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2,448 posts. 87 reviews. 3 lists. 1 wishlist.

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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


i]Four Horsemen Present Gruesome Fey[/i] 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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Ultimate Charisma review


Ultimate Charisma is a 68-page PDF devoted to what seems one of the most problematic feats in the game, Leadership, and a number of campaign systems like relationships, reputation, kingdom ruling, and more. I just know that someone will be along to give it the great review it deserves so I'll just try to hit the high points here.

1) The first section handles Leadership neatly by giving it to everyone as a sort of seventh characteristic. And yes, it allows you to use it in ways that don't rely on getting cohorts and followers if you want to use it but don't want to have an army following your PCs around. It also gives some rules for party leadership if you want keep it simple and let the group gather the followers.

2) The Cohorts section gives you some ideas for how to design a cohort, what to do with them besides 'extra adventurer' -- they can handle a business, help run a kingdom, command armies, do downtime activities, or even be a mount. The PDF also provides a rather exhaustive list of possible monster cohorts and what level they become available at. It also has some hints for GMs on how to make the cohort a source of plots and adventures rather than simply a extra body, which is very helpful.

3) Followers are also described in detail. How to recruit the ones you want; or do you want to be served by eager but hapless commoners for your entire career? You can recruit NPC classes for followers or PC classes, though the latter can get pricey. What tasks you can set them to, everything from army to work force to contacts and even managers and teams for your organization. It also shows about advancing them, and even provides nearly a dozen example followers. Not written out characters, but lists of what sorts of NPC classes, feats, and skills are best for laborers, soldiers, guards, crafters, and so on.

4) The Psychological Maneuvers section will be familiar to anyone who owns a copy of Psychological Combat. To those who lack a copy, this covers how to antagonize, frighten, or feint enemies. Or how to defend against it being done to you! It adds a new statistic, the psychology DC, which is very simple to use. Indeed the whole section has the wonderful simplicity of the original PDF, even while adding a few new things. Like affronts of opportunity. They work like attacks of opportunity, allowing you to anger, scare, or feint an enemy for free under certain circumstances. They also permit you to use feats like Dazzling Display at greater affect, like on every enemy within 30 feet rather than just one. It also allows for psychological slights, basically giving a potential bonus on the 'attack' if you do or say something to push your enemy's buttons. Rather a nice bit there for the better roleplayers!

5) Relationships uses the rules first provided in Ultimate Campaign to help your PCs to establish closer contact with various NPCs, as well as rewards like bonus traits that can be gained at various levels. It covers healthy and dysfunctional relationships, friendly and unfriendly ones -- we do have a relationship with the enemies we despise the most, after all -- and it covers how to work this into romance as well. There are also the core emotions of a relationship which can affect how those involved relate to each other.

6) Reputation covers how the rest of the campaign world sees and reacts to your PC. Is he hailed as the great hero or does he have to dodge flung rotten tomatoes every time he goes to town? It also points out that you can have multiple reputations with different groups, and provides a lengthy list of events that will affect your reputation for good or ill. Group reputations are also discussed, as well as prestige points. Get a good reputation and the people who like you can be convinced to give help, be it gear or magic or simple aid, in exchange for prestige points.

7) Archetypes and new character options are included. There is a new cavalier order and two archetypes, new talents and archetypes for the Investigator, Rogue, and Slayer, and more. There is quite a bit here covering how the new psychological combat rules in particular can be used with the published classes.

8) We get new feats for use with the new rules, like Improved and Greater Antagonize, both of which seem rather simpler and better than the 'official' Antagonize feat and ranged feints. There's how to use bardic performances to anger an enemy, and one that allows channel energy to do the same to undead. Teamwork feats that allow you to get a bonus if your friends aid you in a psychological combat maneuver, how to do this to animals, how to antagonize at range. There are also mythic versions of these feats, and how to use them with the stamina system from Pathfinder Unchained. It's always good to see some support for the new rules systems.

9) Next we get the best section of the entire PDF, Leadership Perks. You can use these to become better at commanding armies, running businesses, relating to others, and so much more. Want to make your familiar into a cohort, complete with their very own feats and a class template from 'Monster Codex'? Now you can. Ditto for providing an animal companion from a small list to any PC, or for keeping that awakened animal companion as your cohort. They get a class template and you can keep advancing them as your companion. It's restricted to 10th level and up so it comes off as very balanced. You can get free Story feats and traits, you can become a one-man army in the mass combat system, work better with contacts, or turn your organization into a druid circle or fighting school or new temple. You can even found a witches' coven if you want (evil only, sorry to say). Little of this will give PCs great advantages in a fight but will they ever help cement them into the campaign world!

And if you want to be a lone wolf you can use some of these perks to do that, too.

10) Last are some new traits, allowing you to do things like figure your Psychology DC with intelligence (for the cool intellectual types) or charisma (for the total egoists). You can be a better military commander, be scary to kids, or start with a better reputation than normal. Pretty nice and they avoid the standard '+1 to a skill' kind of trait.

In the end this is a great great product. A little pricey for 68 pages, but those are 68 well-done pages filled with tools and ideas that any group can use and may very well fall in love with. The ideas about the new psychological maneuvers and the new way to handle Leadership are amazing. Just plainly a great piece of work and one that anyone who runs a campaign that's more than one dungeon crawl after another will appreciate, but with enough that people who prefer the more combative side of things will be delighted too. Five stars for Ultimate Charisma!

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Unchained Cunning Review

****( )

Having covered the unchained barbarian and skald, Everyman Games now takes on the rogue, ninja, and slayer in this PDF. The PDF is sixteen pages long, with one for the cover, one for the title page, one for table of contents, and one for the OGL. That leaves twelve pages for the new material, so here we go!

It starts with the Unchained Ninja. Their main changes are rather like the Unchained Rogue's; they get finesse training, along with improved bonuses to hit when flanking or when an enemy is denied their Dex bonus. They also get style strikes like the Unchained monk. Those new touches aside they're in many ways like the old ninja. Nothing too amazing here, but still nice to have them changed to fit in with the new rogue.

Next are some new archetypes, with the ninja coming first. The Goto is a stealth expert, the Kishu is an expert at terrorizing their enemies, and the Konran uses psychological warfare (and the rules from Ultimate Charisma, also from Everyman Games) to defeat their targets. The Oniwaban is a master spy and the Star Master is a shuriken expert. All fine work but nothing too amazing.

Then we get the Hoka-han. A truly original archetype, they use the kineticist rules from Occult Adventures to become a magical ninja arsonist, one that spends ki points to add infusions to their blasts rather than burn. It has a very 'weird menace' tone from the old pulps, and just feels like something people would accuse ninja of being capable of. Really a great idea!

Rogue archetypes follow. Another highly original idea is the Arcane Charlatan, who loses finesse training but gains the Minor and Major Magic talents in exchange. They can also use them more often than the normal rogue, and can 'exchange' uses of them to cast other spells from the sorcerer/wizard list that they haven't chosen as spell-like abilities. Also, they can use a dampening strike that can really weaken opponents' saves against their magic -- and if they choose the right talent (thoughtfully included), those worsened saves apply against all arcane spells. I think the party arcanists have just found a new best friend.

The other two archetypes are the Contender, who gains some bare-handed fighting abilities and Combat Expertise as a bonus feat regardless of their Intelligence score. Rather nice though I wonder if the Brawler can't do it better. We also get a strength-based rogue in the Bruiser, who can add their strength bonus on fortitude saves and gets some strength-based combat feats in place of finesse training.

Some new talents for Investigators, Rogues, and Slayers are included. The ones for rogues cover a wide range of ground, allowing for improved use of combat maneuvers against a flanked or denied their Dex bonus foe and much greater skill as a poisoner. I'd say those talents are almost a requirement for anyone who wants to play a poison-wielding rogue. The Slayer talents are okay with the ones allowing you to use your Studied target bonus defensively the best of them all. They're really something that belongs with the class and it's good to see that someone made them. Another allows the Slayer to more easily inflict non-lethal damage on a studied target, and even to perform a non-lethal coup de grace. Really a great option if you're a slayer of the 'bring em back alive' school.

And that's it. It isn't perfect, and nothing here screams 'You need me!', but for the price you get a lot of neat ideas and new character options for the rogues and their related classes. Four stars and worth getting.

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