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Vimanda

Eric Hinkle's page

2,502 posts. 89 reviews. 3 lists. 1 wishlist.



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Getting your goat

****( )

Animal Races: Clan of the Goat is the latest addition to EMP's line of anthropomorphic races. This time around it covers the clans of the Goats and Sheep, and with a few additional surprises.

Like its fellows it numbers thirteen pages. One for the cover, one for credits, one for the back cover, and two for the OGL. That leaves eight pages of crunch and fluff, the latter being an oddly appropriate word here, so here we go!

It starts with another brief account from Marco Loupo, the boy raised by (literal) wolves, of the animal-folk he travels among. It's short but well done and definitely gives you an idea what the two races are like. Next comes information on their appearances, societies, and basic psychology. Both are members of the Zodiac Council introduced in previous books in the series, with the honorable and dutiful sheep having to take up the slack for the selfish goats.

We then get the racial package for these clans. Goats tend to be witches and can select their usual Clan feat when they pick hexes. Mountain Goats and Muskoxen both tend to be oracles and can select the Clan heritage feat when they choose revelations, and Sheep (are you ready for this?) are often paladins who can select their heritage feat in place of a mercy. I have to admit, when I thought of anthro sheep, I didn't think of them as paladins!

Next is the half-page for the clan genealogy. Interesting to me for the as-yet unwritten clans like the Antelopes, Camels, Elephants, and especially Horses. I would love to see all of those become available. There are also some feats. The normal clan heritage feats are there, as well as one giving some bonuses on Handle Animal and Intimidate for gruff goats. Meh, okay. You can also take a feat that allows your familiar to take a blow for you, and one that allows you to kill regenerating creatures on a critical. Three Billy Goats Gruff, anyone?

This is followed by the usual great list of how existing monsters fit into Goat and Sheep myth and culture, giving us the usual fun insights into their heads in the process. Goats think it a compliment to be compared to Bearded devils, for instance, and fanboy over hags. And of course they hate trolls.

There is a listing for the Sheep god, Amon. Mostly your standard LG deity save for the curiosity that his clerics can't create holy water. They instead make sanctified salt which functions in much the same way.

Next comes something fun, and just in time for Christmas too -- say hello to the Krampus! They do a good job on the old child-snatcher; among other things, it can 'swallow' you by stuffing you into its sack, and its armor of chains gives it an improved ability to intimidate.

Last come some new traits based on heraldic symbols that provide certain feats in exchange for penalties on your saves. And oh yes, we get a new oracle curse -- Fainting. So you can have your fainting goat character.

All in all it's a good piece of work with some fun extras you don't normally get in this line, not to condemn the other PDFs. I'll go with four stars, maybe more if you really want to have stats for Krampus.


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Gruesome Constructs Review

*****

As with the rest of the line, this PDF assembles four templates, one of them Mythic, for those who want to make the poor forgotten construct creatures of their game a trifle more memorable. Maybe for 'memorable' you should read 'nightmarish'; suffice to say that if you have careless conjurers trying to whip up mindlessly loyal minions, they may change their minds after you unleash some of the beauties found in here on them!

Ever run into a shield guardian? A properly used one can be a pain, protecting its master and smashing you into the ground every time you get close to its mage master. Ever wonder what happens when that master dies, but the shield guardian lives? Thus the Abandoned, a shield guardian that survived the death of its master and goes seeking out a new one. However, the golem has learned something from its former condition -- now it wants a master that will obey it! This opens the door for a lot of fun. Let the PCs find a magic amulet that summons forth a golem servitor. Hey, all is great, right? Until you do something the golem doesn't want. Then it uses its new powers to crush your will and make you the slave. Oh yes, and it can dump damage it takes on the "master", not to mention steal spells from them to use itself. And the amulet cannot be removed, except with their death. At which point the lonely golem goes searching for another 'master'... You can always try destroying the amulet. If you don't mind facing a berserk golem, that is.

Next is the mythic Insane Intelligence. This is what you can get when you give a very non-human and inorganic mind human perspectives. The construct starts to learn. And learn. And learn, increasing its new mythic rank every few weeks. Or in other words, going from 'standard(?) mythic hero' to 'incarnate GOD' in less than a year. Its Intelligence also starts at 10 and then increases every week after that. And this isn't Mister Data or Robbie the Robot, this is a mind like Hannibal Lecter's. Among potential mythic abilities it can break you into insanity by talking, control you with its supremely rational arguments, or just use its newfound knowledge of the weak points in your disgusting fleshy body to tear you apart. It can also learn how to transfer its mind into a new and improved construct body. Which means that a relatively weak Soulbound Doll can end up an adamantine golem in time -- an evil genius one!

Oh yes, the 'insane' half of 'insane intelligence' makes them both more terrifying and vulnerable. You just have to figure out how to use their newfound sadism or obsession against it, without ending up as another victim.

The guiding spirit of any golem is a bound elemental spirit. Few ever seem to question the wisdom is so using a sapient being to control what is meant as a mindless servant. Few save those who meet the Unbound, that is. Unbound are golems whose elemental spirits have broken their binding and boy are they ever mad. Rewarded with newfound powers from both their elemental heritage and their newfound hatred of spellcasters, the Unbound can also seize control of other constructs and send them into a murderous rage against their masters. This template can give you a chance at running a classic 'War with the Robots' style story. Of course, you can try renewing the bindings on the original elemental. It involves putting your bare hands on a rampaging golem and winning a contest of wills with the berserk spirit inside. How hard can it be?

Lastly is the creepy Vivisector. Some intelligent constructs become obsessed with fleshly life. They want to experience it for themselves. They want it so badly they learn how to steal the flesh of others and wear it to masquerade as mortals. This brings its own little problems, as they have to renew their disguise every 24 hours or they start to look a little -- odd. They are healed by both positive and negative energies, and can use even unliving flesh to restore themselves. Nothing can match living flesh for their disguises, though, and when they take some it will slowly and horribly kill the 'donor'. Oh yes, they can also grant flesh to other constructs too. Which causes their body to deteriorate even faster, so they have to snatch more victims. Vivisectors can make great long-term enemies, or even allies if they they succeed in hiding both their real form and their appetites. What do your PCs do when they discover that their contact or patron is really a murderous construct that's been sizing them up as flesh donors?

This is a great short PDF with some original templates in it. Several of them have a good pulp horror feel to them too, which I always like. For $4 you could do a lot worse than this.


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Revenge of the Blob

*****

Once more here we go with four fearsome templates for monsters. In this case -- it's oozes.

Yes, I know. Oozes seem scary at very low levels, but once you figure out how to handle them they're not so dangerous. Well, this PDF attempts to correct that, and as to how well they do, well, we're about to see.

First is the rather Lovecraftian Intruder. Basically an extrusion from realms measureless to man into our universe, the Intruder faces a constant battle against a reality that just wants it gone. It unmakes everything it touches -- the ground, the walls, swords, your flesh -- and warps reality and gravity around it as it carries a 'pocket' of its own reality around. So it can do things like cause gravity to make things fall to it, or burrow through everything from dirt to metal. In fact it has no choice; if it doesn't move, it will create a tunnel to the world's core given enough time. The Intruder ooze destroys just by existing. Thankfully sane reality realizes this and the monsters is slowly removed from our world. Unless of course it finds something to anchor it here. Like, say, an artifact.

Emulation oozes bring in some Body Snatcher-style horror. These are oozes that slither inside their victims and consume them slowly, controlling and mimicking them as they do. Indeed it controls them so well that the ooze thinks it IS them and registers to spells as such. It also retains its immunities to mental effects, and to hurt it when 'riding' its host you have to kill the host first. And all the while it has access to all the knowledge and feats of the host (no spells, though).

It gets even worse if you combine the Emulators with the next template, the Exponential. Everyone knows how easy it is to kill oozes by splitting them, right? What if that didn't weaken them? What if every time you split them you made two oozes as strong as the original? And when they recombined, they were now as big as both new oozes combined? That is the horror of the Exponential. As long as they continue to feed, they can keep splitting into more oozes. Which then combine into ever-bigger oozes. Who needs gates to the Abyss or zombie apocalypses when these guys are running around?

Last is the mythic Hive Mind template. This is a swarm of dozens to scores of oozes of all different sorts that have developed a collective intelligence and mental powers to go with it. They can also bring other oozes into the hive mind upon encountering them, and even learn to do things like control humanoids, learn spellcasting that is shared with the entire hive mind, and share monstrous abilities among its members. Try combining it with the Exponential for even more fun.

As with the others PDFs of the series, there are sample monsters listed with every template. I'm giving this one five stars mostly because they managed to make oozes scary and cool again, and that's not easy. Really a great buy if you want to really creep out your players.


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Eldritch Horrors get an upgrade

****( )

This PDF is a collection of four templates for aberrations, those wonderfully creepy horrors from truly alien spheres. Like the other PDFs in the Gruesome series, it's short and to the point, with a cover page, one for credits and the OGL, and the remaining eleven devoted to the templates. So let's tale a look at them.

First is the Bound Horror, an aberration that has been confined to a creature, place, or object by some bizarre means. It lasts as long as its prison does. There's room for a lot of truly inventive and fiendish plots here. Maybe the haunted book with the strangling ghost actually has a choker bound to it, or the infamous haunted house that drives people mad is the prison of a neothelid or seugathi. And never mind how you'll deal with the innocent child who has some abomination bound to their very soul. Just to make it all worse, Bound Horrors are immortal and can only die when their prison is destroyed; and if you know about them, then anyone who controls the prison, be it place or object or creature, can command the horror. Imagine the possibilities this provides for clever villains.

Eternal aberrations are immortal and invincible to all save one specific substance or object or even location. Else they can be killed with great difficulty, but will return in perfect condition in a few days.

Fleshwarpers are my favorite here. They can control and manipulate flesh, their own or others. This gives them improved and changeable defenses (improved AC one turn, and energy resistance the next) and natural weapons. Even better is that they can twist and make monstrous anyone they get their appendages on, AND control them afterwards. This gives you one more reason to use the various fleshwarped horrors that have cropped up in Pathfinder and 3rd party releases, with the added bonus that they're innocent victims and as such the PCs may not want to blithely hack them to ribbons.

Last is the mythic template for this PDF, the Old One. Any Lovecraft fan can probably guess from the name alone what this is like, but just in case -- Old Ones are vastly ancient and powerful aberrations. They all possess mighty intellects, immunity to mind-affecting effects, and the ability to reduce even the bravest of heroes to cringing fear. They can possess even greater powers depending on their mythic rank. Old Ones can reduce mortals to gibbering madness, inflict terror on even mythic enemies, exist in multiple worlds at once and cast dread spells with the greatest of ease, or simply be unkillable. Of course on the other tentacle there's the problem that all Old Ones are downright apathetic. Just getting them to defend themselves is a major effort (that you will regret), and they spend most of their time on millennia-spanning schemes of their own. And yes this has an effect on just which actions they can perform in-game.

I should add that there are sample monsters with all these templates in the PDF. And there you go. The PDF has two classic aberration templates with the Old One and Eternal, and two great ones with the Bound Horror and Fleshwarper. For the price you get some amazing content; four stars easy, and it's a five star purchase for big horror and aberration fans.


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Gruesome Fey Review

*****

Four Horsemen Present Gruesome Fey is a PDF in Rogue Genius Games' 'Gruesome Templates' series. This one offers four horrific templates to produce fey less like Disney and more like the stories once told around low-guttering hearth fires about the terrible Good People who lurked out there in the wild darkness.

All four of the new templates possess a Shock Value, granting the frightful presence monster ability with an increased DC and level of opponents the fey can use the ability on. This helps to get the idea across that even in a world of hideous monsters, these are especially nasty.

First comes the Believer. Everyone knows about the fey love of illusion. Well, the Believer literally lives in their illusions. Worse still, they can drag you into them too. This is bad because the Believers love to live out their dramatic and grandiose stories, and as far as they're concerned, mortals are mere scenery in the unending glorious saga that is the fey's life. Their new abilities only reinforce this; when you fail saves against their illusion powers, they get stronger and harder to resist. They're also permanent regardless of the normal duration, and don't need to be concentrated on to keep working. And you have to believe they're false before you can use illusion-dispelling or detecting magic of your own on them! The Believers have one big weakness -- they're so in love with their own narrative that if you can suggest, say, that it would be so very dramatic for them to fight a duel with the best fighter or permit the heroes to escape, they'll do it. That and when you do see through their illusions, the illusion is destroyed. Of course then you've got a furious fey to deal with. This template really captures the idea of a child or narcissist who wants everyone to play their game by their rules, which is definitely something fey are known for. It also provides for an easy change of pace in a campaign -- any kind of story can intrigue a Believer into dragging innocents and PCs into it, so long as it's dramatic!

Every one of the recent 'Gruesome' PDFs has a Mythic template, and the Fey version is the Exiled Lord. This is basically one of those godlike fey who here has been flung into the mortal world and is none too happy about it.

Their main ability is the demesne. Every year they can change a several-miles across stretch of land into basically their own little world; and if you don't like it, your choices are either run or fight. This alone provides for so much potential in a setting. What about a water fey who creates a freshwater lake in the middle of the desert? Or a bogeyman who makes their citadel of fear in the middle of the PC's home city? What happens if the royal capital suddenly has to deal with a dark forest consuming it because Morgrym the Shadowed decides he likes the neighborhood? Ever wonder how some of those rather odd geological features came to be in the campaign world? Well, maybe it was an exiled lord setting up shop.

The Exiled Lord also gets extra mythic abilities that they can use in their demesne. Suffice to say that within their realm, they're pretty much gods. Anyone short of very powerful or cunning PCs will have to play by their rules. Unless, of course, you figure out The Rule. Every Exiled Lord has one rule or stricture that they can not break, basically like a Celtic geasa. One might be bound to never reject a gift and must repay it, another might be bound to always tell the truth/never tell the truth, and a third might have to eat babies every night. Figure out their Rule and you can manipulate the lord, or even break their connection to their demesne.

I really, really like this one. It provides the chance for using some incredible settings and clever PC trickery as the merely mortal heroes have to outwit an enemy that controls nearly everything around them. It reminds me of the old Ravenloft Darklords and their domains, and how smart you had to be to escape them.

Next are the Faded. Creatures as terrible to the fey as to mortals, the Faded are basically a nastier version of the Bleaching that hits gnomes. Stripped of their inherent magic and creativity, the Faded respond by devouring the magic in the world around them like a horde of locusts. They can't use their own magic any more, but neither can they be affected by magic. They can drain magic items into nothing, and they can turn other fey into Faded with their draining touch. They're also so utterly apathetic that they can be talked into doing incredibly dangerous things with ease, because they Just Don't Care any more.

The comparison between these beings and the Bleachlings makes me wonder if that was why the gnomes were driven from the First World. Once again, a simple template that offers some great ideas for the campaign.

Last is the coldly creepy Macabre. These are fey who were tortured into sadistic madness by their own fellows, and have become creatures of shadow and pain. Just watching their broken movements can terrify you, and their songs can sicken mortals with agony. The latter effect has limited use per day, but the Macabre have a way around that. They just torture some hapless mortal and then they can vocalize along with their screams! As if that wasn't enough, the Macabre are so in love with pain and torture than if you just talk with one they uncontrollably try to intimidate you as they rhapsodize about the music made by severed windpipes or how lovely your eyes would look in a bottle with the rest of their collection. They also apparently like t hang out with suitably twisted Believers and Exiled Lords, for extra fun.

This is a very fine collection of truly horrid fey. They can provide everything from a one-shot encounter to an entire campaign's worth of terror. It's really great for anyone who has fond memories of the truly charming characters you met in Ravenloft, among other places. I give it five stars and suggest that if you like dark fey that you get it now!


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