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5,539 posts. 2,451 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist.



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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.


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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.


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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.


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.


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 module for Alterkine clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs left? Great! Our world has recently been graced by a strange meteor shower and the PCs find themselves in a moderately priced bar in the tourist trap Coppersmith, where they are contacted by one Betram, who represents parties intrested in Delsvale - which has shut down operations since the meteor shower - hence, the players, via an ominous black limousine and a chopper, enter the target area.

Delsvale town does look like an eerily ghost-like town, including roving animals. Things turn grim fast, though: The barbed wire fence the players encounter has a breach and said breach is stuffed with human corpses, from which a woman crawls forth, obviously doomed to die from her extensive injuries - and things look grim. Animals are getting crazy, a sect of weirdos have sprung up and the military has rolled in. Entering the quarantine zone, the PCs will have an option to subdue an investigator/journalist and the PCs will soon have a first encounter with a disturbing creature, the clotter - a shambling creature of grafted undead material, a walking sack of offal and bone, hungry for blood of the living.

Things become worse fast from there - the recruiters of aforementioned sect hand out crystals that may well cause infection with mutagenic viruses...just before the military swoops in and takes the PCs hostage. It turns out, the military is planning to bomb out the local mine...but aforementioned clotter monstrosity may actually provide a window for the PCs to escape from captivity. It should also be noted that a two-legged walker/mech is among the adversaries the PCs may encounter, of course, just one of multiple random encounters the PCs can encounter.

The local nightclub would be a crucial place: Here, the PCs are contacted again by the cult, as the leader, one Daniel Sutter (nod towards Sutter Cain, mayhaps?) tries to set up a meeting with the PCs - but if they agree to hear them out, they may ostracize the military if they haven't already. Meeting up with Sutter puts things in perspective: Living in his gothic mansion, the cult leader may be a foreboding character, but he still offers some crucial insight: You see, he literally owns Delsvale and has a research venture in the mine - alas, his own men betrayed him, claiming the crystals, which he considers to be divine. He does directly contradict the narrative that sent the PCs here - this Betram fellow obviously lied to them. It should be noted that NPC-interaction in this module tends to be pretty detailed, with quite a few sample sentences, meaning that GMs less comfortable with verbatim improvisation get enough guidance herein.

Beyond the strange amalgamated monstrosities like bear/frog-hybrids, the PCs will sooner or later have to go to the mine - where they get a glimpse of a horrible thing with too many tentacles and mutations and brave cybernetic adversaries before they find a lead-researcher, who asks them to destroy each and every crystal they can find - in an inversion of the trope, these guys are actually smart...and thus, the module's variable conclusion dawns, as the PCs have to brave the mutagenic influence of the fallen star, decide whom to help...and deal with the grotesquely Scaxtion - insane and with empathy/emotion-controlling bursts of aura. How the final confrontation turns out and whether the mutating PCs succumb to the influence of the fallen stars, how the whole thing ends - it all depends on the actions of the PCs.

The pdf concludes with quite an array of diverse adversaries, many of which sport unique and rather interesting builds with Achilles heels that reward smart rolelaying and nice signature abilities - it should be noted that even the random encounter sport several unique monsters. The pdf also sports 4 new mutations as well as 4 excellent player-friendly b/w-floor plans.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a rather printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. Cartography is nice and solid. The one weak component of the pdf is the CGI-artwork - while it works for the mech, the humanoids in particular are ugly and the final boss's artwork is horrible, doofy even, and subverts the threat it poses. The prose deserves better, so I'd suggest relying on your descriptive powers here instead of showing off the artworks. If you're going for a serious tone. If you're instead aiming for a schlocky B-movie feeling, these will be GREAT and hilarious. Bookmarks are there, but cover, mysteriously, only the new mutations, meaning they might as well not be there at all - a comfort detriment when running this via an electronic device.

Josh Vogt's module for Alterkine manages to create a pervasive sense of foreboding and its sandboxy structure and means for aligning with the respective factions is great. More importantly, the builds of the monsters and NPCs are varied and showcase well what awesome things can be done with Alterkine's rules. At the same time, the sandboxy structure does feel a bit inconsistent - not in its execution, but in its presentation. On one hand, key-NPC-interaction provides quite a bit of hand-holding, while the transition from scene to scene is more free-flowing and requires some work on behalf of the GM. This does not make the module flow badly, mind you - it just means the module is more versatile, but also more work than it could have been. A more pronounced structure would have helped the GM here - though, admittedly, I'm being a nitpicky bastard here.

In the end, this is a fast-paced, pretty apocalyptic and dark little module I thoroughly enjoyed. The builds of sample monsters bespeak a precise understanding of what makes unique foes tick and the low price point also helps make this a worthwhile offering. While the book could have used somewhat better transitions and while the artworks are ugly and bookmarks could be more extensive, the actual content of this module is pretty awesome. I enjoyed the finale, the boss battle, the factions...in fact, most of the content herein. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars for the purpose of this platform.

Figure Flats-review:

These figure flats come as two .ppt-files - one two-fold, one three-fold, with both of them sporting two pages you can print out. The figure flats are full-color and represent both the characters (including cultist leader Daniel Sutter) as well as the more horrific creatures featured in the module - and generally, I really like figure flats and the somewhat whacky creatures of the module, like the owlbear-style bear/frog-hybrid Brog.

That being said, I'm a bit of a snob; I can't help it. I just can't really get behind CGI-artwork like the one employed herein. There is nothing wrong with the material provided. There truly isn't...however, the module's weakest component was its artwork and my players, being sometimes immature, would not take kindly to some of these. I get that it's as indie as indie goes here, so I expect no masterpieces and am lenient; but know what? I know that one green guy from some unholy abomination of such a book I reviewed back in the day...and while e.g. the lesser servitor walker looks awesome and aptly dangerous, the skinless creature and the aforementioned guy just look...giggle-fit-inducing. Similarly, while the Scaxtion tries hard to look intimidating (which should be easy, remembering the module's description of it), looks more like a doofy, cyclopean Shrek to which cut off pieces of other minis have been glued - glued, not grafted, mind you - the transitions from its components look not particularly convincing. Take a look at the cover for further proof.

This still has a low price point, but if you're running "The Ones We Were" with a more serious tone, I'd wholeheartedly recommend skipping this one, as it may prove detrimental to the atmosphere you're trying to evoke. If you're going for an atmosphere of fun B-Movie-schlock, however, then this will be worth the asking price for the giggles some of these will most definitely induce. If you're getting this for said purpose, this could be considered to be a 3-star file; all others should rather rely on their narrative prowess and steer clear. My final verdict will fall between those two poles, at 2 stars. Nice for a self-ironic playing of the module, otherwise not recommended.

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 huge expansion for the D20 Modern/Future-based massive Alterkine rules-cosmos/setting clocks in at a whopping 128 pages of content, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page list of thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page blank, leaving us with 123 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, I assume familiarity with d20 modern/future as well as Alterkine's player's handbook in this review, so if a particular mechanic or reference seems opaque to you, kindly check my review for Alterkine's Player's Handbook. All right, so, I generally liked the occupation-system as provided in the Alterkine player's handbook and this time around, there are a LOT more of them to choose from: Whether as a trusty employee of L-Mart, as a girl/boy scout or as a bohemian (which was my profession of choice for quite some time) ...or as a scream queen or ranch hand - the occupations herein are diverse, interesting and superior to those presented in Alterkine's Player's Handbook by a long shot regarding the quality of their design: You see, while not perfectly aligned, they generally provide them same level of benefits; there are no truly superior occupations herein, with all of them providing generally balanced benefits that juggle bonus feats, wealth and reputation bonuses as well as skill bonuses (and even cap-increases for skills). Overall, this chapter shows some serious growth as a game-designer when compared to the base book.

After this rather refreshing chapter, we are introduced to 3 new 10-level base classes, the Charmer, the Investigator and the Trooper. The Charmer receives 1/2 BAB, Fort and Ref-save-progression, 1 d6 HD, 4+Int skills and 6+ 1/2 level action points as well as Simple Weapons Proficiency, defense bonus scaling up to +3 and reputation bonus scaling up to +5. Charmers alternate each level between getting a bonus feat and a talent. Talent-wise, charmers are obviously geared towards being party faces - with skill-enhancers and personal assistants, they are a pretty diverse lot. Additionally, talents are grouped by talent-trees that allow you to mix and match or poach in one to switch to the other: Whether crowd-pleasing crowd-control of counter-terrorists, an ambassador's information access, proper diplomatic training, social chameleons, nobles or journalists, the diverse array provided is pretty impressive.

Fret not if you're a fan of the original base-classes, mind you: Drifters, Mystics, Scavs, Warriors and Techs also receive expansions to the talents they get, some of which certainly are on the more impressive side regarding their concepts: Following the drifter's animalistic body talent tree provides not only boosts to physical attributes, but also a bite and even a regeneration-like healing factor, one that thankfully is not proper regeneration, avoiding that particular hornet's nest...Still, in conjunction with any HP-sharing mechanic, this one means infinite healing for the group. Slow, infinite healing, yes, but still - particularly in d20 modern/future, which values hit points higher than base d20 due to the relative scarcity of healing options in quite a few of the supported campaign styles, this is problematic. On the plus-side, quick wall crawling and further enhancing lycanthropic powers (including options for size large shapes) and wild shape - the number of options is significant and while there are minor issues like the one I mentioned before, overall, they are more concise and internally balanced than the ones provided in the original book.

Undead controlling cultist mystics, monk scavenging and exorcisms feel like natural fits, but I was particularly enamored with the lucid dreaming/dream -themed options for their huge narrative potential. Scavs with their duelist talent tree or the bardic knowledge-like explorer make sense...oh, and there are the illuminatus-themed talents, which focuses on reputation, deniability and deception.

If you're suffering from some sort of insanity, you can go for the lunatic's talent tree, which provides a truly devastating barbarian rage-transcending rampage - but, horribly, it cannot be stopped or willingly initiated, instead being triggered by stress o things the GM determines. While power-level wise brutal (+6s to attributes...), the lack of control on the player's side makes this one not only neat for GMs, but also for players and groups that enjoy story-driven aspects more than direct control. Still, a GM should handle this one's power with care. Techs may elect to specialize in fraud-related talents, data specializations...oh, and they may now build robots via pretty concise and easy to grasp rules! Further rage control for the warrior, a bodyguard's tricks and taunting specializations may look pretty neat, but compared to the at times downright inspiring talent trees other classes got, this one feels a bit more conservative in its concepts.

The Investigator gets 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression, defense bonuses scaling up to +5 and reputation bonuses scaling up to +4 as well as d8 HD, 6+1/2 level action points, 4+Int skills and simple weapon proficiency. like the charmer, these guys alternate between talents and bonus feats gained each level. Talent-wise, we get the whole shebang we'd expect from a class of this name - from forensics specialists to detectives and brilliant medical examiner, we get detailed crime scene analysis and intuition-based talents for the profiling of adversaries. Story-telling wise, there is some serious potential here- enough to make an all-investigator TV-crime-procedural-style campaign, in fact.

The trooper gets full BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Fort-save progression, defense bonuses scaling up to +7 and reputation bonuses scaling up to +2 as well as d10 HD, 6+1/2 level action points, 3+Int skills and personal firearms proficiency. Like the charmer, these guys alternate between talents and bonus feats gained each level, though the list of bonus feats is significantly more expansive. Unsurprisingly, trooper talents focus more on the...let's say, martial bent of things. However, the class does feature a talent tree that should have quite a few of you, my readers, grin: There actually is a Colonial Marine talent tree here, which boils down to being basically exactly the Starship troopers toolkit you'd expect. Similarly, dead shot sniping and really deadly sniper tricks as well as heavy weapon specializations can be found here, though I consider not all talents with similar requirements to be of equal value here.

The skills of Alterkine also receive some coverage, with suggested skill-uses/basic discussions being rather solid. Obviously, such a book also contains feats: A LOT of them. The pdf provides no less than 9 pages of them - though here, the general quality is somewhat less than in the material introduced so far: From bland "+2 to Acrobatics" to an unnecessary rename of "Greater Two-Weapon Fighting" to "Two-Weapon Mastery," there is some filler to be found here. On the other side, perfect memories and implanting a (too short-lived) doubt in foes are pretty cool concepts. Still, a mixed bag in my book.

Now, the book also sports spells, many of which take existing spells and tweak them for Alterkine's purposes - confusion, for example, has its casting duration lengthened. The spells herein mostly represent such minor tweaks, which, while not bad per se, do feel like they could have been done sans reprinting the spells - all in all, this is filler and would have been better served by a general conversion guideline.

The final section of this book is massive - and is all devoted to advanced classes, which obviously follow the 5 or 10-level formula. Since going into the mechanical details for each would bloat this review beyond belief, I'll cover them in broad strokes. The first one herein would be the assassin, who can use action points to deal Str-damage, gets better sneak...and is surprisingly bereft of actual assassination tricks. No insta-kill moves here. The Casanova is a brilliant master of seduction and information theft, while both chaplains and commanders represent different styles of the commanding fighter with authority trope, one spiritual and one worldly. Here would be as good a place as any to mention a particularly annoying formatting/layout-decision: The respective class tables lack the names of the classes they belong to and are at the bottom of the respective class entries, meaning you'll sometimes see a new advanced class and the table of an old one on the same page, with the new class's table following a page or two later - cosmetic, sure, but needlessly opaque. Note that this is not always the case, which makes getting the right table a tad bit more annoying.

The commando is a solid fighter-ish one that learns precise damage output control, while the con artist is a solid face for the party. The crusader can be pictured as the paladin-lite with action points, focused on a certain idea/religion, while fighter aces are exceedingly capable pilots, who, at high levels, may go down in devastating blaze of glory-style ramming actions. The goodfella is a nice mobster-themed class, while grifters are specialists in legal loopholes and the acquisition of items. Gun Dancers are pretty lame dual wielding of firearms-type of guys that get abilities they require when the character already has spent the feats - these guys should offer their benefits as a base class, not as an advanced class...oh, and only, the ability for the Third attack is called "Greater Two-Weapon fighting", making nomenclature inconsistent with the pdf's feat-redesign.

Similarly disappointing, the Gun-Fu Warrior takes until 5th level to gain a unique ability that actually represents Gun Fu...and does so in a pretty bland manner. Similarly, while I enjoyed the concept of the law dog, the sheriff-style enforcer, I consider the actual abilities to be none too exciting. The Martial Arts Master, with varied means of using ki, is more interesting, though I really wished more space was devoted to the concept - 5 techniques are a bit few for someone spoiled by the huge amount of options most contemporary designs offer.

The mastermind, surprisingly, is most about minion progression and reputation - which is good and all, but crazy prepared, contingencies or the like would have been thematically fitting. Ninjas are particularly lethal and agile in a solid representation of the concept, while high-level SpecOps emphasize survival and taking down targets silently at higher levels. Spellslingers can enhance their guns and imbue spells in the bullets they fire, while terrorists are just that - unpleasant bastards with a network and several disturbing tools of their trade...including the manufacture of bio weapons. The warmaster is all about pain and torture and the decidedly unheroic sides of warfare. Weapon Masters are weapon specialists that can maximize a damage of weapons a limited amount of times day. The advanced classes section ends with a relatively solid note pertaining the xenobiologist and her specialization of healing and using medicine.

The book closes with a handy index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good for a book of this size. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports numerous unique, nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.

Jeff Becker's expansion to Alterkine is superior in almost every way to the base book: The occupations and a huge amount of the options provided herein are simply more streamlined and feel more concise and often, simply more interesting, covering a diverse array of nice topics and character concepts. Similarly, the new base classes and their talent trees make them feel more diversified, more unique and interesting - the respective talents basically amount to free-form archetypes.

At the same time, the expansion does sport some unnecessary filler material that ranges from reprints and renamed feats to very minor tweaks that could have been covered more efficiently. Beyond that, the pdf offers a somewhat strange gap between base classes and advanced classes - where the base classes and their talents are now significantly more modular (particularly considering the material from the core book), the advanced classes feel very niche in a couple of cases, particularly since there is some overlap between the respective concepts: Assassin, ninja and SpecOps do similar things in similar niches, for example - making them more modular allowing for player choice would have been more elegant, particularly since e.g. the assassin is arguably weaker/less interesting than the ninja and specops operator.

More modularity among them and more pronounced advanced class abilities would have made this chapter nice - particularly since quite a few abilities offer relatively small benefits as opposed to truly new things to do. This, alongside the minor hiccups among the talents, ultimately remains the most pronounced flaw of this book.

That being said, at the same time, this is an expansion of Alterkine/D20 Modern/Future that definitely makes sense and feels like a significant step forward for the setting and its mechanics, with the increased design experience definitely showing. The classes, crunch, just about everything, is mroe interesting, more streamlined than in the first book. How to rate this, then? Ultimately, this book, to me, is pretty much a mixed bag, but one that remains on the positive side of things due to some of the truly awesome talents: The fact that this lets you play CSI, Criminal intent, Profiler, etc. with one class alone and retains the fact that all characters are different alone should probably make this worthwhile for quite a bunch of people out there. In the end, this may not be perfect, but it is a worthwhile purchase for those interested in modern/future gameplay. My final verdict of 3.5 stars will be rounded up 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.


This optional side-quest module for the Dungeonlands-saga clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1/2 page advertisement, 1 page RD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This module is basically a sidequest in the fight against the legendary Lich-Queen - but one that can have serious repercussions in Part III of the saga - hence, I'd advise the GM to use this module either during the trip through the Machine of the Lich Queen or as part of the journey towards her Palace in book III of the saga.

This being an adventure-review, the following review, unsurprisingly, features copious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, still here? Only GMs around? Good! Once, even the fabled Lich-Queen Ayrawn was mortal and, as mortals are wont to do, she had a companion, a lover, a consort - an anchor, a chance for redemption, a man who would recoil from the darkened paths she embarked upon - this man was Horarion. When the angel Anat was sundered from the heavens and bound, the psyche of the lich-queen sundered Horarion's mansion on Paxcetel, sending it spiraling towards the eternal Maelstrom, leaving, in spite of his arcane prowess, but a single portal, a tenuous connection to the lich-queen's realm, a shining portal you can place at your leisure within the Dungeonlands-saga.

Thus, Horarion remained in his isolated mansion - a place where arcane magic has its own weight, potentially inducing fatigue in casters and thus adding a nasty additional difficulty - and no, there is no means of escaping Pacetel here either - though the mansion's challenges are pronounced indeed - when the stable master has a CR of 12 and a unique variant chimera has taken up roost in the stables, you're in for a treat...and yes, there also is the Shalguath, a unique spirit ox to be found here. Death lurks at every corner here - Horarion has, for example, invested a part of his soul into a tapestry within his sanctum - and yes, the PCs may actually be eaten by the RUG in this room. Killer rug...explain that to your deity once you stand before them in the after-life...funny...and lethal.

A storm of feral spirits locked away, a bathhouse containing a truly disturbing, unique aberration (including powers-granting waters) - lethal. Speaking of which - the empowered waste-disposal disintegrate trap is brutal indeed. The PCs can also do battle with spawning, supreme swordsmen and test their mettle against a unique taiga linnorm...And the vault of Horarion is no less lethal...and contains, among deadly adversaries, an unlikely item: A loom. This item is what makes the tapestry-versions of Horarion basically immortal and maintains the stasis of the islet - destroying the loom makes millennia catch up with the strange inhabitants of Horarion's refuge - which btw. also include odd bark mummies and peris...and the destruction also makes it possible to defeat the three tapestry-bound Horarions, with each destruction providing a new power for a hero, though the types of said powers and their wordings have minor glitches - it's e.g. "mind-affecting", not "mind-effecting" and proper EX, SU, SP-codification would have been in order. Destroying the final tapestry unleashed what has become of Horarion - an undead baneful Noumenon, accompanied by unique hazards, as the house itself creates stony arms, weird roof-beam elementals animated by his power - a brutal boss fight that ends either in death or by learning what Horarion knew, gaining perhaps the most potent weapon against the lich queen...for the destruction sends the PCs back to where their journey to Horarion's domain began. Still, it should be noted that the non-statblock elements, i.e. the hazards and precise presentation o the combat-relevant rules herein could have used a slightly tighter wording - as written, these components require some work from the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good, though, on a rules-level, there are a tad bit more glitches to be found herein than in the revised editions of the machine and place installments. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports numerous artworks in color and b/w, all of which are neat. The biggest surprise for me was the cartography: Horarion's domain receives a beautiful, print-out-ready map that is player-friendly and thus offsets the largest point of criticism that plagued the dungeonlands saga - kudos for including that one! The pdf is a layered pdf that can easily be customized and also sports extensive bookmarks.

Miles M. Kantir, with rules by Allan Hoffman and George "Loki" Williams, has created a truly interesting sidetrek for the main adventures of the Dungeonlands saga that actually is worth playing - beyond the delightfully twisted and diverse combat-challenges herein, this little module offers some truly interesting ideas and brims with creativity. Moreover, this adds a further dimension to the epic struggle against the dread lich-queen, one that is fun to partake in - though this module also makes for a great stand-alone module; you could conceivably run this simply on its own without a hassle and just some cosmetic reskins - and some of the brutal battles, including the climactic boss fight, definitely would warrant that.

All in all, this is a great, fun sub-level of the epic journey through Ayrawn's dungeonlands and one I'd certainly suggest getting, in spite of minor rules-language hiccups here and there - while some components in this module may frankly be more precise, the good components still stand out - hence, my final verdict will 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

The latest installment of Rite Publishing's books detailing the unique pantheon of Questhaven along the unique servants of the respective deities clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now if you're not familiar with the series, here's the basic summary: The deities in Questhaven are peculiar in that their true names are not spoken - instead, they have aliases like "Our Shifting Oracle of Genius" or "Their Mistress of Madness," with the precise epithet depending on your personal relationship with the deity. The deities sport favored weapons, domains and the like and concise write-ups and the pdf also offers unique options for the respective servants of the deity - often to the point, where the archetypes and feats provided radically change how a character serving the deity plays.

The first deity covered herein is, concept-wise, already very interesting: Our Mother of Many Ways is a chaotic neutral deity associated with jackals, badgers and the like - however, unlike most jackal-associated deities out there, she is not an evil creature - instead, the basic idea is to take the old adage of the thin line separating genius and insanity is represented and embodied by this deity. The vine of inspiration and its associated benefits, the manifestation of her favor and information on the holidays of the deity -all written in the compelling prose we've come to expect from the series. The deity also grants two subdomains for Knowledge, namely Prophecy and Inspiration, with domain powers allowing for insight bonuses to be granted to skill-checks or for or for relative flexible premonitions that allow you to act in surprise rounds or gain insight bonuses to AC/attacks, etc.

The deity also sports 3 new feats, one of which retaliates 1/day (not expended if the target saves) an attack on your person with a madness affliction (narrative gold!). Another allows for exactly one revelation with activation time of 1 full round or less to be used as a swift action - which can be pretty potent. Finally, feat number 3, is a high-concept one, allowing you to transform wine of significant quantities into ingested poison. While very circumstantial, I can see this being a cool plot-device indeed! (How did this one group take the fortress back from the ogres?) The write-up also contains, surprisingly, the Joyous Fellowship - a paladin archetype/orga that represents chaotic good followers that receive perceptive gaze (with a cut-copy-paste error referring to inquisitor levels), an aura of hope and, more interestingly, at 4th level an euphoria-powered barbarian rage in lieu of spells. The higher level auras are also rather distinct, allowing for the smite-powered extension of rage to allies, with chaos-based DR/lawful and apotheosis as well as banishment-powered smite. On a cool fluff-level, the archetype also features a fully depicted code of conduct - overall, a solid chaotic pala.

The second deity covered herein would be "Our Queen of Wisdom and Mercy", the shepherdess of contrition and mercy - enormously popular due to healing offered free of charge, but unsurprisingly none too popular among the clergy-in-spe due to the exceedingly high moral standards required by the church. The write-up of the feats this time around contains two feats, one of which is exceedingly interesting: Sister's Lace allows you, to, as a swift action, consume three uses of both healing and protection domain 1st level abilities to lace conjuration (healing) or harmless spells, either granting a significant long-term AC-buff that scales with your levels or charge a creature's weapon with healing, which is discharged upon being touched by the weapon - which offers some surprising, tactical tricks I haven't seen before.

The second feat, Healer's Grace, allows for the expenditure of domain powers to grant rerolls versus negative conditions based on the cleric's own Will-save - pretty powerful, but fitting one. We also get a new paladin, the Queen' Man - at 4th level, they can significantly enhance the casting of spells and provide a defensive shield that wards against conditions you can negate via mercies and high-level paladins can convert damage in a huge radius into non-lethal damage can be considered truly cool - that battle waging on the grounds of a misunderstanding? Well, these guys can make sure no-one dies! (On a nitpicky side, the archetype is once erroneously called "compassionate son" - but that's pretty much a cosmetic gripe.) The capstone similarly emphasizes taking conditions, damage, etc. of others, making the archetype's final levels predisposed to notions of heroic sacrifice, something I really like in the frame of paladins and, since this replaces spells, the power of the class feature seems justified. Furthermore, the archetype sports a number of unique and complex modifications of divine bond with a specific ward-creature that makes the Queen's Man a superb bodyguard for the target creature. We also receive a second archetype, the Harmonious Spirit warpriest, who receives a modified list of skills and proficiencies as well as several monk-related abilities. Automatic merciful spells, merciful extraplanar prisons to deal with vanquished foes and the like render this archetype rather cool for groups like mine, where murder-hobo-ing intelligent life is NOT considered behavior that's acceptable for good characters. The harmonious spirit also receives a code of conduct, while aforementioned paladin does not.

The third deity herein was one I've been pretty much excited about for a long time - the Reaper of Death and Rebirth, served by the Crematorium of the Grim Gatherer - and yes, this is an interesting component of the church: Beyond the usual death-related iconography and different takes on the religion, the addition of phoenix and rebirth as central concepts render this one a surprisingly fresh take on the death-god-trope. The archetype provided here would be the Ruiner fighter, who gets a specific ruin pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which can be used defensively, to make wounds that are hard to heal or cast curse spells - though I'm honestly hard-pressed to note a sufficient amount of spells with the cures-descriptor - a spell-list,. even a small one, would have been very much appreciated here. Additionally, higher level ruiners receive hexes, bonus damage versus cursed foes and the stalwart ability (not a fan - basically, evasion for Fort- and Will-saves) and high-level ruiners can prevent the very first attack in a full attack executed against them by cursed targets. Overall, a cool, if somewhat user-unfriendly archetype.

Now on the interesting side, there is also a universal archetype contained herein, the Phoenix Child...which is less of an archetype and more of a GM-based template that is applied to characters. Think of it as a kind of mythic path sans tiers that is instead tied with linear progression to the respective class levels. You see, these beings may be reborn in fire, but they also return from the grave with a list tattooed into their arms - this is the list of specific tasks the character has to rectify in order to be absolved of the sins committed in a previous life, with final death being the reward...though redemption thus gained is scarcely attained. Beyond various flame-themed abilities, this one is basically a power-increase, a narrative option...and made me immediately contemplate a campaign, where all PCs are Phoenix Children. Not suitable for every campaign and GMs should be aware of the additional power, but still, I consider this AWESOME.

The final deity herein would be Our Steely-Eyed Judge, the deity of justice and law - stern, fierce and vigilant, supported by a rather well-written Truth inquisition that includes a honesty-enforcing curse, with the two feats once again sporting a domain-powered lacing effect, which, this time around, offers for a kind of flanking curse and a limited retributive bestow curse (lacking italicization), which is nice. The write-up also sports the Thief-taker Slayer archetype, a specialist of urban tracking (with handy DCs/modifier-tables provided), including the rather cool generation of tracer-objects and high-level quarries and a talent that allows for the garroting of enemies and a non-lethal incapacitation talent that erroneously mentions the bounty hunter in another minor hiccup.

Beyond these option, we conclude this book with some truly intriguing pieces of fluff that elaborate the themes and concepts of Questhaven, including the crossroads of dream and some important pieces of advice some authors out there should take a look at - making fluff not read like a DVR instruction manual is something that would make my reviewer's obligations significantly more compelling...but I digress.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the one component of this supplement that could have used some streamlining - there are quite a few punctuation glitches in here and references to the wrong class in some abilities, remnants of either cut-copy-paste glitches or revisions in the class-name's respective nomenclature. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf has nice artworks for the deity's symbols and more, most of it in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Okay, so this one is pretty hard on me - I like just about all of the respective options portrayed herein, though the ruiner could really have used a list of curse spells by level. I also would have loved a code of conduct for the Queen's Man. Then again, the significant majority of archetypes and options here not only sport some awesome concepts, they also manage to use rather innovative mechanics and inspire to an extent that makes me come up with plot-lines by virtue of simply reading them - a feat not many pieces of crunch achieve. So yes, Steven D. Russell's latest collection of deities and related material must be considered to be inspired, though it also feels a bit rougher on the edges than what I would have liked it to be. Still, most glitches herein are ultimately cosmetic in nature - which makes me settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the inspired ideas herein to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Posted 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

This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content - which makes sense as soon as you open this pdf.

Why? Because as soon as you do, you'll be looking at character-sheets - pregenerated at 4th level, two pages of standard character sheet per build, because these are not pregens in the traditional sense - they are basic stats with some crucial equipment added. No names, no character. The alterkine-compatible sheets with slots for wealth and reputation have been filled rather nicely and cover the base classes trooper, warrior, tech, scav, mystic, investigator, drfiter and charmer.

Aaaand...that's about it. Class abilities, feat, encumbrance etc. are all listed, as are backgrounds and the like. Where applicable, ranged weapons lack the ammunition available for the weapon on the respective build's first page. The builds are pretty decent and neither useless, nor will they win any optimization-contest.

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Äh...what else? There is not much to say about the pdf layout or formatting or editing-wise - if you've seen a d20-game-based character sheet, you know what to expect. It's bookmarked (Kudos!) and pretty solidly done.

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Öhm. Yeah, that's about it. You know, I kind of almost went off on a rant how advice on how to play characters, personality, roleplaying advice and fully fleshed out stories pretty much have been the standard among the pregens I've reviewed so far...but that wouldn't have been particularly fair now, would it? This file costs $1 and provides a whole array of pregens for Alterkine/ d20 modern/future. It has neither frills or inspiring moments, it requires the player to make a character from the stats - but for one measly buck, it takes the work of making the mechanics for a group of level 4 PCs off your back - and that's a fair deal.

As long as you don't expect actual characters to come out of this, but are aware of what this pdf, you may consider this worthwhile. So yeah - I'm going to rate this pdf on its own terms, for what it is, rather than for what one could expect from pregens. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down - this is pretty much the definition of a low-cost, solid, but unremarkable offering.

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.


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 and on OBS.


This huge tome clocks in at 382 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page "thank you," a massive 10-page index (which helps navigation immensely) and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a gigantic 365 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So what is Alterkine? The simple tl;dr-answer for those of you particularly time-starved individuals would be that Alterkine represents basically a riff/expansion on d20 modern/future-rules.

If you require more precise guidance, let me enlighten you: Intended as a core-book, this massive book is pretty newbie-friendly, providing explanation on multiplication handling, dice-notation and the like in the beginning. Progress levels, swearing allegiance to entities, organizations and the like is covered and, unlike quite a few variants of d20-based games, the pdf provides an occupation-system, which generally modifies the skill-selection and provides in some cases bonus feats. At the same time, occupations sport modifications on the wealth and reputation-ratings of the character...which is generally a pretty cool thing. However, both GMs and players should well be aware of the fact that the respective occupations are NOT properly balanced among themselves: Being a student, for example, is significantly less useful than being a celebrity or being an academic prodigy, with powers ranging quite significantly between the less powerful and more powerful occupations - while this is only realistic, the discrepancy between power-levels still is something I'm not a fan of; particularly since no clear guidelines for the ramifications of changing occupations is provided.

As mentioned, there are fame/infamy-based reputation rules, which pretty much are solid and simple modifiers for relevant Cha-based d20-checks, whether skill-based or pure reputation. Wealth is not handled by direct currency, but rather via the abstract wealth-modifiers. Starting Wealth bonus equal 2d4 and can never drop below 0 - purchasing things can be achieved via wealth-checks, which are d20s plus the wealth rating. Wealth decreases whenever the character purchases an object with a rating beyond the character's wealth rating. Instead of traditional AC, Alterkine has a defense rating of 10 + Dex mod +class bonus + equipment bonus + size modifiers. 3.X's action points are also a part of the system, retaining the +1d6-modification, though some class features also sport this as a kind of resource.

Alterkine retains the classic injury and death-rules regarding fixed negative hit point-thresholds (-10 = death) and massive damage. Conditions, temporary hit points and environmental hazards, from poisons to diseases, lava, drowning, etc. all are explained in relatively simple and easy to grasp terms. Alterkine sporst several races, though going through them in detail would bloat the review unduly, so I'll instead provide basics, all right? The first would be the small, slightly pineapple-shape-headed Aasliy - premium entertainers that also sport a strict emphasis on trust. The setting also supports anthropomorphic animals, though inner-racial balancing is odd, with 1st level flight (sans maneuverability-rating) is part of the deal for some. The salamander-like Faluth may seem honest and guileless, but their +2 to all physical attributes makes them surprisingly powerful - and yes, if you've been following my reviews, you'll note something: The races herein pretty much hit all my pet-peeves: 1st level flight? Check. Lopsided attribute-dispersal? Check. Too strong minmax-gearing towards specific classes with +4s to attributes? Check. Similarly, the orc-like, large Ghasmorgh are very powerful and sexually dimorphic, with females being LA+1, males LA+2 - and again, I was never a big fan of LA, though your mileage may obviously vary. The slightly feline Kidaana-ahe gain predator/wanderer-themed bonus-feats and scent, but at the cost of LA+1 and cybernetic restrictions. Pure Strain Humans get +2 Int, Cha and Con, increase HD by one step, while sentient plants can receive quite a few variants. The races all sport height and weight tables and while they hit several of my pet-peeves, I guess that, with some minor exceptions, they work pretty solidly in conjunction with one another and cover the central tropes you probably want covered - bruiser, carefree guy, weird race, etc. - most bases are covered.

The pdf sports a total of 5 base-class, all of which feature the default ten-level progression of d20 modern/future, sporting good, medium and bad save-progressions, the usual BAB-progressions and scaling progressions of defense-bonuses and reputation-bonuses. The class tend to come with so-called talent-trees, which provide either a kind of internal choice or provide a linear ability progression. The set-up and presentation of the respective talents and classes remains pretty well-crafted, though, particularly should you be used to PFRPG's or a similar d20-games' level of choices, you may consider them, from tech to mystic and scav, perhaps a bit restrictive. That being said, on the plus-side, the classes sport no dead levels.

Alterkine is more advanced than the classic d20-systems, though - the skill-selection provided adheres pretty much to standards closer to PFRPG than D&D 3.X - from Athletics to Analytics to a Culture-skill and Deception, the more versatile skills provided for Alterkine work well and are concisely-presented...and yes, Demolitions Drive are part of the deal alongside e.g. Intrigue and the like. Concentration is also a skill here, though with a decreased emphasis regarding magic, it no longer acts as a stringent non-optional skill-tax on casters.

Now obviously, in such a system, one requires feats - and, no surprise, this book provides a huge array of them - and they are interesting in some cases, utilizing e.g. the new mechanics and materials introduced, though, much like in 3.X's design-paradigm, you need feats for several things that imho should not require them - suppression fire, for example. For each great example that blends a new item's possibilities with relatively neat mechanics, there, alas, are instances where I just had to shake my head: Take the Thunderhawk and Thunderbird Styles - mechanically, they are pretty much identical and don't require one another. The Thunderbird Style has slightly less penalties when combined with another style and less potency (1d2 rounds of stun) and 1 BAB less prerequisite...and that's it. Design like this is textbook filler cookie-cutting in my book and simply wasted space. But that may just be me being a spoiled prick.

The equipment-section of this book, containing gadgets, restriction-rules and weapons from flamethrowers to chain saws and even paint ball guns is extremely detailed - a level of detail also extending to armors...oh, and before I forget about it: Yes, this book sports a huge ton of options to customize the respective equipment pieces, both armors and weapons, in a rather versatile manner. It should also be noted that the pdf is rather concise regarding the presentation of the respective equipment types, for they are grouped by progress level: Playing in a rather regular, modern version? Equipment all grouped in one space; contemporary earth invaded by foes with superior technological knowledge? No biggie. I did not expect the respective sections to adhere to such a smart and well-thought out presentation, so kudos where kudos are due!

The book also provides a diverse array of advanced classes - which would be basically prestige classes by any other name (in case you're not familiar with the concept d20 modern/future uses), ranging level-wise from level 5 to 10 - so yes, combined with the 10-level base-class progression, this makes no attempts pretending that the advanced classes are what you want to get: From Psi-soldiers to road warriors and genetic chameleons, the diversity provided among the significant array of PrCs here is pretty neat and certainly shows off some of the better aspects of 3.X's design-philosophy.

In case you haven't noticed: Beyond the PrCs and significant equipment choices and modifications, customization is the name of the game, which includes, in chapter six, a rather significant array of rules regarding mutations: From carapaces to bird feet and webbed digits, this chapter provides some neat tricks and also represents a rather solid scavenging potential - particularly since, from the rules-relevant to the more exotic or cosmetic, this book sports a huge amount of mutations, many of which I really enjoyed. The balancing is interesting in itself here, at least in concept: Mutations have an MP-cost, which must be paid for in drawbacks taken. At the same time the system thus does lend itself to some serious power-gaming, though thankfully, this is offset somewhat by a GM-control caveat, though, I still do think that some of the new rules could have used a more precise wording: The trunk mutation, for example, nets you "an incredibly strong nose like that of an elephant, with a Strength equal to half your Strength." - So, can the trunk manipulate objects? Wield weapons? Execute slam attacks? No idea. While not the rule, there are quite an array of such minor hiccups and they alas do accumulate. Telekinesis would be another example of a needlessly opaque mutation, failing to specify whether the damage is caused to the moved object, to the target of the telekinesis, to targets in the path of the moved object...while it is pretty clear what the mutation intends to achieve, it is in such instances that this book shows its status as a freshman offering, lacking the precision I expect from rules.

While the massive chapter of psionic talents sports a similarly expansive array of unique and evocative tricks, there is no way arguing past the lack of individual ranges and the precision of some of these simply not being up to par: "Once per week, you are able to compress time around yourself and others, causing it to speed up at a speed of 4 times the normal rate." Okay, congrats, so what are the precise mechanical ramifications of this? When e.g. poisoned? 4 rolls in one round? Can the subjected targets act 4 times per round? I have literally no idea what this is supposed to do. Alas, it's not the only one with such issues. Where's the mechanical difference to the one that allows for the slowing down of time? No idea.

On a more positive note, the chapter of flaws, similarly extremely detailed and comprehensive, sports less blatant issues like this and can, as a whole be considered to be rather well-crafted. Now obviously, cybernetics are yet another crucial factor in the presentation of any setting with even remote scifi-leaning. A given character can have up to 1+Con-mod cybernetic attachments, with every exceeding attachment providing a negative level that also results in the loss of a highest level mutation or psionic power. Cybernetic fall in two self-explanatory categories: Replacements and enhancements. From bladed arms to cryogenic generators, we get yet another vast array of customization options - which, while covering a HUGE amount of ground, ultimately suffers from a similar syndrome as the feats - there are frankly some options that exceed others in potency and there is a bit of filler to be found. Similarly, there are e.g. force fields and the like that cause damage, but do not explicitly state activation actions or feature a save to halve or negate. Still, overall, a very interesting chapter.

The next step, would obviously YET ANOTHER huge chapter, this time dealing with bioware - i.e. biological tweaks of your body as opposed to technical ones. Once again, we are treated to a huge array of such modifications - though, unlike cybernetics, bioware, as presented herein, does NOT feature a restriction - you can, as long as you can afford it, load up on bioware until your purse gives out. From flesh-pockets to tendrils and even undead-servants creating lifedrains, there are some far-out and very powerful options here - and not much guidelines regarding pricing and balance, a practice that, alas, extends to gene therapy. Gene therapy allows for the acquisition of powers, mutations and the like via per se pretty concise short-term-treatment rules that fail to specify how long the application takes to apply. Gene-therapy even allows characters to gain acquired templates...which are powerful, but their acquisition is a pain: Number One: The pdf fails to specify a given cost for gene therapy, leaving me scratching my head. Secondly, each therapy for a template requires something along the lines of 25 successful Fortitude saves versus DC 20 - each failure nets you 2 points of Con-damage (I think, but I'm not sure) . similarly, I'm not sure whether a failure resets the counter; whether the process can be suspended and then, after healing, be taken up again. Neither does the book feature balancing advice for characters with gene therapy versus those without - basically, these look like level adjustment-powerful benefits and we're pretty much left in the dark as to their value.

The pdf then concludes with 4 post-apocalyptic-themed character backgrounds that modify attributes, skills, etc.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are top-notch and truly impressive - for a book of this size, the writing is pretty precise on a formal level. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read two-column b/w-standard with copious, nice b/w-artworks I haven't seen before and some neat full color artworks of weaponry etc. EDIT: as per the latest update, the book now has bookmarks!

Jeff Becker's Alterkine seems to have a bit of an identity-crisis as to what kind of book it wants to be. On the one hand, the book begins with the very basics of d20-based systems and seems to have the goal of collecting some rules from d20 modern/future in a big book, preventing the requirement of swapping books. However, were I to judge the book on this premise, I'd have to, unfortunately, say that in this regard the Alterkine Player's Guide doesn't do its job - the lack of activation actions and basic rules for bioware etc. mean that this, in spite of its hand-holding approach in the beginning, becomes pretty much a book that requires some serious rules-knowledge once you get to the huge amount of crunchy nit and grit. At the same time, reprinting material from d20 future supplements mean that groups already having these rules will, once again, resort to book-swapping - so yes, I'm a bit torn as to how to rate this. If taken on its own, Alterkine will certainly result in some seriously raised eyebrows regarding how some of these rules ought to work - I found myself dusting off my d20 modern/future supplements quite a lot in order to make use of the rules herein.

This ultimately also extends to activation and action economy in particular - if one thing irked me to know end during this review, it was the requirement to switch back books to re-establish the basic rules for the vast array of crunch herein and, with the added bookmarks, this can be sued more easily - which nets the book +0.5 stars.

Similarly, while there are A LOT, a TON of options presented within this book, both new and old, the matter of fact remains that some of the pieces of crunch are not up to snuff, filler or simply problematic regarding balancing guidelines and precise functionality - particularly the mutation or the bioware could have damn well used a more precise presentation, especially when the cybernetics chapter does indeed provide basic rules.

Now, all of this may sound overly negative and frankly, it shouldn't be: The new base-classes and advanced classes are well-crafted and diverse and while the book, as a whole, inherits several issues from the base books it utilizes, I have to note one crucial thing: The Alterkine Player's Guide is the biggest, most expansive upgrade for d20 modern/future I've read so far. This book sports a HUGE array of cool material - from the uncommon races to the advanced classes to the vast array of equipment and cybernetics, there are a lot of gems herein and the general rules-language of the "big components" tends to be surprisingly concise and fun; as far as 3.X design-paradigms go, this supplement does a good job indeed. At the same time, however, there are quite a lot of small rules-interactions that do not properly work out, that require clarification. Still, for one, this is a freshman offering - and the book is actually the work of two people: Author Jeff Becker and edited by Max Becker. Against this backdrop, one to truly congratulate the authors - this is a huge accomplishment for such a small team and the fact remains that, in spite of its flaws, you'll be very hard-pressed to find a supplement of this ambition and scope for d20 modern/future, one that oozes so much obvious passion for the system. Particularly, if you're comfortable with making rules-decisions, if you're a GM who has serious experience with it, well, then you will certainly want to check out this vast tome - provided you can get past the exceedingly annoying lack of bookmarks, that is.

As a freshman offering, this certainly is impressive (though the later Alterkine books, which I'll cover as well, are more refined), though its flaws weigh heavily upon the book; still, due to the huge scope, the gems that ARE in this tome and due to being the freshman book by HermaDolph and the lack of a good alternative as far as d20 modern/future-books are concerned, I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, still rounded down, though.

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.


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


This hex-crawl sandbox clocks in at 110 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of editorial, 1 page Index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 104 massive pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print-copy in exchange for a critical and honest review.

Well, before we do, let's make one thing clear (if the cover hasn't already...) - this is declared as "mature content"...though, at least to my European sensibilities, it does not require this declaration. There are literally more butts in just about any music videos and there is no full-frontal nudity or the like herein. While not particularly tame regarding the subject matter, the artworks are pretty tasteful and subdued and, at least to me, this pretty much is PG-13 - I quite literally could rattle off a number of regular modules with themes as grim or even darker, which made me conclude that this one's rating mostly stems from a Kali-esque statue's rendition that shows nipples (gasp) and perhaps the two artworks that do depict the backs/sides of women. *shrugs* That being said, this is, tone-wise, a pretty irreverent book, so if green-skinned slave girls that may tear you limb from limb offend you, this may not be for you - in this way, the cover is pretty much genius: Offended by the female behind on the cover? Well, then this may not be for you....but before you do judge, please consider reading this review...there's a reason why I review this book...

All right, much like other Kort'thalis Publishing books, we begin this massive sandbox with an array of basically house-rules intended to run with this module. While this book introduces the VSd6-system, which is dead simple - basically, you roll a pool of d6s and take a tally of the numbers, with the highest determining the degree of success/failure and the pool-size depending on the difficulty of the task at hand. The system per se runs fast and pretty decent for this sort of gameplay, though admittedly, after playtesting it, we went for the slightly more refined iteration that would be featured after the release of this book in "Crimson Dragon Slayer". That being said, advice like situational bonuses for properly roleplayed actions and uniqueness of characters retain their validity. On the character-building side of things, the rather cool idea of dark secrets, as pioneered in "Liberation of the Demon Slayer", Kort'thalis Publishing's inspired, but also rather flawed freshman offering, is expanded upon via even darker secrets, which present significant stains on a characters karma and may well represent the very driving forces of the respective PCs. On the narrative side, 20 sample flashbacks and a list of so-called "purple spellcasting" is presented: Basically, this is an add-on to any existing spellcasting system, highlighting the magic-warping effects of the islands portrayed herein - upon spellcasting a d6 is rolled - on a 6, spell-efficiency is enhanced...on a 1 a disastrous failure occurs...and on a 3, something chaotic and odd (think: Purple-themed, icky wild magic...) happens.

Beyond these, quick rules for the instability of dimensional gateways, radioactivity, fighting harder once you're almost down and for time-travel backlash are provided - though I can dispel any groans this topic may have caused on your behalf if you're like me and subscribe to the rather complex notions of the concept à la Primer rather than the more popularized and story-hole-prone renditions in popular media: The theme, while existent, is thankfully relegated to the background.

Beyond a relatively decent, if not perfect monk-class, the book also features a d12 critical hit table as well as quirks for magical swords and their odd egos. Oh, and for those of you who think this monstrous meat-grinder is too easy - what about a brief table of permanent injuries, to be heaped upon poor characters unfortunate enough to drop below 0 Hp? Yep, there is quite a bit of material in this regard in the book... but ultimately, this component will not be the one at the focus of your interest, right?

Rather than that, you want to know about these islands, right? Well, I shall oblige, but in order to do so, I will have to resort to SPOILERS. Potential players are advised to jump to the conclusion or be forever traumatized of anything purple before even adventuring on these 3 cursed rocks...

...

..

.

All right, only GMs left? Great! So, in this module/sandbox, we return to the world of Razira, grim and deadly as it was depicted in the previous mega-adventure - only this time around, we dive head-first into true sandboxing, with numerous reasons for expeditions to the 3 islands being part of the set-up - and on it, the whole thing becomes pretty much player-driven. However, the GM actually receives some rather interesting tools - like micro-tribe-relations-generators to determine tribal relationships between e.g. the cyber-sorcerors and the beast-men. Cyber-sorcerors? Well, yes. This is pretty much science-fantasy at its finest, sporting numerous crash-landed alien-ships, strange interplanar travelers, slavers from galaxies far, far away...there are a number of such encounters to be found alongside radioactive material that has mutated local flora horribly (not that this would seem too much out of place here...)...there is a lot to work with.

Now if you're a purist, you may pretty much easily reskin these components or further emphasize them - a practice you can similarly extend to encounters where a dimensionally stranded adult movie actress is looking for fabled Alpha Blue (Kort'thalis' most recent supplement!) or to the credit cards that can be found upon other unfortunate souls stranded here. Unfortunate? Well, beyond the warring tribes and diverging technology-levels, there obviously are multiple factions vying for control over the islands, seeking to decipher the true purpose of the black monoliths that dot the landmasses? Beyond the character's individual story-seeds and suggested metaplots and elements, there are other components that can drive day to day adventuring here - for example the disturbing random events in the night table...or the encounters themselves: When highly lethal and completely bonkers purple harlequin assassins start targeting your PCs, you know you're in for a treat that is pretty much bonkers...and who wouldn't consider undead dinosaurs awesome? Basically, you can picture this as a sandbox defined by what just about anything rock/metal-related you'd consider awesome - but it's not that simple.

The key defining feature that unifies the whole atoll and makes the mega-adventure's seemingly disparate elements come together would be, obviously, the eponymous purple putrescence: This thing, the Thing That Rots From the Sky, is basically a Great Old One-level deity, potentially all-consuming and awful, with godlike powers - and its secretions, mutating purple rains and mists, generate a climate that suddenly makes flying ape-men with tentacles and the like seem...plausible. The same goes for the various disparate tribes and factions detailed herein, all of which, in some way, can draw upon hooks that tie in with meta-plot components strewn throughout this book..though, as usual for such free-form sandboxes, it remains ultimately up to the PCs how they play this glorious monster...and speaking of "playing" and " monster" - yes, there are actually rules for initiation into some nasty cults herein.

The book also contains numerous new spells and magic items, which btw. are more precise in their effects in direct comparison to Liberation of the Demon Slayer. The book closes with two lavishly-drawn maps of the islands, one of which is in full-color in the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant errors. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-.standard and the interior artwork is unanimously of a very high caliber that captures well the eldritch atmosphere of this islands. The pdf, alas, does not have any bookmarks, which renders navigation pretty much a colossal pain - I'd strongly suggest getting this in print. The print copy is inexpensive for its page-count and very much production-values wise a great deal. The maps are awesome, though travel-directions and similar comfort-notes are not included - much like in the modules of old, the GM has to work with this mega-adventure a bit before running it - though I do not hold that against the book.

So, I'll just say it: This book hits all the right notes for me. Lovecraftiana? Check. Gonzo elements? Check. Sword & Sorcery flair? Check. Brutal difficulty (your players can't just die - they can blow up the world!)? Check. This is Venger As'Nas Satanis' second book and the increase in quality of "Liberation of the Demon Slayer" is vast - the wording s more concise, the bonkers ideas are more pronounced - where LotDS was pretty much geared towards highly lethal dark fantasy, this book's genius lies in its variety: You could, obviously, run this as an exceedingly dark, brutal and savage module; you could emphasize the gritty, but still heroic components. You could emphasize the strangeness of the place and basically have the PCs tackle this like Redshirts exploring a planet...or you could blend all of them. While heavy metal aesthetics unquestioningly inform the overall base-line and theme of this sandbox, whether you prefer Death Metal or Classic Metal, whether you want a bloody, brutal experience or rather a gonzo, odd one - the emphasis and control lie with the GM. The brilliance of this module lies in the constant skirting of the darkly humorous and potentially completely disturbing, allowing GMs to set their own individual tones, to properly and truly own this massive sandbox.

In my first iteration of this review, I went into more detail regarding the individual encounters and the like, but I decided against retaining this version of the review, since the reading experience of this book is what actually makes the sum of its parts come together like some hideously-tentacled eldritch clockwork. The brilliance of this adventure lies in the fact that it should be an unmitigated mess of tones and concepts and manages to instead blend everything together in a thoroughly unique playing experience instead, one that works best if seen as a whole and not as the sum of its parts.

One note for inexperienced GMs - dungeon-wise and settlement-wise, there is, as with all hex-crawls, a need and requirement to do some work of your own (due to the sheer scope covered)- but if this wonderfully deranged and fun beast doesn't do the job of getting your creative juices flowing, I don't know what will. This is pretty much everything that makes the excited boy within this cynical reviewer jump around with excitement and squee and the book runs just as well as it reads...and if you truly need some material to scavenge, there's a lot out there...feel free to drop me a line if you're looking for some ideas to further enhance this magnificent sandbox.

My final verdict will clock in with a heart-felt, fist-pumping 5 stars + seal of approval for the print version -for the pdf, detract 1 star for the missing bookmarks.

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

Endzeitgeist out.

P.S.: Apologies to the mods for first posting this in the wrong (miniatures) forum. I was in a hurry and misclicked. The review should belong here.


This hex-crawl sandbox clocks in at 110 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of editorial, 1 page Index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 104 massive pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print-copy in exchange for a critical and honest review.

Well, before we do, let's make one thing clear (if the cover hasn't already...) - this is declared as "mature content"...though, at least to my European sensibilities, it does not require this declaration. There are literally more butts in just about any music videos and there is no full-frontal nudity or the like herein. While not particularly tame regarding the subject matter, the artworks are pretty tasteful and subdued and, at least to me, this pretty much is PG-13 - I quite literally could rattle off a number of regular modules with themes as grim or even darker, which made me conclude that this one's rating mostly stems from a Kali-esque statue's rendition that shows nipples (gasp) and perhaps the two artworks that do depict the backs/sides of women. *shrugs* That being said, this is, tone-wise, a pretty irreverent book, so if green-skinned slave girls that may tear you limb from limb offend you, this may not be for you - in this way, the cover is pretty much genius: Offended by the female behind on the cover? Well, then this may not be for you....but before you do judge, please consider reading this review...there's a reason why I review this book...

All right, much like other Kort'thalis Publishing books, we begin this massive sandbox with an array of basically house-rules intended to run with this module. While this book introduces the VSd6-system, which is dead simple - basically, you roll a pool of d6s and take a tally of the numbers, with the highest determining the degree of success/failure and the pool-size depending on the difficulty of the task at hand. The system per se runs fast and pretty decent for this sort of gameplay, though admittedly, after playtesting it, we went for the slightly more refined iteration that would be featured after the release of this book in "Crimson Dragon Slayer". That being said, advice like situational bonuses for properly roleplayed actions and uniqueness of characters retain their validity. On the character-building side of things, the rather cool idea of dark secrets, as pioneered in "Liberation of the Demon Slayer", Kort'thalis Publishing's inspired, but also rather flawed freshman offering, is expanded upon via even darker secrets, which present significant stains on a characters karma and may well represent the very driving forces of the respective PCs. On the narrative side, 20 sample flashbacks and a list of so-called "purple spellcasting" is presented: Basically, this is an add-on to any existing spellcasting system, highlighting the magic-warping effects of the islands portrayed herein - upon spellcasting a d6 is rolled - on a 6, spell-efficiency is enhanced...on a 1 a disastrous failure occurs...and on a 3, something chaotic and odd (think: Purple-themed, icky wild magic...) happens.

Beyond these, quick rules for the instability of dimensional gateways, radioactivity, fighting harder once you're almost down and for time-travel backlash are provided - though I can dispel any groans this topic may have caused on your behalf if you're like me and subscribe to the rather complex notions of the concept à la Primer rather than the more popularized and story-hole-prone renditions in popular media: The theme, while existent, is thankfully relegated to the background.

Beyond a relatively decent, if not perfect monk-class, the book also features a d12 critical hit table as well as quirks for magical swords and their odd egos. Oh, and for those of you who think this monstrous meat-grinder is too easy - what about a brief table of permanent injuries, to be heaped upon poor characters unfortunate enough to drop below 0 Hp? Yep, there is quite a bit of material in this regard in the book... but ultimately, this component will not be the one at the focus of your interest, right?

Rather than that, you want to know about these islands, right? Well, I shall oblige, but in order to do so, I will have to resort to SPOILERS. Potential players are advised to jump to the conclusion or be forever traumatized of anything purple before even adventuring on these 3 cursed rocks...

...

..

.

All right, only GMs left? Great! So, in this module/sandbox, we return to the world of Razira, grim and deadly as it was depicted in the previous mega-adventure - only this time around, we dive head-first into true sandboxing, with numerous reasons for expeditions to the 3 islands being part of the set-up - and on it, the whole thing becomes pretty much player-driven. However, the GM actually receives some rather interesting tools - like micro-tribe-relations-generators to determine tribal relationships between e.g. the cyber-sorcerors and the beast-men. Cyber-sorcerors? Well, yes. This is pretty much science-fantasy at its finest, sporting numerous crash-landed alien-ships, strange interplanar travelers, slavers from galaxies far, far away...there are a number of such encounters to be found alongside radioactive material that has mutated local flora horribly (not that this would seem too much out of place here...)...there is a lot to work with.

Now if you're a purist, you may pretty much easily reskin these components or further emphasize them - a practice you can similarly extend to encounters where a dimensionally stranded adult movie actress is looking for fabled Alpha Blue (Kort'thalis' most recent supplement!) or to the credit cards that can be found upon other unfortunate souls stranded here. Unfortunate? Well, beyond the warring tribes and diverging technology-levels, there obviously are multiple factions vying for control over the islands, seeking to decipher the true purpose of the black monoliths that dot the landmasses? Beyond the character's individual story-seeds and suggested metaplots and elements, there are other components that can drive day to day adventuring here - for example the disturbing random events in the night table...or the encounters themselves: When highly lethal and completely bonkers purple harlequin assassins start targeting your PCs, you know you're in for a treat that is pretty much bonkers...and who wouldn't consider undead dinosaurs awesome? Basically, you can picture this as a sandbox defined by what just about anything rock/metal-related you'd consider awesome - but it's not that simple.

The key defining feature that unifies the whole atoll and makes the mega-adventure's seemingly disparate elements come together would be, obviously, the eponymous purple putrescence: This thing, the Thing That Rots From the Sky, is basically a Great Old One-level deity, potentially all-consuming and awful, with godlike powers - and its secretions, mutating purple rains and mists, generate a climate that suddenly makes flying ape-men with tentacles and the like seem...plausible. The same goes for the various disparate tribes and factions detailed herein, all of which, in some way, can draw upon hooks that tie in with meta-plot components strewn throughout this book..though, as usual for such free-form sandboxes, it remains ultimately up to the PCs how they play this glorious monster...and speaking of "playing" and " monster" - yes, there are actually rules for initiation into some nasty cults herein.

The book also contains numerous new spells and magic items, which btw. are more precise in their effects in direct comparison to Liberation of the Demon Slayer. The book closes with two lavishly-drawn maps of the islands, one of which is in full-color in the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant errors. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-.standard and the interior artwork is unanimously of a very high caliber that captures well the eldritch atmosphere of this islands. The pdf, alas, does not have any bookmarks, which renders navigation pretty much a colossal pain - I'd strongly suggest getting this in print. The print copy is inexpensive for its page-count and very much production-values wise a great deal. The maps are awesome, though travel-directions and similar comfort-notes are not included - much like in the modules of old, the GM has to work with this mega-adventure a bit before running it - though I do not hold that against the book.

So, I'll just say it: This book hits all the right notes for me. Lovecraftiana? Check. Gonzo elements? Check. Sword & Sorcery flair? Check. Brutal difficulty (your players can't just die - they can blow up the world!)? Check. This is Venger As'Nas Satanis' second book and the increase in quality of "Liberation of the Demon Slayer" is vast - the wording s more concise, the bonkers ideas are more pronounced - where LotDS was pretty much geared towards highly lethal dark fantasy, this book's genius lies in its variety: You could, obviously, run this as an exceedingly dark, brutal and savage module; you could emphasize the gritty, but still heroic components. You could emphasize the strangeness of the place and basically have the PCs tackle this like Redshirts exploring a planet...or you could blend all of them. While heavy metal aesthetics unquestioningly inform the overall base-line and theme of this sandbox, whether you prefer Death Metal or Classic Metal, whether you want a bloody, brutal experience or rather a gonzo, odd one - the emphasis and control lie with the GM. The brilliance of this module lies in the constant skirting of the darkly humorous and potentially completely disturbing, allowing GMs to set their own individual tones, to properly and truly own this massive sandbox.

In my first iteration of this review, I went into more detail regarding the individual encounters and the like, but I decided against retaining this version of the review, since the reading experience of this book is what actually makes the sum of its parts come together like some hideously-tentacled eldritch clockwork. The brilliance of this adventure lies in the fact that it should be an unmitigated mess of tones and concepts and manages to instead blend everything together in a thoroughly unique playing experience instead, one that works best if seen as a whole and not as the sum of its parts.

One note for inexperienced GMs - dungeon-wise and settlement-wise, there is, as with all hex-crawls, a need and requirement to do some work of your own (due to the sheer scope covered)- but if this wonderfully deranged and fun beast doesn't do the job of getting your creative juices flowing, I don't know what will. This is pretty much everything that makes the excited boy within this cynical reviewer jump around with excitement and squee and the book runs just as well as it reads...and if you truly need some material to scavenge, there's a lot out there...feel free to drop me a line if you're looking for some ideas to further enhance this magnificent sandbox.

My final verdict will clock in with a heart-felt, fist-pumping 5 stars + seal of approval for the print version -for the pdf, detract 1 star for the missing bookmarks.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive RPG clocks in at 245 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 6 pages of KS-backers, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 234 pages of content, so let's take a look!

I received this book as a gift from one of my patreons for the purpose of a review. This pdf has been prioritized and moved up in my review-queue accordingly as a prioritized review.

The first thing you'll notice when opening this book is that it's extremely newbie-friendly: The concept of RPGs is explained in concise, easy to grasp terms - including an explanation of dice, terms and the like: I embarked on a brief experiment: I handed my printed out copy to my granny and told her to read it. Guess what? She got it. She finally understood what this roleplaying-mumbo-jumbo was all about. Ryuutama is extremely user-friendly and guides the players and GM, step by step, through the process of character generation, with classes being grouped by focus: Attack Type, Technical Type and Magical Type.

You have 4 basic stats: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Spirit - at character creation, each of these values can be either 4, 6 or 8: You choose from 6,6,6,6, or 4,6,6,8 or 4,4,8,8. The stat itself also represents the die you roll when testing. All other relevant stats are derived from these simple base attributes: Hp is Str x 2, MP (the resource used to cast spells) is Spirit x2, Carrying Capacity is Str+3 (if you exceed this level, you take the excess as penalty to your checks). Each character is supposed to have mastered a weapon, the use of which and damage is governed by attributes as well: Light Blades, for example have an accuracy of Dex+Int+1 and a damage of Int-1, while Axes use Str+Str-1 for accuracy and Str for damage. Each character also has a personal item, to which s/he has an emotional bond as well as 1000 GP starting budget to get ready for the journey...for in Ryuutama, the focus does not lie on slaying monsters or defeating demonic incursions.

Instead, the basic focus of this roleplaying game is one refreshingly different, one on properly traveling the world, hearkening back to the picturesque ideals and romanticized notions of the apprentice's journey, blended with a sense of wide-eyed wonder and creativity you'd expect in Hayao Miyazaki's works - and this focus also shows in the easy class kits available: From merchants to farmers and nobles, we have roles that go beyond the traditional 4-6 roles often featured in fantasy roleplaying. The respective classes sport unique skills that are derived from the base attributes in much the same way as the weapon damage I described above: I.e., you have dead simple basic math.

As for magic- there is incantation magic, which unlocks in 3 steps and season magic similarly unlocks with the progression through the character levels. The pdf also champions different roles for players and characters to fill - from quartermaster to leader and mapper, the roles make sense and prevent issues in game.

Leveling up is similarly a very simple, streamlined process: There are 10 levels, with every even level providing a stat-increase (i.e. d4 -> d6, d10 -> d12...). At 3rd and 7th level, characters get a terrain/weather specialty, choosing one of the 22 types and gaining +2 to rolls regarding this type. 4th level provides immunity versus one status effect and 5th level provides an extra class's benefits. 6th level provides a second type. At 9th level, you may 1/day take 10 in a given specialized season and 10th level provides basically a GM-centric ability to embark on a truly legendary journey.

Different qualities for objects are covered with easy modifiers - you can e.g. get uncool-looking items at a discounted price or unbreakable orichalcum items, all with mechanical repercussions. Similarly, effects of good (or bad!) food and public facilities like bath-houses, specialty goods and the like are covered in impressive detail. Animals also deserve special mention - you can bring one free animal with you (and don't have to micromanage said creature's upkeep), but only the merchant and farmer class may have more animals - and, interestingly, there are special qualities for animals: Loyal or particularly tough animals, for example, cost more but also grant you interesting benefits, while animals with an attitude problem may be cheaper...but refuse your command in inopportune moments.

From food to perfume to containers, there are a lot of nice items to bring along...including e.g. a grandfather clock! This item-driven approach also extends to healing herbs, of which a vast array is provided, by terrain and level: From moonlight Snowgrass to Barrierwood Stalk, the prevalence and usefulness of these can generate a healthy respect for mother nature.

Spellcasting is dead simple: Choose a spell you know, choose a target in the spell's range, speak the magic words, expend the MP and roll INT+SP - if you roll a double 1, the spell fails, otherwise it works just fine. Spell effects from the same spell do not stack, but those of different spells do. Casters may end a magical effect at any time. Incantation magic is based on study, seasonal magic is based on emotion...and that's about it. One paragraph and we have the foundation of a simple, efficient magic system. It should come as no surprise, then, that the presentation of the spells is similarly simple.

Now I've mentioned skill checks before, but how do they work? Basically, each skill is based on two attributes, like Str+Int or Dex+Sp. You roll the two dice. If you have a double 1, you have a critical fumble, if you roll maximum die-size, you instead get a critical success. If you're thinking that this makes criticals less likely in higher attributes, you'd thankfully be wrong: If you have e.g. a stat of 10 in a related attribute, any roll of 6+6, 6+8 or 6+10 would result in a critical success, making them pretty common occurrences. Skill-checks have a difficulty (like a DC) - if you manage to reach this number, you succeed. Contested checks are similarly simple: Both parties roll, the winner takes it all. Ties are simply rerolled. From hard exercise to drinking or delicate work, sample skills are provided and their difficulty, obviously, is modified by situational modifiers and retries are penalized slightly.

Concentration is interesting - you can pay a fumble point (gained from a fumble) or half your MP for a +1 bonus; both for a +2 bonus before attempting an action...but if your MP are 0, you faint...so in case you only have one MP, better make that shot count! This system is very simple, but one that provides a surprising element of tension in play - kudos! Condition is also important, as are conditions like sickness and injury.

With a focus on journeys over combat, travel speeds and terrain and weather types (and lavishly rendered, gorgeous dragons for each terrain type!) can be found here alongside common topological sights for the respective environments.

Battle is simple: I already covered weapon-rules; initiative is governed by Dex+Int and the battlefield has abstract areas and 5 objects strewn about the battlefield, making the tactical options available more diverse. Item use, defending, feinting - everything combat-related is just as concise and simple as the rules introduced so far. Characters die when their HP reaches negative Condition - so keeping up with food etc. is important indeed! And yes, the system per se champions a low lethality without making it too easy on the PCs and yes, nonlethal damage is covered in accordance with the child-friendly tone of Ryuutama.

The book also sports town-creation rules and even world-generation rules that guide the GM through the process in a rather simple and efficient manner. Speaking of the GM: It is important to note that the GM is more than just a spectator here: The GM has a dragon in human form, a Ryuujin, a kind of GM-PC that belongs to one of 4 different races, effectively the classes of the GM-PC. These characters sport an artefact and may provide Bénédictions for the players, which not only provide significant bonuses, they also act as roleplaying catalysts. Ryuujin are not constant additions to the traveling group, but they may show up when the PCs are in a pinch...or help them in other, unobtrusive (or obtrusive) ways - they are, however, not Elminster: Ryuujin may actually die, so PCs too complacent regarding their help may have to save their guardian dragon! When a Ryuujin goes full-blown dragon-form, that action is referred to as a réveil...but it does cost the Ryuujin's life points, providing an in-game rationale why they can't save the PCs all the time.

The focus on new and inexperienced roleplayers means that this book also goes, step by step, through the process of scenario-creation, simple though that process may be for Ryuutama. It should be noted that sheet-wise, I've scarcely seen a more detailed array of sheets: For scenario-structure, fight scenarios, towns and events, there's a specialty-sheet for just about everything, rendering this even more user-friendly than you'd expect. And yes, we get a simple, nice sample scenario for levels 1 - 2 to kick off the journey.

Now obviously, such an RP also requires adversaries, monsters, if you will: The massive book provides a huge array of them and going through them in detail would bloat this review beyond belief - however, there is a little gripe I can field here: Do not expect artworks for the monsters. While properly described, I still would have loved to see the absolutely lavish artwork to extend to the monster-section...but then again, I'm spoiled by the big, more main stream roleplaying games with infinitely higher budgets.

A significant and concise Q&A-section closes the book - alongside the 18 (!!!) sheets, including e.g ration tracking, combat etc. - stunning!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pure excellence - I noticed not a single hiccup in the whole, massive book! Layout adheres to an easy to read 1-column full-color standard that is sufficiently printer-friendly. Artworks are copious and range from explanatory, chibi-style manga-comic panels that explain actions to stunning b/w-artworks for the Ryuujin. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with the sheets in additional zips.

Atsuhiro Okada's Ryuutama has been translated to English with a level of love that oozes from every page by Matt Sanchez and Andy Kitkowski - going above and beyond the duties of translators, they managed to maintain the intent of the original as far as my pretty lousy Japanese goes. (A Japanese reader kindly sent me an excerpt, showing me clearly the limits of my own rudimentary proficiency in the language... btw. also the reason this review was slightly delayed...) I am thoroughly impressed by the ability to properly capture not only the wording, but the intent of the original.

But you're not interested in these particulars, right? What you want to know is whether this is a good game. The answer to this question, without a doubt, has to be a triumphant, resounding "YES!" Ryuutama is not only breath of fresh air with its wholesome take on fantasy; its level of detail is staggering, its user-friendliness remarkable, particularly considering its status as a translated game. This game is exceedingly simple to understand and works perfectly for any children ages 4+ and up, but it also is a superb game for adults that can still feel the sense of wonder and wild-eyed excitement evoked in the best of Miyazaki's movies. What I love most, though, would be the unobtrusive GM-PC-angle alongside the fact that this game does not cuddle the children: Yes, this is a roleplaying game suitable for just about all ages, one that can easily teach basic math, responsibility, planning...but also one that can teach respect for mother nature...and one that does not shirk away from topics such as PC death. In this way, Ryuutama is not only fair, it is a game that, and this is my firm conviction, will really benefit the development of kids, supporting several virtues we all try to convey as well as the usual basic math competence we want to instill.

The staggering level of detail further enforces this...so when do we get the first full-blown journeys/scenarios for this glorious book? Oh yeah, right - the final verdict: Ryuutama is worth every cent of its fair asking price, is perfect for children and adults and an all-around well-crafted roleplaying game with easy rules and a unique theme - it is an easy 5 stars + seal of approval and receives a nomination for my Top Ten of 2015. If you're looking for a great way to introduce children to roleplaying or are fed up with slaying monsters and the cynicism of our world, embark on a journey with Ryuutama - I guarantee you won't regret it!

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, we begin this installment of the Gossamer Worlds-series with a warning - the theories herein are considered heresy by the established Lords and Ladies. You see, among the vast plethora of worlds and realities accessible, or so goes the hypothesis herein, there are some that may be considered...semi-sentient. Or at least "alive" in the broadest sense that the reality grows...like a plant...or a tumor. From a seed of contact, a chrysalis springs, ultimately leaving only a husk reality behind - or so goes the hypothesis.

You see, the otherlands constitute a kind of template, a kind of change - the reality does not overwrite completely a given world, but changes it into something creepily uncanny. The pdf uses a combination of "fey" and "alien" to describe the phenomenon and I am inclined to concur. Denizen-wise, we receive information on a few of them - the shining ones, which may or may not be the origin of fey myth; the Umbra-touched scattered ones and the hungry ones, which may be the origin of ours fear of giants, man-eating ogres and the like. The most powerful agents of the otherlands, though, remain the emissaries - we receive the full stats of such a being, the disturbing lady featured on the old cover. Finally, following the theme of otherness, doppelgängers are covered - spirits that may assume the guises of others, further cementing the theme of something subtly wrong with reality.

From Tír na nÓg to the underworld, some examples are provided herein as well and, as always, we conclude this brief sojourn into the weird with a list of the world's properties and advice on how to use it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.

Matt Banach's Otherlands resonate with me - you see, neither jump-scares (which just startle), nor more traditional horror tends to do it for me. I'm not afraid irl of physical confrontation, nor of accidents, flights, water...you get the idea. The imagery of a raindrop falling in reverse, vanishing in the clouds? That's the stuff my nightmares are made of I still consider Koji Suzuki's Edge to be one of the creepiest books ever - what if Pi stops behaving like it ought to? ...You may now resume laughing at me, but to me, this wrongness is the stuff of my nightmares.

Otherlands taps into this type of uncanny wrongness and does so in a great way...but at the same time, I think it does not follow through with its awesome concept - so, you have this invading reality...where are the modifications on how powers, perhaps even Umbra and Eidolon, work? Dissolutions of a Lords'/Lady's powers? Essentially, this book provides a seed from which one can craft more and it does so admirably. At the same time, it falls short in that it does not provide a concise means to have these effects provide mechanical repercussions beyond the inspired fluff.

My final verdict, hence, will clock in at 4 stars - a conceptually awesome pdf that "only" manages to be good on its own and needs the reader to come fully into its own.

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

Endzeitgeist out.

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