven hourglass and Scarlet Throne with Unquiet Grave and Mithral Current. At 1st level, the archetype gets Quick Draw and dons a leather coat of black or red leather that provides Int-bonus to AC (+1 dodge bonus at 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter) - this ability replaces accursed will and is called..."Become So Numb." Starting at 4th level, the edge-lord may teleport a limited amount of times per encounter before or after initiating a strike. This is called "One Step Closer." Come on, now you've got it, right? It's friggin' Linkin Park-the-class. XD Instead of elusive shadow, the archetype gets immunity to emotion effects and replaces sorcerous deception with Mixed Combat and Weapon Focus - X-Ecutioner Style. If you didn't grow up with these, you may not consider this as funny as I do...but boy...I could throw myself away right now...Increased crit range via Papercuts and the option to teleport crited foes unwillingly complement this very well - basically, if you ever wanted to play Dante or Vergil from Devil may Cry...yeah, that's a pretty good way to do that. Two thumbs up!

The Madman monk may not use class features with monk weapons, only with unarmed strikes. This archetype...is basically an exercise in how M-A-D you can make an archetype - all saves are governed by two attributes: Str and Con for Fort, Dex and Int for Ref, Wis and Cha for Will. For the lulz, his unarmed strike attacks use Int and Str to atk, but Con and Cha to damage rolls. And no, this cannot be changed. They deal bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage at once via unarmed attacks. Dex-based skills are enhanced by Str. Cha-based skills are enhanced by Wis. The MADman may substitute psychoses for attacks in his flurry, with save DC being equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + highest attribute modifier + lowest attribute modifier. In case you haven't got that yet - no, you can't choose anywhere and yes, negative modifier decrease the efficiency. So what's a psychoses? Well, it's basically the talent array of these fellows. They get one new psychosis at each odd level, with later levels unlocking new ones. Now here's the mechanically interesting component: The more successful psychoses (success/failure-conditions provided individually), attack and maneuvers the madman has performed before in a given flurry, the more potent becomes the specific effect. And yes, these include reality-bending stunts like flying (for as long as the flurry persists...). Also interesting - high level psychoses have powerful effects - when executed AFTER 5 successful prior attacks...otherwise, they have no effects. And yes, the archetype does have multiple capstones to choose from. This whole archetype is basically a meta-joke on the monk...and it still kinda works. While perhaps the least serious-feeling component herein, the archetype sports several impressive and cool ideas. with the psychoses and flurry-combo-idea in particular being worthy of closer examination.

Next up would be the Daring Hero 10-level PrC, which sports Elan's (The OotS-character, not the race) Razor Wit as a prerequisite bonus feat. The PrC grants d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and full BAB-progression. Every even level, the PrC provides +1 maneuver known, chosen from Mithral Current, Scarlet Throne and two previously available disciplines, chosen upon taking the PrC. PrC-levels count as full initiator levels and 3rd level and every 3 thereafter add +1 readied maneuver. 4th, 6th and 10th level provide +1 stance. The PrC allows the character to substitute Charisma as initiation modifier for all mental attribute modifiers for all class features and maneuvers - which is pretty OP. Additionally, this enhances Razor Wit and provides benefits for soulknives. Dramatic Entries, better starting reputation...okay. Using counters sans expending immediate actions 1/encounter at 3rd level, +1/encounter every 3 levels thereafter, is pretty powerful. At higher levels, the plot armor stance can be used and these guys get gold for the fanfiction written about the. As a capstone, the hero can't die anymore...unless it's fittingly climactic.

Next up would be the Drowmedary-race,a combination of drow and gamla - these folks get a full age, height and weight-table (with a minor grey-line-formatting glitch) and are humanoids with the elf and akashic subtypes. They have normal speed, +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, get +1 bonus essence and get poison spit that scales with the levels - usable 1/minute, range 10 ft. The spit can stagger foes and even knock them unconscious and essence can be invested in it as though the ability were a veil - essence invested increases reach and DC. Personally, I think the DC-increase is a bit excessive here - in my game, I'd rather increase the reach-increase from 5 ft. per essence invested to +10 ft. Also, since the alternate, difficult-terrain-causing class feature that spits webs instead is rather outclassed by this one. Drowmedary also get a teamwork bonus feat they can share for Cha-mod rounds with all allied drowmedaries within 60 ft.. See, this is one of the abilities that looks fine in a general adventuring group - but when all players play the race, it gets ridiculous fast. I'd strongly advise in favor of a daily limit or similar factor to prevent this getting out of hand. Instead of this, they can also get climb speed via spidery legs.

The pdf has one more thing to offer, namely the gelatinous cube monster class - HD d8, -4 Dex, +4 Con; Ooze type, speed 15 ft., acid immunity. The cube is considered intelligent, blind, has blindsight, can't be tripped and gets 2+Int skills per level. They get a slam attack and transparency at 1st level. Their class spans 4 levels, has all bad saves, 3/4 BAB-prgression and nets +4 Con on every level but the 1st, but also -2 Dex per level. Paralysis potency increases every level, 3rd provides +1d6 acid damage and 4th level nets size-increase to large as well as engulf. The write-up also sports two racial feats - one that nets you a pseudopod and a second feats allows the cube to assume humanoid form. If you really want to go cubey, I'd also suggest checking out Rite Publishing's "In the Company of Gelatinous Cubes", their April-product last year.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, very good on a rules level - the wordings are generally tight, though some minor glitches can be seen here and there. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' full-color two-column standard and the pdf has no artworks. It does, however, have bookmarks and it comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Anthony S. Altovilla, Forrest Heck, Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Jeffrey Swank and Kevin Ryan provide some hilarious options here - with a wink, sure...but functional nonetheless! While I am not sold on each and every design decision, I do love a lot of the components herein - the Edge Lord made me laugh so hard and the drowmedary are similarly fun. (2 cents if you play one dual-wielding scimitars...) Yeah, yeah, endy has to complain about blabla... but guess what? I don't want to. This is a pay what you want product that offers significantly more great ideas than many commercial releases. Sure, I don't consider all perfect - but you can literally take a look and then tip the authors...and seriously, you should. The material is worth it, particularly for Path of War-fans, for whom the majority of content herein is intended. This may not be perfect in formal criteria or balance-wise, but it's fun and there is no component herein that will truly break anyone's game. Taking that and the PWYW-aspect into account, I arrive at a final verdict of 5 stars.

Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 114 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 4 pages of note-space, 1 page blank, 1 page Kort'thalis-glyph, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 100 pages of content, so let's take a peek!

This book was moved ahead in my review-queue due to me receiving a complimentary print copy.

Okay, before we start: This is a satire, a spoof of 70s and 80s cheesy, low budget exploitation-scifi-flicks and aesthetics. Alpha Blue is a space station, where sex addicts were sent to experience experimental treatment techniques - what began as an institution devolved into a space brothel/casino; think of Las Vegas with a thick coating of disco-aesthetics and, obviously, sex. So yes, this supplement will offend some people, while others may be uncomfortable with the tone. If you want to know whether this may be for you, I'd suggest pondering the following: Do you take sex serious or can you laugh about the subject? In the latter case, you'll probably like it. Do you consider the cover illustration offensive? If you do, then this will probably be not for you. Do you enjoy the balls to the wall crazy aesthetics of Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. or do you consider the like problematic? Ahhh, let's cut to the chase: This supplement is named after the legendary Scifi-porn movie "The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue." (In case you're interested: Think dystopian 1984-style scifi after World War III, where sex is very much a caste-system and means of oppression and even love as a way out may not be the way, scarce though it is. Sure, it's a porn-movie, but as far as these go, it is one of the most intelligent ones and elicited a complex array of emotions and can be considered a surprisingly interesting piece of social commentary.

If you have a hard time dealing with sex or being confronted by it in a given medium or taking it with a grain of salt and a wink, you may not enjoy this; however, if you can laugh about sex and all it entails, if you enjoy cheesy scifi...well, then this may very well be for you. Regarding the explicity of the content, this is btw. relatively tame, at least to my sensibilities - there are a few pictures of breasts and one instance of drawn nudity...and that's pretty much it. This still can be considered NSFW, obviously, but yeah...pretty obvious, right?

...okay, I guess that those readers that might be offended have stopped reading right now, so let's get on with the book! After a brief introduction of fluff, we get a dead simple rules-system: A combat round is 20 seconds. Task-resolution works via dice pool: At a disadvantage, you roll 1d6, at an advantage, you roll 3d6 and most normal tasks are resolved via 2d6. You only count the highest number rolled. There are some exceptions where 4d6 or 5d6 are rolled, but these fall in the category of overkill. When you roll a 1, you have a critical failure, 2 is a failure, 3 is a partial failure, 4 a partial success, 5 a success and 6 a critical success. In combat, damage is determined by numbers rolled as well - 1 is a critical fail, 2 and 3 misses and 4 provides 1d6 damage; +1d6 for every number above. Double sixes, triple sixes, etc. increase damage by +1d6 (so triple sixes would cause 5d6 damage). 6 critical. A six-entry critical fail table provides different degrees of unpleasantness for failure. Initiative is handled via first come, first serve...or by order of seating. Armor acts as damage reduction. At level 1, the character has 25 Health, +5 for every level. Characters can survive up to their level into negative HP - at 4th level, a character would die at -5 health. Interesting - in case you lose parts of your body, several types of replacement body parts, including chances for rejection, are provided - so yeah, getting that alien/robotic arm of death may look promising, but should be contemplated thoroughly. Saving throws are dice pools as well - 1 may see another character killed as well, while 6 can actually provide immunity to the given effect for 24 hours. 1/per session, a character may double his dice pool...but 1/session, a GM may do the same. (Just for completion's sake - the proper term in Alpha Blue is SDM - Space Dungeon Master...which is one letter and a switch short of a certain acronym.) Interesting, btw. OSR-conversion is provided in the book - so if you do elect to use this system, you can import pretty easily OSR-content from most variants: HD influences attack dice, attribute bonuses translate to rerolls when the task is associated with the attribute - simple and can be done on the fly. Kudos!

Character creation follows a similar minimalistic style: You choose two rolls - these can be undertaken either to determine a scoundrel or legal occupation - 8 are available each and you can choose to roll two legit ones, two criminal ones, etc.. Scoundrel professions net more money (2d6 x100, as opposed to 1d6 x 100), but also carry a risk - per scoundrel profession, you roll a d4 to determine how far on your trail the authorities are. Characters can have "something special" - be psionic, a zedi, a noble or just be lucky. A massive d100 table of mutations is next: You roll thrice on it - and it is very useful: From mundane issues like cancer to radioactive/freezing touch to flesh that dissolves when in contact with water. There is a chance that your dreams come to life, to get astral projection...or...well... a detachable penis.

A 30-entry table of alien forms also is part of the deal - so yeah, maybe you're playing an alien made of geometric forms. There is a d10 table for sizes and a HUGE table of 100 cultural quirks - these are roleplaying gold: Whether it's seeing personal property as theft, being compelled to do worse than others to make them feel better, adapting fetishes...or what about the conviction that robots need to be liberated via "freedom phrases"? Need some idea what your character did? Roll a d6, d8 and d12, combine the entries and consult the tables. You get something like: "Visiting the spacer academy, a mysterious portal of swirling energy opened up, transporting you to a strange spaceship, where a dying, penis-headed alien taught you to use the artillery on his spaceship." This one would net you advantage with space weaponry...and yes, there are chances you may die...in character creation. While this sounds odd, it actually got some serious laughs at my table. Weird fashion generators and 20 weapons of choice and several things to buy further complement this section. If you believe in astrological signs (a meta-joke if there ever was one in a scifi-context), personality traits based on them can be found here as well.

30 sample associates can be rolled and 20 possible relationships with said associates allow for pretty quick, on the fly ally-creation. Of course, robots are by now recycled: thus, a table provides previous "careers" -whether it's gumball machine or 8-track player... Now seriously - this is supposed to be a bit sleazy, right? Well, 30 options to determine fetishes are provided. If you can't decide which part of a woman you like best, well, there's a table...and for women and gay dudes, fret not: Males are objectified as well: There's a table for the type of males as well. PCs can start with more money...but then they'll have to roll on the 3 debt-tables...including the consequences when they fail repaying your debt. Tables to secure jobs for/as assassins/bounty hunters and tables for their results can be found alongside a 40-entry table of male/female names...so that's pretty much the character creation-section.

Next up would be a general overview of the campaign setting's backdrop - While earth has started the Federation, only the Micro McDonald Disney Walmart Cola corporation keeps earth from being dumped from the federation. There are the draconians,, the reptilian Krylons ad a caliphate of insane space extremists - upon deaths, they believe they'll get 72 cyber virgins. Brain bugs from Starship troopers and space clerics as well as universal phenomena are explained - from hyperspace to the eldritch black hole of S'rrah. And yes, if you ever wanted to know why there are so many humans in the universe...this explains it...sort of. Reasons for interspecies breeding, odd crystals and tech-generators...including effects of strange radiation can be found. Random sensor scanning results, star-quakes and random persons to fall out of time-warps, randomly generated derelict space ships (including tables to determine people aboard and what can be salvaged), a 30-entry table to determine what hides inside an asteroid is handy as well.

Campaign setting information-wise, the book introduces us to the crime syndicate Terra Nostra, the militant unification advocates (who want to unite all people...no matter the price) and the mining vessel crimson dwarf, an obvious, thinly veiled allusion to the scifi cult-series Red Dwarf. Now, obviously, Alpha Blue being what it is, the legendary space hookers (the proper name being "Satisfiers") and rates for rooms are explained - and yes, there is no guarantee you get what you want. Currency is pretty simple and law-wise, Alpha Blue is not only a tax haven - it's also a place where frontier law rules supreme...so expect no help...but also no consequences for killing that bastard over there...Alpha Blue's central computer JCN (aka "Jason") can only be accessed by the captain , the computer expert Dragz Logan or the commander of security, Razor Hash. And yeah, the captain's position fluctuates - one day, Nicholas Cage could be in the seat, while a week from now you might meet Jabba. Oh, and the computer's feelings are subject to rapid change - consult the table.

Alpha Blue also sports a strange type of device - orgasmatrons, which either come in big versions or private use ones - these open a rift to Meteblis 3 1/3, the radiation and blue light (What does it do? It shines blue!) of which heighten all senses to the n-th degree. And yes, they may be hallucinations...but they very much are real. Since these machines penetrate one's mind, applying a mind condom would be prudent. Blue dreamers, aka space viagra, personal hookahs and 12 sample drugs can be consumed - from wizard weed to L-S-triple-D and Pink Floyd, all tastes are catered to. Those who don't practice safe sex may find themselves in a nasty position - 12 unpleasant venereal space diseases can be contracted: From actual crabs living in your pants to sun-shaped solar syphilis, the effects are unpleasant. 10 sample hooks for actually being on Alpha Blue can be found...but pale next to the 12-entry table to "heavy metal it up to 11" - whether your next attack hits an artery, dread Cthulhu suddenly manifests or someone left his keys in the space Lamborghini...or perhaps a woman so gorgeous enters the room that everyone has to save to avoid being dazed. This table very much encompasses the spirit of this whole book - weird, diverse and interesting.

The first thing you see upon arrival, overarching plots and complications, spontaneous alien generator...even what's on the TV (Can't miss the latest episode of The Walking Space Dead or V: The Very Last Conclusive Battle at the End), robot quirks (the header of the section being "Do Robots use Electronic Tampons?"), unique party favors, a 30-entry strong table for walking in on people (With entries like "Crouching penis, hidden vagina")...and so much more can be found. Regarding permanent residency...one of the entries is actually Charlie Sheen and you can witness surreal overindulgence: This guy over there attacking the robot, screaming "bacon"? Yeah, no idea what he used... Similarly, tables of weird cocktails, matrix malfunctions, and 8-ball style inefficient therapy robots - table-wise, this book is chock-full and fully staffed indeed.

The description of the respective sections of Alpha Blue is similarly detailed: From superb smoothies to arena games and a casino lit by an artificial sun - you name the decadent pleasure and you'll probably find it in this place - and yes, among the inhabitants the Knights in White Satin wage and the Knights in Black Satin are conflicting factions...with rogue Knights in Alpha Blue Satin being the space Casanovas. A Snow-White-like princess in cryostasis, various teleportation mishaps, the penis-shaped and fully mapped Blue Flamingo ships and space poker - name your vice and there's a good chance you may be able to indulge in it.

If the location and huge amount of tables provided do not spark your imagination on their own, well, then fret not, for there are numerous proposed scenario seeds: Whether sentient minerals don't want to be mined or more complex scenarios...there is a lot of ideas here, often suffused with meta-humor: When e.g. the PCs are mistaken for ambassadors to an Utopian society and come upon a guy who swindled them via a kickstarter and then ran, the glorious vengeance unleashed may transform the tranquil planet into a full-blown war-zone or stopping Lovecraftian deities - the ideas run the full gamut of themes. What if e.g. a member of the Blue Humanoid Group was an assassin? And what about that interstellar women's prison, or nods towards the world of Torth...and what about helping space Muslims to crack the heads of those aforementioned extremists? Quite a lot to do! 3 sample, fluff-only NPCs and a refugee from the Purple Islands (with full stats) are provided as well. Paralyzing wands and dangerous dildo-weapons can be found and when demon-worshiping madmen bring an demonically-possessed penetration-device on board, we know what need to be stopped, right?

Stats for mooks and tyrannosaurus-crocodile-hybrids complement the book alongside some basic advice for running the setting. There also are personality archetypes, a quick table to determine why a couple stays together and the map of Alpha Blue actually spans 4 full pages. The pdf provides full color and b/w-char sheets, while the print version sports both in b/w.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - in spite of the book's length, I encountered no significant issues with this book in formal or rules-language departments - the system presented is simple, concise and pretty refined. Layout adheres to an aesthetically pleasing 2-column b/w-standard and deserves special mention - it is clean, organized and generally pleasing. The pdf sports a lot of beautiful, original b/w-artworks: While most of them are pretty tame, there are instances of nudity here...alongside e.g. an awesome rendition of the Doctor being puzzled/stupefied by the advances of two ladies. Artworks and text are suffused with pop-culture nods and winks. The pdf version is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, though considering the low asking price, I'd suggest getting the print version.

Venger As' Nas Satanis' Alpha Blue is a different book than I expected, honestly - this is very much a setting book - whether as a stand-alone or as part of another campaign, the station of Alpha Blue can be inserted sans much fuss and the OSR-conversion-notes are useful. The system presented is clear and concise and exceedingly simple to grasp. In fact, this book's appeal if broader than I anticipated - we get a metric ton of tables that generally provide a ton of customization options that can be scavenged for just about any system...which is a plus and a minus, depending on where you're standing. Personally, I would have enjoyed a bit more detail regarding the respective locations on Alpha Blue, though e.g. notes on music playing at a given place and similar details had me grin time and again. (That being said, Girls Gone Rogue, the expansion, will get its review in due course and may remedy that...)

Now that we've gone through the whole book and you had an impression regarding the humor herein, you'll obviously note that this book doesn't take itself too serious - which is a good thing. Alpha Blue, as presented, is actually a very light-hearted and rather sex-positive supplement...but if you're looking for straight porn, you won't find that here. Perhaps the best analogue I could find was the following: Picture basically a blending of the old Leisure Suit Larry and Space Quest-games in tone and explicitness. So if you enjoyed Leisure Suit Larry...you will probably like Alpha Blue's setting as well: The humor oscillates between clever meta-jokes, obvious and obscure references and blunt-in-your-face-juvenile jokes - which made the reading experience, at least for me, rather lighthearted and enjoyable. (Btw.: Those strange glyphs littered throughout the book? They're actually coded sentences, so if you enjoy that kind of undertaking, decoding them is a pretty fun and quick mental exercise...yes, the sentences unearthed feature planetary-sized dildos.)

How to rate this, then? Well, this is a wide-open sandbox/dressing-kit/adventure-location kit and it delivers in all of these regards, though each of the components could have arguably filled a whole book. So if you're looking for an extremely detailed location, you may be disappointed. If, however, you're looking for an enjoyable, minimalist RPG you can pick up and play sans any hassle, dressing or prefer working with a setting, developing it and fleshing up the fiddly small bits...well, then this will probably be right up your alley. Even if you're looking for means to enhance the weirdness/raunchy-factor of your space opera game...well, this'll do the job. In the end, I consider Alpha Blue a successful experiment that manages to portray a setting unlike anyone I've seen before. If you hate the premise, you'll probably hate the book; if not, though, you'll certainly find some hilarious ideas within these pages. It is a sleazy satire, is unapologetic about it and in play, actually was ample fun at my table - the minimalist rules and awesome tables engender an atmosphere of levity and fun...which was sure as heck a welcome diversion from my usual, rather serious games -a diversion to which we'll return. In the end, my only gripe pertains the somewhat divided focus of the book, which may well be a personal preference; hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, submitted to RPG.net and posted on amazon.com.

Endzeitgeist out.
Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck games' short, inexpensive experimental pdfs clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

In case you missed my review on the first magic pants supplement: Yes, these pdfs invent a leg-slot. Yes, they are cognizant of this. Yes, the authors probably have collected the 3 unique leggings in the Baldur's Gate saga....and yes, I consider the idea well worth it. So here are more pants!

The first of the pants is the bell-bottoms allows the wielder to perform secondary kick attacks that have the thundering quality and 1/day duplicate shout...though unfortunately, I have no idea as what action - standard or free?

Awesome: The Black Widow's Garter - it contains an extradimensional space where you can put poisoned weapons, which then have their potency enhanced. And yes, the item gets it right -you can't just store a crapton of poisoned weapons inside. AC-enhancing boxer shorts that can 1/day convert lethal damage to nonlethal damage also are pretty awesome, while kaber kilts help throwing oversized weapons.

In a hilariously bad pun, cargo pants sport limited bags of holding in their pockets and obviously, camo pants enhance your Stealth. Daisy Dukes help Diplomacy and allow you to 1/day fascinate a target, while high-water pants let you...bingo! Water Walk.

Hot pants protect versus the cold...and can be activated to engulf the wearer in a flaming aura - and yes, the activation action is properly codified. And it's hilarious. Leggings of coiling plants can create massive undergrowth and the loincloth of the jungle helps with Tarzan-like stunts - though activation of the spell included here is not perfectly clear - I assume the default standard action of use activation/spell-trigger and spell, but still...would have been nice.

More interesting - what about leggings that 1/day allow your legs o elongate to 20 feet? The benefits regarding obstacles, terrain etc. are concisely covered, the imagery is awesome and the usefulness undisputed. Damn cool! In an homage to Rogue genius Games, I assume, bright red pantaloons allow for a temporary increase of mental faculties - somewhat akin to a mental attribute-based version of a barbarian's rage - nice. Also rather cool - the focus on the mental similarly mirrors the effect in an inability to engage in physically stressful situations while in the throes of the pants. Unlike a rage, though, the wearer is left energized by the pants - pretty cool overall design.

The Pants of the Hammer Master allow the wielder to command foes to stop..and be bashed with a hammer. Yep. Hammer Time. XD Rage-enhancing purple pants of fury, rebellious longstockings that allow you to ignore confinement like Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krumsnyta Efraimsdotter Långstrump and yes, if the wearer has a horse or monkey as animal companions/mounts, they can learn more tricks. Roadrunner pants allow you to air walk and move faster while running. Smelly pants allow the wielder to be...well...smelly and unleash stinking clouds.

With Perform (Dance) and sparkle pants, you may AoE dazzle foes (hey, that rhymed!), not all pants are benevolent - there are a bunch of cursed ones inside as well - for example swimming pants that attract aquatic predators, pants that make you bossy or crabby and britches that make you sassy...and particularly loathed by vendors...oh, and what about fear-the-dark scaredy pants? Yeah, nice!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch this time around - I noticed no significant formal glitches. Rules-language-wise, there are some minor instances where activation actions of spells-in-a-can could have been clearer. The pdf's layout adheres to Purple Duck games' no-frills 1-column standard for the series and the pdf has no artworks, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeffrey Swank and Jacob Trier's array of magical pants made me laugh very hard - but rest assured that this is anything but a joke product - in fact, there are several benefits and mechanical operations in the crunch here that can be considered to be rather complex. While not always perfect, I still can't bring myself to rate this down - for the low asking price, you do get a rather cool array of magical pants - well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars...and since the crunch itself sports some unique ideas and particular mechanical executions, I'll round up for the purpose of this platform.

Reveiwed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Endzeitgeist out.


Dear patreons, dear readers!

After the rather turbulent February, March has been a *VERY* busy month, as you may have noticed - I completed a huge amount of reviews for your perusal...and, this is important to emphasize, due to YOUR generosity.

Without you, I wouldn't have been able to devote this extraordinary amount of time to the reviewing process - thanks to you, I managed to slay multiple *very* big books that had their review a long time coming and actually caught up with more than one publisher, which is awesome and immensely gratifying. There also are quite a bunch of reviews for big books finished, awaiting their place in the queue, so expect to see the big book-season not abate anytime soon. :)

That being said, this is also a time of change and there are several important things to discuss:

Friday is my cut-off date for my Top Ten of 2015. Expect to see it soon after that. Eligible files I failed to review until then are carried over to 2016 and get their chance there.

On the 18th, I have a pretty important chance to score a good, proper day job. It's the first of three tests - so please, keep your fingers crossed for me.

After May, my most generous patreon will reduce, as he has told me a long time in advance, his exceedingly generous pledge. This means I *may* be required to fill that with a part-time job to stay afloat, depending on how the job-situation pans out. If and how this will affect my output remains to be seen, but I still wanted to share this information with you well in advance.

My analysis of 5e is done. Yeah, took longer than expected, mainly due to real life getting in the way. Anyways, this means I will begin to cover 5e material as well - how much...very well depends on the feedback of my patreons.

I have a bunch of 13th Age, OSR- and GUMSHOE-material in queue as well, so expect to see more of that as well - the switching between systems is pretty refreshing. If you are interested in any particular books there, tell me!

At the request of Lucus Palosaari, I have a new pledge-level: Miscellaneous Geekery Review/Analysis. Whether it's a movie, series or other theme/topic, you can now have me write an article on...anything, really. Next week, I'll post a sample of what to expect; I'll introduce you to a relatively unknown cult classic satire.

As always, this is also the time where I give you an impression of what's planned: April will see a bunch of Fat Goblin Games-reviews, as I'm catching up with a couple of their books. (In fact, a big one is scheduled for this week!) Flaming Crab Games' Letters from the Flaming Crab-series will also see some reviews. I have officially started reading Frog God Games' Northlands Saga...so that mammut-project is on the way, though you won't see a review of it in April. The latest installments of EN Publishing's Zeitgeist AP are also on my to do list. Oh, and Spheres of Power-expansions.

So far, I am aware of one prioritized review for the month of April:

Duck n' Roll - The Flavour Handbook

If you're eligible for a prioritized review, please tell me which pdf you choose as soon as possible!

All right, without further ado, here's the massive list of reviews you made possible:

Rite Publishing - Gossamer Worlds: Ring of Fire (Diceless)

Raging Swan Press - Urban Dressing: Logging Town

Rogue Genius Games - Four Horsemen Present: Technomagic Hybrid Magic Items

Krewe of Harpocrates Publication - Tavern! Ye Adventurer's Olde Favourite Dive

Pelgrane Press - Ashen Stars (GUMSHOE)

Flaming Crab Games - Cavalier Orders

AAW Games - Mini-Dungeons: Choker Lair

Fat Goblin Games - Call to Arms: Fireworks and Primitive Firearms

Gooddevil Press - Paths Less Traveled: The Amazon

Flaming Crab Games - More Forgotten Feats

AAW Games - Assassin's Breach: A Tavern Gambling Game (+ Rest at the Wayfarer's Inn)

AAW Games - Mini-Dungeons: Sanctuary of Exsanguination

Raging Swan Press - Village Backdrop: Ossoko Draconsha

TPK Games - Feats of Legend: 20 Undead Feats

Frog God Games - Lost Lore: Town of Glory

Raging Swan Press - Village Backdrop: Vaagwol

Rogue Genius Games/Mike Myler - Veranthea Codex

Legendary Games - Mythic Magic: Advanced Spells III

Interjection Games - Strange Magic Unchained: Variant Multiclassing

Purple Duck Games - Random Encounters Remastered: Porphyra

Flaming Crab Games - Advanced Archetypes II

Amora Game - Conduits of the Age (13th Age)

Rite Publishing - Gossamer Worlds: INK (Diceless)

Purple Duck Games - Kineticist Codex

AAW Games - Mini-Dungeons: Kaltenheim

Legendary Games - Treasury of the Orient

Hammerdog Games - The Grande Temple of Jing Player's Guide

TPK Games - Feats of Legend: 20 Celestial Feats

Lone Wanderer Entertainment - The Elves of Uteria

Legendary Games - Ultimate Relationships: The Lonely Lyrakien

Purple Duck Games - Alchemist Codex

Hammerdog Games - The Grande Temple of Jing

AAW Games - Mini-Dungeons: Throne of the Dwellers in Dreams

Interjection Games - Remedial Tinkering: Arcanotech

Gaming Paper - Directive Infinity X

AAW Games - Snow-White Mini-Dungeons: Fitcher's

AAW Games - Snow-White Mini-Dungeons: The Spirit Bottle

Raging Swan Press - Urban Dressing: Bridge Town

AAW Games - Snow-White

Eric Morton Presents - Animal Races: Dawn of the Carnosaur

Legendary Games - Occult Character Codex: Psychics

Rite Publishing - In the Company of Rakshasa

AAW Games - Snow-White Mini-Dungeon: The Army Surgeons

Legendary Games - Occult Character Codex: Occultists

AAW Games - Snow-White Mini-Dungeon: Glass Golem Go-Round

AAW Games - Snow-White Mini-Dungeon: Cabin Catastrophe

Kobold Press - Southlands Campaign Setting

Frog God Games - Lost Lore: Ecology of the Basilisk

Ascension Games - Path of Iron

Purple Duck Games - Purple Duck Storeroom: Magic Helms of Porphyra

Rusted Iron Games - Spooky Gardens: Deadly Gardens Autumn Special

LPJ Design - Obsidian Apocalypse: Sinful and Vile Feats

AAW Games - Snow-White Mini-Dungeon: Campfire in the Haunted Forest

AAW Games - Snow-White mini-Dungeon: Entrance to the Forest Maze

LPJ Design - Monsters of NeoExodus: Dragons

Legendary Games - Ultimate Relationships: Viking Shieldmaiden

Eric Morton Presents - Animal Races: Dawn of the Cerapod

Kobold Press - Southlands Bestiary

All of these reviews exist only due to the support of the generous patreons among you and their unwavering support.

If you consider my reviews helpful, please consider joining my patreon - the existence of endzeitgeist.com and the continuation of reviews depends on your support and every buck counts!

As always, I remain yours,

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.


Reveiwed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 2 pages of editorial, leaving us with 53 pages of content, so let's take a look!

I received this module prior to public release and playtested it. It was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

The premise is pretty much fantasy modern day: In a world that is pretty much like our own, monsters and the like are common and pose a significant risk to the populace. The government has two choices for the truly dangerous creatures out there: Submit to a painless death or be confined and become property of the state for scientific scrutiny in one of the Infinity Directive's hidden prisons. The PCs are agents of 7th level and the module assumes a medium XP-track and get Exotic Weapon proficiency (Firearms) as well as Technologist.

...and this is as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

So, the module begins with a detailed introductory briefing - the agents are told that a certain secret prison facility, Facility X, has been compromised: While the dimensional barriers are intact, the neurotoxin to pacify the powerful inmates has not been released, evacuation protocols are in place. The facility is on lock-down and no one knows what's going on in facility 10 - so yeah - there you have it. On the plus-side, there is only one way to enter or exit the facility, so no huge amount of powerful inmates will scour the land...for now. The agents receive dossiers for the most powerful of inmates - and they are awesome: Handouts, fully realized each and every one of them, they bring the agents up to what to expect...and it sure ain't pretty. Urdefhan death cult leader. Intelligent frost drake. Quickling con-artist. Vampire. A soul-bound mannequin called Experiment 42...hag sisters...a psychotic efreet...yeah, this will be fun.

Shaped cylex explosives may prove to be important - and thus, the agents are off to deal with the situation. Below a storage tank, the PCs can enter the sewers - and they'll have a brutal welcome committee: For one, they will encounter cranial crabs. Think of them as headcrabs with laser torches that detonate, but instead of killing you, they try to render you helpless and implant cranial bombs in your skull. Fun. Even cooler: Swarm-version included. Once this module is over, PCs will HATE them. Oh, have I mentioned the cyborgs? I should mention the cyborgs. For example the cyborg scrags with chainsaws for hands. And yes, the artwork makes them even more awesome than I can convey here. I mean, come on: Scrags with chainsaws for hands. YES.

More importantly, the actions of the PCs pretty much matter from the get-go, for the peculiar location of the complex makes flooding a VERY real option/potential problem: The maps of the complex(based on the modular dungeon-maps by Gaming Paper) come with an easy codification that lets you track flooding of the prison.

Because we know that cranial crabs and cyborg brineborn marsh giants and the rogue's gallery down there isn't yet enough of a challenge, adding flooding to the mix makes things even more interesting...oh, and yes, the overseer robots are compromised and dangerous...and the traps spread throughout the complex are nothing to sneeze at either. Oh, and guess what? The true mastermind behind the incident has a timeline - the longer the PCs take, the more creatures/villains from the rogue's gallery will come under the gray eminence's control. Have I btw. mentioned the barghest serial killer or the werewolf? The prisoners shot chock-full with drugs?

Agents progressing far enough will also be harassed by doom-pronouncing whispers and it soon becomes apparent that simulacra pose a significant risk. Speaking of risks: Laser tripwires. Gravity mines. EMP...and there is a fission reactor the PCs better stabilize...oh, and that pesky permanent gate must fall...it may non-functional for now...but for how long? Oh, and yes, the final confrontation (no, not spoiling against who or what) is downright delightful and brutal!

(And here's to hoping that none of the high-profile prisoners got away...otherwise, the agents will have their next assignment cut out for themselves...)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches, the overall presentation is solid and well done. Layout adheres to Gaming Paper's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports 11 glorious dossiers for the villains as hand-outs. The artwork provided is surprisingly copious, in gorgeous full-color...and here's the kick: See that front cover? The internal artwork is the same, high level of quality - and visualizes perfectly quite a lot of the adversaries herein. Showing the players the artwork really works well here - kudos! Cartography is based, as mentioned before, on Gaming Paper's modular rooms, which per default are player-friendly. The pdf sports no extra player-friendly maps beyond that, but I won't hold that against it. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes an unfortunate comfort-detriment when using this sans printing it out. (Which I strongly suggest you do - the dossier-hand-outs alone are worth it!) Still, this is a pretty big downside.

Stephen Rowe knows how to craft absolutely awesome adventures - this one basically reminded me of a glorious, classic Marvel storyline, wherein Venom instigated a prison break in the super villain prison. The module does practically everything right: It sports unique adversaries, does a great job of blending modern day concepts with fantasy and scifi-elements sans making things awkward, sports cool new critters, is challenging, has options for social encounters, environmental hazards and also features smart foes. If anything, this module made me wish it was more than a one-shot, that it had a whole 300-page book of setting information and delightful prisoners/villains, SCP and/or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.-style. This is an extremely entertaining modern module with generally awesome aesthetics. Even the lack of bookmarks can't hurt the module when it sports so many downright awesome components and ideas, with the handouts being the icing on the cake - so yes, Stephen Rowe once again proves that yes, he can write very good crunch...but oh boy, is he a master of writing brilliant modules! This is absolutely inspired and will leave you asking for more!

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This player's guide for the Grande Temple of Jing mega-adventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The pdf begins with a brief explanation of what the Grande Temple of Jing is - a mega-adventure dungeoncrawl set in the temple of the eponymous trickster god Jing and information on what PCs know in-game about the dungeon and the god are provided, which is nice.

Unfortunately, pretty much from the get-go, there is a discrepancy between the writing and the rules-context - players are advised to bring along bandages, mundane items. Three variants of them are provided. The basic bandages do exactly nothing as per the rules - they are a fluff-only item...and they make the Heal-rules problematic: Can tehy be used to fill up a kit? No idea. Can they be used to treat caltrop-wounds? No idea. What's the treatment action/does it require an AoO? The herbal bandages sport this gem: "Healing check while using them are at +2." Okay, I'll play: What's the bonus type? Does it stack with other Heal-enhancing items? Things become more confused with magical bandages, which heal 2d4 hit points. Slapping them on is enough to make them work as per the wording, but I have literally no idea regarding whether they still require a Heal-check or not, whether applying one provokes an AoO, etc.

The pdf also introduced a new skill, Jingcraft, which is based on Wis (with an alternate Knowledge (Jing) based on Int) - okay, so for what classes is this a class skill? Research allows the skill to be "trained up to level 3"[sic!] outside the temple, with further ranking up requiring prolonged expeditions into the temple. If you have 3 ranks in the skill (not typical; the few synergies that exist pertain to feats like Skill Focus), you get a "+1 bonus to Survival (Dungeon) or Knowledge (Dungeon)-checks."[sic!] Both of these skills DO NOT EXIST. Survival is a skill, but there is no Survival (Dungeon) and while there is a skill for knowledge pertaining dungeons, it's called Knowledge (Dungeoneering). This is SLOPPY. Not even looking up base nomenclature? Really??

But what can the skill be used for? Well, it can be used to bruteforce riddles and use "Jing Enchanted Items" "as if you were using the skill Use Magic Device at the same level. This is a Wisdom check if you took Jingcraft and an Int check if you took Knowledge" AHHHRGHHH. Okay, let's pick this apart, shall we? The wording is inconsistent, using Wisdom and the shorthand "Int" in the same sentence. Sloppy. Similarly, its omission of the knowledge subtype later renders that component broken. Oh yeah, skills have no "levels." No idea how basic rules-language works. "Wisdom checks" or similar attribute-based checks mean that you roll 1d20 + attribute modifier. That's literally d20-system rules language 101: It's not complicated for %$&§%%&!"$$%&%!!!! ARGH. Yes, it is clear what this wants to do; but it formally fails in every way possible. And then there is the *biting sarcasm* "wonderful" innovation of introducing a nigh useless skill to use new items, one that does not specify the class skill designation. Great. Just great. /*biting sarcasm*

THANKFULLY, the 4 new races are not exercises in sloppiness like that. The pdf introduces basically a sasquatch-style race, the Chorak. With cold resistance 5, +1 natural armor and a Wis-based curse and death curse, they look feasible. Alas, looks can be deceiving. First of all, the most minor of issues pertains that all but one (which gains +2 to an ability score of their choice) races herein are lopsided - i.e. they gain +2 to two physical or mental attributes, which is something that gears the whole race towards a given type of profession. On the plus-side, we actually get age, height and weight tables and e.g. the Chorak increase their Strength when becoming older. Similarly, a membrane that helps when saving against dazzling lights and light-descriptor spells is solid. However, "When moving across ice and snow, chorak take no penalties if barefoot." - okay, so do they ignore difficult terrain? No idea. Similarly, the curse fails to specify whether it's Sp or Su and the actual DC to save against it. It's Wisdom-based. Great. Does it scale with HD? 1/2 HD? Oh, the death curse of these guys affects the whole family of the slayer...so do these relatives get a save? The racial entry comes with two fluff-only items and two sample characters. Yes, the statblocks have errors.

The lizard-like amphibious Lazinar are less problematic, with slightly enhanced healing and solid necromancy-benefits and SPs...however, the devil's in the details here as well: They can break off a tooth to increase the DC of "necromantic" spells (it's necromancy) they cast by +2. Okay. Does this stack with other DC-enhancers? More importantly, does the tooth-breaking entail a concentration-check? Since it deals damage, it seems to. How many teeth do these guys have? How quickly do they regrow, if at all? No idea. The natural bite attack fails to specify whether it's a primary or secondary bite attack and deviated from the usual size-based damage 1d6, but since it downgrades the damage to 1d3, I can live with that. We get 2 sample characters and age, height and weight tables here as well and a bit of fluffy culture - which oddly contradicts the race's abilities - as amphibians, they're hard-pressed to drown.

The badger-people Quoshi can Hold Breath, gain a bite (properly codified as 1d4 primary, though the damage type is wrong...) and...are OP as F***. When in rage, they gain flurry of blows at full character level. No, this is not a typo. They can also use Perform checks as substitutions for Will-saves to "avoid uncontrollable rages (detailed above)" - problem is...the respective information is at the bottom of the next page, not above. Nasty layout snafu. So what's that about? Well, these guys can enter a 1-minute-increment-based rage for up to 2 times level MINUS Wis-mod (minimum 1, negative modifier is used as positive modifier) minutes per day, which grants +1 to atk and damage. However, they must succeed an escalating Will-save to actually end this state and run the risk of attacking nearby allies. Imho, the formula is needlessly complicated, but oh well. The Quoshi barbarians also extend this rage's drawbacks to their class's rage. Speaking of which - does the racial rage stack with other rage-effects? Is it Ex or Su? I assume Ex. There are also items to enhance the burrow speed of the race and one that grants claw attacks - which is annoying, because the item fails to properly draw a distinction between "claws" as the things creatures have and "claw attacks", which is a type of natural weapon, when clearly, the item is intended to modify unarmed strikes. The penalty/feat-interaction becomes a huge cluster-F***. Again, the tables and sample characters are provided.

The third race would be the winnow, who do not decrease Dexterity when aging, instead increasing it. Winnow with a Dex-mod of 11+ also gain utterly OP SPs at 1st level: 3/day blur, 1/day burst of speed and haste. Oddly, they are governed by Charisma, deviating from the Dex-prereq. To use them, the winnow must make a Dex-check versus 10+spell level + armor check penalty or take 2 points of Con-damage, which heals after 8 hours (and thus needs to be tracked separately...*sigh*) and failure to activate it makes it impossible to use the ability for 1 round...but does it expend the daily use? No idea. Additionally, they can Con-mod times per day expend a swift action to get a move action, though failed uses of the SPs mentioned above eliminate one use of this ability - so do they draw from the same pool? I assume no, but overall, this is an action-economy mess waiting to happen.

On the plus-side, the mundane suit provided gets the bonus type right and information on eating habits and famous winnow are nice. As before, we get sample characters.

The pdf closes with 4 extensive and well-written legends on famous treasures inside the temple and here, the pdf shines a bit - the fluff is great, the advice given solid, if generic and the sample rumors are nice. The excerpt from the canticles of Jing was neat indeed.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are solid on a formal level, horrible on a rules-language level: Were I to list every deviation from racial formatting as established in the ARG, we'd be here next week. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with several beautiful full-color artworks. Alas, the neat artworks for the races are pixelated at the borders. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a comfort detriment.

Danny O'Neill's player's guide to the Grande Temple of Jing has two sides to it: For one, and I'd like to emphasize that, the fluff is evocative and nice - the pdf also does not spoil anything of relevance. It really is not badly written. The pdf also seems to partially be aware of rules-conventions like bonus types etc. - only, and here's the issue, to then forget about them. This looks like a homebrew player-handout, where "things can be answered by asking the GM." There's no two ways around it, the races herein are anything but balanced, even among themselves. They use over-complicated mechanics. The items actually CREATE rules-issues where previously none existed. The rules-language is horribly inconsistent and shows the utter lack of an editor familiar with the finer details of PFRPG's language (Or that of other d20-based games, really!). This pdf *looks* like it works at first glance and then the issues start showing in the cracks and crevices of syntax and semantics. And no, before you ask: There are no alternate racial traits, no new race traits and no favored class options herein.

Beyond OP races that sport some truly evocative ideas, the pdf fails pretty much in 80% - 90% of cases where any precision regarding rules-language is required. On OBS, this is tagged as system-agnostic (which is WRONG!) - but I certainly wished it were system-agnostic, for the ideas themselves aren't bad - only their execution is pretty much an unmitigated mess. While I'd really like to be more lenient, I ultimately can't be - my final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1. Skip this mess of a player's guide.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here.

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the glorious Random Encounters Remastered-series clocks in at a massive 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with a whopping 43 pages of content - quite a bunch, so what precisely do we get?

Well, first of, the obvious: All RER-installments so far have been setting-neutral, though NOT generic - the environments covered have been evocative and interesting throughout the series. Thus, it is a natural fit to expect to see Purple Duck games' patchwork planet Porphyra with its unique environments to get its due, right?

So, since it has been *A LOT* of time since I covered an installment of this series, let's begin by recpaitulating how this system works, shall we? Each installment provides numerous adventure areas/terrain types - from the steppes to primeval woodlands and tainted estuaries. The areas themselves can be customized by providing unique hazards and terrain features. The system is dead simple: Choose a CR, multiply that CR with 20, add that value to your d%-roll...et voilà, there you have an encounter suitable for your designated target CR. One roll, simple math, HUGE tables. This elegant system is enhanced in its usefulness by several components: 1) Advice on how to best use random encounters, particularly useful for novice GMs, obviously. 2) The why-hasn't-this-been-in-the-GM's Guide-level of smart disposition-system.

What's that, you ask? Well, it's pretty much the base set-up for the adversaries - they can be charmed, disarmed, etc. - perhaps they just want to flee or are injured...or subject to a mayday on water. The system may not sound like much, but its inclusion in this series actually expands the variety and focus of random encounters significantly.

Where was I? Oh yeah: 3) Terrain features. If you've been following my reviews, you may have noticed that I very much look for interesting terrain in modules, encounters, etc. - why? Because it makes the fight more interesting...one could claim that it actually defines the fight as much as the combatants: Think about it, whether it's sieges, any swashbuckler-movie ever made or simply the tired old Luke-Vs.-Vader-showdown-comparison: Could you imagine that working in an even, bland room? Exactly. Hence, terrain is important - exceedingly so. There is a reason Raging Swan Press' dressing files are as beloved as they are. Well, this one here focuses more on rules-relevant terrain modifications - from fey-based hazards to quicksand, reefs and shifting dunes, there is a significant variety of evocative material in that regard, all ready to be inserted into your encounters at a simple glance - and yes, it also sports a table for random tunnel direction turns, widowmakers, mirages...you get the idea.

Beyond this general and awesome set-up, however, the respective environments and their massive tables also feature recommended dispositions and terrain features as well as building blocks you can use to further enhance the random encounter you create - and yes, if you're doing your task right, players will not notice that they're fighting a random encounter. A quick glance of the respective table-short hands will provide the discerning user of this supplement with a nice surprise: Both Purple Duck Games' rather impressive Monsters of Porphyra and the fourth Bestiary have been included in the creatures featured in these exceedingly-detailed tables, though the lack of neither of them will prove detrimental in a significant way to you when using this book: There are so many encounters herein, the tables are so big, that the entries featuring both books could be skipped, should you elect to do so.

As far as terrain-types are concerned, we have a field day: God-blasted wastelands, haunted seas, spirit-watched countries, tainted estuaries and underdeep ruins alongside primeval woodlands provide pretty much an all-killer, no filler selection of environments that imho prove just as useful beyond the confines of Porphyra as on the patchwork planet.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with some exceptional artworks from Monsters of Porphyra being used in this book as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

David Nicholas Ross' Random Encounters Remastered-series is pretty much one of those useful to have time-savers for the GM - having these pdfs at your beck and call makes the creation of random encounters a) faster b) more rewarding and c) results in more detailed, fun random encounters. While the very notion of the random encounter has been much maligned, my experience has been that they make the game more interesting, versatile and ultimately, more organic - they help create a more concise illusion of a world that's alive. This installment sports not only concise dispositions and fun hazards, the lists themselves are also exceedingly versatile - and what more can you ask for? I encourage you to check this one out and remain with a final verdict of 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.

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Before we do, though: Since this is Playground Adventures: This village featured first in the absolutely, I can't emphasize this enough, STELLAR "Pixies on Parade"-module - I VERY MUCH suggest getting this module! As for age-range, I consider this appropriate for ages 4 and up if the kid in question is pretty mature; more sensitive kids can consider some components a bit more creepy, but ages 6 and up should do just fine and in fact, enjoy this - much like several of my most beloved childhood movies, there is darkness herein - it makes the fight worthwhile. And yes, much like e.g. Secrets of Nimh and similar movies, this has resonated with me as an adult as well.

That out of the way, what is Glavost? Glavost is, first of all, a fully detailed fantasy village, complete with settlement statblock and precise information on key locales. It is, as the name suggests, also a village very much in line with traditional fairy-tale narratives of the more whimsical kind: The place is notoriously haunted by gremlins, for example, which, while not honestly believed in, act as convenient excuses to blame for issues. Situated next to a fairy forest, the lavishly mapped village (featuring a full-color isometric map) has a tradition of a pixie parade (see my review of the module) and thus, one fairy-ring sporting isometric map of the way through the forest is also provided. While we do not get primers on local nomenclature or sample events/sights & sounds like in Raging Swan Press' village settlements, Glavost has different additional content, namely creatures. If you've read my review of Pixies on Parade, you may already be familiar with the threat of the Nightmare King

This little book sports quite an array of low CR, whimsical creatures - like the monkey-like Cerecopes (CR 5) that is an excellent thief and has a long, whipping tail, the conflict-inducing Deckit (CR 2) gremlins, the water-contaminating Rotah (CR 2) gremlins or stats for the fairy godmother (CR 8)we know so well from numerous fairy tales -including, obviously magic wand. The sleep-inducing mahr (CR 3) heals when in the presence of the sleeping and can cause night terrors with its bite and the primary antagonist the PCs could save in Pixies on Parade can also be found here - both he and the nightmare avatar had their stats reprinted for completion's sake...though more interestingly, we get full stats for the dread Nightmare King himself (CR 11)...as well as his triumphant, ascended and rather lethal mythic iteration! (CR 14/MR 5)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Playground Adventure's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and all new creatures herein with the exception of the Nightmare King receive gorgeous artworks in Jacob Blackmon's style - and the mahr in particularly is rather cute in a twisted sort of way. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and the maps, though featured before, have lost nothing of their splendor. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Stephen Rowe's Glavost is a great town - it's unique, captures its theme perfectly well and sports superb artwork. However, it does not fully reach the level of detail of Raging Swan Press' village backdrops - some more detailed information on clothing-habits, names and the like along some sample encounters would have gone a long way, particularly considering that the new gremlins herein practically beg to be asked in conjunction with Pixies on Parade. Similarly, if you expected an expansion to the concept of imagination magic, I'll have to disappoint you. Still, as a stand-alone, this works rather well. Know how it works even better, though? If you consider this the extended cut version-expansion for Pixies on Parade. I would have loved to have this pdf when I ran the module, for the new creatures herein demand being used in the beginning of the module and the nightmare king stats can make for a cool super-boss (perhaps after a further temporary level-upgrade) or even for a sequel. I really like everything in here...but I've liked a lot back in Pixies on Parade. If you get this, be aware that there's a lot of overlap between the two, though this pdf is obviously more detailed. If you don't mind that and plan on running Pixies on Parade, then get this NOW. If you do mind, you may want to consider the decision a bit more carefully, though the price-point is low and fair as far as I'm concerned.

Personally, I enjoyed the new critters herein enough and the means for expanding the narrative and to craft your own sequel for the superb module are certainly appreciated - now excuse me, I need to start writing...oh, final verdict? Hmm, that's a tough one. As mentioned before, if overlaps between books annoy, you, detract a star...if, however, you want a fairy-tale village with gorgeous maps and some thematically-fitting critters to accompany it, or if you want to add more oomph to Pixies on Parade, then this is for you and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive city-sourcebook clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1/2 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 62.5 pages of content, so let's return to the world of Sæmyyr!

Wait, what? Well, it's arguably been a while and this book has slipped somewhat between the cracks of my reviewing folder, but let's recapitulate, all right? Beyond being the setting of the Gates of Tarina-adventure, the eponymous city is an important jigsaw piece in the panorama of the Shadowlands, also known as Sæmyyr.

The world of Sæmyyr's ambition is rather significant, to say the least: The basic idea lies in a fantasy-realism: Magic is based on nigh-unknowable level of technology (though players will probably never find that out) and Gygaxian realism is another key tenet for the setting. Basically, shadowlands takes the old adage of advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic (look at your smart-phone and doubt that one's veracity...) and applies it consistently to a huge planet. The result is surprisingly interesting, for the basic premise, consequently, results in magic behaving slightly differently, being treated differently - since the set-up implies a certain level of consistency you'd only see in hard scifi, the result feels surprisingly organic...feasible. This is coupled with a take on fantasy usually not seen elsewhere: Namely, that of a quasi-Roman empire that is, in fact, more developed than traditional Middle Age-based fantasy. Coupled with aforementioned take on magic and have a setting that feels not only novel, but also consistent. And yes, this is enhanced by the massive map of the city: Tarina's map looks like a satellite map taken straight from Google Sæmyyr.

But enough, you want to know what's in this book, right? Well, we begin our trip to Tarina with several pages depicting an immersive, well-written short-story that portrays life in this metropolis before taking a glimpse at relationship demographics, including racial subtypes and sub-species - instead of bogging the game down with alternate stats for each of the classic races, these entries are based mostly on the captivating and well-presented fluff, with respective entries featuring information on nomenclature, personality and the like. Now usually, this can end up being pretty bland, though not in this book - the write-up is captivating and diverse and actually, and this will be true for the whole book, a pleasure to read.

However, at the same time, one can see the relative (then) inexperience of the designers - a little sidebox provides additional racial powers that are supernatural abilities - sans codifying them properly as either alternate racial traits or as race traits - instead, they seem to represent modifications of the base racial stats - which is fine with me, but would need to be explicitly stated to avoid confusion. Design-wise, they tend to be solid and feature scaling mechanisms for daily uses and DCs where applicable, though one in particular is just bad design: Ghost Hammer. Dwarves (here called Durinn) with this power call upon ancestral spirits to provide minor +2 atk or AC bonuses in combat...in the most convoluted way I can imagine. Each round, at the character's turn, sans expending an action, the character may perform an attack based on BAB and Wis-mod versus AC 10, the bonus lasting 1d4+Wis-score. The ability fails to specify whether both bonuses can be granted by subsequent uses; the bonuses are untyped...and I don't get, at all, why the ability requires the time-consuming attack in the first place. It's just die-rolling for the sake of die-rolling sans justifiable benefit.

Thankfully, the book quickly focuses again on more interesting components - the means by which classes are codified and assigned culturally relevant places in the framework of Sæmyyr enhances the sense of immersion featured in this book - the very fact that magic is nigh-monopolized by the Brotherhood, for example, is certainly a relevant factor in global and local politics. On the positive end, the pdf does sport a number of unique traits that help root characters in Tarina - and here, the pdf manages to provide the required precision.

Tarina is a conquered city and the majority of this book is, obviously, devoted to this metropolis - its crime families, its occupying force, its politics and unique places. The general depiction of this city is ultimately hard to capture properly in a review sans quoting passages upon passages of material from within - suffice to say, the quality of the prose here is high - unlike many similar supplements, I found myself reading this supplement without an internal wish to skip ahead. The portrayal of the metropolis of Tarina is an excellent example of what good writing can make or break a supplement - the numbers and nomenclature are important, sure, but this one's writing is what it makes captivating. This level of quality extends to the write-up of the organizations and the visuals provided for them are great - though, once again, the crunch falls somewhat flat of the imaginative potential of the fluff: The Knights of Kashouli, for example, can take a feat that allows them to 1/day, as a swift action, heal twice Wis-mod Hp. Yeah, let's go ahead and spend a feat on that. Yeah, you read right - no scaling of uses or increasing healing. Urgh. Similarly, the 5-level PrC for the knights is pretty much the definition of mechanically bland - some minor talents, better Knowledge, Diehard and finally, +1 Int or Wis as a capstone. You may not properly grasp this, but in view of how good the fluff is, this is jarring.

Now noted, the authors can actually create solid mechanics - particularly the magic-rules that take into account the specifics of Sæmyyr are interesting - non-brotherhood members are subject to flux-rolls when casting - these can provide critical/maximum effects to spells and the like, minimal effects and have a chance of forcing a roll on the rifts of insanity table, providing a complex and surprisingly concise system - granted, not one for every game, but mechanically it is interesting - though the damage-maximization/minimization will make magic and psionics ultimately more swingy. It should also be noted that, while the presentation is concise, a short explanation text would have made the flux-table and the rifts-mechanic associated with it more user-friendly. The aforementioned brotherhood caster class is also provided and can be considered to be a variant full caster with some flavorful order abilities (which work akin to cavalier orders - they offer a linear progression of abilities) and the class also provides titles for the respective levels (and the color of the eyes of these casters) - flavor-wise, this is a well-crafted class, though the omission of pluses in the table remains an obvious formatting glitch that should have been caught in editing. Still, flavorwise, this class is awesome and inspired - though I wished more than 2 of the sample orders were provided.

The next chapter deals with the power players of Tarina and their interaction with the respective PCs, providing a vast, inspired tapestry of adventure ideas galore and further insight into the intricately woven tapestry of Tarina.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - on the one hand, formally, the editing is pretty awesome, though the depiction of the rules-components herein is simply less refined - a good developer/rules-editor would have helped here. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the book sports extremely awesome Paizo-level quality artworks and excellent cartography - this book is BEAUTIFUL. On the downside, the electronic version has no bookmarks, which represents a massive comfort detriment. This review was written by using mainly the print edition of this book, which was kindly donated to me by a friend and reader - the full-color KS-print is absolutely gorgeous and well worth getting.

Chris Merwin, Stephen Michael DiPesa and Jaye Sonia have created one truly astounding city herein - and, quite frankly, I shouldn't like Tarina as much as I actually do. There are quite a few rough edges in the crunch and some material that is flavor-wise awesome, but crunch-wise falls flat. Similarly, you won't find a settlement statblock for Tarina herein. I really shouldn't like this to that extent...but Tarina MAKES SENSE. One can clearly see the work of academics, of smart people that understand how culture, politics, society and the like work - and who manage to actually convey this knowledge and apply it. Tarina feels incredibly alive to me, chock-full of potential.

Similarly, this may be a detailed, very detailed setting, but one that does not drown in micro-management, walking the perfect balance between detail and high-concept: Whether you're interested in the big picture or in the small, Tarina delivers in spades and makes me anticipate the long-delayed campaign setting even more. How to rate this, then? This is kind of difficult - you see, if you're getting this for rules, then you'll probably be disappointed. But if you're getting this for the writing, for reading pleasure and inspiration, as a means of looking at a fascinating world I actually REALLY would love to play in, then this may well be an excellent investment. Still, with the minor flaws, I can't rate this as highly as I'd like to. The print version does receive a final verdict of 4.5 stars from me; If you're getting the electronic version, detract a star for the bookmark-issue, though if you even remotely have a thing for well-crafted cities and cultures, I'd suggest rounding up even then. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign setting clocks in at 122 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 116 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, so here I am, time and again, complaining about rehashed tropes - so does this book bring something new to the table? The answer to this is surprisingly complex. But let me begin. Winter Eternal takes place on the continent Ehlerrac on the world Azegar - said place was an environment of lush and diverse biomes, where people and magic prospered for ages. Then, the sun died in the event commonly referred to as Sun Death - which is kind of correct...and not. A sputtering globe still hangs in the sky and when the resulting cataclysms had passed, life continued - perhaps due to its sputtering last emissions, perhaps due to powerful magics...fact is, that instant heat death and entropy did not claim the continent: The Green Council tried to maintain life, the orc wars began and what once were camps of struggling survivors evolved into cities adapting to the harsh environment of Ehlerrac - massive heat spells keeping life possible in distinct zones. Similarly, current innovations have created protected roads, so-called archways, connecting them and the unearthing of strange crystals, dubbed sunshards, speaks of a revolution in technology in the making.

This is interesting indeed from a set-perspective, though its roots cannot be denied: As much as this book's diverse blurbs claim otherwise, this is pretty much a quintessential post-apocalyptic setting: It may not sport the nuclear/magical fallout component, but, from pockets of civilization with odd customs to rare means of making survival possible, this draws on tropes of the genre and generally inverses the spin one usually sees: Winter Eternal could well be considered to be the mirror image of Dark Sun. Mind you, this is not a bad thing - I just don't get why this book's advertisement tries so hard to deny these roots.

But back to the subject matter at hand - we're entering Ehlerrac 140 years after globes of life-saving light went up above the remaining cities and people by now have adapted to the strange lands and thus, character creation sports short blurbs for diverse characters and races as well as providing several edges and hindrances. Playable race-wise, we get dwarves, elves, goblins, grayns, half-folk, humans, mekellions and the orc-tainted. Generally, the races are well-balanced, though the mekellions are arguably the strongest of the races portrayed herein, at least on paper...with one catch. They're reptilians. Ina world defined by the capital letters word "COLD" - so go figure: You may be stealthy and a natural climber, but susceptibility to cold of all things...ouch. A total of 2 hindrances and 7 edges are provided for your perusal to expand your character's options.

Similarly, thereafter, we are introduced to a variety of items, which also features several unique things like velopedals, sunshard tents and the like - and it is here, the book shows its most baffling organization decision: Interspersed throughout this book, you'll note backer-inspired cards of characters, which sport full stats and background information. I *like* the respective write-ups do not get me wrong - however, having NPC-stats show right up in the middle of another section is just bad organization: It drags you out of the section and may even constitute a SPOILER in the player-centric sections of the book. Perhaps I'm a prick, but this bothers me to no end.

Now, to return to at least proverbially greener pastures, let us take a look at how the world is depicted, for it is here that Winter Eternal once again manages to shine. While you should not expect scifi-levels of concise logic in a setting that contains copious amounts of magic, the world as depicted herein does feel surprisingly concise: From lighting conditions to the archways themselves, the culture and its defining characteristics are depicted in a rather captivating manner, with Summer and Autumn zones and the respective cities in particular being surprisingly interesting: Beyond sporting neat maps, ghost-haunted Deadfalls, Dwarven Drogan and the sound-amplifying Echo all make for unique places that draw upon high-concept, unique ideas - particularly wallside, a city build along the walls in a huge chasm, is a visually-stunning idea I absolutely adored. Similarly, the respective organizations - which include the voiceless that convey the messages from the dead or the waywalkers make sense in the world they inhabit. 4 deities, 3 hells, calendars and festivals - there is quite a bit of material here, most of which firmly belongs in the high-concept class...though this breadth and density of good ideas does come at a price, namely at the price of details.

You see, the respective entries portraying these components ultimately remain sketchy - whether it's the deities or cities, you always are left with an awesome concept, perhaps a great map...and then have to do the heavy lifting of adding the details. Similarly, while there is a section on magic and its impact/restrictions, I ultimately found myself wondering whether there should not be more in that regard as well. The game master section collates rules for different environmental zones and helps convey a bit of the flavor of the setting and sports some more detailed and captivating hooks, like the chaotic, potentially mutating red shards. Similarly, fluff-only entries for the lost orc tribes, the dead ruler and similar high-concept ideas touched upon in the book are appreciated - but also feel, at least to me, brief. The book's bestiary provides a diverse selection of creatures to combat, some of which sport gorgeous full-color artworks. That being said, mechanics-wise, while not bad, you probably won't be blown away by the rather classic array of creatures herein - stone golem? Check. Zombie? Check. Going a step further and bringing something more unique here more often would have benefited this book.

Winter Eternal concludes with a thank you-list interspersed with more NPCs, a map of Ehlerrac and a handy index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - I noticed quite an array of punctuation glitches and couldn't shake the feeling that a capable editor could have made the prose a bit more alive - while not in all instances, there are some cases where it feels too stiff for the glorious concepts it tries to convey. Layout adheres to a two-column standard in full color that has a relatively wide margin in the middle of the page, which is used to enter comments and quotes - a nice idea, though one that obviously artificially bloats the page-count and makes the book longer than its content would require it to be. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. Artwork-wise, the book sports absolutely glorious full-color pieces that oscillate with some less awesome, more cartoony pieces. The aforementioned NPC-cards, thrown haphazardly through the book, sport solid b/w-artworks - though their different style clashes, also on an aesthetic level, with the presentation of the respective chapters.

Author Morné Schaap has created a setting that breathes being a labor of love - this does present a significant array of imagination and panache. At the same time, this book has two significant flaws. Number one pertains the NPC-cards - Why not organize all those NPCs in their own, GM-only chapter? There is no good reason for this jarring layout-decision that takes you, time and again, out of the prose of the chapter you're reading....to the point, where I got really annoyed by them. Think about it, you're reading about the climate of Athas and *poof*, suddenly, 2 pages of statblocks and NPC-backgrounds, then more on climate. Call me a prick, but this annoyed me to no end.

Then again, I may have an idea why this decision was made...you see, the layout already leaves a pretty wide margin...and the cards stretch the respective sub-header entries. The whole history of Ehlerrac...is covered in 4 pages. The wilderness...in 4 pages...which include artworks and two cards. And *THAT*'s the problem of Winter Eternal: Winter Eternal is not a campaign setting in the traditional sense - it's a sketch of a campaign setting, a basic gazetteer. When you take away the copious, interesting NPC-cards, you are left with precious few pieces of information on the world - granted, enough to run the game in Ehlerrac...but, at least to me, not enough.

Don't get me wrong: Winter Eternal is a fantastic idea-mine that shows a creative mind at work, a depiction of a world wherein winter is not only coming - it's here to stay. But at the same time, this book constantly show you awesome concept y...to then not elaborate on it, leaving you to flesh out the brilliant idea. As an idea-mine, this is great - as a campaign setting, it, at least to me, fell short due to not providing enough material for the respective components, due to being too sketchy in several of its key components.

Do I want to read more on Ehlerrac? Yes! I see vast potential in this setting to truly be unique, awesome and distinct. But at the same time, this book, on its own, left me like a good bowl of Ramen: Happy and satisfied for a very brief period...and then, the hunger started settling back in and I started thinking about it. How to rate this, then? Well, for one, I have written this review thrice now - the author is continuously streamlining the book, which is great to see. As per the posting of this review, I am very much hopeful for the future supplements planned for Winter Eternal and caring about a book...is a good thing. Still, ultimately, this one left me at once excited and with a distinct impression of having read a great, if flawed offering that simply could have used more material to make its respective aspects shine. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo, to 4 stars for the purpose of this platforms - nice as an idea mine, somewhat short of what I expect from a campaign setting. If you're looking for the latter, round down.

Reviewed first one ndzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.

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