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This book for the mean DM is 82 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So...Bill Webb has somewhat of a reputation for not only being FGG's mastermind, but also for being a capable and deadly DM - one I didn't yet have the honor to play with, but from what I've heard - wow. And this book, well, it contains some of his nastiest tricks - which makes for an interesting read, so let's see if even jaded DMs like your truly can draw some neat tricks out of this one!
The pdf kicks off with an introduction -and something that makes the book rather interesting in sensibility - Bill's game is a blend of old-school, Sword & Wizardry and 3.X/PFRPG sprinkled in and hence, throughout the book, Skeeter Green has boxes, where he explains changes in terminology in the system, provides spell-conversions into a given system and generally elaborates peculiarities, making this book MUCH more useful than it would be otherwise. All right, got that?
One glorious house-rule herein is rather interesting -XP for GOLD SPENT. No, seriously - think about it: Clerics building temples and sniffing good incense, paladins giving alms, rogues and fighter gambling and whoring -it makes for a great way to handle e.g. XP gained via downtime etc.- even better if you want to have leveling actually take some time and entail some...things that happen. A great roleplaying catalyst! Alternate weapon damage, attributes and bonuses, travel etc. are also provided, though these will probably primarily be a godsend for DMs who want to defuse the rules-heaviness of PFRPG's crunch, for they represent essentially concise, but still a bit quick and dirty simplifications. Now the "got lost" charts and rolls on the other hand are truly awesome and simple for just about every system they're used in -especially thanks to proper survival DCs etc. also provided.
Simpler rules for food and drink, foraging etc. are also in here - more interesting and yet another godsend-level table would be the concise 50-entry-three column table to generate unorthodox door opening mechanisms - so simple and yet so flavorful - awesome! This also extends to actual specific trigger-mechanisms for traps.
We all have been there - the moment where players just are incredibly LUCKY. I once had it happen that a PC could ONLY survive by a) winning initiative (enemy rolls 1, he a 20) - he did that. Thereafter, he had to crit the foe and confirm - two twenties required, both rolled. THEN he still had to roll max damage with a d10 and 5d6 AND then, in order to not be destroyed by his godlike adversary, he would have to roll a 10 on a d10 (indicating fatal head wound) and then a natural 100 on a d% in order to manage an instant-beheading according to the crit rules I used back then. Every other outcome would have seen him SLAUGHTERED. Well, do the math - I did not expect this character to survive. He did. Players are lucky...and this one suddenly had the regalia of literally one of the most powerful warrior-lords EVER to walk the lands, plus his fortune as by custom of trial by combat.
Where I'm getting at with this anecdote is - sometimes players are lucky, deservedly so - but the consequences might prove to become issues for the balance of the campaign. Hence, the next chapter is all about handling players with too much treasure via quite an array of options - several of them rather nasty, but concise and best of all: They make sense -both in a historical context of fantasy and in-game - just think about all those times in the stories and comics Conan got a fortune and was subsequently deprived of it (when he didn't squander it to convert gold to XP, that is!) - yeah, that level of loss. Now here's a huge issue I have as a reviewer - I *could* go into detail regarding all of the tricks, as I usually do - but that would somehow defeat the purpose of this book.
As soon as the tricks as made obvious, players are more likely to consider them as such and not as just a concise development of the campaign - by exposing them, I'd hurt their effectiveness. So I'll refrain from that - just one thing: Whether it's an AP kind of on the wrong side of a despotic city's law, a certain mythic incursion into an abyssal landscape or a certain kingdom-building experience - there's a fitting trick for just about every context here.
The next chapter is called "Situational Advantage" - and is glorious - generally, it is a DM's primer for some cool environmental hazards/modifications/tactics, with neat mechanics to supplement them - and you gotta love the Pepé-Le-Pew giant skunk-entry. Now there are also some other glorious terrain books out there, but this chapter still makes a great supplement for some rather nasty hazards...
Next up would be a chapter that my players would HATE - because I've used similar tricks: Magical keys that do nothing, Unobtanium and similar nasty tricks and time wasters are exceedingly efficient at making players not analyze EVERYTHING - but there's another benefit: A DM can use these tricks as blank spaces to later revisit and improvise contexts that weren't there before, retroactively fit in storylines and the like - and no, not going into all the details of this chapter. Once again - less effective if players know what they're up against.
The next two chapters also are smart - Wolves-in-sheep's clothing and vice versa - with these, you can drive home the fear of the unknown, read advice on unkillable (no, seriously! You CAN'T kill these! Yes. Pointy sticks and arcane fire aren't always the solution!) monsters or traumatize your players to be afraid of mold. No seriously - my players start gibbering and running whenever something mold-related comes up. Demons? Pfff. Bring out the unmoving fungus! With the tips herein, you can make YOUR players afraid of whatever you like! (And if you require further assistance - drop me a line!)
Now the trick-chapter is also interesting -from stacking certain hazards/obstacles to puzzle-style combat to tesseracts and portals - a lot of goodies here.
Finally, we have a great chapter called "Greed is bad" - from pointing towards the timeless "Don't drink two potions at once"-table from 1E (seriously - hunt that one down!) to some other...interesting tricks to make players stop succumbing to Karzoug's favorite sin, this is a fitting conclusion to this nice booklet.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard reminiscent of small booklets like digests. The print-edition, which is btw. of top-notch quality, does also adhere to this size.The pdf provides ample, cool and iconic old-school b/w-artworks. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Wow, this was an uncommon ride for me - mainly because reading this book was somewhat a blast from the past, with many tricks implicit in the old-school of adventure design properly and concisely spelled out. While the house-rules herein may not be to everyone's liking, DMs and groups looking for simplification got one awesome resource here. Furthermore, some of the tricks are glorious, while others elicited a "D'unh" from me - the latter though, as I realized, mostly due to me coming from kind of (though not wholly - Bill Webb's old-school credibility vastly outclasses mine!) this school of DMing. I.e. my game is lethal, PCs die and the world is not conveniently CR-stacked for PCs to slaughter. I started thinking, and relatively soon realized that most new-school modules simply don't use tricks like these - and worse, were limited to the module, whereas most of the tricks herein actually help keeping a campaign going, not a simple module.
And as every DM who ran something that was not a plot-driven AP can attest, it is campaigns, with freedom, strange choices and especially sandboxes that can provide the problems this booklet combats. As such, and due to the ridiculously low price, I can wholeheartedly recommend this useful book - even if you're a better Dm than me and know every trick in this book already, it still makes for a cool blast-from-the-past-style reading and should inspire some rules-changes/refreshing of the mentality at the heart of FGG's success. Congrats to Bill Webb and developers Skeeter Green and Matthew J. Finch - well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Okay, today I'll do something different - and take a look at a free d20-supplement. This review has been requested last years and it took forever. Why? Because we're talking Eclipse, 202 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 197 pages, so what do we get?
First of all - if you like this pdf, you can buy the print edition or pay for it here - in the fine shareware tradition, I encourage those of you who find this book interesting to do so.
So, what is this about? This book is essentially the world's biggest character class-generator for d20-based systems. Don't believe me that this system is massive? Well...you could conceivably play children, infant characters even with it. The system introduces CPs - character points, which are used to buy EVERYTHING - skills, feats, Hit Dice - everything can be customized via these points, of which a character receives 24 per level. How does HD work? Essentially, a character gets d4+con-mod for free - bigger HD cost progressively more CP, allowing, provided the DM allows it, up to d20 HD.
This is a running theme - the system herein offers maximum flexibility, but never tires of emphasizing that a DM should retain the final say.
Skills not on the class-skill-list start as essentially the equivalent of cross-class, becoming class skills at 6 invested CP- with 1 CP equal to 1 rank. Now relevant for PFRPG would be that class skills/cross-class skills are handled more in line with PFRPG than its 3.X predecessor here, but with a catch - the character can also buy very specialized knowledge, i.e. knowing about a specific tome, a ritual etc. - these cost CP as well and provide in-depth information on those topics. Generally, that makes for a very interesting way of handling very specialized information. Saving throws cost 3 CP per point and most specialized abilities clock in at 6 points, but could theoretically also cost more, depending on the ability in question.
BAB is increased similarly - via the slightly unfortunately named Warcraft - which is an ability that costs 6 points and nets +1 BAB. Base Caster Level works similarly and have a limit of level+3, surprisingly. This also extends to the BAB, allowing you to potentially go above the level in question. Spellcasting per level is purchased in a similar manner, with fixed costs. And yes, these include the 3.X psionic classes.
Now beyond tables upon tables, there are roleplaying modifications to CP earned - depending on the campaign you run, you could prescribe X bonus CP to be used in a specific way. On a character's side, players may enter obligations, restrictions and the like to increase or decrease the CP gained each level. Disadvantages, much like flaws, are presented here as well. Action points are part of the deal as well, mind you, and represent just another buy-in option of specialized abilities available for CP.
Want to have a dominion, an equippage? Doable. Want to get completely rid of any class-distinctions? There you go. Point-buy casting via mana (which could be used to generate power points or spell-levels?) - in here. Return from death, villain-style? Possible. Shapeshifting? Sacrificing treasure in favor of mystic powers? Oversized combat maneuvers and weapons? Yep. Deal ability damage with attacks? Yup. Block attacks via fixed ref-DCs? Yep. This would also be one example (of many), where a particular rules-solution is inelegant and wouldn't see use at my table - ever - non-scaling, competing throws? Not my cup of coffee and similarly, not particularly balanced design.
Metamagic, lacing of spells - the same exceedingly modular approach applies. The same goes for handling ECL+X races and race-generation - including size modifications down to cellular levels. Some existing templates are also broken down by CP-cost and channeling energy, monster abilities etc. are covered in their own chapter, allowing for quite an array of alternative options for channeling.
Now, I've noted the option to have a dominion - this one nets Dominion Points, which allow further options for customization and achieve with the political might. Card-themed casting, godfire, occult abilities, martial styles, ritual magic, witchcraft - all there. Have I mentioned spells from the levels 10 -23? Yes, in case these meteor showers just don't cut it anymore.
World generation and motivations for characters would also be found herein - the system supports anything from anime-style campaigns to gritty ones and even pokémon-style gameplay. Sample character class (and PrC)-break-downs, handling different power-levels - and even checklists to make sure your now class-less character has proper motivations etc. - all of this is covered and infinitely more.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to an easy to read 2-column b/w-standard with fitting stock art. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks.
Paul Melroy and Patrick Bryant have created an interesting book for 3.X - one that can be made compatible with PFRPG, by the way, if you're willing to do some work.
EDIT: I've been made aware that the system has been made Pathfinder compatible - you can find the respective information here:
Thanks to the comments that pointed this out!
Over all, Eclipse provides a superbly modular framework, essentially breaking down d20-based gaming to its base constituents in the endeavor to allow maximum flexibility. And generally, the authors have done an exceedingly fine job with it. The major problems I found were system-inherent - maximum flexibility allows for maximum options and hence also maximum fluctuation between PC power levels. While generally, the system tries hard to maintain a sense of balance, overall, eclipse is less about standard number-crunching and more about narrative-driven playing environments. "But why not go diceless or old-school in that case?" Well, perhaps you like the framework, perhaps you want some choices...or perhaps you just want general ideas on what *could* make for compelling, non-standardized options.
Now what makes Eclipse different, concise within the d20-framework? It is a system that breaks just about EVERYTHING down to CP - everything. Attacks, sneak attack, psionics, mana, runes, being a lord - everything. This is the system of ultimate possibilities and this vast array of options, some of which you probably won't even think you desired, makes this book such a mile-stone.
For a mile-stone it is. This book, true to its name, eclipses by far other race/class generators I've seen and over all, remains MUCH MORE balanced than e.g. the race generation in Paizo's ARG or just about all similar generators I've read so far. I still wouldn't unanimously recommend it as a base for a campaign if your players enjoy the power-gaming/number-crunching game, unless you're willing to do quite a lot of checking, also because some of the individual rules simply aren't balanced (or not scaling) or rather clunky. While in no way true for the majority of content herein, I managed to break a couple of sample concepts - which is acknowledged and in line with the more narrative-driven focus of this book. So what is the grand achievement in this book? This is essentially the talented concept, taken a significant step further. Now while it's theoretically compatible with Pathfinder, I'd contest that claim somewhat by pointing out the changed ability-suites, power-levels, skill-emphasis etc. - it *IS* compatible, yes, but it also imho requires A LOT of work and quite a few design-decisions not all DMs will be capable of making to fully break down PFRPG in CP. While the conversion on the blog are extensive, they necessarily can't cover the entirety of material out there, so be aware of the necessity to do some conversion.
This is modular...in the highest sense. And it also is one of those books that get the juices flowing. Even if you don't use this book, there are so many ideas for classes, archetypes, feats, magic systems etc. in here that any designer who hit a writer's block regarding such concepts can flip open this book and get inspired - not necessarily by the individual mechanics, but by their proximity, their concepts, their general idea and general CP-cost - the same holding true for balancing more esoteric means and CP as a means of specialized knowledge is a stroke of genius idea that could easily be integrated into a given game, even without the rest of the rules - this is crunch/idea-cherry-picking at its finest - and it's free to check out. If you like what you're reading, support these guys.
All in all, this may not be perfect, but the book is an inspiring read nonetheless and should be checked out by anyone intrigued, even slightly, in the idea of a truly modular character-generator that gets rid of all the class-borders. As such, I will rate the inspiration, what can be drawn from this, at 5 stars. You should be aware, though, that the experience provided here is radically different from standard d20 and requires a crunch-savvy DM as well as a lot of dialogue between DM and player and should not be considered a toolkit for anyone. Personally, some of the rules-components rub me the wrong way, I'm a bit too balance-obsessed and too time-starved to break down NPCs etc. in CP, but at the same time loved the inspirations this book provided.
This book is 188 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with182 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
Full Disclosure: This review is mostly based on the Hardcover of the book, which I got for backing the Kickstarter. With just a minimum delay and communication throughout the process, I might add. I was in no way affiliated with the production of this book.
That out of the way... Before you click on another page due to the book's price: WAIT. Just a second, okay? Please read on, I guarantee you won't regret it. This book is filled to the brim with crunch and in order to avoid bloating this review unduly, I promise I'll try to be as brief as possible, given the matter at hand. Let me ask you a question to begin:
Have you ever wanted to run an aerial chase, dogfights on dragons, with manticores, chimera and giant eagles crashing into one another, while their riders duke it out in free fall as their mounts try to rip each other asunder? Have you ever wanted to blast after a dragon-riding villain and perhaps even ride your own dragon to face the tyrant as your army and the forces of darkness clash below you? Have you ever wanted to jump from the highest window of the sapphire tower, jewel of Hashk-Kanep in hand, only to land on the back of your trusty Pegasus, while the sultan's enraged men cover the sky with hundreds, nay, thousands of arrows and bolts? If you have ever wanted to do something like that, then by all means, read on.
Do you know what all of these scenarios have in common? They don't work properly in PFRPG.
But more on that in a very short bit - after all, this book is about helped, personal flight - from the means to achieve it, broken down by class and taking various archetypes into account, this pdf leaves, from the very first page, no doubt on how serious it handles the topic: If you have ever had a flying PC or taken any amount of time to concoct a story-line featuring the lofty skies, you'll realize one thing as soon as you take a look at PFRPG's flight-rules. They're there. Somewhere.
This pdf organizes them in a way that actually make them USABLE. Don't believe me that the basic rules are just not that well-organized? What about encumbrance for flying creatures that are quadrupeds? Why is this relevant? Flying mounts can't fly in medium or heavy barding - which doubles as counting as medium/heavy-load equivalent. Which means only light load, otherwise no dice for your flying mount to carry you aloft. I just wished I had this book prior to having to pierce this together from sentences throughout the core rule book. Now different playstyles have different preferences and hence, just about EVERY set of rules has three options - a simulation-style approach, a hybrid approach and a cinematic approach that is more focused on what's cool. Tables of mount sizes and rider sizes in comparison to show how many passengers they can carry, negotiation with intelligent mounts -all of that is concisely broken down and explained in a clarity that would have spared me about 2 weeks of frustration, book-switching and browsing through boards. Yeah, go figure.
We get three classes in here - the magical beast rider (a cavalier archetype),who can teach his/her mount arcane talents and choose from selections as exotic as the winged cat & dog Bixie and Hainu to Griffons and Spider-Eaters. The airshaping sky pilgrim alternate monk, in the meanwhile, feels like an expertly-executed nod towards "The Last Airbender", gaining the option to shape winds, fly etc. and, in fact, working much better than the rather lame monk base-class. (Hint for Owen K.C. Stephens should he read this - I'd love to see this made "talented"...). Now speaking of former Super Genius, now Rogue Genius Games - their Dragon Rider base-class is powerful, but many people don't particularly like the amount of actions they eat. For those of you looking for an alternate take, herein is the Wyrm Rider, an alternate cavalier that rides on a domesticated, less dangerous species of dragon, which, while not as powerful as a regular dragon, also doesn't eat your actions for a different playing experience.
This book being about flying companions, we get concise lists of animal companions that can fly, with entries on being ground-suitable, aerial trip CMDs, options to carry things (and people), full companion stats etc. - there is a LOT of work in these tables and they cover regular dragon cohorts gained via leadership and also faithful companions: The latter are rather ingenious options for characters in aerial-heavy campaigns that want a flying mount, but don't have the suitable class - faithful companions can be rescued, raised etc. and, while not as efficient as animal companions, make for awesome pets. The rules here are once again an example for concise, easy to grasp material.
New race-wise, we get the Half-Fey - which comes with 6 variants that feature an ARG race-point break-down for each and range from their point values from 1 at 10 points to 4 11-point builds to 1 20 point-build for higher fantasy campaigns. Aforementioned Bixie and Hainu also get full statblocks/bestiary-style entries, as do so-called lesser chimera, which essentially are flying animals that have a rather simple template added. oh, and we get a one-page easy-to-grasp overview over flying constructs with a streamlined single look, you have all information handy on one page.
At this place in time while writing this review, I was honestly feeling like I was failing - why? Because I just can't mention everything this book does, the level of detail it provides - take weapons - not only do we get new ones, this book also deals with the question what happens when flight is common in a setting: The importance of ranged combat and the proficiency thus required, a whole page of bardings, signaling kites, slow-burning smokesticks, aeronautic balloons - and all of these even before brooms of flying or even Thunnorad, Thor's chariot (WITH properly spelled names for the two rams - the scholar of Scandinavian literature rejoices!) or flying Vardos enter the fray with concisely-worded and at the same time iconic rules. Oh each, OF COURSE, also are all collated in tables with appropriate NPC levels / PC levels to have them, gp value etc. - If only the regular rules were that well organized!
Now if you've been following my reviews, you'll know that I consider vehicles to be underdeveloped and this book also has some ideas here - first of all, it proposes a less insane driving-DC (which I've house-ruled ages ago); secondly, from balloons to alchemical skiffs and air barges to batman-style kite-gliders, we get some cool additional vehicles. Yay! Suffice to say, once again, the rules are almost painfully concise and easy to grasp in their presentations.
Now remember the example at the beginning, with the sultan's archers? Want to fly over an enemy army and rain death on them? enter missile mooks! By providing concise rules for volley-shots of large quantities of archers/crossbowmen and no less than 4 (!!!) pages of tables that include perception, CRs, XP-values, ACs, atks and damage, we get mooks for literally EVERY situation, spanning the Crs from 1/3 to 18! This chapter will get a tremendous amount of use, not only by me.
Have I mentioned concise lists of flying mounts by their terrain that cover the first 3 bestiaries 8the 4th hadn't been released yet...), the extensive rules on creating storms with wind-speeds, rain, climate, clouds, max visibility and special occurrences like lightning, hail and turbulences? Oh, for EACH SEASON and THREE CLIMATES? a concise system to create weather hazards on the fly?
What comes up, must come down, as the saying goes, and falling-rules, from simulation-style half-rounds to cinematic style options to ground-catch or mid-air catch targets are not only explained, their pros and cons are weighed and individual systems are provided for your preference. so yeah, if you always thought that Superman's arms should have sliced Lois Lane clean in three parts - here are rules for that as well as one-glance tables that show you the amount of damage caused. And yes, unconsciousness, the diehard feat, ferocity, being big and rings of feather falling - all in here, all taken into account.
Now how to handle this grid-wise? The book actually also has various ways for you to handle this, with sidescroll, top-down, full-blown 3d via two maps and tables of vertical reach summed up cleanly for you. If you don't want to go full-blown simulation, there are varying and all feasible abstract grid-options with corresponding rules to be found in here as well, including abstract ranges, movement etc. The Fly-skill's maneuvers, including u-turns of varying degrees on a more simulationalist grid are also perfectly explained and detailed alongside ascending/descending. And yes, they are expanded from the basis provided to include e.g. 135°-turns, the concept of expanded flight and different ways of dealing with the problem of the face of creatures -whether you want to keep it or get rid of it - this book has you covered. Have I mentioned strong winds, flying through canopies etc.?
Gamemasters aren't left hanging in the cold stratosphere either - this pdf literally has thought EVERYTHING through: The repercussions of common flight, from preferred weapons to the role of small folk like halflings and gnomes, the costs of maintaining herbivore/carnivore armadas of flying creatures, trade winds, guild-systems, flags & pennants, politics, ley lines, artforms (GEOGLYPHS!), strategic cliff-dwellings, food pyramids, overland travel via fly-speed distances (again, in 3 different forms) - this chapter is a world-builder's dream and perfectly summarizes key question of what would change in a world if flying was really common.
That is not where this book stops, though - Fly maneuverability templates and companion/cohort-sheets for just about EVERY CREATURE as well as token galore for the creatures, a missile mook sheet, a rules-checklist (so you can recall which of the various options you and your players settled on - e.g. a world with trade winds, but no organized sky guilds?) and finally, a concise summary of fly, ride and handle animal-skills -all of these can be found in here as well.
Editing and formatting are SUPERB - I only noticed two minor typos, one of which was my nick in the backer-list, but who cares - at this length an impressive achievement. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy-to-read 2-column b/w-standard that makes the tables herein (and there are A LOT) easy on the eyes. The b/w-artwork, of which we get a LOT is rather cartoonish/very old-school in many places, whereas some pieces are downright awesome. It took me some time to get used to it, but it does have its charm. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and if you can track one down, get the hardcover - it is solidly and very professionally produced. I'm not 100% sure whether all the creature-sheets of the KS are included with this book on non-KS-venues, so I can't include those in my final verdict.
This book left me utterly, completely flabbergasted. I backed this when I wasn't as dirt-poor as I'm right now on a whim and honestly didn't expect to ever see it. One company that never released a supplement prior to this one, what can one expect? I had honestly forgotten about this book when it found its way into my mail-box - not due to excessive delay, but simply due to much on my plate. In an age where kickstarters by established RPG-companies sometimes are overdue by more than 2 years and often lack anything resembling regular communications, this was one surprise. It went promptly on my shelf in favor of daily reviewing and only after some time found its way into my hands. I read it and my jaw just dropped, smashed through the floor and hit the floor of the cellar.
I'm living on the 8th floor.
This is a once-in-a-blue-moon-book that is not only a testimony to Neil Carr's dedication and passion to the topic of flight, but also to his work ethics: To think that ONE designer made this is mind-boggling.
Let me spell it out: This book belongs into the library of every PFRPG-DM. No exceptions. Ne leeway. This is the Cerulean Seas of the sky and does what Cerulean Seas did for underwater adventuring (albeit aesthetically slightly less appealing) for flying, aerial combat, aerial campaigns etc. I'm going a step further: Players wanting to play flying characters should get this and get their DM a copy. This book is a milestone, a glorious beast that came from nowhere and that shows that having no track-record is never an excuse for faulty rules-language: This is as tightly worded, as concisely phrased as any book by Paizo, perhaps even beyond it. It covers all topics, intelligently and in varied ways and manages to deliver something for ALL playstyles, with huge amounts of customization-options. This is a RULE-book to judge all rule-books, a supplement that ups the ante, a book that is a superb example on what kickstarter can deliver - "Companions of the Firmament" is as important for PFRPG as Cerulean Seas, as the APG or Psionics Expanded; This is a Rulebook of the highest caliber that will be used all the time - you have no excuses; Unless you don't want to cover flight at all (then why are you reading this?), this book should be considered one of the best possible investments into rules one can currently make. This is revolutionary in much the same way as Ultimate Campaign is when combined with Legendary Games' stellar supplements to actually make the system work.
Unless you're very focused on artwork/layout, this pdf, and that I can guarantee, will NOT disappoint you - the sheer amount of useful rules, options etc. herein mean that there is no way I could rate this any other way that offer the highest praises. If there were ten stars, this would be 10/10. If there were 6, this would be 6/6 - by any scale I apply, this ranks among the apex-books in its usefulness, coolness, level of detail it covers and foresight. This must be a 5 star +seal of approval, a hot contender for the no. 1 spot of my Top Ten of 2013 and the most furious, impressive first product I've seen any 3pp produce in ages. Miss this at your own peril.
Posted first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on d20pfsrd.com's shop. Couldn't post it on OBS due to not having a coupon and it seems to not be sold here on Paizo - something I hope GIC will remedy.
I'm not good with emotional speeches and the like, so I'll keep it brief:
I'd like to thank Paco Garcia Jaen of GMS magazine, without whom there'd be no endzeitgeist.com - you are the best friend a man could wish for. I'd also like to thank Lou Agresta, who continued to encourage me throughout the years and Jonathan Nelson of Nerdtrek, who has helped me tremendously since we met. Finally, without Steven D. Russell's encouragement during my early days I would have never kept doing this...so thanks again.
Beyond that: "Thank you" to every publisher and author who has opted to send me complimentary copies and thus allowed me to keep up with the amount of cool supplements out there; Especially since it takes courage to face a review that is not guaranteed to turn out well and since I quite frankly wouldn't have the money to review that many products.
To every publisher who has corrected one of my mistakes: Thank you for being courteous and help me become a better reviewer.
I'd also like to thank Christian Stiles, Jonathan Nelson and Brian Berg for offering me a chance to contribute to their respective kickstarters.
Finally, I'd like to express my utmost gratitude to the few fine folk who actually donated me a couple of bucks to keep this enterprise running and those who commented on one of my reviews. Showing your support in any way helps me keep the fire burning.
So there it is - I'm nearing the big 1.5K reviews and wouldn't be here without any of you - may you have a blessed holiday, whatever religion (or lack thereof) you choose to follow!
See you after X-mas! Until then:
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This pdf is 2 pages long - 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content - so what do we get?
Essentially, we get Jeff Lee creating a Gingerbread Golem Swarm that clocks in at a nasty CR 7. Not only are these menaces immune to magic (and swarms that are immune to magic are a PAIN), they may vomit liquid gingerbread on victims, potentially encasing them in gingerbread and suffocating them - funny, yet also potentially very dark: Two thumbs up - also due to the proposed alternate rule with a weakness to bite attacks.
One page, not much space to make editing mistakes (though I didn't notice any here and time has shown that you CAN make a lot of them); Beautiful full color artwork and layout, an original, cool piece of artwork, no bookmarks, but it needs none and a printer-friendly version is included as well - what's more to say? This pdf delivers what it promises on the lid and offers an iconic, cool creature that has potential for both fun and dark situations. Jeff Lee delivers a cool critter well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
This module is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Well, DMs, this is one of the modules that can work well as a one-shot or a campaign's end/darkest moment prior to the epic final stretch Intended for PCs of level 16+. Why? Because the module unabashedly states that it's intended as a pretense to use the massive Center Stage Tsathogga-mini. so yeah, the climax of this module may see the Demon-Frog-God actually making an appearance. Yes. That one. recall the CR? Yeah.
But though this module is a pretense, it is not bar its story - the frog-men of the Tsathar have been making sacrifices to Tsathogga in their desolate wasteland for ages - never have their pleas been answered. Now, they have an ancient statue - which turned out to be one of the Ranan, dread progenitors of the vile frog-people. The Ranan, awake, has started a summoning, one that will be crowned with success, lest the PCs intervene! In the desolate, vile marshlands, mankind's doom draws near...and it's up to the PCs to travel there and stop the impending catastrophe.
The marshland Tumulus, while not rich in creatures, does feature one deadly disease that suffuses the bog, potentially weakening the PCs even before the slaughter begins - the PCs have to enter Tsathogga's Maw, a deadly cavernous complex with Tarteran Viruses, poisonous frog excrement, Custodians of Tsathogga and vast arrays of tsathar - all waiting to annihilate your PCs. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that the Ranan is CR 20, has over 400 hp and more than half have to be inflicted to interrupt the ritual? Oh, deadline, btw. - 3 rounds. 3 ROUNDS. Against waves upon waves of high-level tsathar and the dread progenitor. Otherwise, frickin' CR 30 Tsathogga is here and PAIN begins - which would make for a furious final for a campaign, especially if the PCs manage to escape (by e.g. shoving tsathar aside so tsathogga eats them instead) - a kind of frog-pocalypse that would make for an exceedingly awesome climax over the last couple of levels for any campaign.
We also get teh Filth-Priest of Tsathoggua archetype as well as three new high-level threats, though Tsathoggua's stats are not included - you'll need the Tome of Horrors Complete for those, which I consider the one flaw of this otherwise fun, apocalyptic high-level romp.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to FGG's concise, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The b/w-artworks are superb and the cartography deserves special mentioning - not only is it great, it is provided in a delightfully old-school isometric viewpoint - and personally, I've ALWAYS loved these - while not perfect for battle-mats, they just feel more alive, more vivid to me. I would have loved a player-friendly version, though.
This module could have been a simple pretense, a module to phone in - instead, PFRPG-conversion expert Skeeter Green provides us with a superb example that shows he can write great modules (and should do so more often - his contribution to Rappan Athuk was glorious!) that breathe a sense of filth, decay and desolation, a module that manages to instill an almost Call of Cthulhu-level sense of desperation, which is anything but easy to do at this level. Apocalyptic, fun and a chance to whip out a huge monster-mini (or simply a statblock you'd otherwise probably never use), this module is exceedingly fun and misses my seal of approval only due to the lack of player-friendly maps and the fact that Tsathogga's stats have not been included. Final verdict: 5 stars, in spite of its brevity.
Note: As per the writing of this review, the module can only be bought directly from FGG.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here.
This adventure for the DCC-rule-system is 21 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
Still here? Prince Charming of the fairy-tales - we know him. Or do we? In this series, the character-trope is actually one man. His first wife Cinder Ella, his second wife Snow White - both returned from what could be death, have perished and now he's set his ice-cold stare on a sleeping beauty. Unfortunately, she sleeps in the cursed ruins from which his men tend not to return - and what better way to get what he wants than just rounding up some peasants to do his dirty work? Yeah, those press-ganged poor fops...they are your PCs.
And oh boy, this once is HARD. Seriously - sans getting XP after the respective encounters, the PCs will probably be obliterated unless they are VERY good and lucky, so beware: Not for the faint of heart! The ruin per se is guarded by deadly, poisonous vines and the deadly flora may actually be the first thing that can obliterate your PCs - thankfully, the Prince can always send in more peasants... Of course, the PCs may actually find a secret way into the ruins or just push through a breach in the wall - either way will not be simple, for the ruins are infested by Hobyah, somewhat darker small relatives of brownies. Among the ruins, the PCs may find the former laboratory of one Doctor Chapman: Among the detailed possessions, one can find Black Sabbath records that have never been released in our world and similar curiosities from throughout the plains and worlds - Doctor Chapman's spirit, as he manifests, is actually rather amenable and helpful, offering some nice magic items for the PCs...but also warning them about not liking thieves. And he is not kidding. He also warns the PCs that the prince will not let them live, but also that he does not understand the curse and hence, they just should not interfere upon having recovered Sleeping Beauty...
Within the castle, they may also encounter a weird, deadly cross between squid, spider and centipede (can you say "Eaten by a grue-like entity?") and finally, the PCs may find a hall, where faerie-thrall maidens may bequeath gifts like the sword of truth, an intelligent blade, the shield of truth, which protects from the aforementioned vines and will not stand any falsehood uttered and finally, a mirror into which a demon has been bound, which reveals the truth. And the PCs better do their best and use these in smart ways, for in order to reach sleeping beauty, the PCs will have to deal with a dragon made of roses, which btw. is also one of the most challenging adversaries I've seen in quite a while at this level... Any victory is hard and dearly won. Taking the sleeping maiden to the prince, the PCs are held at arms point, while he inserts his reanimation-serum to return her to life.
Unfortunately for the prince, she turns undead and rips his head clean off - essentially immortal, the undead bride starts annihilating the prince's men, while legions of the fallen spawn from the ruins. The Pcs may escape with their life, but the undead princess remains in the forests and will probably return in the sequel...
We also get Doc Chapman as a potential patron.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to PDG's printer-friendly two-column standard with original, top-notch b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with player-friendly extra high-res jpeg-maps as well as DM-maps - awesome.
Daniel J. Bishop offers here a twisted take on faerie tales that is glorious to read and run, as it resonates deeply with faerie-tale tropes, while offering iconic, cool challenges. There is not much to say here beyond that each and every component of this module is simply superb - from production values to maps and artworks to the superb treasure trove of imagination that went into this, we get one superb module that DMs of other rule-sets should get as well - for scavenging ideas alone, this is worth quite a lot. And then, add that this is "Pay what you want" - even for a commercial module, this would easily score at the highest possible rating. As Pay what you want, this is one of the scarce instances, where the absolute superb can be gotten for any price your able to pay - and believe me when I say that this module is worth your bucks. My final verdict will clock in at a resounding 5 stars plus seal of approval - get this and drop the guys from PDG a tip: Quality like this is rare!
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, submitted to NErdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
This "Pay what you want"-module is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page advertisement, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 13 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? It is the summer of 92 AU in the Caneus Empire when two shepherds named Adler (German for eagle, btw.!) and Karl finds a weird silver skull and a ring in an old laboratory. Gifting the ring to his beloved and showing off the skull's weird glow, the shepherd inadvertently has found remnants of the Cavian Empire. Cavians, in case you didn't know, are the mouse-like hive-mind possessing humanoids with innate psionic powers of the NeoExodus-setting. And yes, this is a full-blown psionics-module, compatible with Dreamscarred Press' Psionics Unleashed. But back to the topic at hand - strange things started happening: The town's women started acting strangely, some of them even falling into a kind of coma. The town's priest committed suicide and poor Adler and his skull have been quarantined. Enter the PCs, in the employ of Sir Otto von Korrien.
On the road to Oldenhaffen from Macawi the PCs have to defeat 2 ogres. There, the local remaining priestess Sister Fritzi has already identified the skull as not the origin of the curse - essentially, it converts spells, but not psionic powers, cast on it into light-spell like effects and is completely harmless. After a short, very rudimentary investigation, the players are led to and the proceed to explore the cavern containing the Cavian complex. Alas, the place is now home to a selection of deadly threats - from the quill-furred, dog-like razorfiends, faulty deranged trepanners to finally finding aforementioned beloved woman - with the ring that actually is the source of the problems, for its is an intelligent weapon created to destroy the Sorceror-Kings of Abaddon in ages gone by. Either by combat (with summoned thought-eaters) or by diplomacy, the PCs can get the ring and lift the mental static "curse" on the town. This is not where the module ends, though - whether the PCs hand over the ring to Cavians or keep/destroy it - the choice is up to them and may very well have unforeseen consequences in the future.
We get passable maps for the complex as well as the overall place on the continent where the adventure is set.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to NeoExodus 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks are neat. the pdf comes in a second more printer-friendly version. Cartography is nice and actually better than in older NeoExodus-adventures and the pdf has no bookmarks, but at this length, they are not strictly required.
J. P. Chapleau has created a nice module steeped in NeoExodus-lore here - while at this length, we of course get no epic narrative, but what we do get is a nice little crawl that has some social interaction, interesting terrain features and a climax that does not necessarily boil down to "kill em all" - what more can you ask for in a short "Pay what you want"-module? The answer is: Nothing. An enjoyable read for an unbeatable price, my final verdict for this module will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval.
Posted this review first on Endzeitgeist.com, submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS. Cheers!
An Endzeitgeist.com review
The latest installment of PDG's "Pay what you want"-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
Arbakampsi is a game invented by the Zendiqi of the Patchwork-planet Porphyra and consists of one board with 64 spaces in 4 colors, 2 sets of 30 tokens of two different colors and 1d6.
The objective of the game is forming lines of 4 on the board, creating "borders". In the central space, the wager is placed. Said wager may be increased by the player "Arba", whereas the second player, "Kampsi", may decline this increase of forfeit. he may refuse the raising 4 times.
Arba is the elementalist and is first to go. Arba names a number from 1 to 4, then rolls the d6. When rolling under the announced number, Arba subtracts the number from 6 and places the appropriate amount of pieces on the board. If Arba has e.g. announced "2" and rolled a 1 on the d6, then Arba may place 4 tokens on the board. If Arba rolls over the announced amount, Kampsi may return one token to Arba and Kampsi's turn begins.
Kampsi, the second player, represents the Deists and may name numbers from 1 to 5. Both players may pass the die to the other. Lines of 4 tokens are worth 1 point. Having a majority in one of the colored rings is worth 2 points and completely controlling a ring is worth 3 points.
In-game, your characters may know these rules via skills and we get 3 feats as well - one lest you 1/day penalize a foe by -4 before he/she/it rolls, grant yourself a bonus of +5 before you roll or reroll one non-d20. The second fat allows you to reroll one natural 1 and a +8 bonus to one d20-roll after winning a game of Arbakampsi before sleeping again. This should have a caveat that only serious matches count, otherwise fellow players may lose by design to grant their ally the bonus. Finally, the third feat nest you a board as a starting equipment, allows you to place 3 free tokens on the board and nets you a +2 bonus to social skills in negotiations where the game is involved.
We get stats for the two mundane versions of the board as well as to a djinn-enhanced board, a magical rigged die and a shield with an Arbakampsi-board painted on it that can turn into two different magical shields for 1 round - depending on your luck.
The pdf also offers a neat full-color artwork of an arbakampsi game-board - essentially you just need hexes and 5 colors and there you go - simple to create!
Editing and formatting are excellent, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights that has large enough letters to potentially fit 4 pages on one Din A4-page. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience - nice at this length!
Author Perry Fehr has actually created a fun little game to introduce to your game that makes for a nice mini-game of luck and strategy, supplemented with neat game-rules to boot. While I consider the second feat herein broken, the game per se and its mechanics should make for a fun diversion or something you could easily play in a solo-game or while waiting for other players to show up etc. - fun, cool and relatively easy to learn for any price you like? Now that's a neat offering and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, sent to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS. Cheers!
The second installment of Purple Duck Games' "Pay what you want"-supplements of small pdfs is 12 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
So what are gels? Gels are engineered lifeforms akin to oozes that follow the following formula: A base creature is required for the creation of a gel and additional creatures may be broken down via alchemical processes to cancel the requirement for permanency-spells. They also require essential components as well as required spells (each of which can be ignored for +2 to the creation-DC), a cost and of course a creator level and alchemy-DC.
A total of 3 different sample gels are provided - CR 5 Aerogels, CR 4 Embalming Gels and CR 4 Taxidermy Gels. The creatures are interesting with their abilities and while I'm usually not a big fan of amorphous creatures, I do like them.
The pdf also comes with information on nutritive fluid and the creation thereof.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a one-column standard more akin to what you'd see in a regular paperback book, allowing you to fit up to 4 pages on one sheet of paper. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Perry Fehr has created a cool creature type here and gels per se rock and have quite some potential, but there's one thing lacking from this offering: Guidelines to create your own gels. The creation formula is awesome, but why are there no guidelines to determine attributes, skills, special qualities etc.? The process of actually crafting gels as a DM is curiously absent from this pdf, limiting unduly the oomph you get out of this. That being said, this is a "Pay what you want"-pdf and for that, it deserves some slack. Thus, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to GMS magazine and Nerdtrek and posted here and on OBS.
This would be the first expansion for Interjection Games unconventional, complex Herbalist-base-class and the pdf clocks in at 9 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Now if you haven't taken a look at the Herbalist, here's the basic premise: Herbalists essentially can collect herbs depending on their biome and store them in special pots - each herb corresponding to some unique effects that go beyond boring duplications of spell-effects. Furthermore, they all require different capacities from the herbalist and can be mixed into special recipes. Got that?
Great, so, like the title suggests, this pdf provides a new biome and 17 herbs that can be found therein: By chewing carrion flower, for example, the herbalist can become so foul-smelling that adjacent attackers must save to stand the smell or become nauseated. Also rather interesting would be the chameleon flower, which allows you to choose one alignment axis and not count as that component of the alignment, allowing e.g. evil characters to ignore the worst of the effects of holy word - only the least detrimental effect or least possible amount of damage is incurred. Nice one!
By using dragon's maw, herbalists can conjure forth close-range bursts of devastating fire, cocoa can be used to increase acrobatics-checks (though the untyped bonus there slightly galls me and emperor's candlesticks allow herbalists to coat weapons with goo that burns foes hit by it over multiple rounds - so far so cool. Also rather nice, concept-wise would be the harmony fruit - by waving it, all creatures within 30 ft get resistance to acid, sonic, fire, electricity and cold for 1 round. equal to the herbalist's class level - nice to survive that squad of mages pelting fireballs at you.
Lianas allow you to gain concealment and bonuses versus gaze attack-saves and there also is an unpleasant, sticking vine that dissolves organic tissue to be found herein. On the mechanically more interesting side, let's take a look at the night-blooming jasmine: The fragrance may suppress (NOt dispel) all morale effects, but also all fear-effects temporarily. It's versatile, potentially double-edged effects like this one I consider interesting even within the context of the rather innovative herbalist-class.
Pineapples are also interesting - they can either be eaten to heal or be brewed into a longer-lasting, but slightly less potent healing draught. While personally, I'm a bit concerned about herbalists opening pineapple-plantations and selling healing draughts, I still like it, though a caveat to mention that the draught follows the limited preservation herbs usually have would have been nice. There is also a cool toxin that weakens bones of creatures with skeletal structures, rendering victims who foolishly ingest it staggered until properly rested. Adding sonic damage to weapons is also within the options provided herein, as is a d20-reroll at -4.
Uniquitine also deserves special mentioning - it can be used to replace other herbs, duplicating their effects - though they have to be properly tended. Very cool!
We also get 5 new and updated recipes: Healing fruit wine, acid and fire-infused lichen as thrown weapons etc. - as a cool idea, by combining dragon's maw with elementally appropriate energy types, the energy type can be changed - awesome. Especially so since chokevine and cattail can also thus be modified in various ways.
The pdf also provides a biome-table, a tropic biome summary table and a table of herbs by point value, including some values of so far unreleased herbs.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with thematically fitting stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn't necessarily need them at this length.
This pdf makes for a cool supplement for a complex, nice class and shows Interjection Games mastermind Bradley Crouch delivering some neat samples of what can be expected from the Herbalist without just duplicating material - oh, and this is free. 0 dineros. Even if you don't use the herbalist, a given DM can probably easily create some cool items out of the ideas herein and for the non-existent price, this makes for a great teaser indeed. Well worth the space on your HD - 5 stars + seal of approval for this FREE expansion!
This FREE pdf is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!
The pdf kicks off by introducing us to a new magical quality called "mirrored" that does not increase an item's magical bonus, but only its base price. For every plus the weapon has, it gets 13 charges and upon using a spell-like ability, the weapon loses one of said charges. Every 13 charges that are depleted cost the magical item one of its +1 enhancements. This additional power is considered as being an item incorporated into the weapon price-wise. Furthermore, when two mirrored weapons clash, both abilities are activated without depleting a charge - otherwise, the activation is dependent on activation triggers that vary by weapon. Finally, mirrored weapons net bonuses when nearby allies also wield mirrored weapons and count as cold iron for the purpose of DR.
The first item provided is Cyrekksi's Mirrored Spear, a +2 spear that protects the wielder with 1d4+2 mirror image upon botching an attack. These duplicates last 8 minutes or until hit.
Marizz's Mirrored Club is a +2 club that may, upon striking a foe with a DR of a specific type, up to 2/day cast versatile weapon with a duration of 8 minutes as an immediate action. Weird here - I assume the wielder has to expend the immediate action, but the wording implies that the club casts the spell.
Also, the charges of this one are unrefillable in contrast to the mirrored spear - a somewhat odd decision: Either make all mirror-items unrechargeable (would make sense to me) or make them all rechargeable.
The final weapon provided is the shortsword of enlarging diminishment, a +1 keen shortsword - when wielded by a gnome or halfling, the sword may 1/day affect foes subject to a crit with reduce person, while the wielder benefits from an enlarge person - now with a scaling DC, keeping the item useful over the levels.
The final 6 pages are devoted to providing versions of the items for 3x4 index cards and 4x6 index cards.
Editing and formatting is good, but not perfect - I noticed a couple of different minor glitches. Layout adheres to a full color standard with a parchment-style background that renders the pdf not particularly printer-friendly. Each weapon comes with its own artwork - and when taking into account that this pdf is FREE, the quality of them is actually rather nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but at this length needs none.
This pdf actually offers some nice magical weapons with uncommon mechanics and solid fluff to back them up, though the club could use some minor clarification/a more unified mechanic for mirrored items
That being said, while not perfect, author Mike Myler has created a solid pdf for FREE and even if you don't use the items, at least you get some artworks to show players - all in all, this is a solid offering that is FREE and as such is definitely worth a read and the space on your HD. While still not perfect, I tend to cut free pdfs some slack and thus will settle for a final verdict of 5 stars for the revised version.
This pdf is 12 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Concept-wise, this is the first of a collection of pdfs focused on tight subjects - this time, framed by short narratives, we are introduced to dwarven fire ale and elven absinthe - and boiy, they are cool: Fireale e.g. affects you with rage for a couple of rounds and thereafter nets you a cold resistance for its consumption. And beyond its effect, these liquors also feature a drawback for their consumption and a short line on their actual taste - neat! Beyond these, we also get racial/national liquors - catfolk nihp nets you a 10% chance per minute to get access of a detect-spell, but at the cost of 1d2 dex and darkvision: Interesting, but it fails to specify whether there's a level-cap for the detect-spell or not.
Fetchling rainbrew may be actually rather hazardous - you can accidentally breathe color sprays when ingesting it. Ratfolk-drink, healing Tengu Baju, an Urisk-brew that temporarily nets access to a limited form of bardic performance. There also is an Erkunae-drink as well as some that are local specialties that net you some cool insights into the world of Porphyra - e.g. 3 magical whiskeys of the lands of the Fenian Triarchy.
We also get information on diluted spirits and creating magically-infused liquors.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly one-column standard - which means that you can probably fit up to 4 pages on a given page if you print it out - I would have preferred a more standard layout. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.
I really love the idea of these liquors and their execution and fluff per se is nice indeed - but what's not so great is that the pdf fails to specify, when applicable, the caster-level of the spell-like effects the respective liquors entail. That being said, this pdf is "Pay What You Want" - you can pay as much as you'd like for these liquors and they indeed are worth a look. While not perfect, it is a nice offering and thus worth 4 stars.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then osted on Nerdtrek and GMs magazine and posted here and on OBS. Cheers!
The revised edition of the Dark Totem Pt 2 is 51 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 48 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
If you have avoided Rocks Fall Games so far - rest assured that this has NOTHING in common with their first offerings. Following on the heels of the excellent revision of the First Dark Totem module, we actually get new maps, content etc. in this one as well - and yes, even artwork. That out of the way, this review necessarily contains SPOILERS.
Still here? All right! The PCs have acquired this weird Dark Totem in the last adventure and now probably are doing some massive research on the enigmatic item in their home-base city of Varatolo - which comes with several entries of relevant shops and their owners, adding essentially a nice mini-gazetteer-section to the town, thus bringing it to life (or serving as a template for you to insert into towns of your own!) - but more on that life: Unlike many modules, this one actually feature several so-called "Daring Deeds", i.e. encounters that you can place in the module to bring to life what's going on beyond the module's main plot: Wizards charming bouncers in the tavern and an exiled ogre holding a pet rust monster who thinks his gnomish captive can actually pass gems from his bowels (including a map of the cave) to foolhardy idiots carrying a troll's head into their tavern (and having the troll regenerate - pissed and hungry!) to a halfling wanting to cheat at gnome toss by infiltrating the favorite tavern game of the Blind Basilisk and finally a jealous suitor of one of the tavern's maids make for various diversions beyond killing x monsters - kudos for going the extra mile there!
But on towards the meat of the module: The PCs are called towards an alley via a missive (provided as a hand-out) - and find a description of them and the totem on the assailants, the possible fugitive finding a grisly end nailed to their haunt, mutilated and desecrated. In the aftermath of this assualt on them, they are contacted by The Prime Wizard, who tells them that the idol is the prison of an unknown entity - originally found in the now derelict Westgaard Mine, where once the legendary dragon "Verbrennung" (roughly means "incineration") had its lair. Unbeknown to teh PCs (or anyone else, for that matter), death as not the end for said dragons and since then, a tribe of former slave kobolds have made the mine their lair, worshipping the draconic skeletal champion as a sort of deity.
The pdf also comes with a player-friendly version of the map and reprints of all spells used by the opposition, thus not requiring you to do page-flipping.
The team of Rocks Fall Games (Charles T. Marleau, Kristofer Konkel and Kurt "Morloka" Henry" did the writing here) have created a module that truly breathes, that feels alive - all its details, all its small tidbits, all its "Dressing", to loan the term as coined by Raging Swan press is excessive without being overbearing: Not lost in the details, but still remaining detailed, this module manages to convey a sense of being "alive", of feeling authentic, that few modules manage. It's hard to describe what the true virtues of this module are since it does not reinvent the wheel, nor does it endeavor to do so. It has potentially dark moments, potentially light-hearted ones and mixes them in a blend that has me admittedly nostalgic for a time where all the bleakness of life haven't yet crept into the game. Its unpretentiousness makes up a significant part of its charm and hearkens back to the modules I grew up with - and that's a good thing.
That being said, the writing sometimes wavers a bit - from per se neat writing, the text sometimes stumbles and starts heaping short sentences on another, then returning to form. That being said, there is another factor you should consider: This pdf is ridiculously cheap for the quality and amount of content it provides - at $2.50, this is a steal indeed and well worth the asking price even if you only want to scavenge the supplemental encounters. Missing my seal of approval only due to the flawed bookmarks and slight inconsistencies in writing, this revised edition is still very much worth a final verdict of 5 stars. Congrats to the Rocks Fall-crew!
Part II of my review:
Where the Qu'em represent the martial traditions of the Welshen, the Ewgee also get a base-class of martially inclined soldiers - the sentinels: Members of the best of the best elite units -and as such they not only get access to special elite armors, they may also requisition military gear 1/week (and exchange said gear), gaining access to superior tools. Selling is not an option, though - unless you plan on being expelled as well as hunted down for selling military gear. Since Welshen and sentinels don't mix, advice on handling Qu'em and Sentinel in one group is provided as well. Of course, renegade mercenaries might also be an option. Stalkers are based on rogues - but are an altogether different beast: Stalkers are stone-cold killers and may mark targets somewhat akin to SGG's Shadow Assassin-class, making them very deadly versus their chosen targets. And fitting well in with the MAD-concept of Necropunk - at 11th level access to Death Attack (and later, talents to make this possible sans studying!). further enhance this impression.
The next class we are introduced would be the Wild Card - the class that more appropriately can be considered fortune-seekers, jack-of-all-trades that are all about variety, gaining multiple abilities to enhance their skills, gain feats and e.g. an eidetic memory. Another class that might be considered appropriate for settings beyond Necropunk as well. It should also be noted that each class comes with some roleplaying advice on character-inherent conflicts and tough questions - if you're a psychic or a wunderkind, are you perhaps a supremacist? What if other people fear you for what you are? What if your professional code clashes with your own ethics?
Of course, we also get a massive array of feats - to enhance your tech level or enter overwatch-mode. And honestly - in the context of Necropunk, I think the overwatch some of you may know from the PFRPG-Strider class works MUCH better than in regular PFRPG, fitting well with the theme of stand offs, social combat mixing with physical combat etc. - why negotiate? Well, when both your ally and the enemy is in overwatch, talking it over seems so much more enticing -especially since combat in Necropunk, with its phases and advanced weaponry can turn lethal damn fast. (Plus, the requirement for automatic weapons makes in game much more sense to me than the same with bows...). Of course various feats enhancing PPI-based abilities, social combat and equipment are also provided. We also get multiple new style-feat mini-trees, with Jak Pan deserving special mentioning - available to members of the Prime Bloodline, the combat medics will love this one, as it merges surgical prowess with martial arts, allowing you to impose negative conditions on hit foes with successful heal-checks. Also rather interesting - the Sentinel's Synchro-style, which blends teamwork feats and styles, making for a good representation of twin/synchronized fighting. Two thumbs up for that one! We also get a style for using ranged weapons in melee and one based on fencing - all in all, rather cool selection of unique options.
We also get 15 new traits to customize your character within the setting before we dive into equipment. Of course, in Necropunk GP-values would make no sense, and hence we're introduced to the resource-system -as well as a section-by-section breakdown of the value f human bones: Hands, e.g., would be worth 5% of the 3K a full skeleton's worth. Special materials (and their PRI) are covered - but much like e.g. Cyberpunk-settings, shopping is rather rewarding: Beyond materials, properties applied to weapons also make for massive differences - magnetic rail gun-properties, bone material (allowing for usage in higher phase orders), slag weapons, those that require a spin-up - rather cool array of options. Also interesting is the fact that specific weapons can fire different types of ammunition - from chaos rounds to slag strikes, weapons of course can also be upgraded to fire for example the deadly tombstone-rounds. Of course, grenades and a large selection of armor-types are also at your perusal - as is a rather cool idea: Applying bonuses to social maneuvers etc. depending on the outfits you wear. Yes. Clothes actually MATTER.
Another interesting component of Necropunk's society is the existence of ghouls - part tech, part chemical concoctions, all shambling corpse-based serving class, they are the remains of the dead, reanimated to get persons posthumously out of debt. Modifying ghouls is covered as well via a rather list of modifications. Speaking of modifications:
Body modifications - they are awesome - from advanced circulatory system to the option to emit deadly sonic-damage dealing screams or graft extra arms to your body - if one wants, one can get full-blown FREAK and really push the limits of whether one can still be considered human - a great toolbox of Frankensteinish modifications indeed. Drugs with different stages of addictions and a massive array of craft-DCs for modifications are also provided in here.
And then we are introduced to the setting per se - via organizations, ships, how religions have developed (not shying away from how Christianity, Judaism etc. have developed without being condescending to any of these religions) and the new ones that have risen since we left the solar system to regions of the galaxy. Advice for DMs and players, an example location and space travel and a massive glossary of specific terms and a timeline of the setting.
Editing and formatting aren't superb - there are some minor glitches here and there - but the emphasis is on "minor" - when compared to anything I've read by LRGG, this is not one but two steps in the right direction, providing a massive book that can be considered well, if not perfectly edited. Layout adheres to a unique, relatively printer-friendly full color standard with appropriately-themed, easy to read fonts and grey/black themes as well as several pieces of at times page-spanning full color artworks that have in common that they range from mind-boggling to good and are actually original pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience adn comes with greyscale and color char-sheets, though both lack a SMD and CMD.
Let me for a second state in what I believe in: I believe in the fact that gamers are looking to expand their horizons - even the most conservative of our kind have taken up this hobby not only because it's fun, but because it consciously or subconsciously expands our horizon. How many 5th graders know the difference between thaumaturgy and necromancy, know some terms from the knightly courts of old and have a conception of what a jarl is? I know I did. Gaming has not only broadened my vocabulary at an early age and prompted me to master foreign languages and invest myself into different cultures, it has guided my approach to a wide array of challenges I have faced throughout my life, maybe even provided a type of moral compass on what I consider right and what wrong. The one way to get me riled up is to demand simplification not for the sake of understanding, but for the sake of laziness - if I see terms that intrigue me, concepts I find thought-provoking, I try to look them up. And gaming is a great way to get a tiny inkling of knowledge about topics that may incite you to want to know more about them. Whether its cultures, literature, history, languages, myths - there's a lot of lore to be discovered via gaming.
Once in a while, recent editions have made me a bit disillusioned - while Paizo has avoided the obvious books mostly ("Hey, let's make an oriental, a psionics-book, a class-book for class z etc."), still, once in a while, I like to have my brain teased, to get some new impulses: If you want to know what I'm talking about, think back in the days, when Planescape first brought the WEIRD, when Ravenloft started blurring the line between players and characters to evoke true fear. Gaming can touch us on a basic level and actually refine our character and there are many books that play it safe by catering to a target demographic and I won't judge them for that - as long as they're good, that is. But still, you once in a while want something DIFFERENT. Something that hasn't been done before. A sense of Jamais-vu.
There you have it. Ambitious beyond anything they've done so far, the crew of authors and designers from Little Red Goblin Games have created a setting that dares to be different: You won't find the standard plasma and laser guns here, no alien zoo of weird player-races that will ultimately just make gaming ridiculous. There's no weirdly sexless b/w-mythology à la Star Wars (which NEVER made sense to me, not even as a child -and before all the SW-fans come out of the woodworks - more power to you, the franchise is just not made for me) in here - this setting is HUMAN. Decidedly, dauntingly so - from the basic premise over the absence of direct alien interventions to the bone-foundation of the tech to the price of bones, this setting explores a dystopian future that actually is not that dystopian when you think about it: All in all, no massive evil empire looms, no extraterrestrial mechanic squids seek to annihilate everything - Necropunk is about human conflicts and ultimately, what it means to be human - it's a narrative of conflicting ideologies that are all partially right or partially wrong, a narrative of diverse traditions and mindsets and of complex questions. And of buying cool augmentations to turn yourself into a deadly engine of destruction with multiple devastating mag-rifles, of fusing your spine with a suit grown from a dead corpse into a bone-golem-like monstrosity and modifying your weapons via x add-ons and custom modifications to wade through legions of foes. Of saving the galaxy by deciphering a deadly conspiracy according to the stain of your spilled coffee and the urgings of the fish-like parasite you imbibed on a whim that can perceive the flow of fate, destiny or whatever you'd wish to call it. Necropunk is weird, yes, but not necessarily dark - nor light. It feels human - just like our own world can be defined in no absolute terms, so are there no straight answers for questions of transhumanism, morality and ethnicity. All these questions are tackled, supplemented by solid rules that almost exclusively whet one's palate for future expansions.
This is not a rip-off of an established genre - neither of Shadowrun-like Cyberpunk, nor of Warhammer 40K's grim vision of the future - this is something jaded guys like yours truly only see rarely: Something DIFFERENT. Something original. And for that alone, it deserves to be applauded - much more so for decisions like the social combat or the item-modifications or the fact that the PPI-mechanics serve as a unifying mechanic that offsets the perceived differences between classes and ethnicities, with the latter serving as a subconscious reminder that most of us, even in the future of Necropunk, still bleed red.
Is this book perfect? No, it does have its editing and formatting glitches here and there. But does it deserve your attention, deserve your bucks? The answer to that question, I'll answer with a resounding "yes". In an age where we already have covered so much ground in RPGs, dealing with serious topics in a thoroughly original context without forcing an ideology or easy answer down your throat means that this can be considered a great first step into a setting I am sure to follow - I want to know where this setting goes, what new tools, places and modules will be released in the days to come. Necropunk has come completely out of left field and if LRGG can keep this quality and perhaps even further improve it, then we're looking at one damn fine cult-setting in the making. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
(P.s.: You may wish to take a look at this review on my site if you're interested in this setting - just sayin'.)
Posted first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to GMS magazine, Nerdtrek, posted on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression and here and on OBS. Cheers!
All right, a short glimpse at my shelved showed me that the last couple of weeks got me a LOT of big books - and reviewing them takes time.
Now the thing is - I'll do them all, but I'm at the moment honestly not sure which one would be the most anticipated - so I'm asking here:
Which one should I tackle first?
Companions of the Firmament by Geek Industrial Complex, It Came from the Stars by Zombie Sky Press, Midgard Tales by Kobold Press, Razor Coast (as soon as it arrives) by Frog God Games, Zeitgeist #4 + #5 by En Publishing or the upcoming Reaping Stone by TPK Games?
I'll do ALL of them eventually, just thought that checking for interest might help me pick with which one to start...
Thanks for the attention!
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This module is 37 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/module summary and 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS, so potential players may want to skip to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! The PCs are recruited by a weird gnomish bard called Terrence Threncewell on behalf of a weird little gnomish settlement called Brandlehill, which is well-known for its weird clockwork contraptions. It should be noted that DM's who have an issue with fluff get a LOT of very detailed exposition - almost 3 pages are devoted to the recruitment of the PCs before they meet the Dwarven trademaster of the town, one Orin Hardtack who wants a grippli-town removed. Grippli-town? Yes, for Brandlehill's clockwork wonders are reliant on rare swamp herbs from the Zeranoth swamp and aforementioned grippli-tribe has mostly become hostile due to as of yet undetermined reasons.
The grippli waste not much time an attack soon - in numbers and the PCs will have to slug through quite a massive bunch of these froggy fighters -including the fact that the humanoids will try to flank the PCs en masse. The fluff also mentions a healing-impeding paste, though that one does not feature in the stats - an unfortunate disjoint between fluff and crunch here. Still, the revised edition has greatly enhanced this encounter in particular - providing a gorgeous full-color map with several terrain peculiarities to use while battling - Neat! Also, in the fluff, the PCs get hints now about somehing not being quite right with the grippli...
Ralka escorts the PCs to the village - where they will have the chance to realize that the water-supply of the grippli has been tainted - probably by the ambitious former apprentice. The grippli are rather unhelpful and seek to drive the PCs out of town. Sneaking the tainted leaves out of town via stealth is now also covered, as is the (rather brutal) option of killing all the grippli.
But who is truly behind the taint? How can the PCs make themselves be heard and prevent further escalation? Well, if they've done their research and talked with Ralka, they can find the remains of a fallen half-orc ranger, who not only returns as a ghost, but also suffered from a demonic disease. They may also find the reason why the ranger was slain in the guise of the mirrored spear, an uncommon magical weapon I covered in my review of the FREE supplement by Mike Myler. It should also be noted that the complex where the deceased orc now rests comes with an extra-DM-map that makes running this mini-dungeon much easier - as you now know where things actually are supposed to be!
The corrupt apprentice behind the taint, though, has fled to the Harhoa Cave, where he makes a final stand with a demonic frog, guarded by grisly trophies and traps. Upon dealing with the evil-doers, the PCs may return to Brandlehill to choose one of 3 clockwork wonders. The first, a grapple launcher, is a ranged weapon that hits foes with grab and damage as well as having the potential to halt falls - unfortunately rather overpowered.
The second, a triple-shot crossbow now works better, though still not perfectly streamlined, whereas the third, which provides bardic performances in a box, actually is interesting - though ALL items don't get proper item statblocks - and while they now do come with a price, the fail to specify with which craft-skill they can be created, which imho is a minor bummer. Also: Weirdly, neither the grapple-launcher nor the triple crossbow have a weight-score, whereas the box has.
The magic item, Cyrkssi's Mirror Spear unfathomably follows the proper formatting, as does the magical Troll Wig-net. The pdf also features all the stats for the characters featured herein - now much easier to read. The final five pages are devoted to neat maps of beautiful full-color maps with grids.
Editing and formatting in the revised version of this module, while not perfect, are very good and lack any truly detrimental guffaws. The battle-maps provided are beautiful and the added maps greatly help running the combats. Furthermore, the pdf now comes properly bookmarked in both versions (the second being more printer-friendly) and while the artwork is not particularly glorious, it's original and the GORGEOUS maps (and amount of maps) help offset this minor gripe. Most importantly: The Layout has been changed to a mostly 2-column standard that is much easier to read and overall is a vast improvement over its original iteration.
Here, I complained in my original review about several beginner's mistakes - and I'm happy to tell you that most of them actually have been purged, greatly enhancing the overall appeal of the module and adding more than a bit excitement and options to the battles - and there is the railroad factor, which has been greatly diminished, offering a multitude of solutions and allowing for actual choice on behalf of the PCs. More crucially, the obscure original solution is much better foreshadowed and can be solved in ways that feel less arbitrary, less dependent on one obscure option.
While the module's alternate resolution, including a full-blown annihilation of a settlement is introduced, it is still not properly followed up on and essentially remains an alibi alternative when it could have been a thoroughly compelling second finale with a bitter-sweet aftertaste. The clockwork wonders imho are still not perfectly balanced, but at least slightly improved. One substance is never given stats though the players should by all means also be afflicted by it - and since it impedes magical healing, the players WILL WANT it.
This module has potential - its locales and characters are colorful, its ideas are not bad and in the revised version, it actually managed to live up to its at times funny, even grotesque humor and its uncommon premise, solving many of the issues that once plagued it and rendering it an actually enjoyable experience. While not perfect, it is vastly improved and if this is the pace by which author Mike Myler intends to improve his offerings, then I'm looking forward to the things to come. My final verdict for the revised edition will clock in at 4 stars and a recommendation for aficionados of weirdness...and of course tinkering gnomes and grippli!
Updated here, on Endzeitgeist.com (along 3 new reviews), then submitted to GMS magazine and Nerdtrek and modified it on OBS.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
The first player faction-offering for the Vathak-setting is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Player faction? Well, yes, for this is more than an organization - devoted to the Book of Black Earth, an ancient tome of cataclysmic prophecies unearthed from ruins led to genesis of a secret organization - on available for PCs, though personally, I'D rather suggest this ephemeral cabal more as antagonists. But more on that later:
Drawing in a cool professional way on how factions in Golarion are presented, we get the basic faction rules regarding prestige explained to us before we delve into the order's history and rather disturbing indoctrination rituals. A long and concise list of benefits depending on TPA and CPA (total and current prestige awards) are there and offer some intriguing options - amongst other to exchange character traits for the two new faction-specific traits provided in the pdf - both of which come with a nice fluff and mechanics I can't and won't complain about. Suggested classes and 4 new feats are also part of what the order has to offer - including one that allows the user to 3/day cast the message spell as a spell-like ability, but only t contact other order members - a powerful tool for shadowy conspiracies indeed. The feats are solid in presentation and while spells are not in italics, the fluff and ideas make up for this minor shortcoming by oozing flair.
2 new spells also complement this faction, one that deals damage and infects with a more powerful type of Borer Worm (a CR 1 acid-oozing parasite-worm introduced in these pages as well) and a spell that conjures up an area of writhing, shadowy, con-draining tentacles. Aforementioned Borer Worms are also provided equipment style stats and we get one damn cool poison: By extracting tainted earth from the dread pit of decay (a mobile, gory, maw-like appendage that shows itself annualy and is tied to the Old One of the cult), the order may create a potent toxin by mixing the soiled earth with blood. This location is not the only special one sacred to the order - there are also the Worm Ways, hidden and weird tunnels that serve as twisted smuggle-ways. A special celebration, a holiday if you will, the so-called Worm-Solstice is provided as well in a compelling, twisted write-up.
Among the creatures, apart from the Borer Worm, we also get the Crawling putrescence and a sample CR 8 mastermind of the cult.
Editing and formatting are very good - apart from some minor aesthetic glitches like aforementioned italics-bungle I didn't notice any glitch that would have impeded my enjoyment of this pdf. The layout adheres to Vathak's beautiful 2-column standard and the artworks are nice indeed, especially for such an inexpensive publication. On the downside, we don't get any bookmarks, which is a minor bummer.
Wow! Kudos to the Fat Goblins! This pdf for the Vathak setting is not only a great cult for the setting, but for any setting really - DMs seeking to flesh out the Age of Worms or those using Morithal (from Clockwork Gnome Publishing's excellent pdf) should definitely get this as a means to further flesh out the cults. The prestige benefits and iconic locales and rites add further flair to a presentation of a thoroughly twisted cabal that should strike a chord with all DMs that like their fantasy dark and twisted. An enjoyable read for a fair price indeed and well worth 5 stars - me omitting my seal of approval only because of the minor glitches and lack of bookmarks.
With my head in my pdfs, I almost didn't notice - it's this time of the year again, when humble me takes a short, goth-related vacation to Leipzig.
I'll return on Tuesday and reviewing duties will commence as usual - with a bang and 5 new ones and me hopefully motivated as heck.
That being said, I didn't want you guys to have no new reviews, so I dug in my pile and took 4 drafts of very good, appropriately dark-themed pdfs and posted them on my site.
Furthermore, I'd like to draw your attention to a worthy cause: Christina Stiles spearheads an indiegogo-campaign to get writers to Gen Con - and yes, grandmaster crunch Owen K.C. Stephens is part of the group. Oh, and humble ole' me is a stretch-goal.
So if you ever wanted to punch me in the face for shredding your products, buy me a drink, talk to me about design, riddle me with questions on the world of 3pps or campaigns, on my house-rules, character-deaths madness-system etc. - this might make exactly that possible.
Oh, and I actually have a seal and way, so if you really want a real life seal of approval, I'd bring that along. :)
Thanks for the attention, ladies and gentlemen, I'll see you on Tuesday (and possibly at Gencon)!