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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book contains 46 pages of content (6’’ by 9’’/A5), not counting editorial, ToC and front/back covers.

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review by my supporters. My review is based on the print version, as I do not own the pdf.

 The interior of the front cover is a nice, full-color isometric map depicting Shurupak, the most stable city ruled by the many-crowned monarch, and from this place sprawl the Thousand Sultanates, with their ever-changing identities, rulers and customs; the spread that includes the interior of the back cover contains a generator for these transient micro-states: With two d6 rolls, you can determine the title of the ruler, and two d6 rolls let you determine competing fads; the interior of the back cover also has 6 troubles afoot and a list of stuff to do.

Beyond these sprawls lie the wastes, where the worms exist and dune-riders (as seen on cover) roam; four-armed metal-workers rise from duneholds to sell exquisite merchandise; in the North, the verdant jungles are the territory of the Azure Apes; the old steel gods that wrought the apocalypse lie to the west, and to the east, the massive plastic sea looms, where the Coated Men travel to have their skin coated in plastic…which promises power, but also an early grave.

If all of this sounds impressive, then because it damn well is just that; this introduction to a campaign setting of sorts is provided within the first two pages, and it had me STOKED.

The remainder of the book contains a total of 36 backgrounds (on reddish pages), and 36 monsters/NPCs (on greenish pages). The aesthetic, as you probably have determined right now, is one of very long after an apocalypse, with a quasi-techno-magical touch and aesthetics deeply infused in (stoner) doom aesthetics, blended with Heavy Metal F.A.K.K., minus the sex/adult angles. Add a touch of Dune, et voilà.

Now, as for the backgrounds, it is very much recommended that the GM read them, for much of the lore for this setting (?) is implied in the backgrounds. Aforementioned Coated Men, for example, are one background, and their text obviously implies that the Plastic Sea mentioned in the intro isn’t instantly fatal at least, and instead serves some weird, quasi-religious function. And WEIRD is allcaps, throughout: For example, one of the backgrounds makes you one of the last Bear Men. You see, Bear Men became somewhat anti-natalist and depressed as a culture, but the background, the Shaved Bear, rejects that, brimming with hope. Yes.

You can play a shaved bear person. The design of the backgrounds is generally pretty well-rounded, and features some interesting ideas, like e.g. a lizardfolk species’ cold blood represented by a reduced number of tokens in the stack if you’re too cold. You might be a worm-rider, a survivor of the old world, or perhaps you’re one of the agents (current or former) of the freshwater grubs. Possessions and skills generally serve alongside special abilities to render the overall power-level within the rather broad parities that Troika allows for; in contrast to many other supplements I’ve read, the backgrounds here feel pretty well-rounded and playable.

The monsters all obviously come with their stats and mien, and include murder cacti, scorpions and various lizards. Of course, the horrible mastermind freshwater grubs (think human-faced grubs in freshwater tank/thrones) are included here with a brief plot-generator, and we learn about dunesharks and beetles that carry massive ultra-hard papier-mâché tower-crèches. Several of these creatures do some neat things with Troika’s basic rules-chassis, for example when it comes to a kind of escalated damage chance. From nanosands to the last hover-tank Hyperion and ancient robots, this book manages to provide an amazing INDIRECTLY-defined backdrop.

And I wish it didn’t have that "IN"-prefix. But that belongs in the…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a one-column standard, with page-use different between sections: Around 1/5 of the page tends to be empty on every 3third or so page, since there (usually) is 1 background per page, sometimes 2; in the monster section, there often are 2 critters per page. The full-color artworks by David Hoskins rock and adhere to the same style you see on the cover; artworks are expensive, so I get why there aren’t more (there already are quite a bunch of them!), but for the bestiary in particular, it’d have been awesome to have an artwork per critter. The hardcover is really gorgeous, with sewn binding, color-coded pages, name of the book on the spine; all in all, high quality.

Luke Gearing does a fantastic job at indirect world-building herein, mostly via backgrounds and monsters; while that worked, kind of, to establish Troika’s aesthetic in the core book and hint at the weirdness of the humpbacked sky, this book presents a more conventional (and, to me, more accessible!) campaign setting that ticks off a TON of my “OMG, HOW COOL IS THAT?!?”-boxes.

Alas, this more grounded setting also perfectly highlights the grating effects of this indirect narrative approach; you don’t read a cohesive sourcebook; instead, you have to piece together setting-information from backgrounds and monsters; there is no place that really explains how anything really works in this world. The setting is as ephemeral and disjointed as the hallucinogen-induced visions that inspire its amazing aesthetics, providing only the barest minimum of contexts, and spreading these contexts out to boot. This would be less of an issue in a super-abstract setting, but in one that is pretty consistent in its themes, it does mean that the GM should probably take notes while reading backgrounds and monsters.

And don’t get me wrong, I am very much aware of the design-paradigm here: “Insinuate, hint, inspire the GM!” Good idea, but it works better if there is a functional skeleton to wrap those insinuations around. Acid Death Fantasy genuinely infuriated me when I realized that a paltry 1.5 pages of brilliant setting would be all I’d get, and while I appreciated and genuinely loved “discovering” more details when reading the backgrounds and monsters, I proceeded to become even more annoyed when I realized that these pieces of information were strewn about like that.

In short: As a person, I absolutely LOATHE that writing this evocative, this inspired, chooses to hamstring itself by adhering to a mode of information presentation and design focus that sells short its brilliant setting.

As an analogy: This is a bit like one of those campaigns where you get a player’s book with basics and hints, bits of lore strewn about, and a GM book that features the monsters and actually provides the information that lets you properly run an immersive game in the setting. Only in this instance, the information that lets you have an easy time running the setting has been cut, and your monsters have been grafted into the player’s guide.

I know next to nothing about Shurupak. Power and Water are leitmotifs of the setting (even set in title case + italics!), but what to do with that? No clue. The bird-like warflock and their culture, the coated men…there is so much greatness TEASED at. In a sentence or two. The barest of minimums of contexts given. Enough to make you want more.

…and enough to frustrate me to hell and back. Where’s my actual setting? Yeah, I am probably intended to improvise that and cobble it together…but I don’t want to.

As a person, this book pisses me off for what it could have been if presented as a more traditional setting, perhaps cutting a few of the less-inspired backgrounds and monsters (which, admittedly, are the exception). As a person, I probably wouldn’t get this again, as all its promise remains just a tease for me, the equivalent of creative world-building and lore blue balls. For me as a person, this is a 3-star book at best.

Then again, if you hate it when settings come with consistent lore and define/explain their concepts in more than rudimentary hints, then this might be exactly what you’re looking for; it is probably with you in mind that this was written!

However, as a reviewer, I try to rate books for what they are, and not for what I want them to be.  And frankly, if you love aforementioned indirect approach, if you want your settings to be fragmentary, full of high-concept tidbits, then this will be right up your alley. In fact, if you didn’t mind these issues in the core Troika book, and figured that the setting in “Fronds of Benevolence” was almost too well-defined, then this will be pure gold for you.

When viewed neutrally, then the whole cadre of backgrounds can be considered to be well-rounded and versatile indeed; the monsters, similarly, are often inspired and endeavor to do interesting things with Troika’s rules-lite chassis. The only neutral gripes I can field against this would be the rare less inspired background (like the hermit, who gets 4 Philosophy and three 2 random spells, no possessions. Boring.) or monster (ruin degenerate being a particularly bland one). That being said, for each such outlier, there are at least 2 great ideas that send the synapses firing.

And considering all of that, it wouldn’t be fair to rate this anything other than 4.5 stars, rounded up. This book may not be for me, but you might adore it. Oh, and if there ever is a “proper” setting book for Acid Death Fantasy, I’ll gladly back the hell out of it.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Part II of my review:

But there is more. Did a lot of the above sound familiar to you?  The disregard of balancing tools in both systems. The damage escalation. The fact that the book sees no issue in blatant power-escalation…well, the majority of archetypes herein are made with Path of War rules. And the shortcomings in the SFRPG to PFRPG-section suddenly make sense. If you can dish out ridiculous amount of damage and the design goal is to solo dragons, the SFRPG weapons won’t bother you (as much)—but they’ll be added to that, so sure you want that? Regarding math, a +20 AC matters less when you use a subsystem that is based partially on the assumption that you can substitute skill-checks for attack rolls, allowing you to boost your attacks in a ridiculous manner. When you can hit with a skill that you can buff by +5 for less than 1K gold, this lack of concern becomes suddenly understandable. When the system’s already changed regarding its base assumptions regarding PC and NPC power, undercutting prices and the like? Suddenly falls by the wayside.

In all brevity: Eliminator’s operatives get Steel Serpent, Tempest Gale and Thrashing Dragon, as well as the option to Claim targets as a swift action. This has a close range, and lasts for ½ class level rounds, and it makes you auto-succeed trick attacks against claimed targets. Legatus envoys get Golden Lion, Scarlet Throne and Tempest Gale…and…oh boy. Guess what? The ability to execute maneuvers through allies? You know, one of the rajah’s ridiculously strong abilities? This fellow has it. But guess what? While extremely potent, I’d allow this fellow in Path of War games. It’s a very strong option, but not as escalated as the rajah. Starknight solarians get Elemental Flux, Golden Lion, Riven Hourglass, Solar Wind and Veiled Moon. Their maneuvers are randomly granted in combat, somewhat akin to the crusader class of To9S of yore. Interesting: 2 disciplines are assigned to photon, two to graviton, while Elemental Flux is always an option. As such, stellar mode is modified into an animus ability (required for Elemental Flux). I like the blend of maneuver-and mode-engines here. For a Path of War game, it’s an interesting engine-tweak. The uplink warrior mechanic chooses here disciplines and uses them via exocortex, including an ability to gain temporarily combat feats. The zenith marine soldier gets four disciplines of their choice and a series of fixed immunities in exchange for 5 bonus feats and kill shot, which is a ridiculously good deal, but I kinda expected as much.

The pdf closes with a couple of solarian and technomancer options balanced for PFRPG (don’t use these in SFRPG!), and feats to adjust classes to the power-level of the fused systems – such as making trick attacks possible with all weapons, an option to use a mind blade and enhance is like a solar blade, etc. There is also a feat that lets you use PFRPG automatic weapons with the SFRPG automatic property. Ironically, the PFRPG automatic property is better in SFRPG, with its focus on longer-range combat, and the SFRPG automatic, with its spray and pray, is stronger in PFRPG…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not particularly impressive on a formal or rules-language level, particularly not for Legendary Games. There are plenty of formatting hiccups herein, with missed italicizations, capitalized things that shouldn’t be, etc. I also found quite a few typos. The rules-language level fares better, but only regarding the formal execution. If you even remotely value the balance of your game, take ANYTHING herein, even the components that seem to make sense or sound like true convictions and facts, with not a grain, but a large dose of salt. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Daley’s Star*Path didn’t really have as big a mountain to climb to my heart. I did not expect it to be exhaustive; it can’t be at this page count. I expected it to be helpful; incomplete, but genuinely helpful. All I wanted out of this book, was some tables, some math done for me, so I wouldn’t have to extrapolate as much. And I VERY MUCH wanted to like this book.

This needed to present some guidelines for GMs to decide when an ability converted from PFRPG to SFRPG needed a resource cost, some suggestions for pools and how they operate. This needed to get the magic translation from system to system right, provide guidelines for spells. And get the items right. All of these things, general design principles from which one can extrapolate special cases, could have easily fitted within the book’s 38 pages.

Instead, we get essentially useless, fragmentary class conversion starts that gobble up wordcount; utterly broken, worthless and handwaving pricing guidelines that don’t live up to the most cursory of scrutiny. The conversion notes are mired in specifics, when it should have provided WORKING general guidelines. The conversion to SFRPG is a colossal mess. Don’t use it.

The other way round fares a bit better; it’s not good either, though, and much like the other direction it is just as mired in specifics, which, while nice when they apply, was not what this book professed to be.

To make this abundantly clear: Whether you want to convert PFRPG to SFRPG, or vice versa—this book fails in delivering anything remotely balanced. For most groups, the material herein will not work. The conversion to SFRPG in particular is horribly uneven. I tried both directions and found both incredibly wanting.

That being said, there is one thing of value for a very select audience: The fused system based on PFRPG, with SFRPG-components spliced in, makes sense in a very abstract, theoretical manner. The assumed power-level of this fusion is greater than its parts, and the prevalence of Path of War-based material is testament to that. The notion of playing fast and loose with balancing in favor of a power-fantasy, the crucial defining feature of Path of War, is also prevalent here. So, if your aesthetic is that you should be able to solo dragons and don’t mind escalation beyond Path of War Expanded, then this fused system will have merit for you and your group.

If you wanted a solarian balanced against non-Path of War-PFRPG? Then I’d suggest the edgeknight by Interjection Games, a light/darkness-mode full-BAB class (see Ultimate Antipodism) that will not break your game, potentially with some power upgrades, depending on your game’s power level. For PFRPG, there are plenty of classes that fill SFRPG-class niches.

The only groups to whom I can really recommend this pdf, are those that play with Path of War, who also REALLY wanted to have the SFRPG-classes in PFRPG. For you, this may be a solid offering, though you’ll still have to rephrase all those abilities for smooth gameplay.

For me as a person, this book was worthless. I got nothing out of it.

Nothing at all. I will use nothing from this book ever again. For me, this is a 1-star dud.

As a reviewer, I consider it problematic, in that it professes to provide reliable metrics for conversions (see item conversion) with an air of conviction, but if you even slightly prod the numbers, they fall apart, making it a somewhat malign trap for less number-focused GMs.

Heck, the even remotely mathematically-inclined who went into some deep dives regarding the engines of the two systems will notice pretty much immediately that this doesn’t deliver what it needed to.

A book like this is certainly possible, but it needed to really get into the math and the grit of the systems and focus on getting the core translation right. This did not, and instead got lost in specifics without addressing the fundamental issues of the task at hand. For super high-powered groups, this can be an okay, if seriously flawed book; for all others, this is at best a dud, at worst a danger to the integrity of your game.

I wanted to love this. I hoped to adore it. I didn’t want a perfect conversion code, but I wanted a functional core from which one can extrapolate—because that’s what this book desperately needed to deliver. And didn’t.

My final verdict can’t exceed 1.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page hyperlinked ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 44 pages of content, laid out in booklet size (6’’ by 9’’/A5). My review is based on both the pdf and the offset-printed hardcover-version. Let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my supporters as a prioritized review.

On the interior of the back page, we have a total of 36 common names, and 36 common occupations, which include cockfight referees, thinking engine specialists, etc.; similarly weird in a good way would be a 36-entry table of golden barge meals, and the inside of the front cover provides two d6 tables of rumors, which state that they want the GM to state whether they’re true or false; one d6-table is for the Northern part, the other for the southern part; facing this would be the point-crawl-style flowchart of encounters/regions that the party may explore. A pointcrawl is a way to depict overland adventure: Scripted encounters/locations are noted on the map, travel distances between them as well; it’s like each encounter/location is one dungeon room. Simple and elegant.

In the back of the book, we get a selection of 12 critters/NPCs and their stats, with some of them featuring Mien-sub-tables.

Regarding the theme, this book plays to Troika’s biggest strength: Full-blown strangeness in a playful manner, and the module, ultimately, is a road-trip like journey; it has a branching path of sorts, and is intended for 4 to 6 characters, but it does not focus on a riveting plot or the like. The module starts in the Duchy of Plandra, which is headed by Duke DeCorticus, a benevolent plant-overlord with a complex life-cycle that depends on rare earths; also known as star loam, this substance usually comes from “The Wall”, far to the south; now, no more shall be delivered. Is that due to the crazed pamphlets of seditionists that have been showing up in Plandra? It’s up to the party to secure the earths their patron/deity/ruler requires to survive.

Structurally, this is a broad-strokes type of module; the journey aspect caters to that aspect, and the GM is encouraged to move things along to the best of their ability; this is contrasted with something rather uncommon…
…but to comment on that, I need to dive into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.


..
.

All right, only GMs around? Great!
So, on page p, the timekeeping aspect comes into play: At the module’s start, you roll 4d6; this is how long the Duke’ll have to live. Each day has 4 die-signs showing 6s, and every hour, you fill in a pip. On the pointcrawl page, a specific region lists its travel time, usually in days, to pass through it or to move to a connected locale; this means that, RAW, if the initial 4d6 roll is bad, the module can actually be unwinnable. I intensely dislike this. Say, you roll 4d6 and get 1,1,2,2. Then, the party takes the faster travel option, but might have to wait 1d3 days; the party is lucky and comes up with a 1 day waiting period and rolls travel duration for it: 1d3, comes up as 3. One day left; even with ideal actions by all players, they cannot return to Plandra in time to save the Duke. As an aside: The Duke’s life is on the line—the party should have an express barge set up for them. The delay to even start the journey makes no sense to me. Granted, a pretty bad scenario for the Duke’s life is not that likely, but a minimum value (it’s 6 days, fyi) noted for the GM to save the Duke, or a suggested number for a fair, a tough, an extreme challenge? That’d have been helpful.

Anyhow, I already mentioned branching paths and travel options: The party has two general venues when it comes to traveling from Plandra, first of which would be a Golden Barge; the other being a stilt loper, essentially a massive platform on two goofy mechanical legs. The stilt loper walker can set off right away, but it requires trusting the pilot, and is slower: the very first travel to the first associated area takes 1d6 days. You see where I’m getting at. The randomized deadline doesn’t do the module any favors.

This out of the way, the first of the most likely routes is the one with a stronger intrigue-theme: taking the Golden Barge also means that the party will probably have a fight with a void beast, and there’s a chance that the auric liquidators will attempt to blow up the Barge; these liquidators are the fanatical secret police that serves Green Overseer Feng, the delightfully goofy mastermind behind the brewing sedition and pamphlets denouncing Duke DeCorticus. If the Barge does crash-land, it might end up on an asteroid, which sports the one content-level gripe I could find; the rudimentary culture on this piece of rock is governed by The Calculatronicus, a vast engine capable of firing rays, but which lacks the stats for these rays. The rainbow badlands haunted by the (white) wine-colored raiders would be the second possible location to crash.

Which brings me to a structural nitpick with this module: While there are possible connections between routes and options given for, and where the barge crash-lands is actually noted in a table, there is no real guidance provided there; one silt loper pilot wants to get to the emptied city, which can be reached from the rainbow badlands, the asteroid, and from the eye-bleed badlands, but WHY the party would get there/the connection per se, is weak. The asteroid is another example: It can lead to the rainbow badlands, or to the emptied city, but how? The GM needs to fill in those details.

Thus, as a whole, the module does feel in parts like a well-fleshed out outline, but one that does not sport a consistent connective tissue between all locales, which, admittedly, tend to be outrageous and interesting.

As mentioned before, one way to solve this would be to reach the Wall and best Overseer Feng in his cupola; I generally like this route, but the society atop the wall and the unmapped chambers of the cupola have made this section a bit more opaque than I’d have liked it to be.

The second way to save the Duke would be to find an Yggdrasil-sized tree and reach its roots, where the psychic holy tuber is guarded by 3 undead gardener-knights with unique weaponry, all in a village otherwise only inhabited by grotesque mummies, whose heads have been replaced with roses, which struck me as a truly disturbing and weird imagery.

A big plus of this module would be its significant replay-value; there are many ways to go about solving the module, and e.g. the cultural conflict between the red and white wine-colored raiders is but one of the various strange tidbits; having a species of pseudo-baba-yagas hunt silt lopers? Interesting. Terrain-features with actual impact on gameplay? Nice. I couldn’t help but feel, though, that the module would have been better-served by decreasing the number of locations, and instead providing more details for them…and being consistent in their connective tissues/transitions.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard with a blending of original b/w and full-color artworks in the same style as seen on the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with the header of each page of the pdf jumping back to the pointcrawl map—nice. The pips of the die-timeline can be marked in the pdf version as well. Kudos! The print version is a solid, well-crafted hardcover.

Andrew Walters provides a nice, fast-paced journey when it works as intended; if the GM consistently pushes the party forward and hasn’t rolled too low on the days-to-live-counter, the module can feel like a truly strange and fascinating roadtrip that taps into the same kind of weirdness that the Troika! core book proposes; hitting this note is impressive. On a downside, if a party does want to think, linger, plan, act methodically, then this module might well be frustrating for the party and GM alike, as the connective tissue between locations, how to actually get from A to B, is more vague than it really needs to be. Quite a lot of pages have between ¼ and 1/2 of a page of free space, so the module certainly had plenty of space to put these final developments in.

In many ways, this module, to me, is slightly frustrating; with one final development pass and some blank spots filled out, this could have easily been a masterpiece. Having a player-friendly map of the pointcrawl, or parts of it, would also have been helpful indeed. In the end of one of the routes, some maps would have been helpful as well.

This adventure is certainly unique, brims with creativity, and has some delightfully outré ideas, but it does lack that final refinement to make everything smoothly gel together; not to the point where an experienced GM is stumped, but certainly to the point where this needs some serious planning to run smoothly. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Beasts-series focusing on NPC Codex-style NPCs clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my supporters.

Okay, as usual, we begin with a brief introduction before diving into the respective NPC stats; the focus, for the most part, lies on the statblocks, though, like in the NPC Codex, there are a few instances where the statblock is followed by a brief sample NPC personality and potential roleplaying advice for said named NPCs. The rationale here is clever: Essentially, statblocks that do not take up enough room use the extra space to deliver this bonus content of sorts; conversely, this means that these entries mainly show up between the extremes of the level-range.

The pdf includes a total of 20 statblocks, one for each level, thus spanning CRs from ½ to 19. A significant plus as far as I’m concerned: there are no derivative statblocks in the supplement, so you won’t see one statblock at CR 1, and a mildly-modified/scaled version of the same statblock at CR 5; instead, each of the builds actually is independent, which is a great thing as far as I’m concerned. It’s also nice to see that base statistics are included in the builds, as is a proper tactics section.

Beyond this show of genuine passion and care, the supplement also features another aspect I very much enjoy seeing: This book makes full good of PFRPG’s extensive book canon: Ultimate Wilderness, Ultimate Intrigue, and, of course, the older hardcovers (excluding, interestingly, Occult Adventures, pretty much my favorite PFRPG 1e hardcover by Paizo), which helps diversify the content presented in a significant manner. The builds actually represent this broad focus in more than one way: The CR ½ Coven Aspirant, for example, has chosen Defiant Luck, with the spellbook including snowball.

At CR 1, we have a goblin tribal cursecaller, with corresponding low Wisdom and Charisma, and a spell-selection that includes aphasia and mudball. I really enjoy seeing builds like this. Why? Because PF1e, in some of its best moments, uses mechanics to underline the story and flavor of a creature or NPC, generating this cool mutual reinforcement between rules and flavor.

Of course, there also is a rather significant diversity between patrons chosen for the various witches. The CR 2 clandestine practitioner, for example, has the ancestry patron, while the CR 3 draconic debilitator uses the occult patron; the kobold uses the hex channeler archetype, and with flame-retardant outfit and two different grenades, the fellow feels radically different from any builds after and before it.

Need an arcane skirmisher with hit-and-run capabilities? What about a CR 4 grippli using the woodlands patron and blowgun and Opening Volley? Yeah, cool build. At CR 5, we have a hedge witch (with a super-minor cosmetic hiccup: The correctly formatted archetype is listed twice in brackets; does not influence integrity of statblock) that pretty much is a take on the white witch trope; nice!

A dwarf brewing specialist has sensible feats: Brew Potion, Brewmaster, Ironguts…you get the gist; the rules complement the concept; same e.g. for the CR 7 changeling sea witch with a tidal theme, blending “stormy” aggressive and defensive options, resulting in a we—rounded build, including Brilliant Spell Preparation and a properly reserved slot. NICE. In fact, that is probably one of the things I enjoy most about these NPC builds: I can see these characters actually existing in the game world; they make sense.

Need a dhampir caster with a serious vampire mage angle? You can find it here. A sylph with a hard and soft terrain control angle themed around mobility and a theme of mists and air magic? Included. A tiefling with a seduction/enchantment theme? Yep. Want a witch who, spell-wise, cleaves closer to the wizard, representing arcane schooling? Included herein. Want a hermit with a subdued dark fey/thorn angle? You can find ne in this pdf. With the bonded witch archetype and deception as a patron, we have a CR 13 half-elf that makes for a good take on the arcane thief/heist-specialist. The ratfolk skin changer would do skaven proud, with a blend of transmutations & plague-based magic.

The book also includes an evil monarch build focused on domination and vengeance, supplemented by full-blown battle magics, and, on the other side of the spectrum, the most potent witch herein masquerades as a shepherd…and if you cross them, you may end up as a goat…

One of my favorite builds in a while: Fetchling gravewalker 17 that has a spell-selection based primarily on necromancy, with darkness and debuffs plus clever selection of hexes and supplemental options, making this witch a threat in regular combat, but also a surprisingly efficient serial killer style adversary. A genuinely cool villain build that made me come up with a neat adventure outline.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules-language level; well done! Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, with a black border, and the pdf includes a blend of new full-color artworks and classic stock art pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Richard Moore delivers, big time, in this NPC-Codex-style offering; the builds are versatile, make sense in-game as persons, and still retain a wide variety of tricks that make them mechanically viable for the respective focus of the build. The pdf does everything right that I’d want here: The builds are versatile and varied; they make use of a ton of options and provide a blend of straight and rather out there builds, and all without compromising the viability of the respective statblock as a representation of a character actually existing in-game. Heck, when a statblock makes me come up with a module structure? Yeah, awesome.

This is 100% worth the low asking price and stands as an excellent representation of a damn fine NPC Codex-style book.
Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval. Want a selection of diverse and cool witch statblocks? Get this. Heck, this might be worth getting even if that’s not what you’re actively looking for.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Enzdeitgeist.com review

This adventure/mini-setting clocks in at 43 pages of content; this is content, not taking SRD, editorial, etc. into account.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review.

It’s been MUCH TOO LONG since we’ve been to the World of Xoth, my friends, so please let me start with a brief recap: In the bad ole’ days of D&D 3.X, when pretty much everyone pumped out atrociously-balanced cookie-cutter stuff, and everything seemed unified and bland, there were a few companies that stood out, that generally delivered quality. One such company was Necromancer Games, but there is one book that is only relatively rarely talked about, and that would be Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia. A true, underappreciated and imho maligned classic, this book breathed the spirit of Clark Ashton Smith, Howard, et al.

As such, when PFRPG came around, I researched whether the author had written anything else, and one of my very last purchases for 3.X was a 200+ page colossus of a module-collection that doubled as a setting-introduction to the world of Xoth.

Xoth is radically different from regular D&D 3.X, PFRPG, etc. in one major way that radiates through the entire series: Xoth is SWORD & SORCERY. Yes, the classic sword & sorcery that deserves allcaps; the one from the classics; gritty, dark; sorcery is subtle, healing super rare, life is brutal, and alignment mostly irrelevant. There are bad things like slavery, sex and drugs, and yes, these are an integral part of the setting and its aesthetics; this is for mature audiences. This is a GOOD thing. Because, do you know what doesn’t work? Frickin’ sanitized sword & sorcery where every bit of edge has been sanded off; if your “Sword & Sorcery” setting is family friendly, you’re imho doing it wrong. Similarly, overemphasizing these less wholesome aspects makes a world feel schlocky and sleazy, and not in a fun way.

Xoth walks that tightrope PERFECTLY. The mature themes are here, but they are not explicit. Personally, I can’t fathom anyone getting offended over these, but then again, I’m a European.

HOWEVER, none of these mature themes are handled in a gratuitous manner, at least not to my sensibilities. In short: If you can read classic genre literature without being offended, this should not be a problem. If you’re one of the professionally-offended, steer clear of the entire genre.

Another important difference between Xoth and other examples of RPGs in Sword & Sorcery settings would be that its aesthetics hearken closer to the plausible; yes, there are supernatural monsters and cosmic entities and dark gods; but traditionally, the core aesthetic is one of relative grit when compared with plenty of other settings out there. And Xoth manages to excite within this frame of understatement, which is much harder to achieve than when you’re throwing high magic concepts into the world.

…in case you haven’t noticed: I am very, very fond of Xoth.

Okay, so, the module I’m tackling today is the last Xoth module released for PFRPG’s first edition, but frankly, you may want to stick around even if you’re playing another system. The adventure is nominally designed for 4–6 characters of levels 4th to 6th, but due to how different Xoth is, this does require some caveats from yours truly: For one, the module is not designed for high-magic classes, etc.; checking out the FREE Player’s Guide (also available for 5e, review of that one forthcoming) and blog makes sense, as the balancing of Xoth is old-school and operates with some paradigms that are more often observed in DCC or OSR gaming; there are high DCs, considering the low magic item density; there are instances where acting dumb will get you killed quick, and there even is one instance that is de facto a kind of story gameover, where the party tries to deal with something that doesn’t even have stats. It still has a save, though, which makes it kinder than my games sometimes are.

In short: This book puts a refreshing emphasis on player skill over simple character skill for a PFRPG module.

While we’re talking about mechanical aspects of the module: Considering that, apart from artwork/cartography, this is the work of a single person, the editing and creature design is really good; I noticed some minor hiccups in statblocks (like an initiative being off by +2), but as a whole, the new critters introduced here work. This is also, as you could glean from the above, a passion project of the highest order; it is peak-indie in many ways, but actually sports several gorgeous pieces of original b/w-artwork, as well as a surprising amount of b/w-cartography that looks aesthetically pleasing.

Which brings me to something that is perhaps the biggest strike against this adventure for me: The maps are nice, but no key-less, player-friendly versions are provided; labels all around; some maps also don’t have a grid; this does work better than it has any right to in Xoth’s interpretation of PF1 due to the reduced emphasis on magic, but it still struck me as galling.

Structurally, the module is a sandbox set on a tropical archipelago that consists of one bigger and two smaller islands (yes, hexcrawling! Nice!) and can be run as a sandbox; the author also proposes a kind of mini-campaign of sorts that the GM can tweak and adapt; this outline has but one potential issue, namely that it assumes (a trope of Sword & Sorcery) that a party member has to stay behind as a hostage…or a henchman. While great for when a player can’t make it to a couple of games, this can lead to a bit of rough patch for less experienced GMs and parties less familiar with the genre’s aesthetics. Easy enough to solve, but since it’s in the outline, I figured I’d mention it. Speaking of newer GMs: this module has no readaloud texts, so you should prepare it properly.

The eponymous silver lotus, just fyi, doubles as a super-potent magical drug (full rules provided) that can even replenish spells quicker. Why am I not screaming for blood, death and vengeance? Simple: the drug is unreliable; it’s the good ole’ d100, with several effects, and some are brutal. Oh, and silver lotus? Once you’ve seen that stuff, you probably really want to think twice about snorting/smoking it, even if you’re a power-hungry sorcerer. Random encounter tables are provided, and there is a LOT going on.

Oh, and that “a LOT”? It’s primarily player-driven and makes good use of a smart set-up as well as of indirect narratives, so while there is the possibility of an exposition dump for the GM, if so desired, at some points in the story, it is by no means required.

But in order to go into details, we’ll all have to enter SPOILER-territory. If you’re a player, PLEASE do yourself a favor and jump to the conclusion. This one has some serious oomph to unpack!

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So the silver lotus only blossoms in the darkness, burned to ash by sunlight, enhanced in its potency by the silvery sheen of the moon; its volatile power makes the drug a sought-after commodity for those dabbling in the dark arts as well; thing is, it only seems to blossom on the archipelago ruled by a rather unpleasant, decadent pygmy king, whose settlement (including two claustrophobic warrens, one for him and one for his shaman) are provided. But things are not as simple as they first appear.

For example, there is a Taikangian pirate junk current anchored at the island, and while the captain is nothing to sneeze at, the passenger and pirates can act as an interesting wild-card.

The obviously degenerate pygmies of the island are also not as unified as one would think: You see, while the pygmy king I mentioned before may be nasty and power-hungry (and he’s not above providing quests, if required), he’s still better than the swamp-dwellers, who are full-blown cannibals with crocs and aquatic juju zombies and a really nasty magical item that can make you walk into the swamp to drown yourself to the beat of the drum. Oh, and they worship carnivorous giant slugs as gods! The only thing missing was the archmage who fused his golden skeleton with one of those. (Kudos if you got that obscure reference!) Kidding aside, the slug god cavern complex is a nice dungeon example for what can go wrong if the party aren’t smart, because their slime is REALLY sticky.

But I was talking about the background: As any such island is wont to, there is a place that is taboo: The Forbidden Mountain, from which a massive waterfall erupts. There is but one strange thing here: There should be a rainbow, but there isn’t. Well…turns out that, obviously, there once was a potent civilization atop that mountain; there are frequent rainstorms on the plateau, so two subterranean rivers flow through the rock: One was used for drinking water, and one in a ceremonious manner, as a sort of Duat-like river to the afterlife for the deceased; the dead would be consigned to it, and said river would become the waterfall. At one point, though, an extremely (for Xoth) powerful mage hijacked the rainbow, trapping it in 7 stones, all of which provided benefits, but also corrupt the user. These stones, ultimately, turned the wizard into a lich (!!) who promptly took care of rivals, now banned as VERY angry spirits.

The pygmies, though, took 3 stones, and thus, the lich was dissembled in a way; the corrupting influence of these stones were the origin of the schism between the pygmies, and resulted in the even-more-tainted cannibal crew. Guess who wants all stones? Bingo: Pygmy king. The shaman doesn’t want that to happen. Oh, and OF COURSE the ancient ruins have their guardian monster! And yes, any foolhardy enough to bring the stones to the Gate of the Underworld of the old civilization will make the lich reform. Yeah, that probably is a story-gameover. A deserved one.

What does all of this have to do with the silver lotus? Not as much as one might think, but the plants are important as power-boosts to deal with the harsh module, and as a touch of horror: Silver lotus is essentially yellow musk creeper on speed; or at least, the regular and younger plants are; they are dangerous, make zombies out of you…you get the idea. Oh, and consuming the drug? Yeah, that may infect you. However, even beyond that, there is a nigh-bottomless chasm deep below, and from it, the plants rose; below is a vast network of titanic, ropy tendrils. The true silver lotus? No, you can’t beat that. And trying…well, you may end up wishing you hadn’t. The plant is supremely creepy, but also has the advantage of providing a very good reason to engage with it. This source, though? It’s pure cosmic horror regarding its potency; the thing doesn’t even have stats, and adds this cosmic revelation when the party realizes the vast power and reach of this plant-thing. This, to me, was the icing on the cake, blending the traditional archmage-reborn theme with sheer strange and alien weirdness/horror.

…have I mentioned that I like this module very much?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, particularly for an indie production such as this; on a rules-language level, the same can’t be said, and this gets only an “okay”; we have a few rough spots here and there, but the functionality of the content within Xoth’s paradigms is maintained. My review is based on the stitch-bound PoD, because I have all Xoth books in print. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The original artworks in b/w deserve special mentioning and are awesome; the cartography is per se solid, but suffers from a lack of player-friendly/VTT-friendly maps, though, as noted before, less than a PF1-module has any right to.

Morten Braten’s “Land of the Silver Lotus” is, to me as a person, a no-brainer purchase and frankly, phenomenal. He just *gets* Sword & Sorcery like very few people do and has the gift of evoking the correct atmosphere without drifting off into high fantasy, horror, or dark fantasy; it’s always like one of the glorious Savage Sword of Conan b/w-comics when they were at their peak.

However, it is possible, if unfair, to poke holes into some aspects here: There is no “bone damage” as a type in PFRPG; sometimes damage types are missing; the cartography having no grid puts the PFRPG GM in a tougher spot than people running most other games. The lack of player-friendly maps hurts, there are hiccups in the statblocks, etc. This would have really benefited from a tight rules-edit.

In short, I can totally see this module being, at best, a 3-star file for some groups.

Personally, though? I love this. To frickin’ bits. And it’s not a rules-book, it’s an adventure, and one that oozes passion from every single page.

I have read and run a lot of sandboxes, and even more modules, and frankly? This is as far from the mediocrity of a 3-star-file as you can get, in a good way. This presents a captivating, awesome baseline, a ton of hooks to latch on to, and if you can’t make those factions react in a dynamic manner to the impetus of a party of PCs, then I don’t know. There is so much potentially going on here; there is a strong leitmotif to pursue if you want to; the set-up even makes capture and immediate sacrifice something that certain individuals would have a vested interest in interfering.

This is a sandbox in the best way; full of things that jumpstart the imagination; and their proximity escalates that; considering that we also get an outline to use or modify as a structuring tool, we have a genuinely amazing sandbox here. The emphasis on player skill is another plus, and the at times savage difficulty (when run in Xoth paradigms)  works in the adventure’s favor without ever becoming unfair.

That being said, as a reviewer, I have a responsibility to my readers; if you can live with a couple of formal glitches and want some top-tier Sword & Sorcery, then get this ASAP; for you this probably ranks as a 5-star + seal file.

As a reviewer, I have to take the module’s shortcomings into account; as such, my final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars…but this does maintain my seal of approval. It may be a rough gem, held in the fist of a corpse from which strange, swaying blossoms grow, but it is a true gem. If you polish it even a little, it’ll shine very bright indeed.

Endzeitgeist out.


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I'd add Everybody Games' occult materials and dynastic races compendium; e.g. the haunt-creation engine from the minis and Paranormal Adventures; the huge amount of kitsune-content by Everybody Games and the aforementioned books are one sinister slant away from being really neat options for Kaidan as well; integrate lore and bam, done. ^^ Also: Alex' creatures are genuinely brutal. If you buy a monster from his pen, you know it'll be able to hurt the party.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

Okay, on the introductory page we actually get content, namely a new background…the surfer. This one nets you an ability boost for Strength or Dexterity, and a free one, and makes you trained in Acrobatics and Ocean Lore. Additionally, you get the Surf feat, which brings us to the new feats herein, which all, to some degree, require, no surprise there, at least being trained in Acrobatics.

Surf takes an action, and lets you surf horizontally over the surface of a liquid, using the Athletics check DC to swim through it, and you thus ignore terrain features that would usually impede you, but wouldn’t impede your board. Helpful: Even though snow is technically not a liquid, the rules-text does mention it as a valid surface, and the rules also mentions the requirement for force acting upon you, such as gravity, the push of a wave, etc., and if said force would push you farther, you must keep surfing each round or fall, with a proper differentiation between critical successes, failures, etc. being provided.

Quick Grab is one of the feats that may not sound like much, but that is super useful and will see tons of use: Stride up to your speed and Interact to pick up an item if it was within reach during your movement. The feat accounts for alternate movement modes, and your proficiency in Acrobatics determines the maximum Bulk of the item you pick up. Cool! Okay, so these are the level 1 feats.

For level 2, we have 3, all of which require expert proficiency in Acrobatics: Blinding Squall requires a fly speed and flying at ground level and lets you kick up dust in a short-range burst to generate a concealing cloud that briefly lasts; this is obviously contingent on material to kick up. And nope, it doesn’t actually, you know, blind targets. Confounding Tumbler adds critical success and success effects to Tumble Through, allowing you to render the enemy flat-footed against your next attack, or attacks until the end of your turn. Skillful Contortion makes the enemy trying to Grapple you instead target your Acrobatics DC, and if you’re a master or legendary, you get some benefits if an enemy critically fails to Grapple you.

At level 3, we have Trap Dancer, a one-action feat with the secret and move tags, and which requires that you’re aware of a hazard. With it, you can make an Acrobatics check to move past hazards sans minimum proficiency to disable, and with a critical success, you can even trigger them in a way that prevents them from affecting your allies. If your proficiency in Acrobatics is higher, you can manage to use this feat with traps that require a higher minimum proficiency rank to disable. This one is gold for NPCs escaping, and for characters that enjoy planning/setting up ambushes.

At level 4, we have Perfect Balance, which builds on Steady Balance and requires a rank of master, and makes Shove and Trip attempts against you target Acrobatics DC instead of Fortitude. It also lets you Grab an Edge if your hands are tied or restrained. Level 5’s Cat Pounce builds on Cat Fall, uses your reaction, and lets you weaponize your falling when landing on enemies. The feat scales and, being situational, even a critical success will see an enemy take minor damage. The interaction with Cat’s Fall is also smooth.

At level 12, we have another reaction-based feat, namely Pin the Blade, which lets you retaliate against a missed weapon attack from an adjacent enemy (“Adjacent” is important – the feat works against ranged weapons as well this way, but only if they’re used in close quarters; clever and makes sense!): You make an Acrobatics check vs. the target’s Reflex DC, jumping on the weapon to reduce its effectiveness. The success/failure effects represent rather well what you’d expect here. Neat.

Finally, there would be Step In, another reaction-based one, which requires legendary proficiency in Acrobatics and which may be taken at 15th level; it’s triggered by an enemy of your size or larger using an action with the attack, manipulate or move traits, and makes you use Acrobatics vs. Reflex DC, and can immobilize the opponent and render them flat-footed AND unable to use actions with the concentrate trait. The effect ends, obviously, when you move or are forcibly moved.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level; on a formal level, the pdf is very good as well, though I did notice a few minor things, like “Expert” in the prerequisite-line being title case, when it usually is lower case, but that is cosmetic. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a really nice original full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Dustin Knight’s Acrobatics Feats were a pleasant surprise to me. Cat’s Pounce is a bit situational as far as I’m concerned, but as a whole, the feats include several definite winners, not a single sucky one, and with Quick Grab we have a feat that should have been core. That gem alone warrants imho getting the pdf. The feats that emphasize the slippery scoundrel angle also help a lot here. As a whole, this is a great example of an unpretentious and extremely useful little pdf. 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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*shameless self-promotion*

Not sure if this is relevant, but for those who want to play a ToN style campaign in D&D 5e, I'd like to mention that I wrote a crunchy rules book about survival in the underworld, with a distinct eye towards hexcrawls in the realms below.

The Survivalist's Guide to Spelunking.

Some concepts in the book were things I had planned writing for ToN, but when Gary took the money and ran, I thought I'd never get to use them.

Fast forward a few years and here's a proper book, with prose by frickin' Doug Niles, bigger and better than anything I initially conceptualized.

I also kept the engines I introduce simple so that e.g. my momentum engine for combat can be translated to other systems...and yes, I've been running modifications of them in PF1 and PF2.

Thank you for your attention. *bows out*


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

My reviews of the eventure-series were requested by my patreon supporters.

Eventures, in case you’re new to the series, are rules-lite mini-adventures that focus on roleplaying and not on combat and similar components. The pdf does list a dressing-file from the #20-series you can use as a supplemental file to this eventure, and the module is roughly contextualized as part of the duchy of Ashlar region, that integrating the eventure in another setting is a no-effort job. The module is imho best suited for characters level 1 – 4, though it can be made to work at higher levels, provided the GM is willing to invest a bit of time.

The pdf provides pretty detailed information about the crew and NPC passengers (6 NPCs in total, with information on background, personality, secrets and read-aloud text for them); said NPCs do list race, alignment and classes/class-combination, but do not come with stats.

Speaking of read-aloud text: The keyed locations on the eponymous Widow do come with read-aloud text. Supplemental to the NPC and location set-up, we have 6 whispers and rumors as well as 6 minor events; these minor events, in an interesting twist, come in a sequential offering, so if you roll them a second time, the event actually diverges in how it is realized. These dynamic events are rather helpful. This is clever and interesting and maintains some replay value for the GM. I like it. The module itself takes place in the form of a sequence of events interacting with locations and NPCs and remains relatively free-form due to that fact. So, in spite of a relatively linear progression of event-based triggers, the adventure never structurally degrades into a railroad. This is very much player-driven.

Keyed locations? Yep, the Widow comes with a proper b/w map of its 3 decks; while the map has no size noted, it does sport a grid, which makes running it under the customary 5 ft. x 5 ft. assumptions rather easy. Much to my chagrin, no version of the maps without their labels is included.

Now, the eventure is all about a journey by boat, yes, but there is a significant difference between this module and comparable travel sidetreks, in that it is a mystery module; one could even claim that it’s a horror module, and one that has a sufficiently-subdued fantastic angle as to make it viable for low magic settings like e.g. LotFP-ish takes on our world, or for games like Call of Cthulhu. The module retains a pretty well-wrought free-form angle for its understated, and yet efficient horror/mystery angle: Slowly but steadily, a genuine sense of wrongness is established, and the presentation of clues and web of secrets laced throughout the module does a great job executing the theme.

And yes, I know that this is VAGUE. But I really do not want to SPOIL this one.
Anyways, another important thing to note would be the system-integration: Raging Swan Press publishes their content for 4 systems as per the writing of this review, and that sometimes hurts the execution for a given system. At least for the PFRPG-version of this eventure, I am happy to report that this is NOT the case here. While I would have liked to see a sidebar dealing with auras and troubleshooting “detective-magic”, the module actually does a better job pulling off a mystery than many comparable modules I’ve seen.

And this cannot be understated: It is amazing to see a module for the system that does not devolve into a big monster jumping out and being bashed to smithereens. The fact that this eventure managed to stick to its themes of subtle, yet ever-increasing wrongness and unease? I love it for that.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the module comes with neat b/w-cartography. I just wished we got player-friendly maps as well. The pdf comes in two iterations, one for screen-use, and one optimized for the printer. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Bart Wynants delivered a truly pleasant surprise for me here; this little eventure knocks at least 90% of so-called horror-adventures for any iteration of PFRPG or D&D straight out of the water by realizing a crucial fact: You can jam as many bones, liters of blood and guts on something as you like, it won’t become more creepy, just more gross/grotesque (and that *can* work; most of the times, it doesn’t), and as soon as you can put a pointy stick in it, it’ll eventually be killed by the party.

Instead, this focuses on atmosphere. On providing a framework of something that feels *wrong*, on that growing, slow-burn sense of unease, and damn, does it do that well. This is not the “creepy monster jumps at you” school of mystery/horror; it is the more poignant, harder-to-pull-off style. And the module pulls it off. In literary allusions: This is more akin to James, Machen or Aickman than to Stephen King or Clive Barker.

Now, usually, I’d penalize the module for the lack of player-friendly maps…but it genuinely doesn’t deserve it. This is a great change of tone and pace, particularly for a game like PFRPG. I adore this, and considering the limited page-count and budget it had to pull off its excellence? Impressive indeed.
5 stars + seal of approval. Highly recommended if you want a change of pace from modules that can be solved by murder-hoboing everything.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Star Log.EM-installment clocks in at 8 pages, with 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the first thing you need to know is that the playable species herein uses the highly modular (and awesome) reforged-playable-species engine employed first in the Star Log.Deluxe-series: If you’re not familiar with it yet, I suggest searching for my reviews of these pdfs, because I assume familiarity with the engine in this review. That being said, if you don’t want to go through the hassle, think of it as more akin to how PF2 handles ancestries. The pdf can also be used with standard species rules – guidelines are included.

Kithians get an ability boost to Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma, with a second boost available for an ability flaw to Strength or Constitution. The species only gets 2 Hit Points, but gains the amphibian and aquatic subtypes: They can survive on water and land, can breathe water and get a base speed of 30 ft., swim speed 30 ft., and also a climb speed of 10 ft. They also have reflexive camouflage, which they can activate as a reaction when targeted, behaving like an operative’s cloaking field, but attacking or using a concentration-requiring ability ends it, and it can be used again after a 10 minute rest to regain Stamina Points.

So that would be the basics – but do they feel like an actual species? Well, first of all, while looking rather normal, they actually lack endo/exoskeleton and instead move via the inflation and deflation of air bladders; they are only fertile once in their life, and can procreate with pretty much any species via skin-contact – and yes, this can happen sans the donor knowing, though this is frowned upon in kithian culture. Finally, the final stage of their life cycle sees them discorporate into insects, becoming a hive mind; when only a few are left, they are usually consumed consensually by friends and family. They also tend to gravitate to being pacifists. Now how is that for a cool and thought-provoking culture when contrasted by the relatively mundane look?

Anyhow, we also learn about their culture, cuisine, home world, etc., and the pdf includes a table for different age categories, as well as the “Playing a kithian…” and “others think…”-sections as roleplaying pointers. But let us return to the crunchy side of things: There are 4 kithian heritages to choose from: Anurarian kithians gain extraordinary fly speed 20 ft. than must end on solid surface, and are a bit frog-like; holthurian kithians gain Filtration as a bonus species trait: This trait lets you be treated as though having a poor meal if you spend 2 hours in a body of water capable of supporting life. Mulluscain (not sure if that should be Mulluscian…I’d think so…) kithians gain the Compress Form trait. This trait lets you deflate or inflate as a standard action: While deflated, you become Small and off-target, but gain the compression universal creature rule—cool! Salamile kithians are somewhat more salamander-like and get Shed Skin: You can, as part of the action to attempt such a check, shed a portion of your skin to gain an untyped +4 bonus to Acrobatics to escape from grapples, pins and restraints. First of all, that bonus should be typed. Secondly, shouldn’t that have some sort of limit? Otherwise, why bother making this an active decision and not simply something that happens automatically? Pretty sure something went slightly wrong here.

At 1st level, kithians get to choose 2 species traits, with 5th level and every 4 thereafter providing another one. I’ve already covered a few of them in the coverage of the heritages above. The remainder would be: Bog Runner, which makes you operate normally in bogs; Combat Training nets Improved Unarmed Strike or Improved Combat Maneuver, and may be taken multiple times. Expand Form is cool: standard action to increase to Large size (or back) and you are off-target, but space and reach increase by 10 ft. Intimidating Inflation provides synergy here, netting you a +2 racial bonus to Intimidate checks made to demoralize, which upgrades to +3 when Large. Kithian Expertise nets you Skill Focus, and later allows you to increase the bonus granted later…or instead gain an enhancement bonus to the skill.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – for the most part. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork provided by Jacob Blackmon, while solid…kinda left me unimpressed this time around. The kithian race is so cool, the artwork feels a bit anticlimactic in comparison. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Joshua Hennington and Alexander Augunas deliver a rather interesting species here: A timid culture that is strange and still…good? In many ways, the race feels like one that would make for a great old-school Star Trek episode, you know, when Star Trek was optimistic and wholesome and was about encountering interesting, strange cultures, and not about action scenes and grimdark, dystopian misery? But I digress.
I really like the kithians, more than I should. They are a fragile race that requires some player skill, and make for excellent envoys, for example. At the same time, I do feel like they’re geared a bit strongly towards that role, but the uneven race/class-combo is a paradigm that also haunts the core SFRPG game, so it wouldn’t be fair to bash the pdf for it.
Mechanically, there isn’t much to complain about here, apart from Shed Skin, and a distinct wish on my part that the different heritages had some more exclusive traits between them. On the plus side, using the Advanced Occult Guide can add some nice tactical depth when it comes to the relatively spontaneous size-enlarging tricks.
So yeah—as a whole, this is certainly worth the asking price. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as part of a series of reviews by my patreon supporters. My review is based on the PF-version, since that’s the one that was requested. I don’t own the other versions.

This module is designated for 4–6 characters of 5th or 6th level, and as always for Frog God Games, a well-balanced group is very much recommended. Nominally set in the Lost Lands campaign setting, the module can be adapted rather easily to other campaign settings…with a few caveats that may be relevant for you. On a formal level, it should be noted that the module has 7 neat b/w maps, but much to my chagrin, no player-friendly, label-less versions are provided; jarring, considering that FGG used to include those. We get random encounters, rumors, and essentially a hex map with a couple of smaller regions where everything zooms in – nice, I like a good wilderness/location scenario. (As such, it should be noted that this isn’t linear per se, though the module does seem to work best in a certain sequence.) The module features well-written read-aloud text.

The module is penned by none other than Michael Curtis, who is generally a guarantee for an awesome module, so let’s see if this module can break the curse that seems to have affected this series.

The following discussion of the module contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the backstory of this module taps into an inconceivably ancient prehistory where the Great Old Ones waged war. In this age of dinosaurs and worse, the dracosaurus horribilis was created – the proto-dragon Ghurazkz. This thing was so powerful that the demon frog god Tsathogga’s tsathar servitor race had to intervene, creating a mirror of raw obsidian, the Akaata – this would drain the life-force of the shoggoth-slaying monstrosity, but even it would not suffice. And thus, they cast the mirror with its prisoners into the vortex of time, into the far future. Eons passed, empires fell, tsathar degenerated…and that future has come. It’s the time of the Shardfall, as the Akaata shatters, releasing its prisoners.

Readers familiar with DCC will note the references to essentially a time of chaos back then, to dark forces battling, etc. – I like the tone here. However, if your game does have a pretty established lore regarding ancient eras, that’s something to bear in mind. Some of the module’s impact is also predicated on the fact that suddenly, prehistoric creatures are roaming the landscape is deemed to be odd, so if you have a dinosaur county in your setting, perhaps don’t play the module near that one.

The module begins pretty much with a bang, and has the party face dinosaurs and pretty soon find the first of the 5 fragments of the ancient mirror; I do like that destroying these is very much possible and rewards being smart (don’t attack the reflective side); after some serious (and cool/deadly) dinosaur action, the trail of the fragments will sooner or later confront the PCs with Jouktar, the most memorable NPC herein, and also a symptom for the book: This fellow would be a tsathar from the pre-degeneration phase, when they had an intelligent, refined culture; he was imprisoned as well, and could fill in the party on what happened…but the language barrier is severe due to millennia of differences, and as such, pantomiming is suggested, with some serious ideas re pantomiming etc.. I love that per se.

Yeah, unlike in DCC, languages aren’t a problem in PF. Comprehend languages, anyone? Tongues? Seriously, why does this module ignore basic strategies for solving this? Heck, the issue extends beyond system borders! In S&W (the go-to-OSR-system for these), the whole problem can be circumvented by writing down communication and casting read languages, a frickin’ 1st-level magic-user spell. 5e also has this little-known 1st-level ritual…it’s called frickin’ comprehend languages. I really don’t get it. This sort of issue could have been bypassed with just a proper narrative framing, but instead, we get some serious consistency issues in ALL THREE SYSTEMS this was released for. This is particularly jarring, as the tsathar actually makes for a reliable and unconventional ally during the module, and is one of the few non-combat scenes in the otherwise combat-heavy scenario full of neat setpieces, which also includes a tar-pit-laden bog of poisonous mists, with a nasty necromancer on the loose. AWESOME.

…why does none of the undead here get special tar abilities? A proper mini-template, done? Where are the cool environmental effects? Absent. It’s such a great backdrop, where is the mechanical significance? We also have a few minor formatting glitches and e.g. misnamed skills like “Riding” instead of Ride, but these are cosmetic.

Ultimately, the PCs will need to make their way to a tribe of ogrillons to the proto-dragon and deal with it before it regains its strength….and it’s a MEDIUM creature. It’s CR 7, and essentially a juvenile gray dragon. It’s a solid, challenging boss…but it’s so incredibly lame after the cool set-up.

It was so horribly anticlimactic, and without the dinosaur angle and background story, it’d feel like just another dragon lording over humanoids. This, more than anything, screwed with me; why doesn’t the fellow get a unique statblock? Even better option: Why is there no gathering of power/special abilities? It’d have been easy to assign one unique ability per fragment dealt with; all the abilities only work against the proto-dragon, and as such, they could have been used to have the PCs deal with a boss far above their weight-class!

You know, something like: “Power of the Ages (Su): As a swift action, you can tap into the life-force of those who perished at the claws of the proto-dragon, fortifying yourself against its attacks. You gain xyz temporary hit points, as the spirits of these damned shield you from harm. You can command these spirits to attack as a standard action…” (No, this is not in the book; I improvised this.)

You know.

Something WORTHY of the epic set-up!

As written, a well-optimized party can eliminate this fellow in two rounds, tops, and a real power-gamer can one-shot the “epic” proto-dragon. Also: It’s MEDIUM.

All this set-up for a MEDIUM dragon…*sigh* It’s also weaker (as in: less Strength) than many of the dinos unleashed. I can’t recall when I’ve been this underwhelmed by a module’s boss.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the lack of familiarity with the target systems, particularly the PF-version, of an otherwise great author is very much evident…as is the fact that the Pathfinder conversion by Dave Landry is just BAD and barebones, failing to account for realities of the system in instances where these aren’t just statblock errors, but actually the conversion hampers the frickin’ plot. Layout adheres to a clean two-column b/w-standard with some solid b/w-artworks that might be familiar to fans of FGG. The b/w-cartography is per se really cool and detailed…but we have one map with a 10 ft.-grid, and one with a 20 ft.-grid (an epic T-rex battle); both grid-sizes are a PAIN to work with in PFRPG. The lack of player-friendly versions is also a further strike against the module, particularly in light of the cool set-up. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Curtis’ “In the Time of the Shardfall” is an excellent example of an amazing yarn sunk by sloppy mechanical execution, at least in PFRPG. I can’t comment on the 5e and OSR-versions, but as outlined above, unless the module was rewritten (which I doubt) for these versions, the language-issue at least will persist. This module was frickin’ heartbreaking to review…because its framework does so much right: It is relatively free-form, has really cool dino-battles, awesome backdrops that ooze atmosphere and a cool concept for a final boss….and then proceeds to squander all of that potential. Where are the sticky tar-modifications for the undead? Where are the unique hazards? Why is the final boss so incredibly lame?

I think, I might have an idea. I’m just suspecting things here, but I assume that this was written in a system-neutral manner, with different specialists assigned to jam the module into the respective systems. And at least for PFRPG, that operation has fallen flat. Big time. This needed more pronounced rewrites to work in the system, and instead, we get what feels like a rushed minimal-effort conversion.

…can you have fun with this? Theoretically, yes. If your party isn’t that deep into PFRPG’s mechanics, and you gloss over the problems. But in many ways, this module is symptomatic of issues that sunk some other great modules in this series. I really hope the remaining modules in the series will leave me with more positive things to say.

I need to rate this, though. And as painful as this might be for me, I can’t justify rating this higher than 2.5 stars, rounded up, but only barely. This has all the makings of 5 stars + seal of approval, but fails to capitalize on them in the most aggravating way.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

So, this game clocks in at 128 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 2 pages editorial/credits, 10 pages blanks/separators, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of KS-thanks, leaving us with 110 pages of content, which are organized in a two-column standard and rather broad, so there’s a bit more content per page than you’d expect, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review due to a direct donation. The review is based on the English version, namely version 2.0. Unfortunately, my Spanish is currently too rudimentary to properly judge the quality of the prose of the Spanish version. The book has a warning that states that it features adult themes and concepts, but that is, to a degree, par for the course. I found it impossible to be offended by anything herein, but if dystopian settings bother you, then this probably won’t be for you. It should be noted that the book calls “characters” “players”, which is a somewhat odd choice, as it makes distinguishing between the two a bit harder than it needed to be. It should also be noted that this game is aimed towards more experienced roleplayers, or at least, benefits from at least one experienced Director.

Okay, so we’re off to a good start, when the book starts with a quote from good ole’ Klaus Kinski, and then an introductory premise: Essentially, the Intranet was born from the internet, namely from the attack on science, on facts. The current attack on the very notions of truth and facts (which are NOT subjective; there is no such thing as “my” or “your” truth; there is just, THE truth, but that as an aside), and on academia, led to a total dissolution of the borders between fiction and reality, a state of disorganized confusion on a global scale, and in order to reign in the resulting chaos, A.I.s were employed – and the rest is history.

The eponymous Neurocity is a technological sprawl of a city-complex under a perpetually-glitched sun, overseen by the A.I. dubbed I.S.A.C. (Intelligent Singular Artificial Consciousness), which acts a de facto union of deity and state. I.S.A.C. has established a caste-system of sorts, based on a Social Index (nightmare food concept, as far as I’m concerned…but look to China, and it is rather likely as a development…): We have Deltas, Gammas, Betas and Alphas – though the book mentions 5 castes, not 4. Each caste but the Deltas have a minimum logic, and Deltas (50% of the population) are kept quiet by Soma. Brave New World reference? Check. Gammas are only 30% of the population, Betas are 15%, and Alphas don’t state how many individuals belong to the caste. The citizens are btw. color-coded. Finally, there are the Epsilon anomalies: Heavily persecuted by the system, these enemies of the wisdom of Vitalogy are essentially considered to be terrorists that can look forward to being “fixed” if they are caught. They are sent to Samsara, a gigantic biotech complex, where the Renewal and Rebirth processes happen – these essentially mean vaporization and replacement taken from the DNA database, or cloning. Suffice to say, the populace is sterile, and sexuality is considered to be primitive, and as such, is mostly found in the lover castes; love, on the other hand, is considered to be a dangerous mental illness that needs to be avoided.

Vitalogy, unsurprisingly, has the basic principles of Obedience, Discipline and Order, and the judicial system knows a grand total of 3 classes of offenses and associated punishments. The pdf then proceeds to introduce us to the ministries of Neurocity (Health and Technology are self-explanatory; the ministry of truth is, of course, the propaganda arm of the system in charge of the media, while the ministry of peace and order would be law enforcement, i.e. hunt for epsilons). The intranet has a clearance of Betas and Alphas; a brief d6-table is provided to determine the state of public terminals, and suffice to say, access sans proper authorization is strictly penalized.
In case you were wondering: Cybertech does exist, but is considered to be impractical and basically only Sentinels, a type of enforcer, usually sport implants. Indeed, there is a shortage of resources, and thus a constant recycling of hardware and tech going on, and in fact, is in the process of transitioning from a digital to an analog age: Blackouts, system failures etc. are shockingly common.

The book clearly states being somewhat post-cyberpunk, with the technological regression explaining the tech-noir aesthetic of the 80s. Language-wise, there are two special dialects: Sygma, the language of the privileged, and Subh, the speech of degenerate Deltas and outcasts. Nice: The pdf does provide a random weather table – while temperatures stay at a constant 21°C/70°F. Why’s that nice? Well, I really enjoy seeing values for both Celsius and Fahrenheit here. Kudos.

And before you ask: Yes, mobile phones and flying cars are both outlawed. Too much freedom/danger in both.

The city itself is grouped in different, concentric districts (White, Gray, The Market, Developing Area (aka Limbo), and beyond, the radioactive Halo. All regions come with their own encounter tables, story seeds and the Halo sports a “What’s at the end”-table; minor niggle: The header for the Market reads “Stories Seeds for the Market”[sic!], which renders it the only such header in this section that seems to have been missed by the editing pass.

Okay, so far, so good regarding the setting. What about the rules? We have 5 Attributes: Logic (determines social index etc.), Personality, Technocracy, Instinct, Violence. Attributes range from 5 to 10 for humans, with 10 being excellent. All Attributes start at 5, and you get 9 points to add to them at character creation.

The basic conflict resolution mechanic is simple: You roll 2d6, and compare the result to the Attribute corresponding to the action: If you roll equal to, or below the Attribute, you succeed; otherwise, you fail. HOWEVER, snake-eyes (i.e. a double 1) is an insufficient success that requires another roll, and any total result greater than 8 is an outstanding success. In combat, the latter causes an extra wound. HOWEVER, at the Director’s discretion, double 6s are actually a critical failure. This is just my personal aesthetics, but I’m not the biggest fan of making the lower end of the success range a botch, and the upper end of the failure range a success – it seems needlessly confusing to me. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have very low results to be excellent successes, and very high ones particularly bad failures?

Anyhow, Neurocity has no initiative system – the Director (GM) decides the sequence, with Instinct as a general guideline. The game distinguishes between simple actions (success/failure) and complex actions, which can have more significant outcomes. Whenever a player rolls doubles in a complex action, a complication arises. Checks due to complications cannot generate another complication (Why? Real life does offer plenty of cascading failure examples…), and double 1s in complex actions can either cause a complication, or an insufficient success, the latter requiring another roll using the same Attribute. The game uses modifiers ranging from -3 to +3 to the Attributes. Let’s say, you’re intoxicated (-1), but have the advantage of numbers (+2) – you’d end up with a +1 total, which you’d add to the Attribute you’re checking to determine the actual value to roll under. Conflicts between players are resolved as per the regular system, but if both succeed, the player with the highest success roll will win. Okay, so does this also apply in opposed complex actions where one player has doubles? Not sure.

The game knows 5 functions (essentially the classes), with enforcers, cardinals (ministry of truth officials) and tech-runners having prerequisites, while monitors (snitches) and vectors not sporting any prerequisites. For every point of Personality above 5, the character gains a contact (friendship is considered to be a dysfunctional state, so this is semi-illegal and rare); each value in technocracy above 5 nets you one possession associated with your function (table provided). Firearms are only legal for enforcers. Using firearms in melee imposes a -1 penalty; aiming requires an Instinct roll, and grants +2 Violence on a success. Distances are noted in meters, and can result in penalties of up to -3, as per regular checks. At lower distances, e.g. shotguns can cause 2 wounds. Armor absorbs wounds before becoming useless.

An important mechanic would be Tension: Each character has a Tension limit of ½ Logic, rounded down. Weird here: The example highlighting this section contradicts how the conflict resolution works: The base rules clearly state “We will consider any successful result equal to or greater than 8 to be an outstanding success” (pg.48); yet, the example for Tension makes a result of 10, exceeding the character’s technocracy value, a failure. So there’s something odd going on here. Some things might trigger Tension checks, which are rolled with Personality. Anyhow, Tension can be spent for a reroll, and when Tension reaches the limit, we have an immediate neurosis – panic attack, anxiety, depression, fit of rage. Tension is healed by things ranging rom alcohol, humor, sex, sleep, violence, soma or other drugs. You only get to reduce Tension once per day, and only by 1 point. This is important, since some things (like Sex or Humor) require checks, while others (like alcohol or drugs) have detrimental consequences for the Attributes – but work reliably.

If a double-1 is rolled and a character is at their Tension limit, the Trancing phenomenon happens: The insufficient success becomes an overachievement, but the character will also understand the harsh truth of being caught in an infinitely repeating loop of existence in Neurocity. The Attribute is underlined, and in it, the character develops psychic abilities: You know, all those Matrix stunts like stopping bullets, extrasensory perception, that sort of thing – but having these abilities also makes you an Epsilon. Using a trancer ability adds one point of Tension and must be noted before rolling the dice. Then, he adds Tension to his Attribute before making the roll – so yeah, the higher the Tension, the better the trance – neat. You only get one such psychic feat per scene.

If Tension would be a kind of mental sanity mechanic, then physical health would perform similarly: Half of violence, rounded down, is the wound limit, and you can gain a maximum of 3 wounds per attack (1 wound would be a slash, 2 a high-caliber firearm, 3 an explosion, high-voltage shock, etc.). A character (here, we suddenly talk of characters) that meets their wound limit is in critical condition; this means -3 to everything, and unless healed by the end of the scene, they die. One step away from this limit imposes a -1 on everything. A wound-location table is provided. Head injuries also impose temporary penalties, and we have falling damage as well. Wounds can be healed by cardinals or physicians with a Logic check, provided they have their Medkit. However, only one point per wound may thus be healed, so the more serious wounds require special attention. Cardinals also issue death certificates, which result in Renewal or Rebirth of the deceased individual. Chilling. Reminded me of Kamelot’s Soul Society:
“If my soul could revive from my carnal remains—what does it matter to me? If it all fades to black, if I’m born once again…then no one really is free.”
…so yeah, not even death is a release, and in fact, the game does something pretty cool with its rules and setting, providing a read-aloud text and a whole mechanic for “respawning” – the default result of death is “Renewal”, a cloning process where you lose Personality and get Tension, with a table of deviations and the like included; only those declared dysfunctional risk Rebirth – i.e. being cloned as a baby and raised once more. While this, for all intents, is akin to death, it is no escape from the horrid loop.

The setting also has a built-in reason to work together: I.S.A.C designates so-called White Cells, i.e. teams of individuals that are supposed to work together to solve a certain issue. Some basic advice regarding story seeds and storytelling in Neurocity completes the section generally available.

The Director section is pretty neat – it features the questions and points that let you determine whether the system considers a character to be functional. The book also offers suggestions for I.S.A.C. types – from the doppelgänger to the entity communicating only in telegrams or movies, to a hateful Allied Mastercomputer (à la “I have no mouth, but I must scream”), these change the tone of the setting according to your needs. The pdf comes with a d20 background table on which the player characters roll, and which has rules-ramifications, but which is oddly in the Director-section. Anyhow, we have 6 different potential truths of what Neurocity actually is, and what is beyond it – the Otherside. These generally are interesting, and no, I’m not going to spoil them in this review. The section closes with a d20-table of minor events, and one of 20 major events for the Director’s use. The pdf also features 6 pregens, and a bank character sheet.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are generally pretty good, particularly considering that this is a) a freshman offering, b) a book made by a non-native speaker of English, and c) credits no editor/developer. That being said, it is still easily the weakest aspect of the book; a consistency check by a nitpicky developer would have really benefited this book. This also extends to the formal level – I noticed a few missing blank spaces, an instance of a missing verb – that sort of thing. We also have a few strange turns of phrases. What the book calls “involution” would usually be described as “devolution” or “regression” in English – you get the idea. You always get what’s supposed to be meant, but it can trip you up for a second. The pdf sports quite a few nice b/w-artworks that employ a collage-style modification of classic Argentinian comics, as far as I’ve understood it, at least. The Soundtrack by Espejo Negro is suitable and neat indeed.

Gavriel Quiroga’s Neurocity is an interesting setting, but I wouldn’t say the same about the rules, which are easily the weakest part of the game: While rules-inconsistencies are few, they do exist here and there. Considering the simplicity of the game’s rules there should be no errors here.

The organization and placement of information can also feel somewhat scattered. We, for example, learn about Attributes A LONG time before we get to the point where we get to know about how high they’ll be for the characters/how much they can invest in them. The terms player/character are not used consistently, and the rules could have been broken down on a single page; instead, they’re spread throughout the pdf, which isn’t helpful when teaching a system, particularly considering that rules-lite games tend to appeal to an audience that does not want to deal with a high entry-barrier. On the plus side regarding structure, copious examples for rules-applications are provided to explain the mechanics. As noted above, the possible confusion regarding the central resolution mechanic is a HUGE deal. On a rules-level, I’d probably rate this in the 2.5-star vicinity.

On the other hand, a great deal of thought seems to have gone into the setting of Neurocity, which I’d consider to be a solid remix of a plethora of classic cyberpunk/dystopia themes. A dash of 1984, some Brave New World, an optional side of Dark City, I have no mouth and I must scream…you get the drift, all set against the backdrop of an increasingly analog dystopia that reminded me of one of my all-time favorite movies, Brazil? Yeah, I do like this. I absolutely love the existential horror the Renewal-mechanic hard-codes into the system, and the setting’s modularity is another plus. On the down-side, I have a bit of a hard time picturing Neurocity and its infrastructure: Food, drink and transportation are aspects that I’d want defined in a more concise manner, and same goes for non-human security measures. Regarding non-human adversaries, having a few more monsters/statted foes would have been nice. Speaking of things that would have been nice: A level-system. There is no real advancement, save for Renewal/new characters, which limits the replay value and ability of the game to sustain prolonged campaigns. As written, this works for one-shots and brief campaigns, but beyond that, I can see its utility waver.

That being said, particularly in conjunction with the soundtrack, we have an interesting development in the classic themes of cyberpunk/dystopias, in that it focus not on super-human feats, but on the terror of existing in a system that is rigged against you, and the horrific realization of reality beyond it. If I had to describe this in one sentence, I’d call it low-fi (no longer) cyberpunk Paranoia with a dash of Kult sprinkled in. For what it is, I do think that it does a good job as a rules-lite, if not always simple system that ties in rather well with the setting it portrays. For the worldbuilding and setting-aspects, I’d probably place this in the 3.5-to-4-star region.

That being said, its current iteration does have a glitches that accumulate to the point where it becomes a flawed offering; on the plus-side, the game is available for a paltry $6.00, and I do think that it’s worth getting for that. How to rate this, then? As a whole, I consider this to be a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side of things – but not enough on that scale to warrant rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. I do hope that version 3.0, somewhere on the horizon, will iron off the rough spots, and look forward to revisiting Neurocity in the future.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to all the usual places. Cheers!


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base class supplement clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page introductory notes/editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

The stormbound class is an akashic base class, but all required information to run this is included in this pdf.

After a brief introduction, we start off with the stormbound class. The stormbound is an akashic class that gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, and proficiency in simple and amrtial weapons, and while they are proficient with light armor, medium armor and shields, metal armor reduces the essence capacity of the stormbound by 2 to a minimum of 0, and the veils the stormbound shapes only require half as much damage to sunder and halve their hardness. Shields and armor made from veils are exempt from this rule, even if they manifest as metal. Chassis-wise, we have a ¾ BAB-progression alongside good Fort- and Will-saves, and Wisdom is their governing ability score for veilweaving, with the saving throw DC being 10 + the number of points of essence invested in the veil, plus the stormbound’s veilweaving modifier.

The stormbound receives a unique veilweaving slot, dubbed the “Storm slot”; the stormbound receives an additional veil shaped per day, denoted via the +1 in the class table, which must be used to shape a Storm veil. Unlike regular veils, the stormbound cannot allocate essence to or from a Storm veil. At the beginning of a combat turn, the stormbound gains a temporary point of essence that can ONLY be allocated to a Storm veil, but doing so is a free action, and it lasts for 1 minute after the combat ends; re-entering combat resets the duration. The stormbound cannot stockpile this temporary essence: If they do not allocate it immediately, it is lost. When not in combat, the stormbound can spend a full-round action to meditate, treating this round as a round of combat; they can only generate this temporary essence up to half their maximum essence capacity, rounded up, minimum 1.

So, you’re all familiar with my seething hatred of “per encounter/combat”-mechanics, but this one does a remarkably good job covering its basics – non-combat use is possible (so less temptation to try to cheese the engine), a concrete duration is provided, and meditation generally slows things down enough that the stormbound can’t quickly refresh or walk through the dungeon charged. Add the sidebar that explicitly provides a caveat to avoid fake combats, and this does a solid job at keeping the combat-related abilities in line. As far as veils are concerned, we start off with 1 (+1 Storm) and increase that up to 10 (+1 Storm); essence capacity starts off at 1, and increases by 1 every class level attained. Chassis-wise, this makes the guru a valid frame of reference, but we’ll see how that develops. At 12th level, this btw. increases by another additional point of temporary essence.

The stormbound has the constant benefits of endure elements, and, as a free action on their turn, they may exempt up to veilweaving modifier + ½ class level (rounded down) creatures from the harmful effects of the Storm veils shaped; targets thus protected automatically succeed their saving throws versus Storm veils, attack rolls and combat maneuvers prompted miss the targets, and if damage would be incurred, it is reduced to 0; these properties also apply to the stormbound, even while they are unconscious, but while the stormbound is unconscious, the protection extended to allies vanishes. Penalties that do not have a saving throw to mitigate still apply. This is the so-called “weatherproofing” ability. Now, as you can see, this ability firmly situates the stormbound in higher fantasy confines; a level 1 stormbound will usually be able to reliably weatherproof with endure elements an entire party of allies, which does eliminate the struggle usually associated with low-level weather-threats, so if you’re planning on running the class in such a campaign, I’d advise caution. On a design perspective, when looking at the Storm veils, this could have been more interesting: You see, the Storm veils tend to cause AoE-damage that has no save and doesn’t differentiate between friend and foe; however, unlike comparable effects, it tends to have a decent range. This could have rendered the ability an interesting tactical decision to use if it involved some sort of strategy; since most stormbound will be able to exclude their party members from the effects from the get-go, that decision is lost. But I’m just musing right now.

At 2nd level, and every 2 levels thereafter, the class gets a chakra bind, in the progression of Feet, Hands, Head, Wrists, Shoulders, Headband, Belt, Neck, Chest, Body, so essentially the vizier’s progression, with Hands and Feet switched around, and Neck and Belt switched around. This is interesting, in that Feet veils tend to gravitate, as a tendency, towards passives, while Hand veils are more offensive in focus; the same can generally be stated for the Belt vs. Neck, the latter having the rather popular gorget of the wyrm. The Storm slot becomes available for chakra binding at 9th level, and at 11th level, the stormbound can shape two veils in the Storm slot, operating like Twin Veil. Okay, but when you also have Twin veil, does that mean you can bind three veils to the Storm slot? Four? You see, while the effect specified by the ability behaves as Twin Veil, it’s not actually Twin Veil, it just *functions* as such, which means that the “same effect doesn’t stack”-clause does RAW not apply here. Pretty sure that this is a glitch.

The stormbound gains improved essence capacity at 3rd level, 9th level, and 19th level, placing the stormbound between the radiant and vizier classes, for example – they get the second improved essence capacity as soon as e.g. radiant (9th instead of 11th level), but the final one later (19th instead of 15th level). The capstone ability is an outsider apotheosis with 3 damage immunities and quicker re-assigning of veils. Okay, I guess, but not that interesting. What is, however, interesting, would be that 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter net a so-called storm power. These are essentially talents, and where applicable, the saving throw is the customary 10 + ½ class level + veilweaving modifier. Storm powers have different power levels, with new ones unlocking regarding their prerequisites at 5th level, 9th, 11th and 17the level, with one storm power situated with a 13th level prerequisite.

To give you an idea: We have a medium-range option to suppress Storm veils or dispel weather-controlling magics via opposed veilweaving checks (not the biggest fan of opposed rolls, but valid); the ability gets the clause for spellcasting right, and has a success criteria wherein, if you really beat the enemy, the duration of the suppression lasts longer. To avoid spamming this versus spells, it has a hex-caveat (applies RAW only regarding attempt to dispel spells thus!) that limits you to one attempt versus a given effect in 24 hours. The power also allows for the suppression of your own storm veils.
Distracting current is a close range debuff, and you can invest essence to increase the penalties inflicted; once more, spamming is prevented with a hex caveat. Alternatively, we have at-will feather fall, and a power that lets you, when using a [Weapon] veil or natural weapons granted by the veil, use your stormbound level as BAB, making you a full BAB front line assailant, with an added bonus – you get to use veilweaving modifier instead of Strength modifier to determine damage with these. This is very, very powerful.

Compare this one with being treated as one size category larger for the purpose of being checked or blown away by wind, and versus maneuvers that move you, and halved penalties for skill checks and ranged attack rolls due to wind. Or the one that lets you fire close-range icicles at will (with moderately-scaling damage output; +1d6 per 4 levels – which, however, can be increased with essence investment); sonic armor nets you class level temporary hit points as a move action, and when an enemy hits you in melee (important caveat!) while you have those, they take sonic damage equal to the current temporary hit points you have, and risk becoming briefly deafened on a failed save. For an essence invested, this increases by +3 temporary hit points. *sigh* This can be exploited for infinite healing via the usual transferal means. Making the armor more potent, but imposing a hard cap on this instead would have probably been the better choice here.

Then again, some of you are rolling your eyes right now, so let’s move on to the *actual* healing storm power, namely soothing rain: Much to my joy, this one nets you pretty potent healing that reduces its effectiveness whenever the same target benefits from it within a 24 hour timeframe, and it can be selected multiple times, which provides a “buffer” of sorts before healing is reduced for each target. Unless you’re playing in a very large group, this amount of healing is okay. Storm lash nets you a lash of lightning – cool! Veilproofing…is certainly pretty at least in the wrong level-range. It extends the weatherproofing ability’s immunities to Storm veils for allies to ALL veils. This should be unlocked at a much higher level.
A similar issue applies to a faster unseen servant with a Strength of 10 + veilweaving modifier and a fly speed of 30 ft. (perfect). Doesn’t sound like much? Well, this means you get perfect flight at level 1, bypassing the usual restrictions. You see, the unseen servant spell usually explicitly states that the servant can’t fly; that it can’t perform anything that requires a skill check. Special rules override larger ones, so while the unseen servant can’t succeed in anything like hovering, tight turns or the like, it *can* very much carry the stormbound or their allies around (which does NOT require a skill checks, and which the unseen servant thus probably can do due to the increased Strength!) , provided it does so in a way that doesn’t require a Fly check. This storm power should have been altered, or moved to the section with the 5th level prerequisites, or better, further. I am pretty sure that this is a glitch. Why? The 5th-level prerequisite power “Lifting gale” nets you at-will levitate AND requires that you previously take the at-will feather fall power. Why would anyone do this, when you get infinite unseen servants with perfect fly speed, and the explicit Strength required to carry most characters, apart from the full-armored fighter? Or the one that also requires the feather fall power, but nets you 20-ft fly speed with poor maneuverability?

The internal balancing being inconsistent regarding these storm powers may also be seen in e.g. “Channel the Storm” – you gain ½ your maximum essence capacity that you can only invest in Storm veils. Hmm, let me think for a bit: Should I take this or at-will levitate? */sarcasm*. Or the one that increases the radius of Storm veils by their base radius for each point invested in them beyond the first, treating further ranges as essentially weapon ranges, with the veils treated as having less essence invested in them at higher range increments? This is REALLY INTERESTING, particularly since Storm veils are close range, though one 11th level storm power lets you upgrade that to medium (and retain control whether you want them to be medium or close); compare that with the 17th (!!) level power for at-will control weather.

The storm powers, as a whole, are weird. They seem to be based on hexes, but tie advancement to of their benefits weird components. If you, for example, made the bad call of getting at-will levitate, you’ll most assuredly be excited to hear that, at 13th level, you can activate it as a move action and move up or down once per round as a free action. Gamechanger, right? At 13th level? I tried pretty hard to deduce the reasoning behind some of the prerequisites imposed, as some storm powers make perfect sense in their context, while others don’t; some are clearly roleplaying facilitators, while others provide brutal mechanical advantages. And it drives me bonkers that I can’t see a pattern for the deviations.

This also extends, to a much lesser degree, to the favored class options, namely the comparison Belaran vs. Ifrit. Belarans increase their essence capacity of Storm veils with the Fire OR Cold descriptor by +1/8; ifrit only get this benefit for the Storm veils with the Fire descriptor.

This bothers me to now end, for the class does bring something extremely interesting to the table, namely that it focuses on soft/hard crowd control. The Storm veils, of which 12 are provided, are cylinders with a height of 50 ft. + 5 ft. per veilweaver level (or ceiling/ground) and a radius of 25 ft. + 5 ft. per veilweaver level. The cannot be sundered, and here’s the thing: The shaper is NOT immune to them (which also explains the “immunity storm power” available at first level); the storm veils generally focus on dealing energy damage, while adding additional effects; interesting here: there is an option that allows you to inflict essentially poison damage – which is codified as untyped in PF1e, but provides immunity for those with poison immunity. The Storm veils also provide pretty potent terrain control and debuff options; take, for example, “The Blizzard”, which deals cold damage and also fatigues targets on a failed save (no stack up to exhausted, but barbarian’s still cry), but also has the option to make the affected area difficult terrain via snowfall. When you stop the snowfall, it melts away at the end of your turn. That is an interesting effect. It should be noted that, while damage tends to look pitiful (1d3 etc. as a baseline), the damage caused is AUTOMATIC at the end of your turn; no save or the like to negate, which can make this rather deadly at lower levels. It should also be noted that the veils have a few more formatting glitches (lower caps saving throw, missed italics) than I’d have liked to see. And yet, I really like the idea of Storm veils. I have a soft spot for aura-based characters, and this has interesting options.

It is, alas, a somewhat uneven array of veils regarding internal and external balancing. There is a pretty solid blaster-style veil, which doesn’t have ANY detrimental aura effects, and just lets you fire bludgeoning damage that can cause the target to catch fire, with essence investment as potential for more damage. Alas, for you powergamers out there, this thankfully at least requires an attack to hit, and only targets one enemy.

Compare that with the veil that decreases visibility. Or that one, with the one that lets you generate banks of darkvision impeding fog that can be rendered more dense and even made into something akin to solid fog is sufficient essence is invested in it. (Which is a nice angle – these veils tend to have a threshold of sorts, where their benefits become more pronounced than linear scaling, often adding new options.) I was talking about internal balance being weird: The sirocco is essentially like the blizzard, save that it deals fire damage, and causes the sickened condition…and it has neither the barbarian lock power, nor the terrain control effect of the blizzard, but the condition remains until cured. The direct comparison here makes pretty evident that the blizzard may have overshot what it’s supposed to do. Compare that to “the scouring”, which has slashing and piercing damage as a baseline…but also reduces visibility to 30 feet, with essence invested allowing that to go as low as 5 ft. in 5 ft.-steps. This applies to all senses based on sight. The effect is interesting, even in its baseline, in that it breaks line of sight beyond 30 ft. – reliably. In short, it may not be *much*, but the Storm veils differ in utility.

But in comparison with regular, damage-dealing veils, how does this fare? Let’s stick with the fire-based one, shall we, and compare it to the gauntlets of the storm: The conflagration lets you use your veilweaving modifier to hit instead of Dexterity with the ranged touch attack it requires, and deals a base of 1d6 bludgeoning damage; for each essence invested, the initial damage increases by +1d6; bludgeoning damage on odd-numbered points invested, fire damage on even-numbered ones invested. For every two points invested here, the saving throw DC increases by +1, and the secondary burning damage by +1d6. Okay, so for 3 essence invested, we’d have 3d6 bludgeoning, 1d6 fire, +2d6 secondary fire if the target fails its save. For the gauntlets, we have 1d6 cold, 1d6 sonic and 1d6 electricity damage, but ONLY as a melee touch attack, NOT as a ranged touch attack. It does have the energy versatility going for it, though. However, it does NOT not with the veilweaving for Dex-to-atk caveat, which should, at the very least, make difference of at least +4 to atk in most instances. The Gauntlets are only available to the vizier among the core akashic classes, who has a ½ BAB-progression; still since the stormbound can also gain these, and they start outperforming the fire stuff, this seems like a clear case, right? Well, that’s where the aforementioned threshold comes in: If this is too esoteric an example for you, let’s take a more clear-cut one: Polar snowshoes vs. the blizzard. Polar snowshoes net you a whopping 1d4 cold damage in a 10 ft. aura, +1d4 for every essence invested, and the ability to generate some movement-related benefits when used with chakra bind. While the blizzard has slightly less damage per essence, it has the difficult terrain option, the option to fatigue, when chakra bound, to be intensified – oh, and it affects AoE and doesn’t allow for a saving throw to reduce damage. The aura of polar snowshoes? Fortitude halves. And its AoE doesn’t grow, unlike the blizzard.

Okay, one can still chalk that up to the Storm veils being class-exclusives, right? Okay, let us take a look the significant amount of non-class exclusive veils herein, for example winter’s somnolence, which conjures a scythe dealing nonlethal cold damage, lethal cold damage versus undead. It’s a weapon veil, so you can get full BAB with it, and use veilweaving to calculate base damage, provided you chose the right storm power. The hand chakra bind lets you add up to a +5 enhancement modifier that you can also use to instead choose a variety of special weapon properties, which are not properly in italics in the text.
For undead, it bypasses all damage reduction, resistances and immunities, which is pretty nifty. A creature struck must also succeed a Fort save, or have its speed reduced by 5 ft. for one round (yes, all speeds and stacking with itself), +1 round per essence invested in hands; on a critical hit, it’s save or fall asleep. For each additional point of essence invested, we have +1d6 cold damage. The chakra bind to wrists expands upon the means to cause targets to fall asleep/reduce the target’s speed. Know where things become weird? “This bonus damage is multiplied on a critical hit.” Yep, the essence invested-based bonus damage is multiplied. For a scythe. That’s x4 without even trying. That’s a pretty good visualization of the subtle hiccups with the veils here. In comparison to other melee/atk-based veils, the damage potential here is insane. And this bothers me to no end. Why? Because the general ideas presented are pretty darn awesome, and there is some care here – it’s just…inconsistent? Take the storm gauntlets – these do not duplicate an error that was present in their original iteration (electric instead of electricity damage); but in another veil, we see exactly this hiccup.

And the pdf does get these fine balancing aspects and utility concerns right in quite a few a cases: Traveling the planes and even planets (somewhat unreliably) via a utility veil? Cool! Or what about sabatons of the storm, which BUILD on Storm veils: You can make a trail of storm energy behind you – 1d4 electricity, 1d4 sonic, 1 d4 cold damage, plus movement halved for 1 round if affected, with the caveat that a target can only be affected once per round? Cool, right? Essence invested increases damage for all three…and outperforms the aforementioned gauntlets in damage dealt, but has a save to negate. This Is *interesting* While I consider 3d4s different energy damages sans essence invested a bit overkill at low levels, it’s contingent enough to render it a fun trap-option. Granted, it outperforms polar snowshoes by quite a bit in pure damage, but is has the movement contingency. This shows that these weren’t designed sans care; or take the robe of the worldwalker, which lets you choose two energy types from the usual suspects and grants resistance, alongside scaling bonuses to a whole array of checks and the like pertaining forced marches and so on – and lets you sleep in armor. Unlike e.g. frostbite halo, it doesn’t offer the same increase to damage with one energy type, though, and has the Body slot, more valuable than the halo’s headband.

On the other hand, we have brume treads, arguably the most powerful Feet-veil; it lets you ignore the adverse movement effects of difficult terrain, and always 5-foot-ste, +2 insight bonus to Acrobatics; for each essence invested in this, the Acrobatics bonus increases by another 2, and you also get +5 ft. land speed; when chakra-bound, this also nets you full speed in armor, ignore movement penalties, etc. Compare that to coward’s boots. +5 ft. base speed, +5 ft. for essence invested. The chakra bind of coward’s boots nets you Essence of Movement – scaling dodge bonus to AC vs. AoOs, and per essence invested, a +1 insight bonus to Acrobatics. Brume treads outperforms this SO HARD, you’d have to be stupid to ever look at coward’s boots again. And yes, brume treads are intended to be available for all core akasha classes.

Okay, so, this review’s already insanely long, so let’s talk about the archetypes: The Devotee of the Storm replaces the first level storm power with hunter’s spellcasting, but has a diminished chakra bind sequence. They lose essence capacity in favor or Endurance and a bonus vs. mundane storm effects, and later do not leave tracks and teleport between storms. The wind whisperer gets essentially an eidolon reskinned as a storm spirit minus evolutions, but with essence; these spirits veilweave via Wisdom, while the wind whispered uses Charisma; the storm is essentially outsourced to the pet, which gets its own essence capacity and pool of essence. The wind whisperer has half the essence at each level, rounded up, but veils shaped are divided among the pair, and the spirit also learns the chakra binds. This is very strong, as e.g. even the weatherproofing aspect is shared. Would not allow this one in my games.

The pdf also offers two 10-level PrCs: The Storm Warrior gets full BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Ref-save progression, d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, and requires the new akashic Storm Scoured feat, which reduces the penalties weather imposes based on essence invested. The idea here is that of a warrior type character who gets limited access to Storm veils without actually becoming a full veilweaver, using a temporary essence engine. Interesting! The second PrC would be the Veilshifter at d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full veilweaving progression, ½ BAB and Will-save progression. This one is all about quickly unshaping and reconstituting veils, as wella s the ability to take multiple Twin veils.

The feats contained herein include a feat-based option to exclude allies from veil effects, a feat to dabble in Storm veils, and several (Confluence) veils – these require that you’re able to form two specific storm veils, enhancing those. I really love the idea here, I just wished this had been integrated into the core Storm veil engine instead of being outsourced to feats, since the core class already has the multi-storm trick hardcoded into it. Rebalancing the storms and including this at higher levels? That’d have been neat indeed!

The supplement also features 3 magic items: Imbuement gems allow you to outsource weapon/armor enhancement bonuses to these gems when forming akashic weapons/armor, and switch between the regular and these benefits. Yeah. No. There is a crook in three power-levels that lets you treat Storm veils as having additional essence invested in them. Finally, there is a totem that lets you expand the Storms to the radius of miles (!!), but weighs 5K lbs. – an interesting story item.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are…weird? On one hand, we have complex caveats caught, rules-language in complex scenarios performed admirably well; we have carefully vetted content…and then, we have some formatting hiccups. We have veils and components obviously very carefully balanced next to blatant power-escalation, which renders the class a very much uneven experience. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with quite a few nice full-color artworks I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Hel Kennette’s stormbound base class was an exercise in confusion for me; I have rarely seen a class with such complex and thoroughly INTERESTING framework, that shows, very well I might add, that the author generally knows what he’s doing. That being said, in the same way, this does feel like it’s one dev-/content editing pass short of realizing its potential. An additional set of eyes would have e.g. caught the VERY uneven balancing of the storm powers, which range from being powerful engine modifications to “almost fluff.” That being said, I was duly impressed by the concepts of the vast majority of veils herein, if not always their mechanical tweaking/execution. It’s exceedingly hard to design for akasha due to the sheer number of moving parts that the system offers. And this class certainly shows that the designer is capable.

BUT. Beyond its internal balance re storm powers being off, it also pushes the power-level of akasha further; not in overt ways, mind you – it’s a lot of small components that work together, but which, as a whole, can eliminate some checks and balances. If your players have a pronounced enough degree of system mastery, this might well suffice to compromise the system. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to make a stormbound that is significantly less powerful than what the class can deliver regarding performance. The reliable AoE energy damage output is an interesting angle, but as a whole, I can’t help but feel that the class either underestimates, or willfully ignores what you can inflict with a properly-calibrated veilweaver. The significant degree of oscillation between a well-optimized stormbound and one made by the average joe/jane is what made this so hard on me.

I can see this class not upset some groups and work like clockwork; I can also see it really being super-problematic. Comparing this to other akashic classes, it certainly can be very strong. Would I allow this class in my game? No. Do I think it’s problematic? Yes. Do I think it could have been vastly improved by applying the same care that obviously went into some aspects of the pdf to the entirety? Heck yes. But do I also think that this can be a fun supplement? That this can work without upsetting the game’s balance if the players are kind enough? Yes. If you’re running a high-powered game, then checking out this class may well be a pretty good idea for you and yours! Just be VERY careful regarding allowing everything here.

In the end, to me, this represents a mixed bag. A clever class with genuinely exciting ideas that’s missing the final polish in power-level consistency, some finer rules components and formatting to really excel. This is incredibly close to becoming excellent in pretty much all ways – I can taste it! Heck, if I have the time at one point, I might clean up this class for my games, go with a fine-toothed comb through it and tweak it to the level it deserves to be. It’s like running a marathon, then stumbling on literally the last few inches. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, with a tentative recommendation under the caveats noted before. For me, personally, I’d round down, and I suggest you do the same if akasha’s meticulously-calibrated framework is as important to you; as a reviewer, though, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy, and tables enjoying high-powered classes and power-increases might get a kick out of this, which is why my official verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Muh, I'd rather prefer to see new content specifically penned for PF2 and the system's strengths than rehashes of old material. But that may be me. ;)

Legendary Planet II for PF2? That'd be an AP I'd be excited about. ^^


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Absolutely concur; I still adore the AP, as a whole, to bits for its design and individual chapters. Heck, I'd back Legendary Planet II in a heartbeat. :)


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Part II of my review:

If you’re looking for a challenge and can take the AP for what it is, it offers a truly fun campaign.
I you want an intricately-woven, intelligent storyline beyond the narrative shortcomings many comparable APs offer, I’d recommend choosing another campaign to run.
I can see this AP clock in as anything, ranging from 3 stars to 5 stars for an individual group.
Personally, the excellence regarding design components helps me forgive the issues in the narrative.
On a plus-side, the flaws in the overall story being not that intricate do mean that AP is super easy to dismantle, expand, and scavenge from – it’s very easy to replace components of the saga, exchange them with your own material or other modules, or elaborate upon an individual chapter.

How, then, am I supposed to rate this AP, as a whole, as opposed to my ratings for the individual chapters? In the end, I think that the weaknesses in the overarching narrative fabric of the AP needs to be represented in some way in the final verdict.
To state this once more – for me, as a person, this works well; I can deal with the narrative, expand upon regions, add consequences, etc. If you enjoy the like, then this may well be a 5 star + seal level AP for you.

But I can’t write my reviews based solely with this perspective in mind. As such, my final verdict of the entire saga as a whole, as opposed to individual installments, would usually not exceed 4 stars, but there is another factor to this: Pricing. Considering the amount of content, this AP is a steal. We get art and map folios, and the equivalent 0f 8 (!!) modules, with the finale being a mega-adventure in its own right, for $50 in pdf; $109.99 pdf + print. This is a STEAL. This has more than 700 pages of top-tier content. (Not counting the art and map folios that are super helpful in the age of COVID…) For that price. You don’t have to be a math savant to realize how good this bang-for-buck ratio is. Hence, I feel justified in adding at least half a star, and round up. Oh, and the AP gets my seal of approval. It’s not perfect, but I still love it to bits.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank space, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

So, what is this? In short, it applies the design paradigm of PF2’s cantrips engine to SFRPG, making them automatically scale with your level. For the purpose of scaling, only the class level in the class that actually grants the cantrip is taken into account for heightening. SP are heightened to 1/3 of the creature’s CR or level, maximum 6th.

Okay, one thing could be spelled out clearer: What about cantrips like daze that are on the spell lists of more than one spellcasting class, how do these operate with multiclass characters, say a technomancer/mystic who has access to daze via both classes? Do they take all levels into account, or do you have to choose the spellcasting class/take the one with the higher CL? The answer is in the text, even though the phrasing is a bit more opaque than I’d have liked: The class you learn the cantrip in is what counts. If you learn daze as a technomancer cantrip, it is heightened as a technomancer spell. (This means that you have to note in which class you learned which spell, which seems a bit unnecessarily cumbersome for me.) That being said, handy glyphs denote whether the cantrips are present on mystic, technomancer or withwarper spell lists.

The pdf goes through the scaling cantrips in alphabetical order, beginning with charming veneer, which provides a minor buff to Charisma related skill checks and lets you once per 24 hours gather information more quickly, with the heightening effect allowing for Resolve expenditure for rerolls. Churn fluid is a GREAT spell for thinkers, allowing you to alter the chemical composition of fluid; in the hands of a good roleplayer, this is a really neat tool. It also brings me to a nice thing to note: We have heightening via +1s, in increments, and thresholds – i.e. if heightened to 3rd level or above. Quite a few of these cantrips sport both of these options: For churn fluid, the regular heightening extends the duration; at 3rd spell level, there is the option to send Resolve to make the duration permanent instead. Cost/benefit ratio represented in an interesting manner here. Another such creative spell would be ghost sound, which later lets you generate scripts to lay out. Now this demands being used for a complex scenario!

There are also simpler cantrips here: Dancing lights increases the number of lights and area affected; daze causes minor untyped damage – and before you ask: Yes, the spell has the proper descriptors to balance the untyped damage. Kudos. Dazzling flare gets increased durations and the means to use Resolve to render targets off-target for a round.

Detect affliction deserves special mention: You see, the cantrip’s diagnostic ability gets new capabilities at each spell level. Detect magic does something similarly amazing: The higher the spell level, the longer in the past may the aura be that you can see – oh, and the area affected also improves. These detect spells are gold, and seriously warrant getting this booklet. Energy ray, not exactly a spell I was looking forward to covering, was also a pleasant surprise, in that it presents an assortment of critical effects as part of its scaling, instead of just attempting to make the damage scale. Damage in comparison to common regular spells btw. checks out. Same goes for the save-based alternative hazard, or the KAC-based telekinetic projectile.

Fabricate scrap is a great one that lets you generate increasing amounts of junk for spells and abilities based on junked electronics. Fatigue sports scaling nonlethal damage alongside higher-level chances of exhausting targets hit – and the mechanics here are clever, as the metric checked is Constitution: If damage exceeds the value, the target is exhausted. Interesting. Mending is nice, preventing abuse with a proper heightening cap and Resolve expenditure required to heal the same construct. Psychokinetic hand gets increased distance, range, etc.

I also love the grave words cantrip: Roll 1d20, flat, against DC 19 when the character touches a corpse: If you succeed, the corpse utters a useful tidbit of information. The higher the heightening, the lower the DC. Neat. Stabilize at higher levels include options to add shield other-ish effects, and at the highest level, even use the spell as a reaction – though at a steep Resolve cost. Yes, this means that frickin’ stabilize may cause applause at the table. The length of telepathic messages and their range can increase seriously. Token spell can be made to last longer and generate more benefits. Transfer charge now lets you transfer charges between multiple objects at once and improvise shock grenades, but the latter is kept in check by requiring short rests to make these overcharge tricks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, on a formal level, there are a few minor blemishes like a missing instance of italics; nothing serious, though. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

So, Alexander Augunas’ cantrips reforged ultimately represent a power-upgrade, and as such, send my reviewer’s senses tingling. However, when seen in the context of the damage averages expected at the respective character levels, you’ll quickly realize that cantrips are very much in line with what they should be. This is NOT an unbalanced supplement, and for that, it really deserves serious kudos. More so than that, however, it deserves applause for the instances where the cantrips not simply provide numerical escalations but how they open up new roleplaying opportunities. That’s what really makes the pdf shine for me.

It should be noted that, if your aesthetics include high-level spellcasters being *very* fragile sans spells, this will somewhat mitigate that Achilles heel. If that is part of how you envision Starfinder, then this may not be for you. If you, however, wanted to see cantrips matter more and actually be conductive to roleplaying in meaningful ways? Then you should consider this pdf to be one I can recommend from the bottom of my heart. Considering that this is the very goal of the pdf, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up in spite of the slightly cumbersome core implementation for multiclass characters (which is easy enough to tweak), and for the evocative roleplaying enhancers, this does get my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to the usual places.


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


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


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Updated to represent the improvements made.


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Updated to reflect improvements made.


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Part II of my review:

Personally, I think that focusing more on breadth of options rather than a deepening of numerical boosts would have been a more rewarding route – more customization for the mech, less static boosts – or, you know, make the static boosts for Strength etc. cost BP. Instead of the nigh impossible to control and balance wide open transparency the system offers, a more controlled system with select exceptions would have probably been the more elegant and robust solution that also retains the uniqueness of classes and class options that do focus on mechs.

Speaking of which, the helmsman did also have an option for vehicles, right? Well, the book presents rules for technological companions, (combat transport vehicle, infiltration transport vehicle, motorcycle, sportscar, and ship); these come with their own base shapes and use the mech’s table and ability gains instead of the default companion stats, following the mech frames with their benefits and enhancements granted. These do warrant some scrutiny as well; ships, in aquatic campaigns, would e.g. be an escalation over the “horse is more deadly than cavalier” low-level issue, as the ship begins play with a Strength score of 24. My observations regarding the potential issues of the mech engine obviously also apply here as a consequence. Since these vehicles also behave as though the driver was mounted, there are some seriously devastating attacks that can be pulled off with them. That being said, if you wanted to play e.g. Knightrider? Here you go.

But let us return to the helmsman class: At 1st level, we get the supernatural hypercharge ability: At 1st level and every odd level thereafter, we get one hypercharge from a list of 13; these are activated as a swift or immediate action, and sport a cost – this is a cost in essence burn, which recovers at the rate of 1 per minute of meditation. 7th, 13th and 17th level unlock previously level-locked hypercharges. Hypercharges last Intelligence modifier rounds (ability score reference not properly capitalized) unless otherwise noted – e.g. one that nets you an additional attack with the same weapon is instantaneous. These hypercharges can be VERY strong. For one point of essence burn, we have an attack roll or saving throw reroll for the bonded vessel as soon as 1st level, and the ability does not specify whether the decision must be made before results are made known. For 2 points of essence burn, we have an instantaneous repair for the bonded vessel equal to twice the helmsman’s level. (Infinite healing exploit is only an issue if you combine it with an option that allows hit points to be shared between constructs and living things.) You can also choose an akashic armament or veil that “the bonded vessel has essence invested in” (which is an odd phrasing that should probably read “´of the bonded vessel that the helmsman has invested essence in” or something like that, increasing that by 3, even beyond the usual cap. Later we have the means to get a combat feat for which the helmsman meets the prerequisites. Which brings me to a question of hypercharges like this: Could you use this hypercharge to gain consecutive feats/mini-feat trees for a limited duration? RAW, that’d be possible. On the plus-side, the high-level options include AoE ranged and melee attacks. Really weird: This is probably the first time that I’ve seen a base class refer to the ability suite of an archetype: The helmsman can also get a hypercharge that lets them learn one of the overdrive abilities of the reactor knight psychic warrior, using Intelligence instead of Wisdom as governing ability score.

Also at 1st level, we have the akashic armaments ability, which lets the helmsman imbue essence in the bonded vessel as though it were a veil; the limit based on veilshaper level applies to each of the armaments separately, not to the overall armaments. Well, scratch that: The armaments are unlocked at 2nd level, and a glimpse at the class table confirms that the text claiming that this is gained at first level, is wrong here – the ability is gained at 2nd level. The benefits are all unlocked, with 9th and 16th level providing new sets of options. The akashic armaments are in line with the existing options: Artillery, for example, nets you a +1 insight bonus to atk and damage with all weapons, and +1 to the save DC, if any, of weapons. This is pretty much a variant of the daevic’s armbands of the irked elephant, minus base damage and bull rush, but plus the DC-angle. Bonus type prevents stacking exploits. That being said, I’m not a big fan of the high-level initiative boost. On a formal level, we have some deviations from the standards here: Threat range is e.g. noted as “15:20”, and we have instances of feats not capitalized and weapon special properties referenced not in italics.

2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter nets a chakra bind in the progression head, feet, wrist, shoulders, headband, neck, body. Balance-wise, the head-chakra is usually gained only at 6th level, at the very soonest for full-caster type akashic characters; for others, the customary level-range is 8+. This does undercut some of the balance options of the system; take djinni’s turban from City of 7 Seraphs: Akashic Trinity, for example: binding this veil to the head slot nets you unassisted personal flight with perfect maneuverability if bound to the head slot as well as a 20% concealment against ranged attacks if you move at least 20 ft. in a single round. Usually, that’s perfectly fine, as you can do it at 6th level, at the soonest, if you’re a nexus or vizier. The helmsman, though? This fellow can pull that off at first level, which violates PFRPG’s balance-assumption of no unassisted flight below 5th level – and it also kinda undercuts the coolness of having an aerial mech. Alternatively, sparkling alicorn nets you a half-celestial unicorn at first level. Via the chakra bind for head; stare of the ghaele’s head chakra bind nets you 1d6+1 rounds of staggering, which is hardcore at the usual 6th level; at first level, it’s overkill. This, more than anything else, would disqualify the class hardcore for me – but guess what? This seems to be yet another error, for the class table does instead provide the hands chakra at 2nd level, which is very much a feasible choice! This is perhaps the most egregious issue in a class’s rules I’ve seen in a while, as it means the difference between “fundamentally broken” and “works well within the confines of the system.” Not cool.

4th, 10th and 19th level net enhanced capacity; 4th level also allows the helmsman to prevent the destruction of their vessel by sacrificing their own hit points. I get and like the intent here, but with a regenerating pilot, this can be somewhat problematic; with a 1/round caveat or a Burn-like mechanic, this’d retain the spirit of the ability, without resulting in the wondrous almost trash-indestructible mech. As written, this ability rewards you for keeping your mech nearly trashed, as the pilot can be healed up quicker than the mech. At 6th level, the helmsman may 1/day (+1/day at 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter) reallocate essence as a free action. 10th level nets the exclusive interface chakra; 12th level nets turboboost. This nets the vessel the ability to gain the benefits of one additional chakra to which any kind of veil can be shaped, but the helmsman takes essence burn equal to the number of essence invested in the chakra each round this is maintained. At 18th level, this is delimited, reducing essence burn to 1 if the vessel has “1 or more points of essence invested in the hypercharge chakra.” Wait. WHAT? Hypercharge is no chakra! That’s a series of abilities that requires essence burn to use, but you don’t invest anything in it? Turboboost is also not a chakra, so is this supposed to reference interface? I genuinely have no idea how the hell this ability is supposed to work. The capstone lets the character shift their essence as an immediate action an unlimited number of times per day, and hypercharge requires one less point of essence burn, minimum 0. The first part of this ability is phrased imprecisely: The core veilweaving feature provides the means to reallocate essence an unlimited amount of time as a swift action; adaptive response improves that to a free action a limited amount of times per day. So…does the capstone mean to imply that it allows for unshaping and constructing of new veils? It seems to refer to previous limitations and is phrased as a delimited, but the ambiguous verbiage makes this very hard to grasp.

The class is supplemented by a variety of favored class options, as well as 3 archetypes. The first would be the experimental engineer is an engine-tweak that is a straight power upgrade: At 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 19th level, you get to choose a mech enhancement, an item creation feat, or a hypercharge. Instead of choosing one hypercharge, you get to choose from more. Pretty sure that, at one point, hypercharges were all unlocked at once, and this archetype was not updated properly. As written, it is a straight power-increase sans drawbacks or tradeoffs. The ability name is not bolded properly. The fleet commander can spread his pilot levels among bonded vessels – a 6th level commander could e.g. have 2 3rd level vessels, 6 1st level vessels…you get the idea; each level, the pilot levels must be allocated, and once chosen, these cannot be redistributed. The fleet shares a bond within 100 ft., +10 ft./level, which includes seeing and hearing through them, which can be ridiculously powerful. The fleet commander can also expend actions to command his fleet; “for example, a fleet commander can spend a move action to command the mechs to move, and a standard action to command them to make a ranged attack.”  At 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the fleet commander can issue commands to an additional one of his bonded vessels as the same action, though doing so causes the vessels to take a -1 penalty to atk and skill check “per mech commanded this way.”

The vessels have to take the same action, but may target different targets. Okay, so RAW, only mechs feature in the penalty, which is clearly an error, but at least only one of the vessels gets the very strong vessel shape sharing. Second error: The class feature references the eclipse base class instead of the helmsman. The archetype loses adaptive response. Hypercharges may affect additional vessels for 1 point of essence burn. I spoke too soon, btw.: At 8th level, investing essence into a single bonded vessel for akashic armaments and veils shares that with the entire armada. This replaces enhanced capacity. WAIT. There is no enhanced capacity at 8th level! So what is this supposed to replace? Is the level incorrect? 12th level replaces turboboost with the ability to bond with any vessel as a standard action, treating it as a bonded vessel for all purposes. “The fleet commander may have any number of vessels affected by this ability at a time, but a single vessel may only be considered he bonded vessel of one helmsman at a time.” WTF. Remember: He can see through all. Instead of improved turboboost, we have the ability to command +1 vessel for a point of essence burn How does this interact with the base ability to command more at once at the cost of penalty? Freely? Full choice? Do we need to pay only in excess beyond the basics? The capstone eliminates btw. the base penalties for multi-vessel commands, and allows the vessels to take different actions from each other, which is damn cool – and something the archetype imho should have, at a HIGH cost, gained  earlier.

The themistoclien helmsman replaces the hypercharges with Path of War maneuvers, starting off with 3 maneuvers known, 1 readied, and increasing that to 7 and 5, respectively. The disciplines available are the golden lion, piercing thunder, solar wind, and the atrociously overpowered rajah class’s radiant dawn. Maneuver recovery works via standard action, or he may gain temporary essence equal to half Intelligence modifier (minimum 1) that may be used for essence burn….and guess what? We have the ability to execute maneuvers through the bonded vessel, so essentially rajah lite, minus the rajah’s atrociously OP titles, but with a better chassis, and it has the same enhanced capacity glitch as above. Since it, like the fleet commander, suffers from a progression/ability exchange glitch, and since the core class already has one, I’ll stop trying to judge whether this fares on the power scale. Dual-system options are already hard enough to check when all components are in working order.

Beyond the veil list (which is another indicator that the class SHOULD in fact get the hands chakra…), we also get a couple new veils. Ablation field is for the chest slot and increases your DR or hardness, but RAW doesn’t grant you either, energy adaptation while bound; captain’s guided hand  is cool, as it provides skill boosts and, when bound to hands, lets your vessel ignore mundane difficult terrain and high winds. Dogfighter’s third eye is exclusive to the helmsman’s mid-level interface chakra, and nets you dodge bonus to AC; interesting: you get to move whenever you’re missed, and while bound, you get blindsense. Also for the interface chakra: expansive uplink, which nets long-range telepathy and sensory sharing; general’s beacon which lets you track allies (and enemies, if bound); ironclad bastion is a more straightforward buff with a movement enhancer when bound; navigator’s boon does what it says on the tin, including find the path (not in italics) while bound. Steel ward’s bond lets you interface with constructs and mind probe them. For non-exclusive chakras, we have the technological items disrupting interface bangles for slots wrist, body, which can also disrupt magic when bound, and warlord’s fist, which nets AoE Intimidate.

Okay, since the helmsman class requires knowing the reactor knight archetype, let us cover that fellow next. The reactor knight gets Fly and Knowledge (engineering) and diminished manifesting, and loses warrior’s path, expanded path, secondary path (powers, trance, maneuvers) and pathweaving in favor of a bonded mech and the overdrive ability referenced by the helmsman. The ability lets the archetype expend their psionic focus in favor of Wisdom bonus + ½ class level (minimum 1) boost points, which last for class level rounds and may be used to activate any overdrive known. At 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter, the archetype gets to choose from one overdrive of a list of 12. These include making Fly checks to negate attacks (broken; skills are super-easy to cheese beyond attack rolls), but that one is at least an immediate action, so only once per round. There is also a physical attack at a 60 ft. range that is extraordinary – which is cool. But how is the very possible scenario of preventing the return of the e.g. detached fist handled? How is this explained with weapons? This is missing the usual clarifications of extraordinary melee attacks executed at range. We also have AoE fire damage, or what about adding Wisdom mod to all attack, saving throws and Acrobatics checks for 3 rounds (no, this has no minimum level), for a lousy 2 boost points that are replenished whenever you want? Compare that with the one that lets you spend 1 boost point and a swift action to exit the mech and land on the floor safely with a DC 5 Acrobatics check. Yeah, let me take the latter over a boost that makes palas cry over their grace being sucky. We also have some formatting inconsistencies here, but this review is already very long. The archetype also provides some skill bonuses, mech enhancements and the capstone has a maximum overdrive that lets them use overdrives sans boost point cost. Don’t get me wrong: This is an archetype I per se LIKE, but it is one that desperately needed some limits, some minimum level requirements and internal balancing.

While we’re on the subject of psionic archetypes, let us cover the remainder of them: The Circuitbreaker cryptic loses the altered defense class feature in favor of Technologist and tech-related crafting feats at higher levels. Instead of evasion, they get Psicrystal Affinity and Psi-Core Upgrade; the latter is a rather cool psionics/tech crossover feat that lets your psicrystal bond with weapons, tools, etc. – which is per se neat. I do have one concern with the feat, though: It lets you convert power points into charges on a 5:1 ratio, which, while not exactly game-breaking, can be a pretty strong delimiter in games, considering how batteries, per the default rules, have a serious chance of going kaput. Lacing traps into targets? Nice. As a whole, I consider this archetype to be solid. The Eclipse archetype for the dread class is, unfortunately, not as well-considered. We have a fleet-scenario that sports much of the same issues of the fleet commander, but add to that the ability to execute ranged untyped damage causing touch attacks; that wasn’t good design for the dread, and it’s still not good design when it can be executed at range and via proxies, particularly since it can also channel terrors at range. At this point, the archetype is already disqualified for me. The mecha sentinel aegis is interesting: Instead of the astral suit, we get an astral mecha, including 3-point customizations for mech enhancements and 4-point customization for size increases, with cannibalize suit replaced with the ability to shake off some negative conditions at higher levels. The medimechanic vitalist can add objects and constructs to their collective, and get a modified powers-list instead of medic powers…oh, and they can exchange repair and healing through their collective. And here we have the HP-with-construct-exchange issue I warned of above.

The overcharger wilder gets a variant surge and three exclusive surge bonds to choose from: Armsmaster, Malfunction and Pilot. No surprise: The pilot surge, which nets you a bonded mech or companion vehicle at full CL is by far the best one. The latter should cost the archetype more. The squad leader tactician has a slightly better ratio there, losing coordinated strike and lesser strategies. As a nitpick, his collective erroneously refers to him as mech pilot, but on the plus-side, the feature is modified to lose the range upgrades, but allow for temporary teamwork feat sharing. Using the collective engine to remotely steer unpiloted mecha is also a neat angle, though I am very weary of the fact that this action tree actually is reduced at higher levels, particularly since there is RAW no limit to the number of collectives you can theoretically be a part of at the same time, which could result in some ridiculous scenes regarding the action economy of the faithful mech servants of a ton of tacticians. There are also two non-psionic archetypes: The cyborg engineer vizier may invest essence in technological items, which allows them to consume fewer charges -1 fewer per essence invested. And with the aforementioned hypoguns, that’d mean infinite healing…and the archetype’s out. (As an aside, combine that with the vitalist, and we have infinite mech healing…) The road warrior fighter is straight-forward, a vehicle companion fighter. No complaints here.

The pdf also features class templates and features, which include blade skills for the soulknife that allow for the emulation of technological melee and ranged weapons. The psionic formulist is a class template that removes the extracts mechanic in favor of psionic extracts; these do tend to be more powerful than regular extracts, but the per se solid implementation, comprehensive lists and considering the theme, I’d very much let those guys into my game. The powerful cerebremancer also gets an archetype, the metaforge is essentially a tweak that is based on the variant rule that treats psionics as advanced tech according to the old adage.

The supplement contains a 10-level PrC, the psiborg adept, who gets ¾ BAB-progfression, d8 HD, ½ Fort-and Will-save progression 8/10ths manifesting progression, and 4 + Int skills per level. Bonded mecha, astral suit, mindblade etc. are also advanced; the archetype suspends the draining of charges of technological items while psionic focus is maintained, and they have a higher implantation threshold, gaining progressively more construct-like abilities. The 8th level ability of the PrC is super strong, auto-regaining psionic focus when manifesting a power, provided you didn’t expend it while manifesting that power. The character may also use charges as power points at higher levels – you get the idea.

Rather cool: The book contains a couple of psicrystal archetypes: The Informant, the OS, and the targeting array – and I genuinely love these. The targeting array gets Int-based aid another, including follow-up feats; the OS gets holographic projections and can hijack robots – and we also get a synthetic animal companion archetype. Kudos for this entire section – apart from a few formal hiccups (ability score reference or size not capitalized, etc.), this section really knocks it out of the park! It’s evocative, balanced and creative and shows what the authors can do.

We also get racial variants, 2 for androids, 2 for forgeborn, 1 for the noral (essentially an akashic variant); Skills are not properly capitalized, bonuses are untyped when they should be racial, and they are lopsided, including ability scores on one side of the mental/physical divide, and one of them nets +4 to Intelligence. . Apart from the champion forgeborn, against whom I can field no nitpicks or gripes, I wouldn’t use them. The book also contains 7+ pages of feats, reprinting the required ones like the Craft feats and Technologist, etc. These also include Craft Companion Vehicle and Craft Mech. As a note: The rules for non-companion vehicles to which they refer point to “pieces” instead of gp. We have feats for having the mech integrated into a set of body armor, the usual class feature enhancers for extra hypercharge, enhancements, etc., replace animal companions with a mech, metapsionic means to cause irradiation with powers based on power points expended. Oh yeah, and then there is that feat that lets you always ignore temporary hit points. Always on. Prerequisite: Psionic Weapon or Fist. That’s it. WTF. Kill it with fire.

The book also has an array of over 20 new psionic powers, and the list includes the voyager class and the gambler among the lists provided. These psionic powers need to be vetted VERY CAREFULLY. Assimilate function, for example, is a costly level 8 power that targets an AI: The AI gets one save, and if failing that, it is instantly destroyed and you get all of its knowledge and special abilities. No duration, mind you. You literally get all of it permanently. Do I even need to explain that this can be an issue? Okay, what if I told you that there are powers that make targets resurrect or incarnate as AIs? Ton of narrative potential, but also a high potential for some logic bugs on why bad guys aren’t nigh-unstoppable.On the plus side, we have astral swarms with the robot subtype and cool augmentation options that include instead making gray goo. Weird, beyond the rather prevalent formatting issues: Even if a power has only one augment option, it lists its augmentation as “1.”, which makes quite a few powers look as though something was cut, when cut copy paste was a more likely culprit. We have rather powerful and flexible terraforming-themed powers, including wide-range weather control, but also changes of gravity, fauna, etc.; while I don’t agree with the cost of all of them, I found myself genuinely appreciating these powers, the formatting snafus here and there notwithstanding; for a scifi or science-fantasy campaign, these certainly are cool and appreciated. Quite a few of these are modeled after comparable spells, expanding the range of psionics while retaining a distinct flavor. I also rather appreciated the complex holographic projections, the power-based piloting, interplanetary movement via psionics, etc. – this kind of stuff. High-level tech-wrecking is cool. Not so cool: One augmentation of a power that lets you recharge tech via psionics lets you multiply the charges by recharging multiple items at once. Still, as a whole, one of the strongest chapters of the book.

The final section includes notes to reflavor both akasha and psionics as cybertech; in the case of the former, we get 4 veils: hover boots, H.U.D., micro-missile gauntlet and nanite cloud. The former being e.g. a variant of lavawalker’s boots that instead of resistances grants you an enhanced speed; H.U.D. is a reflavored sentinel’s helmet – you get the gist. The take on akasha is clever, in that it focuses on flavor; the one on psionics goes a different route, and recommends making them no longer susceptible to dispel magic etc. – essentially, it’s a re-establishing of the psionics-are-different paradigm, with the caveat that effects that affect technology now also affect psionics. Provided your campaign sports enough tech-related materials and effects/spells, this works – if not, be very careful, as psionics already are pretty potent. The section also presents three variants of psionic item creation feats for this context, and adds spells as powers to some class lists.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not even close up to the standards of Legendary Games; beyond the rather copious deviations in formatting I noticed, the supplement unfortunately also suffers from several issues on the rules-language level, which include ones that wreck the functionality of otherwise cool concepts. Beyond that, the balancing of quite a few options, internal and external, is dubious. This feels like an excellent first draft; not like a finished book. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard that LG-fans may also know from Starfinder supplements. The supplement sports quite a bunch of full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Daley and Michael Sayre are both talented designers, but the long and painful genesis of this book is readily apparent. The core engine presented is an interesting one that succeeds at its intended goal of depicting rules for a game alike e.g. Gundam SEED, but it is also one that would have benefited from not trying to fuse all those sub-systems – in many ways, one of the things that undo parts of this book, is that it loses track of all the moving parts of the systems it taps into, misses balancing caveats that were clearly intended to be there, misses internal level prerequisites for some ability arrays, etc.

This is particularly evident, as the book does e.g. show a cognizance of balancing caveats regarding e.g. threat range limitations and similar fine details that often are overlooked. The intent is here, the execution falls a bit short. As a consequence, the power-levels fluctuate starkly between OP and “I’d use and allow that without missing a heartbeat!” regarding quite a few pieces of content, and the issues are never there out of necessity for a vision, they are there because of what feels like refinement missing.

Again: The core of Arcforge’s engine does its job in a solid manner, though expansion of it instead of the inclusion of the archetypes might have been the more prudent strategy. In many ways, this feels like one of the most rushed books I’ve seen by Legendary Games so far.

After I had perused the mecha-engine, I was excited to see whether the classes and class features would offset some of its potential rough spots, but instead, they went the other way, exacerbating some flaws with numerous exploits, a ton of glitches, problems in functionality, etc. In many instances, supplemental materials with the proper focus could have rendered the engine a Top Ten-level masterstroke – the potential is here. Still, this does leave me hopeful for future installments!

And yet, while this book is deeply flawed, and while I’d advise extreme caution when implementing it in your campaign, it is also a book that is genuinely inspiring, that has its moments of brilliance, and that, if you can get your players to agree to refraining from gaming the system in its plentiful available ways, can make it a compelling cornerstone for entire campaigns. I just wished this had received the control, clean-up and refinement it needed. As provided, I can only recommend this with some serious reservations, and can’t go higher than 3 stars, consisting of a median of some components in the lower rating echelons, and some in the higher ones.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Okay, I'll hereby also extend my HUGE thanks to Linda Zayas-Palmer! I didn't list here as she wasn't listed in that capacity - so thank you, Linda!! :D


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First of all: HUGE kudos to my developers!! The module only exists in its current iteration due to their talent, and devs are often the unsung heroes of the RPG-industry! As far as I know, Michael Sayre, James Case and Mark Seifter really polished this one.

Also: Kudos to Alexander Augunas, the author of Pt.II: His module has gotten some flack, but it's really the second side of the coin to this one - they were written to form a whole, and my RP-focused module was written this way as a build towards Alex' action-romp.

@Grobacz: Coming from a PF-veteran like you, this is a huge badge of honor. *takes a bow*
I've written material for other systems (PF1, 5e, OSR, etc.) before, but I never had the chance to write an adventure before...plus, given that English's not my native language, I always shied away from modules.

I can't thank Paizo enough for giving me a shot with a) metaplot and b), an adventure for a relatively new system, where I'm not yet as familiar with the mechanics as in e.g. 5e etc..

@CorvusMask: I'm trying. Reviewer's habit. ;) Also: Thank you VERY MUCH for your kind review.

To answer your question, well, the reason for the redcap angle is partially due to the fey influence, partially found in the sidebar, pg. 10 of the module - trying to avoid spoilers here. Also, the Bhopanese think of seasons/courts as a wheel, and this also, consequently, blurs the traditional alignment boundaries. "Evil" and "good" are seen more as facets, and less like monolithic forces.

And yes, the combats being not that hard was a deliberate decision, since I knew what Alex would throw at the PCs. I wrote this to potentially allow for the option to play Pt. I and II back to back.

Cheers!


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@Jonathon: Per se, I'd generally be inclined to do so, but I can't share them as they are, as I sold them to FCG.

HOWEVER, I might well return to their *concepts* and realize them in new ways/different designs, if there's a demand for them, say by my patreon supporters, for example.


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Same here, FCG released some amazing books. I'd love to see a second cooking book, or a cokctail book, etc.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book clocks in at 140 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 2 pages ToC, 3 pages of advertisements, 4 pages left intentionally blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 127 pages of content.

I own both the hardcover, and the pdf-version. The hardcover sports the name on the spine, and the pdf can be properly searched, but only sports a very rudimentary 3 bookmarks, making navigation pretty much a chore – I strongly recommend getting print if you plan on spending time with this book. Layout is a two-column b/w-standard, with a couple of b/w-artworks, and LOTS of densely-packed text and tables. In modern days, this’d probably be twice its size.

So, to make this abundantly clear – this is NOT the usual review I write for products. It is more of an examination of why I like Empire of the Petal Throne, and why you may or may not feel the same.

Why no regular review?

Because *I*, as a person, as opposed to me in my capacity as a reviewer, love Tékumel.

This love, however, is highly subjective and, to a degree, based on my own non-gaming related interests, and less on a neutral assessment of objective quality. At the same time, I think that the reasons why I love this may well be the reason why others will absolutely despise it. So this format it is.

Why now? Well, it turns out that the book is now available as a PoD, and I, too young to ever get my hands on the boxed set (which released in 1975, one year after a self-published iteration), couldn’t resist.

Let’s start with perhaps the reason why you may not enjoy Tékumel: Originally released 1975, the book is, formally, brutally archaic to modern sensibilities. This extends to information design, an incredible density of information in massive textblocks, and a rules-presentation that, while functional, is clearly a product of its time. The most charming instance for this, in some ways, would be the suggestion to make custom dice via painting over numbers on a d20 – which makes sense, there simply were no weirdo dice like the ones we use in DCC etc. On the plus-side, navigating this tome is actually easier than I expected, more structured and certainly easier to reference than many comparable books. If you’re particularly prude, I should also mention that there are exposed boobs in some artworks – while these never struck me as sexualized, I’m also a European, so if you have an issue with that, consider yourself warned.

All of this notwithstanding, there is plenty of material in the rules that can be adapted rather easily to “modern” OSR-games. (Now that sounds oxymoronic, I know, but you get my drift.) We have HD etc., a custom spellcasting engine with limitations, level-titles, and more. If you are familiar with contemporary OSR-games, a lot will be familiar to you here. There are essentially three core classes, and the book uses percentile-based character creation, which can result in hugely swingy characters. This is still relatively easy to adjust for if you are e.g. assuming the power-level of Swords & Wizardry, though. Character creation, even if you are not familiar with the game, is pretty swift and can be done in less than 10 minutes.

In case you’re one of the people who were not even aware of Tékumel, I can give you a brief run-down, which MIGHT be construed to be SPOILERS for players.

Players should best skip ahead to the end of the SPOILERS. Seriously, Tékumel, as a player, is best experienced without prior knowledge.


..
.

Okay, only referees around? All right! Picture a super high-tech civilization spanning the stars, a true interstellar empire. They found this world, and it’s poisonous and strange – red jungles, poisonous plants, hostile local civilizations. Undaunted, they start terraforming the place and wage war; humanity not only radically annihilates essentially the planet’s previous flora and fauna and introduces their own, they also best the local civilizations and force them to retreat, beaten and battered. It is essentially an extreme form of colonialism that subjects the very nature of the planet to the whims of the colonizers.

Then, something happened, and Tékumel was cast into the void – the stars vanished, and only sun, moons, etc. remain – otherwise, the sky is DARK. This, predictably, collapsed the stellar colonialist empire – particularly since the planet has next to no iron, making it vastly more valuable than gold. So far, so common, right? Well, fast forward around 25,000 years.

In many ways, magic items are ill-understood old super-tech, buried beneath the earth; creatures and their strange niches are explained as beings either suited to a different eco-system, or just brought in by the colonists….but nobody in the world truly knows this. Since then, ancient empires have risen and fallen, and a series of unique civilizations have risen from the ashes.

Magic items, primarily in the guises of “eyes” are thus found under the earth, and are essentially super-science considered to be magic by everybody. Still, it should be noted that this is NOT science-fantasy. This entire angle is obscure, very obscure indeed, and players will probably never notice unless you want them to, but the referee should know about it.

/SPOILERS,

And I mean “unique” when I call the civilizations discussed herein thus. They are NOT just mash-ups of civilizations we have on earth; they are weird, interesting and novel, and present a truly holistic vision of a fantasy unlike any we’ve read. While Arneson and Gygax providing the introduction certainly establishes credits here, it bears mentioning that the comparison to Tolkien is suitable, it also is inaccurate, as Tolkien heavily drew on concepts established in Germanic myths and elaborated, while Tékumel is obviously a setting that presents a vision starkly distinct from even most modern (indie) games.

This originality is, ultimately, based on a rigorous intellectual conceptualization of the campaign setting: Tékumel has basically no four-legged animals; 6 are common, but we have no horses, no cows, no cats, etc. – instead, we have a distinct and strange, often wondrous fauna that is well-represented in the bestiary-section. But that’s not the draw for me: What made me smile here, is that the author genuinely thought about the implications of the lack of e.g. horses. No cavalry, and as a result, highways are crafted differently (raised and fortified, with three tracks depending on status) – and other things change as well. There is a thorough consistency here that truly renders the setting plausible.

The book also is, in some ways, ahead of its time: While it does pay lip-service to the notions of good and evil, particularly with the gods and their cohorts (there are 5 good and 5 evil gods, plus their cohorts), the book also remarks that they’re inscrutable and not THAT different from each other; the “evil” gods do engage in some “evil” behavior, of course, but considering the monolithic simplifications the alignment system still imposes on many games, I found it rewarding to find an acknowledgement of relativity, no matter how subdued. When it e.g. comes to detect spells, they discern hostile intent, which is imho much more interesting than the more common implementations. Did I mention the rules for beseeching them for divine intervention? These are level-based, and rather neat – almost like a very early proto-DCC Invoke Patron.

But I digress. Don’t get me wrong: The majority of this book is devoted to rules that are, to modern sensibilities, archaic; not bad or badly-presented, mind you, but not something I’d go out of my way to play.

And yet, I positively adore this book, and the reason for that lies in the lore. To be more specific, the consistency and detail provided for Tékumel has truly captured my imagination – while numerology (!!) etc. are their own supplements, the overview of the campaign setting provided here has set my mind ablaze: From politics between factions to bloodsports to the wiles of deities, there is an internal logic to everything; this is a fantasy unlike any I’ve read before or since, and its emphasis on clans, obligations, etc. over regular currency and the like puts a very different emphasis on what’s happening.

One of the reasons for that would be Tsolyáni. What’s that? Well, it’s the language assumed as a default, and it comes with its own glyphs and unique way of writing it – and yes, you *can* learn the script with this book! As an aside: Other languages are covered in their own files, but this first exposure to Tsolyáni? It really excites me in a profound way. Scripts with English translations, pronunciation guides, and its sheer alien aesthetics…I love it. I really do. And oddly, this fascination has exceeded the one I have for similar invented languages.

…I know, I’m a weirdo, but one can really see that M.A.R. Barker’s professions were linguistics and anthropology in his writing. For context: I’m one of the guys who read Frazer’s “The Golden Bough” (not the abridged version) and actually had fun with it. Tsolyáni is genuinely *fun* to me. Learning to write the glyphs? Yeah, I’m actually getting into that. I’m not even kidding you.

This language, however, also might well be a reason for plenty of people to look at this, and turn their backs on the setting. Memorizing the names of people and places is already not too simple, for the setting’s overview is provided in one of the most densely-packed pieces of wall-of-text I’ve ever encountered in a roleplaying supplement, and once you add to that Tsolyáni names, you arrive at a setting overview that is nigh-impossible to just quickly gloss over. This requires prolonged concentration and immersion, perhaps something that some people might consider to be strenuous in this digital age.

It’s imho worth it. The setting overview of its empires and politics, of the wealth of adventuring potential, of the customs, etc., is simply inspiring in the truest sense of the word. However, it is not handed to you in a convenient manner and requires perhaps more dedication to get into than many will deign to grant it. Even if you disregard the rules herein, Tékumel is not a setting you briefly skim over and then play. It requires that you pour yourself your beverage of choice and calmly settle into this new world. Wills, testaments, marriages – all provided, and before you ask, women can declare themselves as equals to men and thus enjoy full rights, but also the corresponding responsibilities. In many ways, this setting is surprisingly progressive without feeling like it’s pandering or censoring itself. (Like e.g. those sucky horror settings that try super-hard to avoid offending anyone…)

Speaking of which: This sheer unfamiliarity and novelty (and yes, I am aware of the irony of ascribing this moniker to a world that’s 45 years old…what does that say about contemporary fantasy?) exuded by Tékumel is also represented in the equipment. Barring copious amounts of iron, the hide of certain animals is alchemically-treated and used for armor, and the strangeness, the novelty of the setting, also extends to cultural norms regarding citizenship, slavery, etc. – some of these components become evident between the lines, in the equipment and encumbrance lists, in the lore regarding the fauna…and the book knows this, as the default start for adventuring is to have the PCs simply arrive in Jakalla (fully mapped), a port city, as newcomers to the Tsolyáni empire, essentially strangers in a strange land.

So, why am not (yet) talking about the two Swords & Glory books that go into much more detail than this one? That don’t spend as much time with rules you (probably) aren’t going to use in their entirety, and which I’ve been pretty vocal about not being impressed by?

Simple: Because this book here, while densely packed with information (in fact, I considered the lore on my first read-through to be more exerting to process than the rules), is a great way to check out Tékumel, to see whether it’s for you, whether you and your players can handle/enjoy the setting – it imposes an above-average cognitive load upon you, but it never does so self-indulgently; it acknowledges this fact freely, encourages the reader, etc. – it is written from the position of an assumption of competence, which is indeed refreshing to observe.

To make that abundantly clear: The book consists primarily of rules used for play in Tékumel, and I ignore most of them and only use them as a guideline to translate them into a more common OSR-game. This is possible due to them being here; the rules are entwined with the setting, and they are archaic enough to warrant even a conversion to more mainstream old school systems. It’s not bad, mind you – it’s just clunky, but considering its age, it has retained its viability remarkably well. Still, it’d be rather easy to poke holes into this and criticize it, but that would also not exactly be fair; in fact, it’d be a disservice to the vision. That being said, if I were to rate this book solely on the basis of its mechanical virtues in comparison to other contemporary old-school roleplaying supplements, it’d, at best, score 3 stars.

However, it is somewhat weird, but the lore and world itself, including the mechanical representation of it, are a great indicator of whether you and yours want to embark on a journey to Tékumel.

So yeah, if you never heard of Tékumel, this is the book I’d recommend checking out. It has all the stuff you need to play; its rules are easy to adjust to old-school systems, and it *will* change how you play the game; the rules imply realities that are very different from that of e.g. Greyhawk or Mystara, and are interwoven with the lore to generate a tapestry both wondrous and profound, of a culture that never was, of a fantasy that is radically different from any other setting I’ve read.

If the strength and consistency of the vision strikes a chord with you, you’ll love it and forevermore be under the spell of Tékumel. If it didn’t, then you’ll probably come away from this hating it – but at least have a book that is a window towards the start of the hobby we all love and enjoy.

Tékumel requires time and patience to get a feel for, and is pretty much the antithesis of “yet another setting inspired by xyz-culture/mashup of X cultures”; if most fantasy worlds are intellectual fast food, easy to contextualize and grasp, then this is obscure slow food that is very much an acquired taste, that takes time and effort to consume and properly digest.

This book, like the setting, is one that feels like it fell out of place and time, orbiting now its very own sphere, under a starless sky. It is timeless and odd, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone hating it – in many ways, this may be one of the most polarizing things I’ve ever covered.

If that sounds interesting to you, then this most assuredly is a great way to take a look at this often-forgotten gem of a world. For me, as a person, this is a 5-star file, and I think you’ll either love it, or hate it – not due to some metrics or guidelines, but because its strikes a chord with you…or not.

Endzeitgeist out.


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First of all, I'd like to thank all the reviewers for their insights - including the one by Schattenstern, which admittedly stung, but any time spent on writing a review is ultimately helpful to me! I'm very sorry you didn't have a good time, Schattenstern.

Furthermore, I'd like to thank andreww for the more detailed feedback here! From one academic to another, I really appreciate the helpful and constructive feedback!

1.-3.: This is partially due to constraints and the need to write for a general audience where one can't assume fixed ranged competence. As mentioned before, the lack of consequence here was actually by design, but clearly should be communicated more clearly or otehrwise tweaked. Thank you for pointing this out more explicitly for me.

5.-6.: The low difficulty was intended. Puzzles, particularly unconventional ones that require some GM-mojo to pull off, should have caveats that prevent getting stuck. One must design for more roleplaying and mechanically-inclined groups both, and account for different skill-levels of players.

As a whole, I learned a lot from your feedback, so once more, thank you so much for going the extra mile and posting these!!

*takes a bow*


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters as a prioritized review.

Okay, so what is this? In short, it’s a selection of 8 specialist wizard classes, one for each of the big schools. As such, we assume d6 HD, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, good Will-saves and full 9-level spellcasting progression governed by Intelligence as casting ability modifier, and the progression is based on the wizard’s spells per day, as well as proficiency with select simple weapons as a default here – but there are plenty of deviations from this paradigm, which I’ll call out in the coverage of the individual respective class. The classes gain a special spellslot that may only be used for their specialty school. All of the classes come with favored class bonuses for the core-races minus the half-elf and half-orc, but plus orc.

Got that? All right, so, the abjurer is proficient with all 1-handed and ranged simple weapons, as well as boar spears and light armor, and they may cast arcane spells in light armor sans incurring the risk of arcane spell failure. This paradigm holds true for the other casters herein as well, just fyi – if they get armor proficiency from a class feature, they can cast in it. Same goes for wearing a buckler, just fyi! Spells must be taken from the abjuration, divination, transmutation or universal schools, and other schools’ spells are NOT on the spell-list. At 1st level, the character gains a bonded buckler, which may 1/day be used to cast an abjuration spell in the abjurer’s spellbook that they know and are able to cast sans preparing it beforehand. It may be enchanted and replaced, and provides the usual self-regeneration rules if only damaged. Abjurers use Intelligence, and not Constitution, to determine their bonus hit points when gaining levels in this class (important caveat to prevent dip-abuse!), and at 2nd level, they gain abjurer’s aegis, allowing them to choose one benefit when preparing spells: One nets resistance equal to the highest spell level they can cast to one of the core 4 energy damage types; number 2 nets DR of an equal amount, and number three nets a competence bonus to melee attack rolls equal to the highest level spell they can cast. At 11th level, two aegii may be chosen at once. Starting at 4th level, when wearing the bonded buckler, the abjurer may spend a swift action to grant the shield bonus to AC to all allies within 30 ft, or increase their shield bonus by this amount, with the effect lasting for Intelligence modifier rounds, up to 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. 6th level nets Mettle, which is essentially evasion for both Fort- and Will-saves…and yes, abjurers have a good Fort-save.  

Starting at 8th level, they may absorb 3 times their class level, they first check for immunity, resistance or vulnerability, then apply the rest to this absorption. And yes, this RAW does apply to force, negative energy, sonic, etc. damage – but it *is* a limited ability. 10th level nets proficiency with medium armor and light shields (bonded item can now be such a shield as well), including casting in it, and 14th level upgrades that to heavy armor and heavy shields. At 12th level, whenever the abjurer dispels or counterspells an enemy’s spell, they get to scavenge the magic, prolonging the duration of an already cast abjuration spell by the negated spells’ spell level. Rules-wise, this is clever, as instantaneous spells or super-short duration ones obviously prevent use with counterspelling, but personally, I do think that it should specify that the spell to be prolonged must have a duration of rounds per level or more, but this is mostly aesthetics. At 16th level, the abjurer may expend a 3rd-level or 5th-level spellslot whenever they confirm a crit against an opponent as a free action, affecting the target with targeted dispel magic, or greater dispel magic, respectively. At 18th level, we have the ability to ward a creature by touch as a standard action, at will, and enemies have to succeed on an attack roll to attack the warded creature, including with targeted spells. Only one creature may be warded at a given time. The ability doesn’t list the saving throw formula, but, being SP; I think that 10 +1/2 class level + Intelligence modifier is an easy and intended default. The capstone lets the abjurer expend a spellslot of the same level or lower as an immediate action whenever the duration of an abjuration spell would expire, to prolong it as though it had just been cast. I really like the abjurer’s shield themes, and how it makes a defense mage really feel distinct. This is a winner.

Conjurers get proficiency with club, dagger, quarterstaff, simple ranged weapons and shortbow as well as longbow, and their spell-list covers conjuration, enchantment, necromancy and universal, with the exception of those referring to class features such as eidolons, and they also get the summon nature’s ally spell sequence. This is in as far interesting, as the special slot that conjurers get for conjurations only also require that you choose summon monster or summon nature’s ally, and said spell becomes the only one you can cast with this. Such spells also remain in effect for 1 minute per level, rather than the usual 1 round per level, and may be cast as a standard action. The latter is a significant power-gain, as summoned creatures act immediately on your turn, something usually offset by the 1 round casting duration. At 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the class gets one (summoning) spell added to the spell list and spells known, or the conjurer chooses a combat or teamwork feat, which ALL creatures summoned gaining that. This can be rather strong: The monsters do not RAW need to meet the prerequisites, just the conjurer. HOWEVER, you can only choose a feat you’d meet the prerequisites for to be granted by this ability, so in order to grant e.g. a feat tree to summoned monsters, you’d have to “waste” the prerequisite feats by taking them for your conjurer, so the requisite clause is fulfilled. 4th level nets Augment Summoning, and every 4 levels thereafter, we get to choose from a list of feats. The capstone makes all summon monster spells (but oddly, not summon nature’s ally) count as one spell level lower, including making summon monster I essentially a cantrip, and metamagic adjustments to such spells are treated as two lower. I won’t lie, this one sends my alarm bells ringing to a degree; the modified spell list does help keep it in check, but in order to make a final judgment on it, I’d need longterm data, which I don’t yet have. Short term, the option is certainly strong, and I’d be careful with allowing multiclassing here.

The diviner gets d8 HD, proficiency with one-handed simple weapons, lantern staves and light crossbow as well 3/4 BAB-progression and good Reflex- and Will-saves. We once more have a bonus spell slot for divinations, and spells are drawn from abjuration, divination, transmutation and universal schools. The class begins play with Scribe Scroll, and always gets to act in the surprise round, but is flat-footed until they acted. Detect Expertise is gained at 2nd level, and a whole plethora of detect spells is added to the spell list and list of spells known at 2nd level as well. Their CL is also treated as 2 higher when casting such spells. 4th level nets uncanny dodge, 8th level improved uncanny dodge; 14th level provides evasion, 18th level improved evasion. 6th level provides the detect weakness ability to use a move action to choose a creature within 30 feet, which takes a penalty to AC and saves versus the diviner’s spells and attacks equal to ½ the diviner’s class level for one round, usable 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day as a move action. This is pretty brutal and can be overkill: There is no save, and a 14th level diviner could impose a -7 penalty to e.g. saves versus transmutation’s save or suck spells like flesh to stone and the like, which is an almost guaranteed success, unless the target has REALLY high related ability scores and good save, and then it’s still a stretch if the diviner is halfway decent in their optimization. This ability is imho overkill and could have used a whack with the nerfbat. The ability’s range extends to 60 feet and may be activated as a swift action at 11th level. 10th level nets +1/2 class level to Perception. At 16th level, they autodisbelieve phantasms and get a +5 insight bonus and an automatic disbelieve save when coming within 60 ft. of illusions. The capstone lets their scrying sensors pierce lead and makes their sensors 5 harder to detect, as well as always treating them as having firsthand knowledge. In case you were wondering: I’d make detect weakness’s penalty based on ½ the highest spell level they can cast instead – that’d be e.g. -3 if they can cast a 6th level spell, which seems more in line than the escalating  class level based scaling.

The enchanter gets proficiency with brass knuckles, cestus, blade boot, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, quarterstaff, sap, spring blade and war razor, and draws spells from enchantment, illusion, necromancy, universal. Their governing spellcasting ability score is Charisma, and they gain each level a bonus skill rank for Bluff and Diplomacy (normal cap applies), as well as half their class level  as a bonus to those skills. At 2nd level, when attacked and damaged by a non-reach melee weapon, they can use an immediate action to generate a blast that may daze the attacker briefly, usable 3 + Charisma modifier times per day. No daze-locking, btw., and creatures with more HD are immune to it. Nice! 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter net a teamwork feat, which the enchanter may then share with a creature affected by their charms or compulsions as a swift action for 3 + Charisma modifier rounds. The creature DOES NOT have to meet the feat’s prerequisites. This, of course, provides a justification for why you’d want to allow the enchanter to control you…which is a surprisingly interesting angle. 6th level allows enchanters to throw off enchantment effects, with one reroll per round, up to a maximum of their Charisma modifier attempts, minimum 1.10th level affects those charmed or affected by a compulsion as by Disruptive Spell, if the enchanter chooses so. 14th level lets the enchanter sacrifice a spellslot of equal level to remove the mind-affecting descriptor from a compulsion, which is made more potent by the capstone, which btw. also autogrants the teamwork feats mentioned before sans action expenditure required. 18th level extends single-target charm and compulsion spells to another target within 30 ft. of the first. A potent take on the enchanter that fared well in my tests – as a hint: At high-levels, these fellows may very efficient guildmasters etc. and puppeteer-style villains…just sayin’…

The evoker gets a ¾ BAB-progression, d8 HD and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, as well as alchemical thrown weapons and one martial or exotic weapon of their choice. Spells are drawn from conjuration, evocation, transmutation and universal, and we get the bonus spell slot for, bingo, evocations each spell level. The class adds their Intelligence modifier to evocation spells that deal hit point damage, but may only add it once per target in the case of multi-target spells or thse spells that can split their target. This adds damage potential, but rewards the class for spreading damage. At 2nd level, evokers choose an elemental attunement to one of the 4 core energy types; the evoker may substitute the chosen energy type for the normal one of any energy-damage causing spell of the other 4 core elements not chosen. So, if you choose cold, you could e.g. cause cold damage with spells dealing fire, acid or electricity damage, which also can change the descriptor. The ability also determines the energy used in the second ability gained at 2nd level: The evoker can use a swift action to charge wielded weapons, adding +1d6 of the chosen energy per 2 class levels on the next attack, and said attack also benefits from a competence bonus equal to the highest spell level they can cast. The charge dissipates if not used, and the evoker gets 3 + Intelligence modifier uses. 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter net a combat or teamwork feat as a bonus feat. 8th level nets Vital Strike, and 6 levels thereafter, this upgrades to Improved Vital Strike, finally culminating at Greater Vital Strike at 18th level. The capstone nets fee and spontaneous Maximize Spell for evocations cast for Intelligence modifier times per day. Solid take on a battle mage.

Illusionists get proficiency with dagger, hand crossbow, iron brush, kerambit, sword cane, whip and tube arrow shooter as well as light armor, and also have good Reflex-saves in addition to the Will-standard. Their spell list draws from abjuration, divination, enchantment and illusion, and the added spellslots are freely available for illusions. They begin play with ½ class level as a bonus to Perception to detect traps and see through Disguise. Second level provides a bonus to their spell DCs if the target would be denied their Dexterity modifier to AC, and at 4th level, targets attempting to pierce an illusionist’s illusion must make a CL check to do so, believing that their effect worked as intended on a failure. 8th level nets an increased DC to disbelieve the illusionist’s illusions as well as an increased Spellcraft DC to identify their handiwork. 12th level nets a miss chance whenever the illusionist moved at least 10 feet, and 16th level nets the illusionist’s Intelligence modifier as a bonus to all saving throws as well as Bluff, Disguise and Stealth. The capstone negates true strike and similar effects used against the illusionist based on knowing the future, and also shields versus the usual detections. This effect may be suppressed.

The necromancer gets d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, and adds a good Fortitude-save to the Will-save default. Proficiency includes club, dagger, heavy and light crossbow, scimitar, scythe sickle, quarterstaff and light armor, as well as medium armor made from cloth, leather or hide. Their sell lists consist of the illusion, necromancy, transmutation and universal schools, and their specialization slots may be freely used with necromancy spells. The defining feature of this one would be the corpse companion; if said companion is lost or destroyed, it can be replaced relatively painlessly in 24 hours. At 2nd level, 5th level, and every 2 levels thereafter, the necromancer gets 2 corpse points used for augmenting the corpse, which act as eidolon evolutions. The corpse companion gets full Will-save progression, ¾ BAB-progression, as well as 2 skill ranks per level, excluding 3rd level. Over the course of the 20-level progression, the companion accumulates 10 feats, but to make up for that in comparison, the Ac bonus is less than that of the eidolon’s cap. The base forms available are a canid corpse, and Small and Medium humanoid corpses, which does suffice as a baseline to create additional forms if required. It should be noted that, since the corpse isn’t as mutable and absed on fixed forms, it does not need a maximum number of attacks listed. 3rd level, in case you were wondering, nets the necromancer channel energy, but negative energy only – and yes, at full level, not at the -2 You’d expect, so these fellows actually don’t suck in comparison to clerics in that regard. Minor nitpick: I’d have liked to see the pdf state that the companion does not count for the purpose of maximum undead HD controlled, but since I’s a class feature, that is no oversight – just something that requires a bit more in-depth rules knowledge than some GMs have.

Finally, we have the transmuter, whose proficiency lists includes battle poi, bladed scarf, cat-o’-nine-tails, chain spear, dire flail, double chained kama, dwarven dorn-dergar, flail, flying talon, gnome pincher, halfling rope-shot, heavy flail, kusarigama, kyoketsu shoge, meteor hammer, morning star, nine-section whip, nunchaku, sanetsukon, scorpion whip, spiked chain, urumi, whip, light crossbow and quarterstaff.  If you seriously end up using the quarterstaff with this awesome proficiency list, I really don’t know. The spell list includes conjuration, evocation, transmutation and universal, and the transmutation specialization slot isn’t limited to specific transmutation spells. The class adds good Fort-saves to the standard chassis. 1st level nets phase step, which is a 10 ft. per class level move action teleportation, usable 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day.  At 2nd level, all transmutations with a duration of 1 round per class level get +1 round, plus another round at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter. 4th level nets the ability to sacrifice a spell of one spell level lower as a swift action when casting a transmutation to apply one metamagic feat known sans increase n level or preparing it ahead of time. Cantrips can’t be used thus – important balancing caveat. 6th level nets a -2 penalty versus the transmuter’s transmutations if the target is already under the effects of a transmutation. 8th level provides the option to sacrifice spell slots to maintain existing transmutation spells running out, but metamagic feats applied are not thus maintained, preventing cheesing with the previous ability. At 10th level, self-targeting with transmutations makes the character’s spells be treated as +3 CL. 12th level lets the transmuter, as a swift action, exchange a prepared spell with another in the spellbook, usable 1/day, +1/day every 2 levels thereafter. The capstone lets the transmuter change between different creature forms when affected by a given spell as a swift action, allowing for fluid shapechanges within a spell’s parameters.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good as a whole – bonus types are applied consistently, and apart from a “one/once” hiccup, both formal and rules-language are precise and well-wrought. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard, and the artworks used are stock arts, some of which I hadn’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Sayre’s 8 variant wizard classes are a difficult design proposition – we all know that a properly played wizard (or druid) is a fearsome monster at higher levels, and incisions into their flexibility must be justified, at least to a degree. The book does this in a rather smart manner, by making the specialists real, well specialists. The loss in spell flexibility is made up for by them simply being more fun to play, at least as far as I’m concerned, and I wish we had gotten these classes when thassilonian magic was introduced – they all fell surprisingly different from core wizards in how they play. Now, I get it – divination has to do with fate, and is unpopular in many groups anyways, so I totally understand why detect weakness is as strong as it is, but if your players are fond of diviner concepts, that’s the one part of the pdf where I’d advise in favor of using the nerfed solution suggested above instead.  On a very personal note, I absolutely adored both the enchanter and the abjurer. Both can be really potent if played right, and both feel VERY different from their standard specializations – these two imho warrant the asking price on their own, if you want my opinion. The necromancer is a kind of hotfix that makes arcane necromancers more on par with their cleric compatriots without stepping on the spiritualist’s toes. The evoker has a distinct soldier-mage feel to it…you get the idea. The book can’t well make up for the loss in versatility by eliminating parts of the most powerful spell list in PFRPG. Instead, it makes playing the specialists more rewarding, and, well, special as an experience. So if you started to get bored by all wizards feeling the same, this is what you should get. Considering that this was the design goal, I consider it a resounding success. It is not perfect, but its very few flaws are not nearly enough to cost this my seal of approval, or make me round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Prefaces with the caveat that I don't yet have the finished version of the scenario:

@Stuart Tindall:

Having just checked the draft I sent to Paizo, I can confirm that this is an error that happened in editing, and is not present in my draft. Winter should be opposed by summer, spring by autumn. My original text read "Winter brings wisdom." followed with "If the PCs respond with a proper Bhopanese departure formula featuring summer ..."

@Exton Land:

The lack of time it takes between obstacles in Part A is intentional. The part is primarily intended to set up a hostile, or at least inconvenient, environment that generates expectations for a savage culture. It serves to set up the contrast of the highly-developed Bhopanese culture. Additionally, having done some jungle exploration, the heat and hassle does indeed make determining timeframes difficult. I tried to use this as a subtle way to instill the notion of exploration/adventure-novels and a slight fever-dream-like aesthetic. It *is* odd on a mechanical level, and I expected it to be received as such, but it's not a glitch.

@The Vortex:

1. The issue with opposed seasons, as mentioned, happened down the line. Regarding the traps: The SW alcove is supposed to be summer; the NW is supposed to be winter; the SE spring, the NE autumn.

2. GM's choice.

3. Dance Mishaps: These were intentionally supposed to be harsh: I designed the dance to be solvable by just roleplaying (apply the dance steps logically), by skill challenge, by following Lelzshin or being supported by friendly Bhopanese, and when botching, the PCs had the choice of either accepting or struggling the transformative magics.
So 5 ways to avoid ever encountering a dance mishap in the first place.
As for the duration, my draft states: "The effects of the Dance Mishaps last, unless instantaneous, until anyone touches the Perennial Crown."

4. They use the rules for 5+ players.

5. Once more, the damage in a mechanical function isn't necessarily the point here; spilling blood voluntarily by participating is - this becomes relevant in 1-17. And yes, I am aware that this is odd, but on a meta-level, it does keep the PCs on their toes. It's a bit of a mind-game and it's there, among other things, to keep the tradition plausible. (Not taking damage for being bitten would be odd, right?)

6. I can't answer that, as I was not the person to write that, but if in doubt, I'd use the one for the infiltration version.

7. No. They don't have to. I'd strongly suggest playing 1-17 after 1-16, as that is what the design goal for both was supposed to be. I explicitly wrote the module this way to provide a flipside of sorts for Alex' masterful 1-17 and its themes - where, btw., combat and the like are MUCH more important. So yeah, decoupling damage from necessarily being a combat precursor and only relevant short-term was part of the deal.

@Liam: Sorry, can't help you there. :(

I hope I could help you all, and that you've had/will have some fun with my module.

Cheers!


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I'd also like to thank Andreww for his review! I'm very happy you had an enjoyable time!!

To explain some of my design decisions: I intentionally kept the combats on the easier side of things, since I knew what Alex would be doing in Part II. I also wanted to keep the two-parter solvable as regular PFS scenarios, and as something that can be solved if run as one massive (brutally hard) module - I tested both, in case you were wondering. :)

As for your question: Have you seen something like the dance puzzle before in PFS or another module? I thought I had found something that hasn't been done before. I have read a ton of adventures, but if it's been done before, I'd love to know which adventure had a similar angle.

If you've got suggestions beyond the review that can help me improve, I'd love to hear them! I'm always open to feedback! This is my first "big" published adventure (I usually write crunch, since I'm not a native speaker and worry about descriptions and the like a lot), and I certainly want to improve further!

Cheers and all the best!!


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I just wanted to thank, form the bottom of my heart, Diodotus and Pauljathome, for their amazing reviews. The Paizo-crew took a chance with my weird vision and structure (shout out to Michael Sayre for letting me run with the concepts and combat-lite approach), particularly considering that this was my first official Paizo-outing, and first full-length scenario. I am humbled and extremely happy.

Thank you. so much. *takes a deep bow*


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Thank you for the shout-out! I'm SUPER-excited to see how the Perennial Crown'll be played and received! :D


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Reposted my review, since the homepage swallowed it.


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Reposted. Paizo's HP has been swallowing reviews lately. :(


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The conclusion of my review:

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a rules-language and formal level; I noticed no significant issues in this book. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice-looking two-column full-color standard with awesome full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks and all.

Christen N. Sowards and Michael Sayre have done it; they achieved a vision that I had since the beginning, since Path of War first hit digital shelves: They have used the powerful engine, the amazing anime/WuXia-esque aesthetics of the system, and stripped it of the things that can be easily used to break the game, cheese attacks, etc. I am incapable of crying due to joy (I instead enter a flabbergasted mode of stammering where my usual eloquence falls by the wayside), but if I were capable of it, this might well have done it; in many ways, it showcases what I’ve been saying all along: Path of War doesn’t need any of its broken components, of the aspects that needlessly limit it, to work, be fun, or succeed at its design goal. In the future, I’ll just point at this masterpiece and rest my case.

Power-level-wise, and regarding the playing experience, the voltaic is a potent class – it’s not intended for gritty low fantasy, obviously – but it works within the design paradigms of the upper end of the game. If your game tends to favor lower powered characters, I have a little suggestion for you that anybody can implement: Limit the voltaic to the new discipline. Done. You’ll have a powerful character, but not one that’ll break your game.

The balancing employed here is sublime, and if anything, being set against the reference material herein, which is btw. not close to the highest power-level you can get with Path of War, this difference in quality will be evident.

In short: The Voltaic is Path of War, thoroughly – it breathes the aesthetic, it is exciting to play, and showcases how well you can use the system… all without Path of War’s more problematic parts. And we get a novel, fun alternate initiation engine that you can customize to boot! I frickin’ adore this book. I’d recommend it even to people like yours truly that limit Path of War use to certain types of games, but love e.g. akasha, psionics or pact magic. I really found myself wishing that we had a whole revision of Path of War to the standards set herein – such a book would been all but mandatory in my games. This is absolutely phenomenal. 5 stars + seal of approval, recommended not only to fans of Path of War. This also gets my "Best of"-tag, as it's imho the best Path of War-design to date.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to the usual places.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience – and I wouldn’t have reviewed this one usually. Why? Because the module is the final part of a series of adventures, which were first published in the criminally-underrated Mountains-sourcebook “Mountains of Madness.” Full disclosure: I was a backer of the KS to fund Mountains of Madness, since I genuinely consider the Perilous Vista books by Frog God Games to be some of their finest work for PFRPG. I briefly talked about the module back then, but my patreon supporters wanted a more detailed analysis of the module in question, so here we go!

Okay, so first things first: “War of Shadows” is the direct sequel to “Between a Rock and a Charred Place” – running it on its own is not the best idea, as the module loses much of its impact. That being said, it’s much easier to set up than the previous one – a call to arms issued by the dwarves is all it takes to kick it off. The module is intended for 8th-level characters, and as always, a well-rounded group is recommended. The module features read-aloud text for key-encounters and dungeons, but not to an excessive degree. Finally, it should be noted that, like its predecessors, it is pretty deeply ingrained in the lore of the Lost lands-setting; while it is very much possible to adapt the module to other campaign settings, it does take a bit of work, as the political situation of the region depicted here does matter.

Okay, as always, the following contains SPOILERS – this time, that’s includes the previous module. You have been warned. Players should jump to the conclusion.


..
.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The masterplan of Grugdour, hobgoblin warlord and secretive devotee of the shadow deity Mirkeer, is in full motion. The clever hobgoblin warlord’s allies may have failed with their coup d’état/assassination attempt in “Between a Rock and a Charred Place”, but that does not put a stop to his plans. His sights on Tyr Whin, he had someone spread a contagion affecting only dwarves in the place, and if things had gone according to plan, no call of aid from Erod Flan would come, which means that his army will have to take Tyr Whin at the place’s full strength. Thankfully for the devious hobgoblin, the disease seems to be working better than expected, and thus he marches his army, cleverly concealed nearby, towards Tyr Whin.

Enter the PCs – who will face a 120 miles trek through mountainous terrain featuring a couple of scripted encounters. Problematic here: The mountainous features of the region? They are referred to as “see A Little Knowledge” and “Between a Rock and a Charred Place” – so no, you don’t get the information to conveniently run the trek! That’s a no-go for a stand-alone module. I indubitably by now sound like a broken record, but I’d very much recommending getting “Mountains of Madness” over this stand-alone version. It also has more detailed mountain hazard rules etc., which seriously add tremendously to the whole sequence of 4 adventures. But I digress.

When the PCs arrive, they’re faced with a siege – the hobgoblin army has encircled the fortress, and it has siege weapons! The PCs can attempt to take these down, if they feel stealthy/clever, and there is a secret entrance to the fortress – provided the PCs beat the aberrant giants lairing there. Once the PCs have made it into the fortress, they’ll have their tasks cut out for them: The mysterious spinning sickness (which causes a sense of vertigo) may not be fatal, but it sure as heck makes fighting very hard. The citadel’s quartermaster, Truvven Blackgranite, wastes no time: The dwarves can’t best or outlast the hobgoblins in their current state, so he asks the PCs to travel to MounT Huumvar atop the Feirgotha plateau to cut off the hobgoblin army’s head. Mount Huumvar is a superb defensive position, but when the Kingdom of Arcady yet flourished, there was a temple created to the foreigner’s strange deities – in this temple of Aten, there is supposed to be a secret entrance to Mount Huumvar, granting a small team a chance to eliminate the hobgoblin high command. Of course, clever PCs may want to first investigate this mysterious disease, and indeed, the investigation that leads to the false dwarf assassin/witch multiclass perpetrator is nice, though it is presented in a pretty swift/efficient manner.

Once that snake has been taken care of, the PCs are off through the mountains, hopefully not running afoul of the hobgoblin warriors. They make their way to the dilapidated temple, and through it, navigating a wikkawak lair (!!) to finally infiltrate Mount Huumvar. These dungeons all have in common that they adhere to an internal logic I very much enjoy: The placement of traps makes them potentially predictable by defensively-minded PCs who think about where they tread, and the new haunt featured also follows this. Funny: There is a white dragon that allows you to get in all those Mr. Freeze puns and dad jokes from the classic Batman & Robin trainwreck of a movie. It’s a nice change of pace for a species of dragon usually relegated to little more than beasts. Another plus here is that monsters and the like don’t behave as mindless beasts; they try to bluff, offer truces and survive. That kind of thing’s too rare in modern RPGs.

Mount Huumvar deserves special mention, as the dungeon level is a pretty tough nut to crack – as the culmination of the “Mountains of Madness”-modules, it very much should be. Careless PCs might quickly face a number of foes, including several unique hobgoblin builds, that can overwhelm them, so careful precision strikes, Stealth, etc. are advised – with them, the complex becomes possible to handle; without them, you should hope that your PCs have learned the values of a tactical retreat. This is per se a great finale.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are per se very good, though the references pertaining rules featured in other adventures should not be here. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports a few b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is b/w – and guess what? Yep, of course, the player-friendly versions of the maps, which had been included in Mountains of Madness…are absent from this one.

Tom Knauss’ “War of Shadows” was one of my favorite modules from the Mountains of Madness adventures, as it manages to take leitmotifs from each of its predecessors and weaves them into a satisfying conclusion for the adventure arc. However, much like the other 3 modules in the arc, it deserved better than what it got here. I genuinely LIKE the saga, and it wouldn’t have been that hard to include some of the material that made Mountains of Madness so rewarding throughout these stand-alone renditions of the modules. Here a hazard, there a new creature *cough* missing boss in God of Ore */cough*, and we’d have an impressive array of modules here. Indeed, in an ideal version, there’d have been revisions of the adventures to make them more self-contained; at the very latest with “Between a Rock and a Charred Place”, and here as well, we have modules that really, really are intended to be run in sequence. Either that, or properly designate them as a series that requires the previous modules – “War of Shadows” requiring two adventures for the notes on certain features and environmental rules? That’s not cool.

Beyond being an unfortunate decision, it also further underlines the whole sense of “rushed stand-alone version” that I got from all of the 4 adventures. From the references to other adventures to the horribly-botched God of Ore-version, they have in common that they deserved better. The absence of player-friendly maps that EXIST (they are all in the Mountains of Madness hardcover! I checked!) and these errant cross-references just emphasize this. And that, to me, is a tragedy. I really liked the modules in Mountains of Madness, where they operate as they should. Here? Here, I’m genuinely crestfallen about how this turned out. My final verdict for “War of Shadows”’s stand-alone iteration has to reduce a module I’d have given my highest accolades in its original iteration to3.5 stars, rounded up. Tom Knauss’ cool 4 modules deserved better than this.

Endzeitgeist out.


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Great list of options, CB!

I think it can be done easier, though:

Lunge. +5 ft. reach for -2 to AC.
Monkey Lunge or Nimble Striker gets rid of the AC penalty.

With this feat, only the 14th level alternative with a range of 30 ft. and -4 to atk (since the other two versions at no penalty and -2 to atk can still be used) would require reach to execute a iaijutsu attack, as it can draw a target 15 ft. closer.

As for:

Canadian Bakka wrote:
I could not find any options though that lets you take a 5 foot step after you use a standard action to attack but before actually making the attack roll.

That's not actually required!

Asian Archetypes: Martial wrote:


Whenever the mercurial duelist
makes an iaijutsu slash, they can select 1 foe within 10 ft. of
them, forcing that foe to make a Reflex saving throw or be
pulled 5 ft. towards the mercurial duelist. This movement
resolves before the attack roll
...

Emphasis mine, obviously!

As far as I read this, the sequence would be:
1) Decision to make a slash.
2) Resolve forced movement.
3) Make the actual slash attack.

So, the movement of vacuum slash happens after you decide on making the attack, but BEFORE you actually make it, which theoretically would allow you to 5-ft.-step!

Just my reading, as always! (As an aside, enjoying these in-depth rules-discussions with you very much! :D)


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Heja Thes Hunter!

The scenario will use Paizo Flip Mat Forbidden Jungle, river side for one of its encounters; the rest will be provided in the module.

And evening gown? Heck yeah, that's the spirit - and perfectly suitable here!

Decadent ole' me actually wrote one of the core challenges so it can be danced IRL in proper volant dress/swallow tail/etc., venue and participants permitting, of course! (And yes, I tested that!)


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Just wanted to drop by and say: I've ran this already since I've written part I of the saga, and Alex has wrought pure GOLD here.

Seriously, this adventure beats many campaign-finales in just how epic it feels. I'm super-excited to see the final version!!


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Yeah, I hope that people will consider it to be a story in and of itself; I certainly wrote it that way...

Anyways, I wanted to echo Alex' sentiments - if possible, play the two parts back to back. The story, type of challenges, themes, etc. are explicitly written as complimentary parts of a bigger whole, and I think running them back to back makes them even better. :D


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Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to the usual places.


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@CorvusMask: I have no delusions of grandeur; if anything, I'm a fanboy of the awesome writers and designers working on adventures. I don't really stress about how it holds up in *direct comparison*.

Why?
First of all, I feel genuinely honored to have been allowed to write this adventure and contribute to Golarion's canon. I didn't try to "beat" anyone, instead attempting to write something that represents my own style. I tried to write something different from what you usually get to see in PFS, and I'm super-excited and grateful that my dev and the Paizo-team was on board with that.

Secondly, I've read Alex' module (we obviously coordinated our efforts), and even if everyone ends up less than enthused about my weird little adventure, Alex' module is RIDICULOUSLY amazing. As in: Imho better than many campaign finales. And I stand by that. Alex has wrought pure gold.

That being said, while I don't stress about *comparisons*, I do stress about whether people will like what I did here, because it is pretty different, putting a strong emphasis on roleplaying and player skill.
I tried hard to do something unconventional here, and while tests were resounding successes, there is always that nagging fear, obviously.

So yeah, I am stressing out, just not for the obvious reasons. XD

@Jib916: I genuinely hope you'll have as much fun playing it, as I had writing it!

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