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2,768 posts. 93 reviews. 3 lists. 1 wishlist.

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Hitler's Esoteric War


Kenneth Hite is well-known in gaming circles for his use of what can be called either modern mythology or 'alternative reality' theories along with pop culture in his gaming write-ups. That is, he uses things like real world conspiracy theories, ideas about magic, UFO's, lost civilizations, superhero comics, the works of Lovecraft, and the like to create some very bizarre ideas.

Here in this book from Osprey Adventures Mister Hite takes on the multitude of myths that have developed around World War 2 and Nazi Germany to write a fictional history of the Esoteric War Hitler and the Nazis fought against the world.

Hite knows his stuff. It starts off with a section describing some of the Nazis' real-world occultist forerunners like Guido von List's Armanen Rune Society, Lanz von Liebenfel's Order of the New Templars, and the Reichshammerbund and Germananorden. Of course as this is fiction, rather than being drifty neo-pagan cranks or Jew-hating ex-monks obsessed with bestiality, they were recipients of occult wisdom from the Runes and Theosophy-influenced visions by the 'Aryan racial spirit'. Next comes a section describing the Thule Gesellschaft and its founder, astrological drifter turned self-declared noble Rudolf von Sebottendorff, and how the 1919 Munich Revolt played into the occult forces swirling around Germany. The creepy part is, the occult stuff beside, everything Hite describes here happened precisely as he describes it

We get a section on the hidden energies of vril and zero-point energy and Nazi efforts at creating a 'Yaktavian Bell' to power all the Reich. There's a lengthy section describing the real and fictional researches of the Ahnenerbe, the SS Ancestral Research Division, looking for everything from lost civilizations in the Hollow Earth to creating Nazi zombies, to archaeological digs, to investigations of 16th and 17th century German witch hunts. Hite has the Ahnenerbe training Hexensoldaten, 'witch-soldiers' and lists some of the investigations and expeditions that happened in his history. The scant few details we get leave you wishing that longer stories could be told -- an investigation of Howard's Black Stone at Stregoicavar; searching in Kafiristan for a lost Aryan vimana (basically a Vedic Hindu flying saucer); and trying to find evidence for the Welteislehre ('World Ice Theory') in the lost South American city of Tiwanaku. Why can't the SyFy Channel pick up on some of this?

There's also words on the very real Nazi expedition to Tibet to prove that this was the original homeland of the Aryans. Of course Hite's version is a little more exciting than the real-life anthropological measurements and hamfisted diplomacy. His Nazis, lead by Ernst Schaefer, meet the Tibetan master of black magic, the Man With Green Gloves and his yeti bodyguards, receive the Black Termas and a phurba carved from meteoric iron, used to bind and release demons.

There's more on other less successful quests, such as for the Spear of Destiny, the Ark of the Covenant (you probably know how that one ended), and the very real-life Otto Rahn's search for the Holy Grail, imagined here as the secret of the pure Aryan bloodline. And/or a magic stone from Outer Space used by the Cathars; it's not clear. Hite's Nazis also searched for Zerzura, the City of Birds and dwelling place of the djinn. Unfortunately for them they found it.

The book even goes into detail about Aktion Hess, the Nazi's literal witch hunt for astrologers, mediums, and occultists after some of them advised Rudolf Hess to make his ill-received flight to Scotland. Here (and maybe in real life) it was a plan by British Intelligence to snatch a top Nazi, with the plan orchestrated by Ian "Bond, James Bond" Fleming. There's a description of the Nazi Werwolf project and its snarling successes, as well as the Nazi flying saucer base in Antarctica (aw, come on) and the failure of Operation Highjump to stop the Saucers of Shicklegruber.

The listing above hardly does justice to this bizarre tome. There are dozens of sidebars and descriptions under rarely-seen art that expound on a variety of topics loosely related to the main book. The Welteislehre is described, as are Freikorps militias, some highly odd occult groups in pre-WW2 Europe, the Wewelsburg -- Himmler's "Black Camelot" -- and much, much more. It's amazing just how much oddball information is stuffed into this book, and yet it never feels like too much. Mister Hite is a very skilled author.

And being an Osprey book, there is the art. We get some lovely one and two page spreads. SS men discovering an eldritch tome in a Prague attic and finding out why you shouldn't fool around with Lovecraftian horrors. Werwolf Werewolves making an attack on American troops. Tibetan sorcerers and savage yeti confronting the Nazi Tibetan expedition. Nazis attacking the djinn at Zerzura. And of course Nazi flying saucers in Antarctica!

And there's a bibliography that lists both works on occult weirdness and genuine history for those who wannt to find out for themselves just how much of this stuff really happened.

It's one whacked-out tome, but it's a load of fun if you like High Weirdness in WW2.

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Rogues get their due


Legendary Rogues is one of the very best 3rd party releases for Pathfinder I've ever seen. Done as a way to improve the rather disliked core rulebook rogue and to provide some options for further character optimization and to help make the sort of rogue the individual player wants -- a dashing bravo, a swashbuckling hero, or a coldly sly poisoner, among literally dozens of other ideas.

The new legendary rogue gets Skill Specialties to replace trapfinding. They allow the rogue to develop great ability with one or two skills, as well as to use them in ways they can't normally be used in. Like trapfinding allowing you to find and disable magical traps, poisoner granting the poison use ability, and more. Also, you can get new specialties as you increase in level; a major advantage over the old rogue.

Trap sense gets replaced with Avoidances that advance at a +1 bonus every third level. You can now pick a different avoidance at every increase, or focus on just one. They are done in such a way as to make individualization of your rogue a snap -- swordswomen can choose a different bonus than snipers or acrobats.

Instincts are where we find stuff like uncanny dodge and evasion, as well as new ideas like ambusher, which allows you to take a full action in a surprise round, or celerity, which grants rerolls on initiative. Mainly defensive, these are now granted at 2nd level, 4th, and every fourth level from then on. Once again, both a needed power boost and a great way to customize your rogue.

The rogue Talents list gets updated, with almost 90 new and improved talents to choose from. You also get a table of the talents so you can see how they work together. And, many of them improve as you rise in level. I think this is one of the best parts of the book -- I was getting character ideas just looking through them.

Next comes a section to improve the rogue's combat abilities. The sneak attack gets some incredible improvement; and you get ways to use it albeit in weakened form against even non-flanked/flat-footed enemies as well as ones immune to precision damage. The whole section is so well done and thought out you;re left wondering why Pathfinder didn't do it like this in the first place!

It all comes together with the write-up for the new and vastly improved Legendary Rogue class, showing how all these new ideas can be used to keep the rogue viable and fun. The book ends with the Master Thief prestige class for people who truly want to create a king of thieves for their campaign.

If you like rogues, or if like me you dislike them and think you'd never be willing to play one, you WILL want to read this book.I loathed the class and now I can only wish I could play some of the characters this book inspires me with.

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Another Killer Product From Legendary Games


Assassins. Everyone knows what they are, right? Evil, slink around alleys, use poison, try knifing your PCs in the back after they've meddled in the schemes of Ogrek the Awful for the umpty-eleventh time... They have their uses in game, but they seem to be rather limited. And what if you have a PC who wants to be a heroic or anti-heroic assassin? You were kind of stuck.

Not any more. Legendary Assassins is the latest in the Legendary Heroes line from Legendary Games. The other releases expanded on full 20-level character classes. This is the first focused on a prestige class; twenty-six pages long, fourteen of juicy content, and now let us see how well it does.

It opens with a section on historical and fictional assassins, and how the class can be more than an evil hired killer. For starters, they remove the alignment restrictions, and they change the requirements to a BAB of +3 and at least three skills at rank 5 out of a decent list.

The class also gets talents like those of the rogue that allow for considerable customization. There are ones for spell-casting assassins, for martials, gunslingers and swashbucklers, even ones to allow druids to improve their wild shape and Thousand Faces class feature. There are talents that aid clerical assassins, barbarian assassins, even monk or brawler assassins. You get a lot to choose from here! The talents really do a great job of opening the assassin up for other classes.

Sneak attack is also changed. In lieu of taking another +1d6 sneak attack damage, you can do thing like increase your spellcasting level or choose a new combat feat if you have a levels in any class with a full BAB. Very nice and another great chance at customization.

The Death Attack is still there, but now it becomes quicker to use as you increase in level. And one of the new talents allows you to base it off Strength rather than Intelligence if you like. Given the number of thuggish assassins I've seen in games that's a great idea. And at 9th level she can make one such attack a day without studying the foe. I do like what they did with the Death Attack, now it feels like it actually improves at every new level instead of just getting a higher DC.

Their normal save bonus versus poisons can now be applied to any one particular effect, ranging from poisons to mind-affecting effects to supernatural abilities.

We get one assassin archetype, the Many-Faced Killer. They specialize in disguise and slipping into a new persona, eventually gaining minor shapeshifting abilities. They even learn how to disguise their aura and alignment, defending them against alignment-based effects.

Last are some new assassin feats. One allows a summoner assassin to share their assassin class features with their eidolon. Another allows an assassin with a familiar to let it use sneak attacks when it delivers a touch spell. They have feats for an improved death attack, and one that allows monk assassins to expend ki on their death attack. There's one for poison-loving alchemist assassins, and a pair for members of the Red Mantis, referred to here as 'Crimson Assassins'. I'd call it a pretty good list.

The PDF ends with three sample assassins -- a monk who deals with unruly people who refuse to negotiate with her abbot; a necromantic cult slayer; and the Handmaiden, a Many-Faced Killer who can be used as either an ally or enemy to PCs.

This PDF is short and sweet, and it does a great job of expanding on the options for both PCs and NPCs who will either confront or want to become assassins. It makes me wonder about playing one for what could be the first time ever. Great work, five stars, and definitely worth the cost for anyone who even thinks they might use assassins in their game.

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Takes mass conflict in a whole new direction


Several of them, actually. Into the air, the water, against the castle, greater unit detail, and much more.

Really, Endzeitgeist covered just about everything that could possibly be said about this wonderful product, so I'll keep it short. It has short sections on new command boons and combined arms, allowing you to put different troops types together in one unit. So if you want a pike/shot/sword unit like the Spanish tercios or the like, you're covered.

The main parts of the book cover three new types of warfare.

First is war in the sky, involving everything from flying creatures to msgical/steampunk-ish airships for those of you who want to scratch your Jules Verne itch. There are several different types of airship offered, as well as just what sort of resources your kingdom needs to build them. You also get rules on how to combine airships into squadrons for fleet actions.

War in the water follows. It allows for both simple and complex ships, including what's needed to make them. You get the squadron rules here too, as well as how to handle warfare beneath the waves. Ever wanted to have a horde of sahuagin fight a fleet of ironclads with diving bells? Now you can!

Both sections also have lists and explanations of available tactics in aerial or naval warfare, which is helpful.

The last part covers siege warfare, and it does so very thoroughly. It lists weapons ranging from catapults and mantlets to bombards, firedrakes, and cannon. It also lists tactics and options for both defender and besieger, as well as just what it costs in consumption to engage in a siege. Suffice to say that you'll want to end them quickly.

The book ends with some magical siege weapons and siege shot. Why hurl plain old stone at a wall when you can fling zombie apocalypse siege shot or use a thunderbolt cannon instead?

It is a great book for fans of military conflict and mass combat in Pathfinder. Five stars and worth every penny.

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Never Too Young To Start Adventuring


Kid heroes have always been around, but for some reason options for playing one have been few and far between. You'd think someone out there would want to do Harry Potter, the last Airbender, or even Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper, but if they did their choices were limited. Until now, anyway.

Young Character Options is a 15 page PDF from the Four Horsemen and Rogue Genius that offers some character ideas, archetypes, feats, and traits for playing child characters. Let's see how they do, shall we?

The PDF proper is fifteen pages long, with one for the cover, one for the credits, and one for the OGL, giving us twelve pages of content. And very fine content it is. It starts with some general information on what a childhood in a mostly-Medieval fantasy world would be like. Basically, you're going to be put into more 'adult' roles and work very early on, and even childhood games will be as much about teaching you adult skills like hunting or crafting. Basically, no one can afford to coddle their children, as the world about them is too dangerous. There are sub-sections that go into detail about the age range for children from the main races, as well as what upbringings among them are like.

Let me say that I really love this part. Far too many game writers seem to assume that life in the usual fantasy setting would be more or less like modern life. These writers know it wouldn't and make sure we get that.

Also, there are cultural differences between the various races that feel right. Gnomes give their kids their head but keep a wary eye on them; halflings have large families, dwarves grow up in communal clan nurseries, half-orcs grow up fast and hard, etc. Very nice background information.

Next comes some words on just why kids would run off to become adventurers. Is the child a reincarnated hero? Some older person subjected to an overly potent youth spell? Or just an orphan or precocious child?

A section follows that explains just how and why child characters should be freed of the limits given in Ultimate Campaign, as well as a trait if you need to justify it in gamespeak. Some traits follow, and we get some rather clever original ideas here. One really good one is 'Innocence'. You basically look and have the air of being such an innocent cherub that even divination spells will be confused. Even evil kids 'look' harmless to the spells. Budding Rhoda Penmarks may wish to take note! 'Pass for Smallfolk' enables you to trick people into thinking you're a halfling or gnome. And 'Scrapper' is for kids who had their share of brawls and know how something about self-defense as a result. Rather a good selection here.

The 'Prodigy' family of feats follows. These are feats that give your character a few extra edges when they use magic, or fight, or perform, etc. Not just the same old '+2 on two skills feats', these provide bonuses that adult heroes would enjoy but that feel right for kids. Like the Martial Prodigy, who can use certain combat maneuvers without an AoO, but they take a whole round. Or the Magical Prodigy, who can use a metamagic feat with a spell without increasing the casting time at the price of losing another spell slot equal to the level increase of the normal metamagic feat. There are more for budding bards, rogues, and more.

The archetypes follow, starting with the Ageless oracle. This is an oracle with a unique curse. They can't grow any older. At all. Not so bad? Ah, but they're stuck as preteen children for all eternity. True, magical aging has no affect on you, and you slowly increase your mental characteristics, but who wants to be carded every time they try entering the tavern? It comes with a nasty alternate bonus spell list, heavy on the necromancy, and a pair of revelations that permit you to either retard aging in others or force them to age faster. Both are neat ideas.

Next is the Destined Blade magus, for a child who discovers a destined blade that increases in power alongside the wielder. You also get a much weaker arcane pool that can't be used to enhance your weapon, and it also contains your spells. And you can't put new spells into it by any means other than level advancement -- so scrolls, spellbooks, etc. I'd say this all balances out rather well given the potency of the destined blade itself. Something else I like is that at levels 5, 11, or 17, instead of a new feat you can reach adulthood. That provides you with a much better arcane pool as well as bonuses to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Pretty good way of handling it in game.

The Reincarnated Master is for a master monk who awakens to his past lives a little early. They use the damage dice for a Small monk as well as gaining some of the Prodigy feats as bonus monk feats. Starting at 6th level the reincarnated master can use a bonus feat slot to achieve adulthood with much the same effect as the destined blade. Their past lives also play a role, with the reincarnated master gaining new Knowledge skills, eventually figuring out how to explore past lives as a divination, and at his capstone spending Ki gain temporary style feats. This one sounds like it would work great for Samsaran characters.

The Street Rat rogue is your basic orphan turned thief, with them gaining some extra feats to represent their hard-earned lessons in survival and self-defense at first level at the price of a penalty on Strength or Dexterity to represent their half-starved upbringing. They can also use the Steal combat maneuver without provoking AoO, with the normal Small size penalties becoming bonuses. If they learn Improved Steal they can do even better at it. Also, when in any community larger than a small town they get a bonus on initiative, Knowledge (local), and Survival. And at any point from 4th level on they can replace a rogue talent with adulthood, which also removes the penalty from half-starved. Sweet and simple but a very well done archetype!

Last is the Wunderkind wizard, a magical child genius. She begins with less spells in her spellbook and some of the Prodigy feats. She also loses her 1st level arcane school power in exchange for the ability to use any one metamagic feat per day on her spells, even if she doesn't normally have the feat. Also, she can replace any of her bonus feats with adulthood, which in her case also grants the ability to use one of her opposition schools if she's a specialist. If she's a universalist, she instead gains a bonus on Spellcraft checks with any one school.

So there you have it. It's a short PDF but it is jammed full of goodies for anyone who wants to use child characters in their campaign. Several of the options work just as well with adult characters. All in all this is great for anyone who wants to have their character's heroic career start out even sooner than others. Five stars and far and away worth the price.

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