Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Ninja

Endzeitgeist's page

5,802 posts. 2,608 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist.



1 to 50 of 427 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | next > last >>

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion-book for the sleazy space opera RPG Alpha Blue clocks in at 80 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 72 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, before we dive in: This is designated as Mature Content. It is the expansion book for a rules-light RPG that reproduces the aesthetics of scifi-porn-satires, so if you have a problem with sexuality, dick/vagina/boob-jokes and gender stereotyping for men and women, this may not be for you. While the males and females I played this with considered it hilarious, that must not necessarily hold true for you or your game. Artwork-wise, this book's artwork contains full-frontal drawn nudity and also features artworks of orgies that involve tentacle-aliens that look like gricks - the artwork is significantly more explicit than in Alpha Blue - where Alpha Blue was softcore, this one's artwork is hardcore.

And the artwork and content includes...vagina sandwhales. That says it all right there. This book is not for people who take themselves too seriously and can't take a dirty joke. If your impulse to such behavior is "unbecoming" or "puerile", this may not be for you.

All right, this out of the way, we begin with the author's signature array of extensive tables to provide dressing and random features, beginning with general scifi-aesthetics, a total of 30 unique alien features...and then things become interesting: Relative experience in space with 6 entries actually has significant influence regarding mechanics, netting you unique benefits. 8 alternative careers are also included. Finally, there would be Zedi - yep, Jedi-parody. Their abilities are usually rolled with 2d6, but when a character only very rarely uses his powers, it's 4d6, which is a nice idea. However, the respective powers are severely lacking in precision. Stopping an energy weapon in mid air is cool...but can it affect ship weapons? What range does it have? What does "Boosts a zedi's luck in games of chance." actually do? No idea. This is basically not functional and requires copious amounts of GM-fiat. And no, just because it's supposed to be rules-light, this does not get a pass for this one. Not good. Also problematic: The dark templar's death curse, while a cool idea, nets a target only a 2 in 6 chance of survival, which pretty much begs to be abused, but can at least not be spammed or the like.

A total of 30 archetypes (basically tropes sans mechanical repercussions) can help customize the character and the book contains a hilarious "And now for something completely different Monty Python"-event table. A table to determine what happens to PCs between games is neat and we also get a table for sexual vibes and a massive 5 column, 20 row weird sexual fantasies and fetish creator: You could end up with " Pineapple, pom-poms, ferns, mazes and severed toes" - yeah, not kidding about weirdness. Reactions of females to unsolicited advances, random clothing articles, hair and body, physical beauty, profession and names, 100 peculiarities of women (and 20 of men - hey, we're simple critters!) an random "O"-face-generator, a random table to determine orgasms, Stockholm Syndrome, random pawn shop items, and a hangover "What the f~$! did I do last night?" table add a lot of weirdness to the game.

Sample Alpha Blue NPCs, Noir-ish sample characters, small talk topics, using Spaghetti Western Tropes in space (*cough* Firefly */cough*), blaster duel rules, technology glitches, planet generators, ship to ship combat (that actually runs smooth and is pretty deadly) and additional fuel sources are included.

Okay, but this also contains adventures - or rather, adventure-set-ups. Basically, the pdf walks you through the process pretty well, but do not expect read-aloud texts galore, cartography of the locations and the like - however, even more of the copious tables are included in the book's modules.

Note: The following takes a look at the module section, so potential players should jump to the conclusion to avoid SPOILERS.

...

..

.

All right, still here?

The first module is basically a parody of a combination of Blade Runner and a twist on the exploitation classic; hence the module is all about Ilsa of the SS - basically a Slut Series sex-replicant that has lived too long and developed sentience. By means of contracting a bio-engineered STD, the PCs are press-ganged into hunting her down, but not all is as it seems. And yes, the hunt for her will lead the PCs to a planet that contains aforementioned vagina-whale sandworms as well as washed up legend Bubba Fatt. Oh, and killer sex-bot moves.

The second module treats the PCs after the Ilsa-incident as basically loose ends and involves the PCs in a political set-up between a power-struggle in another planet's monarchy/an escort mission with a princess in disguise. Can you picture how that'll go. Yep. Similarly, winning the lottery may see a whole galaxy snuffed out. There is also the plot of amazonian slavers, a sex-enhancing drug...and then there would be the titanic colony ship, captained by Black Helmet, aka Moranis...or the space-sheikh's harem...or the escape from the penal planet destructo...and have I mentioned the outline that is an homage of the genius Life of Brian? Saving a space-cheerleader from a slaver is also a pretty nice one.

The book concludes with excellent maps - the Barstar D and no less than three ships (one with strange tentacle-studded organic components, all in full-color and spanning two maps, provided testament of cartographer Glynn Seal's talent.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-level, the book oscillates between great and some instances where it is lacking. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks throughout are glorious. The pdf contains the glyph-font that you can translate to lewd sentences. The cartography is stellar and the pdf is fully bookmarked. I do not have the print version, so I can't comment on that aspect.

One of the issues I had with Alpha Blue as a base book was that it didn't go the whole way - to use an appropriate terminology, it got stuck in the heavy-petting phase. This one goes all out - so kudos for that! For the most part, this book contains an excellent array of awesomeness regarding the supplemental material for Alpha Blue, but there are some serious hiccups in here as well: The non-functional Zedi are disappointing and regarding the "modules"...I don't know. Less would have been more here. Don't get me wrong, the two long "modules" here are pretty cool, fun and evocative.

The other encounters/module-set-ups, in contrast, feel like afterthoughts and usually have this one cool idea, but don't do too much with it. It may be just me, but I really would have preferred a more precise take on the big modules, more fodder, more details, maps or the like over these sketches. Why am I using quotation marks for "modules" here? Well...apart from the longer two, the others are basically what you'd read in an adventure-synopsis. They need you to fill in all the details and while I don't mind too much, I still feel that their respective cool concepts could have been boiled down to a paragraph and replaced with more detailed material for the big ones - which are similarly a bit sketchy. This, as a whole, is pretty weird, for Venger As'Nas Satanis has shown that he can write more precise modules. On the plus-side, what is here tends to put a smile on your face and inspire, even if it does require some work on the Space DM's side.

In the end, this is a good expansion, but one that falls a bit short of what it could have been. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


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


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


1 person marked this as a favorite.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 44 pages,1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Knowledge is power. This sentence has become a bit of a cliché. Okay, it *IS* a huge cliché. It is true nonetheless. From Latin to runes, language as a means of transporting knowledge in a written form is exceedingly powerful and ideas, ultimately, are the most powerful weapons of all.

As has become the tradition with the Call to Arms-series, we thus begin the pdf with a complex array of ruminations on the nature of text, its functions and components, not shirking e.g. the issues of copying and translation. (And anyone who has ever compare e.g. Shakespeare, Baudelaire or Goethe translations with the original will certainly attest a cringe-worthy quality that can result here...) In a fantastic context, the concept is similarly important, if not even more so: The pdf does mention Chambers' classic The King in Yellow, which may well have provided an initial spark for Lovecraft and others...as often, the idea cuts deep.

One of my central gripes with Pathfinder as a system has always been the fact that tomes basically suffer from a rather niche existence; when compared to e.g. the Witcher games, where knowledge is the most valuable good you can have in combat with the weird creatures of the earth, it is significantly less important in our games and has less mechanical repercussions...and this one tries to fix that. The pdf collates, collects and expands the mundane tomes released so far, introducing arcane school reference books, chronicles etc. - rules-wise, these generally grant bonuses to associated checks when referencing the book or studying it. 3 new types of spellbooks (and two classics) can be found within these pages as well. The pdf also features two spellbooks with preparation rituals. (one for magus and one for the investigator.)

Beyond that, the pdf also collects all types of intriguing books herein - from the golem manuals to the summoning extenders and manuals that increase your attributes, grant combat feats. Very cool for sorcerors: Pages of Spell Knowledge. These pages contain a single spell; prepared casters may expend a spell slot of the appropriate spell slot to cast the spell on the page. A writ allows for instant atonement benefits, but requires longer hours of studying to maintain the benefits. As always in the series, we get a cursed tome and an intelligent item: The latter being A Young Person's Phantasmagorical Primer, which contains fairy tales and allows persons featuring only NPC classes to gain the training required for PC classes and the book's illusory realms are interesting, to say the least. Beyond that, we also get a total of 3 mythic books, one of which enhances a character's capabilities when dealing with extraplanar creatures and another nets cruel jokes. Finally, another book allows for reincarnate. The book also contains 3 artifacts - the classic book of infinite spells, the codex of the lower planes and a take on the mother of all evil books, the intelligent necronomicon, including an advanced soul eater that may come for you. (CR 15, just fyi.) And yes, the book is cursed.

The pdf does contain two different spells, one that translates a book perfectly into ancient dwarven and one that animates a quill to copy writing. As always, though, we do receive a couple of variant rules, the first of which would be modifications for Linguistics to account for time-related changes in dialects, handwriting, translation qualities, if applicable, etc.

More importantly, the pdf does feature rules for forbidden knowledge - studiyng texts like this may result in corruption and the more thorough you study the texts, the harder it will be to resist the nasty effects of the respective tomes. Certain actions will trigger corruption saves and on a failure, the character gains a corruption point - all pretty simple. Here's the cool thing, though: Tehse points can be used as either mythic power, hero points, as sanity...or a combination of them all, depending simply on your own tae on the subject matter, with proper synergy with the much-anticipated new Shadows over Vathak campaign setting book. A total of 3 such tainted tomes end this installment of Call to Arms on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good; while I noticed a couple of typo level glitches and would have loved slightly modified wording here and there, as a whole, the rules-language remains sufficiently precise to not result in any issues. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has some neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Richard D. Bennett's revised take on Tomes of Power is a fun offering, with in particular the variant rules herein being an inspired array of modifications. The book, as a whole, is a fun offering and delivers what it promises. In contrast to some of the other Call to Arms-books, though, it does feel a tad bit less evocative: A lot of the options here in the book are pretty conservative in the items represented - the more powerful items, for example, are either classic in concepts or, in the case of the mythic books, pretty weak. Apart from the evocative intelligent book and the awesome forbidden tomes, I simply wasn't as blown away here, since I already knew a lot of the concepts here. This does not make the pdf bad, mind you, but it does deprive it of a place amid the best of these books. In the end, this is a good book - and well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the Dispatches from the Raven Crowking collection of blogposts, miscellanea, new material and the like for DCC clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 48 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this book with an essay that discusses roleplaying games under the criteria of the eponymous three Cs, but not before making clear that, what follows, is not intended as a cure-all or as a universal truth - it's been a while since I've seen a subjectivity clause in a GM advice section and I won't lie - I consider its inclusion refreshing and professional. Anyways, the following essay can be pictured as a concise and pointed breakdown of the three Cs, so let us begin: Ultimately, more so than in our daily lives, roleplaying games are exercises in free will and choices; much like our reality and social structure imposes a certain degree of rules upon us, so does a given roleplaying system. Once you realize the importance of choice, it becomes pretty apparent why both highly codified games like PFRPG and those that feature a minimum of rules enjoy their popularity: Either by means of simply providing a huge and fine-grained array of diverse options or by requiring none of them, choice is facilitated. However, this is only the system; the practice of roleplaying similarly is informed by choices and this extends to fudging - or not fudging, dice, a theme covered in a separate essay, but one that I feel ties directly into the 3 Cs.

The pdf makes a pretty vehement stand (unsurprisingly) in favor of letting the dice fall as they may and point a single fact out: If you roll the dice and disregard the result, why roll at all? At first glance, this may generate some anger or seem infuriating, but there is an intriguing meta-point here: If the module/system/engine you utilize features a choice and you decide via the dice, what does it say about the game when the results are ignored in favor of an optimum narrative? The pdf does take a stab at the design philosophy of 3.X here and, to a certain degree, I concur: As soon as you do not emphasize challenge, but rather a fixed and relatively likely success and then proceed to streamline deviations from said behavior away, you eliminate not only your own choice, but that of the players as well. More importantly: If a module or given supplement's options feature a lot of information that is bound (and assumed) to be ignored in favor of an ideal scenario, what does that say about the design? The problem here directly taps into the consequences of actions and the impact and severity they ought to have.

At the same time, I think the argumentation does undervalue the aspect of context - herein, context is defined as the world and the game itself; i.e. the environment in which the respective rolls are made. A context depicts the framework in which choices are made and making no choice is a choice in itself - to use the tired old quote "Sometimes the only way to win is not to play." - Replace "win" with "choice" and you have the paradox, for not choosing is a choice.

Here, the pdf imho could be a bit clearer: It identifies a crucial, immersion-hampering issue with quite a few roleplaying games, but fails to draw a truly helpful conclusion from it, instead opting for an enumeration of virtues of DCC and a more hardcore gaming aesthetic. A distinct issue that more codified roleplaying games have featured time and again lies in a sense of entitlement that has crept into the respective systems: Players demanding certain results; XP after this many encounters, levels after Y more, an availability of certain options because they are "official" (never mind how sucky many of 3.X's official WotC-splatbooks were...) and at the same time discouraging 3pp material. The second paradox in this development is, ultimately, that the people demanding such design-philosophy deprive themselves of the option to be surprised in favor of a streamlined experience; similarly this idealized streamlined experience needs to be reflected in "official" modules and supplements. This necessarily implies an ideal structure and sequence and as such, the fudging of dice to not deviate from this scenario suddenly becomes significantly more appealing.

What do I mean by this? Well, I have nothing but the highest respect for Paizo's module catalogue as a whole. There is a significant array of creative and downright brutal modules out there for Pathfinder that, if you do the math, will grind PCs, even minmaxed ones, when played properly. To have the industry leader put there out is a refutation of the premise that the adventure design philosophy is solely to blame. Instead, think carefully whether and how you fudged dice to spare a player making yet another character with complex rules, not wreck your metaplot, etc. It is, at least upon closer examination, not the module's fault or the fault of a design philosophy, at least not alone - it is a mindset, a capitulation before an internalized entitlement by both players and GMs that drains away subtly the achievement of having bested some of the more lethal modules. And I know, that even though I pride myself on being a killer-GM, am tempted to fudge the dice once in a while. But the clumsy lich, the TPK, the multi-criting halfling monk...perhaps the weirdness and uncommon quirks of fate that arise by virtue of the dice, deserve to be heard, deserve not to be fudged over. Perhaps GMs, just like players, have become a bit lazy and don't want to go off the rails anymore.

And I understand - unlike the text, my personal observation pertaining the issue stems from a deep love of both OSR-gaming, PFRPG, GUMSHOE, 13th Age and a ton of games more and in some of them, character generation is significantly more work than rolling 3d6 6 times and be done with it. Fudging is not bad per se. So let me propose an experiment: Get CoC or a similar rules-light system...and play a module with the distinct, purist mindset that everyone will die or become insane or worse. Play it. Let the dice fall. If you're doing it right, your players will have fun. Then return to your regularly scheduled game and play...and when next time the context is right and you're tempted...don't ignore that die roll. It doesn't have to be the infamous deck of many things...but still. Let the BBEG die ingloriously as the rogue backstabs him with a lucky crit; let the paladin be eaten by that gelatinous cube. If anything, there is fun to be had in failure and chaos as well.

And yes, this may have deviated quite a bit from the thesis of this pdf, but I considered it important to convey, for these observations and their clarity ultimately resulted from me reading the book and finding myself both agreeing and disagreeing - and this type of thought-provoking dialog, in lack of a better term, is exactly what I expect from such a book.

Another essay herein pertains the epic endgame - and the considerations you should make when planning the like: Why has no one else attempted it? The risks involved, etc. - think of it, both from a player and villain perspective: Every Bond-villain ever? Thwarted in the endgame. Throwing the One Ring in Mt. Doom? Endgame. By thinking about the scope and implications, one can lend a better sense of the stakes and gravitas involved to the proceedings. Beyond this, there is also an expansive Appendix N-section, which talks about Edgar Rice Burroghs, Sterling E. Lanier's Hiero's Journey and the impact both can have on a given campaign.

There is more than game theory to be found herein, though: If you are looking for an intriguing environment, you will find one with Shanthopal and the background provided for the Golden City, breathing the spirit of the fantastical blended with sword & sorcery, breathing an evocative spirit that only made me wish to hear more. Kudos!

On the utility-section, DCC judges will be happy to realize that the advice articles herein are useful indeed: Both regarding 0-level funnels and the transition to 1st level and the use of patrons within the game (and the modifications/expansions the author has brought to the concept) are discussed alongside relatively extensive lists of books to consult and check out, both released by Goodman games and 3pps. Similarly and more importantly, the emphasis to end the "generic orc/haf-dragon/etc."-syndrome, how to capture the weird and fantastic and slowly generate a DCC world and aesthetic are covered in quick, precise and well-reasoned terms, showing the author's understanding of the themes of DCC.

Alternate rules-wise, spontaneous spell learning with a significant risk factor is provided, though personally, I'm not the biggest fan of that one...however, that may be due to aesthetics. To me, in particularly in DCC, magic needs deliberation and study or help; unlocking, even a risky spontaneity in that regard makes it feel cheaper to me and thus, less magical. Your mileage may vary, obviously.

The pdf also features several creatures - namely statblocks for ammonites for DCC: Swarms in three sizes and single, larger ones from Small to Huge size can be found in the book. Additionally, we are introduced to R'yalas, lord of the drowned one, a powerful ammonite wizard and thus closes the pdf with an adversary worthy of our good ole' Cimmerian friend.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly b/w one-column A5 format (6'' by 9'') and the pdf features some solid b/w-artworks. I'd suggest getting this in print, since the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment for the use of the electronic version.

Daniel J. Bishop's first collection of dispatches is an intriguing little GM-handbook, in particular for the weird fantasy and the sword & sorcery aesthetic, both of which I really like. His writing is precise and while I cringed HARD when reading Mother Theresa listed alongside people you'd consider heroes in examples for epic endgames and their achievement, that does not take away from the fact that I took something away from this pdf.

The writing herein is certainly opinionated, but it deserves being replied to in as far as its content manages to elucidate several not necessarily apparent conventions and structures pertaining our games. As a person, I think the WotC-bashing component is not always justified and the prospective buyer should be aware that this is very much written from a DCC-perspective; the more complex tasks more rules-intense systems demand make the subject matter more complex than the book manages to depict or even acknowledge. This remains the crucial one flaw of this book's formal essays: While it extends its reach beyond the confines of DCC and provides a valid opinion piece that certainly is thought-provoking, it does exhibit a certain ignorance, whether willful or not remains irrelevant, regarding the different requirements and dynamics of systems with a higher degree of complexity and the ramifications that result from these complexities.

It should be noted that this does NOT mean that this is a bad pdf - far from it; it just means that it oversimplifies a rather complex topic when reaching beyond the primary comfort and application zone of DCC and OSR gaming. Within the chosen paradigm and primary target audience, this should resonate; beyond these confines, it can improve the game, but requires some deliberate and thoughtful consideration of the theses and their consequences.

...

Or you just don't care about all of that and just are a DCC judge who wants some nice essays, monsters, ideas and GMing advice for your favorite game. In that case as well as in the above instances, I'd recommend this booklet, for you'll certainly find some nice inspiration and intriguing thoughts herein. In the end, considering target audience, scope and quality, I will settle on a final verdict of 4 stars.

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

Endzitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

So, what do we get here? In short, we get abilities you can add to specific NPCs to grant them a more unique flavor, some tricks to set them apart, if you will. Distracting Allure, for example, lets you add your Charisma modifier to Dexterity (sleight of hand) checks. As a minor nitpick, rules-language, while functional, is not 100% according to the standards. Additionally, it does imply attraction and lacks a caveat to represent other critters - RAW, it would apply to creatures not attracted to the character like sentient oozes or worse.

Also problematic: Fearful Insinuation allows the character to deliver threats without seeming threatening. If successfully intimidated, the creatures suffers disadvantage on the next attack roll or saving throw...which implies combat use...and no action to activate is given. The ability also lacks a tie to the intimidating character or the mechanics to notice the intimidation while observing it. Another ability nets a reputation so stellar, it requires a hard task, a DC 20 Charisma (persuasion) check to make any creature believe bad things about the target - which is cool...but why is the DC fixed here, when usually DCs of character abilities scale? Where's the scaling?

Making an ally ignore the frightened condition for Charisma modifier rounds is cool - but where's the activation action? Does it require one? How many allies can be affected at a given time? being a local celebrity has its perks - but what constitutes a "city" for the purpose of the ability? Similarly, I love the ability that lets a creature move with a grace that renders targets incapacitated on a failed save...I really enjoyed that in the Tangible Tavern from which it's taken...but as a general ability, it lacks a save. And in the context, it works - the ability was featured by the waitress/maître d' and makes sense in the context...but can it be used in combat? The ability as presented here does imply the like. Also: No save scaling? There are nice ones here as well, including the means to thwart persuasion. Weird: provoking Words does have a scaling saving throw, making that component of the pdf inconsistent...but hey, I'll take it. On the downside, once again, I am not sure regarding activation action - sure, a regular action can be assumed, since reactions are their own category here, but some abilities feel like they could/should be bonus actions.

Speaking of reactions: 4 are provided. They lack the "use your reaction"-wording-component. One ability lacks a "to"; getting a Charisma save versus frightened or stunned at a fixed DC ( as opposed to the original DC) feels wonky to me. There is also a short rest healing ability that lacks a range and does not interact with maximum healing based on HD or spells, making it clunky and breaking the hard cap imposed on healing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are nice, but on a rules-level, we have some serious issues. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Press' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has neither artworks nor bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's second collection of advantageous abilities suffers unfortunately from the same issues as the first: These abilities are NPC-only, so don't expect balance-guidance or the like herein. The rules-language employed unfortunately also leaves something to be desired: While the fixed DCs in monster statblocks make sense for the general monster, as soon as you start applying them broadly via generic abilities, there should be differences here. The abilities are intended for mostly humanoid, civilized NPCs, which makes this somewhat odder still. In short - the pdf is less flexible than it should be.

Here's another issue: The pdf does not really distinguish between passive abilities and those that require actions to use, making how precisely the abilities work, particularly in combat scenarios, opaque. Whether you get anything out of this pdf depends highly on how you want to use its content: As window-dressing-abilities for the GM, this delivers, but I question the value of it as such; the draw of many of these did stem from the characters to which they were assigned and the social context from which they originated. In that context, they make sense. In a general pdf, divorced from their context, their rules fall apart and render this significantly less useful than I hoped it would be.

My gripes for the first pdf in the series persist here and, if anything, are exacerbated by the relatively loose framework of combat/social interaction of 5e; particularly in such contexts, it is important to know when an ability can be used and how, drawing clean and concise lines in the proverbial sand of rules-language. As written, in spite of the low price, I cannot go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down for this one.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Dire Rugrat Publishing's 5e-conversions are a joy to behold in that they add unique abilities to the respective NPCs. A total of 14 such abilities are included herein for your convenience. Barroom Brawler lets you ignore difficult terrain generated by bars. Below the Belt nets advantage on attacks versus foes that suffer from a variety of negative conditions...and it is here things get a bit weird - you see, the ability explicitly works for incapacitated, restrained and stunned targets...and those conditions already net advantage. Beyond that, even the argument of just listing the conditions for convenience's sake is moot, since paralyzed and petrified are missing...so yeah. Wonky.

Close-quarters melee shooting is very strong, allowing for shots in melee-range sans disadvantage. Using verbal jabs to dishearten foes is nice...but oddly, the save does not scale and remains fixed at DC 13 - no proficiency bonus scaling, no Charisma mod, nothing. Yes, I know that monsters adhere to this formula...but we're talking about general plug-and-play NPC-abilities here! Same DCs for vampire queens and hunchbacks? Weird... Rerolling 1s with fire damage is a cool idea and delivering spells through nearby familiars should help in particular with some conversion issues GMs may encounter....but why doesn't that work for eldritch invocations as well? They are technically not spells and thus RAW can't be delivered, when they probably should offer synergy. Motivating minions, the drawback of a peg-leg...nice.

Not so nice: The poisoner ability, which nets an infinite amount of weak poison the character can add to weapons. Weak, yes...but still. Infinite. Speedy reload as bonus action and chandelier swinging are cool. The pdf also features two reactions, both particularly suitable for BBEGs - swapping places with minions to let them take the hit and a reflexive teleport both make sense. The pdf offers nice designer's commentary on a couple of these abilities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no formal glitches that would gall me. Rules language is a different matter. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artwork or bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's collection of advantageous abilities for 5e-NPCs is interesting in concept, if flawed in execution. While I would have loved some notes on use for players, it is pretty evident from the get-go that the majority of these should not get into player-hands: They work well as special abilities and guidelines, but aren't that carefully balanced. Generally, this is a pity, considering the fact that drawbacks and boons would allow for an easy point-based customization: Nasty drawback? -1 (-2 for a class that will encounter it often, +0 for a class that isn't really hampered by it). Solid boon? +1. The framework isn't hard to set up and would add a whole different dimension to the pdf.

Challenge-adjustments for using these cannot be found, should you be looking for that. The abilities generally make sense and add color and flavor to the NPCs, but some of them are lacking in precision and could use some clearer boundaries/definitions. This isn't that important when used only to supplement a given NPC, but as soon as you make the abilities the main meat of the offering, you'll be looking at an issue. Basically, by divorcing the abilities from their context, NPCs and situations you need to offer significantly more precision than this pdf offers. The oversight of not properly distinguishing between passive abilities and those requiring an action is a huge issue that pretty much sinks this pdf for me - we need to know whether and how these abilities work in combat, get concise refresh-info and potentially ranges, if applicable.

Similarly, if you're looking for abilities specifically designed for orcs, goblins, gnolls - the races one most commonly associates with "humanoids", you won't find those in here. The pdf technically is correct, since the abilities apply to characters, but the emphasis here is humanoid, not the implicitly implied savage humanoid most of us associate with the term in a roleplaying context. That being said, this particular gripe will not influence the final verdict, but is still something to be aware of.

So yeah, while I do like some of the options and still consider them extremely flavorful and while the pdf is inexpensive indeed, the brevity does also make the flaws weigh harder upon this than usual. The lack of context for these greatly diminishes their value and makes their issues pertaining opacity, somewhat alleviated by context, stand out like a green hat with an orange bill. While the passive abilities work well, the NPC flavor-tricks were not translated well into the hard, cold world of crunchy abilities in this pdf. I can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down.

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 installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Ashford, so let's take a look!

Ashford may once have been a place brimming with the quiet, simple life of small towns - but no longer. Reduced to a shadow of its former state, Ashford is ravaged by the bubonic plague and the empty shells of houses stand among sad remnants that are inhabited by survivors of the plague - people with broken spirits and no hope, waiting solemnly to join their deceased friends and family in an early grave - or drowning their sorrows in alcohol. Visitors risk exposure on a daily basis.

The village priest has failed to contain the plague and so hatred, rage and despair abound, as plague pits filled with the corpses of the fallen litter the landscape and the local ruler ignores his citizen's plight. The local wizard met the interruption of her studies with a fireball into the enraged mob and no help is coming on that front either. Worse, one of the village's priests not only succumbed to the plague, but hasn't been interred in the chapel, thrown instead into plague pits and now has risen from the grave, seeking revenge as a ghoulish priest. Events in the village center on enhancing this sense of desolation and collapsing buildings and feral dogs paint in thick strokes an image of anguish and end-times-like circumstances.

Sidebars depicting abandoned and burnt-out houses (10 entries each) and whispers and rumors as well as lore should help render the trip to Ashford...well. Interesting. That being said, regarding teh 5-conversion, I honestly believe that we could have used game effects. Unlike Pathfinder, 5e has, at least to my knowledge, no mechanics for it yet and I found myself wishing that they were include. While symptoms and the like are part of the pdf, the actual game-mechanics are left out. As always, I believe that certain classes, backgrounds etc. should have an easier time unearthing lore information...but by now, you're probably tired of hearing that old spiel.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard with neat b/w-art and as always, the high-res map is available to supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon. The cartography of the village is top-notch and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer.

Mastermind of Raging Swan press Creighton Broadhurst is a master of depicting dreary, gritty, grimy locales with concise writing and vivid prose - and this pdf is no different. Indeed, if anything, it is a prime example of what can be done with a scant few words - supplemented by a glorious map in b/w, Ashford is a town you want to include into your campaign, evoking a sense of ending that doesn't need a scream, but comes with an oh so much more powerful whisper - there's no villain to be fought, no monster to be defeated to make all well - this is an exercise in combating human nature, a chance for the PCs to make a point that the "g" in their alignment is not about killing things with "e" in their alignment - here's a chance to rekindle hope against all odds, combat despair and try to save not lives, but a town's very soul. We need more supplements like this and while reading it, I was constantly wishing for a true plague-outbreak module or even better, an AP in that vein. I have always loved Ashford and considered it to be one of my favorite village backdrops of all time; but alas, in spite of this, the fact remains: Ashford is DEFINED by the plague. It's literally the point of the village...and it has no effects contained herein. The pdf had the chance to make the bubonic plague for 5e, and instead opted for fluff-only, depriving the village of its mechanical heart, if you will. This renders Ashford's 5e-iteration, unfortunately, somewhat inferior to PFRPG's take on it. My final verdict, in spite of loving its writing to bits, will hence, "only" clock in at 4 stars.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Coldwater, so let's take a look!

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. Both village lore and demographics reflect 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 and quite a few of the villagers suffer from tell-tale deformities. It should be noted that magic items and a local deity's brief write-up that can be found here have been properly updated to 5e's conventions and that, much like the other village backdrops, there are no statblocks herein.

On a nitpicky note: The deformity and the sense of wrongness - I do believe that the lore section of the village or the rumors would have warranted a modification away from the pure Charisma or Intelligence check to respectively unearth information.

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. 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 and well worth 5 stars. My one gripe with it is that 5e so far has no Innsmouth-look style background tables, diseases or the like - a bit of crunch here would have been nice.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for 13th Age clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The first thing you need to know pertaining this module is the structure: Wade Rockett's excellent icons (first introduced on the Kobold Press blog and in the 13th Age Deep Magic book) have a hand in the action going on in this module - they determine the approach to the item the players are after. And it should be noted that the items actually come with suggested abilities. The module can be played in a 4-hour slot, but can be hastened to a 2-hour high-intensity action-romp, with proper guidelines provided - I actually tried it out and it works!

This being a review of an adventurer-tier module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should steer clear and skip ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! Okay, so I already mentioned that the module obviously has a significantly modular structure, right? Well, the module is all about recovering the aforementioned item of power from a dwarven airship that has crashed in the desolation of the tainted Wasted West, which is now inhabited by the deadly, undead former crew. Depending on the icons the GM chooses, you may choose a rival faction of adversaries - a total of no less than 5 such teams are provided: From Mharoti explorers to shadow fey and minotaurs or derros, the teams come all on their own, handy cheat sheets, including notes on their size depending on PC group-size. Beyond that, befitting of the horribly-mutating nature of the wasted west, the module provides suggestions for reskins of the creatures herein. As a whole, the set-up provided for the GM allows for a significant replay value and the option to easily add in more groups if the players have too easy a time when dealing with the adversaries.

The module's actions begin with the ramshackle town of "Small Comfort", ominously named and the fully mapped, and it is here a portal with blow open and potentially render the small and desolate place a full-blown battle-field between the adventurers and the rival team. Pressing forward and potentially leaving ruins behind, the PCs will descend into the deathless defile, where a village of the notorious ghost goblins rests and allows for either diplomatic or lethal problem-solving. Beyond these, PCs will have a chance to eliminate another group of rivals and, when finally reaching the eponymous, crashed Volund's Glory, the PCs will have to eliminate the dread undead that once were the crew to claim their due.

The copious appendices also include an array of neat adventurer-tier magic items and yes, we get brief icon sketches, enough to run it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The cover artwork is also represented in this book in a gorgeous full-color page.

Wade Rockett's "Wreck of Volund's Glory" is perfect for quick, fast-paced no-frills convention play; think of this as a kind of highly modular, fast-paced action romp through a kind of post-apocalyptic environment. With speed, evocative backdrops and a high-paced set-up, this module is all about presenting some of the highlights of the evocative Wasted West. The module itself is pretty simple, but, like a good action movie, it works exceedingly well...and turns out different in every time you play it, which is pretty cool indeed. Ultimately, this renders the book a fun, fast-paced action-module well worth of a final verdict of 5 stars.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


Part II of my review:

So, if you're looking for OSR-rules, through a shade darkly, then this book will deliver in spades. The weirdness, though, stems mainly from what you (and LotFP's cadre of authors) do with the framework presented by these rules; there are glimpses and hints of the things to come, there are small tweaks in the system here and there that already show some of what's to expect - but as a stand-alone book, this simply is a retro-D&D-system with dark fantasy/horror-conductive tweaks and great production values. Even if you are not interested in the system or the art, scavenging the concise and simple encumbrance system or some of the other modifications is done easily enough - even for use in a regular fantasy setting/with other OSR-rules. The transparency is there and the operations simple.

How to rate this, then? Well, in the end, this is one of my two favorite OSR rulesets. In my own OSR-games, I mashed this one and S&W together until they became a horrifically gibbering monstrosity. If you eliminate all the controversy and the focus on the excellent art, this book remains a more than solid rulebook - and one whose merits you can ascertain for free if said controversy-inducing art doesn't interest you anyways. For the low price point of the pdf, the art we do get is exceedingly impressive (if you like dark and gory artwork) and the quality and merits of the rule set are pretty evident. You can complain about the aesthetics, they are a matter of taste; but I can't see any true faults with the rules presented herein. Making the specialist not suck and customable is awesome and I love what was done with the spells and the encumbrance system is genius.

So yeah, I will settle on a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. And yes, I will cover more of the darker OSR-material now that I've covered LotFP's basic rule book.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Longbridge, so let's take a look!

Longbridge is, much like famous Riverrun, crucial to the crossing of a particular river - only that a) it's smaller and b) its leadership is divided - claimed by both Wido Gall and Hilduin Lorsch, two sets of taxes, laws and regulations have made Longbridge a hotbed of intrigue and a powder keg whose fuse has been lit - it's just a matter of time before it blows - especially with Einhard Kochel, leader of the free merchants seeking to claim control for himself...

Following the tradition of the series, longbridge gets a beautiful b/w-map as well as village demographics, a lore-section and 6 different whispers and rumors as well as notes on the type of folk that can be found in the settlement and their nomenclature. As before, it remains my firm belief that some backgrounds or classes should gain bonuses regarding the unearthing of village lore.

9 notable locations have been provided for the town alongside a stunning b/w-rendition of it and,as before, we don't get statblocks in the 5e-iteration of the village backdrop in question, instead using the freed space for extended discussions on local legends, environs or extended notes on the back story of characters. Longbride was a particularly statblock-heavy installment in PFRPG, though, and so, we expand the sample event table to 10 and also get a 10-entry strong, fluff-only table that depicts sample travelers crossing this nexus...so, depending on what you're looking for, this one may be significantly superior for you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's two-column b/w-standard with gorgeous b/w-art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. As always, RSP's patreons get the high-res maps as well.

Creighton Broadhurst, mastermind of Raging Swan Press, publishes not nearly enough of his own designs - this village is yet another stellar example of why I stand by this statement: Creighton GETS relatively realistic, gritty fantasy. Almost all Raging Swan Press offerings are suffused by a sense of historicity often lost in the more fantastic offerings and this village is no exception - oozing a sense of authenticity, this settlement comes alive on its pages. In spite of the relative brevity of the supplement. Add to that the great artwork, the awesome map and the sheer potential of the volatile situation and we have a place suited for violent insurrection as well as politics on a locale scale - and everything in between. My only gripe would be that I would have loved this to be a full-blown 32-page town-supplement rather than "just" a village. This loses none of its appeal in 5e and may even work better due to more space for the descriptive elements. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Wellswood, so let's take a look!

In this installment of Raging Swan Press' critically acclaimed 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. And yes, the domains actually point towards proper 5e-domains. 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. Plenty of development options are provided here, from the local color (the village sports notes on nomenclature, clothing, 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! As a minor complaint, I think tying the unearthing of village lore to an Intelligence check not that elegant; Why not go history, or perhaps allow for the proficiency bonus to be added for dwarves or certain backgrounds? But I am nitpicking at a very high level here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant 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 importantly, a tight and unique place to visit that loses none of its draw in 5e- 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, on OBS, etc.

Endzeitgeist out.


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


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of White Moon Cove, so let's take a look!

White Moon Cove is essentially a moderately wealthy coastal town governed by a council and features a list of 9 notable NPCs, settlement stats and a list of 8 notable locations. The town features an ex-paladin drunkard knowledgeable about Sahuagin, a brothel hidden behind a fishmonger (imagine the smell - ew!) and information on general villager-dress and mannerisms. The whispers and rumors-section this time around is a bit on the short side, with only 4 entries -these can be unearthed, as always, with a DC 10 Charisma check. Similarly, lore can be unearthed via Intelligence checks, though the highest DC at 20 is pretty steep for my tastes - it nets the information pertaining the fishmonger/brothel and could imho benefit from being lower for certain classes or backgrounds.

The pdf features 2 pages of notable locations, though, and they are going into exquisite details on e.g. the amorous advances of a local trader to a notorious female captain - who might make for a good candidate for a lesbian relationship, which is implied in the subtext via her first mate. Tavern, chapel and fishmonger/brothel make for more places to check out, as does the local lighthouse.

The final page covers trade, law & order, 4 sample events, stats for fishermen and more information on another interesting local character.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard and the cartography is excellent. Artworks are nice b/w-pieces. The pdf is fully and extensively bookmarked and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

This village is interesting - in contrast to other installments, White Moon Cove is not interesting due to some cultural peculiarities, but due to something different: Author Marc Radle has crafted a village that is captivating not via its location or culture - for there's honestly not that much here - but via its inhabitants, via its set-up. As a fisher village with some nice potential for adventures and further support coming up, I can easily recommend this pdf for its low price at a final verdict of 5 stars. One more thing: Raging Swan Press has this criminally underrated aquatic module wherein the PCs embark from White Moon Cove to explore a Sunken Pyramid, infested with sahuagin and their unique culture. This module ranks as the best take on them since the Monstrous Arcana trilogy in the AD&D days of old - if this sells well, we might actually get the module for 5e...so yeah, another good reason to get this.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Thornhill, so let's take a look!

The village of Thornhill is situated at the border of a vast marsh, to be more precise on an island encircled by deep, sluggish waters and surrounded by an ancient, yet formidable stockade of old timbers - the only access point to the village being one bridge. At least without access to boats!

We get 8 short entries of notable folks, describing the dramatis personae of the village before we're introduced to 10 notable locations in the village. It should be noted that a lizardfolk shaman living at a nearby island is considered to be a part of the village as well as a guardian of what the lizardfolk consider to be a holy site. On a nitpicky side, village lore DCs span 10, 15 and 20 and are based on Intelligence checks, which renders the highest DC pretty high - tying that to a proper Int-based skill may have been prudent re proficiency.

To add further color to the dreary place, we also get a table of 6 rumors, which PCs can unearth via Charisma checks. The pdf includes a general primer on how the people look like (including nomenclature) and some pieces of local lore on the village before we are introduced to more detailed descriptions of the 10 notable locations of the village.

Unlike in the PFRPG-version, we get no sample statblocks herein - instead, the pdf has been fitted with additional information pertaining a curious local paste, events for the aforementioned isle and its surroundings, etc.. Beyond these, we get short entries on trade & industry and law & order as well as 6 different events.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed that the classes tend to be bolded, but there are exceptions to this rule to be found herein. Layout adheres to the crisp b/w-2-column presentation we're by now accustomed to and the pdf comes with two versions - one for printing and one for screen-use. Both pdfs are fully bookmarked.

All right, first of all, I feel obliged to note that this is a perfect example of concise writing - with just a couple of sentences, the village's descriptions manage to evoke a sense of backwardness, desolation, decrepitude and forlornness. Thornhill is a harsh place and one that may erode the minds of those unwilling or incapable of bearing the hard life there. The subtle winks and nods towards the ever-present threats of the nearby swamp, via lizardfolk etc., could be easily used by a halfway-decent GM to create an Innsmouth-type of scenario and I think that is exactly what I'll do.

A (very) minor issue the pdf may potentially have at your table is, that if you have already used a lot of 3pp-material, you may have encountered the map of the place before...but that's about it regarding my gripes with this one. Creighton Broadhurst's Thornhill remains a great, if not pleasant place you will want to inflict on your players. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


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


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This is not the aasimar race from the DMG, just fyi - it's its own take on the concept.

We begin this pdf with a pretty close reproduction of how races are depicted in the 5e Phb, i.e. with flavorful notes on playing the race and flavorful leitmotifs - from wanderlust to being trusting, but also verifying the statements and nomenclature. In a nice twist, elves, halflings and tieflings get their say and impressions of the aasimar race in a sidebar. Race trait-wise, aasimar increase Wisdom and Charisma by 1, 30 feet movement, darkvision 60 feet, resistance to radiance damage and a rather powerful trick: When being capable of healing via spells, you add your proficiency modifier to the amount healed; when you do not have access to those, you instead add it to the hit points you receive when you are healed. I like the intention of this, but the rules-language could be clearer: What constitutes, for example, an "healing attempt" - use of the skill? Personally, I think this should simply be a choice left up to the players. This is a nitpick, though.

The pdf provides three subraces of aasimar: Children of the deva increase Dexterity by 1 and get alter self at 3rd level as well as partial resistance to bludgeoning. Wait...what's that? Well, partial resistance is a concept introduced here and I *REALLY* dislike it. In short: It works like damage reduction. You reduce that damage type by an amount equal to the level of the character. This renders partial resistance more powerful than regular resistance in certain contexts. E.g. at 10th level, a character is hit by 6 attacks, all of which deal 7 points of damage. Characters with resistance take a bunch of damage; less than other creatures, but still damage. Partial resistance eliminates the damage completely. The 5e-system is not made for this ability with an at least optional assumption of average damage and the somewhat more down to earth approach of 5e does not mix well with being invincible to certain attacks.

Children of Planetars increase Constitution by 1 and gain invisibility (self only) at 3rd level and partial piercing resistance. Children of Solars increase their Strength score by 1 and gain spiritual weapon at 3rd level. One note pertaining the innate spellcasting gained - the pdf fails to specify which spellcasting ability is used for these spells.

While I really hate partial resistance in 5e, the pdf does feature a second rule-idea I like - celestial lineages that allow you to modify the aasimar. A total of 3 such lineages are provided. These provide usually bonus abilities at certain levels (1st, 5th and 9th), but you do lose one of the usual abilities in exchange, namely powerful ones like radiant flux. Eternal Radiance nets you light-themed innate spells; bane of liars makes you a living lie detector and wings of angels provides slowly access to flight. I have no complaints regarding them.

The pdf does provide a new potion, celestial elixir, which allows the aasimar to use their powers an additional time before taking a rest; when used more than once, it causes Constitution damage, though...and it can be used as a quasi-super holy water that deals "6d6 damage" - for a price of only 100 gp. Underpriced in my book. Also...what kind of damage?? The pdf also features a new spell, radiant shield, which provides light, resistance to necrotic damage and reflexive radiant damage when attacked in melee. The spell is powerful at 3rd level mainly due to not requiring concentration and having a 10 minute duration. Angel's Bows require paladins or aasimar to be used and grants advantage on attack rolls and deal +1d6 radiant damage....which is imho a bit strong. Universal advantage? OUCH. Also: +1 is usually, when compare with items like berserker's axes, not noted in the header of the item. Oh, and the bow requires no attunement. (Fyi: My direct frame of reference here is the oath bow, which nets more power versus a single creature, but no bonus, requires attunement and works only against one foe per day. - in comparison, the angel's bow is a bit too good.)

The ring of heavenly light, the second item, doubles darkvision range and nets daylight once per long rest.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting generally are pretty good - the pdf does not feature significant glitches. Purists may be slightly annoyed that the racial subheaders aren't italicized, only bolded, but the pdf gets the full-stop versus colon-formatting convention right. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Troy E. Daniels delivers generally a cool race here; while I am not sold on the balancing of bow and elixir and annoyed that the latter has no proper damage type, the aasimar race generally is cool...with one issue. Partial Resistance. This ability, while understandable in its intent, opens up a significant can of worms regarding rules-aesthetics and how the system works. To me, 5e is more rock-paper-scissors, than PFRPG and still allows you to do something if you don't have the right tools. High-level aasimar with these rules can stand in a mob of lesser creatures armed in a specific way and take no damage...which opens up all manner of awkward questions - for example why non-aasimar angels can't do the same. Basically, this introduces a rules component that is not tangential to a system - it's an integral part. To maintain internal consistency, the introduction of the ability requires the GM to modify other creatures similarly, which changes the game pretty hard. On the plus-side, that makes direct PFRPG-conversion easier...but on the minus-side, it feels awkward and alien to 5e to me. Personally, I really dislike it and would discourage its use.

And that is a damn pity, for, overall, when disregarding this unfortunately pretty central component of the racial design, the aasimar as depicted herein is pretty solid; not perfect, yes, but also not inherently flawed or problematic. Still, partial resistance's issues, in conjunction with the minor other hiccups do drag this down a bit. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, though I have to round down.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This one-hour game-version of Crimson Dragon Slayer clocks in at 11 pages -all content, no frills.

So what is this? Intended for relative novices to the game, this is a stripped down version of the regular Crimson Dragon Slayer-rules, with a different focus - where the regular version features a goofy, over-the-top and awesome metal attitude, this one emphasizes dark science-fantasy as a default assumed genre. The pdf explains the basics of roleplaying and the system, which is ridiculously easy.

The basis for this is VSD6-system: A roll of 1 is a critical failure, a roll of 2 a failure, a roll of 3 mostly failure, 4 = mostly success, 5 = success and 6= critical success. Unless determining wounds or damage, only the highest number rolled is considered to be the effect: The easier a task is, the more d6 you roll: The default is 2d6 for a decent chance of success; very unlikely tasks can prompt 0d6 rolls, which means: "Roll 2d6, take the worse roll."

Humans start with 15 health and may reroll a dice pool once per session. Elves have a 2 in 6 chance to resist magic and get 10 starting health. Dwarves make saving throws with 2d6 instead of 1d6 and get 20 health. This system knows 4 classes. Warriors attack at 3d6 (also is used for warrior-style stuff) and get an armor value 4 chain mail and a weapon. Per level, they gain 1d6 health.

Wizards roll wizardly stuff at 3d6, but are at disadvantage stabbing things and doing the martial shtick, rolling only 1d6. They get an armor value-less robe and a wizard weapon (most likely staff or dagger) at first level. They gain 1 health at each additional level. Wizards cannot carry armor or shields while casting spells.

Thieves roll 3d6 for picking pockets, sneaking about, disarming traps...you get the idea. Armed combat is 2d6, fidgeting with magic scrolls and hocus-pocus like that is 1d6. They get leather armor (armor value 2) and a thieves' weapon. On a level up, they get 1d3 health.

Finally, clerics attack like thieves and may occasionally perform miracles and know the whole religion thing, obviously. They gain 1d3 health per level. The cleric is pretty opaque in what he can do; some more pronounced guidance regarding miracles or healing capacities would have been nice here.

The pdf suggests 12 general dispositions like "traitorous", "noble" or "mysterious" as a first roleplaying impulse.

Okay, initiative is handled as follows: Roll 1d6, lowest goes first. Thieves roll 1d3 (the text explains how this works for noobs - nice!). 0 health is unconscious, negative level+1 health = dead -a 4th level character would die at -5 health, for example. Health regenerates at 1 point per hour. The better the dice pool result, the more damage - attack and damage are rolled into one roll of the bones: 1-3 are misses; a hit at 4 causes 1d6 damage; triple 6s cause a whopping 5d6 damage. And yes, these add up. So a 3d6 attack dice pool providing one 6 (3d6) and 2 4s (1d6) would cause 5d6 damage. Furthermore, 6s are "exploding", i.e. they are rerolled and added to the total. Armor Value is treated as DR and subtracted from the damage. Shields increase attack value by 2, but decrease the attack dice pool by -1d6.

I mentioned saving throws. A character rolls 1d6. 1 = die horribly, can't be resurrected, 2= die, 3= die, but get one final action, 4 = alive, but unconscious, 5 =conscious at half total health, 6 = full health. Yes, that means you can actually potentially be healed by save-prompting effects.

Spellcasting is completely free-form - the more ambitious, the smaller the dice pool; healing and the like is reserved for clerics and they may 1/day call upon their deity to smite abominations. The precise effects of all of this are vague and up to spontaneous interpretation.

Characters level up after each session, gaining health. That's it. Aaaand...that's the rules.

The pdf also provides a short intro module...and since the following contains SPOILERS, I'd suggest potential players to move to the conclusion.

...

..

.

"The Curse of Xakaar Abbey" takes place in a fully and gorgeously mapped abbey b/w-cartography, and centers around the eponymous Xakaar, a dread sorceror trafficking with things from beyond, enspelling townsfolk to shamble to his abode. 6 basic rumors and copious read aloud text set the stage. The graveyard is an appropriate beginning, as demonic ghouls spewing green slime assault the PCs...who better make a dash if the GM has rolled double sixes (or similarly well) for their total number....but, alas, the lock must be picked...let's hope the thief doesn't botch his job. Inside, the PCs will have to get past a massive pit of spikes and then deal with spawn of the Outer Darkness (would be nice to have an inkling of what type of spawn they are, but oh well) that can render PCs into shadowy entities on critical successes. Okay, got that. Effects?

The PCs may also broker a deal with a trapped infernal elf and gain a magic sword (+1d6), a healing fountain, benevolent telepathic crystals and then duke it out with Xakaar - who likes enclosing foes in rings of fire and dominate the will of others...and when he dominates more than one, he lessens his attack pool. by how much? Not sure. I assume 1d6 per additional dominated foe...which would make the combat pretty short-lived. Dominate fighter, thief, Cleric, kill wizard, walk them into spike pit, game over. Beyond Xakaar's room lies a means of entering darkened tunnels guarded by an even more powerful, dread demon-thing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, no complaints in that regard. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard; in one version, the background is parchment-style with subdued blood spatters here and there; the other one is even more printer-friendly. The parchment version is huge for a pdf of this size, though. Still, kudos! It should also be noted that the big version is layered and can thus be customized. The pdf has a gorgeous artwork in b/w and features one absolutely fantastic map of the ruined abbey. While I wished there was a version of the map sans key, this pdf is FREE and as such, I'm not complaining.

Venger As'Nas Satanis' one hour-game version of Crimson Dragon Slayer is extremely easy to grasp, quick to explain and run. For quick, uncomplicated beer-and-pretzels/lunch-break fun, this does its job rather well. The map and artwork and all for free...no complaints there.

On a personal level, I do not think this simplification of the system has that much staying power; for conventions or casual gaming, it works well, but free-form magic always turns into a BS-ing contest sooner rather than later. Similarly, the healing abilities of clerics and the effects of the divine intervention could use some examples and mechanics as guidance.

Another observation: This one is closer to the first of Kort'thalis' books in that it features some dark sci-fi-fantasy themes...which I like in general. "The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence" are AWESOME. At the same time, to me the draw of CDS was that it wasn't another dark OSR-system, but rather in its gonzo nature and full-blown Brütal Legend-like embrace of heavy metal fantasy aesthetics. If I want dark, I go to LotFP. Easy rules, only slightly more complex and much more detailed. To me, this one kinda loses the unique selling proposition in theme and replaces it with the simplified system other Kort'thalis Publishing books use...which may be a plus for you...personally, I consider it less rewarding in a more traditional setting. Your mileage may vary.

However, as a reviewer, both of these aspects boil down to personal preference and the like should not make too big of an impact on the review of the book in question. Which leaves me with the observation that, as a free product, this certainly achieves it mission in a formidable way. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction, we dive right into the first tavern of the trinity, the Angelic Imp: Dim, yet romantically lit, with red candles and vases of red and white roses, the tavern utilizes a romanticized aesthetic oscillating between the reds of passion (associated with blood and sin) and the purity of white - this is the place to go when you're looking for a prime spot for a discrete candlelight dinner with excellent accompanying food - from grilled swordfish to saffron-tomato seafood stew and jasmine rice, the food did make my mouth water a bit; while the pdf does not sport menues with sample prices for the dishes, the tavern itself is fully mapped in a player-friendly little, functional map. The angelic imp, as such, has a reputation for privacy and rumors (4 of which are provided in pretty nice detail) are usually something you'd stumble across outside of the establishment. The 6 sample events provided deal with the obviously exquisite and delicate nature of the place; with customers being enraged at the prices of the bill, an artificial wine shortage and love and lust reciprocated or denied, the events fit well within the context of the tavern. Bellamy Brook, the establishment's owner, receives the full NPC treatment with statblock - including the means to make fast friends, while his striking server Malena is provided as a detailed write-up, including a unique ability that bespeaks her more than impressive grace. As a minor layout-complaint of a purely aesthetic nature, her attack-information overlaps with the box that contains her stats.

There is also a love-triangle/jealousy-story waiting in the wings, with Albright Ansuer, son of a self-made man and bored and spoiled aristocratic debutante Jenna Saunderville featuring fluffy write-ups and quite some potential for intriguing scenes. Layout-wise, I'm not a big fan of a little advertisement box pointing towards a side-quest in the first Tavern Tales-installment in the middle of the file here, as it takes up 1/2 a page, but considering the low price, I can live with that.

But perhaps the PCs aren't the biggest fans of romance. Well, then Blackberry Bill's may be what their looking for - small and cozy, with a focus on pastries and the like, the tavern is run by the eponymous Blackberry Bill...whose pugilism expertise was translated to 5e with rather creative abilities...and yes, they extend to cover the reputation he has a being somewhat short-fused in social environments. I really like how the series translates the spirit of the NPCs to 5e here - this is NOT a hackjob, but a lovingly crafted conversion...so kudos!

The grizzled dwarf is indeed a former adventurer and those stuffed heads on the wall...they're not hanging there for nothing. Famous for his jams and massive infatuation with blackberries, Bill may not have the best people skills, but his food makes up for that. His waitress, Braybin Mockingson, a speckled and energetic halfling seems to make up for that in energy and impulse. A total of 6 rumors, from tall tales about Bill's adventuring days to how in fact his blackberry creations reached their level of deliciousness, are provided. Now Bill, obviously, is relying on a secret patch of blackberries and hence, his obsessions with the fruits feature in the sample events: From experimental dishes to the quest for ever more blackberry recipes, thefts, customers bringing a cockatrice into the shop or kids gone missing near the patch...the adventuring potential is there and diverse/creative.

The third of the taverns featured herein would be the Pattering Platypus - and unlike the previous two, this one has an explicitly stated menu that changes by weekday, though it sports no prices. Much like the previous two taverns, the tavern comes with detailed and well-crafted prose depicting the owner, Titus Muldoon as well as Devon Winterhall and a local celebrity bard. Devon, just fyi can make for an interesting bouncer - originally a maneuver master, her background story and occupation have been translated with care to the context of 5e. Kudos!

It should be noted that the food here is pretty much diner fare - with burgers in all but name, delicious fried chicken - and before you start complaining about anachronism here - there are reliable accounts on frying practices in the 17th century and considering that magic and our default setting come closer to the early modern period than the middle ages, I am fine with that. The rumors featured here deal mostly with the NPCs mentioned before and patrons misbehaving; in direct contrast, these are the weakest among the rumors/events herein - they aren't bad, mind you - just not as diverse.

Now, the pdf also has more people to add to the respective taverns -we have an amethyst-eyed punk-aesthetic gnome sorceress looking for thrills and fun and her gruff, practical and realistic elven friend. Here, I do have a bit of complaints - the energy-bundle sorceress halves exhaustion levels incurred...so how does this work? I am pretty sure that she still should take the exhaustion levels and only the EFFECTS of the exhaustion levels should be halved; considering the potency of these levels in 5e, the ability is also pretty OP, so not that big a fan here. I do like her prestidigitation-expertise, though! The gnome's elven friend is a rather adept hunter and her efficiency when using hunter's mark etc. is pretty cool.

You can also encounter Dizzy Izzy, disheveled-looking and rather successful mesmerist/conman/information-broker - and my favorite NPC-conversion in the book: Originally a mesmerist in PFRPG, his means to enforce assistance via post-hypnotic suggestions, his gaze and the means to redirect attacks of foes make him a truly cool character.

There is also the charming, intelligent Harding von Orcson, gentlemen trader; you can try to best local legend Pie-eating Pete (fully statted, has a gullet of holding in 5e!) or you may well encounter an eccentric, but harmless pretend-noble. Finally, there is the powerful guard captain Ervyn Blackwall. Ervyn would be my second favorite conversion here - originally a cavalier, he now gets the option to quickly cuff trouble-makers as a bonus action, which fits perfectly with the guard captain trope; however, it should be noted that his mount gets no 5e-stats herein; arguably due to the decreased emphasis on pets/mount stats and their power-growth in 5e, but still something you should know. Ervyn also always a likely source of employment for adventurers or a powerful foil for less scrupulous forces. So yes, adding these beings to taverns (or just scavenging them for other purposes) increases the conflict/adventuring potential for the respective places by quite a bit!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are tight in both formal criteria and rules-language departments - I have no complaints here. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features b/w-artworks for EVERY SINGLE NPC herein. Unless I am sorely mistaken, I have seen none of these before as well; for the more than fair price point, that is quite a feat and yes, even the fluff-only NPCs/non-combatants have their mugshots. Kudos! The cartography in b/w is nice and does its job well. However, particularly in a supplement with 3 taverns, I would have loved them to be collected in the back on one sheet so you can print them all out at once, cut them up and hand them over as a handout. The advertisement dropped in at the end of the first tavern was something I wasn't too keen on either - I print out pdfs when I use them and collecting it with the other ads at the back would have probably diminished the effectiveness, yes...but it would have been nice nonetheless.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik's trio of taverns is a supplement well-worth getting; I am also pretty enamored with the 5e-conversions featured herein. Due to a discrepancy in system-age and focus, Pathfinder has a lot of classes and minutiae that does not translate well to 5e; instead of just shrugging and converting the basics, this pdf takes the concepts, distills them to the less rules-intense 5e-context and provides unique signature abilities for the NPCs, making them work in spirit as in PFRPG sans Pathfinder's complexity. Arguably, to me some of the 5e-characters indeed do their job/theme better than in PFRPG and this is indeed something I love seeing. Similarly, this supplement does not fall in the pitfalls seen in some 5e-conversions...so yeah, kudos indeed!! To me, the 5e-version of this trio of taverns edges the supplement slightly over its brother; hence, I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars and round up for this one.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


1 person marked this as a favorite.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? If AAW Games' critically acclaimed Rise of the Drow has taught me anything, then it's that modern gaming had lost some of its sensibilities; when the saga took the wonder of the 2nd edition's Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and the general notion of believable environments and infused it right back into the subterranean realms, I was ecstatic. The underworld hadn't felt that alive, that wondrous, in a long, long time.

So, this little pdf can be considered to be something of a mini-dressing file: The idea is as follows: The things in the underdark need to eat, right? Well, fungi grow below and so, the pdf does contain subterranean spore groves for your perusal. in power-level, they are rules-interaction-wise mostly at the lower scale and the pdf works as follows: You have 12 entries to determine weird fungi; then, you determine the size of the grove with a d12, which also modifies all subsequent tables, so yes, size does matter here.

Next up, you determine the food value to be scavenged from the grove...and then the effects. Sure, the shrooms might be poisonous...but there is similarly a chance that one of 8 strange effects may kick in upon consumption. These range from mild hallucinations to bonuses to Cha or medicinal properties, and while slightly more precision here pertaining conditions, bonus types and the like, the basic functionality is there. A sample hazard table modified by the number and CR of PCs is included, with hazards and foes ranging from CR - to 7. A little table to determine fungal themed monsters is next (15 entries strong and pretty much what you'd expect) and 12 non-fungal sample monsters (standard underworld fare) can be used to include here.

The pdf concludes with a sample hazard - the CR 3 cyan fungus, which sends discus-like projectiles towards anything nearby when subjected to light. The fungus is awesome, though the rules-language for the attack and damage is a bit jumbled.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is very good on a formal level; on a rules-level, there are some minor deviations, but none that break the material. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column, printer-friendly standard in A5-size (6'' by 9''). The pdf has a nice one-page artwork of a vegepygmy in full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Perry Fehr's little pdf has the heart at the right place: The visuals are nice and while it does not reach the level of evocative wonder of RotD's fungal jungle, that's not the goal - this is a great fungus fields generator and it does not purport to be more than that. The new fungus is pretty cool and something I'll definitely use.

All in all, this little pdf is a fun addition to subterranean gameplay and particularly lower-level underdark adventuring will benefit from the quick and easy food generation tables here; for longer or survivalist treks through the lightless depths, this can be a boon indeed, though I found myself wishing it had devoted more time to the fungi and provided slightly more in that terrain, less to the pretty generic sample creatures encountered tables. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - an inexpensive, fun and very useful little pdf, but one that falls short of what it could have been. Still, whether it's Second Darkness, Rise of the Drow or the quasi-defunct Throne of the Night - subterranean campaigns will enjoy this one.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, before we do - many of you will know already that I'm a pretty big fan of Downtime-rules, crafting and the like. But the matter of the fact is that not all campaigns will take to these rules to the same extent; indeed, there are campaigns where time is of the essence or where, within a vast dungeon-complex, establishing a crafting base, keeping it secure, etc., represents a complication that is simply not desired by either group or GM. As a person, I am firmly in the camp of believers that this can be a truly awesome and evocative experience...but I absolutely understand why quite a few groups dislike the notion.

It is for said groups that this system was created. To craft an item without spending the normal labor time, a character with an item creation feat can pay 1/10th of its market price in craft points (minimum 1, rounded up). The character also must pay 1/2 the item's market value in GP and once these are spent, the item is finished the next day. The rationale is that the character had been working on the item for a while and only now has finished it. Anyone helping in the creation of items can contribute craft points - characters with the appropriate craft feat can contribute full craft points, while those that lack the respective feat can only contribute them on a 2 for 1 basis - for every 2 points spend, they pay for 1 craft point.

Magic items require a Spellcraft check versus DC 5 + CL; failure of more than 5 on this check results in a cursed item. You may reduce craft point cost by spending more time on an item - for every 100 sp worth of work as per the Craft skill, you decrease the craft point cost by 1.

A handy table provides some examples for items made with this system and their respective costs. Beyond these, the pdf provides Craft DCs Redux - quarterstaffs and slings or casting plaster would be very simple DC 5 items, for example, while e.g. alchemical dragons or CR 16+ traps would be extremely intricate at DC 35. The system is very simple and easy to grasp and 2 sample examples help illustrating the use of these DCs.

The question obviously remains - how do you get craft points and prevent them being spammed like crazy? Well, a 1st level character has 100 craft points and every subsequent level nets the new level times 100 additional craft points. Creatures of Int 3 or higher also have craft points as though their HD was equal to the level. Creatures too dumb to Craft (less than Int 3) don't get craft points and familiars, eidolons etc., i.e. all class feature creatures, don't get craft points. A handy table collects craft points gained by level and total craft points accumulated. And yes, the ardent reader may have noticed that the limitation imposed on craft points means that there is a kind-of-but-not-really crazy prepared flexibility inherent in the rules presented - though whether you perceive that as a bug or feature depends, ultimately, on your own stance.

Now obviously, this necessitates a closer look at the item creation feats and indeed - the pdf does take a look at them - including the creation of technological and psionic items, with a handy table providing the number of craft points the respective item creation feats net you. These do include craft feats for the creation of alchemical items and master work items as well as a feat that can be taken multiple times to allow for craft point accumulation; basically, in order to offset a sudden, massive influx of instant masterwork weapons, the system imposes a feat-tax on them, which does make sense, as the instantaneous generation of these items would by every craftsperson would detract from the intended flavor...and it does retain an emphasis on the importance of specialists that would otherwise be lost.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column 6'' x 9'' standard and the pdf has no bookmarks or artworks, but doesn't necessarily require them at this length.

Mark Gedak's Craft Point Redux rules, to make that abundantly clear, are not made for me or my group; I am firmly in the planning/deliberation-camp; heck, we have a whole private board for planning, downtime activity, etc. and regularly checking it and taking a look what the characters do "in the meanwhile" is a pretty constant source of joy for me. That being said, I know that not all parties have this luxury; there are con games and groups that only rarely meet...or that simply don't share my love for the nit and grit of planning and simulationalist gameplay.

While the craft points introduced here represent an abstraction I won't use in my own games, I certainly see the significant merit this system can have for groups that want to focus "on the action." For such groups, this represents an intriguing and very simple system you can introduce without much hassle or fanfare. The book-keeping is minimal (apart from craft point tallies) and the implementation elegant, the explanation of the system didactically feasible.

Oh, and this is "Pay what you want." You can actually get this installment for exactly 0 bucks, check it out and then leave a tip you'd consider appropriate...and it is my staunch belief that for some groups out there, this will be a godsend of a file. For what it is and considering the no-risk nature of this pdf, this is very much worth 5 stars. It may not be for me as a person, but it sure may be just what your group wanted!

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Knowledge Check-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After an introduction to what we'll find within these pages for both players and GMs alike, the first chapter of this book deals with the particulars of death itself: From pallor mortis to algor mortis to post-mortem spasms, this section provides neat information that will prove to be useful, in particular when conducting in-game autopsies and first glimpse assessments, with sensible tie-ins to the art of necromancy featuring among them to account for the dimension of the fantastic.

Similarly, different components pertaining the rites of passing, for both living and dead, are covered - viewing and public display, oratories on the deceased person's life, music and wakes, colors and superstitions - there is a lot to take into account when design such an event for a culture in your games. Similarly, from anointing the dead to transportation of the deceased, the pdf sports a handy list to contemplate. Beyond a plot hook focused on the funeral of a glorious queen, the pdf also mentions magical funeral rites - from the minor to the spectacular and, obviously, taking necromancy into account, this similarly is a solid list to consult. helping the spirit of a deceased wizard complete his own proper farewells is an intriguing adventure hook presented in this context.

Of course, the internment of the body is similarly something to consider and thus also gets a decent coverage...as are potential problems: The fear of being buried alive, cremation (and the fact that non-magical cremation will leave the bones probably behind...), mummification, embalming...a little section on mummy oddities, notes on exposure and burials at sea as well as cannibalism are provided. I particularly liked that the pdf calls out cannibalism as not necessarily the evil act popular fiction depicts it, though that trope is noted as well. Thanatology (scholars of death) and the theme of necromancy are similarly discussed, as are the most common beliefs pertaining life after death. And yes, the pdf also talks about the fact that, in most settings, people may actually know what comes after the big D. So yeah, this would basically be the massive collection of contemplations the pdf lists - and while many may elicit an "of course", having them listed as is proves to be rather helpful. The constant and numerous adventure hooks similarly tend to be rather creative.

So, next up would be the new class options, which begins with the Grave Warden archetype for the slayer class. Instead of a talent at second level, the archetype gains the option to Quick Draw holy water and pour it as a swift action on a held weapon. Until the end of the next turn, the next attack with the weapon will also deal direct hit holy water damage. 7th level nets death ward at full CL, but the application costs 4 flasks and takes 1 minute to perform. All in all, I like the idea of this archetype. It's execution is pretty neat as well. The second archetype herein would be the thanatologist alchemist, who replaces bomb with a sneak attack progression. 2nd level adds gentle repose as a 1st level extract and allows the thanatologist to add deathwatch as a first level extract formula when he learns it. 7th level adds blood biography as a 2nd level extract and 9th level blade of bright victory/dark triumph - though that one fails to specify its extract level, I assume the default 3rd. Again, a solid, if not too outré archetype with a minor hiccup.

The book also has new spells, 2 to be more precise: Memento Mori is a level one spell that lets all creatures who see you lose their next standard action (or ALL actions on a natural one). It doesn't matter that successfully saving versus this spell makes you immune against it for 24 hours, this is a horribly broken spell and needs to die...or moved significantly up in levels. The second spell, grave binding, restricts an undead creature to its lair for a number of days...and has a mythic version that makes it permanent. Both spells, though, suffer from a complete lack of bolding and from the casting time being incorrect, both stating "1 action."

Beyond these two somewhat problematic spells, the pdf also contains 3 nonmagical items, the first of which would be curse tablets, which may or may not have any effects. Ghost money, as favored in e.g. China, similarly is provided and we get rules for bells to counteract being buried alive by accident. A total of 4 magical items similarly are included: Coins of Repose prevent the raising of creatures as undead (or delay it), while preserving coffins, you guessed it, preserve the body of the deceased. Shroud of disintegration can turn bodies wrapped in them to dust on command and sepulchral staves are basically the deluxe, magical version of the accidental inhumation bell. The magic items suffer from a similar formatting glitch regarding their price, slot, etc.-part, though at last spells used in construction are italicized.

The final pages of this pdf are devoted to the ossuary of St. Len, a fluff-only brief on a location you can drop into your game, with an accompanying level 5 monk as supplemental NPC.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are still generally good, though formatting has some serious glitches, as mentioned above. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin games' neat two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf sports several nice stock/public-domain artworks. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, one per chapter.

Richard D. Bennett and Jason Wallace's installment on last rites is interesting in that it can be seen as a good checklist when designing last rites and the burial customs of a given culture. The archetypes are okay, if a bit on the unspectacular side and the items generally make sense. The magic items are neat as well...but their formatting glitches are annoying. The spells, oddly stick out as extremely powerful, particularly in combination with the otherwise rather conservative design.

How to rate this, then? Well, here things become problematic for me: On the one side, I consider the check-list aspect and the items etc. useful and nice to have; on the other side, though, I kinda wished this pdf had a bit more in the uncommon-section...pertaining e.g. mummification by magical weather (hey, it works with regular weather!) or similar ideas. Additionally, the glitches and issues with components of the crunch do drag this down a bit. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Thornhill, so let's take a look!

The village of Thornhill is situated at the border of a vast marsh, to be more precise on an island encircled by deep, sluggish waters and surrounded by an ancient, yet formidable stockade of old timbers - the only access point to the village being one bridge. At least without access to boats!

We get 8 short entries of notable folks, describing the dramatis personae of the village before we're introduced to 10 notable locations in the village. It should be noted that a lizardfolk cleric living at a nearby island is considered to be a part of the village as well as a guardian of what the lizardfolk consider to be a holy site. A general note on features of the village, its worn wooden causeways and palisades can also be found in the book

To add further color to the dreary place, we also get a table of 6 rumors, a general primer on how the people look like (including nomenclature) and some pieces of local lore on the village before we are introduced to more detailed descriptions of the 10 notable locations of the village. A locally brewed paste that helps keep some of the less nice inhabitants of the swamp at bay has been included in the deal and information on the surrounding areas, like the red fern barrows, complement the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch and up to the almost flawless track-record RSP has set for itself. Layout adheres to the crisp b/w-2-column presentation we're by now accustomed to and the pdf comes with two versions - one for printing and one for screen-use. Both pdfs are fully bookmarked. Cartography, as always, is excellent and b/w.

All right, first of all, I feel obliged to note that this is a perfect example of concise writing - with just a couple of sentences, the village's descriptions manage to evoke a sense of backwardness, desolation, decrepitude and forlornness. Thornhill is a harsh place and one that may erode the minds of those unwilling or incapable of bearing the hard life there. The subtle winks and nods towards the ever-present threats of the nearby swamp, via lizardfolk etc., could be easily used by a halfway-decent GM to create a delightfully dreary, slightly xenophobic settlement.

One of the downsides of this particular village would be that the map has been featured in some other books, so if you've used it already...well. At the same time, the writing is excellent. So, is this worth the low asking price? Yes. Yes, it is. Thornhill remains an evocative, fun settlement in its system-neutral iteration and while it may not be the apex of the series, it is worth a final verdict of 5 stars - if you already have used the map in another context, detract a star.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

The freshman offering of Dark Naga Adventures clocks in at a classic 32 pages, with one page editorial and 1 page SRD, leaving 30 pages of content - and no, this does not include the front and back cover, since this book very much does not only hearken back to the classic era in tone - it is saddle-stitched and has a detachable color cover that sports maps on the inside - of course in the classic blue/white!

This module was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy. The review is based on this print copy of the kickstarter premium print edition.

Okay, before we dive into the nit and grit of this book's actual plot, let's talk a bit about the dual-system format of it, shall we? The module itself does feature the OSR stats in the respective entries and the module does not assuming an additive AC - i.e., you'll see THAC0s and the like. As for combat purposes, the final 3 pages feature the statblocks for OSR and 5e as well as the 2 magic items and special effects introduced herein. One of the magic items is basically a plot-device evil grimoire for the GM to utilize as she sees fit; the second would be a mace+2 that mentions disadvantage, but at the same time lacks the scarcity-entry of 5e's magic item statblocks...as well as whether it requires attunement or not. In the OSR-version, it is but a single line in the wielder's statblock that casts blindness on each hit.

Hiccups like this, unfortunately, do extend to the builds provided for the 5e stats, with e.g. the town drunk noting "STR", but no score. Similarly, if you expect from the 5e stats more than the basics, like unique abilities or straight class progressions, you won't necessarily find that - what's here suffices to run the module, but nothing beyond that. The statblocks also have glitches like a magic bonus from aforementioned mace not featured in atk. So, if you do have the luxury of choosing with which system to play the module, I'd suggest OSR over 5e for this one...though, at least for the weapon, you should probably at least read the 5e-section. The adversaries in the module tend to have an ancient ability called "linking" - in 5e, this allows a character to use their reaction to give an ally they can see +2 to atk, spell DCs and saves...which can be extremely brutal when played smart by the GM. As a nitpick, reactions usually require a specific trigger. In OSR, they can grant +2 attack, defense and a 2 point bonus to saves "and all party saving throws have a 2 point penalty" - at least in the OSR-systems I'm familiar with, I'm not aware of party saving throws. I assume that should refer to the saves of PCs targeted by the linked creatures.

In short: On a formal rules-language level, this is not the most precise of books. That being said, this adventure does have its merits and plays significantly better than it reads. Let me elaborate: For one, the cartography of three villages provided by none other than Alyssa Faden is excellent and player-friendly for these components; similarly, the regional map of the Boldon region in which this module takes place is nice as well. The region as such is lavishly detailed - it can easily be plugged into just about every fantasy gaming world and the relative lack of elves etc. means that the module works pretty well even in human-centric settings. 4 settlements (Boldon, Ponto, Maria, Sumer), all with maps, will be visited by the PCs and the module actually takes heed of consequences...

...and this is pretty much as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. From here on out, the SPOILERS reign, so potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! It starts, as often, with a tavern and a tale - on a full page, the local drunk and erstwhile productive member of the community, Fredu, has a tale to tell for sufficient alcohol - a tale of a temple forgotten from a bygone age, when evil reigned. The tale itself is a massive, 1-page read-aloud text in a module that otherwise requires the improvisation of the like. The drunkard, plagued by visions and blackouts, has stumbled upon a place dedicated to none other than Hastur and ever since, he has tried to quench the nightmares...saving him from certain death at the bottom of a glass is but one potential action the PCs may take. However, he also mentions having told more people about it - a retired wizard, for example...and then there is that fletcher, who is fashioning a map.

Beyond the tale, the module is very much a free-form sandbox, as the PCs follow the leads of Fredu's tale and try to find the hidden complex...which isn't that hidden, after all: The servants of Hastur have taken residence and the timer ticks: The dread statue contained within is fed continues sacrifices and its cultist-enhancing aura extends further and further. On an organization note, the aura's effects should have been noted in the overarcing chapter and depiction of its progression, not only in the room where it actually stands...considering the SERIOUS power it conveys to the cultists. That is a nitpick, though - there are a lot of things I absolutely adored in this module: For one, the old-school design-aesthetic. In an age where practically every puzzle and obstacle can be "rolled away", notes on how PCs have to be extremely lucky, regardless of level or doors that require you to find their combination due to the gazillion possible combinations feel very much refreshing.

Similarly, a highlight of the module, as strange as it sounds, may well be the legwork - PCs can be heroes and save old apothecaries from angry peasants, duke it out with loud-mouthed cultists and end on the wrong side of the law - whether due to their own actions or due to corrupt officers standing in their way, the module manages to evoke a sense of consistency and a feeling of being alive that you only rarely see. Similarly, the fact that there are A LOT of beautiful b/w-artworks, all with the same style (AND quality!) as the cover, lends a sense of consistency and continuity to the proceedings and makes for great hand-outs for the players to enjoy.

The sandboxy section here is pretty "realistic" in that it manages to convey exceedingly well and illusion of a group of mercenaries planning an excursion to a forgotten temple, while dark forces stir and try to stop them. Similarly detailed, notes on air quality, illumination and the like can be found for the complex itself. The intriguing component about this temple itself would once again not necessarily be the set-up - that's as classic as it gets; it's the focus on cultists and a dynamic environment, with entries on what cultists are doing when featuring in the respective rooms helping to keep things flowing. Regarding terrains and traps, this module is a bit on the weak side in this section, though. Ultimately, the temple is a pretty straightforward attack on the hide-out of a well-organized cult...and it is extremely deadly. Not kidding, if the PCs are dumb, they will die HORRIBLY in this complex. On a nitpick: The unique demons featured in the book could have used a detailed description - as provided, they remain a bit opaque. The cultists receive significant benefits here, particularly within the sphere of influence of their idol, and should not be underestimated - saves at disadvantage, cultist attacks at advantage. And no, this does not have an OSR-equivalent; familiarity with this component of 5e- terminology is assumed for that aspect of the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-level, it does have a couple of hiccups. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard. As mentioned above, both the copious number of artworks by Rick Hershey and the great cartography render this module rather beautiful and contribute a lot to its atmosphere. The print copy I have is certainly a module I am glad to have. I can't comment on the electronic version.

Kevin Watson's first part of the "Haunting of Hastur"-series is a module that is honestly significantly better than I expected it to be. You see, the set-up of the module isn't the most evocative and I tend to be a bit weary of dual-system books. That being said, whatever system you end up using, you won't have paid for a lot of content you won't use; the emphasis of this book is pretty much on the roleplaying aspect and the expert-level atmosphere this one manages to evoke. Were it just for the atmosphere, this undoubtedly would score higher, but the fact is that the dual-system approach doesn't always work too well in the book; OSR gaming seems to be the default assumption and then, suddenly, 5e-terminology seems to be featured in the default assumptions. It is my honest belief that the module would have fared better with one carefully crafted OSR-version and one for 5e, instead of this blending, but that may just be me. If you do not mind this, however, you pretty much get a module where you can mix and mash the two.

Sooo...do I recommend this? It ultimately depends. If you're looking for a challenging, atmospheric module with an old-school aesthetic in design and presentation, then yes, this may be a nice addition to your library. If you expect more new school handholding, preset DCs for actions and a bit more guidance, then you may end up disappointed. Similarly, this module should best be run by experienced GMs, since there is, beyond the beginning, no read-aloud text: You need to improvise that/know what's where and while e.g. conversations with NPCs provide an astounding depth of guidance via bullet-points and consequences of PC-actions, there is still quite a bit left up to the GM. How to rate this, then? Well, here things get a bit tough for me: You see, I really liked this module, but it does show a bunch of the freshman offering-hiccups that can tank the game for less experienced GMs.

In the end, for OSR, I consider this to be a 4 star module; for 5e, I'd rather consider this 3 stars, since the system's skills, proficiencies and similar components could have used more direct consequences within the module. Since this is a freshman offering, this gets the benefit of the doubt and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, now for something completely different: This book clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 7 pages advertisement (unless I've miscounted, 1 page back cover, leaving 50 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So how does this book work out? Well, basically, AAW Games publishes Jacob Blackmon's art and leaves speech bubbles open for the fans to fill - the funniest of the respective lines are collected in this book, with the respective authors of the lines credited, including the runner-ups, so even if you dislike on, you certainly will find a smile among the alternatives.

So this, ultimately, is a product of our community...and it is one that made me chuckle and laugh loud while reading this comic: When the party's handing on a single rope and the characters caution against reminding the GM of maximum load capacity; when a paladin riding into a blackguard convention thinks off the worst blind date ever, when a dragon feeds the PCs a gelatinous cube and tells them to digest it before it digests them, then I got more than a few laughs out of the set-up and the on-point punchlines.

When a charismatic elf is bluffing a troll and a runner-up is "Hey, Billy Mage here with a new, fantastic offer!", I really laughed out loud!

How to rate this, then? Well, to me the artwork by Jacob Blackmon was great and similarly, the funny lines add a cool dimension to the comic itself. Humor, however, is subjective and not everyone will obviously consider every line funny; a couple of these, admittedly, didn't elicit the same sense of excitement than others, but over all, this book indeed provided what its goal was -fun! This collection of comics made me smile and that makes it very much worth it for me. So yes - this very much is worth getting if you're interested in some cool, gamer-humor. This pdf delivered what I wanted from it. Hence, my verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Reviewed in all the usual places!

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

This PWYW-expansion for the plaguewright class clocks in at 3 pages -1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so what does the apothecary do?

Apothecaries must utilize benign strains in each of their vials (but still may also use malignant strains!) and gain a dosage pool at first level equal to their apothecary level. Whenever the apothecary draws a culture from his vials, he may spend a dosage point to add a terminal mutation known to the syringe as though it were present in the culture. He must add benign mutations to benign strains and malignant mutations to malignant strains.

Also at 1st level, all benign strains gain the terminal euphoria terminal mutation without occupying a mutation slot; this mutation heals 1 point of damage upon the mutation ending and may be taken multiple times (class levels determining the maximum), thus replacing discerning eye. As a capstone, terminal mutations added are treated as though they had been taken an additional time.

The pdf also provides three benign terminal mutations - as a nitpick, these do not have the terminal descriptor and only note being terminal in their name, but oh well. Terminal Bravado allows for fear-save rerolls, terminal clarity for limited DR-ignoring and Terminal Rehabilitation for the healing of attribute damage.

The pdf also contains two new feats: Chaser Coating makes you choose a vial and mutation known that is both benign and malignant. Cultures made in the vial get chosen mutation added sans occupied mutation slot, but mutations that take up two or more slots can't be chosen this way. The feat can be taken multiple times. Another feat lets you ignore the DR of willing creatures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - apart from the descriptor-hiccup, which is pretty much cosmetic, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to IG's two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Bradley Crouch's plaguewright is one of the weirder classes that have come out of Interjection Games' oeuvre and it is COMPLEX. In fact, it is perhaps one of the hardest to grasp classes and this pdf offers a cool, free expansion for the class. While terminal euphoria is nice, I found myself wishing that its scaling was slightly more pronounced - the largest untapped potential for the plaguewright, ultimately, is that of a science-y healer for campaigns where the gods don't heal...or the PCs aren't on their good side. The archetype helps here, but the restriction pertaining the enforced presence of benign strains limits the offense capabilities of the archetype a bit. You can enhance these, both offense and healing, mind you - the class has a ton of moving parts with which you can work and, combined with Terminal Vigor and the temporary hit points from terminal health, the archetype works in interesting buff-combos.

So yeah, while personally, I'll upgrade that one's potency a bit, the pdf is also, ultimately, available for any price you're willing to pay and for a PWYW-book, this is certainly worth a tip and a download. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


Part II of my review:

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

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


An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


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

Cheers!


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


1 person marked this as a favorite.

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Casey Brown, Britt Frey and Austin "Theo" Judd have crafted a thoroughly unique document that has its special place of honor on my bookshelf - whether for the Lost Lands, the anarchic regions of Golarion or any other campaign setting, really - this book has a ton to offer for people who don't care about Greyhawk at all. An inspired chronicle that got me excited, a book that is testament to the fact that major story-changes by players can and should happen in living campaigns, a book that does show that there is fun to be had in darker settings and dangerous challenges - what more can you want? This is an inexpensive, awesome book and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


Part II of my review:

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


Part II of my review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.


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


An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.

1 to 50 of 427 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | next > last >>

©2002–2016 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.